Monday, December 28, 2009

Hanging out and spiritual practice

The new UUA president Peter Morales' article from last November has been making the rounds again. He's trying to inspire all people of faith to find their mission, to realize that we all have a ministry to follow, that we can identify what moves us and make it our mission.

Rev. Morales writes:

"I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people."

What moves me--what I am called to do is to work with our children and youth and helping them see the gifts they have right there in their own hearts. But I disagree with our Rev. Morales. I think that hanging out is a spiritual practice. What if we only had Service Sundays--the weeks like this past December 13th that saw tables of children and youth and adults creating gifts for folks who live in assisted living in our town--cutting greens and filling cloth bags for lovely sachets, wrapping lovely scented soaps and working hard to push hundreds of cloves into oranges to make clove oranges?

If we only had Service Sundays, what would we learn? That service is vital? That we can work hard together and live our belief that "service is our prayer?" that good works feel good to do? Yes, yes, yes. All true. But when would we learn about Jan Hus? How about Michael Servetus? Margret Fuller? Susan B. Anthony? Thoreau? Tim Berners-Lee? About where we come from? When would we discuss the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha and Confuscious? When would our children practice talking about faith? Between cutting greens? Maybe, but sometimes we need to be still and quiet or have a rocking discussion that might look like an argument from the outside.

And if we only had Service Sundays, when would we find time to relax and open up a little and really come to know each other? This past Sunday was a small attendance Sunday. It always is, it's the week after Christmas after all. We could have done a service project with the kids, or taken on a lesson or a worship. But I've learned from the years of doing this good work of ministry for children, youth and families that some of the very best Sundays are the ones that are very simple. This week we pulled out a few games; Chess, Mancala, Connect Four and Banana Split. We rolled out a rug, put on some good music (Jim Scott, a good old UU) and we played games. We hung out. It was deeply spiritual. I got to hear about the recent transition to homeschooling from one boy, about a little girl missing a family friend who is out of the country. I got to sit with a lap full of a boy I've known since before his little sister was even born, and now she can say three word sentences. We chatted, we laughed. We were quiet. We all had a wonderful time. We all went home smiling.

I think what Rev. Morales is missing is that there has to be a balance--we need more than just "education" and we need more than just "service", we need "hanging out" time together. Some of the best moments happen in the spaces in between. This is where we come together to synthesize the service we've done. This is where we come together to understand what it means to be a community. This is where we understand what it means to be Unitarian Universalists. We need all of these things in ministry for adults as well as ministry for children, youth and families.

There is no single path, there are many winding roads that lead us to our truth.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top 10 True Things about Christmas 2009

10. Christmas in the Pacific Northwest isn't a white one this year...robins and sun.

9. No vegetarians shall get the turkey ready to go in the oven. But gee, smells fabulous!

8. Fighting for world domination is a good thing....if it's done with your brother.

7. Or brothers.

6. Little dogs can learn how to open their own Christmas presents.

5. Having older children means that no one will sound their trumpet at 2:30 AM and announce that it's Christmas and time to open presents. Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you!

4. Being far from family means that instead of juggling three Christmas celebrations, it's just us.....and usually involves a couple of movies.

3. And Christmas far from family means we have created our own traditions going to Seattle Center on Christmas Eve.

2. Little dogs like to stay out on warm sunny winter days, even if the house smells like bacon and turkey.

1. Nothing in the world is more important every single day of the year, but on Christmas we remember to tell each other......."I love you you crazy, wonderful family!" xoxo

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Still true now

Tonight at our service we sang "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" --all the verses. This Christmas Carol was written by Edmund Sears, a Unitarian minister, in 1849. This verse is still so true today. Still true.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

Who are the angels today? Who should we be listening to?

I think it's the children. Listen to the children. Stop fighting, play nice. get along. And pay attention to what other people want.

Downstairs in the middle of our service that's what our kids said. Kids have the option to leave for the contemplative part of the service. We went downstairs. I had movies set up, crafts don't work, cookie decorating a few years ago was a disaster. This year we tried a video option. Most of them wanted to watch "Arthur Christmas" but one little girl said "excuse me, excuse me".

She was a little girl we'd never seen before.


"I've never seen the other movie and I don't like Arthur."

"OK" I said, "What should we do, kids?" The older kids looked at each other and paused for just a moment.

