Monday, April 30, 2012

A date on a calendar

We all have those days, when the day on the calendar becomes a marker, not just another numbered day in a month.  Sometimes those days are filled with joy, some days those days are filled with grief, some days they are filled with both. 

Today was one of those days filled with both.  Joy for a life lived, for family of the heart and grief for a life cut short, for stories left unwritten.  

Praying tonight for those left behind, not just my own family but for the many I've heard in the last 24 hours for whom this day is no longer a date on a calendar but a date that now has one of those kind of memories attached forever.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Letting go

I'm pondering many different subjects these days, some for this blog, some for other blogs (yes, I have more than one...and that's all I'm saying).  There are some hot button issues I'm almost ready to burst on but not quite ready to start the conversations.  There are some things that are wearing on my soul, actions I need to take, questions I need to ask, points I need to ponder.  Part of me would love to share, part of me is not ready to let anyone else blog silence reigns on those subjects.

Tonight I'm contemplating letting go of things from the past in order to move into the future.  One action I need to take is going to be hard, really, really hard.  The action is also necessary if I want to move into the future.  The future which remains completely unclear but the future nonetheless.  While I contemplate letting go of things from the past in order to move forward, people from my life come to mind.  People near and dear to my heart who are clinging to past hurts and wounds.  People near and dear to my heart whose lives are so intimately tired to resentment and anger they can't see the future.  My heart grieves for them, for the life they are missing out on while they dwell in anger, while they stew in resentment, while they cling to festering wounds bound to never heal because they intentionally rip the scab off every so often just to re-freshen the wound.  While I can look into their lives and see steps to take and ways to begin to heal, I feel anxious when I look into my own life and see the same things glaring back at me.  I KNOW I don't want anyone else pointing those ways out to me, so I remain on the sidelines of these other lives, watching and praying.

I stand on the sidelines of others lives, watching and praying and reminding myself, I don't want that to be me.  I don't want to be the one who refuses to let go and allow healing to begin.  I want to move on, into the future and allow God to begin healing my heart. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A few notes...

Dear Clothing Manufacturers,

We "Plus-size" women (oh how I despise that name) have a lot of body issues and you aren't helping.  Could we please, PLEASE have t-shirts with sleeves.  Not those little cap sleeves things that leave the whole underarm just swinging away in the breeze, but a real sleeve, something that covers about 3 inches more arm.  That would be lovely.  While we're at it, could you start making skirts that cover below the knee too?  Thanks.

Dear Body of Mine,

I am so sorry for those infections.  Really.  I am not a fan of them either.  Must you now punish me by creating a potential embarrassment every single time I sneeze?

Dear Drivers on the Road,

When the little blue and red twirly lights are coming at you on the OPPOSITE side of the four lane freeway with a cement barrier in between us and them, there is NO need for you to SLAM ON THE BRAKES!  They are not after you.  DRIVE YOUR CAR!!!

Another thing, when the road is windy and you go 15 miles under the speed limit and there are two lanes traveling in the same direction, the best way to end road rage or people cutting you off is to get out of the left lane and allow faster traffic to pass you, even if it means you have to stay behind the truck for 1/2 a mile.  

Dear Radio Executives,

I am tired of listening to the same songs every two hours.  Variety is good.  Older songs are good.  Songs that don't sound like on the radio are good too.  Unless you really just want me to listen to my iPod and Audiobooks.  That works for me.

Dear Car Stalker,

You are the best.  My life is much happier with you in it.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grandfather clocks

I've never been a fan of so-called Grandfather clocks.  There was one at my former church in the library right next to my office.  It would chime on the hour but the chime was broken so it kind of did this bong-brongggggggg thing that was off-key and annoying.  It never chimed the correct hour, had that awful bong-bronggggg and required a weekly winding.  That didn't always happen, which was lovely, but when it did get wound, it drove me I would just go in and stop it.  I think I drove the owner of this clock crazy.

The part of Grandfather clocks I do appreciate are the swinging pendulums. If everything is wound correctly they keep perfect time, swinging gently from left to right and back again, in a rhythm that rarely changes.  Right to left, left to right, the pendulum swings in a steady pace, creating a hypnotic rhythm.

