Samson married a philistine; didn’t work out so great

July 12, 2008

However, I am adding a Samson to my life and hoping that no one ever asks us to betray one another; and that nobody winds up dead in a pile of temple rubble.

Here he is, my big, strong boy:

70 pound puppy

70 pound puppy

I’ve never had a dog like this before.  One, he is very puppy-like and goofy.  Two, he is huge (for me) and very strong.  Third, he has no manners whatsoever at this point.  However, I am pretty much enamorada, even though I know he is going to mean some serious work for me and the family.

Look at that face!
We had our first meeting with a trainer today, she gave us several good pointers and some homework.  Since he doesn’t even have the most basic concept of how to walk on a leash, it’s going to be a long haul, I’m sure.  I’ll keep you updated.

BBC is pissed as hell.  He has decided that we have lost our collective minds and have allowed a monster into his home.  Talk about no manners.  BBC has been like the anti-welcome wagon; hiss-hiss, growl, halloween cat nonsense.
Since I am home alone again – even G-Wiz has left me to go to Costa Rica to work on her Spanish – I’m glad for some canine company, ill-mannered as it may be for now.  Plus, he does this extra cute thing all the time where he lays flat on his back.  I’ll post a picture of it soon.

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CPE, I heart u, but you wore my butt OUT

June 25, 2008

In the past umpteen weeks since I last posted the following things have occured:

a) I went up to Whidbey Island to visit my parents as a post-CPE treat.  It was lovely.

b) While there, I GOT BIT BY A TICK CARRYING LYME DISEASE!!! GRRRROOSSSS!

Please, allow me to tell you more about the tick.  It did not so much bite me as insert itself into my body.  How freaking gross is that?  EXTREMELY GROSS.  G-Wiz had to pull it out of me, it was on my side, kind of below my armpit.  With tweezers.  So nasty.  And alive! Just thinking about it makes my toes curl.

I went to the Dr. who told me that I was showing all the signs of being bit by a Lyme-carrying tick.  You should have seen the site where it was in me.  Nasty, nasty big red target circle woundy thing.  Now I am on these super antibiotics that are making my tummy feel ick and giving me the old lady fatigue.  Boo.  But, yay, no getting Lyme disease.

c) I finished my CPE unit!

Yay!  I loved, loved, loved CPE.  It was challenging and frustrating and rewarding and meaningful and . . .phew.  Mucho.  I think it was week five or six where I was walking down one of the hallways, just heading somewhere, brain in semi-neutral, and I realized I was really content.  Satisfied.  I was like, hey.  What is that strange feeling?

I like being in the hospital visiting sick people and their families.

What?

I know.  I was shocked myself.  There is something amazing about chaplaincy work for me.  For the first time in a very, very, very long while (maybe ever?) I feel incredibly well suited to a given work.  Chaplaincy uses all of me – all of my experiences – all of my skills – all of my flaws – in a way that no other work does.  I loved going into the hospital, never knowing who I would meet that day, what lives would touch mine, however briefly; what tears I would witness and cry myself; what laughter I would share.  It was dope.

I’m not sure where God and I are going with this, but it was an intense, amazing ten weeks that I am super grateful I got to experience.  Thank you Arcadia Methodist, thank you Amy, thank you Magdy, Aline, Mark, Thomas and Darren, thank you G-Wiz and Douglas, Thank you Lord.

d) I did not blog hardly at all during CPE.  I was working + interning for about = sixty hours a week.  Throw in a family and a girl who needs a LOT of sleep, and that leaves -3 hours for blogging.  Sorry, dudes.

e) My sweet Tasha died. More on that later.


I heart u, CPE

April 27, 2008

I recently started a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) chaplaincy internship at a local hospital.

First, I would like to say that CPE should totally ask the Peace Corps if they could have “the toughest job you’ll ever love” slogan, or at least share it. There are six of us interns in the group, and we are a fabulous mix of young, old, gay, straight, American, not American. . .etc. What we have in common is that we’re all kinda evangelical, but not in that icky conservative I-will-now-attack-you-with-a-Bible way; and everyone is pretty smart. We also share the fact that we are all trying to learn how to hold a holy space in the midst of quotidian places. We have a great supervisor who manages to corral all of us into a reasonably cohesive and caring unit most days.

I’ve learned so much about my ability to be pastorally present in the past few weeks. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. We choose a ‘theme’ to focus on during the CPE unit, and mine was outing my hyper-critical voice. Ouch. The voice that gets all judgy, especially on me. The more I get to know the voice, the sadder I feel for it. She (he?) really thinks that by criticizing, worst-casing, over-analyzing and over-assessing, something productive can be gained. She is, of course, sadly mistaken.

The CPE schedule is from 8:30-5:00 every day, and some days, by the time I make it to 3:30, I am whipped. Even with purposeful self-care breaks, healthy lunches and plenty of sleep at night, ministering to sick folks takes energy. Sometimes, a lot of energy. Especially if you’re dealing with a death. So far, I’ve dealt with three, and each one was pretty intense. Plus, I’m still tutoring some kids after work (I know, I know, it’s nuts, but a girl still has to make a dollar), and I’m working Saturday afternoons at a local academic enrichment school. My Sabbaths have become inviolable. I don’t even run an errand on Sunday. I go to church and chill the hell out and that’s it.

So that’s my days and nights for the next six weeks. Learning and growing some more – in a direction I never could have predicted, but that is super good. I heart u, CPE.


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.


unexpected

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.


