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Entering Eastertide: Do you hear what I hear?

NPR recently reported on the way lockdown and limited mobility impacted the natural world. One of the most poignant observations was:

We can hear subtlety of life around us that we haven’t heard in a long, long time.

Maybe it’s because we have the time to notice sounds that have been all around us but have been overshadowed by the constant to-do list running through our minds. Maybe it’s because there isn’t as much sound from cars and buses that are drowning out the natural sounds.

Whatever it is, we are hearing the world around us a little more clearly. We are hearing the sound of birds and bugs and frogs. For me, those sounds remind me of the spring and summer at my parents’ house out in the boondocks where we would spend hours spitting watermelon seeds over the porch railing and catching lightning bugs in the front year.

As I listen, it reminds me of the joys of having nowhere to go. I breathe a deep breath of gratitude that maybe this is what our four-year-old will remember too. As we listen to the calls of the birds in the morning and as we read stories at night, maybe we are growing something in him during these strange times that he will remember later on when the world gets noisy and busy again.

Entering Eastertide: Going Back

On Saturday, we walked to the park and playground where we have gone innumerable times with all of our kids. The playground still isn’t opened, but the park is opened for walking and moving activities. I thought it would be a way to “return to normal.” It wasn’t. It was strange.

The playground equipment still had yellow caution around it. There was a school group gathering in the parking lot for some sort of end of the year drive-by parade. The kind that have become the way we celebrate birthdays and big occasions.

After we had done one loop around the park, we kept moving and headed home, not lingering or playing there. It was nice to have an option for our walk that wasn’t just a neighborhood loop, but it didn’t remind me of the way things used to be. It reminded me of how different things are.

I can understand the desire to do the things we used to do. I can understand wanting to do things that we normally do in the summer and on holidays. Some of these things can be done, but they can’t be done without a certain amount of risk involved. This is a great article for deciding which risks to take and what level of risk the activity you are considering is.

We can’t pretend that we aren’t living with a deadly virus. We can choose activities that meditate the risk of spreading and contracting that virus for ourselves and for others.

There’s no going back. There’s only learning to live with the virus and the risk it brings with it.

Entering Eastertide: After the Rain

Even in the midst of this week’s storm, we have been able to sneak in our morning walk. Yesterday as we were walking, I was struck by the brightness of blooms. The way that they were glistening with the previous night’s rain only drew me to them more.

Have you ever woken up in the morning after a tough night that was filled with tears trying to hide the puffiness around your eyes? Trying to hide the fact that last night was a tough night?

I don’t know why, but I have always tried to hide the effects of crying. Maybe it’s because as a professional woman I didn’t want to be considered too emotional? Maybe it was because crying is an intensely vulnerable thing? Maybe it’s because at least when I cry, it isn’t one single tear, but a messy all-in experience?

As I walking yesterday after the rain, I felt tears streaming down my face. There was something about this after the rain world that gave me hope. It made me think that after the storm we are encountering there might just be some beautiful blooming in all of us. It made me hope that we would always appreciate a beautiful flower that can stop us in mid-stride drawing us in with its uniqueness and complexity.

These last three months, I have cried much more often for you and for us. For the lives lost and the plans canceled. I’ve cried for the doctors and the nurses and the scientists. I’ve cried for our kids and our grandparents. I’ve cried because there are no words and too many words. I’ve cried because I’m exhausted and everyone is exhausted.

After those tears, for the first maybe ever in my life, I haven’t gotten up and tried to hide the puffy eyes and cheeks. I’ve let me face and soul glisten in the rain of those tears showing that something beautiful is growing.

Entering Eastertide: A New Morning

Here we are starting another week in this strange new life. The aspect of this new living that has been so surprising to me is how quickly we have adapted. I now keep masks and masks or some kind of covering for the kids in my car on the rare occasion we drive through to pick something up.

My mornings begin earlier than my children in order to try to get some work done and to try to have an open mind and space to be attentive to their learning and needs for the rest of the morning. My days end later trying to think ahead and get a little more work done while they rest.

