Palm Sunday🌴🌿

& remembering Beverly Cleary

Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna!’

Was Palm Sunday more like a parade or a processional?

I have limited processional experience. 

On my wedding day, my dad walked me down the aisle. I remember wondering if we were walking too fast or too slow, trying to keep in-step with the music. I was earnestly adamant that he wasn’t “giving me away.” It is funny to me now how much the little details of our wedding seemed to matter at the time. Now I fondly remember the donuts and the square dancing and the details all blur together. 

I also have limited parade experience. 

In 8th grade, I was the drum major of our middle school marching band (oboes don't march). I had white gloves and conducted the menagerie of pre-pubescent band instrument operators through the downtown streets of Albany for Veterans Day—we boasted being the largest veterans day parade "west of the Mississippi."

All these people gather in Jerusalem for the festival of Passover and they see this event unfolding. They join in, waving their palm fronds like Moana leading a sea turtle back to the water. Was it a processional, like a king walking to his coronation, or was it a parade, with Jesus as the star like Santa at the culmination of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade?

For Beverly Cleary, In Defense of Reading 

I hope children will be happy with the books I've written, and go on to be readers all of their lives.

—Beverly Cleary, who died this week at the age of 104

I remember in elementary school trying to crack my hard boiled eggs on my head in the lunchroom. I secretly hoped it wasn’t actually hardboiled so I’d have egg run down my face, just like Ramona.

In seventh grade, my drama class put on the play, “Beezus and Ramona.” I auditioned for Ramona with all the gusto I could muster. I even forced myself to cry onstage in my audition, really living into the part. I ended up being cast as Beezus—I was taller than the other decent actor in the class and she got the part of Ramona. I remember on opening night I had a terrible cold and I had to chug lemon tea in the dressing room between acts to deliver my lines and hopefully save my voice for the rest of the shows. 

I remember driving down Klickitat Street in Portland and realizing Beverly Cleary’s books were set in Portland

When we moved to Yamhill county, I picked up Cleary’s book, “A Girl from Yamhill” and read about how this land and these towns were 100 years ago. Her mom even started one of the first libraries in the county. 

Books have always been my escape, my safe place, a place my imagination can run wild. My mom always told me, “If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader.” I’m happy Beverly Cleary was one of those authors who made me happy to be a reader and excited to be a writer. 


How to be around people again

Next week I go back to work in-person for the first time in over a year. 

I’m a different person than I was in March 2020. 

I have birthed and met my daughter. She will be six months old this week. We brought a puppy into our family. Pandemic pounds, paired with being postpartum and nursing mean my clothes no longer fit the same. 

I haven’t set an alarm clock in over a year. 

Most days I don’t leave my house. 

I’m ready to get back to work and also unsure if I’ll remember how to be with other humans. This article about how the pandemic has changed our brains resonates. 

Can I sip my coffee while I teach? How will I know if masked students understand what I’m teaching? At least seeing their eyes is more than a black box on the screen. 

How do we greet each other now? Wave our fingers in the peace sign like our new way to “pass the peace” at church? Yell hi from six feet away? Does my masked smile come up to my eyes? No hugs, no handshakes, no fist bumps. For how long? How long will we avoid one another? 

I watched some videos of Declan from last Spring. He was a baby and now he’s a boy. 

Will he remember this strange time? Will there be remnants of our new reality that never leave? Maeve looks at me with confusion when I’m wearing a mask, like she’s waiting for the peek-a-boo, but it never comes. 

I overheard a girl tell her mom she forgot her mask as we set out for a walk at a state park. “It’s ok,” her mom replied, “just stay away from people.”

How long do we just stay away? 

How are you feeling about returning to daily life in-person? How has your world changed in the last 12 months? Do you find yourself wondering how you’ll function after “all this” has become normalized? What do you think will stay with us from these pandemic times?

It’s Okay. We Are Art.


