I Love You

I love you. 

We might not have met yet, but. 

I love you.

I love you because you are made in the image of God. 

God knit you together in the womb of your mother and loved you and said you were very good. Supremely good. God loves you and I am working on learning from God. 

And so, I love you.

God says you are worthy of love. God says you are worthy of friendship and welcome and grace. It is part of your intrinsic being, no matter what you do or say. God loves you and wants you to share that love with those around you, so that you can experience even more the way that God loves you. And I want to keep learning about how God loves. 

As I learn, I love you. 

God is the only one who is perfect. God is the one who gave a perfect son to show us how love can be perfected in life here on earth, and I am working each day to be made perfect in love. I don’t expect to get it right today, tomorrow, or next year, but that doesn’t give me a reason not to work at it right now. I’m trying to love the way God loves. 

Loved, I love you.

If we are strangers, if we have never had the chance to meet and share around a table and celebrate that God loves us the way we are, I hope and pray you would give me a chance to show you how much God loves you by loving you in my own imperfect way. I won’t always get it right. I will make mistakes. I have scars and wounds and memories of times when I didn’t feel loved. 

But, or even because of these things… 

I will love you. 

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Does Spiritual Growth for Parents Pause While Kids Grow?

TL;DR: I invite you and your kids to come on a retreat.

Roar and I have gone to church twice now. It’s a mostly new experience, Rebel was in the nursery for the first year while I was working. Also, what will surprise no parent of more than two children: my two girls are very different. Roar roars. She can roar so loudly my eardrums rattle. (I’ve started facing her towards my bad ear when she cries, so my good ear doesn’t go bad.) She doesn’t always roar, most of the time she’s just making baby noises and trying out her smiles. Even though she’s got lungs to match the angels, I keep her in worship with me. (There’s no nursery, but, she’d stay with me anyway.)

I keep her in worship because I believe it is never too early to let children know they are loved by God. The community reflects God’s love especially when it welcomes children who act like children. Churches are richer when there’s a kid or two or seventeen present. If Roar starts roaring, I do get up and go change her diaper in another room, but then I stand in the back and rock her. As I was rocking her on Sunday, I got smiles from those around me who heard her cooing, they know the value of seeing the face of God reflected in a child.

I am grateful for spaces where I feel welcome to be present with my small children. There seem to be far too many spaces in our culture where kids should be allowed, but aren’t welcomed. It’s kept me more isolated than I need to be. (So is the fact that simply leaving the house can be a production.)

Even in the midst of constantly caring for my two young children, I seek to grow spiritually. I’m going to turn 35 this week, and I don’t want to wait until after I’m 40 to grow deeper in my spiritual development. So I want a space for spiritual reflection and growth with babies welcome. I’m going to lead this retreat. We will create space for messy holiness. The Spirit can speak in many places including both in silence and the squeals of the littlest child.

We will partner together so each participant can have a time of silence and solitude each day (a minimum of half an hour a day), but most of the time we will gather together with our babies and learn together. If you don’t have children, you are also welcome, just know there will be kids there, too.

Spiritual growth doesn’t have to wait until you can be away from your kids for two days. You don’t have to spend an hour a day in your morning quiet time to grow spiritually. Children learn from their parents, a good way to teach them is to show you value their presence even while you retreat.

I’ve not encountered this idea before. Who wants to pilot it with me?

Experienced Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I change houses like some people change favorite jeans. I know how to set up a kitchen in less than a week, and make a new house feel like a home I’ve lived in for years. 

Moving is not all about houses. It is also about leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown. It’s about changing out communities, finding new friends, and learning new places. It’s about losing and gaining things at the same time. 

My favorite moving day story is from when I was sixteen. We were leaving a place we had been for four years that we didn’t really ever feel we could call home. There are various reasons for that, most of them are not my story to tell, but for my own part I was not leaving any friends my age behind. I was glad to be leaving. 

Our driveway was black sand that ingrained itself in the carpet and any other surface it came into contact with. Each time I got into the family van, I would snap my feet together to shake the sand off my feet so that the sand transfer would be as minimal as possible. When I got in the car that final morning, I intentionally did not shake the sand off my feet, because I had run across the passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they do not find welcome or listening ears. I didn’t shake the sand off my feet because I refused to say that the blessing of God’s peace was not present in that place, even if I hadn’t encountered peace while I was there. 

