"before we turn to stone"

Well, I feel exhausted.


I did a video last night with my cat Madeleine L’Engle.
I have a mild allergy to Madeleine L’Engle (the cat).
When I hold her next to my face while singing a song, I apparently end up looking like this:





In my Benadryl induced haze, I am having a little trouble thinking theologically, so please bear with me.


Last night we had an amazing Bible Study/Prayer Service.
Generally the focus in the first week of Advent is Hope and the second week it is Peace. It is in this perspective we came to our Gospel lesson, Mark 1:1-8.


 1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,[a]the Son of God,[b] 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

   “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way”[c]
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
   make straight paths for him.’”[d]
 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”



We were struck that the whole Judean countryside came because they heard his message of repentance and therefore came to confess. We started talking about repentance and how that is a part of waiting actively in anticipation.

This has resonated with me so deeply in this season of Advent and the times of transition I find myself in. It would seem that the Gospel on a whole, and Mark in part, makes it clear that repentance, the willingness to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry” is essential for a life of peace. 

I see this over and over again in my life. If I am unwilling to  humble myself and ask for forgiveness for the wrongs I have done, it is impossible for me to have peace. Completely impossible. It happens quickly. When I have done something that has caused offense to someone the immediate reaction more often than not is to find a way to defend myself and my decisions. And if I don’t get myself in check, it becomes defending myself at all costs, causing further offense and hurt. But that isn’t even the beginning. 

It begins to eat at your insides. Eat them and at the same time disable them. It makes them hard so that the next time you hurt someone, and don’t humble yourself and ask for forgiveness, you don’t feel it as much. It becomes duller, so it can happen more and more and more.

I’ve found (by trial and error) that most of the “instructions” in the Bible aren’t just for the heck of it.
Not just for kicks, because God “can”.


It really is in our best interest for ourselves and our relationships to freely give and seek forgiveness. It’s the only way we can truly have peace.


It’s hard to humble yourself. It’s like dying to yourself. A little death that comes before a whole lot of life. There is so much freedom when you humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. A huge weight is lifted off of you and you can feel again. I’m not going to try and fool you, that it doesn’t open you up again and again to the possibility to be hurt again and again. But that is the danger with truly living isn’t it? The danger when we choose to fully participate in humanity.


In my short experience on this earth, the peace that can be experienced is far greater than the turmoil.  The possibility of deepening relationship, of showing true love, it can be amazing.


I couldn’t get this song out of my head with the Gospel lesson from yesterday.







To me it speaks beautifully about looking beyond ourselves at the world around us, and the importance of taking responsibility for our actions “and not waiting for someone else’s hand”. The specific line that keeps speaking to my soul is:


“but brother how we must atone, before we turn to stone”


It is a simple truth.


If we aren’t vulnerable to one another, and are incapable of humbling ourselves, we will turn to stone.


The further we separate ourselves from humanity the less human we become.


Let us all take this Advent season as an opportunity to seek forgiveness where it is needed and to freely give forgiveness as it is asked of us. Not many better ways I can think of to honor the coming of Christ who came to us in a humble vulnerable human form so that he could grant us ultimate forgiveness and redemption.


peace to you,
meredith










Cool it with the Christmas

I have been trying to figure out a formula or structure to my blog to make it easier to maintain and update each day of the week (I have already decided it is good if I take a break on the weekends). 

I thought of headlines for each day, and a preliminary setup looks like this:

Monday-Music/Movie Monday-where I review a recent movie or music that I am currently experiencing.
Tuesday-Talkback or Top Ten Tuesday-I rant about a current issue, or I give you a top ten list!
Wednesday-Whimsy Wednesday-(we have Bible Study on Wednesday nights, so realistically I know all you’re gonna get is a funny youtube video/link or a good quote. Something “whimsical” get it?
Thursday-Theological Thursday-I attempt to get deep.
Friday-Photo Friday-Some of my favorite photos from the week.
I make no promises to stick to this. For example, next week on the 16th, Eleonore turns one. Next week is going to be devoted to Eleonore Bay, without apology and exception. Get ready for some gushing.
But today I am sticking with it, and it’s Talkback Tuesday. Which is essentially an excuse for me to be unapologetically sassy, and NOT an underhanded attempt to engage in sassy confrontational comment threads, getting more comments on my blog. . .I think.
It’s Christmastime. Right?
Wrong.
I will get back to this in a minute. 
On Facebook, around media outlets in general and in public, I keep seeing this thing.
People posting comments, or pictures, or links, or saying things that have to do with it being OK to say Merry Christmas.
The overall sentiment seems to be 
“F-You, I can say Merry Christmas if I want to. Get out of my F-ing way. I WILL offend you. Intentionally. Thinking intentionally, I might offend you, and I’m gonna like it, so I’m gonna do it.”
Some of the people I see this from are Christians, and some are not. Both kill me. Really. But I’m not going to “talkback” to those who don’t claim to be Christians. 
I’m going to “talkback” to the Christians.
One was shared that said:
“It’s okay to say “Merry Christmas & God Bless America”
Absolutely. It is okay. And I know there are those who want to say those things because they believe they bring joy, or they really do want God to Bless America, I in fact share these same sentiments.
And Hippy Dippy alert: I want God to Bless THE WHOLE WORLD. I warned you, so you can’t get mad.
But there is the majority, which are the sassy ones/people, demanding justice for our “rights” as Christians. 
That idea our “Christian Rights” is another post, for another time. 
And it is with those, and that school of thought that I take issue.
So, back to how I started.
It isn’t Christmastime. 
Not according to Church History, and not according to the Church Calendar. 
It’s Advent.
You may not have ever heard of it, and that’s our (Christians) fault, including me. 
Here is the definition from dictionary.com:

ad·vent

  [ad-vent]  Show IPA

noun

1.

a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of theholiday season.
2.

usually initial capital letter the coming of Christ into theworld.
3.

initial capital letter the period beginning four Sundaysbefore Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.
4.

usually initial capital letter Second Coming.
Origin: 
1125–75; Middle English  < Latin adventus  arrival, approach,equivalent to ad- ad-  + ven-  (stem of venīre  to come) + -tus suffix of verbal action


1.  onset, beginning, commencement, start. 

And of Christmas:

Christ·mas

  [kris-muhs]  Show IPA

noun

1.

the annual festival of the Christian church commemoratingthe birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and nowgenerally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion forexchanging gifts.
And just for kicks, Christmastide as well:

Christ·mas·tide

  [kris-muhs-tahyd]  Show IPA

noun

1.

the festival season from Christmas  to after New Year’sDay.
2.

the period from Christmas Eve  to Epiphany, especially in England.
Origin: 
1620–30; Christmas  + tide1

OK. A lot to deal with there. Mainly what I want to point out is that Christmas doesn’t start until Christmas Day. Up to that point we are in the season of Advent, of waiting for Christ to come into the world.
Of waiting, patiently, in anticipation and excitement. 
So what if, instead of exercising our “right” to say Merry Christmas, 
we exercise our “right” to WAIT?
Wait and patiently exude the hope that we have because this has happened:

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:10-12

If you believe the best way to share this hope and love and your faith is to say Merry Christmas at all costs, after looking deep down and into your soul, then that is between you and Christ, and I have to respect that. 
What if instead, Christians claimed the season of Christmas. . .how out of the ordinary that would be. How outrageous, to say Merry Christmas after the commercial hoopla is done, and the presents are opened and the belly’s are stuffed, and we are in the midst of returning the sweater we didn’t want, or the earrings that are downright ugly. 
What would that look like? 
A little crazy. A little off kilter. And then someone might ask “What do you mean?”
And then we might have to “be prepared to give a reason for the hope we have within us”.
If we’re honest, its easier to say Merry Christmas when the rest of the world is saying Happy Holidays. When it’s socially acceptable  celebrate Christmas. 
We get to bask in the glow of comfortable Christianity as the rest of the world acknowledges that it is “Christmastime”.
What I am going to try to adopt is this school of thought. 
That my Lord and Savior saw fit to come to us humbly, as a vulnerable baby. And in doing that he was still so enigmatic, and so awe inspiring that the Angels came to sing, and the Shepherds came to bow. 
It radiated through his humbleness. 
I don’t think with that kind of Glory He is concerned with Christians exercising their “right” to say Merry Christmas. 
But just for the heck of it,
Happy Advent one and all!

peace to you,
meredith

Back to Decatur

Today was an exciting whirlwind of an adventure.

Deb asked if Eleonore and I wanted to join her and Wolfie on a thrifting jaunt to Clinton.

