wider, longer, higher, deeper

It has been two weeks now since ROOTED-The Gathering 2014 Women’s Retreat. There are millions of thoughts that run through my mind,  but I figured if I didn’t get some of them out soon, I might not ever! 

When I first got up on stage with our associate Pastor Linda Gastreich, and was about to ask everyone to “dance like nobody was watching”, I was pretty nervous. I was expecting that I would have to ask a few times to warm people up, that they might not jump in at first, and I thought I would have to dance by myself a bit.

But the women of The Gathering can get down. Seriously. I was so thrown off, because the first time I asked, they DUH-ANCED. And apparently my “go to” move when I’m nervous becomes some sort of awkward “twerk” that looks more like a turkey/rooster hybrid trying to mate than anything you might see Beyonce do. . .it just kinda happened.

Sorry for that ladies, because YOU WERE WATCHING.

I was nervous because I guess that was the moment for me that would indicate if this whole event was going to be a fantastic success, or a fantastic flop. And if everyone’s hard work would pay off.

I would know if everyone danced.

Not only did we dance, but we sang, and we prayed fervently. We worshiped with abandon and glorified God. We wept healing tears filled with intense sorrow, intense mourning, and intense joy.

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All photos courtesy of Kristi Foster. Check her out here

I know in my heart that God looked down and smiled and said “It is good.”.

It was about Saturday night late that I realized I might get through this entire event process without any major setback or trauma. I was flying high and free!

Then Sunday morning, I remembered. . .God had made it pretty clear there was something else I was supposed to do before the retreat was over.

Earlier in the week I had learned that our church The Gathering UMC was going to allow the fiscal offering from our Sunday morning worship service to go straight to the scholarship fund for the retreat. As soon as I knew that, I knew I was going to have to be transparent with the attendees when it came time for Sunday’s offering. Sunday morning I was getting cold feet. I was texting my husband back and forth, fighting with God, saying, “but. . . .” a lot. I did NOT want to go through with what I had promised God, and myself, and Nate I was going to do. Nate helped keep me accountable the best he could via text. The Sunday morning service began, Pastor Linda preached a wonderful sermon on accountability, the communion liturgy was finished. It was time to share what I had been called to, and so with a heart full of trepidation, I stood and read these words:

This weekend has been nothing short of amazing, life altering, and awe inspiring.
We have an opportunity now to branch out in different ways, to hold ourselves accountable to
moving forward in our relationship with Christ, and how we allow that to propel us to impact the
world around us in tangible ways.
 
One area we have the opportunity to do this in is in regards to the Women’s Retreat Scholarship
Fund. This mornings fiscal offering has been designated to go exclusively toward next years
 fund. I have heard from many women how impressed they were that we had scholarships available,
and that we were going to make sure that financial issues were not going to keep anyone from
 experiencing and participating in this weekend. In fact we have had $1,365 given to 17 women
who requested full or partial scholarships.
That $1,365 came from women who are in this room right now, and was in turn, given to women
who otherwise would not be in this room right now.
There are two types of women it takes for this to happen:
 
The first woman is the woman in need of a scholarship. The woman willing to humble herself and
ask for help when she needs it. To put aside pride, fear of embarrassment, and impending
thoughts of “what will others think of me” in order to take time away to restore and renew
herself in Christ. A woman able to come to the realization that an opportunity to deepen her
relationship with Christ and her Christian community is more important than all these things.
 
The second woman is the woman willing to look at her experience and her means and
say “This is about more than me”. The woman willing to give extravagantly above and beyond
what has been asked of her, so that others might have the same experience as her. Knowing full well
that others experiencing Christ and a deeper sense of community is far more valuable than
earthly treasure.
 
It is when these two women come together that a collision takes place. Because it is then that
we get to viscerally see and feel the Kingdom of God on earth. It creates a place of equality that
can only found in living out identity in Christ.
And then the hard part came. My voice started trembling and I fought with all my might to keep back the tears.
 
I am the first woman. I drug my feet asking for a scholarship. I hemmed and hawed and thought
it was worth putting financial strain on my single income family in order to “look good”.
 It wasn’t until I heard another Mother say “It was embarrassing to ask, but I knew I needed this, and I
knew my family needed me to have it. That was worth the embarrassment”.
 
I think transparency like this changes the world, and I think generosity like this changes the world. 
Together they shout loudly to a world that has seemingly lost all hope: 
 
Christ Has Died, Christ Has Risen, Christ will come again, 
and that is why we live the way we live, 
and give the way we give.
I walked off the stage and 148 women started to take part in Holy Communion.
I found a quiet dark spot in the back of the room, fell to my knees, and wept tears of great thankfulness that I serve a God who so desperately loves me, that He will not allow me to stay comfortable, to stay safe, or to stay quiet about what HE is doing in my heart. A God who loves each of us so much, that he constantly reconstructs and restructures our hearts to become more and more like his.
Of course I hope at the next women’s retreat that we dance turkey/rooster twerk and all. I hope that we have extreme laughter, and extreme joy.

But most of all, I pray a precedent has been set where we support our sisters, that it is truly a place where everyone can be transparent with where we are at, with what we are struggling with, with the season of life we are in, and that we can do so without shame.

I think that’s what happens when we begin to live the Kingdom here on earth.

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Because once we are ROOTED in that wide, long, high, deep love, then and only then can we confidently pray these words and know that we are proponents and active participants of the Lord’s will being done, and the coming of the Kingdom.

Thy Kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

Re-Treat Yo Self!

This past weekend I was blessed to worship with 148 other women as we retreated to better know ourselves, one another, and Christ.

The more serious “deep” post is coming, but for now, I wanted to share with you one of the best experiences of my life.

I had this crazy idea, while watching Parks & Rec that we should take the infamous Treat Yo Self, and turn it into Re-Treat Yo Self.

I thought it was genius but wasn’t sure everyone else would get it/appreciate it. So I started small with making a meme:Image

And then I thought, well we should probably share the original clip at the retreat, right?

But, was that really enough? Or was it time to put my degree to use? 7 years after graduating 5 years since I’ve had an agent, and two babies later, my Theatre degree might just again serve me quite well (I was married before I graduated, so yes, 7.25 years of marriage tool! 🙂 )

I didn’t know if I would be able to convince Rev. Linda Gastreich to get on board. Wasn’t sure if she would see (what I was considering) my genius.

