Thanks Giving

I unplugged
this week.
The noise in our world
both far and near
so loud.
I couldn’t hear
a simple gratitude–
not one.
Here I was
preparing for Thanksgiving
–an oven christening
–a home christening
–a family christening
and all I could do was stir
the simmering pot
of anger.
So I did the only thing I could think of
The only thing I’ve found to help me:

I unplugged.

I unplugged
and I raged.
I unplugged
and I wept.
I unplugged
and I did not hear a voice.

Rather I found
my gratitude
in a fifth grader asking
to help prepare the feast.
We christened our kitchen
in the peeling of the potato
the sautéing of the celery and onion.
the invention of a stuffing and cranberry ball.
As we–
step-mother and step-daughter–
mashed and chopped
our rhythm was a prayer of thanks.

Christmas from the Bench

I received one of the best gifts this Christmas.  Time.  Although the Cafe was open on Christmas Eve, I was not scheduled to work.   For the first Christmas Eve in several years I did not have the shoulda, woulda, coulda voices singing carols in my ear.  I spent this Advent on the bench, and Christmas Eve would be no different.  Our busy blended-family “holiday time” did not need to be added to the roster of worship services or emergency calls.  I did not have to be in multiple roles at the same time trying to be fully present in all of them.  What a gift!

Now, don’t go thinking it was all Norman Rockwell meets Hallmark Movie.  Of course it wasn’t.  Like many other families, we drove over the river and through the woods to Grammy and Pop’s to open presents and savor snacks.  This time was rushed and filled with the raucous joy of five children.  Then, we drove over the river and through the woods to church.  If you’ve driven a distance in the dark with children satisfied with dinner and packages, you know what happens.  Sleep happens.  Sleep.  So, you can guess how delighted we all were to pile out of the car and into the pew.  Not very.

As we squished into the pew, I remember breathing deeply and thinking…”so this is what it’s like…to juggle a blended family, visit, and slide into church on Christmas Eve.”  I honestly don’t remember much about the service that evening.  I simply remember the feeling of gratitude.  Gratitude for time on the bench.  Gratitude for how far we’ve come.  Gratitude that God chose to enter this messy world in a family that defies stereotypes.  And I knew Christ the Lord was being born again all around me. 

Friday At Five–Babies Addition

Today’s Friday is about babies. Tell us about babies in your life, of all kinds, even ideas!

Tell us about the babies you’ve paid attention to in your life:

1. babies of family or friends

Goodness, I have a lot of “babies” in my life right now…no actual little little ones in our home but nieces, nephews, and little ones of friends.  Last week I posted my desires for my newest niece–Anna.  Can’t wait to see her next week.

(She and I apparently share the love of “couching”)Image

And slightly older babies…Stephen (who is now in kindergarten!) Rebecca and Cameron

Image(a little bit of cousin love with Stephen an Sophia)

IMG_0367 (Rebecca “Ringo Starring” on Uncle Joe’s makeshift drum head)

IMG_0364

(“Hmmm!  Corn!”  Cameron chomps down on his

first ear of corn Grandma Malick style.)

2. animal babies–Where would life be without animal babies?  Our two kitties..Beezer and Bailey are now in the double digits but are still playful

IMG_0342 Rock a bye Beezer.  Papa rocks the Beez, who tolerates being treated like a baby because he gets a little closer to the ceiling fan.)

IMG_0420

Are you my human or am I your cat?  Sophia and Bailey head to head.  Gabi is convinced…he’s her cat–so why argue–just read

 

3. babies you remember in movies or on t

There are two babies I vividly remember from movies or TV.  The first is from Spaceballs…as it spoofs on alien.  This clip is a hit in our household.  Enjoy:

Second the Dancing Baby from Ally Mcbeal

4. babies in the Bible

Moses and Jesus are the first two that come to mind.  Thinking about Jesus as a baby actually makes me remember my Grandmother, whose birthday was Christmas.  So we actually did celebrate a birthday at Christmas, but usually it focused more on Grandma than on Jesus.  One year my sister, Erin, who is now a graphic designer, created a mixed media birthday card pre-photo shop.  With mere scissors and glue she pasted Grandma’s face on the body of a baby and placed the baby in a manger under a star.  Happy Birthday to Jesus AND Grandma!  If I had a photo of this masterpiece, I would gladly upload here.  I figure if you’re gonna be irreverent with the Christmas holiday, might as well go all in.

5. anything that may be a “baby” arising in your own life

Babies in my own life…well in many respects my family is still in the baby stage.  The girls might entering “tweendom”–this land 969979_677157908966714_402066853_nreminds me why I became a secondary education major and not an elementary education major–but as a family unit we are still new.  And I am still new to step-motherhood.  Not for the faint of heart, the role of step-mother and pastor are like mirror images of one another.  In both you’re the newest person to the family; your arrival shakes the system; the world expects you to have some kind of Jedi-like authority; and if you can love with open palms, you receive more grace, love, and acceptance than you knew were possible.

