Thursday, December 8, 2011

A pastor's prayer

R's father was a pastor. He died nearly 4 years ago now.  We have inherited various things from him: commentaries, books, shirts, knick knacks, a desk, fishing gear, and more. One of the most sacred (in my mind) things we have is his old journals.  I don't know where he got them but he had at least a dozen red leather journals marked with the year. They have one page for each day of the year and he wrote faithfully.  They are less like journals where he shared all his thoughts and did a written monologue, and more like his daily prayers.

There were definitely days he missed, but he was quite regular in writing his prayers.  It is touching to read through and see his heart as he prayed for church issues, church families, and that God would guide him in his ministry.  

I have journaled for years. It started as a habit in 6th grade when it was required.  To date, I have over 40 journals.  They used to be all about life.  Now they are a mix of sermon prep, personal writing, and prayers.  I have told my best friend that if I die, she is supposed to find them and burn them. But now that I have a daughter, there is part of me that thinks down the line it would be cool for her to have those to look back on.  Some things are deeply personal and I'd rather no one read them (hence the request for them to burned), but once I'm dead it probably won't matter much.  ;)  

Someone close to R's dad has said his journals should be burned, but we would hate to lose those memories and prayers of his.  In a way, it is a way of connecting with him on a deeper level (both professionally and personally) even though we never met.  

Thank you Steve for your faithfulness, your ministry, and your prayers.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Little Weary

I love Christmas! Each year, right after Thanksgiving, I haul out the Christmas decorations and dress up the house. I put up the tree and use my Christmas dishes all year long. This year as I decorated, I thought, "Why don't I keep the decorations up since I love them so much?" But I immediately knew if I did that, they would lose some of their power to transform my home. 

Normally, I get so excited to entertain and create worship services, but this year, something is missing.  Life has been full of changes with the addition of Miss Ruth and the purchase of a new home, and work has been tiring because it has been stressful and some people in the church have done and said some pretty hurtful things. I just don't have the drive.  I wish I did. I wish I had the energy for it, but these days, mostly, I just push myself to do it because I know it needs to be done.  

I'm hoping for a renewal of energy and creativity. 

Dear Lord, please inspire me to lead and love your people this holiday season. Amen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are you putting in enough hours?

This week my SPRC liaison approached me about a couple of issues she needed to discuss with me.  One was about finances for the coming year (a looming unknown as we wait and pray for more pledge cards to be turned in) and about some concerns from the congregation a couple of people in the congregation. Two people had asked her if I was even working full time these days.  

Wow.  That stung. I would venture to say that anyone in ministry as a profession knows that there is no "part time ministry".  I have friends who have tried it...tried working half time or even 3/4 time, and yet, the work of ministry is consuming and they still end up putting in full time hours.  Ever since commissioning, I have worked full time as a pastor.  Most weeks that equals 50-55 hours, minimum.  Often it equals 60-65 hours in a week.  In high holy seasons, maybe even more.  

I love my job, and love what I do.  And since having a baby, I have backed up a bit from the overly full time schedule I was keeping. I used to be willing to go from 8am-midnight if it was needed to accomplish something or to run a program.  Now, I am not able to do that, and in having Ruth, I have seen my priorities differently, and I am even unwilling to do that.  Regularly working a 16 hour day is not fair and it's not fun.  

The truth of the matter is I have scaled back.  Scaled back from 55-60 hour weeks to 45-50 hour weeks (with an occasional week requiring more).  But I still work full time.  

I suggested to my SPRC liaison that a fitting response to these individuals might be, "what is it you expect Pastor Debbie to be doing that you don't see her doing?" I mean, maybe they have some expectation for my ministry and I just don't know about it.  

I inquired where the concern came from and one person said they didn't see me in the office much and the other just wondered how many hours I have been working.  I know many of my colleagues have faced regular complaints about "office hours" being insufficient, fortunately, I never have. So to be surprised by it was very frustrating.  So little of my ministry occurs within the office walls.  Sure, it can.  I do counseling in the office (but I also do it at starbucks, in restaurants, on the phone, and in my own home).  I do emailing and administration in the office (but I also do that in my home and just about wherever I am on my phone).  I read in my office (that is if I am left alone for more than 15 minutes...), but I also read a variety of other places.  But I am not the type to just sit in the office.  It's part of why I like ministry--I have the flexibility to work anywhere.  

