Saturday, July 16, 2011


When was the last time you sang at the top of your lungs? Without any care of how you sound, whether you hit all the right notes, or find all of the right words? My guess is that for most people, such unabashed singing happens only in the safety and privacy of the solitude.

We have lived in our home for a little more than two years now, and just this morning, I discovered how great our acoustics are for singing at the top of your lungs. Maybe I've done it here before, but I haven't noticed. Andy is working on the roof of our nursery' worker's home, and I am getting ready for a stint next week as a preaching coach in Louisville. Ok, I am getting ready, but admittedly, I was on facebook, twitter, and setting up my foursquare account.

One of my facebook friends put as his status some lines to the song, "The Story." I was introduced to this song earlier this year when Grey's Anatomy did the musical episode, and Sara Ramirez sang a powerful version of this at the climax of the episode. It is a song appropriate for belting. After I saw it for the first time, I listened to it over and over on YouTube - both Sara's version and the original, by Brandi Carlile. I think it is a beautiful song - a song of appreciation for the one or the ones with whom we share our deepest loves and stories.

After seeing the lyrics on facebook, I sang the song at the top of my lungs, and afterwards, I felt as if I had just had a good, hearty laugh, or perhaps a long-needed cry. Music is powerfully cathartic. When I play piano (which I need to do more!) I find the same release. Music is also formational. When I sing or listen to love songs like "The Story," I am filled with a deeper love and appreciation for my husband. When my sister calls me, my phone plays a special ringtone, saying that we can always count on each other - a friendship that will never end, and each time I hear it, my bond to her feels stronger.

A friend who is working in a ministry position that is very heavily administrative said that her colleagues know when she is working on her sermon or planning a service, because they can hear her singing down the hall. When she works on the heavy paperwork of human resources, which consumes most of her time, she is silent.

It's a bit simplistic, but I think the world would be a better place, and we would be better people, if we took more time in our lives to sing. Indeed, to sing is to pray twice. Amen!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A New Discipline

I am breathing deeply. I am breathing deeply. I am breathing deeply.

These past few weeks, and this past week in particular, I feel like my brain has turned to mush. I have been having a hard time finding the right words - and I'm not talking about the particular words that have the precise meaning and connotation that I need - I'm talking about words like "headlight," which I struggled to remember for about a minute at the counter of Advanced Auto Parts yesterday. I was literally doing the hand-blinky motion to try to communicate that I needed a new headlight for my car. It has been a pretty busy week in the office, too, and it is hard to fully focus on any one thing when there are three or thirty new things flying at me all morning.  I have been feeling very ADHD lately.

I think that my mind and body are trying to tell me something. I think they are trying to communicate that they are worn out and need a break desperately, and they are going to take one whether I like it or not. It has been a very busy and very stressful month and a half for many different and varied reasons, but I've been plugging on, regardless.

One of my ADHD activities has been reading a book for review, which thankfully is a collection of short essays that allows some extra grace for this mind that is taking extra time to digest, and will only eat little pieces at a time. In the first set of essays, nearly all of them mention the need for pastors to take care of themselves - eat right, exercise, etc...  It's something we all know we need to do. And sometimes we're better at doing it than other times. When I went to Big Tent (a big denominational conference/gathering) a few weeks ago, I came face to face with the fact that in the past month, as life got crazier, my self-care dropped off sharply, and was almost non-existent.

I had been doing so well for a couple of months at getting up early each morning to exercise.  Then I got sick for a week, and then I got back into my late night schedule, and my body really needed those extra two hours of sleep in the morning. My physical and spiritual disciplines were falling away as quickly as the plants in the rocky soil that wither under the sun (my sermon text from last week).

In a check-in yesterday with a pastor friend/colleague/mentor, she gave me some "homework." I was to write down twelve positive practices to do every day. My first thought was twelve!?! I can hardly keep up with trying to exercise! But some of these practices are things that I already do, and I can bring more intentionality to them. Others are concrete things to get me on the way to improving where I need to improve in self-care. I'm writing them down so I can be accountable to myself, and to her, and I guess to whoever is reading this blog!

