Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I read parenting blogs from time to time. I shouldn't because they just make me mad. I am not angry that parents want to share their opinions, heck I do that too. I am angry because no matter what blog you read there is only one right way to raise a kid, the way this particular parent is doing it. I don't believe that's true, I think there are many "right" ways to raise a kid. Mostly it has to do with the decisions you make for your family, are they healthy, do they work for you? If so great, if not well you can always make new decisions, I know we have to reevaluate from time to time.

I am not setting out to write another blog post justifying why I am right in my (our) parenting choices. I fear that may be exactly what I do. Christmas time is upon us, we call it Advent in the church. It's only December 3 and the posts for and against the Elf on a Shelf have popped up, followed by the ones about Santa. They kind of make my skin crawl, how can these Christmas traditions be SO polarizing?

First I will come clean, Santa comes to our house, last year Garfleshnickle the elf joined us for the month of December. I am well on my way to being an ordained teaching elder, so you guessed it, we talk a whole lot about Jesus too. You should also know that I grew up with Santa, so did my husband. I'm in seminary, so clearly Jesus is still important to me. My hubby may not be in seminary but I assure you he follows Jesus.

Christmas morning was magical in my house as a child. The glittering tree lights, the anticipation of what would be in the wrapped packages, and cookies were allowed for breakfast. It was also one of those special days for us when we didn't think about anyone being sick, we were just a family. We weren't a family with a pediatric cancer patient, we weren't a family with a terminally ill dad or Pop Pop (grandpa), we weren't a family eating government surplus peanut butter; no on Christmas morning the worrying took a back seat. For that one day, we were kids, there was hope in the midst of those less than ideal circumstances. The first year my father was sick, folks from his work showed up with huge bags of presents so that on Christmas morning my mom would have something to give us. I learned so much about the spirit of St. Nicholas that year. Santa Clause is more than just a guy in a red suit who employs elves and flying reindeer. There is something about that moment, that day, that has stuck with me, that has made Santa forever "real" to me. I see in the Santa story a narrative about generosity, the depth of goodness in people, and the change one person can make in the life of another.

Thus far, our daughter hasn't had to eat surplus peanut butter, no one in her life is terminally ill, and since she doesn't have a sibling we aren't living with a pediatric cancer patient. Then again all those things were true for me at 4 years old too, but by 7 my story changed. I want her to experience the wonder, the magic, the anticipation, while she is little. I know I only get a few years of her being this open to it, 5 years from now the world will have started to teach her to question things, to appreciate the "real" things and brush off childish things.  Remembering those Christmas celebrations, gave me hope in the darkest days, that things would be OK. Even now I remember them with great joy, I tear up remembering my dad's coworkers showing up with the presents because now as a mom, I can understand what that must have felt like to my mom. Perhaps relief, perhaps joy, or perhaps love. I don't know what beliefs were held by my dad's coworkers, but looking back, those bags seem a whole lot like an expression of God's love, or perhaps love for the neighbor.

So I am not worried about Santa and Jesus coexisting in our house. I am not worried about the day when little L figures out that Santa is more about a spirit of giving than a man in a red suit. I am not worried about her never trusting what we say again, actually I hope at some point she questions everything we have ever told her because it means she is learning to think critically for herself. (I know I will regret that statement in about 10 years.) I am not worried about her not understanding the "true meaning of Christmas", she has that birth narrative down. I will spare you all of my thoughts about how Santa actually can be a tool to explain the anticipation and hope of Advent.

Here is what I am asking of you, if you don't "do" Santa in your house, could you try hard not to spill the beans to my kid? We only get to experience this excitement and wonder for a few short years. I won't try to convince your child Santa is real, you don't tell mine he isn't, fair enough? Both beliefs are OK and we can live together with both.

Now, for what I am worried about. No matter who your family's presents come from on Christmas morning, parents or Santa, there is something that is bothering me. The toys, the clothes, the electronics, it doesn't matter if you have the 1 gift limit or if your tree is barely visible from the stacks of presents surrounding it. All Advent we will anticipate the coming of a savior, a savior who breaks free the chains of bondage, a savior who brings peace, a savior who brings hope for a better world, a savior who will call us to love with God's love. We will celebrate the birth with gifts that represent God's gift to us. The problem lies in the oppression and unjust treatment of the people who have made our gifts. How can we celebrate Jesus birth with piles of things that were likely made by people who are subject to unjust labor practices? Is there a child somewhere that is suffering, so that on Christmas morning my beloved child can have a new toy? My stomach turns at the answer, because I know that likely the answer is yes. Is it just that children around the world will go hungry on Christmas day, while my kid gets to play with her brand new toys, wearing her brand new clothes, her well fed belly in our warm home? It is not just.

I am guilty of contributing to this injustice.

This Advent, this Christmas, I will not wrestle with the idea of Santa Clause or the Elf on the Shelf. I will wrestle with how we can work as a family, as a church, as a society, to make Christmas day and everyday one that brings justice to the way in which we consume. Know this is a deep struggle for me, I just told you about the joy of Christmas morning. I have to find a way to teach my child about the injustice in the world while preserving her innocence. The damage is done for this year, my shopping is nearing completion, Christmas morning will be just like it always has. How do I change that next year? Can I preserve the magic and seek justice? There are no easy answers and I suspect I will wrestle with this for a long time.

