Forty Years…

I would not be me if dates didn’t hold a special place in my heart. We had plans, or maybe just I did, about the celebration we’d have today. The guest list, the food, the decorations, the sharing of stories, the photos. But sometimes things change. Something happens and we have to set a new course, or change our goal. And so the magical dream in my head of celebrating my parents’ 40th anniversary went away. I packed up the ideas and the imaginings and put them in deep storage where they’ve remained untouched, until today.

It seems strange to celebrate without her here, and so I’ve held myself from wishing my dad “happy anniversary”. But in actuality I am sad for the years they have been cheated; it’s a strange sensation because it’s not even emotions about me.

I am thankful for my parents, their relationship , and how they raised me. And I am thankful for the realness, for the beautiful, and for the messy and difficult that comes with any marriage.

So here is to my parents on their 40th wedding anniversary. Thank you for your wisdom, your love, and your endless support. I am proud to have both of you to guide and teach me along the way. You may not be perfect, but you have proved to me that with the right person you can work through anything. And that love, true love, is everlasting.

I am Woman….

You may know the song.  But after last weekend, I’d rather end that opening title with ” hear me squeal like Richard Simmons”.  Just some Richard Simmons

We had our first Women’s Retreat last weekend, our church hasn’t had one for maybe ten or so years?  It’s hard to say because they haven’t had one since I have been working here (and I start my 8th year in October!).  I was a little nervous going into the weekend, you never know when you get together a new group of people exactly how they will interact and get along.  But I was blown away by the openness, grace, laughter, and support that came out of the weekend.

I organized the event, but in order to give me the opportunity to get as much as other participants from the retreat, we opted for an outside facilitator.  It was easy for me to figure out who I wanted to lead us.  My friend Anne , is a certified retreat leader.  I have attended many retreats that she used to lead for youth and knew how refreshing it would be to have her in the space, guiding us.  She and I met, talked about what I hoped for participants, and came up with a loose framework.  She sent me the outlines along the way to make sure she was on the right path, but admittedly, I was tentative in reading them, not wanting to “ruin” my own experience.

She created wonderful opportunities for us as we delved into the landscapes of our lives and how they are woven together.  There was time for self-reflection (something I don’t do enough), paired sharing, and group discussion.  There was time for creativity, time for laughter, movie views, singing (wow, these ladies have amazing voices), and yes even time to Sweat to the Oldies. 🙂

I didn’t know everyone on this retreat well.  But I came away with a deeper sense of each one of them.  There is a kindredness that this time together created among us, that was surely something I didn’t anticipate.  But I am so thankful for it.  I can only hope that the other ladies got as much from the weekend as I did.  I am hopeful that it becomes an annual tradition because it is something I am already looking forward to for next year.

For me there is strength found in connections.  But more than that, there is an unexplained strength in women coming together as a group.  We find solace, support, identification, and listening in a way not found by any other group.  And I covet this time, in a world that so often tears people apart, leaves them alone, tells us we are not good enough.

As I drove to work this morning, and this post was spinning around in my head, I was listening to one of my favorite Sara Bareilles songs.  It’s from the musical, Waitress.  Some of the words really spoke to me:

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.

Aren’t we all a few of those things?  Haven’t we all felt that way, at some point?  I heard stories this weekend of failure, hurt, disappointment, struggle, and sadness.  But what I learned was those were only pieces of the stories–because in failure, there was success; in hurt, their was healing; in disappointment, there was pride; in struggle, there was perseverance; and in sadness, there was joy.  Maybe not immediately, maybe not always, but it was there.  And there is now this group of women that can remind us to keep our head up.  We are women, hear us ROAR.

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It’s as If We Never Said…Goodbye

Yesterday was our last worship service at our old building. It seems surreal to call it our “old building”. But that’s what it is. There were many emotions in the room, people are in different places in their hearts and minds when they think about our transition and journey forward. I had a few tears as we were blessing our communion table, mostly because I was looking into the eyes of others who were crying. I am excited about the future.

I had to stop by the old building to pick up some things from the nursery. No one else as there. Most things we are taking are already gone. It was a little bit of a shock, a punch to the gut. But, it will always feel like home. In some ways at least. It’s just like good friends you haven’t seen in a while–you always pick back up where you left off. Except in this case our ministry continues–just in a new locale.

