Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
I spent my twenties making money. Out of college, my B.A. in journalism and political science got me nowhere practical, but three years working in Personnel right out of high school got me a job as a high-level clerk in the Personnel department at Pennzoil in Houston, where my parents had moved. I worked there two years. Got promoted. Managed the boredom of the job. Made several life-long friends. Quit Pennzoil to attend graduate school in government at UT in Austin. Made another life-long friend, but left after one semester when I realized I wasn't ready for graduate school.
Moved to Dallas where I landed a job as a technical writer/editor at another oil company, ARCO. Within a year I was promoted to management, and my salary suddenly doubled overnight. I remember the feeling of my false-ego surging. You know that feeling? Ah, I'm somebody now. Somebody special. It was the same feeling when my father and mother bragged on me at the Christmas gathering of the extended family a couple of years later. Bragged on me shamelessly because of my salary at that oil company. They approved of me also because with my new job and salary I looked better on the outside -- easier to do when you have the money for good clothes and haircuts. But on the inside, fear still reigned.
In my early thirties a friend invited me to a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which I'd never heard of. It's a mainline denomination, but rather small. The senior minister was intriguing--Michael was his name--and he taught Sunday School for single adults. The class was small so I felt comfortable asking all my hangover questions from my Campus Crusade for Christ days. And this minister took me seriously. He didn't give me pat answers, in fact he usually answered my questions with other questions, which absolutely intrigued me. I loved it.
Didn't take me too long to decide to test this Michael fellow out. I made an appointment to see him. I was going to make a huge confession to him and see how he reacted. The time approached and I almost cancelled the appointment. The pseudo-brave part of me tried to think of this future conversation with Michael as a test, but the "real" me was afraid he would tell me that I wasn't a real Christian. That fear was palpable. We sat down and I finally was able to get to the point. I said something like, "Michael, I was raised Christian Scientist. My mother taught me that Jesus wasn't really God. I know he was. I was baptized. I'm a believer. But..." By this time I'm crying. "But sometimes I'm not sure," I finally blubber out. I don't remember everything he said. I just remember that he sort of laughed and said something like, "You know, Katherine (I changed to Katherine when I started at ARCO), all of us have doubts. I drive down the highway to work and wonder myself sometimes if my whole life work is based on something real and true. We all of us have our doubts at times." I was absolutely STUNNED at this admission from a preacher!!!!!!
And from that moment on simultanteously FREED to receive the gift of faith with everything I have and am.
Around this time in my life also, my father died and I started therapy. I began a double-pronged journey of self-exploration, psychological and spiritual. God's Freedom within me was really unleashed now. Oh, it was a time of excruciating pain and some of the sweetest joy I've ever known, abominable mistakes and unbelievable growth. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
The psychological was so exciting. I read Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled and knew I'd been changed forever. That book opened up a whole new world for me. After that it was all the family systems and self-help stuff...gosh, who were they? John Bradshaw. Melody Beaty (sp?). Codependents Anonymous. Al-Anon. All that stuff, I just loved it, and it really helped me. I saw what the dynamics of my family life had been in a totally new way, in a way that helped me make sense of my place and my responses to it all.
Then one Thanksgiving Day, Michael invited me and a few other single folks to his family's house for dinner. He had preached once that "God was bigger than psychology," and he'd said some other things along the way that made me think he didn't really think too much of psychotherapy. To my utter surprise, at this dinner I find out that he has a master's degree is psychology. There followed a marvelous discussion about therapy and spirituality. Suffice it to say that I began to understand what he meant when he said "God is bigger than psychology."
My world, once again, opened up!
With all this awakening going on, if you guess that I found my job at ARCO more than a little b-o-r-i-n-g, you would be c-o-r-r-e-c-t! But I was programmed (mother's voice in my head) to find a good job, a job with a great retirement plan, and keep that job because, mind you now, I wasn't pretty enough to find a good man who would take care of me in my old age. I had to rely on myself. So, come what may, no matter how boring and wrong that job may be, I had to keep it. And I did, for 14 years.
