A Different Kind of Advent

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I zipped up the garment bag that held my robe and stoles. Today’s vow exchange service was the last time I would be wearing my robe for at least two months. I was 39 and a half weeks pregnant, and had already arranged for pulpit supply to start on the following Sunday just three Sundays before Advent would begin.

I was thankful to have been able to lead our celebration of All Saints Day and to preach before heading into week 39 because having not grown up in a liturgical church, I valued and looked forward to high, holy days. This is why zipping that garment bag was proving to be so difficult. I had walked with my congregation during the ordinary times during my second and third trimester and now I was going to have to abandon them right when we got to the good stuff.

There was only one reason I would step back and let others step in the pulpit during the high, holy season of Advent and that’s for a high, holy life moment. As ministers, way too often, we abandon family and ourselves in the most important moments because of our calling to lead and guide God’s people. Being a female minister, giving birth kinda requires that I be present, and I was so thankful there was no way I was going to wiggle out of the responsibility of caring for this new life.

It doesn’t mean that I am missing Advent. In fact, this Advent there is still a lot of waiting. Waiting for the next feeding. Waiting for his eyes to slowly close and his breath to become steady. Waiting for my body to readjust after nine months of supporting another life.

This is holy work, too.

This is worship, too.

This is Advent, too.

Slow and Steady


Yesterday morning as I finished feeding Ben, he had this look of pure contentment and awe on his face. His belly was full; his mama was holding him; and he was snuggled in a blanket.

It made me wonder how many times I’ve allowed myself the same space to be content in that way. I am not the kind of person who sits still well (maybe this is a result of growing up with four brothers who were constantly on the move and active), which can be a good thing when trying to organize a project or get through a to do list, but it also results in my rushing through days and life often without noticing what I’ve missed.

Yesterday, I just sat with Ben for a little while. I asked him what he was thinking and how he was liking the world out here. We talked about the wonder of lights and puppy dogs who come and sniff your ears and your diapers, but mostly I just watched his face and wondered what was going on in his little brain as it is developing and interpreting this new world that he is encountering.

Since Ben came to us via a c-section, my recovery has had to be slower. I’ve had to be very careful to notice and listen to my body telling me what it needs to recover completely. I’ve had to ask for lots of help. I’ve had to be still much more than I normally am.

And much to my surprise, the world has not collapsed. The sun has still come up and set in the evening.

I might dare to say that I’ve been able to savor this time more fully because I’ve had to slow down.

Hopefully, this is a lesson I can hold on to.

A Week Ago


A week ago, we headed to the doctor for our 40 week appointment. I convinced Sam to put the hospital bag, camera, and car seat into the car just in case they sent us straight to the hospital after the doctor’s visit. He humored me, but he knew it wasn’t time yet.

A week ago, at 40 weeks and 3 days, we walked into the same doctor’s office that we walked into today. Last week, we had an ultrasound and found out that Baby H was estimated to be 8.5 lbs., and that he was head down getting ready for delivery. This week, three of us walked into the doctor’s office.

A week ago, we sat on the same couch in the waiting room. I leaned on Sam’s shoulder every 8-10 minutes as the pre-labor contractions came and went. Today, I leaned on his shoulder and peered down into a baby carrier and into Baby Ben’s blue eyes.

A week ago, Sam was right, and we headed back to the parking lot to our car to head home with the explanation that if something happened before 6 am on Thursday morning to come to the hospital, but if not, to come to the hospital, so that the induction process could be started.

A week ago, Sam tried desperately to entertain me and detain me from walking to the hospital as back labor was added to the contractions I had been feeling all morning. A week ago, we walked around Target, Panera, and the parking lot trying to do all those things you are supposed to do before you go to the hospital and to avoid going to the hospital and being sent back home.

A week ago, we came back home and made it until 3 am on Thursday morning when my water broke, and I finally had the reason I needed to head to the hospital.

A week ago, we checked into the hospital at 4 am and made our home in a labor and delivery room knowing that we would soon meet our baby. A week ago, I received an epidural and a drip to keep labor progressing. A week ago, as the medicine kicked in, I was able to rest for the first time in 24 hours.

