Friday, November 30, 2007

Enchanted


If you have EVER in your ENTIRE life loved a Disney movie, go see Enchanted.

D and Young Man with Integrity and I just came from seeing this movie, and all three of us LOVED IT.

(Now, that's a recommendation!)

The Five Gifts Meme

Jan tagged me for the Favorite Gifts meme. Hmmm, this one's not easy for me, but I'll give it a go.

Name five of your favorite all time gifts, either given or gotten. In no particular order...

1. A container of dirt.
Sounds funny, I know. I was in group therapy for two years. It was through that group that my sense of self strengthened tremendously. Anyway, when you leave a group like that there's a leaving ritual that takes place and the group members all say goodbye, etc. etc. Some people gave me a going-away gift, and the gift from my therapist (the one I still see, MR) was a little container of dirt. It was the "earth" from a very special place for her, a place in New Mexico that is said to have special healing properties. She said, "Katherine, this gift is meant to remind you that you are a healer."

Wow.

2. Two gifts from my sister: a plate inlaid with beautiful mother of pearl and a diamond and sapphire ring.
The plate is really soooo beautiful. My sister Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing brought it back from Mexico for me. It sits on our mantel and reminds me of her love and generosity. And the ring...oh, the ring. My sister bought it for me as a going-away gift when she and her family, and our mother, moved to South Carolina. It was a sad and difficult time for all of us; Blonde Beauty and Handsome Boy were only 10 and 7 at the time; losing them felt like losing my own children. My sister's astounding generosity was an acknowledgement that she knew, she understood what it was like for me to see most of my family move halfway across the country. My sister has a huge heart.

3. The wedding gifts.
D and I had to have an economical wedding. But it was so lovely because of how my friends volunteered to provide things...Runner CPA bought my wedding outfit, a turquoise silk suit. And she hired a personal shopper to find it for me. The whole experience was totally amazing. Seeker Executive paid for the reception, if you can believe that. Plus the fabulous wedding cake. Life Giving and her mother paid for and arranged all the flowers. Oh, they were all just so unbelievably generous. And there were so many other wonderful gifts, including the gift of family and friends from all over the country traveling so far to be here to share it all with me.

4. The china I gave my sister.
This was so much fun. Back when I worked at ARCO I once traveled to Hong Kong where, of course, the shopping is incredible. I bought my sister an entire set of dishes, Royal Doulton I think it was. Had them shipped back home. It took six months to arrive, but it was fun to give them to her. My sister really knows how to receive a gift...no matter what it is, she shrieks to high heaven! laughes and carries on! and just makes the whole event amazingly FUN. Oh, I smile now just to think of it.

5. I can't choose.
I'm thinking of several other gifts that mean so much to me...

  • The flowers D frequently brings me...
  • The little fan Genuine Beautiful Drummer Girl brought back from New York City...
  • The coffee and cup that Lovely Passionate Feminist gave me last Christmas. The cup says "just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly"...
  • How Booming Bass repaired my eyeglasses for me during the week that my mother died...
  • The multicolored cross necklace from Seeker Executive that has the line from Isaiah: "I have called you by name."...
  • How Runner CPA did my taxes for free for years and years...
  • The hug I received from my Uncle Weldon when my grandfather died when I was 11....
  • The trip to Canada from a couple at the church I served in 2004. It was a free week at their timeshare condo for me and D...
  • D's love...
My heart goes tender at the thought of these and so many other gifts. People are so loving and generous and kind.

The Friday Five: Holiday Traditions We Don't Like

My first time to play Friday Five ~~ here we go...

Will Smama asks: Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....

1) dessert/cookie/family food.
Oh, easy one: Fruit cake. Gag.
Hey, you know mobsters use it to make sure bodies sink to the bottom of lakes, don't you?

