Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the other side of the pew

Christmas Eve found Yo Momma and I in a small Presbyterian church in Lake-town.  We have been there before, for Christmas Eve services. The sanctuary is always beautifully decorated and cozy.  It was a nice service and helped me to usher in Christmas as best I could this year.

Going to this church reminded me of what I love about small churches.  There is a beautiful, awkward, tenderness with small churches, especially when it comes to putting their best foot forward for times when the expected crowd will be filled with unfamiliar faces.

Here's some examples of what I mean:

  • Everyone was handed a bulletin when they entered.  All the hymns were typed into the bulletin, and there were five hymns, along with all the scripture readings, thus the four page bulletin was in 9pt. font.  And we were reading it in a darkened building.  I appreciated that everything was there and we wouldn't need to fumble through the hymnal but...
  • Thankfully, the words to all the songs and the readings and responsive readings were projected on a screen.  I have absolutely no problem with projection systems in sanctuarys.  I prefer to look up when I sing, rather than bury my head in a hymnal or bulletin.  It's much more worshipful to me.  A typo did catch my attention, though, during the responsive reading.  Instead of "And we are stunned"  it read "And we arse stunned".  Having been the one putting the media stuff together, I know how easy it is to make those mistakes...and miss them completely until it's projected on the screen for all to read.  (I smiled with memories of the year that Yo Momma was the church secretary who typed out the words to Silent Night in the bulletin only to find, on Christmas Eve as we were singing if I remember correctly, that she had typed out "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, ass is bright".)
  • A couple of choir members were honored with lighting the advent candles.  All was going well until the Christ candle was to be lit.  The woman who was so excited to light that candle hadn't been given instructions on using the candle lighter and the wick wasn't far enough out of the candle lighter so as she valiantly tried to light the candle, it just wouldn't catch.  Her friend, beside her, kept trying to help but didn't want to ruin the moment.  Finally as everyone bowed their head for prayer, the problem was solved, the candle was lit and I breathed a sigh of relief for them.
  • The time came for the offering and as the Pastor gave the introduction and started to pray, I heard the lady in the pew behind me whisper urgently to her partner, "Offering time, that's you!"  He scampered up to the front, the offering was taken while a soloist sang and then came more whispering, "What do I do with the offering?  Should I take it up now, should I wait?"  The person was told to take it to the front of the sanctuary but not before they took a few steps, then turned around to double check with the person in the back and before heading up again.
The service was nice.  The Pastor was personable, sincere and humble.  The choir sang well...though, the next time I hear someone complain about the guitar/piano/worship band being too loud, I'm going to tell them that organ's aren't particularly quiet instruments themselves...yesh. The offering was taken without mishap.  We were welcomed when we walked in the door and I left the church service with a smile on my face, more for the comfort of seeing, watching and hearing the familiar, than anything else.  There are moments I miss those days of being up front and doing my best to create an environment where people can meet Jesus in a meaningful way...but sometimes it's nice to be on the other side of the pew, where I can smile to myself, empathize when things go awry and smile and say "Thank you, that was lovely" as I walk out into the cold, dark night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Unpublished posts

There are 27 drafts of blog posts sitting in my blogger dashboard.  Some are deep, emotionally charged entries, some are pithy throw away things.  Some have been there for a year or more, many have been written in the past 6 months.

When Papa Bear died, one very wise friend who has been on the journey of grief more than once said, "Keep blogging...even if those posts never see the light of day, keep blogging."  So I have.

Blogging started out as a way of communicating with the people back home when we went on our Mississippi Mission trips (plus there was this one blog ring that had caught my attention and I wanted to be a part of that group!)  It was much easier to write on a blog and add pictures than to send an email to each person wanting to know what was happening while we were away.  Blogging also helped me process what we had seen and done those days.  I kept it up after coming home and soon started a separate blog just for the Mississippi

Blogging has become an emotional outlet, a place where I can air my thoughts and feelings and either people read it or people don't.  Lately, though, the blog posts have started piling up.  I tend to edit what gets published for multiple reasons.  One is out of respect for those who read this page, another is out of respect for my own piece of mind.  Some would read what I have written and become VERY concerned about where I stand with God these days or how I am dealing with grief or my political stance or...  I need to write down my thoughts, my hurts, my heart on this journey of life and grief but I don't always need feedback or input.  I just need to write.  I've never been great at keeping a journal in handwritten book form (it's too slow!) but I can type my thoughts out, hit save and go on my way.  Blogging works, however irregular posting happens.

And so, my blogger dashboard has 27 unpublished posts just sitting, waiting, ready for that moment when I reread them, do a little editing and hit the "publish" button or simply hit "save" and let them sit for a little while longer.  So though it may be weeks between posts, never fear, I am here.  I am blogging...I'm just not publishing.

Okay...make that 26.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue Christmas - A reaction to a Facebook thread

Every once in a while something will trigger a reaction I did not anticipate.  I try not to be a reactionary person, but rather one who takes a step back from my reactions and examines the whole situation before moving forward.  What this means is that in conversations or places where I can leave a comment, I don't say anything.  Many times, my initial reaction will be off the charts ridiculous and it's better that I didn't say/write anything at all.  Sometimes, though, my reactions are sound and deserve to be aired, however long it takes.

When I was still working for Old Church, I became aware of a service that some churches hold around Christmas called "Blue Christmas".  Some call it the service "The Longest Night of the Year".  I prefer Blue Christmas.  The premise of this service, as I understand it, is to offer a time in the midst of the Christmas season, to remember, to contemplate, to acknowledge that for some people the Christmas season isn't a happy, joyous occasion.  I broached the subject of a Blue Christmas service with Old Church staff and it went nowhere.  At that point in time, I wasn't willing to push the envelope and yet I was constantly mindful that though the season of Christmas, for Christ followers, is celebrating the birth of new life in the form of a baby named Jesus, not everyone could embrace the celebration...even Christ followers.  The deaths, literal and metaphorical, in their lives simply swamped them and the joy of the season was muted.

A friend of mine, Ralphie, participated in a Blue Christmas service last year.  He and LN invited me to attend.  I had other things happening and couldn't, but this year, oh this year, I have been anticipating that service with a ferocity.  I need to be able to sit, in the midst of the joy of the Christmas season, and allow the pain and sorrow of this last year to surface.  I need the church universal to stand with me in my grief and pain and give me a space, with Christmas decorations all around, to allow the tears to flow and my heart to grieve the loss of my Dad.  (Of course, it will probably be held on the weekend that I have planned to be out of town but still, if I'm around, I'M THERE!)

Awhile back, in a group I am a part of on FB, a thread was started about Blue Christmas services and among the comments was one that triggered a reaction.  A very strong reaction.  I shut down FB, walked away from the computer and cried.  I don't believe the comment wasn't meant for harm, simply an observation from one person's perspective.  In that moment, however, I was thrown back into a state of wondering why I do church anymore.  

My reaction wasn't rational, yet at the same time there is an element that I believe church folks need to hear and be reminded of, as we approach the season of Christmas.   I can only speak from my perspective and so I offer my truth this Christmas season.  I love Jesus, I love the Christmas season and yet I'm going to have trouble finding joy this Christmas.

Please don't deny, belittle or otherwise make light of those who aren't joyful this Christmas season.  For it isn't Jesus' birth that makes us sad, it's the life and love we find and lose on this earth that brings sorrow, heartache and grief.  Yes, there is joy in Jesus and yes, there is joy in Christmas but the reality of life means we also deal with the reality of loss.  In diminishing or otherwise denying that reality, we risk alienating the very people who need us the most this Christmas season.

Ralphie asked if I would be willing to sing with him at the Blue Christmas service this year, a song that we had sung together three years ago at a joy-filled Christmas celebration.  I answered honestly, I'm not sure that I will be able to sing.  But, if I'm in town, I will pull out my guitar and play as he sings.  I will allow the words to penetrate my grief-stricken heart and give myself the space to be sad in a season of joy and take comfort in a body of believers who recognize "through all my tears, for what I've lost, there's still my joy for Christmas day."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nit picking people

We've all met them...people who find fault with every.little.thing.

