Friday, April 6, 2018

Ask a Green Person {Earth Month Series}

There once was a column I followed called "Ask a Clean Person". That got me thinking...and from that idea was born "Ask a Green Person", my first installment of my Earth Month Series for 2018.

My first ever question comes from Patti. P.:
Q: What does green living look like in daily life?

A: This is a big topic, so I'll break it down into smaller sections. My family's daily care for creation takes shape in a few areas: food, waste, cleaning, and energy/transportation.

Food in our house is mostly vegetarian. I'm the cook, I'm a vegetarian, therefore I cook vegetarian. My vegetarianism comes from a desire to decrease my carbon footprint and improve my health (and
the health of my family) by eating a plant-based diet.

Image result for decreasing meat consumption is good for the planet
Image taken from:

Last year we purchased a share in a local CSA First Fruits Homestead, which yielded us fresh, local produce and the ability to form a relationship with the people who grow our food.

We compost our food scraps and use it to fertilize our garden in the spring. We recycle all paper, cardboard, and plastic that we can locally. We try not to buy overly packaged products. We use our own grocery bags instead of plastic ones. We pack lunches in reusable containers and baggies. We use stainless steel straws instead of plastic and steer clear of other single-use plastic items. We're working on remembering to keep reusable mugs and take out containers in our cars so we can avoid styrofoam cups and take out containers.

I subscribe to two eco-friendly products services: Grove Collaborative and Mighty Nest. Both of these services help me find non-toxic and eco-friendly cleaning products as well as personal care products and home goods. I'm a big fan of Method products, which are eco-friendly but also meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Using eco-friendly and non-toxic products is good for the environment and good for my family, reducing the amount of chemicals in our bodies and watersheds.

We drive a plug-in hybrid car. We try to fit as many errands as we can into one trip into town. We use a programmable thermostat, close unused air vents, use LED light bulbs, unplug items like cell phone chargers when not in use, and do all our wash with cold water.

Green living is more than fancy products or a holier-than-thou attitude: it's a way we show love for our creator and care for our neighbors.

What are your best green living tips? Post them in the comments below.
Want to submit a question? Email me at

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge

Do you have a shelf full of books you've never read? I sure do.
This year I'm going to do something about it.

Each month, I'm committed to reading 2 books. Some have been sitting on my shelf for years. Some I bought for my Kindle when they were $1.99 and have never been read. Some are old favorites that I don't own but will gladly check out of the public library. The idea is to not spend money buying new books.

Here's my list so far:

January: Of Mess and Moxie and Faithful Families
February: The Gifts of Imperfection and The Sacred Enneagram
March: Bird by Bird and Present Over Perfect
April: Mystics and Misfits and The New Jim Crow
May: Assimilate or Go Home and Asylum Denied
June: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I Am Malala
July: The Grid and Moral Ground
August: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and God and the Green Divide
September: Radical and The Screwtape Letters
October: Hands Free Mama and One Thousand Gifts
November: Pastor's Kid and The Pastor's Family
December: ? and ?

As you can see, it's all just a bit of light reading (sarcasm font). Some of it is topical and thematic, some not.

But I need your help--I ran out of ideas for December. What should I add to this list? What are your favorite reads? Comment with your picks below!

Friday, January 5, 2018

My #oneword365 for 2018

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
2 Corinthians 3:12

My word came to me quickly this year. It's been with me for several months, actually. This is the bulletin board above my desk.

The words that jump out at me most are bold and hope. And that's where I am these days: feeling the tension between fear and hope, between inaction and boldness.

2017 was a year that scared me. I did things that I wouldn't normally do: I traveled by myself to Seattle for the Climate Reality training, to Minnesota for a conference, and to Pittsburgh for a UMW tour of a fracking site. I drove all over Illinois presenting for Faith in Place. I marched. I had a few writing pieces published. I spoke at my sorority's national conference. I preached. I raised funds to combat human trafficking. I took steps to start getting serious about writing a book--I even let Todd read some of it.

I also encountered anxiety for the first time. I had to get serious about self care and prioritizing my mental health. I felt deep despair about the state of our country. I felt distress about the future of the Church. I saw racism with new eyes. I said #metoo. I felt fear in a way I'd never had before in my 37 years of sheltered, privileged existence.

This year will bring more things that scare me. I'll help craft and direct UMW's climate justice work. I'll be presenting at UMW's Assembly. I'll continue my outreach work with Faith in Place. I'll be attending a conference to help guide my steps in writing a book.

