Being “Embodied” with brain health issues

Nightly my routine includes 150mg of Sertraline, also known as Zoloft. I really wish it wasn’t part of my life, but it is. My brain health issues include depression, anxiety, and adult ADD. I take the SSRI along with regular exercise and time with a therapist. Some days are still better than others. I will never be someone without a brain health condition. 8 years ago when I was pregnant with our one and only, my fervent prayer was that these brain health issues would not be genetic. We welcomed our daughter into the world in June 2004. Postpartum depression robbed me of the first 6 months of her life. I was there, but I don’t remember anything. 

I prayed, a lot. I wondered if Mary ever went through PPD. I wondered if Mary cried when (or if) Jesus refused her breast. I wondered if Mary ever laid her hand on Jesus’ back, feeling him breathe. She certainly missed out on those amazing mesh undies they give you in the hospital! I thought a lot about her when I cried over drying out milk ducts and when I put my hand on my daughters back and when I cried over, well… anything. You don’t hear those stories in the Bible. Did Joseph get up with the infant Jesus in the middle of the night? 

Our daughter is now fiercely independent, incredibly smart, and hilarious. So sure, some of it was genetic. But when she starts to have trouble processing things, speaks to herself with such cruel words, and practically works herself into a panic attack, my worries sneak back. I usually pull my beloved girl in close and tell her the things I would want to hear in that moment, the things I long to hear on the days when my depression and anxiety are winning. I am trying to get better  listening to God when She whispers these things to me. “You are beloved. There is nothing wrong with you. You are safe. You are loved. Take a deep breath. You are not a failure. This is a bad moment, not a bad day or even a bad life.” As I cradle our gift from God, I like to picture God, pulling me closer to Her. My girl lays her head on my bosom and I rest assured that for today, God knows what it’s like to parent. I speak grace to my congregation on a regular basis. I speak grace to my daughter daily. Every day, I’m getting better at hearing it myself when Mothering God pulls me close and speaks grace to me until I believe it. 

This post is part of the book launch blog tour for Embodied: Clergy Women and the Solidarity of a Mothering God. Embodied includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter, to instigate conversations that lead to support and new perspectives. The book is available this September from, Amazon, or Cokesbury

Sermon for 4/23/16 John 20:19-31

Many of you may know that one of my greatest joys in life is my call as a big sister. I love my brother and sister. They are almost 3 years younger than me. They will turn 36 in May. Yes, they. My brother and sister are twins. Jonathan Anthony came first and one minute later, Jayna Christine made her entrance into the world. Jon constantly reminds Jayna that he is one minute older than her. Even though they will be 36 soon, I still refer to them as “my babies.” I helped to care for them, and in some ways, I still do. Growing up, I often got asked what it was like to have a brother and sister that are twins. I always thought that was a strange question. I didn’t know any other way.

They had some of those strange twin tendencies. They have dreamt the same dream. They have felt one another’s pain. They love telling the story about how (back in high school) they both started singing the same do-wop song at the same time. There are times that I have been jealous of their relationship. They are still close even to this day. I love being a big sister. We are told that Thomas is called the “Twin.” But, we never find out who his twin is. And with a name like “doubting Thomas” one has to wonder if anyone would actually claim Thomas as their twin.

If you’ve ever had a nickname or known someone who has and it is a nickname that they despise, then perhaps you can sympathize with Thomas. As we were debating over the name we would call Ellen, we tried to think of all the things that could rhyme with “Ellen” that kids might call her as a cruel nickname. Bullies are a reality and are mean. I have to believe that more than once, Thomas maybe even begged his friends, the disciples, “you guys. Please don’t call me that. I didn’t ask for anything that you all didn’t ask for. Or wouldn’t ask for.”

