Our Love

Our kisses are not the stuff of movie magic.
Our embraces do not make heart-sick teens swoon.
Our banter will never trend #relationshipgoals.

But when you send our toddling daughter,
grinning with mischief,
into the bathroom where I’m trying
to have just one moment of privacy
(on the toilet!)
and I hear you laughing like a madman outside the door,
I know you’re really saying, “I love you.”

The fire’s no longer pulsing with the blue heat of newly ignited romance.
The fresh-felled logs of youth are drier and more brittle.
The burn is slow and perhaps
unremarkable.

But the embers are keeping.

And when I wish for the passion of a green heart unmarred
by the constancy and lunacy of such a thing as marriage,
when I yearn for the fireworks of decades past, I look
into the steady glow of our unremarkable love and find
gratitude.

For where else but within the confines of an unremarkable marriage can
a bowel movement spoiled
become a moment of sparking flame leaping
with joy, lit with magnificence against the backdrop of a starry sky?

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Note to Self

Remember to

floss daily
change the air filters
get the oil changed
make the dentist appointment (has it really been 3 years?)
drink enough water
exercise and get your steps
balance the budget
schedule the autopay
invest in retirement
give the kids enough veggies
save for the kids’ college
bathe the dog (does he need his shots?)
keep in touch with family
do the laundry/dishes/shopping
meal plan!
donate to charity
water the plants
bring the snacks
Purple day at school
buy diapers
daily devotional
make time for self-care
make time for family
make dinner
make memories
make it happen

Remember

ALL the birthdays, anniversaries, due dates, deadlines, check-ups, check-ins, check-outs, happy hours, meetings, conferences, events, what am I forgetting…

And definitely don’t forget

the sex
the 746 passwords and PINS
to be kind
be gentle
be a model for your kids
be a good parent
be a good wife
be a good daughter
be it all

But don’t be hysterical.

…and don’t snap…

Sounds of Songs

November rains bring winds swirling,
twirling yellow leaves to stick on the windshield.

Thunder grumbles on the drive,
the morning radio for once silent as we listen –

the squeak of wipers
tires wet on pavement
whirring warmth of heated air
blowing on the glass.

I see her in the rearview, sitting in her carseat
troubling with her shoes as always.

Then I hear it, the wisp of a song,
not quite a melody, not quite a hum
but more than a word, more than word!

I’ve never heard her sing before.

Composition

Hush now –
do you hear it?
There’s a melody beneath the ink.
There’s a song in your pen.

Lay out the words
but it’s only half done.
The music needs uncovering.

It dwells under your touch.
It sinks into your skin,
closer than your heart.

It’s humming up behind you.

Hush now. Be still.
Be patient.
Let it flow and
do not wait to see the notes
and fail to hear the sweetness
of chords dripping with abundant “Yes!”
to your words.

They strike your ear hard
pounding out a beat so ancient
so new
so joyful to be free of that voiceless place
where unspoken thoughts
go to die.

Dear Senator

 

July 14, 2017

Dear Senator,

Last year, I gave birth to my first child. In the same year, the maternal mortality rate in TN was 26 deaths per 100,000 births. My own husband told me, “That doesn’t seem too high.” But when you consider that TN has one of the highest rates in the nation, a nation whose maternal mortality rate is higher than any other developed nation, it suddenly seems absurd. I didn’t know when I got pregnant or went into labor how dangerous it still is just to have a baby in the United States. I assumed, like we all do, that pregnancy related deaths were rare. If you’ve been reading the news lately, especially here in Nashville, you might have noticed maternal deaths are not as rare as we thought. I am hoping to have more children, but when I think about the fact that I am 3 to 6 times more likely to die here than I would be in comparable western countries, I can’t help but pause and seriously consider the risks to being a child-bearing woman in the US.

With my employer provided insurance, I had the advantage of being able to receive adequate pre-natal and post-partum care without having to choose between that or putting food on the table or buying clothes for my rapidly growing daughter. If I had a concern or question during pregnancy or those early infant months, I didn’t have to wait in fear for my life or my child’s life because I couldn’t afford to go see the OB or pediatrician. I just went, and had peace of mind. So even though I still paid hundreds in medical bills after my daughter’s birth, even with insurance, here I am now, relatively financially stable. Having a baby didn’t tank us financially. However, my normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery costs of nearly $10,000 would not have been affordable without insurance.

How sad it is for so many other mothers that such a joyful celebration of life can also be the cause of financial collapse. That is why I’m speaking out today. For thousands of child-bearing women in TN alone to lose their coverage because of the Senate’s healthcare legislation is unconscionable. These are not numbers to be sacrificed on the altar of a balanced budget. These are children of God who at this point in time in this great country cannot afford their healthcare costs without insurance. As a United Methodist pastor and Nashville faith leader, I have a duty to my congregation, my community, and my city, to condemn any action that would cause women just like me to be overrun by medical debt when they are already risking their very lives just to birth a child.

