Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Roses in November

They may not look like much, but they mean a lot to me!  

Teen cut these from our rose bush last night.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day.  I had an unusual day, and I'd like to tell you about it.

We had invited seven guests - a man and his two boys, and four singles.  (The invitation process was long and confusing; suffice it to say that I did not know, at any point, how many were invited, much less how many would actually come.)  Two of the seven let us know by Wednesday night that they would not attend.

One guy called us Thanksgiving morning to tell us he couldn't make it.  One girl didn't get back to us at all - we learned she wasn't coming when she didn't show up.  The man with the boys didn't know until early in the afternoon, and he called us two hours before he was to arrive to ask if his cousin could come, as well.  Then, all four of them showed up nearly an hour earlier than expected.

On the surface, this all seems so confusing, and even downright rude.  And I thank God that I've become a more flexible person in the last few months, because my heart was beginning to feel put-upon and used.  Fortunately, I decided to wait and see how it all played out.

The guy who called on Thanksgiving morning is a bright young fellow - the kind of guy whose help you'd want for just about anything.  He's a whiz at computers, and equally eager to help with moving furniture, painting, or being a strong male presence in a hazardous situation.  He couldn't make it because he was called into work.  He's one of those people you call when you're aggravated with a certain appliance.  He's the numbskull you want to chew out when he gives you the answer he's paid to give you, but that you don't want to hear.  In our local depressed economy, a smart, eager young man needs to keep whatever job he can find - even if it's the kind that makes you listen to angry customers on a holiday.

The girl who never got back to us had good reason, too.  She has no phone.  And no car.  She's a teen.  She lives with her dad, who has a terminal illness, and she lost her mother just a few years ago.  She walks everywhere she goes.  She is one of the most dedicated friends you'd ever want to have - always there when you need her.  She's sweet, polite, and hides behind a thick, soft-spoken shell.  We were very sorry when she didn't appear.

The man with the boys is a chef.  A really good one, too.  To make ends meet, he took a job a few years ago at a local college cafeteria.  We've spoken to him a few times in the past weeks (aside from church business) because he has, literally, no food in his home.  His two boys were removed from their mother's partial custody when she was discovered living with them in an abandoned warehouse.  She was arrested for an unrelated matter.  Now he has sudden full custody of two energetic, curious little boys, neither old enough for free public education.  At first he struggled with finding child care.  Unfortunately, the economy being what it is, he is newly jobless.  The cousin he invited is a sweet girl with learning disabilities.  She was sad to be with us, because she had not yet seen her own mother that Thanksgiving day.  Why was he early?  Well, this jobless chef with empty cupboards was serving Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter.  The dinner ended early, so he, his cousin, and his two little boys walked to our house.

When I was young, I couldn't go to church without someone sentimentalizing the idea that you're a missionary regardless of where you live.  The point was always that people need to hear the good news right here in our own back yards, schools, offices, and grocery stores.  I agree with the idea, but I never grasped, then, what I understand today (and what I will try to remember):  true missionaries cross cultural barriers.  And even though I live in the same town, within just a couple miles of each of these people,  our cultures are vastly different.  My cultural expectation is that you will know what you are doing on a holiday, and with whom, and that if I invite you, you will show at the appropriate time, or at least call with an explanation well in advance.  Their culture requires that they do what is needed as it is needed.  And aside from the demands of providing for their families, they give their all to help when they can.  Their culture, which from the outside can seem inferior, puts my petty life to shame.

Made me realize that, far from being the one providing something to the needy on Thanksgiving, I was the recipient of a wonderful blessing.  One I hope to hold onto and live out for a long time.

P.S.  Oh - and my Teen:  As we put away the leftovers, she asked if we could make plates and take them to the bus depot.  I think she gets it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Really Bad Pastor's Wife in the wife (of the pastor) is bad.

Introverts should not be in ministry.  Or married to those in ministry.  Or children or pets of those in ministry.

Sunday morning church was fine, as usual.  I expect an onslaught of huggers and chatterboxes, and I allow for it.  Racing home to prepare dinner for my family and a guest or two has become the new normal, so I'm becoming used to it.  But that is supposed to be the end for me.  After dinner, everyone (except the toddler) is supposed to leave for evangelism ministry for a few hours, then the immediate family members are to return home to spend a quiet, uneventful evening of movie watching and random napping.

Today one guest and one child (teen) stayed after the others left.  That was acceptable; teen and the guest are both introverts, as well.  However, just after the guest left, the rest returned - with ADDITIONAL people.

