Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learning & Tears

I wanted to sit down and write today, about Opal and adventurous, nervous new dog, and to try to collect my thoughts in this post election season. Then something happened, I had an ultrasound to check my follicle growth for this month. My third in six days to be exact with a new medication we had to watch follicles slowly develop, so we know when to stimulate ovulation.

I need to tell you for a moment about my head space this morning. We adopted a dog with separation anxiety and every time we leave the house it is nerve wracking. Yesterday she pooped while I was out, that has never happened before. We can't let her out because she escapes from our yard so she gets plenty of walks, yesterday we must have had a timing issue. In addition to having a hard time being alone, she is in heat, and likes to run off. We have had her two weeks and it has been SO STRESSFUL, but we love her already. My kiddo already has the over excited it's almost Christmas attitude and demeanor. She also stayed up too late last night and I had to get her to school early so I could go get my next ultrasound. It is Advent, read pastor rips her hair out season. I had a mild stomach bug that really has slowed me down. I was also feeling a little beat up by this fertility process. I am grateful for amazing insurance that covers most of this, so very grateful. I mentioned to my doctor and his wife how grateful I was for their time over the holiday weekend as I had not one but two scans while the office was closed. I had a scan Sunday morning, before I led worship, and it was super uncomfortable. I just wanted to get this done and over with. I don't have much hope left in the realm of fertility. I am pretty sure I wasn't hiding that well today.

The doctor came in, enthusiastically saying today is the day! I laughed because when I hear any variation of this is the day, I want to respond with, that the Lord has made. My scan was good I have a good follicle (egg/ovum), I will get shot up today to stimulate the release of that egg. I had a second egg that was not far behind, so I got the twins speech again. I did not roll my eyes, because honestly at this point I would laugh and laugh and laugh if after years there were TWO babies, and I might name them both Issac. Anyhow, I sat there with my bare bottom covered in a sheet, while the doctor dictated his notes. Thinking, wow I would really like my pants on. Then he turned around and reviewed everything with me. He added, we haven't prayed, so let's pray today. I was mildly shocked but agreed obviously prayer is not weird for me. What is weird is hearing someone pray for me, I am the one who is always praying out loud for people. It was almost startling to hear someone pray for me. Honestly, I almost cried.

I almost cried because there are moments in this process where it is really easy to lose sight of faith and really hard to keep the faith. We all need someone to hold us up when we lose hope. It is not hard to do, I do it often it comes with the call. To have someone do that for me this morning was amazing. To hear someone else talk to God about God's will for me... just wow. I left feeling much better than when I arrived. I also pondered how hard it must be to balance faith in the world of medicine when you don't want to push your faith but do want to share it.

Which brings me to the next bit on learning. This is not the only doctor here who prays with their patients. If I am totally honest I am not sure before today I would have even liked the idea of praying with my doctor. That's a weird blurred place for me. I am sure there are praying doctors all over the place but I have never experienced it before now. It is something that smallish town South Dakota life offers that other places do not. I have had a lot of moments where I scoff at this smallish town life in this past year and three quarters. Yet it seems in the past week, I am being broken open to the good possibilities in this sort of life. When our dog was missing we had the real small town experience for the first time as the police helped look and the radio station announced our missing pet at no cost.

I have no doubt, that God is working in me, as I am broken open to a life that seems so foreign to me. And really that is just like God, at least the God I know.

Today I am grateful, for prayer, for insurance, for community, and God's persistence in breaking through my stubborn will. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flags and Idols

I have seen enough vague posts on this Colin Kaepernick character that I had to look up what exactly this person did to get such a response of alternating outrage and support. What can I say I have a diverse set of friends who sit on either side of this and many other trending stories that we will forget about next week. I didn't give the whole thing much thought because it will pass in a weeks time when we have some other person and their actions dividing us, making us feel so strongly we pull back out our soap boxes and start screaming at each other again. It seems to me that we really like to pull out those boxes and climb upon them any chance we get. But then I saw this post shared by a good a friend (I am not tech savvy enough to screen shot it with out the comments) A Steven Michael posted, "I just want to point out I didn't see anyone setting football jerseys on fire when various football players were accused of rape/sexual assault, domestic violence and murder."

I had this thought, after reading that about ten times: well dam! Then all of a sudden I was having a thousand thoughts all at once about this situation that has nothing to do with me.

I want to share some of that with you fine readers:

1. DID YOU READ THAT STATEMENT? Why is it that people are taking to the streets with fire because of someone sitting when some people deemed it inappropriate. WHY doesn't this happen when actual crimes are committed? Most of which by the way have victims that are women. Look even if some guy you will never meet mortally offends you, it is NOT a crime. Please someone tell me you were outraged about rapes, assaults, violence, and murder too? Dam you crickets.

2. I notice that only the actions of black folks during the national anthem get national media coverage. President Obama, Gabby Douglass, and in a different way Colin Kaepernick. Now I need to make a confession, if you haven't noticed I am white, I am a quasi-public figure because of my job and the region I live in. My white self does not place her hand over her heart for the playing of the national anthem. I didn't even know this was a thing until I moved from where I grew up. Over the winter I googled the flag code because this hand over the heart thing blew my mind. The code does suggest hand over the heart but does NOT require it. I have stood with my attention focused on the flag hands at my side for a year and half here. No one has noticed or if they have they haven't said a word and it hasn't been in the newspaper or on the news.

Maybe you are thinking my parents were absolutely terrible people for not teaching me to put my hand over my heart or to stand at a parade when a flag goes by. They weren't actually my dad taught me to not be distracted during the national anthem, to focus on the flag and be respectful. But that was before he got busy dying from complications of a disease he had because of the chemicals he was exposed to in Vietnam as he did his civic duty as a person who was drafted. 

3. Mr. Kaepernick's right to sit during the playing of the national anthem is protected by the constitution. The constitution many of us are touting when we want to make it a point in our own favor. We can't have it both ways the same constitution that allows you to have a gun, free speech etc is the one that gives him the right to sit when you don't want him to.

4. I have noticed the very people who are up in arms about this whole thing, the ones who are most deeply offended by this person's actions are in fact the same people who loathe political correctness. They are the ones quick to say, we need to have thicker skins and buck up and not get offended so easily. I guess that doesn't apply when they are offended. I am telling you offended people what you are feeling right now in this moment when disgusted by this disrespect is exactly what other people feel when you are saying they need a thicker skin. Your being offended is not more important than someone else who is offended by something you do. Think about that, really really think about that.

5. I do not follow football much, but I have bought gifts for people who do. Football jerseys are not cheap last I check and that was at least 10 years ago they ran $80-$150, that is a considerable amount of money. Which makes me want to ask would you burn that cash in the street? I know anger inspires us to do things we might not do otherwise. Yet you have a choice, you could take that money and do good in the world. If you have the privilege of money to burn, you also have the privilege of being able to support the cause of your choice.  If you need inspiration, there isn't a place in this fine country you are quick to demand support for, where a child didn't go to bed hungry last night. One could choose to actually make this nation better, to feed children who can do nothing to get food. Maybe that isn't your thing, I can think of a hundred ways in which good can be done. PEOPLE WE NEED TO DO GOOD!

6. Chances are if it wasn't brought to our attention, none of us would have ever seen or noticed a guy sitting during the national anthem. We didn't happen upon this, our attention was brought to it. We need to think critically about who brought it to our attention and what their motive might be.

