Friday, September 26, 2008

Hiatus

My laptop died last weekend ... so I'll only be posting once in awhile, here and there... send good vibes my way. Maybe the ol' powerbook will power up again?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall Equinox Friday Five


Songbird says: It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness.

And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn.

As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall:

1) A fragrance Wood smoke coming from my neighbor's chimneys as I walk in the evening.

2) A color The red sumac leaves

3) An item of clothing sweaters!

4) An activity celebrating Halloween with the kids

5) A special day Eric's birthday

I do love Fall. I just wish there were more time to enjoy it ... Church is so busy right now. The days are shorter. The kids are exhausted from school. And the overall tenor in the air is so ... tense. McPain raining crappy lies on our hopes, the market crisis, everyone coming down with colds ...

And yet! Today it is 80 degrees. We're going over to a friend's house for a bonfire tonight. Micah is kicking butt in in Cross Country (I'm a proud Momma!) and even with the overwhelm-ment of Fall programming at church, I love my work and the people I get to work with.

Life is good. God is good.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Forgiveness Quilt

As I've been thinking about the lectionary texts for this week, centered on the theme of forgiveness, I've had the beautiful Forgiveness Waltz by Jonathan Rundman dancing in my head:
It's like a dance
It's like a wheel
Less like math
Less like a deal
More like a heartbreak, beginning to heal
We can start over, we know forgiveness


This is a first ... I've never posted a sermon manuscript on my blog, but since I've joined the Rev Gals, I thought I'd share. Comments are welcome! I preached this already once this afternoon, and will again at the early service tomorrow.
See the note below about the well timed burst of sunlight that came towards the end of the sermon!

A Forgiveness Quilt

Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35

Back in Lent, in the depths of winter (remember that?), we spent a few weeks thinking and praying and learning about forgiveness.
Today, our Bible readings cast us back to that topic ... to that amazing thing that is at the core of our faith: forgiveness.
It is a thread that weaves all the way through the Bible. Here we have one of the earliest families in the Bible, ripping each other apart, having grudges, playing favorites, and desperately needing forgiveness.
As our church, along with the national Evangelical Lutheran Church takes on the challenge of getting to know the "Book of Faith" this year, our scriptures, through Bible study groups, personal study, and testimonies here in worship, we will find that the theme of forgiveness emerges again and again throughout our whole "Book of Faith" and it is in fact at the very center of our relationship with God. The whole reason God became flesh and came to live among us was to personify the love and forgiveness that is at the heart of God's relationship with us.
And isn't it interesting that this topic of forgiveness should show up again for us, right here at this time in our country's life, when we this week have been reflecting on the terrible events of 9/11 seven years ago?
What I would like to do today is patch together some thoughts about forgiveness from these four different areas: from the story of Joseph in Genesis, from Jesus' words about forgiveness in the Gospel, and from our story as a community which is in need of forgiveness, and which is called to forgive, and finally for each of us to reflect on our own need to forgive and be forgiven.

