Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mean Mommy

"I'm never letting Mommy in my room again!"

We are experiencing the "how COULD you shut the TV off!" moment in the house. Hubby and I have agreed that it is very important to be mindful of screen time, and only allow a certain amount of hours over the week. Today there is no school because of Regional basketball games, so our dear little one believes that she is entitled to more Idiot Box time.

Hence, when I turned off the TV: the running to her room, the shutting the door, and the proclamation that I am banned from the premises.

Thanks to a 4 year old's attention span, she will have moved on to something else in a little while, and I will be out of the dog house pretty soon, but the parent's job of picking your battles is never done. Making your bed, I'm going to let that slide. Being cruel or dismissive towards someone else, I'm not going to let that go by.

Other things, of course, are a little harder to decide what to fight and what to let go.

But for today, I'm mean mommy for being the TV police. And that's just fine. In a few years I'll be mean mommy about what toys she can have (NO Bratz dolls!) and about what she can wear (who decided little girls should dress like hookers?!?!?) and so on.

I think I'm going to call up my mother and thank her for not letting me eat tons of chocolate chip cookie dough like I begged her every time she baked cookies. And for giving me a curfew. And for cooking us vegetables every day, knowing that at least one of us would make faces and say "Eeeww!" Mean Mommies Rock!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Upside (there is one?!?!?) to Being Sick

Is this not just the sweetest thing? My folks, my brother's two boys, and Lil' Princess all cuddled together in front of the fireplace at my brother's place. We'd just opened the Christmas presents after enjoying our big Scandinavian feast. Now it was time to kick back, watch the kids play, and enjoy being together. Ahhh, Christmas 2007 was good (except that my oldest brother was sick, poor guy. We all felt so bad for him.).

The one nice thing about being miserably sick with influenza is that for short periods of time I have enough energy to sit at the computer and play around. I hadn't looked at our pictures from Christmas since we'd taken them, and its been fun to look through them and remember a lovely holiday with my family.

So there's a bright spot in my sick day. Five shining faces of people I love with all my heart.

Oops. Gotta run. The side affects of the flu wait for no one!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Feelin' Funky...

For the first time in my LIFE I bailed on services because I was too dang sick. Nursing my girl all week, not getting a full nights rest since last Sunday night, fighting off whatever bugs my dear one has shared with me, all led to a really interesting Sunday morning.

So I'm feeling really crappy, but I manage to pull out a sermon. Mediocre at best, but hey, I'm leaning on the Spirit here! I make it down to my first service, 30 minute drive away. Start getting pale. Normally energetic greeting of congregation is replaced with a wan smile. Get dizzy during sermon, and can tell by the puzzled looks that I am not making much sense. Get dizzier during communion, and have to grab hold of the altar at one point to keep from falling over. Somehow, I make it to the end, and gratefully collapse in the big pastor chair.

I have two more services to do.





Now, I am a person very suseptible to guilt and worry. The mantra is, you show up unless you are in the hospital or dead (or so my intership supervisor and first Senior Pastor pounded into my head). But I knew there was no way. It took everything I had to do the 30 minute drive back to town. So I found the council president of the second church I was to preside at (10 minutes before service was to start, thus compounding my HUGE sense of guilt) and let her know that I was not coming through. I knew she had a sermon based on today's text prepared for a nursing home service later in the day, so I knew there would be something, anyway. I stumbled home, called up the council president of my third congregation to activate the calling tree to let them know I would be a no-show. I'm sure they just cancelled.

And so, for the rest of the day, I have vacilliated between self-pity and guilt. When I haven't had dizzy spells.

How are we supposed to handle illness as ministry professionals? We are expected to go above and beyond the call of duty, yet we are also supposed to be role models for healthy living. In talking with other pastors, we feel a sense of guilt when we "take care of ourselves" because we are not giving our all to the parish. When we pour everything into our ministry and sacrifice our wellbeing, we begin to resent the ministry and are less effective in it, and shortchange our families. What a juggling act we are in!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Long Winter's Day

This morning we had a tea party for my daughter's purple elephant, Lumpy, because, it was decided, it is her 5th birthday. So we drank imaginary raspberry tea and sang happy birthday to Lumpy.

Not a bad way to start off a sick day. Lil' Princess is home from school with a fever, so her dad and I are doing tag team care. This is the first she's been sick this winter, so I'm not complaining. This is something of a record, really, in her young life! Not sick until February!

I got to go to Text study while Revdad held down the fort, bless his heart. It was a good one today, we actually did talk about the texts for the upcoming Sunday. I had been feeling a bit lackluster about them, and our conversations got the juices flowing. Now I have too many ideas, need to whittle it down to a main theme.

Now as my little darling takes a nap (a sure sign that she is sick, she hasn't napped willingly since she was 2!) I'm going to practice for tomorrow's Lenten service and then brew a nice cup of tea.

