Anticipation – Not in Fast-Forward

ImageI am generally a lover of possibility. I am in awe of the possible. I think this is why I have always been a purveyor of crazy ideas. (My dad and I are known for them in our family). Loving crazy ideas means loving the planning and the scheming that comes with an idea even if it never comes to fruition. I plan trips I might never get to go own, name pets I don’t own yet, and generally daydream and plan for adventures yet unknown.

This means that I am good with anticipation. I like the time of looking forward to an event and frequently am willing to undergo the disappointment of the event or occurrence not taking place just for the joy of waiting for it.

Recently I seem to have lost this art. I have been wishing for the fast-forwarding of days. I have two weeks left, after this one, in grad school. I get married six weeks from Sunday. I have already begun to clean and pack my apartment and would move tomorrow if I had somewhere to go. I am ready and excited for the future, and there is nothing wrong with that.

What’s wrong is that I am not living in the present. I have been wishing to fast-forward days. These are my last few weeks getting my M. Div, and I may miss this at some point. These are my last few months as a non-married person, and that’s something to live into. The verse is This is the day that the Lord has made… Not those will be the days…

I’m struggling to know how though. I’m pretty sure this has been the longest Lent of all time. Add in participating in a church merger, helping my fiancé with his commissioning paperwork (think pre-ordination in the UMC), finishing up the semester, and wedding planning, and I’m living in those days that both last forever and go flying by. How do I slow down and live now?

I would gladly take any suggestions that y’all have, but a few that have come to me that I feel obligated to try out.

1)   I will marinate in experience. I am excited about the future and want to get to it, but the future will be experienced in relation to now. The restful moments of this summer will seem more restful in comparison to the busyness of this season. The joy of not having homework will be more profound if I continue to see my schoolwork to the end and with full effort. The excitement of starting a home together with my new husband will provoke even more gratitude in contrast to my living situation now.

2)   I will seek out people that I will not run into as easily in the next chapter after graduation. I know of some awesome folks who will sadly be moving after graduation. What would it look like to carve out time to spend with them and enjoy their company now while I still take it for granted?

3)   I will ask and ask to be asked (yes I just wrote that) to reflect what I am grateful on. Occasionally my fiancé and I ask each other what we were grateful for in the day, but I’d like to make more of a habit of it. My poor gratitude journal has been neglected recently, and it might be time to break that back out and find little reasons to be thankful for these days.

I hope that I can treasure these days in transition and be grateful for what they contain. These last days as Miss and not Mrs. And not Rev. These last days as student for the next little while — These last days in this exact place. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and not fast-forward it.

To Occupy This Space – Part I

Sascalia - Folk Art House Painting Art Block Print Mixed Media CollageLooking back is London – gray and green and wet – spotted with the occasional red of mailbox or phone booth. I imagine the clouds were thick and the moon was small on the night we were born. From gray-green to gray-brown was New Jersey, neighborhoods in off-white and blue, me in my blue and white Easter dress running down the sidewalk, to the green-brown of the farm. Still a white house, but mud and brown and black sheep in spring grass and more mud. Then is Kentucky, blue and green, green shutters on our Buckeye house, green playhouse, green backyard on wide open sky. The parsonage is brown-brown — first was poop brown shutters on a poop-brown house – now blue-brown – infused with care and personality. Birmingham was yellow-brown — dirt and pollen and sunshine — black and gold uniform against a red track stadium — the color of summer and woods and miles of trails. Atlanta has been green-brown — new and lush yet city. Apartment in brown and off-white — was home and now not home — my blue green kitchen just asking to be packed up. The future is green and blue and open. Maybe too open. I want a porch swing and a lawn for you to mow and a place to inhabit. I want roots — green and brown and deep. Where we can fix and lay claim and make our own. I want place and color and noise and sound — that we may look back and say that we made it ours. That we occupied that space and called it home…

My Anti-Bucket List

ImageI learned very quickly at the children’s hospital that we all had a list of “Things my (future) children cannot do.” These lists always corresponded to specific incidents we had seen or been on call for. I remember talking to a child life specialist as we waited in the ED for a child to be flown in. It was kind of like a game of go fish to see if we had the same list. I offered up jet skis, she countered with unfenced in swimming pools, so far we were in agreement. I added knives sticking point up in dishwashers, which she agreed was wise to add and upped the ante with donkey rides. I didn’t ask.

