Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Crawfordsville, Indiana

September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

We got on the road before six a.m. today hoping to make it to services at Saint John’s. The flat farmland of central Ohio took on gentle slopes as we moved into Indiana. Colors bloomed in the early morning light as a giant red sun rose behind us. Headed west, we faced a vanishing full moon that paled in the sun’s salmon glow.

About an hour from Crawfordsville, J started to ask for our friend, Hannah. She is one of the dear people we will miss back in New Martinsville. He said he wanted her to be sitting in the car we were towing, and that he wanted her to see volcanoes with us on the other side. Big tears slid slowly out of his eyes as he described how much he longed for her. No matter what I brought up to engage him, his answer was, “I don’t care about that. I only care about Hannah right now.”

I got Hannah on the phone right away, hoping the sound of her voice would comfort him. Instead, his little voice trembled and broke. He could barely speak to her. He squeezed his eyes shut against his aching heart and turned his face toward the window. These are big changes. It is hard for us both.

I also learned a good lesson early this morning. From now on, I will allow an extra hour for construction and 3-year-old bathroom breaks. We walked through the doors just in time for the final song of the service.

Saint John’s nave

Worn out from almost six hours on the road, we both felt a leap of energy when we heard the djembe, a large West African drum. I’m not sure if it was played throughout the service, or if it is played regularly, but we joined the line of children marching around the church and lent our energy to this last, spirited song of their worship service

Built in 1837, Saint John’s is the oldest church building on our trip

In the parish house, donations for our mission trip to South Dakota were waiting on the table. Our guide, vestry member Chas Cooksey, was ready to show us the church, but my sweet babe was ready to crack from hours in the car. J told me no, pictures later, park now.

Our new friend, Kim, walked with us to play at a local park. J laughed with delight at the number of squirrels in Crawfordsville. We didn’t have nearly as many where we’d come from in West Virginia. Having grown up eating squirrel, I couldn’t help but wonder if West Virginia has nibbled down their own populations.

Kim was a great companion for J while Chas showed me around Saint John’s. There are many unique features to enjoy in this striking old church. One of them is a more recent addition, a children’s sanctuary.

I was touched by this children's sanctuary with it's scaled down alter and pews

Another beautiful feature of Saint John’s was their columbariam where church members can have their ashes interred. Built in 1997, Mary Jane Timpany was the first congregant at Saint John’s to be laid to rest there.

The author of “The Story of Saint John’s and It’s People”, Fern W. Brill, was also interred here when she passed away at the amazing age of 99

The rich beauty of the stained glass window above the altar brings vivid color and depth to the space. Installed in the 1870′s, the window is beautifully restored.

One of my favorite features of Saint John’s are the niches on either side of the window. The soundness of this structure is impressive. It was actually rolled to the current location on logs in 1837. It got stuck in the mud and spent the winter bogged down before it could be freed.

Saint John’s is in the National Register of Historic Places. They are hoping to acquire a new plaque that will reflect the actual age of this 175-year-old church.

Saint John’s choir loft is in the balcony with the pipe organ. The balcony wasn’t part of the original church building, but it is a wonderful addition.

The nave and the pipe organ in Saint John’s choir loft

Saint John’s, thank you for making the second day of this fantastic adventure a wonderful one. We are so grateful for your participation, and for your contributions to our mission. Your time and fellowship was a blessing to us. I hope we get the chance to come, again.

After six hours of driving that big contraption earlier today, I am pooped. I think I will be in bed before nine so we can rise, shine, and do it again tomorrow. Peace to you all, dear friends.

Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church, Circleville, Ohio

September 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

My babe and I were restless before dawn. We were ready for our big adventure. We met a friend from Baristas, Amy, in the pre-dawn twilight. She just caught us with her contributions for the trip as we rolled out of town. She blessed us with her contributions, and with her gifts to us, which included a bag of groceries for our trip. She also shared of her time, helping me bring down the last of the stuff from our room. Tara helped, too, while Jeff made us coffee for the road. It was a fantastic send off.

After we pulled out, Kim called. I’d left all the laundry I’d folded the night before. Jeff offered to rush it to us while we waited on the side of Route 2. Driving the moving van with the car attached in town is quite cumbersome. That thing belongs on the open road.

Another joy of the morning was meeting our friends from Reno, Jamie, Jon, Adelaide and Erin, for a quite breakfast before getting on the road. When we first met, Erin was only a few months old. Today, her little yellow braids bounced softly as she cried out my son’s name. My son’s question for all of our friends has become, “Do you have Skype?”

Saint Philip’s, in Circleville, was a striking beginning to this Episcopalian odyssey. Father Harris was ready for us with pumpkin donuts, coffee and tea. Boxes and bags  on the Counter for our South Dakota Mission Trip. Father Harris and another man, Tom, were both welcoming and gracious, and soon we chatted like old friends. We struck up that wonderful Episcopalian gratitude and relaxed warmly in the good company that communion brings.

One of the contributions from Saint Philip’s in Circleville, Ohio

Saint Philip’s, built in 1866, is constructed from local sandstone. In the National Register of Historic Places, it is of Gothic and Tudor Revival design.

Built in 1866, Saint Philip’s is constructed of local sandstone

When first built, the walls were hand stenciled in a fleur-de-lys design. It is now being lovingly restored by members of the church. Before the original designs were lost, they were wisely traced by some women from the congregation. Thanks to their good thinking, the nave is being brought back to its former splendor.

Part of the restored fleur-de-lys pattern

The congregants love of Saint Philip’s shows throughout the church. One of the intimate touches added was the needle-pointed kneeling cushions made to reflect the patterns on the walls.

In showing me around the church, Father Harris pointed out an alcove at the entrance. A transient person had taken shelter there. It reminded me of the purpose of the church, and of the sister and brotherhood of which we are all a part. The person who had been sleeping there was gone before anyone could see them, but I can see how they would take comfort in this place.

Alcove has given shelter to those in need

One of the features I loved at Saint Philip’s were the stained glass windows behind the altar. It had that in common with our own Saint Ann’s. The golden glow that came through them took my breath away. I loved laying on the floor behind the altar to catch this shot. The colors are so rich and beautiful.

Night one is here. My babe is asleep and I am sharing our day with you. We’ve already watched the landscape begin to change. The very landscape of our lives has changed. This quiet room is a dramatic contrast to the energy at Baristas. We stepped outside of those rooms filled with laughter and entered the corridor to our future.

When I put on my pajamas they smelled like Baristas‘ cooking. Little kisses, little well wishes, the touches of our friends linger in our lives. Thank you, dear friends, for the warmth of your companionship and for the love you showed us as you sent us on our way. We’re on our way.

Parish house at Saint Philip’s, built in 1917

Leaving Eve

September 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Psalm 91. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

A short while ago, I had no idea how we’d get to this moment. The Spirit has led, step by step. We’ve been borne aloft by blessings, and stand at the cusp of great adventure. A woman just walked up to me a moment ago with another donation. She’ll be coming through town early morning, right before we leave; another instance of the mysteriously perfect timing that has characterized this whole venture, from the crack of that tree to these final moments before we leave. Blessed.

One of our greatest blessings today was the help of the young Mormon missionaries, friends of ours from our travels about town. They came with two of their friends, like an army of kindness in white shirts and ties. Name tags read “Elder” followed by a last name. Beneath them were the faces of boys more mature than any I’ve known their age.

The whole time they loaded our boxes, moved our piano and maneuvered our bulky van in tight spaces, their genuine smiles radiated from within. They were a beautiful sight, to be honest with you. The emerged from their distantly parked truck at every stop saying things like, “We love this! This is what we like to do!” There were moments that I just wanted to chuckle with delight.

At the end of the day, we shared pizza with them at Baristas. I had no idea how much pizza four teen-aged boys needed, but there wasn’t a crumb that remained. We shared in fellowship, enjoying the crossing paths of our missions. They were so grown-up in their thinking that it was hard to remember that they were still just kids. Then, suddenly, one of the Elders attempted to eat a whole slice of pizza in one bite. As the others urged him on, my love for the boys outgrew its bounds. Their moment of playfulness uplifted me. We are going to stay in touch.

Pizza with the Elders from the Mormon Church

So many of our friends around here have reached out to us with gifts to support on this journey. I am so grateful to all of you who shared with us. You built this mission with your love and support, with your own goodness and desire to join in something good. I am grateful to each one of you. You go with us when we go.

So, here’s to the road! Here’s to adventure! Here’s to fellowship, and here’s to spreading the message of the Church. Come with us, friends. It’s going to be worth every mile.

Release to the Captives

September 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Luke 4:14-30. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Tomorrow is the eve of release. I am still in disbelief. I do the next right thing, but do it in the midst of an out-of-body experience.

It reminds me of a memory of my dog, Chicken. She passed away when I was pregnant with my youngest son. She passed away the day I found out I was pregnant with him, actually. It felt like an energetic transaction, but I don’t let myself think on that too much.

There are too many things like that to think on. I can’t let myself get carried away. It has been a hard few years. Sometimes the associated feelings overwhelm. I can’t let myself get dark. It’s an effort; but it’s worth it. I don’t like to panic.

Anyway, about Chicken: she would ride the waves. I’d take her to Coney Island and throw sticks into the ocean. she loved to chase them, swim into the sea, and then ride the waves back, throwing herself on top of one to ride it into the shore. The tip of her black nose and prominent eyebrows were the only things visible when she’d swim. She was so beautiful. My heart still breaks for her. She rode the wave, gave up control for the sake of the experience.

I guess that is the bottom line. Let go of control. Let go of trying to make it how I think it should be. Ask God for direction in my life and be open to answers. Consider the principles of Jesus, and the example of his life. What does it look like to really lead with love, in every situation?

I love the Forward Day-by-Day. When I read it today, the scripture above reminded me of the principles of Jesus. They talked about the thousands of references in the Bible to economics, poverty and justice, God’s hot-button issues. Imagine, again, what it would look like to follow the principles of Jesus. The world would be so different.

My sweet dog, Chicken, gave her being to the wave. She followed its course. We pray for what we want, but I wonder what God wants; what if we followed that course?

I am not always sure how to know it’s inspired, but I have no doubt about this mission. This journey comes from a deep inward feeling of “inspiration”. I don’t know what tapped me into it: was it all the prayer or all the holy water? I kid; but I really, I feel like Chicken on the ocean. I’ve given my being to the wave, and I’m riding it to a far shore.

My friend, Jill, just spoke of how wonderful it will be for us on the other side. All the wonderful things I once enjoyed about city life will be ours, again. There was something deep in her understanding of how out-of-place we are here. This move really is setting us free. This is a hard place to be different.

It’s hard to be different when you are part of a faith community, too. (You know what comes next. I’m about to talk about the Episcopal Church.) In the Episcopal Church, they embrace the different. They are concerned with poverty and justice. They focus on equality. They have openly gay people serving in high positions in the church. The Episcopal Church is really come one, come all.

Every Sunday, we read it together from out liturgy. The open and repeated reference to justice and peace has snapped my heart to attention. I want to be a beacon for this. I used to pray, without the structure of a faith community, for God to allow me to be a beacon of love and compassion. The Episcopal Church seems to say, “Was this what you were trying to do?”. The answer is yes. Yes. Help me to spread the message that will release the captives, the one that gives sight to the blind.

Media Coverage for Through the Red Doors

September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

The article about Through the Red Doors came out last night! I am so excited! You can read it here:

Go to article at SheKnows

Thank you, Monica, for helping us get the word out. We are really on the way, people! I am grateful to all of you for your support.

Peace and Blessings,
Erika

Your Word is a Lantern to My Feet

September 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Psalm 119. Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.

These last few days have overwhelmed me. Just thinking about all that I have to do makes me panic. There is a spasm in my back that started a week ago. I hope it doesn’t become an issue on the road. I still have things to pack, plans to make, press releases to send, groceries to buy, maps to print… I worry I won’t get it all done. It makes me short of breath to think about it all.

Yet, here we go. I calm myself slowly. I remind myself that it’s one step at a time, just do the next right thing. It will happen. We will be on the road. The car will be packed and hitched, the van will be packed, and we will drive it down the road. It’s coming.

