Thursday, March 29, 2012

Letting Go:My Secular Upbringing

I am training/studying to be a pastor. In my home growing up we didn't go to church not even on Christmas or Easter, my mother felt it was hypocritical to only go two times a year so she didn't go at all. There is a theology paper in that somewhere. As we are in Lent and Easter is fast approaching and I heard people talking about when you have kids and you are a pastor you pray spring break for their school doesn't fall on Holy Week because you are so busy. It got me to thinking this Sunday while in church listening to the church's plans for Easter worship. For the rest of my life as long as I am serving in a church, I will have to be at church likely from sunrise until noon. My heart broke a little when I figured that out.

Here is how Easter morning went in our house. The night before we made careful preparations for the arrival of the Easter Bunny, who we had already gone to visit at the local mall. We would dye hard boiled eggs, my mother would make our bunny cake which usually ends up looking like a demon possessed Easter bunny made out of cake, for dessert after the Easter meal. My youngest brother and I would leave out one special hard boiled egg for the Easter bunny, our equivalent of cookies for Santa for Easter. In the morning we would wake up to find the Easter bunny had hidden our dyed eggs and plastic ones filled with candy, coins and little trinkets. There would also be baskets full of candy wrapped in colorful cellophane adorned with huge bows and hidden in there somewhere or on the table next to it would be some special toy. Then of course there were the left over egg shells from the egg the bunny had consumed, leaving behind the sheer proof that THE Easter Bunny had most certainly been there. We would eat hard boiled eggs and candy for breakfast. Then my mother would dress us up like we were going to church for Easter complete with a bonnet, gloves and a purse. From the pictures you would have thought we lived in the South or were very into church. Then we would take pictures and slowly our older siblings who had already moved out, our grandparents and various aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive as we ate snacks and then shared in a meal together. Then we would play outside or play games and just enjoy each others company. As a child I would get incredibly excited for days like that, I liked having everyone around and sharing a meal together. I loved all the Easter flowers, daffodils, tulips and my favorite hyacinths because they smell just fantastic. (I was never a fan of the lily.) There was no church but I knew the story of Easter, the Risen Christ. I once put the Romans on trial in my grandmother's back yard for killing Jesus, after she reminded me of the story.

In my head I guess I imagined this is exactly what my daughter's Easter Sunday's would be like just with church mixed in after the egg and candy breakfast. These mornings (Christmas mornings too) are some of the best memories from my childhood, I can remember that sheer childhood joy, I can remember on special days it didn't matter that so many people in the family were battling illness because we were together. It was a day where my mother always let me be a kid even if she dressed me like a doll. I always imagined that I would take over for my mom hosting the holidays, creating baskets and egg hunts for my own children and nieces and nephews. Not every Easter was at our house but most were. Sometimes we went to an aunt's house or my grandmother's house. I loved the ones at my own house the best because I was comfortable there, I was a painfully shy child.

So now I am left with these good and beautiful and decidedly secular memories and my call to serve God. I have moved away from all that family with whom I have so much shared history, which makes for better holidays remembering those past. My daughter will never know Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving like I knew them and it breaks my heart. Now I live in a world where I am certain some of my neighbors cringe at the fact we still visit the Easter Bunny and that my dormpartment is covered in eggs and bunnies right now. That this celebration of the Risen Jesus which is what makes Christians, Christians is represented by bunnies, chicks, candy, eggs and various other things in my home. Maybe it cheapens it but I would say it's a powerful lesson of Spring and new life for children, they understand spring, they understand bunnies and eggs, understanding the resurrection is something I can just barely grasp on a good day and I am 31.

I have really struggled with putting a cross out for Easter this year. I have a banner which normally would go in the front window and I haven't done it. Partly because I am struggling with the cross as the symbol of our faith and partly because the cross empty seems to only fit once Easter arrives. It's a strange thing to have a cross adorned with flowers in your window on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday isn't it?

Today I am so very grateful for my memories of wonderful holidays.
May you be blessed with your memories or the making of new ones.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Plans Make Me Feel Better

I have a plan to curb all my anxiety about my field ed placement. First I am doing ample research on all the churches and visiting my top four because there aren't enough Sundays to visit all five. I am going to read up on a few things. Then I decided that I want to feel really confident when I go in so I am going to make sure I feel good about myself. I know that all parts of my plan will likely not work out but here it is.

