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Jesus Was Also Human

It’s time. Honestly, it is so far beyond time for the admittance. I have to confess something and since it’s kind of the season for it…….here goes (dramatic pause for effect*): I am human.

Now, let’s break down the reality of what that means.

First, it means that I, though a clergy-person and called to a pretty steep standard (not by the church or the conference or my superior, but by God), am not God. God is perfect. But, ironically, even in God’s perfection, God got tired enough to take a sabbath ‘day.’ Since I’m not God, elevating me to that height will likely only bring great disappointment.

Second, it means that I am imperfect. Imperfect people get tired and when they get tired they get cranky and when they get cranky they say things they don’t mean and when they say things they don’t mean, well, they’re not God and it’s very obvious.

It also means that I can’t work miracles. As much as I’d like to set goals and see every single one of them come to fruition within 24 hours of me setting them (and have all the answers concerning them), that’s not going to happen. Again, so much of that is that, though I’m a clergy-person, I am not God. I have to learn. I have to think. I have to grow. I am temporal (and young) and without all the answers.

It also means that my feelings can get hurt (though I usually just smile and try to be accommodating).

It means that my marriage hurts (breaks, falls apart, needs attention, needs counseling and doesn’t need the stigma that comes from being a clergy person who needs someone else’s help). I am human and like most humans, I need help.

It means that I hurt. I really, really do. If you cut me, I bleed. If you’re hurt, I usually hurt a bit too. If I fail I lay awake thinking about it, mourning it, and lamenting my regrets. Because I’m such an empathetic person, when I hurt I really, really hurt. When I’ve made a mistake, said something I shouldn’t have, or hurt someone else’s feelings, little bits of my heart cry and they cry until I can repent and receive forgiveness. That’s me. I’m human.

I catch myself, often, falling into the stereotype that fits clergy-people. We are perfect, flawless, happy people with perfect lives. If you ask me how I am, I say “GREAT!” even if things at home are hard or I’m feeling insecure, or I’m nervous to take the pulpit. I say, “Fine, and you!?” turning the attention away from what might seep out beyond the mask around my family, around my parishioners (who are very really my friends), and (perhaps especially) around my colleagues. I’m a clergy-person and there’s a mold.

I am “real.” I am “relevant.” I am “passionate” and that means that I have hopes and dreams and goals and when those things fall through, I get disappointed — like a human being.

In this season of Lent, I’ve asked my folks to try and focus really hard on being introspective. This is what I’ve been reminded as I look in the mirror. I am all these things and because of that, I am just as breakable as a teacher, or a doctor, or a construction worker. I am human.

On the flip-side of that reality stands this (however): Jesus, though fully divine, was also fully human. I know. I know. There’s a lot to unpack metaphysically concerning how any one thing can be fully two things but that’s just how it is with God (whether or not we can get our heads around it and, well, we can’t). Jesus slept. Jesus wept. Jesus went to the bathroom. Jesus got angry. Jesus got hungry. Jesus hurt for the world around him. Jesus doubted and even questioned his Father. In the end, when you cut him, he bled. I bet he cried. I bet he groaned in pain. I also bet that when he was raised, his heart was full of joy for knowing what had (and would be) fulfilled through him. Jesus rejoiced!

Thank God he didn’t fit the mold — some military leader who came to overthrow the Roman Empire — some political authority — some temporal savior — because in this it becomes okay, even good, that I don’t fit the mold either.

Jesus was human. I am human and that’s a really good thing. Thanks be to God.

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Family Planning

Having a baby (expanding your family, procreating, multiplying, filling the earth…..you get the picture), is easy for a lot of people. I’m not talking about getting pregnant. That’s actually hard for a lot of people. I’m talking about sitting down, talking about a time-line, and planning to make or be a family. You decide if it’s the best time in your career. You decide if you can ‘swing it’ financially (you can’t, by the way). You spend a couple of days excited about coming to a consensus on the matter. And then, well, you make a family. It’s this beautiful, crazy, messy, happy, exciting thing when and if that’s what you’re able to do. 

