Sunday, July 16, 2017

MIsanthropic Musings

In his sermon today, our Rector, Greg Jones, mused about how in seminary he didn't lose his faith in God, but his faith in people was somewhat diminished. And I must say, I know what he means. I have been extremely fortunate in my life experiences. I've met far more friends than enemies. I've been validated far more often than I've been betrayed. And the majority of my traumas have been not related to people.
I know lots of people. I know women who have left abusive relationships. I know people who have been kicked out of their religious communities. I know people who have never been taught that they are beautiful and beloved. As I told a friend recently, "you've met a lot of jerks."
People are awful, but they are also wonderful. You can't ever give up on relationships, even if you have met a lot of jerks, because despite all the awful, there's so much wonderful. Maybe awe-full is the right word. It's awe-inspiring how a person can be the best thing since sliced bread in one instant, and rotten demonspit the next instant. I'm describing myself as well as others.
I'm 42 years old and I have some of the most amazing men and women in my circle of friends and acquaintances. Overall, I have far more good than bad. That's by design. I don't tolerate toxic people. I pray for them. I try to love them. But I don't keep them in close proximity.
So yes, people are kind of horrible. They are definitely THE problem. The beautiful (and scary) thing is that people are also amazing. People are THE solution.

Monday, June 26, 2017

What God Has Done For Me

Our rector, Robert Fruehwirth, challenged us to craft one sentence to describe how God has impacted us personally. I’ve been pondering that. God has done so much in my life, it’s difficult to boil it all down into one sentence. I had my first experience with God when I was just 9 years old. Ever since then, my relationship with God has been as real and powerful to me as my relationships with people. God got me through the horrors of junior high. God kept me sane during the stresses of high school and college. God patiently guided me to end my engagement to a man I would’ve been desperately unhappy with as a husband. In my mid-20’s, God guided me through the complete dissolution of my persona and ego, and brought me forth as a different and much happier person. God has guided my career path step by step, speaking in the inaudible and unmistakable voice, fulfilling the promise in Isaiah to always be at my right hand, telling me where to go. God gave me a miracle when I was 30. I have sought wisdom, and God has answered, just as promised in James. Not that I’m some kind of wise guru, but I do have much greater insight than I would without my faith.

But throughout it all, God has been guiding me into one powerful fruit of the Spirit: love. 

Love for my enemies. Love for tyrants, oppressors, abusers. Love for perpetual victims, back-stabbers, and gossipers. And not that whole “love the sinner, hate the sin,” kind of love either. More of a “there but for the grace of God go I” kind of love. A love that acknowledges and understands that I am a tyrant, an oppressor, an abuser, a perpetual victim, a back-stabber, a gossip. A love that is deep enough to forgive myself each day and step back into God’s grace.

So what has God done for me? God has given me the strength and humility to love each and every life on this planet.

A post like this is always a risk. I feel timid to share it. Because everyone who knows me knows a time that I have NOT been loving. I am not perfect, and I have not loved all others as myself. And I haven’t always loved myself either. I don’t post this to be holier than thou, because I’m not. On the other hand, I want to share this, because the ability to love each and every person in the world is a great gift. It’s painful. It’s difficult. It’s heart breaking. And it constantly forces me to confront my own sinfulness. Sometimes I go too far and get taken advantage of. Sometimes I set a bad boundary, and hurt someone else. The only thing that makes it bearable is God’s grace. I know that every second, I can repent and turn to God and be washed clean. And that I will have the strength from that grace and forgiveness to turn and ask for forgiveness.

So, what has God done for you?

Friday, June 23, 2017

My Summer Fix!

Well, Stitch Fix has done it again! They sent me another fabulous Fix that captures my style perfectly.
Stitch Fix is a shopping service that sends you 5 items of clothing (including shoes and accessories) once a month, once a quarter, or whenever you schedule a Fix. You tell them your style preferences and sizes, and pay a $20 styling fee for each Fix. That fee is applied to the price of whatever you keep, so if you send everything back, you only pay $20. All shipping is free. In addition, they brilliantly give you a 25% discount off the total price if you purchase all 5 items. And don’t worry about being pregnant or plus sized, or male. They serve all humans!

My last Fix was very pretty, but I ended up only keeping two items. For this fix I was hoping for some dresses, especially a maxi dress, and I got exactly that.

First, the Loveappella Aleicia Knit Maxi Dress.

This dress is everything a summer dress should be. 

It feels like wearing a nightgown. It has short sleeves and is floor length, which makes it a great option for days when you haven't shaved in a while. And I love the color and pattern, especially the paisley at the the bottom. I predict that I will wear this dress way too often for true fashion. Price $74, size Medium

Second, the Collective Concepts Suri Dress.

This blue floral dress is so much fun! 

I’m not a fan of the hi-low hemline, but this hemline is more like a shirt tail, being slightly shorter at the sides. I like that it has that modern effect of the uneven hemline without being so trendy. Plus it flares out when I spin, and when I wear it, I want to spin! I think it needs a belt, and was surprised that it didn’t come with a belt or even belt loops. I tried four different belts with it. Which one do you think is the best? Price $78, size Medium.

Third, a gorgeous Renee C Elvira Lace Pencil Skirt. 

I love me a good pencil skirt, and this one is delightfully stretchy. Plus the blue lace overlay is beautiful and elegant without being stuffy. I am wearing the waist a bit higher than I normally do, because I like the hem of my skirts to fall just beneath my knee. I paired it with a white sleeveless top which I tucked in, although normally I don’t tuck. For hanging out I can add my Kelly green cardigan, and for more formal events I can wear my pretty white lace blazer. Definitely another keeper. Price $54, size Medium.

I also got two blouses which I like, but I’m not sure if I LOVE them.

The first blouse is a Black Tape Carliton Reversible Blouse in black, size Medium, $54. I must confess, I don’t see how this is reversible. When I turn it inside out, the tag shows on the back. Should I be turning it back to front? Also, this shirt means no bra. I could wear a strapless bra, but I find those uncomfortable and not flattering. Ever since breastfeeding, I need some lift, y’all. I’m torn on the whole non bra thing. I like to be "free" when I’m doing hot gardening work in the summer. But out in public? The saving grace is that this is a black top, so it’s not super obvious that I’m letting it all hang out. And the neckline is high enough that when I lean forward there isn’t any indecent exposure.

The second blouse is a feminine Brixon Ivy Alessandria Crochet Bib Lace Top, size Medium, $54. It has a built in undershirt with nice snaps to hold the undershirt straps in place. I have a good sense for how this will work because I have another Brixon Ivy shirt with built in undershirt. This blouse is a bit lower cut than I normally go for, but I added a pretty turquoise necklace and I think it looks good. The lace is soft and very elastic. It will dress up shorts very nicely, and it’s a good piece for the summer because it covers my arms when I’m in an AC icebox.

