October was too short…

Life is too short to ice cakes; cakes are good without icing.
Life is too short to read all the church periodicals.
Life is too short not to write regularly to your parents.
Life is too short to eat factory baked bread.
Life is too short to keep all your floors shiny.*

October was too short.  Time passed so quickly this month– so quickly that I just couldn’t keep up with all our happenings here in real time and I must confess I’ve felt a little guilty.  [smile]  But October was too short… Full of little anniversaries of our first date and first kiss and bigger celebrations like my 30th birthday and our first wedding anniversary, October is already a busy month in our household, but happily we added a bit more hustle and bustle with a record total of 7 overnight guests this month (my parents and our seminary friends), the wedding of dear friends in Georgia, and of course Halloween.

Life is too short to let a day pass without hugging your spouse and each of your children.
Life is too short to nurse grudges and hurt feelings.
Life is too short to worry about getting ready for Christmas; just let Christmas come.
Life is too short to spend much money on neckties and earrings.
Life is too short for nosy questions like “How do you like your new pastor?” Or—if there’s been a death—”How is he taking it?”

October was too short.  The busyness of October bubbled over into our lives at work as well.  At the beginning of the month, Caleb celebrated his first baptism and we welcomed four new members to “The Church.”  What an exciting Sunday!  That evening at the prayer class I’ve been teaching, I had a hard time focusing our discussions because so much joy was spilling over from the mornings activities.  [smile]  “The Church” is slowly growing and we are blessed to bear witness.  This was my first full month in my new job with Appalachia Service Project and essentially I spent the whole month establishing and living into new routines.  Since October 1st, I have made trips back to each of the centers in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  I have loved discovering how I am being called to be present for these young adults who are serving in these centers.

Life is too short to be gone from home more than a few nights a week.
Life is too short not to take a nap when you need one.
Life is too short to care whether purses match shoes or towels match bathrooms.
Life is too short to stay indoors when the trees turn color in fall, when it snows, or when the spring blossoms come out.

October was too short.  The most brilliant transformation during the month happened to the mountains.  Slowly the greens of summer have been replaced by the yellows, reds, deep purples, and oranges of fall.  It’s really been quite a spectacular show!  We’ve tried to be intentional about using down time to take in the colors as much as possible.  We’ve taken long drives, biked the Creeper, and spent mornings just sitting by the great floor to ceiling window in our living room.

Life is too short to miss the call to worship on a Sunday morning.
Life is too short for bedspreads that are too fancy to sleep under.
Life is too short to work in a room without windows.
Life is too short to put off Bible study.
Life is too short to put off improving our relationships with the people we live with.

October was too short, but I don’t feel like we’ve let it pass by without taking in the fullness of this very special month.  So I didn’t write about it all until now… at least I have the memory of having lived this October in a way that I can happily proclaim with orphan Ann-(with an)-e Shirley that “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”

-Margaret

*Poem by Doris Longacre, the author of the Mennonite cookbook More with Less and the book Living More with Less.

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Growing in Gratitude: Glimpses of the future

I’ve been job searching for about a month now.  I guess in the grand scheme of unemployment trends in the US currently that’s not very long, but when you are the person in the midst of “the hunt” it can feel a bit like walking up an enclosed spiral staircase when you can’t see how far you’ve come or how far you have left to climb.  That blindness to the length of time I’ll remain on this journey to find a job can be maddening.  There are few moments during that day that I find I’m not trying to tease out the blueprints to that metaphorical spiral staircase.

How many steps will I travel before I at least reach a landing where I can rest for a while?  How many more times will I search Monster.com or Idealist.org before I find that listing for my job?  Which interview will go well?  Should I wait to accept one job in hopes this more interesting possibility will be offered?  What will I eventually find at the top of all of these stairs?

Then for me at least there is this underlying question that I’ve been asked since I was 8 and one that I’m still not sure how to answer even though I’m almost 30.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I’ve always had a diversity of interests and I’ve enjoyed exploring multiple avenues of career possibilities in my twenties, but now I’m at a point when I feel like I need and want to make a move toward narrowing my focus.  Even though it feels like the right time to be making this kind of big decision, the prospect of doing so is somehow terrifying and so I begin to feel a bit claustrophobic.

Yet in the midst of all the angst of the job search, I find moments when I am afforded glimpses of the future me that I’m journeying toward.  Like beams of light shining in through small windows built into the walls of that spiral staircase, my path seems illumined for just a moment and I feel some hope knowing that there is still a world outside this enclosure and that when I reach the top I’ll emerge to enjoy a whole new perspective of my journey.