That’s not the story when you’re a clergy couple or even the only pastor in the family (and the female side, I might add). 

We decided back in the spring, watching Cooper become confidently mobile (and crying), and learning more words (and crying), and growing out of clothes (and crying), that we were ready to start thinking about having another (I’m the one that did all the crying, by the way). It would make them just over two years apart. It sounded perfect.Then the realities kicked in.

We’re itinerate (and about as faithful to itineracy as we can be). We might be moving in June. It was hard (hard, folks, doesn’t cover it) moving 6 months pregnant last time. It was more physically painful than actually giving birth (they give you good ‘medication’ that day), not to mention the fact that it was a very emotional matter. It was hard moving away from our doctor and hospital and churches that had celebrated the news with us. It really was a hard thing and we didn’t know if we’d be moving again and, in fact, we did. 

It was also a hard thing on the churches that we moved to. We’d decided to spend, together, 8 weeks after Cooper was born just learning how to be a family. The Book of Discipline allows for this time upon agreement of PPRC’s and District Superintendents and cabinets and ultimately the Bishop. Even though we’d received that agreement, it was hard. We could tell it was hard. We knew it was hard before we took the time and it was hard after we took the time. We were new. We’d just moved there and not long after took two months of maternity and paternity leave (not vacation…..not ‘off’ time……not a sabbatical). It was just hard on everyone and justifiably so. 

Don’t get me wrong, all the joys were there too but, in reality, there were a lot of “hard” bits and pieces that are not generally realities for folks in most professional settings. 

So we moved. We settled in. We revisited the conversation. Here’s what we decided to do.

  1. We decided to make sure we’d been here for a year before we needed to take significant time off (to be, cultivate, and grow as a family). That’s hard for me. We’d already made that decision back in the spring. I’d already visited the excited, happy place that you go when you think about creating life. It meant hitting the “pause” button. Turns out that was a great thing for me. That decision was made at a time I’d decided to work on a personal sense of overwhelming “impatience” as a whole. 
  2. I decided to have a real confidential and important conversation with the chair of my PPRC about the “idea”. That was a little tough for me too. It meant letting someone other than family in on really personal plans. It was hard but only for a second. I happen to have an incredible PPRC chair who exhibits grace and love in such a beautiful way — the way a mother does, really. She gave me some great perspective and celebrated the idea with me. 
  3. We decided that, as best we could (one really doesn’t have much control over these things) to plan a pregnancy around the liturgical calendar (please insert your laughs here…..go ahead…..take your time). WHO DOES THAT!?! A clergy couple — a clergy couple does that. It’s not crazy at all. I decided to sacrifice the comfort of 3rd trimester pregnancy in winter for timing a pregnancy and birth (and leave) in a way that would keep me from taking time during Advent (Christmas) or Lent (Easter). Crazy I know, and then not crazy at all. I knew it would mean the possibility of being (morning) sick during one holiday and uncomfortable during another but it wasn’t taking me out of the pulpit or out of relationship during those really important, high church, high liturgy, times. 

It’s different. It is. It does really mean asking for grace in ways that we haven’t before. It means bending a bit of our freedom to be and create a family (because we ARE a family) to make sure we can also be effective and loving in the places we serve. It’s what we’re doing to faithfully serve and still be and celebrate and cultivate our family. There are days it feels like a fight all the way. There are days we feel completely out of control. Then there are days I know God is honoring both hats that we wear and celebrating both commitments with us. 

We’re pregnant, by the way. No, this baby isn’t due during Advent, nor is he or she due during Lent. Baby T is due on what’s likely to be the hottest day of 2014. Yes, I was terribly sick all of this Advent but I didn’t miss a thing and won’t next year. I’ll be uncomfortable during Lent, but I’m not at all woriied. God-willing, we’re staying put and planting roots in Ridgely. Folks have celebrated with us. Though plans haven’t been made for leave yet, and we’ve yet to decide what we’ll do together, I have faith God is in the midst. 

