Wednesday Prayers: Finishing Up

I have a confession:  I am complete rubbish at finishing what I start.  I mean, I do it (sometimes), but I hate it.  Kicking and screaming hate it. When you finish a project, there's no more potential for it to be brilliant.  It just is what it is.  Furthermore, everyone can see what it is, and determine your worth accordingly.

I have two major projects left to do, and three minor ones.  And yet I've bought my books for next semester, because isn't it nice to think about what's going to happen next?  (By the way-- this is very 7-y.  )

So, my prayers this week are about finishing what I've begun.  (Or, in some cases, beginning what I need to finish.)  For patience and focus and a spirit of calm, rather than a spirit of fear.  For some of that enjoyment of work that I was talking about last week.

How about you?  Do you need prayer to be able to finish, or are you someone who needs prayer because you're too focused on work?  Let me know, and I'll add you to my list.


Wednesday Prayers: For Work

It's the week before the last week of classes, and I'm enjoying my work.  There's a little notepad with due dates on my desk, and as I cross things off my list, I'm relishing the writing and thinking.  Thanks be to God for that.  Really.  I've had a lot of jobs where I was a ridiculous fit (and where I felt I was accomplishing nothing at all), and I love being a student.  This is joyful work, and it feels great to exercise these muscles.  Lift up a little gratitude with me, if you'd like to.
(Though I will say:  I miss the days when finals were due AFTER the last classes, and not during.)

How's your job?  Are you finding any satisfaction in it?  Shall I hold your work in prayer?  Let me know.


Walking home.

The walk to and from school (across the few blocks that constitute downtown) can be peculiar.

Today, I saw a tree in full bloom. All I could think of was Thomas Gray's Elegy in a Churchyard-- "full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air."

Or, in this case, its sweetness shall be wasted in the wintry air. (Have I mentioned how often poetry's come to mind lately? A good indication that even though there are frustrations, I'm pretty happy.)

Also, a man tried to sell a dress to me. Walked right out of his shop onto the sidewalk to give me his pitch as I walked by. Funny.

And, finally, CHAI-NOG. I really love winter beverages.

That's it. Just stopping by.



Wednesday Prayers: The Origin of Words

Because I can be a slow learner, I was in my early 30s when I finally realized that if someone is saying unkind things about others to me, they are almost definitely saying unkind things about me to others.  (Note:  I am 31 now.  Yes, the obvious is a recent revelation for me.)

I also realized that when I say harsh things about people, it's usually because I don't have the ovaries to express my needs and wants directly.  And that's my problem, not someone else's.  Hurtful words aren't the responsibility of the person they land on, they belong to their place of origin.  If I'm being a snot, it's because my heart is not aligned with God's.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the commandment to love my neighbor as myself.  Specifically, I've been thinking that THERE IS NO COMMANDMENT TO BE LOVABLE.   If I'm not loving you, that's my problem, not yours.  Actually, that's my sin, not your deficiency.

Now, you know I don't think that means I have to be everyone's friend.  It might not even mean I have to be in relationship with them.  But I have to respect that they are deeply valuable, that God is present in them, and that within them is infinitely more than I can know or imagine.

For the times when I find it hard to love, 
For the days when I get tired of listening, 
Lord, have mercy.
For my short temper and my self-centeredness, 
Christ, have mercy.
For my lost authenticity and courage, 
Lord, have mercy.

And God?  Please help others to love me, too.


Wednesday Prayers: Autumn Holiday Edition

Whether you're celebrating, or recognizing that this simply isn't a season of celebration in your life this year, may God continue to be with you this week.


Enneagram Exercise: Day 1

Well, I learned one thing on the first day of this exercise:  my brain is perfectly capable of outfoxing me.

"I have to finish one project at a time?  Fine.  Guess what, sweetcheeks?  I don't have to finish what I don't start."

Oh.  Also there was  the mid-afternoon meltdown.

(Which occurred because, despite having a degree in English Lit, I am not capable of writing a 5 page paper.  Any evidence to the contrary has been a complete fluke.  Monkeys at typewriters, hammering out Hamlet.  Ergo, I cannot sit down and write the whole paper, because if I sit down with that intention I will be trapped in the Chair of Failure forever.  No paper will be forthcoming.  Only the horrendous taunting of a blank screen.)


Enneagram Workshop and a Week-Long Exercise

I first heard about the Enneagram several years ago, and pretty thoroughly brushed it off.  It's a personality type tool, and because I'd been mistyped, none of the information seemed all that insightful.  About a year ago, Shauna Niequist mentioned how much she loves the Enneagram, and I gave it another shot.  This time, I took the survey and reviewed the types for myself, carefully evaluating each one.  WHOA!  SEVEN! Well, NOW it's helpful!

Unlike the Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram offers insight not just on what you're like, but how you're most likely to make unhealthy choices (and how to make healthier ones).  As I read about each type's unique motivations, I started to understand that I am not really the baseline for normal.  (Yeah, that came to me a little late.)  When other people made choices that didn't make sense to me, I finally began to think, "they must have different needs from mine" instead of "what an idiot!"

This weekend, I went to a workshop taught by Michael Naylor on the wisdom of the Enneagram.  For each of the types, Michael recommended a week-long exercise of abstinence from that Thing We Do that keeps us from spiritual growth.  Of course, that Thing We Do is also the thing that helps us dodge the relentless Inner Critic.  (Nobody said it was going to be a fun week.)  In fact, it's pretty reasonable to talk about some type-specific habits as addictions of personality.  For some it might be helping too much, for others it might be isolating themselves.

For still others, it might be refusing to commit when there are so many possibilities and options out there.


When Michael got to Sevens, the assignment was, "For one week, FINISH one project at a time before moving on to the next one."

Wait-- what?  No, you don't understand-- if I did that, I couldn't do lots of different things!


I'm trying it this week.  If I perish, you'll know why.  I will have clawed my way out of my own skin to avoid being trapped.  I'm going to try to let you know how it goes.


Wednesday Prayers: New and Old

I'm much slower to consider people "friends" than I used to be. New folks get parked in "acquaintance" or "buddy" status for quite a while. Friendship is a Big Flipping Deal to me. I don't take that type of intimacy lightly. Heck-- I've never rushed into ANY kind of intimacy. Good friends are, as a wise woman observed to me this evening, the ones who make us feel known. It's hard to get more personal than that with our clothes on (and truthfully, sometimes we're not that personal with them off).

I believe I'm called to love everyone, but that doesn't mean I'm called to be everyone's friend. There are obligations to friendship (many of which I shirk to an embarrassing extent) that we don't owe everyone, though we do owe respect and kindness.

It's nice to notice that this week holds both old friends and people I think are becoming new ones.

I'm praying with gratitude for both old and new friends-- but I'm also holding in prayer people I'm committed to loving without being friends. I'll be asking God to guide my judgment and actions in all kinds of relationships. (As always, I'd be grateful for your prayers in that, too.)

Are there people on your mind as you pray this week? Would you like me to pray with you?


Cat Gork

Me: I love that we've been buying flowers at the Farmers' Market every week, but your cat keeps eating them and throwing up.
Dave: Once!
Me: No, it happens every week!
Dave: Right-- only once with each bouquet.



Cranky Sunday Night

Measured hall closet.
Bought shelf.
Assembled shelf.
Threw away box.
Realized I should have included the floor trim in the closet measurements.
Called Target: Can I return assembled furniture?
I can.
Unfortunately, I can't fit it in my car.


Wednesday Prayers: Autumn Walks

I took two beautiful walks today, one alone, and one later with Dave. The lovely neighborhoods and the ginkgo in the streetlight are enough prayer for now.


Wednesday Prayers: Right Here

Today (tonight, really), I'm praying for presence, for the ability to be still.  There are enough different things going on at the moment that I keep noticing my mind scurrying away from the task at hand.  I'm missing the depth that comes from close attention.  I'm praying for the peace and trust to stay put, exactly where I am, at any given moment.

What are you praying for? 


I Love My Pepys.

