We are the Clay

I have not read the book, nor have I seen the movie of the same name, and I won’t ever read or watch it.  It is un-Christian and dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs by anyone who considers him or her self to be a Christian.  Here is a review that informs and supports my opinion. It should be your opinion too. Beware.

Okay. This may be a slightly over-the-top paraphrase of a post I recently saw on Facebook, but the gist is definitely the same.  Here’s-my-opinion-about-this-thing-I-freely-admit-to-knowing-nothing-about-and-openly-refuse-to-learn-about-but-I-really-want-you-to-take-me-seriously-so-share-with-your-friends-please?  Right. There was so much wrong with the original post, days later I am still thinking about it and bothered by it so much that I felt compelled to blog about it even though it’s been over a year (I think) since I posted anything here!  Ah, well, there’s nothing like a good agitating Facebook post to get a girl back into the swing of writing.

This particular offending post (or introduction to a post, as the case may be) does not represent the first time I’ve witnessed something like this, though. Unfortunately, it is an appalling and frighteningly common problem I am seeing more and more of these days, not just online, but everywhere. Here’s how the problem usually manifests: A person has all kinds of opinions and beliefs.  That person holds on to those opinions and beliefs for dear life, because they like them. Their opinions and beliefs make them feel some kind of way: powerful? smart? justified? superior? something else? They refuse to give any genuine, open consideration to any resource that might challenge their beliefs and opinions with something they don’t like. They don’t want to be wrong because being wrong is much less satisfying than being  right and feeling powerful, smart, justified, or superior. Being wrong might make them feel unsure, confused, challenged, or angry. Who wants to feel like that?!

The obvious solution to avoiding any risk of potential personal discomfort is to ignore facts, point fingers, discredit those who disagree with them, and avoid the things that frighten or challenge them, all while holding on to their opinions and beliefs for dear life. After all, they are that person’s life raft and reason for living, all wrapped up into one. It’s a good idea to have a posse of fired-up, like-minded people who can help them hold on when they start to feel weak and tired and who will feed them whatever they want to hear so that they can continue to feel powerful, smart, justified, and superior.  Whatever happens, they make sure to be clear that they are doing all of this in the name of Christ, because invoking the name of the Lord when you’re attempting to get other people to see how right you are excuses everything you may be forced to say and/or do in order to be heard and taken seriously, and provides you with a certain level of Constitutional and (mostly) socially-acceptable protection should anything (unintentionally, of course) go awry.

(You *know* I’m being sarcastic here, right? Just checking.)

 

In all seriousness, pride, ego, and self-righteousness are idols we strive to protect when we use the name of Christ as a sword and shield to serve our own selfish purposes. As people of faith, we are called to rise above the idolatry of self in compassionate, loving, humble service of others.  We are called to strive for peace, justice, and reconciliation, and ultimately we are called to bear Christ into the world so that others might come to know him through the Holy Spirit alive and at work in us for the sake of a world (clearly) in need. (Philippians 2)

When our deeply-held beliefs are challenged by a piece of literature, a film, another person–you name it–the Christian is not called to intimidate those around us by using Jesus as a weapon meant to protect ourselves and our interests, or as a “Get out of Jail Free” card to make us feel good about what we are doing and how we are living. Instead, the Christian is called to consider how God might be using our present discomfort to help us grow in faith toward God and in love and service toward one another.  When we truly believe that God is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), we accept that we are works in progress, held in and shaped by the hands of the Creator of the Universe. God the potter has an image of who each of us is being created to be.  We deny the creative work of God in our lives when we refuse to allow ourselves to be shaped and molded into the people God knows us to be through Christ’s death and resurrection.

 

Don’t Worry. She’s Not Like This When You’re Not Around

I experienced a parental rite of passage today as I accompanied my kindergarten-aged daughter and her class on a field trip to the apple orchard. I was excited to see my daughter interact with her friends and her teacher. I was excited to see and experience something new with her today. And then IT happened.

