Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ask a Pastor's Wife

It's time again for Ask a Pastor's Wife!
I asked my Facebook friends to submit their questions, and they did not disappoint.
If you have any more questions about clergy family life, post them in the comments below and I'll answer them in future posts.

My answers are in italics.

Question #1
How do you mentally prepare yourself for appointment season?
This is the first time we've been appointed somewhere that didn't have a clear ending date. At our first appointment, we knew my husband would be moved after 2 years, so we were able to plan, pack, and prepare our hearts accordingly. This time it's much different. The rumor mill and church politics can produce anxiety, not to mention distract from the purpose of itinerant ministry, but it's part of the deal. Moving would be easy if we knew the church we were moving to would be a good fit for our gifts and graces, but it's nearly impossible to know that until you've already arrived. 

I've said before that I don't mind moving and that usually I enjoy the details and challenges of setting up a new home. But I'd be lying if I said that with each season's passing I didn't repack my decorations a little more carefully, not sure if the next time I open the boxes will be in this home or another. 
My kids have taken our moves in stride so far. But this will be the first time my youngest daughter will remember moving, and my middle and oldest daughters are getting older and more attached to friends and routines. It's only going to get harder from here. 

So we pray. We pray that the bishop and cabinet are carefully and prayerfully organizing moves. We pray that if we are moved, it's to an ideal match for our gifts and graces. We pray that the kids will find friends, that the schools will provide an excellent education, and that our new community will embrace us all. And if we are to stay, we pray that we can continue to be effective and achieve the goals the church has set for themselves each year.
And in the meantime we keep serving right where we are, up until the day we move.

Question #2
How do you manage family and having to split your husband's time/attention?
It's a balancing act, no different that what other working families go through day to day, I imagine. But it's easier to manage the demands on our time when we know we're living out our calling and doing what God has equipped us to do. 

Todd and I have flexible work schedules, so it's rare that one of us can't be home with the kids while the other works. When it happens, though, it's pretty stressful and reminds us that living far away from family is hard and lonely. 

Our family runs on a different routine: we spend more time together during weekdays and less on weekends. My husband has evening meetings 2-3 nights a week, so we try to keep certain days as sabbath. This tends to change with the church seasons. And what works for us now likely won't in our next church/es. As the kids get older, it will get even more complicated. But it's part of the gig. 

After 15 years of marriage and 6 years of ministry, we're learning to prioritize self care so we can be wholehearted parents and spouses. For me, that might look like getting a pedicure or having a kid-free lunch with a friend. For my husband, that might mean a round of golf or going to see a movie by himself. I used to think self care was an outrageous extravagance, but now I see how critical it is to our well-being.

Question #3
What are your hobbies?
 I like to read, write, and cook. I don't watch much TV, but I'm a news and political drama junkie: The West Wing, Veep, The Daily Show, and  Last Week Tonight are shows I never miss or rewatch regularly. 
Many of my passions have been inspired by things I've read, so I tend to stick to certain topics (environmental/gender/economic/racial  justice, faith/theology, family) and authors (Sarah Bessey, Brene Brown, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Shauna Niequist). 
I've had to turn my cooking up a notch when I went vegetarian this summer--it's taken some time to adjust my cooking so that I'm not fixing multiple meals each time we gather at the table. But I'm enjoying the challenge, especially when I have a bit of time to meal plan at the beginning of each week. 

Question #4
If you had a day to yourself what would you do?
Such a lovely question. I'd answer differently depending on my location, but let's assume I'm at home in central Illinois. I'd sleep in and let my husband make lunches and get the kids off to school. I'd have some free time to read or write (or both!). I'd plan a nice dinner and head to the local farmer's market to source some fresh ingredients and maybe a bouquet of flowers. I'd have a lunch date or coffee with my husband or a friend at one of our favorite local places. Once the kids came home from school they'd play nicely together until dinner was ready. We'd eat outside or picnic near the lake and share about our day. We'd take the dog for a walk and watch the sunset. My older girls would help the youngest bathe and dress for bed. We'd snuggle up for stories and prayers. Then my husband and I would watch a movie or show together and have a beer or glass of wine.