1. New Outfit/Shoes
2. Haircut
3. Mani/Pedi
4. Teeth Cleaning
5. Time for various other self care earlier in the day on interview day.
6. Pray for the next month.

I know that makes me sound incredibly vain, I want to make a good impression on each church I interview with and I know I will feel much more confident walking into the room if I feel good about me. So that's my plan, I know what they say about the best laid plans and God. I am OK with God's interference this is just helping me get my head around it all.

Today I am grateful because I have a plan.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I can do this.

This week we started looking at our field ed placements for next year. Basically if you live outside our seminary bubble that means a year long internship with a mentor Pastor in a local congregation. Here is how it works, we look through books of churches and pick our top five, then we go to interview night where we essentially "speed date" the five churches in 15 minute interviews. Then the churches go and rank their interviewees from 1-5 we do the same with the churches and then some sort of match making magic happens. Then you have a church you work with for the next year. Simple right?

Not really, it's doing bad things to my head. First off there are other people who will interview with and want some of the same positions as you want. In this case though they are your friends who you are in class with and socializing with all the time, they come over for dinner. Yet the over lap in interviews in unavoidable. Then there is the elephant in the room, I have a young child I am the only person doing this with a young child this year and I am worried that will count as a strike and not a positive in many of the positions. I found myself so consumed with that yesterday that I forgot I actually have a decent skill set and gifts for ministry. I have life experiences that can lend to ministry that others might not have. I know I can do this however I am consumed with doubt and worry that somehow I am not good enough. I have forgotten that is was God who called me here. God, not me, God.

My new mantra is I can do this. I will do this. I have it in me to rock these interviews. There are churches that will embrace my family right along with me. The God of creation has called me here. I need to surrender to that.

Today I am grateful to get my anxiety out now and to have the power to name it. 
May you be blessed by your family, whatever form it takes, today. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I desire to be heard.
I desire weekends.
I desire a break.
I desire quiet.
I desire the strength to carry on.
I desire normal hormones.

Today I am grateful to be able to name what it is I want. 
May you be blessed in naming your own desires. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Rain

It's a rainy Friday, something that would typically make my mood less than optimal. However I have been blessed by the most beautiful weather this week and it has been hard to do anything but be outside, run errands and take mini road trips. The rain is doing a few things for us today, keeping us in which means I can get some school work done with out feeling like I am missing out on the weather, the plants are getting watered, and it is washing away a lot of the pollen that has been irritating my through, eyes and ears.

Today I am grateful for the rain. 
May you be blessed by the rain you need.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Simple Things

This morning I find myself grateful for a good nights sleep for the entire family and waking up to an orderly home. It might not be clean but everything is put away and the lack of clutter makes me smile! That is all my friends. Be blessed by something simple today, let it make you smile,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Life Giving Conversations

Something I noticed about seminary is that I have the opportunity to have more life giving conversations. I think mostly that has to do with my not needing to edit out thoughts about my faith. This morning I got to have one of them, it wasn't about anything in particular it was just a conversation that reminded me I am alive. That I have a personality that goes well beyond my roles as mother, wife and student. I am able to see in this moment that all these moments of my life, the good and the bad, have led me to exactly where I am today. Anytime I try to wish it away I remember that all the wrong turns and detours have led me to some of the best friendships I have ever known and some of the most exciting adventures.

Today I am grateful for all the wrong turns and detours that have led me here. 

May you find blessing as you get lost on your journey. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Average Day

Today was an average day save the early summer temperatures. However I find myself digging deep to find the gratitude, having a two year old is hard work, a tired two year old who only napped 20 minutes that you must must must keep awake until at least 7:30 when you go pick your husband up from work is even harder, a tired two year old when you had only 4 hours sleep and can think of nothing but napping is dam near impossible. Then I am looking around the house at the chores for the day that still aren't done like dusting and laundry and I remember that I never went across the way to get quarters for said laundry and the office is now closed. I also still have a brief paper to write and reading to do for tomorrow. It feels like an endless cycle. I am absolutely exhausted. I am sitting here feeling defeated by life. At least next week I am off and have minimal work to be done, even if it just means sitting here with Lilia because Paul is always working.

