Wednesday Prayer: This Little Light of Mine

Hey, y'all! Many of you have been in my thoughts and prayers through Advent, but it's nice to be back sharing my prayers, and joining in yours.

Lately, I've been hearing two recurring themes from people:
  1. A yearning for joy
  2. Pressure to measure up

I've had "This Little Light of Mine" in my head all day. Doesn't this simple song cover both of these things? God has given to me my own light, and I'm going to delight in it. That's my prayer for myself and for those I love today.

How about you? How can I pray for you?


Family, Jesus, and the Holidays

The last several weeks have been chock-full of family-- either time with, or references to. We've spent time with Mr. M's family, I've met a half-brother for the first time (my father was... erm... prolific), I've cringed through various dramas on all sides of the family, I've attended one wedding where the families really seemed to like each other, and finally, I've listened to one Christmas sermon on how wonderful babies are.

So, I've been thinking about family from a lot of angles.

I've been thinking about whether the fact that someone is related to you is important. I have (see prolific pater familias, above) an awful lot of family I've never met. I have other family members who don't treat each other at all well. Geographical distance pretty much keeps me out of both groups, but I have questions about whether shared genes matter.

I've been thinking about whether it would be a good idea to add another generation to extended families that don't love each other very well. Honestly, it makes me a little queasy. I've been particularly struggling with this over the last several months. The Christmas Eve service felt really painful in light of this question.

I've been thinking about how precious the family you choose is. I've been able to travel a lot this year (not long trips, just a few states away, but several times), and on each trip I've been able to see people I love dearly. They're not technically sisters, brothers, cousins, and grandfathers, but my soul thinks they are.

I've been thinking about what we owe each other, as biological families, and whether that's really different from what we all owe each other as human beings.

During the Eucharist, I often think about the body of Christ all over the world receiving Communion with me: Rob, Nancy, Charlotte, Mary Beth, Diane, Kate, Robin, and scores more. Family.

And in the midst of all of this, I'm hearing Jesus rhetorically ask, "who are my mother and brothers?"

Aaaaaand, We're Back!

Whew! Advent really whooshed by! It's been chock-ful, and I'm worn out, but there's a lot of good stuff going on.

I haven't been reading the blogs I love very much, so I've got stacks of posts to dive into via Google Reader-- I'm looking forward to catching up with you.

Merry Christmas, y'all.


Advent Hiatus

Hey, friends. I'm going to take this beautiful Advent season to ponder things in my heart. See you after Christmas!


Friday Five: Crushes

Songbird shares a really fun Friday Five over at the RevGals page:

You see, in high school, I had a crush on my Chorus teacher. He was a young guy, and he had gone to college with some cousins of mine, and over the summer between 9th and 10th grade, we ran into each other at a series of pre-wedding parties, and I feel DEEPLY in like.You?

This is such a fun Friday Five for me! Crushes are absolutely a part of who I am.

1) Did you ever have a crush on a teacher?
Sort of. I had a crush on a very sweet, disheveled poet who was also a professor at UMD. He lived in my apartment building in high school , and we used to chat in the elevator. He did a reading once at Denison (while I was a student there), and when he saw me in the audience, he stopped reading his poem, smiled over his glasses, and said, "Hello, neighbor." Still makes me grin to think about.

2) Who was your first crush?
Jeffery Schuttler in first grade. Dorky, but very sweet. Clearly an early indicator.

3) Have you ever given a gift to a crush?
I don't think so. Or, possibly, I've blocked the memory out of embarrassment.

4) Do you have a celebrity crush? (Around my house we call them TV boyfriends and girlfriends...)
Absolutely. Umm... it's Rahm Emmanuel. Seriously. Smart, intense. Funny.

5) Have you ever been surprised to find yourself the crushee?
I don't think so.


Wednesday Prayer: Keeping Watch

This week, I'm praying for those who are grieving. Are there prayers I can offer for you as well?

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
(From Compline, BCP)


David, Timothy, et al.

Two RevGal blog posts today have me thinking again about something I feel really passionate about: ageism in the church. Diane wonders why young people aren't attending congregational meetings, and Elizabeth Hagen shares some of the comments she receives as a young pastor. Elizabeth's post is the most recent I've seen, but I can't count how many identical observations I've read and heard from young women pastors.

My observation has often been that the church wants our young presence, but not necessarily our perspective. I believe that there are cultural differences between generations, and this can create a real struggle, and if we don't directly address this, it can fester. Other times, there's just a flat-out lack of respect for youth. I've seen horrible instances where bishops, priests, and others completely discounted the capacity for ministry in their young people. In direct and indirect ways, church cultures can teach young adults that they don't have anything worthwhile to contribute to the church. In other cases, gatekeepers in the parish who have been there for decades want to make sure that things continue as they always have been. These people are as likely to shut down older new members as they are younger voices.

There are so many biblical models of faithful, courageous young people:
  • Daniel was young when he stood up to the king.
  • Paul reminds Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth.
  • David was the youngest of his brothers, a ruddy youth, when anointed the next king of Israel.
  • Young Jonathan displayed loyalty and love for his friend David, in the face of his father's wrath.
  • Teenage Mary was chosen by God to bear His Son.
Age doesn't seem to be a relevant factor in being called by God, used by God, or cherished by God. It's horrible when people are made to feel irrelevant as they get older. It's unquestionably sinful to dismiss the value of people whose capacities diminish with age. It's not any better to reject the holiness of God's young people. There's no reason why only one or the other should be the life of the church. Our spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit, they are not our own accomplishments. If we listen to each other, if we look for the Holy Spirit in one another, I think we'd all be more likely to contribute.

There are elderly saints whom I adore, whose presence and experience are blessings to me. I am humbled by and grateful for the fact that they allow me to be a blessing to them as well.


Friday Five: Thanksgiving and Mulleygrubs

Thanks to Jan for this Friday Five:

The Cure
Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blueweekend funk,
I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,on Catfish Lane,
and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.
--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?
Going for a walk or a run usually helps. Snuggling with Mr. M definitely helps. Also a fresh pot of tea.

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
We will be outside of Philly with Mr. M's parents.

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
It's really hard to predict. I've spent 5 Thanksgivings with them, and I can't tell what's important.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?
Pffbt. Generally, it's pretty stressful.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
We just found out last night that someone else got a job Mr. M really, really wanted. And while that was a big disappointment, I'm still feeling so grateful that he has a job and that we have enough. That feels like a very big thing right now.

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.
Poor Aunt Bert. I dunno. Maybe she and Uncle Frank played pinocle and laughed all day. That's what I'm hoping.


Wednesday Prayers: Gentleness and Growth

I've been reading David Schnarch's The Passionate Marriage *, and there are several things I like about it. He made a number of points that are just as relevant to life and relationship with God as they are to our relationships with a significant other. Schnarch's first point was that nothing prepares you for marriage. There's just no way on earth to start out doing everything "right." You learn by doing. The corollary is that relationships create ongoing (limitless!) opportunities to grow.

My yoke feels easier and my burden lighter when I see God encouraging me to grow, rather than being furious because I'm not "there" yet. I don't have to hide from God's presence because I'm not doing everything perfectly. God knows where I'm starting. God gives me opportunities to find more freedom, more kindness, more love.

So my prayer this week for myself and for you, too, is that we can see where we are as an acceptable starting point.

Are there prayers I can offer for you?

*The word "passion" still gives me the heebie-jeebies-- it's the same feeling I get watching a movie with my mom when a sex scene comes on. Cringe.


Go Outside and Get Some Fresh Air!

Right around the time Mr. M and I did the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, I pulled a hamstring. I rehabbed it, ran a better-than-expected race, and then... pulled it again. This isn't a surprise; once a muscle has been pulled, re-injury is pretty darn likely (and I haven't been disciplined about doing the PT I need). Sometimes I'm sore, sometimes I'm not, but I'm not running nearly as much as I was in the spring. I'm trying to take things slowly, but now that Daylight Savings time has ended, I'm remembering why I'm always more active in the colder months. Grey days and long darkness do me in. I doubt it's full-fledged SAD, but my energy levels plummet in the winter (and in the months that flank it). For the last couple of years, exercise has made a HUGE difference for me. I didn't have to nap every weekend, and I was a lot more fun to be around.

Because I come from a family of runners (and, generally, people who were a little obsessive about physical fitness-- by which I mean Marines), it only occurred to me yesterday that I can just go outside for the sake of being outside. The days that I don't try to run, I'm going to take the same time and go for a leisurely stroll, just to get some sunshine.

