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5.4.20 Picnic Lunch

And so I cut up three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and placed them neatly in tupperware. After a morning learning the difference between an alligator and crocodile, we were ready to spring into the glorious sunshine of the fourth of May. Just getting out the door was the biggest hurdle” Do you have your shoes on? Where is your helmet? Did you go potty before we leave? Where’s your jacket? You can finish that origami project when we get back! 

There were workers at the church’s Sacred Garden so we rode and found a grassy knoll up from the street in the little park down the street. We could see all kinds of dog walkers coming and going as we spread out our blanket. It was one of those moments when you can’t help remarking  numerous times on how beautiful it is outside and how very nice it is to be on a picnic together. “In the top 5” we all agreed of best picnics that we had ever put on. Little helicopters leaves spun to the ground as the winds took deep breath–the sky agreed with a sigh: this is just delightful.

I considered that I wouldn’t be sitting here if it weren’t for pandemic on a Monday afternoon. There were all the masks passing by. There was the closed Carriage House building with Lenten wreaths (!) still hanging.

And the Mama Duck, “Annie” that we had spied on last week was no where to be seen. We noticed the little divet of her nest in the mulch by the stone. There were small fluffy feathers lining the shallow hole. We hoped that Annie had hatched the eggs over the weekend before the torrential rain of last evening. We imagined the little goslings waddling to nearby Lake Kittamaqundi.

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Before biking home, we revived our chalking. This time, decking the front steps with dots.

It was worth it–all the corraling to take crunch carrots over looking Vantage Point. It so often is worth all the nagging and reminding and nudging to get to the next activity. And I look for ways to be less impatient, more trusting that we will get to where we need to go. There is just so much joy to be had when we emerge. Like today, the wind kept calling with Sister Sun: come out and dine with me!

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5.1.20 May Day

The skies were mixed on the first day of May. I could say the same of the emotional state on our Lane. We managed a may pole made of lingering Valentine ribbon, a wrapping paper tube, and a cadre of staples. My son proceeded to rip a ribbon off with his intense celebration. Our next door neighbors put out a lovely ribbon hanging as well as flowers in front of their home. The neighbors from across the way were so kind as to deliver a May Day cone of azaleas to our doorstep.

And then when we needed another fresh breath in the afternoon: a balloon “parade” down the block with Dad just to make sure we didn’t miss any other signs of the new month and coming of spring.

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We settle in for at least another month of quarantine, pivoting with each mood of the morning. We yawn into the afternoons, busy in the busy work of being student, pastor, and four year-old napper.

And we find inspiration in the verse of my father who has taken to Zooming from Tennessee to my church’s Thursday creative writing team. Sanctuary is needed to temper the news coming from “out there” and needed up close as well, in our up and down house. May the Spirit meet us everywhere in May.

By Mark

Nearby is the country they call life
Not a separate piece of geography
A space drawn closer to you
Closer than you can imagine
It is your home
Not a structure or address
But the lilting loveliness
Of I am Yours and
You are Mine

The lilting loveliness
Surrounds you
Not as a cautious cocoon
Not devoid of danger
But Spring-like
It invites you to enter
Enter and walk in Peace

Enter, walk in Peace
In the garden of Hope
Watch children playing
In sacred space
In Sanctuary
From woeful worry
From dire despair
In the whisper
All shall be well.

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4.29.20 Nested

After the rains of the weekend, water had settled on the course. This was the first time we’ve seen ducks nestled so closeby in these puddle ponds. We came across our friends reading as well, Eric Carle’s Animalia.

And then today…we had heard that a duck had nested at the church wall. My daughter wanted to go over to the Sacred Garden in order to check on the “Mama Duck.” So I toted the kiddos in the bike carrier. And sure enough, there she was–not even nestled away in a super private place–but right there by the brick and stone. She does know to blend in to protect her young.

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Otherwise, we took to the herb planter as the sun shone today. We hope that basil, chives, and parsley (thanks for the seeds, Terri!) will be good bedmates. We made sure the little seeds had a nice home just below the soil. I worked impossibly to get my son to scoop for a weed, but he was having too much fun digging in a bed of pine needles.

We also brought this new lady into being out on the greens.

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She helps in the joy department. As does a night that ends in ice cream. We do dessert at my house on Wednesdays and weekends. Extra special tonight with Howard County delivery from Charmery! Giving thanks for small businesses. Giving thanks tonight for my brood and the ongoing encounters and activities that fill our days. Love and joy from our nest to yours–

4.25.20 Hungering

I’m just back from dropping some food at the church. Frank was at the ready again this month to collection food and checks for the Maryland Food Bank *(you can donate here). I am grateful to some neighbors on my block for dropping off some additional items for me to take over.

