“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in the pews.” (Tish Harrison Warren)
Dear Church of the Ascension,
I have visited your church two times. My husband and I live in New Jersey, but he works in Pittsburgh three days a week and has an apartment in the Strip District, not very far from you. About once a month, I make the reverse commute and we spend the weekend in Pittsburgh, a city I have come to love and enjoy beyond what I thought possible.
It’s on these weekends that we have walked through your bright red door, been greeted by your people, sat in your pews, listened to your choir, watched your children gather at the feet of your rectors, opened the scriptures, kneeled in prayer and shared bread and wine. It’s on these weekends that we have been outsiders peeking in on how you navigate this complex world of “church” in the new millennium.
I have some confessions to make to you this Palm Sunday morning, a day where I will be entering into the doors of another church, one where my view is from the inside out, not the outside in, one where we’ve loved and served for many years, one that is also maneuvering the mosaic of “church” in 2019.
Back to my confessions.
Today, I confess that I only visited your church because I was mildly obsessed with Tish Harrison Warren, having soaked up her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, not only once at a cursory level, but in depth with my women’s group. When I found out that she had moved to Pittsburgh and was a writer in residence only a mile away from my husband’s apartment, I was determined to visit you. I felt a little like the paparazzi, as I recorded her talk with the children, received communion from her and talked her ear off as she was greeting parishioners. It was not my finest moment, but as she reminds me in her book, we are all “limping to redemption,” and I am included in the “all.”
Today, I confess that something changed inside of me that first day. I wanted to come back. Not just because of Tish, although her talks that day fed my soul the love that it so longed for, but because as I watched and wondered about this community that “practiced” very differently than what I am used to, it seemed kind and gracious, filled with love for those on the inside and those on the outside (me included), the kind of love Jesus talks about every chance He gets.
Today, I confess that I came back with my husband, this time my motivation not to see Tish (I didn’t even see her that day), but to be filled again with this love you have to share. I confess that as I sat there, tears welled in my eyes as the message of God’s love for me was communicated from beginning to end, almost as if it was a calculated move on your part. Here is just a glimpse of the words that leapt from the white booklet and the hymnal I held in my hands:
We started here…
“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.”
“Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine.”
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside His crown for my soul.”
“Jesu, my love, my joy, my rest, Thy perfect love close in my breast…”
The middle was filled with this:
And we ended here… “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”
Whether it was deliberately planned by your leadership, God knew what I needed that day, my heart was more open to receiving the love and goodness of God, or ALL of those in sweet combination, my “outsider” self felt beautifully connected to you and your people, and especially to the loving heart of God.
Today, my last confession is one of thanks to you. Thank you for being a beacon in the middle of my beloved adopted city of Pittsburgh. Thank you for giving this outsider a place of belonging. Tish reminds me in her book that “God loves and delights in the people in the pews around me and dares me to find beauty in them.” I have found the beauty in you. Your beauty is one that has given me inspiration for my inquisitive mind, daring hope as an anchor for my soul, but most of all, deep, deep love for my longing heart, a beautiful and firm foundation that I carry with me into this Holy Week ahead. Thank you. We shout HOSANNA (“Come Save Us!”) together today!
What happens when your child can’t fall asleep because they are beating themself up for their mistakes made that day? You as a mom grapple with your own perfectionism? See the same struggles in your child that you have? Join me as I interview Jackie Thompson, a very gentle, wise, honest hope-bringer of two young children ages 5 and 8. Jackie is a fourth-grade teacher and pastor’s wife who juggles working full-time and caring for her two precious children, along with being a wife, daughter, friend and mentor. Explore a key parenting concept we’ve both learned the hard way, and how we imperfectly navigate it along our own mom journeys. Laugh and cry and say, “Hmm. Me too.” with us for 30 minutes as you get a sneak-peak behind the scenes of the beautiful, but messy motherhood path we are on. The good news is that you will find hope for your own!
My friend, Maria, newly divorced, unpacks this better than I can today with a poem she’s written to herself on her 54th birthday, one where she is vulnerable, raw, truthful and filled with hope (and I am all about all of that)!
This is 54
In all my imperfections
In all my power
In all my insecurities
In every way
Owning every blessing
And every good gift
Owning every wrinkle
My 54 year old self
Could use a lift ☺
Better late than never
Better off now alone
Better to be alone and lonely
Than lonely in my home
I’m not sure what happened
Not sure why
I waited so long
But know my children mattered more to me
more than my own
I move on in power
I know its not too late
To have the love I long for
With the one I can relate
But first I love myself
I walk in all my truth
Owning my need for more
Unrealized in my youth
Time has passed by quickly
Many ways a blessed life
I thought all the answers
Were in being someone’s wife
But fairytales and stories
The things our people make us believe
While they tried their best
see the need
The need to guide in honesty
That love is more than what is seen
Its deeper, it is constant
There is passion
you can believe
The knowledge of your whole heart
Being touched and nurtured
Sweet and raw
The wisdom of its purity
That’s what will last for long
So I give this to myself now
I love myself in all my truth
I love that I am fragile
I love the wisdom without youth
I own my insecurities
How I need to feel valued and be seen
I own my need for time, connection,
Want the dream!
