Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No regrets

The day I turned 41, I couldn't stop crying. I had weathered 40 without even a gulp but 41 turned me inside out. It all started when I heard a quiet voice inside my head say, "Someday it will be over." I want it all to last forever.

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

Could these things be related?

I just read that May is the month in which the most suicides occur. May is also the month when upwards of 15,000 psychiatrists gather for the national APA meeting. That seemed like an interesting coincidence to me. Could there be a connection?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mission Trip news

C and Boo left yesterday for the Valley--MBC is doing a mission trip in a colonia near McAllen. It started as your ordinary border mission--some building/remodeling projects and VBS--but has turned into much more. After Dolly blew through, they were asked to help with roofing and other repairs and they are helping at a Red Cross shelter. On Wednesday night, they will give a block party at a local park for the 100+ people who will come and get food. Not everyone has power and it is muddy and there is still standing water but C says that the destruction is not widespread.
Yesterday, they added three hours to the expected time for travel due to two blowouts on the trailer and an accident on I35 but C says that everyone was safe and in good spirits and that today was "the perfect day." As college minister, he was able to take students on one and sometimes two mission trips a year for 8 years but as pastor of our former church, he never got to go on even one because the church required that one staff member be in town at all times and the associate pastor and the youth minister were always the logical choices for mission trips. He thoroughly enjoys getting to be part of front-line ministry as well as equipping the members of our own team and helping them process their experience.
He says that Boo is having a great time as well. She'll be doing VBS Tuesday through Friday and the block party on Wednesday. You know she'll fall in love with all the little kids she meets. I'm so glad she has this opportunity.
Everyone will be back home on Friday evening since the trip to Padre Island was cancelled due to the whole island being closed to tourists. Keep them in your prayers.

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

This seemed appropriate

When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.
--Rachel Naomi Remen

So what do you do when

you get the invitation to the going-away party but you only glance at it because you know your husband has all the information and so you don't read all the way to the part that says that it is a surprise and so you say to the person who is going away, "I'll see you tomorrow" and she waves at you and says, "OK" and you don't realize until the next day that she didn't know what you were talking about because it's a surprise and now you're afraid that you let the cat out of the bag and you are so sick and tired of your mouth always getting you into trouble?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is Milner Hall at Guilford College, Mowgli's new home for the next year. He'll be on the third floor with mostly other first-year students--coed by room, meaning that his next-door and across the hall neighbors will likely be . . . girls. (Baylor Bears, remember "open dorms" on Sunday afternoons from 2-4?) The dorm has a large lounge downstairs with a big-screen TV and each floor has a kitchen and on-hall bathrooms. There are laundry facilities in the basement. He has a roommate but all we know is his name and that he's from South Carolina. We leave on August 8th to head east.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What happened after the "sit-down" chord

I have no idea how old I was when I first went to Vacation Bible School but I vividly remember marching into the opening assembly (and how lucky you were if you got to carry one of the flags--the American flag or the Christian flag, it didn't matter) anticipating the rest of the morning. After the pledges and the hymns--and they were hymns ("Holy Bible, Book Divine" being one I can remember)--and finally, the "stand up" chord and then it was off to our classrooms for Scripture memory, crafts that usually involved popsicle sticks, papier mache or a wire clothes hanger, and watery Kool-aid and vanilla sandwich cookies. In those days, VBS was heavier on the "school" side of things than it is now--memorizing and worksheets and maps--but that was fine with me. I loved it.

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


At last!

Sweet Sixteen

Boo turned 16 on Tuesday, if you can believe it! We reminisced about when she was a newborn, how she would cry and then abruptly fall asleep, as if someone had flipped a switch. About how Mowgli was convinced that she would be a girl and then she was and about how tenderly he loved her . . . until he lost interest because she couldn't play with him. We talked about how much she blesses our family and about what good things her future holds.
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

Catching up . . .

Well, I promise, no politics, no philosophy for awhile. Here's what's going on:

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

Am I wrong?

A year or so ago, a neutral media watch group did an analysis of Fox News and found that their news coverage is actually pretty bias-free, which surprised a lot of people who assumed that there was a conservative bias. I paid attention to that and stopped making snarky comments, even sharing the results of the study with others.

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.