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.