All posts by Staci

Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator. I help moms figure out what they want in labor and then help them pursue whatever it is they've decided. I mother the mother, help dad help mom, fetch beverages, offer suggestions and listen listen listen. I love my work. <3

Immigration Reform

Chain link fence

Who can still say they support what’s happening with the treatment of immigrant people on our southern border?

This cannot be a party issue.

How we treat people seeking refuge is a human rights issue .

We cannot be so polarized between us and them that we lose our humanity.

Numerous articles are reporting what is happening and I, educated and literate, with access to unlimited news sources, can scarcely believe it.

Children stolen by the US government and locked up in cages. A breastfeeding baby taken from her mother’s arms. People told their babies are just going to get a bath–and then not returned.

Refugee children in a Texas detention center must file past a picture of our sitting president with the quote in English and Spanish for their reading pleasure, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”

The Department of Children and Families would never allow this treatment in a private home. But it’s just immigrants, so apparently it doesn’t matter?!?!

Snatching babies from their mothers is evil.

Pure evil.

How can good people, who I know, say they support tearing apart families? Whatever happened to “family values”?

I am sick of the legalism standpoint “it’s the law”, and the argument “they’re just pretending to be parents.” That’s your response?! They might not really be the parents?! There are ways to quickly and efficiently ensure the children are actually with their parents. Interviews and DNA samples to start if that’s really the concern.

The justice department is using babies as pawns to deter refugees. I don’t care who started it or which party did what. I care about the thousands of children missing their parents and distraught parents terrified for their children.

Desperate people don’t risk everything they have and take their children in treacherous journeys for a “better life.” They do it to SAVE their lives.

They fear for their lives and the dangerous unknown is better than known starvation and murder from where they come.

Where is your compassion? Your Christlike heart for the widows, the orphans, the aliens, the poor, the needy?

What would Jesus do?!?! Not sit on a pile of money behind a gun, stealing children, that’s for sure.

“I pay enough in taxes. I don’t want to pay for those people.” Shame on you. Live in luxury. Enjoy your big screen tv and comfortably large lonely home on earth. Because the Kingdom of God is bigger than and better than this. You can be part of the kingdom here and now!! Do you think your luxurious empty life is contributing to making someone else’s life better? What is truly pleasing to God?

These are humans. These are babies. Traumatized children fleeing danger with loving parents exchanged for more trauma and separation from their parents. Jesus be with them as their parents cannot.

And Americans stand sanctimoniously protecting our wealth, our land, our luxuries–while our souls sicken and die. “Well, they’re breaking the law.”

God help us.

What do we do?!

Here’s a way to contribute money and time for justice work being done through the non profit National Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist immigration ministry. They provide high quality immigration legal services to separated families.

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Women in the UMC

The United Methodist Church recently failed to add language to the UMC Constitution affirming women’s equality and a commitment to inclusivity and diversity.  https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/news/united-methodist-women-annual-conference-votes-unfinished-gender-justices

It felt like a punch to the gut, to be honest.

I have worshiped in churches that have denied women decision making abilities for the church and leadership of both women and men regarding Scripture in teaching and preaching. I have felt the sting of being trivialized and excluded, based on the fact that I don’t have a penis.

It feels demeaning that my talents, abilities, experiences, education and Calling have been disregarded and instead church leaders positioned me (and many women more gifted than I) in subservient places where our callings could not be fully embraced.

My hope to pursue a seminary degree is ironically on hold as I pay off debt accrued by or family for the years I was a stay-at-home mom, raising babies and supporting my husband in his role as Bread Winner. Our culture expects women to be the Home Keeper, Baby Raiser, Breast Feeder, and also supplement income because living off one income in this day and age is quite the challenge.

I do understand that there are two sides of every story. I was grateful to read an African UMC representative’s statement, further explaining the language they disagreed with.

However.

