Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two Souls

(Google images. EmoryHealthCare.org)


An artist friend of mine told me a beautiful story yesterday, a story of how she took "the narrow way" with her teenage son. The result was an opportunity for the Spirit to work in both their lives, creating deep connection and a strengthening love. Within this story, in order to say something about how much she loves her son (who is the fourth of her six children), she mentioned something a friend of hers, who was pregnant, had said to her once: "I have moments now when I'm aware of two souls within me." Moments when I'm aware of two souls within me.

Wow. That just took my breath away.

I've not had a lot of grief about being childless. I grew up thinking I'd never marry. Marriage was for my sister who was pretty. I was the smart one, so my appointed role was to get a good job, make money, and take care of my mother in her old age. My sister married young and had two children, so I was able to play at 'weekend mom,' taking my niece and nephew for the weekends. We'd go on trips. I got to shower them with love (and oh, how I love them). I never much thought about having children of my own. Years passed. Years of intense therapy and growth, leaving the corporate world and going to seminary, becoming the minister and counselor I'm called to be. My sister and her family moved far away. My parents died. By the time I was healthy enough to leave that childhood programming behind and open myself to the possibility of marriage, I was too old to have a baby of my own. The grief work I did, and there was much of it through the years, was the grief linked to the loneliness I felt at being single.

When I married my wonderful D three years ago I became mother-by-marriage to three teens--at that time they were 20, 16, and 13. And they were and are great kids, all three of them extremely easy to love. I'm still working through what it means to be a mother-by-marriage. Part of me thinks that I love them just like a mother would love them: I absolutely delight in them. I want the best for them. I'm willing to give of myself. All my generosity is very near the surface with them. I have a deep desire for them to grow into wise, loving, strong and healthy adults and I'm willing to make sacrifices to help that along. It hurts me deeply to see them hurting or afraid.

But then I hear a statement like that: Moments when I'm aware of two souls within me. And I think that the love I feel for my children-by-marriage and my niece and nephew can never be the love that a real mother feels. Is that right? It is true? Does love work that way?

Being aware of two souls within one body. What an incredible experience pregnancy must be. Those words yesterday evoked a movement within me. An opening into emptiness. I was aware, in a way I'd never been before, of how my body has never known what a woman's body is capable of knowing. Another being within it. My God, what richness of life. What depth of creativity unlike any other.

It's too late now. I won't experience "two souls" in my body. Letting myself feel the utter vacancy of that truth now, it does hurt. I've learned that all pain can be redeemed...God is in the 'business' of redeeming our painful pasts. I've been able to look back at all the hurtful, shameful events in my past and actually give thanks for them, for they have made me who I am today. And that's a good thing. But this...today, for the first time, in this aspect, I wish my life had been different. I feel a disturbingly deep regret at never having known an awareness of "two souls" in my body.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Courage - Cherishing the anger at injustice while healing the pain

A quote I've found meaningful:

"Our commitments to healing and liberation require risk because the love and trust required to love fearlessly open us to injury. To remain open and to receive the world's gifts requires us to maintain a capacity for vulnerability, and the tragedies and limits of human life can weaken our trust so that we move from love toward fear and withdrawal. Our vulnerability means we are not completely immune to forces of evil...To commit ourselves to the work of God's love and justice means taking enormous risks in order to keep healing and liberation alive in the world. We must be aware that the forces of oppression, hate, and violence are strong and canny...organized to resist relinquishing their power...We require COURAGE--strength of heart--to challenge evil, even as we remain suspicious of our most self-righteous polemics and defensive postures. Courage enables us to cherish our anger at injustice at the same time we are attuned to the opportunities to heal the pain that lies below anger." From Rita Nakashima Brock's essay, "The Greening of the Soul," in Setting the Table, 142.

To me, this is so much what the Gospel means.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

My Saturday

A couple of days ago my back starting hurting with the same pain I felt with the compression fracture. I had thought that was healed (from staying in bed for so long with respiratory crud a couple of weeks ago), so I'm a bit concerned. My concern led me to stay in bed most of yesterday, blogging and reading blogs -- it was a good way to spend my day off. I did take all three kids to lunch, and we went out last night for a movie: Fantastic Four. (D loves all the action hero comic book movies. I'm not particularly fond of that genre, but as they go, this last Fantastic Four movie wasn't bad. It helps when they're meant to be funny.)