Mmmmmmm, black or herbal? Orange & spice, or chai? Apple & cinnamon or organic mint? Choices, choices. Sigh. How lovely.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"The speed of the sound of loneliness"

The solitude and (relative) isolation of living out here in our little corner of ND has been starting to get to me again. As a social person who thrives on conversation, whose creative juices flow in the interaction with others, and whose preference is to be out and about, this move has been...challenging.

Most of my time is spent at the house, alone or with Lil' Princess. All this time I have, that I hoped I could use for creative purposes, is just weighing heavily on me, as I struggle to get basic life stuff done. I feel very alone. My hubby, who is introverted, can't wait to get back home after a day in town, and have time alone. While I'm desperate for interaction with people. I've enjoyed getting into the blogging universe, but it just doesn't take the place of real live human interaction.

So I'm trying to figure out what to do. Hubby says, "You gotta get out more." I retort, "And just what am I going to do? Visit more shut-ins?" While I do enjoy doing home visits, that's not quite the interaction I'm looking for to fill my cup. I'd like to find something that doesn't involve my parishioners or my hubby's, but out here that will be next to impossible. I'm going to have to do some there a community choir I could attend, an arts council I could get involved in, a library committee, a children's outreach program? Something FUN that involves doing things I actually ENJOY with other PEOPLE who enjoy them too?!?!?!? And DARE I DREAM, something that involves people somewhere near my age, instead of all 40 years older than me?!?!?

OK, I'm calmer now, done with the ranting. I'm just so lonely, and this pain is hurting me, and it's hurting my family. So I gotta do something.

But what.

I miss my old life.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lenten Friday 5

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: What are you doing for Lent?

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?
I led the all-parish Ash Wednesday service at the largest church in my parish for the first time. It was the same yet different from how I celebrated it for the last seven years in my previous church - fewer people, less music, but the same ashes, the same words of confession, the same steps into Lent. It was good.

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?
The year I had a miscarriage on Ash Wednesday. Lent truly became a journey for us, stumbling through the wilderness, hoping for the day we would emerge from death into Easter.

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?
I remember going to Lenten services as a child, it was just an expected part of what we did as a family, as natural as brushing your teeth every morning. I enjoyed the soup suppers, and remember thinking there was something almost more holy and deep about being at church services in the evening, in the dark. They made an impression on me. I also liked that it meant that we got to be together as a family, and I could sit by my mom and look at her rings.

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?
When I was young, I was in the give-up camp, mostly because many of my friends were Catholic. It was really more like a game to us, something to challenge each other about, and compare notes on, and see who could hold out the longest without giving in. Now, I think I'm somewhere in between. Balance seems healthier, than going to the extreme in either.

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?
Daily Lenten devotions, giving up my chocolate indulgences (that one hurts!), grocery shopping and eating more mindfully overall to what is healthy and balanced and good for our bodies and the environment, getting through my reading list. Staying sane as I lead my congregations throug the season!

Thursday, February 07, 2008


WARNING - This post contains some of my memories of a very traumatic and personal day in my life. I have chosen to do this as a way for me to remember and shed light on a dark day that my husband and I comemorate in our own way every year. It is an experience I am sure we share with many others. But it is not pleasant.

At about 3:30 am on Ash Wednesday morning of 2001, I woke up in our bed and discovered two heart-rending facts at once. I was pregnant, and I was having a miscarriage.

Waking up in a pool of blood on a cold February morning, my cries of fear waking up my husband.

Crying in the bathroom as my insides twist and blood clots work their way out.

The quiet unbelieving ride to the hospital, mercifully short.

Trying to explain to the hospital staff at the door what we need when we don't really understand what is happening and don't know what to do.

Trying to explain extremely personal symptoms and an emotional series of events in a detached way over and over again to the parade of complete strangers coming into the room who all want to examine me, which makes it hurt even worse.

Listening to people talk about me when I am right there in the room, but not helping me as I continued to bleed and twist in pain.

Holding my husband's hand so tight, trying not to cry, trying to listen and stay calm.

Not knowing what to say when the doctor finally comes and is incredulous and patronizing that I hadn't figured out earlier in the night that I was having a miscarriage.

Growing weaker and weaker from loss of blood, from waves of pain that just won't stop.

Being taken to the ultrasound to see inside. Weeping to see what is left of the brief life of my baby, as the technician, who is angry about having to come in early, looks very uncomfortable and hustles us out of the room.

Agreeing with the doctor that surgery is the best option at this point, agreeing with anything that will make it all go away.

Crying and talking with my husband.

Calling my parents to tell them, not knowing how to tell them, wishing so badly my mother was here to hold me.

Crying and talking with my husband.

Being wheeled into a room to wait for surgery. Afraid and alone. Unable to pray. Unable to move. Unable to stand the truth of what is happening. My mind and heart are so choked I find I cannot speak a word or think clearly.

