Tag Archives: guest posts

Raising Up Sisterhood

Friends, I have a beautiful guest post to share today. I had the opportunity to work alongside Stacy Hart in a Perinatal Services Unit and got to know her there. She’s a skilled and compassionate nurse, an invested conversationalist, and she has a peaceful conviction about her that really shows up in her words today. I smiled when I read them, because I’ve never felt anything but support and genuine interest from Stacy. She models the strengths of women well–strengths that sometimes are hidden by the heavy things that burden us. Her post today encourages us to lay down those heavy things and come out from our hiding places. I hope you enjoy it and are encouraged, as I certainly was!

Little girls with string tied between their beds. Hiding giggles in pillows as they pass notes, dolls, and sisterhood back and forth on their homemade contraption. Footsteps coming. Flop down fast, try to trick Daddy; make him believe dreams are the only thing awake in this room. He peeks in the door, sees eyes squeezed too tight, smiles playing at the corner of mouths, and hears the faintest attempt at fake snoring. He grins, closes the door, knowing this is more important than sleep.

It always will be.

This aching. This longing. This need–for each other.

Community. Connection. Sisterhood. Family.

Life is born and the first cries from a sweet new babe’s mouth beg for comfort, to be held close, to be wanted. Needed.

We are women. We were created for community. Designed to do life side by side.

But the world says no. Society screams stop. Experience teaches us to hold others at an arm’s length. View them as a threat. Assume the worst. Give no benefit of the doubt.

Then we turn on ourselves, and become more harsh than any critic would dream of being.

I must have it all together. Be the most successful. Be better than everyone–then I will know success. I must dress flawlessly. Emulate airbrushed lies in magazines. I must devour the right parenting books and produce children who never bite me or throw tantrums in store aisles. I must keep up appearances. Put my best foot forward. No matter what the cost. This is where happiness is found.

Eventually our world screeches to a stop. Life happens around us. And we believe all of its lies.

We know we will never be what SHE is. We will never be that good. That talented. That beautiful. That successful. That carefree. That skinny. That crafty. That funny. That desirable. That intelligent. That perfect.

Comparison is the poison that devastates community.

Does it really matter if you breast feed or use formula? Co-sleep or have separate rooms? Does making my own baby food make me a better person? Does slinging verbal abuse in the comments section of parenting articles mean I win? Does gossiping about the popular girls make you prettier? Does a brand name give me more worth? Does hurting someone else ever make me better? Happier?

No. No. Every time, no.

Defeat threatens. But hope prevails.

I have heard a whisper. Felt a stirring.
And I know that I am not the only one.

The rumbling is off in the distance but it is steadily growing louder, more powerful. I hear the voices, the hearts, the souls, of thousands of women who have decided to say…

Enough is enough.

Comparison will not steal my joy.
Comparison will not poison my sisterhood.
Comparison will not win.

Community.

Community is making a comeback.
Possibly one of the greatest and most important comebacks in all of history. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

When community thrives, when selflessness and a servant’s heart reign, selfishness dies.
When community is the goal, competition, comparison, and mommy wars lose their sting.
When community exists, lives change.

Where community lives, Love reigns.

Imagine this world.

Open your eyes.

The rumbling is all around us. Community coming back to life. In neighborhoods, in churches, in offices, in blogging communities, on social media: women are realizing we need each other.

Friendship rediscovered. True connection. Life to the full.

When you stop looking at someone, and their talents, and all of their beauty, and their allegedly Pinterest perfect life, as a threat, your eyes are opened to who they really are.

A woman. A wife. A mom. A heart and soul as weary, as exhausted and as lovely as you are.

This movement. This powerful force of women who challenge, encourage, and inspire me every single day. This wave that will change society forevermore. It starts small, nearly too small to notice at first.

It starts with weary moms at Target smiling at each other so we know we’re not alone.

It starts in book clubs, and spinning classes and yoga studios.

It starts when we stop looking at each other through the eyes of comparison.

It starts when a tragedy happens and thousands of women on Instagram reach out to a family experiencing unbelievable loss.

It starts when we ask real questions and have real conversations and discover how desperately our soul was longing for friendship kindred.

It starts when we call out the beauty and the talents and the extraordinary we see in women around us.

It starts when we believe that we are our very best when we do life together.

It starts when a new mom has meals delivered to her door and her toilets scrubbed.

It starts when we introduce ourselves at playgrounds instead of staring at our phones.

