Thanksgiving Prayer for Standing Rock

God of the oppressed, God of the opposed, God of the losing side,

To the God who chooses the side of the lonely, the God who takes up the hopeless cause,

To the God who reveals yourself in the face of the neighbor,

To you we pray.

When your people say no to profit and yes to people, you are there. (We are your people, not your profit)

When your people say no to oil and yes to clean water, you are there. (We were born in water, not oil)

When your people say no to empire and yes to community, you are there. (We are neighbors, not subjects)

When your people dance and pray for transformation while rubber bullets rain down upon their skin, you are there. When arrests are made and people removed, and more begin to show up, like the multiplying fish and loaves, like the properly invested talents, like the pruned vine, you are there.When the dogs come snarling and biting, when the buffalo come stampeding, when the wind rises and the sun sets, you are there. When it is freezing and your people shiver in the face of the water cannon and stand firm, you are there.

When it seems hopeless you are there.

God, on this Thanksgiving Day, as millions gather around tables and symbolically proclaim unity and mutual respect with those unlike us, we pray you would make those symbolic gestures reality. When we celebrate the false historical narrative of Euro-Native relations around our Thanksgiving tables, remind us of the genocide perpetrated against Native peoples and connect that with what is happening in Standing Rock. Call us to action, to send prayers and aid, to call representatives and join the movement in voice and solidarity.

We ask that you would continue to strengthen those protecting their life’s water. Send your Spirit to dwell on Standing Rock. Transform the hearts of those more interested in profit than in human life and dignity. Only you can.

With gratitude and thanksgiving we pray to you now God, and we celebrate your miracles and blessings. We are thankful that you remain steadfast in your love of your people.

Amen.

Anxiety Ocean

I mostly swim in Anxiety Ocean. Often I have a life vest, a privilege I’ve earned after years of constructing such a tool for myself. Sometimes I float. Other times I freestyle. On rare occasions I even get to ride in a boat. But sometimes I find myself treading water, out of breath and exhausted, just trying to keep my head above the crashing waves.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started when I opened my eyes for the day. I could spend hours contemplating the triggers for this particular instance, analyzing every detail of the night and day before: Was I too tired? Did I have an overly emotional response to something? Did I forget to take care of myself in some way? Did I drink enough water? Am I internalizing some tragedy from work? Am I maintaining boundaries? On and on and on. But it doesn’t really matter what triggered it, if anything. I have to keep reminding myself to stop actively trying to blame myself for swimming in this ocean, as if I there was ever another option and I just didn’t take it.

There is no other option. This ocean is my life. And it’s not always fighting its way into my lungs, but it’s always there. In fact, when I finally started to admit it was always there, the less it tried to fight its way into my lungs. The more I could float.

But not always.

Yesterday I was fighting for breath. I was fighting to remember my coping skills. I was fighting to hold on to my self-worth. I was fighting the voices in my head telling me what a failure I was.

I was leading worship in the role I’ve played dozens of times before, but this time my heart was beating out of my chest and my stomach was roiling with snakes. My breath came in short gasps and my palms wouldn’t stop sweating. I was so cold, cold all over, cold all morning. The body’s response to trauma: send the blood-flow to the vital organs. Anxiety is traumatic.

I stood in front of hundreds of people, feeling naked and stupid. “No one likes you. You sound incompetent. What are you doing trying to be a pastor? You can’t do this. These people don’t believe in you. They don’t trust you. They think you’re a fake, a fraud. They think you’re vain. They don’t think you’re funny. You’ve only been here a year and have too many failures to count. What difference have you made? They won’t even remember you when you’re gone, except how thankful they are you left.” The anxiety attacks me because I can’t hear these voices and say, “Yeah right, thanks but no thanks, take your lies and leave.” I say instead, “Is it true? Are you right? Am I that blind? Have I been this way all along?”

Self-doubt and insecurity are the constant companions of social anxiety. They are the sea monsters pulling at my kicking legs as I fight for my life in the ocean. “You’re messing everything up. Things were better before you got here.”

And the worst part of it all is I know, logically, that of course none of it’s true, at least no more than is true for any other flawed and imperfect human. I’m not universally hated. I am a good pastor. I have skills and gifts and talents and God has called me to this work. I have family and friends that love me. I am fun. I’m a good friend and a good person. I know, intellectually, that these truths are evident and contradictory to the sea monsters’ lies. But the knowing doesn’t help. It’s like a person having a heart attack knowing they’re having a heart attack. Knowing it won’t stop it.

But it does provide an opportunity to address it. Take an aspirin. Call the doctor. So yesterday I had to implement my safety nets, something I haven’t had to do in a while. Call my husband. Breathe. Cry on the phone. Lock myself in my office for a few minutes. Breathe. Take the rest of the day off. Watch the West Wing. Snuggle my baby. Drink water. Breathe. Eat cereal in bed. Watch the Olympics. Go to bed early. Breathe.

And today, though the ocean is always with me, today I get to float calmly in my life vest. Today I get to appreciate the beauty of my life and all those who love me.

Today I am a survivor.