We had only *just* arrived at her classroom to prepare to depart the school and head out on our adventure when my beloved eldest child decided that she wasn’t going into her classroom. “There are too many grown-ups in there”, she said. I tried everything I could think of to get her inside the classroom. Even the teacher asked her to come in, but she refused. I had to threaten to leave the school and not go on the trip at all in order to convince my Precious One to enter the same classroom that she is so eager to go to every morning.

On the bus to the orchard
On the bus to the orchard

Unfortunatley, the morning didn’t improve very much from that point forward. I was hopeful as we enjoyed amiable conversation on the bus ride to the orchard that things would be better. There were moments of sunshine, but there was also A LOT of grumpiness, fussing, pouting, and irritability. I have to admit that it wore me out.

On the Hayride
On the Hayride

At one point, late in the morning, I mentioned to the teacher that I hoped Audrey wasn’t like this at school. Mrs. Z assured me that she is chatty and outgoing, helpful and kind. Then she said the words I have grown to despise. “Don’t worry. She’s not like this when you’re not around.”

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Can I tell you how many times I have heard this about my children, particularly this one, over the past five and a half years? It’s a lot. Now, before you say anything, I’ve also been told over and over again that this is entirely common, typical behavior for children. To me, though, that is no consolation.

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I love this child with all of my heart. She was the one who made me a mother. Together with her Dad, we have learned how to be a family. She bears the evidence of our newbie parenting faults and foibles in her young being. She has helped us grow up. She is creative and SO smart. She is imaginative and thoughtful. She is a leader. She is a goofball. And, at times, she is utterly exasperating. I am often at a complete loss for what to do with this child who, although I am her mother, more often than not leaves me scratching my head and wondering what I’m doing wrong as her parent. I wonder who this creature is who resides in my home, lives in my heart, and fills my thoughts All. The. Time. I don’t understand her; she knows how to push my buttons.

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For once, I want to see the child that others have assured me exists. I want to know the child that Mrs. Z knows. I yearn to understand Audrey. “Dont worry. She’s not like this when you’re not around.” Well, thank God for that! But why is she like this when I *am* around?!

I may never have the answers to these questions. I may never understand my daughter. She may always act out when I’m around. If that’s the case, I hope it’s because somewhere inside of her she understands that I will love her, unconditionally, forever. I hope it’s because she somehow understands that I will never stop trying to understand her; I will never give up on her.

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In the meantime, I hold on to the good, joyful, peaceful moments. They are my life raft, my manna in the wilderness, my hope.

Depressed & Anxious***

This is what depression and anxiety looks like
This is what depression and anxiety looks like

I have struggled personally with depression and anxiety for years. The past year has been a hard one for me as my anxiety in particular has become an increasing challenge to manage. At my worst, deeply despairing because I cannot “positive thinking” my way out of the depression or anxiety, and unable to believe in my heart that my struggles are but a momentary affliction and I will get through (even though I know in my head that this is true), I have developed a deeper and clearer understanding of how it is that a person can come to a place in their lives where they might think about or even attempt suicide. I am not suicidal now, nor have I ever been (before you ask or worry).

The world is quick to talk about mental illness as though all mental illnesses are the kind of batshit crazy sort of thing you read about in great psychological thrillers or see depicted in movies or on television programs. (You *do* know that they portray the most “exciting” diagnoses in books and on screen, right? It can make for great storytelling…). But, there is a whole subset of people who live everyday with mental illness that is not obvious. You know people who fall into this category; probably more people than you think. I don’t know any statistics on this, but I’d be willing to guess that the majority of people who have diagnoses of mental illness can be described in this way.

