The cul-de-sac of faithfulness

February 22, 2009

This past Friday, I was out walking on a suburban street with my eighth grade English group. They come, if you can imagine, from 4-6 pm on a Friday afternoon, to do vocabulary, to read and to discuss literature with me. Oddly, they are all boys, and there are only three of them. On our walk, I asked them to pay attention to details as they looked around the California suburbs, to use those details in a writing we were going to do later.  I’d never walked on that particular street, and it turned out to be a dead end, so our walk was short.  When we got back to class, I wrote about the dead end being a surprise to me.  As I was writing, one of the students asked me how to spell cul-de-sac.  I almost laughed out loud.  He was right, it wasn’t a dead end, but a perfectly tidy, circular cul-de-sac.

When we were out walking, I was once again surprised by my own life. What a strange way to spend Friday afternoon. I finally know what I love to do vocationally, but I am hanging out with three thirteen year olds, walking down a suburban dead end cul-de-sac. This is not chaplaincy.

I do not mind so much, anymore, that it has taken me so long to find the thing that I love to do so much. But waiting to do it, the time that it is taking to equip myself to do it, that wears on me sometimes. The economic realities of my family’s life dictate that I cannot do another full-time un-paid CPE internship right now.  I need to do two more internships.  The possibility exists that I may find a paid internship, but they are rare.  I want nothing more than to be walking through a hospital, meeting people and having the opportunity to accompany them on their walk through difficult times.

Instead, I’m working at an after-school program, teaching English.  I am very grateful for the work, especially given our economy’s downhill nature these days.  My husband has been looking for work for about three months now, which is also dispiriting.  I was laid off from my ESL teaching job in January.  With all my heart, I wish I could be making a living (even a small living!) doing the work that I love.  But, for now, I simply can’t.

This brings me to faithfulness.  These days, when we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we pray it fervently.  When we give thanks, as we do at every meal, we do it even more reverently.  There is something about being on the edge of poverty (I know we are not nearly as close as many) that makes us even more grateful for what we do have.  We are trying to be faithful, to hold on to just a mustard seed of faith in a time of great unknowing and great need.

I try not to despair, to think of all the things that could derail me from the path that I believe God’s asked me to take.   Jesus meant something when he told us that moving a mountain was something we could ask for and expect.  He wasn’t joking, I assume.  My husband keeps moving forward, looking for some kind of job that a former pilot could do well, even if it’s not for much money.  This continual searching without much positive feedback requires the fuel of hope and faith on his part.

Faithfulness for me, right now, means trusting that God’s hand is at work in the midst of our want and confusion, even though I can barely discern what His hand is doing.  Faithfulness is not giving up on a dream of serving His people.  It means that even though I’m walking on what looks like a dead end, as the eighth grader reminded me, it is not a dead end.  It’s a cul-de-sac.  Hopefully this time will be like a cul-de-sac in my life.  I will get to the end of it, turn around and be back out on the road that I want to be travelling.


To blog or not to blog

April 14, 2008

I feel like I’m kind of at the end of my rope in coping with my husband’s ex-wife – how her existance and her choice of interactions affect me.  I feel like too much disclosure, and I’m being inappropriate – this is a public blog.  Then again, I feel like I’m not really sharing what is going on in my life, because I’m being so circumspect.

I’ve done my best to not vent about her to anyone except my best friend (Sorry, G-Whiz), my husband, our couples therapist, and my client/friend Leshawn (also a step-mom) since really, it can be kind of tedious.

She called the house on Friday and was yelling at my husband.  She is relentlessly unkind to him.  I understand that they must have unresolved angers at each other – how could they not?  They seem unable to ever say what is authentically on their mind.  My husband just never says anything, no matter how much he is bothered by something.  Her favorite rant always centers around some perceived injustice to her son.  I have no idea what she is really trying to say when she says this stuff.  Their inability to be authentic with each other leads to more stress on both of them, and me.  Apparently, they had a pretty inauthentic life together even when they were married.  At least, that is how he characterizes it now – emotionally dispassionate and disconnected, even at its best.  “Flat” is the word he always uses to describe their marriage.  I have no way of knowing if this is true.  I wouldn’t care, either, if she weren’t still in the picture.  But she is.

I am just worn out.  She has done creepy things like drop by with a friend and start demanding that her Halloween decorations be found.  Every month she manages to find some issue to hassle her ex-husband about.  The oldest kid and she triangulate against him all the time.  It is tiresome for me to handle in a way that I didn’t know I could be emotionally tired.  This first year of marriage has been the most exhausting year of my life.  And that includes the year of my divorce and my first year in Africa.