1. Forgiveness is about seeing the big picture:
In the reading you heard from Genesis earlier, we come into the very end of a long family saga. Remember the story of Joseph, the dreamer in the Old testament? He was the favorite of the 12 sons of his father Jacob. And his brothers hated him for it – so much so that they decided to kill him … but before they actually murdered the guy, they realized they could make some money if they sold him … so that’s what they did. Joseph was betrayed by his very own brothers and sold to be a slave. (This whole long story begins in chapter 37 of Genesis, and if you are interested in family sagas, this is a good one to sink your teeth into.) Well, if you’ve read the story or seen the musical …. You know that in spite of the brothers’ horrible acts toward Joseph, he manages to come out of all this just fine. In fact, he eventually ascends to power as the Pharaoh’s right hand man. Not bad for a shepherd boy from the country side.
And when Joseph’s brothers show up all these years later, in search of food in the midst of a famine, they realize that the brother they tried to get rid of years ago, now holds their fate in his hands. The brothers have not forgotten about their evil deeds. They know that Joseph now has the power to put them into prison or have them killed, or whatever he wants. And they are very afraid.
Joseph’s response is nothing short of incredible. Somehow he is able to let go of any righteous indignation he might have had over the way his brothers treated him so many years before. In fact, he feels their pain. He weeps with them. He does not focus on his own hurt; he steps back enough from the situation to see that his brothers are hurting, too. And then he takes another giant step backward from the situation, where he can see the really big picture. Joseph recognizes that he is not God. Even though he technically has the power to dish out whatever punishment he would like, he knows that it is God’s job to do the judging, not his. And with that knowledge, with that recognition that he is only a small part in God’s huge, gracious plan for the world, Joseph does the only thing he can do. Forgive his brothers.
Forgiveness sees the big picture. When we step back, and consider God’s work in our relationships and in our world, and when we trust that God is working for the ultimate good of everyone, we can forgive, and allow God to do the judging.
That’s the first piece of our quilt. Forgiveness sees the big picture.
The second piece of the quilt is this: True forgiveness does not keep score. In the Gospel lesson from Matthew, Peter comes to Jesus with a very interesting question: How many times must I forgive someone who has done me wrong? Haven’t we all asked that question at some point in our lives? Whether it is an annoying sibling or a spouse that you’ve dealt with for years on end, or a co-worker who just doesn’t get it, or a friend who perhaps takes advantage of your friendship … we all know what it means to have to repeatedly deal with the shortcomings of others. Our society tells us we don’t have to put up with it. Cut the toxic people out of your life! If your spouse bugs you, get a divorce! And I would not argue with that on some occasions, especially if there is any kind of abuse going on. However, in many cases, I believe we are called to do exactly what Jesus tells us to do today in this Gospel lesson: put away the score board. Stop keeping track of all the ways that someone has wronged you. When Jesus says forgive them Seventy-seven times, he is using a number of perfection. He is saying that forgiveness is unquantifiable. It lets go completely.
The advice to quit keeping score is sound. When we hang onto the wrongs and the wounds we have sustained over the course of a life time, they begin to define us. Jesus wants nothing less for us than for the goodness and love of God to define us, not the hurts that we’ve received. My father-in-law once said, when you refuse to forgive you are only poisoning your own well. It probably wasn’t original to Pastor Don Sponheim, but I always think of him when I think about this topic of forgiveness. Keep your well free of poison. Put down the scoreboard and forgive.
Now for the 3rd piece of our quilt: Hold our emotions up to the light of God. This thought is an extension of the 2nd piece. When we quit keeping score, it means we let go of the sour emotions we feel, and we hold them up to the light of God.
I read an interesting article this week, reflecting on the terrible events of 9/11 seven years ago. Brian McLaren, a pastor and author wrote: "In many ways we have run from the feelings of that day ... grief, grievance, unity, confusion, dislocation, vulnerability and solidarity. In many ways, we quickly transmuted those emotions into ones that we are more familiar with, ones we know how to "work with" -- anger, lust for revenge, blame, scape-goating, offended pride, even hate.” (read the article here)
Many times in our lives, legitimate emotions such as grief, hurt and confusion can quickly turn into anger and the desire to retaliate. McLaren's advice, to hold those emotions up to the light of God’s love, is so helpful. It’s sort of a different take on the idea of counting to 10 when you feel angry with someone. In addition to the calming effect that taking a little timeout can do, the action of holding our hurts up to the light of God offers a whole new way of realizing that God can actually do something good with the awful things that have hurt you. God does not want us to cling to our wounds. God does not want us to put all of our energy into exacting vengeance on those who have hurt us.
God simply wants us. God wants our hearts and our faith and our love.
It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? That we could let go of our grievances and let God dole out the consequences? Believe me, I know! They say, the Pastor preaches the sermons she most needs to hear. Along with the rest of the human race, I am very good a holding grudges and keeping score. God’s reality is radically different. God asks us to trust. God says, “I know you are hurt. I have felt the hurts, too. I have taken them into my very own body, and died because of all the hurts in the world.” God says, “I know.” Hold those hurts up to me, Let my light shine upon them, redeem them and turn them into something new, because that is what I am all about. Making all things new. Do you believe it?
And now, finally the last piece of the quilt. It is a simple, but profound piece. It is the center of our faith, and our relationship with God. And here it is: You are forgiven. You are free. We need so much to hear those words, don’t we? We say them practically every week in worship at some point. But sometimes, it seems like we don’t really hear them.
A few years ago at my previous congregation, during the seasons of Advent and Lent one year, we decided to have a one-on-one statement of forgiveness for everyone who came up for communion. It was really quite simple, but the fact that it was one on one, and that there was touch involved made all the difference in the world. We pastors placed our hands on the head or shoulders of each person and simply stated, “In the name and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven” Something happened in that transaction. Many people wept openly. Many folks later said, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
The people had really heard the message of forgiveness. Today I invite you to wrap yourself up in this knowledge of the very fact that you are a forgiven, beloved child of God. Wear that clean garment into the world, and let God's love and forgiveness flow into your life, through you and out to those who need God's love the most.
That’s our quilt.
Forgiveness sees the big picture
Forgiveness doesn’t keep score
Hold your hurts up to the light of God
And finally, hear and KNOW that you are forgiven.
(As I was delivering this sermon on Saturday afternoon, a bright sunbeam streamed through the windows at exactly this moment!)
Now, wrap yourself in that quilt. Settle into the comfort of God’s love and grace, and pray with me.
Gracious and loving God of all forgiveness, we thank you. We praise you because we are in awe that you can look on our hearts, look past our wrongs, and love us for who we are. Thank you for the healing balm of your forgiveness in our lives. Help us, Lord. Help us to step back, and to see what you see. Help us to let go of our hurts, rather than letting them define us. Instead we ask that you would define us by you power and love and grace. Give us strength and courage to forgive as you have forgiven, so that we may live lives that bring glory to you. In your precious son Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Five: Vulnerability


