Saturday, October 27, 2018

Mosaics, Diversity, & Pure Humanity

Have you ever created a mosaic? 

Years ago, I was a Girl Scout.  And I BELIEVE this is where I first created a mosaic (Mom will correct me if I'm wrong).  But here's how it goes when you don't have the mosaic kits handy.

Smash some stuff.  Pound some stuff. And I mean hard.  Mosaics require THICKER pieces of glass and ceramics.  Which means that it takes sometimes a great deal of force for them to break.   And don't just rely on stuff that's the all of just one set of plates or something.  The most beautiful mosaics often have color and design.  Diversity in the broken pieces is encouraged. 

Find the pieces you can use.  Be careful though - brokenness often has sharp edges and shards.  At times, you'll have pieces that you REALLY want to hold on to for the mosaic.  But if they are too small, that's okay.  Let them go.  There are plenty of other pieces you'll be able to use. 

Start creating.  Step back every now and then and see how things are going when you're not right on top of it.  Ask for advice from fellow artists on how to piece them together, especially the pieces you're not sure are even worthwhile.   Do not judge yourself at how long it takes to create.  An artist's work takes diligence.  It takes effort to finish a project.  (I won't tell you how many art projects I've started over the years and thrown away unfinished - but a mosaic is made from brokenness.) 

Sometimes we start creating and a new design develops.  Go with it. 

Sometimes we start creating and we must break more or receive more broken pieces before continuing. 

Sometimes we start creating and get discouraged - reach out to your fellow artists.  For we are all a mosaic.

To You, Mosaics in Progress, 

We are smashed.  We are pounded.  Even when we think we have thick skin and can handle it, we break.  We have great diversity, but yet the diversity in our brokenness and diversity in our style, shape, color - these are beautiful when put together.  Some of our brokenness, we just have to release. But even our oddly shaped pieces of brokenness can be used in the whole of who we are and who our community is.  Beware of your sharp edges as much as you seem more aware of the shards of others.  Take care to notice how you piece yourself together and how you relate to others around you.  But good heavens, start creating.  Do something with your brokenness and allow others to help piece you together too. The inner artist in you?  The God who created all of creation (Don't you love Autumn!), lives within you.  Don't disregard your gut.  Stop judging yourself when you do not match another's timeline.  All of our pieces are different and take differing care.  But it does take diligence.  To notice.  To work.  To reach out.  

But you - you are beautiful.  Your brokenness - it can create a masterpiece.  And just when you think you are finished, you'll be handed more broken pieces or asked to help someone else piece themselves.  And maybe - just maybe - if we're all working on our masterpieces, we can acknowledge the grandiosity of diversity and just how beautiful some broken humans can be when we come together.   


A Mosaic in Progress 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Frickin' Detours

Be real with me - I KNOW you've done it...Ever just asked God to give you a sign? 

Today, I drove to Nashville, TN, for a conference.  So, like most - I plugged the address into Siri Maps and started following the directions.  It was simple.  Except, right off the bat, my directions took me straight for a road closure.  DANG ITTTTT. 

Detour signs.  Great.  Follow the detour signs.  But, the Maps app went crazy - "Make a u-turn and proceed to the route."  Over, and over, and over.  It wanted me to route back.  It wanted me to go around the block.  It even tried to take me to a different exit up the road where it was STILL closed. 

It was NOT easy hearing its repetitiveness in attempts while following the detour signs.  It went blabbing on about proceeding to the route while I was conscientiously trying to follow the detour signs taking me in the opposite way! 

How often do we encounter this struggle though?  We know where we are headed and what God has called us to do.  But, the route we thought we'd take (ya know, the quick and convenient one) is closed.  So, we get discouraged.  Sometimes, some of us totally give up.  "Well, I guess it wasn't meant to be."  Others of us start following the detour signs to route us around the mess.  However, it can be so hard to follow the signs with all the other voices - media, expectations of others, distractions, our own expectations, etc.  Sometimes, we give in there.  "That seems like it'll get me there faster....let's try it."  Or sometimes, we give into our own stubbornness or well-meaning nostalgia.  "Well that's not working, so I'll just do it my way" or "It worked before."  (Any of ya driven on a closed road or bridge that's worked before?)