It was dark that first day of the week. Word had spread that the tomb was empty. Simon Peter had seen it for himself. The Lord was no longer in the tomb. Jesus came to Mary and Mary had spread the word. The disciples had gathered in the house and they locked themselves in. They apparently didn’t know that walls, doors, barriers, nothing stops Jesus. All of the disciples were there but Thomas. We aren’t told where he was. But, we can assume that word had gotten to him as well that Jesus had been raised. I have to wonder if Thomas wasn’t out in the world looking for the risen Lord. Instead of living in fear, Thomas was wanting to live into life.

When Thomas is finally told that his friends had seen Jesus, he must be befuddled. A man being resurrected is hard to understand; it’s a hard concept to grasp. Thomas wants to believe. He wants to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell that the resurrection is real. He wants to stick his finger into the wounds of Jesus, pull it out bloody, and declare that life and relationships is what Jesus promised us and Jesus always comes through on a promise.

But instead of sympathy, the disciples most likely roll their eyes. Maybe they wondered why their word wasn’t good enough. Maybe they even doubted “sure Thomas. Like Jesus is going to let you do that!” Seven days pass. Thomas doesn’t give up hope. But the disciples, again, behind locked doors (like that’s going to stop Jesus) are greeted by the risen Lord. And, because Jesus knows everything that we need and provides for it, he presents his hands and side to Thomas. For Thomas, his belief was a whole body experience. Sure, he had heard about the risen Lord, but he needed to experience it for himself. Jesus says to him “do no doubt but believe.” And the moniker sticks.

What if, brothers and sisters, what if we are Thomas’ twin? What if we are filled with just as much doubt as our twin, our brother, our fellow disciple, Thomas? Doubt is almost a 4 letter word in the church, isn’t it? We don’t make a lot of room for doubt. God forbid someone find out that our faith isn’t what we pretend it is week after week. We have questions we’re afraid to ask. Traditions we keep doing but have no idea why. Words we keep saying that are hollow. Eating, smelling, tasting, seeing, and hearing the risen Lord, but wondering all the same. But, there’s no way we are going to voice any of that out loud. Because, what if we’re labeled doubters? What if we’re labeled frauds?

Doubt is probably one of the biggest obstacles that keep us from mission. There’s a desire to try new things. There is a desire to change (yes, I said the naughty four-letter word “change”). But doubt sneaks in and we shy away from mission. Yet Jesus says “do not doubt but believe.” Friends, what if we took the power away from doubt? What if we claimed our “twin” status as a source of pride? If we spoke the truth to doubt, we take away its power. We take away doubt’s power and we are able to (like Thomas) declare that Jesus is “my Lord and my God” instead of worshipping doubt.

What would be our version of putting our fingers into Jesus’ hands or side? Sometimes we just need permission to speak our doubts. And the Lord, who meets us where we are, breathes the Holy Spirit into us and encourages our belief. Here are my doubts: I doubt that I am worthy of God’s love. I doubt that my sins have been forgiven. I doubt that I am making a difference. I doubt my abilities in this place. I doubt every week when I prepare to step up here that I am doing what God wants me to do. And yet…I keep doing it. I keep believing. And I don’t believe because I’m some sort of super Christian. I don’t believe because I am a pastor. I don’t believe because I want to encourage all of you. Honestly, I keep believing in Jesus and what God does through Jesus because time and time again, Jesus has shown himself to me.

Doubt serves as a block between us and what God desires for us to be doing in the world. When Christ is at the center of what we do, we cannot fail. We can learn, we can grow, we can figure out what didn’t or doesn’t work, but failure doesn’t happen on God’s watch. Jesus always gives us what we need, when we need it. God has equipped us for mission. Just as Jesus sends the disciples, so we too are sent. We can attempt to put up walls, shut doors, turn off the lights, or whatever we think will keep Jesus away, but it never works. Jesus breaks down barriers, enters into rooms with locked doors and is the light no darkness overcomes. Maybe instead of being filled with doubt, we need to be filled with wonder and awe.