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I hadn’t been over to the church at the Vantage Point neighborhood in a couple of weeks. You notice the little things. The flowers on the Vantage Point block corner have changed. The Senior Residences for Vantage House signs have all been updated. There are different flowers in blossom at The Carriage House.  We still have our Lenten wreaths on the doors.

One lady from Vantage House was over delivering food to Franks’ car and asking about the church. She asked, “Are you the one who used to wave with a balloon out there? There was some kind of story behind that.” I replied,  “That was me,” and answered some of her questions about the church. And I found myself missing my little spot there on the corner. I wondered if there would be some way to wave again. I probably chattered on more than I should have. I would like to have heard more of her story, but I think I am out of practice with in-person conversations–especially with mask constrictions!

It will be interesting to live into our socially distanced future. As much as people will be hesitant to gather and share physical space, my sense is that the hunger will be great for connection. I think back to March 9 and the last day waving the corner I had before we distanced and the eerie wondering about how long we might be operating in isolation.

On the homefront, we started with homemade pancakes (that my husband was able to make through the sourdough starter), Clean-Olympics (how much cleaning can we do!?), and a jaunt outside to visit and update our art patch.

I’m working on a sermon and connecting into the Revolutionary Love Artist Uprising Call to Action: imagining the world as it can be in the spirit of ubuntumy existence is wrapped up in your existence.

May those with bare pantries receive a new outpouring. May those organizations working to make sure that people will eat have the support they need. However you are hungering this day–in body, mind, spirit–may you be fed by earth, self-care, and community.

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4.22.20 Tame

This mask says it all. It was a roarrrr kind of day from both the kiddos. They seemed to take turns living out their frustrations. We watched some Earth Day videos and took a brief jaunt out of doors. I squeezed out time I could doing work and tending to what felt important. But the lions also make me stop, wanting to be noticed. “Watch me!” “Look at me!” “You aren’t seeing!”

And the noise made me all the more aware of the swirling chaos built up in rooms of our house:  pine needles collected on a walk, stray toy cars dotting the kitchen floor, and tiny bits of construction paper embedded in the carpet. “Roarrrr” the lions seemed to say. The actions from my children communicated to me–We’ve got all kinds of feelings that erupt as a result of being cooped up.

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And then, a breath came as it usually does– once the most vocal cat of the Jungle goes to nap. And a calm reenters. And I can better forgive the scraps of half-finished projects. I can believe that even though this morning felt disastrous that there are other, better moments coming. The big-pawed feet of pandemic means that some stretches are particularly unhinged. This unruliness mirror the outer realities–we don’t have the control we so desire over virus.

And my children are mine to tame up to a point. And they are also mine to love. They are mine to be exhausted alongside and to get angry with and to apologize to–all as I model how to negotiate the flux of emotions that are real and rumbling. They also tame me.

img_2928And another breath came at the close of the day around the dinner table. Wildlife made it’s way before us again. Earlier in the month it was the fox. Tonight it was the blue heron just across the green near the stream out our window. What long and graceful wings! What a different way and mode of being. She brought along a peace, ushering in grace and forgiveness. She brought hope that the lions won’t be quite so…active tomorrow. She was a lovely gift to behold at the end of the 50th Earth Day.

I think we will need the gifts of the tenacious lions and the agile herons to navigate our next steps into planet care and preservation. Each day must be Earth Day. We should have a lot of feelings about what we are doing to our planet and what we are leaving undone. How might we mirror for the our little wild cats how to tend and care for our only home?

4.21.20 Earth Day Emerges

My family took a windy walk tonight. We visited the mandala that the kids and I have been working on since Sunday. My daughter had the idea to “create the earth!” knowing that the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day comes tomorrow. We’ve been adding to the art incrementally-sharing new blossoms and tending to the terrain. It’s our little evolution of love.

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I tried to piece together Europe-Asia-Africa with a North and South American glimpse on the left. I think I was subtedly reminding the kids that we aren’t the center of the universe.

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The addition of extra leaves and ornamentation. Indeed, think of the signs of new life emerging in a time of pandemic when humanity is a little more hands off.

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A few more pops of color added at dusk. Lavender azaleas from our yard carefully transported down the greens today.