I’m pretty sure we all play the same mental game though. I think everyone in life plays it at some point or another. We read about a tragedy in the news, and we ask ourselves if that could happen to us or our loved one. We can “brush it off” so to speak if it was an act of stupidity, but sometimes it just was an awful accident. This was especially true at the hospital. My best friend once told me that she could work in an adult ER but not at a children’s hospital because adults do things to themselves but children, for the most part, have things done to them.

So back to my anti-bucket list. I will admit that by the end of that summer my future children were going to be reduced to sponge baths and would probably require intense therapy, but Lord help me, they would not drown. And yes, this view was excessive. Hyper controlling a child’s environment will not protect them from all ills and will make for a scared and possibly scarred child, on the other hand, some actions just need to be thought through, and anecdotal evidence does not make up for solid research when it comes to child safety.

It is beyond heartbreaking to see children brought in for the oversights and mistakes of others — ammonia left in juice bottles, infants held by toddler siblings and dropped, children left unattended in and around water — the list goes on. And now I am in the in between space — I have been in the hospital and am now preparing to go back. I have seen things that are frequently restricted to medical personal, and it has left its mark, and it has left me in quite a quandary.

I see people in Target with their baby carseats perched on top of the cart and want to go warn them. I see children at parks near ponds with no parent in sight, but those aren’t the hardest. The hardest thing is seeing children I know and love in or around something harmful. And it’s super rare, the children I am around have caring, well-informed parents. I do not have close proximity to any neglected children, so it’s usually small things. But I can’t decide if I’m ready to be the person at the playground who points to a child climbing something they shouldn’t and says, “I’ve seen children who have fallen from that height. Depending on how their head hits can determine the damage done — they could be fine, but are you willing to risk it?”

I have no answer. I really wish I did. I sometimes feel that I have seen too much and have not found the balance in how to share experience without spreading fear. I don’t know how my parents did it exactly — we were not raised to be fearful, but our environment was pretty safe. So, sometimes I know I get one comment, a whole lot of prayer, and whispered plea, “Dear Jesus, I don’t want to get that page,” because I’m not sure how I’d handle the fact that I’d seen the possibility and could do nothing to stop it.

In Doubt of Optimism

ImageI was at a concert the other day, and the band stopped to dedicate a song to a fan. They said that this song was a favorite of a fan of theirs who was a young man with cancer. He had listened to the song during chemo, and they had had the chance to meet him, and he had had an effect on them as a band.

So far so good in terms of dedication. Then they told us this young man had passed away, but that his legacy lived on. “He never frowned or complained — He was always optimistic.” They told us this, and reminded us to be thankful, and reminded us again. “His parting legacy was optimism.”

I couldn’t help but feel like they sold that young man short. I believe he was more than just a smile, that he left more than a legacy of optimism. It also made me realize how few words we have when cut off from a language of faith. Was this a young man of joy? faith? hope? Those are words that mean something. That’s a legacy. And maybe they meant joy or hope, but they didn’t use those words. They said optimism. And I believe that their dedication was more harmful than helpful.

I want to dedicate a song to a person who battles cancer faithfully and as a human being. I want us to stand in front of thousands and praise the person who laments. Who looks at life in its fullness and is not afraid to tell God and others the truth. Why don’t we praise lament?

I remember being in the children’s hospital and talking to families who had heard too much of this optimism language and thought that smiling was their only faithful answer. They faked smiles for God and others, and then told me all the questions they were too afraid to ask God. So, I told them about the Psalms. I told them that David (Forgive me OT 501) expressed anger in one sentence and praise in the next and that if David could do it, did that not mean that they could too? We would discuss how the Psalms are freeing because we are given permission to still find joy and praise in one moment and ask God really hard questions in the next moment, and all within a place of faith.

So, if we find this in the Psalms, why don’t we find this attitude in churches as much? Someone has to balance out culture that praises optimism in the face of childhood cancer – because that’s insane. The young man died — to be optimistic was ultimately pointless — but to be people of hope and faith does not depend of circumstance, and it does not silence the lament of those who are suffering.

So, here’s to those who lament, who leave a legacy of both praise and anger, who engage the wholeness of God with their whole selves, and here’s to those who provide that space for wholeness for others. 

