Waiting Tables: Lenten Baptism Post for Megan Tietz at SortaCrunchy

Today I’m honored to be writing about my family and the promises of Baptism for my dear friend Megan Tietz of Sorta Crunchy. I’ll start you off here, then you can head over to her place to finish on up. And while you’re there, do dig into what she’s doing to observe Lent this year through her Waiting Tables series. It’s been profoundly helpful and encouraging for me in this season.

flickr.com user antique nature

flickr.com user antique nature

I was baptized as an infant in February of 1982, with my family gathered in the pews of the stained glass church on Baldwin Street. The same church where my parents were married and my grandparents were founding members.

I was baptized as an adult in late August, 2003 in the center of a large church, surrounded by plastic grey chairs with a few friends and family members scattered in the midst of thousands of others.

It was a profound day, full of awkwardness and freedom. There is nothing comfortable about standing in front of a crowd in cotton baptismal shorts, being submerged in a hot tub by someone you only know a little. There is nothing commonplace about leaving soggy footprints on church carpet as you tearfully make your way through the aisles. But for me this mess a thing of wonder, a miracle. After all, faith is not comfortable and baptism is such a profound gift that the dripping mess fits the radical newness it represents.

Dead with Christ and Alive in his resurrection, leaving the old behind in the water, grabbing breath as a new creation.

Imagine how much baggage has been left at the bottom of baptismal hot tubs.

As I mentioned above, I’ve technically been baptized twice which is a real church taboo. So, while my adult baptism was freeing and beautiful, it somehow felt a bit subversive. My entire family is Reformed and believes in infant baptism, so when it came to this evening I worried they would think I was invalidating the beautiful gift they’d given me as an infant.

It was out of this concern that I decided not to invite any family beyond my parents to the baptism, I worried it would cause an issue and I didn’t want them to fuss over it in the first place. So that evening, while spirit-led and memorable to me, went unobserved by most people in my life.

Please head over to Megan’s place to finish the story. 

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How to stop worrying about who isn’t listening or reading or watching and start loving the people who are

photo courtesy of flickr creative commons jennifah007

photo courtesy of flickr creative commons jennifah007

I have a confession to make:  Sometimes when I’m talking to my children about something particularly amusing or ridiculous, I project a little louder for other people to hear.

“You learned about how Jesus will heal as long as we cut a holes in the roof? Wow that’s crazy!”  
(big look around to see if anyone else heard that and wants to exchange a grown up eye with me as I ignore the child trying to talk to me about God… <facesmack>)

And sometimes I do this with my husband, especially at parties or social gatherings. If we say something funny together I’ll dump him to go tell other, new-shiny people about it.

And sometimes I do this with my friends

And very often I do this online.

And when I do this, you know what I’m saying? Dear person I’m actually talking to:  You’re not enough, I need a larger, more important audience.  Others matter more than what’s going on between us.  

My need to be noticed trumps what we are sharing in this moment.

It took a season of therapy and a good hard look to realize that the heart of this problem is this:  So often I worry about who isn’t listening and miss out on who is, because I’m valuing the wrong things.

We all do this in life, don’t we? Come on, please normalize this with me so I don’t feel like such a jerk…

We’re chatting with our friends, our people and across the room or the twittersphere when we spot someone we wish we were friends with, chatting with a crowd we wish we ran with and we feel… jealous and small and less than… maybe even crummy and insignificant.

Why? Because we want to be noticed and successful. It’s perfectly normal… but if we’re not careful it can become utterly consuming.  And we should be careful.

We should be careful with the people we’ve been entrusted with, the audience we’ve been given. 

Because odds are that if you look around, you’re already as noticed and significant as you need to be.

Let me give you an example that will potentially make you hate me and burn my blog in anger (I don’t know how that would work, just go with it):

Sometimes when a new person responds to me on twitter I go to check their profile.

Not a big confession, Normal right?
What am I looking for you ask?
Am I trying to see if we have common interests and beliefs?
Nope.  I’m checking to see how many followers they have to figure out how much time and attention I should give them.
I know, I know.  Awful. But I swear It’s getting better…

Why? I’ve stopped worrying about who’s not listening and started loving everyone who is.

