Charley, Harvey, Irma and Me

Today, we are waiting for Irma.
We’ve been waiting and watching for the last few days.  And I’ll be honest, I have alternated between being ok and being scared shitless.

I am not, by nature, prone to worry or anxiety. And I’m pretty highly skilled at diverting nervous energy and/or ignoring any fears that are creeping in so that I can focus and work a plan.  But I have some physical manifestations of stress that let me know when I need to pay attention to that inner world a little more.

I want to sleep.  A lot.  And when it’s really bad, I get a rash on my ribs that is almost like shingles. That rash popped up yesterday. And so it was time to name what’s going on.

Back in the summer of 2004, we decided to sell our first Florida house and build a newer home that was big enough for Mom to move out from Texas and join us. We were scheduled to close mid-August and house-sit for a friend until the new house was finished around the first of October.  That meant packing for a move and an extended stay, making all the decisions that come with building a new home, and staying in communication with Mom about all of it from half a continent away. Stressful enough.

But then, the week that we closed and moved into our temporary summer home, Hurricane Charley ripped right across Central Florida.  Right over the house.  And while Charley was much smaller than many of the storms we have seen since, the rain and wind was intense and lasted most of the night.

It doesn’t take effort at all to remember exactly how I felt that night.
And how it felt to wonder when the power would come back on.
And how hard it was to keep our kiddo from freaking out when we experienced two more direct hits, moved into the new house, and started attending a new school (between storm breaks).

By the time Hurricane Season was over, I was a wreck- emotionally and physically. But we had to get back to work and keep moving forward.  It has been quiet here since, until last year when Matthew gave us a scare. But he wobbled out to sea enough that we were spared all but a couple of hours of wind and a few lost shingles.

So I didn’t really realize how much I had shoved aside and not dealt with until I started seeing my friends post about their experiences as Harvey rolled into Southeast Texas.  I literally couldn’t read about the sound of wind or the water coming in, or even how worried they were, without my own heart rate rising. I had to limit my engagement until the storm stopped and the (horrible) extent of the damage was clear.

And now, here we are, waiting for Irma. Right now, for as ginormous as she is, we’re in a pretty good place. We’ll have some serious winds and a fair amount of rain, but not for nearly as long as our neighbors in South Florida or on the gulf coast.

So…a year older and maybe slightly wiser, what am I going to do differently this time?

First, I’m doing something Brene Brown calls “embracing the suck”.  Actually feeling the feelings that I don’t want to feel, rather than running past them. When I sit with the feelings, I can untangle what they really are.  Then I can deal with the concerns and fears I can actually do something about, and I am aware of the (yes, totally reasonable) fears that will only go away once the storm is past.

Second, I went running. Not walking, but running.  Yesterday, I did my usual interval workout- a shorter walk interspersed with running. Today, I was just going to do a short walk, since it looked like rain was about to start.

At about half a mile, though, I felt like a little running, so I thought maybe I’d do another interval run. But as I ran the back half of that first mile, I knew that today was different.

I needed to keep running.
I needed to see how long I could sustain a pace that was faster than usual.
I needed to know that I could persevere, not just physically but mentally.
And so 1 mile became 2 miles.
And 2 miles became 3.
And three miles became 3.6.

I ran a full 3.1 miles (a 5K) after that half-mile walk.
Because I could.
Because I have transformed my body over the last 18 months.
Because I have transformed my mind over the last 18 months.

Yes, I am stronger and leaner and more fit than I have been in decades. My running intervals added up to just under half of the 10-mile race I completed last weekend. But the hardest part of getting stronger and leaner has been mental – taking on the habits and lies that used to keep me in bed or on the couch.

I ran a full 3.1 miles (a 5K) after that half-mile walk.
Because I believed I could.

I know today that I am mentally strong enough to push toward big goals,
to believe that yesterday’s personal best doesn’t dictate today’s
to face challenges that have nothing to do with running, walking, biking or swimming.

