Thursday, October 18, 2007

Confession 28: Connections

I'm sitting here at my desk at school, papers piled high on each side, with 19 minutes left of my daily 47 minute plan period. My initial thought was to tear into the book projects I collected almost three weeks ago now, but instead I find myself perusing through my favorite blogs, checking in with people I know and have known over the years. I forget how important connections can be. Not connections as in the, "How can knowing this person get me something or someplace I want" sense of the word, but connections as in remembering that there are people out there you really care about whose lives are moving forward at the same warp speed as yours and if you don't keep up you're going to completely miss them. (Yes, I know, it's a run-on sentence.) It's not that I don't want to stay connected, I just don't always feel like I have the energy to do it. On a typical day, I'm up around 5:45, out the door by 6:45, home by 4:30, putting Garrett to bed around 8:30 and crashing myself by 10:00. It's hard to make time for connections. However, I think the connections and relationships we have with others are what keeps us going. They support and sustain us, keep us grounded and help us grow. For many people in my generation, our friends have become our community, and a key to a successful community is communication. Therefore, I'm going to try and do better about making connections. To drop a quick line or make a quick call just to say, "Hey, what's up? How's it going? Anything new? I miss you."

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Confession 27: SOG (Save Our Girls)

I've been thinking recently, that we as a society need to start some sort of national Save Our Girls campaign. The trials and tribulations of teenage girls has been documented for eons, from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Plath to Brashares. Teenage girls have always had it rough, but it seems that things are getting worse. I think the first glimpses came with the book Reviving Ophelia, published several years ago now. Mary Phipher (I think) showed through case studies of teenage girls she had counseled that our girls were floundering under the weight of low self-esteem, peer pressure and societal expectations. More recently, the movie Thirteen (co-scripted by a thirteen year old girl) told the story of two thirteen year old girls gone completely wild. And last year, a book entitled, The Notebook (?)was published by four high school friends who recounted, with full disclosure, their exploits with alcohol and sex throughout the previous years, as well as their struggle to find self-worth and self-esteem.

This past week, I've had two students come to me and tell me they were pregnant. I had one student come to me and tell me that she was dating an older guy who she knew was cheating on her and who also refused to use protection during sex but she didn't want to break up with him because he was "really hot" and everyone thought they made a great couple. Something has obviously gone terribly wrong.

Of course, there have always been girls who find themselves in these situations, but I don't think it's been as across the board as it is now, or as widespread. The girls interviewed by Mary Phipher were all middle-upper class white girls. The girls who published The Notebook were honor students bound for Ivy League schools. So, what's going on?

I have a couple of theories, all of which may have no bearing whatsoever. First, I think our hyper-sexualized, whatever makes you feel good society forces kids to grow up too fast. Second, I think our kids have less guidance in how to maneuver through society. It's natural for teenagers to want to rebel against their parents, but who else is there to give them advice and to help them through? Third, where are the role models for our girls? Who do they have to really look up to and aspire to? Who's there to tell them it's o.k. to be who they are, and that they don't have to conform to anyone else's standards. I think now, more than ever, our girls need mentors. They need adult women in their lives who will get to know them, who will care about them, who will nurture and guide them through the turbulent time of adolescence.

So, I'm sending out an S.O.G. I'm encouraging all of you women out there who read this to find a way to connect with the teenage girls you come into contact with. Volunteer with a local mentoring program, volunteer with your church's youth group, volunteer to help coach a local softball or volleyball program. Be a cheer leading or dance team sponsor. Take some time to check in with your neighbor's kids. Make plans to hang out more with your nieces or little sisters. Just take some time. You don't have to be a fount of wisdom spouting out advice and platitudes every time your mouth opens. You just have to be available, and to listen, and to let your actions speak louder than any words you could use.

It's time to try and save our girls. If we don't, who will?

Blessings and Peace,

P.S. As a mother of a boy, I don't want to give the impression that our boys don't need us too, they do. I just haven't quite figured all of that out yet:)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Confession 26: Motto to Live By

I decided this early morning that since it was Friday, and I was just completing my second full week of teaching, and my husband has been in Ecuador for almost a week on a mission trip leaving me alone with our 15 month old son, that I was going to treat myself to an iced mocha before departing for work. It's been a long few weeks. In the past five years, I've forgotten how all-consuming a task teaching can be, especially in the Monett school district which prides itself on maintaining high educational expectations. I think this is a wonderful thing, and one of the reasons I took the job here, but high expectations can sometimes fall very heavily onto the shoulders of teachers who are expected to carry them out. It's not the fault of the school district really, but more the fault of a national education system in serious need of an extreme home makeover. In any case, I was tired, anxious for the weekend, and wanted a cold, chocolaty treat before heading into the trenches.

There's a great little coffee shop in Mt. Vernon called the Keen Bean. It's really one of the hidden jewels of the town. The owners roast their own coffee beans and have a wonderful array of baked goods and small lunches to choose from. As I was waiting for my mocha this morning, looking around at the tantalizing treats on display, I noticed a sign I hadn't seen before. It was a wooden board on which was printed, "Motto to Live By". As I read it, I felt it spoke to many of the things I've been thinking about recently. About the importance of living life to the fullest, of not being all-consumed by one aspect of your life, of not forgetting that our stay here is, in fact, very brief and we should make the most of it. I can't recount it word for word, but this is the general gist. "Life is not a journey to arrive at the grave very attractive with a well-preserved body. Rather, we should come skidding in sideways, chocolate in one hand, a latte in the other, with a well-used body screaming at the top of our lungs, 'Whoo-Hoo! What a ride!'"

I know my work is important, and I want to do my best. I know that I need to be in better shape and I want to be healthy. But I also know that life is short, and I want to make the most of it. There's balance in everything, it's just a matter of finding the right one:)

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, August 13, 2007

Confession 25: Radical Hospitality and Anti-Social Tendencies

My husband told me the other night that I was anti-social. The comment came after the annual faculty cook-out the high school I'm going to be teaching at hosts each year. I signed us up to go with the thought that as a new teacher in the building, it would be good to go and put in an appearance, meet a few people, and let my husband see where and with whom I would be spending a lot of time in the upcoming months. I don't like big social gatherings, especially when I know relatively few people, so the whole thing was, in honesty, somewhat of a disaster. I regretted the decision to come almost instantly. A few people I had had contact with said hello, and one of the other English teachers introduced us to her spouse. Yet, aside from that, no one really seemed interested in speaking to us. So, I focused on my food and we used our son as an excuse to abandon the rest of the mission. As we were walking out the door, my husband looked at me and said, "You're really anti-social, aren't you?"

Now, in my defense, I am brand new to this district, and I did hardly know anyone, and the conversation at our table revolved around people and places I knew nothing about, so there wasn't a lot I could add. However, in retrospect, I probably could have tried a little harder. This is a problem that has plagued me my entire life. I've never been an overly social person. My nickname growing up was "Bear" because I liked to hibernate by myself. I've always had a handful of really close friends, many of whom have been in my life for 10+ years, and have been content to visit with people in small group settings. I don't have a big personality, so to speak. My sister got all of that. And I'm horrible at small-talk. I just never know what to chat about. It all boils down to a lack of confidence on my part, although I couldn't tell you of what exactly. But, as I get older, and my husband has more responsibilities in his ministry, I realize that being anti-social can pose some problems. I think it all boils down to the need to be radically hospitable.

Radical hospitality is one of the five principles Bishop Robert Schnase is calling the Missouri Conference of United Methodist Churches to exhibit. Radical hospitality, in my understanding of it, involves moving beyond your own comfort zone to make welcome all those you meet. It involves accepting others for who they are, making them feel o.k. about themselves in your presence, making sure they are comfortable and that their needs are satisfied as long as they are with you. The church we've recently taken up appointment at, First United Methodist of Mt. Vernon, showed us radical hospitality when we arrived. The members have been extremely open in receiving us, and make us feel each day how glad they are that we've come.
I've been waiting for the same treatment at the high school I'm working at. I've labored under the assumption that since I'm new, people need to talk to me and make an effort to get to know me, not vice versa. In thinking about radical hospitality, I realize that I've gotten it backward. Maybe I'm the one who needs to put out the effort to introduce myself and get to know people. Maybe I need to be more welcoming and open to people I meet for the first time. Maybe I need to spend less time focusing on my own internal struggles with inadequacy and self-doubt and put that energy into focusing out on the needs of others, say, my students for one. I don't expect to completely change the whole of who I am. I don't think I will every be truly comfortable in big group gatherings, but maybe I can at least try a little harder to be less anti-social.