Hearing those types of comments always makes me do some serious self inventory.  And I have. And now I need to move on. Because I know I work full time. I know I do a variety of things in ministry. (I also know that I am not super human and there are things I miss because there simply isn't time to do it all).  Now I am working on forgiving this unnamed person and trying not to make assumptions about who it was.

Quote of the Day

"I had major, much needed break work done recently. Because I had been driving with bad breaks so long (darn near pushing them to the floor to stop), the repaired breaks didn't feel right when I first drove away. I wanted to go back and ask the mechanic if he had done it correctly. I felt something was wrong because I didn't have to try as hard to accomplish my goal (stop). Lesson: in life we can get so used to dealing with wrong until "right" doesn't feel "right" because we're so used to wrong. Do yourself a favor and don't wait too long to fix the problem". --Reginald Bell

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No trespassing

I have written about our ministry with the homeless on various occasions here on this blog. It has been a journey filled with lots of learning (for me) and education (of the congregation and for those we serve).  Sometimes, I am very proud of our ministry. I am proud of those who have found community in our midst.  I smile and think of Allen, who had been on the streets for 17 years when I first met him.  Allen claimed he loved the outdoors and didn't ever want to live inside again.  For 6 months (after I arrived), he slept on our property. Only a few short weeks after I arrived, he began attending worship and came faithfully every Sunday after. He joined the church and was a regular liturgist.  

I am proud of those who have been able to use our ministry as a stepping stone to finding long term housing. I smile when I think of Ed, Katie, Carlos, and Allen knowing they sleep on a bed with shelter over their heads each night.

I am proud of those who have sought sobriety because, in part, of our ministries.  I celebrate with Carlos who now has nearly 2 years sober.  

I am proud of the connection we have with those we serve so that they aren't left alone when they are sick and hospitalized, or even when they die.  I have been to the ER countless times to share in prayer with these brothers and sisters, and been part of saying goodbye when 4 of them have died.  I was glad they did not die alone.

I am proud of the ways our members have faced their fears and confronted their stereotypes, for the ways we have stopped dealing with "the homeless" and started dealing with individuals...Alan, Cuca, Jimmy, Wade, and many, many more.

I am glad that an occasional meal bag has converted into weekly hot breakfast with the opportunity to make a sack lunch, prayer before their meal, clean clothes and shoes, Bible study, and worship.  

I am so grateful to be a part of this ministry and to learn to live and change in the midst of it.

And, even, in the midst of all that triumph, there is frustration and failure.  

It was over a year ago that the trustees decided we could no longer allow individuals to sleep on our property (it was a year and a half ago we had to limit day time access so folks weren't just sleeping on the grounds--we really felt that if we were trying to help them get to a better place in life, napping day in and day out on our property, was not going to get them there).  We issued notice and told folks they couldn't stay. Night after night and morning after morning we would tell people to leave because they were camping out.  Sometimes we called the police, sometimes we didn't.

And, truth be told, we sort of have a love hate relationship with the PD.  They haven't always been very helpful.  In fact, they sort of hold (or live?) an all-or-nothing policy.  When we first began allowing folks to stay, the area commander told me in no uncertain terms, he didn't support what we were doing. And, basically, if we allowed them to stay at any time, then they were prohibited from asking them to leave at any time.  In other words, if we made any allowances, they would not help.  As our policies have changed, we have tried to have the police help us, and unfortunately they have not.  On various occasions, I have received reports back of what certain (homeless) individuals have said that I said and have had to shake my head that the police would believe such things.  In the same breath an officer will say, "you can't trust anything CM says" and then follow it up with, "we can't kick her off the property because she said Pastor Debbie hired her to be security."  It seems odd that someone who "can't be believed" is allowed to make up all kinds of things about what permissions I have granted.  

It's frustrating, to say the least.