I can do the hard things – like lead my congregation, face conflicts head on, make decisions I’d rather ignore.
And wait for Irma.
I will be ok this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow, when the worst of the storm is here.
I won’t like it (because who would???)
I’ll be scared.
But I will be ok.

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A handful of things

It really stinks sometimes, being the kind of person who needs lots of words to find her way to the thing she wants to say.  I mean, most days, I don’t get around to that kind of writing because I’m busy getting announcements and sermons and newsletter articles and emails and other time-sensitive stuff out the door.

So, rather than wait for the “Now I can get that whole post out of my head” moment, here are some things I am thinking about, experiencing and… now… sharing.

I was alone on eclipse day, staring up at the sun with my safety glasses on, thrilled to be able to see even the 80-whatver percent coverage we got. I finally hunted someone down so that we could “wow!” at it together as we shared the specs.  A couple of days later, I was driving across town, listening to the RadioLab podcast that had audio recordings of people as totality occurred.  And I realized just how much we need events like this to connect us to one another in moments of awe.  I literally wept as these people I didn’t know described an event I couldn’t see… because they were so overcome by what they saw that you could hear it in their voices. Young and old, all over the country.  Awe is contagious and evocative.

 


 

Yesterday, I stopped to pick up some coffee on the way to work.  A group of people walked into the shop as I was leaving and the last guy stopped to hold the door and let me out.  I said thanks, to which he replied “No problem, have a great day.”

I smiled again, “You, too,” and I walked on toward my car.  Can I just tell you how much it made my day for him to call after me, “You look beautiful today”?  Not because I had dressed up (because I hadn’t).  Not because he’d ever seen me to make a distinction about yesterday’s level of beauty (he was a total stranger).   It was just a random kindness.  The world can use more of that, for sure.


Does anyone else ever have the problem of their ears folding over in their sleep?  Clearly a side-sleeper issue, the ear between my head and pillow sometimes gets tucked in on itself and the pain will actually wake me up.  Weird.


A couple of folks lately have described me as Type A, which sits kind of funny.  I’ve never seen myself as “driven” so much as determined. That’s a good thing, mostly, since it keeps me from giving up on hard stuff (or boring stuff). But it’s got me thinking I need to explore the way my overdeveloped sense of responsibility interacts with the athlete in me who learned you “leave everything on the court”.

 


 

I have other thoughts on Harvey, the Nashville statement, and big stuff in the world, but I’m fighting my allergies and have a church newsletter to get out the door. So… this will have to do for now.

Meanwhile, what kinds of things are you thinking about these days?

Walking my @$$ off

Literally.
Now that I have lost about 25% of myself by weight, people are starting to notice and feel comfortable asking… how are you doing it?  

The answer is simple. I’ve been walking my ass off. Literally. I started out with about a mile a day and adding steps to my daily routine by parking farther out, taking the stairs, that kind of thing. Now I average 3 miles a day, with at least one long (6+ miles) walk each week. 

And because I am me- a recovering athlete with a competition problem- I’m not talking leisurely strolls… I have dropped my pace from 20min miles last May to an average of 15min.  

I have done a handful of 5Ks and a 10K, with several others on the calendar. But the big goal is completing a timed half marathon in May.  

In fact, I’ll be walking those 13.1 miles almost a year to the day after I decided it was time to get up off the couch and get healthy.  

So, yeah… All that walking has helped me reshape my body and rediscover muscles and confidence that had been buried for far too long.

After the exercise routine felt pretty well established, I started tracking what I eat. But not obsessively. And not because I am avoiding particular foods. Except tomatoes, flan and brussel sprouts… those are nasty. 

Really, I just wanted to get to a place where I was making decisions about food, being aware and intentional. And in the same way those first weeks of tracking steps let me see the reality of how sedentary my life was, a food log let me see how chaotic my relationship with food had become. 

So – I have a goal for what goes in relative to what goes out via exercise. Some days I am over, some days I am under, but every day I am thinking about how what goes in will fuel me.  
It’s not like I didn’t know… but like I tell my people at church, knowing and doing are two very different things.  