Sally over at Rev Gals offers this: I hope that folk will take this in the spirit with which it is offered; that of continuing prayer and concern tempered by the knowledge that we are called both to weep and to rejoice with our communities.

I have recently been reading a book entitled Jesus wept, it is all about vulnerability in leadership. The authors speak of how Jesus shared his earthly frustrations and vulnerabilities with a select group of people. To some he was the charismatic leader and teacher, to others words of wisdom were opened and explained and some frustrations shared, to his "inner circle of friends: Peter, James and John, he was most fully himself, and in all of these things he was open to God.

So I bring you this weeks Friday 5:

1. Is vulnerability something that comes easily to you, or are you a private person?
For better or worse, as I've grown older, I've become less vulnerable. I still seek to live and relate to all with authenticity and transparency, but I'm more careful as I age. I think it is a life-long process to learn, especially when one is in such a public position, how much to share, and how much to protect.

2.How important is it to keep up a professional persona in work/ ministry?
I'm still trying to figure this one out.

3. Masks, a form of self protection discuss...
Masks make me think of phony-ness - something I've been unable to tolerate for as long as I can remember. However, I've been known to put on a grin and bear it in certain situations. I suppose that is a mask.

4. Who knows you warts and all?
My spouse and children, my brother, a few dear dear friends.

5. Share a book, a prayer, a piece of music, a poem or a person that touches the deep place in your soul, and calls you to be who you are most authentically.
Someone else posted a lovely video of the hymn "I will come to you in the silence" I would echo that one.
And today as I was hiking, the song Fragile by Nanci Griffith shuffled into my playlist ... Fragile as the Lady in the Harbor ... Fragile as the torch that glows ... fragile as the gulf stream water to the Texas coast ... sail you home.
For some reason that touched my soul in the wake of all the hard rhetoric we've heard this week ... Nanci's sweet voice nearly always connects to a deep place inside of me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day

Well ...
First, I fell down.
Then I forgot the bus number.
And I was confused about the schedule.
And I couldn't find my pencil.

