Saturday, December 12, 2015

"I don't have a dad, just a mom."

Fridays are my Sabbath Day. I am off and unless there is a serious emergency, the day is mine. Of course this time of year that gets difficult and I have been terrible at self care until yesterday. I was a total lump on a log until I went over to the school to volunteer in my daughter's kindergarten class. That may seem like work to some but I think it is one of the best Sabbath practices. I get to be in the school, the class, and with L. Of course when I go there, a public school, I ditch as much of the pastor role as I possibly can. However my brain doesn't stop thinking in pastoral mode most of the time.

I sat down at the table and started the task at hand, decorating bags for gifts the students made for their parents. So the teacher wrote down a few things they might want to write on the bag and off we went. She also explained some may say I only live with my mom or dad. Just tell them to write mom or dad then. It took approximately four minutes with the first round of students before I saw a sad little face that said to me, "I don't have a dad, just a mom". Now I don't know this little one's story and it is not my place to ask. A million things ran through my head. As the other students talked about how they have a mom and a dad. My heart sinking because my dad wasn't around much because he was sick and I can remember how much those moments can hurt. What can I say, what can I say, I can't ignore those sad eyes. Earlier this week we got an email about a father daughter dance that also made my heart break a little. So we can say I am a little sensitive in this area. As a pastor, (other pastors does this happen to you?) I wanted to respond with compassion. I didn't just want to pretend like they didn't say it. 

I impulsively said the thing that made the most sense, "I don't have a dad either, just a mom." There was a smile and we moved on. The reasons me and this little one don't have a dad may be completely different, mine died, I have no idea what is up with theirs. Luckily there were no more questions about my dad because telling them he died might be awful for an age group where death is hard to understand. We could argue that's all ages I suppose.

It is my hope that being an adult without a dad normalized it for this little friend at least for now. My little friend, chances of you ever reading this are very slim, in a year's time you will likely forget L's mom coming to school. If I could tell you anything though, I would tell you I know not having your dad around well just plain sucks, a lot. I know people will say things that hurt. I hope you know for whatever reason your dad isn't around it is not your fault. My friend, you are going to be OK.

I totally get that the kid is probably long past this moment and that a lot of what I wrote here is more about me than this kiddo. I just know it is a day later and still running around inside my head.

Today I am grateful that I found some words to acknowledge a powerful statement from a small voice. I hope that they helped. May we each see every opportunity to show compassion and love.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fertility, Hope, and Grief

For many people trying to have a baby is this very exiting event filled with hope and wonder. Early on that is how it was for me, exciting, dreaming of our family, wondering what life would bring. It is no secret at this point it took us a while to start our family. Not so little anymore L, took several months of "getting it on" on a strict every other day schedule. Eventually it worked, we made it through with a healthy baby. The reason it took this schedule is because I have Poly-cystic Ovaries, that's right many little cysts all over those little organs because my eggs start growing, they don't finish, and then they form cysts instead of dissolving as they should. We knew this just a few months after we were married because a problem of a feminine sort had come up and I landed in the doctor's office begging for help.  Having babies would be hard but not totally impossible. We prayed and prayed not just for a baby but to understand God's will and timing and not ours. We accepted that our family may start in a variety of ways. We also decided a ton of intervention was not a route we wanted to go. Five years later we were holding baby L. 

That baby just turned six over the summer. She has started asking for a sister. In all honesty we haven't really prevented conception since she was born. We have even gone through periods of trying the "schedule" which is so much more difficult when there is already a kid in the house. Life is settling and I am not getting any younger, I have about a half of a decade before I am pretty sure this baby making shop will close. After spending six months on the job here, I went to a new doctor because moving makes us do that, and had a very frank conversation about wanting more children. After agreeing we weren't getting any younger we are trying the first line of intervention. A medication that is not hormone based but in theory can help level mine out, allowing an egg to mature. This is also a medication I have taken before to help with weight loss because it's all related to my ovaries, their sort of eggs, and hormone levels. The last time I took it I was so sick I had to stop. This time I am struggling with crazy hormone fluxes that have me shivering and sweating, dragging energy levels and just over all feeling crummy but trust me when I say this feels doable.

I have been really quiet about this because it feels so personal and posting it all over the internet may not help my negotiating a better maternity leave package cause. We are two months in on medication and a modified schedule. Many days I feel greedy because I have my one and I would be lying if I said there weren't days when I prayed please God just one. I feel bad because I have one and I know so many women who are struggling to have "just one" like me.

I know it takes time and two months isn't a whole lot of time. Yet every month a little more hope dies and a little more grief comes. So this week when Aunt Flow arrived early it took me to my emotional knees with grief and longing and a little self pity. Struggling with fertility means sometimes just common human experiences hurt, there are days when I will be out and encounter no less than 10 very pregnant women... or when I open social media and see the announcements or new baby pictures... or when I shop for a baby shower gift. The emotions come flying at me and they are diverse from jealousy, to anger, to sadness.

Yesterday, it wasn't social media, pregnant women, or newborns that got me. Nope it was a little cake plate in a party store with a little baby bee buzzing on it as I walked through the baby shower section to look for crowns for our Magi at Christmas. If no one would have seen me I might have just crumpled onto the floor and cried holding cake plates right there in the store. The grief was raw and real, everyday it feels like the chances of growing our family biologically are slipping away, and I am sad because I wasn't done yet. Even though we will very likely adopt in the future, even if we have more biological children, I can't help but feel this overwhelming sense that my body has failed me. Sometimes it is like I failed my body. None of it is rational. It just happens.

I think in that moment something pivotal happened. I started letting go of the dream of another pregnancy. The grief is tremendous. Almost unbearable this time of year, Christmas always makes me long to hold another miracle baby. As I read the familiar story this week and chose music for Advent I felt that familiar twinge of hope and wonder. I was reminded of the Christmas when only Paul and I knew L was on the inside, how beautiful and amazing it was. I longed for it to be true again and grieved that it wasn't.

The point of this writing is mostly catharsis I suppose. To just name all that I am feeling. If you are the praying kind we wouldn't mind a few, if you are the vibes into the universe kind we take those too. If you are one of my sisters that deal with this struggle to conceive and carry a baby, know that I am praying for you.

Amidst all this deep grief there is just the tiniest twinge of hope left and for that I am grateful, even if it makes it that much harder.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Quiet

There is a large part of Christian spirituality or practice or religion that deals with the quiet. This manifests it self in many ways, contemplative prayer, silent meditation, silence in worship. One of the things I wrestle with regularly is maintaining my own regular spiritual practice. My mentor/friend/fellow sojourner (one of those relationships that defies definition) is huge on spending time in and with the quiet. I have ALWAYS for as long as I can remember resisted this idea. First off I am simply too busy to be quiet. Secondly do you know what kind of terrifying crap comes up in my head in the quiet? It's awful from what could go wrong, to my deepest fears, my biggest regrets, the baggage I carry from growing up, and more. Who would willingly want to go there? NOT ME! I had tried silent meditation and can I tell you what always happens... a long to do list that I will forget the minute I leave my quiet space. Or I fall asleep. I would get so frustrated and then I would judge myself. Then I would be breaking one of he cardinal rules of this type of meditation, do not judge your thoughts. I tried and I tried and I gave up. I was too darn busy anyway, who has that kind of time when the to do list is as long as my arm?