I have a ways to go yet, before I hit the number/range that would be a good weight to maintain as I wander deeper into my 50’s. I am hopeful that the habits I am building on the way are sustainable, because they are helping me re-learn the foundational habit of loving myself and believing I am worth keeping around for a good long time. 

10 Random Things I have learned in the last couple of weeks

1. When your jeans are loose and you don’t have a belt, slippery undies are a bad choice.

2. Swimming is excellent exercise. You do not, however, get bonus calories for swimming in colder water… silly FitBit

3.  Baby pigs are adorable and actually enjoy being held and scratched behind the ears. Or at least the ones at our feed store do.

4. Even decades later, I can recite the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Well, most of it. At least as much as I can the Apostle’s Creed, so there’s that.

5. I am not excellent at processing giant emotional waves. Unless they are someone else’s, in which case I am all yours.  There’s some work to be done there, obvs.

6.  My gut is right more than I am willing to believe. Probably because it catches the stuff I don’t want to know, or hope is untrue.

7. Number 6 above sucks.

8. Combine numbers 5-7 in a week, and ugh.

9. I have a deep well of faith and hope, in spite of the truth my gut knows about people and life and even me.

10. I am loved.  Yeah- I kinda knew that already, but sometimes I get to learn stuff like this in deeper ways. And that counts, too.

Sometimes More is Bad

Like when you have more than one place you keep your stuff.

I have a desk in my study at church. I have a desk at my other day job. I have a desk in one of the bedrooms at home. I have a red composition notebook for work stuff.  And I have a black one for my church/personal stuff.  I have a Google Drive assigned from my work email account and one for my home and church documents attached to my gmail account. I access those drives from two different browsers.

That’s about as compartmentalized as my stuff gets. I have one laptop, one backpack and one WAY overstuffed and overtaxed brain.

Most days, the system works pretty well.

I keep notes and task lists from different universes in different notebooks. I combine them into a shared calendar and task managements tool. I work in the right G-docs account to make searching even easier.

Some days, it goes hilariously wrong. Like the day I went looking for notes from a meeting at work 4 days prior, and realized I left the red notebook on the desk at the house. So I ran out at lunch to get said notebook… only to find no notes for that meeting in the red notebook.

Or in the black notebook.
Or any other paper in my possession.
Or in my google docs or Word.

Quiet internal PANIC ensued for the next 90 minutes… until I remembered my Mac Notes app.

On the plus side, my desk gets really organized on days like that…

You know you’re a meeting junkie when 

I was asked to offer the invocation at today’s city council meeting. Apparently out church had dropped out of rotation at some point, and someone in the city office noticed last month. I said “of course” since I am always looking for opportunities to connect with the larger community. 

I made my way over to City Hall a little early, met the council members and mayor, got my instructions and found a seat. I offered my prayer (below) and sat down to watch the proceedings. 

There was a long discussion around the city recreation department’s proposed fee structure for youth sports. So long and robust, in fact that I had to leave at the break and didn’t see the vote. 

As I drive back to the church, it struck me. I was really enjoying that meeting. Just like I enjoy a session meeting or a Preabytery meeting. There is something about the energy in a room where people are working to find a solution to a problem that affects a community- whether municipal, ecclesiastical or organizational. Then there is the opportunity to collaborate with people beyond your usual area, like the folks I met today who are leading a task force in a part of town just south of our church. 

Yes, I am that meeting nerd. God help me. 

Anyway, here’s the prayer: 

Gracious God, 

We give thanks today for men and women who answer the call to public service, taking on the mantle of leadership beyond their own families and bearing responsibility for the community at large. 

We give thanks as well for the model of leadership and the teaching that you provided through your own Son, Jesus. 

Throughout his ministry, he made clear that the way of leadership is the way of love, of self-sacrifice, of compassion. Through his teachings, he made clear that your commandment to act justly and love mercy is still very much in effect. Through his obedience, he modeled what it means to walk humbly in your pathways. 