Our church is at an impasse. I don’t know what’s going to be left of the UMC come next year. I interpret Scripture using contextual information about the culture for which it was written, the Spirit of the writing, and what I know about God from my personal experience. My God embodies both male and female, as Scripture does refer to God using feminine analogies as well as masculine. My God loves all people; and all people struggle to align their faith and their actions with Who they believe God to be.

I realize that there are two divergent perspectives and this comes down to interpretation of Scripture. I pray for the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ . . . because a house divided cannot stand.

Take a Breath.

I wrote this in 2016. It’s lovely to remember these moments. 🙂

Mornings are difficult in my home. I am not a morning person. Before I had children, I was blessed with jobs that didn’t expect me until mid morning. Nights are much more my style. So how I ended up with a situation where my kids and I have to be out the door by 7:20 is beyond me. I’ve often considered it a curse, but perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise.

We have to be organized for early mornings. Clothes need to be laid out the night before. Homework needs to be packed. Snacks need to be prepared. I need to know where my travel coffee mug is.

(Thankfully, my husband has coffee ready to go for me. He gets up really early to take care of the horses and chickens. The puppy is my responsibility, as are the kids. It’s an equitable distribution of labor, in my opinion.  )

I’ve learned that even if I plan ahead, there will always be a wrench thrown in the works. Someone changes their mind about their shirt. Someone doesn’t want the cereal we have. Someone else isn’t happy with having to wake up. Aye yi yi!

One morning, my youngest didn’t like the pink leggings that were to go with her brown and pink dress. She walked around undressed as I helped everyone else with necessities. She finally came out to the car, wearing BLACK printed leggings. They didn’t match. Whatever. Get in the car and go!!!

I had two choices. I could harangue her for changing her mind, being difficult, making us all wait for her. Or I could build up her self esteem.

For once, I chose wisely.

I said, “Juliette, I am proud of you.  You solved a problem! You didn’t like your leggings and instead of pouting, you found a solution and put on different leggings by yourself. Thank you for taking care of yourself.” She didn’t reply, but I feel like choosing to see the positives and support my 5 year old was one of my better moments.

I am learning to be a peace maker. I am finding peace in my own heart and choosing to promote it, rather than contributing to chaos.

Grief ebbs and flows

It’s been two years since Pamela passed on. There’s no pretty way to say it. Died, passed away, left us.

Lent is a hard season still for my family.

I shared with some friends today about this hard season, tearfully sharing the beauty Pamela brought to our lives.

We have photos of her around our home; we can’t bear to take them down.

My daughters still sleep with their Build A Bears, still remember her every night in their prayers.

A teacher at my oldest daughter’s school today played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel K and she was triggered with intense memories and grief. It was played at Pamela’s funeral. My daughter casually mentioned how she cried in geometry today (I assumed at first it was because, well, geometry). When she explained the circumstances, I shared that I, too, cried today. (I realized later that was exactly the two year anniversary of her death.)

Grief hits at random moments. It ebbs and  Flows, some days bearable and distant, almost comforting in its constant presence, reminding us of this special person. Other days it hits us hard in the face, trying to knock us down and drown us in an unrelenting rip current of sorrow that takes our breath away

We didn’t get the miracle we wanted. The question becomes what now? Do we continue to trust God? Can the Holy Spirit provide the comfort we so desperately need? Are we open to this Comfort? Can we build peace and work towards deeper relationships in the midst of our grief?

We are trying. We are still hurting. It’s balm to my soul to recognize the miracle, the irony of Christ’s resurrection in a deadly world.

A Hindu friend of mine said she was trying to explain to her Hindu parents (who believe in reincarnation, shedding the body as we discard our clothing) what Christians believe and why we celebrate Easter. Her father accepted that Jesus returned—but as what?!?!

As what indeed. As the same man He has always been. As The Son of God, Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace. King of my Heart, Lord of my life, Friend.

To Jesus I cling.

 

Peace at Christmas

I was asked to share a devotion at our church’s women’s tea. Here it is:

Know Christ. . . Know Peace

Colossians 3:15 The peace of Christ must control your hearts–a peace into which you were called in one body.  And be thankful people.”

