Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Confession 91: God's Got it Covered

One of the tenants of being a United Methodist pastor's wife is that you have to get used to moving. The United Methodists believe in an itinerant system of pastoring, meaning you're not going to stay at one church your entire career. The thought is that the church needs to be bigger than the pastor, the focus remaining on God and not the pastor. Therefore, we move, sometimes a lot.

I'm actually really excited about this move. We're going to a congregation that has a reputation of being very loving and progressive. We've already met with part of the congregation and they seem genuinely glad that we're going to be there. The town is very small, about 1800 people, but it's about 45 minutes from a major city. So, I'm excited about that. Also, it's 30 minutes from the town I grew up in, which is a big bonus, since my parents still live there! :-)

Of course, with every move there is some sadness and trepidation as well. We're going to have to say goodbye to some dear friends and I'm going to have to give up my job which I love with a passion. We're going to have to find new childcare and preschool, doctors and hair stylists (okay, maybe not a big deal for everyone else, but a huge deal for me!) I've learned to just trust in God that it will all come together. The first priority for me, obviously, is to find gainful employment. Unfortunately, this is not really the year to be looking for a teaching position. However, I believe that God's got it covered. He's just going to make me stand on edge for a little while before it all works out! :-) Since the boys are on my health insurance plan, I can't say that I'm in a state of serene submission :-) Especially since we were told yesterday that my oldest is still having eye issues.

At his final post-op eye exam the doctor discovered some scar tissue building in one of his eyes. He told us that he usually sees this in patients with joint problems so we're being referred to a pediatric rheumetoid specialist who will then refer us to a pediatric specialist who can treat the scar tissue issue. Aaargh! Money, money, money. Luckily, by the time we're actually able to see these two specialists we should have the original eye surgery paid off!! I would be lying if I said there isn't a part of me that is afraid the rheumetoid specialist is going to discover some weird genetic disease, but even if that's the case, I have to trust that (again) God's got it covered.

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Confession 90: Take Off That Safety Harness

A dear friend of mine who is wonderfully astute and gifted at spiritual discernment gave me something to ponder the other day. We met for a three hour lunch; to catch up, console, commiserate, encourage, laugh, support and, sorry to say, gossip. In the course of the conversation, we were talking about faith and what it takes to build and grow true faith in God. As we were talking, Amy stopped and said, "You know, it's really easy to talk about faith when you're strapped into a safety harness." How brilliantly true and convicting is that?!

So many of us get caught up in THE PLAN for our lives. We spend hours, days, years designing and cultivating THE PLAN. As we reach each new step in THE PLAN, we add new goals, ambitions, dreams. We like THE PLAN. It's safe, it's familiar, it's achievable. Yet, one of the problems with THE PLAN is that sometimes we inadvertently shut God out. THE PLAN becomes our safety harness so that when God starts creating some turbulence in our lives that would alter THE PLAN, our immediate instinct is to hold on for dear life to that safety harness which is THE PLAN and ignore the calling God is bringing our way.

Yet, as my wonderful friend pointed out, how can we truly have faith in God if we are only willing to stick to THE PLAN? We build our faith through trust, and we can't trust if we don't let ourselves free fall into God every once in awhile. For although we might have THE PLAN, God has THEE PLANNED. He has a direction and a purpose for each of us, and sometimes, that direction and purpose is contrary to the one we've established for ourselves. "For I know the plans I have for you, " the Lord tells Jeremiah as Jeremiah is balking in the face of leaving THE PLAN. "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah, 29:11.

Take Moses, for example. He thought he'd spend the rest of his days herding sheep in the desert. And so he did, but not in the way he'd ever imagined. It was a long fight, but look at the leader and witness he became! How about Jonah? "I'm not going to those people!" He held onto his safety harness and ended up in the gut of a whale! Can you say, stinky? Then there's Ruth, who, according to THE PLAN, should have stayed in Moab and married someone else. Yet instead, she heeds God's call on her heart and becomes the great-great(?) grandmother of King David. And let's not forget our friends Peter, John and James. THE PLAN was for them to spend their lives hauling fish out of the sea, yet when Jesus said, "Come with me and I will make you fishers of men," they didn't hesitate. And look where they ended up--impulsive Peter became THE ROCK on which Jesus built the church!