Depression and anxiety can love and be loved
Depression and anxiety can love and be loved

On the outside, they look and act just like you and me. They have families, jobs, and friends. They have hobbies that they enjoy, causes about which they feel passionate, and future things they look forward to. They work hard to be as “normal” as possible, as much if not more for themselves as for anyone else. They *want* to be normal. *I* want to be normal. But they struggle. They struggle to get things done. They struggle to find the physical and emotional energy to get up and go. They battle every day with the voice in their heads that constantly asks “What’s the point?” or “Why do you even bother trying?” or who taunts at every failure, however mundane, “See? I *told* you you couldn’t do it. See? I was right. You’re really not good enough for this. See? See? SEE?” and after hearing that voice inside tear them down time and time again for years on end, they begin to believe it. They begin to think like it thinks. They act like it acts.

Depression and anxiety can be a proud parent of two beautiful girls
Depression and anxiety can be a proud parent of two beautiful girls

And then they worry. They worry because if the voice was right before, it might be right again; they can’t see that it might also be wrong and quiet it, much less put it to sleep. The vortex of worry, self-hatred, lack of confidence, and exhaustion sucks them in deeper and deeper until they can no longer distinguish what is really real from what they perceive reality to be. They *want* relief, but cannot find it; in the vortex, it’s hard to know which way is up. And, being stuck in the vortex with no obvious way out, life can become even more hopeless than it was before.

This month is Suicide Prevention month. It is my hope that in sharing some of what I have experienced with depression and anxiety, others who may be experiencing similar struggles might recognize themselves in my writing and seek help. There *is* help available for people who struggle as I have described here. Talk to your doctor about treatment options; don’t be afraid to see a therapist. A good therapist can help you change behavioral and thinking habits/patterns that might keep you from progressing in your treatment or finding some relief from your symptoms, and they can be a listening and encouraging ear who will hear your experiences of depression and anxiety without judging you or your experience. Don’t be afraid to try medications, if that is what your doctor recommends. Sometimes medication is required to treat depression and anxiety, and that’s okay too.

For those of you who have not experienced depression and anxiety, but who very likely know people who live with it every day, maybe this reading gives you a little more insight to what it might be like for those you know and love who *do* experience depression and anxiety. Maybe reading this will help you understand their experience a little better. Maybe it will help you not to be afraid of what depression and anxiety look like in real life.

***I am not a mental health professional. Nothing I have shared here should be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. My experience is my own, and may not be representative of others’ experiences of depression and anxiety.***

Heritage: Blessing or Curse?

In 1 Corinthians 8:1-10, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians (new Christians) about meat sacrificed to idols and whether or not it is appropriate for them to partake of that meat. In this passage, Paul acknowledges that we (in the case of this letter, the Corinthians; in the case of the present-day reader, the “we” is “disciples of Christ”) know that idols are nothing and that there is no God but the Lord.  For the Corinthian church, eating meat sacrificed to idols is meaningless. Meat is meat.  HOWEVER, if people who are not Christians see us eating meat sacrificed to idols, they might mistake our eating of sacrificial meat as faith in idols and rather than faith in God.  If this is the case, Paul says, it is better not to eat meat at all than to risk leading a person who does not yet know God down a path toward thinking that eating sacrificial meat is somehow beneficial to them, therefore causing them to sin.

Is it appropriate for us to be using a relic of 19th century American history, the Confederate flag, in the 21st century? How about if a local or state government were to use it? For some, the flag of the confederacy is seen as a symbol of Southern heritage and history–a heritage and history of which they are proud.  For others, it represents a complex history of rebellion against the government of the United States of America, support of racist, bigoted ideologies that devalue the lives of certain human beings by treating them as property instead of people, and more recently as a symbol of hatred, violence, and white supremacy.  Is is appropriate for any government–local, state, or national–to use this symbol when it may cause people both near and far to mistake their use of the flag as an endorsement of the racism, bigotry, devaluing of human lives, hatred, violence, and white supremacy so often associated with its use?  Paul would say “no,” I think, not because there is something wrong with the flag, per se, but because of the potential the flag has to lead people toward certain unintended and undesired (at least I hope they are unintended and undesired) perceptions about those who fly it and what motivates them to do so, thus leading them to sin.

