Monday, July 25, 2011

Day Seventy Five: Book!

I just sent my (self-published) book off to be printed.  It is a labor of love and I can't wait to see it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day Seventy Two: Pressure

One week from tomorrow I will get on an airplane bound for San Francisco where I will run my first marathon.  26.2 miles.  I've gone as far as 23 miles and I am still not really convinced I can do this.

I have put a lot of pressure on myself with this one.  that kind of pressure is pretty much the opposite of what a sabbatical is about, I'm told.  apparently, I'm supposed to be resting and rejuvenating, getting myself prepared for the next seven (or so) years of parish ministry.  There is enough pressure from all directions in my vocation and family life, I shouldn't be adding my own artificially-induced expectations to the mix.

But that's just what I've done.  The closer I get to this event, the more I realize that, friends, I'm going to be REALLY upset and disappointed in myself if I don't make it. My goal: finish the damn thing before they clean up the course.  It seems like something I should be able to do. But I'm just not sure.  In fact, I'm pretty unsure.  And I'm scared.  I'm scared that I'm going to come back from this great gift of three months of restful, worry-free, happy time feeling strung out, knotted up and sad, all because I didn't make a goal that has become very important to me.

So why do we do this to ourselves?  I preach sermons about and really do believe that we are forgiven, loved and freed by a loving God that knows each of us to be worthy despite our own shortcomings.  I mean it.  I do.  But when it comes to my own shortcomings, or even my own POSSIBLE shortcomings (heck, this marathon hasn't even happened yet!), I can't let go of my own need to prove again and again that I am indeed worthy of something.  I'm proving it to myself, of course, but if God believes it and I know that, then why can't I believe it, too?

God has that divine ability to see those things in us that we are blind to, even--or maybe especially-- in ourselves.  And so we, in our very shortsighted human way, set up tests for ourselves: I will be a better parent if..., I will make more money if..., my spouse will love me more if...,  Running this marathon is just one more way I am trying to prove myself worthy to keep walking on this planet, trying to feel accomplished.  I'm not God and I'm just not capable of loving myself the way that God loves me.  So I fill the space with these little tests.  My hope for myself as I get older (and wiser?!?) is that I will feel the need to test myself less and believe in my untested goodness more.

In the mean time, I have a marathon to run!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Seventy One: Poor Little Preacher's Kid

I decided that since my kids were such good sports putting up with me all summer, I'd include them in the book.  Linden couldn't stand still long enough for me to get her hands, so I just took Eli's.

When I asked him my requisite interview question, "What is the most important thing you do with your hands?" he pressed them together up under his chin and said, very piously but seriously, "I fold them up to pray.  That's very important."  Then he walked away.  Kevin looked at me and said, "You can't print that, it sounds like a plant." About ten seconds later, he happily bounced back and practically shouted in my face "OH!  I LIKE TO RIDE MY BIKE TOO!!"

You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day Seventy: Holy Comforter

This evening I made my last church visit.  I visited My friend Mike Tanner at Holy Comforter here in Atlanta.  Holy Comforter is a unique congregation that has a large population of people with mental health diagnoses.  I have visited Holy Comforter several times over the last few year and have celebrated and preached there once.  I find it equal parts scary and holy.  Many of the people who worship at Holy comforter are unpredictable in their behavior, speech, even personal hygiene.  I never really know what to expect when I show up.  I find that frightening, disconcerting, disorienting at first.  It takes me a while to get settled in.  But then the Holy Spirit shows up, just like the Holy Spirit shows up everywhere.  We sing and pray together, we share the Meal together.  It is still frightening and unpredictable, but a little less so for the commonality that we all share, the Eucharist, the Bread, broken for all of us, those who are obviously broken themselves and those who put up a good show of pretending not to be.  And then, after that Bread is broken, we all remember (re-member) that we are beloved, broken bits and all.