I truly wonder how many of us (myself included) miss cool, historic buildings and innovative, soul-crushing graffiti because we're not following the detour conscientiously. 

Ever noticed how a detour isn't all mapped out right at the beginning?  You literally just drive until you see the next sign to turn or a nice affirmation to continue straight.  You follow the signs because you know 100% that you'll get where you need to be.  SO, why are we so resistant to follow the detours in our lives?  Why do we doubt God's desire to get us where we need to be?!  Why are we so set on knowing exactly how we will reach the end goal that we forget to enjoy the journey?  What are we missing in the midst of our anxiety in the uncertainty of every twist and turn?  Why does it take so much convincing on God's part that God remains present? 

Oh - and just because the detour is mapped out step-by-step does not mean that it is all easy?!  It may still take us to uncomfy places, unexpected stops (like a train), or add time that wasn't planned.  BUT, the need for a detour in your life does not mean that it will put ya off track totally.  It just makes you more reliant on God with a greater appreciation for the turn-by-turn signs in our lives. 

So, where are you headed so anxiously?  What are you missing in the meantime?  Where is God? 

Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT)
"Show me the right path, O Lord; 
point out the road for me to follow. 
Lead me by your truth and teach me, 
for you are the God who saves me. 
All day long I put my hope in you." 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Humanity Unshakable

Wednesday, we entered into the season of Lent, a time for self-examination, reflection, and repentance (or to turn from one's ways). As usual, I too attended an Ash Wednesday service.  I watched as a child, probably five or six, received the ashes in the shape of a cross on the back of her hand.  As she walked away, she shook her hand, as if to shake them off, looking back at her hand to see they were still there.  Tears welled in my eyes.  

Humanity is unshakable.  

Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time to live and a time to die (3:2). Our humanity encompasses both living and dying.  Both are part of who we are as human.  Most of us have experienced the grief as we said goodbye to a loved one.  The reality can be overwhelming at the time and when we look back to remember.  

This child is already learning the reality of her humanity.  Her time is limited. From dust she came and to dust she will return.  

For it is the same with us all.  Our time is limited.  We are human.  From dust we came and to dust we will return.  

What will you do with the time you have?  For our humanity is unshakable.  

Are there places in your life that you wish to change?  Now is the time. 

Are there people with whom you need to repair a relationship?  Now is the time.  

Are there hurts, habits, and hang ups that need to be addressed? Now is the time. 

For our time is limited.  Humanity is unshakable.   

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Easily Distracted

I worked late on Halloween night.  I had a 5pm meeting and got back to the office just as the sun was setting.  I finished up some logging and packed my bags to get home to my better half, who was awaiting my arrival to eat supper!  But I noticed I hadn't washed my coffee cup from that morning.  So, I ventured to the kitchen, noting that the coffee pot hadn't been rinsed either.  Growing up, my dad was a coffee drinker and my mom abhorred it all, especially the coffee stains.  I thought I was being nice in quickly washing the coffee pot.  I set it out on a towel to dry while I washed my coffee cup.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the coffee pot tilt off balance and go crashing to the tile floor.  You can imagine the rush of distress I felt if you've ever worked in an office setting with avid coffee drinkers.  The coffee pot literally shattered sending shards of glass everywhere.  I picked up the handle (which was plastic) that had a metal ring attached to it.  It was all that was left of a container which generally held a magical, dark elixir that somehow made an office setting more tolerable, if not enjoyable.  Yes, I bought a new one.  But not without a few curse words first.  

