In Threes

We did it again. We hit a triple major transition all at once and we are still in the middle of it.

Third time now, after ten years of marriage, and I’m counting the summer we got married as one of those super transitions. 

Something that has been going on this time around is the feeling that I’m behind. Behind what, I’m not quite sure. It feels like it is the end of the summer, somehow, and I have to keep reminding myself that it is still the beginning of July. I think it has some to do with missing the cadence of Annual Conference, and that mom and dad have been living with us since the beginning of june, so June was soooooo huge that it felt like the whole summer. It wasn’t. I still have all of July to get my feet under me before I have my third year intro to RiOM but it still… still feels full. 

I’m having to remind myself that it’s still beginning. That the expectations here are different than my last appointment. I’m learning the cadence and the feel and honestly I haven’t had my first sunday yet. 

Sunrise walks in the neighborhood

So in the remembering, I’ve been taking walks. I’ve been learning grocery stores (some of which I’ve shopped at before). I’ve been getting things set up in my house and figuring out what goes where and what is still packed and what I might end up storing in the guest room when my guests get their new house at the end of the month. 

I guess it’s made this transition weightier, because my dad retired and my parents are moving up to live in the same state as we are, an hour up the road. And so they are in the middle of a massive transition that is taking two months, essentially, because they don’t close on their house until the end of the month. 

It’s been good. Full. And good. 

This year is is going to feel so different than last year. I wonder in a few years if I will remember much about salisbury besides yoga, having shingles, and that blasted staircase. Good things happed there. I loved our creek in our back yard and our next door neighbor was wonderfully welcoming with her back yard. But half the time we lived there we were in the middle of lockdown. More strict than most of our neighbors because not enough of our neighbors were strict enough. 

So I think that’s part of why I’m so ready for this transition. I am ready to change. I want to change from what our last year and a half felt like. The memories of that house will fade, and we will learn in our new walls, with our new windows, and on our new porch, in our house that is nearly as old as my grandfather. 

And in the midst of the change we will learn our new church, and set new rhythms for our family where I am doing the work and my husband is caring for the kids. And we will celebrate that our kids play with our new neighbors. And the welcome continues. 

settling in to the new office

Chronic Improvements

I didn’t really realize it until this week… but I’m feeling better. 

Yesterday on my walk, I needed to do a road stretch where someone was parked over the sidewalk, and so I sprinted down the road, far past where I they were. I ran, reminding my shoulders to relax, to hold my stride in my core, to listen to the beat of the violin, to shake my wrists loose, and to breathe deep.* 

And it felt good, even when my chest began to grow tight from the exertion of it. My toes hot. When I stopped I felt so slow, but I didn’t want to be sore today, so instead I kept my quick walk pace home. I can feel the sprint in my shins, even so. 

But here’s the thing. That didn’t feel good a couple months ago. 

I didn’t realize how chronic my health had gotten until I got out of it. 

Most of the fall and winter I was struggling to have any energy at all. I was tired, worn thin, exhausted, depleted, weary. And yes, there was a pandemic raging outside my door, which didn’t make anything any better. But also, I was bleeding a coke can’s worth of cycle blood for five days every three weeks. I looked healthy. But I couldn’t manage a day without a nap and a full night’s sleep. 

Nothing helped my bleeding. Not even the special drugs that are supposed to stop bleeding, they only gave me migraines. Not rest, not ibuprofen, not switching up my thyroid levels, not avoiding alcohol, not adding meat, not avoiding stress, not putting my feet up. Nothing. 

So I had an ablation (after an aborted one) and I bled for a month straight. 

It’s stopped, for now. I’ve healed from my ablation. 

I’m still waiting to know if I’ll bleed again. I’m really hoping it won’t start back in the middle of a sermon or our trip to my sister’s wedding, but it really is a wait and see kind of thing.

But now, I’ve got the energy to face it. The two years of bleeding over a cup every three weeks have come to a close, and my body is thanking me for it. I’m feeling more like dancing, and running, and stretching, and balancing, and working again. 

There are a lot of changes on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to them, while also trying to enjoy and appreciate the slow moments where I can be present right now.

I listen to my younger daughter wake up singing.

I watch my daughters dance.

I listen to my elder daughter read me the entirety of a new book, words sounded out and everything. 

I hold my husband as we prepare to trade places, to switch some of our roles but we aren’t sure how much of which ones quite yet. 

And so I’m grateful that I have a month of feeling good before we change everything. 

