time and space, time and space.

Time and space, time and space.

Today I was given the gift of just that.

First, my friend Corrie came over; we ate coconut-macadamia nut-banana bread while the coffee flowed freely, and talked about everything from the difference between boys and men, to life and love, and current discussions of gay marriage and the purity movement within the church. We played with Canon and we laughed and we walked to Whole Foods, and even in the midst of chopping up tomatoes and avocados for lunch, we celebrated just being.

And then our time overlapped a little bit, and Steph and baby Maddy showed up, and while we ate chicken tacos and drank hot tea, we talked about being mamas. And about how being a mama is really, really good, but it’s also really, really hard. You can’t imagine life without your little one – I mean, what was it like before the babies showed up? – but then sometimes you look at him or her, and you go, I’m your mama? I’m a mama? How’d this happen anyway?

And so you reach out to each other in grace, with grace because somehow these little ones have begun to show us what it means to not live so tightly within our schedules and our to-do lists and the demands we place upon ourselves and other people.

You encourage each other and you cheer each other on, and you keep talking about everything under the moon because you can. Because you have the time and space, so it’s then just altogether lovely.

I feared when I left ministry that I’d face utter loneliness.

But instead I’ve found that I get to hang out with people and just be. It’s agenda-less.

I feared days inside the four walls of our house, with the fog pouring in from every skylight, rolling over my every last bit of joy.

But instead I find that I need to limit our comings and goings, because it’s just as easy, even if I’m not toting him around with me 9-5, to run myself – and baby Cancan – ragged.

And I even feared when we went down to one car last month in order to live more simply that I’d then be stuck and burdened when James took the car to work on Thursdays.

But instead I find that it’s freeing and it’s refreshing to walk to the grocery store instead of driving there, and that I kind of like an excuse for people to come to me.

Time and space, time and space.

I’m grateful, that I am.

a punk, a pumpkin and a peanut

sabbath, bacon and triple-point words.

This morning I sat around with a group of mamas from around the city; some kind ladies were watching our babies, and we then had a couple of hours to eat biscuits and drink tea and just breathe. We’re reading and discussing this book together, and as we talked through the stories and laws of 1st century Judaism, we also then applied a question to our own lives: what laws of love and of justice and of truth could be applied to our context and culture today?

It’s a tough question to answer, but as we wove our way around various themes and ideas, we soon landed on the theme of Sabbath. Biblically, Sabbath represented the Israelites taking a day to rest and (essentially) be with each other and with the Lord.

Does that mean that we too begin to eat Kosher, like our Jewish brothers and sisters, observing and taking the blessed bacon out of our diets? (Not the bacon, no!)

Does it mean turning off our lights and vowing to not use electricity, as to then truly know and honor all the Lord’s given to us?

We realized that for us, in San Francisco, California, in the year 2013, the greatest thing we could do is turn away from technology for 24 hours a week.

Say it ain’t so, puh-lease.

No Facebook.

No Twitter.

No WordPress, no e-mail and no Pinterest.

And – dear God – no Words With Friends.

Please join me for a moment of silence.

This isn’t a new concept for me, so you’d think by now that I’d get it. You’d think – especially just once a week – that I’d learned how to fully be present with my husband and my son, that I’d stopped brainlessly thumbing my way through Facebook to pass time, and that’d I’d given myself permission to stop staring at the computer screen for 24 short hours. You’d think that I’d be so, so excited to read that stack of books and magazines that continue to pile up, despite my best efforts, because true to my own mantra, better readers make better writers.

But nope, nada, zip. I’m not there yet.

And knowing full well that I have to give myself grace – heaps and heaps of grace, as I’m prone to dishing out this year – I want it and I need it. For my identity is not in the number of Facebook comments or Instagram “likes” I receive; it’s not in the traffic log of visitors to this ol’ WordPress site, nor in the absolute domination I might experience in a triple-worded, double-letter Words With Friends game. (Ugh, that one still hurts).

Our identity, my identity is far, far from that – even if I have to be reminded sometimes again and again and again.

Join me, will you?

i’m a closet brit.

