24 February, 2021

Who Do You Think You Are?

Yesterday was a packed day. I really had no idea how I was going to do all the things I had

committed to, and then true to this 2020-2021 year of hell, a few more unplanned things got thrown in.

So, I may be being a little dramatic, but it really was a full day. What I had not calculated was having to go to the office because the documents I thought were saved on my computer were not. As I was racing to get the documents and get back home before a scheduled meeting, there was a knock on the parish door. "M'am, we're here about an hour and a half early to check the kitchen hood. We're supposed to meet M but wanted to come now."

I looked down at my watch. I looked at the man. I thought about the computer I needed for my upcoming meeting and pictured it on my desk at home. "I'm sorry," I said, "I can't help you now. You'll need to come back at the scheduled time." "No problem," he replied, "We'll go get some lunch and come back."

No problem for him--BIG problem for me.

As I drove home I kept hearing a very mean voice in my head taunting me with, "Who do you think you are? Some kind of priest you are. Are you too good to wait with people caring for the buildings?" I really dislike that voice.

Later as I was taking a walk, I thought about two things. (Actually, I think about them quite frequently....)

Years ago (21 to be exact) when we owned a Sylvan Learning Center, I came in one day, saw Chris in his office, and found our manager cleaning the bathroom. "What are you doing?" I asked her, "That's not your job. You don't have to clean the bathroom." "Oh it's okay," Kelly replied, "There was a little bit of a mess from yesterday. I don't mind doing it particularly because I know Chris would do it too. I'll do anything knowing Chris would too." An example of a true servant leader. I have never forgotten that story, how proud of Chris I was, and that I swore I would strive to be that kind of person.

The second story I thought about was in 7th grade when I lost almost all my friends. One took me aside and explained why I was no longer in the friend group, "You're pretty stuck-up and think you're smarter and better than everyone else." I knew I didn't really think that so I asked what she meant. "The other day when y'all were grading spelling tests, you told T, 'It's okay if I miss one because I know I got the bonus right." That day I learned, make sure you never do anything that makes you stand out or even give the impression you think you're too good for anyone or anything. 

Oh, and there's a third thing. I'm really trying hard to not over-function, to know what's mine to do, and to prioritize. 

I kept walking trying to get the discomfort to stop. I wanted to help and be available. I didn't think I was too important, but what I needed to do, to be available for at that time, was something only I could do. I do believe I made the right decision, and I'm even feeling okay about it (mostly), but I am reminded about how our stories or the way we remember our stories, can impact our lives for years. 

This morning I'm again remembering the story of Kelly and Chris, and for the first time I remember something else to add to the story. Chris was there in his office doing what he needed to do, and it was probably something no one else could have done. 

And I'm also remembering those little girls including me from all those years ago. We were trying to grow up the best we could, and it wasn't easy and sometimes it was painful. I'm sure I did behave in ways that led those friends to believe those things about me even though it was not at all how I saw myself. But, we were all young and trying to figure life out, trying to figure out who we were, and trying to grow into the people God created us to be and that is both messy and a lifelong journey. 

What I wish I had known then, been confident in then was that I knew my heart and God knew my heart. Well, maybe I still need to remember that....

(and some better stories...)

02 February, 2021

The Healing Power of God

Before I write another word let me be clear--this is not about competition, you know the "Who

has it worse?" This is not about shaming anyone or placing blame. And this is not about being needy or wanting sympathy (which may sound like an ironic statement after you read it, but it's the truth). This is about a family disease.

I don't sleep well right now, or I guess I should say I don't sleep well in this house. That does not help with not being grumpy. So even on a good day, I am tired. But today has not been the world's greats day. Don't get me wrong. There have been moments of joy and laughter (always make sure to find some joy y'all). But there have also been many frustrations and the tears have been just under the surface--tears of frustration, sadness, and anger. 

To be fair, some of today has just been your run of the mill Covid stinks and makes life harder stuff--technology not working, deadlines looming, online meetings and liturgies to figure out, bills to pay, blah blah blah 

But today added on top of those things were missed phone calls (PSA young adult children around the world--if you call your mama and she doesn't answer and you're not going to be available when she calls you back, LEAVE A MESSAGE! She will, I can promise you, assume the absolute worse like you're dead in a ditch. And don't try to be rational and say then you wouldn't be able to call...), disappointing conversations or no conversations, hurt feelings, lots and lots of bad memories, and just overall sadness and frustration peppered with some good old fashion self-pity. (Let me reiterate and not because though doth protest too much but rather because if I was not okay, I would not be writing this.)