This essay from the vault of my writing was originally written in early 2014. It won first prize in the 2014 Faith & Culture Writers Conference writing contest. I got a certificate and hugged Sarah Bessey.

I didn’t edit any of the words, though I’d probably write them differently now. Reading this now, I remember newlywed Kelly in our apartment with bright green walls and ceilings (“Avocado Estates”) earnestly trying to find her place in a tiny new town after leaving the city she went to college. She wanted her words to be important and taken seriously, but was so lonely. I love that even in the midst of that difficult season, I came back to the thing that has always made me feel like myself: writing.

My mom made it her personal mission to culturally educate her children during summer breaks from school.

She tirelessly piled my older brother, younger sister, and I into the minivan for adventures to the public library. We gathered armfuls of sticky children’s books (though I had a propensity for choosing foreign cookbooks), and quickly scribbled entries on our reading club worksheets in hopes of earning elusive and grandiose prizes.

When the local community college offered workshops on topics exposing young minds to everything from earthworm composting technology to mastermind chess techniques, my mom was the first to sign us up. That is the story of how I once toured a dump and why we still tease my sister for being a chess nerd to this day.

The love my parents had for culture, history, and art saturated our family vacations. No matter what city we visited, we always stopped at three places: libraries, museums, and cemeteries. (The latter deriving from my dad’s fascination with genealogy. “Hold up your fingers for how many “greats” this dead uncle is to you and say “Cheese!”)

On one trip to the Portland Art Museum, which promised the wonder of ancient Egyptian creativity, my siblings and I were surprised to find that we were standing in a room full of nude sculptures. Our innocent faces showed our mortification as we realized our mother had brought us to Satan’s playground.

We looked at my mom with the same look we shot her when a movie character uttered words like “ass” or “damn.” It was a self-righteous look that said, “Mother! How could you let us be exposed to such filth?”

On this day at the art museum, my mom did not reply with the usual, “Sorry, kids.” She didn’t apologize for bringing us to a room with life-sized naked people with penises, hairy parts, and breasts.

“It’s okay, kids. It’s art.”

On man’s first day, when God breathed life into Adam, I wonder if there was an audience. I wonder if the birds hovered in the trees waiting for the man to wake up. Perhaps the marching ants stopped their procession for a moment to end the debate over whether this new creature would walk on two, four, six, or eight legs.

Artists are often shy about their creations, with an innate desire to wait until the piece is complete before revealing it to the public. Even then, the perfectionist natures of many artists lead them to conceal their full talent from the public.

The painter cares deeply for what is taking shape on her canvas. It takes time and precision, but the artist knows the art is worth her investment.

How much more then does our heavenly Creator love his greatest creation—us, the only creation that is continually made new?

The universe came about with simple words.

Human life was birthed with a single breath.

God created a lot of things in those first days, but the greatest was humanity: the creation made in the image of God.

Selem ‘elohim: picture or likeness of God. But the Israelite’s did not separate between physical and spiritual realms.

In the Ancient Near East, when a work of art was constructed in the image of a god, three things were believed about that painting or statue. In addition to a spirit of that god living in the statue, the likeness had the power of and the functional surrogate abilities of whatever god it was made to represent.

Growing up in a Pentecostal denomination, I heard many sermons limiting the Holy Spirit to a moment at an altar: “getting filled,” “speaking in tongues,” “being endued with power,” “when the Holy Ghost comes upon you…”

I may not speak Hebrew or Greek, but I’ve heard the tongues of men and angels. Pentecost didn’t just start happening fifty days after the resurrection.

Pentecost was happening that first day of Creation when God said, and it was.

Pentecost was happening when God breathed into Adam, and he was.

Pentecost happens every time we use our God-given creativity, and we are.

When we are brave enough to invite the Holy Spirit into our worlds, we are saying yes to a full partnership and participation in the power and function of the God whose image we bear. Imagine what humanity can do with all its voices calling out into the void, hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit, creating something new.

