Kingdom Undone

photo credit: Guy Magno, all rights reserved
I can't stop thinking about Judas.

What if Judas didn't think his betrayal of Jesus was the end? What if he thought it was the beginning?

What if he thought handing Jesus over to the authorities was secretly what Jesus wanted? After all, Jesus was the Messiah; Judas was sure of that. And the Messiah's job, his reason for coming, was to overthrow the Romans. What if Judas thought he was helping Jesus commit the ultimate coup? If Jesus were to get inside Pilate's compound, surely he would take up the sword, maybe even call down legions of angels to fight off the Roman oppressors and free the Jewish people.

It's what Jesus wanted, isn't it? "What you are about to do, do quickly." It was tacit approval, wasn't it? An acknowledgement that Jesus knew and agreed with Judas' clandestine plot.

The Messiah was bringing the kingdom, wasn't he?

Last year, on Good Friday, I went with a group of friends to see "Kingdom Undone." It's a new passion play here in Minneapolis, a retelling of Jesus' final weeks, with this as its central theme: What if Judas did all the right things, for all the wrong reasons?

It startled me to see it played out before me: Jesus' friends loved their master. They cared for him and laughed with him and fought for him and followed him.

But they didn't understand him.

Even after spending months, even years, doing life with Jesus, they couldn't really see him without looking through their own lens of prejudiced. They saw him as they wanted him to be, not as he really was.

He wasn't the Messiah they expected.

I can't stop thinking about Judas, because I am he.

Jesus isn't the Messiah I expected either. I expected someone neater, someone who answers questions with black and white facts, not puzzles and riddles. I expected someone controlled, not a rabbi who destroys the temple with his fanaticism. I expected someone who would uphold God's ancient laws, not  a teacher who flaunts them.

I expected someone who would make my path easy. I expected someone who would tie up all the loose ends. I expected someone who would smile at my hard work, someone who would give me a gold star for my righteousness.

I expected a Messiah of my own invention.

What I got was Jesus.


My kingdom is undone.

Kingdom Undone's run for this year just finished, but if you live in the Minneapolis area, I strongly urge you to put it on your calendar for next spring. It is story at its strongest.

A Dress for the Day Public Service Announcement

A friendly tip from me to you: When you are making homemade granola, and you see that the last quarter of the bottle of honey has crystallized, do not say to yourself, "Self, I bet a quick 30-second turn in the microwave will melt that into something useable."

Because a quick 30-second turn in the microwave will not only melt the honey, it will pressurize the bottle into something akin to a suitcase nuke loaded with lava-hot stickiness that will explode as soon as you open the microwave door.

You will then screech and cover your eyes and thank the dear Lord for the blink reflex. And you will end up covered with hundreds of microscopic drips of honey, which will sting like heck and mar your dress for the day outfit and turn your hair into a shellacked thing, capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds without movement.

You're welcome.


Today, I donned an outfit that is so simple, most people wouldn't glance twice if they passed me at Trader Joe's. But it's a step out of the box for me, and that's what this is all about, right?

I like bright colors, but I tend to gravitate toward solids. They enable me to dress quickly - just choose a color - and I can always add some pizazz with accessories.

Until recently, it never occurred to me to put two different-colored solids together. If I wore layers, one of them was always neutral.

And then I got dressed today.

Picture post-explosion. Excuse the hair and the semi-ironic expression. It was all I could muster.

Yes, that's right. I wore a fuchsia tank under my azure blue sweater and tied it all together with a happy scarf. (I realize the scarf is a tad heavy for spring, but our high today is in the upper 30s and we are still blanketed in snow, and I am done wearing my coat, because that's my rule in March - no more coats for me! - so I have to compromise somewhere.)

Je suis fou, non?

It sounds silly, but it honestly made me smile all day, because I know Megan and Abby would approve. And it reflects my inner longing to Bring Spring Now!

I'm going to mix colors until the daffodils bloom.

Which probably works with the theme, because I have a feeling I'll be attracting bees anyway.


I glance out the window above my sink and try not to grimace.

The sun shines warm, but the view is undeniably winter. Crusty snow blankets the landscape, and the only colors I see are the blue of the sky and the steady green of the pines.

