Trump, Brock Turner, and the hand holding boy

I wrote this post back in July. I didn’t post it, because as I share, I don’t like to write pieces like this.

But now, with the resurgence, or rather, another awareness peak of one of our Presidential candidates incessant misogyny and objectifying of women, that he just KEEPS GETTING AWAY WITH, I just don’t get to stay silent anymore. 

I don’t write this for people to feel sorry for me. I write this in the hopes that it will empower others to share their stories, and for people to see the worth in one another.  So that sexual assault can become more and more for us something that doesn’t occur.

Not just something we don’t talk about.

Please note, this story may be a trigger for some who have dealt with sexual abuse, sexual assault or are currently dealing sexual abuse and assault.

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I didn’t want to write this post. Who really wants to write about stuff like this?

Sure there’s someone out there, but I’m just not it. I prefer stories where I’ve peed my pants, or I accidentally wear control top tights to a musical audition where I have to wear a leotard, or how when I was in H.S. I awkwardly asked a boy if he had a synthesizer in order to try to flirt with him, only to have him say “no”, me say “oh, okay” and turn around and walk away. Sorry Pete, wherever you are, it simply wasn’t written in the stars.

I like the embarrassing stories that everyone can laugh at. The ones that I lived through that cause a sense of levity, that add character, add joy.

I like those.

But there are other stories we live through. The stories that don’t get thrown around at the dinner table, or the first meetings, or the late nights with wine.

The ones that are locked away with chains of disappointment, and disgrace, and shame.

There are those.

They get shared with very few friends or family. Locked away in their chains because the fear of the judgement we might receive is the heaviest chain of all. We forget what freedom feels like. The chains become comfortable. The story grows in and out and weaves through the chains till you can’t tell where the story begins and the chains end.

All through yoga tonight I couldn’t shake it. The idea that keeps going around, that Brock Turner’s victim wasn’t “technically” raped. The excuses that the intrusion and the violation weren’t “as bad as they could have been”.

I kept feeling a still small voice say, “you probably need to share that story, you know.”. But I shoved it back in, telling it to hush, wondering if it wasn’t just all this “namaste” crap making me feel sorry for myself.

And then outside in my church parking lot, as I was saying goodbye to the group, a truck full of white teenage males drove by, one leaned his head out the window, looked me straight in the eye and yelled:

“I’ll eat your pussy out”.

And they drove off.

And that’s when I knew I was going to have to tell this story.

There was violation tonight in that yell. In a place where I feel safe, in a place where I know my worth is not linked to my body or my appearance, in a place where I feel the most at peace, that was violated when a young white man decided to attempt to steal that safety, attempted to boil me down to a vagina, attempted to wreck that peace.

But he knows, they know, they can get away with it. . .

Because my God, if Brock and countless others can get away with what they get away with, let’s get some jollies by sexually harassing some bitches in a church parking lot.

Why not?

I was a freshman in college. All awkwardness and the freshman 15 with breasts that had just recently developed my senior year of high school. I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get my period until my freshman year of high school on the way home from a Band Trip to Walt Disney World, on the charter bus. . .

Happiest place on earth?

Please.

But some boys seemed to notice me. I had a group of friends I ran around with, both boys and girls. One night we were all crammed into a dorm room to watch Jack-Ass (it was 2002, it was what you did), when this one boy who I was sitting by, reached over and grabbed my hand, and held it, for the rest of Jack-Ass.

My heart was racing. I was sure my palms were sweating buckets. And my body was all electrified.

Because, A BOY WAS HOLDING MY HAND.

This happened a few more times. Nothing was ever said about it, we never had conversations outside of the hand holding. We just held hands when that group of friends got together to watch movies/tv.

And in my head, that meant we were CLEARLY getting married.

Then one night, a group of about seven of us decided to watch The Exorcist and have a sleepover.

Spare me the “stupid decision” stuff. I know. NOW-I know. Then, I didn’t. Then, the idea of cuddling with my handholding boy while watching a scary movie, and maybe falling asleep with my head on his shoulder was simply magical (as if I could have ever slept. . .).

Everyone was getting ready to go to sleep. If I remember correctly there were two twin beds in the room, and there were a couple of people on each of those (not neccessarily boy/girl or couples) and then three of us on the floor. My friend (a girl), myself, and the hand holding boy.

We were laying there and he had his arm around my waist. It seemed like very quickly everyone else fell asleep. The room was pitch black. I feel like my breathing probably sounded like an asthmatic freight train.