Well, after a year of "battle" with 3 individuals who refuse to heed church instruction, who cuss out church members, who refuse to comply with the police, who break into our buildings, who lie about our policy, who steal from our church, we decided we had to get hard core.  We filed a no trespassing order...one that says that anyone on the property without permission will be arrested on felony charges. 

That feels awful to me.  I don't want the church to have to say "No trespassing, get out of here."  But I also don't want the absence of such a rule to imply "sure, come on over, break into a building, stay, we don't care, oh yeah, and don't bother listening to our people or the police" and that seems to be the message these 3 individuals hear.  

My biggest hope is that the police don't continue to play the all-or-nothing game arresting anyone on the property. They all know who the problem characters are, because they present a problem to the police too.  

Please pray for us as we continue on this journey and try and do what is most faithful along the way. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

You should write a book

Sunday, after I greeted everyone in the reception line, one parishioner came back to talk with me.  He was very kind and told me I have a way with words.  He added that he really appreciates my preaching, both on Sunday mornings, and at funeral services.  He told me I should write a book or do some memoirs.  I was flattered, and to be honest, a bit surprised since I felt like my sermon was sub par.  It’s amazing how God uses people to offer encouragement at the times when I feel ready to just throw up my hands.  It’s also amazing to me that God can use my words when I haven’t done the necessary preparation.  I told the parishioner that I blog, but he wasn’t quite satisfied with that as my medium…he wanted me to put it in print.  

Sunday was also a potluck Sunday, so after I locked up the church, I went to greet people and I saw this man again and he handed me a note card that read “Write a Book.”  Apparently he wanted to be sure I got the message.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I love volunteers

This year brought a lot of changes to my ministry. Not the least of which was having to cut 6 part time staff members and move to a volunteer based "staff".  Managing that level of change was demanding. There was a lot to do and organize so that each job could have someone step in and know what to do and how to do it and where to find necessary supplies.  It took us about 3 months to work fully through the transition and work out the major kinks.  And now, we have about 20 volunteers who come in weekly to help with everything from scrubbing toilets, to leading the choir, to children's ministries, to running the office.  And, most of our volunteers are regulars--they volunteer each week to do the same or a similar task.  And they do a wonderful job.  

As part of that transition and then getting ready for maternity leave, I had a lot to delegate.  And in delegating, I realized just how many things I had been doing.  And I realized how few things I had been delegating before it was "necessary".  In a lot of ways, I had been hindering the ministries of the church by not allowing more people to take part, and take leadership, in the various ministries that we do.

As I prepared to come back from maternity leave, I was afraid that many people would want to abdicate their responsibilities and I would be left returning to all of the administrative items that were eating up my time (and not feeding my soul in the ways that other ministries tend to).  Fortunately, kept doing what they were doing, and they did a great job.  Now we have folks swing by just to see if anything needs to be done. It's so awesome to see their willingness and to not have to do the things that suck your time away!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A good baby

I have been back at work for a month and a half now and while it's been good, it's also been challenging.  I am both working full time and caring for Ruth full time and it's been difficult.  By most accounts, Ruth is a great baby.  She is happy, sleeps well, eats well, and is healthy.  Her only "struggle" (and I'm not even sure that's the appropriate word) is that she can be particular about how she is held or who she is with.  Our phrase around here is "she makes you work for it." She sleeps well, but if she is overtired she will fight sleep, and will make you "work for it" to get her to sleep. Or, often, when being held, she doesn't want to simply be cuddled, she wants to be walked, and bounced and to have you stand her up and face her out so she can see everything around her.  This isn't as much a challenge for her as it is for those who want to hold her.  

She likes people and wants to watch people and will refuse to sleep if there are things to do and people to watch.  But there seems to be this crazy expectation from people that she will just pass from person to person and cuddle with whomever wants a "baby fix". And that's simply not the case.  I don't mind it because I don't think it's a flaw. I think she's just young and getting used to the world and all the people around her.  But it is sometimes difficult when I can't just hand her off to someone and have them hold her so I can do something.  Or, lots of folks, who think she should just be happy to cuddle, get hurt or frustrated when she starts to cry when they hold her.  It's hard to balance (and sometimes battle) the expectations of others. Especially since folks have this other idea that "church babies" are the most social of all.  