Anyway, today will be a test. I'm standing up to cook all morning--chicken and dumplings for lunch. It's for Father's Day, a bit late, since Beautiful Genuine Drummer Girl was in Small City to the South last weekend and Lovely Passionate Feminist had to work that Sunday. We'll see how I fare.

After that special lunch we're driving to Big City to the East to see the musical Spam-A-Lot. Looking forward to the day, hopefully a pain-in-the-back-free one!

Irritating Pet is meowing...better go see what's happening!
Happy Saturday, fellow bloggers!

Friday, June 22, 2007

beautiful and amazing, British Idol

With thanks to the blog, Quotidian Grace,



and he wins!

John Cobb on growth and trust

John Cobb is one of my favorite theologians. It was through his book, Christ in a Pluralistic Age, that I resolved my inner dilemma regarding the divinity of Jesus. With that dilemma removed, I was, of course, able to both think of myself as a Christian with more integrity and to come to love Jesus with a passion that transformed me.

Cobb is a process theologian, but his writings aren't limited to systematic theology. My brother, Daring Quiet Writer, has read Cobb's work regarding Buddhist-Christian dialogue. And in my Ph.D. program I ran across Cobb's book on pastoral counseling and pastoral theology. This is a quote from that book:

"Growth is never the simple addition of something new to what is already present. If it were, it would not be resisted so strongly. Instead, to add the new is to change the old.... [The old] must receive, quite literally, a new form. Because we identify ourselves with what-is, with what we have achieved, with what we already are, the opportunity for growth is always also a THREAT. We can let the not-yet transform us only by letting go of what we are. And we must let go of what we are without knowing in advance what we will become."

"Growth is not the working out of a pattern that we have planned for ourselves. It does not follow lines that we can predetermine, for it involves the emergence of ways of thinking and feeling that are new….To allow growth to take place is always a risk. This is why trust is so important. We cannot grow without surrendering the effort to control the future. But to surrender this effort is not to become passive, just to let the powerful forces of the world buffet us about. That would be the opposite of trust in God. That would be to let the world determine everything. That is the way of death. Christian existence is a life of constant decision in the context of the gift of God's presence; it is the continual choosing of life."

I love that. Every reminder of it is helpful to me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Five Things I Dig About Jesus

Kievas tagged me for the "Five Things I Dig About Jesus" meme.

1. The Christ--Principle of Creative Transformation (John Cobb).
2. Loved women and children and the dispossessed.
3. Courage.
4. New Life from and through Death.
5. Mirror for how humanity can and should be.

If you haven't already been, consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Creativity

Linda's blog very often has posts that are truly art. In these posts her writing has that quality to it that takes me right into the moment, right into the room (or the jogging path) with her, and I feel the pathos or the life or the grief or the joy. More than that, the beauty of her writing--the structure, the words chosen, and that mysterious 'something more' that true art requires--is so deeply creative that it leads me to the Creator. I remember one post about a woman colleague of hers who was so close to trusting, on the very brink of the kind of vulnerability that transforms, and yet ultimately backed away from it. I was in tears. Oh dear God, please help this woman cross over into LIFE, I thought.

One of Linda's most recent posts is about life--Life all around her, all around us, have we but the eyes to wake up and see. I hope you'll read it. Read it, and give yourself permission to be where she was when her words came forth. I think you'll be inspired. I know I was.

To me, writing like this, which is truly creative, is a manifestation of the Creator within us. Great acting...visual arts...music...all of it can lead us to God because it speaks of what is True. When art helps me recognize the Truth, I often feel gratitude, and joy, and somehow both tiny and expansive at the same time.

