We had an Arranged Marriage—Two In Fact.

Offering puffed rice into the Agni fire during the Hindu Marriage Rites in Madras, India January 19, 1997.

What do you do when cultures collide?

When people from India meet us for the first time, at some point they ask the inevitable question, “How did you meet?”  They look at my husband a handsome brown man from Bombay who speaks Tamil, Hindi, English and some Gujarati—’enough Gujarati to eat,’ we say—and then they look at me, an outspoken curvy white woman from the American South with blonde hair and they can’t imagine why or how we became husband and wife.  My husband of now 23 years should have had an arranged marriage by his parents to a nice, black haired light-skinned South Indian Tamil Iyengar woman who was trained in either Bharatanatyam dance or perhaps she was trained to play the stringed musical instrument called the vena.  She would have been educated, had a professional job likely in business, would have been younger by 3 years, and also she would be strikingly beautiful, Bollywood worthy, and even then, she would  have not been good enough for their first born son. 

Continue reading “We had an Arranged Marriage—Two In Fact.”

Mother’s Day, It’s Complicated.

Masks and sanitizer, greetings through windows six feet apart.
We have all become untouchable.
Moms that are still with us, aren’t.
Moms that are not with us
are worlds away untouched by time in our memory.
And then there are those moms who cannot escape, 
cannot get away because love chases them into the bathroom 
and down the halls into the make-shift-office-room zoom calls.

Pandemic Mother’s Day is complicated for moms who wanted to be
and could not no matter how hard they tried and tried and cried  
whose bodies couldnot wouldnot become what we wanted them to be. 
And the dads who are better moms than our moms could ever be,
mothering isn’t just for moms.  Some moms just can’t. 

For the lucky ones whose love dripped down the sides of our faces 
like ice cream, their joy overflows like spilt milk 
on the countertop next to the oreo cookies.
We can still feel their touch and the kisses 
in clockwise directions on our faces 
filled with laughter or tears, over the years, 
those kisses fade into the photos on the wall.
They are now missing from our minds.  Gone on this day.

But for the grannies and mimis and granddaddies and pattis and tathas and pappas and mammas that make life just a little sweeter 
with drive-by birthdays and package deliveries,
the complications of Mother’s Day are no match 
for unbridled love.
Boundless expressions of joy cannot be hid by the hand sewn masks
and poster board signs hurriedly colored while tears fell 
making rain marks on homemade cards.
You can see a smile with your heart, if you try.

And so we do.  We try.  We forgive. We remember. We regret.
Our mothers. 
And those who wish our mothers were 
something more than they could be,
we sigh and breathe in one more day.
Mother’s Day has always been complicated,
but this year more of us understand why.

Remembering Well, Grieving Well

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A Tea Party Shows off my mom’s playful personality.

My mother died 1 year ago this month, on our daughter’s 16th birthday. As a pastor I have often counseled people through the stages of grief and know that grief can take many twists and turns along the pathways of our life. Grief may walk beside us when we loose a parent, a spouse, or a child—these are journeys people notice. Continue reading “Remembering Well, Grieving Well”

When Faith Walks Out the Door: Bilbo, #Baltimore & Transforming Our Faith

Just getting out the door is challenge.
Just getting out the door is challenge.

Getting Out the Door

We have a rule in our house: always wash the dishes before we leave on vacation. This may seem ordinary enough, I’m sure many of you may do the same thing. But for me, the mere act of getting out the door on time is difficult enough—you can’t imagine how tempting it is to say, “leave it, just leave it. We will be back soon enough.” But the person who leaves the house is never the person who returns to it. We become a new person because of the journey and nobody wants to come back and clean up someone else’s mess.

Continue reading “When Faith Walks Out the Door: Bilbo, #Baltimore & Transforming Our Faith”

Learning to think on your feet: Cymbal Kid, Autism, and the Family that Makes Us

Andrew "Cymbal Kid" Pawelvzck with our Son Nishanth
Andrew “Cymbal Kid” Pawelczyk with our Son Nishanth

A Friend of the Family, Andrew the Cymbal Kid

One week ago my son’s best friend Andrew Pawelczyk (Pa-Vel-check) was thrust onto an international stage–he is the YouTube sensation “Cymbal Kid”.  A month ago during the last middle school band performance, Andrew, an accomplished drummer who usually plays the “quad” 4 drums, was asked to play the cymbals.  I was sitting dead center with my husband and daughter while our son sat in the trumpet section at first chair.   Continue reading “Learning to think on your feet: Cymbal Kid, Autism, and the Family that Makes Us”

My Blooming Garden (Part 2): The Fragrance of God

Lean in to smell the perfumed fragrance of this red rose.

