In 1963, my parents took a trip to Sweden in the early spring. It had been many years since they had been in Sweden and it was the first time they went as a married couple. Through the years, I heard both of them describe that as a time of great happiness. One of the things my mom brought back to Colombia from that trip was a single hyacinth bulb. She kept it in the refrigerator for a few weeks and then managed to get it to grow and bloom.

One evening, when it had finally bloomed, she invited the Swedes in Cali for dinner at our house. Most of them had emigrated from Sweden in the mid nineteen twenties. These Swedes had moved to Colombia to escape the devastation of the economic depression of the era and, though they all managed to make a living for themselves, it was not easy, travel back to Sweden was expensive and difficult; most them, in their late fifties and sixties already knew they would never get to see Sweden again.

After dinner, my mom cleared away the dishes and left only a couple of lit candles on her dining room table. Then she went into the kitchen, took the hyacinth out and put it in the middle of the table. I can still hear her describe how you could hear a pin drop in the room that had about 12-18 people gathered around one small plant. She looked around and even the men had tears running down their faces.

Last fall, I ordered bulbs for the garden, including hyacinths. I couldn’t even begin to imagine that within a couple of months, we would begin the process of moving my dad in with us.

Last night we had bad storms, though not as bad as they could have been. The wind is still howling and the day is very overcast. I was concerned about my chicken girls and had to spend some extra time cleaning out their water dispenser and putting fresh food out for them. As I was leaning over the water bucket, scrubbing it out, I noticed something pink in one of my flower beds and by the shape, I knew. One of the hyacinths was blooming.

When I finished my work, I came into the house, got my dad to put on his jacket and took him out to show him. We held hands and stood and gazed at that little plant and another one that’s pushing up and about to burst into bloom as well. When I looked at my dad, he had tears in his eyes, like I did.  We both miss my mom, both know how thrilled she would have been to see that hyacinth. And this is a season of gaining so much and losing so much, both of us. There is nothing easy about moving a parent into one’s life. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Another Try

A lovely distraction

A lovely distraction

A few years ago, I applied to attend a writer’s workshop at the Collegeville Institute, that describes itself as “a place of scholarship, worship, dialogue, and community immersed in the Benedictine rhythm of work and prayer.” Collegeville is well-respected and well-known in the writing circles I am privileged to participate in. I was beginning to get more serious about my writing and braver about taking risks.  It was disappointing to be advised I had been put on the waiting list for the particular workshop I wanted to be a part of. I can’t imagine anything but the direst circumstances causing someone who has been accepted not to attend so I know the chances were slim to none that I’d get to go.

This year, I am trying again and have just a bit more to finish on the required 15-20 page (double space) essay I have to submit.  It is every bit as hard to try this time around though here and there in my writing I see phrases that are crisper and better drawn.  Getting the last bit done is like pulling teeth and I know why–resistance and the temptation to undermine myself.  Nonetheless, the discipline of dwelling deeply in my chosen subject, the willingness to step away and then come back to try not once, but repeatedly over the past several weeks, and the sense that I can actually get this done, all of this makes me very happy.

One of the gifts my dad’s move brings involves boxes and boxes and boxes of old family correspondence that dates back several generations on my mom’s side of the family. A lot of it is in Swedish.  My dad and I are beginning to discuss the possibility of a project we’ll work on together that may well be the basis for the book I very much want to write.  We’ll see.  Were I to be so lucky as to get to attend this writer’s workshop, I’d learn some more and better prepare myself for this project that lurks inside.

In the meantime, I read something today that sorta knocked the socks off me.  I have been appalled by Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright and the awful things they said about young women recently.  They’ve walked them back.  I am not that far behind them in the cause of women’s equality. I understand their frustration–I know about sexism in the world, including the church.  But Sarah, the author of this piece has taken them on with a wisdom and insight that makes me want to stop and listen to her.  More and more, it is young men and women who’s thoughts energize and compel and convict me in ways that I am thankful for.  I want to grow up to be like them.  So if you are interested in women, politics, leadership and the church, and have the time and inclination, here is a piece you would do awfully well to read…


OK.  Procrastination now over…back to finish that essay.  Wheeee

A New Heart


I spent this weekend at Camp McDowell, the camp and conference center of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama where the Diocese had gathered for its annual convention. I had some moments of mild exasperation–sitting watching a whole lot of videos and listening to presentations can get long.  I am not a big fan of church gatherings, especially large ones.  My little introverted self has to work hard to stay engaged. It’s not that I like controversy and chaos, but when all the resolutions presented are passed unanimously without any discussion between motion and vote, I find myself wondering if we are playing it too safe, staying too settled in the comfort of a tidy kind of faith.  All of that is there and I was also aware of abiding affection, deep long history, joy and gratitude that moved quietly through the raucousness of lots of people gathered together.

I, who have often had to fight to open a place for myself, who, equally often, has chosen to sit on the edges, sometimes filled with a self-righteousness that embarrasses me, who have been equally prideful at times about not belonging, now find myself called and welcomed into a faith community in ways that give me a lump in my throat. I had the chance to get to know a handful of people from my parish better.  Watching darkness fall, way out in the country, talking to a remarkable person, I was beyond glad to be where I was.  A group of us set out to take a quick walk between business sessions and ended up taking a longer than expected hike that reminded me of the hiking I did at Tahoe during my 30-day retreat a few years ago.  I haven’t been exercising like I should and I was also the only woman in the little pack, but I kept up.  I even made myself cross a hanging bridge which is one of those experiences that fills me with fear- and of course, that meant I had to cross it again on the way back to our meetings. I had forgotten my camera at home but had my cell phone with me so I got to take the picture above.

Yesterday at the closing Eucharist, the priest I serve with and I decided we would not vest and process or sit with the rest of the clergy.  Instead, we sat pretty far back in nave with our delegation, nobody special or singled out. I am beginning to understand that in the ebb and flow of ministry, there are times to press ahead, push out to the edges, create the spaces where discomfort–and grace–help continue to usher in the kingdom of God.  There are other moments when the invitation is all about “the abiding with”.  I love the passage in John that describes the call of the first disciples.  They asked Jesus where he was staying and he replied, “Come and see.”  then, according to John, “They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.” (John 1:39, NRSV).  They hung out together. That weekend when there’s no where else you can go, nothing else you can do but just remain, and see, and be with the people you are with?  Not all the work of trying to usher in the kingdom is about endless struggle, suffering and strife.  It is also about the companionship that Jesus invited his disciples into.