Soooo, one thing I did to keep my job and my sanity at the same time was to take some night classes at a local seminary. My first two classes were Biblical Interpretation with two amazing progressive scholars. Next I took World Religion with Ruben Habito. I've written about my encounter with Dr. Habito's writing and his teaching of Zen meditation here . All of it combined awakened me to God and to who God might be calling me to be in the most world shattering way. As you can read in that previous post, in what was for me a tremendous leap of faith, I decided to leave ARCO. Soon after that decision, my mother died, I broke up with the man I'd been considering marrying, and my dear friend Nancy, who had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, went through one of the first stem cell transplants in this area. To borrow a phrase, it was the best of years and the worst of years. The worst kind of loss, but I was flowing in that river of God's grace, flowing effortlessly, feeling the stabbing pain, but flowing in what I knew without doubt was God's will for my life. I have looked back, of course, many times, on those years, but only with amazement and thanksgiving, never with regret.
Friday, July 27, 2007
The deepest wound was shame, feeling unloveable near my core--not at my core, an important distinction, I've learned. All my years of therapy and spiritual formation never uncovered anything dramatic in my childhood; it was all the subtle sort of emotional stuff that comes from my very strong "NF" personality (Myers Briggs) living in an otherwise strong "ST," and alcoholic, household.
Another wound was loneliness. So I learned to disregard my own needs and desires in order to please others and be the person I perceived others wanted me to be.
Fear was another wound.
- Fear men. At times, my mother used me and my sister as emotional weapons against my father. That was when I was part of a three-against-one, which, for the child I was, felt pretty good.
- Fear unacceptance. The unacceptance that came with not being as "pretty" as my mother and sister. That was when it was two-against-one, with me on the outside, which felt pretty awful.
- Fear failure and fear being seen. Culture taught me that not-pretty girls could never be successful in life. So I learned to hide out. I was the "smart child" in my family, so I made good grades and tried to be as invisible as possible.
And there were other wounds. When I was in seminary I once wrote that I felt rather dead until I was in my thirties, but looking back now, I wouldn't put it that way. I think I was probably quite depressed as a teen, but there was always life and spirit there.
When I left home, rented my own apartment, and started working fulltime at 18, God's Freedom had more space within me to begin its healing ministry. Fear still reigned, but not enough to keep me from starting college at night and beginning to learn, ever so slightly, the fuller meaning of Life. The first flourishing of true Life began to stir within me.
I remember my mother saying to me once during this time, "Katy, where is this courage in you coming from? How did you figure all this out?" She was referring to the complicated system of registering for college classes in 1974. It was an honest and spontaneous question from her--very much who she was. She always thought I was so smart and competent. She was God's instrument of grace and healing in that respect, and I am grateful.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
He was a hard teacher. Most students thought he taught "above" them, and there were times I had to go home and look up some of the words he used, true enough. But I, for one, didn't mind that. Early in my seminary career, I had to do that in several classes--it was a whole new language, theology and theological ethics! I liked teachers who challenged me to think in new directions like that.
Dr. T. was in my church today. He and his wife are in my city for the General Assembly, and he came to hear our guest preacher. After worship he came downstairs for lunch, and he made a point to say hello to me. I was delighted, and I took the opportunity to tell him how important his class was to me, how MUCH I learned from him, and how much I used that learning later in my seminary and Ph.D. career, and in my life. Much to my surprise and my heart's delight, he teared up at my words.
He left a very warm place in my heart.
The whole morning was just grand. Everyone was in a good mood. Excited and happy, and as I said in my stewardship meditation, spilling over with gratitude to God.
Our guest preacher was fabulous. The title of his sermon was "Feast or Famine" and he spoke of how we sell ourselves short, and therefore offer others (and ourselves) so little. We actually have everything, but we refuse to see it, refuse to take the risk to see it, and so remain satisfied with our status quo, mediocre lives. We dream such small dreams.
This really hit home with me.
There's a line from a movie called "Shirley Valentine" when the title character says in a self-reflective voice-over, We live such small lives. When I heard that, I was maybe 28 years old and felt she was speaking directly to me, pulling some cosmic warning out of the sky with my name written all over it.