A week ago, Sam sat by my side hour after hour as we waited and welcomed each happy report that “things were moving along.” A week ago, we talked and predicted and bet about what time he would be born. A week ago, we received the report that the illusive 10 cm had been reached, and it was time to practice push. A week ago, I looked at Sam and said, “Finally.”

A week ago, we waited between practice pushing sessions for the doctor who was “just next door finishing another delivery” and wondered why they got to go first. A week ago, the doctor came to tell us that we were back down to 8 cm and that it was time to start talking about the possibility of having a C-section because Baby H was turned to the side a little bit.

A week ago, Sam held my hand as I cried because I was so ready to see our baby and simultaneously uneasy and nervous and scared about having major surgery and not knowing what all that entailed. A week ago, Sam looked at me and said, “It’s ok. This is what he needs us to do.”

A week ago, they rolled me across the hallway into the OR and Sam sat by my head and whispered that we were so close to getting to see Baby H. A week ago, we heard a cry that meant Baby H was finally here.


A week ago, we met Baby H who we started calling Big Ben because he weighed 8 lbs 7 oz and was 20.5 inches long. A week ago, I fell in love with Sam all over again for being by my side and for being my rock and for being Big Ben’s dad. A week ago, I was left speechless by the miraculous power of life and birth and breath in our baby boy.

What a difference a week makes.

Why Being Kicked Out of the Convention Isn’t Just Theological

Recently, First Baptist Greenville and Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, SC have been asked by the SC Baptist Association to back down from statements and actions in support of people in the LGBT community or face disassociation from the SC Baptist Convention:

The South Carolina Baptist Convention has called on First Baptist Greenville to recant its LGBT nondiscrimination policy or face the possibility of being disassociated from the group of more than 2,000 churches.

Greenville Baptist Association messengers voted unanimously Oct. 22 to dismiss Augusta Heights Baptist Church after the church’s pastor officiated at a same-sex marriage.

The marriage service was not held at the church, but Augusta Heights’ pastor Greg Dover performed the Oct. 10 ceremony with the approval of his deacons, said Al Phillips, director of missions for Greenville Association.


I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church in SC and grew accustomed to language associated with these debates including, “Well, these churches didn’t really want to be a part of the SC Baptist Convention, anyways. They don’t agree theologically with the Southern Baptist Convention, so it’s not really that big of a deal for them to be disassociated or to be kicked out.”

It’s an easy bandaid of justification for the people who are deciding the fate of these churches, and maybe it’s partially correct; however, the decision to kick out or disassociate from a church is much bigger than theological issues. When a church is no longer associated with the SC Baptist Convention, the staff and ministers at the churches who have been kicked out often face the pragmatic issues of having to find new health insurance as well as fight for accrued retirement. This isn’t merely a theological debate or decision. This is a decision that impacts ministers, staff, minister’s families, and staff families. But you won’t hear about these other ramifications because the debate and the decision get boiled down to theological differences rather than care or concern for other baptist ministers and their families.

When I answered a call to pastor and preach, there was an individual disassociation from my home church, which meant scrambling to find scholarships and make connections to churches and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in order to help alleviate some of the costs of a three-year commitment to seminary. This is a journey that started as soon as I began seminary over four years ago, and one that still proves difficult as I’ve had to figure out how to procure my own health insurance, dental insurance, and retirement plan. Although I was able to secure a seminarian’s health insurance plan while I was in school as soon as I tried to transfer my account from a student to a minister’s account, my plan was terminated because the church that called me wasn’t the right kind of baptist church. Since I was serving a small church as a bi-vocational minister, there wasn’t a health insurance plan available through the church either.

Our church is a church plant, so its history doesn’t include association with Southern Baptists at all, but for those churches whose history and benefits system for their ministers and staff and their ministers’ and staff’s families are tied to their association with the Southern Baptist Convention, being kicked out or disassociated will send them on the same journey of having to start anew in how they provide for their ministers and staff.

And trust me, it’s not an easy journey.

As my male colleagues embark on this journey that their female counterparts can’t help but be a part of when they answer a call to minister, I hope it will make our commitment to welcome and affirm all, yes even those who ostracize and exclude, even stronger.

