an invitation to rest

This is something I wrote a few weeks ago for a blog I now keep for my work. I have other posts in mind for this space: an update on these not.still.tiny humans; a relatively honest account of marriage at ten years of togetherness and two preschool-aged kiddos; a little about the explosively gorgeous (for the human that is me) work of ministry; and an attempt at explaining why it is (though baffling, though maddening, though wildly impractical) impossible for me to give up on the idea of a third child. But this (below) is a thing we’re doing, and have been doing for a month now, and have already been pretty damn changed by. And so I share it with you.

Thanks, by the way, for your kind and robust welcome home. I think I’ve been unsure what to write here because I wasn’t sure what would be, to you, worth reading. What you said was: my voice. Our voices. That’s worth reading. I’m not sure there’s a kinder message than that.

And so, an invitation:

A thing that has been said to me is that I’m not great at relaxation. And it’s something that worries me because: I believe in rest. I’m not interested in more-is-more life, or parenting, or work. And I’m for sure not interested in busier-is-better spirituality. The people I most admire move more slowly than that. They make more space.

But I don’t move slowly. At least not on the surface. On the surface, I’m not great at relaxation.

I tried to greet this reality by imagining a way out of some of the work in which I engage. But the truth is, I engage in it because it feels worth doing. And I imagine that’s true for most of us. How I parent. How I labor. What I cook. The walks I like to take and the books I like to read. It’s all important to me. More important than the indulgence I’m supposed to want.

And yet I’m tired. Most of the time. Part of this is because I’m a parent of young children and – ask any of us – tired is a thing. I’m also lucky enough to have deeply fulfilling work, which has the gratifying if exhausting consequence of meaning I long to do more. I stay up late at night because doing more brings me joy. And so: tired.

But I’ve been offering space lately to this question: how might I meet my need for more rest without giving up any of the beloved endeavors to which I offer myself? Without ceding to the notion that I’d be somehow more whole if I binge watched Orange is the New Black instead of reading theology and listening to sermons once the kids go to bed.

And so I’ve turned to an old practice. Like, Genesis-old. Then-God-Rested-old. Sabbath. I’m far from alone in this return, of course, though what I see of this practice being practiced is scattered. And it is by all accounts countercultural in contemporary America.

To be clear: this isn’t a post that extols the virtues of a long-held practice of Sabbath-keeping, though plenty of those exist. It isn’t a summary of the scriptural origins of the practice, though consider reading those because there’s immense wisdom in what our desert mothers and fathers had to say on the subject. And it isn’t a deep-dive into the theology behind Sabbath-keeping, though Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote a pretty gorgeous one of those, if you’d like to read alongside me. Instead, this is an invitation. Because like many of us, I work best in community. And because I’m guessing that lots of you wish you knew how to slow down too. I’m not alone in needing more rest, and I’m not alone in being unsure how to get it.

So (the Tiniest Little Bit) About Sabbath:

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori (badass former presiding bishop for the whole Episcopal Church, thank you feminism in religion) teaches here that “Sabbath can be an opportunity to learn more deeply what God asks of each of us — loving our neighbors, each one made in God’s image, as we love ourselves.” And, I mean: I for sure need to work on that.

Jane Carol Redmont describes Sabbath keeping as “a regular weekly rhythm of rest, time for reconnecting with the sacred, festive meals with loved ones, the nurturing of community life, study of holy wisdom and sacred texts, attention to beauty and sensuality, honoring intimacy.” But Redmont also writes about how hard it is to get students even to experiment with the practice. I met with such resistance when I tried to get students to do media blackouts: to unplug for forty-eight hours. Lord have mercy; they found even the suggestion traumatic.

Rabbi Heschel writes what is, perhaps, my favorite recommendation. He says, “our goal should be to live life in radical amazement….to get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

And then there’s also this.

Sabbath-Keeping as Protest:

Author Stephen W. Smith writes that “when practiced, Sabbath-keeping is an active protest against a culture that is always on, always available and always looking for something else to do.”