No, I am not speaking in the voice of my five year old, or my eight year old. They did very well, thank you very much. And even though I have a slight sprain in my left hand and a big honkin' bruise on my knee cap, at the end of the day, it was a very good day for the boys.

A few pics from the morning ...





Do we really have to do this?













Maybe we'll warm up to the idea ...











Ba ha ha ha ha! Can't hold the excitement in any longer!









The scene at 9:05 ...


Ready to board at 9:08

It's almost exactly a year since we found this house, in this neighborhood. Slowly, but surely, the roots are going down. Community is a wonder to behold. I want to be vitally attached, enriched, enriching.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Thanks for stopping by!


If I'da known you were coming I would have made some coffee! Welcome to the Rev Gals who are stopping over to check out my place. I was busy over the holiday weekend, so didn't realize I'd be making my debut on Labor Day. Thanks for welcoming me into the virtual community. I think I'm going to like it here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another Wordle


Obama's acceptance of the Democratic Party Nomination
(Click on it if you want to see it bigger)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Five: Thoughts on Labor Day


From Singing Owl over at RevGalBlogPals ...

Here in the USA we are celebrating the last fling of the good ol' summertime. It is Labor Day weekend, and families are camping, playing in the park, swimming, grilling hotdogs in the backyard, visiting amusement parks and zoos and historical sites and outdoor concerts and whatever else they can find to help them extend summer's sun and play just a little bit longer.

It is supposed to also be a celebration of the working man and woman, the backbone of the American economy, the "salt-of-the-earth neices and nephews of Uncle Sam. With apologies to those in other countries, this is a Friday Five about LABOR. All can play. Put down that hammer, that spoon, that rolling pin, that rake, that pen, that commentary, that lexicon, and let's have some fun.

1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
I've had many bad jobs ... Fast Food, Temping Nightmares, Wack-o bosses ... but hands down, the worst was the summer before I went away to college. I joined the summer corps of college students that filled in at the Chevrolet Engine factory in my home town of Flint, Michigan. We did all the work that no-one else wanted to do over the summer. Filling in on hot days, when the temp of the Assembly line was well over 100 degrees, getting felt up by greasy old guys ... resisting the urge to "speed out" the shifts with my drug-savvy cohorts.

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
Being a Mom and a Pastor, in that order. It's what I'm doing right now, and absolutely where God has called me to be.

3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
I would love to live and work at a retreat center, offering folks the opportunity to come away and rest.

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
The fam took a wonderful trip to the Black Hills in June. Later in July, I took a 'stay-cation,' spending a week at home, hosting my Mom for her 75th birthday, and enjoying some quality time with my boys and my brother.

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
The juggling act will become more intense as we get used to the new school schedule, and figure out exactly what our childcare needs are, along with more evening commitments for myself at church. Yeah, I'm dreading it a bit.

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)? If you are a guy pal, not a mom, or you choose not to answer the above, is there a song, a book, a play, that says "workplace" to you?
My interesting story about labor is that even though I've had two children, I've never experienced labor. My first was a week late, and HUGE, and positioned in a dangerous way, so I had an emergency c-section. Our second was delivered the same way because I was 'too old' to have a V-back. Weird thing is, I went through my whole first pregnancy with midwives, not wanting to think of birth as an emergency medical event, but a natural process. Somebody up there has an odd sense of humor.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stay Up Late


We let the boys stay up and watch Obama's speech tonight.
True to form, Micah was very attentive and thoughtful; Luke was attentive, too, but had many comments and questions to interject. It was so cool, as a family, to watch what feels like history being made. When we let the boys know that tonight's speech would take the place of their bedtime story, it was Luke who observed, "This is an important story!." They are still so wide eyed, and take it all in.

I do hope that there will be major change for the lives of our children as Barack has promised. I do hope that we are at a defining moment in America's history. A moment when we embrace the reality that, as Dr King said, "we are all tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured." *

Amen! May it be so.

