Home » change » Page 2

Category: change

New Days and New Starts

I love seeing all the first day of school pictures. This is a tradition I remember from my childhood. I can remember looking through the photo album that had each of us lined up in age order and trying to remember what it felt like to start each new year.

This year looks different because we are starting the school year with both kids at home. Sam and I have enjoyed using our teachers’ brains again and working on a daily schedule, units of study, and weekly activities that would be engaging and fun. (The two pups are going to work on not stealing snacks during snack time 🙂 This might take all fall!)

I have to admit the whole concept of homeschooling was overwhelming. This Spring during virtual school, I found myself stretched thin as we tried to keep our four-year-old connected to teachers and classmates as well as figure out the online learning system.

Today, I was just excited. We took our first day of school pictures like we have the past two school years. We took a morning walk, which serves as “our commute” to school, and then we started our school day. At this age, kids really need to learn to play and explore and discover but having things like calendar, circle time, and specials is grounding. It’s grounding for me as a parent because it distinguishes school day and school times from other times of the day and from other days of the week.

It also creates space to ask questions, to read new books, and to learn new things. For me as a parent/teacher, this is what I am most excited about. I am most excited to ignite my creativity, research crafts, and find books about each area of study. I am excited to learn alongside my kids and to play the role of facilitator and interst sparker rather than a disciplinarian.

It really amazing what we have learned about each other over this time at home. I am so thankful for a partner I get to teach alongside again and for the flexibility to try new things.

On Living Life

I just started listening to Michelle Obama’s new podcast and it is wonderful. Her voice is honest and challenging. I knew that I wanted to tune in after reading her book Becoming last summer.

In the second episode (the one that has gotten so much press because she says that she has been experiencing low grade depression), she speaks with Michele Norris and says:

I hope we don’t go back to normal. I hope we go to better.

This is such a challenging statement, especially as I hear more and more people talk about “getting back to their lives” or asking whether they are just “not supposed to live their lives” because of the virus. All of this speaks to the way we are trying to process that really we have no experience to process. We don’t know what is right. We don’t know whether what we are deciding is mitigating a normal amount of risk or putting us into more risk. The uncertainty and the politicization of this virus have us all second and triple guessing what we are deciding to do and how we are moving around in this new world.

I hope that we will have the strength to sit in the not knowing. I hope that we will have the courage to say no to things even when others are saying yes to things so that we can reflect on the way we used to live life.

I hope that we have the compassion to understand that even as we are making choices, many, many families are having choices made for them. They can’t see their family member who is in the hospital. They can’t schedule a funeral that their loved ones had planned. They can’t feed both themselves and their children. They can’t go to work and care for their children.

May we look deeply and honestly at the way we used to live life and vow not to get back to normal, but rather get back to better. Better care for our neighbors in need. Better, more courageous choices to counter a culture that benefits some and oppresses most. And a better understanding of how our choices impact others.

 

A New Way

As we were doing our weekly grocery pick up, our four-year-old asked which walk we were going on. I reminded him that we were going to get the groceries and he insisted, “But which walk way are we going?” He was trying to orient himself and determine where he was in relation to our house and to our neighborhood. Over the last four months, the majority of our mornings have started with a walk. We’ve developed loops and turns and he has given each of the walks a name.

Now that he is exploring these same ways that we have walked on his bike, he has developed some favorites. Just yesterday I told him that he could choose the way we went. He was so excited to show us the way for a change. As we go I’ve always pointed out the different roads and the different ways that would take us back to our house. I was so impressed that he led the way on a 2.5-mile loop without ever making a wrong turn.

As we have been in this period of quarantine, our community of faith was finishing a study of Acts. Something about the followers of the Way took on a new meaning for me as we were literally developing a new way of life, learning, and being together.

Acts 9 talks about Saul who was persecuting followers of the Way saying:

so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

This new Way was so threatening to the establishment that they were bringing in followers to try to stop the movement.

We are developing a new way of life. It is a threat to our capitalistic, individualist society because it means we are valuing time together, time outdoors, and simple acts of kindness like food left on a neighbor’s porch. We are finding paths and ways in our neighborhoods rather than traveling out of our communities.

This is the Way of caring for each other and being community together. Let us walk bravely into this new Way.

Whispers of the Divine

As I was cleaning one of my bookshelves, a notecard fell off the bookshelf. It was from a time when I would write quotations on notecards from books I had read to remind myself of the way those words had spoken to me. This one was from Thoreau’s On Walden:

The surface of the earth is soft and impressionable by the feet of [humanity]; and so with the paths the mind travels. How worn and dusty then the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity.