This is a big trip for the two of us. There is a lot going on here, many emotions and ambitions all tumbled together. Sometimes my panic hits fever pitch before I remember the simple answer: Turn it over to God.

Right in the middle of losing my breath, I remembered the Forward Day by Day. I clicked that tab on my browser as fast as I could. I read the words from Psalm 119, and without even realizing it, I could breathe again.

Before the Episcopal Church, and even a few times since, I’ve had to breathe into a bag to avoid calling 911. When I tell you I have a lot of anxiety, I mean a lot. My soul sister, Kris, told me what to do: breathe in a bag. She helps me calms myself, but never loses sight of me in the process. Her tiny house is our new home. I think this will be balm for our souls.

I relied on her brown bag advice nightly, before the Episcopal Church. I would listen to the sounds around us, the abuse, addiction and poverty of hope, and I would ponder on God. Was there such? How can this horror, the horror of grief, the horror of what I’d seen in abuse, the horror of the things around us, and the things in other places that are even worse, how can I reconcile that with an all loving god? There wasn’t one.

The Episcopal message slowed down my attacks. I got answers to my questions that didn’t make me angry. The answers did not require a strenuous reach for belief. They tapped into my longing to be a part of God. They fed my inborn love for peace and justice, nourishing spoonfuls that left me weeping on my knees.

Altar at Saint Ann's in New Martinsville, WV

In the Episcopal Church, critical thought is valued. Intellectual exploration of spiritual ideas is seen as no threat. We stay true to the core message, and leave things open for the individual. I like Richard’s saying, “Not everything in the bible is literally true, but it contains all truth.” Those words alone allow me to take a step closer to God.

The attacks slowed down more when we went to live at the church. In the aftermath of the storm, a measure of peace arrived. I slathered it with  prayer. God picked us up out of a prison of circumstances and placed us in front of opportunity. That had been my prayer. This trip is the answer. Hand in hand with Holy Spirit, we’ll be lovingly led across this great land. The Iroquois word for North America is Turtle Island. I like that. We’re going across the turtle’s back.

Buzz, Junior Warden and Elise, Senior Warden at Saint Ann's in New Martinsville, WV

Buzz, Junior Warden and Elise, Senior Warden at Saint Ann’s in New Martinsville, WV. Issuing directives, as usual! I love these people!

Get Creative

September 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Today was the last service for us at Saint Ann’s. Lisa blessed me as I knelt for communion. I drank it in. I treasure her and the guidance she has given me. She is sending us off on a good path.

I think I told you that Lisa is also a veterinarian. There is a story about how she helped me with a cat, once.

This trip west is a very well nourished dream. A lot has changed from the plans I made. God’s plans have given this trip a different shape. Once upon a time, we were bringing three cats with us. We sat engulfed in an area of poverty and drug abuse, and we saw the helpless among us suffer. Some of the helpless included three cats we befriended, animals with no real home or care. J named one of the able black toms Mesuza, a name he created himself. I named the big black, gentle tom Danny. Later, a striped grey kitten came along who became Kitten Cat.

I had a soft spot for Danny. With his patchy black coat and bent ear, he lived outside for years. Torn to ribbons time and again in fights,  he dripped constantly from the nose, and was as loving and passive as a lamb. One summer, two of his feet were lame and all the hair fell out of the front half of his body. He laid under a tree across from his “owner’s” front door and didn’t move. I called the dog warden to come take him to the pound to be euthanized, but no one came.

Miraculously, Danny survived. His black coat came back flecked with white. He rubbed his heavy jowls against me, his fur sticky from his hard life on the streets. He was coming with us when we escaped.

I could relate to Danny. When I was with my abuser, I thought my life was over. Any day could mark my end. I accepted it, waited for it. I escaped for my children, and now they were gone. I had been to the brink, just like Danny. I wanted to give him a chance.

A few months before the tree fell, Danny got sick, again. I told Lisa about him. She said to bring him to her; she would treat him. She was going to clear up his infection and neuter him. I couldn’t accept being in our situation much longer. I was going to get us out by October, one way or another. Now, Danny would be ready for the road.

