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!

Welcome!

Hello!

Welcome to our family blog. Here you can follow our journey of Church Planting (check that out here) and living (day to day) as a young family learning how to best serve Christ in all that we do.

We first moved to Bloomington in July of 2011, to plant a church sent out from Church of the Redeemer in Highland Park (you can learn more about them here).

It has been a crazy ride so far, moving back to where I (Meredith) grew up, having a seven month old turn into a full fledged toddler, and seeing a community begin to form an intimate and sacred bond. We are praying intently that our community will change Bloomington-Normal with the light, love, and hope of Christ we have experienced, are experiencing, and will continue to experience. It is this hope that we can’t help but share!

We hope you will join us on the continuation of this journey! It’s bound to be a crazy one, filled with surprises, defeat, joy, disappointment and triumph. But mostly, unspeakable joy.

Together with you, we are striving to experience all of this with extreme gratitude and awareness of the gift serving the Lord truly is.


This is most definitely Hello, and not Goodbye!

peace to you,
nate, mere, eleonore & luci (the dog)

Ever wonder what it can feel like to do a photo shoot with a full fledged toddler? Here yah go! 🙂

a time to "grow up".

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”.

Movie Monday-Sort of. . .

Hi everyone!

I thought I would share what I was doing exactly a year ago today.
Eleonore was overdue and I decided I should try to “dance her out”.
I started doing this on December 10th, 2011 since her official due date was the 9th.

Since I don’t normally post on Sundays I am revisiting two of the videos!

More to come in the week ahead.

peace to you,
meredith

"before we turn to stone"

Well, I feel exhausted.


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





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


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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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







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


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


It is a simple truth.


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


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


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


peace to you,
meredith










Cool it with the Christmas

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

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

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

ad·vent

  [ad-vent]  Show IPA

noun

1.

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

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

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

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


1.  onset, beginning, commencement, start. 

And of Christmas:

Christ·mas

  [kris-muhs]  Show IPA

noun

1.

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

Christ·mas·tide

  [kris-muhs-tahyd]  Show IPA

noun

1.

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

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

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

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

Luke 2:10-12

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

peace to you,
meredith

Back to Decatur

Today was an exciting whirlwind of an adventure.

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

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

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

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

Eleonore & Wolfgang holding hands in the backseat! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

an apology and a promise.

Dear Blog Readers,
I must apologize to you, for my unexpected absence over the past week, and for letting you down.
I would like to say that I won’t let it happen again.
But in all actuality, I kind of hope it will.
In relationships we always let one another down at some time or other.
And I hope your reading and my writing becomes a relationship.
What I can promise is that I will try with all my might to not have any pre-meditated any absences or let downs.
I wish I had something important as an excuse for why I was gone for this past week of blogging, but I don’t. Everyday life was trudging along at what felt like breakneck speed. And by the time I would get to thinking I needed to blog, I just couldn’t bring myself to muster the energy to do a post worthy of you all.
The week was filled with great joys, including Eleonore’s first Thanksgiving, and my Grandmother Molloy’s 81st Birthday (more on both of these later in the week).
I don’t have much energy right now either if I am honest with all of you. My bundle of bubbly energy is going to turn one soon, and all her developmental advances are causing sleep patterns to be WACKY!
 I will leave you with a few photos that were taken while celebrating Thanksgiving with part of Nate’s family!
 It is so good to be back in the blogging saddle, and I look forward to sharing more exciting and (hopefully) insightful posts with you on a regular basis.
peace to you,
meredith

                                  

                                       

Wedding Week Day 5-"Theology" of a Marriage

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

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

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

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


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


For freedom Christ has set us free. 


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


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

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

peace to you,
meredith