 

 

Thankfulness Alphabet*

*I got the idea for this blog (slash maybe stole it) from my blogging hero, the Pioneer Woman.

A: Asparagus. It’s just good and healthy. Or maybe avocado. Artichokes. Almonds. Apricots. Apples. A foods are just delicious.

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B: Baby Slowey! She currently weighs about 2.5 pounds and is the size of a butternut squash. And she is feisty! She loves to twist and kick, but as soon as Stephan puts his hands on my belly to feel her wiggle she gets still. Such a tease!

C: Charlie Weasley. My first-born cat son. He’s been feeling a little neglected and over stimulated with the new kitten, but he’s handled it like a true stoic. He’s been spending more time outdoors to get away from Jinx, but he’ll always be my baby Charlie.

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D: Dad. The man who taught me what it means to love unconditionally. My crazy daddy. He taught me what a good husband and father looks like. He taught me how to apologize well. He taught me to never be ashamed of who I am as a person. He taught me how to care deeply about others.

E: Eating. I love food with an almost obscene energy and passion. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, because I couldn’t actually care less about what the food actually is. Just so long as it feeds me and satisfies. Right now I’m eating string cheese. How delicious! How marvelous! How calcium fortified! What better time to be thankful for the joy of eating than Thanksgiving?

F: Family. I am so incredibly lucky to have come from the family I come from. Parents that love me unconditionally and encourage me in all that I do. Grandparents, though gone now, that showed up to support me in all my childhood activities. Siblings who are so different from me in so many ways, but who can always make me laugh and challenge me to think deeply about the world I live in. And then I’m doubly blessed to have married into a family of equal quality! I can’t count the family dinners, game nights, and holidays spent together just enjoying the company. That’s what makes a life.

G: Game of Thrones. The HBO series hooked me, and now I’m obsessed with the books. Just started A Dance with Dragons. George R.R. Martin’s writing truly is superb. I am sucked into Westeros or Essos every time I crack the spine. I am so thankful for a good story!

H: Health. I am thankful for my health, though I sometimes put it at risk with inactivity and junk food. I hope to value it more as I enter into the third trimester of pregnancy and prepare for life as a new mom.

I: Intelligent debate. I love when two people with different opinions can speak their minds without shaming or dumbing down the other person. I can follow debates when the opposing sides are truly listening to understand rather than to just respond. Most of the time it’s just a screaming match. Nobody got time for that.

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J: Jinx, the monster kitty. His name suits him perfectly. To watch him stalk around the house, preying on anything from paper receipts to plastic bags, pencils to the dogs’ wagging tails, he makes me laugh daily. He is a fierce ball of fuzz, but when he’s ready to cuddle, you are in for an all night session of purring and him trying to sit on your face.

K: Kathryn Elizabeth Lucas. My baby sister. What would I do with her bleeding heart hippie attitude and her refusal to settle for injustice? She’s going to change the world (once she decides to).

L: Louie and Lola, my two cuddly, stinky, muddy, shedding, adorable, annoying, obnoxious, in-your-face, tail-wagging, slobbering, happy, rambunctious pooches! Life just isn’t as wonderfully funny or dirty without them around.

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M: Mom. My first best friend. She taught me to be kind, and how to balance my check book. She taught me self-reliance and independence. She always changed the endings of every fairy tale she told me, so I was brought up believing to be a princess meant to take care of business and go to college. I owe my fierce feminism to her.

N: No. The power of the word “No” cannot be understated. (See “Yes”)

O: Organ music. Is that weird? Since being in Nashville, I’ve worshiped at not just one, but two congregations privileged to have not only organs, but dedicated and talented organists! I just love singing praises to God on a Sunday morning with that organ blasting through the air. And I think baby likes it too!

P: Prayer. I’m thankful that I seem to be overcoming my fear of public prayer, and that my own private prayers have deepened and strengthened as a result. It brings me a sense of peace and steadiness that I can’t get from anything else.

Q: Quality time. Be it with friends, family, or myself, I am so thankful for time to spend loving people.

R: Rest. I have always been somewhat of a sloth. But I’m learning to value rest as a sabbath practice, and not just as a way to stay in bed watching netflix all day. I can practice finding rest in the midst of busy-ness and in the stillness of nature, in the simple tasks of the everyday and the mind-blowing miracles and tragedies of life. Rest is a state of being, the ability to find comfort and peace in something greater than myself.

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S: Stephan Shane Slowey, Jr. My husband, my sense of humor, my rock, the father of our child. He is my everything. I’ve discovered so many things about myself and the world with him by my side. Words can’t express the love I have for him!

T: Tennessee and Texas (Yeehaw!) These two states have shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn’t trade growing up in Texas or putting roots down in Tennessee for the whole world. I used to think I wanted to live in a new part of the world each year, but now I am so thankful to be a Tennessee girl by way of Texas.

U: Umbrellas. Just a darn good invention.

V: Violins. I love the sound of a well-played violin. I hope my children will continue to play past the 6th grade, when I stopped. I remember it bringing me a lot of joy to make my own music.

