Sunday, October 29, 2017

Being "Here".

The past few weeks have been bananas for us.  Including my upcoming travel this week, out of 53 days, I will have been gone 23 of them. That's 43%!  43% of the days have been not in Winston, not with my people.

I know that so many of you travel for your job- and this is nothing new to you... but I am not one of those people.  I enjoy travel- especially when it comes to vacations or visiting those I love- but being gone nearly half of the time is too much.  And lets face it, I'm not the spring chicken I used to be... bouncing back from this amount of travel has taken it's toll on my body.

During those 53 days, I've seen some of my dearest friends and colleagues.  I've enjoyed time at Great Wolf Lodge with my big girl (and got to see some of our Foster Friends, too.)  I've been to the mountains, the beach, and back to the mountains again.  I've eaten good food, hiked beautiful views, shopped, and read books.  I've also slept in uncomfortable beds, had allergy attacks, gotten sick to my stomach, been worried about a lice outbreak (we're clear, don't worry), and missed some key events that the extrovert side of me hated missing.

While we're talking about personality types, let's acknowledge that one... on the Myers-Briggs test, I always score just over the line as an extrovert.  Which means that my introvert side is very high.  And for at least 90% of these away trips, I've been required to be "on"... which makes my introvert side feel like it's drowning.  Yes, I am a people person... but I regain that energy by withdrawing and recharging alone.

Today when someone at church asked me how I've been doing, my response was, "Well, I'm here."  While that may have appeared to seem tongue in cheek to my scattered appearance or disposition, it was more honestly an acknowledgment of the beauty of actually being home.  I missed church one week because of sickness and I will miss 3 weeks because of travel.  That means that of 9 Sundays, I'm missing or have already missed 4. That's another 44%.

For a lot of people, missing church isn't a huge big deal.  For me, it is.

And none of that has to do with guilt.

It's honestly doesn't have to do with me missing the chance to "worship"... because I've felt more connected to God than I have in a very long time.

But I've not been connected to my Church Family.

Being with them this evening for Trunk or Treat made me realize just how much I've missed them.

Being gone from my own family has been difficult- Julianna and Elizabeth have both needed their Momma.  My house was a hot mess when I got home from my trips.  Laundry has piled up- and this is no knock on Dan, this is just the state of how things get when we're out of sync.

In the same way, I'm out of rhythm at church.  Part of participating fully in worship is being present... and I have not been.  While I can get "what I need" from attending periodically, I'm not fully enjoying the connection of being part of The Church when my attendance is spotty.

This is not a plug from Father Steve or our Vestry.  This is not something sponsored by those of us working to get people connected through our Welcoming Ministry.  In fact, this isn't even about our church specific.

Instead, as I've looked at my most recent schedule and my slack church attendance... I have to realize that I'm not alone.  Surely some of you have been gone too... for 44% of the time or more.  Know that you're not alone.  And know that it never matters how long you've been gone... you're always welcome.  Don't have somewhere that you miss when you're gone?  You're welcome to join me at St. Timothy's.

Being "Here" is not always high praise for my mental or physical state... but I look forward to the day when I'm Here more often.  Until then, I'll jump in when I'm able and continue to reach out to my Church when I'm not.  I can't expect they'll know how I'm doing until I tell them... and those days when I'm not Here might be the times when I need them even more.

Grace and Peace.


(and thanks, Beckie, for the pics.)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Our Fifth Annual "Do Good Day"

I can hardly believe that this year marks the 5th Annual Do Good Day.

While, yes, my heart hurts for the reminder that this is the 5th September 24 without my Daddy around to celebrate his birthday, I am instead reminded that for 5 years we have banded together to care for others.  For five years we have reached out to respond to specific needs.  We have brightened people's days.  We have shared the load.

Let me tell you a little of what we've done together this last year:

We made it possible for a friend to travel to travel to have some time with a family member at the end of their life.  We've fixed cars.  We've provided groceries.  We've helped with gas cards.  We've donated pizza lunches and school supplies for Title 1 classrooms.  We've made sure teachers have classroom needs met.  We've sponsored lunches, coffees, and treats for those who need encouragement.  We've provided a wedding reception for someone who could not afford it.  We've reached out in love.

