The reconstitution of family

September 30, 2007

Yesterday I was down at the beach that I grew up playing on with my five year old niece. There is a small playground by the beach, and the same merry-go-round that was there when I was a little girl is still there, and still working well. I pushed my niece around and around, and had a few rides myself. (I’m one of those people who still loves to swing and spin and stand on my head and all of that.)
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Normally when I’m on the island, it’s bittersweet. I love being here, but I’m always sad that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest anymore. Sure, if I’m on the island for a while, I miss my friends, and the smelly old dog, but I never miss California. This time is different. I really can’t believe I’m going to write this next sentence, but. . .

I feel kinda homesick for Southern California.

Last night I was walking down the road, the sun was starting to set over the mountains, the ferry was coming in from the Penninsula, the air was cool and crisp, everything was just perfect. I thought to myself, “I miss my bed.” My bed? I have never missed my bed before. I stood there in the road (we have no traffic here) and just thought about the fact that I miss my bed. Then I realized I missed my house. My house? I never think of it as “my” house. I figure any house that your husband’s ex-wife has lived in will never really count as “your” house. Well, I guess my heart disagreed. OK. I missed my bed and my house. Then I kind of even felt myself missing the little corner of the earth where my house and my bed are located. I generally consider SoCal a sad excuse for membership on planet earth, kind of like the Gobi Desert with good tacos and burgers. One could say that I have been somewhat scornful of SoCal. I did not know I was capable of missing Southern California.

And even though I’m with my family-of-origin family, I miss my family in SoCal: my husband, my step-kids and my BFF. I don’t know, maybe this is how other people feel when they have kids the “normal” way and they visit their parents sans enfants. I feel this incredible, almost tangible connection to these people with whom I share no blood, but to whom I’ve chosen to make make my life. I guess God wasn’t kidding when he talks about the “cleaving” thing in Genesis. It’s the reconstitution of family.

Now I’ve got to go help my mother move into one house and my sister move out of another. To say that the three of us have three separate ideas about how to do this would be understating the issue. If you’re the prayin’ type, pray for us!


It’s raining on the island. . .creation rocks

September 28, 2007

I’m up on the island visiting my family, and it is pouring rain. I LOVE the rain. My parents even thought about changing my name to “Rainey” when I was a little girl. Living in Southern California, I don’t get much love on the rain front.

Sometimes I look around this place, out at the ocean and the mountains and the sky and the trees, and just feel so stupid lucky to have been born and raised in this corner of the world. I am aware that California is part of creation, and that it has its own beauty (which I am coming to see more and more), but being here really makes my heart sing. What an awesome mind God has to create such an amazingly georgeous place. Maybe “mind” isn’t quite the right word, but you know what I mean. To dream up a whole earth, let alone a whole universe. . .well. . .I’m just saying. It puts the good kind of “fear of God” in my soul. Creation rocks.

I went to my five-year old neice’s soccer game, which was in a glen of beautiful old fir trees. Five-year old soccer is pretty absurdist, but is was great to breathe island air and see her have fun.

Today I’m not worried if I run into old friends and acquaintances on the island and they ask me, “So, what are YOU doing?” There have been times in the recent past where I was totally embarassed by my lack of gainful official ministry employment. Today, I feel like I can tell people that I’m just waiting to see what God’s gonna do with me. . .and yeah! That IS my whole life plan! Look around at this here creation, after all. God’s gotta have SOME kinda plan.


No, I am not Madeline Albright

September 27, 2007

Last night I was very dispirited about my vocational life. Since graduating from seminary, this has happened. . . ah. . . more than once or twice. Nothing has “worked out” like I thought it would.

One reason I started blogging was to try and help myself figure out what it is that God wants. Because writing is good therapy. And much cheaper than real therapy.

Last night, after I wrote about my Wheat Thins affair, I was talking with my husband. I told him I couldn’t BELIEVE I had just publicly put up an unexpectedly long and ridiculous post about CRACKERS.

Trying to be encouraging, he reminded me that I am not Madeline Albright. “No one expects you to be blogging about policy in Iraq,” he said.

