Fly Over State of Mind

I used to always wish I lived in a warmer climate. I didn’t know until 2 years ago that I live in, what is often rudely referred to as a “fly over state.” Apparently the Midwest and Iowa in particular, just doesn’t cut the mustard. Do you know what though? I’m proud to call the Midwest region of the United States my home, I am even proud to be born and raised in the Midwest, also proud to be an Iowa resident. In LA and Florida, they may have golden sunshine and year round pools and amusement parks, which admittedly is pretty great too but they don’t have what we have.

Corn.

Ha, kidding, just seeing if you were paying attention.

I’m talking about 4 seasons y’all, all Vivaldi like.

You don’t  have to be from Iowa to know what I’m talking about. You just have to be from somewhere where it’s not unheard of to have blistering hot humid summer days that you think will never ever end. Then before you know it, you need a jacket and it’s time to go apple picking or to the pumpkin patch and don’t you dare pass up the complimentary hay rack ride.

Soon enough you’ll be walking through the freshly fallen snow, on the way to cut down your own Christmas tree on a family farm that gives you fresh hot cocoa and lets you play with adorable soft, very warm, compared to your near frostbitten digits, rabbits. They will be adorable. You will feed them carrots. You will have all the joys of rabbit ownership for 20-30 minutes, until the next family arrives and their kids make pitiful faces until you finally, full of guilt, hand over the rabbits you have so grown to love. Nevermind that you are in your late 20′s early 30′s now, it’s true it is “their turn.”

You won’t even get mad about handing them over but you will debate getting one of those adorable rabbits as a pet, until you google their needs and find out you are not near as ready for rabbit parenthood as you thought you were.

Somewhere past that point, winter will really arrive and vomit frigidly and violently, leaving glittery hills, 2+ feet long icicles hanging off of rooftops and slick scary black ice. Just when you think you can’t stand to layer up for the 73rd+ day, for just one day, it will turn 30 maybe even an entire 40 degrees outside, being from the Midwest you might even be inclined to wear shorts. People from Florida won’t even go swimming in 70 degree weather and if you know a Floridian transplant, they will mock you for so exuberantly welcoming 30 degree weather. Let them mock you, you know the value of the warmth after surviving all those negative temperatures.

Soon enough, something almost magical happens, just when you think winter will never end, it does, it just ends. Snow melts, robins return and flowers bloom. Ironically, those little white bell like flowers called ‘snowdrops’ signify the end of winter’s reign. Spring is again crowned the royalty of the land.

So now, what do you do? Begin the whole crazy cycle again. End. Begin. End. Begin. Death. Life. Death. Life.

I used to always wish I was from somewhere else, anywhere else, anywhere other than the Midwest, the ‘fly over states.’ Now, however, I see how every rain drop, every snowflake, every ray of sun, has equipped me to face the series of never-ending beginnings and endings in my life. I am so proud to call this my home. I am so humble to have had Mother Nature herself as my greatest teacher.

“We Were Supposed to Have Time”

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, we were supposed to have time.

However, as it became starkly clear to me, we were in fact sitting at her funeral, whether we liked it or not.

I was emotionally at one of the lowest points in my life. She had 2 years before this, been widowed by her husband. I had walked that journey with her, in the hospital, to the casket, from the grave side, to her home where I scrubbed her toilets on hands and knees. Now 2 years later, I had just recently wrapped up a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education where I worked as a Chaplain Intern at a local hospital and it was safe to say, that at 28, adulthood was hitting me like a freight train.

All of the things that gave my life meaning were now relative and up for debate. You can’t really look at life the same guarded way when you’ve danced with death’s soon to be partners as many times as I have.

This is the state that I entered into her Holiest of Holy Catholic churches. I brought my guitar because Father Thomas said I could play the song I had written about her. Father Thomas was from Africa and he had such a thick accent that when he introduced himself it sounded very much to the uncultured American ear as if he was introducing himself as, “Father Dumbass.” Which some present at the funeral really got a kick out of, especially when he began referencing “doubting dumbass” in his eulogy. Was it immature of us? Sure, but people in grief often revert to the things that give them comfort and as soon as a family member pointed it out to me, it was something to smile about amidst the complete and utter grief which encased me in itself, like a barbie doll box. I looked fine and dandy to the random passerby but who knows how many silent screams under the cellophane wrapping?

I’ll never forget the feeling of that day, being a former Baptist and now transient from my church home who wouldn’t ordain women. In her church, her home and while the choir beautifully filled the room with their singing, “One Bread, One Body, One Lord of all.” I felt myself rising from my seat, almost in a trance like state. I tripped over and banged into my guitar, it let out a melodic yelp. Father Dumbass shot me a downcast stare. I didn’t care, I felt that at least I would have the Eucharist, an all too familiar and mostly absent companion as of late, to comfort me. I wouldn’t be so lucky, I was met by crossed arms and though the woman who denied me, later offered me extra bread at lunch, I lamented to anyone who would listen to me how terrible to be singing about “one bread, one body” and then to be denied the bread/body of Christ by those who themselves were hypocritically singing such a beautiful hymn. “Don’t offer me that bread when you won’t even give me the living bread.” I said defiantly, after she had walked away, behind her back, like the good person of faith that I am and was. I am making fun of myself at this point and I’m just going to say so because in the written form, sometimes these things get lost in translation.

It’s been 3 years since she died and I still miss her.

