Sunday, December 30, 2007

Unfamiliar View from the Pew

I had the rare pleasure of being a worshiper in the pew at my brother's church instead of worship leader today.  This happens only 2 or 3 times a year, so I try to put the "pastor-leader-critical evaluative" part of me towards the back, and be the open receptive worshiper instead.  This, I am reminded of again today, is hard.  When you so rarely get to NOT be the one making sure things flow smoothly, the one preaching the message, the one staying aware of what is coming three steps ahead, it can be a challenge to JUST BE in worship.

At least it is for me, worship nerd that I am.

Here's an example of what was going on in my head:

The music is being beautifully played and its a joy to sing (man, I wish I had musicians in my area!)

The liturgy is being spoken  (I wonder why he chose to cut out all those parts?  I wonder where they got that confession, I like it.  Too bad they had to cancel the baptism today, that could be a bear to reschedule.)

The sermon is being delivered (boy, he really does need to work on his delivery!!, but I really like how he's tying in how the difficult text of the murder of the innocents and the flight to Egypt shows us Jesus really is Emmanuel, God With Us in the reality of this world, which is a dark and violent place.)

And so on.

I and my Rev hubby did appreciate worshipping together as a family (normally we aren't even in the same county on Sunday mornings) and we were able to BE worshipers pretty much.  It was nice, and nice to be with my family.

The highlight of the service was the children's sermon.  Their director of youth and children's ministry called the children up, and Lil' Princess went up with her cousins.  The director pulled a figurine out to show to the kids, and asked them who they thought he was.  She got guesses of "Jesus" and such, which is what she wanted.  But then, my little sweetheart piped up nice and loud.  She said, as she bounced up and down in excitement, "It's Joseph!!!"  Which was exactly right, God love her.  But this was not what the director was expecting.  She was planning on giving them a number of clues, and was going to help lead them to figure out that she was going to tell them about Joseph.  But she hadn't planned on my girl.  It was like someone spilling the punch line of your favorite joke before you'd gotten the first line of the joke out.  The director recovered pretty well, she showed them some of the clues she had been planning on using to help them figure out that it was Joseph, and then skipped ahead to her little lesson about how Joseph was so great because he listened to God.

My hubby and I smiled at each other and murmured "That's our girl!  Leave it to the preacher's kid."

So it was a nice Sunday morning, the Gospel was preached, God was praised, and worship did not go as planned but was just fine nonetheless.  

Not that I was analyzing it, or anything!  ;)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Bliss

So I'm at my brother's place for my side of the family's Christmas celebrations.  My hubby and dad just got done with a wild wrestling session with the three grandkids, and now my dad is telling my daughter and my two nephews stories about when he was little boy.  They are enthralled!

My mom, brother and sister-in-law are cleaning up the kitchen after a wonderful meal.  They're letting me be the bum on the computer.  Late tonight my other brother will fly in, and we'll all be together for the weekend.  

So many things went wrong this year, so many things wait for us at home to deal with, but at this moment, on this weekend, it is just so good, so blessed.  I'm so glad that we get to end the year this way.  It helps put things in perspective.

So I am grateful.  And meditative, and hopeful for the new year despite it all.  

Have a great New Year's celebration, and Happy New Year!  Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

It's been a lovely Christmas day. The service responsibilities were over last night (3 services, finally got home for good at 9:30 pm). Today, we slept in, lounged around in jammies until after noon. I learned how to use my new Belgian waffle maker, which is fun and easy (even for me!) so we had a yummy brunch. Lazed around, watched Lil' Princess play with her new toys. Had a turkey dinner with stuffing, peas, cranberry pecan orange bread, and sparkling apple cider around 3 pm. Watched my Christmas present, The Sound of Music. Had a late snack of pears and apples in the candlelight. And now our sweet girl is drifting off to dream land while dad and I continue to try to digest.

Sigh.

Earlier today I told Lil' P that tomorow she and I would spend our time packing what we need for our big trip to her cousins' while daddy went to work for a little while in the morning. Her repy to this was, "I always have what I need in me, Mommy. I have love."

It just doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sermons, sermons everywhere

So I have three different sermons whirling around in my head.

I have a funeral sermon to deliver on Friday morning based on Luke 15:3-7 (parable of the lost sheep).

I have a Sunday morning sermon to deliver 2x based on Matthew 1:18-25 (Joseph's dream of angel telling him to marry Mary).

I have a Christmas Eve sermon to deliver 3x based on the theme of the nativity scene of Mary, Joseph, angel, and Baby Jesus.

For the funeral: Among many things, this man was a sheep farmer. I'm thinking of tying and weaving together the lost sheep parable, the shepherds watching their flocks by night who are led to Emmanuel, and the life of this farmer who was a hard worker and very kind man. Not sure how, but that's the germ of an idea.

For Sunday: Going to tell the very funny story of our first Christmas tree and of how I had planned such a perfect first Christmas together, and how it all fell apart. Then connect it to how Joseph must have had expectations and plans for his life too. He had it mapped out, but then the angel visits, and blows him off that map. I'll reflect on how "God With Us" does that, takes us off our small finite human maps, and puts us in God's cosmic plan. Can be exhilirating, frustrating, frightening, overwhelming, joyfilled, etc. It opens us to a wider a world and a greater vision, but also often means in practical terms that we are called to be faithful in the "small" day to day stuff. Which doesn't seem big, or to matter, but it does. Marrying a girl who is carrying a child that isn't yours is not glamorous. Hauling a pregnant girl across the countryside so the oppressors can tax you more effectively isn't a thrill ride. But it is about trust, and trying to be faithful, and surrendering to another's will.

For Christmas Eve: Something about how this manger scene, and this story, is our story. It is for us, for us all. Imagine the animals rustling and making their noises. Imagine their smells. The feel of the rough wood, the rope to tie up the donkey. The feel of a newborn baby's skin. (involve all the senses) Imagine it, and place your self there. This is our place too, because he came for us. We carry this scene, and this place with us through the rest of the year.

Well, something like that! Some first thoughts, anyway.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ready, Set, GO!

The insanity has begun. I had a death call at 2 am this morning, was at the parishioner's home till around 3:15 am. Daughter woke up with a 101 degree temp, so home sick from school. Was difficult and clingy all day. Had to get my Sunday bulletin AND my monster Christmas Eve bulletin done today, along with having early Christmas celebration with in-laws.

Tomorrow, meet with family to arrange funeral, attend text study, finish Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, go to daughter's school Christmas program. Do prep work for and lead confirmation class along with the special Christmas treat I promised them and have yet to come up with. Do prep work and lead Advent Bible study. Meet with Sunday school superintendent to iron out bulletin for Sunday School Christmas program for this Sunday.

Thursday, hopefully meet with family again to do final chat before funeral. Have parent/ teacher conference for daughter, have doctor appointment for me, have evening family prayer service at the church 30 miles away. Oh, and there is no school for daughter from today until the new year.

Friday, funeral in the morning at the community center. Sometime later that day, I will collapse for a good cry and nap, if at all possible. But it probably won't happen, cause something I have yet to foresee will come up.

whimper

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Giggle and a Full Day

A former parishioner of mine passed this on to me. For some reason it hit me just right today, and gave me the giggles.

We had council at one of the churches in the parish tonight. I'm SO pleased that they voted to go ahead with the elevator project! Now it will go before the congregation at the annual meeting. The basement of this church can only be accessed by some very steep steps, and this is definately an ageing bunch, so the need is great. Just today, we had the Christmas Tea, and it was truly scarey to watch some of the elderly ladies make their way up and down those stairs. And some ladies who would have loved to come (and need a chance to get out and socialize) didn't because they didn't dare try get downstairs. So I'll be cheering on this project, which actually will be pretty affordable, since it's more like a lift instead of an enclosed elevator. The goal is to have the project done before the church's centennial in July. Oh, please, please, please!

