So Happy Anniversary to Myra and I!
We have numerous anniversaries. (One of the perks of being gay is that we get to keep marrying the same person, over and over!) This is the anniversary of our legal marriage, Sept. 21st, 2013, in Vancouver, WA. We decided since the Feds finally said we could get benefits if we were married, we would jump on board. My dad did the small ceremony with 25 friends witnessing. It was beautiful (picture above). It is also...
Happy Day of the Universal Booty Kick to Myra and I!
One year ago today, we were both laid off from our jobs. The same day, same hour. Myra was let go from her job at Columbia (a mistake they still regret, I'm sure). I was fired from my part-time job with Music Together (a job I loved, but needed to move on from and didn't have the courage to say goodbye). Amazing. Since then, we have laughed, cried, contemplated, danced and sung (well, I have anyway), written and talked our way into finding how Truth wants to be expressed through us individually, and together. Myra now works at Kaiser Permanente, where she can work from home as much as she wants, and I became a minister and gave birth to my second business, Heartfelt Unions. So today brings us full circle and it's amazing to see what has lead up to these changes.
When I had became ordained as a non-denominational minister last February, I realized that most people don't know my spiritual background that led me to the decision to become a minister. I'd like to give you an overview of my life so far, sharing the highlights that have lead me to this moment. My full name is Elizabeth Dake Lavenue, and my purpose in life is to know God and to lead others to know God. I'm a PK, a preacher's kid. My dad (aged 88) just recently retired from a lifetime of service to the Presbyterian and the UCC churches (well, he's not fully retired, he still preaches one Sunday a month). I am also a PGGGK, a preacher's great-great grandkid, and a PGGGGK, a Preacher's great-great-great grandkid. In addition, on my mom's side, my Uncle Denny is a Nazarene minister, as is his son Brad. I also have a great uncle somewhere in my mom's lineage that was a minister. That's a lot of preachers!
I was named after Rev. Vivian A. Dake, my great-great grandfather, who was a missionary for the Free Methodist Church in the US and Africa. As I was working with my therapist about the word "minister" and my relationship to it, I realized I needed to clear up my connection to my ancestors before I could embrace becoming a minister. I had disconnected from Rev. Dake as a teenager when my mom first showed me his writings (he also wrote music) since he was an evangelical preacher and I was opposed to this. When I recently went back to reading about his life and travels, I realized he was on Fire for God, just like I feel! I had a powerful healing around my relationship to him and opened into the energy of Truth that he embodied in his life and work. I still don't agree with how he went about his work, but the desire to know the Truth, and to speak the Truth has been passed down to me. For this I am grateful. Forgiveness is a powerful energy (forgiving both myself for being judgmental and for forgiveness for him), and as I opened to it, this huge weight was lifted from me. I knew I could fully embrace being a minister. Obviously it doesn't have to look the way he did it, or the way anyone else has done it. I've thought many times about going to Seminary, but it's never been the path for me. The studying I've done and the experiences of my life have been my Seminary. I am truly an omnivorous spiritual being. I can't fit into one spiritual box, even a Unitarian one (we belong to the First Unitarian Universalist congregration of downtown Portland). I decided to have an ordination for myself, which was a beautiful ceremony to honor this Calling to become Rev. Elizabeth Dake Lavenue. When a friend asked, "who ordained you?", I said God. When the longing for Truth is true, there is no denying the guidance from within.
I was born in Meadville, PA, on Dec. 2nd, 1968, amidst a sizable snow storm. No wonder I love snow so much! I am the youngest of four girls (yes, Myra and I are both the babies in our families). We were very active in the Edinboro Methodist Church growing up, since my dad's ministry was as a campus pastor at Edinboro State College, near Erie, PA. My mother was a nurse and became a nurse practitioner when I was 9. One of the many amazing things they did together was to start SEFA, Sex Education for All (the first of it's kind in the 70's for this small college), which met in our living room. My parents have always been advocates for change and acceptance of diversity. Thank you for showing me the way!
Coming from a family of musicians (my grandma was a piano teacher, my mom is a pianist/singer, all my sisters are singers), we would sing as a quartet often in various churches in the area. As I discovered my voice, I started doing solos, but I was really scared. So much encouragement from family and friends helped me to open up more and realize that I felt closest to God when I was singing. So I followed the path of music that was laid out before me, studying singing and performing often. We moved from PA to Utah when I was 11. Wow, was that a culture shock! My teenage years were full of the life in our small church in Utah: the youth group, Dad's next wedding or funeral, singing solos or going on camping trips together. The life of the church and my growing faith in God helped me navigate the ups and downs of living as a Christian among the Mormons. In 1986, I moved to Portland to go to Lewis & Clark College at age 17. I've lived here for the 33 years since. I have a B.A. in world religions from Lewis & Clark College, and minor in Music and a minor in SE Asian Studies.
After college, I did the usual number of part-time jobs, in addition to my singing jobs, but I never intended to be a professional musician. I was scared because I felt inadequate and young. But I was following the pull of the Heart, which kept me coming back to singing, moving through more and more fear around not being good enough, and not having enough money to put food on the table. Many part-time jobs saw me through it all, but I was never meant to be a waitress! I traveled twice to India (once as a student and once as the assistant trip leader at Lewis & Clark) to explore this amazing culture and spend time at the Siddha Yoga Ashram outside of Bombay. Over the past decades, I have deepened into my meditation practice and am grateful to my many teachers along the way.
In 1999, our family experienced a trauma that has forever changed our lives. My mother was working as the Medical Officer for Peace Corps in Mauritania, Africa, and she fell two stories from a roof, becoming immediately and completely paralyzed. Living as a quadriplegic over the past 20 years, she had been in and out of the hospital numerous times, never being sure if she would make it home again. As I've moved through this emotional roller coaster, I've learned so many things: surrender, patience, compassion, the importance of team work and good communication skills, and faith that the Divine has a plan that I don't always see. I'd become more comfortable with intense hospital visits and a deeper ability to be present in the moment, knowing that each goodbye might be my last. On May 14th this year, my mom died. Today would have been her 84th birthday. Nancy Cheryl Fink Lower was an amazing being and if you would like to hear about her life, click here to watch her memorial. A slideshow is also available by clicking here.
Over these years, the longing to be doing deeper spiritual work has grown and grown. My spiritual practices continue to guide the pull to share truth with the community in a more active way. How can each of us generate more love and compassion for our world? How can we see the Divine's hand in every detail? What does it mean to be "present in the moment" and how can we teach this practice to our children, our family, and our world?
This fall, I will be opening a new studio on the top floor of our home. I'm staying open to guidance and following the pull towards these possibilities of work and play:
At my Ordination in February, I made these commitments. I, Rev. Elizabeth Dake Lavenue, commit to:
Clearly, this work is not being done in a bubble. I need this community more than ever, to listen, to inspire, and to grow right along with me. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for walking this journey with me, dear friends. I am honored to have you in my life.