Ace-a-Roney Chocolate Baby

You poor thing. I’m sorry your nicknames are so weird.

Most unborn babies get cute names like JuneBug, Peanut, Gumdrop, etc. Maybe someday soon someone will say something and a new…more appropriate..name will stick, but your big brother really really loves chocolate and thats what he said he wanted to call you – Chocolate Baby. So really, it just means he loves you a lot.

Ace-a-Roney will make more sense once you meet Mommy’s family.
P-Daddy was ‘almost Pope’ and decided he was going to change his name to Pope Ace Freely. Aunt Emily used to call Mommy Roney when Nana was pregnant with her..Uncle Benni likes Rice-a-Roney (The SanFrancisco Treat!) – thus, Ace-a-Roney.

Again, sorry. This is the family you were given. and I’m positive you will fit in just perfectly!

 

I wanted to write you a letter because it still doesn’t seem real that YOU are real. I just can’t tell you how excited Daddy and I are that you are coming. We wanted a new baby so badly, but we just couldn’t get pregnant. We tried all kinds of things and nothing worked. We finally decided we were going to stop trying for a few months because we were getting so sad and because Mommy needed a margarita BIG time.  Then! Guess what – when we finally decided to stop trying was when you decided to make your grand appearance!

You are such a gift. God has already taught Mommy and Daddy so much through you and you haven’t even been for a whole month. Something you will learn is that mommy likes to plan eeeeeverything. I’ve learned that God is better at it than I am. If we had gotten pregnant before, it wouldn’t have been you – and I wouldn’t trade you for anything.

It’s been so hard for me to accept that you’re really here. I think we tried for so long that it just seems like I’m pretending that you’re real. Today was the first day I didn’t take a pregnancy test again just to be sure. It is so hard not to worry that we’re going to lose you. I just feel like one couple can’t get this lucky 2 times in a row!

You are already so different from Micah. I was never REALLY nauseous with him, and I didn’t start feeling tired for a few weeks. Micah is a stubborn little man, but really goes with the flow and likes being part of a group. He was like that the whole time I was pregnant with him too. All of the symptoms were slight, but there.  You are so different. You are bold! You are HERE and you want me to know it! I am sooo tired. There are times when I can’t taste any food. I feel really nauseous at nighttime and I’m dizzy almost constantly.

Just for laughs in the future, here are some questions I’ve asked Micah and his responses:

What will we call the baby: Chocolate
What will the baby look like: Ice Cream
What color eyes will the baby have: Red
What kinds of things will the baby like to do: Trash, watch Mommy, watch Cars, play outside, feet.
What will the baby say: (he made no noise, only a crazy all tensed up face)
What will the baby wear: Drum sticks
What will the baby eat: Milk, french fries, apple sauce
What will you say to the baby: Wawawawa
A prayer for the baby: Dear God, Thank you for this day. Thank you for our baby and for baby Jesus. Auuumen.

We just love you a whole lot little Ace-a-Roney Chocolate Baby, and we can’t wait to continue getting to know you!

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A Storm’s ‘a Brewin’

It has been close to a year since I have written last, and what a year it has been! I was at General Conference – learning more about myself, God’s church and God’s love than I thought possible. It was a rough, but glorious experience. I still feel honored that I was chosen to attend to participate.

My son, my husband, and I have grown as a family and as friends. Of course, we have had our ups and downs, but they are my heart and my home and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Micah is 2 1/2 now – he is talking up a storm and is almost completely potty trained. He is curious, energetic, emotional, musical and already knows how to comfort you when you need it.  Adam is in his second to last year in Seminary and is now appointed as the Associate pastor at Moore First United Methodist Church and is the Lead Pastor for our Contemporary service, “The Moment.” He is doing such an amazing job! When we were first appointed the attendance was around 50 and now we have gotten up to an occasional 95. He is the most beautiful preacher (ya, he’s cute, but I mean his speaking). I’m so blessed to be able to hear God speak through him every single week. How many people can say they get to hear their favorite Message preached through their favorite person once a week? 🙂 He’s such a gift to our church, our community and our family. I love him more every day. I am now working part-time at home as the Coordinator for the Re-Ignite Workshops, and am able to spend every day with Micah. I love it so much! I also discovered I really love ‘crafting’ and have opened an Etsy Shop to sell a few things I have made. Check it out if you’re interested – http://www.Etsy.com/shop/AlyShahan

This past year has been rough for me, emotionally. Most people who know me know that I am almost always a positive and joyful person. I am not sure if it is my age or my circumstances, but I have found it much harder to pick myself back up when I’m knocked down. I am much more negative than I have ever been. It’s not at all that I was unhappy, it just felt like something a little off – or like I was out of touch with who I used to be. I was holding grudges, I was angry, and I was impatient about everything.

I didn’t like where I was, but I wasn’t at a point where I was ready to change. I wasn’t ready to change… until I read Life of Pi, written by Yann Martel. (If you haven’t read this, DO IT NOW!) It is a fantastic book. At one point while reading it, I found myself becoming jealous of the main character, Pi. No, not because he was stranded in a lifeboat with a Tiger. I was envious of Pi because of his passion for God – ALL of God. He loved who God was to him; what was written about God; what others believed about God; what God has done and was doing – he. loved. God. He loved God on the level that I used to love God. When that realization hit me it was like a stab in the heart. Of course I still love God, but it is much different. I don’t trust God like I used to trust. I don’t talk to God like I used to do and I surely don’t give God the credit and praise I used to give. How had I gotten this way?