*After writing this, I realized that I was referencing a conversation I listened to last week on Finding Our Way between Prentis Hemphill and Vanessa Rochelle Lewis about bodies and freedom and even, yes, running because of the freedom of it without having to be perfect before you begin. I’m thankful for the voices of people who are teaching me about so many kinds of liberation that I can participate in and contribute to. Me running a bit isn’t about my freedom, it’s about the freedom of the Black teenage boy swinging at the park today saying: wheee.

Readings for Christmas and Epiphany

Christmas isn’t over yet. We will be reading these each night as a family. All scripture from CEB, all prayers original and by me.

December 25: Christmas Day (1)

Luke 2:1-20 

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. (CEB)

Christ, Jesus, be born in us today. Fill us with wonder and glory. Show us in our fear that we can still be amazed at your Good News. Amen. 

December 26 (Christmas 2)

John 1:1-3a

In the beginning was the Word

    and the Word was with God

    and the Word was God.

The Word was with God in the beginning. 

Everything came into being through the Word,

    and without the Word

    nothing came into being. (CEB)

Creating Word, pull us into being in you, so that we can fully exist. Amen. 

December 27 (Christmas 3)

John 1:3b-5

What came into being

   through the Word was life, 

    and the life was the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (CEB)

Living Word, shine your light on us so we can see your love. Amen.

December 28 (Christmas 4)

John 1:14

The Word became flesh

    and made his home among us.

We have seen his glory,

    glory like that of a father’s only son,

        full of grace and truth. (CEB)

Human Word, live among us so that we can see your truth. Amen. 

December 29 (Christmas 5)

Luke 2:29-32

“Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,

   because my eyes have seen your salvation.

You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.

It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles

    and a glory for your people Israel.” (CEB)

Saving God, give us rest, we are so tired. We need your help. Amen.  

December 30 (Christmas 6)

Jeremiah 31:8

I’m going to bring them back from the north;

    I will gather them from the ends of the earth.

Among them will be the blind and the disabled,

    expectant mothers and those in labor;

        a great throng will return here. (CEB)

Gathering God, we are so far apart. We long to be together. Be present with us while we wait to gather in your presence. Amen. 

December 31 (Christmas 7)

Jeremiah 31:9a

With tears of joy they will come;

    while they pray, I will bring them back.

I will lead them by quiet streams

    and on smooth paths so they don’t stumble. (CEB)

Guiding God, let us know that our feelings are valuable, and that you honor our tears as we wait for you to bring us together. Amen.

January 1 (Christmas 8)

Isaiah 63:8-9

God said, “Truly, they are my people,

    children who won’t do what is wrong.”

    God became their savior.

During all their distress, God also was distressed,

    so a messenger who served him saved them.

In love and mercy God redeemed them,

    lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times. (CEB)

God of old and new, be with us in hard times. Carry us, make us yours. Amen. 

January 2 (Christmas 9)

Matthew 2:13-15 

When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt. (CEB)

God of refuge, be with refugees who flee for their lives. Move us to prepare safe places for them as you prepared for Jesus’ family when he was a child. Amen.  

January 3 (Christmas 10)

Matthew 2:18

A voice was heard in Ramah,

    weeping and much grieving.

        Rachel weeping for her children,

            and she did not want to be comforted,

                because they were no more. (CEB)

God of sadness, grieve with us when we learn of unjust death. Help us change the world so that mothers no longer lose their children from violence, unnecessary disease, and hunger. Amen. 

January 4 (Christmas 11)

Matthew 2:19-21

After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. (CEB)

God of protection, bring us home to you, make us a home wherever we are. Amen. 

January 5 (Christmas 12)

Isaiah 60:1-3 

Arise! Shine! Your light has come;

    the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.

Though darkness covers the earth

    and gloom the nations,

    the Lord will shine upon you;

    God’s glory will appear over you.

Nations will come to your light

    and kings to your dawning radiance. (CEB)

God of Christmas, with your birth your dawn approaches, shine your light through us. Amen.

January 6 Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

        by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,

            because from you will come one who governs,

            who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route. (CEB)

King Jesus, reveal our lies and false words, so that in truth and honesty we honor you. Amen. 

Giving Tuesday for Advent Week One

Advent may very well by my favorite season, and this year I know it will be especially hard for me to celebrate in the midst of everything being uncertain and uncomfortable and unknown. So I decided to create a daily liturgy for my family, with short scriptures and prayers that are words that my kids are familiar with. And, in the spirit of we’re all doing hard things, and can’t someone help, I’m sharing them here (and on my instagram).

One of the reasons is that I remember reading some of these scriptures when I was a child, for advent. The very scent of a lit match is a holy moment for me, and I want to create that same space for my children.