I actually remember the exact day that this switch flipped. I got put off by an acquaintance online, someone who didn’t do anything wrong but who, through inaction left me with a wound.

I literally looked at myself in the toothpaste covered bathroom mirror and yelled. “What (name of person) thinks doesn’t even matter! I have people, good people and what (he/she) does or doesn’t think of me doesn’t get anymore airtime in my brain or my time.”

Then I talked about it at therapy. A lot. I talked about how I want to intentionally cultivate depth with the people I’ve been given (gifts each one!) and how badly I needed to stop worrying about who wasn’t paying attention to me.

Then over dishes about a week later I received some news from God.  The kind that just pops into your mind and feels at home, like sweet mind-truth, life giving and free.

“I’ve given you exactly the influence needed, the people you were meant to tend and grow. Love them well and forget the rest.”

And so it was that I learned to love my people, my place in this world.  Not in a passive way, but in an active, daily choosing that leaves me feeling full of life and peace.

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Stop Counting Beavers

My four year old Noelle has no interest in drawing pictures or coloring inside the lines.  When presented with a blank piece of paper, she takes a few crayons to it, hastily draws a circle or a blob, and moves on.

I’ve googled this issue repeatedly spent a lot of time sweating it.

I know coloring inside the lines is overrated, but I just need to to know that she’s able to do it… if she wants to.

I have mini panic attacks when I see the art of my friends’ preschoolers online, they’re drawing people!  With faces and recognizable limbs!

I regularly freak out over this as though this is huge benchmark in Noelle’s future life success.

bevaers

But this past Sunday afternoon, during a rainy-day painting session, she painted a beaver!  With a pond!  And a tree!

All the !!!!!!!

Real understandable things, on paper!  

And the mother rejoiced!  There was much celebration and high-fivery and fist-bumpery.  

Because finally, we arrived!  We were going to be okay!  We had beavers!

Wait a second.  Where were we yesterday?  Were we any less awesome in out pre-beaver existence?

Am I really going to be the kind of mom who only believes in her kids when they’re hitting the pre-prescribed benchmarks?

Ewww.  No. What?  Continue reading

Grief is awkward

because grief is awkward.

……  because grief is awkward……

Recently I moved back to my hometown.  Back to the place where my parents are buried and the most painful parts of my life came to pass.

It was easier to hide from and avoid the details when I was 1,000 miles away…  not always driving past the cemetery or over the train tracks where it all went down.

Yet, all of these little moments of remembering haven’t messed with me as much as this one:

I was sitting at my desk, at the office where I work a few days a week right now and someone stopped in who I haven’t seen for years, someone from my parents church.

We chatted about this and that and as he was leaving he said:

“Hey!  Tell your folks I said hi!”  

Inwardly I panicked. Boy was he out of the loop, I thought everyone in town knew our story.

Should I fill him in or just let it go?  He knew them, he deserved to know.

So I did what I have to do sometimes and laid it all out at once, the breakdown of what’s up with my family.

“I have a sister, but she was in a tragic accident and lives in a group home and my Dad died of a massive heart attack and then my mom took her life.  So I have a brother, but he joined the army and lives in Kansas for now.”

Deep breath.

Typically when I have to do this I am absolutely fine and it doesn’t phase me.  After all, nothing about my life changes in that moment.

But in that moment, remembering who we all were way back then and then explaining how it ended, It undid me. And when he left I hid in the storage room and cried.

It was awkward and painful.

Grief is awkward.

Usually the moment I explain my backstory is no big deal and it doesn’t hurt … much.  In fact, usually I end up feeling worse for the person on the other end of my story and find myself trying to make them feel better about it all.

This is always my least favorite moment of “getting to know you.

Grief is awkward.

Sometime this is because you find yourself suddenly hurting, stinging from an unexpected, painful memory…  in public.

 

Maybe a song comes on in church and you crumple to the pew and burry your head in your hands, or you see something while you’re out and about that brings everything crashing down on you.

