When I am Relying on Manna from Heaven

One of the lessons I learned, early on in blogging, was unsurprisingly taught by Sarah Bessey. Of course I resonated with her blog. She wrote a lot about motherhood and writing with the scraps of time God gives us. The thing that she wrote that has stayed with me all this time is this: your ideas, your creativity is like manna from heaven. Don’t store it up, use it up. There will be enough that will appear next time. You don’t have to horde your best ideas. Tomorrow you will have new best ideas. Your creativity is from God, and it will not run out.

I worry a lot about running out. I worry a lot about whether there will be enough. Mostly, it is enough love, enough energy, enough support from the people around me. I want to know there will be enough to go around. I want to know that I am enough to go around. And then I stretch myself so thin only to prove what I fear most: I am not enough.

And y’all that is exactly true and exactly not true. I suppose if I was supposed to do it all I would not be enough. But that is very much not my job. I am only supposed to do what I am supposed to do. I am only supposed to use up my manna for the day. I am only supposed to say yes to MY stuff, not to all the stuff. That part is hard.

I said a pretty huge YES in February. I started pastoring a church. Then we decided to close and re-vision and re-vamp and re-furbish and most of my summer has been dedicated to that yes. I have so many ideas and so many dreams for New Hope and y’all are so amazing at blessing that community. We have been having a ton of fun all summer on your squirt gun and slip’n’slide donations. I know that very many of you want to partner with us, but sometimes I am afraid the partnering is going to run out. I know that the stuff is really kind of God’s job, but I get nervous.

Meanwhile this summer, in the midst of the busy I received another yes. I have been accepted on the Ruby Woo pilgrimage for this year. It is an amazing opportunity where I learn how to advocate for my community as a faith leader. It is training I need and it is just the most remarkable opportunity. I kept meaning to tell you about it but I did not, and I have realized why: I need financial help to get there, and I am afraid that if I ask for me now, I will somehow be stealing from New Hope later. Like, people will either support my personal growth as a pastor, or the growth that I am praying for in the church I pastor. I am afraid I need to store up this manna so no one will go hungry later.

Y’all, this is such a lie. The truth is, if I am called to do this, I need to do it. If my church needs something God will work it out. I don’t have to hold back. I don’t have to starve for someone else to eat. In this kingdom there is enough.

I am attempting to raise $5000 for the RubyWoo pilgrimage. This will cover my cost of the event and travel AND it will help others get there too. I don’t want to go alone, because I want to go far. I want everyone who feels called to be able to go, even if they don’t have the reach or audience to fundraise for themselves.

I am currently serving a congregation and community that is often forgotten about by city council and government agencies. Going down to city hall to raise a ruckus isn’t a class they teach at seminary, but it is what my people need from their leader.

Can you help me get there?

Can you pray for me and tell me you are?

Can you share this?

Can you donate? 

I am so ridiculously grateful for the ways y’all support me. I am praying for you, and praying that God would bless this world by allowing each of us to pour out our gifts. I am trying hard to model that.

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What if Church were like Hamiltunes?

My husband and I found an activity that might be nerdier than the live streaming of the national speech tournament awards show and rooting for our team as alumni. Our favorite date night activity is to go to Hamiltunes and karaoke through the entire soundtrack of Hamilton with other people in our city who love it as much as we do. We love Hamiltunes, because we love the musical but our consistent presence at Hamiltunes goes deeper than that. We like the way the event makes us feel.

As I spend this summer preparing for a grand re-opening of a faithful little church, I can’t help dream about what that will be. We are sticking with the hymns because we all know them, and like them, and there are plenty of books around with the words. At Hamiltunes you are not out if you don’t know the show. We are excited to introduce you to the show, to tell you our favorite lyrics, to see the delight in your face when we all throw our hands in the air to snap and yell WORK! We are in a club or sorts, but you are invited and we want you there to experience it. What if the church sang hymns like that? Like we actually believed the words, like what we were singing mattered, like this thing that we sing about is really remarkable and we want to introduce you to it? I want to go to a church like that.

