Tuesday, December 30, 2008
We spent three days in Houston with C's parents and brother and his family. I have to say, my mil is one of the most gracious people I've ever known and it's a joy to visit there. We visited, had barbecue and her world-famous au gratin potatoes (a fabulous Christmas dinner if you ask me), went bowling and, of course, made our pilgrimage to James Coney Island for hot dogs.
After a quick (I do mean quick) turnaround, we headed to Belton to be with my wonderful parents and sister and her husband and baby J. Mostly all we did was look at the baby, which was perfect entertainment. Oh, and we got a new camera--I'll be posting photos as soon as I figure out how it works! Mom and Dad dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus--I have the best parents--and we opened presents one at a time which was fun for everyone. Mom invented a game that required each recipient to guess what was in his present before it could be opened. We had lots of fun.
This year was also the year that it became evident that everyone is aging, particularly our 90-plus year old grandmothers. C's grandmother is almost completely unable to hear and misses out on a lot of the interaction. My grandmother is rapidly losing her memory--she is still a good conversationalist but it is evident that she's compensating and faking it quite a bit. Both still live alone and we hope they can for awhile longer still but it's clear that time is taking its toll.
We got to be here in Austin for Christmas Eve service and Christmas morning. Most of what Santa brought was low-key and practical--it's very different with older kids, isn't it? We had a wonderful time, though--also low-key, which is definitely what everyone needed. Now we're looking forward to a few days OFF before things get started back up next week.
(BTW, I noticed on sitemeter that my readership dropped last week from the regular 85 or so hits to 55--probably because I've been neglectful! I'll try to be more diligent about keeping up--I have lots to say!)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Anyway, as I was still in the first stage of grief--denial--I got out the booklet that came with the camera (aren't you impressed that I could find it?!) and started looking through it for help and it hit me: there was so much more to this camera than I realized! All those buttons that I never pushed because I didn't know what they did? Well, it turns out that they were really useful!! All those night pictures I took in London that were blurry? They didn't have to be! The camera was smart enough to take fabulous photos--I just didn't pay attention enough to know how to do it and now it's too late.
Feels a lot like getting older. Here I am at mid-life (if I'm lucky) and I'm constantly being reminded to pay attention, to remember that there is so much more to life than is immediately evident, that it never hurts to push a few buttons and see what happens. I don't want to get to the end and realize that there was so much more that went untested, unlived, wasted.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Turns out that my sweet husband has been saving all his wedding and funeral money for more than six months to get me my very first laptop and he couldn't wait to give it to me for Christmas. Well, he says it's so that I would be able to either save up or use my Christmas money for all the things he couldn't get to go with it, but I know it was because he was too excited. Just a few days before, I had to come all the way home from work during a break just to check on an email from a client and not for the first time either. This will make my life so much less complicated. I feel so blessed by his sacrificial thoughtfulness. Thanks again, sweetie!
Monday, December 8, 2008
I have to start by saying that I observe Advent completely wrong. People who really understand Advent would be pretty much appalled at how much Christmas seeps into my Advent-keeping. It's a little bit like the Advent calendars we had as kids--they were mostly a countdown to Christmas.
For purists, Advent and Christmas are kept strictly separate. Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas and is a time of waiting. The mood is somewhat somber, the hymns are all in a minor key. Churches reflect this by keeping the sanctuary bare--no poinsettias, no trees or lights or decorations--and no Christmas carols or Christmas sermons. The signature Scriptures for Advent are from Isaiah; the patron saint is John the Baptist. The idea is that we identify with God's people through the centuries, waiting for redemption, longing for Messiah, and suffering as they waited.
In the old days in the old country, people bought their Christmas trees on Christmas Eve--ever noticed that in a lot of the old movies? Also, this is the reason for "Midnight Mass"--At midnight, Jesus is born and Christmas has come! Now is the time for carols and decorations and celebration. In some traditions, everyone goes home from church and eats a huge celebratory breakfast and then they all go to bed and wait for St. Nicklaus. These were also the days of the "12 Days of Christmas," which are actually on the church calendar and not just part of a silly song, and not the contemporary "12 hours before I have to go back to work after Christmas."
Of course, many churches and most Christians fudge on all of this. We go ahead and start the Christmas carols and sermons on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, and honestly, I like it that way--it helps put all the stress and fun of the prolonged Christmas season in context for me. When our kids were younger, we would light the candles every night but after a few false starts, we focused on different aspects of the Christmas story (not much from Isaiah.) As the kids got older, they prepared their own devotions. We would pray and sing a carol or two and look at the Christmas tree and talk quietly.
