Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How You Can Care For Me, Part 2

Remember how, way back when I went really public with all this infertility and adoption stuff I wrote a post about what I needed and how folks could best support me? Remember how I said that if I came up with anything else or if anything changed I'd share it? Well, it's time for some sharing. No, nothing has changed drastically in terms of "what's happening" but I think my attitude about it slowly has. I recognize that my needs are different and so I want to share a more current reflection of where I am.

Recently I saw an article about what you should or shouldn’t say to a person who is trying to get pregnant. It didn’t even specifically mention “infertility” but it was pretty clear that those with more extended “trying” periods were considered the experts in this field. I had a lot of issue with this article. For one thing, I’m not a fan of sweeping generalizations. In the case of this particular article (and several others I have seen) there are several key points that I disagree with strongly. I’m going to own all of this as my own thoughts/feelings and I make no generalizations about how this may or may not apply to others. So rather than critiquing the opinions of others, I’d rather just offer my perspective on how you can best care for and relate to me.

Be real with me. Life is hard. Not having kids is hard, but so is having kids. Not being pregnant is hard, but so is being pregnant. Being stuck in the house all day is hard, but so is going to work every day. While I appreciate being on the receiving end of care, and I crave it more than most people probably know, I also can’t live there. That’s just not who I am or how I’m wired, and I assume that if you know me well enough to care about how you relate to me, you know this about me already. If you need to complain about home or work or kids or anything, go for it. If I can’t deal with it at that point, I’ll be real with you, too, and tell you.

 Don’t exclude me. Like I said before, life is hard. It’s full of sad, difficult things. I probably see more than my share in my line of work. I soak up joy and happiness and celebration wherever I can. Children are living, breathing miracles of joy to me. If you’ve got something to celebrate, let me celebrate with you. I don’t have to be all up in your business, but you don’t have to walk on egg shells around me. I’m not saying you should go out of your way to include me in things you wouldn’t otherwise, but don’t feel that because it’s happy or baby/child related that it’s something to be avoided around me. This whole journey has been and continues to be an incredibly lonely one for me. Please don’t build any more walls to remind me of how different I am.

Give me permission to grieve. I will admit that there have been times when I prayed “God, if you’re not going to give me a baby, can I at least have a miscarriage?” Not because I think the loss of a child is something to be desired, but because that is a much more tangible loss that is more easily understood. There is a lot more sympathy and support for that kind of loss. I absolutely believe that all these things that exist should and they are very valuable. Pregnancy loss is a terrible thing. But it is something that can be grieved publicly. Trying and trying and there just being … nothing… is not something you can publicly grieve. How can you miss something you never had? It’s easier than you think. I often don’t feel that I have permission to grieve publicly, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving. This is often where I feel the loneliest.

Let me be real with you. Ask what’s been going on in my life and in my head and in my heart and really listen to what I have to say. If you know me well enough to recognize when I’m feeding you a load of crap then be willing to call me on it and give me permission to share with you. Don’t try to force it out of me, but give me some safe space to talk about whatever it might be. No guilt or shame, no “should” or “ought”, no mocking or ridicule. It may take a while before I act on it, but simply the knowledge that the space is there and that it is occupied by someone who loves and cares about me is a tremendous gift.

Tell me your story. No, I may not relate to all of it. Heck, I may not relate to most of it. But if there is one thing I have learned through my life and my work it’s that, in pretty much every case, there is SOME point of connection between two souls. Remind me of some of these. Help me remember that there is a community who loves and supports me and there are people who understand. And don’t be afraid of happy endings. Those have always been my favorites!
Thank you for caring. Please don't stop. It makes a difference.

Monday, November 18, 2013

100 Wishes Quilt - It's Starting!

So I put out a call quite a while ago asking people to contribute fabric to the 100 wishes quilt. I have gotten several contributions, but not 100. Not even close. Still, the stack of fabric was growing and I just knew that this was a huge undertaking. Plus, all this waiting and helplessness has reached a point of "incredibly difficult" and I felt like I needed to be able to DO something. So I decided to call up my friend, neighbor, and partner in mischief, Mollie, and see if we could go ahead and get started.

Seeing as how I've never sewn much of anything before I figured that what would happen is that I would end up doing lots of cutting and she would do the actual sewing. Oh, how wrong I was! We took a little time to play with my very basic machine and figured out what we needed and got it all set up. She let me practice on a couple of scraps and then before I knew it she was handing me the center square and the first strip and we were off! Amazingly, it wasn't that hard. In fact, I did all the sewing today. Mollie did all the cutting and ironing (which was probably best for everyone!) and in only a couple of hours we had put together basically all the fabric I had! It ended up being about 20 pieces. It definitely went more quickly with two people, and it was also more fun.