2) beverage.
Eggnog, I guess. I have a powerful memory of my mother going "Yuck" and making a face every time my dad and uncle made eggnog at Christmas when we went to my grandmother's for the traditional get-together. Of course, my dad and uncle were putting a fifth of whiskey in there, and that's really the reason she didn't like it. Truth to tell, I've never actually tried eggnog.

3) tradition (church, family, other).
It's not fun to have to share the kids at holidays, but other than that, I can't really think of one I don't like.

4) decoration.
Oh, man, all these huge blow-up figures people are putting in their yards. There's one house down the streets with about SIX of them, and it's not a big yard. Come on, people, use some imagination!! (this from one who has no outside decorations at all)

5) gift (received or given)
Again, fruit cake.

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.
"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"--enough's enough.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Freefall into the grace of God

Denise Levertov is a wonderful poet, isn't she?

The Avowal

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit's deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
~Denise Levertov ~

Ohhhh, what lovely memories this poem evokes in me.
Freefalling into the arms of God.

Leaving the false security of ARCO. Strangely easy .... Preaching to the seminary community, professors and all. Valerie telling me to LIVE, LIVE in THIS moment .... Group therapy where I was Levertov's soaring hawk, the bravest I've ever been when it comes to a potential relationship .... And marriage. Risking it all, although somehow it didn't feel like the cost could be death, sustained no doubt by God and by a confidence in D's 'earnestness.'

So it seems that Life ~real Life~ is a series of freefalls.

Learning to trust.
....................Failing to learn, time and time and time again.

Staying open, though. Listening for the still small voice and its nudgings.

Becoming more conscious of Fear, but its sister Courage as well.

Holy One, nudge me to freefall.

Friday, November 23, 2007

They add such delight to my life

My niece, Blonde Beauty, called yesterday to say hello on Thanksgiving and to wish me well in my new position. I wished her well, too--she has a new job! (No more temporary assignments! yes!) She has the most delightful personality: fun and friendly and at-ease in any situation. She's a great writer and I love to hear her sing. What is Blonde Beauty now?--hmmm, I guess she's 26 with a birthday coming soon on January 12. Her new job is in the accounting area, and my sister tells me she's enrolling in night school at the college in her town.

I have the warmest memories of spending time with her and my nephew Handsome Boy before they moved to South Carolina. On the weekends I took them all over. We went to San Antonio via Amtrack. It was a great trip to the RiverWalk, swimming and room service in a fancy hotel~I have a picture of them jumping on the beds. [Discipline has never been my long suit.] On the way home the train died. Yep, just died on the tracks and what should have taken five hours took thirteen. They probably got tired and misbehaved, but I don't remember that. I just remember how I loved being with them.

We went to the Arbuckle Wilderness in Oklahoma. Spent the night in a cabin near Turner Falls, I think. (Is that right? can't remember). Anyway, we drove through the animal park, windows down, food purchased, and fed every animal that came to us, including a HUGE HUGE HUGE buffalo.

I used to live in City to the East near the newly-built Galleria shopping mall. I'd take them there early on Sunday mornings when it was closed and they could run and jump and yell to their hearts content. They called me "KK." "KK, come see!" "KK, look, look!"

I am so grateful for my niece and nephew. They add such delight to my life. How I wish they lived closer.
______
Oh, and let me wish Booming Bass, my brother-in-law, HAPPY BIRTHDAY today! He's 59, but as I told him on the phone this morning, he certainly doesn't look it!

my grandmother's recipe for dressing

Mompriest asked for the recipe. Here goes!
The name is "Country Cornbread Dressing w/ Sausage," according to my mother, who was careful to get the recipe from her mother-in-law and very thoughtfully wrote this out for me and Beautiful Blue Eyes Laughing years before she died.

2 cups diced celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup melted butter
1 pan (8-9 inch) cornbread, cooked and crumbled
2 cups bread crumbs
1 pound sausage, fried, drained, and crumbled
1 regular can chicken broth
3/4 cup water
2 beaten eggs

Saute the celery and onions until tender.