Taking pictures and Holy Comforter was a hoot.  For starters, Mike invited anyone who wanted to to come have their hands photographed.  Nineteen people came forward.  Nineteen!  I got some good shots and some great quotes.  One man told me that the most important thing he does with his hands is "wash them."

Visiting HC was a fantastic way to wrap up this phase of the project.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day Sixty Seven: Hands

Barbara is a Methodist pastor who joins in an Episcopal healing service from time to time.  She used to be a professional violinist.

Day Sixty Six: loving

DirtySexyMinistry is a blog I follow from time to time.  I love the way these women write but I also love what they write about, usually because it is exactly what is in my head at any given time.  Also because if it wasn't in my head, it gets there quickly after they've said it.  They are kindred spirits even though I've never met them (give it time, the Episcopal Church isn't very big!).

I came across this post recently on their site and really enjoyed it.  It has taken me on a few days' trip down memory lane of the past 4 1/2 years of parenthood.  What do we do for love?  Parents reading this have certainly had moments of full public humiliation to protect/entertain/discipline their kids.  There are the simple things I have done for my kids that 5 years ago would have sounded completely outside my realm of talent: nights sitting for hours in steam-filled bathrooms to calm croupy coughs, calling ANYONE I thought might be game in congratulating my 2 year old on potty success, saying things like: no sweetie, that's not Santa, it is supposed to be God" and "Get Jesus out of your mouth NOW."

Parents are not the only ones who experience this.  Spouses who make significant sacrifices, children who care for elderly parents, parents of four-legged friends who give over their hearts knowing that their hearts will be broken.

We are none of us Jesus.  But I do think we are at our best, and perhaps closest to Christ-like, when we have thrown caution to the wind in favor of loving someone else.  Life, Hollywood and the Bible will all tell you that love is not neat, easy or perfect, but if it wasn't difficult, it would hardly be worth working for. That is the message of the Gospel that rises to the top for me, like sweet cream, every time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day Sixty Five: texture

Day Sixty Four: Running update

A friend asked me today how the marathon training is going.  I updated her on my mileage and the fact that I'm beginning to taper down in anticipation of the big day in just over two weeks.  Then she said, "Yeah, I know that part, but how is it going?"

Well.  Um.

I have become so ensconced in the numbers, the mileage, the equipment, etc, that I haven't really checked in much with myself about how it is going.  And here is the truth:  it is fine.

You may note here a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Truth is, it is what it is.  And what it is is running for hours at a time in the middle of a Georgia summer.  It is hot.  And it is, honestly, kind of boring.  I'm definitely experiencing a little bit of pre-marathon burnout.  I'm getting tired of running to count, following the program, preparing the night before.  I'm tired of thinking so hard about it.  I'm even getting tired of talking about it.  Yeesh!  How dull I must sound to everyone!

I'm still looking forward to running this marathon, to accomplishing it and to feeling good about having done so.  But mostly, I'm looking forward to having it behind me and to moving on to something else that moves me (heh!).

I love to run, but I don't think I like making a project out of running.  Running, for me, should actually be the opposite:  something I don't have to think about or worry about, plan for or fret over.  There are lots and lots of other things in my life that I can plan, fret, think or worry about.  Running should be my respite form those things.

I fear that training for a marathon is killing my love of running.  How sad!

Day Sixty Three: hands

The most important thing Jim does with his hands? "Prayer and praise!  Amen!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day Sixty Two: Lessons learned or otherwise

Two thirds of the way through, I'm not sure yet what I'll take away from this sabbatical time.  I'm willing to  let it NOT be a giant learning experience.  I am willing to let it just be good relaxing time spent with my family, running, photographing, resting.

My lesson might just be that not everything needs a grand lesson.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Day Sixty: Panic

This afternoon, my brother-in-law innocently asked me about a family gathering on a date in September.  I pulled out my trusty iPhone and checked the date on my iCal.  In doing so, I scrolled through two work days already booked with classes I'll be teaching in the fall and meetings I have to attend.

It was terrifying.

