The parishioner who called me on Monday night. I’m not supposed to have favorites but she is definitely one. The reason she’s on my “Five Favorites” this week: she called not to ask how Daniel was doing but to ask how *I* was doing. I realize that this is actually paying back the calls I made to her when her husband was in the hospital last fall and when she was in the hospital this spring; but it just really helps me to be strong when I know that I can call her or her husband and they’re standing behind me and praying for strength for *me* during times like Monday when stuff is going down and I really don’t know how I’m going to make it.
This is not to say that I don’t have other people in the congregation who pray for me and take care of me — she just happened to be that person on Monday.
The parishioners who transformed our fellowship hall into a 50′s diner last Wednesday. They created a booth out of some spare pews and a table, they laid down checkered floor stuff, they hung records from the ceiling, the waitstaff was all in 50′s garb… It was freaking awesome and the evil twin and his wife were impressed. Then again, these are the same people who put together a Haunted Hallway for Halloween, a four-star restaurant in the fellowship hall for Valentine’s Day (and it seriously looks like something out of Sunset magazine, and built a fountain in our parking lot last summer for the parish picnic.
Jenny Lawson’s book. She is freaking awesome, y’all. I haven’t had as many chances to read as I would have liked this past week but every time I sit down to read, I howl with laughter. I’m currently reading the chapters about her move to rural west Texas with the foxen, the scorpions, the squirrels, and everything else.
Daniel’s laugh and smile. I know I’m totally biased because it’s my kid but seriously, it can both make me smile and bring me to tears (in a good way). He is the light of my life.
Silence. It’s been sorely needed the last couple days. It’s why this post is being written at 2:00 a.m. — I need some time where Jon and Daniel are asleep and I can be alone in my thoughts. Daniel has school tomorrow/today (it *is* technically Wednesday) so I’ll get some needed quiet time then as well.
Amanda of Worthy of Agape is hosting a link-up of conversion stories and as I’m a convert, I thought I’d share mine. (How many are you surprised? Leave me a comment and let me know if you are.)
My parents aren’t religious and raised us without a faith. My dad is pretty much secular humanist/atheist material and my mom was raised Episcopalian but is more of a Buddhist these days. (She has said, however, that she would totally become Lutheran if Jon was the pastor of the church in town which is a pretty big compliment to him.) Despite this, I grew up with a belief in God even if I wasn’t entirely sure who or what God was.
There are a couple of events that stand out:
[+] When I was 6, my neighbor Mrs. G invited the evil twin and I over to bake cookies at Christmas. After we finished baking, she read the Christmas story to us from a book of Bible stories for kids. Sean (the evil twin) and I both loved having people read to us so we asked her to keep going and ended up hearing all about Jesus’ ministry, the Cross, and His resurrection. I don’t know if she realizes it but almost 27 years later, I point to that afternoon of baking cookies as the place and time when the seed of the Gospel was planted in me.
[+] When I was 9 or 10, I was pretty much an avowed atheist and used to daydream about someone stepping up and proving that the Bible was a fake book meant to deceive people. Thing is, I could picture people like Mrs. G and her family as well as my friend Emily still believing and continuing to worship God even after and I think God used that to show me that there was something there that I wasn’t seeing. I also unfortunately had a run-in or two with people who tried to aggressively “win my soul to Christ” which made me more determined *NOT* to believe.
[+] The summer before 5th grade, my friend Emily invited me to go to camp with her church at Camp Hammer. I went with her and enjoyed myself. We studied the story of Joseph and his brothers from Genesis, memorized Scripture, enjoyed ourselves, etc. One of the counselors talked me into inviting Christ into my heart which I did because I wanted to please her. It didn’t totally stick because I went back to my regular life after camp but the seed didn’t completely die but instead stayed dormant until I hit middle school.
When I hit middle school, something in me wanted more. I started praying the Lord’s Prayer as kind of a “covering my bases” situation so that if this Jesus stuff was true, I might not be risking a trip to Hell. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was totally living out Pascal’s Wager.) I also tried to teach myself as much as I could about Christianity. Mrs. G and her husband told me that they would totally take me to church if I wanted but I didn’t accept because I was completely afraid that people would find out that my parents weren’t religious and give me a hard time for not converting them.
