30 January 2007


In my previous life, probably b/c of a college friend, i utilized this philosophy regarding vacation: you don't count the day you're on, and you don't count the day you leave, thus in my current scenario it's ONE day away. (Please don't consider this too closely as this method breaks down completely b/c tomorrow technically is the day before I leave, and I can't count it...and well, hmm, see, yes, it falls apart, but really, b/c it's the day before the trip, it doesn't even matter).
It's about anticipation.
And preparation.
And excitement.
And countdown.
I love it.

So the last time I saw Tommy and Gilly was when Beth and I traveled to Scotland for their wedding in 0605. This is one of the fabulous pictures that Beth captured of the day.

Since that time, they moved to Ireland (well, technically, Tommy already lived there). Their story continued in a whirlwind of sorts as they soon got pregnant and were excited to usher in a new life. Until the baby ushered in quite early (April instead of July) and we all hung on with them as "wee" Beth fought for life.
We desperately wanted to go see her. And them. So finally, by God's great grace, oodles of prayers, and the green light, so to speak, last August, after wee Beth had been safely home for a couple weeks, we booked the flight. For February!!!
We don't even know what she looks like. But we're on our way, shortly.
And someday, soon, I'll likely have lovely pictures of her for all to enjoy. Stay tuned!

28 January 2007


Grief hung like the air on a Michigan summer day while we packed boxes. The degree of humidity varied, based a bit on length of association. But it was heavy, none-the-less.
Grief can't be contained oft times. Nor controlled. Nor managed.
Grief exists, but simple it is not. Grief consumes. It eventually fades, but not always before plowing through another time or two.

We sorted, at times casually, and hurriedly, through 11 years of church life and ministry. Some items we packed to use. Other items were disgarded. Some were stacked for others to browse through.
Eleven years of life, transformations, births, anniversaries, deaths.
And this passage ended by packing boxes, taking down the signs, and shutting the doors.
The strange thing is, the death of this church is providing life for another church. How bizarre, really, to consider that death leads to life.
The life-giving quality of death doesn't minimize pain.
The life-giving quality of death doesn't negate loss.
Yet life springs forth.

Today, despite the loss for the church which closed its doors and is encouraged to join "mine," I give thanks for death.
I've heard that unless a seed falls to the ground that new life cannot spring forth.

So we journey on.
Through death.
On to life.

Bring life to us again oh Lord.

Pix credit: Lauren!! Playing/teaching hand and foot at MCC winter retreat 0107.

26 January 2007

back by popular demand and...

A couple days ago, i had the privilege of lunching with Marjo and Denise, and a couple more great friends (Lori and Cindy). Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the entire fivesome. Regardless, I love them and delight in spending time with them. So, it's time to highlight their lovely mugs for a few more days. [Jordan, hopefully this will silence your complaints about removing the picture so quickly! :-)] And here's also a photo including both Jordan and Lori... Cindy, my apologies. I'll have to post a picture of you some other time...

In other news, I've been thinking about love and logic a lot lately.
It stems from watching my friend Karla parent, mostly. And from a few months ago when Beth and I got to stay with Karla and Keith's kids. It amazes me how the kids respond to the boundaries. Personally, it's sometimes hard to guard them. For instance, the kids are sooo cute, so when their behavior is naughty, or even on a rare occasion, defiant, sometimes the cute factor clouds my perspective.

But really, as parents especially all know, kids need boundaries. And contrary to my people-pleasing tendencies, kids don't "hate you" when you stick to your word. It's still about choices and options. When Z didn't want to put on his coat, he was given the option, "Z, do you want to wear your coat, or carry your coat?" He chose carrying it. But not too far into the cold, he decided to put the coat on. Every night the kids get a choice of either crawling in bed themselves before the timer goes off, or having their [momma, papa, etc] put them in bed. Most of the time they want to do it themselves. But if they procrastinate and the timer expires, even if they balk at not doing it themselves, they don't get to exercise that choice.

Undoubtably there are other better examples, but I was wondering, if in some slightly parallel way, if God uses love and logic with us? Unfortunately, for the life of me, I can't think of what scenario I was imagining even tho I really have been pondering this for several weeks now. That's quite scary.

but maybe you can...any ideas out there? Have you ever felt like God presented two options, providing you a choice, yet when it came down to it, and the "timer sounded," that you wished you would have done it "your" way instead of God doing it??

