Monthly Archives: August 2010

Moving Day

Well, the time has finally arrived for me to say goodbye.  Out with the old, in with the new.  Don’t worry, I’m still going to write, but at a snazzy new site my dear friend Kim designed.  I hope you plan to visit often and sign up for my emails so you can always keep up to date.

This will be fun, check it out.  Just click the link below.

www.clergygirl.com

Advertisements

What do I have in common with Crystal Gayle?

I’ve made a decision about my hair.  Alright, I made it a long time ago, but I’m just now coming clean with you.  The day Jeremy shaved my head was the day I knew, when and if it came back, I would grow it forever, and I mean forever.  I’m working on a two-year bob right now.  I’m a secret wanna be Crystal Gayle.  Not the “I never trim the ends” wanna be, but the ridiculously, past my hipperoo’s, wanna be.  When I’m thinking with a clear head, which is very rarely these days, and I look at a picture of Crystal with her uber long hair I think “who in heaven’s name told her that looks good?”  It has to be some really warped reason I’m sure…..like maybe she was one of those kids that didn’t grow hair till they were 10 and she vowed when it came in she would never cut it.  Or maybe they couldn’t afford bath towels when she was growing up so her hair was an easy remedy to a perplexing problem.  I dunno. 

But somewhere in my warped post-chemo, “I can’t escape cancer” brain of mine, I think.

a.  I really want hair.  I missed it so much when it was gone I want it and I want LOTS of it.  I want to feel it on my shoulders, tie it in knots like lady gaga, and let my girls learn to french braid on it. 

b.  If I were being totally honest, I’m probably waiting for the day they tell me I need chemo again… but THIS time I will be ready.  It’ll be so long I’ll be able to make my own wig, or maybe glue it back on my head if a wig costs too much.  I’ll be the ultimate comb-over, but I don’t care because it will be MY HAIR! Let me say it again because it sounds so good to type it…..MY HAIR.  I even like to type MY EYEBROWS, but that’s a whole nother post about someone with a wicked uni-brow and I’m not going to take it that far.  (At least I don’t think I will.  Oh that’s right, my eyebrows don’t meet in the middle, so scratch that idea.)

c.  And the final reason is because when you’ve lost 2 items of “sexy” as a woman, the hair is a logical place to turn.  Especially when 2 items of sexy will never really return, they can try for you but they will ultimately never ever return…..and we’re not talking “complaining after nursing they won’t return,” we’re talking never again will you feel. anything. period. return.  But the hair most likely will return, and this is good.

And so Crystal Gayle, tonight I’m not raising a glass of wine to you (although you might think I’ve been drinking with my ludicrous ramblings) because that might mess with my hormones and I don’t want cancer to come back, but I do have my feet up with a bowl of popcorn and a diet pepsi, and so here’s to you and your hair. 

I love hair.

Viva La Femme Friday: Linda Adams

I can’t let another Friday slip by without giving props to a woman loving Jesus through ministry.  I’m just going to have to blame it on the hot, lazy days of August here in Michigan.  I’m more motivated to go to the beach than write.  I’m thinking you understand.

I can’t go very far on Viva La Femme without introducing you to a woman who is very dear to me and inspires me a great deal.  I met Linda Adams way back in the early 90’s.  She was pastoring a church southwest of Chicago in St. Charles, Illinois while I was living and working more northwest of Chicago near Elgin, Illinois.  Even as I worked at a Christian college, God was working at my heart.  I would have told you then that I didn’t feel called to ministry but I wanted to support women in ministry, so once in a while I’d drive down to attend her church.  Most of the time I went to Willow Creek Community Church (because they had lots of single men, shallow, I know.), which was really cool too because I did get to see women in ministry at all levels in such a large church. 

The story of how I came to feel fully God calling me to go to seminary and following the path of full-time ministry is another blog post for a different day.  But after I made the decision, or when I was deciding if I should go to seminary, I met Linda for lunch.  It was that conversation with her that gave me enough courage to sell my sports car and live on mac and cheese for 3 1/2 years to follow a call in my life.  Seriously, I still miss that Celica.  Don’t miss mac and cheese though.

