The Matriarch

Truly she was our Matriarch.

Besides the fact that she loved to remind us we were all here thanks to her, she was strong. Like, really. Strong is one of the first words I would use to describe her. She had a hard life, and she was tough as nails because of it. Sweet or nice were never her identifiers. She was feisty, spunky, a spitfire full of personality. You only had to meet her once to know it. She didn’t take any bullshit. She was brutally honest, often to a fault. She was even more stubborn. She was mischievous and could muster up a lie in an instant and never feel ashamed about it. She was the worst secret keeper ever. And she always sped when she drove.

She loved sweets and could throw down some chocolate. She adored sunflowers. I wish with everything I had I would have swiped her sunflower placemats before she moved off to Portland a few years ago. Either way, they’ll always remind me of her now. She loved tequila. She would take her pills with a beer. She love scrabble more than anyone I ever met. Her turntable scrabble board will be a family heirloom, likely cherished above all else. She loved it because she was smart. She knew all the words you could know. She loved playing any game and winning. I loved her for that. When I close my eyes I see her in Homer, at the kitchen table in the chair by the window. She sat there religiously. She loved Clinique Happy. She thought my husband was “pretty.” She loved to remind me that I couldn’t speak Spanish. I loved to remind her that it was her fault! God she was funny. Truly a presence. And she had the most beautiful smile.

I used to think she’d live to be at least a hundred. She was so sharp. She was too sharp, and it frustrated her that her physical self couldn’t keep up with her mind. She absolutely hated being old. She had no patience for it. Losing independence was not an option for her.

Truly she was our Matriarch.

She did things on her own terms. She lived a full life, and ultimately, she decided when it was time to go. I wasn’t at all surprised when she finally left us. So why does it hurt so, so much?

The best way I can describe it is that the world just feels so much LESS without her.

 

Advertisements

Waiting

FullSizeRender

For the longest time, I lived like I was waiting. Every day I looked forward to the next best thing. There was always a trip or an event that I was counting down to, living in light of.

Ever since Cosy was born, this has mostly stopped. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of trips or events going on these days. But maybe it’s what I suspect. Maybe I was waiting for her all this time. And having her doesn’t leave much room for anticipating or planning. Cosy is teaching me more than ever to surrender to the present moment. She is teaching me that everything I could ever need is right here, in the right now.

I don’t know exactly what I did to get to be her mom, but I am overwhelmed with gratitude. And while I don’t find myself praying as much as I ought to these days, I feel I understand more than ever about the grace of God. I have her even though I’m keenly aware I don’t deserve her.

And you know what? I don’t feel like I’m waiting for anything now. In fact, I have never felt more fulfilled or like life had more meaning than I do now, now that I’m her mama.

First-time-mom-thoughts, I

image

  1. Just when you think you’re not going to make it, they take an extra long nap.
  2. The cutest sounds during the day are the same noises that make you think they are dying at night.
  3. Red lights are the spawn of Satan. I never knew I had such road rage or was so apt to cursing.
  4. To be honest, nothing, NOTHING but baby has been on my radar. This includes dun dun dun… God. Trying to figure out how to work this out as a spiritual being, much less a pastor. Seems my previously favorite mantra of finding the holy in the ordinary will now be put to the test.
  5. That moment when someone officially gives you that sympathetic look and says “first time mom, huh?”
  6. The thing they don’t tell you is that even if the baby sleeps, you still probably don’t.
  7. Sometimes I wish I had a picture of my boobs from before, for old times’ sake.
  8. Totally unrelated but when will my phone quit autocorrecting “Lyle” to “Luke”?
  9. I am constantly texting my friends with things I call baby equations. “If she took a nap this morning, but then slept again all during lunch, how do I proceed in the afternoon?” Etc. etc. etc. (thank you wonderful friends and sisters who have gone before me. I couldn’t survive without your wisdom)
  10. Me: At what age does the 5 pm fussiness end?
    Every mom ever: IT NEVER ENDS.
  11. That reminds me, can babies die from crying? Can their heads explode? I call my baby dream-baby cause she’s oh so sweet and mostly super chill, but when she puts her heart into it, I fear for her life.
  12. It’s like I really want a break, but I miss her when I’m not with her or even when I put her to sleep for the night! (I don’t miss her during naps, those glorious things; I’m not THAT crazy!)
  13. I need a sign for the car seat that says “If I don’t know you, do not reach in and touch this baby” and another for my front door that reads “RING THAT DOORBELL AND FACE CERTAIN DEATH”
  14. Sometimes I wonder how many kisses I’ve given her chunky cheeks by now. A million at least. A billion?
  15. If I had to describe being a mom in one word it would be “heart wrenching” because it’s so full of joy and pain, glory and fear. I love her so much more than I ever knew I could love, but I love her so much that it actually aches; it literally hurts! Not sure if this makes sense. Hoping it’s a mom thing.God I hope she likes me.