He started putting his hand under my shirt and fondling me. I was horrified and mortified. I was in a room with a ton of other people asleep. I hadn’t even been kissed, like REALLY kissed by anyone at this point, certainly not by hand holding boy. I turned around to face him, hoping that would make it stop. It didn’t, and he began to kiss me. I pulled away and whispered:

“not here, not like this, no”

I then quickly turned around on my other side so he couldn’t see the tears that were welling up, that were about to cascade like a tsunami.

But he continued groping me, and began humping me to a rough almost painful extent through his clothes and mine from behind until he got off.

Everyone stayed asleep.

He fell asleep.

I didn’t.

I laid there with eyes wide, body tense, completely bewildered, confused, and scared.

And my God, if I thought we were getting married when we were holding hands during Jack-Ass, we were now celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary.

The next morning everyone awoke without a clue.

He pretended it hadn’t happened.

I tried to go on with my day.

I think the next evening I summoned up the courage to ask him “what are we now?” on AIM (aol instant messenger for all you youngin’s, kind of our version of snapchats/twitter all rolled into one. My screen name was MOwens14. I had gotten it when I was fourteen and my maiden name was Owens, PURE BRILLIANCE).

The conversation went like this-

me: “what are we now?”

hand holding boy: “what do you mean, what are we now? I have a girlfriend at another school.”

I thought I couldn’t feel emptier.

Turns out, I could.

I got up the courage to actually ask, face to face, one of his best friends why he had done what he did.

me: “why did he do that to me, if he didn’t want to be my boyfriend?”

best friend: “Mere, he just thought you had nice boobs, and wanted to touch them, don’t get all worked up about it”

Don’t get all worked up about it.

So I took his advice, and I didn’t.

The experience went silent. It went dead in me. I pretended like it hadn’t happened. Didn’t tell anyone. I don’t even think the others who were in the dorm room that night know it happened.

I’ve told a few people here and there. I think it was my husband who first got really serious and told me how it wasn’t ok, and how sorry he was that had happened to me, as I tried to laugh and shrug off the time I got myself into a “stupid situation”.

Hand holding boy got away with it, because he could.

Because somewhere along the line he had been led to believe that his desires, his wants, his sexual needs were more important than another’s dignity. That if he liked how a young woman’s boobs looked, he was going to touch them. No big deal. It wasn’t like he raped me, right? I was stripped down to a pair of breasts to be fondled and an ass to rub up against.

That was my worth, my value, my purpose.

At 10 AM this morning, my husband and I will go to an OBGYN appointment where we will find out if we are having a boy or a girl.

This pregnancy has been very different than the last two, which has led myself and many to believe it might be a boy.

Does that scare me?

Um. . .

YES!

For a multitude of reasons.

But this is the biggest: I think about hand holding boy. And I have to think if his Mother and Father (do I even know if they were present in his life? No.) spoke into his life things about women and others having worth. Or if the opposite happened. Or if there was a loud Uncle, or a silent Aunt. Or friends parents, or older siblings. . . the possibilities go on and on.

The responsibility of raising a child is an enormous one. There is great power in being privileged to speak into a child’s life in any relational capacity.

It isn’t something to be taken lightly.

And so with all our might, and strength, and help from God, my husband and I will raise girls who know what their worth is, and to be loud, and disruptive, and not allow themselves to be treated the way I was. We will tell them, to get worked up about it.

And if this next child is indeed a boy, we will attempt to raise him as a boy, who when sitting on a couch, next to a girl who has boobs he thinks look nice, watching a silly show, (whatever stupid thing is popular in 2034), raise a boy that before he reaches over, will look in her eyes, remember she is a child of God, and say:

“may I hold your hand?”

It’s not going to be sexy.

It probably won’t be romantic.

But, my God, it will be beautiful.

peace to you,

meredith

 

If you are seeking help, know that you are not alone. Reach out to someone, reach out to me, reach out to these resources at RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

But please, please, do not be silent. Know that you matter, and know that your story matters.

 

 

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breaking and entering-do this in remembrance of me

I’ve always fancied myself a rebel of sorts.

In my head.

It’s rare that those thoughts of superhero viligante justice become actual events. Normally they just reside safely between my ears, where no one gets hurt, or more importantly annoyed.

But as you get older, you start to know when it’s time to “shit or get off the pot” faster, and faster. You begin to know and sense, “Ok, this is it. If I don’t do this now, I won’t be able to do it ever”, and the regret will weigh much heavier than any momentary anxiety from the act of doing it.

And so it was, that I found myself on a hot summer day this August, breaking and entering into an abandoned and condemned church building.

Because when you find out a place is going to be demolished, you know it’s time to, well, I better not say it again, or my boss and a few parishioners here and there might get frustrated. But when the shoe fits. . .I can’t help myself people!