Listen, folks.  People who are on an evangelism team are extroverts, no matter what they might tell you.  And extroverts are loud, and over-friendly, and sensitive.  If you aren't wildly eager to see them, and hugely interested in listening to the day's exploits, then you don't like them and they need to know what is wrong and how to make it right.

I want want WANT to be hospitable and welcoming.  I desire to be warm and Jesus-like to the masses that find my home a place of refuge and rest.

But I really, deep down in my heart, just want them all to leave.  The unexpected ones, the guests, and sometimes even the extroverted family members.

My cat would agree.  She's new to the family, you see, so everyone wants to ooh and aah and pet the wittow kitty.  But she's allowed to run off and hide under a bed, whereas I am supposed to greet, kiss, and feed everyone.

I confess that I was bad.  I had just begun to clean the kitchen when they arrived, and I continued to do so when I should have been smiling and hugging and serving.  Hot, sudsy water and a loud dishwasher can relax me when these mundane things serve as a wall between myself and those who need me.

I don't regularly read many blogs, but I very much enjoy Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.  She recently wrote about being the Very Worst Pastor's Wife.  I snicker at the things she posts; I often feel the same way.  (If you're one of my friends who is concerned with vulgarity or coarse jesting, then I suggest you skip her blog link.  She's very real, in a way that most of us in ministry can't be.  While I don't go to the mental lengths she does, you'd probably be surprised at how close I come.)  But one big difference is that her heart is always in the right place.  Her answer is the right one.  She surrenders and submits to the Lord in all the places that none of us really want to.

I stay in my kitchen and wash the dishes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Of High Aspirations

My Teen shocked me the other day.  Her stated goal for herself since she was a young girl is to be a foreign missionary.  Now, I know well that this might change, and that's fine with me, but in the church world, foreign missions is a lofty goal.

For the past year and a half she's attended a charter school targeted for those interested in the health sciences.  She feels that having a medical background will open more missions doors for her.  Plus, there is always the possibility that she will not be a missionary, and the medical field seems to be fairly wide open right now.

But these are not her highest aspirations for herself.  She shared with me, one late night when everyone else were in bed, what that other, loftier, goal is.  She'd love to be a stay at home mom who home schools her children.  She spoke with awe in her voice at the grand design of raising children to be their best, before the Lord and in the world.  She realizes, though, that this is a gift and that she might not be given it, so of course she will prepare for life in the working, serving world.

I was stupefied.  Truly.  She wants my life.  And I, to be honest, don't.

I gave up a job I found very satisfying in order to follow my husband toward his dream vocation.  When I left that job, I knew, like anyone knows anything, that I would not last more than two months as a SAHM.  And here I am, 14 years later, still a SAHM, still reluctant.  And this life I defaulted to because there was nothing better available is now my daughter's dream job.  I laughed in pain at the irony.

I wonder how much better at it I would be if I loved this thing that I do - if I saw it as the perfect achievement of a lifetime of desire, as a gift.  Would I be able to  really cook?  Would my home remain clean for more than ten minutes at a time?  Would my children rise up and call me blessed, instead of grumbling when I remind them that there is another English paper due?

This is not something that I can work up, however.  The desire for it is, I think, a gift, as much as the bestowing of the lifestyle is.  I'm like most people who are stuck in a job that isn't ideal for them, that makes them feel inadequate daily, but is how they get by.  I think, though, that knowing there is a level-headed kid out there who would love to be in my shoes just might make carrying this load a little easier.


Today I chatted with Tween.  Since I was curious, we discussed his dream job.  He has two he can't choose between - the pastorate (DH's field) or a train engineer.  I asked him how he planned to go about fulfilling his dreams.  These are his plans:

If he decides to become a pastor, he will go to college and work toward a higher-level degree.  Meanwhile he will volunteer his services at a church that really needs him so he can get some hands-on experience.

If he decides to be a train engineer, he will go somewhere with an Amtrak station and a sightseeing old-time steam engine line.  He'll go to college just in case there aren't any train jobs available, but if they're hiring, even just for a janitor, then that is where he plans to begin.

When Teen and Tween were little, I used to worry that they'd buy too heavily into the "you can do anything that you want to" mentality.  I was concerned that Teen might want to be a ballerina and Tween an astronaut, and that I'd have to burst their bubbles and help them set more mundane goals.  Looks to me like that concern was misplaced!

Aim low, kids!