Personally, I like the prolonged celebration of Christmas at church and with the kids. But in my own devotional life, I try to settle in around the themes of Advent: hopeful waiting, the "now-and-the-not-yet," anticipating redemption, suffering in the absence of Christ. I use the devotional guide Watch for the Light but this year, I was so looking forward to Nancy Guthrie's new devotional for evangelicals, Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Unfortunately, it seems to be sold out (or never delivered) to the stores around here and by the time I get it from Amazon, Advent will be over. I've just learned about a new resource--a free Advent devotional guide at www.bgct.org/baptistwaypress. And pb, I'm giving you a booklet that my friend gave me--I hope you enjoy it.
So, all this to say that my observance of Advent is completely in error--I do it all wrong--and yet, it has blessed me as much as anything I can think of. Sounds like God at work, doesn't it?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Thanksgiving was busy and bustling, pretty much like every other Thanksgiving at my parents' house, except that this year we have Baby J. (Pictures to come, I promise.) It's so sweet to hold a new baby, especially one that still curls up in a tiny ball a la in utero, especially one that isn't yours to get up with at 3 a.m.! The group that gathers at my folks' every other Thanksgiving is amiable and easy to be around but not particularly close knit. We catch up and eat (the food is the most amazing--I'm sorry, yes, it's better than the food at your Thanksgiving) and then some chat, some watch football, some go outside and play, some play games at the table.
Mowgli wasn't with us this year--too expensive to bring him home. He ended up going home with his friend, his next-door neighbor on his hall. He called us on Thanksgiving morning to say that the Atlantic Ocean was right out the front door, that they had been on the beach all morning so far. So I think he is doing fine. I wanted to remind him to make his bed, take a gift, be sure to say thank you . . . but I didn't. I keep reminding myself that he's an adult--and it doesn't make me cry anymore! He'll be home for a month on Dec. 10.
I'm working a lot--with everything put together, it's definitely 40 hours. This is a blessing but I also find myself resisting the new demands on my time and, especially, on my heart. And I continually find myself amazed by how much time and energy it takes to be a pastor's wife. I don't know why I keep forgetting this.
So I'm a little depleted . . . and therefore so grateful for Advent this year. The hopeful waiting, the quiet reflection, the stillness amidst the chaos. I have a little booklet my spiritual director gave me and then the old standby Watch For the Light. What are you doing (or not doing) for Advent this year?
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
- Our friend in Iraq finds out that he will not be coming home for Christmas as scheduled a year ago when he left home. In fact, his stay in Iraq is now indefinitely extended. He responds with frustration but also characteristic grace, saying, "If you want to be someone the organization needs, you have to be there when they need you."
- Another dear friend--a kindergarten teacher in a low-income, inner city school, stays late at night to help with a "reading lock-in" so that children in her school can associate fun with reading and school. When I marvel at her dedication, she says, "The children really need this."
- Many, many friends are turning to www.adventconspiracy.org this year for inspiration in seeing Christmas differently--as an opportunity to forego gifts to each other and give to meet the needs of "the least of these" around the world.
I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice lately. Last week, JTH, founder of Faithwalking, reminded us that one difference between an organization and a movement is sacrifice. Louie Giglio used to always remind us at Passion that passion can be measured by the level of sacrifice that we are willing to make for the thing we are passionate about.
I look at my own life. I get paid well to do what I love and so does my husband. We live in a beautiful, comfortable home. We have plenty of time for rest and fun. Our children have everything they want (granted, they are very easily contented!) We almost never face opposition and we never face persecution. It's easy for us to worship at the altars of convenience and comfort, power and influence, approval.
So what does sacrifice mean for us? The dictionary definition says that sacrifice means giving up one thing for another thing considered to be of greater value. It's hardest for me to give up time and I often hang on to it selfishly. It's also hard for me to give up money, but not nearly as hard as time. But too often, the thing of greater value that I seek is actually second-rate--the approval of someone else, say, or a place at the table of influence or the ability to think well of myself.
Jesus said repeatedly that the Kingdom of God is worth every sacrifice that might be asked of us. That's hard for me to imagine sometimes. The Kingdom often feels like a vague ideal, like World Peace or Santa. It takes intentional mental discipline to see it differently . . . and then as soon as I think I've glimpsed it, it's gone again.
I don't intend to go out looking for random sacrifices to make in the name of some noble quest. But I am trying to keep my eyes open, to see the places where sacrifice might be called for, to reject the assumption that my preferences and comfort are the most important value at stake. The spiritual disciplines help with that. So does the intentional giving of time and money to things and people I care about, especially when I try to consciously remember why I'm doing it.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It occurs to me that a very young child today could go through his whole childhood while Obama is still president. Will he wonder what all the fuss was about? Will he just take it for granted that presidents can be black? Will it seem strange to him if Obama's successor is white? Just thinking . . .
