Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blueberry Pickin'

First blueberries of the season!photo © 2008 Kat Kellner | more info (via: Wylio)

I am an indoor kinda' gal. And the warmer it gets, the more I just want to sit in an air conditioned space and work on a bit of knitting or writing or reading.

There is one way to get me outside in the sun on a summer day and that's to promise me that we're going to pick blueberries.

Since the first time my grandmother took me to the farm that had a huge blueberry patch, I've been hooked. I love walking through the bushes. I love seeing the fruit hanging there, waiting for me to take it. I love feeling my pail get heavier and my stomach get fuller (I'm pretty sure the places where I pick blueberries should have a before and after weigh-in, because I do love to snack while I'm harvesting!).

One thing I notice when I'm in the blueberry patch is that on the same bush and even in the same cluster of berries, the fruit ripens at different rates. If I'm not careful, I can pull off a handful of berries that are fully ripened, some that are more pink than blue and some that are just plain green. When I'm not gentle, I can yank a piece of fruit from the bush that hasn't had a chance to become edible. It's still a blueberry, but it will have no opportunity to provide nourishment.

I think this happens in the Church sometimes. Our congregations contain folks who are at all stages in their spiritual lives and experiences and we sometimes treat them as if they are all the same, simply because they are clustered together. The single (and the single-on-Sunday). The divorced. The childless (by choice or by circumstance). The depressed. The jobless. The totally normal, married with two kids, living in the suburbs. We're all in there together - some ripe and ready to go out and do work, some close but maybe a bit sour, and some that need a lot more time to reach their full potential.

As we interact with each other, let's be gentle.

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This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. Today's word was Farm. You can read more submissions or post your own here.


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Monday, May 30, 2011

Repost: Present

The reason we don't sense God's being present in any given moment is because we're not present in most moments. ~Jeff Rogers (comment at Rebecca Ramsey's blog)
This time of year makes me think of vacations. And when I start to think about vacations, I'm immediately taken to a field in Vermont with my parents and sisters.

60 minutes of Night Skyphoto © 2009 Jim Sher | more info (via: Wylio)We had a pretty low-key day. We pulled into a camp ground that was a bit off the beaten path. It was incredibly quiet, which was rare in the middle of the summer vacation season. We built a fire, made some mountain pies, played at the arcade a little bit. Nothing special. Nothing very "vacationy." It was just a quiet night.

I'm not sure what led us to the field that night. But somehow we all ended up sitting around a picnic table in a huge open field with nothing but the night sky above us. Normally a loquacious family, I don't remember much conversation in that moment. Just awe.

It's not like I'd never seen stars before. Our home was in the country and there wasn't a lot of light pollution. There weren't even a lot of trees or houses around to obstruct our view back then. So what was different on this night?

I think the quote at the top of the post says it all. We were present. All of us. We sat there together in that moment. We gazed upon the magnificence of the starry sky together in that moment. We contemplated our own place in the world together in that moment. And we all sought God together in that moment.

And he met us there.

I think the quote holds true for so many relationships. We don't really experience true closeness with people because we're too distracted to really engage. We're so busy that our mind is already on the next thing that we have to do while we're talking to someone. We might be sitting there together, but we're not participating in the relationship. We're not present.

However, sometimes we are present. We fully immerse ourselves into the moment. We truly listen. We fully engage all of our senses. And those can be some of the most life-transforming moments we have.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

Can you remember a time when you were fully present in a moment? What happened? What are things that hinder you from being fully present?



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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Another week, another compilation of my favorite posts from around the internets. Check them out and let me know what you think!
  • I really enjoyed this repost by Katdish about the power of our words. A great reminder to say what needs to be said.
  • My friend Sarah Askins wrote a lovely post about the tornadoes and how each of us is living in tomorrow's ruins.
  • I absolutely loved this post by Shanda (who, by the by, is one of the most lovely people you will ever want to meet on Twitter) about the picture that her daughter drew. I love the way she wrote this.
  • Jamie Wright shared about living among the Latin boys and what her heart (and all of our hearts) truly long for.
  • My friend Billy Williams got married on Friday night. I'm super happy for him and his wife. He chronicled their engagement and the creation of her engagement ring on his blog. If you want to be all inspired by love, I'd encourage you to check it out. (Billy works for Nuru and is just one of the most selfless people I know. I don't know Jamie well, but based on the few times we've met and how highly Billy speaks of her, I'm sure she's an amazing woman. I wish them all of the best!)
  • I stumbled upon The Walla Recovery this week and downloaded their EP for free. Absolutely spectacular music. Definitely head over to their site and give them a listen. Totally worth your time.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Share your links in the comments!


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Friday, May 27, 2011

A Christ-Centered Marriage

Being married, I pay pretty close attention to just about whatever I can find about marriage. Given that most of my friends are Christians and I myself am a Christian, much of what I read about marriage comes from a Christian perspective.

Honestly, I find this okay because really, most advice is pretty standard regardless of religious affiliation. One doesn't have to be a Christian to know that honesty, trust, fidelity and love are important bedrocks to any successful marriage.

Wedding Ringsphoto © 2007 firemedic58 | more info (via: Wylio)
But there's one phrase that I have heard (or heard a variation of) in every piece of Christian marriage literature that I've read.

"Keep Christ at the center of your marriage."