It starts when there is no fear of judgement…
In asking for help.
In revealing our weaknesses.
In being vulnerable.
In speaking of the uglier parts of life.
In asking forgiveness when we are wrong.
In dying to the disease of pride.
In asking women we love to journey with us.
In admitting we need each other.

It starts with you. It starts with me.
And it is so time.

We’ve got this.

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Stacy is a wife, mother to three beautiful daughters, Labor and Delivery nurse, and in case you couldn’t tell, she’s passionate about the power of community and friendship among women.

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Glitter, Green Converse and How to Get Red Wine out of White Linen: Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming Episcopalian

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a guest post; a whole lot of life has happened. But, today I get to host my friend Deborah Stambaugh, and that is a very exciting thing. I met Deborah officially when we were college freshmen–but I probably should have met her many years before that. We went to the same church camp every summer in Mountainair, NM (some of you know exactly what I’m talking about) and I remember seeing her and her three sisters and thinking how beautiful and cool they were (I was right–they are).  Deborah might be part of the reason I married who I did–I do know she saw the potential for our relationship long before I did. So thanks for that tremendous gift, Deb. And thanks for helping me laugh at myself, for modeling bravery, for glasses of “water” to drink around bonfires and glasses of iced coffee to drink in boring classes. I’ve always learned from your generosity.  

Hope you all enjoy her words today, and can find a way to breathe deep and trust the process you’re in. I’ll be doing the same. Happy almost Easter!

When James led us to the Episcopal tradition, many friends and relatives asked why.  His answer always started with the church calendar.  That was boring (and certainly the last topic that could ever be blog-worthy) so I often interjected my own response.  After many cycles of the calendar, I am beginning to understand.

It all started in Advent.  Looking for coffee in the great hall at St. John’s Cathedral, I found the smell of cut pine, families bustling to assemble their advent wreaths, glitter and cut ribbon all over the floor, and bystanders drinking coffee and enjoying the hubbub.

“You should make one,” James (my husband) offered.  He drank coffee and chatted instead of helping me.  So, I vindictively put glitter ribbon all over it.  He hates glitter.   He said it was beautiful.  I thought, “There must be something to this Advent thing if it can make him like glitter.”  Inspired by the wreath, James invited our neighbors to our house.  He said a short, but lovely, prayer and cooked a beautiful meal, which we enjoyed by the light of the first candle–a tradition we continue.

I paid no attention to the calendar until Lent approached and people asked what would be my Lenten discipline.  I retorted that I would stop “walking Central” and smoking cigarettes, but only for Lent, and that I would not give up the pole dancing gig!  Secretly, or not so secretly, I was repulsed by the idea of Lent.  Sometime during that first Lent I do remember thinking that Rev. Goodman was finally preaching proper sermons—about abstaining from sin and committing your life to God because Jesus sacrificed so much for you.

On my first Pentecost it seemed every woman at church wore a red hat, except me.

There are colors to coincide with each season of the church calendar.  Ordinary time is green.  James likes to wear Converse All-stars to match the color of the season.  Ordinary time is the longest season, so his feet smell awful by the end of it.

The glitter wreath, my abstinence from abstaining, my black dress in a sea of red, and James’ stinky feet were all I truly understood during that first cycle of the church calendar.

When Lent came around a second time, Rev. Goodman’s sermons sounded familiar (like real church) again.  This time, equipped with the experience of feeling (though in a rudimentary way) other seasons, I understood why the sermons were familiar—because it was Lent.  Then I realized, “I hate Lent because I’ve done 20 years of it.”  An evangelical emphasis on holiness combined with my own religious ambition resulted in a continuous effort to memorize scripture, pray, abstain, and otherwise improve myself so that I could be the best Christian possible and obtain a lofty status in the Kingdom of God.  It exhausted me.  Instead of becoming more Christ-like, abstinence made me judgmental and proud.

I gave myself several years of ordinary time.  Thankfully the Cathedral completely and utterly welcomed me in spite of my lack of enthusiasm.  Slowly a thirst for renewed spirituality burgeoned within me.