Today was my first attempt. I got up early, did a few yoga sequences, and some general knee-stabalizing exercises, and then mid-afternoon, I went for a stroll. It was fantastic. The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and two elderly men on opposite corners were both edging their lawns. I suspect there's a longstanding competition involved there.

Today's lesson? Even when I'm working at limited capacity, things are very good.


Wednesday Prayers, A Day Late: Shifting

Late last night, I was talking to a friend about the incredible difference in our lives when we shift from a "have to" mindset to a "get to" one. My friend was struggling with this, but I struggle with it, too. Even good things-- seeing friends, doing work I love-- can become chores or sources of anxiety, when I focus on how I "have to" do them. The wonderful anticipation is gone, replaced by dread.

So this week, my prayer request is that a develop a habit of looking forward from a "get to" perspective-- with joy, gratitude, and excitement.

What's your request?


A Wrestling Wednesday Prayer

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ -Genesis 32:24-26, NRSV

I'm jealous of Jacob, on account of the wrestling, the demanding, and the blessing-- all three. This story is so compelling to me right now. There's a prayer in there somewhere, but it's too much, and I don't have the words for it.

But you? Do you have words to pray?



I have a handful of posts in the works, but I'm short on time this morning, so you just get the following conversatioon between a little girl of about 4 and an older woman in the grocery store yesterday:

LG: lalalalalala
OW: Are you a singer?
LG: I am an opera singer.
OW: Oh! Have you ever been to an opera?
LG: No.
OW: But you've seen one on TV?
LG: No.
OW: Then how do you know you are one?
LG: I was just born this way!



Call and Obedience

Frederick Buechner very famously said that "the place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." Isn't that lovely?

I'm not sure it's true. I'd like it to be true, but I'm not sure it is.

Think of Jonah. (I love to think of Jonah. Possibly my favorite book in the Bible.) I really, really get it when he cries out to God, "Are you KIDDING ME? They do all this terrible stuff, and you're letting them off SCOT-FREE?!?!?!

This does not sound like Jonah's deep gladness.

And Moses. You know I've been thinking of Moses lately. Moses was not excited to take God's call to be the Mouthpiece of the Lord. Pretty well turned it down, actually. And then when the Israelites kept complaining to him in the wilderness? Or when he came down from seeing God on Mt. Sinai, and they were knee-deep in debauchery?

Moses was not loving ministry.

So, instead of deep gladness in the work itself (in which I am presently skeptical), I'm thinking instead of Nouwen, McNeill, and Morrison's description (I'm still reading their Compassion) of Jesus's obedience to the Father:

Obedience, as it is embodied in Jesus Christ, is a total listening, a giving attention with no hesitation or limitations, a being "all ear." It is an expression of the intimacy that can exist between two persons. Here the one who obeys knows without restriction the will of the one who commands and has only one all-embracing desire: to live out that will ... When used by Jesus, the word obedience has no association with fear, but rather is the expression of his most intimate, loving relationship.

I'm thinking vocation is about being as immersed in the love of God as possiblye and being directed by that love.

Though, come to think of it, that definition might not apply to Moses and Jonah, either.

Which leads me to the happy conclusion that we can be used by God, even if we're bull-headed and crotchety. Praise be to God.

But Jesus's way seems better.


Gentle Prayer Wednesday

"We are poor listeners because we are afraid that there is something other than love in God."
-Nouwen, McNeill, & Morrison, Compassion

This line has been rattling around in my head for the last week. I read it in the context of obedience, a word some of you know I sometimes uncharitably translate as, "indulging some crazy power trip" "giving others licence to misuse their authority."

I'm loving this particular chapter of Compassion, which describes Jesus's obedience to God as an intimate response, born out of a deep knowledge of God's goodness. An entirely different thing than obeying someone because they rank and you don't.

And so, my prayer this week is to trust in that great love, so that I can better hear God's call.

What's your prayer this week?

Post Series to Come!

Merciful heavens! I sat down today to write a post about being multi-churched (growing up Christian, but not in a specific denomination), and a couple of hours later... I was still writing.

I think, rather, we have a post series in our future.

Stay tuned!


Mrs. M Ruminates on Her Heart's Desire

Yesterday over lunch at 5 Guys, Mr. M asked me what my vocational discernment is like right now, and a crystal-clear response popped out of my mouth before I even had time to think about it: I feel called to Spiritual Direction, but to something else, too.

I am blowing big raspberries at the institutional church right now, there's no way around that truth. I get that it's a human institution, and thereby can't help being flawed. But sometimes I feel like there's a gaping chasm between the stated mission and the de facto mission observed in the life of the church. It's not even that we're striving for holiness and missing the mark, but that we've lost sight of the mark entirely. Mary Beth writes about frustration and sorrow. Carol Merritt Howard tells a horrendous story of call that, frankly, didn't even surprise me.

I don't think we're meant to only live out our faith individually. I can't reconcile that with my theology. Coming together to know God better, to love God and each other so that we can carry that love everywhere with us-- this is overwhelming. This is what we're here to do.
And church is exciting to me, it sings out to me, both spiritually and intellectually-- worship that conveys what we believe and reaches out to all our senses and sensibilities, or even worship that demonstrates how what we really believe is different from what we say we believe-- this is enthralling stuff. (Would someone let me study and then teach Liturgy someday? That would be fantastic.).

Can we find a way to be different from corporations? Less concerned with prestige, and more committed to lifting up everyone? Aren't we called to be servants first, and not CEOs? I've seen congregations that work this way, but is it possible in a larger context?

I worry that this sounds like sour grapes. But I don't think I'm wrong.


Prayer Request Wednesday, Burning Bush Edition

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. --Exodus 3:1-6, NRSV

Every changing tree I see today looks aflame, maybe a call to remove my sandals, and listen for God. And the way the story continues, "But Lord, who am I to..." is exactly where I am right now. Who could possibly take me seriously-- or more important, take God seriously with me as ambassador? I'm too young. I'm not dignified. I don't come with institutional endorsements right now.

So, if you pray for me this week, I'd be grateful for prayers to hear God's call and respond with obedience and trust.

Book recommendations?

Anyone have a favorite book on the Reformation? I'm looking for a few.



SHOE Friday Five!!!! How exciting!


Jan has just posted a SHOE Friday Five!!! I just know I won't be able to limit myself to one answer on these puppies! I generally dress very simply, preferring classic clothes that will still look nice in ten years. As a result, I go wild with shoes!

Too often the Friday Fives I offer up seem extremely introspective, so here's something that could be fun. I notice as I finish my sixth decade that my taste in footwear is much different than when I was younger, as comfort wins out over fashion. So look at your feet and think about what you put on them!

1. What is your favorite footwear at this time in your life?
Oy. I can narrow it down to my trusty old cowboy boots. Or, to my very high-heeled navy suede peep-toe Mary Janes. Or maybe my red plaid Mary Janes with the kitten heel. Or anything with an ankle strap that I can dance in. Or these fun pumps. Or the brown or black knee-high boots. Or maybe just my running shoes?

2. What was the craziest shoe, boot, or sandal you ever wore?
See, this is one of those questions that doesn't have one answer. Was it the red patent leather high-heeled sandals? Was it the silver sandals with the clear high heels that I painted with irridescent glitter? Was it the 4-inch white Mary Janes? There's no way to know.

3. What kind of shoes did you wear in your childhood?
I very clearly remember a pair of tri-colored Reebok high-tops-- yellow, pink and baby blue. Those were great.

4. How do you feel most comfortable? Barefoot, flip-flops, boots, or what?
Barefoot. Even in February. I like a little freedom.

5. What kind of socks do you like, if any?
NO SOCKS unless it's absolutely necessary (boots, sneakers). They're like shackles for your toes. It blows my mind that people can sleep in socks. Actually, it also blows my mind that people can sleep with the flat sheet tucked in.

Bonus: Anything you want to share about feet or footwear.
I've just discovered Sula paint-and-peel polish, and this is PERFECT for my tootsies, because I have the very bad habit of leaving polish on my toes too long, and then my nails get stained, which is disgusting. The colors are fun, and it's actually pretty fun to peel off, too.