I usually handle these people as gracefully as possible or avoid them as best I can.

In my current job, avoiding isn't always possible.  One person I interact with, on an almost daily basis, finds something wrong WITH EVERYONE.  I, of course, have to send items to them for review and they always come back with "YOU" did this wrong or "YOU" did that wrong.  That is usually followed by a phone call telling me again why it was wrong and then they go off on a rant about the 50 other people who have done something wrong in the last hour that had to be corrected by this individual.  I recognize the insecurity of the other person behind their nitpicking.  I see the hidden feelings of inadequacy and recognize they are trying to feel better about themselves by making others look "worse".  I get it but I don't like it.  Sometimes I just get tired of it all.

I'm not a perfect person. I mess up.  A lot.  I apologize for my mistakes and try not to beat myself up too much...because really, I want to be perfect and every mistake reinforces the knowledge that I am not now nor will I ever be perfect.

There are times when my skin is thick enough to take criticism and nitpicking.  I let it roll right off of my back and move on to things that are of more importance.  Right now is not that time.  My skin is pretty thin.  I'm having a hard enough time just getting up to go to work in the morning; putting on an extra layer of toughness just isn't happening.  Everything feels personal, whether it is or isn't, justified or not.  My emotions are right at the surface and tears come forth without warning...sometimes I don't even realize they are rolling down my face.

I'm a little extra touchy these days, a little extra weary, very low on grace and just barely hanging on.  So to all you nit-pickers out there, if you pick on me and I start to cry, well, don't say I didn't warn you.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A conversation with Adventure Boy

Adventure Boy and I were walking to an attraction at a famous amusement park recently when the following conversation took place.

Adventure Boy: Grandma (aka Yo Momma) is older than you.
Me: Yes.
AB:  So she will probably die before you.
Me: Yes.
AB: You're gonna be really sad then.
Me (thinking to myself: "Oh, I am no where near ready for that to happen and I'm trying not to cry thinking about that now.") Out loud: Yes, I will be very sad.
AB:  You're going to need me then because you will be alone.
Me (now desperately trying to talk around the torrent of tears threatening): Yes, AB, I am really going to need you then.
AB:  I will be there...because you don't have a husband yet.
Me (tears gone, laughter bubbling): Well, have you been looking for a husband for me?
AB: Yes, yes I have.
Me: Okay, let me know if you find someone.
AB: I will.

Sometimes the depths of this child's soul and thoughts astounds, love, love him!

Monday, September 15, 2014


A few weekends ago an earthquake struck the region in which I reside.  We are far enough away from the epicenter that we only felt the quake but didn't have any damage.  I woke up just before the rolling waves of the quake began.  The hanging plants were swaying and making a creaking sound, which is what I think first woke me up. As soon as I heard and felt the first wave, my whole body went on alert.  I was ready to pull the pillow over my head or jump out of bed and dash to the doorway.  It would have taken one thing falling for me to jump into action...been there, done that.

In the days since, I've become a frequent visitor to the Earthquake part of the USGS website.  This website shows all the recorded earthquakes in a 24 hour period around the world.  Folks, the earth is moving a lot.  Looking right now at the map, in the last 24 hours there have been 12 earthquakes over a 4.0. It's fascinating to see what is happening around the world that most of us never hear's also fascinating to see what makes national headlines and what doesn't.  An earthquake that knocks down buildings and buckles roads get a lot more press than an earthquake in the middle of the ocean.

I've been paying attention to the national news a lot in the past few weeks.  I've seen the headlines and my heart breaks.  I feel helpless, in some ways, way to privileged in others, and I've become more and more aware of how sheltered my world is compared to others.  I work at not standing in denial of the unfair treatment of others and the realities of that unequal treatment but also struggle with a sense of what I can actually do to change the situation.  So I sit back, murmuring slightly, taking a good, hard look at my own soul, my own thoughts, my own reactions, judging my own thoughts and feelings and digging down deeper to my own, dare I say it, prejudices.  I may not be in the epicenter of this particular "earthquake" but I am feeling the rolling waves and am on alert.

There are people within my circle of acquaintances, family and friends that have said things over the years that make me cringe, blatantly racist or derogatory things said with little smiles that are just plain wrong. There are times when I could have spoken up and pointed those statements out and haven't.  There are moments when I have judged someone because of their differences from me, only later to find that I was completely and totally wrong.  I have allowed my own fears to get in the way when I have heard or seen an injustice.  I've lived in my own little world and turned a blind eye, at times, to the larger world that is filled with injustice and suffering.  It's not anything I am proud of, and I could make a million excuses for not doing, saying, seeing more of what the world really is like.  But sometimes it's just like earthquakes, among the little ripples happening all the time that I am unaware of, one suddenly jolts me out of my complacency and demands attention.

I'm paying attention to earthquakes these days...those that make the physical earth shake and those that shake my social and world views.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Five: The Random edition

Over at RevGalBlogPals there's a Friday Five that I felt like playing:
RevKarla says:  Hello Pals~~
Random Friday Five is back!
1. If you could sneak away anywhere this weekend, right now, all expenses paid,
where would you go and what would you do?
Do I have more than two days or am I taking a private jet?  Maui or the Big Island of Hawaii, just to sit on the beach and watch the waves and maybe go float in the waves on a pool noodle.  I would say down to the beach just a few miles from my house but that water is cooooolllldddd!!!
2. What is for lunch today? (one of the very first FF I ever played asked this.)
Lunch?  People eat lunch?
3. Along that first-FF-I-ever-played theme, what are you wearing today?
Khaki capris, a blue and white sleeveless shirt and white cardigan...cause though it's warm to hot outside the office is cold!
4. Along the Today Theme, what are you doing today?
Working...when not playing the Friday Five...and then going to the Fair.  Turkey races and fair food (to make up for the no-lunch?)  Yippee!
5. Along the random theme, what is your favorite scent, and why?
Scents are tough for me as they tend to trigger migraines if they are too strong.  However, nothing beats the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  I think I associate the smell of chocolate chip cookies with love.  It's my Mom's fault.  =)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Filling the sound of silence

Back when I was a regular worship leader, I would lead prayers once or twice during the worship service.  At one point in time, I became aware that our prayer time was filled with a lot of person speaking for the whole group to God.  It dawned on me that we were filling up our worship service with a lot of words and music but we rarely filled the space with silence.

So I tried it.  I didn't say anything in a prayer for a minute.  An uncomfortable minute for some as they shifted in their seats with some anxiousness, a beautiful minute for others.  Anytime I was in the place of praying during the worship service, I made a point to include silence...a time to process, a time to listen, a time just to breathe.

Today I was reading the latest headlines and I came across a headline that said "So and so, speaks out on so and so."  I didn't watch the video or read the transcript of what was said but my initial reaction to the headline was "I wish they would just keep silent."  I get that the media is always pushing for words but sometimes, sometimes silence really is best.

We jump in and fill spaces with words that may have been better left unspoken.  We say things that then require apologies that we may not mean.  We jump to conclusions and spout facts that are made up or speak before we know the whole story.  It's the way of the world but sometimes, sometimes we really should just be silent, to let our hearts and minds catch up with each that our words really do reflect what we are feeling and thinking.  Silence is a good thing.

My first trip to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, the silence was deafening.  There weren't any birds chirping, nor was there the sound of cars driving by or radios playing.  During the day the sounds of construction work rang through but in the late afternoon and evening silence reigned...well, except for the teenagers in my group.  A few trips and a couple of years later the birds had returned, the cars had returned, the people had returned and busyness filled the air.

There were still times of silence.  The year that we scraped (by hand) the outside of the pretty house I spent a lot of time listening to the stillness of the air.  Being a quiet person by design, it was beautiful and refreshing to be perched on a ladder up near the rafters of an old house scraping paint surrounded by silence, while my team mates scraped the other sides of the house.  I enjoyed the moments back on the ground, laughing with the team but in those quiet moments on a ladder, I found peace.  I had time to process, to listen, to examine my own heart and mind...and be annoyed with the bird with the very irritating call that kept breaking the silence!