I know I could go to therapy to get help in dealing with how I feel about all of this – but that makes me mad.  Why should MY ass have to be taking the time and effort to sort through this stuff when neither of them does?  So I don’t go.  Even writing it and looking at it, I can see how immature that is, but it is how it feels.  This crap is not my mess!

Another reason I don’t blog about this stuff is that I’m afraid I will sound whiny.  But, it’s been several months now of very spotty writing over this issue, so oh well.  If you think I’m whiny, sorry.  As I walk uphill, I guess sometimes I whine.


April 12, 2008

Recently, I was accepted into a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship program.   It is at a local hospital, and I am in a group with five other interns.  It is an incredibly intensive program – we interns are invited to minister to the patients at the hospital one-on-one in every kind of circumstance.

I’ve not had to be at a job site from 8:30-5:00 in a long time, but that is the requirement for this ten week program.  When I did work somewhere with those hours, I was getting PAID.  In this case, I pay them for the privilege of learning how to pastor people I don’t know.  This is a skill that I don’t really have much experience with, as congregational work takes place amongst people with whom one is familiar.

This past Monday, I was asked to say prayers over a man who was going to be removed from his ventilator.  I am glad that my theology includes a concept of God as generous and understanding, because I think my prayers were inadequate.  At best.  His weeping family stood around the bed – and I cried with them.  He was only in his fifties.  I felt so sad for them.  This was not what they expected.

This is perhaps the most extreme thing that can happen to a family: an unexpected death.  Expected death doesn’t seem all that much better, either.

Then there are things like what I’ve been going through lately: unexpected feelings about how my life is unfolding.  I wasn’t cut out to be a second wife or a step-mother.  Especially when the first wife is an angry lesbian who hates my husband, her former husband.  My vocational life hasn’t made much sense to me in a long time.  My family life doesn’t make much sense either these days.  My life with God still has its moments of transcendence and goodness, but He is confusing me too.

I’m trying to hold on to the truth that nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Oh, for frick’s sake.

February 29, 2008

It has been many, many days since I have posted (eighteen). Honestly, for a few days I was just too wrapped up in my own crap to remember that I had a blog. Then, when I remembered, I didn’t feel like I had anything to say that wouldn’t seriously compromise what I’ve decided are my blog boundaries. This is not an anonymous blog. People know who I am. Hopefully not my address, but my real name and all that.

Suffice it to say that I was in the midst of processing hard things – marriage stuff, ex-wife stuff, step-kid stuff, my own anger stuff – bleh. Ick. It felt too raw to write about anything authentic, and too fake to write about anything light.

But I’m alive, and working through my stuff, poco a poco.

I would like everyone to know the following expenses that occurred in February:

$186 at Trader Joe’s . Twice. (I would just like to add that, entirely coincidentally, is the same price as the CUTEST Coach sandals right now. Ahem.)

$20 because we lost our parking ticket at the Grove parking lot. The guy was an ASS about it, too. When you are not in the category of having cash to spare, this kind of fuck up can make you CRAZY if you let it.

$8 for the tip at Fatty’s, a local vegetarian resto. My friend Shauna treated me and I ate like a pig (albeit a vegetarian pig) and we had amazing Han martinis and everything felt much better afterwards.

$7.50 for a red, cashmere Banana Republic hoodie! I found it at the Salvation Army. A little worn, but who cares!

$29.99 for an infomercial medicine for my dog’s arthritis. I confess – I am a total sucker. I NEVER buy stuff like this, but this ad killed me. They show these dogs that walk and lurch around just like my Tasha, and it broke my heart. Because, you know, MY POOR DOG! Is suffering! I really can’t tell if it is working. I am a little embarrassed that I bought it, but then again, not really.

$0. This was how much I paid for the best prayer I’ve gotten in a long time out at church. This woman Jean prayed for me and it started working on my heart instantaneously. Thank you God for church and prayer.

I’ll try to post something a little more interesting soon. Sorry for the hiatus.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

February 9, 2008

My parents are the kind of parents who were so proud when I was in the Peace Corps. When I worked at a little after-school program and didn’t make much money, they sent me extra funds to help pay the rent on my cute little L.A. cottage.

Now that I’m done with seminary, but I don’t have the well decent paying job that I expected to have, they are still helping out their oldest daughter. I never thought that I would be 36 and only working part-time. My vision for my life was that I would always work full-time, or at least most of the time. So the part-time jobs are surprise to me – both vocationally and financially.

This is a picture of me putting their Chinese New Year check in the bank. Thanks so much Mom and Dad for your support. This will help my household a lot. We are grateful for your generosity.


