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We Belong to Each Other

no peaceThis weekend our congregation hosted a regional gathering of Presbyterian churches.  We are one of twenty-some churches that make up the Yellowstone Presbytery.  Four times a year pastors and elders from the presbytery gather for Bible Study, reflection, mission, and to tend to our shared work.  As I sat in our sanctuary listening to church members reflect on where they saw God at work in their churches and in their own lives, as I listened to pastors share about new addiction recovery groups their congregation is offering, as I listened to others share about peacemaking conferences and community gardens, I was struck at how blessed we are to be connected.  One of the beliefs we focus on as a denomination is our connectional nature, that God desires for us to work together and not be alone.  That belief is applicable to the workings of the churches as we join together as a denomination, but it is just as applicable to God’s intention for us as human beings— we are created to be in community.

I left the gathering feeling inspired and confident that God was working in our midst here in Montana.  I felt in awe of how others have continued to answer the call to join God in that work.  I felt hopeful for how the word was going to be impacted for the good and how love was being freely given from these congregations.  After the meeting ended I chatted a bit with our Executive Presbyter about how awe inspiring and humbling it is that God chooses to work through normal human beings to leave a mark on the world. Each of us has a unique purpose to live into and God is counting on us to do so.  It was empowering and a great way to spend a Saturday.

Then I woke up on Sunday morning.

As I prepared to lead worship in our congregation, I saw social media references to a shooting in Florida. I paused and prayed, shook my head in disbelief, and made a mental note to find out more after church.  It was only later in the day as the chaos of nap times and meal preparation were behind me that I read the details of what happened. My heart was broken.

Forty-nine people were killed in cold blood.

Forty-nine people- who started their evening desiring to spend time having fun with friends and winding down after a long week- never came home.

Forty-nine people.

I cannot make sense of how this has happened.  Even more disturbing is that this isn’t the first time something so awful has.  We are just at the one year mark from when Bible Study attenders in North Carolina were murdered.  The tragedy at Sandy Hook still haunts my memories.  My heart is broken, my spirit is sad, and my mind is angry.  This isn’t supposed to happen.

They deserved to wake up Sunday morning.  They had every right to live full lives filled with stimulating careers, a loving family, and growing old.  They were meant to be living.

Thinking back to my weekend, I couldn’t help but grieve a personal loss.  We were connected.  I was their’s and they were mine.  God needed them as much as God needs me and God had unique purposes that they were created to fulfill.  The whole world lost 49 irreplaceable brothers and sisters.  That is beyond heart breaking.  I also felt guilt.  I am responsible for them.  They were responsible for me.  We commit to doing what we can to ensure that each other’s freedoms and safety are secure. The action that took their lives was taken by an individual who chose evil, I do not condone it, I did nothing to encourage it.  Yet, I can’t help but wonder if I have done everything in my in the future to someone else’s son or daughter.

I don’t pretend to have any answers.  There are awful people in this world who will do awful things. My cynical side knows that will probably never change.  Yet, we need to try.  We need to protect each other.  We need to be outraged.  We need to try something, even if there is a chance that it won’t work.  We need be persistent until something does work.  We need to stop making issues about “them” and the other side of the political isle and start making it about us- because we are all the victims— we need each other.

I know this is a bit different than my normal reflections on the simple moments of life.  This is not a simple moment of life.  This is a huge, tragic moment in our shared story.  We lost 49 brothers and sisters on Sunday.  The grief will be a part of us and I pray we do all we can to keep this sort of tragedy from happening again.  Let us continue to lift up their loved ones in prayer, their loss is more than we can imagine.  May God’s peace and mercy flow and may we be vessels of love and hope in the midst of tragedy.

Sharing Life– Reflections on Marriage

12264621613_6a011ca0f0_zFifteen years ago I graduated from high school.  As I dreamed about what the future would hold for me as I set off on the grand adventure of my life, it looked much different than what the past fifteen years have developed into.  I headed off to Northern Arizona University, pursuing a degree in Humanities (what on earth do you do with a Humanities degree?).  If you asked me then what I thought I would be doing post college I would have told you I would be in Inner City LA working with high risk teens.  I was convinced that I wouldn’t get married and if I did it would be well into my 30s.  I hoped to have kids, but that would be far later as well.  I felt like I knew what I wanted to commit my life to and I knew that bringing others into the equation could result in me having to “settle” or compromise my dreams.  I wasn’t willing for that to happen.

Yet three months after graduation, I stumbled into a church in my college town and offered to help with their youth programs.  It was in that historic church that the life I am now living started to take shape.  I met Brandon.  He helped with the teens as well and worked his way through college as one of the custodians of the church, living in the basement.  In a matter of months I went from completely committed to an independent life of adventure, to a 19 year old engaged to be married.  I am sure there were many who thought I was crazy, thought there was no way we would last…

Tuesday we celebrated our thirteen year anniversary.

