Sunday, April 29, 2007

People of the Book

In an online community, a discussion recently broke out on our identity as People of the Book. Of course, the question was immediately asked: just which book are we people of? Since this community is mostly Anglicans, there were two immediate choices: the bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Now, just about every word in the BCP comes directly from the bible, including the entire psalter. And our catechism says that everything necessary for salvation can be found in scripture, but it does not say that everything in scripture is necessary for salvation. So which book comes first?

This question rolled around in my mind for a couple weeks, like a marble. It would rest here for a time, then get jogged loose, roll around, and rest over there for a time. And I think I have the answer. I am a person of the book. Which book? All of them.

I have never encountered any book that has not held Truth. In some books I may have to look a little harder to find it than in others, but there are always Truth and Light and Beauty there for the finding.

I can hear you sighing now, and saying, "Oh please, Hedwyg, don't harp on intentionality again!" So I won't. I won't even bring it up. I won't even use the word. After all, you are the one who brought it into the conversation! :-)

But there is truth in the bible, and there is truth in the BCP, and there is truth in Superman comic books, and there is truth in trashy romances, and there is truth in the driest textbook or theological tome, and there is truth in far-out science fiction novels, and there's probably truth in erotic fiction, too. Not that I always watch out for truth - sometimes I miss it completely, and sometimes truth whacks me upside the head with the cosmic two-by-four. And that's okay - that's part of being human, a person. But I always have been, and always will be, a person of the book. It's just that there isn't any one book that I'm a person of.

A Quick Sunday Pointer...

... over to PJ's Pointless Blog, where this post is positively sublime.

God is God. You, if you are reading this, are most likely a human being, or perhaps a very intelligent cat.

As such, it is likely that you will do one or more of the following today:

    • eat too much,
    • spill something,
    • lust after the wrong person,
    • piss someone off unintentionally,
    • piss someone off intentionally

The conclusion is great - read it. And laugh - because you are hilarious.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Checking out my stats

Just for kicks (and because I'm a data geek), I check out the Google Analytics statistics for this blog. I had never seen anything that surprised me before, but today there were three search strings that brought visitors here, that made me smile. They were:

  • piccolo church back pew jokes
  • why does growing up suck
  • the psychology behind the blankie
Well. I think I would enjoy jokes about a piccolo in the back pew of a church, but I am stumped at the thought of composing one. The suckiness of growing up is something I have indeed blogged, but it surprised me to see that question as a search string. And the blankie one? I think I've used the word blankie when posting about my hedgehog, and maybe when talking about snuggling up with a good book and cup of hot chocolate on a rainy day. But I couldn't answer you on the psychology. I was also surprised to see that somebody actually clicked through to my blog after a search on ergonomist. They were probably pretty disappointed!

I've had visitors from 31 states (including DC) and ten other countries, and I see that the RevGals and MadPriest are sending lots of visitors my way.

So a big welcome to everyone who stop by! And thank you to those of you who have linked or bookmarked me. It's great to have you here, and I hope you'll leave a comment to say hi. I wish you joy and blessings.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


This morning, despite not sleeping well last night, despite looking forward to another day spent in a conference room with a bunch of managers, despite the aching shoulders, despite everything, I was in a great mood. Joyful. Cheerful. Confident.

So I decided that every person I encountered this morning, I would greet warmly and give a smile to. And I did. The bellhop and the hotel limo driver at the entrance: Good morning! The lady stocking shelves in the grocery store where I stopped for a bagel. The cashier who was supervising the self-checkout lanes. The man who stopped his car at the crosswalk so I could get back to my car. All the people I've seen in the office this morning.

And to a one, they looked me right back in the eye and smiled back at me. Even the lady who'd been looking rather sour and trying to keep her eyes on the ground, she returned my glance and tentatively smiled at me. It made me feel great to get all those smiles, and I hope that my greetings have been cheering the people I've encountered. I know what a difference just one smile can make, when I'm having an "off" day.

One of my all-time favorite posts on Dave Barry's blog is this one. I wish you the same: Have joy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Light blogging week

Just so you know, this will probably be a light blogging week for me. I just drove from southeastern Virginia to my company's headquarters in Herndon, and am getting ready for a four-hour P&L meeting with our geographical managers on the project. I've been fielding questions for the last several workdays (and the weekend as well) about revenues this month, and why they increased or decreased, and why they are lower or higher than budgeted, and what we expect to see next month. Tomorrow is the dry run for the monthly Program Management Review, which takes place on Thursday. So: three full days of management meetings. I'm in heaven!

Not. :-)

In the meantime, I wish you blessings and peace. May you know and experience God's overwhelming, awesome love for you. May you pour out this love upon yourself and upon everybody you encounter. I wish you joy and contentment and gratitude. I hope you find - or give! - hugs and smiles this week. May the wind of the Spirit blow upon you and refresh you. May the light of Jesus shine on your path. And may you rest confident in the knowledge that you are extravagantly and intimately loved by the Almighty: Father and Mother.

Monday, April 23, 2007


One of my favorite things about springtime is when the maple trees drop their seeds. The seeds are formed inside samaras (a word I did not previously know!), which have feathery wings on them that make them float to the ground, spinning deliriously, like helicopter blades. I remember as a child, grabbing handfuls of them from the ground and flinging them into the air above my head, looking up to watch them flutter, and laughing with the sheer joy of it.

This afternoon, on the drive from my office to pick up my son at school, I stopped behind a stoplight at the bottom of the exit ramp from the Interstate. A breeze blew past, and a shower of maple samaras fluttered in a golden cloud around my car. What a delight! Just a few blocks later, I drove through another shower of fluttery, helicoptery delight. And just as when I was a girl, I laughed out loud in joy and wonder.

These - these little beautiful encounters - these are love notes from God. As I said on my Friday Five post about joy, we have to keep our eyes open to see them, and to know them for what they are. God is constantly sending us little love notes, if we just look for them. So this afternoon - among all the craziness and busy-ness and complexity and conflict in my life - I stopped for a moment to feel the joy and wonder and delight at God's love for me, and I was incredibly, deeply grateful.

I hope that today, you spot one of God's love notes to you. I know it's there, waiting for you. Because God loves you extravagantly, deliriously, awesomely.

Notes on the loveliest Sunday ever

It was a gorgeous weekend in southeastern Virginia, and I had a very full day on Sunday. After church, Becca and I drove out to The Well for their 20th anniversary celebration, so we were away from home from before 10am until about 6pm. It was exhausting but exhilarating, and I decided that rather than telling the story as a narrative, I'll just pick out highlights.

  • The sermon we heard yesterday was easily in the top five sermons I've ever heard, and I hope it will get posted on the church web site, so I can point you to the text. Becca was amazed by it, too, and we talked quite a bit about it on our drive to Smithfield.
  • Update: The sermon has been posted on the Old Donation web site. You can find it here.
  • At The Well, I set up my music stand in a corner of the screened porch, where I could be out of the sun but still feel the wonderful spring breezes. On the porch is a picnic table, where an artist was sitting and working, and a collection of rocking chairs, occupied by lots of different people during the afternoon.
  • The offertory anthem was Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, which sent shivers down my spine.
  • The music I played included familiar hymns, light classical music, a couple of folk songs, and a couple of show tunes. The ones I heard people humming or singing with were Alleluia, Sing to Jesus; O Danny Boy; the theme from the slow movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony; Shall We Gather at the River; Amazing Grace; and Rainbow Connection.
  • We sang the eucharistic prayer. Becca hadn't been part of a sung eucharist, at least within her memory, and it's been years for me. Yum!
  • The temperature was in the upper 70s F, with delicious breezes coming across the lake. I got many compliments on the music I'd selected, especially from ladies who sing in the choirs at their churches. I was also told that it was so lovely to walk down along the lake and hear the flute music wafting down. My daughter said that in some places, you couldn't tell if the music she heard was the breeze singing through the trees or the flute. I'm a little envious that I couldn't experience this!
  • I got to meet the choir director at Old Donation in person and shake his hand. Next Thursday, I'll be joining them for rehearsals, for the first time I've sung in choir in almost six years.
  • While I was playing, one of the artists sketched me with my flute in pastels. I had no idea he was doing this, and I was so flattered! He said he plans to paint it in oils, and I gave him a business card and asked him to call me if and when he finishes it. Although Becca took a photo of him holding the sketch, I'm not going to post it, as I don't own the image.
  • I played until 4:30, rather than the intended 5:00. By then, both shoulders were tired and achy, my right hand was tight and painful, and my hips were ready for a rest. Despite playing 20-minute sets with 10-minute breaks between to sit and apply ice, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day. The drive home was uneventful, and I was so grateful to sink into my recliner with aleve and ice packs. But I took a hot soak at 8pm, was in bed at 8:30pm, and a little while later when the rest of the family got ready for bed, I was already asleep.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Weeds, Glorious Weeds!

