Sunday, December 7, 2008

A New Year

We’re a week into the new year in the Christian calendar world. It’s Advent, the season of expectation, of waiting, of chaos – of starting over again at the very beginning of things. I love Advent, absolutely love it. And though I love all church seasons, this is my favorite. I do not always like following the lectionary texts, but during Advent the lectionary gets it right, seems to me. The scriptures are hard and strange: stars falling from the sky in an apocalyptic moment, voices shouting in the wilderness for us all to repent to be ready for the One who is coming, an angel appearing to a young and unwed girl telling her she will become pregnant with the son of God.

And they’re full of wonder, sometimes in the same moment the story is odd and confusing. A seemingly crazy prophet named John is the one chosen to prepare the way for Jesus, way out beyond the city limits, wading in the water and asking all to come in and wash themselves clean of all that gets in the way of true seeing, all that prohibits us from recognizing Jesus when we see him. A young and unwed girl is the one chosen to bear God into the world, in flesh and blood. And the stars fall, the world turns upside-down, chaos is everywhere. These stories, these texts are hard, and strange - and wonder-filled.

Like life. I’ve often wondered what it was like to experience Advent as a pregnant woman or as a parent of an infant. Enter Advent 2008, and my now almost 10-week-old daughter. The world turning upside-down is almost an understatement, really. Our life, my life is unrecognizable from anything I could have ever imagined. Truly hard, truly strange. And truly wonder-filled. The gift of a child does, indeed, turn life chaotic. The gift of a child re-orders the universe as you’ve known it. And the gift of a child literally embodies the Holy in countless ways everyday.

This new year, for me and for my family, has begun on another coast and in another community. The stars that fall here come from the same sky, but it looks different above the Southern landscape we find ourselves in. Last year, at this same time, we were anticipating what life might be like if we were fortunate enough to become pregnant. It’s nothing like what I could have imagined. It’s far more difficult than I could have dreamed. And it’s made my world far deeper and wider and joy-full than I could have ever hoped for.

May my heart, my mind, my soul be ever open to the One who comes this Advent. The One who comes to me, to you – and to all the world. May we all wait and watch and listen with our feet on the ground, our bodies in service, and our hearts praying without ceasing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Missing Jesus

Sunday morning, Abby and I managed to get to church only a couple of minutes late. Not too bad for our first Sunday morning on our own, Shannon having left for work much earlier. And, I have to say, there is something kind of nice about it being okay to be late for the service. One perk of life on the pew side of things. Helps to have a baby, too, all kinds of things are immediately forgiven – particularly never being on time for anything, ever.

It’s a friendly congregation, lots of smiles every time I’m there. And everyone wants to meet Abby so I am more popular than I’ve ever been in my life. Worship is in an old, traditional sanctuary – a building they bought 3 years ago because they’d outgrown their smaller building and needed more space than was possible at the previous site. Beautiful stained glass, well-built and maintained organ, a wide variety of folks sitting in the pews (which they’re gradually removing to create more flexible worship space).

I’m trying, hard, and praying, over and over, to have an open heart and spirit to this new community, this new perspective from the pew. One of the things I’ve looked forward to, in the midst of all that is hard about this transition out of the pulpit, is learning to worship without also needing to think about what happens next. To simply be there, ready and present to the Spirit moving, with no responsibility other than doing just that. I knew I would hear God speaking in a different way, listen to the music flowing around me with new ears, and even see Jesus’ face in ways I haven’t before.

And I am hearing God speak through new voices and welcoming faces, I am experiencing the music with new appreciation and gratitude. But I am missing Jesus. There’s rarely a mention of the name at all. Sometimes the music will say something about Jesus, but not every week. I have yet to read liturgy containing language about Christ. Communion happens once a month, and even that Sunday there were no hymns with even a passing reference. Yes, Jesus is present regardless of whether the name is said. But it’s not clear to me that there is much that is distinctly Christian about worship at all.

