Shape of My Heart

Sometimes, in the face of grief and loss, we don’t know what to say.

This is part of what makes me grateful for the liturgy–for the shape of worship that holds and carries us when we are too tired or too sad to walk alone. I have leaned into the Sunday morning liturgy in times of uncertainty and worry. The funeral liturgy provides this beautiful comfort and strength, too. Last week, we prayed and we sang and we commended a beloved saint into the arms of Jesus. We were sad, but we were comforted and held by those prayers and songs and words.

But liturgy isn’t the only tool in our toolbox. The day before the funeral, I walked into the church kitchen. This is what I found:

jello.jpg

Isn’t it beautiful? There is comfort and strength here, too. We know that there will be orange and strawberry and cherry jello at our funeral lunches. We know that we will be fed.

And, we know that this dark cherry jello with actual cherries in it is the very best. (Pro Tip: If you are the pastor, you might even snag a bowl of this stuff from an empty table. No one at your table will complain about it, because they know you have secured the best jello for them, too.)

best-jello


What’s your comfort food?

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Minnesota Nice: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

kite-flyers

You know how, when you anticipate sharing an experience with your children, you build it up in your mind? You picture the joy on their faces. You imagine the wonder and delight. You think, “This is the stuff memories are made of.”

And then, you actually do that memory-making thing. And most of the time, it doesn’t quite match up with beautiful picture you created in your mind. For example, you definitely did not picture this much weeping and whining and wailing, or this many dollars flying out of your wallet. I have been there, fellow memory-makers. It can be rough.

The upside is, when the vision and the reality do match up, it is even sweeter. Such was the case last weekend, when the Cumings family attended The Fourteenth Annual Prairie Winds Kite Fly!

It sounded whimsical. It sounded magical. It sounded like a fun, inexpensive family outing on a beautiful (and windy) fall day. And guess what? It was. It really was! Continue reading

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Parenting in Public

 

Corn Valentine

It’s a vegetable Valentine. It is punny. The corn is crushing it, fashion-wise. This Valentine made my day.

 

I vividly remember Zoe’s first day care Valentine’s Day. When I picked her up, there were three or four Valentines in her cubby, with notes from her day care friends. As I looked at each one, I thought, “Holy cow. There are so many ways to fail as a parent.”

It had not occurred to me to make or buy Valentines for Zoe’s friends. This is probably because, on that first day care Valentine’s Day, Zoe was seven and a half months old. I’m sure that the other parents did not think I had failed (and probably had older kids who actually understood the concept and had a Valentine exchange in their own classroom). I know Zoe and the other babies were not at all concerned.

Last year, Sister Claire wanted to be prepared. She got some very cute Valentines for her daughter’s two-year-old class. And then, before she delivered them, she got a note from the school with the news that they don’t do Valentines for that age group. Wait till your kids are older, they said.

These are the hazards of parenting in public. Continue reading

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O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!

Fall is in the air! We are just on the cusp of this wonderful season, but I wanted to share one of my favorite fallish poems today.

Turns out: I shared it five years ago. So, let’s just turn back the clock and enjoy that post (and some vintage Zoe photos) again, shall we?

Never Done It That Way Before

Today, let’s let Edna St. Vincent Millay (Vincent, to her friends) do the talking.  Zoe, of course, will do the rest.
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
   Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
   Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!   That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
         But never knew I this;
         Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, “God’s World”
What do you want to hold close this fall?

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Room at the Table

Interior of the Mayfair Ballroom

Do you ever wonder if what you do matters?

It’s such a cliche it’s practically too boring to write about. But we do wonder, don’t we? For me, this is especially true when I preach a sermon at the nursing home. Some people are not interested in listening. Some people are not able to listen and understand. Some people are asleep or on the verge of drifting off. (Pro Tip: At least two out of three of those things are also true on Sunday morning.)

As I preached in Madelia one day last week, it felt almost self-indulgent. Was anyone but me really getting anything out of this sermon? Impossible to tell.

As always, I treasured the parts of the worship service that invited more obvious participation from those gathered. We sang the good old songs –“This is My Father’s World”, “The Old Rugged Cross”–and we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together.

And then, we shared the meal of Holy Communion. Continue reading

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Known and Unknown

Seed packet for Paradise Evergreens

“I can’t do this again,” I said to Mike as I lay on the exam table. “It’s too much responsibility.”

I was 25 weeks pregnant with Leo. We had traveled halfway across the country for a friend’s wedding, and I had a little spotting. I couldn’t remember when I’d last felt the baby move, or at least I thought the baby ought to be moving more. I called the clinic back in Minnesota and they said, as they would say to any pregnant woman halfway across the country, “You should go in.”

So the day after we danced at our friend’s wedding, we took a cab to an unfamiliar hospital. They admitted me, asked me lots of alarming questions about what to do in case we delivered the baby then and there, and did an exam. I was fine and the baby was fine. We were released. We took the bus back to our rental apartment, thankful and relieved.

I loved being pregnant. It was such a blessing and such a gift. But it was also a huge and terrifying responsibility. If something felt weird or seemed off, I was the one who had to decide if it merited a visit to the doctor. I was the one who knew best, and much of the time, I simply didn’t know.

'Mother and Child'

Tuesday night, three-year-old Leo woke up screaming. We noticed he was clutching his stomach. Of course, we thought appendicitis. We called the nurse line, who sent us to the emergency room in Saint James, who sent us to the emergency room in Rochester. It was a long, anxious, exhausting night. Continue reading

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Don’t Let the Light Go Out

On Saturday, they found Jacob.

