Tuesday, February 28, 2012


My girl, Maryn Elana, "May May" to those closest to her.  

My feisty sweet one, alternating bossy demands and loving cuddles.  She is mostly me, from her grouchiness in the morning, to her need for time for herself with no conversation and no eyes on her.  She surprises me, though, in how she can move from shyness to giggles and openness, and how she has become a leader in her class this year when last year's class only brought tears of separation anxiety.  She is so bright, from her smile to the way she picks up new information so quickly.  She is so sparkly, from her princess shoes to the way she picks up on our moods and tries to make us laugh.  She is so funny and creative and clever.  After I took this picture of her, she said she was mommy at work.  I asked her what I do at work and she said, "Eat candy and play on the computer!"  

She is growing so fast, literally, that she can't keep up with herself.  She trips and falls, bumps into things off-kilter, and requires a new wardrobe every couple of weeks.  She realizes the shift as well, and can go from reading a new word independently to baby-talk and wanting me to hold her like a baby within the span of minutes.  We two are caught in the transition between our natal bond and the independence that is forging.  There is reaching out and letting go, and then a run back into my arms.  It is a lovely and heartbreaking dance, and I know we're only starting the first steps.  She dreams of going off on the school bus with her big brother, and it catches my breath to realize that it's only a year and some months away.  We worry about her journey less than his, for her fierce attitude and confidence affords her some protection.  She has always been tied to me, clinging on in the beginning even as I fought through the haze of depression and a difficult transition as a mother of two.  She sought my heart and found it, and I discovered it was softened, opened, and enlarged.  She has taught me to laugh more and to take the time to stop and enjoy the embrace of long arms and legs outgrowing my lap.  I will never outgrow the joy she brings me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Old age and other blessings?

I walked into my doctor's office today, feeling pretty good.  It was my annual gyn visit, which I had rescheduled three times due to emergencies and, well, who really wants to go to the gynecologist?  I remember when it was fun, when there was a greater purpose, a chance to see the little one growing inside of me.  Now I'm four years removed from that, and if I were to find myself in that state again, it wouldn't be the immediate blessing it was the other two times.  So I was feeling good, young and healthy, and was even wearing a cute little dress.  The nurse asked all the standard questions after the obtrusive weighing and measuring (I joked that maybe I had had a growth spurt...she wasn't amused).  Then she commented, "A healthy one.  Good."  I continue to revel in my youth until my doctor arrived and her first comment was, "Ah, you're almost 35.  Time for your first mammogram!"  And my bubble burst.  You see, in my head, I'm still in my twenties.  Working on a college campus, I can even convince myself sometimes that I'm still relevant to the youth of today (even when I ask questions like "What's a tumblr?"  "Dub step, what?" and "Who is that [celebrity du jour]?").

Nothing in my inner being suggests I am aging, even though my body betrays me.  The grays are more prominent, the wrinkles are emerging, and I've come to realize that this is the height I will always be (until I start shrinking).  It's harder to get up after sitting for a long spell, and yes, I can even feel the weather in my bones sometimes.  I wear out much more easily and would love nothing better to sleep for a couple of days (if only the insomnia would go away).  I've become the person that used to frustrate me the most...complaining about ailments, moving slowly, and being utterly overwhelmed by new technology.

How the heck did this happen?  As I approach my 35th birthday, I know how truly blessed I am.  Every birthday sure beats the alternative.  It just surprises me that as my children have snuck around and grown up too fast, somehow I have done the same without realizing it.  I hope this new found transition to old-er age brings with it wisdom, because, honestly, I still feel like a kid playing dress up, wondering when I'll feel like a REAL adult!  Thanks be to God that I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up...and here I am. I hope I'll grow into the job and calling!  :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Wilderness

As part of my daily writing practice for Lent, I decided it was finally time to tackle Sunday's sermon!  It's been ruminating in my mind for weeks, but there's something a little intimidating about sitting down to capture it on a blank page.  Thus, I've begun a habit of procrastination.  So here's my attempt to counteract that through the discipline of regular writing and posting, for accountability's sake.  So here's a sample of my work in progress:

Have you been to the wilderness?  I don’t mean in a literal sense, although perhaps you’ve walked through a forest or spent some time in the desert and felt just a little smaller because of the vastness surrounding you.  The wilderness I’m speaking of is of the metaphorical variety…those moments in your journey where you’ve just felt lost and unsure of your next step.  The wilderness is barren, like a blank page awaiting words.  It is silent, quiet enough to hear your inner turmoil and feel your beating heart.  There are all manners of wild beasts, but the scariest of all is your own doubt and the nagging fear that you will never escape into the Promised Land.  The temptations are many…for food and water, for power, for fame, for something, anything, to anesthetize the worry and the constant second-guessing, the ever-present self-doubts.  The wilderness finds us alone and lonely, regardless of the crowds that surround us; they may be, in fact, our biggest struggle.  This arid desert provokes our fight to find ourselves and not lose our essence in the demands to conform and the desires to be accepted.  It is a time of testing and a period of being confronted with our shameful weaknesses, and yet, if we persevere, it is a journey that will ultimately define our strength.

