Water into Wine

Last night I read a retelling of the time Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana (by Jennie Allen in Nothing to Prove).  And I cried.  Much harder than I would think is reasonable.

I was struck by the fact that Jesus’s first miracle was at a celebration and had no inherent healing or necessary qualities.  Sure, there’s foreshadowing of the wedding feast at the end of time, but it appears, in large part, that he wanted them to have enough wine to celebrate their new life together.

And I remembered that I serve a God who celebrates.  Celebration isn’t frivolous, or if it is, it’s God ordained frivolity.  I like celebrations, but if I rarely let loose in them. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink wine 😉 But, seriously.  Or maybe it’s because I’m so pragmatic and celebrations don’t seem to help me check things off my to do list. Maybe it’s because I feel uncomfortable letting go and having fun; I want to be doing and helping and making sure other people are having fun.

Whatever the reason, I am missing out on a good thing.  The God who turned water into wine for the wedding celebration of a friend certainly would want me to let loose once in a while.

After reading the story, I went to the story to buy my daughter silly Valentine treats, and gifts for my team to celebrate a project we just accomplished.  And I will try, next time I’m invited to a party to go. And to let loose and enjoy it.  Because God appears to like a party and I want to be more like him.

Daily Rituals

I found this book (Daily Rituals: How Artist Work) at the library yesterday and it’s been a fun read.  It looks at the lives of famous authors, artists, and thought-leaders and shares some of the rituals (habits) that aided (or hurt) their productivity.  It’s a quick read and it’s easy to pick up and set down because each person is explored in a short segment between 1-4 pages.

My major takeaway is everyone that everyone has rituals–some are unexamined, others are very intentional.  My other major takeaway is that effectiveness of a particular ritual depends on the person.  There is no one size fits all ritual. A minor takaway is that taking long walks and drinking alcohol seem to help a lot of people.

I’ve recently been thinking about daily rituals for two reasons.  First, my lead pastor has been vocal about how adding in daily and weekly rituals have helped him as a leader, pastor, family man, and child of God.  Second, I’m currently rereading Essentialism which talks about the value of rituals to help you do the things you want to do with less thinking and less stress.

Here’s what I’m learning about rituals:

  • Rituals allow you to think less about things that unnecessarily tie up brain-space. I’m facing some serious decision-fatigue in my life right now.  I’m looking for ways to make less decisions so I’ve got the brain-space I need to make good decisions. I’m considering moving toward an all-black and grey (with appropriate accents) wardrobe and laying out outfits for the whole week on Saturday night so I never have to think about what I’m wearing.  I’m not good at fashion, I don’t enjoy it, and it takes me forever to find and outfit.  On a more simple scale, our six-year old has a bed time ritual: she goes to her room, puts on pajamas, brushes her teeth, then one of us goes up and reads a book, the Bible, and prays with her then she crawls into bed. She’s building in good habits with these rituals like brushing her teeth and reading her Bible without thinking about it, it’s just what she does.
  • Rituals can help you adjust more efficiently.  If you go through a ritual when you’re preparing to spend quiet time with God (like grabbing your tea, sitting in your favorite chair, opening your journal, and quieting your mind) your mind begins the transition as soon as you grab your tea and sit in your chair because it knows what’s coming. With my daughter’s night time ritual, it’s easier for her to fall asleep when we’ve walked through the whole ritual because her brain is catching on that it’s sleep time and begins preparing for that.
  • I need rituals to keep me sane.  I’m learning that I’m not taking control of my schedule so it is controlling me and by the time I get home at night, I’m fried and my family-life suffers.  So, in addition to finding other ways to get my calendar to calm down,  I’m trying out a ritual where I spend 30 minutes at the end of my workday exercising before I head home.  The goal is to release stress and give my brain time to transition between work and family.  I’ve only done it once but it worked well, so I want to become more consistent at it.
  • I rebel against rituals.  As much as I think I want structure I’m drawn to jobs that are not structured.  It has been years since I’ve had a job with a clear clock-in/clock-out time.  I like my the freedom my current job allows.  I’m afraid rituals will box me in.  In my personal life, I love Fridays (my day off) because it’s the day that I drive my daughter to school while wearing my pajamas under my boots and coat.  I love the feeling of rebelling against the expectation that I get up, get dressed, and get moving.  There is a happy medium between control and chaos and I have not yet found it and I know rituals can help but I fear they’ll become restrictive.

