sabbath taking

When I see people out and about, especially people from my church or the presbytery, they always ask how my sabbatical is going and what I’ve been doing (as well as comment on my tan).  They usually seem disappointed when I say something like, just hanging out – spending time with my kids (especially fellow pastors).  It’s like they expect to hear about a great pilgrimage or study.  Nope….I just need time to enjoy life with my family and friends.  That’s what’s renewing my spirit.  And it’s really hard to sum up all the greatness of this summer (so far) with just a few words.  We’ve been busy.  I’ve been spending much more time on twitter and instagram this summer than facebook because all my church peeps are on facebook and it’s hard to disconnect when you see their updates and they comment on yours.   But here’s the gist of our Sabbath seeking:

We had our annual 4th of July Cook-Out with my dad’s family on the hottest day of the year.  The kids didn’t mind.

We hosted 12 people in our house for a week.  The best week of the year:  Vacay 2012!  (more on that later)

We went to Fort Mill to spend a few days with my college roommate (and high school friend – gosh, we’ve been friends for a LONG time) and her sweet boys.  It’s amazing how good time with old friends is so good for the soul!  I even got the bonus of hanging out with four of my friends from high school one night over mimosas and wedding invitation assembling.

Caleb turned TWO (more on that later)

He also had a party with all of his crazy cousins, of whom, he is the craziest

Then he had his two year-old check-up and got rewarded with a cupcake (so did his sister who helped him be brave and who also answered all the nurses questions and accompanied him to the scale.  They didn’t really need me)

For a break from the 90+ heat EVERY.DAY in July, Taylor went to an ice skating party for her BFF

Taylor and I had a mother-daughter day at the waterpark

Caleb, Grammy, and I had a great day at the Fire Museum

Caleb, Taylor, and I got decked out for Tie-Dye Free Donut Friday at Dunkin Donuts

Taylor went to her first play.  She sat on the edge of her seat and clapped enthusiastically at the end of every scene.  SO. FUN.

Taylor and I had another mother-daughter day in which we played in the fountains downtown, went on a carriage tour of Charleston, and saw Ice Age: Continental Drift (which Taylor thought was HI-larious – she was the loud laugher the whole movie)

We have also had several beach days which were not photographed.   On Friday, Russ and I got to go to the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course with my sister and brother-in-law, but unfortunately didn’t take a single picture of that either!   The day before that, we celebrated our 9th anniversary.  It was pretty pathetic, so we are already planning our 10th anniversary celebration to make up for it.  Speaking of Russ, you’ll notice that he isn’t a part of our sabbatical shenenigans…that’s because he’s been working like a crazy person.  Residency is B-A-N-A-N-A-S (more on that later).  I have also been watching a ridiculous amount of Olympics and even watched the whole first two seasons of Downton Abbey (while Russ was on night float for a week and I had trouble sleeping).  I have also had the pleasure of church hopping and seeing some good friends do what they do so well (picking up some pointers along the way).

I remember in high school when I was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I had a mixed reaction because I knew that I would not be successful in the way that most of my classmates viewed success.  So I don’t know if most would say that my sabbatical has been successful so far, but man, has it been fun and full of good things.  I’m hoping the rest is just as fun, with hopefully a little more working out and a little less time in front of the TV now that the Olympics are over, but I’m making no promises.

certifiable

So, way back when…way back when I was a freshman at PC (1999), I heard of the Christian Educator Certification Process.

Brief Run Down:

1) Complete study in the following areas:  Biblical Interpretation, Reformed Theology, Religious Education Theory and Practice, Presbyterian Polity, Human Growth and Faith Development, Presbyterian Program and Mission, and Worship and Sacraments

2) Complete one year of full-time work in educational ministry

3) Complete Certification Exam, which consists of the following parts:

  • Biographical Statement
  • Faith Statement
  • Six hours of teaching with complete lesson plans, rationale, and evaluations
  • Biblical Exegesis Paper with worship or retreat design
  • Theology of Christian Education citing an educator and a reformed theologian
  • Educational Practice (showing how you would respond to three situations using knowledge gained in all of the areas of study mentioned above)
  • Reflection

4)  Work with mentor and reference group to make improvements to exam.

