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Life Lessons: Andrea Denney


Hey, hey now it’s a familiar face in the Life Lessons hot seat today! I met Andrea Denney last summer in South Carolina and took an immediate liking to her and family. Bright, funny, smart, sassy and a caring, compassionate mother, what’s not to like really? She’s written a couple of pieces for us here and though she’s incredibly busy, I harangued, browbeat, er, asked nicely if she would take time out to write a Life Lessons for us, to which she graciously agreed. Read more about what makes this remarkable woman tick and remember, if you’d like to take part in our fun, little exercise, drop us a line; we’ll get the questions right out to you!

Are you happy at the moment?

I made a really unfortunate underwear choice today—the elastic is shot, if you must know.  Each time I walk anywhere in the office the damn things are falling down and I’m wearing pants so the overall feeling is quite unlovely. Now I’m faced with the choice of throwing them away and going commando for the rest of the day or just dealing with this irritant. But what if I go commando and get hit by a bus on the way home?  Do I really want the paramedics to think I’m that type of girl?  Underwear choices can affect your entire demeanor. Oh, I bet you mean in general….  Yes, I’m incredibly happy.

If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

You have a long time to make up your mind about the really important issues! Ask a lot more questions and make a lot less declarative statements. Explore new ideas. Occasionally hang out with people who don’t look like you or act like you or come from your neighborhood. When people say you’re dogmatic and self-righteous, it’s just a more polite way of calling you a jackass. And no matter what anyone may tell you, feathered hair and/or a curly perm never look good on anyone.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

Just because something is not a fact, doesn’t make it less true. I’m in seminary and am learning more about the Bible than at any other point in my life. Never have I have been less certain about the historical authenticity of the stories and yet more certain about the Truth of the message.

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

It’s my goal to get eight consecutive hours of sleep and have a dinner when no one spills their milk.

What’s your secret to happiness?

Last year for Lent I gave up assuming negative intentions for people’s behavior. After Lent I decided to keep going with it. It’s easy to go to a place of anger and resentment if I always assume the worst intentions in people. This goes for simple things like when I get cut off in traffic.  Instead of assuming the driver is rude, why not assume they’re trying to get to their kid’s soccer game?  It also works for important things like harmful rhetoric. Instead of writing off someone as ignorant or hateful, I wonder what can I do to bring peace and healing to the situation? I am the recipient of grace and do my best to offer outward as well.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

I have three children ages 9, 7 and 4.  The stomach flu has been going around.  “Nuff said.

What’s your biggest regret?

I have known since I was about five-years-old that I was called into some sort of religious service.  Unfortunately I listened to what my former church said about women not being allowed in religious leadership and then what they said about God and gays. After college I spent 10 years wandering around thinking that God created me and yet couldn’t love me. It was a horrible and completely unnecessary estrangement.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

I can’t decide between the two:

1.  Be kind or be quiet.

2.  It is important to do your best at sports but it doesn’t really matter if you strike out or miss the basket. It is important to be educated but you are not worth less if you get a low score. You will change the world with your compassionate heart.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

I have a fairly good memory when it comes to conversations.  Sometimes I replay them in my head and obsess about things that are said. I worry that I missed a social cue or I missed an opportunity to be compassionate or I misread a message or I was inattentive to what someone really was trying to say or I was too sarcastic or I wasn’t funny or I came across as judge-y or I came across as daft or I….  See what I’m talking about?

Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

At age 43, with three little kids, a full-time job and a long-time partner, I decided to go to seminary part time. It is the single most selfish and yet mind-blowingly fulfilling thing that I’ve ever done for myself.

When were you happiest?

Right this very minute. No, now.  And now.  Wait…now.  This could go on forever!

What ten words best describe you?

Beloved, inquisitive, funny, compassionate, obsessive, introspective, punctual, Mama, irreverent, Jesus-follower.

Andrea Denney is a middle-aged, mini-van driving, Sunday school teaching, softball-coaching mother of three (Peyton-9, Bennett-6 ½ and Emerson-3) who lives in the south suburbs of Chicago.  When she isn’t extracting petrified chicken nuggets and fermented juice boxes from the back of her van, she is the Vice President of Operations and Finance for a qualitative market research company.   In her spare time she is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary and falls into bed each night hoping to muster just enough energy to recap the day with Beth, her partner of 23 years.

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