Because we know that it’s not just theological debate.

It’s a way of living in relation with one another and caring for each other whether we agree theologically or not.


“Do you have a baby in your belly?”

We were on the playground as part of our Fall Break celebrations when another 5-year-old merged into playing with our girls. I stepped back to let them play, but inevitably was called to “Watch this!” on the monkey bars. When I came over, the other 5-year-old looked hard at me and paused for a minute, then asked, “Do you have a baby in your belly?”

I explained that yes I did and asked her if she thought it was a boy or a girl. She looked at MH and LC and declared confidently that it was another girl. I told her that it was actually going to be a boy. LC took over from there to explain that the baby was going to be sleeping in her room and that she was pretty sure that the baby wasn’t ever coming out.

I chuckled and wondered about the memories that our girls were making in the waiting and anticipating their brother’s arrival. More than likely, they won’t remember much of this waiting period because soon their memories will be crowded with a new sibling and this side of their family will be new and different.

As we approach All Saints Day and the practice of actively remembering those who have passed on this year, I can’t help but wonder if this active remembering isn’t something that we should incorporate into our daily and weekly lives.

Active remembering is different than reminiscing in which there is a wistfulness to return to the time before. Instead, active remembering is what God has asked God’s people to do throughout the biblical narrative.

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth and the water subsided. Genesis 8:1

Then God remembered Rachel and gave heed to her and opened her womb. Genesis 30:22

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

He will remember his covenant forever. Psalm 111:5

And he took the bread, gave thanks, and broke and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you; this do in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Active remembering is a holy endeavor. It reminds us of where we have come from. It reminds us of the journey in which God has spoken to us. It reminds us of the people who have influenced and invested in our lives.

As we celebrate All Saints Day this weekend, this do in remembrance of God’s love for us.

Pregnant Preaching

At each stage of this journey of pregnancy and preaching, there have been physical adjustments that have altered my sermon preparation. First trimester: How much ginger ale can I consumer before 9 am? Will four or five saltines be the winning number for keeping something on my stomach, but not too much. Second trimester: Is it time to highlight the baby belly or is a flowing top a better option? How many breakfasts is too many breakfast before 9 am? Two? Three? Now in my third trimester as the weeks get closer and closer to 40 weeks, I approach Sundays a bit differently. My Sunday morning routine has changed from, “I think this outfit looks most like a pastor” to “Ok, what fits?” My water intake has to be a little more mindfully timed in order to make it through the service and my delivery has to take into account this almost 7 pounds of life that is pressing into my lungs, making phrasing and breathing more difficult.

But it’s not the physical ramifications of the pregnancy that have been weighing on me most heavily. Now my heart and mind as I prepare are concerned over whether this Sunday will be the last Sunday I will be able to stand before my people and offer a word from God before I go on maternity leave. I wonder is this sermon powerful to sustain and challenge them while others so graciously step in a step up to fill the pulpit.

I wonder as a single-staff pastor whether the time we have planned during my maternity leave will be meaningful and challenging and continue the work God has called us to. Can you really plan that work as far in advance as we have and still make it relevant and responsive to the needs of the community? Should it really be ok for the pastor and preacher to not be there during Advent on of the holiest seasons in the life of the church?

But what if this new life is the gospel message? What if the hope and anticipation along with the physical adjustments are what new life is all about?

Perhaps this is the most powerful lesson of the last 40 weeks. New life doesn’t come without it’s discomfort. New life doesn’t come without work. New life doesn’t come without sleeplessness and restlessness.

New life changes every aspect of who we are and how we view the world.

On Nesting and Nursery Decorating


This weekend we are celebrating the girls’ fall break. We have gone to Riverbanks Zoo for Boo at the Zoo, and they have also been helping with deliveries of the donations we have received from Fernwood Baptist Church, but mostly we have been preparing for their new brother to come.

The girls have both taken time to practice pushing the stroller. We’ve been washing clothes and decorating the nursery. We’ve also had discussions about what are his toys and what are his things and remembering that being siblings means respecting each others space because he will be expected to do the same for his sisters.