5)  Send it off and say a prayer.

I thought, hey that would be cool.  So four years later when I went to seminary (2003), I made sure to take all of the courses I would need for certification.

Then four years later (2007) after I had met the one-year-with-a-real-grown-up-church-job requirement, I sent in all of my paperwork and transcripts to make sure I had all of my ducks in a row.  But I didn’t request my exam because I was also in the middle of the ordination process and also having a baby and sending a husband to medical school.  And then our minister retired and the church let me to (w0)man the ship for a while until the first interim started.

Finally, two more years later (2009), I decided I needed to request my exam before schooling was a too distant memory and I forgot how to write a paper.  So in June 0f 2009, I got my exam with a deadline of December 2009 for completion.  But in that 6 month time period, the first interim left and I had to (wo)man the ship for a while again until the second interim started and then also I got pregnant again and also the day care fiasco/switch took place.  So at the beginning of December I was close to being done, but way too stressed out to finish, so I requested a month extension.  But apparently they took much pity on me and my list of woes and gave me 6 more months to complete my exam.  So a year later (June 2010), I mailed off 60ish pages of papers/lesson plans/exegesis to the Educator Jedi Council.  But they only read exams twice a year, so mine wouldn’t get evaluated until October.

In November of 2010, I got a letter stating that while most of my exam was super awesome sustained, I needed to edit one part and would have until February 2011 to complete my rewrite.  I was not excited about having to rewrite that part, but I can’t really say that I blame them – that was the part I did last when I was just ready to get it done.  But this is what I adore about the certification process versus the ordination process.  For the ordination exams, if you fail a part, you have to wait 6 months and take that part all over again.   With the certification process, you get helpful feedback on your original work and are giving the chance to improve upon what you’ve already done instead of starting all over from scratch.  Leave it to the educators to show much more grace and encouragement.  Who’s surprised?  Not me.

So I left the exam alone through the busy Advent season…and then we got our new minister (yet another fun transition, but this time a very good one)….and then on January 3, I found the football.  So January was spent with doctors and February was spent on drugs…and neither was spent doing my rewrite.  I embarrassedly sent another e-mail to the Jedi master requesting another month extension, and yet again they had much pity on my woe, and I was given three months.  So in May 2011, I sent off my final rewrite.  I had missed the deadline for the March reading, so I thought I wouldn’t hear again until October, but LO! and BEHOLD!

I keep reading the letter over and over again to make sure I didn’t read it wrong.  It’s very exciting to be “certified” nearly 12 years after I first set it as a goal….even if I was a bit “certifiable” along the process.

Just last week (before I received the letter) I began considering getting my Doctor of Educational Ministry (DEdMin) beginning next fall when I’m on my sabbatical because I’m a glutton for punishment so ambitious.  Hmmm….

Lady pastor

Reason #865 why I love being a lady pastor, especially in the south:

A gentlemen came in the office this morning looking for assistance while I was getting ready for my first ever Good Friday service (after having only even attending one, 7 years ago).  I was the only one on the entire campus since the daycare was closed for the holiday, and the office is usually closed on Fridays.  So I was a little stressed already, and being greeted by a 350 lb man at the door just added to that, but then it got fun.

Man:  Hello?

Me:  (walking out of my office toward the front door) Oh, hello.  Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.  Can I help you?

Man:  (looking around) Yes, is there a pastor here I can speak to?

Me:  Yes, I’m the Associate Pastor here, I’m Dorothy.  (extending my right hand).  It’s nice to meet you.

Man:  (looking terribly shocked and a little appalled)   Oh, really?!….I mean…you don’t see that everyday…I mean…I’m from the South and I don’t know any women pastors.

Me:  Yes, I know.  Can I help you?

He then proceeds to tell me his story and I do what I can, which unfortunately isn’t much.  But I had to chuckle at our encounter, even now in 2011.

Gratitude

While I certainly wouldn’t wish a giant cyst and it’s necessary surgical removal on anyone, I do wish everyone had the opportunity to experience the blessings that come from an event like this (or at least to intensely recognize the  blessings surrounding them everyday).  I am truly overcome with gratitude and humility.  I have the best support system ever.

