Scarcity and Seminary

There is an interesting thing that happens in graduate school, especially if you go on to doctoral work. You show up having always been one of the smartest three people in your classes. Only now, everyone else has also been one of the smartest people in their classes. If you are just really smart, but not stand out smart (because you are in graduate school and everyone is stand out smart) sometimes you are a little unsure of who you are or why you are there.

Most people are at seminary because God has called them there, explicitly, through soft pushes, strange circumstances, or clear and definitive direction and prodding from God, they have been called. And some of us have some of ourselves, our egos, our identities wrapped up in that calling. So when we get to a place where everyone else is also called, it can feel scary. Maybe I am not favored or special anymore.

This, my friends, is a lie from the pit. Scarcity says that if everyone else around you is a thing then it takes that thing away from you. That simply isn’t true. Just because everyone else around me is a lady, doesn’t mean I am not totally a lady. I am a lady. The same is true for other things.

If you want to get really good at something, generally you find yourself in a place where everyone else around you is also good at that thing. You know who is at writer’s conferences? Writers. Teachers conferences specializing in pedagogy? Teachers who really care about their pedagogy and are trying to get better at it. Brilliant nurses are at nursing conferences, and artists all hang out together. These places don’t have to be about competition. They can be about collaboration, about learning to do and think and understand with people who care about whatever you are into just as much as you do.

It feels like scarcity is the only choice when there are only so many book deals/internships/chances/first place prizes. I suppose that is true. I suppose some of the shiny gold stars are scarce. But the growth opportunities and connections are totally abundant! They are.

It is GOOD NEWS that a lot more people than you are doing the thing. It means you are not alone. It means this thing matters and you only have to be responsible for your part. Abundance is real, and we can find it even amongst people who are searching for the same thing as us.

I’m Not Here to Save Anyone

I am at the Mudroom writing about social justice I write about my first few years as a teacher a lot because I want to save other people from the experience. Y’all. I really, really thought I was going to change the world. I really thought they just really needed me. I needed my eyes opened. I got them, but that should not have come at the expense of my kids learning. 

The year I showed up in a classroom in an urban High School in south Atlanta, was the year after the movie “Freedom Writer” came out. I know this because the kids called me that as though it was my name.

“Who you got for English?”

“Freedom Writer!”

I acted annoyed and told them I was younger and cuter than Hillary Swank, but secretly I was pleased. I was there to save them. I was there to bring them their freedom, show them a better way. Maybe I was hoping to be a little more edgy, like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds, but they saw me for what I was hoping to be.

I was hoping to be the white savior. I was planning on it really.

Spoiler Alert: The white savior figure isn’t real. We already have a savior, and I am never it. Instead of spending the year winning over hearts and minds by showing up with brilliant lesson plans and a hear of gold,

I learned that I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t even close to enough.

Read the rest here. 

The Evangelical Men I Know

I was lucky enough to be raised with an abundance of good men in my life. Not just my father, who was deeply insulted any time someone asked him if he was longing for a boy (even after the three daughters, then the seven grand daughters all in a row). He would reply, we LOVE girls. Who wouldn’t want another girl? Not just his father, who I saw cry once over the lack of care he was witnessing to one of his granddaughters. There have been just so many good men in my life.

There were especially a lot of good men in my church, the brick church named after the road it was built on. These men were just like that church building. They were strong and welcoming. They drove mini vans and helped put up tents, and rode bikes next to girls who were kind of slow going on the trip through Michigan. They told us we were strong. They were encouraging and made sure we too got a turn with the power drill on the deck we were building in Appalachia. They were kind and caring and treated us with dignity. Even when we had to ask them, red-faced, to please stop at the next gas station because a 14 year old’s period can be kind of unpredictable. They were good men. They weren’t flashy about it. They just were.

I was raised in a church more conservative than I am now. These men that I speak of have more conservative theologies than I do now. While we sometimes disagree on exactly what feminism is, or the point of it, these men continuously modeled to me what a good man looked like. They encouraged their wives in their dreams, they advocated for the women’s shelter in our town, they relentlessly poured into the boys and the girls in the youth group. They loved us well. They loved me well. They made it easy for me to find a good man, like them. I married him. I had two daughters with him. He loves us well.

