A Year Later and Hope is Stronger than Despair

I haven’t blogged in over a year. For a while I was dealing with so much it was impossible to think about writing. Then came a mild depression, then lots of life changes, lots of busyness and no desire to write. But I’m back. And I hope to start writing regularly again.

This post I wrote last December will help explain my silence for the year. When I wrote it I thought I was ready to share again publicly. But, I wasn’t. I shared it with my family, but that was all I could handle. I needed more time. I needed deeper healing. I needed new life to begin around me. I needed time to pass to prove that I believed my own words. Now I know that I do.

My heart still aches. I wish I could run around and play with this little guy. But I have hope that one day I will.

*please note, the times mentioned in the post were as of December 2014.

IMG_5232

Hope is Stronger than Despair

I’m writing this with a heart that is still incredibly broken, but through trust and hope beginning to heal. There is a song that periodically comes on my Pandora station and every time it does I’m struck by the lyric “He’s the anchor of hope for the souls of men.” (you can listen to the song by Ellie Holcomb here). This has been a season of learning what hope is and what trust truly is and how to choose trust even when it’s hard.

My nephew died two months ago. He was a sweet, joyful 4 month old. It was tragic and God very easily could have prevented his death. But He allowed it to happen. In the process He allowed the hearts of my sister and brother-in-law to be shredded, along with our whole family. He allowed confusion to be stirred up in the hearts of my niece and nephew who asked “now that Jesus has had a turn can he please give us Gordon back?” He allowed grief and pain to enter our lives in a way that we could never have imagined.

I do not buy into the idea of the cliché “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” Quite frankly I think this is a lie. Sometimes in life God does allow more than we can handle. The past 3 years has been a season of “more than I can handle.” My divorce was more than I could handle. The loss of my sweet friend Emily a few months ago was more than I could handle. But far more painful and unbearable was the loss of my sweet Gordito. Watching my sister be in so much pain is more than I can handle. Emily’s parents and Gordon’s parents are walking through something so far beyond what they can handle, I’ve only had a glimpse of their pain.

But we don’t have to handle it on our own. That’s where the cliché goes wrong. God won’t give us more than we can handle with Him – that sort of suffering doesn’t exist. So we have hope that one day there will be no more tears! No more pain! No more loss! But for now He promises His comfort. He provides moments of beauty. Moments of joy. Moments of smiling. Moments of laughter. Moments of peace. Moments of love. Moments of hope. Moments where He says “I know this hurts and I hate that you’re hurting. But I love you. I know what’s going on. Please trust me. Rest in my comfort. Please know that I’m in control. You don’t need to handle this on your own. Cry out to me. Cry. Scream. Beat on my chest. I can handle it. I can handle your pain. I can handle your confusion. Come to me.”

That’s where trust comes in. I don’t know the answer to why. My human nature wants to be in a constant state of control and understanding. But that’s not trust. Trust, like love, is an intentional action. It doesn’t just happen. It’s a daily choice, or sometimes a second to second choice. I have had days of doubt. Days of anger. Days of crippling sadness. But the days I choose trust are the days where I can see the beauty and hope that still exist in the world and in Him. I have hope. I’m still grieving, and I imagine I will be for a long time. But as the fog of the overwhelming grief begins to lift slightly I can see how the Lord is working through this. I can see how sustaining the prayers of my community are. How important community is. How the Lord’s provision care and His timing are perfect. How He wants to use suffering for good. How people will be drawn to Him as we trust and hope. I will see Emily and Gordon again. I have that confidence and that hope.

Friends, let me leave you with the beautiful words of my sister as she reflected on her son’s death two months later, “The past two months have been hard. But there are a few things I know now with even more certainty than I did before Gordon died: God is good. God can be trusted. People are capable of an amazing amount of love. Pain is an incredible teacher. And, Hope is stronger than despair.”