I have seen true pain and heartache in people I love. I have seen families and homes torn apart. I have seen faith ripped from weakened hands. People are suffering, starving, beaten, and left empty. When I was younger, I didn’t see that. When I was younger, faith was easy.

My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for almost a year now. I know many people try for much longer than that and never succeed, and I know that I should be grateful because I already have one healthy child – and, believe me, I am grateful for this – truly grateful. But for those of you who do not know, when you are trying to get pregnant and are not successful – it begins to consume you. It was all I was thinking about. I was feeling like a failure or like something was wrong with me. It was putting stress on my marriage and I was taking out my frustration on people I loved. Because we had been getting negative test after negative test, my anger and sadness was just building up. Every time another person said, “Isn’t it about time for another baby?” or “I think Micah needs a new brother or sister!” or “Hurry up and get pregnant again!” the anger and sadness would build up even more. I didn’t want to trust God with this because I didn’t want God to tell me it wasn’t the right time. I trusted myself more than I trusted God. Again, when I was younger, faith was easy.

Faith was easy because it was not tried  or challenged. Today, as an adult- as someone who has seen hurt, brokenness and suffering – faith is not easy. Today, faith is not easy..but it is not impossible. I had forgotten that. I had forgotten how beautiful a real relationship with God is.

After I finished this book I decided I had had enough of who I was and I was ready to become who God has made me to be. Life with God at my center has more purpose, fulfillment and joy. I wanted that again.

My amazing mother bought me a book and it has literally (and yes, I mean that in the true way, not the “There were literally 5 million cars at the drive-thru” way) changed my life. It has given me a whole new perspective on patience, life and contentment. The book is called Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment, written by Linda Dillow. The theology in the book is much different than mine as pre-destination is a common theme. I don’t believe God gives us suffering, I believe bad things happen and God is with us through the suffering. I don’t believe God makes everything happen for a reason – I believe God can take everything and GIVE it a reason.

I want to share a few quotes with you.

“‘I need oil,’ said an ancient monk, so he planted an olive sapling. ‘Lord,’ he prayed, ‘it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.’ And the Lord sent gentle showers. ‘Lord,’ prayed the monk, ‘my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray thee.’ And the sun shone, gilding the dipping clouds. “Now, frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,’ cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparking with frost, but at evening it died.
Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. ‘I, too, planted a little tree,’ he said, ‘and see! It thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who had made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not way or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.(pg. 19)'”
“Two women looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other saw stars.”
Proverbs 23:7 “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
–“Our thought life–not our circumstances-determines whether we are content. Our thought life–not our friends, husband, children, job, or anything else — determines our contentment.(pg. 32)”
Prescription for contentment:
“Never allow yourself to complain about anything – not even the weather.
Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else.
Never compare your lot with another’s.
Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise.
Never dwell on tomorrow –remember that tomorrow is God’s, not ours.”
“Her tomorrows belonged to God. She had given them to Him. And because all her tomorrows were nestled in God’s strong arms, she was free to live today.”
All of these quotes have stuck in my mind. They helped remind me that even though I feel I had strayed away from my love and trust and faith in God – that God has never, not even once, strayed away from me. God cares more about my past, present and future than I do. God made me – God knows me.
For the first time in a long long time I am ready to trust God with every thing I have and everything I am. I plan to continue to write as I read this book and journey to become the woman and servant God has created me to be. I want to share what is going on in my heart so that those of you out there who are struggling will know that you’re not alone.

Logic vs. Emotion- a failed attempt

I want to start by saying I am not here at General Conference to be a spokesperson for Oklahomans. I was elected because of my beliefs and because of who I am. The Oklahoma delegation does not tell us how to vote. I was elected as a delegate FROM Oklahoma to come here to be a spokesperson for what I, Aly Shahan, believe God wants and says.

I am not a spokesperson for gays and lesbians. I am not a spokesperson for ethnic minorities. I am not a spokesperson for women. I am not a spokesperson for young people.

I am a spokesperson for ALL people. I am a spokesperson for equality. I am a spokesperson for justice. I am a spokesperson for love.

I hesitate to write this (especially after the hurt that many of us are feeling after the vote down to agree to peacefully disagree), but I truly feel this needs to be said. There was a protest yesterday because people are hurting, and I was hurt through the process. Not that that should matter to the protestors, they have no serious connection to me and most don’t even know who I am, but I feel that I need to at least state my case. If they get to express their hurt, so do I.

It is against the rules for any non-delegate to enter the bar at any time and it is against the rules to have a protest without receiving permission. There have been many other protests throughout the week that have been allowed and meaningful! They were not done out of turn, and through that, I believe, were much more effective.

Close to 100 clergy and laity from the Common Witness Coalition broke the bar (the area where only the delegates are allowed to enter) yesterday at the end of our afternoon session as the Bishop was closing us in prayer. They came in yelling and chanting, demanding full inclusion, which, please know, I FULLY believe needs to happen….the majority of my posts while here have been about this issue.