I think my heart, my soul is longing for that silence again.  I find myself longing to be places where I have found peace and rest in the silence...the lanai in Maui, the rocks at Zephyr Point, on a ladder scraping paint at the pretty house, in my car with the top down driving to nowhere, on a bench in D-land.  More than the silence, I'm longing for the peace that comes along after the silence.

I'm longing for that for myself, but also for this world, so used to noise that silence makes us shift uncomfortably in our seats, making so us jumpy we make up stories that aren't really true to fill the silence...and the news cycle continues.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A little levity

I recently moved items around in the office, so that I had better access to a filing cabinet and because I was bored.  Really, really bored.

It didn't take much work, I pushed my desk towards one wall, moved the filing cabinets around a little and all of sudden the room just opened up.  I had space again!

Now, the scanner and lateral filing cabinet are accessible by a push of my feet and a roll of my chair.  It's quite fun, especially with the plastic chair mat that makes rolling oh-so-easy.

The mat doesn't go far enough, though, and sometimes, to get to the vertical filing cabinet, I wind up rolling off and have a hard time getting the chair back on.  Still, it's a little fun that makes the day better.

Yesterday, I was pushing myself around the office when all of a sudden I went flying one direction and the chair went the other.  I'm not even sure how it happened.  I literally pushed myself out of the chair.  I caught myself before I wound up face first into the laser printer stand but for a moment I had this flash of black eyes and broken wrists.  It wasn't pretty, that flash of premonition.  I was glad for two things:  1 - that I was able to stop the disaster before it happened and 2 - that my office door was closed as I hurtled myself off the chair.

I'm a little more cautious today, as I roll back and forth between the scanner and the desk.  I don't really need a repeat performance...but I can giggle about my close call with black eyes and broken wrists.  It's all in a day's work!  =)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Grief check-up

Walking this path of grief, I'm always aware that my path is unique to me.  What I need, isn't what other's need.  What turns me off and makes me want to run away screaming, may be comforting and helpful to other people.  It's helpful to write down what it is I need, don't need, sometimes need and what I have to offer at the moment, so here goes.

Here's what I need:
  • People to listen to me or read what I write.
  • People who will simply pray or think of me throughout the day.
  • Virtual hugs...RevGals introduced me to this one.  It's simple. Take a persons name and insert it into parentheses, such as ((Brittany)).  I dig those.
  • Little simple notes "thinking of you", "love you", etc.  Or in the case of one friend, inappropriate text Fridays.  =)
  • A lot of grace and understanding.  It's hard just to get up in the morning.  All I want to do is hide away from the world.  I'm working, really working, at being open and available but oh gosh, it's hard 'cuz I am wrung out emotionally.  I find myself exhausted at the end of the week, just from going to work each day and being "on".  My introverted tendencies are now swamped by the emotional overload of's just a tough time in life.
Here's what I don't need:
  • Reassurance of God's presence...I'm fully aware of God's presence.  I'm not mad at God and I don't feel abandoned by God...y'all can stand down.
  • To be told the details of your prayers.
  • Detailed stories from your own walk with grief.
  • Reassurance that "this too will pass"...yeah, that one isn't good.
  • Scripture verses quoted.
Here's what I sometimes need:
  • Physical Hugs.  This one is tough.  I've found that my inner sensitivity levels are interlinked to physical touch, if that makes sense at all.  Sometimes I am good with hugs and sometimes, wow, sometimes I really just don't want to be touched because I will come undone.
Here's what I can offer others right now:
  • Not a lot.
  • Honesty, but only if I deem you trustworthy or really willing to accept what I have to say...even then, I'm finding I don't have much to lose these days...either that or I don't have much of a guard/shield/filter in place.
  • Tears on demand.
  • Watery smiles.
  • Sincere gratitude for those walking beside me.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Road Construction ahead

Every day I drive the same road.  Driving south, I head to work.  Driving north, I head home.  I've been driving this road since I first got my license many a year ago.  The road hasn't changed much.  There have been new patches of concrete/blacktop added here and there.  A couple of stoplights have been added.  But the overall road hasn't really changed.

Driving south, I'm familiar with the bumps, the turns and where the potholes are that I want to avoid.  Driving north, it's the same.  There are some times (and I know this isn't a good thing) that I can drive this road and not really see much.  I'm on auto pilot.  I drive to work.  I drive home.

Recently, they have been working on the road at night.  Cutting down through the concrete to get to the water pipes below the road.  Honestly, they are making a mess of a once okay road.  Should it ever rain here in California again, there will be new potholes and bumps to avoid.

This road construction has meant one way traffic control.  The northbound traffic is now diverted into the southbound lane, past the construction.  The other night, as I drove northbound in the southbound lane I realized this road that I was so familiar with, had suddenly become something completely different.  The bumps and curves were different.  I was driving the same road but everything had changed.

The bumps and curves that I knew so well traveling south in the correct lane, felt different and unfamiliar traveling north.  I didn't know how to anticipate the road anymore.  I suddenly felt disoriented and was very glad to move back into the correct northbound lane as I passed the construction zone.

This road realization has a direct correlation to my life.  I'm traveling the same roads yet somehow the lanes have switched and everything is different.  The bumps and curves are hard to anticipate. I'm doing the same thing I was doing before April 29th and June 2nd.  Yet, I'm driving on the "wrong" side of the road because there's this big gaping hole that I'm maneuvering around, ever aware of it's presence and achingly aware that the hole is going to remain open and under construction for a very, very long time.

Driving north in the southbound's a whole new adventure.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the path of grief


That's all the text says, most times.  Just one word and I'm moved to tears.

The texts have been coming for two months now, usually around the same moments when I'm feeling pretty shaky.

There is no expectation of answers or accolades.  No requests for prayer in return.  Just a simple acknowledgement of prayer and support.

I see the woman who sends me these texts, at church.  I usually walk right into her hugs, whisper a thank you and that's all.  I can't get any more words out.  The lump in my throat won't let me.

The beauty of these texts are two fold:

1.  She is acknowledging the pain, the grief, the tough journey I am on, and will continue to be on for a long time, and honoring the journey with her acknowledgement.

2.  Through this simple act, she is bringing me comfort and reminding me God is right here, in the midst of this storm.  The word content of her prayers does not matter to me, there is simply comfort in the knowledge of the prayer being said, to the God I follow.

To me, this is church.  This is being in authentic community with one another.  This is living out one's faith.  This is how we walk through grief with one another...simply acknowledging the journey.  I'm grateful to have her friendship on this road.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The gift of comfort from an unexpected source

"Hey," said the voice, as I walked by the table outside my favorite dining establishment in small town.  I braced myself as I turned to look at the person who belonged to the voice.  I was sure it was one of two types of people, someone from town who knew my family and wanted to offer their sympathy or one of the local homeless/down on their luck folks who occasionally ask for help.  Turned out to be both in one.

As I swung around, I looked into the eyes of R.  I've written about him before.  I smiled, as best I could, and said "Hey, how's it going," and there was this silence and a look in his eyes...then he got up and suddenly his arms were around me, holding me close as he whispered, "I'm sorry." 

I whispered back, in a very shaky voice, "Thank you, R.  Thank you."  After a moment, he stepped back and went back to his seat.  I smiled again, struggling to keep the tears at bay, and said "Thank you" again, before I turned and headed to my car.  I cried all the way home.  Shuddering sobs.  The gaping wound in my soul was opened again, but also someone unexpected but very welcomed.

I caught a glimpse, yet again, of the beauty of R's soul tonight, of the person behind the addictions, of the person behind the label "homeless".  I was given the gift of comfort from an unexpected source.  It's a gift I'm going to cherish for a long, long time on this journey of grief.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Formation of a tribute

On Sunday, I will stand up in front of a crowd of family, friends, acquaintances and people I've never met before and talk about my Dad.