The Christmas Tea was lovely. Lil' Princess got to come too, and charmed all those ladies by building tall towers with Lego's, pretending to make snow angels on the floor, and telling them that they were all mermaids who needed to watch out for the mean witch who was hiding by the Christmas tree. We had such scrumptious treats, and a nice program. The skit even entranced Lil' P, so it was a great afternoon. And all I had to do was show up! And eat! And chat and laugh! Gotta love it, empowered laity rocks!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Uff Da

Well, it's been a quiet week at Lake Woebegone...

NOT!

I think I'm losing my mind. As I look ahead at what I need to do this week, nay even at the hour ahead of me, I might as well hide under my covers and cry "uncle!" If I were given to cursing, this would be the time to bring out some of the big guns. Since I'm not, I'll have to resort to my grandfather's expletives:

when the cows get out - "uff da!"
when the cows get out AND the big storm is coming - "uff da -fee da!"

It's an "uff da - fee da" kind of day.

On the upside, I'm very glad that I've been invited to be a part of the revgalblogpals webring. I've enjoyed reading their blogs for a while now, and it will be a pleasure to be a part of that online community. Plus, mom, you'll maybe have company when you read this blog, now!

Today's big task is getting ready to lead tonight's session of the Advent Bible study. We're covering Matthew 2:1-18, and discussing how Herod's actions point us to an awareness of the intersection of suffering and incarnation. As the study says, "God's method of deliverance, his initiation of salvation does not immediately rid the world of evil. In fact, it makes it more pronounced - God's incarnation heightens the painful reality of this broken world."

We've had some excellent discussions in this challenging Bible study series, and I'm interested to see where this leads us tonight. These folks have been willing to be made uncomfortable and ask some hard questions in this Advent season, which I really appreciate. I'm expecially interested to hear how they'll anwer this one tonight: "The sound of Rachel weeping sharpens our awareness of suffering in the world and runs as an undercurrent to the celebration of Christ's birth. How do we react to her refusal to be comforted? Can situations of suffering be transformed?"

That's a good question for all of us to consider in this season of extremes.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Something to Celebrate

Yat-dat-dat-da! (trumpet flourish)

I am ready for Sunday morning, and it is only 9 pm Saturday night!!!

For me, this is something of a record. Granted, it's because I was able to rework an old sermon from my previous call, but still, it FEELS GREAT!

Sermon's done - check
Children's special Advent message props and message ready - check
Copies of next week's Advent Bible study session ready to hand out - check
Outfit picked out and ready for tomorrow - check
Prayers of the People ready to go - OK, so there's still one thing left to do.

That and I need to practice the messages, which I'll do in the car on the way to the first service. It's a 30 minute drive, so might as well use the time for that!

Right after my last service tomorrow, Lil' Princess and I go to one of her Dad's churches for a special lunch. They're having their Christmas program followed by lunch, all of which they specially rescheduled just FOR ME, so that I could make it in time for the meal. They want to meet me, and get to know me. No pressure!

So, I'm going to bed now. Before midnight! Now there's something to be thankful for.

Friday 5, just making it under the wire!

Here then is this weeks Friday 5 from RevGalBlogPals:

1. You have a busy week, pushing out all time for preparing worship/ Sunday School lessons/ being ready for an important meeting ( or whatever equivalent your profession demands)- how do you cope?
Try to get as much sleep as possible, take tea breaks whenever I can, get some hugs from my little girl, eat chocolate, and complain to my husband.

2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do?
Spaghetti is my tried and true life-saver. Who doesn't like spaghetti? That, or we go out to eat, to give them "an experience of local culture." Works for me!

Three discussion topics:
3. Thinking along the lines of this weeks advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....
Repentance is definately less emphasized during Advent than in previous generations. It just feels like it "belongs" in Lent. However, with the obnoxious things that go along with the pre-Christmas season culturally, maybe a braceing dose of call to repentance is exactly what we need.

4. Some of the best experiences in life occur when you simply go with the flow.....
Absolutely. Life is complicated, and things NEVER go the way you plan or expect. You have to be ready to duck and weave. If you allow yourself to relax and not get uptight about it, some sweet blessing can come of it. Some of the best laughter I have shared has come out of these kinds of moments, as well as some of the sweetest shared tears.

5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...
I learned that from the first senior pastor I worked with. You save yourself so much headache and heartache if you just are mindful of all the little stuff. Not that I am good at this, however, but I do try. I know how much it can matter, and not just to make things convenient for folks. Small details can be incredibly pastoral to people who are suffering or going through a tough time.

Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?
Well...I'm getting there. I'm about half-way done with most everything; presents, decorating, cards. No baking done yet. I'm not hyperventilating yet, though. That will come the night before the Parsonage open house on the 15th that I was crazy enough to agree to!

Friday, December 07, 2007

There Goes John Again, Stirring up the Neighborhood!

The other day I led the communion worship service at one of our local nursing homes, and I read Luke 1:39-55 to them, which covers Mary going to see Elizabeth after getting the angelic news about Jesus, and Mary's Song of praise to God. When Elizabeth sees Mary, the baby in her womb kicks in recognition of who it is that is coming to their door.

I was struck by that last fact today. Even before he was born, John the Baptist was pointing towards the Christ. His life was fully given over to this task with an intensity and single-mindedness that blows me away. He was passionate, fully committed, and determined. And certainly NOT diplomatic. If he was around these days, he would be considered severly mentally ill, perhaps OCD with all his baptizing and yelling of "Repent, repent!" The Pharisees would have a restraining order out against him.

This coming Sunday's Gospel lesson, Matthew 3:1-12, highlights John and the message he was sent to proclaim. It is an uncomfortable one. I imagine he was an uncomfortable man to be around for any length of time. His zeal and focus would be exhausting to us average mortals. Yet, he still speaks to us. His energy, his passion still gets in our faces, and won't let us go. We tend to like the baby in the manger, but we're not so sure about the Messiah John talks about, the one who comes with the winnowing fork in his hand, who will "clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Ouch!

We need John. We need someone to hold up the mirror to our faces, and show us our hypocrisy. We need someone to remind us that God has a will for us and for this world. Most of all, we need someone who will kick us too, to help us see Christ. In the manger, on the cross, in the faces of the "least of these."

So maybe this Sunday the exhortation will have to be about being made uncomfortable, and about allowing the smelly, camel's hair wearing, locust and honey eating wild man a place in our Christmas preparations. Our expereince and understanding of Emmanuel, God With Us, will be better for it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ouch

I am now on DAY 5 of my migraine, and am ready to be signed up as contestant for the "Demon Mother and Wife of the Year" award. Arrrrghhll. This, of course, feeds into all my guilt about not being good enough in all the various parts of my life, I start getting depressed, weepy and lonely again, and...

I hate this "dark side of the moon" part of my life, but I just keep reminding myself that this too shall pass. I count my blessings, call my friends and family, and keep singing "I am weak, but thou art strong."

And if it doesn't pass, (O gracious God, please let it!) then it's off to the doctor's office for a prescription. I HATE the dark hole of depression. It looms in the distance, and makes my stomach churn as it swoops closer. I've only had to actually be on drugs for a while after my girl was born, but the hole has been around for a long time. It's such a relief when it fades into the distance, but there is always the awareness that it can come back.