“In appearance, at least, he being on all occasions glad to be at friendship with me, though we hate one another, and know it on both sides.” -Samuel Pepys

I heart Samuel Pepys (and, as he had trouble turning away from women, I think he might have liked me, too).  I laughed when I read this-- almost 400 years later, humanity is still ridiculous.  I can certainly think of times where there were civil, even friendly, interactions between people who detested each other.  While we are indeed called to love our neighbor, there's some consolation in hypocrisy being a longstanding tradition.  

And Lord knows, Pepys makes me laugh.  Can't we study him instead of Augustine?


Wednesday Prayers: Opportunity

You know that old saw about opportunity only knocking once?  Hogwash.  Or at least, hogwash when it's a character-building opportunity.  In that case, opportunity just seems to keep pounding at my door.

Around certain people, my sturdy Self dissolves into so many tiny nonpareils, and scatters across the kitchen floor.  I, in my infinite foolishness, keep thinking that maybe I can just avoid those people.

Opportunity keeps knocking.

Eleanor Roosevelt was right that no one can make us feel small without our permission.  What she didn't say was that we might have to practice taking up our full space.  We might have to remember to breathe, and remember that what God has put within us is very solid, and cannot be eroded by others.

Opportunity remains.  It hurts like the dickens, but I like what I see on the other side.  And I'm convinced that God is with me between here and there. 

For the presence of mind to stay close to God, 
For the ability to respect God's creation in us, 
and for learning to love our neighbor and ourselves at all times;
                                                          Lord, hear our prayer.


Wednesday Prayers: Teenagers

I've run into a lot of people this month who really love teenagers, and it's been delightful:
  • An English teacher who's been doing it long enough that he could be really jaded, but instead works hard to give his students exciting opportunities. 
  • A recent college graduate who champions the role of teenagers in church (RIGHT NOW, not when these teenagers are middle-aged).
  • A middle-aged woman who knows and loves the teens in her church as the extraordinary people they are, and who encourages others to get to know them.
I think you've heard me say before that the adults in my life when I was in high school and college made a tremendous difference.  They might not have literally saved my life (though I wouldn't put any money at all on that), but they made the life I have today possible.  Today I'm praying for the loving and the loved.       

For those who love people at all stages of development,
Thanks be to God.
For the myriad challenges young people face,
Lord, hear our prayer.

Is there anything of yours I can hold in prayer this week, too?  Do you know teens that we can give thanks for, or who need a bit of grace?  Are you noticing any parts of your own teenage self that are still wrestling with things this week?


Bullets, Again. Crabby ones.

  • Things that used to be easy are hard now.  Being with a lot of new people all the time-- hard.  Used to be easy.  Even though they're lovely.
  • I'm feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and insignificant.  Not insignificant in the beautiful, "look at the vast sea, and the billions of stars, and consider your size in proportion to the splendid universe" way.  Insignificant in the, "So what, you're overwhelmed?  Big damn deal.  You're fine." kind of way.  
  • In the last month, I started seminary, our apartment flooded, we found a new place to live, and we moved.  That truly is a lot.  Our old apartment became inhabitable.  Unrestored, post-flood.  Moldy.  Stuff is just stuff, but it's still a damn lot of upheaval, plus our wedding pictures. 
  • We've been moved, only have odds and ends to take care of at the old place.  Our movers were excellent, worth every penny, a blessing to us.
  • I keep trying to piece together why undergrad felt so much warmer than seminary.  I do not like competition very much, and when we're all working for such similar things (even in radically different ways), there can be an element of competition (or of needing to be right).  It screws with my shalom.
  • I long, nay, pine, for the return of routine.  Maybe by next month.  I really need some nice, cozy familiarity.  I'm wearing a cozy sweater/wrap/shawl thing today, just because a cocoon seemed like a good idea.
  • Someone said to me a couple of years ago that I "seemed angry" about The Process.  You know what?  I am.  And maybe that's not a character flaw on my part.
  • I really want to be gentle with people, because it seems to me there's an incredible drought of gentle listening.
  • (Yes, I get that I'm talking about anger and gentleness in almost the same breath.  I, like Whitman, am large and contain multitudes.)
To sum up:  I'm crabby.  And mad as hell at the arrogance of telling other people how they should feel.  Makes me want to use all sorts of rude British words. 


Wednesday Prayers: The Enemy of the Good

I wrote three mediocre papers this week.  I'm not excited about them, but I didn't get paralyzed by perfectionism.  In context, and given my history, that's a victory.

Movers are coming tomorrow, and things are not in pristine order.  I wanted them to be, but making sure the last days in our first home were peaceful and loving was more important to me than tidying.  We (mostly Dave) did some, but not all.  And really, if we'd had the time and energy to get everything in place, we wouldn't have had to hire movers.  So be it. 

For the grace to just be "good enough," thanks be to God.  


Week 4 Summary: More Bullets! Keeping My Head Above Water!

Hey, y'all.  I cannot stop making water references.  I'm cracking up a little here, in the flood aftermath.

  • Flood Stink continues.  Move is scheduled for 10/7.  (That's right, a week from yesterday.  We're charging at a breakneck speed around here.)
  • Dave is rivaling Hercules for accomplishing monumental tasks.  He's cleaning the new apartment and this one, and generally making my life so much easier.
  • School is not making my life easier.  3 papers this week.  Not long ones, but... oy.
  • Still haven't shaken last week's cold/flu/icky bug.  This is not like my immune system, and very annoying.
  • Have I mentioned that the new place is pretty cute?  I'll give a little tour soon.
  • Our new address is shorter than our current one!   That makes me happy, because it's quicker to write on the upper corner of envelopes.
  • ALSO, Williams-Sonoma for the WIN!  (But you knew that, anyway, right?)  I ordered a new address plate for my embosser Sunday night, and it was here TUESDAY MORNING.  Those people are on TOP of things!
  • Church History:  shockingly, my favorite class of the semester.  I thought it would be my least favorite, but I love it.  I can't wait to have more semesters of this.  Also, it's addressing more of my denomination-search questions than anything else.  Did you know that we mix water and wine in the chalice as a symbol of (well, "symbol"... that's a whole other argument) our joining with the body of Christ?  And it's been that way since the 2nd century C.E.?  You probably did, but it was cool news to me.  (I love communion.  I miss communion.  Yes, I should be going to chapel, and haven't been regularly.  Also church.  The "shoulds" are about to devour me, folks.)
  • I'm reasonably sure I won the small formation group lottery.  Seriously.  Mine's awesome.
  • You know that old saw that the same kind of issue/person will keep popping up in your life until you figure out how to deal with it?  Annoying and true.
 You'll get more than just bullets at some point, I promise, but this month has just been way more about breadth than depth.  (I'll be glad when that changes.)

And, like Diane, I still miss my bloggy friends.  (Hey-- that reminds me-- I'm not ignoring comments, I'm just taking them too seriously to slap off a quick reply.  Soon.  I hope.)


Wednesday Prayers: Moving

Remember the Flood Stink?  It hasn't gone away.  It was the last straw.

We've been thinking about moving for a very long time, and on Sunday (our 7th anniversary), we signed a new lease.

We'll be saying goodbye to:
  • Our first home together.
  • ...where we've had many delightful guests.
  • The neighborhood route we've been running together for years (where Dave started running!).
  • Kind, helpful neighbors.
  • An excellent pizza place just 4 doors down.
  • A tiny comic book store with a charming proprietor.
  • The library down the street where Dave has volunteered for ages.
  • A very spacious home.
  • An avocado green refrigerator,  (That's one goodbye we're happy about!)
  • A creek next to our building that has ducklings every year.
  • Our heron friend at the nearby pond.
  • A lot of stuff (the new place is tiny).
  • Our favorite fishmonger.
We'll be saying hello to:
  • Old friends just blocks away.
  • A bustling downtown with galleries, shops, and restaurants.
  • A CLEAN, SAFE apartment with a great landlord.
  • A slightly dodgy neighborhood.
  • A tiny, cozy space, where we'll try to think carefully about what our living space really means to us.
  • A very short commute for me.
  • A chance to offer hospitality to my fellow students.
  • A new train commute for Dave (sometimes).
  • New neighbors.
In all, it's a good trade, but it's important to me to remember that there are celebrations and losses living side by side.