Last month I mentioned my Amazing Black Thumb of Death (particularly in the comments of that post), and how if I want something to grow, it dies, but if I consider it a weed, it thrives. I'd mentioned my yard being full of oniongrass, dandelions, wild strawberries, clover, and wild violets, and Rev. Maria begged me to keep focusing on those violets as weeds, as she has little success in growing them.

Well, I'll admit that when I talk about them with most people, I reframe them as wildflowers. The only difference between a wildflower and a weed, after all, is whether you want it to grow where it is. If I decide I like my weeds just fine where they are, then they become wildflowers. :-) And here they are...

Violets along the edge of the deck:

Violets (and other weeds) along the fence line:

And the glorious chaos in the uncultivated garden bed beneath the kitchen window:

So there you have it: weeds, lots of weeds! But, you know, those bright yellow buttercups and dandelions, and the pretty purple violets make me smile. It is spring! And there is life, and beauty, and joy! And God is good! Alleluia!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Five: Surprised by Joy

This week's Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals is a very cool one. I listened the C.S. Lewis book Surprised by Joy on CD a few months ago, and took a lot away from it. It was very powerful, and one of my favorite parts was where he talks about how he was trying to hard to be an atheist, but that God is incredibly sneaky. I have been known to comment, "God is one sneaky bastard!" which is appreciated by some more than others. (Yes, my irreverence has been known to get me into trouble...)

But more than this, what sings for me is not just allowing myself to let joy find me and surprise me. Rather, just in the last few months, the key concept for me has been intentionality. Yes, joy may drop in and surprise me, but I must consciously and intentionally look for it, or it will pass me by unnoticed. Like beauty, like love, the seeds for joy are planted by the Divine, but I must cultivate them intentionally if I want to see them grow. So I expect to struggle a bit with this question, as I find myself less and less surprised by the places I find joy, and more and more intentional about going to those wellsprings to drink in that joy for myself.

Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."
He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.
(John 21:5-7)

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
(Psalm 30:5b)

This week I've been watching parents of the young people slain at Virgina Tech trying to make meaning out of the lives of their lost children, and each one seems to begin by focusing on something joyful about that child. It's a gift that most humans have brains wired to respond in that way. For some of us it can be harder to work our way out of dark places, but I believe joy remains the key. It is the spirit of resurrection.

Tell us about five people, places, or things that have brought surprising, healing joy into your life.

  1. Teh Internets. :-) Seriously. In 1995, I became involved in some online communities dedicated to the craft of writing, and I learned a lot in those communities and found caring support. But in 1997, after the conversion experience I shared a few weeks ago, I began seeking online faith communities. I happened upon an email list that was incredibly busy, but an amazingly loving, caring, and praying community. When the busy-ness of life became too hectic, I would step away from the list for a time, and then return when I was able. There was about a year that I stepped away completely, and I returned to a different list, which included mostly the same people I'd come to know and love. And I've now been in the Magdalen community for about five years. In that decade as part of the online Anglican community, I have formed some absolutely amazing relationships. It is surprising, and an incredible source of joy for me, how deep some of those friendships go, with people I have never met face-to-face. I am incredibly blessed and enriched by these communities, and I miss them when I have to go too long away from the Internet.
  2. I was so fortunate to be able to find The Well, a retreat center in Smithfield, Virginia. Owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond, The Well welcomes those of any faith - or none - for peace and healing. The directors, Tom and Linda Ashe, are loving and compassionate, and their hospitality is profoundly healing. My retreat there in early March was a blessed breath of fresh air - breath of Holy Spirit power, in fact - and I am glad to have the chance to visit them again this Sunday.
  3. I find deep, deep joy in the Eucharist. While I know this, and the fact is unsurprising to me, sometimes I'm completely overwhelmed by the power in these simple acts, the extravagant love of God, the radical welcome of absolutely everyone to God's table for the feast. And after receiving, I know that many return to their pew and kneel to pray, but I have never been able to do this. After I receive, I want to dance. However, most Episcopalians would probably be completely scandalized by the crazy lady dancing down the aisle back to her pew, so instead I make do with finding the hymn being sung, and lifting my voice.
  4. I love to watch my children - and in fact, anyone close to me - develop and grow. It is a deep source of inspiration and joy to watch a loved one overcome an obstacle and discover new things within himself or herself as a result. This hearkens back to the posts I wrote recently about overcoming obstacles and about being formed and shaped, and I am often surprised by the joy I encounter when I notice this growth in myself or others.
  5. The final source of joy I will list may sound a little strange, but it's one I encountered just this week. In the midst of all the "interesting times," all the conflict and pain and frustration, I had three separate Very Good Things happen this week. First, I set up the time to meet with the rector at Old Donation and to transfer my membership; you saw yesterday my joy and delight in having a new spiritual home. Second, I had a great talk with my boss on Wednesday about some frustrations I've been experiencing in my new job so far. It was a great talk, and I'm expecting some important fruits as a result. Third, in economics class last night, I learned that I have a solid A average, and am thus being exempted from the final exam (which is really great, because I'll be out of town on business next week, and would be scrambling to get back here in time for it). In fact, I had one of the top scores on the midterm we took last week, and the professor recognized me and gave me a prize. It was awesome. But what I realized last night on my drive home is that these three joyful experiences all had something in common: I brought them all to pass. If I had not spoken up to my boss, I would still be miserable in my job. If I had not gone to church, and taken the leap to ask for an appointment with the rector, I would not have that new sense of family and home. And if I had not put effort into my studies in economics, then I would not have been recognized for it last night. So the final source of joy, often a surprising source of joy to me, is my own strength and power. Yes, my strength and power are very much rooted in God, but it is an incredible rush to recognize that they really are there. I am a strong and powerful woman. I am a unique and beloved child of God. I deserve to encounter joy along my path. And what an incredible rush that is!
I wish you all scandalous, extravagant, overflowing joy this Eastertide. May you find that deep wellspring of joy that remains with you, even in times of great pain, conflict, or grief. And may you be blessed with God's peace and love.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A new parish home!

Okay, so I did move quickly. :-) I'd very much missed having a parish home, a parish family, and that contributed to the unsettled feeling I described in my last post. Today, I met with the rector of Old Donation, and after we talked I filled out the parish information form to request my transfer from my former parish.