At Hamiltunes everyone is in and everyone is welcome. This is also true at New Hope, I have truly never seen a more welcoming church than the one I serve. I went before I started preaching there, and y’all they were amazing. Every single person who walks in through those doors knows they are loved. At Hamiltunes everyone is also welcome to participate. We WANT you on the stage, as a chorus member or to throw out a random line. We want you to sing along from your seats. We want you in on the action, as in as you want to be.

What if that is how it was at church? What if you could come up and lead because you just love this song so much, or you could sit in the back and just take it all in. What if every way you wanted to participate in worship were a good way?

I like Hamiltunes because I can try out different parts. I like that I can try being King George, or George Washington, or Angelica. I like that you can figure it out and see. Turns out that the range for Hamilton is not the best for me, but Burr works well. I know that King George is way more fun than I thought it would be and George Washington is where my heart lies. I know that because I got to try. I got to try and see if it wasn’t for me then I knew. I want church to be a place where the people get to try and see if their heart sings, if they love something. I want church to be a place where you can discover you love something, and your church roots for you. Your church can’t wait to see you nail it. Your church is longing for you to succeed and wants to cheer you on when you do.

I want to go to that church, one that feels like Hamiltunes. I want people to be as comfortable on Sunday, as they are at the Vista room, singing their hearts out.

I’m a Pastor on Prozac

Hello. My Name is Abby and I am a pastor, and I am on prozac.

Both of these things are pretty common knowledge. My Facebook profile has me in a collar. If you have talked to me recently I have probably invited you to one of the four community picnics my church is having this summer. Also, I make it a point to talk about my depression medication. I think it is important to talk about, because sometimes it feels like the only people talking about it are saying it is my fault.

My brain does not make enough serotonin, also I am extremely near sighted. Both things are true about the way God made me, but no one has ever suggested I pray away the near-sighted=ness. They just tell me they like my glasses. I want there to be the same stigma free conversation about mental health as there is about eye health. No one has ever said that the reason I can’t see more than 3 feet in front of my face without my glasses is because I lack faith.

Historically, this is how the church has been pretty terrible to people with mental health problems. For that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry that even as recently as yesterday people have taken the opportunity to use the suicides of very public people to let the world know that God’s people aren’t depressed. What hogwash. What a terrible lie.

I am called, and collared, and I have chronic depression. I am God’s people. I am God’s beloved daughter, and I take prozac every single morning. I believe that tiny pill is a good good gift from a good good God who is inviting me to participate in this world as my full self. I need some more serotonin. This pill provides it.

I prayed for years that my depression would leave me. There were times when it was better, and times it was worse. There were times when I was exercising and meditating and it felt better. The depression felt better. But there were also days when there was a constant loop of criticism in my head telling me that I was not good enough, that I was a failure, that I was going to screw it up and everyone else along with it. I didn’t always even know what it is.

Depression is a liar, and unfortunately the church has sometimes contributed to those lies instead of calling them out. You being depressed is your fault as much as you being nearsighted. There is help. Of course pray about it, but be open to the spirit leading you to medical intervention.  I spent a long time avoiding meds because I was sure God was against them. I was wrong. When I tried to give up negative self talk for Lent and could not do it, I got the help I had needed for a long time. For me, prozac is the miracle I have prayed for. I know that not everyone has the same medicine journey. I know that sometimes it takes a long time, or the meds stop working, or a doctor pumps you full of a drug that isn’t meant for you (this happened when I was 16, it took me 15 years to try again).

I wish that I could send you to any church in America and they would support you, hold your hand, cry with you, and hold your hope on the days it was too hard. I wish that the church was always a place where we could weep together, and hold each other in pain and joy, where we really did laugh and dance and weep with those who were doing any and all of those things. There are churches like that, I just wish they were all like that.

For now, all I can say is that I am a pastor, and I am on prozac. Both of those things are from God. Both of those things are good gifts from God. I am grateful for my call and grateful for my meds. I am grateful for a community that walks beside me and encourages my full gifts in my full health. For me, that means believing that God loves me, preaching truth, and taking prozac. Depression is not your lack of faith, it is a lack of serotonin.

