It feels like lifetimes pass with each day. We had a chance to be away last week. My kids buried my husband in the sand. We ate more birthday cake, we laughed, we took a week away from our home. This was the first week off together since Thanksgiving.
Coming back was hard. Landing back at home to unpack all the stuff, do the laundry, and face a reentry into the long days of parenting in pandemic. How wonderful to get away. How challenging to return to the ongoing uncertainties–especially as we look out to fall schooling.
And so, we’ve muddled through this week. Today was full of spills. First, the tiny beads by my son bouncing all over the kitchen floor. I was first miffed by his desire to re-sort them all, but gave in. There was something about the control of being able to put each little thing in its place that turned out to be appealing!
There were later the goldfish that fell all over the porch. And there was the tumbling of cups of water. And there was my frustrations that kept spilling over–especially when I was trying to have phone calls and my kids became particularly attention-seeking. I lost track of how many times my son announced: “I’m hungry!” today.
It seems that so much felt empty. Maybe he could sense the depletion in me, and that made it all the more pressing that he would want to be filled. And so we ate upteen snacks. And we got out the sprinkler and let it saturate into the dry patches of grass and hearts.
And there were the bright spots this week. The car parade at my daughter’s school as we celebrated the official end of her year. Creating Thurgood Marshall Airport on the driveway. Putting together planes that zoomed across the yard. Mixing together fake snow.
And the gift of taking the kids by the church where new signs are posted.
While I can’t say I feel fully filled, I can feel the grace of looking up with hope into a newly dressed window. I can tap into last week’s renewal and recall the waves that made my son belly laugh. I can give thanks that it is not up to me to hold everything all together. It is one bead at a time finding its place. It is one plane a day coming in for a chalky landing on our driveway. It is the knowing that we can be enough for one another for now. And I am thankful for all those on the other side of the phone, and letters, and Zoom who are our heart fillers.
We are smack dab in the midst of birthday week over here. My husband and I have a week between our birthdays and so we find that the celebrations blend together. We got some time away at a remote cabin this past weekend. What a gift to explore waterfalls with our children. A gift to take in scenes away from our immediate community for a couple of days. A gift to sleep on hard mattresses that make us appreciate the comforts of home again.
Here are some snapshots from our journey in West Virginia and back. Thanks to our church family who not only sang at the end of worship, but who showed up with mid-week cake. The kids sang to us as we soaked it all in. My kids tried to eat each and every sprinkle that fell from this two-layered treat. They like to squeeze all the celebration out of these days, too.
Yesterday we picked as many strawberries as would fit in our big farm box. And we recall what it is to eat fruit from the vine. We recall what it is to give thanks for those who are regularly harvesting our food.
This all amidst the ongoing challenges and rally cries that resound now. We have all kinds of wishes for resistance and joy in the year to come. Right alongside the new butterflies up at the church corner, we believe in transformation. May it be so.
We aren’t quite three months there, but it more than feels it. Three months of safer at home. Three months of chalk drawings. Always looking for new ways to etch into the sidewalk the love we also yearn to feel ourselves. In these days, perhaps as my children also feel my stress and strain, I am looking for the best means to focus my energies, keep showing up, and navigate tough conversations and prayers.
My daughter decided to do another “Silly Walk” in the Sacred Garden at our church. I was struck this time that she started on it, but it became a “Jump” instead. She demonstrated, with considerably more effort than a walk invites, what it is to jump into each next step. I felt the truth sink in for me: walking is not enough.
She then drew a deer and then a rabbit, making their custom footprints for each would-be jumper to follow. I think it is fitting, in these important leaping times, to consider the surges necessary to see to each new article, action, and step of advocacy. To consider what it is to see another’s footprint on the pathway of history. To step as they would lead into the next leaps needed. To listen to, help amplify, and to fall in line behind others.
As my son and I brushed teeth last night, I noticed he was playing with one of his favorite cartoon characters–a police dog, one among a fleet of canine characters in construction, recycling, sky, and sea rescue vocations. He was also wearing a lone pair of emergency vehicle pajamas. He had asked recently because of the conversations we’ve had, “The police are good, right?” I struggled for words, “Many are, but they can also do really not good things. Remember when we were talking about George Floyd…?” “But our police are good, right?”
