Monthly Archives: December 2009

today: on sunday everywhere, and beautifully.

“Miss Erin, you have a lot of friends.”
Rachel, age 5

Sunday was my last day on pastoral staff at Grace Vineyard. I started attending Grace at age 9 or so. I started working there four and a half years ago. I seinfielded the end of my time at Grace, and perhaps that’s the best way to transition: when things are going well. So on Sunday I took the stage one last time, mostly to say thank you.

I did so with characteristic and oh-so-mockable hand gestures. At Grace I learned a lot about leadership. I learned (and will continue to learn) what it means to be trusted with people. I learned how to take risks. I tried to look people in the face and see the image of God in them. I tried to love well, because that’s my best understanding of how to live this faith I believe. Jesus loved and loves; so we love. Some days are better than others.

Sunday ended up being completely overwhelming for me in the best possible way. My family was there. Many friends were there. And people celebrated. And they cried. And I was allowed to see such tangible evidence of the fact that I am loved that it still makes me tear up thinking about it. I know grace is real because of the people at Grace and the way they have invested in me and believe in me and trust me. They’ve given me the good stuff of life.

Bob, the lead pastor at Grace and my now-former boss, stood on stage with me Sunday and said a lot of good things I struggle to believe about myself, but because I trust Bob, I am choosing to believe them. That is one way of loving a person well: telling her the truest truths about who she is, whether she believes them or not. Bob gave me a wide field to work out how to do the things I thought would be good for Grace in regards to young adults and going to Mexico. He ignored the conservative Texas church struggle to allow women who can to lead. And he is like family to me now.

Robin, the worship pastor, had a few things to say too. I’ve known Robin since I was a little kid, longer than some of his kids have been alive. His oldest son is one of my best friends. We have shared a lot of life. When I started learning to play the guitar as a teen, Robin patiently allowed me to be around, to play with the band at church. He taught me that if mistakes were going to be made, they might as well be made loud so everyone could hear them. That lesson translates beyond music.

Back in February, I got to officiate a wedding (which I also got to photograph). It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. Through the years, though, I got to baptize my first best friend (Griff, then 7) a couple years ago, and to dedicate my second best friend’s baby girl. A lot of teams went to Mexico with me. A lot of people participated in small groups and feeding the homeless and lots of other things. I think what I loved best about being a pastor was seeing how trying to live like Jesus produces life. Everywhere, and beautifully.

My job description has changed. I love that the last day at Grace was such a celebration, full of hugs and love and laughter and tears. I am overwhelmed with just how celebrated I feel still. And I am excited to see what happens next. Here’s the card Griff drew me for Sunday. Of all the cards and words I received, his is the one that I love most of all.

Thanks, Grace Vineyard, for loving me well. What a story we share.


tonight: brand new; same old

I watch the stars from my window sill
the whole world is moving and I’m standing still

The World Spins Madly On, the Weepies

once upon a time (one year ago)
a trip to toronto wrote some words
and noted on a piece of crumbled paper
they got pulled out of the pocket of an unworn coat
just the other day
and today from a stage the goodbye
foretold on that scrap
occurred, quietly, sadly, expectantly
and then (the “and then”)
a pause and a grin
the stories keep telling
a brand new one shoved in the depths of
imagination’s wide berth
what is seen will be told
what is told will be heard
echos of what was once
symphonies of what will be
everything changes; nothing changes
storyteller still, you remind me

today: christmas, year of the monkey attack and other fun facts

“The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than one week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles. Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed of finding, and this holiday story features any number of miracles…”
-p1 The Lump of Coal, Lemony Snicket

This Christmas will go down as the one where Ben was attacked by a monkey on Christmas Eve, prompting a holiday visit to Care Now (we’ve had a number of those through the years). Yep, that’s right, a monkey bit him. The neighbors have a pet monkey, and he is evidently not too fond of Ben. So there’s that. It will also be remembered as the year wherein Meghan, Jay and I never made it out of our pajamas.

I know it’s Christmas, and I should have some thoughts about Jesus and what it means that He was born and lived and died and rose and lives. And I have lots of thoughts about that. Some of them are beautiful and profound, maybe. But today? Today I have more to say about family and joy and tradition. And those things, they are evidence of grace. So we’ll go with that for this holiday reflection.

