Monday, December 22, 2014

A Call Search Update

This morning our last option for some settling before the end of the year fell through. The search is near a stand still, a crawl at best. While I continue to talk with churches around the country the process is moving slowly. I am choosing to become more and more private about where I am interviewing and how often. There are a lot of feelings that come with all this that I won't discuss here. I will say this has been a great challenge for me and for my family. It has been a trying year for us, broken bones, a lost job, a pay cut, housing fiascoes, a car that just failed, health insurance nightmares. We have managed this far to make it through each challenge as it has come at us. We are resilient people, who know amazing people.

We have known for some time that after the first of the year when our rent increases as does our insurance premium there would be no way to make the ends meet. With the housing issues from the Fall making our education options for L slim to none I haven't been able to even find part time work. This week after our child who is excited beyond words about Christmas drifts off to sleep, Paul and I will face some of the most challenging decisions of our life together. It seems very likely that just after the first of the year L and I will leave our city to live with family or friends. Paul will stay here hopefully with ample couches to sleep on so we can keep our income for as long as possible. Our hearts are breaking at separating our family during this time but our options are limited.

There's one more thing I need to say tonight, something I refrained from commenting on publicly since it began. I have not turned down a single legitimate offer for a full or part time call.

Grateful today that we have options for a place to land. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

HOPE is a four letter word

Last week, liturgically, we entered Advent the season of waiting, the focus for the week was hope. We have been very focused on celebrating Advent this year as a family. We have been working on our days of giving which are going really well so far. We are having a little family devotional time and I have been participating in an online devotional. Usually we aren't so focused on this but where life is right now it fit and I hope as we move forward it will continue being a part of our family routine and practice.

All of this focus made me really think about what hope look like, especially in light of the circumstances in our country, the world, and our family life right now. A few weeks back I had a conversation via social media with church members from my home church. It made me start thinking about hope because it was a real and some what difficult conversation to have about church and life. The conversation was respectful and could be the start of more conversations. It made me hopeful for the future of the church even if the mainline church is struggling. My conversations with many churches right now many me hopeful for our denomination.

Then Ferguson, woah how on Earth do we see hope? Then Staten Island? Hope where are you? I think hope is there in the willingness to believe change can happen, in people willing to stand up and DEMAND it! It's a long road ahead in ending systemic racism in our country but we have traveled a long road already. Travelers are weary but they aren't giving up... HOPE is alive. Hope for something better, for justice, for peace. Which really is what this Advent hope is all about, a savior coming to usher in these things. Of course that gets tricky because Jesus has already been here and it hasn't happened and while most believe Jesus will come again, I think it is more likely to be followers of this Jesus character that bring what is promised in a savior. It is human kind doing the work of God that will change the world. Not that I am saying we don't need Jesus, we do, or at least I do.

Side Bar:

I want to clarify because I don't live under a rock and I have seen the sparing online: I assert that racism, particularly in our justice system, is a huge problem. However this doesn't mean that I am "anti cop". There are very good police officers, there are very bad power hungry police officers, the problem is bigger than just "cops" it's the whole justice system. To my law enforcement sisters and brothers I feel for you, pastor types also get to "enjoy" mass vilification. Let us remember people of color have dealt with vilification on levels much more consistent and harmful than either pastors or law enforcement have.

One look around the world and it can be hard to find hope. Then there is life, particularly at this moment my life. Since last December our lives have been turned upside down, with a broken arm and emergency surgery, panic attacks, a lost job, near loss of housing, a new job that doesn't pay enough to make the ends meet, a call search that was derailed, a hard end to an internship, a summer apart from L, taking in extra kids & it not working out, starting home school because of circumstance, and most recently our only car becoming junk yard worthy. The thing is when all these challenges keep coming at you, the littlest challenges start to feel like mountains. There are days when it's hard to hope, to keep ones chin up. Yet in spite of it all I have found in the past week that my sense of hope has only grown, that I have become more willing to see the world and my own circumstances through a lens of hope.

I want to tell you about what hope looks like when it comes into reality. A while back I had blogged on here about my early Christmas wish, to travel to my mom's house for the holiday. A few weeks ago I learned someone had read this blog and felt from that time on like God was nudging them to help. They prayed and it persisted. I want to tell you all the wonderful amazing details of how this came to be but I cannot tell you who this person was and I can't say much about the story that came with the gift we received with out revealing identity. I also didn't want to spill the beans about our holiday travel plans which have had to change a bit in light of the car situation. What I can say is that we received a very generous gift, that was a pay it forward gift. The giver had received a similar gift at a similar time in life and Paul and I are charged with giving a similar gift when we get settled. The giver had such great joy in giving this gift, it made a difference because in those moments I didn't feel like a charity case, I felt blessed, like in this totally unexpected way my prayers had been answered. I wanted to react in a way that showed my amazement but I was more like a deer in head lights. Overwhelmed by it all, I said thank you. This gift has made our holiday season so much more relaxed because things like the butter for our Christmas cookies were not a burden on our budget. I have been able to pay off the small outstanding balance on my student account at one school and the graduation fee at another school.

The thing is that this wasn't the first answered prayer in the last few months certainly it was a big one but there have been countless others. I wish I could name them all for you right now. We have found the money we were short on rent every month since October. People have just been amazing. It's funny because sometimes I get the sense that people know God is using them and other times they haven't a clue. Maybe there have always been this many small kindnesses in my life and I am just noticing them more. Someone said to me this Fall that I wasn't trusting God enough, I wanted to say back, um I have never trusted God so much in my life!

Then last week our van died, we knew it was coming, we held off death for sometime, but last we she overtook the van. Not a problem for Paul's work because he has a work vehicle. Personal life wise it was a huge problem. My hope started to dwindle. I made a tongue in cheek social media post about the van because what else was I going to do? That's when my younger brother chimed in, um you gave me a car once and I have one to get rid of, find a way to get it. Through a series of calls and our amazing family members the car will make the trip from his city to ours later this week if all goes as planned. We are having to rely on others a lot, I don't like being on the receiving end. It's the end I happen to find myself on these days but I have hope that one day I will be on the giving end again. You know what's funny about the car thing, I forgot I ever gave my brother a car. Seriously, I didn't remember it until he said that. Let's talk about transportation in the mean time, we simply have the most amazing friends, by Saturday morning we had keys to two cars that we could use at our leisure. Our friends just offered we didn't even have to ask. We also had rides places we needed to be. Being with out our car sucks to put it bluntly but it has given me the opportunity to see some pretty wonderful things in the people I surround myself with.

So what do we do when the person who holds up the minimum wage vote is an active church member? We find hope in the showing up, that maybe the message of Jesus will get even deeper into their heart, and help them see the hardship of a minimum wage job. What do we do when our justice system is so broken? We hope that our voices are heard, we demand they are heard in the hope of a better world. You get the idea.

By the end of the week I was very hopeful for what is to come in the world and my life. I don't know why I am in this strange place in life but I trust that I am exactly where I need to be and I hope that in the future I will understand it all.

I am grateful for all the people in my life who are audacious enough to hope in spite of the world that tells them not to! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Giving

We are starting a new tradition this year, as we count down to Christmas morning we are reading scripture, praying, and learning songs. Little L also has something to give each day which is often a surprise, we are on day two and she is looking forward to it each day!

We made her own Advent wreath and candles from re-purposed toilet paper and paper towel tubes, with tissue paper for flames, inspired by Pinterest of course. Each night before dinner we read scripture, sing our songs, and pray. On Sunday evenings we light the candles for the coming week and read a simple child friendly litany for lighting the candles.
(If you want more details on this please let me know and I will share them.)

