Thankful Doesn’t Cover It

Thanksgiving has always been a big thing in our family. Growing up, we used to travel to our grandparents’ house on Thursday morning at stay at least until Friday afternoon. Our time would be filled with making the big meal Thursday complete with family favorites like a relish tray, celery and cheese, deviled eggs and grandma’s famous (to us) noodles. We’d eat and talk and laugh. The three of us girls would rotate through out turn of helping with the dishes (no new-fangled dishwasher for grandma!). We’d play cards, watch movies, nap, and eventually after what seemed like forever it would be time for dessert. I loved those days, surrounded by family, in grandma’s overly warm home, full of joy.

The early years included overnights. We’d sleep on the pull out couches or in the mobile home. There’d be popcorn and diet rite or RC cola. The adults would play cards into the wee hours and things just seemed perfect. The next morning I’d wake up to sounds of grandma in the kitchen. I’d peek through the keyhole in the door to the kitchen knowing she didn’t yet want company as she whisked up something for breakfast. Often times there’d be biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon or sometimes even sweet rolls. I’m sure everyone feels similarly but no one could cook like grandma.

Eventually this tradition changed. Grandma got older and hosting Thanksgiving wasn’t as easy for her any more so we began having it at our house. Usually our grandparents would spend the night but after a few years being away from home overnight, and having to walk up and down the steps became too much for them. There have been a few years that our grandparents didn’t come for Thanksgiving. It was heartbreaking in some ways but a reality that as you get older traditions change.

Last year still felt like Thanksgiving even though Mom was already at Greenwood Village. We weren’t sure how long she’d hold on, so Stacey and Josh flew in and were here for about a week. We were able to keep some of our traditions alive even though it wasn’t exactly the same. And we all could sense the shift that would happen in 2017. In some ways, I’d been dreading yesterday ever since Thanksgiving 2016.

Being an extrovert I often need to be around people. Not in the sense of crowds (I avoid the mall this time of year like the plague!) but in the sense of having noise, laughter, and love surrounding me. So thinking about Thanksgiving as just Shelly, Dad and I was a little disheartening. I love them dearly but there is always an ache in my soul for the togetherness I felt in a group of 7 when were were growing up. So I was excited when friends of ours invited us to share Thanksgiving with their family. Dad was hesitant, partially because they are closer to Shelly and me, but I think also because any way we celebrated this year would have felt off merely because it was different and Mom wasn’t there.

So we trekked over yesterday afternoon with our food contributions in tow. We shared in a beautiful reading of a poem/prayer one of them had written that spoke directly to my soul. And then we ate. Some things were traditional, some things were probably traditional for this family, and some things were our traditions. All those foods together. The three of us sat in the dining room, not purposefully away from everyone else, but separated. Slowly a few others joined us as they finished filling their plates and it felt comfortable–though there were a few moments I thought we may have been the only three in the dining room. And as people finished their food, others made their way in to talk, and laugh, (and beg for dessert). Dishes washing and clean up commenced and people rotated in and out to help get everything accomplished.

We took two cars with us. I think Dad figured he may have left earlier than Shelly and I. But we played games all afternoon and evening and none of us left until about 9:30. And it was good. We didn’t feel like we had to stay, we wanted to. It felt good, and comfortable, and different but…perfect at the same time. New traditions can be hard. They come with heartache as we remember those who aren’t with us. And they make us change. But I think new traditions can be good. They help us remember there are friends and family surrounding us who care an awful lot. We aren’t alone. And for that, I am thankful. But really–I am so much more–thankful just doesn’t seem to cover all of the joy I have in my heart and the smile I had on my face waking up this morning.

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving filled with love, surrounded by people dear to your heart, and full of good food.

Love and Light (and Pie!)

–S

We Have a Choice

Sometimes I forget.  I forget that no matter what is going on around me that I make choices each and every day.  Some happen without conscious effort (yep, I’m making a choice to breathe).  Some happen with a little more intention (yes, I brushed my teeth this morning before heading out the door).  And still some others take more effort (I very intentionally smile when I see people who I imagine don’t get greeted that way often by someone: -young -white -female -or any combination of those).