I figured we should just go crazy, and go all the way to Decatur.
(All the pictures are courtesy of her and her artistic self! )

You see, I have this odd love affair with Decatur. I lived there from the time I was four to third grade and for my freshman year of college. Those are pretty pivotal years in the development of a memory, of a personhood, at least they were for me.

It was hard as we made every turn, and drove past every place to not share with Deb the story that accompanied the particular place or street. We did some pretty great thrifting, and the kiddos behaved quite well.

Eleonore & Wolfgang holding hands in the backseat! 

What was more valuable than any physical treasure, was the remembering. Remembering where I was when I first heard of the Iraq war starting on the radio in the car. Remembering the thrift store that my mother would buy me clothes from that I would despise because a peer had told me “only poor people wear thrift store clothes” and I had an incessant need to tell people where my clothing was from, so if I wore it, everyone was going to know it was second-hand. I was going to tell them.

The thing that stood out to me most about my time in Decatur were all my different “educational” experiences.

I was home schooled for Pre-School, went to Northwest Christian Academy for Kindergarten, and first grade, was home schooled for second grade and went back to Northwest Christian Academy for the first half of third grade, transferring to Glad Tidings Christian Academy after Christmas.

I kept harkening back to my first experience at Glad Tidings in 1993. I was excited about the change, I thought I had a good handle on things.

Little did I know.
I arrived to school in a hot pink corduroy jumper with a peter pan white blouse underneath. But here is the kicker. I had on Troll Santa Claus earrings, which were highlighted since I had a boy bowl haircut at the time. What went through my third grade mind that morning when I woke up? Perhaps I had a bit of a C’est La Vie attitude about the Santa Claus troll earrings. Or perhaps they were the one thing I had that I felt transcended into popular culture. I might have ridden in the Silhouette Spaceship Van to school thinking, “I’m the freaking s@#t, I have on troll earrings, you will all bow to my prowess”. Because who is ballsy enough to wear troll earrings to a Christian school? No one I had encountered in my short time on earth. . .
Everyone else was much cooler (ballsier) than I. I had failed miserably. At recess, Jaclyn Dick and Jessica Dixson came over and started talking to me. They were unmistakably the Queen Bee’s. And if I remember correctly, they had their ears pierced twice, and long hair down to their mid backs, GUESS sweatshirts with leggings and keds with scrunchy socks.
WHAT ARE SANTA CLAUS TROLL EARRINGS WHEN COMPARED TO THAT!?!
As they approached they began to probe.
“Do you like Grease?”
All possibilities began to run through my mind. Grease. . .food grease? My father saves bacon grease to pop his popcorn that he gets in a tub from the boyscouts in.
I gingerly raised my eyebrows and stated what I could muster as calmly as possible:
“Like in a frying pan?”
They could have been cruel at this point. I think they only giggled a little bit.
“No, the movie Grease! You will have to come over and watch it.”
“Oh yeah, that, sure. I’ve been meaning to see it. Just haven’t gotten around to it.”
I immediately boiled with seething rage at my parents. What was this travesty they had committed against me, that I didn’t know what this mysterious Grease Movie was?
I knew plenty about Star Wars, I knew plenty about anything Jim Henson had done. I knew the set list that the Moody Blues played at their Live at Red Rocks PBS special that I had been allowed to stay up for so I could “dance” behind the couch to “Nights in White Satin”.
None of these things could serve me now. I was like an Israelite who was ungrateful for her manna.
When I got older I would look back on this again and think, “you let your eight year old twirl to a song clearly about SEX but didn’t show her GREASE!?!?!?” For the love of God people!