A few years ago I began to sense that the meaning of creativity was elusive to me. It was through my lovely friend, Zen Musician Scholar, that I came to a better sense of it. I can't recall anything specific that she said or did, but I began to see that she lived it, she embodied it. Through Zen Musician Scholar, through Linda and so many other friends, through those too-few times in my own life when I am creative, I've come to understand creativity as being an open channel or vessel for God's life to manifest on the earth.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Embracing Chaos (Susan Howatch)

I enjoy Susan Howatch's novels about the Church of England. Her characters are terribly flawed, easily recognizable. Here's a quote from The High Flyer:

(p 301)
A long while later I said to Lewis: "I can't stand there being no order. I'm so frightened of the chaos."

"It's like being thrown into the deep end of the pool, isn't it?" said Lewis casually. "The rules that apply to life on dry land no longer apply. You're immersed in water, a substance which as the potential to drown you. If you're not accustomed to swimming every instinct tells you to yell in terror and grab the rail at the side of the pool, but in fact this isn't the way to deal with the problem. You have to make the problem no longer a problem by embracing it -- you have to let go of the rail and launch yourself out on the water because once you're swimming, playing by the water-rules instead of the land rules, you find the water's stimulating, bracing, even welcoming. So by embracing the chaos instead of shunning it you've opened up a whole new dimension of reality."

Hmmm.....

Iraq

NPR aired a story of a young Iraqi man today. 19 years old, I think he said. I didn't hear it all, but part of what he said was how he was so happy, in the beginning, that we had rid the world of the tyrant Saddam--he and his rock back could sing about how "Saddam Sucks." He agreed to be interviewed back in 2003 by some news outlet with the proviso that it would never be shown in the Middle East. Al-Jazeera got hold of it and aired it. Next thing you know, this 19 year old hears himself being condemned, by name, by the local imam at Friday prayers. His life was in danger. His family kicked him out, so he lived full time in the Green Zone (I guess he had a job there; I didn't hear that part).

In the story today this young man was saying how, before Saddam, it was awful to be unable to express your political views, but at least, if you kept your mouth shut, you didn't fear for your life. Now in Iraq, you cannot walk the streets without fear for your life, no matter what your political views.

Exactly.

We've gone in there, in our own deadly hatred and fear, and unleashed these other deadly forces of hatred and fear. We have done this horrible thing. And our President continues to tell us it is worth it, that the world is a better place without Saddam. I'm sorry, but what planet is he on? 100,000 Iraqi people are dead (that's probably not the correct number, but it's huge, we know that), 3,500 American soldiers dead and how many wounded? This week a wonderful couple in my church found out that their grandson was listed in critical condition, not from a battle wound, but from a suicide attempt. My heart aches for this family.

And members of Congress are such selfish political animals that they cannot see fit to stand up and do the right thing. Yes, for those of you who have read previous posts, you know that I wasn't sure what was right, whether we shouldn't try this military surge and see if it would really help the situation. It's not helping, and apparently there is no political will to make it work. Congress should have pulled the financial plug to get the troops out.* And now we know, via Tony Snow, that this Administration is thinking of Iraq as Korea, where we've been for 50 years. And the only building project on time and under cost in Iraq is our own monstrosity of an American Embassy, 44 football fields big, or something like that. The powers that be in America obviously see us in Iraq for a long, long time.

Ugh. It makes me want to cry.

I think it was Ted Koppell's opinion piece on NPR that was taking Hillary Clinton to task recently. Apparently in the last debate she answered a question by saying that the "first thing" she would do as President is "get our troops out of Iraq." Koppell (or whoever it was) pointed out that she did NOT say she'd pull ALL of our troops out. And then he gave some background information justifying why he thought that her answer was less than straightforward. I'm so bad at remembering details, but it had to do with previous statements she has made regarding why U.S. presence in that part of the Middle East is in our "national interest."

Power does skew the view, and Clinton has been near the top of the power pyramid for a long time. Our presence in Iraq only creates more hatred, more fear, more violence, more terror--what could be less in our national interest than that?