7. We are the ones who made athletes public figures and idols.

8. The United States of America is the name of our country, it isn't America. America actually encompass all of North and South America. What we express in the US isn't the only expression of being American. This matters more than we could ever know.

9. The theological implications of this situation are ripe for consideration. Let's explore a few, shall we? Jesus says love your neighbor and love your enemy... guess what that includes Colin Kaepernick. God comes first, always. It is in the Ten Commandments, it is in Jesus teaching in all the gospels. We get in trouble when we have idols (we all have them). The flag and patriotism are certainly idols for many. If the flag gets in the way of your ability to love your neighbor, it is likely an idol. When we do not love our neighbors, we fall short of the greatest commandment, which separates us from God. We all have to work on our idols.

10. Somewhere along the way loving Jesus has become synonymous with being patriotic. This is a problem because God doesn't play favorites. God doesn't love us more because we are the United States. God loves us, but God loves Mexico, Nigeria, Iran, China, Poland too. I am going to tell you something that won't make me popular. I love God and follow Jesus before I am a US citizen. I struggle with pledging allegiance to a flag, not because I believe it isn't worth of respect or that the USA is a bad place, but because my allegiance is to God. Frequently I am confronted with situations where it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that we are worshiping a flag, that it has crossed into idolatry, and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. My mere naming that discomfort is enough to set people off and bring on the name calling. That's ok I am going to love them.

Today I am grateful for this space to share my thoughts freely. To confront my own discomfort and to have friends who provide a safe space for me.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Making People Cry

Yesterday in a round about way I made my family cry. Not my husband and child but my brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, my mom. Meanwhile I was experiencing the kind of joy that is life giving. My dad is dead, he has been for sometime now, this is not new but this is why people were crying. I was just barely an adult when he died after a battle with a long illness. Most of my childhood he could not live with us because of his medical issues, he lived in nursing home facilities. When he died there wasn't much of his "stuff" left. There are very few earthly possessions that were actually his, that he wore or chose before the long illness. For about ten years now hanging in a closet where ever I happened to live was his leather racing jacket. Recently, my brother, his namesake, quietly got married. I wanted to send him a wedding gift but couldn't think of what to send. Then I learned his spouse also rides motorcycles like my brother and it just so happens she took his name. One day I pulled out that motorcycle racing jacket and looked at my pre-hyphenated name on it and I knew it did not belong with me anymore.

My husband and I started cleaning and polishing it, not quite to new but made it look decent. Then we mailed it off and ordered a shadow box to hold it and had it delivered to their house. Yesterday I had a text message with a photo of it all put together and it gave me so much JOY. When I packed up the jacket I cried a little because I imagined this jacket touching his body, long gone. I imagined him picking it out, his humor, his races, or how it appears the M was first sewn on as a W and how he would have responded to that. With a few tears I sent it off to it's new home, where it has always belonged. A little while after I received the text message I had a facebook notification that I had been taggged in a photo, it was my brother thanking me for sending it and a picture of the final product. It looked amazing in the shadow box with a photo added. I was very happy to see it. The nature of facebook is that other people see what we post. Person after person who misses my dad posted how they were crying.

That is what I want to write about today, my dad has been gone since 1999, he was 50 when he died. That seemed old then but now it is not that far in my future. He wouldn't even be 70 yet. His death was tragic and it will always be tragic. It will always be that event that shaped those of us who loved him. I believe that yesterday we all longed for him so because his jacket made us remember him, our grief for him, and that very tragedy that took him from us. All these years later it doesn't make sense, it doesn't feel any better, we still miss him in our lives, and I am probably not the only one who wonders, what if Agent Orange wasn't a thing? Yet it is a thing and that thing altered forever so many lives in ways we will never comprehend beyond the pain of grief.

My mom made the comment, "Leave it to Beck to make everyone cry." She has a point, I do kind of have a reputation for making my family cry in the face of grief or tragedy, because this loss isn't the only one we have faced together. I am really rather terrible at dealing with my own emotions but I am good at naming what we would all rather ignore because it is too painful to speak. Today that is the tragic loss of a good man far too soon for reasons that will never make sense. My dad died, it was and is tragic and it always will be. Therefore there will always be a little sting for us when we are reminded of what should have been.

Today I am grateful for the joy and the tears and the life no matter how short it was cut.

Friday, August 26, 2016

What I Couldn't Do

This morning I was walking around watering all the plant life we have successfully cultivated this summer: herbs, veggies, flowers, even some accidental corn. I had a fleeting thought that turned meditation for this morning. I have tried eagerly for at least ten years to grow a garden or flowers in a variety of ways. It has only been in the last year that I have found my green thumb and it is sometimes still a little yellow or brown but hey I will take the progress. A few years ago I would have told you I couldn't garden well despite my best efforts. I was marveling at all that grew and how the metaphor of growth is really important in my life right now. I looked at our accidental corn that is growing on OUR FRONT STOOP in a flower pot with some creeping phlox. I suppose that the corn was delivered via squirrel. We grow by accident sometimes too and it is a surprising sort of growth. But really all I did was put seeds in the earth where sun would shine, then I watered them and waited. The waiting isn't always easy but it has been worth it. Another metaphor for my life right now. Hmm.. how interesting to encounter the depths of self and the Divine while watering the garden.

As I went about my morning a list of things I couldn't do formed in my head and I wanted to share it with you.

I could never read or speak in front of people, I get far too nervous. Except, now it is my job to just that every week for at least an hour if not more.

I could never sing solo in front of more than a handful of people because I am not good enough. Except, all summer I sang the kid's talks in church solo with a microphone. I won't be singing solos to sold out crowds anytime soon but I know I can sing in a microphone in front of people and not die.

I could never decorate a fancy cake. Except, I learned how to a few years ago and often challenge myself to do harder things.

I could never go back to school, I am too old for that now. Spoken when I was 21. Nearly 15 years later I have finished four degrees. Including a Master's Degree I was never going to be smart enough again. I look forward to the day when I can start my PhD. and I know I can do that.

I could never be a pastor because of all the death, especially untimely ones. Except, I am and I have lived through walking with people grieving tremendous loss.

I could never be beautiful because I don't fit the mold. A work in progress on this one.

This afternoon I am going to think of all the things I still can't do, maybe I will find some lies.

What is it you simply could never do that you might like to?

Today I am grateful for the loud and constant voices who said YES YOU CAN when I said I could never. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Another Week

Another week is upon us as summer begins to settle down. I still cannot get used to the idea of school starting in August. We have for the next week a little bit of a slow down before we jump back into school for which I am grateful. However, I suspect it is hormones being all out of whack, I am just not myself. I spend a lot of time feeling sick or just plain out of it. Hopefully it will pass in the next few days because it is exhausting.

Today I am grateful for this slow down before we dive in to another school year.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Grief of the Intangible

We all know that we grieve when a person dies but somethings we grieve deeply are intangible. It is my experience that this is some of the hardest grief to bear because it is difficult for others to bear it with you if they haven't experienced it. I am in the throws of an extraordinarily painful period after my first round of Clomid. I was concerned this might be the case if I failed to conceive, I don't know why I just suspected it would be a rough cycle, emotions aside.

