Working hands, busy mind

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!

Um… well…

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.

Back-to-Something-Else

Back to my desk

For the first time in 21 years, neither one of our daughters are going back-to-school. Both are college graduates. Both are making inroads on the job market. Both are strong, lively, caring young women. But there’s no “Back-to-School” this year. It’s now “Back-to-Something-Else”!

From their public school days, I don’t miss the homework assignments that the student does not understand. I don’t miss the “creative” book report assignments. I sure as hell don’t miss the group projects. (And I suspect my daughters would agree!)

There’s plenty of appointments on my calendar. But there’s no dorm room to fill. No sweaty elevators or staircases. No jaunt to buy desk supplies or refills for the printer. No awkward good-byes (and tears by Mom in the car on the way home). 

I gotta tell ya, it feels a little weird. 

Ok, a lot weird. But in a good kind of way. 

Now our years now fall into the natural seasons of Creation. The year doesn’t reboot in September every year. Instead, each new day is a new start. 

I’ve put a new practice back in my life called The Daily Examen. You can use the website or an app (scroll to the bottom for the links). You can write out your own questions for daily reflection. It doesn’t matter how as long as you do it. 

When the house is quiet in the evening, I pause and do a mental reset. I wait. Sometimes I worry. I pray. Sometimes, I rage. But always, I feel re-engaged and ready for sleep. 

So whatever your fall season brings, I invite you to embrace it. With questions. With honest reflection. With integrity. And then with action. 

Back to my roots

 

Old Man’s Cave trail, Hocking Hills, Ohio

 

 A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these, she said, is roots, the other, wings.

Quoted by Hodding Carter in “Where Main Street Meets the River”

We had our annual family reunion last week. It was full of pun-offs, adventures, and close living quarters. We feasted on fresh Carolina peaches, sweet corn and brick oven pizza.

A bodaciously awesome pizza, if I do say so myself!

I realized as I listened to the laughter and conversation swirling around the dinner table that our stories are entwined in so many ways. We share history as well as DNA. We share losses and joys. We fight to the death to keep the essential, clarifying, and off-debated Oxford comma. (See what I did there?)

We shared peaceful views at sunset. Hiking at childhood haunts. Competitive card games. And hugs. Lots of hugs.

Sunset at poolside.

The genealogists in the family (my mom being the most experienced) will share interesting bits of family trivia. Through years of research, Mom, (as well as my Dad and maternal grandmother) have uncovered when a specific ancestor emigrated to the US, what wars  they fought in, how they worshipped, and where they homesteaded. The ancestral “fan chart” is impressive with the names and dates going back to ten generations!

IMG_3327
Ancestral Fan-Chart created by my grandmother, Lura Morrow Hickox

For my daughters, I wish for them this same sense of rootedness and belonging. A place to be accepted and encircled with love. A reminder that they are loved and prayed for daily. A retreat from the world when its suckiness seems to out-weigh the promises of the future. A secure take-off. A safe landing zone. And enough love in their buckets to spill out into the world around them.

Our progeny: The Johnnie and The Gardener

It’s something I wish for all…  Not a wall. Not belligerence and hate. Not ridicule and judgmental scorn.

It’s really quite simple:

Roots. Belonging. Acceptance. Love.

The true mark of someone who loves God is one that demonstrates their rootedness in the Divine. And the fruit that grows from it.

Jesus said:

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Matthew 7:16-20 (NLT)

Baby Goats and Sunshine

kid
Cute kid! (Photo credit RevDebVaughn)

Friday afternoon I snuggled a kid. She nuzzled into my arms and contentedly looked at the world around her.

I didn’t know goats would cuddle! I thought of them more as the Tigger-y type, bouncing and jumping around. And they do. But they also snuggle.

Her owner-shepherd had hoped to bring the kid inside to see his mother, who is a resident at the facility where I was seeing patients that afternoon. Unfortunately, she was not a “therapy goat” and so she and her owner hung out in the parking lot.

There was a parade of people who came to pet the kid. The little goat must have wondered what all the fuss was about as she looked at all these smiling humans… Ears wagged. The occasional bleat. And then she contentedly snuggled and snoozed in the midst of the hubbub.