I don't like to disappoint people, and I feel like Ruth is an extension of me, and I don't want others to be disappointed by her (I said it that way intentionally, not that she is directly disappointing them, but that they are disappointed because their expectations aren't met).  But the reality is she's her own person and she does things her way and there's no wrong or right way about her way (not yet anyway...she's only 3 1/2 months old). 

I've come to somewhat loathe the notions of a "good baby" that people hold.  A good baby is one who is quiet, doesn't fuss, hardly cries, sleeps, eats, and is happy with anyone and everyone.  I know that logically people can't honestly believe that that's how babies are...babies cry--it's how they communicate, and not crying is not really a good thing, it's generally a sign that something big is wrong.  If you are honest about it, babies are babies and they are a lot of work (and a tremendous blessing) and they have their own personality, and they cry, and they fuss (even if they don't know why), and they sleep and they eat and they are changing so regularly that they aren't terribly predictable (other than needing to sleep and eat and be loved on).  Quite honestly, I think Ruth is perfect.  Not in the cultural sense of perfect--she's not flawless and she certainly doesn't make life "easy" for me. But she is a wonderful joy.  Just her smile can make all kinds of worries and frustrations melt away.  Even when she is terribly upset and almost inconsolable, she's perfectly wonderful.  It's not her fault I can't figure out what to do.  And once she does get fed and get some sleep (that's normally the best answer to anything!), she's happy as a clam and all smiles once again, as if the injustice and hardship of being overtired or overstimulated never even happened.  

She's wonderful and I wish people could simply see that without having a need to evaluate every fuss, every cry, every giggle for whether or not she is "good". She is good because God created her in God's image. She is perfectly and wonderfully made and there's no two ways about it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Newborn care

Caring for a newborn can be challenging for a variety of reasons: you're tired, they need something all the time, and most of all: they can't tell you what they need.  It's hard trying to guess the need of your newest addition, and sometimes it's frustrating. We often imagine them being "difficult" on purpose.  And despite our pleas, they won't simply tell us what they want.  

Remember this: they don't know what's wrong either.  A newborn doesn't think in the ways you do. They feel, and mostly, early on, they know the feel good or they feel bad.  In these early days and weeks, if a baby feels good, he/she is sleeping, is quiet, or is smiling and taking in the world.  If he/she feels bad, he/she will fuss or cry. There's not a lot of discernment. 

Good feelings: full, well rested, amused, clean, freshly diapered.

Bad feelings: tired, hungry, hurt, pain, irritation, discomfort, gassy

So, as you care for your baby, take a deep breath, remember he/she isn't being difficult when they cry. They just feel bad and need your help.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Infant Care Tip

This idea came from my grandmother:

Before you cut your baby's nails, put a little baby powder in your hand and use their nails to scratch at the powder, so they get some under each nail.  The powder should make it easier to see how much you should cut.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Baby item ideas

I have a few friends who are expecting their first babies and I am so excited for them.  The other day, one of them said she was having trouble picking registry items, so I sent some unsolicited advice (is there any other kind for expectant parents?!?) about the items we love and use.  

These are my suggestions:


1)  we use g diapers (we used Newborn disposables for the first month or so b/c she was so small).  If you don't know anything about g diapers,here's the quick and dirty version. they are washable (though there is a biodegradable flushable option for the inner most part) and really easy to use and wash.  We inherited the small sizes, but for the medium, we just bought what we'd need and spent about $120, which we should be able to use for about 9 months depending on how quickly (or slowly) Ruth grows.  If we were using disposable, we would spend close to that EACH month...so if you don't mind doing a load of laundry extra per day, I'd recommend that route.  (As a note, if we had to go to the laundry mat, I would not want this option)

2) A church member/friend got us aden and anais blankets and I LOVE them so much we went back and got more at Target. here is their direct website but like I said, you can get them at Target. they are big and muslin, so they are lightweight for summer weather.  plus they are super cute.