I call it the trifecta
Emotional, Mental, Physical
For now I give it to myself
My love tank
It is full
As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Plays on the radio
My childhood song still resonates
My soul and heart
Know what I desire
Is more than a fairy tale
Know what fuels my fire
I will have it
I wish myself a Happy Birthday
Treasuring every good gift
that’s in my life
My family and friends
Who value me
That’s the love
I can’t deny
My journey’s just beginning
My heart remains so full
So thankful it’s not broken
But open and vulnerable still
I share this in transparency
To encourage others in their way
I want to live authentically
Boldly, wholly, deep.
In every way
Those who know me best
Love me as I am
The good, the bad, the ugly
As only good friends can
I walk into my second half of life
With so much more to give
is my goal now
There’s only one life
here to live
My faith it keeps me grounded
Shows me the way
His Love and mercy
Filling me each day
My thoughts they keep on coming
As my heart
Thankful for love and grace
Thankful that it shows
Is my gift
I give myself today
Until my dying day.
I love this! I love the picture of Maria’s and her daughter’s tattoos on their wrists they got a few years ago! How beautiful the reminder that there is always sunshine on a cloudy day! How beautiful that those words of hope ring true for her and for my own heart today! The sun always shines above the clouds, even when I can’t see it or feel its warmth! When my own life is not going the way I thought it would or think it should, this poem will gently remind my heart that there is ALWAYS GREAT HOPE!! Thank you again Maria! You are a gift!
Today, I am SO EXCITED to be featured in a blog series about Enneagrams and Motherhood! I am a TYPE 8, which makes being a mom a pretty windy (long “I” sound) journey! Please find the post by clicking below. I am the last one at the bottom! So for all you Enneagram types out there, enjoy what you read and get a glimpse and some hope for your own parenting journeys!
Hey Friends! I hope your April is off to an amazing start. Its hard to believe that we are almost at the end of this incredible Enneagram and Motherhood series. 3,259 more words
“Beloved one, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you physically, just as your soul is getting along well.” (III John 2)
For the past seven weeks, my body and I have been in a fight! The “conversation” has been going something like this:
BODY: “Hey! Can you help me?! I’m not okay.”
ME: “Pipe down! You are messing things up! I have a lot going on! You need to get your act together!”
BODY: “HHHEEELLLPP! I’m not doing very well. Can you please take care of me!?”
ME: “I am not happy about this! You are supposed to help me live my very important life! You’re just being a loud-mouthed, trouble-maker! I have people to see, places to go, things to do. You are not being very nice at all!”
The battle goes on and on! UNTIL…
When I decided to wave my white surrender flag. Call a truce.
I am normally a very healthy, rarely-sick human being. (Confession: I’m a little proud of that fact.) I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking care of myself.
Most mornings go something like this: hair in a ponytail, minimal eye makeup on, teeth brushed (sometimes), and super simple pull-on clothes and slip-on shoes. Top that off with nothing physical “going wrong” and I am able to get out of the house in about seven minutes flat from the time I wake up. I don’t even know if I look in the mirror again until I am brushing my teeth at night before bed (I do that for the most part unless I fall asleep watching a movie with Allen – I cannot go horizontal on our couch after 8:00 pm or I never make it past the first 15 minutes).
I get amazed at those of you who spend lots of time plucking your eyebrows, carefully applying makeup, diligently flossing, shining your shoes and choosing just the perfect outfit. (Confession: I secretly wish to be you and often wonder why I don’t take care of myself better.) It’s been a lifetime battle to do any of those things, one I have asked God about quite a bit (I’ve never plucked my eyebrows)! Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because I’m a third-culture kid or if it’s just me. Probably a little bit of both.
I guess God heard my plea and decided the age of 53 was a good time for me to practice what I preach. “TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF (and your stuff)!!” is one of my big mom mantras! I’ve shouted it from the top of the stairs, the front of the car, the texts on my phone and here on this blog! I know in my head it’s the right thing to do. But living this out day-to-day-to-day-to-day is another.
Having a body is tons of work. I have to get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, floss, take a shower, primp, eat, take vitamins, exercise, drink, sleep and then do it all over again. The amount of energy and time my body needs to keep on ticking borders on ridiculous (at least according to this underachiever). It’s a lot of my day. Add in some (ahem) parts screaming at me for lack of care and my day feels consumed.