Below is an account I wrote for friends back in January describing the sense of alienation I'd been feeling in my former parish, and why it no longer felt like home to me:

I'm feeling rather like I'm being pushed out of my parish family. Some of that is me, and a lot of it is my perception of things that probably have nothing to do with me, but the feeling persists. I taught middle school Sunday school for a couple years, from 2003-05. I loved being with "my kids," but we all felt stifled by the curriculum. I know that J2A and Rite 13 are great curricula, but they responded so much better when we just came in with a general topic, and let the discussion go where it wanted to, rather than trying to stick to prescribed lessons. (And I'm usually someone who prefers things like prescribed lessons - I'm generally out of my comfort zone when I'm winging it into the uncharted wilderness. But the willingness to suspend my control over the lessons resulted in some pretty cool fruits for the kids and for me.) So in the spring of 2005, I "retired" from my class, but I asked our assistant rector, who was acting as our Christian Ed director at the time, to keep me on the substitute list. We talked about how I would probably be better suited to leading an adult discussion group, but nothing came of that. Nobody asked me to substitute once.

A big changeover happened when the lady who had managed the schedule for lectors, intercessors (who lead the Prayers of the People), lay healers, and chalice-bearers moved away, and someone new took over the schedule. Since that changeover happened, I was scheduled exactly twice, even though I served in all four of those capacities, and frequently had months where I served all four Sundays in the past. The second time I was scheduled, I never received a copy of the schedule, and I didn't know I was "on" until we got home from a weekend road trip and found a message on the answering machine wondering where I was. I did not get scheduled once after that. These ministries meant a lot to me, even though they took such a small portion of time. Standing at the lectern and proclaiming God's word, in the tradition of centuries upon centuries - that was an incredible experience. It was not about the attention or about being recognized, but being part of the worship for everyone there, being a vessel for the Holy Spirit in those specific and very traditional ways.

The strangest experience, though, was Palm Sunday last year. Our interim rector designed our procession into the nave to start outside, but it was unseasonably cold in Virginia Beach that day, so we all huddled in the narthex keeping warm until she called us to come outside, bless the palms, and process into the church singing All Glory Laud and Honor. I said hello and good morning to several people, but nobody spoke a word to me. I made eye contact - at least, I thought I did - but not a single person acknowledged that I was there. The only indication I got that anyone realized I was present that morning was that the priest passed me the Peace. Other than that, I might as well have been invisible. It was completely, one hundred percent bizarre, in fact, surreal, and I had no idea what to make of it.

Now, when I went to Old Donation today, I felt very much at home. I'd worshipped there several times in the past, and knew it to be a good place. Now I will be part of the family, and that feels great.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Unsettled Times

I'll admit that even though I'm very intentionally trying to limit my exposure to the media blitz on the shootings at Virginia Tech, I still manage to see reminders around me, and am not able to completely avoid it. I am praying hard for everyone touched by this terrible, frightening day.

In the category of other unsettling things, I'm still having trouble settling into the new job I assumed in January. I had been part of a team that was scattered over 1300 miles, but our manager was very good at intentionally building cohesion and a sense of common purpose. My new time consists of only three members, two of whom are at our corporate HQ about 200 miles away, but the lead is not as experienced at team-building, especially the special challenges of building a team with remote members. As frustrations continued to mount, I had an opportunity to chat with my manager this morning. He listened to me, he reflected back what I said, he offered insights, and he asked me to think over a couple of things and get back to him on what my best solution would be to them. This was very powerful. To be heard! To be understood! To have one's opinion sought! I'm really glad I took the chance and called him, because I was this close (thumb and index finger about 1/2 inch apart) from leaning back and waiting the six or nine months to be found irrelevant to the company's goals and quietly let go. Now I'm much more hopeful about my future. Of course, one immediate effect is that I'll be making monthly trips up to the corporate HQ for the next few months. But a couple days away from my uncomfortable and unsettling home life might not be a bad thing right now. And I love taking trips like that, when one can stay in a nice room, choose one's music or tv show or book, and just enjoy the different scenery for a time.

I saw my orthopedist and physical therapist today. The orthopedist seems to be pushing surgery, but I can't take the time out for that until early to mid July, so I'm not even really thinking about it right now. The physical therapist is dubious about the potential benefits of surgery, given my "impressive diagnosis." I know that the surgery will require months and months of physical therapy, just to get back to where I am now, and that it has a good chance of not "fixing" anything or really relieving the discomfort. But for now, the physical therapy I'm doing is helping a great deal. At least, until I go and take on four-hour flute gigs, like I have this weekend... I'll be paying for that for a week or so!

Speaking of four-hour flute gigs, this Sunday (April 22) is the 20th anniversary of The Well Spiritual Retreat Center in Smithfield, Virginia, from noon to 5pm. They're celebrating with an open house, art show, dessert, and tea, and it should be a lot of fun. The Well is a beautiful place, with a lake and trails through the woods and a very cool labyrinth to walk. Since the weather should be absolutely perfect, I will likely set up on the screened porch, where there are lots of rocking chairs and places to put your feet up. So if you'd like to check out a really great place for restoring your spirit, and hear some flute music (from 1 to 5), I hope you'll come on out!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lord, Have Mercy

Dear Ones,

Of your great mercy, I ask you to pray for the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg, Virginia communities, in the wake of bomb threats and shootings today, which have left more than 20 people dead and another couple dozen injured. The entire campus is on lockdown right now, as are the local public schools, and I can only imagine the fear and helplessness that parents, spouses, and other loved ones must feel right now.

For the record, I participated in Virginia Tech's MBA program last year (2005-2006), so I have a number of friends scattered across the state, as well as professors of whom I am quite fond. It's hard to walk ten paces here in southeastern Virginia without bumping into a Tech alum. My sister-in-law graduated from Virginia Tech in the 1990s.

Blacksburg is a beautiful town in the mountains of Virginia, normally a quiet and peaceful place. The ripples from this frightening day will affect the town for quite some time.

Update: These personal accounts are revealing and chilling.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I visited another local parish this morning, and I'm trying not to jump too far ahead of myself, but I may have found my new home. I have never ever ever been to a church as friendly and welcoming and hospitable as this one. I was greeted at the door by an usher who greeted me with a smile and gave me a bulletin. After three more steps, two greeters stood next to the guest register, smiled, greeted me, shook my hand, and asked if there was anything they could do to help me. My daughter and I took our pew, reviewed the order of service, and marked the pages for our hymns. A couple sat down in front of us, turned and said, "I don't know if we've met before. I'm Mrs. X." They smiled and shook our hands and welcomed us - as did two other couples and one woman attending by herself. And best of all, at the announcement time, we were not asked to stand up and identify ourselves.

The liturgy was well executed. The acolytes were well trained and synchronized, the music was exquisite, and there were little touches that clearly showed the deep love and reverence that both clergy and lay here have for the work of the people. The sermon was breathtaking, and the eucharist was transporting. And there were sanctus bells, which you don't often get here in Southern Virginia! And even better, we chanted the psalm! I was in heaven.

At the end of the service, after the final hymn ended, and we responded to the dismissal with joyous Alleluias, a voice behind me said my name. I turned, and there was a mother of one the munchkins' classmates at their elementary school. They'd participated in two Destination Imagination teams with this young lady before, so it was great to see her and her family again. The postlude was wonderful, and I really wanted to stay and listen to it, but there was a more pressing mundane need.

I made sure to tell the priest at the door how impressed I was by their practice of hospitality, and I will be sure to remark on this to the rector as well. It is very clear that this parish is deeply committed to welcoming everyone who enters, that they are living out the love and care Jesus taught. I want to be part of that, lousy as I am at stepping out of my comfort zone to greet people I don't know. But hey - if I never step out of my comfort zone, then how will I ever grow?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday Five (a day late and a dollar short)

This week's Friday Five is sort of a funny one, but I'll play! Sending healing prayers out for Cheesehead and ReverendMother, and answering...

1. Are you a regular patron of dentists' offices? Or, do you go
a) faithfully, as long as you have insurance, or
b) every few years or so, whether you need it or not, or
c) dentist? what is this "dentist" thing you speak of?

My answer is (a). A couple people in my family build up enough tartar that, if there was a market for it (eww!), they would be great natural resources. Thankfully, I don't build it up very badly, so I could probably get away with an annual visit, rather than semi-annual.

