On being a Christian who doesn’t go to church.

One of the more popular texts/emails I received after my last blog was from the Christian contigency of readers asking if I had found a church. If you’re not in Christian circles you might not be familiar with the very prevalent idea that once you find a church, you will also find a group of people to hang out with and thus never feel lonely.

I used to be better about accepting that ideology. Go to church, meet other believers, build your family around that church. When we first moved to the Quad Cities I was having a hard time finding friends with kids so my sister-in-law suggested I try a church she thought we would like. We did and I did. I ended up meeting some really amazing women there (you might remember it was at that church and with those women that the idea of Water for Christmas began.) I forgave a few things that bothered me about the church (namely that the pastor often said some rather sexist things in the form of terrible jokes) because I loved the women. But then the church waved proudly all the red flags I had been seeing over the years when, instead of helping some friends of mine after their world was shaken, they chose instead to kick them while they were down. It was an in your face way of showing how they really felt about sin-hide it, suppress it and don’t speak of it otherwise we will publicly shame you and push you out of the church.

Message. Received.

I didn’t go back to church after that and I started questioning everything I had once believed. I decided that if I were to go back to church, and take my family with me, I would no longer stick around if the pastor was a teeny bit sexist or if I thought the message was a teeny bit derogatory towards poor people. I didn’t (and don’t) expect perfection from pastors or a church but I certainly expect to hear more love and a little less joking at the expense of an entire group of people.

A few years later we happened upon a church that was taking place in a bar.* Sunday mornings they gathered, soles of their shoes sticking to the floor from the previous night’s shenanigans. It was a group of 50 or so who worshipped with their eyes closed, hands raised and their feet moving side to side coming unglued from the alcohol laden floor with the rhythm of the music. On our second time trying out the church a parade of members including the pastor and his wife got up on stage. As the music played they turned over cardboard signs with the worst sins they had committed written on them. These weren’t your “I stole an eraser from my friend in 4th grade” (I did that by the way) these were the big ones. And I started the ugly cry immediately. To be in a place where the leadership of the church was so openly admitting to their humanness was exactly what I needed.

Of course we stuck around. The two pastors were both equally amazing, always on point with their message. They never went for the easy sermons either, meant to make you feel ok about heading home to your cushioned couch to watch the football game on your big screen without a second thought to what it means to be a Christian. They were always asking us to do more, love more, give more (not to the church-but to community organizations or to the Water Party), volunteer more. Once a month on Sundays instead of a service, the whole church would volunteer at area organizations. Sometimes they literally just went to the neighborhoods surrounding the church and did little projects for the elderly that lived there. They welcomed refugees and helped them navigate life in America. They never confused a relationship with Christ and a relationship to a political party. We naturally became friends with people from that church, and continue to be today.

And then we moved. We moved to a small town in Michigan that features many churches. We’ve tried the largest church in our town that many of our friends go to. It’s not for us. I hold no ill feelings towards that church, its pastor or its members but I just can’t do it anymore.

I am no longer impressed by fog machines, cafes and hundreds of people. I am impressed by vulnerability, openness and authenticity. Those will always, always win out for me.

I no longer feel like church has to be a part of our routine “for the kids”. I would rather them experience God in nature on our Sunday hikes or in a book on our Sunday reading sessions. I would rather them get to know God because of how He talks to them in the quiet stillness that accompanies our relaxed Sundays than hear a bullet pointed kids sermon while they are gripping a climbing wall.

I would rather them grow up knowing God is love than grow up learning from the church and its people about what God hates. And by that I don’t mean what God actually hates but what Christians often hate.

I refuse to go to a church that dives into politics unless to talk about our commands to help the poor, welcome the refugee and love one another.

Any mention of an “us” versus “them” philosophy is a non negotiable for me. Whether that be Christians versus non-Christians, Republicans versus Democrats, Americans versus non-Americans, etc. If you’re into polarizing rather than uniting-I’m out.

If you spend more money on your church renovations and your coffee than you do on local community support, I’m not interested. If your church would close its doors and the community wouldn’t feel the pang of loss (other than the members), you’re doing it wrong-I’m out.