For years, I totally agreed with this and I would have said that it was true of my own marriage. We attended church together. We prayed together. We discussed spiritual things together. We played music in church together. Most decisions that we made were based on what we felt God was telling us to do.

Obviously that changed when Jason told me that he no longer shared my belief in God.

But lately I've been wondering if it was really God at the center of our marriage or religious ritual. And quite frankly, I wonder if God can be at the center of any Christian marriage or if it's always the ritual.

To be clear, I think a shared belief is a very good thing. Not sharing a belief system has it's difficulties and going into a marriage without it or it occurring later (regardless if one moves toward or away from God) can have moments of disappointment (sometimes profound disappointment) for both spouses. Common interests and goals are incredibly important to a successful marriage, and shared faith is something that is a beautiful bond.

I also want to be clear that I believe as Christians we should keep Christ at the center of our own lives. I find comfort and joy in my faith and my relationship with God is one that is dear to me.

I wonder if perhaps we need to be as wary of the advice to keep Christ at the center of our marriage as we are of cautioning parents against placing their children at the center of their marriage. I've seen marriages center around children and their activities and then when they're gone, the couple finds that they've invested more in those rituals than in building a variety of common interests.

I never thought that faith was something that would change for us, but it did. And our marriage is not even a little bit unique in that. Advice like this can be hugely guilt-inducing on both members of the marriage if that happens. When we're tasked with keeping Christ at the center, we become responsible not only for the working out of our own relationship with Christ, but also that of our spouse. And when you've already lost a common interest, that is a guilt one can live without.

I would much rather see a shift toward encouraging people to keep Christ at the center of their lives and keep things like love, respect, humor and trust at the center of their marriage. A focus on these things can help sustain a marriage even if there is the loss of another key commonality.

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What do you think it means to have a Christ-centered marriage? When it comes to relationships, what ways can we know that it's Christ-centered aside from rituals? And if you have no opinion on any of that, what do you like in the center of your donuts?


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

To My Daughter: The Teenager

Once upon a time, I was a wife and not a mother. It was only for a few months, but there we were, a couple of 20-somethings, living the high life of school and work. Okay, so perhaps not the high life. But we were young. We were in love. After years of living apart, we were finally together. It was more than enough.

And then one May morning at 5:13AM, all of that changed. My daughter came screaming into this world literally and figuratively and she changed everything I thought that I knew.

I thought I wanted to be childless. She showed me that I could love a child more than I love myself.

I thought that I should always try to have the last word. She showed me that sometimes I should shut up and listen.

I thought that I was done having dreams. She showed me that in order to teach her to dream big, I have to be willing to dream big.

I thought that my own insecurities about my looks were something I could keep hidden. She showed me that they matter, especially when someone says that we look alike.

I thought that I'd have to tone down my snarky sense of humor and be more appropriate. She showed me that she can snark with the best of them and that while appropriate has it's place, I can still be me, even as a mom.

I thought things like caring about social justice was the domain of adults. She showed me that there is no age limit on caring about the welfare of those in our community.

I thought that no one in my family would love Zelda as much as me. She showed me that geek runs deep with the women under our roof.

I thought that I could never possibly have the tools to lead a child into young adulthood. She showed me that she already has the tools, I just need to help her learn to use the ones that are unique to her.

I love you, kiddo. Happy birthday!




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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Post: Denial, Viewing the Deceased, and Being Born Again

Today I'm happy to be featuring a guest post from a new friend, Caleb Wilde. I first read his blog when he posted his piece Why 99.9% of Pastors Agree with Rob Bell. It was one of the most unique pieces written during the whole Bell/Piper fiasco. Plus, he hates on stink bugs, possibly even more than I do, which is pretty impressive. Be sure to check out his blog, give him a follow on Twitter and go like his Facebook page. Thanks, Caleb, for this fantastic post!

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Last week we had a moving funeral.

One of the most moving I’ve ever worked.

It was the funeral of a young man who overdosed at the age of 29.

Funerals for the young are usually tragic in nature. Funerals for the overdosed are extra tragic, cause they not only cause grief, but too often cause guilt in those that are left behind. “We could have stopped this … we could have done more” acts as an undefined, unanswerable, gnawing parasite.

Grief and guilt all at once.

These kinds of deaths also act as a sign. A road sign for the friends of the deceased that are going down a similar path. A road sign that states, “This is death. This is where you are heading. Stop.”

Tears are shed at these funerals from eyes that haven’t shed a tear since their youth. Strong men who had weathered intense storms of difficulty are rendered to tears by the powerful reality of death. Shoulders sulk. Talkative mouths are rendered speechless. Pride is humbled.

Denial. Thoughts of, “This isn’t happening. I was just talking to him last week” are crushed when the viewing line slowly moves up to the casket, and you see the lifeless body of your friend, brother, sister laying cold, eyes closed, flesh tones paint on, face paled, laying forever in a coffin.

“This shouldn't be happening” all of a sudden becomes “this has happened.”

There was an instance at this 29 year old man's funeral that exemplified everything that viewing the body does to denial.

The viewing was supposed to end at 2:00 p.m., and when 2 o'clock came along the family told us to wait because “there’s a friend that needs to see him before you shut the lid … he’s two minutes away.”

