Lessons from Doing the Dishes

If Martha and Peter had a child it would probably be me. The busyness of Martha mixed with the raw overexcitement of Peter produces an eager to please Christian. I spiritually grew believing I needed to do amazing things for Jesus. And through passport stamps for mission trips, snowed-in church retreats, speaking opportunities in front of hundreds, and other instagram worthy moments I realized I didn't KNOW God. I didn't KNOW what He thought of ME. I didn't know how to connect with Him. I didn't know how to be still. I didn't know how to pause. I knew how to jump out of a metaphysical airplane for Jesus. I knew how to give away my car to a stranger for Jesus. BUT I DID NOT KNOW JESUS.

God called my fresh husband and I to live a lonely, boring life for the first year and a half of our marriage. We moved to a boring state. We lived a boring 9-5 kind of life. And I grew to learn that this "boring" life was actually a quiet life.

A quiet life led me to figure out that I needed those times of doing mundane things to have a quiet moment with my God. To ask Him how He thinks I'm doing. To seek what He is valuing for my life. To learn how to pray better. To love the little moments as much as the big moments.

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Dear Child of Divorce

Go to my mom’s house on Christmas Eve -- or any holiday, really. You’ll be hugged by more than one stranger and handed a glass of wine that won’t likely find itself empty the duration of the visit. You’ll smell something that must’ve been simmering for hours in a narrow kitchen lined with people and a dog named Jack contently lying among the many feet that contently maneuver around him. You will make your way, eventually after you’ve sat down your contribution to the evenings wine supply and haphazardly taken off your coat, to the living room where the rest of the guests have spilled over onto couches and are talking or not talking over music you might just start to dance to.

The ones who kissed and hugged you as you rambled your way through are all family. My dad will be there, with his wife of 3 years. My mom will be there, too, with her husband of 16. My mom’s side of the family makes up most of the bunch. My half sister from my dad’s side is there, too, with my wild and sweetest nephew. Her mom and her stepdad are there, too in the mix of it all along with my step dad, Alan’s family. It’s a hoot … and quite a lot for most people to wrap their minds around when they first attend a family function of ours. Have I mentioned the wine?

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Confessions of a Former Racist

I remember the first time I learned the word racist. It’s not a word I learned at home, from my friends, or from TV. I was in fifth grade and I was getting reprimanded by my teacher for making a derogatory joke towards a black classmate. A joke that I had no idea was wrong. I was just annoyed with the girl and told the joke to get back at her. I assumed acting out of anger was where I went wrong, but it never crossed my mind that using the color of her skin as the butt of a joke was the real problem. That day, I still maintained that I wasn’t a racist. After all, my best friend at my old school was a black Muslim, which had to count for something, right?

I grew up in a Christian home. I was taught to be kind to people and “be a light”, but it still took eleven years for me to learn that there was a word for viewing people who were different from you as lesser than. Yes, I grew up Christian, but I also grew up in a family of law enforcement and civil servants, so I learned from an early age who “bad people” were and furthermore, what they typically looked like. I quickly learned that there were people like us and people like them. I learned all the slurs used by cops and firemen, but it was ok because they “see so much” and regular people just didn’t understand. (Now, in no way do I want to discount the intensity of these jobs or attack the people doing them. They do see a lot and they do work incredibly hard to keep us safe, and the ones who do their jobs responsibly and ethically deserve our thanks. I still hold a great deal of love in my heart for these family members.)

See, we were raised to be nice to people, but racist jokes flew through our family simultaneously. We were taught that there were things you just didn’t say “outside the home” because we needed to show the love of Christ. But while we were at home, we all had an understanding. After all, we knew deep down that none of us were “actual racists”, but other people just wouldn’t get that. My mom didn’t love the jokes.

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Finding God in a Pagan Practice

In other parts of the country, yoga is seen as apostasy—twisting and folding into ancient shapes with Sanskrit names that honor pagan gods or invite untested spirits. I’ve watched evangelicals share online articles that denounce the dangers of yoga or the perils of meditation, but not here in Berkeley. Out on the left coast, we’re a little more flexible.

How hard could it be? I think. I can stretch for an hour.

Turns out yoga does not equal stretching.

I enter a room full of humans splayed out on colorful strips of spongy rubber. I hear one exhale a moan and see another on her back with her legs spread open, hands on her feet. There’s a bench in the front with a small stack of books and a large golden bowl that sits on a pillow. They are tools of the trade, but they seem out of place. I don’t see the connection between body and mind. I’d never been told that a bowl could sing.

I feel a bit out of place as I pick up a green mat and find a spot in the back, near a stack of foam blocks. The class quiets down as the instructor walks forward, the sleeves of her sweater falling softly behind.