Dayenu: It would have been enough…

IMG_0448This is a love story, and a falling back in love story. A story of God’s abundance and what it is to learn that it would have been enough… Dayenu

I learned this beautiful Hebrew word, dayenu, when I organized a Seder supper for my church. It means, “it would have sufficed” or “it would have been enough.” It is part of a beautiful liturgy that recounts the liberating deeds of the Lord and how any one of the acts God did would have been enough. For instance, if God had only saved the Israelites from the pharaoh and not brought them through the sea, dayenu. And it was through that Seder, that I  finally found a word that encompassed Eastside Church for me.

If only the Holy Spirit had not left me alone, it would have been enough. I had a really great plan second year of seminary. I was a pastor’s kid in seminary who felt/feels called to chaplaincy, and I was told my second year contextual education placement needed to be in a church. So I picked a lovely church for myself, one with good pastors, a big staff, lots of stuff going on, but I picked it to prove that I didn’t want to work in the church. This is one, a poorly designed experiment, and two, bad sportsmanship. Thankfully the Holy Spirit wouldn’t leave me be with either, and after a chance encounter with Eastside Church and a few great conversations with their head pastor (And a conversation with the empathetic pastor of the other church), I was onboard for a church plant adventure that turned my understanding of what church could be upside down.

If only God had renewed my love for the church, it would have been enough. It would have been more than enough to be that excited about going to church again, about developing a ministry team, and even about planning and running meetings. My eyes were opened to some of the resentment I carried from being a PK, and I was able to let it go and embrace the gift of church again, and enjoy the gift of a new, loving and welcoming church family.

If only God had renewed my love for the church, and not allowed me to work on the justice ministry, it would have been enough. I came into my time at Eastside as a really useful PK. I could be asked to do things at the last minute. I didn’t need lots of instructions, and I knew what could be talked about in front of the congregation — in short, I was well trained. What  I was not use to was being given free reign. The first time I went to check in on a decision I was making for the start of the justice team to be told, “I trust you, do what you think is best,” opened up channels for pastoral leadership I didn’t know I had. I transitioned from pastors kid to having authority in the church.

If only God had allowed me the joy of the justice ministry, and not introduced me to my fiancé, it would have been enough. If it seems a little corny, perhaps it is, but it wasn’t simple either, and it definitely wasn’t love at first sight. I met him that first day I walked into Eastside, he was the head pastor’s younger brother. I have not been allowed to forget that upon starting work at Eastside I said I was looking forward to working with the lead pastor, but wasn’t sure I could work with his brother. At first this was true, we fought over Advent candle readings, but then we started running together, learned we worked really well together and ultimately were half of an exploratory trip to Haiti, and came out liking each other more.

And it would have been enough. Any one of these events would have been enough. To fall in love, to fall back in love with the church, to discover a church home, and to lead in uncovering a justice ministry. How does one begin to say thank you for that? How do I continue to live into that gift? For the Holy Spirit that will not leave us alone, for a God who offers greater banqueting tables of abundance than we would ever dare pull up a chair to ourselves, for more than enough. Dayenu, it would have been enough, it would have been more than enough for me…

On Walking with Babies: Thoughts from a Nanny

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I was thinking today that I have been so blessed to get to nanny through grad school. It is an amazing thing to be paid to do something that brings me joy and is my stress relief. Part of this has been getting to nanny and baby-sit for wonderful families (There was that one that yelled at me for singing to their baby but that didn’t last long). At my current job, when this little person was a tiny infant, I did a lot of walking so that she would sleep. I even joked that I felt like a baby walker (you know, like a dog walker, just for babies), but it turned out to be the most wonderful time. The little girl got to bond with me so that now that she’s older she never cries to be handed over to me. I got the wonderful peaceful experience of having time each week where I had nothing I had to do but walk and talk to this little person and pray and think and actually take a moment to be quiet and enjoy the day. And this is when I got to thinking, that while I trusted, but didn’t quite understand, the real purpose behind my walks, these parents were on to something, and that something was creating a world where their particular little person felt safe and loved, even if it wasn’t the most convenient system for them, and it further dawned on me – The folks whose children I have watched have had different parenting styles and children with different personalities, and I, as a non-parent, make no attempt to tell other people how to raise their children, but I have noticed one major thing these parents all have in common.

All of the parents whose kiddos I’ve watched and seen grow into happy, well attached little people have acted with the understanding that parenting is a sacrifice — that things are not ever going to be the same again and they are at peace with that. I’ve seen this get lived out in multiple ways.