I don't know if it is the demands of ministry or that later this month I will reach yet another half decade in the age department but I find that it is getting easier to enter the silence. It isn't lost on me that it could merely be living in South Dakota because while I am in a city I don't have to go far to leave the sounds of human life behind.  I have found in the past month or so that I am actually TOO BUSY TO NOT ENTER THE SILENCE! It is totally and completely counter intuitive for me but it is true. When my mentor from the relationship that can't be defined reads this he will likely smile to himself. The silence though it is like embracing the mystery and the truth all at once. Perhaps because those two things are so wrapped up together we can never even hope to separate them into neat little piles. In that space I can encounter God in new ways. I can encounter my own truth in new ways. I can accept the mysteries of faith and life as just that. I can accept truth can be found in mysteries with no ending. Entering into the silence these days means I have fuel to face the rest of my day that feels insane and choppy and dislocated.

My quiet time as of late consists of a few things, writing (because it is like air) for non work purposes for at least ten minutes, praying a psalm, writing prayers, reading, and of course finally or sometimes first silent meditation. It isn't always pretty. It isn't always perfect (hard for me to accept). Yet it always is something. Even when it feels rushed it has value. It still is unsettling at times but it also helps me to accept my own imperfection, my own humanity, and extend for just a moment the grace I can easily extend to another to myself.

This practice has also opened me up in new ways. I heard this week affirming words from a friend and heard in them truth rather than playing it off as "being nice". I have been able to tap deeper into my creativity which at times it is like trying to get the last drop of water from a dry well. Lately though poetry has been just flowing out of me and other forms of creative writing. I have not become an excellent or profound poet, heck I haven't even really shared it but none the less, the poetry has emerged again. Short stories are unfolding. Truths are being spoken and heard.

When I take those moments out of the break neck pace of the day I am the better for it. It allows my soul to dance a bit with the divine and that is life giving. It is what I am doing in this very moment, writing instead of working on the newsletter lay out because I know once I hit publish my focus will be better. I will be centered.

I am finally grateful for the quiet, for the silence.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another First: Study Leave

This life as a newly ordained pastor is bringing me so many firsts. This week I took my first study leave, two weeks a year I get to leave my pastoral duties and go away and learn, study, refresh. I started the week in the Black Hills of South Dakota at a camp on a pastor's retreat. It was beautifully set up so that we had real, practical learning and plenty of rest. The moments that stand out for me are around our evening campfires, as I got to be real on a level I haven't been able to be in a long time. I try to be my authentic self all the time but as a pastor in a well connected town, I rarely have anonymity. Yet in being known by many it means that there is a world of expectation and watching like I have never known before. So late at night I found myself feeling right at home with my colleagues able to speak in ways that I haven't for a long time. I needed that, because the world of ministry is lonely. Hopefully I can maintain some of the relationships that are budding so we can support one another in the life that is ministry. Something else worth noting, at the beginning of this event we were asked to talk about a childhood challenge, being new I didn't dive into the whole everyone was sick and many died narrative that is what I see as the greatest challenge of my childhood. Instead I muttered something about being the 3rd child and never really knowing where I fit and feeling like an outsider. I had some great self reflection which might be shareable later, what you need to know about that is my owning my struggle with perfectionism.

I left feeling refreshed and smelling like the woods and campfire. I spent about 18 hours at home before heading out again to Minneapolis for "Why Christian?" A conference set up to explore why women still choose Christianity in a world that is so broken and hurting. In a world that often rejects us and our gifts and thrives on pushing people out rather than welcoming them in. When I first looked at this conference I was excited, I knew the two authors (Rachel Held Evans & Nadia Bolz-Weber) who were pulling it together were in line with my thinking and theology. I was call searching, desperate, and down on all of it. Then the call came and our lives turned upside down one more time and I excitedly registered for the conference. Then it got closer and I was in a different place and I didn't want to go anymore, but I came. I spent Thursday traveling. Friday morning was stressful with a banking situation, rush hour traffic and locating the parking garage but after all that was settled I walked up to the venue trying to be hopeful. People were already all around me gushing and gushing and if you know me you know that nothing will make me not want to like something more than gushing. Then there was this long ass line we had to stand in to register and my inner cynic and skeptic came out in huge force, like the incredible freaking hulk strong. So I stand there surrounded by gushing women, trying really hard not to roll my eyes, and I start texting, first a picture of the line to my husband, then to my mentor, "Ever ask yourself, 'why am I here?', at a conference?"  Full on what the heck mode was happening, it was getting harder to not roll my eyes. I texted a bit with my mentor and settled on let the spirit move me as it sees fit. After finally showing my photo id with my ticket and walking past a bunch of hired security (apparently there were protesters), I squeeze my larger than small back side into an empty chair in the balcony, it was crowded, I was tired, and I could only hear like every other word. Did I mention I had to wear this red wrist band to identify me as an attendee? My level of irritated and not wanting to be there hit the roof. Did I mention all the pregnant women, look I love a pregnant lady as much as the next girl, but I am six years in to trying to have a second child, and had a big disappointment this week. The pad in my underwear stung as I was reminded of all the ways my body has betrayed me. I was focusing on all the negative. I made it through lunch and a break out session before bailing for the night. The speakers were good but I felt like I was hearing the same stuff again. I picked up a PhD packet from a school and headed out.

Let me tell you how much of my own "stuff" I brought to the table, I have been for years as a woman in ministry been trying to find my place, my people. While all these women were lovely and had powerful stories, I still didn't fit. So the Women of Faith/ Beth Moore crowd are not my place and now I have found myself amid the cool kids, Good Lord that isn't my place either. Over the summer I have been working "finding my preaching voice" which really means style because I feel fairly confident in the gospel of love I am called to preach. I have moved all over the sanctuary, I have taken risks, tried different styles, I am getting there. There is also my own reality that the type of ministry I do is not long for this world, it is very likely in the future that I will need to be a "tent maker" (someone who has a part time job and does ministry part time). I haven't been doing nearly enough non-sermon writing, but the goal is to eventually maybe perhaps join the voices that get paid peanuts to write.

Let's just be honest for a minute here, I cannot pull off blue hair, or pink hair, or rainbow hair. While my hair is gray, I spend time and money covering it up with a nice chestnut brown, it isn't spiked or half shaved, or in some sort of amazing just got out of bed looking coif. I have owned one pair of glasses that could have classified as trendy or a statement piece (if I find a pair of cat eyed glasses watch out world). Bold lipstick, dresses, heals, not my thing. Dread locks not my thing. I am a jeans and t shirt girl, or hoodie if it is chilly. In the world of finding your voice this matters because it affects your audience. Let me say that there is not a thing wrong with blue hair, dread locks, piercings, or any of the other things I mentioned, they just aren't me but sometimes I wish they were.

Day two I was determined to have a better experience, I arrived early so I could find a more comfortable seat, I sat down, took out my prayer journal and I prayed and prayed. Open me up God, let the spirit move. I don't know if praying in a cathedral makes your prayers more powerful (I doubt this) but my prayer was answered almost instantly. From the moment we started singing I felt more open, more willing, to discover why I was at "Why Christian?".