2. Whatever became of your wisdom teeth?

I'm clearly not very wise, because I only ever had one. Unfortunately, my jaw is small, so it grew in horizontally. We watched it for several years before it started getting too close to the molars, and then I had to have it quite literally chiseled out. I opted to use local anesthetic only, and not be put under, so that I could drive myself back home afterward. While it wasn't painful while it was happening, the noises coming from my mouth were rather frightening. I ended up with dry socket, like Sue describes, and a couple days later went in to get the medicated gauze inserted into the socket. I learned quickly how to twitch my jaw just so to get the gauze to release the medication and send a wave of blessed numbness into the socket. The problem is, I was actively job-hunting at the time. I had an interview for a job I really wanted, and I could tell from the way it was going that I had no chance whatsoever, but I still tried to control myself and not twitch my jaw while I was in there, for fear that I'd look, well, odd. Two weeks later, I showed up there for my first day of work, and spent over six years with that company.

3. Favorite thing to eat that's BAAAAAD for your teeth.

Just one thing? Caramel apples, I guess. I'm just really fond of caramel. Taffy is good, too. But if I keep thinking about this question, I'll need to run down to the kitchen, and I'll never finish this post. :-)

4. Ever had oral surgery? Commiserate with me.

Last summer, something that the dentist had been watching finally had to be addressed. The little bits of tissue that tether the front of my bottom gum to my lower lip had been pulling down the gumline, and it finally needed surgery. So I went to the periodontist, they took donor tissue from the roof of my mouth, and grafted it onto the gum at my two bottom incisors. The first day, I was only allowed cold, mushy foods. And I learned that almost all foods that are (a) cold, (b) mushy, and (c) not nasty, are sweet. By 4pm, I was desperate for something that was not sweet, and I rejoiced to find half an avocado in the fridge. I drizzled a little vinaigrette over it and ate it with eyes closed. The next week, my breakfast every day after I got to the office was half an avocado. I'm sure they thought I was nuts, if they hadn't been pretty sure of this fact already. There was some pulling, but not really pain, on the gum graft, but the roof of my mouth was sore for a while, and tender for months afterward.

5. "I'd rather have a root canal than _________________."

... move back in with my parents!

Sorry, Mom and Dad, I love you, but it's never going to happen. And, if you've been following my story over the last few weeks and reading between the lines, you'll realize that this was something I've had to consider recently. I have some important work to do on being independent and strong, and somehow, going back to my parents' house turns me into a twelve-year-old again.

Bonus: Does your dentist recommend Trident?

Actually, the hygienist there did recommend chewing a piece of sugarless gum after meals, if I couldn't brush my teeth. So not Trident specifically, but the concept, yes.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Contest - Pick me! Pick me!

Over at Salt for the Spirit, April is sponsoring a contest called 100 Things, with a prize of an Amazon gift certificate in the amount of 10 sets of 100 pennies. :-) Her rules are:

1. Contest begins now and ends on April 15, thereby allowing all of us to focus on something in addition to getting our taxes to the post office by midnight. A winner will be named shortly thereafter.
2. Entries should be in the form created by lovely Queen Heroical at this link . Please number your list like hers, too.

"I have lived.." followed by 10 things
"I have witnessed..." followed by 10 things
"I have heard..." 10 things

"I have lost..." 10 things

"I have found..." 10 things

"I love..." 10 things

"I can..." 10 things

"I loathe..." 10 things

"I hope..." 10 things
"I am trying..." 10 things

Please use these categories, though you may rearrange them as you'd like. And though QH is amazingly creative, please try not to plagiarize her any more than necessary.

3. It's ok if entries were published before this contest began.

4. Entries must be posted here. Feel free to link to your blog, but do copy your Things here so we can all enjoy them in one spot.

5. Anyone can enter -- clergy, laity, man, woman, Jew or Greek, slave or free. Entrants must, however, be human and living on Earth. As charming as it is, I don't care about the 100 Things about one's pet. Sorry.

6. I reserve the right to erase any icky entries. Challenging is ok. Vulgar isn't.

Even without the lovely prize, I would find this game fun, so I'll give it a try.

"I have lived.."
  1. ... in ten different states, all in the first ten years of my life.
  2. ... in sin, for about six weeks.
  3. ... in a house with six pets.
  4. ... in a house where a pet corn snake had gotten loose.
  5. ... with either parents or husband for all but four months of my life.
  6. ... in Virginia since 1983, which is a long time for me, given #1.
  7. ... with depression longer than anyone should have to.
  8. ... with a person who has been depressed since childhood, for the last 15 years.
  9. ... as a practicing neo-pagan for about nine months.
  10. ... just over 35 years now.
"I have witnessed..."
  1. ... a very painful and contentious diocesan council, when many were asking our bishop to resign.
  2. ... so many baptisms, but they still make me cry every time.
  3. ... my former boss expressing anger with a member of the team only one time in over three years, and it was not pretty.
  4. ... a Lexus driver who insisted on parking on the sidewalk every morning at the store where he stopped for his coffee.
  5. ... more people than I can count who have Christian fishes and other symbols on their cars, but who drive like selfish, entitled weenies.
  6. ... the incredible uniqueness of infants and toddlers.
  7. ... that corn snakes actually possess something like personality. (Still not a snake fan, though.)
  8. ... a loose corn snake, ready to be found, coiled around the laptop in my briefcase when I got to work one morning. (Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!!)
  9. ... the Holy Spirit at work in large groups of people.
  10. ... the scariness, but the amazing effectiveness of electro-convulsive therapy for people who are extremely depressed.
"I have heard..."
  1. ... that people only change when they want to bad enough, or when they hurt bad enough.
  2. ... that at least 90% of the time, it's when they hurt bad enough.
  3. ... that I am a gutsy broad, and it made me feel great!
  4. ... the most amazing compliments from my children's teachers about them this year.
  5. ... that I am a unique and wonderful person, made in the image of God, but sometimes I have trouble believing it.
  6. ... Mendelssohn's 4th Symphony at least a dozen times, because I studied it intensely in college; somehow, I still love it!
  7. ... the music of the spheres, when lying outside at night, far way from light pollution, and seeing all the stars spread across the sky - not literally, of course, but it was incredibly moving.
  8. ... stories and rumors that I will never repeat.
  9. ... a trusted friend repeat confidential news to many different people.
  10. ... live concerts by the Beach Boys, Chicago, Aerosmith, Warrant, Poison, Motley Crue, Journey, Foreigner, Earth Wind & Fire, Carbon Leaf, Trans Siberian Orchestra, the Virginia Symphony, and many chamber ensembles.
"I have lost..."
  1. ... the illusion that fairy tale endings are possible in the real world, without a lot of effort.
  2. ... more than 40 pounds in one year.
  3. ... about 10 pounds in the last two months.
  4. ... several friends when I was in junior high and high school, because I had not developed the skills to maintain a friendship for more than 18 to 24 months.
  5. ... many more potential friends in high school, because I was a "reverse snob" who refused to hang out with those who I saw as "popular."
  6. ... many inhibitions, especially after childbirth. :-)
  7. ... my patience with incompetence and with intentional ignorance on many occasions.
  8. ... my copy of Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott not once but twice.
  9. ... only one grandparent.
  10. ... my mind! :-)
"I have found..."
  1. ... much hope in the Resurrection story, even when it's hard to believe.
  2. ... that when I have trouble believing, but show up anyway, the faith of the others there carries me past my hang-ups.
  3. ... that there is room in the church for people who believe in radical hospitality and the all-inclusive love of God.
  4. ... that visualizing God in ways that we normally don't can be very powerful.
  5. ... that the love of my friends is a powerful and strengthening force in my life.
  6. ... that trust is rarely misplaced.
  7. ... that laying out worst case / best case / expected case really helps me to evaluate my options and make a decision.
  8. ... that it's important to have a healthy appreciation for the ridiculous.
  9. ... true love on Flag Day! (Okay, not really. But this was one of the fortunes that Homer Simpson wrote, in his brief stint as a fortune cookie fortune writer. Mr. Burns received this fortune and did indeed fall in love on Flag Day.) But what I have found is that humor and laughter are very, very healing.
  10. ... that faith is not blind belief, but what we choose to place our trust in, mind and body and spirit.
"I loathe..."
  1. ... being told what to do rather than asked.
  2. ... confiding a problem, and hearing the first words of the response be, "Well, you should..."
  3. ... liver.
  4. ... mayonnaise.
  5. ... hip-hop and rap music.
  6. ... the television, on many occasions, when I think of it by the name Jubal Harshaw gave it in Heinlein's Stranger In a Strange Land: the goddamnoisybox.
  7. ... 90+ degree heat with 50%+ humidity. Ugh.
  8. ... working on the lawn and garden.
  9. ... filing papers, so they tend to stack up on my desk until I have to spend an hour or two sorting and filing them.
  10. ... hypocrisy.
"I love..."
  1. ... slipping into a warm bed, newly made with freshly washed sheets.
  2. ... finishing my shower, reaching for my towel, and pressing it to my face to inhale it.
  3. ... good music, and even, lots of lousy music, too.
  4. ... eucharist.
  5. ... Diet Dr Pepper.
  6. ... iced tea, with just a little bit of sweetness.
  7. ... working on a really nice meal, having it all come together, and hearing gratitude for it.
  8. ... to surround myself with beautiful things.
  9. ... reading the mystics and ecstatics.
  10. ... the Psalms.
"I can..."
  1. ... play the flute really well.
  2. ... write software, having programmed professionally in at least 8 languages.
  3. ... discern patterns in large quantities of data.
  4. ... show compassion and understanding to others who struggle with depression.
  5. ... observe and recognize a lot more about the dynamics in relationships than I could a few years ago.
  6. ... write passably well.
  7. ... proofread to a very irritating extent. :-)
  8. ... blush at the very mention of my name.
  9. ... laugh at the most inappropriate times.
  10. ... lose my patience over the smallest things.
"I hope..."
  1. ... that I find joy in my new life, after the current discord is over.
  2. ... that my shoulder heals properly.
  3. ... that my diocese is healthy enough to elect a really great bishop next year.
  4. ... that my parish is healthy enough to call a really great rector over the next year.
  5. ... that the spring allergy season abates soon.
  6. ... that Chicago will tour here this summer, and that the amphitheater will have $10 tickets again.
  7. ... that I can be successful in my new job, even though I'm having some problems there.
  8. ... that I never lose my sense of joy and wonder.
  9. ... that my beagle doesn't eat any baby bunnies in the back yard this year. :(
  10. ... that when I finally meet God face-to-face, God smiles and ruffles my hair and calls me kiddo.
"I am trying..."
  1. ... to be very intentional about showing the gratitude I feel (hence the title of this blog!).
  2. ... to be more effective in my new job, when the rest of the team is all located in another city 200 miles away.
  3. ... to step back, not insisting on being in control of everything.
  4. ... to live out the two commandments Jesus gave.
  5. ... to better know myself, so that I might better know those around me.
  6. ... to be more patient with the people I care about.
  7. ... to build time and space for self-care into my life.
  8. ... to intentionally bring beauty into my life, in as many small and large ways as I can.
  9. ... to get more flute jobs - especially paying ones!
  10. ... to let the Christ-light shine through me.