Part of me wishes that life worked the same way as a pendulum in a Grandfather clock.  I wish there were a steadiness to the rhythm, a pattern, a certainty as to when the pendulum would swing left to right, right to left.  I wish there was a way we could tell when the pendulum would swing in the opposite direction in order to prepare a little bit for that downward swing and the uphill climb.  I wish I could pinpoint the moment when I would begin that downward swing, to prepare myself for the rush of emotions, the descent into whatever is at the bottom of the curve and gird my strength for the push up the other side of the curve.

There is no preparing, though, for when the pendulum swings downward.  It just happens.  The descent can be slow or swift, the push up the other side of the curve can be equally slow or swift.  The pause at the top can be a brief moment or a long sweet stay at the top.  The pause at the bottom can be excruciatingly long.  There is no regular rhythm to the pendulum of life.

Left to right, right to left, the pendulum in a Grandfather clock swings.  Steadily, along the same path, with little deviation.  Occasionally the clock winds down, waiting for someone to come along and wind it up again, giving the pendulum another push back into the consistency of it's swing.  I can relate to the Grandfather clock in that instance, as I wait, stagnantly, for someone to come along and give me a little push.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A review of sorts

I did something unusual for me the other day.  I went to a myself.  Shocking, isn't it?  Actually, it kind of is on a couple of levels.  One, I don't go to movies very often and two, I really never go to movies by myself.  It was a good thing.  I deliberately drove to work instead of taking the bus (thus messing up the adventures of the car stalker, but she was really gracious about it),  purchased a ticket online while at work and went to the last matinee of the day.

I went to see Blue Like Jazz.  I read the book by Donald Miller a long time ago and have followed the process of the movie being filmed over the last couple of years.  It has been awhile since I read the book, so I went into it just knowing I liked the book but not remembering all the details.

Can I just say, the previews for the movies, before Blue Like Jazz began, made me very uncomfortable?  When the five other people in the theater are over the age of 50 and remind me of my parents, viewing previews with so many sex scenes was just awkward.  AWKWARD!

Anyway, I went to the movie to A.) support the filmmakers, writers and people who helped produced the movie and B.) to watch a movie that deals with faith in a real way.  I rarely view "Christian" movies.  I find many of them pious and out of touch with reality.  Blue Like Jazz isn't a Christian movie, per se.  The movie deals with issues of faith but I wouldn't categorize it in the Christian genre.  Which, IMHO, is so refreshing.

There were moments when I was confused and trying really hard to remember where some scenes were in the book (answer:  they probably weren't).  I was admittedly distracted wondering what the other people in the theater were thinking, especially with the one part, with the one thing at the church. (Yes, being vague.)  When I stopped allowing myself to think about the people around me, I could appreciate the movie for what it was, an honest reflection of a young man's journey away from and back to his understanding of faith.  There wasn't an altar call.  There wasn't a pronouncement of the saving power of Jesus.  The moment was simple, the main character found his way back to the faith that he had abandoned...and took ownership of his part in how others viewed faith in God.

I don't know if this movie is going to have a profound effect on people.  I don't know if many people are going to "come to Jesus" because of this movie.  To me, it simply doesn't matter.  I walked out of the movie wondering what my part has been in the story of God, in the story of faith in this world.  I walked out pondering my own faith journey.  I walked out wondering if there are people out there that need to hear my own confessions.  If every Christian who sees this movie walks out pondering their own story, I think the movie will have done it's job.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 1970, 5:02pm

42 years ago today, these two got married.

The four of us are extremely grateful they did!

Happy Anniversary Yo Momma and Papa Bear!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wake up call

Every once in a while, we all need a wake up call.  No, I don't mean someone to literally call you on the phone and wake you up from sleeping, I mean that figuratively.

Recently my wake up call came in the form of Facebook posts.  Sometimes, in the midst of my pity-party-for-one moments, I need to be reminded that my life really isn't all that difficult or awful.  I don't like that these reminders come from the real-life experiences of people I know.

A few weeks back, a High School classmate lost her husband in a car accident.  She is due with their first baby in a couple of months.

Today, another High School classmate posted on Facebook that 13 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  That came after another post about two weeks ago that stated that she was having to go back on Chemo because the cancer had returned and is now at stage 4.  She has three children.

Praying, today, for people I know whose lives have been turned upside down and who refuse to stop fighting.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Five: Mission Impossible!