It's interesting, I think, that so many in the ministry profession know exactly what I'm talking about. I can't remember my statistics right now, but depression and related issues are quite prevalent among those in the ministry. Why is that, I wonder? Is it the personality types that are drawn to ministry are also prone to depressive issues? Or is it the type of work itself which makes us more susceptible to these things? Or both?

The national expression of my denomination offers us a certain amount of counseling sessions covered under our insurance, and helps pay for drugs. It also is pushing a big health initiative, trying to basically bribe us to take better care of ourselves. But is it enough? I sure don't remember any classes at seminary about how to stay healthy in ministry. Our synods do little to help with this, beyond a yearly official check-in to see how we're doing. And is it really their responsibility, anyway?

Well, I need to dash. Have to pick up Lil' Princess from school, make some visits I've been putting off, and pick they hymns for this Sunday.

Maybe today is the day the headache will go away...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday's Advent Moment

The picture is of my husband, myself, our daughter, my husbands parents, his sister and her husband & her three children after my hubby's ordination service this summer.

It's been over 3 months now since my husband was ordained, and it has been a joy to watch him embrace this new life. He's already got some great stories to tell!

We were driving back from the pancake supper and auction fundraiser at one of my churches tonight, and talking about the ups and downs of our Sunday, when I was suddenly struck with such a sense of joy and gratitude. We have FINALLY reached this place in our lives. We've waited so many years, and gone through so much, and now we've taken this great next step together. Thanks be to God, who has been faithful, even when we've been tempted to give up hope.

My Advent moment today was the sweet savoring of hopes fulfilled, and the excitement of new dreams opening up.

And then we got home, our daughter was really tired & whiney, my darling husband got all snarly, I'm exhausted, and in a weak moment I would have traded them both in for a week's cruise to the Bahamas.

Ah, well. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sermon Musings

You know what? Migraines and sermon writing just don't mix.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent, I'm starting the special Children's time in worship to emphasize the season's themes, I've got the confirmation students lined up to do the Advent candle lighting and readings...

A sermon would be a good thing to have ready too, you'd think! I'm still not used to preaching every week, and this grinding migraine has definitely gummed up the works this weekend. So what in the world am I going to say tomorrow?

I've just finished a whole special series that touched on death, heaven, and the Second Coming. I really don't want to go there again tomorrow. I suppose I could do a straight "Welcome to Advent" sermon, but that feels like I'm ignoring the texts. Hmmmm, I have much more mulling to do, but it will have to wait until I get done preparing for and leading tonight's Advent Bible study. (and whose dumb idea was it to schedule a pastor-led Bible study on a Saturday night, you ask?? Why, that would be crazy me, who needs to learn how to say "No"!)

At least the migraine is beginning to back off, and I can think again. So it's off to the races!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Friday Five

I just couldn't pass up this week's Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals! For everyone who is on the Christmas-crazy edge, and will scream if they hear one more badly sung version of "Little Drummer Boy" playing in the stores, these questions are for you!

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....

1) dessert/cookie/family food
Lutefisk! It has been a part of my Christmas every year of my life, my parents love it, and I absolutely can NOT stand the smell. Or the texture. Or the taste. Or how it looks. (I don't think that leaves anything out!) (Sorry Dad, but that's the truth!)

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
Hmmm....I just don't have really strong feelings on this one. I usually am not a big fan of the wine we have with Christmas dinner, but then I am a complete wine ignoramus!

3) tradition (church, family, other)
The annual argument between my darling husband and I about decorating for Christmas. After fourteen years, you'd think there would be a happy medium SOMEWHERE!

4) decoration
Those little toys or decorative objects that play loud holiday music or loudly say obnoxious holiday things, that seem to take forever to shut up. At which point my sweet girl will push their on button again, and off we go over and over again until mommy is ready to decapitate the stupid Christmas moose/cat/snowman/whatever the thing is. Can you tell I feel strongly about this?!?!

5) gift (received or given)
I do remember one really bad one I can share. When I was in Girl Scouts (or was it Brownies? Well, anyway...) we had a little Christmas party at a local pizza place. Each of us was to bring a gift (bought within a certain small spending limit), and they would be exchanged randomly amongst us girls. I agonized over this gift! I found the prettiest pair of barrettes, which I purchased, and was very proud of my selection. We got to the party, exchanged the gifts, and what was in the package I got? A pair of Strawberry Shortcake panties. All the other girls (literally) laughed and pointed at me, while they enjoyed their very cool presents. I was a sad little Girl Scout that day, who lost her Christmas cheer. Now wasn't that a lovely walk down memory lane!

On the other hand, there is the more positive flip side to these questions that I just can't pass up:

Please tell us your most favorite seasonal....

1) dessert/cookie/family food
How can I only pick one?!?! Lefse, Belgium cookies, rosettes, krumkakke, wreath cookies, cut-out cookies, Swedish meatballs....and so much more!

2) beverage
hot cider with cinnamon sticks or candy canes to stir

3) tradition (church, family, other)
Gathering with my whole family around the living room to open presents. The youngest ones pass out the gifts, the adults struggle to open and assemble kid's gifts, the laughter and thank-you's float above the din. It's lovely because we're together.

4) decoration
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches!

5) gift (received or given)
It's tough to name just one. When we gave my mom the new set of china when we were kids, and she cried. When us kids got Duchess the puppy in the Christmas stocking. My husband's first Christmas gifts to me when we were dating, so full of humor and love despite the limited budget (he's done well since, too!). The teapot and cup set I got from my oldest brother last year, it's just so perfect.

Well, that was fun!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday Reflections

It's been a Wednesday. It doesn't seem to matter how you slice it, when you're in the ministry, it's just going to be a crazy day. I'm sticking to my determination to carve out Advent moments most days, but Wednesdays challenge that BIG time. I think my confirmation students could have levitated through the roof, they were so full of energy. And I started the day with two meetings scheduled, and ended up with four. I think they multiply like hangers in the closet, or unmatched socks in the dryer.

Nonetheless, I do have some Advent sightings today, I'm glad to say.

1. During the morning meeting with my part-time secretary, at one point we were so off topic and laughing so hard, it took us several minutes to remember why we were meeting in the first place. That meeting made the rest of the day possible!

2. Lil' Princess wanted to hear every silly song I could think of while we were in the car and during her bath. At one point, while singing umpteen verses of "Down By the Bay," I discovered that the goofy rhymes could send her into gales of laughter (which is an awesomely wonderful sound!)

3. I managed to sneak in supper with my Pastor friend who lives down the road in the next town. She'd had a long hard day, funeral for a dearly beloved lady, followed by confirmation class. We had about forty lovely minutes of chatting, laughing, and eating that allowed her to finally relax and unwind. It was great to be able to help her do that, and spend the time together. I had Lil' Princess with, and she provided the entertainment by blowing bubbles in her chocolate milk!

I've come to realize that my Advent moments list today has a common denominator: laughter. Despite a really tough day, with some moments that left me in tears, I got to give and receive the gift of laughter today.

Thank you, gracious God, for your abundant blessings, and your generous outpouring of love, and especially for your precious gift of laughter today. Amen!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Advent Joy

Yay, it's Advent! Cha, Cha Cha! Shimmy, shimmy, tap, tap. (happy dance around the office)

Now, I know that we're supposed to get grumpy and up in arms about the Consumer- Frankensteinian, Cheap Plastic Santa co-opted, soul-less, mindless time that this has become in our culture. And I do get distressed over our selfishness and materialism that is so obvious and over-the-top at this time of year. I get as disgusted and dismayed too.

