I Love Being A Soccer Mom


Never in a million years would I ever-ever-ever have imagined I’d say this out loud:

I love being a soccer mom.

But, wait. Soccer moms are put-together suburbanites. With perfectly bobbed hair, and outfits that look thoughtful even if technically activewear. With a roast chicken ready for dinner by the time their husbands walk through the doors. With children who are clean and smell like vanilla cookies. With homes that are immaculate and shiny. With mini-vans and yoga classes and music lessons.

Except I don’t know a single mom that is actually like this when I think about it. Maybe one. Or two, at the most. But, hardly any.

I wonder if the era of venerating the likes of June Cleaver and Carol Brady is over? Because these days I see more moms (and dads) out and about with their kids in leggings and sweats, tshirts covered in breakfast and toothpaste, and the most remarkable bedhead. Only a pillow and a restless night of sleep with a toddler across your face could create that kind of coif. When I look around it seems like many of us have for the most part stopped worrying about upholding some illusive ideal surrounding looks and parenthood. Not that you all don’t look good – I mean, you do, you all are really beautiful people – but the image of put-togetherness seems less of a priority. I feel it in the way my eyes flicker up to meet the quick glance of the mothers and fathers at the library or children’s museum like a silent fist-bump: I see you. It’s about solidarity and survival. Anyways, we likely – at least, I, – save the energy and effort that goes into brushing my teeth and hair for the rare occasion we go out in the evenings with friends or the significant other, and dress as if it’s 1999, and we are still in college, our lives and children not even a twinkle in the night full of jello shots and beer pong.

Sigh. I’m so glad those days are over. Jello shots. Gross.

“Mostly good is enough. Mostly good produces healthy kids who know they are valued and either forget the other parts or turn them into funny stories.”
Jen HatmakerFor the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards

Because, honestly, I seriously love being a soccer mom. I am ready to embrace it. You know, the kids are at an age where they are just learning and doing so much. The amount they figure out each day grows exponentially. We can hardly keep up with them. One minute they’re crying that they can’t take the lids off of the markers. The next minute they’re channeling Picasso and Monet with all sorts of mediums, not only markers, but glue and tape and scissors (mostly, supervised). And so, this is what a soccer mom means to me. It means loving their stage of life right now. It means loving watching them run and kick and do the worst jumping jacks ever with Coach Keelan. It means loving watching the kids learn to play the piano, and actually sit longer than five minutes to pound out a couple of stanzas with Ms. Susan. It means loving seeing her absolute delight when she finally figures out how to do the monkey bars by herself and he feeds the dog and lets him out on his own initiative.

Who are these people?!?!?

Being a soccer mom means for me loving learning what it means to have children, and be a child. Because what they’re doing is changing and shaping me, teaching and transforming me on a regular basis. It means seeing differently. It means loving hard. It means learning how to receive and welcome. It means being okay with mistakes and failing gloriously. It means a little bit more proximity to that elusive, but wonderful kingdom. I love it. I love it all. I mean, I am so unbelievably exhausted and I still yell and shout and get totally frustrated at their insanity, but I love it.

I love being a soccer mom. I really do. You all are my witnesses – I said it. I love it. Now I just need a minivan.

The Parable of the 1% Church


And Peter came to Jesus asking: Who is my neighbor? Jesus told them another parable:

There was a church that sought a pastor to be its head of staff.

It was a beautifully immaculate church with gorgeous windows that let in a particularly divine light on Sunday mornings and gleaming floors so spotless that the reflection from the lights overhead made you feel as though you walked on heights. The walls were pure and bright unstained by even the stickiest of children’s hands. The carpet was lush and the dimmers were extravagant. It had an abundance of resources at its fingertips, and it professed to be ready to do a new thing.

Over the span of some months it looked to three potential ministers. One was young and charismatic. Another level-headed and reasonable. Still another with impressive academic credentials and experience. All three entered into these conversations with uncertainty, but equally faithful and trusting in God’s call with an openness to the movement of God’s spirit.

The church interviewed one candidate but then they immediately dropped all communications. The church interviewed the second candidate and expressed enthusiasm but the older members of the committee doubted whether the candidate would be able to perform weekly. The church interviewed the third candidate but faltered and splintered into two camps when asked what they hoped for in their head of staff.

After some time, none of the candidates were chosen, or perhaps they were at one point, no one seemed able to get a straight story from anyone on the committee.

Now, to which candidate was the church a neighbor?

Let anyone with ears to hear listen!