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, I travel about 75 minutes into the city for class.  On Thursday, I had a memorable experience.  This was prior to Day Light Savings Time ending, which meant that I had the joy of.....sitting in traffic with brake lights everywhere as we went from 40 mph to 0 mph in approximately one-hundred yards, every one-hundred yards.  But for some reason, I glanced away from the vehicles to notice the fall colors in the trees.  The intricate colors of red, orange, yellow, brown, and ever green swirled together to create this magnificent view.  That is, if one could see past the west-bound lanes of traffic, the bridge's beams, and the electrical lines that were running through the view, all while engaging in the starting and stopping of traffic.  

Tonight, as I pulled into my apartment complex, utterly exhausted physically and emotionally, I turned to head to the mailbox (against my typical route).  Straight ahead was a trash dumpster, literally overflowing with trash.  My typical reaction is usually disgust, but the reaction tonight was different.  Awe.  NOT at the gorgeous blue dumpster with the overflowing amounts of trash that we, as wasteful Americans, produce.  I saw stars.  Bright stars shining in clear skies, even in the fight against the city lights.  

Coffee pot shattering.  
Traffic and trees.  
Trash and stars.  

God teaches us in weird ways sometimes.  That is, if we're willing to notice.  Too often, I find myself overwhelmed by the to-do lists and time constraints.  I find myself rushing to get things done, even if they are good things to do.  I get irritated when traffic makes me slow down the drive to class, panicked that if I'm late I will forever be deemed tardy.  I get stuck in a routine of looking at the negative, trashy parts of life and even the people around me.  

But, what if we looked up from ourselves?  What if we noticed those who are around us?  What if we noticed creation, the swirling colors of the trees and stars shining from light years away? What if we stopped trying to balance our crazy lives and hide behind the labels of "fine," "good," "tired," or the classic "busy?"  What if we stopped inviting stress into our lives so we can more readily dance through life, like Fiyero (from the Broadway Musical WICKED) suggests? What if we intentionally create moments of awareness?  To acknowledge our vulnerability.  To acknowledge our inability to balance.  To acknowledge that we don't have it all figured out.  

Maybe then, we can see how God sees.  Maybe we will find focus.  Maybe we will find intentional ways to combat the stress with Sabbath. Maybe, just maybe, we will be a little more like who God created us to be.  I am 99.9% sure that God did not create us to be stressed, rushed, and negative.  

So, what is YOUR telos?  
For what did God create YOU?  
Are YOU living into being an image of God?  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Romanticism & Careers

Lately, I've been binge watching 7th Heaven.  You should know that I watched this show religiously as a child and teenager so it seems necessary that I watch it anytime I have access to it.  (We only recently got TV service after 5 years without it.). There is so much to love about this show, and others like it - Touched By an Angel was another favorite. It's the show that you watch and walk away feeling so good.  Whether it was just a happy ending or it made you realize that you're so much better off than so-and-so, you walk away with a smile.  

When I was younger, I would dream of the day when I, like Lucy, would give my first sermon.  I would play church and memorize all of the Sunday School songs and hymns out of the giant, heavy hymnal.  I would dream of helping people and making connections with them in ways that only God could orchestrate.  I would dream of standing at the pulpit with the heavy black robe on, and pretty stoles, and speaking into people's lives about God's forgiveness, having passion in one's life, and fixing the brokenness of our world.  I suppose you could say, I grew up!  

Some people find it hard to imagine what a day is like in the life of a pastor.  Now that I'm older, I've realized that it isn't as simple as it seems and there is much MUCH more to being a pastor than coming up with a 10-25 minute sermon once a week.  There are others though who still hold this romanticized view of being in ministry.