I don’t have much interest in piousness (as evidenced by my affinity for cussing and my aversion to the modesty culture for women) but I can’t get enough of the tenets of forgiveness, peace, hope and love.

I love Jesus but sometimes I find it so incredibly hard to love Christians.

In Rachel Held Evans’s book, Searching for Sunday, she writes, “I often wonder if the role of the clergy in this age is not to dispense information or guard the prestige of their authority, but rather to go first, to volunteer the truth about their sins, their dreams, their failures, and their fears in order to free others to do the same. Such an approach may repel the masses looking for easy answers from flawless leaders, but I think it might make more disciples of Jesus, and I think it might make healthier, happier pastors. There is a difference, after all, between preaching success and preaching resurrection. Our path is the muddier one.”

Yes.

I know many can grow in their faith and love in humanity through the hallowed walls of a church and, in some respects, I’m jealous of that. Because for me the times I’ve felt God’s presence the most have been when all 7 of us are snuggled on couches reading books, in the quiet moments right after my meditation when I’m breathing in the vastness of the world and in a tiny room in Ethiopia sharing tears and coffee with our special people.

In the end, though, I can’t quit the church entirely. Being surrounded by relatively likeminded people can be a salve at the end of a long week. A sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself is a powerful thing. Find me a church that’s not defined by who it leaves out but by who it lets in, and I’ll be there. Probably crying, definitely being vocal when I agree. Standing with my brothers and sisters who have done and seen the worst but still claim the worst powerless against love.

 

 

*Connection Church in the Quad Cities, go check it out or just listen to the podcast like I do!

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Ian Matthew

Last Mother’s Day weekend when my parents were visiting us for the first time in Michigan I got a FaceTime call from my sister. I knew immediately she was calling to tell me she was going to be a mom. I knew because 1) I know her in a way I know no one else and 2) she and I share a mutual hatred for phone convos so to go above that and FaceTime me could mean only one thing-baby news!

My mom and I did what we do best-cried-and she did what she always does when we do that-laughs awkwardly. What I couldn’t say then due to all the feels was that I knew Kara was going to be a phenomenal mom and that I was so incredibly excited for her (and for me!!!)

Around 4 months later I got a call from my brother (who, as it happens, hates phone calls with the same white, hot hatred that his two sisters do. Text people, text!) asking if I had heard from our sister, that he heard something was wrong and she had to go to Iowa’s major hospital in Iowa City. I started immediately crying, because…above, and spent a few frantic minutes trying to get ahold of Kara.

Once I did I could hear in her voice something was not ok. It turns out at her 20 week ultrasound the doctor found something called a “double bubble” on the baby which can sometimes mean the baby has Down Syndrome (DS). Once Kara and her hubby, Matt, went to their follow up appointment the doctor said they were over 90% sure their baby had DS and that it would need surgery soon after birth. My sister is a woman of few words (it’s been told that I’ve taken them all from both of my siblings, probably some truth to that) so even though I could hear all of her feelings in her voice I also knew something that perhaps in those moments she had forgotten-she is bar none the strongest woman I’ve ever known. You know the expression “0 f*cks given”? My sister was the one that inspired the phrase, I swear.

I digress…Personally it was a weird dichotomy, I wanted so badly to be there for my sister in whatever capacity she needed but I was also still really excited to be getting this new niece/nephew. I have enough friends who have either given birth to or adopted children with DS so even though I didn’t know what it was like intimately, I had “watched” the other kiddos grow and was just really excited.

Over the next few months I watched as her belly grew and the excitement for the wee one grew as well (they did not find out the sex of the baby, much to my chagrin). I have many nieces and nephews but I must say there’s something different about having it all come from my sister. The woman I watched nurture her Cabbage Patch babies now nurturing a human life, so amazing. I watched as her heart softened a little bit every day, even as she grew more physically miserable. A week before she was set to be induced I texted, “I would like to be with you when you have the baby but if you just want you and Matt I’ll understand that too.” I assume because she knows me so well she knew what I was really saying was, “Come hell or high water I will be right outside the door whether you like it or not.” Sweet sister responded with, “If there is any way for you to be there, I would love it.”