Lord, I hope so. Conversation will continue and continue about the role of police. Systemic legacies of racism. He and I have a lot to learn. Defund police for a better allocation of public spending. Depopulate the toy bin? Talk about how Chase the Police Dog functions on a team as they work justly with their community?
May you have love, hope, energy, and courage to do the work.
Howard County Clergy Alliance | June 2020
STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY, RESOLVE, AND LOVE
The Howard County Clergy Alliance, founded in 2018, is a monthly gathering to build relationships and interfaith understanding. We do not claim to speak for all faith leaders in our county. However, we hold key values in common for the
collective welfare of our nation. As a diverse group of faith leaders, one value that often binds us together is the power of love to heal and overcome even the most deep-seated hatred. We condemn, and deeply grieve, the systemic hatred
permeating our culture which results in the repeated devaluing and destruction of Black lives.
On May 25, the world watched the callous murder of George Floyd in horror. An African American human being was mercilessly crushed under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis. This terrible event called full attention, once
again, to the frequency of such deaths. We witness daily unfolding of more aggression, and violence, against people of all colors, young people, elders, faith leaders—anyone who comes in contact with unrestrained police, military, or governmental power. All taking place amidst a remarkably persistent and hopeful uprising in communities across our country.
The immigrant colonizers of the Americas imported a white supremacy framework that has intensified over time. Native peoples were originally subjugated, and the geographic richness of the United States is on lands forcibly seized from those tribes. The wealth and power of the U.S. comes from the blood, sweat and tears of African peoples forcibly brought here to be sold into chattel slavery. We have profited from the culture, labor, and criminalization of Black people.
White supremacy thinking is codified and normalized into systems over time. With each generation, powerful people use distortion, disregard, and hatred to dominate cultural and institutional landscapes. Many Euro-Caucasian peoples have
forgotten, even willfully denied, America’s foundation in inequity and violence. We see the tragic results acted out in recent events in Howard County, our region, and throughout this nation.
At this pivotal moment in history we are presented with a sacred opportunity. The destruction of Black communities, culture, and the blatant disregard for the value of Black lives, have risen to the surface for all to see. There are no valid excuses for turning a blind eye. There never have been. The profound evil of racism, and the Black lives lost to white supremacy systems and violence in this country, must be seen and the cost perceived.
The time has come to unequivocally stand against the dehumanizing and lethal injustice that has destroyed Black lives, again and again. We act in solidarity with our siblings of all colors. We come from a variety of global wisdom traditions that uplift love, not hatred.
Let us continue seeing, repairing, and healing. We must act on the love that unites us, in Howard County and this nation.
Rev. Patricia Abell
Rev. Brian Akers
Rev. Gayle Annis-Forder
Rabbi Craig Axler
Rev. Susan Beck
Rev. Philip Curran
Rev. Tyrone Jones
Rev. Paige Getty
Rev. Louise Green
Rabbi Susan Grossman
Rev. Mary Ka Kanahan
Rev. Claire Matheny
Rev. Ann Ritonia
Rev. Jane Smith
Rabbi Sonya Starr
Rev. Csaba Szilagyi
Rev. Robert Turner
Rev. Ostein B. Truitt
Rev. John West
Contact: Rev. Louise Green, Clergy Alliance Convener, email@example.com
Today is my parents’ forty-ninth wedding anniversary. We gave them a quick call tonight in the chaotic moments before the pizza had finished baking. They moved to Memphis in 1971 just after they were married. My parents have both been leading churches, building community, and showing up even now into retirement. I was heartened to see a post of him with other Memphis faith leaders this week with so much happening in my hometown. Protests are continuing each day following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Even now as I type late this evening, I see live feed from some in Memphis about a car purposely driving into a crowd of teenage protesters.
