Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Their Names Matter

From A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle:
“Progo,' Meg asked. 'You memorized the names of all the stars - how many are there?'

How many? Great heavens, earthling. I haven't the faintest idea.'

But you said your last assignment was to memorize the names of all of them.'

I did. All the stars in all the galaxies. And that's a great many.'

But how many?'

What difference does it make? I know their names. I don't know how many there are. It's their names that matter.”
A litany of names.

Micheal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The four I will think of during the Stomp Out Suicide Walk on Saturday:

Robin Williams.

Those that we have lost to cancer...
My mom

Those who are fighting cancer...
Sandra's friend
Kathy's brother in law

And those lost to accidents...
Uncle Sunny


This is not an exhaustive list...just the names that have been close to me this week.

I read today that one thing we can do to fight racism in response to events like the shooting of Michael Brown is to stop telling the "Good Kid Narrative" about how his death is sad because he was such a good kid who was about to start college, who was well-loved and liked by his community. Those things are true. But, "The Good Kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was the exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die because he was a human being and black lives matter." (12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson)

...And I thought of the words of Progo. "What difference does it make? I know their names. I don't know how many there are. It's their names that matter."

On Saturday when I walk the SOS walk, I'm sure I'll be overwhelmed by the numbers. By the sheer volume of people who have experiences the tragedy of suicide and/or depression. We human beings are impressed by numbers.

But you know what? The numbers are not the part that matters. It's the names that each of those numbers represent. Whether there are four or one hundred or one thousand. It's all the same. "What difference does it make? ...It's their names that matter."

Friday, August 15, 2014


"Savoring is the capacity to notice and appreciate the little joys, the small pleasures, and the enjoyable moments in our everyday lives.
Walk around your home and savor what you love. It could be a painting someone gave you, a lamp you found at a flea market, or the smell of something cooking in your oven. Then write about it..."
I'm hanging out in my kitchen today making pumpkin pie for a benefit bake sale. I love the smell of pumpkin pie, and this is one of the few gluten free desserts I've perfected. AND, I can do it sugar free, which means that both Mane and Mango are happy!

Pumpkin pies make me think of autumn, too, and autumn has always been my favorite season - full of the color of changing leaves, visiting the apple orchard, hot cider, ginger snaps, pulling out the sweaters and wool socks. There's definitely something about it that reminds me that I'm German - loving the Scandinavian sweaters and quiet, dark evenings with candles.

And then, right here in my kitchen, there's the ceramic sun flower face that Vespera brought me from Mexico. It just makes me smile with all it's cheery smile-y-ness and long eyelashes. I love it that Vespera was thoughtful enough to bring us all gifts from her home country and that she thought of just what might fit where in our house. She knew this little smiling face would fit right where it hangs in the kitchen.

I love, love, LOVE this little country church painting that also hangs on our kitchen wall, under the lights that Mane picked out for our kitchen (with the help of Grandpa-Upstairs):

Mango always tells me of how this reminds him of a church he visited in Russia and what a powerful emotional and spiritual experience that was for him. To share in a spiritual experience with people you cannot even speak with because you do not share a common language is an amazing thing. To recognize in them something that you have in yourself is an experience that changes a person. 

I love my yellow kitchen walls, though I would never in a million years have painted a kitchen (or any room) yellow. It's so warm and cozy. When I'm in here in the morning with my cup of coffee and some candles, my wool socks and the radio, I'm so settled and happy. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Who was kind to you this week?

I've had so many kindnesses bestowed upon me. So many. It's hard to choose.

My good friend kindly went with the spontaneous suggestion to go see the dandelion fountain...and then delivered my child back home for me so that I could get to work!

Mango cooked and cleaned while I was sick. And watched a marathon of Harry Potter movies with Mane & I over the weekend while we were recovering.

Vespera came to visit. And talked about theology with me!

A coworker put up photos of all our families at the front desk to help us all make it through the crazy, busy weeks of summer.

Another coworker offered to pick up lunch for me while she was out.

So many clients expressed gratitude this week!

The clerk at the store actually had a conversation with me, rather than just a "Hello, How are you? Did you find everything you were looking for? Do you want to sign up for a credit card? Have a nice day!"


This blog prompt brings me back to 1000 Gifts. I think of how much joy small gifts of kindness can be, and how much kindness is like an offering of grace. Kindness is a gift in a world where we are often too busy to take time. Kindness slows the world down a little bit.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seven songs that speak to me...