And he said:

Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get back. Money and resources can only get you so far, and privilege will cloud your judgment. For it is the church that deals with its earnest and faithful pastors in truth that will ultimately carry out the will of God’s kingdom, and experience the joy of mutual ministry. For all who exalt themselves will receive their just reward. 

You’re Not One of Us


Mark 9: 38-50
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

I love when people ask me about the kids. People ask “how old are they now?” and “how are they getting along?” and invariably, “how are you still standing?” Desmond and Anna are twins – 4 and a half now, can you believe it? And Ozzie is 2 and a half – it seems the Presbyterian Mission Agency board in particular has watched them – watched me grow up these last almost six years. When people ask me about the kids it’s a way to connect over something ordinary, normal and commonplace, human – we talk about the way kids play and make up games and tell stories and demand apple-pretzels-cheese. All. Day. Long.

It’s a way to feel that I am one of you.

The scripture passage we read together this morning continues a lengthy generative discussion on discipleship and ministry, vocation and call. Earlier in the chapter we have the transfiguration, Jesus starts to talk about his death, the disciples come to Jesus because they need help with casting out a particularly stubborn demon, and Jesus reminds them again who is the greatest in the kingdom by the example of the least of these – a child.

And then, John, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

He was not following us. He was not like us. He was not part of us.  

He was not one of us.

Do you remember that video during the cultural humility training – the ABC News Video with the children responding to different pictures – “20/20” brought together three groups of kids and showed them pictures of two men — one Arab, the other Asian. When we asked the children which man they liked better, over and over, more kids said they preferred “the Chinese guy.” One child preferred the Chinese man “because he looks nicer and he has a smile on.” But both men were smiling. Several children weighed in on the Arab man’s personality, basing their opinions on just seeing his picture. One child said, “I think he’s weird.” Another child said, “He’s like the scary dude.”

Next, “20/20” showed the kids pictures of a black man and white man. This time the pictures were different. Here were some of the comments the kids made about the photo of the black man. One said, “He looks mean.” Another referred to him as “FBI’s Most Wanted.” Another commented, “He looks like he’s a basketball player.” When the white man’s picture was shown, one child said, “He’s nice.” Another said, “I think he’s nice except he might be mad about something.” The boy was probably picking up on something. The photo of a white man was of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Admittedly, the pictures were a little bit different, but when we asked which man is a criminal, most kids pointed to the black man. When we asked which man was a teacher, most pointed to McVeigh. This is ironic because the black man pictured was Harvard University professor Roland Fryer.

It starts early – all the biases, assumptions, judgments, like Wendy said yesterday, it’s in the air we breathe.

They’re not part of us.
They’re not us.

Our words and efforts around inclusion, multiculturalism, and diversity mean very little when we see and still say, he is not one of us. She is not part of us. They’re not us.

The disciples said, “Jesus, we saw someone, casting out demons in your name, but we stopped him because he was not one of us…” Jesus “we saw someone” – our penchant for “we saw someone” needs to be replaced by “we see Jesus.” And in Jesus, we see God. Our God is here. But therein lies the irony of the statement, “We saw someone” because the point is, do you see God? Do you see God in the persons who do deeds in God’s name? More than that, and simply, do you see God in that human being?

Foreigner. Alien. Immigrant. Minority. Outsider. Stranger.

Friends, what does it mean for us that we were once strangers, once foreign and alien, but in God’s radical love, we were brought near? More than that, what does it mean for us that Jesus took on this same foreignness – this status of outsider – to be one of us? To be a part of us?

I blogged a couple of months ago:

I keep hearing that chant – the call and response on the short Vine video posted the day after the anniversary of Michael Brown’s killing. “This is what theology looks like.”

I see them standing huddled together heads down laying hands on each other like it’s an ordination – these demonstrators are being commissioned for something massively important as they shout #blacklivesmatter and #nojusticenopeace anointed with sweat and tears and blood and Spirit and set apart for a holy work in which liturgy is wailing and protest. They are demonstrating resistance in the flesh-and-blood and show us what survival means in its purest form by simply breathing and lamenting together. Hands clutching each other eyes set on the heavenly prize which is the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before them and surround them even now.

This is what theology looks like – this is what faith looks like – this is what love looks like – the way we answer these questions, when “we saw someone” becomes we see Jesus, we see God, in every human being around us – it says who we are and leads us in what we do – with our ministries and with our lives.

It’s not that they become us. We become them, and in doing so we become more like Jesus.
Isn’t that the ultimate expression of Christian discipleship? To become more like Jesus? 

