I grew up on the rocky shores of Lake Superior and in the deep forests of Northeastern Minnesota. It is a part of the world that is predisposed to loneliness, an only child feels it even more strongly than most. By the time I was in high school I longed for community. I felt that with Quakers is where I wanted to find that community. I chose my college based on that fact. I got community, I studied community—sometimes I had too much of it. I lived in an intentional community, I lived in unintentional community.

This last year has been both really extraordinary and really difficult. I am finding I want more time alone and less time with others. I have recently decided to live alone. I keep asking myself several questions related to this.

How does needing to be alone balance with my strong desire to have community?

Is the community we are building at my worship group enough? Will it provide a structure for me to develop strong bonds with others and God that will allow me to support others and to let them support me?

Not too long ago I would have been scared to spend so much time alone. I spend most of my 20’s running from one place to the next. I felt restless and unhappy. Over the last few years I have started to come to peace with things, I feel at home in Baltimore and want to put down roots. I need stability. I am confronting the things that made me bounce from place to place when I was younger. I guess to do that work, I need time alone. At the same time it is nice to live somewhere that I am not totally anonymous.


I've got sticky everywhere

Well, the title has little to do with anything. I did get it in my head last night as I left a certain meetinghouse in a town we Charm City. I was walking to my car and the reused salad container (the kind you get in the grocery store) was leaking watermelon juice and balsamic vinegar down my leg. The song is a Breeders song. If you think about it...sticky everywhere isn't really that pleasant. That could perhaps discribe what I am going to say in this post.

I was happy and feeling fulfilled. The group I have been working to start as part of my "volunteering" with AFSC had had its first open to the public event. It went well. We had had a potluck and "fundraiser" for a group called "No More Victims" that one of our group members was feeling called to do something for. We had it after the Women in Black Peace Path along Charles St. It was raining yesterday so there wasn't a big turn out for the Peace Path which is unfortunate, but we had probably 30 some folks for the potluck which was better than I had hoped for. And the Meeting Peace Committee had even agreed to sponsor us and come...so that is always nice.

I wasn't able to get off work in time to join the peace path but had been hoping to get there early to do set up for the potluck. I didn't get there as early as I had hoped but since we had people form meeting agree to help it all came together well. However, Quakers are Quakers. I kept getting told how do things (since I never go to simple lunch I don't know the process) and being asked if I had ever been there before by people I have talked to after meeting. And generally being treated in ways that if I hadn't resigned myself to Quaker ways long ago would have pissed me off.

I love Quakers. I know that my spiritual home is with Quakers, but that doesn't mean I like everything about us. In fact, I think we are actually very annoying at times. There is a general way of treating people that are not seen as being part of the meeting that is condescending and standoff-ish. Young people are seen as being something novel but not to be trusted or counted on...and that is our own doing for not making more of a presence in meetings. However, I have been coming to this meeting for 3 years --fairly infrequently mind you...but enough that I should at least look familiar. I don't expect to be remembered or even to have someone remember that the familiarity is from meeting. But it would still be nice to be treated in a welcoming manner and maybe as if I had a brain. I realize that these are very unkind charges to be making. And if you ask me for specific examples, it would be hard to say why it is I feel this way. I think what makes it worse is that meetings play favorites, picking a young adult that comes with some frequency or who was active as a teen and choosing to hold them up as this shining example and ignoring those of us who come infrequently and may be having our own struggles and tests of faith--those of us that need support and kindness.

This even happened in my home meeting when I returned from Guilford and having been the Quaker Leadership Scholars program for FOUR years. No one made an effort to get to know me (excepting those that I had pre-existing relationships with) and even when I tried to come regularly and get involved in committees still felt like an outsider at the rise of meeting.

I would have let it all go. Done the dishes (which is a long-standing ministry of mine at gatherings like this) and been done with it. However, I asked a friend of mine, who I met at college to come and support this venture. She is familiar with Quakers and has attended meetings in the past though being raised and part of another denomination. She grew up in an intentional faith-based community. We both share a passion for social justice, service, a need for spirituality, and community. As she came to help with the dishes I said, "Thanks for coming, I hope it hasn't been too awkward." She said it wasn't but was a lot like a quieter version of the intentional community she grew up in. We laughed. She said she thought it was funny that no matter where you were old Quaker men all look the same, with food in their beards. I said that the woman all tend too look the same and in a few years I would have my own lady beard and awkwardly out of style way of dressing. We were laughing at this (and please don't be offended, I make horrible jokes about what I love) when someone from the meeting came in and squawked about whether or not we were doing the dishes correctly. I said I had read the signs that were posted and followed that (this was the fourth person to do so). It irked me abit that rather than being thanked for doing this without being asked to do it, I was helping out. But rather than thanks the first thought was "they must be doing it wrong."

