30 December 2015

Call to Action

As I was reviewing the readings for December 30th, the Feast of Frances Joseph Gaudet (Educator and Prison Reformer) I was struck by how often God requires a human act before God's power is loosed in the world.

In the story of the crossing of the Red Sea, God doesn't act alone to part the waters for the Israelites and then bring the water down upon the Egyptians, God requires that Moses "Stretch out your hand over the sea" (Exodus 14:15 & 21) before God will act.

This is the case in many of the old testament stories where God is called upon. Before God acts, God requires that the agent perform a specific action.

The gospel appointed for this feast is Matthew 25:35-46 where we have the tally of actions that are signifier of 'the righteous':
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:35-40)
It is the choice to do, to reach out, to act that sets the righteous apart in this situation and the failure to act condemns the others to eternal punishment.

I personally don't worry to much about what will happen after death, and tend to think of heaven and hell as present among us now and brought into being by our own choices.

One of my favorite works of fiction is "Curse of Chalion" by Lois McMaster Bujold. It is the first in a fantasy series in a world of five gods. The gods can only act in the world through humans and saints of each god are really just people who are willing to open their souls to let the gods reach through them into the world.
Umegat [a saint] grinned, and desisted. "But have you really understood how powerless the gods are, when the lowest slave may exclude them from his heart? And if from his heart, then from the world as well, for the gods may not reach in except through living souls. If the gods could seize passage from anyone they wished, then men would be mere puppets. Only if they borrow or are given will from a willing creature, do they have a little channel through which to act. They can seep in through the minds of animals, sometimes, with effort. Plants… require much foresight. Or—" Umegat turned his cup upright again, and lifted the jug— "sometimes, a man may open himself to them, and let them pour through him into the world." He filled his cup. "A saint is not a virtuous soul, but an empty one. He— or she— freely gives the gift of their will to their god. And in renouncing action, makes action possible."

"If the gods are making this path for me, then where is my free will? No, it cannot be!"
"Ah." Umegat brightened at this thorny theological point. "I have had another thought on such fates, that denies neither gods nor men. Perhaps, instead of controlling every step, the gods have started a hundred or a thousand Cazarils and Umegats down this road. And only those arrive who choose to."
I find this idea of a god needing a willing vessel to be helpful when I think about God; and a good counter to the idea that "God let X-bad-thing happen." God doesn't let things happen. God asks us to invite him in to our lives.

Like Moses or Aaron-- we must stretch out our hands in order to allow God to act in our world. If we fail to act, if we stand to the side, then there is little God can do for us or with us in our world.
So consider giving your hands and mind to God as we stand upon the cusp of a new year.

How is God calling you to act?


  "Curse of Chalion" quotes from:
Bujold, Lois McMaster (2009-10-13). The Curse of Chalion (p. 199 &p. 228). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Bible quotes from https://www.biblegateway.com

24 December 2015

Finding Stillness


av: Inger Hagerup (1905 – 1985)

Så tenner vi et lys i kveld, vi tenner det for glede
Det står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi et lys i kveld, vi tenner det for glede

Så tenner vi to lys i kveld, to lys for håp og glede
De står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi to lys i kveld, to lys for håp og glede

Så tenner vi tre lys i kveld, for lengsel, håp og glede
De står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi tre lys i kveld for lengsel, håp og glede

Vi tenner fire lys i kveld og lar dem brenne ned
For lengsel, glede, håp og fred, men mest allikevel for fred
på denne lille jord, hvor menneskene bor*

On 2 April 1904 my grandfather and his mother arrived in New York from Oslo, Norway. They had $5.00 and a train ticket to Portland, Oregon and were on their way to join my great-grandfather who had come over with his brother in March of 1903. My grandfather was 10 months old when his father left Oslo for the United States and was 19 months old when he arrived in New York with his mother.

All of this is information that I learned in the years after his death in January of 1979. The only part of his heritage that I had from his own lips was that Friday the 13th was lucky for him because he was Norwegian.

I had not had a lot of experience with death at that age and was devastated by his loss. In 1976, a friend of mine died of leukemia. She was 9, I was 7. I don't remember much about her illness. I remember playing with her (and looking up to her-- she was the oldest of four siblings and my oldest friend at the time). I do remember being taken to her grave and not understanding why she didn't have a headstone. It was my first experience with some of the logistics of death, namely that it takes time to have a headstone made.

(Something I never realized until researching dates for this essay is that both my friend and my grandfather died in the month of January just 8 days apart-- which might explain a lot about why I tend to feel down this time of year.)

In contrast to my foggy memories of my friend's death, I remember exactly where I was when my parents told me my grandfather had died. I remember sitting down on the steps that led up from our basement and crying. I also remember being enraged at my parents for not letting me go to the funeral. This was my first experience with the complex feelings that come as a part and parcel of grieving.

As an adult, I now understand my parent's reasoning. We lived in Wyoming. My grandparents lived in Oregon. It would have been expensive to take me and they thought at the time for a number of reasons that made logical sense, that it would be best if I didn't attend the funeral. However, for all that I understand things now, at the time I was angry. I felt that my parents didn't understand how important my grandpa was to me. I had this weird sense that he might not really be dead and it took me a long time to really 'believe' in his death.

As I grew up, I became fascinated with my grandparent's story. My grandmother was a 1st generation American. Her mother, my great-grandmother, had emigrated from Scotland in 1888 when she was 13 years old.

Throughout the years, we kept in contact with the Norwegian side of the family. My great-grandfather returned to Norway once in the 1960's to visit his family. My great-grandmother was an only child of a single mother and never saw her family again after coming to the United States. In the 1980's my grandmother brought my grandfather's cousin, Rolf, and his wife to visit us in Norway. For several years afterwards Rolf and I wrote letters back and forth. He sent me a collection of Norwegian coins and he always put little stickers of the Norwegian flag on his letters.

In 2000, my mother and I decided to go on a family pilgrimage to Norway. We met my Rolf, who was then in his 80's, and his children (who were of age with my mom). We had a grand time touring Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim and meeting family and friends that mom knew from her time at Harvard. Rolf scared us to death driving us around Oslo in his car that had a tendancey to just stop running at random stop signs.

