Friday, August 31, 2007

A good day

I guess a angiogram is the closest thing we have to a little window into the heart. Unfortunately, it's a real pain to take a peek! C's heart cath went very well, leaving us relieved and reassured. The doctor said that all the arteries are "wide open" and that the stents are in good shape. He told us to go home and not worry and didn't even keep C overnight. We felt incredibly loved and supported by all of you. It was a good day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good news, bad news

The good news is that we love our bathroom remodel--it's beautiful! The bad news is that it's leaking through the ceiling into the den downstairs.

The bad news is that C is having what they euphemistically call "chest discomfort" again, pretty much every day. The good news is that his cardiologist is going to do another heart cath on Friday to see what's going on.

What I'm Reading

A couple of you have asked me to keep you up to date on what I'm reading, so here's the latest list:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Why the Christian Right is Wrong by Robin Meyers
Miss Julia Strikes Back by Ann B. Ross
The Best Place to Be by Lesley Dormen
To My Dearest Friends by Patricia Volk
Sights Unseen and A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

As you can see, quite a bit of fiction, mostly for enjoyment. I've deliberately avoided "work-related" books, but that will change soon. Kaye Gibbons is one of my new favorite authors, so I get something by her every time I go to the library. Ellen Foster is the best place to start. I really enjoyed the political book but, as usual, it overstates its case and offers little in the way of remediation. Mowgli has challenged me to read more classics, so I'll be reading from his list soon. (He had me reading Salinger and Huxley earlier this summer.) And Boo wants me to finish reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to her--we started during the move and never finished. So, that's the latest . . .

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Almost Holy Picture

We went to see a play last week, trying to figure out some of the cultural scene here in Austin. Tiny, tiny theater--in the round, four rows deep--so it was very intimate. Because the theme of the play was one man's struggle to recover his faith in the midst of deep suffering, the intimate setting was very uncomfortable, being so close to a stranger's pain, but I think that was partly the point.

The play is called An Almost Holy Picture and it was essentially a one-man show--the story of an Episcopalian priest who leaves the ministry after a tragic accident and then recovers his faith slowly after the birth of his daughter, who is mysteriously covered with luminous white fur. Honestly, it was a little odd and yet touching. By the end, he finds his faith again in a paradox--the commitment to live the life he has created for himself (his "real life" as he puts it over and over) fully and without shame and, at the same time, the willingness to relinquish the person who is at the center of his life and his happiness.

He says at one point that our longing is an arrow that points us to God. At another, he reflects that we love life so much that it is almost a sin (which startled me, as I realized that my tradition has literally taught that loving our lives is a sin).

So, we're beginning to get out and do some things (I'll report on the Bat-fest this weekend) and enjoy our new home.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And I didn't even cry!

Today was the first school day in 13 years that I didn't take at least one kid to school. For the first time, I stood on the porch and waved as Mowgli and Boo drove away.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I guess we can unpack now . . .

Well, it looks like we'll be staying. Last night, C came home from work and said, "I've had a hard day and I just want Mexican food." (BTW, he's been doing really, really well on his heart-healthy diet lately.) So we went to a little place in a little house in the little town south of here and it was wonderful. Small portions so you don't feel stuffed or guilty, fresh ingredients, a little bit of a unique flavor and great prices. When we finished, C said, "We finally have a place for Mexican food. Now I can feel settled."

Actually, I have been wondering how long it will be until this feels like home. I feel as if we're where we're supposed to be and there is a certain amount of "home" in that knowledge but at the same time, I'm always looking for things ("Where's the Pier One?" "What street is this?" "Why can't I find anything in this dumb grocery store?") and everything takes a little more thought and effort than it did when everything was familiar. The adventurous feeling is fun--it doesn't take much to make me feel adventurous--so I'm not complaining. Just wondering.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Smarter than her mother

Boo and her friends are getting ready to start high school, including buying new clothes and shoes. Her friend emailed her the question, "What brands do you wear?" Boo emailed her friend, "I don't wear brands; I wear clothes."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Plowing my heart

God is plowing my heart with a little book by Brennan Manning called The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus. Even though it is deeply convicting, I have been able to read it without guilt because Manning has been a voice of grace in my life for years. One exerpt that has stayed with me:

The only possible way to move out of our obsessive self-awareness and into the life of Christ is to surrender ourselves and let God be God. Such a surrender involves mining the field of our hearts and searching for this pearl of God's truth hidden deep within us: we belong to God. This precious discovery makes security, pleasure, and power look like cheap painted fragments of glass (Philippians 3:8) . . .

This loving awareness of being the child of the Father moves us out of a life spent pursuing our base desires and frees us to pursue the kingdom of God . . . We can present ourselves simply to others: "Here I am. It's all I've got." In humble self-awareness and sovereign freedom, we can truly be for others without fear of rejection or concern for their usefulness to us."

I read this page the night before a meeting with a man whom I really wanted to impress--so that he would want to work with me, so that I could position myself professionally for future gain, so that I would feel good about myself. I was consumed with how I would present myself, what I would say, how I would manipulate him into thinking well of me.