I can claim a Southern heritage, and I do. But, part of my acknowledgment of my Southern heritage means that I also have to acknowledge that there are historical aspects of that heritage that are ugly, cruel, and shameful. I had family members who owned slaves in the deep South in the 19th century and before. This disgusts me. I acknowledge its historicity, but I don’t like it at all. The truth turns my stomach. This is part of my “heritage” as a Southerner and as a citizen of this country. But I’m not proud of it, and I’d give back, if I could.  We don’t get to pick and choose the aspects of the past that we like the most and ignore the rest.

Paul’s point in his letter to the Corinthians is this: the freedom and responsibility we have as children of God and followers of Christ calls us to be concerned about our neighbors before we are concerned about ourselves.  It calls us to place the needs of our neighbors before our own.  It calls us to be truthful and transparent in our daily living so that, as ambassadors of Christ in the world, our neighbor might see the work we do and hear the things we say and experience something of God in them.  We are responsible for ourselves and the choices we make, yes, but we are also responsible for what we communicate about God to the world.  In fact, we are responsible for what we communicate about EVERYTHING to the world.  (Remember the pesky 8th Commandment that prohibits bearing false witness against our neighbor and Martin Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment in the Small Catechism that exhorts us to see the things our neighbors do in the best possible light?) 

So, before we are too quick to claim “heritage” as the justification for why we do what we do, let us take a step back and look with a carefully assessing eye at what it is we are doing and why we are doing it.  Let us consider what our behaviors say to others about us, the world around us, and the God we serve, who gives us life. And then let us refocus our thoughts, words, deeds on those things that proclaim peace, mercy, forgiveness, grace, healing, hope, and love to the world, so that the heritage we pass on to future generations unites rather than divides, heals rather than wounds, values rather than devalues, honors rather than dishonors, and loves rather than hates.  This is a heritage to be proud of.

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My Lord, What a Morning!

What a morning.  The kids were up by 6am, after the little one was up and down all night for no reason other than, I’m guessing, to test boundaries now that she is in her big girl bed and can open her bedroom door all by herself. I think she finally got about four hours of continuous sleep between 2 and 6, plus the few hours she got between 10 and 1:30ish. So she was in a dandy mood this morning. (insert sarcasm here)

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Plus, I had to go to the grocery store this morning. Hectic schedules, and work obligations that have kept one or both of us out of the house every evening for almost the last week, made this trip necessary.  I had practically nothing to pack in the kids’ lunches, and only had enough waffles for one of them to eat breakfast.  So, off to the grocery store I went at 7:30 this morning.  When I was finished shopping, the only checkout option was the self-checkout.  This wouldn’t normally be an issue to me, but apparently these particular self checkouts are the spawn of Satan and don’t like it if you touch the shopping bags as you’re filling them. So the cashier who was supervising the self-checkouts, had to override almost everything because I kept touching the bags to, you know, FILL THEM!!!! It took almost half an hour for me to check out of an almost-empty grocery store.

In the meantime, the kids were at home waiting for breakfast and driving Daddy nuts. By the time I got home, everyone was restless, and then came She-Who-Shall-Not-Sleep’s meltdown because I had finished unloading the lighter bags from the car before she had the chance to come help. She was mollified by the promise of getting to put away the yogurts in the fridge.  I made both girls breakfast, then She-Who-Shall-Not-Sleep became She-Who-Shall-Not-Sleep-Or-Eat, as she refused to eat any of her breakfast. But who cares.  At that point it was time for her to go to school. Food isn’t all that important, right?!

So, here it is, 10 in the morning, and I feel like I’ve already worked a full day.  I haven’t showered or gotten dressed (I wore slob clothes to the store–Clinton and Stacy from TLC’s What Not to Wear would have been appalled). Oh, and I haven’t even gone into work yet!