For all of us in the midst of upheaval and transition, Lord have mercy.

How about you?  Are you in a transition I can pray for with you?  Is there anything else I can be praying about in your life?


More Bad Theology

I don't believe that God gives anyone cancer, but apparently I do believe that sometimes, enough is enough and God should do something to get the bad stuff to back the hell off.

What the hell, God?  This is completely unsat.


Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

I've written half a dozen posts in my head, and then... well, I've stumbled to my desk and the dining room chair and into bed.  Not a whole lot of leftover energy right now.  SO, that means it's bullet time!

  • We've done all the flood cleaning we can.  The ugly couch is officially HISTORY!  But so are a couple bookshelves (books were OK, whew).  Rugs are gone, as are a few other pieces of furniture.  So be it.  We were all OK.
  • Nothing's been done to clean the building itself yet, so the basement/crawl space still has a distinctive Flood Stink.  That emanates into the apartment.  This is not OK.
  • The mess has increased neighborliness.  The woman next door had dinner with us last night!  Love it.
  • I'm so, so grateful that I started on some of the reading before classes started.  Because of the chaos at home, that might be the only thing that's...well... kept me afloat, as it were.
  • I still love reading.  I'm a completely and totally promiscuous reader.  It's all awesome.
  • My preference for small groups over large ones is pretty strong.  No kidding chaplaincy feels better than parish ministry.  How did I overlook this in The Process?
  • Holy Crap, I'm still working on all the stuff that goes along with being denominationally homeless.  I somehow thought that would be parenthetical here, because there are students from so many different traditions (as well as a few others who are undeclared, like me).  Nope.  Comes up again and again.  Ouch.  Clearly an invitation to prayer, as it's just a big mess in my heart.
  • I'm taking:  Women & the Old Testament, Intro to Theology, Intro to Old Testament, Addiction & Recovery, and Church History (plus the weekly formation group that's mandatory for all MDivs).  My expectations about which classes I'd like best were exactly wrong.
  • I feel deeply at home in libraries.  And very few other places.
  • Edith Piaf is perfect library music.
  • People hug here.  Which makes it an anomaly in Central PA. I think maybe I used to hug people?
  • Dave and I had a fairly normal Sunday morning, and that was the best thing that's happened to me in weeks.  So nice to just run, and have breakfast, and enjoy shared stillness.
  • I miss my bloggy friends.  
  • My affection for Denison is unabated.  Being a commuter student is just not the same as being right in the middle of school all the time.  It's right for this season in my life, but I'm so grateful that I had 4 undergrad years that were ridiculous and wonderful and full.  Also, I miss the diversity of majors.  (Why were so many of my favorite people in totally different disciplines?  I dunno, but I loved that.)
I clearly have the verbosity of the sleep deprived, so I'd better sign off before I get even nuttier.  One last thing, though, and this is important:

I realized last week that so many of you have been with me for years, encouraging me and supporting me, weeping when I weep, and rejoicing when I rejoice.  I'm so grateful.  I hate to imagine formation, discernment, and friendship without you.  There's a strong Texas contingent, a healthy Ohio delegation, and remarkable others without whom I can't imagine having started seminary.  Thank you.  Really.  You've been a tremendous gift.


On the Just and the Unjust

I jotted notes in my margins today to tell you all the marvelous things that are happening at school, but that's all been trumped by... EVACUATION!

Our apartment flooded.  Heck, the whole damn region flooded.  The amount of rain here is unreal, I've never seen anything like it, it's kind of terrifying.

I'm incredibly grateful to be safe, and accompanied by our (completely traumatized) cats.  Also grateful for Dave's hotel discounts! 

I often sing old gospel songs when I'm scared (well, not when taking tests or interviewing... more like when driving, or having an MRI).  On the half hour drive to Harrisburg, I sang, and three cats joined me.  It's hard to say which of us sounded worst.  Also:  "streams of mercy, never ceasing" has a whole new meaning for me now.

Dave's stranded in NYC.  Yet again, a natural disaster has kept him from getting home.  Poor guy-- I think it's hard to be helpless while your wife is dealing with an emergency.

But seriously, y'all:  NEW COUCH!  Right?  This totally justifies it.

Prayers for everyone here, please.  The woman who checked me in tonight said that they're taking people out of her neighborhood by boat.

Wednesday Prayers: Voices

Yesterday, as I listened to my fellow students introduce themselves, I was struck by the variety and beauty of their voices.  There are a lot of southerners in my class, and there's no accent in the world more soothing to me (I thank Miss Lynn for that).  There's a woman from West Africa, and if she could read the charts and data in one of my texts, I'd actually enjoy the experience (raw data gives me hives).  There are deep bass voices and soft sopranos.  It's gorgeous. 

A college friend came back from years abroad sounding Scottish!  Bizarrely, it suited perfectly, and was a delight.

At the end of Oasis Ministry's spiritual director training,  I told my classmates that when I started, I felt like I'd totally lost my voice, and they helped me find it again.  A particularly dear friend told me that it was apparent to him all along, I had just stopped being able to hear it.

Thank God for each of our voices.  God spoke us into being, and our own voices must be part of our work as co-creators with God.  I pray that I can learn to respect my own, to celebrate others', and to listen for God's.  I pray for the wisdom and compassion to sit with those who have been silenced.

As you listen to the music of the voices around you, what are you hearing this week?  May I pray about any of it with you?


The Night Before the First Day of School

I finished my laptop bag, just in time!

The outside:

 The little harness bit for one's laptop:

And the zipper pocket.  Its cheerful lining is evidence that OOPS! is the mother of invention.  The Juicy Fruit is from Dave, because it's good for your soul.

And all three pictures are sideways, because it truly is the day before school, I have to go pack my gym bag and lay out my clothes, and that's just the way it is!

Dave's headed off to NYC tomorrow, and that's just the way it is, too.  On the up side, I've got a cousin in Canada pulling for me to have a good first day, and that went pretty far towards perking me back up.

I'll have Intro to Old Testament and Ministerial Formation tomorrow.  Wednesday, I'll have Church History and Intro to Theology.  Thursday, Old Testament, Women and the Hebrew Bible, and Addictions and Recovery.  I'm especially excited about the last one-- the books for it are WONDERFUL. 

More later, y'all.  Sleep tight!



I've got the Veggie Tales song, "God is Bigger Than the Boogieman" stuck in my head, and it's a good thing. There are a zillion things I'm looking forward to about school (I know, I know-- I owe you an update!), but there's someone I'm very afraid of whom I will almost certainly run into on campus.

But God is bigger. Bigger than him, and bigger than my fear. Who knows-- perhaps by being in proximity again, God will help me to see this man as the size he really is, and not as the giant I've turned him into. He's not huge, and I'm truly not small.

Prayers toward that end are, of course, always welcome.


Wednesday Prayers: Welcome Home

I dallied in writing my weekly post today, and it worked out for the best. Rather than musing on something that'll bore the pants off half of you, I get to just offer up a loud, happy, "THANKS BE TO GOD!!!!!"

A friend's husband has returned from deployment. Hallelujah.

Welcome home, Joe.


Internalized Sexism

I bought (most of) my books last week, and I'm trying to make a dent in them this week (as I'm a little concerned that this first semester is going to be crazy). Yesterday, I read bell hooks' Feminism is for EVERYBODY. The following stuck out to me:
We all knew firsthand that we had been socialized as females by patriarchal thinking to see ourselves as inferior to men, to see ourselves as always and only in competition with one another for patriarchal approval, to look upon each other with jealousy, fear, and hatred. Sexist thinking made us judge each other without compassion and punish one another harshly. (p. 14)
I've been thinking about the ways women compare ourselves to one another, and the lethal effect that competition has on relationships for a long time now. I've never thought of it being linked to sexism, but in retrospect, it hugely is.

