Cheering

Since before I was a year old, I have been a fan of the Duke Blue Devils and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Mom and Dad took me to a Blue Devil football game the fall I was still at Duke while Dad was in his last year, and I was so cute, they put me on the TV broadcast. I returned to the same stadium twenty-seven years later to see the Devils face off against the Tide. It was not an even match.

I know that parent’s preferences have a strong controlling factor on determining what teams kids will root for, and so I know that some of my childhood memories of rooting for a particular team are due in large part to the teams that my parents cheered for. But it is also interesting that I have not seen the need to shift my allegiances as I have become an adult. The teams that my parents cheered for were important because they had attended those schools, and I even was able to add my own education to my cheering influence when I went to Duke for Seminary.

While I am glad that both of the teams that I root for, the Tide and the Devils, are currently at the top of their respective fields (at least in football and basketball, respectively) I’ve stuck with them through times when they were not the national champions. Until recently, the Duke Football team wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in the Sahara at a winning season, but I still rooted for them.

Cheering for the Crimson Tide (and against Auburn) influenced my favorite and least favorite colors growing up. I still don’t really like orange all that much, and it was one of the most disappointing days while studying Art and Color to learn that orange and blue were opposites on the color wheel and so meant to be together. So I just avoid orange, still. (Though I have learned to cheer for anyone in the SEC when they’re playing against someone outside of conference, even Auburn.) And UNC blue is not Sky Blue, even though they try to claim it.

I will continue to share my love of celebrating sports and cheering for those who play them with my children. I don’t really think I have a choice, since my husband loves sports possibly more than I do. We each bring something different to our understanding of the joy of the game, but what we bring fills out our experience even more.

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Becoming Thin

I am nine months pregnant.

Complete strangers have zero compunction in asking me whether I’m having a boy or a girl… they don’t ask if I’m expecting anymore, they assume I am. It’s ok, I am, I’m housing our next generation in my body, and I am physically reminded of it nearly every moment.

I have increased.

My normal clothes stopped fitting in July, I misjudge distances between my growing self and doors, I sway with each step (I won’t deign to call it waddling), and I consciously step so that I don’t lose my balance with the shift in my weight.

I am growing a child.

As I play host to one child, I am still tending to my energetic two year old day in and day out. For nearly a year and a half, she has been my primary focus of care. I stepped away from my chosen career and turned the majority of my focus on her, my husband, and our respective relationships. My field of influence has shrunk significantly. I went from leading a weekly worship service of three hundred to partnering in a family of three.

My life has narrowed.

My friend and acquaintance circles have shrunk, conversations I have with those outside my home are rare, and I am just as likely to discuss my daughter’s eating habits as I am to discuss current events. I spend more time reading for pleasure than I have in the past, but I have also begun to memorize entire movies and seasons of television shows that my daughter enjoys.

I have bared my life down to essentials.

I have distilled what is possible into what is needful and necessary. In part, this is because I am physically slower. I need to rest far more often than I had become accustomed to. I have more limits on my body right now because of how my daughter is taking up the space provided for her. Some weeks I consider it a grand accomplishment to purchase and prepare our family meals.

I am becoming thin.

Not in girth, obviously, but in preparation for ushering a new life into this world.

There is a concept in Celtic Christian theology called a Thin Place. It is where the veil between the world and the Kingdom of God is the most transparent. It is where God and the world meet. You can sense one in a cathedral or in the wilderness. It is where the holy breaks into the mundane. It is where wonder and awe inspire people to worship. It is where the soul sings. Screen Shot 2017-12-19 at 9.16.09 a

I am preparing to create a thin place.

When my daughter is born, I will be ushering her into this world. Parts of my body will thin and move out of the way and my womb will work incredibly hard and labor to bring a new child into existence. Her soul will enter this world through our partnering and my family will expand our love to welcome her into our lives. We will witness an incredible act of God in the midst of the blood and sweat and tears of delivering a child. We will be spectators to the extraordinary as our daughter breathes her first breath.

