Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Things that make you go hmmm…

I have a dear friend who makes “10 Things…” lists. I always enjoy reading them. Here’s one from the last few weeks of my life.

  1. Sometimes you get an invitation to a new adventure, which only serves to help you know you prefer this current adventure.
  2. Sometimes it takes a serious fall that could have been serious-er to help you know how much you really like being alive. And “there’s a million things I haven’t done. Just you wait. Just you wait.”
  3. Sometimes it takes a severe allergic reaction affecting your arms, legs, and neck to help you have a dose of real empathy for those who have uncomfortable and embarrassing skin conditions all the time. Seriously, Friends, some of your friends/family/clients/students/teachers with psoriasis and eczema and such are wearing long sleeves in the heart of the summer because they feel like lepers. I have found myself wanting to wear a shirt at the grocery store that reads: It’s an allergic reaction. It’s not contagious. It even affected my work, as I had planned to visit some homebound folk today, but didn’t want them to worry – since many of them have compromised health and cannot afford any type of exposure to illness. I will simply go in a few days when my rash has cleared up, but those with chronic skin conditions regularly have to offer explanations and wear those sleeves as best they can.
  4. Sometimes you agree to be the chaplain at Music Week at a summer camp of hundreds of musical children and adults, and it helps you remember how sacred are rhythm, melody, harmony, and silence – and that you worship a creative, endlessly interesting God.
  5. Sometimes you agree to be the chaplain at Music Week, and it bubbles to the surface one of the embarrassing and difficult conflicts within our congregations:
    1. we want the finest of musicians serving in our midst
    2. some of the finest musicians are gay

    This means in our holy community, we have people offering their exquisite gifts to and for us in the name of Jesus. It means that very often, when we sing our favorite hymn, and our spirits are lifted to and through the thin spaces between earth and heaven, the fingers, brain, feet, voice, and creativity that offer us that moment are possessed by a gay person. So, Christ’s Church has a choice: accept the giver and the gift in the same breath of gratitude, or tell Jesus we do not like the way he gives us his gifts. We do not get to have it both ways. We cannot say, “Thank you for the music. It has restored my soul. The musician, however, is broken.”

  6. Sometimes you rack up plenty enough emergency room, urgent care, and bloodwork bills to reach your out-of-pocket limit for the year, so you start thinking of all the things you have ignored or not got tested when advised to do so. And you feel every minute of your 48 years…and you are not sure you want to know what all those tests reveal. But, in the very next breath – maybe before the first breath is complete – you are just so grateful for health insurance and an HRA account and a job that tosses money in that account just for taking health assessments online. So, you dial the phone and make the first long-neglected appointment.
  7. Sometimes you watch your daughter just start adulting, and when you get really quiet and totally honest, you admit that you are not nervous about her moving out next month. She’s doing great. She’ll do great. She’s stronger than you will ever be, and you pray that her strength doesn’t have to be tested quite so brightly as yours has. When you imagine her as an elementary school teacher, you feel such relief that there will be a couple dozen kids every year who get her light, strength, creativity, artistry, and intellect. They are luckier.
  8. Sometimes you look at the calendar and you see it’s only 88 days until your son stands at the foot of a cross, holding his Love’s hands, promising to participate wholly in a holy relationship until death. He’s already got one year under his belt of teaching high school special ed math in the heart of Balitmore. (When you told someone about him and his job, the person said, “There are givers and takers: he’s a giver.”) He’s more than you expected in so many ways. His creativity and kindness match his spooky-smart-intellect, and his hunger for justice drives him.
  9. Sometimes you confess to your financial planner that you know loads of other adults manage all their bills and savings and such like champs. They make budgets and stick to them. They don’t always underestimate how much money or time things will take. Some of them even just keep lots of details in their heads, like which bills come quarterly, and what the password to that account you only access when it’s tax season in order to download/upload some documents for your tax preparer. You know people do that (and you are pretty sure he’s nodding because he is one of those people…which is a great trait for a financial planner, after all), but you confess that it is difficult for you, so you have lists and calendars. And when the computer with that information froze and crashed one day many months ago, it completely derailed the quazi-system you had going. Sometimes you share all that mess with your finance guy, and you are getting kind of teary with all that vulnerability…and he offers some really helpful help. And it feels like you are talking to God-in-Skin, helping the helpless.
  10. Sometimes your Mom watches your life with a tumble down the stairs, concussion, and scalp-staples, followed closely by a freak allergic reaction, all wound up in two weeks at camp: a week with your middle schoolers and a week with the musicians. She asks which day this week she can come and help you catch up on laundry and cleaning bathrooms and such. She asks this because she knows you. She knows how you get behind in things. And how it makes you feel ashamed – because, ya know, lots of adults just manage all those things. So, when she calls to ask when she can come, you don’t say, “Oh, no. You don’t have to do that. I’ll get it done.” You say, “Is Friday good?” And you look to heaven and whisper, “Thanks.”
Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Frightened and Grateful

Sunday evening, I came home, tossed my keys in the bowl, put my purse in my purse-place, had my phone in one hand and a drink in the other as I went downstairs to let the dogs out. After taking 2 stairs, I tripped/slipped somehow and tumbled the rest of the way down 4 or 5 stairs to the tile floor, where I proceeded to split my scalp open.