This I realized tonite: I’m a closet Brit, or at least I want to be.

Following a delightful dinner with friends and new-parent buds, James and Alisa, this evening, we began to talk about the cultural differences in times of crisis between Americans and the British. Granted, although we could classify welcoming a baby into this world as more of a life-change, it still yields itself as a crisis according to Webster’s:

*Is it an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life? Check.

*Is it a decisive moment (as in a literary plot) that brings about change? Um, yes, like the second that little one arrives.

Take tonight, for example: we, as (my) James, Canon and I, responded to an email asking for us to provide dinner for this family. We said yes, but this – this – was key: we waited for the email to come to us. We showed up gleefully, no doubt, with taco fixins and a warm bottle of Chardonnay to boot, but had we not received that email, I’m sure it would have been a couple of months before I’d reached out to Alisa, asking to bring dinner over.

Had the couple been living in England, there would have been no Meal Plan [email sign-up], but the community automatically, without assumption or second thought, would have showed up with dinner. Death in the family? A ticket would have been purchased without question.

Have we, as Americans, become so culturally sensitive (or desensitized, as one could argue) that we’ve lost the guts to simply be present in times of crisis?

In not wanting to step on toes or offend the other party, are we missing out on opportunities to live and honor and bless and be?

I think about my time on maternity leave: I was eager for the world to meet our little man. Granted, I bounced back quicker following his birth than a lot of women (and therefore was eager for friendship beyond our four walls), but I wanted, I yearned for a phone call or text, checking in to see how I was holding up. After playing that silly female “uh, did I say something wrong?” game, I realized that they were waiting for me.

As Americans, we want to give space and we don’t want to offend and intrude and step on toes, so we back away and wait until we’re invited in.

What if we turned the tables and became the inviters?

When someone says, “Let’s do dinner,” I’m going to pull out my calendar right then. (Is it not already immediately on hand, right there on the phone anyhow? This also, selfishly, applies to offers of babysitting as well; when someone offers to babysit, take them up on it right then and there. Our friend, Keith, taught us this, and we’ve gladly heeded his advice).

When a new mama welcomes a little one into this world, I’m going to call her. Even if it takes her a week to listen to this voicemail, I know that message can mean the world in a new place of isolation and change and helplessness.

When death happens, I’m going to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and ask my friend how they’re really doing. I had a friend a couple of years ago who tragically lost her son; this, no doubt, changed her and affected her greatly. A year or so after his passing, we found ourselves on a walk; we were both quiet for a while, and finally I asked her how she was doing – albeit completely awkwardly – with his death. Her response? Thank you. Most people, she said, were fearful to even mention his name, but she needed to talk about him and remember him and process her emotions.

So, what do you think? Am I off my rocker here? Had we had one too many glasses of Syrah (as the Chardonnay was cooling in the fridge), therefore creating a cultural mountain out of a molehill?

But if I’m not, what would you add to the list? How can you be an inviter and a closet Brit yourself?

Tally-ho!

city hall & miss america & weddings, of course

I performed my first marry and bury on Friday – well, the marry part of it, that is. Our good friends Kara and Eryl got married at San Francisco City Hall, and with 12 of us in attendance, it was a magical evening of actual intimate wedding conversation. We took a limo from their condo to the heart of the city, snapped a few photos in and around the picturesque locale, and then snuck onto the hallowed 4th floor, where by the power vested within me, I got to pronounce them husband and wife.

What an honor.

Perhaps Vegas has already thought of this, but cameras should actually be installed on the lapels of officiants everywhere in order to capture ultimate perfection.

I saw how his antsy nervousness simply yearned to be given permission to kiss his bride.

I saw how her eyes sparkled and glowed and twinkled, growing wide with anticipation as the minutes passed.

I saw how the faces of the nine other friends and family gathered around them each held different expressions: joy, pride, excitement and knowledge of the goodness that’s to come.

I saw how the photographer noticed each moment and each angle too, seamlessly moving from side to side, up and down, making art.

