Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Growing up CoC

What an amazing bunch of comments I got on my last post. I heard from my bff, THREE Episcopal priests (including the one I met briefly at Christ Church last Thursday), two extremely helpful explanations of the meaning of "IHS" (growing up CoC, I was told that it meant "In His Service"), two of my sweet Baytown friends and several who discussed their upbringing/current membership in the Church of Christ.

Although the struggle I mentioned in that post has more to do with this, my post opened an interesting discussion about finding God outside your own church traditions. Having stepped out of the traditional Church of Christ upon moving here in 2006, I carry mixed feelings about things I encountered in my 35 years as a CoC member. I believe my dad's comment shows a beautiful way to come to terms with beliefs with which people are raised with which they eventually grow to disagree.

I'm reposting his comment here:


God bless you in your continued search to more like Christ in Spirit and in Truth.
My dad's CoC generation of the early 1900's experienced the aftershocks of what I call the, "early fallout from the Restoration Movement."

My generation dealt with the aftershocks of my dad's aftershocks.

Now, in a like manner, your generation is dealing with the aftershocks of my generation's aftershocks.

Strangely enough, each generation will have aftershocks of previous generations. I call this, "growth." In other words, I believe you are experiencing a continuing Restoration Movement. This is good, but there will be aftershocks. There will be fallout. There will be conflict within your soul. The way you were raised, our traditions, the things you have learned along the way, those things you will encounter on your path to eternity...all of these plus whatever else will accompany you on your journey. I believe that all of this is good.

I think that many in each generation believe that the Restoration Movement (whatever this is) is complete...that there is no more restoring to be done. God forbid.

Growing up in the Church of Christ and being a CoC minister for 28 years brought many experiences. Some beautiful and some bitterful (not sure "bitterful" is a word but if not, it should be.)

Now at age 73, I still am a rather traditional CoC type. But I believe I grew in my Restoration much further than my dad's generation. Yet each generation may have been where it needed to be at the time.

But I graciously accept and condone your Restoration growth which exceeds my Restoration growth.

I see it all as a continuing saga. None of us will ever feel the complete fulfillment of peace, love and joy until that Day when we see Christ face to face and hear those blessed words, "Faithful servant, enter herein..."


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Open Doors

I didn’t tell anyone where I was going today, except Chad. More about that later.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about church and relationships and how those two things should fit together. And how they should fit together in my own life. It’s caused me to reevaluate and redefine some things. And it’s caused me to have a pretty rough couple of weeks. I ended up in a place that didn’t feel so good and before I knew it, I had worked myself up into a full-blown spiritual crisis.

So today, I wanted to go find God somewhere.

Like other people who grew up in Sunday School, I learned early on that God is everywhere. He’s with us all the time. He’s in our hearts. I get that. But I wanted to find him where I hadn’t looked for him before. In a place apart from my own religious traditions.

I remembered the ancient (by American standards, anyway) Catholic churches I visited as a child in Santa Fe. These buildings – some a couple hundred years old – stand open every day to welcome people in for prayer, whether they are Catholic or not. They didn’t care that I was an 11-year-old Church of Christ kid. They even let me light a candle to a saint I had never heard of.

I wanted to find God in a place like that. A place with ornate stained-glass windows and heavy wooden doors and people in robes who say things like “Eucharist” and “Maundy Thursday” and “diocese” and swing metal birdcages around with incense wafting out of them. A place with kneeling benches and stone floors and a general air of holiness. Surely there are places like that in a city like Little Rock.

So I googled.

And I found one. Christ Church Episcopal. It’s downtown, near the Capitol. Christ Church is known for its stone building with red doors. Sort of like a spiritual Elizabeth Arden. They keep the red doors open on weekdays for people like me to come in and pray. So I went.

I walked in through the red doors and instantly regretted wearing boots. It was so quiet in there, and my boots on the tile floor made it impossible for me to sneak in. I sat toward the back and an official looking man approached me. He apologized for all the activity going on in there at the time (some people were working on something at the pulpit and a janitor was mopping the floor) and offered to show me to the chapel. He took me to a smaller room off to the side – a room with marble floors and wooden kneeling benches.