What state will the earth be in tomorrow? Our art is always at the mercy of the golf mowers and the winds and the rain. Seeing our little map on this open spot is a powerful reminder of the vunerability of our world.

Yet, we are amazed at how in tact our creations often remain even in dodgy weather and with numerous dogs and walkers about. In fact our little spot seems to stay more integrated than we do over the course of a day.

How many times do little dust storms– petty fights–send us in a tailspin? How many times do I find myself raising my voice and disintegrating into threats: “If you do ______, than no_______ (special treat).”  I wish it didn’t take threats in order for us to act with compassion and love to preserve our life together. I wish the same for our earth care.

This past Sunday, Sue from our church presented on a Tempestry Project. An interfaith group of knitters in Frederick, Maryland, worked hard to stitch 1900-2060 on a wide panel. The post-its in the below photo mark our current year, 2020. You will see a large black crack. With no substantial change, we head toward the lower half of the crack. With concerted efforts, we can head more slowly down the upper section with lessened red. What a stark visual for the challenges we face with our ever warming planet!

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Tempestry tempsAs we live now into the surreal elements of pandemic, we are in deep touch with the fragility of life. We are reminded of the temporal nature of our systems, and the shortsighted reality of our policies.

And also…how interconnected we are. How much the fabric of our destiny is wrapped up in our care and concern for all. How much a Spirit of unity can come even as so many isolate from one another.

And how much we must re-reprioritize now and ever the means for life over the means of war. The means of preservation over the means of pollution. The availability of life-saving measures over the constant fueling of weapons of destruction. That the beleagured wind, land, and sky might survive us. As we seek to survive this global pandemic, I pray, too that our earth would endure well pastime my lifetime.

 

 

 

 

4.17.20 If the Shoe Fits

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I sort of run a bit sometimes while my children bike. On our route this morning, I looked down to see that I had managed to put on two different running shoes. It feels like a rather routine comical thing…except that it also captures a rather skeltered reality I imagine many of us are encountering in our social distancing.

Blessings as you face the split of trying to imagine what will be in the coming weeks and months and wanting to live into each moment…discerning ever how to put the right foot forward. Maybe you are trying something you don’t really like (running?) in order to keep up the motion and keep up with kiddos charging ahead.

Two different shoes weren’t so bad. Turns out, I can slow jog into what’s needed with whatever fits. We are doing it on many levels already. Here’s to some more days of getting out there on the road one way or another. Giving thanks for the joy that can come when things are off-balanced–especially when they can produce laughs among the little ones: “Mom, that is the silliest thing that has happened today for sure.”

 

4.16.20 High Tea

I feel pretty zapped at the end of the day, but want to post. If nothing else, I want to speak truth about how tiring some days feel. I can point to the uplifting times, while also admitting that I can’t wait to feel the restoration of sleep. I violated a major rule: only one baking project a day.

img_2876After family tree art, morning lessons, serving snack, making oatmeal cookies, making double chocolate chip banana bread, serving lunch, cleaning classroom and playroom, setting up and having “High Tea” for my son’s Montessori Class Adventure, trail walking, dinner making, email checking, phone call with church member, church announcement sending, and worship readying…hmmm. Yeah, two baking projects are too many!

My phone cut out just when I was going to get the perfect picture of my kids with chocolate all over their faces. Please know that it was adorable until the sibling rivalry crept in. Here’s what I did capture today–another tree day at my house when we dressed in green for the ocassion.

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For now. Restoration. Stretching. Tomorrow: enjoying the baking leftovers. May there be many such leftovers at your finger tips, friends. Giving thanks for the full days of adventure followed by exhalation.

4.14.20 Family Tree

This week we are learning about our family tree. My daughter has begun to fill in both sides of hers. We’ve enjoyed conversations with grandparents learning about their parents and their parents’ parents.

Trees were on my daughters’ mind as we visited our mandala spot and she came up with this design. She brought over fallen pine branches. She took turns pulling off pine and constructing these goddess trees and jumping in a giant puddle with her brother: “Look at this big muck!”

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That’s about right–equal parts beauty and muck over here in stay at home week five.

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Speaking of family, my mother-in-law was gracious enough to make us all masks, including Bridget the doll. I feel a well of gratitude… and am also sobered by the image of my kids wearing theirs.

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They seem like eerie images from some future museum exhibit on the global pandemic.

Giving thanks tonight to be able to socially distance and take precautions. Lifting all those out there disconnected from family, those on the frontlines of this crisis, and those otherwise feeling isolated in the muck. Giving thanks for the cleaner air we are breathing, for the trees who aid us in our living, and for the elders that share their gifts so lovingly with us.

