Saturday, December 29, 2012

In the Mornings After...

Mary's night had stretched long. Contractions crested and subsided with increasing regularity. Firelight flickered on rough-hewn rock walls and wooden stalls. Pain washed in waves, until wet heat whooshed from within her and the pressure lifted. A writhing baby- her baby!- reflected light against wet skin, lifted to be seen and placed gently in her arms. All else faded away as she snuggled him close, kissed his face, and stared into her engaged man's eyes. Whimpering, her closed-eye newborn rooted hungrily for food, and then fell into happy rhythmic breathing.

A sudden commotion outside woke them. Voices, sheep bleating and a hard knock at their door erased further sleep. Cold air rushed into the cave, casting wavy shadows against the rock and inciting the animals to mew and bleat anew. Disheveled herdsmen strode into the stable, smelling of camp fires and the night. Seeing the baby's swaddling cloths in the feed-trough sent them into hurried conversations amongst themselves. Turning to Mary and Joseph, their words tumbled and spilled. Stories of an angel, of thousands of angels, of lightning shows, and singing in multi-part harmony. News of international significance, of God coming as a baby.

In the afterglow of worship, sleep came easily. But as cold blue dawn cracked the horizon, what did partnering with God on a cosmic adventure look like in the morning light? In a dark stable, with the swollen afterbirth still laying on rusty blood-encrusted hay in the corner, partnering with God probably looked surprisingly mundane in the morning light.

What does my obedience and partnering with God look like on cold blue mornings? What does partnering with God look like once worship's afterglow has passed?

She pulled her baby close, smiled up at her man, and felt her chest filling, surging, with heavy sustenance. Baring, opening herself, she gave, nourished, filled another. The post-labor contractions started again, smaller than yesterday, but painful enough to cause her toes to flex in purposed response.

Smiling and closing her eyes, she probably grabbed for His words, the promises her God had whispered to her in dreams and from angels. Words that spoke of who he was, and of what he was doing in the world. The great I am, God with us, Emmanuel. Humming in lilting Middle Eastern tones, she continued into quiet song. Worship can be done any time, any where.

What does partnering with God in cosmic adventures look like in the morning light? Grab his words, slide into song, and nourish the thirsty around you.

Photo credit to Charlie Dwyer. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to Hide Away from the Bustle this Christmas

A creamy winter moon sits high as I crunch across the lawn. Crimson grapefruit dried and sliced in thin orbs dangle from a blue spruce tree out front, natural ornaments in a recent experiment.Two tiny clementines and an off-white apple hang in dehydrated slivers beside miniature pine cones. The setting sun slants tangerine across the road and into my snow-capped yard. A passing car honks and comments as I photograph the tree.

Indoors, we relax in simultaneous projects. Christmas lights sparkle, as Morgan bends down to adjust the timer settings on the tree. "My cheeks are still numb from the paper route," she laughs, massaging her face into caricatures.

A stack of Christmas letters that need to be finished rests beside marching elephants and an extravagant blooming orchid. My daughter grabs the camera and captures beauty and nostalgia.

Over family games last night and savored cups of eggnog, we pause, plan simple special meals, and see Christmas through the eyes of our children. School is put aside for a few weeks, outside events are kept to a minimum, and I love this opportunity to sprawl on the floor beside my youngest, teaching him the amazing true story of Christmas. His folded paper nativity figures fall over, or are joined by Legos, as we walk out the tale.

The late afternoon suns burns low, my Christmas jazz finishes its song, as my man and I cuddle up for a romantic movie on the couch.

I remember the words from paper-thin pages earlier this week about "Emmanuel, God with us." God with us in our marriages, in our family conversations, in our mealtimes, with us on our errands, and settling deep into our homes. Emmanuel, God with us. 

Merry Christmas, friend! What are you savoring this weekend? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Confessions of a Shivering Stranger

I have a confession to make.

I'm at it again.

For the second time this year and in this neighborhood, I carried hand-published photo cards and a flimsy cardboard plate of food to our neighbors. "Hi, we're the new neighbors from the yellow house on the corner," the card started. "Merry Christmas..."

Slipping and sliding up the snowy driveways, I smiled to no-one in the chilled air, in case someone was peering at me through windows. Trying my best to display a friendly, safe, non-telemarketer image, I rang doorbells at four homes.

My four year old scurried beside me, ascending crunchy iced snowdrifts on the side of the road, a padded figure in a bundled blue jacket and hood. It was colder than I thought it would be, and my hands started to hurt from the chill after the first driveway. Daniel too was mitten-less, so I gave him mine, soft one-size-fits-all black knit ones that hung largely off his finger tips.