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Confession 24: Star Spangled in Louisiana

I attended a teaching conference in New Orleans last week. Obviously, life is rough. At the opening session of the conference, I was surprised to see that a color guard was presenting the American flag and the Star Spangled Banner was going to be sung. I'd never seen this at a conference before, and the cynical girl inside me started to bristle and roll her eyes. But then, I reminded cynical girl that this was a public education conference and not a church service-- a public education conference sponsored by the Southern Regional Education Board at that. So, if they wanted stars and stripes, as ridiculous as it seemed to me, they were perfectly entitled to it.

The woman who was slated to sing the national anthem was a principal in a Texas high school. The music was canned and started slowly. Great, I thought. Not only are we singing the national anthem, but we're doing it at the pace of a funeral dirge. I've always felt that if you're going to sing the national anthem, then it should be done with energy and gusto. However, as the principal sang, I found myself captivated. She had a powerful voice, and although the song was sung slowly, it definitely had gusto. Her tone, her inflection, her sheer power made it a song of triumph born out of great struggle. I understood for the first time in a long time the meaning behind the words. It became a song of perseverance, of faith and hope that out of darkness would come light.

As the anthem came to a close, I thought about the fact that we were standing in the heart of New Orleans, ravished almost two years ago by Hurricane Katrina. Touring the city, there is still so much in disrepair, so much that has not returned, so many who have not returned. I found that this song, sung this way, was a tribute to this city, this region, that has been through so much. Walking through the French Quarter throughout the week, I saw many signs and t-shirts carrying the phrase, "Rebuild New Orleans". There is a pride and a hope in the city that I felt profoundly as the national anthem was sung. It is a pride and hope that I feel deep down about our country, that we can push through the present darkness and come out triumphant into the light of a new day. It may not come for awhile, but I fimly believe we will get there.

I found myself cheering as the anthem came to a close, cheering for the talented singer, cheering for a city which is rising again, and cheering on a country where hope still shines through, no matter how hard it may be to see.

Blessings and Peace,

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Confession 23: Surviving Motherhood

I love my son. Really, I do. He's the light of my life. He brings me joy every day in unexpected ways. He's eager, he's expressive, he's loving and cuddly. He also pushes my buttons in ways no one else has done, except maybe my little sister. He's stubborn, he's into everything, he's temperamental, and he doesn't always sleep a lot. The past few weeks have been challenging for our relationship. We made our big move last week to the small town in southwest Missouri where my husband is the new pastor at the United Methodist Church. I don't start my new teaching job until the fall, so now am home with our son throughout the day. It's something neither of us are accustomed to, and both of us are highly resistant to change.

I've always been, I hate to say, somewhat snobby in my opinion of stay-at-home moms. This past week alone has given me a whole new respect for them. We have moved from the suburbs to the country, and what I wouldn't give some days for a book group meeting at Starbucks! Even a playdate sounds like an extraordinary experience, where before I found it a ridiculous concept. I think my son misses his daycare-- all of the toys, the other kids, the routine he had established. I find myself looking for different excuses to get out of the house, to make contact, however brief, with the world outside. I think my son feels this too. Our best day this past week was when we made the 30 mile trek into Springfield, to Best Buy, to pick up a modem for our router. I don't even know what these things are, let alone what they do, but going to get that modem was the highlight of my son and I's day. We were both in much better moods throughout the afternoon and evening.

I leave this week for a five day trip to New Orleans to a conference for work. Although it will be hard to leave my son (I've never done it before) I think it will be good for both of us. We've become sort of co-dependent, he and I. We're our own little island chain during the day in the sea of newness around us. And, as frustrating as these days with him can be sometimes, I know I'm very blessed to have the opportunity to spend this time with him, and that the days are coming soon when we will get back into the busyness of our routines and I will think again, as I often have at work, "Wouldn't it be nice if I could just stay home?"

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Confession 22: A Bit of Dirt

I do not, in general, like to get dirty. I'm sure I could delve deep into my past to discover the reason behind this, but it doesn't change the fact that I like to be clean. I don't like to go a day without showering. I don't like it when I'm walking after it rains or snows and dirty water splashes up on my legs from my shoes. I don't buy jeans that look dingy, however stylish they may be. And I don't like it when dirt sneaks in under my gardening gloves. I just don't like dirt. As a parent, my personal dislike of dirt has been transferred to my son in that I don't like him to be dirty either. I don't like it when his hair starts to get flat, or when dirt starts to collect under his fingernails. I don't like it when he spills food on his clothes, or when he smears his food all over his face and hair. It bugs me. And no matter how hard I try, I can't just let it be. However, this past week, I found myself reconsidering my stance on dirt.

We spent a day with some friends in Kirksville, Missouri last week. They have a beautiful old Victorian home with a spacious backyard flowing out from a wide wooden deck. The evening of our visit was spent outside on the deck enjoying the warmth of an early summer evening. While we adults sat around and talked, the children were running free in the backyard, playing in a sandbox and with the garden hose. My son, who is now one, was crawling around all over the deck. When the time came to go inside and get the children settled for bed I noticed that my son was filthy. Not only were his knees dirty, but his shorts, shirt, feet, hands and face were all smeared with dirt and sweat. My initital instinct was, of course, to give him a bath. But as I looked at his tired face I realized that he was perfectly content in his state of dirtiness. The dirt he was covered in meant that he had been doing things, important things. He had been exploring and investigating a brand new world. He had been driving a fire truck and delivering water balloons to a newfound friend. He didn't mind the dirt. It was part of the experience of reveling in the summer evening.

As I lay in bed that night, a thousand similiar summer evenings of my own childhood flashed through my mind. I remembered playing outside until the sun set and the street lights came on. I remembered riding bikes through mud puddles and playing in a gravel drive. I remembered using the swimming pool as a big bath tub and going to sleep surrounded by the smell of chlorine mixed with sweat. Those were beautiful days... days of meaning... days of accomplishment.

In her book, Recieving the Day, Christian writier Dorothy Bass talks about reclaiming the Sabbath. She states that on the Sabbath, it is important to celebrate and revel in God's creation, for God created everything of life on this planet and declared that all of it was good. By reveling in God's creation, we connect with God and bring glory to all that he made. This, I would say, includes dirt. We were created of dirt and to dirt we will return, so what does it matter if we carry a little of it with us along the way? I guess a little bit of dirt never hurts. Maybe it can even be good for the soul.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Confession 21: The Trouble With Time, Part 2

Over the weekend, my family and I celebrated my mother's 60th birthday. To think of my mother as being 60 years old is somewhat troublesome to me, for the image I have of a 60 year old woman and what I know to be true of my mother are two completely different things. I've heard that 60 is now the new 40 and when I look at my mother, I think that must be true. Age itself is a stereotype. Deep down I know it's just a number, but the numbers have the power of eliciting profound emotions. I still struggle with the fact that I'm 30. I never really thought that age would come. Is it really possible that I've lived 30 years? Could I really be 1/3 of the way through my life? What have I done with those 30 years? Where has the time gone? These questions creep into my mind every so often, and I have no real answers there.

After my mother's birthday party, I was talking to my husband about a conversation I'd had with my best friend's mother. She told me that Elaine and her husband Tim were going out of town for their anniversary this summer. It didn't hit me until I was talking to my husband that the reason Elaine and Tim are going off alone for their anniversary is that it will be their 10th. TEN YEARS!! They've been married for ten years! I lay in bed that night pondering the meaning of this. For some reason, I found myself a little sad at this revelation. It's not that I'm sad for them. Tim's a great guy and they have a wonderful relationship along with two beautiful children. There's nothing to be sad about in that. It's more the fact that I can remember their wedding so clearly. Plus the fact that I specifically remember being with them on their 5 year anniversary, and that anniversary does not seem, in my mind, like it took place more than 3 years ago at best. I kept doing the math over and over in my head, but each time I came up with 10 years. I wondered, "What does it mean?"