Once, in college, I was back home working at a country club. I was assessing how much coca-cola we had in the stock room which was attached to the “men’s only grill.” I was crouched down and counting, when I head the comments. It was also being assessed, at least my backside was, as well as the bodies of all the women Tiger Woods had slept with. I finished my job. I stood up and turned around, only to be confronted with a man from that very church. A father of one of my peers in that very same youth group. He occasionally drove the van. We both blinked at each other before I scurried out, mortified. He wasn’t mortified, he was angry and my boss got an earful about how there was a woman present in the men’s only lounge. He wasn’t embarrassed he had been objectifying someone who could be his daughter. He was angry he got caught in a space he believed it was safe for him to do that.

I was shocked. I wasn’t shocked that this happened. I had been in mostly male spaces a few times and I knew that men talked like this. I was just naive enough to believe that Christian men didn’t talk like this. I was naive enough to believe that my church was a place where men who objectified women were taught differently.

I was fourteen when the Monica Lewinsky scandal came out. I was embarrassed watching the news with my parents, but ever the educators they took it as a teachable moment. This isn’t okay Abby. Treating women with anything less than respect isn’t okay, especially when you are in power. Especially when you are the president. I know this to be true. My church, while never overtly political, mentioned that this was inappropriate behavior both from a married man, and from a man with a lot of power.

I haven’t heard anything from my very specific tribe, but it breaks my heart evangelical men who have endorsed Donald Trump, men who while I disagree, I believed respected women as fully people, as full image bearers of God are standing by him. They are brushing his comments aside. They are brushing his accuser aside. I know that I am late to the party, but I still don’t know what to do with this information. I don’t know what to do with the information that the same men who took Bill Clinton’s unacceptable treatment of women as an opportunity to teach me that it is never okay for a man to use his power for his own sexual gratification at the expense of a woman, are now saying this isn’t a big deal.

I guess I was hoping that wasn’t about politics. I guess I was hoping that was about basic human decency. I guess I am shocked. These are not the evangelical men I know, but apparently they exist, and my heart is just so dissapointed.



Is My Calling Worth the Cost?

Hey there lovely readers! My life is totally insane right now. And I had a sick kiddo yesterday so that throws everything completely out of whack. AND I had two things published on the same day. Yesterday I shared the piece from Off the Page about living in God’s Economy, and today I have a confession over at SheLoves about just how scared I am some days.

I think it is really really important to share the messy middle part, and I think this is the part the Christian narrative leaves out the most. We tell the excited beginning, we for sure witness to the triumphal end, but the middle when you are looking around wondering if you are the only one who has no idea what they are doing? We skip that part. I don’t want to skip that part anymore. I think that part is best done together, telling the truth.

This last week things have been hard, and I seriously thought about calling it all off. I am not going to, but I thought about it. …..

“But you seem so confident!”

You have no idea how many times I have been told this in my life. Pretty much the exact same amount of times I’ve been shaking in my boots. Apparently, even when I’m terrified I still present as confident. I both love and hate this about myself.

I have spent the last month or so celebrating my entrance into seminary. I quit my job! I’m leaning in! I’m what a lady preacher looks like! And I’m very proud of myself for answering the call, for chasing the dream, for following hard after my God. I am proud.

On the good days, I’m sure this is what I should be doing. On the days where I have an epiphany in class and go on to tell my husband what I learned about the Old Testament and we read the Bible together and our minds are blown, on those days I got this. I am so sure. I am so sure I should be doing this. I am so sure I was called by God.

Here is my confession: Most days are not good days. Most days I am a little less sure. Most days I am cooking, not cleaning, picking kids up, doing some writing and always, always thinking about how I should be studying. I’m often wondering if now is the time.

read the rest here.