In no particular order:

1. Dragonfire, performed by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian on Sandra Boynton's album dog Train. This is a kid's tune. I don't care. Lyrics (many repetitions omitted):

It burns so hot, 
It burns so bright,
In the dark...Dragonfire.
In the cold...Dragonfire.
In the dark, In the cold
There's a spark that I hold 
Here within me 
My own Dragonfire.
So small I am
So newly made
Within Me a Flame 
To keep me Unafraid
Most Unafraid
Ever Unafraid
I am Small, but Complete
I have Light, I have Heat
I am never alone
I can summon my own

I just love this. I love the idea that children have, within themselves, this flame of life and light, that is meant to imbue them with courage and a sense of wholeness, completeness. I love the sense that we are all born this way, with a burning flame. I think, in theology, I might call this "dragonfire" many things. Perhaps, it's a convergence of things that create a fire within us - the Image of God, the soul that brings us to life and makes us human, the spirit that connects us to both the Unseen and Supernatural and to the earth and the created ones.

This song almost never fails to bring tears to my eyes. I love the simplicity, the harmony, the truth of it. It reminds me to call on those things that I know when I am feeling small, cold and in the dark. When I am feeling afraid and alone. I am not in the world alone. And I can call on a sense of purpose and courage when I choose to fan that fire.

2. Remember Surrender by Sara Groves is my next choice. I referenced this on in a recent previous post: What give me peace when I'm sad/mad?

3. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. See a previous post from 2009: Music Monday - Closer to Fine.

In 2009 I said that this song is frequently quoted in our house. Just a couple of weeks ago Mango texted me at the end of his two-week conference in Mankato, "Got my paper and I am free." A reference to Closer to Fine. We come back to it over and over. It's so dense and rich.

I think this has become my mantra more and more over the years:
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line
I find myself living more in the unanswered questions of life, in the ambiguity and the not-knowingness. It's not super comfortable here. And I don't often feel "fine." But maybe I'm a bit "closer to fine."

4. I am Bound for the Promised Land by Jars of Clay, which I have also previously written about in 2007: I am bound for the promised land... This song always, always brings me back to our early years with Vespera. And then it's like my whole life since then comes slowly into focus. I see how the things I wrote back then have become foundational to the way I live life now.

5. Prairie Song by Bill Staines. This song goes way, way back for me...to an album Mango made for me when we were in college...on a CASSETTE tape. If you happen to know my email addy, this song is partly where it comes from. Lyrics:
He told her he was free; he was as free as any wind.
“Don’t you count on me, for I may not be by again.”
Then she touched him oh so easy
As if she were but a child;
And she whispered soft as willows do,
And looked at him and smiled
She said, “I have known the wind;
It’s been a friend all of my days.
I have seen it dance, across the prairie when it plays.
And I have known the freedom too, in a wheatfield’s rolling sea,
And they have never left me blue, so play your song for me.”
When the morning came, he took the train to Omaha;
Starry stars and midnight hours riding with him on the car.
Now he’ll say that he is free, that he’s as free as any wind,
But he’s feeling differently; he’ll not be the same again.
For he sees her face in daytime dreams,
And it lingers through the miles;
She still whispers soft as willows do,
And he listens, and he smiles.
I don't know what I can say about it. I have known the wind. And I still love the feeling of the wind in my face. When I think of standing in the wind, I think of cornfields when I was a child, I think of the sea in Scotland, I think of the shore of Lake Mille Lacs and Lake Superior. I think of facing the wind with my arms outstretched and my face to the sky. I think of the wind whipping our tent with the rain pouring down while we're snug in our sleeping bags reading stories.

I think of the freedom that is the wind, but also the constancy. I think of the moods of the wind. I think of how we let each other fly free...like the wind. But we also embrace each other...like the wind.  I think of how the wind gets in every crack and fills up all the empty spaces, how it infiltrates. I think of how it can't be contained, but/and so it's everywhere.

6. Everywhere I Go by Jackson Brown. Mango sent me this song the first time he went to an out-of-town conference in Baltimore.

