Monday, February 20, 2017

Remembering the markers

Happy anniversary!  
Today would have been this lovely couple's 46th anniversary.  
I can hardly imagine what it would be like to spend the day, after over 46 years together, without your beloved.  What I do know is that they shared a lot of love over the years, both with each other and with others.  In 2015, then into 2016, she spent about 6 months in rehab, then a little time in the sun in San Diego before heading home. They'd only been home a couple of days and she still managed to arrange a surprise party/dinner with friends at a local restaurant.  She loved to plan surprises (though really preferred to anticipate the joy for herself), to buy gifts, and to spend time with friends.  

I'm grateful for the amazing example of love, care, support, encouragement, trust, generosity, and service that I have in my parents.  They didn't fight in front of us.  They communicated regularly and openly. They were intentional in showing love in various *languages. They proved that marriage takes work and it's worth it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Parenting advice

Parenting is hard work. If you’re a parent, you know that.  If you’re not, you should know why the parents around you are exhausted and sometimes at their wits-end!  There is love, snuggles, cuteness, and laughter—all of which are awesome.  And there are tantrums, power struggles, food battles, and learning wars that are not so awesome.  

I have to say my parents (yes, both of them) are amazing, stellar, cream of the crop parents.  They are amazing people too. But as parents, they rocked it.  They were consistent, even keel, affirming, loving, kind, and a wonderful example.  I cannot remember one instance where either of them yelled. Not once.  As a parent myself, that’s pretty miraculous.  I wish I could say the same about myself as a parent.  Instead I’ll just say I’m a work in progress.  

Before I was a parent, I was a youth leader, youth counselor and youth pastor. I worked with teens at summer camp and in the church for years. And from time to time I would need advice about how to work with one.  Regularly, I’d call my parents to ask for their input.  Almost without fail, if I asked my dad, he’d say something like, “You should ask your mother; I learned everything I know from her.” And he’d pass the phone to my mom.  

Always, she’d have an answer. She was an educator who had both her masters and extensive continuing education training.  She and my dad took ELEVEN parenting classes before my brother was born.  (He was the firstborn).  ELEVEN classes.  That’s a lot.  I mean, parenting is hard, I get that, I’m grateful I’ve had 3 classes.  I could benefit from 11, maybe it’d help the yelling thing…anyway.  She knew a lot. She understood behavior from a developmental perspective, as well as a social one, and even an intelligence level one.  She could identify the underlying issues and offer a dozen options for how to handle it and work with the student.  

And then once I had Ruth, she continued to offer good wisdom.  It’s a bit different as a grandparent because you don’t want to stick your nose in where it doesn’t belong (or isn’t solicited) and as a parent you don’t want to be seen as a failure (or at least that’s my issue) and so you (I) don’t always ask for advice when you should.  

In January we started a new stage, it’s super *fun*.  I don’t know which stage it is exactly…my mom would have been the one to tell me that.  But it’s where my kid asserts her independence by ignoring, arguing, or defying most every bit of instruction I give.  I wish I understood it so I had more patience for it.  And, I wish I had my mom’s dozen options for how to curb it before it drives me insane.  

I miss her. I wish I could call.  It makes me sad she’s not on the other end of a phone ready to answer.  But it also makes me grateful that I was raised by someone so amazing.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Missing My Mom

My grief has been hitting particularly hard.  The day my mom passed, I sobbed. Hard. For a long time.  While her death wasn’t unexpected, it was unreal that she was actually gone.  And then I quickly fell into the doing…thinking about her service, writing liturgy, helping sort at the house.  The busy work of grief.  And I didn’t feel it much.  I missed her, but it didn’t sting like grief often does.  And then January came and my grief hit like a ton of bricks.  Grief is funny that way. It comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, often unpredictably for things we’d never imagine.  

I’ve been remembering a lot and savoring various memories.  And still the sadness lingers.  And that’s ok. I’d certainly tell someone I counsel at the church that it’s ok to be sad.  At the same time, I hope for something beyond the sadness.  So, I thought I’d start writing and sharing memories, hoping that something more fruitful might happen, or at least that it would provoke the tears to do the healing work. 

It will likely be a series of posts, memories and lessons from my mom.  I like assonance as a communication tool, so I’ll stick with “Momma Mondays” and share my stories of her.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Guided Meditation

Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath.  Relax your shoulders.  Lay your hands in your lap.  Take a deep breath.  Breathe in the breath of God. Breathe out your worries,  your fears,  your pain and your doubt.  

