Monday, January 31, 2011
The question becomes do I force it? If I don't want to leave the house on Sunday morning do I force myself to go anyway? Yesterday we went out for the day instead. Something we had all intentions of doing Saturday but was cut short by family wide digestive issues.
Maybe it's sometimes we need a real weekend with two whole days off?
I am not sure.
I don't know what it means.
I don't feel nearly as guilty as one would think.
Today I am grateful for adventures with my family and a day off.
May you be blessed with time to clear your head.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
How are you going to afford child care? Who will you trust with Lilia? Maybe this is selfish? Maybe you should just take one or two classes to get started? How do you know you like Kentucky? What if you hate school?
They swirled on.
I was near tears and calling the whole thing off. Luckily, I did not. I started just digging through paperwork and got myself psyched up about the classes I will be taking. Found information on scholarships and grants. Looked at previous years schedules to get an idea of how much childcare we will need.
Slowly calmed down again. Pressed on.
I will keep pressing on. I know in the end this is the right decision for all of us even if it is a hard one. My perseverance will teach Lilia a lot more about life than school ever will. I want her to grow up to be strong and to know how to press on. The best way to teach her that is to do it myself.
I am sure more nor'easters will roll on to the shores of my brain. It is how I deal with them that matters, not that they are there in the first place. It is kind of like that beachy snow chic I built the other day.
Today I am grateful for questions because they precede growth.
May you be blessed by difficult questions and the courage to live into the answers!
Friday, January 28, 2011
I am grateful for ________.
May you be blessed with sleeping past 6am sometimes.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Then we took Lilia out to play in the snow. For the first time she really played in the snow. She was digging it and throwing it. We built her first Snow Chic, who we called Laughter. She also was able to walk through the snow for the first time.
This is snow at the Jersey Shore. You just have to laugh sometimes.
Today I am incredibly grateful for these quiet moments to take pictures and even more so for these moments with Lilia.
May you be blessed with some quiet moment today and many filled with laughter.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I had this moment of how great is this she is mimicking something so good for her! I think from now on when I am dragging at the end of the day and resisting yoga time with everything I have, it might help that she is doing it too and copying me. What a great way for her to learn to stay fit. Something neither her mom or dad have been good at. Basically what I am saying here is by making a good choice for us, we have made a good choice for her because she is learning something that is going to be very good for her.
Is it crazy that I am thinking about buying her, her own $5 yoga mat? It will give her a space and hopefully keep her out from under us.
Today I am grateful for Lilia and her imagination and curiosity!
May you be blessed with a little imagination and curiosity of your own.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Personally I usually want to ask them about their story. I want to know where they came from and how they ended up in this place. I try to suspend my judgment; I try to see them with Jesus' eyes. It is hard at times no all the time. I live in an area where I don't regularly see homeless people. There are people who do not have homes but it isn't in your face like when you are in a city.
Two weeks ago I ended up in Philadelphia. In an area I am pretty familiar with. There are always people begging along this highly traveled commercial strip of road. Someone caught my eye this day. He stood differently. He was pretty well dressed. His back was facing me. So I turned to read his sign once we passed him. Father of 2 just laid off need food God Bless. I looked at his face. This man really needed help. You could tell he was uncomfortable being there. So I told Paul let's get him a gift card for some food. If we didn't have the baby I probably would have picked him up and taken him to a food store. This may have resulted in my own demise but I am telling you he was different. I wanted more than ever to hear his story. Not only for my own information but because I think he needed to tell it, to be heard. I also wanted to ask where his kids were. So we decided it wasn't great but we would buy a gift card for a fast food place in the parking lot on the way out and it was his.
Then we got tied up in debating if we should buy this new crib/toddler bed. We ended up spending what felt like hours debating this and another purchase. I couldn't think I was all befuddled because my mind was swamped with thoughts of this guy who needed help. We ate lunch while in the furniture store. All I could think about were his hungry kids. I couldn't shake the look in his eyes. It reminded me of the first trip I took to Target after returning form Africa and quietly hyperventilating so my friends wouldn't see. How could I think about buying a basket full of crayons and markers when there are people how need to eat? Maybe he was a sociopath and faking it for his own gain. I doubt it though.