“Stay as long as you like,” he said as he left.

I was kind of disappointed he wasn’t wearing a robe. I guess they only do that on Sundays.

I looked around the room. Stained glass, of course. Candles and a gold cross engraved with “IHS.” (What does that mean? There’s so much I don’t know.) Red prayer cushions dented by the knees of the faithful. Except for the city sounds outside, I sat in silence and took in a couple of Psalms, as well as “The Book of Common Prayer” in the book rack in front of me. Then I just tried to be there and be still – something so hard for me to do. I tried to focus on letting God in through all my senses. Breathing him in and letting him be… enough.

And I knew that in his infinite enoughness, God still gives me a wonderfully comforting husband who doesn’t act too perplexed when his wife cries for a week straight. And friends who pray from hundreds of miles away. Friends whose prayers really work. And two girls who continuously bring me joy. I am ridiculously blessed.

I wrote earlier that this process has taken me to a place that did not feel good. But it did today. Today, it led me to an open door.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Water Whispered Her Name

Here’s something I started on months ago that I decided to finish for Julia’s birthday, which is today.


I was getting close to seven months pregnant and Chad and I still hadn’t decided on names. We had pored over the baby name book numerous times, but nothing had really grabbed us. The names we did like had been shot down by others. “Bethany” was the name of a problem student my mom had as a teacher, so that was out. I had always liked “Jason,” but that was also the name of the guy I dated before Chad. Also out. Because we had chosen to not know the baby’s gender before the birth, we had two names to pick out. And the weeks kept going by.

Then there’s the story I don’t tell people. It’s one of those stories a mother treasures in her heart, but seems too precious to speak aloud.

Then one day at work, I saw a woman I knew in the hall. A woman named Julia.

“Hi, Julia,” I said as I passed her.

She returned my greeting and kept going. Then it hit me. Julia! What a beautiful name!

The truth is that years before she was born, her father and I hiked into the Alaskan wilderness and set up camp near a stream that fed into a swift, salmon-filled river. At that point in their journey, the salmon are still; suspended in the blue mass of the frigid river. He stood among them and fly-fished, zipping his line across the water’s surface.

I checked the baby name book that night to make sure it didn’t mean anything odd, like “Delaney” meaning “from the alder grove.” Or sad, the way “Dolores” means “sorrows.” Or funny, the way “Oliver” means “elf army.”

Much to my delight, the name Julia has a lovely meaning. “Youthful.” I had been raised to cherish youthfulness. Not in outward appearances, but from the heart.

“You’re only as old as you act,” my grandmother used to tell me.

My grandmother, who, widowed at the age of 80, moved into a retirement center and began socializing, dating and having the time of her life. Not that she didn’t have a wonderful life with my grandfather. She was just having fun with the time she had left. My grandmother was 88 when she died, but she was really only about 16. I loved her youthful spirit and hoped to pass it on to my own children. Julia was not only a beautiful name, but it had a meaning that was close to my heart. That was important to me.

I stood on a wooden bridge over the narrow stream. The stream was glacier run-off; pristine water so cold it shocked when you touched it. Underneath my hiking boots, the wooden bridge hummed as the water rushed and bubbled in its hurry to join the river.

Now I just had to get it past Chad. I had been a fan of Julia Roberts, the actress, for several years. After I convinced him that I was not trying to name our baby after a celebrity, he agreed that I had found the perfect girl name.

And it’s still perfect for her. I can’t imagine having named her anything else. I’ve always been glad I passed the other Julia in the hall that day.