When I did make the trek to Jaclyn Dick’s house, she enlightened me on such things as Nancy Drew Mysteries, Guns and Roses, and Madonna. I truly felt that I might go to hell for listening to Guns and Roses. Something about it seemed sacrilegious probably the skulls on the cassette tape cover. But Madonna’s Poppa Don’t Preach made sense to me.
I could justify that. My father was a pastor, and all of a sudden I had a song if I ever got pregnant and wanted to keep my baby.
Always a good thing for a third grader to hold in her back pocket.
I think I remember sharing that with my Father soon after I got home from Jaclyn’s for the first time. 
He was calm and sensical enough to not bar me from hanging out with her ever again.
I became one of the “popular” girls at Glad Tidings, despite my boy hair bowl cut and faux pas first day outfit. The way I did this? By telling everyone what sex was. 
Yep. 
In detail.
When I was in second grade, on a ride home from Champaign where my mother was working at the time, I had turned to her and nonchalantly asked:
“So what is this sex thing everyone is talking about?”
Being a nurse, the practical answer was to tell me what this sex thing was, in scientific and biological actuality. 
It was like social gold, this information. Everyone else was still getting the birds and the bees junk from their parents. But I, as I sat atop the jungle gym with my captivated audience shared terms, and procedures like a 10th grade gym teacher reluctantly does in required Sex-Ed. If memory serves me, I shared with much more vigor and tenacity, punctuating certain terms with added thrill and rising intonation.
But, every time I did this, I had to pay my penance. Remember that United Methodist guilt I talked about? Yeah, like being born into sin, I was born into that, and I confessed to my mother every day after school. 
Mid spring we found out we were moving to Arthur, Illinois.
 (That process is a different story for a different time.)
I remember going to my mother as a third grader, and saying:
“This is my chance, I will be able to have a fresh start and begin again. I won’t have to be known as the “Girl who always talks about sex”.”
The first day of fourth grade in Arthur came with great anticipation. To my credit, I think I made it to the second day of recess before I blurted out my wealth of information. It worked it’s charm, and I was a “popular” girl again.
As we’ve moved back to Bloomington, I haven’t had any instances where I have felt insecure to the point of needing to talk incessantly about sex in correct biological terms. I think with the presence of Eleonore it is pretty clear I hold that information.
But just in case you are with me, in a coffee shop, or at dinner, or at the mall and I suddenly start saying things like “COPULATION” or “GONAD”, simply calm me down, and reassure me that my identity is not found in my sexual knowledge, rather my identity is in Christ. 
As Henri Nouwen says:

The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace… We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings, or passions to seduce us into self-rejection. 

This wasn’t something I was able to grasp as a second grader, or third grader, or fourth grader, or. . .ok, you get it.
But I think I am beginning to get it.
And it is one of the things that makes coming “Back to Bloomington” possible at all. 
peace to you,
meredith

Among our finds? 
This beauty for $1.00 which came with a polaroid camera and a leather case!
Perfect to capture new memories with.

Wedding Week Day 5-"Theology" of a Marriage

After six years if there is one thing I have learned, it is that you cannot label your marriage, and you can’t define it.

You might have an understanding of your Faith, that there are non-negotiables, and the rest is up for discussion. I think Marriage (as we are told it should be) when modeled after our relationship with God has to look like that.

When we were married we had our good friend Miles (also the man who hired us both that fateful first summer at East Bay, pretty integral person!) read an excerpt from who else? Madeleine L’Engle!

This was it:
“Ultimately there comes a time when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people 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 itself is something which has to be created. To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person 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 another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”


We still aspire to this vision of a marriage today, EVERY day. It’s a choice. The choice isn’t always easy, the choice isn’t always fun. But you choose, because you have made a commitment before God to that other person. And when you don’t make the right decision, you look to that person, and are amazed when they have the strength to give you the grace you don’t deserve, and equally amazed when you have grace to give to them. There is so much freedom, as Madeleine says, in those choices. 


For freedom Christ has set us free. 


Such a responsibility in this freedom. And not just in the confines of a marriage or romantic relationship. In each friendship, each family member, each stranger, each enemy. 


It’s exhausting, but we are called to be in community for a reason.
Because it’s still going to be exhausting, but when others can help hold up our hands it makes it easier to love others as we start to get tired.

I love you Nathanial Ryan Hopping, and look forward to six-TY more years of holding each others hands up to love each other and the world around us.

peace to you,
meredith












Wedding Week Day 4-The Wedding (Continued)

Our wedding ceremony was probably my favorite part of the whole wedding.

We were so blessed by the community that came together to make it happen and to support us in our commitment to God and one another.
One of my favorite parts of the wedding was the “soundtrack”.
First we had a full praise service-
1.) Come Thou Fount
2.) Great is Your Name
3.) Be Thou My Vision
4.) Though I may speak
5.) Memorial Candles were lit/Grandparents were seated to Motion Picture Soundtrack by Radiohead played by a string quartet.
6.) Mothers were seated to Sheep May Safely Graze by Bach.
7.) Bridesmaids/My processional to Only Hope by Switchfoot
8.) Nate sings an original song I hadn’t heard yet!
9.) We recess to what started as The Bridal March but morphed into “Good Love”
It was so randomly and perfectly us. 


