Resounding Gongs

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Re-sounding: sounding over and over and over; impossible not to hear

A few weeks back I got into an argument on the sidewalk outside of school with another mom. It was religious and political and although I played dead for a loooong time, my silence was interpreted as disagreement and I was advised to speak to my pastor for guidance.

At which point I engaged the argument in my own fun style, and it didn’t end well.

She wasn’t rude. She wasn’t angry. But she was re-sounding. As soon as she perceived that I was only adjacent to her beliefs, I was under attack–not by what she was saying, but by the volume of words she spoke at me without stopping to listen.

This is not ok. I apologized for the way I lost my temper and we agreed to disagree. But we have not spoken since.

Because here’s the thing, and maybe she feels the same way–I can’t unknow what she showed me.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

I kept her at arm’s length because I feared this would happen. I keep a lot of people at arm’s length these days.  We are trying to raise our kids with gospel values, which I believe can be summed up in these lines from the For King and Country song Fix My Eyes:

(I’d) love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall, but above it all
Fix my eyes on you

There are many people around me, and too many sitting with me in church, who say and believe awful things, lies even, about other people. They say it in hushed voices or let nasty memes do their dirty work on Facebook. They have Not of This World bumper stickers next to political bumper stickers that are so awful you can’t believe they have the guts to drive around in the dang car.

For them, it’s not a problem.

For me, it is.

I’m supposed to love everybody and I try, but when it comes to friendships, what’s an appropriate line? I  never want to be so narrow-minded that I only surround myself with those who think like me, but I do want a foundation of kindness and charity in the people I invite to sit at my table.

The re-sounding gongs–those who fear so completely and constantly that every stranger is a villain; those who delight in a God so vengeful he would kill thousands of people because of sin; those who judge others without hearing their stories; those who work among the children of people they despise–can I shut my door against them all?

And if I do, how will they learn to change their tune and how will we ever make God’s kingdom come here on earth?

I don’t know. Do you?

 

 

 

 

This Post Has the F Bomb, But It Will Make You Laugh

*This post has the F bomb. But you should read it anyway.

This is me and my friend Marcy. I picked this picture because it sums us up, like Lucy and Ethel. Our greatest accomplishment as friends to date is that we both joined the country club pool this summer and neither of us has been asked to leave, not even once.

We used to have “real” jobs–the kind that get paid in cold hard cash and not peanut butter kisses. I taught high school and she managed a restaurant in Balboa, CA. We both married late, had some babies and decided to let our husbands bear the financial burden for a while. Then we came back to the workforce in pseudo-jobs, me as a daycare provider for a friend and her as a cook in a preschool.

A few weeks ago, as I was stressing over passing my real estate exam, she told me she was polishing her resume for an area manager job. And we were both dragging our feet.

Finally, I said “Look, we are college educated women. We can do this.”

And she said “I know. But why? Why rock the boat?”

Then we didn’t say anything for a minute. Not because there aren’t a million reasons why. For starters, we each have a child gravitating towards theater, which is more expensive than any youth sport ever invented in the history of the world.

We know why.

But we were scared. Change is hard. Always. Always. Always.

So I said “I’ll be brave if you will.”

And she said “OK”.

Three weeks later, I am happy to announce that we both have new jobs. We were brave.

And now we’re humbled. We don’t know anything about anything. We’re beyond Jon Snow. He at least knew winter was coming.

So please, please appreciate this text conversation, and forgive us for the F bombs.

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Happy Wednesday!

God Calling

I forgot to tell you a story about Vacation Bible School.

The theme was hearing God’s call in our lives. One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was have a phone call from God every morning to kick us off.

Joyce, our director of ministries, thought this was awesome sauce. Not because of the edgy, cool connection between technology and God’s message, but because she had just bought a foam cutter for the parish. To this day, which is all the days between when I told her I needed a giant foam phone until today, I have no idea what a foam cutter is. But Joyce used it to make me a giant iPhone.