The people around you see this and don’t know whether to intervene or let you have your moment.  They may wonder what’s going on, they may speculate or they may grab you a tissue… even if it’s tender and sweet… it may feel a little awkward.

This is because you suddenly have to “go there” with someone you may not be ready to “go there” with.

But this is life, and life is awkward.  It’s a big jumble of experiences we weren’t expecting and feelings that arrest and overwhelm us at the most inopportune moments.  

Since it’s bound to get awkward… here is a list (that I’ve developed from years of awkward moments) that may help you.

1) Breathe. If you stop you will pass out and that’s super awkward.
2) Gain perspective, everyone has experienced pain and can likely identify with what’s going on.  You’re not the first person on the planet to hurt.
3) Drop your shame, you have no reason for it, healing takes vulnerability and it’s not always pretty. Shame is just going to lengthen the process.
4) Remember that we were created for relationship and that this forced, accidental group therapy may very well turn into something lovely, if you let it.
5) When you say the wrong thing (like: “your mom” to someone who doesn’t have one or “do you have kids?” to someone who is infertile) apologize but move on in grace.  What you’ve just learned isn’t new information to the person you’re chatting with they’re probably okay… so you can be too.

Overall remember that life is just messy and uncomfortable.  You will fall apart sometimes, and it will usually be in public.  I think this is because God’s trying to teach us to be real…. although it’s not my favorite method of his. 

The more we all admit this messy awkwardness and stop pretending that grief and pain are quick and easy, the less awkward moments we will actually have.

And we will create authenticity…
And community
And generally feel less alone in the pain of it all.

And that my friends is a very, very good thing.

Love ’em and Forget ’em. (an open apology letter to my children)

Dear Noelle and Caedmon,

You know how you’re always learning and growing?  Well… me too.  And you know how you make bad choices, which come with consequences?  Well, me too.

Your Dad and I believe that it’s important for grown-ups to admit mistakes and say I’m sorry to you guys.  Because kids are valuable and as deserving of an apology as any big person.

So, along these lines… I’m sorry.

I figured something out this weekend and it’s all about us, our family… and a little bit about the rest of the world too, in fact that’s the my point here.  

You guys matter to me more than anyone else in the world, but sadly the way I act doesn’t always reflect that.  I’ve let myself get too worried about what everyone else is thinking about our family when my thoughts should be focused on you two.

On what you’re thinking
On how you’re feeling
On what each experience is teaching you about life and humanity.

screwem

This is my job as your mommy, to help you learn about life and how to think and respond to the world around you.  My bad choice lately has been this:  I have been too worried about how the world is thinking and responding to you.  

And that’s the wrong way to think guys, if we can change this together, we can change our lives and maybe even the world.

Nope, definitely even the world.

And again, guys… I’m sorry.  I should know better by know, but I still have so much to learn too.  Thanks for helping me with all this learning, for teaching me how to be a better mommy.

It’s a tricky balance, the way God calls us to live: we’re here to love and serve the people around us, everyone the same… but not to worry about what they’re thinking.

It’s tricky, I know but we’ll get there.

I feel like I have a million “I’m sorrys” to say to you, but can we start with just a few?

I’m sorry for the times when you’re struggling to learn something and I apologize for you instead of holding your hand or helping you on.

I’m sorry when I look around at others when you’re having a tantrum instead of locking eyes with you and guiding you through that.  (also if you could just cut the tantrums out completely we’d have smoother sailing… okay? okay.)

I’m sorry that when we’re connecting and having fun I look around to see how others are perceiving us, checking to see if they’re giving me a smile or a thumbs up.  Because you’re my person, the one in the grocery cart chatting about sweet corn and fishies.  I’m here to be with you not to get praise from random strangers.

We’re a loud, creative, active, busy family and from now, on I’m viewing this as a point of pride. Any time anyone tells me that you’re busy or noisy or silly or tall or energetic … I’ll respond with only this: “Thank you.”

Because I’m here to help you learn to navigate life not garner high marks from the general public.

I’m sorry that I’ve failed here, and I promise to see you clearer, love you stronger and surround you with people who love us just as we are, works in progress, a completely lovely, messy set of Pennys.

