Thursday, January 20, 2011 Blog

Hi good folks,
I've changed my blog so that it no longer requires a password.  Sorry to switch hosts on you, but the blog allows me to do more with my photography and seems to be a better site in general.  Hope you'll come to my new blogging home at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I've Moved!

You can now find my blog here. This site has more flexibility for the things I want to do.  You'll need a password for the new site, but if you'll leave your email address in a comment, I'd love to send it to you! Thanks for following me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Greatest Fear

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." (Marianne Williamson)

I've not been willing to admit this to myself, but in a lot of ways, I'm afraid to write. That sounds dumb, but for me it's risky. For me, I think, it's the thing I've always wanted to do. It's not that I'm afraid I'll start writing and won't like it, but rather that I'm afraid I'll like it too much. I fear not that I'll be rejected but that I'll be accepted-- which will in turn necessitate more and more writing. I'm afraid that I might just get lost in a world of words, and have a hard time coming back to reality.

I've been telling myself that "they" won't let me write. They who? The church who wants all my attention. The sermon who must be preached, week after week. The triathlon who isn't getting trained for. The quilt, who cries out to be finished. My puppy who doesn't understand "I'm busy." My husband who doesn't want to hear "I'm busy."

But, it turns out that maybe "I" am the "they."

A view from the last day

I feel like I should say something, anything for that matter. After all, I've been at a conference about writing-- about WORDS! for crying out loud. I've prayed with the monks, and feasted with my colleagues, both on so much food, and more satisfyingly on collegiality. I've been inspired, both by the setting and by the stories, told both formally and in little "pods" of conversation along the way. I've met the sunrise, and I've felt the wind blow through the open-air chapel by the lake.
But something has blown through me too. A need. A desire. A thirst. A fear. A hope. A word. I leave carrying more than I brought: books, and mugs, and folders... and ideas and hopes and dreams. Not everything will fit in my now-too-small suitcase, and it, like my brain, is now overstuffed. I'll make a clumsy traveler, but no one will be able to find fault with all the things I've grabbed ahold of to take home.
So here I am at the last day, and the view is spectacular. Not just of a last look at a lake, but of a last look...for now, anyway, at my colleagues who will certainly do great things. The view is also a look forward, to the plane that will return me to my beloved, to a life that I might now dare to find.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Notes from THE workshop

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

On Tuesday, I had my piece "workshopped" (which more or less that the author sits there completely silent while his/her colleagues deconstruct every choice she has made.) My major in college was creative writing, so certainly this format was not new. But what was new was the ethos of the group. Before, I was with competitive college kids who cared about little more than their own project. Before, the professors allowed anyone to say anything they wished, under the guise of "making the writing stronger." But this time was completely different. This time, my colleagues and I are all invested in each other's work. This time, the comments actually felt constructive. This time, I didn't leave in tears, and might actually be brave enough to believe that I will write more.

The thing that amazes me about this process though--in all the times I've been through it-- is the ways the group will pick up on exactly the things that the writer struggled with. Somehow, the same questions the writer had become glaring. What the group picked up on from my work is that I wasn't really sure what project I wanted. In some ways, it seemed to them (and me) like I was torn between memoior of my first pastorate and a survival guide for new ministers. Once I was finally allowed to talk again, I acknowledged the fact that I was somewhat ambivalent about the project. Some great stories have come out of this time, but maybe I need to vomit forth these stories, and then move on to something else.

But here is some of the written and oral feedback I received:
"The narrators voice is such a strength. You're funny, and genuine."
"It was an interesting choice to talk directly to the audience." (This got mixed reviews...some thought it was too unconventional, jarring maybe.)
"The author's fantasy world of what she imagined the ministry to be collided with what turned out to be a very different reality, and the ways this happened were hilarious."
"The tone was both gracefully not academic, but at the same time too colloquial." (As I looked back on it the afternoon before it was workshopped, I cringed at how many times I said "heck" and other things like that. I wouldn't want to read it, and I'm not sure why I thought I should've put those things in... but by then it was too late. But the group nailed that one on the head."
"Great Project with potential appeal to many a stressed out new pastor."
"I love your ability to tell a good story and your appreciation for the humor--and the absurdity of the pastoral life."