I've been thinking and praying about these words for weeks, but honestly, I've been thinking and praying about these words for four years.  Call it a hunch, call it facing reality, call it whatever you need, but I've been preparing for this day for awhile.

The last few weeks, as I have driven to work and driven home, I've been using the drive to talk out loud.  In the days when I was occasionally called upon to sermonize, I found the way I solidified my thoughts was to just start talking...if you know me at all, that's actually opposite of what one would think about my writing's worked, though!

Except this time it's been harder.  I have things to say...I have so much to say...but the clarity has been missing, the twist, the part that makes this go from a daughter blathering on about her father to a tribute.  I couldn't grab that one thing that would make it all come together.  That one thing that would have made my Dad come up, wrap his arm around my shoulders and say, "You did good, kiddo."

This morning I woke up and suddenly the missing piece had appeared.  I grabbed my computer and the words started to did the tears...and since I'm being honest, the snot.  I wrote and cried for two hours.  Yo Momma came in a one point and I snapped at her (and apologized later) and I wrote and I cried and swiped at my nose and finally, finally, I think I have it.

Sunday is going to be really hard...but I think, at the end of the day, my Dad would throw is arm around my shoulders, pull me into his side and say, "You did good, kiddo."  and really, nothing else matters. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Joyful does not equal happy

There is a quiet truth tumbling around in my soul.  I have been aware of the tumbling for awhile but have attempted to ignore rather than acknowledge this truth.  The time has come, though, to say it out does not equal happiness in my life.

For so long I have thought those two words were synonymous.  In the last few years I have come to see them as vastly different.  I have the ability to be joyful while simultaneously unhappy...deeply unhappy.  How does this work?  It's convoluted.

I love to laugh. I am open to laughter and sometimes laugh at things other people can't find the humor in.  I try not be obnoxious but it's there.  I tend to smile with my whole being.  It comes from deep inside.  I feel the change in my soul.  In my life, joy comes from my soul.  I believe this joy comes from knowing the love and peace of God.  That does not mean that I am happy.

For me, happiness is a state of mind.  I can choose to be happy, I can choose to be a grumpy butt, I can choose to just be numb.  Lately I have lived in the state of numb. I smile and laugh but the joy, the happiness is only surface deep. There isn't anything substantial behind it. I still have the joy of knowing God, but there isn't much else in the way of happiness.

One of the places where I have found much joy AND happiness has been on Mission Trips.  As the days flew by and the Oklahoma trip approached, I found myself eagerly waiting those moments where we would laugh uncontrollably, where the joy of serving God and the happiness of the moments would come together creating a peace inside my soul that I have been seeking for a long time.

The trip started out with laughter.  I loved being in the airport with 28 teenagers sprawled out over the floor, laughing and having fun together...and talking "The Bachelor".  We laughed well the first couple of days and then something happened and laughter kind of died away.  The trip became serious.  Yes, laughter was still there, the joy in serving was still there but there was a solemnity settling over the entire group.  I had joy in what I was doing but I was not happy.

Friday morning arrived and I found that my happy was nowhere to be found.  After the fourth "get out of bed now" call to the young women in my care and with that feeling of tired almost-at-the-breaking point frustration beginning to overwhelm me, I turned to another adult and said "They are yours, I just can't do this today."  I walked down the stairs, down the hall to breakfast and prayed hard, "God, I need laughter today.  I need soul-filling conversations.  I need this week to end on a good note."

I love it when God answers prayer quickly.  Within a couple of hours I found myself on a job site with Yo Momma and 5 young women who were having a blast together.  By the end of the day I was driving a truck down the road with the 5 young women laughing so hard I almost had to pull over.  There had been some intense and soul-filling conversations during the day.  There was love and laughter flowing and in that moment, in that state happiness and joy were synonymous. 

Later that day the happiness had abated and in the weeks since I've returned that state of just moving through life, a little numb, not overly happy but always knowing a sense of joy deep inside my soul.  Even in the intense moments of grief these last few weeks, an uncontainable peaceful joy still resides just below that grief.  

I wish we had a society where people really truly understood the difference between happiness and joy.  I wish the Christian community understood the difference between the two.  I wish we could get beyond the black and white and see the messy, grey area of humanity and really understand and accept when someone says, I am not happy, but I am joyful and it's okay.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

This journey of grief

I'm not unfamiliar with grief.  I am unfamiliar with this particular road.

Losing a grandparent, a brother/friend, a job, a pet, is different, oh so different, than losing a parent.

The sorrow, the sharp, aching hollowness, the ever present "lump in the throat" that is unlike any before, the sudden, intense dislike of all things Father's Day, those things are new.

My previous experiences with grief have helped me walk through some aspects of this journey, though.

  • The realization that there are people for whom I will be the one consoling not being consoled.

  • Compassionately and gently deflecting comments meant for support and comfort that really do not bring comfort at all.  I move to ban "God has a plan" from all offerings of condolences, ever.  There is nothing comforting to me about God planning for my Dad to die. NOTHING.  As much as I have clung to Jeremiah 29:11 in the past, that verse isn't bringing me comfort right now.  So let's just drop the whole plan thing as a means of comfort, OK?  Thanks.

  • The awkwardness that comes when someone just doesn't know what to say...I usually don't know what to say either, you are welcome to sit in silence with me and "hold my hand".

  • The offering of food or help or "whatever you need".  The problem is I really don't know what I need...besides one more hug from Papa Bear and that's not an option on the table.

And then there are those things that have taken me by surprise.

  • The overwhelming, and I do mean overwhelming, show of support and compassion from the people in our community.  Oh.My.Gosh.   

  • Newish and older church friends who have reached out through phone calls, texts, cards, hugs.

  • People I have known well that haven't said a thing...that has been pretty telling.  I'm not sure if that one is a reflection of me or them.

  • Hearing stories from former students, Facebook group friends, and others who were impacted by Papa Bear.  There are so many things we never knew.

A few years ago, I read an article by someone who had explained grief as a winding road with many twists and turns.  Sometimes you will turn a corner and there will be something beautiful that takes your breath away.  Then you go around another corner and there will be something horribly hard to deal with and the tears and sadness overwhelm you again.  Two weeks into this time of grief and I know those words to be true.

And so, down the winding path I travel...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Papa Bear - March 1942 - June 2014

Maui, October 2014 - Our final father-daughter photo
Day is done,
Gone the sun.
From the lake,
From the hills,
From the sky.
Fare thee well,
Safely rest
God is nigh.*

(*Not the exact words but they are what I that's what I'm singing today.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Things change rapidly

The following was written on Friday.  It seems like a year has come and gone in the last two days. I don't have words for the hurt of unknowing and despair.  I'm working at just resting...  

I'm sitting in the atrium at the big hospital, while two floors up my Dad lies in a hospital bed with a fever, pneumonia setting in, delusions and is in the process of being intubated.  I pray that in a week, I will come back to this space and have good I'm hoping he makes it until tomorrow.

That has been our week.  Monday, after I posted about watching him twitch in bed, things changed rapidly.  He started vomiting and then aspirated the vomit and things went down hill within 15 minutes.  The Rapid Response Team was called and within the space of a half hour he was being moved to ICU and that is where he has been all week.  He has a fever, an infection in his blood, pneumonia and today the decision was made that to insert a breathing tube, with the goal of getting him through the infection.  We have no idea if the chemo worked because they can't take a bone marrow sample until he is cleared of the infection.

There are things that I anticipated, there is much I was not prepared for.  Holding my Dad's hand and repeatedly telling him that he can't get out of bed, that we can't take him home, that he needs to just rest. Holding onto his leg so that he didn't just leap out of bed, listening to him struggle for breath, watching his hair fall out, and this morning getting a distressed phone call from him about his computer.  He was in a delusional state, again and was certain the hospital had stolen his computer...that was sitting right next to him.  I was given instructions to "Go, LEAVE", and then "Get the police".  I left, that's what he needed me to do.  I cried all the way out the door and down the three flights of stairs to the atrium.  That's where Lupe found me.

