Saturday, February 28, 2009

Humility

I have been told, and also self-identified, that one of my growing edges is humility.

I'm having a good dose of it this week, and it's very uncomfortable. I've had to accept some help and even knowing that it comes from a place of love, and with wonderful intentions, it hurts. A lot.

I would never survive as a beggar. Next week I have to go ask for more help. There is a lesson being hammered into my head methinks.

I am so incredibly grateful to those who have stepped forward; I never thought that I would have friends like that, given the family I grew up with. All I can say is that I will continue to try to pay it forward in some fashion every single day; at home, in my community, in my church. Every day. Until I can pay it back to those who helped.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring! and random blather.

There are crocus leaves poking up around the mailbox at the end of my walk!

And I am learning about Lent, all over again. How is it that I was brought up Roman Catholic, and am so incredibly ignorant of Christian ritual and tradition? It is to make one scream in frustration. I'm enjoying the link to Leaflets for Lent posted by Boston Unitarian (I'm too lazy to link right now; look it up), and am still reading Marianne Williamson.

A dear friend sent me the Praying the Word book I wanted, and I am enjoying it very much, and very slowly and deliciously.

This has been a very difficult couple of days, but there are crocuses blooming!

I'm a bit lonely. I had 2 different evenings out planned this week with friends and they both fell through - one because of no gas money and one because Tom is working (a good thing, but sad for my social life). Thank goodness for books and Netflix and Lost on the Internet. And blogs. And magazines (UU World came! and More magazine! and Games Magazine!).

I decided that since my internal outlook was bleak, I would spruce up the house today, so Soren and I remade Emma's bed with her birthday set that my mom sent (pictures on the way!) and I put up the curtains she sent. Then I made curtains for Lucy and Jude's room, but that kind of backfired, because I want to switch their rooms, and after I made what-was-to-be Lucy's new room all pretty and girly with a new to her bedset (Emma's old twin one) and Dora curtains...Jude decided he didn't want to move to her room (even though I put up star and moon curtains there). Darn kids. Uncooperative. I also made a curtain for the playroom, and did a thousand loads of laundry and cleaned out the linen closet, and vacuumed and made beer batter tilapia and asparagus with white sauce.

I've gained 7 lbs. this month, which is highly irregular for me, and I think it is this malaise that has me sitting in bed moping . I'm not even eating that much.

Blather, blather. And our intern is preaching this Sunday and I am going to miss it because I have to teach! ARGH! And I'm supposed to preach the Sunday after Easter, and I have no idea what I'm going to preach about. Supposedly community but I want to throw out everything I've written. I want to find some good readings and such but am having a hard time with Mr Google.

Le sigh. Off to walk the dog one last time and enjoy the warm evening and the stars. The geese are migrating - I saw about 500 this morning when I walked the dog, and some of them were snow geese! They're back! I love snow geese.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Open to the Possibilities

I have been trying and failing to keep my chin up for much of the last week. I gave in to a little bit of wallowing and spent the weekend in "Mental Health Break" mode, while my husband cooked and I caught up on paperwork in bed.

I'm feeling a bit more myself now; the sun helps, and my daily spiritual practice has become deeper - I was feeling stuck, and found some things that moved me forward a bit. I also had Wellspring on Monday night, which is always uplifting and centering. We had a very interesting discussion on Process Theology, and a very creative and fun meditation!

Things have been quite difficult on the money front. We have been unable to pay some major bills this month, and I have been job searching to no avail, and felt that the universe had exhausted any safety net that was there. However, I got offered a temporary part-time job yesterday that fits in perfectly with our lives through May. Thank you universe!

In other news, I sent my oldest off to Fla. on her first lone airplane trip yesterday. (Her friend's family bought her a ticket!) I have to say that the "security" measures are ridiculous. I haven't flown since 2004, and things have gotten faster but stupider. My toddler was totally traumatized by the security guard, who was nice enough, but an idiot, nonetheless. So much for being non-judgmental yesterday. These people are totally unable to think outside the box.

But E is safely there and certainly enjoying the warm weather and the company of her best friend.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dawkins; The God Delusion

I've just started it, and almost didn't make it through the preface because of the plethora of generalizations, which had me agreeing with Chris Hedges on the "New Atheists" as he calls them - a new kind of fundamentalist, just as dangerous as any other kind of fundy.