Before I knew it, I found myself wandering back through my childhood. Elaine and I have literally spent a lifetime together, so I found myself thinking about endless sleepovers and birthday parties and walks home from school. I thought about Barbie adventures and Trivial Pursuit and pogo sticks and roller skates. I thought of North and South and The Winds of War, made for T.V. miniseries we must have watched hundreds of times. I thought of years of laughter, and conversations that carried on regardless of time or distance. I thought of summers in college, sharing a small apartment with friends, staying up through the night talking of life, love, and all that the future would hold.

In that moment, I finally realized what had been troubling me all along. My childhood had passed from a recent memory to a distant one. It was, and is, truly gone for good. It's not that I want to go back and relive those days. I've come a long way since then. I fell in love with a wonderful man and we've created a beautiful child. We're building a life together, and I'm excited about all of the possibilities it holds. Yet, it is a mark of passage for me that my significant memories of ten years ago are that of an adult. I am getting older. We are all getting older, and it is not an easy thing to reconcile yourself with. My question now is, when do we get wiser?

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Confession 20: Every Vote Counts

Around election time, you always hear campaign workers and teachers telling people that "every vote counts" so make sure you go to the polls and cast your vote. I've also been told by my mother that you can't complain about a politician or bill if you don't vote. Well, I'm going to complain anyway.

I didn't vote this week during American Idol, but I'm wondering now if I should have. Last night, my husband and I's favorite contestant this season was inexplicably sent home. In my mind, Melinda Doolittle was the best singer of the bunch, and proved week after week that she deserved the Idol crown. In most cases, it's probably best that we each don't get what we deserve because it's probably a lot worse than what we have. In this case, however, I disagree. What were people thinking? Can people really prefer Blake to Melinda? Blake... Seriously?! It's not that he doesn't have talent. He can sing.. sort of. But he's not great. And the beatboxing thing? Give me a break! It's his only gimmick. It's all he does. Melinda showed her versatility week after week. She brought her A game every single time, and although I admit I questioned where she would fit into the music industry-- which genre she would fill-- and I thought there were times she seemed a bit too old for her age, she flat-out outsang every other contestant.

So, what happened? Did the voters get bored with her consistency? Did she not have a bubbly enough personality? Did she not sell the songs enough? Did the voters not want another African-American Idol? (Sorry, Chris-- had to throw that one in.) As Randy and Paula both said, Melinda will be successful regardless of her place in Idol standings, but it's the principle of the matter for me. Melinda should not have been voted off last night.

Then again, we do live in a nation where the majority of voters elected Gerorge W. Bush to office--twice! As Americans, we don't have the best track record. So, what can you do? I guess every vote does count after all.

Blessings and Peace,

Friday, May 11, 2007

Confession 19: The Trouble With Time

Why is it that time always seems to be an enemy? Either hours drag on like days or days speed by like hours. There never seems to be a happy medium. Maybe it's just that we're conditioned by our culture to always be looking ahead. Most of us aren't taught to just live in the moment, although I've found that life is much richer when we do. After our son was born last June, my husband and I made a point to not rush him through the various stages of his first year. We took delight in each day and each stage (some more than others) and although we looked forward to watching him develop, we didn't want to rush it along. I read the concerns of many new mothers on a local breastfeeding list serve about holding their baby too much while he/she sleeps. I always want to tell them to just hold them, and hold them as long as they can. Before you know it your child will be off exploring the world and will prefer a nice solid mattress to your shoulder.

I have to remind myself about time today as I'm finishing up one of the longest weeks I've had all year. I keep thinking to myself, "I just want this week to end!!" I remind myself that we should never wish for time to end, but should relish what we can of what we have. I remind myself that it's a beautiful day outside, and I work with beautiful people all around me. I remind myself that the children I work with are full of life and energy, and I should be grateful to be in the presence of such unencumbered spirit. I remind myself that my long drive to and from work is an opportunity to reconnect with myself or to spend some quiet time with God. My boss bought me an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck which visited school today and I remind myself that the simple things in life really do bring the most joy. Finally, I remind myself that it's Friday, and I have a whole weekend ahead of me to spend time with my husband and son, relax, unwind, live in the moment, and not think about time! Enjoy your weekend!!

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Confession 18: Caution: Road Construction Ahead

Kansas City is one of the worst cities I have ever been in when it comes to road construction. In the three years I've been commuting, several major arteries through the city have been closed off due to road construction with nothing new opened up to relieve excess traffic. Detours are complicated and poorly labeled and, most frustrating of all, no new progress seems to be made. For instance, construction has been underway for at least fifteen years in the so-called "Grandview Triangle" of Kansas City where at least three major highways intersect. In that fifteen or so years, the highway department has worked continuously to build the exact same road structure that was present before, alleviating no traffic problems for the thousands of commuters who go in and out of the city each day. I realize that I know nothing about the intricacies of road construction and am not an expert by any means. But seriously, building the exact same thing? What's the point? It's not that I'm against road construction, per se, I just want to see some progress. I want someone who knows something about it to tell me what the point is, what good is going to come from it, how the inconvenience and extra work is going to be worth it in the end. I don't think that's asking too much.

As a Christian, I often feel like my life is one big road construction area. God has cut off major arteries, sent me on complicated detours, surprised me with unexpected Road Closed signs, and has been working on the same stretch of road for a number of years with no sign of an end in sight. However, I've learned over the years that one thing I can always count on is that there is a point to all of the construction. Although I might not see it right away, I know God has a plan of action, and that the work in progress is really a work toward progress. God is not going to spend fifteen, twenty, thirty or even fifty years re-building the same thing. God is always working on rebuilding and renovating for something better. The past five years have been an example of this for me.

I quit a teaching position five years ago with the intent of being hired on at a high school in Columbia, Missouri. The high school had no openings in their English department, and I instead found myself packing my bags, belongings and cats and moving to the Chicago-land to attend seminary and earn a Masters degree in Christian Education. Seminary was a great experience. I learned a lot, grew a lot, made wonderful new friends, and met the love of my life. I felt myself called into doing urban youth outreach, and have spent the past three years engaged in that endeavor. However, this Spring my husband and I found ourselves in front of another Road Closed sign as he was appointed to a new charge in Southwest Missouri. Caution: Major Detour Ahead. Initially, I had no idea what I was going to do in this area, but I trusted that God would open up another route for me to take, and sure enough, he did just that. After a five year hiatus, I am going back into the classroom to take up teaching once more. I will be teaching sophomore and junior English at Monett High School in Monett, Missouri. Although somewhat intimidated about going back into the classroom after a five year break, I think it will be a good experience. And although the past five years were somewhat of a professional detour for me, I learned a lot from all of the experience and will be a better classroom teacher because of them. The road is now opened, resurfaced and expanded, and I can't wait to get driving!

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Confession 17: Irreconcilable Differences

In the past few weeks, the organization I work for decided to sever its ties with the Kansas City Missouri School District and pull out the 38 before and after school programs it runs, as well as the over 7 million dollars it contributes to the district each year. The reason for the decision, in a nutshell, was irreconcilable differences. The school district underwent an administration change this year, the 6th or 7th administration change in less than ten years. The school board brought in a new superintendent (after they'd chosen three other finalists for the position) who has been making sweeping changes in curriculum, programs, staff, and building reorganization. Many teachers, parents and students feel it is too much, too soon. Our programs came under fire early on. The superintendent, never having observed our programs, continually referred to them as childcare programs, noting publicly that we did nothing more than provide parents babysitting services. Funding for our programs disappeared (the district claims it did not have the money), contract disputes ensued, and a tick for tat battle of words took place in the press, both sides lashing out at each other through print and network media. In the end, our organization decided to concede first, by announcing plans to completely pull out of the district at the end of this school year. They supplemented this announcement with a 12 page booklet detailing the conflict to be handed out to parents, business partners, and community leaders.