Where have been your wilderness places?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hope out of ashes

Does it make me seem like a downer to admit that Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite observances of the Christian year?  As an introvert, I’m prone to introspection, and I like the imagery and metaphor of ashes reminding us of our mortality, focusing us on repentance and reconciliation.  But I guess the greatest attraction for me is the hope that lies just around the corner.  We spend forty days fasting (in whatever meaning we give that), to be shaken out of our darkness with the bright and loud light of the Easter sunrise (Son-rise?).  Isn’t that a lot like life?  We spend a lot of time contemplating the darkness and brokenness of our world, only to be jarred at times by its irresistible divine beauty and mystery.

Many choose to give up something for the season, a habit or joy that helps us to learn to surrender to self and focus instead on devotion to God.  Last year I tried (and failed,as I knew I would) to give up negativity.  But the exercise had the desired effect, to make me think about my own attitude and to turn it when I could.  It was a big test, like asking for patience and having it tried continuously.  Within an hour of declaring my intentions last year, we discovered a roof leak, leading me to sarcastically proclaim, “Yay, we’re getting a new roof!”  How’s that for a positive spin?

This year, there are plenty of things I should probably lose, but instead, I’m thinking of gaining.  My hope is to add the discipline of writing daily.  I’m learning that writing is the best way for me to reflect, to clear my head, to focus my day, and to center my life.  It would probably be a good idea to get to work on my sermon for Sunday as well, considering we’re at the mid-week point!

Interestingly enough, my sermon will focus on the wilderness, those points on our journey where we feel lost and alone.  Just as Jesus was driven into the wilderness after his baptism and before he began his public ministry, we all face times when we confront temptation, isolation, doubts, perhaps even unto a “dark night of the soul”.

As we journey inward and confront our own darkness, may we also be opened to the beauty within, finding that divine likeness in which we were created and continue to grow towards.  When all is hopeless, may we hang onto to the promise of Easter, just around the corner, and trust that time in the wilderness will bring us strength and faith for what is to come.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of doubts and cars

I'm generally a pretty confident person...except when I'm not.  The lows can be crushing, causing self-doubt,  melancholy, and inertia.  I've learned that comparison is the enemy of happiness, but it doesn't break the habit.  All it takes is reading another blog to make me think, "I'm not a writer," or a glance at someone's Pinterest to bring the realization, "I'm not all that creative after all."

It's a sensitive time for me as I prepare to hand in my application for the permanent chaplain position that I've loved as interim for the past five months.  Even with the discovery that students are "secretly" petitioning on my behalf and the reassurances from many that I'm a good fit, I still have those nagging "what ifs" circulating in my brain.  Today I will walk in my first official procession in my robe and preside on the platform and offer official prayers, but part of me feels like a kid playing dress-up.  My old preaching robe doesn't look as official as the academic gowns, and my hood is not as fancy or prestigious as the doctoral ones of those who will surround me.

Yesterday, my weekly worship gathering commenced for the semester and I had prepared a study on community, focusing on the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 about how we are all the body of Christ, but being different members with differing gifts.  The scripture goes on to propose that the members can't argue that they don't belong to the body because they don't have the gift of another.

1 Corinthians 12:15-20

New International Version (NIV)
 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

It should have hit home.  All our gifts are unique, but essential.  We are made to work together.  Except only one student showed up for the service.  She is very dear to me and I was glad to have her, but as she is a Muslim, I didn't go into my body of Christ scripture (probably due more to my level of discomfort than hers).  So I went home and indulged in some blogs and self-pity.

It wasn't until this morning as my daughter was taking a bath that things began to click.  She was playing with two cars in the bathtub and was creating a storyline and narration for them, as she usually does.  I was averting my eyes but listening, which is her preference.  As she is self-conscious, she doesn't like to invite us in to her play world often, which is a shame because she is one creative girl.  Anyway, I overheard the conversation between the cars, which went something like this:

Purple car: "I'm shiny!"
Black car: "I'm dark!"
(repeated a few times, then she turned them over so the bottom of the cars faced up)
both cars: "But we're both the same on the bottom!"

Yes, sometimes we're shiny, and sometimes we're dark, but in essence, we are all the same.  Beloved, beautiful children of God.

Thanks be to God, and to reminders from toy cars and my lovely and brilliant daughter.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I'm baaaaack!

I was a little shocked to open this blog and discover my last post was about Christmas.  Yikes.  Suffice it to say that things have been busy, but I think it's more than that (and everyone uses that excuse, legitimately).  Writing is a discipline, one that's easy to let slide.  It involves work, and thought, and vulnerability.  Sometimes I feel that my thoughts are too mundane, or my emotions too negative and I don't really want an audience or outlet.  But I've been feeling the drain of not processing my experiences, and have found that writing is the best opportunity for me (as an introvert) to do that.  My mind has been muddled and my anger and frustration levels have flared far too often.  I've been rushing through my "to-dos" and hardly accomplishing anything at all.  I talked a good talk with my "Spirituality for Busy People" class last semester, but haven't been walking the walk (or blogging the blog, apparently).

So I'm back, better than ever!  Just kidding.   I can't promise that, but I strive for improvement in all facets of my life.  In addition, I'm struggling to grant myself the grace to not always demand perfection (from myself and from others).  I'm seeking to find gratitude in the beauty of my life, the way it is now, not the way I dream it will be.  I'm searching for ways to unearth and share my authentic self and use my gifts in a way that touches others.  I hope you'll join me on the journey.
© Patrick McDonnell, “Mutts”, as printed in the book Guardians of Being, words by Eckhart Tolle and art by Patrick McDonnell, 2009, New World Library.