{ShoutLaughLove}: a woman's place

Dozens of us gathered atop Mount Washington to pray.  To lift our voices, that this city on a hill would become as known for Jesus as it once was for steel.

Eyes open, we looked out over the expansive Three Rivers.  Yellow bridges bustled with commuters gearing up for work in towers that defined the skyline.  Heinz Field, that beacon of Steelers pride, anchored the far shore.

We looked out at each other, too.  Though strangers, we were partners in ministry to youth across the city and suburbs.  We came to swap stories of a shared calling, to encourage one another in the work of loving kids like Jesus.

It was a diverse crowd by race and gender, though less by age.  But it soon became clear that every woman there was a spouse or volunteer--all but two of us.

At twenty-two, the Director of Youth Ministry position was my first Big Girl Job.  I didn't have a divinity degree or a decade of experience, but my heart belonged to my God and *my* kids, whom I loved with abandon.

It was hard to believe that one could actually be paid (not much, but still) to hang out with students over coffee and conversation, ski trips and soup kitchens, late nights and laughter, concerts and campfires, service projects and Sunday school.  What other job lets you craft Bible studies and watch Gilmore Girls on the clock?

I loved my work, but the nomenclature always tripped me up.  Director of Youth Ministry never felt right:  it was too close to Youth Director, and I wasn't directing teens in some sort of performance.  Youth Worker sounded awkward and weird, and it didn't fit really, since I was creating a program and not working for someone else's.

OK, Someone Else's, obviously, but you get my point, yes?

Youth Pastor was a title decidedly reserved for those middle-aged men with the M Divs.  Whenever I tried to claim it (because often it was just easier to say Youth Pastor), I would invariably get the "but you're not really a pastor, right?"

No, I am not really a pastor.  But I am a minister. And so are you.

Ministry is not a privilege earned with a degree, ordination, or paid position.  It is part of our inheritance as believers, and it's a shame that we've collectedly handed over this part of our calling to a professional ministerial class.

We've shirked our responsibilities.

As Christians, we are saved not only from something [sin and death] but for something, too: the ministry of reconciliation.  We are re-created in Christ not merely to fit us for Heaven, but that we might better image God and be his ambassadors of hope here and now.  We  are ministers of the Kingdom of God and Light to a world fumbling in darkness and longing for redemption.

In this season of my life, my most important ministry is not at MOPS, online, or even in my church or neighborhood:  it's at home with my kids.

{Now, I firmly believe that "A Woman's Place is in the House. And Senate." and all that.  This is my story in this season--not prescriptive for all women everywhere.  You got me?}

It's a weighty calling, to model Christ's love to small children and teach them to walk in his steps.  Many days, this ministry of sippy cups and time-outs and "in-our-family-we-use-our-words-to-love-one-another" feels less like a ministry than a battle--a battle I fear I am losing to two tiny babes with wills as strong as iron.  (Like their mama?)

I know I felt better-equipped to be a youth pastor.

Motherhood is a spotlight, illuminating every dark, selfish corner of my heart.  It's a mirror:  one of those magnifying ones revealing the grotesque blemishes I thought I'd hidden under layers of carefully applied concealer.

Parenting small people is so much harder that I anticipated, but motherhood is also drawing me to God's throne of grace with a passion I didn't know before.

Being acutely awareness of my own selfishness and brokenness is so. very. humbling.  But I can see God's power at work in my weakness, and I know that his Kingdom is growing here, even when I can't see it or feel it.

Today is a new day and his mercy abounds. 

so much shouting, so much laughter

Your turn.  Anyone can participate in ShoutLaughLove:  just link ANY post illuminating the truth, humor, difficulty, or beauty of your journey at this moment in time--new or from the archives.  Something that fired you up or made you smile.  What's helping you hold it together (or not).  If you are learning, struggling, or celebrating, I hope you'll share your story here every Tuesday.


the grey that bleeds

{image credit}

i bristle against the labels.

in or out
good or bad
right or wrong
Us or Them

slap one on and everything falls into place
neat and tidy, carefully ordered and

this behavior.
that philosophy.
his church.
our politics.
her parenting.
your neighborhood.
(or schooling, or accent, or jeans....)

breast or bottle
liberal or conservative
black or white

but what of the shades of grey?
{charcoal, slate, ash, heather}
the overlap and threads that
weave our stories together or
the Story written on the Hands of One who loves?

i know the allure of the kindred spirit who
looks and thinks and laughs and talks and writes and votes and worships just like i do
{me me me}

that heady heart-connect intoxicates
my desire to feel known and loved and understood is natural
[like my sin-nature]

real Love loves the Other, too:
the ugly, the enemy, the alien

it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love protects, trusts, hopes, and
rejoices with Truth which
sets us free from law, sin, and judgment.