So many mornings I am brought back to the mornings of rushing to get everyone ready to get to school and get to the office and the constant strain of hurrying from one place to another. While there are certainly new and different strains, the constant going has left. Over the last three months, I have used only one tank of gas.

As I look at our four-year-old and our fifteen-month-old I often wonder what these months are instilling in them. Maybe that having a sanctuary away from the rest of the world is important? Maybe that work and the way we do work is ever-shifting and actually can be adjusted much more than systems and leadership might like to think? Maybe that time with family is non-negotiable?

I don’t know in what ways this time will ground them and their view of life and what is important, but I know that my mind has shifted. There are so many things I thought I needed that I simply don’t. There are so many things that worried me and kept me up at night that just aren’t worth the energy.

What is important is being refined each new day we discover and create and live together in this new life. I can’t wait to see what day’s revelation will be.

Entering Eastertide: Slowing Down

One of our four-year-old’s activities yesterday was to do a movement activity of the life cycle of a butterfly slow and then fast. He loved it. He especially loved demonstrating just how slowly he could move. I found myself wanting to speed him up. There were other activities to get to. He wouldn’t move until he had gone just as slowly as he could.

It made me think of all the mornings I would ask him to hurry up as we were trying to get on shoes, gather lunches and backpacks, and get out the door.  Now, we don’t have to hurry. Now, we can slow down and yet I still find myself wanting to hurry the day along.

I’m not alone. I know there are so many people who want to hurry along this idea of staying at home. I know there are so many who want to “get back to normal”. Some days it even feels like we are stuck in a slow-motion version of a life we used to live.

But what if we are trying to hurry back to what was because there is a piece of us that knows that life we used to live isn’t going to be there anymore? The virus hasn’t disappeared nor the risk of becoming sick. What if in our hurry we are trying to convince ourselves that the massive amount of change and grief we have experienced isn’t there?

As I watched his four-year-old body moving from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, I thought yeah I would like to fly and be free right now. But you can’t become a butterfly without the stillness and silence of the chrysalis. New life is coming, but metamorphosis takes time.

May Creator God grant your stillness and peace during this transformative Eastertide.

“Is it light/dark?”

After school as the sun begins to set and the day is coming to a close, our four-year-old asks, “Is it light/dark yet?” He’s asking if the time is coming where it will be time to get ready for bed and rest. Most of us call it an evening. If we are feeling poetic, we might call it twilight.

But I’m partial to light/dark, especially this time of year. This time of ordinary times wedged in between the Light of the World coming during Advent and the darkness that reminds us of our dustiness during Lent. Yes, this is light/dark.

And perhaps, too, we are light/dark. Capable of both spreading love and hope and healing as well as hate and loneliness and hurt. Yes, we are light/dark.

As we sit in the season waiting for the darkness while basking in the light, maybe we should take the opportunity to ask ourselves, “Did I spread more light or dark today?”

And then get ready and go to sleep hoping and praying for the light to come again and again and again.

Losing Senses

Last month, I came down with a sinus infection and ear infection. I have never had a sinus infection and the last ear infection I had was my first year of teaching thirteen years ago. When I got to the doctor, he said, “Wow you are just getting no air through your nostrils.” I was in a constant cycle of vitamins and medicines and nose blowing, so it didn’t register until that moment that I had lost three senses: smell, taste, and hearing.

To be without three of my five senses was disorienting, to say the least. When I laid down on my left side, I literally couldn’t hear anything. It felt like I was in a wind tunnel of white noise. I couldn’t hear the kids. I couldn’t hear my partner when he came to check on me. It was so strange. I also couldn’t breathe through my nose so I was having to try to gain enough air through my mouth to rest and recover. I was intaking food in order to give my body energy, but I couldn’t taste any of it. I could kind of tell if it was hot or cold, but even that sense was dulled. Of course, I have been sick before, but I can’t recall a time when I have been sick to the point of having so many of my senses dulled.

Not only was it disorienting, but it was also lonely. I was missing interactions with family and friends not hearing them when they asked a question. Instead of the day being about playing and enjoying time off, my days were rooted to the next medicine dosage and the next time I would need a tissue.

