San Diego Spring Break, Part 2

Part two of the memories, stories and lessons from our spring break trip to San Diego; part one - including how travel is getting easier for us these days and the simple joys of being outside in March - can be found here

Not everything on vacation has to be about us.

I love taking our kids on vacation. I love anticipating the fun and making plans. I love being in a different setting - especially when that involves escaping winter - and I love the memories and connections that happen when we have time to be fully together.

But I do worry that vacations will becomes just one more extravaganza for my kids. We have so much already, and I will fight to my dying days the entitlement that privileges seem to breed.

So when Corey told me his organization, Feed the Children, happened to be hosting on a charity event when we were in San Diego, I jumped at the chance to take a day off from focusing on us and focus on others instead.

Thus, our second full day in San Diego, we found ourselves standing outside in the bright sunshine in a parking lot just a few miles from Mexico, loading boxes from Feed the Children into the cars of 800 military families who had been preselected by the Armed Services YMCA.

Two Feed the Children semi-trucks were the backdrop - along with a battalion of Navy and Marines servicemen and women. We worked alongside them to hand out a trio of boxes that contained food, household supplies and a special box from Avon for the women of the house.

Truth: our kids were a little intimidated to be surrounded by so many "soldiers," and yes, there were a few moments of "I'm hot, I'm hungry, how much longer?" But for the most part, spending a morning serving others was a great adventure for our little tribe, and hopefully, by taking their focus off themselves for a few hours, it made the fun to come even more meaningful.

My ideal trip is a mix of familiar and foreign.

I discovered something on our trip to San Diego. The perfect vacation, for me, combines familiarity and discovery. Traveling to a city that's completely unknown is too much chaos at this stage of life to enable relaxation. I like going to a place where I already how to get around town, where I already have a few destinations in mind, where I don't have to scramble just to find a place to grab lunch.

San Diego is that sweet spot for us. We know the traffic patterns, we know the cities, we know the locale of our favorite restaurants. We have friends to visit and favorite haunts to swing by. But since we stayed with my brother in northern San Diego County, about 45 minutes north of where we used to live, there was also plenty to explore.

My brother's neighborhood, in particular, delighted me to no end. I took a walk every day; one morning, I even walked to Trader Joe's, which sits at the business end of the mixed-use development, and bought cream for my coffee. I mean, really. I walked to Trader Joe's. I constantly poured over the variety of housing styles in his neighborhood. On Facebook, I showed off four of my favorites. We visited new beaches, new parks, new restaurants. We made memories and discoveries without the stress that sometimes accompanies exploration.

Maybe best of all:

Staying with family on vacation is the frosting on the perfect vacation cake.

This isn't always possible, but for the record: I highly advise having family live in popular tourist destinations. My brother, Michael, and his lovely wife, Kristen, were impeccable hosts - letting us use their house, their kitchen, even their laundry. Our kids adored having cousins to play with, not to mention all the new toys to play with - including this dream playhouse in Michael's backyard.

Because we stayed with family, we were able to pack healthy lunches for our adventures, instead of eating out every meal. Because we stayed with family, we were able to swim in the neighborhood pool and have floaties for everyone. We used their toys when we went to the park, their towels when we went to the beach, their fridge to store our leftovers.

And the crowning glory: because we stayed with family, our kids had extended time to play with their cousins and get to know them. That was the real joy of this trip - building new connections with family.

Up next: a few of our favorite things to do in San Diego.

San Diego Spring Break

We spent spring break in San Diego this year, something you surely know if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. Ever since we got back, almost two weeks ago, I've worn the silliest grin, even as we re-entered daily life and Corey left on a work trip and Minnesota had the audacity to (gasp) snow. I didn't care, not much anyway. It was a great trip, and I'm still basking in the glow.

I intended to do a photo-heavy post to sum up our trip in one fell swoop. But then I downloaded my pictures and looked through them all and I realized: I have more than one post here. This is the good stuff. I don't want to skimp on this in a rush to get to the next thing. So permit me a few days of snapshots and stories, like we used to do in the dinosaur age of blogging. This is the story of my family and our experiences, and the beautiful thing about sharing these memories here is that my story is often your story too.