Unfortunately in our society dilapidated buildings, churches, schools, homes, are simply the run of the mill. We drive by them, and think that someday maybe we would be able to have the energy and the money to revive them, and to breathe life back into them.

But we don’t.

And no one else does.

And each of those buildings mean something to someone. Or did. Life was lived there at one point. Things happened, memories were made. But it’s easy to shrug it off, or forget until you pass by it again.

Until it’s your building.

The place that means something to you, the place you lived life, the place where things happened. The place you made memories. The place you can’t forget.

The place that your parents met and fell in love, the place your father proposed to your mother only two weeks after meeting in the second pew, the place they were married, the place you and your brothers were baptized, the place you first sang in public, the place you first felt at home.

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What happens when the building goes away? As a United Methodist Preacher’s kid, I am no stranger to not getting attached to buildings. Really. I get that we move and we do ministry where we are called, and that it’s about the people, and it’s about God.

But sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves, it is a little bit about the place. And you think you will always be able to drive by, always be able to show your daughters, always be able to know it’s still there doing  what it does. And so it’s ok to “lose it”, it’s ok to move away, while it’s not an every day part of your life, it’s not something you can’t revisit.

Through an amazing renegade artist L’amour de la Mort, I became aware of the state of Lincoln Church. And it was heartbreaking, but at the same time beautiful to see. And I thought to myself, well, maybe I can plan a girls weekend with some friends that are photographers and have done some renegade photography.

And then I got pregnant.

So I put it off.

But after communicating briefly with my cousin, I found out that it was already fenced off, and set to be demolished, though he didn’t know a specific date.

Reason 1billion75thousandand4 as to why I love my husband and he is the one for me, when I said “Babe, I’m gonna need you to help me break into a church this Monday after Mom’s retirement party. . .” he was completely unfazed.

So we made as much of a plan as you can make, when planning to break into a condemned church.

My parents agreed to be the getaway car. We were leaving the girls with them for the week, so we would drive to Danville in separate cars, park one at the Pizza Inn (now called Jocko’s) and then drive over to the church for Nate and I to try to make our way in.

Nate and I got to Danville a little faster than Mom and Dad and chose to drive by the church. Well, it was as my cousin had described it. To the point that Nate didn’t want us to do it anymore. It looked that unsafe.

I was adamant and livid. I came to Danville with a plan. I was getting in that church with him or without him.

We went and ate at the Pizza Inn (Jocko’s-old habits die really, really, hard), the whole time I was abuzz with nervous and excited energy. Mom and Dad had driven by the church as well, and it was a classic gang up. Everyone thought it was a bad idea for the pregnant woman to break into the church. . .their passion and suggestion were met every single time with the fire of a thousand suns. Or, in more modern terms, we’re talking Teresa Giudice first season of Real Housewives of New Jersey gonna flip a table fire.

WAS NO ONE AWARE OF WHAT THE POINT OF COMING TO DANVILLE WAS?                               IT WAS TO GO IN THE CHURCH! I HAD SURROUNDED MYSELF WITH TRAITORS!

To be fair to the traitors, I had told no one about the fence and that it was that close to being demolished, the info my cousin had shared. We can call this “pregnancy brain” or we can call it being extremely cunning.

I think maybe the hope was that I would back down. So they would let me inch closer and closer to the prize, but I would chicken out at the last minute.

Nope.

So here is where the story becomes hypothetical, like a story must when someone might have hypothetically might have done something seemingly illegal. So let’s just say IF we did break into the church, this is what it MIGHT have looked like.” I’m sure my awkward winks that are radiating at you at this point are getting the point across.

We got there in my parents car and I told Nate we were going to have to climb through the wheelchair ramp, and hope we could push that door open. There wasn’t a way to put a fence around that part of the church because the former parsonage sat so close to the house. There was simply yellow caution tape. Not stay out tape. Big difference.

Nate had to climb under, I was able to climb over the wheelchair ramp. If only jr. high Meredith could see me now, we wouldn’t have spent so many nights crying ourself to sleep, because we would have seen that one day that 36″ inseam was going to come in handy.

That door wouldn’t budge.

At all.

Nate thought we were done.

We weren’t.

 

I jumped down off of the ramp into the fenced in part of the church and saw that a huge stained glass window was completely busted out and that it might be my only way in. We were then clearly someplace we probably weren’t supposed to be.

I looked and then looked at Nate. I think that was the moment I was the closest to calling it quits. But reason 1billion75thousandand5 of why I love my husband and know he is the one for me, he simply said, “If we’re doing this, we’re gonna need to do it” and proceeded to hoist me up and push me through the window. I toppled in and realized I might be doing this alone! What if I couldn’t get the door open to let Nate in?