Here are her days of giving laid out, I invite you to join in an personalize it to your area! We made a count down chain that has the date, the theme for the week, the scripture of the day on one side and the giving of the day on the reverse side.  (If you decided to give  along with us and want more details on supplies let me know and I will flesh it out.)

Sunday: Kid Pick (she chose to work on painting for her cousin's gifts)
Monday: Shop for family gifts
Tuesday: wrap gifts
Wednesday: Make hand print cards
Thursday: Make a card for a soldier overseas. Mail gifts and cards.
Friday: Donate a hat, scarf, and gloves
Saturday: Collect food
Sunday: Kid Pick
Monday: Take friends to Lights Under Louisville. Clean van windows, make cookies and hot chocolate, bring light up necklaces.
Tuesday: Provide cards for Baptist East chaplains. (Maybe cookies too.)
Wednesday: Donate a toy to a charitable organization collecting toys
Thursday: Make dinner for our favorite neighbors/friends during finals week.
Friday: Kosair Children's Hospital, Orthopedic Emergency
Saturday: Leave quarters in the laundry room
Sunday: Kid Pick
Monday: Humane Society to visit pets and bring cat and dog food/ Make cookies
Tuesday: Put quarters in a meter/ Decorate and bag cookies
Wednesday: Deliver cookies to facilities and staff
Thursday: Cards to Veterans Hospital
Friday: Caroling
Saturday: Plan and host a game night
Sunday: Kid Pick
Monday: Center for Women and Families Gift Card Drive
Tuesday: Nursing Home Visit
Wednesday: Christmas Eve  Thank first responders with treats.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How do I Tell Her?

Last night L was in bed before the news in Ferguson started to unfold so I was able to watch some. As a rule we generally won't have it on if she's around, she's five, she has plenty of time to learn about the horrors of the world later in life. I haven't seen any coverage today other than social media because she woke up before me. I caught one story online early this morning that had me in tears because the thought occurred to me one day I'll have to tell her what a crummy world we live in.

L she's a free spirit and a lover, she loves people. To date she has never mentioned difference in skin color to us. She has friends of all sorts of backgrounds, she doesn't see them as her black friends, her Asian friends, her Hispanic friends, her Indian friends, and so on. She sees them as her friends, people who she can run with and play with. They are the people she can enjoy life with. It is the kind of childhood innocence we could all covet.

So how do I tell her that her friends with darker skin face different challenges than she does and will? How do I tell her there are people in the world that still believe our light skin color is superior? How do I tell her the legal system fails people with oppressive systems of "justice" and systematic poverty?

The truth is I, as a white, heterosexual, woman, do not have to have the same conversations with her as my friends who are black or who have black children do before they leave the house. That is the truth! The hard painful truth, we live in a world where some mothers have to tell their children even if you know you did nothing wrong you need to listen to and do everything the police tell you to do, warnings about keeping hoods off and hands out of pockets. And sometimes its vigilantes and not even law enforcement.

In all honesty I don't want to tell her the truth and won't today, not yet. One day though I am going to have to tell her and it breaks my heart because I know already it is going to break her heart. I see her sense compassion and fairness already and it will rock her world, just like it did mine.

Racism is alive and thriving. What is happening in Ferguson right now is about systematic injustice, not just one case. I do not condone rioting, it doesn't make sense to me. Then again I don't walk into the world every day worried that my beloved child will be the next Michael Brown.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fight for the Routine

I have written a lot about this season of life where waiting and hoping are my main "task" each day. This is incredibly appropriate as I prepare lessons for Advent, the season of waiting and hoping. You could say I am having my own personal season of extended Advent. I have also written a bit about being on the edge of the abyss that threatens to suck me in.

I am a big fan of notes and lists, I have them everywhere they help me keep on track through out the day. Recently though I have not been writing lists and I started forgetting everything and then feeling overwhelmed. Last week I pulled out a sticky note and made a short list, I drew a line at the bottom and under the line I wrote, "fight for the routine". Our days haven't been too structured recently, we have meals, we get our homeschooling done, we get errands and chores done, pets cared for but it was haphazard. Last week I sat down and made a loose plan for home school lessons and organized our growing stock of supplies. I got the little back into a morning routine. We spent a lot of the weekend getting the chores and errands caught up. This morning I made it a point to get myself back on to my own morning routine beyond the showering and getting dressed. I took some time to exercise, to spend a little time in prayer, and I am the better for it. My routine is a form of discipline I need to keep me grounded.

It took me a while to figure out what our new routines would look like but I think we have them and they are starting to work together. My hope is that by the end of the month we can have most of our "work" done before lunch and have our afternoons full of creativity.

I am grateful to have found our new routine and hopeful that even as the winter cold approaches we can stick to it. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today's Prayer

God how I want to call you the loving God I believe in, because I do believe that you are a merciful and loving God who cares for each of us to the core of our very being. Yet I see all the brokenness in the world and it is hard to see the love. Especially as my friends grieve for their child. I believe that you are loving but I can't feel it. I ask this day that you would be with each of your children and guide them through the day. I ask especially for prayer for my own little family as we navigate these days of trusting. My prayer is that I will have enough patience to get me through the day, that I will have eyes and heart wide open so that I can see the tender joy filled moments and not get dragged down by the stress filled ones.

On this election day I pray that our leaders would work from a place of authenticity and not a place of dollar signs. I pray for all who vote that they would vote their conscious and not because of pressure from a social or religious group. I pray for the people who will feel persecuted today at the polls.

I thank you God for our daughter and her precious life. She is what I worry about most in this great transition. Help me stay open to her needs and her struggles.

Oh God you know the prayers of my heart, the ones that cannot be named in this space, the ones I am not ready to name, the ones that hurt. Please hear them.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Birthday Cash Creativity

My nephews are teenagers or nearly teenagers these days. The days of calling my siblings to see what toy or experience they were just itching to have are long gone. When ever I ask the answer is the same, money. I have tried gift cards for movies or a favorite hang out but nothing is as desired as cold hard cash. I don't really have a problem with this other than it just kills my creativity, throwing some bills in a card feels so impersonal. Don't get me wrong I love getting an envelope full of money as much as anyone, I just hope that my nephews will get some sort of exciting experience out of it. If you get an envelope from Aunt Beck you pretty much know it's going to have birthday money in it. If you get a box there is a new level of mystery.

I have played with this idea searching Pinterest and I have found a few great ideas that I have in my back pocket for up coming holidays. Then over the summer long before any of their birthday's rolled around I saw it, the perfect container for cold hard cash, a miniature pinata! (Target is your friend if you are looking for one of these.) I made a mental note thinking I could have fun with this. Then a little while before their birthdays came I asked each of them what their favorite candy was. Of course they asked why and I told them you will see. This week the first birthday has arrived and I mailed off the first little birthday party in a box. Nephew number 1 likes twix, so I bought a bag of fun size twix, a little pinata, a cheap bandana, and a bag of confetti. The next stop was the bank where I asked for all singles, if shipping wasn't done by weight I would have gotten some coins too.

The steps:
The Supplies

Add Candy

Add Cash
Add Confetti, hope your siblings forgive the mess!