Two minutes turned to ten minutes, and still no sign of the friend. We never want to push the family and say, “Well, it’s been ten minutes and it’s time to get started.” At the same, though, we try to keep everybody conscience of the situation. So, I suggested, “Can you call your friend on his cell phone to see where he’s at?”

Just about that time, the friend came through the door.

He didn’t actually come on his own initiative … he was being pushed up to the casket … maybe even pulled up by a couple of his friends. And he was resisting their force just enough to let his pushing and pulling friends know that he didn’t want to view the body, but not enough to totally resist their insistence. He was in denial. As he got closer to the casket, his body was facing the coffin, but his head was turned away, his jaw tightly shut in defiance and his fists clenched as though he was ready for a fight.

And he was fighting.

He was fighting. Fighting loss. Death makes those that are left into different people. We're meant for community ... we are most human in relationships; and when those relationships are broken, part of our person dies with the death of another.

Fighting against the loss of love. Love needs another. With the other dies, part of love dies with them.

Death has a way of highlighting everything that makes us human by taking those things away.

He was fighting until he got to the casket, saw his friend and forfeited his battle. The clenched fists opened and started touching his dead friend’s chest, his head that was turned away, was now fixated on the face of his deceased friend. His tightly shut jaw was now open, gasping in air as his body was shaking. Then he started to weep. His body collapsed onto the body of his deceased friend, and what had been fighting denial now became a full embrace.

Embracing death is like being born again ... it helps us see life in a whole new light.

I was glad we waited for him. This was his moment.






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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Call for Guest Posts

Yeah, well, will you sign my year book anyway?photo © 2010 S G | more info (via: Wylio)
With school wrapping up, the kids have been bringing home order forms for yearbooks.

I always loved yearbooks. I worked on the yearbook staff for several years and was the editor my senior year (given my post yesterday, that shouldn't be much of a surprise, right?). It was always fun gathering pictures from various events and trying to get as many people as possible included in the book. I remember many a long night at school, working on cropping pictures and counting pixels and writing clever, but not corny captions for photos.

But as much as I liked helping to assemble the the book, my favorite part was when we got them the following year and we would pass them around for everyone to sign. That was probably my favorite week at school - people exchanging yearbooks and writing little missives. When I visit my parents, I still like to break out my old yearbooks and read through some of the comments that people wrote in them. Sure, they're my books, but what makes them awesome to me was when other people wrote in them.

I would really like to take the month of August off from blogging here. But I don't want to let the blog go cold for a whole month. So in order to keep that from happening, I was thinking that I'd like to have a kind of guest post extravaganza! (That sounds pretty fancy, don't you think?) So many of you who read here are very talented writers and I would love to feature those talents here. I think it would be really fun to let you folks kind of have the run of the place for a month.

You can read my guest post guidelines here (and know that they are very loose guidelines - I'm pretty flexible). If you're interested in participating, you can shoot me an emailsend me a DM on Twitter or just leave me a comment below with a way to get in touch. I'd love to hear what you have to say and I'd love to share it with my readers! So let's get together and hammer out the deets!

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Have you written a guest post before? What was the best thing that you had written in your yearbook? What was the best thing you wrote in someone else's yearbook?



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Monday, May 23, 2011

White & Nerdy

I thought that when Jason and I took the kids to see They Might Be Giants performing Here Comes Science, I had reached the pinnacle of my nerdy musical experiences. And until last night, that was probably true.

But last night...well, last night blew all prior nerd experiences out of the water. Because last night I went to see Weird Al Yankovic live in concert.

I got a text on Friday night from Rich saying that he and Corey (the drummer for our band) were heading up to Pittsburgh to see Weird Al and would I like to go? I hemmed and hawed and Jason said, yeah, I should go. So yesterday morning I went ahead and gave my okay to drive up to Pittsburgh with them to see this show.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I enjoy Al Yankovic's music and know most of his really popular works, but I'm not a die-hard fan. (Note: very few non-die-hard fans attend Weird Al shows). I was not in any way disappointed.

The whole night was just a top-notch performance beginning to end. Tons of costume changes (almost every song had a costume change, not just for Weird Al, but for the whole band), super tight band, boundless energy. From Polka Face to kick off the show to Yoda as the final encore (including the Accordion Rapture), it was just a fantastic evening. Seeing an adult man strip down to a SpongeBob t-shirt and a pink tutu is about the best thing you could ask for.

But honestly, what made the evening really great was having friends who say, "I have a nerd bucket list and this is near the top." It's great having friends who will shoot you a message for a somewhat spontaneous road trip. It's great knowing that when people are laughing at you for being a nerd, it's okay because they love you anyway. It's great to know that people "get you."

Here are some of my favorite pics from the night (thank heavens I travel with folks who have better phones than me so I could share something with you - used with permission!):
White & Nerdy from Corey

Amish Paradise from Corey

Eat It from Corey


Perform This Way from Rich

Fat from Rich


What is your favorite Weird Al song? What was the best concert you ever attended? What's the nerdiest thing you've ever done?




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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post at The Well Written Woman (5/22)

I have another post up today at The Well Written Woman. My post is about what the world looks like now that there are no Real Christians (TM) left due to yesterday's rapture.
Since the world is empty of real Christians, I figured I’d try to guess what it looks like. Of course, since I'm writing this before the rapture, I have to figure out who the real Christians actually were.
I'd love it if you'd stop by and give it a read. Feel free to share it with all of your friends on Facebook or Twitter! This is a great site with lots of fun women. Thanks as always for your support!