* From "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," delivered by Martin Luther King at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., on 31 March 1968.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Clinging to Hope


Romans 8:37-39
created at wordle.com

Say a Prayer


Today my job took me to a very dark and difficult place ... to the bedside of a woman who is dying of leukemia. She is a mom who is my age, and who, like me has two young sons. She can no longer speak, but her eyes and lips beseeched me to call her husband to come and be with her. I prayed for her, invoking the Romans passage "neither life nor death nor .... height nor depth can keep us from the love of God." claiming the strong promise of God's love and presence even in this present darkness. But tears covered my face. There was no bravado. There wasn't a glimmer, really of God's presence in that ICU room. After I blessed her and promised to call her husband she was ready to sleep again. On my way out, I stopped in the chapel and wept. There's no making sense of this painful, tragic death.

Please pray for LuAnn. Pray for her husband and two children. Oh Jesus, your kingdom come.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Five

So I joined the RevGalBlogPals ... there are so many awesome/insightful writers over there. I could read those blogs all day. One of the fun things they do there is the Friday Five. Today's random assignment is all about dates. So here goes, for my first Friday Five.

1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance?
I try to keep track of everything in Outlook, but it hasn't been synchronizing with my Blackberry. So now I have a really fancy phone, and a cobbled-together three-ring binder holding scribbled-on, printed out Outlook week-at a glance pages.

2) When was the last time you forgot an important date?
A few months ago I forgot a meeting with one of my favorite, hardest working volunteers. It was a wake-up call to get more organized.

3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date?
E and I went out for dinner a few weeks ago. Time to schedule some spouse time!

4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated.
My pointy-toed, kitten-heeled mules. They went out of style almost immediately after I finally decided I liked them and was brave enough to wear them. I still feel trendy when I have them on. So there, style-setters.

5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em?
Dates always remind me of Christmas, and I do kind of feel like it's not quite Christmas if you don't have some dates to nosh with the appetizer plate, or date filled cookies. Yum.

Revisiting Romans

Over the Summer, we've been having a sermon series on the book of Romans at SOTV ... what an amazing challenge it has been to take this book of deep theological insight, complex argument, and moments of brilliance and come up with sermons that both: a) do it justice, and b) seem relevant to 21st century church comers. A couple of my sermons have been posted here (For reasons I don't understand, they are not available as mp3 files that I can post over to the right)

The reason I feel it's necessary to blog about this though, has much more to do with sharing the brilliance of N.T. Wright than it does with me getting you to listen to my half-baked sermons! I'm probably way behind the curve on reading N.T. Wright - he is such a prolific and wonderful scholar/author! But I am now officially on the bandwagon. Here's a quote that literally made tears spring to my eyes as I was reading his commentary on Romans in the New Interpreter's Bible:
"The God whom Paul has glimpsed in the gospel, whose justice and mercy he has been expounding in this his greatest letter, is vast and mysterious as the sea, near and intimate as breath, decisive and compassionate as a Galilean holy man on his way to a cruel death. The Wisdom tradition, the prophetic tradition, the Pentateuch, the psalms, all are now poured out in justice and mercy, through the gospel of Jesus the Messiah and the power of the Spirit."

Then... talking to my friend Deb Stehlen this past week, she recommended Wright's latest, Surprised by Hope, so that is now on the top of the to-read list. I'm so thankful for this cool drink of water for my theologically thirsty soul.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blogger Name That Tune!

I love this! A friend of a friend came up with this and posted his on Facebook - but I thought I'd try it here, too ... try it out, write your guesses in a comment to me, then go post your own list!

This is my entire iTunes library on song random. My catalog's pretty weird, so who knows how this will shape up. Still, it's worth a shot. Winner (most correct) gets a pat on the back. No cheating!

Step 1: Put your music player on random.
Step 2: Post the first line (or 2) from the first 30 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song.
Step 3: Post and let everyone you know guess what song and artist the lines come from.
Step 4: Post the Song Title and Artist when someone guesses correctly.

