An Interview with Meta Herrick Carlson
The forces in our lives are constantly colliding—sometimes in ways that work out well and sometimes in ways that don’t. This interview series is an exploration of what it can look like to work with the collisions, rather than against them. By digging into how humans and nature interact–from our relationships with other humans, to those with our non-human neighbors, to our relationship with ourselves to our relationship with the landbase–we can uncover how to best step fully into our role in the story of the world.
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Welcome to another installment of the Ordinary Collisions interview series. Today I get to introduce you to Meta Herrick Carlson, who I first met over 20 years ago when we were both on staff at Luther Park, and ELCA camp near Danbury, Wisconsin. One of the first experiences we shared was swimming a stalled pontoon boat to shore at the picnic that closed out staff training. If that’s not an experience that bonds you to a person, I don’t know what is. (Along with all the song singing, camper shepherding, relationship building, and communing with nature that goes along with working in outdoor ministry.)
Meta is a pastor and poet whose ministry is rooted in a love for meaningful ritual, accessible language, and healthy communities. Her most recent book, Ordinary Blessings for Parents, is inspired by God’s delight in the ordinary lives of kids and those who love them. She laughs at her own jokes and believes in the power of packing extra snacks just in case.
I also believe in the power of packing extra snacks—always carry food…because you just never know. So, everyone, grab your snacks, and go snag yourself a copy of one of her books. Here she is with her family after the launch of her first book, Ordinary Blessings.
Heidi: Meta, Thanks for being here with us today. To start, I always ask the same question: What are two forces that are colliding in your life right now (or that have in the not too distant past)?
Meta: This is a great question, Heidi. I am paying attention to the tension between my current sense of self and purpose and the old norms and metrics from pre-pandemic times. It’s become a discipline, reminding myself every single day that we do not have the right tools to evaluate this moment in our bodies and in human history. This is a season for reformation, for trying and failing and trying again; for telling stories and noticing patterns; for remembering our mortality instead of trying to master it.
Heidi: The words “true wellness is living as fully as you can within your circumstances” came across my desk just the other day — remembing our mortality instead of trying to master it seems to fit right into what that could mean. How are you navigating the conditions this collision is creating? How does the dissonance created impact your choices?
Meta: There are days when I feel desperate for a win or a familiar calculation according to the old metrics. There is sacred resistance in trying things that probably won’t work. It feels extra brave and risky and important right now. Reformation requires some deconstruction, which feels like dying. But the church is in the business of dying and rising. It’s who we are and what we do. So I am spending a lot of time in biblical stories and current narratives that are honest about the tension between death and life, the liminal space in between what we used to know and what’s still unknowable.
Heidi: Makes me think of what Wendel Berry wrote about ‘practicing resurrection.’ What has this collision taught you about yourself? The world?
Meta: My pragmatic poetry has been about blessing the ordinary, believing that God delights in “good” and perfection was never the point. Remembering and practicing this in my own body and home and life is showing me how to be more patient and tender with myself. And when I’m offering that grace to myself, I have what I need to share it with others and the world God loves.
Heidi: I’d love to hear about a collision you explore in a new or ongoing project…because I know you’ve always got some life-giving projects in the works!
I co-created a bible study for Church Anew called “Old and New”. It features videos and small group materials for seven stories in the book of Genesis. In every story, things fall apart and the people want to go back to the familiar and comfortable way they remember the old days. But going back is never the call. God doubles down and promises to keep going with them into something new. This tension between where we come from and where we are going next is as old as our oldest stories. It’s in our spiritual and physical DNA.
Heidi: Indeed. It’s all about moving into the next right thing—remembering where we come from, but allowing those beginnings to be springboards instead of tired stories to get stuck within. What else would you like to share about what you’re excited about offering to folks?
Meta: My third book “Ordinary Blessings for Parents” is in the world this week! It’s a spiritual high-five for parents and caregivers, people who love kids and the inner child in all of us. This book came alive deep in Covid Time, hunkered down at home with my kids. I hope you find a word you need to hear and one you can share with someone else.
I had the pleasure of reading an early copy, and here’s what I think:
"Four things anyone in a parenting role needs: patience, love, community, and Meta Herrick Carlson's Ordinary Blessings for Parents. This is a book that I plan to keep as a close companion as my child grows, and give to anyone who needs encouragement on their own path of parenting (or caregiving). There are times on this journey when it's hard to find the right words. Having Meta's words close by helps me feel better equipped to continue on, wherever the path may lead next, always finding the holy in the ordinary."
Here’s to blessings of all sorts, but especially those that celebrate and lift up ordinary things.
Have a collision you’d like to explore in this space? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.