Advertisements

Remembering Emily

Recently earth lost a beautiful woman. She was only 19 years old but had the wisdom and the heart of someone much older. My dear friend Emily was killed in a horrible car accident and her death has forced me to deal with death and what I truly believe about it. It’s easy to rattle off the comforting things that people say around death until it happens to someone dear to you, especially when it’s tragic and too soon.

When someone dies, especially tragically, we don’t usually know what to say. What is there to say? I had to call one of my best friends to tell her that Emily had died and it was probably the shortest conversation we have ever had. How do you deal with that? How do you process it? What do you say? Those not in relationship with the person who died usually resort to things like “She’s in a better place.” I found myself saying that pretty immediately after I found out she died as I tried to comfort those around me. Even as they were coming out of my mouth I found myself questioning if I truly believed them.

I found out about the car accident during the staff weekend for a camp I volunteer at every summer. It’s a week long camp focused on Jesus and Christian community and it’s also where I met sweet Emily. Jesus and I had a lot of words during that week, some of them I would not feel comfortable repeating especially in a public space. But during the week I found moments of comfort in memories of Emily or visions of her worshipping in heaven, perfectly happy and content. She was doing what her heart longed to do.

I’ve had to wrestle with the idea of death and cry about it. Do I truly believe that she’s in a better place? Why didn’t God spare her life too, the others in the car walked away from the accident? Does heaven exist or is it just some nice idea that makes death easier to deal with?

As a Christian it felt wrong to question, yet I was. It felt wrong to wonder about death and dying, but I was. In her death I discovered that crying out to God with my doubts and fears and questions about death was where I felt most comforted. I struggled with this for a while, but I can with confidence say now that yes, Emily is in a much better place. Part of my confidence comes from my time spent in prayer and with the Lord; part of my confidence comes from the wisdom of those around me who reminded me of God’s goodness and love even as I cried; and part of my confidence comes from Emily’s own testimony of coming to terms with death when a dear friend of hers lost her life to cystic fibrosis. The result of all my wrestling and questioning is this truth: I believe in heaven and I believe that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, death is not the end of the story. She is now in a perfected state worshipping Jesus and one day I will join her.

Emily’s death has brought a lot of head knowledge into my heart. I know that she is with Jesus and with Melissa. In something she wrote about Melissa she said “Selfishly, I want her here. But I would never take her away from Jesus in a million years.” That’s how I feel. Selfishly, I want Emily here. But she is where her heart longed to be: worshipping Jesus with Melissa.

As I looked around the church at Emily’s funeral I was awed by the number of people in the sanctuary, but not surprised. Emily loved people. She loved people so well. She constantly pointed people to Jesus and was unafraid to be herself. That church was filled with people who had been touched by her and by her faith. It was a worshipful experience that honored Jesus and honored Emily. Emily, through her example, always pushed me to love people better and looking around the church was such a clear call. Emily loved because Jesus loved her and she wanted to share that joy. My prayer is that I would do the same.

I love you sweet girl. I miss you. But I know I will see you again. It was such an honor to be a part of your life and you taught me more than you’ll ever know. Your life was incredibly God honoring and so many people will be dancing with us in heaven because you had the boldness to follow Jesus where He led you.

Emily and I

Delighting in God’s Best

“God’s Best” is one of those phrases often thrown around in the Christian culture that I never really understood. People would sometimes use it flippantly to get out of really encouraging someone: “oh, just be patient and wait for God’s best for you.” However, that doesn’t make me any more content right now, in this moment. Basically, you’re saying that God is withholding his best from me for now, but if I put in enough time he will eventually give me his best.

That’s not how God works. That’s not a God of grace.

Let me define for you what I believe that phrase should (and does for many people) mean. I do not claim to have it all figured out. 16 year old me thought she did, 23 year old me is realizing that I have so much to learn! So these are some thoughts that have been spinning around my head – especially as so many people as me questions like “what are you planning to do with your life?” or “are you ready to date again?”

