God is Doing a New Thing

fontThis week I had the privilege of leading chapel with my DMin class, as we planned we chose this text from Isaiah:

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise. ~Isaiah 43:18-21

Some of you may already know, although it has not been publicly announced on this blog or social media that my husband and I are separated. It is a fairly new reality, as the official separation started July 2 when I left for this trip. When I return home my home life will be completely different. Monday we will meet with a family therapist and deal with the realty of telling our children. We have yet to tell them given that they were without a parent for almost 2 weeks.

As anyone who has ever gone through separation and divorce knows this is not a simple admission. And for those of you who haven’t, I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is. As a child of divorce I understand all too well that children are resilient, yet I also understand that this will forever change my children and the life I dreamed for them.

I have a great community, friends, and the support of family, both blood relation and not. I have a wonderful therapist and a church who supports and comforts me. However, this is a difficult, vulnerable, and very raw time in my life. Everything has changed, and over the next year of this separation and impending divorce everything will continue to change.

Isaiah’s message is that God is going a new thing. For me, a new thing is definitely happening, I don’t know if God is doing it or not, but it is happening. However, my faith tells me that God is always doing, reforming, “working” on me. But what is provocative about this text is – notice where the new thing is… it’s in the wilderness and the desert. It’s in a difficult place. We like to lift up a “new thing” as if it is the salvation from the old thing, but there’s a part of me that really liked that old thing. I was comfortable there. I liked being married, I liked my family, no it wasn’t perfect, but I was happy and wanted it to work.

Maybe this “new thing” is for the best, although I admit, I can’t quite perceive that yet, or maybe I just need to believe that. But right now I am tired and thirsty in the desert. Right now I am cold and lost in the wilderness.

God will make a path, and God will make the waters come, Isaiah says. Because sin and death does not have the last word, because I will not sit in this darkness forever, because I believe in a God of resurrection, a God of a new thing, even when I cannot yet perceive it.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and guide my way. Amen.

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Mommy, I’m STARVING

ImageI was catching up on Mad Men episodes and Peggy was making a pitch to the partners about a Fast Food Restaurant. As she pitched she mimicked a little girl saying “I’m Starving.” It caught me off guard because my husband and I have been very intentional about teaching our children not to say “I’m starving”. Some people think this is silly, I think it’s important.

It started something like this, “Mommy, I’m STARVING” my 6 year old would say a half hour before dinner. Or she would wake up in the morning, “I need some breakfast, I’m STARVING”. And yes, the emphasis is on starving every time.

So one day, I asked her to stop.

“Honey, you’re not starving, your just hungry.”

It took a lot of explaining. Hunger is a feeling, your stomach growls, you’ve just come home from school, or up first thing in the morning- it’s “time” to eat.  There are many things that tell you that you are hungry.  When we are babies we cry at the hunger pains, as parents we feed our children, as they grow they get “stuffed” at the table until it’s time for dessert and then suddenly they have room in their tiny tummies.

We are even worse as adults. As Americans we barely even reach the feeling of hunger, it is rare we actually get to the point that our stomach growls, if we haven’t eaten in the last three hours we “need to eat” something as it seems we are depriving ourselves.

So my darling child (and my darling self) you are not starving. You are hungry or something just sounds good to you.

If you have eaten today or yesterday you are not starving, if you have food in your fridge and have access to a meal you are not starving. This is what I teach my children. Maybe it’s just semantics to you, maybe this language doesn’t matter, but it does to me. I do believe that my children will grow up to have a better understanding and more compassion for a world in which children do needlessly starve everyday when there is enough for everyone. The generations before them might be trying, but they might actually be able to do it.

There is enough, I would love to see “starving” go into the same vault as polio and small pox. I would love to see it eradicated, and that starts by teaching the youngest among us what it means that they are privileged to have eaten several times today.

