Already and not yet, but the hummingbirds are coming back soon

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Earlier today, the girls and I pumped our legs on the swings under a mostly cloudless canopy of blue. Some trees hinted at turning green; others not at all yet. We startled a snake walking to a picnic table to set down our water bottles near the playground at the woods. We unzipped our coats in the sun; put them back on in the shade. Alice picked me a trout lily because I’m her “best mom.” I accepted it gratefully, but left it wilting on the picnic table because I’m not the best mom. I’m tired, grateful for siblings who’ll play when I want to sit.

For a while the playground was theirs alone, but two moms strolled over with toddlers. I busied myself at the table with a pen and a notebook. I tried not to hear their reviews of weight-loss shakes and gym memberships. I regretted not bringing a caffeinated tea, and my mind flitted from my notebook to the sky — the blue sky, obstructed by leafless trees. I want a big blue sky, I wrote in my notebook. A big blue sky. And I want to run. […]

Do not be afraid … of the word ‘calling’

We wore our winter hats and our spring jackets to the playground yesterday. I carried a thick book about callings, whatever that means, and sat on the merry-go-round to read a few sentences between the girls hollering for me to watch this, look at that. I chose a Dorothy Sayers piece about artists being the closest to understanding vocation; it was a good choice. Artists make money so we can create, she writes, and in that, we’re doing holy work. Others earn a paycheck so they can live, she writes. Yes, yes, I nodded. “For the artist there is no distinction between work and living. His work is his life, and the whole of his life …” Yes, Dorothy, I’m an artist.

After about an hour of this mental exercise of counting children from where I sat and molding my interpretation of vocation two or three sentences at a time, dirty-mouthed teenagers drove us into the woods.

“Look! Trout lily leaves!” I cried, peeling some autumnal leaves from the wildflower’s spotted ones. “Just like Mary in Secret Garden,” Alice piped in.

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My Catholic baptism, my Methodist adulthood

I think more about being Catholic now that I’m Methodist.

I joke that my intolerance of repetition comes from my years of liturgy, never unpacked. When I read the bible, sometimes I hear the organist singing hymns from the Catholic songbook: Jean, the organist, always singing these words I had no idea came from Isaiah or a psalm. It’s still bizarre that I could spend close to twenty years immersed in liturgy and still think Habakkuk was a typo, not a book in the bible.

My bible-marinated friends were so patient the first time I read it cover to cover. “And when the Israelites were in the desert, it’s JUST LIKE ME,” I went on and on, drowned myself in these similes and metaphors. Really, it was kind of embarrassing how enthusiastic I was over this book I’d had in a Rubbermaid container since my first communion in second grade.

I’m so grateful for that experience, and all that’s happened since, and the Methodists who don’t blink at this — but I’m also coming to term with what my baptism in the Catholic faith has given me, too.

Last weekend I was with a group of mostly evangelical writers, who very passionately and honestly used phrases to describe their work that were heavy with “it was laid on my heart,” and “God gave me a burden for.” I tumbled those over and over in my mind: laid on my heart; a burden on my heart; broke my heart for.

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God is all about those meanwhiles

“They screamed as if they were being murdered,” Dave said. “I thought Lou just had soap in her eyes, but I went in there and Violet had climbed out of the tub and was screaming, dripping wet on the rug — like SCR-eeaming,” Dave did jazz hands: crazy-town screaming, then, “and Lou was backed up way back, as far back as she could in the bathtub.”

I could picture this: I could hear it, almost. Staying at home with them has taught me the depths of the girls’ lung power.

“And Lou points to a tiny spider under the soap ledge. And she goes, ‘Dad, he went like this,'” Dave loses it here, laughs and imitates her, curling her index finger in a “come hither” motion. “‘The spider, he went like dis,'” Dave mimicked, bent over laughing.

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And Paul says, Get on with it!

A few of my friends in Oshkosh came over to our house to help me clean and finish packing the night before I moved the girls and me to my mom’s in Ohio, part of that awkward forward movement toward Michigan a couple years ago. Dave was already six weeks in Michigan for his new job; Read more about And Paul says, Get on with it![…]

A small patch of stable ground

The weight of the Rubbermaids bent the wooden shelves in the garage. It was, what, 19 degrees, and I had Dave lugging them inside earlier this week. “Why now?” he moaned. He’s been going to the gym, all that bacon, and his arms, you know. “Because –” I started, not sure how to explain why now Read more about A small patch of stable ground[…]

To which God is saying, ‘Yeah. Duh.’

Earlier this week: The window opened wide, vertically, and the neighbor stuck out her arm to wave hello, and leaned on her elbows against the sill. “What are you tracking?” “We don’t know yet!” Violet yelled up to her. Surreal: sparkles of snow swirled from their roof; the snow on the ground untouched by boot prints, but only for Read more about To which God is saying, ‘Yeah. Duh.’[…]

Living the same old stories

“Sometimes at night I practice telling Michael,” her elephant, “about Jesus’ best stories so I can remember to tell them to my six boys when I grow up.” “Oh yeah? Those are some good stories to practice,” I say. We were dancing in the dark, twirling under new glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling. “Which one’s Read more about Living the same old stories[…]