For the last eight or nine years, we’ve had a show on Christmas Eve. Everyone participates. We sing songs. We perform skits. Sam shows off his foot. Bridget reads the Grinch. Everyone laughs. It starts our Christmas off on the right foot (after we rush through dinner and the Christmas Eve service at church… said service being preempted by snow this year). As the kids have grown up, the nature of the show has evolved. This year, the show took the shape of being a full-on roast. No family member was safe.

Meghan and I rewrote the Twelve Days of Christmas around the many nuances of our family… a baby brother named Jakey, five i-phones, eight XL pizzas, etc. Everyone sang along. The highlight, though had to be Debo, Zak and Tater’s song, which mocked, oh, everyone…

This year for Christmas skit what we’ve decided to do is make fun of you, and you and you
Bridget is kind of a midget
Erin, please stop wearing stuff from the little girl’s section
Meghan, please, we’re begging, stop bossing us around
Jay… you’re golden
Sam, your nails are too long
Ben, you’re monkey food and have funky toes
Zeke, brace face (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap)
Josh is a bittle lit lisdexic
Jono reads a lot and is a little pale
and Jacob’s hyperactive
Zak to Deborah: Deborah, you’re so tall and pretty
Deborah to Zak: Zak, you’re so cute and witty and
Tater is a little bit shitty

We laughed well into tears.

The snow made everyone sleep over at Mom and Dad’s due to ice on the roads. After all the Christmas morning crazy, we turned on a Harry Potter movie and passed out in the living room.

With all the crazy changes coming up, this Christmas will be memorable because it was full of laughter and life. We played games and made jokes. We ate. We were together. In our crazy super-sized family, a microcosmic Christmas miracle today was everyone together, loving each other and aware we have a good life. That’s our Christmas story for this year. I am thankful.

today: t-minus one week

I’ll be out of my mind
and you’ll be out of ideas

Hot Air Balloon, Owl City

“…All was well.”
-the last line in the final book of the Harry Potter series

This is the role of the artist – to find the places within where a door would go nicely, to build it, to open it, and to give themselves to the flow that rushes through, wherever it leads them.
Jesh de Rox, photographer

Heather and I turned the corner on Calle Perserverencia in Vamos Tamaulipas last week, and we looked at the way our friend Carmen’s house has changed. “Here,” she said, pointing to a cement slab, “Ruby sang to Emily and Dayan.”

We sloshed down the muddy street with shoeboxes and kids in tow, and I started seeing things that the last few years of working in the community had given me. There was the house where Perla used to live, and her mom Norma loves my mom, who cried with her when she lost her little girl last year. Here was Hector’s house. We turned the corner at the end of the road. There was the canal our team cleaned out two summers ago (not without strep throat, heat exhaustion and a rusty nail creating need for three Mexican medical experiences). We passed stores we’d bought cokes in, women knew by face, children we knew by name.

For the last few years, our lives have been paced by trips to Mexico the way a musician uses a metronome to keep time. And next week I finish working at church, meaning that last week when we handed out those shoes in Mexico, we closed a chapter. It was strange and sad and joyful in the colonia last week. We handed out shoes and held babies and prayed for miracles and watched life happen. They know us; we know them.

Today I went into the office at church to close out the Mexico trip and attend my last staff meeting. As I worked at my desk, Bob, my boss and friend and second dad and mentor extraordinaire, leaned his head in my doorway and asked if I wanted a sandwich. “You know,” he said, “At your next job, your boss probably won’t bring you lunch when he packs one for himself.” Bob and his equally extraordinary Anna have brought me lunch for the past four years. Not every day but most days. Our office life has had a rhythm of banter and food and hugs and conversations. We rarely settle into routines at church, because church life is often defined by what is happening around us and how we respond to it. We lack routine but rely on rhythm.

Over the past year, as the rhythm became too maddening for me to keep up with (I am a slow-song kind of musician and a slow-dance kind of girl), I found myself retreating away from the good parts of Mexico and the happy parts of church on a lot of days. I ran a lot of miles trying to clarify what was happening. When the Owl City Ocean Eyes album came out in July, I downloaded it. It stayed on my i-pod shuffle I run with for months and rarely left the CD player in my car. That album is freakin’ intoxicating with happiness. The music served to keep my feet on the ground without letting my head sink. I have really struggled to find peace with my decision to move on from church work.