So, what is God’s best? Psalm 37 comes to mind. This is one of my favorites. When I was in high school I loved verse 4 because I thought that it meant that if I just did everything right God would give me what I wanted. After all it says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” What I wanted at that time was to eventually be a wife and a mother. I thought those were the desires of my heart and that I just needed to bide my time until I was old enough for that to happen.

However, I am realizing that while those are real desires, for so long they have been idols. Instead of allowing my role to be seeking Jesus and His will for my life I decided that His will for me was to be a wife and a mother. Idolatry and pride.

Yes, I would love to be a wife again and I would love to be a mother but as I settle into who I am, I’m realizing where my true heart desires lie. The more I seek Jesus the more I learn about myself and who I am in Him. The more I seek Jesus the more confident I become in who He has called me to be, even though He has not revealed that fully. For now I know that it is to use my story to encourage those around me when I have the opportunity and to seek health and healing so that I can help point others in that direction. I want to help people and I want those around me to be pointed to Jesus, and for the first time in my life I want that more than I want a romantic relationship and a family.

Contentment is really hard for me and it’s something I constantly have to give to Jesus and pray about. It’s almost a daily struggle.  But right now I’m content and I know that I’m where Jesus has called me to be in this moment. I’m trying to dwell in and absorb the context of Psalm 37:4. Part of delighting in the Lord is committing to Him, trusting in Him and watching Him act, seeking justice, and so much more. I feel that seeking Jesus and dwelling in Him is “God’s best” for me. God’s best for me is not a (human) relationship or a certain man that will magically pop up before me. God’s best is trusting Him and continually worshiping Him and being defined by Him.

God’s best is delighting in Him, because what could be better than that?

My Dad – The Greatest Man I know

daddy and i

I think this picture alone proves that my dad wins the “best daddy in the world” award.

 

My dad is an incredible man of God. To me, he is the greatest human example of faithfulness, goodness, love, kindness, gentleness, peace, patience, self-control, joy. He is a man so filled with the Holy Spirit and willing to follow where the Lord leads him. He lives a life of excellence and helps call others to do the same, not simply because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the way to thrive and find freedom and healing.

I used to be jealous that I had to share my dad with others. I used to console myself during my pity parties that even if he was Father Jim to lots of people at least to me he was daddy. Now I am so grateful that so many people get to experience his wisdom and brilliance – two things God has given him (and taught him) in abundance. I especially think of those who do not have a good father figure who points them to Jesus and I’m so thankful that my dad can be that for them! It’s taken a lot of work to get to that point but now I love sharing my dad with those in the church and I’m so proud to be his daughter!

When I was a little girl sitting in Sunday school we were asked to describe what we thought God looked like. A few minutes later we were asked to draw what we had described. I did not have much talent for drawing, still don’t I might add, but when I described what God looked like I was describing my daddy and my drawing of God looked a lot like the drawings of my dad.

I do not spend much time imagining how God looks now that I’m an adult. Maybe I have lost some of my childlike wonder and curiosity. However, to this day in my mind He and my daddy have the same eyes – a rich, wonderful gray blue with a deep kindness to them.

Looking back on this as an adult I realize how exceedingly lucky I am! I have a dad who constantly points me to Jesus. An incredible example of faith, unconditional love, and faithfulness. To some what I’m saying may sound blasphemous, and I do not intend it that way. I’m aware that my dad is human and not God, don’t worry. But I do think that God has used him so many times in my life to show me how God loves me. The twinkle of pride in my dad’s eye when he sees my sisters and I doing what we love, the joy that fills his face when he is surrounded by his family. I know that he is reflecting the pride and joy that God feels towards me when I am living into my potential and where He is calling me to be. My dad has always been slow to anger and quick to love. He has learned what it means to be the leader described in 1 Timothy 3 and he is a strong example to everyone around him.

I’m so grateful for all that I have learned and am currently learning from my daddy! How to make people laugh, how to listen, how important quiet times are, how important it is to stop and play – even as an adult, how important it is to be physically active, how important it is to be constantly be learning, how important it is do all things with excellence, that nothing is worth doing unless it’s worth improving. But most importantly I’ve learned what it means to be a follower of Christ, and this is the greatest gift any daddy can give to his little girl.