I wrote a script. I asked Don to be God. We put a chair in the closet and gave him a microphone. Kelsey, our youth minister, made the phone ring. I just had to hit accept and say “Hello?” Five minutes before I did it the first time, I panicked and thought “This was the lamest idea EVER!”

I underestimated the five year olds, who have the most tremendous capacity to suspend disbelief in all of human nature.

When God said good morning, they yelled back at him “Good morning God!” And even though it was in the script for God to tell them “I love you”, one of the girls screamed it out first. “I LOVE YOU!!!!” Some of you evangelical Christians may not be surprised by this. But we’re Catholics. We took ourselves very seriously for 2000 years. Since Vatican II, we’re still learning to be ok when our spiritual emotions overflow.

The daily phone call from God became a thing. One little girl wrapped herself around my leg on day 3 and whispered “Do you think God will call us today?” On day 4, at the end of God’s call, I forgot to walk over and smack the “Reject” on the big foam and paper phone. Riley, an almost 1st grader who doesn’t miss a trick, shouted at me from 3 feet away “Miss Jen, you didn’t hang up the call! You are WASTING GOD’S DATA!!!”

And on the last morning, this:

Waiting on God to call.

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Jesus said “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus didn’t mean that we should be treated like children, although too many churches have interpreted it this way. He wanted us to believe like children, with a bone deep certainty that God is there and He is love.  He wants us to have that same selfish focus for Him that allows kindergartners to think God has nothing better to do on a Friday morning than call 70 kids at a VBS in Southern Oregon.

See God through the eyes of a child.

 

 

 

Big Things

 

 

Last week, I watched my 9 year old swim out to an anchored platform on a lake, climb up the mossy ladder and jump off again. By herself. Two days later, I took this picture. It was 9:30 pm and the water was pitch black, but their feet did not falter. They flew off the end of that dock like there wasn’t a giant lake monster lurking just below the surface. Then they taunted the monster by swimming out another 50 feet and diving down to see how deep it was. Their laughter echoed across the lake.

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These kids. They’re not scared of monsters. They’re going to be alright.

Which is why I am going back to work.

You can imagine the amount of prayer that has gone into this. Staying home with my kids has been the greatest gift of my marriage. I feel so blessed and grateful to my husband for making these 5 years happen.

But I always knew this was a season. My babies aren’t babies anymore. They jump off docks into dark water with complete confidence.  We’ve given them a solid foundation of me. Now they need to learn about we. How a family is a team and works together to get things done. How this mama is more than laundry and dishes and coffee dates. I have loved that life. I have seen the bounty and goodness of that life.

But it’s time to move on. Jump into the dark waters. Dive down and see how deep it is.

I’m ready.

To the Cougar at the Pool


Let me get this straight.

You really thought you were going to bring your perfectly make-up’d, perfectly coiffed, cougar self to the club on a holiday to lounge in the pool, flirt with the lifeguards and keep your hair dry?

Lady, you had one too many organic agave margaritas. There is a reason the rest of us are wearing ball caps. We all have salon hair. We all have dreams of keeping it safe.

It’s a pool full of water and kids though. The hats are really only a gesture, so that we can tell our stylists without sinning that yes we did take steps to protect the weave.

When you waded in with your drink in your hand, what did you think was going to happen? This isn’t Vegas. There were four babies in swim diapers. Water in your hair was the least of your concerns.

But no. You huffed and puffed in annoyance. You dropped an f-bomb or two. Most of the ball-capped mamas rolled their eyes at your expecting to stay dry in a pool and shooed their kids away from you.

It says something about you–and it’s not nice–that you are willing to be rude to kids, counting on the fact that their moms won’t confront you.

It must have surprised you to learn that sometimes, a ball-capped mama with her third vodka-poolwater-tonic in hand will witness you giving her kid and his friend the business along the lines of “You need to stop splashing. I already told you to stop. I’m not going to tell you again.”