The Reassurance of the Psalms

March 12, 2008

You know, a place where we can see some real need and some real reassurance expressed is in the Psalms. For some reason this week, Psalm 38 and 39 were really talking to me. The Psalms give us so much freedom to just BE REAL. To be honest about how we are really doing with God.

Take a look at Psalm 38 – this is in verse 9 to 10, “Lord, all that I long for is known to you, my sighing is no secret from you; my heart is throbbing, my strength deserting me, the light of my eyes itself has left me.”

Dang. This is bad. It goes on like this for a while, too – and then look at the end of the Psalm – verse 21, “Lord, do not desert me, do not stand aside, my God./Come quickly to my help, Lord, my savior.” That’s it. That’s the end of the Psalm. Notice that it does not end by saying, Thank you Lord for coming! There ARE Psalms that end like this, but not this one.

It’s the same with Psalm 39, too – look at the end of that one – at verse 12, “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for help, do not stay deaf to my crying. I am your guest, and only for a time, a nomad like all my ancestors. Look away, let me draw breath, before I go away and am no more.” Nice ending, huh? But you can see, that last bit there, the Psalmist is just crying out from her heart. Listen to me Lord! Hear my prayer! I’m talking to you! Feel that emotion.  It’s intense.
All this EMOTION in the Psalms – like the FEELING of wanting some situation to just DISAPPEAR – or feeling like God has just up and Forgotten you COMPLETELY, all that is all in there. I think there might be some Christians – with good intentions, I’m sure – who might tell us we’re should only be grateful and sweet and good inside, because we’ve been saved, right? but that just isn’t a reality God is holding us to, always being sweet inside. Obviously, we should always be grateful to God, but that doesn’t mean that is the ONLY emotion we are ever going to have towards him, or bring to him. That’s just not a reality we have modeled for us in the Bible.

The Psalms are very honest. They are also full of trust – sometimes in the Psalms, we’re waiting for God to act, but not quite seeing it yet. I hope I can communicate this – that actually DEFINES faith – waiting for God to act, and not quite seeing it yet. That’s what Hebrews 11 is saying when it says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This is a HUGE part of walking with God. Just waiting some stuff out. Just trusting that something is going on in heaven on our behalf, even though we can’t see ANYTHING happening at the moment. That’s part of why these Psalms are here. To reassure us again. This is how it is sometimes in life with God. But hold tight. Hold tight. God knows who we are and what we need.


The Reassurance of the Garden Narrative

March 10, 2008

Take a look at this little bit of Genesis 3:

The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that God had made.  It asked the woman, “Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?  The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden.  But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death”.’  Then the serpent said to the woman, “Die? You will not die!  God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”  The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give.  So she took some of its fruit and ate it.  She gave some also to her husband who was with her and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened.

Doesn’t it seem like the story of God and man and woman should have started off a little better?  I don’t know, maybe a little more reverent and worshipful, like, Oh, God, you’re so awesome, thank you so much for creating us, we’ll do whatever you say!  But instead, our story starts with us doing something completely wacky and wrong, eating from that tree we weren’t supposed to. I love what Ecclesiasticus says about this:
God made people in the beginning, and then left them free to make their own decisions.
God left us free to make our own decisions.  What a trusting God.  It’s kinda crazy, if you ask me.  Because look what Adam and Eve go and do with that decision making power.   Oops.

And there are some pretty serious consequences to this, if we kept on reading in Genesis 3, we have a list of all those consequences.   But what is AMAZING is that God is not just like, you know what? Forget you.  I gave you this opportunity to please me, make good decisions, and you sucked, so now we are not friends anymore.  Buh-bye.  No. If that’s what had happened, um, there would not be the rest of this book.

I think part of the point of this story is to help us see that this is just part of how we are – we LEAN in this direction that makes keeping God’s instructions something that takes REAL EFFORT.  I know that might sound bad – like – ooh – we are all made sinful and bad – but – even though that’s true – I think there is another piece of this story that gets overlooked.  Because really, this story IS reassuring.  I’m not going to ask for a show of hands or anything – but let me ask you, seriously – Don’t you struggle sometimes to follow God’s heart, God’s instructions?  I know I do.  I’ll gladly raise my hand.  I struggle  A LOT.  This story is here for a lot of reasons, but one of them is to reassure us: It’s not just you.  All your people are like this.  From the beginning.

And guess what?  God still keeps on walking with us.  For an entire life’s worth of stuff.  An entire Bible’s worth of people’s disobediences.

God keeps hoping that we will see that it would be better if we didn’t try to do it our own way.  We’re like Eve, we look, and see that something LOOKS good – after all, it says there right in the Book– she looked, and saw that it was pleasing and desirable – but if God has asked us specifically not to do that thing that looks pleasing and desirable – really – it will go much better for us if we stay away from it.  Whatever it might be.

The other day, I was thinking about doing something totally rotten.  I mean really, really rotten, something totally against God’s heart.   I was super, super mad at someone.  This person was being really horrible to people that I love.  And so, you know, super mature Christian that I am – I wanted them to suffer.  And this was on my mind a lot.  By a lot, I mean, um, all the time.  Nice, huh?  (I know, it’s nice.)

What was I doing?  I was going completely against God’s word.  How many times does God tell us in the Bible not to judge?  HE is the judge.  Of everybody. I was thinking that I was the judge.  But God is the judge.  Not me.  I was just like Eve. I was all backwards.  God knows that what I need in this area is not to punish this person, but to be free from worrying about it.

God knew who Eve and Adam were and what they needed.  And God knows us and what we need.

This is reassurance.