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
It's pretty clear that there are ideologues on both sides. Both sides can be black-and-white in their thought processes and wildly inconsistent in their reasoning. Both sides seem to be equally likely to call names, insult their opponents, and assume the worst. Both sides need to work on spelling and grammar. But, just from listening, I'd say that one side seems to have cornered the market on conspiracy theories and paranoid beliefs and that worries me.
When so many people seem to move beyond disagreeing on the issues and take up bizarre speculations, I don't know how we will come together behind a new leader. It's one thing to say, "I think Obama's wrong on _____" (and we all do disagree with something, I'd wager.) It's another thing to say, as a member of the state board of education did, that he will cooperate with America's enemies to instigate a major terrorist attack and then impose martial law to take over the country. It's one thing to question Obama's experience or policy. It's something else to assume that serving on a board with William Ayers (or even being a political acquaintance with him) makes him a Vietnam-era terrorist sympathizer. Also, which is it? Is he a middle-Eastern terrorist sympathizer or a domestic terrorist sympathizer? Is he a Muslim (as 25% of Texans believe) or is he a follower of a dangerous Christian preacher? Can ALL the conspiracy theories be true? I know people personally who genuinely and literally believe he is the antichrist.
I don't believe for a second that most Obama opponents oppose him for these reasons--most are rational people who have sincere disagreements with the Democratic party-- but enough do to make me despair that we can ever come together enough to work for America's future. Every four years, some Americans say, "I think this is the wrong choice but I accept him as my president." I don't think anyone will say, "I believe he is a Muslim terrorist who hates America but I will support him as my president." John McCain just implored us to offer the new president our "good will and our earnest efforts." I hope we find a way to do just that.
Monday, November 3, 2008
After he was forced to fire his 60-person staff eary this year, shortly before he was fired himself, he played with his toys for a couple of months--his cars, his boat, his collection of 10 Les Paul guitars. "I just bought Slash's signature Les Paul guitar," he says excitedly. "Look, I lost 50 grand at Lehman. I'm not going to deny myself a $3000 guitar." In fact, he also recently bought a Piper plane. "The day after I was fired, I was like, 'F--- it, I'm going to get a plane,'" he says.
I've said--and I mean--that I have no problem with people making lots of money, especially if they have taken risks or made investments or invented something really useful or somehow added value to the world. I still, though, don't understand why the executives of these failed companies "deserve" their obscene salaries--they aren't inventors, they aren't entrepreneurs, they are employees hired to do a job. Why does the CEO of Lehman Brothers deserve $22 million this year? Why does the CEO of Goldman Sachs get $54 million? The CEO of Boeing--which made a $4 billion profit this year, by the way--gets "only" $13 million. Meanwhile, the earnings of the middle class have dropped every year for the last seven. How does any of this make sense? And why are we not madder?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I'm vibrating with frustration. I'm frustrated that I said yes. I'm frustrated that he couldn't just talk to me like a professional colleague (his subsequent email said, "Thanks for helping me stay above reproach"). I'm frustrated that I'm not going to call him out on it.
Sarah Palin's emergence on the political stage has held up a fascinating mirror to our culture and to women. I have shuddered when foreign dignitaries from countries unfriendly to women leer at her during photo ops. I was repulsed when a gross old man in Alaska said to a reporter, "If she wasn't married, I'd definitely bang her." I get irritated when young men talk about how they will vote for her because "she's hot." I've been encouraged by conservative women's willingness to embrace her as a working mom and I've been disheartened by liberal women questioning the same.
I've also been intrigued by the nation's response to her overt femininity. Hillary Clinton is derided sometimes as a "strident" feminist and ridiculed for her wrinkles and her pantsuits and other reminders that she is an "older" (meaning, post-feminine) woman (although I think she also garners respect from women for the same thing.) Condoleeza Rice is widely respected but is portrayed as asexual, which seems to put everyone at ease. (Last winter, when she was photographed wearing high-heel knee boots, you would have thought she had taken up pole dancing!)
So here is a woman who is young, beautiful and knows how to use her feminine power. Men all over America think she winked directly at them during the debates. As Amy Poehler observed, when she is backed into a political corner, she becomes "even more adorable." Being a PTA mom (a form of community leader, by the way) is suddenly taken seriously by many. I think that's an improvement. I'm interested to see where this all takes us.
So, back to my lunch today with a secular professional woman in business and a well-intentioned ministry guy. If I get there and realize that I'm part of the team and that the project will go forward, it will be a win for everyone. If I realize, though, that I'm just there as a chaperone, I'll cut my losses and move on.