She will get up from her seat at the table and grab a water cannon. It’s not hers but that doesn’t matter because she is going to war for all the mamas. You’ll see her coming and harden your face for a “chat”. She’s not coming for words. She’ll walk down the stairs into the pool next to you and load that cannon. Then she will hold it in the air like the freaking Terminator and say “What are you going to do, Gino?”

You won’t know–how could you–that this is a time honored challenge in her family. You’ll look confused as you wonder who she’s talking to. It’s hard to tell through her sunglasses under her hat brim.  Maybe Gino is that big guy across the pool laughing out loud. She waits for an answer. You’ll decide that your hair is not worth the mystery. You’ll get out of the pool.

Good call. Gather your things and leave with all the dignity you can muster. And next time remember: family-friendly pools come with a 99% chance of wet hair.

So bring a cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Darkness Into Light

It’s true that when it rains, it pours.

Or maybe in the midst of great loss, when we are at our most raw and vulnerable, we feel things with greater clarity but less coping skills.

I don’t know.

But I can tell you that in this month of sorrow, life has gone on. Annie graduated Pre-K, which means come the Fall, I’ll have three kids in all day school, three kids doing homework, three kids playing sports.

I made a major job decision that requires 150 hours of licensing.

And two weeks from now, I am in charge of Vacation Bible School, a function of my asking the director of ministries at our church “Hey, why don’t we have VBS?”

“No one to run it, ” she said. Then she crossed her arms, raised an eyebrow, and waited.

That’s worth a reflection. Months and months ago, God told me to say yes to VBS, even though he knew that at this very moment, my heart would be broken. I am on the lookout for why. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and God will do the rest.

Which leads me to this post.

This is our third Spring in Oregon, the place we believe we were called to move. The previous two Springs have been pretty and worthy of note.

But this Spring? This particular Spring that has been so, so hard?

This Spring has been MAGNIFICENT.

The sound of the wind in the leaves outside the kitchen window.  The tulips and hyacinth that surprised us in April. The tree that leaved into a giant sentinel in the backyard.

The lemon balm that sprouted in the garden area, good for stress and anxiety.

The green hills and full creeks. Fields full of calves and lambs. Poppies. Dogwood. And sweet Mother, the roses.

Can I tell you how Sue loved her roses?

I didn’t even realize how much I was relying on the nature around me to soothe my heart until Saturday, when I was sitting at the winery five minutes from my house and this view brought me to tears.

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And then I thought about how many times in the last few weeks, Gabe has said “Mom, it is so pretty here.” Or Annie has picked some lemon balm and walked around the house, breathing it in. How the girls headed out to the backyard with their friend Sarah to cut fresh bouquets of roses for our families.

All of those things bringing simple and pure joy.

This Spring has sheltered and fed and lightened us, a bountiful grace for which I am thankful.

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This was filtered using Prisma, which is why it looks like a painting instead of a picture

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You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. 

Psalm 18:28

 

Sorrowing

 

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My second mom died. Her name was Sue. I introduced her to you once.

She died on Mother’s Day, with her son by her side. It was sudden and shocking and we are bereft.

I feel like a rat trapped in a maze. Life needs to be lived, so I get up in the mornings and I live it on that very specific plane of existence where laundry gets done and kids get picked up and dinner gets cooked. But then I’ll turn a corner and bam. I hit the wall of her absence. And it hurts.

Two days ago, it was when Annie got her haircut and I started to send the picture to Sue, who is her godmother.

Today, it was five seconds ago when I typed that sentence and used the word “is”.

I remember this from when my grandparents died in the car accident. Hitting the wall of grief. I know that as time passes, the walls get padded, and hurt less. And that one day, they won’t hurt when I hit them. They’ll send a cascade of love and gratitude over my heart, that I knew her and loved her and was loved by her.

But not yet.

The walk through grief is just like any other journey. No way out but through. And something else: the amount of pain in the hole she left in my heart is directly proportional to the amount of light she was in our lives, and will be again, once we get past this part.

In the meantime, we do the sacred work of sorrowing.

The Bustle in A House

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –
                                                                                                      Emily Dickinson