I spent a month allowing myself the luxury of a tiny speck of hope. Then the hormones kicked in and I became affectionate and all lovey. Then I became hot and tired and queasy. I kept telling that speck not to grow but after a week it grew anyway. Until I woke up with swollen sore breasts, which for many women are a tell tale sign of pregnancy, not for me since having our daughter this is a regular part of PMS. I knew from that moment on the Clomid didn't do something magical in my uterus. It did make me ovulate which is a plus, I had great numbers on day 21, which means it worked.  My husband, my support system, refused  to give up hope at this point, until I peed on a stick to prove it. I proved it with my pee and then eventually with the start of my cycle. I am decidedly not pregnant despite my body sending all the signs that I am.

People say don't get too upset because it rarely works on the first cycle but it is really hard to not be upset. And what is too upset anyway? Is there some threshold I don't know about? I am upset dam it, because I just lived through a month of hormonal hell and I have to do it for another two months. I am upset because for seven years despite all my best efforts I cannot get pregnant again and I know this is the end of the road. I am upset because when round 3, the final round, fails, I will be on a vacation that we have been dreaming of for a decade. I will try hard to engage and enjoy that trip but I will feel much like I feel today.

I can't even name what it is I feel other than I am grieving an intangible loss again and I know I will have to do it two more times before it becomes a forever grief. One that I will carry with me through the rest of my life. The one that will at low points make me say things like if only I tried Clomid sooner. I could skip the next two months and frankly I would like to but if I do then I will ask forever what if I didn't?

Today it is incredibly hard to be grateful but I am always grateful for the child I do have, who feels like more and more of a miracle every day.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Yesterday I was leading worship for the local care facilities many of which are nursing homes. I let the the residents choose the hymns which makes for interesting choices but yesterday was a Christmas one in the middle of the summer. Part of me wanted to say not yet, but I thought the better of it; when a nursing home resident asks for a Christmas song, it could be the last time they get to sing it. Who am I to rob them of such a simple and meaningful joy?

Today I am grateful for the way the Spirit led in the moment.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


One of the things I miss the most about life before ministry is getting to have a normal weekend. While I get two days off in a row it is not the same two days as the rest of the world which makes doing anything social really difficult. Saturday night I need to be in early, Sunday I am spent after church. Three day weekends take vacation time. Most of the time I am ok with this but today I am feeling it as we have had visitors all summer and it would have been nice to have a weekend with them.

Today I am grateful for all the joy life in ministry brings even if there are trade offs.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Birthday Party

We had a successful seventh birthday party today with pizza and pottery painting. I cannot believe my girl is seven years old tomorrow. Her sheer joy tonight in such simple things was amazing. I am so proud of who she is becoming.
I am so very grateful for this child and her exuberance for life.

Day 21: Hope

I didn't get to post yesterday but here it is a day late. It was day 21, which was blood test day, which brought positive results, so now we wait.
I am so grateful.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Privilege of Insurance

Privilege is such a loaded term in our current culture, one mention of the word and people start getting tense and shutting down, especially those with privilege that feel threatened. Today though let us try to put that aside. If you remember a few years ago I wrote a blog about my dirty little secret which was that my family was benefiting greatly from the Affordable Care Act. Well times have changed and while we still do enjoy benefits of health care reform, like preexisting condition clauses won't prevent us from getting care we need, our health insurance comes through my employer. Most of my adult life I have lived with little or no health insurance because the cost was way out of our reach. Particularly because Paul and I both have what insurance companies consider preexisting conditions.

This morning I was late to my office hours because I had a chiropractor appointment. After months of sciatic nerve pain in the mornings I decided enough was enough and called to make sure it was covered, it is, so off I went. It is going to take a few visits but I am on the road to feeling better. The cost: $22. What was out of reach before is now very accessible. The thing is this isn't the only thing that it has effected, when I had my accident back in January I had insurance. When I had an emergency a few weeks ago it was covered with a little copay. There have been some payments on my part but not thousands of dollars.

It continues though we have opted in to the dental insurance which we pay for, for the first time ever in our entire relationship we all have up to date dental cleanings. We have a discount plan for vision care and we are all up to date or about to be up to date on eye exams and eye wear.

I have been seeing a therapist regularly for a few months now. I have had fertility consultations and treatment.  All of this at least partially or fully paid by my insurance. The point I am trying to make here is that these are all services that were fluff I couldn't afford before. Aside from the car accident I would not have sought help for any of these things had we been in previous situations. Now I know many would say that I have earned this privilege through my hard work in getting an education that led me to a professional path with this benefit. I won't down play my own hard work playing a roll in this privilege but it was other privilege that led me to be able to even do those things.

Life is more comfortable when you can address chronic pain, mental health, and emergencies. There is a higher quality of life that makes me more productive and effective as an "employee". I could manage with out these services but my life is better because of them. Fertility and dental and vision seem like added bonuses that certainly add to my life. Healthy teeth and the ability to see with an up to date prescription are wonderful. Having help in trying to grow our family is something that was always out of reach before.

So yes I will say it, I have the privilege of insurance. I can't help but think how everyone should have access to these sorts of services, in a way that is affordable, and doesn't cost my fellow professionals in the medical field money. There has got to be a way for every person to have affordable access to care and for doctors, nurses, therapists, and so on to be able to feed their families and live comfortably.

Today I am grateful for this grand privilege, even while pondering how to get this kind of care to all my fellow humans.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Little Bird

My first day back in the office after a week away was a busy and productive one. It is nearly 7 in the evening and now I am home an working on all the life stuff that needs to be caught up on. I did catch this little bird in our back yard today, she was hanging out on the flowers Saturday afternoon.

Today I am grateful for the little birds that slow me down and make me remember whose creation I am a part of.

Final Photo

Friday morning I took one last photo for contemplative photography prayer. I wanted to share it to complete the experience here on the blog even though it is a bit late. I really enjoyed this and hope to make daily prayer and photo walks a part of my life.

Today I am grateful for all I get to experience and learn. 


Sunday, July 31, 2016


It is hard to believe at the end of this week we will have a seven year old. Where has the time gone? I am telling you it was just yesterday I had that positive pregnancy test and now I have a kid who is getting her adult teeth, fighting for more independence, and sadly picking up a lot of attitude. Later this week we will eat pizza and paint pottery in celebration of her big day, for this occasion I made her a simple personalized apron today. I ironed on a graphic of a paint brush painting a sparkly rainbow and her name. I wasn't going to show her this little project until party day, I hung it in my room to cool off and she came in hours later and saw it. Her expression and the simple joy was priceless, something we need more of around here.

Today I am grateful for her and all the joy she brings.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Yesterday I wrote about a really negative experience. Today I want to share one that provided healing to that same hurt. Each evening a person has been sharing their personal story of grace. Tonight a fellow clergy person shared the story of working hard toward interfaith relations and being ridiculed in their town for doing so. A person who is showing deep love and faith, being met with hate and anger and "righteousness". I immediately thought this was both hard and awesome. When they finished speaking, there was a standing ovation. I teared up, because this is my beloved church, the ones who care deeply even when they have a long way to go.

Today I am grateful for redemption and reminders of how hard my colleagues are working and bringing love to the world. 

A few photos from today:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Heartbreak & Hope

Today I watched with a group of my fellow beloved Presbyterians the movie Milk. I had not viewed this film before but had a general idea of what it was about. I haven't stayed very long for discussions because I have to leave to get my kiddo. I want you to know, I am happy that all these Presbys have gathered together and are sharing in this week of learning. I am glad that slowly our denomination is moving forward pushing one tiny step at a time toward a more just word. I love these people, I really do and perhaps that is why I found myself feeling so much after this film today. The film in and of itself was a wonderful piece of art and compelling storytelling, easy to see why it got the Oscar nod a few years back. Then there was a series of comments about how far we have come and how gay people now have equal rights how there aren't many loud voices against them right now. Seriously, I want to get my news from these same sources, I would sleep better.

