An Update on the Messes: Church, Holes in the Wall, America, and Pants

It’s raining outside and the window is open because the puking kid in my bed wants it that way, and we all know pukers get what pukers want. Except red juice. Pukers don’t get red juice. Not ever again.

I can hear the delicate pitter patter of the rain drops hitting the patio interspersed with the giant KERPLOPS of rain gushing over the clogged gutters which we didn’t clear this winter — a mistake in Oregon — but there’s only so much time and SO MANY projects to fail to complete. The gutters made the Fail List this year. And I think last year, too. It’s OK, though. They’ll rust, and the water will get in, and the house will crumble around us, but it’s OK. It’s important, after all, to build Long Term and Short Term plans. Our Long Term House Destruction plan, for example, is water damage and mold which will lead to total structural failure. Our Short Term plan is, obviously, accidental fire. Since one of the kids left the gas oven on all night last week, we feel like that one’s a real possibility.

This is a strange season of life for Greg and me. For our family. For America. For the universal church, and for ours specifically. For the world, too.

We’re just… really weary most days. Struggling. Straggling. Doing what we can right now, which isn’t always what we need to do, like clean out the gutters, but we’re going for barebones survival here, you know? Trying to make it through each day with our awesome, assholish kid without doing irreparable damage to him or ourselves. Trying to figure out where we belong after finding ourselves in the wilderness of the unknown when it comes to our faith community. Trying to figure out how our country and our world can inflict so much suffering on so many people who are so very vulnerable.

It’s a strange thing to be in our 40’s and adrift, especially when we thought we knew where we were moored. We thought we’d carved out a space to belong in America, and we figured we were raising our transracial, multicultural children in a country devoted to becoming kinder and more inclusive. We certainly thought we’d always be welcome at church. I understand how clearly I’m highlighting our embedded privilege here and our naivety, but it’s still true. And now, the places we thought we belonged — the places we thought were sure bets — the places we thought we were well established — are no longer fully home. Maybe they never were. And we adorable, white, highly educated, middle class, English-as-a-first-language, Christian Americans are just now, belatedly, figuring it out. Bless our hearts.

Those on the outskirts and the margins of our church have been trying to tell us about their suffering for years. For years and years. But Greg and I, sweet little baby bunnies that we are, are only now waking up to the Matrix. We’re only now looking around, eyes beginning to see. Only now beginning to understand the price we’d have to pay in our Consciences and Integrity and Deepest Understanding of what it means to Love God and Love Our neighbors as Ourselves to stay in those safe-for-people-like-us places. It’s been a real eye-opener, I tell you, and I say this as a person who is still largely blind and who has much to learn before the scales fall fully away.

But here’s my secret for the day… shhhhhhhh, don’t tell… I’m starting to like it out here with the wind on my face.

I’m starting to feel excited about the unknown.

I’m starting to believe that being cut loose may turn out to be a gift. I had grown terribly weary, after all, of having to behave to belong.

I feel like we’ve jumped onto the ship of the Wayward and the Wanderers. All the way on, instead of trying to straddle it and the other. We had to pick. Stay on the old ship and comply, or leave and do a new thing. And so we’ve thrown our lot in with the Weary and the Wary and the Wild and the Free, and we’re out on deck, just getting under way. Just now feeling the wind pick up. Just now watching the shore recede.

And so, Greg and I are in the process right now of waving good-bye to the things we once knew and clung to. Waving good-bye to our false idols of Comfort, Conformity and Compliance. Waving good-bye to the rules of the evangelical Christian subculture which haven’t fit us well for a long, long time. Waving good-bye to our desperate desire to have beloved members of our former community approve of us, see the best in us, and believe we are racing toward God and the Gospel and Good News instead of away. Shoving the anger that masks our hurt firmly over the side, and shoving it over again when it crawls back up, because angry and bitter is not who we choose to be, and we’re not going to give it a free ride to the New Thing where we’re headed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where my loyalty lies as we begin this new journey. I’ve been considering what it means to live in the Freedom and Fullness of Love and Grace, and about what I might do — or who I might become — to help invite others, who are as tired as we are, into that space. I’ve been thinking about how to become a Light-bringer and a chain-breaker and a justice-monger and a Love-dweller the way Jesus taught us to be. The truth is, I don’t know yet. I don’t know, but I feel like we’re headed the right way.