I don’t want to wish away my kids’ childhood.  I know that someday, the trials that we face with them today will be replaced with other challenges, complicated more by age and increased interaction with the world.  At the same time, hear me where I am *today.*  I am tired.  I am weary. And I’d like to get a full night’s sleep in my own bed without small people waking me up in the middle of the night, screaming out my name, and wiggling themselves and their pointy knees and elbows into my back and ribs while I sleep because they’ve crawled into *my* bed while I was passed out from the previous day’s (week’s, month’s) exhaustion. Enough is enough.

Parenting is not always fun. Not *every* moment is to be “treasured” or “cherished.” Sometimes, it just plain sucks and you want it to be over NOW. And that’s okay because we moms and dads are people too.  We don’t *have* to be happy all the time any more than our kids do. Not every day is a good day, but there is almost always something good in every day. Yesterday, it was my eldest daughter’s Pre-K graduation.  She was awesome.  And so grown-up.  And I cried out of pride for the little girl she is and the joy she brings into my life, and I cried in grief that she will be starting Kindergarten in the fall and I don’t know where the time has gone.

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I’m no parenting expert.  But if you struggle like this with your own kids, know that you are not alone.  You are not wrong for feeling how you feel.  It does not make you ungrateful. It does not make you weak. It does not make you a bad parent.  It makes you human.

Life Happens

So, I (unintentionally) took a year off from MsPastorMom.  Sorry about that.  A lot has been going on, and frankly, writing hasn’t been much of a priority.  Survival has been.  Family has been.  But writing?  Not so much.

When I started this blog, it was my intention to chronicle my life as a Wife, Pastor, and Mother while on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.  It’s funny how life happens, isn’t it?  As it turns out, my journey of self-discovery and personal growth has actually required some time, attention, and work!!! HA!  Imagine that.  And the time, attention, and work that my journey has required just hasn’t left me with much time or attention to work on this blog.  There’s a lesson here, I think. 🙂

Somehow, I think I thought that I would set out to discover myself, and that I wouldn’t have to do any real work to find “me” I think I thought that I would just continue moving through my life like I always had and that somehow doing the same things I had always done would magically bring me to a grand point of enlightenment wherein I would discover myself, and could then continue doing what I had always don. Voila! I would be found and change!

Surprise, surprise.  As it turns out, this is not exactly how these things go.  I’m okay with that, though, because discovering who I am and learning to love myself as I am are worthwhile and meaningful life goals for me. I am on my way.  I am happier, more content, and more settled than I have been in a long time.  I am learning how to listen to myself and take myself seriously.  I am learning how to be more in touch with my body, mind, and spirit so that I can take better care of myself and make better decisions for myself, my family, and my work.

Here is what I have accomplished in the last year:

1) I left a job that was “one job too many” so that I could focus more time and attention on my other two jobs, my family, and myself;

2) I endured eight months of vocational torture that ultimately ended up being the (painful, disappointing, embarrassing, and humbling) vessel of experiences that God used to bring me to a new place of self-discovery and understanding;

3) I began to attend more purposefully to matters related to my physical and emotional health (HUGE changes here! I lost 63 pounds this year);

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4) I was called as the interim pastor of a lovely Lutheran congregation nearby whose regularly-called pastor recently accepted a call to another congregation, and I am honestly able to say that I am excited to go to work most days now. It feels good; and

5) My husband graduated with his Ph.D.;

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Leitzke
The Rev. Dr. Timothy Leitzke

6)  He and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary;10526176_1571658676398860_1240150470637742545_n

7) Our oldest daughter turned four; and

Happy 4th Birthday, Audrey!
Happy 4th Birthday, Audrey!

8) Our youngest daughter turned two.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Jane!
Happy 2nd Birthday, Jane!

That’s enough for one year, right?

This year has been full of work and change. Life happens. Over and over again. Life happens. God’s hand has been guiding it all. I’m certain of it.  Otherwise, how would my life–complicated, frustrating, embarrassing, surprising, and humbling as it is–have borne such prolific fruit?