Travel is getting easier.

We flew from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, even though our eventual destination was my brother's place in northern San Diego, because LAX has more flights and it's easier to redeem frequent flyer points at the busy airports. Our kids are pretty used to flying at this point; Connor has stopped packing weapons in his carry-on (there was that one time we forgot to tell him he couldn't take a pocketknife on the plane; thank you, Lord, for giving us TSA agents with a sense of humor), and since Corey is TSA-Pre, he can take the kids through the expedited security line, which makes everything easier.

Still, California is a good 3.5 hour flight away from home. It used to be, I packed snacks and new toys and a coloring books and a variety of clothes, diapers and blankets just to get us through.

Not anymore. At some point, on our way out, I looked across at our family row, three deep on either side. Natalie was reading a book, Teyla was playing on her Leap Pad, Connor was playing Minecraft on the iPad. Corey was working on his laptop, I was reading a magazine and Kieran was asleep on my leg.

No one was fidgeting, no one was fighting, no one had just dropped their marker for the 30th time and wanted me to bend myself into a pretzel to retrieve it from under the seat. They were all taking care of themselves. They were happy and peaceful and able to sit still without reminders.

"Oh my word. We've made it," I whispered to Corey, nodding at the relative peace around us. "I never thought we'd get to this stage, but here we are."

And then my heart burst into a million tiny pieces of confetti, because it's true. Don't give up hope, parents of toddlers and preschoolers. You'll make it too.

California is still my home.

I said on Facebook: Every time I walk out of LAX, I inhale deeply and smile. I know that distinctive smell is 95% smog, but it is so familiar and distinctively Southern California, I can't help it. Happy to be "home."

And this is true. My heart skips a beat when I spy the Pacific Ocean, racing alongside us as we head south on the 5 toward San Diego. The familiar hills, the bright flowers, the traffic on six lanes of freeway, the Tejano music on half the radio stations. It all reminds me of the decade we spent living and rooting ourselves in California. A spring break trip to San Diego would be awesome for anyone, but for Corey and I, it was also a sweet reunion.

When you've been surrounded by snow for 3.5 months, all it takes for a morning of fun is green grass.

Our first day in Carlsbad, in northern San Diego County, we decided to take it easy. We investigated the many playgrounds in my brother's adorable neighborhood. The kids were thrilled just to be running on green grass. Teyla performed a full dance recital for Corey and me, as we sat on a bench in the sunshine and drank our morning coffee.

Connor launched foam rockets, one of the many outdoor doors we were encouraged to borrow from my brother's garage. Natalie led her siblings in a game of pirates versus ninjas. It was glorious just to be outside and not be cold.

That afternoon, at yet another park, the kids took turns rolling down the hills.

It wasn't until they stopped and said, "Our arms itch!" that I remembered Southern California grass is coarsely cut. Each of our downhill rollers had tiny scraps and scratches all over their arms, like a thin road rash.

Note to my SoCal friends: in Minnesota, the worst a downhill roll will do is stain your jeans.

Up next: Familiarity vs discovery, we make our kids work on vacation and staying with family. 

How to Make Vacation Re-Entry Pleasant Instead of Painful


We arrived home from spring break a few days ago, suntanned and satisfied after a week away from snow and schedules. Re-entry isn't fun - who wants to go back to school when, the day before, you were playing at a park next to the beach, eating In-N-Out burgers and fries? - but thankfully, our last few days have gone about as smoothly as one can expect.

And that, my friends, isn't something I used to be able to say. A few years ago, I got serious about setting myself up for success when it comes to vacations. Being on the backside of an anticipated fun event is hard enough; adding a rough return home to the mix was like a double whammy. Instead of winding up rested and refreshed, I squandered my good vacation vibes trying to get up to speed with my normal life.

Here's my recipe for a pleasant versus painful re-entry.

Before I Leave
Bottom line: I have to do more work before I leave on vacation to set myself up to be able to relish it on the back end.