"Peanuts, Peanuts, Peanuts" they chanted. Thirty some kids.

So we watched the old Charlie Brown Christmas special.

We should listen to the children, to the angels. Hush the noise, and hear the children.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

...and the three wise guys

I used to write a Christmas letter every year. Until my dear husband told me he'd rather we not, and then three minutes later, Jay Leno hosted these two on his show singing about year end letters....

Yeah, um. OK! Message received!

So, no letter. I was busy this season anyway. And still struggling with the lack of sunlight here in the northwest that leaves me sucked dry of any energy.

OK! Fine! No Christmas cards this year! Leave it. I even read on the Oprah website that skipping a year of cards was no problem, all was good.

But then my husband decided that he would take this on. He changed his name this year and probably should tell the folks on our list about it. So, he took a file on down to the local store, and had cards made. I wasn't even aware of it, much less involved. And he printed cards with the name change info. He made sweet little photo cards with this picture

and they say... "Happy Holidays from Nic, Kari......and the three wise guys."

Happy Holiday!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The light and the dark

Coming home from church today, I felt like I'd been hit by a ton of bricks, like I'd been crying for hours and hours, like I hadn't eaten or slept for a week.

Yep, a pretty normal Sunday.

I'd love to say "no not really, usually I just kind of drive home and lah-di-dah, it's like a normal day at the office".

But I work for a church, and there are really no "normal days" at the office, not on Sundays anyway. Today was a little more special than most. We had a number of rituals, and maybe it's the Solstice and the darkness or maybe it's something else but wow, it really hit me.

At the beginning of our service we light a chalice, an ancient symbol of religious freedom, and in our community, when you turn seven you are invited to light the chalice for the first time. Today we had an eight year old who just joined our congregation light the chalice, sign the chalice lighters book and then play a Ode to Joy on the piano. She was wearing what she called her "Cinderella" dress with a beautiful wide white skirt and sweet young-girl fancy shoes. I get to help the kids light the chalice and whisper to them what to do next as we stand before the congregation.

Right then, as she finished signing her name to the chalice lighters book, I whispered to her "now we just smile at Rev. Peg" and we stood there, listening to her official introduction to the community, right then, I started to cry.

I cried while she beautifully played our grand piano, I cried during our annual Christmas child blessing for her baby sister and another older boy. During the ritual, I get to thank the parents for the honor of having their child in our community--more tears-- and then I get to lead the congregation in a promise to help raise the children, and charge the children of the congregation to welcome these children and include them in everything that happens. Tears. I held the sacred vial of water, this time it was the water our children collected from all over the continent for our water communion ceremony last fall. The minister touches the water to the forehead of the child, and we welcome them to this beautiful life. I hand them a rose,symbol of their unique beauty. Tears. It's such an honor to participate in this sacred ritual, such an honor.

Then after a lovely story for all ages and singing the children out, I stayed for the prayer of remembrance for a beloved member of our congregation who died on Wednesday. I sat in the back, and let the tears just go. He will be deeply missed by all. It was good to stay, it was hard, but it was good.

We have the new life, and the loss. The joy and the sorrow. The light and the dark. Coming to the age of reason, and gracefully letting life go.

No, it's not the paperwork or the dozen runs up and down our three flights of stairs, it's not the meetings, or the snafu with a projector, none of that wears me out. It's all the living and dieing and life that happens every Sunday, and every day in between in the life of a church.

It's awfully good work, if you can get it. And I am humbly thankful to be completely exhausted! Blessed day. Blessed light. Blessed dark. Blessed death. Blessed life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mr. Keillor and Silent Night

Oh, I am swearing off Peter Bowden's "UU Growth Blog" until after Christmas. It keeps sending me on these long tangents of excellent and thought provoking information. But come on! I've got a LREDA board conference call today! And a soup lunch at school! Not to mention a ton of presents to wrap and a trip to the post office to make and the little dog needs to be walked and I need to finish writing a piece of the pledge drive kick off!

Too much time!

Today he calls on Unitarian Universalists with formal credentials (he says ministers, but I'm sure he meant to say credentialed religious educators and credentialed music leaders, too) to comment on an article in Salon written by Garrison Keillor.