Apparently, I have-- without even noticing it-- entered into Full Sabbatical Mode (FSM).  All the time I spent worrying about whether or not I would ever relax enough to enjoy my sabbatical were all for naught. I achieved FSM and had done a darn good job forgetting about my heavy work load, my responsibilities, the curricula I have not yet planned, the events I have not yet advertised, the sermons I have not yet  written...

Then I checked that calendar. It is amazing how quickly that anxiety can come rushing back.  I have one month of FSM left and I don't want to spend it freaking out about what is to come when I return.  But now there are calendar dates ringing in my eyeballs and "did I remember to..."'s running sprints through my vacation-softened brain.  I have no idea what to expect when I get back but I really don't want to worry about it yet.  But it is so hard not to!

Jesus' admonishment about the lilies of the field is still one of the hardest for me to deal with.  It is easy for me to write it off with a bunch of "yeah buts":
Yeah but Jesus didn't have two small children.
Yeah but Jesus didn't have a mortgage, student loans, a car payment.
Yeah but Jesus didn't have a boss or a spouse.
Yeah but Jesus didn't have aging parents.
Yeah but Jesus didn't have to worry about global warming...
etc etc...

This is, of course, the point.      

The classes I need to teach in two months will be fine.  As far as I know, my kids have gotten three squares every day of their young lives (usually more, the little piglets).  There is no reason to believe that just because my sabbatical is ending, suddenly everything that has always been true about my life-- that it usually works out by the grace of God-- will no longer be true.

Worry gets me nowhere but worried.  So far, FSM has helped me to push the bread of anxiety to the back of my shelf where it is growing moldy and gross.  My hope upon returning to work is that I will not bake myself a fresh loaf.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day Fifty Nine: one foot in front of the other

I ran twenty three miles this morning.  This is my last long run before the marathon on July 31.  That still makes me a little nervous.  I've never actually run 26.2 miles and I'm going to do it for the first time in a race in a strange city.  Yikes.

On the other hand, I gained three miles since my last long run, 20 miles two weeks ago.  So perhaps in three weeks, I can gain three more.  Right (she says, not very convincingly)?

This morning's run was beautiful.  We've had great beach weather, sunny and warm, for the last two weeks with nary a cloud in sight.  But beach weather isn't necessarily great running weather.  This morning was perfect running weather: overcast and cool, with a good breeze every so often, but not a gale that knocked me over.  I wound around and around, running over long bridges and along golf cart paths.  By the last three miles, I was just putting one foot in front of the other, not caring where I ran, but not wanting to get too far away from my destination as I tried to work in those last few steps.

That has been a tough part of training for me, getting the miles in.  Running has always been a way to get outdoors, to see the city, to balance my undisciplined eating habits.  To run with any sort of plan, especially a plan where I have to get a certain (very large) number of miles in, sometimes in strange cities, is hard for me.  I'm not a good guesstimator and I hate figuring it out online, so this morning's 4 mile loop that I was hoping to do a couple of times to log 8 miles was actually only 2.5 miles.  Bummer.

But I got the miles in and this afternoon, I am as sore and tired as I have ever been running.  No fun.  But satisfying!

Day Fifty Eight: Still here, kind of

When I decided to write on this blog every day, along with running out of things to say I also I did not anticipate the difficulty I would have in finding decent and reliable internet during my travels.  The beach condo where we are staying has spotty internet and phone service, a fact that hasn't bothered me one bit in the eleven years I've been coming down here, but one that I find annoying when I'm trying to be disciplined.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day Fifty Six: hands

Allison cuts hair and makes people feel good about themselves.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day Fifty Five: My traveling companions

All The Cousins together.  Ages 4, 3, 2, and 1.  Aren't they lovely?

Day Fifty Four: Oh vacation!

We are on vacation with my husband's brother and his family.  We have four kids under five, four adults and one very small dog packed into a large condo on the beach.  It is a fun, joyful occasion that we have been repeating for a few years now.  