Revkjarla @ RevGals poses this Friday Five: 

I am in mission trip mode right now, as I get ready to take a group of youth to DC to do service work around hunger and homelessness issues.   So, in that spirit, our FF is Mission Style!  So here are your questions:

1) Have you ever been on a mission trip, as a participant or adult chaperone? What was it like?
    A timely Friday Five, seeing as how I just got back from a mission trip to Joplin, Missouri.  This marked my 16th mission trip, with 11 of those times being to Pearlington, Mississippi.  I've been on the "go to Mexico and lead VBS" trip, the, "go to Mexico and build a house" trip, the "go to the Inner City" trip and the "disaster Relief" trip.   Each trip is so different, yet strangely the same.  We work hard, we get little sleep and are extremely emotionally exhausted by the time we head home.

2) What is the worst thing that happened to you/your group on a mission trip (or retreat, or camp, or Habitat for Humanity experience, or something like that--hey, this is YOUR Friday Five, so you get to play it how you would like.)
  Well...last year we sent a young man home from the Galveston trip.  I don't know who reads this blog, so I'm not going to go into details but that was pretty tough.  The first Mississippi trip we had one student step on a nail and I wound up with pink eye on the last day, going to the hospital at 2:30am.  The 2nd Mississippi trip 17 women stayed in hut/shack/thing that leaked in multiple places and it RAINED hard all week long.  Another Mississippi trip, with 20 or so people waiting back at the airport, we pulled into the Alamo Rent-A-Car lot only to see 2 vehicles in the entire lot and a lobby full of people waiting for cars.  That was special.  In fact, we had trouble with rental cars for probably half of the 11 Mississippi trips, usually in that the reserved vehicles were never there when we arrived.  My Mom (aka Yo Momma) came home from one trip commenting that she had never seen me get so tough with someone as I had with the Alamo people.  All that said, we haven't really had something truly awful happen, for that I'm grateful!

3) If money were no object, where would you want to go to help and serve?  What would you do?
  If money were no object I would be in Mississippi helping the people who are still not back in their homes from Hurricane Katrina.  It's not a glamorous or exotic location but it's the place that God put on my heart to serve.  Actually, if money really wasn't an issue, I would be a volunteer coordinator wherever a natural disaster struck in the United States.  I'm not the overseas kind of gal.

4) What would be your advice to someone who will be sleeping in a gym with 20 other people for a week?
  Ear plugs, eye mask, iPod and Tylenol PM.  There are ALWAYS going to be people who snore or make funny noises during the night and there will always be random lights in the room.  Also, if you are using a sleeping bag, I highly recommend taking a twin sheet with you.  This last trip I put the sheet over the cot and then used my sleeping bag like a blanket.  I could get my feet free in the middle of the night if I got too hot.

5) Any parting thoughts, stories, or questions you have around the whole theme of Mission Trips?
  Have a good time!  Smile!  Don't be afraid of laughter!  Be prepared to listen.  Everyone has a story, listen to the story without judgement and without adding your own "stuff" onto that story.  Sometimes the most important work you do all week is listening to someones story. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Oh Missouri

There is no one word for the time I spent in Missouri last week.  It was good and hard at the same time.  I was glad to be there and wanted to be anywhere else.  In the midst of a group of people, I found myself struggling with issues that I did NOT expect to show up.  I felt like I was the most unhelpful person on the trip.  That's just not me.  But there is it.  A tough and great trip all at the same time.

Joplin, as a town, was tough.  There is a lot of Meth use, a lot of need (poverty, abuse, etc.) and a lot of -ism, as in racism and sexism.  The night we arrived the Pastor at the church we stayed in, told us a little about the neighborhood in which the church is located and my heart got heavier and heavier.  A tornado ripping apart this town only added to the challenges the town faces every day.  I was extremely excited to see how present this church was in the midst of their community, though.  They aren't just a building in the midst of homes, they are reaching out to their community.  That was very impressive.

The work was, well, volunteer work.  With 12 relief trip experiences, this one wasn't much different.  We had eager volunteers, not enough supplies, not enough work to keep them all busy and not enough tools or leaders.  The youth did an amazing job, despite the lack of tools and the many moments of just standing around.