There’s no doubt the liturgy is beautifully written, every week. Hymns, too - some of which are written by members of the congregation. Intentional work has been done to expand language about God, the earth and humanity. I haven’t seen a better effort around using inclusive language. It’s clear there are many, many gifted worship leaders and musicians. And, still, I’m missing Jesus. It seems to me that at least some of what is happening is what seems to happen in too many progressive Christian churches: in a well-meaning effort to expand understandings of God and one another, Jesus has gotten left behind. To try and distinguish ourselves from ‘other’ Christian churches that may not be as welcoming to all of humanity, we in the so-called ‘progressive’ Christian world walk too far from our grounding in the Christ who calls us together in the first place.

I can say we to include myself because I have been in that same place, thinking that Jesus language wasn’t all that necessary because it was all contained within the expansive God language I used. It took me awhile to realize that I wasn’t actually a Unitarian – but I was writing and thinking as though I was. There is absolutely nothing wrong at all with being Unitarian. It’s just not who I am. And not who I want the Christian church I participate in to be. I need Jesus. Maybe now more than ever, in the transition wilderness I find myself in. And if we’re going to claim ourselves as Christian communities, then ‘progressive’ Christian churches need Jesus, too.

Have I mentioned I feel strongly that I shouldn’t be missing Jesus in worship?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Entry-Level, and A Day to Remember

I’m on the market, the job market, that is. It’s a new experience for me this time around. There’s no system set-up to circulate my resume to every available non-profit job in the area. If I were applying for a church job in my denomination, I could look at a big long list of open positions and tell those who coordinate such searches to send my ‘stuff’ in. There’s not a big long list of open positions in Asheville’s non-profit world. Most of the time, even when something is open, it’s not posted anywhere. You have to know someone or be connected somehow.

On the positive side, some of the folks we know here are connected in significant ways. On the negative side, it’s simply rare to find an open position. In the last couple of weeks, through the before-mentioned connections, I was told about an open position with a non-profit here that works mostly as an alternative to incarceration for men and women whose offenses or crimes allow for lesser sentencing. Unlike the prison system, this organization does believe rehabilitation is possible. Nothing easy about their work, but they’ve been doing it well for a long time here. It would be a meaningful and worthwhile place to work, every bit of it God’s work. The work of salvation, even. Supporting and helping men (in this particular position) save themselves, to imagine a new and whole future for their lives. Not easy, not romantic work. Jesus’ footsteps are all over it.

I had an “initial” phone conversation yesterday with the guy handling the search for the open position. It’s an entry-level position, one that I could have applied for 10 years ago and had a shot at getting. And so I’ve struggled with my well-taught and absorbed ideas about “going backwards” or “settling” for something less than what I’m capable of. The guy I talked to yesterday even flat-out asked me why I was applying for an entry-level position. I suspect it’s likely I won’t be asked for an in-person interview. But even if I’m not, the process of the last several days has invited me to ask important and hard questions of myself.

What does entry-level mean, anyway? How important is going “up”? The organization could not function without this position. It’s the on the streets, in the courtroom work essential for it all to hold together. Do I want to be an E.D. someday (assuming I stay in the non-profit world)? You bet. But I’ll be a lot better at it if I’ve started on the ground, out in the streets. Romans and 1 Corinthians both talk about gifts, about each of God’s people being given unique qualities and skills to build the body of Christ. I’ve assumed for years that mine could only be used best on the pulpit side of life. Entry level somewhere else could just be an opportunity for me to begin to build in a different way, a new way, and yet still a part of the ever-expanding body of Christ that reaches into the pulpit and far, far beyond.

And it’s Veterans’ Day. I’ve thought about my dad, who gets a distant look in his eyes when he’s asked about Vietnam and who has spent his career always being involved in ROTC. I’ve thought about my uncle, who cannot stay in the room when Vietnam is mentioned and carries more brokenness from combat than I can begin to imagine. And then I’ve thought about the young men and women I know who serve now, each of them serving in different ways and in different places, but all extraordinary human beings who are giving their daily lives now in our country’s military.