I came home with a love of Norway and a desire to learn the language. I found a community school in Ballard and started taking classes and learning not only about the lanuage but about the culture as well (both Norwegian culture and Norwegian-American culture).

It was there that I learned about the tradition of lille juleaften. Celebrated on the 23rd of December, it is the day that Norwegians spend in preparation for Christmas. In the past it was the big day to clean the house, take a bath, and put on clean Christmas clothes. Now it is frequently the day when Norwegians decorate their Christmas trees and settle in for the Christmas season. It is also a celebration of Thorlákr Thorhallsson (Saint Thorlak, patron saint of Iceland), bishop of Skálholt in Iceland from 1178 until his death on December 23, 1193.

In 2005, I returned to Norway after 3 years of community classes and a summer intensive course at the University of Washington. I spent 3 weeks immersed in Norwegian life. I stayed with my relatives in Oslo for part of the time and they took me around with them to meet friends, attend events, and generally share in their life. I spent time in Bergen on my own and managed to stick to speaking Norwegian the entire time. My best memory from that visit was sitting with Rolf in his garden, having coffee while he quizzed me on Norwegian nouns. He was tickled that I knew some of the trickier plural noun formations. It was a delightful afternoon, and I felt as if the spirit of my own grandfather was there with us.

At this point in my life I am about as Norwegian as I am Episcopalian, they are both tribes that I am descended from and they both have influenced my life greatly. In the past 15 years, as I have learned more about Norway, I have also learned more about my faith and the ways I choose to express it.

From what I have learned, the idea behind lille Juleaften is as the deep breath before plunging headlong into the celebration of Christmas. According my my Norwegian teacher, it was customary in Norway for lille Juleaften to signal the last day of frantic preparation before Christmas. All the food would be baked, the cleaning done, and everyone would take the 12 days of Christmas off from much of their daily routines. It was a time of rest and relaxation after the harvest and the rush to get everything secured for the winter.

So, though I came to it late in life, and through a very circuitous route, I invite you to celebrate lille Juleaften with me this year. Finish your chores, put on your Christmas finery, and take a moment's rest before the feast to come.

Advent *rough translation by me:

So light we a candle this night, we light it for joy
It stands and shines for itself and for those who are present
So light we candle this night, we light it for joy

So light we two candles this night, two candles for hope and joy
They stand and shine for themselves and for those who are present
So light we two candles this night, two candles for hope and joy

So light we three candles this night, three candles for longing, hope, and joy
They stand and shine for themselves and for those who are present
So light we three candles this night, three candles for longing, hope, and joy

We light four candles this night and let them burn down
For longing, joy, hope, and peace, but most of all for peace
for this little earth, where people live

A Norwegian teacher reciting the poem in both english and norwegian: "Advent" (this video is in four parts)

Little children singing another variation on this Advent theme "Nå tenner vi det første lys"

And finally, just because it is so pretty (and because we are still in Advent), a danish choir singing another song on the theme of lighting the four candles in Advent: "Det første Lys" (the first candle).

22 December 2015

Fear Not

For the lead player, for the Korahites, a psalm.
Here this, all peoples,
hearken, all who dwell in the world.
You human creatures, you sons of man,
together the rich and needy.
My mouth speaks wisdom,
my heart's utterance, understanding.
I incline my ear to a saying,
I take up with the lyre my theme.
Why should I fear in evil days,
when crime comes round me at my heels.
~Psalm 49: 1-6*
One of three possible Psalms for the Wednesday of the third week of advent, Psalm 49 is fundamentally about how death makes rich and poor, wise and foolish, famous and obscure, all equal. We all spend eternity in our graves an our lives are just brief moments by comparison.

In the midst of this psalm is the phrase: "Why should I fear in evil days, when crime comes round me at my heels." or from the Book of Common Prayer: "Why should I be afraid in evil days, when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,".

That phrase caught my attention, to the point that I had difficulty concentrating on the rest of the psalm. There has been a lot of evil, crime, and wickedness in the news this year. There are times when I feel like a guttering candle that has been left in a strong breeze-- at any moment a strong gust will put out my flame.\
Then I read a passage like this one and I realize how easy it is for me to take on the fears of the world and forget to see the beauty and love that continues even in dark days.

What do I have to fear? More importantly of those things I might fear, what can I do anything about?
Someday I will die, but I don't know when or how. The only thing I can do is make sure my legal affairs are in order so that those who love me will have one less thing to deal with during their time of grief. There are a few things I can do that might help my quality of life should I be one of those who lives to their 80's or 90's but while there are many things I can do to hasten death, there is very little I can do delay it once it is time.

Someday I will likely be seriously ill. I've already dealth with the after effects of childbirth, major mouth issues, a wonky gall bladder, a sezuire disorder, mystery fatigue, and several broken bones and I'm only in my 40's. However, other than a weird sleep schedule, I'm not currently ill or injured. There is little I can do to plan for future illnesses-- with the exception of making sure to keep up on my routine doctor visits for screening.

Someday something terrible will happen to me and my family. The mere fact that everyone dies, means that someday I will loose people close to me through illness, violence, accident, or just plain age.

However, that day is not today and that day will come in a way that is outside of my control.
One thing I think this psalm is saying is that I should be careful about what fears I give life to. There is so much to be afraid of in life that it can seem overwhelming at times.

I have a teen-aged son who is on the cusp of adulthood and adult responsibilities and the sheer number of things I am afraid might happen to him can be paralyzing.

Add to that modern media that can show me all the wrongs in the world, regardless of if I can do anything about those wrongs and I feel weighted down by the feeling that all is darkness and death.

I must remember that this is the time in our liturgical calendar when the angels said "Fear not" to everyone they met. From Zechari′ah and Elizabeth to Mary and Joseph, and to the shepherds watching their flocks the angels say over and over again: do not fear, fear not, do not be afraid.

I think I need to take the angels at their word and let go of fear in order to fully live the brief life I have on this earth.


*Translation from "The book of Psalms" by Robert Alter, pg 171
This essay was originally published at Speaking to the Soul: Fear Not on 16 December 2015.

03 December 2015


I first read the bible cover to cover when I was 13 years old. To this day I am not certain what prompted me to do it. I was into Shakespeare at the time and the version of the bible I choose to read was the King James Version-- so maybe it was the language that attracted me.

