Sunday, October 2, 2011

Something New

I haven't posted for months.

My grandfather died, I graduated from seminary, I got married, I moved to Saint Paul, and I went to Puerto Rico.

I no longer live at the Stevens House, so the ongoing story of life in our house is no longer what I can write about.

But please come join me at my new site:

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where I've been

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In the parking lot at the V.A. in Lihu'e, Kauai, Hawaii.

My intention back in early November was to blog everyday in November.

But then, one of my congregants (the mother of an 8 year old and 15 year old) passed away.

And then we got engaged*

Then the day after we got engaged, my grandfather went into the ER with abdominal pain, they found spots on his liver, which eventually led to a diagnosis of some sort of super aggressive cancer. I've been in Hawaii with my aunt, mom and grandparents, running to the pharmacy, UPS, post office, bank, V.A., grocery store, cooking meals, taking out the trash, checking the mail, running to the airport getting the paper, and trying to be present and helpful. I am back in MN now**

I love Kauai, it is absolutely my favorite, favorite, favorite place on the planet. I have never been anywhere more beautiful. My time in Hawaii filled me with so much Aloha (a term that has many of the same nuances as the Hebrew Shalom). Kauai is home to the wettest place on earth, Mount Wai'ale'ale, it is known as the Garden Island, so much rain means lots of green. When I left Kauai, on December 13, the rain gauge in my grandparent's backyard had registered 12.57" of rain. While I was getting automated messages on my cell phone from the city of Minneapolis declaring a snow emergency, the land line at my grandparent's house had a similar automated message about flash floods, "turn around, don't drown." The next day, as I waited outside a church with three Native Hawaiian women for a Zumba class that never materialized, we talked at length about "turn around, don't drown," and our experience of the storm.***

The last month, actually the last several months, have been a flood for me. The water of life is roaring quickly by, but God is faithful. Isaiah is the favorite prophet of the Christmas/Advent season. I've blogged these verses before, after our floods this summer, but here they are again.

Isaiah 43 -

1 But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

*(a post to come on that soon?)
**(missed the blizzard - I'm hoping that Leah will guest blog about the house in the blizzard - now I've made it public so she'll have to do it.)
*** (if I was a preacher on Kauai, I would so use, "turn around, don't drown," as a sermon title.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I just returned from an exploration and discernment event with the Bishop of the MN annual conference of the UMC and several young clergy. This was our beautiful final benediction after communion this morning:

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done,
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday Night - What to do? Order Galactic Pizza!

Hey Southsiders!
Have you had Galactic Pizza before?

A few weeks ago their menu was delivered to our door, printed in 3-D with 3-D glasses attached to the menu. Here's super hero Holly reading the menu.
Here are the facts about Galactic Pizza -
  1. It's catch phrase is "Planet Saving Pizza"
  2. Their delivery people dress in spandex (like super heroes) and deliver their pizzas in tiny 100% electric vehicles.
  3. A portion of their profits goes to support local nonprofits and fight hunger
  4. They compost, recycle and purchase recyclable and post consumer recycled products.
They are awesome.

We had Galactic Pizza a few weeks ago for date night and it was delicious. It's one thing to have good values, and another to have a high quality product. This was both. We ordered the Pizza Ala Vodka (Creamy tomato vodka sauce, mozzarella cheese, organic button mushrooms, prosciutto, and fresh organic basil.) and it was delicioso.

If you want to go, or order for delivery check them out.

Where are you Holly? This is [L]

The doorbell rang again today, I am home for an hour between meetings and was surprised to see our 9 year old neighbor [L]. It's parent teacher conferences in Minneapolis today, which is a fact I missed. A few days ago, [L] and Kohls made themselves squares on our white board. Richard left them each a message this weekend. [L] literally clapped his hands when I told him that he had a message on his square.

He wanted to leave a message for Holly, so he had to erase a message that he had left Holly a few days earlier.
"Now that you've seen the message from Richard, should we erase that one too?" I asked him.

"No, not yet. I like having a message."

It was funny to me when Richard left the messages for Kohls and L. I just thought that it was a silly thing. But to the kids it means something much more. It means that someone in our house cares about them, that they matter, that they have a presence here.

Positive psychologists say that hearing your own name brings happiness for three reasons. We experience pleasure when we hear our own name; we feel engaged when we hear our own name; and we feel that we matter and therefore have a deeper sense of meaning and purpose when we hear our name.

I don't know what the psychologists say about reading our name on a white board at a neighbor's house. But I suspect the findings would be similar. I'm grateful that Holly and Richard were able to show L that he matters today, even if they are at work.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Who do you want to be?

My students in youth group are doing a study on "Becoming a Young Woman of God."

In our last lesson we looked at a list of characteristics, the girls circled what they wanted to be: popular; mean; kind; sympathetic; passionate; musical; arrogant etc.

In that lesson we talked about the ways that our choices determine the women that we become. We watched clips from 13 going on 30 and had a very good time.

Tonight we talked about goals, about short term and long term gratification, and about the steps we need to take to become the women God is calling us, and we want to be.