Lethargic Wednesday Prayers

Empower me
to be a bold participant,
rather than a timid saint in waiting,
in the difficult ordinariness of now;
to exercise the authority of honesty,
rather than to defer to power,
or deceive to get it;
to influence someone for justice,
rather than impress anyone for gain;
and, by grace, to find treasures
of joy, of friendship, of peace
hidden in the fields of the daily
you give me to plough.
-Ted Loder
from The Complete Book of Christian Prayer

Mr. M and I just got back from a trip to Ohio (mostly good), and the temperature is finally starting to drop here in Central PA, which means that my routine is all out of whack, and I'm freezing my whatnots off. The combination of those two things tends to mean a listless Mrs. M, and that's certainly true right now. My get-up-and-go is hiding in the bin of summer clothes I've packed away.

So, my prayer this week is for a return of energy and focus. What's yours?


Not Right Now

I think this must be my year of learning to listen to myself, and I am immensely grateful for it. A big part of listening has been discovering the freedom of saying no, and I'm sure this isn't going to be the last time I share about it.

I'd been anxious about a friendship for months, frustrated and angry with my friend for certain choices, and with myself for not being able to muster more support. I didn't discuss this with my friend, but I didn't want to discuss anything else, either. I was impatient with myself, analyzing my feelings and not coming up with much. Was there some transference going on, making this less about my friend than my own past situations? Was I being intolerant? I would be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent fussing with myself over this. I didn't want to stop wrestling with myself, because I didn't want to lose the relationship forever.

Finally, late at night when I was trying to sleep, I came to I am not able to be a good friend to this person right now. It was the most matter-of-fact thought in the world. It wasn't an indictment or an accusation, it was just an acknowledgment of the way things were. It was also permission to take some space, and through that permission I felt peace about the situation. Not everyone needs me to be their chief cheerleader all the time. It's OK for me to take a break if I don't have it in me. Trying to push my way through those feelings, ignoring them, would have made the situation worse. Taking space gave me exactly what I needed. Being able to say no (to my own expectations of myself) gives me more freedom. When I can detatch with love from my own turbulence, I can practice the same with others. Not surprisingly, once I accepted my limitations, I felt much more comfortable with my friend.

I was afraid that letting go would mean cutting off, and it's not the same thing. Sometimes we have to let go of things forever, but other times it's more like the tide going out, and returning in due time.


Prayer Request Wednesday: Weary Traveller Edition

Tomorrow, Mr. M and I take off for a long weekend in Ohio. Our plans have shuffled around some, and it's going to be more hectic and more productive than we originally thought.

I'm noticing a trend in prayer requests lately-- both of those received here, and ones I'm hearing in other places (including in our house). There's a lot of, "What's Next?" And so, I'd like to share a tiny piece of Rumi, as translated in Daniel Ladinsky's Love Letters From God:

Where am I going on this glorious journey?
To your house, of

And so, as we pack for our trip, I'm going to try to notice God's hospitality all along the way. I'd love for that to be your prayer for us.

And for you? How can I be holding you in the light of God this week?


Prayer Request Wednesday!

Lovely little slips of paper, with prayer requests typed (yes, typewriter-typed! Ancient clickety-clack!) are fluttering on my corkboard. Everybody who's asked is still up there, as we are all dealing with some ongoing stuff.

I wish I could explain how much I'm enjoying praying for each of you. A psalm from morning prayer last week really stood out to me-- one about being the apple of God's eye, sheltered under God's wing. Ever since, I've been thinking of you as the apple of God's eye. So much joy here.

To reiterate:
I'll pray for your messy lives, and if you're so inclined, you'll pray for mine:
  • Dave's job-- we're seeing some really positive signs, but we're still waiting!
  • I'm in a weird limbo right now (see request #1), and if I take it day-by-day I feel good about where I am, but sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by it. Peace in the uncertainty would be wonderful.



Autumnal Friday Five!

From Singing Owl at RevGals:
Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest. Jeremiah 5:23b

The Autumnal Equinox has just come 'round again. I took a look back at our Friday Fives and noted that it always seems to make the Rev Gals and their Pals think of changes. There is something so nostalgic about this time of year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights grow cooler, crops are harvested, for some of us the leaves are beginning to change colors. The scent of smoke is in the air, pumpkins are in the stores (or on wagons, or in roadside stands for those of us in the country). I'm thinking of putting away my summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. And I have a tub of Fall-themed items that my husband just lugged up from the basement. I'm looking for my scarecrow.
For this week, let's share some memories along with some hopes and expectations.

1. Share a Fall memory.
Goofing off with my gorgeous friend Erin in college. We cheered together, and most of the other cheerleaders were... well, way cooler than we were, and pretty cranky. So, the two of us were wonderfully silly and had a great time together during football Saturdays.
Wait! I'm so embarrassed-- today is my anniversary-- getting married is my fall memory!!!

2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)?
I've had a pair of brown cowboy boots since my freshman year of high school (that's about 15 years now, folks), and I love wearing them with jeans, and some version of a fuzzy cream sweater. (This combination once got my roommate and I several beers in a bar, plus dinner on the house!)

3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc.
Since I spent a lot of my growing-up years in southern CA, I had beach bonfires rather than campfires. My youth group used to do them pretty regularly, and there is nothing better than the smell of salt air and smoke.

4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year?
The sense of anticipation leftover from years of starting school at this time. Fall is when I feel like something is about to begin!

5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, family...whatever...as the season changes and winter approaches?
Total upheaval is what we're anticipating this year-- and that would be a very good thing. I'll keep you posted.

Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house? Recipes always appreciated.
The Barefoot Contessa's Butternut Squash Soup, from her At Home cookbook! (The mac and cheese with smoked Gouda is also amazing.)


Beginner Quilting

I've been quilting!

Earlier this summer I made a rag quilt for a friend who's expecting this month (Blackberry photo, color's a little off):

I had only made tiny baby blankets before this one, and I figured that a rag quilt would be an easy road into a bigger, lap-blanket-sized quilt. BOY, WAS I WRONG! Clipping the edges so they get fuzzy took hours longer than stitching would have. But it was soft, and a lot of fun to make.

Earlier this week I finished the top of a pieced quilt for our house-- also lap-sized. (The color is a bit off in the picture, too, but it is a little loud in real life.) There are little owls (what bookish girl doesn't love owls?!), and little trees, and apples-- it's a happy little guy. I've bought varigated oranged thread to quilt, and so when my Dream Green batting order gets in at the quilt store, I'll sew the quilt sandwich together with a scattered leaf pattern. Nice for fall.


Prayer Request Wednesday

It's Wednesday again! Just like last week, here's the deal:

I'll pray for your messy lives, and if you're so inclined, you'll pray for mine. We won't fix each other's problems, we'll just ask God to do whatever it is God's inclined to do.

Here's what I've got:
  • Mr. M and I both have a cold that we just can't quite shake.
  • Our 5th anniversary is Friday-- pray that we keep growing together.
  • I'm having a rough time with my family-- wisdom and peace would both be helpful.

Thanks, guys! Leave yours in the comments, and I'll pop them onto my corkboard for the week!


The Power of Prayer

I have, in the young life of my marriage, bought two copies of Stormie O'Martian's The Power of a Praying Wife, both for myself. I bought the first not long after we were married, rolled my eyes at the rigid gender roles, and tossed it into the library donation bag. About six months ago, I bought it again.

The gender roles still drive me batty. But I'm a big believer in, "take what you like and leave the rest," so I'm trying. I'm looking for dirty-laundry prayers, and not sunbathed-meadow ones, and and I appreciate that Ms. O'Martian is trying to speak to the ordinary parts of our lives. The Celts are good for this, imbuing the mundane with gratitude and recognizing the presence of the sacred, but the language isn't quite what I want. Right now, I just want to remember to bring all the crap, all the regular stuff to God. I'm not having a mountaintop time, I think it's ditch-digging time for me, and I don't want all the ruffles and flourishes.

I'm not sure that we mainliners are very good at this. We give awfully pretty prayers, but I think I've forgotten to say, "Hey, here's what's going on. I'd really appreciate some help with it." (I say this to affirm that language is sacred, not to deny it. I love those beautiful prayers. We need all the richness and complexity we can get, but in the course of attending to complexity, sometimes we omit the necessary texture and contrast that simplicity brings.)

So, in honor of the mandatory Wednesday night church services of my youth (thank you, Miss Lynn and Mr. Dail), I'd like to initiate Prayer Request Wednesdays, and anyone who wants to join in is welcome. I'll pray for your messy lives, and if you're so inclined, you'll pray for mine. We won't fix each other's problems, we'll just ask God to do whatever it is God's inclined to do.