I’m a pacifist. I want our military to lay down all of its weapons and turn them into plowshares and pruning hooks. It’s also true that I am grateful for each of those I know who have served, and for the millions I don’t know. Today I’ve remembered the names I know, and trust God knows all the others. And I pray for peace in all corners of the fragile, beautiful world that holds us all.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Church, A Proposition, A New President, and A Baby

My beautiful wife and child

I became a member of a church today, standing in front of a crowded sanctuary full of mostly unfamiliar but kind and welcoming faces. The sleeping baby in my arms was the only thing that held the dam of tears at bay. Tears of grief and tears of relief, welling up from my heart, mingled together behind my eyes. For the first time in a decade, I joined a church as the wife, the mom. Those are my titles, my first impressions in this congregation. Not pastor, not teacher, not leader. Standing there this morning, Abby in my arms and Shannon’s loving hand on my back, was the final letting go of what has been. It also means there may just be space to move forward, enough release to see what is next for me, where God is leading on this winding road of following. Grief at losing what has been; relief for the push to move ahead.

Proposition 8 passed in California. It made the news here, of course, but not in huge ways and certainly not on the front page. There was no big outcry of anger outside of our living room that we could hear. I didn’t sleep, obsessively checking the Chronicle for results through the night. It was pretty clear by morning that a slim – but enough -- majority of California voters were determined to take away the rights of some of their fellow citizens. Why does it matter to me now, people have asked. North Carolina doesn’t recognize our California marriage license anyway. But it does matter. We took those legal vows in front of the County of Santa Cruz, friends and strangers, in a room overflowing with hope and joy and love. It matters a great deal that Prop 8 passed, saying that no more people ‘like us’ should experience that kind of hope and love and joy. The entire state should be completely outraged and embarrassed. And I wonder what I could have done more of while I was there, and even here from the other coast. I wonder why there wasn’t more outrage before November 4, why wasn’t I more outraged when the whole process began months and months ago to get Prop 8 on the ballot? I should have been mad a year ago, instead of assuming others would be and that there’d be no way such an insidious ballot measure could possibly garner enough votes. There are, of course, lawsuits and vigils happening all over California. It’s not over. Separate but equal will not rule the day, not in the end. Those lawsuits and vigils are beginning to happen in other places, too. And someday, even, our marriage license will even matter here in our home state. It took me a day or so to remember that I believe in the resurrection: the impossible happening against all odds.

Barack Obama stood in Grant Park at midnight Tuesday, and I know more than one person in the crowd of many colors that gathered also believes in the resurrection. It is no small feat to overcome prejudice of any kind, and certainly not the deep-seeded racism that is still found in far more places than most of our country wants to admit. Was this election about more than race? Absolutely. It was about change and hope and the need for certainty that there can be a new day in the United States of America. Will Obama be able to deliver on all his promises? Not a chance. Does the Democratic party have the magic keys to this new day? Not by a long shot. I’ll admit, though, that I do feel more hopeful than I have in several years about how the citizens of the U.S. might reach across the aisle, or around the corner, or even across the table and care just a little more about each other. There’s been a huge shift in this election, and I’m daring to hope it’s a shift toward one another, a move to come closer to true community.

And the baby. Abigail: our nearly 6-week-old daughter who’s sleeping right now, as is her other very tired mom. Everyday, at some moment or another, I’m still in wonder that the hospital let us take her home. She’s beautiful (I know I’m biased, but she really is), and does something new everyday. The Sunday evening before she was born, I cooked Shannon’s favorite dinner, knowing there wouldn’t be too many more days before our child came into the world. She finished those leftovers a week later, watching Abby sleep. Last time I wrote a blog entry, I was waiting. Waiting for her, waiting for God to make it crystal clear what my life here will look like without a robe and stole. Sitting in the present moment is my greatest challenge, always. And I’m still waiting.

But now I’m waiting for Abby to wake up, enjoying the sound of her breathing and her tiny hands waving around every once in awhile while she sleeps. I’m more tired than I’ve ever been, and Shannon even more so since she’s the one providing the food every few hours. It’s been a more than full 6 weeks. And I wouldn’t trade a minute. The name Abigail means joy. And every time I look at her, I remember that new life is sometimes a long time coming. I remember that new life explodes into the world in the midst of chaos, and even pain beyond measure. I remember that I believe in the resurrection. I believe in Jesus’ resurrection, in all its mystery and hope, and I believe in the big and small ways new life comes everyday. Abby reminds me when I forget. So does her other mom. And tonight I remember that my cup overflows, and am sitting in gratitude.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I'm listening to the wind in the trees outside our family room's windows. It's a quiet neighborhood, mostly, except on trash/recycling pick-up days. Seems to take an unusually high number of big trucks to do all of that for some reason. I have been here for nearly a month now, and it's slowly beginning to feel like home and not an extended vacation trip with an adventure in home renovation package. Which means I can find a lot of places on my own without asking my sister or brother-in-law for directions, I put a North Carolina license plate on my car, have gotten a haircut at a local salon, and even became an official resident today with the acquisition of my North Carolina driver's license.