I'm not sure where, or if, the project is going. It might really morph into something less pedestrian, or ... well, I just don't know yet. But at any rate, I have a lot to think about.

Lost and Found

As I've been here, we've stayed really busy. When I looked at the schedule, I imagined that we would have much time to think and write and pray. But in reality this hasn't been the case. So the other night, when the schedule made it look like we had a free night, I was thrilled. But then after dinner, we were told to sit so we could all "talk". (As if we hadn't been doing enough talking... my inner introvert is running around screaming.) And worse than that, before we could start talking, we were going to sing a few hymns as a group. I'm not sure I'd been thrilled about that even if I could sing, but I can't, so mostly I just mouthed the words so that nobody would know.

But then, of course, someone suggested our last song be Amazing Grace. This song makes me weep anyway, but on this particular night, when we got to the line "I once was lost but now I'm found", something in me broke open. Not that I've never had the sense of being found, but more often than not, I feel lost. But at that momement, I knew that right then anyway, I was found. Something in me was found.

What is Home?

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

Every afternoon, we are asked to do a free-write using a particular prompt. Here's what came out of yesterday's question: What is Home?

My home looks like the love of my life-- like waking up next to my snoring, farting soul mate-- the one I've chosen to be with for life. It looks like a place that is really lived in, with dirty socks littering the floor of most rooms, and the remains of whatever we scrounged (because it's likely that I didn't cook) for dinner last night still on the coffee table.

My home smells like dog. It smells like a boxer mutt who played in the mud puddle that she shouldn't have. It smells like the beagle that's more exactly built like a pig-- who just wants to lie down, be loved, and grow old.

My home feels like a cat who's so soft that his fur might make a delightful pair of knitted pair of socks. It feels like a hungry cat who is convinced that if she pretends to adore you just enough, you will immediately jump up to attend her every need.

Today, my home feels far away. Today I miss my snoring soulmate, and wish I could bring him into this world I've stumbled into. But this world is not home.

WHen I return home, things will be different. I'll be different. I'll have more "things" to put in my home: a heart more attuned to its desires, a dream unstuck.

Best Compliment

As I was sitting by one of the nuns who came to share her memoir with us, she looks at me, "You speak like a writer, like a natural storyteller. You're simply delightful."

I didn't tell her that I can't find a writing project to settle down with, or that I'm sure that many other folks rightfully should have been chosen for my place at this conference, but I definitely left smiling.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Your name precedes you"

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

One of the very odd things that I've experienced at the conference so far is that my name (or at least my work) has preceded me. Long before I ever met any of these colleagues, they had my work in their hands, just as I had theirs in my hands. They made judgements about me, about my situation, about my talent as I writer just as I made those same judgements about them. And then, suddenly, we're all face to face, and there is no more hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

The work that we've submitted has to stand on its own (as it should). You can't attach caviats to it or make excuses for it. You can't change the words, or pretend that they just accidentally lept on your page. You've got to stand behind it, and let people come to know you through it. You've got to own it, and put up a brave front that you are ok with the fact that those words are on the page because you put them there. Willingly. Consciously. Unapologetically.

"will they laugh at me?" you wonder. "Will they see the truth-- that I'm a child, a novice, someone just running words together on a page? Will they think my story is worth telling, or might they secretly think they could have more fun digging for 'gold' in their nose than reading my work."

It's a vulnerable, naked feeling.


[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

"We assume that you're all great writers or you wouldn't be here. You have been carefully chosen because we at the Institute believe you have something to say, and we want to give you the space to say it."

Those were some of the opening remarks made to us at our orientation last night. We were told that the twelve of us were selected from a large number of applications. Well, that's enough to give a girl a big head.

But more than that, it's enough to give a girl (or guy) a sense of purpose. I'm a Presbyterian-- one of our big things is that God calls us to things. Certainly I've been called by God to be a minister (because...ummm...well... that wasn't my plan!) But the idea that someone else senses a purpose for you gives, at least me, a kick in the pants.

The idea that someone believes that I have something worth saying, something that I should be putting out in to the world is more than I have yet been able to believe. It might be the answer to the prayer I've never had the courage to pray-- and it terrifies me. It humbles me. And it makes me dream.