Then in the row in front of me I watched two older women openly show their affection and love for one another in church. This is not something I have a problem with at all, inclusivity is a nonnegotiable. It dawned on me in that moment that I have a whole other kind of privilege. You see, I have known for a long time that I have privilege because of my white skin, I have found that even though I have been through some tough times and had to work my tail off for an education, I have socioeconomic privilege. In that moment I realized I also have what I will call religious privilege. No one has ever told me I couldn't be who I was in church, no one ever told me Jesus is for everyone but you. That is when I started to realize the power of this event for people who are on the fringes of the church, who have been wounded by the church, oppressed by the church, in the name of Jesus. Yes I am a woman in ministry but no one I ever gave a dam about ever told me I couldn't be. Well except for me and the hyper critical bitch that lives inside my head. So many women were telling the stories of the "no"s they heard and mostly I have heard only "yes"s. OK God you are doing your thing in me, here we go, I am broken open, and some transformation is about to go down in my somewhat jaded heart. I have had this radical religious privilege of being always affirmed by the church, now what?

Of course I was asking a million questions inside my head. They were shifting from "who are my people?" "what is my place?" to bigger questions like "how does my story encounter these stories and move forward?" It's funny earlier in the week I said my struggle was to find my place, I can't believe it came up again at this second conference. Maybe it is the struggle I live in denial of but there is truth, I have always felt like an outsider, just about everywhere. I noticed that all these women in ministry who were sharing stories of pain, grief, healing, and hard questions, had a common thread every single one of them had experienced some type of hurt. Perhaps it is true of all people in ministry, that we have known some type of hurt and found healing, and then couldn't shut up about it. While I have had much privilege my own story is not with out hurt or questions. In these sacred moments I realized my story mattered even if it was different than the ones I was hearing, even if it was less interesting. Even if I never made a theological leap from conservative to progressive. My story matters and it counts. That was the beauty of this event, all stories welcome, all stories matter. My story is a valid and real story of encountering both the divine and hurt. AND... my story, our story, it isn't finished yet. The longing I feel in me is real and valid as I struggle to accept my present and live into the future, which could look like a PhD, writing, preaching, mothering more children.

That was the easy part. There was a lot of talk about bodies over the weekend. I was listening to the last group of women speak when the connections started coming in my head. Why was I fixated on hair and trendy glasses and lipstick? Why was I struggling to find my place, desperate to have one? Why was I struggling with voice? It occurred to me that I have spent my entire life trying to hide this "more to love" sized body. I have tried hard not to call attention to it, to not say look at me. Mostly because of culture valuing only one kind of body, I have the tall, but the thin I have not. But there is also that blasted bitch inside my head who likes to point out every single moment and way I fall short of perfection. Body is a key area for that. If she could have her way, I would just curl up in a ball and die in a puddle of self pity. She tells me sure you have a bunch of degrees, sure you made it through the ordination process, sure you can write, sure you are creative, sure you can occasionally rock being a mom. When you stand up there on Sunday cover up that fat less than perfect mess in those vestments because clearly you haven't tried hard enough. I told you she is a bitch, I wasn't kidding. The good news is it's my head and I think I am ready to send her packing. That voice is not me, my body I have been trying to hide and not call attention to is actually created and love by God. The body I struggle to take care of, the one that has left me feeling barren and broken, the one that challenges me with hormones that don't do what they should, it was and is a creation of God! Now I know that in the grand scheme of things this should have been obvious and maybe more so because my most "successful" ministry was one telling young girls this very thing, with never believing it myself.

It wasn't just the body though in that moment. A connection happened, how can I find my place, discover my preaching voice, with out accepting my less than perfect body? I cannot separate myself from my body, the body that while it has held many disappointments, has also held human life. Maybe I haven't found my voice because I was trying to do it with out all of me. Voice and body as one. Imagine that. Of course all I want to do is write but there is no place for me to do it. I go to break in anticipation of what I know I will love, sharing the Eucharist with all these wonderful and diverse people. I was ready, I knew I might cry.

Then the text is, I am the word made flesh, and Nadia Bolz-Weber starts preaching about the role of the body. Fine God be that way! She starts stringing together the bodies that God loves and here comes voluptuous, followed by the tears just streaming down my face. Yep there it was my answered prayer from the morning, I knew why I was there. Then came the Eucharist, in an Episcopal cathedral where the liturgy is sung. It isn't often in this day and age you get to hear a cathedral filled to capacity with sung corporate liturgy. This is what the building was designed for and I can see why. So I wept and I wept as the spirit blew through me. Then it was time to receive the bread and wine (how I love communion with wine). There stood one of our speakers, a woman who happens to be transgender, looking into my eyes, "The body of Christ broken for you." and she places it in my hands.  In that moment those words, the entire table, took on so much new meaning. I gave up on trying to hide my tears.

I will close with a brief post I made on facebook yesterday...
I have been at Why Christian? The past few days. It's been an interesting experience, all female speakers/preachers, of such diverse and beautiful backgrounds. Straight, gay, tattoos, cardigans, black, white, Korean, Latina, transgendered, mainline, catholic, evangelical... Called.
(I should also add Indian.)

I am just grateful. I found my people... it is all of them

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Nursing Home Visits

Early on in my call to ministry I had 1 million reasons why I could not be a pastor. There were two on the top of that list, speaking in front of people and nursing home visits. I could get up in front of full auditorium and act the part of a character with out a second thought but stand up and share my own thoughts, that was down right terrifying, stand up and lead worship, forget it! Nursing home visits were at the top of the list because while I was growing up my own father was in nursing homes a handful of them, always run by the state because when your dad is the bread winner and comes darn close to dropping dead just before age 40, requiring round the clock nursing home care, it's all that your family can afford. I have since been to some private nursing facilities that are much nicer and lack the over smell of nursing home.

Early on as I discerned the call my own pastor was a great help to me. First getting me up in front of the church to talk, giving my ankle a nudge from behind the pulpit when I got going so fast no one could understand me. Then taking me to serve home bound communion which included nursing homes. I can still remember the first one, a nicer nursing home in our area, but not with out the nursing home signature scent. A mix of ensure and soiled Depends. I made it through the communion choking back the vomit that was rising in the back of my throat. Then it felt as if my throat was closing and I couldn't breathe, I left the room with my pastor and ran for the door. If you know me you know I do not run. I made it to the door opened it and gasped fresh air into my lungs like the cleansing waters of baptism. I nearly hurled in the bushes but I collected myself, assured him I was OK and moved on.

Yet here I am today, a newly ordained pastor, doing a few visits a week. I worked in a hospital all last summer and I made it through. A few weeks ago though one of my parishioners was reaching the end of life on earth which meant I had to go more frequently. It started all creeping then, all the stuff you are sure you have dealt with and processed time and time again but you never really finish processing, kind of like grief. Nursing homes are utterly depressing places, many patients shells of who they used to be, essentially awaiting daily the fate we all face, death. I found myself thinking about how lonely it must be, consoled myself with the thought that maybe when it is my turn we will have facebook and I can make status updates like, "Took the Red Pill." Then I avoided it for a week, I can't avoid it much longer than that because it is my job, it is my call, it is in my ordination and installation promises. I cannot tell my people sorry it carries too much emotional baggage for me, I have to do it.

Most of the time I can do it with out a problem. Today though I walked out of both places I was to visit with communion with out seeing who I went to see both were out of their rooms for some reason. As I walked the halls I started seeing flashes of my life long ago, the smells, the sounds, my dad in his wheel chair crying. The being served peas with a fork while legally blind and having little motor skill left to use. The crying, lets just say back when I first started, I met someone who flashed me back instantly to my dad with his cane and crying. It messed with my head so I called my brother the next day who I knew could commiserate. Today though all the images flooded in and I could see a ticking clock on the wall and the waiting and the emptiness and I was sure it would consume me. I needed air, I got outside and inhaled a nice deep breath of... dumpster stank.