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Stuff I've Been Reading

Thanks for stopping by yet again to see what I've been reading on the interwebs this week. Click on through for stuff I think you'll enjoy as well!
  • In the "must-read" category this week, please don't miss this post by Matthew Paul Turner about our debates about heaven and hell. This was probably the best thing I read all week.
  • Along those lines, Rachel Held Evans came in a close second with her post on Friday about the Great Disappointment.
  • Shawn Smucker wrote an amazing piece about how Jesus wants his world to end, not just yesterday, but every day.
  • Ed Cyzewski (whose name I live in constant fear of misspelling) wrote a post over at The High Calling about the ministry that we have outside of the Church. I absolutely loved this.
  • Kristin Tennant wrote a beautiful essay about those in-between times
  • And because one must enjoy a moment of humor, check out this post about things overheard in a bathroom by my friend Chad Jones.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Share your favorite links!


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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Right Regrets

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets. ~Arthur Miller

If the world ends tomorrow (or in October, which is when I have a feeling it would more likely end for me, since I don't think Harold Camping would count me in the group that will be a part of tomorrow's rapture), these are the top 5 regrets that I'd like to have:
  • I was a friend to my kids. I know you're not supposed to be friends with your kids. And I don't see myself in strictly that position by any means. But if I'm more friendly than I'm supposed to be, well, that's a regret that I don't regret that much.
  • I invaded other people's space too much. I'm a hugger. I know not everyone is comfortable with that and I do try to be aware of other's preferences, but if I accidentally hug someone who would rather not, I'll feel bad for making them uncomfortable, but not that bad.
  • I watched Arrested Development at least five times in the past year. That show was awesome. Yeah, I could have done something more productive with my life rather than watching the antics of the Bluth family, but I my regrets at the hours and hours I spent watching that show are very small.
  • I had inappropriate amounts of PDA with my hubby. It's gross. I get it. But I love that guy more than anyone else and if my hand on his knee bugs you, deal with it. I don't even know if that counts as a regret, because I don't regret that like, at all.
  • I was too heavy-handed with the message of grace. I sometimes think I should be pushier about encouraging people to believe in Jesus. I think it's good and I love what my faith brings to my life and I hope that there's no doubt that I'm a Christian. But I also think that a measureless love is really and truly beyond any kind of measure, and that being the case, I'm going to trust in love.
I'm sure there are others I could add to this list (eating copious amounts of Ben & Jerry's Boston Cream Pie Ice Cream only narrowly missed this), but those are probably the top non-regret-regrets that I have. If tomorrow is indeed the end of the world, I feel pretty fine.

What about you? What regrets do you have (or should you have) that you would consider to be okay? How are you feeling about the rapture tomorrow?





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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Winners of African Heartbeat from World Vision

I'm happy to announce the winners of the lovely book African Heartbeat written by Barb Christing and illustrated by Phillip Cisneros.

The lucky folks (as chosen by Random.org) are Maurya K., Rebecca True and Sam Rozzell! Each of you have been emailed and will have 48 hours to get back to me with your mailing information.

You can still pick up a copy of this book from World Vision at this link.

Thanks to those who entered!

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Let the Sun Shine

its raining..its pouringphoto © 2008 samantha celera | more info (via: Wylio)

It's been an extra rainy May here. I don't know if it's officially record-breaking or anything like that, but we haven't been able to go to the new playground that the kids love because of all the rain.

Yesterday morning as the rain was pouring down yet again, I asked on Twitter about a short film I remembered seeing years and years ago, when I was quite young. Follower @ktackel, based on my really terrible description, came up with Ray Bradbury's "All Summer In A Day." (You can find a link to the full text and the television show I remember here.)

In the story, people now live on Venus, where it always rains. Once every seven years, there is a short period of sunshine. One young girl lived on Earth before she moved to Venus and still remembers the sun, unlike all of her classmates. They tease Margot, claiming that she doesn't really remember the sun, eventually locking her in a closet. At that precise moment, the sun comes out and the children completely forget about Margot and enjoy their time in the sun. It's only when it begins to rain again that the children remember that Margot was locked in the closet the whole time.

I think what stayed with me for all of these years was how their intentional, but mostly harmless teasing resulted in an unintentional, but far more profound hurt. Margot was denied the only chance she would have in seven years to bask in the warmth of the sun.

I can't tell you how often I do this. I say something careless, I break a small promise, I allow a little grudge to fester. I know it's not good, but it's not BAD bad.

Then I get side-tracked. I'll go to church, listen to the great music and hear a powerful sermon and then go about my day. I know that I'm forgiven, so it's all good. The sun feels warm and cozy and safe.

Except that in the midst of me feeling good, I've left someone locked in a closet. My words still hurt them. My broken promise still cut into their ability to trust me. That grudge still left them feeling cold and unloved. My small wrong becomes something much larger than I ever intended.

Fortunately, time hasn't run out for me here. I can still go and let my loved ones out of the closet and we can still play in the sun together.

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Have you ever allowed a small, intentional hurt grow into a big, unintentional hurt? Or had that happen to you? What's the weather like where you are?