Lupe was cleaning the floor.  She came by once to clean the floor as I was sitting there crying and texting friends and checking to see who else my Dad had called in his delusional state (there were several people).  She came by again when my Mom was there and stood and talked to us and said something that just struck my soul.  Just rest in Jesus hands.  We both got hugs and kisses, Lupe relayed her story but I heard what I needed.  Rest in Jesus hands.

There are words of comfort and compassion that people have offered.  I've found three phrases helpful, so far.  "I'm praying."  "I love you."  and today from Lupe, "Rest in Jesus hands."

I don't know what the next hour will bring.  I don't know if my Dad will leave the hospital alive.  I'm not ready to say goodbye, but who is?  All I know is that this sh*t is hard, and right now we're resting in Jesus hands...and the doctors at Stanford.

Monday, May 26, 2014

What I did on my day off

I'm sitting in a hospital room at the really good hospital about an hour away from our house listening to Papa Bear sleep.  We've teased him for years that when he drops into a deep sleep he sounds a little bit like Darth Vader breathing.  He doesn't always appreciate the comparison.  Every so often his fingers, toes or legs will twitch and then the bed adjusts so reduce the risk for bed sores.  I'm finding these little things comforting today.

It's been two weeks since Papa Bear was admitted.  Almost 30 full days since the Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis.  His last day of chemo was Thursday and it won't be until this coming Thursday when he has another bone marrow test to see if the chemo has been successful.  We'll know the next steps once those test results come back.

Last Monday I arrived at his room to find Papa Bear in tears on the phone with Yo Momma and a big white bandage on his temple.  He had fallen in the wee hours of the morning.  Luckily it wasn't super serious but it was serious enough.  Additionally, there had been a complication with some of his medicine that caused another problem and he was in pain.  I left the hospital that night feeling helpless.  There was nothing I could do but offer support and encouragement and cry along with him.  So that's what I did but still, I wanted so bad to take away the pain.

Friday there was another issue that caused him to be transferred to the Critical Care unit.  He just needed to be monitored for about 48 hours then was transferred back to the Oncology floor.  Today, I walked in to find him completely out, Darth Vader breathing and all.  He'd had a reaction to something and so they gave him benadryl to combat the reaction.  Sleep city.  His blood count is low, so they will be doing more transfusions today but for right now the nurse just wants him to sleep. 

I could go somewhere else, shopping, to lunch, for coffee, IKEA, (I would say the beach but it's back at home and with the amount of people heading into Beach Town as I was leaving, I'm perfectly content to not be there), but really all I need to do is be here, listening to him sleep, watching the twitching fingers and toes and being near.  Today that's my job and I'm okay with it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"I know this will pass, however..."

"I know this will pass, however..."

I read those words from a Christian dealing with a bunch of stuff in their life and they caught my attention.  The litany of things this person is dealing with is long.  There are things on that list that break my heart.  There are hard things, seemingly easy things, things that take up brain space and heart space and in general make a person weary.  And yet, instead of being able to state the crap in life, put it out there on the table and walk away there was an addendum, "I know this will pass..."

One simple sentence and yet it held so much guilt.  What I saw behind the statement was "I shouldn't be feeling this way", maybe that awful cliche of "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" (click here for the best blog I've ever read on that horrid misrepresentation of scripture) or the even more vile "God's just testing me" notion.  Behind that statement was a denial of self that, however noble, spoke volumes.  We aren't allowed to feel what we feel because...this too shall pass.

Sometimes I feel like the Christian world works overtime to hide the humanness within us all.  We are supposed to be above it all, and yet, we are human.  We are frail.  We get tired, angry, happy, sad.  One minute we can be overflowing with joy, the next despair.  From one second to another we can be calm and then overwrought with anger.  It's the way of life, it ebbs and it flows. Emotions happen.

I am so sad when I hear people disregard their hurts, their worries, their sorrows because, well, we're supposed to "buck up" and remember "this too shall pass."  Yes, yes it will but until the current problems dim, lets just face reality, shall we?  Life hurts sometimes. It's not always fun and joy filled. 

In those moments, instead of passing around cheap cliches (that actually do more harm then they help, in my humble opinion), let's look at the person who is hurting and call the spade, the spade.  Let's acknowledge the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the anger, the depression, the fear, the burdened shoulders.  Let's stop hiding behind the fear that God won't show up and save us from this (again, it's my humble opinion but isn't that what we are really saying with those cliches?) and just come right out and say it.  "I am overwhelmed.  This hurts.  I've had enough.  I'm scared.  It all just feels way to much for me to handle right now."

Papa Bear has been more emotional the last few weeks, as he has every right to be. We all have.  Tears come readily and easily as we contemplate the road ahead.  I have stopped myself, corrected myself several times when Papa Bear starts to tear up and I start to say "AGH, Don't cry!" (which I recognize is more a self preservation thing for me than about him.  If he cries, I cry.)  I've retracted that statement over and over reminding both of us to feel whatever we are feeling, be it tears, laughter, sadness, anger, joy, the emotions are valid and we need to feel them, to work through them as we walk this path.

Hello, my name is Brittany.  My family is going through some pretty rough stuff right now and we're all a little scared and anxious about what tomorrow will bring.  Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sometimes we just need someone to listen

My role in many friendships tends to be that of listener.  I am a naturally quiet, introspective person and many people who need to talk find those qualities to be helpful.  I regularly find myself listening to people whom I know well and many times to people in line at the grocery store or in the aisle at Home Depot.  Somethings I am privileged to hear, others...

Listening really is an art.  Though part of it comes naturally to me, another part has been learned.  There is a difference between listening to react and listening just to listen.  Most of us listen to react, ie, as the other person is talking we are forming our thoughts and sentences in order to react to what they are saying, give advice, argue, what-have-you.  When we listen to react, we aren't actually hearing what the other person is saying.

Listening just to listen is harder.  It means I have to put my own thoughts and reactions aside (I can't BELIEVE she just said that, does she know how WRONG that is!) and simply hear the person speaking.  For me, that also means hearing the layers of stuff that are beneath the words.  The nuances in the phrases or the body language and eye contact.

Facebook is a place where we don't do well at listening just to listen.  Part of it stems from the very self-focused nature of FB to begin with, part of it stems from our need to solve everyone else's problems.  I'm a part of a FB group where I am constantly scanning and reading the threads.  This particular group is a helper type group anyway, so anytime someone posts something there a bunch of people responding with "we did..." or "in my instance..."  Well meaning but sometimes the person posting in the first place just needs these three words.  "I hear you."

I learned those three words from my friend JL.  I've worked hard to embody those words.  I hear you.  Because, folks, we all need to be heard.  Not given ways to fix the problem, not told how we could do it better, not told stories of when it happened to the other person that's really not relevant but struck them as a story to tell.  We all just need to be heard.

As someone who has something traumatic/unexpected/overwhelming happen in their family, I have needed to have people who are there to listen to me.  There are definitely people on my safe list and then there are the others, those who want to give advice, who want me (us) to feel comforted and they offer what they believe are words of comfort (there's a whole 'nother post here but let me just say I told one friend if she uttered a particular phrase I would invoke my super powers and make sure she had shoe malfunctions every day and she would get a not so nice nickname on Facebook...I'm that passionate about this particular phrase not being uttered to me or my mom or brother or dad.)  Yo Momma spotted a link to an article of Facebook and I checked it out (Kimi, she swears it was a share on your FB page...if so, THANK YOU!)

It's good.  So good.  Take a look for yourself.

Sometimes, we all just need someone to listen and say back to us, "I hear you."  Enough said.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Curve balls

Last Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping channels.  On one station was a really awful horror movie, the type I NEVER let myself watch because my imagination already runs rampant enough.  But there I was, my attention caught, as this cross between a human/bat kinda thing that was called a creeper stalked down unsuspecting humans.  It was an awful movie.  I will never go in a cornfield again.