*but with continuing huge amounts of aid and reconstruction money allocated

Clever Repartee

I really love my husband. For many reasons, one of which is how he loves to tease and play verbal tennis. And he's so good at it. I can keep up with him for a little while, sometimes, then my mind just goes blank. But my friend Grew Up in Foreign Land is better than I am, and last night she and D really kept that ball in the air, tossing one clever repartee after another back and forth, back and forth. I just found it hilarious! (I'm a good audience, as D says. It's true. I just laugh and laugh at good puns or at this kind of cleverness. Comics are SO intelligent!)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Visit with Friend from College Days

My friend from college, Grew Up in Foreign Land, is coming for a visit today. She lives in Florida now, so we don't see each other often. I'll never forget what she said during the rehearsal dinner for our wedding three years ago when everyone was standing up and toasting us. It was something like, "When we were in college together, Kathy (I was Kathy back then) always seemed a little unhappy to me. She no longer seems that way." She said it more eloquently than that, but it was along those lines. I was struck by it because it was so true, and I viewed it as a witness to the growth that I've been working with God to accomplish through these many (30!) years. I was grateful for what I took as a very affirming comment.

I'm looking forward to her visit. Grew Up in Foreign Land always has something interesting going on and an interesting slant to her view of life. Her parents were business owners in another country. I had a very different Christmas celebration one year in the late 70's when her father flew me to their home in their 4-seater Cessna. Wow. Anyway, my conversations with Grew Up in Foreign Land always leave me with something to 'chew on,' which I appreciate.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

8 Random Facts

Songbird tagged me for a meme – 8 Random Facts about me:

1. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and political science, but right out of college I went into the business world.

2. I was one of the winners of the 4th grade talent contest playing “Baby Elephant Walk” on the piano.

3. I'm always happy when I'm connecting at the soul-level with others, and when I'm a witness to someone "coming alive" spiritually.

4. Something Songbird said reminded me that when I was 18 (or so), I went with my sister, Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing, to a psychic to have our fortunes told. The woman predicted the name of the man whom I would marry. She was right.

5. I have always LONGED to know how to dance, but I'm rather two-left-feet-ed.

6. About 20 years ago I was a precinct chair for the Democrats in my area. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. It was an easy job.

7. My husband and I are planning a trip driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in November. WooHoo!!! Can’t wait!!!

8. I drive a Camry and LOVE it. Every time I get into that Camry I feel like it’s a luxury car. It has both a tape player and a CD player, neither of which my little Corolla had, so I’ve been listening to old tapes and buying new CDs: lots of soundtraks from musicals, the Monkees (yes, I love the Monkees), Dion—I heard him on “FreshAir” the other day and went out and bought his greatest hits, Bruce Springsteen, The Fifth Dimension, Carole King, the soundtrak from Metropolis. It’s just pure FUN to sing as I’m driving down the highway; reminds me of when Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing and I would spend hours singing together. I can still sing all the words to Harper Valley PTA, and when I preached on a recent Sunday, I said, “Well it’s June 3, another sleepy dusty delta day” and didn’t care one whit that it didn’t make sense in the context.

I hereby tag: Jan at Yearning for God
and Linda at Against a Brick Wall

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

DamnHot

It's June. It's hot. Damn hot. When I was little my father used to always comment, "It's damnhot outside." Honestly. I thought it was one word for years.

D tells me the reason I'm a Christian is that hell is too damnhot for me.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Dying Man and My Memories

The dying man is still dying. The family's managing, but of course it's taking its toll on them. I spent several hours with them on Friday, arriving around 11 and staying for lunch and into the afternoon. Good things happened. Old family friends from across the country are arriving to say their goodbyes to him, which is extremely meaningful to the wife/mom and the two daughters. As I left we gathered around his bed. I read scripture and a poem I'd brought about thresholds. We held hands, including his, and prayed. Earlier in the day I had a chance to simply hold his hand and sing a hymn. Beautiful experience, really. I'm so privileged to spend this holy time with them all.

He's dying of the same thing that killed my mother, COPD. Part of the experience for me was simply watching him breathe, seeing how difficult that is for him, hearing the rattle in his throat and chest, and being taken back to September 1994 when my mother lay dying in the hospital, breathing just like that.

Before she lapsed into a coma, I was leaning over and brushing her hair. She said to me, "Now I'm giving you what you've really wanted, Katy."