So, here is what I am teaching my kids:
Peace that tends to necessary work and cultivates space for flourishing life.
Love that surprises expectations and reconciles with enemies.
Joy that embraces those who sorrow and creates possibility.
Hope that recognizes the current situation and imagines generative futures.

I’m wondering if one of the ways that I can comfort my children is in saying that I am worried, disappointed, and frustrated, too. And that our emotions and feelings and thoughts are all valid and true and important. And that the way through isn’t to cover these things up, but to move through them.

This feels like work that we can actually sink our teeth into.

And I’m working to have the scriptures that I’ve chosen do some of this work. Because the gift of scripture is that anger, frustration, fury, disappointment, sadness, grief, joy, happiness, longing, and fulfillment all exist in this book breathed into being through a complicated past.

Life is complicated now. So it’s helpful to know that complications are not new.

If you want to follow along with our family, here are the readings and prayers for this week. (all scripture translations are from the Common English Bible translation)

Advent Week 1
December 1
Isaiah 2:4 CEB
God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war. (CEB)

God of peace, teach us how to plant peace
in the midst of conflict.
Show us how to grow healing, forgiveness,
and love in the world around us. Amen.

December 2
Jeremiah 33:15-16 CEB
In those days and at that time,
I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line,
who will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days, Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
And this is what he will be called:
The Lord Is Our Righteousness. (CEB)

God of direction, help us learn when we are wrong.
Point us towards the difference
between winning and living in justice. Amen.

December 3
Psalm 25:4-5 CEB
Make your ways known to me, Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
because you are the God who saves me.
I put my hope in you all day long. (CEB)

God of truth, guide us towards you in all that we do.
Save us from the lies that work so hard
to keep us from you and your love.
We want to learn, God, teach us. Amen.

December 4
Psalm 80:4-5 CEB
Lord God of heavenly forces,
how long will you fume against your people’s prayer?
You’ve fed them bread made of tears;
you’ve given them tears to drink three times over! (CEB)

God of comfort, you are with us when we are sad.
Help us feel you in the midst of our tears. Amen.

December 5
Psalm 80:6-7 CEB
You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors;
our enemies make fun of us.
Restore us, God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine so that we can be saved! (CEB)

God of healing, restore us when we are broken,
shield us when others laugh at us,
and help us see ways you are working
to mend the world. Amen.

I’ll post the next one on saturday.

Good Enough

Its a little meta, but I am being good enough at having grace for myself. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of Kate Bowler’s Podcast, Everything Happens and her main point is that there’s no winning at life. She asks: what happens when you can’t “live your best life now” and really does a great job at deflating that concept in the first place. 

It’s really healthy for me to listen to. 

Because I’m not what I considered to be an over-achiever, and I really didn’t think that I was obsessed with perfection or anything, but because I picked up some messages along the way that excellence was the only measuring tool for accomplishments, and I also keep thinking I have to accomplish something or my life isn’t worth something.

Which is all shit, by the way.

I don’t need to publish a book in order to be a full person. 

I don’t need a raise to show that my call to ministry is valid. 

I don’t need to cook a particular diet of food to prove that I understand nutrition and all it’s facets, and I don’t have to get every new recipe perfect the first time I try it. 

I don’t need to spend at least three hours a day outside with my kids a day to be a good parent. 

I don’t need to attend every protest in a hundred mile radius to be a good advocate for justice.

I don’t need to lose those ten or fifteen pounds that I lost when I was significantly unhealthy and unable to care for my body well. (That wasn’t a healthy body… it just looked like it could have been. Or maybe what normative/opressive beauty norms say are right.)

I don’t need to have sex every night with my husband to be in a healthy, committed, romantic relationship with him.

I don’t need to keep up with twenty people and know how they are to the depths of their souls in order to have friendships and connections with my community.

Sometimes the pictures are misleading. (Scratch that.) The pictures can only ever show a part. And there are some things that will never be able to be captured in a photo still. 

Life isn’t a series of stills stitched together linearly to describe a progression. 

Life can be cyclical. Life can be dark. Life can be found in the quiet moments. Life can be found in an expression and glance exchanged over the dinner table. 

I think I feel like sometime soon someone is going to ask me what I want to do with my life, and I want to say, this… but… maybe with a particular thing added. But if I add something, it’s not because this, whatever this is, isn’t enough. It will be different. The balance will shift, an exchange will be made, and I will figure out a new pattern with the people I live my life with. 

And I want to begin what ever I start doing with the expectation up front that I am not trying to be perfect, but I am endeavoring to be whole. 

But first, I think I’m going to go eat another cookie and get another sticky hug from Roar.