Sunday, June 28, 2009

Joy is Stronger Than Crap!

It is 9pm on a Sunday night & it is 105 degrees out there in the world beyond my wonderful air conditioned home! The sun of sunny California can actually be too much of a good thing sometimes! The last 4 years our AC was broken so I lived in front of a small fan on days like these so...yah, I am extremely thankful for our brand new AC in the house!

Something else I am thankful for this week is the very powerful force called "joy". Our church family is walking through one of the worst experiences I have ever been forced to endure. Hubs & I have been close friends with & worked with our Senior Leader & his wife for nearly 25 years. A week ago Saturday their 31 year old daughter who also attends our church died suddenly of a blood clot. No warning, no reason, no explanation. The pain is overwhelming & frightening.

My faith was tested this week. My deep belief that God is good was questioned & examined. I don't think that I have faced anything in my life that truly had to "try out" the strength of my faith in God like this tragedy has. The trite platitudes that people speak in these times are all wrong & do not represent the God that I have come to know. You know the sayings, like, "God must have needed another angel, so he took her to heaven." or "He just loved her so much he called her home."....., I & the rest of my church community do not accept such silly & unhelpful words.

It is a mystery why this happened. We do not have the answer. I don't know why some people get healed right before my eyes & others do not. I don't understand why the majority of children in the world are living in extreme poverty while we bask in a Toys R Us land! There are so many unanswered questions, that a person could easily become a true Eeyore if they watch too much news on TV.

The first 3 days after getting the phone call about our friend's shocking death, I circled my house in a daze of questions & fear. I could not go to my God for comfort because I was too angry at Him for letting this happen! It left me feeling like my feet were on slippery ground with absolutely nothing to grab onto. If I could not trust Him to protect my kids & my friends then what in the world was I to trust? My rock-solid foundation was crumbling & it was mind-numbingly frightening.

But I also knew that He can take my questions. I have learned in just the last few years that God is big enough to welcome my anger & my doubts, He wants me to question the things I hear in the pulpit on Sundays. The bible is full of stories of people in hard situations & when they asked God their accusing questions, He answered the questions they should have asked. So I stopped with the wrong questions & asked a right question. Where are you God?

He said, " I am right here, ready to hold you, just like I am holding her parents."

This morning her parents talked about resting in the goodness of God even in this nightmare of crap that is happening to them. (Their words.) They have chosen to not live in sadness or madness. Joy is not the same thing as pleasure. Joy is a deep, living thing that can be underneath the sadness. Joy is not giddy or silly, it is strong & intentional. The grief is not being pushed down or even held back. It comes & overwhelms them without warning. Our church community is on the same page & we watched a video of her growing up years & thanked God for the crazy, daring & full life that she led.

Personally, I faced all my old fears again during those first three days last week. I cracked open the door to them & almost allowed them to make me go back to hiding in my house & never trying anything new ever again. That is how I lived for 40 years; always choosing the safest option, the least stretching job & relationships. But my young friend certainly did not live her 31 years like that & for me to do that now would be like asking a butterfly to crawl back into her crusty old cocoon again! Not gonna happen! I am choosing joy...even when it does not make sense.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reason For Absence

You probably have not noticed but I've been absent a lot the last few days. Fact is...I have been pretty much "absent" wherever I am this last week. Last Saturday the 31 yr old daughter of our close friend & senior leader of our church died suddenly & unexpectedly of a blood clot.
We buried her today under a beautiful sunny sky & it will be a long time before all is "normal" around here.
But I'll be back.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Was Unfairly Accused!

Recently on our fun getaway week, Hubs & I also toured the famous Hearst Castle in the Monterey area. This mansion was built & owned by William Randolph Hearst, newspaper & magazine mogul whose family donated it to the state for tours & jealous slobbering. This photo is the "front porch." It was a wonderful tour & extremely impressive as you will see in the following pics. I loved this angel with her shield, very cool & beautiful!
Hearst obviously loved marble because it is all over the grounds & the mansion. He also had a great reverence for the beauty of the human body & serious art.
My favorite part was his amazing outdoor pool! The park staff get to use it once a year.

I have no idea why Hubs posed me here for this shot!?
He had quite a few possible captions for this pic. My choice:
Real men don't need much armour!

The guy in the white shirt who is walking past Hubs is NOT my friend! He was not the tour guide, but he was the ENFORCER of all the millions of rules this place has in order to keep us grimy, dirty public people from hurting anything. I totally understand & agree with rules; I am the only person I know who really follows rules. I return shopping carts, walk in crosswalks & never ever litter
But this guy THOUGHT he saw me lean against a marble pillar to take these pics of the pool. He was on the other side of the pool & kept motioning to me with waving arms, in front of the whole tour group, to get me to stop leaning. Well, I WAS NOT LEANING OR EVEN TOUCHING IT!
I was so embarrassed. He came to me & explained that we must not TOUCH anything & then he smirked when I told him that I had not touched it all.

The 3 pics above are the indoor pool! Simply gorgeous! There were sections of gold even in the floor tile & the guide loved to say that if it looked like gold it WAS gold.

Our indoor pics did not turn out due to the NO FLASH rule which again I totally understood & agreed with. But on one of those outdoor pics my camera flashed & that guy was on me AGAIN loudly saying "NO FLASH!" I had turned it off but it re-set itself between pics & this time when he barked at me I almost threw the camera at Hubs & said I was done, he had to do any pics we wanted, not me!
The emotions were amazing & surprising at such a silly little accusation to ME, the rule-obeying-control freak! I felt such huge ANGER mixed with a very real desire to CRY! How stupid would that have been? It was as if he was out to get me, that's what felt so awful.
Anyway I need to stop talking about this cause I'm getting all bugged again.

This is a lovely statue but I could not help wondering if she is checking her deodorant!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

All My Eggs in One Basket!!

I have a bit of a problem lately regarding one of my most favorite things......computers! I love to be on here, blogging as pretty much become my evening entertainment if we are home.

Computers are also important to me at work, especially all summer as I prepare for the next school year which we be upon us in about 10 short weeks! (Sorry, but that is the truth!) I print up the curriculum plans, the letters to potential students, forms & sign-up sheets galore, name badges, binder covers, info packets for outreach ministries, blah,blah,blah..! That is not even considering the constant emails back & forth with potential students moving here for the school & inviting speakers to teach, etc.

Well, the "eggs in one basket" problem is catching up with me in that BOTH my home laptop & my work desktop computer are about to die any minute!
Just now I sat here & gingerly transferred all my pics to Cd's, my blog writings to a flash drive, along with all my work stuff here on my laptop. It's all safely on flash drive! It felt kinda like you might feel when choosing what to grab in a fire! It's got me all panicky & indecisive!

My home laptop which I am on right now is switching back & forth between battery & electric like it has a short in it. But we have already replaced the cord so that is not it. My computer guy today said that it is inside the laptop & not worth repairing!!! :0 The reason I am treating it tenderly is that if it goes to battery & stays there, it will die in about one hour & that will be all she wrote, as they say.

SO, my work computer is a dinosaur that everyone there can't believe I am still using. But $$ has been low in our ministry & I have been on a waiting list for a new one for over a year! Yesterday I was writing a message to someone & I kid you not, I would type a sentence & wait for the count of TWENTY for it to appear on the screen!! What?? That was a new trick & I was not laughing! My Hubs heard me literally growling at my desk & I told him what was happening. Today he went in to talk to the ministry accountant & soon appeared with an unused beautiful computer that was not needed by someone anymore! Woo-hoo! I am so excited to get back to the office tomorrow!! Yay! Some of my eggs got rescued anyway! My hero! Of course I've been growling about my computer for months but he said something at the exact right moment & I am saved!

I don't know what is gonna happen to my blogging though. I am super uncomfortable right now, sitting in a weird position so the laptop does not get moved or bumped. But I will try to stay caught up cause I really love reading you guys & writing my stuff. Please don't stop checking on me ok?
I think I'm gonna need some major yoga stretching after this long session!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Wonderful Week Away!

Got away for 4 days on the Montery Coast! Enjoy the pics & imagine the sounds of seagulls
& aroma of seawed & wet sand! Nothing like it! So refreshing!

The sweet path from our room to the beach! We watched whales breach

while sitting on a nearby bench.

A different beach with sand as white as snow & finer than salt! Lovely-delicious!

You know you are relaxed when you find yourself taking pics of birds!

Yep, he still loves me! My maiden name initials.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

No Regrets

Today Hubs & I attended a memorial service for a wonderful 97 year old woman who was part of our congregation where we used to be pastors several years ago. This was the first time we have been in the sanctuary since our “Farewell Service” in 2003. My feelings were mixed as we got ready to go; I was anxious to be in the little church again. The entire sanctuary could fit two times in the lobby of the church we are on staff with now. I have uncountable warm memories of my hours in that little building that I loved so much.

But I was also nervous about any “unfinished business” that some may still have with us. We were loved & honored by the people of our church for the ten years we tried to pastor & care for them, but there are always a few who will feel that you didn’t do enough for them.

On our first Sunday in the small & seriously neglected church we had a time of open questions. Hubs sat on a tall stool in the front of the room & agreed to answer any questions the quiet group of people may have of us. It was uncomfortably silent for a time, until one lady raised her hand barely above her lap & asked, “Pastor, how long will you stay with us?”

We had learned the history of this congregation before we agreed to move there & lead the church. In its 40 years of life, this little place had gone through almost as many pastors, who came & went within two years each. We were determined to love these people & care for the tumbling building as long as possible.

So my husbands’ gentle smile & words were a visible relief to all in the room as he looked at her & said, “Ruth, we are here to stay, we want to raise our boys here & we will stay as long as God wants us here with you.”

And we did that. I poured myself into that place with all I had. We began with the easy & obvious need; the old & ignored building. I cleaned out the most awful mess I had ever seen in the fellowship hall kitchen! Stuff had been sitting in old food & rust for a very long time. Hubs & I did a major clean out of the office records & marveled at the business meeting minutes that argued over whether purchasing an answering machine for the church office was really necessary or not!

The people joined us for several Saturdays of painting, cleaning & repairs of the building. These times of working side by side became a wonderful avenue of bonding & becoming true friends with a common goal. As the physical place began to perk up; the attitude of the congregation did also! They saw that they did have worth & value & they were proud to invite their friends back to church again.

My mind & heart are flooding now with memories of our 10 years in that church. It was a good & worthwhile 10 years. We did let people down over & over again, but we also helped a lot of hungry & hurting people & hopefully changed some lives along the way. Being the leaders of that small group of people, caring for them, advising them, laughing with them & celebrating important moments with them, was all-consuming to our family. My boys grew up in that church; they were only 5 & 9 when we moved there. We left when they were 15 & 19.

Our leaving is what caught some by surprise & was the reason for my trepidation to return today. (We did not leave under any horrible, scandalous circumstances, so you can relax about that as you read this account!) For a pastor & his family to leave a church is a painful & personal thing that I think may even resemble divorce to some extent. It is a tearing action that reveals the deepness of the roots & connections that have been made.

The signs that our time there was over, actually began 2 years before we gathered up the courage to do what we knew we had to do. I can honestly say that we totally gave the wonderful families in that congregation all we had to give them. There came a point when we had nothing more to say or do that would make a difference. Some ministries are all about getting bigger & having large numbers in attendance. That was never our central goal even though we did get to a place of having multiple services on Sundays & several house meetings during the week. We knew the value of quality relationships & believed we were living that every day.

Hubs & I both knew that we were doing the right thing & so did the majority of the congregation even though it was hard for them to let us go. But a few….and those few can cause your heart to hurt…..felt that we were abandoning them once again. There was nothing I could say to make them understand. It has been a painful part of remaining in the same town all these years. The unexpected grocery store visits can be uncomfortable for both parties. So, that is what was causing me some dread as we entered the sweet little church this afternoon.

But, I needn’t have worried. Today we were warmly embraced (well, warmer than expected anyway!) & thanked for coming to celebrate the amazing life of our 97 year old friend. Sitting on the back row & looking at the old cinderblock building with discolored windows & lace draped over the old upright piano was a sweet & comforting time for me. My family gave a lot to this place & we are still giving ourselves to people on a daily basis as we lead our ministry school.
I left there today with no regrets & with a huge smile on my face!

Here I am as a crazy-busy young pastors' wife running a church Christmas party! Nope no regrets!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Old Library Lover

Well, come to think of it, that title could be taken wrong. I love old libraries! That is what I mean to say. I'm not sure why old things intrigue me. The history they have seen & managed to exist beyond is interesting to me. This old typewriter [ Yes, my young ones, this was used long, long before blackberrys, Facebook & texting! ] belonged to my dad when he was in high school, he graduated in 1949, but I don't know how old the typewriter is. I love looking at it, it makes me smile! [ It also appears to be making my cute Hubby smile too! Ha! ]
The library in my small town is a fun & cozy place to hang out. I have lived in this town for 19 years & have probably read a high percentage of the books here. I also go to a big fancy place in the next town over when I want recent books, as in; those written in the last 5 years.
Something in me feels like this little place needs me. The people that work here are not especially friendly, that must be an urban myth; that all small town librarians are kind & motherly or professorial. The elderly folks here, along with a few volunteer teens, tend to ignore us browsers until we hound them into helping us find the biography our kid needs for homework or the perfect book for our summer drive out of state. [ I don't drive much on trips, I just read! ]
This library is set in the far corner of a small city park in the middle of our downtown area. I have actually come into this little place dressed in biblical robes! No I am not a nun or robe-wearing cleric of any kind, but I did organize the best little Living Nativity in The Park you ever saw right in this park every Christmas for about 8 years! While Mary & Joseph were hanging out near the manger the rest of us wandered through the crowd handing out hot cider in our biblical clothing and, well.....when you gotta gotta go!

Maybe that has something to do with my love for this old library; it holds so many memories for me. And it also harbors countless memories of the parade of people who have spent time in here over the years. How many of the elderly men & women in this town actually spent hours in this little hall of books as kids? This Sunday afternoon I am attending a memorial for one of the elderly ladies who attended the church we pastored here years ago. It has me thinking & remembering my times & loves in this place.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Still Thinking About It......

Yep, still pondering the idea!

As you can see, I have been collecting pictures for years.

The top one is my favorite because it looks like it just landed.

The heart one is too cutesy but I like the colors.

Isn't this great? Of course there are no areas on me that are as flat as this girl's "whatever"!

Just thinking!