When I hit eighth grade, the depression started in and it got worse when I hit high school. Looking back 18 years later, I can see how completely ill I was mentally and emotionally. I started thinking about death and probably wouldn’t be here today if God hadn’t finally made Himself real to me in the spring of 1995. On one really bad night (which I don’t talk about even in passworded posts), I ended up giving my life to Christ. After that, I sought to educate myself on Christianity and what people believed, buying out almost the entire section of religious books at my local bookstore. My friend Kyle invited me to church with him and I got involved in the choir there. I became part of a community who loved me because I was Jen and not because my parents were there.
During my freshman year of college, I discovered that I hadn’t been baptized (long story) so I went to the pastor of my college church and asked him if I could be baptized. I expected a lecture and an inquisition on my faith but got the following answer: “How’s a week from Sunday?” I was baptized during Memorial Day weekend of 1999 in a baptismal font (with warm water) by a guy in a Harley Davidson shirt and swim trunks. I’m sure Easter Vigil baptisms at a Catholic church are prettier but this worked.
It’s been 18 years since that night in the spring of 1995 and it’s amazing to me now (18 years later) that I’ve been Christian for a longer portion of my life than I was a non-believer. I’m married to a Lutheran pastor and have a degree in Religious Studies because I never quite stopped trying to learn about what people believe. It blows people away that I’m a convert because I apparently “talk a good game”. As much as I wish I’d been raised in the faith, I think my background gives me an advantage because I can talk to people about faith things and do so knowing how not to completely screw it up. I can also look at the last 18 years and see the things I’ve been able to do because I chose to say “yes” that night. I’ve taught Bible studies in medium security prisons, taught Koine Greek to prisoners, held the hands of dying people, preached sermons, sung special music with Jon, had some life-changing conversations, and learned about some fascinating sub-cultures (I am a religious sociologist at heart).
Random Act of Kindness. Those who know me on Facebook or Twitter have heard this already but I’ll tell it again.
I’ve been having a really tough week. My brother is moving out of state at the end of the month and he and I had a tough conversation this weekend because he’s stressed and I unfortunately can’t fix it. (Nothing really bad — I just can’t get into the details until he makes some of them public on Facebook.) Everyone who I talk to about the move mentions Sean (my brother) being at the hospital with me the night they almost put Daniel on ECMO and I hit the breaking point with that on Monday night. I had a serious cry and barely got sleep so Tuesday, I was tired to the point of nausea. (I had to cancel Daniel’s ENT appointment because I was in no shape to drive.)
Wednesday, I had the radio off while I was driving up to Sacramento and was praying aloud about how stressed I was and how I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day because it was going to be long. I was also praying about Daniel’s peds appointment because doctor’s appointments with him can be either hellish or good — there’s no in between. I stopped at the drive-thru $tarbux because I needed caffeine and the car in front of me was blocking me from being close to the speaker so it took a few tries to communicate my order. When I got up there, I was reaching for my debit card when the barista told me that the car in front of me had paid for my drink.
I started sobbing and probably scared the barista but it was seriously what I needed. Given that coffee is usually on my no-no list (stupid ulcers!), you can definitely say I enjoyed my latté a whole lot more. Seriously though, it was a total answer to prayer.
The appointment. Daniel’s appointment went well — he’s high-maintenance enough health-wise that we have to check in with his pediatrician more often than just the yearly Well-Child appointments. When we were there on Wednesday, she had made sure her scheduler put us in when the clinic was likely to be fairly empty so Daniel could run around and open/close doors to his heart’s content while she and I followed him and talked. He allowed her to examine him without objecting too much and she’s satisfied with his growth at the moment. She had also FINALLY (!!!!!) received Daniel’s MRI’s from his previous neurologist at Sutter and was amazed when I told her exactly what was going on in the report using words like “demyelination” and talked about how the lack of myelin on the neurons meant that the information wasn’t being transmitted as quickly. (My undergrad Biology classes were definitely not a waste of my time even if I didn’t end up being pre-med and heading to medical school.) I should have told her about pwning the residents who made up the entourage of Daniel’s pediatric neurologist last year when I was using words like “methodology” and “antecedent” to explain ABA to them after the neurology resident dealing with us had spoken to me condescendingly.