I love you Daddy! Happy Father’s day!

The Four Greatest Mothers I know

I have been mulling over a post about some things that have been going on since I last blogged. I know it’s been awhile, but sometimes life happens and that’s okay. That post will come soon. A lot of what has been going on has to do with my journey toward healing and wellness, and in honor of Mother’s Day I want to publicly thank the 4 most amazing mothers that I know who have all played a significant role in my life and my journey.

First of all, to my sisters: Elizabeth and Katherine

 IMG_3627

(Aren’t we cute?!)

You are both such beautiful, amazing women of the Lord. Words do not do either of you justice. You have always tried to mother me in your own ways. I know I acted like I hated it when I was little, but secretly, I loved that you cared enough about me to pay attention to me and boss me around. 😛

It has been such an amazing thing for me to watch you two mother. I love that even in your differences, your end goal is the same: raising children who are happy and healthy, and most importantly seeking Jesus. You are both incredible examples to them (and to me!) of what that looks like in day-to-day life. Those kids are lucky to have you as their moms!  Thanks for letting me be their aunt. I feel so blessed to be involved in their lives.

Second, to my Gramma: Bobbie

When I was little getting to go see you and Papa was always my favorite place to travel! It still is. I get so excited every time I get to visit you. Thank you for the example that you have been to our family.  Your care and love for each generation is beautiful and admirable. I love that you want to be and are involved in the lives of your children and grandchildren. Your faithfulness and dedication God, to those around you, and to serving are things I admire greatly about you. Thank you for caring about me! You really are the best!

Third, to my Mom: Shari, the greatest woman in the world

To the woman who taught me what it means to be a godly woman; that I can do hard things; that I am important and loved; that people are to be cared for and valued no matter what; that sometimes a hug and a shoulder to cry on are the only things necessary to fix a bad mood: Thank you.

To the woman who showed me what it looks like to be a loving wife; to raise children who love Jesus especially when life gets rough; to balance my life well even if that means reevaluating and saying “no”; to be hospitable; to have a kind word for everyone, especially myself: Thank you.

Thank you for believing in me even when I don’t believe in myself. Thank you for telling me “You will not talk about my daughter like that” when I would fall into the trap of self-deprecation. Your lessons and catchphrases have sunk in and become a part of my adult life. Thank you for always being there for every step of my life. Thank you for being the best mom a girl could ask for!

All four of you are incredible women. Thank you so much. I love you.

 

Lent and Thriving

I have always enjoyed liturgy and the beauty of being a part of a liturgical church. However, recently I have become overwhelmed by (and kind of obsessed with) the church year. I am appreciating it in a way that I have never appreciated it before. Maybe it is because I am appreciating life and faith in general in a way that I have never appreciated it. I don’t know the reason for it, but I’m very happy about it.

Ash Wednesday was yesterday. I love the timing of the Lord. Well, I love the timing of the Lord when things come together and I realize what He was doing all along or what He was teaching me. I’m trying to learn to love it in the midst of waiting or confusion, but I’m not there yet. The past month has been pretty intense for me. I have felt very distant from the Lord and emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. My parents like to use the imagery of a gas tank to talk about each of those aspects of life and I was running on empty with all four, and probably running on fumes on a couple.

I have started going to counseling to deal with anxiety, something I never realized I had. Through recent conversations with people I realized that the way I deal with situations and approach life is not “normal.” My body responds to stress in a very physical way as well. Returning to counseling is always exhausting, although admitting that help is needed may be the worst part. For me I found myself thinking “I’ve dealt with this for over 15 years and have done fine. So what’s the point of doing all of this work?”

Then I (or the Holy Spirit? Definitely the Holy Spirit, He’s a lot wiser than me) answered my question.

I don’t just want to deal with life.

I don’t just want to be fine.

I want to thrive.