cosette’s lovely nursery

We were doing some pretty big renovations between August and November, so I didn’t get to set up the nursery until fairly recently.

Before then, people would constantly ask if I had a theme. I always told people no, that I just planned on putting whatever I liked in there, and that there would likely be a lot of pops of color. And this is just what we did (by we, I mean my design savvy saviors, Melinda and Fran Pratt) 🙂

IMG_6780

I did know that I wanted all of the furniture to be white. And the room ended up having a lot of gold and pink accents, which was unplanned, but it has tied everything together nicely.

The above dresser was Lyle’s moms. She used it to change both her kids’ diapers! How special! We painted it white and replaced the hardware with fun, colorful knobs.

IMG_6791

The grey blanket above was gifted to us by Lyle’s aunt Cindy, and the pink one below was gifted to us by my aunt Tina. We love our aunties so much!

IMG_6784IMG_6801

 

My favorite thing about the nursery is that it is packed with meaning. Notice the art:

Top Left: the dreamcatcher was the first thing I bought for Cosy myself. I found it and the Texas print (on separate occasions) at one of my favorite boutiques on South Congress. The canvas painting was done for me by my friend, Frances. I literally sent her this photo from a magazine, and she recreated it! The peonies were painted for Cosy with love by my friend, Ashley, and in memory of Jann.

Top middle: Artwork by Jann, aka the most influential person in my young life and mother-figure to me. She gave me these pieces (look like paintings; actually tiny pieces of paper!), and I have brought them with me everywhere I’ve lived since college. Cosy is named after Jann (Cosette Jann Pratt) so I thought they belonged in her room.

Bottom Left: I attended a Willy Wonka screening while pregnant and got to meet some of the original actors. This poster with their autographs is a reminder of that fun night!

Bottom middle: Fran orchestrated the making of this mobile at my baby shower. So much love and creativity went into it. I love it!

Far Right: Melinda, my mother in law, makes all the babies their own quilt. Twin sized so they can actually make use of it for years to come. I love it so much!

IMG_6775

Our hospital bags are packed. Cosy, we are ready to love you!

IMG_6804

vulnerable ramblings on pregnancy and remembering

FullSizeRender

Remembering is a powerful thing.

A year ago this week I stood in my living room with family, and we prayed a prayer of healing over my body. We prayed that when I went to the doctor for the follow up, all would be well.

A few hours later, we were celebrating at my favorite restaurant. Not only did everything look great, but the doc gave us clearance to start trying to conceive again – a whole 6 months earlier than we thought would happen in the best case scenario!

One year exactly later, and our girl could come any week now. My body has changed in ways I could have never imagined. I feel huge physically, but I also huge with love. Also, I feel like a nutcase. I am tired, and I am finding it really difficult to concentrate. But I know I’m only tired because I am growing my baby. And I know I can’t concentrate because I literally cannot stop thinking about her. (Like I said – total nutcase.)

Even though I am so full of love and excitement, a giant part of me is absolutely terrified. Will I know how to take care of her when she comes? Do I have the selflessness required for this great task? Will my heart be able to bear such an unreciprocated relationship? Because, let’s face it, she will never be able to comprehend this love I have for her, the many months of growing her and dreaming about her and imagining who she will be. She will never fully understand that, until perhaps one day when she has children of her own. Hell, I don’t even fully understand it! I never knew I could feel so much love filled terror! Any day she could come, and when she does our lives will change forever. It’s hard to imagine.