Here are a few examples I can think of:
  • We diminish attractive women by making them out to be stupid.
  • We snarl at women with whom "our" men might enjoy some sort of connection.
  • In order to have friendships with other women, we sacrifice ourselves by pretending we're less than we really are.
  • In order to have friendships with other women, we sacrifice them by pretending they're less than they really are.
  • We reject women based on their choices of dress, particularly when clothing displays a womanly form.
  • We establish connection with one woman by disparaging others.
  • We reject friendships with women in favor of friendships with men, claiming that women are in some way separate from or beneath us.
  • We have to feel better than someone else in order to feel adequate ourselves.
  • We belittle women's sexuality, either its absence or its obviousness.
This is just a start, and just off the top of my head, but I can think of examples in my own life of everything listed. Sometimes I'm the perpetrator, and sometimes I'm the recipient. I've always thought it was about insecurity, and there's that too, but it really is hugely about sexism. I don't compare myself to men. I can have friendships with men without competing. (For that matter, I count myself as extremely lucky to have some noncompetitive, supportive female friendships.)

How are we as women perpetuating sexism? We can react against it in men and still lash out with it against other women. This matters. It shreds the bonds of love, affection and support that human beings were created for. Can you see it in your life? Can you envision the generosity and freedom of a world without it?


Wednesday Prayers: TMG

Baby prayers this week: a wonderful couple welcomed a new addition on Sunday, and I'm praying for their family and their future. These are some of my favorite prayers: that they all learn and grow together, that there is joy in their household, and that they find strength and comfort in God in those inevitable times when there is grief. I'm praying that the new baby stays healthy and strong. I'm thanking God for delivering him to such excellent parents.

And while I'm giving these thanks, I'm also holding M and her family in prayer. In the worst juxtaposition, she's losing a pregnancy now. She and her new husband are sure to be grieving. These are prayers for which I don't have words.


A Quick Peek at LTS

Hi, y'all.

I'm having the darnedest time feeling like school is real, and about to start. The last time I did this, all my friends were doing it, too, and there was momentum. This time, it's just lonely me, waiting another week to schedule classes. I'm a wade-in kind of woman, and this seems like it's going to wind up being a dive-in situation. (The waiting, and the nothingingness until the waiting's over.... AUUUUUGH!!!!)

So I decided to drop by the school yesterday, and take a few pictures. Maybe by showing you where I'll be, it'll start to feel more real, and I'll feel more involved.

It's a little-bitty campus right downtown in (very, very) historic Lancaster City. LTS is literally across the street from Franklin and Marshall College (it looks as though it could be an annex).

This is the front of the school, as seen from W. James St. I discovered that it's really hard to take pictures of large buildings downtown: I couldn't get far enough away! The chapel is in this building (on the left side), and so are several classrooms and offices.

This is the same building, different angle. I think the shape of the chancel is lovely, and wanted to show you.

This is the library. In addition to holding a great stock of books and historical documents, it also serves as a cautionary tale about mixing architectural styles.

Finally, a wee nook. I'm hoping it's used and enjoyed, as it looks awfully cozy to me.

It's a tiny but beautiful place, and better yet, the people have been open and welcoming. I met a 2nd year MDiv. student yesterday who was kind enough to introduce herself, and then tell me how much she loved the school. It's not an uncommon occurrence, but I think it may be an uncommon community.


Wednesday Prayers: Wondrous Variety

In an old movie, a child asks a man why he looks so different from everyone else, and the man replies, "Because Allah loves wondrous variety."

Bodies come in a beautiful variety of forms, and it feels awful to be ashamed of any of them.

Some women (myself among them) remember being instructed not to be a stumbling block to their brothers in Christ. If this is foreign to you, I can translate: having a discernible feminine form will get in the way of men's relationships with God. If teenage boys looked at you and thought of sex, you were responsible for coming between them and God. I'm sure that sounds laugh-out-loud funny to some of you, but to those of us who were raised that way, it's the root of real shame.

I see a lot of people dismissing other's pain, especially when it comes to body issues. I don't see your body the way you do, and so I assume that your feelings are misplaced, unnecessary. You feel old, but I see glamour, and so I don't bother to listen about what it means to you to feel old. Someone's body feels uncomfortable to them, and that makes us uncomfortable, so we change the subject, instead of being a safe place for them to be honest.

This week, I'm praying for bodies: that we respect our own and appreciate them, and treat those belonging to others with kindness.


Coming Soon!

Lovely people have wondered what's happening when with seminary, so here's what I've got:

8/16: I meet with someone to schedule classes and do a brief-ish timed writing. (The writing is just to evaluate whether incoming students need additional help. Despite knowing that, I'm a little nervous.) I will be tremendously relieved to have a schedule and know what my classes will be. (In the meantime, it would probably be wise to use an awareness of "not knowing" as a spiritual practice.)

8/29: New student orientation! We'll meet each other, and learn where the restrooms are. (I assume there will be other info as well, of course.)

9/6: Classes begin!


Wednesday Prayers: Union

Dave and I have begun to exchange lists of things we'd like the other to pray about through the week. This is delightful to me. When we have so little time together, I feel a peculiar closeness to Dave when I talk to God about him.

This week, in addition to praying Dave's thanks and petitions, I'm rejoicing at this very act of mutual prayer. I've been part of prayer partnerships with other people at different points in my life, and it inevitably changes my relationship with them. The friendship doesn't always hold in the long run (people change, circumstances shift, and you know sometimes I'm a cranky pain in the rear), but linking their lives with God through the act of my prayer irrevocably affects their value to me. I become more willing to be compassionate, and my understanding that they are entirely beloved by God lingers past our time of commitment.

Do you pray with anyone? Have you committed to praying for someone? Can I pray with you?


Wednesday Prayers: Wisdom

It feels like there are a lot of decisions to be made right now, and a number of things to be evaluated. Should we find a different apartment? Am I making the best possible (which is not necessarily the same as "good") choices in my relationships with family? How should Dave and I structure the scarce time we have together?

Some of the decisions are easy: our new rule that if Dave's not in the car by X'clock, I'm going to start dinner and eat without him.

Some are midlevel: an apartment with the perfect location, but a butt-ugly interior. Well, it meets nine out of ten criteria, but it misses the target.

Some are really tough. Some don't have a right answer, and are hard to live with every single day, because there isn't a happy, tidy solution. Those are the ones where I especially want wisdom. I grew up thinking that if you made the right choice, you'd feel peaceful about it. In some situations, I'm not sure that's exactly accurate. Sometimes, even with the best choice, you just feel sad and tired.

I'm praying for wisdom this week. What are you praying for?


Running With Joy

As I'm trying to get back on my feet (as it were) running-wise, post-injury, I've been doing the Couch-to-5k plan. On one hand it's very weird, because I've never had to intersperse running with walking before (though I have run very, very slowly). On the other hand, it's glorious, because I'm running again! I'm overwhelmed with gratitude each time I head out and back now. It means so much to me to be able to hit the pavement. (Well, the track, actually, because until I'm stronger, I want a more giving surface than asphalt or concrete.)

Dave did today's run/walk with me, and on the way home we talked about running goals. I've always wanted to go faster and longer (and to be frank: I've certainly always had a lot of room for improvement). But what I want most is to be running when I'm old. This lady is one of my heroes.

If I'm going to run when I'm 80, I must run now. I must strength train, cross-train, rest, eat well, listen to my body, and make wise decisions. (OK, yes, the woman in the article didn't start until her 60s-- but who wants to take that risk?) I want to go the distance. I'm not training for the next race, the next distance, or the next PR. I'm training for the race on my 80th birthday.


Wednesday Prayers: Bodies and Fruitcakes

"I treat my body like a temple
You treat yours like a tent."
-Jimmy Buffett, Fruitcakes.
I don't think people in general are great about respecting their bodies, let alone marveling at all the things they can do and experience. I think Christians in particular have taught and have been taught that our bodies are inherently sinful and a source of shame, which I passionately believe is a bunch of evil, destructive hooey.

So this week, I'm praying about our bodies. That we respect and enjoy them, that we notice them, that we express our gratitude for them. Let's pray for our bodies, let's thank God for them, and then let's pray with our bodies. Let's sniff the flowers and the charcoal grills, and wonder at our olfactory sense. Let's feel the breeze on our skin, and rejoice over a God who continually gives us the ability to experience pleasure.