Over the years I have had the  privilege of living near Linda for brief periods of time.  After I went to Asbury Seminary, Linda arrived a year later as a “prestigious” Beeson pastor.  And I say prestigious, because it really is something to be asked to come live and study and get a doctorate at Asbury with the Beeson program.  They basically pay you to come live for a year and get your doctorate and send you all over the world studying successful ministries. 

Then I met Jeremy, and Linda graciously came to Michigan to marry us in June of 1999.

Then I took my first pastorate out of seminary in Brockport, New York, and Linda was pastoring a wonderful city church called New Hope in Rochester, New York.  I’ll never forget, about a month after getting to Brockport I had a bad case of depression.  I couldn’t figure it out.  Here I was, good job, right out of seminary and I was struggling with depression.

Linda came over and pointed several things out to me that made me feel a whole lot better:

1. We were living in an apartment with one table, one couch and a mattress because our house hadn’t sold in Kentucky.  I was still living in limbo.

2.  Someone had loaned us a couch while we waited for our belongs, which was a very nice thing to do, but the couch smelled like dog.  I don’t like dog smell very much.  Ok, not at all.  It makes me gag.  So I had a couch I couldn’t sit on, that made my entire apartment smell like dog.

3.  I was also nervous about being “clergy” and my new job.  It just seemed overwhelming, and it was.  Everyone was super nice to us in Brockport, but transitioning from being a student to a full-fledged pastor isn’t easy.  She reminded me it was ok to be overwhelmed.

And through the years she has been my mentor and my guide as I have tried to figure out exactly what ministry should look like in my life.  She has reminded me that full-time ministry didn’t really start until her 40’s and that I’m ok going slow professionally.  There is life after children.

Most recently Linda has moved to Indianapolis and she has taken over the International Child Care Ministries program with the Free Methodist Church which does something similar to World Vision or Compassion.  If you haven’t had a chance to check out one of these programs to sponsor a child, it’s super easy and it’s a wonderful opportunity to help a child get food and an education.  For what…..coffee, dinner out, a couple of tickets to the movies every month, you can feed and educate a child.  Pretty amazing how easy it really is to be involved with social justice from the comfort of your own home. 

So Linda gets to travel around ensuring this program is running smoothly, finding more opportunities for sponsorships and meeting with the families who receive our gifts.  Which seems like a totally cool and fun job to me, but probably in reality is pretty draining and emotionally challenging.  She’s gone to Haiti several times since the earthquake.  I can’t even imagine the things she sees in her travels.

And when I think about whining about something, how frustrated I am about something, I remember what she see’s on a regular basis.  Hunger, malnutrition, children dying, mom’s who can’t feed their children, women who are living as sex slaves, women having babies too young for their bodies, people living in fear of gathering to celebrate Jesus and probably more that I would be entirely shocked about that you and I can’t even imagine.  She sees it on a regular basis.

So my Viva La Femme pick this Friday is Linda Adams. 

Thanks for living as Christ’s hands and feet, Serving His people, all people, with genuine compassion (even me)!

Here’s a really great short video with Linda talking about child-sponsorship questions dealing with children in Haiti.

Comical Covers #2

Jeremy says this one isn’t that funny because it’s a Lawrence Welk. But I beg to differ. What is NOT funny about a man in short pants, knee high socks, a floppy bow-tie and a little “Sound of Music” Hat, in front of a little red school house? Agree or disagree. (if you disagree you may have watched too much Lawrence Welk in your youth.)

Blueberries and Jonah

It’s blueberry season.  We love blueberries at our house.  And besides that, it’s the only natural thing most doctor’s will mutter at me when I visit them.  Under their breath they’ll whisper something like “you might want to eat blueberries.”  like they can’t believe they’re encouraging something that doesn’t require a prescription.   So enough doctors have eeked out the word blueberries (and green tea), and enough studies have been read, that I eat blueberries, and I pick them and stash large quantities in my freezer for the winter.

It’s a family tradition for us to head west towards the lake (Lake Michigan that is) where most of the blueberry farms are located.  Our favorite lately has been True Blue Farms near Bangor.  Then we head over to the beach for the afternoon.