I drove home thinking about my day… It was warm, sunny and breezy. It’s spring. The season of new life, new growth. (And allergies!) Yesterday’s brown branches show new buds today. Flowers that I didn’t see budding have popped open in all their glory. Overnight, I see the differences in my yard. It’s invigorating!

It’s easy to see change as the seasons flip from winter to spring. But in the every day moments where my calendar is full of routines and phone calls and errands and charting… I don’t see growth. I forget what things were like just a few weeks ago. I doubt that things will EVER be different.

There’s a parallel here between the changes we notice in nature, and the ones within us. Changes from the work of God’s Spirit in us. Changes from within our hearts where our attitudes, our dreams, our words are transformed. Much of the time, the work of the Spirit is slow, gentle and inviting. And other times, like the blast of an icy wind gust, we are dramatically and utterly different.

And in those in between times, when we’re not sure what’ showing on, or what crazy change is coming up next? It think that it’s not a bad idea to snuggle a goat… 

 

Friday Five: Push or Pull?

The traffic crawled for over a mile this afternoon and this was most of what I could see:

DO NOT PUSH (if you know what's good for you.)
DO NOT PUSH (if you know what’s good for you.)

It was the inspiration for this week’s Friday Five (which I’m hosting this week over at RevGals). Play along if you’d like!

I am fortunate to have some great encouragers in my life. The ones who know me the best are great at knowing when to challenge me, and when to just chill and let me figure it out myself. SO… think about the encouragers and challenges in YOUR life and tell us…

  1. After achieving a goal, do you set the bar higher, or rest on your laurels? I am someone who pushes herself, always going for that next goal.
  2. Which is better: a kick in the pants or a hug and a cuppa? If I’m struggling, I need “a hug and a cuppa.” I am far too self-critical and have (probably) already kicked myself around the block.
  3. What’s your baseline motivation? Fear? Competition? Not getting caught? 😉 Being seen as lazy. I’ll push past my limits to try and do it better. One of the things I’ve had to learn along the way is to let “good enough” be OK sometimes.
  4. When you’re facing a big challenge, do you need to talk it out, or puzzle it out yourself? It’s kind of a combination. I want to talk about it, but not so that you give me the answers.
  5. Who is in your corner – always? Who helps you achieve more than you imagined you could? (You don’t have to give names) Family. Friends who have gone the distance. Some pretty amazing co-workers. And RevGals that I’ve never met IRL but always have a word of encouragement when I’m feeling defeated.

BONUS: A picture, piece of art or music that expresses your experience of the push/pull process.

I found this in my photo files. It speaks to me of this process of making headway and then falling back into old habits or struggles. I also like the image of being in the process with someone — human or Divine.

Abandoned swingset. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn
Abandoned swingset. Photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Safety Recall: Hurry Up and Wait

The other day I went for my “free” recall repair of a defective airbag assembly in my trusty Honda Pilot. The repair came with a “free” loaner car. What wasn’t so free was the time I spent waiting… For the rental car company to pick me up. For the rental car car company to have a car for me to rent. For the rental car company to get the car I was going to use cleaned.

I had some morning appointments… that had to be moved. Philosophically, I tried to see it as a chance to relax and play a mindless round of games on my phone. I tried to look polite (and not as annoyed as I felt) when I got the next update that started with, “well, it’s going to be a little longer because…”

There are times like these “hurry up and wait” moments where one’s patience is tested and one’s upbringing to be courteous and kind is challenged. And then… I thought of the times that I had kept someone waiting. More times than I would care to admit, actually! Sometimes it was because I planned poorly and didn’t take into account the traffic I might face. Sometimes it was because an errand or a phone call chewed up more time than I planned. And sometimes… it was a lovely intersection of bad luck and someone else’s poor planning.

Ugh. Not a fan of waiting. Not at all!!!

Hurry up and wait…

My friends in the military use that phrase to describe the time they spend in formation, waiting for a dignitary (or officer of the day) to show up. It seems pointless. It appears arbitrary. It’s also a good way to describe the way I have grumbled against God not being on my timeframe for an answer to prayer.

In the end, the car had to stay in the shop another day because they ran out of parts. And yes, I got to drive a zippy little sports car (for free — almost — I did have to buy gas!) as I blasted XM radio rock stations. The chaplain rocked her caseload that day. Not a bad result from all that waiting.

OH… wait a minute… I get it…

Amen.