Our twin, Thomas, didn’t need proof. He only wanted what everyone else had: a direct encounter with the risen Christ. He wanted reassurance of his already established relationship with Christ. Thomas desired assurance that the one who had entered into the room, the one who was now sending them out was indeed the resurrected Christ. He desired reassurance that the Jesus he heard was raised was now the one standing in front of him: the one Thomas now sees. My doubt is very real and very big. But, my God is bigger. If it takes me putting my fingers into crucified flesh for me to proclaim Jesus’ love for you and for me then Jesus will gladly offer up his hands to me time and time again. Maybe Thomas is my twin. I don’t doubt the resurrection; I simply want to taste, see, hear, touch, and be in the presence of the resurrected Lord. I don’t doubt the resurrection; I simply want to be reminded of God’s love for me through Jesus Christ. If that makes me a doubter, then so be it.

Advent reflection: dam(n)

Inspired by an Advent word-a-day prompt from some dear friends and colleagues, I have decided to take today’s word, dam(n) and do some free writing. The scripture basis is Genesis 8:13-14 although I may not reference scripture. The devotional isn’t for everyone. The version gaining traction and steam across the cyber world is profanity laced. More accurately, it’s called f*%k this sh!t. Now, if you know me, you know I am not one to shy away from profanity. With the state of the world, sometimes our cries to God are more like that than a solemn, humble “if you’re not too busy, God….”

I have felt unsettled lately. I can’t put my finger on it. I  have talked to my trusty therapist about this for several weeks. We both have been trying to figure out where this unsettledness is coming from. Is it just that time of year? Advent is my favorite liturgical season (along with Lent). I crave the idea of slowing down and waiting in the midst of the chaos of the holidays. Often, I can’t. Damn.

Is it the weather? Sometimes I wonder if I have seasonal affective disorder. I hate the longer days filled with darkness. The colder temperatures force me into clothes that keep me warm while at the same time making me feel and look bigger than I actually am. Damn.

Is it my depression and anxiety? I’ve been feeling pretty good. A combination of good meds, diet, random exercise, and therapy have kept me pretty even keel. But, the demons of depression and anxiety are always lurking not too far underneath the surface. My sleep has been off, I know that for sure. Damn.

Is the unsettledness coming from church? We are experiencing a great amount of growth. It’s been insane, really. It’s a good thing, but at times I am feeling like I am barely keeping my head above water. We are getting new faces every single Sunday. The amount of kids we have coming up for the children’s message is sometimes up around 20 (damn). But with more people come more expectations. I can only meet so many of those expectations in a day. I am bound to disappoint someone, which I hate. Damn.

Is the feeling of being unsettled coming from home? My beloved has a busy schedule and he is studying hard doing something he loves. He’s not the same kind of busy as years past, but busy nonetheless. We’re still trying to figure out how to navigate the waters of him being a full time student again. And then there is the 3 year old blonde tiny one that lives at our house. She is wonderful and exhausting all at the same time. She makes me say “damn” so many times a day. She challenges me and makes me want to tear my hair out yet I would do anything so that she never has to feel an ounce of pain or hurt. Damn.

Is this feeling coming from the greater world? The daily news is making me feel weary. My heart hurts at the news of another college campus shooting, the shooting of unarmed black citizens, the judgement and apprehension of our officers, the market, and don’t even get me started on the president elect. Damn. damn. damn. damn. damn.

I wonder if Noah felt unsettled when he finally looked out from his boat to dry land. The feeling of damn mixed with “now what?” I guess while I wait to figure out what has me unsettled, I will continue to pray, watch, wait, anticipate, and try my best to find love in the darkness of the world. Damn. This is hard.

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week

“You may have difficulty in the future conceiving a child.” I was told this around 16 or so, not too long after I was diagnosed with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I had trouble comprehending that at 16. I still have trouble comprehending it at 36.

