A perfectly wonderful day 

There are few days that top the one we are wrapping up. Nothing extraordinary happened, but it was full of the things I love most. 

I started by reminding myself where to leave my cares and worries. I prayed, released, and listened as I colored. 

I went to the children’s school for field day and spent several hours there enjoying the company of all sorts of children, teachers, and staff. No pictures though. 

The children and I took a walk/bike ride. I had the baby strapped on my chest and the dog on a leash. We stopped by and said hello to friends. On the way home a puppy wanted to join us. We got him back to his owner and I ended up carrying the smallest bike along with everything else when the youngest bicycler wore out. No pictures from that either. I didn’t have enough hands as it was. 

I made a batch of chocolate chia pudding to celebrate the boy’s A on his practice SOL test. 

I made two batches of rustic cracked wheat bread. I turned one batch into four dozen rolls and one into two loaves. I also made a chocolate cake (plant-based and outrageously delish) to take to the school tomorrow for teachers and staff to thank them for a great year. 

We enjoyed sandwiches with the fresh rolls for supper. 

As I worked in the kitchen, I could see my rose bush out the window. 

There are many days when heaven seems far away, when I truly have to live by faith in spite of questions and the unknown, but today I felt God in the very marrow of my bones. I looked at this rose bush, heard the birds singing and the breeze in the trees, saw the blue sky freckled with fluffy white clouds, and I felt like I could simply unzip the veil between this life and heaven. What a peaceful, hopeful feeling. 

This evening we made a teepee. 

We lit a fire in the fire pit.

And found cloud pictures. Can you see the whale chasing Nemo?


The dog rested from the day’s activities. 

We tucked the children in and listened to them recount our day, sharing their own gratitude for our many blessings. 
It has been a perfectly wonderful day! 

A Family of Sorts

Last evening I led our monthly grief support meeting for families grieving the death of a child. We talked about lonely isolating grief and the courage it takes to tell your story, about how those who have walked a similar path are the ones who become our family of sorts.

This morning I was up at 5 to help barbecue chicken at the church. I worked side-by-side with people who are becoming more familiar to me. (I started as associate pastor there in January, and am just learning to know some of the people outside of a Sunday morning worship service.) I was updated on health issues, farming conditions, and concert recommendations. These precious folks are already my family of sorts.


I returned home mid-morning and made baked beans, Cajun corn salad, a loaf of braided egg bread, and a triple batch of chocolate chip cookies for a family reunion this afternoon. We arrived to see new faces among the familiar loved ones, but that’s not unusual. In our family, DNA is not the only thing that makes us such. Nearly every reunion and family meal has at least one or more persons not related by blood. The unspoken theory seems to be, if you can handle the chaos, you’re welcome to join us. Throughout the years, friends have come and gone from these reunions, but they forever remain our family of sorts.


As I type this, our foster child is snuggled contentedly beside me, basking in the love of family and home. Regardless of where her unwritten story takes her, we are her family of sorts.

And then I read this quote and count myself among the world’s richest.

“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.” ~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford,  Identity Crisis,” M*A*S*H

Wherever you find yourself when you read this, I pray you too have a family of sorts.

Unveiled; why I stopped wearing a head covering

I’ve noticed a promoted ad showing up in my Facebook news feed, called The Head Covering Movement. I couldn’t help but click on the link.

I was raised in a tradition (the Old Order Mennonite Church) where women wore head coverings, based on the Scripture in I Corinthians 11. As an infant, mom put a covering on me for Sunday morning worship, which was the custom among the Missouri Old Order Mennonites where I was born. We moved to Virginia soon after I turned 2, where girls started wearing coverings full-time as teenagers. I started wearing a covering and caped dress at 16.

I was always told that the head covering was an outward sign of inward submission. I was disappointed to find that even with donning “the veil,” I was still me and far from submissive. I later learned that submission is an inward discipline. I have also seen cases where a woman wore a head covering and plain dress as an outward sign, but it was no secret who really “wore the pants of the household.” If using the outward sign as a reason, those cases simply made it a piece of cloth on the woman’s head.

I went through varied stages of the head covering; from the netted material with strings that fit over a bun to a black veil that covered most of my hair, to a doily. See examples here. I even went through a stage where I wore the veil during my sleep, just in case I woke up and needed to pray.

Plain dresses and head coverings did nothing to address the soul care I so desperately needed. The only concern expressed from my faith community to me through these stages were not about what was going on inside, but what was coming off outside.