Sometimes I am sad. I miss my body, my normal clothes, my shoes, my wedding ring (will they ever fit again?), the ability to have a drink at dinner, playing softball, sleeping comfortably. Mostly, I miss being sure about who I was. I have changed so much already, and I am sure there is only more of that to come. Pregnancy feels an awful lot like an identity crisis.

But then I remember. I remember that doctor’s appointment 365 days ago. And I remember the difficult season leading up to it. I remember the fear and uncertainty of unknowing. And I remember the joy I felt when possibility was given back to us again. Remembering is a powerful thing.

My prayer leading up this 3rd Sunday of Advent, which highlights Joy, is that I won’t forget to remember. For me, remembering – reflecting on both hard and good times alike, creates a spirit of gratitude that enables me to recognize, receive and give joy more fully. This has been a special season, one that is interesting/difficult/mysterious/wondrous all at the same time; one that I realize I am blessed to know. As awkward as I have been in it, I hope I have done it justice.

“THE” Post (now i think i understand)

Warning: Super cheesy sentiments expressed below. Avoid reading if you are prone to nausea or general queasiness!

11243469_10100785185963328_4847249730538305793_n

11880397_10100860969667178_3963782259156483374_n

It’s not quite our wedding anniversary just yet, but I always get nostalgic once August rolls around. The last 8 years have been absolutely the best of my life.

We’ve traveled to different parts of the world, moved a few times, bought a couple of houses and completed a number of college degrees. We’ve supported one other in some of our hardest seasons, but we have also had so much fun playing together and just enjoying life. It fills me to the brim just thinking about it!

Sometimes I have even wondered, “how could things possibly get any better than this?” 

But then we heard her heart beat and I thought my own heart might burst. And when I felt her first kicks I wondered “what on earth have we been waiting for?” I think about her nearly every second, and at night I can’t wait to get into bed so that my daydreams meld into real dreams. All this love, SO much love, and we haven’t even met her yet.

Now I think I understand.

See? I warned you. Pretty cheesy, huh?

A Poem on Isaiah 40:31

hippogriff3

a hippogriff via here

“Even youths grow tired and weary
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall
renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like
eagles, they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

What does it mean to wait?

What does it mean to wait, God?

because you’ve promised me strength

if only I can do it –

 

strength and divine perseverance,

you promise,

and I need them.

desperately.

 

What does it mean to wait, God?

am i waiting for you

or for the hurting to stop

or am i waiting for strength to come?

 

what does it mean to wait?

because i am ready to ride the waves of the wind

like a hippogriff

to grab at puffs of clouds and blow smoke rings

 

to bask in the sun’s rays from that glorious angle

so what does it mean to wait, God?

is waiting now?

already?

 

maybe waiting is saying

i don’t trust…yet

i don’t completely believe…yet

I don’t have that mary-kind-of-faith just yet

 

but instead of bowing out on account

of all this evidence i lack,

I will wait

hoping against all hope

 

that this promise of strength

of divine perseverance

will come.

eventually.

 

what does it mean to wait?

God grant me the grit

and the stubborn determination

to find out

Just one thing (when I preach)

319784_662891325141_207664160_n

Here’s the disclaimer I wish I could shout out every time I enter the pulpit:

“I’ve studied the text all week, I promise! I saw a thousand different directions in which I could go. A hundred rabbit trails tempted to take me off my path. Ten times at least I rewrote another draft! But in the end, I had to choose one thing. One most important thing gleaned through prayer and wrestling and (thorough) exegetical work. Just. One. Thing.”

I’m a people-pleaser who is part of a profession in which women are not generally welcome or treated as equal. I am very welcome and treated fairly in my church, thank God! Even so, it isn’t able to prevent some of the paranoid fears and insecurities that cloud over me as I begin to prepare for and write a sermon.

During this time, I feel an obsessive need to cover all grounds; to give 110%; to prove that I’m competent; to show that I didn’t miss a thing. I feel terrified that someone might think I didn’t stick to the text closely enough or that I was lazy and didn’t notice many of the truths presenting themselves. So every time I preach, I wish I could shout out a disclaimer at the start of my sermon:

“I’ve studied the text all week, I promise! I saw a thousand different directions in which I could go. A hundred rabbit trails tempted to take me off my path. Ten times at least I rewrote another draft! But in the end, I had to choose one thing. One most important thing gleaned through prayer and wrestling and (thorough) exegetical work. Just. One. Thing.”