Here's what I've got this week:
  • We would really love for Mr. M to find a new job. The current one is increasingly unhappy.
  • If that new job could involve moving, we would really love to strike out and have adventure in a new place.
  • Mr. M and I really need to relax and have fun. We're getting cranky and taking ourselves too seriously.

If there's any way I can pray for you, let me know in the comments. If you'd like to email me, you're welcome to do that, too.


Friday Five: Recharging

Revgal Sally brings us this week's Friday Five:
A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....So I wonder what/ who gives you energy?

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low?
I almost said Mr. M, who's very comforting, but uplifting is a totally different thing, isn't it? Actually, my mom is surprisingly good at this.

2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you?
  • Calming-- Shubert's Ave Maria, as sung by Renee Fleming
  • Invigorating, when I need to put on my big girl pants-- Dire Strait's Brothers In Arms (West Wing fans who know why get a gold star.)
  • Hopeful-- A Change is Gonna Come, as done by Ben Sollee
3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope?
If I need encouragement, it's almost always because I'm overwhelmed. So, Matthew's account of Jesus calming the storm has long been a favorite.

4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside?
A bracing walk. Or, better, a long slow run-- long enough to wear you out, slow enough to let you process everything you need to, and to notice the loveliness of the trail.

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging? Write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five.
I'm feeling pretty peaceful lately, even in the midst of some real uncertainties. My prayer request is for that peace to expand.


Beauty In Unexpected Places

A duck in the library parking lot

Flowers at the edge of a garage

Snapdragons in the wall



Per Mirriam-Webster:

Worry: (definition 2c)
to touch or disturb something repeatedly

I have a longstanding unbloggable family thing. It lies dormant for months on end, and when it resurfaces, I worry. I might not have noticed this time, except for the vivid stress dreams. I got scared, prayed, was scared some more, and kept praying. Last night, as I was explaining to God what an incredible mess it is and how overwhelmed I am, the reply was gentle: "You're right. That is sticky. How about you let me take care of this one?"

OH. You mean everyone's welfare doesn't depend on my perfect diplomatic strategy?

I understand that in other areas of my life, but this one particular situation has me convinced that any wrong move will be catastrophic. And there is no clear right move. Last night, I was tenderly reminded that I am not in charge. Thank heavens.

But this morning... I pick it back up again. The physical, tangible definition of worry keeps coming to mind. I fiddle with the situation, twisting it between my fingers and wrinkling it. And what is worry but psychic fidgeting, fussing and squirming when we're anxious and powerless?


Friday Five: Feel Free to Brag Edition

From Singing Owl:
Lately I seem to be encountering many people who have a very difficult time finding anything good to say about themselves. They are able to extend grace and forgiveness's to others but find it difficult to extend that same grace to themselves.
With that in mind, let's share some healthy affirmation today! Tell us five things you like about yourself!

1. I make people laugh, and I laugh easily, too.
2. I'm really good at saying no. It sounds funny, but I've had a lot of people tell me that they wished they knew how to say no as clearly, firmly, and politely as I do.
3. I have a friendly smile.
4. I'm hospitable, wherever I am.
5. I'm a great cat mom.


Came to Admit I Was Powerless

A really neat guy I knew in college just posted a link on Facebook to a recent Roger Ebert essay, My Name is Roger, and I'm an Alcoholic.

I cannot begin to tell you how my life has been blessed by recovering alcoholics, and by people in assorted forms of recovery.

I can think of a whole handful of them who became family, starting when I was in middle school. They were funny, honest, accepting adults who had the wisdom not to take themselves too seriously. My husband says the people I love are the ones who "don't screw around," and truly those I love the most are not masters of tact. They are honest, because honesty is what keeps them healthy, sober, real. I know women who say that they can pick an alcoholic out of a crowd-- he'll be the one she's most attracted to. I think I can pick a recovering alcoholic out of a crowd-- and he'll be the one who becomes my friend.

A priest I really like once told a story about an AA meeting that took place in a small parish's fellowship hall. Congregants were in the habit of walking through the space while meetings were taking place, compromising the anonymity of the members. When a spokesperson for the meeting met with the rector, she was insistant: this is a matter of life and death. The priest who told the story wondered what would happen if we held what happened in the sanctuary as a matter of life and death as well. And when I think about it: aren't all the other things that we let take our focus from loving and following God just as dangerous, just as damaging to our selves and lives? Who are we kidding when we pretend otherwise?

I was part of an evening Mass once, and because it was a small group gathered to worship, Prayers of the People were both more informal and more personal than they usually are. Early in the sharing, one person told us that she was a recovering alcoholic. By the peculiar grace of God, which so often brings together those who need each other, it turned out that alcoholism had been a part of each of our lives. That was the most open, most caring service I've ever seen.

This was such a timely article for me, because while I'm not an alcoholic, I have such a hard time remembering that, in general, I am powerless, and that God can restore me to sanity IF I turn my life over to God.

It's such evangelical language, isn't it? Particularly in the last year or so, I've been missing that shared evangelical spirituality that talks about turning everything over to God, that spreads God out over our whole lives, and not just our philosophical moments. I've thought it was my evangelical roots, but I realize it's my 12 Step Higher Power roots, too.

I suppose mostly, I just want to say thank you to those recovering, who have been kind enough to include me in what you were learning and practicing. I have seen stronger witnesses, more faithful practice, and truer lovingkindness among this group than any other.



The point of trust is the act itself, and not the outcome.

There's more, but I don't have words yet.


Friday Five: The Perfect Church

Singing Owl writes:
Please pardon me for talking about church in the summer when many of you may be on vacation. However, the church we are talking about today is the one you dream of. I've been thinking about this because I miss pastoring and preaching, because I am sending in resumes, and because...well...jut because. So have some fun with this. Tell us five things that the perfect church would have, be, do...whatever.We can dream, right?

Boy, am I grateful for Singing Owl's Friday Five this week. I've been thinking a lot (for some time now) about the perfect church. Not one that's filled with perfect people, or that never makes mistakes-- the one that's perfect for me. I have a running list in my journal right now of things I believe about church, and things that are important to me. Here's a little smattering:

  1. It is sacramental. Communion in particular is so precious to me. I remember the first time I noticed feeling its holiness in my bones. It was the first time I served the chalice at a funeral, and I had a deep awareness of the communion of all the saints, of how we're all part of the body of Christ-- those gathered at the altar rail, together with hundreds of years of saints before us. I still get chills at Communion.
  2. It is evangelical, in the sense that it affirms and encourages our personal relationships with God in Christ. It believes that God is at work in our daily lives. It fosters spiritual friendships.
  3. It is a place of hospitality for all-- it is a loving, safe place. It is inclusive in its love, and strong in its boundaries.
  4. It is open-minded, and encourages people to wrestle with the hard questions of faith, engaging all of the church in those questions, rather than handing down edicts from leadership.
  5. It is reverent and joyful. Gathering on Sundays is an offering of worship to God.



A really extraordinary priest passed away this week. He retired several years ago, but worshipped and sometimes celebrated in my home parish.

By the time I met him, he was quite elderly, and not in good health. He was also one of the kindest, most gentle men I have ever met. I loved serving as a Eucharistic Minister when he celebrated, because I got to offer my arm as he climbed onto the dais. It was such a joy just to be near him.

I remember a few conversations in the sacristy. He wasn't at all chatty, and was instead deeply sincere. I also remember that, shaky and frail though he was, he was still dapper enough to reach for his comb after he donned his chasible, straightening his white hair before the service.

He used to leave his copy of Episcopal magazines in my church mailbox.

He not only gave my favorite sermons, he had my favorite sermon style. My husband and our dear friend Tom refer to it as the "Get up. Speak Up. Shut up." style of preaching-- make your point as clearly as possible, and then stop before you get in your own way.

About a month ago, his wife of almost 60 years passed away. He rose to speak briefly at her memorial service, and I listened as this quiet, dignified man shared about her last hours. "We were hugging and kissing, and I was holding her as she passed away."

An unbelievably beautiful man. I feel so lucky to have been around him.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant, Carl.
Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the
glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Whatcha Doin'?

It's about 4:30 in the morning, and I haven't managed to fall asleep yet. Insomnia is rare for me-- usually I could bring home the gold for the US in sleeping.

I thought about poking my husband and saying, "Hey! Watcha doin?! You sleeping?" Tonight, I restrained myself (don't get me wrong, though-- I've done it before, and I'll do it again). But as I was lying there on my side of the bed, thinking about bothering him, I remembered how many people have written about the wee hours of the night being the best ones they spend with God.