I saw the other onlookers, who although in the middle of walking elsewhere, stopped and paused. Perhaps they too remembered their wedding day. Perhaps they saw the beauty of those simple moments between my two friends.

But there’s just something about a wedding. There’s something about love being professed and about choosing the other person, whether before a crowd of just a few or of your 300 closest friends. There’s something magical that makes me want to bottle up the moment, and squeeze my husband’s hand just a little bit tighter – Yes, you are mine. Yes, I’d do it all over, again and again and again.

Ten years ago or so, I was visiting family and friends in Oregon, where I grew up. One of my best friends from high school, Aaron, called me up one afternoon and asked me what I was doing that evening.

“Um, going to Taco Bell?” [I mean, it was our favorite after-game destination when we were in high school. Chips and cheese, please.]

He soon answered his question for me: we were heading to Miss America’s wedding.

I suppose I could have aimed higher in my answer.

Soon we were on our way to the ferry crossing, taking a barge from Keizer to McMinnville, and then following directions to the local historic airplane hanger.

I mean, where else would Miss America have her wedding reception?

We had no sooner handed our somehow secretly-obtained passes to the security guards, than we were inside, watching the woman throw her bouquet from cockpit of the airplane while we sampled on divine reception food. We smiled gregariously for the wedding magazines and television stations, but dodged the bride and groom on the dance floor.

I mean, we had just crashed Miss America’s wedding – what were we supposed to do? What if they figured out that neither party had invited us and sent the security guards on us?

“Oh, honey, who’s that pair over there dancing? Friends from high school?”

“I thought they were your friends, love. Wait a minute… Officer!”

I wasn’t ready for a criminal record at that point in my life.

But really, who wants to live caught up in the what if’s?

And so we kept dancing our little hearts out, because there’s just something about a wedding.

[Go, choose love. Choose vulnerability. Choose life. Choose to let yourself love and be loved in return.]

on mamas & hope & two cute pairs of shoes.

This afternoon I stood in line between a mom and her teenage daughter at Nordstrom Rack; Cancan in the Ergo and a pair – or two… – of shoes in hand, I waited my turn at this “Finder’s Paradise!” (or so the poster on the outside window read).

There was a sunglasses rack to our left, and the mom quickly grabbed a pair of Jackie O’s, and making kiss-lips towards her daughter, asked her how they looked.

“Ew-w! Like a bug!”

The girl, not more than 15 or 16, quickly ran off to the scarf display, while in slow-motion the mom dejectedly turned her face downward and slipped the glasses off. Her eyes quickly filled with tears, and I in turn moved so that she could face the little man.

Can an innocent baby cure heartbreak?

I suppose that’s what I hoped for in that moment.

Part of me wanted to rattle of my list of credentials, having worked with teenagers in education and in ministry for all of my adult life. I wanted to tell her that it gets better, that even if things with your daughter are hard now, she sees how much you love her, and that counts, it’s enough. But instead I just joined her in Club Mama, standing with her in grief and in sadness, knowing that we’re not promised perfection, even with those we love the most.

But for that mama, I know there is hope that one day her relationship with her daughter will be restored. And maybe that’s all she’s got right now.

Unable to fall asleep last night, Hope too rattled through my mind – because really, at the end of the day, hope is all we’ve got left. I suppose it’s a pretty good substitute for counting sheep, and so I found myself thinking: I like hope the verb, but I really, really like hope the noun.

Hope: it’s paired with Love and Faith. Hope: it’s a four-letter word. Hope: it springs eternal in the human heart, or so Alexander Pope once wrote in 1734.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

I suppose this is what I want: I want Hope to ooze from me. I want it spring forth from my heart, from the deepest parts of my soul. Like Pope, I share a common faith and therefore a common hope, through the Incarnation. Through Jesus, we have hope that that which has been wronged will be made right. That restoration and fullness and healing will come, and that it’s a reality not only now, but after death as well, in the life to come.