Clean out the fridge (1-2 days before departure)
There is nothing more disheartening that coming home from vacation to find rotting bananas on your counter and sour milk in your fridge. So now, a couple of days before I leave, I go through my fresh food supplies and decide what can stay and what needs to go. Sometimes, that means my family eats a dinner of leftovers a couple of nights in a row so we don't waste food. (I hate wasting food.) Sometimes, I have so much fresh food, I decide to give some of it away to local friends rather than have it languish in my empty house. And always, it means I allot myself 30-45 minutes the day of departure to put freezable food in the freezer - this includes all bread, cheeses and leftovers. And if I have time, I deal with the remaining produce in my fridge that won't keep. Last week, I put all our berries in the freezer; at least that way, I can use them in the future for smoothies or muffins. I froze a bag of pre-cut broccoli; that will go in broccoli cheese soup. I even froze the rest of the container of spinach for smoothies. I also put a bowl of pears on my counter into the fridge. The only thing I forgot was the bananas in my pantry, but banana bread to the rescue, yes? Nothing wasted.

Make sure I have at least one meal ready to go (1-2 days before departure)
You know what's disheartening? Stepping into your house after a long vacation at dinner time only to realize: there's nothing to eat for dinner. Sure, we could hit up a restaurant, but if we're coming home after vacation, we've just eaten out ad nauseum. And no one has the energy to control the kids at a restaurant after a long day of travel. In the past, a dinner of eggs and toast came to my rescue. But these days, I try to make sure there's something in my freezer that I can reheat the night we come home. Last week, it was a frozen Pioneer Woman lasagna. I put it in the oven right after we walked in the door, and it cooked while the kids ran crazy and the adults unpacked. Ninety minutes later, we sat down to a real meal that didn't include fries or chicken fingers.

Bonus tip: Make sure you at least have milk and cereal in your house before you leave, so you don't have to run out for breakfast the next morning either.

Clean the house (1 day before departure)
A clean house calms me. A chaotic house makes me crazy. Ergo, I now make the day before we leave on vacation a cleaning day. I don't go crazy, but I do clean the bathrooms, dust the major surfaces, vacuum and Swiffer and make sure my kitchen counters aren't sticky and the sink is wiped down. Walking into a house free from clutter and dog hair makes me think: Ahhh, it's good to be home. I can linger here in this vacation mode for just a few more days.

Launder sheets and towels (day of departure, if you have time)
If I can, I like to do it the morning we leave. As soon as I get up, I strip my bed and wash the sheets. (I don't worry about the kids' beds. They don't appreciate clean sheets like I do.) I also grab all the towels after morning showers and cycle them through. I figure, even if they aren't hung up (read: I threw that last load in the dryer as I was walking out the door), it's still nicer to come home to fresh.

Take out the garbage (day of departure)
One time, I forgot to take out the kitchen garbage. In the summer. Before we left on a two-week trip. It took me bottles of Febreeze to remove the smell of rotted chicken that seemed to pervade every surface in my home. Never again.

Start the dishwasher (day of departure)
Dishwashers get stinky too, yes? Especially if they are loaded with cereal bowls coated with milk. So even if the dishwasher is only 1/4 full, I start it right before we leave. Because I don't like stinky.

Once I Get Home
Bottom Line: Cash out the pre-vacation work.

Have the Hold Mail delivered
I always have my mail held for the time I'm gone and then have everything delivered the day I get home. That way, I can get through the stack of junk right away. It's usually waiting for me, wrapped in a big rubber band, in my mailbox.

Unpack
I used to wait to unpack. "I just don't feel like it yet," I said to myself. You know what happened? Five days after the trip, I was still living out of a suitcase. Ain't nobody got time for that. So now, I unpack within an hour of getting home. And I ruthlessly unpack everything. Laundry goes into the laundry room, clean clothes get folded or hung on hangers, toys get put away, DVDs reunite with their cases (they live in an old-fashioned CD carrier while we are away; less bulk). Yes, it's a pain, but once it's done, you can relax and enjoy being home and bask in all the good memories.