Yesterday evening I had one of those moments when I led the first session of a 7 week small group study at “The Church.”  Channeling my energy into teaching others some of what I learned while in seminary was completely invigorating.  [smile]  It felt so natural to be fostering our discussion about prayer and encouraging those gathered to let go and experiment over the next few months with some new prayer practices.  I felt for a moment like I was fulfilling my purpose and that I could enjoy doing something like this for the rest of my life.  That feeling was such a welcome respite from all the uncertainty that I’ve been carrying with me lately and exactly the boost I needed going into another job interview this afternoon.

Today I am grateful for glimpses of the future.

What are you grateful for?

– Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Visions and Dreams

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Sunday marked a month of living in “The Parsonage!” [smile] In the grand adventure of life a month is not so long, yet in many ways those 7 weeks of transition that characterized the first half of our summer seem like so long ago especially because of everything that has happened in between then and now.  Visits with parishioners, Sundays, tons of boxes unpacked, cleaning, moving furniture, placing frames on the wall, making an empty house our home. In that time, we’ve been living into life together in this new place and I am so grateful. 

This month of discovery has also been full of dreaming and visioning.  We’ve been dreaming what our house will look like with pumpkins on the porch and Christmas lights lining the eaves.  We’ve been dreaming what fun adventures we’ll take exploring the parks and sights near Kingsport.  Ever since reading Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap I’ve dreamed about visiting that magical little town just a little way down the road.  [smile]

Happily the dreaming and visioning have not been limited to our own small vision of life together, but has spilled over into our interactions with “The Church.”  Spurred by the excitement that always comes when a new minister arrives to a United Methodist congregation, we’ve joined our parishioners in dreaming dreams and seeing visions about what this next chapter will be for this church, these people, and most importantly the community surrounding us. 

This state of dreaming is a glorious place to be and such an important step in moving forward.  A friend/second once or twice removed posed this question on Facebook earlier in the week and I felt it so relevant to where we now find ourselves. 

Kathe:  Thinking about what church was supposed to be, and what it is now. How did we get here from there? More important, where next?

Her questions aren’t ones that has an easy answer and I think its interesting that Kathe hasn’t received any responses to her query online.  I think part of the answer lies in the process of dreaming and visioning.  I am reminded of the passage from Joel that is quoted in Acts: 

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.

Dreams and visions move us from where we already find ourselves toward the not yet kingdom of God that is to come.  So today I am thankful for a faith that encourages such imaginative dreaming and visioning. 

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Visitors

The Front Porch Visitor

The Front Porch Visitor

Don’t have a lot of time to reflect this morning.  I am currently waiting for 2 members of the church to show up to help me de-wallpaper and paint the master bath.  Today will be my first foray into painting and I must admit that my excitement at the thought of an updated bathroom is tinged with some apprehension.  Luckily my visitors/volunteers have years of experience under their belts so I’m in good hands.  [smile]

In the process of finishing all the tidying up this morning before the parishioners arrive I ran into another visitor on our porch. Isn’t it a marvel what we encounter in this beautifully created world?  After snapping a pic, I quickly moved our unexpected guest out of harms way.  Can you spot him in this photo below?

I spy...

I spy…

Hope you experience the joy of the unexpected today.

-Margaret

 

Growing in Gratitude: Little Ones

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

With the big announcement from Clarence House yesterday that the newest royal had been born and with VBS (Vacation Bible School) in full force at “The Church,” I am overwhelmed this week with gratitude for the raw honesty, exuberant joy, and boundless energy of children. [smile]

It has been years since I’ve helped with a vacation Bible school and I’d forgotten what a wonderful organized chaos it is.  Let’s be honest if you have ever participated in VBS you know that no matter how well it is planned ultimately every VBS is an experiment in letting the children take over the church and boy if it isn’t fun, except for maybe that one VBS song that gets stuck in your head for the next month! [smile] In the process, we, the adult leaders, can only hope that the children learn as much as we are.  Reliving the Bible stories at VBS through the inquisitive minds of children is a revelation of God’s grace and a lesson in cultivating a practice thoughtful curiosity that makes faith come alive.

Today I am thankful for little ones.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

 

Running tallies

I don’t have a good reason for not posting yesterday.  The day got away from me as I again awoke to tackle our house filled with little projects.  By the time I really sat down I was too exhausted to do anything, but watch CBS’s Big Brother, my summer guilty pleasure.  As of today, I’m adding blogging to that daily to-do list that I have been tallying in my head.