I mentioned to her that I disliked how hard it was to get to know people at meeting. That I had been coming to this meeting on and off for three years--and yet almost no one even recognized me. That there is the core group of people at any meeting, that they do it all, and complain about how hard it is to get more people involved. Yet, they can be so standoff-ish. That no one attempts to talk with others after meeting. That it is one thing if you are new to Friends but once they find out that you are a friend they seem to get awkward. She said that she had always felt that way after the meetings she had attended. That there was a lack of warmth. I said I hated that feeling and wanted to be involved and a sense of community. She said to come to her church (which is a large congregation). I said that I had started going to a worship group. That we all wanted more community and accountability than we were getting (not to mention more christ-centered meeting).

I am not doing justice to the odd sense people get after meeting. But if outsiders are seeing it and young friends who want to be involved, included, in community and accountable for living a mindful life--than there is a problem. If those that are hyper-involved in meetings are feeling burnt-out and taxed then it is essential we change our after meeting practices. True that part of this accountability means that I need to go to meeting regularly...which is hard when you feel like there is not a genuine interest in your presence there. At that point I usually think...I could still be asleep. I miss being a part of a community. I am glad that I have the opportunity to start attending something that may be closer to what I crave than what I get at established meetings but sad to that Quakers can be so condescending and rude. But like family, I love that which will always be apart of me at the same time know that sometimes the real gift is that family (or religious community) you create is what sustains and supports you.

So next time you see someone new at meeting...or maybe you have seen them a few times...standing off to the side alone, try talking to them about the weather or things that the meeting is working on....chances are they will appreciate it. And that they will be just as awkward as you--they are afterall at a Quaker Meeting.



But I helped him a-drink his wine/And he always had some mighty fine wine/Singin'...Joy to the world/All the boys and girls now/Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea/Joy to you and me--Hoyt Axton

If you all will excuse me conscerning my diatribe previously, which was obviously using you all for cheap therapy...Thank you. I don't know how to move on in some ways. And in other ways, my life is moving on.

I went to meeting Sunday, and it filled me with JOY. I was so happy for the gift of worshiping with all the wonderful people there. I was so happy to be there in that moment. I couldn't stop smiling.

I am becoming a glass half full kinda person. It is a first. It may not last. But I am content to enjoy the present. I am thankful for my blessings and where I am in my life right now. I am happy for what I have in this moment.

I have been telling my therapist for a year now that I need to find and claim my joy again. I think I may just have it within my grasp. Here is to new beginnings. Here is to faith. Thank you lord for my blessings, for my friends, my family...let me be your vessel. Here is to JOY.


Ch-ch-changes: Part 3 Home

It was a rough summer. Elmer shaped me as a person. I am still having trouble talking about it. I feel blessed that I was able to spend about 8 weeks in Minnesota. I am so happy I could spend so much time with Nana and my mom. Unfortunately, my father was too concerned with whether I could get another job in this economy to be very pleasant. I told him I knew things would work, I felt it deep down that I would get a job and that my life would be better than it had been in a long time when I got back to Baltimore. He didn’t believe me. Even when I had to fly back for second interviews with two positions at Johns Hopkins.

I really wanted him to enjoy the time we had together. I don’t know when I will be able to afford to see my family next after this summer. But I knew it would work out. This summer was a lesson in faith and listening to your leadings. As a result I got to spend time with my family, be there for Nana, see friends I don’t get to see often, go to my home meeting, go to the BWCA, and spend the summer in Duluth (which is really the best time of year to be there). It was a blessed summer and I was able to do it; to be there for my family and be in a good place because I had quit my toxic job.

I am back home in Baltimore now. And, yes, it really is home. I have friends here and I have managed to carve out a life here even despite being miserable for so long. I have never felt so at home as I do here. I have a new job and it is amazing. I feel like I am starting a whole new wonderful chapter. The best one yet. Everyone tells me I look refreshed and am glowing.

I have plans: I am still volunteering with AFSC and we are doing some exciting things, I am going to take language classes this fall and will apply to graduate programs that my new job might pay a portion of the tuition for, I am going to try to get to meeting regularly (though I always say that….), I hope to blog more often (but I have said that to myself for months too).

I feel like I carry Elmer with me more than ever. Sometimes I worry that he can see everything now and is disappointed. But I remember that he knew me before and he loved me then…and he knows I am imperfect and loved me anyway.