My kids love the IDEA of picking blueberries.  But that usually fades within minutes under the sun.  We head out with our buckets, down the rows of blueberries looking for the perfect spot, which is usually way back at the very back of the field.  And it never fails, as soon as we get situated in a good spot, someone has to go to the bathroom.  Elijah is usually good peeing and pooping anywhere, but Meleah, no, she’ll whine till one of us gives in to take her back to the bathrooms.  Pooping is such a big deal in our family I don’t know why it doesn’t occur to me to always make sure my kids go to the bathroom before we go anywhere.  And with my little Meleah, the minute we either take our first bite of food at dinner or arrive in a designated location, she will have to go to the bathroom.

And there’s really nothing more unappetizing then having to go wipe children when they poop during dinner.

She always times poop so perfectly.

So we were out in the middle of the blueberry patch and it started.

“I have to go to the bathroom mommy.”

“No I won’t squat.”

“You use leaves to wipe your butt mommy!  Gross! I am totally NOT doing that!”

“I don’t feel good mommy.”

“Yada, yada, yada, yada, yada!”

“Is it time to go yet mommy?”

Until finally I just yelled, “either squat here or go sit under a bush and sulk like Jonah.”

Leave it to me, mother and pastor, to bring up the Bible out of anger in the middle of a blueberry patch.

“Mommy, who is Jonah?”

Jeremy is now like “now you did it Jen, now you’ve got to finish this little Bible lesson you started.”

So then I had to explain Jonah.

“Do you remember the man who was swallowed by a fish in the Bible honey?”

“Yes mommy,” she says.

“Well, after he was spit out of the whale he did what God wanted, he went to Ninevah to warn the people that God wasn’t happy with them for what they were doing, and even though they believed Jonah, Jonah still got angry and he went and pouted under a tree.” (Jonah 4)

(This is why none of you are named Jonah honey, because even though mommy really likes the name Jonah, daddy doesn’t like that the last we see of Jonah, he is pouting kids.  Ok, so I didn’t say that, but I totally thought it….lol)

So if the people believed Jonah, why did he sulk?  Why did he pout?

I can’t help but wonder if all the while God was preparing Jonah’s heart through the experience of the whale, and facing the Ninevites, Jonah was far more concerned about himself.   He just couldn’t see beyond the end of his nose that God was developing something good in Jonah. 

When he left Ninevah, even though the Ninevites repented and believed, Jonah was still irked about the whole ordeal.  He didn’t think God should have mercy on the Ninevites. 

Maybe he was still ticked because he had been forced in to something he didn’t really want to do.

I mean, who really wants to go tell a city they’re going to be destroyed if they don’t get their act together?  Hmmm…”angry mob” comes to mind?

Maybe he had missed God’s mercy on his life and couldn’t understand how God would show mercy to the Ninevites?

God had been preparing Jonah for this task, yet Jonah never saw how God was shaping his heart towards compassion on the Ninevites.   To bring the same message of love and compassion and forgiveness to the Ninevites, that God had already bestowed on Jonah.

He was too self-focused.

I read this great little thought about how God was preparing Jonah:

“I would suggest to some of you here who have to bear double trouble that God may be preparing you for double usefulness, or he may be working out of you some unusual form of evil which might not be driven out of you unless his Holy Spirit had used these mysterious methods with you to teach you more fully his mind.” (Spurgeon) 

I have been far too concerned lately with what God has not done in my life, than what He has done already.  You would think cancer would have shaped me up for good, but what can I say, we are forgetful people in constant need of God’s gentle nudges.

We forget God prepares us in every journey and in every task.  We are constant God-learners. 

I love the idea that double trouble could in fact lead to double usefulness.

But not if we’re an angry sulking mess, unwilling to remember God’s mercy.

It took a whiny little girl, in the middle of a blueberry patch on a hot day to remind me of God’s faithfulness even when we don’t deserve it.

Tagged , ,

Comical Covers #1

Our church library has been cleaning out books and they’ve set up a table for anyone who wants to take them.  I was looking through the books last Sunday and I found myself running to Jeremy with several covers because they were so hysterical, I just needed to laugh with someone.  So I’ve decided to start looking in used bookstores for albums and book covers for some comic relief before the 90’s.  Here are a few albums to start with: 

Is it Christian? Yeseree. Let's make sure everyone knows it by putting it three times on the cover. And don't you worry, "Praise.r.cise" is not tainted by any Olvia Newton John mumbo jumbo. Only CHRISTIAN here.

Just the name here makes me laugh. I'm pretty sure the record labels now would make him change his name. And I can almost guarantee they would ask him to stop dressing like Jesus.