On the other channel was the Hallmark movie of the week.  Some schmaltzy equally awful romantic something or another that clearly wasn't as captivating as the human/bat creeper because I kept going back to that channel.  Back and forth I went between the two until the creeper thing came to an end and then, well I wasn't going to watch Final Destination 2 or 3 or whatever it was, so I wound up on the Hallmark channel again.

Later that evening I was with a friend, relating my day spent watching two awful movies and beating myself up ever so slightly for wasting my day when the 2x4 of reality hit me over the head...watching those two movies was really all I could do that day, I had no more emotional or mental strength left.

Almost two weeks ago, now, Tuesday my Dad or Papa Bear as he is known on this blog, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Just like that he went from living to be 105 like Great-Grandpa Ben to really hoping to make it to 73 or 74 or 75 or 76, heck 80!  There's a lot they are doing to treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia and we are going to be aggressive and fight this all the way into remission but still, the blow of the fragility of life took it's toll.

Yo Momma and I were on our way to meeting Lil' Bro and family at the Happiest Place on Earth when we got the news.  Yo Momma has a lead foot when she wants to...she almost cut across two lanes of traffic to make a u-turn to head home.  I did wind up going to meet Lil' Bro the next day and we spent three days together attempting to push away reality at the Happiest Place on Earth, being family and keeping things normal for Little Miss P.  Sometimes you just do what you gotta do.

Last Sunday morning I woke with dread knowing what was coming in church that day and not wanting to get up.  Not only did I not want to talk about what is happening with Papa Bear, I knew that sometime before church was over Youth Pastor Friend was going to tell the congregation he was leaving full-time ministry.  Even knowing it was the right decision and that God is in the midst of his decision, it was still hard to sit and listen to the words flow from his lips.  There was this horrible mix in my head of Youth Pastor friend leaving, Papa Bear's life in crisis and my own sense of everything being so far out of control I just couldn't breathe.

And so, there I was on Sunday afternoon with nothing left in me, watching a horrible horror movie and a horrible Hallmark romance and occasionally finding tears welling up in my eyes.  Tears are only a millisecond away these days.  It's been a long couple of weeks and there are longer weeks ahead.

Tomorrow I will get up and go to work as usual. Yo Momma and Papa Bear will get up and call the hospital to find out what time he is to admitted.  Five weeks from now we hope the leukemia is in remission so that a bone marrow transplant can take place.  As I have told Papa Bear, there are no options, he will fight this and he will fight this hard.  We are going to kick leukemia to the curb.

This afternoon Papa Bear and I sat in the family room and watched the Giants and Dodgers battle for a win. We watched the players do their thing and eventually cheered when the Giants won in the 10th inning (they can never make it an easy win).  I look forward to the day when Papa Bear and I can go to another Giants game together at AT & T park.  I will buy the best seats possible for that game.  Life throws curve balls every once in a while and sometimes all we can do is just step back and watch them go by, waiting for just the right moment to hit that ball right out of the park.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

First Amendment & Free Speech


First Amendment

an amendment to the U.S. constitutionratified in 1791 as part of the 
Bill of Rights, prohibiting Congress from interfering with freedom of 
religionspeech,assembly, or petition.

A straight reading of the First Amendment leads me to believe that the first amendment does NOT say people cannot be held accountable for their words by the media, NBA officials or basic humanity that says one persons ethnicity is not better than any others. 

Free speech does mean that one has to deal with the fallout of one's words when others realize how offensive, cruel, hate-filled and racist they are and CALL YOU ON THE CARPET.  It's what church circles tend to call accountability.  But then again, we humans want to say whatever we want without having to be accountable, don't we.

So tired of this s%!&. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Four different towns

I have been to four different regions for disaster recovery in the last 8 years. Each place has its own feel and stories to tell.  Mississippi had a resiliency that grew with each trip. Galveston, TX felt like a resort town that had been forgotten. Joplin, MO had a feeling of despondency that was there long before the tornado.  Oklahoma, Moore, had a heavy weight of depression.  For the first time in all these trips, hope seemed far, far away.

Now, I may be extra sensitive to depression these days.  I've been under that cloud in the last couple of years.  I could have sensed something that wasn't as deep as I perceived it to be but when I think about the week in Moore and the people I met, which weren't that many, the overwhelming feeling I got from them was depression.

Of all three areas, Moore was the one area that was rebuilding the quickest.  There really wasn't many visible remnants of the tornado, at least to someone who hadn't been there before.  The schools were the most noticeable but they are definitely rebuilding them.  There are housing subdivisions going up all over the place.  The hospital is still four mobile units in a parking lot where something else used to be, but I didn't see piles and piles of debris or such vastly cleared land that it was obvious that a tornado had come through.  I saw that in the eyes of Eliza (name changed).

Eliza was the one homeowner my team worked for that we met.  The first day she drove up in her mini-van and said hello, conversed briefly and went inside.  The second day she drove up, said hello and went inside.  Later she went out, picked up her children and then came back and talked a little more.  The third day I coaxed a little of her story out of her.  Eliza and her children were in Plaza Towers Elementary school when the tornado hit.  Plaza Towers is the school where several children lost their lives.  She and her daughter were hurt, with her daughter receiving injuries to her back and neck.  Eliza didn't elaborate and I didn't push.  Just getting that much information from her was tough.  There have been other things that have happened since the tornado adding to the burden on Eliza's shoulders.  Her father had a stroke at Thanksgiving and Eliza is responsible for taking him to his therapy appointments.  In her eyes I could see just how tired she was.  The burdens she is carrying are huge and yet, as she stated, she is a survivor. 

Dwight was a man who happened to walk down the street as we were packing up one day.  He stopped to say hello and 10 minutes later I had learned that his daughter had lost her house in the tornado.  She had moved in with Dwight and his wife, which turned out to be a blessing as Dwight's wife had cancer.  She passed away in October.  Dwight looked at me and said "At least she got to spend the last 6 months of her life with her daughter."  He was a little amazed that we had come all the way from California to help.  There was a little more spark in Dwight's eyes but the heaviness of life's ups and downs was evident again.  He continued on down the street, after advising us of the best place to eat in Oklahoma City, off to Bingo at the church that night.

The homeowners at other sites were around more.  One team wound up helping multiple people on a block.  At the end of the week, we all gathered in the driveway at one house for lunch.  That homeowner couldn't have been more delighted that we all showed up to her house. She had us take a team picture, right there in the driveway.  Another homeowner made key chains for everyone on the team with wood from the tree that came down in her yard during the tornado.  They too had the same weight of despair and yet, by the end of the week the teams had done their jobs.  Maybe they hadn't gotten all of the physical work done but they got the emotional work done...they brought hope.  These rebuilding trips aren't just about physical buildings, many times it's the emotional and spiritual rebuilding that is most needed.

On Friday, my team was painting a shed at a house that is still under construction.  The homeowners needed a place to store items, so a shed was built and put on the site.  5 young women gathered around that shed and about 20 minutes in I realized the sound of their laughter and singing could be heard clear down the block.  I thought about telling them to hush for a split second and then continued to paint the trim on the back of the shed.  These young women were bringing something desperately needed to this town...the sound of joy and laughter, the sound of hope and friendship.  It was a beautiful way to end the week.

Four different places, four different feelings and yet the need remains the same. I believe, in our own unique ways, in each place we have accomplished the goal set before us by God...throughout everything we continue to remind people to have hope.  

Monday, March 31, 2014


Hello from OKC!

It's tough to blog without a full keyboard, but I had the overwhelming need to get my thoughts out on "paper" here goes.

Today was our first full day of work.  The group was split into 5 teams and I was put in charge of one team.  I chose the work I knew I could handle, Sheetrock, which is hysterical in one sense because I have struggled nightly with Sheetrock over the life of these trips. Many a swear word has been uttered.

