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.

Active Listening

This may be one of the hardest blog posts I’ve written. Not because the subject is difficult, but because speaking this into being is scary and intimidating and makes it real. But growth means doing things that fall outside of our comfort zone. Here it is:


I have been doing a lot of soul searching the last few months. Our church is in a place of transition which puts my mindset in a place of self-growth as it’s juxtaposed with the growth of our church. That being said one of the questions I often get from friends, family and congregation members is whether or not seminary is in my future. And to be quite honest, that has been an up and down answer for me over the years.

When I was in undergrad I started the process of ordination through the United Methodist church and it became an experience that left a bad taste in my mouth. In scheduling a meeting with my DS, I was quickly passed off to his assistant. Strike one. Then in my meeting I felt belittled and talked down to for no reason. Strike two. I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to move forward. Several years later I received notification that another meeting was scheduled unbeknownst to me, even though I had already decided to not move forward. Strike three.

It was at that point that I felt like maybe ordination wasn’t meant to be. And I couldn’t convince myself that seminary was worth it if ordination was no longer on the table. And so mentally and emotionally I moved on. I pushed it aside and brushed off inquiries about seminary.

Flash forward to a year or two ago as the congregation I work for entered its own transition. And as teams and groups were working through the vision and ministry and details of the congregation’s future, my own future smacked me in my face. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I wanted, “where I saw myself in 5 years,” and how I could best serve young people and their spiritual growth.

And so thoughts of my dream of running my own girls camp surfaced. It’s still there but not as the “5years” goal. And then I thought about the things that make me come alive: youth and young adults, faith formation, vocational discernment, service trips, college campuses, community building. And when I prayed and delved deeper I realized that these could all be tied together. My heart is calling me to campus ministry–at some point. Please don’t think this is an immediate jump.

It’s hard to say, it’s hard to admit. I am happy where I am right now, but I do need to work toward future goals and that first step is figuring out seminary and ordination. That’s a big enough truth and step for me right now. And so I keep searching to figure out where I fit and where I want to study. I’ve mostly been looking at online or distance learning programs. There are more and more of these that still hold good accreditation standards. I don’t want to sacrifice quality for convenience. We will see where this goes, but I am excited for the opportunities that are no doubt in front of me down the line. Here’s to self-growth. Here’s to staying true to our deepest passion and heart’s content. Here’s to listening to God. Here’s to answering the call.

It’s Gonna Be May..

I’m all about the song titles I guess. I really meant to post this last night, but I couldn’t finish it. It felt overwhelming and too much. And so, well, I put it off.


I’ve been bombarded by the title phrase above, and the associated GIFs and Memes. It is indeed about to be May: with that comes a lot of emotions.

May is filled with flowers and cards and commercials and pictures and gifts: Mother’s Day. This is year two. The first Mother’s Day was way too quick. But the mention of the holiday still takes my breath away. It stifles my conversations and makes my eyes fill with tears. I don’t like talking about it because I don’t like having to say “my mother is gone, has passed, is no longer with us”. None of those phrases really capture what is. Because she is still her, just not the same way. Her physical presence may have passed but her spirit is still alive and well. She is always and will always be with us.

I sense that Mother’s Day may always put a lump in my throat. It will always beriberi with emotion, at least until I have kids of my own (which is not in the near future). And then it will just be full of a different emotion. I’ll think about giving her flowers every year because it was tradition, it was our special thing. And I don’t think I ever have her anything else. I’ll think about cooking for her or taking her to lunch after church. It’s the little things. The things that make me pause, and smile. The things that sometimes make a tear run down my face. Wonderful memories through the emotions. These memories are still deeply imprinted on my heart. And I’m thankful for each and everyone.

Je t’aime, maman. Tu es mon joli papillon, toujours.