Today I am grateful for the space to process this. I am grateful for my healthy little girl. I am grateful for my dad's coworkers who showed us God's love over 25 years ago. 

May you be blessed this Christmas with a little magic and a heart that seeks justice. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Can't Just Cry Anymore

On December 14, 2012, it was my nephew's birthday. I was done with the Fall semester and L and I were out running some Christmas errands. I was happy almost giddy, buying gifts, the semester's pressure behind me. Between stops I heard a blip on the radio about Newtown. We went into Barnes and Noble and as L played at a toy on display I stood behind her and looked up what happened on my phone. Standing there in public I began to cry, I started to feel unsafe. I drove us home and waited for L to go to bed and then watched the news. I won 't expose her to it, not yet, I want to teach her all the beautiful things of the world first, so when she sees the overwhelming pain of the world she can know that there is hope and beauty to be found in the same world.  I cried for days and then I slowly resumed my normal life.

Before that I watched super storm Sandy rip up my home town from 700 miles away and after I watch the horror of the Boston marathon bombing. I watch and I cry and I write and I pray. Then Saturday I heard the verdict, well read it on Facebook. I hadn't followed the Trayvon Martin case closely. I remembered the outrage I felt when Trayvon was killed. I remember watching it all unfold and I remember the lump in my throat that comes every time injustice rears its miserable, life sucking, ugly ass head. It was the same lump that came late Saturday night and again Sunday morning.

This week I have the great privilege of being at the Samuel Proctor Institute at the Children's Defence Fund's Haley Farm. Let me tell you there is no better place to be the days after such a heart breaking verdict. This week I am sharing life not only with amazing classmates and a favorite seminary professor, I am learning from Ottis Moss Jr, Jim Lawson, Marian Wright Edelman. These are the people that Martin Luther King Jr was changing the world with. MLK has always been inspiring and essentially I somehow have found myself hanging out with his friends the day after the law, the courts failed a black boy who was shot dead. Let us take comfort in the humanness of the law and knowing that the human word will never be the last word.

I am not here by accident, God brought me here. I don't say that lightly, God brought me here. God brought me here so I could be reminded I have a loud and passionate voice, that needs to do more than just cry itself to sleep after each tragedy, each injustice, each natural disaster. God created me with a deep love of children. God created me with a heart for equality, especially in education and opportunities for education. God allowed me to have empathy for the poor, the suffering. God has called me to ministry, likely with children. God gave me a thirst for justice. God let all my little worlds collide right here in TN.

As I sat listening today, I had enough, I had enough of just crying, weeping, wailing, for our children.  I can not longer respond only with tears and prayers. It's time to take action. It's time to raise this voice that God gave me. So what am I going to do? I have no idea, I just know that the God who created me, the God who brought me here, is moving in me and I am taking notice. I am noticing the radical gospel is the only gospel that speaks to me.

Today I am grateful for these tender days, for finding my voice, for the law not being the end all be all.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 13, 2013

The day that I realized the civil rights movement isn't over. I'm embarrassed it took me this long. I cried. I cried because a young boy is dead. I cried because there is no comfort for his mother. My heart broke for my friends who have black children. Last night they didn't go to sleep feeling like their kids could be safe. They went to bed with the reality that their child could be targeted for the color of their skin, something not one of us has chosen. I realized that there is even more injustice in the world than I recognized. I learned that I too have been blind to my own privilege.

Let those of us with a voices that gets default privilege use those voices to fight, to change, to bring God's dream for the world to a reality.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Moms, Moms-to-be, Babies and Bodies

Is it just me, or are we in a season of pregnancy? It seems I can't sign into a social media site with out a pregnancy announcement. One day about 3 weeks ago, there were 3 in the same day. Both near and far it seems like fertility is in the air and pregnant bellies are popping up all over the place. Perhaps part of it is that I am noticing it more because Paul and I have reached a point where we would both like a second child. Paul was ready for another shortly after L was born, I wasn't so convinced that I wanted to go through delivery again, her birth was, lets just say traumatic. It took me a long time to become OK with having another biological child, I swore for years that any more would be adopted.

If you have been following along here for awhile you know that it isn't easy for me to conceive a child and if I do conceive, my risk of miscarriage is high well into the second trimester. When L was conceived we were a combination of excited and scared, I had conceived with no intervention which was to be celebrated, the risks were still high. I had an amazing OB who assured me that getting pregnant was the hard part and I would be fine. This relaxed me a lot and we had a very uneventful pregnancy, other than a chicken pox scare and a heart monitor issue around week 35. I was a little down at the beginning but once I felt like the baby was here to stay I felt better.  We waited a long time to tell more than very close friends and family because we were nervous. I personally don't often talk about the struggle to get pregnant in a deep way, I just say it's hard for us and leave it there. It feels personal and I don't want to tell you all about my ovaries unless, A. You ask and B. We are fairly close.

