Category Archives: Life’s Journey

#MeToo (In a round about way my Gratitude day 8)

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Upon reading Bishop Tim Smith’s (Bishop of the North Carolina, ELCA) Facebook post this morning, I felt led to share a part of my story.

Sometime after we had adopted our littleman, I was sharing with a close mentor how much Joe and I loved and adored him and how blessed we were to have been given such a precious gift from God (and anyone who knew us and knows us – indeed knows how much we did and always will adore him).  I went on to ponder aloud, wondering if we should consider adopting another child, although Joe and I had long ago agreed to have only 1 child.  When asked why would I try to convince Joe off this I said “well, if we adopted again we could adopt a little girl and we could have one of each and I could make matching dresses for us.”  My mentor paused for a moment and said, “Kelly, is it really something you feel called to do – adopt another child?  Is that something that would work for your family?”  When I quietly, said “Well not really”.  I again said “I want you to know I truly believe Z is our child and the one that God meant for us to have, he is the only one that could complete our family.”   She then said something that greatly impacted my life and gave me something to strive for every single day.  That impact was made when she said “Kelly, you have a powerful story, that hurts, I know.  But God has blessed you with a little boy, so that you and Joe can raise a young man to know how to treat young women and ladies for the rest of his life.”  WOW!  Each day I believe we strive to do just that – some day’s more successfully than others.   I’m thankful for that special mentor.

That all being said, I’ve been hesitant to jump in the #MeToo movement because while it’s a part of my story and always will be – it hurts.  Not only does it hurt I’m afraid of what those who hurt me might say or do, or how others will feel if they knew that part of my story, or is it going to just give some who are constantly looking for something to critic something else to judge me on, or is it going to put a mark on any  future service I have with the church as an ordained minister and my list could just keep going on.

I’m not all grateful for that part of my story but I am most currently eternally grateful for CareNet of the Triad for the amazing care I’ve been given there for a number of years.  Without the team that I’ve been blessed with I would be not nearly where I am in my journey with accepting my #MeToo story and trying to heal from the hurt.  I wouldn’t suggest attempting to tackle it alone – I just can’t imagine.  Honestly, I do not know where I would be if it wan’t for the wonderful care I receive each week.  I’m beyond thankful.

That being said, I’ve clearly openly joined those who journey with a  #MeToo story – as one who has been sexually  harassed or assaulted.  Again I say, I am not at all happy or proud of that part of my story, yet it’s real.  Mr. Rodger’s would say “look for the helpers”, for those helpers and a few close friends I’m thankful.  I couldn’t have been and still can’t be on this journey alone – thank you!

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The Many Ways We Grieve

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No one ever told me grief felt so like fear.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

My husband’s father passed into the more immediate presence of our Lord and Savior at the end of October. His death came after a diagnosis of Lung Cancer that had metastasized to his spine. A short 7 weeks later we would no longer hear his laughter, witness the love he had for his grandsons, the love he had for each of us as children, or the precious love he held for mom. We would no longer be able to hear his great stories or listen to his wise advice and constant encouragement. Near the end of his life last hugs were given and last I Love You’s said.

I called this great man Dad – not out of obligation because I am married to his eldest son but because he truly was my dad. He in so many ways, more ways than I can count embraced me like a daughter – something that was not an experience I really had before. I believe, he looked out for me, loved me, cared for me, encouraged me, and challenged me to be the best I could be.

I haven’t talked much about the role he played in my life or how his death impacted me. I’m not completely sure why – I know that it came with a great amount pain and rawness on many levels. In addition to not feeling this level of grief before, I quickly learnt that grieving is very different when you have a young one who is also grieving deeply and needing a mom and dad to help guide him. Being sure he had the support he needed often was the priority. I never wanted him to fear death. However, I do want people to hear clearly that I did have places I could openly grieve and continue to have those people and places in my life.

When I read that quote above by C.S. Lewis it was as if it were written for my son. Written for him in the sense that he has been afraid of how his Gramps death will impact his golf skills and game, fear of how things will happen now that this essential person was missing from the equation, and sadly fear of so many elements and things. Being a double PK (a pastors kid, who has two parents who are pastors), he has attended many many funerals and has grown up with hearing us talk about death, scripture, and faith. Even though he knew plenty about death, Gramps’ death rocked his world (as it should have) and opened many profound questions about life and death and the role that God plays in each. However, as C.S. Lewis indicated, grief felt like fear, to my precious child.

Last week, we enrolled him in a camp at our local hospice that was held at the K.B. Reynolds Hospice Home in Winston-Salem, NC. Although I can still sense and even see in his eyes much fear, there also seems to be a different level of processing going on within him. He’s by no means over his grief and I’m going to say all fear is gone within him. What I will say, is he is taking new steps and I’m incredibly proud of him for stepping out in faith. He’ll always have Gramps in his heart and carry precious tender and funny memories, as he himself travels through life.