So I knew I’d want some sort of memory of the place. I didn’t take one yesterday, so I got a selfie this morning.

It’s perfect and will help me remember. A song from Sunset Boulevard has been running through my head all day. Our show choir sang it one year (with slight alterations).

I don’t know why I’m frightened, I know my way around here, The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here. Yes, a world to rediscover, But I’m not in any hurry, And I need a moment. The whispered conversations In overcrowded hallways. The atmosphere is thrilling here as always. Feel the early morning madness. Feel the magic in the making. Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye. And this time will be bigger. And brighter than we knew it, So watch me fly, we all know I can do it.

It’s a reminder to me that the important pieces of who we are have not been lost. We are strong, we are resilient, we are community. And I believe that is enough. So it was very humbling and inspiring to have our new signage greet me first thing this morning on our office building and door. Because this is who we are and where we are and the present and the future are bright.

Read a Book, Read a Book

My parents always had a rule: if you are going to read, you can stay up later. I think it was a ploy to keep us reading, and learning. Plus they both loved the written word. I don’t remember taking advantage of that rule (perk really) as much as my two sisters. And somewhere along the line my love of reading turned into a love of the spoken word (I love audio books and NPR). I’d find myself trying to read and dozing off, or getting distracted by the gobs of other things I needed to be doing at any given point. I have bookshelves full of booms I haven’t gotten around to reading. And often times I have three or four started at one time.

One of my friends told me about the Book of the Month club. It’s one of those subscription box type services where they let you choose one hard back book from a short list each month for only $9.99 (that’s one easy payment). Even though my love for reading has waned, I wanted to give it a try. And by using her link I got a second book free! To my joy one of the books was set in Appalachia (😍) and the other was written in the style of Agatha Christie. Less than a week after getting my books, I’ve finished the first and have started the second. I am feeling pretty accomplished.

I may have found my way back into the love of books, and to Shelly’s awe I’m sure, perhaps back into the love of fiction (because I’ve been a non-fiction fangirl for a long while). Here’s hoping I can keep this book reading alive. And if you are interested in trying BOTM, here’s my link: https://www.mybotm.com/bp5npb18ikk

That’s Church to Me

If you’ve been around me at all the last two years you haven’t been able to escape a discussion on transitions happening at work and our congregation’s decision to relocate. There have been many God moments throughout this process and though pieces feel daunting there is a lot of excitement. This move, once merely on the horizon, is now close within reach and I have been thinking a lot about our temporary/transitional years and what that means as we define or redefine our community. Church will look different. Worship will look different. Fellowship and service work and meetings and, and, and; will look different.

But through all of that we will still be Church, we will still be Community. So what does community mean? What makes a church a church? I did an activity with my kids during Sunday school last week that helped them think about the similarities of our existence when we are in a temp space. I hope it was reassuring for them. And part of that exercise asked them to think about community in creative ways. Here is my list of what church is:

  1. Church is a movement. It’s taking a stand for the things we believe in and trying to live our lives the way Jesus lived his.
  2. Church is family. Not everyone always gets along but there are certain things that unify us. And we love and support each other even when we disagree.
  3. Church is helping others. It’s about giving back in whatever way we can because we aren’t alone in this crazy world, and we all need help in some form or fashion.
  4. Church is all generations growing and learning from one another. Everyone is important and every has something to teach and something to learn.
  • That’s church to me. At the heart it is all about the people and living our lives following in the footsteps of Jesus. We aren’t perfect, we are human. We fail, and we make mistakes, and sometimes we get it wrong. But we keep trying, we keep working, we keep going. Because we know what church means to us.
  • A Crazy Month

    I haven’t posted in a little over a month. I’ve missed writing, but I have a long list of reason why it hasn’t happened. I’ve had ideas flood my head but just haven’t made it a priority to sit down and write them out. That’s on me. But I am hopeful to get back into a routine, to again make this blog a part of my self-care and my goal of being honest with the world.

    It’s been a long and tumultuous month. There have been ups and downs, both in major and in small ways. I haven’t handled it all the most gracefully, but there is something to be said for bouts of messiness in ones life; in a strange way I think it makes living all the more real.