I didn't know what she meant, and I still don't, but I said nothing in response because I thought she must have been implying that I wanted her to die. [Our relationship had been conflicted from the time I was a teenager.] The heart-stabbing pain was too much for me, and I immediately repressed the whole thing.

Three or four days later, my brother had gone home (to my sister's house) to rest--he'd been staying with her every night at the hospital--my sister had gone downstairs for a break, and I was left alone with her. Like I said, I'd repressed what she said; I had not thought of it at all since it happened. I decided to pull my chair up to the side of her bed and sing some hymns to her. After one or two, I stood up and gently touched her hair, and I just whispered to her that it was OK for her to go. She'd been in a coma for a couple of days by then and had been hallucinating about "the door. The door won't open! Open the door!" she'd said.

I sat back down and was singing another hymn when I suddenly noticed that she had stopped breathing. I froze for a moment, then she took another labored breath. I kept watching and yes, after another few breaths, she stopped again. I called the nurse who came immediately. We called downstairs for my sister, but as I recall by the time Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing arrived, our mother had stopped breathing completely. She was gone. My world, my anchor, was gone.

We called my brother who stayed with me in the hospital room until a doctor arrived to pronounce her dead. I remember that as the doctor was leaving, he turned, faced my mother's body, said "Have a nice trip," and then left the room. (Is that strange or what?)

I didn't deal with what my mother had said to me until about a year later. As a student in my first pastoral care class, I was nervous about being called on to role-play the part of a pastor providing pastoral care. So I made an appointment to see the professor--I thought if I just told him about my fear I'd deal with it better (plus, I'm sure down deep that I was hoping for the added benefit of him being nice and telling me: 'oh don't worry; I won't call on you if you don't want me to.'). To my surprise and consternation he instead said, "Well, what can we do to help you with this fear?" I was nonplussed, having given no thought to a solution, just a way out. "Uh, I really don't know," I said. "Well, would playing the role of the parishioner be better?" he asked. I said, "Oh yes, I can do that. That's no problem." (I was a therapy veteran even back then.)

The next class, he asked me to play the role of a parishioner. No problem. I did fine, but for some reason he announced to the class that we'd continue this role-play next time. I didn't understand why he said that, but it didn't bother me. Next class came and once again I sat down in front of about 30 other students as the parishioner. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, out of my mouth comes this story of what my mother had said to me. The student playing the role of pastor looked stunned. The professor practically pushed him out of the chair, taking on the 'role' himself. It was unbelievable. I couldn't BELIEVE that I was telling this horrible horrible story, my face beet red, shaking like a leaf, snot running out of my nose as I blubbered the whole damn thing. I STILL can't believe I did that. But I'm certainly glad I did. The professor knew exactly what to do. He was a model of compassion, and toward the end he invited me to go home and write my mother a letter and throw a pillow around the room. Both of which I did. With gusto.

I've been healing ever since.

Witnessing the dying man's labored breathing brought these memories once again to the fore for me. As I've written them here I don't feel any pain, although I did tear up a bit remembering the sadness of losing my mother. Our relationship was so full of conflict. I kept trying to grow up and be who I am. But she had other plans for me, and my efforts were NOT well received. On the other hand, I could have attempted to break the ties with much more grace than I did. I said things to my mother that I deeply regret. She died too soon. That's what fills me with sadness even now. How I would have loved to simply sit and talk to her about things, but that was usually strangely difficult. The ties were obviously not yet healthily broken while she lived. I know that because when she died I immediately knew my "anchor" was gone. What will I do in life now without my "anchor"? I kept thinking.

___________________
Goodness. As I finished typing the above, I received a call from one of the daughters. Her father died 10 minutes before she called. I went over to their house and stayed a couple of hours. We gathered around his body, sang a hymn, and prayed. A beautiful, grace-filled death, and I feel amazingly privileged to have been part of this family's experience.

My mother's death had elements very similar to this man's. She, too, had been surrounded by her children. We had all kissed her and said our goodbyes, including Handsome Boy and Beautiful Blonde, her grandchildren. After she died and we'd come home and made our phone calls, we all went out to eat. And we told stories about her, a wonderful experience, full of laughter. Although I didn't contribute many (if any) stories, I remember thoroughly enjoying the experience of hearing my sister and her family speak of our mother with such love. I look back at that now and see how incredibly healing it was, how healthy and good.