In large bowl combine celery mixture, corn bread, bread crumbs, and sausage. Mix well.

Add broth, butter, eggs, and water. Toss until thoroughly moist.

Use 13x9 baking dish. Bake 30 or 40 minutes at 350.
Makes about 3 quarts. For a 12-16 pound turkey.

Note: Yesterday I used only 1 cup of bread crumbs and more butter. Much better.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

a peaceful Thanksgiving morning

The cornbread's baking, the sausage (for the cornbread--southern style, my grandmother's recipe) is frying, D's still asleep, the cat's up and misbehaving, but otherwise it's an incredibly quiet, peaceful Thanksgiving morning. All three children are at their mother's house in City to the South. I wish they were here, but Christmas will be a joyous time all together.

So different from the years and years I spent going to Thanksgiving at the home of some extended family member. They were always gracious to me, but I felt an undercurrent of "poor Katy." Perhaps that was my own stuff. The first Thanksgiving that D and I were married, though, we received no invitation, much to my painful surprise. It took me a while to adjust to that, given all my issues around "family," but now I see it as much better. I'd rather be here with D, just the two of us, than anywhere else.

I'm afraid D might be getting sick. He said last night that his body has taken on all the stress of the last week or so. He's been busy at work, but he mainly means all the hullabaloo at my church. I know it wasn't easy for him to have me come home last Wednesday and cry in his arms for an hour. Sheesh!

I pray he'll wake up feeling much better this morning. (If he's not up to cooking, then I guess I'll have to deal with turkey myself. Which I've done once in my 51 years and as I recall I learned a lot about the strangeness of turkeys that come with their own innards stuffed inside. Weird.)

Best wishes to you all -- I hope it's a wonderful Holiday, full of a special awareness of God's loving presence.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

D and I worshiped at the Thanksgiving Service at his church tonight. What a blessing! To be able to sit in that beautiful sanctuary (this is the church where we were married) and listen to a beautiful sermon, full of God's truth as I understand it, share a meal with good folks, oh! I felt God's presence and am grateful.

I do want to remember just a few of the many things for which I am grateful tonight:
  • my husband and my children-by-marriage, for my sister, niece, nephew and brother-in-law in South Carolina, for my brother and sister-in-law in Thailand, for my dear friends and other family members.

  • my church where, although it's been so tough lately, I have nevertheless been privileged to serve, where I have loved the people and the work of ministry, where I have had wonderful opportunities to do some creative programming, where the beauty of the building's sanctuary has nurtured me...and so much more.

  • technology and how it has allowed me to connect with some amazingly wise people via blogging.

  • the promise of First Congregational, UCC, to be a healthy place where God is worshiped and people are served, where confiict is handled creatively, where I can continue to grow spiritually.

  • prayer that connects us to God and to each other.

  • wise spiritual directors and counselors who work through love, and who help me see what is authentic about myself.

  • for D taking my hand as we prayed tonight at the Thanksgiving service.

  • for Hobbes, our cat ~ D adopted him as a kitten and loves him a lot.

  • so many other things, to numerous to mention here...
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Declaring God's glory

Oh, Monday, Monday. The Mamas and the Papas plaintive singing is part of my reality this morning. Do I really have to go back to work?

This helps. From Thomas Merton:

The forms and individual characters of living and growing things,
of inanimate beings, of animals and flowers and all nature,
constitute their holiness in the sight of God.
Their inscape is their sanctity.
It is the imprint of God's wisdom and God's reality in them.
The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt on this day in the field under these clouds
is a holiness consecrated to God by God's own creative wisdom,
and it declares the glory of God.