Our bodies are not our enemies. Our strengths, our senses, and our sensuality are all gifts from God. I don't know about you, but I'm damn disappointed when people don't enjoy the gifts I plan for them. We have weaknesses, limitations, struggles, but our bodies are gifts, not repositories for shame and rejection.

I'm better at some parts of this than others. I'm great with the thrill of feeling strong after exercise. I'm great with enjoying a fuzzy sweater against my fingers. I'm really, really not great with being a curvy adult woman. I have lost count of the ways that's been made a source of shame.

I'll be praying for my body in the coming week, and for yours, too. Join me?



Many years ago, at the diocesan discernment retreat, the priest leading my small group looked at my carefully organized notebook and completed homework and asked, "Is it stressful to be that anal retentive?"

While he was introducing himself to me.

I was too young, and trying too hard to practice that "obedience" bit to respond, but by now I know about myself that he had the wrong idea entirely.

Planning is part of anticipation for me, and it's pure joy. I love love love imagining what might be, and I'm rarely married to any particular outcome. Preparation is how I look forward to something, how I get excited and pumped up. Buying notebooks or pens in August isn't just checking items off a list, it's "I'm going to get to use these soon! Think of all the things I'll learn and the friends I'll make!"

I get to schedule my classes in mid-August. I have to wait until then. Orientation's in mid-/late August. There's very little I can plan or anticipate right now, so I'm wondering silly things like, "What will I wear on my first day of classes?" I'm kind of disappointed that there's such a small window for preparation and imagination. Right now, it's just a big old blank chalkboard, and I don't know which colors of chalk I'm going to be allowed to use.

Clearly, this would be a great time to practice being in the moment, instead of being several moments ahead. (AHAHAHAHAHAHA. That's a good one. *snort*)

(This is, by the way, a fairly typical Enneagram 7 thing. More on that later.)


Wednesday Prayers: Safe Travels

Regular readers (and friends who patiently listen to me whine) won't be surprised to hear that today, I'm praying for safe travels. Dave's on his third out-of-town trip in as many weeks, with more yet to come.

I was very, very lucky growing up, because my mom was extremely conscientious about making sure I knew what would happen in the event that something happened to her. I knew who my guardian would be, or who would have power of attorney. I knew where I would live, what the insurance money would be, and that I would be the sole inheritor. I am tremendously grateful that she made those conversations normal; when a single parent deploys, that kind of frankness is genuinely reassuring. But because of that, I've always assumed that my loved ones would be far more likely to die young and suddenly than in illness and old age. I bet that sounds crazy to most of you, but in a military family, you're constantly aware that death and loss are real, plausible outcomes. It's literally only been within the last few months that it dawned on me that it's possible Dave and I might grow old together.

I get a little nervous when Dave goes on long trips. (I don't think other people would know that. Heck, when I finally told Dave recently, even he was surprised.) I am by nature anti-cling, so I love when one of us heads off for adventure (or to check on servers and USBs and rogue networks), but there's a sliver of me that's always braced for bad news.

So, I'm praying that Dave is safe, that I am peaceful, and also that God will be with me, whatever happens.


I Give In!

Dave's out of town so much for work this summer that I'm starting to suspect someone believes they can get state secrets out of me by putting me in a David Deprivation Tank.

I'll talk, I'll talk!


Wednesday Prayers: Classmates

I am hugely, enormously relationship-based. I love solitude, but even my time alone is often spent in relationship-- with God, or with beloved writers. So it's no surprise that, as I look forward to the beginning of my first semester of seminary, I'm thinking about relationships.

I'm praying, starting now, but hopefully up to and beyond graduation, that my classmates and I learn to love each other. If loving God and loving others is the foundation of our ministries (of our lives!), then look! We have each other to practice on. There will be scores of us, and of course we won't all become close. But we CAN all love each other.

I pray we learn to deal graciously and generously with one another, that we learn to hear what people are saying (rather than holding it up to what WE would say). I pray that we act both kindly and honestly. I pray that we trust each other, and that we earn that trust. I pray that we celebrate our truest selves, rather than dismissing our colleagues with superficial assumptions. The God who is Love will be with us always, among us and within us. May we truly serve that God.

Can I pray over your efforts to love and be loved? Let me know.


Bittersweet: Knees or Buns

I'm just thrilled to tell you that my friend Nancy is guest blogging today on Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet (part of a series I started here and here). She's a fabulous writer (published here in the Denver post, and on her own blog, Big Harmony). Nancy has developed that rare trick of being outspoken and thoughtful, and she's a kick-- both in print and in person. It's an honor to be able to introduce you.

Bittersweet: Knees or buns?

I enjoyed Shauna Niequist’s essays in “Bittersweet—Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way”, because they reminded me of the pain and joy of being a new wife and mother. I think this is a particularly difficult time in women’s lives if they choose this path in their twenties. Formerly an independent, care-free and out-to-change- the-world girl, a new mother easily becomes weighed down, beholden to the bully twins of guilt and worry. Suddenly, instead of taking the world by storm, the world seems to be taking her for a ride. She wonders: If I am no longer that confident young woman I used to be, who am I now?

I remember feeling exactly the same way. Looking back at this time in my life, I think the greatest horrifying surprise of young adulthood is the realization that life doesn’t owe you a thing. We have no guarantees. We control very little. It is by the grace of God that we are here in the first place and in His infinite mercy that we remain.

As Tom Petty wrote in the song, “American Girl”, we females, of the American middle- class at least, are raised on promises. Adulthood in America, particularly for young mothers, is a process of realizing that these “promises” of fairness and glorious self-fulfillment we were taught as children are, more oftentimes than not, fantasy. Easy answers don’t exist. Choices evaporate before our very eyes. In early adulthood, many of the soft landing places disappear. We have to learn the hard way.

God. It’s so painful.

I remember the pain. But, having survived that turbulent time, I have learned to trust in the one true promise: Emmanuel, God With Us, is always with us. Even in the chaos— the miscarriages, the divorces, the career failures—He never leaves us. This realization has given me a confidence I never had as a younger person. The confidence of youth is akin to the proverbial bull in a china shop. In middle age, it becomes Ferdinand, the bull from the children’s classic book, simply sniffing the flowers under a cork tree while the rest of the bulls wear themselves out competing and showing off. At this point, I am finally sure that my life, with all its imperfections, is unfolding the way it is meant to.

However, I still am not always confident in me. Her chapter, “Knees or Buns”, was a wake-up call. Shauna speaks of her young son and how, as the child rearing experts have recommended, she and her husband give him a choice of how to sit at the table. He may not stand. He must either be on his knees or buns. She likens this faux “choice” to her writing process. She may write at her desk or on her bed but she must be writing. She may not surf the web. Or pick up toys. Or plan that night’s dinner.

I love to write, too, but oftentimes spend more time on Facebook leaving comments than doing substantive work. I love having a relationship with God but can’t seem to pray regularly. Like a spiritual toddler, I want to stand at the proverbial table of life and just…do what I want to do, when I want to do it.

In my heart, I know that having too many choices leads to inaction and worse yet…a self-centered life. Although I know that Emmanuel is with me, that I trust Him, I still ignore Him. He is gently admonishing me every day, “Knees or buns, Nancy!”….but, I do not want to make eye contact. I look the other way and pretend He’s not there. I get all the way to the edge of doing something important in my life and I stop short.

Why? Perhaps, I fear failure. Or success. Worse yet, I probably just lack discipline. In middle age, I do not have the constant presence of two loving parents nudging me into compliance. I no longer have two small children distracting me from the truth. I have to nudge myself to listen to that still, small voice. And then, act.

Perhaps the trials of young adulthood prepare us to surrender our false expectations of ourselves and the world. As difficult as it is to let go of something we love, to sink to our knees in defeat before reality…I am finding that, in middle age, it can be just as arduous to get off my buns and become the person I have learned, the hard way, that I am meant to be.
-Nancy B.


