Tell me about a time…

You were on a team and it impacted your life.

The pastor leading the group discussion sits down to my left and angles toward me. I’m already uncomfortable. I’m sitting in the second seat, stage right of a U-shaped seating arrangement. It only occurred to me after I sat down that it was most likely left untouched for one of the two pastors leading our group. To think, I nearly took a seat in the back. I wish now that I would’ve but as my hand skimmed the top of one of the furthest open chairs, my eyes squinted toward the screen. I should have brought my glasses.

The pastor leaning in was too polite to concede that I’d displaced the unwritten seating arrangement but the fact that I’m now sandwiched between the two speaks volumes. Whether he senses my internal dialogue or not is unclear as he opens with small talk. How far was my drive? Am I from here?

“Not far but I’m not from here. I’m from a city outside of Detroit. My husband is from up north. We met at school and live here now.”

I catch myself before nerves propel me to divulge more unprompted facts but my halted speech is abrupt. I parrot his questions, asking him the same as if he didn’t give us his story last week.

“Oh right. I knew that,” I confess as he tells me again.

After more get-to-know-you conversation, the pastor brings my attention back to the group question he posed earlier: Tell about a time I was on a team that made an impact on my life. My thoughts come quickly, stumbling over one another in attempt to move the “right” answer to the forefront of my mind. I’ve been on plenty of teams. What type of team? What type of impact?

The pastor senses my struggle. He wants to know if I’ve been on a sports team where we worked to accomplish a united goal. I have.

“I was on a volleyball team that was conference champs,” I shrug. It was fun but it doesn’t feel too impactful outside of the adolescent lens. I rifle through more sports memories and one stands out: Soccer.

“I was on a soccer team in high school. Our coach ODed during the season. It made the news. So that was… pretty impactful…” I trail off.

Discussion opens up and we share our stories across the room but I keep coming back to my response. Did I go with the right one? Everyone else shares about teams where they built each other up and leaned on each others strengths to cover their own weaknesses. They’re beautiful stories of teamwork. But mine? How was I impacted? I replay it in my mind…

They called us into a room. I can’t remember the details but we were making jokes, coming up with theories on why we’d been called together instead of heading out to practice or the game. I think someone might have made a joke about someone dying. It could have been me.

Our head coach’s eyes were already puffy when he walked through the door to tell us the news. Our assistant coach had died over the weekend and they would let us know all of the details for the funeral arrangement as quickly as possible.

Our assistant coach was young with the biggest smile. It always made sense to me because he had the biggest heart as well. For his love of the game and his players. For his fiancée who was coming in from out of state the same week the team clustered together in a classroom to learn of his passing. He was funny. He had a way of getting your head back in the game when high school drama threatened to come onto the field.

The funeral service was short. Too short. Perhaps in homage to a life not aged but I wager it had more to do with the fact that his OD made local news. No one seemed to know how to reconcile his death and his life. At least we didn’t. We looked to each other. To our parents. To our school.

The soccer team, well, we wanted to donate a permanent scoreboard in his memory; we were denied. I went to a small Lutheran high school and, although I wasn’t in any of the official conversations, it was relayed to us that it came down to politics. We shouldn’t honor the way he died. I think that’s what they said. We wanted warm up jerseys with his name on them. We got pale blue t-shirts with a white letter at the bottom of the shirt that was hidden if we tucked it in.

It might as well have been red.

I sit in that second seat and absorb as much as I can about the conversation at hand. We’ve moved on from telling our team stories to race and the gospel, the topic we’re meeting on today. We talk about what it takes to have difficult conversations and how important they are to our relationship with God and to each other. We talk about the cost of those conversations. We talk about unification and reconciliation. I think about soccer.

I think about soccer all the way home. I’m angry. I think back on my shared team story and on everything I didn’t say to the group of individuals sitting in a U today. About how those high school girls were failed by their faith community. How we mourned in isolation and conflict because they focused on politics over people. Sin over grace. Separation over unification.

I’ll tell you this: I don’t think we can change as a Church until we can see ourselves as the villains in the stories we read. I know all about how we’re the lambs from Sunday School but I’m older now. God providing, wiser. And I’m learning about all the ways we’re Pharisees too.