Boom. Right? Fuck yes to that protest?

It was in talking this through with my wife that the reasons for our cultural resistance to true rest became clearer to me. We’re offered ways to buy rest: television, movies, dessert, alcohol, amusement parks, vacations, prepared food brought to our table. And don’t get me wrong: aside from amusement parks, I dig these things. But really, most of those forms of rest are stimulating, right? They might bring pleasure; they’re surely entertaining; and they offer a passive form of indulgence – maybe even luxury – that might pass for rest. But they aren’t likely to bring us stillness, a sense of enough, or gratitude for what is and not what can be made to be. They won’t make us aware of how amazing it is that our hearts are all beating.

Heschel writes: “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle…. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.” It seems to me that real rest is a form of celebration. And it doesn’t make anyone money. There’s nothing there to market to us, which is probably why we’re culturally discouraged from making space for it. There’s nothing to sell because rest, celebration, means we already have all that we need. Enough. It means more than enough.

Our First Sabbath:

So this week, for the first time, my family kept a sort of Sabbath, which consisted among more nuanced shifts of a commitment to abstain from all internet/media activities. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday (because church work means I can’t keep Sabbath on Sundays), we put the devices away. We played music from neglected CDs on our old player in the kitchen (instead of our carefully curated playlists on Spotify). That first night, when the kids were sleeping and the chores were done and it was only 9:30pm, I settled in our old glider and read almost fifty pages of a novel in a dark house with no glowing screens. And then I prayed for longer. And then I slept.

The next morning, we went to the farmer’s market, and I didn’t take pictures of my kids’ faces when I said they could have the freshly fried donuts they smelled from the other side of the market. I didn’t take pictures when they saw red sunflowers or tasted the most perfect yellow tomatoes on earth. I was just there.

When we got home, I cooked lunch slowly, enjoying the sound of the boys playing outside, and the feel of my cool kitchen, and the indulgence of good food. We invited friends over spontaneously, and watched the kids get wet and muddy. I paid a little more mind to my breath, to my posture. I paid a little more mind to my wife. I worked (cooking, parenting, sweeping the floor), but more slowly, with intentionality and joy. I took pleasure even in washing dishes. I worried less about how long bedtime would take. There’s no evidence, but I think I smiled more.

I’m in, at least for the year. At least until next August, some version of this will be our lives from Fridays at sundown through Saturday nights. I’m already looking forward to next week. If you think you might join us, will you let me know? I’d love insight into what you’re reading, or how you’ve kept this spiritual practice in the past, or how your family practiced it growing up. I’d love to know how it works for you now. Even in this new, fumbling stage, I am grateful to be on this road, and I would be thrilled to have company.

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on not losing the thread

I’ve thought more and more about this space these past weeks. Breaking into Blossom. I’ve missed it. I’ve ached from missing it.

And we went to a wedding: two men, gorgeous liturgy. And my cynical wife leaned over and said: “I just realized that this is why we did all of that. This is why we worked.”

And I witnessed (live-stream, from a thousand miles) the funeral of a woman who changed the world. She did. And I watched at the end – after the singing – as friends and strangers gathered themselves up to walk back into their own lives. I felt the tether: our little world, time, the slipping away and yet the sweetness of every connection.

And I know I’ve lost the thread. In the days and nights and the Trying to Get it All Right: the thread. And I can’t fix it today because we’re here celebrating my wildly kind mom’s birthday and that’s part of the thread too: sweet corn and garden tomatoes and kids who haven’t rested.

I can’t fill in all the quiet spaces today, but I can start again. I can say that if anyone here is still reading, I’ve missed feeling tethered to you. I can offer images from these months of silence. And I can come again soon, with joy. With gratitude for this, these threads that even when left slack for months can be made taut again.

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.hello, 2016.