23 January 2007

category of "embarassing myself..."

Truth be told, as most people who know me could attest, this title could be a regular feature of the gracie blog. So here are some of the latest entries...

In my ever-too-extroverted way, I made what should have been an innocent comment to someone at our winter retreat this weekend, only to realize that I was not just pointing out a fuzzy in hair. It was dandruff that I blasted the spotlight on. And it was embarassing. To all of us. I'm soooo sorry. (As always, it's appropriate to think before speaking. duh!)

In my enthusiasm to get to Ireland, because I'm heading there with two of my favorite friends NEXT very week, I was on the phone with the airline to make sure our seats are together. As I so helpfully articulated the confirmation number, it took a few seconds before I realized I said, "F as in Frank, R as in Roger, and X as in Zebra." Zebra? er, uh, rather, Xylophone. Jeepers, it looks even more ridiculous in print. And it sounded pretty ridiculous. Beth may still be laughing...not to mention the airline help person.

And then today, on a quick walk around a store with Karla, we were mocking and actually being a bit disgusted about some t-shirts slogans and sayings. Nevertheless, I found one I tho't was kinda cute. Until I realized these stick figures were not so very cute. They were suggesting a 3 some. Eeew. (Thank you oh wise Karla for informing my ignorance.)

In other news, it's my brother in laws birthdays today (not even slightly sure how hyphen and apostrophe action should happen there. Help! Mom). Both Rich and Lito. And to top all of that off, my nephew Pedro is in town...so this picture is in honor of Lito and his sons, the Monillas boys!
On top of that I'll also say, Happy Birthday Rich and Lito!!! I celebrate you on this very day!

Finally, I start my next class tomorrow. Hooray!!!
And I'm going to Ireland next week.
Oh right,
Mentioned that already.

Pix credit: Rich above, Hildred, 0406, and Monillas boys, also Hildred, 0803.

20 January 2007

defining "who I wanna be when I grow up"

In the category of "can't avoid it" questions, I'm constantly reinventing and (hopefully) improving my response
to the "what do you do" query.
At our second annual church winter retreat this very weekend,
another "can't avoid" question surfaced. "If you could do anything, what would you do?"

I'm at a loss.
Not that I don't know what things I do or do not like to do.
Or even because I haven't enjoyed jobs in my past.
I'm fond of nearly every one on record.

but, when it comes to filling in the job "category" on a search engine like monster, I don't know what to say. I'm not an engineer, nurse, doctor, teacher, therapist, designer, etc. I can't even claim to be clergy, or a pastor. And "other" seems much too, well, ambiguous? perhaps? I can legitimately claim my graduate student status, but I'm not sure that really increases my "attractiveness."

Here's something, not sure what, but something. At last year's retreat, I retreated into slumber sometime just after midnight. Although the accommodations were more than adequate, I frequently woke during the night as persons walked through the hallways, or even as I heard the "still up" folks laughing in the common area down the hall. In fact, one wake up, I glanced to see it was nearly 3 am and thought, "crazy, foolish people. Why would anyone stay up THIS late..."

so this very morning, after some satisfying and competitive games of hand and foot, when the "remaining four" of us decided to retire, and it was nearly FOUR AM!!! I could only transfer the crazy, foolish label to myself.
Except, reacting personally, naturally, it was worth it to stay up.

So, does that "endurance" register anywhere as a valuable hiring quality??

Hmmm. Maybe I don't want to know the answer to that.

17 January 2007

things that freak me out... a little

I'm stealing this phrase (things that freak me out) from my friend, Cindy. And in my case, it's not a quick explanation. But I'll offer a beginning. I grew up in a Christian environment, with parents who love the Lord. They prayed for me and grew me up in the Lord. Part of that provision included education in a church and school setting. I was taught wonderful truths from the Bible.

That said, (with much gratitude for what was taught to me), I don't recall much guidance about the Holy Spirit. Oh yes, in the sense of a comforter, as one who teaches, guides, corrects, etc. But as to the more "mysterious" side of the Holy Spirit, well, I'm not remembering much emphasis.

