The education of one woman

“I will too go back to school!” I exclaimed to my mother after I announced I would be leaving university after my Sophomore year. Mom was, shall we say, anxious for me. She had dropped out of college at 22 to marry my dad in an era when women did that. She had always regretted having an uncompleted education. She was smart, and certainly could have finished. Her choices were complicated by a a honeymoon baby.

Needless to say, my university graduation three years later was a proud moment for me and for them. And three years after that when I received a Masters’ degree.

This week my eldest daughter will graduate from Whitworth University, a small liberal arts school in eastern Washington state. I am so proud that she will become the 2nd Parks woman to make it through the flurry of learning and social drama university grants us. It wasn’t easy. Dorm life for an impressive introvert is rough. Expectations for class performance, lack of sleep, late night conversation at a mostly conservative institution for a girl raised by her left-wing spiritual mama and her bright, always learning father who is quite happy living on the left coast certainly created some moments of clarity and questions and definition. Only a few I have been privy to. And so much more. She has made her way through with grace and determination.

And here she is. Ready to launch!

The past few years I have learned a lot about education and it’s importance on a global scale. Especially for girls and women. The barriers for girls to receive even a primary education are daunting in much of the world. Poverty, lack of birth control, war, violence in the home, cultural mores such as child marriage, trauma from rape and violence (1 in 3 women), structurally reinforced misogyny, unequal pay, are just the start. In the U.S., white women are paid 74 cents to a white male’s dollar. I just heard a statistic about NYC regarding women of color that disgusts me. The study showed that they receive around 60 cents to the dollar. 

And yet, when women divorce, which half of them do, they usually never completely recover financially while men remake the income in 3 years and then are back on track. 

In the US, a woman with a high school education will work in service jobs that keep her always fighting to make ends meet, at an enormous personal power disadvantage if she partners with a man, and less likely to develop skills that will empower her movement to create change in her way in the world.

So today, as I fly to be with my amazing daughter for her graduation, I am grateful for her determination and focus and faithfulness that allowed her to accomplish this. We do not know what is ahead in life. Life is full of challenges. This will advantage her to realize more of her potential as someone who was born to contribute to the world, her community, her family.The best is yet to be!

Congratulations Ivy!

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Wild Geese

Saturday morning I was reading on my front porch, coffee in hand as usual, enjoying the gorgeous morning when 3 geese flew down Pope street honking loudly. They circled around as if they had seen me, and then flew in a kind of boomerang past me again, as if to say – or honk – “Hey!! We are flying past you on purpose! We don’t usually do this kind of thing!” I was taken aback. I have never seen a goose in the hood. Or at least I wasn’t aware of one. I felt that old tug of “uh oh – this means something” happening. So I sat present to it for a while and then did a little research.3 geese

This is not my first spiritual encounter with an animal. There was a hawk and a coyote before. These experiences ended up being markers in my life, preparing me in an unbidden and unexpected way, for what was to come.

Yesterday the message of the geese came to pass. It is kinda woo woo, I know, but bear with me. This is what the “meaning” of such an encounter is from a spirit animal reading … “the quest you are currently on is about to take an abrupt change of course. Know that this is only a temporary thing and that you will soon be back on your chosen path.” I sat with it and then I knew for sure. It was confirmed today. My job as reconciliation catalyst for PCUSA will end April 29.

Thank God, Presbys will continue to prioritize the campaign work through better funded programs: the Presbyterian peacemaking program which birthed me, and Presbyterian Women. This is only part of my work, but the crux of the decision making weighed that heavily. Will pieces be lost? Of course. But I am optimistic the ways in which I was able to help move some of us toward more fluid work across the agencies will continue. The biggest hole will be connecting US constituents to work of global partners working to stop sexual violence. But with excellent communicators and committed networks and area directors, the work will continue on, but with a lesser focus. But to be clear,  these systemic issues are not going away without some serious long term collaboration and effort.

The burden and cost of leadership in these decisions cannot be underestimated. Please remember this in reaction to the cuts coming not only in my circles, but in every other mainline denomination. We all face the same realities.

So in this moment, I want to begin with a reflection. What are they going to do, fire me?:)Smokey mountain 4 boys

What a gift it has a been to serve as part of a global community that gives a damn about justice and tries to do something to support, accompany, and advocate for people on the margins. As people of privilege, this is so important for our souls. Not in response to guilt or because “it’s the right thing to do”,  though these things certainly plays into the complexity of our motivations. But because we are in this whole life thing together. Each person is precious and deserving not simply because they are “God-breathed and imaged” but because they are human. It is not enough for me to say a person is created in the image of God and thus they are worthy or deserving of my respect. Each person is precious simply because they are their unique beautiful selves alive to possibility and life. I do not need to see the image of God in someone to love them. I need to see them.

Here us what I want to say on this memorable day for me: we are part of the world even if we, as American citizens, see ourselves as just a tiny bit more special than the rest of the world. (And oh Lord, Christians are the worst at this!) It can no longer be “us” and “the rest of the world”. That is not the reality in which we live. It is a construct to keep people at arm’s length. Name any global issue and you will find U.S. hands all over it. For good and ill. If we are going to work on resolving systemic injustices, and not simply throw candy to the crowd, we simply have to be willing to engage them as “our” issues. And by our I mean all of ours. Whether we are stay at home moms, corporate execs, factory workers, pastors, bedouins, or bar tenders. We are entrusted with a broken, beautiful world that requires our love and engagement. It is not just for us. The limitations and borders we imagine are just that: arbitrary and imagined borders. And as Pablo Casals penned, “Why should love stop at the border?

