Saturday, June 17, 2017

Who Paves Your Path

Nope, this is not a reflection on the sad state that is our gravel road.

Ahem, I'm looking at you, Knox County.

No, today I'm staring at my Facebook Events invitations and not wanting to respond "yes" to one in particular.

It's our pastor's last day tomorrow, and there's a "celebration" for him.

I'm not in a super celebratory mood about this. I have been a card carrying Methodist all of my life. Pastors come and pastors go, but this move is one of the hardest.

There are few people who have truly challenged and touched my life in a spiritual manner.
Pastor Dave, my childhood minister, loved me and my family like, well, family.
Roger Ross led me back to a faith I had forgotten how to practice in a time when I needed it the most, grounding our early marriage in a truth and a love that can be bent but not broken.
Pastor Mark welcomed us to a community when we felt like we had made a HUGE mistake moving to, allowing us to lead and grow in ways that we thought were not possible in a tiny church.

And then came Brad.

We were nervous that first Sunday. We were certain the growth in our church was surely going to be stunted because of YET ANOTHER changing of the pastoral guard.

Little did I know, God had a huge plan for us when we were given Brad and Debbie as our new leaders.

I feel like an Israelite! Will I ever learn that God's plan is not necessarily the easiest and/or the most simple?

The energy that was included in that first service in which Brad preached was palpable. He spoke without NOTES. He used a booming voice. We were going to be rocked, and it wasn't because of a new set of musical selections.

This was the summer before Karma, Joe's mom, died. She was very, very sick, and while we know all of our time on this earth is limited, hers was short. Pastor Brad challenged Joe and me to co-lead Disciple Bible Study starting that fall. I remember saying yes because I knew I was equipped to teach, but where we were with Karma's illness and a growing uneasiness in our farming situation was causing my mind great angst. What I didn't realize, and I'm sure Brad couldn't predict either was that teaching this class was timed perfectly during an imperfect time in our life.

When Karma died, Pastor Brad and Debbie drove all the way to the visitation. He showed up.
When our twins were born early and we were tired and worn out and the babies were teeny tiny. he showed up at the NICU.
When Grandma Mary died, and before she did, he showed up.

This is the thing about Brad. He shows up. Even when it's hard to get there. Even when it's the worst timing for him or for you or for whatever, he shows up.

As I sit here typing this and wiping away tears, I am realizing Brad's timing at Elmwood United Methodist seemed strange at first. We loved Pastor Mark, so why would we need another minister?Looking back on these three years, I am realizing that they have been our family's hardest: Karma's death, our farming journey changed, our twins. Here's what's been constant: our faith. And I tell you honestly, it has been tested. It has been bent. We have wondered why in the world our world was being shaken to the magnitude where I couldn't get my bearings. But each Sunday and the days in between, Brad's teaching and guiding and example have allowed Joe and me to feel loved and welcomed and celebrated and challenged and understood when we didn't feel any of those.

I am not happy about this transition. I will admit that there are times when I wonder if I can do this pastoral transition AGAIN. However, as written in the the first line first book we studied as small group leaders, The Purpose Driven Life (thanks, Roger!), "This is not about me." Nothing is permanent. Super glue loses its strength. Sadness can morph into happiness. Leaders can follow. New opportunities are soon old. New shoes get scuffed.

I will get over the sting of "celebrating" Pastor Brad and Debbie's move, but the mark they have made on our family will not be easily removed.

Thank you, Pastor Brad and Debbie for stretching our faith and leading us to be rooted in the love that only can be felt by believing in something bigger than yourself.

We know that all things work together for the good of whose who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV 

^^^That version is for you, Debbie!!

Friday, June 16, 2017

From Outside of the Ring, Looking In

I'm at home this week. Joe and Anna and some of our Illinois Simmental friends are in Ohio for a Regional Classic. This is not as big as a Junior Nationals, but it's still states away and a larger pool of cattle from across the country.

Since Anna has been of 4H age, she has shown cattle. She does love it. Josie has now taken to showing as well. The girls and Joe have had a good time working cattle, learning life's lessons and making new friends. We have had our share of big shows, little shows, winning shows, losing shows, learning shows, raining, cold, hot, and sweltering shows.

However, no matter where in the country my family is, how hot or cold I am, I have come to the realization over and over and over at why I am NOT the show parent, and probably never will be.

I can't take it.