I'm working to get the chip off my shoulder. As a wife and as a Christian protecting my own integrity, I appreciate his commitment to avoiding temptation and/or avoiding compromising appearances. I just wish that these guys didn't bring it up every time--and I do mean every time--we have a conversation, especially since we have only met in public conference rooms and lobbies. It implies that there is something illicit about our working together and reactivates the archaic Christian view of women as "temptresses." Surely we can do better from both ends. And, I really do believe that if I'm not willing to talk with him directly about it, I'm not allowed to hold on to all this resentment. That's passive-aggressive and unfair. I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Now, this is not literary fiction, since literary fiction is mostly about tortured, neurotic people. But it's not "chick lit" either (well, especially Berg)--just real writing about real women (or women that seem real and make you wish they were real). This is the hardback printed version of comfort food--fried chicken and mashed potatoes and watermelon--eaten with friends, laughing in somebody's den . . .
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
So, slightly less than one year after I signed the lease on my office, I seem to be getting there. I've talked to everyone in town that anyone has told me to talk to. I've been to meetings, joined coalitions, attended summits, served on panels, and learned my way around Austin. Even better, I've met some terrific people and had a chance to see what God is doing in this "weird" city. And as far as I know, my friends in Houston have forgiven me and still love me. This is good.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Ponder the following:
What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?
What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?
What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident?
What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five?
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?
What if Obama couldn’t read from a teleprompter?
What if Obama was the one who had military experience? What if that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?
What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on occasion, a serious anger management problem?
What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money from beer distribution?
What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?
Again, take off your political hat and put on your sociological one (you do have a sociological hat, don't you? Sheesh . . . ) and it's an interesting and thought-provoking exercise.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
For those of you who know him, you'll be happy to know that he loves Guilford--loves the challenge of it, loves the opportunity to know his professors (which he's obviously taken full advantage of), loves the independence. His grades are good (I was ready to talk about whether he needs to drop his physics class since he had mentioned how hard he was struggling with it, but no, he's doing great) and he has lots of friends. We're just so happy for him.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
All the rest of the books I enjoyed fit no particular category, so I'll just give them their own random paragraph. Parting the Waters: The King Years by Taylor Branch was fascinating to me. I wish it had been shorter and more concise but the parts that were powerful were really powerful: the spiritual dimensions of the civil rights movement, the factions within the movement and the leadership King had to provide in the midst of that, the stories of brutality I had never heard, the "behind the scenes" of the "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln's Melancholy was another historical book that I would have rather read in a condensed version but was a fascinating description of Lincoln's likely depressive illness and the way his culture and his personality gave him the tools to rise above it. Also, The Year of Living Biblically was fun and interesting: What would it be like to follow the Old Testament law perfectly, to the letter, for a year? It made me deeply grateful for grace. A beautiful book given me by a dear friend is The Beautiful Ache by Leigh McLeroy--definitely the kind of book that has to be reread before it can be fully absorbed. Two more challenged me spiritually: Live the Life by Bill Hull (see my review here) continues to challenge me, as does Amish Grace, which explores the Amish school shooting and the subsequent forgiveness as a response made possible by the consistency of Amish culture.
As you know, I love to read. Reading nourishes me, entertains me, challenges me and transforms me. I'll try to keep the recommendations coming.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Jesus and Francis (of Assisi) had no pragmatic agenda for social reform.
They just moved outside the system of illusion, more ignoring it than fighting
it, and quite simply doing it better.
Don't waste any time
dividing the world into the good guys and the bad guys. Hold them both
together in your own soul--where they are anyway--and you will have held
together the whole world.
You will have overcome the great
divide--in one place of spacious compassion. You, little you, will have
paid the price of redemption. God takes it from there . . .
Social psychology has consistently shown this. When football fans are shown tape of a game, they overwhelmingly notice the unfair calls against their team and rarely notice the equally unfair calls against the other team. When poor tippers are given an opportunity to comment on other poor tippers' habits, they justify their own behavior and condemn that of others.
It's indisputable that this is what happens during an election. How else to explain the way that sincere voters, who describe themselves as "objective," almost always shake out along party lines when they are asked to evaluate a debate or a campaign commercial? And voters who say they're undecided? Actually, we can predict with almost 100% certainty how they will actually vote just by looking at a scan of their brains. The primitive, emotional part of our brains know how we will vote before we do.
So, it seems that the best we can do is to be aware of our prejudices, our mental models, our distorted lenses and learn to take them out, look at them from different angles, evaluate their ultimate truthfulness as best we can and listen to people who differ from us. Especially that.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I read or reread three series this past year or so and they are all favorites. In order of "favorite-ness," the Mitford series (Jan Karon), the Harmony series (Philip Gulley) and the Yada Yada Prayer Group series (Neta Jackson.) All three series are now completed, which means no more installments to look forward to.
As for stand-alone fiction, Mowgli gave me A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini) for my birthday last year and it took me awhile to work up the courage to read it. Like his previous book The Kite Runner, it was heartbreaking because its setting, Afghanistan, is heartbreaking. The characters in this one are even more poignant and unforgettable, probably because they are women. It took me weeks to completely recover from this book; at the same time, it is hopeful and inspiring, too.