Shake Shake Shake
I tied a string to the pinata, rolled the bandana to make a blindfold, added a mini Louisville Slugger (we live near the factory and they come with the tour), tissue paper and confetti for the box .
I took it to the post office and shipped it off. I texted my nephew and said do not open the box until you text me. I made a little mission impossible like video with instructions to text to him saying don't use scissors or rip it open because you will ruin the gift. I made a second video with our daughter demonstrating what to do, which is hysterical because she is eleven years younger.

Note: I would add the candy after the cash next time for space reasons.

Was it more work than sending a card, yes. I had great fun getting creative with it and my hope is that my nephews will each have a memorable experience from their upcoming birthdays! At the end of the day I want them to remember the experience. When I die and they are sitting around at the repass after my memorial service I hope they talk about their crazy Aunt Beck and how annoying or fun the year of the pinata birthday was. Birthday's after all are worth remembering.

The only thing that would make this better is if I didn't have to ship it and I could be there to see their faces!

Today I am grateful for each of their lives and the ability even across the miles to celebrate each of the boys.

Prayer for Today

How are all of my journals packed? I guess I can add them to the list of things that I would like to be close by. I was up really early again today, partly because of the time change and partly because of the stomach death which I have not experienced the like of in sometime. It was gone by this morning but had me in bed before my kid last night. Yesterday I wrote about having to be an active participant in my experience of God. I also wrote about how I need at least attempt to find words with which to pray and pick up my bible more often. So this morning I woke up early and came out and sat in the dark and quiet. I didn't turn on the tv, I tried to find the words but didn't. Instead of turning on the TV I grabbed my bible, I decided to start reading Acts from the beginning. Seven verses is all it took before I found something relevant to my life, "It is not for you to know the time or periods that the Father has set by his own authority." I chuckled at this, which I am now removing far from it's context. In this text the Apostles are waiting for something, the Spirit and the coming kingdom. That little text there it's relevant to right where I am. I haven't blogged prayers in a very long time but I am going with it

Oh God, it seems like a life time since we prayed your time and not ours as we waited for a child. It was a hard prayer to pray because for as long as I could remember I wanted to have a child. You showed me that I could love a child no matter how they came into my life in sweet Mirembe. Then when I was ready to give up, there it was two little lines announcing the presence of our sweet girl in my uterus. As we started to dream of growing our family from time to time we remember this, your time not ours. Today though I see how waiting on your time is relevant to other things in life, like this great in between I sit in right now. Your time God not mine. Oh it might be even harder to pray those words right now, so much is riding on timing. I am learning to let go of things I didn't think I could let go of but I am at times grasping desperately to what is left. Desperately grasping doesn't feel like faith it feels like exactly what it is desperation. Every little bump on the journey is beginning to feel like an insurmountable mountain. I have prayed I feel the call God, show me the way, and the way unfolded. I come before you this morning pleading, let my heart accept your time, let my eyes be wide open so I can see the way. Let me see, hear, experience the good that lies ahead today. If the this child's morning is any indication of what the day holds, I know it is going to be another challenging one. Please let me see your presence here today, even the smallest affirmation of the path I am on would be greatly appreciated. This place is hard to be in, it's hard to live in this space and time, it is hard to trust that "it will all work out". Help me believe it.  Amen.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Your Presbyterian is Showing

I am not really sure how many regular readers I have and of those regular readers how many of you know my situation but I suspect that most of you do. Just in case you happen across this space and you don't know, I am close to Ordination as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church(USA). I am in the great in between, I have finished seminary and I am seeking my first call. For months I said please God I just need a break between the end of one and the start of the other. My prayer has been answered, of course there's a catch, this is not exactly the break I had in mind. My version of a break was L going to school full day and me having 4-6 weeks to experience sabbath rest along with time to get all our stuff organized and ready to move. You know the sort of deep cleaning you just have to do once in a while. Donate things, get the crusty corners clean so when move out inspection comes you get the whole deposit back... that was my vision. OK it may have included walking, writing, reading, and tea too. It is after all Fall, which is my favorite time of the year, the warm flavors and scents, the chill in the air, the grasping at those last warm days before we settle in for winter. What this break has looked more like is the world's longest trust walk with God. We have weathered a bunch of challenges since last December and we continue to weather them, one day and one challenge at a time.  And every last one of my mugs is packed.

I sit in this place trying to find contentment, trying to know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, even if it is uncomfortable, even if there never seems to be enough. More often though I occupy a different space as I try to home school with little funds and a temporary commitment. Our means are less than abundant, so most days unless it's nice enough to go to the park, L and are stuck in our tiny apartment, which in and of it self makes me feel like the world is closing in. Amid all those challenges there has been a bunch of joys as well, joys that may have left me just a bit ill prepared for this break. I graduated, twice, I completed the most challenging summer of my life with L away for 7 weeks and facing all the baggage I carry with me into a hospital setting for my Clinical Pastoral Education. I began my call search and it was all good, until it wasn't.

I wake up everyday and I know what lies ahead, hours of me working really hard at fighting the abyss. I don't know if I have ever battled depression or what that feels like. I can just tell you that most days I have to work really hard to find my motivation to do anything, let alone the work of home school. I described it last week as teetering on the edge of a never ending pit full of darkness and I am fighting hard to not get sucked in. The thing is I have only told Paul this, I haven't told my friends, my mentor, my family, no one. Why you ask? Well I guess there are a bunch of reasons that are probably mostly silly. A big one is people are busy, life is rolling on in the world, while mine feels like it is standing still in this waiting, this trusting. Another, I am just finding my pastoral identity and I haven't found a way to talk about this and balance my changing identity. I can tell you that so far the abyss has failed to suck me in. I can tell you that God is showing up just enough, to keep me going. Like this week I checked the mail box and found what we needed, there was no other explanation for me other than God was at work through people who had no idea how they were being used to answer my current prayer, "God Please". On the worst days that is all I can muster, over and over. I don't even know what I am asking for but I trust God knows my heart.

Fast forward to today. We decided that we need to be going to church right now but we don't want to commit to a church, we need a place to be in church with out all that come with being in our own denomination. While my preference is to church hop and just try a bunch out until we move, our kiddo needs stability. Said kiddo has a super awesome friend whose parents happen to take him to church every week. Our families have become friends so it just makes sense, we should go to their church for awhile so the kiddo has some  social time and some Sunday school time. Last week after our friends very graciously listened to my concerns, we decided that for this season we will attend church with them. This particular church is a far cry from Presbyterianism, actually it might be almost the opposite. We knew this and we are OK with this, we visited over the summer to hear our friend speak. We want the little exposed to a lot of ways of being the church, my own theology is very ecumenical and inclusive. We won't have many more times in life where we can expose her to church that isn't Presbyterian.

So off we went this morning, she was super stoked to go to Sunday school with her buddy. We walked in and settled in. I saw that the communion elements were out and I remembered how awkward it can be to be a visitor in the church. I noted this for future reference. In between songs I whispered to my friend, I see the elements out, open table? children? wine or juice? She graciously answered all my questions. We partook of the elements in a new way with our sisters and brothers of another tradition. The funny thing is you spend 3 plus year thinking about and writing what you believe and why and then you are confronted with a liturgical process that is unfamiliar and you have a choice embrace it or fight against it in your head. I thought I can embrace this and we did, not with out a little inner dialogue. After all that whole one body many parts thing applies to all our churches not just the gifts in our particular church.

