So do I stay or do I go?

I might have blogged about this already, but I don’t remember.  Regardless, this is going to be a stream of consciousness typing thing, so if I get redundant I apologize.

Background:

In August of 2014, I remember being at church and someone was preaching and hearing very clearly in my head “you should not be here”.  I don’t know if it was God speaking straight to me or what, but it freaked me out.

I flipped to the back of the notebook I was using to take notes, and tried to figure out what it meant. Was I not supposed to be there that day? Was I not supposed to be at that service?  Was I not supposed to be at that church at all?

Again, it freaked me out.

Granted, I had been feeling a bit adrift at my church then.  Our senior pastor was on the verge of retirement, and I do not feel that I got much out of his sermons for the last few years he was active.  We were blessed to have a regular rotating staff of those that preached, and the one that was preaching that Sunday is one that I used to get so much out of but lately had found that I got nothing.  I was tired of stories of his kids, his broken childhood home, and sports.  E.v.e.r.y. sermon was comprised of these things.

Slowly, however, the others that preached regularly moved on to other things/places.  Leaving us with the one preaching that sunday and the senior pastor.

So now fast forward to today, when the senior pastor has retired.

So guess who the new one is? Continue reading

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Book Review: Jesus Land: A Memoir

I finished this book over a week ago, and I cannot stop thinking about it.  It wasn’t an easy read, but it certainly was thought-provoking!  Written by Julia Scheeres, it was also published as Another Hour on a Sunday Morning in the UK.

Julia is the youngest of four children (one boy, three girls) in a very strict Calvinist family. When she was three, her family decided to adopt a boy. They were a bit taken aback when there were no white babies available and ended up with a black child, David.  Bigoted themselves, David’s new mom was afraid that his blackness would rub off on her whenever she touched him.  Julia, however, had an instant bond with him and loved him unreservedly, becoming best friends.  When David was a few years older, they decided he needed another brother ‘like him’, and adopted Jerome. These are the three children that move to small town Indiana in the early 1980s. Continue reading

Sacrifice or Discipline?

So I struggled with what to sacrifice for Lent this year.  I’ve done sodas, sugar, sleep, various food products, etc.  Actually, when I first started giving up something for Lent (about 15 years ago) it was almost always a food item.  I think it was because anyone I had ever heard of giving up something for Lent had always given up food items–soda, chocolate, salt, meat–and I didn’t understand enough about it to get that it could be anything.  So this year I really struggled.  I gave up sodas about seven years ago, but now I don’t really drink them (almost as a direct result of that year).  I somehow felt that food’s were trivial.  That God was telling me that food wasn’t important enough to me to be a sacrifice, and then to focus that time in service.  I pondered this for weeks, trying to determine exactly what I was supposed to be sacrificing.

And then I figured it out.

I wasn’t too far off when I said time.  Granted, last time it was really more of the snooze bar, so that I could go to the gym.  But I just cancelled my gym membership effective March 1, so that’s not going to work.  Instead, I realized (well not really, I’ve known it for a long time) that if I come home and plop on the couch, I’m not going to get anything else done in that evening.  So I told myself that Monday through Friday, when I get home, the TV cannot turn on until 9pm or later.  This may prove to be particularly difficult on Fridays, as I get home by 115 in the afternoon, and Saturdays I have yet to determine the parameters (but trust me there will be some–I’m thinking no tv between 10 and 6) but so far this has actually made a difference.  Granted it’s only day 2, but it is.  Yesterday I finally got a bunch of laundry done and sorted my bills for the first time in five weeks.  Today I got my 2012 tax information together, cleaned out a cupboard, and kept going on my VHS to DVD project.

And yes, I prayed more.  I thought about what I was doing, and thought about why we do this thing called sacrifice.  And I think that this might be a worthy journey for me over the remaining 38 days.  Not to say that I don’t plan on purging after Easter (have you seen the 31 days of Oscar lineup on TCM?  I mean come on!), but it will be a valuable lesson and who knows–like my soda habit, maybe this will declare some new habits for me as well.

The loss of a beloved soul

Yesterday I had to go to a funeral.  I realize that’s a downer of a statement to start a blog posting with, but there you have it.  I went to a funeral.  For some reason, funeral attendance has been a common topic among some of my friends lately.  Maybe it’s because one of us is riddled with cancer in over half of her body.  Maybe it’s because an acquaintance passed away ten months ago and her loss is sorely felt every day.