I want to do the hard work now to treat my anxiety so that instead of consistently having my “gas tanks” at the middle to empty they can be full! Something I’m not sure has ever happened. I think that the anxiety and depression that I have been living with and not dealing with it has made it impossible to fully fill any of my tanks.

So what does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and Lent? Lent is a quiet, contemplative season. It’s a time of simplifying life, reflecting, growing, repenting, seeking Jesus. This is what I’m doing through counseling, prayer, and my own processing after each session. Jesus is already speaking and repeating himself through many different ways, which is just the coolest, confirming the things that He wants me to hear and learn.

Things that I desperately need to grasp at a heart level.

Things that will allow me to thrive.

To be honest I was rather grumpy about going to Ash Wednesday. After all I had VERY important things to do: two papers to write, an exam to study for, and the need for a full night of sleep. But then I found myself offering to come sing and agreeing to a reading. I’m so thankful I did. As soon as I sat down and read through these words before the service my heart soared, filling with a peace that I haven’t felt in so many months.

O God of peace,

who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved,

in quietness and confidence shall be our strength:

By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence,

where we may be still and know that you are God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Throughout the service my emotional and spiritual tanks began to fill. I was reminded of the importance of stopping. The importance of being. The importance of simplicity. The importance of dwelling, because God loves me and He thinks that I’m great. He wants relationship. He doesn’t care if I give up Facebook or chocolate or caffeine for lent. He wants me to give up things that prevent me from coming to Him. He wants me to take time to be with Him because He is all about relationship. My striving and my anxiety seem so silly when compared to His enormous love. I’m so excited to deal with it so that the truth of dwelling can truly permeate my life and my heart.

So for lent I’m giving up anxiety.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have moments of anxiousness. But through counseling, personal reflection, and prayer I want to be constantly laying my anxiety at the feet of Jesus and asking Him to take it off of my shoulders believing that soon I will be free from the powerful hold it has had on me. I’m done with it. I’m tired of it. I’m quite literally sick of it. I’m ready to stop striving and to start dwelling.

I’m ready to thrive. 

10 Things Not to Say to a Recently Separated/Divorced Person (and 6 Things to Say)

I have realized that very few people know what to say when they find out that you are divorced or separated. They are trying hard to comfort you but if you’ve never been through it how would you know what to say? I want to help. Here are some things that people said to me (lots of times, all of these were said over and over again). If you said any of them, I am not angry nor do I hold a grudge, I do not even remember the people who specifically said any of these. I just want you to know that they are not helpful and explain why they are not helpful. I also offer some advice on what to say, how to be comforting and kind to someone going through this. These happened more at the beginning, so all of the responses are memories of how I felt when these things were said to me within the first few months. All of these things are said out of care and comfort, I just want to explain why they are not helpful.

1. “There are other fish in the sea.”

Most people who have recently gone through a separation and divorce are not looking to date immediately (and if they are, they shouldn’t be, but that would be a different post). My marriage just ended, I do not need someone to tell me that there are other options as if it’s no big deal. It’s as if you’re saying “eh, just move on. It’s not like that relationship meant anything.”

2. “Was s/he having an affair?” and “Were you having an affair?”

I cannot help but feel lucky that my divorce did not include an affair on either side. The feelings of rejection and hurt can only be intensified by an affair and I cannot imagine dealing with that. However, whether or not an affair occurred is none of your business. Ever. If it’s something that I want to process with you, I will. You do not need to ask (or gossip about it). Also, the pasta section of the grocery store is an inappropriate place to ask any questions about the divorce, especially these two.

3. “I never liked him/her anyway.”

Either you were lying the whole time I was in that relationship or you’re lying now. Either way, I do not want to be lied to. This makes it seem like it was a horrible choice to marry the person in the first place or that you knew this was coming from the beginning. This is not helpful. I liked my ex a lot, that’s why I married him.

4. “Thank goodness you don’t have children.”

Think before you speak. Yes, I’m grateful that we did not have children and that I was not pregnant. However, what if that morning I had found out that I was pregnant? How would your comment have made me feel?

