art

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I know.  And I know that everyone thinks that their kid is an artistic genius.  BUT, Taylor has really gotten crafty this summer.  I know she’s no VanGough, but she’s relly improved over the last few months, and I never ceased to be amazed at her creativity.

“Ducks”

“Ariel and Flounder”

“Me and Adam…because I can’t wait to get married”

For this one, she cut out the fish and glued it onto the sea background.  It has color AND dimension.

In addition to paper, markers, and glue, she also works in playdough.  This one just cracks me up.

We set up a craft station for her in the office, so can go in there and close the door so Caleb can’t get it.  He’s still in the habit of eating crayons and stabbing things with scissors, so he can’t be left unsupervised with art supplies.  Taylor will go back into her craft area for an hour at a time and just create until her heart’s content.  I’m just in awe of how quickly she is growing up.

sabbath taking

When I see people out and about, especially people from my church or the presbytery, they always ask how my sabbatical is going and what I’ve been doing (as well as comment on my tan).  They usually seem disappointed when I say something like, just hanging out – spending time with my kids (especially fellow pastors).  It’s like they expect to hear about a great pilgrimage or study.  Nope….I just need time to enjoy life with my family and friends.  That’s what’s renewing my spirit.  And it’s really hard to sum up all the greatness of this summer (so far) with just a few words.  We’ve been busy.  I’ve been spending much more time on twitter and instagram this summer than facebook because all my church peeps are on facebook and it’s hard to disconnect when you see their updates and they comment on yours.   But here’s the gist of our Sabbath seeking:

We had our annual 4th of July Cook-Out with my dad’s family on the hottest day of the year.  The kids didn’t mind.

We hosted 12 people in our house for a week.  The best week of the year:  Vacay 2012!  (more on that later)

We went to Fort Mill to spend a few days with my college roommate (and high school friend – gosh, we’ve been friends for a LONG time) and her sweet boys.  It’s amazing how good time with old friends is so good for the soul!  I even got the bonus of hanging out with four of my friends from high school one night over mimosas and wedding invitation assembling.

Caleb turned TWO (more on that later)

He also had a party with all of his crazy cousins, of whom, he is the craziest

Then he had his two year-old check-up and got rewarded with a cupcake (so did his sister who helped him be brave and who also answered all the nurses questions and accompanied him to the scale.  They didn’t really need me)

For a break from the 90+ heat EVERY.DAY in July, Taylor went to an ice skating party for her BFF

Taylor and I had a mother-daughter day at the waterpark

Caleb, Grammy, and I had a great day at the Fire Museum

Caleb, Taylor, and I got decked out for Tie-Dye Free Donut Friday at Dunkin Donuts

Taylor went to her first play.  She sat on the edge of her seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every scene.  SO. FUN.

Taylor and I had another mother-daughter day in which we played in the fountains downtown, went on a carriage tour of Charleston, and saw Ice Age: Continental Drift (which Taylor thought was HI-larious – she was the loud laugher the whole movie)

We have also had several beach days which were not photographed.   On Friday, Russ and I got to go to the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course with my sister and brother-in-law, but unfortunately didn’t take a single picture of that either!   The day before that, we celebrated our 9th anniversary.  It was pretty pathetic, so we are already planning our 10th anniversary celebration to make up for it.  Speaking of Russ, you’ll notice that he isn’t a part of our sabbatical shenenigans…that’s because he’s been working like a crazy person.  Residency is B-A-N-A-N-A-S (more on that later).  I have also been watching a ridiculous amount of Olympics and even watched the whole first two seasons of Downton Abbey (while Russ was on night float for a week and I had trouble sleeping).  I have also had the pleasure of church hopping and seeing some good friends do what they do so well (picking up some pointers along the way).

I remember in high school when I was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I had a mixed reaction because I knew that I would not be successful in the way that most of my classmates viewed success.  So I don’t know if most would say that my sabbatical has been successful so far, but man, has it been fun and full of good things.  I’m hoping the rest is just as fun, with hopefully a little more working out and a little less time in front of the TV now that the Olympics are over, but I’m making no promises.

Puddle Jumpers

Rainy Days are a bummer.  Except that rainy days sometimes bring rainbows, and they ALWAYS bring puddles!

When you play in puddles, you get all wet.  I don’t think they mind.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

This was 2 seconds before she face planted and the fun was over.

It was a blissful 15 minutes though.

These kids are my favorites.