And then, because I'm very annoying in the middle of the night, I turned to God: "Hey!!! Watcha doin?!"

What IS God doing? I can think of an awful lot of things God has done, but what about present tense? How does God spend God's time?! What's going on out there?

Design and create earth.
Send plagues, part Red Sea.
Send Son.


I'm not even sure it's an important question (it's certainly not one I'm going to get an answer to), but it's what I'm thinking about while I'm letting my sweet husband sleep. For the moment.


Dots of Joy

  • Meeting a blogger buddy tomorrow-- scary but exciting. (And Charlotte likes her, so she must be fun.)
  • 3 clean cats.
  • Gorgeous, gorgeous July weather.
  • Getting back in touch with a woman I was nuts about when I was a kid.
  • Laughter at the dry cleaners.
  • Good driving music.

Seasons Omitted in Ecclesiastes

A time for doing things right, and a time for screwing stuff up.

I was chatting with one of my favorite girlfriends the other day, and I realized that I find huge comfort in the reassurance that there is a season for everything. It makes me feel like less of an ass when I screw up (because I think there's a season for that, too). In the middle of the night, when visions of things that could have been handled better dance in my head, they don't have to eclipse the good parts of the day.

And then this morning I was stuck with gratitude when I realized how often I don't know which season is which at the time. In restrospect, I can see the strengths in the weaknesses. I came awfully close to not graduating from college because I loved to listen to wonderful people talk about the things that mattered to them. Now, at the time that stunk, but I can see whispers of vocation in it now. I spent more recesses than I could count reading in a quiet spot-- but I still love reading and learning. I've felt frustrated by jobs where procedural details came before people-- and so I finally learned to respect that about myself. I've been swept away by excitement and affection instead of being cool, but I'm beginning to be proud of being able to love people.

If we can just be gentle, there's so much to learn from the other side of the coin.


Friday Five: Temple or Tent Edition

Sophia posted this great Friday Five over at RGBPs:
I just got back from an 8 mile bike ride down the beach boardwalk near our home, and was struck with the number of people out enjoying physical activity. Runners, other cyclists, surfers, swimmers, dogwalkers, little kids on scooters....It's easy to lose track of my physical self-care in the midst of flurried preparation for a final on-campus interview Monday for a college teaching position in the Midwest (prayers welcome!) and the family move that would accompany it. But each day that I do make time to walk or ride my bike it is such a stress reliever that it is well worth the time invested! So how about you and your beautiful temple of the Holy Spirit?

*Sigh.* That's one thing we really want in the next place that we live-- more activity. There are almost no runners/bikers/etc. out and about in this county, and it's a little depressing. It's so nice to be in a place where that's part of the culture.

1. What was your favorite sport or outdoor activity as a child?
I liked roller skating and horseback riding, but I wasn't particularly sporty as a little kid. I had a very competitive Marine mother, who didn't often remember that kids can't do everything the same way adults did-- it took a some of the fun out of being active.

2. P.E. class--heaven or the other place?
In elementary school-- the other place. I remember making a lot of daisy chains in the outfield during kickball. As I got older, it still wasn't heaven, but it wasn't awful, either. (Although seriously-- wasn't the locker room always just torture for everyone?!)

3. What is your favorite form of exercise now?
I love running, and I love yoga. I want to like biking, but I'm going to have to find a more comfortable seat before that's a reality.

4. Do you like to work out solo or with a partner?
I like both. Partners keep me motivated, but long solo runs are wonderful head-clearing time.

5. Inside or outside?
Outside if it's above freezing, inside if it's below.

Bonus: Post a poem, scripture passage, quotation, song, etc. regarding the
body or exercise.
I thought of a number of poems (Whitman, cummings, Roethke), but they all seemed too racy to post here (good grief, is a dirty mind all a Literature degree gets you?!?), so we're just going to go back to Mr. Buffett.

"She said, 'You gotta do your fair share--now cough up half the rent! I treat my body like a temple, you treat yours like a tent!'" -Jimmy Buffett, Fruitcakes


Not Home Yet

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have
nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." -Luke 9:58
It's not just the Son of Man, my friend.

Last week, Mr. M took vacation and I had time on my hands, having made the decision two weeks prior to stop being a bad secretary. On Monday, we took a little trip to the teeny beach at Elk Neck State Park. That part is not a good story, and can be summarized in 4 words-- dead fish, hasty departure.

But the drive down was a thoughtful time for me. We took the winding roads through southern Lancaster County, which is some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. Briefly during college, I dated a guy who lived in that area, and the sheer gorgeousness is part of why I moved to PA (the county's, not his). Lush green hills, with farms and forests, old stone farmhouses, and sweet Norman Rockwell neighborhoods. It's beautiful, but it's not my home. In fact, because most residents have ties here that go back several generations, my newness stands out in sharp relief. There are times I feel a bit like an orphan stuck at someone else's family reunion.

I didn't really notice how untethered I am (or more accurately, what life is like for people who aren't) until after college. We lived in military towns, or abroad near the Embassy, or (the ultimate home for professional gypsies) Washington, DC. Everyone was a new kid in college, so that was wonderful. My whole life, there were different accents, different perspectives... and when no one is the same, there seems to be much more respect and enjoyment of diversity. (It's hard to have "us" and "them" when there are only two of each, and forty various other groups.)
Having been a military brat, growing up all over the world, is a blessing and a curse. I could have just kissed Charlotte when she introduced me to the concept of Third Culture Kids-- holy carp, it's not just me! Likewise, I've learned a lot about myself through Charlotte and Nancy's adult reflections on military families.

But back to this place...

The first thing I sought in this hometown was a congregation. I had worshipped with Baptists and Catholics, Church of Christers and huge evangelical churches, Quakers, Unitarians, and Methodists. I worshipped in regular churches, military chapels, campus all-purpose rooms, and one strange satellite-worship-Starbucks (not my favorite). Christians were just people who loved Jesus, prayed regularly, and were lucky enough to be able to turn their worries over to God.

And again, I was startled by the long ties to the denominational equivalent of generations-old neighborhoods. But it took (I kid you not, perhaps I'm just unusually thick) years to identify this. I would talk about my spiritual needs, things I'd pasted together from different sources, not knowing what a weird amalgam I was, and people would dismiss me. I was ticked off at the time, but now I realize the things I wanted weren't part of their tradition.

There's a lot I've tossed from my evangelical elementary school education, but being familiar with the Bible is something I've been so grateful for. I had no idea that there were Christians, laypeople, who didn't believe in daily quiet time with God-- I expected that it was there for everyone, though surely it took different forms. I had no idea that there are churches that see no need for people to pray privately together over the issues in their lives. OF COURSE I want to sit with you, hear about what matters, and pray together. I want the intimate friendships that brings about.

But I love weekly Eucharist, deep in my soul. I love the mystery of keeping ancient rites, words and habits that tie us to centuries of Christians. I really believe in the communion of the saints, that sometimes the writing of Theresa of Avila makes her just as present and loving to me as my favorite college girlfriend. I love the practices and disciplines that have been handed down-- the daily offices, the rosary.

So where does my untethered soul go? I could sample from lots of churches, but I love knowing people and being known, and that doesn't happen one Sunday a month.

AND, if it wasn't all ridiculous enough... I still don't feel un-called. What kind of crazy person feels called to ministry without a church? I love preaching, really love it. I know that thoughtful liturgy is precious to me, because I'm such a pain in the rear about it (I don't care what your style is, I care deeply that it reflects your theology and isn't sloppy). I am excited and energized by church-stuff. I believe (so much that my toes tingle with it) that there must be a place where our souls are shown deep hospitality.

I have a (fleeting, usually) sense of anticipation that carries me through the nutty times where I don't respect where I've been and I can't see where I'm going. This much joy and curiousity can't be going nowhere. But, for the time being, it has no place to lay its head.



One of my best friends in high school was a wonderful girl from Honduras. Her parents have worked all over the world, and at present they're in the U.S., but they're about to go back to Honduras, and I'm so worried about the whole family. They really are extraordinary people, and the sweetest family on top of it. I'm just sick about what's going on in their country. Please keep them in your prayers.

Friday Five
Closet Cleaning Edition

Good grief, it's been so long since I've played the Friday Five that I can hear the hinges on my Blogger account creaking.

The lovely Sally has given us a fun play this week:

1. Are you a hoarder, or are you good at sorting and clearing?
I am a merciless sorter and clearer. Or I thought I was, but I realized this morning that I have underpants that I bought 15 years ago.