Cuddlebug time. I had another opportunity to have a sleepy boy in my lap and sing him to sleep on Tuesday night. He didn’t feel the need to nap yesterday or today and is still (at 9:50 p.m. as I’m typing these) running around the living room like a live wire. Oh well… there will be other opportunities.
Baseball. My Giants play Marie’s Orioles tomorrow. I have a feeling that there will be some trash talking over Twitter during the game. Then again, my Giants have been sucking lately so some of it will probably be warranted. Of course, the worst thing is that I live with a Dodgers fan… and they’re at the top of their division while my boys are at the bottom.
Inside Westboro Baptist Church. I’m currently reading Banished by Lauren Drain and while it is disturbing because of the sheer crap that church teaches their young, it is fascinating how they lived “normally” in the world but were also completely separated from it. It shouldn’t astound me how severely brainwashed those poor people are but it does. I haven’t gotten to the part where she has a change of heart and I’m kind of looking forward to that.
Jon is teaching VBS tomorrow/today (I forgot to write something for Friday and it’s still Friday in Alaska and Hawaii so cut me some slack!) so I decided to share the things I’ve learned from teaching and helping with VBS in the last few years.
-Froot Loops stick to your ears if you lick them.
-Never ask kids if they have questions. It never ends well.
-The batteries in your digital camera will die the second you need to take a series of pictures for the end of day Powerpoint display.
-Singing silly songs is a lovely way to deal with your grief after sitting with a family whose member has just died.
-You can recall a huge amount of Scripture if it has been part of a silly song.
-There is nothing like chicken-dancing after having a tough day at work.
I am feeling pretty flattened by a cold that may/may not be pondering a turn to bronchitis so thinking of unique and interesting Quick Takes is not on my list this week. Instead, please accept 7 songs that are speaking to me at the moment.
“Washed by the Water” by NEEDTOBREATHE. (Thanks, Kassie.) This is so incredibly relevant to my life as a pastor’s wife, especially when Jon’s parishes have gotten bitey. It’s such a blessing to know that I am “washed by the water”, that I’m a child of God through it all.
“Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega. It’s a hymn that we sing in church and I love Fernando Ortega doing it because he limits the instrumentation to piano and guitar. It moves me because one of the things I want most in my day is just Christ’s presence with me.
“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand” by Jars of Clay. There’s been a lot of death among my friends in the blogging world lately so this one is on my mind. I lovelovelove it because it reminds me of the hope we have in being with God after we die and the fact that this world is not our home.
Speaking of such things, please keep praying massively for Dwija of House Unseen and her family The funeral for baby Nicholas is tomorrow at 11 a.m. and they will need much in the way of prayer for comfort, strength, and peace.
“Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin. There was a shooting of a police officer in my small town in January and it was definitely a tough week for us. He was a K-9 officer and all of us felt so much pain for his canine partner who couldn’t understand why his master had departed. I was out for a late night Jack in the Box run (don’t judge) and this came on the radio. It was seriously perfect timing.
“Who Am I” by Casting Crowns. This has been a favorite since I heard it on the radio while driving back from Appleton when we lived in Minnesota. My father-in-law reminds me frequently to “remember not only who you are but whose you are.” This song answers that beautifully.
“The Way” by Jeremy Camp. I am not at all ashamed to admit that I sing along with the radio in the car. LOUDLY. This is one of my favorites to sing along with whether it be on KLOVE, Air1, or a mixed CD. I may have also cranked up the volume and blasted it to drown out inappropriate music from other cars at stoplights… a few times.
The worst headline came from the normally careful Slate: Pope Francis is not offering indulgences “in exchange for Twitter followers.” He has plenty of Twitter followers. But he’d probably exchange a few hundred of them for headline writers who actually read the story.
I love the wit of Fr. James Martin, S.J. and I recommend his book Between Heaven and Mirth very highly.