So my journey, and perhaps growing hunger and awareness, has provided some incredibly rich and yet, sometimes "freaking-me-out" type of experiences.

For instance, the first time I "fell over" to rest in the Spirit.
I know what happened.
I'm not one who can really be "pushed" to the ground.
Yet, it's not that easy to describe how or why God uses this way to "speak."

I remember the first time someone said, "Diana, I can see the Holy Spirit all over you..." (Please, I mean no disrespect, but I remember thinking, really? would I see that, too, if I had a mirror?)

Several years ago I was introduced to the Dunamis project, which teaches about the Holy Spirit. I attended a conference on the healing power of Jesus and witnessed ways God continues to heal now.

People argue this type of gift ceased, and some might argue about some of the ways healing may be "exploited" in our media saturated world. I merely testify to what I saw and what I've experienced.

And then, there's the whole prophecy area--including the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, word of prophecy "family." Yes. This can perhaps conjure up horrible memories or even fear of condemnation or judgment. I'm not an expert, but what I've learned and been reading about in this area insists that God's plan for prophetic words is that they are words of comfort, edification, and for the purpose of building up the body of Christ.

And I'm thinking, don't we need that??
Any opinions about any of this out there?

Regardless, for me personally, the journey, exploration, adventure, and learning continues.
So much mystery. So little time...

16 January 2007

i hate it when i miss a party!

Late last week, three of my favorite three-year olds, (well, at the time, they were still two), celebrated their birthday. I was out of town so I missed it. Their Mom, in all her niceness, tho't about celebrating them at our Monday night small group party which meant I could participate in the festivities.
Yippee! So I "signed up," not being one to miss out on such a significant event. And then, got back into town to realize, I'd also committed to leading a meeting at my church, the same very night.

Must make better notes in my mental calendar.

Hoping for a few celebratory moments prior to my meeting, I showed up early to at least see the kids, but they were gone getting their hairs cut.
I left for my meeting, seeing their cute new "dos" but without any play time.
And, contrary to my other friend's' assurance, they had all kinds of fun while i was gone.
Happy for them...really, I am!

I absolutely abhor missing parties.

In related news, however, I must rejoice and testify that God has soooooo answered the prayers and cries of our hearts at "my" little church that the meeting really blew me away. He answers in such fantastic, creative ways. I mean, sometimes I think I have a good idea, but Abba, Father, He has that going on! He's good!! And I love seeing His great ideas roll out.

Thanks, Lord, for your overwhelmingly generous and creative ways!

Pix credit: #1 Z & me & S: Camping 0806, Karen!
#2 B in his blue-eyed-ness; camping 0906, His momma!

13 January 2007


to clear the record immediately, I should explain that the word "shattered," to our Scottish friends, (and maybe others, too), means one who's had too much drink. that definition is not my intent for this post.

Right, so here's the thing, I'm on a retreat. And since it's the tail end of my first week in the graduate program for "my" masters in spiritual formation, I expected the retreat to provide the space and format to practice the spiritual disciplines, and to reflect on the week's teaching and experiences, etc.

And then, we arrived at the monastery.
After a brief stop to drop off our belongings and get oriented with our sleeping area, we went to the chapel.
And we proceeded to stand through our first three hour worship service.
(I did say stand!)
And that was the beginning of the disallusionment of another paradigm.

I recall the moment of "understanding" systemic racism during a race-relations training I participated in. It ocurred throughout the training in significant ways in part as I realized that chunks were omitted from history lessons.

Somewhat similarly, the innocent introduction to the Orthodox church begins.
To be sure, likely I have not cared to know more. But I'm sure that before this weekend, my only realized connection with the orthodox church was that a guy on a volleyball team, from long ago, was part of the Greek Orthodox Church. And that's about it, really.

I won't pretend to do justice to all I'm learning and experiencing. and I won't pretend that I'm ready or eager to "convert" to this type of Christianity, even if they are the original church. I'm not even slightly drawn to the liturgy and worship service, for one thing.