I work with a great team. World Mission, supported by the visionary leadership of Hunter Farrell, my fellow catalysts, Juan Sarmiento and Frank Dimmock, my amazing and always supportive colleague, Stephanie, and those across the agency focused on peace and justice have been and will continue to be, a huge gift to the church, the world, and to me.

love is stronger than hate2As I was reminded recently, I love easily. It is both a blessing and also such a pain. Still I believe that everything can be done with love, though much of life isn’t. Fear and anxiety and rage are important emotions that must not inhibit us from doing the work we need to do. They must fuel us for the only thing that can overcome hate and fear: connection and love and mutuality.

When I travel and speak, I tell people that my job title is theirs also: reconciliation catalyst. If I could, I would commission your work with a stole today. As the agency lets go of a reconciliation catalyst next week, I am asking you to take that stole on your shoulders. It is a holy calling that never was exclusively mine in the first place. It is ours to wear with imagination and commitment every day.

And by the way, I still have work to do. Think of me when openings in justice and peace come your way. The best is yet to be.

 

 

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Ham and hallelujahs

My mom knew how to make holidays special. Though she tired of being the holiday magician, it was a way to hold her family together and pass on the traditions she had internalized.

These traditions, even the ones that didn’t matter to me, often seemed to revolve around food I didn’t particularly enjoy. Ham and (gag!) aspic at Easter. Potato salad and corn on the cob at the 4th of July (not a fan of either). Clam chowder and Oyster stew on Christmas Eve (allergic to tomatoes and oysters). Of course I was supportive of the desserts..easter meal

But food really was a part of what created an event. So even though I didn’t like some of the foods, I expected them, waited for them, anticipated them. And like a drooling sharpe dog, I would sit at the table – waiting. And then after a bite or two remember “Oh yeah. I didn’t really like ham.” And mayonnaise is only good in very small doses. (Of course I remembered that aspic made me puke.) But it was important to mom – and so it was important to me. I remember asking her one Easter when I came of age if we could have a vegetarian option to which she responded, “Well, there will be a green salad.” Go farm mom!

I always think of my mom around holidays. Every Easter morning, whether she felt like it or not, she would burst into “Christ the Lord is risen today, Allelujah”, prancing around half-dressed in “nylons” with slippers and bathrobe; coffee pot and cigarette smoke swirling through the kitchen with her. She knew how to engage her kids in the things that mattered to her.

These are great memories that weave in between the more painful ones, and help soothe the loss of her. She wasn’t perfect. She grew to be a really bad alcoholic and so wasn’t particularly predictable. She had a hard time admitting her deepest feelings – at least to me – except when she was under the influence. You can imagine that, as a child, that made me a bit unsure. When I became an adult and confronted this, she and dad told me I was too sensitive. Well yes, that is true. I was the only one of my sibs who knew by high school that there was a problem. So, I suppose that means I am high on the sensitive scale. But there were plenty of people with drinking problems in my parent’s circle of friends – so it was easy for her to deflect the issue onto them. But they were fantastic friends.

Christ is risen cornflowerTomorrow is Easter. As for me, I will not be joining the throngs of church goers. For Lent this year, I gave up Lent. No maudlin reflections on self sacrifice (heaven knows I have done enough of that in my life). No glorification of misery, which Jesus certainly went through. No ashes. No holy week. Not even any Easter. Part of it is that my family has shifted significantly in the past years and it simply does not feel good to be in a space where everyone is with their families. I would like to be with mine – but this is not possible.

It is not that anything has changed inside really. I am still the same doubter/believer I have always been. It will be a regular day off for me. No ham. No marshmallow peeps. No family dinner. However, I will fire up the coffee pot, dance around the kitchen belting out a rousing verse of “Christ the Lord is risen today” and be thankful for the amazing woman who birthed me. Christ the Lord is risen today

 

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Unadorned moments

Tell me something that matters to you

… about your dog, and how he is particularly talented at balancing a sandwich on his head

… and your baby who sleeps with her bum in the air and how you almost didn’t live to meet her

… or about the piano delivered to your house last night that somehow made it a home

Tell me … about those who have mended your life – and how you’re just now learning to be free

Tell me something that matters to you. I tire of skimming the surface when there is so much living beauty underneath

~~~~

I sat by the ocean last week, the sun softening the winter in my skin, while fingers of waves chased to the shore, and then were sucked out again

A Madrona tree, sinuous and silky, felt like a body in my hand … and I forgot about everything else

I was just a creature among creatures, disarmed and vulnerable

my hair blowing like branches, unadorned like the moment I was part of

madrona bark

 

 

 

 

 

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we cannot fit a big dream into a small life

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The house with many rooms

imgres

“Grief is like living in a house with many rooms, each with a different name: sadness, anger, fear, celebration, remembering, joy, gratitude.  A friend suggested that the key to abiding in this house is to leave the door to each room unlocked and even opened. I frequently visit these rooms and will occasionally get stuck in one of them. I’ve learned that I must keep the door open so that I can get out. This has been helpful when a room overwhelms me and I am tempted to lock the door from the outside and never enter or lock the door from the inside and never leave. I will always live in this house as it is God’s place for me. But the house itself isn’t named Grief. It is named Life.  There will be new rooms in time. Gratefully, I don’t live there alone. God is always there, ready to meet me and walk with me into each room. Many of you are there with me as well.”

Sharol Hayner

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To be wise

To be wise

one has to see

and listen

and cradle the bitter season

like the colicky child it is

rocking

rocking

rocking

Fireplace man 18s

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