Yes, Mr. Keillor is again slamming Unitarians. I wonder if he's remembering Unitarians from his childhood 60 years ago back before the consolidation of Unitarian and Universalists? I don't think there's a congregation in Anoka, MN where he grew up, but who knows? I wish he'd at least do enough research to call us by our real name when he rants against us.

He writes "It's a Christian holiday, dammit, and it's plain wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." Unitarians, I'm talking to you!..... If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone."

That's a very Christian sentiment. I can totally imagine Jesus saying that.

Or not.

I think what Mr. Keillor is feeling is that the way things were when HE grew up is the way things have always been and the way that they should stay and no changes should ever be made. But it's just not how Christmas works.

Whether you believe that Jesus is the savior and the true son of God, or you call Jesus the great teacher and try your very, very best every single day to live his teachings, or you think that when Jesus taught that he was the son of God what he was saying was that we are all children of God and we're all holy--whatever, you cannot deny that Christmas has evolved over the past 2,000 years.

If we Unitarian Universalists wish to celebrate the birth of a man some of us believe to be the son of God, some of us believe to be the great teacher and some of us are still not sure about, who's business is it? Why does the wording of a hymn in Singing the Living Tradition matter to him?

I have always loved "A Prairie Home Companion". I went to a live show for the first time when I was 16. I count my Saturday afternoons by the opening lines...."hear that old piano, from down the avenue..." but I'm done. He can have his pompous attitude and go find himself some snobbish Jesus who cares about the words in a hymn. I think if Jesus were here on earth today he would be way too busy working with homeless teens and teaching children about hope and love to be bothered. A lowercase "c" christian--the religion of Jesus, not about Jesus.

OK, no more UU Growth Blog, I'm sticking with the lovely and inspirational writings of Boston Unitarian and B.U's new blog A Wonderful Epoch until AFTER Christmas. And right this minute I'm going to go sing "Silent Night" and make up all new words. Ha.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Top 10 True Things about Family

I love my family, OK, it's true that I've been threatening to move to Mexico ALONE lately. Whenever there is a series of crude jokes or some conversation focused around bodily function, I just start singing the James Taylor song "Mexico". I'm getting hoarse. I live with three teen age boys. And yes, sometimes it does feel like I'm the housemother of the naughty boys' dorm at a boarding school.

But they're good kids, and my husband tries hard not to laugh when they're disgusting. At least the little dog is a girl, thank GOD!

There are some advantages to living in a family and not in a hut on the side of a mountain, far far away.

10. You never have to lift heavy things. Excellent.

9. Sometimes someone brings home leftovers from an office party and you get to eat taco dip for dinner.

8. Watching Glee alone is kind of sad, it's a lot more fun with real highschoolers who heckle a little.

7. Computer machines are magic things that work much better after you lay your head down on it, sobbing and some young man comes along to fix whatever is broken.

6. Teen boys bake excellent Christmas cookies, and sometimes leave one.

5. Shoveling. Snow OR dirt.

4. Even when someone feels like the Grinch and wants to hide under the covers and pretend Christmas isn't happening, family pays attention to the calendar and ridicules you nicely until you get the heck up out of bed.

3. When hooligans try to vandalize the car parked on the street, someone else will call the police.

2. Pizza night.

1. If you choke on your pizza, there's someone there to rescue you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coming up short.....everywhere

Ever have one of those days you just wish you could erase? Like Dumbledore plucks memories out of his brain and stores them in the pensive, but today I'd smash the pensive as soon as the memory was out.


OK, it wasn't quite that bad. I had a lovely daytime meeting with my colleagues. Complete with a baby blessing-way and a "white elephant" exchange with a "yankee swap". But no one stole anything...except the cookies someone WANTED stolen, totally doesn' t count. I came home with a lovely Scandaniavian themed box that someone didn't want but I love. And my colleagues hugged me. And they told me what I was being crazy about and what I wasn't being crazy about. Don't you wish we had panels we could go to for all parts of our lives where we could say "OK, am I out of line here or is this for real?" and people you love and respect would TELL you? Oh yeah. I'd love that. "Thumbs up? Or thumbs down." I wish. But for today, this was good.