I’m clearly a work-in-process when it comes to rituals; I’m sure you are too. If you’re interested in thinking more about rituals, stream Pete’s sermon online on the 22nd (next Sunday) and follow All Shores’ Facebook Page the week of January 23-29 as we’ll be posting different rituals that help people in our church connect with God as part of our 28 Ways in 28 Days series.  You could also check out either of the books mentioned above or the Art of Simple Podcast that I listened to today  (episode 42).

 

What rituals do you have that are helpful?  Unhelpful?  How do you change your habits?

 

It’s easier to dream

I had this idea to write a new blog (because, you know, all the cool kids are getting into blogging…in 2017) and I have a very specific idea for the content and a pretty clear idea who my intended audience is and a general idea of what I want it to look like.   I finally discovered a name for it, bought a domain name, nearly had a breakdown when I realized I misspelled the name of the blog when I bought the domain, bought the correct domain, and have begun mapping content, playing with photo editors, planning what I could write about…pretty much everything other than actually writing.  Because it turns out writing is hard.  Especially when you really care about your topic and your audience.  It turns out that it’s easier to dream than to do.

dream (see…photo editing.  I even figured out how to add the website at the bottom.  score)

I’m going to keep this blog as a place to write about things that relate to me being a woman, a wife, a mom, a theologian…but I’m starting another blog to focus exclusively on theology, specifically creating a safe space for women to explore our Wesleyan theological heritage.

You might scoff and/or ask, “Do women really need their own blog about theology?” and, after much scoffing and asking myself this same question I have a very clear and firm answer: no but yes.

No, truth is truth regardless of your gender. And, really the content (at least 90% of it) won’t be gender specific at all (the fonts and photos might be a bit feminine at times).

But yes, because a lot of women have less opportunity to explore theology with academically credible moderators than men.  They also seem more likely to be intimidated by the topic than men. And I know they want to learn.  They want to hear, to ask, to doubt, to create, to explore, to know truth and live truth and communicate truth. I want to help them.

In a perfect world men and women would sit at the same table, learn theology from and with both genders, but it’s not a perfect world and while I want to move toward a perfect world I also want to work with the reality of what exists and I want to serve the church well.  I’m uniquely positioned to credibly contribute to the theological education and transformation of women (because of my gender, my experience, and the letters behind my name) so I’m going for it.

And I invite you to come a long with me.  Because theology matters.  What we know in our heads and believe in our hearts about who God is, who we are, and how those two things relate makes all the difference in the world.  Out of the overflow of our hearts (the core of what we know and feel to be true) we speak and we act.  So let’s start inside.  Let’s bring to light and evaluate what we think and what we believe about God, ourselves, and the world in light of Scripture.

The journey will begin at http://www.windandmilk.com.   Wait, no, that’s not right, http://www.wineandmilk.com (or http://www.wineandmilk.com/blog)

I plan to post on Mondays…and the first post is up (the second will be up in two days)!

 

Renew

I have tried to have a word for the year (My One Word) because other people did it and I thought it was cool. I have tried to come up with a word and then try to make that word meaningful for the whole year.  It never worked.  My word was abandoned as quickly as my New Year’s Resolutions.

Because of my history of trying and failing I had a bit of anxiety when I found out that my Pastor was talking about this idea at church on January 1st.  But God, in his grace, had a word find me before I could try to come up with a word on my own.  Until the word found me, I didn’t know how badly I needed it.

renew

I am scuffed up and worn out. I need renewal.  I believe God wants to dig deep and renew me in 2017.

I think it primarily comes from the idea of being transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2) which will involved destroying lofty arguments and opinions raised against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).  I need to get back to my roots and my love of soaking in and studying the Bible…for fun…not for school or for someone else and let it transform me by the renewing of my mind.

