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“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.

In the Midst of Waiting

This time last year, we found out that our baby girl would be coming about ten days earlier than we expected. I can remember the feeling of panic that washed over me as I thought about having less time to wait on her. Even though we were ready to meet her, I was not ready to undergo another C-section quite yet. I was starting a new job and something about having her in January instead of the first week of February just felt like it was so much sooner.

I can remember the feeling of waiting four years ago when we were in the midst of the Advent season and I was on maternity leave. I was ready to be back in our community and I was ready to be back in the pulpit. I didn’t want to wait. I was impatient.

It’s interesting to me the way this high, holy season works. There are some weeks that seem like they are going so slowly and other weeks where it seems that we are rushing through the week. I find myself in the midst of waiting both impatient and not ready for the Christ Child to come, for God to be among us in the flesh.

For our family, this season of Advent has been one of new beginnings. Four years ago we welcomed our son who played baby Jesus on the last Sunday of Advent and last year we were waiting for our daughter hoping and praying she would continue to grow and that she would stay put. This year, we are chasing her around as she begins to explore her surroundings including the dog bowls and benches and all of her brother’s toys.

It is so easy to be distracted by the waiting and forget that it is in the midst of the waiting that the revelation comes. We are waiting for something more and yet the waiting is the magical, mystical preparation that opens our hearts and our minds to what is to come.

In the Midst of the Messiness

During the day, we don’t take time to clean up the toys that find their way out into the living room and into the dining room and into the kitchen. We try to provide space for the kids to explore and play even when that play results in stepping on legos or cars or both at the same time.

And in the moments when I step on a lego or a car comes crashing into my ankle, I can look at everything around and think I am standing in the midst of messiness. There’s no way this is ever going to get cleaned up or put up or we’re going to find all the pieces to that one puzzle.

When my mind starts to go in that direction, I spot the humus in the baby’s hair and the dried sweet potatoes by her gummy smile and think there’s probably still sweet potatoes in her high chair and I’m going to have to put her in her high chair in the midst of the messiness.

In these moments, my mind can stream towards wishing away this messy stage of life. My mind can start to wander into time traveling to a different season where the house is neat, but the carpet details aren’t a train track and the porch isn’t a race track or the bookshelf a fire rescue scene.

It takes purpose and intention to bring me back here in the midst of the messiness of this stage and this phase realizing that it won’t be again. The nine-month-old won’t have her first Halloween or Thanksgiving or Advent again. The three-year-old won’t be doing a daily countdown to his fourth birthday again skipping some numbers to try and get to the day faster. If the stories from other parents prove true, I will long to be in the midst of the messiness again.

And so I take a deep breath and a big step sitting down in the midst of the messiness. My arm immediately becomes a ramp and my hair a leverage point for the baby to pull herself up to a sitting position so that she can plan her next route to the next item she wants to explore.

Too Sick To Pray

The news of babies been shot as they are in their cars with their families…

I’ve been too sick to pray, Lord
That’s why we ain’t talked in a while
It’s been some of them days, Lord

The news of a Category 5 Hurricane creeping closer…

Never needed You more
I woulda called You before
But I’ve been to sick to pray

The news of two transgender women murdered in SC…

Remember the family, Lord?
I know they will remember You
And all of their prayers, Lord

So much work to still be done…

Well, I reckon that’s all, Lord
That’s all I can think of to say
And thank You, my friend
We’ll be talkin’ again
If I’m not too sick to pray

First Day of School

As we count down the days to our three-year-old’s first day of school, I find myself digging through drawers trying to make sure that we have enough shirt/short combos for the five day week. Next, we look for shoes that fit and stay on his feet and water bottles that don’t leak.

In the midst of the preparation, there is one thing that never crosses my mind: that I would take my child to school and not pick him up.

That’s what happened to families yesterday in Mississippi. The first big raid was organized and implemented on the first day of school, which led children to being left at school alone. Again parents and children being separated. Again fear falling on the shoulders of children. These children ranged in ages from 4 to age 15. Thankfully community members stepped up to provide food and shelter to these children.

Political banter and rhetoric are swirling in the air creating a cloud of confusion about what is real and what is not. Let us not be confused. Let our vision not be clouded to what is happening to children in our country. Let us not forget that while this is happening, we all are playing a part as we continue to separate parents and children.

Surprise Springs Up

This year in the midst of our irises springing up out of the ground, we had quite a surprise. I am not much of a gardener, so the fact that these irises that I transplanted four years ago bloom every year is still astounding to me. To have another bloom was remarkable. At first, I wondered if maybe I had forgotten this burst of red in the midst of the flowy purple and white from previous years, but then I was sure this was the first time I had seen this flower bloom.

That means that mixed into the iris bulbs, there was this surprise waiting all these years.

It makes me thinks of the many,  many conversations I have with people who are doing right and good work to try to offer hope and healing in the midst of the dissidence and discontent that surrounds us. There questions and laments of “Why can’t I see anything change?” remind me that the work that we see is often only after years of planting, rooting, and weeding out.

In fact, we may never see the bright, red blooms of the work that we have toiled and sweated over. We might never smell the surprise fragrant of new life, but someone will. Someone will see that surprise spring up and know that someone else has worked diligently and faithfully to produce something beautiful.

Thanks be to God that we cannot see the whole story.