L's birth was traumatic for me to say the least even if routine for the hospital staff. I didn't get to hold her until she was a few hours old because I was shaking so badly I had to stay in c-section recovery for much longer than normal. I had labored for 24 hours with out progressing, opted for the c-section because I was bone tired. I was terrified of the c-section to begin with and then they missed the right spot in my spine several times for my spinal block which set the nerves in my left leg on fire, I could still probably trace their tree like structure on my thigh. I was hysterical crying, my husband just outside the door was freaking out because I don't cry often. It was disappointing, a little traumatic and it turns out L was stuck in my oddly turned pelvis. I had nightmares for almost a year where I would wake up drenched in sweat. A side effect of my spinal block was that from time to time my spine would get all tingly.

Breastfeeding, didn't go much better. Try as I might L only latched once in 6 months of breast feeding, I never produced enough milk so I had to constantly formula supplement. I spent six months with my little hand pump "milking" myself as my very comical younger brother put it. It didn't amount to much but I felt that I was trying and that was what mattered. That's when unhelpful comments started, you need to just stick with it, try harder or just give up my  kids had formula and they are ok. Then when I finally got up the nerve to talk about my nightmares the response was at least you have a healthy baby or my personal favorite it's a good thing you didn't try home birth like you wanted to you would have been a statistic. Then one day desperate and in tears I googled away at my keyboard during nap time. I learned a few things, first of all it's normal to have some signs of trauma even after the "best"of births. Second, that c-section moms sometimes have a harder time getting their milk in and on top of that women with my hormone condition often have a very difficult time with breastfeeding. After 8 months feeling like a failure at motherhood from the start and a wimp because I was so upset about my birth process, blaming my body and essentially myself, I learned that I was in fact... normal.

So now maybe you can see why I have been a little hesitant about the second. Paul and I haven't been preventing pregnancy for a long time, we aren't exactly trying but we aren't exactly stopping it either. We just recently talked about actually trying. You know what happened, all those feelings of betrayal about my body came back. Now back to all that fertility that is surrounding me in both the virtual world and in the "real" world.

First let me say, whether it is your first or tenth pregnancy I am happy for you. I just want to take a moment to talk about this. Today I was researching VBAC births, vaginal birth after cesarean. I read that most unhelpful comment, just have a c-section a healthy baby is all that matters. It mad me mad, it made me want to scream. All this birth, breastfeeding, parenting stuff, is so personal and as women we should be supporting each other even when we make different decisions.

Someone said to me recently well you know when you are "that" pregnant everything bothers you, remember? I just shook my head, I don't remember because after my initial worry, I was mostly just grateful. I didn't find pregnancy to burdensome at any point. So let's not assume we all have the same experience and I will continue to be gracious when you tell how miserable you are.

Next, I think it's fantastic that you are still breast feeding your four year old, I don't know that I would have done that until four, but if it works for you great! Just remember when you are standing with your megaphone on the corner yelling (maybe that is a slight exaggeration) about how wonderful breastfeeding is, some of us have boobies that don't make enough milk. Those boobies are attached to full human beings with feelings and even though you don't mean it sometimes it feels like you are rubbing your engorged, milk filled boobies in our faces.

Your giving birth in a pool in your living room? Awesome! It's a birth center for you? Fantastic! You are going with a scheduled c-section? Good for You!. Natural birth in the hospital with hypnosis, Bradley method etc etc? Great! Hospital birth with as many drugs as they can give you as soon as they can give them to you? Wonderful! If you are about to have a baby, you go girl! I will support you in any decision you make (even when I disagree). I promise I won't belittle you, make you feel like less because your birth process is different than mine was (or will be). Now can you promise me to start considering that a pool on the living room floor isn't safe for some of us? That some of us can't afford birthing centers? Or that perhaps our partners get a little sick at the site of blood so they need to be in a place where they can keep their eyes focused on ours?

You are shocked at a pregnancy you weren't planning? I get that. Perhaps you should think twice before complaining because someone might be silently wishing they could be pregnant and would give their right leg to have peed on a stick and gotten a positive. Same goes when you are walking through a store with your kids and loosing patience, there is a woman a few aisles over that has been praying for a baby for months or years and wishes you could see how blessed you are. Motherhood is stressful, we all loose patience but try to be grateful even in those chaotic and mortifying moments.

We need to stick together, lift each other up. Raising our kids isn't about out doing the lady next door. It isn't about touting about how you are making only best decisions, do any of us make a decision we don't feel is best? Your kid goes to daycare, cool. Mine doesn't, also cool. Public School, Private School, Home School? Great you know what works for your family! Guess what, we have chosen not to use spanking in our family, if you do or did it's your decision, don't ever tell me I should hit my kid. You share a bed with all 3 of your kids? Wow, I am impressed! Your kids sleep through the night in their own beds? Also impressed! I made my own baby food, you didn't? It's fine with me!

A last thought on fertility, when we do open up about it there are some unhelpful things to say, for me personally, well you need to loose weight, not helpful, I know I am a big girl, its part of my disorder and my constant battle with my body. You can find lists of other things that aren't helpful to say, just google. When Paul and I talk about adoption, saying things like "You might get a crazy one, like that lady on that show..." NOT HELPFUL. Well at least you got to have one, also not helpful. Don't even get me started on the way some moms talk to women who don't have children by choice or circumstance.

Here is what I think we can do... let's encourage each other, pray for one another, set our differences aside and walk this road together, motherhood/parenthood is hard and we need each other. Let's remember when we make our big announcements that we aren't all in the same place. If and when we conceive our second baby and we make the big announcement, I will be mindful that not everyone celebrates a pregnancy like I do, that someone may have lost a baby recently, that someone might be desperate to have a baby, that someone might not be able to afford some of the things I can. Most of all I will try to support you in your journey as a parent or a hopeful parent.