No matter how heavily my insecurities and fears overwhelm my sermon-writing process, I ultimately have to surrender to what I have found to be true for me as a preacher.

The truth is that I have to choose just one thing to focus on. This means being okay with throwing out some really good ideas; this means being willing to leave out some really clever thoughts. This means fighting off the inclination to go on unhelpful tangents. I have to trust that the sermon will be more powerful, more clear, and more likely to be remembered in a week’s time if I hone in on just one thing.

So for me, I steer clear of the pressure to always have to present three points or even three sub-points. I use discernment to decide if a text calls for it, and sometimes it does. But often for me, it just doesn’t. Maybe it’s just “my style”, but I like the idea of giving just one thought, as powerfully concise as possible. Meanwhile, I’m truly hoping that I’m making it easier for the congregation to remember what the sermon was about for a longer period of time. I’m hoping that the ease of recalling the sermon will ultimately have a more powerful impact. I’m hoping that the simplicity of it will illicit even more lingering thoughts and questions throughout the week than it might have otherwise.

So, when I preach I search for just one thing, and my search often involves A LOT of wrestling, with self and with God. Still, even with all this wrestling, I am grateful because each sermon is another opportunity for me to surrender to God. Each sermon is another opportunity to trust that God will use me so that GOD is known and encountered. And it really doesn’t matter if I “get it right”. It doesn’t matter if I were to give a disclaimer before every sermon or not. It doesn’t even matter if people think I’ve done a sufficient job.

All that really matters is surrender. I know that if I surrender; if I trust; if I let go of control, then God will be known. For me, that has to be enough. And really, that in and of itself is a job well done.

Oh Divine Shepherd, How? (a reflection on Psalm 23)

7-novmeber-2011-jesuscarrieslamb

Image via here

Divine Shepherd
how am i to rest in you
when i can’t see you
when i don’t feel you?

how am i to follow you,
when from this valley
i don’t see or feel
much of of anything?

how can i know
your way of peace
your way of rest
your way of life?

how can i let go of fear
and drop these bags
of burdens i bear,
knowing comfort
isn’t always hopeful
nor is hope
guaranteed a comfort?

how do i make
this singed grass sing
notes both
soft and green?

how do these choppy waters
turn quiet and still,
a calming balm
to my soul?

how do i know which of these
grown-up-and-over paths
is right, for goodness sake
or as the verse says
for your name’s sake?
how?

Oh Divine Shepherd
like the lost lamb I am –
carry me.

How I Interpret the Bible

photo

(Image from last Christmas)

I. Why?

I can remember being a Freshman in college and signing up for “this new Facebook thing”. It was such a cool way to connect with other people on campus, and it really did that at the time. However, in recent years Facebook has shaped our culture in so many other ways besides merely connecting people throughout the world. In a lot of ways, it has become a platform for sharing peoples’ beliefs. Unfortunately, it’s the loudest, most extreme voices that are often seen and heard.

As a Christian (and now pastor), I have spent the majority of my young life studying the Bible, both personally and in an academic setting. So when it comes to Facebook extremities, it’s all the bad theology I come across that gets my blood boiling more than anything else. People have so many different interpretations (I’m sure my overall interpretation is a bad one to many people). I don’t think Facebook is generally the place to debate, but I am glad it has got me thinking about how I read and interpret the Bible. After much critical thinking, I think the following sheds a fair light on my personal process:

II. Inspired, not (always) literal

I do see the Bible as inspired and authoritative over all matters of Christian living and practice, but I don’t believe you have to read it literally 100% of the time in order to hold this belief. Just as the Bible is woven together with various literary styles over various periods of time, so am I called to read it and work through the various ways in which it reveals truth to people. And this is what the Bible does. It reveals truth to us about God. It isn’t a history book or a science book; it is a theology book. It’s sole purpose is to show us God through the story of God’s people. It does this in many ways; it does it through narrative, law, poems, parables, song, prophetic word, etc.