I did.

Phew.

At first I had the camera, and realized quickly I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I wasn’t going to be able to document and be present.

I had to simply be.

I had to touch and feel and see.

Then. There.

Everything was in disarray. And it was one of those moments, where you know you have to make a split second decision, I could either mourn, or I could embrace, and be grateful for what I was experiencing.

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So my hands went over the grooves of the pews where I sat and learned of the love of Christ.

My feet tentatively stepped down the aisle I would run/walk with a haphazard ponytail and an acolyte robe that was way too big to light the candles.

My legs stepped up the steps to the chancel area where I sang my first solo.

My eyes looked out upon the pews, the view my Grandfather held so many times, imagining the people, and the lives, and the hearts.

Nate and I explored the rest of the church. The third floor gym had fallen to the ground floor.

I could see sky.

We made it to the basement, the fellowship hall where I ate so many casseroles, danced so many funny dances, “helped” get ice cream socials ready.

After a certain amount of time, I wanted to go. There is only so much soaking in to be done. Only so much reminiscing. Too much can get dangerous.

With a final look at the sanctuary, I thanked God for the opportunity to see and step in that formative place one last time.

And with the broken out stained glass windows, and the pipes from the organ strewn about the sanctuary, I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence in such a palpable way. The Holy Spirit is thick when time and space becomes blurry. And my heart was full with the knowledge that that was the point. Time, and space, and place, all change.

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Ashes to ashes.

Dust to dust.

The thing that doesn’t change, is God.

You can know that, and you can say it, but whenever you are saying goodbye to a place for the last time, and you get to acknowledge it was never the place that formed you, it was the amazing consistent work of the Spirit in you in that place, that moment is Holy, and it is good.

Now, don’t get disappointed. We did get a little excitement. As we were ready to leave we almost got caught by a mailman, and had to quickly duck and lay low for awhile. As we ran to the getaway car, my parents urged us to hurry, as a car had been watching them for some time.

As soon as we were in we started screaming

“GO DAD! GO”

And my Dad’s face as he slammed on the gas and sped us all away, might have been worth the whole trip.

We made it to Pizza Inn (Jocko’s) and breathed a sigh of collective relief and laughed together. It was an experience I will never forget, and I am so incredibly thankful for a family who want to keep me safe, but are also willing to let me risk for incredible moments, and to feel like a rebel every once in a while.

Some have said this baby I’m carrying will inevitably be a rebel.

They’ve already broken in someplace.

A mother can only hope.

Well, hope, and pray.

peace to you,

meredith

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Mom and Dad, thank you for letting me sleep.

Sunday morning worship wasn’t that out of the ordinary, other than that by the time the 10:45 service rolled around, I realized I hadn’t gone to the bathroom at all that morning, and my bladder was about to explode from all the coffee. ALL THE COFFEE! So after the passing of the peace I trucked back to go, and decided to just sit in the back (normally I am up front sitting next to Nate).

It was an amazing vantage point, and I was particularly struck by one mother and daughter (the daughter is about 14 years old) and their interactions. The daughter was repeatedly laying her head on her mothers shoulder or lap, and I could only presume she was sleeping.

And it was beautiful.

That might sound weird, to have a Pastor and the wife of the Pastor preaching at the time, to find it beautiful that someone was asleep during the sermon, but it was, it is.

Why? Because that 14 year old was comfortable enough to sleep in her church, and her mother let her sleep, letting her own body be used as comfort for her daughter.

I was instantly taken back to myself in a similar situation. I was 14, my family was in a church that I simply wasn’t connecting with. Up until that point my father had always been the Pastor of the church we attended, and there were some privileges and notoriety  that went along with that for the Pastor’s kids. But now he held a conference position, and he might as well have worked at State Farm (Bloomington-Normal is the world capitol of State Farm, you can thank me when and if that ever comes up at a Trivia Night all you Trivia Lovin’ St. Louisians!”) for all my peers cared. So I didn’t go to Youth Group, and I didn’t go to Sunday School, but my parents still tried to push me to go to church.

They didn’t always succeed. Some Sundays I would lock myself in the bathroom fully clothed (sitting in the bathtub to make myself feel a little less guilty) and refuse to open the door, saying:

“Oops, I’m still in the tub, guess I won’t be ready in time, sorry, better go without me”

That can only work so many times. . .

When I would go to church with them I would without fail, fall asleep.

And my mother or Father would let me lean my head on their shoulder, and wouldn’t wake me.

