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

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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

Joy?

I have to admit, I have had that last post sitting for awhile. Kind of marinating. I think I’ve been afraid to take this plunge to do a family blog focusing on our journey as church planters.

I think I didn’t want to, because I knew what it would mean.

As we have been on this journey I have searched for voices like mine. Voices that want to tell of the journey, both the good and bad, and not just what those supporting you (prayerfully & financially) want to hear. In fact the gross reality is that I have been scared to be transparent because as we begin to start the fundraising process, I thought maybe people wouldn’t like it, and it would make them uncomfortable, and the result would be them not wanting to give. And then I get a grip and realize who I am trusting to provide for us. God. The person who hears all my prayers and cries in real time. Not in blog time.

But as I look for those voices, I can’t find them.

In the Christian Church, we have a problem, myself included. We only like to hear what makes us feel good. What supports our agenda. What we think will aid to our idea of “success”. So those voices are few and far between.

How could I possibly begin this without being truthful? Without being transparent?

I couldn’t.

Which is why it has taken well too long to actually invite you on this journey. It was easier for me to focus on the memories of living in Bloomington, and how those have shaped me, as a Christian, a Wife and a Mother. Sometimes the past is safer than the present. It feels almost tangible to look back on an experience, on experiences and tell of them now. Now that the telling can’t shape the course of those events, can’t influence the outcome (don’t get me wrong, there is definitely something therapeutic in that kind of writing, and I don’t intend to stop, but I also have to obey this calling).

If I’m honest I have to say that full time ministry is hard. Hard. HARD.

It takes a lot out of you. Because it requires everything of you.

And I keep hearing that. That it requires everything of you and that it takes a lot out of you. And when people are 40-60 years into ministry, THEN I get to hear some of the nitty gritty stories and the times of hardship and struggle. And it’s powerful, but would it have meant more to hear about it when they were actually experiencing it?

Something within is compelling me that I have to say it now, while we experience it, while it’s fresh, while the pain and the intense joys are still present within us, not just memories.

Believe me I don’t like to tell the story until I have the happy ending, but sometimes you need to tell the story before the happy ending comes about. Maybe then we (you and I) can start to redefine our happy endings. And we can start to redefine our ideas of success within the Christian Church and outside it.

One of the things that confirmed God was calling me to this intense honesty on a larger scale was a song and story I heard at a concert a few weeks ago. This is a video similar to that experience, it is long, but please, please, listen all the way to the end.



I sat there and I prayed, and I did indeed cry. Ugly cry. Not wiping away little tears cry. Your chest heaving as if it might leave your neck and your legs all together and shoot across the room as a torso bomb kind of cry. Puffy lips and hives cry. I guess I need to formally apologize to Meg one of our core team members/a new friend. We are still getting to know each other, and she had to sit next to me during this episode. Nate was on my other side, let’s be honest, he knew what he was getting into when he proposed, I feel no need to apologize to him, just to thank him for those honking shoulders that are so perfect for my puffy face to blubber on. 

This song resonated so heavily with this past year’s experience. Friends and loved ones have passed away. Many before their time. Our expectations have changed, sometimes without notice or choice. Dreams have taken on new shapes. Shapes we might not initially like.

Joy sometimes sounds like that.
Joy sometimes feels like that.

I guess the point of my post, is that this blog is not always going to make you feel “good”, but I promise it will always be filled with joy.

It is an active choice that the Hopping family is making. To choose joy. Truthful joy. Honest joy. And ultimately I hope for all of us (readers and writers included) it will be a healing joy.

With that off my (still intact) chest, I am off to finish up Halloween costumes, which I hope will not disappoint! 🙂

peace & JOY to you.

-nate, meredith, eleonore & luci (the dog)

Eleonore admires one of her favorite murals in downtown Bloomington!