Deeper Story: Great and No-So-Great Expectations



I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations
and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
― Bruce Lee

Still November. But Christmas decorations and frosted trees have been on display since Halloween, so my mind has already turned towards Advent and that O Holy Night. I can’t help it. I’m trying to fight it but the anticipation is annoyingly starting to seep in under my skin and my heart softens a little when I hear those familiar melodies of winter wonderlands. Good grief, Lord, it’s not even Thanksgiving. At least there’s one holiday that can be preserved from the stress of gift-giving and cookie-making. But now there’s even beginning to be a lot of hype around Thanksgiving these days since Christmas has been swallowed up by commercialization. Is the turkey big enough/juicy enough/fancy enough, and what sides are there with it, and what football games are on, and how will the pumpkin pie come out? Too many expectations. This isn’t just about being disappointed by a sub-par gift, it’s feelings and scenes and table settings and the family gathering saturated with too many expectations. And a hard lesson I learned long ago – and keep learning today – is to keep my expectations low.


If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


I woke up with a start when my alarm went off. It was the quiet peal of bells and in another situation it would be a welcome noise. I jumped up.

I had fallen asleep with Oz in my lap after nursing him. But the college kids were still at the church, and oh shit, I was supposed to be there, too, we were having a lock-in, and at 5 am I went home to nurse him and planned to go right back because we were going to serve breakfast to the homeless community at 7, and what is wrong with me, I was having such a wonderful time with them, so much better than the last lock-in that made me swear off lock-ins forever, and I had kept the bar low, my expectations low, and why am I such a screw up, we were doing so well, I thought I was doing so well, I thought I was being present and engaged, and connecting with them, and then here I am, asleep in the chair, I’m such an idiot, and I get a text from one of the students:

Mihee. What the fuck.

In other words, where are you, why aren’t you here, what happened?

…Later on the student wrote me saying “I guess I need to change my expectations…”


We had moved into the apartments at student housing. The glow from an amazing honeymoon in Maine, and not just from the usual-rolling-around-horizontal-dance-and-expected-what-happens-on-honeymoons, but being on the coast, gorging on lobster rolls and clam chowder and, of course, beer, and then there was the wind, the sea, the whales, the sun, we soaked up all of it, and it felt like we had been scrubbed from the inside out by saltwater and light. It was so good. We were so happy we even adopted a kitten. We were about to embark in this next season and stage of our lives together. Of course we would adopt a kitten, nothing else made more sense. Sure, it was different from what we had initially expected when we talked marriage and tried to sift through actual logistics with him graduating before me and working two hours away and my still needing to work through my last year in school. But, we could deal with it. We would work it out. It would be fine.

It wasn’t fine. And it was the hardest year of my life until the year we tried to get pregnant. And the year the twins were born. It wrecked me in ways that I never thought possible.

People say, “Don’t get a new pet in the first year of marriage.”

I graduated. I moved up there. To his job. To his house. To his community. And I tried to find my calling. There were conversations and interviews and hopes and rejections and more calls and cautious expectations and more rejections and I couldn’t help but pray, God, what the hell do you have me here for right now? This is not at all what marriage and vocation was supposed to look life for us. This isn’t what I signed up for when I went to seminary. This isn’t what I expected at all.


That’s the thing with expectations. No matter how great – they end up being not-so-great for our souls. They set us up for inevitable disappointment. I’m not being cynical. And this isn’t just a game of semantics. It’s a hard reality. Things never really happen the way we plan or expect…and that’s how it’s supposed to be in life. In living. Sure, get those 401ks and endowments and social security and life insurance plans, but know that it won’t cover or protect you from everything, from every loss and disappointment.

As much as this world will disappoint so I know – and my Jesus knows – I will disappoint people. I fall short. I let people down. On a regular basis. My husband. My kids. My college students. My parents. My church. My God. Because there are days it feels like too much and please I just need to close my eyes for a few minutes so stop talking to me, look what’s on TV, get the books/trains/cars, I’ll be right back, hold on a moment. And I wake up with a start realizing that I screwed up once more, and people have to change their expectations….of me, yet, again.

Once in a while there’s grace, the kind that’s a I’m-going-to-stick-with-you grace. And that’s amazing. That’s life-changing. When someone chooses to stay despite my failures that’s the stuff of miracles. But I do the same with people – I have expectations of people and seasons and realities no matter how much I try to squelch that optimism. I’m trying to hold onto anticipation. Because despite what it sounds like, it really is a little different.

Anticipation has the same touch as expectation with hope and belief engrained in the lines of its tender hands…but it is openness. Expectation is too specific, too laden with the narrow and strict, and mostly based on something external – past experiences or other people’s opinions even their stories. 