Almost one month ago I posted this on Facebook:

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Kara was being induced because she had roughly triple the amount of amniotic fluid of an average pregnant woman and also because she is a strong woman and told them to take that little sweet cherub the fekk out. 🙂

After a drive that took about 1.5 hours longer than normal and ended with me drenched in sweat I arrived to find she was already having contractions. I also found her toenails were in terrible shape and seeings I’ve birthed 2 children myself and knew for the next day or so she’d be staring at her toes-it was time to take care of business.

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We weren’t supposed to get to Iowa City until 8 but with the weather and her contractions Kara, Matt and I decided we should head there early and just see what’s up. And by “Kara, Matt and I” I mean “Kara and I” as Matt just laughed and loaded the car with all of our bags.

By the time we got there her contractions were picking up and due to miscommunication the nurses assumed she came in because she was in labor and not because she was supposed to be induced a few hours later.

I’ll just say here that watching my sister in labor might actually be worse than experiencing labor. Granted, it’s been 8.5 years (the actual f*ck?) since I was in labor, but I really do stand by that. So hard seeing those you love in pain, even if they did bring said pain upon themselves willingly. 😉

My parents came a few hours later and while my dad tried to get some sleep in the waiting room, my mom and I watched as Matt supported Kara by primarily staying away. We both repeatedly commented on how great they both were doing.

Then things started to go downhill a bit for the baby. Heart rate dropping, needing to switch Kara side to side, give oxygen, etc. I could tell the moments that were relatively standard for a woman giving birth and the moments that were not (based mostly on the speed with which nurses/doctors came in and also whispering. Whispering is not good). It became clear after awhile that the baby wasn’t doing well so they took Kara back for a C section and left Matt with Mom and me to get in his gown and mostly just stare awkwardly at each other because…fear and nerves. A few minutes later a nurse ran in and then ran out just as quickly so before I could say “give Kara a kiss! Tell her I love her!” My 6’4″ brother-in-law, squeezed into a gown fit for a 5’4″ man, was off to become a daddy.

My dad had returned upon hearing things went downhill so he, my mom and I looked at each other and remarked how terrible we all looked. I guess that’s what sleep deprivation, anxiousness and lack of sustenance will do to a person.

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42 hours later (maybe it was 30 minutes, it felt like 42 hours so I’m sticking with it) Matt came in with a big ole smile to announce Ian Matthew had been born and both he and my sister were doing well. After showing us a few pictures, off he went to the NICU to hang with Ian while we waited for Kara.

Once we saw that she was ok my dad and I drifted out claiming an aversion to puke and moseyed on over to the NICU, hoping to get our eyes on Ian. Though it didn’t work out that time it was incredibly relieving to know Ian was out, he was ok and that I would get to put my hands on him in a matter of moments.

Matt was there the first moment I got to meet Ian but then Matt went to check on Kara so I got a few quiet moments alone with my new nephew.

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I cried, obviously, because he was just absolute perfection and also because I prayed over him and I always cry when I pray. I am supes good at being Christian. Anywho, while I was crying a sweet nurse came in so I explained myself by simply saying, “I’m his auntie.” She asked if he was my first niece or nephew and after I said no, that I had many I’ve cried over, she said simply, “Yes but this must be your sister’s. Feelings are bigger when it’s our sister’s baby.”

Perhaps that’s true, I just knew the big feelings over his health-which was shaky-and his tininess, made him look so incredibly helpless. It is a testament to how much I love Zach and my own children that I didn’t immediately move in and surgically suture myself to Ian. Sometimes that’s how much it hurts to love someone you know who will face some difficulties-it feels easier to just physically make sure when they do face those difficulties that you’ll be right there to face it with them.

I was trying to take pictures when that same nurse said, “If you give me a second he’ll be without his wires completely while I change them out.” Oh boy the excitement of knowing I would get to see what that little face looked like without all the tubing! It did not disappoint.