Firstly, they know that you cannot spoil a baby. My grandmother always told me this and it’s funny now to read studies that back her up, but she told my mom, who passed on to me that you can spoil a toddler, but cannot spoil a baby. Your job in life is to make sure that that infant knows that the world is safe — she will be fed whenever she is hungry, soothed when he cries, and held as much as possible. Infants are not even able to manipulate when they enter this world — they are responding to stimuli and when parents and caregivers respond back quickly and consistently, they create calmer, happier babies who know the world is a safe place.

Similarly, I have watched parents either become more or less scheduled as the child needs, even if that isn’t their natural style. I have seen people who were incredibly laid back develop a basic routine so that there child has the structure s/he needs. I’ve also seen normally super organized people realize that tiny babies’ schedule has to be more flexible because they’re growing way too fast to always have lunch at noon and tea at three like they might. (I’ve also watched overly schedule driven parents have to change when kid #2 shows up, if they didn’t relax at all with kid #1, but that’s another story).

Lastly, I have watched priorities and plans change. I got asked all the time in the children’s hospital if I had kids, and I’m sure when I go back the same question will continue. I would usually politely say no, but I love children and hope to someday, and then turn the conversation to their child. What I’m really thinking is nope, I’m still a student. I have dreams and goals to accomplish that are pre-children so that by the time I have kids I will not drag them to concerts as if I didn’t have them, or resent them for keeping me from accomplishing my goals, or try to shoehorn them into my schedule so I still feel like I’m in control.  I realized a few years ago and was grateful for the fact that my parents had me and my siblings at a point in their lives where we were their dream. There was no thought of rushing to get us out of the house so they could get on to the rest of their lives, they hadn’t put their dreams on hold for us, they had accomplished or modified the dreams that didn’t include kids before we arrived. I’m in no way saying this is purely an age thing, though being older does help. I know people at all different ages who are doing a beautiful job raising children because they love those children dearly and make the sacrifices to care for those specific children.

For some families I have seen the sacrifice be over control or perceived productivity, for others it is missing out on events or hobbies that they would have participated in pre-children, but all these families have put the needs of their children first, not spoiled them, but created safe, responsive worlds where needs are met and lives are flexible, and just enough schedule is held to create stability and structure.

So, even though I walk a lot less now, I am thankful for the parents who have allowed me the opportunities to care for their children, who have taught me about love and sacrifice in all of its unique forms, and are creating safe and happy worlds for the beautiful little people I am blessed to know.

…And We are Filled with Joy

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FaceBook recently asked me if I wanted to see my year in review, as if it was a given that the best and most important moments of my life had been carefully recorded on the walls of posterity for a small number of friends and a large number of near acquaintances. But, we get to the end of the year and suddenly think, oh, I should reflect and look back. Maybe I should set goals for next year. And those aren’t bad things, in fact, if done with more consistency, they might be really good things.

I think the problem is that we often use reflection as critique. Setting goals is a means of self-improvement not of enjoyment. Which is problematic when we as human beings are much better at seeing the negative than the positive. I was talking to a friend the other day who is always sweet and empathetic and she commented that it sounded like I had had a rough semester, and I thought for a second and said that that didn’t really reflect how I had felt. Yes, the semester had been challenging and there had been events within the last 6 months that had tested and tried my endurance and patience, but they didn’t outweigh the joy.

I have watched friends who have had many joyful and long awaited events happen in the past year, and yet the joy only seems to last a few days and then they go back to being rather cross. I have wanted to ask (but it didn’t seem helpful) why the joy was so short lived? What would have to happen for joy to stick? Why do we struggle with contentment?

So, for 2014, I’m sticking with joy, and if I could, there are a few folks I would like to impose joy on, but that probably defeats the purpose. We hear it frequently, that happiness is situational and joy is not, but do we really understand that? I believe that joy comes from the assurance that the Lord has done great things for us. (And that verse comes from a section of Psalms dealing with the exile — not a happy time). And as far as I’m concerned, contentment and gratitude are what often undergird joy. Those are muscles we can strengthen. 

You may have super awesome ideas about how to strengthen your capacity for gratitude and contentment and I hope you will share them with me, but here are mine:

- I have kept a gratitude journal in the past which I write as a prayer of thanks. I need to get back in the habit though as I tend to write in it more when life isn’t going well. If you don’t know where to start I’ll let you know I always begin with “Dear Lord, Thank you for today” and you could map out my laundry schedule because I am always thankful for getting laundry done.

