A Tuesday of Indulgence

For as long as I can remember Mardi Gras has been my favorite holiday.  It started long before I knew anything of beads or Bourbon Street.  Long before I knew where NOLA was or what debauchery was–it was an innocent affinity. Growing up our church always had a Mardi Gras party. There were pancakes, crowns/necklaces/masks, candy, and the best music around. The Naptown Strutters would always come and play–I really do miss Tom and his crew playing. And there was always dancing.

When I was really young, our Associate Minister’s husband always led the dancing. Whether a mambo-line/jelly roll, or what I fondly remember as “the broom dance”. All of the kids would run around and dance without fear. It was wonderful. This annual evening marks some of my favorite and earliest memories of community. When I was a teen, our Associate Minister has moved on. Me being me meant that I took up the torch of leading the dancing from then through High School. Once I left for college, I never really had the opportunity to go back for Mardi Gras. I miss it: the noises, and smells, and people. But I’ve found new ways to celebrate.

For me it means donning green, purple, and gold each year. It means engaging in some sort of frivolity for myself (whatever that looks like in the moment). It means preparing myself for Lent. I love Mardi Gras, I’m sure I always will. I’m thankful for the community and lessons it has instilled in me over the years.

Laissez les bon temps rouler.

Photo of me and Dale, said Associate Minister.

Life is Cyclical

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about changes in life over the course of time. Our surroundings and experiences shape us each and every day. And sometimes we don’t even see it or realize it’s happening—but it is. Think for a moment about the person you were growing up. Think about the person you were ten years ago, five years ago, six months ago. Those iterations of you were different—maybe not starkly, but they are unique from one another.

Growing up my family would have described me with the following words: outgoing, talkative, extroverted, popular, preppy (that’s from my dad—but his thoughts on being a “prep” were very different from adolescent culture when I was growing up). There was, and maybe still is, a running joke in our family that no matter where we went, I would know someone. My dad would say “people lean out of bus windows yelling your name”. Even on vacation, in different cities, or traveling to remote areas—my family would still bet on me being recognized or finding someone I knew.

In high school I was often busy. Extracurriculars, church, hangz with friends, babysitting, family time, etc. staying busy fueled my soul, and even though it was exhausting at points, I needed to be around people more often than not. Often that was attributed to me being the youngest. I’m not sure if that’s exactly accurate. But needing people and social settings and activity has always been a part of my being. It’s why I crave the various types of community so much. And though he wouldn’t readily admit it, some of it is learned from my dad. He has a knack for making friends wherever he goes: he knows no stranger.

College brought new changes as I was out from underneath the keen and watchful eye of my parents. It meant managing my own schedule and my whereabouts only being accountable to me. It meant trying new things, making mistakes, and being adventurous. It meant working hard and playing harder. It meant the freedom to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.

Fast-forward to my senior year. I had a great core group of friends: people who understood me, supported me through hard times, and embraced my weird (just as I embraced theirs). But something changed. Whether it was the reality of soon being released into the “real world”, or quickly and suddenly being over drama—I pulled way back from my social activities. I stuck close to my dearest friend and her boyfriend and his best friends. And we all just existed, apart from the rest of the college scene around us. It didn’t seem strange at the time but at points now I wonder why that change happened.

I spent time post college with ASP, wrapped up in that staff culture. And then even had a short time in Admissions at OWU. And there were close friendships at both of those that survived for the season they were meant to be. But I moved back home, found a job and started living into the role of Youth Minister that I had been longing for for a long time. At that point most of my high school friends were not living in Indy. I made friends through work, and church truly became my community. But I didn’t really know how to function socially in that role. My sister and I moved in together eventually and our habits started wearing off on each other: she became more social and I yearned more than usual for time at home. And it was a good rhythm: supporting one another, often being inseparable, and being able to read one another like no one else could. But there was something missing. The majority of my friends were older than me, married, and had kids. I’m so thankful for that in many ways. Those friendships have taught me a lot about relationships, family dynamics, and priorities. They’ve made me evaluate how and why I chose to do certain things and pushed me to challenge myself daily.

But I struggled (still do) with not being around people constantly. It made me wish for the college days when I could just pop into someone’s dorm room to hang, or find people in HamWil or in the ZookNook at all hours of the day. The “real world” doesn’t work like that though. I had become more introverted, it made me wonder if that was my own suppression of my true extroverted nature. Was I overcompensating (consciously or subconsciously) and catering to my sister instead of myself? Im not sure I know, or will ever know, the answer to that. What I can say is that life has bounced back, and I’ve circled back to enjoying, needing, and appreciating time spent with various groups of people. Have I changed? Sure. Or maybe I am just allowing myself to live into more fully who my true self is, without hesitation and regrets. People often talk about “finding themselves”. I think that process is something we do every damn day. Becoming more and more ourselves—allowing ourselves to be more open and vulnerable and showing the grit we have that helps us get through.