I am not lost on the irony in all of this. My Word of the Year is “shalom,” which means true human flourishing (BODY INCLUDED)! I spend lots of my time and energy on other flourishing (mental, emotional, spiritual), but my body gets neglected. Not a good “look”(pun intended) on this Dolly Mama.
The “conversation” (I mean fight) continues even after I decide to wave the white flag:
ME: What am I supposed to do when you take so much time just to look presentable, much less not as old as you are? And now you are really making a fuss!
BODY (Shouting back!): Hey! I’m genuinely important. I house the “real you.” When I’m not working right, the “real you” suffers (as you’ve now noticed).
ME: But… But… my time could be spent better doing something of more value like making my dreams a reality, writing this blog (for all of my amazing and wonderful and lovely readers), spending time with my family and working towards my goals!
BODY (more gently): You have friends who are really struggling right now with their own version of me. You’ve even had a taste of this these past seven weeks. It’s really really hard! So, my sweet caregiver, would you mind sending me a little love?
(Somehow, in the middle of this, GOD pipes into the “conversation.”)
GOD: Esther, my Esther, give a little listen to Me just for a moment. I love bodies. I love yours. They are so very important to me! I came in one after all.
ME: Okay. Okay. You’ve got my attention (at least for a minute).
GOD: I used My body to communicate My love for you in the most tangible way. I wanted to know what it was like to be you, right down to your gall bladder and your toenails. I couldn’t have done this FULLY any other way. I’ve given you your body to enjoy all the wonder and beauty I have for you right here and right now!
ME (defensiveness diminishing): So true! So true! I hear you.
BODY: Just remember, supposedly “wise” Dolly Mama, the ways I am working to make God’s dream for you to know pleasure and His love for you in all their fullness come true!
My eyes provide the way for you to see your precious grandson’s smile and the gorgeous sunset over the water in LBI.
My ears are for you to hear the “I love you Mom” on the phone from one of your kids and the spring peepers as they call out to each other in your yard.
My nose brings the joy of a Mother’s Day lilac and an early-June peony and the delicious smell of chocolate chip cookies baking.
My tongue tastes a hot cup of tea (with all your favorite sugar and light cream) and gives a way for you to experience the pleasure of a stuffed cabbage and perogie from S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District!
My skin helps you to receive the loving touch of Allen and the feel of the fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day.
I allow your soul to wonder, your mind to grow and your heart to love! Don’t forget your Word of the Year when it comes to me! Shalom, my dear Dolly Mama!
ME: Okay. I give in. You win, my precious body! Thanks for all you are and do! It feels so good to have called a truce for the moment! Keep fighting back when this “conversation” keeps happening (as we all know it will again and again and again)! Please be patient with me in the process! I’m a little pig-headed and a have a long way to go!
BODY: I’ll keep an “eye” on you! I’ll be cheering for you when you reach for your toothbrush, your eye patch, your mouth rinse, your vitamins, your pillow and all the small, but very kind ways you are taking care of me and reminding me how valuable I am! When you floss tonight, don’t forget to clean out all those crevices with a vengeance! WOO HOO! You’ve got this!
“Now may the Lord of shalom Himself give you shalom always in all ways.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
CONFLICT! Some of us engage in it, enjoy it and view it as a form of communication that brings connection. Others of us avoid it, despise it, and deem it the destroyer of relationships. What about all that fighting we are in the middle of as parents? Among our kids and also with them? Who should say they’re sorry? When should they say they’re sorry? How should they say they’re sorry? What about forgiveness and reconciliation? How do they happen? When do they happen? Who should forgive? THIS BIG QUESTION is worked through: should I make my child say “I’m sorry” when they’ve done something wrong and “I forgive you” when another apologizes? Join me with Josh, my super wise 22-year old, as we let you in on my “fits-and-starts” journey with this never-ending parenting battle.
I am amazed at how often “Millennials” are made fun of. Put down. Told they are lazy, entitled, spoiled, narcissistic. Even skimming articles online, I came across titles from prominent magazines and newspapers like:
“Millennials and Their Destruction of Civilization”
“This is Why Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap”
“Millennials are Uniformly Bad Tippers”
I have been constantly bombarded with negative viewpoints on this whole generation of people. I was raising three of them (with a fourth not too far behind) and every time they did something I didn’t like or agree with, I would dismiss it with “after all, their generation….yada yada yada.” I fell many times into the trap of blaming them for the ills in my home and in our world, jumping on the “Millennials Suck” bandwagon, complete with “eye-rolling” and outright contempt. NOT GOOD.