Life happens. And now I’m living mine!

The Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever

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It was always fun to pick out just the right gift for my mother on Mother’s Day when my brother and I were young.  In retrospect, I’m not sure we always did that great a job, though.   There was the year of the hand mixer, which I thought was a great gift because my mom did quite a bit of baking when I was a kid and our old hand-mixer broke.  To my mind, it was both a thoughtful gift (because Mom liked to bake), and a useful gift (because how do you mix things without a mixer?).  Then there was the year of the new dishes.  My mom had been coveting new, plain white dishes for a while since our old dishes, a wedding gift when my parents were married, were becoming fewer in number as, one by one, they were broken, mostly in dish-washing accidents.  Mom loves dishes; she did then, and she does now.  So, I felt like this was definitely something she would appreciate, and certainly not be expecting.

Then, there was the year my brother and I hit it out of the ballpark.  Our mother is an avid recreational gardener who is always happiest when she can be playing outside in the dirt.  One year for mother’s day, my brother and I scrimped and saved our money to buy her a potting bench.  We were so excited to give her the gift, and she was equally excited (I think?) to receive it.  It was always so important to me that my mother know how much she was loved and appreciated because I knew we kids didn’t always communicate that very well through word or deed.

Now I am a mother myself.  I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to think up ideas for how they can celebrate Mother’s Day with me.  I’m not gonna lie.  It’s not about the gifts themselves, it’s about the thoughtfulness that those gifts represent.  I know it can’t have been particularly exciting for my mother to have opened that hand-mixer all these years ago (although, I will say that she is still using the very same hand-mixer nearly 25 years later), but I imagine that she was tickled by our excitement to give her the gift, and touched by the thoughtfulness and intentionality that inspired us to choose that gift over all of the other ones we could have chosen.  At least, I hope she felt that way.

What Mother’s Day boils down to for me, is not so much that is an opportunity to receive a gift from your spouse and/or children, but it is an opportunity to see yourself through their eyes.  I tend to be pretty hard on myself sometimes, only able to see my shortcomings both as a mother and a wife.  I love my kids and husband so much, and hope that I am able to give them what they deserve as far as a mother and a wife are concerned, but more often than not, I worry that I’m not good enough for them.  I wonder if I’ve made the right choices on behalf of our family.  I feel guilty for taking time for myself, especially when I know I haven’t been around much because of my work obligations.

On Mother’s Day, I want to see myself the way my husband and kids see me.  Whatever means of celebration they choose for that day are a window into how they see and understand my life and values.  They help give me perspective on myself as a mother and as a wife.  I see their love for me in the ways they interpret what would make me happy and make me feel special.  I need that gift, the gift of perspective, more than I need any thing they could ever give me.

A Mother’s Day gift isn’t important because of what it is; it is important because of what it represents.  And for me, it represents the intentional forging of a deep, loving family relationship in which every member is honored and celebrated for who they are, not who we wish they would be.

So for all of you celebrating Mother’s Day this year either because you are a mother or because you have a mother, happy, happy day to you.  May you give and receive the best gift ever: the gift of being seen, understood, and loved anyway.

 

A Bug’s Life

On Monday, my oldest daughter turned 4.  Where has the time gone? This is Bug when she was just minutes old, greeting the world with a wave.  So much has changed, and yet so much is the same.

audrey1She is so sweet and innocent.  (haha!)

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But she doesn’t really have time for boring things like cuddles.  She is very content to play with her toys, and keep tabs on everyone in our home.

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She is always smiling, and brings so much joy into our lives.

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She has a serious side, too.  At times she seems much older than she actually is, and we have to remind ourselves that she is still a child.

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And, she keeps us laughing all the time.  From the funny things she does:

Audrey "eats" a ball like an apple
Audrey “eats” a ball like an apple

To her hilarious facial expressions:

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We never know what is going to happen next.

Bug loves to swing more than any child I have ever known.