I decided I could leave home bound communion for another day because I can't go back in today. I am sitting here thinking about my life, my experiences, and why this is a trigger. It brings some of the darkest places I know, fear, deep anguish, hate, the deepest wounds in my own life, my own personal brokenness with a band aid torn off. And I am left to just stare at it.

In staring at it I think about why it is so difficult, it is because as a pastor we are often facing the most broken and wounded and dark places with our people. We walk with them in crisis and grief. We get called when the allegations of abuse surface and again when they are proven as truth. We get called to sit with grieving mothers holding their still born children. We get called when someone takes a whole bottle of pills. We get called when the world makes no sense. And we sit there with people in the depths of the brokenness of the world and in the brokenness of our lives and our hearts and our spirits. We sit there and then we try to muster up the courage to walk with people out of the brokenness and into the wholeness only grace can bring.

It is down right terrifying every time because even though we do not talk about it  we get a glimpse of our own brokenness and our wounds every time we encounter them in the other. I am reminded today as I look deep into my own brokenness and wounds and all the negative emotions come flooding out threatening to drown me, to take my breath until I cannot bear it any more... that some thing else has grown from this place. My sense of compassion was birthed caring for my ill father, especially in his last year of life sharing fast food meals with him so he didn't have any more peas with a fork. It hurt like hell to see him like that but I could only think about what he was feeling and my own pain seemed small in comparison. I chose to hurt to ease his hurt, something that was not ever modeled for me. It mirrors ministry a lot although with appropriate boundaries I no longer take on the hurt of others. I have a deep rooted need, desire to bring justice into the world. To fight for it, work toward it, through faith. The roots of that justice are planted deep in the hurt of the situation with my father.

I am reminded again and again of the wholeness promised in Jesus. Of the grace only God can give. Of the Holy healing that is like no other. Where negative experiences fertilize the growth of something new, something better, something just.

I have to choose, will I let the fertilizer remind me of grace and allow me to grow or will I stew in it with all that negativity. Today I choose grace and growth even though I know it is going to hurt like hell. Even though I know what it is like to have the holy light of God burn the scar tissue out of your heart to allow for a healing that brings not only scars but also some thing like peace.

Today I am grateful simply to breath and trust in the promise of grace and growth.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Ministry Gets Scary

Ah Friday... my day off.

Unless of course there is a memorial service, which leads to a meeting, which leads to an emergency phone message. I put in a full day today, I had hoped to take some time earlier in the week but the nature of things was that I wasn't able to, the week before vacation adds tons of work. It has been a long, emotional, busy week. So much so that as the kiddo and I had our weekly Skype date with Grandma I nearly forgot I had a haircut appointment. Had I not opened up my computer and saw the reminder, "haircut in 8 minutes" it would have been all over. I was so exhausted I didn't want to go but I needed to. So I made it there two minutes late because I missed all the lights. I resisted all the upselling that was offered to me and stuck with a haircut. Finally I was in the chair getting my hair washed... seriously one of my favorite things. It was a quick cut and style and I was on my way home. As I was driving I saw a guy who looked terribly out of place looking with a sort of sideways glance a kid he was not with. It made me take note of the whole scene. As I came home to my family who is darn tired of me constantly having one more fire to put out I noticed said guy was walking down our block now, no child near by, phew! Until he started walking straight across the church lawn toward the church. I know there is an elderly lady working on bulletins in the office by herself. I also know she locks her self in... but today that building saw a lot of coming and going with a memorial service, what if a door got left open? My husband was in the garage and as he came back in I asked him to go check on the church and make sure my hard working bulletin making friend was OK. He went over and the guy was gone hadn't bothered her at all. Back to making dinner as planned.

Until.... Ding Dong Ding... our front doorbell rings (there is one on the back door too). I didn't even have to look I knew this guy was at the door. Before I could say anything and much to my horror, my hubs ANSWERS the door. I stay out of sight with my back to the wall listening carefully because one push and this guy could be in our house. Let me also say my kid is totally oblivious playing a game and being all loud.

Guy: "Are you with that church over there?"
Hubs: "Yeah what's going on?" (Dude Hubs sometimes you can tell a little lie just say no and bail.)
Guy: "I need to talk to the pastor." (My name is on the dam sign.)
Hubs: "She's actually finishing a funeral what do you need?" (Thank GOD he's thinking on his feet. The guy probably saw me in my attempt to get out of eye shot. The kid is getting really loud so I leave my post and quietly ask her to quiet down. This guy is not leaving!)
Guy: tells sob story (I know insensitive but there is always a sob story.)
Hubs: "Sorry man I have no cash."

We race around the house making sure everything is locked.

Here's the thing, this guy gave me the creeps long before he showed up at my door. I know I should not judge him by his appearance or his story. I know that if I lived a perfect life of faith I would have at the very least offered him something, even the dignity of speaking to him personally. I was pastored out today, totally out of anything to give, it happens. It is not uncommon for me to run into these sorts of people who are passing through and on hard times. Sometimes they give you the creeps and I believe I have those instincts for a reason.

I am sure that this man was and is a beloved child of God. I am also sure he fell somewhere between desperate and manipulative. You just rang the bell of my house, dude! My place where I live, where my child is playing, my personal space. That is on the very best day unsettling! It is also scary!

This is life though as a smallish town pastor, we are big enough to get all the people passing through via hitch hiking and such. We are in a place geographically where people know that often the pastor lives next door, even though having a manse is becoming less and less common. This church and manse have been here long enough that people know the house belongs to the church. The church that has my name on three signs.

I did not like this at all. Awhile back a guy that works on a Ministry Association with me said oh people will ring your bell, just wait for summer. He wasn't kidding!

There is a violation of boundaries here that I am just plain uncomfortable with. It led us to have some good conversations about when we may not open the door. I feel like all these feelings and the uneasiness hours later is normal. However there is just this one nagging feeling, what if this was Jesus at my door? I don't think Jesus and God our the testing kind because of that whole GRACE thing. BUT... God/Jesus if it was you, I am going to need to ask for an extension to complete the assignment?

Today I am so grateful the hubs saw I couldn't put out another fire and that even though he opened the door he thought on his feet. I pray this man with his huge duffel bag found what he needed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Long?

When I was a child I dutifully read my history books in my well equipped school, in my 98% white community. I naively thought, "How could we as people allowed these atrocities, these horrible acts of violence and oppression to happen?" Then I breathed a naive white privileged sigh of relief because our culture, our society had the come to Jesus moment and  now people of color had equality.

Then I grew up and I made friends and I listened and I got out of my comfort zone. As I grew, it began to hurt as I realized a few things in sheer HORROR:

1. I looked at my white arm and saw for the first time all the white privilege I was born with, that I couldn't just sweep under the rug, I couldn't wish away, that I have undoubtedly benefited from. Why wouldn't I want my privilege? Because I might be an idealist but I dream of a world with true equality and as long as my privilege exists equality does not! Alas I have it, I try to be aware of it, can I use it to bring equality? God I hope so and I pray I have the courage to do so.