My mom has been here since the night before my surgery (two weeks exactly now) taking care of me and the kids….feeding us, cleaning, doing load after load of laundry, playing with the kids, driving us around…basically loving us in every possible way.

I have not cooked in two weeks and yet have eaten heartily (I take that back – I have only eaten heartily for nine days – since I was in the hospital before that – no hearty eating there).  The amount of food in our house is incredible.  Russ is getting spoiled…poor guy won’t know what to do when the food runs out and it’s back to me to determine and prepare what we eat.  Taylor has also grown accustomed to her “church friends” coming bearing food.  The one night we did not have a new meal (we needed a break to take care of some leftovers), she asked “Which of my church friends is bringing dinner tonight?”  For all of us it’s a double treat because we get to see some of our favorite people AND get delicious dinners.

I love the note in a recent card from a loved one:  “So, I’m southern and feel the need to feed you because that’s what we do when someone we care about is hurting.”  That note included a gift card…we have received a few of those as well, so we can still eat when the meals run out.  INCREDIBLE.

I received lots of beautiful flowers (and a balloon).  It seemed like there was a steady stream of flower delivery people coming in.  Flowers from friends, family, church people, and even the MUSC Dean’s Office (!).  INCREDIBLE.  I used to wonder why people sent flowers for things (other than an occasional love bouquet from your spouse), because really what do you need all those flowers for?  But, man, did each arrangement bring a huge smile to my face!  In the sterile white hospital room, I was surrounded by beautiful color, reminded of love and awesome people.

There were more cards than I could have dreamed

on top of the electronic love through comments here on the blog, on facebook, txt, and e-mail.  I got a stack of magazines to keep my loopy brain entertained and some games to play with Taylor.  I had visitors who braved the downtown craziness.

I am truly humbled by it all.  It’s not that I ever doubted that I had great people in my life or that I was loved deeply by many, but I have just come to a new understanding and appreciation.  I will never be the same (or at least I hope I won’t).

I will begin writing thank you notes tonight, now that I’m feeling better and hopefully won’t fall asleep as soon as the kids are in bed.  I made a list of everything people had done before Sunday because Russ wanted to make sure he knew what to thank people for when he saw them on Sunday…but I added all the non-church people as well for my future note writing (since the drugs do crazy things to my memory).  When I handed Russ the list, he stood there for a second with his mouth wide open – in shock by all of the acts of service we have received.

Shock.  Awe.  Overwhelming Gratitude.

I am grateful for all of you – for your love and support and prayers.  I couldn’t have made it through without them.

Thank you.

4th, maybe 5th

So you know how there are various stages of grief:

  1. Shock and Denial
  2. Pain and Guilt
  3. Anger and Bargaining
  4. Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness
  5. The Upward Turn
  6. Reconstruction and Working Through
  7. Acceptance and Hope

I am now on the my 4th stage of coping.  The first was Task Mode Business/Money Spending/Eating.  Then there was Spend as Much Time Hugging my Kids as Possible.  Then there was the oscillating between Freak Out and Denial.  And now, I’m on Want to Crawl Into Bed and Sleep Until It’s Over.  And of course, they’re really in no particular order and I have relapses at all stages and find myself doing a little Task Mode today as well.  But really I just want to crawl in bed.  I’m not really motivated to do anything else.  We have youth group tonight, which I usually love, but tonight, I’d rather be sleeping.  We had worship this morning, also usually a great love, but today…sleep sounded much more appealing.  My bed is warm and cozy and there are episodes of my guilty pleasure shows on hulu that need watching.

But it was good that I went this morning.  It was hard, but good.  Hard, because I had to update each person I saw…after about 20 updates, I went into the choir room and hid until the service started.  Good, because I was overwhelmed with all of the hugs and “I love yous” and promises of prayers and well wishes and offers to help from babysitting to doing laundry to nurses offering to do whatever I needed while I was in the hospital, even if I wasn’t on their floor.  (I like these people a little bit).  Excuse while I wipe tears from my eyes.

…..