Miserable Offender

Tuesday evening, I neglected to do something really important, that I almost never forget. In the US, if you work on a contract for the federal government, there are very strict regulations on recording the time you spend working on that contract. In the paper timesheet days, the timesheet had to be posted at your desk, easily visible and obtainable, and it had to be up-to-date at all times. Now that many (most?) contractors use computerized timekeeping systems, the online timesheet must still be kept up-to-date, but you don't have that visual reminder of the timesheet tacked to your cubicle wall. Since there are pretty stiff penalties for contracting companies who don't enforce the timekeeping rules, well, contracting companies tend to enforce the rules.

So Tuesday evening, I finished up my workday a little later than usual, after completing a couple of last-minute, ad hoc data calls. I wanted to get off of my computer quickly, so I just signed out without recording my time. I remembered as I plugged in my laptop on Wednesday morning, but it didn't stick in my memory long enough for the machine to boot up. On the way back from physical therapy, around 9-ish, I remembered again, and made a concerted effort to record my time as soon as I logged back into my computer. However, I believe that the deadline is 9am, and if your time is not recorded by then, your name ends up on a report, and your manager has to tell his manager why your name is there. This is clearly undesirable, from the "s**t flows down" perspective. So after I finished recording my time, I sent the following email to my manager:

Dear Boss,

I find that I must offer my most profound and humble apologies. I realized this morning, around 9am, that I had most grievously neglected to record my time yesterday. While I do acknowledge and bewail my manifold sins and wickedness, and recognize that I am indeed a miserable offender, I will venture to say that in my twelve years of working as a government contractor, I can count on one hand the number of times I have failed to record my time.

I humbly ask your pardon for this most egregious sin of omission.


Now his assistant tells me that your name doesn't show up unless you miss recording your time twice within a week. So I did all that groveling for nothing! At least I am thankful that my name won't be on the list... as long as I remember to record my time today and tomorrow! And... I hope my boss got a good laugh out of it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Oh, it's just always something, isn't it! :-)

While perusing blogs today, I found that I had been tagged by Mother Laura with the "six weird things" meme. Ack! Now I have to decide which things are weird but charming, and which are just completely frickin' insane. Hmmmm....

  1. I used to be terrified of dragonflies, but when I was about 18, I fell in love with them, and I find them beautiful now. The story is this: a friend and I were driving in his car, from the college campus to another friend's house. While we were driving, a dragonfly flew into the FM antenna, and got stuck there. I was terrified and horrified. I couldn't tell if the poor thing was alive or dead, because the wind kept it flapping as we drove. Despite this being just a bug - of a type that frightened me! - I had to fight back tears. After about 10 minutes, we arrived at the friend's house and pulled into the driveway, and I saw that the dragonfly was still moving, and I knew that it was still alive, but must be in an incredible amount of pain. I couldn't bring myself to touch it, and I felt absolutely terrible about this. After staring at it mutely for more than a minute and trying to find a solution (while my friend tried to convince, cajole, and even guilt-trip me away from the car), I finally gave the antenna a little flip so that the dragonfly fell to the driveway. Then I fled to the house, my hands covering my face. We were only there a couple minutes, because our friend wasn't home. As we walked back to the car, I realized that the dragonfly was no longer on the driveway. I searched for it, and found it in the grass, where it had crawled because it could no longer fly. And as much as it had terrified me just a few minutes before, I was amazed and inspired by the dying dragonfly, and I loved it, thoroughly and completely.
  2. As I read The Far Side religiously when I was younger, I now read Pearls Before Swine religiously. I relate with all of the characters in Pearls for different reasons, and its wry, sly, dark humor makes me laugh out loud just about every day.
  3. I often find myself laughing in totally and completely inappropriate situations. This is not always appreciated, as you might imagine.
  4. I once played in an early music consort that was hired to provide recorder music during a series of performances of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (which just may be my favorite of his comedies, but Much Ado About Nothing is up there, too). Although we were all female, we had to dress up as "the Duke's men," wearing tabards and blousons and hose, and putting our hair up under hats. And it was discovered fairly early on that our, um, underthings had to be exactly the right shade of black - or nonexistent - so that they were not visible to the audience. I only played with the group during the performances for local schools, which is a good thing, because I did not possess underthings of the exact right shade of black. (Blush)
  5. I've seen The Princess Bride more than two dozen times, and can probably quote most of it from memory. That does not, however, stop me from watching it again. And again and again and again.
  6. Although you probably wouldn't be surprised by most of my tastes in music, I do occasionally dip back into my collection of heavy metal from the late '80s (and before). I've actually seen Aerosmith, Guns 'n' Roses, and Motley Crue in concert. I will say that I only went to the latter two concerts so as not to be seen as uncool to the guy I was dating at the time, but Aerosmith was a lot of fun (and I would go to hear Bon Jovi in a heartbeat, if I weren't too cheap to pay for the tickets). And six or seven years ago, I found Def Leppard's Hysteria on cassette for almost nothing, and I bought it solely for Pour Some Sugar on Me.
Okay, so I hope that is sufficiently revealing and embarrassing to satisfy the meme. :-) As I understand them, the rules are:
  1. Reveal six weird things about yourself on your blog, and
  2. Tag six people to do the same.
So I will tag... Sr. Gloriamarie, Rob+, Eileen, Unsaintly Pat, Doxy, and Sue. Have fun, y'all!

