Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Blog is On Hold...

....until after baby arrives! See you in January! In the meantime, you might check out the blogs in my list to the left. They are good ones!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Five (Fun New Posts)

As a member of a girl preacher blog-ring (an online sharing of our blogs), I am beginning to share the Friday blog starters and my answers here each week. On Fridays, one member gives five thought provoking and light-hearted questions to which I will post my responses. Just for fun! Enjoy what you learn about me!

Today's Friday Five: Jammies
Because it is getting cooler, we are getting into PJ season.
Without going to TMI land, share with us your sleepwear memories and preferences....

1. What was your favorite sleeping attire as a child? And did you call them pjs, pajamas (to rhyme with llamas), pajamas (to sort of rhyme with bananas), jammies, or ???
Jammies is what I called them but they were actually nightgowns or the famous eighties "underoo" sets. And I had some Big Bird Slippers that I loved, too!

2. Favorite sleepwear put on your own little ones, or perhaps those you babysat? .

Sleepers with feet on them. So cute!

3. How about today-do you prefer nightgown, pajamas, undies, or au naturel?

Pj's. Actual pj's is what I prefer, but I don't have a wide selection, so often it is sweats and tees when the pj's are in the wash. And cute pj's that is--none of this wearing the husband's oversize sleepwear or granny's mumu.

4. Silky smooth or flannel-y cozy?

Either silky or cozy but never flannel or fuzzy. Eww.

5. Socks or bare feet?

Bare feet! Socks are too hot!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Discipline of Surprise

It probably comes as no shock to those of my readers who really know me that I hate surprises. I cajole my husband to open at least one Christmas gift early each year. I want to know what happens next in life. I have a plan, a dream, a goal, a vision, and I work toward it. It is comforting to know that I will not be smacked in the face with something unexpected because if I am expecting something, even if it is something negative, I have at least prepared myself for the impact, I have braced myself for the hurt or embarrassment or discomfort, and I have at least considered one or two helpful responses to whatever the thing is. But surprises are ridiculous. They have a way of showing up in your life unannounced, with no preparation, no explanation. There they are, plopped right in the middle of my ordered world, just to confound me, to throw me off my otherwise predictable course. What is it about the unexpected that gets me so worked up? I have tried so often to get to the root of my phobia, but I can't really come up with a suitable explanation. I think it's because in knowing everything I can about everything that will happen, I am hoping to create some sort of barrier against the surprises that cause trouble and giving myself an extra time of celebration for the would-be surprises that induce joy. Particularly, this latter category has dominated my thoughts lately--let's say for the last 32 weeks. With only 8 weeks to go of pregnancy, this pact that the hubs and I have for not knowing the gender is driving me positively mad. I must know. I must. You just don't understand. I have tried all sorts of reasoning techniques...I must know because it will help us to plan for the baby (there really isn't much selection in the gender neutral department, because let's face it, none of us are actually content to be surprised about anything anymore). I must know because it will help me bond with the baby--knowing whether I am talking to a baby boy or baby girl. I must know because it's like carrying around this tremendous gift for 10 months without even peeling back the wrapping paper to get a sneak peek. I must know because everyone else in my life wants to know--they won't stop asking me until I do know. Lame excuses, I know, but I have done my best to support these as my banners for pre-knowledge. I think what it really is that drives me up the wall with this scenario is the discipline part of it. Let me be totally honest and say that we had this pact 2 years ago when expecting our first child, and I cheated. I made it to the end of the ultrasound and sent the husband out of the room so the technician could tell me the gender. I couldn't take the discipline of waiting. So, this time around, I thought I would give it another go, see how the old school way worked out. But it's the discipline that's so hard. To have the ability to do something but to choose not to do it. That works in most areas of my life, but there are some places, I'll admit, that I choose to do something I have promised someone I would not....nothing huge, just the occasional new pair of shoes I shouldn't spend money on or the across-town trip to the burrito place I shouldn't make. When it comes to discipline, though, does it really matter if it is a big or small breach of discipline? Luke 16:10 says: "If you're honest in small things,
you'll be honest in big things." (The Message) I write this as I anxiously await an ultrasound this afternoon, a very big temptation to be faithful (or not) in the small things. Looking to God to help me be disciplined so that I might experience a joyful surprise.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sometimes You Just Need a Little Magic