Today I am grateful for my child and those amazing people who support the choices we have made in raising her! The ones who say you are doing a good job when she throws a fit, the ones that say I am proud of you, the ones who give you a knowing smile.

May you be blessed with wonderful support systems, by the journey of watching children grow and allowing yourself to grow into the form of parenting that works for you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Moving Up?

I had to attend a Presbytery meeting tonight at "home" or what ever you want to call this place that I am, because while I feel it will always be home, it isn't quite home anymore. I was moving from inquirer to candidate in the ordination process, which I did manage to do, but we will get to that. We got a bit turned around on our way and I was worried about being lost and flustered, I mean I did dream that I got lost gave up and went swimming instead and we were very close to the water tonight. We made it with time to eat and ample time to settle into our pew for the long night of Presbytery ahead. As I sat in worship, I reflected upon how many parts of my life were represented in that room. There was the row full of women from various stages of my life in the church and of course my mentor/pastor, who we have no word for in our language to describe that relationship. There was a woman behind me who I think was in the throws of dementia or the like, she was muttering to herself and her caretaker would say shhhhh, just go to sleep. I believe it may have been a daughter caring for her mom but I am not sure. I do know the woman whose words I could not make out most of worship, I could understand clearly when we would say Amen, she would echo AMEN. It was really beautiful, Amen, familiar and enough for if even a moment to allow her some recognition. It reminded me of the depth of ministry but also of where I have come from. It reminded me of afternoons spent in nursing homes, with muttering residents all around, never really understood, longing to be heard.

A teenage boy rushed in and sat next to me, I shared my bulletin with him as if he were one of the kids I had known for years, and there with a stranger, I was reminded of all the kids and families I have loved and been privileged to serve so far. The small church building with a congregation who knows what it means to struggle reminded me of the church where I serve now, the resilience in both congregations is amazing. It reminds me of where I can and have found my strength in times that feel impossible. There was a commissioning for Triennium, which reminded me of two of my dear friends from seminary who are going to work there. The music was played by a Latin praise band, it reminded me of one of my favorite professors and his last sermon at my current institution of learning. It also reminded me of some good times we have spent celebrating life with friends. The church was there with all it's brokenness... reminding me that in accepting this call, I am at least partially accepting the call to help heal some of that brokenness. In those moments of worship I was grateful for all the people along the way who have cheered me on, ran a mile with me, or just plain told me when I was being stubborn.

As I reflected upon what I would say when it was my turn to talk about myself, something I really dislike doing (I know hard to believe if you read this blog since it's all I write about), I thought about how pivotal relationships are in my faith journey. From my parents, to teachers, friends, guides and even a few "precious teachers" as Barbara Brown Taylor put it her graduation address for this year's graduates.

Maybe it was because I wrote a paper on the relationality of faith and the Trinitarian God. It hit me, that is why I don't like talking about my faith journey, writing statements of faith or anything of the sort because they become all about me and on a good day about me and God and most of the journey has been about me yes, but in relationship to the people around me. I am rarely going it alone and at every key point there was someone there with me. As I thought more what I really wanted to say was something about all the amazing people I have met along the way. I didn't want to talk about me, I wanted to tell about how people shaped me, taught me things. When to talk about "my faith journey" it sounds so well, self centered, and really can I really proclaim Christ and be focused all on me?

I'll leave it there for my grand reflection. As far as what I said, I couldn't tell you I was slightly nervous and feeling unprepared. I am not sure it's ever the sort of thing you are prepared for. When I finished I felt I could have done better.  I didn't come out of the night completely unscathed but I did make it to the next step in the ordination process and I suppose that is what counts. The funny thing is I told my husband last night that I was worried that I would cry because I have been a bit more emotional since the semester ended and I have time to have feelings, I didn't, but I feel like I could and it is certainly not for the reasons I anticipated. For as much as I have felt how much I have changed in the last few days, somethings are still the same.

In these wee hours of the morning I am so grateful for those people who have brought me this far, walked with me, wept with me, encouraged me and so on. 

Be blessed by ALL the relationships you have in your life. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Water, Holy Water

Greetings from our little family vacation in a state that isn't land locked. We have spent this week in a quiet water community in Florida. Just before we started our journey down here, I commented on how in Kentucky, it gets hot and summer arrives, but summer never really happens. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, not that deplorable show, but the real shore were summer days were spent on the beach and long warm summer nights were always spent with friends in the back yard or on the boardwalk. Summer for me is a way of life not merely a change in season. That way of life hasn't happened in my experience in KY, maybe it happens if you aren't living on a mostly empty campus and have friends who live off campus, but we really don't. There are less pools and no ocean so that makes it difficult.

Last night I sat out on my mom's dock doing a little reading for summer classes and that's when it hit me. Summer happens here, we have been out on the boat, sitting poolside, beach, barbeques, and family. There is something about that salt air that you get even the faintest hints of when you live near the water that is just life giving. I started thinking more about water and my deep connection to it and longing for it. When people ask how I like KY I almost always respond I miss the ocean. It's not just the ocean though, it's the bay, it's life in a "water community", it's the pools that weren't mine but were open to me any time I wanted to use them. It's safe to say I love the water. I love to be in the water or even just near the water. It gives me life...