I knew right away that I had hurt myself quite badly, so I dialed 911.

Actually, I dialed the 9, but I couldn’t remember the rest of it. I thought, “It’s like the terrorist attack in New York with the planes and the buildings.” And somewhere from a quiet corner of my frightened and panicking brain, I found this phrase: nine-eleven. So, I dialed two ones and hit the phone icon to connect me with some help.

Matt answered.

I didn’t know his name was Matt at first. First, we established that I was, indeed, hurt and needed help right away. As I spoke with him, I got a towel from the linen closet and held it to the back of my head to try to stop the bleeding. I told him I was starting to feel pretty woozy. He calmly asked me to go unlock the front door, then lie down if I thought I might pass out…so the emergency team could get to me, and I wouldn’t fall again.

I told him I thought maybe I’d go wait for my heroes out in a chair on the front porch and just hold this towel to my head. That way, if I did pass out, they would find me right away. He asked if I would like him to stay on the phone until they arrived. I told him that would be really helpful, and I asked his name. He said, “Miss Jennifer, my name is Matt.” I said, “Hi Matt. I’m glad to meet you, and I’m really grateful for your help.” He said, “I’m glad to meet you, too, and we are going to get you the help you need.” Sitting there, bleeding profusely, feeling not at all sure I would stay conscious, I felt safe with Matt’s reassurance. This is the work of the gospel, to sit with those who are suffering, offering them hope. Matt preached a quiet, calm, and gentle sermon from his seat in some Guilford County Emergency Dispatch office somewhere miles away from my front porch. I told him how concerned I was about getting a hold of my daughter who was at work. He asked for her number and dialed it. He connected me to it, so I could talk with her, but she didn’t answer while she was still on her shift. I told him I’d try to text her, but my vision was pretty blurry to be able to see to text.

Then I heard the music of sirens. I told Matt, “I hear them!” And he said, “I’ll stay with you until they are standing in front of you.”

I said, “They are turning onto my street!” I was flooded with relief that they would find me while I was still conscious.

Five or six people hopped out of that fire engine and ambulance. Each one had a job. I was pretty distracted by the man with the blood pressure cuff and finger monitor, not to mention the man who was taking the towel off my head, but the man standing in front of me wanted my attention. He was so kind and kept asking me to look at him and answer his questions. He was wondering if I knew what time it was, had I lost consciousness? I answered his questions, and he discerned that I had not. He said I had done a great job of putting pressure on my wound, but I had a goose egg on the back of my head about the size of his fist. He made the decision that I would go to the hospital – and likely get some stitches.

And here’s the part that makes me cry when I remember it: It was 10:20, and my angel daughter would be home from work by about 10:40. My house looked like a crime scene, and I could not have her walk in there and find all that blood and me gone. I just kept saying over and over that I had to get a hold of my daughter. By then, I had a massive bandage wrapped all the way around my head, so my glasses didn’t fit on my face. An EMT held them to my face, so I could peck out a text to my girl telling her that I promised I was okay, that there was a lot of blood, but I was okay. That I would be at the hospital getting some stitches.

The man who had been interviewing me earlier asked if he could go in my house and get my keys and purse, then lock it up. He asked if my dogs were okay. I said they were and that my daughter would be home shortly to tend to them. He brought me my purse and keys, told me how beautiful my dogs are, and made sure my house was locked.

The only other time I have ever ridden in an ambulance was when I was 20 years old, dating an EMT, and he drove me home from work in it one day. I’m quite sure he was not supposed to do that, though.

This time was very different. Riding backward in any car at any time ever would make me carsick. So, riding backward after having sustained a head injury…well, it was not a great trip to the hospital, but we made it there quickly.

Maybe someday I’ll want to write about my experience in the hospital. It was horrible and beautiful, with many small sermons preached to me by the quick and assured decisions and actions of kind and capable nurses and orderlies and technicians and such. And one sustained sermon preached by my faithful daughter who sat by my side and has more strength than I will ever be able to muster. But, tonight, it’s important to me to write down what it felt like to be rescued. I have been rescued (by my parents) from lousy circumstances, but I don’t ever remember needing literally to be rescued by medical personnel.

Something has shifted within me.

Language is not liquid enough to move in and through all the ways I am grateful. As a matter of fact, in order to write them down, I have to acknowledge what could have been had I not been so lucky. And I’m not ready to go there, yet.

For now, I have deep oceans of gratitude for Matt and his team of superheroes and my daughter…none of whom were wearing capes.

Posted in Whole 30

Ridiculous and Authentic

All my adult life, I have read articles about health, weight loss, exercise, changing your habits, and whatever else might apply to my health. Loads of those articles are written by people who have made significant changes in their lives, and nearly all of them started out pretty sure they would never be able to change.

They say ridiculous things like: “I just have a slice of sweet watermelon if I’m craving a piece of cake,” and “If I am craving something crunchy, instead of chips, I just eat a handful of baby carrots!”

Oh, I think when I was younger, I thought maybe those things would work. But, then I bought a bag of baby carrots…and they were nothing like chips. Not for one second or in any way at all were they like chips. They tasted like water…and left my fingers wet. You know what chips do? They taste like salt and fat…and they leave my fingers orange (because the two best chips ever are Doritos and Cheetos). Those carrots were pretty good dipped in ranch, but then I learned that for all the calories I was spending on ranch, I could just eat the chips!

I have also read this sentence just shy of one million times: “When I stopped eating refined sugar, my taste buds adjusted, and fruit was decadently sweet enough to satisfy my sugar cravings; I don’t even crave my evening bowl of ice cream anymore.”

While I believed them that drastically reducing their sugar intake would give their taste buds a break from the ever-present sweetness of sodas and candy and other sugary things – and make less sweet things taste sweeter, I just didn’t believe that they were being authentic about not craving ice cream. Rather, I thought they were being disciplined.

Well, here are the ridiculous and authentic things I have uttered this week, causing my daughter, Sage, to call me out as “one of those people who say those things.”

  • Upon receiving the apple juice box that came with my hamburger happy meal, I said with delight, “Oh! This is going to be like drinking a soda!” When nearly all you drink is water (and unsweetened tea), apple juice is super sweet. It’s true. My taste buds will tell you it’s true. I’ll try not to tell you, though…unless you have clicked on this blog, then I’ll tell you because we are talking about this Whole 30 journey. But, if I’m at a fast food joint with you, I will not tell you that apple juice is just as good as soda. I promise.
  • While I was doing paperwork and munching on pistachios, I said, “Geez. These are so good. These salt and pepper ones are like eating chips!” To which Sage said, “Liar.” And through my laughter, I said, “No really! You have to taste the salt and pepper ones!” And she said, “Mom. I believe you that they are good. I do not believe you that it’s like you are eating potato chips.” You, Gentle Reader, don’t have to believe me about how perfectly satisfying these particular pistachios are. Drive yourself to Costco and pick up a bag. The bag is huge – which is good because you will eat a lot of them. And you might think they are as good as chips!
  • This afternoon, I stood at the kitchen counter, eating cherries and spitting the seeds into the compost bowl, and thought, “These are so delicious! They are sweet and perfect…and more addicting than candy.” I was only talking to myself. I was not being silly or even having a conversation with Sage. It was an authentic thought: these cherries are better than candy.

So, here’s the thing. Until you experience some things, they are only talk. Until you own them yourself, they lie beyond what you can imagine is true. That’s why it was so annoying to me when people said or wrote things like this.

Before I did Whole 30 – and the subsequent weeks of experimentation – I was absolutely sure I would be unable to quit sugar. (I’m not quitting sugar altogether, but that’s another conversation.) I couldn’t really even picture it. The first thing I did every morning was make a big mug of tea with a huge scoop of sweetened condensed milk in it. The first thing I did was give my tongue some (a lot of) sugar. And I did not stop refueling my sugar tank until I went to bed. So, hearing someone say that natural things like fruit can meet our physical need for sweet things…I guess it made me feel weak, like I was broken somehow, with no control over my sugar consumption.

So, I made lots of jokes about it.

But, in my gut I knew those jokes were stand-ins for courage.

And THAT’S what I think Whole 30 takes. Courage.

What if those people who annoyed me with their watermelon-instead-of-cake talk were actually bearing witness to something I needed to hear? What if even while I was rolling my eyes at them, my ears were hearing some things 48 and I would need down the road? What if those people I secretly (or not so secretly) judged as ridiculous were just being authentic in ways that would bring me courage someday down the line?

So, maybe the question is: How does one find the balance between being that preachy person who just sounds like she is bragging…and bearing witness to a new truth you didn’t know you had the courage to learn?

Posted in Whole 30

Bouncing Around – Post Whole 30

It’s about a month since I finished Whole 30.

I continue to learn a lot about my body, since I decided that my reintroduction process would be lengthy. Roughly, it has looked like this:

5 days of Whole 30 + Dairy: I didn’t have any health troubles with dairy. It didn’t affect my sleep, my arthritis, nor did I have any of those lactose intolerance symptoms people often report.

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Grains: My sleep and arthritis seemed to be fine, and I didn’t have any of the gluten intolerance symptoms.

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Sugar: BAM! Had one sleepless night and some swelling in my hands. Also discovered that I have very little power to be consume sugar in moderation.

Give me a little…I’ll take more, please. I paid close attention to how I use sugar. My habit has been to use a heaping teaspoon of sugar in my large cup of tea. And not having used sugar in my tea for 40 days, it was striking to me when I scooped up all that sugar on my spoon. It occurred to me that I have no idea how much sugar that is, so I measured it. And it’s easily 2 teaspoons, but nearly a tablespoon. Huh. Learning, learning, always learning.

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Nothin’: Just back on the Whole 30 program to reset before I did some more experimentation. In those 15 days of dairy, grains, and sugar, I gained back nearly all the weight I had lost. That was super disheartening, but it was a great lesson. There is no way that I ate thousands and thousands of extra calories that would add up to 7 pounds of gained weight. But, it’s entirely possible probable that those foods caused inflammation and water retention which accounted for most of the weight gain. This was proven when I lost all the weight again during 5 days of pure Whole 30. The only way I lost all that weight was if it was water and inflammation.

 

…then…

5 days of Whole 30 + Sugar 2.0: Tried sugar again (without dairy or grains, so no ice cream or cookies – just hard candies and sugar in my tea and sugar added to the fruit sorbet I made…sigh…and some soda). My sleep was affected, and my hands hurt. It also seemed I had more headaches, but I didn’t really keep notes on that, so I’m not sure.

So, my understanding is that our bodies process carbs (grains) into sugars, also. Therefore, having pinpointed regular sugar as an inflammation trigger, I’m wondering about grains. So, I’m now in the middle of…

5 days of Whole 30 + Grains 2.0: So far, I’ve had some sushi which has rice in it and croutons on my otherwise Whole 30 salad. I think I’ll have a sandwich for dinner with the whole wheat bread I bought. I’m trying hard to only add grains, not sugar…so nearly all cereals are out, and I don’t like oatmeal without some brown sugar in it, so that doesn’t really work. I’m trying to find a nutritional pattern that I can actually enjoy. And I won’t enjoy oatmeal without sugar…at least not now, but my tastes are changing.

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

…for a stranger

Two years ago, I was lying with my neck resting in the crook of a shampoo bowl, and the stylist was noting how quickly my hair grows. We had just cut it short 5 weeks ago, and it was already in need of getting shaped back up. It hit me then that I get my hair cut off an inch or less at a time – many times a year. What if I didn’t? What if I just didn’t go in for a haircut for…a while? How long would this stuff get? And how long would it take?

I guess I knew right then that I would be growing it out to give it away. It just struck me as the most absurd thing that I have quick growing, thick hair I keep throwing away a little bit at a time, and there are others who have lost their hair who long for what I have. (I feel the same way about giving blood. My body just makes the stuff. It doesn’t cost me anything to make it. And other people need it, so sharing it makes simple sense.)

Growing out a short haircut with loads of layers wasn’t really fun, but once it got to be chin length, I went in and had it shaped nicely with some long layers that I could let grow out. I had a trim every 3 or 4 months to remove dead ends and shape it up a bit – always telling the stylist about my plan, so she would honor my desire to keep as much length as we could while still keeping it healthy.

My daughter has long, thick, strong hair, so I asked her about caring for it. She told me how to keep it healthy, and I stayed away from using heat on it most of the time, didn’t wash it every day, used a good conditioner, got hair ties that didn’t pull or damage.

And the most interesting feeling grew: I was a hair surrogate!

Now, I considered being a surrogate mother when I was younger. I loved pregnancy and delivery. My body did it well, recovered well from it, too. So, I really did consider it. That’s not how life worked out, though. I just never want anyone who reads this to think that I can for one minute equate growing my hair with growing a baby. Conceiving and growing a human with all the physical and emotional ramifications of that AND the process of handing that child to his/her parents? Absolutely no comparison to not getting a haircut.

Except in one way: I knew the whole time I was doing it for someone else.

  • When I was sick of it and wanted to cut it last summer, I thought about the child who would get the wig made of my hair. If I gave up, would she have to wait just a little longer?
  • When I felt like coloring it just for the fun of it, I remembered that Wigs for Kids only takes undyed hair.
  • When I thought about cutting it…and just starting again another year, I remembered that the rules require that only 25% of the hairs can be gray. I meet that standard right now, but likely not in the coming years.
  • When I wanted to straighten it, I considered the split ends and damage I was doing – and knew it might render my hair unusable if they have to trim off too much when they get it.
  • When I kind of liked the length, but really wanted some layers in it so styling would be more fun…you get the idea.

Another feeling grew, too. As I researched the various programs for giving your hair away, I learned a lot about the process. How the hair is boiled and bleached and prepped in lots of different ways, how it takes about 6 donations to make one wig, how Wigs for Kids puts the wig on the child and lets her get a haircut in the style she wants.

So, that meant my donation was reliant on 5 other people going through with the years of growing, caring, waiting…and then cutting and donating. I started wondering who they were. I wondered if they were tired of long hair, too. Or did they LOVE having it long, but chose to donate it because it was just the right thing to do. Were they planning it all along, like I was? Or were they like my friend, “Ginger of Luxurious, Strong, Straight Hair” who was at a huge gathering of Lutheran Youth in Detroit and plunked herself in the chair at the Donate Your Hair booth?

I felt connected to those 5 strangers as I grew my hair. And today,

as I walked in to Great Clips (that’s the company that donates to Wigs for Kids – and also, I am not a big spender on haircuts that I need ALL THE TIME), I wondered about my 5 hair-donation-siblings. Had they already sent in their donation? Was I the first of the 6 of us?

 

We put my hair in 5 twelve-inch ponytails, to keep as much length as possible for the donation. (Gathering it all into one ponytail would mean losing the length around my face for the donation and keeping hair I didn’t need for my new style.)

Then, she snipped each one off!

061117_2343_Surrogacy2.jpg

And…that’s the only time I will donate my hair.

 

But, I’m glad I did it.

 

Posted in Whole 30

Seriously?! Gout?!

I self-diagnosed myself today.

I have gout.

Apparently, gout is a kind of arthritis, but it is gnarly. People who consume too much uric acid or have bodies which don’t process uric acid well – we get gout. We also get kidney stones, which is awesome. I know that because my dad is great at making kidney stones, so it is not a surprise that we are uric acid twinsies. Anyway, gout’s main symptom is deep and sometimes out-of-nowhere pain. Its usual home is in the joint where the big toe meets the foot, but it is generous with its pain and allows it to radiate throughout the foot – and even up the legs.

I have not seen a doctor about this because my old doctor was a not nice guy, so I requested a new doctor…and she can see me mid-July. (sigh) So, it’s up to Dr. Jennifer to diagnose herself. Today, out-of-nowhere, I was plastered to the sofa, unable to talk or listen because of a shooting pain in my big toe joint. I did not bump it or even bend it prior to the pain.

Knowing what I now know about how food affects my arthritis (and sleep!), I googled “foods to avoid if you have gout” and discovered that sugar, caffeine, fried foods, beef, alcohol, refined carbs, processed food, and a few others are on the “avoid this” list for gout. Well, that’s pretty much Whole 30, now isn’t it?!

I have been adding in dairy (no problem), grains (no problem), and now sugar (uh, problem). I have had sugar in my diet for two days, and I am not good at moderation. I allowed myself a soda, and now there are four empty cans by the sink, headed to the recycle bin! Imagine what my body is doing right now – trying to process all this refined sugar after 40 days without any!

So, it’s back to Whole 30 for me tomorrow. I shopped, chopped, cleaned, cooked, portioned, and prepared my way through this evening, so I can go back to work tomorrow ready for Whole 30 eating again. Egg cups with broccoli, onion, and Whole 30 compliant sausage for the morning, and lots of veggies chopped and ready to eat all day.

I’m actually looking forward to it. My stomach has been distended and uncomfortable since I started eating sugar a couple days ago. I’m ready to drink gallons of water and unsweetened (decaffeinated) tea to keep hydrated and flush my system.

Here’s the empowering part:

I know that I can do Whole 30. I’ve done really well on it. This time around, I can simply say, “Yah, I better give up sugar altogether since I seem to have no control over it, and it’s likely causing gout flare ups.” That’s a very new power of mine. Just 6 weeks ago, I was sure I couldn’t possibly make it through Whole 30. I was wrong. Boom. Capable Woman reporting for duty, ready to manage my health.

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Worship

Whenever I’m on vacation, I get to choose where to worship on Sunday morning. Sometimes, if I’m in town I worship in a nearby town at a church where a friend of mine is the pastor. Sometimes, I worship here in High Point at the Episcopal or United Methodist congregations near me. Last night, I wondered if I might drive the 75 minutes to worship with my parents.

But, this morning I woke up and sneezed my fool head off! Not sure if it was allergies or a cold, I decided not to bring a potential cold to a local congregation. And I’ve heard people tell me many, many times that they don’t go to church because they find God in nature, or they don’t like to be around lots of people, or…they watch a preacher on TV. Well, I don’t have regular television, but I do have the internet, so I decided to try worshiping at home today.

Now, my task list for today (besides worship) was to install a fence, plant 6 shrubs, and transplant a bunch of potted plants.

So, before the sun got too hot, I went out and started working on the fence. The work is always slow for me because I’m not adept at this kind of work. Inevitably, I forget I need (or can’t find) a tool. I spend a LOT of time measuring things many times, so I don’t screw something up. And…now that Roxy and Eleanor live here, it’s like working with a toddler under my feet!

As I set up my work, I thought about how in worship, we begin with confession and forgiveness. So, as I made my way around my shed just loaded with things that I use only occasionally, I confessed that I spend money on things I don’t really need, that my comfort and convenience get my money far more readily than a stranger with a hungry tummy or a sick child who needs medicine or a single mom who can’t pay her bills. And as I measured out where the fence posts would be and drove stakes into the ground, carving into the earth, digging up grass that had grown there, I confessed that my use of fossil fuels in my car and in the truck that delivers my Amazon Prime items means I am complicit in the call for more resources. And if those who are building dangerous and leaking pipelines (like the Dakota Access Pipeline) which threaten our water supply didn’t have customers like me, they wouldn’t be carving into the earth in dangerous ways. And as I knelt in the sun, my muscles already feeling weak with only a few minutes of work behind them, I confessed that I do not care for my body as I should. I do not move it and keep it strong, even when I know it is important and faithful.

Since I am the one who pronounces God’s forgiveness after our confession on a Sunday morning, I stood up and looked around my yard, thinking about declaring myself forgiven. Then a breeze picked up, blowing my hair across my face, and I knew just what to do. I walked over to the stone birdbath which rests on an old stump. It was shimmeringly full today because of the powerful rainstorm that blew through here last night. Reaching out my hand, I saw the dirt under my fingernails as I dipped my God-made fingers into that God-made water and smeared a barely muddy cross on my God-made forehead. And in that moment, I remembered that God didn’t make the cross; we did. God showed up to love us, and we fashioned him a cross for making us admit we weren’t loving each other well. And God did not punish us for such a savage thing. God forgave us. Because God is in the business of forgiving and never grows weary of forgiving me. This, I believe.

Because I am not physically strong, and because I get over-heated oddly easily, I committed myself to taking frequent breaks to come inside, cool off (lying on my tile floor is fantastic for that), drink lots of water, and remember to eat well.

On my first break, I decided to find a sermon. So, I scrolled through Facebook to find a friend’s church with a link to their service. I watched Facebook Live from Pilgrim Lutheran in Lexington, SC. And what do you know, the pastor said that we need the church, that Jesus prayed we would all be one…together. Even though it is inconvenient and frustrating and not always efficient – we need each other in order to be Christ’s church. On the day I decided to do church alone, the sermon I randomly chose to hear reminded me that I need the church, and the church needs me.

I spent the rest of the day in and out of the sun, working hard, resting, petting my dogs, telling my dogs to move out of the way, accomplishing an important task, and remembering that I’m a capable woman. The fence posts are in, and the fencing will go up tomorrow. I didn’t plant the shrubs because I called my dad for some advice, and the suggestion he made means waiting to plant the shrubs until we do some other work in that area.

I sang a little – because we always sing in worship.

I ate fresh strawberries and blueberries from my garden, and while it was not Holy Communion of bread and wine with my sisters and brothers in Christ, it absolutely was a provision from God growing right there in my backyard.

So, I had church on my own today. It was fine. But in 7 days, I get to worship with my beautiful congregation – and that’s better.

Scroll down if you want to see my very helpful dogs being very helpful.

First, I gathered my tools in my very professional construction bucket, and my assistant made sure everything smelled right.


 

…and tasted right.

 

 

Eleanor stood very, very close because it is helpful to have others very, very close when using a hammer.

 

 

Meanwhile, Roxy came over to laugh about how muddy her nose was.
Both girls kept me company while I worked by being very, very close. After all, nothing is more helpful than closeness while using tools.
I’m helping, Mom.  See how close I am? That’s how you know I’m helping.
Posted in God's Love

Promises

Sometimes, God gives you people you really need…in ways you didn’t really know you needed them.