We ask Lord, that you tune the hearts of these leaders to yours, that their eyes would be open to the needs of every neighborhood in this city, and that their ears would hear the voices of all the households they represent, including those at the margins, the youngest, the oldest, and the most vulnerable among us. 

We ask you to pour out your Spirit in this place, drenching us all in your grace, that we might know what it means to love our neighbors in word and deed, even in the process of governing. 

In the name of the one who healed the lame, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry and set captives free from all manner of bondage, Jesus the Christ, we pray. 

Amen.   

just a few random things from today

Since 90% of what happens at most bathroom sinks has to do with washing your hands, why do so many of the spigots stop so close to the far edge of the sink. The one behind the chancel of our sanctuary might reach 3 inches into a sink that is a good 12-15 inches across. You can’t even get your hands wet without banging them into the back wall.  The one I used at DisneyWorld today was better, but not by much. And don’t get me started on those automagical soap and/or water sensors that make me feel invisible…

Donuts from the Donut King between Orlando and Castleberry are among the best I’ve ever eaten. The only thing they are missing is a “pine cone”.  Imagine one of the cinnamon rolls that gets fried and glazed… except the raw cinnamon roll-shaped dough gets cut and pulled so that it resembles a pine cone.  Every one of those bits that sticks out gets that outside edge crispy sweetness.

 

It’s funny how people react when you offer to take their picture for them – even when they are with a group… we’re so used to doing selfies, I guess, that we forget that other people are around, and often willing to help.  I figure it’s kind of nice to get a shot from a semi normal angle, in which everyone can relax and smile.

I love that we see lots of birds here in Central Florida – especially the raptors. I’ve seen several hawks and kingfishers grab fish from the rivers and lakes in the area, sometimes large enough that they make the bird look a little tipsy.  Today, I was actually worried that I was going to drive into a low-flying bald eagle. I topped an overpass just as it was trying to get enough airspeed to handle the large turtle it was holding in its talons!   Seriously.  One of these:

Florida Softshell Turtle

I’ve had a lot on my plate lately – mostly good stuff, just a lot of it. One of the hardest things about moving to part time at a workplace with mostly full time people is the “can you take a few minutes to write/create/send this?” mentality.  First, it assumes that the work you’ve asked me to do is easy (if it were, you’d have tackled it already).  Second, it assumes that I’m at your beck and call (um, no, I am the master of my own queue).   Third, if you’re writing to ask that, you’ve likely not included any details about what you want me to do, which means I have to spend more than “a few minutes” getting all that.   (stop it. please. for the love of all that is good and holy).

Bucket – Bouquet – whatevs…

This morning, while the hygienist was making sure my teeth would pass inspection by the dentist, I got a text from one of my church members
Now, these roses are from the yard of a family whose business was growing roses and other flowers  (well, it still is, just not this generation).  They’d been tended with love all winter and our early Florida spring.

Of course, the answer was yes!  Not that I have any real skills at arranging flowers, but I can fill a vase ok.
She stopped by to let me know they were in the kitchen when I was ready to have at them… What she didn’t say was they they’d dropped off a whole bucket!!


Yes- that is a mop bucket of three different types of roses, with 10-15″ stems. Loaded with thorns, I might add.

I brought them back to my study, where I realized the closest thing I have to a vase was the pitcher I use to pour juice for communion and water for foot-washing and baptisms.  Turns out it’ll hold a fair number of roses, too.

It smelled amazing in my study this afternoon. And after handling the stems and leaves and loose petals, my hands retained a bit of that lovely fragrance. Like the rose water I had poured from the pitcher on Maundy Thursday.

Buckets, bouquets, whatevs. Today, love looks and smells like pink roses.

All Will Be Well

In which I “get real” (aka whine) about some of the challenges a pastor faces on the way to worship.  