Many of my friends have said that they have only been to a funeral, maybe two, in their lifetime.  I can’t say that.  I think I go to about three a year, and at least one (if not all three) are for family.  Y’all, my grandfather had 14 brothers and sisters.  My grandma, who came from the smallest family, had seven.  They all lived into their 80s, but lately we are losing a few every year.  And funerals, in my family, are not always a somber event.  They are frequently turned into parties, reunions, potluck picnics, and get-togethers.  When my Papa died seven years ago, my great-uncle (nana’s brother) left early because he had a headache.  Turned out to be brain cancer over 60% of his gray matter.  Three weeks later, my pseudo-grandma (and nana’s best friend) had a massive heart attack at her grandson’s football game and passed away.  Six weeks later, nana’s last remaining brother also passed away.  So in three months she lost her husband, two brothers and best friend.  That side of the family was thrilled we’d seen each other four times in three months, but hated the reason.  So we started planning a reunion every summer just because–and hopefully not having a funeral to see one another.

All that to say that funerals don’t faze me.  I consider it a matter of respect to the person that has passed to go to a ceremony or service that celebrates the person that lived, the soul and spirit of the departed, and to laugh and share memories of the loved one.  And bonus if they were a member of the church, looking down from the right hand of God and smiling at all of us remembering good times while he lived, knowing that one day we will be reunited.

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of a great, great man.  He was an elder in the church of my youth, and always good for a kiss, a hug, and a laugh.  His petite wife, a darling woman, was there by his side every day.  He’d been in hospice for almost two years, but only after having a stroke last week did the end seem near.  Blissfully, it was just a few days before he passed.  Married for 64 years, he had three children.  The boys went into the ministry, the youngest into the wilds of Africa with his second-generation missionary wife.  The service was a remembrance of the man, the father, the church elder, and the beloved man.

The service had a brass band playing.  No somber choir or soloist here.  The son-in-law of the deceased is a member of the orchestra (or something like that) and arranged to have the quintet playing.  Each of the nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren walked in a processional, carrying a long-stemmed red rose that was placed in a vase on the altar.  Then each of he three children got up to say some words about their father.

That’s when it started to get uncomfortable for me.  Not because of the words they said, in fact, I was envious of the things that they shared.  They had such a close relationship with their father and had the blessing of a man who was incredibly involved in their lives, a man who raised them and participated in their lives, and meant so much to them that they had small stories to share that had every one of us cracking up with hysterical laughter.

But the worst was when one of the ministers got up to read a letter that Cliff had written to his children.  It was the man I remembered.  To the point, it addressed each of the three kids, and said something specific to each of them that had all laughing.  It was full of advice, reminiscence, wisdom, and love.  It was absolutely beautiful.

And that’s what was so hard for me.  I have a relationship with my father.  He is 65 years old.  He isn’t the greatest father in the world (his own words), but he’s the only father that I have.  While each of Cliff’s children got up to speak about the joy that was life with their father, I kept thinking that the man I give that title to has been largely absent from my life, not really there when I need him, and rarely around to even speak to.  As I have gotten older, things have improved–mostly because he’s the king of text messaging.  It’s impersonal and brief.  Just like dad.

But more disturbingly, I don’t know of anyone that could say anything remotely close to that regarding my father after his demise.  He is not an easy guy to know.  He is not always nice.  He isn’t funny.  He’s not caring, nurturing, or loving.  He’s a cold-hearted, calculating, conniving soul if you want the truth.  And I hate to say it but I’m not even sure I would have a lot to say about the man in that sort of circumstance.  Would I be upset if he were to pass?  Of course.  He’s my father.  I might even be a bit more upset as he is also one that has walked away from the church, denying all faith.  So I know that when he dies, he is truly gone from me.  But I don’t know if I would truly have much of a loss to mourn, as any involvement he has in my life is restricted to conversations regarding his mother, quick conversations about the weather, and wondering if he is going to stop by my brother’s house for dinner when I’m in town.  We don’t talk much.  Not for lack of trying on my part, but there is only so many times you can hit your head against a concrete wall before you get a massive headache and stop.

I spent a lot of time last night upset about this.  I miss what my father could have been, had he only ever had an interest.  I miss the relationship we could have had, given the opportunity.  I miss the role he could have had in my life, if he only ever cared enough to take it.  He left my life over thirty years ago, and while he is present as a family member now that I’m an adult, it’s not as a parent.  More of a distant blood relative that I get along with on occasion.

So after witnessing the joy that was the service and celebration yesterday, I want to say this:  Lee, Craig, and Sharon: You are and were greatly blessed.  To have such a loving family surround you and support you all your life, and to recognize how special that was while you had the chance is a great gift.  I loved your father so very much, he was such a great man of God.  He did you all well, and you have made him so very, very proud.  I am so very sorry for your loss, but you know that somewhere he is waiting for you to join him.  In the meantime, he is finding a wig and using a funny voice to entertain hordes of children in heaven.  And if that doesn’t work, he’ll be there with a kiss, a hug, and a laugh.  God bless you all.

