Call to Action: Free Binsar

Here I am with my dear friend, Rev. Kara Scroggins. Here we are in front of an MLK50 mural when we visited my hometown of Memphis together in 2018. Since that time, I am continually inspired by her big heart and the ways she reaches out in the pursuit of justice.

Right now she has an urgent plea on behalf of one of her parishioners who faces possible deportation. Kara has been doing everything in her power to halt such an action and is calling upon all she knows to apply pressure to ICE and the powers that be to seek his immediate release.


Binsar Siahaan, a husband, father of two U.S. born children who are minors, and faithful member of Glenmont United Methodist Church, has been separated from his family. According to the Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor at Glenmont UMC, on early Thursday morning, Sept. 10, six Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody officers showed up to the home of Binsar and Eko Siahaan– a home located on the property of Glenmont UMC – and, without warning or honest explanation, took Binsar into custody.

 “They transported him to Baltimore and then to Georgia, and are seeking his immediate removal to Indonesia,” Scroggins said. “The family’s lawyer has left voicemails and emails for various ICE offices, and no one has returned her call to share information about why this has happened.” Binsar and Eko have a pending motion to reopen their strong case for asylum on religious grounds, the pastor said. 

“They have been cooperative with all check-ins and requirements and were taken completely by surprise – and terror – when officers entered their home before 7 a.m. and began searching it,” Scroggins said.  “They have been caring meticulously for the church building since the pandemic began: dusting and vacuuming the empty pews; planting gardens outside the sanctuary; and, just days before he was arrested, Binsar, noticing that the American flag outside the church was tattered, purchased a more durable one, he said, ‘to fly with more pride,” she said.

Please take the time to read more about Binsar Siahaan’s story. Please his story in a Washington Post article and in the Episcopal News Service here.

Faith Leaders Call for Binsar Siahaan’s Immediate Release

:For the Most Up-to-date Information and Action:

Glenmont UMC Call to Action Page

Two Online petitions:

Faithful American

United Methodist-specific petition

A Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church article can be found here. Her full remarks calling for his release are found here.

Bakery Run

With a half day of school, it was the right opportunity to make one last trip to Jenny Cakes in Kensington, MD. I used to work next door, and how tempting it always was to stop over for a sweet treat. For every birthday in the last years, it’s been a must stop. We still haven’t found anything near us to rival JennyCakes since moving far afield two years ago. So, when I heard that the shop would be closing at the end of this week, I was determined to get once trip in.

I trooped with the kids down to Kensington and didn’t hold back with 12 cupcakes! and a cake to freeze for my daughter’s fall birthday. And two of those peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top for good measure…It was good to see Jenny herself–someone I have admired for running her own business and doing so with such cheer and community engagement. The difficulty of pandemic no doubt has required so much stretching and uncertainty– what it must mean for small business owners to keep things afloat and support their workers.

How delicious each bite has been as a reminder of days past. And perhaps, too, a sweetness still possible in days ahead as my kids licked every drop of icing off of wrappers. And one little boy was so full of all that goodness, that he slept soundly. With this growing little guy always in motion, I soaked in the moment as he slept–no doubt dreaming of dessert.

First Day

First Day 9.8.20

I don’t know a parent that isn’t conflicted about their decision making this school year. Most are going virtual with their learning. We’ve had an opportunity to send both kids to a small school with in person learning–not a decision everyone could or would choose. This is the decision that we have made as a family alongside a school with great attentiveness to the circumstances of this moment and great precautions taken. For the last two months this decision has dominated our family thought and discernment.

And so, as school arrives this week, I receive the roller coaster emotions that comes with new routines. My in-laws were here last week from many states away. Their presence reminded us of the space that comes when other loving adults pour energy and love into caregiving. Their dedication prepared me for the reality to have more stretches of work time and to release them into places of new learning outside our home. Our kids have already been taking in with joy the sights of classrooms and teachers. They share the names of the new friends they are making.

I still wrestle with our new reality, recognizing how much of my head and heart space has been wrapped up into their daily activities. I recognize the fear that comes with the pandemic. Parents are juggling big demands and difficult decisions each day. I see the relief that I am supposed to feel with my kids in a new setting, and I can see the possible pathway to get there. I am still weary in my spirit.