COVID Update: A Journal Entry

Michigan started reopening businesses and lifting restrictions but the stay at home order was extended. Some of our friends in the salon industry still haven’t received guidance on how or when they’ll be able to reopen doors. Among a list of other industries and individuals, restaurants as hurting as well.

Our daycare, which has remained open for essential workers, is finally accepting children for their summer program. That means the kids go back to daycare June 1st. I have a lot of emotions regarding that decision. The only thing keeping me sane is the reassurance that they have been open and have had no reported cases of COVID-19. I’ve been pressured to provide my return date so I’m thankful for the summer program though my work has continued from home.

I’ve been appalled by people’s behavior. After using the Facebook Snooze for 30 Days feature, my feed is beginning to refill with hatred, venom, and disrespect once more. This time I’m unfriending. Our interactions in the past do not tie us together for life.

Perhaps you’re scared or hurting and you’re lashing out. Maybe this is a low point for you. I understand. I know without a doubt that I have been in that position before and people have unfriended me whether over social media or in real life because of it. I don’t believe that you cannot change or that you’re a terrible person. But we’re not good enough friends to have a heart to heart over it and I need to make the best decision for me.

Maybe you’re not scared or hurting but you’re lashing out in anger. Maybe you think your posts are funny. I get that too. I’ve perpetuated hate toward people I’ve never met out of ignorance or bigotry or a societal influence I didn’t even know was there. I’ve been working on it for a while now but there are days that I come across an article or a post or a different perspective that lays bare my sins. It’s uncomfortable. And condemning.

But let me caution you with this: If you’re a Christian, watch what you’re putting out on social media. Be ready to receive correction and do so with grace. You can have different opinions but let’s do it without hate or shame or mockery of a person or group of people. It’s not a good look and certainly not one you’d be proud to bring to the cross.

Happy Quaran-Easter!

Easter is the one of two holidays we host at our home (the other being Independence Day). That means our day wasn’t as impacted as most. We were still able to make babka and eat Polish sausages with hard-boiled eggs, horseradish, and beets. We still served mimosas for the adults and orange juice for the oldest. Easter eggs were hidden and found. We attended church (from our couch) and although we didn’t have the fancy, new Easter outfits, we raised our hands in worship and let ourselves be renewed in the promise of LIFE.

This has been my favorite day of quarantine so far. My Facebook feed is filled with proclamations of “He is Risen!” It’s filled with smiling families and fought for traditions. It’s happy. Devoid of political arguments and want-to-be researchers and hate. I do take some credit for that as I’ve been using my social media “Snooze” and “Unfollow” options liberally lately but I think today’s uplifting feed is more than weeding out the negatives. I think today we decided that we could be one body of Christ again.

I’m not saying we have to agree with each other to be one body of Christ. That wouldn’t be Biblical advice and if you heard it coming out my mouth, I would hope that you would take me aside into a one-on-one to point out my error (Matthew 18:15-17). But we should seek to show respect both to those who share our faith and those who don’t. We are members of mankind, after all. God seeks a relationship with all of us.

A lot of us feel that silence is too costly right now. Disagreeing and speaking that disagreement is critical to saving lives – or – freedoms. I get it (more than you know). That being said, can we agree to disagree with the understanding that we are the church? That the way we disagree is a reflection of Christ, the same Christ that died on the cross and rose again on Easter Sunday so that we can have eternal life?

We did good today, folks and I felt it in my soul. Let’s keep up the positive momentum. Let’s let love fill our feeds and friendships and families. Let’s keep our hearts set on Easter Sunday for as long as possible.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

Titus 3:1-10

NOTE: I also recognize that today was terribly lonely for some of us. My heart breaks over the pain that we’re experiencing collectively and as individuals. I know social media is a highlight reel and I am not advocating for masking our pain. Just for kindness. We could all use a little more kindness these days.

Currently Reading: Bandersnatch

Well, to be truthful, I’ve just finished the book. I had to wait until the very end to write this because it stretched me and I needed to know where it finished.