Ch-ch-changes: Part 2 I’ll Fly Away

We held the memorial a month later. I had been in Minnesota the whole time. Nana and I had been cleaning out the apartment. I had spent everyday with her. We got to the memorial with picture boards and Elmer in a handcrafted urn. My father made it, not ahead of time (years) like the casket for my other grandfather, but he made it. I was carrying it up the steps and people I have known my whole life, friends of my grandparents didn’t recognize me.

We had a wonderful Quaker service. Most of the family was there including the newest member. One of my cousins had gotten married the weekend Elmer went into hospice. People said many lovely things. I sat there without emotion. My best friend did the crying for me. It was great to see so many of Elmer’s friends: from the commune they had in the 50’s, to the Twin-Cities Meeting that he had helped to start (with many others), to people from NYM that he hand had a hand in beginning (with many others also), to people I knew from People Camp that Elmer brought me to when I was a teen, to people from Duluth and Grand Marais, regular folk and dignitaries alike. I spent most of it with my best friend and other Mothers.

After the meeting potluck we went to my parents’ place for more eating. My older cousin who I rarely see was there. As the oldest grandchildren we had the blessing to have spent more time with Elmer as youngsters. Thus, we have a special bond despite rarely seeing each other. Our younger cousins were raised in a very evangelical Christian household. Only one of the three has turned out to be a liberal like the rest of the family. During dinner the phone rang I went to answer it, it was the DFL calling for money. The DFL is a huge part of why my grandparents moved to Minnesota. But they have kinda sold out to become like the national Democratic Party and that is a bit disenchanting. I said something to the effect when I got off the phone that it was the DFL and I wasn’t giving them money. The new husband of my cousin (one of the younger ones) said he would never give money to Democrats, he was a republican. I new it wasn’t the time to say anything to him…just felt a little bad that he didn’t know the crowd. We are raging unabashed liberals…but Elmer wouldn’t have judged, he would have found something to love in this young man. So I kept my mouth shut. Though, I saw some looks in the room and everyone was surprise that I didn’t take him down…it wasn’t the time. If I meet him again, then I can school him.

The next day, the fam loaded up in 3 cars (yes, I know and we do care about the environment) to go picnic east of Grand Marais. The beach was one of Elmer’s favorite places to picnic, we knew he would want a little of himself there.

Later in the week we took him to Masabi Park Coop. On the way there we stopped at the Wellstone Memorial. After we left Elmer off we went to Hibbing to see Bob Dylan’s childhood home. We split it up that day so the youngsters could ride together. My younger cousin (the liberal one) knows little of us older ones. It was great to spend time with them and the rest of the family. I even got a whole day with my older cousin. Those were the blessings in the situation. Getting to spend so much time with Nana this summer was also a blessing. She is holding up well. They would have been married 63 years in early September. Something I can't even imagine. I can only hope to find a partner to share my life with like my grandparents had in each other.

Ch-ch-changes: Part 1 The Silver-lining

The Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I was in a senior center parking lot with my stuff spread out all over looking for a pen. Finally, I was being contacted for an interview for a job. Two and half years of being miserable and finally I was getting response from the jobs I had been applying to. I was so excited as I hung up. My phone rang again as I had just finished rounding up my stuff and putting it into my car. It was my parents. They rarely call during the day. I answered and it was my dad, with is scary nurses voice, he told me that Elmer had been in the hospital since Tuesday and it wasn’t looking good. I said I would try to be home soon. I had been trying to convince my parents that it was a good idea for me to quit my job and spend time with Elmer for the summer. Even at 30 I had to get my parents (father really) to agree with this idea for the sake of family harmony. If he didn’t support this plan it was going to be a miserable summer. I had been sitting with this idea for a while. I felt that it was what I needed to do; it was what God was telling me to do. I had been having arguments with my parents about coming home. Mostly because my dad didn’t like me quitting my job. I felt that it was a toxic situation and the best thing I could do was leave it. That night dad called again, to say Elmer was worse. They didn’t know how long he had; they were putting him in hospice. I told him I would be come by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, since it was a long weekend. My boss called Saturday, I told her I was resigning on Tuesday and it would be my last day. I felt liberated.

I arrived at the hospital around 9pm on Wednesday. Since he had been in the hospital for about a week, the family was tired. Nana went to sleep on a couch across the hall my parents and aunt who was staying with them went home to bed. I stayed with Elmer. He was being kept comfortable, but was not lucid. We watched late night TV like we did when I was little. We used to watch late night TV together because he didn’t see the point in putting me to bed till I was tired. My parents often worked late in those days, my father as a nurse and my mom with her two to three jobs. Elmer was semi-retired, thus he and I spent a lot of time together.