I also really enjoyed Digging to America (Anne Tyler) and East of Eden (John Steinbeck). I also enjoyed reading all of Kaye Gibbons' books (they're shorter than average). The Preservationist (David Mains) was hilarious and interesting and I'm looking for more from him. The Shack (William Young) may have to have its own post.
Boo and I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (a childhood favorite of mine) together and we read the final installment of the Harry Potter series (I thought it was a winner, but I love the whole series, so I'm biased.) Reading with Boo is a joy . . . her dyslexia makes it necessary, but her enthusiasm for reading makes it a blessing.
It makes me sad to read back through the titles of novels I know I enjoyed but now don't really remember. I guess that for me, reading fiction is an in-the-moment experience. I wish I remembered more about them, though. Does anyone else have that experience?
Friday, September 26, 2008
But this I don't understand: how smart and capable men can knowingly destroy their own country's economy while stuffing their own pockets, how they can continue to gorge on their own obscene excess even after their greed has been exposed, how they seem to have no remorse. I am sick and tired of hearing economists and pundits on the news. I want to see just one CEO or CFO come on TV and tell us his point of view. I just want to hear him describe what this is like for him, how he feels about it now, how he sleeps at night. Does he feel any remorse? What was he thinking? I just want to hear it from him.
Don't get me wrong. Wealth itself is not the evil here; greed is. When someone risks their money in the stock market and it goes their way, they should make money. When someone risks their own capital to start a business or create a product, they should walk away with the gains if their idea works. I have no problem with Bill Gates being the richest guy in the US. But corporate executives are employees hired to do a job. How is it that they walk away with obscene amounts of money--even if they fail? That can only be about a greedy form of cronyism and an insanely inflated sense of self.
What I don't understand most is the lack of concern for the common good. Before I voted for the first time, my father gave me a brief but memorable talk about how important it was to vote for people and policies that would benefit the country, not just those that would benefit me and people like me. So . . . I don't understand.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
New blog is: http://www.austinmarriage.wordpress.com/
Saturday, September 20, 2008
This is a photo of Ike, taken in Clear Lake by someone who didn't evacuate (obviously). C went to Houston this week to check on his parents and grandmother. They live in the northwest part of town and still don't have power. Neither does Mamaw, who lives on the east side near the ship channel.
They all went over to Mamaw's house to check out the damage (mostly a large tree that fell from a neighbor's yard and is blocking her front door) and clean out the refrigerator/freezers.
Then he went out to Clear Lake, delivered some milk and produce to friends and then drove by our old house and church. He said that most houses look mostly undamaged but that there is debris piled 6 feet high all along the streets. Traffic lights are still askew, blown sideways by the high winds. Many trees and fences are down or damaged. Quite a few businesses were open but didn't have everything in stock. He talked with our friends who did have catastrophic damage; they are still waiting to see what will happen next.
To really get a feel for what things are really like, read this blog, written by my friend Robert, who is the pastor at a "sister church" in the Clear Lake area. I think he captures the in-the-moment-ness of the aftermath.
I know that I have really enjoyed reading spiritual memoir this year and so I will start with that genre. I loved Take This Bread by Sara Miles and have reread it twice since the summer of last year (I remember when I first read it because we were living in the one-bedroom/study apartment before we moved into this house.) Sara was a non-religious liberal radical who found a relationship with Jesus when she participated in the eucharist at a progressive Episcopal church near her home in San Francisco. Out of gratitude for being "fed" spiritually, she began to feed people literally, giving away food and starting food pantries. This book reads like Traveling Mercies (a favorite), although it is a little less whiny and occasionally a little more preachy. Her understanding of how the church is supposed to work is breathtakingly inspiring and her description of how the church actually does work will make you nod knowingly.
OK, so what else . . . I also enjoyed Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. In this book, she weaves together the story of the tragic death of her husband and her ministry as a chaplain. Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor has also stayed with me this year. Beautifully written with Taylor's characteristic depth, it was also sad for me because it so poignantly describes the way that we leave our ministers empty and burned-out and the way they want to please us so much that they let us. eat pray love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a trip--literally! It's a fun and sometimes thought-provoking travelogue-meets-spirituality book by an extraordinarily self-absorbed author. But as you read, you get to visit Italy, an ashram in India and a guru in Indonesia and I enjoyed the ride.
And I know you might think it's cheesy but I really, really, really liked The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, especially after I saw the video he made for Oprah and then the piece that Diane Sawyer did after his death. It touched me in a deep place and I keep going back to it.