In closing, I share a couple of things, Never be afraid to seek help as you grieve – it’s lonely enough, reach out to a qualified therapist or to your local Hospice. My experience as a pastor is that hospices are not only a provider of care as one comes close to the end of their life but they offer a multitude or resources to help loved ones relearn how to live. I feel certain that resources are available not only for children but for adults as well and these resources are indeed life sustaining and life giving. I know for certain that the K.B. Reynolds Hospice Home does offer resources for both adults and children and you don’t have to be grieving the loss of a loved one whom they cared for – they see the importance of grief work in general.

The pictures below are of the closing portion of my son’s participation at Camp Carousel. They wrote a message to their loved one’s and placed it in the butterfly tent and then blew bubble’s upward.

One Should Never Say Never…..

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It wasn’t long ago that I was on a boat with 48 other Revgals and during an ice breaker sort of activity, these three questions were asked:  Do you have a tattoo?  Would you consider getting one someday? You will never ever get a tattoo?  If you know you me you know where I fell into that group back in February — I would never ever get a tattoo.

Tattoo’s were not overly attractive to me (for the most part) and I was deathly afraid of the pain they would cause.  I respected and loved others who had them but I was certain that they were just not for me.  In addition to these reasons, I had nothing I thought that I wanted imprinted on me forever for everyone to see.

Then a couple of weeks ago both my husband and I stumbled along the semicolon project.  A project that seemed to fit my life in more ways that I can count or describe.  I suffer from clinical depression, extreme anxiety, and Fibromyalgia.  All of which can often just build upon each other and cause my depression to take me to deep dark places and often lend me to think about putting a period in my life.

Yet I also worship and serve a loving God that is with me always and has saved me from putting a period and placed a semicolon on more than one account.  I know in my head I have much to live for and be thankful for – a beautiful little boy (ok not so little at 9 but still my baby), a loving husband, wonderful friends, a calling to live my life as a servant to a God who sent his only son so that I might have life and life abundantly.

I have taken my experiences in childhood and my depression and tried to allow them to help me be a better pastor.  All of which help me empathize and at times truly understand on a deep level what the people God has allowed to cross my path are going through.  I can at times share my experience and it helps them know that they are not alone.  I’m also an advocate for better mental health care and have preached sermons where I point out the church’s difficulties caring for and understanding mental health issues and the way it affects the whole family not just the person suffering. I in no way believe that God caused me to suffer as a child, to have depression, anxiety or the chronic pain of fibromyalgia.  I do, however, believe that God can and does use these experiences to enhance my call as pastor and as a person who lives in a world inflicted with the darkness and pain of childhood mistreatment, depression, anger, violence, pain and the list could go on and on.  I can often sense one’s pain and am for the most part able to sit with them as they share or struggle to find God in the midst of their own experiences.

My husband has been extremely supportive of me for almost 20 years of knowing each other (it will be 20 years that we meet and started dating in about a month).  When he read about the Project Semicolon, he knew exactly that we would be doing this for my birthday.  His passion and support were what made me consider getting a tattoo.  If he was willing to have a semicolon permanently placed on his wrist in support of my daily struggle then why shouldn’t I be willing.  Not only will it serve as a moment by moment reminder to me to take a deep breath and even pause and remember that God is God and with me always; that it’s not time for my story to end but continue, it will also serve as another way to be an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention as I share the story of why a semicolon.

Here’s pictures of my forty-second birthday — a day I will never forget.

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My First July 4th As A Citizen

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Still a Canadian — waiting for the oath!

Wow, I’ve been a citizen for just over 2 months.  Since my home country was Canada, it didn’t seem weird to have a national Holiday in the first few days of July.  As Canada celebrates their independence as a country on July 1.  So on July 1, I proudly wore a Roots Canada t-shirt that said “Roots Canada since 1973”  on so many levels thats awesome.  My roots have and will always be in Canada the place of my birth, which also happens to be 1973. Today, July 4, I wore a t-shirt (church member gave me in honor of my citizenship) that had red,white and blue fireworks on it.

I thought it appropriate for me to share a bit about my journey into the United States and my journey to citizenship, on this Independence Day.  I entered into the US in August 1995.  I had recently graduated from The University of Lethbridge with a BA – major in music, minor in Education.

My journey into the United States brought with it an independence of sorts for me personally and allowed me time for healing and growth.  I arrived in Bethlehem, PA to attend Moravian Theological Seminary.  I knew no one and all I had with me was what fit into the back of my parents van (they accompanied me but left a couple days after, leaving me alone and without transportation).  On top of some injuries I was dealing with from a recent car accident (before I left Canada) I knew NO ONE and was left to find my way. Find my way around Bethlehem, a new school, and a new medical system. Good thing I felt called to ministry and I could rely on the my faith and my God to help me get through those lonely first days.  Even in the midst of such change – I sensed a peace I’d never felt before.

Seminary proved to be an amazing time — meet some of my best friends and of course the first person I met on the first day of class became my husband between our middler and senior years.