I haven't gotten beyond the first couple of chapters, but I do have to say that there are places i really agree with him about religion and religious faith. As a former Catholic, I was snickering about many of his points about how far beyond the Trinity have gone. I don't know how theologically sound he is and am not very far in, but it seems to be a maddening blend of atheist fundamentalism and on-target criticisms of the very things that often befuddle me about faith and established religion. As always, I"m interested in others' thoughts...I know, i could go google millions of discussions about this book, but who has the time?

Onward!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Empty nesting

My husband and I are coming to grips with not having more kids. So instead we have in the last year added a dog, 2 cats, a bunny, a cockatiel, and are considering another dog. My friend just offered me chickens!! I'm so excited. I have been wanting them and my husband has been resistant, but he must see that we can't afford vacation this year so we don't need to worry about anyone housesitting, and is giving into my desire for chickens and is going to build a chicken tractor!

I'm so excited. Did I mention that? Um, does anyone know anything about chickens? We have a choice of up to 12 (I'm mostly hoping for females and one male). White leghorn and nature's berry brown layers. My husband wants Rhode Island Reds. I am thinking I should start with 6 and then maybe hatch more at some point. I don't even know how long chickens live, or how often they lay. Off to research!

Oh, and I got another scholarship application done today, and put out a plea to my "created family" to donate to my school fund at CRCDS so I can take at least one class there this fall.

And my ex-husband was a saint today. A true saint. I am so grateful for our friendship.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moral dilemmas

I was doing some research and came across this recent article on Israel and Gaza.

It says much of what I have been feeling about the issue, and also about feeling tongue-tied about speaking up about this particular violence. How do religious leaders speak out about violence, even religious violence, and still respect the global religious plurality that is growing?

The author says:
The choice for progressive Christian leaders today is not between guilt-ridden silence and full-throated denunciation of Israeli policy and Israeli aggression. It is certainly not a choice between keeping silent and presuming to lecture Jews on Judaic ethics. Rather, the choice lies between the kind of craven irresponsibility that continued silence represents and a public moral stance that accords well with Obamian aspiration: What kind of country do we want to be?

I think we need to broaden this question beyond our national borders and this particular issue. What kind of humans do we want to be? Supporting through silence, violence of any kind, is a kind of action in and of itself, is it not? Omission can be a sin.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Papework and books

I spent many (too many) hours today working on scholarship application materials. I haven't even written any essays yet; just the financial application part (minus the tax info I'm waiting on), and revamping my resume was exhausting. I have sent it out for feedback, because I've been doing chronological resumes for so many years, it was quite a switch to a different format. I looked at clergy sites and resume examples, and hope that I did a good job. The objective part was a bit of a stumper though.

I went to the library yesterday while waiting for gymnastics to be over, and picked up Marianne Williamson's Illuminated Prayers and Dawkins' The God Delusion. I've heard mixed reviews about Dawkins, depending on who reads it (lay or clergy) so am interested to see what I think myself.

I loved the first prayer in Williamson's book (I take it she's written quite a lot, but I picked her up purely on a whim; it seems to have been divinely inspired ). It says beautifully what I stumble around and pray for every morning:

Dear God,
As I wake up this morning
may Your spirit come upon me
May my mind receive
Your emanations,
my soul receive
Your blessing,
and my heart receive
Your love.
May all those I meet
or even think of on this day
feel better for it.
May I contribute peace.
May I serve Your purposes
with all I say and do,
today and always.
Please show me how.
Amen

Amen indeed! I think I may have to ask for this book as a present; no money in the budget for books right now, unfortunately. I am also coveting one that our Wellspring facilitator has - Praying the Word. It is gorgeous. Oh, and while I'm being covetous, I want a singing bowl too!

I also picked up a new Stephanie Meyer book to share with my daughter (The Host), and she started a series that I'll probably read as well, if I have time. I have been in a good schedule with keeping up with the house since I can't find a job, but it takes a lot of time. I'm also working hard on having the kids on more of a routine, which is also working well, but takes a lot of my time.

The rest of this week will be spent getting as much scholarship paperwork as I can stand, done and ready to mail, as soon as I get my taxes back. Then I can do the FAFSA as well, and send a FA form to the YMCA for the girls to hopefully go to camp in the summer.