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I also happened to notice he had a certain turnout that his auntie has been relentlessly teased about for decades. Granted, his might have something to do with being squished in a womb for 9 months but I’m going to go with it being the first sign of him being a sprinter like his auntie. 😉

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When I got back to Kara’s room I noticed she wasn’t doing well. Though I never had to have a C Section, none of her symptoms seemed “normal” to me. It was really pretty scary, honestly. So for the next day Matt stayed mostly with Ian and I got to take care of my sister. As nerve racking, tiring and sometimes gross those hours were together I will tell you they felt so very holy at the same time. It’s been hard living away from my sister so to be able to share those hours with just the 2 of us is something I will never forget and always be incredibly grateful for (particularly because she made it out of them and is just fine). When I texted some of my friends about how she was doing I got so many responses with something like, “You are so lucky to have such a great relationship with your sister.” I knew it before but I definitely know it now. It’s a blessing I’ve done nothing to deserve to be sure.

The next night while a nurse was helping Kara I snuck out to give a quick kiss to Ian and see if Matt needed anything. In my few minutes there I’m pretty sure I talked Matt into going rogue and holding Ian, and if we had time maybe I should hold him too? At that point there were no secrets between my brother-in-law and me (that’s what happens when you spend 2 solid days, every hour together. Poor Matt. Oy vey.) so he just gave me a look that said, “You know how I would normally feel about this but I’m too tired to argue with you.”

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I wish there were words to describe how sweetly Matt took care of both Kara and Ian in those first few days. I mean really how do you talk about a man who is so sweet and easygoing jumping into action and becoming almost stern when doctors and nurses are talking about his son’s pending surgery or his wife’s bodily fluids? You just don’t. There aren’t any.

Since my sister was so sick for a full day she didn’t really get to see Ian at all so Matt took on the sit-and-stare duties of babies in the NICU usually shared between mom and dad. Every time Kara became aware of what was going on she lamented the fact that she couldn’t sit upright enough to visit Ian and so Matt came regularly with new pictures and videos that eased her pain.

Finally, over a day after giving birth, Kara could sit up long enough to be wheeled to the NICU. I cried. She beamed. It was as awesome as you are assuming it to be.

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Though she had already started feeling better, once she got to hold him it was as if she found a new determination to do it again. Ahhhh motherhood, bringing out the strength in women they’d never known since the beginning of time. She turned the health(ier) corner and never looked back.

Though I tried to coax Ian’s eyes open every moment I was with him, I first saw them when he heard his mama’s voice. Sweet little peanut hadn’t gotten the memo that auntie’s care more about those things.

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After an echo showed Ian’s heart was good and ready for his stomach surgery, Kara and Matt geared up for another round of emotional eating staring at each other. He sailed through surgery with flying colors and even though they learned of a follow up procedure he’ll need done within the next few months, everyone was happy to hear he was as strong and relatively healthy as we knew he would be.

Sadly, I had just a few short days with the new family as it was time to head back to Michigan with my family and my job. I got one last time to whisper how much I love him and how proud I was to be his auntie before I left. (Notice the vein in my neck. That is the cry vein. It is enhanced in that moment for obvious reasons.)

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It’s been almost one whole month and I’ve not been able to visit them again. The good news is both Kara and I have gotten over our disdain of FaceTime so I’m able to “see” him that way and make sure he never forgets this obnoxious voice of mine. We have plans to visit him in a few days ( 12, to be exact) and though all of my kids are excited to meet him it’s Dailah and me who are counting the moments until we leave.

I don’t know a lot about what the future holds for Ian in terms of his abilities or his Down Syndrome but I do know he has incredible parents who will navigate the waters of special needs parenting with the best of them. In my time as a special needs mama I know 2 things: 1) It will bring out a warrior not yet known inside my sister as she sets up meetings and appointments and champions Ian’s education and health and 2) It will be more rewarding than anything she has ever known or dreamt of in the past. Every new milestone becomes a miracle.

And I think we all know once we’ve witnessed a miracle, life in itself becomes inexplicably sweeter and fuller.

Love you to the moon and back my Ian Matthew. 12 days.

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*After 3.5 weeks in the NICU, Ian has been released from the hospital and is doing well. Hallelu!