Pain and joy are inextricably linked in childbirth, as I will undertake incredibly hard work in order to meet this person that I have been carrying in my own flesh for nine months.

That day is coming soon. But it is not yet here. For now, I continue to live my narrow life where I focus on essentials so that when the day comes to create a thin place, every part of me is ready to be fully present for meeting our daughter for the first time.

Childhood Memories of Dad

One morning I was working on my sermon for Sunday. It especially struck me this time how I learned my basic sermon construction and delivery far before I ever considered preaching on a regular basis. I learned how I like to deliver sermons from the way that my father delivers sermons.

Unlike my father, who one Christmas Eve took a Post-It note with six words on it to the pulpit for his sermon notes, I need to write out the whole manuscript of what I want to say, word for word, in order to do my best work, even if I don’t read the text word for word once I get in front of people. However, it was my father who taught me by his example of interweaving storytelling and scripture reading along with the exegetical work necessary to apply the scripture to the lives of the people who listen. It is work that draws the hearer into the narrative, and when I get it right, I know that it is because the Spirit is working through me, the same way that I’ve seen the Spirit work through Dad in some tough places.

Once he preached about Moses who had to hold his staff up while the Israelite army was fighting, if the staff lowered, the army began to lose. Moses has two of his most supportive and trusted leaders come and hold his arms up so that the army can win the day.

Dad got a limb from a tree outside, and preached the entire sermon with it over his head, asking two of his leaders who were supporting him in the midst of conflict to come hold his arms while he continued to speak. He delivered that sermon over twenty years ago, and I still remember the vision of him with his arms raised in the chancel area of that sanctuary.

The week before Christmas I made a batch of Santa’s Favorites, the chocolate chip oatmeal walnut cookies that are our family’s specialty. My mom adapted the recipe to perfection and it has carried over into vegan brilliance now that we bake that way. These are the cookies that are our personal Santa’s favorite, our Santa being our father. He always wrote back to us after we left him cookies and a note on Christmas Eve, even after we knew we were playing pretend. Our Santa, every Christmas morning, leaves a Santa Apple for every person who is in the house. I know that dad worked hard to perfect the Santa Apples, carefully placing each individual element to make a fun creation. I’ve continued the tradition in our home, even before we had children; it’s a little like Dad is here even when he is a few states away.

We eat Santa’s Favorites at other times of the year, too. They make excellent river cookies. One of my dad’s favorite things to do is to go canoeing. He took both my sister and I canoeing out on the river throughout our childhood, teaching us how to read the water and plan ahead for obstacles downstream. He is an excellent paddler, able to brave rapids in a canoe that I would never dare without a guide. I get part of my love for the outdoors from dad, in part because he shared his joy and excitement with us as he taught us the names of trees and how different birds sounded as they echoed through the woods.

I learned how to be brave and caring from my father, as he navigated the rapids of rivers and twists and turns of ministry. I learned that you can’t always avoid the rough spots, but you can enter the bend and paddle through it in a way that gets you out the other side in one piece. Maybe with a little water in the boat, but still sound. It’s not always easy, but the journey and excitement are worth it.

Childhood Memories of Momma

I was sewing this morning and as I was clipping stray threads and pausing to realign seam edges and move pins out of the way, I remembered the sounds of my mother doing the same thing, sitting at the sewing machine using the foot pedal to control the cadence of the whir of the needle as it moved along the path of fabric she was guiding between her hands. She made great dresses and costumes for my sister and I as we grew up, fitting them perfectly to us. And she taught me how to sew, enough so that I can look at a schematic and spool a bobbin and troubleshoot why my needle isn’t pulling thread.

I was cooking this afternoon and as I threw some things in a skillet and started them sizzling, I remember my mother working to prepare us good food every day, day in and day out. We rarely ate out when I was a child. I say that, and you might think, oh, you mean, at a fancy restaurant. No, we might have gone to a Burger King once a month and that counted as the time we ate out that month. Now, part of that is because momma was and continues to be a master chef, part of it was because of tight budgets and it is way cheaper to cook at home than let someone else prepare your food, and part of it is because for a time there, the closest restaurant worth eating at was thirty minutes away. (Not much unlike our current situation.)