I think there will also be elements of God renewing a right spirit in my (Psalms 51:10) along with renewal in my relationship with him and renewal in other relationships in my life.

I don’t know what my next step is.  There are a ton of ways I could attempt to facilitate renewal.  But I believe God gave me the word (renew) so I’m trusting he’ll lead me to the path of renewal he wants me to take.  I don’t have to strive to figure it all out today (especially because it’s the striving that has me so scuffed up and weary).  In fact, I shouldn’t strive at all, I should ask him and then pay attention. This is not about me creating renewal for myself but about God recreating me.

Have you ever chosen a word for the year? How has it impacted your life?

 

My performance at my first soccer game explains why I suck at life right now

My first soccer game was my sophomore year of high school.  I think the coach only put me on the team because I had been cut the previous year and, while I had very little skill, I had a big heart and worked really hard and my positive attitude was an asset to the team.

We were beating our opponent, there were a few minutes left in the game so the coach called me off the bench and put me on the field.  I had only a general idea of what territory each position played.  All I could think as I jumped on the field into the midfield position was “follow the ball” and that’s what I did.  I was laser-focused on that ball every time it was within my territory which, as a midfielder, was a pretty large territory.  I ran really hard, followed the ball, didn’t do any harm, and we won the game.

I was like a 5 year old on the soccer field that night.  I was so focused on the ball that I definitely didn’t play strategically.  I didn’t know when to step back to create a play  on offense, or to block a pass when on defense.  I didn’t know how to use my teammates or be used by my teammates.  There was no strategy…only charging the ball.

The ball is, obviously, central to soccer.  Guiding it into the net (and preventing your opponent from doing so) is how you win.  But good soccer players and good teams don’t charger the ball non-stop.  It’s exhausting, inefficient, and not strategic.  It’s a terrible plan for winning…unless you’re a five year old…then it’s what you do because that’s how your peers are playing too.

In my life and at my work right now I am so focused on whatever task is in front of me, and doing it as well as I can, that I haven’t stepped back to ask questions like, Is this strategic?  Can it be done more efficiently?  Should it be done at all? If it really should be done, should I be the one doing it? And while the tasks in front of me may change, they don’t stop coming and I’m attacking my job and my life like a five year old playing soccer.

I’m trying to step back and become aware of the balls that I’m chasing.  And then I want to begin asking the questions about how and why and if I should be chasing these balls.  Thinking through these things is overwhelming enough.  The thought of the effort involved in changing habits is nearly crushing right now.   But I know you can’t survive an entire soccer game when you’re playing like a five year old unless you are a five year old and have the boundless energy of a five year old, which I do not because I am 31 years older than a five year old.

I don’t want to burn out playing the wrong game or playing the right game inefficiently or haphazardly.  So I know the problem (I’m attacking the soccer ball like a five year old) and I know that (at least part of) the solution is to back up, ask questions, and change what I do and how I do it.  I guess the good news is that through observation, feedback, and practice, I eventually got better at soccer; I’ll probably get better at my job and life too.

The State of My Uterus

For the last five years I have been on a journey through infertility.  It has sucked. It has not been the only, or major, thing in my life these last five years but it has been there, constantly, an unwelcome guest mostly hiding in the shadows but sometimes popping out unexpectedly to taunt me.  To grieve this frustrating and painful process doesn’t ignore the fact that so many wonderful things have happened in the last five years.  Grief, joy, frustration, and thankfulness can live side by side.

I’m writing this because I want to let you know where I am in the journey and let you know how to care for me.

I am 35, almost 36.  I have a six year old daughter who was conceived within 3 months of us trying.  My first pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage was also conceived within 3 months of us beginning the process so I expected to easily get pregnant a third time.  But it didn’t happen.

I have watched my sister’s family grow from three kids to six, my brother’s grow from one to three. I have watched people get married then go on to have multiple children…all while I have waited and hoped.  I am currently walking through a season where everyone I work with who is married and hasn’t intentionally ended their childbearing years is pregnant or has given birth in the last year (or their wife has) which recently added up to 12 people…and I don’t work with a huge staff. I have rejoiced with those who rejoiced and allowed my friends to mourn with me as I mourned.

