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


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 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
a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain
beside the white

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,
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.