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James was assigned to help at a small parish that did not have volunteers to prepare and clean up communion.  After service he wetted the wine-stained church linens, put them in a plastic bag, brought them home, and left them on the counter to rot.  Three days passed.  Then four.  My options were to throw out the whole mess or attempt to salvage it.  I dug out my Oxyclean and an old tooth brush.  While working on the linens, it dawned on me that I was participating in an ancient tradition.  Though separated by 2,000 years of time, I was working together (in a symbolic or possibly more than symbolic way) with the people who performed the most honorable task of preparing the corpse of Christ for burial.  I thought about them.  I participated in their grief.  I wondered what thoughts they had as they tended the vacant and mutilated body, whether they were mad at him, knowing he didn’t even put up a fight.  Were they mad at the authorities who caused his death?  Did they dare hope for a resurrection?   How horrible it must have been to grieve without the hope I have in the resurrection.  Luckily it was only three days.  I wished I could share my Oxyclean and washing machine with them.

Somehow cleaning linens made Christ and his people more real to me.  I understood the value of early church traditions, and decided to participate.  Each year as we circle around the calendar, I gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the celebrations.  Each year my participation is seasoned by my own life experiences.

This year we celebrated Advent right after I experienced the longing and anticipation of waiting for the birth of my own child.  I thought about all of the people who shared with me in the joy of anticipating my daughter’s birth.  I considered the Virgin Mary’s anticipation as she felt the Child quicken in her womb, as she waited to meet him, to introduce him to the world.  I felt anticipation of Christ’s return and longing for His presence in my daily life.  Advent is “the fast that feels like you’re just too excited to eat.”

Jane, the Cathedral’s former Christian Education director, hung a bell on my son Edmund’s wrist the year he had the role of Jesus in the Christmas play.  Nora, my daughter, had that honor last Christmas, and I stole a bell from the Cathedral to put on her wrist.  I will hang those bells on my Christmas tree every year until I die, and remember with joy the births of my children and THE BIRTH we used the bells to celebrate.

When we started planning our move to Virginia, I desperately needed reassurance that God would guide.  Epiphany provided great comfort.  Epiphany is “a star from God to guide the Magi.”

Last Sunday we waved palm branches and processed around the neighborhood.  I told Edmund about Jesus coming to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and about how everyone was so excited they put palm branches on the ground for his colt to walk upon.  I refrained from sharing the rest of the story.  He will hear it in due season in accordance with the calendar.

My mom celebrated Easter (in the Protestant tradition Easter is death, burial, and resurrection all on the same Sunday instead of breaking it apart over Lent and Holy Week) by hand-sewing dresses for each of her four daughters every year.  As a child, I knew Easter was important because of the way mom prepared for it, and because I felt beautiful on that day.  I wonder if Mom’s tradition came from my great-grandmother and her Anglican/Episcopal ancestors.  I share the colors with the children in my life because I think dressing in accordance with the season is a way of preparing to understand what is happening at church.  I have dismal sewing skills, but I enjoy buying purple dresses for my niece, Ella, during Advent, and talking about why we wear purple. (I am sure someone in the family will correct all of the misinformation I’m probably giving her.)

I will probably wear jeans on Pentecost as a way to welcome others who don’t know about the red hat thing.  But you can rest assured I will have a beautiful green hat for ordinary time…and maybe some Oxyclean for those nasty green shoes.

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Deb is a wife of nine years, a mother of two small children, and an attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico who drinks way too much coffee.  She enjoys estate sale shopping with her husband and long walks.

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The Peace

It’s a special day on the blog–I get to share some of my husband’s words. Ricky is my favorite person to talk to, because he tells the sometimes-uncomfortable truth and asks the Good Questions (the ones we all want to ask) and looks people in the eye, and isn’t afraid to introduce the elephants in the room. I could write a long list of the things I like about him (let me count the ways) but here’s my favorite thing: when he asks, “How are you doing?”, he’s really asking. I’m so grateful for him, and the way our conversations have helped me move forward many times. And, since what he’s written about for today’s post is a journey we’ve shared to a large extent, it’s quite meaningful to me. I hope you enjoy it, too.

It was late summer in southern New Mexico.  I walked across the parking lot, from the door of my car to the door of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in downtown Las Cruces.  As I entered, there wasn’t a familiar face; after all, I was only there because some out-of-town friends, James and Deborah and two-year-old Edmund, invited me.  I didn’t normally set foot in mainline churches, and I’m sure asking for instructions didn’t help me blend in either.  As the service progressed my friends arrived, I fumbled through the scripted service, and I smiled as sippy cups and hard plastic toys rolled on the ground.  We sat in the back near an African family with three kids.