So up until graduation I was in the United States on a Student Visa.  During my senior year, following my husband and I accepting a call in south Jersey, we began working on a “green card” or permanent residence card.  The Moravian Church at that time had an attorney who handled all the work for us.  All we had to do was attend a hearing of sorts.  The Immigration Officer was very pleasant and my residence card was granted and eventually renewed.

As we moved from call to call, it was my responsibility to notify the INS within a short period of time.  I admit, I was late on doing it a few time but it’s hard to remember something that is out of sight.  Then along came 2013 — and I knew that i had an important decision to make – did I renew my green card or did I apply for citizenship.  The cost of renewing my green card was $450 and for citizenship it would be $680.

I decided that it would be better stewardship for the church, if I would become a citizen.  They then would just have to pay one more time and have it be a done deal.  Not to mention I wouldn’t have to worry about of keep up with changing my address for the IRS and carrying such an important document with me at all times.  I also knew that it would be highly unlikely for me to move back to Canada.  That independence that I got on a personal level had allowed me to grow in many ways and returning home would be difficult.  I also felt that if I where to encourage church members to vote, I needed to practice what I preached.  (IMPORTANT NOTE:  I NEVER TOLD THEM WHO OR HOW TO VOTE BUT SIMPLY TO VOTE)!   

So in early 2013, I began what I thought would be a long process — the good news is it went rather fast.  There were lots of papers to filled out and documents to be found.  The instructions on the Homeland Security site were at times a bit confusing so the church hired an attorney for me to have email conversations with.  Thankfully, she sent me a list of what forms needed to be filled out and what needed to be sent.  And I was mighty thankful that my littleman’s birth certificate was sealed over and we were listed as his parents because there would have been plenty more forms to fill out in addition to sending a certified copy of the adoption decree.

In early March a letter came from the Immigration service requesting me to be present at the Charlotte processing center to have my biometrics done.  It also stated that if I were late they would consider my application abandoned.  Charlotte is only about an hour and forty-five minutes from me but I decided I would get a hotel in order to ensure I would be there on time.  Well all that happened but the sad part is the taking of my biometrics took less than 10 minutes. But their quickness allowed a little side trip to Ikea 🙂

It was about 2 or 3 weeks and another letter from Homeland Security came asking me to be present at the Homeland Security office on April 18 for my interview and citizenship test.  That didn’t leave me much time to study for the test — oh I hate tests. So again, we headed down the night before to ensure we were there on time.  This time they told me it would be about 2 hours and no electronic devices were allowed into even the waiting room (which annoyed my husband as he couldn’t read on his kindle). I studied the book that they gave out and was so annoyed because I kept getting dates mixed up.  There were 100 questions, the interviewing officer would ask 10 and you had to at least get 6 right (yes it was an oral exam, which made it harder in my opinion).  I couldn’t tell you what questions my immigration officer asked that day because I was really stressed out.  He kept telling me to relax, I was from Canada, knew the language and everything was going to be fine.  Which it was, I was with him answering questions and signing paper for about 15 minutes.  They I was told to wait back in the waiting room and a senior officer would come out and talk to me.  I was back in the waiting with my husband all of 5 minutes and she came and told me that I was approved for citizenship and I should report back there in one week to participate in the swearing in ceremony.

Then along came April 25, 2013 – the day I took the oath and became a citizen.  My Mother-in-law, father-in-law, my little man, our un-official adopted daughter, and my husband were present for the special moment.  There were 80 of us there to take the oath from what I’d say about 50 countries (they do a naming of countries present and ask folks to stand, at the beginning of the ceremony)/  I don’t know all the countries but remember them calling, The Congo, Iran, Great Britain, Jamaica, Mexico, and of course Canada.

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My First Picture as an American

In addition to the calling of countries, the ceremony consisted of the singing of the nation anthem, a slideshow set to “I”m proud to Be An American” with pictures from all the major glories of the nation, the administration of the oath, the Pledge of Allegiance, a video message from President Obama, and a couple of closing remarks.

The oath has some strong words and implications, I’m going to share it with you all in just a few minutes.  I wonder how many Americans are familiar with it and would be willing to take it themselves.  While saying the oath there were two officers on stage and the one actually administering the oath got distracted and began to say the wrong words.  She then stopped and the two officers had a conversation that led to one of them leaving the stage and going and having a conversation with on of the applicants.  Later when they handed out certificates of citizenship they did not give that one out.  I don’t know what happened but it reminded me of how serious and critical the oath is to one becoming a citizen.  The Oath can be found here.

I’ve had mixed emotions about becoming a citizen and I don’t think I’ve figured them all out.  But it was a joyous day to have my family of choice there with me and after having lived in the United States for close to 18 years it was a step I needed to take.  I admire all those who take the journey of becoming a citizen and I encourage those who are citizens to help and encourage those who are not.  And if you are ever asked to attend someone’s citizenship ceremony do it — words can’t describe it’s awesomeness.

As we celebrate America’s independence, I too celebrate my independence!  I’m grateful that God called me into ministry and has continued to work with me, molding me and forming me!

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My blessed family — Love them all. Guess they can’t say they live with an Alien anymore! 🙂 God is so good!