Strawberries and Snap Judgement

Let me paint you a picture:

photo copy 8

seriously check out his shirt. It was so juice covered that it was unsalvageable

The kids and I were out picking strawberries at one of West Michigan’s most popular U-Pick spots, DeLanges Redberry Farm.  The strawberry picking was fabulous and the kids and I enjoyed time with family as we ate berries straight from the field and quickly filled our box with 14 pounds of sun ripened sweetness.

They brought me their best finds and ran up and down the rows, all while staying close by and declaring: “I love berry picking day!”

When we’d filled our box with bright red berries, we grabbed a green wagon and headed to the shed to pay.

As I pulled the wagon through the grass I surveyed my children, they were giddy and sticky beyond belief.  Caedmon was nearly dyed pink from berry juice and as I approached the shed I wondered if his clothes were salvageable.  What a way to go… a t-shirt lost to a morning of sunshine and berry juice.

As I paid for our haul, and asked the farm worker about pectin while the kids ran around, engaging fellow pickers in line.

Just as I was finishing up, I noticed that the kids were getting into the flags that were used to mark the rows which had already been picked.

“Guys!  Put those back and leave them alone!” I called out as I walked toward them.

Noelle started to obey, but Caedmon grabbed two flags and started running away from me in defiance.  (Defiance is his thing lately, he’s two)

I chased them down and made them help me put all the flags back, or at least I tried.  Honestly, I was tired and ready to get back to the car and a tall bottle of water.

As we headed to the car, a middle aged man approached me.

I was trying to keep the kids close, my hands full of berries while when he spoke up:

He shook his head at me as he told me: “You know, your kids are misbehaved.  Very misbehaved.”  

I was shocked.  I said the only thing I could think of which was a confused and sarcastic: “Thank you.”

strawberries and grace

My shock quickly turned to a line of painful questioning:  Do I have poorly behaved children?  Was their excitement over flags the result of bad parenting or just a normal kid reaction?

Continue reading

How to eat Humble Pie on Palm Sunday

Cross palms

I was born into a traditional Christian Reformed church where my family were charter members. I still remember the crazy confetti carpet, the stained glass windows and the padded wooden pews.

I remember getting into major trouble for turning on the organ and banging away one afternoon during children’s choir practice.

I remember gazing longingly into the Sunday school reward case and wishing I’d have done more of my Bible Memory so I could get a Noah’s Ark cup or Jonah pencil.

I remember realizing in horror that I’d picked my nose while the Sunday school sang Happy Birthday to me. I beat myself up over this for years and always saw it as the turning point of my popularity at school.  I was sure they all knew.

Eventually my parents switched to a more contemporary church.  This was fine with me, I was never quiet enough to sit through the service un-spanked.  That’s why my Dad eventually started giving me a roll of Mentos before the service, I couldn’t be half as noisy if I were chewing candy until the Doxology finally announced my freedom. 

At our new church our pastor used videos in his sermon clips we ate cookies and lemonade around tables during the sermon. I swore that I’d never return to anything remotely traditional again.  I was done with hymns and responsive reading, on to bigger and better things.

In my early twenties I left that church and went to an even more progressive church the next town over. It was at that point that I really thought that “this way” was the “right way” and that all the others were clearly doing it “wrong.”

I threw around words like “post-modern” constantly just in case people weren’t 100% sure that I was “in-the-know.”  I was feisty and argumentative and more than a little arrogant.  I railed at the idea of marrying a Methodist pastor and tensed up at the thought of being contained by a denomination.

And I was young and wrong, too busy claiming this new church and faith as my own that I failed to see how un-Christian my words and behavior really were. I spent a ridiculous chunk of my twenties giving very little grace to other churches, or to myself for that matter.

Now that I’m older I want to go back and shake 22 year old me. I want to tell her that the name on the sign, however modern, post modern or traditional doesn’t define the church, the people inside it do.