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Post at SomeWiseGuy.com

I'm pretty sure I met KC through Rachel Held Evans's blog and then connected on Twitter. KC holds a fond place in my heart because he's one of the first people from the virtual village to call me a writer - way before I was even remotely comfortable using that term for myself. At the beginning of this year he launched his dad blog, Some Wise Guy and it's been growing steadily, recently celebrating his 100th post. I was very happy that he asked me to join the "Wise Gal Wednesday" round-up for May. It's a pretty testosterone laden space, so I appreciate that he's letting a little pink in this month.

I love the numerous resources available to us to help enrich our marriages. Books, websites, seminars, even this blog. The places that we can go for help are nearly limitless. 
But sometimes we get so inwardly focused that we forget that we also have the opportunity to help the marriages of others. Our actions both as individuals and as couples can have a positive impact on the marriages of those around us. Here are some ideas of ways that you can pour into the marriages of others.

Please swing on by KC's blog so you can read the rest. And be sure to read his post from yesterday. Awesome.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's All How You Look At It

This weekend absolutely sucked.

On Friday night, Jason and I decided to go on the first date we'd had in over four months (the last time we went out was on our anniversary, back at the beginning of January). I got all dolled up in a cute dress and sexy (read: uncomfortable) shoes. We got halfway to our dinner destination and got a call that our youngest son was puking, so we had to abandon our plans and head home.

On our way home, we decided to pick up some Chinese from our favorite place here in town. Unfortunately, it has new owners and is now absolutely terrible food. I had some of the worst General Tso chicken I've ever tasted. Absolutely wretched.

On Saturday, Jason and I went to pick up some new (read: new to us, but really very old) furniture. When we were getting it, it started to pour down the rain. Then we went to get a bottle of tequila so we could make margaritas for Sunday night after graduation. Except that it was an election day in WV and apparently stores are prohibited from selling liquor on election days (not beer and wine, just the hard stuff). And the next day was Sunday (Blue laws here in WV), which meant no margaritas. Jason fell on the steps bringing the new dressers up to the girls' room and the tremendously heavy furniture landed on his leg.

Because we were busy Saturday night moving furniture, I had to supervise showers on Sunday morning for the younger kids, which meant that we had to wake up extra early, even though this was a week that I didn't have to play in church. When we got home, Jason had to run out the door to get to commencement on time. I then had to get the kids packed (and explain that I had told them all day Saturday to charge their games so they could play them so don't talk to me about how it doesn't have enoughchargeit'stimetogo!!!!). We had to stop at WalMart on the way to pick up something that I forgot to get just 2 hours earlier. Then we got to the school, had to park almost a mile away from the ceremony and had to walk in the rain, getting to the ceremony at 1:59 when it started at 2.

After graduation, Jason's parents hosted a dinner for him at a local restaurant. Jason wanted to order a steak to celebrate his graduation, but they had run out before we got there. When we got home, we were so tired that despite our plans to enjoy a celebratory shot of Polish Vodka that Jason brought back from his trip, we just ended up falling asleep in bed.

The End.

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This weekend was absolutely kick awesome.

On Friday, Jason and I got to have our first date in four months. We dressed up all fancy-like and got to spend some time catching up in the car (my favorite place for conversation). Even though our date got cancelled and our replacement supper was horrible, we had a huge laugh about it being Friday the 13th. And Jason picked up a bottle of my absolute favorite local wine while we were waiting for our food to be prepared, and THAT was fantastic.

On Saturday, we were able to get some new dressers from my sister for the girls. Their furniture was in bad shape and we had planned to purchase new furniture for them, so this was a huge blessing as it saved us a ton of cash. They were fantastic pieces in great shape and plenty large enough to hold all of the girls' clothes and then some. They look great in the girls' room and they love having dressers that have all of the drawers so they can keep things looking neater (especially my younger daughter, who got some wayward organized gene that clearly skipped over me). My father in law was kind enough to help us move this really heavy furniture upstairs and even when it landed on Jason, there were no injuries, other than a bit of a bruise on his leg.

On Sunday, the church service was really great. Awesome music (the band played The Cave by Mumford and Sons and it rawked super hard), a fantastic sermon (expect a post inspired by that later this week) and good conversations.

When we got home from church, we sent Jason on his way to commencement, got the kids packed in the van and off we went. We were running a bit late and had to park far away and had to walk/run in the rain, but we were able to catch a ride in a golf cart and were able to make it to the ceremony in time thanks to family who got there on time and saved us seats!

The ceremony was absolutely fantastic, the kids were well-behaved and we were able to hear Jason's name and see him receive his diploma with honors. The 12 of us were even loud enough with our cheers to cause a slight pause before the next name (though we neglected to bring our cowbells and air horns, which made us less prepared than some of the others in the crowd). I cried when they did the conferring of the degrees and everyone moved their tassel to the left. It was absolutely beautiful.

Jason shaking hands with the Dean
Jason waiting to receive his diploma
We had a wonderful dinner, complete with our on-purpose cake wreck:

Congradjasons! Kum Latte

Even though Jason didn't get the dinner that he wanted, he had a great meal, we were surrounded by people who love us and we even got two gigantic banana splits.

When we got home, the kids went right to bed without any complaints or fussing around. Jason and I were exhausted, so we curled up in bed and watched The Naked Gun and laughed together. After 18 months of mostly sleeping apart, it was a delight to fall asleep in one another's arms.

The End.