I sat at my desk working, staring off into space, working some more. A voice popped into my head, "You have to take care of yourself. Go for a walk. Find something to distract you and get your head back in the game." "First of all, it is 24 degrees, and secondly," I told the stupid voice trying to connect with me by using sports metaphors, "I don't have time." ""You don't have time not to," reality-based annoying voice retorted. 

I started looking for enough clothes to wear to keep me warm all the while muttering to myself, "I get when someone needs to get help 30-day programs are good. I understand, well maybe not entirely, how hard the struggle is. I get they need to step back and away from the world. But why can't there be 30-day programs for the family? Why do we have to keep doing life as if everything's normal? Why can't we get a break?" And this part I'm embarrassed to admit but have pledged to be transparent, so here goes, as I was kicking stuff around trying to find a large jacket that would actually zip up I thought, "and on top of everything else in our lives, we also have to deal with cleaning up messes left behind." (read above--this is not about blaming or shaming--this is about the reality of the disease). I was working myself up into quite the frenzy to the point I might not need all the layers....

As I walked down the driveway I felt something in my shoe. "Damnit," I said out loud, "Now I've got to take off my gloves and empty sand out of my shoe just reminding me of the beach." I stooped down and dumped the shoe. Nothing came out. I shook it harder, still nothing. I put my hand inside and found a silver heart charm. It took my breath away, not because it was jaw-dropping beautiful but because as I held that heart in my hand I felt the complete and total unconditional love and presence of God as I heard, "lo, I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20) That, my friends, is the healing power of God.

P.S. The charm is not mine, and I have no idea how it got in my shoe but unless someone claims it, it will be going on my bracelet.

20 January, 2021

Fake It Until You Make It

Just going to admit right from the beginning, this is just a bunch of rambling thoughts. Actually, it's three different thoughts that I know are somehow related.

This morning as I was drinking coffee and folding laundry I was trying to think about anything else than what our family has gone through the past few weeks. I was also watching the news and I heard this. "President-elect Joe Biden said yesterday, 'To heal we must remember.'" 

Shit...I don't want to remember.

Then I thought about mental illness and addiction and how I wouldn't wish it on any family but how at the same time I wish more people understood so the stigma and the shame would dissipate. (Like how I'm trying to use big words? What I really want to say is so it would f***ing disappear.)

Then I decided to ride the peloton and listen to a podcast I've been saving to listen to. It was on Hidden Brain and called The Secret Life of Secrets. Well worth a listen.

And now I have a fourth thought. I like to publish videos. I like to laugh and make other people laugh AND I like to be real. To be honest, I believe it's part of my call to be open and honest about the hard stuff of life. I haven't felt much like doing it lately, but although I haven't felt like it, I've missed it. So the fourth shorter version of the thought was, "Just fake it until you make it."

Here's what I realize. That statement is not just some goofy little feel-good statement. Or at least it's not for me. It's an expression of my faith. It's Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." in action. 

PS: While you're faking it, also be gentle with yourself. 

31 December, 2020

I Belong

Sometimes anger just comes out. It's true. And sometimes it's in the most unlikely of times and for the weirdest reasons. Right now I'm sitting in my anger--so yep writing from my wounds not my scars, but I've just applied a big honking bandaid.

I'm from Georgia. I love that I'm from Georgia. I love Georgia and my second home of South Carolina and my extended family's home state of Virginia. But I've lived in Louisville for almost 13 years. It's the longest I've ever lived anywhere, and I've lived in this particular house for 10 1/2 years--longest I've ever lived in any house. So there are the facts and now comes the anger...

Several years ago, like maybe more than 10, (yes I hold onto things) someone said to me, "You'll probably never want a fleur-de-lis anything because you'll never really be from Louisville." Now I get it--there was wine involved when it was said--wine and probably whine--but it hurt. And it has haunted me and I'll be honest hurt me and has continued to hurt me. 