I’m going to ruin the end of this blog post for you right now: we have a beautiful daughter, Ellen Jean Christine, whom I/we love with every fiber of our being…even when she is being the toddler she is so good at being.

But, I didn’t know if that would ever happen. For a very long time, I thought my arms and womb would remain empty. For a very long time I was sure I was broken.

What made things worse is that at the time we were in seminary. We were surrounded by people who got pregnant by drinking the water (or at least it felt that way). With every pregnancy announcement, I died a little inside. I smiled and celebrated on the outside, but on the inside I was crying and screaming, and at times, just plain pissed.

See, in several cases of infertility, the cause is unknown. But even after having my husband tested, we knew what the problem was.

The problem was me.

I felt like I was Hester Prynne wearing her big fat “A”. Except I wore a big, fat “I”. I was tested to make sure my hormone levels were what they needed to be. I had to have a procedure to make sure my Fallopian tubes were “open and ready for business” (as my doctor said). And then I got the medication we would need to (hopefully) create a baby.

Clomid was our drug of choice. I didn’t have too many side effects, which was nice. But, it was also weird. I remember drinking a beer on a Saturday night and thinking “this is the last time I will drink for a while” because as soon as I started the Clomid, there would be no drinking.

Now, here’s where things get a little personal. If you’re in any kind of loving relationship, I hope that there is a physical aspect of that relationship. When you’re trying to create a baby (versus have a relationship for pleasure) it pretty much sucks. We were encouraged by our doctor to be physical “every other day…if not every day.” What!? Think about the chore you loathe the most. Yep…it started to feel like that.

And then there was the waiting. I was used to waiting, really. I waited every 28 days to see if a pregnancy test would finally read “+” instead of “-“. And every 28 days I would get my hope up to see that “+” sign finally only to be crumpled to a ball of me on the bathroom floor once again clutching this stupid stick covered in pee just mocking me.

2 weeks. 14 days. 336 hours. 20,160 seconds. And every second, every inhale and exhale was filled with wishes, hopes, dreams, and yes, at times, begging. What kind of woman would I be if I couldn’t bear a child? And so, after 2 weeks, we started giving it the “old college try.” It was about the least romantic thing we could have done.

Then I waited some more. I even bought one of those “first response” type of pregnancy tests (a 3 pack). I took the first test as soon as it said I could. It was negative. I didn’t give up hope because I knew it was early yet. I took another one on the day my cycle was to start. It was early in the morning. I was to leave for North Dakota on a business trip that morning. My husband laid in bed as I waited for that stupid stick to tell our future. And it did. I showed it to my husband and we rejoiced.

My pregnancy was easy up until the very end when I developed preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and then developed debilitating migraines after birth. My birth didn’t go as planned; we had to have a c-section. But, Ellen was healthy and happy and that’s all that mattered.

In my time since struggling with infertility, I try and share our story so that others won’t feel so alone. But, here’s what I learned during our struggle.

1) God was always with us….even when I was pissed off at God and felt like we had been forgotten.

2) True friends become very evident during a struggle like infertility.

3) Sex, as it is shown in the movies, is very overrated and most likely never happens to any couple.

4)  Infertility is an all too silent battle that more people struggle with than I ever realized.

5) There is nothing wrong with me. There was something not so right with my reproductive organs. But, infertility was not and is not a character flaw.

6) Being able to bear a child does not define me. I am blessed to be a mother. But, I would feel the same way with a child that grew in my heart instead of my womb.

7) People say stupid crap when they know you’re not having luck conceiving. (Examples are: “Just relax more!” or “But you’re at least having fun trying!” or “Just take a vacation!” or “My sister/mom/friend tried this and she got pregnant right away.”) STOP. Just stop with all of this hot air you are blowing up my ass. Here is the right thing to say when you find out someone you know/love is having trouble conceiving. “I’m sorry. I will pray for you.” End of story.