Forming and Shaping

I realized when I posted yesterday's entry that I had ended it, but not finished it. But I wasn't sure at the time what it was that I had left to say, to finish the thought. Thankfully, God gave us SLEEP, blessed wonderful sleep, and this morning I knew what the last thought was. It had to do with being formed and shaped by the obstacles in our lives, and most especially as a friend pointed out, but how we choose to react to those obstacles.

Those of you who encountered me in a previous incarnation know of an image that has been very crucial in my spiritual life. Water plays a huge role in our mythology as Christians, and the words in the blessing over the water used in baptism always make me close my eyes and rest in the rich images:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well created a spark within me, from which a new image of myself grew. I saw the Holy Spirit as a river of this living water, and I saw myself as a stone in that river. River stones are not flashy, glamorous gems; they are gray and brown and tan. They do not have straight lines and regular facets, but are round and lumpy and bumpy. The water of the Spirit, and all of the things that it carries along with it, shapes the stones in the river. The stone may rests on the river's bottom for a time, only to be picked back up by the current and carried downstream. Over many years, its rough edges become smooth, and its corners become round. And when you hold a river stone, it feels soft and round and comfortable; it feels good and right in your hand.

So when I say that I will be a new person in a few years, shaped by the obstacles ahead of me, that is true. But I will still be the stone in the river of the Holy Spirit, washed and sculpted and formed by the God in whom I place myself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Growing up sucks

Those of you who have been with me for a week or more know that I am in the process of a major life change right now. I hate to be vague - that's not like me - but the change is complicated by someone who does not want it to happen.

As this change is coming to be, my friends here in the blogosphere and in other online communities have been such a rich wellspring of support for me, and I want you to know how much I appreciate that. A dear friend said something to me yesterday, and it took me back years when I read it. What she said was that if she had the power to, she would remove the obstacles from my path, so that I could sail down it freely into my new life. And it was lovely to hear those words, to feel cared for and supported. I rested for a moment in how wonderful it will be when I am further down the path, and free from some of the things that cause me pain and frustration and grief.

But then, it took me back to 1997, another time of great pain and frustration and grief, when I seriously considered this same life change, but was not healthy or strong or mature enough to bring it to pass. It was in 1997 when I learned one of the stinkiest, crappiest, rottenest lessons of adulthood: there is no Prince Charming. There is no living happily ever after. There is not a white knight who can rescue me from all my pain and heartache and make everything beautiful and wonderful and happy forever. There is no one person who can give me everything I want and need. And it is wrong to expect anyone to be these things, or to expect them of oneself.

Now, this probably sounds a lot more blunt and bleak than reality actually is. Because reality is that there are lots of people out there who are ready and willing and able to give what they can. And we can get all of our needs met, but we have to know what those needs are and take responsibility for them ourselves. It's not anyone else's job but mine to make sure my needs are met. It's wonderful to have a partner who is willing and able to help and support us, but it is not fair to that person to expect them to do everything and be everything.

This lesson, when it came, SUCKED. I don't know if I can emphasize that enough. It was hard and painful, and it made me angry, and I railed against it for a long time. I was filled with fairy tales, Disney movies, where the solution to all of a young woman's problems was The One Right Man, who instantly knew exactly what needed to be done, fixed everything, swept her off her feet, and guaranteed eternal happiness with a single kiss. I expected my husband to be The One Right Man, and he expected me to be the same for him (except, well, you know, not a man) - a sure recipe for disaster. However, I did come to learn the good news: there is happiness, and needs get met, and we can find love and peace and joy. The thing is, we have to be responsible for bringing these things into our own lives, and we have to work at them, and sometimes there is a cost. (Should that be usually? Always? I guess, studying economics, I know that there is a cost for everything, even if that is only in not choosing something different.)

What sucked even more was realizing that it was those obstacles, which caused me such frustration and grief, that were what formed and shaped me into the person I am today. I am not the person I was in 1997 - thank God! - and what little strength and wisdom and self-knowledge I have picked up along the way is due entirely to the problems I've faced, rather than the joys. So in a few years, I will be yet another person, different from the person I am today. I don't know how the obstacles and griefs and frustrations I am facing will shape me. I pray that I will not become hardened and cynical and bitter, that I can remain trusting and loving and open to God's grace in my life.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Run, do not walk...

... over to Don't Eat Alone, to read Milton's incredible Easter poem (near the end of the post).

In the Garden

“He is not here,”

the angel said --

speaking of Jesus --

the only time those words
held any comfort.

(go read the rest)

Happy Easter!

On a different note...

... I will share a little something about my work today. I work for a subcontractor on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. My company manages the enterprise network assets and design, and is still to my knowledge the only NMCI subcontractor paid by subscription, as prime contractor EDS is, rather than being paid via time-and-materials or fixed-cost contracts.

It is actually a little scary to reveal this, because while NMCI was a great idea, the implementation has been dogged by poor management decisions from the very beginning. And those poor decisions have had implications that still cause most of the problems NMCI faces today. I'm not going to outline the mistakes I've seen, because that would bore you to sleep. Suffice it to say that, when I run into a problem with my NMCI seat (basically: computer) that I can't troubleshoot and resolve on my own, I know I have to set aside pretty much an entire day for dealing with the help desk.

Last semester, in my statistics class, we had to write papers describing the application of an analysis technique we'd learned, and then present them to the class. I knew there were Navy personnel and contractors in the class, and the groans I got when I told them I work on NMCI were entirely expected. Trust me: I feel your pain! It is so frustrating to see from the inside how much better it could work, and to not be able to do anything about it.

This comes up today, because my Google Alert included a link to this blog post, which is spot on. I love his definition of an NMCI seat:

(For those of you not involved with NMCI that don't know the lingo, a "seat" is a metal or plastic device used to heat the air around an NMCI LAN drop.)

(Also, the word "asshattery" made me giggle.)

I've been relatively fortunate with my seat. The reason? It has not been physically connected to the NMCI network since December 2004. I've only accessed NMCI over dialup in the last two+ years, so none of the automatic software updates have been pushed to it. There is a broadband RAS solution now (finally!), but I found it too risky to put the laptop back on the network and have all those updates kill it. The cost of being without my access was far higher than the benefit of broadband over dialup.

In January, I was transitioned to a position that no longer requires daily access to the NMCI network, and now that we're into April, I realize that my password has expired. Next time I want or need to get on NMCI, I'll have to call the help desk to have my password reset. In the meantime, getting the Navy and Marine seats set up for my former teammates so that they can fulfill my former responsibilities has been a nightmare for them. After three months, they're still wrestling with issues. I love the work I get to do here, but I know there has to be a better solution. Unfortunately, I don't know if NMCI can be "fixed" now, not without radical change from the top down. And I don't know if the leadership - Navy and civilian - can be strong, firm, and consistent enough with the message that needs to be given to make that radical change.