Anticipation is the seed enveloped in darkness and dirt, no light at the end of the tunnel, and the interchanging realities of drought and floods. It is trust in the Hands who planted you deep in that soil, a love of the smell and touch of those Hands, a dream of those Hands and the promise that those Hands will return again to provide new life. It’s the waiting, no matter what the expectations, no matter what the failures and disappointments, it’s the waiting, for God’s touch, the reminder of Emmanuel, God’s nearness in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, a strange and surprisingly happy waiting for the one that will never fail us or disappoint us or sleep and forget us.

“…that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself…”
― Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Middle of the Night and Half-Awake

FullSizeRender (8)

Nearly two weeks.

Of middle-of-the-night wakings. Of stumbling down the stairs to refill a sippy cup with milk for a feverish child. Of trips to the potty. Of soothing a child woken up by dreams of squids and spiders. Of patting a child back to bed with their blanket-duck.

Isn’t this supposed to be happening during their infant stage? Aren’t we supposed to be passed this right now? Shouldn’t I be getting way more sleep?

I’m walking through a lot of the night and yes, even the day half-awake. Almost dejavu – that feeling from the first six months of the twins’ lives when the days were not marked by minutes or hours but by the nurse-sleep-change cycle so there was no morning or evening. Just life on repeat. An oddly blissful music from the scent of fresh baby but a broken record permanently settled on the fog of weariness. A state of perpetual on-the-verge-of-collapse.

These days though it lends a peculiar sensation mixed in with this feeling of being at a crossroads in life. Fatigue provides a softness, in some ways, an openness, nerves are raw and emotions are on the surface – it can lead to snippiness but it can also lead to a strange and unexpected clarity. A feeling-things-deeply. So, I am letting it in. I’m still on this whole #middle kick. As an image. As a season. As a location. As a struggle.

Reading Lauren Winner’s Still and it’s really perfect right now. In the beginning pages she quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury:

It is not that I have a long journey to undertake in order to get to God, but that I have a long journey to my own reality. It is my heart, the centre or source of my own being, that is furthest away from my surface mind and feelings, and pilgrimage is always a travelling to where I am …God is not merely, like the Prodigal’s Son’s father, on the way to us: he is there at the heart. Or: he travels to meet himself in what is always other, eager to recognize his own joy and beauty in the distinctness of what is not God’s self. However we put it — there are countless ways – God’s loving kindness is there ahead of us. Forgiveness is never a matter of persuading God of something but of discovering for myself that there is no distance to be crossed, except that longest journey to that which gives truth and reality to my very self.

All of life is vocation. Right now I’m seeing vocation become more and more about living into the way God lovingly created each of us – each with our gifts, but also our interests and passions, hunger and vision. But it’s realizing that it isn’t static. It’s going to need a continuous openness and posture of listening because vocation will always be about God’s call – not just to a particular task – but to follow God more closely – to be loved by God more deeply – to enjoy God more fully – to go further up and further in. And these moments in the middle, in the in-between, these are times to cling to these realities and promises all the more. 

More middle of the night stillness. Being half-awake is okay. For now.

Middle 1

In the Middle: Wondering and Wandering

I’m devouring books these days like a famished soul that has been lost in a desert wilderness where the only possibility of quenching any thirst comes from the backlit text on my phone. Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her and Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark and Lauren Winner’s Still (a real book, not Kindle) and Amber Haines’ Wild in the Hollow. Books I started a while ago and need to finish, and all the latest – each one somehow about the rawness of being caught in the in-between, whether the middle or darkness, but it all feels like a homesickness and longing. So familiar.

Nobody ever wants to admit that his or her soul is feeling wasted and desolate. That faith feels like a no-man’s land or a ghost town with tumbleweeds rolling through like the cliche Western movie. That feeling or believing or trusting or following is clutching straws that are brittle and fall apart in your hands and slide through your fingers just when you think you have a grasp on something.


This is what theology looks like.

I keep hearing that chant – the call and response on the short Vine posted the day after the anniversary of Michael Brown’s killing. I see them standing huddled together heads down laying hands on each other like it’s an ordination – these demonstrators are being commissioned for something massively important as they shout #blacklivesmatter and #nojusticenopeace anointed with sweat and tears and blood and Spirit and set apart for a holy work in which liturgy is wailing and protest. They are demonstrating resistence in the flesh-and-blood and show us what survival means in its purest form by simply breathing and lamenting together. Hands clutching each other eyes set on the heavenly prize which is the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before them and surround them even now.

They are where they are supposed to be – these saints, these angels, these ministers of light and love and power.