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So much of the past 18 months could read like this (especially the past year). There have been parts of it that have been brutally hard. Jason has had to exist on minimal sleep for most of the past year. The kids have rarely been able to spend time with their dad. We have had very few family meals together. Jason and I haven't been able to sleep in the same bed with any regularity. It has really sucked.

But! Jason finished something that has been a goal of his for years and years. The kids have learned to appreciate their dad a lot more. I have had great friends who have helped me keep my sanity during these months. What time Jason and I have had has been very precious to us (and I know we'll appreciate more the coming months when we get to spend a lot more time together). It has been really amazing.

To those who have supported us during this season, we can't even begin to thank you for all you've done. We are profoundly grateful for your friendship and encouragement.

To my kids, thanks for hanging in there. We should be able to have a real summer this year.

To my hubby, you are a rockstar. I can't even begin to say how proud I am of all that you've accomplished. I love you desperately and cannot wait to see where life takes us next. Thanks for helping me always find the funny. You've got some terrific bass, baby.

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Have you had a season recently that could be considered both awesome and suckish? Are you generally more of a "half empty" or "half full" kind of person? What cake wreck would you like to have at a party?


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Guest Post at JenniferLuitwieler.com

I met Jen about a year ago when I started blogging regularly and investing in the blogging community. Her writing absolutely blew me away. She has a way with words and I fell in love immediately. I've spent some time getting to know her a bit on Twitter and she's just as funny and brilliant there. Plus, she's a Pittsburgh fan, so that pretty much makes her about as awesome as anyone can be.

About six months ago she asked for guest posts. I volunteered and then promptly did nothing for like 3 months. Then I wrote half of a post, got nervous about it and sat on it for another month (if I don't have a deadline, I will do that a lot). I finally finished it WAY after she had sent the request. I figured that if she wanted to run it great, if not, no problem.

She did decide to run it and that day is today! Here's a taste:
What if I call myself a writer and someone says that my definition isn’t good enough? What if I call myself a writer and people are just laughing at me behind my back? What I call myself a writer to a REAL writer and they get mad that I’m using the same title to describe myself that they use?
Now head on over to Jen's site and check out the rest. And be sure to read around because this is someone you should be reading!



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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Practice of Love Synchroblog


Two weeks ago I mentioned that my first bit of published work came out in the book The Practice of Love (affiliate link). The idea of the book was simply to gather stories from various authors sharing how they live out love in practical ways. The book is divided into four sections, Loving God, Loving the Self, Loving Our Neighbor and Loving Our Enemy. The book has a total of 45 entries by talented authors from all over and the experiences shared within are humorous and heart-wrenching.

My piece is in the Loving God section. After Jason told me that he was an atheist, I went through a number of emotions, not the least of which was anger at God for allowing this to happen. Here's an excerpt from my story:

In those early days, I said some things that I wish I could take back. Words that were born out of an emotional response to something that I didn’t fully understand, that I didn’t want and that I didn’t like. And don’t even get me started about the things I didn’t say. Yikes. My brain was a pretty scary place in those first days. 
At some point, I had mini break-down. My emotions swept over me and I just let loose. And in that moment, my husband took me in his arms and whispered assurances that he loved me. 
For all of the things that changed, that had not. We still shared a wacky sense of humor. We still shared parenting our four beautiful children. We still shared the same sense of right and wrong. When I stepped back and remembered these things, I was able to move beyond things that I felt into the realm of things that I knew. 
But off in the wings was Someone who didn’t seem as accessible as my husband. Someone who I felt had really let me down. Someone who I believed had promised certain things and had simply not delivered. Or worse, was just a figment of my imagination. 
His arms didn’t encompass me. He didn’t whisper in my ear. I felt alone and abandoned. 
I hope that you will consider purchasing a copy of this book for yourself or loved one. It contains many lovely stories in it and I believe it can open up conversation about what it is to practice love. 

Also, Civitas Press is currently accepting submissions for The Practice of Love Volume 2. If you have a story about how love has changed your life, I would encourage you to submit your story. 




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Stuff I've Been Reading

It's the weekly round-up of good things I found on these wide internets. I hope you find something in these links that will liven up your Sunday afternoon conversations.
  • I loved this post from Matthew Paul Turner about the May 21st judgment day prediction. Having never been in a congregation like that, this wasn't a perspective that I really considered. There is a lot of compassion in this post.
  • Mason Slater wrote a beautiful, honest post about his former life as a homophobe. A great reminder that we need to look to other's stories.
  • This piece by Ashleigh Baker about a church girl's abortion has been on my mind since I read in Thursday morning. Honestly, this is one that will probably stay with me for a really long time.
  • My friend KC celebrated 100 posts at his site this week. The contest for some freebies is over, but stop by and wish him well. He's a class act!
  • Kristin Tennant got accused of "happy talk" for daring to suggest that people can move on with their lives after a divorce. I just loved her response to the accusations.
  • And even though this is a post from last week, I was super excited to see that Allie Brosh has a book coming out in just three times the shelf life of a potato
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Leave a comment with your favorite post. And feel free to leave a comment congratulating my hubby on his commencement day (more about that on Tuesday)!



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Friday, May 13, 2011

With All Due Respect

"If you're not first, you're last!" 
~Ricky Bobby on what happens when you wait a week to publish a current events post


One of Jason's most favorite movies is Talladega Nights. We talk in movie quotes an awful lot around here and this movie is probably in the top 10 of quote suppliers. Ricky Bobby is just a fantastic character.