Such a lovely combining of the inner and the outer in this Psalm to remind me that ALL creation should declare the glory of God. And I am part of that creation. And so is my church. And so is my vocation. May my soul today not forget....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Idealism

I am thoroughly enjoying this weekend~~it still feels like vacation. I guess that's because it IS still vacation! WooHoo! Yesterday around noon D said "Let's see if we can get tickets to the matinee performance of Man of LaMancha downtown." I was at that moment deeply involved in straightening and organizing my home office (I love doing that!), but am VERY glad that I agreed. I hadn't seen this musical since I was a teenager. I can sing parts of "The Impossible Dream" and "I am I, Don Quixote, the Man of LaMancha!" (who can't?), but I had forgotten the story. This particular production had its problems, but overall I just loved it!

I'm such an idealist. The sermon I heard this morning has something to say about that, actually. The title was "Stewards of Life in the Realm of Death." Idealism, if it does not deny reality, is a good thing, I think. It's hope. If reality is denied, of course, idealism is only an empty exercise in positive thinking. The sermon reminded me of why the Church is important and why my calling to ministry continues to feel important and alive to me.

The interesting thing about idealism and seeing reality, to me, is how "seeing reality" is such a slippery concept to begin with. The woman Aldonza is no "lady." Yet when the 'mad' knight Don Quixote cannot see her in any other way, no matter how urgently and angrily she begs him to see her for what she is, she then becomes a lady, Dulcinea. Ah, beautiful! So, is this knight insane, or simply better than the rest of us at actually seeing?

I wrote a paper once on Carl Rogers and his humanistic psychology. Rogers believed that his patients improved because of his unconditional positive regard for them, his own congruence (authenticity), and the safe and empathic environment he created for them. In my paper I wrote admiringly of many aspects of his approach, but critiqued him for failing to take the power of evil seriously. I still believe my critique was on target, but even so, many people experienced powerful healing under Rogers' approach of offering unconditional positive regard. And Aldonza became the lady she is and always had been through one other person's steadfast recognition of her essential goodness.

I realize that I'm equating idealism with a very high anthropology. They aren't the same thing, but they do feel that way at times in this world where millions of human beings are "trafficked" daily for sex and for slave labor...where children learn they are valuable only if they make their parents look good in some way...where holy listening is so terrifyingly rare...where baby girls are still automatically destroyed at birth...Oh, there are so many ways we callously blind ourselves to the ultimate value, the absolute preciousness, of our fellow human beings.

"You see things, and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were, and I say 'Why not?'" ~George Bernard Shaw~
(Robert F. Kennedy was quoting Shaw, as D informed me yesterday)

Friday, November 9, 2007

An Unexpected Ending

Well, we're home. I've posted some pictures to my first post about the vacation below.

Wonderful vacation, still it's nice to be home and in surroundings I love. We stopped in Sherman, only a couple of hours from here last night, just to extend our time away from home--one of those spontaneous, kind of playful decisions. We've had very good luck staying at Hampton Inns when we travel, and last night was no exception.

This morning we stopped at the house in Denison where Pres. Dwight Eisenhower was born. Bought the tickets, took the tour--the whole thing. On the tour with us were a woman in her 70's from Pennsylvania and her daughter. Just the four of us on this tour. Very nice.

When the tour ended, we said our polite goodbyes and D and I headed home. After about 90 minutes in the car we stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch. For the first time all week our conversation turned to work issues, thinking of the upcoming week. The bill came, we paid and headed out the door. A few steps later, in the parking lot, we see two women waving at us. Unbelievably, it's the woman in her 70s from Pennsylvania and her daughter. From the Eisenhower house tour. Talk about BIZARRE! Of the million different directions, and the millions of choices for lunch, our lives intersect once again with these two women at the Cracker Barrel in Denton, Tx. All four of us were stunned.

Ah well, The Unexpected. A good way to end vacation.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of the woman and her daughter, but this is D and me in front of Eisenhower's house:


Thursday, November 8, 2007

10 Random Things

Jan tagged me for the 10 Random Things meme. Thanks, Jan! Here we go!