I do not disagree with the decision that was made, although I have some concerns about the process by which it was made and the lateness of the decision. Two months before the end of the school year doesn't leave a lot of time for changing course, and there are about 300 employees who depend on their paycheck. It's the irreconcilable differences that bother me the most. In an age where the divorce rate is 50 %, I wonder, what brings two parties to a point where they can no longer settle their differences? And why is the severing of a relationship considered a solution?

In this case, the superintendent made demands we could not meet while maintaining our vision and mission as an organization, as well as keeping our state funding and license. Yet I think, as a rule, we should not accept irreconcilable differences as an excuse to break ties or end relationships. We need to be taught, and we need to teach our children, the process of reconciliation. We need to encourage our national leaders to use reconciliation as a tool for governing. Heck, most of us need to learn to reconcile who we are with who we think we need to be. Jesus entire ministry on earth was one of reconciliation, his death and resurrection the means by which God was and is reconciled with all of us who are, were and will be. Reconcilable differences-- what a world of difference that would make!

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Confession 16: Maundy Thursday

This week has been so hectic for me, I have to confess that I completely forgot it was holy week until this morning. The sun hadn't quite come up yet and I was already on my way to work. In lieu of morning radio (too perky dj's rambling on about I don't know what) I decided to listen to the silence for a while and spend some time in prayer. As I was praying through the day to come, I suddenly realized that it was Maundy Thursday. In the past, this has not meant very much to me. I grew up in the Baptist church and we only celebrated Good Friday and Easter. Maundy Thursday was something the Presbyterians did down at the other end of the block. It never made much sense to me, mostly because I couldn't see going to church Thursday night when you knew you would have to go back Friday and Sunday anyway. There was also the issue of the name, Maundy Thursday. What's a Maundy? No one seems to know. I have actually heard the definition a couple of times now, and have read it once, but it's nothing so significant that I actually ever remember it. So, what's the point? I asked myself that question this morning, and here's what I came up with.

Maundy Thursday is the calm before the storm. It is the last day of preparation before we walk down the road to the cross. It is the day where we commit ourselves to taking that journey with Jesus once more, even though we know it will be a painful process. More than that, it is the day we have to come together as people of God to strengthen and sustain each other for the journey. The image came to mind as I was driving of someone who has been diagnosed with a major illness. Before physical treatments begin, there is a time of mental preparation. Most people meet with those closest to them to discuss the upcoming journey, and to commit themselves to seeing it all the way through, regardless of the end result. This, I believe, is what Jesus was trying to do for his disciples. He was preparing them spiritually, not only for the journey to the cross, but for a life lived in service to the resurrected Lord. "Do this in remembrance of me," Jesus said, as he passed around the bread and the wine. For me, today, the message is not to just eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus, but in everything I do to try and remember the love Jesus so willingly gave, and to pass that along to those I meet along the way.

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Confession 15: "Not my will, but thine..." Say WHAT?

Over the past few years, I have worked hard to try and align myself and my life with the will of God. I have tried to be accepting of situations that have occurred to test my strength and resolve. I have tried to keep my eye on the bigger picture, to see my life lived in the grand scheme of things, rather than the smallness of myself. Chris and I have known for a long while now that this would be our last year at Platte Woods Church. We have both been praying for several months about the next appointment Chris would receive. I, myself, have prayed that we would end up exactly where God wanted us to be, a place where we could both grow professionally and personally. We were both excited and energized at the prospect of moving forward, to go on to bigger and better things. Well, we might be moving on to better, but it certainly won't be bigger.

Chris got the call last week that he was being appointed to First United Methodist Church in Mt. Vernon, Missouri. For those of you who don't know (we didn't) Mt. Vernon is a small community about 25 miles west of Springfield, Missouri. There is one main street that runs through the town, and a business district in serious need of revitalization. Although there is some projected growth in the area, it is not coming fast. After years of living and working in urban and suburban areas, we were both pretty shocked. I immediately started looking around at all I would be giving up. No more Target, no more Starbucks. No more trendy shopping districts and upscale restaurants. No more theater, no more concerts. No more Barnes and Noble. More importantly, what was I going to do? I looked to God and asked, "Are you serious?" I quickly began to come to terms with my own snobbishness and materialism when we took a trip down to see the church last weekend. The people were friendly and seemed genuinely excited to have us there. The district superintendent was especially excited, and I think sees potential for a lot of growth.

Chris and I have since been praying Jesus's prayer of submission in Gethsemane on a regular basis. It really is a good appointment, and southwest Missouri is a nice area to be in. There is a city close by, and living in a small town will give us the opportunity to be more involved in a community than living in a city allows. More importantly, I know we have both placed ourselves in the center of God's will, and that God has a definite purpose for bringing us to this church. So, instead of saying, "WHAT?", I am changing my response to "YES!" and trusting in God's greater vision.

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Confession 14: Too Much

We live in a very complicated society. There are no more simple decisions to be made, no more boxes in which you simply check yes or no. There's too much information out there. Our information superhighway may make decision making more effective, but many times leaves me feeling like I'm stuck in traffic. There's just too much. We live in a society of too much. In fact, I think that "too much" needs to become the new official motto of the United States. We have too much, we consume too much, we know (or think we know) too much, and we still want more. Too much...

I was contemplating this state of too muchness today while reading information on homemade baby food. Our 9 month old has been attempting solid foods for a few months now. I have tried in the past few years to be more conscious of what I put into my body. I buy organic milk and vegetables, frequent the local farmer's market in the summer, and try to buy more natural products. After I had a child, I decided I wanted the same for him. I wanted to be very aware of what he put into his body and wanted to make sure he stayed away from processed food. My goal was to give him only breast milk until he was a year old and to make all of his baby food from scratch. Ha! The things you learn as you go... Working full-time, my milk supply has not grown with my son's appetite, and my husband and I introduced formula into his diet at 6 months. As for the food, the closest I've come to making it from scratch has been to mash up a banana!

I was reading a series of e-mails on a listserve I belong to about baby food, and all of the mothers who responded to a question about baby food make their food from scratch. One of the mothers found a website which she directed the group to that had baby food recipes and tips for parents to make food on their own. It's a great website, with great recipes and advice. The authors of the website have lots of facts and figures for why you should make your own baby food and the great benefits your baby will receive. It's one of those websites that makes me feel like a bad mother for investing in Gerber. The problem for me is that it's just too much. It's too much to bake chicken and apples and peaches and rice. It's too much to get out the food processor three times a day, dirty it up, clean it up, and put it back, only to go through the whole process again the next day. I only have so much time during the day, and I'd rather spend that time playing with my son and talking to my husband. That, for me, is not too much. Most days, it feels like it's not enough. It's easier for me to pop open a tub of Gerber sweet potatoes and corn than to go through the process of baking a sweet potato, roasting corn, and puree-ing them together. I know in the eyes of some this makes me a less than ideal mother, but I was never cut out to be June Cleaver. Anyway, June Cleaver is too much.

This idea of too much was driven home to me again when I was reading the latest edition of UN Wire, a daily e-mail update of articles published about human rights issues throughout the world. I was struck once more by the disparity of the too little in which most of the world lives and the too much in which Americans live. As a friend of mine recently said, at least we have a choice in the type of food we consume and give to our children. So many don't. Maybe my Gerber food isn't ideal, but it's food that nourishes and sustains my son, and for that I am very grateful. Gratitude can never be too much.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Confession 13: Cycles of Life

There are many different cycles we see and experience in life. There's the overarching life cycle which frames all that we do. There are cycles of relationships and cycles in relationships. There are cycles of days and cycles of time. There are cycles of seasons and cycles of celebrations. There are religious cycles and political cycles. Our lives are lived in cycles, not linear at all. I started thinking about cycles a few weeks ago, when my monthly cycle began again after an absence of 18 months. This cycle is one in which most women live the majority of their lives. Different women feel different things about this cycle. Most of us are excited when it first begins. It is a rite of passage for young women, a mark of change and growth, of maturing. It begins a new phase in life. Over time, the newness wears off, and it becomes, for me at least, more of a pain than anything else. I know there are women out there who eagerly anticipate the continuation of this cycle. For them, it means that things are going smoothly and there is no major life-change on the way. I also know that there are women out there who just as eagerly anticipate the end of this cycle. For them, it means that something new is taking place, a much-hoped for life is beginning to grow, or a new stage in life is taking place. In general, this cycle is the beginning of something.