Time spent is for sure one of my love languages, probably my top one. Sometimes that means parties with people, making new friends, boisterousness, and laughter of all types. Sometimes that means one-on-one coffee dates, cooking dinner with a friend, walking to get ice cream, or talking over FaceTime. Sometimes it means birthday get-togethers, dinner parties, book clubs, game nights, or binge watching television shows with close friends. Sometimes it means Italian nights, dressing up for cultural celebrations, or going to hear live music. Sometimes it means road trips, retreats, sporting events, or taking in the theatre. It means lots of different things, but they all have in common time with others and a schedule that fills up quickly. It can be a lot with full-time work and classes for my Masters. But as I live more fully and honestly into who “me” is at this point in time and space, I’m thankful for the ways in which my life feels full, the way it makes me feel loved, and the people who show up time and time again.

Who knows who I’ll be in 6 months, 5 years, or on my 65th birthday. But I can’t wait to keep discovering and staying true to every form of me as life forges ahead. It’s cyclical but being back at the beginning doesn’t mean you’ve started over. It just means that you’ve realized where and who and how you want to be.

Many the Miles

I’ve been running. I’ve done it before and haven’t stuck with it. In the 43 days that have made up 2020, I’ve worked out 41 days. Most of those have included running. I’m to the point where I actually really enjoy it. Sometimes I crave it. I started only enjoying running outside. But with the weather I’ve had to resort to treadmill running. Ugh. But..after repeating that process I’m better at it and it is way more enjoyable than before.

My sister and I participate in a 5k each year that supports the Indiana Parkinson’s Foundation. I’m hopeful this year that Incan run the entire thing. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. But it’s the goal I’m working toward. Tonight I ran 20 minutes straight, with a pace that is okay (not my fastest but possibly for that amount of time).

We have several friends who will join us for the 5k. And I’m thankful for that. As my birthday approaches I think of ways I can keep giving back and feel like sharing this link is what I can do for now. If you feel so inclined, you can donate here.

The Shadow

It’s tradition. Grandpa always gets a birthday shout-out. I don’t know how to not recognize him and his influence on my life. People often tell me how much I look like my mom, it’s something you just can’t miss. But what they often don’t say is how much she looked like her dad. You can see it in pictures over a range of ages if you compare photos. You can definitely see it as they aged and deteriorated. It’s a mixed blessing to see them in me, and to recognize how time will take a toll on me.

But in more than our looks, there are points that tie the three if us together. My grandpa had an amazing and unwavering faith. He traveled to Jerusalem, always had a Bible by his side, and believed in the simplicities of life that it spelled out. He gave to charity, kept himself physically fit until he couldn’t anymore, and held his children to a high standard.

My mom followed in the footsteps of her dad in her firm faith, her love to travel, her passion for giving back, and her care for self and others. Though she wasn’t convinced she’d get married or have children, both ended up a part of her story and she was committed to providing for her family in a myriad of ways. She loved the three of us girls with a fierceness that couldn’t quite be grasped when we were young. She was strong, and tenacious, and carried the silliness and wisdom she learned from her dad into her own parenting style.

I remember more of my grandpa’s life in a car facility than I do his time out. But some of the earliest memories I have, come from days spent at his apartment: doing laundry in the machines and playing on the playground as he and Herb folded clothes. I remember fig newtons, and smiles. I remember the way he’d squeeze your hand in a way that you thought he might never let go. And I remember in the moments we couldn’t communicate (because I was too young or he was too old) the winks.

I often wonder what he would think about the person I am today. What words of wisdom he might share for my current vocation. And how he might support me if he was still here. Happy (almost) 110th, Grandpa.

I will be with you…

I have often wondered why timing plays out the way that it does. There are moments I wish would slow down and last forever. And moments I’d quite rather speed right through. Three years is right around the bend. And I can’t help but thinking, these days, that my pain and grief had place and meaning so that I would know how to handle the pain and grief of others.

I’m a sucker for finding meaning in things. I’m known to overthink, analyze until the subject disintegrates in my mind from wear. It’s a double-edged sword but it’s a gift that I don’t think I’d want to live without…it’s part of what makes me, me. Since mom passed there have been several moments and experiences where I’ve walked alongside others who have experienced their own grief. And what once felt like an unspeakable time and situation has morphed. I’ve been able to add perspective, experience, and a type of grace that only comes with having walked a similar journey.

I never would have wished my own grief on myself, but there is a silver lining, a way that I use the memories of those I’ve lost to move forward and help others. With the unexpected passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and several others this week I’ve been reminded that life is a precious thing we often take for granted. It reminds me that telling people you love them is important, letting people know they have an affect on you and a very real place in your life is something not to overlook. No matter how silly it seems, or how repetitive it becomes, it’s important to appreciate and values those around you–you may not always have the same opportunity to do so.