3) we got
a diaper warmer and thought it was a bit excessive, so we took it back, then we brought Ruth home and she screamed bloody murder at cold wipes, so we went and got it again! 

4) a friend gave us a sleep sheep and it is a LIFE SAVER! it has 4 different types of sounds for white noise and we use it at night when we put Ruth to sleep and when we traveled all over the state we used it in the car too and it was great. 

5) Ruth really likes the swing, we use it daily and besides my arms, it is the only place she will nap during the day...we were lucky and got ours from a friend, maybe you will get one at a shower or can borrow one from a friend?  (that being said, I know some folks have no luck with them...)


6) I don't know if you plan to breast feed or not, but if you do plan to breast feed, I would recommend
cloth nursing pads for your bra (the disposable ones are crunchy and annoying to me, but I use them when I need to).  I would also recommend lansinol or medela lanolin lotion--it helps you keep your nipples from drying and cracking (and bleeding).  For nursing bras, I just get mine at Target (motherhood tends to be more expensive),  I recommend the simple (no underwire and no padding) ones...the padded ones are hard to fold down and the underwire tends to pop out (as underwire does).  The nursing tanks are also nice to sleep in or wear under stuff.  If you do nurse, know that it can be hard and painful at the beginning--even later (even though nursing coaches tend to tell you it doesn't).  If you are going to pump, you can get a pump through craigslist for a much better price (I got mine for $100 instead of $300) and you can sterilize the stuff...I asked my doctor about whether or not I needed new stuff and he said that sterilizing was cool. if you're not comfortable with that, you can always get the stuff (whatever parts or bottles you may need) at the store. 

7) get some burp rags, you'll need them!


8) If you haven't read it, I would HIGHLY recommend "Happiest Baby on the Block"--it's great for calming babies and getting them to sleep.  plus it's sound advice and philosophy that's really helpful (it seems to be the new go-to book for lots of parents)

9) I don't know what the official name for it is, I tried looking it up and can't find it, I inherited mine from a friend...but it's a baby sleeping wedge...actually there are two wedges, one for each side of the baby, with fabric that connects them--basically it fits on either side of the baby and snuggles him/her during the night so he/she can sleep.  If you can find one, I think they're worth it. 

 
10)  Lots of other things you may get plenty of...socks or bibs, or clothes, people LOVE baby clothes and can't help but buy them.  =)  we waited to see what we got and then took stuff back because we didn't need 20 (or even 12) pajamas for 0-3 months, so we took some back and got some of the older sizes.  for clothes, we don't use socks much...probably in winter we might, but newborn socks are fairly pointless in my book, and newborn shoes definitely are...if she doesn't kick them off, they don't get seen b/c she's swaddled, so we don't use shoes right now...(and I don't know if you've read or heard, but you should only use soft soles until the baby is 2, otherwise it's hard for them to learn to balance and walk...)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Yosemite

We had an amazing two week vacation.  We started by heading to Bishop to visit Ruth's namesake, my maternal grandmother, and see her grandparents and meet some more family and friends in Bishop.  Then we headed up to Mono Lake Mobil station for lunch (yes, the Mobil station, they have a gourmet chef and the food is amazing) and then headed on into Yosemite. 

It was GORGEOUS! I haven't been in about 10 years and somehow those 10 years have given me a deeper appreciation for the beauty of God's creation. We had two nights in Yosemite before we headed to Sacramento to celebrate (and officiate) at a friend's wedding.

Here are a few favorites from Yosemite.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vagrancy

In seminary, I volunteered at a local shelter on Thursday nights for "foot clinic".  Each Thursday homeless from around Atlanta would sign up for foot washing. Then in the evening, we would gather for a large shared meal together (volunteers, homeless, and permanent residents at the shelter) and eat dinner together. Then we would clean up and re-set the room for foot clinic (while the medical clinic was held in another room and had med school residents to run it).