I was praying with my daughter last night and as I joined her in her jubilant shout out of names of people she loves, I remember the nights we gathered to pray using the Pockets prayer guide. We began to pray each night, never a memorized prayer, but a prayer that encompassed more than our selves or our situation. Later, as we grew up, we would learn to keep a prayer journal and be the first to volunteer to pray out loud or read scripture in our Sunday School classes. Much of that has to do with how my mother and father raised us to pray with confidence when we were little. So I’m starting my daughter on a similar path; now she asks to pray each night at bedtime.

I was singing with my daughter in the car on the way to preschool today and as we sang “Oh-oh” and “Horse” and “Bear” (her titles, not the proper names), I remembered my mother singing with us as we rode in the car. First we started on silly songs, and we still love and know some of those silly songs about camels and ghosts and car rides, and later we learned songs together that we could sing in church, with motions and everything. I remember the silly songs she taught our girl scout troop, leading us in campfire songs about flannel sheets and singing our prayers over meals.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 3.10.58 pI love that I have carried lessons that my mother taught through her presence and moving through her world so that I can be a good mother to my daughter (soon to be daughters). I love that I can call her and check a gut feeling that I am having and know that my decision is on the right path. I love that I can share the love that I get from my mother with my family and others around me. I love my momma.

Childhood Neighborhood

Lancaster Drive. Ahh, such memories. I remember moving in to our new house, sitting on carpet remnants as mom and dad finished supervising renovations so that we could move out of our rental on Devonshire. (Fingers!)

There was an elementary school just down the road where we went to play on the playground, gliding down the hot silver slide in the summertime, watching the cracks in the mud as we crossed the dried puddles back to the shortcut through the woods. We went to the flagpole at the school once a week to pick up the girls in our Scout Troop so we could go back to the house for our Tuesday meeting.

Tadpoles grew in the gutter puddles after heavy rains and I’m pretty sure I collected a few to see how they would grow. I don’t remember them growing.

An ice cream truck blared it’s music down our road and the idiot driving stopped to ask if I wanted any treats, while I covered my ears hoping he would go away and pass me as fast as possible.

I ran away down to the creek once, because I was so angry as only a nine year old can get, but made sure I packed peanut butter cheese crackers and my favorite doll since I was going to be away forever.

Shortly after we moved in, a family bought the house five houses down and diagonally across from us, and we found our friends in the Fishers. There was a girl for my sister to play with, and a boy just my age for me to run around with. Owen was my first crush, and I never quite got over my love of gangly tall boys. (My husband became one after we were married for a year… extra treats.) They had a pool, so we got to swim during the summer. Owen defended us against the boy next door, Randy, who stole our dolls and wouldn’t give them back.

Dad and Granddaddy built a deck up on the ridge behind our house and strung it with happy lights so we could play outside and see across our whole subdivision. They got it done just in time to celebrate Norris and Janet’s sixtieth birthday, when we had all their friends over to wish them well.

I got my first own room in that house, looking out my window at the tree in our front yard, its trunk divided into three main parts as it stood and guarded the hill. I also got my first camera, where I took artistic photos of the macadam driveway and that tree.

I don’t much remember many other folks who lived around us, either in good ways or bad, though our left door neighbor was friendly even though she had two angry German Shepherds. I was deathly afraid of dogs, and so we didn’t go up to her house very often. We even stayed away from her fence. She also was the host of our first experience with a house fire; she tried to run pillows in her dryer, and they caught flame. Her house was ok afterwards, but we could see the flame from the far end of our hallway.  I remember my sister telling me she wanted to stay as far from the flame as possible, so we huddled there until mom came to find us and take us outside, just in case.

It is the house I learned independence in. I hit the beginning stages of puberty there. It is the only house I’ve lived in that my family owned. It is the only house I miss.