I keep thinking about tactics. That the pursuit of justice requires participants and players at all levels of the game. And in all possible spaces and places. There is no one way to do this justice work. We need all hands on deck. Somehow, this shapes my sense of vocation more and more as the urgency towards the goal and theology of #blacklivesmatter becomes more intensely a part of this life. It’s unavoidable. Another shooting. #andregreen What does it mean to embody this theology here, there, wherever I am? What does it mean as a parent? What does it mean as a woman? What does it mean as a clergyperson? What does it mean as an AAPI? To work towards the tangible goals of decreasing police violence and brutality, better housing, employment, and education for all, and dismantling the prison industrial complex. What can I do from where I am? What can the #church do?

I lift up the darkness. I embrace the middle. I articulate the longing for a profound and meaningful transformation that impacts all – and particularly the church – from within – without – and throughout its currents. I do what I can with what is before me wherever I am. With the sacraments of defeat and loss, the liturgy of protest and grief, I hold up to the sky, prop up on my hands and back, those prophets of today whose voices are crying out in the wilderness for #blacklivesmatter #allblacklivesmatter and the call to #sayhername.

Deeper Story: Summers, Lazy Days, and Blessings

Joe and Mihee
(Me and my brother too long ago. Yes. I’m apparently wearing a tube top. The only one I will ever wear in my life.)

We would wake up early and stay up as late as possible.

Me, my little brother, and kids in our neighborhood. Summer days were full of long hours at the community pool playing an eternal game of Marco Polo then when we got tired it would be back-float competitions and our own version of synchronized swimming. We would burn, then peel, and quickly turn a dark brown with the outline of our swimsuits tattooed in our winter flesh color onto our shoulder and backs.

Sometimes bikes would be our mode of adventure and we would ride to another neighborhood lying to our parents about how many Popsicles or cans of Coke we bought throughout the day. We’d come home covered in sticky messes and the truth would literally be etched on our faces with remnants of the forbidden left behind despite our efforts to clean it up with water from a garden hose. Probably, the major sugar crash gave it away.

It didn’t matter. We didn’t have a care in the world.


When it was just me and my brother and we were too little to go out we would spend hours in the backyard searching for grasshoppers to keep as pets in old jam jars. We’d cram handfuls of grass in there as makeshift nests to assuage any guilt of trapping these helpless creatures. Of course, it was the least we should do to be as hospitable as possible while they struggled and jumped against the glass trying to make sense of the shimmering sun through the walls of their prisons.

And my brother and I would run and run up the hill to the back of our yard to the fence and then back down. Laps over and over again chasing butterflies and birds and clouds trying to forget that there was a fence around us – to protect us – while the rest of the world spun on.


I was up late with Baby Oz one night last week. He was unusually fussy and inconsolable even at my breast. Though maybe common for most babies – certainly with the twins – it felt strange with him since because he loves to sleep. When his wailing turned into two, and then three hours of crying we decided to take him into the ER.

We got there and filled out paperwork almost immediately. As soon as we went in to see the nurse he was…Quiet. Observant. And even cheerful. He was not the screaming baby of 20-minutes-ago. Andy and I looked at each other in exasperation. We would have to wait another two hours before getting discharged at 630 am and come to sleep for a couple hours while my parents watched the twins before heading back home.

I didn’t fall asleep right away. I watched him sleeping next to me. I tried to push out of my mind the what-if pictures of him in the hospital all the time with tubes snaking in and out of his little body. We are fortunate. Blessed, I guess, would be one word. All I want to do in that moment for all three of the babies is to build huge fences around them. To shut out diseases and guns and drugs and eating disorders and bullies. Even if it means shutting out the butterflies and birds and clouds.


Blessed. Blessings. Favor. Joel Osteen has made me hate both those words with his favor-mindedness and bull-shit prosperity gospel. Because it dilutes those tragedies that need to be told in its full-body-ness. I need more.

I can’t shake the George Zimmerman infraction. And all the other stories surfacing in Chicago and NY with not only teenage boys but children and women on whom the sewage of injustice is being poured out on. It makes me seize up with anger. Where and when will that arc bend towards justice? It isn’t just about my babies and wondering what they will face on the future but my neighbor’s babies, those who are black and brown (though almost invisible here in Bloomington I know they exist). And I think of the absurdity. The absurdity of my children with all their blessings and privilege. They are so privileged. No fears, no hunger, no loss, no cold. I’m wracked with guilt some days. And I’m so deeply grateful on most. Still. It’s not enough to build fences for and around them. I need to tear them down. I need to be a part of building something. Something more.

Redemption comes in strange place, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are

And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning up inside…-Sara Groves

Originally posted at Deeper Story.