5. “Aren’t you so glad it happened now instead of 10 or 20 years down the road?”

Umm, I’m not glad that it happened. I have no response to this question. I understand what you’re trying to say; it is just not comforting.

6. “I know how you feel. My cat died when I was three and it was so hard to deal with.”

Okay, this one is an exaggeration, no one said these exact words. However, plenty of people said something similar. These are not the same thing. If you haven’t gone through a divorce or something equally as painful saying “I know” is not helpful. You don’t know and I’m so glad of that for you! Please do not pretend.

7. “You’re so young!”

Yes. I know. Let’s move on.

8. “God hates divorce.”

Yes, and so do I. I do not think this was the plan. I think that it broke God’s heart that my marriage ended. However, God’s love for me (and my former spouse) is so much bigger than his hatred for divorce. I have never experienced the intimacy and comfort of the Lord like I did during the first 4 months of my separation. Please stop judging me. You don’t know my story.

9. “I wish you had married someone like my husband. He’s amazing.” Or “I wish your marriage had been like mine.”

I’m so glad your marriage is awesome! I’m so glad you married an amazing man! I’m so glad you’re happy! Please do not rub it in my face. This makes me discontent, not hopeful for my future.

10. Listing all of the faults you noticed about my former spouse.

This is one of the least helpful things. I was hoping and praying for reconciliation for so long. Anytime someone said “oh and he did this” made it that much harder to want reconciliation. It encourages bitterness. We all have faults.  I know he could come up with a very long list of mine. I tried really hard not to talk badly about my former spouse (and still try not to). By sharing what you disliked it was hard for me not to agree or over share. It’s just not comforting or helpful in the healing process to tell me how awful you think he was, mostly because he was not as awful as you are making him out to be.

 

When you are faced with a situation like this consider these six things to say instead.

1. “I don’t understand how hard this must be for you.”

Admitting that you don’t know can be super helpful. It’s okay that you don’t understand, I may just need to process or know that I have friends. Separation and divorce are very lonely.

2. “I’m so sorry, that sucks.”

It does suck. It is by far the hardest and most devastating thing I have gone through. Let’s acknowledge that and now we can move on in the conversation.

3. How can I pray for you and your spouse?

Often my answer was “I don’t know” but it was incredible knowing that so many people were praying for me and also for my former spouse. This is by far the most comforting question I was asked. After you offer, pray for both people.

4. If you need to talk, I’m here.

Allow me to dictate what I share with you. I do not need to process with 100 people. If I want to share with you I will. By saying this you allow me to make the decision rather than trying to force intimacy on me. Every time I tell my story it is exhausting. Please let me decide when I have the emotional energy to share.

5. “I don’t understand.”

This was one of the best things people said to me. Thank you for not trying to assume you know why my marriage ended. I still don’t fully understand and I was one of the two people present for every moment.

6. “I’ve been there. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you are going to be okay.”

If you have been through a divorce or a painful time you will know when it’s appropriate to say “I know.” These two words are so comforting when shared well. Share how you have found comfort in Jesus or offer to talk. I will caution you to not over share. In the early stages I cannot be a comfort to you if you are still processing your own divorce.

 

You do not need to have anything profound to say. Sometimes a hug and a listening ear is all that a hurting person needs. The simplicity of recognizing that someone is hurting is often all that it takes. Just love the person. Do not try to pick up juicy gossip or satiate your curiosity or make sense of the situation. Just be kind and please, think before you speak.

Guest Post: Karis’s Life as a PK

After wanting to share my experiences as a PK with people for some time, I decided to do this series when my dear friend Karis and I shared part of our story of friendship (and hating each other, a post in itself) with a group of teenagers on a retreat. After sharing our story, several of the adults were discussing PK life. Karis’s dad mentioned how helpful our stories could be to pastors. Thus this blog series was born and Karis and I are talking about other ways to share our story. She’s really great and I hope you enjoy this post about her life as a PK! (click here for the introductory post or for the first post, Daddy’s Clothes)

 

As a ten year old, the most exciting thing in my life was Florida State football. I lived and breathed going to the games, watching them with my Dad, cheering for the “good guys” and laughing at the “other ones”. I was on my way to one of the greatest FSU football games of all time when I got asked one of those pivotal questions in life. You know, the ones where you still remember where you were and what you were wearing 15 years later?