Do laundry
If I don't start the vacation laundry right away, I will put it off forever. So I gather and sort it as soon as possible and throw in a load before I go to bed that first night. It means I have to fold and put away the next day, but if my house is clean and I have food for meals, it's the only real chore I have to do that day. I can manage that.

Clean your schedule for a day or two
Obviously, this one isn't always possible. But when we arrived back this week, I discovered - to my utter delight - that because many districts around us are on break this week, almost all of my regularly scheduled activities have been cancelled. So I had no Wednesday night church events, no Thursday morning workout classes, no Friday morning mommy and me class. I didn't plan this, but now that I've experienced this slow-and-easy re-entry? I would plan it this way in the future, even if it meant bowing out of normal life for a few days. It's been so much nicer than trying to hit the ground running. The whole family has been able to rest from the time change and enjoy being home without being rushed somewhere. Instead of being stretched and depressed, we are savoring a spring break well spent.

And isn't that the whole point of a vacation?

On Sleepovers and Waking Up to Change

This past weekend, Natalie hosted a sleepover for two of her closest friends. The way the schedules worked out, the girls were here for a full 24 hours, which normally I would say is A Bad Decision, given what I know about sleepovers and tween girls. But the extra time turned out to be a secret bonus: since the girls knew they had a big budget of hours to spend together, they didn't force themselves to stay up all night to make the most of every opportunity. Ergo, they slept from midnight to almost 7:00 AM, and they were a complete delight on Saturday instead of cranky zombies.

Also: they baked homemade mini donuts and then whooped it up with the sprinkles. Can't hate that.

It sounds funny, but at some point last year, I woke up to the fact that I'm a mom who's oldest kids are rapidly approaching the teen years. And I don't mean I gently woke up, as on a spring morning with the birds singing outside my window. I mean woke up like my alarm went off with its loud "BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP" and I simultaneously have a heart attack and win a gold medal for cartwheeling out of my bed and slamming the snooze button while doing the splits.

It was startling, is what I'm saying.

I think it snuck up on me because my focus has been fixed by necessity on the younger ones. The baby years are singularly absorbing, the toddler years are joyfully and exhausting. Natalie and Connor were mostly in the sweet spot, the easy and uncomplicated years between 6 and 10, when they are old enough to get dressed by themselves and brush their own teeth (theoretically), but they still want to be with you and they have awesome imaginations and they are completely unselfconscious.

I think I forgot they are changing too, even if it's at a slower pace.

But you know what? After I got over the heart-pounding moment of recognition, I found myself falling in love with the ages my kids are today.

Yes, Natalie is only 18 months away from high school. (I'm not really OK with that at all, but I keep saying it to myself to see if I will eventually get over the shock.) But she is still my girl, she is sweet and loving and responsible and generous. What's more, now she is genuinely funny (versus the knock-knock joke funny of second graders, which we all know is a special kind of torture) and she sends me cute emoji texts and she gets totally embarrassed when her friends follow me on Instagram, which is endearing.

Connor draws comics like it's his job right now (which he hopes it will be, someday), and he shares them with me and explains each panel so patiently. "And here he falls down and then it's all 'aaahhhh' and the bomb explodes and then this darkness is where the ninja dies.'" And I smile and nod and feign understanding. Because it's not about the drawing, it's about his imagination, right? And that I get that spades.

Just last week, I unearthed a bizarre belief deep down in my subconscious, which was: once we are mature, we stop changing. I have no idea where I got this, because I'm fairly certain no adult ever told me that. When I stumbled upon this belief and and held it up to the light, I laughed a while with God because - to live is to change. Even now, at 42, I'm shifting, evolving, learning, growing in my soul and my world view. And I love it. Change isn't always easy but it's exhilarating.

And so it is with my children. Change is constant. For sure, trying to keep up with the growth of four kids at once is like trying to watch four TV programs at the same time, as I often say. I'm bound to miss key twists in the plot, because there's only so much I can absorb at once.

But oh. To be on this ride. What a joy.