Yet for me, the return of my cycle felt more like an end. It was sad, not because I would have to start paying attention to the calendar again and making sure I was well stocked-up on various feminine hygiene products, but sad because it means that life is moving on, and my baby boy is growing up. I realize, of course, that he's only 9 months old. It's not like he's getting a driver's license or going off to college, but those things will come. He's already changed and grown so much. In 9 months he's tripled his birth weight, gotten teeth, lost his baby-face and begun to crawl. His existence is no longer wrapped up within me, and my body has recognized that and moved on. I know it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I know that at some level he'll always be my little baby boy, and that we've got lots of new things to look forward to. I know that cycles are circular and always come back around. I know this is really a beginning, and not at all an end. But, as with all cycles, there is something left behind. And in this moment, it's hard to let it go.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Confession 12: The Art of Active Listening

Some days, I just don't feel like going to church. I'm tired, or I have other things to get done, or I just like the quiet Sunday mornings bring. Some days, getting my son and myself together and to church on time and in the right attitude to worship is just too much. My mother always said that the devil works extra hard on Sunday mornings, and I've found this statement to be very true. This Sunday was one of those mornings for me. My husband and I were just settling in to a new home after a whirlwind move with an eight month old who was battling both an ear and upper respiratory infection. Our son and I were going to the eleven o'clock service so I could hear my husband preach, and our son could enjoy some quality time with the childcare providers in the nursery. As luck would have it, our son decided that 10:30 would be a great time for a nap, so he settled down to take what he thought would be a nice long one. My first thought was, "Why didn't he do this an hour ago?!" Followed by, "Great! What a perfect opportunity to unpack! Surely I can listen to Chris's sermon on tape later." This thought was quickly replaced by the guilt of my good Baptist upbringing (the Catholics have nothing on the Baptists when it comes to guilt) and I begrudgingly readied myself and my son for church.

We were late, of course, and I was rushing. I finally found a seat after the choir cleared the entryway to the sanctuary and sat down to worship, kind of. Mostly I just looked around the sanctuary and thought about all of the nice homes other people lived in that weren't full of mold and asbestos and that they didn't have to abandon in the course of four days. I tuned back into the service only to find that we were singing "Shout to the Lord", one of the music director's favorites that he always conducts at a tempo fit for a funeral dirge. Tempted to walk out, I remained in my seat and tried to focus "on things above." As the service wore on, I noticed that all of the songs were songs we were singing were songs of praise and thanksgiving. "Hmm.." I thought. "Could God be trying to tell me something?" This thought set off a furious debate inside my mind. On the one hand, my attitude stunk and was in serious need of a major adjustment. On the other hand, my attitude stunk and I didn't feel like adjusting it. Besides, if God really wanted to say something to me, wouldn't he find a better way of communicating than praise songs and choir anthems sung five times too slow?

I intended to stay in my seat and pout through the time of prayer, instead of going to the communion rail like most weeks. However, as I saw my husband stepping down from the stage to the railing, I felt compelled to join him. This is our time of worship together, and brief as it may be, it's precious time for both of us. As I kneeled down at the communion rail, I heard God more clearly. It was time to stop being stubbornly selfish, wallowing in self-pity. I needed to actively listen.

My husband's sermon was a biography of John Wesley, the "accidental founder of Methodism", as my husband stated. In this sermon, my husband spoke from the viewpoint of John Wesley, and for the first time that morning, I actively listened. As John Wesley's life story spilled out before me, I realized that I had endured no great hardship this past week. I was inconvenienced, nothing more. My attitude was ungrateful and selfish, and not at all what I was, and am, called to be. John Wesley spent his entire life working to minister to the needs of others and to bring everyone he could into the fellowship of Christ. He placed the needs of others above even his own, and gave all that he had to the poor around him, despite actual hardship and some inconvenience to himself. In actively listening to my husband's sermon, I realized that there was a bigger picture which I was forgetting during my little pity party. The party's over. Let the work begin.

Blessings to all,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Confession 11: Our Humble Abode

My husband, Chris, and I found out last night that we will probably be moving out of our home on Saturday and into another living establishment as yet to be determined. This wasn't quite a shock. We've had mold issues in our house for awhile and recently insisted that the church do an air quality inspection to see how bad it actually was. This came about after Chris had bronchitis for the third time this year and his doctor told him that mold could be to blame. Needless to say, the air quality report did not come back with good news. Not only did it show a high level of mold in the house, but inspectors discovered asbestos tape lining the duct work. That got the trustees attention. A committee was quickly formed and they determined that it was best for us to just vacate the premises.

Initially, Chris and I were hesitant to move out of our home. There is a high possibility we will only be there another four months. And, after three years, what more damage could be done? In thinking about it, however, us moving out now would give the church time to really evaluate the damage to the house and do something about it before the next pastor would arrive. Moving now would also give Chris and I the chance to get some things packed up and stored away before our big move in June. So, all in all, it's a situation I'm o.k. with. More importantly, I am grateful that the church has the ability to move us to a safer, healthier place, and the means to do it so quickly.

I saw a report on Good Morning America this morning on the number of people in the Gulf Coast region who still have not been able to re-build after losing everything in hurricane Katrina. Many are still waiting on or fighting for settlements from insurance companies that are looking for loopholes in policies so as not to pay for all the damage done. People throughout Mississippi and Louisiana have been living in FEMA trailers for over 18 months now, and my husband and I will be able to move from one home into another within 4 days. I have nothing to complain about. Therefore, I am very grateful for our humble abode, wherever it may be.

Many Blessings,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Confession 10: Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays, despite my husband's insistence that it is a manufactured holiday created by Hallmark and Russell Stover's to sell more products. Although this may be true, I don't particularly care. Valentine's Day is pink, fluffy, chocolat-y, and all about love. I love love. Check out my list of favorite books and movies, and you'll see. Just the word, love, gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Yet, as I look around at all of the advertisements and special products for sale around Valentine's Day, I can't help but think we've missed the point a bit. Love is not just a romantic sentiment, a fluttery feeling one has for someone else. Love is not just the feeling of contentment that comes from spending time with close friends and family. Love is not just the moments of happiness we experience when we share our lives with others. Much as I hate to admit it at times, love is not just warm and fuzzy. Love, real love, goes much deeper than that.

1st Corinthians says that love is patient and kind, it does not envy nor does it boast. Love bears all things and is not self-seeking. Love never fails.

Colossians tells us that love is placed over all other virtues and binds them all in perfect unity.

John 3 states that God loved the world so much he sent his son to die so that all could be united with him.

Matthew 22 says that true love is loving a neighbor as much as we love ourselves, while Romans 8 tells us that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ.

Proverbs 20 states that love is what keeps a king secure on his throne, and Song of Songs declares love to be better than wine and as strong as death.

In Luke 6 Jesus maintains that in order to really love, one must learn to love one's enemies, going so far as to give a thief that which he would steal-- to give up what is rightfully yours.

Obviously, love is not just warm and fuzzy.

The early Christians celebrated what became known as a "love feast". It was a time of fellowship among believers in which wine and bread would be shared and the poor would be included. It later became the traditional Eucharist celebration, in which we remember God's sacrifice of love for the world. At the end of the love, or agape feast, the early Christians would impart to one another the kiss of peace. The Romans, in an attempt to persecute the Christians, accused the Christians of participating in orgies and mocked them by saying, "Look at how these Christians love." Yet, throughout their trials and tribulations, the early Christians continued to love. We, as contemporary Christians, are called to show that same love to a world in need. There is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. I found last year that has stayed with me. He states that: "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

Love is action. Real love moves us beyond ourselves to act on behalf of others. Real love teaches us that there are things more important than what we spend most of our days worrying about. Real love forgives the faults of others. Real love calls us to be aware of the situations in the world which cause others pain, grief, despair and humiliation. Real love challenges us to stand up for what is right, and to speak up when we see wrong being done. Real love seeks peace.

