Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around. ~Stephen King
Unlike dozens of previous posts over my many years of blogging in which I beg for forgiveness and berate myself for being a slack blogger, that’s not where I’m headed with this post. First of all, there’s only a handful of you who read anyway and I know your lives are so full that you probably aren’t losing sleep over my silence. And second, I’m learning to give myself a smidgen of grace. My life isn’t about blogging, but my blogging is about my life, which has been full to overflowing lately.
Have I mentioned that I have three kids? And no husband to co-parent? Spring gets crammed full of activities when you have kids. My oldest is three exams away from being a senior. In college!!! I gladly serve as her proofreader/editor/sounding board any time, but the end of the semester has been crunch time for her – and thus me. My other two have had spelling bees, math bees, character trait of the month award ceremonies, art shows, and (soon) concerts. They keep me a wee bit occupied.
Life with a church family is just as full. In addition to our “normal” church life, we’ve had more people with special life events that have required me to spend much more of my time as pastor, leaving less time to squeeze in the preparation for the preacher/teacher/administrator parts. I love all parts of my job, but when my scheduling gets out of whack – and the out of whack scheduling coincides with an out of whack family schedule – I become very ADD. Well, worse than my normal ADD anyway. On those days, about the best I can do is write a to do list, try to stick with it as best as possible, and hope for the best.
In the meantime, I have been writing, just not blogging. I’ve rediscovered the joy of journaling – like handwritten pen-on-paper writing. What a novelty! And I worked hard on a couple of applications for a summer writing seminar that I really wanted to attend, but is hard to get accepted into. And . . . drum roll, please . . . I got accepted! So happy! Shortly after that, I won a spot in an online writing class. I’m working with an amazing instructor who happens to be working on an amazing dream.
So that’s why I haven’t been blogging. And while anyone who knows me well knows that it is super-easy to make me feel guilty, I’m learning to let go of that guilt. My blog might not get written. My grass may grow longer than looks attractive before I get around to mowing it. Laundry might get done in one marathon laundry day instead of a little at a time during the week. My books in my to-read pile may stack up beside my bed (or on my Kindle) for awhile before I get around to them. I might not vacuum as often as I should. I might eat out too much and cook too little. But I am living one heck of a life and I’m loving it. No regrets – only joy and dreams . . . and more dreams!
Maybe I’ll blog about it later!
Sunset on Stony Point Farm
As anyone who is associated with ministry knows, the marathon known as Holy Week and Easter is an exhausting undertaking. It’s not just that there are extra services to plan. I love planning and leading worship, and while the season adds extra commitments to my calendar, I really do love it. I think it’s more about the expectations placed on those particular services. They are expected to be bigger, flashier, more dramatic, more . . . just, more. Seriously, you can’t make things any better than the story of Easter itself, yet still it feels like that expectation exists, even if (possibly) only in the minds of pastors and worship leaders.
As anyone who has children knows, the marathon known as the school year is an exhausting undertaking. Rousing sleepy children before they are ready to get up. Convincing them to stay in forward motion until they are ready to head out the door – on time, preferably – instead of staring blankly into space as their cereal grows soggy. Fighting the morning traffic which seems to grow worse every day. Juggling the after school pick up schedule with my work schedule. Homework. (All children believe that homework was created to torture students. All parents KNOW it was actually created to torture the adults responsible for seeing that it gets done.) Supper. (Again?? Didn’t I just feed you?) Bath time. (Yes, you DO really need a bath – even if you took one last night.) Bed time. (No, you can’t get up to look for that book. Yes, I’ll make sure all the doors are locked. I BETTER NOT HEAR ANOTHER SOUND FROM UP THERE!) And then, before it seems possible, the alarm goes off and it’s time to start again.
Because of these things, I am thankful that Berkeley County schools saw fit to schedule spring break for the week after Easter again this year. It gave me and the kids some space, some breathing room. We did a lot. We had a lot of fun. We spent quality time with our family. We laughed a lot. We heard and told a lot of stories. We made good memories. And none of these things would have been possible without space – the precious space of open air and open time.