Christmas 2014

This being our first Christmas in Michigan and away from family the pace of life seemed altogether much slower. Had we been in Iowa there would’ve been a lot more dinners and lunches involved whereas this year we were able to really just have so much more time as a family-it was really kind of nice!

Christmas Eve we decided to make our delicious homemade pizza but add a Christmas twist-we did them personal pan style! I even bought sausage and pepperoni (blech) for my meat eaters and spoiled myself richly with 6 different veggie varieties (when we normally do family pizzas it’s cheese and more cheese 😦 )

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Hagrid, dressed in his Christmas best, helped keep an eye out for Santa.

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We actually got a FaceTime call from Santa! Usually he stops by my parents’s house when we are there but since we weren’t making it back there this year he made a special call just for the kiddos. I was actually excited to hear from him too, he’s a pretty special Santa!

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For the last handful of years we have done something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read for our gifts for the kiddos. I really can’t say enough how much I love this particular form of gift giving. They also usually get 1 present from Santa and stocking stuffers as well. This year I wanted to add “to give” so on Christmas Eve we told the kids their budget from us and they got to pick where that money went. We let them look through the websites of various nonprofits we believe in and they got to direct their money to a specific place. It was rather fun seeing where they chose, each unique to their personalities. Binyam just gave to where Dailah gave, which is true to his personality throughout the year. 😉

A few weeks before Christmas we draw names for each other and then spend one night shopping at Target for that person. We duck in and out of aisles and try to hide from whoever it is we are buying for. It’s really fun! We open those on Christmas Eve and I just love seeing what the kids choose for their siblings (and for Z and me, of course) there are no rules so I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how thoughtful the gifts have been.

The kids had spent the few days prior building a fort big enough for all of them to sleep in on Christmas Eve. The excitement was palpable and we could hear giggling on and off all night.

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Z and I always set a time that is the absolute earliest the kids can wake us up on Christmas morning. 6am (oy vey) was the winner this year and at 5:59 I started hearing giggles and shrieks downstairs from the fort. At 6am we heard them all sprint upstairs and then high five, hug and more screams. Christmas mornings will continue to stand as my favorite moments as a parent-all snuggled with Z in our bed listening to pure joy outside our room. It’s all the proof I need that I’m the freaking luckiest in the whole world.

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Tariku might be my favorite to watch on Christmas morning. He always keeps his emotions so close to the chest that only those who know him best can tell if he’s excited or sad or angry. But even my Chooch can’t hide his sheer bliss on Christmas, I tear up just thinking about it. Love him.

After we opened presents and ate our Jesus pancakes (this is what they are called on Christmas, obvs) we headed to Davenport for the Klipsch family Christmas.

First thing’s first (I’m the realest), Sintayehu gave us her preschool program in its entirety and I had to keep snapping pictures so people wouldn’t see me crying. I remember when Leslie called to tell me of Sinta’s referral and how she was nervous about a potential heart defect (that proved to be nbd). Looking at her on Christmas day it was quite clear the only defect she might have is a heart that is far too big for her little body and a joy that shouldn’t have to be contained in small stature either.

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Her fellow Ethiopian cousins remained riveted-smiled when they knew she wanted it and clapped in between each song. (Julius was obviously equally impressed)

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Though I’m partial to gifts I will say it took me a second just now to remember what the gifts were because I’ve been so grateful and focused on what a blessing our extended families are to me. And what a blessing they are to my kids.

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Even Trysten (who typically just wants to hang with his older cousins) had some good heart to hearts with Julius, made me remember how great he was with little ones when he was a little(r) one.

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Oh my nephews and niece. I love them so much.

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Papa Frank and Mimi Terre got each of my kids an electric scooter, they are pretty frickin cute riding through camp I must say.

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The next day we celebrated my nephew/Godson’s 8th birthday and my sister (in-law’s) 28th birthday. I have 0 pictures of that except for this one of Z and Dailah playing the piano together. We’re going to say it’s because I was doing really well at living in the moment but it probably had more to do with the delicious bagels and coffee that were being offered. 😉

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I got to have lunch with my friend Alex (who gave me this ornament-so cute!) I would spend more time trying to find someone like her in Michigan but after agreeing with me that our lunch portions were too small and then ordering a 2nd meal (each) I knew it was just never going to happen. Someone who loves Harry Potter, food and sarcasm as much as I do is a once in a lifetime find.