Because she is one of the wisest and most intelligent women I know, she complied. And what happened was nothing sort of magical.

So at the retreat, we opened each session with a call and response of:

Re-TREAT

Yo-SELF!

Followed by a clip of Sly and the Family Stone’s Dance to the music.

Because one of the best ways to Re-Treat Yo Self is to dance like no one is watching.

So we did (photos courtesy of the ridiculously talented Kristi Foster)

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And I pray that you do too. As Rev. Deb Lemoine shared with us during experiential worship, the joy and laughter we share when coming together in Christ’s name is a spiritual discipline we must not ignore.

So take time to RE-TREAT YO SELF, and it might just lead to a renewal of yourself.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Psalm 30:11

peace to you,

meredith

Cool it with the Christmas.

As Advent begins this weekend, I was reminded of a post I did two years ago. 

This is an excerpt from it, and the original link can be found here

It’s Christmastime. Right?
Wrong.
I will get back to this in a minute.
On Facebook, twitter, 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
Synonyms
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!
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peace to you,
meredith

On being “shot & styled”.

This past Friday I had the great pleasure of acting as model in a little photo shoot by my good friend Julie of Life Astonished while being styled by my good friend Krissi of Thoughtfully Dressed.

The afternoon was filled with fun, laughter, some serious style, and some serious art. The outfit that Krissi rounded up for me is one I will wear for a wedding my husband is co-officiating and I and the girls are attending. It will be my first time “attending” a wedding in over a year, instead of “working” a wedding as the planner. So my full thoughts on the day of being “shot & styled” won’t come until after the “event”.

My little mini-stint at modeling made me think of past adventures and antics. Combined with my dearest Francesca River turning five months old on Sunday this past  blog post came to mind (to hold you over till the “event”).

Below is the full text originally posted August 10, 2011-The Big Reveal

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Scars, both emotional and physical, begin to heal with time.

This is a promise that I hold to be true.

Mustn’t we all?

If we don’t, then we can’t make it through the pain, or the puss, or the stitches, or the staples.

We try to ignore that we were inflicted with the incision wound (be it with a scalpel, an inanimate object, or an unkind word) but when we look down, or up, or inside, the wound is there. . .
but it is beginning to heal.

Growing up, I always thought that one special day I would find out why God had made me the way I was (physically).

I would find out why God had made me with huge feet (size twelve by 6th grade, now a solid 13), taller than most boys and until the latter half of my senior year in high school, flat chested.

While it didn’t seem fair, I knew that God had a purpose for everything He did.

So whenever I was called Lurch everyday as I took my tray up after lunch in the cafeteria during Junior High (hell must be a lot like Jr. High, right? I heard you all say yes as you were reading this, thank you for the affirmation), I said in my head “God made you this way for a reason, one day, when He reveals it, they will all be sorry, really sorry”. In fact if someone got too close as I was taking my tray up, they would probably be able to hear it coming through my gritted teeth.

I kept waiting. . .and waiting. . .and waiting for this big reveal.

I imagined numerous times posing in front of the bathroom mirror with full makeup and slicked back hair, that it was going to be me as a high-fashion model (and maybe although too old, I’m still holding out hope for this one. . . :) ).

In fact, while we were living in Chicago, my dear friend Lindsay was with Elite Model Management. This meant I was able to peruse the other models with Elite when she wanted to show me new pictures in her portfolio. I noticed that I had the same measurements as the Plus-Size models. Lindsay and I figured I should see about doing Plus -Size modeling. I went in and spoke with an agent at Elite, had my polaroids taken, the whole bit. Then he had to discuss with the other agents about my marketability. I waited for the phone call, all the while thinking, “Is this it God? This is why I am 6 feet tall?”

It wasn’t.

I got a call from Stephen the agent, and he shared with me that while my measurements were indeed the same as the other plus-size models they represented, I did not look “plus” enough. I looked too small.

Lindsay and I during our time in Chicago!

WHAT?!?!?!?

My whole life, I am told I am too tall, too big, too me, to do things, and then the one thing I should be fit for, I am TOO SMALL ?

Needless to say, Nate had a night class, I had probably a little too much of a bottle of white wine, an entire loaf of french bread, and watched Georgia Rule a HORRIBLE Jane Fonda/Lindsay Lohan film while I intermittently muttered things at God about this highly ironic turn of events.

But. . .
I got over it.

I must have been slightly masochistic about the whole situation, because when the Bridal Show was happening at The Merchandise Mart (this is where tons of dress designers come in for an expo of sorts) Lindsay suggested I try freelance modeling. She said that the Designers were always disappointed because the normal fashion models didn’t have “Womanly” bodies (I wasn’t flat chested anymore).

I figured this wouldn’t be the big reveal of why God had designed me the way He had, but might be a little “pick me up” to get  me to the big reveal whenever it was coming.
Just a nice little self esteem boost along the way.

Well. . .we got there, and Lindsay basically became my agent. She was already booked through Elite with Jessica McClintock for the whole weekend but she knew not all the designers came with models.

Three different designers had me try on dresses, only to have them not even go over my hips.

The fourth designer had me try on a free flowing wedding dress. After some adjusting of the chestal region, I sucked in my breath, zipped it up, and triumphantly threw back the fitting room curtain! Everyone was overjoyed, until. . .”We also need you to model the prom-wear” the designer calmly and cheerfully said as she handed me a mermaid style satin red gown.

I began to furiously pray.

“Maybe it will be stretchy, maybe it isn’t as tight as it looks, maybe it will fit. . “

Optimist that I am/was, I took a go at it. When it was apparent that I couldn’t breathe and I hadn’t even attempted to pull the zipper up, I decided to raise my white (or red as it were) flag.

I went to take the dress off, and I was stuck. Absolutely, irrevocably, stuck. With my arms straight up in the air and my control top tights showing, the dress had situated itself in my middle region, in a way that my left eye could peek out of the arm hole, but that was all of my face that was left uncovered. Looking like an Amazonian Cycloptic Lobster I gingerly began to call “Lindsay, Lindsay, could you come here for a moment?”

She obliged.

I shimmied, I shook, I jumped, I twisted.

Lindsay tugged, she pulled.