A year or so before I met my husband D, I was in group therapy. One of the therapists who ran the group was NB. The group was talking about the actress Queen Latifah, and suddenly NB says to me, "You know, Katherine, you have a Queen Latifah somewhere in you." I'm stunned, and I give him one of my frowns that say What on God's earth are you talking about? He says, "YOU DO. YOU HAVE THAT QUEEN LATIFAH STYLE. YOU JUST HOLD IT IN AND DON'T LET IT SHOW." I think I finally manage to sputter "Wow" or some such nonsense. But I've never forgotten that. Beautiful Genuine Drummer Girl and I saw Hairspray Friday night, with...yes, Queen Latifah. There's one scene where she's leading a protest march back in the 60's, and I'm sitting there in that theater watching that scene, thinking Dear God, I can be more than I am. Help me be more. Help me be who you REALLY want me to be.
I have these moments of grace when I see so clearly -- no. It's not that I see. I feel. I can feel that there's no good reason for me to hold back. Fear no longer matters. Leave the business world that you know so well. Leave the single life that you know so well. I did those things. I know this feeling which comes every so often, then seems to come more frequently. God works transformation in different ways, I know. Usually for me, I reach some tipping point and then one day wake up and realize I'm no longer the same. Ah, may it be so.
Friday, July 20, 2007
My denomination's General Assembly is in my town this year, starting tomorrow. I signed up to help, chairing the Guest Reception Committee. They told me long ago to gather a committee of about 10-12 people in preparation of meeting about 30 VIP's flights at the airport. And have a welcome basket for each of them. No problem. Earlier this year they told me, Oh, it's looking like only 20 VIPs. That's great, I thought. Really, no problem. So I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago and didn't give it a thought.
Last week I still hadn't received any information about flight times, but I wasn't worried. Finally, on Friday I get the list and it has 17 flights on it. Pretty good. No problem. I work a retreat at my church from 7:30 until mid-afternoon and put in about 3 hours getting the list and my volunteer information organized. Sunday comes and we have regular worship plus a board meeting and I have a pastoral care emergency that lasts several hours. Still I'm not worried. Well, you get where this is going.
I've spent the whole of this week one step ahead of absolute disaster on getting VIP's picked up --OR NOT--from the airport. Seventeen was just the beginning. Sketchy information. People notifying us at the very last minute (one musician just this morning, and here it is Friday, asking for pickup THIS MORNING!). Welcome baskets for people we're not picking up. Things like that.
One step ahead of disaster is just not my style, people.
The interesting thing here is that, while I've made my share of boo-boos (giving people the wrong cell-phone numbers for the most part) and I'm bone tired, I'm not upset, I'm not in a bad mood, I'm not HATING MY JOB, I'm not depressed, I'm not anything negative at all. I feel pretty darn good, actually!
Today is Friday and it's the first day I'm not working a 12-hour day since Saturday.
I slept until 6:40 am. I've done some work here at home. I'm meeting a wonderful friend for lunch at 1:00, then going into the church, and I'll probably work until 7:00 pm or so, making sure Saturday is covered. But I feel refreshed and I'm looking forward to the afternoon. Whoa! What's going on here?
Life is good. God is amazing.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I remember in sixth grade, I had a bad case of bronchial pneumonia. Thinking I understood Christian Science, (pffft!) I have a strong memory of lying in bed one night trying to deny the reality of the illness. Let me just say that I almost didn't make it out of sixth grade because of high absences.
In Christian Science, at least back then (this was when I was in fourth grade), the children attended Sunday School at 11:00 while the adults attended the reading in the sanctuary at the same time. The children sat around a table, according to our ages, and a teacher taught us. What we were taught, I have no clue. The teacher, however, I clearly remember. Mrs. Taylor. Oh, how I loved her. I loved her so much that I asked my mom if we could take Mrs. Taylor out to lunch with us after church one day. She agreed. My memory is that we seemed to have to wait on Mrs. Taylor to show up...the feeling attached to this vague memory is my mother feeling uncomfortable and blaming me.
The deeper feeling is so much vulnerability, so much at risk, wanting Mrs. Taylor to love me.
When I was 17 I left Christian Science behind. While on a high school choir trip at Port Aransas, I "got saved" and joined my local Baptist church. I was baptized my immersion several weeks later. (No one from my family came to that service, but I didn't mind that. I had a friend from work who was there, and my paternal grandmother wanted to know all about it. She and I had many long conversations about religion until she died in 1993.)