2. What is the oddest garment you possess and why?
There are two, and they're both wonderful. One is a men's grey cardigan from... well, roughly the mid-seventies. It was my uncle's, but then it got handed down to my mom. There's a picture of her wearing it the week after I was born, and I love to wear it around the house.

The other garment came from a wonderful woman named Karen, who was my mom's best friend in the second grade. Karen moved with her family from Tennessee to Nebraska, and she and my mom lost touch for several years. They reconnected when I was in college, and Karen mailed me a lovely, full, calf-length black velvet skirt that had been her mother's when she heard I was swing dancing.

3. Do you have a favourite look/ colour?
I love wearing dresses and skirts with sweaters. Knee length, full skirts are my favorite.

4. Thrift/ Charity shops, love them or hate them?
I'm fussy about them. There's a wonderful consignment shop near me, and a good one is a gem, but there are some really crappy ones out there, and I don't always have the patience to comb through them.

5. Money is no object, what one item would you buy?
A beautifully cut, long, wool winter coat.



  • I start a beginners quilting class tonight! Very exciting. We're making table runners, which is NOT exciting, but hopefully I'll learn why my little squares never turn out quite...square.
  • Because there's not enough time to go home, but I'll have just a little too much time before the class, it's definitely going to be an Ice Cream for Dinner night.
  • I picked up Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours (for Summertime) recently, and I cannot tell you how much I'm enjoying it. Somehow all of the readings lately have been exactly what I needed, have absolutely swaddled me in the huge love of God.
  • I won a case of Corona! Well, it was my incentive for a donation, so really it's the most expensive beer I've ever bought, but still, I'm going to be happy when Mr. M picks up some limes.
  • I am loving Pandora more than I can possibly tell you. I'm particularly pleased with the Conway Twitty station, the Bob Dylan one, the Dusty Springfield, and the Classical (choral Baroque). Go play with it! Mr. M listened to a They Might Be Giants station, and discovered that Cake covered this Muppet classic:


Losing Souls

In my young evangelical days, I heard Mark 8:36 a lot: What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" It was usually understood as the undoing of a one-time salvation. Descent into the fiery pits, eternal separation from God, afterworld-y stuff.

The verse came to mind recently, though, as I was chatting with one of my favorite girlfriends. We were talking about people who make us angry (so angry we can feel it in our bodies), and we agreed that there's a point where we just have to let it go-- for the sake of our own souls. Please don't get me wrong-- I respect anger as a helpful roadmarker, one that lets me know something is deeply Not As It Should Be. But to stew in it, and let it mingle with resentment and hate... that's an entirely different beast. I'm coming to believe that our soul isn't something we lose once, irrevocably, but rather our truest self, which we lose track of many times, in many ways-- through fear, worry, hostility, hate, condescension.

I also believe it's something we can receive back. Last month, at the closing ceremonies of Spiritual Director's training, each of us spoke briefly about what the program had been to us. I shared that when I began, I felt as though I had lost my voice. Two years later, buoyed by the love of a wonderful community, it was coming back. A very dear friend (the kind who's family, even though he's not related) told me later that I hadn't lost my voice at all-- I just couldn't hear it for myself for a little while. Maybe that's the best possible definition of spiritual direction-- having someone to hear your voice. And I believe that through it, God saves our souls, and restores love, kindness, freedom, trust, and joy.


The Mustn'ts

I've mentioned Shel Silverstein a couple of times before-- I'm nuts about him. I can't believe I haven't ever posted about the Mustn'ts, though, because it's one of those poems that pops up in my head on a fairly regular basis-- and I'm always glad when it does.

As there is in everyone's life, I have a bit of ongoing unblogability, and this morning I was thinking to myself, "I wish that someone could tell me whether or not this can improve-- whether something can HAPPEN." And then I thought of Shel, and realized that no one can really tell me either way. We just have to wait, and maybe expect.

Listen to the Mustn'ts
Listen to Mustn'ts, child, listen to the Don'ts.
Listen to the Shouldn'ts, the Impossibles, the Won'ts.
Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.
-Shel Silverstein


Who do You say that I am?

I've been really struggling with one relationship. I cannot do anything right with this person, and it's been... well, about as awful as you'd expect. Last night, I prayed about it and heard, "I don't see you the way she sees you."

Well, holy crap. Life feels a lot better when I remember that God sees me.


Mid-May Odds and Ends

  • I finished my Spiritual Director's program! (Not done learning, just done with the program.)
  • My wisdom teeth are coming out on Thursday (yikes!). This appointment has been scheduled and rescheduled since January, so I'm just glad to be getting it over with at this point.
  • Mr. M and I have our fingers crossed for a yet-unbloggable possibility-- I'll let you know if it comes through!
  • We worshipped with a Lutheran church on Sunday, and I really enjoyed it. A staff member said to me at the last class retreat that the ELCA might be a good fit. ("It's a lot like the Episcopal church, but softer," was actually how she put it.) At this point, I'm not sure which is scarier-- visiting new churches, or the idea of finding one that feels right.

Other than that, I'm one swamped little Admin Asst., and that's about it.


Friend Dating

The older I get, the further away from college, and the longer I've been married, the more I realize that other relationships (social and professional) are an awful lot like dating.

I remember one test very clearly from my dating days: how someone treated waiters/tresses, grocery store clerks, etc, was very important to me. Of course a guy will try to impress his date, but is he as courteous to everyone else-- especially those people in service positions who are often ignored? How does he treat friends and family? Does he still show respect to people he doesn't enjoy?

I only put this together a week or so ago, and as you might imagine, it wasn't a fun lesson to learn. With friends, this awareness isn't necessarily the weeding-out process it is with dates, but it is a helpful perspective. If someone has a short fuse with others, she'll probably lose her temper with you at some point. If an acquaintance gossips, it's best to assume you'll eventually be the topic. We keep loving each other, but forewarned is forearmed, and assuming that we'll be different from all the others almost always ends in heartbreak.

And along the same lines... it's not a bad idea to evaluate ourselves the same way. Even when we're not called out on it, our friends put up with a lot.



I'm thinking about traditions a lot lately-- it's a subject that's coming up all over the place.

Traditions-- particularly in worship-- are important to me. Not because I want to be rigid, or because I don't value creativity, but because they immerse me in the timeless "communion of all the saints." It's mystical and sacred to me to share a rite that binds me not only to God with those present, but also to God with generations who came before. God's love and eternity somehow become cozier and more immense to me in these moments. It's part and parcel of the way that Theresa of Avila and Thomas Merton feel like kindred spirits, though they're not my contemporaries. The sacred saturated in this timelessness and transcendence for me.

When I can slow down, and breath deep yoga-breaths full of all the faith, hope, and love that precedes me, my bones themselves get goosebumps.


Dangling My Feet in the Water

I opened up Google Reader this morning, and peeked at this week's Friday Five. It's beautiful, just the sort of thing I love to think about, and my first reaction was, "Crap! This is gorgeous, and I can't give it the sort of thought that will do it justice today." Very close to my feelings about reading An Altar In the World, actually. Without a congregation (something I'm uncomfortable about), some authors are kindred spirits, a reminder of the wide communion of all the saints.

I'm crabby because I desperately want time to marinate in all of these lovely things, and to sit in God's company, alone and with others. I see people all day long, but in a busy administrative job, our time together is about the work, not about the people. There are so many places where I'm hungry to listen, so many people I encounter but can't take the time to know. It's like wanting to swim, to glide through the water and feel your hair flow out behind you, when you're only able to stick your toes in the waves. It's still nice, but it's not at all satisfying.

That's where I am.


Hope as the Default Setting

Mr. M and I, like most couples, don't have new arguments. We have fresh reincarnations of the same 2, maybe 3, over and over. Uninventive, I know. Lately one of those arguments has been bothering me more than usual.

Yesterday, though, I somehow stopped thinking of it as, "OMG, what if we NEVER fix this?!?!?! What if this is our undoing?!" and moved on to, "We've probably got a good 50 more years to get this squared away. We're going to be fine."

That doesn't mean the issue is resolved, but it does give me room to have a sense of humor, and of hope (related, I think).

I wonder what life would be like if we assumed it was more likely to improve than fall to bits.

In semi-related news, we found a new band a couple of weeks ago, and this song lets me know that we're not the only ones to go round-and-round.



I've been far too cranky lately to post, though there's good stuff going on. I would LOVE a long retreat right now, but it's not going to happen. I'm actually looking forward to having my wisdom teeth pulled in the middle of May because it'll get me a little quiet time.