Hello world! In a totally fitting that this piece comes up today. I am a little under water and I needed to remember that God has step by step met my needs. It is hard to talk about God providing without reaching into prosperity gospel territory. But I want to affirm that God who provided for Mary, who provided for the missionaries I used to learn about in Sunday school, who provides the sun and the rain and the wheat for the bread, the daily bread, is also the God who provides today 

I accepted a spot at the local seminary, on a generous scholarship. I signed the paperwork in March that said I would not be returning to teach at my high school. At the time it was just a little nerve-racking, because my husband was in between jobs. I wasn’t sure what we were doing next year, but there was still plenty of time to get it figured out. The academic jobs for my husband were just starting to be posted. He already had an interview. It was going to work out. It was going to work out soon. But that job went to someone else, and suddenly there was nothing on the horizon. We were so sure in March that God would provide. We were so sure I was supposed to go to seminary. We were so sure this was what God wanted.


What had we done?


It was now June and my husband didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a job. Paychecks would run out in August. How in the world was this going to work? Where was God?

Read the rest here.

The Early Fathers Didn’t Know Either

I am studying for Early Christian Thought. There are concepts and ideas and an understanding of just how close these writers were to Jesus. There is history and culture and everyone trying to explain the trinity without being a heretic (I don’t know if that can be done.) I am learning, learning, learning. Hopefully. We have a test on Thursday. I guess I will find out.

I am struck by how willing the early theologians were to say “I don’t know.” Or, “I believe this crazy thing but I don’t quite have the language for it.” Augustine and Origen, people who are in text books, who shaped my faith in ways that are permanent. Who shaped THE faith in ways that have not been questioned for centuries. These guys knew what they did not know. They knew when their explanations were coming up short. They knew it, and they were not afraid to admit it. And I find their honesty to be strangely familiar.

If you come to seminary for all the answers you will be brutally dissapointed. I don’t know if I have any answers. I think I may have less than I started with (yes, already) but I am certainly learning to ask better questions.

Today, while studying for my Early Christian Thought test, I am wondering where I learned that I was supposed to have all the answers, all the language for all the answers. If Augustine and Justin Martyr and Irenaus were coming up short, I wonder where I was taught that I was expected to have them. I don’t, and that seems to be okay.

The church that I love was built on people who had encounters with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and walked away changed. Some of them spent the rest of their lives trying to explain it, and still they came up short. Because our God is a God beyond even our most wildly good imaginations. Because our God cannot be confined by our thoughts and words. Because it is a Holy Mystery and isn’t that amazing?

I am studying for Early Christian Thought, and I am being freed from the chains of my own making. I do not have to have it all figured out. God can build the church on my meager understanding. These words that come up short, the deeds, even the imaginings that are not as big as God, are received as imperfect bricks, that God can make a beautiful cathedral from. One that can last forever.

How? I don’t know. But I can bring you to it. Show it to you. You can experience Jesus. You can experience the Holy Spirit. It is a holy mystery, beyond all understanding. Isn’t beautiful?

What if I am Remembering Wrong?

Today I am writing for the mudroom about how I am learning to re-remember events into a truer version of myself. My friend from school called herself “a little extra” and then said “who doesn’t want a little extra” and suddenly all of my am I too much shame just melted away. I told my sister this. She told me I might be a whole buy one get one. I told her “you are welcome” if there is a person in this world who can resist I buy one get one deal, I sure haven’t met them. Anyway, I love this post.

The first time I ever remember feeling shame for who I was, I was in early elementary school. My sisters and I were playing some wild game where we were all running around the house screaming. Or was it just me? Was I the only one out of control? (These are the questions my memory asks me.) Anyway, I was yelling. Not angry or scary or mean, just yelling because it was after school and we were playing. My oldest sister’s best friend came down the street and into our home to hang out like she always did. Only this time, she wasn’t alone. Her little cousin, just a few years older than me, was with her.

According to my memory I shouted very loudly at him. HELLO!!! According to my memory he bolted. I probably got my child face a little too close to his child face. I probably was not controlling my volume. (I still struggle with that.) My sister’s friend and my sister went searching through the neighborhood looking for this poor frightened boy. I went to my room and cried. I had ruined everything. I had scared this boy. He was going to be lost forever and this was ALL MY FAULT. If I could just be calmer. If I could just be quieter. If I could just be smaller some how, this would all be okay.

Read the Rest Here.