I studied the Scriptures. I wanted nothing more than to please God. I believe that ALL Scripture is inspired by God and relevant for our lives today. My heart was stirred by the Scripture in Mark 12: 28-31. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” and John 13:34, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” And Micah 6:8, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

While I was very familiar with the Scripture in 1 Corinthians, no where in my research could I find that the head covering was required of me to live a Christian life today. I know there are those who disagree with me, but I have “worked out my own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

As I have tended to my soul, my outer person continues to be transformed as well.

I have utmost respect for someone whose firm conviction is to be veiled. However, I can’t help but wonder if a greater movement might be based on Mark 12.

 

 

Letter to a Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Our son is about to enter your kindergarten class. Admittedly, this mama is a nervous emotional wreck. As a former preschool teacher, I know that a child’s caregiver knows more about that child’s family than the parents would ever want to admit. But that’s not what makes me emotional. I have not yet been able to comprehend sending my child to someone else for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I am grieving the loss of time I will be able to spend with him.

We considered homeschooling, but ultimately, we believe YOU have something unique and special to offer our precious child. We are trusting you to see him as an individual, not just as a student.

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You see, he was our second-born living child, but sadly, the first one we were able to bring home from the hospital. From birth, he has had an amazing ability to sense sadness and loneliness, and respond with compassion, wisdom and tenderness beyond his years. Death has been a part of our everyday language, but he is still filled with vibrant wonder, trust and belief in God and humankind.

He always remembers his angel sister he never met and is fiercely protective and loving of his baby sister. He adores his dog, Sampson, and his cats, Green Bean and Nelson.

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He loves camping, fishing, bugs, mud fights, swimming, campfires and helping daddy around the house. He has an incredible ear for music and knack for memorization. If he talks about healthy and unhealthy, it is because he helps me cook and garden and our conversation is often centered around nutrition during those times.

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He clothing style is shaped by his farming, cut-up t-shirt wearing Uncle Mikey, whom he adores, as well as by his love of bull-riding he shared with his late grandpa. His grandma intervenes with some dress clothes you might see him wear on occasion and he loves to wear ties like his daddy. There are times when he insists on wearing ties with his farm shirts, but I don’t mind because he is so cute.

Although we’ve had “the talk,” he might occasionally bring up a conversation about guns or knives. Rest assured, these are all tucked safely away in a locked cabinet. Our family values living off the land as much as possible and that includes harvesting game to grace our table and fill our tummies when we can. Even his BB gun and fishing pole require one hundred percent adult supervision.

He is a fairly typical child in many ways. He will certainly need your instruction, your affirmation and even your discipline at times. It is my prayer that you will see him and all the children in your classroom as unique as their DNA proves them to be. All of them come to you with a diverse set of stories and circumstances and will learn through the lens of their own experiences. You have a difficult job, a calling that I am not equipped to walk in. You hold in your possession the power to help shape the lives of these precious children into responsible contributors to our world.

I know it’s not all up to you. As his parents, we commit to continue our part at home. Please let us know the ways we can best support each other in raising this precious gift we cherish so dearly. And know that while he is making you laugh, testing the limits or trying your patience at school, we are eagerly awaiting his return to our arms every day.

Sincerely,

Eli’s Mom

Waiting

Waiting. I am currently waiting for a haircut appointment. I have someone else waiting on me for an appointment. But sometimes the waiting is more difficult. Sometimes waiting requires being present. Being present requires being still, reflective, looking deep within and acknowledging all that we are and then addressing that which is revealed.

Yesterday I waited for my grief to diminish. Grief that caught me off-guard as I anticipate the 6-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth and death this week. Six years. Haven’t I waited long enough?

I wait in anticipation of my upcoming licensing service this Sunday.

I can fill my waiting time with meaningless clutter or I can sit, be present, feel and acknowledge whatever emotions I am experiencing at that moment and pray that in the waiting I am learning and growing, emptying and filling.

And sometimes, waiting is done best by playing…

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Charmed Moments in an Ordinary Day

Today has been wonderful. We had Eli’s preschool graduation picnic at the park this morning.

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I spent the afternoon writing homework assignments for class Saturday. For a fun break, we went outside and escaped hovering hyenas

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And lurking lions

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And jumping jaguars

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We have enjoyed an ordinary uninterrupted day and for that, I am thankful.