There followed several years of Bill Gaither concerts, Bill Gothard institute stuff, James Robison revivals, and Campus Crusade for Christ, including one Solution Bowl in which I felt terribly guilty for not ending the conference by going out with everyone else to witness to people coming out of the bars downtown on Saturday night. I read my Bible zealously every day during those years. I journaled and prayed and journaled and prayed some more. I listened to Christian radio, especially a program early in the morning as I prepared for work that included music interspersed with Christian self-help.
These were my years as an evangelical Christian, my years as a Southern Baptist, which all began on that high school choir trip. The girl that led me to Christ on that fateful trip was Donna King. She was a very very good person. And popular in school. She had the lead role in several huge school musicals. Oh, what a pretty voice she had. She was voted Most Popular by all the teachers and students, I think, in her senior year. I really liked her. And on this choir trip in our cabin filled with girls, she was paying attention to me, Katherine E., who was decidedly not popular, who practiced hiding out rather than trying out for high school musicals. But here was Donna, turning all her fabulous attention on me, wanting to know what I thought and felt about God, a topic about which I'd thought deeply and a subject I loved.
I remember crying. I remember feeling so vulnerable, feeling that so much was at risk, wanting Donna to like me.
Friday, July 13, 2007
One friend is M, who I'll name Runner CPA. She's a partner in a CPA firm but "Runner Partner" won't quite do, will it? That gives the impression that we run together, and believe me, she knows me well enough to know that I do NOT run. Ever. (I can hear her laughing even now.) Runner CPA loves her work, and her clients obviously love her. I must've met Runner CPA in 1993 at a spiritual retreat--I know it was before my mother died because I remember her at the memorial service, and my mother died in 1994. She is generous and kind in many, many ways.
The other friend at lunch today was A, who I've mentioned here before, but I'll give her a name now, too. Let's see...Hmmm. Can't think. Well...I suppose Seeker Executive will do. A is a spiritual seeker and she's an executive in the business world. Unlike Runner CPA, I can't really say that Seeker Executive loves her work, but she's certainly devoted to it. Talk about work ethic! I met Seeker Executive in 1993 as well, I think. She's been my spiritual teacher in many ways.
I don't see these two friends enough. When I lived in City to the East, it was a bit better, but I'm now at least a 45 minute drive away (on a good traffic day). In fact it took me well over an hour to get home today. Stuck in traffic, I reflected on how long I've known these two wonderful friends, as well as From a Small Texas Town, another friend I met in 1993 whom we all know and love. The four of us have been through so much together. We're all in our 50's, we're all at various stages in relationships with men (marriage, dating, etc.), we have a variety of personality types, we all do different work, but we have remained connected through these years. Gannet Girl wrote so eloquently about bonding with women through the years and how she learned about the trustworthiness of her women friends. Yes. I do SO understand that.
Seeker Executive, Runner CPA, and From a Small Texas Town, I love you!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
- I felt such gratitude as I saw one of my clients walk through the door today. I've been concerned about her.
- My stepson said he felt good about his job interview today. Again, I am grateful to God for that.
- TS, a man who is homeless and who comes by the church regularly, rang the bell this morning. I haven't seen him in over a month. When I went to the door, I said, "May I help you?" He had to speak to me before I recognized him. All his long shaggy hair and long beard were completely gone! Goodness! He looked great! The look on my face obviously told of my shock. He smiled a great big smile and said, "It's me, Katherine! I've been in jail! Look at this--" And he pointed to his stomach which was actually pooching out a bit, from its normal concave look. Jail's bad, but at least he was able to eat enough every day to gain some weight! All the charges against him were dropped, and while he was in jail he started reading his Bible again. I'm praying this is real new start for him. I've always liked him. We talked about a plan for a new beginning, a conversation which didn't go anywhere, but I gave him some money and told him to come back when the senior minister can talk to him about some opportunity for work. Hopefully we can help with practical matters for him. God bless him. He certainly blessed me today.
- My client said "your office, this beautiful church, is my santuary. I can't wait to come here."
- When I called one of my parishioners today, SC, her response after I identified myself was full of delight at hearing my voice. I felt held. She incarnated Christ for me. Same thing with one of our church volunteers who gave me a wonderful, heartful hug this afternoon when she came in to work in the office.
- Another client brought me a little gift from her vacation in Hawaii. So thoughtful and kind. This young woman embodies the spirit of Christ's generosity and love, and each time she comes in I am so blessed by her presence.