Bittersweet: Stories

There are two myths we tend to believe about our stories: the first is that they're about us, and the second is that because they're about us, they don't matter. But they're not only about us, and they matter more than ever right now. When we, any of us who have been transformed by Christ, tell our own stories, we're telling the story of who God is.
-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
I suspect that most bloggers have encountered the discreet eye-roll from time to time (I know I have, and I choose to believe it's not completely personal). Blogs are self-indulgent, pointless, and filled with oversharing. I used to feel really self-conscious about it. Sometimes I'd post, but feel too embarrassed to link to Facebook (i.e., risk larger exposure). Honesty is also vulnerability, and I've never been particularly convinced that people would like me more if they knew me better.

Any encounter with human beings (including time spent alone) can be self-indulgent and tedious. But I come back because any encounter where we're being as open as we know how to be has within it the potential to heal, to be redemptive, comforting, and life-giving. Sometimes stories are in-person, and other times they're in print, but either way they're vital.

Spiritual direction is like that, too. ABSOLUTELY it can be tedious. But what I've loved about spiritual direction is the discovery that, just by telling someone else my story, I'm able to see God in it more clearly. I sit down with V, often not knowing where to begin, and by the end of the hour I've recognized God in a place I didn't notice before. I settle into her cozy office, stuffed with books, pillows, and as many kinds of soft fabrics as can possibly belong in one room, and first we notice God in the room, and then we notice God in my life. This past month reminded me of God's humor, something I'm often too self-absorbed to notice within the bustling corridors of my own mind.

When I sit with someone, the same things happen. Sometimes I learn a new attribute of God through a directee's experience, and sometimes the feelings that arise in me call me to investigate (at a later time, mind) something in my relationship with the divine.

Above all, I'm reminded through my stories and those I'm blessed to hear, that God accompanies us through everything, though we don't always feel it. Heartache, rage, fear, joy, all of it. Hearing other people's stories makes it clearer that God isn't a stained-glass, sanitized, prudish local official, but a big, messy, protective, tender mystery. We hear so many cliches filled with really dishonest, sanctimonious theology, and it's cleansing to hear about all the dirty, broken places where God has been with us. When I was suspended during my undergrad years, my mother passed one story after story of successful people she'd met who had done the same damn thing-- it was the kindest gift she could have given me. Their stories were my hope. My story might be your hope, or at least your companionship.

Our stories matter.

Hope and Mental Health

Mental health services in this country are a hot mess (and in rural areas they're worse than that even). The New York Times published this great article on Dr. Marsha Linehan, who has been both a patient and a provider. She's been there, and she's come out the other side. Thank God for her honesty, and her hard work. The more people talk about what works, how healing happens, that healing CAN happen, the more likely people are to get well. And that has long been one of my most fervent prayers.

Maybe Leo can explain better than I can why Dr. Linehan's work and story matter:

Fresh Shoes

I love new running shoes. LOVE THEM. Like I love new notebooks and pencils, like some people love new cars.

Though I am still healing, I am getting stronger, and I have many miles ahead of me.

I love all the scenery I haven't passed on them yet; all the trees, birds, squirrels, herons, creeks, berries, and dogs I'll pass.

I love the meditative rhythm ahead, the steady pace these shoes will carry me through.

I love the fast strides still unsprinted, the half mile at the end where we'll let loose together.

I love the esprit de corps they'll facilitate, the sweaty companionship that's different from sedentary friendship.

I love the way they'll strengthen my marriage. Running together reminds us of our individual strengths, and of the efforts it sometimes takes to stay together.

Running shoes: Composition of Hope in Rubber.



I've mentioned before how much I love squirrels-- remember? An interesting squirrel fact: if a squirrel believes someone has watched him bury a nut, he'll dig it up and re-bury it elsewhere. He assumes everyone wants to take his nut, and he's secretive and peculiar in response. He'll freeze, paw-deep in his soil safe-deposit box, cheeks bulging to triple their size, and try to look nonchalant. What nut?

I get squirrelly with God sometimes. While I was applying for the LTS/LGH Chaplaincy program, I was doing it with open paws. Whether I was accepted or not, I was in God's hands, and I didn't need to grasp at any particular outcome.

Since I've been accepted, I've gotten nervous that God might notice I've found such a delightful treat and take it away. (I bet I don't have to tell you how much this attitude interferes with gratitude.) Isn't it ridiculous? I'm just as goofy and absurd as those little bushy-tailed creatures. I don't really think that God wants to take good things away from me, any more than I want to steal someone's acorn.

I could give myself a stern lecture, but giggling and rolling my eyes is enough to make me less grasping, more open. Even if something happens to my plans, God will be with me, and there is good ahead. The mental picture of myself, cheeks full and eyes wide with faux-innocence, is enough to restore perspective. Surely, I make God laugh.


Wednesday Prayers: Taking Chances

I've got good news: I've gotten into Lancaster Theological Seminary's new Chaplaincy track MDiv. I'm really excited. I'm excited for SO many reasons:

  • The interview/application process was wonderful. I felt at ease, I was able to be myself, and I met people I really enjoyed.
  • I've had a small relationship with the seminary for years, and I love that I'll be able to do something new with people I already trust and respect.
  • I've been murmuring about chaplaincy for years-- ever since I began the Episcopal ordination process. It got shoved in the corner for a while, and started popping back up when I resigned. This God-nudge is not a new thing.
  • It's a brand-new program, and it's so fun for me to be there from the very beginning.
There's more than that-- honestly, there's so much more than that, and even though I've been accepted, somehow I'm afraid that by articulating how great this is, I'll jinx it.

And that's where my prayers are this week. They're half praise, and half petition. Praise for the exciting opportunity, for three years to study what I love and practice it. Petition for my fear and hesitation. I've long said that dating after divorce seems to be one of the most courageous things people can do. In the ongoing relationship analogy of vocation and discernment, I'm about to go steady.

Pray for me, y'all.


Bittersweet Introduction: Girlfriends

About a year ago (give or take), I picked up a copy of Shauna Niequist's book, Bittersweet. I don't know how to tell you about it, except to say that the whole book (even-- especially?-- the parts where I didn't see eye to eye with her) was like spending time with a girlfriend.

Now, I want to be clear: not all women friends are girlfriends. That's not to say those other relationships are unimportant. I'm grateful for mentors and colleagues, fellow hobbyists and buddies, but girlfriends are something distinct. There's a spiritual element to a girlfriend relationship for me. There's laughter, honesty, bickering, encouragement, but most of all, there's a willingness to know and love each other's souls.

Shauna's book (I know I ought to be using her last name, as she's the author, but doesn't that fly in the face of what I'm saying here?) isn't about girlfriends. It's about a holy awareness that life is bittersweet, which her introduction describes like this:
Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.
As Shauna talks about the light and dark in her own life, intimate spiritual friendships are central to her stories. Even when her relationships aren't part of a particular chapter, the feelings and experiences she offers are exactly what we share with those special women who show us enough grace that we can grow in front of them (which generally involves being in pain in front of them).

A few months ago, I bought 5 more copies. I mailed them off to women I really like: a girlfriend from middle school, one from high school, one from college, and two women whom I've suspected for a while have girlfriend potential. Shauna's book felt like such an invitation to friendship that I wanted to use it to foster my own. Three of those five women are regular writers, and so I asked if they'd be willing to use Shauna's stories as springboards for their own. We're all having crazy summers, unexpectedly off-kilter, so I'm not sure exactly how this series will go, but it'll be an adventure.

I'm often not a good girlfriend. I'm slow to reply to email, liable to write a letter instead, making the recipient wait a good deal longer than she hoped. I get impatient, jealous, short-tempered, petty, and insecure. But I feel called to be a girlfriend. Truly, genuinely, called by God to honor those precious women that I laugh, cry and learn with.

I almost sent Bittersweet to a few of you bloggy friends, too. (There's a strong Texas contingent that nearly got a handful). If you feel so moved, pick up a copy, and join my other guest bloggers in our series. I suspect it'll go on for a while (if only because of lackadaisical planning on my part).


Wednesday Prayers: The Big C

I just finished reading what might be the finest piece of nonfiction I've ever read, Siddhartha Mukherjee's Emperor of All Maladies. Mukherjee calls it a biography of cancer, it might be more descriptive to call it a history of cancer research and treatment. Fascinating and human, it was a remarkably well-told story.