Sending love to you, friends, and waving, waving, waving in the dark,




P.S. For lots of reasons, mostly related to the oldest boy child but partially related to being batshit crazy, I’ve been housebound this month. Housebound and focused on keeping my kid afloat. With an itchy brain. While contemplating a country and church that are hard to make sense of.  It’s been a MONTH, in other words. A MONTH, friends. But I’m able to put one foot in front of the other and no one has smothered anyone with a pillow, so we’re counting it in the win column.

As a result, I’ve spent the last two weeks building the fairy house and pestering Greg to cut the door and find the right screws and drill holes and basically be my beck-and-call fairy house construction manager, which he has LOVED because who needs to work from home to make money when you could be running fairy errands for your wife? Amirite? Greg thinks so, too. You can tell by the loving way he rolls his eyes and says, “Not right now, Beth. Maybe tonight.”

The thing is, I’m finding solace in hunkering down and building a sanctuary for the magic to get in. It feels right just now. Like it makes All the Sense in the Whole Entire World to use bits and pieces of things we overlook every day to build a visual reminder that the mysterious is welcome and will be sheltered here.

P.P.S. Here are 100,000 fairy house pictures. Because priorities.


The destroyed Mouse House.


A bigger hole.


The bones of the Fairy House.


We get serious, man.

Also, side benefit — making Greg work on the Fairy House during his lunch break.

And cutting up 1000 pine cones for shingles.




A Fairy House.

Now, obviously, there are still a million things we can do with this, but for our purposes, this is essentially complete.

I decided to spend $0 on this project because a) I’m cheap, and b) I’m cheap. My mommy gifted me the fairy lights. They came in an old onion jar so they smell horrible. I think the fairies will like it.

And I pulled the wooden thread spools (table and chairs, obviously) from a stash I inherited from my grandmother.

I figure, anything else the fairies need, they can create with magic, just like I do.

So there the Fairy House sits.

Directly across from our hall closet, Harry Potter’s Cupboard Under the Stairs,

And when people walk in our front door,

they’re greeted by All Things Magical — the Fairy House, the Cupboard, and the Ravenclaw Room… and that end table, not marked, is from the set of Grimm.

Plus discarded pants.

I feel like this is just honest.

We’re magic and mess, after all. Magic and mess.

P.P.P.S. Love to you. That’s all for now. Hopefully more soon. xoxo

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12 responses to “An Update on the Messes: Church, Holes in the Wall, America, and Pants”

  1. “I’m starting to believe that being cut loose may turn out to be a gift. I had grown terribly weary, after all, of having to behave to belong.” –You are speaking my heart sister. I was cut loose from my church 16 years ago, and anger (and bitterness) are still trying to claw their way aboard my current vessel. But like you, I continually cast them out cause bitter is not who I want to be.

    I agree– trying to behave, having to belong… it got exhausting. And I’m starting to think that being sent away was the best thing God ever did for my journey. Even though it hurt at the time.

    Hugs and so much waving in the dark…

  2. Beth, I want to invite you to attend my church for our special Easter celebration service this weekend– I have a feeling that it might be just the thing that you need right now:

    And if you lived in Cincinnati, I would totally offer to meet you there, mostly because I would LOVE to have an excuse to meet you in person. But since you live a long, long way away, I guess maybe you could just join the live-stream at any convenient time this weekend. I’ll be there at 5pm on Saturday, waving in the dark for you.

  3. My heart breaks with you and is dismayed with this world around us that doesn’t seem to remember Love and kindness. Once we want to get our own way and act out of anger, power and manipulation it’s hard to see Love in our midst. God’s heart is breaking too for the actions of his people. His Love will heal broken hearts in the midst of the mess. Sending you hope that the wind on your face will fill you with Hope. The fairy house reminds me that God’s Spirit is at work. Waving in the dark! Sending Love!