I hope you're not picturing me sitting around crying and thinking about this every day because I'm not. But it does pop up every once in a while and not always when I expect. 

Like today.

I was folding laundry which usually makes me happy. (That is a whole other issue and not one I need or want to address.) I reached into the basket and pulled out the shirt William gave me for Christmas. It's a t-shirt of the Louisville skyline. Suddenly I was so incredibly angry--not angry like "this stinks" but angry like totally pissed off and shaking and crying hot tears--angry tears. And suddenly I thought, "You don't get to tell me where I do and don't belong. You don't. And I'm not giving you that power anymore. Because you know where I belong? I belong wherever my family is. I belong with the people I love and who love me. I BELONG." 

Who knows? Maybe another day the pain will come back. Maybe another day I'll remember those words said to me all those years ago, and I'll be hurt again. I hope not, but if I do it's okay. Because you know what I am learning? (note I said am learning) I am learning to live into what Dr. Seuss said, ""Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." Over the past 5 years I've really cut the list down of people I care what they think. Life will do that, but it doesn't mean there aren't times I forget and the pain and anger returns. 

And if that hurt from that statement comes back? You know what I'll do? I'll put on this shirt my son gave me, and I'll remind myself there are people who accept me and who make sure I know I belong. I'll put on that shirt, and I'll strut out the door. (I might wear my tiara too!)

I also know--this anger I am feeling, which I'll be honest feels pretty darn good right now, is also not healthy. Guess I know what we'll be talking about next week in therapy!

Happy New Year!

29 December, 2020

What If 2021's Not Better?

My social media feed has been filling up with posts like, "2021 has to be better," "time for

2020 to go" or "2020 can kiss my ass goodbye." Okay, I'm lying about the last one--I haven't seen that one time. But it kind of fits, right? 


I'm not putting that out there because you know what? 2021 might not be better. Keep reading, I'm not being doomsdayish; I'm being honest and I'm listening to the old adage, "Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me." I will not be fooled again.

When I think of 2018, I think of "The Summer of Suicide" and I am NOT saying that lightly or making a joke about it. It just was. Too many and too young. In December I said something to the effect of that I couldn't wait for 2018 to end because it could only get better and 2019 was going to be awesome.

Well, 2019 was different, but not sure "better" would be the word I would choose. I call 2019 the year of rehab and recovery and relationships broken and again way too many deaths of people I love. In December I again said something like, "I'm ready to see 2019 hit the road. 2020 has to be better." And we all know how that turned out.

So you get the picture...I'm not going to hang all my hopes on 2021--at least not the kind of hopes that promise rainbows and unicorns and pots of gold.

Here's the honest to gosh truth. All three years have been horrible for many reasons AND all three years have brought joy. All three years have given me gifts I will treasure forever. I promise you this isn't me trying to put lipstick on a pig. (I would NEVER waste good lipstick that way.) This is looking back and seeing where there was light and hope and grace and love even in the midst of the shit storm of the year.

Over the last three years, I have deepened relationships. I have forged relationships with people I never dreamed of knowing. I have taken personal and vocational risks. I have reconnected with people. I have grown. I have learned. I have loved, and I have been loved. Many of these things happened not in spite of but because of how hard the year was--because of the loss and pain.

So no, I'm not hanging all my earthly hopes on 2021 being the best ever or even better than the last 3, but I am 💯 certain in the hope--the absolute trust that God will continue to show up again in this messy, broken, beautiful world full of messy, broken, beautiful people.

08 December, 2020

Being Me, Being You

Eight years ago today (December 8, 2012), I was ordained to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood. It was a

long time coming.

I heard the call in 1997, but, I dragged my feet, and found every excuse not to open the door (I mean I couldn't open the door without the fear that one of the four children under 5 or one of the dogs would go running out!). And, to be perfectly honest, I thought God had lost God's ever-loving mind. (Well since it's God I should probably say all-inclusive ever-loving mind...)

Eventually, I did begin to actually consider it and to more intentionally engage with the discernment process (you can blame one of the children for that door opening when he opened his BIG MOUTH to our village vicar), I found even more reasons why this should never happen. Mostly I thought there was no freaking way I was good enough, holy enough, contemplative enough--just enough. Oh, and I found really good evidence to support my hypothesis. But then...