We sat in the hospice room. He was breathing heaving. I sat there with my hand on his arm. I told him I didn’t thing Jay Leno had anything on Johnny Carson. I told him about quitting my job and how good I felt about it. I told him I knew that if I had faith everything would workout. I would get a better job when I went back to Baltimore and that my life was going to be really great. I told him I was here for him. That I would was going to spend as much of the summer there. I would keep an eye on Nana and he didn’t need to worry about her. I told him we loved him. That when he was ready he could let go. We would miss him, but we didn’t want him to be in pain. His breathing slowed, the death rattle came. I went and woke Nana up. She cried and held his hand, I held hers. We prayed.


On identifying as Christian.

I was having dinner with a friend of mine and his lovely finance last night and the topic turned to identifying as Christian. J's fiance is uncomfortable with the label at the moment, partially because of the sordid history of Christianity, partially because she's no longer what her Southern Baptist mother considers a Christian and partially because she's still mulling over where she stands theologically.

I was once in her shoes, somewhat. I haven't always been comfortable calling myself a Christian, but I am now. Two things changed. The first is that I became more comfortable with using Christian language to describe my experience. The second is that my experience with the Living Christ became less antagonistic.

I am still uncomfortable with some of the things that have been done in the name of Christianity. I don't like the way some people who identify as Christian behave now, or have over the history of Christendom. But for me, identifying as a Christian isn't about identifying with a group of other people, it's about identifying myself with Christ. I am a Christian because I have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

But that begs the question of why bother identifying as anything at all. I mean, if it's just between me and Jesus, what's the point? The point is evangelism. (Did I just write that?) The point is letting people know that Jesus is the reason that I do my best to live with integrity, obedience and intentionality.

St. Francis is credited with saying that one should preach without ceasing and use words when necessary. I believe that one's life is the greatest ministry one can have, but that without identifying that life as a Christian life, you can lose the message of Divine Love and Forgiveness.

This is not to say that Christianity is the only way to be faithful to the Divine. This is to say that the Love of God through Christ is a miraculous, beautiful thing and need not be hidden. There may well be many paths up the mountain, but the Christian path I'm on has a great view.

I am a Christian and I am not ashamed or conflicted about it. A little weirded out by the realization that I seem to be promoting evangelism, but perfectly comfortable with being a Christian. Christ is at the center of my life and letting people know seems right to me.


Where I've been

Busy adjusting to full time work, dating, working on the QUIP Youth Book Project, teaching First Day School, goofing off, and in general, ignoring our blog. Sorry about that. Look for several new posts in the upcoming days!



Learning to Listen

"I just feel like the way opened. That the path just cleared and brought me here."

I overheard someone at work say that this week. It was odd to hear it coming from someone who is not Quaker. And it made me a little angry to hear. Not because she used the phrase and certainly not because she feels like she is in a wonderful place, the right place for her. I am happy she feels so blessed. However, what made me angry was that I don’t feel that way right now. I feel like I am trapped at work and I hate my job. [Please keep in mind that while my office is in the same space as the person I overheard we work for two very different employers.]

I wish the way would open for me. But I think I don’t let myself be open to the spirit or its whispering in my life. I fight what whispers of the spirit do make their way to my ears and mind. I take the easy path when it comes to work. I go with what seems to be a stable job, a sure bet. And usually, I end up miserable. I don’t know what I want to do professionally. I just feel like I am supposed to work and work hard. Take sensible jobs that will pay the bills.

Yet, all I have gotten from this mentality is feeling burnt out, unappreciated, and resentful. I am resentful that I didn’t have the guts to take other positions. I am resentful towards people who are happy with their career choices. I work hard doing work that no one else will do on our project because it needs to be done and I don’t want to let down the people we are doing this research for. I put in a lot of work and I rarely get acknowledgement or even treated like a competent individual by my boss.

It has occurred to me that unless I open myself to the spirit and let it move through my life. To truly open myself to being a vessel to do God’s work I will probably not be blessed to have the way opening. I will not find myself in a place where I am happy and know with certainty that that is exactly where I need to be—until I am open to the leading of God.

It was my hope last year to go to meeting regularly. To work on nurturing my spiritual life. Well, I was not as successful with that as I had hoped. I tried to make it to Meeting once a month, to read the Bible more, and to take time out to spend time reflecting on spiritual matters regularly. I didn’t really succeed on those fronts. But I am finally learning to be still, to stop running from things, to be able to accept things in my life.

I hope to keep working on nurturing my spiritual life. Hopefully, one day I can reach a place where I am open to the movings and leadings of the spirit in my life. And hopefully, through the spirit I can come to a place where I can feel fulfilled and happy with my life. Or perhaps I need to struggle more to learn the lesson I need to learn.