It was one of those mornings. The sort where you’re cruising along, feeling pretty good about the way things look to be going, right up until you arrive at the church, where…

You overhear yet another conversation that makes you wish adults could be forced to watch Sesame Street lessons on playing nicely with others.

You run into someone you think will greet you warmly and you get “oh, hi.”

You head over to the sanctuary to find the furniture you removed from the entry area (so that people can enter and leave without feeling like they’ve gone through a funnel) has reappeared, requiring a conversation about space and welcoming and trying this just for a couple of weeks to see how it goes…

You come back to the office one more time to find an elder poring through the Book of Order (No one does this on a Sunday morning before worship just for s%!#s and giggles. Actually, I can’t think of a time anyone would be reading the Book of Order for giggles, not even while on the toilet) and thus must begin probing tenderly, covering your concern with curiosity…

The choir director comes over to let you know that a conversation about the bare chancel has turned into “let’s move those plants back up there” even though everyone who moves to the pulpit looks like they are searching for Dr. Livingston in the jungle…

You are putting on your robe and stole at the last minute and the back of the button in the middle of your chest decides it will cut right through the thread meant to hold it on. No time to repair, no time to undo all the buttons and swap out for the other robe…

So you warm up with the choir, hoping the colorful stole distracts from the missing button because really, it doesn’t matter.And when you head over to pick up your mic, you see that the visitors (!!) coming in have no trouble getting their wheelchair through the vestibule and are being warmly welcomed by the deacons.

And when you go up to the chancel, the dreaded jungle is still stashed away in the back of the sanctuary, and everyone nods in agreement when you speak about the emptiness of the chancel and missing the Christmas greenery. And then, as you pass the peace, the warm smile you expected early is combined with a hearty handshake and laugh.

All is well.
And all would have been well with furniture and foliage where I didn’t want it.
Or if 20 people noticed the button.
Or fussed about the typos I missed in the bulletin.
Because I am loved.
I am claimed.
I am called.
I am gifted for the work I came to do this morning.

Because the sermon and the renewal of baptismal vows and sharing of ordination and installation promises that I had prepared, mixed with the music we had chosen for the day.. all to help our congregation hear and believe those truths, also renewed and reminded me that walking in the way of Christ is messy, that serving is not about being served, that sweating the small stuff just makes me sweaty.

Maybe I should add to the list above that I am a goober.
And a bit of a cliche.
And that when I remember rule number 6, it’s easier to trust that all will be well.

Laughing as I sneak this in under the wire

Well, not quite… it’s December 1 by about 15 minutes here in the Eastern time zone, and I’ve not posted my November 30 NaBloPoMo post. Thus, I shall pretend I am in God’s time zone (Central, of course) to write up a quick little something. 

Last night I laughed.

This is not an odd occurrence.  I laugh a lot.

I know I contribute some nervous laughter into the world, and bored laughter.  And the kind of laughter used to diffuse a really tense conversation (non-anxious laughter?). I am pretty sure, though, that most of my laughter comes from an honest place.

There was a point in my life a few years ago when I didn’t laugh much. It was a really difficult stretch for me as a mom, wife and seminary student. So much of what was happening around me was chaotic and scary and farther outside my control than I knew things could go.

And then one day, I laughed. I laughed until I cried. And then I laughed some more.

Not because things were better, but because I had been in the presence of someone whose joy became my joy. And my heart remembered how to find the updraft of hope and open its wings, gliding by faith on the breeze.  It was a small thing, a brief moment, but friends noticed.

It was good to hear your laugh again. I’ve missed it.

A couple of weeks ago, I met a new friend.  No really, we met and were instantly friends. And as I prepared to leave, he said to me, Stay in touch. I need your laugh. 

Last night, my school chums and I finally were all on the phone together again. For hours. This is what happens when you go too long between conference calls with people you love.

We laughed.
We shared some hard stuff.
We laughed some more.

Because sometimes you need to hear the laughter of people you love.
And sometimes you need to laugh with the people who know why you cry.