And then came the Sharing of the Peace, the part of the service when people shake each other’s hands and say something like, “Peace be with you.”  First, James turned to me and smiled over some of God’s Peace.  Then, Deborah and Edmund managed to flash some quick Peace before diving for the sippy cup again.  And then strangers walked over to me and initiated the transaction of passing me the Peace.  I tried to reciprocate, but I found it difficult.  I couldn’t seem to manage passing Peace to anyone.  I faked it.  I didn’t have any to give.  Instead, I clumsily accepted the orbs of Peace handed to me.  I cried.  I didn’t know why.

I think I do now, though.  I needed people who didn’t know me, and who looked nothing like me, to be willing to accept me and wish me well.  I needed to witness that that still happens, because it had been so long since I had.

Every time in recent history that the American Church has assembled itself on the national stage, it hasn’t been to call attention to what makes Christianity beautiful—grace and genuine good will.  It has been to dutifully emphasize the boundary which defines who’s in and who’s not, to clear away the smudges in the line and remind us that, really, not all are welcome or deserving to participate in our community.  It steals from the playbook handed to middle-schoolers on how to efficiently create cliques, and it squeezes out those who are just different enough: single unwed pregnant women, thinkers, homosexuals, Democrats.  It fights to maintain a dominant “Christian” culture, enforcing compliance through the legal system.  It fights to be in power.  This is not what I understand Christianity should be.

Jesus gives us some good words for this:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

How can we see clearly enough to pass judgment on the single, unwed mom if we haven’t felt the weight of responsibility of figuring out how to maintain a full-time job and give birth to a baby, all without a partner to lean on?  Or how do we point fingers at the young man trying to figure out if he is gay if we’ve never had to choose between living a lie and being cast into exile?  Living life in community with people who are different than we are is messy and complicated, but the Bible says we are supposed to try to put up with one another (Ephesians 4:2).

Since moving to Maryland I’ve tried to pass Peace to new people I meet.  I smile at them and look them in the eye; I try to remember something about them and wish them goodwill.  Usually, they’ll pass some Peace back to me too.  I like to think it is a welcome interruption given the faster pace of life.  The Lutheran church my family and I have started attending is simple and allows for different sorts of people to make up its membership.  My kids are loud and think it is silly to spend the first 15 minutes of the service with the rest of the adults, but as the adults walk around and pass Peace to one another, they also pass Peace to my kids.  That is precious to me, and if there is ever a time when my kids need some help finding Peace, I think will be precious to them, too.

Ricky is an engineer and appreciates all things technical.  He likes playing music, watching his kids sample new foods, and an occasional, lively political debate.  He lives in Columbia, MD with his wife and three beautiful children.

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Lead Me On

Today’s post is from my delightful friend Erica Pelzel. Erica and I met during our college days, and I’ve admired her ever since for her energy and creativity. She taught me (and many others) to crochet, has the best laugh in the world, and once, when my then four year-old son greeted her at the door (in his underwear, it should be noted) with an ecstatic “I just went poop in the potty!”, she didn’t miss a beat and congratulated him with equal enthusiasm. That’s just the sort of person she is. She’s gracing this space today with some real talk about motherhood, tiredness in its many forms, a hard year, and hope.

I used to be an awesome quiet time haver. I had the perfect spot, my Baby Girl would sleep for hours, I didn’t have a care in the world… but as Baby Girl grew, that disappeared. As I sat with my open Bible this morning I just stared– intimidated by where to start and struggled to work past my terrible reading comprehension until I could get just… there. To the place where all in my mind and heart is calm and my ears are tuned into the frequency of His voice. After reading at least three Psalms and not remembering a single word, it was as if these words jumped straight off the page to me– as if they were raining down in sweet drops to my desperate and hungry soul:

“Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me.” -Psalm 43:3, HCSB

I am comforted by the word “send” for some reason.  Maybe because it says to me that if He sends something, all I have to do is receive it.

I’ve always been a good girl, a super-passionate Jesus-chaser and churchgoer… until this year slapped me with a weary reality. Over the past year, I’ve felt like I’ve been barely hanging on.  I’m great at acting– superb in fact– I can pretend my way through any situation and put on an “I’m fine” face like nobody’s business.  But that’s the thing– I haven’t let it be anybody’s business that I’ve been drained and tired.  I haven’t let it be anybody’s business that I’m hurting.  I haven’t let it be anybody’s business… not even Jesus’.  And that’s my fault, really, not His.  In the tornado of motherhood, marital issues, sickness, hospitals, bills, more sickness and pretending to have it together I found myself with the open Word this morning, yearning to let my business be His.