Different translation: Let the Peace of Christ rule in your heart.

Peace is a longing we have! I recently attended a parenting training and the speaker asked every single parent in the room what their longing was for their home. EVERY SINGLE PARENT REPLIED “PEACE.”  I think of commercials with the picture perfect family, smiling children, perfect Christmas tree decorated beautifully with every ornament matching the theme. . .

That’s not the case at my house, just to be clear.

What is Christmas peace?

A baby sleeps peacefully in a manger on a hillside. It’s a beautiful, balmy evening. Stars are bright, farm animals are milling around, munching on hay.


Wait.

Babies don’t usually just quietly lay by themselves. Typical newborns have their days and nights mixed up. As a doula, I know babies. I don’t know the exact details about THIS special baby beyond what Scripture tells us, but I know about  typical newborn behavior. Many times, I’m hired to support families overnight to maximize sleep for everyone. Exhausted parents long for a peaceful stretch of hours.

 

My ability to provide parents with a peaceful night comes from knowing babies and teaching parents how to  better understand their baby. Babies need to feel secure. (Those swaddle blankets are still used! Imagine that! What worked for Jesus works for most humans. Babies have a startle reflex where if they’re put on their back their hands starts to whirl outward for protection. 

Parents need to know that to better meet their baby’s needs. How to hold, how to soothe,  how to feed a new baby are important qualities to learn quickly when becoming a parent.

 

As parents go through this process, they bond to their baby. They get to know their baby’s cry. They get to know hunger cues and sleepy cues. Soon, they develop a routine and rhythm as they respond to to their baby and as their baby adjusts to life in the world. The better they know their baby, the better they are able to respond to their baby.

Mary, too, as a mother, would know Jesus intimately as his mother and respond to him because of this knowledge.

 

Mary was a Jewish woman who knew God. She must have–for who else would respond to a unplanned pregnancy (miraculous though it was) revealed through an angel with the words “I am the Lord’s Servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”

 

Mary knew that God is faithful. She trusted God’s blessing with her life. Her knowledge of God’s provision for her people–from God sending plagues and saving the Israelite’s firstborn as remembered during Passover, delivering Moses and the Israelites by parting the Red Sea, lighting the lamp that never went out, the courage and grace God gave Esther to save His people yet again, to Isaiah preaching of a coming savior, . . . OT miracles and prophecies were all probably known to Mary, a faithful Jewish woman.  She knew God as trustworthy. She knew that God’s blessings are worth more than anything to be found on this earth.

 

Socially, she faced ruin. Caught in the middle of a political change and census, she had to travel with her fiance to Bethlehem, only 6 miles away. Perhaps she was relieved at the chance to escape the social ramifications of her conditions; She delivered her baby in this foreign- to-her town.

 

Her knowledge of God brought her an intimate relationship with God through Jesus the Christ.

 

So. . . what do we know about God? What we know about (or think we know) about God influences our relationship with God.

 

How about this: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Does that come from the Old Testament or the New? I wonder if Mary realized these Old testament prophetic verses from Isaiah 9 applied to her son.

 

Do you know who else knew Christ? The disciples. Jesus called 12 men to travel with him, learn with him, minister with him. He called them to earthly itinerant poverty. . and he called them to help bring about the Kingdom of God’s blessings to this same earth. These men listened to Jesus teach. They slept near him. They ate meals with him. They saw him feed 5000+ people; they watched him raise the dead back to life. They knew him.

 

They chose to change their lives to be a part of the Kingdom of God.They chose to obey him, they desired to please him. They didn’t always get it right. There were certainly life threatening dips in the road:

Peter cut off a guard’s ear on the night Jesus was arrested. It was the wrong thing to do–because Peter didn’t understand. Peter denied knowing Christ 3 times following his arrest. It was the wrong thing to do–because Peter didn’t understand.

 

Mary chastised Jesus because she lost him on their pilgrimage. She knew him. She didn’t understand.

 

Sometimes we want to know Christ. We want to understand. But we just can’t get it right. That perfect christmas is just out of reach. We focus on the wrong things (or maybe even the right things!) and we still fail. That’s life. But we shift our focus, strengthen our resolve to pay closer attention to our King and to understand better the priorities of Heaven versus what the earth tells us we need.

 

Christmas celebrates the day that God became Flesh and walked among us. God took on human form and was tempted, betrayed, crucified by and for the very ones God came to save. God realized that humanity’s end of the sacred covenant we held with God was in jeopardy–because we have chosen time and time again to turn away from God.

 

The peace Christ brings is in fact, peace with God. The Kingdom of God is here, today. You are a part of it. Everything you do works to establish God’s kingdom on earth. How you respond to conflict, how you spend your money, what you teach your children, how you serve others, how you share your talents, abilities and gifts–has eternal consequences.The ultimate goal of Jesus’ Life, death and resurrection was to restore peace to God’s people. Jesus lived, laughed, suffered and died so that we might be found righteous.

 

Do you know Christ? Do you want to know Christ better?

Follow in Mary’s footsteps. Speak to God. Listen for God.

Follow the disciples’ example–Question God. Obey God. Look for miracles. Read others’ accounts about Jesus in the Bible.

Listen to the Holy Spirit, which is in each of us.

Fellowship with other believers–ask hard questions, hold each other accountable.

 

The better we know Jesus, the more we will understand and the better we are able to respond to God’s call on our lives.

 

The apostle Paul encourages believers to fix their minds on things that are above, where Christ is sitting. With a focus on Christ’s priorities, our church and our community will flourish. Paul explains, “The peace of Christ must control your hearts–a peace into which you were called in one body..” Colossians 3:15.

 

Then, as you navigate the dips of life with knowledge of and relationship with Christ, you can name the challenges, navigate a plan through them, and know that with Jesus next to you, trusting God will bring you through as a new person–blessed with fruits of the spirit such as joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. . . and peace. ❤

Catching Up

Do you ever feel like you’re playing catch up? Breakfast dishes are still in the sink at 6pm and your kids are hungry and you’re wondering where the day went?

Sometimes I have such careful plans that get derailed by a Sick kid. Or a client with unexpected urgent needs. And sometimes it is my own lack of planning that kicks me at the end of the day.

today I realized a Bible study I had decided to start never got started. I was 11 days behind. I got overwhelmed just looking at how many days I had to go to catch up.

i logged into the settings and there was a button called “catch me up.” I hesitated because I thought it would double or triple the days to get me to where I thought I should be.

Imagine my relief when it simply reset the timeline.

Talk about God’s grace! I don’t have to work double or triple. God wants me to walk with Him and listen to Him daily. I miss out on the richness of life with God if I don’t.

But I’m not penalized when I run to Him. He meets me exactly where I am and pushes that lovely “catch me up” button.  And all is right again.

💜

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Grief

Easter seems to be like such a happy celebration of life. Western culture has made it the new Christmas, it seems. School spring breaks are scheduled around Easter often. Children wake up excited to find eggs the Easter Bunny hid for them–and a large basket of gifts. A new Easter dress and shoes and hat. Fancy lunch. It’s the Christian holiday of the spring.

It is celebratory. Yes, Jesus Christ conquered the grave! Yes, Christians are given new life and hope of Heaven because of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. His life and death would have been pointless without the resurrection.

And yet–I’m filled with grief. As I read different accounts in the Bible of the events leading to Jesus’ torture and death, I’ve been moved to tears. This man, this God, loved His people. He lived to bring them Life with a capital L. He was born of a miracle, created miracles all to bring attention and glory to a God who loves all people. He taught people to love each other, to fear their own judgment and not judge others. He taught communities how to live together, how to worship together and how to resolve conflict according to the way we were created.