OK, breath in, breath out.  Really, it was amazing.  You never really know the support system you have until you need it.  I’ve always known that we’re blessed with an AWESOME family, and great friends, and a wonderful church family…but now I can multiply those adjectives by a quadrillion.  Easy.

OK, now I’m on Appreciation and GET THIS THING OUT NOW.

Thanks internets for listening.  Update to come tomorrow following 2:30 appointment.

New

=Originally written on January 9=

Today was the first day with our new pastor.  It was pretty fantastic.  I almost cried twice (well,my eyes welled up one of the times and I had to bite my tongue to keep from completely losing it, so I guess I really cried once and almost cried once).  While he was preaching, I got this overwhelming sense that he just fit…like he had been part of our church family forever.  I could feel the hand of God in all the things that have happened over the past four and a half years (and even before) that brought us all to this place.

Then while I was singing a hymn that I knew by heart, I was looking around the congregation (that grew by about 50 people today) and could see people smiling- seeing the people who have brought us through the hard times with vision and passion – seeing the people who haven’t been a while but were ready to recommit to being a part of the church family – seeing the regular visitors who have kept coming over the past few months even though we’ve been in transition   I could feel the excitement in the congregation. I could sense the Holy Spirit moving and calling us all into this new time together.

My cup runneth over…Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

_____________________________________________________________

It’s funny to me how finding a new pastor is like dating.  The PNC (Pastor Nominating/Search Committee) made church profile about us and posted it to the PCUSA website.  Then it gets matched with pastors who have filled out personal profiles.  Just like eHarmony, right?!  Then the PNC gets to see their matches and rate them, talk to some of them on the phone, video chat with others, and then decide which ones they want to meet in person.  Then they make their choice and propose (or, you know, extend a call).  If accepted, you get married.

And I realized something this morning:  just as when you find the person you want to marry, they aren’t perfect (sorry Russ), but they are perfect for you…the PNC’s task is not to find the perfect pastor, but to find the perfect fit for the time and place and people they will serve.  I think our PNC really did that…they went out and found a pastor who was a perfect fit for our church for our time.  It’s pretty incredible.

I just hope all the excitement and anticipation doesn’t set people up to put him on any pedestal or to expect perfection or for him to immediately fix everything that’s wrong….though I have given him my list of things that need fixing.  Just kidding.  Kind of.

 

good, bad, and ugly

Today started out not so great, then it was awesome, then it was horrible, then it was good.  I can’t decide whether my first day back at work was a success or not, so I decided to go with the point system and see if it comes out in the positive.

Piglet and Baby B woke up at 5:30 this morning.  -20 points

Piglet went back to bed until 6:10; Baby B went back to sleep with the help of a paci until 6:50.  +10 points

Piglet got up on the WRONG side of the bed and had at least three meltdowns before 8:00. -10 points

Russ and I did not communicate about our morning schedules and wanted to shower at the same time.   I had hoped to leave at 8:00, but wasn’t able to get in the shower until 7:50.  -10 points

Even with the late start, I was at work by 8:30 with all of my baby gear moved in and set up by 8:45.  +15 points

Baby B was an awesome work companion so I had a really productive morning – it actually felt good to get back in the swing of things and feel a sense of accomplishment that didn’t involve cleaning the house.  +15 points

Baby B and I left work and picked up Piglet to head downtown for a hearing screen because hearing loss is one of the possible side effects of the viral meningitis that he had at four days-old.   Our appointment was at 3:15.  We parked in the parking garage and walked over to the hospital.  Piglet was awesome considering the long walk from point  A to B, and we made it to check-in at 3:00.  +20 points (I was actually thinking on the way over there that it had been such a good first day back at work and I started planning out the happy rainbows and butterflies post that I would write about being a working mom).

We got checked in and followed the signs to pediatric audiology by 3:15.  At 3:20, Baby B woke up and decided he wanted to eat.  NOW.  -5 points.  There was another couple in the very tiny waiting room and I didn’t come prepared to be modest, so we made our way to a secluded hallway for Baby B’s meal.  He ate while Piglet played with her stuffed puppy.  +5 points.  Then he spit up on my arm, my shirt, my pants, Piglet’s arm, his arm, and the floor.  -5 points.  Then we went back to the waiting room.  At 3:40, Piglet decided she needed to potty.  The closest bathroom was way down the hall by the elevators.  -10 points.  We got back to the waiting room and had to wait and wait.  -10 points. But Piglet and Baby B were both really good.  +5 points.

