Category Archives: seattle

A room with a view

“Row or Die!” These were the words Doug read from the side of a building outside my window. Not the most tactful message to have outside of a hospital room, however the view of the lake and the bridge and even the appearance of some sunshine was quite cheerful. Yes, the sun is now an “event”, in much the way that rain was a weather “event” down in Los Angeles.

After a long night of waiting in the UW Hospital emergency room Monday night, and after some confusion among the doctors as to what they were treating, I was admitted early Tuesday morning with a kidney infection. I had woken up on Easter morning with a shaky, fevery feeling, and made my way through the day as best I could. But by Sunday night I knew I was sick and when Monday morning hit, I was miserable.

Doug has class on Mondays and had some homework to do before class so I felt bad calling him back and decided I could just push through the day. We operated at minimal capacity: Mercy did not go to preschool; the kids watched two and a half hours of PBS; I think I fed them cold waffles for breakfast and lunch. I finally called my mom and begged her to come and spend her lunch hour with us to give me at least some minutes’ rest. She came toward the end of the day and, seeing how badly I was doing, she packed up some jammies and the necessary blankets and animals, and took the three kiddos to her house (Doug was not going to be home until later in the evening due to his class). I crawled back into bed and when Doug called me around eight to check in. I took my temperature: 104.4.

I called my folks and asked my dad to come pick me up to take me to the ER. We drove to the UW hospital and he stayed with me until Doug showed up. When I got checked in, there was that slightly awkward moment with the woman behind the glass looked up at my dad and asked: “And this is your…” “Father!” I answered, quickly. I was of course still in the system as Erika Carney, and my parents were still my next-of-kin. As my dad informed Doug when he arrived: “You’ve been promoted.”

When we were finally given a room, I was shivering from my fever and huddling under my down jacket and as many of the heated blankets as Doug could find. One of the first doctors we spoke with was a beautiful young woman who, after looking at my chart, informed me that she is a member at Quest, another area Covenant church. Her warmth and personal care for us throughout the night and early morning were a gift in the midst of the pain.

Because I had come in with a high fever and back pain, they were afraid of what might be happening around my spine, and of course with everything our friends in L.A. have gone through with sudden paralysis due to spinal inflammation, that was deeply concerning. But by morning, the decision had been made to move me upstairs for treatment of what they believed to be a kidney infection.

When we got upstairs, we were told who our doctor would be and our nurse whispered to us: “You’ll love her!” And we did. As the residents gathered (it’s a teaching hospital so it’s a little Grey’s Anatomy sometimes) to run through my history and talk through the treatment¬† I had so far received in the ER, my doctor was the only one who seemed to notice I was shivering in the new bed that had no blankets and she quickly pulled what she could find to cover me.

Treatment was basically IV fluids and IV antibiotics and pain medication. After I had been sufficiently poked and hooked up to things, we were left to try and rest. I wondered aloud to Doug that morning: “So when you’re the pastor, do you get visited?”

It turns out the answer is yes, and friends were quick to show up with provisions and prayers.

Coming from L.A. where we had more than our share of hospital stays, we found the UW hospital a bit remarkable. Not only were our doctor and nurse superior and the view lovely, but as a patient you get room service. No generic hospital food that comes when it wants, but a full eight page menu that you can order from at any time throughout the day. Thai basil stir fry, lemongrass pork loin, pacific salmon…and as many diet cokes and chocolate chip cookies as one would like.

We used to have moments in Los Angeles where something would happen and we would make the comment: “You know, because we live in L.A…” After my breakfast had been delivered, and the nurse introduce us to “Pinky”, the staff member whose job it is to go from room to room with coffee refills, we looked at each other: “Because we live in Seattle…”

One surreal moment came when, during my last morning, I flipped on the television and clicked through the cables channels only to see my OB’s from L.A. on their Discovery Health show, Deliver Me. Doug and I were filmed for the show, and this was the first time I had seen a real live episode. So as I sat in the midst of room service and lake views, I watched other people’s pregnancy dramas unfold form a distance.
I was able to go home on Wednesday, and have been resting at home recovering since. Friends have brought meals over and offered to play with the kiddos. Aaron is more concerned about the tape residue on my hands and arms from the many needle pokes, and he thinks those are the things that are making me feel sick. My sister comes into town tomorrow with her little baby, and I am hoping to feel well enough to spend as much time possible holding that little baby girl. Of course, I have my mother to compete with in that arena so I should probably reduce my expectations there…


I am looking into participating with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and I am interested in doing it for our family but also interested in looking at options for encouraging members of our church and community to do it as well. A new friend was telling me about her experience with helping a church become a drop-off site for a grower, and members of the community would come to the church to pick up their weekly produce. They had to gather something like twenty subscribers to qualify as a drop-off location, but it proved to be a wonderful connection between the church, their neighbors, and local farm.

Does anyone have experience doing this? Anyone in the Shoreline area interested in exploring this?

I grew up shopping at the Pike Place market with my parents, and we were on a first-name basis with the growers, sellers, coffee roasters (at a little storefront coffee shop called Starbucks), and butchers who supplied our home with food. Not to mention the artists and craftsmen whose pictures and utensils and jewelry we used. I also remember shopping at Safeway and QFC, but the market community was the place where I felt connected to what we bought and ate and used. I don’t see the massive carts at Costco giving my kids that same sense of connection to what we consume, and that is one of my motivations (not to mention great, fresh food!) in pursuing this.

From Local Harvest:
CSA reflects an innovative and resourceful strategy to connect local farmers with local consumers; develop a regional food supply and strong local economy; maintain a sense of community; encourage land stewardship; and honor the knowledge and experience of growers and producers working with small to medium farms. CSA is a unique model of local agriculture whose roots reach back 30 years to Japan where a group of women concerned about the increase in food imports and the corresponding decrease in the farming population initiated a direct growing and purchasing relationship between their group and local farms. This arrangement, called “teikei” in Japanese, translates to “putting the farmers’ face on food.” This concept traveled to Europe and was adapted to the U.S. and given the name “Community Supported Agriculture” at Indian Line Farm, Massachusetts, in 1985. As of January 2005, there are over 1500 CSA farms across the US and Canada.

CSA is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters which provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food. Supporters cover a farm’s yearly operating budget by purchasing a share of the season’s harvest. CSA members make a commitment to support the farm throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks and bounty of growing food along with the farmer or grower. Members help pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment maintenance, labor, etc. In return, the farm provides, to the best of its ability, a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season. Becoming a member creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown and those who grow it.


When Doug and I were first married, good friends gave us a really nice bottle of Medeira. They told us to wait a year to drink it, and in spite of my pleading on numerous occasions to crack it open that first year, Doug held fast to our friend’s instructions. Doug proudly reported to our friends that next year that we had indeed kept it for the year, and at that point our friend told us: “You know, if you let it age five years, it will be even better.” I was crushed, as good alcohol was not in the budget for us and patience is not my strong suite (and determination is Doug’s). And so we waited.

When the possibility of buying a house here in Shoreline first emerged, Doug decided that when we closed on the house, we would celebrate by opening the bottle of Medeira and sipping it in front of a fire in our new home. Tonight, we toast the very good gift of God that is our new home. May it be a place of generous listening and hospitality; a place of compassion and conversation; a place of laughter and imagination.


The other day I was loading the kids into the van, and the way that works is the big kids get into their seats in the very back row while I put Elijah in, then I come to other side and sit on the folded down middle seat while I buckle the two of them in the back. I was in the process of doing this and was working on securing Aaron’s Britax when Mercy proclaimed: “Mommy, you are Pastor Erika now.”

While that terminology may have been used at times in Los Angeles it was not frequent or consistent, and someone here in Seattle must have used that title while talking to Mercy about her mom.

“Yes, Mercy, that’s right. I am Pastor Erika here.”

She looked at me with a big smile as if the idea of that made her proud.

“And Mercy,” I added looking intently into her eyes, “you could grow up to be Pastor Mercy someday.”

Her eyes widened and she flew out of her seat and into my arms. “Oh, thank you Mommy.”

Seattle Pacific

This afternoon I have the opportunity to guest lecture at Seattle Pacific University for a dear friend, Bob Drovdahl, who is a professor there. I will be speaking on my experience with adult education and I am very much looking forward to meeting the students and hearing more about their hearts for ministry in the church. I hope that i will have something of value to offer them from my own experience, and it will be fun to be on the SPU campus (a school I considered attending before deciding on North Park).

Scot McKnight recently posted some thoughts on the rise of the “NeoReformed“. He writes:

The NeoReformed, for a variety of reasons, some of them good, don’t recognize that evangelicalism as a village green. Instead, they want to build a gate at the gate-less village green and require Reformed confessions and credentials to enter onto the village green. Put differently, they think the only legitimate and the only faithful evangelicals are Reformed. Really Reformed. In other words, they are “confessing” evangelicals. The only true evangelical is a Reformed evangelical. They are more than happy to call into question the legitimacy and fidelity of any evangelical who doesn’t believe in classic Reformed doctrines, like double predestination.

In effect, the NeoReformed are a new form of Fundamentalism, so one might describe them accurately as the NeoFundamentalists. Which means they seem to need a trend or an opponent upon whom they can vent their frustrations (see Rene Girard). This results in two clear traits: the exaltation of some peripheral doctrine to central status and the demonization of a person. The goal in such cases seems to be to win at all costs.

I have heard that the influence of Mars Hill on the students at SPU has been significant. One student told me that for young women on campus, there is a heavy trend away from considering careers or many ministry callings because of that particular church’s teaching on the role of women at church and in the home. It will be interesting to see if that trend is evident in this class today.

On his blog, Scot asks why younger adults are so drawn to what he calls the NeoReformed movement as evident in places like Mars Hill Church. Desire for certainty, hierarchy, and heavy leadership are a few observations some have made that seem to resonate with me, but I am not totally sure.

New city, new normals

A few observations about life in the Pacific Northwest:

-As I find myself out and about during the day with the kiddos, I notice that around here a lot of Dads are home during the day with their children. I remember noticing this when we here on vacation last year, and now that I live here I notice it even more. There are also a lot of parents who share working and caring for their kids during the day, which is what Doug and I are now doing. This feels like a very normal thing here.

-Doug and I went out for our first date here, and as we sat here sipping yummy Belgian beers we noticed the distinct difference in how people dress here. Lots of hoodies under shirts. Lots of black. Tons of tattoos of course. And as I looked around, I could not find a single blonde in the crowd (and not because we not among a largely Anglo crowd). Women had lots of shades of browns and reds and darker hues, and I realized how accustomed I have grown to the unnaturally blonde haircolors seen so often in L.A.

-It’s hard to find the non-organic sections of the grocery store. They are by far the smaller percentage of any given aisle.

-Composting here is part of regular trash service. We had to post the garbage guidelines on our refrigerator because they were so extensive. Mercy has learned how to compost and she knows what foods from her plate can be dumped into the compost trash can. I didn’t realize that Aaron was watching her do this and I couldn’t understand why I kept fishing plates and forks out of the compost trash can. He saw Mercy dump her plate in that trash, but apparently didn’t realize that the entire plate was not going into the can.

-Conversation among strangers is totally normal here. I have started allowing more time for errands because of this.

-As I have met people and mentioned that I am a pastor, I wondered how that would be received around here as Seattle is famous for its unchurched-ness. So far the reaction I have received is one of people hearing that and wanting to talk about any number of things relating to faith or society or their health or families. I have not yet felt any prejudice against me for being a Christian or serving as a minister.

-The economy is hitting our region hard, with lots of Microsoft layoffs and insecurity at Boeing. In our church family, a number of people are being hit with unemployment as well as having to make tough decisions at work letting other employees go.

Coming home

Having just moved back to the community where I was raised following six and a half years in Los Angeles (and stints in Portland, Spokane, and Chicago before that), I am remembering some of the things I love about living here. As I type this, my two big kids are tromping around outside, running up and down the steps of our back deck, gathering any number of outdoor “treasures” ranging from fir branches to sticks to rocks. It is wet and cold and while I can’t say that L.A.’s mid-eighty degree weather of late has not felt enviable at times, I do love the way all of the green around me sparkles.

On Saturday we got up and had a family day. We drove to the Edmonds ferry and parked the cars and walked on for the short ride to Kingston. We got off and ate fish and chips at a little restaurant then made our way back to board the ferry home. The kids love going outside on the ferry decks while we are moving, and the wind and cold don’t seem to phase them at all. Elijah was hilarious to watch trying to keep his balance in the strong wind, and to his credit he never once fell.

There’s a casual friendliness here that I am starting to remember, and the “avoid eye contact” ways of L.A. are replaced by this very natural and normal engagement with the people around you that includes lots of smiles and little conversations and a sense of familiarity with one another. When at the grocery store, expect to spend a little longer in line because of conversation.

Oh, and I am really getting used to the nightly fires my husband builds for us. The smell and sound and romance of it reminds me of many a childhood night, curled up with a book or the dog, warming my feet on the stones. And a little glass of port finishes off the evening quite nicely.

I’m a prayer lady now

This morning I had the privilege of gathering to pray with a group of women who meet weekly to pray for the needs of the SCC family. My mom would always tell me about how this group, “the prayer ladies” as she called them, prayed for me over the years, especially during our time in L.A., so it was a bit surreal to sit among them and pick up the little index cards which chronicle the needs of this community. We prayed for an hour, prayed until every card had been taken and the needs written on it offered up to God. I happened to pick up the card that had Church of the Redeemer written on it, and it felt so strange to sit so many miles away and intercede on behalf of our other “family”.

We’re here

We just got our internet connection installed today and I am excited to share a bit of our adventures of late. Snowstorms, first sermons and songs, a new house, lots of playing Wall-E, a sleepless baby, a new housemate, and a special dedication service this past Sunday for our new ministry posts have made for a full and happy few weeks. Not to mention the load of new toys from Christmas and Aaron’s birthday that have basically made the boxes of toys lovingly packed in L.A. totally obsolete (we’re thinking of not even unpacking them but sending straight on to Goodwill) that currently fill our living room.

It is good to feel a bit settled though “real life” is only officially beginning this week in terms of work schedules, school and the like.

More to come very soon…