Life seems less claustrophobic today as I get back into the routine. Even the number of meetings on the calendar for the week isn’t getting me down (yet). I will miss the space I enjoyed last week, but at least it gave me the energy I needed to get back to the work before me and the determination to find small bits of space to breathe even in the midst of my life’s marathons.
In the past, whenever I’ve been absent from my blog for any length of time, I return with sheepish apologies and promises to do better. Once again, I have been gone awhile. (I hope somebody noticed!) I didn’t post a single entry for the entire month of February. This time, however, I’m not going to apologize. I’ve been busy. Very busy.
In February, I wrote five sermons, two memorial services, a newsletter article, and more emails and notes than I can begin to count. I wrote three pieces that I submitted for possible acceptance/publication by others. (That is HUGE for me. I figured it was time for me to start collecting my rejection letters. I hear you have to get a whole big pile of them before you start getting acceptance letters.) I wrote well over 13,000 “official” words in February.
I also faithfully journaled for my clergy/vocational coaching, along with personal journal writing, reflection, and notetaking for developing projects.
I read two books. Or was it three?
I walked/ran (a little) more regularly than I have in awhile, making my RunKeeper log look a little more hopeful.
I made one trip back to the Upstate for the funeral of a dear man.
I edited a TON of college papers for my oldest daughter and helped my youngest daughter with her big science project.
Oh, and I loved on, cared for, fed, and had fun with my precious children. And I enjoyed time with friends. And my took care of my furry zoo.
About a week ago I was frustrated because I had so many unfinished projects, my house needed a good cleaning, and my pantry was bare. I sent a text message to a friend and used the word “lazy” in it to describe myself. I mean, why else would there be so much that needed to be done that was still undone? Her emphatic response got my attention as she reminded me that instead of looking at all I hadn’t accomplished, I needed to look at all I had. (Okay, so the way she said it made me shake in my boots a little, but I think that’s what she meant!)
It worked. Guess what? I accomplished whole heck of a lot last month and I’m proud of it. So while I’ve missed being in this space, I offer no apologies. Just a “Glad to be back!” and a “Hope to be around a little more this month.”
After I get some sleep.
After a week of the Charleston respiratory crud, I think I’m finally on the mend. My energy is returning, albeit slower than my appetite which is now back in full swing. There are only a few symptoms still hanging around: a lingering sinus headache, a little congestion, and a cough triggered by talking. (That’s fine, right? After all, talking is such a minor part of my job. Oh, wait. . .)
I’m still a little cranky, so things that would normally flow right by me make me grumble. Perfectly reasonable, diplomatically worded suggestions make me ill. Seeing that tomorrow’s temperatures are supposed to be near 80 makes me ill. (It’s still January, people – we need a little winter here! And besides, I have to work.) Then again, the fact that it is supposed to be in the mid-50’s on Thursday also makes me ill. I mean, probably not just grumpy ill, but ill ill. These unseasonably warm days followed by 30 degree dips in temperature play havoc on this already congested head of mine. Why I’m just the head chimp in a barrel full of monkeys, aren’t I?
If I was a better pastor-type, a properly spiritual person, then this is the point where I would find the nugget of wisdom hidden in the wastebasket of overflowing tissues. But no, I’m too busy sitting here wondering who is going to empty that wastebasket and why they haven’t already done it. (Wait. That’s me, isn’t is?)
So there you have it, folks. Simply Jan at her whiny, stuffy, low energy, starving, cranky ~ cough, cough, cough ~ real self. Thanks for sticking around!
It had to end, I know.
Flexible schedule. All my chicks in the nest. Games, movies, books, laughter, and relaxation. Later mornings that made later nights possible.
That’s what the time between Christmas and beginning of school in January felt like here this year. It’s true that a good portion of the time we all felt snorty, sneezy, and puny. While our puniness rearranged our Christmas plans with extended family in unexpected ways, it also allowed us to enjoy home and one another in a way that we’re normally too busy and too active to do. It was nice – snorts, sneezes, and all.
The little ones are back in school. The big one moved back to her apartment downtown tonight and will start a new semester tomorrow. I’m back in the office and the January schedule is quickly filling up with meetings and projects.
I have some exciting training opportunities coming up this first quarter of 2013. There are a couple of deadlines for project submissions that are pushing me to dream big and work hard. I spent a good part of the afternoon marking dates and events on the big calendar at church, all the while making notes of ideas and possibilities to share with church leaders. So many possibilities . . .
Yes, it had to end.But the ending is opening the door for some exciting new beginnings.
Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~ William Faulkner
The clock in our church’s fellowship hall must have had an unfortunate accident sometime over the weekend. As the choir and I gathered there to pray before worship on Sunday morning, I looked around to see how much time we had. This is what I saw:
I laughed. I love this clock now. I declare this clock to be my clock and this time to be my time. What time should I be there? Whenever! It reminds me of the clock I’ve always wanted, but never got around to purchasing:
Time is a troublemaker for me. All my life, I’ve struggled with being late. My dad has always teased me for being born two weeks late, on a Sunday at 10:01. Church started at 10:00. He said I was born late, was late for church, and have been late ever since.
I know, I know – for you early arrivers, I appear to be inconsiderate and selfish. But really, I’m not. I’m taking advantage of every minute I have, right up to the last minute. If I need to be at church at 10:00 and I know it takes me 25 minutes to get there, I will leave at 9:30. Plenty of time, right? Unfortunately, that target time doesn’t take into account slow traffic, trains, or the “Oh good grief – where did that dog put my shoe” moments which invariably happen. The thing is, right up until 9:30, I’m busy doing what needs to be done: putting dishes in the dishwasher, making a phone call, paying that bill that needs to go out today, etc. Those are all things I can’t do if I leave at 9:10. Then I find myself sitting, twiddling my thumbs, waiting on others, thinking of all I could be doing instead.
I find time to be an inflexible taskmaster. The older I get, the better I get at planning my time, mainly because I have to in order to get along in a culture that is ruled by The Clock. Still, sometimes the clock makes me crazy.
Yesterday morning was a clear, brisk morning – perfect for a run. I set out on my familiar route, enjoying the cool air. At one point early in the run, I realized that I was enjoying myself so much that I hadn’t checked the clock on my phone in awhile. That never happens! I am usually aware of every agonizing second of a run. About halfway through my route, I realized I was on target for beating my own personal best time. (Don’t be impressed. It’s still very slow.) I picked up the pace a little more. As I made the turn for the home stretch, my sweaty hand slipped and hit the camera button on my phone. For whatever reason, that closed down the Runkeeper app that was tracking my time and distance. So much for knowing if I would beat my personal best. I was so frustrated! By the time I got back to the house, that stupid clock – or my obsession with what it could no longer tell me – had put a damper on what had been an otherwise enjoyable workout.
Later in the afternoon, my friend Cathy and I decided to stop by a cute garden shop that always catches my eye when I pass it. While the shop itself was closed, the gardens were open. I smiled when I saw this sign on their door:
I like “-ish” time. Kairos time. The “right” time that is recognized by the soul and not by the clock. Do I still have to plan around the clock? Definitely . . . sometimes. But when I can, I want to live by the “whenever, whatever, feels-too-good-to-check-the-clock, –ish” kind of time. Won’t you join me?
I wrote about its beginning 80 days ago. I was an anxious mother/pastor/individual at that point. I can now say that I did in fact manage to not only survive the summer, but to enjoy most of it. June was great. Then the heat came. I’m not talking regular summer heat, but “when did I arrive in Hades” heat. Too hot to let the kids play outside for any length of time. Too hot to take long walks, much less run. Too hot to even enjoy the beach. If you know me, then you know that means it truly had to be beyond oppressively hot.
In all honesty, I think that summer would have been perfect if it had ended around the third week of July. By that time, the kids were getting antsy and bickering became their favorite pastime. By that time, this mom had endured about as many weeks of 24/7 as she could stand. About that time, our annual trip to the (relative) coolness of the heaven known as “Montreat” had to be cancelled due to serious family health issues.