If Jesus sent things solely on the basis of how  “good” of a Christian I’ve been… I’m afraid to say that I deserve no such package as His light and His truth.  But today– today I felt a glimmer of hope begin to illuminate my cold, protected heart.  Like the first gleam of dawn, I feel hope that this season will pass and that His joy really will come this morning; He is sending His light and His truth to lead me.

I’m not sure where and I’m not sure how, exactly, but I feel thrilled knowing that He has already sent it.  The more I say it, the more I believe it and the more it washes over my mind, my ears, my thoughts, my heart.  He’s sent me His light in this dark season.  He’s sent me His truth.  And through this confusing time somehow… somehow He’s led me.  I won’t pretend to know how or try to explain something I don’t understand, but here– in the stillness of this moment– I know it is coming.

I know it is here.

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Erica Pelzel is a wife, mother, and creator of beautiful things. Check out her projects and musings at ericapelzel.com.

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Like a Child

Today I’m grateful to be sharing a guest post from James Stambaugh. James and his wife, Deborah, are dear friends of ours and some of my favorite people  to talk with about theology and its tangible effect on our lives, usually while drinking something interesting. We don’t see them nearly enough, and as I always learn something from our conversations, it’s a treat to hear James’ thoughts on the decision to baptize their son Edmund as an infant, and the ways children teach us how to approach God. 

Baptizing my son as an infant was a difficult choice.  I mentally accented to the doctrine.  I read the pertinent theology.  My wife and I worked through the information given to us by our parish, and met with the Christian education director.  We set a date to have Edmund James baptized, and chose godparents.  But there were complications.  These decisions are rarely only about theology.  Christian practice is messy.

Psychologically, it was hard to overcome twenty years of being told that infant baptism was wrong; that a person must choose for his or herself to be baptized.  I was baptized when I was nine after making a public profession of faith in Christ.  I don’t exactly remember choosing anything.  I remember it though, cold water on a January night, and value the memory.

The Anglican tradition, which I came to in young adulthood, affirms the value and the choice of baptism for older children and adults.  Since I began attending the Episcopal church I have seen many persons “of riper years”—as an old Prayer Book called it—get baptized, and it is always beautiful.  But, infant baptism is the normative practice of our church.  More by intuition than by dogmatics, I felt it was right for my son.

Some of our close family warned us before Edmund was born never to let them know if we baptized him as an infant.  They acted as if just knowing of an infant baptism in the family would cause too much shame and disappointment to bear.

My wife and I were faced with a decision between what we felt was right and what was normative in our faith community on the one hand, and what we were taught growing up and what our family wanted us to do on the other.

In the end, we went with our gut.  We brought our child to the font.  We promised in front of God and everyone to bring him up in the Christian faith, and help him to grow into the full stature of Christ.  We spoke the ancient words of the baptismal covenant, and our voices were strengthened by the voices of the whole congregation.  The priest poured water on his head, and anointed him with oil.  We received the light of Christ: a candle burning with Pascal fire.

That was two years ago.  Edmund is almost three.  Most Sundays we take him out of the nursery in time for Holy Communion.  He calls it “Jesus bread time.”

He points to the colors in the stained glass, listens to the rumbling organ, and says parts of the Lord’s Prayer—mostly just “Our Father” over and over.   Then we line up to go to the altar rail.  When he was younger we would take the wafer for him, break it up, make sure it all ended up in his mouth, but we don’t worry too much about that anymore.

Now Edmund kneels by himself.  His chin rests on the top of the wooden rail polished by a century of communicants.  He reaches up, palms open; absolutely committed to expectation.  He wastes no time shoving the whole wafer in his mouth.  He smiles as it melts on his tongue.  Once he grabbed the priest’s vestment as he walked past, and asked, “more please.”  The priest gave it to him.  Another time he begged a piece from the man kneeling next to him.  This man broke his wafer in half and gave it to my son.  As a member of our congregation, that gentleman also made a promise the day Edmund was baptized, and he took it seriously.

Edmund feasts on the Sacrament with unadulterated joy.  When he breaks free of my grasp and runs to the rail giggling, I see what Jesus meant when he told us to approach His kingdom like a child, with innocence, joy, and expectation; with careless laughter.  At the rail, receiving the Eucharist with Edmund, I know that baptizing him was right.  He is a member of the Body of Christ and participates in the life of the Church in his own, completely legitimate way.  And who cares that he approaches donuts in the fellowship hall the same way? [1]

Edmund is teaching me that children intuitively understand the Incarnation.  They make no distinction between sacred and profane, between spiritual and material.  They worship just as truly with sticky hands full of cake as with prayer book and hymnal (though the combination of all three is not recommended).