There are other times in our lives when our senses are dulled. Seasons of grief. Seasons of caring for newborns and small children. Seasons of transition. Seasons of caring for a loved one who is sick. In the midst of these seasons, you may feel like you can’t see or taste or smell or feel anything. Your senses are dulled because you have been kicked into survival mode, moving from one thing to another like riding a carousel watching the world blur by. In these seasons, it is so important to step off the carousel and ground ourselves in the here and now. As much as we may want this to be over, it’s the being there that teaches us so much.

I found myself disappointed with not being able to bounce back sooner or get better within a day. I felt like I was missing everything and falling behind with every second. It wasn’t until I took time to ground myself in where I was rather than trying to power through the sickness that my mind and body settled into healing.

I can remember taking a bite and being able to taste the food. I exclaimed: “That tastes good!”  Even now as I take a deep breath through both nostrils, I am grateful. Just this morning I told our four-year-old son: “I hear you,” with appreciation that he didn’t have to repeat himself three more times.

Sometimes it’s not until we lose something that we are able to appreciate it. Sometimes it’s the seasons where our senses have dulled that lead to seasons of such richness because those experiences are laced with gratitude for the very breath we take.

A Year of Less

Today is our baby girl’s first birthday! There is plenty I don’t remember in the blur of breastfeeding and sleeplessness and recovering from a C-section over the past year, but there are lots of things I do remember. I remember the conversation with my partner about whether I would have time to start the practice of Panda Journaling that emphasized gratitude and intentionality in the midst of having a newborn. I can remember the magical book that appeared from my dear friend and fellow podcaster called The Artist’s Way, which helped me see that there are people that cross our paths who are crazy-makers, spreading chaos to thwart our creativity because of their own blocked creativity. I can remember the early mornings and late nights of feedings and pumpings and those all coming back up with the mild reflux.


I can remember the look in her big brother’s eyes as he met her for the first time and the look in her sisters’ eyes as they met her for the first time. I can remember the relief and awe of my partner’s eyes as he helped pull her out amazed that everything was so easy this time around.

 

Over the course of this year, I’ve stored all these memories and moments treasuring them and realizing that these are the moments that are the most important to me. These are the moments that I want more of. I’ve resigned from jobs and boards and commitments this year. It’s been a year of less meetings, less coffee dates, less shopping, less of all the busyness.

This year of less has turned into a year of more. More afternoons chasing a baby to the stairs. More laughter and giggling as our youngest learned to crawl and kiss and tackle her four-year-old brother. It’s been a year of more time with our nine-year-old learning how to be an older sister to a sister. It’s been a year of more baby holding and baby snuggling for our baby-loving twelve-year-old. It’s been a year of more parenting and more coffee and more hoping and praying with my partner for our family and our children. More healing, more love, more hopes and more dreams for our children and making our world a better place for them to grow and learn and thrive.

I can’t wait to see what the next year will hold!

A Year of Rebirth

A word always chooses me at the end of the year and 2019 has been no different. It isn’t that I don’t set intentions or affirmations at the beginning of the calendar year, but rather that by the end of the journey of one more trip around the sun, a word has followed me through the year.

This year has been a year of rebirth.

In January, I accepted a call to pastor Garden of Grace United Church of Christ. It is the first time, I haven’t been baptist in my thirty-four years of life. I accepted that calling while eight months pregnant with our daughter. Starting something new while being so close to having a newborn is kind of the way my calling has always worked. It is something that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. A whispering, a pulling me to something new.

This year I have reclaimed my identity as an evangelical or a re-evangelical, an identity that I have shied away from because of the conservative, fundamental experience as a child. This in and of itself is a rebirth, a joining of my childhood experiences to my expressions and experiences of faith over the past seven years as a clergy member.

