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This winter I’ve been aware of a particular bird. It’s one of the things I miss most during our hibernation, second to sunlight. The soul-stirring songs of the out-of-doors, a call to worship. These past months my heart’s been tuned to songs of praise, indoors and out, and I hear this one sweet note above the others.

I didn’t know what it was at first. I was driving home from the retreat with Patti; she’s a bird-lover, too, and I can’t remember exactly how it started. Me driving, and Patti searching Google on her phone for birdcalls, and for over an hour we played this game. Do you know this one? Warbler. Sparrow. Cardinal. Thrush. Each of us listening for a particular sound, Patti continuing her search long after I’d dropped her off at the restaurant where she met her family. The next day she sent me a text to say she’d finally found it. The Northern Mockingbird. Her favorite. Mine was more obvious, the fee-bee whistle of the Chickadee’s song.

Here at home I link my phone to dining room speakers, and listen to the playlist my boys helped me create when we were in Iowa together. Two hours of favorites, some old, some new, and I think about boys who worship and a mom’s heart near to bursting. Shane & Shane’s Psalm 46. Hillsong’s Seasons. Praise the Lord Ye Heavens sung by a band called Young Oceans, new to me. And NEEDTOBREATHE, not new, Walking on Water. And then Elevation Worship sings this exquisite song titled Fullness, and yes, I can say it. I really am FULL.

A whole winter of worship and even those 10 inches of new snow arriving this weekend can’t extinguish the hopeful melody of birdsong outside and His song inside, and if creation sings your praises, so will I.* 

Yesterday I made a wonderful discovery. A blogger who calls herself “Modern Mrs. Darcy.” How delightfully nerdy is that?! She blogs about books (!) and I know right away I love her because her 25 classic recommendations are nearly all titles I’ve read and loved and wished for more, and the lists on this website could keep me in books for years if I’m lucky, with spring break just around the corner!! (Breathe deeply.) Two new books sit at my bedside, fresh from a trip to the Rum River Library.

Earlier this morning I sat at my computer in my bedroom chair, snow piled high outside my window. The door across the hallway opened and Maple’s tail nearly wagged right off when she saw who it was. Ali came in late last night, here for the weekend. She’s Maple’s favorite and Luke’s, too. And it’s this exact scenario that inspired Kyle’s Valentine to me just over a week ago. You make my tail wag – on the cover, and inside a silly sweet poem penned by my hubby. He used to write limericks to me in hand-written letters, eons ago during the months of our engagement when we were living apart. (Sigh.) Young love. Now Luke and Ali are long-distance dating, and instead of writing letters they have movie nights over Skype.

But not today. Today they’re downstairs together, a favorite movie and a favorite person, favorite dog serving as chaperone. There’s snow melting and more in the forecast, and we’re all doing our best to convince Ali that Minnesota could be her next favorite state. Realizing we’ve got some work to do, since the girl’s from the mountains of Colorado, and we’ll see how it goes.

Just an hour or so ago I came back from a run, high on the glories of sunshine and 30’s and fresh-fallen snow. The birds are chirping and there’s spring in the air. I’m thinking about Caribou Coffee’s Bold North theme and how their marketing must have been aimed right at me, because I wanted to hoard all those cardboard cups with their Minnesota sketches. And I ran past this man, he was shoveling his driveway on the far side of the neighborhood, Mr. Bold North if I ever saw him. Thick flannel shirt and longish gray hair curling up underneath his stocking cap. Great day for a run! He calls out and I answer. It’s a beautiful one! As I round the corner I hear him add, “Better than Florida, I’d say.” And it is. Because at least for today – THIS is my favorite.

 

*Hillsong United’s So Will I, still my favorite!

Broken

Sunrise

Some days I have no idea what I’m going to write. Last summer at the writer’s conference my favorite quote, the one I remember – “We don’t write what we know; we write until we know.” No kidding.

There are so many things broken. The whole story and the whole world. Broken. And maybe it’s just that we know too much. Maybe this instant connection to all this mess is simply a horror we shouldn’t abide. We should have left that accursed tree alone. 