Do Good Day 2017 is on a Sunday.  We will be hosting a gathering at our home for those of you who are local- drop in any time between 1-5.  We've have snacks and drinks- no need to bring anything to share.  However, we're asking that you help us out in several ways:

1. We'd love you to share your stories.  We're asking that you share with us 5 ways you've "done good" as we compile a written resource as to who we are. *shared stories*

2. Between now and 9/24, we're challenging you to do 5 "do good" deeds.  We've shared with you in the past lots of different suggestions for doing good, but we'd love to help you think of more if you're at a loss for what to do. *five deeds*

3. As I write this, we are anticipating how Hurricane Irma will impact Florida.  Consider those in Florida- or those in Houston still reeling from Harvey- as ones to whom you can reach out.  I have 2 dear friends who are staying in their home (because of work obligations) who I anticipate will need lots of help rebuilding.  If you aren't directly connected to anyone in Florida, I'm happy to let you know their needs. *disaster relief*

4. Consider sharing on Social Media some ways you are helping using the hashtag #DoGoodDay.  This will help us as we compile our stories. *social media*

5. If you are able to come to our drop-in event, consider helping us by rebuilding our resource bin.  We are down to only a couple grocery store cards- we are out of gas cards and "box store" cards (Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc.)  We'd love you to consider donating gift cards toward our united cause.  Alternatively, we will sometimes be in a bind to send cash as their is a need if you feel comfortable donating in that way. *rebuilding resources*

Together we are a force for good.  Together we can do so much more.  And together we can be encouraged to do even more.  Excited to see what #DoGoodDay looks like this year.  Thanks for being a part of this movement.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

There is so much more to say...



5th grade Odyssey of the Mind
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at my buddy Michael's celebration of life.  His sweet momma asked me to a while back... likely because she knows I've never met a microphone I don't like.  I pointed out that I was better equipped to speak to 4 year old Michael than 40 year old Michael, but you don't go through roughly 37 years of a friendship with someone and not have a few stories to share of your time together.

I shared this as I opened: Dan gave me the laptop that I'm typing on now with one instruction... "Write your damn book."

Well, that's daunting.

Even for someone who loves writing... and who often feels like there is a story in there somewhere... the first step of writing a book is paralyzing.

So eventually, I wrote what I know.

I wrote about Michael.

And to this day, that's the only chapter I've written ...

I shared a bit of my relationship with him yesterday, but there is so much more to tell.  I walked away from the microphone- overwhelmed with emotion and love for my buddy- and realized I left so many things out.  Rather than jump up and say "OH WAIT! I FORGOT....", I decided to share some of that here.  For the rest of it, you'll have to buy my damn book.
---
Michael and I met in the late 70's at Hominy Baptist Church- either in preschool or in Sunday School.  We remained friends for all of the years after- even in the times that we argued. #Mistyliker  Michael was, however, the only person I ever hit.  (Other than my brother, of course.)  In seventh grade he said something to me worthy of being hit- and when I went to hit him, he let me.  He knew he was in the wrong, so he stood still and "took it".  And when the teacher responsible for us asked what happened, he quickly said "Nothing."

In 12th grade, we had the privilege of registering to vote in our school cafeteria.  Michael said to me before we went in, "I might as well fill out your card for you... you're going to be a Republican, right?"  I'm guessing he assumed that because I spent more time in Bible Study than in Bent Creek, I would align with the Religious Right.  Whether to prove a point to him or not, I was pleased to check DEMOCRAT on my card.  And even though my Momma told me politics were private, I immediately went to tell Michael that his guess was wrong and I was not a Republican.

Along those same lines, he constantly was unimpressed with my music variety.  He rolled his eyes at my love of Amy Grant and 4Him, and rather than just harass me, he put into my hands new music.  I have a tape he made for me with Red Hot Chili Peppers on one side and Soup Dragons on the other.  I kept it for his handwriting- my cassette player long gone.  That was the first "mix tape" he made me... and why I wrote a RHCP shirt yesterday.  He opened my eyes to music beyond my own preferences- some bands I loved and some I didn't- and I'm grateful that like so many of you, he educated me.  And constantly encouraged me to go see live shows.