But I let down my child. Big time. He's been asking me for a couple of weeks if we could make some Norwegian themed thing for his International Club meeting. It gets him extra credit and class room "cred" as being a good cook. I love this! He's usually all about his Korean heritage.I was so excited that he wanted to do something from my side! It was originally on the calendar for last Friday. We knew that date wasn't right, but I had the new date wrong. I thought that tomorrow, THURSDAY was the baking day. That we'd make homemade lasagne (a request from the youngest) and mess around with the krumkake all night while we listened to Christmas carols and drank hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Nope. International Club is tomorrow. Thursday. We had to bake today. But, today I had the fudge to prepare at 6AM for the musical theater bake sale at the little homeschool school. And there was the White Elephant gift to wrap at 7AM, and three lunches to make before 7:30AM, and an hour and a half drive because of the traffic to get to my meeting. And then there was the Advanced Drama mandatory parent meeting right after my meeting. And a meeting with the minister who is my boss of course, and a board meeting for the church I work for. When was there time to make this cookie of our great grandmothers and have this wonderful, cultural bonding time?

Yep. In the two seven minute windows of time we had. During the first seven minutes we found the frame for the krumkake iron. iron. No insert. Nope. Where the heck did the iron go? Oh well, doesn't matter. Wasn't happening.

Spritz? How about that. We could find almost enough parts to assemble that cookie contraption. We made half a pan during the second seven minute stretch and flew out the door to bring boys to Tae Kwon Do practice and then I had to drive like a mad woman up I-5, trying to make my meeting on time. This, in particular, would not have been a good time to bail on these meetings for a variety or reasons. Not now. No way.

I texted home at 7:30 "how r spritz going?" and heard nothing back. "OK, must be going all right".

On the way home at 9:15, not 9:00--I left before my meeting was over, really I did, I called home. Not going all right. All homework was delayed, cookies were a mess. No one was happy. Things were falling apart fast.


This is when I hate that my job is weird hours and "must make" evenings. I hate that sometimes I have to put work before family. Hate it. I hate that my weekends and holidays are dominated by work. And they hate it, my family, they hate it. I came home to ugliness.

I love my work, but I really wish that there were two of me. In hindsight? Yeah, I should have skipped my daytime meeting. I should have stayed up late after feeding homeless teens last night and done the prep for today. I should not have gotten a sinus infection that makes me not sleep for days and days. I should have taken a job at IKEA where they are closed on Christmas Eve. But I didn't. I chose this. And I love what I do. But there are days. Man, there are days when I wish it didn't take such commitment to do this good work.

I wish.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First In/Last Out

The congregation I serve had quite a day yesterday. They voted to take the next steps toward buying a church building. A home. There were two votes, and while there were a few abstentions, there were no votes opposed. Sounds like quite a mandate to me.

But of course, regular church life went on, the regular things happened. I was the first one at church, arrivinag a couple of hours before our start time. As I pulled in to the lower lot next to the Masonic Temple we rent, the men who sleep in the doorway stood up and gathered their things. One was still there as I headed past him and up the stairs.

"'Morning!" I said.

"Beautiful day" he replied. "Getting ready for services?"

I always arrive with armfuls of stuff for the day. On this first trip in I was carrying a crock pot for the soup lunch-- one of our volunteers had called, her son was sick and she wasn't going to make it in with her pot of soup so I'd grabbed some frozen lentils and things that I hoped would make a passable soup as I left home that morning.

"Yep, makin' soup today, it's a big day and the people need full bellies so they can make good choices." by this time I'd stopped to talk with him. We stood in the cold sun, half way up the steps. I thought about talking about full bellies with a man who had just slept outside on the night of a hard frost.

"You folks need any help with the dishes or anything?"

"Sorry, the Masons do all the dishes." which is true. He walked up the stairs with me, asked a little about just what Unitarian Universalism was, asked about service time, and wished me a good day.

I went in and moved on with the day. Two teachers were out sick with a bad cold, but great folks stepped in for one class and I got to teach the Older Elementary kids. Glad I did too, they're really interested in what this new church building stuff is all about, and a little confused, too. We had the soup lunch run by the Religious Education Council, and a big massive child care for the meeting time to set up in the midst of the Mason's Christmas party set up. Then the meeting with lots to think about, lots to discuss, lots to puzzle over. I spoke for my two minutes, which was no where near enough time, but I got to share what I feel about what a building would do for the congregation.