The title alone tells you that this book falls wildly outside of the ordinary. The author manifests a purposefully unconventional approach to Christianity and what it means to live out our unique faith walks. She encourages the reader to slough off the confines of conformity and allow the same space for others so we might all experience true relationship with each other and our Creator.

Bandersnatch is floral, which is my way of saying there is a poetic nature to the writing style that I don’t immediately cling to and there are also some points of theology which the author and I would likely disagree on, but it’s also beautiful in that it reminds the reader that Jesus pulled up a seat for each and every last one of us at His table, that He meets us where we are, and that all of us are a reflection of Him. Even those in the midst of the dark grip of addiction and destruction.

Some facts:

  1. I picked this book up in November of 2016.
  2. Erika Morrison, the author of this book, and I just so happen to be Facebook friends.
  3. As I have come to learn through these pages, she and I have very different personalities. Her call to action and mine look different – and, as she explains throughout her book, that’s a good thing.
  4. Erika and I have never actually met but I was introduced to her family long before Facebook ever matched us through stories of my husband’s childhood. Their families grew up together and I have had the divine advantage of being able to check in with Freddy from time to time while reading this book to confirm, “This is real?”
  5. And lastly this: It was planned that this book sat on my shelves for so long. I wouldn’t have finished reading it if I had started when I purchased it. I needed to learn a few things about myself first.


In Bandersnatch, Erika gives example after example of what it looks like to seek the face of God in the marginalized. She’s a feeler and she wraps up the poor and panhandling in her arms as if they were her biological family. Those of you who know me know that I had to put the book down and take deep breaths after reading about her desire for physical closeness with others throughout these pages.

I have a history of feeling condemned when challenged to get out and love people in a physical way. I am not a physical person. Even in high school, I had to be reminded when meeting new friends and family of my then boyfriend that “These people are huggers. Just go in and be the first to hug.” That coaching came from a place of understanding of who and how I am but over time I started to see forced interactions as personal failures.

I’ve been told I’m intimidating more than once which I am sure comes from my standoff demeanor in uncharted situations. And, let’s be honest, also for my wide-eyed, open mouthed glares at people who aren’t. I don’t hate you – I just really don’t want to be hugged by you.

There is this small group of women that I’ve fallen deeply in love with. We call ourselves the tribe and I was just able to remark this past Thursday that while I was initially so drawn to them by our similarities, I am now so deeply committed to them through our differences. Lord help me, I have huggers in that group. These women squeeze me until I squirm and they know full well that my stiff-as-a-board response has nothing to do with my measure of love for them.

And I think, in perhaps an unexpected way, this is what the author is really asking of me. To be my authentic, non-hugging self and to let my own authenticity provide space for others to be theirs. So, no, I don’t think I will be going out downtown to wrap my arms around a stranger anytime soon but I am starting to envision what my form of love looks like for strangers. Is it coming along side someone to teach life skills? Is it asking more stories and making more conversation for the sake of knowing God through the people around me?

Whatever it looks like, it has to be my own method of madness. Not someone else’s. I also know that there is a place for the feelers and a place for me at the table. We’ll break bread and drink wine together and when it’s time to leave, I’ll go in the for the handshake and they’ll go in for the hug.

Snow Camp and Rule Breakers

This past weekend I headed north with 700+ students, my fellow small group leaders (Aren’t we a good-looking bunch?), coaches and church staff to SpringHill Camp for what is lovingly referred to as “Snow Camp” 2018 edition.

I usually take a lot of flack around this time of year. Everyone loves reminiscing about my very first weekend as a small group leader when I showed up without a sleeping bag, or a pillow, or shampoo or conditioner or body wash or …well okay, the underwear was a bit extreme; that’s fair… but I promise you there are places that provide all of the other things for you. For the record, they’re called hotels and they’re amazing.

Each time I go to one of these weekends, I end up learning a little bit more.

A little bit more about roughing it (with plumbing and heat and electricity, of course). I remembered all of my clothes this trip. I packed a flashlight. A selfie stick (obviously). Wool socks. Heavy duty gloves. Layers. I even packed Poo-Pourri for the cabin which I assure you was indeed worth it. Have you ever spent a weekend with a cabin full of people and camp food? Enough said.