We, as Christians, need to act in such a way that makes those around us say, "Wow! Look at how those Christians love!!" We can do this in many ways, both small and large. We can bring food to someone who is sick or grieving. We can visit those who are homebound. We can adopt a family in need at Christmas, or hold a food drive for an organization like Harvesters Food Pantry ( We can host voter registration drives at our churches, or open the doors of our church for organizations like AA to meet. Our church annually helps to sponsor a Habitat for Humanity house (, providing both money and laborers to build a home for someone in need. Many churches sponsor mission trips both locally and internationally. The United Methodist Church, specifically, has a program called Volunteers in Missions in which thousands of people serve annually ( My husband and I have, for the past two years, given gifts to our family from Heifer Project International (, which promotes sustainable living in Third World Countries. We have also become involved with the Nothing But Nets campaign started by sports writer Rick Reilly which provides mosquito nets to people in need throughout malaria-ridden parts of Africa ( My husband is working with the senior pastor at his church to do a net drive during March Madness. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, $10 will get two nets to people whose lives are at risk from disease.

Love is not just warm and fuzzy. Love can change a life. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." (Matthew 9:27) How will you love today?

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, February 12, 2007

Confession 9: The Things I've Learned From Zoloft

I've been taking Zoloft on and off for the past eight months. I initially began taking it after my son was born when I was struggling with some major "baby blues". I stopped taking it about a month after I went back to work, a little earlier than my doctor recommended, and found that I just wasn't ready to cope with life unmedicated yet. So, I went back to my 25 mg a day. This past week I pulled myself off the medication again. It wasn't really intentional, I just forgot to take if for a few days and thought, maybe this is a sign that I don't need it anymore. So far, so good. Yet, I've learned a lot about myself through the experience of anti-depressants.

First, I've learned that I am an extremely emotional person. People have told me this in the past and I've always stubbornly denied it. I've created a stigma around the idea of being emotional. It's a stigma of weakness and of being out of control. (The older I get, the more I realize how much of an issue control is for me.) I equate being emotional to being out of control, and being out of control is something that is not acceptable to me. Therefore, I resolutely refused to acknowledge the fact that I am an emotional person. I realize now, of course, that this is ridiculous. One can be an emotional person and still have emotional control. Feelings are just that, feelings. They don't define who we are, how we're perceived, or even how we behave. If I cry it's not because I'm out of control, it's because my body needs some emotional release and rejuvenation. If I throw an unbaked potato across the yard because the grill is out of gas it's not because I've lost control of my senses, but because my frustration needs a harmless vent. God made many different parts of the human brain. I can be emotional and still use the rest of them.

Second, taking Zoloft has allowed me to see that I am someone who gets easily frustrated. Looking back at my life, I see it's always been like this. I threw huge temper tantrums until I was at least five. My husband might argue that I still do (see the above potato incident). I want things to be a certain way and when they're not, I get frustrated. It's a common problem many people have, but the true test of character lies in how we deal with it. This is something I need to continue to work on. If I'm frustrated with something I can change, (messy house) then I should change it. If I'm frustrated with something I have no control over, (traffic) I should let it go. I feel like I'm getting to a place of peace in my life where I am better able to do that. But, it's a work in progress.

Third, Zoloft has taught me that I need to trust and have faith in myself and the wisdom and insight God has given me. One of the most frustrating things that happened to my husband after our son was born was that I stopped making decisions. I looked to him to figure out everything, and it was just too much. Old anxiety issues came creeping back in and I started to lose a sense of my own self-sufficiency and self-worth. Essentially, I lost my confidence. You can't accomplish anything without confidence. I've been slowly gaining that back, but it's hard after a life-changing event.

As much as I hate to admit it, Zoloft has helped me a lot with these issues. It's been good for the transition into new motherhood. I feel very much at peace, although I'm not sure how much credit the Zoloft gets for that. The issue of taking an anti-depressant for me is that it doesn't change the way I am. It doesn't make me less of an emotional person, it just pushes the emotions down. It doesn't make the need for control which leaves me frustrated go away, it just calms the frustration. It doesn't instill confidence within me. This is who I am. This is who I always have been. These are issues that will always be with me. I can continue to take a pill, or I can deal with them. Right now, I'm ready to deal.

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Confession 8: Calming the Road Warrior

Automobiles, in my opinion, have been the downfall of our civilized society. I think about this often as I commute to and from work. People are mean when they drive. Common courtesy is thrown out the window and replaced by a waving finger. There is a fierce individuality among American drivers. The idea of my car turns into the idea of my road which then becomes my right of way all the time. There is a sense of entitlement among many drivers in which reaching their destination becomes more important than anyone else. These notions of individuality and entitlement behind the steering wheel have given birth to the problem of road rage which plagues our many streets and highways. I must confess that many days, I myself contribute to this problem. Not a commute goes by where I don't curse another driver who I feel is encroaching on my space or preventing me from reaching my destination in a timely manner. I have been known to wave my middle finger at drivers I feel are exceptionally rude to me and my little Jetta. I have run through more orange lights than I care to admit because I don't feel like I should have to wait. And I am always driving at least 10 mph over the speed limit.

I'm not proud of this behavior-- it doesn't make me feel good, or strong, or right in any way. I tell myself over and over again that I'm going to do better, that I'm not going to rush, that I'm going to be nice, but when I get in the car and begin to drive, something else takes over. It's like a Disney cartoon I watched as a child in which Goofy played a calm, caring family man who suddenly turned into a maniac when he got behind the wheel of the car. I'm Goofy. I've tried to discern many times where the anger comes from. Lack of patience alone can't explain the rage I feel at times when I'm driving. It's probably wrapped up in my need to control situations and, yes, feelings of entitlement. It's frustrating because I know better. I have higher expectations for myself than the behavior which manifests itself when I drive. I don't want to be like those drivers around me who are barreling angrily down the road. I don't want to be mad when I get to work or when I get home because I've been driving defensively and aggressively. Something has to change, not just in me, but in all of us road warriors out there.

There are steps that I can take to curb my driving aggression. I try and remember to pray before I take off for work or for home. However, prayer alone does not always do the trick. A good friend of mine once told me that God doesn't always just take away the things we struggle with in our personalities, but keeps them there for us to work through so that we can grow stronger. So, I need more than prayer. I need to slow down, and I need to keep space between myself and other drivers. I need to start seeing other people in vehicles, not just the vehicles themselves. I need to see commuting as an opportunity to show Christian hospitality to others. I should also remember that some of the other drivers could very well be members of my husband's church! I need to remember that we're all in this together, and we all need to arrive home safe and happy at the end of the day.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Confession 7: I Hate Wal-Mart, But What Would Jesus Do?

I hate Wal-Mart. I mean, I HATE Wal-Mart. I heard it referred to once as "The Evil Empire" and have since adopted that phrase when I discuss it. There are many reasons why Wal-Mart is "The Evil Empire". First, there is the issue of space utilization. Most of the Wal-Mart parking lots I have been in have been one giant asphalt block in which an automobile free-for-all continually takes place. There's no easy way in or out of the parking lot, and most patrons ignore what little faded traffic directions are spray painted onto the pavement. Tensions mount and blood pressure rises before one even enters the store. Things only get worse inside. The only word I can think of to best describe most of my experiences inside a Wal-Mart store is: chaos. Many Wal-Mart stores now have an open area before entering the actual store where carts are stored and continually slammed about, kiddie arcade games blast crazy carnival tunes, and customers attempt to walk in and out at the same time. I'm rarely able to focus on the greeter, and when I can, they tend to look rather haggard and run-down. The aisles of the store are small and crowded. Two of the store's over-sized carts cannot make it comfortably through. Shelves are piled high with densely packed products. The fluorescent lights are dim and make everything look a little dingy. It always seems that everyone, regardless of the amount of goods they are purchasing, feels the need to push a cart, which makes efficient navigating through the store impossible.