2. The Bible which holds so much truth (different from fact) for me, was (and is) used to oppress and manipulate people. It is used to justify absolutely horrendous behavior and unspeakable violence. This book with a message of love one another, be the voice of the voiceless, and a radical lover of people named Jesus...

3. The one that took me the longest to realize and the one I find most horrific: For the most part it is no longer legal to segregate, to lynch, to discriminate, to keep slaves. So there we have it right? Equality. To my horror I began to realize that society had only changed a little, there were legalities that guaranteed equal opportunity, the right to vote and so forth. Yet injustice still lives and breathes in our culture. Only now, legalized racism, is a more covert operation of quiet systematic oppression and injustice that was until recently swept under the rug by those in power.

When I didn't think my heart could break anymore, it of course did. Do you know why? Because I started to see all the places in our country where systematic oppression exists. I worked in a food pantry, where I found that most people had no boot straps to pull on, and that the cycle of poverty is real and there isn't much help to break it. It is wrapped up in access to education, jobs with fair pay, health care, food, shelter, child care.

Then there is the oppression of my sisters and brothers who are LGBTQ who are denied the privilege of marriage, who face work place, and housing discrimination. Then there is the oppression of immigrants who are also my brothers and sisters, HUMAN BEINGS! Then there is the oppression of.... I could go on all day long.

So I ask today, how long? How long are we going to sit on our comfortable couches shaking our heads, hearts breaking, praying, as we watch the evening news like zombies? How many transgendered children have to kill themselves? How many gay men have to be beaten? How many riots does it take? When will we let our breaking hearts lead us?  When we will stop saying "those people" and "they"? When will we recognize all people as human? When will we say there really is an unbalance of power? When are we going to stop waiting for Jesus to to turn the tables of our modern day temples? When will we heed the call, the call to LOVE, the call to be the voice for the voiceless?

Lest you think this is some political rant where I let my liberal flag fly, it is not. Lest you think this is me saying I am "anti-police", it is not.  Lest you think this is me condoning violence, it is not. This is about faith for me and the life I am called to because I follow a radical lover called Jesus. Who taught a way of life that was not about righteousness or rules but about radical world changing love and justice. A message about power and powerlessness that was meant a revolution of the heart not the politics of the Roman empire (or any current empires).

The news isn't good this week as we watch yet another city burn, could the smoke be the cries we refuse to hear? Nepal has seen massive destruction. It is hard to find hope. I see it though in watching first hand the folks going before the supreme court today to fight for equality in marriage. I see it in my fellow clergy as they march for justice and peace.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Crawling Around in the Dark

It was my first semester of seminary, I had moved my family almost 800 miles away from our closest friends and family, our daughter was just barely two, life was complex. It was toward the end of the semester, I was in my Intro to Worship class which had quickly become a favorite because it made sense to my non traditional brain. The professor pushed edgy to the edge. He was passionate and lively and unconventional. I had just recently figured out that he was a large part of why we ended up here. We didn't realize it at the time that he was a professor. When we visited with our one year old she started making noise in chapel and we got tense, he wrapped his arms around all three of us and said, "Her sounds are welcome here." Never have I heard warmer words of welcome in my life, my child was welcome to be a child.

I respected this professor, so one afternoon late in the semester when he had us draw our prayers on colorful paper, I didn't think much of it. Being confronted with pouring my heart out before God was more emotional than I anticipated. You see my life was messy, the move, the stress of seminary, the financial strain of one less than needed income, even our marriage was a mess. Oh did I pray! Then the professor collected our prayers, threw them into the middle of the room, turned out the lights and had us crawl around on the floor looking for our prayers. He started out talking and then yelling.

The whole thing became very emotional for me. I was glad it was dark as I felt the familiar sting in my throat and welling in my eyes, I don't like showing that kind of emotion in a room full of people I barely know. Eventually the lights came back on, we sat on the floor, grabbed a near by prayer and read it out to the group. Mine was never read but it didn't matter to me because I may have bawled. The whole point of this exercise, at least as I remember it, was that ministry is like this sometimes; crawling around in the dark, grasping at prayers you can't see, bumping into people, feeling awkward, and vulnerable. It was confusing but ok because there was a level of trust established in our relationships at that point.

This week in my fourth official week as a pastor I keep coming back to this moment in my education. There are two things I can take away from this lesson: the first being I reacted emotionally to it which was odd for me and may be why I remember it. The second, my professor was absolutely right. I spend my days feeling confused and like I am crawling around in the dark looking for what I don't know I need. Trying to ask the right questions and get to know people some of whom have no desire to be known.

The only difference is my personal life, while having just gone through another huge transition, is in a much better place. At the end of that semester I had to write a project which ended up leading me to ask really difficult questions about all that was going on in my life. I didn't have to courage to write the questions into my paper, I wasn't ready to be that vulnerable. At this point I can write about the question, would our marriage survive the year let alone three years? It was tense. I couldn't name it I wasn't ready. In case that is a cliff hanger for you, the marriage survived. I made peace with my call, my self doubt, and my guilt.

These days I ask questions about living into my call, about what ministry with these people who I walk with looks like, and if the church (the wider church) can survive. The beauty of crawling around in the dark, confused, maybe lonely, is that somewhere eventually we find the light. Even if there is only a little light eventually we find it and usually it's with the community of fellow believers we are crawling around with. We are not alone in the dark.

Today I am grateful for such a powerful lesson that has carried me into this ministry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Child is NOT Me

Parenting is hard once you get past the pull your hair out because you are covered in baby barf and haven't slept in what you are positive is four years or months but what is the difference anymore? You don't think it could possibly be any harder but it is, actually I have resigned myself to just accepting that it will be nothing but harder all along the way. Add to that when the kiddo was born I had one perspective on the world and parenting, now I have one that is a bit different and a bit more researched or alternative or something, I don't like labels so you pick one that works for you, I would say, "Not quite granola but pretty close."

Really right now I am just trying to make a healthy choice, writing about my feelings instead of eating them. An entire tray of brownies with fudge like frosting and milk is what they might taste like. Since I only have milk and I want to live to see said kid make something of her life, you are getting my rant, my emotional explosion, the what ever the heck this is coming out of me right now. I a having the feelings and I don't like it, at all!

Can I tell you how amazing my child is? I know everyone thinks this of their own kid but really she is awesome. She is thoughtful, compassionate, learning to be a leader, I could go on and on and on. She is also stubborn and head strong and might have a penchant for perfectionism that has manifested itself in ways mine never did. I would say let's cut to the chase but that would just be a pleasantry, this blog post is going to be long and meandering and leave you wondering if you should stage an intervention.

First, she isn't me. No really she isn't, she is her own person. I want her to be her own person yet I rejoice when I see our similarities. She is five and knows how to plan and throw a party, she can walk you through step by step... yep that's me. She has "my" eyes and nose. She has sass that outshines mine on the best day and I can be pretty darn sassy. She is strong willed... certainly from me... I just keep telling myself she will persevere when she is older... while I pray I survive her childhood. Don't you worry I see my siblings, parents, and of course her dad in her too. All of that and she still isn't me (or anyone else in the fam), she is her own person and I want her to be.

She is way more free spirited than I was. She is extremely extroverted; thriving in social situations that terrified me still until I was 25. She is not focused on being an over achiever, some might say that is where I have thrived, maybe. Do you know what this does to her highly introverted, over achieving, order loving mother? It drives her crazy because I can't understand it. I can understand that we have different needs and really that is a start right? I just have a hard time trying to meet her needs especially at the end of a loooooong day when she needs to process using no less 150 billion words and I need some quiet time so my head doesn't actually explode from over exposure to people and ideas.