I hate paperwork. But I did love starting my morning off with lighting my chalice, reading, and then having a more focused walking meditation afterward. My whole day felt much more balanced.

Until my ulcer acted up. I'm sure it's the paperwork.





Thursday, February 12, 2009

Small kindnesses


Because I grew up in a dysfunctional family, I spent many years just surviving which led me to be self-centered. Not in a selfish, evil kind of way, but I never had time to think much beyond my immediate orbit. I also had a sense of entitlement, because my mother did, and I learned it from her. I'm trying to get rid of that, and I've been very intentional about thinking outside myself in the last few years, even when my own days are hard. Cards, emails, meals, saying hello...it's all about radical hospitality in an everyday, intentional way.

The rewards are amazing and mystifying. I don't understand how doing the simplest thing can make someone's day, but it often does. I often feel like the little things I do to practice daily radical hospitality are almost meaningless, but they are often meaningful to the recipient in ways that I can't comprehend.

I have been seriously missing out on the pure joy one can bring someone by a simple, random (or intentional) act of kindness. It's getting easier every day, every month, every year, and it makes me happy.

In other news, my rock star son is now a skate punk son.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Birth to death and everything in between

So Sunday I taught Sunday School, then went to a birth, then yesterday drove to PA for a Celebration of Life for my former brother-in-law. I drove back home today. I'm exhausted and have accomplished nothing today, except saving my husband from our new mouser kitties, who didn't want to get out of the truck when he got them home.

He also brought home tons of bread. He is working with a semi-homeless person who keeps giving us bread from the soup kitchen, which honestly, is very welcome.

So the service was nice. I got to see a lot of David's family that I haven't seen in several years. His one aunt and uncle are Born Again Christians and the look on his aunt's face when I told her I was going to seminary to become a parish minister was....priceless. She considered (s?) David and I to be Godless heathens (oh, and we're liberal to boot), and I'm sure she thought I must be planning to minister to some satanic cult. I sealed the deal by referencing God as often as possible (after all, I have God, it's just different than it might be for her). I wasn't being malicious, but it was amusing to see her inability to see me in that role. I even mentioned that I could see how I seemed an unlikely candidate. It is still affording me considerable amusement.

I had a nice chat with David's dad, and my mother went and was mostly on her best behavior. David's sister mentioned her gratitude for me bringing the girls multiple times, which was nice; our last interactions were rather fraught with tension. There were some wonderful pictures of Mark, which I had seen before, but it was touching to see them all in one place. It is strange to be ex-family. I knew all those people and had broken bread with them, and knew which picture was David's favorite. But five years has made it really really good to spend time with them, and to remember Mark together.

It's so good to be home. I had a lovely girl-to-girl chat with my hostess last night (an old friend), and slept poorly because Lucy kicked me all night. Tomorrow is another full day - I'm not sure when I will get the laundry caught up.

I am really, really exhausted, which may explain the incoherence of this post, but one last thing - the cats. Tom has been working for this woman who helps people out and restores urban houses that are in bad shape, and some guy ended up moving his cats in, but not himself and then left them there for two months, and kept calling every day to say he was having dreams about them and to check on them, but didn't bring them food or anything ;). So she gave him a date to get them out by and he didn't, so Tom brought them here, because we need mousers, and they've been together forever (I only wanted one cat), and they're parked under my bed. They don't like Tom much, because they both scratched him, and the old one ran off behind the house, but came to me right away.

Oh, and one last thing. I had an interview yesterday morning before I left, for a case management position and it went really, really well. But it would really make homeschooling activities a challenge, and the money sucks. I know I would love it though...but I think I'll hold out for something part-time...or maybe they hated me!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Intentional Action and Ministerial Authority (oh, and a baby!)i

I had the amazing privilege to be at the homebirth of a friend of mine today. I got to rub her back, and clean her bathroom, and watch her baby be born with two of my children by my side. I got to see the father's eyes light up and his gentle love when he held his son for the first time. I got to cry with my daughter and the mama's mama and father when the baby was born. I got an impetuous gift of a drawing from her formerly youngest child. I got to hold a brand new, wet, gorgeous baby who rooted at my chest, as he is supposed to do. I got to hold him close and see his skin pink up, and fall absolutely in love with him. I got to compliment his mama on how stunningly, glowingly gorgeous she was as she calmly and peacefully labored and breathed and welcomed into the world with her own two hands.