I read an article in a TIME magazine about people who are happy.  On a spectrum of people's careers, it said that ministry leaders/pastors were the most happy with their career.  I can see why!  They are out there making a difference in the world and following God's call in their lives!  It seems very obvious that they would be happy, right?  Perhaps this article also romanticized the idea - or perhaps they didn't.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines romanticism as "the quality or state of being impractical or unrealistic."  I use this word because we often consider all the wonderful aspects of ministry as being more than the nitty gritty that it comes down to.  My youth pastor once said that for a 15 minute talk, he would spend 30 hours preparing - whether that was research, study, prayer, etc.  That seems great until you add all of the counseling sessions, meetings (lots of committee meetings), hospital visits, coffees with new members, struggling members, otherwise curious members, etc.  That seems really fantastic until a phone call of a death in the church interrupts your lunch or dinner with a long-lost family member, or your spouse and kids.  Perhaps it doesn't seem so nice when you are an itenerant pastor who moves every 2 to 4 years, uprooting your kids, leaving family and friends behind, and being unsure of what the future holds.  

Perhaps you are wondering why I'm even talking about this when I am pursuing a degree in education.  Special education - at that!  Some are upset that I'm not going to be at the forefront of the movement to allow LGBTQ folks to be ordained.  Some are curious to know why education, when I got out of education in the first place.  Some still see the "pastor" in me and struggle to understand why I'm "not pursuing God's call in my life."  I'm not going to answer all of these things in this post.  But you should also know that this romanticism occurs in just about every career.  How many times have you thought, "Oh, teachers have it pretty easy - they have weekends and Summers off."  Or have you ever thought about doctors - "They dictate their own schedule and they have a giant, marvelous salary."  Perhaps I'm not at the forefront of LGBTQ folks having the ability to be ordained and maybe I do love the church and know a whole lot about it!  BUT - I also have a huge passion for those on the outskirts, especially those with disabilities.  You will probably never find me at something like PRIDE or an event similar.  I don't like labels.  I don't like when there are boxes to be checked to classify us a something different.  My marriage is still a marriage.  My chronic illness labels still make me a person with feelings that can be built up or broken.  My ministry is still a ministry, even if I don't wear the robe or give sermons on a regular basis anymore.  

Special education in and of itself is a label.  I get that.  You just read my rant about labels - but special education is more than the label.  It is the opportunity to even the playing field.  It is the ability to allow kids to be kids and help them to live into their dreams.  It is the opportunity to teach the children who are most in need.  The opportunity to teach those who need extra help and learn from them as much as they learn from me.  It is the opportunity to teach.  Life skills, academics, social skills, behavior management skills, etc.  It is the opportunity to teach.  Did I mention the whole teaching thing?

About 5 months ago - or so, I was asked what I loved the most about the idea of being a pastor.  Knowing the "crap" that pastors have to deal with on a day to day basis, of ALL of that, I said the ability to teach.  Whether that is to teach a class or to teach/preach a sermon, that is what most appeals to me.  That is when I realized that maybe I had it wrong.  Maybe I was relying on the romanticized idea of what it meant to be a pastor and that was limiting me from being able to be able to see other career choices.  I have always wanted to be a preacher, a teacher, or a librarian.  Perhaps what I was missing was the connective link between all of them.  Perhaps if I had looked hard enough and deep enough into myself, I would have seen that I just want to teach.  To acquire a lot of knowledge and share that knowledge with the world around me.  I want to teach people of God and "peace & love Jesus".  Teach people that they are more than the limits of labels and everyone's perception of who you should or shouldn't be.  Teach people that the ability to learn is within us all.  To teach is a skill and an art that I want to perfect. Do I miss preaching?  YES!  Do I miss teaching people the backstory of a Hebrew word?  Of course.  Do I miss the romanticized idea of being a pastor?  Sure.  BUT - I can tell you that I will be just as happy, if not happier, being a full-time educator.  And who knows, maybe I'll become one of those crazy professors that teach the teachers.  Maybe I'll take a summer off and explore Israel and speak Hebrew fluently.  Maybe I will inspire others to learn of other languages and cultures by hosting foreign exchange students.  Maybe I will be able to serve in student's and kid's ministries and share more about "Hippy Jesus" challenging them to look at God in a very real and personal way while still being crazy cool.  Maybe I'll lead (or even run) summer camps and mission trips.  Maybe I'll share my love of reading.  Maybe I'll lead a Bible Study some day that talks about how we, as people, can do something to Tikkun Olam (repair the world).  Maybe, just maybe, I'll impact the life of one of my students and he/she will live and fruitful and thriving life because they were taught that they were valued and loved.  