We prayed.

And eventually, by the grace of God, the dress came off, unscathed.

I walked out, again told a designer that “I’m sorry, it didn’t fit” and bid them adieu.

Lindsay had to leave for another appointment, but always the encourager she suggested I try a few more designers.

I went to a very high end Italian Design House and they gave me a beautiful (at least) $15,000 gown to try on. I was delusional enough to think that if they exclusively did wedding dresses, I might be in luck.

I didn’t have Lindsay this time.

What I did have was a thirty-plus pound dress that I had pulled over my head because God knows it wasn’t going to go over my hips.

Lo and behold, it wouldn’t zip.

Lo and behold, it is pretty hard to lift a thirty pound dress off of yourself, over your head when your arms are contorted just so.

I did a lot of praying that day. Only this time I literally found myself on my knees as I prayed, hoping that odd body contortions would help disperse the weight, making it easier for me to lift the dress above my head.

When I did, again, by the grace of God, get the dress off, I began my fifth defeated exit of the dressing room . I told the designer it didn’t fit, and in a thick Italian accent he repeatedly said “Just one, can’t we just get one that will fit her? Try them on and see if you can’t just get one.”

Really?

Are you kidding me?

You didn’t see me under the curtain making all those crazy movements?

So I gave it my best.

And none of the dresses fit.

A defeating/deflating/crushing day,
but. . .
I got over it.

Lindsay giving me a black cashmere Burberry scarf she had received at a fashion show didn’t hurt.


So skip a few years, and I am in a hospital birthing room. I have at least ten nurses around me, my midwife, and my husband.

I am standing, squatting on top of the hospital bed, COMPLETELY naked.
*to this day, neither Nate or I know how I got naked. Really. It just happened.


And all these nurses around me are abuzz, saying “Did you know she hasn’t had ANY pain medication!” and “Look at those hips, she was built for this” and “look at those feet, she has such a good strong base for giving birth”.

Inside I was sure that this was it.

This was to be the big reveal.

After two hours of pushing after a nineteen hour labor, squatting, standing, getting on all fours and some attempted hand maneuvers by my midwife, God spoke to me.


Clearly.

“This is not going to happen how you thought it would, you will have a C-Section”

You have to understand that I had never been more excited about anything in my life than having a completely natural child birth (OK, wedding night was pretty exciting, and as a result of that going well, I was found in an exciting place again, just different).

I had read tons of Ina May Gaskin, I had watched and made Nate watch The Business of Being Born, I had re-read The Red Tent the week before I gave birth.

I wanted to feel everything that my body had been made to do in the act of giving birth.

In that moment, it would have made sense for me to be angry, frustrated, and defeated.

But I wasn’t.

I looked over at Nate, and we looked at each other, God had told him the same thing.

My midwife came back in, after she had slipped out for a moment, where she was praying about the same thing.

I am so extremely thankful that God spoke to Nate and I before someone else attempted to make the decision for me.

 Midwife Lila & Eleonore

And so preparations were made, the Dr. was called, and during my last contraction as I sat on an operating table, I was given my first taste of drugs in the entire process andI won’t lie, people use them for a reason, it was nice.

A beautiful baby girl came out.

The incision that was made was stapled up.

Are you surprised that this wasn’t the big reveal about why I was made the way I am?

I was too, but. . .
I got over it.

There may never be any “BIG REVEAL”.

Because each day God is teaching me to see that it is what he chooses to do through me and in me, not my physicality and physical appearance that matter.

But ughhhhhh I am human, and I want the “BIG REVEAL”.

As I was taking a luxurious, relaxing bath tonight, I saw that my C-Section scar is healing and fading.
And inside the scars are healing and fading.
Scars of a Junior High Girls insecurities.
Scars of a Young Woman’s insecurities.
Scars of a First Time Mother’s insecurities.

They only fade with the growing knowledge that my Savior is my Healer.

And in time He will make all things new.

Even me.

But for now, He doesn’t get mad at me for crying in the bathtub as I mourn a birth experience that didn’t go the way I had planned it.

He is simply there.

Yep.

That’s what He does, and He does it well.

peace to you,
meredith

 

Here’s one shot. More to come!

Image

To the person who stole my husband’s scooter. . .

This was written August 22 , 2013. I failed to post it for whatever reason.

The following were my feelings and thoughts on that day.

Dear person who stole my husbands scooter:

This afternoon at approximately 2:30 PM I was sitting on our couch in our living room breastfeeding my 3.5 month old daughter. I had put the blind down in our living room, which faces the street because the garden crew was out and about and they are loud, and get close to the window.

I wanted privacy in my own home . . .novel, that idea of privacy.

My husband came home to switch vehicles from his scooter to our car so that he could take one of his guitars to the repair shop.

In the time he came in to do that and use the restroom, you stole his scooter.

From in front of our window.

You and I’s relationship, scooter stealer, or S.S. as I will proceed to call you, has evolved quite a bit this afternoon into evening. I started out mad at you. Like wicked pissed. I was upset that I couldn’t run outside and find you. I fancy myself a bit of a novice vigilante, and I was sure I would have found you, said SHAME ON YOU! and come back home victoriously.

I couldn’t, because my two dear babes were inside taking naps. I ferociously fought the urge to scoop my 2.5 year old up out of bed and go on a “walk to the park” which would translate into a suspicious once over to anyone and everyone I came across, long glances into the back of vans and trucks, and choosing directions that took us down alley pathways where we might, just might, get a glisten of that special 1993 Honda Elite red paint job peeking out from a garage door.

I was willing to wake up a sleeping toddler to avenge you.

But, as I said, I fought the urge.

I started to come to the understanding that this was a first world problem. That not having two vehicles is a ridiculous thing to be upset about.  But, I still needed to rationalize my feelings towards you. I thought that maybe if you had known S.S., that my husband uses that scooter for work, so that I don’t have to pile both girls into their car seats only to drop Daddy off, and then pull them back out when we get home, or not have a car whenever Daddy goes to work. you wouldn’t have taken the scooter.

If you had known that we just made the decision yesterday to not send our 2.5 year old to a preschool program we were really excited about, because it wasn’t going to be financially feasible without going into further credit card debt, you wouldn’t have taken the scooter.

Let’s pull out the big guns..