I unwrap the beef roast and feel for bones. Six months ago, before the snow fell and winter descended, this slab of fat and muscle was living creature. It lived not far from me, raised by a friend. I wonder: Did this animal stop chewing the verdant grass sometimes and just praise from a simple heart? Did it drink in the sunshine and the gentle breeze and feel satisfied? "I was made to do this."

When you eat flesh that was slaughtered just for you, it makes it all personal. Like the people native to this land, I find myself deeply grateful for this sacrifice, for this death so that I might live. I breathe thank you, thank you, thank you.

I carve the beef into chunks and marvel at the pure white of the fat and I pull out an oval-shaped something that is spongy and contained. It doesn't look edible, yet I feel guilty throwing it away.

I dice onion and peel carrots and stir them into warm olive oil shimmering on the stove. The skillet sizzles to life and the familiar, comforting aroma fills the kitchen. The smell of onions cooking makes me feel satisfied. "I was made to do this." A symbol of my tending to, of my love for my family. Symbolic. A small thing that whispers of the greater.

I add the softened vegetables to the beef and stir in crushed tomatoes, some chicken broth, some salt, some pepper. I smash three garlic cloves beneath the flat of my knife and I peel off the paper that's now cracked, and I add the broken cloves to my stew.

From death, life. We are nourished because of the breaking.

I do this in remembrance.

Spring will come. Winter never wins.

Linking up with Heather because her call to JustWrite made me JustWashMyHands and sit down at the computer for five minutes to capture how I prepare.

Why I Blog

Google's announcement last week that it will shut down Reader on July 1 unleashed a tidal wave of grief. A petition for Google to keep Reader running over at quickly passed 100,000 signatures and is still growing, and my own blogging community has wondered what this means for us, both as writers and blog readers.

There are plenty of other RSS options. I've used the stylish Flipboard on my iPad ever since last fall, when JJ gave me a demo, and I'm test-driving Feedly right now on my desktop. So far, so good.

But it quickly become apparent to me that I, like many other social media consumers, have switched how I get content. Five years ago, I lived by my Reader. I went through it religiously once a day and rarely clicked "mark all as read." (Heresy!) But these days, my Reader is too cluttered to be useful, and I mostly read posts I find via Twitter and Facebook. (To be clear, I never used RSS feeds for news. I rely on NPR, Google News and a New York Times app on my iPad for that.)

Which brings us to the question that keeps bloggers up at night: What does this mean for our audience? Will our already dwindling numbers plummet this summer, when people decide its too much trouble to transfer their feeds to a new service? And if our reach continues to decline, thanks to Facebook's ever-changing algorithms and the lighting-speed evolution of social media platforms, why do we do this?

It's a fundamental question. If you don't know why you're doing something - or just as importantly, why you aren't - you will rise and fall with shifting milieu. (Two years of high school French just earned its keep.) There's something about reacquainting ourselves with the why that rights our perspective. We come at life with renewed energy and determination.

So. Why do I blog?

Here's what I've come up with:

Because I crave conversation. I first started Love Well because I wanted to join the online community. I read blogs by witty, thoughtful, introspective women, who also happened to be rock-star writers. I wanted to get in the game. I wanted to trade ideas and funny stories and deep thoughts. An unexpected bonus: real friendships. The Internet allows me to form community with people I never would have met in my day-to-day world.

Because it's an outlet. I am a SAHM to four children, and I solo-parent at least half the month while my husband travels for work. Writing is something I do for me. It's self-care, a slice of creativity in a life that can feel mundane. Blogging is my favorite hobby.

Because I owe Google a big fat debt. I write Here, Taste This and other practical posts because Google solves 95% of my problems. That is not an exaggeration. In the last 24 hours, I have Googled "i have a cold and my teeth hurt" and "synonyms for kick-ass" and "monkey bread recipe" and that's just a portion of what I've looked up. The Internet is a communal fount of knowledge. I'm happy to share the small lessons I'm learning and somehow keep the machine evolving.

Because now I have a place to share the writing I used to do anyway. I've always journaled. Now I journal in public, which forces me to raise the writing bar: if other people are going to see this, I feel compelled to put some muscle into it and really reach for the right words and refine my topics. It also means I write about things I never used to write about.