I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream are you freaking serious right now? Do you know any gay people? Have you asked them if they feel equal? I could not do this but I stayed late to share my two cents. I was born two years after Harvey Milk died, this is not my lived experience but from early on this film I wondered if anything had really changed at all. While some change did happen all I can think is how far we have to go because the fight is still very real for my gay friends, my friends of other races, cultures, and religions. There is so much hate in the world for these people and there is so much further to go. It is why I do what I do because the hate has to go. There was one resounding voice that said thank you and we moved right back to how much progress we have made. I wanted to scream, we can't stop because we have a little progress, we must push on, further and further until really there is equality. Now, I know this is not the fault of these people or their experience, it is just where they are at. Yet, there was a part of me maybe because of my love and respect for them that ached because in this moment I realized we have ever further to go than I thought on issues of equality and justice. I could have sobbed it hurt so bad, I felt sick, and light headed all through dinner. Maybe I was naive to expect better, maybe I should just be grateful for the lack of hate in the room. I don't know anything other than this day will stay with me for a long time.
On the flip side of this I am rather enjoying contemplative photography. Today in the lesson time I was fed by the lesson, something that so rarely happens these days, as I listened to familiar scriptures I saw my own story mirrored. I wanted to shout out Oh MY GOODNESS... this is my life and I never saw it like this before, I have lived this. I didn't tell a soul I just savored it.

Today I am grateful for food on the journey, to have fellow sojourners no matter where they are at. 

A few pictures from today:
Playing with manual settings.

This guy was in the picture above too.

A reflection on journey, only so many steps can be seen at a time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Contemplative Photography

This week I have opted to take all classes that engage my inner artist and creative rather than my academic self. I do not know if this will make me a better pastor but it will help me to become a better follower of Jesus. Today the theme for my photography walk was worthy. I took a lot of pictures because when I go out for a walk with my camera I am struck by nearly everything I see. I challenged myself to photograph something vast because I tend to be so detail oriented and introspective. I took about 30 pictures and then had to choose just one to share. This is the one I shared today.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.
I never imagined that I would take a picture of a part of me. Those lapping waves just called my name over and over and I couldn't resist putting my feet in. As the water washed over them I was reminded of my baptism, the washing away of all that is imperfect, even if there was a bit of sediment in the water. My tattoo says peace which was not lost on the instructor. As I let the water roll in and as I played with the camera, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made" came into my thoughts, followed by "in the image of God". This is something I have taught on for some time both as a pastor and as a lay leader to young girls.
This is something that I often find difficult to believe to be true for myself. I guess we teach and preach what we most need to hear and believe. Over the years there have been moments when I have made peace with my body which rarely feels wonderfully made. Last fall I cried as I accepted my body a little more as I took communion at Why Christian?. This summer though I have really been at odds with it, even trying to work through a daily guide to better body image and radical self love, after a lot of the muck got stirred up. I do not love this book, sometimes it makes me roll my eyes, but I am determined to see it through. I have been noticing certain things more like the proclivity of women to talk negatively about their bodies, I noticed I rarely say it, I just think it. I am not sure that is much better. Today though for a moment I heard the voice of God telling me, you are my beloved child, perhaps there I was finding worthy the most unlikely of things, my dirty feet.

Today I am grateful for this moment of grace with myself and God. I am grateful for the chance to just walk with my camera and see the world anew again. 

Here are a few more shots from today:
These boots were just in the hallway begging to be photographed.

Look Closely

Playing with light.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Broken Open...
This week I am at the Synod School for the Synod of the Lakes and Prairies. I came to this with my daughter, we tend to take one trip a year on our own. The theme this year is connecting with Jesus in an over connected world. There is a lot of focus on making friends while here, something I am not super interested in. Don't get me wrong I am sure there are tons of amazing people here, but I am just SO TIRED, I need time to refresh. I don't have the energy it takes for my introvert to be social right now. I am however getting in GREAT bonding time with my daughter who has been feeling the hectic schedule as of late. That in itself makes it worth it, this week I am just her mom and nothing else, I am not the pastor, or the class parent, or the housekeeper, or the cook. Just mom. I can see already how much she has needed this and how much I need to schedule more just mom time with her and make it a non negotiable with the rest of my schedule.

Today I took a class on contemplative photography, this is my image, which I would call broken open. I like how the walnut is in the shadow broken open but there is the hope of the light dancing all around it.

Today I am grateful for small encounters with God and big encounters with the most beautiful gift, my LG.


On Sunday we had a bunch of visitors in church for a variety of reasons. People whom I would have liked to preach well too. I was exhausted this week and preached a sermon that was at best meh. It could have ha better exegesis and more passion. I suppose it wasn't my worst but it was far from great. I suppose these things happen but how I wish it wouldn't have happened on this particular Sunday. Live and learn I suppose.

I am grateful for a good presence in spite of the lack of "good sermon" and for the chance to learn from this falling short.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Falling Behind

The overall feeling of today is being behind on life. I am about a day behind on everything I would like to have done. Even so, I had a great day and really enjoyed some evening pool time.

Today I am grateful for time well spent, even if there are consequences.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Relationships and Loneliness

Introvert: Guilty as charged. I am highly introverted which means I thrive on my quiet alone time that I spend re-centering. The danger in this is sometimes I slip too far into the interior space of my head and heart. Sometimes I have to make myself just step out side, walk around the block, inhale the fresh air and remember there is more to the world than what is inside my head. This is particularly challenging in my current context because it is some what isolating living on the the plains. I live in a well populated area but I still do not have access to some of the things that give me life. The winters are long and cold leaving us in the house often. I have an amazing congregation and I am starting to find peers and friends. One thing that is lacking, which takes time, is those couple of people you just jive with. I did not realize how lonely I was becoming as I have felt rather isolated.

This week I talked to many people I love dearly, whom I cherish a sacred closeness with, and I have felt fed and loved. I noted this, that I need to be more intentional about connecting with people who help me remember I am alive, pulsing, breathing, human, life! Phone calls are amazing but currently I have a long time friend visiting one who gets what it is like to take the path in life that leads to living in places one never anticipated, one who gets the challenges of motherhood, emotions, life. How good it is to have girl chat with all the needed history already in place, no explaining needed.

Today I am grateful that I recognized the loneliness even if it took connection to notice it. I am grateful for relationships that challenge me and feed me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Well yesterday was a day that I would prefer to not relive. I had some medication issues and some anxiety issues that landed me in the Emergency Room for half the day and left me with little in the realm of answers. Today is much better. Yesterday was a big day in our lives, we have longed for another child for years, and recently we have taken some very proactive steps in making dreams a reality with fertility issues. Yesterday was the day I was to start clomid, a hormone medication, to help get my body working toward conception. Then it turned into a rough day before I ever took the little pill that holds so much in the realm of possibilities and heart break. I was eventually able to take said pill and I am fairly certain after typing that last sentence I know where my anxiety was coming from. There are challenges in the next weeks as I travel and need to be near to Paul to make all this work. Should it be successful, will we ever have some stories to tell.

