Wednesday, January 30, 2008

15 Years Ago Today...

D and I were married. Well, as the pastor who performed the ceremony told us, we held our wedding. We had already made our decision to be married before that and were going to live into being married for the rest of our lives. "A wedding," he told us, "is simply making public our decision to be married."

Implicit in making public that decision was the an invitation extended to our community to become actively involved in our marriage. I don't think we ever understood marriage to be a private thing, but something that was only ever possible when it was rooted in community. We needed to know that our friends and families were a part of our decision to live together in partnership, to travel this life's journey together as best we could.

Rather than having my father "give me away" (although he did joyfully walk me down the aisle), and rather than asking the congregation if anyone "protested the union," instead we wrote our own litany of promises that extended the words of support out in concentric circles--from our four parents, to our closest friends who were standing with us as members of the wedding party, and finally to the gathered community.

These were the words we composed for that day, the words promised by our loved ones:

Pastor: The marriage of J & D unites two families and creates a new one. Will you, their parents, support D & J's decision to enter into this covenant?

Parents: We will honor their commitment to one another and encourage their love. We offer them our love, our experience, our wisdom, and our prayers.

Pastor: For D & J's marriage to stay strong they will need friends who will rejoice and mourn with them, listen to and guide them. Will you, who stand with J & D today, support their decision to enter into this covenant?

Wedding Party: We will honor their commitment to one another and encourage their love. We affirm them as individuals and as a new union. We offer them our love, fellowship, and a hopeful word.

Pastor: Because D & J will grow in their marriage through interactions with this community, will you, as people of God, support D & J's decision to enter into this covenant?

People: We will honor their commitment to one another and encourage their love. We will be mindful of their need to be nurtured beyond the context of their marriage. We offer them our prayers, our concern, and our help in the future.

Tonight we celebrate quite far away from everyone who attended our wedding. And we are both quite mindful of that reality. If we could, I think we would gather a good number of those who were closest to us, and celebrate the years that have passed since this marriage was made public.

But even with that distance, I'm aware that our parents, our friends, and our community has remained faithful to the promises they made on that day. And I celebrate the ways this partnership has been made stronger because of that.

We will celebrate with someone who wasn't present that day fifteen years ago. In fact, he'll be treating us to dinner tonight, dipping deep into his allowance to do so. Even with the distance from loved ones on the East Coast, I don't think D & I could imagine a better person to celebrate with today!

Friday, January 11, 2008

These Days

God is breaking my heart at every turn.

1. On Monday night at 9:00 I went to Target to get some food options in for Monk's lunches. While there, I encountered a mother, her friend, and a baby girl--hardly a toddler, just big enough to stand in the cart and cry. Which she did. Wail. Not a temper tantrum cry, but a heart-wrenching, hold-me-Mama, grief-stricken, lonely cry. Her mother was utterly, viciously indifferent, even cruel. At times screaming back at her daughter (as the adult friend laughed) in mimic of the baby's cry. Around the store I caught the eyes of other women (all women) who were as bewildered, horrified, helpless as I felt. There was nothing I could do, I was convinced, that wouldn't further endanger this child. A confrontation of the mother, I feared, would only be taken out on the baby before the end of the night. I came home and wept myself--for all the unloved, inconvenient babies.

2. The next morning I parked in my spot at the seminary. There was a small basket of brilliant yellow tiny narcissus flowers on the ground just beside my car. I park right next the dumpster and wondered if they'd meant to be thrown away but missed the mark. I got out of my car and picked them up. It was drizzling rain, getting ready for another rainy season, January drenching just as we'd suffered last Friday. As I picked up the flowers (turns out they weren't real, but still lovely in their own right), I saw something stir in the dumpster beside me. I looked over and there was a man sitting in our dumpster. He was rolling what I can only hope was a joint and not something worse. "Are you okay?" I asked him. "Yeah," he said, hardly looking up. "Are you sure?" I asked. "Yeah," he said, not looking up from his rolling papers, "I'm alright." I took the flowers into my office and set them on my windowsill beside my Julian of Norwich icon. Now whenever I notice the flowers I pray for the man in the dumpster and the baby in the cart. It doesn't seem like enough.

3. The past 24 hours at the seminary we hosted a conference on Restorative Justice. The hopefulness of the gospel message was muted by the whiteness of the presentation, making the gospel ultimately unhearable. As much hope as was instilled in me was matched by the hopelessness of unreflective whiteness.

4. Soon after the conference, a psychotic homeless woman was forcibly taken into custody from in front of the seminary where she had been raging all day.

4. Came home to burgeoning gang members hanging out in the park across the street.

And that is why I say: God is breaking my heart at every turn.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Things to Remember

Sometimes I like to use this space to quickly write a couple things that I simply don't want to forget as time goes by. Here are two of those things:

Monk always gives me handmade cards for holidays and birthdays. I love them. This year, this is what he wrote on the inside of my birthday card.

Dear Mom,

I could not love you more. Every day you greet me with a warm smile. Every night you hug and kiss me goodnight. That is what makes a good mom. Not being a celebrity or really rich. You are the Best Mom Ever, hands down.


P.S. I love you. XxXOOoX (repeat)

And here is the other thing. Over the holidays I baked and baked and baked. I was inspired to open the old recipe box I inherited from my grandmother and make all the cookies she used to make at Christmas time: peanut butter, chocolate chip, thimble, molasses crinkle, Russian Tea cookies and on and on.

Although I mailed many dozens away to loved ones on the East Coast, I still had a bunch here. And I've been giving a few to Monk in his lunch every day. (In our Progressive City, we're not supposed to send any sweets in lunches--but I thought that I could defy that rule as long as the cookies were homemade.)

Turns out Monk has been sharing his cookies every day. He eats one, then gives the others away. First it was to one friend (I'd only sent two cookies). Monk came home and said that Friend #1 declared my cookies the best in the world.

Yesterday I sent four cookies--so Monk and Friend #1 could each have two. Instead, Monk gave away a third cookie to Friend #2, and then they tried to divide the fourth cookie into thirds. Monk said that three cookies is ideal.

Friend #2 declared that my cookies "are like little charms from heaven."

Now that makes my day.