If you knew my Mom has cancer, you wouldn’t have stolen the scooter.

But that’s B.S. isn’t is S.S.?

(see what I did there?)

You can't steal this memory, S.S.!

My beautiful Eleonore “driving” the scooter.

 My toddler did finally wake up. Today she chose to take a four hour nap (which is kind of like a unicorn to the mother of a toddler). Today, when I couldn’t get anything done because I was so distraught about the scooter.

TODAY!

We immediately went on our “walk to the park” We only passed one van I that I almost opened the door to.

Still, everyone was a suspect. No one was to be trusted.  Everyone was possibly you, the evil S.S.

You, the mastermind conspirator who wanted to steal a 1993 scooter so that my life would be more difficult.

But really, it isn’t about me S. S.

And it isn’t about you.

It’s about us.

I’m sorry S. S. I’m sorry that WE live in a world where you are forced to steal to somehow provide for a need you have. I’m sorry that the only interaction WE will most likely ever have is that you stole the scooter. I’m sorry that for a few moments (ok hours) you stole my sense of security, and my trust in humanity.

You and I are really quite alike, in that you stole our scooter, because somewhere along the line, in some way, you lost your trust in humanity.

It’s possible that somewhere along the line, you didn’t have a community where you could comfortably ask for what you needed, you couldn’t depend on anyone else and you were forced to depend only on yourself.  Forced to decide your needs were more important than someone else’s. Forced to forget about others humanity so that you could take from them without thinking about how you might be affecting them.

And for my part, in not communicating to humanity that we are not alone, that we can and must depend on one another, and doing more to let others depend on me, I apologize.

The way we choose to treat one another makes great ripples in all of humanity.

Those people who most likely hurt you at one time, have now affected my family. But only in a financial and convenience sort of way, which is really quite inconsequential.

Because your actions can’t steal my spirit S.S., or my joy.

And I pray for you now, that someday soon, you can experience the fullness of yours, and regain your trust in humanity.

Unless you are really some little punk-ass frat boys who thought it would be funny to steal a scooter, then you can go to. . .

No, even you, I pray you find your peace and joy.

Kindness is gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us.

Henri-Frederic Amie

peace to you,

meredith

A Vulnerable Grown Ass Woman Remix

It has been three and a half months almost since I last wrote. So much has happened that I am in the thick of writers block as I attempt to process everything. So I thought I would go back and grab one of my previous blogs to share with you. It is incredibly relevant as this week I was introduced to Dr. Brené Brown and this video for the first time on “The Power of Vulnerability” maybe you’ve seen it, maybe you haven’t. I encourage you to take the time to at some point. 

As I was reflecting on “the power of vulnerability” I was reminded of this post I wrote a year ago August 24th! Read to the end, to find out just how powerful this vulnerability turned out to be. 

a time to “grow up”-Originally posted August 24th, 2012

It has been a little over nine months since I last posted, but here I am. I hope you enjoy!

It happened all of a sudden.

I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t looking for it, but in the middle of an apple orchard in Wisconsin (Harvest Time), God hit me over the head and said:

“You are a GROWN ASS WOMAN”.

Some of you are looking down your noses at me and thinking “did God say ass?”
That’s what I heard.
I’m sure God said ass when conversing with Balaam, so I’m not gonna get too broken up about it, hopefully you won’t either, and “spoiler alert” I’m going to reference it a few more times.

It all started with our “Weekend of Weddings”.

Three.

In one weekend.

And maybe because I like to torture myself, or because I ADORE weddings. I was coordinating the one on Friday night.

The Friday night wedding went splendidly! It was beautiful, it was fun, I danced and laughed joyfully with members of the church we have been sent out to plant from, Church of the Redeemer .

Then on Saturday, Nate and I split up. He headed to a wedding in Highland Park, and I hitched a ride to our wedding in Wisconsin, where Nate would later meet me for the reception.

The wedding in Wisconsin was David’s, a dear childhood friend of mine, to his precious bride Audrey.

The ceremony was beautiful both aesthetically and spiritually.

One of the best things about the wedding, was getting to spend time with my bosom friend Lindsay (you can read more about our antics here). As we descended the steps from eating Apple Cider Shakes, (yes apple cider shakes, yum, yimmy, yum, yimmy, yay) I was sharing with Lindsay how I was feeling insecure at this wedding. Why? Well my ten year high school reunion is coming up in October and this wedding was a bit of a “pre-gamer” if you will. While David and I went to high school together, we were more friends because we were from the same neighborhood, and his other friends at school were those I would classify as the “cool kids”. I never felt up to snuff with them, I never felt cool enough, pretty enough, (pick a trite “not enough” phrase, and it works) to attempt to associate with them. They weren’t mean, or hateful, or bullies. I was simply insecure.

The EXACT same moment that I am telling Lindsay this, said girls come up to me and say

 “Hi Meredith”

Those girls might very well be reading this blog right now, because I’m facebook friends with them.   And you can say you aren’t facebook “friends” with people you don’t interact with on a daily basis, but you’re lying. Because deep down you know that eventually your facebook “friends” are going to get married, or have some other lovely event, and you are going to want to be a creeper and see those pictures, because you love, love, love weddings (or that’s just me and in a moment we will get to why I am okay with that, (but we both know it isn’t just me)).

So ladies, you know who you are, and please take this confession as a compliment.

As far as I’m concerned, this life is too short to shy away from vulnerability and honesty, so all readers should cover themselves while I spew vast amounts all over this blog.

I don’t know if these girls (women? When do I make that transition to calling myself and peers women in conversation rather than girls? Is this like getting your period or losing your virginity or going through menopause? Do you just wake up one day and experience “the change”?) knew I spent a lot of High School wishing I was “them”.

But let’s take a moment to illustrate my ridiculous dramatic insecure pubescent nature:

The neighborhood boys I ran around with had a tendency to talk about one of these girls “calves”.

No joke. 