People were afraid because he challenged the status quo. People in power were afraid to lose their power. They feared this humble man because he had the ability to inspire people to want better, to hope for justice, to care for each other.

Because he was a threat to oppression, he was killed. The nighttime mob in the streets of Jesusalem screamed for a bloody show. The religious leaders plotted and threatened to have this man killed before he upset the “system.” Pilate refused to take responsibility and acquiesced to the crowd. Who rules who, really?

And an innocent man stood condemned for crimes he did not commit.

My grief overflows. The Hope of the world–condemned by the world. Ironic. Sick. Twisted. I imagine what it might have been like had the world accepted Jesus and sought social reform, justice, hope and love for all. I’ll see it when Heaven is at my door.

But I don’t want to miss that Jesus brought the Kingdom of God TO EARTH. It’s not missing. It’s here. It’s in my local churches. It’s in people who seek to do God’s will and love the Lord. It’s in me–because the Holy Spirit is in me and all believers. The Holy Spirit is a gift and a crucial piece of the reconciliation we so desperately need today. Believers can continue to make a difference in how they live, in how they treat others, in how they spend their time and money and gifts. Jesus is the Light of the world. I think the local church is now the Hope of the world.

Leading up to Easter, I participated in Lent. This participation included regular reading of a Lenten Bible study plan .Throughout this time, I was not just preparing my heart for the seasonal Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. I was also preparing for the death of a dear relative.

Pamela is actually my husband’s cousin. She’s our favorite relative because of her solid faith, sweet natured spirit and love for everyone she meets. She particularly had a gift with children. She and her husband were unable to conceive a baby, and so Pamela took on her nieces and nephew and my own children as some of her many projects. She has always made a point to connect with us and our children. Pamela was a social worker, placing children in foster homes and helping young adults who age out of the foster care system at 18 years old with no family and no resources. The closest I can come to describing her is that she reminds me of Rev. Fred Rogers from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” That’s high praise, if you’ve ever been a kid who watched that show and felt the warmth and caring through your tv screen straight to your heart. Messages like “I like you just the way you are” are exactly things Pamela would tell the gaggle of children who constantly surrounded her.

About a year ago, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer. We were shocked. She has always been healthy and active. Just after Christmas, she called us and explained that the chemotherapy and surgery she’d had were no longer effective and that she was planning to enter Hospice Care. We were shocked and in denial.

How could we imagine a world without Pam??????

My husband took our daughters across the country to visit her and say their goodbyes. Pamela’s one outing that week was to the mall. She was on a mission to purchase stuffed bears from Build a Bear for our daughters. She kissed the heart that goes in each bear and recorded a voice message for each girl. They sleep with their bears every night. My family came home with a handwritten card for each of us that Pamela had written. We haven’t presented the cards to the kids yet. I don’t know what they say but I know they will be encouraging, positive and loving. As her card for me was.

As far as miracles go, I’m pretty realistic. I don’t often ask God for miraculous help but I was praying for it this time. “Please, God–heal her. Don’t take her just yet. Give her more time. Give us more time with her. We need her, God. So many people need her. Take someone else. . .”

A tiny little spark of Hope lay dormant inside me, hoping against Hope that Pamela could be a miraculous testament to the power of God.

And yet, on Easter Sunday–she died. 36 years old. We learned of it on Monday morning.

I was and am so disappointed. I felt like God let me down. Like of all people, why? How?

It’s unfair.

And yet–there is still Hope. I still have faith that God is in control. That Jesus loves us. That this world is not forsaken as long as there are people who continue to love God and love each other.

Pam died. But she’s not gone. The resurrection of Jesus means that beautiful Pamela is resting in His arms. And that one day we will be reunited.

My 12 year old daughter told her, “Think of all the babies in Heaven who are waiting for their parents. You can be THEIR mom now.”

I imagine this beautiful woman, rocking a baby, completely fulfilled with confident purpose in Heaven.

And I know that her life isn’t over but just beginning.

But I miss her so.