There are hurdles but also bridges. Without sacrificing our family on the altar of the church, it does mean doing things differently. There’s A LOT to consider but we have and here we are excited, thoroughly considering next steps, and, well, growing.

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Calling it Off

It’s the hardest thing to do. If I could go back to Candler School of Theology (my seminary at Emory University in Atlanta where I received my MDIV in 2010) and have them structure a class it would be “When to Cancel Church 101.” I’ve been here 7.5 months and it’s needed to happen on 3 occasions (the first not actually being church but being a Trunk-or-Treat on Halloween when the weather, earlier in the day, seemed precarious). Last time we canceled church, it was the second Sunday in Advent and Craig and I both had the stomach bug, but I was going to power through and then I received a phone call from my PPRC chair suggesting we cancel and letting me know several others also thought so. I would’ve fought. I would’ve fought tooth-and-nail to not cancel church. Come Hell or high water, we’ll have church! However, I was on my deathbed and she offered to spread the news and I was nothing but thankful. Today I woke up to chaos…..

When I woke up it was 6:00. I was scheduled to teach a UMW Mission U study on the Roma of Europe nearly 2 hours away in McKenzie. I knew that the only bad weather was in my area and that everyone wanting to attend the event would be just fine in their traveling but me……well, it was bad.

We got ice and snow and mess earlier in the week. The average temperature has been in the mid 20’s. All of that stuff has stuck around here. So, the 1.5 inches of snow that fell last night on top of the ice on roads that had been salted but were no better because salt does nothing when it’s freezing, just didn’t help. I still got ready — I’m stubborn like that. I was going to be a trooper and just see if it appeared that things were better heading out of town, but they weren’t. I turned around in a neighborhood, unable to see where the roads ended and yards began. I stopped and made some phone calls canceling (postponing) the event knowing that others would be scratching their heads wondering why.

I came home and crashed on the couch for a little while, while the boys slept on, watching whatever I could find on TV and watching the snow continue to fall outside, lamenting the need to cancel the event and hoping I’d made the best choice. Then I got a phone call about church.

I didn’t know what to do. The reality is that whatever choice I make, someone won’t be happy and I like it best when folks are happy (right? RIGHT? Sigh*). That’s just how it is and just how it works. I remember people being thrilled and disappointed in October when I canceled the Trunk-or-Treat. I remember feeling bad about it for a few days. It cleared up pretty well. We probably could’ve made it happen but I had to make the call.

I called around. I called my PPRC chair. I called a trustee. I called my music leader. I called a few others. I knew a few others had already been talking about it. I made the call…….

It was SUCH a HARD call to make! The week I’ve had has testified to it’s difficulty. I struggled and raced around getting everything finished and ready for Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Everything was actually in place but I was exhausted. I was proud of myself. I organized things perfectly for the UMW event. I didn’t WANT to call anything off! I was ready! I’d worked hard! I was out-of-breath and dreading feeling like someone would be disappointed in the “call.”

I don’t know that anyone WILL be. I almost hope I don’t know. I digest those things and they hang around for awhile.

As I look out the window now, the roads have cleared throughout the day. The sun that wasn’t supposed to come out (said the weather-person I’ll never listen to again) shined long enough to clear off the church steps. Though there are inches of snow and ice on the sidewalks still, I can’t help but think we would’ve made it work and that even if two came, the Spirit would show.

It’s hard. I care about people’s safety. I care about giving God glory with the hard work. I care. It’s my job. It’s my calling. I just wish I felt better about this call in my call.

This is a tough one, this call. What do YOU do?

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Chaos: A Well-Oiled Machine (or NOT)

1471871_590823924316333_1452133384_nYou know those FABULOUS blog-posts that begin with a reflection that goes something like this: “I see you over there, mom. I see you with your head in your hands at the lunch table trying to keep your wits about you with your toddler tugging at your sleeve — his hand covered in ketchup — you still in your church clothes. I see you sigh because you are tired. You’re a good mom. You got up and took your child to church. Good for you!” You know those posts that start like that? This one is kind of like that but that poor mom is me and oh what a day it has been.