This week. One teen’s rampage reeks bloody havoc on countless lives, not the least his own. Another teen, innocent, runs a stop sign and kills his own mom. These stories, distant, enough to rip holes in our hearts, and then there’s the up close broken we see every day, and when will it ever just be enough?

Enough.

All this, and I discover I’m a Maker-of-Peace. By now convinced I’m really a Nine. Not wanting to bore you with more self-assessment, so suffice it to say I’m still a bit awed at how this is coming full-circle. Boy Mom. Bringing Shalom Home. It’s right there in the title I chose for myself at the start of this journey. Hardly knowing what I was doing, but He knew the story. A story of Peace.

It’s not peace the way you think of peace. Those words jotted in the margin of sermon notes, just before Christmas, gave me the courage to say yes. It’s the peace of wholeness. Completion. Nothing missing. Nothing broken.

Nothing broken. There it is. For several months now, all too aware of how broken consumes us. My daily prayer. God, we’re broken. So broken.  

His answer? I choose you to make Peace.  

I weep as I write this. I am not in the least up to this task. Me. A coward. Afraid. Hiding from darkness. Desperate for that other kind of peace. The peace that means my life is easy and my days are quiet and…

It’s not that peace.  

No kidding. Every week of this new year there’s been something. Some sort of conflict to work through or hurt to heal or hard conversation. The things we Nines are frantic to avoid. He’s got me right where He wants me, boot-camp training no doubt. And it’s working. So far every hard situation turned sweet, unexpected. How does He do it? All’s grace and all’s peace.  

Last time I met with Ingri and Katy for Bible study we looked at Paul’s greetings, nearly every letter, he starts this way. Grace and peace. My email signature for several months, too.

It’s crazy. I started writing, not knowing – not what but until. And now I think I do. It’s this. This call, and this mission, and He has my attention. How to bring peace to a world so broken? I start right here where He has me, and I bring this Peace home.

Nine?

Enneagram Deer

(Artistic credit to Rachel Jorgensen)

I still can’t believe he sent me this text. Nils, yesterday, telling me he’d taken the Enneagram. A Peacemaker, he said, and I’m still shaking my head. You’ve got to be kidding. It’s like a bad dream I can’t seem to shake.

He didn’t even know about Monday. No one had told him. The day Luke and I spent snowbound with Grant and Kiana, a blizzard shutting down I-35, and we couldn’t have made it home if we’d had too. So we stoked the gas fireplace and curled up in afghans on their sprawling sofa, newly purchased, laptops opened. Everyone but me taking care of tasks on computers, and I was trying with limited success to send a group email via cellphone when someone said something about the Enneagram. It peaked my interest, and no wonder.

Minutes later, work tasks forgotten, all four of us were busy taking online assessments. Me logged in to a spare computer, working through that test for the umpteenth time. So many times it’s downright embarrassing, and why the obsession with this test? Good grief.

I’d already decided this particular profile wasn’t really my cup of tea. I’d been there and done that and was ready to move on. But no, here we go again, selecting buttons on sliding scales and multiple choice questions, thinking maybe this time I’ll get a different result, so why not?

The whole thing started three weeks ago at the Village retreat with a colored-pencil drawing of a deer in a Bible. The artist mom sat there illustrating scripture expressing her soul, and without missing a beat she said it. It’s because I’m a four. Just like that. Enneagram assessment. Have you taken it? And no. I’ve heard and I’ve been curious, but never done it, not yet. And then the next week I’m searching online, taking free tests, trying to discover my own Ennea-number.

Nine. Every time. Which is why I kept taking it, again and again, thinking maybe I was doing something wrong. Knowing more likely I was a “One” on the wing, but not really sure, not really resonating with either description, and feeling quite sure in the grand scheme of things it couldn’t possibly matter.

Except that it did.

It mattered because of The Nightingale. A novel. Vianne and Isabelle, two sisters, fiction, in this World War II story. From the very first pages I knew this drama would haunt my thoughts – and it’s the middle of winter, and shouldn’t I be reading a happier plot? But I couldn’t stop. Couldn’t stop reading, and couldn’t stop finding myself. There. In the story.

Peacemaker. Nine. A bit like Vianne, the older sister, but even she arose a hero, and the whole time I’m thinking I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be that brave.