4 or 14

I think we may be done raising Taylor; she’s ready to raise herself now.  At least she would think so.  Sometimes it is all so clear that she is only four, but other times, I have to remind myself how young she is because she acts so gosh darn old most of the time.

She takes showers all by herself.

She refuses to let us go into the bathroom with her in public now.  This freaks me out in public places, but alas, I do want to encourage her independence.

She gets her own drinks and food out of the fridge and pantry.

She even eats responsibly.  The other night at dinner, she requested more peas and sweet potato fries (which are baked in a wee bit of olive oil, not fried or breaded).  And for dessert, she requests frozen yogurt (which is literally tubes of organic, fat free yogurt that is frozen) or popsicles (which is frozen orange juice).  This is what she chooses.  Occasionally, we have bags of frozen fruit, and that’s a treat!! It’s like little blueberry and raspberry popsicles.

She is the best big sister.  She and Caleb have really started playing together a lot lately, and she is remarkably patient with him and actually likes having him around.  At the playground yestereday, she totally looked out for him and let him follow her around the whole time so I didn’t have to climb the equipment with him as much.  She was just great.  So mature that one.

This change in their sibling relationship occurred after they spent five days separated at different grandparents’ houses while I took a trip and Russ was working crazy resident hours.  I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  They are becoming good friends, and it warms my heart.

Here they are at our Dunkin Donut’s Tie-Dye Free Donut Friday yesterday morning.  Can you even?

The restaurant that shall not be named

I didn’t eat Chick-fil-a on Wednesday, but I’m also not going to boycott them forever.  So I don’t really fit into a “camp”.  I know I’m late in the game here, but I had trouble sorting out my emotional reaction to Wednesday.  I’m sad that I’m on sabbatical right now, because this is great material for a sermon, Sunday school class discussion, or youth group.  It’s a great “case” to start discussion about a lot of theological and practical issues – it’s all about needing a good dialogue with people of every viewpoint.

Why I do like Chick-fil-a and will go again

  • The food is good, and healthier than most other fast food options.  Except the milkshakes, they are way too good to be anything close to healthy.  I think maybe they put crack in their waffle fries, because…oh, so good.
  • It’s very kid friendly – my kids LOVE it.
  • They give out lots of coupons (which never actually expire, despite what the date on the coupon says), and you know how much I LOVE coupons.
  • They give out free bowls of cheerios for babies, and you know how much I LOVE free stuff.
  • You can dress like a fool and get free food once a year.  Some people even dress up and go to three different CFAs  to get three different free meals, can you believe it?!
  • The restaurants are clean, they even have sanitizer wipes on all the high chairs.  And you know how my OCD self LOVES clean stuff.
  • The employees are extremely polite and helpful, carrying my tray to my table when my hands are full of children and getting refills for my drinks without me having to get up, all without expecting a tip and while wearing a smile
  • In college, there were several times for a fundraiser or other student event that they would generously donate food (every time I asked, they gave)
  • Their WinShape Foundation does support a lot of worthy causes, ones I certainly agree with, but I do hope this recent controversy gets them to at least take a closer look at the anti-gay organizations they support and rethink where they send their money.  Because it does matter, especially to their GLBTQ employees and patrons.
  • I truly believe the owners and executives are guided by Christian values and doing their very best to be faithful in their personal and business lives, even though on this particular issue I think they are wrong.
  • They close on Sundays (even though I always crave it on Sundays)
  • They are a very successful business and employ a lot of people in a difficult economy, straight AND GLBTQ people.  So boycotting their restaurant would be hurting their employees who work hard and need to earn a living just like the rest of us, and if I boycotted every company that did things I didn’t like, I would have no where to eat or shop.  Thanks to this guy for reminding me of that.
  • I respect CFA for not promoting the Appreciation Day, and I think it would be really great if they donated a portion of their record breaking sales to a cause that the GLBTQ community would support, like The Trevor Project or any bullying or suicide prevention group.  I think that would do a lot to build some bridges without compromising their personal beliefs.  And wouldn’t it have been really awesome if all those people who bought CFA food on Wednesday would have taken it to homeless people instead of eating it?!
  • One CFA is doing something really cool by partnering with a Pride Fest.  Isn’t it amazing what can happen when we sit down at table together for a conversation instead of throwing around words and instagram photos?!