I was probably tired because I was a growing teenager. Or I was up on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) all night trying to muster up the courage to IM boys I had crushes on who had things about Jesus and guitars in their screen names. Mustering up that courage and never actually doing it takes a lot of energy out of a girl! Or I was pouring over Vogue and InStyle magazines, thinking, “I bet if I start working out, and convince my parents to let me buy more clothes from the Limited and Abercrombie, then, then I’ll look like Elizabeth Hurley, or Liv Tyler, but for now I’ll just rip this page out of the magazine, put it in my goals binder, and feel like I’ve accomplished something”.

Hey! They had the same hair color as me, so, it seemed plausible.

Whatever the reason, or justification, I slept.

And unlike my peers, their parents, the other adults in the church, knew exactly who my Father was. He held a conference position for goodness sake! A really, really, big deal in the insular world of the United Methodist Church.

But they let me sleep.

With everyone watching.

They let me sleep.

I don’t think I knew the magnitude of that decision then. I don’t know that I did until Sunday when I saw this mother lovingly stroke her daughters hair while she rested.

It was a pivotal time in my faith life, it was a pivotal time in my life. Mean girls, and mean boys abounded. I hated everything about myself, my height, my weight, my baby sized teeth, my nonexistent calves, my nasal tinged voice, everything.

And the social structures set up by the church were simply places for mean girls and mean boys to take on those roles “in the name of Jesus”. I could have been done with church. I could have written it off completely.

But they let me sleep.

Despite what others might have thought.

Despite what it looked like.

Despite who it offended.

They let me sleep.

They didn’t do everything right (sorry Mom and Dad, but you also taught me to be honest).

But this was so, so, so, right.

Amongst a myriad of other things, this kept me from writing off church.

Because in my heart I knew, even if I didn’t in my head yet, that God’s house was to be a place of comfort, a place of rest, a place of peace, and my parents had allowed it to be.

This mother was allowing it to be such a place for her daughter.

And while that mother may never know what that will do, in her own daughters life, it wrecked me back newfound to my purpose as this quote embodied itself in my ever aging, often weary heart:

“Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move mountains”

And now I must be off. Because I was reminded, I’ve got mountains to move.

 

peace to you,

meredith

 

Would he be my Pastor if he weren’t my husband?

 

Would he be my Pastor, if he weren’t my husband?

I realized a week or so ago, sitting in leadership training at our church HarmonySTL, that I had never pondered this question.

I’ve lived the double edged sword my entire life of having hands on Pastors at all times. A Grandfather, A Father, a Boyfriend then Fiancee, then Husband, then Father of my Children, and recently, myself.

I’ve never, nor will I ever know what it’s like to have a distanced relationship with one’s spiritual leader.

It’s hard. Like really hard. I’m supposed to be fed by this person that sees ME at my absolute worst. I’m supposed to be fed by this person that I see at THEIR absolute worst.

It seems like a recipe for disaster, if not for the most important ingredient,

JESUS!

(I’m not going to pretend like I’m not really proud of that baking metaphor, because I am, because I mean, seriously, The Great British Baking Show anybody? Pure brilliance and joy. To think a reality competition show could help restore my faith in humanity is a little ridiculous, but it does, and all  the while I get to look at delectable concoctions and listen to lovely accents)

So that’s the thing, without Jesus, I wouldn’t choose my husband to be my pastor. Heck, without Jesus, I wouldn’t choose my husband to be my husband.  Because marriage is hard. They don’t tell you that beforehand. I mean they do, but they don’t to the degree that they should. They don’t tell you that life is going to kick you flat on your ass, and sometimes it will be easier because you have made vows to one another, and sometimes it will be harder. “They” also don’t tell you that it’s a good idea to pee before and after sex, because if you don’t, you’re going to be stuck in the Virgin Islands (not making this up) with a urinary tract infection, with no way to get antibiotics, with two days left of your honeymoon, and you only brought one book, because, well, you didn’t expect to be reading much, but you end up spending those last two days in the bathtub reading and re-reading Naked by David Sedaris, again, I can’t make this stuff up).

They don’t tell you how hard marriage is. . .

But back to this posts original purpose, if I had the luxury of church shopping, and I was seeking out a spiritual leader, would I happen into HarmonySTL, and would I choose Pastor Nate Hopping?12615769_10103309445915880_5835002842332789082_o

I sat there in the chair watching my husband do what he was created to do two Thursdays ago, and my heart was swelling, and my chest was puffing, and my head was a twitter with the extreme joy that comes with seeing someone live out their passion.

And I realized, I’ve never asked myself that question, because there wasn’t a need to. Because the yes has always resounded from deep within my gut, my very being.

I knew from the moment that Nate and I met, at 18 and 19, that this young man serving Christ with his life would be an explosive and earth shattering thing. That if he fully answered his calling with his life, not only would my life never be the same, but countless others as well.