In the meantime, you're probably in my prayers, and I appreciate yours as well.

Oh-- and I bought BBT's An Altar in the World, and I'm excited about it and afraid to read it, all at the same time. I've been carrying it around in my purse for the last week, and I've read 2 or three light-and-fluffy books, but haven't cracked this one open. I'm noticing that lately there are things/ideas/books/points of meditation that feel particularly important, and the idea of drawing near to them feels completely overwhelming. I'm not ready to be overcome yet.


A Little Bit of Fantasy

When I was in college, a much-beloved girlfriend and I would sometimes take Tennyson to the park, and read on a picnic blanket. Idylls of the King is great fun to read aloud. To whet your appetite, I give you the beginning of Merlin and Vivien:

A storm was coming, but the winds were still,
And in the wild woods of Broceliande,
Before an oak, so hollow, huge and old,
It looked a tower of ivied masonword,
At Merlin's feet the wily Vivien lay.


National Poetry Month!

I've been thinking a LOT about poetry lately (I blame Charlotte). Ergo, I'm going to go ahead and indulge myself in National Poetry Month (perhaps it'll be a good way to get back in the habit of blogging, too).

I quote this (usually not out loud, actually) often:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant
Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---

Back to Bullets

There are a bizillion things I've been wanting to blog about, but I haven't had time (or admittedly, energy) to do justice to any of them. So, we have bullets:

  • It came to me about a week ago that when I noticed spring, I'd take it as a direct, personal, love gift from God. It's been amazing since then. Unbloggability is still there, but right in the midst of it, happiness and love can still live. Amazing.
  • I've been thinking a lot about seeing God in beauty (and noticing beauty), and that has me thinking about liturgy and liturgical spaces (because, really, everything makes me think of liturgy). More to come on that, I'm sure.
  • Some doors might be opening. I'm trying to discern whether they're just welcoming places, or whether this is an indication that they're the right places for me. (Though frankly, because hospitality is so central to my idea of ministry, perhaps that answers itself.)
  • Some other doors might or might not be opening for Mr. M. This would be a very big change, but would make things so much easier for us that it feels like a pipe dream. I'll keep you updated.
  • This weekend is finally the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, but I'm not sure the muscle I pulled is totally back up yet! Augh! I took 2 weeks off, ran gentle yesterday (and cut it short). I'm hoping a massage on Friday will help?

Ok, duckies. I'm nuts about you, but that's all I can do at this moment. xoxo.


Friday Five

Mary Beth serves up one heck of a Friday Five. I was gobsmacked by the possiblities, but as you'll see, I tried to keep it under control:

On my blog sidebar is a list titled, "Blogs I Read Every Day." After my mother became a blogger, she asked me how I could possibly read that many blogs daily!? I had to confess it then: Okay, I don't read them all every day! I have over 100 on there! But I have favorites, and you do too.Some of you probably use feed readers to let you know when your favorite bloggers have posted...not me, not yet. I just have folks who are part of my day-to-day.So for today's Friday Five, give us five blogs you visit regularly, and tell us briefly WHY you like them. These can be RevGal and Pal bloggers and others ... or news sites, knitting sites, etc. Who are you showing the love to on a pretty constant basis?Hopefully we will all get to know some new bloggy friends this way!

I do use Google Reader to let me know when things are updated (though this can be trying, as the gmail account that I saved the feeds in is different from the one I used when I created this blog, so I have to log out to comment, then back in to read the rest... why can't I change the gmail address for this blog?!) Anyway, I had a heck of a time narrowing it down. I decided I could get the most bang for my blogpost by only doing non-RevGals (after all, y'all know where you are!), but even then... I cheated. I picked 6. AND YOU'RE DARN LUCKY IT'S ONLY SIX!

Here we go:

1. Beauty Tips for Ministers: I also love her sister blog, Peacebang (whoops! another one slipped in). This UU minister is often tongue-in-cheek, occasionally silly, and frequently very thoughtful about the sort of nonverbal messages ministers can send about themselves and the church. Also, she gives great cosmetic tips.

2. Mile Markers: This blog is part of Runner's World, and even though it's about running, it's often really about spirituality. I'm grateful for and encouraged by this ongoing exploration of the connection between body and spirit.

3. Homesick Texan: I'm not a Texan, but I spent enough formative years in SoCal to love TexMex food. While I never get around to actually making any of this gorgeous food, it's comforting just to read about!

4. Ember Days: I'm not sure I can explain to you why I love this blog so much. A cranky, snarky professor and priest expounds on liturgy, teaching, and American Idol. Go read it and tell me what the draw is.

5. Big Harmony: If you only read one of mine, pop over to this one. I met Nancy B through another beloved blog (Uh oh! Did it again!), and I'm just nuts about her. I'm holding out for a meeting IRL.

6. The Purl Bee: There are just so many craft/sewing blogs that I love, but this one was my first, and is probably still my favorite. (With really no arm-twisting at all, I'll tell you all about the other fabulous ones.)

Now I'm off to read other people's plays-- I can't wait to see who I'm going to meet!


What if it's a Gift?

There's been a lot of unbloggable stuff lately (hence the radio silence), and there's one thing in particular that I've just gone round and round on. Last night was another inning, just as frustrating as all the ones it replicated.

But when I went to bed (at 9:00-- I'm practically a fainting goat when I'm stressed), that little God-voice whispered, "What if you treat this area like a gift?" If I did decide to do that, how would it change things? I might be more tender and less controlling. I might notice more and get angry less.

Mind you, at this point I've been so frustrated for so long, it's going to be a mighty feat to make that leap.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find being a grown-up exhausting.


Amputation of Anxiety

For the last few weeks, it's felt as though my mistakes have been made with a Sharpie, and my successes in invisible ink. I've been wandering around muttering to myself, "Where is the invitation in this?" (a favorite spiritual direction question). There are a lot of answers to that, but one of them is this: all day long, from friends, families, coworkers, clients, and strangers, we each get a barrage of "you're not doing things well enough." All of us. So I'm thinking about how absolutely necessary it is that when we share God with one another, we share God's grace, perspective, and patience. But even when we know that God is patient, kind, and keeps no record of wrongs (God being love, and all), the hailstorm of criticism, impatience and fear continues, and we continue to internalize it.

Which brings me to NPR. During my morning commute today, I heard this incredible story about phantom limb pain, and how it can be resolved. People with amputated limbs sometimes experience feeling, and even pain, in limbs they no longer have. You can imagine how frustrating this might be-- how do you treat an imaginary injury? Neurologists decided to try tricking the brain with a mirror, and this gave some relief. After continued treatments, though, the phantom limb disappeared! In one case, 11 years after an amputation, the phantom limb was finally gone.

As I listened to this story, I thought about the things we carry that don't need to be part of us-- anxiety, perfectionism, etc. I thought about the mirroring of God's love that a good spiritual director does, and how it teaches us first to interact with the phantoms, and then to let them go.

What a joy it is to give and receive the love that brings relief from pain.



I've been keeping journals, mostly as a form of prayer, at least since I was a sophomore in high school. I write in them, fill them up (or decide that I want to move on to the next one, and tear the last few pages out-- I'm ok with this, sometimes you're in a whole new book), and then never look at them again. This is partly because my perspective changes (e.g., at the time, I thought Thing A was a stupid thing to do, and in retrospect, it's a really fond memory. Or the same thing, reversed.), but also because I've bought into this crazy myth that the progress of our wisdom is linear. Surely, I'm further along than I was then. Surely Di at 16 and Di at 20 cannot have anything to say to Di at 29.

But God is SUCH a loving nag. "Hey, honey-- how about you start thumbing through some of those old journals?"


"Hey. I think it might be a good idea for you to go back and look at some of our old conversations."


"Look, kid. I'm telling you this because it's better than you think. It's going to help. You're going to like it. Go do it."

Oh. Well. In that case...

And yes, there were things that I giggled about, and things that made me cringe just a little. But I noticed something striking-- pages and pages of "thank yous"-- sometimes for easy good things, and other times for places where I struggled, but could see beginning shimmers of good.

When everything I see has a bit of God-gift in it, I also see that God is enormous and abundant and cherishes me. Di at 16 and Di at 20 did indeed have something to say.


Order of Corpus Christi?

Hey guys-- what do you guys know about this group? Are any of you a part of it? Know someone who is? Come on over and talk to me about this, if you are.