In one scene, Ricky Bobby is having an argument with the team owner. At some point in the exchange, Ricky says, “With all due respect,” and then proceeds to say something completely disrespectful. He operates in a world where as long as he prefaces the offensive things that he’s about to say with the words “with all due respect,” one has no right to be offended.

This exchange is funny because A) Will Ferrell is a bit of a comic genius and B) it is absolutely ridiculous on its face. Of course saying “with all due respect” doesn’t make what follows respectful. It’s just plain silly.

Except the Church does this to the LGBT community all. the. time.

Last Sunday Believe Out Loud asked a number of sites to run the following advertisement:



One site that was offered the opportunity to run the ad was Sojourners, a progressive Christian site. They opted not to run the ad, citing it as being controversial and outside of their focus. Progressives, who are their primary audience, were not impressed, considering the only thing in the ad that is controversial is that, you know, it’s about gay people.

On Monday, Wallis issued a statement, explaining in greater detail why Sojo chose not to run the ad. And in the process, at least to me, pulled a total Ricky Bobby move.

In point two he wrote:
Sojourners has also encouraged churches to be welcoming of all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, gender, age, disabilities, religious background or denomination, or sexual orientation.
And then in point four he wrote:
Given the time Sojourners is now spending on critical issues like the imperative of a moral budget, the urgent need to end the war in Afghanistan, and the leadership we are offering on commitments like immigration reform, we chose not to become involved in the controversy that such a major ad campaign could entail, and the time it could require of us.
Do you see it?

The only spoken words in the ad are from the minister at the end where he says, “Welcome…everyone.” I’ve watched the ad a number of times and that’s it. It doesn’t make any statement about gay marriage or gay ordination or even that being gay is good. It strictly says that IF a gay couple comes to your church, welcome them. Which is what Sojourners claims that they encourage. Now, if you encourage churches to be welcoming, why is it controversial to run an ad where a minister encourages his congregation to be welcoming?

Unless maybe he’s pulling a Ricky Bobby and prefacing how he really feels with something that sounds like how he should feel. Because it’s easy to say that we need to be welcoming of the LGBT population in our congregations, but actually doing that while holding onto our “it’s an abomination” ideology is pretty difficult.

And I say that with all due respect.

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Do you ever find yourself pulling a "with all due respect"? What's your favorite quote from Talladega Nights?


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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

World Vision Book Review and Giveaway: African Heartbeat

I was asked a few weeks ago by Matthew Paul Turner to review a book on behalf of World Vision. It's a lovely children's book called African Heartbeat written by Barb Christing and illustrated by Phillip Cisneros.
African Heartbeat is a beautiful story about young Katie in America and Neema in Africa. Katie has a desire to go to Africa to meet her sponsor sister Neema and she knows that even though their worlds are “a gazillion steps away,” the world gets smaller as her heart grows larger. Through sponsorship, Katie finds her heart growing larger each day.
You can head over to the World Vision Blog to read the rest of the review.

"African Heartbeat" by Barb Christing
But do that in a minute, because World Vision has graciously offered a copy of African Heartbeat to 3 of my readers!

To enter, just leave a comment letting me know which country your heart beats for or share a story about sponsorship.

Feel free to do other stuff such as liking my Facebook page or following me on Twitter or subscribing to my blog. But one chance per person regardless of what you do. The contest will run through May 18th, 11:59pm EDT and I'll use Random.org to select the winners the next day.

If you don't want to wait to win the book, you can purchase your own copy from World Vision.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from World Vision book for the purpose of review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Post at The Well Written Woman

Yesterday the second part of my Why I'm No Longer Pro-Life piece posted at The Well Written Woman.
When we found out that I was pregnant for the fourth time, my husband and I just laughed. We had already done the “terrified to be pregnant” thing a few times, so we just found this surprise simply amusing. We both knew that this person completed our family, so we were anxious to tell everyone about the newest addition. We knew that all of our friends and relatives would share in our joy.
 Except not so much.
You can head over here to read the rest. And if you missed it, you can read part one here.
I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Need Your Input

So now that Jason is finished with school, I wanted to let you know that we're going to begin work on a proposal for a book about a mixed faith marriage.

When Jason first came out to me, I did what I always do which is to go look for a book. I found a few about interfaith dating, but almost nothing about marriages where people shared a faith and had that change. And nothing about marriages where one person is a theist and the other is a non-theist. Which isn't to say that those books aren't out there, but I've got to tell you, there aren't many.

Since the end of last year when I started writing about our marriage and interfaith relationships in general, I've been overwhelmed by the response of folks both in the theist and non-theist community. I'm amazed at how many people are in similar situations to ours and even a very little bit of research has shown that as religious labels mean less and less to people, interfaith marriage is on the incline.

We've already roughed out some ideas over the past few months, but now that school is behind us (and if four pregnancies were ours, I'm totally claiming the 18 months where Jason was in school full-time as ours as well), we really want to tackle this in earnest. And I would love your input.

What kind of topics would you like to see discussed in a book about mixed faith marriages? Do you have a better term for a marriage between a Christian and atheist than "interfaith" since one does not have faith? Is levity wholly inappropriate for a topic like this? Will you smack me around a little (and then give me hug and offer me a glass of wine) when I get whiny about actually doing this?