1. I love to play Free Cell. At the moment my percentage is 98% won. Yeah, I'm good.

2. I know all the words to "Harper Valley P.T.A." and I sing it with feeling.

3. When I'm startled, I usually scream.

4. I've been to a wrestling match...at the Sportatorium in City to the East. Weird experience. I went with a bunch of women when I first started working at the oil company in 1981.

5. I've also been to a Tractor Pull. Also in City to the East when I worked at the oil company and also a weird experience. A woman I worked with and her husband wanted to 'broaden my horizons.' They also offered to teach me how to shoot a gun. I declined that one.

6. Since I married D, I've been to many (I've lost count) Friday night high school football games. Both of my daughters-by-marriage were/are in their h.s. band, so we travel an hour or two to get to these games, in various parts of central Texas. If the weather isn't hotter than hell, it's actually kind of fun. I like football, and it's fun to watch the people, of course.

7. I once typed 106 wpm with two errors. And I won a contest in high school for speed on the 10-key adding machine. Yeah, I'm good. My sister has always been better, though. She's blazing fast.

8. Always wanted a solo voice. I can blend OK with my voice, but I love to sing and wish I sounded better! My sister and I spent countless hours growing up, with me doing the best I could (which wasn't great) at the piano and both of us singing our hearts out. Oh, that was fun!

9. I'm a terrible cook. What's the secret to keeping cookies from burning on the bottom? My chocolate pies are lumpy--how come? I finally figured out how to cook chicken 'n' dumplings like my mother used to make~major accomplishment, but that's about it.

10. Love to play ping-pong. Wish we had a ping-pong table.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Courage and Renewal, the Church, and me

I glimpsed what the Church should be during the five Courage to Lead retreats 2006-2007. (Thanks to Jan, once again, for the amazing image of Courage, below.)

At these retreats we were invited to practice being the people God is calling us to become, and as I think about it, what better purpose for the Church than that?

The Courage to Lead series of five retreats for clergy and lay leaders provided:

* a time and a place designed to enhance our opening to the movement/voice of the Spirit
* an emotionally safe environment
* silence
* opportunities that challenged us to move out of our false-ego's comfort zone
* beauty
* a context of both solitude and community, both of which are often required for courage to emerge
* the patience to give over a year for all five retreats, an acknowledgement of the difficulty of this process
* a pattern of "real world"/retreat/"real world" that also took the difficulty of this process into account
* competent, inspiring, and commited facilitators who shared the path with us

The purpose of the Church is viewed, variously, as service to the world, transformation of the world, being sent as disciples of Jesus Christ "to bear witness to God's reconciliation and healing" of creation, to be Christ's body now on the earth. It seems to me that all of these purposes begin with transformed individuals who, as transformed, now see the truth of themselves as an integral part of community. At the heart of our transformation is becoming increasingly more like Jesus the Christ--a process that entails removing the obstacles to that becoming. It's not that God's purposes are denied until we reach a certain likeness--no, at any point in our lives God's purposes can be accomplished through us. But the more conscious we are of this process of becoming authentic and real, the more effective we are and the richer and more beautiful life is.

The process of becoming is so very difficult, so counter-cultural, so painful. It takes courage and deep commitment. The Courage to Lead work provides a powerful opportunity to practice this courage and commitment in a community of like-minded people. What a rare and wonderful blessing.

Oh, if only the Church could see the power of God at work like this. To see it in action is to be confronted, I think, with the many ways we trivialize the Church, its work, and who we are as Christians. We forget that we are in the world to change the world, not to buy into its greed, its fear, and the many ways it strives to remain unconscious. This work of cooperating with God to change the world begins by cooperating with God to do the powerful, painful inner work of allowing ourselves to be changed.