So that's all for now. I'll choose another genre tomorrow and try again. I hope it's helpful.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It took much longer for me to build this practice than I imagined it would when we moved. I've done a good job of meeting people and then meeting the people that they suggest I meet and then the people that they suggest I meet and so on but the referrals were slow coming in. I now have about 25 clients referred from more than 15 sources and my name-recognition is definitely improving. Also, I have two events coming up that should showcase my ministry and lead to more referrals. And, thankfully, I've kept all but one of the clients who have come to see me (and I really think I'll hear from the one soon.)
Yesterday, I was happy to see that my stamina was still intact since I hadn't seen clients back-to-back since moving here. I have to say, too, that having a lighter load was a blessing--I've been doing some of the best work of my career, partly because I've had the time and emotional energy for it.
Since moving here, I've often prayed, "Lord, I know there are people here in Austin who need the ministry I have to offer. But you have to help them find me!" It appears that prayer is being answered and I'm grateful.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The good part was that almost everyone reported less-than-catastrophic damage--beautiful trees down and no power for days on end but no one hurt and homes mostly intact. The bad part was learning that several dear friends and family had severe damage to their homes due to rising water and falling trees.
Now everyone from Austin has returned to Clear Lake and we're getting updates by the hour as people work to rebuild their own lives and, especially, the lives of others more devastated by the storm.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
(I'm positive that the hypocrisy works the other way, but right this minute I can't think of an example.)
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
*"snowy peaks" are Boo's favorite, invented by C's grandmother. Just put a hamburger patty on a saucer, then a slice of cheese and then a big dollop of mashed potatoes and then a sprinkling of shredded cheese on top.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
This made me think of two things: One, I was reminded of the absolute impossibility of depending on the government to do anything. I am infinitely grateful that I am not dependent on welfare or an immigrant (documented or otherwise) or waiting for disaster relief or disability services. Even just getting Boo a driver's license has turned out to be completely overwhelming.
Second, I thought about the wider implications of accessibility. For example, since it hits close to home, how often do we invite people to find spiritual answers at church and then make it almost impossible for them to find what they are looking for. We force them to navigate our rituals and our jargon and our social cliques and our petty infighting and then tell them, "Y'all come back now!" and wonder why they don't.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I've been feeling melancholy all day--maybe because it's a week and a day until we take Mowgli to NC (ya think?!) and I'm realizing this is over. Some of you are really anxious right now because you want me to understand that I'll be fine, that it gets better, that they never really leave, it's a new beginning . . . I get it, I get it. But this is over.
When C was sick with meningitis (before we knew what it was) and he was having what appeared to be what is euphemistically refer to as a "neurological event," he gripped my hand and said through his locked jaw, eyes intense on mine, "I have no regrets. I have no regrets." We repeat those words from time to time, when things are scary or sad.
I've been thinking about that a lot today. I was not a perfect mom. I wish I had known then some of what I know now. There are things I would have done differently. But I left it all on the field. And I have no regrets.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I've found a new spiritual director (thanks, MJO, for your help with that). It feels like I can breathe a little easier, knowing that someone else will be walking this journey beside me again. She is Episcopalian and meets with her directees in a lovelyhilltop sanctuary surrounded by Texas hill country not too far from my house.
She is like so many of the spiritual directors I have met through the years--restful and quiet and kind. Just being in her presence makes my blood pressure drop, my breathing deepen, my mind turn toward God. This ministry of spiritual friendship is a deep blessing for the Church and for me.
I'm still not sure what I want from the process this time . . . maybe I'm learning to wait and see what will come. I know that I long for someone to do for me what I do for others--to create space for me to explore and wonder and gather. I also know that I have to grapple again with the doubt that always threatens to knock me over and grab me by the throat--that sometimes gets so scary that I can't breathe or think or pray and I have to disconnect. Disconnected isn't a place I want to live in. I'll need someone sturdy and brave to help me with that.
I also love the way that spiritual direction helps me to live mindfully, to live with the end in mind, to take my choices out and look at them and make sure they're taking me where I want to go. That alone is priceless.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I was 7, I think, when I decided to give my life to Christ during VBS (we called it "asking Jesus into your heart" and I was actually just making it official). And it was during VBS when I first heard the call to ministry as an earnest nine-year-old. I still remember that moment in time-slowing detail and it guides me even today. I still remember going to VBS at the Lutheran church on the hill and at the Church of Christ and at my grandparents' churches--all different places, different faces but essentially the same.
I started helping my mom when I was a young teenager, old enough to know I didn't really like kids but I liked ministry. Then there were Backyard Bible Clubs in shabby neighborhoods on every youth mission trip throughout my teenage years. In college, I was the youth director at a small-town church in a nearby town and one of my main duties was directing the Bible School. I felt very important and also very humbled--after all, these church women knew so much more than I did about it. Now I know that none of them wanted the job and were more than happy to watch me run around like a crazy person buying pipe cleaners and making copies and spray painting posters.