I'm scared, but I also see hope. I'm watching for resurrection. I'm praying with my feet. I'm clinging to Jesus. I'm ready for resistance. It's time to be BOLD.

What's your one word this year?

Previous words herehere, here, and here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lifting the Fog

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Ephesians 5:11

It's foggy in Pittsburgh. It's the kind of fog that prevents you from seeing down the street, but not out your window. This creates a sense of insulation and isolation--that you're all alone in space rather than part of a large urban city. The fog is probably because of Pittsburgh's hilly topography, or the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, or the unseasonably warm weather in the first weekend of December.

I found myself in Pittsburgh for a meeting of the United Methodist Women Be Just Be Green Jurisdiction Guides. We came from around the United States to set outreach goals and strategy, decide how to communicate our advocacy campaigns to our members, and plan our presentations for Assembly in 2018. Because our advocacy campaign is about methane and natural gas extraction or "fracking", we organized a visit to local communities in Pennsylvania impacted by the natural gas industry. We partnered with local activists and families and listened to their stories.

Fracking is the process of injecting water, chemicals, and sand underground to fracture rocks (like shale) to release gas. The process uses large amounts of water which,when mixed with fracking chemicals, becomes toxic. Fracking also releases methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

When fracking began to increase in Pennsylvania in the early 2010s, fracking operators claimed that the United States had a 100 year supply of cheap natural gas and that fracking could help lead to energy independence. They also promised jobs. What has happened instead is a devastation of land, air, and water in the name of progress. The majority of the jobs created were temporary construction jobs. It is very unlikely that natural gas will be used to heat our homes and power our vehicles for the next generation, as the supply has been overestimated. We may already have passed the peak of natural gas extraction. It is rapidly becoming too expensive to extract natural gas--the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) profit margin is closing.

What is clear are the health and environmental risks from fracking. Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, is in the top 2% for cancer risk from air pollution. Up to 14% of Pittsburghers suffer from asthma as compared to the national average of 8%-10%. Asthma acutely impacts children, and is a leading cause of chronic school absenteeism. Air pollution exacerbates cardiovascular disease and is a significant cause of premature death among those with preexisting cardiovascular conditions. Air pollution has been connected to autism, diabetes, and dementia.

We toured Beaver County, PA where Shell is planning to build an ethane cracker plant, the largest petrochemical facility in North America. This plant will increase demand for fracked natural gas which will be turned into plastic. It will also trigger the construction of an ethane pipeline system that will cross the Ohio river.


I was struck by a stone marker I read at one of our tour stops. The land where the cracker plant is being built was gained by treaty with the Delaware, Wyandot, Chippewa, and Ottawa Indian tribes. Its devastating to think of how we've abused the land, air, and water that was never ours to have.

We continued on our tour to Washington County, the most heavily fracked county in Pennsylvania. We saw fracking pads and waste water retention ponds within 900 feet of an elementary school. We heard about the mystery surrounding chemicals in fracking fluid and methane emissions, which the fracking operations fight not to disclose. We watched as several large trucks full of fracking waste merged onto a highway and wondered aloud what would happen if one of the trucks spilled it's contents.


We met a man and his son who live with a fracking well in their backyard. The man has suffered a brain tumor which robbed him of his sight in one eye. He has kidney disease and endocrine problems. His son is incontinent. He has learning and attention problems. He was burned by an unseen chemical in his bathtub water as a small child. We met a mother who's child has leukemia. We met a mother who has to keep air quality monitors in every room of her house to keep an eye on the particulate matter in her air. They can't drink their water. They're concerned about the animals on their farm. They are watching their land be poisoned in front of their eyes, but since the fracking well isn't technically on their land they have no legal recourse. No one can move because they can't sell their homes.

As our tour progressed, the fog lifted. The sun began to shine. And the shadows around the fracking industry lifted. I saw with clarity the lies, corruption, manipulation, and greed. The evil of putting profits over people was exposed. But I felt a small sense of relief that fracking wasn't going on in my backyard--my children were safe. And then three days after I returned home from Pennsylvania there was a natural gas pipeline explosion in Illinois that killed 2 people, a father and son working on their farm. If you don't think natural gas affects your community, think again.

But the fog is lifting. There is hope. There are dedicated activists like Moms Clean Air Force, Clean Air Council, and Protect Our Children fighting to shine light on this industry and protect our common land, air, and water. There are resources like the Oil & Gas Threat Map that can help you assess your family's risk. Don't be afraid to educate yourself about fracking, speak to your representatives, and write letters to the editor. Speak truth to power. The only way to make change is to do the hard work. We cannot turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters suffering in Pennsylvania, or Texas, or Oklahoma. But if we work with one another, we can lift the fog together. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ask a Pastor's Wife

It's time again for Ask a Pastor's Wife!
I asked my Facebook friends to submit their questions, and they did not disappoint.
If you have any more questions about clergy family life, post them in the comments below and I'll answer them in future posts.