And we’ve been practicing his name:


In the midst of my need to organize the Tupperware cabinet and rearrange the nursery for the 14th time, there is a quiet anticipation that has fallen over our house. The girls know the next time they come to visit us, there will be a baby. The next time we go to Boo at Zoo, there will be a baby. When we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, there will be a baby.  For us as a family, the Advent season is starting now at the end of October with a pumpkin-size baby we can’t wait to meet, knowing that Baby Ben will change our family, will change us, just like the Christ-child changed the world with his birth.

Two Years, Two Puppies, Two Girls

All TogetherToday Sam and I celebrate two years of marriage with two kids and two puppies, but it will be the last anniversary that we will go two by two. At 37 weeks, our house is being transformed to include another new life that is now well-contained in my belly.

There is no way I would be where I am (the pastor of a church, the editor-in-chief of an independent publishing house, the stepmom of two beautiful girls, and puppy mom to two rescue pups) without Sam. He continues to challenge me and see things in me that I can’t see.

Thank you, Sam, for changing my life, for changing me.

Living in the Aftermath


On Wednesday, we received the notification that our boil water advisory had been lifted. On Thursday, we found out that the two blocks Garners Ferry that experienced 18 ft. of flooding would partially reopen. In the wake of this news, there were shouts of acclamation coming from our house!

There is a temptation now to say that everything is better here in the Midlands. And quite honestly, everything is improving in the movement and structure of our community. It is critically important for the infrastructure of our community begin to function again so that businesses can reopen and people can begin to go to work again, kids can begin to go to school again, and we can move out of crisis mood. In the midst of the transition, however, we can’t forget there are people being told that not only can they not live in their houses, they also cannot rebuild on the same land their house is on. There are people finding out after FEMA inspectors have been to their homes that they will receive no payment because their damage was not significant enough. There are people who are finding out that what FEMA can offer is significantly less than what will be required to rebuild.

Yes, our water is normal. Yes, our roads are reopening. No, we are not back to normal. The Midlands community will continue to heal and will continue to rebuild, but the road ahead is still filled with washed out roads, tears, and tired, hurting people.

9 Months and Waiting

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This morning I had my 36 week appointment with the doctor. I have certainly gotten used to the routine of going to the doctor, but today was significantly different. There were signs over all the sinks, “Do not use sinks.” There were signs over the water fountains, “Don’t drink this water.” And there was almost no parking because the picture above is what the hospital next to my doctor’s office looks like.

The National Guard is there as well as tractor trailers pumping water into the hospital because the hospital and entire Medical Park is still in a zip code where the water has not been cleared for consumption. My doctor explained her shock as she has come to the office in the past 10 days that she never thought that as an American doctor in the capital city of South Carolina she would ever be practicing without clean water and without being able to wash her hands with the water running from the tap.

I replied that it was a weird existence. I got lost twice trying to detour around road closures on the way to my appointment this morning. I haven’t been drinking as much water as I should for Baby H because it’s hard to remember to bring multiple bottles of water with you when you have been using water bottles and other containers that make it easier to carry more than one serving of water.

And yet, both us of relayed that in the midst of all the inconveniences we were very lucky to have sustained minor damage to household materials. It’s hard to express the frustration of this modified existence in the midst of other people’s devastation.

At the same time, it’s important for those of us who haven’t lost everything, but have lost the sense of security and safety of having clean water to be able to express that frustration without guilt. No, we aren’t saying that we can’t survive, but we are saying that we are concerned about finding clean water for our children to bathe in, to cook food in, and to drink for our growing babies. The mental capacity that it takes to reroute routines is an added stress for all of us living in the aftermath of the #SCflood and it’s not insignificant.

As we help those who have lost everything, we also need to be able to laugh, rant, grieve, and cry because this was not something we were planning for and this is something that has opens our eyes to how easily our lives can unravel.

And so as month 9 begins for us, we are waiting. Waiting to meet this sweet boy. Waiting for clean water. Waiting for a hospital that doesn’t have to have clean water pumped into it. Waiting for new hope.Waiting for new life.