1. Hey, Man! Don't look so scared, you know I'm only testing you out
2. Pretty soon you'll be able to remember her, lying in the garden singing
3. My friend the Communist holds meetings in his RV
4. From father to son the blood runs thin Red Hill Mining Town U2 (Justin Rimbo)
5. Shut it down and call this road a day
6. I lie awake so often at night, With something to read or something to write
7. I think I found the recipe for creativity
8. Where you are, is where I wanna be, and through your eyes, all the things I wanna see
9. Last night the moon was full, and last night it all stood still
10. I have a feeling, it's a feeling I'm concealing, I don't know why (hint: this is the singer's little introductory riff before launching into an old standard)
11. Man it's a hot one, like seven inches from the midday sun Smooth Santana featuring Rob Thomas (Justin Rimbo)
12. Hold me down to anything, anything that you see; I should walk away right now
13. Home is where I wanna be, pick me up and turn me around (bonus points if you can name the original artist, and guess which artist is covering this on my iPod!)
14. Not everyone in New York would pay to see Andrew Lloyd Webber
15. Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock Jingle bells swing and ... (Yup, pretty much every time I put my iPod on random, I get Christmas music! Yippee! Take a stab at what artist this might be ... )
16. Seven days was all she wrote, a kind of ultimatum note
17. Light it up, baby, light up that fire. I don't know what's gonna save me from the cold night.
18. Here we go again, another round of blues
19. In the middle of the night I'm growing secrets
20. I just can't leave it alone, I've got to sing a song of my redemption
21. What we are and what we were once are not far estranged
22. Heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak Cheek to Cheek Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (Big Jon Wood)
23. We don't eat in no white restaurants, we eat in the car
24. Occurred to me the other day, you've been gone now a couple years Goodbye Patty Griffin (Big Jon Wood)
25. As I walk away, I look over my shoulder to see what I'm leaving behind
26. Here we are again, sublime synchronicity, finally got you back to me
27. You will lose your baby teeth; at times you'll lose your faith in me
28. Hosanna! Come and deliver, come and deliver your people from death
29. I've been feeling kind of restless, I've been feeling out of place
30. You've got the cool water when the fever runs high Something So Right Paul Simon (Justin Rimbo) aaand Jabonzie-Ass gets the bonus! Annie Lennox

p.s. even though I have 1000s of songs on my iPod, this random list of 30 generated duplicate artists 5 times! (One got three songs!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Six Seven Eight

A dear friend created the most wonderful gift for me recently. I can't get into specifics ... it's way too complicated and personal to post in the blog-o-sphere ... but, it entailed me telling her about an incident in my childhood, and then, her tracking down pictures of me as a little girl to include in said gift ... got that? Seeing these pictures of myself as a child right around the ages of my own two boys made me all misty, and makes me love them all the more, and, also somehow encourages me to be a little kinder to myself.


Me at 6; A first grader in Phoenix, AZ.


At 7, enjoying something finger-lickin' good.


8 years old, sitting in front of Grandma & Grandpa Wood's 'Maiden's Blush' Rose. I have a slip from this plant growing in my yard now.

p.s. ... A few days later ... I realized that I the middle picture was also taken when I was eight ... but I don't want to change my snappy "six-seven-eight" title!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Growing Things

It's been so fun having a whole new yard this summer! The previous owners of our house did a wonderful job of landscaping with perennials, especially in the beds closest to the front of the house. My new favorite is the balloon flower ... delicate purple/blue blossoms and the buds actually do look like balloons:

There was a little chicken-wire fenced square in the back corner of the lot, with a lonely rhubarb plant and a few chives coming up this spring. So I mused about it a bit, and one day at Target (that reputable seller of seeds?!) I got swept away by the seed packet display and bought up a few veggies and plants to try in our little patch. I bought tomato, basil and pepper plants at an actual nursery. And here's where we stand as of early August ...


