Oh where is my iPhone?

  It was a busy day. Errands for the back-to-college Reedy Girl (with driving lessons). Shopping for the impossible-to-find perfect purse. Pharmacy, Tarzhay, new eyeglass selections (you’ll have to wait!), and a quick grocery trip to get dinner ingredients. 

I helped with some sous chef tasks, cleaned a litter box, and then took out trash and recycling since tomorrow is collection day. And then… I couldn’t find my phone. 

Nope. Not. Anywhere. No flat surface in the kitchen. Not on the couch. Under the couch… Nada. We dialed it a gazillion times and listened… And heard nothing. 

Horrors. Is it in the trash? (You know where this is going, don’t you?) 

Yes. It was a trash-picking party at Chez Vaughns. Thank heavens for surgical gloves! Reedy Girl helped us look. Bag after bag of stinky, funky trash. Then we took apart the car and looked in every crevice and cranny. We even took the trashcans  for a walk down the street to see if “Find My iPhone” was helpful and showed the phone really WAS in a trash bag. (News flash: unlike what you see with McGee and Gibbs on NCIS, it’s NOT that accurate!)

Hot, sweaty, and tired, we regrouped back inside. One more search. 

And yes. I found it. In the pocket of the apron I was wearing during dinner prep. I had neatly hung up my apron in the pantry on a hook after dinner. 

Sigh…

Bless my family for their help. (It was an amusing trip down memory lane, when we trash picked a hotel garbage bin for a retainer… And found it.) 

Is there a moral to this story? Oh… Only this. Those who really love you will not judge but help you. And find ways to offer help and support (and laughs) as you go through the stinkiest things life can throw at you. 

And now… Goodnight. 

A Riverside Chat: Or How The Reverend Crankypants Got Her Groove Back

I took a break from a staff retreat today and headed down to the Potomac River. It’s been many months, but I knew that getting a chance to sit near the water would do my heart good.

I was a long ways from the riverbank, when I could hear the rapids. I found a rock and sat and breathed deeply. The rushing of the current over the rocks was so loud it pounded in my chest. All the “stuff” that was annoying me, making me sad, and giving me all kinds of heartache melted away.    In the presence of such power, I found some perspective.

falls1

There are no obstacles in the presence of such power. Even a large rock or branch will not stop the river’s flow. It moves on, works around, pushes, smooths, and travels past.

So God and I had a little Riverside “chat” and I agreed to listen, bend and be moved… and not impede the Spirit’s flow. As a result, I had a better afternoon. (Though, I will be honest, there are things that should be best experienced with a pitcher of margaritas. Like karaoke. Just sayin’.)

Disrupted Meditation: Life on the Labyrinth

2014-06-21 10.15.54

I started out to walk the labyrinth in our yard today. Even in the misty rain, I walked, umbrella in hand.

Our neighborhood was especially quiet because it was raining. No soccer games. No lawnmowers or leaf blowers. Just the rain on the leaves and grass around me. I was in a different place, deep in thought, far from suburbia.

On the far side of the labyrinth, two rabbits were having elevenses, their ears twitching and eyes focused on what this human among them was doing. Was she confused? Friend? Foe? Lost? They nibbled carefully and watched.

All was serene until I walked about halfway through the circuit and the insects “found” me. I must have looked quite ridiculous to the rabbits because I was doing the “dance of the mosquitos” (step-slap-step-slap-step-step-step-slap-scratch-step). Then the gnats arrived, floating around my head like some kind of pesky veil. I waved my hands to keep them at bay. At that point I was hard-pressed to return to my former state of reflection and meditation, and the walk became and exercise in perseverance.

Not exactly the beautiful, restive moments I was looking for.

“Well, THAT’S a little impossible,” I thought. And I retreated back into the patio, a little disgruntled. The quiet and peace of the moment now eluded me.

I thought of Augustine’s words:

Solvitur Ambulando
It is solved by walking.

What had I “solved” through my abbreviated tour of the labyrinth? What lesson came amidst moquitos, gnats, and rabbits?

The answer came slowly as these words from James 1:2 came to mind…

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!

2014-06-21 10.16.25Mosquitos and gnats.

Arguments and dissension.

Pain and worry.

Rabbits and birds.

llness and grief.

Sometimes they are just minor irritations, sometimes they are major heartaches, and sometimes they drive us from the path we had planned for the day. I sat on the porch, fans and citronella keeping the pests at bay. I watched the rabbits feed and listened again to the rain.

It was a disrupted meditation, to be sure. As I refocused and prepared for the day’s activities, I was reminded that many times as I walk through this life, I have “holy disruptions.” Plans get changed. Others’ needs trump my own. And all manner of minor inconveniences distract me, which is sometimes OK, and sometimes need to be set aside to deal with at another time.

NomnomnomCLOVERnomnom

Sometimes it comes back to walking, listening, and walking some more, and inviting those holy disruptions to walk with me.

Thanks be to God.

An Unseen Path: Walking in Leaves

The Fall Labyrinth
My leaf-covered labyrinth

I walked the labyrinth this afternoon. It was relatively quiet for the time of day, what with after-school neighborhood traffic and all. At first I wasn’t sure where the rounds of bricks were — I kind of had to scuff them aside and look to take my next step. It required more concentration than usual.

As I finished and walked back into the house I stopped to take a picture. You can’t see the bricks, but they are still there.

It’s a lot like the way God guides us… step after step, many times the next step is unseen. The breeze even re-settled them so it’s had to tell that anyone has been walking out here today.

There’s a lot in my life that has been an unseen path, but this I know for certain: God is still speaking. God is there. And all the unknowns (which obviously I am NOT supposed to know yet) will come at the appointed time.

Deep breath. Exit labyrinth. Walk on with life.

Mr. Henry’s Wild Ride: Or… what happens when the chaplain is sleep-deprived

Last week was one of those weeks where sleep deprivation did a number on me. I had to take my car in to our mechanic for servicing, which required that I ride the bus home. I am normally a functioning adult and have no trouble picking the right bus. However, due to the creeper factor (creepy mid-day bus riders who are not professionals coming home from work), I left the bus shelter too quickly and boarded the wrong bus. I realized this, of course, well into the bus route that was quickly winding far away from my neighborhood.

I felt a little sheepish. I had reacted out of instinct – Get away from the creeper. Board a bus. ANY bus.

Exactly what I counsel my daughters not to do… Sigh.

I claim sleep deprivation as my excuse, since Wednesday was a short-night of sleep and Thursday morning’s commute home took twice as long. I did get a short nap before driving my car to the mechanic. But it was not enough to be quick on my feet.

When I found common sense returning, I pulled out my phone to verify where the bus route would terminate (at a Metro station), rode back to the original Metro station where I first started my crazy journey, and boarded a bus (the correct one, this time!) to Bearded Brewer’s office. It was a happy coincidence that he was ready to go home anyway.

IMG_3281When we got home, we realized we were minus a cat. When and how it happened we don’t know, but Henry managed to slip out some time between Wednesday afternoon (when I was working in the back yard before I went to work) and Thursday morning (when the back door was open and the screen ajar). I worked Wednesday night, and other than noting his absence that morning, we were both clueless.

We went through every crevice and hidey-hole in the house. No Henry. The other cats paced. We worried. No sign of him all night. We searched the yard and the neighborhood. No sassy boy cat. We sent out prayer SOS bulletins. We went to sleep, worried. Somewhere around 4 am, Henry was mewing at the back door.

We petted him, thanked God, and fell dead asleep. Henry roamed the house, nervous and ill at ease. His caterwauling was music to our ears! He got a visit to the vet for his troubles the next day. (And while we were at it, we took Tiria along for company and her shots.) So ended another tale of Mr. Henry’s Wild Ride.

While it took me a few days to process all this (remember I was sleep-deprived) I finally did reach some conclusions. Here’s what I’ve decided…

There are times we all get going in the wrong direction. And most of the time, we come to our senses and get a do-over. It took a while for me to connect-the-dots on my errant bus ride and Henry’s little adventure. I’m guessing that by the time Henry realized he was on the wrong side of the door, that he wished mightily for things to change. It took a while to sort things out, but eventually, he was inside again.