Today, I was a little nervous to see how I would feel with hormones my body doesn't make on it's own. When I was pregnant I was so much more lovey than I usually am. I woke up nauseous this was to be expected. After it passed that almost euphoric love came back. I looked at our daughter and my heart almost exploded with love and joy.

We are in for a ride in the coming months, here is to the adventure.

Today I am grateful for fertility help, for finally facing it head on, and to know the future holds many possibilities.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Today has been an incredibly hard day for me, I cannot go into details about that. I will keep it simple and celebrate something good. On July 7th I made cupcakes for our guests, it is July 17th and some of those cupcakes remain uneaten. I cannot tell you how unlikely it would have been at one time for this statement to be true. I am on a journey, a slow and frustrating journey, but today I am seeing uneaten cupcakes as a sign of progress little as it might be.

I am grateful amid the mess to see how far I have come and to know that I will forever be on a journey, evolving.


This morning I forced myself to take time to do some centering before I got ready for the day, even though I was behind. I went through a decent chunk of my daily practices but not all. I felt so centered as I went in to lead worship this morning. I also found that I was able to slow down as I entered the pulpit. One of the biggest challenges I have is slowing down my Jersey girl to a pace that is understandable outside of the North East. It is a constant struggle for me to slow down when using my words. This felt like a huge accomplishment today, one I have been working on for years. Now I hope it is as effective next week!

Today I am grateful for growth.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Losing my Education

There is an REM song, Losing my Religion, the lyrics to the refrain go like this:

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

Fear not, I am not losing my religion although I would prefer some other word much like the spiritual but not religious group that is forever on the rise. The only difference is well I work in organized religion, which isn't big on the spirituality of self.  This morning I was reading a book that could be classified somewhere between religion and spirituality. Let me say, for me the two are as intertwined as they are separate. I was sitting along a parade route awaiting the start and reading quietly about ancient spiritual practice, I am also currently reading about mysticism, it seems two years out of seminary and I a ready to tackle "heady" books again. These two books are written by different people, in different traditions, a few years apart; yet they have common themes. I was reading the author's take on Biblical themes and thinking to myself, I really need to sit down and slowly work my way through the entire Bible again and identify the themes.

That is when it hit me, I used to know these things! If I thought about it long enough I could probably recall nearly all the thematic trends I was taught. The problem seems to be that they didn't sink into my permanent memory as sometimes happens when you are a full time graduate student, parent to a toddler, and an intern. In that moment I felt like the education I worked so hard for was starting to slip away as the demand for academics grows weaker and the demand for administration grows stronger in my day to day life. I noticed recently too that I would like to look back on how to do exegesis in sequential steps. I have all my note books so I can go back to them and review if I ever find the time, perhaps it is time I make time for them.

These song lyrics jumped into my head only with education instead of religion. Trying to keep up, trying to keep the balance between saying too much and not enough and often feeling like I have done both. I can't really make sense of it here but I can tell you for sure that it captures how I am feeling about all my education this week.

Today I am grateful for all the educational opportunities I have had and I will have in the coming lifetime.

A Celebration

Tonight nearly 1500 miles away at my home church there is a celebration of a decade of ministry with a group called Girls ONLY. This ministry was my baby back in 2005, like all things ministry related it took more than me to make it happen, and I am grateful for a co-leader who is still there leading this ministry for young girls.

The idea behind this ministry was to teach young women to believe and celebrate that they are made in the image of God, imperfections and all. I was asked to write a reflection about my time with "GO" and wrote about how I had dreamed of a ministry that I wish someone would have had for me at that age. As a woman it is my responsibility to help lift up and not put down other women, especially young women.

There are somethings I would do differently now with more life experience and a stronger feminist theology. Perhaps one day I will be in a place where I could lead this type of ministry again, it is so very important for our young girls who see nonstop images of perfection thanks to the ease of computer manipulation to photos. Tonight my spirit joins them all in celebrating and my prayer is for many more years of girls learning to love who they are and grow into who God is calling them to be.

Today I am grateful for a church that supported my dream and me. If it weren't for things like this and children's theatre ministry I wouldn't be a pastor today. I am grateful for a church that is willing to dream and experiment and to equip leaders.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


In he past week I have been "rejected" from a few things, most of them I am shrugging my shoulders at. One was a writing program I really wanted to attend later this year but I knew my odds of "getting in" were low. That is the only one that stung a little, even with the sting I know there are a few reasons why that didn't work out and I am mostly ok with that. The challenge has been having a few back to back that would otherwise not bother me has made me very aware of this concept of rejection. It is hard to quell the voice that screams "you aren't good enough" after several in a row. I am not losing sleep about it, just noticing what the invitation might be. I decided to write more and more, so there is already positive coming. Even if the writing lingers somewhere around forced and lacks meaning.

I guess there are moments when things that don't require a sorry it isn't you letter, feel similar to rejection. My struggle with fertility is often like that. We aren't getting any younger around here so we have upped our fertility game to some minor intervention which is about as far as we are going to go. On Monday I will start new medication since we have established the problem is with my body (we knew this already but now it is official). Today is cycle day one which means there was a bit of disappointment today. No matter how much I try I can't protect myself from that sort of disappointment I guess because by nature I am an optimist, I always find, even amidst my trying to be realistic a little bit of hope wanders in. It is quickly dashed against the rocks, every time, so I wonder why I even do it. Then again, a life with out hope for something more in our family, something better in our world seems rather pointless. 

Today I am grateful for hope, even when it hurts. I am grateful for rejections that make me work harder toward the goal. I am grateful for those of you still around reading this old blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Discipline and Overachieving

Last week I decided I needed to be more disciplined about my spiritual practices while not striving for perfection in them. For example, writing is one of my best practices; in theory even if I just scratched out three sentences or some notes in a day, I could accept that while not perfect, it was what I could do with that day. This is writing that on a really good day would not involve work but for personal fulfillment. I have tried many practices like this over time, writing is a stronghold. Others have included time in scripture, writing prayers, time in silence (not my best practice), and reading. I am trying to get to a place where I get back into the routine of many of these practices. Today as I sat down with three books, a Bible, and three journals... I thought perhaps just maybe I have set the bar too high here? My goal is to do these practices before work each day, this rarely happens. I squeeze them in other places but the ultimate goal would be to have a whole hour each day to spend with these practices, ideally adding back in silence because hey a girl can grow. An added curve ball is right now I am working with a book for lack of a better term is like a daily devotional but not about faith of any sort. It takes time and thought and pulls me so far out of my comfort zone that I will try to avoid it like the plague.

I can see here that I will not perfect this predawn routine. I can see that I will still struggle to see more than my favorite couple of yoga poses as physical spiritual practice. I can accept that I am not a person who finds deep spiritual satisfaction in exercise. Although a good routine does do wonders for my clarity any given day but tell me that when my hand is hitting the snooze button because just 8 more minutes will make a difference. What can I say even my morning person self is subject to weird logic when asleep.

I tend to always set the bar too high, I don't always reach the bar but it keep me reaching and pushing myself to do better. Yet I notice with the expectation I have set upon my over achieving self, even with discipline, I am setting myself up to fall short of where I want to be on this one. I would tell other people to have grace with themselves because working full time with little childcare and all the household responsibilities is a lot for anyone to manage. It is not what I tell myself, grace is so much easier when it is for someone else. It is all connected to that blasted perfectionism I wrote about yesterday, perfection isn't real I know that, could it be achieved I am not sure what it might give me other than a nervous breakdown.