Here is what was being chanted:
“The General Conference has broken Wesley ‘s General Rule (do no harm) by doing harm to young adults, people of color, gay and lesbian people, women, and others. Confusion has taken the place of holy conferencing. Legalism has obscured love. Fear has silenced faith.
But even though the action of General Conference and the inaction of our ore leadership has done great harm, we will always be part of Gods church. We are done waiting.
By waiting, more harm is done. We are centered in the gospel. We are grounded in the gospel, we are joyful in the gospel, we are people committees to following Jesus Christ to embody Gods love and justice through the United Methodist Church.
We will work passionately for racial justice. We will embody full inclusiveness for people of all sexual orientations. We will celebrate people of all gender identities. We are global, connectional, and repentant of colonialism. We will be a people of peace. We will proclaim the stewardship of creation joyfully. We will strive for economic justice.
This is what it means to be United Methodist.
We are here, we will remain in this church as long as we can preach the gospel and faithfully make disciples and faithfully make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation for us all.”

Isn’t that beautiful? I love, love, love this. It is intelligently written, makes GREAT points and needs to be said. But, my friends, the sad news is that it was not heard. It was shouted in the middle of General Conference, how was it not heard? That’s just it…it was shouted.

Here’s the thing, brothers and sisters, you can’t fight logic with emotion.

Obviously not all, but most people who are against homosexuality are very logical people. To them it doesn’t make sense. There are concrete scriptures that say that homosexuality is a sin- they see this, and they stand by it. These people are driven by their minds and logic. And then, again- not all, but most people who are fighting for the rights of homosexuals are emotional people. And when I say emotional I don’t mean a person who cries all the time, I mean a person who is driven by their heart. They use more of something the United Methodists call “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral”: scripture, tradition, experience and reason.

I want to share with you why I was hurt and disheartened. I have been (along with many others) working so, so hard to speak with as many delegates here who are the “logic people” as I’m able and given the opportunity to. I have been using logic. I have not said, “it’s just not fair!” I used examples and scripture to explain myself. I remained calm, I listened, I waited my turn. I fear that because of the actions taken yesterday-the time and the way the protest took place- more harm was done than than progress.

I KNOW that there are so many who are hurt, but please know there ARE people fighting for you! We are trying!! We are working to educate…use logic…and help to change the prejudices and conditioned beliefs many people have. After the protest I felt that all of that work we had done to help change hearts and minds was ruined. When you use emotions to fight logic, it backfires. The people who we were able to loosen a bit were just made angry and tightened back up.

Almost every delegate is here for the same reason- we love God and we love the church. Every delegate is doing what they truly believe to be the best for Gods church.

My friends, we WILL get there. We WILL be a church who accepts all people. This will be a slow process, but we have to take it step by step. I have hope in our future.

It is a sad day today for our church. My heart is broken. But this does not mean it is over. Every year we get closer. We MUST continue. We must work. We must love and share the REAL truth: God is love.

There is currently another protest taking place. People are circled around the center of the bar singing Micah 6:8. We were dismissed for lunch early because the group would not listen to the request from the Bishop to excuse themselves from the bar. The Bishop said only delegates were allowed to be in the room after lunch, no visitors anymore. However, we have dismissed and I don’t believe they will leave. There have been arrests before. I just pray it does not come to that.

Prayers for the hurting, the oppressed, the broken hearted. We WILL get there. I love you and I’m fighting so hard for you…and God loves you even more.

–Please excuse any grammatical errors, this was typed on a smart device–

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Who-bee-What-ee!?

Anyone catch the reference to The Grinch with Jim Carrey? Love it.

Anyway. Okay, so I’m going to try to explain what just happened with guaranteed appointments in the United Methodist Church. I know what I say may be wrong and may even offend some, so please stay with me an feel free to leave your thoughts and comments (as long as they are constructive and not mean or rude).

So the way things work in the Legislative Committees is that every petition is placed either on the Calendar, Consent Calendar or Non-Consent Calendar. Items are placed on the Consent Calendar if a petition is passed with no more than ten votes against the the prevailing position. Items placed on the Non-Consent calendar are the exact opposite, petitions that are voted down with 10 or less people voting for the petition to pass. (did that make sense?) Basically it’s the same thing as the Consent Calendar, but it contains the petitions that the Committee did not approve. The other items are placed on the Calendar and are brought up and discussed on the floor for every Delegate to vote on.

Every day we receive a magazine type book that contains all of the Legislation passed, rejected, etc from the dY before that is called the Daily Christian Advocate. Items can be taken off of the Consent or Non-Consent Calendar if a delegate requests for the paperwork, is able to get 20 signatures in support and turns it in to the office by 3:00 on the day that that Daily Christian Advocate is printed and passed out to us all. The next morning we vote to approve the previous days Consent and Non-Consent Calendars and the Calendar committee announces the petitions that have been removed by the 20 signatures.

I hope I explained that thoroughly enough to go into detail about what just happened.

This morning we were going through the motions and approved the Consent and Non-Consent Calendars because that usually contains the petitions that are the “fluffy stuff.” What most people did not realize is that the petition that contains the issue of Guaranteed appointments was in the Consent Calendar that we just approved.
Here is what the petition says:

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For those who don’t know, Guaranteed Appointments mean that no matter what, until you are retired and as long as you wish, you will always have an appointment (job) as a United Methodist ordained Elder.