4.13.20 Squall

img_2824After hearing about the tornado activity down South, I reached out to my brother. They are okay, but I was sorry to hear that Easter Sunday brought such devastation to many in rural communities there–especially in the midst of the deep challenges of pandemic.

Here in Maryland, Monday brought a tornado warning that had us eating our lunches in the basement.

Later, my daughter and I were in the living room as a storm swept up and we watched it through the windows. She was frightened by the sudden thunderous rain and hail. She had just learned the vocabulary word squall in the morning and she got to see it in action by afternoon!

It left me feeling windswept– a reminder of  the gales of Good Friday when we took kites out on the greens. Fierce winds followed Saturday.

I preached on Easter about the kite stuck in the tree Friday. We got the kite down, and it flew rather miraculously, but the tail is still entangled.

We are changed by the big storms. We’ll be different from all of this. I’m trusting in the words of resurrection to meet the strange squalls–from Friedrich Buechner: “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”

The skies are gray now into dusk, but they won’t always be so. Thoughts flow to all those in the eye of the storm as another day winds down at the start of Eastertide.

 

 

4.10.20 Wildlife

It’s easy to get lost in Holy Week. Like for others, the days in this stretch have been blurring a bit. Some moments feel like puddles of preschool tears. Others, dance along with new energy and imagination. We’ve had a wide flurry of learning themes to color our days. And, some unexpected visitors have shown up on our walks and from the vantage point of our home.

Yesterday, we recreated our mandala as a tall house where all are welcome. Whether anyone comes by and notices or not, there is something so vital to our tending of this little stretch of earth. It reminds me of the corner waving that I did. Showing up to a sacred spot and seeking to live into the joy and materials of the moment.

Celebrate along with me, as you would, the joys that pop up through wildlife and through the concerted moments of being together. Here are some of our pre-Easter blessings.

Finding all the bugs that were scattered all over the playroom before then going out and seeing a host of bugs on our outdoor walk:

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Signs of humor as neighbors don their yard animals with masks:

A water snake bathing in the sun on a rock. Not far away (but safely up a bank), we created a big home for everyone:

Last night, we shouted as we saw a fox approaching the house from our dinner table. He circled our home before roaming the neighborhood:

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Perhaps you, too, have seen signs of wildlife while you are living this wild, distanced life. May the animals big and small be harbingers of hope as they go about the cycles of creation. May we on this Good Friday, celebrate the life that comes in proximity to both joy and suffering, structure and wildness, laughter and tears.

 

 

4.6.20 Monster Land

My kids have long loved The Princess in Black series for kids. The Princess in Black fights monsters who come up from a hole in the earth and cause chaos. Now more than ever,  this plotline resonates with me. Especially the fourth book with the invasive bunnies who take over everything. Bunnies and other unfortunate creatures come up from Monster Land. Corona anyone?

Since the letter of the day is “M,” we enjoyed maps, placing buttons on places in the world where people we know have been. We then did button math before the Monster adventure began.

My daughter made a Monster Land map complete with an imaginary capital city, Bunnapolis. We also made use of an old monster coloring book as my son went to town adding all kinds of figures to a larger homemade Monster Land.

img_2675My daughter then insisted we take our map out to the golf course on our daily mandela walk in case we spied anything. At the mandela, we brought along some of Sunday’s palms to ward off monsters.

How I wish we could ward off virus as well as the Princess in black attacks unwanted furry beings. I am grateful for ways that kids can talk about scary elements as they (and we all) find ways of being brave in frightening times.

In this Holy Week, we know tough realities continue to unfold. We are on the lookout for the pathway , knowing there is the painful route that leads through suffering. But, I’ve got some pretty special companions constantly by my side this year. I am thankful that they can help tame the monsters as we all long for Easter and a day farther down the road when we aren’t so fearful.

Meanwhile, we’ve all got our inner and outer monsters we are fighting in this season. Wishing you all the willpower to press on, friends!

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4.5.20 Palm Sunday

I don’t have adequate words to capture this day that was simultaneously wonderful, discouraging, and exhausting. Live worship. Palms waving remotely. Two tired kiddos desperate for people and fresh air. Stretching into creativity to live into the mundane and beautiful. Somehow entering Holy Week with hope and dread. Here are the bright spots, friends. Worth capturing some joy on this pandemic Palm Sunday.