BUT

It's Advent, people!

Blue candles, lit in the evening in my darkening dining room, mirroring the blue candles lit in the slowly lightening sanctuaries that morning. Each day, the excitement of my daughter as we put one more figure in the nativity scene on the advent calendar. The anticipation of slowly and methodically decorating our home, a little more appearing each week. The whispered conversations and giggles over gift planning. Good smells of cookies baking, and even the mess of decorative sugars and sprinkles all over the counter and floor. Reading Jesus' story at bed time, retold in many different ways in the many different books my daughter has received, each one delighting us with a new way to look at the old story.

These are the real parts for us, parts of the anticipation, of the waiting, of the hoping. They are not perfect or stress free, nor do we expect them to be. But they are our moments to savor, in a life and a world that moves so quickly that we normally miss the savoring and go for the quick taste. I love this savoring time of the year, and I love that I get to share it with the people I adore and love.

I will hold on to Advent while the world swirls around me, and dance my happy dance while I can. Grab hold of the joy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So good to be happy

Sigh. Happy, happy, happy. It would be nice to bottle these little moments for later. Our dear friends left this morning. It was such a nice visit, it made me feel happy down to my toes. Of course, I wish they could have stayed longer, but we thoroughly enjoyed the time we had with them. This gives us such a nice lead-in into listing our blessings tomorrow for Thanksgiving!

And if that isn't enough, our cup is really going to run over. My Chem-bro and his sons are coming! They will be here Friday through Sunday! I wish his wife could come too, it won't be complete without her, but we'll take what we can get. They have a funeral in Rapid City, and then she needs to head to Missouri, so he and the kids will spend the weekend with us. Oh so very Yay!

Ah, life is good.

I'm sure I'll have something to grouch about in ten minutes, but for right now...aaaah, bliss.

Happy thanksgiving, Mom! I love you! I'll call you if you don't call me first!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Yawn

I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open.

Why don't I just go to bed, you ask?

'cause it would take too much energy to get off my butt, wash my face, take my pill, put on my jammies, and crawl into bed.

How very pathetic.

It's been a long week. Funerals, sick and cranky child, distant husband, messy house, and so many needs in the parish waiting to be met.

On the bright side, we have wonderful dear friends coming to visit us this week, and some lovely down time for just the three of us over Thanksgiving. And my nice snuggly bed waiting for me across the hall. My dad has told me many a time that he's gotten to the point in his life where a nap, or sleep, is "delicious." I'm not sure what it says about me that I'm totally in sync with him on this. When we count blessings this coming week for our Thanksgiving celebration, sleep will be on my list!

What else is on the list?
1. Family, near and far. I love you and miss you!
2. Sweet moments of snugglies or silliness with my girl.
3. Kind and warm church communities.
4. Meaningful work.
5. Comfortable home, plenty to eat, clothes to wear. Many are not so lucky.
6. Forms of communication over long distance - phones and internet.
7. Friends who don't let miles stop the love.
8. Quiet content peaceful moments with my hubby.
9. Chocolate and diet Coke
10. God's faithfulness through all things.

So many more to list, but there's a good start for Thursday. Now, it's off to bed. My pillow calls my name with the soft promise of release and dreams.

Nighty night!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I'm 13 years old in Blog years

I'm discovering that I really would like to learn more about blogging. Such as - how to find cool pictures and video clips on the internet and put them on my blog, how to get connected to a web ring, and just generally how to do all the cool stuff you can do. As I read my favorite blogs everyday (and boy, is that list growing), it allows me to peek into the wider world. Now I need to figure out how I can communicate and interact with that world!

I tried to connect this blog to the web ring I REALLY want to be a part of, but it didn't work. In a very polite little email, the ring administrator informed me that my blog has not been viewed enough to be able to take part in the wider community. I didn't know this was based on popularity! Sorry mom, I guess you being my only reader makes me unsuitable for the larger public. Sigh. I might as well be back in junior high.

At least the music in junior high rocked. "Girls just want to have fu-un, oh, girls just want to ha-ave fun!" Ah, Cyndi Lauper, where are you when a girl needs you!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

God Bless Her and Keep Her

The news came this morning via email. My good friend's mom died this morning. 5:30 am, October 31st, 2007. Blessed be her memory. We commit her to her Father's care.

O Lord, now let your servant
Depart in heav'nly peace,
For I have seen the glory
Of your redeeming grace:
A light to lead the Gentiles
Unto your holy hill,
The glory of your people,
Your chosen Israel.

Then grant that I may follow
Your gleam, O glorious Light,
Till earthly shadows scatter,
And faith is changed to sight;
Till raptured saints shall gather
Upon that shining shore,
Where Christ, the blessed daystar,
Shall light them evermore.

"O Lord, Now Let Your Servant"
Text: Ernest E. Ryden, b. 1886

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For the Beauty of the Backyard

For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flow'r,
Sun and moon and stars of light:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.
verse 2, "For the Beauty of the Earth"
text: Folliott S. Pierpoint, 1835-1917, alt.

Stop.
Look.
No, I mean really LOOK.
What do you see?

What a gift it is when God can break through to us, and turn an annual chore of raking up the fall refuse into an experience of the wonder of our God as revealed in the ordered chaos of autumn leaves.

Thank God who cares for us so much, that our Lord would create small miracles in our very own yard. Alleluia!

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Beautiul Autumn Day

Today was warm and lovely. The leaves swirled in the breeze, the sun shone bright, and Lil' Princess was full of energy! Every year since she was one we've had our rite of Autumn, which is this: I rake up the biggest pile of leaves she has patience to wait for, and then she runs wild in leaf ecstasy while I laugh. It's a good thing!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tears

Just got the news via email tonight. My good friend's mom has been battling ovarian cancer, and the war is almost over. She had been taken in for some emergency surgery, been having some intestinal problems I believe, and they found the cancer had spread all over. She's too weak for chemo. The doctors give her 1-6 weeks. They say she won't make it to Thanksgiving.

I want to cry, swear, kick God in the shins, and then drive 10 hours in the dark to my friends house and give him such a hug. She's only 53 years old, with grandbabies who deserve to know her. And kids and a husband who have known this was coming, but STILL. It's just so terribly wrong and sad and there's nothing we can do about it.

Death comes with life. It's a package deal. And we trust that God is going to take care of all of this effing awful stuff, and that there is meaning beyond the pain. But that's small consolation at the time when its your mom, your wife. When its your kids who will turn their big eyes to you and ask you where grandma has gone and when can they see her again.

I just really hurt for my friend, for what these next days will bring. I trust God will take care of them. I just wish I could hold his hand, and the hand of his beautiful wife, my wonderful girlfriend, and hug their children. It hurts to think of their hurt. God, hold my friends, because I cannot.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Five: Halloween!

On one of the blogs (REVGALBLOGPALS) I follow, every week they have the Friday Five, five fun and/or interesting questions you can answer. Members of this group blog have fun posting their answers on the blog and reading each others answers, and I'm thinking about officially joining it instead of just peeking in as an outsider (it's for women in ministry who blog, so I think I qualify)

ANYWAY, here is my personal attempt at answering this week's Friday Five, which is about Halloween!

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
Mom would take us out trick or treating, come rain or snow or sleet, or whatever else mother nature had to throw at us. Not sure why dad got out of this annual rite! My costume was usually something Mom or I came up with. I don't remember us making a big deal about it.