A little bit more about people, most of whom seem to function a little bit better on very little sleep, camp cuisine, and copious amounts of coffee than I.

And a little bit more about myself.

Some years it’s spiritual. Or it’s about my friendships and the joy of being around other people. Sometimes it’s about just how competitive I really am. This year, it was about caring less about rules and what that feels like. It was about fun. About taking a walk on the wild side!

Okay, the moderately untamed side.

Fine, the mostly tamed side.

I’ve been mulling over some thoughts recently about rule following and what that looks like as a child of God. Spoiler alert: I don’t think it means what I thought it meant. 

Growing up, we’re taught rules of obedience. Think 10 Commandments. We have should and should nots to consider and, for a natural born rule follower like myself, it can feel pretty nice to be able to draw lines down the split of right and wrong. I am a great rule follower. That must mean I’m a pretty good follower of Christ, yes?

I’ve been reading more and more of the Bible recently and the people in these stories have one glaring thing in common: They’re rule breakers. Rule followers like me subscribe to certain truths; 99% of them follow rules because they favor security (that statistic has been entirely fabricated based on my own personal truth). Some of these Bible characters are reformed rule followers, I’ll give you that. But these are people who are called to stand out against the rules. Break the norms. Confront leadership. Tell them they’re wrong. Social status? See ya. Respect among your peers? Nope. Let’s be honest, on top of having little concern for security, a lot of them were grade A weirdos (I get that that’s not really relevant here but I needed to get that off my chest).

If we’re made up of a series of strengths and weaknesses rather than good and bad then I’m starting to see my friends with a little bit more of that rule-breaking edge as having a competitive advantage over me in the realm of being a Christ follower. *GASP* They’re less prone to worry and more prone to action. When God calls, are they more inclined to move?

Spontaneity is not one of my strengths. If someone tells me that I need to move across the country and leave my things behind, you know what I would say? No. I have a job. People depend on me. There are loose ends that need to be tied up. What would people think? I like it here. I have food in my fridge that I need to eat first.

There is a pattern of movement to which society subscribes, to which I subscribe. They’re essentially social rules and I’m starting to see that following them doesn’t make me a great Christ follower.

So this weekend, I let my girls fling rubber frogs across the auditorium long after the time to do so had passed. I encouraged them. I joined them. I signed my name on a bunk; it always seemed wrong as a kid but I did it. I ran up to the edge of the tubing hill and went face first over the drop. The tubing hill attendant assured me that doing so wasn’t breaking the rules but it still felt a lot like breaking the rules.

They’re little things. They’re not illegal and they’re not hurting anyone (There may have been a few errant frogs but I promise they were only minor annoyances). The point is, these things aren’t exactly following the rules either. And since I’ve been taking a more honest look at the strengths of those around me, I’ve realized that I need to flex that muscle if I want it to work when God calls on it.

Life has been a little hectic lately.

Life has been a little hectic lately. In the last 7 weeks or so, I have worked in inordinate amount of overtime. Do you still call it overtime when you’re a salaried employee? Not just a few late nights here and there or a few early meetings but multiple days’ worth of time. Leading up to our project launch, I was in the office for a 14 hour Saturday backed up to a 17 hour Sunday and back in by 7:30am on Monday (but only because I slept through the 6:00am scheduled start).

I have never before and hope to never again experience the kind of exhausted, not-enough-eye-drops-in-the-world, mental/physical/emotion strain of that kind of timeline for a project launch. Take it from me, you should never attempt to launch before you’ve completed your mock launch activities.

But my project team and I did it. We’d been preparing for an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software implementation. We were already using a previous version of the same software but instead of looking at this change as an upgrade, we pulled out all of the data that had been erroneously entered over the past several years and sifted it out. We remapped table keys. Restructured business processes. Rewrote code and reports and work instructions. And despite a few misses that we’ve worked to clean up over the last two weeks, this project has been considered an overall organizational success!

But can we zoom out a little?