Last week was the unofficial "babymoon" and a sort-of last minute vacation before things get really hairy around here. The destination: Happiest Place on Earth. At least, that's what the hubby calls it. He has been to Disney so many times that he could be a tour guide. While I enjoy the place, I can't say I have the same passion for the sprawling kid-town as he does. I wondered how this much needed vacay would prove to be relaxing. I was thinking crowds and heat and lines and kids everywhere (We went sans-toddler!) But, as the bus pulled up to the "Pacific Northwest," I think I finally got some of that inexplicable giddiness. There are no worries; there are no plans; there is no rush; there is no stress. There is only magic. The magic of being a kid again. The magic of enjoying each moment as it comes. The magic of new experiences. The magic of friendship. And I realized something important: sometimes we all need a little magic in our lives. While we might not get it from the same places, we all need it. We need to know that, in the midst of all the chaos and hurt in the world, surprises of grace abound, if we are willing to look at the world "just so." And if we do this, we might be surprised to find magic, even joy waiting for us to choose them.

Henri Nouwen says it best: "Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it. . .What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice. Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Reflections on a Year in Ministry

The end of last month marked the end of the first year at this appointment. I could measure it by the calendar: days--365, months--12, hours--8760. I could measure it by tasks: hundreds of phone calls, thousands of emails, pounds of paperwork. I could measure it in connections: hospital visits, home visits, baptisms, too many funerals. But, I think the best way to measure this year of ministry together with the people of God in this place is to reflect on the glimpses of the Kingdom we saw together. Meals made to comfort families in grief--showed the comforting love of God the Father. Words of love and support expressed to families in need of hope--showed the power of prayer among the faithful. Mission teams going to serve--showed the hands and feet of Christ at work. Families invited into the family--showed the relentless love of God to continuously pursue us. Sharing the meal of the Lord--a taste of what is to come. In all of these moments, and in others we may have overlooked, God has been among us and continues to be among us as the people of God.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Changing You, Changing Me

Earlier in the week, I was reading an article about a seemingly secular person. It was the story of a celebrity stuggling with cancer and her faith. Sorry, but when I think Hollywood, I do not immediately think, "people of faith." In fact, I tend to think the opposite--terribly judgmental on my part--but it's the truth. So, when I read these words: "She is a firm believer in miracles and has not given up on the power of God," I wasn't sure what to make of it...considering the source. But then, I begin to think of all the folks I know who are praying for a miracle, and not just praying but hoping and believing, almost expecting a miracle. And that got me to thinking, "What exactly is a miracle anyway?" Is it God changing your circumstances? Making the pain or the cancer or the rotten situation go away? Is it God fixing your problems? I believe in miracles....but not in the traditional sense. I believe that a miracle is the power of God that transforms someone's life. In essence, believing, praying, loving, trusting God changes things. Believing changes the believer. Her outlook is different. Her joy is stronger. Her hope is centered. Her focus is clear. Her eyes are on her Savior. And that's the miracle.

Forgiveness Like a Child

I realize that many of my posts involve parenthood, and that's because being "mommy" is teaching me so much about being "faithful." The innocence of a child so often speaks to me on a faith level. Last week, we moved our little one to a new daycare, which meant she had to say goodbye to her friends at the old daycare. I took her by for what I thought would be over her head--maybe she would wave bye-bye, but that would be it. So, it was a shock to see her run over and hug her friends. She understood, at least a little, that this was a bye-bye moment and that she needed to do something special. It was the first time I had ever seen her hug another person, so it didn't all compute right away. But later, when I was thinking back on it, I remembered the shocking person she had hugged. In my parental pride for her new accomplishment, I had missed a theological moment. Since she had been going to this daycare, one little boy had continuously shown aggression toward her. He scratched my precious baby's face and eyes. He was a bully. He was bigger than her, older than her, and she was not yet walking so was unable to get away from him. The workers began to separate him from her because he would go after her to release his aggression. I'll admit I am being a little overly dramatic in the description of these events--it was probably not premeditated and just an older child's way of treating someone as he had been treated, but still, it's my baby, so it's a big deal. Anyway, when I would see this child at daycare, I would think, "There's the little bully." I only assumed that my sweet girl would have the same thoughts about her classmate, that she would not want to be near him. But the day we went on our bye-bye visit, she ran up to little bully man, threw her arms around him, and they both giggled. They were friends! I didn't even notice this until the replay in my mind. And as I hit rewind, I was irked that she didn't get who he was. Why was she hugging the little bully man who hurt her? And then, I hit rewind with my "preacher's cap" on, and I realized, to her, he wasn't little bully man, he was a friend, with whom she'd had some problems, but none too big that they couldn't forgive each other and still be friends. Her heart does not carry with it the baggage that mine does. I still think of my own little bully man, and I think it may be many years before he and I shall hug, but it is my prayer that God would make my heart more like the one of a little child. Who was it that said, "To enter the kingdom, you must become like a child"?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Putting Away the Eggs?