Here it was, the question that rocked my world: “How would you feel if I became a priest?”

Here was my educated, enlightened, ten year old response: “That sounds cool, Dad.” I was mildly engaged, much more focused on the more important things in my childhood, like the game we were about to attend.

You see, I didn’t give much (any?) thought at all to my Dad becoming a priest. In my experience, priests worked only a few hours every Sunday morning. They greeted people at the door in funny robes, preached a long, boring lecture, gave us the “snack”, told us to be good and sent us home. In my experience, priests’ kids got to go to summer camp for an extra week every summer! How cool was that?!

Perhaps if I’d been a little more prepared, I might have handled the transition into PK-dom with grace and tact. But you see, these are the things that nobody talks about. Why? Because telling other people about what it’s like to be a PK is pretty much akin to that nightmare everyone has of ending up in a public place naked. We don’t talk about it because it feels vulnerable, exposed. We don’t talk about it because if we start, how are we going to stop? And we don’t talk about it because if we were to tell you the truth, you would start to feel bad for taking our parents away from us as much as you do.

My entire experience as a PK can be summed up in this little nugget: “Whenever my Dad is with you, he’s not with me.”

Do me a favor? Next time you’re in church, take out the bulletin and read the upcoming events and check which ones you think your pastor might attend: Vestry meeting? Check. Men’s Bible study? Check. Women’s Bible Study? Probably not. Wednesday night programming: Check. Choir Rehearsals? A possibility. Then, add in the things that aren’t in the church bulletin: Planning meetings, staff meetings, deaths, counseling sessions, phone calls, networking, sermon writing, scheduling.

It’s a pretty exhausting list, isn’t it? Hard to handle it all in a business day, but then you add to the mix that many church-goers work a normal day shift, meaning that a lot of the events have to happen at night. Believe it or not, pastors have the same amount of nights per week that you do. The difference is that they don’t get to decide which events to be at and which ones to skip out on. They don’t get to cancel if it’s raining too hard, if their kid has a soccer game that night, or even because they’re tired. I would average that most priests are out of the home at least three weeknights every week, maybe even more. I would venture a guess that when they are home, most of them are so emotionally spent they find it hard to engage anyway.

I’m not saying this to complain about the PK way of life, or to make you feel bad. I don’t mind sharing my Dad with you. He’s a pretty cool guy, and I’m glad you get to know him. Sometimes, though, I want to get to know him, too. Sometimes, I want you to tell him it’s okay to stay home just this once. Mostly, I just want you to understand those kids that go home with his wife after church every Sunday.

My Life as a P.K: Daddy Clothes

Post one of my series “My Life as a P.K.” Feel free to read my introductory post to this series to see what it’s all about.

I heard the key in the lock. “Daddy’s home” I thought to myself. This was one of my favorite moments of the day as a little girl. Dad would walk in the door as Father Jim, dressed head to toe in black with just a sliver of a white collar around his neck. His job was being a Father, but when he walked in the door he was my daddy. After he said “hi” and gave hugs to my sisters and I, my parents usually went back to their room to have a few minutes to talk about their days. My two favorite people being unavailable to me and the anticipation of how dad would be dressed when they came out made this the longest 10 minutes of my little elementary school life. Would he be wearing Daddy clothes or still be in Father clothes?

Father clothes were his black clergy shirt with a white collar. Daddy clothes (anything casual) held a much more significant meaning to me. When Dad would come home and change into shorts and a t-shirt it meant for that evening I only had to share him with my sisters and my mom. It meant that he was available to help me with homework, to play, to read Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. It also meant that he could tuck me in, say prayers with me, and tell me a story (he is an amazing storyteller).