After that, I took a short break from VBS--the year we were married and the next year and then I taught every year after that until last year with the single exception of the year we moved to CLBC. Since we had just moved the week before, I didn't have a job at VBS so I just went and sat in the teachers' snack room every day and got to know just about every woman in the church over cookies and soft drinks as they took a short break from the hardest volunteer job the church has to offer.
In the last 15 years, I have been a site director for 13 teaching sites--there was the general store, the Arctic explorer's post, the jungle tent, the desert island (we moved about 30 pounds of sand into the choir room for that one). There was the Bible-day market (ours ended up looking a lot like the set from a harem movie) and the secret agents' lair and the mountain climbers' cabin. Every year the kids got older but because we stayed in one place for so long, we got to watch them grow from little ones to teenaged helpers. Recently I attended the wedding of a boy I first taught the year we were all spies on a secret mission.
This year, I provided snacks (I tried to make really good snacks) for the teachers in VBS at our new church. I dropped Boo off and looked around at all the sets and tried to be encouraging and enthusiastic. And then I left. And, shhhh, don't tell . . . it felt wonderful!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
That night, she had a swimming party at our neighborhood pool. It was a beautiful, cool night and the sky was gorgeous all around us as the sun went down. About 20 kids and adults showed up and Boo glowed the whole time. Here are a few photos:
Thursday, July 3, 2008
We still love Austin, even though we don't get a chance to do much. Between grand jury and meeting pastors, I've learned to navigate the city pretty well. Remember when I used to be terrified to drive on the freeway in Houston? That seems like a lifetime ago. I get places early because I forget that "the other side of town" is a LOT closer than it used to be. On the other hand, in Houston, only the Katy Freeway and part of 290 can compare traffic-wise to Austin.
We are still without several staff positions so C is working all the time but has gotten much better at protecting his heart and his time. We'll be happy when the staff is complete again, though. He still loves it here and feels effective and creative.
No vacation this year--just an 8 day trip to get Mowgli to North Carolina, get him settled and drive home as fast as we can so C can preach on Sunday. He starts school on August 13. I'm doing okay, thanks for wondering. I was really sad at the first of the year but I'm doing much better. He's so excited about it, that helps.
I'm seeing about 7-9 clients per week, with about 12 clients total. I still need to double my client load and don't fully understand why that's not happening faster. The good news is that my current load pays the bills and a little more; the bad news is that it won't for the long term.
I'm also working on some other projects:
- a community-based marriage preparation program designed for couples from small-medium sized churches as well as couples who don't go to church, "Happily Ever After." I'm pitching it to local congregations and trying to raise money.
- a marriage support format called "Dinner and a Marriage"
- marketing my skills and experience in counseling ministry leaders
- creating a leadership development program for a small denomination headquartered in Michigan
- continued work with Faithwalking
- putting together at least one group for women ministry leaders connected to the Pastors In Covenant ministry here in Austin
- maybe even doing some writing . . . haven't given myself over to this one yet, but
And then, of course, there's home. We're teaching Boo how to drive and making sure Mowgli knows everything he needs to know before he leaves home. If your children are little, go kiss them on their sweaty little heads because it will be over before you know it.
At church, I'm playing a pretty traditional ministry wife role, trying to get to know people and hear their stories. We're also transitioning from my Young Married Sunday School class to a comprehensive Young Adult Ministry and I'll be helping to head that up. I try to stay active in Women's Ministry without actually serving on the committee, so I'm having a book club at my house in August. You know that in Houston, I never sat in the same place on Sunday mornings, preferring to move around and sit with different people. But here, every week, someone says to me, "I haven't seen you in ages," which means they're telling other people, "I love our new pastor but his wife doesn't come very often," so I think I'll pick a spot and stick with it. Live and learn!
For the first time in my life, I'm exercising regularly and I thoroughly enjoy it. I can't seem to make myself get up early to go work out, but maybe that will come as I get busier.
So I'm doing well but miss all of you more than you can imagine. I know, I know, we have technology nowadays that can help with that--I'm terrible--but I just wanted you to know. Love to all--
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
But what about lately? Well, first there was the commentator (white, female) who was talking about the Clinton's unfortunate comment implying that Obama might be assassinated before the election. This pundit then says that "some want to 'knock off Osama . . . Obama . . . (laughing) well, both, if we could." I don't remember which Fox personality said that he didn't want to "go on a lynching party" against Michelle Obama, then added, "unless (unless??) there's hard evidence" that she holds what he would consider anti-American views. Then there was the referral by a Fox News anchor to the Obamas' "terrorist fist jab"--what?! A banner headline at the bottom of the page refers to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama"--that one can't even be attributed to an accidental gaffe since someone actually wrote it down and thought it would be okay. And don't even get me started about Ann Coulter.