Here in Columbia, MD, Tuesday was the Vigil and March for Black Lives organized and facilitated by students and activists. They asked that clergy leaders show up visibly. Just the night before peaceful protesters, including some of my colleagues, in were cleared with tear gas for the now infamous presidential photo op in front of a St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. These images were on my mind as I walked to the Columbia Mall with the buzz of media helicopters overhead.
It was strange to be out of the house so little over the course of three months and then to be circulating in a large crowd. I was impressed with the speed at which people snaked the parking lot, lining for the short walk over to the Lakefront. Thousands gathered, risking exposure in order to press home the importance of the message. People shouted the way forward: “No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police.” “Black Lives Matter.” The masks added to starkness of the protest signs and words of George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.”
Prior to the Vigil, my daughter had helped me make signs. We had talked about the couple of protests that she has been to in her lifetime. After I put on my clergy collar and mask, I kissed my son and daughter and headed up our street on foot. Two men in a white pick-up sneered and laughed at me along my walk. It was strange walking the suburban streets wondering about my neighbors in these pandemic times. Would more people be funneling the walkways if we weren’t socially isolated?
I peer into my own anesthetized spirit and see what embers of Pentecost are inflamed. I pray the strength to do the work that is necessary by me and white people, the strength to carry the torch of my parents and their parents. Fall in line behind BlPOC leaders. As I think to the stretched energy and time that comes with pastoring and parenting in pandemic, how can I prioritize so that my anti-racism factors more centrally in my ministry and mothering? Sitting with this framework as I consider the stage of my white identity.
It’s not just about the several books I have long had stacked at my nightstand. It’s about making sure that decisions are lined with values. That I better know who the political operatives are in my County. That I understand better how the laws affect policing and the funding affects inequity in health care, housing, and education. That I occupy the lanes where I can affect change.
That I stay attentive in my conversation with congregants and community members as we talk white fragility, gradualism, and silence. That I restore and meditate.That I don’t allow the news cycle to pass with a reversion into tacit action. What are your lanes?
Post below by Lindsey Young on Twitter. Her poetry website here.
A long week. Zoom meetings each night mean less time to reflect and to post. Fewer moments to take in the day’s wisdom. This has been a hard stretch to find joy in. Between the death of George Floyd and the ongoing realities of pandemic, I’m grateful for a few moments at the last of May to pause with thanks for these moments with my children.
Know that in the midst of these activities were hard conversations with my daughter about both the virus and the violence unfolding in our country. I continue to plot which books will be in our online cart next. I consider whether I can go to the peaceful protest next week with #blacklivesmatter of Columbia as we social distance. I brainstorm which things I can tackle and how to pray deeply while wide-eyed in front of screens. Praying you find place of peace in the wind down of this week.
Throughout the course of the last many months, I give thanks for the kindly family and friends that have logged an hour here and there with our kids via Zoom. It has been a gift for the kids to see other folks (not just us!) and to learn about all manner of things from pet care to origami.
Up today: sailboats. Mr. Bob of our congregation met with us a month or so back to talk about his big trip to Antarctica. My son loves Mr. Bob and hearing about all of his big adventures. Mr. Bob had made him the most awesome video of his journey that my son still wants to watch at least once a week.
It was a grumpy morning at my house with my daughter trying to opt to stay in bed for hours in her pajamas and my son waking us up too early with the hungry announcement: “I’m all dresssssssed!!!”
By the time the appointed Zoom with Mr. Bob rolled around, I was pretty spent. And that was only 9:30 a.m. From the moment he was on the screen, the kids were at attention and loved hearing about all the sailboats that Mr. Bob had helped design.
My son announced: “As soon as the virus is over we are going to come sail with you, Mr. Bob!” The generous instructor didn’t miss a beat: “That’s right! And let me show you the kind of boat we’ll ride on!”
The kids soaked it all in and so did I. The tides changed in our house from there. We maneuvered outside, gathering weeds and chalking down to the nubbins. In anticipation of our call, earlier this week we had sketched out a little thank you for Mr. Bob. Later, we added a random assortment of sea creatures.
To all the people out there helping to ease the days of parents by talking nautical engineering, reading stories, or offering singing lessons, thank you. You can turn a string of mushy days into magic.