 

When This is a Summer for Faith like a Child

We used our Christmas money to buy season passes to the amusement park. The same pass works for the water park. I thought it was maybe a little indulgent but the girls certainly did not need anymore toys. We go at least three days a week. With the dining passes sometimes we just go for dinner and ride until it closes. If we miss our favorites, it is okay we can go tomorrow.

My friend Micah wrote once about delight. How it was a practice, how it was a spiritual practice. I think about that a lot. I want to be delighted by this world. I want to believe in a God who enjoys delighting me like I enjoy taking my kids to 6 flags. Just because I can, just because I love them and it delights them. I want to practice delight in this world.

Christian had to go to work so the three of us headed to the park right after the storm came through. The rain had chased everyone away and the only thing holding us back from the rides was how fast we could run through the turnstiles.

We hit the waterpark we had been eyeing, the little one inside the park. We ran up and down the play place and slid down every slide we could fine. Purple! Orange! Turquoise! Green! Yellow! Again, again, again! Just as I was thinking this was a completely perfect day, I looked to the right and found the big waterslides and the wave pool. Apparently, there was even more to be delighted by. We hit the slides and hit the wave pool. The waves weren’t on yet and my girls were super stoked to just splash around. When the waves turned on you should have seen their faces. How could this perfect thing get better? But it did. It really did.

I love watching the kids at the water park, at the amusement park, at the local park. They are just so good at being delighted by life. They are just so good at being surprised by joy. They are just so good at giggling with abandon, and unbridled squealing, and embracing the good things of life like the gifts they are. I am learning how to love something again and again and again, not just the first time. I am learning how to expect good things, then be completely delighted by them when they come around. I want my faith to be like that. I want faith like a child.

I need faith like a child this summer, my foray into local pastoring with the Methodist church has moved into revitalization/ church planting. I have said for years I would not church plant, but I love my little church and I know this is the right next step. It turns out I didn’t want to be a lone wolf church planter but am happy to lead my pack into the great unknown. This involves a lot of expectancy, and a lot of asking. It involves inviting people to be involved in a New Hope. It involves eating at the local ice cream joint and seeing if anyone wants to come to our free community parties. It involves asking on Twitter if anyone wants to buy my church a slip-n-slide and getting half promised before I can finish this post. It involves being delighted by our fresh eggs and honey and being expectant and also joyfully surprised when my whole budget gets approved.

Kids ask a lot, they just do. They want with abandon and they ask for things. But then, they are totally delighted when it comes through. I want to have faith like this. I want to have faith with more squealing in delight and being doubled over in laughter. I want faith like a child. I am learning how to make this a spiritual practice.

 

Mother’s Day Confession: I don’t want kiddie crafts in my house.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I am very excited. Mostly because I get to take a nap and will be getting things off my Amazon wish list. I am SUPER picky about my gifts and this makes everyone happy (also the girls can pick out my presents without seven hours of wandering around Target and having to be reminded that mommy probably does not want the monkey-farting board game they have picked out). Look, I like what I like and I come by that honestly. My mother is super picky and I have her asethetic. My sisters and my father clear their presents through me. I know what mom likes, cause mostly we like the same things.

And y’all, very very rarely do I like what my kids have made me. Cards are great, Priscilla made me one that says “I am so glad that you can eat!” It went on the fridge. I am not saying my kids NEVER make me anything that I don’t want to hang up. I have some of those frames that open and close so I can constantly rotate their constant flow of art work coming into the dining room. But I will not paper the walls with their art work (they have decided to paper their own room with it, which works for both of us until their is a piece of art I want to display but they want it in their room).

But mostly, I don’t like the crafts that my kids bring home and I will not treasure them for a week, let alone forever. Look, maybe I am shallow, and if so fine, I am shallow, but I don’t want to wear jewelry made of food you are supposed to cook. I don’t want to wear broaches made of puzzle pieces, necklaces made of macaroni, or earrings made of salt dough. I just don’t. I am a grown ass professional woman and I get to decide what I wear, and I don’t want what I wear to yell MOMMY. I like being Juliet and Priscilla’s mommy, I have zero interest in being the mommy to the world. That job doesn’t pay anything no matter how many people you parent.

