Thursday, December 20, 2012

Searching for the Light

Advent. My favorite season of the year.

A season of anticipation.

A season of preparation.

A season of Darkness.

And there is always so much darkness this time of year. This time of year we spend so much time, energy and money trying to convince ourselves that we should be happy. Somehow, we have allowed that idea to translate into buying things for ourselves and each other... because the more stuff we have, the happier we'll be, right?

Nothing puts that happiness to a hault faster than tragedy. And we've had plenty of that, haven't we? Personal or local tragedies aside, I can't even list all of them that have made it on national news and strongly impacted individuals throughout our country. Not the least of these, of course, involve shootings. Killing our innocent children. 28 lives lost in Newtown, CT. A 16 year old in Pierre, SD while his 16 year old friend sits in jail being tried as an adult...

Did you hear me say 28 lives in Newtown?

I wish that number didn't catch you off guard, but if you've watched the news at all, I bet it has. They keep talking about 26 lives. 20 children, 6 teachers/administrators... but let us not forget even for a moment and even in the face of tragedy that 28 lives were lost that day, including the life of the shooter, age 20, and his mother, the owner of the gun but as far as we know an innocent by-stander.

Any life lost is a tragedy. EVERY life lost is a loss. Life is Sacred, and we should mourn for ALL of these lives we have lost.

There are so many places this conversation can and even should go, and I will be among the voices calling (again and again) for more gun control.

But first: let us grieve together. Let us rest in the darkness if we need to. Let us grieve together and process these inconceivable circumstances: but let us not forget our call to care for all people.

In the midst of a call to pray for the victims' families (and trust me I have a great deal), I can't help but to keep coming back to how quickly we forget.

We forget that people suffer. We forget that much as those families are surely living in hell as they are without words or understanding... as surely as they are mourning the loss of their children, mothers and sisters... so too is a family grieving the mystery and confusion and pain of losing a mother and a brother and a nephew and a sister... and while they try to process that loss, they can't help but to feel guilty, pained and at a loss of words for their own flesh and blood that owned the weapons and pulled the trigger.

And while I won't defend actions, and I don't believe anyone should own such weapons of destruction, I can't help but to push back. To ask us to consider the hell that young man was surely living in long before December 14. A hell that he lived with every day that eventually led him to that tragic, heart-breaking day of events we will never forget. I can't help but wonder how many others out there are living in hell... and I wonder how many people in each of our lives we are failing to reach out to because we can't be bothered. Because we're tired. Because they're hard to deal with. Because we have more questions than answers. Because we don't understand.

...because we think dreadful results of unattended mental illness will "never happen to us."

Mental illness itself is not cause for such tragedies as these, but it cannot be ignored, and we cannot pretend like we are doing anything short of harm by ignoring it.

I have struggled with depression. I have struggled with anxiety. Mental illness, in all its forms, great and small, is a terrible form of darkness that can feel overwhelming and inescapable: but it's not. There is help out there if we are willing to reach out... if people are willing to reach out to those in need...

Advent is a season of Darkness, and this year in particular, there seems to be darkness all around. Depression is rampant during the holidays. Pain of loss and tragedy are all around us.

But let us not be consumed by it.

Let us never forget that even in darkness, the Light shines. With each passing day, it shines brighter still.

Soon, the Christ candle will be lit as the child of Light is fully revealed to us on Christmas.

And then? Then we shall not find happiness we so often associate with the season. Then we shall find JOY.

JOY of the Spirit that comes with the knowledge and understanding of what it really means that "God is with us."

This kind of JOY can be present even in the darkness. Even in our pain. Even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.

And yes: even in the midst of tragedy and unanswerable questions.

Because the light shines bright, and the darkness, no matter how hard it tries, cannot overcome it.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

After months a build-up and anticipation, the presidential election of the United States will have collected all ballots by this time tomorrow. I just hope there are no issues with those votes so that we can also have a declared president-elect shortly thereafter.

This election is so divisive, I imagine it will be met with mixed emotions either way: for celebrations or deep sadness, topped with the opposite as we (hopefully) remember those who are equally passionate and not celebrating. The 2008 election was perhaps equally memorable for me because of the intense high I felt watching our president give his acceptance speech, and then feeling the deep lows and incredible loss of the divisiveness and pain it caused to people I love. I pray love, grace and mercy will be upon all of us as we seek ways to move forward, no matter the outcome.

That said, I admit am anything but indifferent in these elections (the presidential election is far from the only one that matters!), but I have been doing my best to be bi-partisan. The most important thing, is that people are informed and VOTE. People fought for decades to make sure that we - women, people of color, people who have limited resources, etc - could vote. Let us not take that lightly. Let us vote as if our lives DEPEND on it. Because for many, it DOES.

For what it's worth, I also wish to say: I'm tired of hearing, "but my vote doesn't matter." In the words of Edward Everett Hale, "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I can not do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."

Do that thing you can do. VOTE.

My anxiety-ridden heart that prays our God will have mercy on us, a nation that is blessed but not for any of our own doing. A nation I love and am a proud citizen of, but not anywhere close to perfect or "the best place on earth" as we are broken and sinful and arrogant. More often than not, we prove to be a nation who doesn't care for its poor, who further marginalizes the oppressed, and who acts with entitlement rather than grace or love.

And so, before my list goes on, I am going to stop my election-related ramblings, closing instead with the messy words of my heart that I keep praying over and over. I invite you to pray them with me earnestly, believing that as we pray them, they can become truth in real time.

God of love help us to live into the grace you have first shown us. In the midst of our anxiety and war-torn, conflicting words, help us to find patience and peace. We need you, Oh God, as we seek grace and peace with the results and forthcoming changes, but especially grace, peace and patience with each other in the midst of our disagreements. Help us to remember that you alone are Holy and Good, but that you walk with all of us in our (long) journey toward perfection. Lord, in your mercy... hear our prayers...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Just another Sunday Morning

The sun casts its shadows and creats colors of clarity in the early morning.

Cool crisp air wraps around and fills my lungs, offering a welcome reminder of the sacredness of winter; offering reason for celebration of life itself.

Two morning worship services complete with children's choirs and a feast with breads from around the globe as we celebrate World Communion Sunday.

A peaceful afternoon preparing to celebrate the life of a loved member of our community.

An invitation by another family preparing to return from different corners of the world to to celebrate and honor the life of their beloved mother.

Cherished moments indeed.

If my cup was overflowing before, then we better get prepared for a flood...

Monday, October 1, 2012


I've had so many amazing conversations with incredible people from around the globe in the past couple of weeks that I can't even keep track of them all. I'm still processing much of what I heard, saw, experienced, learned. As I reflect on all of these things, my favorite hindsight discoveries are the ones about me and how I've changed.

Such as: Last week I ran into an old aquaintance I see now and then at different United Methodist gatherings. It didn't take long to recall that we originally met several years ago at a National Council of Churches General Assembly. I was only beginning to get involved in the Ecumenical movement then, but I loved it! Since then I have fallen out of connection and not been involved with any organized ecumenical work.

As our conversation continued, I was asked if I had considered/would consider applying for a scholarship to attend the World Council of Churches General Assembly in South Korea. It would be fantastic to get involved again! and better yet: I have never been to South Korea. What a great opportunity!

But then I heard words come out of my mouth that never would have a year (or even 6 months!?) ago. "I'd love to, but I just don't have time for another trip right now, and I certainly can't take up any more commitments."

Words that surprised me, but are every bit as true now as they were when they rolled off my tongue. And the best part? These words are not just true, but bring a great satisfaction to me. Right now, my life is overflowing not with commitments that are holding me back or requiring me to say, "no." Rather, my life is overflowing with so many great things that I can't imagine taking time away from them to do something else, even if the other things may also be things I would love.

I can't imagine saying yes right now because right now, my cup is full. More than that: my cup is overflowing.

Life is Good.

I am not the person I was a year ago. I am settled and content and happy to be spending time at home. I know I won't be getting on a plane for close to 6 months, and I couldn't be happier about it.

My, how times have changed! But God is good, and it is great to be in this place that I am called to. A place I am learning to call home.

Life is good.
     and my cup is overflowing.

Praise be to God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Season for Change

I've been scrolling through some old journal entries lately and reflecting in the parallels of seasons of change in my life. So far, I am really excited about this transition into my life in Clark, SD, and I have no reason to believe that will be changing any time soon. So while these are not words I have thought to say or write, I realize how very, very true they are for my life here and now.

And that is a beautiful thing. So I thought I would share them in their natural state of messiness.

"...and just like that... my life has changed. Again.

I'm thrown back into routines and expectations and that thing we call "life." I'm back. It's like I never left. So many things haven't changed. Yet they have in a way that is distancing and confusing and welcoming and exciting all at once.

The train [my car in SD] becomes a refuge. A big part of my life, to be sure. For better or worse.

So here we are: community new and old, all now a part of one another's lives. I am now acquainted with people who will play huge roles in my story of life.

I anticipate with countless layers of emotions the way those stories will play out."

For all of these things and more, I am Thankful.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Prayerful Politics

The time has come: I'm finally going to name that which I have actively been avoiding: It's election season.

I'm so tired of the back-and-forth, the anger, the accusations, the lies... the politics, I suppose.

Which is why I have actively avoided as much to do with the upcoming elections as I can. The irony of that is I am finding it was much, much easier when I lived in Washington, DC than now that I live in South Dakota. Who knew!?
    (Disclaimer: I say that, but I do my reading, I research what the candidates have to say about issues I care most about, I still watch the news, etc: and I have certainly made my informed decision on who I'll vote for.)

Who I choose to vote for aside, I did tune into the opening night of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. Not to watch the politics, oddly enough, but because my friend Jena Nardella was invited to give the benediction/closing prayer. I tuned in to watch her and to listen to her words.

And what I found and heard was a non-partisan prayer we all need. If you didn't hear it and you haven't read it, please do so: you'll be glad you did. She posted the full transcript on her blog.

Thanks for your words, Jena. I have returned to them many times this week already, and surely will as we go forward. May this prayer be prayed again and again until it finds its way from our lips into our reality.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Partners in Ministry

Today I'm working from and beginning to settle into my new office at Clark United Methodist Church: where I will work as the pastor of both Clark United Methodist Church and Garden City United Methodist Church. Rather than fill the office with things I will surely find useful in time to come, I am first working on clearing the desk of piles of old mail and paperwork that have been left for me.

But first things first: I did bring one item with me to sit on my desk. As promised, this very first and ever-so-important item is none other than (bobble head) John Wesley. I am sure he will be present to inspire my work and many great conversations in the days to come.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life Happens in the Transitions

I haven't quite figured out how to put into words the countless things I've been processing lately. There seem to just be too many things from too many places happening at once.

Enough that I just spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to write or explain them, concluding only that I can't. So I guess that says something in itself.

It turns out when you're the
photographer, you aren't in many
photos: this is the best I have from GC!
The thing is: they all intersect. Every piece of my life is in flux right now, and yet they are all fluidly and undeniably interconnected. My work life is chaotic as I move from General Conference into Annual Conference season... but processing these things personally have been more difficult than the countless hours at work I have spent on them.

Oh, and Annual Conferences? Lets not forget that in the middle of the ones I'm traveling to for work, is the Dakotas Annual Conference: where I will be commissioned as a provisional elder! That's right folks, I'm finally doing it: I have an appointment in the Dakotas Conference this fall!

So there's that. Not just the appointment part, but the whole "OH MY GOSH: I'M ACTUALLY FINALLY TAKING AN APPOINTMENT!!!" part. I mean this both with great excitement, and with great intimidation, and mostly with great anticipation that holds both in what I think is a well-balanced tension.

Of course, with that also comes other changes. Some are obvious: I need to buy a car. I will miss the easy access to buses and trains but will be grateful to be able to drive my groceries home instead having to walk with them! That trades off too, though: I'll no longer have access to a Whole Foods or Trader Joes. Then there's that other big thing that sticks out: right now, I practically live on the road and out of a suitcase since I travel so much for work. But as a pastor, I'll stay put. A lot. I'm REALLY looking forward to settling in one place - in my own HOME! - but also a bit intimidated by what it may feel like to no longer have a need to monitor those plane ticket prices...

But before I can get that far, I have to wrap up my other pieces of life. I'm going to miss DC, the friends I've made, and cycling!! Oh, the cycling! I have not only a great training/riding partner who lives right above me, but we have access to some of the best trail systems in the country - and weather that lets us ride for extra long seasons!!

Not that I see them much these days, since I've been (and will be) traveling for General and Annual Conferences. Which will conclude for me by a week of debriefing in NYC as my Mission Intern position with GBGM draws near its end. Which, takes me full circle and...

and I find myself thinking and feeling and confused in these circles a lot these days.

Which is why I'm grateful my neighbor and cycling partner recently asked me to go to Yoga with her.

Yep: Yoga.

Never in my life have I been interested in yoga, but something about it just felt right this week. So I went. and on Monday night, we had a theme that has stuck with me all week:
Life happens in the transitions.

If that's not my life right now, I don't know what is.

I am transitioning in every aspect of my life. With my friends, my job, my vocation, my lifestyle. All of it. Every last piece of it is changing drastically. Not just my life, but I am "transitioning."

This week, I appreciate the reminder to stop thinking about all the transitions I'm experiencing and expecting, always anticipating the next one. Instead, I'm moving forward one day at a time, not just existing in the midst of these transitions, but truly living into them.

Because when we think about it, my yoga instructor is right: life is always transitioning. and Life happens in the transitions.


Monday, April 9, 2012

No Place Like Home

As if it wasn't before, the pressure is on. Time is getting short, to-do lists seem to be getting longer, and months of anticipation are turning into reality.
The 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church begins in only two weeks. Since I work MFSA, a caucusing organization within the church, it seems that 100% of my life right now revolves around this huge event that happens every 4 years. In fact, it is such a big deal for our organization that our entire staff have already taken one trip down together to visit the area and conference center, and are going to be on the ground and organizing a FULL WEEK before the conference even starts. Which means my D-Day for departure for this year's location (it rotates) in Tampa, Florida is only 8 days. AHH!

Realizing today that this is my last full week in the office, I was ancy, stressed, and as a result quite snarky all day with my fellow staff. Fortunately, so were they and we are all close so all was well and we laughed about it together. But all in all, though nothing specifically went wrong today, this tension and growing pressure really just made today "one of those days."

Which brings me to now. Here. As I sit writing this in the comfort of my home, snuggled up under a blanket sitting on my bed with my computer on my lap.

Something about the growing pressure of this work significantly diminishes as I sit in my safe space to do it.

No, I cannot get everything I need done on this computer. No, I do not have my colleagues next to me to bounce ideas off of before I hit "send" on emails. There are lots of things that make working at work a whole lot better and easier. But tonight, I'm grateful to get lots done, and grateful not to be there.

Because, in the words of Dorothy, there really is "no place like home."

It is good to realize this as I prepare to leave next week for a month-long journey in Florida (I will be there for 18 days for work then take a week of leave with friends in Orlando). It is good to spend time at home, safe and comfortable and in the quiet in my "safe space." It is good to make time for reflection and prayer in the midst of the craziness around me.

And it is good to have this reminder as I prepare for all that is to come. I am excited about it and would have it no other way than for me to be there for the duration, but I have no illusions about it being less than strenuous, difficult, and trying physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So today, I celebrate this opportunity to take in solitude and click my heels. I may even work from home for a day this week. Because really, truly: there is no place like home.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


The best thing about family is that it doesn't matter how often you see each other, it can be comfortable and feel like you were never apart. That was certainly how this weekend was as I spent the past 2 days with Jess and Greg and Greg's family.
They leave to head back to South Africa in the morning, so I've left them to their packing. After a short visit with my sister (family of origin who lives in NYC), I am now on the bus back to DC, where I will spend Easter with my 'home' church tomorrow.

Our weekend was full of great tourist activities like standing in line for hours to go to the Cake Boss's bakery (pictured above) and strolling through Times Square at night just to see it. Activities I hadn't done before but had a great time doing if not purely for the company I kept.
Jess, Greg and I in Central Park
So today I celebrate that we live in a small world in which some of my South African family can visit my country (and look forward to the visits of others, queue Grassows and Kleins). I am tired from a couple of busy days, but more so renewed and refreshed by the life, love and energy that comes with spending quality time with family - no matter how long or short it is.

For that I am grateful.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thoughts for Maundy Thursday

"Around the table of death and life, bread and wine, where we can still meet each other, there are sounds to hear if we listen carefully. There is the sound of going down into the abyss and being lifted up, heart and body, not to heaven but to the good earth. There are sounds of the lively ghosts of God, laughing still with love. There are the sounds of men and women, stirring, standing. There is the sound of the season's changing. And wine. There is the sound of day breaking. And bread."
--James Carroll

Monday, April 2, 2012

Plumblines for Justice

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking back to my office after meeting with friends for lunch when we saw an innocent construction worker standing on the corner. I have no doubt our simultaneous reaction to him caught him off guard as we exclaimed, "Plumbline!" and immediately asked to take our picture with him.
With my co-worker Chett and our local
plumbline-holding construction worker.
Photo Courtesy of Amy Stapleton
You see: for me, a plumbline has become much, much more than a construction tool. It is now a reminder of our theme verse for the organization I work for, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA). At MFSA, we often quote Amos 7:8, "I am setting a plumbline in the midst of my people, I will never again pass them by." Plumblines help us to stay level, to keep on track, and at MFSA, to stay in line with the justice to which we are called to bring to God's creation.

Fast forward a week and I cross that same street as we arrive in front of the US Supreme Court Building to take part in the Affordable Health Care Witness. This time, I am walking on the exact same corner talking to folks and listening for good quotes I can tweet as I carry a sign (pictured below) that reads, "People of Faith for Heath Care!"

The photos we took throughout during the witness have become some of the most commented-on posts on MFSA's Facebook page. It has led me to reflect on why and how, which has become a great inner-dialogue about more than social media strategies. It has also been an invitation to consider what we do that matters, that affects lives, that allows people we are working so hard for to truly know that we care. How does our work impact individual lives?

Most of the time, it doesn't. It feels like red tape or too much paperwork. But the reality is, it does. It trickles down. It leads to small moments like a staff outing to the Supreme Court (less than 1 block from our office) so we can stand together, firm like plumblines of justice who are called to step in on behalf of those whose voices are not being heard. Our national platform allows our voices to be heard as those of faith leaders who care about all people and take seriously Jesus' call to care for the sick.

We are just a collective group of imperfect people trying to (and often falling short of) living our lives in accordance with the call Jesus has placed on us. Imperfect or not, moments like these are the ones that make me grateful for the opportunity to do this work to which I am called, with nothing less than the best team I have ever had the privilege of working with.
MFSA staff in front of the Methodist Building following
the Affordable Health Care Witness on March 26

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Completely unexpectedly, an old colleague called a few days ago. But wasn't just any call. Though it had been years since we talked, this call was different. You see: our relationship had undergone a few bumpy roads we had not fully recovered from, and my old friend phoned to recall one such particular day that stood out in both of our memories. It was a terrible, heart-wrenching, trust-shattering, confidence-breaking day for me. Yet as events of this day were recalled, I told him, "it is a day I recall clearly, but have not clung to." I'm not sure how true that is, but I've done my best to live into it.

But he didn't stop with that explanation, because the call was surely not to relive it. Rather, he called to offer a deep, heart-felt, God-sent, life-giving, burden-lifting apology.

Sometimes, the things we do, the actions we take, the words we speak: they seep deep inside us. We allow things so unlike ourselves to come out from us, overtaking us, changing us and our relationships, even defining us. Often, when we recall these moments, days, and memories over and over again in our minds, perhaps with regret, we do nothing about it.

Two days after this phone call took place, I received an email from someone in our MFSA network on the same topic of forgiveness. After sharing it with her church, she felt compelled to share her amazing story of forgiveness with others, and invited me to share it widely within our network and beyond.

On a week like this one with two compelling stories that touched me deeply, its hard not to take time for deep reflection on what forgiveness and grace really mean in our lives. In my life. I haven't been able to stop thinking about what that kind of forgiveness means in my life, and how I will carry with me the phone call I received a couple of days ago.

On the phone call, my friend decided to do something about this moment that has weighed so heavily on him over the past few years. This was a moment, after all, that significantly changed our relationship.

So my friend picked up the phone, dialed my number, shared this story, and offered the most genuine apology I could ever have asked for. It was so sincere that I couldn't stop smiling, even amidst the surprise or the recalling of a difficult time. My hand was literally drawn to my mouth in surprise, then over my heart as if in an effort to keep in the many emotions it brought up. But no matter the emotions, I couldn't stop smiling. I could hardly even wait for the gracious words on the other end of the line to conclude before I offered the most heartfelt forgiveness I have ever been blessed to offer.

I could not stop smiling at the peace I suddenly felt about the situation, about the heartache it had caused me.

I couldn't stop smiling because I knew a friendship had been healed and transformed over 4 seemingly simple words:"I am so sorry."

Most importantly: I couldn't stop smiling because I knew how much healing this short conversation offered.

I know how healing it was for me: the years of painful memories that honestly seem to have washed away with healing through forgiveness and gratitude of sincerity. Even as I write this, I am amazed to discover for myself that this kind of apology, paired well with acknowledgement of pain and undue suffering, can bring such wholeness and restoration.

Yet my biggest smile of all was for none of these reasons. It was for my friend on the other end of the line. I can only hope this forgiveness I have experienced and granted today was felt on the other end of that line. I smile wide for my friend, sharing in joy, hoping that they too can have a burden lifted and replaced with God's everlasting and abundant grace.

Thank you, friend, for making that difficult call after all of these years. Thank you, Bunnie, for sharing your story in your gracious email. To both of you: You may never know what it has meant to me or taught me to be a part of your stories in this way: I can only hope and pray it has had the same effect on you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mozying around

Waiting for the train from a cool shaded spot. It's good to be back in Cape Town! I've missed its lovely people, sunshine, and beautiful bright blue skies! It doesn't hurt that I'm on a properly lazy holiday, either ;)

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Packet to Celebrate

THIS is a photo to celebrate, if ever I saw one!

Today, I mailed these items in that large envelope to the Dakotas Conference Office of Leadership Development, where it will be passed on to my Board of Ordained Ministry. I have prayed, written, preached, prayed, lost sleep, smiled for pictures, and prayed some more over this packet and all it means to and for my life. Mailing this packet means I have indeed taken the next step on my journey: provided my interview goes well next month and my Bishop and her cabinet find an appointment for me, I will begin my service as an elder in The United Methodist Church this coming fall.

As intimidating as that sounds, I also can't help but to feel one thing: excitement! Excitement that assures me that this is indeed the right next step for me. God has called, and so I do my best to answer.

Here I am, Lord: Send me!

Going Home

I travel a lot for work, and the next 6 months will be no exception. I do not anticipate being home for more than 2 consecutive weeks (even 2 weeks is unusual!) at any given time between now and when I pack up to move back to the Dakotas in August. This is a blessing and a curse: I get to meet a lot of people and see a lot of friends along the road: and I love flying, traveling, and visiting new places.

As much as I love seeing new places, though, there's nothing like visiting an old place I know and love

While in Tampa for a conference two weeks ago, I overheard the conversation of a couple other staff members. I didn't hear much, but the one word that stuck out to me was an important one: Harare. I immediately chimed in to a conversation that was not my own, "I want to go to Harare!" I was kidding, of course, and they smiled at me and carried on their conversation as I carried on with whatever else I was doing.

2 minutes later my boss comes over and says to me, "so: do you really want to go to Harare?"

Long story short: it has been decided that my own travel and life experiences would be a great asset to the trip being planned to Harare. Fortunately, our Board of Directors also agreed, and so in 2 days, I leave for Harare, Zimbabwe.

After a few more days in Mutare, Zimbabwe and a visit I've always wanted to make to Africa University, we will board our flights home. Only: our flights back to the US stop over in Johannesburg, and I can't say no to that kind of temptation. As excited as I am for the opportunity to go to Zimbabwe, I am even more excited about my upcoming vacation in South Africa!!

I'll be spending only one night in Johannesburg and 9 days in Cape Town. Which means it will feel like a very quick trip, but I'll take an unexpected quick trip any day compared to the alternative of no trip at all!!

A photo of Table Mountain I took
on a camping trip in January 2010
This unexpected adventure has brought a boost to my spirit I did not otherwise realize I needed. I could not be happier than to be not just going on vacation, but returning "home."I hope to do a whole lot of nothing: to cook and laugh and watch movies with my family. To meet the new additions to family (wink, nudge Lisa!). To have tea at Kirstenbosch Gardens or go camping. To stroll on the beach and eat the best fish in the world at Kalky's. Proably have a braai, too, since a South African summer isn't complete without it. These are very important tasks...

I hope to update here a time or two while I'm on my journey... but don't get hopes up too much: visits home tend to be very busy with all the socializing and such... so I'm just not sure I'll be able to manage it all. Oh, the conundrum... :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dear 16-year-old me

I came across a video on Facebook tonight that made me stop and reflect on life a bit.

To be honest, its something I don't think about often. I don't even think of myself as a cancer survivor. Yet in 2010, the month of December felt like it could have been 3 years long.

That was the month I went in to have a mole that was bothering me checked out. The time the doctor told me it was fine and nothing to worry about. The time I knew my body well enough to say that's fine, but can you remove it anyway: at least then I'll stop fretting over it. That was the time the doctor called me back and asked to see me right away; it was the time I saw the doctor in an hour though last time I had to wait over a week to see him. This is what led to the time I had surgery to have the rest of the malignant melanoma removed from my face.

December 2010 was other things too: the time I realized how lucky I was to have great family to support me while I lived in another country and went through one of the scariest and most unexpected things of my life. The time I laid awake, alone and claustrophobic for two hours during a surgical procedure because I did not have the money for the procedure that should have been done in a proper OR under general anesthesia.

December 2010 ended with the time the lab results came back and lifted a burden that took a while to set in:
This was the time I was fortunate enough to catch it early so that once my surgery was done, I did not have to go back for chemo or radiation. The time I knew I was going to be okay, and I got to walk away once my wounds healed.

I don't think about this often, but this is who I am. I would not be where I am today, who I am today, or alive as I am today if my doctor had not been able to say to me, "we caught it early."

Watch this video. Check your skin. and for heaven's sake: use sunscreen.
Dear 16-year-old me: you'll be 26...


9 months ago, I was asked to take part in a vision-casting “Design Team” put together per request of the Leadership Table. I spent my first full day living in DC at this gathering of strangers with no idea what to expect. It wasn't long before these strangers became friends, though, and our energy was contagious as we shared visions and dreams of what a new, exciting, and innovative opportunity for young adults might look like.

Lots of long, difficult days and a couple of meetings later, we had an outline of something new. A few months later and it was suddenly 2012 as I found myself flying into Nashville to meet with the team that will carry forward this project. I am really excited about how this project has taken shape. Somehow, this end project simultaneously looks nothing like what we expected, and yet it is full of everything we hoped for. This end project is what is now being called “Spark 12.”

I couldn’t be more excited about Spark12. It feels like the church could finally be doing something right here! How so? For starters: it is young adult led. Not just led, but it is actually being implemented by young adults on staff at multiple general boards and agencies. Who knew: Methodists can play nice AND trust young people to carry it through! (jokes, jokes)

So what exactly is Spark 12? In short, it is being described as a social justice “incubator.” It is a short (12-week) opportunity for young adults to take their own innovative ideas and receive funding to run with them. These ideas are lived out and given a running start with the support of community and the feedback of mentors and experts in a related field. My favorite part of all of it? That we are finally building something new that is, by design, intended to not be US-centric. We are a global church, and its time we start acting like it. That was one of the many clear, non-negotiable themes we had throughout all of our discussions. I for one can’t wait to see what that looks like when the applications start rolling in and the current Design team gets to help the fellows implement it. Watch out, world: Spark12 is about to catch onfire. (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

One last thing: it is never too early to start thinking about being a part of something new. Applications open up on April 1, so I invite you to spend time thinking about how your idea could be launched with Spark 12!

For more information on Spark12, be sure to check out their website, follow them on Twitter, and “like” their Facebook page. You can also check out other articles such as this one by UMNS.

I have cross-posted this blog with the UMOnFire site. I invite you to check out all the great work and excellent blogging going on there! (plus: they're better at updating than I am. Let's be honest: this update comes courtesy of their request for this blog for that site.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good to be back

Merry Christmas.
Happy New Year.
Blessed Epiphany.

I think that's about everything since I've been away, yes?

I could write an obligatory post about how I've been away a long time and I will soon update you, but the truth is: life is good and blogging has not been a priority. I suppose I could say I've just not been in the space for it as of late. A large part of that is that I run social media for work, so the last thing I want to do when I come home is more social media.

So what I will offer you, my faithful but few followers, is this:

It is good to have peace. Life is good. I am grateful to be in a good space, to be enjoying my work - no, more than that: to be proud of my work. The Methodist Federation for Social Action has a lot of momentum right now and is living into that last part: Social Action. It is a good time to be in the movement.

Perhaps more exciting is that when I finish my placement with MFSA in 6 months, I will hopefully have a job. Not just a job: a vocation. I have taken the necessary steps (and my paperwork will be turned in on Monday!) to be commissioned as an elder in the Dakotas Conference. The time has come to take my first appointment in a church full time, and I couldn't be more excited about it!

I'm tired tonight so you may not hear it in my words, be encouraged: my silence is from a place of great peace, contentment, and joy in my work. and because I am often on the road for that work and it is difficult to keep up with things like blogs from the road. Alas, thank you for being on this journey with me: it is far from over, and I can't wait to see what is yet to come.


(...I just found this in my drafts folder, dated  12/12/11 and thought I may as well post it, whether I intended to at the time or not. So old or not: enjoy!)

I have a friend who keeps posting one-word status updates and it reminds me of a colleague I had in South Africa who went through a similar phase.

I can't believe Christmas is nearly here, and in just over a week I'll be in South Dakota to celebrate with my biological family. This makes it difficult for me as I also spend a great deal of time thinking about my family in South Africa, missing them dearly, and wishing I could also be with them.

The weather is getting colder and soon the snow will be flying, and its strange to realize it would feel just as normal to be preparing for a braai or finding ways to avoid the tourists as they flock to the beach in the midst of hot, sun-filled days in the Cape.

I feel out of touch with Advent because I don't have people to light my Advent wreath with at home (Hannah and Rachel).

Last year at Christmas I was preparing for a marathon of worship services I would be leading - and my heart longs to be back in that role.

In 3 days - on December 15 - I will meet the one-year anniversary of the big operation I had last year to have melanoma removed from my right temple.

Oh, how things have changed in that year.

Over the past 2 weeks I have had opportunities to spend time with friends who know me well and with whom I have no need for "walls" or "filters" - and it has been good. And it has invited me to reflect on the many incredible people I have in my life, near and far.

and it has made me think: it has been a long, long time since I felt genuinely "homesick" for a people or place I call my own, and yet that is where I find myself. Oh, how this holiday season makes me long for the people, the places, and the family that are so far away. Perhaps moreso because it is such a season of change, and I wish I could be there helping out...

and as so much is changing, I find myself wishing more than ever I could be with my family on another continent.

Here's to Advent as a season of change and a season of anticipation. As I continue to process the many changes within myself over the past couple of years, I am also excitedly and impatiently awaiting the experience of what this next season shall bring for me.

My prayer for the next couple of weeks is that I not get too far ahead of myself in anticipation but that instead, I find moments to rest into all that is offered to me in the present.