Pentecost is kind of a hard birthday to have if you’re a pastor’s wife because it means festival worship (smells and bells though one step below Christmas and Easter) and it frequently means that it’s Confirmation Sunday so there’s usually a special reception afterwards which doesn’t work well with a child like Daniel.
Red and I don’t do well unless it’s a more brickish red and that shirt in my wardrobe is long-sleeved, making it incompatible with the temperatures in the 80′s today. Daniel also decided to disable my alarm clock (!!!) so I woke up at 9:45 and had to come up with clothes for both of us really quickly. Thankfully, I’d showered last night so my hair was manageable and I had clean clothes! Church also started late because of a recording malfunction that had to be fixed.
So… here are the outfits:
I need something to use as a prop because I feel strange posing by myself.
Daniel was more than happy to be my prop. He also had no problem being upside down.
I decided to make this a family affair and hit Jon up for his picture before he headed out to his afternoon/evening engagements.
Here are the details on the outfits:
Jen Shirt: Kohl’s Pants: Kohl’s Sandals: Naturalizer
Daniel Shirt: Target Shorts: Kohl’s
Jon Shirt: Auton (hand-me-down from one of his father’s colleagues) Pants: Nordstroms (hand-me-down from a colleague) Belt: Kohl’s Shoes: Kohl’s
If you didn’t know, I’m married to a Lutheran pastor. Most people either know this or smile and nod politely but it causes some people to say some pretty *interesting* things. Here are the five most interesting ones that I remember, three that are reactions to hearing that I’m a pastor’s wife and two that are stupid things people have said because of who I am.
“So this means you can have sex, right?” This was said to me at 2003 at a visitation for a parishioner who had passed away by a co-worker of the parishioner’s son. I was standing in the funeral home next to the church in some fairly conservative clothes with my husband and his internship supervisor next to me. My response: “I really hope so.” The person walked away and I remember seeing my husband’s internship supervisor’s face turning an interesting shade of purple and his eyes almost popping out of his head. Apparently, this was one of the more interesting things he had encountered at a funeral visitation.
“Does this mean that you’re a nun?” This was said to me by a Lutheran kid at a Lutheran church camp. (I point out that it was a Lutheran setting because our clergy are almost always married.) Apparently, he really hasn’t paid attention in church because I knew his pastor and said pastor is very much married with kids who are my age!
“But you don’t look like a pastor’s wife!” One of my former co-workers said this during my second week of work when I came to work wearing my “Pastor’s wife of an LQPV Eagle” sweatshirt. (LQPV is the local high school in the area where my husband served his first parish.) Apparently, I’m supposed to be old and wear long dresses or denim jumpers or something??? I mean… I did the long dresses and skirts but apparently I don’t fit the stereotypes otherwise?
Let’s now just go into stupid things people have said to me because I was the pastor’s wife.
“You’re a pastor’s wife! You’re supposed to be holy and doing the work of God’s church!” This was said to me by a 90something parishioner in Minnesota when I told him that he couldn’t just walk into our parsonage unannounced. It had been a week since I had undergone a laproscopic cholecystectomy (“lap chole” for short — gallbladder removal) and I was walking around the upper floor of our parsonage in my sports bra and running shorts, so I was a bit panicked when the front door suddenly opened and I heard someone calling out, “Pastor?!? Mrs. Pastor?!?” Thankfully, one of our elders was nice enough to go talk to him and explain politely why this wasn’t allowed. He was more amenable to him explaining it than the 25 year old pastor’s wife.
“You’re a pastor’s wife. You can’t drink alcohol if you’re out at a restaurant.” This was said to me by one of my “special” people in Montana who decided that she needed to lecture me about my appearance and my reputation when she saw me out shopping in sweats. What she didn’t know: I never drank alcohol around parishioners and I hadn’t had a drink in probably… over a year at that point because my liver had a death wish and they had to scrape scar tissue off of it when I had my lap chole. (I’m also the world’s cheapest drunk so it wasn’t a stretch to give up drinking.) She felt that she had a duty to lecture me about my reputation and standing as a pastor’s wife which meant that she would criticize everything I did, regardless of whether or not everyone else approved of me.