Anyhow, my team was at Eddie's house finishing up one missing, taping, sanding and patching.  Let me just say, it was a struggle. The students were excellent. They were helpful, eager, excite and ready...and none of them knew a thing about what we were doing.
About halfway through the day, after teaching mudding techniques, "scrape off the excess into the tray like this to get a clean line", showing how to fill holes and sand down excess, I faced the holes in the ceiling. I knew enough to fake it...and asked for help when I didn't but mostly I stood back, gave instruction and let the students go for it.  It was a challenging day. At the end of the day, as we put one last piece of drywall in, the heard myself say to the young woman who was struggling with the screw,"Keep going,but will suck in," and I knew that I had one person to thank for the knowledge I had used all day was the same man whose words had just flown from my friend Ben.  Those 10 trips to Mississippi where Ben taught, encouraged, led, forced me to try and instilled his knowledge in my soul had just come to fruition.  Today I passed on Ben's legacy to 2 young men and 2 young women...and it was good.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Leaving on a jet plane...

Good Saturday morning.  Today begins my 16th adventure in Disaster Recovery in 8 years.  I'm so excited!

Our team of 48--33 High School Students and 15 adults--will be in Moore, Oklahoma all week doing whatever God has planned for us.  I'm ready to be back in my boots, jeans and t-shirt, gloves at the ready and wide open adventure ahead.

I don't know if there will be wi-fi access where we are, so blogging will probably not happen (plus, I'm just taking my Kindle and it takes a LONG time to write a blog post on a Kindle.  I do so much better with traditional computer keyboards.).
However, Youth Pastor Friend will be posting to the youth group Facebook page as much as possible.  You can find photo's here:  Even if you aren't on Facebook (I keep thinking I'm it's time to close my page...tired of the fake lives on there) you will still be able to see photo's of the day and any updates.

So, if you are of the praying time, please pray for the team!  For safety, sleep, good conversations, good work and financial support to keep rolling in!  I'll catch ya on the flip side!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Holy Conversations

A couple Saturday's ago I met with a friend for coffee.  It's a regular occurrence, usually at the same place and the conversation takes whatever path it needs.  I look forward to these coffee times, simply because I leave feeling loved and centered again.  Most times there are three or four of us who meet together.  We sit outside and watch the crazy drivers and near miss accidents.  We talk, we laugh, we commiserate, we share life together and it is good.

Last Friday, I will met with a different friend, at a different coffee shop for an entirely different conversation.  Our political and theological viewpoints are on much the same level.  I will left that conversation feeling, again, loved and centered but also like I am not alone in my view of what it means to be a Christ follower in this world.

On Monday evenings for a few months at a time, I gather with a group of friends around a television for a couple of hours, as we watch people make fools of themselves.  Those two hours are filled with snarky comments, yummy snacks, times of checking in with each other and a lot of laughter.  Most Mondays, the majority of the group leaves one by one until there are just a few of us left and we break into serious conversations about life.  I leave those conversations feeling, loved, accepted and understood...and centered.

Are you seeing the theme?

With each person, each group, each conversation there is an element of faith, a discussion of belief and at some point a revelation.  Sometimes they are major revelations, sometimes they are minor.  Saturday's coffee conversation reoriented my outlook on my career at the this moment in time.  Monday evenings conversations reminded me of the good of being known by others. Friday's conversation brought much needed laughter and understanding to my weary soul. Each revelation comes through a conversation.  A holy conversation.  I am grateful for those who speak and those who listen.  I am grateful for the conversations.  I am grateful for the revelations.  I am grateful for the people with whom I meet and the love, acceptance, centered, life confirming, hope that comes through these holy conversations.

I pray, this week, that you may have a holy conversation, where God shows up even if you don't recognize God's presence until much, much later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Teenagers, life events and disaster relief

Working with teenagers keeps me grounded.

Last week I wore one of my favorite shirts ever to youth group.  It's a grey, long sleeve t-shirt and simply says "Pearlington, Mississippi" on the front.  The back has the names of people who helped our team go to Mississippi that time for Hurricane Katrina Relief work.  I don't even remember what year or which number of the 12 trips it was.

One of young women looked at my t-shirt and asked "Where's Pearlington, Mississippi?"

I told her where it was and why I had been there and she looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and said "When was Hurricane Katrina?"

"2005," I replied.

"Oh, yeah, I was 5," was her response.

One of the other leaders looked at me and said with a touch of incredulity in his voice, "She was a year old when September 11th happened."  We both took a moment to ponder that.

Time marches steadily on.  There isn't anything I can do to stop the steady movement. There are days when I look at the number I am supposed to claim as my age and wonder how those years passed so quickly. I don't FEEL like the number I'm supposed to claim as my age.  Do you know how OLD that number seemed when I was a teenager?!

Time marches on and world and life events happen.  There are events, such as September 11th or Hurricane Katrina that will forever be etched in my brain.  Those events changed my world outlook.  They changed ME...and many of the students that I work with these days weren't even old enough to understand. They will have their own BIG life and world changing moments. It's just the way the world works.

Time marches on.  This April it will be 8 years since I first set foot in the town of Pearlington, Mississippi.  It's been over a year since I was last there.  I hope to get back there again.  This time for vacation, not Hurricane relief work.  But if something happens and the call comes again, I'll go in a heartbeat!

In 3 days I will board a plane with some of my teenager friends (33 of them to be exact) and head to Moore, Oklahoma.  Time does march on, life does change and teenagers really do keep me grounded...and in case you were wondering, I am taking my favorite long sleeve t-shirt with me.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A change of view

It's interesting how my views have changed as I have gotten older.  I view the world through much different lenses than when I was a teenager, some 20 years ago.  At one point in time I would have been nodding my head along with the "one language" purists who are up in arms about the Coca Cola commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.  That was then, this is now.

Now I work in an office building where there are multiple languages spoken in offices surrounding me.  At any one point during the day I hear French, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Tagalog and so many more languages I can't even begin to figure them out.  There are the loud, obnoxious white people too...and the British couple down the hall who are usually quiet but have recently been arguing, causing me no end of amusement.  Wait, that didn't come out right.  I'm not amused they are arguing, just at the sound of the clipped British accents...I can't hear the conversation.  In my 2014 worldview, THIS IS the sound of America.

Watching the Coca Cola commercial I honestly didn't get it at first...I can be a little naive...and then, gradually I got it, I understood the point.  Cool.  I'm not going to go out and buy more Coca Cola but it was a cool ad.  Then I saw the backlash.  Really?

First off, it's not the national anthem, a white opera singer sang that (someone who actually hit the notes in that ridiculously challenging song). 

Secondly, THIS IS the sound of America.  Americans are multi-ethnic and multi-lingual.  It's actually kind of cool, in my humble opinion.

Change is tough, it's threatening.  Change requires us to examine the ideals and things we hold as truths.  Change means we have to look at ourselves and realize that we don't have it all figured out or all together.  We tend to fear change and yet it happens all the time; many times without us noticing anything...kind of like my worldview.

The United States isn't a country made up of white people who speak English...American English.  The United States is a country made up of different races, religions, languages, orientations and so much more.  That Coca-Cola commercial looked and sounded a lot like the United States I live in.  And that America is Beautiful.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


I found this list in the office awhile back.  It came from a very talented, amazing group of High School students.  I found it to be a great reminder of what it means to be a leader.  I typed things out just as they were written.

  • Influence not authority
  • Positive attitude
  • Open minded
  • Taking initiative
  • Selfless
  • Dependence
  • Outspoken
  • Altruistic
  • Supportive
  • Confidence
  • Reliability
  • Respect
  • Generous
  • Network
  • Cooperation
  • Social Action
  • Courage
  • Delegation
  • Lead by example
  • Peace
  • Connection
  • Be your word 
  • Teamwork
  • Optimism
  • Communication
It's a great list with a few items that challenge me and some that come very naturally.

As I look at the list, I would add

  • Sense of humor
  • Grace
  • Tact
  • Be a listener first
  • Be thankful
What would you add to the list?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Let's talk about the weather

The Friday Five over at RevGals was about Spring.  I read the entry and navigated away.  It's hard to think about Spring when Winter hasn't happened yet.  I correct that, it's hard to think about Spring when Winter has just begun.

