I have run over the same dead squirrel three times today.

Each time he gets less squirrelish looking, but in the beginning, he was fresh. Legs and arms straight up in the air and his eyes were still twitching. At first he was definable, now he is just bloody and mushy. For some reason I cannot shake the image of this little guy. What a tragically beautiful day to be dead on. And sometimes I feel like him, less definable every moment you see me or run over me. What started out as Jenny looks less Jennyish every moment, before you know it, I am just another squashed out human being looking nothing like what I am supposed to look like.

I smoked my first cigar this week. I know. Unladylike. It was a girl cigar, vanilla, and I had no idea how to inhale, puff or anything. Oddly enough, it was one of my pastors who taught me how. After a long weekend on the road Ryan and I went to community group, then to church supper, and then to the Sunday night service. We made it through the singing with our eyes barely staying open and snuck out as our pastor made his way on stage. We figured he would understand. He is pretty understanding.

On the way out I was looking at the "jobs" board to see if there was any work I could get while being at home this week. And one of our senior pastors saw us and said..."do you need work Jenny? Let's skip church and go talk about it. It's half price wine night up the street at my favorite restaurant. My treat." He told us his best ministry has happened over a great bottle of wine and a cigar. My baptist ears were shocked and befuddled. Surely we were going straight to hell for this. But when I realized we were not, and I was offered a free cigar, I is too short not to try it once. Now this can not be said for everything, but for a cigar there was no harm. Years ago I would have judged him and missed out on three very inspiring hours of conversation and relationship, i.e., the fellowship and community of Christ.

I am grateful I am growing up.

In an amazing rustic lounge over a bottle of wine and cigars we spent the next few hours getting to know one of the men who has stepped into our lives as a buoy. His wife, likewise a senior pastor at our church, was out of town, but she has been a confidant and in many ways a soul mate to me. Knowing how it feels to be a woman and in ministry. The loneliness of it, the responsibility, the joy, the busyness, the travel, the toll or beauty it can add to your marriage, bringing kids into a different world than most kids live in, those are the things we connect over and talk about. Not to mention she was raised very much like me: whatever you are thinking, when at home, can be said. Tampons. Divinity of Christ. Getting bigger thighs. Momentarily being totally annoyed by someone at the table. Or crying and forcing everyone else to cry with you...these were normal moments for us growing up. The drama. Emotion. Loudness. Craziness. Complete and utter honesty. That was us. Whereas my husband and her husband emerged from a childhood where there were not conversations about anything too taboo, emotional, or debatable...definitely no hygiene talks.

Our conversation Sunday revolved around all things real. This was our first time to ever talk to our pastor one on one. Until this point he has merely opened some financial doors for us and given us his cabin in the woods to rest in. Now we are sitting face to face with a relative stranger and we are sharing life with someone genuinely interested in being apart of our life. For no good reason. He just seems to want to know us. Marriage. Ministry. Our souls. How we met. How they met. Hardships. Sins. Funny stories. Raising kids. His foreign travels. Friends. And dinner plans to meet at their favorite Thai restaurant in a few weeks.

And wow. To connect with someone is deeply moving. To know there are others out there a bit like you and to share life together. To be able to connect with people on such an intimate level, finding out where your paths cross each other and your histories resonate and your futures intertwine and your callings are much the same, and to do so over a glass of red wine...and um....a cigar. There is something very spiritual and beautiful about it all.

My Dad
I thought I saw my dad this weekend in Denver. I was signing autographs and looked across the room to see a man who my mind tricked me into believing was my dad. "DAD!" I yelled.

It was not him. I was so sad. I forgot that he was still gone and had no idea when he was coming home. I called my mom to tell her and she told me he was flying in on Monday. My heart breathed again.

I met him and mom yesterday for dinner. I think we hugged fifty times. The good kind of bear hug that only dads know how to give. We talked about everything and I told my dad I smoked my first cigar while he was gone. I said it waiting for his approval or condemnation. 27 years old and I still want to know what this man thinks of me. He shook his head and said, "Seriously, what kind of church is this???" I told him it was a church full of people that actually seemed to be drawing closer to Jesus and bringing others in along the way. His ever baptist mind was befuddled as well... but then he smiled at me.

Without the actual words he acknowledged that I had found a home, that I was indeed my mother's daughter and would not be Jenny at all if I had not tried a cigar, knowing that my reckless soul is determined to try it all once. He smiled at me and told me how glad he was that I found a home.

I have found a church home. And I am starting to find my own home. In small instances I am growing up and looking more like me. I am not being run over looking less squirrelish with each passing day. I am becoming more me, the me God created me to be. More Jenny. More definable. More content. Less worried about rights and wrongs, judgement, and pretending. Embracing who I am as a gift. Even if that means that sometimes I do bring up feminine products at the wrong moment, try cigars out, and have a little more energy than I should have after a long trip...that is me. I am glad to be figuring myself out, with the help of a patient husband, some quirky pastors, and a desire to not be smashed down into something that I am not.

I am morphing. And one day I will stop being the slimy cocoon, or a smushed in the ground squirrel and I will turn out to be a very distinct, beautiful butterfly. At lease I hope so.

My thoughts today have been inspired by: Anne Lammot's new book Grace Eventually, a great cup of coffee, God who seems to be luring me to the windows to watch his crazy wind work the trees over, and a memory that Sunday night, an actual pastor bought two bottles of wine, some cigars, and gave us hours worth of Jesus, fellowship, and family.