Wow. 2015. What a year. Two growing boysies. A full-time job for R. A new forever home. Trips to Baltimore and Charleston to see family. A deepening spiritual life. A vibrant activism and advocacy path. And, to close the year out, a job offer to work full-time doing work that I love for a prominent social justice organization. I have to say that I’m mildly trepidatious to mess with anything about 2015. This new year will have some big shoes to fill.

As an update, I accepted an exciting job offer in December and will make the switch on February 1st. I am beyond thrilled to move into a position that encompasses so much of what I’m already passionate about within the terms of my work week. Also, R has been installed as the permanent formation minister at our church, so that position is going really well for her. She’s doing wonderful work and they are deeply pleased with her performance!

B is back to preschool after the holiday break. He’s recently begun a few new chapter books (the first installment of the Harry Potter series, as well as Cordelia Funke’s _Dragon Rider_), which he adores. And his artistic skills are really blowing us away. If he’s able to, he would spend 2-3 hours+ a day just working on his art (mostly drawing with pencils, but also advanced coloring books and his own brand of “book-making”). I’ll have to get some examples of his work up on the sire to show off, but I can assure you that they are fascinating and complex. He recently told R something to the effect of “God loves it best when I am drawing.” It does seem to be a real heart passion. It’s hard to believe that our baby will be four years old this month. And yet, it’s harder to believe that he’s still only three. What a kind and growing spirit he is.

And the baby brother, L, is not such a little one anymore. Growing steadily, he’ll be two in March! He’s talking up a storm now and, beginning, to sing, as well. His tiny 22 month voiced rendition of “Silent Night” is about enough to knock you over. He’s still our adventure baby climbing and exploring all there is to see. Still, as his language blossoms, so does his interest in intimacy with us. There are way more requests for kisses and hugs. And the first thing he says when we wake up in the morning is, “Hi!” really loudly!

So I guess this post is to say that we’re here, still queer, loving and living our increasingly full lives. I’m sure R will be back on here eventually with more profundity than me, but this is what I’ve got for now!

With love,

J

From L to R clockwise: Brothers on a train; Brothers at the aquarium; A shepherd boy (B) and his little sheep (L) before the Christmas Eve children’s service.

.feeling good.

Update 11/25/15: After twenty months on the market, I’ve received two unsolicited job offers for a.m.a.z.i.n.g. positions just in the last nine days! Prayers for discernment and patience. No matter what, I trust that 2016 is going to be an awesome year at work!!

I’m having one of those moments in life where everything feels on the precipice. Ordinarily, the not-knowing creates in me a lot of anticipatory anxiety, but, right now, I feel elated. I feel a sense of being at the top of a long awaited hill about to look out at the new vista. I trust that life will hold unanticipated disappointments and frustrations, to be sure. And, yet, I feel such a craving for new challenges and new perspectives. I feel as though I’ve spent the last several years paying into an account I couldn’t see with varying degrees of trust in the process. Some facets of this work have already shown their hand (our new home, the boysies growth and development, a deepening spiritual life, and a renewed commitment to my anti-oppressive activism & advocacy). But there are some new adventures just about to be revealed. And I am giddy and my belly is fluttery with the excitement of it all. I’m trying to breathe deeply into this moment and relish the sense of (momentary) accomplishment. And to get my head on straight for the hard work ahead. I love when I can just sit back and love the present for all of the surprises it contains! More soon…

all hallows’ eve

The only sounds I hear right now are wind picking up outside and rain leaking through the roof and landing in a metal pot in my entryway. This relative quiet means that the rest of my family has fallen asleep together upstairs: a rare group nap in anticipation of a late Halloween night. I’m alone on the sofa with a thin blanket, and it’s cold in here. I could turn the heat up, but I’m struck by the not-unpleasant sense of porous boundaries, of the outside getting in. The rain, and the wind, and the cold. This is always true, I think. This fluidity. Walls don’t offer the kinds of division we pretend they do. But I’m not always as willing to see it as I am today.