I want show that girl that she’s a fool for throwing the baby out with the bath water when it comes to church tradition. Because whether we sing hymns or contemporary songs, gather in sanctuaries or experience rooms, listen to TV pastors or those wearing robes we all bear in our hearts a need for the very same God who shatters any such constraints.  

Don’t worry, I eat regular bites of humble pie over that season, God makes sure of it.  These days my usual station on Pandora is the “Instrumental Hymn” station.  Something about the soft sweetness of souls seeking God through those words makes me feel connected to something far greater than myself.

Today found me a bit too sick to make our home church so my husband Kel too the kids for a visit to another wonderful church down the road.

He sent me a picture of Caedmon, walking down the aisle of the enormous sanctuary, waving a palm branch with a tentative grin on his face.  When I saw it something inside me burst, there was my son engaging in a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember.

His view of Jesus is already being formed by a Palm Branch on a Sunday morning he’s not likely to remember but that will be a brick in his faith journey.  

I burst with Joy that my children are engaging in a practice that started back on the first Palm Sunday, with a young boy not so different from Caedmon who sat around a table listening to stories about God and salvation.  Who stood in a street waving a Palm branch because wondering if perhaps his salvation, his freedom was right before his eyes.

Today I lay another piece of my arrogance aside and pray that in every way shape and form may our churches may be like the streets of Jerusalem were that day: a place where God’s people from 2 – 102 can wave their hands at the freedom their souls are finding in that man right in front of them, riding on a donkey.

Red yarn, purity and my misplaced worth

7782343794_4a8c280005_cI was 21 years old, just, when I found myself sitting in a tiny counseling office trying to recover from a painful breakup. The woman in the chair across from me was praying passionately as she called upon the Holy Spirit to free my heart from my ex-boyfriend.

From the aching of being dumped… over email.

The focus of our session was all about freeing my heart, which was intrinsically linked to his, because we’d had sex.

She opened an old, metal drawer and took out some pre-cut, crimson yarn. She held the ends between pinched fingers and held the taut strands between us.

She handed me a pair of scissors and told me to cut the yarn as a representation of my cutting my heart free from my ex.

Through snipping this yarn, the Holy Spirit would set me free and disconnect us. Although I was told my heart was forever damaged and would be messy and incomplete because of my transgressions.

I remember getting into my raggedy blue Saturn and wondering… “Would cutting the yarn really do it? Should I feel different now? 

And for that matter, would this painful breakup be easier if we hadn’t… “gone there?”

I turned it all over in my head for months, like you do when you’ve been dumped. I took to rollerblading around my parents neighborhood while I listened to Dashboard Confessional on my disc-man.

Was it true that I had superglued my heart to his, never to be whole again?  Had I robbed my future husband of something special? Was I forever demoted because I proved true the age old cliché of “looking for love in all the wrong places?”

The more I rolled around the neighborhood, the more I realized that I hadn’t had sex with this guy out of love, or even for physical pleasure.

I’d done it because I needed to believe that someone had wanted me completely, just as I was.

you see, my problems went far deeper than my lost virginity. I had an incredibly screwed up sense of who I was… and whose I was… and what I was doing with my life.

I thought that I needed to belong to a man to feel complete and that belief was far more damaging than my sexual mistakes would ever be.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking through all the clumsy, awkward steps that led me to ultimately “losing it.” All those concessions I made, one by one that ended with me tucking my purity ring in my jewelry box and hoping my Dad wouldn’t notice its absence on my ring finger.

If all the girls I’ve ever mentored as a youth worker were sitting across from me and I could tell them one thing about their sexuality, what would I say?

They’ve heard thousands of words from hundreds of sources, what would I add?

It’s this: Your worth cannot be found or taken from you through sex.

You were created for a big, bold beautiful purpose. If you go have sex to feel better about who you are, you will only be taking steps backward.

I would tell them that I regret having sex before marriage, but that I regret all the years that I lost believing that I was worthless even more.

I regret looking for my worth in sex, because it only ever left me emptier.

I would tell them that if they’ve already had sex, God loves them and values them just as highly as he would if they had their “v-cards” in tact. I would let them know that they can still have a healthy, joy-filled, passionate, sexy and intimate marriage someday.