But I'm completely captivated by the way they pursue living the Christian life. The perspective they take on heaven and salvation seems to line up much more with scripture than with what many mainline evangelicals profess and enact. And their practices about community, caring for one another, and charity in the context of the church, and church meaning all of life, really compel me. Unfortunately, I've identified that I entered the weekend with a preconceived notion. In my ignorance, I'd lumped this church in with my limited knowledge of catholicism. When that's not the case at all.

There are several things, however, which challenge my "normal" way of thinking. For instance, they pray for people who have "departed." They include them in the communion of saints. "Why should we stop praying for them?" Which supports their perspective that heaven is not a destination, nor is it a static environment. It is a process of continuing to become more like Christ. So they continue to pray for the saints who have gone on before them.

Because of my previously stated ignorance, when I began listening to this, I immediately assumed they were praying TO these people, which made me defensive and want to reject everything else on offer through the orthodox church. How unfortunate, actually, to reject the whole, because what I witness, observe, and believe I'm learning, is that these Christians love the Lord and each other and His creation with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. It is a privilege to participate in their community and receive their generous hospitality for these days.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you.

09 January 2007


Yikes!!! I'm in school again. Crazy-i-ness. Two-and-a-half days into this masters program and I'm loving it.

I'm at Spring Arbor University, being taught by Richard Foster, among other wise and wonderful instructors. I'm meeting "my" fellow pilgrims in this [three year] journey. Our Christian, celtic (he calls himself a contemplative mystic) worship leader completely captivates us with his gifted guitar rhythms and his unique weaving of liturgical prayers, hymns, worship songs, and original songs. AND we're reading great books like Bonhoeffer's Life Together, Willard's The Great Omission, and well, a book I'm struggling to get through at the moment, The Orthodox Church, by Timothy Ware. (Is it really shameful to admit I really don't know what the orthodox church is???)

To help in the reading, (actually, it's really not so much helping me to read, but more about accountability, community, and motivation), I'm headed to my small group. We're gonna read together. (Aw!!) So I gotta run.

But sometime, I'll post about how the Holy Spirit moved in us today...how we heard a 75-year-old Lutheran pastor talk about healing prayer...how I'm seeing (via stories) the movement of the Lord across denominations and nondenominational churches in such exciting ways. And well...I guess, other things that might emerge in this week.

And one of these days, perhaps even at the retreat at the end of this week, I'm gonna deal a bit more with the reality of not having a job. yeah. One of these days....

05 January 2007


I knew the question would come.
I'd actually been practicing conversations so as to avoid the question, and the subsequent answer.
But it was unavoidable.
Last night, in the best of circumstances, as "my" lil church plant is embracing another church to become part of us, as we hosted a "get to know you" type of open house, I was asked, "so, Diana, what do you DO?"

"Ummmm, nothing, actually."

I've pondered this question sincerely hundreds of other times.
I've often thought about how we are human beings, and not human doings, and wondered how we could ask questions of one another to determine who we are, aside from discovering what type of occupation we hold.

Unfortunately, for the people who asked, I couldn't disguise my discomfort or my pain as I responded. In fact, in the category of tmi, likely, I expressed it. This led to their discomfort, and their apology for asking me. Which is ridiculous, and made me want to apologize. It's our common practice, afterall. Probably nine times out of ten when we first meet people we ask, "what do you do?" None of that was their fault. Ugh. It's complicated.

And then, just minutes ago, I walked into this Panera, one farther from my house, b/c for some reason I often run into people I know at the one closest to my house, and as I slid into a corner booth to remain anonymous, someone says, "Hi Diana!!" And as I look up and greet her, she also says, and forgive me, the volume seemed like a megaphone to the world,
"Hey, I hear you're unemployed!"
It felt like I was labeled with an inappropiate social disease, which is pathetic, I know.
God is breaking this pride for sure.

Perhaps these experiences needed to happen to force me to articulate and reflect on who I really am.
A job certainly provides boundaries and definition. And I loved my job. So it also provided joy, challenge, great friendships, and fullfilment, among other things. And to be sure, employment provides the necessary financial security, or some stability at least.

But what anchors anything, and what remains, is who I am.
And really, the only thing that matters in defining me, is that I am a child of God.

