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Sisters

The other day I took cookies to a friend. She and her sisters are clearing out the home where they grew up. Their 96-year-old mother has moved into a retirement home. Um, hard and loving work.

I can relate. I am one of three girls too. Our mother is old.

Recently I resurrected this chart about clear communication (©pd Seminars). Maybe I will put the diagram beside my computer when I talk with my sisters via Zoom on Monday nights. Just to remind myself how important clarity and the hard work of loving is.

Dear Ones 2021

Christmas Day was magical for us. Carolina actually picked up her Grand-Mother so she could come to church and hear us sing her best-loved carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Later, this daughter of ours, our favorite chef, made the four of us a scrumptious pork roast. We enjoyed a quiet feast complete with a call from Clarke and Jannet, who were celebrating with her family in the Cities of Angels and Meadows.

When I think back on the year, I am full of warmth for these dear ones. Mom is making her way to the finish line; we are the lucky ones to love her and cheer her on. If you know this woman, you remember that, if she is nothing else, she is nice and determined. We are fortunate to live nearby.

And our kids! I am swelling with pride. They have worked, essentially, as an experienced teacher and an all-star foodie throughout the pandemic. Now each has bought themselves a home, one an urban townhouse, a few blocks from a new lightrail station and one a rural tiny home in beautiful Skagit Valley. She completed constructing it herself.

We are well and grateful too. Rob gardens, raises bees, and makes music. I am a spiritual gangster. Deep laughter and tears massage me through and through more often.

Each year in December I wonder, “Is this the year we will respectfully love Creation more and only send an electronic letter?” But I can’t help myself; I love snail mail. I suspect USPS, sadly, is approaching the finish line too. So much for “forever” stamps. So, here’s half of our nod to the hybrid version. Who knows how much longer we will also mail hard copy photo cards, delivered straight to your door? One thing I know for sure: I will continue luxuriating in this tradition of the Twelve Daze of Christmas, maybe writing a few extra words while at the beach house, maybe even extending the due date for mailing cards to St. Valentine’s Day. Some church traditions are worth leaning into.

Love,

Penny

Gratitude and Grief

Don’t get me wrong. I have gobs of sweet memories from our recent feast day. Namely, my mother was well-loved and seemed to enjoy herself all afternoon. This was my conscious intent for the day.

As our guests arrived, I noticed how few of us were both white and straight. It occurred to me, “Maybe that name game would work here in my home.” We could each introduce ourselves by sharing the story of our name, with ancestry coming forward from around the globe.

I am embarrassed to admit. In the year when I have recognized the historic pain and loss this particular holiday represents for many, I did not foresee the sad clarity offered by this simple icebreaker.

Every person referenced Europe in one way or another. Alas, there’s only one explanation for it, that c-word. At least someone named it—Colonization—the awkward elephant in the room. After which, unleashed playing (and praying) abounded.

Faith vs Control

My Sunday nights are devoted to a practical theology class. Most of the time, Penelope facilitates. As her co-mentor (with my personal computer and a paid Zoom account), I manage the electronics. I giggle every time I consider this. Glad I have Mojo Banana, aka “MB,” along for the ride. My puppet is the timekeeper and pops up if things get out of hand.

Technology is not my thing. Yes, I value clear and functional communication across the airwaves. I appreciate social media, marveling that 10+ languages show up on my Facebook page. I can practically see worldwide connections taking shape and evolving. I treasure the opportunities Zoom and the like have afforded us during the pandemic—playing “Among Us” with family on Thanksgiving Day, puzzling with Mom when her retirement community locked down, zoom Morning Prayer and livestream Eucharists, slide shows with friends, etc.

But really? “One who facilitates technology” has never been on my resume.

Last week I served as class facilitator for the first time while Penelope was on vacation. Thank God, we retreated to Zoom-only for class instead of trying the cathedral’s hybrid equipment again. While I am happy to see person-to-person opportunities increasing within the faith community I love, I was not ready to facilitate, and simultaneously host in hybrid fashion.

What a great time we had together—sublime sharing of our personal stories followed by interesting text discussions. MB was rock-and-rolling too, keeping an eye on the clock. And then, about 10 minutes before the end of class when we were shifting to closing prayers (and I had probably said too much for transition), BAM! My wi-fi connection dropped out completely!

Even given the wind outside (or was it God’s lesson to me about who was in control after all?), the group continued seamlessly. I had to laugh. As our Deacon Earl had preached that very morning, “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s control.” I could only control things so much. As usual, Peace reigned, very practically and all.

Monday

My week starts with yoga, one of the many ways to pray. Master teacher Jeanne calmly leads us, regardless. She shares Buddhist practices, mostly, as we move together through Zoom. Today she read a verse from “Just As I Am” along with the thoughts of Richard Wagamese, indigenous poet. Sanskrit offerings too. We have tried to pay; she refuses, saying this is what she can give.

If I include this lovely practice, more of my days than not include a community prayer service. It allows my week to start honorably. I do appreciate all the holy names of God.