And I don’t want to put something in my living room that doesn’t match my decor. I grew up and chose my stuff on purpose and I like what I like. My kids like pink and purple respectfully. Those are not my favorite decorating colors. I will not dust something that I do not even want in my home. I mean, I don’t dust, but if I did, I would not want to have to dust something that doesn’t match my other things and is not even recognizable as the thing it is. I want all the art in my home to be PURPOSELY abstract.

I also do not want to wear anything that has my child’s handprint on it. I spent the first three years of my kids life wearing my kids handprints on accident. Peanut butter hand print on my butt, dirt hand print on my knees and hand print of some unknown sticky substance on my boob every single time I was supposed to speak in public. Y’all, we JUST got out of the accidental hand prints stage, I am not wearing a shirt with hot pink hand prints on it. I am just not. I am not even wearing it to bed. The hands I want on me in bed are not my children’s. They just aren’t.

I think there is some idea that mommy is supposed to take over my whole life, my whole identity. It is supposed to be my job to let my kids be in every single part of my life, my wardrobe, my house. But I don’t want to raise girls who think that mommy is the crowning achievement in their life, and I don’t want to raise girls who think that moms aren’t allowed to have boundaries, or opinions, or their own aesthetic tastes. If they bring me a masterpiece I probably am not going to put it in my house, but I will raise girls who can be their whole selves and be unapologetic in their wants and needs. I have to model that, and trust that will do more for their self esteem than me wearing ugly jewelry for mothers day.

Dangerous White Women and Upholding White Supremacy

Dear Fellow White Women,

It has been a long time since I have written an open letter. A really long time but I need to talk to you and I do not know what else to do. We need to understand very clearly how we are seen, and we need to think long and hard about our actions, and our intentions before we go out in public again.

I know what the problem is, we are afraid. But I don’t know exactly why or for what reason we let ourselves scare so easily. But I know that we are afraid and that fear is actually hurting other people. If you didn’t hear about the white mom who called the police because two native boys on a college tour made her nervous then go read about it. Make sure you see their baby faces, so that you can understand just how clearly not threatening they were.

But their baby faces, the fact that they had worked really hard to even get to the tour, or any other piece of reality did not matter. The fact that they were teenagers, that she was a grown woman. Those things did not matter. What mattered was that a white lady was scared, not just a white lady but a white mother. The mother bear was frightened, and her cubs must be protected at all costs. Forget that if she is on the college tour with them then the cubs are the same age as the boys she is calling the police on. For existing. All actions are justified when a white woman is protecting her children. All actions are permisable when a white lady is protecting herself, especially against any person of color.

 

Let us not forget Emmett Till. I didn’t know who Emmett Till was when I started teaching. It wasn’t in my personal history knowledge. But as a white woman teaching in a black school it was a history I carried with me, it was one I lived out before I knew better. Did you know the woman who made up the story that caused Emmet Till to die is still alive? Did you know that she has admitted that nothing she said was true, and she has not faced charges? A child DIED because she said she felt threatened, because she LIED about a black boy. White patriarchy put her up to killing a black boy and came to her rescue. The cost of her safety was the death of a black boy, a cost society is still more than willing to make.

 

White ladies, and especially white mothers have been tasked by the patriarchy and white supremacy as protectors of our current society. And this gets weird and messy because this double edged sword cuts us both ways. We are hurt by this role because if we step even an inch outside the mother bear protector box we are punished for being too. Too smart, too ambitious, too sexy, too masculine, too angry. Just too much. That is the patriarchy part. But we are also rewarded for being in this role as well. We get protection against everyone but white men. We get believed above everyone but white men. If we cry out, someone comes most of the time. We know we can’t blame the white man. We will not be protected against the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, but we will be protected from most other people.

 

White women are told to be fearful of the world. We are taught to spread the fear over the heads of our children. We are taught to fear for our children and ask that the social structures be upheld so that our children can function in it. We understand on some level that the system works for us, and convince ourselves it benefits our children. We take the deal. And this makes us extremely dangerous to people of color.