My point being what do you do in this situation? Do you just drive on by? Do you stop to talk to him? Toss change at his feet?
So we left and of course he was gone. I can't shake the feeling that I failed Jesus that day. I could have put his hunger above my need to pee. That is why we didn't stop because I needed to use the bathroom. Once we had the baby in the store we weren't leaving again. I didn't just fail Jesus, I failed my faith and in some ways my daughter because in that moment I failed to show her how we are supposed to love our fellow human beings.
Today I am grateful for the pain of noticing my shortcomings.
May you be blessed by listening to another person tell their story.
Monday, January 24, 2011
This morning I find myself feeling pretty anxious about childcare after our move. We talked about Paul having two jobs. Which I know think about just one job to get you started. Paul really wants to work for a company that requires you to start in a part time position. So we maybe looking at a full time and a part time job for awhile. With school and studying that is starting to feel a little overwhelming. One day at a time I suppose.
Today I am grateful for this opportunity.
May you blessed with new beginnings of your own.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
In an essay, tell us what leads you to apply for admission to the Master of Divinity degree program. Please reflect on your life journey including areas such as family, education, vocation, call to ministry, etc.
Beyond my baptism and the telling of the Christmas and Easter narratives, my only exposure to Christianity was at weddings. I was fascinated by the idea of church. I began really searching in Middle School. I went to a prayer group and said a special prayer to get “saved”, every week. In High School, I found a Bible study; this was not satisfying for me. I struggled believing there was a God, but I kept looking. Eventually I found a church. I joined through confirmation and began getting involved. This became a satisfying religious experience. I should mention that when I was young my father became terminally ill. My search for God coincided with my learning the brain damage he had was irreversible.
During High School my focus was working in television production. I went on to study at a four year university with hopes of a BA in Broadcasting. My second semester my father passed away. Though his death had been anticipated, it sent my world spinning. I dropped out in favor of a one year accelerated program. I ran away from New Jersey, my family and God. I focused on my education. My hard work paid off, I graduated at the top of my class and was soon hired by WFTV in Orlando. After a year in live news production I was unsatisfied and made the move back to New Jersey to pursue opportunities in New York City. After job hunting with no results life started to change.
My curiosity about faith came back. I learn through asking questions and I had a lot of questions. My biggest concern was that I couldn’t accept some of the Christian ideas as I saw them. I was blessed to find a mentor in, a Pastor who was just called to ministry at FRPC. He allowed me to ask my difficult questions in a safe place. “How could God hate homosexual people? Are they not his children too?” “How could hate be a part of this faith if it is based on the story of Jesus love?” I began to relearn what it meant to be a Christian. I also learned to accept for some questions there simply isn’t an answer. During this time I started Spiritual Direction. I started to understand God’s call, which I had heard some time before but never understood it as such.
Well of course that brought more questions. How could God possibly want to use me? I am a mess, I am far from perfect, and I screw up! I describe it like this, I was like a little kid who sticks their fingers in their ears and screams, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” As it turns out God is very persistent. God put people in my life at specific times to help get the message across because the prompting of God alone didn’t convince me. I couldn’t refuse to listen any more. I had to trust God. During this time I was volunteering at the local church in many capacities, one was as a youth leader. I had the chance to go to the National Youth Workers Convention. There I was introduced to this scripture from The Message, “I cannot tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide open spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.” I had begun to accept that I was called by God. I had a clear path carved out. I had begun working on my undergraduate degree again at a local community college with plans of transferring to a four year school to study Religion. Then I would seek ordination and enter seminary with hopes of a future in youth ministry. I started praying Lord make me wide open to your call. Help me to understand and trust your will. God sure did open me up; of course it wasn’t how I expected. My step father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A lot went through my head and heart, in the end I didn’t run, I choose God. God did work in me during that time. I had to face everything I ran away from.