Three weeks ago, I dragged my worn-out, burned-out hiney to the farm for a week with family. I got to meet and cuddle my new great-nephew, play with my adorable great-niece, and enjoy catching up with my beautiful niece and my parents. I got to return to my farm-girl roots and help move cows. (Side note: If a very large, ornery cow wants to go a direction different from the one you want her to go, pointing your finger at her and yelling “NO!” in your sternest, most no-nonsense Mother voice won’t necessarily work. I think I’m out of practice. As a farm girl, not as a mother, that is. I can “NO!” with the best of the moms out there. For the record, she obeyed, but only because she was too busy laughing at me to do otherwise.) I got to hide away in the camper for sound sleep at night and take a nap almost every afternoon. Oh, and I almost overdosed on the Olympics.
That gave me enough energy to return home just in time for the Hands of Christ outreach days at our church. Three days. Over 800 children. Uniforms, school supplies, excited children, stressed parents, compassionate volunteers, and noise. Oh, and thunderstorms. There is simply nothing in this world more exhausting. Or more satisfying. Can’t wait to do it again next year!
Last week was filled with last minute preparations for school and getting ready to move Anna to her apartment downtown. I just want to ask, who gave her permission to be 20, a college junior, and ready to move away? I’m quite sure it wasn’t me! So Friday we got her moved. Saturday the kids and I attended not one, but two birthday parties for super-special people. (Happy birthday, Cathy and Janice!) And then Sunday we celebrated my youngest daughter’s birthday. I was super excited for/with Mia about turning 9 until a church member pointed out to me that it would be her last year as a single digit. Gee thanks, Melvin! One year until my baby is double-digits! Tell me, please, who is handing out growing up permission slips to my kids left and right without running it by me first?!
And then it happened. Monday. The first day of school. The first day of all of my kids happily engaged in the work of growing up at their respective schools leaving me alone and free to . . . Wait. What is it that I’m supposed to do when I’m alone and free? Hmmm. It’s coming back to me: Go to the gym! Run errands quickly and efficiently! Engage in uninterrupted thoughts for more than five minutes at a time! She’s baaccckkkk!
Confession. I missed the monkeys. I was ready to pick them up at 2:10 and to hear about their first day back. And I met my 20-year-old for lunch on her last day before college classes start. After all, we had to celebrate Cathy’s birthday today. It was the good, right, and fun thing to do! (Another side note: I have a new favorite restaurant – Page’s Okra Grill. Mmmm, mmmm, good! Lunch next week, girls – after Cathy gets back home?)
It’s been a good day. It’s time for the seasons to cycle back around as we all take new steps toward growing into who we are to become. Even I am still doing that. Growing isn’t just for kids, you know. I can’t wait to see what we learn, what we do, and how our personalities evolve over the school year.
I better pay attention because before I know it I will be writing another beginning of summer post!
. . . it’s been hot when 93 degrees feels downright balmy.
. . . it’s been too hot for too long when the kids’ arguments increase by 30%, their energy by 60%, their volume by 80 %, and your impatience by 90%.
. . . your vacation did you some good when you outline 9 weeks’ worth of worship themes, begin collecting liturgy, complete bulletin information for Sunday, and finish two loads of laundry – all before lunch. (Mind you, we didn’t eat until 1:15, but still!)
. . . you’re ready to be back at work when, on a quick stop by the office to pick up your paycheck (I work from home on Mondays), you find you just have to sneak a peek at things that have collected in your box over the past week because it looks so interesting.
. . . you’re immersed in the imaginary world of the novel you are reading when your daughter catches you staring intently at the window – the one with closed blinds!
. . . your 8-year-old is growing up when she starts obsessing over the colors and price of the iPod shuffle, along with the contents of her piggy bank.
. . . your writing well is still trying to refill (or maybe your brain is simply fried by the heat) when your blog post is just a list of things you know – and you realize you only know seven things!
. . .
My brother told me once that when his kids were little and got really talkative (you know, the nonstop train of thought monologues), he used to tell them that God gives us a certain number of words to use each day and they had used theirs up. That’s what I call a nice way to tell somebody to hush up!
I had a word-heavy day at work today – mainly written words. Every time I thought about sitting down to write tonight, I found I couldn’t. I was strangely anchored to the couch and reruns of Bones. I guess I’ve used up my allotment for today.
Tomorrow is a new day with a brand new word allotment. Until then, I’m going to hush.