  • Hang full-length mirror and framed pictures in guest room
  • Choose paint for study and paint it
  • Unpack china
  • Deep clean freezer and extra fridge
  • Find a “entertainment center” that I love and can afford
  • Sign up for home owners insurance
  • Clean blinds… I think I might wait for a certain mother from Georgia to visit to help me with this one.

And the list goes on and on.  I don’t remember it ever taking me so long to “set up” house before, but I think it’s a matter of having just blocked out the whole process of unpacking and choosing where to put things like a mother who doesn’t remember the pain of birth.  You see I’m working on those comparisons again in honor of my inner 12 year old who wanted to be a writer.  [smile]

In the midst of unpacking, I’m also trying to still focus on living into our new situation.  I’ve been joining Caleb for his visits to some of the active members of our church.  While it takes a little will power to pull myself away from whatever project I’ve been working on, I have so much enjoyed the opportunity to get to know these new friends better.  Added bonus:  I’m finally beginning to feel more confident about names and relationships between members of the church.  Learning names has probably been one of my biggest worries with this move.  I’ve never been very good at remembering names unless of course it was necessary for a history test and I’m sorry to say that I think those names really only stuck with me for 24 – 48 hours.  [smile]  I’m so much better with broad concepts or remembering where I’ve seen someone before.

As a preacher’s kid, I didn’t feel the same push to learn names that I do know that I’m the preacher’s wife and I promise that I’m really working on the name learning this time.  While unpacking a box in the kitchen or bedroom and definitely as soon as I show up for a church event, I begin to go through the tally of names I’m building:

  • Mary Ruth and Phil
  • Christine and Luther
  • Emily, Ben, Lilly and Eden
  • Tommy
  • Ernie and Gail
  • Gary and Glenda
  • Vicky and Gary

And the list goes on and on.  It feels like a bit of a balancing act to keep all of these lists running around in my mind all the time.  Goodness I do hope all my running lists don’t somehow collide.  It could result in some very amusing conversations.  Any advice for managing either list is most appreciated.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Hospitality [New Home Week, Day 1]

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Amazingly enough given how small our seminary was Caleb and I managed to only take 2 classes together during our 3 years there.  The first was “Church History 2” before we began dating and I hate to admit that I don’t remember him being in the class.  I sat in the front and can be fairly oblivious to a lot of things when I’m in scholar mode.  [smile]  The other class was “Hospitality” during the semester that we were engaged.  I can’t quite imagine a better class for the two of us to be in together while dating and through our engagement.  Not only was our professor, Dr. Amy Oden, simply a fantastic teacher, but cultivating a welcoming and hospitable home is something we both desired/desire for our marriage.  In class, we discussed the broad themes of the importance of preparing our spirits and spaces to welcome; of how genuine hospitality may be at times risky and is self-sacrificial; and how hospitality is modeled on God’s divine, triune nature.

Dinner on the Grounds

First Sunday’s Dinner on the Grounds

As wonderful a class as it was however, there is only so much you can learn theoretically about hospitality before practical experience must come into play.  Over the last seven weeks of transition into our new home, Caleb and I have been the recipients of such gracious hospitality that I feel like my understanding of what it means to welcome and receive people in love has been stretched by leaps and bounds.  [smile]  There really are too many people to thank us for making us feel at home and welcome during our transition so I’ll just list the top 3 below:

  • We are grateful for the hospitality of our parents, Raymond, Lisa, Bill and Sue.  We’ve been alternating time between both families for about 6 weeks now and our parents have been so understanding about our need to go back and forth.
  • We are grateful for the hospitality of the parsonage committee and the volunteers at the church.  We had church volunteer at the parsonage from last Wednesday thru today cleaning the parsonage and preparing the space for our arrival tomorrow.  As a PK I have lived through a number of parsonage horror stories and so I had prepared myself to move armed with cleaners and mops in hand.  [smile]  Thankfully we have had the exact opposite experience!
  • We are grateful for the hospitality of the church on our first Sunday.  We were embraced yesterday with such care and love.  My heart is full.  After worship we were treated to a wonderful spread and celebrated “dinner on the grounds.”  We were also “pounded” or showered with housewarming gifts.  Aren’t southern church idioms charming? [smile]

Today I am thankful for genuine hospitality.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret