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I’m on my way, I’m on my waaaaaayyy home sweet home…. December 30, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in blogging, depression, divorce, Episcopal, family, lyrics, ministry, moving.
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texasflag_fullquilt.jpg  So, I’m back.

Boy-o and I have officially taken up residence in adjacent second floor bedrooms of my parents’ house just north of Fort Worth.  This is not my childhood home…that was sold while I was in college, so I have never actually lived here before, only visited on school breaks, and for holidays and occasional weekends while I was married.

We’ve been here for almost a month now, sleeping on air mattresses, but my furniture was only moved from Oklahoma into a local storage unit last weekend.  About 5 minutes ago, I finished getting my computer set up and the wireless card installed so I can use the home network – yay for the Internets!

I’ve got a job already, working in medical records, or as it’s called now, “health information services”, at a local hospital.  This fits in well with my goal to go back to school in the near future for a degree in health information technology so I can be a medical records coder and you know, support myself and move out of this house. 🙂  I’ve got a post simmering away somewhere in the stew that is my brain about why what I perceived to be a vocation to the priesthood has been put way, way on a back burner.  Like on a stove in someone else’s house.  Suffice it to say that I have come to realize in the last few months that my search for God’s plan for me may not lie in ordained ministry after all, and that I latched on to it because it is the most highly VISIBLE way to serve, and I was in a marriage, indeed in a LIFE, in which I felt utterly INVISIBLE.  And of course, there is also the fact that I now reside in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, a diocese with leadership that does not and has never supported women’s ordination, and which is in fact on its way out of the national church over this issue, among others.  All I can say to that is, ABOUT FRICKIN’ TIME.  No, I’m not even going to make a plea for reconciliation and understanding at this point.  I’d rather it all just be done with so we can get on with whatever comes next.

I haven’t filed for divorce yet.   The paperwork is all completed, but he won’t sign because he thinks there needs to be some language in there about how if I win the lottery or marry a rich guy, he gets to stop paying child support.  And now that I’m back home, frankly, I’ve kind of lost my sense of urgency about the whole thing.  I mean sure, I wish we could fast track this divorce and be done already, but I have what I wanted most: I’m HERE.  He had initially said he would not let me move until we filed.  I told him we weren’t filing until he got his head out of his ass about child support.  Then I told him when moving day was, and he didn’t do anything to stop it, so here we are. I’m not in any rush to get involved with anyone again, and I’m certainly never getting married again, so there’s no pressure on me.  It’ll happen when it happens.

I feel sad and hopeless a lot, and I cry myself to sleep most nights.  But it will get better.  I know it will.  It has to.

So now for a little Motley Crue…

“You know that I’ve seen too many romantic dreams
Up in lights, fallin’ off the silver screen

My heart’s like an open book for the whole world to read
Sometimes nothing keeps me together at the seams

I’m on my way, I’m on my way home sweet home
Tonight tonight
I’m on my way, just set me free
Home sweet home…”

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pity party September 26, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in depression, Episcopal, ministry.
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Perhaps it was unprofessional, but today I resigned from the parish vestry – by email.

I haven’t been to church since shortly after the separation, when the Ex decided he wasn’t going to attend our parish anymore.  It’s a small church.  People talk.  Actually, they don’t talk – they gossip.  But the long story short is, I’ve been desperately in need of some pastoral care, and I haven’t gotten jack crap.  Not a phone call or email from the rector, any member of the vestry, or my Benedictine study group.  I’m desperately bitter about it.  It’s a SMALL church.  It’s a SMALL town.  I don’t care how busy I am, I bend over backwards for people that I know are hurting.  I needed a little of that.  When I went into the office to change my address and phone number and explained what was going on, I got from the secretary, “If you need anything, let us know.”

No, I haven’t let them know.  I told them what was going on.  I stopped coming to church.  I stopped participating, because it was too painful without my whole, intact family there.  I stayed home and cried.  And nobody appears to have noticed that I am gone.

But the scary part is, I can’t really decide if I miss it or not.

travelin’ thru June 28, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in ministry, unemployment.
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ser·en·dip·i·ty
Pronunciation: -‘di-p&-tE
Function: noun
Etymology: from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this

So, I was obviously having somewhat of a “dark night”. I do that, you know. I use this blog to write the most awful things about myself, things that are hyper-critical, things about the very worst parts of my personality. And when I re-read them a day later, I think, “Wow, that chick needs to let up on herself a bit.” I mean, seriously, who is NOT guilty of wanting to do all the right things and in the right order so they can get the right result? The key is that, despite yesterday’s post to the contrary, I really, really am aware that I’m NOT in charge of this process, that’s it’s NOT about me or the things I do, and that the outcome is NOT in my hands. Look, I have a family. A family that I have to help support, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Whatever vows may or may not lay in my future, my FIRST vows are to my husband and the family we have made. Trying to enter the process at this time, when I’ve just lost a job I thought I was good at and my head is spinning with self-doubt, makes about as much sense as The Princess’ comments that she is not responsible for the dumb things she does because half her genes come from her biological father (who is a no-good, very bad guy, trust me – but it’s still an argument that lacks logic).

My mom called to talk about plans for this weekend (husband has a 3 day weekend, so we’re going down to see my folks and The Princess), and I told her a little about how tired I am of not being able to figure anything out, how tired I am of not knowing the reason I do anything or where I’m going…I really would have gotten on a roll, but…well, my mom is not one to have sympathy for anyone having a pity party! She has a very low threshold of tolerance for people who view themselves as victims of anything, whether that be a system or a conspiracy or their own poor choices.

I told her that I wondered about whether or not I have an authentic personality, or whether I have a tendency to put on an act. We talked a little bit about introverts and extroverts, and I told her I’ve been questioning my motives a lot lately. I said that there is something not quite right to me about the fact that I’m the one who wrote the job description for the youth minister position, that at the time I did this that I had no intention whatsoever of pursuing the job, that I viewed my role as someone who would perhaps sit on a search or a hiring committee…and that now that I happen to conveniently be out of a job, I’m going after it. I told her I had hoped to finally enter the Diocesan process towards priesthood this fall, and that now I don’t have any clue what I’m doing. After I had blurted all this out, almost exactly in one big rush, kinda how I just typed it, she said that she knows that I know that sometimes there is no good explanation for what happens…but that perhaps, just perhaps, losing my job with DHS might turn out to be a bit of serendipity. And then, as a joke (I think?), she said that she believes it’s imperative I take some time to do some real parish ministry before I enter the process, because it will wipe away any vestiges of idealism I might have!

Bah!

Pharisee June 27, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in ministry, unemployment, vocation.
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“Patience is a mild form of insanity disguised as a virtue.”

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about this discernment process of mine, and how it sometimes seems like I have been continually frustrated at every turn. Insight comes in fits and starts, and nothing happens when I want it to. I have been guilty of approaching the process with a checklist of things in my mind that I must do before the next step can be reached or I can talk to the next person up the ladder. Timing is not my strong suit – I keep trying to “jump the gun”, figuratively speaking. I’m a complete control freak, and I’m constantly rebelling against the notion of “God’s time”.

Throughout my journey to hear and understand this call, a call I have been aware of since the age of 6, I keep running into “not now”, “not yet”, “we don’t know you well enough”, “you haven’t lived here long enough”, “you need to read some more”, “no, you need to read some more by THIS theologian”, and “you need to be in spiritual direction”. Throughout all this, I have still needed to engage with my family and my employers and my community, and it hasn’t been easy. No matter that I have denied it when asked, no matter that I have openly said to a priest that I know I need to have patience, the fact remains that I have had a timetable in my head for how and when I’m supposed to be accepted into the Diocesan aspirancy process, when I will finish, when I will go to seminary, and when I will be ordained. I have treated this discernment process and this journey with a mind-boggling lack of respect – as though ordination will be my REWARD for reading the books and talking to the people and doing what I’m told.