I would just stand there silently wishing and thinking that if God was going to perform modern day miracles of healing the sick, he could surely implant some calves in the definition-less area between my round indiscernible knee caps and ankles above my size 13 feet. I often questioned why he gave me this prime real estate of long legs and NO CALVES! So much so, that before a band competition 
(I was in the colorguard. I never actually tossed my flag in a competition, I always froze. I admitted that to the captain one day, got yelled at, and questioned my honesty policy for awhile. It’s still the best policy, despite the trauma of having an 18 year old girl with JNCO’s, a hemp shroom necklace and an Insane Clown Posse shirt on, yell at me for not tossing my flag. No one else had noticed, this was like the 6th band competition, what was the big deal? I even started to say that, then remembered she had on an Insane Clown Posse shirt, and hushed.)
where I had heard we would be staying in a hotel that had a pool, I spent the majority of the night before doing calf raises. Over 5,000 calf raises to be exact. I was “stepping out (up) in faith” in my own way, thinking I might wake up with miraculous muscular gams.

I didn’t.

I woke up with the most intense Charlie Horses you can even begin to imagine.

And. . .there wasn’t a pool.

OK, back on track. . .

As we spoke I attempted to keep my cool and was surprised at my ability to engage in pertinent meaningful conversation as we talked about where we were in our various lives, how some of us had moved back to Bloomington, how we all swore we never would, and I think right around then is when God hit me over the head and said:

“You are a GROWN ASS WOMAN! I didn’t create you to be a slave to your past, a slave to a geographic location, a slave to an uncomely opinion of yourself.  I created you to be a FREE GROWN ASS WOMAN”

Because I am.

Because that is what God has made me to be.

As much faith as I had put in my fake eyelashes (Yes, I wore fake eyelashes to the wedding. I had a gift card to Macy’s, went to the MAC counter, and after wiping about 3/4 of the makeup they had put on off, I felt like I looked pretty good. Judge away. It’s a dramatic outlet, it’s me using my “degree”, and I highly recommend it if you want to feel glamorous for a night), I needed to redirect it and reappropriate it to where it always needs to be.

Can you feel the glamour oozing from my eyelashes?

In God.

And I can talk to these girls/women/females as a “Grown Ass Woman”. And enjoy it, and find the privilege that comes from a shared history, not feel bogged down, or classified, or insecure because of it.

I danced with abandon that night as a “Grown Ass Woman”.
I laughed with great vitality that night as a “Grown Ass Woman”.

I’m there in the center “dancing with abandon”

And I thought back on my high school experience with a joy and freedom I don’t think I had before.

I look forward to going to my ten year reunion as a ” Grown Ass Woman”.
I encourage everyone to go to their respective reunions as “Grown Ass Men and Women”.


Because we are creatures created in Christ, not in the image of one another.

And with great thankfulness, this “Grown Ass Woman” raises her hand, and says:

“AMEN”.
__________________________________________________________________________

Here we are now, a year later. 

What happened from reconnecting with those peers/women/girls (the change hasn’t happened for me yet in case you were wondering) is that three out of four of them were not married at the time. 

As of September 1st, 2013, I will have been the wedding coordinator for all three of their weddings. 

Seriously. 

I not only connected with them at that wedding, I took the next step to reach out to them personally, share the blog I had written with them, and tell them about the business I was attempting to cultivate (m. hopping events). It has been more beautiful and exhilarating than I ever could have imagined, being able to serve these peers/women/girls on one of the most important days of their lives. 

That’s the power vulnerability has. 

I believe God greatly honors vulnerability. 
 
Granted, I still don’t have the calves of “calf girl” (God, if you want to do something in the middle of the night so I wake up tomorrow with some extra curves on the bottom half of my legs, I won’t question it. I will stay humble. I PROMISE) but I never could have dreamed that I would be “calf girls” wedding coordinator.
 
We serve a great and loving God who desires us to lean fully and completely in to the people we have been created to be. Vulnerability and all. 

When we do that, amazing things begin to happen.  
 
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” 
― Brené Brown
 
Amen  Brené.  
 
AMEN. 

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When dancing for your life. . .


These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Really the past 5 months. It’s been that long since I posted last, and life seems a million miles away from where it was last December. At least 163.45 miles away, across a river and past a State line.

On Monday May 6th I will deliver our second daughter via CBAC (caesarean birth after caesarean). Due to the circumstances surrounding Eleonore’s birth, I was not able to find a provider who would support me in doing a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and we didn’t feel comfortable “going rogue” and attempting a home birth, because for all intents and purposes everything should have gone fine with Eleonore’s birth. So this is how Hopping #2 will come into the world.

This past Saturday (April 27th) we moved from Bloomington-Normal, IL to St. Louis, MO. After much prayer and discernment my husband Nate accepted a position as a Worship Coordinator at a church in St. Louis, MO. Two weeks before that, we had our final service as Church of the Savior Bloomington-Normal. Everyone in the group was supportive and felt God leading them in different directions as well. Some to different states, some to different churches. God’s timing is always perfect, but change is still hard, and the disbanding of that group, the leaving PEAR USA and saying goodbye to something we had put our ENTIRE lives into for 2 years, is enough for a year of posts. I am sure at some point I will get to those posts. If I’m honest I don’t have the emotional energy right now. 

Since last Saturday I have felt overwhelmed at the state of life, and yet it has felt consistent. You move, you unpack, you settle, you get to know a place. You get to know your new Target (the closest I will ever come again to a new dating relationship in my life is the getting to know of a new Target). You walk to the park and play and you have frozen yogurt pops or “froze” as your almost 2.5 year old calls them on the front steps of your condo so that you can watch all the dogs and the people walk by.

Enjoying “froze” on the front steps!



And sometimes, like right now, you do those things while 9 months pregnant.

When we were waiting for Eleonore as soon as she was overdue, we started doing dances everyday, to encourage her to “COME OUT”. It became a joyous and silly thing. It was what my long uncomfortable days looked forward to, and I was able to creatively as well as physically exert myself.

People started asking about if we would be dancing out Peapod (as we have been lovingly referring to her). It seemed easiest to say “We’ll see”. Easier than explaining the c-section. Easier than justifying the c-section (which I always feel a ridiculous intense need to do). 

You see, some people consider us “hippies” or “crunchy”. I personally think we could be a lot more of those things, but we do subscribe to a more “attachment” or “gentle” style of parenting. In some of those circles a c-section is right up there with, well I don’t know, cannibalism? And I feel judged, even if that isn’t the reality, even if no one is. I keep hearing in my head “Who is judging, WHO IS JUDGING?” a line from a play I was in during undergrad called Marat/Sade about Jean Paul Marat & the Marquis De Sade in an insane asylum. Seriously. I played an inmate who drooled for the 2.5 hour duration of the play. Real drool.