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So as long as we're talking about change, let me ask you a question: how old are your kids and what is their bedtime? We are not an early-to-bed family, so generally, the kids all have the same bedtime because a. it makes it easy for us to enforce and b. we rarely make that bedtime anyway. 

But it occurred to me this weekend that Natalie, at 12, probably doesn't need to aim to be in bed at the same time as Kieran, who is 3. At what age is it right to make the shift to a later bedtime? 

(I'm going to post the same question over on my FB page, where there is usually more discussion. So if you want to comment there, feel free to hop over and join the conversation.)


To Hear God


It wasn't until we had settled into our seats - tucking purses away, smooshing winter jackets into an extra chair, pulling the coffee tumblers out - that I noticed the family in front of us at church.

The parents were sandwiched between children, four in all, three girls and a boy. I was quickly drawn to the oldest girl holding her youngest sister, because the little one had glasses strapped over almond-shaped eyes characteristic of those with Down's. She plugged her ears with her fingers when the music started, the loud drums and the reverberating guitar quite too much for her nerves. Her older sister took it in stride and gently swayed to the music. Mom and Dad, a few seats down, held out their hands at various times, the universal sign for "Do you want me to take her?" The older girl, maybe 15, just smiled and kept swaying.

When the music finished, and we sat down, the parents dispersed paper and crayons for the middle kids and gently fit large headphones over the ears of the youngest girl, now carefully cradled in her father's lap. I kept watching them, even as I listened to the sermon, because who can look away from love?

And then I felt it, a quiet tugging in my marrow, a whisper in the space I've created recently for the Holy Spirit to speak. "They are doing it. A job well done."

"I know," my spirit replied, more with a smile than with words. "I see it."

"Tell them," the voice whispered back. "They need to hear it."

Straight away, my eyes filled with tears. I have no idea why, but that always happens to me when the Word speaks right from the center of my being. I am simultaneously terrified and exuberant. It is no small thing.

My first thought: "Yes! Yes, I should tell them. Who wouldn't want to be told something like that?"

Immediately followed by: "Oh my word, I can't tell people I don't even know I have a Word From the Lord for them. That's so ... Pentecostal." (At this point, the Holy Spirit smiled. I felt it.)

"Plus, what if they are doing all this as a front? What if they yelled at their kids all morning? What will the kids think if they hear me say, 'I feel like God wants me to tell you that you're doing a great job' and they think God condones something that isn't good? I shouldn't insert myself."

And so the wrestling match went, for 20 more minutes. By the end, I was pinned by the Spirit. (Which might be the real meaning of the Greek phrase "to be filled" we see in Ephesians 5.) If I say I want to hear from God, that I want to create margin in my heart, mind and schedule to listen and act, how dare I reply with pithy rationalizations that allow me to do nothing?

So it was, at the end of the service, that I stood tall and silent for a minute as the crowd around me gathered coats and voices, and then leaned over to the woman in front of me and said, "Are you new here today?"

She didn't hear me at first. (Of course not. That's how the Holy Spirit plays with me.)

I cleared my throat. "I'm sorry, are you new?" I asked with a louder, almost frantic tone. "I loved watching your family during church today."

At this, the mom turned and smiled. "Oh, we aren't new. We're just visiting today, for the baptism, to support some friends. We normally attend Bethlehem. I hope we didn't bother you too much with our chaos."

"No, not at all," I said. "In fact, I sat here and thought, 'you are doing such a good job.' And I think God wants me to tell you that. You are doing a good job."

She smiled, "Thank you. That's very kind."

And then the after-church rush pulled us apart and the conversation ended.

Did it matter to her? I don't know. I doubt encouragement ever goes unappreciated.

But I know it mattered to me, desperately. Because I want to hear God, and I think the Spirit talks most to those who have ears to hear.

Why I'd Rather Write on Facebook than Actually Blog


If there is consistency in my life, a thread that runs through the whole panarama, it is writing.