Peek-a-boo, I see you. I loved Evie when I was little. I would fall asleep listening to her on my little plastic record player. But she's so dang cute. Just love'in the bowl cut.

Tagged , ,

The Little (Stolen) Tree of Hope

When I take my kids to school I have the option of driving them about 1/4 of a mile down to the school or walking.  The quickest way is a path through a little wooded area near the school. 

Last spring I was walking along and noticed a small dogwood tree buried back in the woods.  No one really goes back in there.  The school used to use it and there is actually an amphitheatre buried under thick garlic mustard and vines.  Call me naive.  Or stupid.  Or Both.  Jeremy can’t believe I did this, but I waded through the garlic mustard and foliage to dig up that little dogwood tree to transplant it in my backyard (I love dogwoods and I’m too poor or cheap to buy one).  I know, I’m a total thief.  I’m not sure who I stole from, maybe the city, maybe the school, but quite frankly I don’t think either of them cared about that little dogwood tree buried under the garlic mustard.

He was certainly annoyed, or maybe humored, or angry.  Sometimes I can’t tell.  He took one look at the roots and said “there’s no way that thing is going to grow, you barely got any roots!”

I figured he was probably right because I really am not that strong and I couldn’t get very deep, nor could I talk him in to going down and digging up stealing a dogwood tree in the woods.and at that point I felt pretty bad because not only had I stolen a little dogwood tree, but I had probably killed it as well.

But I asked him to dig me a hole in the backyard, and he did.  Humored, angry, annoyed.

So I planted my little tree and I watered it, and watered it, and watered it again hoping it would survive. 

And then I sort of gave up on it.  I looked at the stick I had planted and I figured he was right.  I had killed it.  I had stolen it and I had killed it.  I decided to ignore it.

And then I forgot about it.

Till a few weeks ago I was sitting on the back porch and I looked at that little stick in my backyard at the edge of my little patch of woods, and there it was, clear as day.  So little I could barely see it.  So I had to get closer.

I ran up the path into the woods.  It was up on a little hill so I had to climb around, through a bunch of bushes to get to the little stick tree to examine it.

But there it was, clear as day.

A LEAF!

A brand new baby leaf, and several more were popping out in other places.

I hate to gloat to Jeremy, but, well I did.  I said, “Jeremy, look, my baby stick tree is growing leaves!”

And I ran to get the hose to give it a long overdue drink.  Because for heaven’s sake I had been neglecting it!

Then a few days ago I was crying in the backyard to Jeremy and he was hugging me and I was crying and carrying on to him about how my life isn’t turning out how I imagined it. 

When I was 20, I would never have imagined I would have faced death, battled cancer, let alone my career.  That I would struggle to find security in a church community.  That I would go five years straight without a request to interview for a job in my chosen career field and my beloved denomination.  I had just finished attending the Willow Creek Leadership Summit and although phenomenal in so many ways, and with so much that I needed to hear, about trusting God in the desert times, I still felt so emotionally drained, and tired, and useless after seeing so many people who seemed to have it all together and who were having so much success in their chosen field.

And so when I was crying, and he was holding me there in that backyard, I saw that little tree there with just a few leaves.

Just waiting to give me a piece of hope.

The whole book of Habakkuk is basically God’s prophet going from doubt to trust and the process it took to get there. In chapter 3, the very end of the book, the last words we hear from him are these:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
       and there are no grapes on the vines,
       though the olive crop fails
       and the fields produce no food,
       though there are no sheep in the pen
       and no cattle in the stalls,

 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
       I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
       he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
       he enables me to go on the heights.”

I know I’m not alone in my feelings of inadequacy and doubt.  To wonder if God really knows what he’s doing. To question his intentions for good in my life.  Even though he delivered me from cancer, and he has provided for me over and over again, I still feel scared and helpless.

Over the past year I have talked with countless friends who have felt this way too.  I sat with a woman just the other day as she said, “Jen, I never would have guessed 20 years ago I would be a divorced, single mother of 3, wondering if I would have enough money to make it to the next paycheck.  Divorce, affairs, bankruptcy, scary health issues.  I am overwhelmed by the amount of sadness right now.

Sometimes it all feels like way too much.

And it is.

But then there’s Habakkuk, who reminds us to trust despite hopelessness..