Prophet

This is a very stressful time of year for most of us. For a pastor, in addition to presents, wrapping, baking, holiday parties, family, etc. we also have bulletins, sermons, and pastoral crises. It’s okay, it’s part of our vocation. But it’s stressful.

I have been continuously sick for about two months now. Allergies, turned into sinus infection, then my daughter passed on her strep bacteria, and then a cold. I am not complaining, I annoyed. My family has been passing around germs and they have been passing them to me. At one of the busiest times of year, I have been running to schools to pick up kids, running to doctors, working from home. This week I was going to get everything done, I had just enough time… Except… My son got sick.

Double ear infections.

He’s 3. He’s struggling in life anyway (you know, cause he’s 3) he’s excited about Christmas, his routine has been changed because of everything going on the past two weeks, he’s pumped up on sugar… And this morning, he lost it.

For a half hour he cried, sobbed, at the moment of this picture he was crying because he didn’t want to put on the pants HE picked out. He also has wild hair because I will not fight him to cut it. So as I witnessed this breakdown, I heard the words of Isaiah and those quoted about John the Baptist.

A prophet cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of The Lord, the mountains will be made low and the low places a plain, the path will be made straight.

In other words, through God, things will be made easier, better. I don’t know what that means necessarily or what that looks like. But I know this- when things are hard, when fits are thrown, when it seems like it will never be okay- a voice cries in the wilderness, prepare the way. Prepare the way. God is soothing, loving, and cradling us, but we must prepare for the coming of Christ, and the voice that does that, even my screaming child, is a prophet.

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Good News

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For two weeks my husband and I had been going back and forth about his work Christmas party. Are spouses invited? If they are, should I go? Can we even find a sitter? Can we afford to find a sitter?

So it was decided I would not go. But then this week happened, I was good, everyday was planned out. Our office was chaos, the week before Christmas, my office manager out for a (very well deserved) two week vacation. So we had 6 bulletins to print and announcements top proof, candles and fabric to dig out, music to coordinate, shall I go on?

And yes, it would have been fine, until Tuesday afternoon my sons teacher comes to my office and tells me he has a fever. 103. So off to the doctor, double ear infections, trade off with my husband, back to church for session, working from home Wednesday with emails flying back and forth…

Needless to say, it was a tough week and I ended up working on my day off. So by 4:30 as I am attempting to finish my sermon for Sunday (on a very fried brain) I decide I need a night out, even if it is to my husband’s office party. So I was lucky enough to find a sitter (thanks Emily!) and we went to the party and dinner, sometimes we just need a break.

I am privileged to have a call and a vocation where I share the good news of Christ with a congregation and the community. But sometimes good news comes in spending some well deserved time with my husband.

Steady

Hope

Steady. My life is chaos, i do not know what this means. For the past 18 months my spiritual director has been telling me to “be good to myself” as I struggle to find “balance”.

Okay, I don’t know how to do that.

I can take care of you (or someone who is not me) all day long, and I would bend over backwards to do it, but me… me not so much.

After I had my first child I went back to the OB for my 6 week checkup. Now when I was pregnant I was excellent about taking my prenatal vitamins but once she was born… eh, not so much. Well my doc laid into me. She explained that I HAD to take my multi-vitamin and my calcium. That my daughter was literally sucking it out of my bones.

“Your daughter will get what she needs from you, this is not about her, this is about you. You have to replenish.”

Well, let me tell you, that was the exact wrong thing to say, and I was just tired enough to not filter myself and I told her just that. “If you tell me it’s for the baby I’ll do it. If it’s for me, I won’t.”

So what does all this have to do with steady?

Well, there are times when my well is dry and when the well is dry the hope goes with it. We HAVE to replenish. So the day steady came up I was on a plane to California. My well was pretty dry. I opened my Cantata book and saw these words. “Freely, with tenderness”

That’s what I wanted. That’s how I was going to replenish, THAT’S what it means to be good to myself. Hold myself “freely, with tenderness”. In other words, in loving-kindness, in other words, I don’t have to put so many expectations and restraints on myself that I am literally sucked dry.