Those posts are great. They’re always mom-encouraging. They’re either, “Way to go stay at home mom!” or, “Way to go, mom who works full time!” or, “Trash the idea of Super-Mom!” (I reposted that one this morning — it was good). This isn’t really like that. This is “Woe-is-me, mom.” Like I said, oh what a day it’s been.

Sunday morning is absolute chaos. I thought we’d never get the hang of it. I thought we’d never be able to figure out how to both get out the door at the same time and not forget our Bibles, preaching folders, sermons, bulletins, sunglasses, car keys, church keys, and the diaper bag fully loaded with everything Cooper would need during the appocalypse. Somehow and someway we’ve finally gotten it worked out. Somehow and someway we get it right. That’s about all we get. Let me walk you through a Sunday morning. In fact, let me walk you through this one….

I set the alarm for 7:30. We do a lot to get ready Saturday nights. We lay clothes out and pack what we can. This morning at 6:45 I heard Cooper coughing followed by a pitiful cry and I knew what had happened. It’s been 11 days now. On and off for 11 days, he’s thrown up. It’s usually around 5:00 in the morning. We’d made it 3 days this time and I thought for sure we were in the clear but there it was at 6:45 this morning, all over the crib, and all over him. I stripped the bed. I stripped the kid (who clearly wanted to lay back down) and I let him lay back down. Craig laid back down. Both boys went back to sleep. I laid in bed facebooking on my phone knowing that it was a useless endeavor. I was up.

At 7:30 I got up and got Craig up. We got dressed — Craig upstairs and me downstairs — quietly so Cooper wouldn’t wake up. I pulled a flat-iron through my messy hair and pulled it back in a loose pony-tail — there’s not much I can do to fight the static this time of year. I washed my face and threw on my makeup. I quickly brushed my teeth. Craig walked the dogs. I poured some mandarine oranges on a plate and opened some yogurt — Cooper’s breakfast. Then I grabbed my church keys and ran next door — slipping on the ice that’s been on my office door sidewalk for over a week. I unlocked all three doors of the church, turned on all the lights, made some copies of something to hand out in church, grabbed a sign-up sheet and brought it into the sanctuary where I found nearly a dozen almost-dead poinsettias. Apparently I should’ve assigned someone (with a green thumb) to care for the poinsettias during Advent. I plugged in the Christmas tree and made sure the bulletins were where they should be by the end of Sunday School, rushed back to my office, grabbed my first church’s bulletins, my Bible, and my robe and headed back to the house. Cooper was up. Craig brought him down in a diaper so I could iron his jon jon and search frantically for a white shirt for him to wear under it — ironing out only the big wrinkles. Craig dressed Cooper while I threw snacks, juice, wipes, diapers, spare clothes, books, and applesauce in his bag, printed all of our sermons, children’s sermons, and Advent liturgies, and threw some morning necessities in my purse and laid out chicken to thaw for dinner. Craig found Cooper’s shoes. I fried and egg and threw it on a piece of toast — all of us ready with 8 minutes to spare and all of that accomplished in an hour and fifteen minutes. Chaos is a well-oiled machine.

At this point Cooper seemed to feel great! He was happily watching cartoons and it was too late to make other plans for him. Because of the above-stated chaos, I didn’t have 10 seconds to think of a better plan for him than bringing him to church which was a bad decision. He should’ve stayed at home or gone to church with Craig rather than hog the nursery worker and the nursery (with his under-the-weather self), but, dear mom with your head in your hands exhausted, frustrated, and imperfect in every way, you didn’t have the time or capacity to think.

Craig picked up the nursery worker and took Cooper to church. The other babies stayed in worship and that, along with the deadish poinsettias, is why, poor mom, you’re sitting with your head in your hands.

The morning was wonderful. Worship was beautiful at both churches. I was surprised with the most beautiful solo introit to worship this morning at Ridgely that I’ve ever hear. I could’ve sat and listened to it all day long! I had a beautiful plate of Christmas cookies left on my desk after worship. I had the youth group gathered around me in the pulpit before worship started just because they like me and want to hang out. Attendance was great and most folks were distracted from the poinsettias because Christmas music is lovely to sing and I preached my heart. So I can’t call it a pastoral failure this morning but as a mom, whew, I failed.