Today, we sent in a family photo to my son’s class- so that he can show his family to his new friends, and I am sure so that it can be added to the family photo board in the classroom. I think also to my daughter’s creative place setting this past week as her critters set down to share a meal. We’ve shared so many meals together, the four of us.

For now, I am admitting the grayness when no choice feels like a great one. I am sizing up the joy that I can eventually embrace as we move forward. I am lamenting the ways in which we are still facing dishevelment. My thanks reside in the place settings as family. For all that we mean to each other, I give thanks. For teachers and administrators. For all that others will be to us, we give thanks. For the school year ahead with its messiness and opportunity, we lift our hope. For our friends who have faced and made different decisions, we share our complete understanding and love.

8.22.20 Our Rounds

Rachel Carson. We are continuing to learn about her life and legacy. We had visited a small inlet named in her honor in Maine last summer. Little did we know, she has a trail named in her honor nearby our home. We tromped out Friday morning and visited the edge of this Greenway of Brookeville, Maryland. We can’t wait to return to find the stream and delight in the woods named for this powerful scientist and nature writer. I wasn’t able to capture via photo the gorgeous monarch butterflies that led us along, but we did spy a horse and rider taking advantage of the equestrian trails.

On our return drive, we happened on the Brighton Dam Azalea Garden. While the flowers weren’t in bloom this time of year, we enjoyed a short time in the gazebo by the dam and found some stairs fit for a giant.

Who knew? We didn’t have to travel far for adventure. As soon as we returned home, my daughter grabbed a chair and took it to the front yard where she could get a good view of the landscaping across the street. Complete with a front loader, the landscapers had my kids’ full attention for a good half hour.

Enjoying the view.

Otherwise, our driveway has been full this week with big town and country happenings. My daughter mapped out an entire village and city landscape. I was able to contribute some buildings to town. We drew a row dedicated to different houses of worship.

She insisted that instead of a White House, she would sketch an “Everybody’s House” welcome to all. I made sure we included a big Post Office (the biggest building in town!) with a discussion about how important it is for us an everyone to receive mail.

I followed up with a little action to our local Post Office where folks were gathered today. As my husband said, “Mom’s going to represent us.” As I made my humble box sign, I kept thinking of my great-grandfather, once the postmaster general of a Mississippi county. I’m thinking especially of the postal employees today–of the support and funding necessary for their work and of the need to keep the the postal service as a funded and trusted vehicle for all to utilize. A bonus was running into church members and learning that I was standing next to neighbors .

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night (nor pandemic and its awful fright) stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…” Thank you.

8.15.20 Island

We were able to get away. My parents drove 16 hours from Tennessee to join us in Chincoteague. In COVID times, this was a supreme gift. The week was spent spying wild ponies, making sand creatures, and swatting away mosquitoes! The opportunity to be in another setting for a week was welcome.

How important to take in other scenes in to enlarge the view! How wily the spirit of love is galloping in alternative spaces. Joy that comes after long hours with the waves. Laughter that comes over the Scrabble board when the kids are tucked in bed.

Here were the three ponies my son named “Sea Desert,” “Winter Desert,” and “Hot Desert.” Quite a trinity.

And my daughter lost her first tooth on the way home in a milk carton! A sign that time chugs on. That the days are marked in road trips, in visits from loved ones, in our bodies evolving.

And now back to the days at home trotting out only occasionally for necessities and to drink in the nature that is nearby. Giving thanks for the lighthouses towering beside the sea inviting us to visit when we can getaway. For the bald eagles that alight in trees cawing out for us to “Come again!”

See in the upper left. A bald eagle perched.

8.7.20 Inching Along

My son was riding his bike and insisted that I come and see the butterfly on the road. My first instinct was to avoid it– for any butterfly so long landed was surely dead. I finally went over and was captivated by the beauty of this fallen creature. So still and so fragile. She was so stuck that she could not be moved without fragmenting.

Such a different image awaited us the next morning when we emerged from the house. My daughter was on the driveway and noticed that there were dozens of caterpillars all over the concrete and yard. We both spied some falling from trees. It felt like we were being overrun (by what I later discovered are oakworms?). They seemed to be a part of some big transition. They inched around all over the walkways until they found their way into the earth. What was it about this day that called these critters forth into their next stage? Mating? Life cycles of death and new life crawling.