Today I am grateful for this blog and my ability to write with out seeking perfection.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I have seen a spiritual director with regularity over the past five years. Each has a different style which I am ok with. I feel like I babble a lot with my current director. Like as if the words stop I might say something real. Which I mean there is some truth there, real is hard, but in this sort of relationship I don't have too hard a time with real. It is actually refreshing to get to be fully "real" because there I don't have to have pastoral identity, I get to just be me.

Anyhow, last week after much babbling I found myself talking about my struggle with professional perfectionism. Perfectionism isn't new for me, it has been a life long disease but as of late I only seem to struggle with it professionally. I ended up landing on this idea of imperfection as a spiritual practice and my director helped me to flesh that out a bit.

I try not to be all obsessive over this sort of thing around the kiddo, so what comes next is either me not being great at hiding my own struggle or some genetic predisposition. I can tally all my shortcomings in my head with out her ever knowing. I have noticed that Miss L wants to be really good at things like soccer with out practicing or working on the required skills. She wants to walk on the field and have a natural greatness with out putting the work in. Since she is six I try to accept this but after a particularly rough day at gymnastics, I kinda lost my shit a little. Which was unfair to her because she is six. I was frustrated that I spend the money and invest the time for her to try different activities and she never pays attention she just gets lost somewhere in her head where she is already as awesome as Rainbow Dash, as smart as Twilight Sparkle, and we could work our way through all the ponies. This makes me twitch, I have had to walk laps at soccer practice, grit my teeth at gymnastics, we won't even talk about dance class. 99.9% of the time I play it cool because I don't want her to catch it, the perfectionism. I realized as I sat there and thought about all this, she already has it.

I was the kid who thought she could become an Olympic swimmer by swimming laps in an above ground pool. I had lots of dreams that didn't require effort from me. I could probably look deeper there, in a moment's thought I can think of at least three explanations as to why my child-self would have liked those sorts of things. The point is my kid is just like me, while I feel pretty confident in saying I turned out ok, I really took the scenic route to get here and I kinda want her to take the expressway. It's her journey though not mine. This impatient girl who once wanted instant greatness has learned how to work hard toward something... I am not sure I would call it greatness. All this leaves me still with my perfectionism and a nagging question, if I believe God created me as I am then is the perfectionism part of how I was created? or is it a twisted version of something else I should be?

I am grateful for this space to write and to struggle.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Liminal Spaces

Last week the news rolled in like waves of despair, everyday someone else had died. Friday morning I was getting ready for an all day meeting three hours away. I opened my phone to find some notifications about "Dallas". I turned on the morning news...

As I made my three hour drive through the plains, seeing little more than cows and corn, I was thinking hard about what I could possibly preach in this violent and broken world that would make any difference. A lament shared by many of my preacher friends this past weekend. I noticed in many places the road joined the sky, as heat gathered in reflective pools it reflected the sky. This made it appear as if I would drive into the great beyond in just a few miles for most of my ride. At one point I looked up in my rear view mirror and noticed the same thing was happening behind me. Optical illusion would make me believe that I was driving on a road floating in the sky. Merely in between places but in a real and tangible place (which roads generally are, in between places). There was something metaphorical about all that as I contemplated this violent, broken, hurting world and the promises of love and hope in the Gospel. There was something dare I say hopeful about the idea that one could drive off into the clouds. It wasn't so much that I wanted to escape from the pain of the world but I was reminded that this world is temporary; there is a better world that could exist if we would just fulfill the command to love. So there I drove between two different worlds... wondering, dreaming, lamenting, praying, remembering how tentative it all is.

Fast forward to Sunday morning when I sat on my bed editing my third sermon of the week amidst the pounding rain, swept into our windows by a howling wind, thunder shaking them in their panes. It was dark and heavy and hopeless. Then at 8 am on the dot like every other Sunday morning another church's bells rang out, calling people home. I do not know that there are words to explain what that was like but it brought me back to that same liminal space. I was again back in the in between, not past, not present, just somewhere in the middle.

In that in between space, twice this weekend I found what seems so intangible in the everyday: hope.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Questions with out Answers

I know last week I wrote about this grief that lingers. Tomorrow is the day I said I would eat dessert first in honor of my late sister in law's birthday. Heck I might even just eat dessert for dinner, period, she totally would have done that. Something that I have noticed is that as my grief for one person lost is amplified, I will miss the rest more as well. As of late my dad has been on my mind, likely due to a less than pleasant conversation last week. Which left me like a venomous beast ready to pounce and destroy. Today in the mail arrived a white envelope I wasn't expecting, my uncle sent some pictures from when we were kids and when my dad was racing go karts.
My dad (24)  and his racing buddies.

Let me just say I think I found the original hipsters right here, look at those beards, the hair, the flannel, although the jeans probably aren't tight enough. OK not really pretty sure calling them hipsters would be a mortal offense, I mean look at them I wouldn't want to mess with them, move over Outsiders!  I fell instantly in love with this picture even though I only remember two of the people in it. It was taken long before my arrival on the scene. I walked over to my daughter and said, "This one is your pop (choke back tears) pop pop (voice crack) who is in heaven." "Was he at a car racing contest?" I told her all about her pop pop and his car racing and his motor cycle racing. She went on playing and I walked back into the kitchen.

I flipped through the other pictures a few with him in them but I kept coming back to this one. The way he is holding that helmet, he looks just like my little brother. That high forehead looks mighty familiar, I look at it every day in the mirror. And that don't mess with me face is like seeing myself, my brother, and my daughter all in one person... we all make that face. I wonder how much we would all be like him if he were here. I wonder what we would talk about.

Over the years I have wondered a lot about what life with my dad would have, could have, should have looked like. I have mused about him being there on my wedding day. I have imagined his relationship with my child. Today though I wondered something entirely different, I wondered if we would get along. When my dad got sick I was a wee little tot of just seven years old. He was my world, developmentally speaking he was still the perfect parent, the hero who I never became disillusioned with. He never became fully human and flawed for me as I developed. He remained for ever how I saw him when I was seven. Which logically I know at this point in adulthood isn't who he really was.

I have heard a lot about him from family and his friends. As I have gotten older I sometimes wonder how we would have gotten along. I get the sense that we may have had different ideas about many things. I can't really know, ever, because people evolve, we only remember what we want about people, and so forth. I know for sure he loved me, I know that when people engage in dialogue with their kids sometimes they fight and sometimes minds are changed. I wonder how that would have been for us to navigate. For example I know for sure he was deeply wounded by the church of his childhood upon his return from Vietnam and he pretty much disliked organized religion. Clearly we have different ideas, but then again had he not gotten sick, had he not died, I may not have been called to do what I do. It is a hard thing to think of how I never really knew him to his core, just little pieces of him. But I look at this picture and I see how much of him lives on in us and I am so very grateful.

My dad, my sister in law, they are single losses among quite a few significant losses in my life time. I am not old enough to have this many losses of significance, in my peer groups most still have their parents, some still have grandparents. It is at times challenging to say the least, it is like being advanced in the worst way possible. I won't ever have the answers to the questions of my father's personality, it is an impossibility, and so as I live with the space he left in my heart, I make peace with the questions.

Today I observed an odd thing before this picture came but the picture made it more apparent. This part isn't new, I often will not allow myself to get close to people because the instinctive defense mechanism is, they will leave, they will die, and it will hurt less if you don't like them. The new part was driving home from a visit, thinking about how attached I have become to a few of the folks I visit and many in church. Many of them are between 80-95 years old. The sheer irony, I have allowed myself to love these people deeply in just a year's time and I will preside at some of their funerals, curbing my own grief until later in the day.

