Advent, Books, Christmas, My New Reality, reverb10

Cutting myself some slack — #reverb10, Reading, and Christmas, too.

Working on all these #reverb10 posts I have come to the conclusion that all my answers boil down to three things.

1) I Haz a Sad (or Three)

2) My kids, my friends and my church family have been awesomely supportive, and I love them.

3) Despite all the sadness, my faith feels deep and God's presence palpable.

So unless something really different comes up in the questions, I think I may be done with these prompts. 

I also want to make note that my attempts at reading actual books have been mostly in FAIL mode for the past three months, so I am wiping the slate nearly clean, keeping the poetry Mary Beth sent to me (thanks!) and starting with one new book, which I actually began reading this morning. See the sidebar for the title. I don't seem to want to read *anything* on my Kindle right now, including "The Rainbow," with which I am ending my struggle. It's as read as it will ever be. There are lots of titles on my Kindle, so I'll take another look at it after Christmas.

Lastly, LP and I made a community decision to leave the ornaments in the boxes, except for putting the folk art angel on top of the tree, which already has lights and a few candy canes. I may pick up another box of the latter to add later in the week. We've let it go so long that full decorating would knock off a lot of needles, and honestly, it feels too hard to face the emotional freight of looking at loved ornaments this year. We're grieving. They'll keep for 2011. 

Tree 001

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Catching up — #reverb10 days 17, 18, 19

December 17 – Lesson Learned.

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

(Author: Tara Weaver)

I learned that in a time of turmoil I not only have external sources of support (friends, church, etc.), but I also have personal resources. Experience, a measure of wisdom and a deep faith have carried me through a difficult year.

In the past, I'm afraid I've sometimes put less emphasis on my faith and more on my human relationships. I defended this by saying I was open-minded, which is all very well, but it's not good when it dilutes the essentials of a person's faith. This year I've learned to start from that core of faith and move outward instead of focusing on the outer life and making room for faith in it. I am living a much less worried life! I hope to continue this in the New Year.

December 18 – Try.

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

(Author: Kaileen Elise)

In 2010, a friend suggested I apply to a workshop for writing pastors, but I did not because I had no idea where I would be working when it took place this fall. It was a great idea but the wrong timing. I would love to apply if they hold it again in 2011. I will say, I didn't look at the application with a strong sense of what kind of writing I wanted to do; I was still toying with poetry, but that well seems to have run dry now. I've done a lot of creative writing for worship, from monologues to multi-voice poems and liturgical dramas. I've also written some children's stories that I would love to refine and perhaps publish, books you could read at home but also use with children in worship. Maybe 2011 will be the year I get a clearer sense of a writing goal beyond the sermons I write each week.

December 19 – Healing.

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

(Author: Leonie Allan)

I'm not sure I'm healed this year at all. I feel cared for, and I mean this both medically and emotionally, but there are a lot of open items on the list in both areas that require more care and attention. 

LP and I are both struggling with Christmas right now, for instance. As the Mama, the one who is supposed to make Christmas happen for others, I'm kind of in trouble, because I'm not on my Christmas game. I got the tree, and I sent the cards, but I am just not all that interested in presents. I suggested to the kids that we fill each other's stockings, and I'm wondering why? I think I had the idea that we could all do small items for one another, but now it feels a bit overwhelming.

And not that interesting.

This could be grief. We've had a lot of loss in our lives, and one major near miss in Snowman's accident that has left us all in a shaky place. I still can't look at him or think about him without wondering how he managed to survive. It's that close. 

So. I remain vulnerable, open, permeable. And that's all good, in balance, but I think there's a protective coating for heart and soul that has been rent and needs repair, and I'm not  quite there yet.

The usual things that feel healing for me, the renewing pursuits, have not held their usual appeal. It may be that the tick-tick-tick of time is what I (we?) need. Or I may come across what heals and find it's something new and unexpected.

Drummer boy I will say this, and it relates to the first entry above. I'm finding Advent and the Christmas preparations at church deeply meaningful. Perhaps because I'm so raw, it feels more real? Each small action feels huge, from handing a gift card to a person in need to figuring out where to move the nativity figures each week in their journey toward the manger. I'm just glad it helps to be there, to be at worship, to be in prayer with the gathered community.

For now I'm a wounded person managing surprisingly well because the arnica of faith, carefully sheltered by the bandage of other people's love, seems to be balm enough to encourage very slow healing.

 

Friendship, reverb10

Friendship — #reverb10 day 16

Paralytic December 16 – Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

(Author: Martha Mihalick)

This year I've really learned who my friends are and how much they mean to me and, surprisingly, how much I mean to them. I grew up with some pretty skewed views of myself, including that I had the responsibility to make happy people who were constitutionally unlikely ever to be that way, and that my ability or inability to accomplish that impossible task provided the only measure of my worth. I've known for a long time, intellectually, that this was a ridiculous viewpoint. But somehow I could not shift the lingering feeling there was a truth here about me, and it hampered me from feeling happy and loved.