In seminary, I had a classmate named David. He lived on campus with his wife, Karen, and I lived a couple of towns over with my husband and kids. My being a commuter student meant I didn’t always get to know people all that well outside of the classroom. While they were having cook-outs and studying together, I was driving home to my family. So, I knew David in the classroom. He was smart and good at computer-y things when I had questions. He was also not from the South, so we had a kinship in that. His wife, Karen, was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of our seminary journey. She died during the first year or so of David’s first call as a pastor of a congregation. I think that was about 4 years ago. David was maybe 50ish when he became a widower. My heart broke for him, and as Spirit would have it, we were in a group of brand new pastors who met monthly for support and fellowship.

When I was called to be the pastor of the good people of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, (as Spirit would have it) a small group of female pastors (who had been pastors for 20 years or more) in my area gathered me under their experienced wings. We met for lunch once a month for support and fellowship. Judy was one of those pastors. I liked her right away because her smile, humor, and kindness are captivating. Over the months of getting to know each other, we found we had both been divorced when our kids were young – and our sons were attending the same university! We have a lot in common and have become dear friends.

Spirit drew David toward and into my life.

Spirit drew Judy toward and into my life.

Two years ago, I became a widow at the age of 45. David and I were suddenly in the same club: Pastors Who Are Too Young to Be Widows/Widowers. It meant we could nod and make eye contact with each other when we heard someone ask the other of us an awkward question or try to offer comfort. It meant we both knew that when we entered a room at a pastors’ conference for our region, those who didn’t know us personally knew of our losses because our names had been in the newsletter and on prayer lists. We knew what it felt like to have well-meaning people shake our right hand and put their left hand on our shoulder, make meaningful eye contact and ask, “How are you?” And we both new that the weight of the hand on our shoulder and the answer we really wanted to give to this virtual stranger were far too heavy.

Since my second husband died, Judy and I have shared many long conversations about singlehood, single parenting of adult children, and single-female-pastorhood. She has shared that she longed for a life-partner again. I have shared that I simply have no such longing at this point.

David and I have had the same conversations. As Spirit would have it, they met, fell in love, and…

…yesterday, Spirit drew me to Ebenezer Lutheran Church to bear Christian witness at the wedding of David and Judy.

I am so happy for them. And I wondered how it would feel to be at their wedding – my single-mom friend and my widower friend both filling spaces in their hearts and lives, spaces that we have in common. I wondered how it would be to hear them promise forever to each other. Would it sting a little? Would it make me wonder if I might find such love?

The ceremony was beautiful! A trumpet and organ filled the old, stone building as the bridal party walked down the aisle and took their places. Their astonishingly talented friends sang beautiful solos, scripture was proclaimed, a fine sermon was preached, and then it was time for the Rite of Christian Marriage. Our bishop asked David and Judy if they intended to live within a covenant, a holy promise. Do they intend to go through life together, regardless of what life has in store? And I remembered how very hard that can be.

And then came the vows.

I got stuck on these words: I will share my life with you, through the best and worst that is to come.

I can’t do that. I cannot spend that kind of energy. I can’t make that kind of promise.

I confess that when the bishop prayed the next prayer, I was flipping back to the first page of the worship booklet. I knew I had heard the bishop say something about marriage that I needed to read again. And there it was:

Marriage is a call from God.

When we try to do things we are not called to do, that for which we do not have the gifts, things don’t go so well.

If God calls me to marriage again, first God will equip me with the stores of energy, forgiveness, humility, and patience marriage requires. And, certainly, while equipping me with such gifts, Spirit will continue to help me heal from the unhealthy ways I have learned to protect myself. God is in the business of helping me unlearn unhelpful things. This, I believe.

And in just the way that I am not called to be a doctor or politician or work in retail, I may very well not be called to be married. God has called me to holy and marvelous things in this chapter of my life. This, I believe.

Posted in Whole 30

Grain Week Post #2 – Whole 30

A SAMMICH!!!!!!

Pretty amazing to take a slice of bread out of the bag, schmear Whole 30 approved mayo on it and add sliced turkey and banana peppers to it. Slice some tomatoes and peel a tangerine, and you have a FEAST! (Please, please, please don’t let gluten/grains affect my arthritis or sleep! Pretty please! I just love bread so much – and I promise to eat it with care from now on, not eating half a loaf of French bread because I can.)

I did have quite a “moment” today with regard to old habits, rewards, and sugar.

Today was paperwork day. Now, if you have a regular brain that holds lots of details in check pretty easily, if you kind of like filing because everything has its place, then you really might not get this. But, paperwork, bill paying, filing, sorting through mail, and other paper-pushing activities are actually painful for me. I will employ every procrastination tactic to avoid it.

It goes like this: Oh! I know I really better get to that paperwork, but the dogs haven’t had baths in a while. Oh, I know owe my financial guy a call, and he’s going to ask me to find some piece of paper I should know how to find, but I can’t really concentrate since my sweaters are still in my closet in late May. I should switch out my wardrobe. I really should.

But, when I can’t procrastinate any more, and it’s time to make it happen, I have to set the stage.

I end up with lots of piles as I sort, and the table is never big enough, so I put these little shelves on the table, so I can stack things above and below.

I gather every scrap of mail I have opened and said, “I’ll get to this later.” Well, it’s later, Jennifer. Here we go. I get some pens and a stapler and post-its.

And I always, always, always pour a Pepsi. I deserve it. It makes the job go down easier. And, to munch on while I work – some Cheezits or chips or something super salty.

So, this time I had to be hyper conscious of my feelings and habits. This time, I heated some water for tea, and I worked without a salty snack. I still accomplished my work, and I felt all the feelings of inadequacy I always feel when that pile of papers whispers, “Normal adults can manage this, Jennifer. They don’t let things stack up. They aren’t behind on things and don’t forget to call their financial guy back. Grownups don’t have the same tasks on their lists for months. They don’t say, ‘Oh, I should call the electrician/plumber/tree trimmer/whomever,’ over and over without calling.” This time, the stack whispered the same things, but this time I didn’t feed my shame liquid sugar and crunchy salt to make it feel better. 48 and I just got our work done today. Well, it’s not done, but it’s all sorted into tasks for tomorrow.

 

Posted in Whole 30

Grain Week Post #1 – Whole 30

Dairy was fine. I figured it would be. No changes to my sleeping patterns or swelling of my fingers, so WHEW!

I went back to pure Whole 30 for two days, and today….

I ate a pita chip with my kabobs and salad at a Mediterranean restaurant. Okay, I ate a serving of pita chips which had lots of lovely salt and seasonings on them. And so begins the Grain Week experiment. No gluten or any grains of any sort for 37 days should mean my system is clear of gluten, so we’ll see if I have any adverse effects to it. So far, so good. My stomach doesn’t hurt or anything.

But, again, my issues aren’t so much intestinal inflammation/irritation as they are muscle/joint inflammation, so I think it could take several days for it to build up in my system and affect my arthritis.

Here’s what 48 and I are learning right now: We are a little afraid of food. I actually mean to use the word “little”. It’s not as though I’m not eating. It’s just that since it’s not easy to just grab any old thing, I find I hesitate to eat. Hesitate, not avoid. Also, I spent a week eating dairy, and now I’ve taken it back out (mostly – you’ll notice I forgot to tell them “no feta” on my salad today, and I ate a bit of it, but I pushed most of it to the side). But, my brain is not convinced of that, yet, I guess. I really enjoyed the Greek yogurt popsicles I was eating last week, and yesterday when I was eating Pure Whole 30, I nearly reached for one a couple of times.

So, I guess the way I was feeling on day 30 had some merit to it. I can do gluttony, and I can do Whole 30, but somewhere in between, when some things are allowed and some aren’t, I’m not steady. I feel vulnerable, like I’m going to fail…WHICH IS AWFUL!…because this is just about me. It’s not a test. There is no prize (besides better health). I am not competing with anyone. I’m actually doing pretty darn great! And STILL I’m such a terrible critic of myself. It’s like I’m my own coach for this sport, but instead of running alongside shouting words of encouragement, I stand there shaking my head slightly with a look of pity saying, “You probably can’t do this.”

That makes me so mad. You know why?!

Because I had the best childhood one could ask for. I have deeply moral, highly educated, incredibly creative, sacrificially loving, ridiculously funny parents who treated my brothers and me with oceans of respect. They told me they were proud of me. We are not a family who kisses each other goodbye or says, “I love you,” every time we hang up the phone, but all five of us know that we are loved with the kind of love that makes us feel safe and sure. My parents are partners. I really had the best model for marriage and family that I could ask for. No alcoholism. No abuse. My mother made dinner, and we ate together. Not one time did anyone tell me that I shouldn’t eat dessert because it would make me fat. No one was maniacal about exercise or diet, so that I would carry a bunch of emotional baggage into my adulthood about food.

So, if food is hard for me, if I am a scowling self-coach EVEN WHEN I’M DOING REALLY WELL, then how hard must this be for others!?!

If you are reading this tonight with tears in your eyes because it is so hard, and you are a terrible self-coach, and your childhood was maybe difficult, and you have some heavy baggage around food, then please let me tell you something.

So, this is the first time I have ever uploaded a video into a blog post, and it is enormous, I can’t figure out how to make the video take up less space — or move it around like I can do for pictures.  So, I’m sorry if my face is enormous and you feel like you are being yelled at by a big head!