When I hear people argue that those who want insurance should find jobs that provide it, I think of my many hard-working family members that do not have employer provided insurance plans. My husband, father, father-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, and sister all rely on spouses or the marketplace for their plans. They are all hard-working individuals in fields they love and feel called to. I also think about the many individuals I see walk through my church needing assistance with basic necessities like gas and groceries, beloved children of God with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic back pain, and other illnesses who rely on Medicaid to be able to get the help they need. These are not lazy people. In my experience, they often work 2 to 3 jobs, just to pay rent and keep the lights on.

Regardless of one’s employment or economic status, the United Methodist Social Principles state that healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege for those who can afford it, no matter if they’re in the career of their dreams, or in a job just to make the rent payment this month, or even sacrificing a job all together because they can’t afford childcare. It is a responsibility for all of us to ensure that our neighbors, the ones we have been charged by our Lord Jesus Christ to love as ourselves, have access to adequate and affordable healthcare. Period. No qualifiers.

Ezekiel 34 deals harshly with those leaders who do not care for their poor: “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.” Senator, do not be a harsh ruler, but shepherd your flock with great care and concern for their health and wellness. I pray to the Lord that it will be so.

Sincerely,

Rev. Shelby Lucas Slowey

 

My Labyrinth Walk

Tonight I walked a labyrinth.

I first learned about labyrinths in seminary, and have wanted to walk one for years, and yet somehow I never have.

Tonight our pastor explained that some people like to view the labyrinth journey as one towards self-awareness, towards an inner understanding and union with God within. The journey towards the center can be viewed as a walk of petition, seeking guidance and accompaniment from God. The journey outward can be a walk of praise and thanksgiving, celebrating God’s presence in your life.

So I started in, full of expectation and hope for the spiritual awareness that was surely to arise deep within me…. and nothing happened. Step by step I trod, waiting expectantly for the awareness of the Spirit, for some divine revelation, for some knowledge of what I was going to get out of this experience. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I felt crowded. My personal space was invaded by quite a few women like me who also wanted to walk the labyrinth, meaning that through the twists and turns we were often turning sideways to avoid collisions, breathing in each other’s perfume, staring at each other’s bare feet.

Sometimes I don’t like people very much, which is quite ironic for a pastor. I’m an introvert. I often view spiritual activities as solitary activities. I wanted very much to find peaceful union and contemplation with God on my own on my labyrinth journey, and yet here were all these other people, walking and breathing and thinking and existing around me. It was very distracting.

So I started praying. God, help me discover what you want me to find. I focused on repeating the prayer a few times. A few steps later, a clear answer resonated within me. Seek me. Seek me. Seek me. With each step, I felt thus instructed.

So I started seeking. And suddenly, the Spirit was there. I could feel God in the soles of my feet as I strode across the canvas of the transportable labyrinth. I could sense God in the pleasant smell of the oil diffuser placed delicately out of the way. I could feel God in the gentle rhythm of my bones with each step I took. My body became aware of God’s presence, but my mind was still rejecting the bodies of the women around me.

Seek me. Seek me. Seek me.

I kept walking.

I don’t know how it happened, but by the time I was about to enter the center of the labyrinth, a realization hit me with heart-sinking shame: the bodies around me were not distractions from God. The bodies around me were God. God incarnate, the imago dei, all around me. It was as if Jesus himself suddenly appeared to me on my way to Emmaus, and I was shocked to learn he had been there all the while. And I had vainly and selfishly tried to push him away.

My sisters and I gathered in the center, forming a wordless circle, breathing in union, existing with God together.

And on the journey out, as I began walking, I felt a clear resonating mantra: The ground of your being is found on the journey.

I didn’t even know I was seeking the ground of my being. But I felt such immense relief in knowing where to find it.

You see, I’ve been feeling rootless lately. I’ve been in discernment regarding my call to ministry, and I’ve had trouble seeing a clear picture of the future. I’ve been reaching and yearning for a certainty, an end point, something I can look at and cling to and say, “This is my purpose in the world.” So God’s response on that labyrinthine journey was to tell me to look around at God’s glory in the present moment, to let tomorrow take care of itself, and to remember I do not walk alone.

May it ever be so.

Amen.

 

Change

The aged tea tastes the same
today as yesterday – with a squeeze
of honey. But the tulips
now, those are wilted.

More open, yes, but drooping,
the fresh clear water of last
week gone murky. Slimy.

I am older, happier, sadder, fatter
than this time last year. And
the day broke cold and rainy
this morning. But
the tea tastes the same.

I’ve Got The Joy… Somewhere by Steve Parris

Check out the Hipster Ginger’s guest blogger today. Steve writes about searching for joy and it certainly brought some joy into my own mundane day today.