Thanks for your encouragement of my writing over the last year. We wouldn't even consider a project like this without the support we've received from you already. You're awesome!


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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Another Sunday, another chance to link up to some of my favorite posts from the week. This week I'm posting some of my favorites from the Rally to Restore Unity. Enjoy!
  • There were a number of amazing posts for the Rally to Restore Unity synchroblog, but my favorite was this one by Eric Pazdziora. "Maybe we just couldn't see it because we were looking at the things we want to argue about instead of the things we want to sing about."
  • Ed Cyzewski wrote a letter to himself 15 years ago. I thought that was a really creative way to highlight unity not just within the whole body, but within ourselves as well.
  • Kathy Escobar wrote about why we have a hard time following the Golden Rule.
  • Elizabeth Esther wrote that our Catholic brothers and sisters love Jesus. I know!
  • Kristin Tennant wrote a lovely post about her faith journey and some of the "potty breaks" along the way.
  • Mason Slater went a different way with the March to Keep Disunity Alive. I think his signs were my favorites of the week.
  • And the one non-rally post that I simply can't ignore: Matt Cannon wrote a spectacular piece of poetry on Friday. It would be criminal not to include it.
I encourage you to stop by Rachel's blog and click through the many, many posts that went up. Lots of really great stuff there. I haven't even come close to reading everything, but what I've read has been pretty fantastic.

What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Leave a link in the comments!


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Friday, May 6, 2011

When the Virtual Village Goes Live

I love my virtual village. I have met so many amazing people through the online community and I am thankful for each and every one of you (Well, except you. You know who you are.).

But as much as I love hanging out on the interwebs, nothing really beats spending time with someone. Brackets are not equal to real hugs. Virtual wine and coffee are not equal to real wine and coffee. And while I've had some great conversations 140 characters at a time, they don't beat a face to face chat.

So about a month ago when my bloggy friend Katie McNemar (who guest posted for me here) contacted me about getting together with her and Tony Alicea, I could not pass up that opportunity.

I was really stoked about meeting these two because my online interactions with them have been so fantastic. They are both funny, caring, delightful people. When I found out that they were a couple, I was just thrilled, because, well, they're both funny, caring, delightful people and it's nice when folks like that hook up. I would have wanted to meet either of them anyway, so seeing them at the same time and as a couple was a bit of a bonus in my book.

When I got to Katie's house, I was met with a giant hug from just about one of the cutest people ever. Katie started introducing me to people in her family like we were long-time friends. Made it across the room and got to hug my now close, personal friend Tony (who is, as he claimed, a pretty awesome hugger).

We had a really fantastic evening. We sat with Katie's friends and family, sharing stories, drinking wine and beer, and laughing and laughing and laughing. From stories about Katie's gas-stealing days to Tony being sentenced to five minutes in the hoodie of shame, I don't know if a smile left my face all night long. Honestly, the three hours I spent with them was entirely too short and I hope that they don't object to me inviting myself down if Tony makes the trip to WV again.

I know that there are folks who question the validity of online friendships as compared to flesh and blood friendships. But this meeting proved to me again that the relationships that I have online are very real. I could not have been so at ease with these people if we didn't already have a friendship established online. I did know Tony and Katie so meeting them was just adding bodies to people who were already friends. I hope to have more opportunities to bring my virtual village into living color, but even if we never get to hug in person, know that I really do consider you my friend (again, except for YOU.).

Alise stands between Katie & Tony to help keep them pure.

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Have you ever met any online folks in real life? And are you feeling totally neurotic right now thinking that I don't really like you?

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Big Differences, Bigger God

There are a few people that I look for every Sunday between services. My dear friends Misty and Rich. My bandmates Eric and Rick and their lovely wives. Folks that I play with on the worship team and who help out with my kids. My new friend Chris who is one of the few people in real life that I can talk with about blogging at length (and with far fewer eye rolls afterward than I'm sure some of my friends give).

And, of course, Kit.

Alise and Kit between services on Easter
I met Kit at a David Crowder concert at our church. We talked for a little bit that night and then became Facebook friends the next day.

And I found out through Facebook, the way you often do these days, that we are very, very different. Like, polar opposite kind of different. Like, should I just go ahead and unfriend her now and save the trouble later kind of different.

You would be hard pressed to find a place where we agree. On nearly every subject, we take opposing sides. A few weeks ago we were sitting together in church and the speaker mentioned that the weather was supposed to warm up that week. I let out a groan. Kit looked at me and just started laughing because we don't even agree about what kind of weather we like.

And yet, she is one of the people that I seek out each week. Not just because she makes me feel tall (though she's one of the few people who can do that), but because the love that we share in Christ is much deeper than the areas where we disagree. So she can overlook that I'm an NPR-listening, Democrat-voting, gay-affirming liberal and I can get over her being a Beck-watching, GOP-voting, gun-toting conservative. Even though we're the kind of person that makes the other shake their head on a good day and want to throw a computer through the window on a bad day, the love we feel for one another is genuine. Because the love we feel for Jesus is genuine.

Unity isn't about being the same. Unity is about pushing through even big differences and finding that Jesus is way bigger.

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This is a part of the Rally to Restore Unity synchroblog hosted by Rachel Held Evans. Be sure to check out her blog each day for tons of awesome posts about unity!




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