I have had so many neat experiences since I moved to this state, but I haven’t appreciated them for what they were, because I was too busy thinking about how they would look when it came time for me to go before BACOM (the committee who decides who gets to go to seminary and who doesn’t). Someone said I needed to consider about a year of spiritual direction before I pursued priesthood, and so I connected with a perfectly lovely spiritual director…but I couldn’t have a conversation with her without mentally calculating when my year would be up and I could go to someone and say, “Look what a good priest I’d make – I’ve been in spiritual direction!” Another person said I needed to read Marcus Borg, so I’ve read ALL his books. I’ve become involved in the ministry of lay reading and the Benedictine spirituality group, and have arranged a visit to our local Benedictine monastery for our group, knowing all the while that everyone will enjoy themselves and learn a lot, but it’s really going to look good for me. I have taken an awful lot of pleasure in people telling me they enjoy how I speak and how I read and they enjoy my insights when I share something with them. In short, I have been a complete Pharisee.

Does this recognition – that I have been somehow seeking recognition – completely invalidate my desire to serve the Church? Because it’s still there, at least as far as I can tell. But my motivations have not been…pure. I love lay reading. I love Benedictine group. I love Red Plains. I enjoy and learn from very conversation I’ve had with my priests and with my spiritual director, but lurking at the back has been that ulterior motive. And that makes me feel ashamed.

As I have written about before, when we first joined this parish, I went home every Sunday and cried. I cried because there are no kids and no youth at this church, and no one would talk to us because they didn’t know us, and it broke my heart to think my son wasn’t going to have the wonderful experiences I had growing up in church. Somewhere between last October and today, things have changed. I “grew a pair” and asked if I could bring something for people to eat for the coffee hour after service, since I don’t drink coffee. And then I brought food again the next week, and the week after that. This led to the establishment of the Guild of San Juan Valdez (Patron Saint of Coffee Hours – cute, eh?) and a schedule for who would bring snacks when. I gritted my teeth and volunteered to serve a two year term on the vestry, and this led to me asking where all the kids in this church had gone, and then to the vestry approving a job description I wrote up for the position of Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and agreeing to part with enough money to hire the same. Which then led to the rector asking me if I was considering the job for myself, to which I replied, “NO WAY”. I grew up with a mom who was the Director of Religious Education for our parish, and I saw the garbage she had to do when she couldn’t find volunteers. Besides, it would interfere with my timetable. I wouldn’t be able to try and get into the aspirancy program this year if I took that on. AND, I had a job already.

And then, all of a sudden, as everyone knows by now, I DIDN’T have a job anymore. My degree isn’t in social work, which rules out any further employment in social services. My prior work has all been clerical or administrative in nature, and so I could pursue another job like that – low pay, but low responsibility, too, something which would still give me plenty of time to read and which would not present any time-related obstacles to trying to formally enter the two year aspirancy process this year, or…or I could kiss my timetable goodbye once and for all and consider a position that would teach me the real nuts and bolts of what parish ministry is all about – the youth ministry position I persuaded the vestry to approve all those months ago…a position I COULD DO, because I have desire and creativity and organizational skills. I anticipate the person who takes on this position will need to commit a minimum of one year to recruitment before active ministry involving formation, worship, service, and social activities can even begin, and then once that does happen, the next few years are going to be spent getting the parish invested in the health and growth of the program, so that the person who implemented it COULD leave…if they wanted to say, pursue a call to the priesthood. This idea shreds my timetable to bits. Little, tiny, microscopic bits. It commits me to staying in this town at least two years longer than I had hoped. And I can’t get it out of my head.