I was sitting in the kitchen of The Old Barn in Kelsall England and reading the story of David and Goliath. Something jumped out at me. Did you know that Saul strapped his armor on David before David was to go fight Goliath and DAVID TOOK IT OFF!!! Yep, you read that right. He would rather go fight Goliath without armor with only a slingshot because wait for it, "I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them." (1 Samuel 17:39) y'all this was David---like THE David. David fought Goliath being HIMSELF. At that moment I heard God say, "I'm not asking you to fill someone else's shoes. I'm asking you to be you. So put on those high heels and let's go!" (This is God so I guess she knew what he was getting into!)

I'd like to say that was the last time God had to remind me to just be me, but it wasn't. While in seminary I was an intern at a parish where there were two amazing scholarly preachers. I tried everything possible to be like them. I researched; I used a thesaurus; I prayed--it just wasn't going to happen.

The good news is they were also both humble and helpful. Each took the time to tell me to "Just STOP!" Each took the time to tell me to be me. One said, "The church doesn't need another preacher like me, it has me. The preacher needs you."

And then....

My beloved Grandmother, Gangan, was dying. I was yet to be ordained. As she was dying I crawled into the bed with her, and her last words to me were, "If you become a dowdy priest, I will haunt you."

So that's how I became a too loud, sometimes irreverant, high heel, short skirt, bright color wearing priest--or as I've been dubbed "The Patron Saint of Hot Messes" but it's also how I learned something else.

We are each created to be our own people. God created each one of us to be unique. God broke the mold on each one of us. There is not a prototype for humanity--no prototype for being a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a parent, a priest--and the list goes on... Yes--have mentors; yes, learn from others, but be you. The world needs you just as you are.

05 December, 2020

Hurt Pride and The Grinch

Yep, it's true. I got my feelings hurt--really hurt. And my pride--maybe that was worse. SOOO....I did what any slightly neurotic, trying to be a mature adult would do.

I took a bath. And now it's going to sound almost like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

I took a bath and read another sappy Christmas kindle unlimited novel. While I was reading about how everything works out within a matter of days for these traumatized women, I thought about how I could be "traumatized" by what happened and it might keep me from continuing to help others. That made me think about The Grinch. which made me decide I needed to rewatch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but probably not the way we watched it in college--or maybe I should. Who knows? (Can you say Hooville?) 

Thinking about wanting to watch the show made me think AGAIN about how I got scammed and that I could a) turn into the grinch--pre his heart getting big or b) hope the person that scammed me could turn into the grinch post his heart getting big or c) I could just move on.

I went with c. (sort of)

So I got out of the bath and put on my big girl panties which translates to I put on my monogrammed leggings. Then I went downstairs and refilled the treat baskets for the delivery people. As I was refilling the basket I thought about how people have said, "What if just neighborhood people (they probably meant those pesky children that I adore) walk up and take some of the treats?" What if they do? Why do I care? If they're that hungry and/or thirsty, have at it. Which made me think AGAIN about the people who went to so much effort to get money from me. That was a lot of work--I hope it was worth it. Really I do.

Then I thought there is a very real possibility the people who broke into our cars last summer or people who have been going around our neighborhood breaking into cars might also be fortifying themselves with the treats I have set out. I remembered one time our cars got broken into the people brought everything back. So I thought about The Grinch again which made me think about the holidays. Thinking about holidays reminded me I still had sweet potatoes leftover from Thanksgiving.

Into the kitchen I went to make the sweet potatoes streusel my son loves. And you know what I did? I doubled the streusel part AND I didn't cook it in one of my advent dishes. Nope! I got out the mack daddy Christmas dish. Take that!!

Now I'm working on finding the perfect warm outfit to wear to go find an outside bar to watch college football with my husband, that is after I finish ordering Christmas gifts for the child assigned to our family. I'm going to be okay. The world is going to be okay (thankfully I'm not in charge of that). I'm going to keep giving when I can. The rest I'll leave up to God--I do believe God is in charge and the world will be reconciled.

Don't mean to be impatient God, but definitely would not mind you stepping up your timeline....