And my job description is to love God and love others.

With such simplicity, why does that seem so stinkin' hard??

Pix credit: A waitress in Florida took this picture for us. :-) This is another picture of some friends, from my last work trip, who are some of the folks in the barriers to cross cultural ministry that I'm part of...or, was a part of, as it were.

03 January 2007


Some moments hang with such ceremony and reverence that to comment seems intrusive. Still, my soul remains heavy with events of the day.

The small group team which I was privileged to work alongside these last 4 1/2 years offered me a blessing today. They had wanted some moments of farewell and closure, and even though my role officially "ceased to exist" on December 31, today was the first day we could get the 15 folks on a conference call.

And so, with some fear and hesitation, actually, I phoned to join this "final" call with the team. Perhaps my hesitation stemmed from denial--not wanting closure because I didn't want the phonecall to signal the journey's end. There was other junk within me as well. I wanted an honest conversation, yet, I didn't trust myself to "not sin" or to not let the hurt of my heart spill out. I didn't want my wounds to poison the beauty of the extended blessing.

Sometimes hurt and pain cannot be avoided.

When a question was directed toward Jordan asking her how she was doing, words failed.
The turmoil and choked silence signalled other distress, and seemed most appropriate, actually, in light of the process and her continuing reality.

Yet the love and blessing also serves to soothe the pain, at least providing space to identify the blessing of a partnership and journey. Thus, I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity. My life is so much richer because of this incredible group of passionate ministry partners and friends.

In a different setting, yet similar mood, our attention turned to the funeral for President Gerald R Ford here in GR. And after we watched most of it, Jordan and I walked the couple miles to the church where the funeral was held. We arrived in time to see the processional reach the motorcade while the band played Faith of our Fathers, and Hail to the Chief. We joined the respectful and quiet crowd as soldiers loaded the casket into the hearse. We watched all the family members (one car withiin inches of us) and the dignitaries exit the church and enter their vehicles. Still silent, our eyes followed the lengthy line of vehicles drive down the street until they left our view.

We reached Jordan's house in time to watch the graveside service on television with a surreal sense that we had nearly touched these grieving family members and now were watching their not-so-private pain displayed all over again.

So many things in the day were unusual here, from the mild temperatures and glorious sunshine, to the historic moments of a presidential burial.

I'm not sure how to lay all of the thoughts, memories, images, and moments to rest.
Yet I know where to seek the rest of God. May His love, mercy and grace sustain us all.

photo credit: www.woodtv.com website

panic and provision

In a seemingly random and innocent move, a friend was "playing" on my mac on new year's eve and accidentally opened a word document on my desktop. upon closer observation, it was the requirements for my first class for my master's degree, the class which starts next week.

I didn't consume all the information, but a warning flashed in my very mind. The warning of "don't procrastinate about this!!
Investigate all you need to know before it's too late." (Pretty detailed warning, I know.)

So, in my first unemployed status action yesterday, I reopened the document to discover that I'm expected to thoroughly read five books by Sunday, submit three book reviews/reports, and be prepared to write two additional more extensive reports upon the completion of next week's intensive seminar.

PANIC ensued--like intense and major fluttering of my heart, soul, spirit, and hands actually!! Aaaiiieeee... (or insert your personalized panic noise should you have one).

Thus, I went right to it. Which means, I quickly checked email a minute. (I'm an ESFP afterall.) And that's where the ambush of God's provision hit me. One awaiting email was notification of a gift certificate for Amazon. With that gift certificate, I ordered the aforementioned books, save for one which I already owned, and one which Amazon doesn't carry. This may not seem entirely signficant, in that it wasn't hundreds or thousands of dollars for these books. But, it was an unexpected provision. And as we all trust God for our daily bread, it seemed like manna falling from the sky.

Panic prevented.
At least for a few minutes!!

Thanks again Abba!!

02 January 2007


it's the first official work day of 2007...and I'm not working.
instead I got to hang out with great friends (from what feels like a former life)
and reconnect with the activities and passions of their hearts.
I'm so glad for that opportunity.

still, i'm missing my work friends already.
so, the picture above shows you two of my favorites, denise and marjo.

I love you guys!!