She started Kindergarten for the 2 or 3 time last week depending on how you count and after today there is going to be a 4th time. She spent six weeks at her Montessori school back in the Fall before I started homeschooling her and now public school. She is doing socially fantastic but academically in just four short days she is doomed, I don't agree with this assessment, I believe she is very capable of catching up, she just doesn't want to. I cannot understand this because in my world when some one said I was behind, even in Kindergarten and I can remember it thank you very much, I didn't like feeling behind or not the best etc. I also started Kindergarten on the young side, academically I was able to stay afloat of course that is before we expected five year olds to read Shakespeare and do research projects online, and word problems. I was golden if I cold tie my shoes and pick up the right milk carton from the milk tray. One day I didn't, I picked up the blue one which was skim milk that my teacher wanted and she yelled at us. I didn't admit to doing it per say but I did pee my pants on the way out the carnival, which was probably a confession enough for a Kindergarten teacher. Emotionally and socially I wasn't there, I cried every single day before school until third grade. I think I only stopped then because my world fell apart with a sick dad and a brother we all thought for a solid time was dying (he didn't). Then school got me out of my own version of kid hell, having to deal with all those grown up feelings wasn't fun and at school I could be 8.

My kid though she's a Montessori kid, you know what that means, it means she hasn't been taught competition because competition isn't used as a means to get students to learn in a Montessori school. You know what else? I kind of like that. It took me until Grad school when I had a two year old to figure that one out because I wanted quality time with her and that was way more important than getting an "A" on a paper or in a class. You know what for the first time in my life I lowered my expectations of my self from beyond perfect to slightly less than perfect. This was healthy and good and I wish I figured it out sooner. Do you know what happened? I graduated with a GPA just above the goal I set for myself which was not a 4.0! I can remember my daughter's toddler and preschool years to boot.

So there are a few things at play here, as you can tell I need to remind myself that she is not me, and that the me I wish I saw in her today was not a healthy child, she was a child coping with trauma because of family circumstance, something my girl doesn't know yet. She understands school in the context of Montessori, she is frustrated that she doesn't get to help teach, and that the work is all "academic". I didn't know much about Montessori at first but I learned and she was on to something, educating the whole child and embracing the child's curiosity! There is something about that, it feels right. Or the Waldorf method or Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. When you put these all together they can work in harmony that educates a whole person not just literacy and math for crying out loud!

Today we had another impromptu meeting with her teacher of four days. She again said that L was not on par with her class and needed to be in the Pre K program instead. Honestly I don't think four days is a fair assessment period for a five year old who has been living in transitional hell for the past six months! The work she is down right refusing to do I know she can do but doesn't like to. So rather than fighting with her everyday to catch up after school and sending her into a classroom where her teacher is essentially stressed out by her under achieving presence, today we opted to try the PreK program for the rest of this year. In the long run I think it could be for the best. Perhaps next year she will be more mature and want to do the work. Or get over her perfectionism shut down. She won't do something she can't do perfect the first time around... oh how that makes me cringe! Let's review, I know she can do the work, she doesn't want to do the work, we have lived in a confusing time for six months, she is not me. Maybe it's all been too much for her? It is like I have a new kid since moving, she goes to bed, she listens, she's happy, and the fits have been minimal. She was stressed out!

Can I also tell you for six long torturous months I home schooled that head strong girl? We were both ready for her to go back to school. Also let's be honest, it is really hard to be an effective teacher when your whole entire life is up in the air, your kid is a hot mess because life is hard, and you are looking for a full time job that requires you to travel at the drop of a hat. There were lots of parts of our little home school that just didn't work. But there were parts that were like victories.  I had no one to answer to but my self, she wasn't too into reading just yet but I wasn't worried because I was a late reader and here I am two Master's Degrees later. We spent days being creative, something she thrives on. She planned an entire new year's eve party with a little guidance. She learned how to rest when tired. She learned how to tell time, break geodes, mine for minerals, wrap gifts, count pennies, read short "bob books", make kittens out of pumpkins, viscosity, density, mass, about community, baking, cooking, budgeting, 30 days of giving, she learned to take people in when they fall on hard times. And you know what? It means jack squat when you put it next to the common core standards for Kindergarten. Can I tell you I don't care about those standards, I don't care that she can't read on level, I don't care that she isn't interested in explaining how she sorted buttons, I celebrate that she isn't like the rest of the zombies kids.

Her whole person needs to be educated and the common core and standardized testing factories public education has become isn't going to do that. I long for a Montessori program but there aren't any. So it looks like I will be having to teach her all that stuff slyly after school until forever.

But all that being said... all that talk of accepting I can't be perfect, all the talk of child directed learning, of education being about the whole person... it means nothing when that still small voice in my head says to me loud and clear you failed as her teacher. I know I only failed at teaching her common core standards but there is that part of me, the perfectionist, the over achiever, that is heart broken and disappointed because my kid can't do stuff I don't care about anyway.

I feel defeated and scared of what her education is going to look like in the future, our options for alternatives are slim in our new city.

Somewhere in the mess there is some good, there has to be.

Until I find it, I am grateful for our two and a half years of Montessori and the ability to read and learn and explore educational theories.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ordination Reflections

We are in the middle of packing for our move this weekend but Ordination Day is lingering in my mind and is begging for more words than I have time for this evening. I do want to share just a few thoughts from the day.

The first, I began my adult life working in the film and video industry, I often think in movies with scene changes and sound tracks. Ordination day was no different it was full of montages of my life in my home church. Moments from my confirmation, ordination as a Ruling Elder, a million youth events, our wedding, L's baptism. Those walls hold a lot of memories for me. I just wish I could get the montages out of my head to be shared!

Second, my mentor preached a beautiful sermon, that was honest, emotional, and challenging. He closed with "I love you!" I started to get up to give him a big hug and hesitated, I missed my chance. It isn't often I have wanted to get up and hug the preacher, then again it isn't often a sermon ends with such a personal sentiment on such a big occasion. It is a moment I will remember for a very long time, or perhaps forever. We also served communion together which was awesome and grace filled as I was confused and missed a part.

Last, at least for now, a really awesome moment I had all by myself. I had walked over to the reception to greet people and when I finished I made my way back to the office where we had all gathered before the service. The other clergy had already taken off their robes and stoles and laid them on chairs around the room. I walked in and laid mine down with all the rest of them. It was this quiet and surreal moment, I was now one of them. They are my people and they understand the challenges of the role and all that comes with it.

Today I am grateful for the day, the memories, the JOY.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Mole

Let me say from the start while this story is funny; skin cancer not so much.

A little over a week ago I took a solo trip for the purpose of job hunting. This trip involved me squeezing my "more to love" size backside into tiny plane seats on four different commuter size planes, most of which were less than comfortable. Look I used to be to embarrassed to say stuff like this but I am just going to own the fact that I am a bigger than average person and as such air travel can be a bit uncomfortable particularly arm rests that poke you in the oddest of places.