Foot clinic was run by a nurse named Hannah whose parents ran the shelter. The rest of us came from a variety of trades and followed her instruction.  After walking miles each day in the heat and the wet all over Atlanta (often services are strewn out all over town making a long trek necessary to get paperwork filed or whatever else might need to be done during the day...including eating and finding public bathrooms), feet get nasty.  So, we would soak their feet in a hot soapy water bath and then we would clean their feet. We would scrub callouses, cut out corns, trim nails, treat foot fungus, then dry and lotion their feet, and give them 2 pair of new socks to wear.  

I learned a lot in my 6 months at the clinic and had my eyes opened about issues surrounding homeless.  Not the least of which is that in dealing with "the homeless" you aren't dealing with an issue, you are dealing with people.  As I sat and cleaned feet, I would get to know the men and women with whom I shared that sacred holy upper-room act. I would hear about their lives and their struggles, which included being arrested for vagrancy when they had simply been hanging out at a park or a side walk or wherever.  I would become very frustrated at their circumstances. It always felt like such a waste to put people in jail for simply trying to be somewhere.  
And now, five and half years later, I am on the other side of the story.  At various points, I have shared about our ministry with the homeless at the church.  In general we have a good ministry that goes smoothly.  We feed 25-45 folks each Sunday and provide showers, clothes, toiletries, Bible study, worship, and fellowship.  In the early days, we allowed folks to stay on the property at night, with the understanding that the shelters didn't always have enough room, and that for some, even when they did have room, folks had to come in "dry" (meaning sober) and for many folks on the street, that was too much to ask.  

We liked being able to offer a safe dry place for folks to stay (Even if it was still outside) and worked to help various folks get into housing.  (of 20 regular folks who stayed on the property at different times, 5 got into full term housing...we saw those as pretty decent odds).  But then we started to have trouble.  Folks were drinking on the property, doing drugs, selling drugs, having sexual encounters, and even breaking into our buildings, and that was it.  We said that was completely unacceptable and had to change the rules and practices at the church.  There was a small cohort that didn't really care what we said and insisted on staying on the property anyway.  They would just come later and later so that we were less likely to find them there and and send them on their way. 

Well, those folks eventually moved on and now we have a new cohort of 3.  Sometimes they act as allies, and other times they antagonize one another and even call the police on each other.  For months, we've been fighting them. They break into buildings and stay the night. They refuse to leave the property. They smoke in buildings; they have even left urine cups behind couches when the bathroom is mere feet away.  It's been exhausting.  It hasn't mattered what we say or who says it.  It doesn't even matter if we call the police (mostly b/c the police refuse to do anything).  It really has been a frustrating situation from all sides with no real positive outcome in the foreseeable future.  We've tried getting them to go to a shelter. I've tried to get mental health help and whenever I set up an appointment, they fail to show up.  

I still don't really think arresting them is the *best* option. But allowing them to stay when they refuse to respect the rules or listen to anyone at the church isn't really an option anyway.  I just wish I had a good answer...

Friday, June 17, 2011

On Motherhood

I’ve officially been a mother for a month now. Though arguably, I’ve been a mother ever since we knew we were pregnant.  Most folks don’t talk about it that way, but I have been thinking about and caring for our little one ever since that moment.  It wasn’t “hands on” in an official sense, but since her sole care rested with me and my womb, I was mothering her even in those days. 

People often ask how the transition has been, and quite honestly, it hardly feels like much of a transition at all.  Not that life hasn’t changed; we have a baby and that is a huge change.  But it hasn’t been so life changing in a way that is dramatic and unexpected. Ruth has fit in quite easily and naturally, at least for me.  

For years, I’ve felt like I was born to be a mother.  In college, there were years when I couldn’t imagine myself with a husband (or rather couldn’t imagine a man I would want to spend my life with), but I could easily see myself as a mother.  Caring for and loving children comes naturally for me.  It’s easy and natural. Of course, the care takes work, and there are various “tricks” I have learned along the way, but loving another human being and caring for her needs--that comes easily.  And even when I would rather stay in bed and get some sleep, it’s still easy to roll myself out of bed knowing that this little wonder of life needs me.  