I guess what bothers me most is that this is the most popular cable news source in the country and that there just doesn't seem to be much outrage on the part of its viewers. Sean Hannity defends some of his more outrageous comments by saying that he received no negative mail about them. Is that because the kinds of people who watch Fox News aren't offended by these things? Am I too sensitive because I am? Don Imus's comment about the Rutgers' womens' basketball team was not substantially more racist or sexist than the idea that Michelle Obama--an accomplished attorney and businesswoman--can be reduced to "Obama's baby mama." He lost his job, his show, and his reputation. People at least pretended to be outraged. I just don't get it.
I make it a point to make sure I'm getting my news and opinions from a variety of sources, including those that don't typically reflect my views, which means that I occasionally listen to a particular talk show that makes me want to shoot my radio--it's good practice in self-differentiation and I do actually learn something from time to time. I worry about people who only go to the news channels and websites that support their views (something you couldn't really do when your only options were the national ten o'clock news and your local daily paper) and I worry about the culture they form.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
So what was it that I was trying to say? I think I was frustrated with feeling used. It's probably the same way that accountants feel when people pump them for free tax advice at parties or the way doctors feel when people say, "Could you just look at this place on my back real quick?" It's when I sense that the other person has no interest in me or in a real friendship (maybe it's the fact that they talk for hours without ever asking?) and when they demand my time and sympathy. I think maybe it's the "pastor's wife" label--it makes people think they're entitled to it and frankly, sometimes it makes me feel as though I have to give it to them. So maybe that's what I was trying to say. Or maybe not. We'll see . . .
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Then when I was a little older, I was allowed to watch the introduction to "Mission Impossible" just before heading off to bed. "Your mission if you choose to accept it . . . " Remember? And the briefcase with the photos in it and then the smoke at the end? I never actually saw the show but my dad watched it which is why I got to see the intro, I guess. Later I watched "The Waltons" and my sister watched "Little House on the Prairie" and we could watch game shows if we were sick. (My favorite was "Password," hands down.) Every now and then, we could watch "Gilligan's Island" when we got home from school. And my parents even let me stay home from church once a year to watch "The Sound of Music" on Sunday night. Anyway, the point is that I didn't grow up watching a lot of TV, which was actually a pretty good way to grow up.
But when C and I were first married, he introduced me to all the TV shows that I had missed. That first year, we had so much fun watching old reruns together. It was fun for me to watch them for the first time and fun for C to watch me watching them for the first time. I found out pretty quick that I had outgrown "Gilligan's Island" and that "Leave It to Beaver" was more interesting than entertaining. We laughed every day at "The Dick van Dyke Show" and "I Love Lucy." I fell in love with "Andy Griffith" and have now seen every episode umpteen times along with my kids. But one of the shows we watched together that first year was "Get Smart," which you probably know just came out in theaters as a movie starring Steve Carrell as Max and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99.
We went to see the movie tonight and had so much fun. It is silly, silly, silly but in a clever and nostalgic way. And of course, the last line of the movie? "Missed it by that much!" Lots of silly fun.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Here, before the ceremony, we have Mowgli and Boo, reversing roles.
And this is at the party afterward, as Mowgli opened his gift from Boo (a picture frame with a photo of both of them from last Christmas). The smile is awesome! A word about the outfit: We told him he could run upstairs and get more comfortable. We didn't realize he would get THAT comfortable! And no, that's not a UT shirt--it's a free shirt from a Houston Dynamo match.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I would love, love, love to see a female president and I do think that a lot of the sexism toward the Clinton campaign went unchallenged. When the frat boys showed up at her rallies with the signs that read, "Iron my shirts!" we all laughed. Can you imagine the uproar if those boys had shown up at an Obama rally with signs reading, "Shine my shoes!" And while female commentators denounced it, male pundits and comedians tended to give too much attention to Clinton's appearance, especially early on--what she wore, signs of aging, etc. Pantsuits became a joke, even though there is no good alternative for women. (By the way, what IS the female equivalent of khakis and a golf shirt? This stumps me ALL the time!)
Ultimately, though, I don't think that Clinton lost because she was a woman. After all, she was a woman when she was the front-runner, when she made all the big headlines, when Obama was considered a flashy upstart with no chance. She was a woman when she amassed the largest campaign war chest of all time, and she was a woman when she won millions of votes. No, I don't believe that sexism torpedoed her campaign.
Instead, I think she lost for all the same old reasons: she failed to read the climate of the country, she underestimated her opponent, she allowed infighting and conflict to drain her campaign of energy, she miscalculated the importance of caucus states and younger voters and her early vote for the war, she relied on an outdated top-down approach to campaigning, and she made some serious gaffes. When a woman can lose the White House for all the same old reasons that the male contenders do, we've come a long way, baby.