I do remember deciding to read the entire thing, because I remember the moment I hit the first of the 'begats' and feeling my eyes roll back in my head. It was the first time I had to, force is the wrong word, choose to read. I don't remember learning to read and I have never not read what was in front of me, from books, to magazines, to cereal boxes to lists of ingredients on lotion bottles. So for me to hit a wall while reading was a new experience. As was choosing to read on.

As I grew up, I encountered the bible in different ways. In my Junior High Sunday school we spent an entire year on the gospel of John (which oddly was featured as the verse of the day at Biblegateway when went to look up which gospel it had been). The opening verse has stayed with me all these years as a result. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-2, NRSV)

During the summers I would attend Vacation Bible School where we played endless rounds of a game where the leader gave you the book, chapter and verse and whoever found it first in their bible won. I got really good at it and it was a useful skill later in life.

In High School I took a "Bible as Literature" class and while I didn't learn a lot of new things in that class, it did give me a foundation in writing about the bible and exploring my own thoughts about what it was saying in a secular classroom. I wrote my final paper on books of the Apocrypha and had a great time actively looking for stories that featured women.

A few years ago I helped my mom edit her book, "Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible" and I spent many days checking each of her quotations against the bible to ensure that we had transcribed them correctly. That meant that I put my bible racing skills to the test as I flipped back and forth from New Testament to Old and dove deeply into the Psalms.

All this has given me my own take on the bible. I don't take it as the literal word of God and I try very hard to balance my modern take on the stories with information we learn from archaeologists, historians, and cultural anthropologists about what the context might have been for the people who lived during the times certain parts of the books of the of the bible were written.

Reading the bible in it's entirety gave me an understanding that there is more to it than just the verses that get read in church on Sundays. Three of my favorite stories get very little air time during the church year. They are the story of the Judge Deborah who said: "I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." (Judges 4:9), the story of Ester who risked everything to save her people, the story of Judith (and her unnamed maid) who not only cut off Holofernes head, but had to stand up to her own people to do it.

In addition to finding stories that spoke to me, reading the bible cover-to-cover (including the begats) gave me an appreciation for how much of the story we fill in from our own experiences. In some cases, the stories are mere sketches, just a broad outline of events, in others they are oddly detailed and include references to customs and things that I have no personal experience with.

In the church, the bible not only gets read, the stories with in it get re-told and re-interpreted, to the point where we sometimes need to strip away hundreds of years of our own story-telling to see the old stories in a new light.

I encourage everyone, regardless of their faith, to read the bible through for themselves at least once. There is so much of our received culture that, much like Shakespeare, is influenced by it to this day.

As we say in our family, the more you read, the more jokes you will get.

Reading the bible gives access to a cultural touchstone and exposes the reader to stories that have been told for centuries. And reading the bible oneself rather than hearing stories about what the bible says can be it's own form of revelation.

 This essay was originally published at Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 2 December 2015.

26 November 2015

The World is Big Enough

Recently I've been listening to the soundtrack for "Hamliton", the musical that opened on Broadway in September of this year. The musical covers the life and death of Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton and was heavily influenced by the book: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chrenow.

The show has been in development for years, but the first I ever heard of it was when my son plugged his phone into the stereo system and blasted the first lines of the opening song.

My first thought was that this wasn't my type of music-- it is heavily rap and hip-hop influenced and just about the only rap I've listened to was Queen Latifa. That said, by the second song I was hooked and wanted to hear more.

I've since purchased the album and listened to it several times-- usually in the background while I was doing something else. This week I was visiting my parents and just hanging out and took some time to listen to the entire recording while reading the annotated lyrics at genius.com. When I got to the penultimate song in the show where Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel, and Hamilton is fatally wounded, I was struck by the last line-- in Burr's words: "The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me." Curious, I went and looked up his wikipedia entry and found that he was quoted later in life as saying: "Towards the end of his life, Burr remarked: "Had I read Sterne more and Voltaire less, I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me."

All of this struck me because I have been thinking about two related ideas this week.
One is compassion fatigue. The idea that there are only so many things that I can care about before I begin to care about nothing.

The other is the disaster shell game where I see people saying 'but what about our veterans' when we are talking about refugees, when they never seemed to care about veterans before this. (See this for a more detailed overview.)

I realized a long time ago that I cannot care about everything that is important and I can't donate to every organization that is doing good work. There is only one of me and the world and it's miseries are so much bigger than I am.

This has not stopped me from giving my time and money to some of the organizations that I see doing good in the world. Instead I find that I am one among many and that while my little drop cannot fill a bucket on it's own, my drop adds to everyone else's drop to make a respectable dent in the bucket.

So when I see people saying that one cause is more important than another, or that we should solve X's problem before we tackle Y's issues, I find myself raising an eyebrow in disbelief. The thing with human beings is that we can't put one group on hold while we deal with another group's issues. We are temporal beings, bound in time, aging and dying from the moment of our birth. I can't say to children under 5, 'you must wait for safe daycare until we have homes for all of our homeless', because they might be 55 by the time we solve that problem. And that is assuming we actually put the resources we promised into ending homelessness and don't use the money to build ourselves a new stadium instead.

We have to work to solve the worlds problems concurrently, we have to say yes to 'both / and' instead of believing that we are stuck with 'either / or'.

There are enough of us that care.

The world is wide enough for not only our sins but for our redemption.

'Either / or' is the world of Aaron Burr, a man who had many fears and who seemed to live his life for the main chance, changing sides as needed to get ahead. 'Either / or' is the life of people who think there is only one right way (theirs) to solve problems.

'Both / and' makes room for many ideas and says that there is no one right way to get things done-- the only wrong choice is to do nothing.

I wonder if that is a the heart of one of the parables I have always found most difficult to get my head around: the parable of talents. A naturally conservative person, my sympathies were always with the servant who buried his talent in the ground. But now I see that that servant, in his own words, confesses to letting fear drive his actions: "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours." (Matthew 25:24-25, NRSV)

It had never occurred to me that the third servant's true failing was not the lack of ability to make money for his master, but letting his fear drive his decisions. Unfortunately the parable lacks a counter example of someone who tried to do the right thing but lost all the money, so we don't know how the man going on a journey would have reacted to the loss of all of the money. But for the first time I can see this parable in a different light.