As painful as it is, I am grateful for the journey thus far, all of it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Grief Lingers

My guess is if you have ever grieved for anyone or anything you know that grief lingers like that friend who just won't leave. Sometimes it is more like a creeper that follows you around and says SURPRISE look I am here too. Here have some feelings you would rather not have and a most inconvenient time because I don't care what time is good for you.

This is what has happened to me this morning in a coffee shop. I work here one morning a week in an attempt to be out in the community. I always bring work with me for slow days. Today is slow, so I was clearing out my email inboxes. There it was from Amazon, Birthday Reminder for Donna. My eyes began to sting with a wave of grief. Donna should be celebrating her birthday the beginning of next week, she wouldn't even be 50 yet! My sister in law who left us suddenly and tragically in 2012, asked me just weeks before she died where we would live next, when we would have more babies for her to hold and spoil. She didn't make it to my seminary graduation or ordination, she didn't get to see me installed in our new home. I didn't get to hear her ask the way only she could, why on Earth would you move THERE? I don't get texts around Halloween asking about Christmas.

Donna was my sister in law for over 20 years because of how spread out we are, my brother got married when I was around 8 years old. She helped me and my friends survive our teenage years, planned my wedding with me, rejoiced at L's birth. She was a friend, a confidant, a second mom, and this awesome bonus person I got to have in my life. We didn't always see eye to eye but we loved each other deeply which is how it goes with family. We even lived together for nearly five years.

This morning being reminded that we should be celebrating her birthday in a few days broke my heart. I suppose I could go turn off that reminder and the one that will buzz on my phone in a few days. I mean it would make sense to avoid this lingering grief every year but I can't bring myself to do it. Next Tuesday in her honor we eat dessert first. Sometimes these little grief filled reminders, remind me not just of grief but of how fleeting life is, it reminds me I am alive. That I should be living this life and not merely existing because in a moment we can be gone.

Today I am grateful for all the time I got with this woman who loved me through the hardest times in my life. I am grateful for my aching heart because it means we loved well and made memories together and that she lives on in me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Vulnerability and Compassion

Being vulnerable is not a strong point for me. I could go on and on about this and the reasons it is my current truth but frankly I need to cut to the chase because otherwise I might chicken out on being vulnerable in a new way on this blog. On January 5 while driving at dawn, I hit black ice on the high way, my vehicle spun out and rolled multiple times into a ditch, landing on the driver's side door. I was trapped inside for a few minutes before figuring out how to get my head out of the metal that was bent around it and my knee that was stuck between the door and the steering wheel. I have a fracture in my neck and in a rib. In the realm of neck fractures mine is mild, I had a few weeks in a soft brace. I am sore from time to time but mostly I am back to normal. Or I was until Friday morning.

Friday life required me to head an hour East to our closest big city. A drive I have done multiple times since the accident with out incident. I don't love doing it but I do. Friday was different for two reasons: my daughter was with me and there was blowing snow and a slippery road warning. The morning of my accident it was the wind that blew me onto the ice. As soon as I pulled out on to the highway I felt the wind blowing the car a bit. I immediately tensed up, I was already nervous about ice in the 10 degree temps and now wind and it snowed the day before. It was going to be a long drive, I had given myself three hours to make the typically 1 hour drive. (I made it in an hour and a half.)

Mostly because of my profession but partly because of my nature as a human being, I spend a lot of time compartmentalizing my own junk. An example: recently when I went to a nursing facility I saw one of my congregants struggling to eat, in a very similar way to my own father near the end. The tears welled up almost instantly as I walked up. Do you know what I had to do in that moment? I had to remind myself this is not about me and my junk. I can deal with my junk later (I had an ugly cry). I greeted the person and helped get them situated and advocated for the proper utensil. I walk with people and it is my call to show them compassion. Sometimes that means I cannot react how I would like to, it means I have to in a split second assess the conversation, hear what is said, what isn't said, what might be said with out words, and think about where that person is coming from. Sometimes I would like slap a person but I have to make this sort of assessment in an instant and respond with grace, love, and compassion. (I fall short, don't worry.) This spills over into all of my life, friendships, random encounters with strangers. It is a part of who I am.

From time to time I find I am really frustrated when people do not return this sort of understanding, even though I know it isn't typical. Friday morning was one of these times. As I pulled on to the highway and my new car wobbled in the wind and the snow began to blow I drove painfully slow. I am talking that annoying car that does 20 mph under the speed limit, which is 80 here. I am pretty sure every car I encountered was passing me, some getting blown toward me. The semi trucks were the worst because of how the wind effects them. Now listen I don't expect everyone to stay behind me... I just found myself wanting to scream, I was you, the person passing the slow cars five weeks ago, you don't know what happened. Car after car passed me. I had both hands on the wheel, squeezing so tight I had to stop at the half way point to rub my hands, they were hurting from my death grip. All the while trying to play it cool as to not freak out my kid.

Here is what I am asking you, the next time you fly past that slow moving car and get all frustrated think about who might be driving that car and what they may have faced recently. Maybe it is an older woman who never really drove but was recently widowed whose life has been turned upside down and she is trying to cope and find her new normal. Or maybe it is someone who got the worst phone call of their lives and they are in a daze as they try to drive to their loved ones.  Maybe they are just a jerk hell bent on ruining your day.

Or they could be me. A woman who is doing something really hard and really brave albeit slowly. I drove my hands clenched, my jaw set, my heart racing, all while trying to keep a calm demeanor for the sake of my child. As I got with in 20 miles of the scene of my accident it was almost impossible for me to keep driving. Maybe that jerk you are passing, has hands that ache from the gripping the steering wheel so tight because a few weeks ago she was stuck in a ditch. Maybe she is quietly sobbing as the snow blows across the road and feels her vehicle wiggle in the wind. Maybe she can't let out all the emotion because her six year old is in the back seat and she doesn't want her to fear car trips. Maybe she knows if said six year old had been with her on the morning of her accident, her skull would have been crushed between the ceiling and the door. She knows this because the car seat was wedged there, she had to rip it out to prop a door open. Maybe she sees things she has never noticed before like how there are two story drops off the side of the road in certain places. Maybe she is highly aware of all the tire tracks going off the road. Maybe thanks to the frozen ground five weeks later she can still pick out her own tire tracks as she passes them. Maybe she is scared and full of anxiety but she is also strong and brave, everyday getting back behind the wheel even when she would rather not because she is only 35 and can't hang up her driving keys yet. Maybe she needs more time to process a very real traumatic event. Maybe she is worried about some upcoming long drives and how she is going to make them. Maybe she just wants to feel normal but as her anxiety ramps up her muscles tighten and she can feel the fracture in her neck. Maybe that person you are flying past is me, maybe I am doing OK, but I am not great.

After an accident on stairs that left my daughter's arm broken and needing surgery I started to have anxiety attacks, like really bad anxiety attacks that sent me to the ER three times in two weeks. They came again when we faced being with out a home last year. Since moving I have only had one, until the accident. These attacks range from feeling like I am dying to draining me of all ability to be productive. I often have to lay down and focus on breathing to make it through. My whole drive on Friday I was breathing through and fighting off this kind of paralyzing anxiety. I haven't told many people about this struggle but it feels like it is time. Friday morning sucked a lot! The drive home was much better because the wind had died down.