My group worked on what was eventually dubbed "the urine house" the first two days.  They had been forewarned in our training to not make a big deal out of smells, so when we walked into the house, they were very stoic.  Our site leader kept apologizing and opening windows.  One by one the youth quietly and unobtrusively walked out of the house.  It was awesome.

We ripped out trim, door frames and windowsills in preparation for the next group to come along and start rehabbing the house.  The goal was to remodel this home (with 5 bedrooms), sell it and use the proceeds to build homes for the elderly and disabled in the area.  The organization we worked for, Home Sweet Homes, has a goal of building 25 homes for elderly or disabled people who lost their homes in the tornado.  All I can say is there is a lot of work to be done on this house.

Another of our groups was doing the same thing at a house down the road.  We joined them for the part of the last three days of the trip.  The group, Home Sweet Homes, had also acquired an old warehouse that they want to convert into volunteer housing as well as store all the donated materials.  In between working on the job site, we also got to unload materials into the warehouse and follow a very rickety trailer all around town.  Oh the stories I could tell!  The best line I heard all week came from the organizations leader as he backed that trailer into the guide wires leading to a power pole "Oh, it's okay, the power company owns it."  Enough said.

More to come...

(I tried to include pictures but Blogger was having a bit of a fit.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

My life as an introvert

The feeling was overwhelming all at once.  The need urgent.  I've lived this life for 37 years, I should know by now when to anticipate it, but still the feeling creeps up quietly and then pounces, like house cat going after a bird.  I should notice the signs, the frustration level that creeps up and up.  The little voice in my head that says all the sarcastic things that my regular voice only sometimes says (I can hear some people laughing at that.  Trust me, only a quarter of the sarcasm actually makes it to the air).  The tightness of my shoulders and back, the all-over tiredness.  They are all signs of impending meltdown.

The last six months I've wavered in and out of my experience of depression.  There were days when life looked very bleak, when the sun wasn't going to shine.  This is not the same.  Life is fine, I am fine, correction, I will be fine when I get time alone!  This is my life as an introvert.

Spending 11 years as a Youth Director and Worship Leader, I fought against my nature on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.  Small talk has always been ridiculously hard for me, it increased ten-fold on Sunday mornings.  I had to be "on" and "energetic" two modes of operating that took a lot out of me. Sunday mornings were painful at times, especially if I didn't have a chance on Friday or Saturday to recharge.  It took me a few years to realize just how much I needed those days to regroup and be ready to face another week.  I was an introvert living an extrovert life. 

Yet, I've learned how to deal with this part of my personality.  Not just deal, accept and accommodate my deeply introverted state.  I tend to sit in the back of the room, not as a way to escape, but as a way to prepare.  I can see everyone and have a view of the room to prepare when people are coming my way.  I sit quietly, not verbally engaging but smiling, in a group of people and wait until it feels safe to say something.  I keep myself busy, in the background, helping others so that I can avoid those oh-so-hard small talk times.  I find the one other person who struggles in these situations and hang out with them.  Most importantly, I take the time that I need to be alone and rejuvenate...though sometimes other people don't understand that.

Once I started really figuring out just how I worked, what would make me crazy in an instant or when I was hovering over the edge of complete and total meltdown, I started letting other people in on the secret to me.  It wasn't that I didn't want to hang out on a Friday night, I really couldn't.  It wasn't that I didn't love hanging out with youth who stopped in hours before youth group, I honestly needed a chance to prepare myself for youth group, mentally, and sometimes I just couldn't hang out.  It wasn't that I thought myself elite and above everyone else, it was simply painful to be in an unknown situation and hard to climb out of my introverted shy self.  I can put on the extroverted mask and be the one in charge for 22 hours of the day, but I need those 2 hours to be by myself and recharge before I can it again...okay, more like 21 to 3.  At the end of a long week with 20 other people on a Mission trip or any kind of other trip, I've put in all I can of myself and you can bet that I won't be perky and up to hanging out for a couple of days.  In fact, I may just hide for two days in my house.  Don't worry, I will eventually emerge again.  I just need space.

While I'm not in full-time ministry anymore, my personality hasn't changed.  I still am that introverted person.  I still face the realities of me every single day.  I accomodate my needs the best I can and put on a good face 75% of the time.  I am still, though, caught off guard from time to time when that feeling overwhelms me.  That desperate need to have space.  I've still got some learning to do.

I am an introvert...that's just the way God made me.