Friday Five
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Singing Owl seems to have some heavy stuff going on:
I am at a life-changing juncture. I do not know which way I will go, but I have been thinking about the times, people and events that changed my life (for good or ill) in significant ways. For today's Friday Five, share with us five "fork-in-the-road" events, or persons, or choices. And how did life change after these forks in the road?

I've been thinking about forks-in-the-road a lot lately, and I've been thinking about playing with it a little more. I had a nutty with Mr. M a few weeks ago, a big wailing hour of, "I'm going to be a secretary forever. And I'm a BAAAAAAAAADDD SECRETAAAAARY....WAAAAH!" It was closely followed by a hicupping, "and...and... I've wasted all this time...and... and... I don't even have anything to SHOW FOR IT."

I told you, I was having a nutty. And I know none of that is true. (Well, I'm really not a spectacular secretary, that's true.) But I've learned a lot in the 8 years since I graduated, and I've done some gutsy things that I tend to forget about. Just yesterday I was telling my wonderful, marvelous boss about how I got to this town-- made a list, did some reseach, and then just popped myself into a new place.

So, I've decided to make a life resume, just to remind myself where I've been, and that there's some really good stuff in there (because it's so easy to forget when it's not a linear path). I particularly appreciate today's Friday Five--it's a nice start to the exercise I've been thinking about.

1. Going to Denison. I didn't see it until June orientation (I so did not come from a family that knew about doing college tours one's junior year), but it was like we'd been separated at birth. I loved it.
2. Moving to PA. I don't want to stay here forever, but I'm proud of how I got here.
3. Marrying Dave. Smartest darn thing I've ever done.
4. Starting formal discernment. I didn't finish the way I thought I would, but I don't even have words for how important it's been to me.
5. Starting real relationships with RevGals. Diane over at faith in community quoted a prof of hers once as saying that we should talk to everyone, because we never know what the Holy Spirit has in mind. It's so true, and it's been a wonderful philosophy to embrace.



When I told my mom that I wanted to start sewing, she sent me some scraps to get me started. She doesn't sew, but somewhere along the line got a whole bunch of scraps from one of my aunts. Here's the thing: they don't look like me. And I keep thinking about using them as accents, but then when I try to pair them with other things... wait... they still don't look like me. And then I feel guilty about buying fabric that I love, because I have this basket of fabric already. But I don't like it.

I'll happily mail my scraps to anyone who wants them. If you like, I'll post pics, but if you're feeling brave, I'll just pop them in the mail. They're all quilting cotton. There are 2 small old-fashioned florals-- one with a buttery yellow background, another with a mauve background. One's a bright/deep red, sort of mottled. There's a small piece of little green frogs on white. Don't remember what else off the top of my head, but I'd rather send it off as a whole lot, rather than sending bits and bobs, so if you're willing to take a chance, let me know, and I'll send them to you!

****Yippee-- I'm sending them off to Mindy!



Tomorrow night, two really wonderful women are being ordained to the priesthood in my (?)diocese (in my convocation, even). I really admire both of them and their ministries, so I'm going to the service. I'm even excited about the event.

But there's a part of me that feels a bit like I'm going to an ex-boyfriend's wedding (to follow the relationship analogy that's been with me through this process). I know that I broke up with him, and I know that I certainly don't want to be standing up at the altar with him... but I also know that I want to be standing up there with someone, the right one. And some people there will speculate about what happened, and others will be surprised I'm there.

I'm sure it'll be fine, but if you could hold me in your prayers tomorrow night, I'd sure appreciate it.

Update: Thank you so much for your prayers. I felt absolutely embraced during the service-- it was really neat. And I was very happily surprised to find that it was easy to celebrate. The ordinands were radiant, and I lost track of how many times I was relieved not to be up there with them. AND, just so that I really, really knew I was taken care of-- God sent the head of my Spiritual Direction program, a Church of the Brethren pastor, to be one of the ordinand's presenters.


A New Thing

OK, not a new thing in the spiritual sense, more in the tangible sense: I made a skirt! It's my first attempt at clothing of any kind, and it's wearable. The waist is enormous a little big on me, and it's a little longer than I expected it to be, but I am wearing something I made today, which I think is pretty cool. I used Francesca DenHartog's Sew What! Skirts book, and it really made the whole concept of sewing clothes seem possible.

It's a wrap skirt, and unfortunately in the pic the front flap is a little bunched up, but you get the idea:


In the Bleak Midwinter Friday Five

Poor Singing Owl, she's had a rough morning! But despite it, she's given us this fun Friday Five:

Sorry for the late posting! My daughter's car won't start, and I just returned from driving her to work. I think she made need a block heater. Speaking of that...
Here in snow country we are settled in to what is a very long stretch of potentially boring days. The holidays are over. It is a very long time till we will get outside on a regular basis. The snow that seemed so beautiful at first is now dirty and the snow banks are piling up. Our vehicles are all the same shade of brownish grey, but if we go to the car wash our doors will freeze shut. People get grumpy. Of course, not everyone lives in a cold climate, but even in warmer places the days till springtime can get long. Help! Please give us five suggestions for combating cabin fever and staying cheerful in our monochromatic world?

I can sure relate to this-- I've been feeling a little cooped up and grumpy myself. Here are my best fixes:

  1. I go to the gym. I just figured this out last year, actually-- when I go to the gym (or, weather permitting, run outside), I hibernate MUCH less. I don't always want to do it, but I feel better afterwards every single time.
  2. I play with my new sewing machine! Having a project to work on keeps me from getting bored, which keeps me from getting cranky.
  3. I make much more of an effort to get together with friends-- even if I don't feel like it when I'm making the plans.
  4. I try to read less. This might seem odd, but I'm a huge reader, and have a tendancy to hole up with good books. But I get grumpy and bored in winter, so I've discovered that I maintain a nice balance in myself when I enjoy quiet, contemplative time in the summer and social time in the winter.
  5. I snuggle with Mr. M.
  6. Wait, I have an extra one-- I try to make fun spring plans so that I can count down to specific things. This year, it's the Cherry Blossom!

I cannot WAIT to read what other people do to make this blasted season go faster!


Learning from Anger

I've only very recently begun to understand anger as a useful tool. About a year ago, maybe more, I told my spiritual director how upset I'd been feeling with someone who was very important to me. She asked if there was any physical way that I noticed those feelings, and I realized that when I got angry, my arms felt tingly and uncomfortable. That cue became incredibly helpful for recognizing my feelings-- there were times that I didn't realize I was angry until I noticed how uncomfortable my arms were!

Growing up, anger was not something I was allowed to show. Anger was rebellious, disobedient, insubordinate, and not to be tolerated. Anger meant there was something wrong with me. I've finally come to learn that anger is often a tool to show me that something really is wrong with the situation. Instead of fighting my anger, I see it as a flashlight, illuminating the circumstances so that I can see that something needs to change.

Yesterday, someone was very angry, and it felt disproportionate. I didn't feel responsible for that person's anger (that alone was amazing), but I thought about it for most of the day. As I journaled last night, I realized that what's true for me is also true for others: she was angry because something was wrong in her world. It's likely the situation was part of that wrong-ness, but it's just as likely that it was a piece of a larger whole.

This conclusion-- that it wasn't about me, that something she was experiencing felt wrong for her, gave me a really new outlook on other people's anger. I feel more comfortable with it, more patient and more understanding.

It is, of course, distinctly possible that I'm a little slow on the uptake with this realization, and it's stating the obvious for most people. For me, though, it was a long time coming, and a gift from God.


In Defense of Joy

Coffeepastor started a recent post with a quote that ended thus, "Bonhoeffer wondered whether it is possible to embrace God out of love and lightness of heart, out of a seduction that is caught up in the call of God rather than the need of God." - Peter Rollins, The Fidelity of Betrayal

This talk of "love and lightness of heart" reminds me of a meeting I had with a Spiritual Direction group recently, where one person was sharing about newly found joy. The group kept asking questions until finally they came upon something in that person's life that was still painful, and *that's* when they felt like they had identified the part that was spiritual.

We need to start valuing joy. It's not just pain that's real. It seems to be broadly acknowledged that sharing painful experiences is an act of vulnerability, but I believe we have come to a place where sharing our joy also leaves us feeling exposed and uncertain. Our joys abide in the deepest parts of ourselves, and they're tender places. Will you treat my most valued things as precious, or will you dismiss them? Will you rejoice with me, or be threatened by what I've found?

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn," writes Paul in his letter to the Romans. Most of us know when to extend a tissue and a gentle word, but thanks be to God for the one who also knows when to join the laughter and dancing.