Since I was on this new trusting God plan, I didn’t stray. I finished my Bachelor’s Degree, became an inquirer and began studying at Princeton Seminary. I took on a new job and some activities in addition to my class work. I didn’t do so well and ended the semester with a tear filled decision to take a leave of absence. At that time I also removed myself as an inquirer. I came home, lost as ever. God was there in the midst of great disappointment.
I have had many opportunities that wouldn’t have been possibilities in my focused plan. I traveled to Africa, where my heart was forever changed. I have a beautiful daughter. I have found that I am passionate about empowering girls and young women. I have grown in my ability to hear and discern God’s call.
I have chosen the Master of Divinity program because it opens up many options in my ministry. Future PhD work could lead to teaching. A call to ordination could lead to pastoral ministry. I could see myself working with youth or young women to empower them. I could see my family in the mission field in Uganda. I could see a future in interfaith relations. I have not discounted any options. I do not know what my future ministry will look like. I pray that I will be equipped to serve and remain open to God’s call. Ultimately my hope is to change the world for the better one person at a time. It is my belief that God’s call to further education will help me to achieve that.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
This summer I preached for the first time. I am not sure why I didn't post this sooner. Anyhow, here is my first sermon.
Humbly, Wide Open to Answered Prayers
Micah 6:6-8 (NIV), 2 Corinthians 6: 11-13 (The Message)
I must be growing up because they have let me come out of the basement and talk to a group that is not predominantly minors. So in case you don’t know me, I am Becca and until recently I have worked extensively with our youth. As any of our students could tell you I like to tell stories when I teach, so this morning I am going to stray away from our typical theological reflection and tell you a few stories about me and God. I must warn you this is not a talk for people who are perfect, actually if you are perfect you might want to leave now and head to the diner or for doughnuts or the beach. I myself fail miserably sometimes, especially when it comes to dealing with God. I try to embrace my imperfection and learn from it. So please have a little grace with my imperfection and your own.
Let’s see where should I start this story. Well I guess I should introduce you to the characters in the story. There’s me, Paul my husband, Lilia Grace our sweet baby girl. Trinity our dog and DJ the cat.
So it’s a cold morning in the middle of winter. I wake up to Lilia demanding food. Trinity wants to go out and the cat wants his morning routine of treats and a long brushing the minute my feet hit the floor. Paul has left very early this morning to go into work. Oh and me I need to use the bathroom. I have no back up. I can’t take Lilia on to the back porch to get to the door because it is really cold. So I get her bottle started and diaper changed. Trin stays at my feet the whole time as does the cat at a safe distance. Lilia is fed I put her down to attend to the animals and of course she yells in protest. I let her yell it out as I run to the back door to let Trinity out. I scoop Lilia up and proceed with DJs treats and brushing. Trin starts barking to come in because after all it is freezing outside. So run put Lilia down let Trinity in and DJ escapes out the back door because he is now protesting his morning brushing being just a little too short for his liking. I yell into the cold air UGH silly cat you are going to freeze. OK well maybe those weren’t my exact words but you get the idea. Now Trin wants to come back outside because I am outside chasing the cat around in my PJs. Lilia is still unhappy. DJ just thinks this is all grand because now the dog is chasing me chasing him. Have I mentioned it’s cold and I still haven’t gone to the bathroom? Finally everyone is back inside to the warmth. Lilia is settled and I start for my friend the toilet when the phone rings. OK that’s settled half way there and the delivery man is ringing the bell, which in turn makes Trin bark, which makes Lilia cry. At this point I just want to pee, no more pleasantries. With a barking dog at my feet and a crying baby in my arms I slide down the window of the screen door and dutifully sign for a package only to discover it’s for my brother who moved to Seattle a year ago. Finally after an hour of being out of my warm cozy bed, the cat trips me as I finally get to the bathroom. At that point I am not complaining because hey at least I am making to the bathroom. I just want to cry, forget about breakfast or a shower or housework. The tone for the day has already been set! Anyone else every have a morning like this?