While I do like CFA, I also did not want to in any way be a part of  Wednesday’s Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.  It literally made me sick to my stomach – my stomach was in knots all day and the day after as people kept posting pictures of their “successful” days eating at CFA.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I think I was so upset by the whole thing because it seemed that everyone forgot that there are real people, real children of God involved in this “issue”.  Every time one of my facebook friends posted a picture of their crowded CFA, my heart hurt for all of my friends and the people I don’t know who are truly hurting because of the current words being spoken and the policies in place and the potential bans being lobbied for in states all over the country.  People who work just as hard as the rest of yet are denied many civil rights because of who they are and who they love.  People who have loving families.  People who have great faith and love God.

The words that kept popping into my head on Wednesday as I scrolled through facebook updates were smug and pharisaic.  I know you were not intentionally either of these on Wednesday.   For those of you who are my friends who participated in Appreciation Day, I know you are loving and kind people.  And I understand the reasons you went to CFA on Wednesday, really I do.  But I just have to say, from the outside looking in, to people who think differently from you, it did not look kind and loving.  Jesus was always on the case of the Pharisees who strove to live by the letter of the law (First Amendment Rights!  “Biblical” Definition of Marriage!) but who failed to see or help people who were hurting.   People are more important than issues and causes and being right.

I didn’t find out until afterward, but actual churches were rallying behind CFA and telling their members to go on Wednesday.  Really?  Is that what we are called to do?  The whole Bible for me, and the whole mission of the church, can be summed up in these (condensed) words of Jesus:  Love God, Love Neighbors.  No “love CFA”  No “love the first amendment”.  How was the demonstration on Wednesday anywhere close to loving God or loving our neighbor?!

What I think Wednesday did was to confirm in the minds of many GLBTQ folks and non-Christians that all Christians are anti-gay and judgmental.  There was a study done a few years ago, and those were the top two perceptions non-Christians had of Christians, and I doubt the perception has changed.  I think Christians need to concentrate more on the Love God, Love Neighbor stuff if we are ever going to seen as relevant again.

I know that not all people who went to CFA went because they hate gays and that many of them had good intentions.   But even though you may say that you don’t hate gay people, you have to look how they are treated in society and see why perhaps they have their guard up and feel hated by what happened on Wednesday.  When CFA gives money to organizations that spread lies, fear, and hatred of the GLBTQ community, it feels like hate.  When CFA gives money to organizations who actively promote bans on gay marriage, it feels like hate.  When the COO of CFA says he wants to strengthen families, yet also wants to deny GLBTQ people the right to be a family unit with all of the benefits that come with that, it feels like hate.  When he goes on another interview and says, “”I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” it feels like hate.   When hundreds of thousands of people flock to Chick-fil-a in a counter protest and post celebratory pictures and status updates, it feels like hate.   It just does, so a little sensitivity is needed when dealing with these “issues”, yes?

I really hope we can all learn something from these last two weeks, me included, as we keep striving to be the people of God in a  complicated world.

In closing, I quote John Stewart about my hope for the future, “In 10 years, America will have a lot more gay marriage and a lot more Chick-fil-a restaurants because they are both quality products.”  You really should watch his whole bit! It’s crass at some parts, but hey, it is The Daily Show.

Other things that inform me

The Bible is not anti-gay by Neely Stansell-Simpson

Dan Cathy Interview

Some Words For Christians on Both Sides of the Chick-fil-a War by Rachel Held Evans

5 Reasons Why the Church Failed Yesterday by Mathew Paul Turner

Would Jesus Appreciate Chick-Fil-A?

Now onto things we can all get excited about!  Olympics!  Funny Kids!  College Football!   Back to School Shopping!  Sabbatical!

practicing

I’m a week into my three-month sabbatical.  So far, it doesn’t so much feel like a sabbatical.  It’s a good thing I three months because I think it’s going to take some practice to get this Sabbath thing down.  I’ve got big BIG plans, you know, for going to the beach by myself with a chair and a book, and cashing in my nine Pilates sessions certificate and my massage certificate, and gardening, and seeing old friends, and sleeping, hanging out with the kids a lot one-on-one, etc. etc.  BIG plans.

Bus so far, it’s been not so restful.  Let’s recap:

I spent Sunday tying up all my lose ends so that I could really turn off my work brain beginning the next morning.  I stayed up until 11:00 pm sending e-mails and making notes.  Then once I turned my computer off, it stayed off until 30 minutes ago.  So much discipline.

Monday morning I got up early to head to the hospital to hang out with my parents while my dad had a heart cath and stint placed to open up an 80% blockages.  He is doing great, and we are all glad the doctors finally listened to him – he’s been telling them for two years he needed a cath.