In my life, I had a plan--THE PLAN, yet God intervened. I took a drastic leap of faith several years ago which altered, for the better, the course of my life. God provided in ways I never imagined and my faith grew and matured. That's not to say that I don't still get stuck in my safety harness. One plan easily replaces another, but God keeps recalculating THE PLAN. It's so hard to let go of that safety harness, but it's so beautiful when God catches you on the way down, and the free fall can be an exhilarating experience. More importantly, when we take off our safety harness, we allow God to teach us to trust because he catches us every time. And every time he catches us, our faith grows bit by bit.

So, where is God calling you to let go today? Is there a new ministry he's calling you to? Is there a person who's been placed on your heart? Is God calling you to a new job or career? Or could there be a relationship you need to take the first step to heal? Whatever it is, I pray that you would release the clasps on your safety harness and let God catch you. "Do not be afraid," Jesus says. "Just believe." Mark 5

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Confession 89: Jon Bon Jovi Winked At Me!!

Yes, it's true. I shared a moment with Jon Bon Jovi Monday night. It was less than a second, but it was a dream come true for me. I have been a Bon Jovi fan for over twenty years now. My first concert ever was Bon Jovi. My dad took me to see them when I was thirteen. I even have Bon jovi song lyrics engraved on the inside of my wedding band! Prior to this past Monday, I had seen Bon Jovi live three times, but never like this. For Christmas this year, my husband managed to get us tickets, not just any tickets, but 3rd row center!! It was truly amazing. Picture this: there was the stage, there was an enclosed section of seats, there was a rear stage, and there was us. It was the first concert I've ever been to where I didn't have to look at the video screen to see what was going on onstage!

When Jon and the boys first took the stage, my eyes actually filled with tears. Here I was, totally not cool enough to be there, standing not even half a football field away from the man whose face once plastered my bedroom walls. And if that wasn't good enough, the whole band came out and performed an entire set on the catwalk! Jon (I feel I can call him this now :-)) was so close that I could have thrown a football at him and hit him in the chest--seriously! (My husband disputes this being that I have no athletic ability whatsoever, but the point is, we were that close!) And then it happened, the crowning moment of the night. It was during an acoustic rendition of "Gimme Something for the Pain". I was singing along, clapping, swaying to the beat (that's about all this white girl can manage--truly uncool) looking awestruck up at Jon when suddenly, he turned his head and looked down at me, me, smiled and winked. All I can say is, dreams do come true.

My final Bon Jovi dream would be to have Jon and his wife over for dinner one night, or lunch, or coffee. I would love to have a conversation with them. I want to talk about faith and spirituality, about how you keep a marriage alive and parent while being a rock star, about song-writing and community service and heck, maybe even football. I told my husband to work on that for next Christmas:-) This might require some divine intervention. If, in some alternate universe, Jon likes perusing the blogs of pastor's wives, know that you always have on open invitation for dinner at our house.

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, March 8, 2010

Confession 88: Academy Award Acceptance Speech

I don't know about anyone else, but I've always kind of liked Awards shows. Okay, I'll admit it, I LOVE the Academy Awards!! Before I had children, I used to see all of the nominated films each year. I held Oscar viewing parties, I had my ballot filled out and ready to go. One year, I even made Oscar themed games and gave away Academy Award winning movies for prizes!! Yes, there is a little domestic diva who lies buried inside of me and pops her head out from time to time! This year, I only saw Up. But I saw it every day for two months straight, so that has to count for something!!

As I'm watching the drama unfold on the red carpet (a.k.a. people with little sense and too much money tripping over one another to congratulate themselves on making more money and staying upright in stiletto heels) I can't help myself. I start to picture myself on that stage, standing tall in my classy, strapless, Vera Wang with well-defined biceps and triceps, holing the Oscar for best original screenplay, and launching into my acceptance speech. This year, it goes something like this...