Cooper came bouncing in the sanctuary after worship with his owl hat on in a fabulous mood. He skipped all around the sanctuary singing to himself and bouncing with every step. He must be better. He must be ok. Maybe it was just something he ate. He’s happy — gleeful, almost.

We went home and met Craig there who brought home wonderful news of a lovely Christmas bonus/gift from one of his churches that will just about make up the difference of what we’ll need to pay off his last semester of school. How lovely and gracious and wonderful! The kid is feeling better and solutions to worries are working themselves out. We are a well-oiled machine. No one was late. No toes were stepped on. Nothing was forgotten (you know…..except delegating someone to water those poinsettias….sigh*). Home free on the day. Well, not really.

We like to go to Dyersburg for lunch on Sundays and Cooper seemed to be great, so we headed to El Patio for lunch. When we got to El Patio, everything changed. Cooper got really impatient waiting on a table. In fact, he flat out screamed waiting. We sat him down and he fussed in his seat. He wasn’t content anymore — he couldn’t be. This is when things got hard. I wrestled with him for 10 minutes. I gave him what he loves — chips and guacamole (my kid, all the way). He ate. He drank some sweet tea. I was surprised he wanted all of this after early this morning but after a while he seemed to settle in. I settled into sitting, poor mom, with my hands in my head being worn down.

Then the coughing started. I thought for sure he’d gotten a piece of a chip caught in his throat but I checked and couldn’t see anything. I patted him on the back and gave him something to drink. It continued. I shoveled my food in my mouth between bouts of coughing with him. Right as I was finishing, it happened. It happened so quickly but felt like it was going in slow motion. It was like a fountain. It was like something from the original Exorcist movie (think projectile vomit). It went everywhere. There was a puddle, no, a pond, no, a LAKE of it under his high chair. His Christmas jon jon and that white shirt I’d searched so hard for, was covered and it just kept coming for what seemed like forever. The looks on the faces of people around us were horrified, twisted, judgmental expressions of pity and disgust. And I sat there. Craig in a feeble attempt to make the first move handed me a wet wipe. A WET WIPE! The kid was SOAKED. Of course, worn out and flabbergasted at the moment of horror and judgmental mom looks, I exclaimed, “WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME A WET WIPE!?! I NEED NAPKINS!” He sprung into action grabbing napkins that we quickly ran out of. Then he asked for a towel. Our poor waiter rushed around trying to help. We took Cooper’s jon jon off (cut to a child in his diaper with puke everywhere in the middle of a nice Mexican restaurant full of after-church-goers). I Told Craig to get the check and pay it. Our waiter found me a bag for Cooper’s clothes — he just sat there and wept — cold and naked.

We rushed him to the car. He was crying and I was crying on the inside. Craig and I snapped at each other in our stress. We keep a blanket in the car. We covered Cooper up with it and turned Elmo on, on the ipad. We headed home.

At home we gave him a bath, dressed him in pj’s, and he immediately went down for a nap — empty and sad — us, dejected and worn — all of this by 2:30 in the afternoon.

It pays to be a well-oiled machine but sometimes, no matter what, you can’t win for losing. So, when you see that mom — you know, the one with her head in her hands scarfing down food quickly at the Mexican restaurant after church — don’t jump to conclusions. The story may just be beginning.

The day isn’t over. We both still have Bible studies. I’ll be finishing mine a minute early so I can get home and let Craig go to his without us getting Cooper out again. Sometimes we really make it work. Sometimes we don’t make it work at all. Always, we hope we’re still loved.

The puked-on, PastorMommy.

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Road Rage

Last week an interesting thing happened — more-correctly, a lesson in self-reflection occurred. Let’s rewind, however.

Back in the Spring, I realized that one of my greatest weaknesses is impatience. Whether it’s service at a restaurant or my poor husband, I am as impatient as they come. I’d love to blame it on our culture or my “instant gratification” millennial generation, but I can’t. I’m just not a very patient person. I’m not patient with God or God’s answers. I don’t drag my feet when I set my mind to something. I’m unforgiving of what I don’t know — for example, that waitress that’s taking forever might be having a really, really off day (and Lord knows, I have those and hope others understand). I’m so very impatient.

So, back in the Spring, I decided to put this at the forefront of my growth. I would work to catch myself in impatient moments, take a collective sigh, and simply move on. It’s working and has worked very well. In fact, I’m catching myself much sooner and to top it off, I’m simply considering what might be the reason for whatever is making me impatient — namely, others before myself.

But last Tuesday, all of this beautiful, reflective, positive growth flew out the window.

I was leaving Walmart (affectionately referred to in my circle as ‘Walfart’), so you know I was already feeling some angst. As I approached the exit to the parking lot I noticed a problem. Facing the main road (the one on which I needed to turn right), directly to the right is a stop light. So, if cars get backed up (stopped) at the stop light, then folks leaving the parking lot cannot turn out and consequently have to wait OR wait on a kind soul to let them out. Of course, to my dismay, there was an 18-wheeler at the stop light in the far right lane (right in front of me). However, there was just enough room for me to squeeze out behind him and get in the lane if I were quick enough. I looked left and saw a car coming so I knew I didn’t have enough time. I thought briefly that this car was going to exude “kind soul” and leave enough space for me to get out. I’m not sure why I thought that….

The car was a beat up old late 90’s model something-or-other with a young man about my age in it about whom, by his appearance, if I wanted to, I could make a lot of assumptions. But, my lessons in both patience and not judging a book by it’s cover, prevailed and I did not reflect. I simply waited as patiently as I could for the light to turn, hoping that other cars would not add to the wait and, after about a minute, I was able to pull out.

Now, it’s one thing when I’m alone in the car and it’s a weekend. But this day I had Cooper in the back seat watching Elmo and I needed to get home and to the office to work. There were, of course, external factors that certainly could’ve added to or accompanied all that happened next.

I took off down the road headed back to Ridgely from Dyersburg. I drove by the young man in the beat up old car as I was making my way (he’d gotten stuck in the left lane behind a sweet-looking little-old-lady.) Now, just 2 minutes down the road from Walmart, in front of the Dyersburg Cracker Barrel, the 2 lanes merge to 1. I’m be-bopping along just fine when I look in my rearview to see the young man in the beat up old car speeding up to try to get around me before the lanes reduce and I mean he’s way behind me. He cuts around me very quickly and cuts me off in a pretty dangerous way before taking off down the road.

Well I tell you I don’t know if it was general road rage or momma bear coming out but I laid on my horn so fast. He’d scared me! He’d pushed me over the line! My sweet baby was in the car! I needed to get home as much as he did, I’m sure, to work and to work at a church for that matter and a church that surely is full of people that would never, ever drive like “that guy!” Please read my sarcasm there. Now, he was “that guy.” Well, now I’m failing.

I began to think all sorts of bad things about the young man in the beat up old car. After a few minutes I gathered myself, sighed, and moved along. It was over. We were safe. All was well.

A little ways down the road I could see several cars ahead of me. I saw the young man in the beat up old car had found himself stuck behind someone going (gulp*) the speed limit and I kind of smiled. “Good,” I thought. “He’ll take it easy now.”

About 7 minutes from home, we (the long line of be-boppers) approached a curve right before you get to Bagota. By now I’d forgotten about the young man in the beat up old car. I just needed to get home and get on with the day. As I watched the road ahead, and as we were all rounding the curve, I watched the young man in the beat up old car pass the slower car in front of him…….ON. A. CURVE. Seriously, folks. Don’t do this. Seriously, seriously. It’s illegal. It’s not illegal because someone wanted to write another rule of the road that we all have to succumb to. It’s illegal because it’s dangerous. I watched as the man came very close to coming into contact with a driver in the left lane and thanked God that he didn’t. Then….