In the evening, we saw the familiar doe and her two fauns–this time not across the green, but right outside our window. While it did distract us from our dinner, I couldn’t resist watching the deer munching their supper. So often I feel in concert with this mama shepherding her two young ones. How the kids have grown in these months!

All the time life is unfolding. Sometimes we have a front row seat. And despite the ongoing fatigue and uncertainty, I give thanks for this up close season with my family. Don’t get me wrong, often it feels like I am flailing. But nature seems to minister to us when we don’t even know we need it. I received news that my best friend has had her baby and my heart leaps. And the sadness only comes as I know it will be so long before I get to hold this dear boy.

And I ache for all those in the virus’ path. My heart is heavy for those within my community who are most weighed down by loneliness, lack of social supports, as well as addiction and/or depression. I think of the butterfly and her fragile wings. I pray this evening that many I know may have the strength yet to rest and rise. May they remember the love flowing. May they experience it up close as we all inch into transitions.

7.31.20 Good Trouble

Snapshots from July’s Last Week…when we passed the midway point of summer’s peak. When the world felt hot like our driveway, when mosquitoes nested in the Sacred Garden’s pond abutting our United States. As we could feel the biting energy of pandemic across the nation.

And found respite by the inflatable pool. We rowed our way with rake oars, across the outstretched lands of long days to arrive at John Lewis’ Funeral. We heard the charge of “good trouble” and the always powerful words of Rev. James Lawson.

Two years ago, I was there in my hometown of Memphis as he moved about the city for MLK50. On several occasions I got to hear Rev. Lawson speak, energized then–and perhaps more so now at 91. We don’t watch screens at the dinner table, but it was the exception.

Rev. James Lawson speaks at Rep. John Lewis’ funeral.

And we watched the tree trimmers who came to prune back the branches. A big view from our window as they reminded us that things can’t grow while the wilted limbs remain.

Perhaps the tree and Rev. Lawson were preaching the same invitation–that my children may look out and see something more than I have yet seen. Maybe the earth spies it with new glasses and announces an opening from sea to shining sea. There is a trouble brewing. Good and long going and yet longer to go past the summer’s reach.

7.22.20 Interplanetary Prayer

When you go visit prayers stations in the midst of space week…

We’ve been busy cutting out our planets to create the solar system on the dining room wall. Sadly, the seascape came down. My son lamented that the poor octopus was “so sad” to be replaced.

There is a time and season for everything. The Prayer stations Wednesday at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Laurel were a good reminder of the emotional stopovers we take. After visiting the “Anger Zone,” my daughter and I had a talk about the fact that anger comes every day in some way. Some days are more frustrating that others.

Next, my daughter enjoyed the chance to write: “Love is peace,” she scrawled on a heart and strung it to a tree. We all liked standing under the umbrella, appreciating the momentary chance to gather in the protective space. And there was the well where we held rocks and thought about what we hold onto when we are hurt, and the invitation to let go or forgive.

And then of course, the “Silly Walk Zone.” We are old pros after creating several ourselves this summer. We got dizzy following the rainbow. We then walked the length of the cemetery. We talked of dying; I read from the tombstones as we passed. I remembered also that there was a sign on the front of the church with number of Howard County COVID19 deaths: 96. There was the grieving tree. We wrote Cousin Debby’s name on a ribbon and my daughter tied it to the tree. Debby died this week suddenly. So heartbreaking.

Lastly, there was the little labyrinth at the path’s end. The kids both bounced along eager to reach the middle.

The summer sun was heating up on this earth and who knows where else in the solar system. It flared into another day of living and dying. The Spirit shone with it, into our heaviness and our healing. And we felt our prayers stretch so far beyond what we can see, past what we can imagine, to the bounds of the universe. Flung from the third rock from the sun, we balled our anger, joys, laments, and laughter together. And we were encircled by the host of saints who have gone before. A brightness bigger than our fear.

Thank you, Emmanuel UMC.