That even though we feel stolen,

trampled on,

broken, 

dug up,

cracked,

replanted,

dug up again,

forgotten about,

dry,

and lost,

we are not alone, nor are we ever without hope.

I’ll cling to that.

Tagged , , ,

Risk Management or Stereotyping

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about a recent risk management policy change at her church. The policy basically says that no men are allowed to change diapers or take children to the bathroom while volunteering in the children’s ministries area. This can only be done by women.

My first reaction was not a good one. But of course Jeremy and I discussed it and he did say that the policy protects men from any claims, but even he seemed a little surprised by the policy.

But I guess I have to ask, even if it protects men, how does it protect women?

And does it really protect men or does it stereotype them?

And how does it stereotype a woman?

And what does it say to children or teens? It certainly doesn’t communicate equality or encourage men to be involved in rearing children at the most basic level.

It seems when the policy is spoken about, it’s in hushed tones as if it’s not really supposed to be leaked to the entire congregation. And women raise their eyebrows and shake their heads, but don’t feel they can say anything.

I say the policy should be that two people always need to be present when changing a diaper or taking children to the bathroom.

I’m just curious, what say you?

Tagged , ,

Confessions Of A 5 Year Old

At 4 pm we made the switcheroo.

Jeremy came home from work and I ran out the door to a meeting with my web designer (it’s slow, but it is coming soon) and then to go meet with some folks for a run.

I had chicken in a marinade for Jeremy to grill, I set out some brown rice and showed him where he could find vegetables to throw in the microwave.

And I ran out the door.

Fast forward to 7:30 pm.  I arrive home and drink a gallon of water because it’s outrageously humid here in Michigan.  Then I set about looking for leftovers.  I managed to find the chicken and the rice.  “Jeremy” I yelled, were there any vegetables left? 

To this he answered.  “I didn’t make the vegetables.”

“Honey, you seriously fed the children only grilled chicken and plain brown rice?”

“Yup,” he answered.

So I heat up the leftovers, including the vegetables, which were the easiest because they were the microwavable vegetables with teriyaki sauce, and I go outside to sit on the front porch to eat my dinner.

Meleah comes out and sits next to me. 

As usual, my deep thinker asks me why God made tornados.  This of course led to a long drawn out answer from me starting with Adam and Eve and how we now know both really good and really bad.  Which of course led us to discussion on death and dying.

And my children do recognize I had a brush with death when I battled cancer and so she mentioned that I hadn’t died.

So I asked her if she would miss me if I died.  And she always gets this silly grin because the girl KNOWS how to tease, and she paused for a second and she finally said “yes mommy, I’d miss you if you died.” And she laughs.

And I say “You better miss me if I died!” 

And I went on “look, who’d cook you vegetables little girl, not your dad, that’s for sure!  And I make you breakfast and lunch and clean up after you…..”

And as I’m rambling all the reasons she should be really grateful I’m alive, she cuts me off and says in a really loud voice to make sure I hear:

“And mommy, you wipe me after I poop!”

And that my friends tells it all right there.

I knew I was good for something darn it!

“For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.”But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do.” (Mathew 18:2-6)

 

Tagged ,

Breast Cancer Survivor’s Beach Day Oath

1.  I will go to the beach and not let insecurity keep me from enjoying the sunny days of summer.

2.  I will not COVET my neighbors breasts, even the saggy ones.

3.  I will let people imagine how I got my funky tan lines.  

4.  I will make-believe that the blue dots on my chest from radiation actually do look like freckles.

5.  I will not keep hiking up my bathing suit top and sneaking peeks at my chest to make sure my scars aren’t showing.

6.  I will not care if my chest is super flat, it makes me look thin.

7.  I will find a nice bathing suit with a lining I can cut a hole in for the prosthetics instead of buying those expensive bathing suits where they cut the hole for you, Because breast cancer is expensive enough.

8.  I will live by today’s research and wear SPF approved by EWG if I’m out in the middle of the day for more than a half-hour, but if it’s less than that I won’t wear any to get my dose of VITAMIN D, which is supposed to keep cancer away. 

9.  I will try to keep up with current research just in case rule 8 changes.

10.  I will imagine people are looking at me because “I”M HOT,” and not for any other insecurity I have about my body or my chest.

Tagged , ,