There are also times we take off on our own, determined to strike out on a new adventure, only to realize it was a terrible mistake. And like the Prodigal in the Bible, the door is always open and we are welcomed home. More times than I want to remember, God’s love and acceptance welcomes my rebellious, stubborn heart home where it belongs.

There are times when the best thing we can do is sleep on it. And then, with a few more REM cycles in our pockets, reconsider what we need to do to make things right. That goes for politics, people, and pussycats.

Thanks be to God.

The Labyrinth: 10 bricks in (or “Honey, I bent the trowel!”)

I worked on setting in some of the pavers today. It was a less than productive start.

For one thing, the very first brick I was setting in, I encountered a rock the size of Gibraltar. (OK, I exaggerate!) But it was pretty big.

Stupid rock!
Stupid rock!

To get it out of the way, I dug and chipped away at the clay around it, and ended up bending all of my hand tools.

Oopsie.
Oopsie.

Yeah, that wasn’t so good. But it was clear I wasn’t using the right tool for the job. (You may all say a collective ‘WELL DUH!’ to me…)

So then I regrouped and went and got a larger shovel. It worked pretty well and I made progress until it really started pouring. Time to take a retreat and try again tomorrow. Plus, I needed to buy a new trowel. Nothing like having the RIGHT tool for the RIGHT job!

The good news is, I managed to get ten bricks set in the ground. Only 165+ to go! This labyrinth will be a lesson in persistence, if nothing else. (And hey – if you are so inclined, come on over! I’ll loan you a shovel and a pair of gloves…)

Writing drafts and wanting perfection

A few years ago, someone who was not a writer decided he would “enlighten” me on the writing process. (I’ve read his blogs. Trust me. He is a horrible writer.) He loftily explained to me that good writing required “a series of drafts.”

I sat and listened, trying to keep a look of “WELL DUH” off of my face. A glance at a friend sitting nearby made me realize the guy was past ballsy. He was crazy. I mean, does anyone worth reading produce a shining example of prose or poetry in the first sitting? REALLY?

(I’ll wait while you puzzle that one out…)

The answer of course, is “no.”

My problem is not getting a draft. My problem is that I can’t get PAST a draft. It means that draft posts here on my blog never get published because I can’t tweak them into something I consider presentable. (And yet, I publish a lot of crappy writing on this blog. Yeah. I know. I know.)

But “fear of publishing” is real. It slowed my writing process in college and grad. school. And it definitely kept me from completing NaNoWriMo — until this year when I just let fly and WROTE. (Eh. Well, there are over 50,000 words that are loosely related to a novel. And that’s all I’ll say for the moment!)

This practice of constantly holding myself to a dream of perfection is insidious and poisonous.It disrupts my forward motion. It stops me from trying. I don’t even plan, and I’m someone who LIKES to be organized and work from a plan.

Partly it’s because I have a gazoot-full of unfinished projects, hobbies, crafts, tasks and clutter that fill my house and stop me in my tracks…

[gazoot – gah-ZOOT. n. A quantitative adjective, slightly more than a gaggle but less than a parsec.]

It’s much easier to make excuses.

In the interests of honesty and integrity, these are my current excuses. They are not even GOOD ones. But they have held me back from going for broke.

  • I’ll start running again it’s warmer/colder/less humid/I have someone to run with… (Or, its corollary, I’ll go swim instead of run while it’s cold outside. But it’s too cold to go swim today…)
  • I’ll go back to practicing piano when no one is around…
  • I’ll paint the bedroom after I sort everything…
  • I’ll write that book on my (many times) great-grandma when I’ve read more about the times she lived in…

Your list is probably different than mine (um, unless we are writing about the same great-grandma!) but you probably get stymied too. It’s good to know we are human. For unlike the snotty “published author” I mentioned, most of us struggle.

Completing NaNoWriMo helped me see that there is something to this “just do it” concept. (Sorry Nike. I know you don’t write books. You sell footwear. But I digress.) So I’ve started on my next BIG writing assignment. It’s a paper that may never be published, but it’s one I need to struggle through! As a result of my work as a chaplain, I’m writing  on the work of the Holy Spirit and Chaplaincy: Groanings Too Deep For Words.

That rustling you hear is my stack of research, ready to be re-read and studied. Pressing on!