A couple years ago I was speaking at a middle school camp; the camp happened to fall on a weekend in December, so it was this beautiful combination of Advent and Little Baby Jesus, Christmas stories and Big Man “God in the Bod” Jesus, Santa and Christmas trees and ornaments alike. I called one of the leaders – this big, boisterous Poly guy – up to the front of the room, and asked him to lead the kids, as a choir director would, in the world Hope, saying it or singing it after every sentence. I think he thought I was crazy, but what resulted was nothing short of beauty personified.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

Hope! (sticatto)

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

HOPEEEEEEEE (forte, forte)

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

hope. (pianissimo)

And so it went. I wanted them to hear that Hope – that Christ, that the Incarnation, that this little baby Jesus – was smooshed in between every sentence. Hope is present. Hope is there. Can you hear it? Can you feel it?

Hope. Might it spring eternal. For this I am thankful.

a punk, a pumpkin and a peanut

the canon chronicles, 6.

We interrupt the run of incredibly insightful and witty and think-worthy and Jesus-spiritual and other such charming ramblings to bring you installment 6 of the Canon Chronicles. Back online with said insight, witness, worthy thoughts, Jesus-spirituality and overall charm tomorrow…

Oh baby, I love your ways...
Oh baby, I love your ways…

Current nicknames: Cancan, bubs, baby, chunk, little man.

Weight & length: 16 lbs, 10 oz; 26 inches long – it’s affirmative. He’s growing.

Sleep story: Let’s think positively here: our little family of three could hole up for the rest of our lives, never leaving the city boundaries of San Francisco, but what fun would that be? Given then that Little Man is going to then still be on west coast time come a trip to Maui, the best part about said vacation is that the baby-daddy takes it upon himself to wake up with the little man in the middle of the night. Thank you, Jesus.

Poop story fact: car rides produce blow outs. Another fact: even if a little creature is now eating solid foods, like the big bad rice cereal, blow outs are still possible. Yet another fact: I’m so, so glad we weren’t “those people” whose child had a poop-worthy episode in the pool. Again, fact: I’d like to thank my friend and new father, Ben Patterson, for the insight that NASA could potentially learn a whole lot about space exploration and upward momentum by examining an infant’s upward-moving blowout. It doesn’t just go down, folks. Fact: when traveling anywhere, one should have more than five wipes on hand. Just one more factoid: whoever said baby poop doesn’t smell was LYING. Take it from me, friends; baby poop is one doozy of a bad smell on the old nostrils.

(Have you had enough poop yet? Tell me more, tell me more!)

Baby Daddy story: Baby Daddy, with Cancan in the Ergo, got to watch the San Francisco 49er’s dominate the Atlanta Falcons this past Sunday. Whilst lounging poolside with the shimmering Pacific, with mai tai in hand, he then declared, and God said it was good. (What can I say? It was a blissful time of getting to be together, away from life’s distractions. I love watching my husband love our son – life doesn’t get much better).

Feeling: fabulously content. Vacation was a treat – it was creme de la creme to seven and a half years of full-time ministry. The at-times heart-wrenching decision to leave my job (and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to make the news public until the first of the year) is gone and past; and now the healing begins. Now, life slows down. Now, we learn how to BE, now we rest and begin to further find out who we – me, myself and I – are in the midst of this beautiful, messy thing called life.

Musing over: Writing. (What do I write about? Who’s my audience? How do I gain an audience? Do I just start writing a book on the side? What do I have to say that the world needs to hear?)

Learning: that if I want to be a good writer, I need to be a good reader. (Les Miserables is currently free on Kindle – who wants to join me in this endeavor? I’m currently about 7% of the way through this 959-page book, and need some book club buddies. Reply in the comments section, if so, and we’ll start a virtual book club!)

Reading: (above); Daring Greatly; a bunch of reads for my current Anglican Theology class (ugh – so good); One Day; Beautiful Ruins; The True Story of the Whole World.

Read in the last month: A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Evans); Help, Thanks, Wow (Lamott); Jesus Land (Scheeres); Flight Behavior, Prodigal Summer, The Bean Trees (all Kingsolver – what can I say? I was on a Babs kick while on vacay).

What are YOU reading? What do you recommend?

Anticipating: the new rhythm of the everyday, here in the city, with my little man.

