Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Getting back to work

Two things:

In the last week, I've had three de facto counseling sessions and I've learned something: This is what I do. This is what gives me life. I know, I know . . . "duh." But I've had some time off and I've really, really, really enjoyed it and I was starting to dread going back to work. Now I remember why, a lot of the time, it doesn't even feel like work. It's time to get busy again.

Which brings me to the second thing:

I have an interview with a board member from the Samaritan Center Friday morning at 10 a.m. Ask God to give me wisdom to discern whether this is the place for me. The friend who set up the meeting said, "I think Samaritan will give you a big enough backyard to play in." Ask God to help me know the truth and especially the unspoken truth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More books I've read lately

Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli is the last collection of his writing before he died. It's good but not great; kind of a cross between Donald Miller and Max Lucado. Too "inspirational" for me, but thought-provoking and perfect for lots of people I know.

OK, so on to two books that have really stayed with me:

Between Two Worlds is Elizabeth's Marquadt's clinical study into the experience of adult children of divorce who grew up with both parents involved and who show up in other studies as well-functioning. Although clinically, these children weathered their parents' divorces with few symptoms and minimal disruption, their answers to questionnaires and interviews tell another story.While Marquadt acknowledges that divorce is sometimes necessary and that it is preferable for both prents to stay involved, she describes the lack of place and identity that the children of even "good divorces" experience. Her subjects describe how children feel incomplete at each parent's house because the other parent isn't there; how they often feel required to split themselves in two psychically in order to survive emotionally at each house; how even under the best of circumstances they feel unable to resolve within themselves the very differences that their parents couldn't resolve in the marriage. This isn't a book about divorce but about children and I'm glad that Marquadt gave them a voice.

I also finally read Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor and I'll just put it this way: I had dog-eared 8 pages before I finished the first couple of chapters. This is not really the story of leaving church entirely but the story of a gifted Episcopal priest examining her journey into vocational ministry, her wrenching burn-out, and her decision to exchange the pulpit for a secular teaching position. She captured me in the introduction when she writes that there are really only two stages of faith for the Christian: a cycle of finding life and losing life and then finding life again. There are the best descriptions of the hidden motivations and subtle manipulations of ministers that I have ever read, followed by a deeply poignant description of what it means to burn out in ministry that made me want to cry for all my brothers and sisters who find this path unbearably difficult and painful. In the end, she finds life again and finds it abundantly and I'm glad, but also sad. Sad that she had to find it away from the ministry that promised so much life, away from the worshipping community that she clearly loves, sad that the church that birthed her couldn't nourish her. I'll reread this book several times, I imagine, before it finally sifts through all my own ambivalence and settles in to my own rhythm of finding life and losing life and finding it again.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I've spent the last 6 months sorting stuff, cleaning stuff, painting stuff, giving stuff away, selling stuff, packing stuff and moving stuff. Then I unpacked stuff, bought new stuff, cleaned more stuff, gave more stuff away, painted stuff, organized stuff, and decorated stuff.

I'm afraid that when I finally meet Him, Jesus will say to me, "What part of 'Don't store up treasures on earth' did you not understand?"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My face hurts from smiling

Craig took me to hear Martina McBride in concert tonight. Not everyone knows this, but I am a big fan. Her music touches my heart and always, always makes me smile.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

I don't have time for this, but . . .

My to-do list tells me that I really don't have time to fiddle with my blog right now, but I'm hoping that a little writing will unstick my brain and unparalyze my spirit and free me up to do what I really need to be doing.

Which is getting ready for tomorrow night.

Which is the night I'm supposed to speak for the first time at MBC.

The women's ministry asked me back in the spring to do a retreat-type thing for them and I said okay. Asked how many we would have and they said 40 is a really good turn-out.

100 women have bought tickets to the thing tomorrow night. If I call the church secretary, I'll probably find out it's over that now. The fellowship hall won't even hold that many.

OK, so why do I feel like throwing up? I've spoken in front of groups that big and far bigger. I'm using material I've done before and really like. I feel passionate about my topic. I like these women. So . . . what's up?

Part of it is that every comment I hear just increases the pressure. The women's ministry committee is so excited because they've never had this kind of interest before and they keep saying, "You're such a draw! Everyone's coming to hear you!" I've heard, "My marriage is falling apart but I just keep thinking that if I can hold on til Friday night, I'll be okay." "My daughter-in-law isn't a Christian but I just keep thinking that if I can get her there Friday night, something might happen! Look for her, okay?"

You all know that I love being a pastor's wife, right? But this is the part that I don't love: people project so much onto you that there's no way to live up to their expectations. So this is the part where I remind myself that living up to other people's expectations isn't what I'm all about and that their disappointment isn't the worst thing that can happen.

So, what is the worst that can happen? Well, for one thing, we might all forget that God has some thoughts about what the night is supposed to be about and none of them begin and end with me! Another "worst" thing is that everyone could actually be impressed with some image of me and want to keep that little illusion going indefinitely. And here's what I heard way back in the back of my brain as I was walking today: "The worst thing that could happen is 100 women wanting to be my best friend." Which is another thing about being a pastor's wife that is hard for me.

So, now I've come full circle. Now I need to ask the corollary question, "What's the best thing that could happen?" Well . . . I'm thinking . . . the best thing that can happen is that we get to know each other a little better, that most of the women leave feeling encouraged and like maybe they know me a little bit better, and that God gets all the credit for such a relaxed and wonderful evening at church.

Am I unstuck? Maybe . . . I'll go work on my talk and see. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thanks, Dad, for everything

I spent the day today with my dad--a rare and lovely gift. He came over to see the house for the first time and to help me put shelves in the cubby above the computer. Most of you don't know my dad and that's a shame. I truly hope you at least know someone like him--thoughtful, humble, generous, wise.

For one thing, he knows how to do things like put up shelves. Mowgli and Boo still refer to him as "really, really smart." He's retired, which for him translates, "free to do things that have meaning and lasting value that you can't necessarily get paid for." He has ideals and values in the truest sense of the words and he works as hard as anyone I know to live up to them; he often looks confused when others don't. He's going to be really embarassed when he reads this post because he'll think of all the ways he's not who he wants to be, which says something important about who he is.

Like all of us, he's "wonderfully flawed" and I was immeasurably blessed to grow up to be his daughter.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Breaking in the house . . . literally

Finally just got rid of 21 teenagers and 6 adults and 1 toddler and 1 baby . . . It was such a blessing to see the house full (and I do mean full) of kids wanting to pray together and study together . . . and we are exhausted! The house survived, except for a broken back door, which a youth worker is coming back to repair. We're still not sure how it happened! I took the kids through a session of lectio divina and they actually seemed to enjoy it. (I think it was a lot shorter than the typical youth Bible study.) Pizza before and brownies after helps draw them in and builds community, but they seem to really crave the quiet and the prayer and the discussion. We feel blessed.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

15 years ago, at 9:53 p.m., the doctor held Boo up, almost Simba-style, wet and wailing, and I, having surrendered my contacts t0 the nurse at 7:00 that morning, asked, "What is it?" "It's a girl!" A girl! Throughout the pregnancy, I had imagined a boy--a little brother for Mowgli, two little boys playing together in the backyard, heads bent over the sandbox. A girl! Then suddenly: Well, of course she was a girl! And she's been my little girl--and now my big girl--ever since. Happy Birthday, Boo!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

New beginnings

As some of the crazy-busyness subsides, I'm back to reflecting on the questions that many of you have asked me and that I also ask myself. They seem to organize themselves around two big questions: "What does it mean to be a disciple--a follower of Jesus--in your new setting?" and "What do you want to do differently in the new place than you did in the old place?"

I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle the first question in writing just yet . . . the thoughts I have are "formless and void" right now--which, of course, is the perfect primordial soup for creation. But no "big bang" yet, so I'll set that aside for now.

The other question really grabs my attention because I'm such a sucker for new beginnings. I always LOVED New Years Day, the first day of school, the first day of summer, even Mondays! New Years Resolutions, new notebooks and newly sharpened pencils, turning the calendar to a new month or day--all opportunities for starting over fresh. I love it!

So I don't want to miss this opportunity to start over, to do things differently. Here are some things I know:

I want to focus more on the inside than the outside. I've spent my whole life trying to look right, act right. I've prayed more than once, "Lord, let me be the person people seem to think I am." I love my friend KC for one lifechanging moment: Shortly after the book came out, I was obsessing about my hair. (You women may understand the connection between these two things. The men probably won't.) Unfortunately for KC, I was obsessing out loud. I finally got it down to the bottom line: "I can't figure out if I look more credible with straight hair or curly hair." She turned around and looked at me straight in the eye and said in her lovely Tennessee twang, "Honey, if you're depending on your hair for credibility, you've got more problems than I can help you with."

Anyway, what I'm trying to say, is that I have this tendency to get lost in the external and the superficial and I'm trying to change. Here--in this new place--I want to remember that God looks on the inside, that there is always a danger of being a mile wide and an inch deep, that much of what I think matters doesn't. I want to be more prayerful, more reflective, more present, more real.

I want to focus more on authentic and intentional relationship and less on programming and scheduling. More being, less doing. More conversations and fewer lectures. More hospitality and less cocooning. I used to think that making disciples was about quality programming, usually involving a workbook and a speaker and refreshments. I now think that making disciples is more about community. I made the mental-model shift years ago, but couldn't always make the merry-go-round stop so that I could get off. Now I'm off, and I'm committing to not getting back on.

So, challenge me when you see me: Ask me who has been in my house lately, ask me who I've listened to, ask me if I'm having conversations with people who are nothing like me, ask me who I'm having coffee with who has nothing tangible to offer me in return.

I want to live a life of love. These are the scriptures that are calling to me these days: "Above all, live a life of love." "Nothing counts but faith expressing itself in love." "Love never fails." "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another." "Love your enemies."

I've relied more on looking like a loving person than actually being a loving person. (Thankfully, sometimes acting loving can be a path to the real thing!) My CPE supervisor said to me once, "You know how to impress people and you know how to help people. It's time to expand your repertoire." That stung, but it put me on a lifelong journey that now has me wanting to get serious about learning to love. I'm praying that God will enlarge my heart, making more room for the people he loves, helping me to be more about openness and softness and less about needing to control or to change.

I want to cook more and eat out less. That's also about being more reflective, more hospitable, but also just one of the wonderful advantages of being in a home again. I love home!

So, there you go . . . the best I can do with the questions that some of you are asking and the questions I'm asking myself. I hope you'll be able to find your own new beginnings . . .
Love to you all!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The bride wore white

and the minister wore blue! Here are two photos from the wedding--the first is watching the ring bearer (who was four) walk down the aisle. The second is with my sister during the reception.