So, what to keep and what to send back!

The two dresses and the skirt are 100% keepers. That brings my subtotal to $206, less the styling fee of $20, for a total of $186. I really like the white lace blouse, which brings the total to $230. But if I keep the black blouse too, then I’ll get a discount. The subtotal would be $314, minus the 25% discount of $78.50 and the styling fee of $20, for a grand total of $215.50. In other words, if I keep both blouses, I spend less money! I’m definitely leaning towards keeping all 5. The black blouse is a little out of my comfort zone, but it’s good to try new things!

So, do you need a Fix now? Use my referral link!

Also, if I did decide to return anything, I would simply put it inside the provided mailing bag and place it in my mailbox. Simple!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Are You Willing to be Wrong?

Are you willing to be wrong? 

Not wrong like bad, or failed, or screwed up, or wicked. Just wrong as in a mistake. I bet you aren't. I know I'm not. One of the things we cling to the tightest is being right. We believe that when a person is right, they are good, and when a person is wrong, they are evil.We may know this isn't always true, but that gut response is part of what keeps us desperately clinging to being right, all the time.

We’ve all felt the sting of injustice. We’ve all experienced consequences or punishment that was unjust, and that’s another reason why it’s so difficult to let go of being right. Because if you let go of being right, then maybe whatever happened to you wasn’t unjust after all!

When I was a kid, I was in the school’s gifted and talented program. This meant that I had to leave my home class room and go to the gifted room periodically. The schedule wasn’t in sync with the rest of the school, for whatever reason, which meant that I was responsible for watching the clock and leaving my room on my own initiative. No one came and got me, no one reminded me, and our gifted time came out of our regular class time. Looking back, it was a pretty screwed up system!

So one of these days, I lost track of the time. I was in third grade, working on an assignment, when I suddenly realized that I was late to the gifted time! I hurriedly put my things away and rushed to the classroom. The gifted teacher called me to her desk.

“Why are you late?” she asked.

“I, um, I didn’t know what time it was.”

“Don’t give me an excuse. Tell me why you are late.”

“I wasn’t watching the clock…”

“No excuses. Tell me the reason.”

“Umm, I don’t know. I, uh, I forgot?”

I was utterly baffled. I didn’t know what she wanted. I tried to explain what had happened, but she brushed my explanation aside. In the end, apparently she wanted me to say that I had forgotten the class, which I had. She didn’t want to hear justifications or excuses.

You may not like her method (and I still feel the sting of anger about this story), but she had a point. I had made a mistake and was in the wrong.

I’m not really sure what she was trying to do. What she did was make the gifted class a place I hated to be.

But I was just doing what I had learned how to do: hide the fact that I was in the wrong.

Because it doesn’t matter what kind of parenting methods you use, or what religion you grew up with, or how your parents modeled conflict resolution. Raising a child means telling that child s/he is wrong about something, and enforcing the consequences of mistakes. Everyone learns that mistakes and wrongness equal unpleasant experiences. So we shy away from admitting our mistakes. We justify our actions.

Admitting we’re wrong, at its most basic level, opens us up to potential suffering. On top of that, there are layers of morality: is our wrongness a sin? There are social concerns: is our wrongness going to embarrass us? There are remembered injustices: if I’m wrong about this, did I deserve all the bad things that happened to me? We grow up thinking that if we are right in what we do and say, we can avoid pain.

But clinging to being right all the time does nothing to keep us safe from pain. 

In our struggle to be right, or at least appear right, we destroy relationships. We fail to find compromises. We lose the ability to understand different points of view. We demonize those who are different from us (Facebook politics, anyone?).

Being right all the time also destroys us personally. We must constantly assess our actions and justify them. When we make a mistake, we worry about how to hide it, fix it, or justify it. When we are publicly wrong, we suffer from humiliation and often our self esteem falls because it is so conditional. We seek out affirmation from others of our rightness instead of finding our identity in ourselves.

Release of being right is one step on the path to wisdom and wholeness. And I could be wrong about that, and that's OK.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Holy Spirit is More Than a She

No one who knows me or reads this blog would be surprised to hear that I am a feminist. But they might be surprised that I object to referring to the Holy Spirit as feminine.
The question of gendered pronouns is difficult for writers and for people of faith. I did an examination of the subject in a term paper for a theology class and came to the conclusion that there is nothing heretical or theologically inaccurate in using feminine pronouns for God. I would not refer to Jesus as a “she,” but that is because Jesus was fully human and fully male, so to use “she” would be simply silly. But I have no problem referring to the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, as “she,” because God transcends gender.

I first encountered the idea that we could bring the divine feminine back into Christianity by referring to the Holy Spirit as “she” when I was in divinity school. To be clear, this isn't about occasionally using feminine pronouns. It's about consistently assigned feminine pronouns to just the Holy Spirit. At first it seemed like a good first step in addressing patriarchal thought. I no longer agree with that idea, for two main reasons.

1. A feminine Holy Spirit reinforces gender stereotypes. 

Most people who argue for the feminine Holy Spirit point out that the Spirit embodies traditional feminine values: intuition, grace, mysticism, embracing, comforting. They aren't trying to be sexist, but they are playing right into gender stereotypes. I have two problems with this.
a. Stereotypes are used to enforce hierarchical systems of oppression which are harmful to both women AND men. (Think of how often husbands in the media are portrayed as helpless fools).
b. Continuing to assign specific traits to one gender or the other blocks people from embracing the truth that there is no male or female in Christ. It can also directly block people from following their God given call. A man who wants to be a stay at home father. A woman who wants to lead a corporation. To be personal: I was raised in a complementarian church which definitely delayed my understanding of my pastoral calling.

2. A feminine Holy Spirit creates imbalance in the Trinity. 

A fully masculine trinity is balanced. A fully feminine trinity is also balanced. A fully gender neutral trinity is balanced. But when you assign binary labels to a trinity, you create imbalance. It will always be two to one. Two masculine persons to one feminine person. Even if we counter by addressing God the Creator as God the Mother, it is out of balance: two feminine persons to one masculine. We cannot force a trinity into a binary system.

3. A feminine Holy Spirit does not do the radical work of addressing patriarchal theology.

If the issue is the loss of the divine feminine, simply naming part of the Godhead female is far too simplistic. It’s obviously a semantic solution to the problem. It tells me, a feminist, that rather than address the patriarchal problems in Christian theology, I should be content with a simple change of language. As if randomly assigning a gender to one person of the Trinity is enough to resolve centuries of patriarchy. Um, thanks but no thanks.

4. A feminine Holy Spirit does not enhance our understanding of the Trinity.

The Bible and the saints have used powerful words to describe God and the Trinity. Rocks, rivers, birds, mother, father, child, husband, quiet whispers, wheels within wheels: our language is evocative and requires us to meditate and pray to understand. So when we propose to change a significant aspect of our God talk, we must look to see if those new words help us with understanding. This is similar to a translation issue: using "pounds" instead of "omers" can help with understanding without altering the true meaning of the text. But changing the commandment from "do not kill" to "do not murder" changes the deeper meaning.
Does a feminine Holy Spirit contradict our theology, enhance our understanding, or confuse it? I would say it confuses our theology and understanding. Therefore it is not effective or beneficial.

So what are we to do?

First, I suggest that we get comfortable with using both feminine and masculine pronouns for God. Mother is a Biblical image for the First Person of the Trinity, so there is no rational basis for refusing to pray to Our Heavenly Mother. Freedom to use feminine pronouns without censure or rebuke is a sign that we are actually moving past our patriarchal roots.

Second, I suggest that we begin to really explore gender neutral imagery for the Trinity. In a prayer book created by Robert Benson, one of the prayers ends with an invocation of God the Creator, Redeemer, and Giver of Life. I LOVE that Trinitarian description. It avoids gender stereotypes, it clearly describes the Three Persons, and it evokes thoughtful consideration of Who God Is. Yes, it also addresses feminist critique of masculine language, but it does it in a thoughtful way, a way that indicates critical thinking rather than just slapping a band aid on the problem. (And yes, calling the feminine Holy Spirit a “band aid” is glib, I know).

Third, we need to dig into our own theology in order to see what is true and what is not, learning how to recognize human mistakes like patriarchy, colonialism, and dualism.
I started reading Cynthia Bourgeault’s book The Trinity and the Law of Three yesterday and I love it. Her starting chapter, which was published as a standalone article in 2000, inspired this post. There are lots of good books out there that teach us about theology without putting us to sleep. (Thomas Aquinas put me to sleep more times than I care to admit).

God transcends gender. But can we?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sleepovers: BAD or GOOD?

I recently read an article about whether or not to allow children to attend sleepovers. It got me thinking.

My daughter is not quite 6, so the issue of sleepovers is moot right now. Whenever she brings it up, I tell her that we can’t even talk about sleepovers until she and all her friends are guaranteed overnight potty trained. Problem solved. But I’m living on borrowed time, and she will start kindergarten this fall. So here is a look inside this momma’s head on the issue of sleepovers.

10. Sleepovers are BAD. The worst things I ever did in middle school and high school were done during sleepovers. I didn’t drink or smoke, but if I had, it would’ve happened at sleepovers. In addition, during the lousy middle school and early high school years, I myself was bullied during sleepovers.

9. Sleepovers are GOOD. This is a way for my daughter to learn how to stand on her own two feet, sleep away from home, and get insight into how other families work.

8. Sleepovers are BAD. I myself never slept during a sleepover – I simply could not relax enough to sleep in a strange place.

7. Sleepovers are GOOD. It’s a fun rite of passage that all kids experience. And if she isn’t allowed to do sleepovers, she’ll be seen as weird. I remember one of my good friends who wasn’t allowed to attend sleepovers. We all felt sorry for her.

6. Sleepovers are BAD. What if an older family member abuses or molests the kids?

5. Sleepovers are GOOD. As a mom, I need to learn how to let go of my control tendencies and let my daughter live life.

4. Sleepovers are BAD. People are idiots. They leave guns and other dangerous things around where kids can get them.

3. Sleepovers are BAD. Teens just need a little sleep deprivation in order to turn into bad decision making machines. Nothing good ever happened to a group of teens at 3 AM.

2. Sleepovers are GOOD. But only if they happen at my house, under my supervision.

1. Sleepovers are BAD. Even if I were supervising, I have no intention or ability to stay awake all night.

Weigh in with your thoughts and experiences and give this momma a few more conflicting ideas to ponder!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Why I Don't Care About Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and in honor of the day I took a 3 hour nap. And all my mommy friends know that that was probably the best gift my husband could've given me. But I also did some thinking about this "holiday."
The thing about Mother's Day is that it is insulting, and it also misses the point of motherhood.

I didn't get into this gig for appreciation.

My husband and I had the immense luxury of choice in the question of having children. We were able to plan IF we wanted children, and then plan TO have children. Most people in the world do not have this choice. But because we put off having children for years, and then were blessed with a child three months after deciding in favor of pregnancy, we have a different viewpoint than a lot of people regarding kids.

We agreed that we weren’t having kids to satisfy our needs. This wasn’t about us. We were a complete family from the moment we got married.

This is how Mother's Day misses the point. To suggest that a Mother needs appreciating is to suggest that this is about us. Every mom knows this isn’t about us. It’s about the kids. We don’t do ANY of what we do for us. We do it all for the kids. Even when I take care of myself, it’s at least partially for my daughter’s sake. She does better when I am emotionally healthy. I own my own business for my daughter – I’m not a natural born entrepreneur. I maintain my physical health for both her and my husband, as much as for myself. So to suggest that I want appreciation for what I do is to suggest that I need it or deserve it. I don’t. Most mothers toil away with no support and no appreciation, and regardless of that lack, we keep on mothering.

I don't expect my daughter to appreciate me potty training her, or teaching her how to be a decent human, or providing food and shelter and entertainment and education.

On the other hand, it’s insulting to suggest that my wholesale efforts for her can be honored with a card and breakfast in bed. Pregnancy made my teeth so loose that I ended up spending almost five figures on fixing them. I sank into serious post partum depression and had to increase my medication and spend a year in therapy to recover. I have a permanent scar on my belly from the c-section. My breasts are permanently altered from breast feeding. And I am a very healthy woman! And what about all the sacrifices? The lost sleep. The lost financial opportunities. The lost time. The constant guilt. The constant worries.

I don't know a single mother who doesn't, at times, worry that she's screwing her kids up. 

Moms, let yourself off the hook. If you're worried about screwing your kid up, you almost definitely are doing a fantastic job!

I'm not one to turn aside a gift. And I do appreciate that my daughter makes me cards and gifts for this one day a year. And yes, if some Hallmark holiday gives me an afternoon off to take a nap, I'm all over it! I'm just not emotionally tied into Mother's Day. When I wasn't a mom, I didn't feel "left out" by all the celebration.
Mother's Day is a nice enough holiday, but certainly not one I would miss. What about you?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Irony of Sunday Mornings

We all know the drill. It’s Sunday morning and typical morning chaos is worsened by the fact that our schedule is different. As parents, if we dress ourselves first, we have to navigate breakfast and sticky fingers and messy bedrooms in our impractical shoes and nice clothes. But if we get the kids ready first, we dress ourselves in a rush, wondering what new ways the kids are finding to destroy their clothes, then putting our lipstick on only one lip, or failing to brush our hair out.

And then comes the moment when we have to get everyone in the car. This is the moment when the yelling usually begins. And as soon as the angry voice erupts from your mouth, you feel the clench of guilt.
I’m one of THOSE moms. A mom who screams and acts unChristlike as I’m taking my family to church.

My husband and I never had a problem getting to church on time. And then we had a child. All of a sudden, church became this huge struggle. And I became one of THOSE moms. Dragging my family out the door, tapping a foot in impatience, glaring at my family members. It got worse when I joined the choir at my church, because suddenly if we were late, it didn’t just mean getting a bad parking place. It meant I was late to my commitment.

I’m very fortunate, because my daughter can dress herself, and because I’ve chosen to let her wear whatever shoes and accessories she wants. She does have delicate white leather Sunday shoes, but this morning when she paired her blue tulle dress with puffy silver knee boots, I said nothing. Why bother?

I don’t have a solution, or even a wise word. The combination of everyone putting on nice clothes, working with an unfamiliar schedule, and trying to go to a place where timeliness is essential just seems to throw a wrench in everyone’s lives. I’ve talked with my husband, and we’ve worked out some things that help us avoid the stress. But it's an ever moving target, and we're not perfect.

And then sometimes you get a morning like today. We were all ready to go on time. We walked out the door together, discussing the rain outside. We hopped in the car and I put on the Sound of Music. As we headed down the road, not just on time, but EARLY, we sang Do Re Mi together. I felt a little bit like Maria, successfully overcoming obstacles through sheer confidence and a few fun tunes. And I made a mental note to myself to remember this morning. These are the days that make everything else worth it. Going to church isn’t simple, but nothing worthwhile is.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What Would Elaine Do?

I, like thousands of others, watched the video of the poor man being dragged off his United airlines flight. I was horrified to see it. Like everyone else, I believe United Airlines made some terrible mistakes in this entire situation.
And today I celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, my God, a man who was executed by the state for no reason.
When I watched the video of the passenger being dragged off the plane (and in case you haven't seen it, I'm not exaggerating - he was literally dragged), one thing that caught my eye was the dozens of camera phones sticking into the aisle. Every passenger was filming the disaster, it seemed.
Let's think about this. Everyone knows that this one man is the last holdout: that once he is off the flight, they will be able to continue their journey. United has already offered $1000 to anyone who volunteers to get off the flight. And yet, not one person thought to offer to take his place. Not one person stood up and said, "Hey, don't beat him up. I'll get off the plane."

Would I have done that? I don't know. 

If I had been on that plane with my family, I think it's a possibility that my husband would have volunteered to get off the plane, to allow this man to stay on. That would have been fine with me. If I had been flying alone, I might have volunteered.
We talk a good game about justice, but when faced with actual injustice, not one person on that plane took action to spare the man. Has our addition to social media blinded us to what real action looks like? Do we think that by filming injustice and posting it publicly, we are somehow morally superior to the officers dragging a passenger down a plane aisle? We are happy to point and scream and wag our fingers, but did anyone consider taking action to actually help that man in the moment? Do we even remember that we can put down our phones and DO things?

I ask this question of myself more than anyone else. 

We so often ask glibly, "What Would Jesus Do?" but maybe the question ought to be "What Would I Do?" Would I stand up and volunteer once the passenger refused to get up? Would I be so courageous? I doubt it.

And so I conclude my week long celebration of Easter by looking at myself and my own decisions. Am I truly taking all the action I can do combat injustice and bring God's kingdom to earth? 

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Am Not Innocent of Anyone's Blood

In yesterday’s sermon, our rector Robert talked about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He shared this new idea with us: that perhaps Jesus was inspired to pray by His sleeping disciples. As Jesus looked at them, sleeping and vulnerable and totally unaware of the coming danger, perhaps He was so moved by love that He was reconciled to the suffering: that like a parent, He resolved to take on all the pain and trouble just so He could spare them some.

I have never heard this interpretation, but it makes beautiful sense to me as a parent. I make sacrifices daily just to make my daughter’s life easier. And I would happily take on suffering if by doing so I could spare her. Right now, nothing is more worrisome to me than the approaching start of kindergarten: she’s entering a world where I have less power and ability to shield her from suffering.

As I pondered these thoughts I considered the war in Syria and the bombings in Egypt. In the Palm Sunday readings, we heard the priests refuse to take back money from Judas, telling him they would not have Jesus’ blood on their hands. Pilate says the same thing. And so do we, as Americans. 
Matthew 27:24 "So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.'" 
We are innocent of Syrian blood, Iranian blood, African blood, or so we like to think. We point our fingers: It’s Obama’s fault. It’s W’s fault. It’s Trump’s fault. It's Islam's fault.
And yet, like any good parents, we Americans have diligently created a paradise for our children and our culture. Even the poorest people with housing have drinkable water, proper sewage disposal, access to food and fresh air. We offer free education to all citizens from age 7 to 18. We had a peaceful transition of power when Trump took office, followed by peaceful demonstrations.

I’m not saying the US is a utopia.

There are painful socio-economic disparities, deep injustices, systemic racism, and the recent violent desecration of the Dakota Access pipeline.
We have created a safe place for most of our people by ignoring the suffering of others, and in some cases, creating suffering for others. Our refusal to make any sacrifices to benefit others is inviting their blood on our heads.
  • We refuse to buy fair trade products because they cost more money. 
  • We refuse to raise the minimum wage because it would raise the price of our Big Mac. 
  • We selectively support repressive regimes and we destroy our own environment because it is easier to use oil and gas than wind and solar power. 
  • After they have suffered to guarantee our safety, we allow our veterans to live on the streets. 
  • We shop for the lowest priced product even as we complain that manufacturing jobs in America no longer exist.

If we claim Christ, we must embrace the suffering of the world and do what we can to alleviate it.  

The Tomahawk missile strike on Syria is the latest red flag thrown into our midst. 

War is the easy option in all cases. It is always easier to send troops and kill until we get compliance than it is to talk through solutions and cooperate. But war is also the most wasteful, the most violent, and the most evil solution.

The attack on Syria is a call to action for all of us. It is time to take on some suffering and bring some relief to the world that so desperately needs it. 
We can do this directly, with prayer, financial support to refugees and humanitarian organizations, and political action. 

We can do this indirectly, by reducing the resources we use, showing love and kindness to every person we interact with, and living a life which is creative rather than destructive. 

Or we can continue to wash our hands, saying “This blood is not on our hands; see to it yourself.” 

But as Christ taught us: what we do to the least of these, we do to Christ. And in the global economy, the least of these is no longer limited to the poor and oppressed in our cities and neighborhoods. The least of these are refugees from Syria, orphans in China, child soldiers in Africa, migrant workers in America, the homeless in every city, and many others.  

This week I remember the redemptive suffering of God in the Incarnation of Jesus. I remember that His final command was to serve others. I worship a man who chose to be beaten and killed rather than fight back. I accept that there is blood on my own hands. And on Easter Sunday, I will rejoice that the blood on my hands is washed by Jesus, and that through the Incarnation, I can make a difference. I can take on the suffering of others to alleviate it. The only question is how.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grant Us Strength and Courage

We’ve got to stop focusing on nonsense. Last week, the whole social media world was atwitter because Vice President Pence apparently won’t share a meal one on one with a woman. He was mocked. The entire “Billy Graham” policy was attacked. Women who had worked for Pence wrote articles defending him. And what was the trigger for all this? One remark by Pence in an interview from 2002. 

That’s FIFTEEN years ago. 

And at the end of the day, the Republicans and President Trump continued to advance their own agenda.
In the last few months, I have dealt with my fears over President Trump in two ways. One: I have prayed for him. Two: I have focused my attention on NC state politics. I have been calling my representatives. I have been reading proposed legislation. And I’ve been involved in a group that deliberately seeks to bring harmony and healing through intellectual conversation: the Chautauqua meetup.
But this morning I woke up to news that President Trump ordered missile strikes against Syria, in a unilateral move that angered the country (Russia) that Trump has repeatedly wanted to improve relations with.
As a pacifist, I am heartbroken by the entire situation in Syria. The use of chemical weapons by Syria was deplorable, but in a world where we routinely kill people to enforce our will, I fail to see why chemical weapons are any worse than drones, smart bombs, land mines, or enhanced interrogation methods.
On the other hand, as a red blooded human, I am kind of glad that we launched missiles. I’m ready to put a stop to the violence, and overwhelming force can be effective. So my feelings are extremely mixed. Just because war and killing are wrong and against God’s will (my pacifist theology in a nutshell) doesn’t mean that sometimes war is a solution.

The answer is, as always, prayer and focus.

Every Sunday, at the end of communion, we pray a prayer that I absolutely love. It concludes with:
"Send us now into the world in peace,
And grant us strength and courage
To love and serve you
 With gladness and singleness of heart;
Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
I need strength and courage now to face my mixed feelings. I need to pray, for those killed by the airstrikes, for the US service men and women who had to participate in those airstrikes, and for the global political situation.
And I need singleness of heart. We all do. I have chosen to focus on what I can do locally to resist the policies and actions of President Trump. That means continuing to focus on Raleigh and NC politics.

What are you choosing to focus on? 

Give it singleness of heart. 

You can’t solve every problem everywhere. But you can have a huge impact on one or two issues.Take the time you need to process, to mourn, to gather information, and to choose. Then pray. I'll be praying with you.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Some Good Old Fashioned Feminist Entertainment

A lot of old movies are sadly misogynistic and out of date. And of course, it’s a cliché to complain about the dis-empowerment of women in Disney movies. But every now and then I watch a classic movie and am struck by the pro-woman messaging in it. The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews is one of these movies. 
First let’s look at the romantic subplot of Liesl, the eldest Von Trapp daughter. She is 16 (going on 17), and in love with the telegram delivery boy, an adorable 17 year old named Rolf. In typical Disney fashion, he declares his affection for her in song and offers her his wisdom and protection. 
“You need someone / older and wiser / telling you what to do. / I am 17 going on 18 / I’ll take care of you.” 
Liesl ecstatically agrees to this arrangement and gives over her self reliance to Rolf. “You are 17 going on 18 / I’ll depend on you.”

But then the love story is inverted, as Rolf chooses politics and career over relationship and betrays the entire Von Trapp family, including Liesl. While this is not normal in movie love, it is sadly all too normal in every day life. 

What I like about my 5 year old daughter seeing this in a movie is that it presents the possibility of relationship failure in a realistic and neutral way. Rolf isn’t a horrible guy. I mean, he IS a literal Nazi, but he’s not an abusive brute who set out to deceive Liesl. He’s a boy who chose career over love. That happens. I like that she can enjoy a movie, see that a romance can be fun and sweet and innocent and yet still end in heartbreak. Again, real life. And an important lesson: sometimes, we choose to depend on people who let us down.

Which brings us to the more overt feminist message of The Sound of Music: Maria. Maria is an empowered woman, who creates her own destiny without any reliance on another person, male or female. First, she chooses the convent, which for hundreds of years was an actual career option for women who didn’t want to get married. Ironically, a woman could be far more empowered and independent as a nun than a wife in Western civilization. When Maria is sent out of the convent to serve as a governess for the Von Trapps, she is apprehensive, and sings I Have Confidence in Me to herself. 
“I have confidence they’ll put me to the test / But I’ll make them see I have confidence in me.” 
She believes that she is capable, she asserts her own opinions without apology, and she faces challenges by choosing confidence and optimism. And what happens? She succeeds. She earns the trust and admiration of the seven children. She earns the respect of their father, not by being tactful or polite or successful, but by standing up to him without apology.

I love that my 5 year old daughter gets to hear an optimistic empowered song like “I Have Confidence in Me” and then see the singer be justified in her self-confidence. I love that she sees a woman assert herself to her male employer without being a “bitch.” I love that she sees a woman staying true to her ideals and also finding ways to overcome obstacles (the children’s pranks, the lack of fabric for play clothes, etc.).

If you’re looking for a great family movie that can start some interesting conversations with your daughters, The Sound of Music is the way to go!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

10 Ways to be Pro-Life That Have Nothing to Do With Abortion

One criticism that is often leveled against the pro-life community (sometimes by me) is that it is really “pro-birth.” That is, they focus their efforts on eliminating abortions, but do nothing to support children or people who are already born.

In the spirit of defying labels and provoking discussion, here are my thoughts about how you can be pro-life and never even talk about abortion.

10. Work to prevent suicide. One way to do this is to offer financial support or volunteer time to a suicide hotline. Learn more about how to do that here.

9. Another way to fight against suicide is to refuse to participate in abusive language: choose to be politically correct. When we use words like “gay,” “retard,” “pussy,” “welfare queen,” “oreo,” “coconut,” etc as slurs, we participate in abusive culture. Members of the groups above (LGBTQ, mentally challenged, poor, people who don’t fit stereotypes) are emotionally hurt by these abusive words, which can contribute to depression and suicide attempts. There are many wonderful disparaging words in the English language that do not insult people. Here’s a handy list of my favorites: asinine, ridiculous, inane, reckless, illogical, absurd, hateful, insipid, worthless, banal, ludicrous, nonsensical, or outrageous. There’s a real pushback against “political correctness” these days, but really, there is power in our words. Think about the words you use: make them accurate and not abusive.

8. Another way to prevent suicide may be to support same sex marriage: this article in JAMA Pediatrics shows that same sex marriage policies are associated with a 7% reduction in high school suicide attempts.

7. Fight against slavery. Outright slavery exists in many countries in the world, but even in the USA, covert slavery still exists. Some great books to start with are Disposable People by Kevin Bales, Nobodies by John Bowe, and Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen. These books will open your eyes to the complex issue of modern slavery and give you ways to fight against it.

6. Another way to fight against slavery, both covert and overt, is to shop for fair trade products. Buying locally made products is one good way to do this. Another way is to research the clothing you buy and buy clothing made in accordance with OSHA labor laws. This will cost you more money.

5. Support programs that feed and clothe people. The Meals on Wheels program has gotten a lot of attention lately, but there are many other charities: food banks, Note in the Pocket, homeless shelters and ministries, Backpack Buddies, etc. You can choose to advocate for this through government intervention (local, state, or federal) or through individual intervention (donating your time and money).

4. Vaccinate your children and support vaccination programs. Vaccination eliminates diseases. There is zero credible evidence that vaccination causes harm.

3. Shop locally. Big corporations are not evil, but their primary goal is to earn profit for their shareholders. Paying high salaries, providing benefits, investing in local economies: none of these things increase shareholder profits. Small corporations exist to earn profit for their owners. They will naturally want to provide benefits to keep good employees and invest in their local economies. So buying local products improves quality of life in your community.

2. Reduce pollution. How can you reduce pollution? Buy an electric or electric hybrid car to reduce the amount of exhaust in the air. Reduce your use of electricity. Invest in renewable energy sources. Support government policies that reduce energy pollution and encourage renewable energy measures. This will require government involvement in the USA because public energy companies are regulated by the government (basic economics). Notice that I have not said anything about global warming. Regardless of where you stand on that issue, it is clear that pollution destroys life. Burning coal and oil contribute to pollution, while wind and solar do not.

1. Look for ways to build relationships in real life. Invite your neighbors over for beverages once a month. Join a religious organization. Host a party that DOESN’T involve selling a product. One of the most effective ways to combat the various ills of society is by spending time with other people face to face, rather than on social media. The more time I spend with people, and the wider variety of people I get to know, the more I fall in love with people.

And is there anything more pro-life than loving all people, regardless of whether they agree with my communities, opinions, or worldviews?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

March Stitch Fix!

Oh joyous day, my Stitch Fix arrived! I love me some Stitch Fix, and I was especially excited about this Fix because I didn't give ANY notes to my stylist. Of course, she had access to my Pinterest board, and she's never disappointed me before, and the trend continues with this Fix.

My five pieces this month were 2 tops, 1 blazer, 1 pair of jeans, and 1 skirt. The colors were perfect for spring. Don't they just make you drool?
First off, the skirt. That lovely polka dot pattern is the skirt, a fun swirly Hanneli Print Swing Skirt for $54. I just loved it. Sadly, it was too darn small. I could barely zip it up, and the waist cut pretty deep into my 42 years worth of padding. I didn't get a picture. I mean, no one except my husband actually wants to see my tummy bulging out. Wait. I'm not sure that came out right...
Here's a picture of a very similar skirt. Mine had smaller dots.
So I was bummed, because this is a very cute skirt and I think it could be very flattering on me, in the right size. But it's already back in the return bag, which means I also need to say goodbye to my 25% Buy 5 discount.
But there are many things to rejoice over!
First, this graphic print top. I love the colors and the pattern, the shirt tail, and the neckline. Even though it's not an exact color match, I think it looks great with my kelly green cardigan. And I think it pairs really well with the peach pants I got in my 2016 April Fix. Clearly, my stylist has access to all the items I've bought in the past and is stealthily matching new items to existing ones. Good for her!
This is the Renee C Jensine Split Neck Blouse for $48. I also enjoyed pairing it with the OVI Pennie Collarless Blazer, as seen in the next photo.
I have a lot of blazers, but none in navy blue. This one has slight stretch to it, and cute little zipper details (although sadly, no pockets). The collarless style gives me flexibility with what shirts to pair with it and freedom to wear big scarves or necklaces. And it only costs $68!

The last top is a "jewel tone purple" top (I would call it closer to magenta) by 41Hawthorne. It's the Matthias Button Detail Blouse and I really like it. These kinds of floaty tops can be too loose on me, but this one seems to say "earth mother" rather than "pregnant." I love the little gold tone button detail and the fullness in the back.

Final item is Kut From the Kloth Maribel Straight Leg Jean, for $88. They fit well although I was unsure about the tapered ankle. I think it looks OK with sandals, and I know it would be nice for boots and booties. Ultimately, however, I don't normally pay $88 for a pair of jeans. If I were keeping all five items, the discount would make the jeans essentially free. But since I already know I'm returning the skirt, the jeans are probably going to go back as well.
So right now I'm definitely keeping the Renee C blouse ($48) and the OVI blazer ($68). I'm on the fence about the cute 41Hawthorne blouse. If I keep it, my total spending is a lot closer to $200 than $100! I'll have to contemplate it with the rest of my closet items for a little bit before I make a final decision.

Interested in trying Stitch Fix for yourself? Here's how it works.
You sign up and create a style profile, including your color preferences, sizes, and price range. If you have a Pinterest board, you can link it as well. I highly recommend doing that - I know my stylist follows my board closely! You schedule a Fix, either monthly or every other month. You'll get an email before any Fix is sent, so you can cancel a month if you want without any penalty. When your Fix is scheduled, you are charged a $20 styling fee that is non refundable. Then you get your 5 items. You have 3 days to try them on and make a decision. If you keep all 5, you get a 25% discount! Your $20 is also credited to whatever you purchase. Once you've made up your mind, you send back whatever you don't want in the envelope they include. Use my Referral Link to try it out now!

Monday, February 27, 2017

I'm Jealous of You.

I confess to the sin of coveting. I covet my neighbor’s mother-child relationship.
This morning my daughter and I had two battle of wills, followed by her losing her temper. What were these great battles that I chose to engage in? Requiring her to wear pants. Telling her that we would not go to a restaurant for breakfast. Basic, everyday type issues.
I have a strong willed daughter, which means that I pick my battles very carefully. But it also means that my daughter is willing and able to make a battle over anything.
I’m not complaining about my situation. I’m confessing that I’m envious though. I watch other mothers interact with their children, and I am constantly surprised and amazed.
I’m surprised at the battles some parents choose to pick. Really? You want your child to eat with her mouth closed, and you’re going to fight over it?
I’m also amazed at the compliance I see in children all around me. Even a child a parent might call “difficult” is typically orders of magnitude more compliant than my child. They comply without stomping their feet, or grunting in anger. They accept the realities of life.
It’s hard to talk about this: to be open about this. I know I am subjecting myself to judgment. What’s wrong with me? How have I failed at parenting? Why am I being so critical of my own child?
For the record, I’m not critical of her. I’m proud. I’m proud that my child has the persistence and determination to stand her ground no matter what. I’m happy that she is passionate. I’m impressed by her ability to think ahead and try to manipulate me. But I’m also tired. I’m tired of wondering which normal request will spark a contest of willpower. I’m tired of listening to the storms blowing up daily. I’m tired of knowing that no matter what, at some point during the day there will be raised voices. I’m tired of imposing consequences. And so I’m envious. I covet my neighbor’s parent child relationship.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ten Questions About the Trees in Eden

I often think that in our discussions about the “Fall,” we skip over the most interesting parts of the story in Genesis 2 and 3. So here are ten questions to ponder and research about the trees in the Garden of Eden.

10. Why two named trees? Proponents of free will suggest that God put a tree and a prohibition into place in order to give us the chance to love Her freely. I accept this argument, but I still need to ask, why TWO trees? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden, with the consequence being death, but the Tree of Life was never forbidden. In fact, God only closes access to it after Adam and Eve have their snack and get their curse.

9. What's up with that name? Hebrew is a simple language, so Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is only four words, but still, that's a lot of text. And it's quite a cumbersome name. We've got the Tree of Life, and the Tree-of-the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil. Up until this point in the text, the word evil has not been used. Even when God declares that it's not good for man to be alone, the text literally says "not good." (I'm talking about the original Hebrew here too, not a translation). So the name of the tree introduces the very concept of evil. Everything in Creation is good or neutral or not good, and suddenly there's this concept of evil, actual evil. Evil that can be known. Evil that presumably is known by God.

8. What does it mean to have knowledge of good and evil? God gives a prohibition to the man: don’t eat from this tree or you’ll die. But there is no judgment. It’s simply a consequence. There is no sense that the man will be evil or even not good: just dead.

7. Death is an integral part of the intricate and elaborate ecosystem that is the world, the universe, and everything. Without death, nothing functions. To say that death only entered the world as a result of the Fall (as some Christians do) is to ignore vast quantities of science and to ignore the very simple and inalterable truth that death is essential to life. What are we to make of the fact that death is an integral part of Creation, yet a consequence of eating from the Tree?

6. If Creation included death, and then God put humans in it and warned them about death as a consequence, does that imply that humans were immortal?

5. Or is questioning the mortality of humans being too literal? Perhaps the death is a symbolic death, or a death of innocence.

4. What if the real death caused by knowledge of good and evil is that it causes us to try and define good and evil? After all, at this point in Genesis there is nothing evil in the world.

3. Why doesn't anyone talk about the fact that we had access to a Tree of Life, but instead we listened to the serpent and ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

2. What would change in our reading of this text if we saw it as a story about human development rather than Obedience = Good and Disobedience = Bad? I've heard some people suggest that interpretation and I find it fascinating.

1. How DO we define good and evil? My 5 year old defines her will as good, and anything opposed to her will as bad. We believe we are more sophisticated as adults, but are we? Don't dismiss me too quickly. What do you base your knowledge of good and evil on?

Monday, February 13, 2017

What if Hosea Had Been a Woman?

As I examine the Bible, I'm constantly striving to rip away the layers of teaching and theology that I have been given. Recently I was considering the story of the prophet Hosea. Hosea was a prophet who was commanded by God to make his very life into an example of God's relationship with Israel. Or to put it another way: God told Hosea to marry a prostitute to show Israel how they treated God. In this analogy, God is Hosea, and Israel is the prostitute.
Now, comparing Israel to a prostitute is kind of God's go to move in the Old Testament, as anyone who reads the Prophets already knows. The point, made over and over again, is that God loves Israel, but Israel doesn't love God. Israel is constantly betraying God, and God just keeps taking her back.
Hosea was a man, preaching to other men. So God used an example that would get male attention: a faithless wife. Even now, a cheating wife seems to be a man's biggest fear. But what if Hosea had been a woman? Would God have used the same analogy?
What if Hosea had been a woman, preaching to other women? What would a matriarchal society see as the most compelling, most painful example of God's tortured relationship to Israel?
The mother-child relationship.
God would have commanded the female version of Hosea to have children. Go ahead, have a child. Give that child everything she needs and wants. Feed her the best food. Put her in the best clothes. Give her everything she asks for. Teach her how to be a good person. And then, let her rebel. Let the child reject you.
As moms, we know better than anyone else just how unending our love for our children is. It doesn't matter what they do or say, we will love them. It doesn't matter how often they reject us, we will love them. It doesn't matter how often they leave us, we will love them.
So what if Hosea had been a woman? Then God would have told her: Have a child. Let the child reject you. And take her back.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Fleeting Nature of House Work

After the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, men and women began to leave the cities, journeying far out into the deserts in order to practice a “pure” form of the faith. They believed that the faith being incorporated by the Roman Empire was diluted, and only through solitude could they imitate Christ. These men and women were known as the Desert Mothers and Fathers.
I’ve read some of their writings, and accounts about their lives. They are largely mythical in nature, but there are interesting wisdom tales hidden in the stories. It is said that many of them practiced a craft, like basket weaving. They would weave baskets throughout the year, at least in the times when they weren’t sleeping or praying, and fill their caves with their work. And then, once a year, they would burn all the baskets, destroying all their work as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life.
I was reminded of this tale this morning, when I surveyed my kitchen as I began to prep my slow cooker meal. On Saturday, seized by a strange fit of energy, I cleaned the kitchen, and various other areas around my house. I don’t clean. It’s just not something I do. Oh, I keep a hygienic house. But if you did a white glove inspection you’d find a lot of dust and daily grime. But on Saturday, I was inspired to do something about it. I got all the dishes dealt with, wiped down all the counter tops, eliminated all the clutter, washed the stove top, and put out fresh hand towels. On Monday morning, it looked like I had done nothing, and worse yet, I hadn’t even cooked over the weekend!
This is why I don’t clean. No matter how much care and effort you put into cleaning a room, it takes hardly any time at all to destroy all the work. Dust falls incessantly. Things clutter the flat surfaces. Children play. Cats shed.
I am insanely privileged that I live in a time and place that I don’t have to work my fingers to the bone to keep my house clean and tidy. I grumble about the very little I do, when I ought to focus on how little I HAVE to do. Maybe I can focus a little more on my home keeping efforts as spiritual discipline – a reminder of the fleeting nature of this life.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Top 10 Tips For a Fantastic Disney World Vacation

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Disney World last week. I would’ve stayed another week if possible. Heck, I might have stayed for an entire month! The employees were all so wonderful, and the parks completely lived up to the hype. We visited Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot, and my daughter met upwards of 35 characters. 

I did a lot of research before our Disney vacation, much of it on Pinterest. I also bough the Unofficial Guide toDisney, which was SUPER helpful. So here are my top 10 Tips for making your Disney Vacation the Happiest Week of Your Life.

10. Arrive at the Magic Kingdom before the opening time. 

The Magic Kingdom may officially open at 9:00 am, which is when all the rides and lands open up, but the gates themselves open at least 45 minutes before that! Arriving at the park at 9:00 means you'll be wasting precious park time. You’ll have to walk from either the parking lot or the bus to the gates, then go through security. And once you’re inside, you’ll need to get maps, orient yourself, go to the bathroom, etc. Plus, Main Street and many of its shops and restaurants are open before the opening time, so it’s not like you’ll be bored!  


9. If you want to meet characters, book the character meals. 

On our arrival day, we met seven princesses, five of them during our dinner. What a great way to use our limited park time! Instead of standing in seven individual lines, we waited in 1 line (for Anna & Elsa), and sat comfortably at a table while the other 5 came to us. Some people find the character meals to be chaotic and rushed. It is definitely not a restful meal, as you do have several interruptions. On the other hand, at least you're sitting down. Also, the servers were all very helpful in telling us when characters would be coming by our table. And they never pushed us to finish up and leave in a hurry. 

8. Don’t buy an autograph book. 

I bought wire bound index cards (in pretty colors) and tore out the autographs every night in my hotel room. That way, if I had lost the book, I wouldn’t have lost the autographs we’d already gotten. What I did do was buy a Disney photo album, which I can put the cards and pictures in to create a keepsake for her.

7. Bring AT LEAST two pairs of walking shoes. 

On our second day, we were caught in a torrential downpour that thoroughly soaked us, even through our raincoats. Our shoes took 3 days to dry out. And this is Florida – it rains all the time. All of us were very grateful for those second pairs of shoes! In addition, if you blister (and I did, even though both my shoes were well broken in), switching shoes can relieve the pain. Final point: you may want to bring a pair of shoes to bum around the hotel room in, as you see with my flip flops above. In fact, my blisters were so bad that I bought special tabu socks (from Epcot Japan) and wore socks with flip flops the last two days. It was divinely comfortable.

6. Pay attention to your potty. 

I know it's gross, but especially with kids, you need to think about poop. Bring medication to speed up or slow down intestinal flow, and make sure you know what your kids are doing with the potty. Vacations are a common time to have issues, and that can ruin the whole trip! 

5. Bring extra battery power for your phone. 

I needed all my battery power because, like most people, I used my smart phone as my camera. In addition, I managed our plans with the free My Disney Experience app. That allowed me to make/adjust dinner reservations, Fastpass reservations, etc., all from my own phone. I invested in a case that had a built in battery, but you can also buy portable charges, or bring a charging cable to use at various plugs in the park.  

4. Know your "why."

We went to Disney World to give my 5 year old daughter an incredible vacation. Whenever I had to make a decision or a plan, I thought about my "why." So when my daughter turned down a fastpass to ride something else, I said yes. When she wanted to ride a certain ride over and over, I said yes. I also made her rest during our daily nap times (although by the second day, she fell asleep the minute her head hit the pillow). I skipped some events that I wanted to do, because this wasn’t about me or my goals. Besides, skipping one show to attend a different one gave me the gift of watching her face light up, or hearing her delightful giggles. At the end of the day, the trip we took was wonderful, although definitely different from the trip I would've taken if it had just been me and my husband going.   

3. Let people take care of themselves. 

I had planned to go back to the hotel daily to rest, and we did exactly that. One of my party members didn’t join us in the daily nap – instead she chose to stay in the parks and just sit or ride gentle rides while we were gone. At first I was worried about her. Could she really get the rest she needed without going to the hotel? But she is an adult, and so I let her do what she knew was best for her. When my husband overslept on the morning of one of our breakfast reservations, I let him sleep and left without him, because I knew that was what he needed. He thanked me for it! If, like me, your group includes more adults than children, then don't try to control the vacation for all of them! Let people pass on rides, or choose other rides, etc.

2. Leave one day unplanned. 

I left Wednesday completely open: no fastpasses, no dinner reservations, nothing. When we talked about it on Tuesday, our group was in agreement about which park to visit, but even if we hadn’t been, that would’ve been the perfect day to split up so people could do their own thing. Once we picked a park, I was able to book fastpasses for the best rides by using the Disney Experience app. I also kept our plans minimal for Thursday and Friday, in order to give us time to ride some rides a second or third (or fourth) time. What with Fastpasses and dinner reservations and parades and shows, you could easily schedule a 12 hour day every day. And you'll be absolutely miserable!

1. Take a nap EVERY day! 

Yes, it can take up to an hour to travel from a park to your hotel room. Yes, it can then take up to another hour to get back. Yes, that means you are sacrificing at least 3 hours of park time just to rest. It is worth it. The only day we didn’t take a nap, two adults in my party literally were falling asleep at the dinner table, and my daughter was a total mess. On the days we took naps we were able to go back and have a nice dinner with no meltdowns, watch the sunset, and on some nights, watch the closing ceremonies. I can't stress this enough: TAKE A DAILY NAP! Because even if you invest 4 hours in the nap and your kid only sleeps for 30 minutes, that's still 4 hours of downtime for you and the kids. Four hours without stimulation, four hours to process and consider and rest. I didn't even sleep during our nap time, but everyone else did!