We thought we had time, she was supposed to be with us at least another 10 years.

She welcomed me into her family when I married into it. She and her husband were supportive of any path my feet might land on. I miss her support, I miss her love, I miss her laugh. It was like having a non-critical version of my mother’s mother alive and with me again.

I loved my maternal grandmother very dearly, critiques and all but I have to say that Grandma 2.0 was a pretty rad upgrade. I didn’t only think of her as a grandmother, sort of also like a mother. One day she took me to buy my first rosary and all the salesgirls thought she was my Mom. She never had children and I think now looking back, it made her happy to think of me in that way. I scoffed the day it happened but only because I grew up with teenage parents and I spent nearly 30 years with everyone asking me if my mom was in fact my sister. I didn’t scoff because I’d be ashamed of the thought of her, then 60 something, being my mother, I would have been and would still be quite proud if someone thought that. I never got to explain that scoff to her.

We thought we had time but now I see, we only get moments and even those aren’t guaranteed for any of us. Sometimes, I hate how we only get moments in life and we do our best to try to convey who we are, why we are the way we are and how we feel and none of it’s fixed. It’s all so fluid and ever changing. How do we ever really know another? How do we ever really know ourselves?

Well, we know through stories, from others, from the narratives we ourselves lug around in metaphorical suitcases and we unpack them from time to time and see if anyone near by can help us find a place for the contents. However, we don’t often realize how much of what we’ve experienced is distorted, when it happens and when we recall it. Reaching this space, of acknowledgment of un-knowing can be overwhelming and scary. I was so scared when I began to open up to these insights. Then, over time, I found this immense freedom, each day then is a re-birth, a new chance. What do we do with it? Well, first of all we can’t look too far out or we’ll feel as if we’re drowning in a sea of possibilities.

Eventually after feeling like drowning for close to two years, I found myself again drawing on the words of Jesus found in Matthew 6, “and can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

We thought we had time but now I know, we only had and have today.

The hope that now pulses through and sustains me is that we might all have the capacity to have Grace with each other. I think this not just because in my spiritual journey I’ve evolved into a super duper liberal Universalist, although that can’t really be denied but also because maybe there are many things we’ve yet to fully understand, maybe we won’t ever understand.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Perhaps myself or you will be or have been on the receiving end of a scoff that truly wasn’t about us. Perhaps we’ve experienced worse by those we were supposed to be able to trust. Perhaps that will be a future event.

Don’t get too worried about it, take it a day at a time, an hour at a time, a minute at a time.

Whatever you do, don’t worry.

Hang in there.

Keep going, it will (very likely) get better.

Peace,

Irreverent Reverend

Childfree by Choice

Frank Zappa is quoted as saying, “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” I wholeheartedly agree but what he doesn’t capture in that quote for me is the essence of what it feels like to deviate. Have you ever held within your heart something that you know down right offends other humans? Yet, to ignore it is to deny a piece of your very being. It can be painful. It is not a fun place to be.
I hold in my heart a secret. Although my “secret” isn’t really a secret. Anyone who has known me for the past 5 years could tell you that I have been wrestling with whether or not to have children. What I haven’t been as vocal about is the fact that I am seriously contemplating electing to NOT have children. That would put me in the childfree by choice camp.
Some folks view this stance as morally inept. Others still can’t possibly imagine their lives without the children who helped shaped them into the people they are. Many share their experiences of being opened, vulnerable and more compassionate to their fellow human beings once they had a child. To them, I say hurrah. I celebrate your new vision and capacity for love. I also say, please understand that many people already possess such compassionate over-flowing hearts before or having never had a child of their own.
There are so many stereotypes out there regarding the childfree and for the past week my husband and I have been sifting through them. This all being preparation for one the biggest choices we have ever made. We are preparing to seek permemant sterilization. The thought of having our own biological children doesn’t fill us with joy or wonder but anxiety. We are fully aware of all the foibles and fumbles of our families of origin. Family can be a beautiful thing but if we’re all really honest, family can also be the source of some of our greatest pains.
We also find our hearts aching for the children in abusive households and in foster care who need good, homes. As we look to our futures, we are open to providing a home for such a child.
Today, I say to the world and to you reading,  I’m childfree by choice. If you are too, don’t feel alone.
Today, our vasectomy is scheduled. Let the deviation begin and may progress follow.

Peace,

Irreverent Reverend

Forgiveness, let us have peace with the process.

I read this wonderful article:

http://goodnews.ie/news.php?dt=2012-03-13

And it got me wondering…

Could forgiveness be a process? Are we willing to let it be a process? Something that will continually be happening and not just one event but, something that might occur 70 times or 70 times 7 times?

Might it be healthier to be open to continual leadings of forgiveness rather than seeking one time, one space, in which to try and complete any and all forgiving?

In “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart” Dr. Gordon Livingston shares that one of his “30 Truths That You Need To Know Now” is that “only bad things happen quickly.”

We have such a desire for have instant gratification in our culture and this belief system is in our churches too. We want things to be okay, reconciled, justified and redeemed but, as George Harrison said, “It’s gonna take time, a whole lot precious time.” Luckily not, “a whole lot of spending money.” So dear ones be gentle with yourself if you’re seeking to forgive others or to be forgiven. I am there and I am praying that:

Lord, may we have peace with the process that is forgiveness.

And now for some George Harrison, because it’s my blog and I can!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZGYYDvZnpg

Peace,

Irreverent Reverend