Sunday, December 30, 2007


Recently I mentioned the job I had in college, serving as youth minister in a small town about 45 minutes from my school. I drove down on Fridays after class, stayed with a family in the church and drove back after Sunday evening services. The town had a population of 450 and about half of them were connected with the Baptist church in one way or another. Almost every kid and teen in town was part of our youth group and it was a wonderful place to learn how to do ministry.

My favorite people in the church were Leon and Jeanne. They were in their sixties, which seemed sooo old to me at the time. Leon had unruly white hair and a constantly grizzled appearance. He could be abrupt and dismissive and at the same time as warm and kind as anyone I've ever met. He loved the kids in the church (unlike many of his contemporaries) and went with us to camp as the boys' sponsor every year. In fact, he was the sponsor the year the boys brought fireworks to camp and were threatened with being sent home, which is how I got to know C, which is another story . . .

Anyway, Leon and Jeanne loved me and invested in me and encouraged me and helped me learn to navigate the world of church politics without being cynical or bitter. I would stay sometimes at their house, a little two bedroom, story-and-a-half white wooden frame home with a wide, inviting front porch. Jeanne did just enough housekeeping to free her up to do the things she really loved--her plants, her dolls, her books, her friends.

The rest of the time, she sat with Leon in the den and talked. I had never seen a couple so close, even though they hinted at difficulties in their early years of marriage, probably due to being so different from each other. They were openly affectionate, even humorously suggestive, and they obviously enjoyed being together. They were the first people I told that I was engaged and showed off my ring. Jeanne talked with me about the importance of commitment and perseverance, telling me that there might be a day when I would absolutely hate my husband (and it might even last longer than a day), but that the rewards of sticking it out would be immeasurable.

She was also the one who told me not to fear getting older. She said, "When you get into your 40s, all of a sudden, you won't care about pleasing everyone anymore. There will be a few people you will do almost anything to please and everyone else can go jump in a lake!" Jeanne was about the only person in those days who could correct me, and I remember a handful of times when she gently showed me that I had been thoughtless or critical or unwise and I was able to listen. I even took Jeanne and Leon home to meet my parents, wanting my favorite people to know each other.

Leon died about ten years ago, leaving Jeanne alone in the old house. I went by to see her and she said that she missed him but that she was happy, that she had many good memories. The occasional visit turned into the occasional letter which dwindled down to the annual Christmas card. This year, my card was returned--"Unable to forward" and no card ever came from Jeanne. I will miss just knowing that she is in the world.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

May you receive the good gift of laughter
May you feel the love of your friends near and far
May you be filled with the joy of the season
And may there be peace in your home and your heart.

May the Christmas star light your way
Even today, even today
May the angel choir ring in your ear
Christ is here, Christ is here.

May the one who has come guide you and keep you
May you seek his face as all wise men still do
And may Bethlehem's road rise up to meet you
Til you find him and see that God is with you.

May the Christmas star light your way
Even today, even today
May the angel choir ring in your ear
Christ is here, Christ is here.

Christmas Blessing by Carolyn Arends on Christmas: An Irrational Season

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Christmas list

What I want for Christmas: for things to stay exactly the same as they are right this minute. Both my children still live at home and enjoy their parents' company. I still have two of my much-loved grandparents. My parents are in reasonably good health and I have a wonderful relationship with both of them. My husband is happy, challenged, and fulfilled at work. God is at work in our lives and in our ministries. I can still see without bifocals. I have the most wonderful friends I could ever imagine. I wish things would never change.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Riding the brake

I used to get frustrated with C because, in our last ministry, he would "ride the brake," squelching his creativity and passions in order to fit into a system that couldn't keep up and didn't enjoy the ride. I had known him for almost a decade before, when he was full of ideas and enthusiasm. Even though he knew that most of the ideas wouldn't (and probably shouldn't) see the light of day, he just enjoyed the creative process. And then slowly, one disappointment at a time, he shut down, accepting reality and no longer fighting against it. It was a good survival skill but it made me sad.