7.16.20 For the Birds

I looked out from the computer and saw a big black bird of prey circling overhead. There are always so many birds visible from our home. Earlier we saw both a male and female bluebird out front. Cardinals and goldfinches regularly alight at our feeder. A woodpecker with little red tufts pecks at our aging birch. Afternoons like these are envious ones in pandemic. As I see them soar to the skies. I’ve never understood where they really go. Their nests are most often invisible. I’ve wondered where they tuck away before they forage and take flight. They make their varied nests of mud, and of sticks, of trash or their own feathers.

The bird of prey feels ominous. I later log on and see the news that my county’s schools will have virtual learning at least until January. There was already a lot swirling about hybrid learning models and uncertainty. No doubt the latest increase in COVID-19 cases in the state and country are the driving factors as school admins try to weigh all the countless factors involved in keeping kids, teachers, and school workers safe.

In addition to understanding why they have made this decision–I am also flattened. After four months home, I can’t quite process how it is that we will take our seemingly impossible steps into the months to come. Yet, we will like the millions of parents. And what of the families that will struggle mightily for access? We recognize the lucky places of our journey. I also recognize a weariness in my eyes that doesn’t go away. Where do the birds go before the earliness of the morning calls them forward, before their little ones cheap their hunger for food, instruction, and love?

Wednesday we went over to the Sacred Garden at the Church and chalked a whole flock of feathery friends. This post is for you if you, too, have had a flightless stretch of days imagining into the unknowns of the time ahead. Perhaps you also hold anger, looking around and wishing that all were being addressed in this country with more compassion, scientific trust, and collaboration. For the sake of our children. For the sake of everyone. Thank you, Mary Oliver, for words that soar with hope into a day yet to come.

Cardinals and Starlings and Remembering When | I Might Need A Nap

7.10.20 The Farmer Takes a Wife

We’ve entered into “Summer Camp” at my house. My daughter helped me chart some themes for this month to help guide our activities. We launched into farm time, focusing on pigs, horses, cows, and tractors. A little bit of focus can go a long way.

Logic puzzles. How to hide the three pigs under the houses?
A train circles our little farm–complete with unicorns.

A socially distanced trip to Clark’s Elioak Farm meant that we got to take a hay ride (minus the hay) pulled by a tractor, feed goats, and visit the Enchanted Forest.

It was hot as blazes, but we made it with frequent trips to the shade. One thing I wasn’t expecting was to start psychoanalyzing nursery rhymes. Among the play scenes was “Peter, Peter, Punkin Eater.” You may recall he “had a wife but could not keep her.” He “Put her in a pumpkin shell. There he kept her very well.”

Here is a photo of my kids peering into the pumpkin shell where the wife is all dressed up and looking in the mirror. After reciting the poem, I didn’t have a good explanation truly about why she was in the pumpkin shell.

Warning: this is about to get morbid.

Peter, Peter

When I looked up possible origin stories, none of them were awesome. I found this on Bustle: “The wife that “couldn’t be kept” in this rhyme didn’t keep running away or anything — rather, she was supposedly a prostitute. Historians believe that Peter the pumpkin-eater tired of his wife’s extra-curricular activities, then murdered her and hid her body in a pumpkin. An even more outrageous interpretation is that it’s about the 13th century English King John, who famously bricked a rebellious noble’s wife into a wall to starve to death.” 

Interesting what story and songs pass generationally. Perhaps the narrating of history is just as garbled and often as sinister as the rhymes and fairy stories of centuries past. At a time when I am thinking seriously about miseducation and the whitewashing of history, it doesn’t hurt to take a critical lens at the most seemingly elementary of entry points.

What is this pumpkin story communicating today? Why would a women be caged away in an absurd cell? Likely even murdered and dumped there. In the origin story it describes her as being a cheater ala “Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater,” but we might also suppose that a woman can be engaged in all kinds of things that need to be suppressed. Voting? Seeking a living wage? Running away from enslavement? Decrying domestic abuse? Speaking one’s mind? Immigrating? Protesting? I won’t link stories of women thus slain, but they are out there in abundance.

A sobering thought to navigate the patriarchal pumpkin shell! I’ll have to figure out a way one day to talk more candidly about Peter, Peter’s intentions. Keeping my eyes open to the messages that enchant us.

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,      Had a wife but couldn't keep her;      He put her in a pumpkin shell      And there he kept her very well.