So I am back from my trip a day or two recovering from a whirl wind trip that was absolutely exciting and exhausting. I get out of the shower and I think I have a pimple on my back, you know that kind of sore feeling you get when a blemish is growing? I don't often get acne places other than my face so I asked my hubby to take a look because it was just out of my line of sight. I was surprised that it was above where any of my clothing rubbed while traveling, I thought oh maybe the arm rest irritated it or a one of my cross body bags. He takes a look and makes a little sound like, "oooohhh". We've been married for ten years, had a baby... that "ooohh" was an oh this is gross kind of "ooohh". Which didn't make me self conscious but rather gave me a moment of panic. What felt like ten minutes of silence passes as he turns on more lights and looks closer. I say, "um?" It looks like a mole, but it's crusty and a little irritated around the edges.

I have a crusty mole on my back, again I think I irritated it while traveling. I give it a few days and it starts itching like crazy. I have him take a picture of it. I google. Nothing too alarming but I figure a "crusty" mole that itches is worth getting checked out. My grandfather had skin cancer and was never in the sun, so being careful seems like a good idea. But... it's Friday night so it has to wait until Monday. I call my Doctor's office Monday morning and they have an appointment the next morning I take it.

Tuesday morning comes and I tell L we have to go to Mommy's doctor because I have a weird mole on my back. "You are growing us a pet mole! On your back!!!!!!!!!!" Eventually, she wants to preform her own exam which takes 30 seconds. She is completely crushed I am not growing a pet from my back. Which, I mean, we tell her she grew in my belly so it doesn't seem that absurd that I could just grow a critter on my back. Seriously though I wouldn't grow a mole kid, maybe a lab puppy. I digress.

I get to the Doctor early, things are gong well. I tell her it feels scabby, husband looked when it was irritated said it looked like a mole. Have you picked it or injured it? No, not that I remember on the injuring, and I made it a point to not pick at it and I am a picker by nature. She looks at it and say oh hold on, gets gloves on, and proceeds to pull a SCAB off my back. My crusty mole, was crusty because it was a SCAB! I think I turned so red I bordered on purple. I am not a rush to the doctor kind of girl, I will weather an illness for weeks before I break down and go in. I actually just recently started even seeing the doctor regularly for physicals and such. She explains, it very likely was a skin tag or a mole that got injured and freezes off the rest of it. While she is out of the room I say to my five year old who is sitting there watching all this unfold, "Can you believe it's just a scab?" She face palms her self, twice, really hard. The doctor walks in as I am telling her to face palm more gently and demonstrating on myself. I give up!

We did have a good conversation about respecting people's education and expertise and experience n specific fields.

Today I am grateful for my scab and being able to laugh really hard the whole way home.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dear Dad

January 19, 2015

Dear Dad,
I thought for awhile about starting with dear Daddy, because I lost you twice, the first time I was still calling you daddy. The second time I was old enough to have evolved to "dad". You died 16 years ago today and I find myself very reflective about my own life and yours. I wrote today on facebook (yeah computers, internet, social media... I bet you would have loved this) reflecting about my journey and how in the end your death empowered me to live my life. I won't go so far as to call loosing you a gift but the lessons it taught me surely were.

I didn't realize until I was much older that I grieved for you three times, first when you became ill, then a few years later when I realized what brain damage meant, and finally when your body died. Sadly, you missed out on a lot of the good things that happen in a child's life. You didn't get to scare away my first date but after I knew we were a couple, I brought Paul to meet you in the nursing home. You did get to be there for my graduation from high school, you had told me once about how you just wanted to live to see one of us graduate from high school. You died a few months after my graduation, you knew I started college. I have graduated five times since then dad... it seems excessive I know but it turns out all that growing up fast caught up with me and I had to find who I really was. Today your baby girl has two Associates, one Bachelors, and two Masters degrees. Then there was our wedding day, I suspect if one can be there in spirit you were, the weather was perfect, it was your birthday, a little nod we gave to you. Dennis and Mom walked me down the aisle, Uncle Doc stood in for you at the father daughter dance. These "big" days often have made me miss you and think of you and wonder. There was always a sadness.

I don't think you ever imagined you would have a preacher girl for a daughter. These days I am not sad as much as I wonder. Since L was born, I have wondered about what you would think of being a grandpa. I wonder about how the two of you would get along. Oh how I know you would love her and she you. How I dream that she could know you and you could beam with pride at her dance recitals. I wonder what our relationship would be like, what we would spar over, and what you would think as I told you of my job prospects all over the country. I wonder what kind of jokes you would make. Or what your face might look like on ordination day when I served you communion. I am left to do a lot of wondering.

I hate that you suffered how you did in those ten years, as I get older I can imagine how torturous those days in the nursing home must have been, how abandoned you must have felt. You know when I started coming to see you senior year and bringing food, I was hatching a plan to get you out of there, I was going to finish school, get a job, and an accessible apartment. I guess it wasn't in the cards for either of us.

I wish you didn't have to die. I wish some person some where didn't sign off on using agent orange. I wish you didn't get sprayed with it, I wish I didn't have to worry about DNA mutation. I wish you didn't suffer. I wish you didn't get robbed of your life when you were hitting your stride. I wish it all mattered to the people who signed off on those papers. It doesn't seem to. Your death and your life mattered. In life you gave me life, a love that was deep and in death you empowered me to savor every moment I have, especially those with L.

Dad, the other day I was looking at my dry and cracked hands, I saw yours. I thought of the movie Beaches, when the little girl says, "Look mommy, our hands are the same." The mother sobs because she realizes her daughter has the disease too. I just had a check up today, so far it hasn't been passed on. I watch L closely and so far she is healthy too, no signs of your disease or Dale's or any of the others. I have some hormone regulation problems but for now they don't change much other than my ability to make babies. I try not to take any of it for granted, to embrace the now, and to let your love sing in my heart.

All my love,
Becca Bean

Today I am grateful for the life of Everett Dale Gresham Junior who was taken like so many before and so many after, far too soon. I am in a very reflective space today, not particularly sad, just filled with wonder, love, and gratitude.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Women Like Me

Today has been rough, I am fighting a touch of something that involves lots of congestion, zero motivation, complicated by a monthly visitor that we ladies get to "welcome" like it or not, and my accidentally home schooled five year old who is suffering with a case of cabin fever and a voice that doesn't go lower than 1 million decibels and I swear only has to breathe once every five minutes of nonstop chattering. You know just from reading that sentence what I am talking about, right? Maybe you groaned a little in empathy, for which I thank you. Then my hubs got home a half hour early and I declared he was on duty, thank God! While they went to fetch a pizza I zoned out surfing the web and enjoying the QUIET! (Please don't get me wrong I really love this kid and treasure these days we have together as they won't be our norm for ever.) While rambling around the amazing world wide web I stumbled upon something I hadn't before, another get together for Christian women type thing. I got totally excited because I have been trying really hard to find some sort of camaraderie or sisterhood for women like me. I am not crazy enough to believe I am SO unique there is no one like me. I eagerly read up, seeing lots of what I call red flag buzz words, the words that are a part of a Christianity that I respect but I am not a part of. It seems that the only groups or events I can find for Christian women range from conservative to progressive evangelical. This isn't all bad but it is really hard to go "fit in" in a place where your theology is way different. In all honesty lady preachers aren't welcomed in some of these circles, they certainly are in some.