This is hard to follow. I know, but bear with me.

A mom, here at home. Three years avoiding battles, averting conflict. Submitting, relenting. Making peace?

It’s the theme of this story, which is why it’s important.

This was still in my thoughts yesterday morning as I prayed. Saying to God I don’t want to be a coward. Telling Him also, in so many words, how tired I am of self-assessment. I don’t need to know ME; I just need to know YOU. Thinking He’d certainly prefer this option. And then, just like that, He showed me the truth.

My “wing” is Reformer. Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, Perfectionistic. And there in my prayer God gave me this picture.

A peace-craving mom, with a bent toward perfection.

Or a peace-making mom, restoring what’s broken.

Our family story. The Peace of Shalom.

This is…

G & K Kitchen

Us. It took me a while to tune into the show everyone else had been talking about. Last fall we even named a sermon series after it at church, and I had no idea at the time, who us was or why it mattered. (As an aside. Yesterday our church staff gathered to discuss sermon series past and future, someone mentioning this particular title, remembering how they never really figured out what or who us was for the sake of preaching either.)

But finally now I’m in the know. Doing the opposite of binge-watching, which is to say every few weeks I watch another This is Us episode, just enough to be able to talk about Kevin, Kate, and Randall as if they’re real life people.

The fact is, I struggle to prioritize TV drama, living as I am with a family that provides plenty of its own. This is us and then some, if you know what I’m saying. A week or so ago I was having one of those conversations with a friend in which I was trying to both protect the privacy of a particular kid, and express some honest mom emotion. All I can say is the personality God gave me, and the life He chose for me, are not necessarily a perfect match. I think I also said something about God’s sense of humor in adding so much Spice to our Minnesota Nice.

Enough said.

So, this is us in real time. This week it’s love and travel. I’ll start with the travel. As I write, Felipe is downstairs sleeping a few hours after an all-night work shift, his last for a while. An ugly, outdated, and impossibly heavy suitcase is filled nearly to capacity on his bedroom floor, and later this morning I’ll head over to TJ Maxx to try to find more suitable luggage. (Last time the boy traveled to Colombia he had to pay an additional $100 to bring said-suitcase home.) It’s not so much his own personal items filling his bags, but a very generous assortment of gifts. Gifts for a foster family in Jopal going out, and for an adoptive family here in Andover coming back, and this is us, too. The boy has two families, and it’s a beautiful thing. Last summer his trip back was a graduation gift, and this time it’s his own splurge after laboring hard, full-time hours, and making good money. Looking ahead to being a poor college student in a few short months, and he’s thinking it’s now or never.

Felipe’s return flight will arrive just 24 hours before five of us pack up and drive south for our own spring break vacation. This year it’s South Carolina, assuming we get everything figured out from an online vacation rental scam that had Kyle on the phone with the legit booking agency as well as the bank for most of the evening last night. Long story. Most days my husband’s to-do list is almost non-stop trouble-shooting, and just when he thinks he’s got one fire out there’s another. I love my man a whole lot.

Lately I’ve been remembering our earliest days of in-love-ness, going all the way back to our very first date. February 1988 – thirty years exactly. (Hey Nils and Lauren – how’s that for keeping track of an anniversary?! Nailed it.) This first-love nostalgia is mostly related to Luke’s current status, and his obsession with making a quick roadtrip out to Colorado for a day with Ali. And it’s funny how 30 years makes you so much wiser and more responsible, and – What about your job? That’s a crazy lot of driving for a ridiculously short visit – and oh, yeah. That was us, too. Illinois to Minnesota, nonstop travel.

Later tonight I’ll drive Felipe and his overfull suitcase to Minneapolis International in the midst of Super Bowl hysteria, giving ourselves several extra hours. And then tomorrow afternoon I’ll pack my own bag and head south for a few days in Des Moines. Because us is in Iowa, too. Grant and Kiana and our grand-on-the-way, and just a week or so ago they moved into another “new” house. Their second in so many years, and that doesn’t count the apartment. Here again the wisdom of parents is checked by remembering. Our newlywed years in Illinois and this is identical, in fact, to what we did, too.

Love and spice. Spanning states and countries. On the move and growing. No season boring.

This is us.