First of all, I'd like to thank God-- not for the Oscar, because I don't think God cares whether or not I win an Oscar, but for the opportunity to live this beautiful, albeit sometimes messy life. God's limitless grace and mercy, his faithfulness, his unfailing love and presence has kept me going through all of the ups and downs. I thank God, too for the opportunity to bring this story to all of you. It is so important that we, as human beings, work to ensure a better future for all of our children. That's why this award means so much to me--it brings the story to even more people. And that is my way of making a difference.

To my family, thank you! My wonderful husband, Chris, who saw more in me than I ever saw in myself. Who pushed me, encouraged me, convicted me and supported me. I would never have become the woman God intended me to be without you.

To my parents, Clell and Linda--where do I start? You taught me how to dream, how to believe, how to hope, how to have faith. You worked to build a foundation of love for my life, and I have been so blessed by that love. I hope I can honor you in all that I do.

To my sister Libby, my friend, my compatriot, my co-conspirator. Thank you for your passion and your fire. You inspire me to fight for a better world.

To my in-laws Ken and Mikki, how blessed I am to be part of your family!! Thank you for your amazing love and grace.

To Mrs. Rife, the Queen of Everything, I know you're smiling down from heaven right now. Your Princess has come a long way, and I thank you for pushing me in the right direction. You never stopped believing.

To my students, thank you for all the lessons along the way. You might never know this, but you are so much a part of who I am. I have loved all of you. Listen to me tonight--you have the power to succeed! Don't let your life hold you back--press on!

And finally, my two sweet, beautiful boys. I thank God for entrusting you to us every day. You are the lights of my life. This is for you!!

Well, there it is. My Academy Awards Acceptance Speech. Of course, I would have been ushered off the stage by "Oscar Girl" before finishing the introduction, but I'd have a hard copy if anyone wanted to listen to the rest. So, how about you? What's your Award Winning Speech? I'd love to hear!

Blessings and Peace,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Confession 87: Blog Party--Whatever That Is

Found this on the Girlfriends With A Purpose Site and thought it looked fun. Join in if you want!

Interview Questions:

1. What's your favorite time of the day, and why?
When my boys go to bed--peace and quiet!!
2. If health wasn't an issue, what food could you live off of?
Chocolate, cheese, bread, guacamole, chips, queso, enchiladas, chocolate
3. If you could have one wish granted (besides wishing for more wishes), what would it be?
That all children would know what it is like to be loved.
4. What's one thing that you get teased about a lot?
My husband's favorite quote for me is, "Well, this is another fine mess you've gotten me into!"
5. If you could choose one movie, book, or TV show to spend your life in, which would you pick? What type of character would you be?
Pride and Prejudice--probably one of Lizzie's friends. I like Charlotte, but would never marry Mr. Collins--ugh!!
6. If you could have one talent that you don't already have, what would it be?
7.If money were no object, where would you go on vacation?
Mediterranean Cruise
8. If you were an awesome singer, which genre would you sing?
Total Broadway Diva--all the way :-)
9. If you could have a $10,000 shopping spree to one store, what would it be?
Barnes and Noble--books don't care if I go up a pant size!
10. If you could live in any point in time, when would it be?
1940's--lots going on, pre-post-modernism, electricity, indoor plumbing
11. If every outfit in your wardrobe had to be one color, what would it be?
12. If you were one of the seven dwarves, which one would you be?
(Doc, Grumpy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Happy, or Dopey)
13. What's the last album you listened to?
Entire Album? U2-No Line on the Horizon
14. What's something we'd be surprised to know about you?
I went to seminary, got a Master's Degree in Christian Education, and haven't used it once!! But, I did meet my hubby, so I'm not bitter about paying yet another set of student loans. :-)

Confession 86: I Did Not Dress This Child Like That

Lately, my almost four year old has been wanting to dress himself for the day, and sometimes also his little brother. For the most part, I let him wear what he wants. We should teach our children at an early age to develop their identity and learn to express themselves.... blah, blah blah. Basically, I don't want to deal with a fit. So if, like today, he wants to wear a pair of my socks to school, so be it. Did I mention that these particular socks were blue and white with black moose all over them? I know, Ralph Lauren would fall over dead if he saw them, but they were a gift from my parents' trip to Yellowstone last fall and I think they're pretty cute. Apparently, so does my son. The socks weren't so bad in and of themselves--seriously-- it was more the combination of blue, black, and white moose socks with a gray and orange track suit that put the outfit over the edge. Before I left him at preschool, I made absolutely sure the teachers knew Mama had nothing to do with the socks. As I was leaving the school, I thought of a button I need to have made to pin to the front of his shirt: I Dressed Myself Today :-)

