Girl Power, Grrrls, Mothering, My Girl

Go and come back

This morning my daughter took off on a plane headed to Japan for her Junior Year Abroad. She has been dreaming of this since she was the pseudonymous first Little/then Light Princess on my old blog. She started watching a Japanese cartoon with her brother and when the dubbed episodes ran out, she found the later seasons online with English subtitles. She came to love the language and began to dream of going to Japan.

Each of my children had some dream at a fairly early age. #1 Son started acting at 7 and never looked back. #2 Son followed in his brother’s footsteps but when the choice came in 8th grade between a leading role and an orchestra concert, he chose his clarinet and his path.

LP often lamented that she was not as directed as her brothers, not so clearly called to … something. She loves Japanese language and culture, but to what end?

It may not be possible to know until she spends the school year there.

LP, left, with other 5 College students on the Kakehashi Program trip, July 2014.
LP, left, with other Five College students on the Kakehashi Program trip, July 2014.

LP had her first opportunity to go to Japan last summer, for the ten day Kakehashi Program. Never one to take things for granted, she continued to work hard for this chance to study abroad. The Associated Kyoto Program is competitive. Her Dean’s List grades at Smith College, her straight As in Japanese, her (in my opinion) beautifully written essays about why she wanted to go to Japan: all these combined to make her an exceptional candidate for the program. We knew it meant everything to her and listened as she worried while waiting for the results of her application last winter, assuring her that, as kathrynzj put it, “If you don’t get in, there’s something wrong with the program, not you.”

AKP students attend class at Doshisha University in Kyoto. They live with host families, and LP received a very dear card from hers, which includes a father, a mother, a daughter her age, and a younger son. AKP classes include a language intensive and courses in Japanese history and culture, which are specifically for American students. We’re all especially happy that she got her hoped-for elective, a seminar that includes both American and Japanese students.

I am so proud of my LP, who combines wry humor and gentle manners with articulate feminism and deep faith as if those were the most natural combination in the world. The little girl who always knew what was going on socially in the classroom but never remembered her homework is now a woman and a scholar, and I am delighted to witness her launch.

The Japanese have many different ways of saying goodbye, each appropriate to different occasions or levels of formality.  Before she left, LP wrote her farewell in kanji, on our kitchen blackboard. This is the goodbye you would use in Japan if you are heading out to school or work. It translates as “I am going, but I will come back.” Eight months will go by quickly in some ways, although believe me, I write this with tears in my eyes. Eight months for her will be full of new experiences, friends and learnings. When we parted last week as she went off for a week with her dad, I wrapped her in a hug, held my hand on the back of her head and prayed for her safety and for a wonderful year.

But the correct response to her farewell, in Japanese, is nothing so emotional or lofty.

The correct response, in Japanese, is just as matter-of-fact. So today, my dear LP, I say, “行ってらっしゃい” – “Go and come back.”

On our kitchen blackboard,
On our kitchen blackboard, “Itte kimasu” – “I am going, but I will come back.”
Advent, Children, Ministry, My Girl

It Goes By So Fast

I try to keep worship to an hour, even when we have Communion, so I have a side-eye on the clock and move certain things along, but my intention is always to have the time when the congregation comes forward feel time-less. I look each person in the eye as I give the bread, and then they pass to the right or left to dip it in one of the cups being held by a Deacon. But for some reason, today they seemed to barrel toward me, in twos, barely giving me a chance to connect — which is not for me, but feels like an important pastoral act.

It felt like withdrawing.

In three more weeks, we’ll engage in a liturgy of farewell, releasing and forgiving one another. I worked on the order of service this afternoon, and it felt heavy. Saying goodbye well matters.

But it goes by so fast.

It’s the same with mothering. LP and I have pushed up the date of separation as we prepare for my move to Pennsylvania and hers around a few corners to her dad’s house, but it was coming soon anyway, in a matter of months.

As the congregation came up the aisle, so quickly, in such a hurry, I told myself I could not think about how it is the last time.

And then came LP, in the midst of the other choir members, her long hair shining. She looks down at me now, even in flats, wise in some ways beyond her years, and for a fraction of a moment I remembered her sweet little girl face as a seven-year-old, coming up to take Communion from me for the first time, and I felt the pricking of a tear…

and I told myself to stop it. Stop.It.

There will be other times, other times I can say to her, “The Body of Christ, broken for you.” I’ll land somewhere, eventually, and she’ll visit, and there will be Communion, and we will be in it together again.

But it goes by so fast, the days left in this house tumbling toward me like the hurrying communicants, the months until college like a wave racing to break on the shore. We’re both eager for the future — I think I can say that — and anxious about logistics and trying to get a lot of work done in a short time (packing/sorting/disposing for me; college applications for her).

There are many things I will miss, but here’s what surprises me. I grieve a little that the regular intimacy of congregational life will not likely be ours again.

Does that sound like an odd thing to say? We’ve been making the journey to church together every Sunday, just about, for her whole life. When I became a pastor ten years ago, she became a part of the ministry team. I value her reflections on human interactions in the congregation, and her critiques of my sermons and messages for the children. I value her company, the ways in which she accompanies me.

This day was coming, anyway. But I never expected my empty nest to be the Communion table.

Baptism, Confirmation, My Girl

Lucy’s Faith Statement

Lucy wrote this statement and shared it with the congregation today.
I believe the following things about God:
That God is the creator of the universe, the father and mother of every creature.
That God is all-knowing and all-powerful.
That despite this power, God does not act as a “Santa Claus in the Sky,” to quote my mother, rewarding the “good” people and punishing the “bad.” 
Sometimes bad things happen to good people—and when I figure out why that is, I’ll let you know.

Still, I believe that God does have a plan, and everything important happens for a reason—even things that don’t seem fair.

That God is kind and merciful; thus, I stand by the declaration of my early childhood, that God is a “big ball of love.”That God forgives with the infinite, unconditional love of a parent.
That God is ubiquitous, and lives in everyone. Within each human being, I believe, is a divine spark that may grow if one is willing to look within. God creates us so that we are all good people; it is our task to find that goodness, and to live as God would have us live.
I believe the following things about Jesus:
That while he walked on Earth, he was both fully God and fully human.
That with the power of God, he performed miracles, and even overcame death.That he was kind and merciful, like God.
That he was in touch with his divine spark, more than anyone else, because he was God. That he was human, too, and entered the world in a tangible form so that we could feel a more personal connection to God.That all the things he valued—love and forgiveness, especially—are the most important.

Because I believe these things about God and Jesus…
I will try to live my life with Christian values, as I can think of no better person to model my life after than God’s son.

I will try to live up to my potential, or my divine spark, and in doing so I hope to be more like Jesus.

I will try to always do the right thing, even knowing that if I fail, God will forgive me.I will try to maintain faith in God and Jesus, even when my life is difficult.
I have decided that for me, being a Christian is important, and I feel ready to affirm my baptismal vows.