In a world that feels unknown, scary, and as if we have no control at times–I believe there is still good, light, and love when we are courageous and vulnerable enough to share it. In a world where we second guess, worry, stress, and concentrate on “failure”–I believe there is peace, grace, hope, and growth. Things aren’t as grim as we make them to be. And if we open ourselves to sharing, really openly and authentically sharing, our lives with others we will know happiness and joy.

Every Voice

When I was in middle school we were required to take a general music class as one of our “specials” rotations. Our teacher was eclectic, some would have probably called her neurotic. She was one of the sweetest ladies, but generally misunderstood by our pre-adolescent selves. As an assignment we all had to complete a singing memorization test during the course of the semester.

We sang every day in that class with content drawn from a wide range of classic musicals. But our singing was more patriotic in nature. We had two songs to choose from: The Star Spangled Banner or Lift Every Voice. Our teacher told us the story of one of her former students who chose to memorize every verse of the National Anthem. Because most people already knew our National Anthem, that was the song most decided on. But Lift Every Voice resonated with me. Not just the intensity of the words and the vivid picture it paints, but the lyrical and rhythmic dichotomies it contains. The melody is haunting–you can hear the strife and heaviness of the story it tells just from a few opening notes.

So among a diverse group of students, there I stood, belting my heart out to a National Anthem that I barely understood as a white 12 year old girl. There are times during the year that I call upon this song, it has a way of soothing my soul in a unique way. It helps me connect with something outside of myself. It reminds me that there is still work to be done. As I write this post I am cautious in my language. This semester in grad school I’m in a class on Diversity. I recognize I bring my own (sometimes invisible) bias and privilege when talking about race (and other categories we are taught by society should divide us). On this MLK day I hope to be a little more open-minded, a little more willing to have and engage in tough questions, a little more vulnerable to how I’ve contributed to the problem of privilege over the years.

Maybe one day all of our voices can join as one, as humans, to true proclaim and embrace liberty for all people.

“Easy”.

I’m holding myself accountable in new ways this year. Listening to my body and my spirit and really becoming in tune with what I want and need. As a part of that I have committed to doing some type of exercise each day–could be big or small. I created a new Instagram handle: @sedgefit I’ll use it to help me track daily. It’s a public profile so feel free to follow along. It’s really for me but if someone else gets something out of it, great!

The big accomplishment today was that I did a 25 minute run and I ran the first 15 minutes of it without walking! I’d call that a win! I’ve got #grit

Spit-fire and Tenacity

In college I was in a sorority. I joined my freshman year at the urging of some upperclass(wo)men. I made quick friends with most of the juniors and seniors. There was another Shannon, and so the family nickname “Sedge” took hold easily. In true form, I lived into my personality of being charismatic, energetic, and a class clown of sorts. I can remember my first year at roast and wills, a senior send-off of sorts. One of my favorite pair of besties gifted me a Sig Chi Derby Days shirt because I was “Spit-fire Sedge”. And it became my mantra of sorts–sometimes it takes someone else seeing it in you for something to stick.

There was a point that I started loosing that spark, drive, joie de vivre. I can’t place exactly where or when that happened. In the last year or two I’ve worked really hard to get it back. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m not fully there yet, but the progress has been a good thing. Last year I led a book study for work on Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead”. I decided to pick a word to guide my year. That word was “dare”. And it served me surprisingly well.

For 2020 I’ve decided to choose the word “grit”. There have been two posts swimming around recently in my sphere and it’s driven me to select that for my word. Hopefully it will continue to guide me, stretch me, and remind me of my core. I’m thankful for this “fad” of selecting a word for the year. New year, new mantra.

And the Scent Endures Forever

Growing up, our parents had a special hiding place for our presents. Somehow, my mom also stored some potent smelling candle in the same drawer. Every gift we received smelled like this candle. Even years after the candle had been disposed of, the scent still lingered in the drawer and on our gifts. This drawer isn’t used anymore–it was in my mom’s closet and my dad doesn’t use it.

Tonight two of my fabulous coworkers gifted me a homemade candle (in a tea cup!). I took a sniff and was transported back–the same candle smell. Took lots not to cry. Took lots not to laugh. It was a wonderful reminder that even in the most unlikely (dare I elude to our church sermon series and say “unexpected”) moments and locations–mom is still present.

I will treasure this gift from my friends. Not just because of their generosity but because it reminds me of my mama. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Bend Toward the Light

It’s been an epic year. Not only have there been many changes for me personally, but also professionally. We had our Staff Christmas lunch yesterday, and it was refreshing and hopeful and made me remember how much I enjoy doing ministry alongside these talented individuals. They make me laugh, challenge me, ask questions, offer support, and make me laugh (did I already say that? 😜).

Work has sometimes been an ebb and flow: moments when I’ve wondered if it was time to move on, situations where I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, feelings of stagnation. But, keeping one foot in front of the other, I’ve trekked on–largely because of the community and family that is my job and congregation. A few days ago one of the modern poets I follow on Instagram posted this:

And that hit hard. Touché. There is so much more to my story here: in this time and place. And I will keep bending toward that light.