I have to admit, though, that it all still feels odd to not be expected anywhere in the way I have known. Setting a disciplined schedule for myself is not something I've ever been all that good at, and having all kinds of time that is mostly mine to schedule has not yet inspired much discipline for any kind of routine. Part of it is the waiting factor - knowing that when the baby arrives she will be the focus of the routine and be my 'boss' in a more complete way than any church has ever been. I pushed myself hard when I first got here to get the major things done in the house so it would be livable for us before baby comes. Now that those things are done, I'm simply waiting. And I've definitely never been good at that.

One of the opportunities in this transition for me is the chance to learn to go slow, to relax, to sit still for more than a minute at a time. Some days I've enjoyed that. Others, I've allowed the open time to make me feel useless -- a learned perspective, I know, from my workaholic parents that they passed on in abundance to both me and my sister. How often have I yearned for just this kind of space during the decade of frantic church life?

Truth is, I miss it all madly. And I know, in the very same breath that's filled with grief, this is where God would have me be right now. Learning to trust in open space, learning to find the life present in the waiting, listening to the wind in the trees in the middle of the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Laying it all Down

New Mexico morning -- today, Tuesday Aug 26, 7:00 a.m.

I woke up this morning an hour later than I wanted to, no idea what happened to the alarm. Probably not a bad thing since I didn't go to sleep until 2:00 a.m....though not for lack of trying. The knowledge of unemployment is one thing -- my head, heart and body implementing that is apparently another thing entirely. After 6 months of functioning on 4-5 hours of sleep, I don't even know how to go to sleep. Truth is, I don't know what to do with myself in general, with all these hours of time.

There are no phone calls to make to check on this or that thing or person. No emails to send in response to the latest round of cyber communication, no work email to read, even. I'm at loose ends, and it feels really odd. It's not like there isn't anything to think about -- a 35-weeks-pregnant wife and all that means is a great deal to think about. I guess it's just that there's been so much more than that for the past several months. Like, 300 other people. An entire community to hold in one way or another. And now, all of sudden, it's not mine to hold.

I'm driving into another life, and need to lay this other one down. Looks like that isn't going to be as simple as I thought.

Light in the Desert

Sunrise over the Mojave Desert - Monday morning, 6:00 a.m.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What Remains

(Actually late Sunday evening, CA time)

I’m in Barstow, CA, a mile from I-40 – the road home. Home to Shannon, home to the new life we’re beginning in Asheville, NC. Away from Santa Cruz, away from the home we’ve had there with our church, with our friends. And away, too, from church for me. The robes and stoles will go to the dry cleaners’ soon, and be put away for awhile. They’ll be replaced, very soon, with my new job as mom-at-home.
It’s all a lot to process and feel, to say the least.

I’ve been crying for days, at one thing or another, with one person or another. And, today, with the whole church. At another point in my life, if I’d been in the crowd watching all of that unfold, I would have been one of the few dry-eyed folks there. I’d closed off much of myself, trying to stay safe from harm, protecting myself from any depth of relationship that had the power to cause me pain. It took me a few years to realize how much of life I was missing, and to discover that there was no way to give myself to Jesus – or to anyone else – without grief and pain coming into play somewhere along the way. And that I had no idea what joy was.

Church life is hard, really hard some days. There is nothing easy about being in real, messy community with a whole lot of people. And there sure isn’t anything easy about following Jesus. But as I drove away from Santa Cruz today, talking to Shannon and winding my way through those familiar streets, I knew that every hard day these past 4 years was worth it. I would trade none of it, not even the dark days. Our marriage began there, in that community of faith, with that community of friends. Our child began growing there, 35 weeks ago. (5 weeks to due date now!) And I gave my life to Jesus in a deeper way than I ever have before – because I finally learned to let go of my need for safety, for protection. Shannon started breaking down those barriers in me, and this church and these friends brought them most of the rest of the way down. I still have a lot to learn, a long way to go as I search for Jesus’ footsteps in my life, in the earth I walk on. But I’m pointed in the right direction, and more so because of the ministry I’ve shared with so many in Santa Cruz and beyond.