I feel panicked and claustrophobic in Wal-Mart stores and have even, on occasion, had to stop what I'm doing and immediately head to the check-out to leave. The check-out lanes are another source of stress and hassle, with some stores having checkers three lanes deep. Goods are placed in plastic bags and spun around to you on a big lazy susan. It is your responsibility to remove the bags from the lazy susan, pay, and take your receipt in the fifteen second interval given to you before the cashier moves on to the next customer. Finally, you must wind your way through the maze of abandoned over-sized carts back to the exit/entrance and spend the next few minutes playing dodge-car as you try and find your way out of the parking lot. I always leave Wal-Mart feeling as if I've been beaten up.

Second, there is the issue of unfair labor practices which continues to dog the Wal-Mart company. The Wal-Mart corporation has been struggling since 2004 to have a class-action lawsuit filed against them on behalf of female employees dismissed. Their attempt at dismissal has proved unsuccessful (see the link below for more information)
So, they are now facing a huge discrimination lawsuit for unfair labor practices.

Finally, there is the damage that Wal-Mart has caused to independently owned businesses throughout the United States. Hardest hit have been retail and grocery stores in small-town America. I come from one of those small towns in which Wal-Mart has driven out many long-time businesses. Fortunately, the town in which I grew up has a historic downtown area and has committed itself to supporting local businesses in that area, but it has still lost all but one of its supermarkets and a few retail stores.

One of the most frustrating aspects of Wal-Mart is that you can't beat their prices. Although my husband and I try to avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible, there are items we can buy at Wal-Mart for one dollar or more less than at Target. Those dollars add up. For families who truly struggle financially, Wal-Mart can be a lifesaver. Therein lies my Wal-Mart dilemma, and I find myself wondering, "What would Jesus do?" Would Jesus be more concerned about the awful place that Wal-Mart is, or would he be more concerned that people can get what they need at an affordable price? I have a feeling it would be the latter. But then there is the question of the unfair labor practices. I can't see Jesus pushing that to the side since much of his ministry was on behalf of those who were oppressed or underprivileged.

To be fair to Wal-Mart, they have tried to clean up some of their business practices. They are one of the first big retail corporations to put money and effort into making their stores environmentally friendly. I believe they have changed some of their labor policies to be more proactive in regard to anti-discrimination. They also have a great benefit program for full-time employees, and they're the first business to offer low prices on all generic prescription drugs.

So, what am I to do? Do I shop at Wal-Mart and get more for my dollar, or do I spend a little more and support businesses I feel are better? In the end, I have to admit, that I split the difference. My husband and I go to local grocery stores for food, Target for the everyday stuff, and Sam's Club for bulk items. I realize that this probably makes me a hypocrite and possibly negates much of my previous argument, but it's the best I can do at the moment. Oh, and by the way, I still hate Wal-Mart.

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, February 5, 2007

Confession 6: Keeping the Faith

Faith can be a fickle thing. Easy in good times, more difficult in bad. Sometimes, looking around at the world we've created, I feel the fickleness of faith. Sports Illustrated has a weekly feature in their magazine entitled "Signs of the Apocalypse". This past week's sign of the apocalypse was that a man who owned a strip club in Wisconsin was offering a lifetime membership to his club in exchange for Superbowl tickets. I think I saw another sign of the apocalypse on the Today show this morning when they featured a segment entitled, "Sexpressos", showcasing drive-thru coffee places in Washington state which are more known for their eye-popping servers rather than eye-opening coffee. My husband stated that he felt dumber for having watched that segment, but I felt more disappointed than anything else. Why does getting coffee now have to be a sexual event? It's not that I truly believe the apocalypse is near. I'm not sure I even believe in the apocalypse. I just find it difficult at times to keep my faith in a good, just, and merciful God in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us. Be it the absurdity of our society, showcased so perfectly in this year's Superbowl commercials, or the greater tragedies of war, oppression and poverty which overwhelm so many in our world. Where is God to be found? It's not a crisis of faith, per se, just the longing for a little light to break into a darkness which seems to abound.

It's kind of like the Christmas hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Over the past few years, this hymn has become one of my favorites. The tune invokes the sadness and urgency of people living in despair, yet the words move the listener to hope and to rejoice. Like the ancient Israelites, we live in a world that is captive and exiled. There are those who are held captive by violence; those who live in war-torn lands, crime-ridden neighborhoods, or are victims of abuse and neglect. There are those who are held captive by poverty; those who are homeless, those who hunger, those who always go without. Then, there are those who are held captive by disease, both physical, mental, and emotional. In one way or another, we are all held captive in this world, mourning in lonely exile. Yet, as people of faith, we are called to rejoice. Emmanuel shall come...

As a Christian, I believe in this hope. Moreover, I believe that Emmanuel did come, that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and that the Spirit of God is with us still. It just gets so hard to see at times. Part of my problem is that I look for the goodness of man, rather than the goodness of God. I want to believe, like Anne Frank said, that "in spite of everything, people are really good at heart." Yet, if that were the case, why would God have to reconcile himself to humanity? Why would Jesus have had to die? What would be the point of the resurrection? Why would people still be suffering? People cannot be inherently good, which is why we must be redeemed. I cannot reconcile the actions of man to the actions of the God in which I believe. This, I suppose, is where faith comes in. I have to trust that God is there in the midst of the darkness.

Every night, before I put my son down to sleep, I say a little prayer over him, and ask God to keep watch over him through the night. I am, in a sense, handing him over to God each night for safekeeping. Some nights, this is harder than others. Last night was one of those nights. Our son had a coughing fit and, at one point, gave a great gasp. My husband, who had been sleeping, sat bolt upright and asked if our son was o.k. The coughing subsided and I laid him back down to sleep, but I couldn't let him go. I ended up at the foot of the bed, my ear pressed close to his playpen, listening to him breathe. After about ten minutes of this, I felt God pulling me away. I remembered the prayer I had prayed when I first put my son to sleep, and realized that in order to have faith in God, I first had to trust God. And to trust, I had to let go of my own fears and anxiety. God is acting in our world and in my life, I just get too caught up in the bad to see the good. But God's goodness is there, all around. It's in the healing that comes to friends who have been ill. It's in the warmth of time spent with family and friends. It's in the smiling faces of the students I work with. It's in the warm laughter of my son. It's in the warm embrace of my husband.

Yes, faith can be a fickle thing. Yet, it is only when we have faith that we can see the light in the darkness. We can see God working in the world, in spite of the world. We can see God working in our lives, in spite of ourselves.

Blessings and Peace,

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Confession 5: The Family Tree

My Bible study this past month has taken me back through the book of Genesis. In that book, the family tree of the Israelites is established through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It's a family tree that impacts and defines many people of faith throughout the world. Millions of people can find their roots there, still, today.

As I was rocking my son back to sleep early this morning, I realized that, like Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, he is in himself a little family tree. Looking at him, I can trace the roots of both mine and my husband's family history. There's the obvious: he has his daddy's eyes and mama's mouth. But he also has his Grandpa Clell's nose, which goes back at least two generations. He has his Great-Grandpa Clell's ornery smile, and his Great-Grandpa William's stubborn chin. When I look at him I see he has his daddy's build, long torso with short legs, which his daddy inherited from his dad, and his dad before that. His long feet come from his Grandma Mikki's side of the family, and the width comes from his Grandpa Ken. His seriousness he gets from his grandmas, and his playfulness from his grandpas. Stubbornness goes back generations on all sides of the families, and his fierce independence comes from at least a few generations of strong-willed German women.

This baby boy is rocked to sleep in the same glider his Great-Grandpa William rocked himself in as he grew older. He naps under an afghan knitted together by his daddy's grandma, and under which his daddy slept. He was laid in the bassinet that his great uncle first used and which every baby on his mama's side of the family has laid in. He was baptized in the same outfit his daddy was baptized in, and lays each day on the same changing table his Grandma Mikki used with his daddy.

Some people have family Bibles. Others have family crests or shields. I find, however, that when I look at my son I see our family history in the flesh. And that is all I need.