I’m brewing a second small pot of coffee. The lunch dishes are still scattered on the table, and I’m trying just to notice this. Noticing is a big thing lately. Noticing how little I understand time, with its wild variations: fast, slow, racing by. Other wild variations are a big thing lately too: my mood, my wife’s kindness, all of our trust. I suspect that my awareness of these swings is an ironic product of being settled. We are all safe to feel the complexities. Of being a preschooler. Of being a toddler. Of being married (in happiness. in frustration. in resignation. in gratitude.). Of being parents of young people and all of the young-people needs. The too.many.things that we are, so that life is crowded even when it’s pared down and simple. And so we swing, all of us, right now. From euphoric love to resentment and resistance. From surety to restlessness. From desperate need to rejection. All of us, with the wild variations, and with time refusing to steady itself.

I’ve been wanting and wanting to write. Writing, though, is a kind of standing still, and stillness seems to be what life is most unwilling to yield these days. And yet. There’s a lot to say. When I think about this space, I can’t really think about readers anymore. This isn’t because I don’t still love the sense of community, or crave it. I do. But I’m unsure of what I offer that is worth receiving by anyone who isn’t one of us. And I’m not even sure what I mean by one of us. Maybe I mean the kids one day. Maybe I just mean me. Anyway, I can only write here as a keeping of some kind of record. For later. For when there’s time to stand a little more still and listen to the way things were when there wasn’t time to really hear. And if this space is worth something outside of that, then that something can stand on its own.

So, for the record. And anything else this might be worth.

The house. We’ve been in this house for coming up on two months, and we were right. It is right. We’re getting to know it. It is a creaky old house. You can’t move around here without everybody knowing about it. It has other surprises too, of course. Beautiful morning light. An expansiveness that must be about something other than square footage. A kind, inviting feel that has kept people here through the ages: it’s almost a hundred years old and we’re only its fifth family. Our pathways here are far from worn, but they’re being created. The fact of living here is no longer startling. And I’m in no rush to learn the secrets this space holds. I understand marriage enough now to let the complexity of this new undertaking unfold.

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And the Birdie. Who is determined and willful and emotionally vast. Who is as physical as a high-speed train. And who is a nurturer: of me, of Bram, of his stuffed bunny, Henry. He has a sense of humor that the rest of us lack, and it sets him apart, and it makes us grateful. He is eager to please us. He delights in the world, and is every bit as watchful as his brother has always been, but less reluctant. He doesn’t love music yet, and he doesn’t always love books. He is affectionate as a cat is affectionate, which is to say: on his terms. For these reasons, he has made me work much harder than Bram ever did to figure out how he wants to be loved. But, oh, when he feels seen by one of us, he lights up. He is a small, radiant lighthouse. And he surprises me everyday.

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And Bram. Bram, who studies life. Who burrows into it: all depth, that kid. Who draws for hours without a break. The same creatures over and over. Who wants to read the same long books until he’s mastered them. He does not live on the surface, and so surfaces startle him. School is still hard: not the work of it, but the light relational part. He is discomforted by the presence of more than he can process at once. He is every bit the storyteller that he’s always been, and the same narratives still drive him: good vs. evil. Americana. Love and defeat. I can’t imagine he’ll ever be good at small talk.

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And happiness. Sometimes I think: this is what it feels like to live your values. To be happy, and exhausted, and bewildered, and broken, and flooded with grace. I think I’m happy because I’m made that way, and not everyone is, but I also work hard to live a life that is in keeping with what I sense to be true about the world. And that is work, but it also offers a contentment that I imagine (remember, even) is hard to come by otherwise. So: this class- and race-diverse neighborhood. A devotion to the mystery of liturgy. A commitment to using my spirituality in action. Food ethics. Marriage. Patient and positive parenting. Compassion. Grace. Love. Surrender. Surrender. Surrender. The rewards not of immediate pleasure, but of investment.