I look back at the words of “Though I may speak”:


Though I may speak with bravest fire
And have the gift to all inspire
And have not love, my words are vain —
As sounding brass — and hopeless gain.

Though I may give all I possess
And, striving so, my love profess
But not be giv’n by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.

Come, Spirit, come; our hearts control.
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide ev’ry deed;
By this we worship and are freed.


it is a hymn I haven’t sung since our wedding day six years ago, and I find myself struck by what little that 21 year old girl/woman (still feel like a girl/woman, but that is for another post, at another time!) knew of what true, real, hard, life, love looked like and would look like. And yet I/she knew enough that there was truth to these words, that something resonated with what this marriage thing was supposed to look like. What a gift. what joy, what bliss, this deep true friendship and community I have been given in my husband is!
I am so aware of how “lucky” I am. So grateful.


And often times when I laugh so hard that I fart in bed, because of the hilarious things he says, I half expect a parent to come in and tell us to be quiet, that it’s time to go to sleep, because I don’t know how I got to have a sleepover with my best friend every night, I feel like I must be doing something wrong to have so much fun and get to spend every waking moment with my best friend.


Bet you didn’t expect me to talk about farting, but that’s how I roll. 
Or better yet, how WE roll!




peace to you,
meredith








Wedding Week Day 1-How we met

This Saturday (November 19th) will mark the 6th year Nate and I have been married.

WHOA!

To try to grasp how long this is, it would be like making it in the same relationship for all of Junior High and High School. . .

I realize that this isn’t the point, but it does give you a tangible way to grasp the length of time.

I have dubbed this wedding week, where I will take time to highlight different aspects of our relationship so far!

Monday-How we met
Tuesday-The Proposal
Wednesday-The Wedding (worked out well alliteration wise eh?)
Thursday-Where we have been
Friday-Where we are going

It was the Summer of 2003. I had come home from my freshman year at Millikin University and had already made plans to transfer to Illinois State University, switching from Music to Theatre. It had been a wonderful year of finding myself thanks to so many wonderful people, and an asset was that many of those wonderful people introduced me to wonderful music. I needed a job, and had slacked off in those efforts. My wonderful friend (and future Maid of Honor) Michelle, suggested that I should work at East Bay Camp on Lake Bloomington. I had been to EBC many times as a child and adolescent, but something about being stuck at camp for weeks at a time seemed suffocating, and I was hesitant. I wasn’t working hard at finding anything else, so EBC it was. Miles Price (an amazing friend and future reader at our wedding) hired me to be in charge of implementing a new daily day camp.

So I begrudgingly took my dyed black hair, blunt cut banged, industrial ear pierced, vintage track jacket wearing, Norma Jean/Flaming Lips listening self to the first day of orientation and training.

It was June 6, 2003

All the counselors had assembled, except for one.

In came this tornado with a sideways cap, hoop earrings, thick black glasses, tattoos and a soul patch. He didn’t seem phased by being late, and just jumped right into the conversation.

I just thought COCKY,COCKY,COCKY, cute, but, COCKY, COCKY, COCKY.

Well, thinking the cute boy was cocky wore off pretty quick.

We flirted (a lot).

We prayed together (a lot).

We read the Bible together (a lot).

And by the end of the Summer, we were already talking about marriage.

This was overwhelming for me in so many ways. I had a list of I never’s that I have talked about before. This was when I knocked the first two out of the park. Nate was the first guy I had ever dated that was shorter than me, and he had experienced a call to pastoral ministry.

1.) I will never marry a guy who is shorter than me
2.) I will never marry a minister
3.) I will never live in Bloomington-Normal permanently after school

2 out of 3. . .for a time.

I had never been serious enough about a guy to have the “meeting of the family”.
I was terrified. A twin brother who was the president of his Christian Fraternity who was engaged to a beautiful petite art major, and a Mother who was a music teacher, but also a ridiculous composer and musician.

The first time I met Jake and Kenz was in Peoria at Ruby Tuesday’s. I think I cried most of the way there begging Nate to take me back because I was so petrified.