Jew and Gentile
male and female
you and me

shared with emily and one stop poetry

Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 
-Colossians 3:14


wake up, o sleeper

{image credit}

wake up, o sleeper
rise from the dead

the cold, dark death
of apathy
fear of defeat and 
taking that first step

the Light is dawning
shadows flee
the path is lit

the only thing is to move


shared with the gypsy mama's five minute friday.  prompt: waking up.


remember spring swaps snow for leaves

And if your strife strikes at your sleep
Remember spring swaps snow for leaves
You'll be happy and wholesome again
When the city clears and sun ascends
-Mumford & Sons, Winter Winds
thank you to everyone who lifted prayers. james received steroids and a breathing treatment and we had a much better night. he woke up without any more wheezing or labored breathing:)

no word yet on jim's uncle.

jim, however, is in the ER as i type. an old knee injury was re-injured at basketball today and we're waiting on word.

for the love.

i still don't have a real post for you, so i shall instead direct you to my friend heatherly's grace-words:
And I am blessed that He doesn't ask me to put on a plastic mask and pretend that it's a "praise the Lord" morning. He knows it's a "I want to crawl back under the covers and hide from the world, but I'm choosing to rejoice because I know that there is joy hiding even in this" kind of morning.
i hope you'll read the rest by clicking over to A Pinkdaisy Life.

we've had a rather eventful week or so around here: a family trip to a water park in ohio, my 31st birthday, seed planting and the start of our heirloom community garden venture with new friends:)  i'm sure i'll manage to get some thoughts and pictures onto screen soon.

until then,

grace and peace, friends.


we ask for prayer

if you are looking for ShoutLaughLove, i'm sorry.  no link-up today.  james has a rough case of croup and i'm actually about to take him to the doctor for possible breathing treatments.  poor little man!  jim's uncle is also in the hospital, and we would appreciate some prayer for healing all around.

thank you so much, friends! if there is something we could be praying for you, please let us know.



more than watchmen for the morning

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the waiting is the hardest part.

simeon waited for the consolation of israel
[was it really 400 years of silence?]
filled brim-ful by the Spirit of God
his own eyes saw salvation,
light and glory worthy of the wait

for what do i pause?
there's the traffic and lines,
interminable minutes on hold with verizon tech

can i wait for what matters?
rushing through daze
an unrighteous discontent grows
joy missed for the hurry and the wishing

call me to stillness
teach me to wait

to be
to know

let me linger at the doorway of Wisdom:
"For those who find me find life."

shared with the gypsy mama's five minute friday.


the communion of the saints

{image source}

we found it on the passenger seat.  a gift-wrapped box, left in the car while we were at worship.

the note on the lid read:  "life is like a box of chocolates."

corny, i thought, but sweet.

a bit like our church community itself.  they had been so warm, welcoming us home from the hospital with night after night of home-cooked meals in the weeks after dylan was born.   they oohed and ahhed over the baby and showered her with generous gifts. she would grow to be "their" baby, too.

there were so few young families, and we were the lone twenty-somethings at the little country church.  most everyone in the congregation was old enough to be our grandparents or parents.  it was nothing like the youthful church we'd worshiped at in the city.  there was nary a drum set or hipster to be found anywhere.

i missed the music that made my hands lift in worship, but my soul soaked up the Word in liturgy.  when our priest came to our home to say a blessing over our tiny beautiful girl, my heart swelled, and i knew that the ministry of presence is far greater than fleeting glamor.

we waited until we got home to open the package.  i tore open the paper and found a card.

your family is a blessing.  thank you for your ministry.  merry christmas.

the card was unsigned, and inside was a stack of bills.  i counted and my jaw dropped. 

my hands held one thousand dollars.  ten crisp one hundred dollar bills.

we were less than six weeks into parenthood.  less than six week into adjusting to one salary.  we didn't have a peer group at our church or friends to grab a drink with, but we had family--older people who were praying for us, loving our child, and providing for our needs without our even having to articulate them.  our own families lived so many miles away, and to be loved so deeply by our church community meant more than they could know.

love like that is what it means to be the Church. 

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
     no hands but yours,
     no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
     Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
     doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
St. Teresa of Avila

so much shouting, so much laughter

your turn!  we're telling tales of the broken, beautiful Church, that you may you be encouraged by stories of God at work in our midst and grace lived out.  link a post or share a story in the comments.  next tuesday to link any story (not just of the Church) in our recurring storytelling community.


he gently leads those who have young

an ongoing record of God's goodness, #209-227

a weekend first aid course cancellation and an extra dose of sabbath rest

thick cut bacon and the time to enjoy it at home

sweet sibling love
my still nursing boy-babe
warm wheat biscuits with butter and honey, made with love by a baking beauty

shrove tuesday pancakes (BYOMS, of course;)

spring cleaning blitz

practicing the daily office and everyday liturgy for lent

quiche and crepes at the catholic school

hanging with stef--the pied piper with a crochet hook

a fish fry at the fire hall complete with personal tour of all the trucks

preschool visits and a most enthusiastic scholar-to-be

a well-stocked library and catching up with Mad Men missed

celebrating a milestone with friends and neighbors

looking forward to some mini-vacation time together

God's mercy and patience, especially when mine wear thins

 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young.-Isaiah 40:11

what are you thanking God for this march?


weekends are for weirdness. {also giveaways.}

i have a fun giveaway from DaySpring going on over at {so much reviews}.  click on over to see the pretty and enter to win.