When it came time for the teaching I was two steps behind because I had run the little to her class after communion. I am just getting caught up and really starting to follow the speaker (it's a speaker not a preacher in this tradition). My thought process was something like this, yes I have experienced that in prayer too, and then I need to pray more maybe I can find the words. Which wasn't that surprising I had just said to some other friends I need to pick up the bible more. So I am sitting there going yeah, yeah man, I get it. I dig this, I can relate. Then a few what ifs? Side Bar: It is really hard for me to turn off the critique writing I have had to do and just go with it. I am just starting to connect the dots when it just stops! The message had been very much about allowing the Spirit to move and following the Spirit. So in reality if I allow a moment of critique what happens next is the most perfect "sermon illustration" ever. The speaker says they are feeling something the words I can't remember but it was something along the lines of empty or drained. They stop speaking and invite people to come forward, it was not an alter call. There was a name for it but it escapes me. "Come forward if you have felt God but need to feel God again or if you have never felt God and want to feel God, I want to pray with you."(awful paraphrase by yours truly)

I am generally pretty comfortable in all churches these days but we just got off the Becca's comfort exit. Church after all isn't about always being comfortable but woah I am suddenly looking around thinking "what do I do?" Brace yourself for some blunt honesty... I was there, I was feeling it, I knew with out a doubt that I am long over due and I need to be an active part in my experience of God. Sometimes the idea of having someone pray for me is completely overwhelming, as it proved to be today. My next internal dialogue was between Becca the person and Becca the pastor. Music had started and my friend sat on he steps and waited. At first no one was moving and for me there is nothing worse than the moment when you are going with it and no one wants to go there with you. So Becca is saying yes yes yes I get this but I can sit here and pray. Pastor Becca is saying oh this moment is rough maybe you could go up to ease this tension. (I think Paul and I were the only tense ones in the room.) Then I thought, I'll go up and accept prayer because I know I need it but then I am going to insist I offer prayer for my friend as well. Then people started coming forward and I didn't move, I stayed in my seat, my comfort zone. Did you catch that right there, I was only willing to allow care for me if I could offer care in return, don't think that gem slipped by me.

Here's the thing, I was totally uncomfortable BUT God/the Spirit was there I have no doubt about that. Paul and I left and talked about all that happened, we owned that it was uncomfortable but that it was good. Presbyterians will sometimes say they are the thinking faith, which when you think about it can be really offensive. I said if we are the thinking faith, this is the feeling faith. Then we talked about our own discomfort with all the feeling we did in those moments. In the spirit of feeling, I left feeling like I am not alone on this journey and that is exactly what I needed today and for that I am grateful.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Early Christmas Wish

I have a birthday this week but it really doesn't feel like it. It will probably pass with little notice much like our tenth anniversary did a few weeks ago. As someone who likes to celebrate because it's say, Wednesday this is odd but necessary, the budget is tight. So we wrote each other little notes and decided to celebrate big for the eleventh. The past few weeks have been hard. I picked up my great niece and great nephew to come stay with us for awhile. It didn't work out how we had hoped and I am heart broken. We drove them to a meeting spot and met up with their parents and they are headed home as I type. I am trying to savor the good that came of it and not count it as a failure but in this moment that is what it feels like.

It's not the only circumstance that has left me heart broken recently, there's another similar where I feel like saying yes to my family means saying know to kids I love. That's one of the things about ministry is I have to balance all this yes and no business. One of the things I will soon give up is the ability to travel at Christmas time because pastors work on Christmas. Christmas is still two full months away but on my mind mostly because I recently turned down an opportunity for some temporary work because I would have to work Christmas among other reasons. Here's the thing I am sitting at this great crossroads in my life awaiting my first call. There is a lot of movement on this journey but at the speed it is going I doubt I will be working by the time December 25 rolls around.

I also know that life is fragile, here one day and gone the next. It doesn't matter if you age is measured in months or decades, we all will die, the chances of our time coming increases as we get older. Maybe it's weird to contemplate my mother's mortality but I am, after all my father has already met his end, I know each day is precious. My mom while not that old is not getting any younger and I may not have the opportunity to travel and spend Christmas with her again. So even though I swore I would never travel on Christmas while L was little and that I would never spend it in the sunshine state, I find myself day dreaming about it. L waking up in a house where she can be as loud as she wants. Where she can spread out all her new stuff with out obstructing every inch of walking space. Where she gets to be surrounded by family who loves her and eat Grandma's meatballs.

My early Christmas wish is that I will find the budgetary wiggle room to make it happen, to head out one December morning and celebrate Christmas with my over excited child and her equally over excited Grandma.

In a perfect world all my siblings would be there too.

It's one of the things I miss the most getting to be with family on holidays.

Today I am grateful for all the moments that lead to memories.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saints & Sinners

Our family has had a growth spurt recently we went from 3 to 5. Did I have twins to be featured on an upcoming episode of "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant"? Nope, our growth spurt is the temporary kind, in due time we will back down to 3. My niece is living into her own great transition these days and she has two little ones who are 6 and 2. In order for her to make head way her kiddos needed a safe place to land. So last Tuesday I picked them up somewhere between our homes. I am not working right now, our kiddo is being home schooled until the end of our own transition, so we added one to our at home learning. Paul and I didn't think too much about all this, we knew it was the right thing to do.

Then it started happening, "You are a saint. You guys are amazing. awesome etc." And while it's true we can be awesome at times, it is generally more to do with our humor or ability to cook Italian food and cakes, not our willingness to open our home to kids we are already madly in love with. I thought until this happened that most anyone would do this, I thought we were normal people, apparently we aren't. Here's the deal I greatly appreciate the praise but I feel unworthy of it. I don't think we are being amazing or awesome. I do find calling a Protestant almost Pastor a Saint hysterical though, even if I am alright with the Saints. And the truth... well the truth is I am a hot mess. Yesterday I called my husband at work and babbled on in a tense voice gibberish much like when Sally Field finds out Robin Williams is Mrs. Doubtfire. Then I cried in front of all the kids, twice. Three kids is hard work and before you question my sanity... today went MUCH smoother. I guess even though I am a dire perfectionist we need time to adjust and we have only been together a short time. Its like having three little dictators who want to be in charge of you all at once and they will fight each other for your attention  = control. I should say I think they are all acting well with in the normal realm for all the transition these kids are going through.

I think all three of them are totally amazing. I am learning my own child is quite whiny which I had thought was normal until now. She is also prime candidate to be called cry baby at school just like her mom was, we will have to work on this since her mom didn't cry much for like 20 years. It's hard to blend two households together that have had such different expectations for the kiddos. We are making head way and establishing our new normal-for-now. I am far far far from a Saint. I am just a girl who thinks she ought to literally practice what she preaches, that we need to love one another, to help each other out. How can I stand in the pulpit regularly preaching love your neighbor as yourself if I am not out in the world loving my neighbor or in this case family with some radical (er maybe irrational) love? I can't. This wasn't a rational or logical decision, it was a compassionate one filled with love.

But here we sit cast by our culture as Saint Becca & Saint Paul (hmm his is already taken).

And then you have my niece who when we first talked about this said with her voice cracking, "People are going to judge me for leaving my kids." To which I responded something along the lines of, "We are all being judged all the time. Don't worry about what they think, they haven't got an Aunt Beck and Uncle Paul to help them out. You are making a hard choice to give your kids a safe place while you transition. A good mom makes hard choices, that's what makes her a good mom." I didn't say that to make her feel better, I said it because it's true, sometimes the decision that feels the most unnatural is the best one we can make.

