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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

One of the great honors of serving a congregation is being there with a family as they mark the death of a loved one.  While we often become distracted in our day to day lives, funerals are a time where we give our full attention to  our life in God.  We are either comforted by the assurance of God’s love or we question why God works in a certain way in the world. Either way, our thoughts about our present lives and our eternal future grow deeper than the trivia that normally occupies our days.

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I love it when people show up for each other.

 

So, on my birthday this year, I officiated at two funerals, both with beautiful reflections from others who spoke about the lives that we honored. The words from Scripture told a story about a God who loves us and is there for us as a source of strength, power, refreshment, love, and peace, now and forever. We have a place in this world and in the world to come. There is comfort in that for the living as they mourn the loss of one who has passed into the next world.

After experiencing this holy time with two families from my churches, people that I have grown to treasure, I went to spend time with my own family.

My daughters are absolutely the best people in the world. It was a blessing to celebrate with a shared meal, beautiful gifts, and a delicious vegan birthday cake. I am so grateful for our lives together.  My daughters reflect the amazing workmanship of God’s love in each of them. This birthday weekend, I prayed to change my habit of dwelling on the bad things, and instead to focus on the abundance of things that are good and right and beautiful.

My fav - yellow cake with chocolate frosting with the same kind of letters I used to put on the girls' birthday cakes when they were little.

My fav – yellow cake with chocolate frosting with the same kind of letters I used to put on the girls’ birthday cakes when they were little.

 

Before I went to bed, I responded to the birthday greetings I received on Facebook, email, and texts. These messages were sort of a life review, with greetings from elementary and high school friends, people I played in a band with in the 80’s, former students and their parents, past and present colleagues and friends, grad school friends, family from near and far, church families, and the people who are new to my life as partners in ministry. This show of love is a pretty cool feature of Facebook and a blessing from all who took a moment to express some good wishes.

The big event of the weekend was the sacrament of Holy Baptism for Eloise. Her baptism was perfect.  Not in they way that we had great pictures and an awesome video, but perfect as a representation of how God’s grace is showered on us.

We tried to keep her in her Sunday morning routine the same, so that she would be in good spirits for this, but she screamed through the prayer right before her baptism and then clung to her mom like velcro during the whole thing.  She buried her head in her mom’s shoulder and did not want to have any part of whatever this was going on…

An outward and visible sign of an inward grace.

An outward and visible sign of an inward grace.

Until the end and everyone clapped.

What, clapping for me? Okay, I might like this.

What, clapping for me? Okay, I might like this.

This was a perfect example of the concept of prevenient grace.  In the United Methodist Church we baptize people of any age, not just the ones who can make a profession of faith for themselves.  The reason for that is because we believe that God’s grace is with each person before they are even aware of it.  Before a person accepts this grace, they may be clinging to something else, completely unaware of the amazing gift of strength, power, peace, and love that is being offered to them. Just like Eloise clung to her mom, we all cling to something. But even though Eloise literally turned her back on this, God’s grace comes to her anyway.  Eloise’s pastor, Josh modeled the gentleness of Jesus that comes to each of us on our own terms, wherever we are, bathing us in wave after wave of transforming grace. He didn’t force her to leave what she was clinging to, but instead came to her, right where she was.  She will have all the time she needs to respond.

While Eloise’s fear (and the lack of a morning nap) kept her from being a willing participant, all of us: her parents, her family, and her church family took vows to be part of her community of faith, which will help her to grow and to accept this gift of grace that God has given to her and to each of us. She wasn’t aware of any of this.  But at the end of the baptism, when everyone clapped, she unburied her head and looked around. This is what happens to many of us when we think we are clinging to the right thing, but then something gets our attention and we realize that there might be more to this than we thought.

When she is ready for it, Eloise will have a chance to confirm this decision to accept God’s grace, through Jesus Christ, a decision that was made on her behalf by her parents.  When that happens, she will know what it means to live a life that is intentionally tuned towards God as she grows in that grace. Meanwhile, she is part of a church family that will love her, teach her, support her, and show up for her.

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We all need this kind of community: an extended family that serves as a representation of God’s love showing up for us, through it all, from cradle to grave.

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Eloise is One!

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When I was a kid I had a really nice grandma and one who was kind of mean sometimes.  The nice grandma loved children and seemed to thrive when the house was full of family.  She got joy from cooking for the family and playing cards together.  Whenever I spent the night and she asked me what I wanted for breakfast, I would always say, “Gravy and biscuit,” little southern child that I was. I should note that even then, I didn’t want any chunks of sausage in my gravy.   I wanted smooth gravy, not any of those nasty sausage bits messing up the meal.

The other grandma was more of a “children should be seen and not heard” kind of grandma.  There were some toys in another room and we were expected to play quietly with those toys while the grown-ups talked. The food I remember from her was hot cocoa and pasty (a kind of meat pie popular where she grew up in Cornwall, England).

I wondered what kind of grandma I would be.

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So, a year ago I got the chance to find out what this grandma thing was all about. I fell in love with this baby before she was even born, when I heard her heartbeat for the first time.

A few months later my daughter went in to labor early on a Sunday morning.  She had texted me the night before asking if I ever had really bad backaches when I was pregnant.  I responded by saying, “I’m sure you have Googled back labor?” Sure enough, the next morning, she determined that, yes, she was in labor. Awful, painful back labor.

I had a baptism that morning, 6 new members to receive and a sermon to preach at 2 services. When I called someone to do the second service, he also offered to do the first one.  I moved the baptism and the new members to the beginning of the service, so I could do them first, then took off immediately.  I knew that my head would not be in the game to lead worship that morning.

After a lot of waiting, Eloise was finally born in the wee hours the next morning. She was so tiny.  Just 5 pounds and 3 ounces. They named her Eloise Catherine and she was perfect. My daughter was radiant and my son in law became a hero in my eyes.

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It has been a true joy to get to know this little baby over the past year. In the beginning it was by holding her and rocking her while she slept.  I think the child was 3 or 4 months old before she ever slept in a crib, without being enveloped in someone’s arms. There are lots of loving arms in this family.IMG_4486

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Hugs from Tia.

 

Fun Halloween Family: Vincent Price, Wonder Woman, and Mombie.

Fun Halloween Family: Vincent Price, Wonder Woman, and Mombie.

Now that she is walking, she loves to be chased and loves to read books together.  Our guilty pleasure is a Youtube video called Elmo’s Got the Moves. (Shh don’t tell her parents that she’s watching videos.) Whatever stress I have in my life just melts away when I am with her. As far as the meals Eloise will have with this Grandma?  She has already tried and enjoyed some vegan delights such as lentil loaf and coconut almond crusted tofu.

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Being an animal lover is kind of a big deal.

Also her first birthday cake was vegan (her mom is a ridiculously good cook), so we’re off to a good start.  I’m posting this a couple of weeks late, but Happy Birthday little angel.XJJJlf6KyrbPYijlvj0rfAV_YJxt43Px6z3H2IuOxFY

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Christmastide

IMG_4335The day after Christmas might just be my favorite day.  For some people, it’s back to business as usual once the excitement of Christmas day has passed.  One year, my aunt’s neighbor hauled her Christmas tree out to the curb on Christmas morning.  For some, once the opening of gifts is done, Christmas is over.  But for me, this is the really great part.

I realized this year how much of a shift we go through in wanting our Christmas traditions to honor the past, but then wanting to create a whole new self in the new year.  We vow to be fitter, more disciplined, and more frugal. But this time in between is the sweet spot.  With a belly still full from weeks of overindulgence in holiday food and cookies, I am not quite ready to go into that transformation mode just yet.

Instead, I am taking a few days to simply bask in the joy of my life, not how I want it to be in a perfect world, but how it actually is. In this moment I feel surrounded by God’s peace.

I have landed in this wonderful little community, a world away from traffic and noise, in a place with hard working people who value family and know how to love each other. It’s a small enough town to have some lovely traditions like the Christmas Stroll, where the churches on Main Avenue are decorated with lights and billboard sized Christmas cards and the churches open up their sanctuaries with performances of Christmas music and their fellowship halls with hot chocolate and cookies. It’s a town small enough that people who I have never met tell me that they have heard good things about me. But it is large enough to have some wonderful music programs in the schools and in the community and a local supermarket that carries a huge variety of vegan foods. In this agricultural community, a local farm drops off produce at my door.

One of the best things is that my family is less than an hour away and I get to be part of their lives. As I hear people telling my daughter to enjoy the baby while she is little, I want to whisper into her other ear, “Yes, enjoy these times, but it gets even better.” It gets better when you are able to see that little baby girl become a mother and love and nurture her own baby and to see her build a family with a man who adores them both. It gets better when you have another baby, who turns out to have a completely different personality and to watch her go from being the little sister to an amazing young woman who takes the world by storm. It’s wonderful to see them both value their imperfect, sometimes dysfunctional, but always loving family and make it a priority to spend time with them all at Christmas.

As I look at the Facebook posts of my family and friends, I feel blessed by the multitude of people who have shaped my journey and I give thanks for every single one.

Merry Christmas and may God’s peace be with you.

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Two years ago, I wrote a blog on my eldest daughter’s 25 birthday.  I can’t believe how fast time is flying. Today my youngest baby, Danielle turns 25.

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Baby Danielle gets a big hug from Aunt Cha.

One of the amazing things about having children is seeing how they are like you in some ways, but then seeing how their personalities unfold into their own unique selves.  We are close on the Myers-Briggs – she is a INTJ and I am an INFJ.  We both need our alone time, are both intuitive, both love to have a plan.  But, she is Thinking and I am Feeling. While I have suffered through some bad decisions made by leading with my heart, she is more practical and has always had an amazing amount of common sense.

Maybe it goes along with this part of her personality, but while she is a great listener and a really good friend (even to her mama), she has the ability to mock like no one else.  She doesn’t even need words.  I remember getting ready to leave the house one day wearing a skirt with tennis shoes and socks.  The mock only consisted of a look, but it was sufficient to make me rethink my wardrobe choice that day.  As I have aged, she has helped keep me from getting completely out of touch. Her career is in marketing and every time I visit her, I come home thinking that there is another product that I feel that I can’t live without.  As a result I now have a Clarisonic face brush, a fabric steamer, and after this last trip feel like I now need a cast iron skillet and an immersion blender.

Bonding with Cholo and Annesley

Bonding with Cholo and Annesley

She has always loved cute, little things, like Beanie Babies and little stuffed lambs. But the cutest little thing in her life for the past 5 years or so has been her chihuahua named Cholo.  They met when she was working at a pet store and he contracted every puppy disease possible, extending the amount of time that he was unavailable for sale.  During this time, he bonded only with her and she finally was able to bring him home and give him a wonderful home.  He loves to cuddle  and has his every move narrated by Danielle and her boyfriend, in what would certainly be his human voice, complete with the accent.

Danielle is a great traveling companion and we have had some great adventures together.  The summer of 2010, we spent a few days in Las Vegas and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  The summer of 2012, we walked the last 100 kilometers (about 70 miles) of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  Last spring, we went to El Salvador on a mission trip with Brittany and our friend Jennifer.

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Playing with the children in El Salvador

Playing with the children in El Salvador

I’m celebrating her on her birthday today and look forward to many more adventures! Happy Birthday Liebchin!

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Today is the first day of Advent, which starts the Christian Year.  Instead of waiting until January 1st to turn over a new leaf, we can refocus on tending to our spiritual lives today.  While popular culture has already urged us to start celebrating this blowout of shopping, food, and celebration,  telling us what all we have to buy and do so that we can have the perfect Christmas, the Advent season is a more quiet, soul searching time of waiting that reminds us that God meets us where we are, no matter how messy our lives are.  God brought light and love into a broken world and called us to reorient each of our lives toward that love.  I feel like every year I uncover more broken pieces in myself and want to more fully bring them to the surface so that they can be healed.

In January, we usually have New Year’s resolutions that are based on our will and determination.  But submitting to God’s power in our lives during this season of Advent is less about what we can achieve on our own and more about what God can do in each of us.

It’s easy to get carried along with the current of Christmas that all of the media, advertising, and marketing are trying to sell us.  I found this website from the Center for a New American Dream, for some ideas about simplifying the holidays and making this a more genuine and meaningful time.  This is also a really wonderful time to connect to a meaningful community of faith.

http://www.newdream.org/programs/beyond-consumerism/simplify-holidays/

I wish everyone a season that is filled with love and peace.

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Thank you God for all of the blessing and gifts that you have given me and for all of the beautiful people who have been a part of my spiritual journey.

Thank you for my spiritual mentors, John Powers, Carolyn Sargent, Joanna Walsh, Sam Wells, Steve and Jeannie Harper, Billy Ray Jennings, Wally Cook, Jim Lake, Brinda LeBleu, Linda Tice, Isaac Hunter, Don DeBevoise, Jeff Linman, David Baxter, Rod Pinder, Mark Bates, Paul Chilcote, Sally Bates, David Harris, and Jim Mitchell who continue to shine light on my spiritual journey and guide me closer to God.

Thank you for all of my music colleagues and mentors who have helped me grow in my love of music to where I have finally found my place as a musician – in the audience!  I am especially grateful to Laszlo Marosi and Alex Jimenez for introducing me to the most beautiful orchestral music that I have ever experienced and instilled a lifelong love of it in my heart.  Thank you for my former colleagues who provide this for their students, and enrich our society by enriching their musical souls. Thank you for the organists Kraig Lenius and David Arcus who have reached a place of my soul with their music that is too beautiful to describe in words.

I am grateful to my former students, who taught me how to be a student and served as great examples of high achievement. They all live in my heart.

Thank you for all of the people who made it possible for me to study and worship and Duke Divinity School – the people who wrote recommendations, the people who gave generously in the form of gifts and  scholarships, and the professors, preceptors, administration, and staff who make it such a beautiful place to be.

I am grateful to my friends in the churches that I have belonged to and who are in school with me now.  I give thanks for their love, acceptance, friendship, and their presence in my daily life that gives me strength each day.  I am especially grateful for the FUMCO choir members, Starbucks Sisters, Señora DeLima, the Emerald Pond Bible study group, and Bridddge 2011 participants

Thank you for my ex-husband David – who called me on my religious hypocrisy and broke my heart open so that the light of God could enter it and work the miraculous healing power that has shown me the way to become a true disciple of Jesus.

Thank you for my family:  My beautiful daughters who are a delight in my life, my sister who has been with me through it all, Aunt Charlotte who taught me about love and comfort, and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who live such honest and authentic lives.

Thank you for the time with my parents and for the honor of being with them at the end of their lives and for the legacy of wholeness that they leave to me.  This Christmas, I have everything I could possibly want. I have so much gratitude that I can’t possibly name everyone who has touched my life.  I pray for that peace to envelop everyone who has been part of my spiritual journey and surround them with the love that brings healing to all of their hearts.

Be with us all and live in our hearts this Christmas.

Amen.

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Imagine this scenario.  A college kid, exhausted from a difficult semester gets away from the academic pressure for a few days at Thanksgiving to spend time with family.  Her birthday just happens to be that week, so she is showered with beautiful gifts, is taken out to dinner anywhere she wants to go, and then has a perfect Thanksgiving dinner with family that she cherishes.

When the semester is over, she drives home with her dog, to have dinner waiting for her with her loved ones.  She sleeps in her comfortable room, goes to one of her favorite Christmas performances, has lunch with her best hometown friends, meets with the people who have been supportive mentors to her, and has a reunion with friends from middle school and from high school.  When she goes to her home church, she gets at least a hundred hugs from people who are genuinely happy to see her.  She drives back home with a full heart and knows that she brings “home” with her wherever she goes.

This second career college student is thrilled to have such beautiful daughters who can reverse the roles and nurture their momma. Brittany cooked a better Thanksgiving dinner than I have ever made.  When the semester ended it was great to stay with Danielle at her comfy home in Winter Park and go to the Disney Candlelight Processional.  I got to catch up with the Starbucks Sisters over lunch, and was inspired by meeting with my spiritual mentors who continue to reflect God’s love and support me in my discernment of God’s call.

Seeing all of the beautiful choir members and the wonderful people of my church, filled my heart with love.  An added bonus was seeing students who were in my jazz band when I taught at Discovery Middle School at one of their graduation parties. What a great reunion. I’m so proud of all of them.

I took a trip over to Cocoa Beach on my way out of town to have coffee with Karen, my BF from high school, as we sit back and watch our kids get older and more independent.

First United Methodist Church of Cocoa Beach

A powerful part of my journey was at my mom’s church in Cocoa Beach. With the prayers of the pastor, I scattered her ashes around the garden of this place that she loved for so many years.  My tears were of joy, peace, and love for her and all she did to give me a life where I truly feel like the luckiest person in the world.

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