See that drool? 



(The “Dancing Out” amongst other things about me, don’t seem so out of place do they?)

It became a favorite line among my circle of friends. To exclaim “Who is judging, WHO IS JUDGING?”, when we were in fact aware that WE were judging someone or something.

“Who is judging, WHO IS JUDGING?”

Me.

Myself.

I.

The reality of this life is that I want to give everyone else abundant grace. And I want to give everyone else abundant understanding. But when it comes to Meredith (and I know so many of us do this to ourselves) I feel empty of those things. I feel devoid of any capability to give myself grace. So I don’t. And it hurts, and it keeps hurting, and I inflict wounds I don’t know I’m inflicting and infecting.

Until it becomes too much to bear.

It seemed dumb to do dances to “Dance Out” a baby when I know the exact moment she will come out. It seemed “un-organic” it seemed unnecessary, it felt stupid. Name some negative feeling, and it felt that way.

Then yesterday something happened and I realized I wanted to dance.

I realized I needed to dance.

I realized I had to dance.

There have been studies and articles that have come out (this is just one example), that describe the epic importance of dance. They couldn’t be more true, at least in my experience.

I’d like to say that the dance fixed everything. And in some ways it was incredibly cathartic. It was 99% improvised and done in one take (mostly because you are really tired when there is a two year old in the mix and you’ve recently moved), and I was able to give myself more grace than I did during my last “Dancing Out” process (Don’t ask Nate how many times he had to film some of those dances, because he’ll tell you the truth, and I’ll be embarrassed). And I laughed when I saw that I unfortunately had on a nude cami, so halfway through it looks like my pregnant bare belly is hanging out of my turtleneck. If you know me at all, not needing to re-record after seeing that means I am learning to give myself at least SOME grace. So we put up the video and went to bed.

And the tears came. The violent body shaking tears that come from your gut and feel like they won’t stop because they are convulsing throughout your body and taking over. Your face becomes awash with puff and salt water and breathing becomes hard, if not completely impossible. I felt the need to scream at God. To scream at Nate. To scream at the world.

In three days that thing which happened almost 2.5 years ago is going to happen again.
This time it won’t be an emergency c-section. This time I will be knowingly having myself cut in half. I will arrive at the hospital at my given time, I will prep for surgery, I won’t be having a contraction when they put the catheter in, I won’t have been in labor for 23 hours when they give me the spinal. It will all be “routine”. It will all be part of everyone’s day. None of it will be “organic”. None of it will be “hippie”, none of it will be “crunchy”.

And it’s ok to mourn that.

More and more studies are coming out showing that women can suffer from PTSD after an emergency c-section. I now believe I have experienced that to some extent. I also know looking back that I experienced undiagnosed Post-Partum Depression. I didn’t want to get diagnosed. I felt ashamed, so I pretended it wasn’t there. I kept my story to myself.

And you can tell me how thankful I should be, that I have really great “by the book” pregnancies. That I can “move” the way I can at 9 months. That there is a beautiful healthy 2.5 year old toddler who makes my days equal parts crazy and beautiful,  and that there is another healthy baby that will arrive on Monday.

And please know I am.

But my experience has changed me. My story has changed me. It has hurt me, it has strengthened me, it has hardened me. My story has wounded me.

Let us talk about our stories more.

Without fear of judgement, from ourselves and one another.

Let us share what has made us who we are, good and bad, with abandon, so that we might know the beauty of the reality, that we are NOT alone.

Today I will dance. It won’t be perfect. It might be a little angry, or it might be downright silly.
And I might scream at God tonight, (I won’t literally scream at God or Nate, because we live in a condo now, and even after all this talk of not being afraid of judging, let’s be honest, “first impressions” and all . . .)

But God wants me to dance, and God wants me to scream. God wants to hear my story and be in relationship with me.

Please scream at me. Please dance with me. 

Please scream at God. Please dance with God.

Your story is beautiful, your scars are beautiful, you are beautiful.

Let’s dance for our lives.

“Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting. 
 
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
 Rumi
 
peace to you,
meredith

Who Am I?

Luke 2:1-20 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 

The Birth of Jesus In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. The Shepherds and the Angels In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord.12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
In this scripture, we encounter the main characters that many of us are familiar with. We have our Joseph, we have our angels, our shepherds, and Mary Mother of God.

And what I have been struck most by during this Advent season as I have read these scriptures, is how I, how we must question where we come in. What role we play, what roles we assume.

Who are we? Who am I?
In Joseph we see what it is to blindly trust and obey, even when to do so is in direct opposition to cultural and societal law, to the point of death.
In Mary, we witness someone saying “Here I am Lord. Use me as you will, use me for your glory in fantastical, mind altering, time and earth bending ways. And I will not fear, for I know you are my God”.
 With the Angels we are encountered with ceaseless praise. They are joy, peace & hope bringers to the hopeless, to those on the fringes, the dirty, the unclean, the unwanted which
at that time, the shepherds.
The shepherds say, “everyone else says we are unworthy, everyone says we aren’t good enough”. But there is something about this promise that we are hearing coming to fruition, that compels us enough to run and believe that we are in fact worthy to carry this Good news of this promise fulfilled and so we must. 

Without fear, and without reservation.
It all seems a little dramatic? A little rich. Me, like Joseph? You like Mary, you a shepherd, you an Angel?
But if I look at this season of my life, I can see clearly that I am falling into a bit of a shepherd season. Only not with the obedient compliant piece that the shepherds exemplify. Just this past October we were blessed to be at a general assembly for PEAR USA. As our network met and voted on different things and discussed issues at hand, there was a need to choose a delegate to the National Mission Committee. I immediately heard the still small voice within say “You”. I immediately pretended to not hear it. I could feel myself internally sweating. I could feel the tension in my gut, I could feel my heart and head arguing back and forth violently. As the Spirit said “you are capable, you are gifted, you are called to this”, my head said “No, I am not worthy. . . 

Our ministry journey has been hard this far.
Planting a church is hard. 
Life is hard. 

If I’m honest I don’t feel capable of anything, so I must not be.” 