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Also got to take the whole family to my bestie’s house to see her and her family (obviously) but perhaps maybe even more so her new puppy. 😉 Life without my bestie can be really, really hard sometimes. I’m grateful Z gets along so well with her hubby too because we forget about everyone else when we’re together. There’s a lot of catching up to do.

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My family all came into town Friday night. Usually we spend Christmas in Altoona but because my sister is due any minute (seriously God, let her deliver already!) we thought we should bring Christmas to Kara and Matt in Davenport. Friday night was remarkable because I asked Tariku if it would be ok if I snuggled him and he replied, “You can lay your head on my lap.” This is pretty big for the child of mine that abhors physical touch and touch wherein he can’t escape when it feels too BIG is just unheard of. Hagrid and Barbara Streisand saw an opening and both came to snuggle as well.

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The next morning my boys talked their uncles, dad and grandpa into playing some outdoor football. Though I believe the older men ended up enjoying it, I do believe my kids were beside themselves with happiness and will be thus making it an annual thing. (Right outside the door is the furthest I got-it was coldie out there!)

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My Landry Mae usually prefers her mom/dad or my parents over me but I was able to keep her on my lap with the promise of white chocolate covered pretzels. And really, who wouldn’t bribe this face!

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Of course there were presents involved here too. Man I love those little humans.

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Sunday we drove a few hours away to celebrate with my mom’s side of the family. Z and I talked on the way there about how lucky I am to have both of my grandparents. When we walked in (a little late mind you) both of them were playing cards and drinking whiskey. I think they are on to something! One of my cousins and his family from Australia were able to make it this year, as well as a cousin from Kentucky and one from Nebraska. (My grandparents with their grandkids/spouses. Only missing 1 in Kentucky, 1 in Chile and 2 in Iowa.)

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And their great grandkids! (missing 5)

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My Dawson family.

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I’ve been around long enough to know that it is a true blessing that I genuinely look forward to seeing every one of our family members. If you are one who has too many painful memories associated with the holidays or hates them because of how hard various family dynamics can be understand that I think of you often and don’t take one second of this for granted.

My favorite Christmas tune continues to be O Holy Night, the last verse consistently bringing me to tears.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever
! His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

I hope beyond hope you were able to find some joy this Christmas, if not then might I wish you peace for the new year?

Much love,

Tesi

Let Us Be Women Who Love

I have so many posts to write about the move and so many feelings but this post has been on my mind since Zach walked down to the house from his office at Abe Lincoln and said, “So you ready to move to Michigan?”

Before moving to the Quad Cities I was a self described friend of boys. I didn’t have a whole lot of really close girlfriends because I felt like I just didn’t get along with women at the time. In hindsight I know it’s because I had been too scared to let women in. Nothing gets by women, you see, they ask questions and tend to genuinely care about where you’re at in life-at least the ones I’ve since come to know and love. And it can be really scary letting people in. Really, really scary. It’s also beautiful too but at the time I was young and let the fear win.

It’s hard not to reflect on my decade in the Quad Cities without devoting so much thought to the women who have forever changed who I am because of who they are. The women who have inspired and encouraged, loved and challenged me. The ones I called in the dark days and the ones I called to celebrate a large (or small) victory.

In my reflections it’s become quite clear to me that I have both large and small players. Obviously I have my soul sisters, the ones with whom I tell everything but I also have the smaller players. The women I see in my classes every week or the ones who text me the most perfect texts at just the right times.

I regret waiting so long to open my heart to the sisterhoods I now appreciate so very much. I do not exaggerate when I say that in so many ways these women (and many more who are not pictured) have saved me on more than one occasion. These women understand that when we help each other up, we help ourselves too. What a tremendous blessing.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who make room.

Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

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Let us be women who carry each other. 

Let us be women who give from what we have.

Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.

Let us be women who live for Peace.

Let us be women who breathe Hope.

Let us be women who create beauty.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.