    We had our annual Camp at the beginning of June. I was hesitant and tentative about this year. After 20+ years we decided that we needed to function out of a new site. This was more than two years in the making. It wasn’t an easy decision, not everyone was happy about it, and I am forever grateful to the long hours and diligent work our Camp Team put in behind the scenes. But the hard work and dedication of all involved truly paid off. We had a wonderful week at Pine Creek Camp. It quickly felt like home. And it was wonderful to fully embrace and feel the idea that Camp; much like Church; isn’t about the place, it’s about the people.

    Fast-forward two weeks to a death in the family. This provided me the opportunity to reach out to my grandfather who has distanced himself from me over the last two years. It started positively, and I was so hopeful that we had turned a corner. I remembered fond times spent together as a family. And that was enough. However, it wasn’t long lived. I’ve come to realize that people need to live in their own realities, whether true or not. There isn’t anything that I can do to convince them otherwise, and I am tired of trying. I’m a strong believer in honesty and compromise. So I wrote a letter, sent it, and gave myself the gift of closure.

    Sometimes it seems strange sharing pieces of my life like the one above. Because it gives away a little more of myself than I’d normal like to do. But I think there is a power in stories, in shared stories, in understanding where people are coming from and so I share, not always the entire story but the parts that feel right. Life is complicated and intricate–in wonderfully beautiful and awfully tragic ways. Today I am thankful for my experiences and how they have made me who I am. There’s a lot of hurt in this girl, but also a lot of strength.

    I also have to brag that the same week that my dad’s cousin died my Middle School youth spent three days volunteering in the community where our church is moving. They worked at a food pantry, helped with games at a senior center, and did a work project at the Elementary School that will serve as our temporary home on Sunday mornings. Not everything went according to plan, by my kids worked through some hard lessons that were out of our control. #proudmommoment #notamom #proudYM

    And now my High School youth head off to their mission trip tomorrow! And that closes out my month.

    Training Them Up

    The school year is coming to a close. Students have finals, papers, tests, projects, and presentations. They have yearbooks ready to be signed and teacher gifts ready to be given. Many of them have plans for summer trips/camps/activities/visits/fun. Unlike most years, this year has given me great pause. It’s reminded me how lucky I am to be doing what I do. How amazing the young people are that surround me. And, if you know anything about me, I get teary.

    As this class of juniors is on the brink of becoming <<gulp>> seniors I have thought about what that means to me and my ministry. Each year at Southport CC (now Tapestry Church) I get to know the children and youth a little better. They grow and develop, and or shared time together increases. I learn about their quirks, their goals, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, and I get to see their faith develop, evolve and transform. That last piece is definitely my favorite (faith nerd alert).

    Next year will be the first year I will see a group of my kiddos graduate who I first had in Elementary school. Those Seniors were in 5th grade when I started. And though the group has changed slightly in terms of member composition over the years, they are a core, tightly knit group. And I am unbelievably proud of them, each for their own accomplishments and how they hold each other up.

    All of this makes me think further. How will it feel when the next group, and the next group and so on? What about when the kids who were in 1st grade when I started graduated? What about the kids who were in preschool? It’s just incomprehensible to me. And I know the more years I have shared with these young people, the harder it will be to send them off to college or work or whatever the next stage of their journey is. It’s very humbling. And it makes me want to take hold of all of them and never let go.

    I guess the true “test” is seeing the ones who have come back after college. That is heartwarming in so many ways. I am feeling very fulfilled, and gracious for the experience God has provided through my call.

    I Walk for Her

    I have been on a physical journey. Since December I have been making an effort to work out as much as possible. Some days are better than others. After our Spring Break trip up until a few weeks ago I was pretty lazy. I’d fallen back into bad habits. I’m not beating myself up about it, but I know I feel better when I’m working out.


    I have a friend, Anne, who is on a journey. In several weeks she will travel to Spain with a group of people and will walk portions of the Camino de Santiago. It’s a once in a lifetime type of trip, and so I am so very excited for her. By chance, one of the movies my youth watched at their January Retreat this year told the story of a father walking the Camino. The movie was an easy recommendation in preparation of her own time on the trail.

    Anne and I had dinner this week, caught up, laughed, shared good news, planned for a retreat and were present for one another. Part of this included an update of her prep for her trek. I have a huge goal of one day hiking the AT. I know it is lofty, but even hiking part of the AT would be an accomplishment for me. So, as I was driving home from dinner I felt myself beginning to live vicariously through Anne. So why not journey with her? I’m a strong believer in the power of prayer. When I was in high school we used to have prayer partners for our mission trip and other retreats. I do similar things for my youth now.

    When Anne is traveling the trail, I am going to travel with and pray for her. I have a copy of her itinerary, and an approximation of how many miles she will be walking each day. And I am going to try my hardest to walk just as many miles. This may not always happen, but I think I may just have an end goal of walking the same total miles she walks for the entire time she is gone. For example, I can walk on the days she is in flight. She has been present for me. And so I will be present for her. Each day of her trip I will walk with her. Each day of her trip I will pray for her. Each day I will say a special blessing, “May your feet be sure and your heart be strong. Bless this road and all the roads ahead. Amen.”

    “I only say inappropriate things around you…”

    Mother’s Day always brings the list of “those who raised you” or “those who helped you grow” and “aunts, sisters, mentors” types of shout outs in order to include all women into the celebration. It’s wonderful, but it still hurts as I feel I shouldn’t be honoring anyone other than my mother. But this year is different. I am making a shout out to someone very special, and I know in no way does it diminish my relationship with my own mom.


    When I was in college I had the opportunity to join a sorority. I’m not sure what initially drew me in other than I knew several of the women from the chapter. In true Shannon form, I blossomed in the chapter, getting involved and making people laugh and being my generally outgoing self. But one relationship took hold very quickly.

    When the sorority houses were reestablished in Delaware, OH, there were laws against a certain number of women living under the same roof together (oh, anti-brothel laws). So the houses were meeting houses and didn’t accommodate sleeping areas. Most of the houses didn’t have traditional House Mothers as there wasn’t much to look out for as the homes were not used 24/7. But our chapter still had a House Mom. Enter Sonya.

    I’m not sure what it was that first made us click. Maybe it was our silliness, the fact that I’d always stop by to chat when I was in the house, or perhaps it was my care. I don’t know. But we quickly became good friends and she has since been a constant in my life. She hasn’t always had it easy, though. But somehow she still has a strong faith. She is one of the most thoughtful, spirited, and “beat to your own drum” people I have ever met. She gives what she has to others, often times even before she gives to herself.

    Everyone in the house calls her “Mom”. This is true to the point that most people don’t even know her first name. She is small in stature but rich in love. She is an excellent baker, and wonderful friend, she makes me crack up like no one else can (especially when talking about things that some would consider taboo). Somehow I have a knack for making unlikely people come out of their shell. I don’t know how or why, but it has happened several times in my life.

    My college experience would not be the same without this woman in my life. She’s seen me laugh so hard I can’t breathe, she’s seen me cry and cry and cry, she’s given me numerous hugs and unlimited advice, she has inspired me to always keep family at the forefront even when it is difficult. She is a blessing.

    When my own mama got sick, she sent cards and talked to me on the phone. When my mama passed, I couldn’t call her. I texted and asked one of my other sorority sisters to let Sonya know my mom had passed. I literally couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and say “Hi, Mom,” because my mom wasn’t hear physically anymore. It took several months before I could do it. And the first time I called all I said was “hi”. But she was there with a reassuring word and lots of love. I am thankful for her friendship and her co tinier presence in my life. I love you, Sonya. Happy Mother’s Day.

    Lessons from Ruth

    There are certain books of the Bible that just resonate with me. Not because I’ve heard the stories one too many times, but because there is a deeper learning that has happened or a unique connection to my life. The book of Ruth is one of those for me. As I was driving home late tonight from an event with my youth, I was thinking about tomorrow and what I might write. I started getting teary as I really thought about my mom, missing her, wanting to share things with her, and wishing I could give her the annual flowers that were my Mother’s Day gift tradition. I thought about the list I wrote for her when she was at GWV of all of the ways that I would remember her.

    I think she is the Ruth to my Naomi. One of my favorite verses is Ruth 1:16–“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” NLT. Over and over my mom and I talked about her presence in my life, and her continuing spirit being with me, with each of us. To me, this verse embodies that sentiment. It helps me remember and connect. It helps ground me in the here and now. It helps me to move forward.

    It’s short and sweet tonight. I love you mama, always and forever. Happy Mother’s Day to the best a girl could ask for. I miss you much but am thankful to see you each and everyday in glimpses, brief or extended.