And although my relationship with my mother had lots of ambivalence to it, I know she loved me. I mean, I know she was trying to love me. Our personalities were so different that her attempts didn't feel loving to me. Neither of us understood what was really happening at the time.

I hope she understands everything now, as I hope to one day as well.

Preaching this morning

I'm preaching this morning. The scripture is the story of Jesus meeting the widow of Nain at the town gate and raising her dead son to new life. He has "compassion" on her and so brings new life to her son, and to her. Compassion is near the very center of my value system, so I chose to focus on that. I just hope the sermon comes close to conveying both the difficulty and the 'giftedness' of compassion. May God be worshipped this morning.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The dying man and Love of ministry

I got to spend some time yesterday with a family who's father/husband is near death. He's almost 90. They've moved his bed out to the family room in front of a big picture window looking out into the back yard where they have a pond and waterfall and lots of beautiful trees. As I stood there yesterday I saw several different types of birds, squirrels, a neighborhood cat. Really lovely.

When I arrived yesterday the hospice nurse was telling the wife that her husband's condition was worsening. She, the wife, had greeted me at the door in tears and the tears continued freely as the nurse spoke to her. She's very tired; it's already been an ordeal.

The wife and the daughter and I sat in the living room and they told me stories of the dying man. Great stories. He's been a caring dad and husband. We laughed and carried on. Important grief work, and good.

I don't know this man. My prayer is that he has "heard the Way" (see bottom of page). He seems content to die, so my assumption is that he indeed has, in whatever form and shape that has taken in his unique life.

I love being a minister. Thank you, God.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Humility and the Glory of God

I've always loved this from St. Irenaeus:

"The glory of God is a human being fully alive."

(Of course, I've changed the original and ridiculous male language.)

When we are fully alive we reflect the glory of God. Imagine that! In my pastoral counseling practice, I often hear women complain of depression or anger. Everyone is different, but in one way or another when she moves toward living more fully--whatever that may look like for her--the depression or anger dissolve.

Sadly, Christian theology contributes to the suppression, the half-deadness, of women--and men, too. Catholic theology, interestingly however, has this to say about "humility":

Humility has 3 elements:
1. Awareness of, and responsiveness to, God’s glory. We fall on our knees in loving adoration!
2. Confrontation of our own person with the Infinite Person. We become aware of our sin and weakness.
3. Awareness of God’s calling us by name. Whether we feel “worthy” is not the point. God has called us and equipped us. We shall not doubt that God lifts us up and empowers us. Accept God’s grace and live!

Humility is the opposite of self-centered mediocrity. We think of humility as quiet ‘lack of boldness,’ but humility implies a heavenward aspiration that carries with it a breath of greatness and holy audacity! The relinquishment of self, blissful dying away of ego, means jubilant freedom and empowerment.

Humility is the opposite of misplaced selfish pride, but remember: The Glory of God is a Human Being Fully Alive!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ode to my Sister

Today is the birthday of my nephew, Handsome Boy. I called him this morning to wish him "happy birthday," and he sounded good. Said he had already bought some new tennis shoes with the money I sent. It was so good to hear his voice.

It's been over 15 years since my sister, Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing, moved to South Carolina-- along with my brother-in-law Booming Bass, my niece, Blonde Beauty (who was 10 when they moved, I think), and Handsome Boy (who at that time was only 7 years old). Plus my mother--she moved with them as well. Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing made sure that our mother always had a couple of rooms in their home that she could call her own, and that she felt welcomed and at home there. And I think it was good that Blonde Beauty and Handsome Boy got to know "Gran" the way they did during the years that she was with them.

Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing has always been like that. Growing up, she was the one who tried to keep the peace in the family, while my mother and I argued and were often angry at each other. She's very thoughtful, very open and welcoming. When I visit (it's been too long), she never fails to throw open her home, and with contagious good cheer helps me feel like I belong.