After two hours, I got out the BIG tin of cookies to pass around. No, we're not supposed to eat in the hall, but it was a special day. Then the nursery provider had to leave to go with her family to buy a Christmas tree, so I got to sit with some little ones--a special treat especially when I've known some from the time they were a "wish".

Then the vote, and excitement. I had lots of help taking down the child care corner, help hauling the tv up three flights of stairs to the office. Help picking up all the leftovers from our day. Everyone headed out to finish the weekend. Hustle and bustle or quiet and peace.

Then, as I closed up the office, turned off the heat, stashed some paperwork in our shared office to be handled later, I thought about the church; about the people, about our precious children, about some folks who are unhappy with me and about the man who I'd chatted with on my way in six hours earlier. It's a funny thing to be in a space that just held such energy. It all swirled around in me. I took a minute to look at the office--moved some things back into "board room" configuration for the Wednesday board meeting, I grabbed the last three clementines that sat on the table, turned off the light and headed for my car.

I drove home with no radio, no music, eating my fruit. Thinking. Resting. Sometimes being the "first in and last out" makes me irritated. But not this day, I was happy to be the bookends on this day. It had been a good one, a really good one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The vote was YES! Yes to moving forward. Yes to taking steps that will lead to buying a church home. Yes to windows and rooms and a building that is ours ours OURS! Yes.

Even if there are twists and turns on our road, we're on it, and I don't think there's any turning back. The drum beat is too strong, there's no stopping it now.

BIG Vote Today!

The lovely church I serve has a big decision to make today. Will they move forward on the purchase of a new church home? Now this isn't "should we sign a purchase agreement or not....."that's a few steps down the line. It's about hiring lawyers and inspectors and beginning to deal with all the details and assessments.

Yesterday we all walked through the building together. 75 people swapped around their Saturday morning plans and showed up to see just what may be. And by some wild miracle, Gini Courter, moderator of the UUA was in town and joined us!

This time the sun was shining and the Olympic mountains were clear and visible from the classrooms and offices. The ferries trekked across the sound. The light streamed in. It was stunning. If things don't work out somehow, we are all gonna need some serious grief counseling, for real! No joke! We're all seeing what it would look like to make this church our home.

With so many of our loved ones in the building what I really envisioned this time was the weekday evening programs we could do. Like Eastshore's "Wonderful Wednesday" we could have "Thankful Thursdays" or "Faithful Fridays". I can see a big happy potluck dinner or a team that makes everyone healthy sloppy joes or potato soup followed by a lovely spirit filled family worship that invites children and elders and mid-lifers alike into sacred and fun space together. Then we'd all go off to evening enrichment--the choir would practice, the jazz group would jam, older kids could have open mic nights and the little ones could have K-1 OWL. Our adults would explore the adult programming like the new Tapestry curriculum "What Moves Us" and our committees could meet in one of the many fine rooms.

It would be a faith home for all of us on far more than just Sunday mornings. We'd have a church building. We'd have a home base for all our good work, and for time just to be together.

Oh may it please be so! Please.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Marching Down the Aisle

The congregation I serve is seriously considering whether they should consider purchasing a church building. Our congregation is 45 years old, and is just now big enough to take this next step. It's been quite a wait! But it's a huge step.

It's a lovely church. I've only been through the building once, and it was dark and super chilly, so tomorrow when we all get to walk thru during the day, I'm sure I'll see even more to love about it.

There was one thing on that first night that absolutely took my breath away. It was a very clear image that came in a crystal clear vision. I was up in the balcony looking down over the lovely sanctuary. And there at the front of the church, I saw the vision of a wedding!

Oh my! Our congregation's children would have a lovely place to be married!

When my husband and I were married 22 years ago, we had to go down to the big church in town (the beautiful and historic First Unitarian in Minneapolis) the little fellowship where I grew up was just too small.

But if we can make this work and get this church, things will be different for our congregation's children. We can bless them when they're babies, honor them when they turn seven and are invited to light the chalice for the first time, celebrate them in their coming of age rituals, bridge them to adulthood, and then perform their weddings. What a beautiful gift for a congregation to be such a part of a life.

May it be so. Please!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why buy a church building?

The congregation I serve rents meeting space. West Seattle is close to the beautiful waters of Puget Sound and is the home of the very, very best beach in the city. West Seattle has lovely sweeping views of the sound and both the Olympic mountains and the cascades, including Mt. Rainier. With that beauty comes a cost. Nothing here is cheap. So while our congregation has grown to 150 adult members and 80 some kids, we have not been able to even think about buying a building.