And, saying all that, I say this, I’ve been quiet on the blogging front for quite some time. I occasionally write, though I wish I could would write much more often. But I often hesitate to start typing because I don’t feel like I have much spiritual or theological to say, and since that has been my primary focus for the years I have been blogging, I hesitate to write anything else.  But I think it’s time for me to transition my blogging to reflect my life changes.  I think I might do more “mommy-blogging”. Which is not to say that there won’t be the occasional theological piece, but I think if I hope to re-awaken my blog to have any kind of regular updates, then I need to give myself permission to write about whatever comes to me, even if it’s not “churchy” or even “church appropriate”  as this is supposed to be a free expression of my thoughts on life and what comes with it.  

That may turn off some of my readership, and for that, I apologize.  But I have to remind myself that I didn’t start blogging for others to read it, but instead for me to write. So, I think I will try and return to that purpose and write as I am led.

Time for an update

Well, I think I am well past needing to update my blog!  (Thanks Dad for the reminder).  Last time I posted I was 5 days over due.  On day 8 of past-due waiting, I was induced and after a long and VERY eventful day (hopefully to be written about in detail later) Ruth entered the world.

I can hardly believe that today now marks her "one-month-i-versary".

Ruth on her birth-day:


Ruth today:


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Still waiting...

I am now 5 days past my due date and couldn't feel more impatient.  

Despite that, one of the perks of not delivering on time was that we had a chance to do a pregnancy photo shoot.  Below are some of my favorites.





Friday, May 6, 2011

Soul Whisperers

If you live in North America, the odds are good you've heard of both the Horse Whisperer and the Dog Whisperer. They are both known for their unique way of masterfully and gracefully (and quietly) communicating with and calming the animals they work with.  They have a special way that they understand and relate to the animals.  Even without words, they can make themselves understood. And despite lack of verbal communication from the animal, these gifted trainers seem to understand what is going on with each individual animal.

Different from, but similar to, these trainers, I believe, are soul whisperers.  I think soul whisperers are people who have an inherent and unique sense of understanding of and connection to the human soul.  They may be different for different people. But these soul whisperers are able to relate to and understand people, often without words, in a way that is more profound than the average Joe (or Josie, as the case may be).  

I had the privilege of talking with one this morning. I am fortunate to hold a couple of soul whisperers as intimate friends.  Their simple presence has a way of unlocking emotions and breaking down walls that I keep at bay from many people. And they don't even have to try.  There is such a profound sense of safety and peace when you are I am with them, that one  I can't help but feel comfortable revealing the most intimate and vulnerable parts of themselves myself. 

I don't know how many of these people there actually are in the world. I have only known a handful.  Though there have to be many more.  These are patient people who hold silence without any hesitation, that's actually a starting place, rather than a default location for them. They sit and listen. And even without words, they seem to see my soul.  They know me.  Deeply, intimately, even if it's only once in a blue moon that we speak, it makes no difference, because the connection is made so easily, so effortlessly, that it can happen any time and any where.  And it's not scary.  It can be, don't get me wrong, being so vulnerable can be intensely frightening, but once you've revealed yourself to a soul whisperer, you learn that they won't take advantage of your confidences. They won't hold your sins against you or judge your most irrational quirks. And so you can feel free to be fully yourself.

I remember the first time I "exposed" myself to a soul whisperer.  I was in seminary and taking an art class during my last semester.  I shared about some of what I had done (without actually showing any of my work) and this friend asked to see my work.  Hesitantly, I pulled it out.  And he was appreciative, both of the art and of my sharing it with him, yet the whole time I felt naked.  Literally naked. Like I was sitting there completely exposed in my birthday suit. Though I wasn't.  But there was that level of vulnerability in what I was sharing.  It may seem silly, it was just art after all, but for me it was much more profound than that.  It was the first time I had really bared a part of myself that wasn't spoken emotion but could possibly reveal so much more of who I was than simple words.  And he was gracious and gentle and encouraging--just as a soul whisperer should be.  I was safe. And from that I learned that I would be safe in the future as well.


The soul whisperers I know are individuals others clamor to be around. Not in a popularity sense, but in an I-need-to-be-known-and-loved sense.  People long for connection (all of us do) and these soul whisperers can offer that so easily that people REALLY want to be around them, if only for a short time.  They can easily get burnt out and used up as most people beg to receive from them, rarely thinking of what the soul whisperer might need for his or her own soul in return.