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And God. A couple of weeks ago, I sat at a downtown, outdoor cafe, only a couple of blocks from St. Luke’s, with the best staff imaginable. And the sun was shining down on us and there was easy camaraderie and good food. And someone mentioned that winter is coming. And someone else said that the town’s only real shelter can’t meet our need. And someone else looked around and said isn’t it a shame to have all these buildings down here and all of them shuttered. And then: a conversation about resources. And J just finished a month long diaper drive: gathering 24,000 diapers, which is enough for 500 families for a week. Because diapers are expensive, and necessary, and not covered by any of this nation’s fiscal safety nets. And Sara Miles started the food pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco fifteen years ago this week. So, God. And Jesus. Christianity, to me, is never about charity. Never. It is always about remembering that we are all welcome at the table, and that means coming to the table and bringing what we have. And that what we have isn’t a reflection of who we are. It just is. So we give. And we take. And none of that makes us better or worse. All it makes us is God’s. And blessed, of course. And under obligation to one another not because we are more or less fortunate, but because we’re what we have of God. We’re what we have. We are as porous as my house is today. I don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to tell this story.

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In the meantime, Bram will be Robin Hood tonight. Which is perfect for him, my small prince of thieves. And Lou will be Little John: his brother’s devoted fellow. And I will be Maid Marian. And J will be the Sheriff of Nottingham: no justice without the unjust. And our block will filled with trick-or-treaters from the neighboring streets, which aren’t so safe, and some of the neighbors here will bemoan this, and I will give thanks, once more, for the failures of boundaries. How they make us all more human. And tomorrow, guided by our liturgical calendar, we will celebrate the saints: sing their names in a litany that will take my breath away. And Monday we will honor the dead. We’ll put Emmett Ever’s ashes in the columbarium at St. Luke’s: at once a gesture of honor and of release. Her name will be etched in gold in a room whose smell I cannot describe but cannot stop loving.

And we’ll go on praying, and questioning, and misunderstanding, and being misunderstood. I am well over a third of the way through reading the Bible in a year. And I can’t be one of those people who wishes for my children’s growth to slow down because their growth is the most viscerally sacred thing I know. And I will keep wanting more stillness. And keep not making choices that would bring it to me. And I will stay grateful for this good and pretty life full of complex, beautiful, frail humanity.

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a small mile

One week from tomorrow, we will leave our little cottage behind. We will drive away from the place that both J and I have lived longer than we’ve ever lived anywhere else, and we won’t live here anymore. We will leave without a puppy-cat who moved in here with us, but with his sister. We will leave with two boys who were conceived of, conceived (mostly), and brought home here, and whose entire conception of home is these walls and floors and smells and colors, and this air quality. And this view. We’ll take E’s ashes with us, and the boy who isn’t Saul will still be turning three somewhere, and it will never matter to him that we’ve left the house that was once his home. After packing up with a good half dozen generous parishioners helping, we’ll drive our rented U-Haul one small mile away, to a modest and lovely house in a working- to middle-class neighborhood that has beauty, and that speaks to our values.

And then we’ll live there instead. With one chalkboard wall in the kitchen for meal planning and family notes and boysie creations. With the color of saffron on the other kitchen walls, and a mostly working fireplace, and original wood floors, and a finished attic with wide pine floor planks. With double the square feet we have now, and double the bedrooms, but nothing grand except that it will be ours, and we will be privileged to have it, and that alone is grand. We’ll paint the door the slate color of my wife’s eyes, and we’ll finally buy a sofa, and a low bed frame. And a college kid and his dad are making us a farmhouse table and two three-seat benches. Bram will find a big box of real Legos (given to us by another generous parishioner) waiting for him in his room: his first foray away from Duplos and into big-kid-ness. Big-kid-ness in a room that, I pray, he’ll get big in. The driveway has an old basketball hoop, so someday we’ll go to a store and come home with a basketball and that will be countless hours of our lives. Some other day we’ll have saved up enough money to finish the basement and buy a pool table, and that will be other hours. There’s a deep freeze in the basement, and a small canning room with perfect rows of glass jars, all of which is lovely in its simplicity, and its pragmatism, and the care that it implies. The people we’re buying the house from ran a small neighborhood church in the living room for five years, and though some of our perception of Christianity differs from theirs, the house seems to carry with it those hours and years of praise, and dedication to service, and love of God and community, and that feels like a gift to inherit. Today my mom texted to say that she’d picked up the first season of Life Goes On at a garage sale and did we want to borrow it. So maybe J and I will watch some of that as we muddle through whatever it means to leave and mourn – as four individuals and also as the animal that is one family – a set of walls that is jam-packed with memories. To let time pass. To get to know a house to whom we are strangers.