Moving as a way of life

January 29, 2008

I live in a house that was once occupied by my husband, his former wife and their two children. I made the choice to live here with my eyes wide open, knowing it would be wierd & probably a little uncomfortable, but “worth it.” The kids experienced so much transition last year. I mean, imagine finding out your Mom is gay, your dad gets remarried, you get a step-mom, all of that. I figured anything we could keep constant would be good. Their address(es) and school were two areas where nothing changed last year.

But it has been REALLY wierd and uncomfortable for me to live here. In spite of “redecorating” three rooms (our bedroom, office and the dining room), I am not at home here. First of all, my husband’s ex-wife still owns half of the house. Ick, right? Then, there is the intensely creepy thought that she and he had sex in what is now my bedroom. That is just ICKY to think about. I thought maybe that by living here I could take the edge off of those realities, but that has not been the case. Add that to the fact that I freaking hate living in the SoCal burbs, and I’m ready to move. Again.

But damn. I have lived in nine homes since I was 24 (I’m 36 now). That number only includes places I lived for six months or more. If you added in all the “interim” places I stayed or visited (from between 3 weeks to 4 months) that number goes up to fourteen. Moving is practically a way of life for me. And those nine homes since 24 include two that were in Africa and South America. Packing and unpacking. . .although I dislike it as much as the next person, I have done it so much that it is nearly second nature.

But I’ve never moved “en famille.” I hope it’s not worse than normal moving. We are hopefully putting the house up for sale this spring. We are also praying that the housing market around here stays somewhat afloat. I just can’t believe after making this big move in June from my fabulous Eagle Rock digs out to the burbs, I’m gonna do it all over again. I don’t know what we’ll be able to afford or find, but it looks like moving again is in the cards. Pray for me, k?

Of Blogs and Bibles

January 16, 2008

Today I had a grumpy morning with the children. They were just being children – fussing about how much cinnamon and sugar goes on toast, clothing options, etc.

Sometimes we’re all, children and adult, just contrary. Well. To a degree. I guess none of us adults has thrown a complete crying, screaming fit because we couldn’t wear a striped shirt. Then again, probably very few adults have their wardrobe choices curtailed by an unimaginative dress code, either.

But I wasn’t feeling resilient this morning. I hadn’t had my tea. I just wanted to wake up and have normal conversations with everyone. No “discussions.” So, after a few minutes of testy discussions, I took my tea and went to my google reader to see what the blogs were up to. I was so happy, because my favorite blogger had a new post, and she hasn’t been posting much lately. I read it. It was nice. I read a few other posts here and there. Then, my google reader was empty.

I closed the browser and sighed. I said to my blank screen, “can’t you satisfy me?” I actually laughed out loud after I said that. I realized I was using blogs to distract me from how I was feeling. I knew I needed input from somewhere. I intuitively knew that I wanted some satisfaction from words. But I was looking to the wrong words. My little daisy Bible was sitting on the desk next to my monitor. I picked it up and read this week’s lectionary readings.

The Gospel reading is from the first chapter of John. John the Baptist says (v.29), “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Right there I was hooked again. The Bible for me is like a dynamic, strange, endlessly fascinating, illuminating conversation with the most interesting person I’ve ever known. Today, when I read that, my mind went immediately to that oft-repeated phrase – that Jesus somehow takes away sins. I find that thought so interesting and so strange. What does it mean exactly? I know the traditional, orthodox answer, which I hold as a gift from the past. But how can I deepen that understanding, know what it means for real, for me, for my friends? He takes away sin in general? From me? Where does he take it? How? And, what then? And why a Lamb, a reference to sacrifice and dependence, first? He’s a shepherd, too, right?

And then I read the Old Testament reading, which was from Isaiah 49. In verse 4, Isaiah has the Messiah say, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Isn’t that outrageous? The Bible is incredible. It is full of this kind of despair and “FORGET IT!” kind of sentiment. When combined with an equally outrageous trust in God, it is a potent mix.

When I read the Bible, I know I will never be done plunging all of its mysteries. There will always be more for me to see, to learn and be amazed and baffled by in it. Already I feel pulled to spend more time researching and praying over those passages.

No one can rock it like God. No one has so much to say to me that is so encouraging, bizarre and wise. That is His job, to be loving and mysterious. The Bible kicks ass.

That said, let me affirm that I love reading good blogs. They can be a great blessing. Sometimes the rawest, most honest thing I “hear” all day is from a blogger – like this one from Melissa in Ohio. Sometimes the silliness of my fellow Christians just gives me a great laugh.

But nobody rocks it like God. Love you, God.