We went to dinner and then decided to go on an evening hike-it is light until almost 9:30, might as well take advantage of it.  As we were trekking I came to a wonderful conclusion.  Forget wedding receptions, we should decide as a culture to send couples on wilderness treks to solidify their union.  I mean a party is great and all, but if you really want to allow a couple to come together and realize what it means to share life together, a hike is way more effective.

Our hike was a great metaphor for sharing life with someone.  The first bit is always a bit of a warm up, getting your stride established, getting loosened up, finding your pace.  I found as we got going that at times I would be leading and Brandon would trail, sometimes we would walk side by side, and others I would follow as Brandon charted the course.  We would stop together when the other needed water or to catch their breath.    When we hit a rocky or rough patch, a hand was quickly extended to help or a word of encouragement was offered.  Brandon was also great at reminding me to look up— when I hike my eyes are often on the ground, ensuring that I have proper footing and know where I am going. It is Brandon who is constantly bringing my attention to the vistas and the beauty that we are journeying through.

Our life has been filled with taking turns charting the course and walking side by side.  We have found ourselves moving forward at break-neck speed, and then pausing to reflect and catch our breath.  We have come upon struggles we never imagined and challenges that seemed too big to get beyond, but found that with the strength of each other and constant encouragement we have been able to overcome the impossible.  We have worked hard to ensure that we are giving this life our best, but have also strived to keep each other present in the moment and aware of the beauty and blessing that surrounds us.

IMG_4470What I know without a shadow of a doubt is that I was wrong.  I was so concerned fifteen years ago that sharing life with someone else would result in a lesser quality of life— it would mean letting go of my plans and dreams.  I was so wrong.  Sharing life with Brandon has resulted in each of us re-envisioning what life is together.  That new vision is so much fuller, so much more adventurous, so much richer than either of us had ever imagined.  I am not single and living in inner city LA— far from it.  In the last fifteen years we have lived in four states, served God alongside over 2000 different people, brought three amazing little men into this world, and did all of it together.  Who knows where this adventure that is our life will take us in the future, but I know who will be with me as we trek our way through it.  I am so glad for that.

My prayer is that we each realize how blessed we are to share life with the people God has blessed us with.  Who are you sharing life with now? Make sure they know you are grateful for that.




photo credit: worth the hurt by Chris Greevebiester /CC by-2.0

ps– I totally think that the name of the photo is also a great meditation on marriage:)

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Summer Break

summer breakSummer Break is HERE!!!!

Summer break is here…Oh my.

The entire month of May I was counting down the days for the boys to be out of school and for summer break to begin.  Longer days, quality family time, swimming, being outside… it doesn’t get any better.  May sped by as we finished up school work, had end of the year parties, went to school productions, and so much more.  As the month went on, the jitters seemed to take hold of the boys.  They were just so excited, they couldn’t control themselves.  Somehow I assured myself that it was just the chaos of finishing up the school year and that once we were out for the summer they would regain control of their bodies.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I naively painted a picture in my head that we could wake up on Thursday morning, the first day of summer break, to a new reality.  The kids of course would sleep in, much later than their 6am routine.  They would great me with an energetic “Isn’t it great that its summer!” and I would make pancakes and we would snuggle on the couch and quietly reflect on just how wonderful it is to be a family.  Then the day would progress is similar fashion with the boys taking turns selecting stimulating and appropriate (though still fun) activities to fill our day.  We would sit and eat dinner together and look back on our day with awe of just how wonderful it all was.

That was not our reality. By 5:30am we had a five year old in our bed, a 7 year old downstairs with the TV on and a 1 year old hollering from his crib— 5:30 in the morning!!!  The 5 year old greeted us with complaints about the TV show his brother selected.  When I didn’t jump right up and address the injustice, he took matters into his own hands and kicked his brother in the stomach.  This gives you just a taste of what the first day of summer was like.  The rest of the day followed suite, as did the days that have since followed.

But you know what, it has been a great start to the summer regardless because peppered among the chaos, the fighting, and the redirecting there has been a whole lot of blessing.  The boys have been building legos and teaching Levi (the 1 year old) how to duel with light sabers.  They have been coloring pictures for the wall and schooling me on facts about the most dangerous animals in the world (Micah’s favorite reading topic). They have played in the rain and attempted to teach Levi how to pick up bugs without killing them (this has proved unsuccessful thus far).  Yes, for every five minutes of bliss there has been 25 of hitting, screaming, or whining, but I will take it.

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