W: Water. More specifically, access to clean, drinkable water at all places I am likely to be. Home, restaurants, gas stations, water fountains… I never have to worry about not being able to find water to keep me alive. Now if only the same could be true all over the globe.

X: Let’s just be honest. No good words start with X. At least none that I know the meaning of. Scrabble word finder was not helpful. So instead, I’m thankful for eXpectation. The season of advent is all about expectation and the hope of something wonderful just around corner. It’s what makes hope possible.

Y: Yes. The power of the word “Yes” cannot be understated. (See “No”)

Z: Zachary Thomas Lucas. My brother the adventurer. We may not talk all that often, and he may get fed up with my day dreaming and idealism at times (he likes the cold hard facts). But he is a big Dr. Who/Star Wars/Michael Chrichton dork, don’t let him fool you. And he’s an excellent cook, and will be cooking Thanksgiving, and if that’s not something to be thankful for, I’m not sure what is.

Missing her

I’m missing her again.
Her smile, her laugh.

Aunt Elizabeth stands at the kitchen stove, her back to me,
stirring spaghetti sauce for our family dinner.
I’m helping by chopping up onion.

The smell of garlic fills the house.
There’s laughter in the den.
The ballgame’s on.
Ranger’s need to pick it up.

Later, after dinner, we’ll pay cards.
Nertz, or my favorite, Phase 10.

She’ll sit across from me
her huge breasts bouncing
her squinty eyes squinting
giggling at the moment.
Surrounded by her mother, father,
brothers, sisters, husband, children, nieces, nephews.
We’ll laugh together because families are funny.

I’m missing her again (always and always).

Grateful Day 9

My freaking dog got out again. And the other dog left behind is now singing the song of separation at the top of his whine. The one who escaped currently has no collar, because she keeps walking around all night waking us up with the jingle tune of insomnia. So she’s probably out, rolling in dead skunk, and animal feces, and whatever other horrible smells she can track down because that’s what she does, and I’ll have to throw her into the tub and scrub her down, which she and I both hate with a fiery passion. That is, if she ever comes back. She has no collar, remember? DAMN THAT DOG!

I’m finding it difficult to be grateful right now.

I suppose if I try really hard, I can be grateful that I was able to sleep in this morning because I’m working the evening shift today. And I suppose I can be grateful that today is trash day, and that I get to live in a place in the world where someone comes and picks up my trash every week for free. That’s nice. And I guess, if I really reach down deep and dig around in the depths of my curmudgeonly soul, I can try and be grateful for that stupid dog, the dog that can’t stand being fenced in, that just has to get out and explore. The one with the free spirit, who adventurously yearns for the freedom to run at full speed, to track down every smelly event of the past month so that she can report back to base. The one who will come barreling into the house after a morning of scaring her mother to death, who will then act like the bath she receives is the equivalent of water-boarding torture.

I’m trying to be grateful for that mut.

Grateful Day 8

Today I am grateful for:

1) Puppies. My brother-in-law and his fiancee are in town visiting from Chattanooga and they brought their great dane puppy Duke. He’s already 25 pounds and is finally gaining a sense of balance that he hasn’t had the past few times they’ve visited. He’s still ridiculously lanky and wobbly and it makes me laugh. He’s a trip.

2) Self-care days. See my previous post. Yesterday was a fantastic day full of doing whatever I wanted and loving myself. Not everyone can have a full day’s worth of self-care, and I don’t come by it that often. But I am a proponent of finding time throughout the day to focus on taking care of yourself and doing things that are good for your mind, body, and spirit. Enjoy the small things that make you happy. (Caveat: For it to qualify as self-care, it has to actually be good for you. It can’t be eating a pint of ice cream and watching TV all day. I fall into that trap sometimes.)

3) Dreaming/visioning/planning vacations. A group of our close friends and Stephan and I are planning a summer friends-cation. We haven’t decided where we’ll go yet. But there’s something so life-giving about getting online and imagining a trip to New Orleans, or Myrtle Beach, or Charleston and exploring a new part of the world I’ve never been to with people I love. I do have a bad habit of setting high expectations for my adventures, and when those expectations are not met, I can get gloomy. But even if this trip never happens, for whatever reason, at least the process of dreaming has been fun. (It will happen.)

Something good that has happened in the last 24 hours: This morning I prayed with the family around the bed of a dying patient. That’s always hard but strangely amazing to have a family gathered around a loved one as that person prepares to die. I can’t explain what it feels like to be invited into that sacred circle, but it’s a good feeling. Not saying death is good or fun or easy. It sucks. But when there’s a chance for a community to gather and say goodbye, it can be holy too.

Grateful Day 7

Today I am thankful for:

1) Tea. It makes me feel all introverty and hipstery and clever and soft.

2) Stairs. For stretching me and getting blood flowing to deadened limbs.

3) Happy Hours. For obvious reasons.

My good memory from past 24 hours is me sobbing uncontrollably while watching the movie Stepmom last night. That movie came out when I was in elementary school, and I remember crying in the theater. It’s a tear-jerker that has no other purpose than to jerk my tears. But it felt good to cry. And Stephan watched it with me and hugged and comforted me like a boss. Like. A. Boss.

I love you all.