This leads me back to media and one of my favorite movies, "Strictly Ballroom." "Strictly Ballroom" is a romantic comedy about the amateur ballroom dancing circuit in Australia. It's heart, however, is the idea that a life lived in fear is a life half-lived. It also plays with the 'fear of the other' motif as the protagonist gets to know his dancing partner's family who are Spanish speaking immigrants. Suffice to say that it has a lot of layers for a frothy dancing comedy.

When I live my life in fear, I lose sight of how the small contributions of my life, when added to the contributions of others, can have a big impact. I forget that while my cause may not be your cause, they likely intersect in a way that makes each of our work more powerful. I forget that the world is wide enough for many roads to lead to the same goal.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God's help.


This essay was orgininally published at The Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 25 November 2015.

Bible Gateway is an excellent web resource for reading the bible in a myriad of translations. I used the New Revised Standard Version in this post.

19 November 2015

Prosperity and Peace

One of the things that sends me right up the wall are people who preach the prospertiy gospel or any variant of the idea that if I live by the 'right' rules, pray the 'right' way, or give money to the 'right' person God will bless me and I will prosper. The converse being, of course, that if I don't do these things correctly the evidence will come in the form of failure, illness, poverty, and death.

Not only do I think that the magical thinking behind such beliefs is wrong, I belive it is the anti-thesis of what the Jesus experince is all about.

I was thinking about this in the context of all of the war, death, and tragedy that we have seen in the news this past week. Between terrorist attacks, earthquakes, and major storms many good people have suffered and died. Prosperity gospel would have us think that these people were somehow unworthy rather than just unluckly.

Jesus says to us that no one is unworthy. His words and actions, his stories and parables speak to the idea that those society are most likely to shun will come first in his Father's house.

No only do I belive that. I also belive that we have gotten the wrong end of who is supposed to be providing the prosperty. We know (or we should know by now) that poverty and distress are some of the major drivers of war and destruction. We know that when we join together to create jobs, communities, and a sense of stablity peace has a chance to grow and thrive. When we right injustice, remove oppressive forces, and provide opportunity we quiet the siren song of violence and make space for peaceful differences.

The psalm appointed for this Wednesday is number 122:

I was glad when they said to me, *
"Let us go to the house of the LORD."

Now our feet are standing *
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity with itself;

To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD, *
the assembly of Israel,
to praise the Name of the LORD.

For there are the thrones of judgment, *
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
"May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.

For my brethren and companions' sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.

Because of the house of the LORD our God, *
I will seek to do you good."

To me this pslam, at its heart, speaks to the idea that prosperity is the good earth that lasting peace grows in and that without prosperity we are at risk of losing peace.

By prosperity I don't mean outrageous wealth. I mean a sense of shared resources, a feeling of hope for the future, and the idea that we are all riding on this fragile earth, our island home, together.

Every person is created in the image of god and none are unworthy of his love.

Rather than looking to God to provide individual prosperity based on arbitrary rules, we should look to ourselves to provide prosperity to others. We should be wary of people who link wealth with worthiness and poverity with worthlessness.

None of us get to choose where or when we were born, what we can do is try to share what we have, to lift others up, and to follow the example of Jesus in whose eyes no one was unworthy.


This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 18 November 2015.

12 November 2015

Martin of Tours

The 11th of November is the saint day for St Martin Bishop of Tours (died 397 C.E.). He is most famous for splitting his cloak in two with his sword in order to share it with a beggar. He was a solider in the roman legions, a Christian at a time when the religion had just been made legal, and a reluctant bishop of Tours (in what became France).

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, I didn't have much experience with the idea of saint days. I don't know if it was because we didn't make a big deal of them in the diocese of Wyoming, or because I just never noticed. 

My first experience with St. Martin's day was through my housemate. Her father's family were Latvians who were displaced by World War II and who, after quite some time in the deportation camps in Europe, emigrated to America. She lost touch with her Latvian roots as many American-born children do and it wasn't until she was in her 30's that she began reclaiming that connection. She started learning Latvian from her father and joined a local Latvian dance troupe to begin participating in the Latvian community.

Mārtiņi (Martin's) is celebrated in Latvia (and many of the surrounding countries) every year on November 10th and traditionally marks the end of the autumn in-gathering and preparations for the winter to come. Part of the tradition includes mummers dressing up and going house to house (somewhat like Halloween in the USA) but it is also a harvest festival and celebration of the wealth that a good harvest can bring. During the years our housemate was dancing, we would attend the local Mārtiņi celebration to watch her troupe dance.

I had not realized until now how much St Martin's historical feast day had been a part of the development of our tradition of Advent. From the late 4th century through the middle ages, St Martin's day on November 11th, marked the beginning of 40 days of fasting through to Epiphany on the 6th of January. That period of preparation and fasting eventually grew (with other cultural influences) into our modern concept of Advent as a time of reflection and preparation for the coming birth of the Christ child.

The 11th of November is also Armistice Day, marking the end of the fighting World War I which later evolved (in the US) into Veteran's Day which is intended to be a day of thanksgiving, prayer, and "exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations" (from the original concurrent resolution passed by congress on 4 June 1926).

So let us give thanks on this day which has been host to a generous saint, the end of the first 'great war,' the remembrance of those who served and sacrificed in war (St Martin included) the joy of the harvest, and the beginning of fasting and anticipation of the birth of Christ.

Blessing be.


If you are interested here is a video that captures some of the spirit of Mārtiņi from a group of Australian Latvians. The title of the song roughly translates to 'Dance, Bears' and the dance shows off a bit of the mummer tradition.

This essay was originally published at Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 11 November 2015.

05 November 2015

A memory of fire

There are only three more Sundays until the beginning of Advent, and the start of a new church year.

I love Advent and have ever since I can remember. Halloween might be my personal high holy day, but Advent is the church ritual that speaks to me. 

It began when I was an acolyte in my home church in Wyoming. I loved being responsible for lighting the altar candles throughout the year and having a steady progression of additional candles to light just added to my delight in my role. There is something very powerful about being a child entrusted with fire.