So as soon as people started to realize that we approved to end guaranteed appointments someone stood up and made a motion to reconsider the petition. After much debate of people saying we at least deserve to discuss this enormous decision, the motion to reconsider did not pass.

The main concern is that some pastors don’t believe they can be open or honest anymore in fear of losing their job. There are people who are worried for the job security of women and ethnic minority clergy. However, most believe the committee created in this petition will protect this. For the progressive pastor who preaches, perhaps, inclusivity in a conservative Annual Conference or a conservative pastor who preaches, perhaps, scripture as sole authority in a progressive Annual Conference may not feel they are able to. This can be a true concern. The committee was created to protect unfairness, but if a whole Annual Conference leans more one way or the other, there is a possibility of this happening.

One problem I have had with guaranteed appointments is that there are many Elders who feel that because their job is guaranteed, they are able to do whatever they want and stop trying past a certain point, but because of guaranteed appointments the Cabinet must place them somewhere. There can be pastors who are “punishments” to a church, which is absolutely terrible. I am hoping that in this change, we are able to motivate some Elders to do their job more effectively. It is just like any other job, if you don’t do it well, you won’t get to keep it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the concerns people have are totally legitimate, but I want to say that I have hope and faith that these committees to evaluate the decisions to terminate appointed clergy will be effective. The good news is that if this process is abused or if it is not working, we can change it again in four years.

My last point was made by my wise mother. It is very interesting that there are so many people not wanting to lose their jobs because they are different, but they don’t want to extend membership to someone who is different…. Hmm..

I will be posting more on the bigger decisions coming up. Tomorrow is supposed to be the discussion on the restructuring of the UMC and then Thursday should be the discussion of human sexuality. We have a very, very rough few days ahead of us. Please continue to send the prayers! I love you all!

If you have any questions, need clarifications or want to leave your opinion, please feel free!

Ps. My table rocks…happy, Matt? 🙂

–please excuse any grammatical errors this was written quickly on a smart device–

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All means ALL- I’m fighting for YOU

I have tried to start this post for three days now. I’m hoping today it will work 🙂 I want to be sure I am writing in a way that is not critical of others through me just being overly emotional or invested in this, but I also want to be sure I am sharing my heart and being honest to what I believe is happening in the church this week.

To start off I want to thank the NUMEROUS amount of people who have sent encouragement after seeing how beaten down I was on Friday. It was an extremely hard day, but I have now realized it is a good thing that I felt that way because that means I truly do care about the future of our church. The people who can sit through meetings with such anger and hatred shared and not feel sad have become too comfortable with this. It is not okay that the church acts this way, it is not okay that young adults are only listened to- not really heard, and it is not okay that we have been saying we need big changes this General Conference and then shoot them all down because we cannot agree. I worry that too many people were voted to come here based on their beliefs and came here knowing they wouldn’t bend or break on anything they believe in. That is not strength, that is ignorance. I cannot even say how many things I have already changed my mind on, not because i am weak or a push over, but because I am open to new ideas and to the Holy Spirit and I know that I, alone, do not know what is best for the church. We are the church together. That, my friends, is strength.

Friday, in my Committee we discussed all of the petitions that had to do with membership. I had hope. I knew that there were a ton of petitions that had to do with inclusivity that had passed in other committee’s sub-committees, and although the had not passed the whole committee, just seeing that there were at least SOME people who wanted to have true open hearts, doors and minds, like I said, gave me hope. The first petition we worked on was written by Rev Sam Powers from Piedmont FUMC in Piedmont, OK. He is on our delegation, I’m so honored to be in ministry with him. Last General Conference this petition failed by only 14 votes. He and I thought that surely since it had been 4 years we would be closer this year. Just so everyone knows, this is what the petition says:

“Although the pastor is to educate and counsel the person seeking to unite with the local church which may include member-ship classes, God’s redemptive gift is available to all, and the pastor is to faithfully receive all who are willing to affirm our vows of membership.” Which literally means ‘all means all.’

When the chair of the committee asked if anyone wanted to speak on this, a man raised his hand. He said something to the effect of, ‘I speak against this petition because as a pastor I have had many people try to join my church (note: MY church) just so that they can get married there for a discounted price. That isn’t what the church is for.” ……really? You’re going to put limitations on membership for the FEW people who do that? And SO what if that’s what they want to join for? Is that going to effect your church budget? Is that going to stop your church from functioning or turn others away from your church? There is a church a friend of mine knows that has a big sign in front of their building that says, “WE DO FREE WEDDINGS”- now THAT is a church, THAT is ministry, THAT is open hearts, doors and minds. As soon as he was done I shot my hand up. I was so, so nervous but I knew if i didn’t fight for the oppressed, no one else would. Here is what I said:

“The church is not a club, it is a body of people who love God and Gods people, who have accepted the call to do Gods work. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and I am wondering how we are doing that if we are turning people away from Gods house. We reject bullying and judging, but we are doing this very thing by putting limitations on who is welcome in the church. In this petition clergy are given the responsibility to ‘educate and counsel the person seeking to unite with the local church which may include membership classes.’ I know there are many people who are afraid to take authority away from the pastors (or themselves), but it breaks my heart that we forget it is not our church to accept into or reject from, it is Gods. ‘God’s redemptive gift is available to all, and all who are willing to affirm our vows of membership should be received.’ Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we have all already been welcomed, and ALL of Gods children deserve a home”

No one else spoke for it. It failed. 8 for, 48 against. I knew before we started that this one would not pass in our committee because there were too many clergy in there who are not ready to let go of that authority. The other 3 petitions that gave the authority to the member wishing to join failed. I still had hope in one of the other petitions:

“All people are welcome to attend its worship services, participate in its programs and receive the sacraments. They may become members in any local church in the connection subject to the discretion of the local church pastor, (here was the added section up for vote) ‘provided that membership is not denied because of the applicant’s race, color, national origin, economic condition, sexual orientation or legal sexual practice in committed, loving, consensual relationships.'”