It doesn't sound like much, but it's the intentionality of this day that appeals to me--being able to take some time for me, to tend to important relationships, to be quiet and still for just a minute, and to enjoy some natural beauty. Most days I get to do at least one of the things I listed, and over the course of a week I might check off several more. Life is pretty good!

Thank you again for your questions! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shareholder Report

This summer I purchased a share from First Fruits Homestead, a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. Every other week for 14 weeks I received a box of locally grown fresh produce for an up front investment of $200.

CSA Week 13, photo credit First Fruits Homestead
I got to see where my food was grown, I became friends with my farmers (or farmHERS), and my family got to try new foods and new recipes. Overall, it was a great experience.

Here are the top 10 things I learned with my first CSA share:

1. Garlic Scapes are a thing. You will get a lot of them early in the season. Learn how to use them here.
2. Eat the salad greens first.
3. Elephant garlic is not garlic. But it's tasty in it's own way.
4. You will not be able to eat all the tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini you receive. Learn how to preserve or can these things for later. I made and froze tomato soup and bread and butter pickles.
5. Get the kids involved in finding recipes. We like these 3 plant-based diet cookbooks: Oh She Glows Everyday, Forks Over Knives Family, and The CSA Cookbook.

I highly recommend supporting your local farmers by purchasing a CSA share.  Use this site to find a CSA near you.

What's you favorite recipe to use with your summer produce?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What is saving your life right now?

I've been absent from the blog for a while. I'm having a hard time making space for myself to write. I've been overwhelmed by travel for work, church commitments, and the typical day-to-day demands of a family of five. But one thing I've been making time for is listening to podcasts. They're amazing--I can listen while working or driving or cleaning or walking the dog. I learn something new every time I listen. My current favorites are Pod Save America, Lovett or Leave it, Pod Save the People, With Friends Like These, No Place Like Home, The Shauna Niequist Podcast, and For the Love.

Each week on Jen Hatmaker's For the Love podcast, she asks her guests the same question (originally from author Barbara Brown Taylor): what is saving your life right now? And each week when I listen I find myself answering along in my head. Though the question sounds a tad dramatic--my life isn't in any danger, after all--it's been a helpful mental health check-in. I'm not sure about you, but since last November I feel like the world's turned upside down and I'm still trying to get my bearings and decide how best to respond.

So, here are 5 things saving my life right now:

1. Cookbooks. I'm learning to use the food I get every other week from my CSA share so nothing goes to waste or the compost bin. I've been exploring how to incorporate a plant-based diet into my normal cooking habits and have been eating vegetarian for most of the summer. My favorite right now is The CSA Cookbook.

2. A new skincare routine. I'm bad at makeup. And I've struggled with my skin off and on since Ava was born. So I made a commitment to start taking better care of my skin and learn how to do a basic makeup routine. But of course there's a catch: everything I use must be non-toxic. My current routine is washing my face with Norwex makeup removal cloths and applying Tarte BB Tinted Treatment Primer with a Beauty Blender. I'm also trying to regrow my over-tweezed eyebrows by applying castor oil twice a day. So far, it's working.

3. Tulsi Sweet Rose Tea and Tranquil essential oil blend. These are my go-to items when I'm starting to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Works every time.

4. The West Wing. I started at episode 1, season 1, on November 9. It helps me remember that this country is greater than the person in the oval office.

5. Water. Being near it just heals my soul. I've been able to breathe in the waves of northern Michigan, Seattle, and southern Illinois this summer and I cannot explain why, but it grounds me every time.

What's saving your life right now?

Friday, May 5, 2017

What I learned from arguing with a pig farmer

Recently I was invited to preach at a church near me about the importance of creation care. I carefully crafted a sermon that I thought was equal parts faithful, educational, and challenging. Though I was terrified for my first preaching experience, I thought it went well. At the very least I didn't die of embarrassment or pass out from nerves. I received positive feedback on my appearance (that's a blog post for another day), my speaking voice, and my message. I was thanked for my work and for teaching the congregation something new. Several people pledged to increase their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. It was an encouraging day.

A few days went by and I received a phone call from one of the pastors. It seems one of the members of the congregation was enraged by my message and the pastor thought he was in need of  a follow up. So I gave him a call.