When I met them, they were great and so nice. But I did notice they looked at me a little odd when we first walked in. I was already PLENTY self conscious about our height difference. I am 6ft. he is 5’8, and figured they just thought we looked funny together. Later that evening we went to meet his Mom and stay the weekend. She too gave me an odd look.

What I found out years later is that Nate said this to his family right after we met.

“Mom, Jake, I think God wants me to marry a big girl.”

So why the odd looks? They weren’t expecting someone tall, they were expecting someone overweight. They thought I was a new girl, and they were obviously perplexed since he had talked about marrying the “big girl”.

He hasn’t ever lived that one down, probably never will.

I’m glad God wanted him to marry this “Big Girl”. Very glad.

peace to you,
meredith

Can you spot the two love birds? 
A staff picture our first summer together.

Photo Friday-Tattoo Inspiration

I have been debating for so many years now about getting a tattoo. My husband has a few :), and I have been itching lately for some ink.  These pictures are some inspiring ones to me, and you can also find them on my Pinterest!

The problem is, ever since I met him, and ever since I have seen his amazing artwork on Nate, I have only wanted one person to do my tattoos, if I ever got them.

That person is Jimmy.  He now lives in Eugene, Oregon. And that makes a tattoo REALLY expensive. Although a total bonus would be visiting Mindy Rawlins and The Blair Family.

Trying to justify, trying to justify, trying to justify.

Do these images inspire you as they do me?

Really want this on my body and on everything I own (with even more labels added in!). 


What a vital reminder in a walk with Christ about loving everyone, 
because we so DO NOT deserve the love we have been given. 

But maybe my forehead would be too much? 🙂


 What do you see when you look at this?
 If you don’t see a hat, you know why this is so lovely and meaningful. 
If you do see a hat, go read Le Petit Prince, and have your spirit lifted and outlook changed. 

I have always been incredibly drawn to shepherd/sheep imagery when it comes to my relationship with Christ. 
This image is a visual representation of something far more amazing, 
but it grants a little understanding for my feeble mind. 
Mother and Child, Mother Mary and Christ, Father God and His Children. 
This sculpture is so beautiful to me, 
it encompasses such intimate, passionate, nurturing relationships.
These are just a few inspiring images. Don’t worry, you won’t see all of them on my person any time soon (ferociously types in search engine “Cheapest Way to get to Oregon”).
peace to you,
meredith

A photo shoot sneak peek!

You have already had a sneak peak of one of our photo shoots with Eliza Morris of Eliza & Liz Photography


I thought I would share the highlights from our last ridiculously fun shoot. 


We are so blessed to have found such a talented photographer to capture Eleonore as she grows so quickly!

I am smitten, and done in for all of eternity, 
I get to have these two in my life EVERYDAY!

The little details are something that you don’t want to forget, 
and they pass by, just as quickly as everyone says!
We are a motley crew, but wherever we go, 
and whatever we do, we’re gonna go through it together!
Every photo shoot we have had so far, 
I make sure to get pictures of her in this red hat, 
with a white onesie on, and her Deer Ugly Dolly.
It will be so fun to see all the changes but in the same “get-up”.
I seriously can’t gush enough about Eliza and her work. The capturing of my family, and my memories and these fleeting moments in time are so valuable, and I will be forever thankful.
I am a blessed woman, I know it, and I am completely unworthy of it.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” 
– Thornton Wilder

peace to you,
meredith


a bosom friend.

Tonight we had the distinct pleasure of having dinner with my lovely friend Liesl and her mother Susan who was in from out of town. 
Liesl is one of my oldest and dearest friends (since the summer before 7th grade, when I first saw her in her Chuck Taylors, and Bogie’s Diner Jersey), and she was one of the reasons (other than God of course. . .DUH) that moving back to Bloomington even seemed slightly tangible to me. 
There is such enormous beauty in friendship. In tried and true friendship. It’s the stuff that Jane Austen writes of, and what Lucy Maud Montgomery describes as having  a “bosom friend”. 
You might as well just see a picture of Liesl when you look for the definition of the term, because she is mine. 
Look up “Bosom Friend” in the dictionary,
and this is what you’ll see!
She has been with me through so much. And has become a great friend to Nate and a wonderful Auntie to Eleonore. 
Sometimes it is a bit overwhelming to see all the beauty she puts into the world, to see how big her heart is, and how free her spirit.
Overwhelming, and at the same time utterly inspiring. 
During Liesl’s time in Belgium working for Young Life I had the AMAZING opportunity to travel there to assist her with moving back. We attempted to chronicle the adventure with this blog. I think we could easily get paid for traveling together and writing about it. Or maybe I just think we are funny and no one else does. . .nope, we’re pretty funny.
Liesl and I enjoying a good “brew” on our German Day Trip!
Life has lots of ups and downs, but there is so much joy to be had in friendship and fellowship. 
It is truly one of God’s gifts to us.
I hope you all have a Liesl in your life. I can’t imagine how empty mine would be without her. 
peace to you,
meredith