On September 30, 2010, the follow-on years to NMCI end. I don't know what will happen then. I know that the next version of the contract is being discussed in Washington. It will be very interesting to watch it over the next few years, to see who bids on it, who wins the work, and how it gets managed in the future. In the meantime, I hope you can forgive me and still love me, even though I work for the Borg. :-)

Sunday, April 8, 2007


I realized yesterday afternoon that since the children are away today, I hadn't picked up any Easter candy. As a result, there was not a single Reese's peanut butter egg in my house. This was a tragedy, but rest assured that it has been remedied.

Along with everything else, I am thankful for Reese's peanut butter eggs. Yum!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

I awoke this morning before the dawn, thinking about the last few days. I know my post yesterday sounded rather depressed and bleak, but that really is not what I was feeling. There is something powerful about that time in between death and new life, and that time should be honored. But today: today is about new life. Riotous, beautiful, joyous, scandalous new life. Extravagant love - seemingly wasted on us humans, us flawed and unlovely humans. Extravagant faith in us - God's faith that we are more than our flaws and ugliness, that we are capable of great love and kindness and compassion.

I am glad today that I am not ordained, and not just because of the complete exhaustion of observing the Triduum. I have no idea what I would preach on the Resurrection gospel, because it is completely ridiculous to me. Think about it, all the elements:

  • a God in human form
  • allowing himself to be tortured and killed
  • loving us all the while, even as we clamor for his execution
  • pronouncing words of forgiveness as he dies
  • ... and coming BACK?
I believe the expression that most captures my reaction to this is: WTF?!?

And yet, he did. Despite the complete impossibility of dying and then getting back up and walking - in a form that could be seen and touched - this is the story I choose to believe. This is the God I choose to trust. This God, this Jesus, who has stood with me in the darkness, who showers me with love even when I push him away, who promises to save me from my brokenness. And all I have to do is trust. Love. Forgive.

It sure sounds simple. Hrmph.

My son is incredibly bright, and gets very frustrated when he is trying to learn something new, and it isn't coming to him right away. I can sympathize; I have experienced that same frustration. When I come to him, try to soothe his frustration, I say, "Son, nothing worth doing is easy." And I believe that. Trust is hard. Love is hard. Forgiveness may be the hardest thing we are called to do. Learning to walk and talk and read are hard. A new sport, a musical instrument. Welcoming strangers into your home. Feeding the hungry, comforting the grieving, visiting the imprisoned. Jesus taught us a very simple message, but a very, very hard one.

And that's okay. I try, maybe not my best, but God knows I'm trying. And in those words of love and forgiveness, Jesus made me okay. Thanks be to God.

I wish you a blessed Eastertide - all fifty days of it! - and all the scandalous joy and extravagant love that God pours out for each and every one of us.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Loneliest Day of the Year

Today is Holy Saturday. Jesus has died, and is in the tomb. The Twelve - now the Eleven - are scattered, terrified that they will be next to die. It is the Sabbath, the day of rest, and Mary the mother and the Mary the Magdalene are probably desperate to find something to do - anything to do - to distract their minds from the terrible sight of their beloved Jesus, betrayed, tortured, executed, dead. But they are not allowed to work. They cannot distract themselves with mending or cooking or laundry. They must sit. And wait. And remember.

There really isn't a liturgy for today. Some parishes worship with the Great Vigil this evening, but I try to make a practice of living in this day, this lonely, awful, painful day between knowing of the death and being surprised by the rising. There is powerful stuff to feel on this day. It is even more powerful to me this year, after announcing the death of a very important part of my life but not yet fully moved into the rising into a new life. And I chose not to accompany my husband and children on their road trip this week, so I am living Holy Saturday in my home, alone. Like Mary. Like the Magdalene. Like the frightened Eleven, terrified of their imminent capture and execution.

I really don't have a lot to say right now. I am just trying to connect with the story, to engage in my own story, to recognize what I am feeling. I am fortunate - unlike Mary and the Eleven, I know what tomorrow brings. I know that in the morning, I will sing joyful praise, and I will say Alleluia, and I will know that Jesus did not die once and for all. But in the meantime, I will wait, and I will feel, and I will be.

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod;
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels, twice descending,
Reimbursed my store.
Burglar, banker, father,
I am poor once more!
(Emily Dickinson)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday Musings

Several years back, I began a discipline of praying the four-fold Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. Of course, my family thought I was nuts, and they may be right. Over time, the busy-ness took hold, and noontime prayer went away, then evening prayer, and then morning prayer as well. But since 2001, I have continued to pray Compline each night. The office of Compline is a beautiful one to me. The language is poetic, and it is how I place myself into the arms of God each night before I go to sleep. I am terrible at memorization, but I was so pleased when I found that the nightly repetition had engraved the words in my brain. Now, when I turn out the light and settle myself in my bed, I close my eyes and begin to pray Compline, and peace washes over me. (Funny part: my brain automatically starts saying Compline whenever I lie down, even if I'm taking a nap at 2pm!)

There was one line that always used to give me a hard time, though, and it's a line that comes up today, Good Friday.

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

These were very hard words for me to say. Because, you know what? I rather like my spirit, and I'd like to hold on to it, thankyouverymuch. The first time I came to them, I balked. I fell silent, with my prayer book open, and fought hard against them. I didn't want to commend my spirit into anybody's hands, even God's. I also knew, at the same time, that when I balk at a phrase like that, in worship there, that I have a rich opportunity. Not that I always appreciate being faced with a rich opportunity, especially when it would be so much easier to just close the prayer book and go to bed, but once I recognized that it was there, I knew it would not let me rest. So I gritted my teeth and said the words, even though I did not agree wholeheartedly with them.

And this is okay. More than once I've had doubts or questions about words I say in worship. "I believe in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come." Do I? What on earth could that possibly mean? How could the Incarnation have possibly come to be, much less the Resurrection? And now, I'm supposed to give up my spirit? I don't THINK so!

Well, grace happened, as grace does. Somehow, I came to peace with those words. I came to realize that God knows I don't want to turn over my spirit, and I think God loves us for this. God created each and every one of us to be unique and marvelous and wonderful, and though God yearns for us to be with God, I believe that God also delights and rejoices in us as we are, here and now. But in saying the words, night after night, I come to terms that I am not in control of everything, and that I don't have to be in control of it. God is there, and God is good, and if I can place myself into God's loving, delighted, rejoicing hands, then I will find that all will be well, and I will sleep in peace.

One aspect of the Daily Office is the repetition of the most wonderful book in the bible, the Psalms. Every emotion ever felt by a human being appears in the psalms, in one form or another. Anger, frustration, vengeance, love, delight, joy - it's all there. And I've been coming to the increasing conclusion (as my lenten fast from harsh language becomes less and less sustainable) that the psalmist probably cussed a lot more than the current translations let on. I mean, how much of a leap is it from "How long, O Lord, how long?" to "Okay, so just exactly how the hell long are you going to keep me waiting, God?" Or from "O God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" to "O God, why the f**k have you forsaken me?" Because, let's be honest, when you're really feeling that stuff, sometimes we really need the grit and the darkness.

I remember once telling my confessor (and I've probably blogged this before) that I just wanted god to F off and leave me the hell alone. I was sure he was going to break out the holy water and start an exorcism on the spot, but he didn't. He smiled gently and said, "That sounds like a very authentic prayer," and then talked about God and humans and authenticity. Because, when it comes down to it, if there's nobody else in the universe who can handle my authentic self, I know God can. God knows all about my authentic self, from the dark corners to the cobwebs to the parts I try to hide from everybody. And God loves my authentic self. God hungers for my authentic self. God delights in my authentic self. So the message was, don't be afraid to tell God exactly what I really think. Why would God want to hear praise that I don't really feel? Do you want to hear praise that you know is insincere? It's insulting! So why insult God? Or, perhaps I should say, why the f**k should I insult God?