That's when it hit me, maybe my connection with water is even deeper than that of my physical self. Maybe it is all the way down in the depths of my soul. I have always said I feel so close to God when I am near the water. It's the first place I can remember really experiencing God in a way that filled me with awe and wonder. This week as I spent time doing the things that are familiar and make me comfortable and happy I noticed how much water just makes me feel whole.

It isn't a new idea, Baptism uses water for a reason. That's when it hit me maybe water is so life giving to me, because deep down in some unconscious place it makes me remember my Baptism. My identity not just as a girl who loves when summer happens and all the water it brings but as a beloved child of God.

There is something Holy about water. 

Today I am grateful for water, what it symbolizes, the life it gives and the rest it brings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Feces, Drug Deals & Broken Glass

Let me tell you about how much I love my job. I get to hang out with some amazing kids twice a week. On Sunday its with the younger kids, elementary school age and on Tuesday I get to hang out with middle school age kids. Of course I am teaching them as they go, mostly I find myself teaching them that they matter, which can't be overstated, I am convinced of it. The world tells them regularly that they don't matter and they aren't good enough. I might just be one girl, but I will fight everyday for them to know the world is made up of a bunch of crazy liars who are afraid of the power they will have when they believe in themselves.

Sunday was our last day learning on Sunday morning for awhile, so I pulled my ace in the hole, the lesson on Play as Sabbath. I went out Saturday evening and bought for the church a bunch of simple toys for out door play. Frisbee, wiffle ball, nerf football, bubbles, you get the idea. Then like the neighborhood I work in often does, I got the surprises I wasn't expecting. I knew all I had to work with for outdoor space was the parking lot which gets a lot of drive through traffic, so I took the kids to an out of the way corner. It was hot, especially with the blacktop reflecting the heat back at us. I wasn't out there for 2 minutes when my nostrils were filled with the distinct sent of human urine baking in the sun. I couldn't locate the exact location so I moved the kids away from where it was strongest. It also wreaked of dog poop which I couldn't find, Paul later told me he saw it. Then there was the broken glass and rusted razor blades. Now my safe spot was even smaller. The next surprise was that the kids didn't know what to do with a lot of what I brought out. I had to teach all but two of them how to play net less badminton. Most of them still don't know that it works better underhand. Then one of the birdies got stuck on top of the construction trailer, Paul later climbed on top of our van to get it.

Tonight we were supposed to go walk a new pedestrian bridge in town, but with bad weather predicted (it never showed up) we opted to have movie night instead. Tonight because it was a special night Paul and L got to come with me to work. L snuggled up with my single youth group member, maybe this is more of a mentoring relationship. We watched Monster's Inc. had dinner, snacks and ice pops. It was our end of the year celebration brought indoors. Half way through the movie I got up to walk around, I am always there at this time of night but I don't usually work in a room where I can see out to the main drag through the neighborhood. So there sat L and my student, sprawled out on a sleeping bag on the sanctuary floor, sharing snacks and watching the movie. Paul near by playing with his phone. I looked out the front window only to witness several drug deals at what the congregation calls "the drug house". All this with kids out there playing.

I wanted to throw up, something inside me got equally upset, angry and disappointed in the world. How is it that some children grow up in this neighborhood and others just 15 minutes away are at their private $150 an hour lessons for something or other? They have never seen a drug deal go down while the kids I work with are surrounded by it. I realize in that moment that my kid is one of those privileged kids who doesn't have to live with this in her face. She will eventually see it because she comes to work with me but she gets to go home to her safe home where people are quiet and not roaming the streets to find relief from the heat that is built up in their unairconditioned homes. She doesn't have $150 private lessons though, we try (and often fail) to keep her grounded in things that have no material worth.

My head started spinning, how does a neighborhood end up like this? What is the root cause of all this poverty? What will break the cycle for the next generation?  How is it that some people choose to deal drugs and others end up watching movies in church sanctuaries? How is it that some how some kids get tons of fruit and veggies and other healthy whole foods and others get stuck with a steady diet of boxed mac and cheese and hot dogs?

It was an odd moment with so many fleeting thoughts that reach down to my core. There are many surprises and frustrations even after a year of getting used to life in my new church/work home. I have another year with these fine people and challenges and all I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Doing ministry is different now, I have to change and rework everything I have ever done before this point. It's alright though because I am doing what I most long to do, teaching kids they are loved, they matter and they are someone who can make something wonderful of their life. We don't often say much about God, we are busy with homework help and building trusting relationships but God is in it. You know small goals to start.

Today I am grateful for the work I am blessed to do and for all those who told me I was somebody before I could believe them and who even though the odds were stacked against me cheered me on and didn't write me off. You have given me unimaginable gifts that will be passed on until I leave this life.

Dear Future Parishioners

To the people who I have not yet met that I will serve as pastor in a few years. First I want to say that I think about you from time to time, I pray for you, even though I don't know who you will be. I spend my days studying all sorts of Presbyterian things, most recently it has been the creeds and confessions that are a part of our church's constitution. They are supposed to help us sort through our beliefs in times like these when we can't find the answers.