(Believe it or not, there are three people and a cat in our bed…all taking a Sunday afternoon nap.  After preaching and the pool, who wouldn’t want to take a snooze?  Apparently, Papa.  Papa gets quiet time in the house.)

The other “baby” currently in my life is my time in the wilderness.  Ending my fourth week, I moved from comfortably numb and stunned to frantically searching for a map to settling in.  Not that I don’t have moments of frantic map searching, but all in all, currently, I’m setting up home and shop in the wild and enjoying the newness of my surroundings.  When a frenzy comes on, I’ve taken to lacing up my sneakers and going for a jog and praying.  The spiritual discipline of pounding pavement and praying may be ancient but is definitely in its infant stage for me.

The Spirituality of Step-Mothering

Cinderellas-Evil-Stepmother-2Today I had the pleasure of watching my step-daughters sing and dance at the culmination of their musical theatre class.  When I went up to the instructor to thank her, she asked, “How are you related to the girls?”

“I’m their step-mother.”

The instructor simply smiled and nodded.

Driving home I pondered the varied responses I receive when I say “I’m their step-mother.”  As you can imagine, the facial expressions range from “poor you” to “ah potential wicked step-mother” to “you must be a saint.”  I have to say, in my specific case, I don’t find any of these types to be true.  While our culture tells have a variety of stories about “the step-mother”; while the role is complex at its easiest; while it certainly isn’t how I pictured my life, I have to say that this role of step-mother is a precious teacher.

I don’t think any of other roles have challenged me to be as honest with myself about me.  It’s easy to say that you love unconditionally,  and trust God in the process, I have found practicing not so easy.  And step-mothering has afforded me the opportunity to practice this palms  wide-open love regularly.  Whether it be admitting to myself that I am not the parent, so my husband takes that primary role, or waiting for the girls to initiate hugs, this step-mothering business asks me to love with no strings attached.  When I turn that offer down, the reflection I see reminds me just how conditional my loving can be.  Honestly, being a step-mother has been one of the most challenging, most humbling, and most fulfilling roles I have said yes to. For me, it is a calling.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

ImageHave you ever heard the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul”?  Some days I feel this is how I spend every minute.  The reality is that trying to be present both for my new family and the congregation can be an impossible task.  No kidding, right?  How could anyone be simultaneously present?  In my logical mind, I understand this reality and believe there’s enough grace to help balance this continual juggle.

Except that apparently there’s still another part of me.  A part of me that seems to forget that I am, in fact, a human.  Somehow I sipped a little too much of the Wonder Woman Water growing up.  Somehow I still seem to think that I should be miraculously able to navigate pastoring and parenting seamlessly.  Yes.  I can be that delusional.

In addition to the obvious problems and implications of believing I somehow have a super-hero-like capacity, there’s a subtler issue.  If I miraculously and perfectly navigated these worlds so that all needs were always met, neither the children nor the church would do the hard work of learning to name and meet some of their own needs.   And the risk of reaching out to widen the circle of support.  To discern what it is they really need.  What they need to ask for and what they will take care of themselves.  The flip-side of this is that I am responsible for the same.

Yesterday was a day where I robbed Peter to pay Paul.  A day where I said yes when I meant no.  And some of my yeses didn’t align with what I say are my priorities.  Such is the way of Sundays and step-daughters.

The Valley of the Shadow

My family spent the evening at the Harrisburg Senator’s game.  With the rain and wind, it wouldn’t have really been my personal choice.  But it was the “company family party,” AND the girls really wanted to go.  That said, I wasn’t planning on navigating conversations about crowds and commotion and possibly guns. Certainly not a conversation I thought I’d be having with the girls–especially in Dollar Tree while we sought ponchos.  But the ever-present media is ever-present for children as well as adults.

So, in the midst of Dollar Tree we wax philosophical about crowded spaces, guns, and hurting people.  “Is he a bad guy?”  One of my step-daughters asked.  The other rationalized, “We are going to a ball game, not the movies.” (Whoever thinks pastoring is tough should try navigating these conversations with seven and eight year-olds.)  We had a mini-conversations about hurting people hurting others and bad choices followed by being safe at the game.

Being safe.

This Sunday one of the lectionary choices is Psalm 23.  The ubiquitous comfort psalm.  The psalm of fearing no evil.  The psalm of eating in the presence of enemies.  The psalm of the Good Shepherd.  It’s interesting that the visual imagery of Jesus as shepherd are often so bucolic.  So serene.  So gentle.  My understanding is that shepherds weren’t particular serene or gentle.  In fact, if a sheep got so far out of line, the shepherd often broke the sheep’s legs to keep the sheep from hurting itself or the flock.  That’s why it would need to be carried.  Not exactly the Sunday School comfort we imagine.

Yet, on a night like tonight, I kind of like the thought that the Good Shepherd would intervene to keep both the hurting sheep and the flock safe.  I wonder how we can best do that for and with one another.