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
Either my husband or I (or both of us) take Lil' Princess out trick or treating for a short time. She can't handle being out too long, which is fine with us. Then we go home, give her a little of the candy, and hide the rest. The biggest part of the evening is the getting dressed up and getting her picture taken (she's such a girly-girl!) We don't get bent out of shape about Halloween. I've always agreed with Luther that it's good for us to thumb our noses at the devil (well, Luther actually was a little more crude about it, he said we should fart at Satan!) Before our little girl came along, we would spend the night handing out candy.

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
Caramel covered, absolutely! Mmmmmm.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
Thus far we have painted faces on our pumpkins, but when my paranoid husband feels that our girl is old enough, we will carve our pumpkins. We set them out on the front step until they get snowed on, then we throw them in the back yard, and then we rediscover them sometime the next spring when they're nice and squishy and gross. (I can just hear my dad sighing and shaking his head at me)

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
I try to decorate with a few touches here and there, nothing overboard (not like Christmas!) I don't have a lot of autumn or Halloween decorations, much to my husband's relief.

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.
I haven't dressed up in YEARS. I loved it when I was a little girl. In college, I was known as The Goddess of the Rock. I think what makes it fun is that it allows you to step outside of yourself and try something new on for size. Since I put on the pastor hat, I haven't let myself try anything else on. Is that sad, or just to be expected? I don't have a particularly wonderful recipe for autumn, especially since my idea of baking involves buying a premade pie crust, a can of pumpkin pie filling, and a can of ReddiWhip! Mmmmmm....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What I've Been Reading

Now that I actually have time for my favorite pastime, reading, I have been been exploring what our closest full fledged library has to offer. (There is a tiny library here in R-town, but the choices are pretty limited. Great kid's books, though!) I love the thrill of picking out a new book, and not knowing what lays ahead, and hardly being able to wait to dive in. Yes, I'm a book geek. In my defense, I inherited this gene. Honestly. It's my parents fault!

My latest newest favorite is the Elm Creek Quilt series by Jennifer Chiaverini. I discovered it through a book on tape, actually! I needed something to help pass the hours on my trip to see my bro & family in Big Sky Country, and found one of this series on CD. I love, love, loved it, and it made the trip fly by (well, "fly by" considering I had an impatient 4-year old in the back seat). Sugar Camp Quilt is my favorite thus far (the one I listened to on CD), though I've enjoyed them all. So far, I believe there are 9 books in the series. I think I have read about 6 of them. The library doesn't have the rest, so I'm going to have to ask them to order them for me.

If any of my family and friends actually read my blog, please leave a comment, and tell me what you have been reading lately. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Life, Or Something Like It

My Week Thus Far:

Monday: After a morning frittered away, went on family trip to the Big D an hour a way (only largish town with shopping options within decent driving distance). Gave in to the lures of Wally World, bought burgundy curtains for our bedroom. Felt the beginnings of a migraine, but it didn't develop. Been out here in rural land long enough now that it was a relief to get home from the "big shopping day."

Tuesday: Text study in neighboring town where we did actually study the texts a little, but more talked about parish life and stuff. Got to eat out for lunch again. After picking up Lil' Princess from school, convinced Pastor Friend to play hooky and show us the back country. Spent three hours exploring the wilds of ND and SD. Reluctantly ended our tour when Lil' Princess found the limits of her 4-year old patience. Found many beautiful spots to revisit, and show to family.

Wednesday: Prepared for confirmation, subject for the day is the 6th commandment, OH YAY. Picked up Lil' Princess from school, had lunch with Rev Dad (3rd lunch out this week, this is some kind of record!!!) She played with Church Grandma while I taught confirmation, which went well despite the topic. Picked her up, had grilled cheese and tomato soup for supper (yum!) and met for 90 minutes with Sunday school superintendent. Ahh, Wednesdays. They just keep going, and going, and going!

And what will tomorrow bring, you ask? A nursing home service. A few phone calls, and maybe a meeting if the phone calls work out. Maybe get a few pictures hung in my office, though I doubt it. Play with Lil' Princess outside, since freezing cold weather is literally right around the corner, and we need to enjoy the warmth while we got it.

There you have it. My life. Sigh.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Late Night Thoughts on Swimming

"Just keep swiming, just keep swimming, what do you do, you swim..." Oh, to have the simple focus of Dory!
I am in the middle of one of the hardest parish death experiences I have had to pastor, and I'm tired. The family prayer service is now done. The funeral is tomorrow. I know roughly where I want to go with the funeral sermon, but it is no where near done. But it is getting late, and I am tired, so tired.

So what shall I say to this family of a 24 year old man, life cut short in a senseless car accident? As I drove home from the prayer service, I turned into town and noticed about 20 trucks parked outside the two local bars. Now, I'm not against getting together with friends over a few brews, and it is Friday night, but all of a sudden, I got mad. Really ticked me off.

I raged to myself, "I'm going to bury a 24 year old whose life has been cut short, who should still be here, and you all are pissing away your life in the bottom of a beer bottle?!?!? You probably won't even remember most of what happens tonight because you'll drink too much, like you do many other nights, and I have to put a guy in the ground who treasured and lived every minute of his short life!"

Well, then I remembered life isn't fair, and if we all got what we had coming to us, it would be a pretty sparse world. So I got off my high horse, and headed on to the next thing on my to-do list for the funeral.

Just keep swimming...

Monday, October 15, 2007

These online quiz sites are kinda fun (especially when you're sick!)

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Book Snob

Fad Reader

Non-Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

I'll Strike My Heroic Pose Now

Your results:
You are Superman
























Superman
75%
Spider-Man
65%
Green Lantern
60%
Robin
53%
Wonder Woman
46%
Supergirl
46%
Iron Man
45%
The Flash
40%
Catwoman
35%
Hulk
30%
Batman
20%
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.


Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Hole in the Hedge - Where's Alice Off to Now?

For Alice, it was a curious rabbit hole that tumbled her into another world. For me, it is a tree-bough arch that leads to new adventures!

Between the parsonage and the church is a thick hedge of trees and bushes, broken by this passageway. The first time she saw it, Lil' Princess imagined it as a doorway into a world of dragons and magic. For me, it has been a gateway into a new community and a new life. Like Alice, I am at times perplexed, delighted, lost, intrigued, and changed.


I wonder what the next chapter will bring?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's been two weeks in the new call already?

This is the chancel area of new Church #1

This is the chancel area of new Church #2.

I don't have a picture of new Church #3 yet. I'll post one as soon as I get out there with a camera.

It really does blow my mind that we have been here for two weeks. The days have slipped by so quickly, it seems like I barely wake up and it's time to put Lil' Princess to bed for the night. We have begun the slow process of settling in and learning the culture and the parishes. I am starting to feel lonely, and being a part time stay-at-home mom is HARD. I knew it would be, but my patience is really being tested. My life seems to revolve around tending Lil' Princess, driving, cooking, cleaning, a little bit of ministry, and grabbing every stray moment to read. I'm not complaining exactly, it's just an adjustment. A greater one than I anticipated.

I am enjoying all the wildlife (and making my dad drool as I tell him about it!) and the rugged beauty of this area. The people I've met are mostly friendly and glad to have us here. The parsonage is great, and having internet finally is wonderful! Rev Dad seems to be settling in well at his parishes, and enjoying each day filled with new experiences. Lil' Princess enjoys preschool, and having more time with me (though she's not happy with dad being gone more).

I miss my friends. I miss not having to drive more than a mile in a day if I don't want to. I miss my flowers and my great neighbors. I miss knowing my church family inside and out, and being known by them. I miss full time ministry.