The birth of our daughter was a scheduled c-section after our son’s emergency c-section and traumatic birth. I had heard over and over again that the experience of having a planned c-section after an emergency c-section would be healing. To be sure, knowing what was coming and when our daughter was coming was much different than our experience with our son. When we met the team who was going to be with us in the operating room, we recognized a familiar face. It was the lactation consultant who was the first hospital employee we met after the first night of our son’s life that was filled with heel pricks and tears and fears. She was the one who listened and cared for us after such a scary night and she would be the one who was caring for our daughter and me. Funny how things work, isn’t it? Our daughter’s birth was textbook in so many ways. In fact, there were two USC nursing students who were able to observe her birth and experience a c-section for the first time because there was no trauma or fear involved. Sam even got to help the doctor pull her out. This was so healing and so very important to me as a mother.

Two years ago, I accepted a job as an Administrative Assistant in the Academy of Faith and Leadership. This led me to a two-year journey to become certificated as a spiritual director and opened a whole new depth of my calling as a minister and as a pilgrim. I read and learned and healed from so much hurt in my own spiritual journey and I have begun to offer space and sanctuary for others who are also seeking to heal and deepen their own spirituality.

This year has also brought a rebirth to our business. Sam and I started working together again at Harrelson Co and we moved into a new office space, which is reminiscent of our time in Asheville where we worked together. Sam and I met while teaching at the same school so the time that we spent working in separate environments often felt off in some ways. Now we are back to creating and learning and growing together.

Rebirth is never easy. It is painful and awkward. It means revisiting old wounds and learning to walk again. Rebirth always brings new life, transformation, and understanding. Thanks be to God for this year of rebirth.

 

 

In the Midst of Sickness

It took us until September of this first year of our daughter’s of life until our two youngest kids passed sicknesses back and forth. Since September we have passed quite a few sicknesses back and forth in the way that happens when you add another mini human to the family mix.

As these moved back and forth, I found myself in Urgent Care two days after Christmas answering the nurse’s question: “Have you been around anyone who was sick recently?”

“Well,” I answered. “My son had a viral throat infection and then the croup. My daughter has had a double infection and another ear infection and my partner has had a flu-like cold.” The nurse looked at me and smiled, “So you probably just got all of that.”

My official diagnosis was a sinus infection and ear infection with a partially permeated eardrum (who knew you could even do that?).  As the doctor was telling me the medicines he was going to prescribe, I mentioned I was still nursing. He asked me how old our daughter was and I told him that she was eleven months. He then proceeded to tell me that the amoxicillin and other medication that he was prescribing really shouldn’t be taken while breastfeeding. After this, he delivered a lecture explaining there weren’t any benefits to nursing a baby past two weeks and really two months was the max benefit. He mentioned his credentials: he had been in family medicine before he started working at Urgent Care. I nodded and didn’t contest his analysis, but then he pushed and asked me what my plan was for feeding my baby while I took the medicine, waiting for an explanation before he would give me the prescription. Even in the midst of my not feeling well, I could tell that this was an abuse of power. I told him that I would figure it out and he asked, “So you will give her formula?”

At this point, I was not only shocked, but I was also upset. I knew enough to know that although there are medications you can’t take while breastfeeding, amoxicillin wasn’t one of them. In fact, our daughter had just finished a round of amoxicillin for her own ear infection. I explained that I had enough milk saved up hoping that would end the conversation, but he pressed again, “Enough for ten days?”

I answered with a curt, “Yes.”

So much of this experience reminds me of stories I’ve heard of mothers who have been involved in similar pressured conversations where medical professionals overstep the boundaries of their job to care for the mother to use their position of power to influence a mother’s decision on how to feed her baby. This is an abuse of power that isn’t only in the medical profession.

I can remember similar pressured conversations with religious leaders growing up in the midst of conservative evangelicalism where I was forced to answer questions that were inappropriate and way past boundaries that should have been maintained. This abuse of power is called spiritual abuse when it is enacted by a religious leader and one of the experiences that causes so much distrust within a person’s spirit, especially women who have these experiences.

Expertise and experience do not entitle or enable a person to take away the choices or decisions of another person. Expertise and experience without compassion and empathy only serve to cause more harm than good.

The fact that this medical professional took advantage of my vulnerable position of needing medication and used it as an opportunity to not only lecture but demean my ability to decide what is the best way to feed my daughter is unacceptable.

This has to stop in the medical world and in the institutional church.