As C comes back to life, what's making me sad now is the realization that I do the same thing and have for even longer than he did. Coming out of the safe, affirming cocoon of my childhood home and into the bright, unforgiving daylight of adolescence taught me very fast that I thought too much, cared too much, talked too much (well, actually, that part was true), was "too much." God, how many times did I hear that I was "too intense," that I needed to "be cool," "tone it down." Nowadays, I would be told to "chill." So, I did. Thank God, I stayed warm and relational and interested--but I also seriously disengaged.

College just reinforced the message that it was possible to be too smart, too passionate, too enthusiastic. (It was not, however, possible to be too color-coordinated or too conformist. These were the eighties.) I had a job in college that I LOVED, serving a little rural church as their youth minister. I'm not sure that I have ever in my whole life, before or since, cared as much about a job as I did that one. I poured myself into it without reservation. But on Sunday nights, when I came back to the dorm after my weekend away, when my friends or boyfriend asked me how it went, I smiled and said, "Great!" Because I'd learned to be cool, to tone it down.

I want to unlearn this. I want to be free to give myself completely to a passion (other than my children) without the censor in my head telling me to rein it in, play it cool, not care so much. More recently, the little voice has added new reasons for its admonitions. For one thing, I work more and more often with men and men typically don't like a woman who is too enthusiastic because it borders on that pejorative "too emotional." For another, I've noticed how seriously passionate people have trouble with balance in their lives and with maintaining relationships (see Lance Armstrong or Ken Lay.) I don't want that, so I hold the passion at arm's length. It makes it easier to fit in.

But it also makes it harder to live wide open, harder to feel completely alive, harder to fully engage. I still believe that it puts people off, that they feel overwhelmed by intensity and passion, that a person who is fully engaged is an oddball. I just don't think I care as much anymore.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My acting debut

Sunday was MBC's Christmas play and I took my first and last turn on stage as "Ma," a depression-era Manchaca farm wife. I wore a floral housedress and an old apron and said lines like, "Justice weren't served til we got a blue-ribbon prize winner to take our place!" and "Gal, what you're doin' is gonna make that ol' barn smell good" and "I'm just taken aback when I think of why the Lord who made the stars above would come here Hisself--and as a lil 'un." After obsessing about my lines for days, the mike didn't even come on! I gave it all I had but I don't think I'll be winning any Tony awards.

They wanted a mother-daughter pair and Boo wanted to do it so badly, so I agreed. You'll notice, though, that none of you got an invitation and I even told Mowgli not to come to church. Boo had a wonderful time, though, and just loves being onstage. Those of you who remember her little shy performances as a little girl would be amazed!

It was a sweet play, though, written by church members and celebrating God's faithfulness through the years. I'm sure the more senior members of the congregation were really touched. I hope so.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

God's wish list

I really think you'll enjoy the latest post on my friend Jim's blog. Go to and read the post "A Different Kind of Christmas Wish List." A great perspective for the holidays . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007


As I was scheduling with a client this morning, I realized that two weeks from today is Christmas Eve. Honestly, I had no idea! As of this moment, I have bought exactly one Christmas gift. You can imagine the waves of panic that I was feeling as this realization sank in.

Just now, as I read through my Advent devotion, I was convincingly reminded that Jesus' coming is about peace, not strife and conflict. Whether it is the inner striving we all experience or the warring between nations, Jesus' coming was meant to remind us to make room in our lives for peace.

If you don't already have an Advent practice, I would invite you to check out for my favorite. Use it slowly, quietly, and prayerfully--and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I promised pictures . . . here they are!

This is the outside--my office window is downstairs left.

This is the waiting room I share with my landlords, two Ph.D. LPCs:

These are client chairs with window in the background.
This is the bookshelf I found at Pier One--a little funky! The whole office only measures 8.5 x 9.5. So, as you walk in the door, the bookshelf is on the left hand wall, client chairs are right in front of you, and my chair is on your right.

This is my chair:

So, when do you think it will feel like home?
(I made my rent for December! That's all, but still . . . it's a start!)