Why would a tornado hit a school full of children? Where is God in that? Why wouldn't God save the children?

I want you to know your future pastor is watching the images from Moore, OK and crying her eyes out this morning while holding her own daughter tight. We are snuggled on the couch with our dog, Trin, and we talked a little bit about the tornado. I am with you, in not understanding how God is in these moments when parents grieve for their children. Even with all this studying, all this preparing, all this growing in faith and in doubt, I still don't understand, I still cannot explain, why these things happen. I could talk about providence, free will and grace but that just doesn't seem proficient. None of them will make our pain go away.

What I do have is the hope found, for me, only in faith and I know that in these terrible times that God is there with those who grieve, even if they are so distraught and rightfully angry they don't want to acknowledge God, even if they cannot find a reason to believe in God ever again, I believe God cares for them deeply and is mourning with them.

Fellow sojourners, let's wrestle with our doubt, anger and unanswered questions together. We will be the better for it.

Today I am grateful that God is there in those moments even when we can't make sense of what is happening.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saying Goodbye...

It is our first day of summer vacation we celebrated our last day of school on Friday. So from here on out its me and my lil lady having lazy summer days at least for a few days. We have had a very lazy morning sleeping in and not getting out of our jammies. As we lay in bed snuggling and playing I began to hear laughter outside. I didn't think much of it, it was graduation weekend and there are still lots of families that are here and getting ready to make their departures. We made our way from the bedroom to the living room where I had opened the blinds hours earlier, during a precious few hours while L was still asleep and I got to just be. Outside my blinds there was a goodbye in progress, laughter, hugs, probably some tears I couldn't see. I didn't mean to be all voyeur like on this group of friends goodbye, I just happen to live where my huge windows show me lots of things that happen on campus.

I heard the car doors shut and laughter faded into some sort of quiet, I might say a holy quiet, that quiet that comes when you are saying goodbye, or until we meet again. The sudden quiet caught my attention and I looked out the window again. There was one of my upstairs neighbors in her car, backing out of her parking space for the last time. Her friends formed a line on the sidewalk to see her off. I didn't have time to grab my camera, but the scene was beautiful in a very raw sort of way, I wanted to capture it from my "outsider" perspective. The driver was smiling and waving. Her friends stood, one with his shoulders just a little slumped, emotion in his body. One blowing kisses in a "goof ball" sort of way, emotion in his actions and humor. One stood watching, talking to the one who stood with his back facing the car, perhaps too painful for him to turn around and see her go. These are all my assumptions of course, I could be completely wrong. These aren't people I know very well although as I think about it, I wish I knew them better.

This is a group of people I have seen get into and out of my neighbors car so many times in the past few years. They aren't my close friends, we haven't shared meals, or many stories but in the way that they have come and gone over the last few years they have been a part of the rhythm that happens around here. Now our rhythm will change and we won't be able to put our fingers on it, because it's one of those things that you notice but not really. When it stops happening you will know something is missing but what?

This whole scene unfolded in a moment of time, it wasn't long before L pulled my attention from the window. In the past few months as this group of friends started to accept that their days together were limited, I have seen them post photos and work at making memories of the friendships they will cherish from seminary. I was touched by this moment that I just happened to witness when I looked out the window. What was it about this moment that wasn't mine that touched me?

Perhaps its that this weekend I shared my joy at seeing people's families arrive to celebrate with their graduates. Campus was full of impromptu graduation parties. Today the families are beginning to give way to the moving trucks. Our friends and neighbors who have graduated are beginning their journies on to the next place in their lives. And we are left with this space, for three months were the apartments around us are empty, where we mourn the people who we have come to love living with and we know there is the hope of the new people who will move in come the end of summer. In these first moments though and on those long summer days we are left with the empty space. In this moment this morning, I began to think about the people I will leave behind, the ones that have walked with me, the ones we celebrated holidays with, the ones who ate L's birthday cake. Then I thought about the ones I haven't gotten to know and I would like to know, some are already on their way to another place, but I have a year to get to know others. I shall make the most of this time. It wasn't lost on me either, that this afternoon my girl and I will stand in a similar way and wave goodbye to her very first best friend for the last time. After a weekend of playing with each other they will again have to part ways and learn to live with the space that is left.

May you be blessed this day with moments you didn't intend on witnessing.

I am grateful for these days with all the emotion and reflection they bring.

Friday, March 1, 2013

I had other plans...

I set out this morning to write a post about the Theology of Grilled Cheese that has been running through my head all week. I guess that can be your sneak preview for things to come. I had a few other ideas this week as well but I will get to them later.

Today has turned out to be more difficult than I imagined it would. I made it through Christmas alright but today is Donna's birthday and it hit me hard that she isn't here. I guess it's time to turn off all the automatic reminders on my calendars for her birthday. All week I have gotten little beeps that indicated I needed to mail her card or call her.