- Check in with gratitude. My boyfriend and I discussed this one, but we are making a point of checking in with gratitude first. You know when you first see someone in a day and ask how the day went? Try it out mentioning things you are grateful for first. I believe small periods of ranting are good for the soul, but see if your day looks brighter when you look for the areas of joy or where God was at work before moving on to the difficult parts of the day.

- Lastly, and this is one I’m still trying to work out, but don’t let grumpy people drag you down. It is hard to stay warm and grateful in conversation with folks who have that downcast tone all the time, but don’t get brought down to their level. I’m not saying if someone is hurting or in need comfort not to be upset or mourn with them, I’m referring to those Eyeore type folks where everything can be going their way and they still won’t smile at you. This New Year I am giving up trying to figure out grumpy people — Aint nobody got time for that!

Here’s to a joyful 2014, and come excitement or long-awaited happiness or Hell or high-water, may the joy of the Lord be your strength!

The Next Best Thing

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I am a daydreamer, but I am not a long-range planner… I am learning this more and more as I interact with folks who are. Folks who can tell me their plans for the next five years, very specific plans and details for themselves and others. I am not that person. I have laid the groundwork to graduate come May (Praise Jesus!) and have applied to the step after that — but that is it.

I realized the other day that I was feeling really anxious. I had been listening to the plans of the long-range planning folks who had then turned their questioning to me, where was I going to live next summer? What are my long term career plans? Relationship plans? I wanted to answer that I am a grad student –I work on a day at a time basis. The “If it weren’t for the last minute nothing would get done” kind of school strategy. But this is not to say that I just have an unthoughtful approach to life — nope, it’s purposeful. I look for my “next best thing.”

I cannot take credit for this thought process. It is the product of a conversation with my mom where she suggested instead of trying to plan out every step along the way, that I ask myself, “What is my next best thing?” That has been revolutionary for me. I do not have to know what I am going to do five years from now, not even five months from now. I do need to make sure that I don’t make choices that close doors or burn bridges that I will need later, but otherwise, there is a freedom to my movement.

Dare I suggest that there is a Biblical element to this? Please don’t hear me suggesting that we don’t need to plan or to save up or to lay down the pieces for future goals — I obviously do not believe that is the case, or I would not have made it this far in grad school (A process which requires planning). I am instead suggesting that it is a Biblical approach that holds life loosely, where I do not assert that I can control the events of my life is such a way that I could plan them out super far in advance. I never would have guessed I would be called to seminary, so that event in itself reminds me that I cannot plan out the way the Holy Spirit will move. Proverbs states,

“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.”

I believe that there is humility in holding plans loosely, in acknowledging that I cannot predict where the Holy Spirit will move, and I want to be open and ready to listen to that movement. I believe that I can pray and move toward my “next best thing” and trust that there will be some nudging when the time comes from my next “next best thing” decision. I trust the Holy Spirit. And I trust that I will continue to be led to people and places I could have never planned, nor even imagined, for myself. And if the past has been any indication, the Holy Spirit has nudged in greater directions than I could have ever hoped to plan for, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful.

Letter from a Pastor’s Daughter

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Dear church,

I have been meaning to write you for a while, but I never know quite what to say, but I’ve decided that it is past time for this pastor’s daughter to speak. I am a PK, a seminary student, and have been an intern and a volunteer in many churches, and one who loves the church dearly, but there are a few things I have to say…

It seems obvious, but your actions show that it isn’t — your pastor is a person. Maybe I need to say that again — YOUR PASTOR IS A PERSON. Your pastor is many things before s/he is your pastor. S/he is a mother/father, husband/wife, friend, sibling, member of the community and above all, a child of God.

It should then go without saying that your pastor has feelings. I have watched you treat your pastors with compassion and grace, and I have seen the love of Christ in your actions. There have been other times I have not been able to sing “They will know we are Christians by our love” with a straight face.