Have a blessed Good Friday. Today, there is darkness and death. Tomorrow, there is loneliness and sorrow. But the next day... on the next day is the light, and the life, and the Feast. On the next day is the rock that has been moved, the empty clothes, the angel, the strange man in the garden. In the meantime,

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A little slow on the uptake

~C over at Among the Hills has an interesting spiritual practice: he writes haiku based on the lectionary readings. I can imagine that this might really help crystallize the readings as part of sermon prep. And, sometimes, I'm sure, it's just fun.

I'd been meaning to call your attention to this pair of haiku from two weeks ago, most especially this one:

B: Judas
You are right, my friend,
we must answer for the poor.
But tonight, we dine.

I found this so profound, and recalled it several times over the last two weeks. I'll admit, though, I would make one little tweak, in the last line. I would say:

But tonight, we feast.

Of course, I'm a bit goofy about coming to the table for the Feast. That image - that action - week after week, is very powerful for me. I struggle with answering for the poor. I'm not always sure what that means, and I know it takes me out of my comfort zone. But the Feast is always there for me, for everyone. I guess that's the meaning of Grace.


I know I've mentioned once or twice that I like Diet Dr Pepper. It is, for me, like a security blanket. In mid-afternoon, when I've been having a frustrating day, I go to the fridge and grab a DP, and sit back to take that first sip with eyes closed, just savoring it for a moment before returning to the insanity. It makes everything just a little bit better, if only for that one moment. It's also my source of caffeine, because I'm not much of a coffee-drinker.

In the office, I bring in my own supply. I usually keep the 12-pack at my desk, and put the cans into the refrigerator two at a time. I keep them in a separate part of the fridge from the "soda mess" that started up a year ago, so that they don't get taken. This has varying degrees of success, depending on how many guests we have in the office. I am more than happy to share what I have with anyone, if they ask. But I do not appreciate it when I go to get that desperately needed DP fix at midday, and find them all gone. I've been known to threaten bodily harm to people who mess with my Diet Dr Pepper.

So yesterday, an engineer was visiting from the naval base, and he's also a Diet DP drinker. He's also very polite - he always asks, if I'm here, and if I'm not here, he leaves me a note and replaces the soda next time he's here. When I left for the day, I grabbed one of the two cans in the refrigerator without replacing it, figuring I'd just put one in this morning. And this morning, when I got to my desk, I found a note (written with my purple pen, no less, when there were "normal" black and blue ones right there with it) that said he'd taken a DP and would replace it on his next visit. I laughed, because I'd said he could just take one when I'd seen him in the hallway earlier.

But then came the best part. I went to put two cans in the refrigerator, to replenish my stock, and I found that he had already taken one from my stash and put it in the fridge for me, so it would be cold when I came in. How awesome is that?

It makes me so happy to encounter thoughtful people, because so often we are self-absorbed and don't pay attention to little details that can really make a big difference to people.

One little detail that I pay a great deal of attention to is intentionally making eye contact and smiling when saying thank you. It doesn't matter to whom - could be the teenager at the Taco Bell drive-through, the teller at the bank, my boss at the end of a performance review - but you should see what happens in someone's face when you look him or her in the eyes, smile, and say thank you. It's incredible.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A funny thing

To properly set the context, my daughter is the fourth in a line of very short women. My grandmother was 4'10 1/4" at her tallest; mom was 4'10 1/8" (and very insistent on that one-eighth!), but is now 4'9" and change; I'm 4'9" (and a half, they said at the last measurement, but I don't quibble). Becca has always been on her own growth curve, at the bottom of the chart the doctors use. Of course, we are all confident that the best things come in small packages. :-)

So today, in the hallway at her middle school, a girl came up to Becca and said, "Are you in sixth grade? Because you're tiny." Before she could speak up, her friend jumped to her defense. "Hey! She's tiny because she's had so many traumas in her life, and they've stunted her growth. And if you don't stop teasing her, she'll never get any taller!" Then the girl apologized, and somehow Becca and her new best friend managed to keep from exploding in laughter until she was out of earshot.

Of course, Becca's had her share of trauma, but just like mom and grandmother and great-grandmother, she has this wonderful thing called (I'm serious - it really has a name): Proportionate Short Stature. That's it - a fancy medical term that means, "She's short." But I found the story hilarious, and Becca was delighted to find a friend who shares her wacky sense of humor. Keeping a sense of humor in middle school is so important. I don't know how any of us manage to survive those years.

Oh yeah, and Mom thought I would be sympathetic once she was 4'9"-something, rather than 4'10"-something. Right. After all those years of four-foot-ten-AND-AN-EIGHTH, I'll feel sorry for her. Hrmph. :-)

I'll tell you something else about Mom. If she says she's 27, don't believe her. (She's a couple years older.) And if she says my sis and I are the children of her husband's first wife, ask her how many times her husband has been married. (Once.) She may look young and sweet, but she's a hardened deceiver.

(Just kidding, Mom - you know I love you!)

Monday, April 2, 2007

A major weekend

Well, I did say blogging would be light last week, didn't I? I spent three days at a program management review in Northern Virginia. This means that most of that time was in a conference room, surrounded by managers (almost all of them men), discussing things like profit & loss statements for organizational groups, and whether to take the strategic or tactical approach to the training budget for design engineers, and managing customer relationships, and utilizing and leveraging and facilitating and all that other manager stuff. :-) Despite all that, it was a productive week, and I didn't get too badly beaten up at my first PMR as a direct participant (rather than as a behind-the-scenes supporter, listening on the phone and quietly sending data to the participants).

Over the weekend, I had a very difficult discussion with my husband, one that has been years coming but that I haven't had the strength and courage to initiate until now. Because he is choosing not to disclose this discussion to his family (or to our children) yet, I will refrain from going into any detail out of respect for him. But I have been profoundly thankful for the recent Friday Five on Rivers in the Desert, because it helped me take a deep look at my sources of inspiration and support, so that I could get them lined up for me for the days and weeks and months to come. Being an introvert, I'm incredibly wealthy with online support, but rather deficient when it comes to local people I can meet face-to-face.

Despite earlier misgivings about it, I went to the Palm Sunday service yesterday, but not at my home parish. Instead, I went to St. Peter's, where I'd gone for Ash Wednesday. It was very good, and I was glad to get my fix of "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" for the year. :-) I badly needed Eucharist, and I felt very much fed. I know we still have Holy Week ahead of us, but I'm ready to say the A-word again and to sing the Gloria again and to celebrate the Resurrection.

So today, I am thankful for supportive and inspiring people. I am thankful for finding the inner strength and courage to help me make a tough decision. I am thankful for the fun people I work with. I am thankful for the church - made up of flawed and broken humans as it is - and for the feast that is there for me whenever I am able to bring myself to the Table. I am thankful for the prayers and love of my friends. I'm thankful for the blooming cherry trees, and for my yard full of bright yellow dandelions, looking like little balls of sunshine. I'm thankful for the birds at my feeder, even this one really odd-looking one - kind of gray-brown, fuzzy, very acrobatic, with little hands, and a bushy tail. :-) I'm thankful for beautiful music and the warm spring sun. I'm always thankful for Diet Dr Pepper. I'm thankful for sleeping with the window open, even when it gets a little chilly, and I'm thankful for thick, warm socks. I'm thankful for being able to go barefoot, and I'm thankful for slipping into a bed newly made with freshly-washed sheets. I'm thankful for grabbing my towel after a hot shower, putting it to my face, and inhaling the fresh scent.

I wish you peace and joy today, and a blessed Holy Week.