So, I went and talked to the boss man, Father J, and he said he had always thought I was a natural for the job, and that he had considered asking me several times but dismissed it immediately because I already had a job. So, I clued him in on everything that had happened with that. We discussed some of my ideas, and expectations, and how long I was willing to commit, and if there might be any potential conflict because I had written the job description and I serve on the vestry. He said he would talk to the senior warden and get back to me, but that he was so glad I came in and said I was interested, because now he was excited, and gee, he doesn’t GET excited.

So…what have I done now?

I did my first go-round as a lay reader this past Sunday… June 18, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in ministry.
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…and it was good! I was really, really nervous, but I think I did okay – whenever I looked up, I just focused on the face of someone in the back that I didn’t know! Afterwards, a lot of people told me I did well. I don’t know if that was because I really did well or because they could tell it was my first time and my voice was a little trembly! In any case, I tried very hard to focus on the fact that I was engaging in ministry to others through my reading of these words (hard to do when scared of messing up!). Our rector was on vacation, so we had Morning Prayer instead of Eucharist, which means I read all the readings, Gospel included.

I’m no scholar. I’ve not been to seminary, and I have no higher education in religion or philosophy or homiletics or hemeneutics or anything else. When I blog about what I felt about a particular reading, it is only my own thoughts, so if I get details or historical facts wrong, I apologize in advance!

The theme of the Scripture readings was the source of and proper use of God’s gifts to us. The Old Testament reading was the story of David taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be his wife after having Uriah killed, and the prophet Nathan coming to David to basically tell him “You’ve got it ALL, thanks to the LORD. What do you think you’re doing here? Like being king gives you the right to say when someone’s life is going to be over? Being king gives you the right to forget where everything good in your life comes from?” I remember hearing this story in elementary school religion class as a kid and making the connection that “having it all” didn’t really have anything to do with money or houses or things or, in David’s case, wives or kingdoms. Instead of being grateful for the many blessing that had been bestowed on him, David wanted what was not his, and so he misused his gifts to take what he wanted, others be damned. The Gospel reading was the story of the sinful woman who came into the house where Jesus was having supper, and she washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, and then she anointed him with an expensive perfume. Jesus’ host in this passage violated the customs of the day and committed a crime against hospitality by not welcoming him unreservedly into his home. He was, at best, a grudging host, a rich Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat in his home for some unstated reason, but it certainly doesn’t appear that it was because he genuinely desired his company – perhaps it was because he was someone who was garnering attention at the time. The common thread has to do with how we respond to generosity, and whether or not we even recognize the ordinary and everyday things as the gifts they are. David responded to God’s generosity by trying to get more than was his due, and who among us can say we haven’t ever done the same? The sinful woman, who did not experience generosity or love or care or forgiveness from her fellow human beings, presumably because her sin was the kind everyone knew about and talked about, nonetheless humbled herself before Jesus to show him true hospitality. The woman knew she was doing wrong…and David had to have it pointed out to him by a prophet, and yet…and yet – God’s response was the same! “Now the LORD has put away your sin, you shall not die.” “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”

Well, my first vestry meeting yesterday was… February 19, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in ministry.
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…enlightening. I know a parish is a business and has financial concerns, but for some reason, probably naivete, I thought that people would be, I don’t know…nicer? For example, there was discussion about raising the rent for one of the support groups that meets there, and I agreed with this because the amount that they are being charged is completely out of step with what it costs our sexton to set up and break down for their meetings and the church supplies they use. So yeah, raise the rent. But the motion passed that the rent will go up AND that they will set up and break down for their own meetings…in other words, a “we’re tired and we ain’t gonna do it anymore” caveat. When I suggested raising the rent to one figure if they want to do their own setup and another, higher figure if they want us to continue to set up, I was met with extreme resistance. One person even said something to the effect of, if they don’t want to do their own setup, then too bad, they can go somewhere else. At which point most of the blood drained out of the rector’s face at the thought of losing any more money from our already cash-strapped little church.