Sadly, I could not receive this as encouragment. I actually think I should be doing something as hard core as Madeline Albright. In fact, I am a failure because I am not doing anything hard core. I am not even an associate pastor at a big ol’ church. Or the senior pastor at a little church. Or . . .jack! In part, I think this is because I have the motivational capacity of Madeline Albright’s pinky toe. This, in spite of the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, God and encouraging friends.

I’m not sure how to keep myself out of a spiral of self-condemnation that I am not doing as well as Madeline Albright.

When the Holy Spirit helps me to see something in my life that is holding me back from serving God, it usually comes with a feeling of conviction. It is not accompanied by guilt and shame. It makes me feel guilty and low that I am not Madeline Albright’s peer. That is not the Holy Spirit speaking to me, but my own craziness and inability to accept where God has me and who I am today. Sigh.

To quote my favorite seminary professor (and favorite preacher) Darrell Johnson, “Mercy!”

Mercy! May I learn to have mercy on myself. Even if it is just mercy for not being Madeline Albright.


I love you, Wheat Thins, but I hate you too

September 26, 2007

Life is made up of lots and lots of little decisions and a few big ones, right?

One of my “big” decisions was trying to take care of the planet, the planet that I now think of as “creation.” I can’t pinpoint when I made this decision. Environmental consciousness was always part of my life. I grew up in a home where my parents actually made their own granola. It doesn’t get any more granola than that, people. My parents were active recyclers in the seventies. I imagine this is like folks who had parents who were church-going, Jesus-loving Christians. You don’t really know when you got to know God, you just know Him. But I digress. Sort of.

Taking care of the planet had its grandiose moments in my life.

Exhibit A:

My life’s ambition when I was 24 and in the Peace Corps, serving as an Environmental Education volunteer, was to work for be in charge of the United Nations Environmental Programme. Embarassing, but true. I wanted to save the world from itself. I was convinced I could do so. I even had a tattoo of the earth on my back. (Still there, yes.)

Fast forward to today, and I am slightly more realistic about what I can accomplish. I do all the obvious things: I try to consume less, generally speaking; I recycle, we don’t use hardly any paper products in our home; we use only home-made and natural cleaners; I usually use my awesome pink metal coffee cup for beverages on the go; I remember to bring my canvas-esque bags to the grocery store so I don’t use more plastic bags. Etc.

There are also lots of things I do that are still rotten. I still drive, a lot. I need to do so for my job, but it still sucks. I eat meat. A lot of meat. I still occasionally buy plastic water bottles, even though I am plauged with guilt when I do. I am a ditz, and leave lights on willy-nilly. I don’t buy anything in bulk. We send the children to school with those dreadful little individually-wrapped bags of baby carrots. Etc.

And I eat Wheat Thins. Wheat Thins, you are so delicious. I love you with goat cheese. I love you with dry salami. I love you straight out of the box. I like you dipped in Alouette. Oh, Wheat Thins. You are so tasty.

But Wheat Thins, you are made with high fructose corn syrup (and corn syrup). Making high fructose corn syrup is bad for creation and also not so good for eating.* And Wheat Thins, I just bought you in a special TWO POUND EIGHT OUNCE box. This may have been my moment of clarity, Wheat Thins, where I can finally admit I have a problem.

I think this might be my last hurrah with you, Wheat Thins. After consuming more than two pounds of you, I think I might be able to say goodbye. There is nothing as tasty as you, really, there isn’t. But I don’t think you can change who you are, my high fructose corn syrupy friend.

We had a lot of good times, Wheat Thins. I will always think of you with fondness.

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*If you need convincing on this, read “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” by Michael Pollan.


Wheat toast and prayer

September 25, 2007

Earlier this evening, I was writing a post about ministry and me. It was going to be riveting. It was going to explain some things to my new innernets friends, and my old friends too. It was going to rock, peoples. However. Several things have gotten in my WAY.