Remember I survived a torturous 7 weeks with L at her grandma's this summer so I could complete my last ordination requirement. I cried my eyes out sending her off. People were super supportive because we are Becca and Paul, married, loving parents, who waited until they were mildly established to procreate, and then pursue a graduate education and ordination. So it was OK for us to let our kid go to Grandma's for 7 weeks. They you have my niece who is a young parent, not married, and trying to get ahead and for her it is not OK to let someone take care of the kids? WHY? WHY? WHY? She loves her kids, she wants for them what we want for L. So what is the difference? The only one I can see is that the same culture that type cast us as Saints has type cast her as Sinner. Do you think she walks around unaware of this? Do you think your silently pursing your lips in disapproval goes unnoticed? She isn't dumb.


We all enter into parenthood differently and it's ok. There is no right way to become a parent, ideal maybe but what is an ideal anyway. It doesn't matter what they look like, its people who are parents. Parenthood is a struggle and it's about time we stop judging one another and start supporting one another.

I knew eventually someone would say it, someone would have the nerve and lack of self awareness to say something about my niece being "irresponsible". It happened, on Sunday, in church, a person who knows me well and has never met her, said something along those lines. I saw red. Bright beating pulsating red. And we wonder why people like my niece don't want to come to church? I didn't leave with out a small objection and when I did leave my heart was mildly broken.

Niece darling if you are reading this, I would never allow someone to talk to you like this. I stuck up for you before walking out. I love you. You are doing great. Our family is tight knit and when the going gets tough we take care of each other, we always have. A Saturday morning with a house full of kids is one of the most delightful things in the world, whether it was you and your friends as teenagers or our kids playing together.

I REFUSE to be one of those "church ladies" who sits on her bible fueled throne of judgement. It's not my job.

My job is to LOVE.

Today I am grateful for these precious even if crazy days with a houseful. I am grateful my daughter is learning what its like to live with family just like I always did. I feel like I am making up for lost time with these kiddos. I am grateful for all the love that has moved in me as a result of my faith.

So culture of ours, stop type casting us as Saints and Sinners.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Elsa's Shoes

Am I really posting a craft post? Just one. 

My little lady is five and in the full throws of Frozen Fever and like most little lady's she is head over heals for Elsa. Do not even get me started on how Anna is clearly the more awesome sister! Thus far the little lady has totally rejected princesses, when we walk into the Disney Store and they welcome her with, "Hi Princess!" she retorts every single time with, "I am not a princess!" We watch and sing a lot of Frozen. Halloween is fast approaching and I am pretty sure we will see a billion little Elsas and maybe even some Annas and Olafs. Little lady has been asking to be a black cat since we finished trick or treating in her orange and black unicorn costume last year. This has not changed but one day with big eyes (if you know her I know you are thinking, they get bigger?) she asked for an Elsa costume, it was just after her birthday and I said maybe for Christmas.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not a Disney hater, even though they do exist. I actually really like Disney, I find Disney World when it's not crowded to be a great experience in imagination and well executed detail. OK and maybe reliving a little childhood wonder. Their children's costumes usually have exquisite details, that make even me the "never pay full price" shopper, think they could be worth the splurge. I really like detail when well done, it will always catch my attention and I appreciate it. It is perhaps the inner perfectionist in me. Now back to Elsa and her shoes. I knew that the Elsa costume is a hot item and hard to find right now because a friend was looking everywhere for a well made and accurate one for Halloween. I thought I better get ahead of the game on this one. I found a nice one on Etsy for less than the Disney Store costume, and it would be hand made. I ordered it, it's scheduled to be here this week, I can't wait to see it.

In the mean time, little lady, is as detail oriented as her mom and has been talking about how she wants Elsa's shoes and tiara. Today she even mentioned the wig. Friday the Disney Store email came out that they had a new expanded Frozen store. I went on ready to order the tiara and shoes but with the shipping those two were going to cost more than the costume! I decided to wait it out, I found a tiara that was more like the one in the movie and less expensive on ebay. I knew the stores would get the items in today, I figured it would be crowded but it was worth a shot after all it was just the shoes. I walk into the mall as they were opening, jaw drops, a black Friday like line with the employees doing the whole lets start the magic shtick, one little girl in her Elsa dress first in line. Lots of irritated looking parents with out their kids, doing probably exactly what I was there to do, tuck away a little Elsa long before the holiday rush.

I stood there a little stunned, I had to decide wait in line here and then to pay, if they had the shoes by the time I got in the store. I thought for a moment, these shoes are for dress up, she will out grow them or Elsa long before she wears them out. She loves wearing my shoes. I was not waiting in line to pay $15 for a pair of dress up shoes. I stood there and hatched a plan, MAKE SOME! That is always my plan. They won't be that jelly plastic, high heeled, or light up but really Elsa wouldn't have wanted the shoes every other ice queen was wearing anyway, her whole character is about breaking the mold.

I had just been in Kohl's where I saw some sandals on clearance, I would need blue or white. I had some left over blue tulle from the rainbow unicorn birthday that wasn't in storage. Hmmm...

Off I went to Kohl's where I was able to find two pairs of white sandals on clearance for $3.50 a pair plus I had a coupon. $6= two pairs of shoes. I could now make them for my niece who also loves Elsa. A stop at Michael's to explore, another coupon, $5 in supplies and 40 minutes later I was on my way home.

I went into "my secret workshop"


After just 40 minutes.
So there you have it for $11 I have two pairs of Elsa's shoes for my little loves this Christmas. Some of the pros I see of making them myself, aside from saving money. They are mostly tied together so when the girls out grow Elsa they will have usable flip flops. They are unique. They have real soles and the are flat, meaning they won't bust their faces when running around in them. They are a little big so they have room to grow.I have three months to fuss with them and get them just so.

I say this is an all around win. Come back December 26 for pics of them being worn.

Today I am grateful for this, all this, that is part of my life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bubble Wrap, Disappointment, Validation, Energy, and Family as Community

So on Friday L got into the van after school asking for medicine for her pinky because she fell and hurt it on the playground. I thought it odd that her teachers didn't tell me because they always do when she has an above average tumble which let's be honest is about once a week. When we got home I looked at it, it was sore, pink, and swollen. I didn't make much of it. She asked for some neosporin spray and a bandaid. Earlier in the week a bandaid fixed a head ache so I obliged and she went off playing, later we had another family over for dinner and the kids played hard. When the bandaid fell off that evening I knew it wasn't good, it was swollen and purple. She wasn't complaining she wanted another bandaid which I gave her and I decided to look at it in the morning. One look in the morning I knew it was broken. We started our first Saturday with out an agenda in 3 years with a trip to urgent care. It went well considering how urgent care can be, it was fractured at a knuckle, they gave us an over sized splint and told us to see a surgeon, I asked to see the one who worked on L's arm, and we went on our way. I was only mildly able to control my panic at the word surgeon. I was doing great with all this, it wasn't nearly as traumatic as the broken arm, then I heard surgeon and my imagination ran wild with nightmare like scenarios. Later that day I had Paul run back and get the xrays on a CD for me so I could look at them. I looked and said I have no idea what I am looking at but I a pretty sure we will be ok with out surgery. I tried to calm my fears which for the most part worked, until she got that splint caught between her bed and the wall Sunday night and she screamed in pain, the first time she cried through this whole ordeal.