7. Waving Flag by K'Naan. This is why we live in the city. We live where we do to bear witness. To see and know what really happens here where all the ethnic groups collide and poverty abounds and crime is a constant reality. We live here to bear witness and to find hope.
When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom, just like a wavin' flag

When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
A violent prone, poor people zone
But it's my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering when we'll be free
So we patiently wait for that fateful day
It's not far away, but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say 'love is the way'
'Love is the answer,' that's what they say

But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us
'Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

But we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering, when we'll be free
So we patiently wait for that faithful day
It's not far away but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then is goes

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then it goes
And then it goes

And everybody will be singing it
And you and I will be singing it
And we all will be singing it

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then it goes

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

When I get older, when I get older
I will be stronger just like a wavin' flag
Just like a wavin' flag, just like a wavin' flag
Flag, flag, just like a wavin' flag

Honorable Mentions:
Forever Young by Bob Dylan - A beautiful blessing.
Light a Candle by White Heart - For high school graduation, I gave everyone a candle with this song.
Good Rain by Chris and Johnny - My graduate school song.
The House That Mercy Built by Point of Grace - The story of our house.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I wish I could [fill in the blank with at least 5 things]...

I wish I could...

Camp ALL summer! Yep, I sure do. Mostly I think I just want to live in the moment, and I do that more when I'm camping than any other time. The distractions are fewer. The day to day little bits of work that you have to do for cooking and cleaning and taking care of everyone is earthy and grounded.

Read Everything! Every time I go to the library or walk through a book store, I am struck with the impulse to read and learn everything. The library, especially, is like a giant candy store, and I can never get over the fact that I can actually take things home with me. All too often I check out way more than I can actually read.

Make another denim quilt. I say "wish" because I don't think I ever will. I don't actually believe I'll have the patience ever again. But, I sure do love the one I made. And one of the first projects Vespera ever helped me with was tying the corners.

Build Furniture... Again, this is a wish because I just don't know that I'll ever get around to actually doing it. I want more bookcases and little tables and custom pieces that fit in all the right nooks and crannies...

Lead retreats. Yep, I think I'll actually end up doing this one someday. I used to be drawn to the idea of leading marriage retreats. ...Then retreat-style childbirth classes. ...Occasionally I've thought about creative retreats, ladies weekend retreats, grief retreats, and spiritual retreats. I think people need retreats for differing reasons at various times in their lives, especially transitional times, and I'd like to be part of making that happen someday.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Monday - Can You Canoe?

Our newest fun folk music find? The Okee Dokee Brothers!! I just love this song!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rules of Friendship

This week's blog post prompt: Rules of Friendship...

I am sooooo not a rule follwer...or, um...no, I am not panicking that is is Thursday and I have not completed the blog post yet. Right. Not a rule follower.

But, in all honesty, I think it's in the nature of rules that there will always be exceptions. Humans are human. We don't always fit into nice neat little boxes with a right and a wrong way to do things. That said, I think the questions behind the question is not so much, "What are the rules of friendship," but "What is friendship? What makes a friend a friend?" or maybe, "How does/should a friend behave?"

I'm arguing semantics now in avoidance of the actual blog post...

Hmmm...so, ok...

-> You don't clean your house before a friend comes over. I mean, a real actual true friend...not an acquaintance or a coworker, but an actual friend. A kindred spirit. A real friend doesn't care what your house looks like, and you're supposed to be able to just be yourself around them. No masks. No pretending.

-> Friends have integrity. I always say I married Mango for his integrity. He is who he says he is. He does what he says he's going to do. He is honest about who he is and what he thinks. I think that true friends need this kind of honesty and reliability.

-> Friends make sacrifices for each other...they sacrifice time, energy, and resources without keeping accounts.  I don't mean that anyone should give and give and give and never get anything in return.  I mean more that good friends know that the giving goes both ways. So, they don't keep score. They know that when the time comes, the shoe will be on the other foot.
In the words of Solomon, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

-> I think that true, honest, good friends assume the best about each other. They offer each other grace, rather than immediately assuming negative intent or taking offense. In the words of Anne of Green Gables, "If we have friends we should look only for the best in them, and give them the best that is in us, don't you think?"
“If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don’t you think?” - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2011/04/dont-be-a-drama-queen-and-other-lessons-in-friendship-from-anne-shirley/#sthash.AdeJ8L7M.dpuf

-> Good friends can look to each other for honest opinions and sound advice, knowing that these things spring from a place of love and respect. "The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." (Proverbs 27:9)

-> Friends accept each other's quirks and even learn to love them.

I could have written this post about different types of friendship - coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors, etc... but I decided to write about what I think the deeper kind of friend looks like - the "kindred spirit," "the bosom friend." Of course, there are all kinds of friends in the world, different types of friendships that serve different purposes. I'm speaking of the gems of friendships, the rare jewels that endure and grow more lovely with time.