I’m gonna be really honest with you here, really honest, you ready? Sometimes I have loved the church of Jesus Christ despite its parishoners. Pastors’ children are the invisible watchers who learn what it is to be church by seeing how the church treats the ones we love. I have watched you come up to my younger siblings and tell them that you didn’t want us here (you thought/hoped we forgot, didn’t you?), I have seen you say things to my mom and other pastors that you wouldn’t say to anyone else and then tell him/her that “it wasn’t personal.” I have walked into churches where we were loved and cared for through the hardest times, but also had to pray that God would give me the strength to forgive churches who offered us no welcome. We are the children who see more than you think we see, who encourage and hug and build back up what you sometimes tear down — because pastors are people too, and some of them have children just like some of you.

Your pastor has a life outside the church. One with joys and difficulties. Pastors have parents die and children be a mess. They have good days and bad days. Sometimes their babies keep them up all night, but they still have to get up and preach the next morning. They have fears that keep them up at night, it’s just that they can’t dump them back on the congregation. They have people critique all aspects of what they do as if it won’t hurt their feelings, and then they have to get up in front of you each week and bare a little bit of their soul — and they can’t be selective, they don’t just bare it to the kind person in the third row who is one of the only ones who asks how they are — no, they also bare it to the person who can’t stand them.

The pastors I am related to, have worked for, am friends with, and have loved, for the most part, love what they do. They are pursuing the Kingdom for all they are worth in a thankless job. Pastors’ kids are almost a necessity because your pastor has to do more than is actually humanly possible. How many other jobs do you know that involve speaking in front of people, leading youth and children, being a janitor, event planner, funeral direction, counselor, and whatever else comes up? People often act as if their pastor spends all week writing a sermon. I, as PK and intern, have watched pastors scrub pews, run interference when a drunk/high person walked in during choir practice, and empty buckets and buckets of water up and down a ladder from the AC. If they let it, being a pastor would consume their whole lives, because the work is never done.

So to be really blunt — treat your pastors like people. They are the people who baptize your children, sit with you in hospital, officiate your family’s weddings, and you frequently act like that doesn’t matter, like you don’t remember or don’t care. Remember they have feelings and whatever you say is personal — you don’t treat other people like shit and tell them it isn’t personal, don’t do it here.

Following Jesus is really hard — leading a church in the process of following Jesus is especially hard. Extend them grace, remember that they may have had a hard week too. Maybe they haven’t gotten a lot of sleep or miss their children, maybe they aren’t feeling well, regardless, cut them some slack. Remember that they have been given a task that is physically impossible, maybe ask how you can help. They are teaching your children and visiting your grandparents. Sometimes they are doing the work that someone in the church should be doing but isn’t — ask them how they are and actually listen.

And if for some reason, your pastor’s humanity is not reason enough to treat him/her like a child of God with mercy, kindness, and respect — then remember that some of them have children, and how you treat their parent is the church that child will learn to love or leave.

Thanks be to God for the churches who taught me to love.

Interesting Times

For my Parents on their 35th Wedding Anniversary

(And their less-than-enthusiastic start as empty nesters)

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“May you live in interesting times” -purportedly a Chinese curse

Here’s to interesting times, to never being bored, to getting more than you bargained for and for loving that adventure.

Here’s to being too much fun to leave, to trying not to cry in church, to knowing we were more than wanted, always welcomed, and forever adored.

Here’s to mess, both literal and physical and metaphorical, to courage and always getting through, for the hope that comes through perseverance, for the grace to forgive and the love that was never doubted and that gosh darn stubbornness that comes in spades.

Here’s to laughter, for never a dull moment, for trying to act normal and Ra Ra Riot car sing-a-longs, for goats in bathrooms on Christmas morning, for the ability to handle surprise and to navigate life with joy.

Here’s to family, to verbal barrage and organized chaos, to honesty and listening, to bubble lights and too many books, to TCBY yogurt in the Brussels airport and a place we can always come home to.

Here’s to faith, to watching what it looks like to follow a calling, to being wrapped in prayer and encouraged to “walk in the light,” to being taught that God’s love goes everywhere and we’re welcome to follow, for conversations and encouragement, for using each other sermon examples, for being shown God’s love in action.

Here’s to you two, to accumulating animals when the other wasn’t looking, for the bets taken against you from the beginning that you proved wrong, to the pastor and the ‘family shepherd,’ to the team that has shown me how it’s done and what a partnership should really look like, for 35 years and always another adventure.

Here’s to us, to the family you’ve made, borrowed, accumulated, to the adventures we’ve had and the adventures we’re still looking forward to, for showing us how to dream and how to live in interesting times, for the love that holds us all together and makes us us, and proud to be a part of it.