What remains, now, in the place of those long-held barriers in me – what remains is gratitude. Gratitude for the grief, because it tells me how much I’ve loved here, how many people I will love and carry with me all the days of my life. Gratitude for the tears, because they show me the depth of joy I’ve discovered and experienced. Faith, hope, love – and gratitude. These remain.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Last Days

It’s Wednesday night. I’ve been stressing for a couple of weeks about this coming Sunday, my last as a pastor here – and as a pastor anywhere for the foreseeable future. What scripture is right for this kind of day? What word would God have us hear for a day of gratitude, of letting go, of opening to what new possibilities are in store for us all on the other side of this farewell? I want to be profound, of course. A sermon that will stay with them forever, move them to new heights, a sermon everyone will want copies of afterwards…oh. Right. This isn’t actually about me. It’s about God. About the ministry we’ve been given and shared and grown into, and about the Christ we’ve tried to follow on the streets of Santa Cruz and in so many places beyond. It’s about the ministry they’ll continue to grow into, the new life I’m stepping into, and the footsteps of Jesus we’ll all keep doing our best to find and follow.

I know the scripture now, the liturgy has been written, the band has been given the music, a sermon title discovered. And the word itself will come – God’s word, somehow, in my frail, human speech. And the word will come in the prayers we pray together, in Lori’s voice and in Art’s magic through the piano keys, the word will move into the air in Renata’s bow across the cello’s strings, Steve’s steady rhythm behind the drums, Stan’s centering bass and Brad’s lively horn. It’ll come, because this word, God’s word, is living and breathing and ever-present.

How grateful I am for that. And how grateful, really, I am for the grief. It’s profound, this grief of leaving Santa Cruz, of letting go of this church community. There will never be another Santa Cruz for us: the place and people with whom we began our marriage, the people who prayed – and still do – every day for our baby girl soon to come into the world. And it’s the church where I’ve learned what it means to give myself to this work, to this calling of parish ministry. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this place, and they’ve all given that and more right back to me. And the grief tells me it’s been worth every hard moment, every painful wrong step, every poorly chosen word – by them and by me.

Anne Lamott says there are really only two prayers: “Thank you, thank you, thank you” and “Help me, help me, help me.” She’s right. Thank you for Santa Cruz, for community, for friends to last a lifetime. Help me grieve and honor it all, and help me carry it with me when I go.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In-between Time

It's an odd place to be, sitting in the present circumstance on the cusp of huge change. Soon, mere weeks away, I'll be unemployed for the first time since I was 16 years old. By choice, thankfully, not forced. Notice I did not say "not working." I freely admit I don't know a fraction of what it means to be a parent, but I do know that I will most definitely be working when this child arrives into our world.

The details of transition have been exhausting, to say the least. I've had many moments of relief remembering I will get a break from church life as I've known it. There's a lot that is not easy about parish life. The next moment, though, will be one of heartbreak as I remember what it means I will also be losing. There is also a lot that is overwhelmingly joy-full and grace-filled in parish life.

And I have to admit to the fear of this big change: being a pastor has been an enormous part of my identity for a long time. Identity shift to being seen primarily as 'mom' is not insignificant. It's difficult for me even to imagine another life. At the same time, I am eager to embrace the change because I am completely confident it is God's clear leading for this moment in our lives.

It's a lot to hold all at once, not to mention the coast-to-coast move it involves. Ecclesiastes promises that there is a time for everything. My challenge is to remember that promise also means God is in the midst of it all, that I do not hold any of it alone.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Do

I’d said it before, standing in the front of a church sanctuary, wearing a white dress and looking into her beautiful eyes. She wore a white dress, too. We’d both been really nervous, with shaking hands and wavering voices -- surrounded by so many who loved us and whom we loved. My voice had gotten lost somewhere in a joyful choke of tears as I promised what was already true: my heart, my life, my all was intertwined with hers for the rest of this beautiful and messy earthly existence. In good and bad, joy and challenge, we’d promised before God and community to stay by one another’s side and share it all. I’d said “I do,” to all of it, wearing that white dress and standing in the front of a church sanctuary.