My first class starts like most classes — in child’s pose. Knees to the mat, sit bones resting on heels, belly folded to thighs like a compressed spring. This first pose is supposed to be passive and familiar, a place of resting and ease, but during my first foray into yoga, everything feels foreign.

I’m told to find and focus on my breath like it’s gone missing. I think that’s sort of funny until I realize that it’s true — that I spend most of my day only half in my body and that the depths of my lungs are rarely put to use.

In the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the Spirit of God is characterized as a wind or breath, as the ruach within that bears witness alongside the nefesh of life, the breath of the human. These two words delineate in Hebrew what we blend in English, the breath where all of our power comes from, all of our life on all of its levels.

“Yoga is not about doing it right,” says the instructor. Every other instructor I will ever have will say the same thing, but my first time on a mat, getting it right is all I can think about. I don’t know any of the poses or how they connect. I’m not sure what a flow is, but I can tell that I’m not in one. I spend most of my time watching other students bend and glide and cycle with ease as I fake my way through. My arms flail, my hips are tight, and my legs are shaky. I make it through class wondering if I’ve actually done yoga at all.

For years after that first class, yoga will be something that I do randomly to relax or socially to connect. I’ll go to yoga the way that some people go to church — when I’m invited or when I feel like it, but only if it fits into my life. It will be a persona I try on, but not a practice that I own.

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Calling My Dad on Valentine's Day

My pastor shared that his son came down for breakfast and gave him a hug saying “Happy Valentine’s Day Dad,” My pastor was taken back by this impromptu sincerity from his teenager.

His son continued, “I love you. And I know I don’t say it enough, but I really love you.”

My heart swelled hearing this.

I wanted to call my dad a few states away and share the sentiment.

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Content and Full

I've woken up with guilt far too many times these past few months. It aches in the morning when I'm the most empty and susceptible to the fear that enough will be forever out of reach. Guilt is a menace. Sometimes it's good, and perhaps we'd name that sort conviction. But the menacing kind can turn the best of things, blessings, into something that torments us. 

I love our home. Christmas just passed and I sat on our pillowy couch with my big, pregnant belly and looked at the tree: full and beautiful, prettily wrapped gifts nestled underneath. Essential oils buzzed in a diffuser on a bookcase full of books, making the whole place feel and smell like home. I sipped my favorite coffee from a treasured mug that came from a place we had the privilege of traveling to. From where I sit, life is full. I breathe in contentment and breathe out joy ... for a moment. The moment, the perfectness of it is ruined by creeping guilt. 

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Mom, I Deleted my Book

I started writing when I was about ten years old. It was a hobby, a delight, a slowly-forming dream. Like a little tree, it rooted and grew branches, blooming and producing fruit. I climbed high in that tree, exploring different places to sit and watch the sunrise. Sometimes I felt guilty sitting there. I could feel people watching me as they passed, their heads bent backward, the word “idle” tickling their tongues.

College started. I sank back against the tree trunk. The word “idle” dusted my brain and tapped its toes impatiently. Still, I wrote, trying to believe that there was a point to the wordy mess. Guilt hovered over me like a specter.

“See a need, fill a need,” it shouted at me. Its sharp finger drilled into my chest, pushing me backward. “See the need? See the lost, the hurting, the ones who’ve never heard a word of the Gospel? Stop climbing the tree.”

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Deny, Embrace, and Blame, or Choose to Grow

Denying who you are or how you’re put together is a recipe for repressed emotions and hidden resentment. It’s also a disservice to who and how you were made to be. 

Embracing a lens can go one of two ways: It can develop a positive appreciation in you for the way in which you see the world, or it can leave you limited. 

Blaming your predisposition is where you can really get into trouble. To say that I’m temperamental because I’m a Four and that’s just the way I am is the opposite of compassionate. And sitting in my own melancholy without any real reason removes me from a world in which I could make an actual impact.

Using your typology for growth is where it gets good.

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Christmas Confessions of a Pastor's Wife

Sparkly lights on evergreen trees flood my social media feeds even before Turkey Day. My community is so anticipatory of the Christmas Magic that they post gleefully about listening to holiday albums and watching Christmas movies before December even arrives. They are ready. They are jubilant!  I am hesitant. I am weary.

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It's Just Not Christmas

I’m doing all the right things. Christmas music is playing and Michael Bublé & Pentatonix are serenading the season into existence. Christmas cookies have been made and shared. The work holiday party has been attended. Warm lights line the house and a distinct smell of peppermint and pine bloom in the air.

But it’s just not Christmas.

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