8) Everyone you know will become pregnant. Okay…not really. But it may seem like it. It’s like when you buy (what you think) is a really unique shirt at a store and then you start to see that shirt on EVERYONE around town. It’s kind of the same way when you can’t get pregnant. Everyone you see will be pregnant. And don’t even get me started on those stupid “16 and Pregnant” shows on MTV.

9) Marriage can be hard work. Marriage when you’re infertile adds another layer to that. Be prepared for this. Some couples I know have had to use marriage counseling or therapy or whatever.

10) It is worth it. Whatever it is you decide to do, it’s worth it. The drugs, or IVF, or adoption, or whatever…it’s worth it. If you feel like God has created you to be a parent, that will happen in one way or another.

If you stumbled on this and you’re struggling, just know you’re not alone. I have walked this path and I will pray for you.

Clergy are people too

It’s a weird blog title, I know. Allow me to explain.

For some reason, people seem to think that clergy don’t have feelings. I don’t mean that in a bad way. But we’re often seen as stoic, the ones who keep everything together, a source of strength and safe harbor. I’m not saying these things to make us sound like superheros, but in my experience, this is how we can be seen. But there are times, as recently happened to me, that being clergy is second to being human.

A few weeks ago as I was riding high preparing to leave for KC to attend a World Series game, I got a phone call from an acquaintance. It was weird to hear from him. We are friends, but not “call each other on the phone” friends. He sighed a few times and struggled to start his sentence. “Okay…” he said “this isn’t good news. I’m not calling with good news. Okay….this is hard.” He paused again. “I’m calling on behalf of Sarah to let you know that Ken died.” I was shocked.

Sarah and I have been friends for 18 years. We were freshman year roommates. I don’t know if it was the best match, but we made a go of it. Sarah was from the east coast, beautiful, talented, with long, dancer-like legs. She was confident, determined, dedicated, studious…all the things I wasn’t. We had a lot of laughs and she introduced me to Tori Amos and movies we still quote. After freshman year, she moved off campus with friends. We continued to run in the same circles but both got involved in our own groups. Thanks to social media, we’ve stayed connected. One thing we have grown to adore in one another over the years since graduation is the growing faith each of us have. So when I received the call from our mutual friend, I knew Sarah wanted me called for one reason: she knew I would pray.

So I did.

I didn’t know what else to do.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that they teach in seminary that will prepare you (as a pastor) to get you through the times when someone you love is hurting and in pain. I cried for her. I wanted to scream and shout. I wanted to be angry with God. This was so unfair. Ken was young and relatively healthy. Sarah had taken the risk to open her heart to love and to being loved after being burned. I didn’t understand how this could happen.

It’s one thing when this happens and my main role is as “the pastor.” But when this happens and my role is as “friend” or “family member” I hurt. As a pastor, I’m not benign to feelings and emotions. I’m not some sort of stoic, steadfast, rock-like person that can take such news, shake it off, and go on with my day. I still struggle to understand why Ken was called home at such an early age. I struggle to understand God’s timing as to the logic of calling him home less than a month before he was to be married to my friend. I struggle to understand how a seemingly healthy young man can be dead.

I struggle with all of this for my friend Sarah. I also struggle as I mourn the loss of my high school classmate, Holly. Holly died on Sunday after a long battle with Pancreatic Cancer. She left behind 2 beautiful little girls and a loving husband.

Pardon my language, but what the hell, God?!?

So yes, just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with God. Just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean that I don’t get angry with God. Just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean I don’t get pissed off with God. Just because I’m clergy doesn’t mean that I don’t cry, or mourn, or laugh, or dance, or curse, or drink, or whatever….

But, despite all of this, I still trust in God. I know that God will make God’s plans clear to me in God’s time. In the mean time, I pray.

Being surprised by grace

I try to live my life by a standard of grace, not perfection. Many times, often, okay…almost daily I fail at this.