Then I watched as the car behind the person in the left lane breaked just past me and made a U-turn. To be more specific, I watched as the State Trooper following the car in the left lane breaked and made a U-turn. I grinned like the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas grinned from ear to ear. I put my blinker on and pulled over so that the State Trooper could pass me as he put his lights on to track down the young man in the beat up old car. I laughed to myself, thought snide things, and grinned as largely as I could when I past the young man in the beat up old car pulled over by West Tennessee’s finest. VICTORY! I thought. KARMA! I shouted. Giggles and laughter and 30-second-dance-parties behind the wheel as I traveled home.

I even called Craig as I be-bopped along and told him all that had just happened. Yes, I was that excited that the young man in the beat up old car received is come-uppins. My celebration and joy must’ve lasted for several minutes.

Then as I approached Ridgely I began to feel it. I began to feel that shame seeping into the crevices of my heart. I began to feel the guilt that, not 5 minutes earlier, I did NOT think I was going to feel about my little celebration. I was a mother who wanted my child to be safe. I had every reason to celebrate this guy’s ticket. I was a pastor who faithfully teaches the importance of observing the laws of the land. He had it coming to him. HE should be feeling guilty. However, here I was drowning in it.

You see, the truth is, I am far from perfect. Today I’m not even talking about those mistakes I have made — mistakes are often equated with accidents beyond our control. I frequently make decisions I might not should make. I have knowingly done hurtful things in my past. I am scarred and bruised with skeletons far worse than traffic violations in my closet. I am a big pile of crap, sometimes. And no matter the mistake or the known violation, I am constantly hoping and praying for, not only the grace of God to redeem my poor, sad, soul, but for the people of this world to show me kindness in my fault.

By the time I got home I felt terrible. It’s funny all you can go through in 15 minutes. My soul hurt for my response. I began to think of this world and how often we choose to snidely grin from ear to ear when folks “get what’s coming to them.” I began to wonder how I could teach Cooper to be radically different than even me. After all, a pastor’s hope is that their flock would love even greater than them and a mother’s hope is always for something better in this world for their children.

Be-bopping along, today. Blessings.

ThePastorMommy

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The Power of Affirmation

As we approach Cooper’s 2nd birthday, I might be getting a bit sentimental thinking “way back when……..”

When we brought Cooper home from the hospital, we were amazingly at peace. I thought we’d be nervous wrecks. I thought we’d be overwhelmed, and there were moments of that for sure, but we kind of fell into place as parents with a strange sense of peace — well, at first.

As the days went by I can remember discovering that there would be both times of great ease and times where there would be questions we simply could not answer. As the weeks went on, I can remember being confused more than settled. Early in mommy-dom, the greatest thing you could ever have said to me was, “Sara, you’re going a good job,” or, “Sara, you’re a good mom.” I confess that now as we enter toddlerdom I might need those words even more. 

I’m 3.5 years into ministry — a journey that began a long time ago — and there are days that I feel oddly at peace — as though the Holy Spirit is drifting in and out of all that happens and all that I do, and I am comfortably confident that I’m not screwing up. Then there are days that I can’t win for losing (though, generally I’m my own worst critic), and I’d do anything for a pat on the back and a word of encouragement. 

A few weeks ago, Craig and I had lunch with our peer group in Jackson. We do this once a month. It’s valuable and almost always just what I need. I was overwhelmed all through lunch because, of course, I wasn’t just eating and checking in — I was also chasing Cooper and trying to keep him happy. It was getting to be exhausting and I’m sure I was only hearing half the stories going around the table. I ate my food so fast I couldn’t taste it (which was a shame because we were eating at Panera and I love Panera). After 2 hours we changed Cooper’s diaper and prepped to leave. 

As we were loading the tired toddler in the car and taking a deep breath before we got in the car ourselves and drove the little-over-an-hour home, a peer of ours (who’s been in ministry for many years), pulled alongside us in his car and said with great assurance, “I just want you to know, y’all are doing a great job.” It wasn’t in some cheery, make-you-feel-good way. It was truthful and honest and assuring. It wasn’t an ego-stroke. It was a third-party perspective we didn’t have and I knew that it encompassed all we are — mom, dad, pastor, student, peer, friend….