I'm not sure I have an end point, per say, for this point, only a lot of gratitude for the soul whisperers in my life and particularly for A who shared so much time with me this morning. I am blessed to have her in my life!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Seder Dinner

This year, the worship committee decided we should do a Seder dinner to celebrate Maundy Thursday.  By "we", in essence, they meant "me".  I'm sure I could have recruited more help but I didn't want to do a potluck thing, I wanted to do a really nice meal.  Fortunately, Cara had a Seder Plate Challenge that gave me lots of cool ideas for foods to cook. 

I decided to go with:

Massaged Kale Salad. This was good and people really seemed to like it. I wasn't over the top impressed...I think I'm just not a fan of kale...if I did this again, I'd probably just go with spinach.
Matzoh Encrusted Asparagus. There was definitely WAY too much crust/coating.  I multiplied the amount of asparagus by 10 and didn't double the crust mix at all and still had WAY too much.  I'd be a minimalist if I do this again and only use 1 or 2 matzoh crackers, 1 tbsp of oregano and a half cup or so of Parmesan cheese.  (If I weren't trying to keep it kosher for passover, I might just use Italian bread crumbs with the Parmesan...)

Apricot Beef Brisket.  This was super simple to make and very yummy! I might be inclined to use about half the amount of apricots, not because they were bad, but just b/c they didn't get put to good use after cooking...
Mashed Potatoes.  These were just a safe extra in case other items didn't turn out.  I peeled then boiled the potatoes, drained them, and then added sour cream, heavy cream, butter, salt and pepper...all just eye-balled and to taste.

Charoset.  I basically multiplied each of the recipes by 4 or 5 to have enough for 35 people, and we had way too much of this, I'd say the single recipe could easily serve 8-10.  I'm going to try and slow cook the leftovers to make applesauce, we'll see how that works out.  But the flavor is good and people loved it!

Deviled eggs.  I did two batches, half were normal/basic...just mayo, mustard, salt and pepper, the others had all of that plus curry powder to taste (which are my preference but I know not everyone likes the curry...)
Horseradish Cauliflower Latkes.  these were a decent amount of work. I used a regular steamer on the stove top to prep the cauliflower and prepared the "batter" a day ahead to try and help me out on the day of, which was a good plan, though I almost forgot the egg whites, which was not a good plan b/c they keep the batter together when you fry it.  The suggestion for a ton of horseradish seemed crazy to me, especially as it made me cry as I added it, but in retrospect, I would have gone with more rather than less. She used 6T for 1 head of cauliflower. I used 12T for 5 heads of cauliflower. I definitely could have used more and it would have been just fine.

Oreo truffles.  these were SUPER simple....one of the easiest cookies/desserts ever.  I did take the advice of the reviews and used milk chocolate instead of semi sweet and just used a 12oz bag instead of 16 oz and it worked out just fine!

White chocolate truffles.  the original Seder plate challenged had wasabi white chocolate ginger truffles which sounded wonderful and I really wanted to try, but tracking down fresh wasabi was no easy task.  When I found it online, it was $84 for a half a pound, and there was simply no way I was going to go that route. So I found these instead and they were yummy and relatively simple.  though, as you roll the truffles, the heat from your hands will start to melt the chocolate. The powdered sugar does help, as would dipping your hands in ice water every so often.  I'd make these again without hesitation!

Chocolate dipped Almond Butter merengues.  these left a little to be desired in my mind, but that may be because I have too much of a sweet tooth...these just weren't sweet, so they hardly ranked as a yummy dessert in my book, but lots of folks tried them and seemed to like them. If you make them, my caution would be that it's easy to burn the merengue, I'd shorten the cooking time and only cook them on the upper ranks of the oven.

Over all, it was definitely a holiday feast and people really enjoyed doing the dinner (along with the liturgy which I adapted from one sent by a friend).  I think it'd be worth trying again in the future, but with more help and maybe some different recipes or variations.