On the last day when we were packed up and the house was clean and empty, we went to have breakfast with a couple that were friends with our family. They pulled out all the stops. Biscuits, eggs, sausage, and this amazing concoction of blueberries with sour cream and brown sugar. Don’t knock it until you try it. June is prime blueberry season in south Georgia. That breakfast was the final good memory to have in a place that didn’t have many other good memories. 

Some moves are like that, a time to leave bad memories behind and move forward into new experiences. Some moves are heartbreaking, leaving behind longtime friends and loved spaces for the unknown. Some moves happen because of graduation or getting a new job or moving closer to family. 

I imagine that my perspective on moving is different than most folks, because I grew up expecting to move, and I chose to work in a profession that expects me to move. I never expected to be in the same place for a very long time. I always wonder where the next place we will live will be, even if that new place and new move is a long ways off. It means that my roots don’t get very deep. But it also means that I am always looking to learn something new about the people I meet. I become more curious each time I find somewhere new. I always know that the blessings of God are present even if I don’t yet know where to look. 

First Tantrum

My daughter threw her first tantrum yesterday. She’s one year and five days old. It was a very simple tantrum: I was cutting her nails, and she didn’t like it. She wanted her hand back, she wanted the nail clippers, she wanted to be free. She also very much needed a nap. And so, she cried. This is the first time that I can think of that she has cried for a reason that didn’t have to do with comfort, fear, or hunger.

She was crying because she couldn’t have what she wanted and she would not be consoled. That’s a tantrum. I’m sure she will learn to step up her game in the future, with leg kicking and fist pounding and so forth. This was simply crying to the point of needing to catch her breath. Which, I have to say, it has been a while since she has cried like this. Before, this kind of cry was just in the carseat, because at the beginning, she hated her carseat.

It would have been very easy to give her what she wanted. I could have given her the nail clippers, let her go off with them, and let her play on her own. But, they are nail clippers. They are sharp. They are dangerous. They are not a toy.

They are what she wanted.

I did not give in to her want.

It was not a good thing. To her at least.

I know better than she does. I know where the dangers are.

I could have been soft in setting those boundaries, just this one time, and let her have what she wanted. But what about the next time?

I had to hold this boundary firm, so that I can be soft in other ways.

Because as she cried, I held her. Even as she twisted out of my grip, I let her stand on her own, and held myself open for her. I never let her have the dangerous thing, I didn’t give into her want, but I did offer something better.

This was our first tantrum. It will not be the last.

Because it was the first, I can say that I have done exactly what I wanted every time my daughter has had a tantrum. You can say those kind of things when you’ve only done them once.

There will be tantrums that I give in to. There will be tantrums that I lose my patience. There will be tantrums that I will do the opposite of what I want to do.

I hope to be soft on myself as I learn this parenting gig alongside my daughter. I hope I can show grace to others who are learning as well. I hope that as we learn, we may continue to live into boundaries that allow us to keep our hearts soft towards our children, and those around us.

Building Family

In about a month, my family is going to go through some significant changes. We are moving to a new place, both my husband and I are getting new jobs, and we are welcoming a baby into our lives. Any one of these things would not be a small thing. Together, they are going to be huge. We are grateful that we are allowed time and space to live into the new identity of parents before we both jump into our new ministries feet first. Not many folks who have so many life changes at once have the kind of support that we have. I am amazed at the number of women and men who have to choose between keeping a job and spending the first few weeks of a newborns life caring for the child. I’m glad the United Methodist church has provisions for leave for new parents. It’s probably not enough, but is much more than what most workers in the States have access to.

Not only are our new churches providing space for grace for us in our transition, our own families are anticipating the new changes and providing good help to us. My parents have come to help pack our house, my in-laws are helping to make sure we have everything we need, and my sister is helping to make sure we all get to the house in one piece (and that I eat like I should). And there will be much more good help from them once our daughter makes her appearance as well.

I really don’t know what I would do without them. We would manage, of course. But my husband and I would be under a considerably larger amount of stress, probably take it out on each other, and our relationship would suffer. That’s why we need support. Because we rely on our relationships with others to build and maintain our own relationship. We are stronger when we work together. We are healthier when we allow others to participate in our lives, choosing not to do things all on our own. And in the midst of it, we have folks who can call us out on our mistakes, our quirks, and our shortsightedness.

I wouldn’t trade my family for any other. We are far from perfect. We have our failings and blind spots and times when we don’t get along. But when it really counts, when I desperately need someone to come and help me, that’s when our love shines through the brightest. We work together to build each other up. We become a new creation in the process.