I would remind them that even though the church world seems to see sexual sin as weightier or dirtier than the rest, that God sees it all the same. And that he loves the virgins and the non virgins equally.

That he’s close to the broken hearted, even the ones who didn’t wait.

Then I would tell their parents that when it comes to “the sex talk” that they should spend most of their time teaching their children who they are and who they belong to. Because kids who value themselves and have a solid send of self worth are less likely to go looking for it in all the wrong places, Like in the backseat of their cars.

And then I would go home and kiss my husband and cry a little. Because there is nothing easy about this jumbled mess of human sexuality. I would lay my head on the pillow and thank God for infusing my journey with so much grace… for leading me to this place, this day, these words.

Our children, Our mirrors

he got my crooked smile and my heart

Every parent, from the moment their child is born, delights in the unique blend of gifts that they’ve been given through their son or daughter.

We look around at other people’s children, we skim the milestone charts and parenting books, but somewhere in the back of our mind is the belief that our child is too wonderful to be contained by statistics or averages.

They’re ours, they broke the mold and they will make the world a lovelier place just by being alive.

Then one morning we wake up and we look at them not as a unique work of art, but as a mirror.  We look at them and we see ourselves.

We look at them and we see ourselves not just in their eyes, their button noses or their crooked smiles, but we see ourselves in their flaws, their struggles, the things that cause them pain.

They don’t have an easy time reading
They have a wicked bad temper
They’re stubborn and refuse to learn lessons the easy way
They can’t sit still during story time
They don’t seem to fit in at school

In that moment we freak out a little, or a lot.  Our hearts break as we remember our pain and project every ounce of it onto our child’s future. Continue reading

They will know we are Christians by our Love.. for each other.

photo credit of flikr.com/

I promised myself that when I finished the Mother Letters I would do a week of light and easy posts, like a list of my favorite things or all the ridiculous search terms people use to find my blog.  The top one by the way is Fleece Fetish.   I will write these posts soon, just not today.

Today I have bigger things on my heart, like Church, Jesus and all the nitty gritty that goes along with committing to love them both.

Have you ever had to sit in worship or study God’s word in the same room as someone who doesn’t like you?  Someone who speaks openly against you and the work you pour your heart into?

I have, it’s terribly distracting and uncomfortable.  It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to stay home from church and stick a blanket over your head, say something along the lines of “screw it all, I’m out!”  (Or something similar but more rated R)

But as we get out there and do God’s work, dissenters will come along and bring their negative comments with them.  They won’t like what you’re doing, they may not even like you.  They wish you would go away, and lets be honest, often the feeling is mutual.

This where the nuts and bolts of the gospel get hard, where you put your head in your hands and cry about it a little, or a lot.

Heavy is the moment you realize that these people who are against you.. are loved children of God too.  We’ve all been the criticizers AND the one being criticized.  None of us are all good or all bad, we’re all seeking to be more like Jesus (I hope)

We are all travelers longing for home, and in search of his glory and grace.  Looking for a rhythm that transcends here and connects us to Our Father.

So stand strong, realize that there isn’t a place you could go and do the honest work of God without criticism.  Don’t leave because it’s hard, you won’t be able to grow roots this way, some seasons will be hard, everywhere, always.  Leaving is usually not the answer, sometimes, but not usually.

If you look at the early church, as early as the disciples you’ll see that they fought with each other, tore each other apart, unleashed their human flaws and insecurities upon each other.

So much so that Jesus gave them this:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

So, as easy as it is to scowl and avoid eye contact, switch churches or life groups, we’re called to keep loving.  This gospel we speak of, it’s not easy, loving your enemy, those that persecute you?  It’s advanced stuff.

 

We love our enemies because God loves them, and through our hands perhaps he can love their anger away.

Always see your brothers and sisters for what they are, loved ones who make mistakes, just like us.  Flawed people who act out of bad information or misunderstanding.

Have you felt this?  Are you feeling it now?  I’m with you, I love you, I’m a mess too.  Shalom dear one, Shalom, Peace of Christ to you.