You can't swing a cat without hitting someone affected by cancer, be they survivors or loved ones. This week, I'm praying for those with new diagnoses, trying to learn their new normal. I'm offering gratitude with survivors. I'm praying for those who have lost loved ones-- like my aunt, whose best friend died of breast cancer about 10 years ago. I'm praying for patients, caretakers, doctors, researchers. I'm especially praying that, as I go about my routine, I extend as much grace as possible, because those around me may have secret struggles, cancer being just one of them.

Will you pray with me?


A New Practice: See It, Do It

A couple of months ago, I was in a waiting room and stumbled across a great magazine article. (Several Google searches later, I still can't find the piece or the writer's name, so if this rings a bell, please help me give correct attribution!)

The author was talking about people who drive you crazy-- and how, as a general rule, if we notice something aggravating, it's because we do it, too. She suggested, when someone is driving you clean out of your gourd, that you write them a letter clearly outlining the obnoxious things that they do, and why you don't like the behavior.

Don't mail it.

Scratch out their name.

Substitute your own.

I tried it recently. I felt pretty anxious when I started (no kidding, right?), but set the timer for 15 minutes (because I can do scary things if it's only for a finite period of time). I tried to be as honest as possible (despite knowing that honesty was likely to bite me in the butt in a matter of minutes).

Here's what I noticed: I definitely do some of the things that annoy me in others. BUT, reading about it wasn't the terrible flogging I anticipated. Don't get me wrong, even as I was scrawling across the page, I thought to myself, "Well, crap." But the bigger feeling was gratitude, because I can't change something until I can see it.

I don't want to live a life where I fool myself into smugness and self-satisfaction. Discomfort is hope, because it's an indication of an unseen possibility, an opportunity to become more than I am right now. Jesus's command to take the log out of my eye first is not just a reprimand, but an invitation and encouragement. It's exciting to me when someone things I can be more than I am, and God always thinks that. This exercise is a great way to stay conscious of God's ongoing invitation to be more.


Wednesday Prayers: Tuscaloosa

I got a text from my mom on Monday-- she's headed to Tuscaloosa with a church group to do some tornado relief. They'll be down there for about a month. Mom is phenomenally good in any sort of crisis (and the week I got married she was damn near a superhero). She's had all sorts of relevant training, and she's an incredibly creative problem-solver.

All this month, I'll be praying for that trip. That her church is able to serve the people in Alabama well. That my mom stays safe, and also that this is a time of peace and fulfillment for her. That both the serving and the served are blessed.

If you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate your keeping the trip in your prayers, too. Do you have anything you'd like me to add to mine?



For a chatterbox, I'm a fairly private person (despite what you see here). When I'm waiting for something, I'm even more so. I've been waiting on a Big Thing for about a month, and until I have a definite answer, conversation stinks. Talking about the Big Thing is not going well. My stance is one of cautious optimism (despite assurances from those in charge that caution is really not necessary). Caution from other people about the Big Thing feels condescending, and excitement feels premature and risky. (Yes, as you can imagine, I'm a delight to be around at the moment.)

So here I am, tentatively excited, but waiting. Wanting to share about what's been a very cool process, and not wanting to get bitten in the ass by it later (because hey, I've been there). I want to find a cave (with a refrigerator that magically holds all kinds of pasta salads) and camp out there until I get official notice one way or another.


What To Ask

I've been interviewing lately, and I'm happy to tell you that I've been invited to ask questions during those conversations. I like questions. In fact, I realized a couple of years ago that one of the compliments that makes me feel best about myself is, "Wow, that's a really good question!"

I have at least one more interview, and it's scheduled for Thursday morning. As I prepare for it, I'm trying to think about questions that I'd like to ask. Specifically, I'm trying to differentiate between things I wonder about, and things I need to know in order to discern well. Anything that's just a question of curiosity will be resolved in time, I can wait and watch to get those answers. I'm looking for questions that declutter, that take away all the ephemera in order to distinguish between what I can and can't live without.

I can live with weird hours.
I can live with stress.
I can live with looking at my mistakes.

I can live without an office of my own.
I can live with turnover and brief encounters.
I won't live with institutionalized meanness.
I won't live with perpetual boredom.
I won't live without faithfulness.
I won't live as someone else.

I'd love to know what you will and won't live without.



Here's what I have to say about Mother's Day: Some people who are not good-enough mothers are still extraordinary human beings.

A few extraordinary points about my own mother:
  • A petite, beautiful blonde, she started her career... in the military... as a welder.
  • She is the most creative, optimistic problem-solver I have ever met. She always believes there's a solution, and she doesn't say "can't."
  • Though an avid reader, she's a skilled member of the learn-by-doing camp. She loves getting her hands dirty, whether it's gardening, remodeling, or some other blend of craftsmanship and hard work.
  • She cleans up exceptionally well. I realized recently I've inherited many of my sartorial preferences from her, particularly in the workplace.
  • I've lost track of the number of different apartments/base housing units we lived in while I was growing up, but she made each of them beautiful. On a shoestring budget. (She was also a fiercely committed provider.)
  • Though some mothers are very jealous of their child's affections, she was constantly putting kind, supportive adults in my life.
  • She's an excellent writer, and she's a particularly faithful correspondent. She still uses paper and pen, too.
  • She's very, very funny, and she laughs hard, which is great fun. (Side note: Dave tells me that our laughter in stereo can be terrifying.)
  • She's very insightful in situations she has some distance from. She uses this both to give wise counsel, and sometimes just to give abundantly.
  • She's passionate about defending justice-- whether it's poverty in Africa or a teacher being rude to a student, she's ready to lead the charge.
My mom had an appalling childhood, and simply didn't have the emotional resources to be a good-enough mother. She's struggled with mental health issues for years, and they've proved difficult to manage. I pray that she continues to heal and flourish, and in the meantime, I can celebrate Extraordinary Person Day on Sunday.



A million years ago (probably about 25, if you're a stickler for that sort of thing), my mom and I used to buy matching sandals at the PX (on-base department store, for you civilians out there). I remember white ones and brown ones, but they all had the same cushy footbed and crossed leather straps.

I saw them about a month ago at Bass, and mentioned my happy shoe memory to Dave. When Easter came around, he popped a pair into my basket. (I'm not quite wearing heels again yet, so last year's sandals are still tucked in a box under the bed.) I wore them for the first time today (SUNSHINE--hallelujah!).

I ride a fine line between grief and fondness in May, with Mother's Day and my mom's birthday just days apart. This is a piece of what that looks like.


Getting Ready

Last week, I picked up a copy of Philip Gambone's Travels in a Gay Nation, and I loved it (more on that later, maybe). I love essays and biography, and this was particularly good.

In one chapter, Bishop Gene Robinson says that he keeps a little piece of paper in front of him during interviews. It says, "It's about God, Stupid." I have a big meeting tomorrow morning. I keep catching myself mentally fussing over it, thinking about how I can be insightful and charming and funny. That's not what it's about, though.

It's about God, Stupid.

(Wouldn't that make a great embroidered sampler?)

Thanks, Gene.


Wednesday Prayer: Resurrections

I'm in an Easter frame of mind, and I'm watching for resurrections, rebirths, and renewal. I'm praying, not just that they happen, but that I see them when they do. That's this week's prayer: to see.

Any chance you have stories to share with me? I'm always grateful for the encouragement of people's stories.

And your prayer this week?



The world is full of possibilities.

Some of them may become realities.

I'd hate to jinx that by talking too much in the interim.



So, I'm working on my application, and I'm praying, and I'm thinking, and one of my biggest concerns about getting into the program is the likelihood of having a crazy schedule.

I thought to myself, "Is this discernment? Is this God saying it's a bad idea?"

Predictably, I just shoved that thought down for a couple of days.

Then I remembered what happens when I ignore my gut/the Holy Spirit, and sat down and prayed.

The damnedest thing happened. I realized I'm not worried about the tight schedule. Nope. I'm worried that if I have a tight schedule, I'll lose my loved ones. I'm worried that if I'm less available/accessible, I won't be worth the bother of loving.

What a bunch of horseshit.