- D just called to say goodnight. When I called to say good-morning to him earlier, he said he was just reaching into this pocket for his phone to call me. He called me on his morning walk. I called him on my afternoon break. We don't always do that. It's not necessary. It's just that today, as I reflect on God's presence in my life, I know that it is God who inspires and sustains the human connections of love that matter like that.
- As I continue my reflections tonight, perhaps it is the presence of God reminding me also that the pressure I'm beginning to feel already to get things done (oh! a million things!) even with just one day back from vacation, that pressure is really coming from my fear of being criticized. And if I listen to God...yes, if I listen to God, what is God probably saying? ... ... probably something like ... ... something like: Katherine, if something doesn't get done, or doesn't get done perfectly, it's OK. You are still a lovable person. You are still my beloved daughter. Soooooo, turn off your computer, turn off your light, go to sleep, and rest easy. All is well.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I also had lunch with Genuine Beautiful Drummer Girl. Always a joy. Then we went shopping at the mall and Target.
D's on a business trip for a couple of days; I miss him already. Gosh, I love being married! Work promises to be busy, and all three kids are here, so that will help, I'm sure.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Condoleeza Rice came in to Bush's office and said, "Sir, 2 Brazilian soldiers died in Iraq today."
George replied, "Holy Jesus, this is terrible. How am I ever going to tell the American people about this one?"
She ponders about his strange over-reaction for a minute, then leaves.
George then turns to his secretary and says, "How much is a brazillion?"
My brother-in-law Booming Bass looks great. He's had heart problems for several years, so it's wonderful to see him looking so good! I said something about struggling so much this year with respiratory problems and how that reminded me of my (and my sister's) mother, who died of respiratory failure, and Booming Bass was very kind to remind me of something important. He talked about how his own father had died of a heart attack at age 42, which was a fact we all had on our minds years ago when Booming Bass' heart problems all began. "We're all different people, Katy," he said.
We've all been through a lot together. I don't think it was long after my mother died that Booming Bass went on total SSI disability--somewhere in the mid-1990's probably. I was reminded that I've known him almost 30 years. He and my sister have been married 29 years this coming October.
My sister, Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing, gosh, it was just SO great to see her, to be reminded of a depth of connection with someone I've known my whole life. D got a genuine kick out of how she imitated me to the "T." We all did. She has a knack for doing that--it's hilarious. But she can do it also because she just knows me so well. All through our conversation I was struck at all the little ways in which we are so similar, our tastes are so alike. I'm so happy for her good news--her company is merging with another, but the legal documents state specifically that my sister and her job will not be in jeopardy. Wow. What a compliment!
I hated leaving her after that short little lunch. I hugged her, and then I hugged her again, and I told her I loved her. As we drove away, and for an hour or so down I-75, underneath my sunglasses, tears filled my eyes. Part of the emotion was because I'm still so physically exhausted. Part was because I know it will be a long time, too long, before I see her again. Part was because she's so good at demonstrating her love for me, too.
And, after all, it's just nice to know you're loved.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
How does this man sleep at night? who is he, really? Is it a case of megalomania? or such a small sense of self that Cheney runs his life? or is he one of these people who never developed a sense of morals? what governs his reality, his worldview? Now he's given us just one more reason to be frightened. And outraged. One more reason to hold our collective breath until he finally leaves office in January 2009. He flagrantly disregards for the rule of law. Holds prisoners, apparently forever, without charging them. Tortures them. Invades other countries at will. Spies on whomever he wants to spy on. Politicizes the "justice" department. Fights terrorism by creating more hatred and terrorists the world over. Arrogantly lectures and bullies the world, and when that doesn't work, whines about it. What a leader.
"This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people’s faith in a government that puts the country’s progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years."
"Only a president clinically incapable of understanding that mistakes have consequences could take the action he did today. President Bush has just sent exactly the wrong signal to the country and the world. In George Bush's America, it is apparently okay to misuse intelligence for political gain, mislead prosecutors and lie to the FBI. George Bush and his cronies think they are above the law and the rest of us live with the consequences. The cause of equal justice in America took a serious blow today."
Sunday, July 1, 2007
We leave on vacation Wednesday morning---pretty good timing! Visiting my inlaws in Georgia is a great thing...I can just relax and take it easy.