And so I didn’t think about what it might be like to say it again, standing in a conference room in the Santa Cruz County building. I had no idea what it would feel like to walk into a County Clerk’s office with my beloved, and actually receive a marriage license. It didn’t occur to me that I would be so happy to write a check to the County for anything. Truth is, though, I’ve never been happier to give money to local government. Truth is, saying “I do” in front of the County Clerk in a conference room meant more than I could have ever imagined.

It is no small thing to stand in an historic moment. It is no small thing to participate in the righting of an injustice you haven’t dared dream would come true for you. Does having a civil marriage license make our Christian marriage any more valid? Absolutely not. The promises we made to God and each other are not subject to any civil authority. We are blessed beyond measure to serve and participate in a Christian community that already believes our growing family is equal to any other, a community that has been working for many years to move the state to practice the equality of citizens stated so clearly in the constitution.

I learned the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag almost 30 years ago, and can recite it all from memory when I simply close my eyes and transport myself back to those elementary school classrooms where I said it each morning, with my hand over my heart. As an adult, I’ve discovered my allegiance is first to God and that primary allegiance sometimes comes into conflict with the laws of the United States. I’ve also learned that these conflicts between my core Christian convictions and certain laws, policies and decisions by the United States government can be held in a creative tension. This tension is possible because of the innate freedom given to me in my creation as a child of God, and because of the freedom of choice and expression promised to the population of the United States. What I also learned as an adult, though, is that there were limits to the freedom under the law for me. My sister and her husband could be married under the law, they had that choice in every state of the union. Because I was oriented differently than my sister, and knew that a woman was the life partner for me, the choice of legal marriage was denied me.

“…with liberty and justice for all,” didn’t mean me, not wholly. But then came an ordinary Tuesday morning in June, in Santa Cruz County California. I said “I do,” again. This time, in a courthouse. This time, surrounded by another community of people we love and who love us. This time, with a simple dress for me and maternity clothes for Shannon. This time, with our unborn child in Shannon’s body growing her way into our family. I said “I do,” Shannon said “I do,” and the room erupted in joy and tears and applause. The state made good on its promises to us, as citizens, for our family to be recognized equally under the law.

We are deeply and profoundly grateful to God for the loving and inclusive Christian community that surrounds us every day. And we are proud to be citizens of the state of California, where “liberty and justice for all” rings ever closer to being true for all of its people.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

O Ye of Little Faith

Legal marriage. For me. For my family. Shannon and I will be able to be legally married in a little over a month. I never thought it would happen in a place where I lived, not in my lifetime. We've been married in the eyes of God and community for going on 3 years. For us that's the most important part of marriage - the covenant we have with each other and with God.

And, yet, this legal marriage stuff also means the world. It means no more second-class citizenship. It means our baby will be OUR baby from the very beginning, none of this second-parent adoption stuff that would have to happen if we are not legally married.

Of course there's all kinds of uproar, and it looks like an amendment banning same-sex marriage is going to get on the ballot in November. We can't rest easy yet. But we'll get married before November, lots of us will. And we'll keep working for justice for everyone. We will work as hard as we have to so marriage is a choice for all couples who wish to choose it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Struggling to be Grateful

It's been a really hard few weeks, with Shannon being so sick with this pregnancy, we're both exhausted and in need of some quiet and calm hours that don't involve nausea and vomiting and saltine crackers. I saw a chance this afternoon when my phone stopped ringing and I'd caught up on email -- and I came home early, thinking that it'd be a good afternoon to sit on the deck and enjoy the small bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds. After Sunday, there won't be as much opportunity to have an afternoon off. One of my colleagues leaves for a 4 1/2 month sabbatical, so my workload and responsibilities increase accordingly while he's away. So I went by the store to buy some beer, even, so I could have one or two while watching basketball tonight.