Reading this excerpt put everything in my heart right again, as though something that had turned upside down was put right. Without guilt or self-condemnation, I was reminded of who I am--and Whose I am--and that I don't have to fear rejection from others or look for ways to make them promote my agenda. I can simply be a child of my Father and allow him to reveal to me what comes next.

I went to my meeting and then to another similar meeting the next day and in both cases, I was able to be my best self--the self that rests in Jesus--and to care for the person across from me without being obsessed with what they could do for me professionally. This little book, hard to read on several levels, has been a real blessing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

22 years and counting . . .

Today is our 22nd anniversary.

C: Happy Anniversary! We've been married a long time!
Me: Too long.
C: You don't want to be married?
Me: No, I want to be younger

We're taking a little trip next week to San Antonio where we went for our honeymoon. This time, though, I won't make C go to the all the missions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Taking the next step

I met today with a denominational leader here in town and am very, very encouraged. It appears that there will be as many opportunities for me as I am able and willing to create for myself. I am still talking to other people about possible employment but this is the most excited I've been since we moved. Those of you who know me well know that this is the point where I either get motivated and make things happen or get paralyzed and disappear. I'm really not feeling the paralysis; just the opposite, actually--creative and focused. Pray for me to know the next steps and to pursue these opportunities with wisdom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If anybody asks . . .

. . . this is what I plan to say to the people I am talking to about ministry in Austin.

I'm passionate about ministry with and to the local church and its leaders. There are three ways I express this:

One, I have almost 20 years experience in counseling with church members and leaders and providing a reliable and safe referral source for pastors. Seeing lives transformed is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

Two, I offer quality leadership development for pastoral staff and lay leaders, partly based on a book I wrote with two colleagues; I also have a tender heart for congregational leaders and want to provide pastoral care and counseling for them.

Three, I passionately believe that the most important way we can change the future is to better prepare couples for marriage and to offer them better relational tools and support once they are married. We are uniquely positioned to do a better job at this and I want to make that happen.

Just in case anybody asks . . .

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Join the club

C called yesterday and said, "Well, I've finally made someone here mad at me." It's the same-ol' story: someone is (choose one):
a. ill
b. bereaved
c. having surgery
and the pastor doesn't:
a. visit
b. call
c. send a card
and so the person is:
a. angry
b. hurt
c. moving his membership to another church

Anyway, C was out of town last week and never got the word that this person had a need. Meanwhile, the other staff stepped in to minister, the Sunday School class brought meals, friends from church visited to console and comfort. But the letter to C arrived yesterday--"we thought you were going to be such a good pastor but now we realize how wrong we were about you." When he called to explain, the response was, "I have a hard time believing you didn't know."

So, of course, I get defensive for C--I mean, what does C have to deliberately gain by snubbing this family?But then I get defensive for the Church. We often talk about the difference between club values and discipleship values. Club values sound like this: "I pay my dues and I'm a member, so I should get the perks of my membership (including my own personal chaplain when I need one.) Discipleship values recognize that Jesus called us to follow him in a community in a way of life, seeking the Kingdom. In this case, the community did exactly what it was supposed to do--the family of God surrounded this couple and loved them in the middle of their need. But it wasn't enough. I wonder if the Church will ever learn to seek the kingdom together as long as club values dominate. I know, I know, this is nothing new, just what I'm thinking about today.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Big question . . . no answer (yet)

Friday, I found myself chatting with a very nice man who runs a cityreaching ministry here in Austin. I wasn't job hunting exactly, just trying to get the lay of the land in terms of Austin and ministry to and with the church in the city. We'd talked about a lot of things--Katrina and its impact on Austin, maintaining good relationships with city officials, the more prominent African-American congregations in the city, etc.--when he looks at me with a fairly intense expression and says, "So, apart from your husband's job, why did God bring you to Austin?"

I stammered some lame but acceptable answer and we continued the conversation, but geez louise, I guess that's what it all comes down to, doesn't it? It's not just about finding a job but finding my whole calling here (which, of course, we already knew but still . . . ) You know, I've learned through the last three moves that when God moves C, he doesn't forget about me and this time I was able to skip right through all the self-pity and doubt and get straight to a pretty enthusiastic and expectant faith.

But I still have to find the answer to this question and it's reverberating in my head, even in my dreams . . . So why did God bring me to Austin?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Missing you

Our friend from Lubbock was here all weekend and when she left, I found myself getting a little teary. I miss my friends. I miss all of you. Don't take offense, but for the first time since we moved, I really, really miss you. It seems like that April and May were spent with countless goodbyes, which, although it was sad to say goodbye, also meant that I got a lot of time with you--good, quality time when we were relaxed and ate really good food and said all the things we needed to say. So, it took a little while for all that wonderful emotional fullness to empty out and make me hungry again. The good news is that some of you have already come to see me and some of you are coming soon. I've talked to some of you on the phone and I'll see some of you if/when I make it back to Houston (I'm planning trips in August, September and October, so I'll definitely be in touch.) But mostly, I just wanted you to know that I love you and I miss you.