However, on a brighter note, I offered to help put together the job description for the youth minister that everyone (in theory) wants to hire. I’m looking forward to this, because I think they have a very different idea of what constitutes effective youth ministry than I do (going for pizza once a month doesn’t cut it, in my book), and I’m kind of wanting to challenge everyone when I mention some of my thoughts. See, I happen to believe that effective youth ministry requires a commitment of both money AND time from the adults of the parish, and the time factor is probably going to be more disturbing to them. When I mentioned that I was interested in helping this way, some of the older members chuckled and said something to the effect of “she’s got energy – don’t let her get away!”, and the rector said he would be calling me “very soon.”

Can you blame me for my skepticism?

Some of what I brainstormed this morning at 5:45 when the alarm went off because I forgot I had off work for the President’s Day holiday:

What do YOU think this person’s job is? Director of Youth Ministry, or coordinator of youth activities? Does their job include the young children, below junior high?

What educational/professional qualifications do you want them to have? (Degree, experience, proven track record at another parish) What character qualifications do you want them to have? (Enthusiasm, drive, ideas that can be articulated, ability to speak to large groups)

How much are you willing to pay this person, and what kind of budget will they have, and what are they expected to pay for out of this budget? What benefits will you offer? Insurance for self/family? Pension/retirement plan? Vacation?

Will the adults of this parish support the youth of this parish – will they act as mentors to the ones that are already here and the ones that may come? How do you sell this new direction to old members?

How many junior high/high school age people are actually registered members of this parish? (4, if Sunday morning is any indication)

How can we get more? What are appropriate methods/venues to recruit new ADULT members who have KIDS? Example: slightly larger town southwest of us is getting new members because the hospital is expanding and recruiting new physicians and medical support personnel who are seeking a church. This town’s direction needs to be exploring the growth of the University.

Programs must be in place, regardless of limited involvement, because you only have one chance to make a first impression to visitors – if you don’t have what they want for their kids, they’ll likely go somewhere else.

Website for youth – this is how this generation gets their information

When do they meet, and what do they do? (Sunday school, service projects, social activities)

IMPORTANT for their formation to be separated by age – no adults in the youth classes, just because they like the teacher (we have several adults who attend the “high school” class now, and just guess who does all the talking?).

Well, I’ve done it. January 3, 2007

Posted by introspectreangel in ministry.
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I’ve thrown my name in the hat to be considered for a two year term on the vestry.

From what I was told by the outgoing Senior Warden, it’s not much of a time commitment, which seemed a little odd to me. I’ve been asking myself “why” I did this for most of the day, because, you know, I just wouldn’t be ME if I didn’t question my motives!

How is it that I hope to contribute? What exactly do I expect to accomplish? The truth is, I’ve felt pretty ambivalent about this parish since we transferred our letter in mid-October. Our son is one of maybe 5 children in the parish, and the only one under the age of 6. I think there are two high school students and 1 junior high student. Average Sunday attendance at the 10:30 AM Rite II service is about 10-15 people, not including the choir. I’m constantly alternating between “I have SO MANY IDEAS that this place could use!” and wanting to run screaming the 45 miles to the next nearest parish, a parish with a USEFUL WEBSITE and CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS and MORE THAN ONE OUTREACH MINISTRY. I want to help, and I want to share my ideas for change, but I don’t want to become frustrated when I run up against “but we’ve ALWAYS done it this way”, as I know I inevitably will (see above picture of the light bulb that someone’s great-grandmother donated when the parish was founded, the light bulb that SHALL NEVER BE CHANGED).