Because the word of God is revealed to us in many ways, much is required of us as readers and interpreters of it. We have a responsibility not just to literal interpretation when necessary, but we also have a responsibility to creativity and imagination. Within this responsibility lies freedom, which I believe is harder work than its antithesis.

So, while I may not always read the Bible literally, I do always pray that I am open to the Spirit when reading and interpreting.

III. Studying the Bible

When I study the Bible, I consider the three worlds (Hauer and Young’s “An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds”, 2005). The world behind the text makes me think of context. What social, political, ethnic and economic realities are peculiar to that place in time, and how do they play out in the text? The world of the text makes me consider the structure of the text itself – the writer, the date the setting around the book, the audience, etc. Finally, the world in front of the text reminds me that this is not just a story from the past. It is sacred, and it speaks to all times and all people. So, I wonder: as a living word today, what is it’s meaning for us today? I try not to study the Bible without considering these three worlds.

Studying the Bible this way makes it extremely difficult to read and apply literally at all times, as explained above. It also protects me from any temptation to prooftext, which is taking any part of the text and applying rigid truths to it in isolation. When I read a passage for exegetical work, even if I’ve just done the work over a small part of scripture, I always have to step back and question if it really fits with the overall rhythm of the Bible.

I once heard someone compare the books of the Bible to pearls. Only when holding them together as one are we able to see the pearl necklace in it’s entirety. The full strand is much more beautiful and valuable than any single bead on its own. This is how the Bible can be viewed. We should always remember that holding up one passage can be beautiful. However, it is but one bead on a larger strand and should be treated as such.

IV. Not a fan of Marcionism

I realize many Christians have little appreciation for their faith history. That is to say, there is little value placed on knowing about and embracing ancient traditions that make up the Christian faith. Jewish tradition is one example of this. Many aspects of Jewish tradition are also a part of our tradition as Christians. By devaluing the need of understanding it, our own faith experience is dulled.

Even worse is the tendency for the modern Christian to seemingly disregard the Old Testament. Personally, I feel a special calling to make the readings of the Old Testament more accessible to people who may find little meaning there. This is why I often preach on Old Testament texts. I think we should treat the Old Testament as equal canon to the New Testament, but unfortunately this sentiment is more often ignored.

Even with my love of the Old Testament, when I apply the filter of the three worlds to it, I can’t help but read and interpret it in different ways than the New Testament. After all, it was written at a different time and to different people. Furthermore, unlike the gospels and epistles, most of the books are made up of multiple authors and were edited and reedited again and again over time.

With this in mind, reading these passages only at face value, especially knowing it is impossible to take off our 21st century lenses when doing so, is doing this sacred text an injustice. The Old Testament is packed with redemptive truth for our time, but finding these truths takes serious searching and openness to the Spirit.

V. Christ is love

Even with all of my appreciation for Jewish history and love of Old Testament tradition, as a Christian I really cannot read any text in scripture without reading it in light of Christ. My understanding of Christ is that he was and is the embodiment of love, goodness and freedom, which is the essence of salvation. In the Gospels, we see Christ go against the grain when anything threatened his fully injecting these things in the world.

This is not to say spiritual disciplines are not important. Jesus was a devout Jew who was extremely well-read in the law. In fact, he was so well read he was able to find his essence (love, goodness, freedom) in it instead of taking it at face value. This is what stumped and infuriated the religious leaders of his time.

Jesus, as the face of God in the world, brought love, goodness and freedom, and he made it accessible to everyone. Jesus showed the world that things of faith are important, but at the end of the day, only one thing matters most. Love. Love of God and love of neighbor.

Someone once told me that there are many gray areas in the Bible (and we especially love to disagree about which areas are gray and which are not). However, there is one area that is almost universally considered black and white. This is the clear call to love. And until we can all truly say we have gotten that one down, maybe we ought to lay off all of the arguing and judging of others who see things differently.

Interpreting the Bible and the applying and teaching of interpretation is important. Spiritual disciplines are important. But love is what matters most (Jesus said so! Matthew 22:36-40). And if love really is what matters most, then I daresay it is love that will ultimately do the trick.

“The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:7-8