If life has taught me anything thus far, it’s that you shouldn’t waste your time on the negative.  Sure, we need to learn from our mistakes (or the mistakes of others).  But I am trying to be an agent of positivity.  I can’t change everything, but I can actively try to change my perspective, my quick-responses, and my contribution to the conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, I am bound to still grumble and complain (sorry Shelly and best friends–you’ll still hear it).  But I am really going to put in the extra effort to see the positive in every situation–or at least as often as a possibly can.  And even the negativity creeps in, that’s okay.  I just will force myself to find the silver lining.  It won’t be easy.  I won’t always succeed.  But I am going to try.  My dad always told me to “be kind”.  So much so he got my sisters and I bracelets that year that have those words stamped on them.  It’s like his own mantra of shared wisdom.

I am okay knowing I won’t always agree with what is going on around me whether directly in my life, or out in the world we live in.  Here’s hoping my positive outlook can help spread joy, share love, and brighten lives.  Every little bit helps.  And I am convinced that trying to remain positive will improve me.

Love and light, –S

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–Norman Vincent Peale

Story Time

I’m in the middle of creating a retreat for my middle and high school aged youth.  We do this retreat every year.  A retreat in January to start our prep work for Youth Sunday.  This will be my 7th January Retreat, none of the youth who were on that trip are still in our youth group, they’ve all graduated.  Even though I’ve led this retreat 7 times, I only started shaking things up two years ago.  I decided to do a completely new take on prayer stations that year.  And last year we didn’t even have prayer stations–I wanted my youth to think outside of the box.  And the exceeded my expectations with their creativity for their service.  I shed tears of joy for sure.tim-obrien.jpg

This year is going to be even different.  I see part of my role as their youth minister as one who continually challenges them, gives them space to think and question, and support them through their discernment through faith and through life.  And so new things are incorporated into traditions in order to keep them creative and fresh.

SPOILER ALERT:  Part of this change in an introduction to faith stories.  I am SUPER excited about this.  I’m not sure how it will be received by my youth, but it will cause them to think if nothing else.  To me, stories are important, and I think that starts with our young people.

Retreat is MLK weekend.  I’m sure I’ll have an update of how it goes.

–Peace be the Journey–

Sermonizing

Preaching is definitely not something that comes easily to me.  I love the prep work that goes along with creating a sermon (okay, religion nerd here) but the delivery and topic choice is not something that I can do on the fly.  It takes me months to get ready.  This is why I’m thankful when my boss gives me lots of advanced notice when he has a date available for me to preach.  Here’s a little of what my process looks like:

  1. It starts with prayer.  Prayer is often where I start in many things in my life.  It’s how I start my day, it’s how I start my meals, it’s how I start figuring out major decisions in my life, and it’s how I start my sermons.  I ask God for direction, to help me identify a starting point: maybe a theme, maybe a title, maybe a scripture.  It may start with prayer but that doesn’t complete the role of prayer.  It continues all the way through to me thanking God for a successful sharing of my sermon.
  2. Next is the scripture.  I am of the opinion that scripture is the driving force behind a sermon.  Sure, you may be addressing world events, or happenings within your congregation.  But the scripture is what helps you determine how to approach those occurrences.  After the scripture(s) is(are) selected, I dig into it.  What does it say to me?  What is the time and place of the scripture?  What do I remember from my Religion Course in college about this time, place and scripture?  What words pop off of the page elements I need to pay attention to as I write and preach?
  3. And then I write.  Sometimes this is just to get basic ideas on paper.  It may end up being stream of consciousness that I later pare down.  It could be well developed paragraphs, or stories, or other pieces that I want to research more.
  4. I write, and edit, and move things around.  This part of the process means the sermon takes lots of different forms.  I print my initial draft, mark it up with a colorful pen.  And then go back to the electronic copy to make the changes.  And then I print that copy, mark it up, and the process continues through that cycle 3-4 times.  I read it out loud, and I read it in my head, and sometimes I have someone else read it too.  And then I get to the “final draft” or the draft that gets used on Sunday morning.