A few years ago we were having a conversation with some friends, and they were sharing how they had stopped going to church, because there just wasn’t a leader that they could follow, and they kept reiterating that if Nate and I planted a church in their city, they would go to that church. That Nate was the kind of leader worthy of following.

I let loose on them. I don’t think I was full on yelling, but full on set jaw, steel eyes, deadly serious Meredith.

“Don’t you guys realize, that out there, in your city, there are Nate and Meredith’s all over the place who are in desperate need of someone to come and believe in them, to support them, to follow them, but also lead alongside them as they try to live out the messy, messy, crazy beautiful calling of Pastoral ministry.. When you decide not to go to church, not to invest in a community, it hurts just as much as if you were doing that to us”

Dramatic, yes? Well, yes. It’s me. But the sentiment I still stand behind. Because every Pastor, every Christian leader, is someone’s husband, or wife, or brother, or sister, or mother, or father.

They are people, they are human, they are flawed, and they have the courage to live out their calling, in a very vulnerable way, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ has changed them in such a way that they cannot be silent.  

This past November Nate and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary! Wowzers. It’s pretty amazing when I look back and think “well, at 21, about 25% of me was excited about the long term marriage part, 25% of me wanted a big party and a pretty dress, and 50% of me just wanted to have sex”.

But remember that ingredient? JESUS.

At our wedding, our dear friend Miles read this excerpt from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. It rings truer with every passing year. And as I’ve been reflecting more and more on the church, and the people who enter or DON’T enter the doors, I’ve seen that this can apply to anyone attempting Christian community (so note where I have changed some words)

“But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people (or a person and a Christian community) who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage (being part of Christian community) itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we (all)  become a new creature.  To marry (become part of a Christian community)  is (one of) the biggest risk(s)  in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person (community)  for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn (a Christian Community) another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.”

Friends who might not be in churches, friends who are in churches but haven’t fully stepped in and moved from participation to co-creation. Go for it. Try it out. Try it out knowing that it’s risky, knowing that it’s broken, because people are in it, and people, well, we are broken. But there is something about being broken together, working towards a common goal, with the grace to allow mess ups and wrong turns, and pushes to get us back on the right track.

Would he be my Pastor, if he weren’t my husband?

Yes.

peace to you,

meredith

 

 

 

 

Minimalist Challenge Check In-Or, I really, really, love stuff.

It’s Tuesday, January 12th, twelve days into the Minimalist Challenge.

By now you should have gotten rid of 78 things.

1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12=78

WOWZA! That’s a lot.

And here’s my confession. I did it all yesterday. Seriously. I ran around the house and got rid of 78 things. I’ve never been so thankful to have such a ratty drawer full of tights with holes in them. I went down from 25 pairs of tights to 6.

Easy target.

Underwear drawer too. Great excuse to actually throw out that hole filled underwear that’s been around since your firstborn’s birth. Or the pair you wore to prom. . .seriously. It was my first foray into “shape wear” they’ve held up better than one might think, though without elastic, shape wear is just saggy, baggy, underwear.

It just hasn’t been a priority. We’ve had two major deaths at church. I preached (I do this about once a month, so I tend to go tunnel vision when it’s my turn), oh, and, you know, life.

As I scurried around and thought about all those events, and the seemingly stressful harried and hurried episodes they produced, I looked at my pile of 78 things, and wondered, with less stuff, would I have been as stressed? Well, the fast answer is no of course.

But the real answer is deeper. I have a lot of stuff, that is there for the “someday” when  I will need it. And aside from the occasional costume party, and clothes that are bought with the purpose of the girls growing into them, “someday” hardly ever comes. I trick myself into thinking that the more stuff I have at the ready, the more prepared I will feel, the more in control I will be.

And like most issues, it does go back to my childhood. My father was a United Methodist pastor as I was growing up, and since they utilize the appointment system, we moved quite a few times. My house wasn’t constant, my church wasn’t constant, my friends weren’t constant, my school wasn’t constant, but you know what was?

My stuff.

My stuff went wherever I went. I had control over my stuff. So I loved (love) my stuff, a little too much.

I think it’s a fairly normal reaction to that sort of upbringing (which brought with it MANY positive character building aspects, this is just one of the negative), and so I want to give myself a little grace.

But after I give myself a little grace, I want to kick myself in the butt and live ACTIVELY with an awareness that the extra stuff does nothing to “save me”. It can’t. It’s STUFF!

It takes awhile to unlearn 32 years of stuff though. Because there is emotional stuff tied to the stuff-stuff.

We’ll dive more into that, because we aren’t even halfway through this month!