I know that we will be fine here, and happy. It all takes time, and change is always unsettling. I just feel so......self-centered. With all the transition stuff going on, my interior life is all about me and what I'm feeling and experiencing, instead of being about others and ministry. That too will settle in time, I know. I just need to keep finding healthy ways of dealing with my loneliness and stress at change.

Well, enough wallowing. Time to drink some tea, read a good book, kiss my husband, and get some sleep.

What more could a gal want?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Never The Same Again

You know those times in your life, when you look back on them, you realize that they were pivotal or momentous? That things changed after that time? It was a turn in the road? This summer is turning out to be one of those times. I can visualize us years from now saying, "remember, that was the summer when..."

1. Grandma Alice is dying.

2. We will probably be moving over 400 miles away to North Dakota.

There are other things going on too, but right now, these are primary in my mind. Both of those realities seemed unthinkable just a year ago. Now they are staring us in the face. No matter what comes, things are going to majorly change in our lives, and in our extended families' lives. I don't want to sound melodramatic, but this is big for us.

I'm a bit numb right now, so I don't know how I feel. Or maybe, I feel so many things it's hard to narrow them down. What do you do in the face of life-changing events? Today I went for a boat ride with my dad, daughter, and nephew. I packed our things, since we're leaving my parents' home tomorrow. I ran errands for myself and my mom. I listened to my nephew tell me about the fish he caught. I laughed and talked with my brother (and drank a beer with him and my dad, too). I gave my daughter a bath, and got pretty wet too.

No matter the tremendous events that are going on, the rest of life keeps ticking on. There are still clothes to be washed, kids to be fed, and rest at the end of the day.

I've read some accounts where people who are facing a big scary time of their lives, like cancer, or the loss of a spouse, feel angry at the rest of the world because it doesn't stop too. Tragedies and grief happen all around us, but the world keeps turning. People keep doing their everyday stuff. I actually find that a bit comforting right now. It reminds me that there is hope for tomorrow, it helps me put things into perspective, and reminds me that God is always there too. In the big stuff, the little stuff, and all the in betweens.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

LIGHT

"You are the light of the world."
Matthew 5:14
I love the song by Cathy Pino based on this passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
"You are the light of the world. You are the light of the world, so shine, shine, shine where you are. You are the light of the world."
It continues with verses; "You are a city on a hill..." and "You are a candle in the dark..." and "You are a star in the night..." It's so simple, but so very beautiful.
The imagery of light is a powerful one in the Scriptures. God is portrayed as light, as giving light, as making us light. I think it resonates with many, because it is so primal. Who hasn't, at some time in their life, been afraid of the dark?
My Top Seven List of the things and people shining God's light in my life this week:
1. The women attending our Synodical convention for Women of the ELCA. They rock! We just had a wonderful worship service together that is still giving me a high.
2. My congregation's kids who are going to camp this summer and their parents. They're committed to doing this, even through the complications of it, because they know it matters.
3. A member of my congregation in tears tonight because she sees how much Christian fellowship matters, and she mourns that others are missing out on something so beautiful and meaningful.
4. The prayer requests at worship tonight: all the illnesses, weddings, changes, and births that make up our lives.
5. The dedication of some folks in the community who can't help but speak out about injustice and the needs of others, even in the face of apathy.
6. My sore back and exhaustion, fruits of a good, long, hard, rewarding day.
7. My daughter stopping everything to pray to God asking for a little baby brother or sister...with pink hair!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just a Day Off

Picture This: I'm sitting on a thick towel on my driveway. Around me there is a large cardboard box for sticks, a red wagon for rocks, a small white waste basket for garbage, and a yard waste bag for leaves and plants. In front on me is a large pile of mixed up stuff which I need to sort out and place in the right containers.

This is my day off.

To be fair, that was just the morning, and in the afternoon we rested (once Lil' Princess finally fell asleep).

I rarely take a true day off, and I will have to do a little church related work today, but most of the day is truly "off." It just struck me as funny as I hauled, raked and sat in the sun getting covered with shingle dust, dirt, leaves and bugs that this is how I'm spending my first day off in a long time. (I'm not counting our trip to hubby's graduation and to Minot as true days off, they were quite stressful).

It really wasn't that bad, and Lil' Princess managed to keep things fun as she played around us. Hubby has tree-digging-out duty, which makes my cleaning- out and sorting-out job look, well, easy. We have a big landscaping job in front of us that has to get done if we're going to sell the place, and we of course have been putting it off.

Our plan is that I will take every Wednesday off, and Lil' P will go to day care two mornings a week, and hopefully that will give Hubby and I enough time to do our landscaping, do the other many fix-up jobs inside and outside the house, sort and pack, and otherwise be ready to move whenever it is that we actually get calls to serve somewhere.

I know, I know, I question the feasibility of the plan too. But you have to start somewhere, and we have.

No earth-shaking news today, no particularly wise thoughts or witty comments. Just a day off.

Monday, May 21, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things

Here's my list for the moment, what would be on your list?

1. Singing snatches of songs from musicals.
2. Coming home and hearing my daughter enthusiastically yell out "Mommy!!" and run up to hug me.
3. The way my husband's eyes twinkle when we're laughing together or when he teases me.
4. Flowers blooming.
5. Warm (not hot!) spring/summer days spent outside
6. Watching a funny movie...or a tear-jerker.
7. Dancing with my daughter.
8. Seeing that my words or presence have comforted or helped someone.
9. Chocolate and Diet Coke (don't ask me why, but you can't have one without the other!)
10. Talking on the phone with my mom (I really like talking to dad too, but there's something about talking to my mom that just makes it feel like everthing is going to be ok).
11. Walking barefoot through the grass.
12. Reading a really good book on a lazy afternoon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Ascension Day

I just got done leading the Ascension Day Devotional. Not many celebrate this event anymore, which commemorates when Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection. I find it to be a meaningful time every year. About 14 people showed up last year, and I had 7 tonight. Each time I find it to be an intimate, personal, and moving time.

We gathered in two pews in the sanctuary, with only a few of the lights on, which let us appreciate the setting sun shining through the stained glass windows in back. I played some meditative music on CD as we gathered, but found that we didn't need it. Everyone was so merry, glad to see each other, and happy to share about the events of the day, it was like a family coming together at the close of the day.

We read aloud the verses of Psalm 47, which are bursting with joy,
"Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy....God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet....sing praises to our King, sing praises."

I read the account of Jesus' ascension from Luke 24:44-53, and shared some thoughts about the meaning of Ascension. What I have found especially interesting and meaningful in my studies on the text this year is that Jesus' ascension took place in Bethany, which is the town where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. I made the connection between the words and events surrounding Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and the purpose and meaning of Ascension, now taking place in the same town. It gave me goosebumps to read about the Lazarus story from John 11:21-27, especially verse 25-27.
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.'"

We shared a time of prayer, and then closed with the sharing of the peace. It is so wonderful to see people's faces light up when they get to share the peace! I think on some level we all yearn for such a positive and lively connection with others, and at its best, sharing of the peace shows what it means to be the body of Christ, the family of God.

Some left quickly, to enjoy the last few hours of sunlight on such a beautiful day. Some lingered for a "Scandinavian goodbye," which almost lasted as long as the devotional had!

As I locked up the doors and turned out the lights, I thought, this was so good. This was a little slice of of the Kingdom, right here. In this life, contentment can be fleeting, so I take a moment before going back home to the chaos that awaits, to jot down the joy and contentment of this night. It is a gift of God.