Henrietta, a hospital volunteer and member of my congregation comes in. She comes to my side and looks at me with eyes filled with compassion. She takes my hand, and asks if I would like her to pray with me. I nod yes. She prays in that dark room, and gives my heart its words, gives my empty dry mouth its prayer. She is my angel, my gift of the Holy Spirit, my promise of life in the valley of the shadow of death. She apologizes for the poorness of her prayer, concerned that her laywoman's prayer is a poor offering for her pastor. I try to reassure her that she has spoken with God's own voice, but words have left me. I can only smile and cry as she pats my hand.

They wheel me into the cold surgery room. I am so afraid. Tears run out of my eyes and past my ears as they give me the anesthetic. The surgery team says little as they prepare, so the main sound I hear is my voice, which has come back as a whisper. I can hear my dry cracked voice whispering "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..." Then there is only sleep.

Recovery was a long slow process. Physical recovery for me. Emotional and spiritual for both my husband and me. My congregation members were gentle with us, and loved us well. My mother-in-law, who had had a miscarriage before she had my husband, was so helpful. She came and took care of us and showed us a depth of sensitivity and gentleness and caring that we had never seen before. My parents, my brothers, and friends were supportive and saddened and bewildered by our experience. We felt loved, yet battered and fragile for a long while.

Miscarriage affects people in different ways. For some, it's sad, but just a bump in the road. We found it quite traumatizing I think because we had been trying for so long to get pregnant, and because I ended up losing a lot more blood than usual and had to be hospitalized. When I did get pregnant again, it was a fearful time, especially for the first three months, while the spectre of miscarriage loomed over our shoulders.

Seven years later, my husband brings me flowers and chocolate on Ash Wednesday, and gives me a big hug, a kiss, and a deep look. I cry a little when I'm alone as I look at the flowers and offer up a prayer of thanks for my beautiful daughter who is 4. Some day we may tell her about her big sister Grace who almost was.

I am grateful for so much. At the time, I wondered if I would ever know joy again. I have known so much joy and so much sorrow in the seven years since that day. Each year as I remember, something new has been added to the wisdom and experience I bring to this time of remembrance and meditation. It's a complicated mix, life is. Nonetheless, I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Icy Flow

This picture was taken by Ed Johnson, along Sunday Gulch in Custer State Park area, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He calls this "Icy Flow"
It reminds me of the time I spent in the late winter on the creek near our home when I was growing up. As a solitary child who spent much of my time alone, I loved to wander around the woods and in the creek in all seasons, but the creek had a special magic at this time of year. The ice took on amazing shapes; bulbous and flowing, curvascious and bubbly. It (actually, I thought of it as she) engulfed trees, rocks, enbankments, and anything else that stood in its way. This humble creek, really just more of a trickle normally, became a grand place, one that dominated its landscape. For me it was alternatively a skating rink, grand ballrooms, and mystical fantasy lands where all the creatures of my dreams lived. I spent hours twirling and dancing and racing around on its slickness, tracing its patterns, and admiring its beauty. It was one of those special places, hidden in the heart of a little girl, etching its loveliness and naturalness in such a way, that a picture of icy flow sent by a friend some 30 years later can bring tears and remembrance and gratitude.
Thank you God, for icy flow, for winter afternoons playing outdoors, and for warm families to come home to. Thank you for my own little girl who loves the snow, who laughs and twirls on ice, and calls for me "Come on, Mommy!" to join her in the sheer joy of it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On the verge of Lent

Wow. I am really behind in blogging. Funerals and your back going out will do that to a person!

I'm in the midst of Ash Wednesday preparations. I look forward Lent, and yet I don't. It's such a good spiritually deep time, where you can truly get serious about important life and death things. And that is precisely why in some ways I don't want to go there. It's easier NOT to go deep, it's simpler to stick to the candy-coated version of life, the Disney version of spirituality. Lent means hard work, it means effort, it means it will probably hurt at times, and it will mean undoubtably that I will change. Which sucks. And which is also awesome. All at the same time.

Tomorrow night I will put ashes on the foreheads of my parishioners. This is such a meaningful act for me. Some of these saints I smear with ashes now, I will bury before my tenure at the parish is over. The hardest yet sweetest is putting it on the children. Because it's hard to think of them as tied to death too. But they are. Yet because of Christ, they are tied to life, as surely as the elderly woman who struggles to get down the aisle with her walker. It's such a tough and deep and strong and bracing step into Lent, this Ash Wednesday business.

Tonight I will mix the ashes with the olive oil in preparation. I know that Lil' Princess will ask me what I am doing and why. She will want to understand. And she will have even more questions after tomorrow night. I know I'm going to have some of those parental moments when you just hope and pray you are able to open up an idea and the world in a way that helps your little one grow and learn. God give me the words and the understanding to help her, help myself, help the people of my parish, understand what this all means.

"Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."