Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Power of Doubt


Easter has always been my favorite church season; the music, the story, the feelings of hope, the joy of spring, the story we hear and what it means for the Christian community. The last two weeks I have been lucky enough to hear two amazing sermons. On Easter Sunday my Mom preached about courage. The bravery that the disciples had to show over the course of the “three days” not to think they were going completely insane when all of the sudden their friend Jesus shows up in a locked house with holes in his hands and feet just days after they buried him and on top of all that, the courage to tell people about it! Well, today Pastor Seyward preached about doubt. The doubt of Thomas and how he basically called his friends crazy when they told him Jesus was resurrected, “nope,” he said! He didn’t buy it until he could see it himself, put his hands in the wounds and hear Jesus’ voice, saying “believe it, Thomas… it’s me.” Pastor Seyward continued to talk about how Thomas has a pretty bad reputation now, he’s known as the “doubter”, the “non-believer”. In fact, go google “doubt”, the fourth choice (behind “Doubt”, the movie) is Doubt Thomas, poor guy. Well, as I sat there listening to the wonderful message today I started to connect the two sermons; the courage and the doubt of the disciples, the courage and the doubt that it takes just to get through life. In the words of my very wise Pastor Mom, “courage is not for heroes, courage is for disciples.”

                I’d say, in this story we can all relate to Thomas. Who hasn’t faced an extreme amount of doubt in their lives? From small issues to big issues, that little pang in your stomach that tells you, “eh, you may want to think about this.” Everything from whether or not you should take that job across country, go back to school, break up with someone, eat that extra scoop of ice cream, fill up your tank before or after work, or if you should believe the fact that your mentor and friend apparently rose from the dead. Cleary Thomas had it a little worse than the rest of us. But, what Thomas showed us, what we can all take away, is that doubt is ok. Doubt doesn’t make us weak or indecisive, it makes us human. The next lesson is that of courage. This is where we can win or lose the battle. After doubt we must show courage, if we do not than the doubt wins and consumes us. Thomas had doubt, this is true, but he found his strength in seeing Jesus, and then he showed courage by continuing to follow him. The key is that middle piece, the strength. We all have to find what gives us strength. It is the natural step from doubt to courage. Sometimes we find that strength in our faith, sometimes in the words of our friends, or in a sign of some kind. We all have our own versions of putting our hands in the wounds.

                Life is full of doubt, as is faith. And it takes strength and courage to get through it. What we can’t do is to let doubt exhaust us, because if we let doubt tire us then we have no more strength for courage. So, let’s not judge Thomas for doubting, let’s admire him for finding the strength to believe.    

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Elisey Reads ~ The list

So, I settled on a list of 24 books! I got a lot of suggestions and they were all great! I ruled out any that I have read since high school and if I book was suggested more than twice it made the cut!

So far I have finished The Color Purple by Alice Walker and it was not at all what I expected it to be. But I really enjoyed reading it! Once you get used to the style of writing it is a quick read. It was incredibly powerful and you end it with a sense of sad hopefulness, if that makes any sense.

I'm now reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Folett and I'm really enjoying it!!!

So, here is the list....

The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut
1984, George Orwell
Animal Farm, George Orwell
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
I Know This Much is True, Wally Lamb
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
Red Tent, Anita Diamant
The Cider House Rules, John Irving
Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dune, Frank Herbert
Beloved, Tony Morrison
The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien

Friday, December 6, 2013

~ EliseyReads ~ A year of classics

At the end of the school day I usually go through my classroom and collect all of the forgotten textbook, binders, and random school supplies that are left behind by my students. Well today I picked up one of my students' copies of The Color Purple... "I can't believe I've never read this" I thought to myself, and then all of the books that could be considered "classics" or "must reads" that I have either never gotten to or should really read again started to go through my mind. I got an idea that I should put a list of these books together and finally read them. I asked my classroom neighbor Mrs. Hernandez for help, given she's the AP Language history teacher I figured she was the right person to ask. She and I decided that I should put a list of 20 books together and try to complete the list in a year. Sounded like a fun project to me!!! So... I'm collecting suggestions and ideas from whoever has them :)

I'm hoping to have a finalized list by Monday/ Tuesday and to start reading! The first book will be The Color Purple and I'll go from there. I'll write a blog per post book, maybe more... so if you're remotely interested in what I'm reading (I'm talking to you Mom and Dad, haha) keep your eyes peeled for posts that are titled "EliseyReads"!

Happy Reading!!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Benign Life

I was told recently by someone very close to me that they felt I had lived a "benign life". Quite a lot of emotions went through me in a matter of seconds. But, I settled on offended. I took that statement as an insult, as this person somehow telling me my life hasn't been difficult, that I haven't faced adversity, that things have been easy for me. I've never taken well to those types of "accusations", I like to be thought of as a person who has worked hard through thick and thin to get where I am. But, more than that I felt guilty because I knew she was right. In the grand scheme of things, in the larger view of pain and suffering, my life has been benign. If you look at the definition of the word it makes sense: gentle; kindly, not harmful in affect. It would be silly of me to say I regret the fact that I have had a gentle life (overall), I don’t want this to come off as me wishing for more struggles. But, what I struggle with is all of the “why me’s?” Why do I deserve the gentle life, the lucky breaks? What have I done that others haven’t? People, no matter the circumstance, don’t deserve bad things to happen to them, so who’s to say who deserves good things to happen to them?
Now, this isn't to say I haven't struggled in my own way. I spent most of my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood being called a "fatass" by a multitude of individuals; this being just the tip of the iceberg of my struggle with my weight/ health/ relationship with food. These issues have led me to a lifetime struggle with self-doubt, low self-esteem and depression, and not to mention a horrible relationship with food. I've lost a good amount of family members as well as family friends. I’ve seen loss and I’ve walked along with those struggling to get through life. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the best and worst of the world and shared in the joys and sorrows of many. But, when I look at some of my friends and family, people who mean the world to me who have beaten cancer, people who have lost friends far too young, people who have lost their parents, people who have gone through abusive relationships and come out stronger than they were before, people who have seen the worst in life and been through the worst in life and have made it, people who have struggled with addiction, people who have lost everything they own in natural disasters. I truly know some of the strongest people on the planet.
When I look at the struggles of my life and what some of my loved ones have been through I realize I’ve had it easy. When my aunt was my age she had already watched her older sister lose her battle with cancer and was in the process of watching her oldest brother lose his battle with AIDS, and all this while raising a young family. Again, strongest people on the planet.
I don’t want to seem like I am wishing for bad things to happen to me so I feel worthy of this life, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel guilty for being on the outside looking in on so many people’s pain. I want to be able to take away some of this pain and put it on me, to know that I’ve somehow spared people from harm, knowing that I can help carry their burdens with them. The bottom line is that I carry guilt knowing that I couldn’t save them, that I couldn’t prevent these things from happening or protect the people I love. I have guilt, I carry the guilt of a benign life.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

When you loose faith, listen for the bells

Being the daughter of two Lutheran pastors does not leave you much of a choice in how you grow up. Like most PKs and other "church kids" (kids of council presidents, choir members, alter guild members and general awesome church people) my childhood was spent playing hide and go seek in the church basement, taking naps in the pews, and spending more time with your church family than your actual extended family. I was surrounded by theology all the time, but never felt smoothered by it, my parents created a good balance and were generally great in that way. Where you were going to be on Sunday morning as well as your faith was never questioned. The people of the church weren't just your faith community they were your faith family. It was an environment that I thrived in and that I loved, I knew my place, I was the "Pastor's kid", I was the constant acolyte, I was the Sunday School stand out, and I loved it. All the way through high school I didn't waver, I never questioned my place. But, as us PKs and church kids also know, this doesn't last. Once the time comes to go off to college and leave home, you also leave the rock that you rest your faith on, you leave your church. Suddenly you're thrown the overwhelming task of finding a new church. This is seemingly impossible, you walk into a new church on Sunday and no one knows who you are and you selfishly think that they should. You have a Reese Witherspoon moment of "dont you know who I am?!? I'm the Pastor's kid!"... but then you realize, of course, that the robed wonder in the pulpit is not, in fact, your mother or father, you will not be taking a nap in these pews, or be obligated to stay for 4 hours after everyone else has gone home and flip through the childrens bible to kill time while your parents are in council meetings. You can leave, like every other person there, because you, like everyone else are just another sheep in the flock. It is both liberating and terrifying... and lets not forget that in your mind, no pastor will ever live up to your pastor mom or pastor dad... so good luck with that.
Some will turn to college ministry and spend their college years bonding with a super cool pastor who wears birkenstocks and doesn't "robe up" for service and who is always around for those soul searching moments most of us have in college. Those years in university ministry feed a lot of young people's faith and do a lot of good, but for some they don't quite fit with the pastor's style or the group of people that are the most active Lutheran students, this my friends, happened to me. I spent four years of college and two years of grad school absolutely avoiding the church. I wanted nothing to do with it. I had my faith in God, so why did it matter where I prayed or spent my Sunday mornings... why were my pastor parents freaking out about the fact that I had no church community??
So, feeling lost in almost every aspect of life I turned to change. I turned to YAGM. I'll never forget my phone interview with Heidi and feeling absolutely terrified when she asked the question "so, can you tell me about your faith journey?!" How was I supposed to answer this?? I was the daughter of TWO pastors and I was basically a church dropout! No WAY was I getting into this program, I thought, I am a failure and a fake and they'll see it. So I was honest... I told Heidi that I was currently uninvolved in the church and was struggling to find my place. Well, what I had clearly forgotten was that that was totally ok, that the church has room for the lost and the found. And for reasons unknown to me Heidi and her crew thought I deserved a place among the YAGMs.
Going to the DIP event was terrifying. There were people in our group who did daily devotions, volunteered to give the sermon on Sunday, to organize our church service, who taught Sunday school through college!! Who are these people?? Thats all I could think, the whole weekend was consumed by my inner struggle that I didn't belong, that I wasn't good enough, that these other people were just on another level, a level that I was only on in my dreams. These are the people who my parents want me to be, I thought, and I'm not even close.
The faith journey continued through my year in South Africa and has only picked up steam  since I got back. Instead of being intimidated by the faithful awesomeness that was my fellow YAGM I became inspired by it. I'm going to find a church! I'm ready! I can do this! And I did.... I've found my way to an awesome church community and for the first time in YEARS I feel like I'm back where I belong. I even go to Sunday School! yeah, thats right people.... gone are the days of sneaking in during the sermon and sneaking out during the last hymn. Those days are in the past.
During my inquirers class today, which was taught by the head pastor, I was blown away. This pastor, Pastor Tim, knows his stuff and I probably could have continued our conversation all day. But, what stuck with me the most was when he talked about the church being a faith family. And that when one person looses their faith they shouldn't run from the church they should run towards it, because as a faith family we pick up the slack for each other, we believe for each other. I thought that was so beautiful and a concept I've never given much thought to. He talked about how a student of Martin Luther once asked him, "Luther, if I loose faith what should I do?" and Luther's repsonse was "if you should ever loose faith all you need to do is listen for the bells, and when you hear them run towards them, because there you will find the faithful"
And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks, when I went towards YAGM I went towards the bells. It was the community I needed to remind me of not just the awesomeness of the church but the awesomeness of my church, the ELCA. And with the echoes of the YAGM bells in my heart and mind I am walking towards a different faith community, one that I think, will keep me around for quite a while.

Monday, June 24, 2013

what Mandela means to me


I spent about half of my day today searching different news sites and facebook and any outlet where I might be able to get news on Nelson Mandela. As many people may know the 94 year old former South African president is not doing well at all. In fact, he’s fighting for his life. While I spent my breaks at work searching any outlet I could find I started to wonder why I was so emotional at the news of Mandela’s turn for the worse, I was stressing about his health and dreading the eventual word that he had passed, as if he was my own grandfather. I reached out to friends who had also lived in South Africa, asked them if they were just as upset, luckily for my view of my sanity, they were. It is my humble opinion that everyone should be somewhat upset about the possibility that we may lose one of the greatest human beings in history any day now. It would be selfish of us really to refuse to believe the reality of Mandela’s passing. We all must eventually accept the morality of even our greatest heroes. And Mandela is and always will be one of our greatest heroes. He wasn’t perfect, no one is, but he achieved what most thought to be impossible. He united a broken nation, not only that but he did it using the power of speech and the wisdom that comes with the ability to forgive. He did not demand people to pick up their weapons and fight, only to raise their voices in unity. The South Africa of today is a beautiful place, like most countries there are flaws, but when you think about where they started such a short time ago, it is miraculous to see where they are and we can thank Nelson Mandela for that.

While thinking about all of this today I couldn’t help but be flooded by my memories of South Africa. All day I could hear my kids from the crèche signing the national anthem, I could smell corn being roasted on the sidewalk, and I could feel the hugs of my friends and family who still live there. South Africa and the people I love there have become such a huge part of me but today, while sending prayers to all of them, it took me over. That South Africa, the country and culture and way of life that I feel so strongly connected to can be directly linked to the work of Nelson Mandela. And I think that that is why I feel so affected by his eventual passing. He was instrumental in creating something that I will love and respect forever. So, despite the fact that I am not South African and that I was only able to spend a very short year there, I will still be greatly hurt when the eventual news comes through that we have lost one of our heroes. Not just because I have a connection to his country, but because I have a great and deep respect for his accomplishments, and a gratitude for the way in which he acted in the face of such hateful circumstances. He was the man who after 27 years of imprisonment walked away free and shook the hands of his previous captors and said “I forgive you”. That, above everything is his most powerful legacy. His ability to forgive when he had no reason to.

So, thank you Madiba… thank you for teaching the world how to forgive, thank you for being the architect behind one of the greatest places I’ve ever been to, thank you for the joy you brought to this world. I can honestly say, I don’t know where we as a human race would be without you. I wish you a restful recovery, but if that is not what is to be then I hope for a peaceful passing. After the life you have lived and the things you have done you deserve happiness and peace at this time, because it is the same happiness and peace that you wished for all of your people both in South Africa and around the world. Hamba khale Madiba…

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lesson 1: Expect nothing, hope for everything

The original purpose of this blog was to document my year of service with the Young Adults in Global Mission in South Africa, the tag line was "a year in South Africa and the attempt to become an adult" I think I grew up a lot in South Africa but I am far from grown up. Now I'm back state-side and learning more about life everyday. They say the day you stop learning is the day you die and I completely agree, so I'm going to use this blog to document all these little life lessons I'll be learning along the way...

LIFE LESSON 1: Expect nothing, hope for everything

I've written before about the joys and disappointments surrounding expectations. Honestly though in the last year or so I have decided that having expectations is the absolute perfect way to set yourself up for heartbreak and disappointment. There are, of course, some things in life that you should expect, you should expect to be treated with respect, you should expect the sun to rise, you should expect that Ben and Jerry's to ALWAYS be delicious... but let me get to the point.

Some people may say that hope and expectation are essentially the same thing, but to me they couldn't be more different. If you have expectations you could possibly be setting yourself up for disappointment. When you expect something, you have already made it happen in your mind, the scenario has played out and you just know that that is how it will happen because YOU expect it to. But then, it doesn't quite happen the way you want, you don't get the salary offer you thought or he doesn't call when you thought he would. The sense of disappointment can be much stronger when there is expectation versus just hope. When you hope for something there is room for change, possibility of a different scenario. Hope allows you to be happy with whatever the world throws your way.

I hope this hasn't come off negative or pessimistic in any way cause that wasn't my intention. And you could think that I am utterly full of it. But I'll tell you that this is a huge lesson that I have learned and learned the hard way these last few years; expectation primarily leads to disappointment, but hope, hope is where its at. Always have faith that things will work out, hope that people will come through, and only expect the unexpected.

Life lesson #1.