I believe that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God gives to ALL of God’s people grace upon grace upon grace. This is my operating theology and I will talk until I am blue in the face to get others to understand or believe this. It is so important to me that you understand that nothing, absolutely positively nothing, NOTHING (just in case I didn’t make it clear enough before) will ever or can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:38-39 if you don’t believe me). And I will use my last dying breath to proclaim this good news to anyone who would listen, I, for some reason, struggle to believe it actually applies to me. I TOTALLY believe it applies to you. I feel like in the book of life I have an asterisk by my name or something. Now that you have a little background….

My most fantastic health care plan (insurance provider) increased their rates for the upcoming year. Although it may seem reasonable, an increase of 11% caused me a lot of stress. I spent the majority of this past Monday researching plans, finding comparison tables, carefully crafting my argument (in my head) as to why we should select the same plan, and almost drowning in general worry. I was preparing all of this information for presentation to my church council. On top of a raise in rates for insurance of 11%, our local synod has also suggested a 2.5% increase in base pay for clergy within our synod. Overall, this was going to be an increase of just over $2500 for pay and insurance combined.

You should know (if you didn’t already) that I am quickly coming up on my first year anniversary as a Pastor. My first year as an official rostered leader. This would also be my first time negotiating my own salary and my own benefits. By the time Monday night came around I had worked myself into a full-blown panic/anxiety attack complete with: hyperventilation, an ulcer flair up, a migraine, and ugly crying (if you don’t know what ugly crying is–just watch a Lifetime movie–they do a lot of that there).

Tuesday’s council meeting quickly approached and I was nervous. I didn’t eat dinner. 1) because I was nervous and 2) have you ever tried to eat with a cute toddler attached to your legs, arms, or other body parts? Eventually it became time for the discussion. I rationally explained all the numbers, suggested (more like requested) the plan we go with, and prepared myself. I was ready for all the discussion, all the objections, all the questions of plan A versus plan B. Bring it!

The discussion was minimal.
The explanations were non-existent.
There were no objections.

The council president said “I move we just go ahead and have Pastor continue with the same plan she had last year.” And it passed with no objections. And then I cried.

Like openly wept.
(I’m still tearing up thinking about it)

After I composed myself (I think there were some who weren’t quite for sure how to handle the crying Pastor)I said, “I was just so nervous about this conversation. I was prepared for this to not go well.” And without hesitation another council member said

“This conversation would be a lot different if we didn’t love you.”

*BAM.* Grace.

In that moment,in that brief moment, I felt it. I felt what I so desperately try to get others to understand. God will provide. If you allow yourself to be loved, you will be surprised by the results. This conversation was about so much more than insurance, and salary, and numbers. It was about grace I wasn’t expecting.

How often do we expect God to send down God’s judgement on us and instead, we are surprised by grace and love?
How often are we even scared to approach God because we may think we already know God’s reaction and then we get surprised, even get off kilter, by grace?

My church council didn’t set out to show me grace. But, they did. I am so grateful they did.

Things I want my daughter to know (or, things I want to teach my daughter)

I’ve read a few blogs, articles, etc… lately that highlight a list of things that mothers/fathers/caregivers want to teach the small ones in their lives. I, however, have not found a list that would work for me as I think and pray about what I want to teach my darling daughter Ellen. I’ve had this list kicking around in my head for a while. It’s not perfect, and it might not be complete, but it’s what I have for now.

1) Please make God the most important thing in your life. God should even be more important than your father and I. That said…

2) There may come a time where you question God’s existence. That’s okay (and quite normal). And with that said…

3) I am a Pastor. I am your mother. I may not be able to do both at the same time for you. If you need Pastoral guidance, we will find you a pastor (or hey, call either one of your Godfathers–they’re both pastors!)

4) I will celebrate your achievements. While at the same time…

5) I will encourage you to be a gracious loser. Too many in my generation don’t want their children to fail. That’s not me. Life is full of failures and disappointments. While I don’t want you to lose, it’s going to happen. And by the way, I refuse to reward you for every single little thing you do.