Maybe I have a romanticized view of teaching too...But maybe, I can learn how the nitty gritty of the job does make an impact.  Maybe I can learn to teach and utilize my every day to teach those who need some extra time or to learn it in a different way.  I believe fully that I, in this moment and at this time, was created to teach.  For now, perhaps that is in a school.  Maybe someday, and I won't put it past God, that teaching will occur behind a pulpit....BUT - I hear those are going out of style anyway.  Living room couches are much more comfortable, not to mention the glorious smell of coffee shops!

FInd your niche, people.  Don't expect to know it right at 18yo when you're picking a major...but find what you're passionate about.  Explore what is out there and what God cares about.  Don't ignore any clues along the way.  Perhaps I should have realized that I was meant for special education a lot sooner than now.  BUT for right now, in this moment, I am glad to be pursuing my certification.  Do I wish I had started sooner and already been in a classroom?  Sure!  Will I be happy in 25 years doing the same thing?  Who knows?!  I may be doing something totally different by then.  But for right now, I am happy.  

Are you happy?  Did you have a romanticized idea of your career before you got into it?  Do you still hold a romanticized idea of any particular career?  Consider it your challenge to see the good and the nitty gritty in each career.  Consider it your challenge to appreciate the people who do the job you could never do (or would never want to do) and focus on the impact you can make right where you're at.  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Roundabout Way

If you've ever talked to me about what I want to be when I grow up, I've probably given you a whole slew of things - preacher, teacher, librarian, counselor, and the list goes on!  Basically, I'm a life-long student accruing three lifetimes worth of debt.  However, with each closing moment, I come closer and closer to figuring out what I actually want to be when I grow up!  I'm only a quarter of a century old - I still have time, right?! 

Here's the shindig...I know you've seen the posts about graduate school this and graduate school that.  I didn't want to announce it too early in case it wouldn't work out orrrrr I change my mind again.  However, I'm set on doing this program for several reasons. 

1)  I love teaching.  Anything and everything!  Whether that is languages, history, Biblical stories, math, etc.  If I don't already know it - I'll find out - which leads me to.....

2)  I love learning.  ALSO anything and everything......well, almost.  I get bored super easily.  I need a profession where I'm consistently being asked to grow, develop, make steps up the ladder, etc. 

3)  Psychology has provided me the perfect foundation for this program.  Some of you think I wasted years on a degree I'll never use.  NOT TRUE.  I use psychology all the time in my work life, and even in my personal life.  I did score pretty well in my persuasion class and that personality class lets me know just who of you will actually read this.  Not only that but cognitive psychology and developmental psychology are good courses to take when you need a foundation in.....

EDUCATION.  (But her bachelor's isn't in education - how is she going into education?!) I'll be getting my Master's in Teaching which through some extra foundational courses, I'll be able to apply for certification with DESE.   I'll specialize in Special Education with an elementary content emphasis, most likely.  (That part could change pretty easily depending on where I attend school.)  Schools being considered are Webster University (attended their information session tonight and was extremely impressed AND got a free tumbler), UMSL, and Fontbonne University.  Ultimately, I'd like the face-to-face programs however I'd like to retain my current job until I can teach.  Some universities offer it online, however I'm leaning away from them as I just completed most of my bachelor's online.  I'd like some sort of face-to-face interaction with people.

Some of you will protest and think I was so close to having a "real career" - why go back to school and start all over? 

1)  Psychology is a terrible degree alone as a bachelor's.  YOU HAVE TO GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL TO DO ANYTHING COOL WITH IT!  Sure, I could have gotten a job, maybe, and made more money to do more work and worked an 8am to 5pm job while juggling graduate school.  OR, I could pursue something I really love, even if I have NO educational background other than work. 