Love to all.

In case you’re wondering if I just up and ran out of ideas to write about, that’s far from the truth.  Alas, we’re holed up on a little island in the middle of the Pacific, and I’m taking a break from all things technology – and God said it was good.  Do yourself a favor and turn off for a little while as well: 24 hours, 48 hours, or 11 or so days, as in my case.  Maholo.  

and today, on not apologizing.

Image

 

This past Saturday we hosted what has got to be one of my favorite nights of the past year: the Julia Child Dinner Party.  I’d read her autobiography, My Life in France, earlier this fall, and was inspired to drown myself in butter, wine and garlic, even if just for a night.  Five other friends, who each have a knack and a desire and a love of the kitchen, were invited; we each then provided one of the night’s courses [the recipe of which had to be Julia’s], a guest and a bottle or two of wine.  

Nearly perfect, the night flowed seamlessly.  My not-so-secret dream of living on a commune with all of my favorite people, eating an exquisite meal and doing life together, was made a reality for about four hours and 26 minutes.  As if on cue, each cook then presented and served his or her Julia dish to the rest of us: with flare and pride both, woes and delights of the kitchen were told, ingredients were listed, new lessons were learned and then a toast was made, to the cook, to each other, to the food, to Julia.  Together we did life well that evening, sitting around a table for 12, in the dim light of the taper candles and Saturday night San Francisco darkness.  

But my favorite part was this: it was a no-apologies night.  The rules of the night were simple: 

1.  Eat.  

2.  Drink. 

3.  Be Merry.  

And then in parenthesis: and don’t make food apologies.  

Yesterday I wrote about saying sorry to the Target lady – because let’s be honest, it needed to happen.  So it’s only natural that today I write about its opposite: on not apologizing.  On not saying I’m sorry.  On not living under the confines of what we think we’re supposed to do or be, and then on not apologizing for that which doesn’t need an apology.  Too often we get caught up in the colloquial, conversational language of saying I’m sorry, without realizing that really, we have nothing to be sorry about.  Is it a flippant utterance of our tongues, or deep down inside, do we actually think that we don’t measure up, that next to this person, we lack something that they possess – some skill, some look, some whatever – that we therefore need to make our apologies for?  

I say “we,” but I think really, I just mean “me.”  And that’s what made Saturday night so beautiful: I didn’t need to apologize that I hadn’t swept or mopped the floor before these friends showed up.  I didn’t need to say sorry that my Bouillabaisse de Poulet was a little more soupy of a main course that I’d thought it was going to be, or that Canon cried a little with the sitter in the background.  Because dirty floors mean we’re living fully here, and soupy bouillabaisse means that it was still prepared with love, and a baby crying means that he’s expressing himself in the only way his little baby-body knows how.  

So, cheers.  Cheers to saying I’m sorry when we truly need to, and zipping our lips and not apologizing when we have nothing to apologize for. Cheers to being who we are and not who we’re not, and along the way, learning to believe that our present self and the gifts we offer, are good enough for the world around us.  Cheers.   

on apologizing to the target lady.

My own humanity kills me sometimes.

Case in point: the Target gift card hotline. Now you’d think that if I’d been given a faulty gift card for Christmas, that my attitude toward the customer service reps would one of pure mercy – after all, it’s their call or not whether I’ll get a replacement card in the mail.

But instead, there’s this evil thing that sometimes happens to me when I call a 1-800 number: I go corporate on them.

“Let me speak to your manager.”

“No, listen to me: this is what I want, and I want it now.”

“Are you even listening to what I’m saying?”

And I begin to talk over their scripted answer, wrestling my way into dominating the conversation until I get my way. Seriously, am I three?

It happened again last week: I’d attempted to use a Target gift card over New Year’s, but it was rejected. Come to find out, the checker at Safeway (where the card was purchased) lifted the number and redeemed it the day after purchase – I mean, it’s brilliant if you want 50 free dollars at your local Target, but lousy if you’re the recipient of said gift card. Nonetheless, I was determined to redeem the gift I’d been given.