Today the gratitude I can find lies in all the change that has happened. We have been here for 7.5 months and today I ran all my errands with out the GPS. I knew where I was going and how to get there. That's a step in calling a new place a home.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mother's Guilt

Lately I have been doing things just a little bit differently. I have been taking time for myself, I have gone out with friends for a few hours here and there. I signed LG up for a preschool that goes five days a week and just accepted the fact that it makes life easier for all of us come the fall. It gives me flexibility in my class schedule that I wouldn't have otherwise. I have gotten to know some of my classmates by attending events with out Lilia in tow. I am enjoying myself quite a bit. I have even gone to church with out Paul and LG a few times and enjoyed it even though the whole time I am thinking this should be a family thing but this is so much easier.

Yet I find myself constantly second guessing my decisions. Can you be a mom and have a life and not feel guilty that you aren't spending every free minute with your child? Is feeding my own soul ok? Does it make me a better mom when I am refreshed?

Is it ever ok to take the path of least resistance or is that just some sort of parenting cop out?

I have the chance to travel the next two summers. This summer to the General Assembly which would have me away from home for a week. I have never spent a night away from Lilia. Next summer I could potentially travel to Brazil for a travel seminar on religion in the global south. Something that I would absolutely love to learn about even if I swore I would never go to South America because of those bugs that lay larvae under your skin and creep me out. That would take me away for two weeks. I am just getting comfortable with the idea of spending some free time away from LG could I handle two weeks away? Does it make me a bad mother if I travel for education? Should I let the opportunity pass me by because my responsibilities are different from those of my classmates? Or am I teaching her something powerful about womanhood if I travel there? Will living the dream cost my family in the long run?

Today I am grateful for the time to mull things over and this space in which to do it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Breaking Through my Own Walls

Here's the short version. This week I noticed that I am building up my walls. That I am pulling in the welcome mat and shutting down in a lot of ways. I also noticed being this lost inside myself is rather depressing. I long to know people on a deep level yet I myself at times will only go so deep, there is safety when you can still touch the bottom or have some sort of tube to separate you from the depth or bumping into one another. I noticed myself gravitating toward the shallow end this week, retreating with in.

The thing is when I get to that place I feel things I normally don't feel and I get confused about what the truth is. Luckily for me, I don't have to go it alone. This time, I have had enough of going it alone and have plans of intentionally inviting others to the messy part of the journey with me. I am slightly afraid because I have never made these particular decisions before, I have never invited anyone in to the mess let alone faced the mess.

Today I am grateful that I don't have to clean the mess up alone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What to do?

Is doing nothing better than doing something? Should we let critical voices stop us in our tracks? Yesterday I watched and shared, the now famous or infamous depending on your take, Kony 2012 video. Shortly there after the criticism started spilling out all over the internet. Here is what I have read in the past day, the first critique and then a few others, The Invisible Children's response, reactions from Africa and a boat load of cynicism. Honestly I now don't know what to think of it all and I will likely hold off a bit from taking any action. Which really is a sad thing. It's not about the criticism really, it's about my issue with wearing the name of a notorious villain on my wrist. When I first watched the video I had some criticisms mostly superficial in nature, as a film geek I can' t help it.

Here's what I am walking away with from all this...

One. We are way to quick to support a cause and then stop supporting it. We don't know what we think and we are swayed by social influences more than we are faith or heart. 

Two. In the end a whole lot of people critical or not now know who Kony is. That is powerful in a country where people, especially young people don't know what is going on around them in their town let alone the world. People need to know that people are suffering in the world. People need to know what this looks like. Maybe the message is simplified. Maybe that is what it takes to get a message to take hold. We live in a world of 140 character thoughts, we have to simplify.

Three. I have held in the very hands that type these words children who have been effected by this and it needs to stop right now. I don't know how to stop it, I don't know the answer. I just know it needs to stop and it should have been on our collective radar 20 years ago.

Four. There have been some ethical concerns about the Ugandan forces being supported because of the crimes they themselves are committing and the general ethics of the government to which I challenge show me a government that isn't corrupt or hasn't committed crimes of a humanitarian nature. I doubt you will find one. If the governments have the power then that's who you have to work with. It sucks. It isn't pretty. It is an ethical nightmare. Then again so is our own government.