Until now.

There is a church for sale in a perfect location. It's big enough. And if you squint and tilt your head a little, it's affordable.

When I saw the photos of it, I cried. It's beautiful. There are classrooms, with WINDOWS and doors!

I've been asked to speak at our Congregational Meeting this Sunday following the service. Because it's a formal meeting with procedures that must be followed I get two minutes. TWO MINUTES! I've been lying awake at night trying to get the huge world of things I know about children and my faith into two minutes.

Here's what I've got:

We can talk about how this building would offer us safe space with emergency exits and rooms that we can furnish and make light and lovely. We can talk about how our babies and toddlers wouldn't have to have classes in rooms that one of the three-year-olds had dubbed "the bathroom-rooms" the lounges outside the ladies' room. We can talk about how our older children can meet in a room with windows and two ways out if there is a fire or an earthquake. We can talk about our younger ones and how they can have classes in rooms with walls and not hunkered down between felt dividers in a space that looks and feels like a gym.

But that's not really what matters. The biggest reason this congregation should buy this building comes down to what I see as the core theology of Unitarian Universalism. For me this is it. I think the core of what we teach in our congregation is that each person; you, me, everyone comes into this world holy. We don't need some divine finger to come from the heavens and choose us. The great teacher didn't need to die to save us. We don't even have to complete a set of good works to be enough. We're already saved, just because we exist. Each and every person is worthy.

When people know this, it changes their lives. They can get out of their own way and become who they really are. And when children grow up knowing this, when they grow up without shame or guilt or doubt, when they grow up steeped in love and the power of faith in their own worth and dignity,'s the most beautiful thing in the world. They grow up strong, and whole and ready to take on their lives.

When I began this work five years ago we had 23 children involved in our program. Now we have over 80. We've grown this much in completely inadequate space. I love the guys we rent from, they're great. But it's been a little like crashing on your brother's couch. There comes a point when you've got to grow up and move out. If we move to our own space with decent rooms and a freedom to meet when we need to we will grow even more and it will happen fast.

What that means is that more children will be given the gift of growing up Unitarian Universalist with a faith in themselves that cannot be matched. To me that's the core of our faith. It is a message of salvation, a message of being saved by right of simply being born.

OK, it's still more than two minutes long, but it's a start.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Healthy Boundaries

I had a dream the other night about the winter solstice. In the dream my youngest son told me that I could flip my moon/sun wall hanging to the sun was the winter solstice and the dark was leaving, soon the sun would return.

I hate it when my life creeps into my dreams.

There has been more sun here, too and that's good. The sun helps you see the hopeful corners of life.

What has really fixed up the outlook here though, is figuring out part of what's been dragging it down. I've had no patience for my oldest son. What? Perfect scores on two out of three SAT subject tests?? Why not all three? Home ten minutes after curfew? Grounded for a week! Super rational and reasonable things like that. Or total parenting mud pies. Muuuud pies!

You see, he's leaving. My oldest son. He's growing up and getting ready to leave home. Yes, it's months away, and yes, I'm sure he'll come back and visit and I am very likely to see him again. But still. It's hard. I like him. Of course I love him, but really; I like him, too. He's a fun person, he's wise and goofy and kind. And I will miss him. A lot.

It hit me the other day that what I needed was help from my church. Here's where the "Healthy Boundaries" come in. As a staff member at a church, I've tried to create a healthy boundary of friendly distance between my congregation and myself. I don't go on retreats, I'm not a member. I don't share intimate things with most people. I am the Director of Ministry for Children Youth and Families, I serve this church.

But the truth is, of course, that I love these people and I really trust them. So, I decided to relax the taught boundary a little. I asked some of the parents of other high school seniors if they'd like to have a little "Leaving Home" group. My oldest son will participate in a formal group at his youth group at the big church in town. But we need to go through this with people we've known for years. These parents are the people we've celebrated numerous holidays with, and who were there at the Coming of Age ceremonies. We've raised our kids together. And letting them go together just feels right. We'll see how it comes together, but even after just creating a few tentative plans --after just saying it out loud, I already feel much better.

It's when we are the most vulnerable that we may step into our true strength.