The name of this blog is becoming what we love. It was a quote I had just come across this quote "We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love."by Francis de Sales on the Sojourners blog, and it really struck a chord. I want to be loving, I want to be kind, I want to be generous. I want to be a reflection of Jesus. Yet, my life shows that I'm conforming to something else far too often. There are things that I love that cause me to conform to different patterns than those that I want to be.

One of the verses that we read tonight was Proverbs 14:12*

12 There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.

So here's my prayer for myself, and maybe it will become your prayer as well.

Lord, help me to fall more in love with you, so that the thing that I conform to is you. Help me to make choices that help me to become the woman [or man] that you'd have me to be. I want to be like you, I want to love you.

*For Richard's take on this verse check out his posterous "Vespa de los muertos." (When I told him that we had read this verse he started repeating it but SCREAMING the word "death." so that it lasted at least as long as the rest of the sentence.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Eight Year Old Always Rings Seventy-Nine Times

We have a new friend at our house, she shares a name with a popular store, so she introduces herself by saying, “My name is [let’s call her Kohls] but I don’t shop at Kohls I shop at JC Penny’s." Holly was looking for work all summer and had lots of free time at home, she got to know Kohls and many of our neighbor kids, it’s an incredibly diverse group of kids: Somali, Lao, African American, and Mexican, boys and girls, all younger than ten. Several times each day the doorbell rings, “is Holly there?” The rest of us were starting to feel like second class neighbors since no one ever asked for Leah, Wanda or Katie.

Last week as I was in a total rush to pack up my textbooks and laptop before school on Monday night the doorbell rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. (we’ve gone over some rules for visiting the house: no playing on the porch if you don’t have an adult from the house out there; ask before you open any door or drawer; say please; say thank you – but somehow “please don’t ring the doorbell 79 times,” hasn’t sunk into the collective consciousness of our neighbors.

“Hi Kohls. What’s up?”

“Is Holly home?”

“No she’s not, can I leave a message for her?”

“Yes, um, can you tell her that Kohls stopped by?”

“I will. Have a good day Kohls.” (shutting door)

“Wait, Katie can you play with me?”

“Nope, sorry, I have to go to school now.”

“Oh, you go to school?”


“High School?”

“Nope, Seminary, it’s college for Pastors after college.”


“Bye Kohls.”

“Ok, bye.”

It’s reading week, so Richard and I don’t have class tonight. At 5:15 the doorbell rang, and rang, and rang, and rang, and rang, and rang.

“Hi Kohls. What’s up?”

“Is Holly home?”

“No she’s not, can I leave a message for her?”

“Yes, um, can you tell her that Kohls stopped by?”

“I will. Have a good day Kohls.”

“Katie, you have class tonight don’t you?”

“No actually, my class was cancelled tonight.”

“Oh, well then can you play with me?”

“ummm… No, I need to take a shower and do homework, and I have a dinner date and… actually why don’t you come back in a half hour and we can play a game of uno together Kohls?”

“I don’t know how long is a half hour.”

“5:45, come over at 5:45, and we can play a game of Uno, after I take a shower.”

Sure enough at 5:45 on the dot Kohls was rang the bell, she had 4 of her trick or treating candies in her hand. She had picked out 4 candies specifically for the four women living in this house. “This one,” she said handing me a dark chocolate kit kat, “is for you, it’s a black kit kat. I’m going to put everyone elses candies in their mailboxes.”

Richard happened to come over just as we were starting the Uno game so we dealt him in. We only had time for one quick game but we got to play a game, laugh and share the kit kat.

There were two things that left me a little unsettled.

One, this eight year old remembered a brief rushed and stressed out conversation that I had with her a week ago. She knew that my schedule meant that I had to go to school at night on Mondays. I’m so self centered I have a hard time remembering the schedule of my best friends, roommates and family who I have known for ages, Kohls remembered a neighbors school schedule. I feel like I’m the one who is supposed to care about her, not vice versa. The flip was heartwarming for sure, but also slightly unsettling.

Two, this eight year old brought presents for us. Not just for Holly, who is clearly everyone’s favorite roommate, or for me who had offered to play Uno with her after I took the time to shower, but for each and every roommate, and she picked out candies that she thought that we would like. Holly and Leah got plain kit kats, Wanda got a hersheys cookies and cream bar and I got the dark kit kat. Kohls wanted to bless us and share some of her trick or treat bounty with us.

There’s a quote from Jean Vanier that I learned when I was living in St. Louis. “People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are poor.”

It’s hard to escape the white savior, colonialist, patriarchal frame of mind. I’ve lived in the house for more than five years now, worked at an urban church, am majoring in Community Ministry Leadership in seminary. I know, intellectually and practically that viewing the haves as the rescuers of the have nots is never going to lead to a meaningful harvest. I need Kohls and her family, the Somali families that ring our doorbell, “pipe-smoking-cat-walking man” and even “Eight dollar man” more than they need me.

PS- Richard reminded me about this classic Sesame Street video a couple of weeks ago when I started whining about the number of times that the doorbell rings. Enjoy