Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Just a Day in the Life

I always know I find it intriguing when other folks share an average day. In my line of work, there really is no such thing as average, but I started this note yesterday morning, having no idea what lay ahead. So, here it is, just a day in the life:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

6:30am – Andy's alarm goes off, roll over, go back to sleep
7:00am – my alarm goes off, reach across the bed to turn it off, and head to the bathroom for a quick shower
7:15am – out of the shower, head to the living room to see James, my 3-year-old son, is already up and sitting with daddy on the couch
7:30am – juice and Alphabits for James, bowl of cereal for mommy, kiss daddy good-bye
8:00am – dressed, made up
8:20am – pack up James’ lunch, remembering he needs wipes for school so I pack those, too
8:35am – pause Caillou so James can brush his teeth, then back to the couch to put on shoes
8:43am – out the door, only running a few minutes late…

9:02am – arrive at the church, put James’s jacket on for the walk in, grab my cup of tea, my work bag, and his backpack and make our way to Children’s Day Out
9:10am – make it to the church office, answer a question from our lead pastor, then head to my office to put my bag down and check some e-mail
9:20am – remember that I’m almost out of contact lenses, so call my eye doctor’s office to order more
9:30am – extended staff meeting, share the exciting things going on in my ministry areas (successful Alternative Gifts Fair, Advent devotional coming out soon with companion photo-a-day challenge that I’ve created, Advent vesper services, etc.).
10:55am – after staff meeting, touch base with a couple of staff members about some pastoral care concerns – a young woman who recently lost her baby and who I might be able to help and a young man who is homeless and in a medical crisis
11:10am – get the message from our receptionist that a representative from a Methodist helping agency has stopped by to see me
11:12am – work with a member who has dropped off their Salvation Army angel gifts, to make sure they are “checked in” although I don’t have the registration sheets…
11:15am – talk with a woman who attempted suicide last week, work to ensure her personal safety, offer referrals, pray with her, and get her where she needs to go today
11:35am – talk with our office staff regarding our big Evening in Bethlehem event coming up in a couple of weeks, promise to e-mail other staff and volunteers to coordinate details
11:40am – talk with a church member about seeing if one of our First Meal guests would be a good possibility as a house-father/mentor for young men getting out of prison
11:45am – work on my e-mails!

12:05pm – get a call from the Conference office
12:20pm – heat up my can of soup for lunch, find some chocolate cake in the fridge and cut myself a slice – take my lunch to eat with a few staff members in the main office
12:55pm – clean up from lunch, grab my things for the next meeting…
1pm – meet with our clergy, music director, and worship assistant for worship planning! We get all the way through Christmas Eve (very impressive…)
2:15pm – put my resources down in my office, then go check my mail. There’s a check for the conference clergywomen’s lunch for which I’m receiving reservations.
2:20pm – touch base with our director of communications & marketing to go over the Christmas offering brochure. Make a couple of edits. Brainstorm some ideas.
2:40pm – drop off a video to our lead pastor for his upcoming sermon series
2:45pm – get the request to write the weekly message from the pastor since I’ll be preaching this Sunday. I’m excited about preaching, but have yet to find time to write the sermon down, so this should be interesting…and I remember I’m leading Bible study tomorrow at noon on this text, so it may also be helpful
2:50pm – finally sit down at my desk again – need to finish some e-mails and follow through on some promises!
4:55pm – pack up my things and head down the hall to pick up my boy!

5:10pm – pulling out of the parking lot, singing silly songs, and heading home
5:25pm – arrive home, we watch the men across the street put up lights while we check the mail. Then we go inside and I try to figure out what’s for dinner – baked ravioli (nothing needed to thaw, easy, but takes a while to bake)
5:45pm – Andy gets home, James is chowing on some leftover macaroni and cheese since dinner is still a little ways off
6:20pm – Dinner time! James rejects the ravioli, so he gets to have as many cheerios as he would like. Argh, it’s so frustrating when he won’t eat what I cook!
6:25pm – a good friend calls. I talk with her for a moment while Andy oversees dinner eating.
7:00pm – out the door to run some errands
7:55pm – Home again, time for a quick bath for James since he also would like to watch “a little bit of Caillou” before bed
8:20pm – Little boy bathed, drinking milk, and in his pajamas. Do a quick run around the house to make sure all his friends and blankets are on his bed, nightlight and monitor on, etc.
8:30pm – James picks “My Many-Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss for his bedtime story
8:35pm – James goes to give daddy a hug and a kiss, then we go to his bedroom for prayers, night-night song, patting, and eventually, mommy leaving his room to do some chores!
8:45pm – start the dishes
9:05pm – done with the dishes, in my jammies, ready for some grown-up TV time with Andy.
10:00pm – Conan!
11:00pm – head to bed and get ready for another busy day!