Monday morning I was up early and called the surgeon's office first thing, in all the panic packing we did last month I left her card out on the bulletin board, perhaps it was my mother's intuition. Speaking of earlier in the week before someone had spoken about their child breaking their arm twice, I thought no that can't happen, something in me knew this was coming. They can't see her until Thursday it ends up getting bumped to Wednesday, we get a better plan of care until then. Life moves on even though I am a little annoyed that they can't see her sooner. It's hard to keep her still and visions of re-injury danced in my head. I think if I could wrap her in like 10 layers of bubble wrap everyday I might have less anxiety. I don't "do" waiting well (I swear this is a product of my childhood spending torturous amounts of time in doctor waiting rooms). I tell Paul that I am going to have a melt down about this eventually he should be prepared.

I pick her up from school Monday afternoon with little incident other than the next turn life on it's head announcement from the head of school. You need a little back story first, we did not know what we were doing come the beginning of this school year even two days before it started. Originally we thought it likely that I would have a position locally full time. We had to make decisions before that so we re-enrolled her in her preschool for Kindergarten with two ideas brewing, one being that I would be working and paying tuition wouldn't be so cumbersome. The second idea was that we would be moving during the first part of the school year so we would keep her in her school to avoid 2 new schools in a matter of months. Now bear with me because I know these next few lines are going to be so jam packed full of my privilege it almost makes ME want to puke, I just need you to hear that I know there is a level of great privilege in being able to have to forth coming break down. An added layer of protection here was we also enrolled her in public school to hold a space for her at the neighborhood school because of how this system works they can be bussed nearly an hour across town. We had a solid three fold plan until it all fell apart.The job I though I would have fell through in May.  Early in August we asked for a housing extension or some other housing option on campus because we didn't know where we were going next. There were no viable options on campus so we had to be out at the end of the month. We started panic packing and making decisions quickly. School was starting in just 2 weeks.

Another complication was that Paul had lost his job back in February and we had to spend a while living off our savings, our savings we had set aside for these very days. We didn't have deposit money for a new place and we couldn't sign a lease because we could be moving at any time. All that to say we decided to home school until we settled down. We pulled her out of the public schools, loosing her spot close by, we made arrangements to go say good bye to her teachers. At the last minute our housing was extended through May things settled down. She ended up spending the day and staying at her school for the next 6 weeks. We were scrapping up the tuition, selling things to get it covered for September because an hour a day on the bus is just too much at five. October was creeping up on us and we had already started to scramble to find tuition when the decision was made for us, they had an application for her spot and unless we could commit to the whole year her spot would be given up and by the way I need to know what you are doing by tomorrow.

Since we didn't have the money at that moment to pay for October and since we have no idea when or where we are moving, we made the heart wrenching decision to pull her out and start home school. I did OK with this until she was in bed and I went to send the email saying September 30 would be her last day. I hit send and burst into hard sobs, I am talking hard uncontrollable gasping for breath sobs. I just took away the last stable thing she had in this time of transition, she came home from 7 weeks away with Grandma, to packing and moving all her stuff to storage, she has no extra curricular activities because we can't commit to a full year of anything. This felt like a hard punch in the gut, I felt like a total failure at being a parent because I couldn't provide her with that one (expensive) stability. A conversation with a trusted friend the next day made me feel mildly better.

Wednesday was doctor day, I had a lot of what I guess you could call nervous energy around this appointment, like the kind when you can't sit still. Getting her there was a fiasco but there we were, it was broken, it did not need surgery, just an over sized cast. I said to the doctor, I felt like this one was much less traumatic as her parent. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "It's much less traumatic for me as her surgeon." I wanted to jump out of my chair and hug her and cry all at once! I doubt she knew it but she provided SO MUCH validation for me in that moment. L's arm was broken badly, she could have been facing a life time with a deformed arm or limited range of motion. As a person whose worst nightmare is children's hospitals, our two days there were torturous. However people sometimes don't understand that and I heard a lot of it's just a broken arm it will heal and life will go on. I knew in that moment that my mild post broken arm PTSD was not a deficiency in my ability to cope, it was real. It was hard even for an accomplished surgeon to fix, someone who sees it all, found it traumatic too. So thank you Dr B for that amazing affirmation. This whole pinky thing has been much easier to handle at least thus far, much more like"just" a broken bone that will heal.

Now we went home and I had all this energy still, a weird kind of energy, not so much nervous but like I could not sit still. I hadn't had caffeine since a diet coke at lunch. The best way I can explain it is when you haven't seen someone you love for a long time and they are coming that day by car or by plane and you just can't wait for them to get there. Or when you have the house all set up for a party and you are just waiting for guests to arrive. Or when you get a call that a dear one is going to the hospital to have a baby and you pace until you get the "Its a Baby" call. I can remember knowing my grandparents were coming back from FL and this is how I would feel. Or when my sister in law went to have my niece. I laughed a little because even in her old age my grandmother would be excited like this for our arrival to her place in FL, pacing with snacks set out. Possibly genetic? However, I am not expecting anyone, so I don't know what to do with all this twitchy energy.

Thinking about my Grammy made me think about how I grew up. In times of great transition I think we all reflect on life and so there I was reflecting on life. I grew up with a ton of family around. Holidays were insane with excitement and company, random school days coming home and seeing the car of a relative out front would always get me running. We had a variety of people live in our home from cousins, to grandparents, to friends, for a variety of lengths of time. We also had our own instant community because if there was an emergency one phone call would find someone to pick up the slack. I miss this a lot. All my childhood birthdays were spent with my cousins not random people from my class, it was a treat when I could invite two friends. Some days I mourn that L won't know this kind of upbringing, maybe I cling to these good parts of childhood extra hard because of all the crappy sitting in waiting rooms parts. She doesn't know what it's like to have a crazy Christmas Eve with a sugar rush and her cousins and grandma's baked ravioli, meat pie, and baked beans. She won't know what it is like to sit in a circle with her cousins and open one gift at a time and being as excited to see what her cousins or siblings got. There is something to be said about having extended family close by or in the same house.

She will have many experiences I didn't have like living in lots of states and traveling more. At five she has me beat in number of states lived in clear up until I turned 30 when I hit 3 states. She will learn to know her neighbors. She will have wonderful experiences she will cherish. Some days I just wish I could share some of the things I cherished with her. Certainly all this family as community had some downsides too, like no privacy ever.

This has been long and meandering if you have stuck it out this long thank you, its a little more raw then my typical posts. I don't want to leave out the gratitude, today I am grateful for no surgery, for validation, for family, and the broken bone that means my child is healthy and energetic. I spent a lot of time in children's hospitals, I know these struggles could be much more difficult, much more life or death.

Blessings on you!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Surving the 5 year old Check Up

So I should be doing anything but blogging right now, I have a 3/4 packed apartment that needs to be organized now that we aren't going to finish moving just yet. I should be organizing or working on my writing for practicum but this was a big deal. Also I haven't had a break in over a year and after another whirlwind interviewing/discerning weekend I need a little down time. Besides if I wasn't writing right now I would be sitting her day dreaming about going home and to the beach for the weekend.

A few weeks ago we hit that whole turning 5 starting kindergarten milestone. Yesterday we had the check up that goes with it. Now if you have kids I know what you might be thinking, 4 is the hard one, 5 is a piece of cake. True, unless of course you have watched it all go wrong at 5 before.If you don't know me well enough to know my story let me catch you up. When I turned five I went from average kid to over sized kid, it was when kids started asking me things like, "Do you bounce?" on the play ground. It was nearly 20 years before I discovered a hormone problem that messes with how I process food, I work hard now at having a good relationship with food, yet I am still over sized. When my favorite youngest brother was five he woke up with a swollen gland one day.
Let me tell you how much my child is like my brother... their personalities are very similar. When said younger brother would upset me he would do things like eat shaving cream to make me laugh. When said child gets in trouble she puts on funny costumes to make me laugh. It makes me a firm believer in nature. Some days she says things that I am sure he has telepathically put in her head, her fearlessness and so on. It's all just like him.
The swollen glad didn't respond to the first antibiotic or the second but it did result in a trip to a specialist to reveal it was actually a freaking tumor which by the time surgery happened was the size of a softball and limiting range of motion in the neck. Years of hellish treatment followed and eventually the cancer was gone, he grew up to be a typical thorn in my side little brother clear through our young adult hood. I loved almost  every minute of it, I can't remember a moment from diagnosis on when I wasn't grateful for the very breath he breathes.