The rhubarb that just won't quit, and the lovely Black-eyed Susans that recently appeared


My prize crops: Corn, tomatoes, crowded cabbage and carrots













And we have the promise of pumpkins in the fall

In the nearby bed that was once a sandbox, there are some random flowers growing, none that appear to have been the seeds I planted. This one is most intriguing to me:





A few weeks ago, it looked like this.











And now, like this.








These intricate little pods are so beautiful. I don't have a clue what they are, but it seems enough to appreciate them and wonder.

Always, I dream about what I can grow next year. I was inspired by a recent visit to a lovely garden grown by a couple from church. The Hollyhocks (which have a special place in my heart for some reason) were spectacular this summer.


Maybe next year ...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Superstar

video

Micah went to a "Cool Camp" at church this week:'Kids On Stage.' He and I worked together to make a little movie from their final performance. First is the dance they did to the song 'Superstar' by Go Fish, then a few pictures from their short play based on the Max Lucado book, 'You Are Mine.' The teachers did an awesome job with getting the children made-up to look like they have puppet faces. It was a great break from the late-summer sibling rivalry that is now cropping up around the house ... and I sincerely hope that the message of God's unconditional love struck my boy in a new way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy!

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There are so many reasons to love this clip --- not least of which is the 8 track straight out of my growin' up years. LOVE IT!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Heading for the Hills

And now for the next episode in my blog-catch-up: Family Vacation in the Black Hills! It was a short week, but really quality time. On our way out, we stayed with Sponheim family friends, Jack & Mary Mortenson. Such warm and generous hosts! One of the things that stands out (one month later) from our conversation is the commitment they have to respecting and caring for elders. They’ve regularly hosted their elderly aunts and uncles for Sunday dinners for some years, and now that hospitality is extended to their neighbor George McGovern, (yes, I’m talking about the elder statesman) who spends most Sundays there, and sat in their family room to watch the SD Primary returns and Obama’s ensuing speech!



Mary made the most delicious meals for us, and sent apricot scones with us, which sustained us on the long drive through the Custer State Park wild life loop later in the week.

We stayed in Hill City at this one-man owned “Resort” called Quail Crossing. Nothing fancy, but it was perfect. We were looking for something non-chain, non-huge asphalt parking lot, sort of close to nature … and this worked. We had a little kitchenette, and a balcony with a grill that overlooked the creek and hills behind the motel. We ate almost all of our meals out there, including buffalo cheese burgers! There was an old horse, a bike trail, a campfire pit, 2 playgrounds, a pool and a teeter totter. What more could we want?



We did a couple of the requisite touristy things:








Wildlife at Custer State Park

























Methuselah the 120 year old Tortoise at Reptile Gardens









The Amazing and Brave Team of Snake Handlers






And we observed Micah’s 8th anniversary of arriving in the world by

commemorating the city of M’s birth at the Des Moines River rest area

and finding Mica (the element) all over the Black Hills, including this road sign:

















When we returned home, we had a proper celebration with friends at the Apple Valley Pool!





Wow. Micah is EIGHT. And for some reason this birthday feels like a more significant jump than some of the last few, that sort of gradually crept from one year to the next. I can't quite put my finger on why that is. He just suddenly seems older, and I realize how quickly these childhood years are zipping by. Sigh ... But more than regret or anything like it, I celebrate this wonderful, smart, sweet kid!

But I'm feeling like getting out the baby pictures.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Retreat






Ahhhh ... the North Shore in June. The grandeur ... the spaces to sit and just be ... the trails and lake that call me to move and be a part of creation. It is simply gorgeous.

I got to travel to the North Shore for the annual SOTV Women's Retreat, which, lucky me, I get to lead. We had a few snafus preparing and actually implementing the thing, but in the end, it was an amazing experience. The theme this year was "Journey to Wholeness" and the plan was to use a prayer labyrinth as the core of our program. Here's where it gets interesting. I worked with the labyrinth maven of the Twin Cities, Barbara Kellet, to procure a large canvas labyrinth, as well as some of her books and some prayer shawls, and was all ready to facilitate my first labyrinth with the SOTV women ... but! The conference room that was available to us was nowhere near the 40 feet across I had been told it would be by the management. So I had only a few hours to find a space where we could hold our labyrinth session the following morning. Panicking a bit, I called the pastor of the Lutheran church across the highway from the Bluefin resort where we were staying ... Long story short ... the pastor and his wife had a labyrinth built on their property! On the shore of Lake Superior! Four miles from our resort! With accompanying meditation garden ... Um. I'm pretty sure this was a God thing.

