I’m not ready. The turkey soup is not made yet. I haven’t found time to clean the house and decorate. I come home from work to fix dinner, do my charting and then FLOP. The idea of wrestling down boxes and bins is unappealing, to say the least.
But I’m just not ready to put up the tree and all the lights.
I’m not ready to find the crèches and the stockings for display.
I’m especially not ready for every nasal, scoop-noted pop star butchering carols on store Muzak everywhere. (There oughta be a law…)
I’m not ready. I’m tired. And just a little bit grumpy.
So, Lord, prepare my heart. Make the rough places smooth. Ease the darker moments with filtered-down Light. Send Your Love. Send your Peace. And lift my eyes to see the Joy of Heaven.
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. (Philippians 2:1-2)
It was not thebest weekend.I kinda had a pity party…
On Saturday, the basement drain overflowed. The result? A bunch of stinky, filthy towels. Many, many hours later, we had a clean laundry room floor and a huge stack of clean towels… And a drain that worked, after multiple trips to the hardware store by my beloved Bearded Spouse.
On Sunday, I worshiped at my friend Dee’s church (and enjoyed it!) But it was also World Communion Sunday, and it was difficult, quite honestly, to not be the one presiding at the Table of Grace and Welcome. I had to reflect and wonder… if Iwould be serving in a congregation again…
When I got home, I was feeling “itchy” and needed something to do. The hometown pro football team was losing (again)… I decided I had procrastinated on one task long enough and it was time to suck it up, and git ‘er done! I began to sort and pack away items from my former church office that were piled all over our living room. This included the “creative stuff” of a pastor: special paraments and altar cloths I’d created or collected. Stones and candles. Strings of mini-lights. Liturgies and service planning notes.
I sorted. I cried.I despaired. While I was at it, I cleaned out an old desk and weeded out more books.And as I was sorting, I found these:
One was a book given to me by Dana, one of God’s best ever “balcony people.”I survived and thrived in seminary and my early years of ministry because of Dana’s encouragement. The other one was a “Celebration Journal” given to me on my ordination day, a little more than 10 years ago. I re-readAndrea’s words of dedication. I found entries I had made in the midst of all sorts of challenges. I tucked them into a special place on my desk to reread and use later. I paused to thank God for these two women… their ongoing gifts of encouragement continued to bless me, years later!
And I realized there are so many more encouragers: My husband and daughters. Family. Professors. RevGal friends. Coworkers. Friends. Former parishioners. A wave of thankfulness came over me.
I moved to my next task… I went to clean and pack away my stoles that were not in season. I wondered how long I would be waiting until I would regularly wear them. Then I found this one…
It was given to me in August by my former senior pastor, Jill, and the head ofourchurch council, Regina. Their cards were folded inside. Their words reminded me of the Call on my life, that God has scattered the seeds of the Gospel through me and would continue to do so. They promised to place this stole on me when God next Calls me to a church.When and where God will call me next, I don’t know. But God does.
The lesson came home, sweet and clear:
Not only does God know what’s next in our lives, God brings friends, companions, and encouragers into our lives to help us… persevere. believe. hope. trust. rejoice. and… (dare I say it?) keep the faith as we WAIT. And even more importantly, that I offer MY words of encouragement to them.
I am so grateful for those who have been with me for this journey of service and celebration, and in this journey of change and waiting. And beyond grateful to the God of encouragement who continues to lead…
Yes. That was (past tense) a pair of my shoes. Before one of the cats had an Unfortunate Dietary Upheaval, they were beat up and dirty. And, since I left them in the wrong place, they were suddenly very un-wearable.
Life is like that sometimes. You do your best, and stuff happens.
Sometimes you don’t know the cause. (Neither cat has confessed.)
Sometimes you contributed to the problem. (I do have a shoe rack. I didn’t put them there.)
Sometimes it’s just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was talking with someone recently who was going through a Series of Unfortunate Events (to borrow a little Lemony Snickett!) Lots of “stuff” was raining down on them. It was painful to watch… and it sucked! It was hard to go through it vicariously with them.
Then I came home from Maundy Thursday service and found my shoes. And it occurred to me that sometimes you are the shoes. Sometimes you suffer. Sometimes — because life isn’t fair, dammit, you are on the wrong end of the line that handed out lucky stars.
So you learn to laugh. And cry. And yeah, cuss a little. And you especially learn that while life isn’t fair, you can find ways to cope by leaning on people who know and love you. And they will lean on you…
4 boxes of books
3 bags of recycling
2 bags of shredding
1 (almost) clean office
(Sorry. No partridge or pear tree! But I do have a very friendly cat.)
In their early school years, we would have a “clean out my desk” day with the kids. It seemed like a good time to get back in that habit myself, even though there’s no one living here going back-to-school tomorrow. (We do have teachers in our family, but they are all out-of-state.)
I was also inspired to do some cleaning of my home office because it will have to absorb everything from my office space at church. I really needed to think about books, equipment, supplies and storage reorganization. Some items I had absolutely no problem putting into the discard pile. Some items I couldn’t wait to shred. And some gave me pause as I thought about an event, feeling, or person that they brought to mind.
I was pretty ruthless. Seminary papers? Recycle! Textbooks and manuals that are out-of-date? Recycle! Old OPM paperwork? Shred! Journal articles, old bulletins, church-specific materials? Recycle! Scholastic book about cats? Donate! Folders of schoolwork from our daughters? HA! Give them the stuff and let THEM sort it.
I was making great progress until I came across some painful memories from a previous employer. Years ago, I had written on it “demon folder” as a warning that the contents might be toxic and even traumatic. For some reason, I wasn’t able or ready to let go of those papers. But it seemed right to do it today.
Stopping to regroup, I sat for a while and processed the very real feelings of hurt, of disappointment and disillusionment. It still sucks. And in one of those very opportune moments of the Divine, a song popped up on my playlist:
Because there had been enough distance, it wasn’t as difficult as I feared. Some therapeutic shredding helped, as did a handy box of tissues. I realized how much I’ve grown past that period in my life. God is gracious.
I’m not quite done with my office clean-up, but I’ve made progress. There’s a flat surface to use my laptop, and even a space to spread out papers. The charging station for my hand-held devices is where I can reach it! (Shocker.) I found a quote or two that I’ve tucked under my desk blotter for encouragement.
I guarantee you a week from now, it won’t look this nice! But I won’t miss those shredded papers and forgiven memories.
I cleaned my stove tonight. I cleaned it because I clean it once a week. Yep. Every Wednesday night, it’s stove-cleaning time.
Isn’t it beautiful? I love me a bright, shiny stove!
Now, if you know me at all, you’re laughing, because I tend to clean when I can see a difference between clean and unclean. Or company is coming over. Or there’s been a Plague in the house and I’m banishing germs. Or it was a year ago and the dust bunnies are catching fire.
Truthfully? I cleaned the damn stove because it had been a month or two, and it was disgusting. And I was waiting on a return phone call and was passing the time. Like ya do. Cleaning a stove…
You see, I find that when I need to really reflect on something, I do a repetitive chore. Something that desperately needs to be done, but isn’t taxing on my brain. Weeding. Ironing. Matching socks. I turn off my tunes or the TV and just get busy.
I think about an upcoming sermon series. I pray for people that I know, for my patients, for my family.
That sounds so Holy. So pastor-like. And sometimes I do those things.
But other times, I’m preparing a grocery list. I’m trying to remember if my dentist appointment is this week or next week. (Whew! It’s not until August!) I’m deciding what we might do for fun this weekend, or I’m just bitching aloud to no one in particular.
Sometimes it’s brutal. I’m replaying conversations in my head. I’m improving my arguments for the next time I’m in head-to-head verbal jousting. And I tend to downplay how much I mess things up on a regular basis.
I forget that self-examination and growth takes work, and I sure don’t want to talk about it. I’d rather show the work almost completed (like this photo) rather than own up to just how bad things are.
How bad? Really bad. I don’t have a picture. It was gross.
I haven’t solved a damn thing tonight. I’m in a pissy mood. The phone call never came. The world with its soul-sucking politics is still the same. But I have a clean stove.
P.S. No, I don’t want to do your chores. Don’t even bother asking. Clean your own stove.
Today was a snow day. It was not a “day off” for me — I still had phone calls to make, emails to read and answer, and charting to finish. And then other minutia that I never get around to for work, until I have free time. And I did shovel the driveway and the front walk (and my arms will hurt tomorrow, I’m sure.)
But I had a huge list of things I wanted to do around the house, and none of them got done. Zero. No laundry. No real baking or cooking (a favorite snow day activity). No reading. No writing projects. (There’s a quite a few.) No clean-up in my study, which is a disaster area, after doing the tax prep. UGH.
It reminded me that so much of blogging and social media is about perfection, or lack thereof. A whole crew of comedians make their money by showing typos and embarrassing photos of other people. There’s even a show about “FAILS” which rewards someone who fails the least with $10,000.
So here’s some random photos from my day. And if you feel a little behind-the-curve on life, take heart. We’re all in this together. It’s just that we don’t put it up on Pinterest. Or blog about it. (Oh… wait…)
See? This imperfect human is doing a fine job. OK… adequate. I didn’t burn dinner, and no one was hit by a runaway snow blower! (It was close, though.) I held a cat, watched the snow fall outside my window and even shot a few pictures with my “real” camera! (I’ll upload those eventually.)
My plea to you: Give yourself space. And grace. And tackle a little something tomorrow, once you dig out the car and feed the cat and make coffee and figure out if you have clean clothes for work and… (you get the picture!)