The first two homes were quiet, unresponsive to my knocks, so we slid the plates of chocolate-dipped pretzel rods between the screen door and the main door. Wedged awkwardly up, the home-made cards taped to the plates whipped our printed faces in the winter wind.

Skipping and sliding around the corner, we headed down the street to the houses that backed directly up to ours. At the next home, my knocks went unanswered even though the blue rocking recliner chair seen through the glass window suddenly veered into rocking spasms, as if someone had just flown off it. I grinned and looked away respectfully. Expecting to hear steps descending to the door any minute, I shifted feet and smiled tentatively at the ground. Silence. Peering up through the narrow glass window, I saw the blue recliner slowing to a stop. Silence. Smiling wryly, understanding an apprehension of strangers, I stooped, set the plate of treats in plain view, and retreated down the driveway, holding the floppy hand of a bundled blue toddler.

At the last house, the knocks again descended into an empty house with occupants probably out for last minute Christmas errands. Resting pretzels on a creaking wooden porch step, Daniel and I turned and headed back home. Breathing in deeply, relaxed and laughing, we kicked ice blocks, sending them skidding down the road.

My poor neighbors. I will leave them in peace now. I just never again want to hear a neighbor say wistfully, "We've lived here seven years and this is the first time someone has introduced themselves to me."

Merry Christmas, friends. How do you like to show warmth to your neighbors?

I'm thankful for chances to meet and smile at my neighbors. 

Linking with Shanda and counting gifts with Ann.

Photo credit

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rekindling Romance a Moment at a Time

“Do you like amaretto?” he asks. 

Grocery bags flank his feet. “I wanted to get you something different. Plain coffee seemed boring and not like a gift.” He hands me a bag of whole coffee beans, knowing I like to grind them fresh for each brew.

We are learning new ways to speak love, my man and I.

“I can chop your ginger too,” I offer. Our eyes brim slightly from sliced yellow onions, and the fragrance of fresh garlic fills the kitchen deliciously. He cooks behind me, prepping ingredients for the Mediterranean couscous that makes us salivate already.

We are learning new ways to speak love, my man and I.

Entwined on the battered sectional, against a chocolate wall, we read together. I aloud, him following over my shoulder too, as we follow The Life of Pi and laugh at stories of Richard Parker and flashing rainbow dorado fish.

 Twenty years of knowing each other is never enough, and romance blooms further with intentionality. We pause more, linger longer, kiss more, text often, thankful for our years together.

We are learning new ways to speak love, my man and I. 

I love hearing from you. Tell me about the one you love. What are ways you two are intentional about romance?

Linking with Imperfect Prose.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

When Searching for the Calm & Quiet

Snow falls heavy, quiet.

The red pines shoulder more of the burden and sink low, acquiescing. Emerald arbor vitaes shudder slightly in the cold, winter snows settling deeper in their cracks and crevices. Tiny trikes disappear into deck drifts, and a wee man's steps already erode away.

Swings sway gentle in the breeze, and flakes tumble incessantly. Storm warning advisories cancel all afternoon activities, and the snow continues to fall, stacking from six inches to potentially eight or fifteen. My raspberries sleep in straw beds, covered in deep white drifts, and the flakes continue to fall.

Surrendering to the weight, clumps of snow suddenly careen off red pines and the rigor mortis fir, slipping to the white below.

In the silence, beauty falls. The Artist's extravagant strokes sweep wide, and the world stops to ponder, peering long from cozy kitchen windows, or from behind fogged up windshields, stopped at a light.

Snow falls heavy, quiet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Decades ago in a church, a brown-haired, only slightly-known matriarch whispered warnings in a hallway. Warnings whispered into young twenty-something ears. They went unheeded and life changed. Unfolded, dramatic and different; but still… good. God, in gentle kindness, wrought beauty.


In a second season of my life, the Creator leaned low and uttered warnings. Woven into ancient Persian script, and traced across Bible study pages minted years earlier, he talked to me. 

He waited. 

Leaning low again, he mouthed words through a bearded pastor at a podium, and from bouncy youth speakers at camp. 

He waited. 

Then, for my own good, he jumped into action. 


Obedience, often so easy –usually so easy!-- comes harder some days. My Abba asks the first time, reminds gently a second, and then has to step in as a consistency-loving-Dad must do. 

Eyes downcast, quiet, I listen, reap the circumstances he had been trying to save me from, and wait silently for time to pass. Tenderly, gently, he cups my chin, pulling eyes up. 

He speaks of unfathomable love, of deep forgiveness and faithfulness, of a wooing Creator’s heart that chases after and loves unchangingly.