Allen and I (other than raising almost four of them) spend lots and lots of time with this generation. Between our nieces and nephews, our kids’ friends, the significant others in our children’s lives, and the young engaged and married couples we mentor, our lives are surrounded by men and women aged 22-37. Truth be told: WE LOVE IT AND WE LOVE THEM! News flash: they certainly don’t suck. They are an incredible group of human beings who have taught me how to live and love better. They are SO SO SO good for my soul! They have revealed God in a way that brings hope and healing to the core of who I am.
If there was anything that was hammered into my psyche from a very young age (by who knows what), it was the message that I should not reveal my true self. I should hide. I should only show the good parts of me, or what I think others will approve of. This was the way to keep the world, my marriage, my church persona and my friendships in tact. I even remember a deodorant advertisement that said, “Never let them see you sweat!” as if I couldn’t even have normal bodily fluids when I worked out. Millennials have shouted, “NO MORE!” “Sweat!” “Be yourself in all your good and bad.” “Be vulnerable and authentic!” Even writing this blog and having my podcast comes as a result of the permission I’ve been given to boldly be who I am, flaws and all. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS!
My parents were outliers in many ways in their own generation. Living in a world where their peers were living the “American Dream,” amassing wealth and pursuing happiness, my parents chose to give their lives for the “least of these.” This did not make my childhood filled with all rainbows and ponies (in many ways it was fraught with a host of difficulties), but ONE vital thing I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world is their hearts of generosity that penetrated my own. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for listening to those outliers who went before you and solidifying this good place in me. You volunteer more than any generation before you. You believe it’s essential to GIVE BACK! You are changing the world, one cause at a time, one person at a time, with your love and commitment to the lost and the least. You remind me each day to live in and from this place of generosity, the very heart that God has towards me! YAY for you!
For years, I lived with the idea that if I could get my outer world under control, my inner world would follow suit. I believed that “to do” lists checked off at the end of the day would bring me what I truly longed for: a life filled with peace and joy. But the harder I tried to fix, fix, fix, perfecting my outer world, the more I realized it was impossible, sending me into much anxiety, wondering what was wrong with me. THANK YOU MILLENNIALS for challenging that lie, revealing the truth to me that tending to my inner world, my soul, where true peace and joy dwells, where God lives and moves and speaks and heals, is the best starting and ending place. You have helped me have an “anchor for my soul, firm and secure,” (Hebrews 6:19) one nestled in the very heart of God.
Today, on this very ordinary Monday, my heart swells in thankfulness for you, my friends, those of you who were placed into this world and especially my world “for such a time as this.” I am humbled and grateful for the deep truths that you have so willingly spoken into my heart, shattering the lies that held sway over me! Thank you for your vulnerability, your generosity and your wisdom!
To my own Millennials (Sarah, Cody, Jared, Josh, Daniella, Courtney, Brandon, Marina, Nick…with Rachel and Cara closely behind), THANK YOU for showing me who I am and how much I am accepted and loved, not only by you, but by the God who formed me from His very vulnerable, generous and wise heart! The best is yet to come!!
Blew it again. Used guilt to get 10 year old to comply.
Blew it again. Alienated teen by comparing to “good” sibling.
Blew it again and again and again.
Today, you may feel far from your child. Not necessarily in miles, but in your heart. This child who threw their arms around you without a care in the world joyfully shouting, “I love you,” when he was three seems unreachable today in some ways. You may wish you could go back and do it all differently. You might not have the relationship that you envisioned with this child. Along the way, you have hurt them and they have hurt you. You may not feel good inside today.
We are constantly bombarded with voices that say, “You only have one chance at being a parent.” “Your child’s moral compass is fully-developed by age five.” “You have to teach your senior these ten things before they leave for college.” Magazine articles, blog posts, podcasts, parenting books and even well-intentioned friends basically send this message: “Don’t mess this mom thing up!” “It will be too late before you know it!”
Today, Sweet Mama, in the middle of the mess of your heart, toss those very soul-killing, discouraging lies aside and hold on to this: your story is not done being written. Your story as a mom. Your child’s story as a budding adult. The story of your relationship with your child. It is never too late! It’s never too late to say I’m sorry. It’s never too late to get counsel. It’s never too late to do things differently. It’s never too late for redemption. For you. Or your child.
God is the God of second chances and third, and fourth… In fact, He delights in them. He makes them His mission. He takes the seemingly hopeless and broken parts of us and infuses them with His healing and restoration. There is nothing too difficult for Him! Look UP and see Him beckoning you out of despair and discouragement into His life-giving courage and hope. He’s got you! He’s got your child! It’s really okay to rest your weary heart today!
“There aren’t do overs. But there are make overs.” (Bill Hybels)