Some will still argue that children cannot worship, or be baptized, or take the Eucharist because they don’t know what they’re doing.  But do any of us really know what we’re doing?  Regardless of how ripe in years we are when it happens, we are all infants at baptism.  The extent to which we think we are spiritually mature is usually inversely related to how mature we really are.  If we do not approach the Sacraments as a mystery—with the spiritual discipline of expectant unknowing—we are in grave danger.  Children don’t have to worry about that.  God grant me grace to be like them.

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James is in the process of becoming an Episcopal priest and will be attending seminary in the fall of 2014.  Right now, he lives in Albuquerque, NM with his beautiful wife and darling children.  He occasionally blogs at cynoceph.wordpress.com.

[1] Who can deny the sacramentality of coffee hour?

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Grace to Show Up

Today, for A Feast of Crumbs’ inaugural guest post, I’m thrilled to be hosting my lovely friend Norissa Lears. We met when I was in college and she was in graduate school. I’ve found Norissa to be a person who chooses her words carefully and tells the truth: if something is hard, she says so. She’s navigating the early motherhood years with honesty and truly, grace. I appreciate her voice so much and consider it an absolute honor to share her words here.

I feel like I keep failing the Sunday morning test. The one where I’m supposed to get myself and the two kids ready and out the door for church without yogurt smears on my skirt or sweet potatoes caked in their hair, and without going all Crazy-Mom on the four-year old when he strips his pants and underwear off to go potty and will not be wrangled back into them 20 minutes past our departure goal. The one where I’m supposed to show up on time.

The one where I’m supposed to show up, period.

Sometimes, showing up seems downright impossible.

And I guess that’s what I’m learning from this particular struggle. That it is impossible, but for Grace. And I’m starting to think that’s a lot of what Grace is: the ability, as well as the opportunity, to show up, trailing behind, empty-handed and broken, stained with the efforts of trying to please others, grimed with the remnants of attempting to satisfy my cravings, with the jagged holes and dark places, hair unkempt and no make-up. All of it showing.

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Showing up was the last thing I wanted to do on this particular Sunday. Given that my husband had a rare break from playing the piano during the service, we could all go together as a family. But I was tired, disgruntled and frustrated about several circumstances, and wanted to just stay home.

The only reason I acquiesced to attend was the lure of an interesting biography. The Sunday morning before All Saints’ Day, which my church observes in conjunction with Reformation Day and with a carnival for the children, the sermon always features a past saint–not in the sense of someone holy in and of themselves, or someone who performed miracles, but in the sense of being a follower of Christ, an ordinary person whose life was transformed by an extraordinary God-Man. Though many a sermon has washed over me in the same time, I can list the subjects of each of the past 7 years’ biographical sketches from memory. This time, though, not even a narrative could vie for my attention as I nursed my anger and disconnection.

At the end of this service, though, my attention was riveted during the concluding hymn, when the instruments dropped out of the last verse. I don’t remember the words, or even the song we were singing, only that all of a sudden, everything changed. Instantly, voices became distinct around me: the operatic soprano, whose voice sailed from across the other side of the sanctuary; the smile in Catie’s bright descant behind me; my husband’s unpolished tenor beside me; the baritone plodding the supporting tones in front of us. And I could hear the catch in my own voice as it wobbled, the hardness I had built up over the morning starting to crumble.

Suddenly, I felt seen.

“(He) will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

In that moment, without the usual instrumentals blanketing the singing, each individual voice became to me a lifeline, a note in the Creator’s Song of Grace.

Eyes closed, I pictured the pared down worship of pioneers absent an organ or piano, of believers in underground churches today on the other side of the globe, of the first followers of the Way. Saw myself as part of a body, broken and fumbling and in need of restoration as it is. Connected, if only by the strains of a harmony in this moment, to the ones immediately surrounding me as well as those across town, across the world, and throughout the centuries, across the divide of time and eternity. And the Divine Voice, rejoicing over all of it– the mess, the broken, the Redeemed.

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Photo credit: Monica Lau

Norissa Lears is a wife, mama to two small boys, and writer who blogs at Gracewritehere.com, where she attempts to record the incredible, radical Grace she’s experienced, and create some beauty out of the messy, imperfect moments of life.

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