Blessings and Peace,

Confession 4: What I Take For Granted

I take a lot for granted. I'm generally pretty aware of this, but there are times when the realization of what I take for granted jars me. Yesterday was one of those days. It was snowing most of the day, light snow, but with enough accumulation to make the commute a bit of a mess. My husband called to report on traffic in our area, and told me that there had been a fatal car accident at the intersection of highway and city street two blocks from where we live. It's a familiar intersection to me, one I cross almost every day in my commute. The thought occurred to me that there was possibly someone in our neighborhood who wouldn't be coming home from work. And I realized then, very clearly, how much I take for granted.

I take for granted that I will arrive home safely each evening. I take for granted that I will come home and have a roof over my head, even if it leaks a bit. I take for granted that there will be food to eat whenever I'm hungry, and sometimes even when I'm not. I take for granted that my paycheck will come every two weeks. I take for granted that my son will always be safe and healthy. I take for granted that when I reach out to touch my husband during the night, he will always be there. I take for granted when I call my parents that both of them will always be on the other end of the line. I take for granted that my sister is only 15 minutes away. I take for granted that my friends will always be there, even if we don't stay in contact as much as we should. I take for granted that I will grow old, and that my husband will grow old with me.

Yet, the truth is, none of these things are promised to me each day. They're little blessings and miracles that surround me all the time, and that should make each day I have with them all the more special.

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Confession 3: Death of the Supermom

I don't always enjoy being a mother. I realize that in the age of "The Supermom" this is an incredibly heretical statement, but it's true. It's not that I don't enjoy motherhood, or that I don't love my son. On the contrary, I do both. I view my son as a beautiful blessing from God, but all blessings can be a bit of a pain at times, can't they? I mean, the Israelites were blessed with the land of Canaan, but then there was the issue of those pesky Canaanites to resolve. In my son's case, our pesky issue is sleep. It's not that he can't sleep through the night; he can, and does, just not consistently. So, it's mornings like these, after I've been up with him a few times in the night and am tired and cranky that I think one baby-free night of sleep would be nice.

The problem with thoughts such as this, is that they elicit an immediate backlash of guilt and remorse from within. Our society has created this image of "The Supermom" in which such thoughts are unacceptable. As a mother, "The Supermom" says, you give yourself over completely to your child, and you love every minute of it. Not only does this logic seem dangerous to me, it doesn't seem humanly possible. Maybe it's just the people I hang around with, but I don't know any other moms who love every minute of motherhood. I also don't know many moms who don't want to get away from their children every now and then. We just don't talk about it. It's become one of the new taboos in our society. There's a lot of pressure out there to be "The Supermom". I remember an incident shortly after our son was born when my husband took our son to work with him for the afternoon so I could get some rest. I spent much of that time crying because of the guilt I felt being really happy to be free from our son for a bit. I still feel a little bad just thinking about that. But, that's the reality of motherhood. It's hard, and challenging, and consuming, and energy-draining. It's also one of the best things I've ever done and something I truly delight in every day. However, when you throw a marriage and full-time job on top of it, there's not a lot of room for yourself.

I've learned over the past eight months, that despite what "The Supermom" says, you can't do it all. When I'm fully devoted to my job, things slip at home, and when I'm fully devoted to home, things slip at work. There's no perfect balance. So, as my wise mother told me, you just have to figure out what sort of balance works best for you and then be comfortable with it. Forget "The Supermom". She's to motherhood what the Stepford Wife was to homemaker. The majority of us out there don't live in that world. (Check out Po Johnson's article for Time Magazine on this subject at,9171,1541260,00.html) Most of us moms out there love our children, we love being moms, but sometimes, we just need a break. Or, in my case, a nice long nap.

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Confession 2: Suburban Moms Gone Wild

I do not like dealing with adults. I used to think that there was a definite line drawn between the behavior and attitudes of adults and the behavior and attitudes of youth. The older I get, and the more experience I have working with adults disproves this theory completely. Especially when you live in the suburbs. Suburban living was a new concept to me a few years ago when we moved to this area. I spent the first part of my life in a small town and the latter years have been in more urban areas. Moving to the suburbs was a bit of a culture shock. I remember going to a local shopping center and feeling clausterphobic with all of the huge SUV's parked in the parking spaces, many of them sporting youth soccer stickers on the rear windows. Then there was the feeling of inadequacy as I watched woman after woman emerge from these SUV's looking trim, stylish, and Gucci-ed. My little Neon and I just didn't seem to fit. I've since gotten over that. I also got a Volkswagen. And, I've learned that there is a much darker side to suburbia which includes massive debt, high-stress, lack of intimacy and infidelity. One thing I haven't gotten over is this sense of entitlement that seems to seep into everything in the suburbs.

My husband has been battling this attitude for three years now in our church. Church members who run corporations think that they can bring those same attitudes and principles into running the church, regardless of the experience and expertise the pastors bring. Staff members fight each other for power and postition. Cliques are formed, alliances made. It's like middle school all over again. Then, there is my breastfeeding support group. Although I no longer attend the group meetings, I still participate in the web-post. Today, for the second time in just a few months, e-maill in-fighting has occurred. One woman sent out an e-mail about her negative impressions of a child-care facility she toured. Another woman, who uses the facility, took great offense and the e-mails started flying.

Now, I can handle these situations when working with my fifth graders. But these are adults. Doesn't that mean anything anymore? Judging by the newest spate of reality T.V. shows on the air this season, I would have to say no. I think we're taught in our culture to behave like perpetual junior high schoolers. It sells magazines, and makes for good T.V. Good ratings mean good business. However, I believe there is a reason we aren't all still in junior high school. The natural progression of life is that we grow and mature. We shouldn't be out there still behaving like 12 year olds. We, as adults, need to come back to adulthood. We need to forget what we think we deserve or should have, we need to stop being so thin-skinned and easily offended, we need to value good dialogue and learn the art of constructive criticism. More importantly, we need to set an example for our children, not let our children be the example for us.

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, January 29, 2007

Confession 1: Blogging and Bloggers

I love to write. Really, that's the whole purpose for beginning this blog. I haven't done much writing lately. I have several excuses, but I'm not sure I'd call any of them good, my infant son being the exception. I just sort of came to a place where I stopped writing, and aside from the occasional tug when seeing a new writer interviewed on the Today show, didn't really care. However, as I've been reading through my husband's blogs lately (, I've had this itch in my fingertips to start pounding down on a keyboard again. Blogging seemed to be a good place to start. I don't yet know where this blog will take me (or you, for that matter), but there are a few things that will define what this blog becomes.

First, I am a pastor's wife. I must confess that in general, I'm not a big fan of that term. It seems too trite, too dismissive. Yet, being the wife of a pastor does define you in some ways. When I tell people at work that my husband is a pastor, there's this instant, "Ohhh," (smile) "that's great!" It's as if being married to a pastor makes me an o.k. person somehow, and that's alright with me. Also, I've come to realize that pastors are pastors whether they're at church or not. Not only can we not go anywhere without running into church members, most of my husband's thoughts while at home revolve around church. Being a pastor is an all-consuming profession, so being married to one definitely plays a huge part in who you are.

Second, I am a new mother. I have an almost eight month old son at home, who fills a spot within me I never even knew existed. He's beautiful. Motherhood is an amazing journey that absolutely shapes and defines who you are as an individual and, therefore, will probably play a big role in this blog.

Third, I am a professional youthworker. That term can take, and has taken, many different forms in my life. I went from high school teacher to seminary student to before and after school worker and am now running a before and after school program in the Kansas City, MO school district through an organization called the Local Investment Commission. (Check out their website: They do good work.) I have a master's degree in Christian Education and specialized in urban youth outreach. I'm not really using my degree to its full potential at the moment, other than teaching mid-high Sunday School at church, but I trust that it will eventually be money well-spent.

Last, but certainly not least, I am a Christian, and a United Methodist at that. My faith has always had a major impact on what I think and what I do. It will, in turn, have a major impact on what I write.

I think I'm going to enjoy this journey. Let me know what you think!

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2