I will be honest this was not my best day. I quickly started pitying myself because my life was just so miserable. The rest of the day didn’t seem much better. Lilia was cranky and didn’t want to be put down. I did not get much of anything done around the house. When Paul walks in the door I am relieved to have my hands free until I look around and see what looks like the trail of a tornado running through the house and realize that the food I took out of the freezer last night needs to be cooked before it spoils. Well maybe we could go out but it’s cold and late and the baby has been fussing and it certainly isn’t in the budget. Oh the budget why did I have to even think of that, that’s a whole story in it’s self. My eyes start to well up and I am about to proclaim to Paul how much I just cannot take this life anymore we will not have anymore chil…, when Lilia looks up at me and coos and gives me this big gummy grin.
Enter in the God slap. This is what I call these moments when I am lost in self pity thinking how miserable my life is and something captures my attention and so deeply moves me it’s as if God has walked into the room and slapped me across the face while screaming wake up you silly silly girl don’t you see what I have given you? Oh and by the way miss woe is me, you asked for all this?
Yeah I did, I didn’t just ask I begged for it so much so that my prayers of just one baby please God turned into let me understand your will God, let me be wide open to your will God. I can love a baby no matter how it gets into the world. I understand God that sometimes your will and my perceived needs are different. OK Pause let’s put my prayer for a baby on hold for just a few minute so I can tell you how it came to be that I was praying for Lilia Grace long before she was in my womb.
A few months after we were married Paul and I thought there might be an unexpected little one on the way into our lives. There was a surprise but it didn’t have a gender. It turns out my body doesn’t handle hormones so well, especially those related to reproduction. It did explain my life long struggle with weight but otherwise it didn’t change much about life until we were ready to have a baby. One day about three years ago the baby bug bit me hard. Maybe some of you have experienced this, everyone around you starts having babies and you start thinking about them more and more until it’s so bad you can see just how the nursery will look and just how perfect and complete your life will be once you are holding that baby in your arms and you are a family? The itch was here to stay. There had always been moments before where I looked forward to having a family but this was like that mosquito bite that wouldn’t go away.
So we talked about it and we talked about it some more, we decided to open ourselves up and say what happens, happens. Then a whole lot of nothing happened. Then we had a more serious talk, we had been warned that it would likely take some pricey medical intervention. This is not something that we could afford and we weren’t sure it was the right decision for us. So we started focusing on the idea of adopting sometime in the future. Then there comes the praying, that came out of these conversations. Really we had no choice but to trust God. We had to open our hearts wide even in those disappointing times and trust that God had a plan that we just didn’t understand. It was really trying. We trusted though that God would know when the time was right for us to have a child and just how that child should come into the world.
Personally I was starting to give up. My prayers started to show it. There was more begging than there was understanding for sure. I did get angry I can remember saying God you gave me a gift of working with kids why can’t I have just one of my own? I am kind of a control freak so trusting God with something so personal was hard for me. I know it sounds silly, that trusting God is hard but if we are really honest isn’t always hard to trust God? I have found though when I do trust God which is usually when I have no other choice, remember I told you I am not perfect, things work out really well.
So I went on struggling to trust God and feeling the disappointment a little at a time. It was Thanksgiving 2008 and as we were turning in for the night I told Paul that I was determined to get babies off the brain until at least after Christmas. So we went on living life with no talk of the B word. A week later we went to NYC and spent the day just walking enjoying the holiday cheer abound. On the ride home I was so tired. So very tired that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Holiday stress will do that to you right? Then I started feeling sick, not like I needed a Doctor’s appointment I was just tired and nothing was sitting well with me. Then two weeks after my resolution to get babies off my brain I had one in my belly.
I danced and sang and yelled with gratitude to God! When I held her in my arms last August for the first time my heart sang with praise. She was perfect, she was my Lilia Grace.
That’s why on that cold mid winter’s night when she cooed at me with a big grin, it was like God speaking to me saying, Becca this IS exactly what you begged me for!
I don’t think I am alone when I say sometimes it gets a little too easy to get caught up in life, going to work, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, taking care of the kids, doctor’s appointments, social events, errands, driving your kids to their activities. With so much to get done it is easy to sit back and not recognize your answered prayers! Just like night when it took God getting my attention.