If you are interested in hearing this week’s sermon, you can follow the link below.  I really enjoyed this week’s sermon.  I was able to add elements that shook things up a little (children reading scripture, and video faith talks, and car talk talk back questions).  I’m thankful for a community that allows me to share with them, one that offers supportive high-fives and hugs, and one that laughs with me when I totally botch the Proclamation of the Good News after sharing communion.  Listen Here Feel free to let me know what you think.

This I Believe

In anticipation of my sermon, here is a list of things I believe…

  1. I believe that nature is healing to the soul and I don’t feel whole when I haven’t surrounded myself with it enough.
  2. I believe that my life is better because of my faith and my faith communities over the years.
  3. I believe a good cup of tea can cure most things–whether physical or emotional.
  4. I believe in all people–that they generally have good intentions, that they deserve respect, and I care about their happiness. This also means that I care deeply when people prove me wrong on this or when others are unhappy.
  5. I believe crafting is the best stress relief and that I can make most things I see.
  6. I believe my family is the most important closely followed by my friends who are family. I may keep my circle small but I do have people who care for me deeply.

Shades.

It’s been a little difficult getting back into writing.  I love it, it’s therapeutic, and I always feel better on the other side of having hit “publish”.  But time has been a little difficult.  I find myself with way too many ideas, that is never an issue.  But not the opportune time to sit, grab coffee or tea, and just spew onto the page (screen?).  I guess I need to start carrying a bigger purse and tote with me a Common Place Journal.  Duly (and truly) noted.

As October ends and November begins, I get chills–we will start marking our grief in years.  Sunday, though it was still in October, started a flow of really difficult times ahead.  I have the opportunity to preach for my congregation on November 5th.  That’s the traditional date to celebrate All Saints’ Day (the first Sunday after Halloween).  But as a requirement to my preaching, I told my boss that we would have to celebrate ASD a week early.  I just didn’t think I could handle preaching on that day.  He graciously obliged and here we are.  So we stood when mom’s name was read on Sunday in remembrance.  All three of us, right in a row, with clasped hands and Kleenex at the ready.  There were tears, there were hand squeezes and hugs from friends.

I’m tied to dates.  Heavily so.  I take stock in time and place and catalog it all away.  So November will be hard; really, really hard.  One year since she went to the ER.  One year since she went to GVS.  One year since it all started and she didn’t come back.  One. Year.  And then you throw in Thanksgiving, one of our family’s favorite holidays.  And you throw in her birthday directly after, and it’s a lot.  Needless to say, I’m taking a couple extra days in November–for me as much as for anyone else.  Because, as I become more and more aware, grief is a process.

I handle the grief surprisingly well.  Most days I can hold it close to me and find the light in the moments of dark.  But other times the tears fall–I’m not afraid of the tears, it’s okay, crying is healing for me.  I just don’t like the public tears.  I appreciate the raw emotion, and being able to share my vulnerability with my closest friends.  But my grief in spotlight is not something I enjoy.  (Maybe that’s a part of why this post in particular is so difficult–but necessary).

Thankfully I have friends who understand, and those who empathize when they can’t quite understand.  Friends who hug, and laugh, and ask the tough questions.  The friend who has seen me cry time and time and time again at lunches at restaurants (there are still more to come).  The friend who tentatively asked me if I’d be willing to discuss hospice with her as she felt it may be necessary for her own parent (we both cried for that one).  The friend who empathized for a long time and now is travelling her own journey with a parent with unknown health outcomes.  The friend who searches for glimpses of mom, in our lives and in her own life, and pushes us to feel Mom’s presence around us.  The friend who creates space and brings light through her understanding of many of my worlds as they collide–as she said to me last week “There is just something about OWU friends…”  The friend who; though she lives in a different state; prays for me constantly, is my rock, and has been there since the beginning–us sobbing under the table (discussing mom’s diagnosis) at her husband’s 21st birthday will always have a bittersweet place in my heart.  I am thankful for these and more–many people have held and continue to hold me up.

I feel my grief in shades of purple.  Today I’m a light lavender, tomorrow may come in more of an eggplant.  I’m sure that things will never be pure white again–though who knows if they were ever more than off-white to start with.  But I am thankful for the shades; they remind me of my strength, my love for my mom, and for reality in life’s ebb and flow.  Without the “bad” would we ever truly appreciate the “good”?