I’m exhausted. Still, almost two weeks later. My husband, who pulled all of the weight of family life during this period, is now fighting off his first illness of Autumn. My house is full of tiny fruit flies from a misplaced can that wasn’t properly recycled during my usual cleaning routine because, well, there was no routine. I worked out this past Saturday (taking it slow) and it nearly killed me. Fast forward half a week and I pulled a muscle playing with my daughter; my body is wrecked. And my beautiful little girl wants “Momma, Mom, Mommy, Mom, Momma. Did you hear me calling you, Mom?”

We’re all a little drained from the chaos. And to be honest, there’s no way we all would’ve made it without these things right here:

  • My Tribe
    • Friends who continue to pour into me when I go dark. Friends who continue to text or Snap without a response. Friends who send flowers to work for encouragement.
  • My Husband
    • Who allowed our roles not just to flip flop, but to completely shift onto him. Who put his career behind mine for a period. Who bit his tongue – a lot. And who continued to encourage me even if he felt like I should be waving the white flag.
  • God
    • For putting those people in my life. For continually tapping me on the shoulder with scripture or songs about being a light or a door for others to experience his goodness. For keeping me from completely morphing into a troll at the workplace.
  • Whole30
    • For categorically denying my desire to stress eat. For minimizing the impact of skipped meals, small meals, or late meals on my system. For giving me the energy that I needed to make it through a 17 hour shift at all, let alone without getting sick immediately following. For giving me something else to commit to when the project felt all consuming. For teaching me ways to cope without food.

So really, this post is a gratitude post for those things that kept me going. At work, we passed the project launch, cleaned up the few misses, and we’ve already started sliding back to normal. But me? I’m changed. I’m exhausted and more experienced and more filled with gratitude. It took overtime and high stress and looming deadlines to remind me that my focus is really on people, and that includes me.

Thank you, tribe and Freddy, and God, and Whole30, for shaping me during this time. For showing me grace. And for teaching me about my priorities and the balance that leads me to my best me.

Without you, I am a lesser me.

New Moms, Blog Posts, Social Media, and the Need to Impress

While preparing to be a first-time mom, I devoured articles and blog posts on childcare, child health, child learning, child do’s and don’ts, parent do’s and don’ts, breast-feeding, pumping at work, etc. I learned some amazing things from what I read but I also read through a lot of personal opinions presented as fact. I scoffed at some people’s approach while others’ made me question my capability as a soon-to-be mother.

I knew I wouldn’t start Emma off on formula without first giving an honest try at breastfeeding but I also had to admit that my love for the planet and fear of chemical burn was surpassed by my desire to throw away a poop-saturated diaper as it occurred. And I’m still deciding if I’ll be a mom who makes baby food from scratch or buys it; currently, I’m leaning toward both.

Emma is over 4 months and I can now write the above paragraph without any hint of self-loathing or doubt. Yes, I wanted to try to breast feed. No, I didn’t want to try cloth diapers. But the past 4 months haven’t been quite so easy. Blog posts and status updates show us the best of our peers and social media makes no apology for touting the image of the flawlessly styled and capable mom, whether working in or outside of the home. If someone else can make it look so easy, surely I can be a runner-up, right?

Here is what I’ve learned so far in motherhood:

  • Stop obsessing.
    • When I left the hospital with Emma, I was given a chart with diaper goals to keep for the first week or two of Emma’s life. I kept that chart religiously until Emma’s first doctor’s appointment. There I pulled out the sheet and started pointing, “Here, she missed 1 wet but she had an extra dirty and the next day she was 2 over on wets and shy of a dirty! Is that okay? I am feeding her all the time!” Do you know what he said? He said, “Is your child relatively happy? When she cries, do you change her, feed her, rock her, add a blanket or take one away? Yes? Then throw out the sheet.”
    • We are inundated with information today. Goals. Averages. Ideals. We can get so caught up with the numbers that we miss the big picture. I’m not saying that the charts aren’t helpful but I am saying that our information overload can drown out our own intuition, our self-sufficiency. And it’s okay to put the chart down and rely on ourselves as new moms. Even if it’s our first time doing it.
  • How to make the right decision FOR ME, not for you.
    • Emma would not sleep a lick in her bassinet. She was born 22 inches long and I think her height may have had something to do with but it could have just been personal preference (Who could say? She’s a baby!). The point is, my husband and I were constantly waking up to her crying, her head or feet resting on one side or the other of the bassinet. Maybe as early as two or three weeks in, Fred took Emma into her “big girl crib” in the next room and laid her down. We were desperate for an hour straight of sleep but I was consumed with guilt. I spent that hour on Google, trying to look up how early you could safely transition your child from your room to her own room. I read posts of parents that transitioned as early or earlier and more that didn’t. Then I stumbled across a comment thread where someone stated that a child must hear her mother’s breathing to regulate her own breathing during the night. My heart stopped. I got up several times to check on her, certain that I was putting my child in danger. Do you know what happened? She slept until my alarm went off to feed her. I tried to get her into the bassinet after that but she just didn’t want to be there. The crib worked for us.
  • Break some rules for sanity.
    • Around the same time, I was trying desperately to keep pacifiers away from Emma. I was told to wait at least 4 weeks to reduce the chance of nipple confusion, which could cause an issue with breastfeeding. Wouldn’t you know it, at 2am with a screaming baby in my ear, I was boiling pacifiers. The pacifier helped Emma calmed down and she’s still breast feeding like a champ today.
  • It’s okay if it’s not “The Best Thing Ever.”
    • People constantly asked me in those early weeks, “Isn’t it [motherhood] the best thing ever?” I so wanted it to be. And I wanted to believe it when the words left my lips but to be honest, I was just agreeing with them so they didn’t see me as unfit or label me with postpartum depression. It was really hard at first. It was exhausting trying to recover and take on this new role. It was frustrating to be met with a tiny, grumpy, crying face for what felt like no reason  (which I later learned was the face of gas…gas feels like no reason). At 6 weeks, I realized how beautiful my daughter truly was. At 3 months, I was downright in love and at 4, I’m finding more and more laughter with Emma every day. But at 4 weeks? The best thing ever sounded like a break. Like deciding at 7pm that my husband and I were going to try that new restaurant and split a bottle of wine, no baby schedule to keep. It didn’t sound like diaper changes, late nights crying, and a perpetually grumpy baby.
  • Motherhood is really hard.
    • Motherhood is the most difficult thing I’ve ever taken on. It’s quickly becoming the most joyful and rewarding too but it is downright hard just the same. It’s hard without all the blog posts telling you you’re doing it wrong or could be doing it better. It’s hard to set alarms in the middle of the night to feed or pump. It’s hard to go back to work and worry about your child’s well being and it’s hard to be home and worry about her socialization. It’s hard to go to work and measure your success by the ounces you pump and it’s hard to be at home and measure your success by how many meals you’ve cooked or rooms you’ve cleaned. It can feel isolating. Even with the most involved husband, I carry the majority of Emma’s well being on my shoulders. A lot of that is probably perceived responsibility but the weight is real.

And lastly…

  • Support other parents.
    • I started learning this lesson with Emma’s birth. My story was not at all like I imagined and I took it pretty hard but I also started to realize that a lot of life is out of our control. We do our best. If my best is a non-emergency c-section, a big girl crib, early pacifier, and a daycare center then good for me! And if your best is an epidural, a Moses basket, formula bottles, and leaving your job, good for you! If we love our children and help them to grow and learn…if we protect them and feed them and bathe them…then good for us! Organics or generics. Breast milk or formula. Stay at home or work. In-home daycare or center. One child, many children. New clothes or hand-me-downs. Do we love our children and help them to grow and learn? Do we protect them and feed them and bathe them? Then good for us!
  • Give it to God.
    • Don’t get caught up in the blog posts, the social media images, the need to impress. Follow the path that God sets out for us and let the rest of it go. He gives us a pretty solid model for parenthood. So far, it’s the only one that hasn’t left me feeling inadequate or judged. Mercy and grace, folks. Receive it. Give it. Encourage it.