My friend Chris made an amendment to delete everything after “sexual orientation.” it passed by an overwhelming majority. Hope increased! I made an amendment to add “or gender or disability.” after sexual orientation. It too passed by an overwhelming majority. I was SURE this was going to happen. There were a few people who spoke against it because they felt that homosexuality was a sin and ‘we can’t have sinners in our church.’ A young adult man stood up and said, “Telling a sinner not to come to church is like telling a person who is sick not to go to the doctor.” We voted. It failed. 19 for, 38 against. What!?!? I was crushed. We were crushed. Every young adult voted for it. As this process happened I saw on Twitter that all of the wonderful legislation that had passed trying to make our church a mire inclusive church was all failing in full committees. I felt so defeated and I began to lose that hope I had. What was happening? We can’t grow or make Gods church better by staying the same! It’s like that definition of insanity that says that you do the same thing over and over and expect different results. It won’t happen.

I had many people came up to me and tell me that they would’ve voted for the second petition I fought for but they don’t like lists because, since you cant cover everything, someone will always be left out. This made me sick. I responded by saying, “By voting this down solely because there is a list included, don’t you think you’d be leaving more people out by not having this list than the number of people who would be left out if we did have the list?” To which he said, “That’s not my concern. I think ‘all means all’ and I wouldn’t turn someone away from my Church.” I then reminded him that he can’t make decisions just on how the local church runs that he is appointed at, he needs to remember there are people who are turned away from churches all the time. Then I told him that if he truly believes that all means all, then he should have voted for the first petition I spoke for because then no authority on membership is needed. He told me that that would never, ever happen and then I said, “with all due respect, I’m a lot younger than you, sir, and I’ll be in the church longer..and this WILL happen.” He just laughed, said i was right, then walked away.

Friends, the United Methodist Church is doing wonderfully on other continents, but in the US, it is dying. Why? Because we aren’t willing to change. We aren’t willing to adapt to what is happening in our country. We want Young Adults, which I alway thought was amazing, but as I am here I see that many people just want young adults in ‘their church’ for the numbers! They don’t want to hear us. The United Methodist Church says we need the Young Adult voice, but now we know they only want that voice if is saying the same thing they are saying. Now, I am not saying this only because of my committee. I am saying that in discussions with many other young adults here I have found that the same thing happened to them. The petitions that are working to make the UMC into a church that young adults will really want to attend is always turned down.

We were all told that being here as a young adult was going to give us a leg up, but now it has actually backfired! “You’re just young, you don’t really know what you believe,” “You’re just young, your ideas will change when you grow up.” No, friends. I will not change…WE will not change. We are a generation who desires to serve. We want to make a difference. We yearn to help, love, include and welcome. We reach out to the oppressed and still love the oppressor. We see the future of the church and we ARE the future of the church. I am here to tell you that if we do not change, our church will not survive. I love the United Methodist Church, however I have struggled thinking about how I will raise my family in a church that is not open to every person while I am telling my children not to judge and to accept everyone no matter what. I thought and I prayed about this and I realized that if all who felt this way left the UMC, who would fight for those who are turned away.

All day Monday – Friday we gather as all 998 voting delegates from across the world to vote on what we think the UMC should be. I only pray that we realize it isn’t what we want, it is what God wants. I pray we realize it is not our church, it is Gods church. I pray we realize we are not Gods church until every person is a part of it. I pray we open our minds, our beliefs, our ideas, our hopes and eyes to the future God has planned for us.

Again, thank you for your feedback, your messages, text and calls. They help and mean more than you know!! I love you all and I’m fighting for you!!!

Favorite Pictures from the last few days:

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The set up from the service of repentance

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We received rocks to keep in remembrance of our promises to make a difference

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The interpreter asked them why they all wanted their picture with me and they said it was because I smiled and was interested in them, not just for their vote or to talk about petitions, but because of my love for them as people. we exchanged addresses and email addresses. God is awesome and love is global 🙂

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My best friend from Zambia. He is SO cool! Spends his life working with and for youth.

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Who would’ve ever thought we’d all end up in ministry together after all of these years?! These two are such inspirations to me, and have truly kept me going this week.