The other part of the ritual of advent that drew me in was the element of story-telling, like Lent, each year I experience the same story different ways depending on the readings selected and on the way my own personal experience intersects with that narrative.

I remember the first year I heard the gospel of Luke on the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20) after the birth of my own son. He was three weeks old at the time and the words "But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart." hit me like a freight train. I heard (and read) those same words countless times before but this time they spoke to me with a sublime intensity that I have never forgotten.

There is a power in the building narrative of the season of Advent and there is, for me a corresponding intimacy. Perhaps it comes from living in a part of the world where the sun sets in the afternoon and doesn't rise again for 16 hours by the time Christmas rolls around. Advent, for me,  is a time of being indoors with lamplight, of being in small intimate spaces from small-town church sanctuaries to living rooms all with candles lit to show the progression through the weeks from the start of Advent, that Christian New Year, to the celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve.

In all the secular hub-bub that is the lead up to Christmas, Advent stands a time of quiet reflection, a time to light a candle and meditate on the long ago and far away story that still speaks to us today.

I'm looking forward to getting my Advent candles and my Nativity sets out the week after Thanksgiving and using them to help me relive the core of my faith, that Jesus was born of a woman to live in this world with us and to show us a way through this life and at this season he speaks to me in the lighting of the flame.


This essay was originally published at The Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 4 November 2015.

29 October 2015

The Enemy of Good

After the 2015 Episcopal Church's General Convention I wrote about how "perfect" can be the enemy of "good" and how the desire to cover everything in one project, build, or legislative action can kill a good idea.

Over the past month, I have had a different experience with the same idea. I've been sick with bronchitis.  Not just feeling a bit rundown, but the stuck on the couch, moving a little as possible to keep from coughing, sleeping whenever I can, blues. 

October is usually my favorite month of the year. It marks the return of my favorite season, fall, and my all time favorite holiday: Halloween. October is my birth month and, while I have very ambivalent feelings about my birthday, I love dressing up for Halloween. My mother made me endless tin-foil crowns and even though sewing wasn't her thing, made me an awesome pink bunny costume when I was around 6 (I kept the hood-with-ears until my costuming loving nieces came along). Now I make my own costumes and go to our local science fiction convention just to have a place to wear them at and show them off.

When I was in my twenties, a friend brought a piñata he made to my impromptu birthday. It looked like an avocado and was still damp with green paint when he arrived. We ran a line from our second floor balcony to an evergreen tree and had a grand time taking whacks at it. That piñata was the start of a household tradition that we have kept nearly every year since. The household Halloween costume party & potluck has survived a move to Texas, several years in a rental house, and now 18 years in our current house. It became even more fun when our son arrived and by his second year was participating by designing his own costumes. 

Our parties* always have a theme and we design invitations, decorate the house, and make games that reflect that theme. All of which (in addition to the costumes) takes time. As the stay-at-home mom, I usually have the most time (though I am the least skilled of the three adults) so a lot of the underlying work is my responsibility. I always look forward to doing it-- the process of making things can be frustrating by it is also fun.

Being sick for the past month has put a serious crimp in my plans to Get Party Projects Done. My housemate got the the invitations designed and copied before she had to leave on a business trip-- but to do any good they would need to be mailed.

This is a long way to get to my point, but on Sunday, still hacking and coughing (but starting to feel better thanks to antibiotics), I worked my way slowly through the process of creating the address labels, folding & sealing the invitations, and affixing the stamps. Normally, I love finding the most efficient way of doing things. I will batch process and time test myself just for the fun of it. I like putting labels on straight and am not above sorting mail by zip code in advance of it going out (a left over-habit from doing church and non-profit mailings). This time, just sitting up and doing one invitation at a time was work.

This time it wasn't "perfect is the enemy of good" it was "doing anything was better than nothing". I realized that, with my health the way it was, there was no way I could do things the way I usually did. Even though I could see the prospect of being well on the horizon, I wasn't well yet. My choice this time was between done slowly and somewhat sloppily or not done at all. I not only let go of perfect (which honestly I've never been that into) but I let go of my expectation of being able to do the job a certain way within a certain time frame.

I'm not sure where this leaves me. Since getting the invitations in the mail, I've managed to hem my husband's costume and figure out what needs to be done on mine. I haven't started the piñata or on decorating the inside of the house and I'm still lying on the couch most of the day.

I think it all comes back to that first, imperfect piñata that my friend made on a whim for my birthday. It was slightly soggy from not having quite enough time to dry. It was a strange green color because that was what he had in the house when he realized a piñata could use a coat of paint to liven it up a bit. It squished when we hit it with the stick, but we still had a grand time getting at the candy inside. We enjoyed the process of the piñata and the idea of the piñata. It was delightful because of it's imperfections rather than in-spite of them. It was a symbol of thoughtfulness and caring, of creativity and spontaneity and, above all, of the impulse to make art that is at the heart of many of our friendships.

So this year, I'm giving myself permission to find a way forward that lets me have fun with the energy I have. I really am feeling a lot better, but I am going to hold on to the fact that I got the invitations out; that my friends have the amazing ability to create fun out of tissue paper, paint and imagination; and that the joy comes as much from the process as from the final product. 

There is little that is less permanent than a purpose-built piñata and it gives joy (and a little cussin') in both its creation and destruction.

Our basement T.A.R.D.I.S
* We learned the hard way not to skip our party if we can help it. Two years ago we canceled our Halloween party because our stove caught fire. We decided that meant it was time to finally remodel our 40 year old kitchen. So we built a storage cabinet in our laundry room so our it could be our temporary kitchen. We were constitutionally unable to just paint it white. Our son looked at it and said that the new cabinet looked like a T.A.R.D.I.S. Two weeks later we had a bright blue police call box, complete with flashing light (but so far no sound effects), in our laundry room. Apparently, trompe-l'œil manifests spontaneously at our house if we don't channel it into a party.

This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 28 October 2015.

22 October 2015

Who Are Your Angels?

February before last we were in the midst of a major down-to-the-studs remodel of our kitchen when an two angels appeared to me.

It had been a busy few months. We had striped the kitchen to the studs and had various contractors in to do the framing, electrical and plumbing. We'd been using our laundry room as the kitchen and cooking on a hot plate since the beginning of January.