When I got that call from her office saying that Danny was too sick to get better, I cried and cried. In fact, I cried for several days. Danny had both FIV and Feline Leukemia. Both were in advanced stages. The drippy nose and wheezy breathing were part of the end stages of his illnesses, not something that could be cured. There was no second chance for Danny. It wasn’t fair.

I rejected her office’s report. I wanted to hear it from Lisa. They called her, and she concurred. Danny wouldn’t get better. Knowing that it came from Lisa gave my heart the peace of knowing it was true. I wouldn’t worry some unfeeling doctor had thrown Danny away. If there was hope for Danny, Lisa would have helped him.

Before Danny passed away, Mesuza had already disappeared. Kitten Cat is feral and bites viciously when kept indoors (as we discovered after we had him secretly neutered, without his “owners” permission). The cats are not coming. I can’t manage cats and this project, too.

This trip looks different in mores ways than that, too; but really, this plan is better than the one I made. God’s trip is so much more enriching and exciting than what I planned. We took the path down which we were led, and adjusted to keep pace with the Holy Spirit. We can’t get mired in our own ideas. It only shuts out inspiration.

Right now, as I type this, I have the little box from my computer’s power cord pressed into my neck. My neck and shoulder’s ache from typing, and from carrying heavy bags. That little box gets kind of hot, so I drape the power cord over my shoulder and rest the hot box over my pains. I didn’t realize until today that my computer came with heating pad. It is a merciful discovery. It’s wild to watch what happens when we break out of old thinking, throw away limiting ideas and beliefs, and get creative.

Tom, the Sexton’s, Healthy Cookie Recipe

September 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tom’s yummy cookies were my son’s favorite part of our visit to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sistersville, WV. He enjoyed two of these big, soft cookies while I talked to Dorothy about our project and about Saint Paul’s. I can’t wait to make these myself.

Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies with Cranberries and Pecans

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat
3/4 cups whole barley flour (use all whole wheat if you don’t have this)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
3/4 cup of raw cane sugar, or 1/2 a cup of agave necter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, beat butter, peanut butter and sweeteners until light and creamy. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Stir in oats, coconut, cranberries and pecans.
3. Drop by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until golden. Cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes before transferring a wire rack.

Thank you, Saint Paul’s, for your hospitality and time. Thank you, Tom, for this wonderful recipe. We treasure your contribution to this journey. Peace be with you.

Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sistersville, WV

September 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Let me share with you Saint Paul’s of SIstersville, WV. I have been working all night and it’s getting late, so for now I’m going to share more photos than history and experiences. Please forgive me! I do have something special to share, though. While at Saint Paul’s ,the sexton gave us his recipe for healthy oatmeal peanut butter cookies. J ate two, and loved them. I’ll give you the recipe, soon.

The alter at Saint Paul's in Sistersville, WV

This is some of the beautiful stained glass at Saint Paul’s. The glow from the windows warms the inside of the nave.

I’ve saved the best for last. The ceiling at Saint Paul’s is awe-inspiring. Constructed in 1878, this wooden ceiling is like none I have ever seen. When I have time to go through all of my photographs, I’ll share more of this amazing architecture.

For anyone in the Ohio Valley, don’t miss a chance to see Saint Paul’s. If you can visit this historic church, do it. I laid on the floor of the nave and stared with wonder at that ceiling. I’m looking forward to sharing more of it.

News and Press Releases

September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

The past few days have been consumed with publicity work. I have an interview to complete for SheKnows and a press release to draft. I will send the press release to the papers in the towns we’ll be visiting, and that article in SheKnows will be the first of several about me and this trip. I’m thrilled to be getting the coverage. I can’t wait to see what it yields in terms of action on this site!

Also, thanks to my amazing soul sister, Kim, I have a fantastic flash for my camera. My photos are going to really highlight the beautiful churches on this mission. I shot a few photos at the church, a couple of quickies, and even in these quick shots got some better results.

The nave of Saint Ann's Episcopal Church
I was also able to catch a great shot outside of Saint Ann’s.

Saint Ann's Episcopal Church in New Martinsville, WV was built in 1881

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