The world, my family, the people I serve will get what they need- I have to hold myself freely, with tenderness.  This is the way my life will find steadfast peace- freely, with tenderness.

My Cup Overflows (and spills on the floor)

cup-runneth-over“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” ~Oscar Wilde

For the past two months in spiritual direction (maybe longer) we have been focusing on grace and gratitude.  A lot has been going well in my life.  I am happy, healthy, and so is my family.  I have a job I love, a new house, fantastic friends and feel like I am moving into a new phase in my life (some say midlife, I still think I’m way too young for midlife).

This is not without stress mind you- work life, home life, financial life have all caused a lot of stress but it has been good, manageable stress.

So I have been overwhelmed with blessing lately. My cup overflows.

So why then do I focus on the big mess that’s all over the floor?

When I was doing my chaplaincy in the hospital I discovered a lot about myself, one of those things was that I was really good in a crisis, I was not as good with joy.  I didn’t really know what to do when things went right. We examined this, a lot, but the reality was not a lot had gone “right” in my life and even in joy I waited for the other shoe to drop.

I could never simply enjoy the moment, that moment where everything is good, everything was right in the world, at least for these people in this room.

There are many people of faith who struggle with lamenting to God, thinking the only prayer should be one of thanksgiving. As we know there are many, many prayers of lament and cursing God in scripture for all the wrong that has gone on in people’s lives. I know these prayers and curses well.

However, it is not as easy for some of us to know what to do when we want to pay homage to God for all the goodness in our lives. It was easy when my children were born to give thanks to God – all I had to do was care for them and look at their sleeping perfectness and my whole heart leapt in gratitude.  I was so exhausted, so overwhelmed by love there was no thinking, only action and feelings of blessedness.

So here I am again, overwhelmed in gratitude and I am struggling to not clean up the mess on the floor.  I want to just let it be and not tell God “when” as God keeps pouring the blessings. I want to let go and simply enjoy these moments, now, for however long they may last.

The question becomes, how? The answer God gives me is by living, sharing, and growing in the abundance of life, fighting the demons of the past to not find their way into the present.

So thank you God. Those are the only words I have, the rest I will have to find a way to show.

I love being told what women care about. 

family-buying-a-new-home1I love being told what women care about.  No really, it’s insightful.  Especially when men tell me.  I do it to men.  I think with the exception of a small minority we all make general assumptions.  But just because it’s insightful and I store the information away doesn’t mean I’m any less offended.

My husband and I are in the process of buying a house.  We found a house we loved, made an offer and are now in the inspection process.  This is a strange process admittedly we are about to go into a huge amount of debt for a house we love, but really, have spent very little time in. My husband could not come to the inspection but I came.  Yes, I was there so the inspector could tell me what he saw, but really I wanted to spend as much time as possible in my potential new house.

Today I had another excuse to stop by and before we left I walked through the house, realizing that I wanted to see all these little things I hadn’t seen before.  Like what kind of shower head there is, the doors on the closets, was there extra paint in the garage, etc.

When my broker and I were almost done the seller’s broker came back and as we walked down the stairs he asked if everything was okay.  Because my broker and I had been talking about what to ask them to fix I tried to made some small talk like so I said something like, “just checking out the closet space”.

He then proceeded to tell me that women care about closets and kitchens and men care about back yards and garages.  Now these two brokers have shown a lot of houses, with a lot of couples, and I’m not going to argue with his stereotype, BUT I had to laugh because the whole point for my husband and I was the back yard.

Yes, I am interested in the kitchen, but my husband is also interested in closet space.  The garage was on my “must have” and not on his list at all.  But why would I care what this broker thought?  Did I think it made me seem shallow?

Mostly I don’t like other people telling me what I do or do not think.  What I can and cannot care about.  But I make generalities about boys and girls, men and women all the time.