Seagulls soared above and songbirds trilled. The waves rolling in, the fresh air off the lake and the warm sunshine ... the wood chips crunching under our feet ... toadstools and wildflowers decorating the path ... women walking and praying, turning and pausing, receiving what God handed to us that day ... it was a completely unexpected gift.







And there is more to this wonderful story ... the pastor that I mentioned earlier, his name is William Christ ... his wife is Beryl Singleton Bissell, the author of the lovely memoir, The Scent of God. I had been wanting to read her book, and had just missed a couple of opportunities to hear her speak. And here I was, walking on her labyrinth, and enjoying her beautiful meditation garden. Beryl was not there that day; she was at a writers' workshop. About 20 of us bought her book, though. I received a lovely note from her a few days later, along with a book plate with her signature for my copy, and an offer to come and speak to our group next time we are on the North Shore. I have been savoring The Scent of God in the weeks since, not wanting it to end. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Lisa Gustafson for her beautiful photos!

June 12 ...

was the last day of school and the beginning of a very busy patch!

Micah finished up 2nd grade with flying colors, Luke graduated from Preschool, and on we go. Our nanny for June and July is Christy, a wonderful young woman from our church, who recently graduated with a teaching degree, and is providing fun, structure, and care for the guys while Eric and I toil away at work.

The evening of June 12 was particularly lovely. Eric and I walked over to the Zoo, and caught the kick-off of the Music in the Zoo series, Aimee Mann! For some reason, both Eric and I have had the Magnolia soundtrack (of which Aimee wrote 75% or so of the music) in heavy rotation lately, so we were really excited to see her. Last time I saw Aimee was in the early 90's and like the dweeb that I am, I wore that old T-shirt!



The concert was just wonderful. First of all, a summer night ... just a little bit cool, with a breeze ... a huge Heron gliding about to add to the ambience .. and the band! So awesome! Most of the songs were keyboard and acoustic guitar-based, so no lead guitar, but I counted something like 13 keyboards on the stage! And the two keyboardists were amazing, but they cracked me up. One was a long haired, bell-bottomed hippie guy who created his very own little side show; the other was the workman-like computer-geek on the opposite end of the stage. The highlight of the night for me:" Wise Up" ... so ethereal and achingly regretful. I love me some melencholy, baby.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What I did on my Blogging vacation

Well ... first, I was sick. The Oscar countdown became the Oscar letdown. It was quite pathetic. After all that chasing about, trying to catch all the nominees, what I really caught was a horrible virus. The kind that doesn't let go. Seriously, from January to April, it was a nasty cycle of get sick, get caught up at work, relapse, go back to work too soon because the sick time is gone, relapse, take care of sick kids. Aagh! Plus, I had a weird thing going on with my thyroid that threw my whole system out of whack. Then in May, allergies kicked in with a vengeance. OK, enough of that. Bo-ring.

In March our family did take a little Spring Break trip to Chi-town. We stayed right near the museum campus, and had a blast going to the Field and the Shedd --- along with a kajillion other families who had the same brilliant idea!

Here is the line to get into the Shedd Aquarium ... along with a lovely view of our Hotel and nearby Chicago skyline:



Much as I enjoyed the sights, the best part was hanging out with my bro! He came down for the last couple says of our stay, and it was so wonderful to just catch up. Life has been such a whirlwind for both of us.

Here's Jonny and the boys. They love their uncle!



And here's our little family at Milllenium Park:



We all loved the bean!



Time for some shut-eye with a few of my friends ...