  4. As an East Coast fan, we’re a whole country apart but so close in all our struggles….from “awesome, assholish” oldest boy child (although my son’s assholishness is completely self-inflicted) to a faith community crisis that has me tied in knots to the whole us-versus-them political environment I say “GAH” and “ARGH” and “PLLLLLT.” I’ve experienced the what-do-you-mean-the-whole-world-is-not-white-and-Christian epiphany and it is life changing – but changing anything, much less LIFE is hard. We’ll get there, dear Beth, we’ll get there. Waving in the dark (and coveting your fairy house).

  5. Unitarians, Pal. The Unitarian Universalists will smile at you and say believe what makes sense in your heart – because we are busy trying to determine how to act as People of Faith – and then after we think about it – we are trying to Act That Way – and that just about takes all the energy there is. No time to argue about who’s in and who’s out.

    Says a 64- year old friend who was born into the Evangelical Free Church of America, then as a young adult joined the non-denominational social activist evangelical LaSalle Street Church in Chicago. Then United Methodist Seminary. Then just United Methodist churches (didn’t become a minister). Then United Church of Christ (where we had undocumented central Americans in the gym, for awhile). And plenty of years of no church at all. Last year we visited the local UU church and OMG, all the questions are “What shall we do to be strong and help others and have fun while doing that”? The UU’s even have this motto. “Standing on the Side of Love.”

  6. Blessed are the broken, for through them the light shall shine…

    Lots of love to you and your family Beth.
    Reading your blog, even though we’re worlds apart, reminds me that we’re not all so different. Just people trying to be people!

  7. Adrift feels scary and exciting all at once sometimes. Have you discovered the community built around a podcast called The Liturgists? I’m still in with my church, but this additional community is giving me strength, hope, and life. I commend it to you. Praying for you and waving in the dark!

  8. I’ve felt adrift too. At times, I’ve been oddly at peace with things that should have me a neurotic mess. I felt myself vaguely going in a certain direction for so long–and it’s now as if my lodestar has shifted and my compass is spinning, trying to find its bearings. But not trying very hard. I shouldn’t be all right with this. Should I? I’ve always been a worrier by nature. If I give that up, what am I going to do with all my time?

    At the same time, I can’t leave the news alone. Even though it’s rendering me in a coma of bemusement. And underneath that, I’m vaguely intrigued and optimistic (??!!) I like seeing privileged people–including me–smacked upside the head repeatedly. It’s good for us. Not in a ’50 Shades of Grey’ way, but in a ‘Wake Up Finally You Privileged, Complacent Assholes’ way.

    Turns out that the old Chinese proverb ‘May you live in interesting times’ isn’t really a blessing: it’s a curse on one’s enemies. And it isn’t Chinese. And it isn’t very old. But I’ll take it. And I’m all right with it.

    I’m sorry things are so hard with Oldest Boy. I always wish life could be easier for him. He deserves more breaks. You and Greg do, too. So blessings to the all magic you’ve invited into the heart of your house. Sometimes when our resources are stretched to the limit, all we have is magic.

  9. Waving Beth, right back atcha! Sending some love from my weary soul to you and yours. Wishing you strength for your journey away from the old and off to the “new” whatever that turns out to be 🙂

  10. What is most important for me to say is that the shingles on the fairy house look like little tiny faces–I think the fairies are there already. On my screen, they look like happy little troll-like fairies. You need to know this.

  11. Is that paper bag decoupage?! In a fairy house to let the magic in 🙂 in a fancy corner of my mind, I’m gonna take a tiny bit of credit for some of that…

    I could not love this more, any of it. From a month in the muddy mire, in a house full of leaky gutters, unfinished projects, and a pile of amazing and amazingly busted up humans mostly surviving and searching for the path together (that’s pretty much what a family is, yes? ) to the scary hope and freedom that come from letting the scales fall, and being willing to meet reality in all its brutal splendour.

    I’m glad to know you. Waving right back.

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