I know that many have had snow and rain and snow and rain and are done!  I can understand that, I just can't join them. See, in my part of the country rainfall has been VERY low the last year.  The month of January, usually a pretty big rainy weather month for us, there was nothing. 

The word "drought" is now heard in most conversations.  We've started to take a closer look at our water usage (aka the "take shorter showers" conversation has begun). The media is focused on the low reservoirs and where the water might come from if it doesn't rain.  January was dry and unseasonably warm...there were far too many convertible days in January.  I was pretty sure it was never going to rain again and was about ready to take on ANYONE who believes climate change is a myth. 

Then the weekend came.  Friday, it started to rain and it's been raining pretty steadily since.  Where usually there are a ton of people moaning and groaning about the rain on social media sites, there have been simple posts such as this:  "It's raining!"  We are glad.  Though, today, there was one whiner...when we have to ration water this summer, and she starts whining about that, we will no longer be "friends".

It's February and it's finally starting to feel like winter.  No, I am nowhere near ready for Spring and I'm not playing the Friday Five this week...catch up with me in a couple of months, I may be ready then.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What I've been up to lately, part 2

Sometimes God and I have trouble together.  Sometimes the challenges, burdens, responsibilities God places on my shoulders are ones I would rather just dump under the table and leave alone.  As much as I try to offload the responsibilities, they just keep hanging around the back of my brain.  I can't escape them.  I really want to but I just can't get away from them.

One of the roles I continually find myself in is what I will call "Woman capable of doing more than some men think she can".  Think Rosie the Riveter.  (Note, I said some men, not all men think this way.)  In this role I am constantly pushing up against the boundaries of those who think that women can't _____________  you can fill in the blank.

In late March, I'll be joining up with 30 high school students and 15 adults, heading to Moore, Oklahoma to do tornado relief work.  If you have been around this blog before, you will know I am not unfamiliar with disaster relief work.  In fact, this will be my 16th work trip specifically for disaster relief.  On these trips I have learned how to build ramps, dig post holes, cement posts, lay flooring, tear up flooring, sheet rock/tape/mud, use a nail gun (under duress), use a screw gun, use a skill saw, use a sawzall, build a fence, oh, and put up and tear down scaffolding and so much more.  I happen to seriously love my steel toed boots, jeans and sweatshirts.  I've been known to do my fair share of swearing at posts that somehow turn after they've been cemented in or when I measure for electric boxes, cut the sheet rock and am off just enough to cause a problem.  So, when heading into trips, such as the one to Moore, and leaders on the trip say things like "Have you told them we have 18 girls on the trip?", the inference being the girls are unable to accomplish things the boys can, my blood boileth over.

I don't want to start a war.  I don't desire to be labeled "that feminist".  Yet, here I stand ready to take on the battle because I know the girls CAN.  They can use the nail gun, the screw gun, the skill saw.  They can dig post holes and put up sheet rock and build ramps.  They can learn about how to frame a house or rough in electrical wires.  They can roof, they can pour cement, THEY CAN!  Sure, it might take longer.  Yes, they aren't always capable of lifting super heavy items but please, just because they are girls, don't discount their abilities to succeed.  In fact, most young women who are on work sites are there because they WANT to learn and they WANT to help people.  By discounting their willingness to learn and what abilities they may have, sends a big message...a message I don't want to have anything to do with.

The other day Yo Momma asked one of the neighbors if they were building a deck, as they had piles of wood and what looked to be the beginnings of a deck by their house.  Turns out our 12 year old neighbor girl and her dad are building a play house.  We can just see the foundation of the playhouse going up now from our kitchen window.  It's awesome.  She is going to learn how to swing a hammer, how to measure, the importance of having a level foundation and so much more.  What a gift to a young girl, to empower her to learn something new, go into territory that has been seen primarily as "men's work" and potentially tap into a talent she would never have found before.  Plus, what a bonding experience between a daughter and her dad!

As I head into the trip to Moore, Oklahoma, as we gather for team training and gather as leaders, I hear God's voice so clearly, telling me to be an example, to keep urging others to empower, equip and encourage the young women in our midst, to help them dream new dreams, tap into strengthens they never knew they had and be willing to take on tasks others say they can't do.  It's a voice some would and will argue with but I believe it is God's voice nonetheless.

We leaders are creating an opportunity for the young people on this trip to learn and grow, to serve and create, to find new strengths and gain knowledge.  So let's give ALL of them the opportunity.  There may be a young woman on this trip who suddenly realizes she likes to figure out angles and how pieces fit together.  There may be a young woman who finds out she loves creating things with wood, there just may be a future carpenter in the group...but we never know until we give the young women on our team a chance.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I've been up to lately...part 1

This year on my Christmas Amazon wish list (love that wish list) I had one very practical item.  New headlights for the race car.  Not just a lamp but the whole headlight assembly.  12 years of driving had taken a toll on the old headlights, they were foggy, and yellowing.  I tried the different remedy's they didn't work.  So I spent some time online, found a few YouTube videos and figured out I could replace the headlights pretty simply.  Amazon wish list here I come.

Christmas Day, Papa Bear and I headed out to the garage to change out the headlights.  Papa Bear was skeptical that it would be a simple fix.  I had watched YouTube videos and figured we had this handled.  Sure 'nuff, it was as simple as the video had led me to believe.  There wasn't even any swearing involved.  THAT is an accomplishment, people!  A couple of days later I watched another YouTube video and figured out how to align the headlights as well.

Race car before
Race car after

Doesn't the race car look pretty?!  BTW, the pictures were taken using my Christmas present from the year before...a Kindle.  Pretty awesome.

Later that day, I drove the race car over to my favorite coffee shop for some seriously needed caffeine.  Since it was such a beautiful day, the convertible top went down on the race car (Song friend would be so proud of me!)  Arriving at G.G.'s for Christmas dinner, I went to put the top up and noticed it was taking a very long time to close.  One repair done, another comes along to take it's place.

I had some free time in the following days so I did what every capable woman can do...I googled the problem,  "Convertible top going up slowly".  Guess what appeared?  A YouTube video!  I watched a gentleman take the back seat out of his race car, pop up the hydraulic fluid tank for the convertible motor, refill it with the correct fluid and voila!  Problem solved.


I contemplated, did I dare take apart my car and try this?  Papa Bear questioned the validity of the YouTube video but what, really, did I have to lose?  So a couple of Sundays ago, I gathered the necessary items.  Dexeran III, ratchet, turkey baster, cloth for spills and my courage.  It took 10 seconds to get one side of the bottom of the backseat up and 5 minutes for the other side (could NOT find that latch!) and out popped the bottom backseat.  That piece is amazing light.  Then I set to work on the bolts on the back part of the seat.  Once I had the tools correct, the bolts were out and I was moving on to taking that seat up.  On to the motor and filling the tank and finally the hardest part...getting the rubber stopper back into the tiny hole in the tank.  A pair of pliers and a maybe a few swear words (I am my Father's daughter) and the stopper was in, the tank was back in place and I was tentatively starting the car.  It WORKED!!  The top went back up and down pretty smoothly...a new motor may be in the future but hopefully the DISTANT future.  A little clean up and the seats went back with ease.  Game, set, match.

The sad part of this story is the race car still needed some work.  Yes, I drive a Ford and yes, I do know that Ford is an acronym for Fix-Or-Repair-Daily.

This past weekend I tackled the next problem...the leaky convertible top.  See, when I was googling the motor problem, I also googled the leak problem.  Turns out that's most likely a pretty simple fix.  I just needed some free time and a day that was dry and 70 degrees or above to tackle the leak.  Seeing as how I live in the part of the country where the "Ridiculously Resilient Ridge" of high pressure (as a Stanford Professor has named it) is refusing to let rain anywhere near the state, well, dry and 70 degree weather is in abundance.

I located the most likely source of the leak, patched it up and will stubbornly wait for it to rain in California to see if the problem has been solved.  I may be waiting a long time.

In the meantime, there is a point to my relating these tales to you...stay tuned for part 2!