“…there is no such thing as a charmed life, not for any of us, no matter where we live or how mindfully we attend to the tasks at hand. But there are charmed moments, all the time, in every life and in every day, if we are only awake enough to experience them when they come and wise enough to appreciate them.” Katrina Kenison

Love Challenge

We just passed the annual day of love. I am someone who is generally turned off by the commercialism surrounding holidays – any holiday, and Valentine’s Day is no different.

However, as a child, my dad nicknamed me “the love bug.” I have always loved love and the idea of love. I was born with a strong “mercy gift” and compassion for others that I did not (still don’t) understand. But when I compare myself to 1 Corinthians 13, I also realize how I fall short of true love for myself, my church, my community and my world.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, Love is patient. I am not. This is one of my most self-recognized “flaws.” Get-er-done already. That’s my motto. I don’t care if it’s a task, an idea, self-improvement or home improvement, just do it already. And the words “waiting” and “patiently” do not co-exist in my vocabulary. Love Challenge: Embrace the waiting in every situation and trust what God is doing.

Love is kind. Ah, well, sometimes I can be kind. Especially if someone is kind first. But Scriptures tell us it is easy for people to be kind to others who are kind first, true love is being kind even and especially when others are not. Love Challenge: “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

It does not envy. Hmmm… I don’t envy many material things, but guess what? I envy others’ gifts. I would love to be as even-keel and rock-steady as my husband. I wish I were as gifted with words, math skills, organizational skills… and on and on and on as my friends. This envy has at times prevented me from developing and stepping out in my own gifts because I measure my inadequacies and insecurities against other people’s gifts. Which leads right in to the next two… But first, Love Challenge: Recognize my own strengths and trust that I am who I am for a reason. Rely on God to help me use those strengths for the building of his kingdom and to accept his grace in my weaknesses.

Love does not boast, it is not proud. Ahem… (a little throat-clearing here.) Sometimes what seems like humility and inferiority is, in reality, an ugly form of pride. Yep. I deal with it. Love Challenge: Do not “boast” in or call attention to my insignificance in an effort to have others build me up. Recognize my identity as a child of God and rest in that.

It does not dishonor others. Uh oh. Repeating that embarrassing moment a co-worker shared in confidence, wishing (mentally or by telling others) that “over-spiritual zealot” would stop talking so the service could move along, reliving the past or revisiting moments that are shared only to let others know how I was wronged. Love Challenge: Choose to see every person as God sees them and then to love them as he does.

Love is not self-seeking. Sometimes doing good things can become more for the praise of others than because we should. As another portion of this Scripture says, we can give all we have to the poor, we can give our body to be burned at the stake for the sake of what we believe, but if we do not have love, we have nothing. Love Challenge: Don’t glory in the good I have done or will do. Recognize that the good we do often happens in times and ways that others will never know.

It is not easily angered. I’m not necessarily easily angered, but easily frustrated is a whole different story. I think it correlates with my impatience. Love Challenge: When I find myself becoming frustrated, take time to breathe. Take time to understand the source of my frustration or anger. Is the target of my frustration really the source? Is it worth the investment of time and energy it takes to hold on to the anger or frustration? 

It keeps no record of wrongs. This is one of the toughest parts of this Scripture for me. I. Keep. A. Checklist! Sometimes I’m not even conscious of this checklist, but I know it is there and I can pull those hurts out of my memory box without digging too deeply. I don’t believe we completely forget the hurts that caused our deepest pain, but I do think we can hold on to it by sharing only to retaliate against the perpetrator(s). This one can be really tricky.  Love Challenge: Burn the checklist. When the reminders come, make a conscious decision to let go… again… and again and again… 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Sometimes I think our national and local media would do well to remember this one, but it is a good reminder even for myself. Love Challenge: Do not glorify the bad. Rejoice in and promote truth and light. Even the smallest light overcomes darkness. Be that light, carry that Light. 

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I fall way short on the trusting part of this sentence. I do not always protect those I love from harmful gossip nor do I protect the defenseless and “least of these.” Love Challenge: Trust. Not in others, not in myself, but in God. Protect those who are in my care, whether I know them or not. 

Love never fails. Well, this one I cannot live up to, but by trying to live by the above challenges I pray that I become better at this loving thing.

Read the rest of this Scripture here.

Despite all my shortcomings and failures to live up to this perfect love, I still love love. I still believe that love ultimately wins over hate. I pray that with God’s grace I can live his love in such a way that others want to experience it too.

Anyone else have a love challenge or want to join me in mine?