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent helping Russ put tile in our kitchen and foyer to replace the hardwoods post moisture problems.  This is when the injuries began.  I sliced my finger on something (a tile maybe) and had sore needs and hands.

Thursday, I got the plague….some crazy stomach bug that came and went quickly, but was not pretty.  I won’t give you the details except to tell you that I lost six pounds that day.

Friday was ok.  We did a few finishing touches around the house, then had lunch with my parents after returning dad’s truck.  I don’t know if it was the company, the food (fresh shrimp right off the creek), the ambiance (sitting on the deck overlooking Shem Creek and the shrimp boats coming in being chased by pelicans and dolphins), the weather (a warm and breezy afternoon), or a combination, but it was quite possibly the BEST meal I’ve ever had.   That evening took a turn, however, with more injuries.  I sliced another finger while cleaning the glass shelves that go in our china cabinet.  Then whilst grating soap for the homemade laundry detergent (I KNOW!), I grated the side of my thumb.  Then next morning, I used hand sanitizer and nearly cried.

Saturday, we packed up and headed to Columbia for a weekend with Russ’ family, which was hectically lovely. Sunday morning, I didn’t work.  That was pretty great.  Russ was asked to teach a Sunday school class at his home church on Faith and Medicine as part of their Science and Religion summer series.  He did a pretty great job (those eight years of post-college schooling paid off, he actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about!).  Then we all worshiped together.  Taylor was glued to me the whole time.  I think she got how special it was.  Then we got back to Russ’ dad’s house and all took naps.  On a Sunday!!  It was glorious.  Taylor was the only one who didn’t sleep, but she did spend the afternoon cuddled up next to me on the couch while I slept.  Intuitive, that one.

Then Sunday night rolled around.  We had a cookout with Russ’ dad, stepmom, brother, sister-in-law, 2 nephews, 1 niece, step-sister, step-brother-in-law, and step nephew.  It was wild and crazy.  The kids were all playing on a slip and slide outside.  Taylor had to use the bathroom, but was too dirty to go inside, so Russ took her to the bushes.  Next thing I know, Caleb is holding poop in his hand that he has already smeared all over his stomach and face.  GROSSSSS!  So while Taylor is still peeing in the bushes, I am hosing Caleb down with dishsoap in the yard.  Fun times.  Then I got a beer.  A few minutes later Taylor decided she needed to go to the bathroom AGAIN (I guess it was just so fun the first time).  Her three year-old cousin followed her to the bushes and next thing we know, both girls are nekked and squealing and running into the yard.  Then I had another beer.  Then I asked my pregnant step-sister-in-law if she was excited about having two kids.

This morning we took our kids and our neice to the zoo which was super fun,

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but exhausting, as exhibited by my passengers on the ride home.

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And during all this time, I’m a darn USC fan, so I’ve had to stay up late to watch the College World Series many a night this week, which is what I’m doing right now.

So I’m still tired at the beginning of week two of sabbatical.  Here’s hoping this week includes more Sabbath rest.

31

I think I like the age of 31.  The kids and I have been evicted from our house while Russ rips up and replaces the floors in our living room,  kitchen, and foyer.

You see those black lines/spots….that’s mildew in the exact outline of where previous homeowners added onto the house…obviously not doing a very good job.  FYI – this is NOT why I like the age of 31.   Being evicted means we came to Pops and Grammy’s house for the week, where Kathryn and Ryleigh are also staying.  All PARTY all the time!

The day started with birthday pancakes, made by mom, accessorized by Kathryn.

Then I had a COM meeting (COM is a regional church committee for you non-PCUSA clergy folk).  And it was over in TWO HOURS, which I think is a record for us.  We usually meet for at least 3 hours.  I think they sped things up for my birthday.  That AND the unanimously approved the presbytery parental leave policy I submitted – welcome presbytery to the year 2012!  Now people don’t have to call me whenever they get knocked up to get advice on how to get a policy done at their church.

While I was gone, the kids made me a “special surprise”

Then I met Grammy, Kathryn, and the kids at the park for Chick-fil-a lunch and play.

After naps and rest time, we got to eat the “special surprise”

The we played.

We all got to ride in the 32

And chased/caught a cricket

And then Mom made my all time favorite meal…SOOOO good.

And then, since we hadn’t eaten enough, Kathryn and I were treated to another ride in the 32 to Baskin Robbins to sample one of their 31 flavors (for my 31st birthday) with Dad.

Yes, 31 should be alright!