Let us be a garden for tender souls.

Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.

Let us be a womb for Life to grow.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us rise to the questions of our time.

Let us speak to the injustices in our world.

Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.

Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.

Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us listen for those who have been silenced.

Let us honor those who have been devalued.

Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.

Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us be women who are savvy, smart, and wise. 

Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.

Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.

Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.

Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.

Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.

Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.

Let us be women who Love.

-Idelette McVicker

Trysten is 11!

11. It seems impossible, it really does. A month ago I started to notice Trysten was getting more emotional than usual. At different times he would vacillate quickly from anger to sadness. So I asked him if he was going through puberty.

I asked my son if he was going through puberty. So weird. Though he hasn’t noticed any of the physical changes, I do believe we are on the brink of it all. He’s starting to prefer talking with Zach and me instead of watch cartoons with his siblings. At his birthday dinner he wanted to sit by me at the table instead of down by his cousins.

Trysten and I have always been extremely connected. Sure we are very much alike but I think it’s more than that. Probably it has more to do with the fact that I had him at 20-years-old and so we’ve kind of grown up together. Me forcibly so and he under the watchful, loving eye of his father and me (and countless family members).

Zach is often left bewildered by my ability to know what it is really going on with Trysten. He sees only the ways in which Trysten outwardly expresses himself but I know the motivations, the reasons behind it all.

I don’t know if it will always be this way. I don’t know if I’ll always know exactly when he’s about to tell me something important because he sucks in a small breath before starting or if I’ll know when he’s about to tell me-word for word-all about his latest Minecraft escapades because of the way one side of his mouth turns up. I assume our relationship will change like all relationships do. Not better or worse necessarily, but different.

None of this is to say he’s my favorite or my preferred child, it’s only to acknowledge that I “get” him in a way I don’t necessarily “get” any of my others (in the same way Zach “gets” Tariku more than the others). Oddly, sometimes Trysten can be the most infuriating as I see in him the same frustrations I see in myself. It’s also just to acknowledge that Trysten has now been alive for 11 years. I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact that in one breath it feels like yesterday he was born and in the other breath it feels like he’s always been a part of me. I can’t exactly remember a time in which my heart didn’t beat at least partially because his did.

Regardless, there it was. His 11th birthday on the 25th.

The boy who loves pets in a “they are fun to cuddle with sometimes and laugh at their shenanigans but don’t expect me to get super excited about caring for them” way.

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The one who has his daddy’s sense of humor but a style all his own. Who still runs (okay…walks swiftly) up to us when he sees us at school and delivers a bone crushing hug.

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The one who chose a fire resistant safe for one of his birthday presents from his grandpa so he can keep all his stuff in it. This coming from the boy who tends to spend every dollar he gets just as soon as it’s in his hands and destroys even his most prized possessions with overuse and neglect.

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The one who would have Dickens claiming, “He was the best of brothers, he was the worst of brothers.”…and good luck figuring out which one woke up any given day.

This 11-year-old who still loves reading (though not quite as much as he has in the past), begins a task/sport/book/project with inspiring zeal only to taper off a week or two later and who keeps sweet notes/cards from his family to remind him of how much he is loved.

I am under no illusion that any of my children are perfect, I am so incredibly grateful they aren’t-it would be way too hard being as imperfect as I am and be their mom at the same time. But I am forever grateful God chose me for my Trysten Zachary.

Happy 11th birthday buddy. Love you more than you can think about measuring.

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Merry Christmas

Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the entire year. Of course it’s all about expectation and tradition. For my babes it’s the expectation of gifts in the morning, Santa visiting at night, time spent with loved ones. For me, though, I reflect on what this day represents for people around the world. My favorite Christmas carol is O Holy Night, I still get goosebumps and tears the majority of the time I hear it (lyrics below, my favorite bits bolded). “The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” Love that.

For all who are weary I hope you feel even the smallest bit of hope in the morning.