This summer I did Clinical Pastoral Education where we had to talk about what we brought into patient rooms with us. When the entirety of your childhood trauma revolves around hospitals and illness and death (Said brother wasn't the only sick one) it gives you PLENTY of fodder for conversation. One of the things I discussed was my anxiety around said kiddo turning five. One of the great insights I received was that to continue to no freak my kid out and stay sane I needed to find ways to express my anxiety. That's where you all come in, thanks for not charging me!

That all being said every time the kid so much as sneezes there is a little voice in the back of my head that screams "OH GOD THIS IS IT!" I have to shut her up and fast. When the kiddo turned one and her head jumped into the 120th percentile in circumference and we had to make a trip to the pediatric neurologist while dad was on a business trip I had to bring my mother with me who of course was probably as tense and about to barf as I was because said brother is her kid after all. Turns out after measuring my head the doctor had a good conclusion, genetics, I gave her my big head. We monitored it for awhile but she has grown into that noggin.

The four year old check up was 4 freaking booster shots and made me want to die but my anxiety before hand wasn't too bad. There is always a little but it wasn't too bad. Yesterday though even though she appears to be perfectly healthy I was a mess. The only concerns we had were minor, a spot that mysteriously appeared above her lip this summer, her flat feet, some digestive issues. Turns out the little spot on her lip is blood vessel related and will eventually disappear. Her feet are fine. We are working on her holding her potty needs too long. The kid got the all clear, healthy height and weight, good eyes and ears and all that jazz.

The most uncomfortable part of the whole thing was my remembering at the last minute at the 3 year old check up they tested her blood sugar and I had promised no needles. I kept thinking crap I am going to have to fight a nurse... not so we were good. Then there was how she kept telling them awkwardly that she dressed herself that morning with mommy's help just a little on the shirt. Earlier, she refused to dress herself, which I am sure is part of her adjusting back to life with us after a summer with grandma. I told her five year olds dress themselves and when the doctor asked if she could dress herself I would have to say no so she needed to just get dressed so we didn't have the doctor worried. Well I guess that stuck with her, not the best parenting moment I guess but it was better than screaming at her.

Today I am grateful for the all clear. I can now hold my breath until we hit six and then falsely believe we are safe. If I get all hyped up over ear infections, colds, or a stomach flu this year... have a little grace for me, ok?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unexpected Kindergartener

There is a lot going on in our lives right now and I have debated the wisdom of writing about it in such a public forum, especially as I seek a call. However, even Pastors face challenges and I think there is something to be said about transparency.

Yesterday was supposed to be my daughter's first day of kindergarten. We are in this great transition right now and we have to kind of plan life one day or month at a time. Last spring we decided to keep her in her school to provide continuity because we anticipated moving before the year's end, something we wanted to make as easy as possible for her. Then two weeks ago all of our well meaning planning got turned on it's head when we found the end of our lease fast approaching with no option to renew (that's life in student housing). The complication here is that I am actively call searching which means I cannot commit to a new lease, I have to find somewhere month to month. Add to that some travel this weekend for a potential opportunity and I won't know what we need until we return from our trip. So we have had to make a lot of decisions quickly, first we rented a large storage unit and we have been slowly packing and putting all our stuff into storage. Then we had to make a decision about school and decided to keep her home with me and do a form of home school until we found where we would land. That brings us to yesterday when I was taking my daughter to her school (she did two years of preschool there) to have lunch with her friends from last year and her teachers. All morning she was asking if it was time yet and begging to go to school. Then we got there and she wanted to be dropped off. We had already paid for this month so she could stay. I ended up dropping her off half way through her first day of kindergarten after talking to her teachers and the staff. She wants to go to school and not stay home, we believe in child led learning, so we are letting her spend the next two weeks in school. I left with unexpected time on my hands and what I call an accidental kindergartener.

Jump to today, when I was again with unexpected time on my hands, and by some small miracle my muscle spasms and excruciating back pain shockingly gone.  I had to balance working on packing with rest because I knew if I over did it with the packing that the spasms would return. I spent the morning organizing our moving mess so that there was space to live or at least eat. The friend who helped me survive seminary was here helping me making sure I didn't over do it. I took a break at lunch time and then headed out to purchase more boxes. I was pondering things, like wow I could be three days away from homelessness at this time next week. (We have some contingency plans so not really homeless but with out our own place.) I thought about what God might want me to notice in this. I went into a store I really don't like because I knew where the boxes were and that they would fit into our budget. I had 20 minutes left before school pick up time so I listened to some music in the parking lot and then headed out closer to pick up time. As I was pulling out there was a man sitting in the grass with a card board sign. HOMELESS written across the top with anything will help underneath. I thought to myself I/we am not facing true homelessness. I made eye contact with the man and he waved a very friendly wave, I liked him. I waved back, looked at the clock, looked for change, I had nothing but my debit card. I had ten minutes to get to the school and there was no way I could turn back and get some cash. I was frustrated again, I am never prepared, I have got to find a system that provides me with a way to respond on the fly. Some gift cards or something in my car. This was a healthy dose of perspective, I started thinking about all I have that I could potential sell to help get us through this thing place. I have a lot.

I came home to an email offer of a place to stay rather than our plan to take up residence in an extended stay hotel for a week or two. This generosity, genuine concern, and sense of care made me smile and tear up all at once. It was certainly not expected. Tonight I went to class and received another offer. We have had a few others as well from friends and family near and far. Grace.

When talking about this with one of my friends I was saying you know sometimes we need a sign and we look everywhere and can't find the sign we want. Perhaps this is a sign I didn't want. She responded God just pushed you off the cliff. Yes, yes God did. I hope that God will be there to catch me as I get close to the bottom and there in these offers of hospitality and grace is God reaching out and catching me/us. The hard part as a helper type is to accept help when I need some. I want to be strong and independent and self sufficient. I have to say yes to offers of help not just for my sanity and my humanness but because if I don't I/we won't survive and that is the best lesson in community, perhaps especially Christian community I could ever give.

Today I am grateful for God working through our chosen community to catch us and for the strength to say yes to help.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Love, Hate, and Lessons

One of the awesome things about the privilege of seminary is that I have gotten to know those rare gems of people that are both brilliant and incredibly compassionate. I have great hope that the folks I have encountered here are world changers. Actually I shouldn't just limit it to seminary folks, most folks I have met in Louisville have been the kind of folks that I think are going to change the world. A side effect of this is we tend to think critically about everything. Sometimes I find myself doing this as I put toilet paper in my shopping cart, what is the environment impact, was this made in fair conditions, is there a better choice, if there is can I afford it? If I can find it in the budget to send my child to private school should I? Other children don't get that option, is it ok to use my own privilege like this? Would my money be better spent on working toward change in the public school system, or just feeding people? This thinking sometimes overwhelms me, a lot!