Years later, I first held her in my arms. So new, but her name already ages old to me, like it was always planned to be hers. My mind traveled back to that day on the river. Standing over the rumbling current, did I not hear the sound that stands so clearly now in my memory? Amid the creek’s splashes and ripples, God spoke through his creation. I heard the water whisper her name.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Banished words

Lake Superior State University released its 34th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English last week. This list has apparently been around almost as long as I have, but I've only become aware of its existence this year. The 2008 list includes words/phrases such as "maverick," "Wall Street/Main Street" and "carbon footprint" that have either been overused or have somehow worn out their welcome in our fair language. Or, in the case of "staycation," they never should have become words in the first place.

I'm working on my own list of banished words, which I'm sure I'll expand later:

"Deana's List of Words to be Banished from the Vocabularies of Decent Human Beings Everywhere"

1) “Hoot” as in “That was a hoot!” It just sounds so hick and backwoods to me. Maybe because it’s part of “hootenanny.” Which I also never say.

2) No matter how tired I am, I never, never say “I’m pooped!” And I don’t think you should say it, either. Poop is excrement. It’s not something you are.

3) I don’t call shirts “tops.” I call them shirts. Not sure why.

4) Naturally, I never say “$%^#.” Oh, wait a second. Sometimes I do. So never mind.

5) I try to avoid “polar bear.” I had to go to speech therapy as a kid to work on my “R” sound, and “polar bear” still trips me up sometimes. When I do have to say it, I slow down and concentrate on saying it right so I don’t make a fool of myself.

6) I don’t like the word “discreet.” It makes me think of tampon commercials.

That's my list so far. I'll add more words as they get on my nerves.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Right now, on Jan. 6, I am alone in my house. I have not been alone in my house since the last week of November. Chad's mom was with us Dec. 1-26, then we came home from Houston on Dec. 30. Then our friends Jerry and Violetta and their two girls stayed with us until today. Julia started school yesterday, Jenna went back today, so it's just me. Well, the cat, too. But he takes care of himself, so he really doesn't count.

Because Jerry and Violetta live in Alaska, we don't see them very often. In fact, I had not met their daughters Vitalia and Alesa until this past Saturday. It was great to spend time with all of them. We enjoyed Violetta's borscht (she is Ukrainian -- Jerry met her while doing mission work there in 1999), and I could never get tired of listening to her and the girls speaking Russian to each other. Such a beautiful language that you don't hear much in central Arkansas. Violetta and I are the same age but from such different worlds. I grew up in Beaumont, Texas, watching MTV, hanging out with friends and cruising the beach on the weekends. She grew up behind the Iron Curtain and dealing with all the struggles that went along with that. I always love talking to her. And she likes to shop, which the two of us did quite a bit while they were here.

Jenna's finger is doing a lot better. Her fingernail is kind of loose so we keep band-aids on it. It gives me the willies to think about, so let's talk about something else.

Like Facebook, where my social life lives. Over the holidays, I passed the 500-friend mark. And just who are my Facebook friends? Let's see:

- kids in our youth group
- my very best friend from elementary school
- kids in our old youth group
- kids I've met at ACU camps over the years
- my boyfriend from second grade
- a couple of guys I made out with in college
- a guy who was the preacher at a church where we tried to get a youth ministry job but didn't make the cut
- Chad's sister's best friend from high school
- friends I've had in real life who either I moved away from or who moved away from me
- several varieties of ministers
- one friend who is no longer living
- a number of editors and journalism professors
- people from high school who I didn't hang out with then but wish I had because they are really cool
- several people I've never met but who I know through cyberspace
- Chad's cousins
- Chad's cousins' kids
- my 73-year-old dad
- the author of "Writer Mama," one of my favorite books
- Chad's dad's wife
- of course my bff Carol
- someone who is pregnant with twins
- and lots of other people from different places and times in my life.

I realize how pathetic it is to have a socal life that exists mostly online. At least I can admit it.

Coming up for us is Julia's 10th birthday party. We'll have a few of her friends over for an "IRON CHEF ARKANSAS" party. We'll give guests some random ingredients and have them made something out of it. Julia, our resident foodie and Food Network junkie, has been having fun helping us plan it. But she announced the other day that she would like for this to be her last birthday party. More evidence that she's nearing the teen years, I guess.

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