Merry Christmas

-Tesi

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, 
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth. 
Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! 
O night divine, the night when Christ was born; 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, 
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. 
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming, 
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land. 
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger; 
In all our trials born to be our friends. 
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, 
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
With all our hearts we praise His holy name. 
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, 
His power and glory ever more proclaim! 
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Energy in, energy out

I go in waves of reading, you guys do that? I’ll read every day for hours on end for a few weeks and then I’ll not read a page for the next few weeks. I’m currently in a reading mood-something about winter does that to me. We keep our house a bit on the chilly side just so I can have a cup of coffee constantly in hand and a blanket (or 2) constantly wrapped around me.

I just finished Rob Bell’s, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. My mom-in-law graciously lent it to me whilst I was out with bootfoot. Once I was freed from my boot prison I went on quite the dry spell of reading (that’s what 9 weeks of heavy reading/TV watching will do to a person) so just got around to reading it the last few days. Last night I read this and have been percolating on it since,

We don’t transform our shadow side by denial but by entering into it, embracing it, facing it, and naming it because we believe God is with us and for us.

When we do this-name our fears and sins and failures and own up to them, describing them as clearly as we are able-we pass through them into the new life on the other side. We have faced the worst about ourselves and we have survived, making us strong in the only sense that actually matters. This is why resurrection is so central to the Jesus story: he faces the worst that can happen to a person, and comes out the other side alive in a new way. It is not a false strength we gain a posing and posturing and pretending, but a quiet, humble, grounded strength that has done the hard work of facing our most troubling inner torments and then watching them be transformed into sources of vitality and life.

Do you guys love that as much as I do?

When I look back on the last couple years of my life, years where I’ve been really trying to do the hard work-to face that which scares me the most about myself I realize it’s been both the worst few years (it was so much easier, on the surface anyway, when I was in denial) of my life but also the very best. Not only have my close relationships gotten stronger, more vibrant and beautiful but so have I. And it isn’t because I’ve scrubbed myself clean and come out on the other side smelling like roses-it’s because I’ve come on the other side battered and bruised with the realization that I am still utterly and completely loved.

Before-back when I was in complete denial about my shadow side-I tried so many different ways of earning love. Some didn’t hurt me or anyone else, some really hurt me or other people I love. I was floundering for an easier way to come to terms with grace. We all do this, right? When we aren’t convinced of how much we love we go over the top in trying to earn love, perhaps that’s just me.

Of course this showed itself in a myriad of ways but I was thinking this morning about the ways my denial affected my parenting specifically. I believe very much in the energy we put out into the world. I think for a long time the energy I was putting out reflected my inner turmoil. I would be telling my kids one thing, “Do the right thing, be honest, no lying, you are wholly and completely loved” but my energy was saying, “Lie if you’re scared of the truth, ehhhh I’m not convinced a person can be completely loved when all the shit is out there.”

Of all my kids Tariku was the best at projecting back to me exactly what I was putting out into the world. Perhaps that’s why for a very long time I didn’t fully attach to him. Who was this kid skeptical of my love, constantly lying and totally ill equipped for accepting love? Oh right, that kid is me. I am he. How terribly frustrating it can be to parent a child that exhibits the same behaviors and attitudes you dislike about yourself, right?

I’m sure you see where this is going. As I continue every. single. day to own my shit and walk through it, Tariku is mirroring that as well. The lying has all but stopped, he actually let me hold his hand for half a movie the other day. When I look at him to tell him I love him he looks back and I can tell more and more of him each day is taking it in-allowing it to settle into the parts of his heart darkened by the pain, loss and heartache he’s had in the past.

I think as parents we owe it to our kids to transform our shadow sides, don’t you? I think if we don’t we run the risk of our kids being so scared of their shadow sides they’ll do anything to keep it hidden. The truth is I’m not at all scared of my kids’s shadow sides. The truth is, they are young enough I see most of it. But I want them to feel free to discover it on their own and then talk it through with me. Then maybe when I tell them I love them or that God loves them they’ll know that I mean all of them-even the parts of them that hate me sometimes. 😉

I guess my goal for the new year is going to be that-to keep discovering that which scares me about myself and to step forward in faith-knowing I am God’s beloved. And to maybe take that leap of faith to share with my children all the ways in which I have failed so they know it’s a completely human and acceptable experience. I think they’re worth it, I think I am too.

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