1 - Daily Lectionary Readings - part of the practice of the Company of Pastors, getting grounded in the Word
2 - Morning and Evening prayer - ditto.
3 - Get moving - at least 5 minutes a day of walking or yoga or something, but aiming for 30 most days, and for an hour or more on days when I can do that.
4 - Eat something green - most days I do this, and eat more than one green thing. But some days running from drive-thru to drive-thru... And no, the pickles on my hamburger don't count.
5 - Drink lots of water - at least two of my SIGG bottles in the morning, and another two in the afternoon/evening. As I was writing this, I stopped to run down the hall to refill my water bottle.
6 - Say at least 5 positive things to my husband
7 - Write for at least 15 minutes each day - the blog counts, but emails, twitter, sermons, and newsletter stuff don't.
8 - Breathe - at least once each day, stop and intentionally do some deep breathing.
9 - Do something musical - either put on some music to feed my soul, or make some music.
10 - Clean - Tackle at least one project, or spend at least 15 minutes tidying up the office or house.
11 - Get 8 hours of sleep - This will be tough.  My body really like 9 hours, but it's a stretch to get 8, and I can work on that.
12 - Self-affirmation/self-appreciation/grace - At the end of each day, resist the urge to beat myself up over the items on this list that I didn't do, or didn't do as well as I wanted. Don't "should" on myself for other things that happened or didn't happen through the day. Instead, find some room for grace, and affirm the positive steps I did make to build on tomorrow.

In some ways, this is a simple list. In other ways, it is quite daunting. But in the time it took me to write this post, I've accomplished parts of 5 items on this list, and it feels good. Oh, and by the way, I also replaced my own headlight last night. And even remembered what it was called.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Getting Older

I'm digging my heels into the ground, screeching towards my 32nd birthday at the end of August, as if doing so would slow the march of time. I never thought I would be concerned about getting older, and I fully recognize that 32 is not "old" by any stretch.  My 29th birthday was a golden one - I turned 29 on the 29th - and it was a wonderful, perfect weather, end of summer Friday spent with my husband, and then later my family - Dad, step-mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nephews. Glorious.  Each birthday since has been more difficult - especially approaching them.

I put my finger on part of the reason last year or the year before. Growing up, people always thought I was older than I was - I looked older, and was very mature for my age, and I was pretty darn capable. I enjoyed impressing people when they found out how young I was. Now, for the most part, I think people think I am younger than I actually am. (I know, you're feeling terribly sorry for me right now) Which, all things considered, is certainly a good shift to have. But when they are impressed that someone "my age" is doing something, it's a little less impressive when they know how old I really am. When I talk about future possibilities, the response is, "Oh, you have plenty of time..." and yes, in some ways I do, but not as much time as people think. And not as much time as I used to have.

The issue of childbearing is particularly complex and painful for me, for reasons I can't go into here. I do hope to have children, and hope to have children soon, but as my body aches more and more consistently, I try to imagine running after toddlers a few years down the road. I really don't like the thought of how old I will be when my children will graduate from college, if and when I become a grandparent. My parents were always on the younger side - they were 23 when my older sister was born and 25 when I was born. Their parents were also on the younger side. My two grandmothers became grandmothers (with my sister's birth) when they were in their mid to late 40s. My parents became grandparents (with the birth of my oldest nephew) when they were in their late 40s. It is amazing to see my dad and BOTH of his parents outside playing with my nephews, building forts, running around, and enjoying their grandchildren/great-grandchildren. I may never have the chance to meet great-grandchildren, even if I live to be a ripe old age.

When I was younger (in teens up through my mid-20s) I wasn't at all worried about those things. I never had a desire to marry as young as the rest of my family did, and I wasn't even sure that children would be part of my future. I know that I am not too old to have kids now, but I'm creeping into "advanced maternal age" - when conception becomes more difficult, when problems with pregnancy and risks of birth defects start to rise significantly. It's difficult to face those issues.

When you are in your teens and twenties, the possibilities are endless. I still have many open possibilities, but not as many. Then, of course, are the issues of how various possibilities which all are good and desirable seem to be mutually exclusive - particularly in terms of career and family. This is still MUCH more of an issue for women than it is for men, much to my frustration.

I hate to complain about feeling old, especially when, by and large, I am still younger than most of the people that I interact with - 90% of the congregation, my husband, my family, and most of my colleagues and peers. I   know that this post will generate very little sympathy. I get that. But it is a real struggle, and one that I need to name. I'm not a journal writer, though perhaps I should be. I wouldn't normally risk putting something like this out in public, but perhaps there are others for whom this will resonate. In the meantime, you'll find me silently kicking and screaming my way to August 29th.