"Do not forget that you serve
a Mystery
that neither you nor your father's father
nor your mother's mother began.
And the laughter and the tears
that accompany your labor
are not born
of your cleverness
or your holiness,
but are reflections of the Mystery of God
in the still waters
of the eternal lake
by moonlight.
The God you serve is like an eternal lake
whose waters are always calm and clear like glass
reflecting truth to all who gaze upon them.
A million million reflections
and the lake remains the same.
It is not your job to stir the waters
but to show the way to the lakeside."

p. 4, The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections, 1994 by William V. Martin, published by CTS Press, Decatur, GA

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dinosaurs & Imagination

Our post-Easter trip to Rapid City was quick but fun. It felt good to get away for a little bit, and talk with other pastors. Lil' Princess loved the glass elevator at the hotel, and getting to see the dinosaur statues. I don't know what it is about dinosaurs, but I think almost every child goes through the dinosaur stage at some point. They capture the imagination, I guess.

So the question for this week is: what captures your imagination?
My imagination gets going when I think about moving to a new house. What will it be like? How will we make it ours? Will it have the space we need? It's nice to daydream about something new (especially when faced with the to-do list for your current home!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pictures from Holy Week


As you can see, Lil' Princess really enjoyed her Easter basket. She was the bright spot in a very busy day! She thought the Easter bunny did a really good job of picking presents for her.



Lil' P and I celebrate spring! She and Hubby bought the big flower for me, and she took great glee in sharing it with me.



Here is my Divine husband playing the role of Jesus in our Living Last Supper. Unfortunately, the shots of the whole group didn't turn out, but a few of these close-ups did. I think he did a great job, (even those who are not biased thought he did well).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Post-Easter Deep Breaths

Easter is such a joy, a beautiful highlight of the year, though exhausting. You work so hard to make it a wonderful day, and before you know it, it's all over. I can't believe that it's already almost two weeks since Easter weekend! Things just don't slow down in the spring. Life gets so packed full, I wonder how any of us get through. It's a good thing we have some automatic systems in our body, or some of us would forget to breathe!

In the midst of a crazy schedule and so much on the to-do list that I just want to scream, I look out the window at my office, and BREATHE.

I see bright shining sun, green grass, trees moving in the breeze, and hear birds singing. Whether or not my to-do list gets done, or whether or not I even notice what's outside my window, God and the world just keep going. New life springs up all over, the promise of spring will turn in to the lushness of summer, and none of it depends on me. Humbling and refreshing thought. I can make it better by nourishing the earth, I can make it worse by polluting and misusing the earth, but I cannot make the sun shine or the flowers to grow. It's all God. I think spring is an annual Psalm of Praise to God by the Creation. How can I keep from singing?

Friday, March 30, 2007

My Husband...Divine!?!

For the last 10 years or so, my congregation has put on "The Living Last Supper" on Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week. It is a dramatic presentation of the Last Supper with Jesus and the 12 disciples. For the last 5 years or so, they have gone to the state penitentiary to perform it for the St. Dysmus congregation there. This year, my quiet, reserved, shy husband agreed to play Jesus in the drama! I about fell over when he said yes. Last night I went with to the performance at the prison. It was awesome! All the guys all did a great job, and Hubby was wonderful. I am so proud of him! The inmates really appreciated it, and it was moving to share communion with them.

When I get a picture of Hubby and the rest of the cast in their costumes, I'll post it. It will be interesting to see what Lil' Princess thinks when she sees the drama this coming Wednesday. I can just hear her yelling out to him, "Daddy, what are you doing?! Are you Jesus?!" His mom, dad, sister, two nieces and nephew will be here for the Wednesday performance, so that will be really exciting. And a bit nerve-wracking for him!

My Britney Spears Friday

A week ago I had what I like to call a "mini nervous breakdown." We'd had a great conversation with the Bishop from W.N.D. on Thursday, we went to bed feeling better...and then I woke up on Friday, FREAKING OUT.

All the normal stresses of life, plus upcoming Holy Week , plus upcoming Middle School retreat on sexuality, plus all of us a little sick, plus having to get my mobility paperwork done and sent in before Easter, plus the crashing reality of the impending interviews and big move and saying goodbye and fixing up the house and selling the house, and, and, and...

So, I lost it. Couldn't stop crying. Couldn't face any of it. Freaked my hubby out. So how did I deal with it? I had a "Britney Spears" day. Remember how about a month ago, Britney Spears couldn't handle things anymore, so she got two new tattoos, shaved her head, and entered rehab? I had the midwestern Scandinavian Lutheran version of that. I walked into the office, announced to my secretary that I was having a nervous breakdown, and that I would not be working that day. I took my daughter to the zoo in S.F. for the morning, splurged on lunch at the Olive Garden, and then took both of us to get haircuts. She got a trim, and I got 3 inches hacked off. Then I went home, gave my husband a kiss, and went to bed.

Now, a week later, I can say things are better. All the women in my congregation LOVE my haircut. My fellow pastor is picking up some of the heavy-duty Holy Week planning. I actually asked for help (!) from some congregation members, and bless their hearts, they're stepping up to take responsibility for Easter Breakfast and the Children's Easter Morning Activities and Egg Hunt. There's still plenty hanging over my head, and I still get stressed out at some point most days, but I'm doing better.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Happiness

If this doesn't make you smile, I don't know what else will! The princess and the cowboy had to go save a dragon and take him home.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Welcome to Spring! Goodbye Winter!

A picture of the last big snow storm of this winter. Hubby took the brunt of the work, as you can see! Now, of course, the snow is all gone, and it is beginning to smell like spring. On this first official day of spring, I thought I'd welcome its coming by celebrating the end of our heavy winter weather (knock on wood!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Girl

Our little cowgirl! She loves to play dress-up and likes to include us in her makeovers. It's fun to see her imagination grow, she makes up her own stories and her own songs. She loves it when we make up stories for her before she goes to sleep, which also has the additional perk for her of lengthening the "night-night" process.

My Day

My friend sent me a video via email of some of the most hilarious church bloopers ever video-taped. It is absolutely hysterical, full of all-too-human moments that happen whether the time and place is considered "sacred" or not. It felt good to laugh. It also felt good to remember to not take all this church stuff too seriously. The future of the world does not depend upon a perfectly designed and executed worship service or class.

That thought is a good leavening moment right now. In this time of mid-Lent, with Holy Week coming barreling down the pass at us, I find myself overwhelmed, anxious, and grumpy as the many important and not-so-important details of this time of year need to be addressed. Because, of all the times of the year, this is really when you need to get it right. This is the big Kahuna, the Big Time of the church year. And some great idiot (me) scheduled the middle school confirmation retreat for the weekend after Easter. And I'll be gone for three days of the week before the retreat, so the majority of the work has to be done the week before. Which is Holy Week. Ah, the stomach churns!

While this could easily become another installment of "Pastoral Whining," I find myself not wanting to go there. A young couple came to the office this morning, looking for help. They have no place to live, and have run out of options. I can't imagine...no place to live! They're not sure where they will stay tonight, and are just really grateful that their daughter (step daughter to the wife) is with her biological mom this week, and so has a place to sleep.

Are there words for such a reality?

They haven't come back to the office when they said they would, to find out if I've found them any options. So I'm getting worried. I have some possibilities, but the longer they wait to get here, the less likely they can take advantage of them. I wonder where they will keep warm tonight.

What a sentence; "I wonder where they will keep warm tonight." In the year 2007, why are such sentences still being said? I'm sure they've made mistakes, and carry a good chunk of the blame for their situation, but STILL, a warm place to sleep? Why isn't this a given?!

I hope they come. I hope I can help them. I hope...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Reality Check

My precious girl, my amazing husband. How blessed can a woman be? A warm home, food in the cupboard, a steady income, people who love us. Why do we think we always need more than these beautiful things?