I walk in the door and Austin (our dog) greets me with a little more anxiety than normal. He's had just as hard a time with Shannon being really sick, worried about her and wondering what is going on. I also know that his greeting means he's done something he knows I'm not going to be happy with. As I walk toward the kitchen to put the beer in the frig, I see broken glass everywhere...and think maybe I should open the beer immediately. Somehow, he's gotten enough of himself up on the kitchen counter to bring down an entire glass dish onto the floor. And then he's taken pieces of it into the living room to lick whatever remnants of food he'd found on it. I don't know how, but he seems unhurt, at least I cannot find any blood on him or on the floor.

I am sitting on the deck, and am glad the sun is shining. I'm drinking a beer, sighing deeply, and praying for a heart of gratitude: this baby has turned all of our lives upside-down, already. Austin's through-the-roof anxiety is only one example. We prayed so hard for this pregnancy to happen. We want so much to be able to raise a family that will add a little more of God's love to the world. Right now, though, I'm thinking a lot about the disciples in Luke's Gospel -- the ones who were walking on the road to Emmaus after Jesus was killed and they'd found the empty tomb, in the completely opposite direction of Jerusalem. They were trying to get away from it all - they were exhausted, confused and bewildered as to what to do next, wondering if all that time had been at all worth it.

Somewhere, deep in me, I know it's worth it: all the disruption of routine, the sickness, the exhaustion. If there's anything I know for sure, it's that new life is messy and always hard to birth. Today I'm struggling to be thankful for it, and praying for grace to find me, to remind me that this little bit of sunshine and an afternoon off can sustain me a long way.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Gift of Disappointment

We found out this morning that Shannon's parents, supposed to arrive in California tomorrow afternoon, will not be making the trip. Her mom is sick, and unable to fly. My first reaction? Extreme disappointment...and a startling realization of just what that disappointment means.

Even two years ago, I wasn't sure Shannon's parents would ever really accept us. Our life, as two women married to each other, is way beyond what they've known in the rural life of North Carolina that has shaped each of them for more than 70 years. They are not now, nor have they ever been, the hate-mongers that seem to capture so much of the media's attention. Instead, they are faithful Christian folks whose world hasn't been as diverse or as broad or as open as mine (and Shannon's) has been able to be. Same-sex attraction - much less marriage - is difficult, at best, to come to terms with in their lives and in their community. Shannon's journey with them as she came out to them over the years has been fraught with misunderstanding, deep pain, and even months and weeks of silence.

And now, in the early months of 2008, we are deeply disappointed they will not be arriving tomorrow - and so are they. Our relationship with them is far from perfect nor is it always simple and comfortable. It is, though, real and honest and loving and steadfast. We know now that we're a part of the family, even when it may not be as ideal as we'd like it to be. Prayer does change us, our collective prayers have changed every one of us into this moment: a moment of disappointment that reveals the extraordinary grace of God evident in the gift of this family.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Writer's Block

November was a long time ago...and just about every day between my last blog post and this very minute, I think about all that I could write. But I don't do it. I find other "more important" or "necessary" things to do, or convince myself that what I really want to write about is too intimate or vulnerable to be posted on a website that is accessible to anyone who happens to stumble across it. But then I do not write at all. And I feel the hole that widens because I have not.

I had the extraordinary opportunity to go on a 5-day (mostly) silent retreat at a wonderful retreat center on the Peninsula, not too far from here, in January. Most of those 5 days, I talked for only 1 hour a day. For one hour each day, I met with a spiritual director. I was most nervous about that particular part of the retreat - could I really, after all, talk to a perfect stranger about my life? Would I honestly be capable of revealing myself to her? Turns out, God's hand was all over the whole experience. My spiritual director was a gift straight from the heart of God for me that week. We talked about many things, one of which was my love for writing and my desire to write more, to find time and make space for regular writing in my life. She had read some of what I had written in my application for the retreat time, and she had me write some that week as well. And she told me that for me not to write was a sin - a word she used rarely. I had a gift, she said, and God intended for me to use it.

Some days I think she's right and I feel the blessing of words that flow and express heart and soul and mind and glimpses of the holy -- other days I'm certain I dreamed the whole thing because how could anything I say be worth reading? No matter what end of that internal argument I inhabit at any given moment, I know that at the heart of my writer's block is fear: fear of vulnerability, fear of sounding stupid, fear of not having anything worth saying after all.

So here's my prayer for tonight, that confronting my fear of vulnerability out here in the wide open world will push through this writer's block, even a little.