You find yourself sitting in a comfortable, overstuffed arm chair in front of a big picture window.  To your right is a big fire in the fire place. In front of you through the window, are the rolling hills of the Palouse, covered in fresh snow.  

You are comfortable. You are warm and you are relaxed. 

You have a hot drink and can simply enjoy the beauty of the scene in front of you.  

As you look out you notice a handful of robins just outside the window,  eating berries from a tree. You are reminded of God's word to trust in God's provision as God even provides for the birds in the dead of winter.  How true it is.  Most of the plants are covered in snow,  and yet here are the birds eating what God has provided.

You are encouraged to trust God...even when things seem barren.  The Holy Spirit speaks into your heart showing you how God wants you to trust.  

Take a deep breath and listen to what the Spirit is telling you.  (Pause 15 seconds)

You focus on the birds awhile longer.  They play and eat and the simplicity of their task makes you smile.  You yearn for some of that simplicity in your own life.  If only you had less on your plate.  

You take a sip of your drink, savoring the flavor.  Then another deep breath. Breathe in the Holy Spirit. Breathe out your stress. You invite God to show you what you might let go of.  

Listen to God’s answer.  

Take another deep breath. Notice the air in your lungs. Take a moment to reflect on what God has shown you today.  

Breathe deeply. As you are ready, open your eyes.  

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Will they even know?

Christmas brings lots of traditions….many of which involve decorations.  We put up lights. We put up trees. We put up nativities. We put up wreaths.  We put out special Christmas dishes. We put up all kinds of things to signal the season and celebrate the coming of Christ.  But often we do those things for ourselves.  We do them inside, but are we bothering to do anything outside?  Ok, maybe a few strands of lights at the house, but what about the church?  Would someone who doesn’t attend have any idea of the festivities inside based on what has changed during Advent?  

What is it that tells the world Jesus is coming?  We could put lights on the outside of the church and pretend it’s the lights and the ornaments and the decorations…but that actually only highlights what people already know (culturally, that is, Christmas is a time of shopping, baking, and decorating).  But, as Christians, Christmas is meant to be more than what the culture knows. Christmas is about the indwelling of Emmanuel—God with us.  We’re called to celebrate Christmas over and again, not just to remember (though that’s certainly part of it) that God came once, but to know and share that God is Emmanuel every day, not just on that one day.

As people called to follow and imitate Christ, God is with us.  And, for many, we become the “only Christ they will know.”  We aren’t just supposed to wait for him to do something. But we are called to be do-ers of the Word who live like Christ and share his gifts with others.  in many ways, we are invited to give rise to the Kingdom of God here on earth.  

So, the question becomes, how are we doing that? How are we a living example of what Christ has done, but also what he is doing, and will do in the future?  Are our lives a proclamation of the Good News?  Do people feel the love of Christ when they are with us?  Do they feel known and accepted for who they are? Loved? Appreciated? Not just the people who know us and love us, but the strangers and the outsiders. How do they encounter us? What about our witness tells them that Jesus is coming and that’s a good thing?  

I’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of jackets, coats, and blankets for those living on the street in Spokane—that’s a living witness to Jesus’ generosity.  The gifts you are getting for Christmas for Kids will tell children they are important, valued, and loved.  The cards you will send and the cookies you will make tell people they are remembered and cherished. Each of those things are a living witness.  God is with us in those places.  And God has the potential to be even more present in our lives and in our witness. It doesn’t have to involve spending money or giving tangible gifts. It also involves time, care, inclusion, and intentionality.  

Christmas is just 3 weeks away.  That time may go quickly, but it will provide plenty of moments in which we can show grace, love, and kindness that mimics Christ. Will people know Christ through you?  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cheer for them all

Yesterday Ruth had the "Turkey Trot" at school.  The kids (k-5) are divided into teams with a child from each grade.  Then each grade group is taken one at a time to run their leg of the race.  At "go!" They run the perimeter of the school yard and as they finish they're given a popsicle stick with their finishing place (Ruth got 11th out of nearly 75 kindergarteners). Each grade level runs together and at the end,  their stick numbers are added up to find the team with the lowest score. 

The night before we were talking to Ruth about it and encouraging her.  She, of course, wanted to win the free turkey,  which we said would be great,  but we offered that the most important thing would be for her to be a good team mate and cheer for her team no matter what. 