THE HIPSTER GINGER

THIS IS NOT A DRILL MY DAD WROTE A BLOG POST.

This might be my favorite thing that has ever happened. Guys. My dad is seriously incredible and I am so incredibly honored/blessed/lucky to have him as my dad, mentor, and constant source of love and support. I am so excited to share his wisdom with you.

A few notes to keep in mind when talking to or reading Steve Parris. First, “Jiminy Cricket” is his way of swearing around small children, which is hilarious to me because using a character that tells you to let your conscious be your guide as a substitute for a bad word seems counter intuitive but it is actually brilliant. Second, he wrote the word asshole, I did not! Third, my dad is, well, like me in that he’s a bit verbose. But please please please read the whole thing. This guy is incredible…

View original post 1,609 more words

Meeting the Pioneer Woman

I came across The Pioneer Woman while I was in college. A few of my sorority sisters were obsessed with her, and I quickly learned why. “An accidental country girl,” the famous blogger was charming, humorously self-deprecating, humble, and honest in her writing, recipes, and photography. When she got her own Food Network show in 2011, I quickly became a regular watcher. She once spoke to my soul while making a pie crust on the show; it came out less than perfect and she said, “It’s not ugly. It’s just rustic. That’s what I always say if something’s not perfect. Now it’s rustic!” Oh Ree, this rustic girl sure needed to hear that!

I bought her book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime a few years ago. I admit rather shamefully I’ve never really used it. It sits in a place of privilege on my piano because it’s just so pretty.

0331171843

Last week, her new children’s book, Little Ree, came out. Of course I wanted a copy for my daughter. I was at Parnassus Books with Scarlett a few weeks ago for Saturday story time, and I learned The Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond, would be coming for a book signing! I was so thrilled because as anyone who watches Ree on Food Network or reads any of her stuff will know, she seems like the best friend you don’t have yet. She is my imaginary best friend. I just knew she would meet me and quickly invite me and Scarlett to the ranch to come and play with the cows, chow down on some cowboy grub, and then bring a potluck dish to church Sunday morning.

Anyway, fantasies aside, the evening of the book signing came, and my little heart just pitter-pattered all day. When Scarlett and I arrived a full hour early, the place wasn’t yet overly crowded. But as women and children began trickling in, all hoping for a photo with the star, it soon became somewhat suffocating. But your favorite introvert toughed it out. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have dreams meet reality for a split second just because of an anxiety-inducing crowd. Be proud of me.

When I finally got to the front of the line, and the beautiful divine creature stood before me, I suddenly became so nervous. She’s so much taller than I thought she’d be! And we’re wearing almost the same shirt! And Scarlett is pitching a fit! And oh my gosh, where’s my camera, is it ready? I was fan-girling so hard. And here are the results.

 

Have you ever seen such a cheesy grin? I want so share our 15 seconds of conversation so it will be forever printed in my memory.

Me: Hi Ree! (desperately trying to contain squeals.)
PW: Hello, let’s get a picture real quick.
Parnassus staffer: Um, Ree, over here.
PW: Oh, sorry, I was busy looking at the baby!
Me: She has that effect. This is Scarlett.
PW: Oh, beautiful, like Gone with the Wind?
Me: Smiling and nodding like a moron.
PW: So is that why you named her that? From the movie?
Me: Oh. No, I don’t really know. I was so drugged up when she came out, my husband just said, “She looks like a Scarlett,” and I said, “Okay.”
PW: Oh my! Well that could have gone in a totally different direction!
Me: (as I’m getting shuffled off the platform out of the way for the next folks) Uh-huh, haha, garble blah blah words.

I was shaking for a good 10 minutes after this encounter. It was glorious.

And that’s the story of how Ree and I met. The story of how we go on to become best friends is yet to come.

Solus

But when we are able to recognize the poles between which we move and develop a sensitivity for this inner field of tension, then we no longer have to feel lost and can begin to discern the direction in which we want to move.” – Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

i am alone
and yet

connected to the thread

i am mine
and yet

all creation bears my name

(as yours is imprinted upon my heart)

I stand in a crowd
of harried shoppers, solitaries
searching among racks
of half-priced post-Christmas sales –

Where is
the satisfaction of
the deep craving of
a lonely heart?

– and I consider restlessness – an ache
to attach to
a tether of goods
to consume and fill
the empty void of need.

Dreading eternal isolation, the hum
mmmmmmming louder each moment.
Retreat retreat retreating from loneliness,
companionship quiets the ever impending

-for a time-

Being with myself, I
am converted to a new way:
alone in the crowd. My
restful inner necessity has nothing to say
in this moment.
Loneliness becomes solitude
The quiet inner center need not
say a thing
but rejoices
in the unity
of the crowd.