At Christmas, people like to take their trees down right away. It seems unstylish to have something out that represents something that has already happened--like you are behind the times or something. The world wants to have its Christmas and move on. The same is true at Easter. Even though the stores put out the paraphernalia the day after Valentine's Day, on Easter day itself, candies and Easter items go on sale. The stores want to move them out. I can't say that I am all that better than these--my daughter has been playing "Easter egg hunt" since Saturday. When she is presented with her plethora of toys, she chooses her basket and wanders around the house in search of eggs. It really is cute. I love that she is so enamored with such a simple thing, but a teensy bit of me, probably an unmeasurable bit, but still a minute whisper in the back of my mind thinks, "How long will she actually do this? Will she be playing egg hunt in July? And should I let her?" But that small part of me has forgotten that Easter is not a passing date on the calendar. In fact, the church celebrates Easter for 50 days...all the way up until Pentecost (in late May). The miracle doesn't stop on Easter Monday. We sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," only that one day, as if it was that day, as if he is not still risen today, as if he won't still be risen tomorrow. I guess what I am thinking from watching my girl play is this--we should hang onto Easter, because the celebration is always with us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Worst Case Scenario

Someone once said in a sermon (and it wasn't me): "Fear is the opposite of trust." In theory, I agree with that statement. In theory. But putting it into practice is a much different story. I don't have trust issues. I am a trusting person. I have fear issues, and I don't think the two are necessarily related. I can have all the fear I want and still trust, right? That could possibly be the most absurd thing I have ever said. Of course the two are related. Then, how can I put into practice the faith and trust I preach when I am often plagued by a fear or worry that dominates the center of my being?
There have been times in my life when I have been blindsided by something I never saw coming, hurt to the tips of my toes. I think over time, as a protective reflex, I have developed this sense of fear and worry to keep the blindsiding things at bay. I think subconsciously, or maybe even a little consciously, I have devised this method to be in control of the things around me through fear. If I worry about something, then I know what the possible outcomes are, and I cannot be caught off guard. And so, time after time, when I have been led to a situation beyond my control and have been beckoned to trust, I turn to the worry instead, the worst case scenario.
It helps me to realize I am not alone in my neurotic tendencies, that I am not the only one to struggle with fear and trust. Last week, our Bishop sent a letter to all the ministers concerning this very thing--fear and worry, and he referenced a passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4,The Message Bible Paraphrase). I am thankful for this scriptural reminder of how to put the faith into practice...let Christ displace the worry at the center of my life. And that's a best case scenario.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shredding as a Means of Grace

John Wesley, who started the small groups that led to the formation of the Methodist Church (i.e. the "founder" of the Methodist denomination) preached on and practiced the "means of grace." He gave the title "means of grace" to particular Christian practices that convey grace to the person practicing them. Among the means of grace are communion, conferencing (getting together to discuss our faith and how it relates to our lives), prayer, reading God's Word, fasting, and visiting the poor and imprisoned. By doing these things, Wesley believed that the heart would be more and more strangely warmed to loving God, receiving God's love, and sharing God's love with others. I was doing something the other day, which began as a benign office task, but was transformed into what I think was a holy event. I'll even go so far as to say it was a means of grace for me. I needed to clean and organize my office. It had gotten cluttered with junk mail and catalogs and several months worth of paperwork that needed to be filed. I broke out the shredder and got busy, getting rid of things that I no longer needed. As the zzzzzzzzchhhhhhhhhch of the shredder hummed along, I started noticing something--it seemed there was more room in my life again. There was physically more room in my office and on my desk, but there was also this strange feeling that there was also more room in my mind and heart. I started to feel the urge to get to praying and to get to studying God's Word. I was energized with the Spirit again. As I tried to come to terms with what was going on--how did God show up in this office organization task?--I realized the enormity of the "stuff" I had let clutter my life and my heart. With them gone, I had room for God again. It's funny how the physical "stuff" can come between us and God. And then I started thinking about the emotional baggage and clutter we all carry. What if we took all the hurtful words, the bruised egos, the devastating news, the humiliating events, the painful memories and fed them down the hatch of the shredder? What if we destroyed these things before they destroyed us? What if we got rid of these things before letting them sit around in our hearts? wouldn't we have more room for love? Wouldn't we have more room for forgiveness? Maybe I need a shredder for my heart, too...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Facebook has changed my life...