As the kids gathered and lined up,  they were full of excitement and anticipation.  When they were called, the kindergarteners ran up the hill to the starting point.  And then when the coach yelled "go!" They charged down the hill and along the path. And I started to cry. I have no idea why.  Maybe their exuberance?  Their joy?  Their little legs running?  And then I saw Ruth about 3/4 of the way back running along.  And I cried more.  She just kept running and she kept passing other kids and got all the way up to 11th. My heart burst with joy. I was so proud of her. 

As she ran by me I shouted, "Go Ruthie, go! You can do it!  Keep going!" And it was like hearing my mother straight out of my mouth.  She was a cheerleader.  Not the pom pom kind (though she acquired those along the way) but the cheer-them-on loud,  crazy kind.  She cheered and she cheered for everyone. And she just kept cheering right from my heart for all the kids behind Ruth.  "Good job guys! You can do it!  Keep it up!  You're doing great!  You're almost there! Just a little farther!"

And my heart bust with pride for how my mom cheered on everyone and it broke with grief that she is gone.  It made me miss her so much.  And it made me overwhelmingly grateful for her example and who she raised me to be. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I hate to say it

Lots of people ask how I'm doing in dealing with my mom's death.  Most of the time I can say "I'm fine" or "About like you'd expect." And when I do I can keep it together and hardly feel the weight of the grief. I'm good at compartmentalizing and at deflecting. It's a practiced art. But sometimes I'm forced to name it outloud. I'll be sharing with someone who doesn't know and I'll have to say it.  Actaully say it.

"My mom died this summer."

And that's when it's hard.  That's when it's really real and I can't just gloss over it and pretend I'll be able to call her up tomorrow.  And I hate it.  I hate to say it because then the wall that holds all those emotions at bay cracks wide open and there they are in all their teary snotty splendor.

And yet as much as I hate it,  I know it's important and necessary and good.'s a part of the grief.  And my reality,  our reality,  is she's gone.  She's not with us.  She's not there for advice,  or support, or encouragement. And I hate that even more than I hate saying it. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Espire: a place of sanctuary

When I was in seminary, a friend invited me to go with her to serve a hot meal to the homeless.  We got up early one morning, shared a meal with folks downtown who had spent the night on the street and then we went to a different room to hand out hats, dry socks, and toiletry items.  

If someone asked for a beanie, I randomly gave them one.  One man said he didn't want the random one I had pulled, instead he wanted one of a different color.  In my head, I sort of balked at his request thinking "beggars can't be choosers" but I gave him the hat anyway.

As we finished distributing items, my thoughts gnawed at me.  It was just a hat and we had plenty, what did it matter to me if he chose blue over grey?  Why had I been so harsh in my mind?  After all the guests had left, the workers sat down for reflection and devotion and I confessed my hard-hearted thoughts.  It hurt me that I had been so harsh (even if I didn't say it out-loud) to someone who had spent the night on the cold wet streets of Atlanta and simply wanted a different colored hat.  

After our breakfast volunteering, my friend Jessie and I returned weekly for an evening meal and then "foot clinic" where we washed people's feet, cutting out corns, scrapping away calluses, massaging their feet, lotioning them and then giving them clean dry socks.  It was beautiful and challenging all at the same time.  And I learned a lot as I heard stories from those (mostly) men.  I learned to see them as people and not problems.  I tried to learned the nuances of their struggles and the challenges of living on the street.  

Throughout my years of ministry, I have worked with and encountered hundreds of people who have spent the night or lived on the street.  I have shared meals, opened the showers, given clothes, distributed Bibles, offered a bottle of water or a granola bar, taken people to the bus depot, or arranged for a night in a hotel.  And I've heard many many stories of trials, job losses, family disputes, and battles with addiction.  

The issues that lead to homelessness are often complex and the solutions take time.  The churches I have served have faced various challenges in offering a place of sanctuary and grace.  Which is why I am so grateful to partner with an agency like Family Promise. I worked with them for 2 years in Valencia and now again in Moscow.  I am so appreciative of the ways they recognize the need in our community and equip lay volunteers to serve our neighbors in need.  It is a gift to work with people who care and who have a functioning structure and true accountability in their program.  

This Sunday we will begin our Fall week of hosting the families that are currently in the Family Promise Program.  It is an opportunity for us to share a meal, to help with kids (for parents who don't really get a break or have a simple "play room" where they can leave their kids while they cook dinner, or read a book, or make a phone call....when you're a parent on the streets, or even in the FP program, you are always "on"), to be a safe person to talk with, or simply be a presence in a warm place for them to stay.