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The Apology Jar

The Apology Jar

I’m sorry.

It’s a good phrase. It’s an important phrase. It’s something we teach our children to say when they need to acknowledge wrongdoing and work to restore a relationship. It’s something many adults need to get better at saying (and meaning) without qualifying with a “but” or an “if.” And that definitely includes me because I’m not very good at admitting when I’m wrong.

But I’m awfully good at saying I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I didn’t know that.

I’m sorry to bother you, but can I ask you a question?

I’m sorry, was that in your way?

And I’ve got a couple of amazing coworkers who are also really good at this kind of apologizing.

I’m sorry I forgot what I was saying.

I’m sorry, that story was really rambling.

Sorry, were you sitting here?

The experts tell us that while we may be innocently attempting to keep peace and avoid conflict, this kind of apologizing can not only damage our careers, but also our self-image. We do not need to apologize for a lack of knowledge, for taking up space, for opening our mouths. We do not need to apologize for existing! We do not need to use apologies as conversation “smoothers,” to cushion whatever blows might befall those around us. We do not need to apologize when a simple “thank you” or “excuse me” will due. We do not need to apologize when what we really need to do is stand firm in our convictions.

So I’ve been joking with my coworkers that I’m going to institute an “apology” jar around the office. Sort of like a swear jar, we’ll each have to put $1 in when we’re caught in an apology.

Or when, like happened a few weeks ago, our boss even asks for an unwarranted apology. My boss (who also happens to be my sweet husband, so that’s an interesting dynamic) was suggesting some phrasing for an email I was sending to his boss, and his wording included an apology. I did not feel the apology was warranted, so instead of saying “I’m sorry that I didn’t know X” I wrote, “I just learned X” and continued with the email. It wasn’t hard to turn that phrase and I was still polite and respectful in my email, without diminishing myself in the process.

And even if I can’t make the general public give me $1 for an unwarranted apology, I’m not going to accept them so easily anymore either. At the Evolving Faith conference I turned around to tell a new friend how much I enjoyed listening to her gorgeous voice sing harmonies in my ear that afternoon. Her response to my gratitude and compliment?! “I’m sorry,” along with a sheepish lowering of her head.

“Nope.” I laughed. “That’s not how this works. That is the wrong answer when someone gives you a compliment. The right answer is: thank you. Let’s try this again.”

And we did.

And this time she smiled, and said, “thank you” instead.


How about you? Are you an over-apologizer? Do you have tips or tricks for those of us trying to break this habit?

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Christmas Ornament

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Christmas Ornament

We may read a lot about complementarian versus egaliatarian marriages in theory, but what does an egalitarian marriage look like in practice? That’s the purpose of this series: a glimpse of how roles based on giftedness and not gender, how mutual submission and genuine partnership can look in the midst of a real-life relationship-ours. 


Each year since we started dating Darin and I exchange Christmas ornaments. We try to get something that is significant for the year we have just had. This year when I unwrapped the ornament I was so touched at his thoughtfulness. But then when he told me more about why he had made it, I really started to cry. I am so grateful to do life with this guy and I’m thankful he agreed to my request to share the story behind this ornament.  These are his words. 

The last few years have been a thrill ride for Deanna and me as we follow God into uncharted territory in our individual and shared faiths. We have been challenged, changed, and grown at a break-neck pace through the experiences of the last 4ish years. That journey is partially chronicled throughout Deanna’s posts, so I won’t get into it here.

Since she started at Portland Seminary, Deanna has continued the hard work of challenging so many things we took for granted before this current leg of our journey began. The ideas about God, the Church, and what it means to be a part of this big, messy body that Deanna brings to the table in any given week are staggering, amazing, and often dumbfounding. Often I have to ask her to slow down and define the last 3-12 words she used. But the ideas are incredible. The way God is weaving this knowledge into the ways that God has been recently leading us both together and individually feels providential.

It is thrilling.

So when it came time for our annual ornament exchange at Christmas, I knew I had to acknowledge the multitude of ways that Deanna’s work and study have enriched and directed our lives.

One of the historical figures that Deanna spent some time studying last semester is a German nun named Hildegard of Bingen. This woman faithfully served God, often took direct inspiration and direction from God, and served faithfully in a myriad of ways as a result. She also had a faithful friend named Volmar who helped to collect and communicate Hildegard’s visions.

For the entire semester, Deanna had an old drawing depicting the two of them which hung by her desk. Often of late I feel much like Volmar, peering through the window and just trying to keep up as Deanna brings the font of inspiration and pure missional gold that flows from Heaven, through her, into our home and family. So I took that photo and transferred it onto a thin piece of cedar, then added this quote on the reverse side:

You see, the ways that God has been working and moving in our family are ones that put our family perspective and practice more and more at odds with the direction of our world, especially the direction of our dear home, America. While America seeks stuff, we look for relationships. While the military expands and bombs pile high, we seek to embrace the peace of Christ in our life, and not just in an internal, “I’ve got peace like a river,” kind of way. While everything around us seems to trend toward shipwreck, you all should see the way that Deanna stands, resolute, and confident, challenging those powers and principalities to bring it on.

This is not to say that there aren’t hard times. Times when a Bonhoeffer quote about the Nazis feels just a little too close to our current situation. Times when the brokenness of this world nearly drags us down into despair. Times when we wonder how to raise our strong, smart, sweet daughters in a world that wants to kill their spirit or their hope.

But what is being built in Deanna, and in the rest of us through God’s work in her and in our family, is stronger than those dark things. So, in the midst of the shipwreck, she (and we alongside her) stands strong and brave. She is both the quiet student waiting on the Lord to bring divine inspiration and the resolute defender of the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Two sides of the same ornament, both printed on a fragile thin strip of beautiful cedar. And I’m blessed to be hanging from the same branch as her. I hope you feel that blessing too.


Want to know more about egalitarian marriage and how this model is fully Biblically supported? Click here.
Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Halloween

Scenes from an Egalitarian Marriage: Halloween

We may read a lot about complementarian versus egaliatarian marriages in theory, but what does an egalitarian marriage look like in practice? That’s the purpose of this series: a glimpse of how roles based on giftedness and not gender, how mutual submission and genuine partnership can look in the midst of a real-life relationship-ours. 


While we’re not really into the spooky/scary stuff of Halloween, the Gemmer family has always been into dressing up. Early each fall we sit down as a family and decide what the girls want their costumes to be, then we divide up labor and make a plan. Nothing against those families who chose to let their kids explore the costume aisle at Target to pick their Halloween duds, but we just think homemade costumes are much more fun.

But we are also a family with two parents who are busy and have multiple commitments to keep. Just because Darin’s job supports our family with a paycheck, doesn’t mean my volunteer job is any less important. And while I may be the one “at home” with the munchkins, our two heads put together are much more creative than my one.

The first year we really dove into the homemade costumes was the year Daisy decided she wanted to be a butterfly and Dani jumped right aboard that bandwagon. Darin had a vision that involved flexible pvc and tulle, and I was happy to be in charge of antennae and black clothing. This costume was a big winner and the girls loved all the compliments they received, even if they had to walk sideways to get through any doorway they encountered.

Giant butterflies! They had to turn sideways to get through doorways.
Giant butterflies!


The following year we were way into Pippi Longstocking, and Dani had fallen in love with a horse costume her Gran had sent her. With Dani’s costume already taken care of, Darin took on the making of the Pippi wig and once again I was in charge of clothing. I found the dress and some way-big boots (Daisy fits into them now, 4 years later she’s wearing them as actual shoes) and sewed some patches on a play apron they owned. But the star of the show? Darin’s amazing handiwork at her wig.

That evening as we were trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, Darin overheard a couple of parents talking about Daisy’s costume. They had done a costume parade at school earlier in the afternoon and the parents were agreeing that Daisy’s costume was the best in the school. You better believe my husband took great pride in overhearing that comment.

Pippi Longstocking and her horse Alfonso.
Pippi Longstocking and her horse Alfonso.



By now Darin was starting to get a reputation he needed to uphold. The next Halloween Dani wanted to wear her new Rapunzel dress so we convinced Daisy to become the chameleon pal – Pascal – from Tangled. Darin took full ownership of both Dani’s wig and Daisy’s costume. You can’t see it here but Daisy’s chameleon not only lit-up, it changed colors. It was a perfect for trick-or-treating in the dark, it was just too bad that Daisy got sick that year and wasn’t feeling up for a trek around the neighborhood. And Dani’s wig? Masterpiece!



The summer of 2014 Daisy spent developing her own superhero alter-ego and really wanted to dress the part of “Rainbow Zap” for Halloween. Since my sewing skills are much better than Darin’s, I took ownership of this year’s costume and sewed a cape, wristlets and mask. Dani found a Peacock costume in a consignment shop that she fell in love with and since we had store credit to spend I couldn’t say no. Somehow Darin got out of costume work this year!

Rainbow Zap and Peacock - only one of these costumes is homemade.
Rainbow Zap and Peacock – only one of these costumes is homemade.


One more Halloween, one more costume conversation. Dani was excited that it was her turn to wear the Chameleon costume (easy, check!) and Daisy was really interested in dressing as her favorite My Little Pony. Darin agreed to tackle her costume if I would search out some ideas for him. While searching I stumbled upon an Etsy listing for a homemade costume, in Daisy’s size! What a gift. Knowing we couldn’t do a homemade costume for any cheaper than this one was listed, I hit order and Darin counted his blessings.

The chameleon returns and in joined by Pinkie Pie.


Sometime over the past year since I’ve been in Seminary, Darin has taken up crochet as a hobby. He was tired of sitting alone bored most evenings while I studied, but knitting wasn’t his favorite. But when he moved over to crochet he was all in – making hats and scarves and other fun things for us and for gift giving. This isn’t a typical “manly” hobby, but one that is affordable and practical and one that Darin really enjoys.

This year he created a Gru (from Despicable Me) character for camp and the girls loved it so much they wanted to do family costumes when Halloween rolled around. And Darin, once again, had a vision for their costumes that was unmatched. He crocheted them each a hat, adding yarn-covered jar lids for goggles, and chenille stems for the crazy purple minion. The costumes fit our family personalities quite perfectly.

Gru and Lucy take their Minions to the church trunk-or-treat party.
Gru and Lucy take their Minions to the church trunk-or-treat party.


At the school carnival Dani happily told everyone who complimented her hat (once again Daisy was sick) that her dad made it. While they received several questioning looks (Dani told me one guy tried to convince her that she was wrong, that it was her mom who made the costume) it is so fun for me to see our girls gleefully extolling their Dad’s creative talents.

We work together to create costumes each year, because we are both creative. We both have something to bring, not based on our gender, but on our God-given gifts. And our whole family benefits when everyone gets to use their gifts to the fullest.

Can’t wait to see what Halloween 2017 brings our way!

Want to know more about egalitarian marriage and how this model is fully Biblically supported? Click here.