Later that night after things settled down, I sat reflecting on the whole experience. Then I noticed something else, why would I complain about cooking dinner? I have seen firsthand people who don’t have anything to put on the table. I had been to the little Batwa camp in Burundi, that first day in Africa: where they showed me a little 16 ounce water bottle that was the water for a family of 4 for the next four days. Their houses were made of grass. Yet they greeted me with a joyful song and dance. Here I was upset because I had to cook dinner, had a home that I had to clean and a perfectly healthy baby who was at her worst cranky! My heart sank! How could I have been so blind to all God has given me?
Yep that God slap was still stinging! I was humbled.
It brought me back to something I had learned when I first discovered this morning’s scripture at the 2004 youth worker’s convention in Atlanta.
“I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I am speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”
This was the theme for the week. It has stuck with me ever since. Sometimes I forget about it as I did this day and the months leading up to this day. I was frustrated by life that day more than anything else. I was truly blessed to have that moment where God broke in and I was able to notice all the good there.
I needed to be wide open to the answers. I failed to see in my frustration that this was the life I was dreaming of. I became narrowed in my ability to recognize those moments in life were as much a part of that answered prayer for just one baby as the moment I first held her. It was so easy to see God when it was a happy time but the minute it got tough I forgot about God. I closed myself up and my life became small.
Answered prayers are easy to see when they turn out in your favor or how you expected. They are hard to see when our expectations aren’t met. So what do we do? Brothers and Sisters in Christ what do we do when our lives become small and narrow and wrapped up only in what is in front of us. These small lives aren’t what God wants for us. Paul invites us in his letter to the Corinthians to live openly and expansively with God! How beautiful and peaceful our lives can become when we open them up to God! Do you long for this God filled life like I do?
I am pretty sure there is no special formula to get to that life. I can tell you what works for me. It’s what I call the prayer to be wide open. When I first prayed for God to break into my life and make me wide open to his expansiveness I expected a wonderful rush of hearts and butterflies. You know like when you first fall in love and the rush that makes the whole world look better and you sort of hum your way through store aisles. I was ready for it. I lifted my hands in the air and prayed God I am ready come make me wide open and hoped my heart would open also!
That is not what happened. God’s light and love didn’t rush into my heart and just consume me. It was more of a trickle, likely because that was all I could handle. I was at a dark place in my life, much darker than that cold winter morning. My stepfather was dying. Just six years earlier my dad passed away. I was only 18 and though we had expected his death for a long time, the grief I felt at the loss of my father sent me running. I ran away from NJ, my family, the church and God. I ran away hoping it would just go away with the distance. I do not endorse this way of dealing with grief, it was not very successful. Here I was terrified at facing it all again. I had to make a choice to stay this time and weather this storm with God. It was trying to say the least. After Tim passed I really had an understanding of what it meant to be wide open. It is hard to pray for that openness when your heart is breaking!
So when I prayed to be wide open again it sounded like this.
“God, I pray that you would make me open, wide open, I say those words with a deep fear on my heart. I for so long prayed that you would crack me open and let the light shine in the deepest depths of my being and it hurt and it stung and it burned and it blistered and it bled. And I cried and I screamed and I kicked and I fought but those places can't be closed for you have removed not just the scar but the layers upon layers of scar tissue. But God there are new scars and as much as I fear that healing process Lord be with me and let your light shine in my dungeons and caverns. Rip me open and tear me down oh God so that I may be filled with your light and grace and love.”
I can’t make you a promise that your journey will be just fine if you pray to be wide open to God in your life. All I can really do is share with you my own journey and hope it inspires you to be open to God in a new and expansive way. Maybe it will encourage someone who is stuck along the way or help pull them through a dark place, with God’s light.
