Bring On The Hot Mess

Last week, I was lucky enough to be in conversation with many talented, creative, connected Religious Educators. The conversations flowed, and ideas sparked as we moved from naming problems to designing projects to meet the many needs of our world.

This is one of my favorite aspects of professional conferences- the time and space for trust to develop, friendships to bud, and just sit and talk or play together.

There was one especially fruitful conversation, where I was able to overcome my hesitance to share a new project idea with someone who is actually in the position to help make it a reality. I left the circle feeling hopeful and elated. So much so that when I later bumped into this person in passing, I shared my excitement: how energized I felt! That my brain was operating on all cylinders! That the collaboration we were beginning was going to be great because, “I like messes!”

Wait…. What?


“I like messes.” As soon as I walked away, I felt really silly. The person would certainly rethink the wisdom of working with me, an inarticulate moron. The demons of insecurity, never far from me, leapt in like hyenas on a wildebeest carcass.

But after some reflection, and a generous reframe from a close friend who heard my story, I am able to see that exclamation as an asset. I do like messes. Messes are a huge part of any complex project. My work as a Religious Educator involves sorting through innumerable messes, both physical, systemic, and emotional.

I am experienced with untangling mess. I can hold many parts of project at once. I attend to strong personalities in a working group without running away or being intimidated. Complexity and contradictions intrigue me. I am not really thwarted easily. A gift of stubbornness, I guess.

I write this not to pat myself on the shoulder, but to lift up that sometimes we need to see the blessing in the odd parts of our functioning. Also that sometimes, when our thinky brains are busy working on big thoughts, bits of pure heart truth can slip out of our mouth. “I like messes” was a piece of my heart’s truth.

Hearing and understanding this message is helping me discern what sort of work is next for me. While I am not yet ready to proclaim a next move, I do now know that it will be something that uses my gifts – all of them. I will embrace messes with the confidence that I enjoy making order from chaos, finding commonalities in groups of people, and seeing the hope in complicated situations.

And there are plenty of messes for me to work on in this world.

Why I Go to Star Island


I never thought I would be a “camp” person. It was not part of my childhood to go to camp.  I only made my first s’more a couple years ago. But now I have a family that goes to a camp, and Unitarian Universalism is why.

When I took on work as a Religious Educator, and did not know diddly about how to do the work of administering an R.E. program, I was lucky enough to have guidance from the former DRE.  She told me about Star Island and encouraged me to go.  She even asked the Board to let me use her extra professional development funds, which made it possible!  A terrific gift.

So my children and I trundled off to the coast of New Hampshire and headed off on the boat to Star.  I admit, I was nervous!  That melted away very quickly as we were welcomed into the traditions and community of Star Island.  I took a morning and afternoon workshops, which helped me learn how to start my job in the fall, and heard an amazing daily lecture by one of our leading theologians, Rev. Dr. Thandeka.  The rest of the day was filled with fun, relaxation and conversations.  Yes, my head was full of learning, but what really makes me go back each year to Star is the community.

My kids LOVE being at Star!  It is the highlight of our year.  We all have made fantastic friends- adult and children, with whom we stay connected during the year.  We play music, act in the talent show, sing, worship, play games, act silly, eat great food and sit in quiet soaking up the beauty of nature.

Star Island is unique for its true multi-generational community.  For one week a year, I feel complete trust in all the adults who will be around my kids.  During Religious Education week, the participants are mostly other DRE’s and RE teachers!  These are very open hearted people who are so kind and sharing.  It feel like all ages have an important place, a necessary voice and everyone matters.

I hope you will consider going to Star Island LRE Week, July 16-23, or another camp. If you do want to go- let me know, because we can both save 10% on our room and board!  I am not sharing this info just to get a discount. One might think that my family would have enough of UU religious education during the year, but each January, we start counting the days till RE Week!  The combination of new growth and community and an opportunity to deepen our faith brings us back every summer.

Please Join Us!