(It's also possible I've drawn people into my life who played into this dynamic. Ahem.)

But this year, when things have been complicated and challenging, I've been able to finally feel it, and that's been thanks to the determination of friends who have been saying, literally for years, that they love me. What I accepted in my mind finally blossomed in my heart. I finally feel it because in the face of sadness and disappointment and loss, I never felt alone.

I feel it because it wasn't enough for them to be sweet to me. They got up in my face, like the friends of the paralyzed man who took apart a roof to bring him to Jesus. They took apart a roof and lowered their friend into the middle of a dinner party to get him to Jesus.

My friends have been just as vigorous in their expressions of love, and I believe it. I feel it. 

So was it gradual, or was it a sudden burst? Yes.

 

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5 minutes — #reverb10 day 15

December 15 – 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

(Author: Patti Digh)

Humira Today I injected myself with Humira for the first time. You hold this epi-pen type of thing against yourself for 15 seconds, and those 15 seconds really sting like … stinging. The caring and excellent nurse-educator promised that would be over when the needle retracted into the pen thingamabob. I believed her. We counted aloud, together.

At 8…9…10 it felt pretty awful, but by 13 I knew I could get there. 

And I did.

And she spoke the truth.

So that's what I want to remember about 2010, a year with as much caring as sting. There was more of both then a person would choose, but when you get to 13, you know it's almost over. Then you put on the band-aid and move on with life. 

Love, reverb10

Appreciate — #reverb10 day 14

002 December 14 – Appreciate

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

(Author: Victoria Klein)

What I came to appreciate most this year is mutual love. You can have it with friends or your children or a dog or a congregation or even, if a bird or other creature is very fortunate, with one special person (just so you'll know I haven't give up on that idea completely).

When love flows freely back and forth, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

I express gratitude for mutual love by affirming it in words (both aloud and in writing) and by thanking God for it and by doing my part to keep it flowing. I believe that last [art requires equal parts of activity and attention and awareness and awe. 

In the end, though this was a hard, hard year, I've never been so aware of being loved in my whole life. And I truly appreciate it.

 

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Action — #reverb10 day 13

December 13 – Action

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

(Author: Scott Belsky)

I believe we can grow the church in North Yarmouth, despite trends in the general culture that say mainline churches are shrinking. I firmly believe that the best way to grow a church is to be engaged in something so delightful and lovely to the people *in* the church that they cannot resist telling other people about it. What that is depends entirely on the context of the church and the temperament and gifts of the congregation and the way those things can work together on behalf of the gospel of Love. 

For the past four years, I've been going from place to place, church to church, assessing and imagining and suggesting, but never staying to see anything through. Now I'm staying put, and I'm excited to see what comes to me in the coming months. I trust God's inspiration, based on the needs of the community and the gifts of the congregation, will lead not just to ideas but to action.  

But first I have to get through Christmas…

 

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Party — #reverb10 day 9

December 9 – Party

Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

(Author: Shauna Reid)

This feels like a younger bird's game. I don't go to a lot of parties. Most of my social life has been with family in recent years. And the kind of party that includes anything resembling shenanigans is way, way in the past for me. But I can write about two occasions that were special this year, one before the hard parts of the year, and one after they were well underway. 

First, although it happened later, I had a wild Mexican lunch with four other clergywomen. We drank Margaritas at lunchtime. Okay, I did. I don't remember much about what other people did. This happened just after Sam died, and I was hurting, and not really sure I was ready to be out anywhere. Everything in me felt too tender to touch. But the company of compassionate friends (some new, some old) carried me past the first wave of grief and gave me a glimpse of a future when things will be less painful. I'm grateful for that, even if tequila has been known to give me a headache.

(I recommend lots of water, later.)

Now let's turn the clock back to spring, to a quieter, less complicated time, before my dog was sick, before my job search, before I knew the form of my life would change so completely.

One of the reasons the RevGals' Big Event cruise will be on Carnival instead of Norwegian Sky next year is that we didn't find the food impressive this year unless we went to the venues that had a cover charge. But on that last night, I was part of a group that ate in one of the select restaurants. We dressed up–well, I did. I don't remember much about what other people were wearing. I just know the Peach Bellini was exceptional, and after that we were all sharing everything that came to the table, and the food was *fabulous.* The company was pretty sweet, too. We had two tables close together for eight of us, and there was a lot of talking back and forth. Not exactly shenanigans, but it was a beautiful meal, and we had a gorgeous view, all after a day spent in the warm air and sunshine of the Bahamas. 

Later our group gathered for the last time, formally, and we heard inspiriting words from our presenter, and then one of my dearest friends led us to Communion, which is really the ultimate party in a lot of ways. The room felt full of love and joy. Our company crossed boundaries of geography and denomination and generation. And as we passed the peace with hugs, the sense of galship was powerful and tender among us.

(This picture is from the night before, but it recalls the happy shenanigans for me.)

It's all a blur