2)  I didn't love any choice I had already been pursuing or it wasn't right for my family.  Counselor?  Sure, it would have been fine in about 5 years when I was done with graduate school, provisional experience, and had a usual job.  But I couldn't even write the essays on my professional career goals or why I wanted to be a counselor without way more thought than I should have.  Pastor?  That may not be the best thing for my family right now, or ever, and who says I can't be crazy involved in church and still teach?!  HELLO?!  I'll have weekends and summers off!  Hello summer camps and mission trips?! 

3)  I'm technically not starting over.  My two years of work experience have given me a ton of experience and an idea of what the job is like (the good and the not so good).  My psychology degree gives me a good foundation.  I love working with people with disabilities.  I love their behaviors.  I love them, just as kids.  The schooling will not take as long as everyone imagines...And I'll start out with master's pay (not a bad gig).  Sooner or later, I'll be at some back to school banquet and I'll be announcing my 25th year of teaching.  And it will be amazing. 

To all of you who thought I should have gone into education in the first place:  Be patient with me.  I'm learning who I am and the potential I have to change the world one small step at a time.  Expect big things, because I imagine God will do incredible things if we are only open to the possibilities.

It might be the roundabout way.  But sooner or later, I'll reach my destination.  And really, it's the journey that makes it fun, right?! 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Trust & Obey

Most people who know me know that I grew up in a small town church in northeastern Missouri.  While I no longer attend there, I do remember the things I gleaned from my time from birth on up through high school.  If you grew up in an old-traditional church, you may remember the hymn "Trust and Obey."  It goes something like this:

"Trust and obey.  For there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." 

Those words have been ringing in my ear this past week.  But what does it mean to trust and obey.  Today in church, we talked about trust.  This idea of letting someone else be in charge and that someone else being Jesus.  This idea that Jesus is Lord.  So, needless to say, we're in the middle of Lent talking about Jesus as Lord and repenting like nothing else because we are so terrible at letting Jesus be Lord over everything. 

Meanwhile, I'm trying to discern where God has called me to be.  Many of you know that I have always said that I would be a "preacher or a teacher...or a librarian."  Well, I've moved past the librarian aspect and decided I would just be the keeper of my home library.  But, I keep returning to this idea of being a pastor.  My wife thinks she would be a terrible pastor's wife - mostly because we are anything but the typical "pastor and wife."  First off, we are a lesbian couple.  Secondly, we are incredibly tolerant and host a foreign exchange student from Thailand who is Buddhist whom we have no intent of forcing some conversion.  (To be honest, she is teaching us more than we've taught her.)  And lastly, we are anything but the calm "let's attend a committee meeting" couple.  Perhaps some of this is just an excuse while other points prove to be truth.  I believe the General Conference of the UMC will allow people who are homosexual to be ordained, but ultimately, I do not believe that it is God's end goal for my life.  Ultimately, I believe I am to teach at the collegiate level within the religious studies department - whether that's at a public school or a seminary is still to be determined.  But, how reliable is the job market and how do I get there anyway? 

Trust and obey.

So am I going to be a pastor first before teaching?

Trust and obey.

Will my family support this journey?

Trust and obey.

Will people be able to learn from me?

Trust and obey.

When will I know the first step?

Trust and obey.

You get the point.  At each question, I'm reminded that Jesus is Lord and that I must remind myself of this daily.  I'm not the best at this, but I'm using Lent as a time to remind myself who is in charge and that I need only to trust and obey.  Obedience will only come as a result of trusting in God to have my best interests at heart.  When I trust that God is working for me, when I trust that God is working in me and through me, when I trust that God wants only the best for me, THAT is when I will obey and follow where He leads.  I've heard it said that we ought to obey even when it gets hard and doesn't make sense.  This is true, but it's much easier to take a blind step in the direction of obedience when we trust that He cares for us. 

Most of this is a rambling for me, but any advice you have is welcome and any prayers for discernment are more than appreciated. 

Peace folks.  Have peace and trust that He is for you!