Our fear is answered first. Our children are protected at the peril of other children. Our 911 calls get answered guns blazing even when there is nothing to be afraid of. As long as we are working to uphold white supremacy, we get what we want. White supremacy feeds off of our fears.

Here is the thing about all of these fears. They are nothing but lies. Our children BENEFIT from having native people in their colleges, minority children in our children’s friend groups, from the dismantling of toxic whiteness in our lives. But we have convinced ourselves that we are being protected by our cage. We are not. The fear that we believe protects us is only serving as our cage. But we believe in it, and we raise or children in it, and the cries of the white mother are answered quicker than almost any other, especially if they are in fear of the other.

 

We are allowed to gentrify schools, put kids at risk, harras boys who are trying to go on a college tour and women just checking out of their Airbnb because the deal is our fear is validated. We are allowed to put anyone else in danger as long as we are claiming protection of our children.

 

But we aren’t protecting our children. We are protecting the system. We are protecting the very system that is hurting us. And we can do better. We have to do better. Because we don’t need to protect our kids from white supremacy. We need to dismantle it in ourselves so we don’t pass it on.

 

Abby

 

Go read my friend Danielle’s piece about this. Don’t get defensive. Think about it.

Take her Raising an Advocate class. I don’t get $$ for this. I just get a better world.

To Juliet on her Eighth Birthday

Dear Juliet,

Today you are eight, an age I distinctly remember. With every year it feels like the stakes have been raised, and this year has been the most complicated one in your little life so far. You are eight, and this last year there were some growing pains. Growing up is hard, and for people as kind and tender hearted as you, growing up and learning how harsh this world can be is exceptionally painful. It is at times a shock to your system that anyone would not choose the good, the right, the kindest choice.

Every year I say how kind hearted, generous, and friendly you are. Every year it becomes more true. People think a three year old saying hi to them and complimenting their shoes is adorable. They don’t know quite what to make of an eight year old (who is tall enough to be a ten year old) doing the same. I suppose some people think you just haven’t grown out of it yet. My dear friendly girl, here is a truth I hope you always know: You never grow out of who God made you to be. I know the world doesn’t quite know what to do with it all the time. but it is a gift. You are a gift.

This year you had a really hard thing happen. It could have broken you, it could have made you feel less than. But by your sheer ability to cling to the good, and the God’s grace it did not. I think in some ways your hard thing was harder for your parents. In fact out of this hard thing you learned how to tell the truth. “Our job is to tell the whole truth all the time.” This is what you say and what you believe. You model this so fiercely you inspired one of your friends to do the same thing, to tell the truth. She did that because you showed her how. If you don’t remember anything else this year, please remember that it is you job to tell the whole truth.

Today, for the first time ever we let you skip school for your birthday. We pulled your sister out too (“I’ll allow it” you said) and we went to IHOP and made a cake and hosted a party with pizza at the park we celebrated your very first birthday at. I noticed today how good you are at being delighted in things. You LOVE the shoes your Gram picked out for you, they are THE BEST EVER. You LOVE the gifts your sister got for you. THEY ARE PERFECT. You LOVED the food you ordered and your hot chocolate and the cup the to go water came in. You loved the cake I made with you. You will always have a delightful life because you always choose to delight in life. I am learning to do this from you.

When you were turning one I stayed up until well past midnight the night before your party. I made the most beautiful flower cupcakes and stressed over the decorations. I bought way, WAY too much food and worked myself into a frenzy over the whole party. Today I let you and your sister decorate the cake and didn’t sweat it when I forgot to bring forks and the knife to cut and eat the cake with. If being your mother has taught me anything, it is to turn in my perfectionism for joy. Best lesson ever.

You decided about twenty-four hours before your party that you wanted one. Pizza and cake at the park, no goody bags, no games. just people you like on the play ground. How could I say no to that? So we did. I texted the moms and within 24 hours we had a party for you. So many people there to celebrate you. So many people willing to inconvenience themselves, change their plans, make an effort to show you how much they love you. You were afraid no one would show up, but they did and with gifts that showed they knew you. Please, PLEASE always remember just how loved you are.

You are so good. You are so loved. You are such a beautiful gift. These are not things you can grow out of. They just are.

Love,

Mom