Settle with me into this place, friend. A place of being chased after by God, and pursued. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Savoring Extended Family this Season

Bouncy European pop music reverberates up the stairs as my daughter practices her gymnastics floor routine for tomorrow’s competition. My senior son crams for finals, stopping upstairs for an ice cream malt and more pizza. Preschooler sleeps already in his tall bed, despite the noise, while my man plays games with two friends at the kitchen table. 

I have missed you, my online community. Sorry for my two week hiatus. I am eager to scroll through my subscriptions from you, and to jump over to your sites to catch up on your lives. 

My sister, brother and I.
While gone from you these last days, I savored an extended family week with my out-of-state brother, and then a second-honeymoon-style vacation away with my man. 

I don’t know what your family visits look like, but ours include long talks over meals, family games of Rook, Speed Scrabble, cards, and the Mexican Train game; frequent walks outside into wooded areas or exploring new pathways; and laughter over my dad’s familiar and cherished stories. They smirk at my two worn-out jokes, which I find funnier than anyone --shaking in silent laughter before it even starts, gaining my composure, and then trying to finish the punch line without collapsing again. My parents, sister, brother and husband grin at each other and laugh at me, instead of the joke. Mom brings pumpkin pie, and unwraps bundle after bundle of food. Tiny niece prattles a mixture of French and English and chases after Daniel. Skinny, lean, rock-climbing brother sits quietly, smiling, taking in all the noise and bustle, and feeling a sense of home. We brew another pot of coffee, and pour mugs deep. He stirs in sugar and the half-in-half that Mom brought, trying to fatten him up slightly after his illness. We shuffle the cards and deal again. 

At the end of the week, I hug him fiercely, this brother I see only once a year. “I am so proud of the man you are,” I whisper to him. “I love that you are a hard worker, that you are polite and kind and respectful of people, and that you are a man of integrity.” I hug him again tightly, not wanting to let him go. Kissing his cheek, I pull back, say good bye again, and let him walk down the driveway with my sister into the cold snowy night. Through the glass storm door, I see car doors slam, watch red brake lights flare on, and then hear tires crunch down snowy streets. 

The next morning while the world slept, noble friends set alarms and crept from a warm bed to drive Mark and I to the airport for our week away. 

I have missed you, friends, and am eager to peek back into your hearts and minds. 

What do your family times look like? I love hearing from you. (Those in email can join the discussion here.

Linking with Ann and Shanda... thank you, God.  

Photos mine. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

How to Save a Girl Over Breakfast

Eight hundred forks and knives clank ceramic plates in attempted quiet. Over scrambled eggs and pastries we meet police detectives, city council members, and prostitutes who were trafficked as minors. 

We hear stories from

  • a Frogtown St. Paul girl who is propositioned on her way to and from school each day, waiting for the bus.

  • A Woodbury suburban girl who longed to feel pretty, met a man who told her she was and loaned her money, and then asked her for favors to his friends. "I loved him," she stated softly, looking down.

  • An inner city teen who was given the impossible choice: be the gang prostitute or we’ll rape your mom and kill your little brother. She silently complied for a year until her baby brother begged her to stop, guessing, “[Something’s wrong.] You’re dying. When you die, we all die.” That gave her the courage and determination to stand up against her attackers, come what may.

  • A curvaceous blonde woman who said, “I didn’t think of myself as a victim. I thought I was the one in charge for a while…”  

Breaking Free is but one organization fighting to rescue women and children from coerced sexual slavery. Breaking Free is run by women who have escaped and survived “the life,” and they are passionate about helping other women and children have a way out. Unique in that they offer transitional and permanent housing during their programs (that include counseling and job skills), Breaking Free is in high demand throughout the nation, often getting calls from New York to California asking for room in their program.

The FBI lists Minnesota as one of thirteen states that has a high recruitment of minors, and Minneapolis-St. Paul is listed in the top ten American cities for human trafficking. The average age of entry for prostitution is between 12-14 years old. 

While Minnesota is just my state, human trafficking and the sex trade is rampant, and growing at a ferocious rate. Find your state and other info here.

To read more, see Calls in the Dark and and the exciting, hopeful story in Cookies, Milk Shakes and Hero Truck Drivers and a super easy way to help today!

For an easy way to help right now, and on the Thanksgiving drive to Grandma’s house, see Turkey Travelers: Heroes in Disguise and click print when prompted!

Join me, friend, in fighting this. There are so many easy ways to rescue women and children. Learn more. What have you heard about human trafficking in your area?  

Linking with Emily and Shanda.