What happened next was perhaps the most formative experience I've had to date about how to have a difficult or emotionally-charged conversation with someone with which you disagree. Here's what I learned:

1. Listening to understand and listening to formulate a response are not the same thing.
I like to debate, and I like to win. But when you're trying to form or maintain relationships with people, you need to suspend this desire. The best thing I could do in this situation was to make sure the person felt heard. So I listened. This can be disarming to the person you're disagreeing with, because they're not expecting this grace.

I took time to let the pig farmer explain why he was so angry. I didn't interrupt. As it turned out, he wasn't even sure why he was angry. So I was able to ask some clarifying questions to direct our conversation.

2. How you say what you say matters.
I like to be right. And I felt deep-down that this gentleman was wrong. But instead of using a sarcastic tone or superior attitude, I remembered that he deserves the same respect and grace I do. I recently watched a Ted Talk by Sally Kohn in which she said, "You can be politically right but emotionally wrong". Your tone, attitude, eye contact, and body language can determine the outcome of a disagreement just as much as your words can.

My desire was to build a bridge with the pig farmer, not to win a match. And because this was technically a work interaction, I stayed in professional-mode. I gave him the benefit of the doubt--maybe he was having a tough day personally or professionally. Perhaps he was caught off guard that I actually called to talk and he was unprepared for such a conversation.  

3. Ask, "Why do you feel that way?"
In a recent episode of Ana Marie Cox's podcast With Friends Like These she talked about putting on her journalist hat during difficult discussions. She said that asking this question often shifted the tone of the conversation because a person stopped defending ideas and started embracing feelings. This can dramatically change the conversation. It can also yield important reasons why a person holds a particular view: a painful event from his/her childhood, a anecdote from a friend or family member, a deeply held fear. The listener can then begin to feel compassion for the person and perhaps see where this person is coming from in a new way. 

I asked the pig farmer this question late in our conversation. I should have started here. Some of the most useful parts of our conversation came from this line of questioning. I could hear the pain in his voice as he explained how difficult it is to make a profit in his industry and how a changing world and economy terrified him. It was then that I saw him as a real human person and not a stereotype.

4. Restate/explain/clarify your position
People hear things wrong. People connect dots that you don't intend for them to connect. So you may need to say, "let me make sure I understand what you're saying."

It turns out the the pig farmer has misheard me. He was so worked up about something I said early in the sermon that he missed an important connecting point later in my message. I offered to email him my manuscript. He declined, but I was glad I could offer that clarification.

5. Acknowledge that you both have rational, valid points even if you disagree.
This is perhaps the place where relationships are made or broken. Even if we disagree on a topic, we might have the same end goal in mind. We may each have a different vision of how to achieve these goals, and that is OK. It's important to find what we have in common and end on a positive note.

I discovered through our conversation that the pig farmer wanted to be more sustainable but that it wasn't always possible because of regulations or budget. But he listed several things he does at his farm to try to tread lighter on the earth. I do whatever I can to reduce my impact on the planet, too. I go about it a different way than he does, but we both are doing what we can. That's common ground. That's relationship building.

I've not spoken to the pig farmer again, but I am grateful for the lessons I learned from our conversation. And I'm hopeful that I could learn more about his industry and build a relationship with him in the future, as I have space in my friend list for a pig farmer.

So, how do you have difficult conversations? What would you add to this list? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

How I Know What I Know {Earth Month Series}

This is post 3 of 5 in my Earth Month Series. You can find post #1 here, post #2 here, and post #3 here

People ask me all the time, "How do you know all of this stuff about the environment?" The truth is I'm self taught. But you, too, can know what I know by checking out the following links:

Social Media/Websites:
I've linked the websites below, and you can find social media links to follow on your preferred platform on each individual page.
The Story of Stuff

1 Million Women

Be Just Be Green

Climate Progress

Faith in Place

Interfaith Power & Light


Yes! Magazine

Environmental Voter Project

Moms Clean Air Force

Climate Reality Project

Books (that I've actually read):
 Climate Justice: A Call to Hope and Action

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature

The 6th Extinction

A Hopeful Earth: Faith, Science, and the Message of Jesus

What should be added to this list? What sites and books teach you?