I say all of this to beg you the next time you encounter someone like me you might have compassion rather than rage. Maybe you could pray for that person instead of facebooking about how people shouldn't drive in bad weather if they can't handle it. Maybe the person who needs your compassion isn't driving but in your way somewhere else. Take a step back, take a breath, and for a moment try to understand where they might be coming from.

Today I am grateful for the people who I have been able to share this journey with so far even the hard, ugly, embarrassing parts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dust to Dust & Truth Telling

It used to be that Protestants did away with such things as Ash Wednesday but that is no longer the case. We will worship tonight to repent and to be reminded that we are all dying. From the moment of our first breath to our last we are in a continual state of dying. This will be new for my current congregation but it won't be new for me. Each person will come forward and I will mark them with burnt palm ashes saying, "you came from dust and to dust you will return". We will repent and prepare our hearts for the season of Lent before us, a season of fasting. I live with this truth everyday, I serve an older congregation and that means we are no strangers to death. The truth is though that being "old" (however you define it) is not a prerequisite for death. This a deeply meaningful practice for me. A reminder of what is at hand and what it is that might really matter in the world, in life, and even in death. I have known for a long time my days are numbered with a number I do not yet know. Most of us know this and we distract ourselves from this common everyday truth, we are mortal.

Tonight though, I will (if she so desires) impose the ashes on my own daughter with the solemn reminder of her return to dust. Chances are she won't understand it fully, no one ever does. It seems a cruel twist of the preacher's fate to have to remind their child they are mortal. A truth I pray I will only have to remember out loud once a year. The very idea of one's child being dead is enough to make even the most stoic among us shed a tear. But for me it is just an abstract. A thought. An idea. that doesn't sit well with me.

What about for my loved ones who have lost a child. Their truth is different, more tangible than my abstract idea of loss. I am left to wonder how this day is for them. Then I wonder for the rest of us how we might live differently if we had to see on a regular basis that our children out living us is not a given. That no matter how cute, how smart, how compassionate, no matter how much they changed you, made you better, made you yell... they too will one day be nothing more than the dust from which they were created.

To you as we stand in these moments of repentance and preparation for fasting, you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Today I am grateful even for the unpleasant reminders that help us remember we are human.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Tuesday Morning Part 1

Tuesday morning was a typical second day back from break for all of us. There was more enthusiasm than typical and I had to leave early to get to a meeting and the family was getting ready for dad to drop L off at school, a treat she totally loves. Things were going smoothly, there was a giant cup of water spilled all over clean clothes right as I was leaving but non the less crisis averted. I checked the weather and I checked it again it was going to be windy, but most days are windy on the plains. I listened to the radio no road condition warnings. My kiddo said, mommy I miss you and I hugged her and said I will be home tonight honey. Then I seriously thought to myself that is dumb to say what if I don't make it home, shrugged it off and was on my way.  It was still pretty dark out, I made my way to the gas station and filled up. I was running 8 minutes late but figured I would either make up time because it never takes as long as the app says or big deal I am ten minutes late. The roads in town were wet but not too slick. I eased on to the high way and slowly felt out the roads. It was smooth sailing and we (me and my fellow drivers) were traveling at speed.

As I passed into my last county on that highway, county signs and grain elevators are my new land marks, the snow had started to blow on to the high way. (I was singing along with my new CD from Christmas about wanting to be closer to Jesus, in a blues souly sort of way.) It had been really windy and the car was getting blown around a lot which meant I had already slowed down. The snow blowing across the highway is actually pretty it makes beautiful little swirls. The wind, the snow, I knew I couldn't drive at speed anymore. I drove past a bunch of slower moving cars and thought hmmm that was a lot of slow cars I better cool it. It helps that my car does not like to go fast. The wind was picking up and visibility was reducing. I decided that maybe I should slow even more. Now I have to tell you I have been warned about the blowing snow and how dangerous it was. I had no idea that this meant crazy ice patches you can't see, I thought dangerous blowing snow meant that there was limited visibility making blizzard like conditions out of the already fallen snow. I noticed a lot of wobble under the over pass. Then out of now where it happened, the wind blew and the car gave this strange wobble I corrected and was back in my lane for a split second before I was in a full on spin, I was in the other lane, I was scared, I was peeing my pants (literally), I was slamming on the brakes as I tried to at least slow down the impact (I know better, don't hit the brakes when you start to slide it gets worse). And I knew, I would hit the ditch, and I knew it was steep enough that I was going to roll. I closed my eyes. Crunch of the metal coming down around my head, crunch of the snow outside, crunch of the windshield shattering. Thud. I am laying on my drivers door and I am stuck. The snow is coming in the now bent door and I reach up to turn the heat up because I am stuck and realize no I need to turn the car off. So I turn it off, and I am trying hard not to panic. It isn't working. So I throw things off of me, maps, a snow brush, a floor mat. I start beeping the horn, why isn't anyone there. I am in a full on panic I am stuck, I may be stuck for hours. My head is pinned between the door and the roof which has collapsed all around it. My left leg is bent almost to my chest and stuck between the door and the steering wheel. I CANNOT GET OUT! I start saying oh God oh God oh God. My limbs are ok. HELP ME! I can move my feet and my hands. HELP ME! I see CDs and a bumper sticker littering the window next to me. BREATHE BREATHE you have to BREATHE you cannot panic. I was able to get my head out of it's confinement. Ok I am Ok. The angel appeared them in the form of a snow plow driver who was ready to see what ever mess I was inside that car. He opened the now top door, passenger door with so much authority and I think was relieved to see I wasn't a bloody pulp. I told him I was ok but stuck.

Just the mere presence of another human being at this point calmed me down. I was able to get my leg out and then eventually stand up. He wanted me out of the car ASAP. He calmly kept encouraging me and I was terrified to try to get out and thinking dude I am a big girl you won't be able to pull me out. So he asked me for something hard to brace the door, and I grabbed my daughter's booster seat. IT IS PINNED BETWEEN THE ROOF AND THE DOOR AND THE SEAT. I WILL NOT LOOSE MY SHIT I WILL NOT LOOSE MY SHIT AS I THINK ABOUT HOW MY DAUGHTER WOULD BE DEAD. SEAT YOU ARE MINE! Yank and it is free. He gets the door secured and I say I have to call my husband. I look at my feet and I say if my sun glasses are there and this is there and that is there then my phone must be... here and I put my hand on it. I cannot tell you how I did that it defies all logic. I stand there in the car wondering why I am all wet, duh I peed myself, and I call my husband because he is not far behind me on the road and A. he does not know the roads are shit when you cross the county line and B. He is car guy even if he sees the undercarriage first he will know it's me in this ditch and he will crash because he panics first and then reacts. We cannot both be in the ditch. I put the phone in my pocket with my keys. And started figuring out how to get out.

I climbed the dented roof, the steering wheel and reclined the passenger seat so I could get out. I made it to the top of the car and I had to jump down. Mind you all this time I am injured and I don't realize it because of adrenaline. In another rash of irrational thought I am not worried that my knee is going to twist when I make the jump. So I get back wards and steady myself on the ledge for longer than I needed to. I have the bruises on my knees to prove it. And finally I jump down the driver pulls me toward him so I clear the roof . I am out. I am not trapped. I am freezing and covered in pee in a ditch, my car is totaled, and I feel like WONDER WOMAN.

I am alive and I am grateful.