L and I were talking about Aunt Donna today and heaven. I know that what I told her about heaven would make many theologians cringe but today I am not a theologian I am a mom trying to explain to a little girl where her Aunt Donna is. When talking to my three year old telling her that Aunt Donna is somewhere where she is one with the universe or on some higher plane doesn't work. She is with God in heaven up by the clouds works. It's tangible and it's things she understands, she can see the clouds she knows they are in the sky. As we were talking she told me she wants to go on an airplane to see Aunt Donna in heaven and go in the pool and on the boat like we did at Uncle Dennis' house this summer. So then I replied only angel wings can take you to heaven and that we could still visit Uncle Dennis and do all those fun things. I don't know if it was the right thing to tell her. I know it wouldn't work to pass an ordination exam but sometimes kids just need answers they can understand. She has her whole life to work through her own idea of what heaven is.

So here it is my sister-in-laws birthday and I can't call her to wish her a happy 45 birthday. I decided yesterday that perhaps I needed to ritualize this day.  I plan on buying some flowers in her memory and then some sort of store bought confection because Donna loved sweets but never really made them, always bought them or asked me to bring them. I find myself thinking of my niece and nephew as they face their mom's birthday with out her and I remember how hard all those first and second year dates are right after you loose a parent.

I am just a lot sadder than I thought I would be. I think about a few years ago how we celebrated her 41st birthday because there wasn't a big deal made of her 40th. I am glad we did, I am glad on that odd year we gathered for a meal and cake and laughter. I am glad my brother didn't put it off until 45 came. I am glad it happened before we moved away. I am happy that L is old enough to have some memory of Donna because Donna was like this awesome bonus person in my life, part mom, part sister, part friend.

Today I am grateful to have had Donna in my life since I was just a child, I am grateful for all of the moments we celebrated together in life, I am grateful for all the birthdays we spent together, for the children she has left in the world, for her life.

May you be blessed by celebrating the odd numbered birthdays and just the plan old days of life.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Let me start by saying, I like a good deal of Beyonce's music. She is talented, she can sing, she has got some moves and she has a banging body. I thought her response to the whole lip syncing controversy was fantastic. I could care less if she lip synced because I know it is a common practice. Last night her wardrobe choice annoyed me and like so many others I took to social media to rant about my opinions which particularly on Twitter got a ton of passive aggressive push back. One of those tongue in cheek moments that didn't get translated right on strangers screens, I said I didn't need the soft core porn and people took it like the gospel, it was indeed my sarcasm. Saying Beyonce needed to put some clothes on didn't mean I was calling her a ho or anything like it. So I am going to take a few minutes to explain my of view of her attire (which really it isn't limited to her many stars share the lack of wardrobe).

I have a little girl and I have a hormone disorder. This disorder doesn't really show itself if you don't know me, other than it causes me to carry extra weight. I will not deny that I am a large girl, I live in this body every day. I don't have a sign that says my hormones are really messed up and there is no magic pill for me to get them back in line, I don't actually eat nothing but ice cream and candy every day. Why would I even think I need a sign that says that, well because I can't take my daughter out for an ice cream cone with out someone giving me a look like yep fat chick eating ice cream typical. Of course in school I got picked on, I have also heard people mutter "fat people" under their breath in stores, I have been made fun of in line for a ride at Disney world as I stood waiting with everyone else to ride the train. When I was pregnant with my daughter, at the very end of pregnancy I had some pain in my hip, my husband dropped me off at the front of a store while he parked and when he got out her heard two women, "pregnant or just fat". He wanted to smack them, I said you should have said both. I am not telling you this because I want you to feel bad for me or because I want you to join me in some fat acceptance crusade. Neither are of interest to me. What I worry about is that my daughter might have the same hormone issues and that one day her thighs might rub together when she walks and that she will start to hate herself because of it. You see I managed to survive with out hating myself, some how despite everything society has told me about my worth because of my body, I have managed to say no, no I have value for many other reasons. Maybe it was because I was raised by an incredibly strong woman who constantly told me that I was both smart and beautiful. I was one of the lucky ones because my period of self hatred was short lived.

I have spent the last 8 years working with young girls who I have heard hating on themselves because their bodies aren't perfect. I nearly cried as I listened to 12 year olds talk about how fat they were and how they couldn't eat anymore at a church fund raiser. I have watched girls hurt themselves to be what society has told them is beautiful. I have watched girls forget they have talent or brains because they are in pursuit of the only thing they think matters, approval from their crush or society. I am terrified that this will one day be my daughter and that as her mother I won't be able to find the right words.

I wasn't annoyed last night because Beyonce was sexy or sexual. I am far from uptight about sexuality. I thought her outfit was fine for a concert, just not broadcast TV. Next week the Grammy's are on, I know better than to put the TV on while my girl is still up because my girl will likely see things that I don't want her to see. So maybe it was that I was caught off guard. I do not have some underhanded Christian or conservative agenda. The only agenda I have is making sure my daughter knows she is so much more than a body and that her body is valuable even if it isn't perfect.

I got irritated because here is a woman that is talented, smart and still leaving little to the imagination. To me it said being smart and talented isn't enough you still have to show off what you have. Maybe I am just getting old, maybe it's parenthood that has me so on edge. It just makes me fired up when I think of the world telling my daughter no matter how beautiful her heart is, how smart she is, compassionate, talented, creative, kind, loving, and so on that it will never be good enough because she has to have a nice body and if that nice body weren't enough, she has to strut around showing it off because then she will have the approval of all.

Today I am grateful that I grew up with a very strong woman who knew enough to tell me I was smart, talented and pretty.

Thanks Mom!

Friday, February 1, 2013

A laundry how to.