Today I am grateful that my heart remembers the warmth of the human beings caught in the middle of all this.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I am grateful I have a home to clean, that it isn't in rubble, that my child is alive and uninjured from storms. That's all I have today. It's been hard to find the gratitude today but considering what my neighbors are going through I have it good, really good.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

She's calling

Yesterday I was at a special lecture with some fantastic new friends, listening to the importance of the psalms. Somewhere in the middle of the day I started thinking about my call to ministry and how I feel it might not be in a church setting. My thoughts went to Africa, particularly Uganda where "my children" are. It was kind of a simple train of thought, it happened I didn't work those thoughts out they came easily. I tried to let them be and not get worked up about how I would ever get to Uganda. I tried to leave all the logistics of PhD work, motherhood, marriage and mission/ministry off to the side. To just live in the moment with the thoughts. Then I moved on in the day. It was like this little moment of sidetrack or clarity I am not sure which.

This morning I went on facebook and saw one of my former youth group students had posted a video done by the Invisible Children cause. A cause that I wholeheartedly support. I couldn't watch the whole thing before class but I will later. I saw enough to see glimpses of the place I was longing to be.

That's when these words came out of me as easy a breathe. I present them to you with gratitude for the spirit's stirring.

Did you hear it?
But a whisper in the night?
She's calling my name.
She wants me back.
She has a piece of my soul...
part freely given...
part taken as ransom.
Africa she is calling me.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I have been following the story of a little girl about 15 months old since Friday, she was thrown from her parents during the tornadoes and found in a field. She went unidentified for awhile and then her family found her. Her parents and two siblings were killed in the storm all of them thrown like rag dolls. Yesterday afternoon this little girl, named Angel, died. I didn't know Angel or her parents. I won't know the large extended family they left behind. Angel, I doubt, however she will ever leave my heart.  Our lives never crossed paths save the TV screen but her story has capture me and wrapped me up in it.

It's hard to sit and write a paper about the life of Jesus who I proclaim as my savior when minutes before you read about all of this heartbreak. It's hard to say I believe in a loving and just God. On Friday we were the lucky ones two storms moved through and they went around us one North and one South. I can't imagine what would have happened if they joined forces over us. This is the new reality we live in one where tornadoes happen, one where babies are ripped out of the arms of their mother by a much stronger and more harsh mother nature.

Now it's all in how we react, live our faith when we are surrounded on all sides by people who desperately need everything. We will see how that unfolds soon as my classmates and I pool our ideas and resources. I feel a strong urge to find a way to share a meal, because sharing a meal is normal. I have never had my house torn away but when my life has been turned upside down I have always wanted to just do anything that makes me feel normal.

Today I am grateful for my life, for Lilia's life, for Paul's life that we can all still hold each other tight. 

Today I pray for those who are waking up to snow on top of the remains of their homes, for those who grieve the loss of entire families, entire communities and lives turned upside down. 

Today may you be blessed with holding your loved ones tight just a little bit longer.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Poker Face

Today we are preparing for some very violent storms to move through. They have started closing schools and universities early and the watches have been issued. Currently we are in between storms. I came home from class this morning and prepped both of our bathrooms so that if I have to run into one I can just gather LG, the dog and the cat. I don't know how to prepare for tornadoes I know what to do for nor'easters, blizzards and hurricanes. I am really freaked out but trying not to freak my girl out. I have to have on my mommy poker face. Of course she can't understand why all her favorite snacks are in the potty along with blankets and water bottles. I told her we were having a party in the potty later. I feel pretty calm now that I feel prepared but I caught a glimpse of my self in the mirror as I shoved some basic supplies into the medicine cabinet and I looked fierce. I barely recognized myself, I was a mother on a mission. The look on my face looked like that of a mother ready to go to war to protect her children. Which seems silly because if a tornado is going to suck us up it doesn't matter how fierce I look I am going to pee myself and not be able to do a dam thing to stop it.

I have to put my poker face on now and go have a party in the potty! The funny thing is if I didn't have Lilia to care for I would be that crazy person standing outside watching the storm. Motherhood changes you, yes, yes it does.

Today I am grateful that fear is sometimes healthy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Learning Space

The hour is late and my words are few but I wanted to tell you that today I am grateful for this time in Seminary and in chapel as a learning space. Today I spaced out and couldn't remember what I was to read and I kept my cool it is a good lesson learned. Here is to not freaking out even when you look like an idiot.

Today I am grateful for the space to LEARN in.