How is your challenge going? You can always start/re-start. It’s Here are about beginning to adapt to a lifestyle, not something that ends on January 31st.

Here are some resources as you (and I) are starting out on this minimalist journey!

The Minimalists I just love them. Love their writings, love their honesty. Joshua-Fields-Millburn-and-Ryan-Nicodemus1.jpg

HERE is a link to a roundup of different Ted talks dealing with minimalism and simple living.

My favorite book on the subject right now? The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up51H8x07Fd7L._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I just adore the clear truthful title! And tomorrow in the mail I will be getting Spark Joy:A Masterclass on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up! I love to-do lists. Really. I love them. They are like recipes. If you do this, this, and this, you should get THIS result! I like the control. But if you don’t already know that about me, with all this minimalist stuff, you will.

A new find today, that I’m thrilled about, is The Minimalist Baker. I wouldn’t think to parlay Minimalism into my cooking as well, yet this blog does, and beautifully at that!

Check out how to whip up this chickpea shawarma salad here!CHICKPEA-SHAWARMA-SALAD-in-30-minutes-Healthy-flavorful-filling-and-fast-plantbased-vegan-salad-recipe.jpg

Happy minimalizing/purging/simplifying!

peace to you,

meredith

 

 

Obligatory New Year’s Post

In Target a few days ago, the cashier noted that I “come here a lot”. Yep. I do. She then proceeded to inquire if I had any resolutions for the New Year.

I replied: “Really, just to be more intentional.”

And that’s it. I’ve done the lists before, and the feeling of defeat that sets in when it seems unattainable can be crippling. The fear of disappointing others as well as myself is enough to make me crawl into bed until the next New Years so that I can start fresh, really, only in the worlds eyes.

Already today I ruined one of the things I wanted to try, to not consume any alcohol, a “Dry January” (actually a concept, check it out here).

And I had a mimosa for breakfast. SON OF A. . .!

I love champagne. We had lovely friends that had spent the night in order to help us watch our kids so we could go to a wedding. And it seemed fitting to celebrate, and the only thing that makes me love champagne more than I already do, is drinking it with people I love, around a bedhead filled table, with children giggling and yummy food going into our bellies.

Now, last year, and really all of my thirty two years before this one, this failure, this one slip-up would immediately trigger a “well now the whole thing is ruined, I’m quitting”.

And instead today, as I was cleaning up the table where love and laughter and yes, yikes, CHAMPAGNE (on what was supposed to be the start of a dry January) had been lived, I said to myself, “Ok, well for the rest of January, let’s be more intentional about it Meredith, and try again”.

It felt good. Really good. The mess up didn’t negate the joy that was felt, and the memory that was made. The “failure” didn’t mean I was done for the year, that I don’t get to try this goal until another 364 mornings pass.

If I’m honest that’s new for me. And so with new comes a little scary. And a lot of overthinking. But sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll flip the switch, and my overthinking will instead become praying. I’ll begin to speak with God about it, instead of to myself. Because if I’m being real transparent here, I don’t love myself the way I should. It’s not good to overthink with someone who doesn’t love you the way they should. And when the switch flips to prayer, when I begin that conversation, sometimes things become clearer, more intentional, if you will.

Sure I want to be intentional, but what I need more than the intention, what I was feeling whenever I wasn’t defeated, whenever I could remember the joy experienced over the failure, is GRACE.

Oh friends, it’s a big word, a big, big, word. A beautiful word. A word that even though I’m inundated with speaking it, with praying it for others, with knowing in my head that it’s real (I’m a Pastor for goodness sake!), my heavy little heart doesn’t always know it’s real. Doesn’t always live it for myself.

So when I go back to Target (because I will, just with more intentionality of why instead of being overcome with giddiness at all the lovelies in the dollar spot, because is it just me, or has the dollar spot got game lately?)

I will go back to that cashiers line for two reasons:

  1. There is another cashier I go to often, (let’s call him Bert) but Bert seemed to point his nose at me when I ate a couple rice krispie treats during my Target visit awhile back and brought him the wrappers to scan. Bert said, “Oh you were hungry?” and then started talking about third world countries, and how they must feel hungry. I go to Bert’s line when I feel like stepping out in faith, or when I know I need refining, and want to remind myself to share the love of Christ even when it’s not easy. But I’m not going to lie, I’m still recovering from the Holidays, and there is no guarantee I won’t flip out on Bert.
  2. I want to correct my resolution. I want to tell her ultimately it’s to have more grace with myself. Because that will lead to intentionality, and that will lead to more joy, and laughter, and at least for the month of January, sparkling grape juice.