My server was down, so when I went to save what I HAD written, it disappeared. These things happen. Honestly, at that point, I did not freak out. It was fresh in my head. I started over, but now (an hour later) nothing, but nothing, is coming out. I have blogstipation. I’m getting cross, and the crosser I get, the more I sense that something is missing. . . I’m a little out of order. . .and I know why.

I didn’t pray yet today. At least, not really. I’m not counting small prayers of thanks for my meals, when I pray for relief from pain for the dog, or for a peaceful spirit to rest on the children. I mean real prayer, where a person sits with God and has something like a conversation.

I’ve noticed time and again that prayer is like breakfast for me. I never, ever, ever skip breakfast. I need those morning calories to get me going. There have been days when the only thing that got my sorry butt out of bed was the thought of French toast. Likewise, I should never, ever, ever skip prayer. Especially morning prayer. But I do.

And I’ve noticed, over the years, that if I have a breakfast that is heavy on the tasty but not so heavy on the healthy, I don’t feel so great later in the morning. And I confess freely and openly that there have been days that I believed brownies and milk were a perfectly acceptable breakfast. On the other hand, if I have some nice whole wheat toast, or even (!) some sprouted-grain bread (like the amazing Ezekiel bread), I feel much better as noon approaches. It’s the same with prayer. Some good, healthy, real time with the living God is nourishment for the soul. And yet I insist on refusing to feed myself sometimes. It is spiritual anorexia, and it is sad.

So peoples, I am sorry. I have no brilliant post about my vida loca in ministry and why I am not currently serving God’s people in a church-like scenario. You all know what I need to go do.

Make me some dang spiritual wheat toast.


Cake and the art of being a step-family

September 20, 2007

Yesterday I made cake with my step-daughter. The smell of it cooking made everyone a little nuts. We are all sugar and chocolate fiends in this house. We believe in consuming as much sugar and empty calories as possible, every day. Of course, those of us who are adults realize this isn’t much of a nutritional plan for life, so we try to behave. Those of us who are not adults just try and maximize the sugar. You could say there are occasional debates around this issue.

So, when the cake came out of the oven at 4:00 and was cooling, my thought was, “Yay! This cake is going to be delicious for desert.” You know, desert. The thing that comes after dinner. The children’s thought was, “Hey, the cake is out of the oven. Would it burn my mouth if I ate it NOW?”

Of course they were requesting the cake at 4:01. I let Dad handle the request, assuming that his thought pattern would mirror mine.

Ha, ha.

Within minutes he was cutting nice large slices from the warm cake and serving it up. I happened to be out of the room when it happened. Obviously, we don’t undermine each other when it comes to stuff like this, so I didn’t say anything. But evidently I didn’t tell my eyebrows not to say anything. Apparently, they raised themselves in an expression of disbelief. The six year old said, “What!? He gives us this big of slices!! Always!” I didn’t say anything.

I was peeved. What about their appetites for dinner? What about nutrition? What about everything going the way I think it will!!

I had an appointment to get to, so I gave everyone a goodbye kiss/hug/look depending on the person and headed out the door. In the car I had a little time to pray and talk to myself. I realized my “they should eat like THIS” self-righteousness was kind of a street that didn’t go too far. Yeah, yeah, that they eat relatively healthily is important. But not important enough to get worked up over.

And sometimes, in family life, especially in step-family life, people have differing ideas about when to eat cake. Or what bed-time should look like. Or how much fit-throwing, sulking or back-talk is reasonable. Or. . .whatever. And part of being a loving family, but especially part of being a loving step-family, is giving each other room to be a little different, to have varying opinions on how things “should” be.

We don’t all have to think the same way about cake.

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This photograph taken at 4:03 pm.


Side effects may include. . .

September 18, 2007

As I’ve mentioned, my dog has a brain tumor. Her neurologist (yes, her neurologist) mentioned that she would likely continue to have trouble with her “bad” side, and that her mobility would likely decline. Overall, she’s been doing pretty well. The medicine seems to be working out OK.

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However, the neurologist did not mention that occasionally my dog would get the most ridiculous “duhhhhhhh” face in the history of doghood. And that sometimes her tongue would not go back in her mouth.