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.