How to do laundry with a 3 year old assistant. (On a cold day in a communal laundry room.)
1. Interrupt her quiet play to tell her she has to get her shoes on because other people are waiting for the dryer.
2. Cave and let her wear her fancy "Christmas shoes".
3. Add several items of clothing like hat and coat.
4. Have her fill up the empty laundry basket with her stuffed toys, clearly Mickey, Minnie and Pluto must come along.
5. Let her hold one end and you the other while walking to the laundry room singing the chugga choo choo song from music class loudly!
6. Run into neighbors coming down the stairs. Let her very enthusiastically yell Hi Everybody!
7. Listen to her narrate every single item that comes out of the dryer. Mommy's undies, Daddy's socks, My jammies.
8. Hear her profess her love for her Minnie undies, hug them and say thank you so much for buying these.
9. Ask her to fold a shirt, she will say, I'll just roll it in a ball. (Clearly a trait from her dad.)
10. She will wear every clean pair of jammies tonight.
11. She loves her clothes and has a new rolling technique for folding.
12. Thank you mommy for cleaning my star pants.
13. Get the coat etc back on and walk home.
14. She will help with the door.
15. Warn you to watch out for the slippery.
16. Choose to enjoy it, savor it even, because days like these will be the ones you long for in the future.

It is hard but God please let me be grateful for this journey of parenthood, each day.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A New Year

Happy New Year from a blogger that is very behind. Being behind seems to be the story of my life lately. I didn't really get around to implementing any "new year's resolutions" until last week. I haven't resolved anything fantastic that I think will be life changing. Just jotted down a few thoughts on how to refocus my life so that I can make this life I am living the life that I am dreaming of. This doesn't mean that I plan on making a bunch of drastic changes trying to achieve the dream but rather that I am trying to let the life I have be the dream. It's not that I am promoting sitting on your laurels and not making an attempt to change your life in some way it needs to change, I am just suggesting that a shift in perspective can really help from time to time.

It's not easy to shift your perspective.

I am at this place in my life where I am again feeling the desire to just start "living". Our entire lives are one big transition right now and we do not know what the future holds. I don't know that we ever really know what the future holds but at times we have ideas about it, how we would like things to go. We have ideas about how we would like to live our lives and then there is how we actually live. I could write about that for days on end and still never finish. The truth is, I find myself living in a constant state of stress, we have out grown our home which means either we need more space or less stuff. I have tried to get rid of more stuff, less clutter helps. The truth is though when you have a child and it's their stuff that is taking up all the room you can't just get rid of it. For example we have a trampoline for one taking up lots of living room floor real estate right now, but its indoors and serves and great exercise for an energetic 3 year old. It's those decisions that are hard. Another Christmas has come and gone and guess what it brought more stuff. That is the nature of Christmas. All this stuff and not enough space makes for a very cluttered and messy home. I find myself longing to move somewhere with more storage space and a private yard. I want to put down roots... to not be in this place of this home is temporary. Temporary as it may be it at times feels like it is suffocating me and I get overwhelmed and I can't decide where to start in picking up or where to put things. It doesn't help that there is always something else begging for my attention. So you can see I was stuck in this cycle of so much to do, so overwhelmed and getting nothing done. The caveat there is that I function much better as a human being when my surroundings are orderly. I have been slowly getting things back in order but with a three year old and very little floor space for her to play on it gets cluttered quickly. Same goes for the kitchen, two square feet of counter space gets cluttered quickly. Just typing about it makes me tense.

Then on Friday I was exhausted from a night up with a sick kid. She took a nice long nap and instead of running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to be productive I laid down too, and turned on the radio. I didn't fall asleep but I sat there and stared at the ceiling for a long time just listening to the radio. In those moments I reflected about my life before now and what my life has been so far. I was overwhelmed with this sense of peace, contentment. love and even hope for what is to come. Those moments are rare these days. I don't often like to say things like the next sentence but I feel I have to say it. I am working full time on a 90 credit masters degree, maintaining an internship and I am the primary caretaker of our 3 year old daughter. I am never able to sit and focus on one thing, at this very moment as I type these words she is pressing her full body weight into my side and my left arm is in a position that doesn't seem function-able. In that moment on Friday staring at the ceiling which is always orderly and with no child or dog pressing on me I realized that I need to refocus on the here and now. To enjoy these crazy hectic days for what they are and live in the moment because in between all the insanity that makes up our days, life is happening.

And alas it was just a moment, by Sunday night I found myself looking at houses as we drove by longingly thinking if we could just afford to rent a house maybe I could breathe. The thought that I did not get one response from potential sitters for the spring semester has started to creep back in. I have two Ordination exams this weekend that I have not had nearly enough time set aside to prepare for. I am trying not to freak out about that. I know myself and I know that over filling my brain will result in failure.

I sit here in a contorted position, as my kiddo competes for my attention which she feels she should have with out ceasing every hour of the day, trying to finish my sentences, longing for the peace I felt on Friday, as all that has to be done today runs through my head. I slow down and I say don't wish these days away, sooner than you think she won't want to come near you and you will long for the simplicity of life in Seminary. The grass is always greener anywhere but your own lawn.

Today I am grateful for moments of reflection that are filled with peace and somehow feel like the most authentic prayer I have ever known.