Sunday, December 22, 2013

Exciting Updates


This past month has seen some good changes.  First, I graduated!!!  After two and half years, I finally finished up my degree: Master of Science in Sustainability from St. Louis University.  After a particularly rough Capstone project/presentation, I feel at peace with the whole process.  Going back to school was exactly what I needed.  I met some great people, made new friends, and got to be the Sustainability Intern with the Symphony (a dream place to be, sadly now competed). 

Second, Missouri Interfaith Power & Light is really starting to gel.  While it has become almost a job to me, I am so happy that all the hard work is starting to pay. I love working with congregations and helping them *green* their sanctuaries and educate them on Earth Stewardship/Creation Care.  I am lucky enough to have some wonderful folks helping in this mission and am excited to see where this goes.  I know this is a little sappy, but I feel like I am really living out our UU 7th Principle and working to increase understanding that we all are truly connected.

Finally, my online store has officially opened!  This has been a dream of mine for a long time.  It is really small right now, but I have big dreams on where I would like it to go. Too many ideas, really :-).  If you are a sewer and believe in using organic fabric, please consider using my site - I would greatly appreciate it!  Tempest In A Tulip

I am really looking forward to this next phase of my life.  Things seem to be coming into focus and I am anxious to see where they lead.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Struggling

I have been really having a hard time this holiday season.  I am not sure why.  As long time readers know, it has been a big year of loss for me and my family.  My uncle, whom I have mentioned previously, passed away last week.  He was only 62.  Losing so many folks this year has made me think a lot on how my life is playing out.  With that, I have been struggling with being content and letting dreams go.  At 40, I am at the prime of my life.  If I want to make a change, it needs to happen now.  But, it feels selfish to want more.  I have a wonderful family, a roof over my head, plenty to eat, my health, and the freedom to start my own business.  I great part of me thinks I should be happy with this - it is SO MUCH more then others.  I need to practice gratitude and be thankful.

Yet - this isn't really my dream.  I don't like where I live, I want to be closer to my family, I want to have a small farm, I want to travel, I want.... I want.... I want....  If someone was whining like this to me, I would say "suck it up and be grateful!".  I wouldn't have a lot of sympathy.  So when is it ok to have dreams?  Are dreams selfish?  This Thanksgiving was particularly rough for me.  I won't go into details, but compromises were made and it reinforced that my life is not really my life, but one that is intertwined with all those around me.  Is it ever ok to say, stop - I want my life to circle around me?  While I wish it was ok, I have made choices and connections that will never allow that.  With that, then, do you let your dreams go and adjust to the real reality? Modify your dreams?  Give up hope that certain things will never happen? I am torn between accepting and letting go.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Interfaith Work

Earlier this week I attended the St. Louis Interfaith Partnership Dinner and Celebration.  I went as a representative of the non-profit I volunteer with and had not had any prior experience with this particular interfaith group.  It ended up being a wonderful and very eye-opening evening.  I was floored by the sheer number of people in attendance.  It must have been around 400 folks, representing just about every faith/humanist group in the metro area.  People were greeting each as old friends, catching up, and having faith dialogues.  The evening commenced with honoring a longtime volunteer from the LDS community and a keynote speaker that discussed his journey from Christianity to Islam.  The mood in the room was uplifting and joyful.

The event planners had arranged the seating so that every table would be a mix of religious denominations.  I am not sure how, but I ended up being the sole Unitarian Universalist at a table full of Pakistani Muslims.  After the initial awkwardness of being the "outsider" to this group of friends, we slowly broke the ice and it was great.  They were all in their 50s-60s and had been in St. Louis for thirty or so years, some spoke English better then others, but they were all so friendly.  We eventually got on the topic of our beliefs and they were very curious of mine.  At first I was a little uncomfortable as I don't often delve into such deep topics with people I barely know, but I am glad I did.  It was very engaging and we all left feeling that we had a lot more in common then not. 

What touched me the most though, was after the event.  I went out to get my jacket and ran into one of the women from the table.  I didn't get to talk to her very much as she was seated further away and had a harder time with English. She was also fully covered in a headscarf and reminded me of a sweet grandma.  When she saw me in the hallway, she rushed up to me and took my hand, hugged me and kissed me three times.  It was one of the most amazing, touching things I have ever experienced.  It almost left me in tears.  Friendly, open dialogue truly can make the difference.  That is why this work is so important.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Girl Scout Frustration

I have been a Girl Scout troop leader for several years.  My daughter is now a Cadette working on her silver award.  As happens frequently with troops, girls drop off the older they get.  Homework, sports, family time start competing for the girls' attention.  Currently, I have a troop of two.  Yes, that is very small, but they have been together for many years and we have had many other girls cycle in and out of participation. As a troop, we are content.  Daughter and P attend different schools and have different friends.  This is the only time they get to see each other and both of them love working on Girl Scout projects. 

Today I got an email from our Council stating that we are too small to qualify as a troop this year.  Evidently, you need five.  They sent me a list of girls that had expressed interest from a school that neither of my current girls attend.  I know this sounds harsh, but we are not interested in expanding.  It takes a lot of time to build up trust and relationships, we have that now.  We are a good group and enjoy working together.  Additionally, we are working on their Silver Award.  This has been a lot of work and is not something someone else can just jump into. I am so frustrated - I don't know what to do. 

This has just been the latest in a long string of frustrations I have with our Council.  Of course, I am only seeing my side, but they would go a long way in helping themselves if they could explain their actions better.  I have put in countless volunteer hours, sold dozens of cookies, taken time from my family to be certified in the numerous things that they require, gone way out of my comfort zone to take girls camping and been a general cheerleader for them.  This is what they say? Sorry, you don't have enough girls?!?!

I want to believe in Girl Scouts.  They have a lot to offer, but I am questioning their direction.  GS Campgrounds are closing across the US.  It has been particularly heartbreaking to see my childhood one in Iowa go on the sale block.  It appears that they are refocusing on STEM and leadership opportunities.  While I have nothing against these activities, I feel that they are forgetting the confidence and leadership that develops from camping and pushing your boundaries in a safe way.   The world is moving towards more technology.  Schools and homes are already embracing it.  GS should include it but not forget that they have something unique to offer in getting girls outside and appreciating nature and all that it has to offer.  How are we going to build the next environmentalist, scientist, chemist, engineer if they never get to see what nature has already perfected? Leadership and innovation come from making do with what is in front of you.  Minimizing or taking away camping will only push GS into another after school activity that doesn't have all that much new to offer. Please wake up Girl Scouts!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Name Saga Continues


I mentioned in an earlier post that my last name is Koch and the questions I get as to whether or not I am related to the Koch brothers.  I am NOT at all related to them, not even remotely.  The other day I was on the phone to an internet host provider regarding a non-profit I help run.  I gave him my name and he immediately asks if I am related to the Koch brothers.  What?!  I said no, and he proceeded to tell me how glad he was I wasn't.  I am not sure he would have let me renew the site if I had been!  Sometimes I wish I would have just kept my maiden name.  Maybe I should start another blog chronically all the times I am asked...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kid Sports

September and October are crazy busy months for us.  Daughter is in volleyball and both sons are in soccer.  Everyday, the logistics of getting every one where they need to be is a huge puzzle that has to be solved.  As we are nearing the end of the season, the kids are in more tournaments and I am forced to just sit and watch.  This past Friday and today were totally consumed with a volleyball tournament.  The girls did great, but I found myself getting wrapped up in how well they were playing. Normally I try to be as encouraging as possible, but today I found my thoughts (thankfully not out loud) going towards, "why do they keep M in? She keeps missing her spikes", "S needs to stop being such a ball hog", "why can't the girls just talk to each other?!?", etc.  I was just being so critical.  Then I caught myself and stepped back. These girls are only 12 and 13!  They are still learning and doing a lot better job then I would have.  I need to BACK OFF.  It was a lesson on how easy it is to become THAT parent.  Perspective people!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Justice after death

Yesterday I was listening to NPR and heard an interesting interview with a Rabbi discussing his views on what happens after death.  What caught my attention was his thought about justice and that those who had done horrible things would be *punished* for them.  I have often heard from people of various religious backgrounds that in some way, evil doers will have to answer for their crimes.  If not in this life, then "when they meet their maker". I have never really believed in this line of thought.  Is it fair that Hitler might have the same end Anne Frank? No, of course not, but I believe that justice and fairness are very human traits.  Retribution is something we feel that we deserve.  No where is it spoken that is something we are entitled to. Why should I, someone who has tried to live a compassionate life, have to share my afterlife with a cruel, evil person?  Yet, I believe I will.  I don't feel that we will be judged when we die.  Humans wrote the Bible to make sense of a cruel and oppressive world.  Promises of a judgement-filled God are human constructs.  Cruelty is caused by humans in a human world.  It has nothing to do with what happens when we die.  I try to be a good person, not because I fear for my afterlife, but because I feel happiness and fulfillment are built on love not hate. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Let YOUR Light Shine

I have been so disappointed in the partisan politics taking hold of Congress.  I have always felt that we were in this world together and could never understand the need to *win* to the peril of others.  It has been hard not to lose faith in humanity.  My friend wrote this post and it was exactly what I needed to read.  Please check it out and let your light be a beacon.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

UU Calendar

I was thinking how I need to get a 2014 calendar and about what style I should get.  Usually I get one that supports a non-profit organization.  Which one, which one.... Then it hit me - why isn't there a UU themed calendar?  It could be inclusive to different religious holidays, plus highlight notable times in UU history.  Has this been done before?  Is there one currently out there?  If not, it could be fundraising effort for the UUA.  I am willing to help, but have very little graphic arts experience.  Who's in?!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Family, family everywhere

We just returned from a long road trip involving lots of family.  We spent a beautiful five days in Holland, MI with Husband's parents and sister's family.  From there we headed for a quick visit with my mom and step-dad in Cedar Falls, IA. While there, our car battery died, was replaced and we were back on the road to Sioux Falls, SD.  In Sioux Falls, we were dads, moms, step-moms, sisters, step-brothers, step-sisters, and nineteen little cousins all in one crazy busy house.  We had a great time and came home to St. Louis EXHAUSTED.  I think I will be spending the next week just trying to catch up.  It was what was needed, though.  With such a tough year behind us (and some more sad approaching), we needed to be with each other.  Once again, I am left wishing we lived closer to my family.  I do miss them a lot.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One Month

My uncle, who has been battling leukemia, has just been given one month (if that) to live.  This is devastating news.  He is only 62.  We have all been praying for a miracle and it has not happened.  He has three grown children and three grandchildren.  They all live in Connecticut and I wish there was someway I could reach out more to them.  I can't imagine what they must be going through.  What would I do if the doctor said that to my father? to me?  How would I use my time? Could I even stop crying? Would I be able find some sort of peace?  I don't know, but right now I just feel sad.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Sermon: Jesus, What is He Good For?

Below is the sermon I gave a couple of weeks ago.  Following it are the readings and meditation included in the service.  Husband provided the music in the form of two Woodie Guthrie songs played on the ukulele.  This is just the basic wording of the sermon.  I added a lot more when I was actually in front of the congregation.  There was also a children's moment in which I gave a brief outline of Jesus' life. 



Jesus: What is He Good For?

Jesus.  Jesus! JEEEEESSSSSUUSSS.  JesusJesusJesusJesus. Is there any other name that conjures up so many emotions?  Is there any other name that has so much baggage attached to it?  I would like everyone to join me in saying his name out loud.  J E S U S. Now take a quiet moment and reflect on how that felt.  Did it bring you joy? Anguish? Fear? Resentment? Peace? Anger? Fulfillment?  Maybe it was a combination of many of these. The point is, almost everyone has some sort of feeling towards Jesus. 

When I was growing up, Jesus was in every room of our Catholic house.  In my grandmother’s house, there was at least two Jesus’ in every room.  There was the gory crucified Jesus on the cross and usually a framed picture of the benevolent Jesus with the *heart on fire* watching and judging your every move.  Or, that is how I viewed it.  I believe my grandma saw them as a constant reminder of his dying for our sins and his eternal love.  Eventually, to me, they just became background noise. After marrying into a Lutheran family and attending a Lutheran church, I was shocked to see a very different Jesus.  This Jesus was fully clothed in robes on the cross!  He looked like he walked out of his dressing room and stepped right on up there.  He was clean and handsome! Where were the wounds, where was the blood?  Where was the sad, disappointed expression? This couldn’t be the real Jesus.  He was too pretty.  Even crazier, Lutheran’s often hung crosses in their house that didn’t even HAVE Jesus on them!  What was the point of that?

In my sheltered life in northern Iowa, I had also heard rumors of people who did not believe in Jesus.  They were called Jewish.  I should rephrase that.  They did believe in a prophet named Jesus, but he was not considered to be their Savior. WHAT?! How is that even possible?  It seemed like a huge form of blasphemy and was perhaps a rumor somebody just made up.  It would take me going to college in another state before I met an actual Jewish person. 

By this time in my life, I was older and wiser and was already starting to doubt the Jesus story. I had read Damien by Hermann Hesse and Barabas by Par Lagerkvist.  Two books that completely altered my world.  I was beginning to see the world in a much broader way.  I was feeling more comfortable challenging long held beliefs.  While it still felt a little blasphemous to doubt the Bible, I was growing in confidence that critical analysis did not mean outright disbelief.  God was not going to smite me down for questioning what human’s had put down on paper. While this seems obvious to us grown-ups, it was quite a revelation on my teenage mind.  It was a little scary, too.  My worldview was beginning to change and I wasn’t sure if was up to the challenge of re-shaping it.  It was so much easier to stay the course and keep the family happy.  In my heart, though, I knew I could never go back.  I would always be a Universalist.  If there was a benevolent God, I could never believe that he would condemn humans to an eternal hell based on their belief (or disbelief) in Jesus as their Savior.

I had to ask myself, what, if any role, would Jesus have in my life?  All these years later, I still haven’t figured it out.  Yet, I am still drawn to him.  I find I still want to know more about this Son of Man.
Jesus did exist.  Author Bart Ehrman, in his book, aptly titled, “Did Jesus Exist” does a wonderfully thorough analysis of this questions and comes to the conclusion that he emphatically did.  There was a Jew, named Jesus, preaching and teaching, and was crucified during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius.  These are truths. Ehrman goes on to identify numerous sources to back these up.  After reading his book, I am not sure anyone could prove he DIDN’T exist.  But, it is important to note, that these are the only facts.  Everything else said about him is hearsay.  It is up to each of us to discern which we feel is truth or fiction. 

As Unitarian Universalist, we have a complicated history with Jesus.  Jesus is very much part of our heritage.  Our founders were proudly and lovingly Christian.  Unitarians saw Jesus as a moral authority, maybe even supernatural, but not necessarily God himself.  He was considered a great teacher and prophet.  Christian Universalists felt that salvation would be given to all.  Jesus was viewed as a force for positive change.  He was not used as a divisive pawn, but as a sign of universal love. 

As a faith, though, we have left Jesus behind as we have opened our hearts and minds to the teachings of prophets from many other faith traditions.  While this has enriched our spiritual growth, it has led us away from our roots.  In some cases, it has led us so far that we are uncomfortable even mentioning Jesus’ name.  We are quick to point out that we are NOT Christian, that Jesus was just a teacher and NOT our personal Savior.  While it is perfectly fine to feel that way, I feel we have done a great disservice to ourselves in not fully understanding this man and the amazing example he set for humanity.

I would like to come out as a Christian Unitarian Universalist.  As the Rev. Stephen Kendrick, Minister at First Church in Boston so elequontly spoke,
Am I a classic Christian? Of course not. But Unitarian Universalists can and should have an expansive view of the nature of Jesus and his teachings. Labels are notourisously misleading and unforgiving things, but I will take the consequences of being a labeled in proclaiming that UU Christianity should still be a part of who we are as a religious movement.”  
Does this mean that I profess that Jesus died for my sins to grant my soul eternal salvation?  Sure, he might have felt he was dying for the sins of humanity, but I believe in the universal love of God.  I am with our Universalist fore-fathers that God would never condemn humanity to unending suffering. 

Instead, I choose to take that expansive view and see Jesus as an example of what humanity could be.  Like us modern day UUs, Jesus was an inclusive, religious rebel.  He wanted people to come together in community to meet each others needs.  He wanted us to be present with each other.  He reached out to those most in need, those that had been cast aside, to those who were perhaps living life not how society felt they “should”.  He broke free from the rules cast upon him by restrictive Rabbi’s and taught a new way.  He was a liberal, a justice seeker and a troublemaker.  He did not care what others thought of him and stayed true to what he felt was right and he acted upon it.  I suspect many of us could relate to this. 

He taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is now.  It is inside of us.  We all have a spark of the divine.  Thus, all of humanity has worth and value.  He showed a third way of life.  It isn’t about me vs. you.  My right vs. your right.  Instead he said to walk with our enemies.  Learn to understand each other and meet each other with love.  He recognized that change takes patience and perseverance.  It does not always happen when we feel it should.  This is something I particularly struggle with.  While Jesus was a justice seeker he led by example. Confrontations were met with a degree of love that very few of us could easily manage, yet is something I strive for.  Just imagine how amazing this world could be if we all worked from a place of trying to really understand each other.
 
Jesus believed in our human capacity for good.  This was not the prevailing thought of the time.  In a world where people were suffering immense hardships and oppression due to the human capacity for bad, he was a living example of all that we could be.  He believed in us and that scared the bleep out of the people in power.   How would they remain in control if their subjects/followers realized that they had inherent value?  Jesus preached the divine was already within us.  He are all holy and we are all worthy.  Jesus gave people hope and the freedom from religious oppression.  He did not ask people to trade one form of religious oppression for another. He did not ask that we believe in his resurrection, he asked us to believe in God and in love.

Whether or not he rose from the dead, is not the deciding factor for me.  I choose to focus on all that he was and all that he taught.  His radical hospitality, universal love, and justice for all people are what make me his follower.  He was a living example of what I what I want the world to be; of the person I strive to be. Wherever you are on your religious journey, I hope you do not discount this man with all the baggage.  Take the time to work through all that clutter and study his real message.  I think you will find it worth your time and uplifting for your soul.  Jesus is not someone to run from, but someone to run to.

Amen.



Readings:
“The demands of Jesus are difficult because they require us to do something extraordinary. At the same time He asks us to regard these [acts of goodness] as something usual, ordinary.”
--Albert Schweitzer

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Meditation:
O God, we thank you for life, and for all it holds of happiness and work and play and risk and courage and beauty.
We thank you for all the adventures of the mind, whereby we pursue what is true, grapple with difficult problems, and share a little in the vast heritage of human knowledge.
We thank you for the firmness of reasonable people in refusing to follow extremists; but we also thank you for the pioneers of advancing thought in science, art and religion.
We thank you for all heroic souls who shame our cowardice; for all sympathetic souls who communicate encouragement; for all saintly souls, seldom wearing haloes, who kindle our desire to be really good.
We thank you for friendship and the faces of those who look kindly upon us, even when we fail, and who greatly help to bring us back to our bravest selves again.
We thank you for the exchange of gifts, for letters to and from those we love, for the sparkle of a pleasant wit, for the refreshment of unforced laughter, and for the song remembered for the singer’s sake.
We thank you for the freedom which growing older gives us from the troubles of being very young, so that we have more big things to care about and fewer little things to cry about.
Above all, we thank you for your call to be ourselves at our best, without miserably trying to be somebody else. So may we grow in the strength to make the best of things, trusting you that they will make the best of us. --- Vivian Pomeroy

Benediction:

Love is the Spirit of this Church and service its law.
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace,
to seek the truth in love and to help one another.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ten on Tuesday

Borrowing from Bridgett over at South City Musings, ten things I am afraid of:

1. Suffocation.  I am pretty positive that if I had lived previous lives, this is how I died.

2. Sleeping with any limb hanging off the bed. I know some sort of scary undead will pull me under if I am not constantly vigilant about this.

3. ALS and pancreatic cancer.  I don't know why, but the possibility of getting them panics me.

4. Planes. If I have to be on a plane, I will not be able to stop thinking about it until I am back home safe. It will consume my thoughts from the moment I book the ticket.  I will also not get on a plane without my St. Christopher pendent.

5. Lakes.  While I am not afraid to be in a lake, I don't like touching the bottom of them.  I am convinced that is where people throw dead bodies and I will inadvertently touch it.

6. Unintentionally offending/hurting someone.  I hate the thought that I might cause someone distress and will worry about it until I am sure I didn't or can apologize.

7. Going to jail.  I just don't think I would fit in very well. 

8. Losing my eyesight.  I have horrible eyes.  The thought of completely losing my vision is petrifying.

9. Accidentally poisoning someone.  Not sure why I fear this, but it makes me forever hesitant to share my food (I am not trying to be stingy ;-)

10. Heat.  I know this will sound silly, but I HATE being hot.  The thought that climate change is here and the possibility of the world getting any hotter scares the *bleep* out of me. 

What are your fears? Please share!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Preaching

As is typical in a lot of UU congregations, our summer services are lay-lead.  I was asked to do a sermon and thought, "why not?".  Today was my day.  I decided to do a sermon about Jesus. I knew this might not fly all that well, but I figured it was a summer service, so who knows who would actually show up and this is a topic I am very interested in. I am not a huge fan of the UU tradition of taking the summer off, so it was very important to me to have a service that was meaningful and worth people's time.  I hope they got that.  It started a little rough, but I feel it ended well.  I was very relieved that the sermon was well received and Husband got to debut his singing/ukulele talents ;-) I may just do it again someday....

Friday, July 12, 2013

NIMBY

Certain parts of the St. Louis metro are up in arms over a controversial decision to allow students in unaccredited school districts to transfer to other districts within the area. While the students may choose to transfer to any other school, the unaccredited district has chosen one accredited district that it will provide transportation to.  It has really brought out the ugly in people.  The unaccredited district is mostly minority, the accredited district is mostly white.  The unaccredited district is economically depressed, the accredited district is better off.  I am sure you can see where this is going. The AD parents are up in arms about this.  The Un-AD parents want a good education for their kids.  They are also not happy because the AD is quite a distance away. They would much rather their district be better.  Many AD parents are convinced that these transfer students will only bring drugs, guns and violence, in addition to bringing down the districts test scores.  Many of the people in the AD fled from the suburb I live in.  In fact, the district I live in will probably pick up just as many of these students as the AD.  Yet - we aren't complaining.  The difference?  We already have a large minority population.  In fact, we are pretty close to 50/50, if not already majority minority. 

It has been hard to read what people are saying.  Yes, the Un-AD has a bad reputation.  That does not mean every child there is bad.  Failing school districts are a product of many problems. There is no one cause.  AD is not free from problems itself.  There is no such things as perfection.  Nobody is happy about the situation, but to continue to put down children you don't even know based on rumors and mis-understood data doesn't help anyone.  It saddens me that we don't see ourselves as a larger community.  This is an opportunity to reach out and help raise people up, instead folks are choosing to keep the *others* down.  It appears that it is ok to help from a distance, but just don't come up to my door. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Blueberries!

The cool and wet spring/summer has led to a stupendous blueberry crop.  We have a favorite place in Illinois that we like to go to, but this year has been their best season yet. The bushes were literally dripping with ripe blueberries with more even more developing.  It was amazing and yummy. We walked away with 19 quarts to share between two families.  Now, what to make? Jam, muffins, buckle, pops, smoothies, etc.... So many possibilities, where to start....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gah - So Much To Do!

Summer did not bring an end to the busyness, but added to it.  After initially panicking about getting it all done, I have developed a somewhat schedule to help me stay focused.  All of it is work I am interested in, so I am thankful for that.  In addition to the MO IPL and capstone work, I have also started a small internship with the Symphony.  I am very excited about it, but I hadn't planned on it in my original scheduling, so things have been readjusted. I am helping them finish up some sustainability reporting and it has been cool to see the "behind the stage" action.  I am also giving a sermon in a couple weeks at my church.  I am very nervous about it.  It is about Jesus, so I am not sure how well it will be received.  I have also been toying with the idea of conducting communion.  I am not a minister, but I would like the service to be meaningful. Of course, it is also summer service, so I am not sure how many people will even be there! I hope your summers are a little more relaxing!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recommitted

I am so glad I was able to go to General Assembly this year.  Long time readers know I have been really struggling with UU.  It just didn't seem like it was enough. I was looking for more from UU, but felt like I wasn't finding it. I found it at GA. I found it in all its messiness. UU isn't perfect.  There are things I like and things I wish I could change, but I realized it is the only home for me.  I needed to be surrounded by UUs in all their differences and similarities to see that this is where I really fit in.  I am re-inspired by all that we have to offer the world and feel a new sense of mission.  If you haven't had a chance, hop on over to the UUA site and watch some of the amazing worship services, sermons, and speakers.  I want to particularly suggest you watch Eboo Patel, Service of the Living Tradition, Bill Schulz, Tim DeChristopher and the Red Pill Bretheren workshop. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Heading to General Assembly

I am super excited to leave for GA tomorrow.  It has been an incredibly busy and stressful couple of weeks.  Really, the past few months have been overwhelming. I am looking forward to getting recharged and re-inspired at the Assembly.  I plan to use the time to do a lot of self-reflection and hope to come back full of renewed energy and commitment.

I hope to see some of you there. There should be a blogger meet-up session so we can all come out of the shadows and introduce ourselves!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cheerio's Commercial

I loved this commercial.  If you haven't seen it, it involves an adorable mixed-race girl talking to her Caucasian mother and African-American father.  When I saw the ad, I thought - finally! a commercial that represents the community I live in.  While my family is not mixed-race, many of our friends and, particularly, my children's friends are in mixed-race families.  It is completely normal where we live.  I thought it was wonderful that a national brand was reflecting the changing demographics of the US.  I find it sad that Cheerio's is experiencing so much backlash.  We are all humans.  The shade of our skin shouldn't dictate who we are allowed to love. I hope Cheerio's remains strong in their stance and continues to air the ad. It is past time for people to accept that love doesn't have color boundaries.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer Catch-Up

As usual, the end of the school year was crazy busy.  Even with the best of planning, it feels like I am running around trying to get everything finished and attended to.  This summer is looking to be pretty busy, too.  We have stepped way back on camps for the kids, and have opted for just a couple Scout and church camps.  Other then that, they at least, will have plenty of down time.  My schedule, though, is looking a little overwhelming.

I am taking my last class towards my Master program.  It is the capstone and is looking to be quite a big project due within a six week time frame.  Very challenging to find something worthwhile, yet doable. I think I am going to work on something that will tie into my work with Missouri Interfaith Power & Light.

Speaking of which, we have lost three Steering Committee members due to them moving out of state! They were great helpers and their presence is greatly missed.  It now appears that it has fallen on my shoulders to keep our work moving.  This is good, but it has almost become a part-time job.  Which would be great, but at some point, I really need to have a job that pays ;-)  We are looking to replace those members, so if you know of anyone that may be interested in being on the Steering Committee, please shoot me an email.  It is actually pretty exciting as our work and name starts to spread throughout the state.  We are hoping to really launch our programming this fall.

My online business is slowly reaching the starting gate.  I am also very excited for this, but all the little details are incredible!  I have alluded to it before, but I might as well throw it out there. I am starting an online organic fabric business.  Many fabric designers are now starting to use organic fabric and the option have expanded beyond shakes of khaki.  Unfortunately, they are not easy to find in stores. There are a couple of other online stores out there, but I am hoping mine will be a lot more interactive and inspiring.  If you are curious, here is the website - still very much in the development phase: Tempest In A Tulip.

Additionally, I am finishing up my term as Board Secretary for the Central Midwest District.  I am super excited that I get to go to General Assembly this year.  I haven't been since it was St. Louis so many years ago.  While it will be hard to be gone so many days, I feel I really need this to recommit to UU.  I am also giving a sermon this summer at my congregation; all about Jesus.  As someone who admires the person Jesus was, I am hoping to convey that and his message to the congregation.

On the fun side, I canned some awesome strawberry jam and rhubarb/cinnamon jam.  They turned out fantastic.  I also planted more grape vines, bringing the total to four.  Two more apple and one more peach tree were planted and I can't wait for them to start producing.  We also signed a contract for solar panels.  We have talked about this for so long, I can't believe it is actually happening.  They should be up sometime in August!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

40 and Beyond

Yesterday was my fortieth birthday.  I can not believe that I am actually 40.  Not because 40 is really old, but because time is going by SO FAST.  Wasn't I just 25?!  I still feel like I am 25. I guess it is good to feel young, even if the body isn't quite on board.  It was a great day.  I got the above banjo from the family. I have been wanting to learn to play it for so long, that I could barely put it down.  My goal is that by 45, I will be good enough/brave enough to join the Sunday bluegrass jam session at a local restaurant. 

I have also been thinking about how I want to handle to 40s.  A top priority is to take better care of my health; both physically and mentally.  I have a long family history of diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, etc.  I don't want to go down that road. I figure it is about time I start taking these things seriously and try to avoid them - especially since a lot of them are lifestyle related.

I also want to make sure I utilize my time in ways that are productive and fulfilling.  As the kids are getting older and I only have more more class to take, my schedule is starting to open up.  I am really reflecting on how I want to spend it.  How can I make a difference? What sort of work do I want to pursue? Where do I want to put my volunteer time? I feel blessed that our family is strong and I want to make sure those bonds stay that way.

Any advice for the new decade?  I am very much looking forward to what it brings!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Medical Records

Husband was recently cleaning out some old paperwork.  He came across my childhood Navy medical records.  My father was a navigator for airplanes in the Navy, and we spent my early childhood moving around.  He later transferred to the Reserves and we settled in Iowa for good.  Anyway, I have often asserted that I did have the small pox vaccine.  People kept telling me that it was impossible, because they had phased them out by 1974.  I kept insisting they were wrong.  Well, it appears we are both right.  I DID have the vaccine, but we were living on a Naval base in Spain when I got it.  I am guessing that while they were phased out in the US, military personnel and families (especially overseas) were still being vaccinated. 

The second discovery was the proof that I am, indeed, allergic to tincture of benzoin.  I can not tell you how many times that I have written this down on medical forms to have doctors look at my like I am crazy.  It is only used in very specific circumstance.  For instance, if you have had an epidural, they sprayed your back with it to help the adhesive work better.  It is interesting to note, in the records, those doctors also thought it was something else until they realized it was an actual allergy.  I was around five and remember this very vividly.  I had had surgery on my neck and it completely swelled up. It was awful and not something I ever want to happen again.

Recently, I had to have a mammogram and ultrasound for a suspicious mass.  Everything is fine.  The technician, though, asked me a bunch of questions regarding any previous issues.  In fact, I have had earlier issues including ultrasounds.  She asked me when.  I completely blanked out.  This is something I should know.  She told me that she advises patients to keep a running journal of all their procedures and major medical issues.  It is amazing what you think will remember, but how much you actually forget. So true.  Moral of the story?  Write it down. You are your best advocate and historian.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Friendship

How do you define friendship? Do you put certain parameters and rules on it? Are there expectations that must be met?  I have been thinking about this for awhile.  This year has seen so many losses, I feel a bit adrift.  When I was headed to my friend's memorial service and feeling particularly down and needing to talk, I reached out to a friend who lives an ocean away.  I particularly hate to cry in front of people. It is mortifying for this introvert.  But, I knew F. was the one person who could hear my tears and it would be ok.  And he did, and it was ok. I realized that it doesn't matter if he is in Italy.  Friends don't have to live next door to be there for you.  A friend is there when you need someone to listen and to care.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hard

I am surprised at how hard I am taking my friend's suicide.  I keep thinking of his daughters who never got to know the awesome person that he was.  Instead they will only know of a father who was distant and estranged and who left them. The memorial service was so hard.  It was hard to see how he had isolated himself, it was hard to see his daughters devastated, and it was hard to know that so many people tried to help and it wasn't enough. Death is so final and it didn't have to end this way.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

There is another option

Last night I received the awful news that a former friend had committed suicide.  I am heartbroken.  We haven't had contact in many years as he is the ex-husband of a close friend.  I knew that he had been having problems and wanted to reach out, but in solidarity to C, I did not.  He leaves behind two young daughters who will never get to know what a wonderful person he was.  If you suspect that someone is suffering, please don't hesitate to help.  If you are suffering, please reach out. Suicide is not the answer.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Three Become One

The Central Midwest District Assembly was this past weekend.  For us on the board, it was the culmination of three+ years of work as we dissolved ourselves and merged into the MidAmerica Region. We have now joined with the Heartland and Prairie Star Districts to create a region that can better utilize our resources and talent.  There was a mixture of nervousness and excitement in the air.  So much prep work had be done and I think we would have been devastated if the motion had not passed.  But it did and their were tears of joy.  There is one final step, though.  I hope that all of you who are attending General Assembly this year will vote for the amendment to allow for the wordage of "region" in addition to "district".  It really is a minor change, but will allow for so much more possibilities!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Climate Change and Washington DC

This past week, the family and I traveled to Washington DC.  It was part vacation and part "work".  I am on the steering committee for Missouri Interfaith Power & Light.  The national Interfaith Power & Light was having their national conference, so I decided it would be a great chance for all of us to head east. We were fortunate that Husband's parents were also able to go with us, so the days I was at the conference, they could help Husband with the kids.  Additionally, it was great to have the extra drivers for the 14 hour trek!

We couldn't have planned a better experience.  The drive was smooth, the weather perfect (if not a little hot!), the kids did amazingly well despite the incredibly amount of walking, and the the cherry blossomed bloomed!!  That was just luck. We visited the Spy Museum, Capital, Library of Congress, the monuments, Air and Space, Udvar-Hazy Center (probably the kids favorite), American History Museum, Mount Vernon and Monticello and there was still tons we DIDN'T see!  Such an educational time that I wish every one could have.

The conference was also very inspiring.  There were representatives from most states and religious faiths.  Sometimes I feel like we are working so hard and no one is listening.  The conference reminded me that we (in Missouri) are not alone and we are making progress no matter how incremental.  State affiliates are all at different levels of maturation, but there is hope and there is help.  I am grateful that I got to attend and have returned renewed in my passion that it is important that Missouri have this valuable voice and I will continue to work hard that it is heard.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Trying to be Grateful

There are certain things I really want to change, but feel unable to.  I really want to move back to Iowa. I want that childhood for my children and to be closer to my mom.  Unfortunately, Husband does not want that.  He wants to move, but to stay in the St. Louis area.  He loves St. Louis and his family is here.  I can understand that.  We have benefited greatly from their help and I love them, too.  But, when will it be my turn?  Is that even fair to ask? I have been in St. Louis for eighteen years and I want to go home.  The kids are growing so fast and their childhood is flying by.  Daughter only has one more year at her school before we have to figure out what to do about high school.  Husband doesn't want to pay for private school and would like to move to a better school district.  I have no interest in moving to another suburb.  We either stay here or we move to Iowa.  I am sure you are seeing our standoff.  I wish there was more I could do to help the situation.  Husband is the breadwinner of the family, so any move would have to be dependent upon him getting a job.  I am looking, too, but after being out of the workforce for almost twelve years, no one is very interested in me. Unfortunately, there are just not that many jobs for his skill set in Iowa.  It is frustrating.

Then the guilt sets in.  Who am I to complain?  Don't I have enough with a loving, healthy family?  Why should I ask for more?  We are doing well here and I am being selfish.  These are all the thoughts going on in my head. I need to be grateful for all that I have. But the longing continues...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow!

In a rare event for St. Louis we got over twelve inches of snow.  I can't remember when the last time we got that much snow.  What was even better, it was accompanied by thunder and lightening. Truly an impressive event.  Above is the kids 8 foot tall St. Louis University Billiken basketball player.  While they may have lost against the Oregon Ducks, they are still number one to us.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seventeen Years!

On a cold March Saturday in Iowa, husband and I took a leap of faith and wed.  I look back and can't believe my 22 year old self was confident enough to take such a big step.  I look at 22 year olds now and they just seem soooo young!  How could I have been so sure?!  Yet we did it.  It hasn't always been easy.  There have been so many ups and downs, but I always knew we were in it for the long haul.  I have no doubt I made the right decision and am thankful to my 22 y/o self for making it. Happy 17th Anniversary, M!



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Church Newsletters

Is this still a valuable form of communication?  As most congregations move towards online newsletters, do people still read them?  When I got it in the mail, I was very diligent about reading it, but now I often forget that it is out there.  Newsletters require a lot of time and effort.  In the past I found it invaluable for conveying information, now I am not so sure.  How many congregants remember to check it out every month?  Are other forms better received?  What are your thoughts?

Daniel Fast Update 3

I have completed the "official" Daniel Fast (which is 21 days), but as Lent is not over, I am continuing on in a modified fashion.  I am sticking with only drinking water, no sweets, no yeasted bread, and plant-based as possible (mostly vegan except honey).  How is this different? Basically I am now including such things as Rice milk and baking powder/soda.  Believe it or not, this has opened up a lot more recipes.  As I mentioned earlier, I physically feel great. I have more energy and it doesn't go up and down during the day as it previously would.  This is not to say that I am not really looking forward to Easter and eating a whole bunch of cake.  Cake is my weakness and I plan on making a traditional Lamb cake for Easter dinner.  Other then that, the only thing I really miss is having my afternoon tea.  I really enjoyed that moment in the day.  I will be glad to have it back.

Spiritually, I am still waffling and haven't had any major insights. I am really torn about certain things right now and they don't have easy answers.  Committing one way or another will cause quite a bit of heartache, so I remain on the fence.

Friday, March 15, 2013

UUA Headquarters

Well, I admit, I am not really that excited for the new headquarters.  Since I never had the opportunity to visit the first one and, it is unlikely that I will visit the new one, it is not that big a deal.  I am disappointed that the Trustees chose to stay in Boston and not look for a more central location.  If we are leaving our historical building, then lets go somewhere that is more accessible to all congregations.  Traveling is expensive and not everyone (including myself) can afford to just catch a flight to Boston.  Staying so distant reinforces the lack of connection the headquarters has with individual congregations.  I feel this move is very shortsighted and am disheartened by the decision.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Frustrated

I know I am not alone in this, but I am TIRED of picking up the slack.  I am tired of people bailing or shrugging off responsibilities with the thought that I will cover for them.  I am not a door mat.  I am getting frustrated by it, but I don't have a solution because the work still needs to get done.  I need to make some changes and stand my ground. But how? Suggestions?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Daniel Fast Update 2

I have gotten into the groove of the Fast and it is becoming much easier.  I am into the rhythm of making my own unleavened bread and crackers.  I am eating a lot healthier and have been physically feeling great.  The last two weeks have been packed, but I feel like my energy level has been constant and that I can handle it all.  Being off caffeine has made a big difference in that regard.  I wake up awake and fall asleep easily.  I like not "needing" something to get going.  I might continue that after the Fast.

The Spiritual aspect to it has left me with more questions then answers.  I feel like I am floating between thoughts and ideas and just can't make up my mind on what exactly I believe.  Husband and I are struggling to really connect to our current congregation.  We are involved, but things still seem a little off and I am not sure why.  The children are also not 100% happy there.  They go to a Lutheran school and lean towards Christianity.  While we like having them in a UU church on Sunday, there is a low undercurrent of anti-Christianity (not from the minister) that pops up once in awhile that makes the kids feel uncomfortable.  I struggle with them on how to explain what exactly UU is and its deeper theological value.

This brings up the next issue.  I have been working to start an interfaith environmental group in Missouri.  Our launch is this Thursday (yay!!).  Through this experience, I have been talking with folks from all sorts of theological perspectives.  I appreciate their definitive understanding of their history, traditions, and theological perspectives.  They are passionate about their faith.  It has made me ask, why am I not as passionate about UU anymore?  This is the question I hope to figure out during Lent.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Daniel Fast Update 1

After three successful days I completely fell off the wagon.  Despite my preparations and good intentions, taking a four day trip proved to be too much for me and continuing the Fast.  I tried to not let my Catholic guilt get a hold of me, but figured God would be ok with it since I was going to a full Catholic funeral AND had to say the whole rosary.  Now that I am home, though, I have recommitted to it. That hardest parts have been the requirement to only drink water and eat no leavened bread.  This means I can not have coffee, tea or my yummy homemade pizza dough.   I realize that this is very small, but I am finding that I have to make just about everything from scratch.  I like its emphasis on whole foods and hope that this continues on after the Fast. I am still working on the spiritual aspect.  Since I have just begun (again), I haven't felt a whole lot of difference but will continue with the suggestions in the book and reflect on how they relate to my personal spirituality.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Being #1

This past weekend I headed back to South Dakota for my grandma's funeral.  To break up the thirteen hour drive, I spent the night at my mom's in Iowa.  I guess being a mother was on my mind.  I was sad that my dad lost his, glad I was seeing mine, and feeling a little disorientated about not being a mom to my three kids for the next three days.  When I got to my mom's house, she immediately started fussing over me.  Did I want some food or a drink, how was my drive, did I want to watch a movie, etc.  All of a sudden, it was all about me.  I was the center of attention.  I guess it was something I needed, because it felt great.  It wasn't about my kids, or husband, or sister, or sister in law - just me.  It really just hit me about how lucky I am to have a mother that is my cheerleader.  No matter what, she is in my corner.  I hope my kids feel that.  To me, it is the essence of motherhood.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Daniel Fast for Lent

I usually give up something for Lent.  Growing up Catholic, it was just the thing to do (yes, I do realize there are reasons behind it...).  Typically it was coffee, caffeine, chocolate or TV.  In all honesty, it was never a huge challenge and not much of a time of sacrifice and self-reflection.  This year I decided to do something different. I have been feeling a little directionless and unfocused both spiritually and in general life/living.  There have been a lot of losses lately and they have weighed heavily on me.  In addition to the deaths, several friends have moved away and I feel the hole they have left acutely.  I need to make a conscientious effort to figure out how to become more centered.

I was reading in the local paper about how many Christians are doing the Daniel Fast. It combines very healthy/clean eating with daily devotions.  This really appealed to me.  I like the whole-food aspect to it, but appreciate the daily spiritual component.  I decided to use The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory as a guide.  While this book's daily devotional might not appeal to a lot of UUs, they are something you could use as a springboard to deepen your own theology.  This won't be easy, but it isn't meant to be. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Loss

My grandmother unexpectedly passed away last night. She had very advanced Alzheimer's, but was in overall good health.  I am feeling a lot of mixed emotions.  I am very sad for the loss, but also recognize that her quality of life was greatly diminished.  We were very lucky that the whole family got to see her this past summer.  I like to think that there was a flicker of recognition when we visited her in the nursing home in South Dakota.  I guess I knew deep down that this might be the last time we see her,but  I was hoping that I was wrong.  She was a complicated person who did not have an easy life. But, there was no doubt in the love she had for grandpa and her seven kids.  I hope she is at peace.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Long Process

Wow, it is a lot of work getting a group started.  At times I have just wanted to quit.  But, I can't.  I really believe in this idea and want Missouri to be a part of it.  I am super excited that it is really starting to take off.  Yesterday, I worked a lot on revamping the website: Missouri Interfaith Power & Light. It is a work in progress, but I think I need to take a step back and let my eyes rest a bit.  Later today I, and another organizer, are meeting with a local group to see if they will act as our fiscal sponsor. So many details. I have big dreams for this group, though!  If your state has an affiliate, I encourage you to get involved! Together, we really can make a difference.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Feeling Defeated

I am feeling so disheartened, saddened, defeated, frustrated and angry with all the horrible shootings happening around the U.S. These are innocent people's lives - gone forever. It makes me sick when people brush off gun control because "guns don't kill people, people kill people".  Well, people are not perfect.  People are fallible and don't always act with control; despite what their background check may state.  Training doesn't guarantee that a person will always react rationally when under duress.  I can't understand how we, as a nation, continue to let these tragedies happen. Why do we allow these senseless deaths?!  It breaks my heart.

Friday, January 25, 2013

UUA Headquarters

I realize that I am late on the discussion, but I have been thinking about this for quite awhile and just want to get it out there.  I am deeply disappointed that the UUA hasn't given more thought to moving headquarters out of Boston.  While I realize we have history there and it would be difficult to move staff (if they even wanted to move...), I feel it would be best in the long run.  Where and Why?  Glad you asked!  I believe we should seriously consider the Midwest.  Obviously, I would love St. Louis, but really any Midwestern city would be appreciated.  Boston is FAR away and expensive to get to.  How many people have actually made the trek to visit it?  I will grant that it is easy to fly to, but flying is cost prohibitive to many and driving there can be overwhelming.  Additionally, staying in Boston is very expensive, as are most activities in that area. I can't imagine how much it will cost for the UUA to buy or rent new space in Boston.

The Midwest is a great alternative.  It is central, has major airports, easy car access, and is a lot cheaper!  Plus, it would just feel closer and not like some distant castle high on hill far away from its people.  If we are looking to grow UU, then we need to be in the thick of it with quick access to all areas.  I can't imagine living in the far reaches of Washington Sate and feeling any sort of connection to Boston.  In a time where congregants are looking for a sense of community both within their congregations and the denomination as a whole, the UUA should think seriously about making themselves more accessible and visible to the lay person and not just staff and board members!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Garden Dreaming in the Middle of Winter


(not my actual garden)
Every year, about this time, I start dreaming BIG garden dreams.  My dream garden often looks like the image above.  I think about all the amazing vegetables I will grow and how fabulous they will taste. I imagine that I will be the envy of the neighborhood with my awesome gardening skills.  This has never actually come to fruition.

This is a more accurate representation of what my garden looks like by mid-July.  It drives Husband crazy and is the reason why I still belong to a CSA.  I am not sure what happens, but I am pretty sure it has a lot to do with the incredible St. Louis heat.  Husband has declared that he is taking over the garden this year.  We will see.  He is also a lot of talk with little weeding follow through.  But, I am scaling back my dreams and hope to plant the following, minimal care plants:
Large Garden:
asparagus (already established)
rhubarb (already established and will add to)
2 types of tomatoes
Basil
Beans
Kale
Rosemary
Lavender
Cilantro (only because I can't get rid of it!)
Lots of Hops (we homebrew)
Small Garden and along the house:
Strawberries (struggling so will supplement)
Blueberries (replace the ones that died)
Raspberries (already established)
3 more grape vines (I dream of having my own vineyard!)
Herb Box:
oregano
lemon grass
sage
thyme
dill
chives
Medicinal Box:
self heal
feverfew
chamomile
mint (way over established)
comfrey
calendula (have had bad luck with this, but will try again)
Trees:
Another dwarf apple tree (three total)
Another 2 dwarf peach trees (three total)
Some nut tree but haven't decided yet

Plus tons of flowers!  We shall see how this goes.  Like I said -I dream BIG garden dreams!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Hope It Lasts


I am not sure I want to say this out-loud, but lately I have been feeling really happy.  I feel like I am getting a handle on things.  Maybe it was because fall kicked me to the curb, but January has brought a sense of balance that I haven't felt in a long time.  I hope it continues and I am going to make every effort to help it stay that way.  I am looking forward to a lot of things this Spring: District Assembly, launch of Missouri Interfaith Power and Light, conference in DC, joining the Northwinds Concert Band, getting my GRI certification, and - most excitedly, starting my online business.  Additionally, the family has found a rhythm that is working for us.  The kids and Husband are doing well and I am looking forward to all the events coming up in their lives.  I am knocking on wood that this feeling continues!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Second Service Curse

 
strikes again!  I think I am just going to turn down any opportunities where the quintet is asked to play for both services.  EVERY single time, the second performance goes worse than the first.  This one, though, was by far the most embarrassing.  I don't know what happened, but we actually had to stop in the middle of the piece and begin again.  It was mortifying.  I think we all are still trying to figure out what exactly went so terribly wrong.  The piece was going along well, when out of nowhere we were just off.  So off, that we couldn't pull it back together.  Our only option was to begin again.  I am thankful that it was my home congregation and that they were very generous in their support of us.  I have to remember that we are human, we are not perfect, and kind words go along way (and to not play for two services!).

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bible Study IS fun!

I have been leading a once a month bible study for my congregation for about a year and a half.  This was not an easy sell for my UU congregation, and, admittedly, we are a small group. But, it has been awesome.  This has probably become my favorite part of church.  My comprehension of various bible stories has increased significantly while my connectedness to fellow students has increased exponentially.  I feel we have become a sort of Chalice Circle as we delve deeper into the philosophical ramifications of various bible passages.  All points of view are welcome.  We come from diverse backgrounds and have different levels of comfort with the bible.  This all adds to the richness of the discussion.  I usually think I have a good grasp of the topic, only to have my eyes open to a whole different level of understanding by someone else.  I encourage you all to think about starting or attending a bible study at your congregation.  I have been amazed where our discussion have led and the relevance they have on modern life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Church Community

In what is probably the saddest Fall I have experienced, I had one more memorial service to attend last night.  A young woman in our congregation lost her fight with cancer the day after Christmas.  It is heartbreaking on so many levels; a life cut far too short, a family left grieving, young friends learning the hard realities of death far too early.  The memorial service was lovely, lots of her favorite things with beautiful rememberances.  There was not a dry eye to be found.

It was heartening to see our little church community come and grieve together.  She was a part of us and we all felt the loss.  I was glad that her family could see that they are not alone in this horrible loss; that we are there for them.  Times like these reinforce why I am part of a community.  We need each other. Life is hard and no one should have to go it alone.