One day, someone brought acid to school.  It was the first time I'd ever seen it- and I was surprised at how pretty it was.  I said "If I could afford that, I'd wallpaper my house with it."  Michael said (without skipping a beat) "And I would come and lick your walls." (#justsayno)

Michael was so fun to be around.  His laugh was infectious.  His smile was radiant.  And he never smiled bigger than when he was talking about his kids.  After the football game we saw during our 20th Reunion Weekend, Michael drove me and Emily back to her car.  First, he took Trenton to a youth group activity.  When we dropped him at the church, Michael said "Can you believe my son is going to a church thing instead of a bonfire? I'm so proud of who he is. He's a much cooler kid than I ever was."  And that says a lot, because Michael was the coolest kid I knew.  He raved about Savannah's artistic side.  Every time he mentioned her, he'd say to me "You would love her."  I do, Michael, I do.

So many more stories. Hours of stories- only about Michael.  Many people told me yesterday that maybe he should be the focus of my whole book- not just a chapter.  I got offers for "guest authors" helping write it.  There's something that makes my heart smile to think of that... the story of Michael. The story of us.

Let's write it together, friends.
Let's #makeithappen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Connection.

I'm currently sitting on my couch... watching Grace and Frankie.

Dan and I started watching it several months ago, and then we never got past the second episode.  It didn't "hook" us like we were hoping.  All of the reviews and hype just didn't click.

Until....

Some time recently I decided to give it another shot.

Something was different.

It clicked.

And it was because I knew it was something my Mom would have enjoyed.

Maybe it was because of 2/3 of "9 to 5" actresses were showing the world that their heyday wasn't over.  Maybe it was because I knew she would cringe and laugh with every moment that they were bashing their exes.  Or maybe the time was just right.

I've recently entered a new phase of looking for- longing for- connection.  Finding something that would bring my Mom... or my Daddy... or Michael, joy.  I enjoyed the BNL concert even more than usual... because of the company, the beer, the music- all because I knew Michael loved each of those things.  I enjoyed buying a new grill because I knew Daddy would want to buy it for us- he actually bought our previous one.  I enjoy wearing earrings of my Mom's because- while she would still be frustrated that I had been in her jewelry box- I long for the connection they bring.

I think this is a normal part of grief.  I think I'm actually in a healthier spot these days- trying to connect with those I've lost.  I feel more like "myself" than I've been in the last 5 years.  It feels good.

----

I haven't updated my blog since September.  A lot of that is because of lack of connection.  I attempted to update it in October, but the words were half-assed, the sentiment wasn't genuine.  I wrote out of a sense of obligation, not out of the love of writing.

And this has mimicked itself throughout my life- not just in writing.

A friend said to me last week "I've missed you recently"... Funny, I've missed myself.

In September, right as I was writing my last post, I spiraled.  An off-handed comment from a friend pushed my tentative self right off the ledge of grief.  It has taken me months to claw my way out of that hole.  It's not been a straight up journey- I've fallen back down a time or two.  Hurtful words from people, feeling left out, not having a "place"... those tend to trip me up.

But thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, good therapy, a purpose, a strong church community, and some helpful friends who won't let me fall off the ledge alone... I feel like I'm back.

I've missed connection.

I've wept over friendships that have slowly faded away- ones that I thought would last a lifetime.

We've hosted fewer events in the last 9 months than we ever had... partially because I've started a new job, partially because we have a new dog, and partially because I've been too weary to be social some days.

But that job?  That dog?  They have given me connection.

----

I share all of this with you not to make you feel uncomfortable.  It's not to put grief upon you if we have faded apart recently.  But I share this to you to let you know that sometimes when people fade away, they need you to continue to reach out.  They may not respond, they may blow you off, or they may legitimately be too busy/ tired/ whatever to hang out.

But sometimes, as was the case with my buddy Michael, they are on that edge of the hole and just need to know that they are not alone.

That's the whole premise of Grace and Frankie- finding connection when the connection you thought you had is no longer there.  I'm still making amends with my heart and it's broken connections... but even in this bizarre social media connected world, I'm thankful for what connections we have.


Here's hoping you find your Grace (and Frankie), too.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Do Good Day, 2016


Hi Friends.

It's Coming.

Do Good Day 20016 is only 2 weeks away.