I know, it sounds really lame...Facebook? A life changing application? A social network can do that? Well, for me, it has changed some things in my life. Not a cataclysmic overhaul but some subtle changes that have been good for me. First, let me admit for all the blogosphere to see, that I am addicted (a little) to Facebook. I have the app on my phone. I check it throughout the day. I have, on occasion (when driving alone ) fb'ed while driving. And yes, I both abbreviate Facebook using FB, and I use FB as a verb. I need help, I know.
I joined Facebook initially because my brother and sister-in-law were on it, and I wanted to keep in better touch with them. But soon, a whole world was opened up to me that I couldn't have imagined some pointing and clicking could possibly do. I found and reconnected with friends I haven't heard from in years. I have been able to learn about their lives and get to know them better now. And there are some people who have friend requested me, that I don't really know that well. We were college classmates, or we worked together for a period of time. I have found myself using Facebook as a way to be intentional with my intercessory prayer--prayer for people other than myself. I see the status updates with messages of worry, stress, lost loved ones, fear, pregnancy announcements, career successes, and on and on, and I have begun to pray for my FB friends...the old friends with whom I've reconnected, the new friends who I'm still getting to know, and the acquaintences, too. I find it a refreshing way to pray and a testament to the power of God to work in ways we could never imagine. God working through FB. That's pretty awesome, if you ask me. So, if you FB, and you add me as a friend, update your stat, and I'll pray for you (although I am probably already doing that), and when I update mine, maybe you could share some words with the Lord on my behalf.

Jesus and Grandma Laugh

I've been having a hard time these last couple of weeks putting all the tumults of my emotions in words, but I have felt a tugging on my heart to say something about the loss of my Grandma. And I keep coming back to two very different, yet similar places--tears and laughter. One of the best, most lovable things about Grandma was her laugh. People say Julia Roberts has a contagious laugh, but I will tell you, and I may be biased, but she has nothing on my Grandma. When Grandma would laugh, it wasn't uncontrollable, side-splitting giggles. It was a deep and warm laugh that invited you in. It wasn't as if she had some secret joke you didn't know about. It was that she was so happy about something she just couldn't stop reliving the joy of the moment. So, she would laugh and laugh, and when you thought she was finished, she'd keep on laughing. Sounds crazy, but if you could inherit laughs, I wish I had Grandma's. It made you want to be a part of the love she had in her heart, and it made me want to spend more and more time with her. It reminds me of this art piece that I love--the one showing Jesus laughing. Though I'm not sure this is exactly what Jesus would have looked like, the features don't matter so much. It's the laugh that draws me in. I don't know why we sometimes talk and think about Jesus as if he's some lifeless, serious bore. I think Jesus was one who delighted in life and in love and invited you to share in it. Seeing this depiction of Jesus laughing makes me want to spend more time with him. May God bless us all with people in our lives who cause us to smile, who laugh with us, who share joy with us. May God bring his own joy and laughter into your heart.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Enough in '09

First, forgive me for my blog-absence the last few weeks. This time, it was intentional. I needed rest and respite, and that involved giving my mind a rest, too. Second, I'll share with you something I learned over my resting period. I learned that I don't know how to rest and I don't know how to be present--and these two are related to each other and to my trust in God.

I was on day 3 of vacation. The season of Advent had ended. The craziness of the family get-togethers for Christmas had passed. I was away from work. I was away from the rest of the world. But still, I found myself saying, "I am worried about this, and I am concerned about that. And what happens if this happens? And what happens if that happens?" My husband pointed out that we were on vacation and politely asked if I could put these thoughts away until we returned home. I didn't mention them aloud again, but there they were in the recesses of my mind, nevertheless. I don't know how to rest because no matter what state of calmness and serenity, I am always looking to the "and then." I just have to----whatever it is---and then, I can relax. I just have to get the house cleaned, and then...I just have to lose ten pounds, and then...I just have to be satisfied with my life, and then...Doing this makes me unable to rest and also unable to live in the present. I am always looking beyond now to some other time in which all my worries will be gone, all my fears over, all my problems fixed.

I'm not one to make resolutions, or even to stick very well to new routines. I'm a big fan of my old habits. I love my old habits, especially the bad ones. They are the ones I want to keep. The good ones, take those. Anyone need some good habits? You can have mine. But in '09, I am hoping to make a substitution--to change out something for something better. I am hoping to purge the words "I just...and then..." and replace these with "enough." Enough. I have enough. I do enough. I am enough. Christ is more than enough for 2009 and for all of life. Happy New Year!