And the opportunity passed. No one spoke up, and so it was tabled for the next meeting in February.
But God is funny, and God is loving. And a woman whom I had never met came up to me and said “My whole purpose in this meeting was to sit and pray and intercede, and the only thing I heard clearly, was that you were to be our representative. . .”
Kick in the gut times 20,000.

And at the same time, love, such unwavering love, from a God that will not let his children be anything less than what they are made to be.
Why couldn’t I like the shepherds believe I was worthy, that I was capable of something that would be part of the furthering of the kingdom, the telling all of “the Good tidings of great joy”?
Because I am broken. Because I forget. Because I need reminded. And in the community of Christ, there are people like this wonderful woman Cindy Hamilton who enable us to remember with a boldness to speak truth into others lives.
And I look in the mirror as more of a debilitated shepherd than a joy bringer.
Perhaps there have been times this year when you have felt that way. In fact with the current realities and reminders just in this country of our own mortality, and abilities of one person to change the course of events inexplicably, there is no way that all of us have not at one time or another felt sorrow. 
Let alone the personal, death of friends, death of family, loss of jobs, ending of relationships. . .
And perhaps like me, you look at the loss, and you look at the heartache, and you want to question what the birth of this baby in Bethlehem 2000 years ago has to do with you. Has to do with me, has to do with us. Who am I in relation to this? Why does it matter?
Yet it becomes dangerously simple if we really look at it. There is a dangerous hope, and a dangerous peace that comes with the birth of this Savior, this one called Christ. Everything is going to change, everything must change.  And God begins to bring this plan to fruition with normal, ordinary people. With Mary’s and Josephs and shepherds, even with Merediths, and Nates, and Eleonores.

That’s what it has to do with you, and me, and us. 
It is our story too.
Who am I? Part of this story.
I was then, and I am now.
And Mary reminds us in the scripture that we will feel sorrow, that we will feel loss. For I have to imagine that as she “pondered these things in her heart she couldn’t help but recall what this promise meant. She knew from God, and from Angels that she was carrying the Savior. But now people were coming to see him, they were seeking him out, affirming that he was indeed the Son of God. And in the midst of rejoicing, I think her mind had to wander to the dark places this journey would take her. That there would be great joy as she would see her son bring a new order, perform miracles, heal and teach. But she would also be under the cross. She would watch him be ridiculed, beaten, and die. And she would have to spend those two dark nights, awaiting the promise. 

Sorrow? 

I think so. 

Sorrow combined with the most immense, intense peace and joy she had ever experienced? 

It is almost inconceivable that we might do and experience the same.

But we can.
That is what is so beautiful and chilling about this story we call the Gospel. It is life changing because it is life giving. It is life giving because it takes all our sensibilities and all that we know, and says 

“there is a new way, forget what you know, forget what you are, and become who you were made to be.”

I have to refer back to what has been one of the most inspirational sources for me in this Advent season. It might seem a little trite and a little trivial, it’s not Dorothy Day and it’s not Bonhoeffer. But nonetheless its truth rang out to me, as the point of all of this, of everything.
At the end of Eleonore’s Jesus Storybook Bible (one of her many birthday gifts, too many birthday gifts, but that is another blog post (series?) all together) 

It says this a paraphrase of John 1:12-13
For anyone who says yes to Jesus
For anyone whole believes what Jesus said
For anyone who will just reach out to take it
Then God will give them this wonderful gift:
To be born into
A whole new life
To be who they really are
Who God always made them to be—
Their own true selves—
God’s dear child.
Because you see the most wonderful thing about this Story is—it’s your story too.
On this Christmas Eve may you reach out and take in a way you haven’t ever before, may you receive in a way like never before and may you truly know yourself as you were made to be, your true self, and may you no longer ask “Who Am I?”
Because you are: God’s dear child.
peace to you,
meredith

A fruitful journey (PART 1) and an exciting announcement!

Almost a month ago we set out on a journey. To go to the PEAR inaugural assembly in Denver, Colorado. I was excited about going, not excited about leaving Eleonore for a few days, but heck, when she’s with Nana and Papa, I think she forgets she who gave birth to her (me, in case you forgot).


It was a pretty exhausting journey and we started by going to St. Louis to spend the night at Jake and Kenz, our brother and sister in law, so that we could make our 6 AM flight. Yeah. Color me brilliant for trying to save a few bucks by taking a flight that early. Guess what. Even when not flying with a toddler, IT’S NOT A GOOD IDEA! 

I was convinced I would get sick on the plane. Oh, and here goes the announcement. I’m pregnant, and there will be another Hopping here in May! 

Believe me, there will be another post, about how that all came about (not in that much detail, COME ON!) and what it has meant in our lives sometime soon. 

And so, pregnant as I am, I was sure I would get to use a barf bag for the first time. 

When we got on the plane there were only middle seats left. I found myself sandwiched between a gentleman already snoring and a gentleman with bad 90’s alt rock blaring in his headphones.
What’s a queasy pregnant lady to do? 
Well yes, I tried to lean my chair back. And it was broken. I ended up trying to sleep with my forehead imprinted upon the seat in front of me.
No amount of crappy skymall imaginative purchases of fake fireplaces, change counters that recite the constitution, and steps for Luci up to our bed was going to make this better, (and it normally does). 

This is what I told myself, because I couldn’t find the barf bags. 

“Meredith, if, and only if you have to jump up from your seat to get to the bathroom to puke, this is how it will go. You don’t get many chances for this sort of thing, so you will jump up and yell since you are sitting next to the wing,  “There is something they aren’t telling us, there is a colonial woman on the wing churning butter” and then you will run like the wind to the bathroom, puke, and then come out , blaming the hormones.”

It didn’t happen. A little sad? Me too. And if you don’t know what I was referencing there, feel free to ask! 

We proceeded on a public transit expedition from Denver Airport to the Denver Tech Center, only to end up at the wrong hotel. But we made it. My stash of Dove Sea Salt and Caramel Dark Chocolates helped when it seemed like I wasn’t going to make it from the wrong hotel to the right one. If I’m honest it wasn’t the inspirational sayings that got me through it. I ignored those because at that point in our journey I probably would have shoved the foil up a concierge’s nose after being triggered by the “syrupy sweet slightly condescending to women message” I would find underneath my chocolate. 