My sister loves to laugh. It's part of the joy of being around her. She can see what's funny way before I notice anything, and I'm often left trying to catch up. She's just lively and people enjoy being around her--kind of the life of the party type of person, something I always envied. When I worked for Big Oil many years ago, she and I went to Europe together. We flew into Munich, stayed a while in Germany, then Austria where we took a roller-coaster-like ride in the real saltmines of Saltzberg. We rode the Orient Express overnight to Paris. I have the cutest picture of Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing, literally kicking up her heels outside our hotel in Paris, just having FUN. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

One of the best things about Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing is the way that she's naturally giving. I mean, giving in the sense of being non-competitive. She's always been so quick to compliment other people, in fun-loving and important ways. It's delightful to be around, believe me. When we were growing up my parents often compared us. We both heard the downside to those comparisons, but I didn't handle it as well as Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing...her heart was always bigger than mine, I think.

She's worked herself up in her company. I think she started out as an accountant and is now the controller, running that whole division. The company's owners are in Europe, so they send my sister to New York City for them--she has some great stories about that! I know she's an excellent manager and has accomplished so much for that company.

When we were growing up, Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing and I would go to Six Flags every summer. HUGE deal. Six Flags! We'd look forward to that day all year. She'd get sick after riding the Mexican Hat Ride, but what a trooper--somehow, it never ruined the day.

There's only 13 months difference between me and my sister. I wish she and her family lived closer. I miss seeing her.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Family Summer

D's on the road heading south this morning to pick up Genuine and Beautiful Drummer Girl for the summer. YIPPEE!! When she gets here then all five of us will be here together for the next couple of months. That will be so great. I'm really looking forward to it.

Young Man with Integrity graduated in May and is in a 'holding pattern' for a while this summer, waiting to hear from law schools in D.C. If that doesn't pan out this year, he's considering moving to D.C. anyway to look for work toward the end of this summer. Whatever happens, we expect he'll be moving out soon to be on his own. Wow. That will be a big change--for all of us. When I married D, Young Man with Integrity had been living in a dorm, but he moved back home about that same time, so he's been part of my married home life all along. I'll miss him when he moves.

Lovely Passionate Feminist finished her first year of college dorm life last month. She loved it. It's been an amazing thing to see her grow up so fast, and so well. She moved back here for the summer about three weeks ago and immediately got a great job at a local movie theater. She loves that, too! She's out early in the morning for her summer-school Spanish class, then she works most evenings. Yesterday I got home mid-afternoon and Boyfriend was here...with both of them working they haven't seen much of each other, so it was great to see his truck in the driveway when I pulled up.

Genuine and Beautiful Drummer Girl finished her junior year in h.s. last week, but was at a church youth camp until yesterday evening. D spent last weekend getting her new (to her) computer set up in her room. The screensaver is a photograph of her celebrating her first birthday--cake and ice cream from her chin to her eyebrows. Seriously cute. And he set the computer up with I-Tunes and all of the games she likes and the whole bit. We think she'll like the set up. I hope her summer up here will be good...she's the only one without a car or a job. But she'll do a week at Band Camp, we bought tickets for Spam-a-Lot, she's going to invite her friends up for a day at Six Flags, and we're taking a week-long trip to the Southeast to visit her grandparents, so hopefully she won't get too terribly bored.

D had been divorced for over 12 years when we met, so I didn't have to be concerned with any of the children resenting me for taking their mother's place. Young Man with Integrity was the only one with significant memories of their parents being together--I think he was seven when the divorce happened. Lovely Passionate Feminist was three, and Genuine and Beautiful Drummer Girl was not quite one year old. I feel very fortunate that they have accepted me and allowed me to love them so easily. My life has been unbelievably enriched because of them.

All three children love to read. All have been involved in extracurricular activities throughout their schoolyears--band, choir, acting, political activist groups, etc. They're all interested in world affairs and can easily express their opinions on religion and politics. They've all managed to negotiate their way through the narrow-minded Southern religious/political culture that surrounds us--not unscathed, I'm sure, but all three have managed to end up able to think for themselves. They can actually see the problem with the status quo, and it is such a JOY to me to hear them express their outrage and their desire for this world to be different and better than it is. When I hear them, it gives me such hope.