I have a 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy and they do play differently.  She is nurturing to her toys, protective of them.  My son rams them together like they are fighting over their last meal.  It’s not because they’re dinosaurs, he bangs Barbie’s together too, runs over Hello Kitty with a dump truck, and rams the princess bike into the deck as hard as he can.

In the Acts lectionary text for this week (Acts 16:9-15) Paul has a dream about a man who needs his help, however the story is about a woman named Lydia.  Now the commentaries I’ve been reading have been wondering who this “man” is?

Yes, it could just mean a ‘man’ as in human or it could be (according to Jung) that the man is a shadow and as Paul is wandering around Asia Minor he is the one in need of help.  But nonetheless he meets Lydia, who deals in Purple cloth, not only making her a prominent business woman, but a woman of the world, a woman of the cultures.  She already worships the God of Israel, somehow she was already exposed, she further commits and opens herself to prayer and becomes a great woman of faith.

Paul finds her to be so and stays with her and her household.  Now Paul is often categorized as being a sexist.  I have said this on many occasions.  He notoriously ‘promotes’ stereotypes in his letters that keep women in their place and silent in church.  HOWEVER I think Paul, like Jesus lifted all those in positions of less power, including women and did not find that they were less in the eyes of God.   It is we that keep the stereotypes alive, it is we that don’t read past the first verse and look at the context of why this was said.

So I re-frame my questions… What does it say that “women care about the closets and the kitchen?” What does it say about us that “Men care about the garage and the back yard?” I could easily make stereotypical jokes about shoes space and muscle cars, but really they are both about caring for the heart of the family.  The kitchen and back yard promote family togetherness and the closets and garage are shelter for our needs.

So I wonder today, instead of jumping to conclusions next time I say I care about something or consider it a priority I want to ask myself what is at the root?  What is it I really care about? What is it God is calling me to care about?

Time-out

Here was our lunchtime conversation.

Lil Pie: I am a robot (in robot voice)
Dear Husband: I remember the day we brought you home from the robot factory
LP: no! I’m not a real robot, I am a little girl, I’m just pretending!
DH: that’s what your programming designed you to think.
LP: no, I was born from mommy’s tummy! (Getting a little upset)
Me: I think Daddy’s going to have to go to time out for lying.
DH: really? Can I? I have to sit on the stairs and no one can talk to me, and then after mommy has to tell me she loves me? This is a win/win!
Me: and if you’re really bad you have to go to your room by yourself and stay there until you are ready to talk about it…

All the good parenting books tell us to walk away when we get overwhelmed. Awesome, they’re right. But I haven’t gone to the bathroom alone in 5 years in what world do I get to say to my child, “I’m going to take a time out” and they NOT follow me to my room?

Time outs for adults, greatest. idea. ever.

Curses

Curse you new routine! Making my kids get up too early and scream all the way to school. Really because they went to bed too late.  They need more sleep but they also need to see their parents.

Curse you technology that family time is now spent looking at the tv, computers, iphones and ipads one (or two for everyone)

Curse you unusual thing that happened this morning to mess me up.

one-does-not-simply-curses_o_176553Curse the internet full of knowledge, memes and cute kitten videos that keep me distracted, links that lead to links.

Curse you email, text messaging, twitter, and facebook for helping to share every idea I have the moment I have them and filling others inbox’s with half processed thoughts.

Curse you winter rain- be cold or don’t- snow or don’t but quit lurking over us that the brother in the back of the car that is “not touching us” with his finger in our face.

Curse it all. Because then I can truly understand the blessing this life really is.

The Blessing that my husband and I have good jobs and a safe place to take our kids each day.

For the blessing of being connected with friends and family at the touch of a button.

Blessings for the unexpected and opportunity to meet new people.

Blessing of the quest for the unexpected and being reminded that I am not in control of this world.

To God be the Glory.