I will close with an invitation. I invite you to come before God with intention and humbly ask for your heart to be cracked open wide so that you might experience this expansive life that God wants us to live. Please be open to the journey and the unexpected answers.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Yesterday you were playing on the floor while mommy tried to watch TV. You get a little excited so I don't often hear the TV. I did catch a commercial yesterday for some sort of eyelash enhancing product. On that commercial a woman said, "I can go out now with out mascara and still feel beautiful." I hope that this was some sort of marketing farce, but I fear it wasn't. I fear that many women feel this way. If it isn't mascara it is something else.
This commercial made your Mom very sad for women who society has poisoned to think they don't have value unless they are perfect. I need you to know that this isn't true no matter what society tells you, you are beautiful and have value. Mommy has watched her friends hurt themselves to be beautiful. You will see though all of Mommy's friends are beautiful just how they are.
I thought about doing this in a video message to you with no make up and in my general sweat pants uniform. Then I realized that you will see mommy face the world at her best and at her worst every day. You will learn so much more from how I present myself and love myself than you ever will from a three minute video.
Baby Girl, our culture is going to tell you all sorts of lies, like you only have value if you are thin... likely too thin, you have to wear makeup to be pretty, you have to have the perfect boobs, behind, legs, arms and various other parts of your body, even things like having money will make you happy. Don't believe them. Culture will tell you being sexy matters, a lot... but it doesn't. What you need is a good heart with pure intentions. If you have a good and kind heart and a deep love for people, people will see your true beauty. If someone passes you by because you don't have nice eyelashes (or anything else) they aren't worth your time.
This doesn't mean never wear make up, it doesn't mean you don't have to make healthy decisions. Mommy wears makeup on special occasions and tries to dress well for them. Mommy also doesn't have the perfect body. Mommy struggles with loving her body how it is, but is making healthy decisions. That is what matters not our pants size. I hope you grow up and feel confident to go out into the world just how you are. I hope how I treat myself everyday reinforces these ideas to you everyday.
My dear Lilia Grace, it is my deepest prayer, that you will grow up to love yourself and face the world with unwavering confidence. You are beautiful and have value. You are a loved child of God. Those things have meaning, never make up or a perfect back side.
All My Love,
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I liked it better than The Little Gym for two primary reasons, we didn't have to commit to 16-20 weeks at a time. The other was it seemed more age appropriate. So we signed up. It helped that they had a rocking discount. Also that the membership fee is a life time thing so we don't have to pay it every year.
I am looking forward to one or two mornings a week out of the house and the long nap that comes after she gets all that energy out.
Today I am grateful for these moments with her!
May you be blessed by common moments with your loves.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Poor Paul thought he had to tell me. No one wanted me to be alone when I found out. By the time Paul got there, I was packed and had settled everything I needed to settle at school before I left for the week. I will never forget the look on Paul's face when I saw him and then the relief when I said I know.
In my head I can see it like it was yesterday. It doesn't feel like 12 years ago. 12 years sounds like a long time. Yet here we are. I have lived the majority of my life with out my dad. He was in nursing homes from the time I was 9-10 and he died when I was just 18. He did see me graduate high school which was a big deal for him. I wonder what the college graduation would have been like?
I have learned to give up most of the could-a should-a would-a's. I have made it through so many important days with out him. Paul and I married on his birthday to make it a happy day again.
I am not going to wallow in grief today. I never really have. It's not my style. I have cried a few tears here today and I have recognized this day. Now we are going out to live life, because if I learned anything from the way I lost him, it's that our days are numbered and we really don't know when the last one is. This has defined my life more than any one singular event. I live my life with no guarantee of tomorrow. I tell you it changes how you see everything.
Lilia and I have a fun morning planned. We are doing a trial class at Gymboree to celebrate life.
I will tell you, that is the single thing that breaks my heart more than anything else, Lilia doesn't get to have a grandfather. I would give anything to see the two of them together. I imagine they would be great pals. I think she and Kira and Pop Pop would be like three amigos. Much like Dale, Dad and I were on Saturdays.
Today I am grateful for the love Paul has for me ... the happy times I can remember with my dad... for the wisdom and courage it takes to LIVE my life.
May you be blessed today with recognizing something ordinary as extraordinary.