Bring on the chaos. There's nowhere Love can't go.


Wednesday Prayers: Graces

I'm applying for an MDiv/CPE chaplain-training program, and my interview is Friday. I'm praying for discernment (mine and theirs) but mostly, I'm just praying that I notice the graces in the experience of applying. Independent of the outcome, this can be full of joy or full of fear, and I'm vacillating. I'd really rather chose joy, though.

Will you pray with me? Will you let me know how to pray for you (because you know I'm going to do it, anyway!)?


Wednesday Prayers: Girding My Loins

I have a phone call to return today, and I'm VERY nervous about it. It's the next step (not even a big step) in something that could be SO EXCITING.

I'm going to pray for a while first, because that's the commitment I've made to myself in this venture: pray every single step of the way. Pray before doing anything. I want to stay right in God's hip-pocket on this one. It's too scary not to.

For perspective, for courage, for openness, and for this one step, this one phone call. Will you pray for me, too?

And how about you? How can I be praying for you?


Mix Tape Vol. II: Cities

This Mix Tape partnership that my friend Julie and I have going is just RIDICULOUSLY fun. I'm so surprised at how much fun it is.

After a holiday (both of us) and relocation (her) hiatus, we just swapped discs again. This time, the theme was Cities. I'm learning that making mixes is a lot like novel-writing-- it's impossible to make the story do anything but what it wants. I kept trying to make a mix for a specific place, and my playlist was not having it. Finally, I realized it wanted to be a drive through the different neighborhoods of a city. At the end, it was a damn fun collection, and I'm glad I let it be what it wanted.

On the first mix, I used music I already had. This time, I went hunting for a fair bit, and part of the fun was discovering new stuff. The other great thing was arranging the list once I had the songs. Dave always helps me with that part, and there was a LOT of giggling this time. The pairings got pretty silly. (Alizee --> Right Said Fred, anyone?)

Find a buddy, and start making mixes. Trust me.

  1. Shame on You (Indigo Girls)
  2. Danza Kuduro (Don Omar)
  3. Down at the Twist and Shout (Mary CC)
  4. She Asked Me So I Told Her (T-Model Ford)
  5. Cleaning Windows (Van Morrison)
  6. Rosie (Joan Armatrading)
  7. Golden (Jill Scott)
  8. Jaco (Yasmin Levy)
  9. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Edith Piaf)
  10. Moi...Lolita (Alizee)
  11. I'm Too Sexy (Right Said Fred)
  12. Money, Money, Money (ABBA)
  13. Big in Japan (Tom Waits)
  14. Womanizer (Britney Spears)
  15. Mdlwembe (Zola)
  16. Que Onda Guero (Beck)
  17. Maria's Wedding (Black-47)
  18. I'm Downright Amazed (Atom and His Package)
  19. We Built This City (Starship)


My Mother's Daughter

On my way to the optometrist this morning, I saw a bumper sticker so funny that I literally did laugh out loud-- and loudly. It startled me (and made my day), because it sounded exactly like my mom's laugh. That wouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows us both (though the cackling-in-stereo is unnerving to the uninitiated). She has a fabulous sense of humor, and an incredible ability to find humor hidden in unexpected places. I remember one summer car ride with my mom and my husband-- she and I had invented a game that had us roaring, and poor Dave had no idea what was going on.

I think people believe that estrangement means absence of affection, respect, wonder, admiration, love. In my experience, that's not true at all; I still feel those things for my mom. It's more like taking shelter in a storm, while longing and praying for clear skies.


Open and Affirming

After a a recent local gathering, I mentioned to a friend how frustrated I am with not fitting in here. She asked, "Do you think anyone feels like they fit in?" I've been thinking about that question ever since she asked it, because I've had the sense that we were talking past each other. She was kindly and wisely pointing out that everyone feels different, but that's not what I meant.

When I think of fitting in, I'm not talking about blending in. I cannot imagine a group entirely made up of people like me (merciful heavens). To me, fitting in means that there's space for my unique shape. The puzzle pieces aren't identical, but nobody has to grab the scissors to force everything into place. It's not about homogeneity, it's about acceptance-- and I've had that. I still have that, in a surprising number of places. But I don't have much of it locally, and it's damn lonely. I appreciate the people who really know me so much more now.

Are there places where you fit it, where you're loved (and known) as you are? Is church one of them, or is that a place where people don't really see and hear each other? We talk about Open and Affirming churches as ones that are LGBT friendly, and that's really important to me-- but I wonder, can we take it beyond that? Can we celebrate the craftsmanship displayed in each person's particular self?

I want everyone to be welcome. When I think of call and ministry (which I do, all the bloody time, because I can't get the topic to shut up in my head), over and over I think of hospitality, which I understand to mean welcoming each unique God-beloved soul. And I think that's how people fit it.


Wednesday Prayers: For a Grieving Family

O Comforting One,
Compassionate One,
be with us all
when we suffer loss
and ache with the pain of grieving.
Give us a glimpse
of the way it will be
when love will never be taken away,
when life itself will not be diminished,
when all that we hold most precious
will live and remain with us forever.
-Miriam Therese Winter
I learned today of a family's loss, and I remembered hearing Paula D'Arcy say that anything will be the wrong thing to say to someone grieving-- mentioning the loss will sometimes be wrong, not mentioning the loss will be wrong, too.

I will say the wrong things. But I will still care for those who mourn, and will pray that God can make something of my inadequacy.


The Gym, and Good Old edward estlin

I went to the gym today for the first time since knee surgery (healing got complicated a little, and recovery's taking a bit longer).


I took the Aquafit class. My classmates were all older ladies, and they were so gracious. Despite all being buddies, they were very friendly and helpful to me, the newcomer.

It felt so good to move for an hour.

All I can think is my own modification of an old e.e. cummings poem: "i like my body when it is moving. It is quite so new a thing. Muscles better and nerves more." (Advance warning: the original version is not about Aquafit. Ahem.)

I suspect I'm in the minority here, but I really believe, down in my bones, that we worship God with our bodies, and not just with our hearts and minds. Joy, strength, frustration, weakness: these are all attitudes that bring me to God. Whether I need to heal, or I'm feeling that glorious exhaustion from perfect exertion, I'm powerfully engaged with God's creation: my body.

Wiggle your toes. Stretch your arms and fingers wide. Enjoy the gentle massage across your cheeks as you wash your face tonight. Whatever you can or can't do today, I hope you're finding joy in being incarnate.


Havin' The Blues with Willie

Dave's been working long hours, and headed in this (Saturday) morning.

I may be feeling a little melodramatic about it.


Weekly Prayers: Japan

The Huffington Post has a great list of ways to help Japan.

Otherwise, all I've got is the hope that "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Rom. 8:26-37, NRSV)


Polishing Shoes

Last night Dave and I laid awake considering international disasters, political, natural, and nuclear. Overwhelmed, scared, sad, frustrated by our inability to do anything at all. Guilty about our own incredible comfort, conscious of the precarious nature of security.

Prayer felt like a cheap answer. It's truly not, though circumstances like this sometimes breed cheap prayers, prayers that distance "them" from "me," prayers that contain the unspoken belief that we're untouchable, and that disaster and heartbreak are what happen to other people.

Today I polished shoes; it's on my weekly chore list. I still don't know what else to do.


Ash Wednesday Prayer: Small-Minded

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race,
and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us
the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed
your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.
--from Eucharistic Prayer C
BCP p. 370
Considering my own smallness heightens my sense of magnificence. Being a speck in a dazzling universe puffs me up much more than being a Big Fish in any particular pond. Contemplating my brief life, and what will become of my body at the end of it should be an exercise in humility, but instead it's a moment of wonder. When the ocean disappears into the horizon, when the stars speckle the night sky, I feel very small-- and I feel steeped in something immense. It's powerful to behold that sort of magnitude, and while I'm tiny and limited, just the act of recognizing some of the grandeur of our universe makes my soul expand to reflect it.

Today, as we remember that we came from dust and return to it, I'm not feeling expendable. I'm feeling like an intrinsic part of an astonishing world.

How about you? Where in the universe are you today?