After a nap, and some mexican food, it was time to go to the opening service. A wonderful colleague Rev. Rick from Ohio had a rental car and we were saved from the hassle of public transport. That first day he even offered to take us to the airport on Wednesday, and my forehead, my intestines and my feet were awash with relief. 

What followed that evening was fellowship, worship, and the ordination of our new Bishop, Steve Breedlove.

Eucharist during Bishop Steve Breedlove’s Ordination Service
 (Picture from PEAR USA Facebook Page)


Now,  for those of you who have ever been a part of a conference, or assembly, you are thinking “OK, big whoop, sounds pretty normal.” But what came through again, and again, and again, and just when you didn’t think it could hit you in the head again, you heard it again.

“We have a Gospel Imperative. None other.” And even here you might be thinking this is normal Christianese jargon.

But when you are told this, by your Rwandan Bishops it’s different. When you are told this by people who survived the genocide, who saw people they love not survive, and actively forgive those who killed family members and friends, it becomes a little more real. It becomes a lot more jarring, and begins to materialize for you in your mind and soul in the way I think the Gospel is supposed to jar your mind, jar your body, jar your soul.

When your leaders have you sit around around table and pray for one another for 30+ minutes before we even get started with anything else, you see priorities put in place by those that are your leaders.

How refreshing.

How life giving.

How necessary.

There is this beautiful non-profit, Land of A Thousand Hills, thats make quite delicious coffee, and partner with so many PEAR churches.

Their story is something that spurned out of a Gospel imperative to react to what the world so sinfully ignored in the Rwandan Genocide.










This video does a beautiful job of explaining why I feel it such a privilege to be partnered with Rwanda as a church. That my Arch-Bishop comes from Rwanda. Because even a video can feel disconnected, you can walk away from the video, you can forget the video. You can’t forget this when someone (Bishop Mbanda) looks you in the eyes who met you and your husband once a year ago and says “How are you, how is the church plant in Bloomington?” Who encourages you and uplifts you in your ministry who experienced this, and who has forgiven (and continues actively to) like this, and who has lived this.

Now that I know, now that I have experienced this Gospel imperative in such a real way, how could I ever look back?

peace to you,
meredith

(more to come about the adventure later this week). 






(for more information on PEARUSA, click here. For more information on Land of a Thousand Hills, click here.)

Halloween. . .in a handbasket.

Halloween came and went. And for those of you who know the Hopping family, you know the Hopping family DOES Halloween up. 

This year we had a theme we were going with and it all went kablooey at the last minute. 
That’s fine, us Hoppings, (both former Theatre majors) had something else up our sleeves. 

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe!


The costumes contrived and genius as we thought they were, were not, I repeat, NOT, a hit with the general public. 

On the contrary, there was maybe one person who got it. I’m not even sure if they got it, or if it was one of those “I don’t know that I really want to engage in conversation right now with strangers so I’m just going to say, “Great costumes. Really great! And walk away.”

I found myself wishing I had brought literature tracks with me to hand out of the “wardrobe”. Little thin copies of C.S. Lewis brilliance. Then I could have said “Take this, it will fill your insatiable hunger for delight and imagination and truth.” Leave it to the Hoppings, and Meredith in particular to make Halloween a dramatic meta experience for 4 year olds. 

Unfortunately (fortunately?) I didn’t have the resources or the room in my wardrobe to have 50+ copies of the book on me. So I went through the painstaking process of explaining:

“No, that isn’t the Cowardly Lion and Glinda. And no, I am not the house that fell on the Wicked Witch”.

“Would you like to look in the wardrobe? (Because I had pieces of fur on a dowel, a landscape of Narnia and an battery light behind the lamp-post.) The kid looked in, even grabbed a piece of fur (slightly awkward due to placement of said fur) and said “Neat”. As he passed us he turned to his Mother and loudly said:

“Totally didn’t get it”. 

We had decided to get Flingers with our friends Deb and Greg and Wolfie who were traipsing around with us. As Mr. Flanders, a Starbuck’s Barista and Ronald McDonald, one had to wonder if they felt the heavy burden of going around with this abstract trio. 

Ronald was a huge hit. Huge!

But as soon as we got our table it was clear it wasn’t going to work. So Deb and I in our maternal wisdom (desperation?) decided to walk the kids back to their apartment (a few blocks away), and then the gentleman could bring the pizza over there. 

My little White Witch was absolutely enamored with the moon. She kept shouting “My moon!”To which I try to convince her every time, “No Eleonore, we all share the moon”. She didn’t like this, and apparently the weariness of the day caught up to her right at that moment. 

She began to refuse to sit in the stroller. With all her heart, mind and strength. When I very firmly and clearly said “No you will not get out”,  she turned around and said “Deb?” hoping that Deb would give her the answer she wanted. 

Deb didn’t. 

And with a voice that seemed to have come from the power behind the White Witch himself (get it?), she bellowed:

“NO, NO, NO” all while pointing at Deb. 

I was mortified. But just had to keep pushing my child to the house. There was no point in saying “you have a time out when we get to Deb’s”, because she wouldn’t get why she had a time out by the time we  got there. 

When we reached the promised land of the house, My White Witch took off her fur cape and her crown, and Ronald McDonald got a bath to take off the red stuff in his hair. Eventually they were both just in diapers and t-shirts, running around willy nilly stuffing pizza in their faces. 

Us four adults sat exhausted, stuffing pizza in our faces. 

It was messy, it was icky, it was exhausting. But in the midst of all of it, I couldn’t get out of my mind, that sometimes church planting is like that. You can go days on end feeling like you are going around in a costume no one gets. With a vision that no one gets, with passions that no one seems to understand. And then when they do it doesn’t always look like you thought it would. It doesn’t always look clean and neat and pretty. Sometimes church planting is sitting exhausted with a piece of pizza in your hand, and a piece in your mouth with a cup of (here comes a confession) Coca-Cola (shudder), while your child runs around in a diaper and a borrowed t-shirt. 

And you choose joy in that moment. Because you’ve felt it before, and you know it’s there. You’ve heard it, the name of Aslan. And it is that name that causes you to keep going on the days that no one gets it, until someone gets it. Because they will, and oh what beauty that is. 



“None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning–either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in it’s inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of Summer.” 

                                    ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe