Category Archives: Spirituality Slice of Life

Small Moments of Joy

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Lately, I’ve found that my writing has fallen under the influence of the heaviness of the world. Even though I’ve chosen not to follow the 24-hour news cycle for the most part, I cannot avoid feeling as though the world is messy and a bit heartbreaking right now. Instead of dwelling on the harsh realities of our current collective lives today though, I’m going to share a scene of pure joy I witnessed recently. 

I was at the pool with my youngest son Alex. He’d been jumping off the diving board, so that’s where my attention was focused when I saw a little boy about three-years-old ready to take his turn jumping into the water where his father waited in the deep end. As expected, he was dressed in the uniform of young children: long sleeve swim shirt, swim trunks, and a floatie contraption that covered the top part of his chest in addition to both arms. But completely unexpected was his approach to the jump. He strutted out to the end of the board pumping his arms and keeping time to the music blaring overhead. 

I was completely caught off guard and totally mesmerized at the same time. Would he do it again when he had another turn? Yes, in fact, he did it every time. I started laughing and the woman in the row of lounge chairs behind me laughed too. I finally pulled out my phone to video this kid, knowing I couldn’t share it because I didn’t know this boy or his family, but just to have it because he was a perfect example of happiness. In that particular take, he danced out to “This is How We Do It,” which fit perfectly with his exuberance.

Now, I know this little guy didn’t have any worries in the world. He’s living his best life. His main concerns probably revolve around snacks, playtime, and naps. But even still, I couldn’t help but admire the way he lived in the moment and enjoyed himself in the process. He didn’t care that we were watching him. In fact, he was so into the experience he had no idea he was garnering the crowd’s attention. 

I’m self-aware enough to understand that I’m not going to start suddenly living with the happy abandon of that little boy. I’m serious by nature, and it’s hard for me to throw off my inhibitions. You’re never going to catch me dancing down the diving board (literally or metaphorically) – and I doubt I would’ve as a child either. But here was my take-away that day: I need to look for the joy around me. No matter how that joy manifests itself. 

It’s easy to get stuck in the mire of life, so we actively need to watch for any small moments of joy. We can celebrate those people and occurrences that make us smile. Instead of quickly dismissing the small joys so we can get back to the business of life, let’s relish them in order to buoy us as we journey through the weighty world. At the end of the video of the little boy, I can hear myself laughing. I need to do more of that. We all do. 

I’m Fine (Or Not)?

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My eighteen-year-old daughter Riley was out of town when she called to check in with me and sweetly asked, “How are you, Mom?” I replied, “I’m fine.” Without missing a beat, she said, “are you good-fine or bad-fine?” On that day, I was neutral-fine, but Riley was right about the word “fine” because it can express a wide gamut of emotion. A few days later, my husband Ben and I were having a slight disagreement when I said, “it’s fine!” Seeing my face and hearing my tone he responded, “it’s not fine.” Obviously, I’d used the term in the passive aggressive manner. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to become fine as we resolved the issue. But the range between good-fine and bad-fine is wide and can also include the “I don’t want to talk about it-fine.” Sometimes the emotion is too great to discuss or we’re just tired of dwelling on hard circumstances. Lately, I’ve felt like I’m trending toward “fake-fine” or “not fine at all actually” because the state of the world feels so heavy to me right now. And with that, hope starts to wane as well. 

In Psalm 27, David appears to experience the spectrum of emotions associated with “fine.”  At the beginning of the chapter, David states that the Lord is “my light and my salvation,” and “the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” He proclaims that God would protect him from his enemies who sought to devour him. Then, David seems concerned because he asks the Lord to keep him close “in the house of the Lord” so that the Lord can continue to protect him. But David descends into doubt a few verses later. He begs the Lord to “hear my voice when I call”; “do not turn your servant away”; “do not reject me or forsake me”; “do not turn me over to the desire of my foes.” Maybe David wanted to convince himself that everything was fine when he started writing but finally broke down and told God the truth – he wasn’t really fine. He feared the people who might harm him and that God wouldn’t be there for him when the world spun out of control. 

David’s honesty is one of the hallmarks of his writing. He knows he needs God, but he is not always certain that God will help. I think we’ve all experienced those feelings. Like David, we may try to tell ourselves that we’re fine, but sometimes we experience those brutal moments when we wonder if God is listening, unsure if we are all alone in our hopelessness. We see our lives or our world in a tailspin, and we question God’s presence or plan. David shows us that our feelings of despair are normal and common to everyone. 

In the last two verses, though, David reaches down deep to find hope. He says, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” It’s hard to hang onto hope. It’s hard to wait. It’s hard to see God’s goodness when things look bleak. But we can follow David’s example of honesty with God and declare our expectation that God will show up – sooner, rather than later, in our current lives, in today’s world. That we cling to the belief that God’s goodness still exists.

God also expects us to be part of that demonstration of goodness. Waiting does not mean we passively sit on our hands and do nothing. We need not ignore the wrongs and injustices we witness. We may have to work to dismantle systems that harm and oppress. We can speak out and tell others that God’s ways bring peace and love, not hate and violence. We can act in concert with God to bring about God’s goodness. We can help make things better than they are now even as we wait for more change.

We may not feel fine with how things are right now. But let us hang onto hope that God still works in the world today and remain confident that we can play an active part in bringing about God’s goodness.  

Sometimes, All I Think About is You

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Throughout the spring and early summer, a song stalked me. The song that followed me was “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals. The song came on the radio when I was driving, not once a day, but multiple times a day whenever I got in the car. Every. Single. Time. My sons noticed the phenomenon and would say, “there’s your song” when it started playing the first line, “Sometimes, all I think about is you.” It became so repetitive I started to wonder if I needed to learn something from the song. Was it trying to tell me something?

The other day, I felt overwhelmed with worry about three of my four kids. They were still at camp, and one of them wasn’t feeling well physically, one was traveling back to camp from Colorado on a long bus trip, and one had heard some information, that if true, would be very disappointing, hurtful even. Thankfully, one child was all good. I found myself spiraling with anxiety. I just wanted my babies to be safe, healthy, and happy, and I couldn’t talk to or hug them. Not knowing how they were handling their situations was excruciating. 

I was in a drive-thru line when the song came on for the second time that day. The song is about a relationship that is not going to survive and the pain that both people are suffering. The singer realizes they can’t make each other happy, but he laments his inability to do so. In one line, he says, “I just wonder what you’re dreaming of / When you sleep and smile so comfortable / I just wish that I could give you that / That look that’s perfectly un-sad.” While the song is about a romance, I can’t help but relate to it as a parent because I desperately wish I had the power to make my kids “perfectly un-sad.” Not just on the day in question, but all the time. Every. Single. Time.

I wish I could deflect all pain and rejection from their lives. But as they get older, I know I have little to no control over their daily lives, and I hate that. I despise that helpless feeling. I can give them advice that they might accept or not; I can pray for them; I can encourage them to get rest, hydrate, and avoid stress, but I can’t make them do a whole lot. And I can’t make the people with whom they interact do anything. Even though these observations make sense intellectually, I struggle to accept them emotionally. My heart hurts when my kids hurt or face struggle. My brain becomes distracted and preoccupied. I struggle until I know they are safe or feel better, physically, mentally, or emotionally.

I don’t have a cure for the challenges of parenthood. No one does. To love our kids is to care deeply about their lives and wish we could protect them from all hardship. But I guess all we can do is stay available for our kids – to absorb some of the hurt, to hold them when they cry, to let them know we are on their team always and forever even when we cannot be together in person. And to make sure they know we think of them constantly. Kind of like the song that plays over and over when I’m in my car – we can be there in the background when they need us even though we may experience pain along with them. Every. Single. Time. 

Scattered

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I felt scattered. I woke up and the anxiety started almost immediately. I needed to write, but I couldn’t focus and didn’t think I had any good ideas. So, I decided to clean the house a little bit because I needed to be productive. I picked up a scrap piece of paper with some notes that I’d jotted down for a previous writing piece. I intended to throw it out when I noticed a reference to the Bible story about Zacchaeus that hadn’t made it into the earlier writing. And that got me thinking. 

Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus was the wealthy chief tax collector and considered a sinner by the people. “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” I imagine that Zacchaeus felt pretty scattered that day. He knew he wasn’t popular with the people, and yet he wanted to see this man who stirred the interest and admiration of the people. He ran ahead of everyone and then shimmied up a tree because he knew he had no chance to see Jesus if he didn’t. I bet he didn’t climb trees very often. I can see him breathing hard, the sweat dripping off him, possibly scraped and bruised, feet slipping, hanging on as best he could. Completely uncomfortable and awkward. Despite his short stature, he probably felt even smaller emotionally in those minutes waiting for Jesus too. 

And then Jesus arrived and approached the tree. I’ve always assumed that Zacchaeus would be thrilled that Jesus noticed him, but I wonder if at first, he was scared. Did the adrenaline of fear shoot through his body? He knew he’d cheated people out of money. Would this man Jesus, whom the people loved, condemn him, call him out, turn the crowd against him while he was trapped up in the tree?

But then Jesus “looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” After his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus gladly offered to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay those he’d cheated with four times the amount. Jesus told everyone that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Jesus declared that he “came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).

When Zacchaeus was scattered and lost, Jesus told him to come down out of his precarious position, get out of his own head, and ground himself in the presence of Jesus. I think God calls us to do the same. And yet, sometimes, when I’m feeling scattered, I do almost everything else before I pray about the situation. When I stop and realize I need to tell God about my state of anxiety, God begins the process of centering me, bringing my focus back to God. I usually find I become the most grounded when I write out my prayers. I always have a journal at the ready and pour out my thoughts and emotions to God in letter form. When I empty myself on the page, it’s as if Jesus stands at the foot of the metaphorical tree I’ve climbed up and tells me, “Come down immediately, look at me, calm down, let’s figure it out.” 

God sees us. God seeks and saves the lost and the anxious. Let us ground ourselves with God in prayer when we feel scattered. God will meet us where we are and help us regain our footing.

I Didn’t Know

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My kids are living their best lives at summer camp for the next three weeks. My husband Ben attended this same camp as a child, and we’ve had a camper there for ten years running now. They absolutely love their time at camp because they can just be themselves and have fun. But, I didn’t know that children could love camp the way they do until I experienced it through them. When I was a kid, I didn’t go to summer camp like the one Ben and the kids attend. I only went to “nerd camps” in high school as my husband dubbed my academic camps. I was a homebody and didn’t want to go away in the summers. I also thought that rich people sent their kids away to summer camp for weeks because they didn’t want them at home. I’m not sure where my belief came from other than perhaps television or movies. I didn’t actually know people who’d go away to camp for weeks at a time, so my assumption remained until I met Ben. He told me how much he loved camp but really my misperception only fully dissipated when I realized that the weeks at camp are the happiest of my kids’ whole year.

This illusion about camp was not the first time I’d found myself believing something that was inaccurate or incomplete. When I was a freshman in college, I told my professor that I was going to write my paper on how the feminist movement had accomplished its goals because everything was equal now. Thankfully, she didn’t laugh in my face but told me to do my research and let her know what I thought. I was incensed when I learned that women were paid much less than men for the same jobs and other stark inequalities. Let’s just say my research paper was much different than what I’d initially imagined. A similar situation unfolded in my African American Politics class later in college. I heard a young Black man describe how he’d been followed around a store for no reason other than the clerk’s unfounded fear he would shoplift. I’d grown up going to school with children of color, but I’d never heard them talk about how people treated them based on the color of their skin. I’d never asked. I didn’t even know to ask. But in that class, that day, my eyes and ears were opened. And they can’t be closed again.

In law school, I met students who were openly part of the LGBTQ+ community. In college, there were rumors about some people being gay or lesbian, but in a southern school thirty years ago, LGBTQ+ students lived in the closet, not freely, not as themselves. In addition to meeting friends who were in the LGBTQ+ community at school and in the workplace, Ben and I started attending a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and I found out that the Bible was not as black and white as I’d thought about certain subjects either. I never knew churches could be welcoming and affirming before then and had no clue there were several other progressive denominations that were aligned. Now, we still belong to the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and our local church is welcoming and affirming. We won’t settle for less.  

When we listen to and ask questions about others’ experiences, we leave room for understanding and growth. We cannot assume we know what other people go through. We can change based on what we learn. We need not cling to beliefs we’ve held for a long time if we find those beliefs are inaccurate. Being open to others, allowing them to tell their truths, and truly listening, demonstrates love, our own and God’s. 

Restoration

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Over the last few years, I’ve loved celebrating some of my friends’ milestone birthdays. I’ve traveled to Las Vegas; Fredericksburg, Texas; and last weekend – Oceanside, California. My friend’s husband planned her entire 50th birthday surprise – all we needed to do was get to California. I admit I was a little nervous because I hadn’t seen some of these friends that I’d originally met in St. Louis for around ten years. Several of us had moved to different states and that made staying in touch more difficult. But my worries vanished immediately upon arrival. We fell back into a comfortable rhythm as though no time had passed. We ate good food, laughed a lot, watched the ocean, and talked incessantly. By the end of the short trip, we felt reconnected and full of love from our time together. 

In the oft-quoted Psalm 23, the author wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” (Psalms 23:1-3)(NRSV). The Psalmist doesn’t specify how God restores our souls though. Some obvious church-related ways are through prayer and worship. Watching the vast ocean or spending time in nature reminds us of the power of God’s creation and soothes our spirits. 

But I think God’s restoration is more varied than what we realize. And much of that restoration occurs through our relationships with other people. God made us for community. Spending quality time with family or friends feeds the soul. Meeting someone for coffee or a meal helps us feel more connected to them and ourselves. When we can walk away from a conversation feeling more whole and complete, we experience restoration. When our child or a friend gives us a hug, we can regain our sense of self and feel God’s love too. 

God’s restoration can occur in the quiet, small, ordinary moments of life too. The Message version of the Bible translates Psalm 23 to God, “you let me catch my breath.” (The Message). When we nap, read a book, or take a drive to clear our heads, we stop, slow down, and ease our anxiety. God doesn’t need us to stress ourselves out to exhaustion and depletion. God wants to be our companion, and if we are constantly rushing, we don’t leave room in our days to spend time in relationship with God, others, or ourselves. 

In another version of the Bible, Psalm 23 says, God “refreshes my soul.” (NIV). To me refreshment should happen over and over. And I think that applies to our souls as well. God doesn’t promise that our entire beings will be refreshed all at once and remain that way forevermore. Instead, I see refreshment as a process that occurs bit by bit and is continual and constant. This past weekend reminded me of that. We left our time together with the realization that we’d missed one another. All of us expressed a desire to stay in contact more regularly, even if it was just a text with a small update on an event of the day. We decided that the weekend had afforded us a priceless opportunity to catch up and we wanted to be more intentional and build on our momentum going forward. Refresh and repeat. 

God is always willing and ready to refresh us. God wants us to feel the love and peace that only God can provide, but we may receive our soul-healing over time, in a variety of ways, and often from other people. Taking a moment to catch our breath can be a gift from God. Let us be glad and give thanks to the One who restores our souls.    

Kindness of a Mustard Seed

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My nine-year-old son Alex and I have a pact to make friends with just about every service provider we meet. We visit the same places frequently, so we see the same clerks, servers, cashiers, and lifeguards on a regular basis. We learn about their families, their ailments, and their future plans. Most of them are happy to talk. I think it breaks up their day when it’s not just business as usual. But not every service provider is naturally gregarious. Every now and again, we encounter a more stoic individual. I can relate to them because I’m a pretty serious person by nature. So, when we do find someone who is harder to get to know, Alex and I pace ourselves, not overwhelming them, but gradually getting to know them. 

One of our friends at a gas station was an extremely hard nut to crack. I didn’t think he liked us at all, but we kept trying. Then one day, when I went into the gas station by myself, he asked, “where’s your sidekick?” I knew then that we’d crossed the bridge to becoming friends and that has been true ever since. Another woman started work at a drive-thru I visit for my morning soda fix. She didn’t seem interested in speaking beyond the exchange necessary to complete the transaction. I felt sure that I would wear her down after a while, but one morning, I was in a bad mood and felt I just couldn’t expend the energy to be overly friendly. That was when she surprised me. She handed me the drink and asked in a cheery tone, “see you tomorrow?” She’d noticed that I wasn’t my normal self and made an effort to pull me out of my funk. It worked because I felt seen and comforted by her words. We were on our way to becoming friendly. 

In the New Testament, Jesus used the imagery of a mustard seed a couple of times. The most familiar is when he said if we “have faith as small as a mustard seed,” we can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20-21). But there is another instance when Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matt. 13:31-32).

Faith strong enough to move a mountain is a hard concept to get my head around. But the kingdom of heaven being like a mustard seed that turns into a shrub big enough to host aa flock of birds makes more sense to me. We can all plant little seeds of kindness every day, everywhere we go. We may not know whether our small gestures will flourish into something more or not, but our efforts are still important. It may take time for the seeds we plant to show any growth, but if we don’t try to reach out to others, it’s possible that no one will. Some people may go days without seeing a smile directed at them, hearing a nice word, or feeling as though another person cares about them. 

As we go about our daily lives, let us spread compassion in small ways. Even if we only interact with others for a moment, God can use our words and deeds to remind them that God loves them and that they can rest in God’s comfort just like the birds who perch in the tree sprung forth from the tiny mustard seed.

Ask the Questions

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“What does that mean?” My kids have asked me that question numerous times over the years. Usually, the question revolves around some reference to my childhood. Like, “why do you say you’re going to tape a show instead of record it?” I had to explain that back in the days of VCRs, the cassettes actually had tape inside them. Or when I fell back on my Arkansas upbringing and said, “cheese dip.” With their Texan sensibilities and looks of dismay, they asked “why did you call queso cheese dip?” And in response to me asking them, “whatcha talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” when I didn’t understand what they were telling me, they asked what in the world I meant. They were unfamiliar with 1980’s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” and Arnold’s catchphrase to his brother Willis. 

My daughter Riley was at counselor training at the camp she’s attended since she was 8 years old. While she was familiar with the camp lingo, she noticed that the newly hired counselors who hadn’t grown up there didn’t understand the phrases. She told me about a situation in which one of the upper-level counselors used a lot of camp lingo in one sentence, and a new counselor said, “I have no idea what you just said.” 

Sometimes we use jargon out of habit or nostalgia. Sometimes we develop a shorthand from immersion in a profession or world that requires or promotes the use of certain terms or acronyms. But sometimes, when we use a particular vernacular, we end up excluding people, whether inadvertently or purposefully. 

Even church communities fall into the use of “Christianese,” which may feel particularly cliquish to those who have not grown up in church settings. This problem is not new. In the days of the early Christian church, an angel of the Lord led the disciple Philip to approach an Ethiopian man who served as an important official for the queen of Ethiopia as he traveled from Jerusalem.  “Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30-31). Their discussion led to the Ethiopian man’s baptism. When we use specialized terms or refer to the past or shared stories, whether in church or elsewhere, we must consider others who may not understand and therefore feel left out. We would do well to include others in the conversation and offer to explain. 

But blessed be the ones who ask the questions. Who are willing to be vulnerable and admit they don’t understand; who risk being ridiculed for admitting they need clarification; who don’t take things for granted or at face value; who challenge the status quo; who demand that people explain their words. 

We can create open environments that encourage people to ask questions. Those questions could lead to new understandings and amazing results.  Let us try to explain ourselves when we fall into the trap of repeatedly using lingo and also celebrate those who ask, “what does that mean?” 

Language Matters

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I cringed when I saw the “Dead End” sign while my nine-year old son Alex and I were driving to a get-together. When Alex spotted the sign, he said, “what does THAT mean?” I explained that the street was like the cul de sac we live on, but these days the signs usually say, “No Outlet.” We agreed that “dead end” sounded ominous and negative. Both terms described the same thing but the images and feelings they conjured were completely different. 

Alex had taught me a lesson about labeling the week before. He explained to his siblings that he’d graduated from the dyslexia program at school. For two years, he had worked with a  dyslexia teacher for 45 minutes every day with remarkable results. He told them he wouldn’t be pulled out of class anymore, but said, “I’ll still get the perks.” Alex referred to the accommodations that he receives as part of his individual education plan, like getting extra time on a test if he needs it. Some people might take a negative view of his dyslexia, but Alex knows that his hard work paid off and he benefits from the “perks” that help him.  

Language can make a difference. Social scientist Brene Brown said, “we have compelling research that shows that language does more than just communicate emotion, it can actually shape what we’re feeling.” (Atlas of the Heart). In other words, the way we talk about how we feel may help dictate what we experience, not merely describe what we experience. And that goes for the way we talk about ourselves too. If we call ourselves negative names – loser, failure, lazy, stupid – we will believe that those names accurately define us. But God doesn’t see us that way.

In the Bible, God changed the names of several people. In Genesis, we see two examples. Abram and his wife Sarai were old and childless. But in an encounter with God, “Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.’” (Genesis 17:3-5). God wanted Abraham to believe even though the promise seemed impossible. Abraham didn’t always follow God’s directions and ended up in some difficult circumstances, but God fulfilled his covenant. 

On another occasion, Jacob was on his way to meet his brother Esau whom he’d cheated years earlier. The night before the meeting, Jacob felt anxious and went off by himself until a “man” appeared and wrestled with him. When the man demanded Jacob let go, Jacob demanded a blessing. Jacob ended up with a hip injury and a different name. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’” (Genesis 32:28). Israel would need the reminder that he was an overcomer throughout the ups and downs of his life. 

In the New Testament, Jesus’ disciple Simon said that he believed Jesus was the Messiah when Jesus asked who he thought Jesus was. “Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’” (Matt. 16:17-18). Even though Peter would eventually deny Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Jesus continued to make Peter the foundation of God’s church.

God didn’t change who these men were but simply relabeled them. They still made plenty of mistakes afterward, but God gave them names that they could live into. Their new monikers were reminders of how God saw them and what God wanted for them.

God calls us his beloved children. When we resort to degrading orr destructive labels, we deny who God says we are and hurt ourselves in the process. God aspires for us to believe in his love and in ourselves. Let us choose labels and language that build people up. We are God’s people, made in God’s image, and God proclaims that we are “very good.” (Genesis 1:26-31).

The Church

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Recital 2022

When we moved to Frisco, Texas in the fall of 2006, our daughter Riley was almost three years old, and our son Jed was nine months. Our sons Clay and Alex hadn’t been born yet. I was a bit heartbroken when we left St. Louis despite our great opportunities in DFW. The people at First Presbyterian of St. Louis nurtured and cared for us as a young married couple. They’d nicknamed my pregnant belly “Smiley” even before they knew we intended to name her Riley. She was baptized there, attended Session meetings as a tiny infant with Ben and I, and yelled out “DaDa” when Ben assisted with the liturgy during worship. 

So, when we moved to Frisco, we started attending Faithbridge Presbyterian immediately. We needed to become a part of a new community. We’d been at Faithbridge for only a few months when the fire alarm sounded loudly in the middle of Sunday morning worship. One of the nursery teachers ran into the sanctuary to assure the congregation that there was no emergency. A child had pulled the fire alarm. When we went back to pick up our children after service, we said, “it wasn’t one of ours that pulled the alarm, was it?” The nursery caregiver informed us that actually it was our kid. Riley had always been tall, and the fire alarm was low on the wall, so she’d given it a try. And that was how we made ourselves at home with our new church family. A family that has embraced and loved us for over fifteen years now. This Sunday, Faithbridge will honor the high school seniors, and this year Riley will be included. In a beautiful tradition, the quilters from our congregation will present each senior with a hand-made quilt as a symbol of support and love. But before they do, I want to express my gratitude for our church.

The people of Faithbridge who’ve taught my kids in Sunday School, on Wednesday nights, at VBS, and on various other occasions explained the Bible stories certainly, but they also poured their compassion, kindness, and creativity into my children. My kids have never doubted that they belong at our church because they’ve always been accepted. They’ve learned about social justice from the pulpit, the classes, and how our church serves others. They know it’s good and appropriate to question, and even challenge, notions about spirituality and religion. They know their voices matter. Over the years, numerous church members have come to Riley’s dance recitals. They didn’t have to, but they did it to show their support for her. My kids experience God’s love from the way the people in this church embrace them, figuratively and literally.   

But most importantly, my kids have learned what it means to be in a caring church community. They know that the people in this church will always be in their corner and always have their backs. The church will miss Riley when she’s at college, help support us as we adjust to life with her away at school, and gladly welcome her when she returns home. The people of this church have demonstrated what it means to be the body of Christ in ways too numerous to count. 

I pray that my children hold onto the feelings that come from being fully involved in a church community and hope they find the same type of church in their adulthood. We’ve been blessed to find two churches who loved our family well and for that I will be eternally grateful. The people of Faithbridge will celebrate my daughter this Sunday, and I celebrate them for being the epitome of the loving church that God calls us to be.