Let's add in all those awesome people that I don't often see in person these days as I have graduated but alas we have social media. Everyone has a cause (this is a good thing), people who think like me (as in all that over thinking) are calling me out on my choices through their shared info graphics, etc. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything left that isn't horrible in the world? It's hard to say all this but it leaves me wondering, how do we draw the line between world changers and bitter persons who enjoy nothing? If we believe, as I do, that life is a gift meant to be cherished, are we getting it right if we never get an ounce of pleasure out of it. If we claim that God created us, every part of us, then wasn't our sense of pleasure a gift from God?

A few months back I was doing that whole awkward parent hovering at a kid's party thing. We made it a point to take our little lady to these parties even though they are torturous for our  introverted selves. Munching on party snacks because there is nothing else to do, awkwardly standing in the corner trying to balance hovering and normal. (We were well on our way into a phase of less hovering when our daughter broke her arm, I am now back to a full time hoverer who tries to hide it.) Another one of the moms and I started chatting, it was clear pretty quickly that we didn't have much aside from similar aged children in common. So we stumbled along and the topic of the movie Frozen came up. Let me come clean, I really like Disney, it was a source of happiness in my childhood when our family had some dark days. A while back I read a book about how princess culture is hurting our young girls and breathed a sigh of relief when my daughter rejected the whole thing but she was immediately enamored with Elsa. I mean come on kid Anna is so much cooler! I digress!

So here we are having this already awkward conversation when the conversation gets a little harder Frozen is being blasted for what a miserably bad story it is, followed by it's horrible I can't even go see it. WAIT you haven't seen it? Then how do you know? I just nod along. There were some good points here, the boy tricks a girl to make her fall in love, which yes is true but in the end the sisters learn that their love as sisters has value. Also, we don't condone physical violence in our home, but Anna decks that dude right in the face and he goes all man over board into the icy waters below and that was kind of awesome. I got nothing on that locking Elsa in her room bit, Elsa is going to need some serious therapy. All this to make a point there were two totally different views here and I think both of them were valid and OK. I have been thinking about this though, for a while now. There is a choice that happens every time we interpret something which is pretty much nonstop for us humans, we are constantly interpreting through all five senses. I noticed my choice here, it had been to see the good parts of the storyline even though there were bad parts. Should I only expose my child to stories that are completely and 100 % happy? NO! NO! NO! I will not because here's the deal, life is NOT all happy. The truth of the matter is there are people out there that will try to trick people or at least not be honest about who they are or what their intentions are, so that they can get what they want. Sure it might be a traumatic story line for some, but it's life for others now isn't it? Even Elsa being locked in her room could be used as a commentary to teach about alot of the miserable things in this world.

I have to be intentional to choose carefully how I see (interpret) things. I am trying to choose to see the lesson or the love rather than the hate. It's hard to see the hate and hate isn't necessary for a good lesson on anything in life. We are so caught up in being right that we are painfully divided. Politics, religious beliefs, and don't even get me started on motherhood (I could say parent hood but mom's are so dang catty sometimes and I have never heard dads get into heated debates about breast feeding and day care). I think part of this reason is that we are ALL terribly insecure in what it means to be human and alive and the meaning of it all, especially when it seems like people die in senseless conflicts and from disease and disasters... every. single. day.

So here is where I am at, eggs are torture, my peanut butter is killing apes, my toilet paper is causing massive deforestation of precious rain forests, my clothes have likely been sewn together by children forced into slave labor, my car is killing the world and supporting big oil, the environment is in crisis and we need to do something, the very keys I am typing on could have been assembled in some horrific prison camp in China, both honey and avocados are nearing extinction, riots because of and followed by police brutality, wars between Israel and Palestine, terrorist groups, someone is trying to use their morals to oppress _______ (insert group of people there). You get the point it is easy to be overwhelmed with just this short list. Am I suggesting that we just turn a blind eye? No! Absolutely not! However if we consume our lives with worry and anger we miss the gift of our very lives. How do we balance our call to LOVE people and social justice with actually enjoying the gift of our lives? I am not sure I have to full answer but choosing to see the love, the places we can learn from the hurt in the world. Let us not be consumed by HATE because when we fight hate it is easy to do so with hatred in the opposite direction. Let us continue to think critically about what we do but let us not let life pass us by with out any enjoyment at all. Let us continue to love. Let us continue to learn.

Let us be honest...
Lest you think I am preaching at you from my soap box and just merely pointing a finger... I did the very thing I am writing about this morning. I opened facebook, there at the top of my news feed was a picture of two of my former students (whom I miss very much) with their dads at a gender specific parent event. I "liked" these photos with out hesitation. Then I thought to myself I always avoid these kinds of events because they leave hurting kids out, the ones whose dads are sick, in prison, dead, or the ones who have two moms etc. I think like this because I was that kid, the one whose dad was sick. I spent most of my life in relationships that provide me with a "replace a dad". You know what though I stopped myself, this picture wasn't about me at all or as much as it pains me the hurting kids who could have possibly been left out. It was about two boys beaming with pride because they got to be with their dads. I am so very grateful to see dads being involved in their kid's lives as I would be with any parent. Really if anything we need more of those "replace a dad (parent)" characters to step up so no kid is left out.

All that to say it's hard work to think like this but I don't have a choice, if I didn't I would crawl into the bed and put the covers over my head and never get back out. And don't you worry there are a ton of situations where I can never find the Love, the Good, the lesson.

So... let us continue to change the world.

So by now everyone on social media has seen or heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge. Basically you get the challenge and you have 24 hours to either donate $100 or $10 and post a video of yourself getting doused with a bucket full of ice water. I saw this back in the spring as church mission trip fund raiser. Now I find myself wondering how many times I am going to be asked to dump ice water on myself. It was maybe five days into the challenge when I saw the first anti ice bucket meme, looks like a missionary in Africa and the graphic is something along the lines of "You mean people are wasting perfectly good clean water to not donate to charity."  First in theory people should be donating either way which seems evident by the numbers reported because millions have been raised. Here's the thing about clean water in the US vs. places where there isn't easy access to clean water, we can't get it there. I know this because I tried! six years ago I found myself in East Africa with a group of people had very little access to clean water. When I came home during a brutal heat wave and I saw all the ways people use water that seem wasteful and cried my eyes own. It was my own use of water that brought me to that point as I was power washing deck furniture. It seems absolutely ridiculous that I would use perfectly clean water to spray through a high powered hose to get dirt off some chairs. So I stood there power washer nozzle in hand tears streaming down my face. The truth hit me then by circumstance of birth I live in a place where I can have a deck, chairs, and what most days seems like unlimited access to clean water. I can raise money for wells but I can't ship water, I can't get my clean water halfway around the world with out spending enough money to have built a well. Here's the thing if you have ever swam in a pool, went to a water or spray park, watered your flowers, washed your car, taken a long HOT shower... you have participated in wasting perfectly good water. I don't know how I made it a whole week with out being challenged but today it came I was challenged by my niece and so as I type this I have a large drink cooler outside filling with rain water. I will likely buy some ice to put in there because I have a microscopic  fridge. Money I could use to for better things or even put into my donation. Wait I know what you are thinking, the ice isn't rain water, nope it's not but have you ever bought some ice to fill a cooler to say I don't know keep your beer cold? I guess you wasted some water then too, unless you put the ice in your beer. And you never know maybe this research will lead to a cure or prevention and then the person who will find a way to provide clean drinking water to all people won't be taken out by it. It's a long shot but hey... any thing is possible.