The Garden is Ablaze with Color

These days my garden is blooming with color-reds, pinks, yellows, and especially purples.  These warm days of June bring such bountiful beauty I can sit in my rose garden for hours contemplating the mystery of God’s creation around me.  The tomatoes have not yet formed.  The eggplants and peppers are hopeful flowers blossoming on young plants in delightfully cool mornings awaiting the buzz of bees to bear their fruit in fall.  The basil is reaching upwards toward the sun, not yet ready for my Friday pizzas.  It is here with the sun on my face, sitting at my garden table, with the breeze dancing among leaves of the cottonwood trees that I feel at peace, a sense of ONENESS with God and the world.  This is sacred Sabbath time. Continue reading “My Blooming Garden (Part 2): The Fragrance of God”

My Blooming Garden (Part 1)–Thinning Seedlings & Making Space

After three years my blackberry bush is producing fruit.

The Garden Teaches us Life Lessons

The garden teaches us many things about life.  It teaches us about patience.  It takes time for a blackberry bush to grow, to flower and to produce fruit.  My blackberry bush is three years old and I think this year I may harvest 20-30 blackberries.  Last year we picked 4.  Another lesson the garden teaches us is discernment.  We must learn to distinguish between plants that will produce food, and plants that will not–of course I am referring to weeds!  If we allow the weeds to grow, they will choke out the young tomato and pepper plants.  These two lessons are fairly obvious.  The third lesson the garden teaches us is a much harder lesson. Continue reading “My Blooming Garden (Part 1)–Thinning Seedlings & Making Space”

Seeking God in Gardening

A large fragrant red rose was the first to bloom in my rose garden this year.

Come to the Garden Alone

How do you get in touch with God?  When do you experience the feeling that you are dwelling within a sacred moment?  There are many ways that we can access the Divine.  Some people experience the sacred in cathedrals and churches; others experience the holy in the smile of a newborn baby; still others in the quiet time of prayer.   For me, I experience God in the midst of ordinary every day experiences with my family at home, at the beach, and especially in my garden.  My granddaddy—my mother’s father—was a Wesleyan Methodist Minister back in the day.  As I am writing this post, in my mind I can hear his strong vibrato tenor singing the hymn, “Come to the garden alone.”

I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses.

 

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,


And He tells me I am His own;


And the joy we share as we tarry there,


None other has ever known.

A Morning Ritual 

What brings me to my garden every morning?  Continue reading “Seeking God in Gardening”

The Gift of Water: Every Drop Counts! 12 yr old raising $10,000

In honor of Earth Day and her 12th birthday, this week’s blog is written by our daughter Nandini.  Last April at 11 years old she began fundraising to build clean water wells for kids in remote villages.  This is her second year and today she shares her story of the Well India Project.

Nandini is on her way to raising $10,000 to build wells for kids who need it most.

Join me in giving the gift of clean water to people who need it most!

Hi!  My name is Nandini and I am celebrating my 12th birthday this month and you can help me give the gift of water.

Last spring, I had an epiphany.  Everyone wants to do something to help people, and I had just figured out what I wanted to do.  It felt like God was sending me a message, and it came in a funny way.  I got my message in a catalog. Continue reading “The Gift of Water: Every Drop Counts! 12 yr old raising $10,000”

Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.

A community of blossoms on a tree signal the beginning of spring.

Spring inspires us to take on new Adventures.

As the season of spring erupts all around me in the blooming tulips and blossoming trees, I am hearing about people starting new adventures as well.  Several of my pastor friends are starting new congregations, and others are teaching historic churches how to create new life.  I have friends who are beginning new jobs after long periods of unemployment, and others who are moving into new companies with new responsibilities of leadership.  Each of us at some point will enter into a new environment and begin the work of creating a community within.  Whether we are involved in new church starts, new jobs, or starting a new venture, I have been thinking about the questions,  “How do we create a new community?”  and “What makes a community sustainable?”

An experiment in creating a community: a tropical fish tank

Our daughter won a goldfish at a county fair two years ago and remarkably it was still alive at Christmas.  As her parents we decided that she was mature enough to have a tropical tank as her Christmas present.  For five months now my daughter and I have been hard at work creating a tropical fish tank of community fish.  In a very tangible way this experiment in creating a tropical tank has my daughter and I discussing how to start a community, what makes up a good community, and how it can sustain itself. Continue reading “Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.”