Humanity was given a unique gift at the moment of its creation; it was given the image of God. We have the power of the God we represent. We have the spirit of our God living inside of us. We can function as a surrogate of our God—hands and feet that do the dirty, thankless work of loving and creating.

The sculptures in the museum that day weren’t the only things in the room deserving the distinction of being called “art.”

Humans are living art who are full of the Spirit of the Great Artist, working as co-artists who participate in the restoration of Creation to the Creator.

It’s okay. We are art.

A Year of Pandemic

This week will mark a year since everything changed. 

A year ago this week, my calendar was full of purple and red and yellow boxes marking appointments and reminders and events. We were juggling pickup and drop off of our then 1-year-old. 

I had been hearing chatter about a “coronavirus” at work, because my 7th grade social studies class always watched a daily 10-minute news recap. Since January, we had been getting updates on a mysterious virus in China. On January 23, 2020, this question was on our weekly quiz: What city of China is believed to be the origin of an outbreak of a mysterious coronavirus, which has spread to other nations around the world?

In early March, there were rumors of it coming to the US.

The day before our world shutdown, we were scheduled for our first ultrasound to see our baby. The (totally unmasked) appointment was around 11 a.m., so I had to take the whole day off of work as a sick day. After we saw our beautiful little baby bouncing around (just one baby, phew), Adam and I decided to make a date for the rest of the day. I had a sub at school and Declan was in daycare. We went to a local dine-in boutique movie theater and watched Knives Out. We shared a giant burger and truffle fries. 

The only movie we would see in theaters for the next year. The last restaurant meal we would eat for months. 

Later that day, it was announced that the following day would be a half day of school and we would start Spring Break early. 

I got to school that day, and the administration asked us to make packets of work for students to do during that one week off. Officials were saying we needed to “flatten the curve” in order to keep hospitals from becoming overcrowded too quickly. 

My students asked what would happen if I died. I told them that I hoped they would come to my funeral. I didn’t realize funerals would be canceled for months. 

I went by the school a couple months later to pick up my stuff from the classroom. The board still said March 13 and still had a graph I had made on the dry erase board showing what “flattening the curve” for two weeks would look like. 

I remember everyone being really scared. The stores (including online stores like Amazon) sold out of toilet paper, baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, and many groceries. The shelves where pasta, flour, and sugar belonged sat empty. People were hoarding and also spending a lot of time baking. 

Once schools closed, many events were getting canceled. Adam was supposed to travel to New York during spring break (while I stayed back with Declan). He had to cancel the work trip, because the church he was doing work with had canceled services. We didn’t know it would be over a year before we would fly again. 

As we come around to the same time of year, the rainy season when the flower buds are just appearing, there are weird time warp flashbacks. Our walks are starting to mirror how they looked at the beginning of all this. The same trees are starting to bloom.

We have a new baby who has never lived in a world without pandemic. 

During that first week of lockdown, Declan learned to count to five. Now he can read numbers and count to 20. Looking at pictures of him from those first few weeks puts into perspective just how much time has passed during this pandemic.  Over a third of Declan’s life has been this way. At under the age of three, he is used to masks. Kids at the park have run away from him when he gets close, yelling CORONAVIRUS! 

I’ve heard that generational lines will be marked by this. Those who were school-age kids when COVID-19 hit and those that were born, but too young to remember. My kids will likely never remember this strange, all-together year. 

In the weeks after the reality of the pandemic was settling in, there were memes and poems and posts dedicated to finding positivity in this time and looking for ways we can grow from it. I think we are all too weary for that now. We have been without each other for so long that looking for silver linings is exhausting. Like Erin Moon said: we have reached the point in pandemic when walks don’t help anymore. Events that were canceled last year are being canceled or modified for a second year in a row. Those realities hit hard. 

What has changed for you from March 2020 to March 2021? Do you remember the last day before the pandemic rocked your world? How are you feeling about the one year anniversary of the world shutting down?