This little cottage knows heartbreak. Probably the new house does too. Certainly it does. Like this cottage, it was built in 1927. I like to imagine the family who built it. Their laughter and their failures and their frustrations. They loved this city of mine. Of theirs. I like to imagine the other ways in which our lives collide in spite of the years. The house holds all of those secrets, and I respect it for knowing what I never will. But I never imagined heartbreak when we moved in here, and that’s not true now. Instead, letting myself fall in love with a new home feels like a way of accepting what we’ll face inside of it. The suffering and the joy. The firsts and the lasts.

This cottage and this blog have been homes of mine for all these years, so it seemed necessary to honor the one I’ll leave behind in the one I’ll carry with me. Thanks for granting me the space to do that. Here are some photos of our cottage-dwelling boys by way of tribute.

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this old road

Sometimes I say that my wife is a fan of clean starts. By that I mean that she likes the feeling of freshness that comes with a conceptual new chapter. For whatever reason, clean starts make me uneasy. I like the sense of connection that is a long, winding path with lots of sharp turns and curves and places where it circles back on itself. I like the sense of history. My own history. That of my boys. My family. My country (for better and worse). So though I’ve thought a couple of times about starting a new space that might more cleanly represent my current journey, the idea has never picked up any traction in my heart.

Breaking into Blossom is my journey. Loss, love, babies. The blossoming and the actual breaking, which is of course much more violent than I understood when we named this space. And though the way in which I’ve come to God this past year is staggering in its intensity (is certainly an awakening), God has been with me here and in my life all along, and my obsession with God has been a part of everything I’ve ever done, or written, or wanted, or held close, or let go of. Even looking back through the posts here makes that clear. So this space is still just about us. Our little family. But as the boys get older it becomes trickier to write about them so publicly. Their privacy matters more and more as their self-hood grows. So, though there will still be plenty of stories about our babies, the thread that I’m most at liberty to expose to you is my own journey, which of course has always been true. And some of that journey right now is my burgeoning faith.

Among the things I’m currently reading (and I’m reading theology and scripture and history as fast as my under-slept and rarely alone self can manage) is The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, in which Robert Louis Wilken explores the thinkers of Christianity’s first few centuries, uncovering what set them apart from the secular philosophers and scientists of their time. They were no less invested in a rigorous scholarly discipline, but, Wilken writes, “they did not argue that there is a God because there is order; rather, they saw design in the universe because they knew the one God. God was not a principle of explanation. In seeking God they sought to understand the God they already knew.” Later he adds: “by thinking and writing they sought to know God more intimately and love him more ardently. The intellectual task was a spiritual undertaking.” This mirrors my experience of God. My new forays into theology are driven not by a question of whether or not God is, but by a desire to understand what God is. I crave, of course, the structure and immersion of the classroom. I wish I could take coursework in theology – maybe another degree – which is absurd and wildly impossible. But my priest guides my studies with generosity, deep wisdom, and patience. And the benefit of not being in school is the ability to construct little syllabuses around whatever I want to understand. The matriarchs of Genesis. The historical Jesus. Vulnerability and Christ. I am a little obsessed with this painting (by Francisco de Zurbaran), and I might spend a month reading with it in mind. Post-PhD me is learning what it is to be a scholar with freedom, and though freedom has never been my thing, it is not without its graces.