Here's the quick recap for those of you who are new to Do Good Day: Each September 24th (my Daddy's birthday), we unite forces to Do Good.  It's sort of a collective Random Acts of Kindness day... honoring a man who showed Goodness to so many of us. (longer explanation below**)

Each year since Daddy died, I've suggested to you a focus for your Good... a little bit of direction for those of you who might not know where to start. In the past we've donated to St. Baldricks in honor of children who fight childhood cancer, we've served the kids who benefit from the backpack program of Meadowlark Meals, we've organized gift cards for food for those who arrive at their doctor's office and haven't eaten, we've donated to Alzheimer's research, and we've collected money for a family who had been recently diagnosed with cancer.  Each collective effort brings a smile to my face and meets a need in such a tangible Good way.

You don't have to join our collective effort, though.   Anything you do is great- my day is made by the stories I hear from you about what you do in your own little sphere of influence.   I get texts all day of people who pay for people's coffee anonymously in the drive through... people who bring lunch to coworkers... people who provide musical instruments for children who can't afford them... people who have honored my Daddy by bringing treats to his beloved Home Depot coworkers.

So what will you do this year?  Already have ideas?  SUPER.  Need help with a little direction?  Think on this:  I'll be collecting school supplies for two area teachers who teach at local schools that need extra Good.  One of them teaches First Grade, and one works with Exceptional Children.  Both of their classrooms have children who need a little extra- and don't have parents that are able to always provide in that way.  They can both use basic school supplies or gift cards to Target/ Wal-Mart/ Barnes and Noble/ Amazon.  I'll be collecting items and gift cards for them.

Want another way to help?  Our "Do Good" fund is super low.  This year alone we have provided money to buy appliances, car repairs, and basic needs for multiple individuals.  Our supply box of gift cards is nearly depleted.  Do you work for an area business that would like to donate a gift card?  We'd love to keep it on hand.  We give them out as we hear of needs- and don't always have time to publicize for help.

Speaking of which, in this next year, we are going to be changing how we publicize needs- both on the giving and receiving end.  If you have a need or feel like you can meet a need, please make sure you've liked our Facebook Page.  We will begin better utilizing our page to help with the anonymity of our needs.

I'm grateful to get to celebrate my Daddy's life with all of you.  He would hate the attention, but he sure would love the results of this effort.  Whatever you do on 9/24, know that how you Do Good can have lasting effects.  Join me, will you?

** More on the history of Do Good here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Part Two... a Liturgy Newbie

Whew.

Thanks for reading Part One and not hanging me out to dry.  I'll admit now that I had loads of anxiety during the hours that the post was being read.

So St. Tim's... What was this Baptist girl to do?!?  I grew up at a mainline Baptist church.  I worshipped more recently at an Evangelical contemporary church.  Both of these feel familiar to me. I know how to follow along in a hymnal, or even on projected screen.

Dan had grown up in an Episcopal congregation... worshiping at St. Tim's felt like old home to him.  But me?  I felt like I was reading a script.  It wasn't worship as much as it was a group reading.  My only experience in an Episcopal church prior to this was as a visitor.  In fact, my first experience was when my friend Angela had me visit with her in high school.  The bishop was visiting her small congregation and she wanted me to come to the service.  All I remember is that at some point during all of the sitting and standing I tripped over the kneeler and fell for all the congregation (and the bishop) to see.

When Dan and I married, we didn't have much of a discussion of where we would worship together.  I was on staff at a Baptist church.  No discussion needed.  When we moved to Winston, however, and we began our search- we picked more contemporary services over those of a traditional bent.

So (again) St. Tim's... What?!?!  How on Earth would I even begin to fit in when worshipping in this space at first appeared daunting?  Again, I have nothing to ascribe it to other than the Holy Spirit.  This place felt right.  Immediately.  I knew I was supposed to give it a try.  I knew I was supposed to be open to new things, including giving this faith heritage a chance.

(Small caveat... I am not a big proponent of going where it "feels right"... Church shouldn't be a consumeristic space in our lives, yet it often becomes this.  All I'm sharing now is my perspective of how something so different than my previous experience immediately felt sacred and, well, right.)

What I have found at St. Timothy's is beautiful.

It is a chance to participate in the Church universal- knowing that my prayers are being echoed throughout the world.