The fact is, we’ve not been down every road. I could have twice as many degrees and not be prepared for everything that comes my way. There are incredible and intelligent folks who’ve gone before us — some paving smooth roads and some knocking holes in the pavement. Words of encouragement, advice, care, or prayer are the most incredible gifts our predecessors can give us. The fact is, words stay with us — they visit us in our sleep even, and for years to come they either deepen wounds or encourage us along. 

Whether you’re the best parent or most-skilled pastor, a district superintendent, bishop, or professor, you have an incredible power — a gift — that you can share with us along the way. There will be times when we’re at peace and trucking along just fine and there will be (more often) times when we’re digging through a trench confused, scared, and ready to throw in the towel. In either of those times offer that small piece (peace) of yourself to someone else. We promise to pass it along when it’s our turn. They are words that will not fall on deaf ears.  

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Walking Through the Valley

It’s certainly that day. It’s not that day I’m on the mountain. It’s not even that day I’m on a hill. I am deep in the valley and it does not feel good.

First thing this morning I discovered that LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, a Methodist affiliated hospital in Memphis that we love and support, lost a registered nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a pilot in a helicopter crash outside of Somerville. It was heartbreaking and is, as I’ve since discovered that the pilot had a wife and two children and the women were both married, each with three children. It’s heartbreaking. It’s terrible. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to completely internalize the situation and put my arms around my son and squeeze him as if he was those children who’d just lost their mommy or daddy. Then there’s my child who won’t let me put my arms around him if I tried!

It’s that day. I’m 26 hours into solo-momdom — it’s every week. Craig heads to class in Memphis and doesn’t come back for 36 hours. This time it is more like 39 hours because he needed to meet with someone in Jackson to fulfill an assignment for class. It’s 3 extra hours and boy can I feel it.

Cooper’s in a place where he doesn’t want to eat just anything. He doesn’t begin to want to change his diaper and he puts up a BIG fight every time. He doesn’t want to ride in the car without watching Elmo on the iPad. So, of course, today he’s being super-picky about eating, he kicked me HARD in the stomach while I was trying to change THE worst diaper resulting in a bad word from me, poop everywhere, and a laugh from him and all this happened while the new pup that can’t seem to “get it” was leaving a friendly deposit on the living room floor–a deposit he couldn’t seem to leave outside 10 minutes earlier because he was too busy chasing someone down the street. Oh and the iPad battery ran dry coming home from the store and we won’t even mention that terrible trip.

Today is that day. I spoke to a woman on the phone earlier whom I could not visit yesterday at the hospital because yesterday was a bit of that day too–that day when I cannot seem to get ahead or effectively duplicate myself because the technology isn’t there yet–that day where my husband, who I know doesn’t WANT to be gone, will probably “get it” even though it’s not his fault, I’ll cry, and I’ll feel like a failure.

It’s usually reserved for funerals but Psalm 23 fits today. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Pause. This isn’t the part. It’s more, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” and now, “I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”

It surprises me sometimes. I do NOT want to be in this valley or any valley of life. Why on earth would God be here too? Well, because despite the bad word and poop, despite the LONG to-do list or feelings of inefficiency, that God sees the good. It’s still here. I’m disheveled and tired and blogging from my phone and though I feel just rotten and overwhelmed, God sees good.

All throughout history, God picked the craziest bunch. Sarah laughed. Abraham lied. Jonah ran. Jacob tricked. Rahab, well, let’s just say she had a questionable profession. Even Jesus asked God to change the plan. I fit right into that list — even on this day — even though I’m walking through the valley.

There’s hope in this. My only conversation partner today has a 20 word vocabulary and then there’s God. God doesn’t much mind the bad word, the poop, or the tears. God even encourages me to let up on myself and though God’s in the valley with me, God doesn’t necessarily want me to be there and God’s grace is a sufficient stepping stone up.

Take a step. I am.

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