I kindly explained to the rep on the phone my situation, and he kindly gave me hope that $50 might still come my way, though I still had to be transferred to his supervisor. And that’s when all hell broke loose: she told me I had to have an activation code receipt and I asked her to be gentle.

“You’re yelling at me!”

“Ma’am, I’m not yelling at you, I’m explaining to you-”

“Please! Be gentle to me!”

Gentle? That’s what I say to Canon when he’s pulling my hair, and the kid’s not even 6-months old yet.

I huffily hung up, proceeded to call Safeway and find what I needed, only to call again, and eventually be connected to the same supervisor again.

Well, shoot.

By this point 20 minutes had passed, and I was beginning to realize that maybe – just maybe – I’d overreacted a little bit. Maybe – just maybe – she wasn’t actually yelling, but had raised her voice a squidge to make a point, and I’d shot off like Ralphie’s Red Rider BB gun, cracking eyeglasses left and right.

“Um, did I speak to you just a few minutes ago about being, uh, [^%&$^%^#] …gentle?”

“Yes ma’am you did.”

“Uh, I just wanted to apologize. It’s my first week not having a job, and I’m just, well, I’m in transition. I’m sorry.”

“Well, …thank you.”

I’m mailing her a BFF necklace next week.

But seriously now: there exists within me a love-hate relationship with saying, “I’m sorry,” but when my heart’s beating like a big, bad drum, and I know that I was the one wrong in this situation, I have no choice but to utter the most powerful and freeing of words.

When I react against Target 1-800 number customer service reps, I have to ask myself what’s behind that reaction: am I really mad at them, or is there something deeper going on inside of me? And usually it’s the latter.

So, grace. Heaps and heaps of grace. Grace upon you and grace upon me. Here’s to the new year: to responding instead of reacting, to knowing and learning and dealing with our insides, and to learning how to say the most powerful and freeing of words. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

And might we be gentle with each other in the process of growth.

epiphany & christmas decor in january.

Confession: our Christmas decorations are still up. And I’m totally okay with it.

Usually, by the time New Year’s rolls around, it’s out with the old and in with the new; the red and green, the glitter and glow are put away, stuffed in the basement anticipating the next December. But this year the Target clearance section Christmas bargains I just found for 75% off have proudly been on display for the past six days, and the silver glittered words “peace” and “joy” still rest gently against the fireplace. Granted, we didn’t have but a two foot Charlie Brown Christmas tree, since the holidays were celebrated in festive faire up in Oregon, but the rest of the decorations -including all the ornaments, hung on the wine rack with care – remain.

I suppose I’m still chewing on this season, sucking all the marrow I can out of Canon’s first Christmas, along with all the recent changes to our little family.

I still sing “Silent Night” to him before he goes to bed, and might just keep it up until March or April.

I just made Betty Crocker’s peanut butter cookies for our neighbors – Irina and Kim, Mary and Sophia, Lisa and Patrick – yesterday, with attached Christmas cards. Tis the season, I say, and who’s going to turn down free cookies anyway, even if they’re two weeks late?

And maybe I’m simply caught up in the moment, in being with thoughts of Christ’s Incarnation, and now, 12 days later, with Epiphany.

To me, it’s a fascinating and forgotten celebration for much of the Church today; still celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church in particular, the Day (or Feast) of Epiphany follows 12 days after Jesus’ birth. Some say it marks the day of his baptism, while others include it within the gift-giving tradition as the day the wise men arrived in Bethlehem. Writes Emilie Griffin in God With Us,

Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which is translated both as “coming” and as “manifestation” or “appearing.” While Christmas celebrates Christ’s coming in the Incarnation event, Epiphany celebrates manifestation – the ways in which the Incarnation is revealed to us.”

Christ made manifest, this, this is what we celebrate and this is who we celebrate. Might mine eyes be opened to seeing the many ways in which Light and Beauty and Truth is being revealed in this very moment.

And so, if leaving the decorations up for just a few more days means seeing a little teeny bit more of Christ revealed, then I’m in.

Happy Epiphany, ya’ll.