6) I will encourage you to read versus watching television. I will encourage you to experience things versus reading about them. I will encourage you to teach others about what you experience and read.

7) You will be celebrated for who you are: smart, funny, charming, a woman of God, the gem of your father’s eye and your mother’s mischievous little goof. That said…

8) You ARE NOT whatever number is on your pants, shirt, shoes, etc. Society will fight fiercely to tell you differently. Don’t listen to them. Do whatever you must to block out the voices that tell you that you need to be smarter, skinnier, taller, shorter, etc… Because God created you to be the most amazing you. You are enough. Tell yourself this over and over and over.

9) I hope to instill in you an appreciation of all kinds of music. This doesn’t mean you have to love all of it, but I hope you appreciate it.

10) You will respect your elders. You will address those older than you and those in authority as ma’am or sir. You will say please and thank you. You will genuinely apologize when it is needed. You will have a firm handshake and look people in the eye.

11) I encourage you to stay up on current events. Sadly, too many people these days can tell you all about what Snooki did last night but have no idea of current global issues. You may really hate riding in the back of the car while your father and I listen to NPR, but you will become more informed because of it.

12) Please register to vote and make it a habit to do so. I promise that until you are old enough to vote, you can accompany your father or me into the voting booth as we participate in the democratic process.

13) You will be in trouble less if you tell me/us the truth the first time.

14) If there comes a time when you’ve had too much to drink and you’re not able to drive home, call your father or me. We will come and get you–no questions asked.

15) Someone is going to break your heart. Again, I don’t want it to happen. We’ll figure out how to handle it when the time comes.

16) I hope to model for you on how to be a loyal friend.

17) While being Bearcats have brought your father and I a great deal of joy, we want you to choose a college that will fit you best.

18) Oh yeah, I’d like you to go to college.

19) We prayed for you. We waited for you. We wanted you. You were worth waiting for. Remember that as you get older and the pressure increases in dating situations.

20) You were named after some amazing people. Know where you came from so you can know where you’re going. Continue reading

The kitchen table

The Mr and I bought a new kitchen table.  It didn’t happen the way we thought it would, but we now have a kitchen table.

See…we walked into our local furniture store chain, looking for new chairs for my office.  And the magical word “clearance” beckoned me closer. There it was in all of its clearance glory.  We had talked about a new kitchen table.  After all, the one we had, Mr had since he was in college.  The table, as my parents say, didn’t owe us anything.  The price was right and so we bought it.  It was delivered to our parsonage today.  And it already feels “familiar.”  It’s as if this was meant to be our table all along and we didn’t realize it until it was in our house.

And it wasn’t until I posted on Facebook (of all places) that the place of our kitchen table really became clearer to me.  And, of course, because I am a pastor, I can’t just look at this like another piece of furniture.  (No, not everything I look at has a greater theological meaning, but, come on…it’s a table!!)

Growing up, so many of my memories, good and bad, surrounded the kitchen table.  I can see that table as clear as day.  In fact, I can see both kitchen tables that I knew clearly in my head.  Both round; one with a white/cream top, book ended by my brother and sisters’ high chairs, and brown, now with chairs for all.  Everyone had their place at the table. My sister sat across from my father, my brother and I across from my mother.  I sat next to dad, sister and brother next to each other.  Discussions always surrounded the days events, school, relationships, etc… The discussions weren’t always happy.  The meals weren’t always gourmet.  But, it was a place we came to be as family.  It was rare that we didn’t eat together as family.  Even if one person had to eat later because of a sports practice or meeting, usually one other member of the family sat with them. We hardly ever ate dinner not at the table.  It’s almost as if within our home, the kitchen table became “home base.”