In elementary school, I penned books of sincere, maudlin poetry. In junior high, I filled journal after journal with observances, annoyances and my overwhelming fear that I would die without ever kissing a boy. In high school, I wrote and eventually edited for the school newspaper, and in college, I wrote and then edited and then managed our monthly magazine. Upon graduation, I took a job as the editor of a beachside newspaper, my first "I can't believe I get paid to write" job. Eventually, I landed at NBC, writing and producing stories and sometimes newscasts, in a dizzying attempt to court fickle Nielsen.

These days, I write here. Or at least, I imagine I do. Lately, I've struggled to write, to do the work, as a good friend says. I find myself facing a wall of fear every time I sit in front of the glowing empty screen, a fear that's murky enough to defy examination but real enough to send me scurrying back to Facebook, where I can read and write pleasant little nothings without having to do battle.

Then, last week, I read an article on The Atlantic about Why Writers Are The Worst Procrastinators, and my whole being practically vibrated with resonation. Because the author, Megan McArdle, somehow saw fit to peak into my brain and heart and write what she saw. After describing in excruciating detail the lengths most writers will go to put off the work of actually writing - "In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read." - she postulates this theory:
Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A's in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
My heart almost burst with recognition.

I write, in my head, all the time. Constantly. I rearrange words and record lines of dialogue and get the lead just so. I come up with idea after idea, and I feel so proud of my imaginary work. And then I sit down to write, to do the work, and I freeze up, because now I'm face to face with the very real possibility that what I write will be drivel, that the beautiful concept in my head will end up squished and bloody as a newborn baby after it descends from my brain to the screen.

Failure. I fear it. I avoid it. I despise it. So I slink away from the challenge and go fold laundry instead. Because at least then, I know I'll end up with something to show for my work - like a pile of neatly pressed towels - instead of a page of messy, incoherent crap that looks nothing like I had imagined.

Maybe you relate to this? For you, it might not writing. Maybe it's getting off the couch and starting to exercise again. Maybe it's changing, really changing, the food you eat. Maybe it's the art supplies you've stuffed in the back of the closet with a huff and a sigh. Maybe it's going back to school to finish that degree or entering that songwriting contest or looking for a new job that really excites you.

Whatever it is, I know this: doing nothing to avoid failure ensures failure of the deepest kind. We must try. We must fail. We must learn. We must grow. And we must never give up.

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says:
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.
Amen? Here's to more having fun.

Eyes to See


I didn't grow up in a church that celebrated communion each week. It was a monthly practice usually, "because we don't want it to become common." When the basket full of broken crackers reached me, I took one and held it in my lap. When the juice tray was passed, I took it gingerly and full of trepidation, sure I would upend it with one clumsy move and spill the blood of Jesus down my dress and across the aisle. I waited to partake of both, waited for the minister up front to solemnly say, "Take and eat. Do this in remembrance of me." And the whole auditorium would move, as one, in a silent ritual that seemed to me both holy and mundane.

Despite the fact that it was only once a month, it was still common to me. An ordinary thing we did, part of the rhythm of my life.

I was young, so I don't condemn my memories. I didn't have the depth to appreciate the mystery. And mystery isn't perceived by looking at the surface. You have to have eyes to see.

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Sunday was communion Sunday for my church family, and in our gathering, no trays are passed. Instead, we walk forward to receive the body and blood from the hands of our brothers and sisters.

The band played an earthy "Nothing But The Blood" as The Church lined up to remember. Teenagers in hoodies and sweat pants shuffled next to grandparents in suits and sweater sets. A young mother swayed in the line, a tiny head cradled in the crook of her arm. White. Black. Asian. Latino. The residents of a group home walked forward with jerks and crooked limbs and smiles that went from side to side. The pure in heart. And I couldn't stop the tears and my soul sang, "How beautiful you are, Lord. How beautiful you are."

Near the end, I slipped into the line, with Corey and Natalie, and I took a shard of bread from from one of my sisters who looked me in the eye and said, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you." And I dipped it in the cup held out to me by another sister, and she smiled at me and said, "The blood of Christ, shed for you, Kelly." And I took and ate and wept and was made whole.

I still don't understand the mystery. But I no longer need to. The blessing of age is knowing glory is most at home in the common, if you have eyes to see.