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But what I’m never far from is gratitude. Seeing the good, feeling thankful… none of that has ever been hard for me, but now my gratitude overwhelms me. And there aren’t even words to explain how blessed I am to have stumbled into a job that supports my family while also feeding and offering space for this awakening. It’s still almost impossible to believe that I’ve been given this opportunity. We were in trouble. We were committed to raising our kids the way we had been, but we couldn’t make ends meet for much longer on one salary. It’s a struggle that I know most of you know. To be offered something that so deeply feeds me, that gives me the flexibility to still spend lots of time with our kiddos, and that pays me well enough to afford great childcare for the hours I do need to be away. I just don’t know many parents who are offered such a gift as this job has been for us. So though I miss my babies immensely – miss being there for all of the hours – there’s little doubt that this is right for us.

All of this gratitude comes, though, in the shadow of our contemporary American race crisis. We are lucky to be a part of a church that urges us towards action, and certainly a community that does so. And I’m grateful to be married to an activist who is deeply invested in lending her energy to dismantling the white patriarchy. I take my lead from her – and from those around me – and struggle to find my way towards service with prayer and sorrow, which aren’t enough. So some version of this is what most nights look like around here.

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But the boys, for their part, are mostly thriving.

Louis is in a grouchy place lately, but I remember this from around fifteen months with Bram. Teething, wanting to nurse all the time, being vaguely uncomfortable in his body. Less watchful joy than we’re used to seeing with him, but it feels like a phase. He is keenly aware of everything that goes on around him, and he’s the most determined little fella you could ever meet. The strength of his will is impressive and beautiful to watch, but also every bit as exhausting as you would imagine it to be. He is a life-force of energy and focus and intensity. But he’s also so much in love with all of us. He lights up with pride when we witness some feat of his, and though he’s constantly moving, he’s also still so at home in our arms. He is a wild, sweet, thoughtful child.

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And Bram, at three and a half, is like a real, actual BIG kid. He is curious. He craves mastery and has the focus to attain it. He is still, above all other things, a storyteller. Books, music, folklore. He loves to learn, but his learning all has to come to him via narratives: novels, songs, history. He is deeply invested in our family’s spiritual journey. He loves St. Luke’s and our priest. He loves the space of the sanctuary and the ritual of liturgy. It seems as though my work there makes sense to him: he seems to take the fact that I would teach in that space, that I would serve, as a logical evolution of our days. And he wants to understand that which is sacred. A couple of weeks ago, he was praying in his sleep. He performs the fraction (the breaking of bread) with food at our table. He asks questions, loudly, during the liturgy. I mean, he’s still a kid, so he still gets restless, but he also understands what we’re doing there in an instinctive way that is interesting to watch. He loves to be outside, too, but he’s awkward on his bike or his scooter, which is maybe because we don’t focus on that stuff enough, but which also just seems about him. Even outside he wants to tell stories. To find Journey’s crayons. To be a construction worker. To be any of a hundred characters from as many books. He is happy and an absolute joy to be around.

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And Jax and I are, of course, legally married. Which is difficult to believe after all of these years. The legal recognition is meaningful, and it has changed how I feel more than I thought it would, though I’m not sure how to explain that change. I guess it’s just nice to feel upheld in such a sacred and complex pursuit. To feel that our struggles and our growth and our defeats and our victories are all housed within a system that is at least marginally invested in our success.

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I love Jax so much, and I still see how gorgeous she is (which is saying something when some days I barely have time to look at her). Marriage during these early years of parenthood is TOUGH, and we have plenty of rough days.weeks.months. But we are as much of an us as we’ve ever been, and that alone is profound and mysterious and sturdier than I ever imagined. So, my legal wife.

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And my legal family at a little gathering in our downtown park, just a block from our downtown church, in our beloved city, celebrating our dignity and rights as American citizens.

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And my angelic boys. Who (as parents have said through the ages) just flat out amaze me.

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