We dreamed dreams here.  We made plans.  We did homework.  We filled out college applications.  I watched my mother do bills at the table every few weeks or so.  The Sunday paper was fought over.  My husband and I ate left over wedding cake and opened cards there the day after our wedding.  My parents were sitting there when we told them we were expecting our daughter.  I’ve sat around that table with my best friends. It was a place of comfort during deaths. It was the place we sat when we were told about major job changes. And slowly, a leaf came out.  There were less chairs at the table.  But, whenever we go “home” that is the place we sit–still in the same spots we always sat at (me between my father and brother).  The poor in-laws (my husband and brother in law) are relegated to the bar to sit.

Sure, it’s not comfy or cozy like a sofa or lazy boy, but it’s just as important when thinking about the times of comfort, joy, sorrow, grief, laughter, and love.  And now we have a place like this all our own in our new home.  Our daughter is young enough that she won’t ever know a time in her life when we didn’t have this table.  She will create her own memories at this table.  There will be serious discussions.  Times of laughter.  Games played.  New foods tried. Tears over “love” lost.  Later there will be homework done.  College applications filled out.  Her best friends will sit around that table.  And eventually, it will get smaller too.

It’s just a table.  But, it’s so much more than that.  It’s one of the few places I can go where I can be genuinely me.  Our kitchen table is a place of acceptance and will be open to anyone.  So it is too with the Lord’s table.  When you come to feast on body and blood, bread and wine, I hope it is a place where you can be genuinely you.  You are always welcome at the table even if you’ve never been before, or if you’re there every day.  It doesn’t matter what you wear to our table or the Lord’s table.  Your heart is all that matters.  At the Lord’s table you are fed, nourished, loved, forgiven, and cherished.  So I hope it will be too at our new kitchen table.

Come.  All are invited to the banquet table.

Our new table:


I dream of (a) Genie (packer)

Back in the day, before I was born, there was a television show called “I Dream of Jeannie.”  The television show starred Barbara Eden (with long flowing locks and a tiny genie costume) and Larry Hagman (aka JR Ewing from Dallas).  So, I’ll save you the details of the program concept (hey, you’ve got Wikipedia if you’re really interested).  But, it should go without saying that whenever JR from Dallas wanted something, Jeannie would blink or nod her head and it appeared or happened.

As I stare at the boxes in my apartment, I cannot tell you the number of times I have wished for the ability to nod or blink (like Jeannie the Genie) and make all of my stuff pack itself.  I’ve also realized that the stages of packing are similar to the stages of grief.

There is denial.  “I don’t have that much stuff.  It won’t take us long to pack up this entire apartment.  We only have 10 years of stuff plus a new baby to pack up….it’ll be fine!”

Then there is anger.  “Seriously?!?  Where did all of this stuff come from?  Why do we need 3 colanders?  How much Pyrex does one person need??  Why can’t this stuff pack itself??”

Then there is bargaining.  “We really don’t need this” whatever it is.  “Okay okay okay, I’ll let you keep your letter jacket from high school if I can keep every love letter you ever sent me.”  Or I’ll bargain with people “If you watch my cute 5 month old while I pack, I’ll make you dinner!”

Depression.  “Why do we have this much stuff??  Why am I surrounded by all this stuff??  What does it all mean?”  In all seriousness, I think the depression state will hit me later.  I’ve been so busy at work and trying to plan for this move and ordination and instillation that I haven’t really gotten a chance to think about the fact that I will be leaving a job and a place that I love.  Yet at the same time, I’ve been called to be pastor to the most amazing people in a fantastic place.

Finally, acceptance.  “Yes, we really do have this much stuff.  Yes, we really need help packing.  Yes, we really are moving.”

The thing is, we are so blessed to be moving into a parsonage.  In the (almost) ten years that husband and I have been married, we’ve never lived in a house.  Now, we get to move into a beautifully renovated farmhouse.  It is the perfect place for us and our baby. We move in less than a week.  Things are crazy at our house.  But, we try and remain grounded and remind ourselves how blessed we truly are.

Now…where did I put that packing tape?!?  Genie!!!!