At 4:10, we finally get called back.  I thought we would be good to go…both kids were being well behaved.  Baby B was happy and calm because he had a good nap on the way downtown and just had a good meal.  Then the dr. tells me that he has to be asleep for the test.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  This is information that would have been really helpful ahead of time so that I could have planned better.  He had just eaten, so I couldn’t feed him to get him to go to sleep, and he wasn’t really tired because he had been asleep for a while.  GREAT.  So I try my darndest to get Baby B to sleep by rocking and swaying and shhhshing.  But he’s not really one of those babies who likes to be put to sleep, he prefers to chill in his bouncy seat or crib and slowly drift off to sleep, which is normally really handy…but notsomuch in this instance.  And to make the situation more fun, Piglet had had ENOUGH of being calm and quiet and patient by this point and begins to get really rowdy.  When I try to tell her to be quiet and use her whisper voice so Baby B can sleep, she says “NO” and talks even louder.  Every time I tell her to do something, she says “NO”, and  I get more and more frustrated with her and totally embarrassed in front of the doctor who must think I am a horrible parent who can’t control their kid.   -50 points

I was almost in tears because I felt so helpless and out of control.  I was five minutes away from just leaving and not caring what the hearing screen had to tell us when Baby B slowly closed his eyes and went to sleep.  The test only took five minutes and we were out of there.  I made it back to the car, strapped both kids in, put the stroller in the back….then realized that in my haste to leave, I had forgotten to get our parking ticket validated and I didn’t have any cash.  awe.some.  And by awesome, I mean it really sucked and I started crying and trying to call Russ to figure out what I should do, but he didn’t answer.  -25 points.

Option A – Make the 10 minute trek back to the ENT department to get validation

Option B – Try to find an ATM

Option C – Risk it and try to cry and beg and plead for mercy from the parking attendant

I went for Option A and got both kids back out of the car.  The only good thing about this was that Piglet and I had had our come-to-Jesus-meetin’  when we got to the car and she shaped up and was great on the walk back over.   When we make it to the ENT check-in desk, I realized that they closed at 5:00 and there was no one to be found.  It was 5:05.  -25 points

So we went back to the car and decided to go for Option C because there was no way I was dragging two kids all over the hospital looking for an ATM.  I had the tears and excuses ready and was even ready to play the minister card and flash my fancy dancy clergy hospital badge.  We got to the parking attendant and I told our sad story, and she responded simply “We take debit cards now”  +5 points (this might get more points if I wasn’t so darn frustrated at this point).  I had been texting my mom this whole time with updates because she was sitting at out house waiting to take care of the kids while I went to a meeting; when I sent her this update about the debit cards, she responded with “OMG” – the fact that my mom used this phrase = +5 points because it made me smile.

I get to the street and realize that I am leaving through a different side of the garage from where I came in and had no idea where I was.  I sat there trying to figure out whether to go right or left, then realized (thankfully) that it was a one-way street.  Right it was.  I drove for a while hoping that something would look familiar.  Nothing did.  I tried to call Russ for directions since this was his neck of the woods, but he didn’t answer.  -5 points.  Then I remembered I had a navigator on my phone who was able to direct me home. +10 points.

We get back on the interstate and I know where I am.  It was 5:40, I had a meeting at 6:30 at church, but I thought I could still make it.  Then there was rush hour traffic.  But we still made it home by 6:10, but then I remembered that Baby B needed to eat.  Arrive at meeting at 6:40, not too bad considering.  Then I found out the meeting started at 6:00, and I still had spit up on my shirt and pants.  -10 points.

The meeting was actually a series of interviews for our new secretary, which went really well.  +15 points.  We still have to check references and follow-up, but it sure is promising.  So at least the day ended on a high note.

Alright, so if my math is right, the day scores a -80….not so good for the first day back at work and balancing the worlds of mom and minister.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.   It IS the senior fellowship covered dish lunch day, so that’s worth at least 50 points.