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She loves to play in the water.

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and to blow bubbles.

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She loves to read

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and to listen, sing, and dance to music.

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She loves shoes.

Audrey wears her own Crocs inside of Grandpa's Crocs.  It was her own idea.
Audrey wears her own Crocs inside of Grandpa’s Crocs. It was her idea.

She loves to eat apples

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and to go to school.

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She’s a great helper in the kitchen.

Helping Mommy & Daddy make Christmas cookies.
Helping Mommy & Daddy make Christmas cookies.

She insists on a front row seat at church.

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The “Clifford Park” is her very favorite.

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Vacation Bible School is the best part of summer!

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But nothing in the whole world is better than being a Big Sister.

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The two girls are best friends.

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They take care of each other.

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Few things make a day better than a lollipop.

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Drawing is one of Bug’s favorite pastimes.

First time drawing a face.  Mommy especially loves the lips!
First time drawing a face. Mommy especially loves the lips!

She loves to play pretend and dress up in costumes.

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She is very creative with Play-Doh.

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Mommy’s makeup is always a big temptation…

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but even when she’s in trouble, Bug is still Mommy’s little angel.

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Silly…

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Serious…

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Sassy…

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Beautiful…

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Bug.

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We are the Church Together

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There are times when I long to go back to being a layperson.  I sometimes wish I could un-know, un-see, and un-hear some of the things I have witnessed in the church over the years since I became a pastor.  These past seven (almost) years have robbed me of my innocence and have revealed to me the existence of the Church’s dark underbelly.  Manipulation. Selfishness. Greed. Short-sightedness.  Close-mindedness.  Bigotry. Hate. Intolerance. Exclusion. Self-righteousness.  It is easy to understand how people, both inside and outside of the church, may become disenchanted with organized religion, abandoning it for the “spiritual, but not religious” stance that so many have adopted in recent years.

As messed up as the church can be and is, the church can also be a place of forgiveness and reconciliation, a place of welcome and inclusion.  The church can be a place where people are able to work through their differences to learn from one another, and where they can put aside their own desires and dreams for the sake of those around them and for the sake of God’s mission in the world.  The church can be a place where broken people band together, committed to living as though they are God’s precious, beloved, chosen, and holy people, not because they have declared it to be true themselves for their own edification, but because God has already promised it is true and demonstrates this truth through the  forgiveness, grace, and mercy God shows to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t give this up for anything!

The hard thing is that while I understand that the church exists simultaneously in bondage to sin, and freed from sin, I still don’t like the sin.  As a mother who wants her children to grow up in the church, to be fed and nurtured by it and the God it proclaims, I want to protect them from the ugliness.  I don’t ever want them to see the darkness of the church for fear that it would sour them not only to participation in the life of the church, but that it might also harm their relationship with God, lest they should decide that since God is in the church, and the church is a hurting, hurtful place, that God is also hurting and hurtful.

Sometimes I wonder if my husband and I were both laypeople it would be easier to shield our children from the things we don’t want them to see or know of the church.  Perhaps it would be. But in order to protect them, we would have to keep them away from the Church and not participate in it ourselves.  And what would that accomplish?  It would teach them that the best way to navigate rough waters is to run away or hide from them.  I don’t want my children to fear the church or be resentful of it. I don’t want them to learn that it’s okay to hide or run away from our problems because then they will never be resolved.

Instead, I choose for my children to be active participants in the life of the church no matter how ugly it may be at times, because as much as the church has to teach about sin, disagreement, pettiness, and the like, it has more to teach about forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love. My children can learn from church how to welcome strangers, how to seek and offer forgiveness, and how to be generous with their time, possessions, and talents.  My children can learn the challenging lessons of diversity within a community: how to disagree without judgment, how to be flexible when others want different things than they, how to embrace new experiences as opportunities to grow and learn, and how faith is lived and expressed through the lives of the people with whom we learn, worship, and fellowship in the church.