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So great to remember God is present whether we pay attention of not 🙂

–please excuse any grammatical errors, this was typed on a smart device–

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Love Heals

Today was a good day. Big decisions made. New friends met. And nerves heightened. The first night when it took us so long to go through the rules a friend said that they thought it was like before a break up–you know it’s coming so you try to keep busy so that you an put off the ‘big stuff’ as long as possible. I think our UMC knows that this is going to be a very hard and trying General Conference. Feelings will be hurt. People will leave. And decisions will be made that we disagree with whole heartedly. But here’s the thing, this will happen to every single person here and watching at home. We are an imperfect church striving to reach perfection only by the grace of a perfect God. You are not alone in your pain. I am not alone in my hurt. WE are the church together. We will reach a day when the church is s it should be..and until we reach that day, we will discuss, disagree and work to make our UMC a church that creates Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world..and if that is what it takes to get there, it is worth it. We WILL get there.

The schedule for the next two days we’re the same as today. They are days completely taken up with our legislative committees. How the process works is anyone can write a piece of legislation about anything to go in, to amend or to delete anything in our Book of Discipline, Book of Resolutions or our Social Principles. Once they are turned in, they are separated into like groups that go to different legislative committees can vote on them to lessen the amount of petitions we must vote on as a whole. If something is passed in the the legislative committees (or legislation brought forth by a minority report) it is brought forth to the whole body to debate, amend and vote on next week. So, this week we go through lots and lots and lots of legislation. It is exhausting. We are in there from 8am – 5pm. As tiring as it is, I truly did enjoy myself! I actually got up and spoke for a motion AND I actually made an amendment to an amendment that passed! Woo hoo! I thought I was going tonged sick from being so nervous but I really proved to myself how brave I can be when I care about something and or I am fighting for the rights of my brothers and sisters in our God.

Worship this evening was great! The symbol was salt and the theme was healing, which was perfect. There was a number of people who we’re hurt by the Holy Conversation group discussions on Homosexuality. A group informed us tonight how they felt bullied and how they didn’t think it was done in the right way. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in a room full of people and have someone ask, “So, tell me, what are your thoughts on people who live in Okahoma,” and the just sit in the room while people criticize, tear apart and decide whether or not they want me to be allowed in their church. It absolutely should have been done in a different way and we should have offered counseling or comfort for those who are homosexual and were in those rooms. Anyway, it was so bizarre that the theme was healing tonight when a large group of our delegation needed healing.

Tonights sermon was wonderful! I swear I’m going to start writing down the names of the Bishops who preach and I always forget, I’m sorry! The Bishop reminded us of how important emotional healing is by saying, “We cannot be whole without our souls well first.” He reminded us of how important helping others heal by saying, “when we become aware of another persons struggles, God calls us to action.” I loved this! We can’t just hear of or know of a friend in pain and sit back. God has called us to be the hands of love, arms of comfort and voice of peace. If you don’t do it, who will?

There has been so much talk about how bad our church is doing in the USA. How in 50 years the umc will be dead. The Bishop said, and this is my favorite quote of the day, “We may be dying, but we aren’t dead yet!! We serve a God of resurrection! Amen?? We are going through a rough patch, but our church is alive! A church who does mission, a church who loves, a church who opens doors is a church who lives.

Throughout today I was kind if dreading worship tonight. I know it’s always emotional and I was so drained. I honestly questioned why they made the schedule so that we have worship at night after everything else because of how exhausted we were after such a long day. Now, I understand. As I danced with the choir from Cote de Vours, as I meditated with the choir from McFarlin UMC from Norman, OK, as I prayed for healing for Rowan and Anabelle and Tom, as we sang TO God, as in watched a praying/anointing/healing service for all in the room- I released all tension somehow. Without even realizing it I was standing up to walk out of worship and I felt fresh and anew. God does amazing things. God heals- God Loves -love heals.

Tomorrow is a big day in most legislative committees. Please be in prayer that God speak to each of us voting. We want Gods will, not ours.

Sorry this is so short. I see that days in committees wear me out pretty hard, so blogging may not be as strong for a day or two. Thank you to those who have sent text messages, fb messages, responded and encouraged my blog, and spoken to me here at conference. it really is hard to e young adult delegate, people expect so much of you- it’s so nice to be reminded that I’m loved, prayed for and valued. Thank you,

Favorite Quote of the Day:
“imagine a church that loves every person. No matter who they are. No matter what they look like. No matter who they love!!! THAT is a church that knows this LOVE HEALS

Favorite Pic of the Day:

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–please excuse all grammatical errors, this was typed on a smart device–

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BHAG

That’s right my friends, or as Bishop King would say, beautiful people, you read correctly, BHAG.
What does that mean? Is that some weird “young people” term? Is that a new social networking tool? Is that the latest energy drink to keep me up for the next 7 days? No.

BHAG is what the United Methodist Church is facing these next 8 days. BHAG- Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (taken from the Laity address). Is it terrifying not knowing what’s going to happen? Yes. Does it bring controversy and questions? Yes. But, in the words of my good friend Bob the Builder, “Can we fix it?” ..and the people said, “YES WE CAN!!”

Today, again has been a magnificent day. We started out with the Episcopal, Laity and Young Adult addresses. The Bishop who spoke was wonderful. He at one point showed us what the Book of Discipline (the big book of RULES for the UMC that we are gathering to discuss, vote on, etc) used to look like when the church was at it’s best..guess how big it was. The size of the 3 Simple Rules book, or a pocket calendar!!! That was it! That was all we needed and we were succeeding. Today, our Book of Discipline is MULTIPLE times the size of that book, may or may not contain the same amount of discipleship….and it is filled with rules, limitations and walls. Pardon me while I jump ahead quickly and tell a quick story. Later in the morning we were voting and discussing on the amendments made the night before. We were running over on time and getting too caught up in the details. Rev Sam Powers of our Oklahoma Annual Conference stood up to make a motion that we suspend indefinitely all of the amendments made from the night before- that we should trust the people that have been put on the rules committee, and that we were spending more time perfecting our rules than being in our Legislative Committees working at perfecting our church. It was so beautifully put. The motion was passed, YES! We still had a few amendments brought forth, and it still took a while to get everything passed and accepted, but to be reminded that we are not to be spending our time perfecting and creating more rules and limitations- we are to be perfecting our church! Perfecting how to make more people feel welcome in our congregations. Perfecting how to love with a love that doesn’t make sense. Perfecting how to tear down the walls we have created to make more room at God’s table. As the Bishop said, “The Book of Discipline needs to liberate not create limitations.”

The Laity address was great as well! Betty Spiwe Katiyo spoke first. She was the first lay person from one of the Central Conferences to ever give the lay address! That was SO wonderful to witness in person! And look, just like that, a once BHAG faced and dominated, “YES WE CAN!” The second lay speaker reminded us that we all get to a point where we have to decide if we are going to preach a sermon or BE a sermon. The last lay speaker preached and had us shout, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me. If it’s to be, it’s up to you!” There is work to be done, people to love, missions to complete…and we can’t leave it up to anyone else to do. If it’s to be, it’s up to us, United Methodist Church. “YES WE CAN!”

The Young Adult address was great! They told the people that young United Methodists and people are Charged, Rooted and United. We are ready to make a change. We want to be involved in things that help people and make a difference. We are growing and we are changing. The UMC has got to grow and adapt with us! We are the future of the church, will you adapt with us? “YES WE CAN!”

After the service and voting that we accept the rules presented to us by the rules committee as they were, we separated into our Legislative Committees. There are only, from what I could see, 3-4 young adults. It was daunting. I think I can say that I was the youngest delegate in there. I was able to make friends though 🙂 (remember “actual” adults, we’re just as intimidated by you as you are of us…remind anyone else of the zoo?)

By far the greatest thing that happened to me today was that there is a man from the Congo, I believe, who has been in every one of my small group/briefing groups/ etc. I have seen him everywhere. Obviously, we speak different languages, but somehow we have become friends. Somehow we have been able to tell that we share the same love for our church and our God. We have made a connection and it is so so cool. Well today after our committee elections as everyone was leaving, we passed each other and gave each other an enormous hug. We knew we could not communicate vocally, but we we’re able to smile and embrace each other as brother and sister. He taught me how to say his name and obviously there was no teaching necessary to learn my name, haha. We hugged again and then waved goodbye. How amazing to have a conversation with someone you cannot understand and without any words! God can even break language barriers! BHAG, face palm! Relationships and love shared across the world because of our love for God.

This evening our sermon was presented by Bishop James King, Jr. He. Was. Awesome. He preached on the scripture in Mark (? Am I remembering that correctly? Don’t have my Bible next to me) in which Jesus ate with the tax collectors. People asked Jesus what he was doing with “those” people, and Jesus responded, “I am not here for the righteous, but for the sinners.” Today, many of our church doors are shut to those we believe are sinning..as if we believe they are not worthy, or good enough for our church. My friends, if Jesus ate with them, Why are we turning them away from our churches? A church is the one place they should be. In Gods arms is where they should be. At OUR tables is where they should be.

Bishop King addressed the decline of the UMC in the USA. He said, “Beautiful people, we are not declining because there is not a shortage of people, we are declining because there is a shortage of love! … Love works! …Jesus said it, I’m gonna do it! … If we forget our mission, we forget God’s people … Come one, Come all!!!”. United Methodist Church, in this, Bishop King spoke of a BHAG we have before us this week. Will we say ‘Come one, come some’ or ‘come all?’ Our decision. Jesus said it, will we do it? Will we act? Will we allow our lives to be our sermons? Will we adapt and grow with our younger generations? Will we focus on discipleship more than The Discipline? Will we reach out and allow God to send us to ‘the people no one else wants and no one else sees?’

BHAG. “YES WE CAN!!”

Favorite Quote(s) of the Day:
“We won’t always agree, but we are of one body, one church, one spirit, one baptism and one Lord”
“Where there is deep discipleship, there is desire to follow”
“This is not a time if timid tinkering, but bold believing!”
“Come one, Come all!”

Favorite Pics of the Day:

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–Please excuse any grammatical errors, this was typed on a smart device–

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Coolzaster

The official word for what General Conference is to me? “Coolzaster.” Today was a fantastic day filled with people, information, worship, discussion, excitement and confusion. I felt like a “grown up” at times and then like a kid at other times. One thing I know is that I am SO proud to be a part of the Oklahoma Annual Conference Delegation! We have such amazing people who do wonderful things and are always looking for how to get involved or help whoever needs it. There hasn’t been one time that I had a question someone couldn’t answer, or one concern I’ve had that someone couldn’t comfort me with.