 

If you are wanting to focus on more grace and intentionality I would invite you to join me in playing “The Minimalist Game” for the month of January. Check it out by clicking on the link!

Let’s Play a Minimalism Game

I’m really excited about it. There is no sign up, no e-mails you will get, find some people, and try it out together! I’m excited to see what happens both in my home, and my heart when I focus on why I have what I have.

 

Grace friends. This is the year of grace, and joy, and come February, champagne.

 

I can’t wait to share it with you all!

peace to you,

meredithPhoto on 1-1-16 at 2.17 PMHappy New Year! Good thing I’m not doing a “no bedhead January”! Grace, grace, GRACE!

 

The palm’s the thing. . .

A tattoo is an interesting thing. A permanent thing. A highly debated thing, particularly amongst religious circles.

I wasn’t sure I would ever get one. You go so long thinking of the different concepts, and when you haven’t had the impulse, or the “get up and go” to get it, it fades away, as if the idea of the tattoo was a bad tattoo you hadn’t cared for properly.

It seemed as if the time had come. About a month and a half ago, I was ready to go in, I knew what I was getting, where, and why.

But the night before during my prayer time, I just DID NOT feel at peace with it. So the next day, I told Nate he would have to go get a new one to take my place. He respected it and trying not to be overly joyful at my sense of unrest, took off to check one of the many tattoos off his ever expanding list.

I went ahead and made another appointment a few weeks later and would have to wait for a month. Plenty of time to pray, and discern, and feel at peace (or not).

I discussed it a lot with people. I pinned a lot of pins. I never found exactly what I wanted, which I kind of liked, but also kind of frustrated me, because there would be an element of stepping out in faith in regards to the final product.

And on Tuesday July 14th, I got my first, and maybe my only tattoo.

It’s a Palm Branch.

FullSizeRender-2 IMG_4481 IMG_4482 FullSizeRender-3 FullSizeRender

I don’t think I ever missed a Palm Sunday. I can almost see them all when I start flipping through my memories. The pomp and circumstance, the actual green palm branches with their pulpy leaves that I would strip and braid, and strip again during my father’s sermon, only to be upset that I couldn’t wave my palm branch during the closing hymn because I had obliterated it in my boredom. I got wise to this and eventually would grab two to three palm branches each Palm Sunday.

The permanence and also the evolution of the understanding of what that day meant stayed with me always. Of what that Palm Branch began to mean to me. Of what it had meant to others before me, what it must have meant on that day that crazy Jesus who was turning the world upside down rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Of what it meant for me as a young child, an adolescent, a married young woman. a young mother, a pastor’s wife, a pastor.

And yet still it remains, though the places and people changed, the same green grainy life cut off yet still exuding life palm branch wherever I might find myself the Sunday before Easter.

Now, as I bow my head in prayer, or lift my hands in praise, it seems fitting to me to be reminded to have the intentionality and intensity of Palm Sunday as I commit those acts.

With an intensity that indicates that Christ has died-Christ is risen-Christ is coming again.

My forearm becomes a bit of an ebenezer. A reminder.

Of who I was, who I am, and who I am yet created to be.

Wikipedia gives us this snippet:

“In Christianity, the palm branch is associated particularly with Palm Sunday, when according to Christian tradition palm branches were waved at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It was adopted into Christian iconography to represent the victory of martyrs, or the victory of the spirit over the flesh.”

The victory of the spirit over the flesh resonates with me so incredibly deeply, because of the healing and victory I have had from self-hate and loathing about my body and my physical appearance through Christ. There was a time in my life where it was completely self debilitating. I hated how I looked. How I was built. The size of my feet. My height. I was so insecure that I couldn’t be in a room with people I found more attractive than myself, or I would have a panic attack.

These were lies, and thoughts, and ideas, that were not coming to me from my Savior.

The idea that the very same young woman, who couldn’t be in a room with others looking at her without having a panic attack, could permanently put something on her body, knowing FULL WELL, that people will have opinions about it, and THEY WILL share them (one of our older members already shared with me they thought I would start with something small, like a butterfly or a seahorse. To which I reminded them that I’m Meredith Hopping, I don’t do many things small or inconspicuously), both positive and negative, is testament to the healing that has happened in my heart and soul.

I have been set free.

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,“Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!”Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming,  sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

I am so blessed, and so beloved. For the Prince of Peace has come. Not just for me, but for all.

Incidentally, I’m also saving our church approximately $0.33 every Palm Sunday now. Because you know what?

We church planters have to be scrappy.

peace to you,

meredith

My tattoo artist is Jeremy Buschmann at All Star Tattoo in St. Louis. I HIGHLY recommend him!

http://www.allstartat2.com