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.