Friday, November 1, 2013

For All the Saints...

All Saints is a church observance that falls on November 1 each year, but in my experience, is typically observed on the Sunday closest. This year, as I anticipate that worship service, my heart aches and throbs within me as I face a day to be in front of my congregation, broken and human. Each new strength test has given me this anxious feeling, especially when I see them coming for some time.

So, I decided to process the deaths of the men in my life before I get there, hoping that while I’ll still be my messy, human self that morning, perhaps I can preserve a bit of the face I’ll paint on since I definitely don’t have the complexion of a soap opera actress and I get rather red and puffy when I’m tearful.

I’ve done enough funerals to know that those who have died and gone on to glory were still human. As a wise Methodist pastor once said, you don’t make a saint out of a sinner at the funeral. You honor who they were. And we are all sinners and saints, simultaneously, falling short and beloved of God. So here goes:

My grandpa
I have such great memories of my grandpa, many of which I tried to share by sending him cards as the end approached. I wanted him to know that I remembered him even before he’d gone. He was a gruff man, never saying, “I love you.” He was a war veteran and didn’t sit with his back to any room. He had some falling out with his parents and left home. I always wonder about the unspoken stories of his life since he shared so many other wonderful stories. I remember lingering around the table after dinner when I was growing up to hear him talk about family I had never seen, tell dirty jokes, and laugh. There was always so much laughter.

This saint always believed in me and was so proud of me, no matter how I fumbled along the way. If I said I thought I might go to Dartmouth after my undergraduate work, that Christmas brought me warm gloves for northern climes. If I said I might like to buy a house after seminary, my graduation present was a significant gift toward a down payment. If I asked him to walk me down the aisle, he did so, even though he never liked being the center of attention, making jokes and letting me know if I wanted to turn around right there, it would be ok. He may have been a cantankerous old man and hard to understand at times, but I know he loved me deeply and truly. That is a gift to me, solid ground in a stormy world.
My dad

It’s hard to conjure up memories of my dad because he left our family when I was entering middle school. It was better for my parents to divorce, but I never did understand why he couldn’t or didn’t love his children enough to stay in our lives, in whatever way he could. I remember my dad taking me fishing – I would run up and down the creek banks, eating wild blackberries, while he trolled the eddies trying to entice some crappie to bite. I remember helping him grease a brown paper back with Crisco in preparation for the Thanksgiving turkey that would bake in the oven. I remember the bite of his belt and his admonishment not to cry. I remember him leaning over to kiss me good night with a halo of alcohol around him. I remember the faded green tattoos on his arms and the scars from many surgeries wrapping around his body. And then, later, when I was a grown up, I remember seeing him small and frail and weak and I felt the fear and bitterness toward him evaporate, leaving me with only regret and pity.

This saint reminded me that we are all broken, struggling in our own journey and often bruising those closest to us as we grope toward grace. When he died this year, the 20 year estrangement was finalized and I was left to wonder that that was all there was to our story. Really? That’s it? The man who helped bring my flesh and blood into being and I have no more than a handful of memories and some scabbed over scars to show for it. It’s a cautionary tale for how I am in relationship with others.  

My son

This story was over before it started. I remember so many things, though, like the joy of seeing that positive pregnancy test and always knowing the start date of my last cycle before his conception since it was my birthday. I remember drinking so much water I thought my bladder would burst so that I could be sure to see my little baby at a 13 week ultrasound since I was nervous that it might be twins, which run in my family. I remember wondering why I didn’t get the super-sniffer or the thicker hair that had accompanied my first pregnancy. I remember being startled when my waistline disappeared almost immediately, although I was losing weight. I remember the joy I shared with my husband, son, and mother when we got to see his ultrasound at nearly 21 weeks, and I saw that I was expecting another son. I still have the list of names we were considering and there’s a closet full of baby things in the room that would have been his.

This saint reminded me that I’m not in control of my life, however much I may struggle to grasp it, mold it, and even at times convince myself that I’m the boss in my corner of eternity. This world is broken, twisted and contrary to the good creation God made, and we all feel the aftershocks of sin. My heart continues to break and I still cry a good deal, but I also feel stronger, more faithful, and more compassionate. In this loss, which shook me to my roots, I had to reach further down, further into true reality, to find my bedrock in God.

I encourage you to take time this day, this week, this season, to consider what all the saints in your life have given you – good, bad, or indifferent. We are who we are because of them.