My friends and family ROCK. The support that is being lovingly offered, and the prayers lifted up on our behalf are...beautiful. I could cry to think about them, each of their loving faces! I thank God for them all, and feel it easier to take the deep breaths, and easier to seek the better attitude about life. Thank you God, thank you, thank you!

I will try to remember their words and care as I face the many obstacles and challenges each day. I am so loved. Me! Grumpy, whiney, selfish, sinful me! I am grateful for Lent, which pushes us to live in the realization of the greatest love there ever has or will be. Thank you God for moments of clarity, and thank you guiding me home again and again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How are you today?

Answer: Impatient. Intolerant. Short-tempered. Tired. Overwhelmed. Guilty. Wanting to avoid any effort or discomfort.

There have been times when someone I know well has asked me how I'm doing, and I have responded, "do you really want to know, or should I lie to you?" It's not that I'm trying to be difficult, or looking for an opportunity to whine, but there are times when I truly want to answer that social-nicety question honestly instead of how is socially expected. There are times when I can see pain in another person's eyes, but it is an inappropriate time or place to encourage them to open up to you. And sometimes you don't know how to broach the subject with someone, "Hello there, thought I'd call/stop by to ask you what your secret pain is!"

I think that there is so much pain, uncertainty, confusion, and struggle in even the average person's life out there, I wish there was a way for us to truly support one another and seek to listen. I wish that was part of our social expectations too.

Here are the lyrics to an awesome song that so speak to my soul about human struggle:
"Scarred" Words by Rebecca Poulson, performed by the Christian band "The Pull"

I've found that I live in fear...
I've found that I need you here...

'Cause there's things in my life that I forgive, but I can't forget
They fill up my mind, and they mess up my head
I want to be loved, but I'm still too upset
I know I'm alive, but I feel like I'm dead...

Come here and take up this fight
With you near, I think I just might
Find me a way to get through tonight
Know what is truth, find the way, see the light

I thoguht I'd go it alone...
I thought I'd make it on my own...

But I'm starting to hting that it's true what they say
People may leavey ou, but love will always stay
It's killing me now, bit it's only today
My faith is in tomorrow, so let the music play...

I have healed,
But I've scarred
I can feel,
But it's hard,
It it's real,
Oh my God,
Be with me

If I fail
Don't let go
Life is hail,
Feet of snow
But I still
Gotta know
That you're with me

Come here and take up this fight
With you near, I think I just might
Find me a way to get through tonight
Know what is truth, find the way, see the light

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some Inspiration for Today


A Prayer of Augustine of Hippo

O loving God, to turn away from you is to fall, to turn towards you is to rise, and to stand before you is to abide forever. Grant us, dear God, in all our duties your help; in all our uncertainties your guidance; in all our dangers your protection; and in all our sorrows your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Power of Words

so much depends
upon
a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

The Red Wheelbarrow, 1923
William Carlos Williams

This poem has stuck with me from my introduction to it in English class in high school. I've remembered it ever since then, and I find that it pops into my mind at different key moments in my life. Simple words, carefully placed around each other, carry such meaning and power. Now, as I consider our eventual move to a totally unfamiliar place that is known for its starkness, I find some small hope in these words. God, give me the eyes to see the red wheelbarrows and white chickens in my new circumstances!

My English teacher tried desperately to get us to see, to listen, to understand the power of poetry and prose. You could see the despair and frustration in his eyes when his passion for language was met by indifference from the students. But I always loved it, though I tried not to let it show too much. (I'm not sure why it was considered such an "uncool" thing to love to learn. I hope attitudes have changed for teenagers.) In certain poems, short stories and books, I find myself transported to another consciousness that I cannot find anywhere else. In some circumstances I find that happens at a movie, or at a live theatre perfomance.

I love the power of words. I yearn to have the skill, creativity, and inspiration to shape words with such meaning and power. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of something deeper in my own writings, which gives me hope and despair. One of my personal goals has been to write, but I guess I've lacked the personal discipline and courage to do so. So a consumer rather than producer I continue to be.

I shall go galumping through life
in the big boots of a fool,
laughing
dancing,
tripping,
falling,
and getting up again.
It shall be so much fun!

My Life, 1987
Stephanie Holmgren

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow, snow, beautiful snow, slip on a lump, and over you go!

Day 3 of being snowed in. I've phoned family members more in these three days than I usually do in three weeks. My house isn't any cleaner, and nothing has been organized in all this free time. Just been hanging out. It feels lovely yet naughty, isn't that sad? We live in a culture where you are supposed to be productive ALL the time. The closest I've gotten to multi-tasking during these snowed-in days is watching the TV and playing on the computer at the same time. It's felt good to be able to hang out with my husband and daughter, though I do find myself straying away from them regularly to do stuff by myself. Makes me feel a bit guilty, but it also keeps me less grumpy.

In the midst of eating comfort food, playing games, watching movies, and shoveling snow, some major life changes have happened as well. Maybe it's a blessing that we got some really big news while trapped at home, isolated from the rest of the world. We're still processing and trying to figure out what to do, and we've been left in relative peace, which has been helpful.

My husband has received his Synod assignment. As a soon-to-be-graduate from seminary, the larger church gets to decide what part of the country your first call will be in. And the powers-that-be have chosen for us a place that is in the opposite direction of where we hoped and expected to be. I joked with my sister-in-law that I have been going through the stages of grief, but it is true. And not all that funny. Grief, anger, bargaining, etc. I'm getting closer to acceptance, but it isn't easy. Is this what God wants, or is this us getting shafted?

I know that this place he's been assigned is sure to be filled with very nice people and very nice churches, and there is no reason why this couldn't be wonderful for us. And I don't want to be prejudiced against it. But. BUT. It's far away from where we wanted to be. We wanted to be closer to family, not farther away. We know no one there. It's more isolated. It scares us. It upsets us that our wishes were ignored. We're truly concerned about what this will mean for our daughter - preschool, day care, school district, etc.

So what do we do? Accept it humbly, gratefully, gracefully? Or see if we have another option? I know that many people have gone through far greater challenges than this. Really, it's not that traumatic in the scheme of life. But it's big for us right now. I don't want to be untrusting. I don't want to be ungrateful. I want to be open. But I also have to be honest.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to say. I feel excited, sad, angry, curious, frustrated, anxious, impatient, and a little bit of every other emotion. So I'll take another breath. And another. And another. And trust that each is a gift, no matter where I am when I take it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Snow Day

After a quiet and snow-light winter, we are getting our due share. It is something of a record here at my church that we had to cancel some events on Sunday, and now have had to cancel all events for Wednesday. No one can remember that ever happening before. Either we're wimps compared to our forefathers, or it's just bad timing.

It is beautiful out, as long as you're not one of the many in the ditch. People are snuggling in for the night. I'm sure the video rental stores are doing a brisk business. I feel myself growing nostalgic for the snow days of my youth. We'd play and ski, then come in rosy-cheeked to slurp hot chocolate and snuggle in blankets. I'm not sure if Mom really liked snow days, but I remember liking having the whole family together on a week day.

I yearn for her hug and smiling eyes right now...I really miss my mom and dad. I'm grateful I still have them, but I wish we could see each other more often. There's a place in the heart that aches a little with time and distance from parents.

I hope snow days will be as magical for my daughter as they were for me. I hope when she is all grown up, she looks at snow and remembers good times with her parents, and will want to give us a ring "just because." That's what I'm going to do right now. Call my parents and tell them that I love them. Just because.