If he stayed in his Father clothes it meant that he was only home for a few minutes. Often it meant that he was home for a quick dinner but then he was needed elsewhere. People needed their Father, so I would share my Daddy.

This is an interesting way to learn the concept of sharing and it did not come easily. I remember clearly the disappointment I would feel if he received a phone call that would require him to change back into his Father clothes. I had no ability as a small child to understand that someone having a crisis (going to the hospital, death in the family, etc.) was more important in that moment than helping me with my math homework or wrestling or building huge blanket forts in the living room.

I was lucky that my dad did his best to balance being a Father and being a Daddy. He certainly made his relationship with the family a huge priority. We had a few intentional rules to keep to keep it that way, the one I remember most clearly was that if the phone rang during dinner (WAY back when the only way to call someone was a landline or beeper) it was not answered until everyone was finished eating and the dishes were being done.

If you are a pastor with small children, please find ways to set aside church business, and put on your “daddy clothes” whatever that means for you and your family. It will mean the world to your kids.

Review of “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning

I had grand plans of reading much more than I did during Advent and Christmas. The combination of final projects, friends coming into town, Doctor Who and being sick for a couple of weeks kept me from reading as much as I wanted to (good excuses huh? If I had wanted to read more, I would have. I found it surprisingly difficult to be motivated/find the discipline even though every time I sat down to read I loved it). However, instead of getting frustrated with myself and giving up on the books I want to read I will just continue to read through my stack, no matter how long it takes me.

I finished The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning yesterday morning. It is an excellent book that challenged me to think about my priorities when it comes to faith. It is easy as Christians to get caught up on doctrine, details, and hot topic issues (abortion, gay rights, etc.). When we do this we often lose sight of the core of our faith and who Jesus really is. The tag line of the book is “Good news for the bedraggled, beat up, and burnt out.” For someone who easily becomes all three of those things, it certainly was good news.

If I had to pick two key words from this book they would be Love and Grace. This book resonated with me deeply because of my experiences with God’s love and His grace, especially in the past year. It was an excellent reminder of His crazy, radical love. This book helped me take another step toward being okay with failure. We as humans mess up. I’ve never been okay with that. My mom even had to look at me one time in Middle School and say “Angela, stop beating yourself up about this. Getting in trouble is a part of growing up. It is okay to get in trouble.” I would guess this would be on my mom’s list of “100 things I Never Thought I Would Say as a parent” and it has stuck with me through the years. It’s a VERY slow learning process but I’m starting to realize that failure is unavoidable and something to be learned from, not dreaded. Grace is beautiful (and very patient).

Here are a few of my favorite quotes (a very small sampling, I HIGHLY recommend this book):

“To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners.” (Ch. 4: Tilted Halos)

“The nature of God’s love for us is outrageous. Why doesn’t this God of ours display some taste and discretion in dealing with us? Why doesn’t He show more restraint? To be blunt about it, couldn’t God arrange to have a little more dignity? Wow! … No, the love of our God isn’t dignified at all, and apparently that’s the way He expects our love to be. Not only does He require that we accept His inexplicable, embarrassing kind of love, but once we’ve accepted it, He expects us to behave in the same way with others.” (Ch. 9: The Second Call)

“Heightened by the agnosticism of inattention–the lack of personal discipline over media bombardment, mind control, sterile conversation, private prayer, and the subjugation of the senses–the presence of Jesus grows more and more remote. Just as the failure to be attentive dissolves confidence and communion in a human relationship, so inattention to the Holy unravels the fabric of the divine relationship.” (Ch. 10: The Victorious Limp)

“The ragamuffin who sees his life as a voyage of discovery and runs the risk of failure has a better feel for faithfulness than the timid man who hides behind the law and never finds out who he is at all. Winston Churchill said it well: ‘Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.'” (Ch. 10: The Victorious Limp)

If you have read this book I would love to hear your thoughts!