I know it's vain of me, but I've always put a lot of thought and effort into dressing my boys. There's a certain look I've tried to cultivate, and it does not include knee-high socks, gym shorts, and black dress shoes with a paper made "Indian" hat on the top of his head. Nor does it include wearing his little brother's clothes, even though they were technically his clothes first. High water pants and a midriff t-shirt do not communicate, "I come from a respectable family". Then there are the "character" outfits. I cannot tell you how proud my husband was when Garrett brought him a blanket and asked, "Daddy, can you make me a princess?"

Apparently, fashion sense is a genetic trait. Surprise, surprise that the woman with the orange pants (technically, they were salmon) she found for seven dollars on the sale rack of a "ritzy" downtown store has a son who loves wearing moose socks. God bless him, he really doesn't stand a chance!

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Confession 85: Losing the "Mother of the Year"Award by MARCH!!

I have been a terrible mother lately. I mean, terrible with a capital T that rhymes with Z that stands for "out of Zoloft"! My boys have been a bit high maintenance lately. My 21 month old has discovered the art of fit throwing, to the extent that I almost threw him in the car and drove him to urgent care yesterday with the thought that I wouldn't leave until the doctors there could give me some rational reason as to why my "little blessing" was acting like a demon child! Instead, I stuck a bottle in his mouth and he was perfectly happy after downing 10 ounces of milk. He went on to have some yogurt, lasagna, bread and a brownie then ended the evening throwing himself off of an empty diaper box onto my lap.

The sad truth of the matter is that my behavior during the fit throwing hasn't been much better. Yesterday morning found me locked in the bathroom showering and praying with a mix of guilt and self-loathing for yelling at my little tykes and relief that I had about fifteen minutes of peace. When God cut the cloth for maternal nature, I was obviously nowhere in site. The thought did occur to me during this first episode of the day that if churches are serious about growing then this is the ad they should place in the paper: "2 Hours FREE Quality Childcare: Worship and Sunday School Attendance Required". Worship attendance would explode, although, so would the heads of your nursery workers!

I wish I could say that it got better after that, but it didn't. I've already detailed the hour long fit episode. I yelled at my boys several times, culminating at four in the morning when the little one was screaming again after being up every couple of hours because of a stuffy nose. My response was to yell back and then bite his Daddy's head off so I could play the martyr. Not pretty, but Stephen did stop crying. and we slept in the recliner for a few more hours.

Needless to say, I hated myself this morning. The feelings around motherhood can be a vicious cycle. The second I lose my patience with my boys I feel guilty and think I'm taking them for granted. Then I think about how precious and short life is which leads me deeper down the spiral of guilt and I think, if something happened to one of them, I would never forgive myself. Then the self-loathing takes over, and I remind myself of what a terrible mother I am and think of all of the wonderful, nurturing moms out there who are so much better than me. I was remembering watching the movie The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood several years ago before I had children. There's a scene where the mom loses it after a terrible night dealing with kid stomach flu and leaves for three days. She drives to the beach, rents a motel room, and sleeps. I remember turning to my friend and saying, "Oh my gosh! That's going to be me!" Fortunately, I haven't run away yet. But the thought has been there, which doesn't say much for my character.

Yet as I was praying and processing through all of these emotions this morning, God let me know that this cycle just has to stop. Because, if I keep hating myself, no one else is going to care much for me either. And God has a lot he wants me to do. The truth of the matter is, God entrusted these two boys to both my husband and I and it's our job to do our best to mirror God's love to them. But, they also need to understand that everyone makes mistakes. And while I don't like losing my temper with them, it provides me with an opportunity to show them how to apologize, and it offers them the opportunity to show grace. Sometimes, you can't get to the grace without the crazy. :-)

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2