My husband left on a business trip while the plumbing was being finalized. My son came down with a mysterious pain in his abdomen the day the pluming was finally done and turned back on for good. We ended up going
An Angel at Work
into urgent care and finding out that it was something that would pass on its own, but it was still scary and exhausting.

The next afternoon the sewer backed up into the downstairs bathroom. Luckily we noticed it before it flooded the house and were able to turn off the water. Unluckily that meant we had no running water.

The plumber came out and did the usual things with snakes and chemicals. After several hours of work he determined he couldn't reach the clog from inside the house. We would need get the plans from the water department for where the sewer line ran in order to install a clean-out that would allow him to reach the clog.

At 1:00 am he finished cleaning up and left promising to return with plan.

The next day we got the plans and he started the process of jackhammering our back patio and digging a 4 foot deep pit so he could cut the sewer line and get to the clog.

My husband returned from his business trip tired and worn out. We had no running water and no prospect of it for at least the next 24 hours. A few hours after he got home he started to feel ill and was concerned he might be having the symptoms of a heart attack. I don't remember if we ended up calling 911 or just taking him to urgent care. I do remember freaking out on the inside while trying to hold it together.

It turned out that my husband had a combination of the flu and dehydration and needed rest and to drink a lot of water. He suggested that he should go stay in a hotel, but I didn't like the idea of him being alone with no one to check on him should he take a turn for the worse. 

It was then that my first angel appeared in the form of a good friend to who let my husband come and stay with her while he was recovering. This allowed him to drink (and pee!) as much as he wanted without it being a huge chore. She set him on her sofa with a giant pitcher of water and he was able to rest and recuperate.

I was able to focus my attention on the remodeling work and on making sure the plumber had everything he needed to fix our plumbing. He worked steadily for several days. He dug a pit, excavated the pipe, used a nifty camera to find the source of the clog, removed it and hooked everything back up better than it had been before.

He did all this cheerfully and with certainty that everything would come out right in the end. It was bitterly cold for our part of the world and he worked away without complaint. Best of all, he cleaned up after himself.

It wasn't until he packed up and headed out that I realized that he was my second angel. Even though he was a stranger to me, he had been a clam and reassuring presence in my time of need. He was a physical manifestation of 'fear not' and he brought me the joy of functioning pluming.

Above all my two angels gave me hope in a time when I felt overwhelmed and completely out of my depth. They brought me through crisis and into calm and out of fear into joy. 

My husband, son, and plumbing all recovered and our kitchen was finally done in June.

The memory of my ordinary angels has stayed with me. I suspect that neither of them know they were my angels, but they couldn't have been more heaven sent if they had had wings and a halo.


This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 20 October 2015.

19 October 2015

Facing Mortality: Final Expenses

If you watch enough late night TV you see ads for insurance to cover your 'final expenses' of outstanding credit card bills and funeral expenses. I'm not sold on the idea of paying an insurance company to help cover such expenses. However those commercials help point out something that I wasn't really conscious of until my housemate's mother passed away:  that no matter how small an estate you leave behind there will be expenses in dealing with your bodily remains and announcing your passing to your friends and family.

At a bare minimum your body will need to be buried or cremated and an announcement of some sort should go out to friends and family (and creditors) to let them know that you've shuffled off this mortal coil. Much like a wedding, funeral prices start low if you opt for the basics (cremation, a short obituary, and a potluck at local hall may run less than $2000.00) and go up from there into the stratosphere if desired. A fancy funeral with casket, viewing, procession to the cemetery, your own plot and headstone can easily start at $10,000 and go up from there. 

The Federal Trade Commission has a handy Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist that gives an overview of some of the rules funeral homes must follow when selling you goods and services.

My housemate's mother had prepaid for cremation and an urn and had those papers with her will. That is a good option if you are settled and don't plan on moving, or if you choose a plan that can move with you. It was one less thing my housemate had to worry about immediately after her mother died (when she was exhausted from several weeks of hospital vigil).

At the very least, take the time to think about what you would like to have when you die. You won't be there for it, but if you do the planning now, while you are alert and alive, your family and friends can be confident that the are doing what you would have wanted and it removes the stress of having to make to decisions when they are the most vulnerable.

So here's a basic after death planning checklist to get you thinking about what you want.

1. I want to be: 

donated to science / cremated / buried / other (please specify)

If donated, I want to go to:
local teaching hospital / anyone who will have me on short notice / specific medical issue (specify below & arrange in advance)

If donation doesn't work out, I want to be buried / cremated.

If cremated I want: 
to be interred in a columbarium / interred in a plot / kept on a shelf / scattered

If buried I want: 
basic casket / mid-line casket / the works casket and all the trimmings

If other, I want:

In general my religious beliefs require the following in the handling of my mortal remains: 

If my remains are interred, I want the following on my marker (i.e.: name, birth & death date, quote): 

2. I want my funeral to be: 

a community potluck / a religious service / at a funeral home / a poetry slam / a music jam / other specified below

3. I belong to the following organizations that would like to participate in my funeral: 

4. I belong to the following religious organization and would like to use its funeral / burial rites: 

5. I want the following music at my service / gathering: 

6. Please don't play the following at my service / gathering:

7. I want the following read at my service / gathering: 

8. Please don't read the following at my service / gathering:

9. I want my funeral expenses to be paid out of                                            (name account). I have budgeted $                    for this. If my plans exceed my savings you have my permission to adjust my funeral plans accordingly. 

10. I have / have not purchased a pre-paid funeral plan. My plan is with: 

11. I want my obituary published in the following papers / websites:

12. I would like the following organizations to be notified of my death: 

13. I want flowers / gifts in lieu of flowers. If gifts, then to the following organizations: 

14. One last thing:

As you fill out this checklist, have a web browser open and do some basic serching on the cost of the things you would like. Just get a rough idea so that you have and idea of a cost range. That will give you a budget to save towards (and let you decide if your would rather have a live band at your memorial service or a top of the line casket).

At a minimum think about saving $2000.00 for your final expenses. If you have an emergency fund, your funeral expenses can form the basis of that fund.  Death is the final emergency we will all have after all.