Possible signs pointing me in the direction I should go? Two emails in my inbox in the last week, one from the Episcopal News Service pointing the way to an article called “Ecumenical study shows why congregations grow”, and one to “Episcopal bloggers” from Bowie Snodgrass with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Communication that included a link to the Small Membership Churches BLOG.

construction time again December 16, 2005

Posted by introspectreangel in addiction, Episcopal, faith, family, life, marriage, ministry.
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my mind has been very restless these last few days. i know i’m not alone in this, especially during this time of the year.

reflections on Christmases past…this year marks our little family’s fifth Christmas celebration together. now, Christmas comes on the same day each year, and thus you would think we might be able to plan and save some money for it, and yet…well, we just haven’t. instead, i’ve relied on homemade gifts.

year 1 was a disaster – my caramels turned rock hard and my first several batches of cookies burned. we weren’t married yet, and i was afraid if i couldn’t get it together in the kitchen, we might never be!

year 2 was our first one married, and i played it safe with brownies and fudge, but stayed away from the candy making.

year 3 i got ambitious: i went to a craft store and bought gift baskets into which i put jars of homemade BBQ sauce, cookies, and white chocolate covered pretzels.

year 4…well, last year was a bad year, emotionally and financially. we had both chosen to behave in ways which were very damaging to the long-term health of our marriage. on top of this, i had left my steady-but-low-paying job in an industy i was very comfortable in, and in my self-righteous indignation over the company not paying me what i felt i was worth, i burned some bridges and didn’t leave on good terms. so, i was unemployed, will was severely under-employed, we were months behind on the rent, the electric bill, and the car payments. we were angry all the time, we had an 8 month old son celebrating his first Christmas and we were unable to buy him any winter clothes, let alone toys. you could definitely say we were not in our happy place. and on Christmas day 2004, we didn’t yet know that we were only at the beginning of a months long slide downward to the very bottom, into darker places than we thought it possible to go.

the latter half of 2005 has been a been a time of rebuilding, a time of challenging everything i thought i knew for a “fact” to be true. i knew for a “fact” i would never be happy outside a big city and all its conveniences. i knew for a “fact” that my marriage was a joke, and that if our son was going to grow up healthy and happy and normal that i better get on with the business of figuring out what i was going to do A.D – after the divorce. i knew for a “fact” that i was smarter and more organized than everyone around me, and if people would just shut up and listen to what i had to say, everything would be all right. yes, i had the ego that could have eaten the state of texas whole.

we needed a lot of help to get out of the messes we had created, and make no mistake, we had created them all by ourselves. we had to swallow a lot of pride to ask for that help, and then we had to swallow a lot of resentment that we had to ask for help and that our loved ones hadn’t read our minds and offered. then we had to realize that resentment was silly and unwarranted. along the way, we had to renew our committment to each other and the family we had created, bury our silly egotistical selves, and look for happiness somewhere other than the store or an expensive restaurant. finally, we had to learn to talk to others about the things we were going through, because when we talked only to each other, all we did was go in endless argumentative circles.

in the last half of this year, we’ve gotten away from the pressures of the city and fallen in love with each other again. we’ve regained our financial footing, reclaimed our independence and gotten out from under my in-laws roof. we’ve experienced spiritual renewal through the opportunities to participate in the life of our new family at st. p’s, to serve our new community, to help the less fortunate, to gain “book knowledge”, and to grow in our understanding of what it means to be a family of episcopal christians in the world today. we’ve finally realized that married love isn’t all champagne and roses, acknowledged our problems and faced them head on and stopped blaming each other for their existence.

this year, we have the ability to buy presents for our loved ones instead of having to resort to the homemade variety. in some ways, i am thankful that i get to escape the hours in the kitchen. in other ways, i think maybe the hours in the kitchen are more meaningful than something i pick out in a store. and then again, i just wouldn’t be me if i wasn’t conflicted about it all!

i know it’s customary at this time of year to wish you peace. an interesting concept, peace. “peace in iraq”, “peace in our time”, “give peace a chance” – it means different things to different people. so i don’t wish you peace – i wish you courage. i wish you courage to look at yourself, and then to look – really look – at people who are dirty, or ugly, or even just different from you. i wish you courage to look at the things no one wants to look at, to repair what is broken, and to find beauty in unusual places.

God bless the whole whole world – no exceptions.