Because I want to record my stories. Journaling used to be a chance for me to process; it was when I discovered what I was thinking and feeling about what was happening around me. But that also meant I didn't waste time writing the backstory. Since I was the only one who read it, anyway, it felt superfluous to record the facts. But now, because I blog, I write the whole story. I tell myself it's for my children, but I'll be honest and say: it's also for me. This blog is my scrapbook, a place for me to tuck away pictures and memories and lessons. It is a record of my life.

Why I don't blog:

To get rich.

To become an Internet force.

To increase my traffic.

To be validated (although it's nice when it happens).

To find my self-worth.

My self-worth is not defined by my page views or my Facebook likes or my Klout score. My self-worth rests wholly on Jesus. I believe I am who He says I am, and he says I am redeemed and loved and worthy and forgiven and made new and free. I believe in the way my husband looks at me over a bowl of chili, how his eyes speak of deep things and laughter and a life fused together like a mosaic of glass and lead. I believe in the way my kids smile when they see me enter a room, and I believe in the joy of creating, when the words on the screen or the picture on the camera perfectly reflect my inner soul.

I blog because I am.

But I am so much more than this blog.


March is the cruelest month.

At least it is for me, and I suspect the same is true for many who make the Upper Midwest their home.

March is gray and cold and it feels like winter will never end. Ever. Crusty snow covers everything, trees stand stark and empty, sky flat and lifeless. This is our past, present and future. It's a black and white world, devoid of color and sound and passion. A world that tempts me to stop believing in the miracle of spring.

But a world without hope is even more bleak than the landscape outside my window.

I have marked ten Marches since our return to Minnesota, and the seasons are teaching me this. Waiting does not diminish me, anymore than it diminishes a pregnant woman, and if the seed of faith buried in the cold dirt is to burst forth with new life, it must be watered with hope.

Three years ago, I wrote this:

In my experience, waiting produces one of two fruits in my life. Either I grow helpless as the days tick by and my prayers aren’t answered – and along with helpless, comes a side crop of bitterness, resignation and unbelief – or I dig in my heels and grow hopeful.

I’ve written before about the difference between the Western definition of hope and God's definition of hope. Our culture uses hope as a synonym for wish. “Oh, I hope I can find one more box of Thin Mint cookies this year.” “I hope we get to live in that neighborhood someday.” “I hope my kids won’t catch the stomach flu going around.”

But that’s not God’s hope. The Greek word most often translated as “hope” in the New Testament is elpis or elpo. Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines it as “to anticipate, usually with pleasure; an expectation or confidence."

In other words, it’s not a wish. It’s a certainty. Biblical hope is as certain as spring, as certain as the birth of this baby who is currently kick-boxing my ribcage. It might not be happening right now, and even the symptoms might be far off. But it is coming.
I need to remember this. I need the courage hope holds out. To withstand March. To wait for spring.

Because it's coming. Even when it doesn't look like it.

Sleeping In

I used to sleep in on Saturdays.

Like: I used to think getting up at 11:00 AM was early.

Like: Corey and I used to call our favorite breakfast places to see when they closed and then race to make it to brunch by 2:00 PM.

Like: I sometimes set my alarm for Saturday morning - just to have the satisfaction of turning it off. "Today, cursed clock, I win!"

Do I even need to say this was before I had kids?

These days, I call 8:00 AM sleeping in. My two-year-old, Kieran, is at that stage where he gets up by 6:30 every morning, no matter what. And he wakes up happy. "It morning time, Mama!" he whispers excitedly, pointing to the window where a crack of dim sunlight peaks through the blinds. "Yet's go!"

So I stumble out of bed and hand him a snack and turn on Ninjago, his absolute favorite TV show, and then I stumble back to bed for 22 minutes.

That's the parenting version of the snooze button.

As soon as that show is done, Kieran is back, climbing under my warm covers. "I just want to snuggle you, mama," he says with his sweet toddler voice, and he curls up next to my face and sucks on his finger and pets my cheeks and rubs my neck and giggles.

He'll sleep in someday. I half look forward to it.

And I half don't.