Anything you can do now, from making a will, to noting down that you will come back and haunt anyone who plays "Wind Beneath My Wings" at your service, will help your family and friends send you off in style you would like. The less they have to guess what you would want the easier it will be for them. Knowing you set aside money for your funeral is a final gift you can give your them in a time when they will be missing you.

16 October 2015

Savings Stretch Goals

Usually I write about costuming or faith formation, but I like to write about what I am thinking about and currently that is budgeting and saving. My son is getting old enough that he and I have had several conversations about how to make a budget so I thought I would write up my system.

The system I use is frequently called the bucket system. I happened to come up with it on my own and just found out this week that it had a name. In the bucket system you have one pot for each type of regular expense. You treat each bucket just like a bill and pay it monthly.

In my case the buckets are virtual. I have one savings account for each category. My credit union lets me have as many different savings accounts under one checking account as I desire and does not charge extra for this.

When I pay my bills, I put a set amount into each bucket. Some of my current buckets are: monthly expenses, allowance, emergency savings, auto savings, health savings, Christmas savings, tax savings, education savings, and house savings.

Monthly expenses: this money goes in my checking account and includes rent, utilities, medications, pet expenses, insurance premiums, and food money for the month. (Note: I don't leave the paycheck in the checking account.)

Allowance: this is my discretionary spending money for the month. I can spend it on coffee or crafting supples or gifts or anything I like as long as I don't go over the monthly amount. I can also save it to buy larger things that I want.

Emergency Savings: my emergency fund is an unemployment or catastrophic disaster cushion. My goal is to have between 3-6 months of living expenses saved at any one time. It is helpful to make some rules about what this can be used for. In my case, if the roof caved in we could break into this account, but if we want a new TV we need to save for it with other money. It takes a long time to save up a disaster fund so it should only be broken into when all other funds have been exhausted. I tend to convert this into certificates of deposit so it is harder to get to on a whim.

Auto Savings: this is our savings toward a major payment on a car. We currently own a car but eventually it will need to be replaced. If we can save a small amount for 10-15 years we will have a substantial down payment on our next car. This savings is not intended to pay for normal repairs or maintenance. Putting $50 a month away for 10 years adds up to $6000.00-- which is a decent down payment on a new car and will save us loan costs in the future.

Health Savings: we put aside a bit of money each month so that when medical copays, medications, and other health expenses that aren't covered by insurance crop up we have funds to pay them. We figured this amount out by going back over our bills from a previous year, adding up our costs plus a bit for inflation, and divided by 12 for a monthly amount. I like to think of it as pre-paying for medical expenses.

Christmas Savings: we like getting folks gifts for Christmas. Even if we buy inexpensive gifts, it adds up. So we figured out how much we spent in a given year, divided by 12 and now we have cash to pay for gifts or money to donate when we are ready to shop. Having a set amount to spend also keeps us from going too crazy at Christmas and we avoid having a big bill to pay off in January. I want to point out that we are still spending the same amount on Christmas that we did before we started this account, we are just saving up for it instead of putting it on a credit card and earning interest on the money instead of paying interest on a credit card loan.

Tax Savings: we got in the habit of putting some of each paycheck away in a tax savings account over 20 years ago when my husband was a contract worker and we were responsible for all of our own tax withholding. Even when we switched to regular jobs where the employer withheld money for taxes we found it useful to put 5% of our paycheck into a tax savings account. Then if we owed money to the IRS in April we could use that savings to pay it off. If we didn't owe on our taxes then the money we saved became a bonus that we paid to ourselves. We could spend it on anything we liked-- travel, furniture, or just move it to our emergency fund and speed that goal along. Note: if you work freelance and are responsible for paying all your own taxes, we found a good rule of thumb is to put 40% of the gross freelance check in the tax account.

House savings major: We own (or share with the bank) our house. Houses need regular upkeep. In our case, we knew we wanted to remodel the kitchen. We put a set amount away for over 15 years and when our oven finally burned out we were able to combine this savings with a home equity loan and afford a much more major remodel than we had originally thought. Now that this major expenses is done (and we already took care of the bathrooms) I may turn this account into a travel savings bucket.

House savings minor: this is for annual expenses of house upkeep-- things like minor roof repair, furnace service, window cleaning, plumbing emergencies, & other professional goods and services that a house needs on a semi-regular basis.

Education savings: We are putting money aside for our son's college. We started when he was little so have had some compound interest on our side. In just a few years we will start spending out of this account.

The keys to the bucket system are:
1. Don't leave all your money in your checking account.
2. Treat your savings goals like bills, pay them monthly (and have a set budget that you refer to when paying those 'bills').
3. Have a separate bucket for each saving goal-- it keeps you from accidentally double-spending your money.
4. Be consistent, as long as you have a steady income, pay into your buckets.
5. Have clear categories and rules for yourself (and anyone sharing your accounts) for when the money from each category can be used.
6. Use credit cards with discipline. Pay them off at the end of the month and don't buy something on credit without first checking where you will pull the money from to pay it off.
7. When you reach your goal spend the money you saved and enjoy it!

Here is my budget priority for figuring out how to save.

Living Expenses These are the things that let you keep your living situation stable: rent, utilities, food, chronic medications, health insurance, transit (bus or car/insurance/gas) funds an allowance for daily expenses that let you have a little fun. It can be helpful to look carefully at your living expenses and figure out what could be cut if needed and what the bare minimum you need to keep the lights on is-- that amount forms the basis of your emergency fund.

Tax savings This can be a gateway to getting better at savings. If you put money away until tax time and then luck out and don't need to give it to the IRS you have an instant bonus! This is really the way we started saving and realizing that locking in a set amount and declaring it untouchable until a goal or deadline had passed made it much easier to keep from spending the savings that was accruing.

Emergency fund This is your cushion should something drastic like a job loss or major crisis hit you. It is recommended to have between 3-12 months worth regular expenses (which is why it can be good to figure out what your bare bones cost of living are). So if you need $2000.00 a month to cover the basics then the goal is to save between $6,000-$24,000. If you can afford to put $200.00 per month away then you will meet the lower goal in 2.5 years and, if no emergency has happened you can just keep adding until you have an amount that works for you. Generally the more difficult it is for you to find work (due to education, specialization, or other factors) the larger your emergency fund should be. Another way to think of it is that if you can put 8% of your paycheck in your emergency fund then every year you save will give you a month of emergency fund money. This is a good place to put all or most of any bonuses, overtime, windfalls, or any extra money you wind up until you are at your minimum savings goal. The faster this grows the more you contribute to your own stability.