As the reality that our world is changing all around us and we will not be returning to the “normal” we used to know, I see this more and more. People are digging in their heels white-knuckled from holding onto what they used to know with a fierceness that threatens violence towards those who would remind them of the changes that are happening.

What if instead, we taught our minds not to cling to tradition and conformity, but instead to look down at the impression we are making on the earth and indeed on the world and wonder if that’s the impression we want to leave behind? What if we taught ourselves wonder and awe at each new day?

I want my steps to tread lightly, disappearing as the wind and rain nourishes the earth. I don’t want my steps to be preserved in concrete reminding the world that it was more important that I walk the way I always had rather than step around the wet concrete with awareness and intentionality to reroute my steps.

Perhaps you would say there is no real significance to the notecard “appearing” at this point in time and space and it’s more a testament to my bookshelf being too full. Perhaps you are right, but for me this is the whisper of the Divine nudging me to remember to tread lightly, to notice everything around me, and to step intentionally into this day.

 

Why We Can’t Open Communities of Faith or Schools

This week the stark contrast of what we have valued as a country has become crystal clear.

We concentrated our initial reopening efforts not on opening the communities where our children learn and people gather together to be in the community together to gain hope and healing, but instead restaurants, bars, and beaches. Our top priority was getting back to entertainment, not education.

To be certain, America is an entertainment-driven society. Our economy depends on our desire to distract ourselves. The average teacher makes $60,477. The average NBA player makes $6.7 million. The average MLB $4.4 million. The average well-known actor makes $15million. The average clergy makes $32,000-$48,000.

Now that we have reopened, our numbers are climbing nationwide. The number of cases is climbing. The number of hospitalizations is climbing.  As we approach the end of the summer, suddenly our collective attention is directed on opening schools. We understand that if schools can’t open if we end up with virtual schooling, we are going to have overtaxed parents and families. We realize now that we focused our reopening efforts on entertainment over education.

As the weight and the toil of living in the midst of a global pandemic and a racial reckoning bear down, we realize that we need hope. We need spiritual guidance because we are mentally, spiritually, and psychologically exhausted from all the uncertainty and living with collective trauma and grief. Voices are calling out for churches to reopen because we know that we need each other. We know that we need hope. Even as some voices call out to reopen, other voices recognize where we are. We are at a place where we have valued escaping from our reality for a trip to the beach and a night out at a restaurant or a bar over coming to terms that we will not return to “normal” in the foreseeable future. We have valued escapism over compassion.

And so here we are.

Government leaders are threatening to remove funding from schools if they don’t open up. Government agencies are threatening lawsuits if schools don’t reopen. This is after political leaders ordered churches to open. As we get closer and closer to the fall, we are realizing that when we value entertainment over education.

We are left without the covering that schools offered as they fed the one and nine children who live with food insecurity every day, twice a day, and sent food home. We are realizing that without schools, we don’t have low-cost, reliable childcare for working parents. We are realizing that we have put the pressure on schools to be the savior and stopgap of a broken system for far too long.

As numbers continue to rise numbers and the possibility of having a loved one die alone in the hospital and the fear for our lives for much longer continues to live with us, we realize that we value escapism over compassion. Churches and communities of faith, driven by their moral codes and caring for those in need have guided and challenged our culture of consumerism.

As churches are deemed a major source of COVID-19 exposure, we realize how important coming together each week reminding ourselves that this one life that we have to live is not about gaining more stuff, a bigger house, or a cruise around the world, but instead about caring for each other. We are in a religious awakening.

Our eyes have been opened.  As a society, we value entertainment over education and escapism over compassion.

The question is now that our eyes have been opened, will our hearts be?

Blackout Day

Today July 7th, 2020 is Blackout Day. Today those who are co-labors in the fight to protest racism and preach the gospel that Black Lives Matter are encouraged to only buy from Black-owned businesses and boycott all others. What the leaders who have organized today realize is that in our capitalistic society, things won’t change until big business begins to feel the hurt of losing income.

Joining in today to support Black-owned businesses and to boycott other businesses and systems puts your money where your mouth is. If you have been calling out that black lives matter, but haven’t taken action, this is a very good way to join in.

Austin Channing Brown in her recent podcast with Brene Brown explained that saying you are an ally or listing the number of Black people that you are friends with or even work with really doesn’t make you an advocate. Sometimes these things actually impede you from doing the work that you need to do and risking your privilege to fight for Black lives. Instead, she suggests that if you are working towards social justice, you will find yourself working beside Black people. You will find yourself working alongside those who have been oppressed by capitalistic interests and pursuits. You will find yourself learning and growing alongside those who are listening to other people who have been oppressed and silenced.