To Mr. Bob: thank you for serving as one of our vital skippers on the S.S. Pandemic. We cherish our joy-filled expeditions.
Can you see them? We knew it was coming. Last week marked the return of the golfers to the course…and thus ending our “free roam” status around on the greens. It means we won’t be able to be as attentive to our mandala.
It felt like an end to our initial little era of covid response. Now, as we settle into late May and the turn of summer, we seek to create some new patterns. New routines with activities and looking for new and ongoing ways to brighten up the community and find joy. Perhaps you are shifting, too, with some new efforts or motion.
I’ve seen some beautiful patterns out and about in nature: a recently cut tree and all the age rings exposed. The design of what I like to call “cabbage leaves” in abundance–big and brilliant not far from our home. And let me not fail to mention the giant, sticky cinnamon rolls that my husband made from our sourdough starter.
Let’s be honest. It’s his sourdough starter that he nurtures and cares for and we all reap the benefits.
Out on a morning run on the course, I was startled by an awesome sign that seems right up my alley! “Choose Joy!” I see you out there joy friend. I noticed that you had a lot of kid paraphenalia on your back porch. I imagine that you are stretching into these moments and working to find the love. Thank you! Now you’ve got me thinking about what we should have on display for the golfing crew that rolls by our view.
Another bonus today was having the UPS guy delivery some packages. He was a kindly waver when I was out on the Vantage Point corner before covid. It was nice to catch up. I got to hear about life on the road delivering boxes in pandemic.
And here’s to new patterns and bright sparks for the next stages of being. Enjoy a bouquet we created from the flowers just outside our door!
A friend, remembering the balloon waving I have done on the corner, shared this image on Facebook originally posted by Kara Andrews Shall. The invitation to Silly Walk Sign reads:
“You have now entered the jurisdiction of the ministry of silly walks. Commence Silly Walking Immediately. ” And in smaller print: “We’re all in this together let’s have fine while we can!…(Don’t know how to silly walk? Google Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks for inspiration).” Facebook: Yorkshire.Silly.Walks
There’s also an article about it on My Modern Met here. You can see all kinds of silly walking.
The images have stuck with me. I love the thought of folks breaking into silly kinds of walks. Whether I get to watch or not, just the thought of it can get me smiling. Today at the Kittamaqundi Community Church Sacred Garden, my kids and I got to chalking.
May the silly walking commence in the Sacred Garden or wherever you are! It’s good for the soul.
This is the date of Mother’s Day last year. My mom reminded me that this was the day that she took my grandmother to the hospital before she died on May 14th, 2019. This past Sunday, I wore my grape pin in her honor–remembering her fierce determination and wondering what she would make of this pandemic. I give thanks that my family was able to fly South the month after she died to share in a time of memorial.
I continually hear about how the pangs of loss in this time have an extra heaviness. There is the inability to gather with hugs and the new formality of masks and distancing. What is already heartbreaking becomes more so with the additional loss of anticipated ritual. I hear from pastors who are muddling through trying to reach out to families in the midst of death and to take the best safety measures for everyone.
Mother’s Day under pre-COVID times is already a mixed day for many. This year, we have the collective grief of all that isn’t. I recommend Brene Brown’s podcast interview with David Kessler. I find myself wanting impossibly to skip ahead to the “meaning making” and find much wisdom in what I hadn’t heard in words: the need for grief to be witnessed:
“Grief must be witnessed. How do we witness it for each other? I am going to witness yours and you will witness mine.”
I enjoyed the Mother’s Day muffins this year. And the homemade cards. And worship. And the sunny afternoon bike ride when things got really cranky at our house. I could see my husband’s fatigue at striving hard to make the day different than our other days. To honor our cumulative exhaustion, we ordered takeout dinner for the first time in quarantine.
And after the kids were asleep, we sat across from each other at a quiet table. We didn’t say much. I taked about missing my grandmother. We talked of the earlier Zoom with his grandmother. We talked about the summer family vacation that won’t be happening with our mothers. We ate pad thai. We witnessed to the grief. We embraced our blessings. Yours, mine, ours. We didn’t try to fast forward. We witnessed it together.