Why I Choose Homeschooling

When I was a kid, it was only the kids that were unable to socialize properly that were homeschooled.  I think I knew two, a brother sister pair, and I had heard rumors of the other local families that did.  And it was always done in hushed tones, because they were kids that were different, kids that had a problem, and homeschooling was the last option available to them.

Now, over twenty years later, I can’t even begin to count the number of people I know that homeschool their children.  Families with one child, families with four children.  Actually, come to think of it, lots of families with four children for some reason.  Families with more than just their own being homeschooled.  Families that like the free structure homeschooling provides and the flexibility to pursue the individual interests of the family and the child.

Now, were I to have children, I’d homeschool in a hot minute.  Of course, while I’m being honest, I also want the husband that supports me and that makes enough money that we can comfortably afford for me to not work and stay at home with children.  And while I’m having a fantasy life it would also be ten years ago so that I’d be 30 not 40 making these predictions.  But hey, since I”m getting all hypothetical . . . .

I would love the opportunity.  I would welcome the chance to stay at home with my kids and have a hand in their cognitive development that most people don’t get to experience.  I would gladly participate in the co-op so that my kids would benefit from the art teacher that gives lessons, the hiking guide that works with various nature and science opportunities.  I would relish the fact that timing would be on the pace for the kids and the one that works best for our family structure.

But most of all?  I love the fact that the whole thing can be done without an alarm clock.  That the schedule is set to what works best for you.  That you can wake up in the morning sometime after 6am and still get your day accomplished.  That you don’t have to wake up two hours before the sun rises to get people ready and to get in a classroom before dawn.

Selfish?  Yes.  But it’s the brutal honest truth.

Delayed Grief and Farewell My Friend

Several years ago, a friend of mine had a headache.  Who knew that it was the beginning of the end.

Over the years, she and I developed a friendship.  A single mom who was struggling with the idea of ending her marriage, she knew that the best thing for her two daughters was to part from the father, as he was a bit too fond of his vices, and try to make a go of it on her own.  She was just a few years older than I, and throughout the phenomenon known as ‘nap time’ during the GCN Saturday shows I found out she used to live around the corner from my Aunt and Uncle, and babysat my two younger cousins.  We were not exceptionally close–we didn’t go to the movies or hang out outside of church.  But I did consider her a friend.  And a true soul at that.

She was a beautiful woman, with two beautiful daughters.  She raised her daughters in the church, and the three of them had an organic and true love for God.  She had a younger brother who was a surrogate father to them, for they loved their Uncle.

Then there came a day that she was having a headache.  Her father, after two days, forced her to go to the hospital.  No simple migraine, it turns out that she actually had MDS–myelodysplastic syndrome.  Once known as preleukemia, it is a blood disorder.  Most commonly found in people who have had chemotherapy for other conditions, it sometimes hits people for no reason at all.  That was my friend.

For the next year and a half, we watched her sail through blood transfusions, treatments, etc.  Her daughters were amazing.  Her test results came back with fantastic results.  Then there was the day that her results were not so fantastic.  She had a setback.  And then she had another.  And then it went from just a setback to full-blown leukemia.

Then came chemo.  Again, Continue reading

Heart vs. Head

I own my house.  Well, technically, the bank does, but you know what I mean.  Part of owning a house is maintaining that house, so that you will continue to own it in the future without it crumbling down around your knees.  I am eight years into this home, the longest I’ve lived anywhere for the last 22 years.  So it’s weird that I am here and have these sorts of repairs to do, as I am not used to being around long enough to do them.  I have started repairs on the exterior, and have another $8500 to go–all cosmetic.  Teardown/rebuild projects, reinstallation projects where the prior owner did a crappy job, etc.  As I do not make a ton of money, that $8500 is something that I would love to see happen, but haven’t got the faintest idea how it will.

Here is my dilemma.  I spent two weeks in Germany this past summer at the generous gift of my friends to serve on a mission trip with my church.  It was a glorious opportunity, and one I’ll not soon forget.  I was incredibly blessed, and it was a poignant reminder of how service is essential to all that lay heartfelt claim to the Christian label.  It was also a chance to connect with some people in my church that I had not known before, and as I was in the minority as an adult (most were in the 21-23 age range) it was also a reminder that I’m not young, that these are our future leaders, and that I am no longer 23 years old myself.

This morning Continue reading