The existence of sin, brokenness, disappointment, and disagreement in the church shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, though.  The church is not a meeting place, the church is the people, and people are as broken inside of the church as they are outside of it.  As Christians, we are all hypocrites: people who profess an ideal of living in Christ that is peaceful, loving, forgiving, and merciful, but who fight, hate, judge, and condemn.  We live broken lives, are in bondage to sin, and despite our best intentions, are not always successful in dwelling together in community. Such is life. Inside the church, and out.

We are the church together, better in community with other broken people than we could ever be alone, and better in community with God than we ever could be in community without God.  The church isn’t perfect.  But the search for a perfect Church isn’t what inspires us to remain active in congregational life; the calling of our perfect God is. For me and my house, that’s as good as it gets.

Overextended…

Okay.  Confession time.  I may be a little overextended lately.

You might be thinking, “Well, you’re a mom.  I don’t know any moms who aren’t overextended.” And I would agree.  But in addition to being a mom and a wife, I’m also working four part-time jobs that have me driving all over hell and half of Georgia.  I practically live in my car these days, and I am not above reclining the driver’s seat and catching a few zzz’s in the parking lot between gigs when I get a chance.

So, yeah.  I might be a little overextended these days.

I offer this for two reasons: first, as a means for explaining why my blog posts have been sporadic lately.  I had great dreams of posting on the blog at least two to three times a week.  Ha. I’m lucky to average once a week.  There’s obviously room to improve. Please accept my apologies for the not-so-frequent posts.  Second, to call attention to the fact that I’m not the only mom who is overextended in some way or another.  Maybe we don’t all have four jobs on top of our responsibilities at home, but I digress.  I have friends who have three, four, and even five kids!  How do you get it all done in one day?!  I have friends who are single parents and have to do it all alone.  When do you rest?!  I have friends who work shifts opposite those of their spouses.  How do you connect with one another when you never see each other?!  

You get the picture.

It is therefore understandable that I am seeing more and more friends of mine post links to articles like this one on social media sites.  We are increasingly trapped in busyness these days.  In some ways, it sort of feels good.  At the end of the day, you’re exhausted from all the busyness.  As you look back on your day at everything you accomplished, you feel a sense of satisfaction. On the other hand, all this busyness means sacrifice.  At the end of the day, you are so tired that even a solid night’s sleep with no (or few–hey, I’ll settle) interruptions isn’t enough to make you feel even remotely human the next day.  And, even though you accomplished a lot in the day, there were a lot of other things you never got around to because you were so busy doing all of the other things you had to do.  And then being busy doesn’t feel so good any more.  You’re on edge because you’re not rested.  You feel disconnected from your family because you never see them. and you begin to ask yourself if the busyness is worth what you have to give up in order to be busy.

I won’t lie.  I’d give anything these days for a whole day where I don’t have to get out of my pajamas, or barring that, at least not have to put on pants with a button waistband.  I’d love to have a day where all of the family is home together, even if it means watching Frozen on an endless loop, fishing Play-Doh out of my one-year-old’s mouth because her older sister left it out where she could reach it, or fielding request upon request from the kids for more to eat (because you know we never feed our children… *sigh*). It would be a day where I had plenty to give without borrowing energy from sources outside of myself (have I mentioned my “thing” for Coke Zero?), in which I was neither “extended” nor “overextended.”  And it would be glorious.

That day is not today, however. There are things to be done, jobs to be worked, oh, and did I mention it’s Holy Week? So I’ll continue to be overextended like so many other people, not because I want to be, but because it’s sort of par for the course I’m on right now.  Maybe one day soon that course will change, time will free up, and I’ll have more to give.  Until that happens, I ask you to join me in praying for my family and so many like us who burn the candle at both ends in order to make ends meet.  I ask for your prayers for those who struggle to find and keep employment that pays them a fair living wage.  I ask for your prayers for those who are lonely and discouraged, weak and weary.

We need it.