My infertility is connected to my body’s inability or unwillingness to release an egg every month.  Recently, it went over a year without doing so.  This doesn’t create any danger or discomfort for me but does make it very difficult to get pregnant. My body does release eggs sometimes so the possibility of getting pregnant still exists.  Which creates some unique challenges as I get older; I don’t really want to be surprised with a high-risk pregnancy at 40.

At the beginning of this summer Cory and I decided this was our last summer.  I’d ask my OBGYN some more questions, get some tests done, and if I wasn’t pregnant by the end we’d figure out where to go from there.  Toward the end of this summer, I’ve felt like God has been saying, “Let it go,” which, for me, meant let go of trying, at least for now.  It feels like permission, or direction, I’m really not sure which, to put things in place to prevent pregnancy.  He was inviting? encouraging? allowing? me to let go of the hope of pregnancy and to do so in a black and white way–through contraceptives–so that I can be free from wondering, free from taking pregnancy tests every 3-5 weeks, free from hoping.  It’s okay to let this dream be put to rest.

And even though I’m the one drawing the line in the sand (with a long-term not permanent form of contraception) I am still grieving. And I am reminding myself that it’s okay to mourn the thing you chose to let go of. mourn.png

I drove to my OBGYN this morning in a thunderstorm.  I sat in her office and did my best not to cry during the consult.  As I left I prayed that God would help me grieve well and as I sat in my car preparing to drive home the rain on my windshield mirrored the tears streaming down my face. I appreciated that the weather was sympathetic, that it did not taunt me with sunshine as if everything was right with the world because it is not.

I feel the need to preemptively defend my choice.  I’m only 35, a lot of women have healthy pregnancies after 35.  Why close the door today when I might have gotten pregnant tomorrow? There are a lot of good fertility aids, why not give them a try?  But I don’t have to defend my choice.  I’m not ending this five year struggle impulsively or irresponsibly; it has been heartbreaking for us to walk through.  So I’m preemptively asking you to not ask me questions like, “Have you considered..?” or to tell me stories about someone you know who was infertile got pregnant. I’m asking you not to challenge my decision; if you think I’m wrong, please pray and ask God to reveal that to me. You don’t have to say anything at all, but if you want to send a message or a card, the kindness of the gesture wouldn’t be lost on me. I have good friends and a wonderful husband who walk this journey with me; I am not alone.

We are open to adoption, we are open to foster care but we are not actively pursing either option right now.  We know that at any time God could surprise us with pregnancy despite contraception or that he could move our hearts to stop using contraception.  We love the little girl we have and don’t feel like our family is incomplete but do long for another child. I enjoyed being pregnant, enjoyed nursing, and enjoy seeing what a little human made up of both my DNA and Cory’s DNA looks and acts like and I’m mourning the loss of getting to do those things again.  There is a name that I have wanted to give to our next child and I am mourning the loss of getting to use that name.

Today my heart is heavy.  I’m thankful for the rain.  And the ability to work from home when I can’t quite stop crying.  I am thankful for the many people who will read this this an sympathize and empathize with me. I will grieve and I will keep moving. I just wanted to let you all know about the state of my soul as it relates to the state of my uterus.

 

I bought three containers of cream cheese today

I had “bagels & cream cheese” on my list.  Cream cheese was on a buy-two-get-one-free sale.  So I bought two and got one free.  A few months ago, I would have only bought one, because one was all we needed and all that we could afford because we were living on one income in an area that doesn’t lend itself well to thriving on a low income.  A few months ago, if we’d bought two to get the third one free we wouldn’t have been able to buy the bagels to go with the cream cheese.  That’s one of the sucky things about being poor, you can’t make as good of financial decisions as not-poor people.  You can’t buy in bulk, you can’t stock up when things are on sale, you can’t make these easy choices that can help save you money in the long run and help you get ahead.