What on earth am I(we) doing here?-Part 2

Soon after moving to Bloomington, we were confirmed in the Anglican Mission. It was a wonderful day, and it happened immediately prior to our friend Fr. Greg Lynn’s ordination to the priesthood.
We have a wonderful long-distance community in Peoria’s AMiA plant, Epiphany. Chris and Elisa Marchand, dear friends from the Chicago area are co-planting a missional community there with Greg and his wife Alicia.
What a wonderful gift to have kindred spirits embarking upon the same journey so close!
Chris, Elisa, Father Greg, Alicia, Nate & Me
at our confirmation/Greg’s ordination!
Nate and I with a lot of prayer have wanted to take a VERY slow approach to this whole church planting-thing. We want to be able to give the community what they need and what can bring them closer to Christ, not impose our idea of what the church plant will look like on a community that we have been detached from for five years. This is a problem I think the Christian church gets stuck in a lot. Telling a community what they need before hearing what that community has to say/where they are.
(Before I get bombarded by Christians telling me the community needs Christ, let’s have that just be a given. We all do, or Nate and I wouldn’t be giving our life to this calling).
So right now what this looks like is a foundational group of people meeting twice a month, (soon to move to every week) at our apartment, discussing the word, our relationships with Christ, uplifting each other, and brainstorming on how we can bring Christ to this community and be Christ to this community. Very soon we will be embarking upon community outreach and eventually we will start meeting at a space, (as we are growing out of our dining room quite quickly. Intimacy is great within a missional community, but I don’t want anybody to be able to tell that I wasn’t able to shower that day, as being a Mommy doesn’t always warrant a shower! :o) ) and having a full service as well as a weekly community group/bible study.
Exciting, scary, and an impossible environment to not be completely dependent upon Christ.
One thing we are praying for is that God would put on someone’s heart to come alongside us in ministry here in Bloomington-Normal, in a co-leadership role. It is exciting to be patiently waiting for that, not knowing who that person will be or what specific gifts they will offer. But as God has proven so clearly over and over again, He will be faithful.
This church thing if you have never been a part of it (or if you have), is intended to be this beautiful, messy group of people, growing together, leaning on each other and loving each other so much that they can’t let each other stay where they are at, they must propel each other further on in betterment, in hope and beauty and love, to become what we were created to be.
In propelling each other it should catch onto someone else, and someone else, and someone else.
And then our world theoretically shouldn’t look the way it does.
But there is something in me that won’t allow me to stop looking at what this world can be if we allow the Hope of the Risen Christ to permeate itself through us and to others.
I think the Church (which I claim to be a part of, I still believe in the Christian Church despite it’s faults and it’s NUMEROUS injustices, I apologize for these, and for the part I may play in them, but I still identify myself with it) forgets about this leaning, and dependence on one another, that we were created to be in community, to need one another, to change the world together.
Scoff if you must, but I adore So You Think You Can Dance (this is not as much of a change of subject as you might think, stick with me). This dance to Coldplay’s Fix You really hits home for me, especially where I am at in my Faith journey right now.
*I am not about to get into what the words to that song mean, I have my thoughts, but that isn’t really what this is about.
I think this is how we are supposed to look in the church relationally.
We move in sync at certain times, and at others we show our individual gifts for the community.
And sometimes we are utterly unable to move, unless we are lifted by one another.
I am quite fond of the 45 second mark where the “jumping” begins.
Sometimes it feels like in the church or in our relationship with Christ that we are doing such futile things in a season of waiting, that we might as well just be jumping up and down.
But that jumping up and down is leading to something amazing, and may we all jump with such vigor and intensity. . .
watch and see what I mean.
peace to you,
meredith