I have so many obstacles still taking up space within me, obstacles to becoming more authentic, obstacles to the shining forth of the imago Christi within me. One of these obstacles is how I have rejected my own embodiment. I'm 51 and it's been a rare day in my life when I have been able to love and celebrate my own body. I can look back at all the work I've done on becoming more authentic--I've been at it for about 20 years now, I guess. I look back and can say with real integrity that I've learned to love and like who I am. But, really, is that even possible when I do not include in this loving and liking the very body in which my self resides? Oh, it's possible--I am my body, and yet am I also more. That's the idea upon which I have based this separation, anyway. But the Incarnation affirms God's love for the world, for material reality, and for the human body. It is not right for me to continue to believe the lies that tell me my body should not be celebrated because it fails to meet certain cultural standards. That is a trivialization of who I am as a Daughter of God. God calls me to wholeness, to a oneness of self and embodiment in this life.

With more time to slow down and reflect, taking vacation so soon after our last Courage to Lead retreat is helping me understand and experience this truth more fully. It's painful for me, but I must change my beliefs, align them more with what I understand God affirms. This rejection of my embodiment is an obstacle to the abundant life that is mine through Christ. I know what loving and celebrating my body would look like--I already have a powerful and FUN image of it, an image that has helped me before and that I know is right there, available for me to live into more fully.

...Now for the courage I need to do that more often.

Arkansas, Wednesday morning

Arkansas is VERY pretty, just as I remembered. We stayed one night in Hot Springs but didn't really see much of the town, electing instead to drive on here to Eureka Springs--all told, it's taken us about 12 hours of driving. (The back roads we're taking aren't busy at all, and we're stopping at places called "Alom Cove" just to see what it looks like!)

Eureka Springs is different than I imagined. The B&B, pictured below, didn't have directions on its website, so D looked at a Google map Monday night and memorized it (the man is amazing). We drove into Eureka Springs, with me at the wheel, and were greeted with narrow streets very much like those I've driven in Europe. With my automated speaking MAP sitting beside me, I was directed to "turn left here," which led us UP a series of teeny, tiny roads--Up, Up, Up the mountain we drove, hoping we would not meet another vehicle coming down! "Turn here," he tells me, then "Turn right." At several points it seems we're going straight up! How EXHILARATING! It's like riding a roller coaster! I start to laugh--hysterically, he would say, but that's not true. Finally, we turn onto an unnamed street, and D says this should be it, but he can't be sure without a street sign. We come to an intersection, and yes! Fairmont. And the B&B is right here, on our left. And that's the proprietor, Chris, standing there in the front yard watching, ready to welcome us.

As Chris is showing us our room, he says "You must have got your directions from the internet." Apparently, directions from another source would have meant we'd arrive from another direction. He can tell. Well, if there was an easier way to get here I don't want to know it. That was way too much fun to have missed!

We relaxed for a bit and then walked to dinner (Italian). After dinner, we took another walk to the Crescent Hotel, pictured here, built in 1886, and apparently, full of ghosts. Yikes. Glad we're not staying there!

Today, I think D, historian that he is, might drive about 30 miles to visit a Civil War site, but I'm going to stay here. One day without getting in the car sounds good. I'm looking forward to just relaxing here in this lovely place.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's vacation time!

Oh, it's been too long since I've posted. Thanks, Jan, for the "I miss you" -- same here, my friend.

The Courage to Lead retreat was wonderful. They have a good program, and Cindy Johnson and Estrus Tucker are excellent facilitators. I'm taking all my books and my journal with me on vacation (which starts tomorrow! yes!), and I'm going to read through everything and do some processing.

Wow, I finally have some real time in front of me to just process what I want. Oh, I'm grateful. All summer I tried to use any extra time to work on the lecture (the 200 minute one)--glad that's done. Home from Courage on Thursday, but Friday and this weekend were spent working on our concert series and the additional worship service I do at church. Now, finally, I have some glorious free time in front of me.

D and I leave tomorrow morning for a driving trip through Arkansas. I hope the leaves are turning--it's a pretty state, I've been there before, but it was a long time ago. We have reservations at a hotel in Hot Springs on Monday, and then two nights at a B&B in Eureka Springs. After that, we'll just play it by ear and see what happens.

Life is good.

Best wishes to you all!