My answers are in italics.

Question #1
How do you mentally prepare yourself for appointment season?
This is the first time we've been appointed somewhere that didn't have a clear ending date. At our first appointment, we knew my husband would be moved after 2 years, so we were able to plan, pack, and prepare our hearts accordingly. This time it's much different. The rumor mill and church politics can produce anxiety, not to mention distract from the purpose of itinerant ministry, but it's part of the deal. Moving would be easy if we knew the church we were moving to would be a good fit for our gifts and graces, but it's nearly impossible to know that until you've already arrived. 

I've said before that I don't mind moving and that usually I enjoy the details and challenges of setting up a new home. But I'd be lying if I said that with each season's passing I didn't repack my decorations a little more carefully, not sure if the next time I open the boxes will be in this home or another. 
My kids have taken our moves in stride so far. But this will be the first time my youngest daughter will remember moving, and my middle and oldest daughters are getting older and more attached to friends and routines. It's only going to get harder from here. 

So we pray. We pray that the bishop and cabinet are carefully and prayerfully organizing moves. We pray that if we are moved, it's to an ideal match for our gifts and graces. We pray that the kids will find friends, that the schools will provide an excellent education, and that our new community will embrace us all. And if we are to stay, we pray that we can continue to be effective and achieve the goals the church has set for themselves each year.
And in the meantime we keep serving right where we are, up until the day we move.

Question #2
How do you manage family and having to split your husband's time/attention?
It's a balancing act, no different that what other working families go through day to day, I imagine. But it's easier to manage the demands on our time when we know we're living out our calling and doing what God has equipped us to do. 

Todd and I have flexible work schedules, so it's rare that one of us can't be home with the kids while the other works. When it happens, though, it's pretty stressful and reminds us that living far away from family is hard and lonely. 

Our family runs on a different routine: we spend more time together during weekdays and less on weekends. My husband has evening meetings 2-3 nights a week, so we try to keep certain days as sabbath. This tends to change with the church seasons. And what works for us now likely won't in our next church/es. As the kids get older, it will get even more complicated. But it's part of the gig. 

After 15 years of marriage and 6 years of ministry, we're learning to prioritize self care so we can be wholehearted parents and spouses. For me, that might look like getting a pedicure or having a kid-free lunch with a friend. For my husband, that might mean a round of golf or going to see a movie by himself. I used to think self care was an outrageous extravagance, but now I see how critical it is to our well-being.

Question #3
What are your hobbies?
 I like to read, write, and cook. I don't watch much TV, but I'm a news and political drama junkie: The West Wing, Veep, The Daily Show, and  Last Week Tonight are shows I never miss or rewatch regularly. 
Many of my passions have been inspired by things I've read, so I tend to stick to certain topics (environmental/gender/economic/racial  justice, faith/theology, family) and authors (Sarah Bessey, Brene Brown, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Shauna Niequist). 
I've had to turn my cooking up a notch when I went vegetarian this summer--it's taken some time to adjust my cooking so that I'm not fixing multiple meals each time we gather at the table. But I'm enjoying the challenge, especially when I have a bit of time to meal plan at the beginning of each week. 

Question #4
If you had a day to yourself what would you do?
Such a lovely question. I'd answer differently depending on my location, but let's assume I'm at home in central Illinois. I'd sleep in and let my husband make lunches and get the kids off to school. I'd have some free time to read or write (or both!). I'd plan a nice dinner and head to the local farmer's market to source some fresh ingredients and maybe a bouquet of flowers. I'd have a lunch date or coffee with my husband or a friend at one of our favorite local places. Once the kids came home from school they'd play nicely together until dinner was ready. We'd eat outside or picnic near the lake and share about our day. We'd take the dog for a walk and watch the sunset. My older girls would help the youngest bathe and dress for bed. We'd snuggle up for stories and prayers. Then my husband and I would watch a movie or show together and have a beer or glass of wine.

It doesn't sound like much, but it's the intentionality of this day that appeals to me--being able to take some time for me, to tend to important relationships, to be quiet and still for just a minute, and to enjoy some natural beauty. Most days I get to do at least one of the things I listed, and over the course of a week I might check off several more. Life is pretty good!

Thank you again for your questions!