I know I didn't grow up doing this. 
I know that I just provide the blingy jeans and the snacks.
With our increasing number of children participating in showing, I feel like I should get a handle on the process, the reasoning, and god-help-us the politics and business of this activity.

However, the anxiety and angst and frustration I feel at the few shows I can logistically and emotionally handle to go to is just too much. 

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent and teachable human being, but friends, showing animals is not like sports. There are nail biting moments in baseball, but nothing compares to the utter angst that is being ushered out of the ring with the rest of the group still in. There are free throws that come up short. However, when you're at that line, you're not having to explain the process of how you learned to shoot that free throw. There's that last game that you'll ever play. And then there's selling your animal at the end of the season. Forever.
But it's sort of like a sport, right?
Not so fast, cattle showing! From what I gather, in showmanship, you have to explain a lot. You are on the spot, answering questions about the breed, your animal, your role, etc., etc. Answer those questions to a complete stranger, in the middle of an arena, in an eloquent manner...

...when you're in the sixth grade. 

My girls are more confident because of this. They are "look you in the eye and shake your hand" type of kids. That's huge.

This comes, however, at the cost of my husband's blood pressure and my nervous stomach. 

Maybe it's because I only can come to a few shows a year, and I just want to see the fruits of our girls' labors be recognized. Maybe I should start going to livestock judging practice to understand the process. Maybe I should just stick to sports. 

Either way, my stress level cannot take the ups and downs. 

You win again, agriculture! 
Livestock friends, congratulations!

Once again, the manner in which you can handle this has successfully shown (no pun intended) that I am NOT made of stronger stuff than you guys. I am neither advocating for an "everyone wins!" campaign, nor am I saying that we are the wronged winners, I'm just saying I can't handle it, and I don't know if I ever will.

Anybody willing to explain this to me in a manner that doesn't include the phrases "builds character" and "it's always been this way" will win a fresh baked batch of my chocolate chip cookies. 

With a side of Xanax for me to handle it.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Time Is Not Going to Slow Down, So I Better Try to Slow Down Myself

Do you ever have that frantic feeling during the day? Like you have been working and feeding and playing and laundering and carting and refereeing and then you stop dead in your tracks, feeling like you have forgotten to do something?

Maybe it's just me.

Well, our society lives at a breakneck pace, and while our family tries (so desperately) to find margin, my personality doesn't allow me to slow down. For example, it's 9:30 on the evening of my daughter's 8th birthday, and I'm just sitting down.

I'm not being a martyr. I'm just admitting I'm terrible at slowing down, resting, finding "white space."

So, when Amelia, our as of today 8 year old, asked to spend the afternoon with me, just me, I had to really try hard to be present. After sending Anna off with Joe for the Illinois Simmental Preview Show, shuffling Josie to a carpool for a birthday party and ditching the littles at my mom's, we were off.

I am trying to find space to enjoy my children one on one, but with the sheer volume of people and tasks and activities, it gets tricky. Add in my crazy "get-er-done" personality, and Joe and I rarely have time to go on a date, let alone have kid dates.

But today, as Amelia and I were enjoying our massage chairs at her first ever pedicure, I looked over at my third girl, my sweet girl, my spunky girl, and realized I had better quit worrying about the deck stain that needs to be put on because time is not slowing down. I had better just try to slow my pace to enjoy her sweet face.

This kid's timing is perfect. When she was born, we were feeling weary and haggard from a really hard, wet spring. Her birth was quick and her disposition as a newborn, toddler, preschooler and now elementary school kid has remained the same: steadfast, happy, easy. She takes her sweet time to do about everything, which is perfect because her birthday buddy, my late Grandma Mary, did the same. Amelia finds herself lost in the shuffle at times, but that doesn't mean that she's lost herself, She's just off singing her own song, puttering with her Legos, or helping a little sister play dollies.

She wanted a fairy garden this year for her birthday so that she could learn to grow something and enjoy it.

Who is this kid? I can't even keep petunias alive!

She was put on this earth for amazing things, and with her heart and spirit, I know she will do it. But for my life, for my selfish purpose, Amelia was put here to teach me to slow the heck down and enjoy my life that is unfolding in front of me. To take it in. To write about it. To sing along with a song on the radio. To enjoy a pedicure by giggling and savoring the Starbucks and THEN picking up the deck stain at Home Depot.

But only once the shopping, the sipping and the giggling had ended.

Amelia, you are so lovely. We adore you. We are proud of you, and we are so thankful for you. Thank you for teaching me to slow down.

Happy birthday, my dolly.