But holy cow, I am tired!

A week at the beach with these energetic young kids is exhausting.  Everyone is always going in four different directions.  The two littlest require full-time hands-on attention, especially around water, of which there is plenty here.  And then when the kids are sleeping or otherwise occupied in some reasonably non-harmful way, we adults are hastily planning the next move-- playground?  beach?  pool?  bike rides?-- quick!  Before someone wakes up!

There has hardly been a day since we arrived that everyone in the house isn't passed out before ten.  We're all exhausted.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you.  I have a wonderful extended family and these are four fantastic kids that are shot through with verve, sass, excitement and (surprisingly) really good manners and decent respect for one another.  The Cousins are a fabulous foursome and watching them grow up together is one of the great pleasures of my life.

I occasionally miss the old kind of vacation, the kind where you take a pile of paperbacks and some garbage magazines and sit on the beach for hours, coming in for a tomato sandwich, noon beer and nap on the couch.  I used to stay up late to watch movies and get up long after the sun had begun to really bake the beach.  Like so many other things in life with kids, I remember fondly the days when my time was exclusively mine, when naps and late nights were by choice, not necessity.  The transition was hardest in the first year.  I got very frustrated when my vacations felt "hijacked" by the little squalling, demanding bundle that was my first child.

It is different now.  I'm tired, sure (I'm the only one still awake by a full hour!), but now that I have fully wrapped my mind around what the "new normal" is per vacation time, I'm getting more comfortable with the fact that I can rest when I'm dead and that these stinky, sandy, loud little rugrats are worth every ounce of time and attention we give them.  I still get frustrated, tired, and aggravated and I still long for my book on the beach, but more often I enjoy getting sand in my bathing suit from all of the rolling about and castle building I do.  I love introducing the kids to snow cones and fireworks and boiled peanuts.  I'm working on reminding myself again and again that this time is really short and really, really valuable.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day Fifty Three: hands

Rob is a potter who has recently found inspiration for his art through prayer and meditation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day Fifty One: Trinity St. Augustine

My other's first cousin, Lyn, lives in St. Augustine, Florida.  The family and I had the pleasure of visiting Lyn and her husband, Wayne, in their beautiful house.  The house is amazing, built by a boat builder with so many nooks and crannies, creative storage, incredible views of the Matanza Bay and the Castillo de San Marcos.  The house is a perfect mix of old and new and is the kind of place I could explore for days, just to get all of the details committed to memory.

I visited Trinity St. Augustine, the oldest Episcopal church in Florida, established in the 1820's.  I attended the Wednesday healing service with Lyn.  It was a lovely service and very well attended for a midweek service.  They have an intense period of healing ministry in the middle of the service that involves not only the priest but also several healing ministers from the congregation.  It is an impressive ministry.

Trinity is a beautiful parish, though I have no pictures to prove it because it is the site of my camera's final demise.  Luckily, I was able to get some project shots in before it went for good.  I am looking forward to getting home so that I can get it fixed!  

Day Fifty: Scary Carrots

Our four year old son is a bit pirate obsessed in the way that only a four year old little boy can be.  He has no real sense of what a pirate did (or does, I guess), just loves the trappings of it: eye patch, hooks, boats, canons, swords.  It is fun to see piracy through his eyes, very romantic, almost heroic, without guile, thievery and killing.  I know the reality, I do, but like so many other things with children, it is a delight to see how the world looks to him, fresh and exciting, before it is tainted by the bother of reality.

Our kids went to the pirate museum in St. Augustine and had a fantastic time.  Said four year old still can't read, so instead, he got the visual feast of pirate images (carefully steered around the Chamber of Pirate Tortures) without any dose of reality at all.

Later in the day, he was describing the adventure to his younger cousin: "And then there was a scary carrot.  He was way up high and green and talked.  he was a really REALLY scary carrot.  No... wait... not a carrot... a... PARROT!! Yeah!  A parrot!"

Look out for scary carrots.