I started out the day at a briefing for Young Delegates under 30, women delegates and ethnic minority delegates. It was more informational and they out us in our legislative committees so that we could meet some people before we got to our groups tomorrow. There were 4 different speakers who gave us their vision for the UMC. The last person was a 16 yr old male. His name was Sam. After he spoke we were asked, “there will be TEN more General Conferences (which happen every 4 years) before he is the age of the average United Methodist- how do you want the church to look at that time? And WHAT are YOU doing to make it that way?” BAM! Get off your hiney, Aly! You’ve got work to do!

After that they separated us into our group groups- I went with the Delegates under 30. It was AWESOME! So so helpful. They started out by saying that they weren’t trying to sway our votes or get us to do anything for them, they just wanted to provide a place and time for us to meet one another so that we see that we are not alone and to find ‘prayer partners’. It was so helpful! I saw lots of people I met all over today, definitely helped me to feel included and like I belonged. there was a girl in my group from South Carolina and she talked about going to Salkehatchie, a youth mission camp I went to for the 4-5 yrs I lived in SC! BAM!! Hows that for a connectional church?!

After lunch I attended the briefing for first time delegates. This too was super helpful! Lot of little hints and helps. I think there were some things addressed that should’ve been talked about to the Central Conference (international) delegates at their briefing, but I think that was noted.

One thing that happened at this briefing was the Central Conference Delegates were concerned with what water to drink since the hotel water bottles were so expensive. Lots of people laughed at this concern..or dismissed it I guess is a better word. They thought that those delegates were just being snooty, but luckily a wonderful woman stood up and brought to our attention that different water in different areas have different microorganisms and people from different areas are not immune, or used to them, and can get sick. This issue was resolved by a woman on a committee informing them of the free plastic water bottles being given away and there are filtered water stations all over the building. A man said a quote today and I hate that I can’t think of his name off of the top of my head, but he said something to the effect of, “Although we all know EXACTLY how the world works–that is not how it works for everyone!” BAM! How’s that for an eye opener?! I love it.

Late in the afternoon and early evening we had out opening worship service. It was without a doubt one of the most breathtaking, stunning and REAL services I have ever experienced. The music was great, the decorations/set up is stunning, and the pure fact that you are worshipping the same God wit the person behind you who you can’t understand a word they are saying just left me speechless. To hear 1,000 people singing “On Christ the solid rock I stand” (a song I grew up singing,” or say The Lords Prayer in unison with numerous languages or see the long line of Bishops proceeding in- these people who have sacrificed SO so much for the greater good of all people and their love for or Creator, or hug a man from Tanzania and a woman from Missouri, NEXT to each other, during the time of Passing the Peace, or take communion from a person who you can’t understand but you KNOW they are share the same love and passion for the Sacrament that you do….it is all absolutely inexplainable. BAM! No explanation necessary…

I will leave you with one of my favorite parts of the evening from our sermon this evening. We were given the analogy of how a long time a go they would fish with nets. They would just throw the nets in the water, wait and then bring up and keep whatever sea creatures were in the net. So when we are asked to be ‘fishers of men’ we are asked to do the same, but what we tend to do is cast out the net, bring it in and whatever fish we don’t like, that look funny or perhaps ‘aren’t like us’ we tend to throw back. We’ve got to stop picking and choosing who we want to keep. Jesus called us to cast our nets and bring them in. ALL in. Even the ones we don’t want…no, especially the ones we don’t want in our churches….oh..I meant boats. ::wink, wink::

Anyway! Today was a wonderful whirlwind of a day and I know I’m crazy to say this, but I’m ready to do it again tomorrow! BAM! Young adult 🙂

Favorite quote of the day: “We are not called to be perfect human beings, we are called to be perfect in love.”. –perfect reminder for what Gen Conf needs to be about.

Favorite pictures of the day:

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–I apologize for any grammatical errors, this was done on a smart device.–

All the Good

I have been selected as one out of 11 laity in all of the Oklahoma United Methodists to represent our Annual Conference  and 1 out of 998 in the whole world to go to Tampa, FL for the next 12 days at the United Methodist General Conference. This Conference happens every 4 years. There will be people from all over the world! It is the biggest decision making body in the United Methodist Church. We will be voting on some very significant legislation this year– it has been said that this is the biggest General Conference since 1968 which is when the Evangelical United Bretheren merged with the Methodist Church–thus creating, the United Methodist Church. We will be voting on legislation from pension for clergy to homosexual rights, from who decides who can be members of a local church to changing the whole structure of how the UMC is run. There will be many wonderful decisions made and many wonderful decisions overlooked. I know that this will be a fantastic experience with many mixed emotions. I ask for prayers not just for me, but for each delegate. Pray that God fill each committee meeting room, each conversation, each vote. I know this will be a hard 2 weeks, but the quote I have found comforting and plan to to use to keep me encouraged is,

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”- John Wesley

I may not be able to change the whole UMC, but I can do ALL that I can to make a difference.

Stretch Marks

For any mommy who has ever looked at your tummy post baby and felt insecure or bad about how it looks now– this quote brought a whole new light to the subject for me:

“A mark for every breath you took,
every blink, every sleepy yawn.
One for every time you sucked your thumb
waved hello, closed your eyes,
and slept in the most perfect darkness.
One for every time you had the hiccups.
One for every dream you dreamed within me.
…It  isn’t very pretty anymore.
Some may even think it’s ugly.
That’s okay.
It was your home.
It held you until my arms could
and for that,
I will always find something beautiful in it.”
-Cassie Fox