If you live in Minnesota, or if you lived in Minnesota during the past 27 years, you know what I’m talking about. Jacob Wetterling was eleven years old in 1989, when he, his brother, and a friend were biking down a country road. A masked man with a gun stopped them and took Jacob. Basically the nightmare scenario for any parent or caregiver of a child.

Jacob’s family never gave up. They never stopped searching; never stopped hoping. Every year on October 22nd, the day Jacob was taken, the Wetterlings encouraged people to leave their porch lights on. The light was a symbol of solidarity and hope. It lit the way home for Jacob and for other lost and missing children. The work of the Wetterlings and the foundation they started was not only for Jacob, but for all children. Because of the Wetterlings, sex offender registeries exist. Because of the Wetterlings, most missing children do find their way home.  Continue reading

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Blessed Are the Pie Makers

pie oven.jpg

You’re darn right there are six pies in that oven.

“If I put it in the freezer, how long will it last?” I asked.

The answer was simple and immediate: “Forever.”

Now, I admit: I have not tested the truth of this claim, because, pro tip, what kind of person leaves an apple pie in the freezer forever? But when I was cleaning out our freezer a few weeks ago, it turned out that one of the apple pies I bought at the church bazaar last year was still there.

This shocked me. (Pro Tip: Not the part where my freezer went untold months without a good clean out; the part where I failed to eat a pie.) And when I took that pie out of the oven and warmed it up, the pie maker who sold it to me was right: it was still perfect.

pie butter

After the lefse makers do their thing, the pie makers take their turn.  They peel and they slice and they mix and they roll and they bake. They pile on the butter and they sprinkle the cinnamon and they make the whole place smell like heaven. The first morning alone, they turned out 58 perfect pies.

They didn’t know, that first morning, whether they would have apples for the next day. (Pro Tip: Apples do grow on trees, but it’s only the end of August.) Every year, the pie makers wonder and  wait. And every year, produce suppliers and orchards and backyard trees provide.

Blessed are the pie makers, for they will be called providers of sweetness. Givers of deliciousness. Bringers of joy.

pie yum


What’s your favorite kind of pie?

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Satisfaction Guaranteed

 

IBM Electronic Data Processing Machine

I’m pretty sure this is a behind the scenes photo from Amazon headquarters.

 

What did we do before Amazon?

Seriously, what? How did we find the every day things that aren’t for sale in our town, or the obscure things we forgot we needed until we needed them immediately, or the things we didn’t know we needed until Amazon suggested them to us?

Amazon is a magical  place. When you live in a small town, it is a lifesaver: you can get the stuff they don’t sell in your town delivered to your door (and you can still shop in your town for all the stuff they do sell). Party favors, Halloween costumes, expensive but effective eczema shampoo and body wash, Thomas the Train everything. (Pro Tip: They still sell books, too.)

But it is dangerous, of course, for the same reason: they have everything, and they deliver it to your door. It’s easy to fall down the Amazon rabbit hole, especially if you read the reviews. One product review leads to another, and another, and another, until your virtual shopping cart is filled with things that have suddenly become essential.

We recently converted Leo’s crib into a toddler bed. (Or, in Leo’s words, “Daddy broke it!”) The transition was not as smooth as we had hoped–he was on the floor multiple times a night. So, I turned to my friend Amazon for the answer.

Piano voor aan bed gebonden zieken / Piano for the bedridden

I didn’t find this on Amazon, but maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

What would it be? A traditional bed rail? An inflatable bed rail? A foam bed rail? “Magic bumpers”?  There were so many options, each more expensive and complicated than the last. I was overwhelmed.

But then. Then, I was saved by the very tool that had brought me down this rabbit hole: the Amazon product review. I can’t find the actual review now, but the gist of it was: “This product is basically a pool noodle. Don’t waste your money on this. Buy a pool noodle instead.”

And it’s true! Cut a pool noodle to size (we went with the thicker kind), stick it under the fitted sheet, and voila! No more sad thuds in the middle of the night.

Thanks, Amazon, for once again helping me find exactly what I needed. Even if I found it on clearance somewhere else.

Visit of the Chancellor of the University of London, HRH Princess Anne to the School, 8 May 1986


What is the best or worst Amazon purchase you’ve made?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books for Back to School

db1d1-toptentuesdayIt’s Top Ten Tuesday Time! This week’s theme is pretty open: Back to School. My list: Top Ten Books Read in School. I went for the first ten that I could think of, since they’re ones that have stuck with me through the years. Enjoy my list, click on over to The Broke and the Bookish to see what everybody else is reading, and share your favorite (or least favorite) back to school books in the comments.

1. Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. My third grade teacher Ms. Boland read this to us without showing us the pictures and had us guess what was happening / what the story was about. I’ve been reading it with Zoe in the last six months or so and trying to figure out how she did that. It was captivating and magical and fun.

2. The BFG by Roald Dahl. My fourth grade teacher Mr. Lownsberry read this out loud to us. He was probably 22 or so, and he laughed even harder at the fart jokes than we did. His enjoyment of the book made it even more wonderful for us.

Photograph of Lady Bird Johnson Visiting a Classroom for Project Head Start, 03/19/1966

3. The Wishgiver by Bill BrittainWe read this in fifth grade and I loved it. The magic and mystery drew me in to the stories of three young people who buy wishes from a mysterious man at the fair. The results are unexpected (and, for fifth grade me, super stressful). I could not put it down.

4. The Tripod Trilogy  by John Christopher. Probably the first science fiction I read (sixth grade). The story was so exciting (and again, stressful). I’ve reread the series several times and I still love it, even though it’s a little dated and there’s not enough for the female characters to do.

5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. My wonderful English teacher Mr. Harris introduced me to this book in tenth grade. It was different than anything I’d ever read. This is the book that really showed me the power of figurative language. A bee to a blossom, people. Continue reading

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