I don't want to knock what other women are doing, I think it is good for us to have support for each other where we can find it. I have a diverse set of friends with lots of theological, socioeconomic, educational, life stage, life choice, diversity. I happen to be a white, heterosexual woman, who is married, has a child, and is going into full time ministry in the mainline Protestant church. Take away the full time ministry part and I am THE target audience for most women's ministry events. That in and of itself is problematic, not all women get married, not all women are attracted to men, not all women want to or can have children maybe this is stating the obvious but we aren't all white either... the list goes on and on and on. Women are different! A single woman is as valuable to God as a woman who is married with five kids. I get it life stages are different and sometimes it's hard to relate but isn't that what we are called to do? If my friend doesn't have or want kids, that's ok even if I have one and say irrational prayers for more. This is my truth, one of the best friends I have ever known doesn't want to have children, we still get along. As a matter of fact she purposely comes to the very kid-centric events that are a part of my life. I think because she loves me and my offspring very much, but that is just a guess. You know what else is crazy she can tell me I am invited to an event that isn't kid friendly and I can come well informed with out my kiddo in tow or I can sit it out in favor of family time AND it is OK! Another wonderful friend I have serves in a church very different than my own but we share the struggles of parenthood and ministry even if our theology is different.  So I know this kind of relationship is possible!

Here's what I dream, a place where women of all kinds of life stages and choices can come together and wrestle with life and faith. Not a place where women are called to very specific areas of church life or home life. A place where we can say, "What the heck God?"  A place where we can talk about life as women, who believe something greater than them is at work in the world.

So for me specifically it's learning to balance full time ministry and motherhood. I have spent the last five years as a mostly stay at home mom, while studying and interning. I am crazy enough to pray to get to parent more than one kiddo and it will look different the second time around. I was doing pinterest like projects before pinterest was a thing, so yeah I like pinterest and being creative and crafty but it isn't about presenting an aura of perfection to the world. I question most things, I wrestle with faith even though I am a leader in the church community. I love to write, I am passionate about working with children on their faith journey, and serving the people of God AKA everyone. I wrestle with what it means to have enough, to share what I have, and to love the "stranger". I see the good in people to a fault. I dream desperately of a world where women support each other even when they make different decisions because a woman who makes a different decision than I did isn't making that decision to make me feel insecure about the one I made.

So where are you women like me?  Women who long to be in relationship with other women who are OK not finding the answers, OK with living in the mystery, working in the church (clergy spouses I count you in here) or some other form of ministry. Women who aren't letting the world or any organization define who they are. Women who are ready to support each other. Women who don't have to belittle other women to feel good about their own choices. Women who want to be in dialogue with women of a variety of backgrounds. Women who want to build a sisterhood of faith that crosses so many of the niche boundaries we see in faith circles? All while being comfortable enough to say things like, "This cough combined with Aunt Flo has me running to the bathroom every ten minutes and I am over it." (Men won't understand that, even if I think they make phenomenal friends and fellow sojourners.) Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to hang out with a group of mom ministers and share our stories and our struggles. I just don't want to limit my experience to only moms in ministry. I want to talk with all women and maybe sometimes I need to take shelter with the moms and maybe sometimes its with single ladies and sometimes with the grandmas and sometimes with the ladies who are attracted to ladies. Each of these groups have important voices, stories, and things to teach me. Maybe, although I am very unsure of this, I have some insight I can share with them?

I try sometimes to think what it would look like to gather these women, that I am sure exist and might even long for this too. How do we come together? Wrestle together? Respect and identify with each other? Where can we go to be fed? To be stretched? To grow? To fall apart? all surrounded by love. Can it even be done? If it were a large gathering would we have to do break out groups of people with similarities? If there were would it defeat the whole point?

I don't know but if you are out there, if you are looking for this, or you have found this, can we talk? Can we be women of faith wrestling, walking, wandering, wondering... TOGETHER?

Today I am so very grateful for the women who are already in my life, teaching me from all the perspectives I mentioned here and more.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Marketable Skills

I spent a good amount of time yesterday thinking about what marketable skills I have outside of ministry. I need to find ways to make the ends meet around here. Paul and I talked about how much we can do on our own and not have to pay people for those services. I can make birthday cakes that are some what fancy, I am awesome with kids, we both can take nice pictures that are portrait quality, Paul can repair most things on a car, he can make all your TV remotes work how they should, connect nearly any sort of electronic equipment, and so on. We have learned our skills because of two categories, some fall into genuine curiosity category, while others fall in to the resourcefulness category.There are probably skills I am forgetting about too, ones we take for granted because we use them all the time. Being resourceful, curious, and being able to quell the fear of failure means we learn a lot of new things.

This year I made it a goal to start working on my list of things I want to learn, so I am tackling canning, money origami (this the art of folding money for gift giving), and refining my digital photography skills. I am kind of a digital photography snob, I take photos using mostly natural light, I do not edit them aside from cropping and changing them from color to black and white or sepia, and I like candid shots, not poses. I can take a decent picture, some times I get the "money shot". Yesterday I took pictures of a friend's child and saw that I can do this for other people. In the coming weeks I have volunteers lined up so I can practice a bit and then start making a little side money to help those ends meet. I plan to read up a bit on photography as well to get a refresher on aperture and such things.

The whole point here is that I am walking you through the steps of my goals or tooting my own horn, rather it is that I am so hesitant (as is Paul) to use our marketable skills to earn money. I worry about two things, the first is if I do it all the time I won't enjoy it any more, especially with cake making. The second worry is that people won't like what I produce for them. Oh the fear of rejection and the difficult customer. I have worked in a limited way in retail and I did not enjoy it. I have been able to quell that first fear, the one that tells you, you couldn't possibly take your portraits, or make a rainbow unicorn cake from scratch with all natural food dye. With most new skills I am not afraid to just try it out and fail. If I fail I can learn from it and usually there is laughter when things go wrong, at least for me. I have learned a lot of new things like this. The first time I made a birthday cake that wasn't a rectangle, it took me 5 months of trying, I started early because I knew I would need a learning curve. I wasn't totally happy with it when I was done, then Paul dropped it. It didn't stop me, now I can make a cake in a day because I kept at it and I didn't let failure stop me. I had cakes crumbling, cakes that were inedible, cakes that looked more like vomit than cake. Eventually I took a basic class three years after I started making cakes, I should have done that first! I am going to take the rest of the cake classes one day, even though some of the skills I have already.

Now if only I could get over the fear of rejection like I did the fear of failure. I could make cakes and photograph life events!

Today I am grateful for the skills I have learned and the skills I will learn in the coming years.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Writing and the New Year

For as long as I can remember I have loved to write; it helps me to process emotions and life events. My writing changes over time as I grow. This year I have made some goals around my writing, one is to write every day because if you read books about writing its all about writing everyday. Another is to revise and edit a weakness for me, I like to get the words out and just leave them. Next is to find what it is I really want to write about, find my voice as a writer, which is why I am telling you all this, I am going to use this blog for the next year to find my voice and refine it as a writer, to test the waters of different subjects, styles and so on. I welcome your feed back. Lastly, publish, I self publish here on the blog and will try to everyday even if I only get a "shitty first draft", I borrowed that from Anne Lamott. I have a new publishing goal this year as well, to get my children's book published, all who have read it have liked it, many asking for copies when I get it published.

I have set several goals for this year more so than resolutions, I have a few carrying over from last year that needed more work. I have new way of going about reaching them this year by making sure I put time for them on my calendar. So it begins...

I am grateful today for fresh starts, new calendars, and what lies ahead.