Other buckets Divide up what is left into your buckets and then pay that set amount in every month. Even if it is only $5.00 a month, it adds up. Some ideas for other buckets include short term goals like saving for a new bicycle or medium term goal like saving for a trip to France, and long term goals like saving for a house or for retirement. Back when we were renters, we set up a bucket that was 'downpayment money'.

The bucket system can encourage you to look at what you need as a minimum to stay in your home and then lets you add stretch goals to your life. So if you get a raise or a better paying job or an additional income you can decide where to save that additional money instead of just spending more of it without realizing it.

You can add new buckets, increase your amount of saving for your current buckets, or even give yourself a raise in your allowance, but the key is that you do it deliberately-- that you choose what to do with your money. When one bucket is full you can take the money you were paying into it and add it to a different bucket. If you don't want 10 accounts each getting $10.00 a month, then fill one bucket at a time, or one short-term and one long-term bucket (but keep a list of all the buckets that you want to fill eventually and when one fills up, start the next one).

I can't stress enough the importance of both giving yourself an allowance and treating your savings goals as bills. An allowance that is in a separate account from your savings keeps you from spending your hard-won savings accidentally. Treating savings goals like bills gets you in the habit of taking your own goals just as seriously as the folks at the water company take getting your money. Labeling the buckets with your goals can help you stop yourself from spending money you have 'sitting around' because you have given that money a long-term purpose. You can choose to spend it, but you'll know up front that it will take you that much longer to reach your goal if you do. If you are sharing accounts with someone, an allowance keeps you both from spending into your joint funds or from one of you accidentally spending the rent money.

You can use the bucket system with kids to help them learn about savings and budgeting. You can make physical buckets out of jars, envelopes, bottles, or piggy banks and decorate and label them with the names of kid's goals. So if they want to save for a game, a book, fuzzy socks, or crafting supplies, or an IRA they can label a jar, figure out how much they need to save for how long and then can watch as the jars fill over time. (And you can introduce the concept of matching funds if you want to give them added incentive to save.) When they are old enough to have an account at a bank or credit union, they can take their physical buckets and turn them into virtual ones.

This system grows with you. When we first started out we were living hand-to-mouth and we made a slightly more than our living expenses*. That money went into our only bucket, our emergency fund. (And for a while it felt like every time we got $300.00 saved we would have an emergency that would wipe it out and we'd start over.) Now we have many buckets and they are helping us during a transition to being self-employed, something that would be a lot more stressful than it is given that we did not get to dictate the timing of the employment move.

If you don't already have a system for budgeting and saving money, try the bucket system. If saving sounds like a drag, think of it as controlled release spending. You'll get to spend the money eventually and it's pretty fun (and much less stressful) to be able to do something like shop for Christmas gifts and not have outstanding bill to pay off come January.

*"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." ~Mr Micawber in "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens

08 October 2015


I grew up in a small town in Wyoming. About the only thing it had going for it from my perspective was the amazing Carnegie library downtown. It was a multipurpose space-- library with books, space for small concerts, host to various children's activities (especially in the summer).

I loved the weekly treks to the library. My mom would load us in the car and I would gleefully (with the enthusiastic assistance of the children's librarian) fill my bag with the 20 books allowed and return home to devour them. The library and the church were the two most important buildings during my childhood.

School, not so much (for many reasons, the most ironic being I was already a fluent reader when I started first grade but my teacher insisted I had to 'learn' her way).

I loved the library because the adults there shared my passion for books and never told me I had to like certain books or that I shouldn't read above my grade level or put any limit on me other than a total book limit and the instruction to take care of the books. The library was my first experience in the idea of a shared community resource that everyone can use but that everyone should do their part to take care of. I still remember taking a deep breath of book scented air every time we walked through the doors.

I loved church for a similar reason. I don't remember a time when I wasn't a full communicant in the church. I was recruited to be an acolyte when I was 9 and served (with a brief hiatus because the new priest didn't believe in acolytes - my first protest letter was written to him) until I left for college. It was the other place in my life were I felt affirmed as a person, where I was actively recruited to develop leadership skills, and where I was encouraged in my participation in the church.

As an adult, my relationship with both institutions has changed. We have a library just up the street from us, but most of my interactions with it are via it's website. I hop on-line, look up the book or audio that I want and frequently end up downloading the content to read on my computer, or listen to through their audiobook app. I go in person to pay fines and to pick up books from the on hold shelf (which I check out at a self-service kiosk). I rarely interact in person with a librarian. As for church, I burned out years ago on having a relationship with a specific congregation for many reasons, some of which I have written about before in detail. However, I still interact with the church on-line. I write reflections, I read the lectionary, I meditate on the nature of god, forgiveness, good and evil, death, the nature of prayer, and the afterlife.

A part of me mourns the loss of my childhood intimacy with both libraries and churches. It was wonderful being surrounded by people who believed in my potential and who actively encouraged me to become who I am today.

Upon reflection, I think it is just a normal function of growing up. It is the job of adults and children's librarians to focus on the development of children; to surround them with love and teach them the tools to be able to function in the adult world (where, if we are lucky in our health, we will spend most of our lives); and to give them a safe space to practice for adult-hood.

When I was a fledging adult, I wanted nothing more than to free myself from the oversight of adults-- I wanted to be an adult. I was excited to be out in the world and ready to leave the restrictions of childhood behind.

Now that I am a full-time adult, with a fledging of my own, I can only hope that I did my part of the job in this cycle. I poured my love and energy into his school. I helped his teachers, encouraged his interests, and taught him as much as I could about being a functioning adult. Now he teases me about starting college, getting his drivers license, and leaving home. We have a two more years but he is starting to pull free-- which is as it should be
It just occasionally makes me yearn for the kindly librarian filling my bag with books or the priest walking me through how to serve as an acolyte.

I am haunted by the smell of stacks of books and the scent of burning beeswax.

And I realize that there are worse ghosts to have.


This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 08 October 2015.