Redeeming this common life

Our wood burning ceramic stove stopped working last week. 24/7 constant burning since November caused a good buildup in the chimney, and one morning, after building a fire, I found my eyes burning with back-drafted smoke.

We have an alternate heat source, so it’s not like we’re walking around in parkas. But it’s been cooler in our normally semi-tropic home. I tell myself this is good for my anger – that cool air has long been a refuge for finding calm, like a smoker retreating to the deck while a family argument overheats the house.

But really, the broken stove is just life. Like so many things overused or late, tired or worn, eventually we all have a moment where we choke.

Confession: I have been angry this week.

I have muttered under my breath about my daughter’s unwillingness to potty train. I bit my lip twice in one meal, ala Jim in The Office Season 9, and allowed it to strangle my morning. I have stomped, yelled, sighed in frustration. Snow has yet again covered our hopes for life outside, and it all feels so sloppy.


I have pray/begged for help, only halfheartedly remembering to think about Jesus carrying the weight of my wrongs up Golgotha.


Yesterday, Ellis decided it would be a good day to snap all my chalk sticks in half during art time. So I made it a chance to update my chalkboard, two inch chalk sticks notwithstanding.

IMG_20140320_165351_511It wasn’t hard to pick something – this quote had been cornering me all week.

“By honoring this common life, nurturing it, carrying it steadily in mind, we might renew our households and neighborhoods and cities, and in so doing, might redeem ourselves from the bleakness of private lives spent in frenzied pursuit of sensation and wealth.”

It’s a beautiful quote by Scott Russell Sanders, but strangely enough, what struck me most was how common can mean different things.

I know what Sanders was getting at was common, as in what we share. But I couldn’t help thinking about it the other way. Common as in ordinary.

Life at home with little ones is fraught with ordinary. It’s about repetition and routine. It’s cheerios for breakfast twice a week, and copious amounts of yogurt.

This Lent season, it’s me praying while I nurse in the blue black dawn of the morning. It’s pushing down anger with something heavy enough to sit in its place. But I’m still having a hard time finding an elephant big enough for every job.

My anger is common. But I want to take it out of the ordinary equation.

I want to carry its battle steadily in mind in order to find spiritual renewal. Renewal for those within my house, and those outside of it.  Renewal for my actions, renewal for my mind.

Attacking my common, ordinary anger will redeem my ability to live a common, shared life. And suddenly, it’s clear. This too is a version of the cross – dying to self, living in community with a great cloud of witnesses.

This is Jesus making a way.

28 weeks: the age of viability

too legitWhen I turned 30, my friend Brad welcomed me into the new birthday decade by proclaiming I had become a legitimate adult. And here at 28 weeks, I feel the same way about the babies. They are now legit. We’ve made it through the first and almost second trimester, and if something were to happen and they were born tomorrow, they have a very good chance of making it it through okay.

For some reason, this gives me a sense of accomplishment. Although, in reality, all I’ve really done is eat more.

I know I’ve said this before, but my job really has been that of a welcoming host for two tiny guests. And once I get over feeling all science-fiction about it, it truly is amazing. The human body can support and sustain not only one, not only two, but in my (and many other cases) three people at once. And for those that have carried triplets, quads, quints, etc., I am floored. Downright amazed.

My body, at times, seems like a machine I have little control over. Maybe a car is a good analogy, because even though every male member of my family can take apart an engine and diagnose it in a matter of minutes, I get befuddled on how to unhook the hood latch. Really, all I do is put gas in the car and drive it.

This pregnancy has been similar. For all my fears on how to handle carrying twins, it really hasn’t been that difficult. My body knows how to do the work. I just eat and shuttle myself through my daily activities, albeit a bit slower each week. And when people ask me How different does it feel to carry twins vs. just one baby?, my answer is usually the same: honestly, not much.

Yes, they move more. Yes, I’m bigger. Yes, I can tell which baby is doing what. And yes, exercise is pretty difficult these days. But here are the surprising things. I’m not really that much hungrier. I can still pick up Ellis and carry her up the stairs, give her a bath, and pick up her toys at the end of the night. I am not making more than one nightly pilgrimage to the bathroom. I don’t have any weird cravings. And sometimes, I feel completely normal.

Normal is reassuring at 28 weeks. I’m now down with grad school for the semester, and I have one Board meeting left before the babies arrive. The to-do list is slowly starting to have more check marks. Ellis read books to herself for 32 unsupervised minutes last night, and didn’t manage to fall off, down, or over anything. And Jason? Allow me to brag on my buddy for just a moment, because this week Jason was named the principal of Taylors Falls Elementary School – something he’s wanted for a long time.

I know everyone talks about pregnant hormones, but this week I’m happy to say that sometimes, it’s possible to feel very even keel. And those moments need to be recorded, celebrated. Scott Russell Sanders, in his essay Writing from the Center, says something I’ve long been thinking about. “The truth about our existence is to be found not in some remote place or extreme condition but right-here and right-now; we already dwell in the place worth seeking.”

My truth, this week, is being thankful for right-here, right-now. There are so many difficult things about pregnancy, but there are also a lot of really great milestones. And I want to mark them all, good or bad, for what they can teach. This week, life has amazed me, and I’m fully acknowledging my gratitude for it.

After all, this week, we’re legit.