I read Harry Potter on repeat this past year as well. When I could not find God in the Bible or in church or in relationships, I found clear pictures of Him in the Harry Potter novels. Go figure. Within the genius of Rowling’s world of wizards and witches the unlikely heroes who emerged (and often at great cost) reminded me of endless truths, capital T Truths: People are worth the cost. Fear ought not be the plumbline of our choices. Love wins. Strength often displays itself most strongly in moments of weakness, brokenness and death. Hope emerges, time and again, in the face of very real darkness when people love sacrificially. Humility marks the best of leaders… and on and on… I found the books pushing my faith on as I considered all the changes ahead of me.

The music I heard and the books I read carried me along this year as I tried to figure everything out. A lot of days, they seemed to be the glue holding everything together, these songs written from someone else’s heart and these words that made up an unreal world. In reality, though, it was the people around me and the God who makes His home within me who showed up, time and again, in a messy office and on muddy Mexican streets who have made all the difference in the world. They were the instruments of much needed consistency and rhythm. And now I stand in front of some brand new doors to walk through.

But I get to keep the people.

I may be utterly out of my mind, but all will be well.

tonight: story; you’ve written me.

“Anything you forget to feed will die. Feed the important things if you want to keep them alive.”
Ryan Detzel

you are into story
the way some people write letters
wanting the recipient caught up on life
you write down stories
on hearts and in minds
wanting the recipient to grasp the invite:

hands out of pockets
and dirty with the stuff of happenings
feet shorn in boots
clung to by endless trappings
beauty not of surface enchantments
beauty of substance, enduring antics
producing wholeness, breaking strife
teller and participant both awakened, alive.

invitation received
a word, believe
humanity reprieved
eyes open, i see
this story has chapters yet
and you’ve written me
well, so well.

tonight: one for jose

“To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.”
-Emily Dickenson

…hope does not disappoint…
Romans 5:5

Jose. He’s been sick. All the Mexico teams love him. A lot.

if you, weak
then strength maybe is what we see
when we look in your eyes
and cling to your smile
and grip you, small, in our arms for a while
and grip you, small, in our hearts for all time
if you, weak
then He, strong
holds you in His sight and
breathes in broken bodies
life and more life
this is your story:
hope. for glory.

(i kept staring at your photograph
after this trip, maybe my last,
and crying, prayed
and crying, believed
and crying, elated
for my heart was seeing
a little boy loved,
a little boy dancing,
a little boy well,
a little boy handsome).

for you, jose, if weak
then we hope
until strength we find
we hope.

today: mexico- the finale, in reality, passing the baton

Risk it all, ’cause I’ll catch you if you fall
wherever you go if my heart was a house you’d be home

-Adam Young

I think it’s rare to look at your story as it is happening and know that what is happening is everything intended for you. At least this is true for me.

I have never loved going to Mexico the way I have loved going other places, but in the last four years, I have gone to Mexico many, many times with a variety of amazing people with one hope in our going: that we love people, practically, simply and radically, because that is the very thing we believe we have received from God: love. And though I don’t have solutions for many problems or cures for much brokenness, I can love.

And though it is not always clear what the most loving thing is, and though some people are harder to love than others, in doing these many trips to Mexico, whatever efforts I have made have been feeble. But the teams I have gone with have been amazing. And the way God has shown up has been astounding.

So tomorrow I will get into some cars with 24 others from our church, and we will drive to the border with a lot of shoes. We will give them away as a means of celebrating a God who made a way for us by loving us. And though we go to give, it’s likely we will be the ones changed. It’s likely that in our doing our best to love these little kiddos we’ve come to know, we’ll be overwhelmed by just how loved we are. It’s crazy the way the Kingdom works like that. And it’s crazy that this is the last time I’ll do it. And it’s crazy that I’m excited about what happens next must be held in tension with deciding to run hard these next few days because they will be full of stories and wonder and love.

This is the end of this story for me, for now. But there are others who will go after me. And they will keep giving. And we will keep loving. And God will keep being himself. This is the stuff of hope. I. am. amazed.