It is learning a whole new (to me) faith tradition- and I often feel as though I'm right back in my Religious Study days.  Sometimes in Bible Study my hand goes numb as I am furiously writing all of the nuggets of wisdom I'm learning.

It is beginning to understand the beauty of Liturgy.  And to agree with what my friend John said when he pointed out that Liturgy gives him the structure to worship even when his heart doesn't feel like it. It's putting a dialogue in front of me that I get the chance to participate in- and know that I'm not alone in that process.

15 years ago- the thought of Liturgy would have been a roadblock for me.  It would have felt limiting to all that God could be teaching me.  Today, however, it gives structure for the way in which I hear His voice.

One of the biggest things I've learned in these recent days is that there is so much freedom in how we worship.  Something in which we fail frequently is assuming that truth can only be learned in one way- our way.  And now that I've worshipped in churches that are traditional, mainline, conservative, liberal, liturgical, contemporary, and other... I'm seeing a bigger understanding of Jesus's teachings.  I'm grateful for this path- although at moments it's been beyond painful.  I'm grateful that my community of the faithful has been gracious when we don't line up theologically and politically.

And I'm grateful that His mercies are new every morning.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, July 4, 2016

'Coming Out' Spiritually...

Yesterday I posted a picture on my Instagram account- publicly acknowledging for the first time the shift that has happened in our spiritual home over the last year.  While I am in no way making light of any experience my LGBTQ friends have had... I'll tell you that I felt a little bit that I was Coming Out.

The love I feel for my former church is so intense.  I have been so careful to not share about our current journey for fear it would look like we somehow didn't like them anymore.

Let me save you the trouble of looking for dirt if that's why you're reading this- wondering if maybe I'm gonna spill some big, juicy drama that occurred between us and our former church home.  NOTHING (bad) HAPPENED.

The road to a new church home has consumed the last year of our lives.  So much so, that I'm going to share that experience in two parts.  Not for a drama factor, but just for ease of sharing.

I have been a member of 3 (now 4) churches for all of my life.  The first one, I was born into.  The next one, I chose because of my time and service in Chapel Hill.  The last one, we found after a long search when we moved to Winston.  We knew going into our membership there that we didn't line up theologically 100% (spoiler alert: we're sorta liberal)... but we fell so in love with the people and the fellowship that we allowed ourselves to look beyond any differences and dive right in.  It was in this place that our biggest life events to date took place: we longed for, conceived, lost, and gained children.  We developed deep friendships- and lost some of those friends to tragic, unbelievable death.  We prayed fervently during extreme illness of children and parents... some with joyous outcomes, and some that won't be joyous again until we reach heaven.

In short, we grew in all ways during our time in that sacred space.

Along the way, especially as Elizabeth began to ask hard questions, we wondered if we needed to look at other church homes.  This is where the beauty of our marriage partnership became even more evident.  When I would feel a need to go, Dan would gently remind me that we don't all need to "look alike" in a church... and we would stay.  When Dan would feel a need to go, I would remind him about our beautiful fellowship... and we would stay.  Last year, however, we both came to the same point of needing to go at the same time.

We wept, we talked, we prayed... and we repeated that process over and over until we knew we were doing what was best for our family.

Last summer we began the Church Search again... a long and lonely process of not feeling rooted.  We were blessed, however, to explore so many neat places of worship all over our city.  We met people we wouldn't know otherwise and got a chance to see how Others are "doing church" oh so well.

We found a Community close to our house and were so excited to be welcomed in to their fellowship.  Our kids were part of their Christmas program.  We were loved well during the loss of my Mom.  It felt good.

And then....

One Tuesday night in February, my Book Club went to serve dinner at the Overflow Shelter at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.

When we walked into the building, I had an experience that I can only accredit to the Holy Spirit.  As I entered the church, I knew it was a special place.  I knew it was somewhere we were supposed to- at least- visit.  St. Tim's had been on our short list, but since we'd plugged in elsewhere, we weren't continuing to look at new churches.  Prior to walking in that first night, I'd had 3 good friends mention to me how much I'd like it there.  One of those friends had a child in E's class and she'd also invited E to come.

So right in the middle of heading toward plugging in elsewhere, we decided to give St. Tim's a try.

And that was the end of that.

We've been there ever since.

Tomorrow's post... Liturgy Newbie