First day on my own

Or how it feels to walk alone

Don't be scared to walk alone

Don't be scared to like it

There's no time that you must be home

So sleep where darkness falls

―John Mayer, The Age of Worry from the album Born and Raised

On our first day out of Leon, my mom decided she needed to go home. We had spent about four days resting and in just a few kilometers, she could tell the swelling in her feet was just as bad as it had been when we stopped in Burgos to rest. 

At the first albergue we came to, a sweet family greeted us with chilled white wine, little pools to soak to our feet, and a pinwheel of colorful hammocks in the front yard.

I connected to the WIFI and finally got ahold of my dad back in the states. My mom’s plane ticket needed to be changed so she could go home weeks before her planned departure. He was able to get the ticket changed to leave from Madrid in two days. I now felt like it was my job to figure out how to get her to Madrid. Her phone had been broken since early on. So I booked her a bus ticket on my phone and wrote down all the confirmation numbers so she could check in at the station in Leon. We found the bus stop in town, but then the cook offered to drive her to Leon in the morning. She said she was already going that way to do some shopping, and it wasn’t very far. 

The front yard was buzzing with pilgrim’s stopping for the day—most had walked much farther than we had that day.

There was a boy from North Dakota with a guitar playing “Piano Man.” He was vague and demure about what he did for work. I later found out he was on the Camino to discern whether or not he would become a priest. I predict not—he was quite flirty with the ladies.

There was a young couple we assumed were traveling together. They later revealed they actually had just met a few days prior, but were both biking the camino and had struck up a relationship. They would go on to get kicked out of the albergue at sunrise when they decided to attempt to engage in bedroom activities in a dorm occupied by multiple people.

There was a woman about my mom’s age who was a little weepy. She was walking the camino in memory of her son who had passed away. I later discovered she was also newly divorced from a pastor in the foursquare church. At dinner, this lady offered to set off with me in the morning, since I’d be setting off on my own for the first time. 

That evening I sat on my mom’s bottom bunk and we sorted through our bags. Anything I didn’t want or need to keep carrying to Santiago, went in her bag. Anything I could use from her bag went in mine. We laid next to each other on that bottom bunk, staring at the plywood above us. Our camino together had come to an end. 

Before the sun rose, I got up and ready to go. Getting ready pretty much just involved putting on my socks and shoes and running to the restroom—no morning shower, no makeup, no fuss. My hair was put up in a bun or ponytail or braids if I was feeling fancy. I slid my camino Buff over my ears to keep them warm. 

My mom got up with us to give me one last hug. We both fought tears in our eyes as we took one last Camino selfie. For some reason we took a picture with the lady too. I don’t remember her name. I tried to have faith that somehow my mom would make it back to Leon and then onto Madrid without me. 

That first morning alone was quiet. There was the crunch of the gravel beneath our feet and the tapping of the lady’s poles in the dirt. She walked faster than I was comfortable with. It was hard to see the arrows in the dark. We chatted a bit and she told me about her divorce. I told her about my husband back home and how he was a pastor too. 

We stopped for breakfast at a little hotel in a small town. She ate fast and another couple came by that she knew. I slowly sipped my cafe con leche, not interested in walking with more people I didn’t know. They didn’t feel like “my people.” Whatever that meant. I was also sad that my mom was having to leave and unsure of what that meant for my camino. When the woman I had started the morning with finished up her breakfast, I told her I’d continue on at my own pace. She could go on ahead with her friends. She didn’t hesitate at all and went on her way. 

I walked and walked on my own. I didn’t feel lonely, but I was aware that I wasn’t waiting for someone to come up from behind and I was completely free to make all the decisions unilaterally. I didn’t have anyone to consult with anyone or check in with them to see how they were feeling. If I passed a bar and wanted an ice cream, I could stop without speaking a word. If I reached my destination and was still feeling good, I could keep going to the next town. I had no agenda and no one to take care of. 

I was completely alone, but somehow not at all.

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