I have been to several births, besides my own, but never a homebirth (other than my own). It was perfect and a gift and a blessing and as close to God as you can possibly get to see a new life breathe in and become one of us.

The reason for the title of this post is that iMinister posted today about Ministerial Authority, and it rung true for me given my experience today with birth, although I haven't dealt much with death yet. She says:

"It is related to feeling secure in the knowledge that you, in your ministerial role, have something of value to deliver and you know the conditions of delivering it. So you march right up to the boss nurse in the ICU and request the room number for the patient who, she says, won't even know you are there. You know that you and the patient and the patient's family need you to be there and you stand in front of her until she lets you be there."

I think that authority to be intentional and loving in a given situation can occur whether you're a minister or not - it comes with experience in situations where you need to be intentional - where you have to be outside of yourself and experience true compassion and love for those you are with. I am bone tired tonight. I cannot remember the last time I was this tired and I can't imagine how midwives do what they do.

Ten years ago, I would have been in the way. I would have had my own agenda. Today, I could sit back, be encouraging and compassionate, look at what needed to be done and do it. I could be sensitive to the idea that family needed time to bond and have privacy and give them space to do that - it was not all about me, even though I was invited to be there. My presence was a gift given to me - a privilege, not a right. I believe that minstering is like that - it is a privilege, and you have to look around you, see what needs to be done, do it, and be aware of where space is needed, and where you are needed.

I am happy and tired and blessed. Thank you, dear friend, for allowing me to be present as your beautiful son entered this world and took his first breath.



Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thank you

Thanks for the good wishes to everyone who posted. I'm drowning in email and such, but wanted to say thank you. A friend also gave me gas money to get to the memorial service next week - which blew my mind.

And a guy that my husband is working with is semi-homeless and keeps giving us bread. My freezer is full of bread. It's so awesome.

This has been a very full day and everyone is exhausted, so I am going to follow my wise husband's example and go to sleep.

A Quick Loss

My former brother-in-law, Mark, passed away last night. He was diagnosed with aggressive cancer on Friday or thereabouts last week, and the weeks or months we thought he might have quickly turned into days and hours.

My ex-husband was there with him, which I'm sure was a comfort to him. My heart goes out to the entire family, most especially David's dad. My daughters are quite sad - they can empathize with the idea of losing a sibling.

I went to bed feeling quite clear about the fragility of life and grateful for my family. I had a lot of other profound thoughts, but am experiencing pre-morning-coffee fuzziness and being harrassed to immediately prepare breakfast.

Regardless, prayers for Mark and family are constantly in my thoughts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One Worth Mentioning

I will mention one of the difficult things that is going on around here, because I believe in positive energy. My former brother-in-law has been diagnosed with aggressive cancer and has become very ill very quickly. His family is rallying around, but it is very sudden, and very sad.

Please hold him and all of our family in your thoughts as we move through this difficult time. My first husband is very close to his brother, and I know that he, his dad, his sister and all the spouses are really struggling with their grief. Mark is a brilliant man and cancer is never fair.

Piety, perfection, and devils

I swear, this has been one of the most trying years of my life and it has barely begun. It's just one horrific thing after another around here. If I wrote them all down, you wouldn't really believe them. But somehow, I am not depressed- sad and scared and frustrated - but not hopeless. I credit my daily spiritual practice for this centering. But you know what, I'm human.

I had an argument with a certain someone yesterday, who insultingly called me "perfect" and "pious" of all things. How do you tell someone to not call you perfect? I don't know, but I managed it, with little tact. How can anyone think that of anyone, least of all me? Good grief. So today, in apparent rejection of these unfair accusations (and really, I'm not pious at all - I am not the model of propriety in much around here), I have a devil riding on my shoulder.

It was a strong devil and it pushed hard for running away from all the trials that I have been dealing with. But somehow, I resisted - but boy, was it annoying to be a grown up. I wish that little fella would go away, but apparently being a call to the ministry is not strong enough to banish temptation ;). I wish the person who accused me of being so perfect could see inside my head sometimes; they might be surprised!