The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.

We are building and planting something beautiful.

 

On Figuring It Out

This week has been marked with our four-year-old learning how to pedal a bike with training wheels. The first day and the first tries were frustrating especially as he accidentally reversed his feet and brought the bike to a complete stop not knowing there were foot brakes on the new bike. I watched his face as he tried to push the pedals down. He was trying his very hardest and wanted to figure it out so badly.

Now more than ever, we are trying to figure out how to be community together, how to be family together, and how to be church together in a way that keeps each other safe. It is frustrating when technology doesn’t work and when we know that we will have to continue in this struggle for a longer period of time as we watch case numbers rise. It is a struggle to teach our brains new patterns. It is frustrating to continually create, innovate, and imagine each and every day.

Figuring it out is exhausting, but this struggle is teaching us not to take each other for granted. This struggle is teaching us to adapt and to believe in ourselves. This struggle is making us stronger.

Even before breakfast, our four-year-old was asking to get back to his bike. By the end of our time outside yesterday, he was able to do a loop without stopping. He woke up ready to confirm to himself that he had figured it out.

I pray that we will find that four-year-old confidence within us as we figure out new ways to be church and be community together.

Turning Into Something New

Over the course of our e-learning, we found a lot of things that we could turn into new things. Used toilet paper rolls turned into binoculars. Use milk cartons turned into bird feeders. Pillows turned into rocks to jump through rivers of lava that were threatening the side of the boat which the ottoman turned into. Putting away laundry turned into trips to Mars, the Moon, and the Sun the laundry basket rocketship transporting us to the different destinations.

Creativity and imagination guided our learning and changed my eyes.

There is so much in the world and in our lives today that is limiting. We feel restricted because the life we use to know was taken from us quickly and swiftly. We feel angry that local leaders are telling us that we must wear masks in order to keep other people safe. We feel overwhelmed that the things we used to do like going out to eat or gather with friends and families now require risk assessment and the constant monitoring of our own bodies and our loved ones to see if those gatherings were dangerous.

In the midst of trying to manage so much, our creativity and imagination have been switched off. Our survival instincts are on full throttle.

It’s not until we reactivate our imaginations that we will be able to reimagine what life can be. It’s not until we access our creativity that we will be able to switch from being defensive about all the changes to seeing those challenges as invitations to experience a completely new way of life.

I remember the times when a letter of acceptance to college, a summer program, and a scholarship to teach overseas came in the mail. My heart started racing and my breath shortened because this was a doorway leading to a completely new experience.

So too is this time and this place a doorway, not a closed door. The question is will we step through to create a new scene, a new chapter, and a new story of what it means to be family and community together?

On Being a Spiritual Director for a Year

 

This week the pictures began to pop up on my social media feeds reminding me that it was just a year ago that I was commissioned as a spiritual director after a two-year certification program at Lutheran Southern Seminary. I was shocked to realize that it had only been a year since our last intensive when I had a baby in tow learning about the desert fathers and mothers for the last time in that kind of setting. Last June, I remember the greetings and the celebrations of being together. I remember everyone being surprised at the baby in my arms because the last time we had gathered I had been carrying her within me. It isn’t surprising then that this baby almost a year to the date would choose this week to finish nursing. Her whole life has been inextricably tied to this journey to become a spiritual director.

As I was looking back at pictures, I found myself also looking back at our coursework. The study of men and women who were looking for a deeper relationship with the Divine, not in search of answers but in search of wholeness. My journey was the same. I wanted to know more about what I didn’t know. I wanted to know more about how to walk intentionally and purposefully with people who were looking for healing and hope. I wanted to know more about this Divine breath that resides within my lungs.

Over the course of reflection, I looked back at the monastic daily prayer schedule. As I looked over the times, I looked at my phone calendar and realized, the times of prayer are awfully close to the times I have fed our baby over the last year. Perhaps there is something beyond coincidence to those parallel schedules. Perhaps much like an infant needs nourishment throughout the day, so too do our souls.

Perhaps there is something to humbling ourselves throughout the day remembering that we are not in control and we do not have the answers that provide our souls the nutrients they need to keep going. And perhaps after we have drawn close to the Divine, we find that the refreshment brings us much needed rest and peace.

May we listen to the cries of hunger from our souls and pause to give our souls nourishment throughout the day.