{also, are you mulling over a grace-story to share on tuesday about the broken, beautiful Church?  i can't wait to hear!}

i just realized that this (:{) looks like a mustache face.


happy weekend to you!

your weird friend suzannah

edited to add this ridonkulous video that greeted me in song before i even opened the computer this morning.  (click through to watch if reading feed.)


the broken, beautiful Church

{image source}

the Church is a damaged Bride.

you knew that, of course.  it's hardly a secret.

insecure.  defensive.  dramatic.  suspicious of outsiders and change.  lured by power and materialism.  fond of safety, labels, and easy answers.  wary of mold-breakers, questions, and gray areas.

and oh, the judgment!  are we as a Church known for anything quite so well?

my heart is heavy lately, burdened by tales of a profound lack of grace among the very people called by Christ's Name.  i read stories of deep woundedness inflicted by fellow believers and grieve.

i have no desire to quiet those voices which cry out and make us uncomfortable; we should share those difficult stories and shine Light in dark places.  if anything, let's make more room at the table for the hurting and the searching and the truth-in-love-tellers. 

but pain is not the only truth.  

the Church is a broken place for broken people, but it is also a place in which God dwells, recreating us together into the image of his Beloved.  we are still his Bride, whom he loves, and 

he is making something new and altogether beautiful out of those broken pieces.  his grace infuses our life together, and it is bigger and stronger than the sin that so easily entangles.

{image source}

if you've glimpsed grace-lived-out among the people of God--love, healing, community, any taste of God's Kingdom banquet this side of heaven--would you encourage us with your story of the broken, beautiful Church? 

i've wanted to bring back ShoutLaughLove, our tuesday storytelling link up and figured what better way to kick it off than with pictures of grace shared?  i've never done an "assignment" before, but i hope you'll join in anyway.  on tuesday, march 15, please link a story of God's love at work in the Church.  i don't mean four walls and a steeple:  our stories can be of Christians anywhere, reaching out in service, mercy, justice--any manifestation of grace in community.  if you're not a blogger, i hope you'll share your story, too, in the comments.

i am excited to encourage one another and give glory to God for the grace in our midst that even sin cannot thwart.

  In that day you will say:
 “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
   make known among the nations what he has done,
   and proclaim that his name is exalted.
 Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things;
   let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
   for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." 
{Isaiah 12:4-6}

I have come with one purpose
to capture for myself a Bride
By my life she is lovely
by my death she’s justified

I have always been her husband
though many lovers she has known
So with water I will wash her
and by my Word alone

So when you hear the sound of the water
you will know you’re not alone

‘Cause I haven’t come for only you
but for my people to pursue
You cannot care for me with no regard for her
If you love me you will love the Church

I have long pursued her
as a harlot and a whore
But she will feast upon me
she will drink and thirst no more

There is none that can replace her
though there are many who will try
And though some may be her bridesmaids
they can never be my Bride
{Derek Webb, The Church}


hazelwood and baltic amber: natural eczema & teething relief

My preschooler and toddler wear jewelry, we're not making a fashion statement.  Believe it or not, their necklaces are therapeutic:  hazelwood promotes eczema healing and baltic amber soothes teething babies.

Bear with me, I promise we're not crazy-town! 

if you have a little teether or someone you love suffers from eczema, click over to {smitten review} to read the rest about how our kids find relief the natural way.

{Something else we've found that works gently and naturally on eczema is Ancient Mineral Magnesium Bath Flakes.}

the time of tension between dying and birth

{image source}

excerpted from Ash Wednesday, T. S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgment not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice


Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.


life runs through the trees {& in our veins}

the trees were coated, thick and heavy, from yet another sunday snow

but by next afternoon, it had mostly faded to memory

 jim stoked a fire hot enough to boil the sap
and keep the chill at bay

hearts expectant

we anticipate new memories
thick and sweet like maple syrup

and soft as fresh spring grass


in the mirror, dimly

green eyes smile and
chestnut hair cannot be tamed
lines around my eyes tell stories

i turn 31 soon

girlhood gone, exchanged
for life and love
full arms
a dash of wisdom

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:12-13

read more five minute writing over at the gypsy mama.  prompt: when i look in the mirror.

has what you see in the mirror evolved with time?
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