The crowds gathered in anticipation:

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Continuing to chalk as this is the chalkiest time ever:

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A long promised “brinner” complete with caterpillar pancakes with carrot legs, blueberry eyes, green bean grass (schwoo, we are soone running low on fresh produce…), and little butterflies to signify new life coming.

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May all manner of things be well as the morning would come oh so soon. Next up, “M” is for Monday. An evening ZOOM with a close friend was balm for the soul. And now bed. Love to you all–

4.5.20 Mile Markers

Milestone:

“stone or pillar set up on a highway or other line of travel to mark the distance in miles.”

img_2596Our mandela has become our daily marker on our walking path. We’re always adding to it–today our purple balloon popped and it seems like a fitting addition to our stone pile after a tough morning in our home “classroom.” We Ring-Around-the-Rosied faster until we collapsed in breathless giggles. What a gift to stretch out on the field as the sun peaked out today knowing we’d be back to our little sacred spot as an ongoing stop for our stay at home.

…But the big milestone came today as my daughter took to her bike…without training wheels. This was the first time she got going on her own without a push or guidance! The delight on her face was priceless. In the midst of the bigger reality of the corona now, how precious to have moments celebrating her courage and persistence.

img_2616Perhaps the extra space and time sped up this moment–providing us more chances to help her along. And she has reveled in it. And today feels like just that, a milestone. When we consider what has happened in this time, I’ll recall the excitment, our excitement as the training wheels came off and she was ready for the next rides of liberation. I smile now.

What is this strange time freeing us into? What stones will mark the important pauses? For memorial as we grieve the losses. For joy as we grow into the next mile…

 

 

4.2.20 All Aboard for April

My son wanted to learn about locomotives today again. We watched a couple of videos about steam, diesels, and electric trains. I then had this idea that we should take our crawl through train outside on the short walk right behind our house on the golf course. We’d get inside and chug down the path. It turned into an upturned comical escapade I can only anticipate that I will be laughing at in the years ahead. Thomas the train kept trying to blow away on this breezy day. We chased him more than once.

img_2587We stopped and made chalk stops all the ways to our mandela in the home states of our families. We couldn’t seem to chug home fast enough. We trudged back up the hill to the house windswept and out of breath.

Out of control. Drifting. Determined and then overturned. Tired. Our little ill-fated train time was a mirror of the moment. So thankful that we could topple over together and get back up again to face the ridiculous challenge.

Thankful for the healthful space to roam and churn and veer off course. Thankful for the ways the kids played cooperatively. Thankful for the hours of worship planning with church folks that will help us move into Palm Sunday. Thankful for the catch-up time with dear college friends as we name the fears and hopes of our hearts in this upending season.  Thankful as ever for the health care and essential people out there chugging along to the destinations in need of whatever support that can be provided, impossible as it may feel at times. For the next addled adventures that await us and all the laughter that will come when we aren’t tripping over ourselves too much…

 

3.31.30 This Place Called Home

img_2525-1In the first year of living in our house, I was living out the grief of leaving behind our old house, neighborhood, friends and church. While we sought to make this new nest comfortable, it felt at times like wearing a starchy shirt when you long for the folds and softness of the familiar. Isn’t how change can be?

Being so close to home all this time makes me realize how comfortable I have become here as we approach our second year in June. It makes me recall how tremendously glad I am for the community that has formed while in Columbia, and a church that is always giving with all its heart.

And when I was still feeling a bit disconnected six months ago, I realized how much it was within my spiritual power to help create community. I think this part of the reason Balloon Pastor waving came into being. I wanted a neighborhood where there were signs of joy at each corner, so why not live into it? I wanted a block that continued to have annual cookouts, so why not help host one?

I long now for a community that remains connected even as we distance. We are doing intensive legwork at the church to help facilitate this. And now, I wonder, after all those months on the corner, how do I keep living into the joy and hope I hold not just for my little family in this geographical spot? I keep holding that hope for everyone.

Now we all face huge changes and uncertainty. Our hearts ache for those in the path of the virus. Our homes have become our havens and our retrictive quarters. Some are forced to live with others when the situation is not healthy or safe.

The prayer tonight is for home, wherever you call it so. As we are attune to all of the good stories coming out of our country and world’s coping, I give thanks for the home we hold together in virtual space.

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The golf course mower had taken out yesterday’s mandela, but we were inspired to create–on top of our old remnants–a sign of home among the daffodils, clovers, and stones. Here’s to the end of March and the advent of April.