Five years ago the need in me for the kind of connections--these deep relational ties--that I now have was a source of continual, if underlying, pain. That pain is no longer there, and I am so very grateful.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Savoring the historical D

I married well. Conversation getting into our car, having just finished dinner out at a local restaurant:

D: Have you ever thought that you're living part of life just to get to something else?

K: [with intensity] I used to.

D: No, I just looked at the name of that store: "Fast Braces" and it occurs to me how I used to think I just needed to get the braces paid for, for each of the children, then I'd ... whatever--then I'd have the money, or then be able to do something else.

K: Yeah. OK. I thought you meant that in a different way probably.

D: No, I probably did mean it in the way you're thinking.

K: Oh. Well, I always think of that part in Ruben Habito's book where he talks about going to work in order to pay the bills, then coming home in order to eat, then cleaning the dishes in order to use them again, then going into the living room to watch television and go to bed, all in order to get up again the next morning, to go to work in order to pay the bills, then coming home in order to eat...It's a nightmare scenario to me. Never living in the present moment.

D: Yes. Exactly.

I can't remember what came after that, but it was a great conversation. He's deep and thoughtful, and I love that. It's interesting to me that D has an historian's orientation to life. Before I met him I'm not sure that I ever quite considered it, and I'm still not sure that I "get" it. For D, it seems to be more than simply filtering everything through his vast historical knowledge base. It's more along the lines of savoring his own experience, his own history, such that it is more meaningful to him than my history is meaningful to me. Not sure....something like that.

Anyway, the conversation led me to mention something else later. Since I've been so sick this spring, I've thought quite a bit about how old I'm getting, how I don't have all that much longer to live in the present moment (or not in the present moment). D said he's been thinking the same thing, brought on by turning 50 last year, no doubt.

The conversation continued. We decided we were too tired to go to a movie. So we came home and are now happily ensconsed in our bedroom--in contented silence with each other, and with our cute little laptop computers, of course. Ah, what bliss!

true hospitality

One of my big projects at church has been to put together a monthly concert series. My church is downtown, so we've designed the series such that downtown workers can take their noon lunchbreak, walk on over to the church, hear about 20 minutes of beautiful music, go downstairs for a free meal, and be back to their offices by 1:00. It's been a big success--well, relatively speaking. We have quite a few "regulars," people working in these huge companies who tell me how much it means to them to have a place like this to come to once in a while.

Today was especially fun for me. First, I woke up with some energy--first time in over two weeks. Second, my dear friends C. and R. came--always SO great to see them! We even got to catch up a little during lunch. And third, I just had a sense of how much I like people and enjoy being a minister, providing a welcoming space for people to be.


I have 'learned' the sense of hospitality that I want to provide for people by experiencing it from others -- in no small part, in fact, from C. and R. When I walk into their home I know I'll be totally accepted. If I do or say something stupid I know I won't be judged. My desire to be authentic and real is appreciated in their home, valued.


There's something else, though. This kind of deep hospitality isn't tied to place...C. and R. carry it with them wherever they go. I called C. the other day on the phone, just spontaneously, not aware of why exactly. As we spoke, and as I reflected later, I realized that I had called her because I longed for a sense of comforting. I was so tired, with yet another meeting on my calendar before I could go home, afraid I'd gone back to work too soon, unsure that I'd ever be able to get everything done in time. And we just talked. But as we talked, underneath it all, I felt held.

And in the holding, renewed.

How does deep hospitality like this happen? Well, we've been friends now for years. Shared powerful experiences. Hold similar life-values. Weathered hurt feelings. Confided vulnerabilities and pain. And yet the deep hospitality that I feel from C. and R. is the same deep hospitality that I want to offer each stranger that walks in the door of my church once a month. I'm not sure that deep hospitality requires trust in the other person. I think the trust it requires is way beyond that. It's trust in the One who promises healing should the stranger turn and hurt me. It's trust in the One who promises connection should the stranger reject me. It's trust in the One who promises forgiveness should the stranger be hurt by some thoughtless act on my part.

True hospitality...it's not easy.