I'm super-excited about what I have so far, but I'm also super-excited about what comes next! And that is MORE FABRIC! We are far from 100 so pretty please send something! If I need to come pick it up (and you're in driving distance) I will be happy to! Pick something special/meaningful to you. I've still got some pieces of t-shirts that are going to be worked in and probably some other things, too. It will probably be a little while before I sit down and add some more to it. It really worked very well having a bunch to do at once so I think that's what we'll try to do again. Obviously I don't have a target date, but if you're going to be making a trip to the post office for Christmas stuff, it might be a great time to pop a little bundle of fabric in the mail (just saying!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Becoming a Baptist

It's no secret that I've had a long and conflicted relationship with the United Methodist church over the past several years, particularly in relationship to the process of ordination and getting the blessing of that community on my calling and my ministry. Several months ago a series of events began unfolding that I will not share in detail here because I know I can't do it without hurt, anger, and condemnation. And the details that are significant leave no room for anonymity, but all of that won't benefit anyone, so I'm going to simply take it as another one of those 2x4 moments from God where there is no more doubt in my mind that something has to change.

Something has indeed changed in my life since then. Jeff and I were finally able to find a church home. He was never especially comfortable in methodist churches, in part because of the connected nature and the fact that I know (or at least have met or know of) a whole lot of people. As I began to feel as though I was no longer chained to the UMC (and make no mistake about it, I did feel like I was a prisoner of this process for a long time!) we were both freed to find a place where we both felt at home, where we fit, where we felt we could be an active part of the community. Remember way back when I talked about church shopping? Yeah, that's still the list we were pretty much using.

I don't know how, but something planted the seed in my mind that perhaps it would be looking into what was different about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and see if there was a CBF church near us. For the most part I liked what I found about CBF in general and I found a church in Pelham that looked very promising! The thing that really caught my attention was that I knew their interim pastor - she is the wife of a very good friend and colleague of mine. So I cornered said colleague and basically had him give me the scoop on this church. It was incredibly helpful and Jeff and I went visiting.

Immediately we were both very comfortable. As luck would have it, just as we started visiting the church was in the process of calling a new pastor, and he started not long after we did. We both also really like him and have really felt like this is the place for us. Jeff has joined the choir and I'm slowly starting to get to know people. I love having a community that we can call our own.

Yesterday I had a meeting with the pastor to begin having some conversation about who I am, what I do, where I feel I have been called, and how I can and should go about getting the blessing of this community on that. It was honestly the most supportive and affirming conversation I have had in over ten years, especially in respect to ministry! I really don't know exactly where things are going to go from here, but I know that I have some great people in my corner who will be journeying with me and I am SO incredibly thankful for the fact that we really have been able to find our way home to this community!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Academy 34 Session 6

I realize I never did an actual recap of session 5. I may try to go back and do that later, but for now I want to focus on session 6.

This time was really full for me. It started early when I decided to go for a walk around the lake before I officially checked in and ran into so many old friends. I got to walk and talk with several of them and we got to catch up on one another's lives in ways we often don't have the time for once everything gets started. I once again loved our faculty members and learned a lot. I was surprised by how some things struck a personal chord for me. At first I found myself fighting against and trying to avoid some of this, but after a while I was able to relax and simply let it happen and let my mind and my soul work it out around and within me.

One unexpected blessing was the ways in which I was cared for by people outside of my covenant group. I love my group and they are wonderful and we all do a great job of taking care of one another. But this whole community at Academy is amazing and there were a few people who, while I know them and have talked with them some, haven't been especially close with or known particularly well. Despite that, there were some moments where they showed me such love and compassion that I will never, ever forget it. They were angels when I needed them most!

I got some really good work done on my second year covenant while I was there. I've had the ideas and all kinds of good intentions but hadn't sat down and really accomplished anything. Now that I have starting to achieve something tangible, I'm even more excited and inspired. Stay tuned for more details on this!

I'm already grieving the loss of this community. I'm going to miss everyone terribly. I'm going to miss the rhythm of it all. The good news is that there is a 5 day coming up in August of 2014. The theme is Celtic Spirituality and one of my favorite faculty members, Dr. Loyd Allen, will be presenting. I've already got it on my calendar and I'm going to get officially registered probably in the next week!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The End of a Season

As I've been doing some writing and reading and reflecting lately, it occurs to me that I really have reached the end of what I dubbed my "Season of Sabbath". Really and truly it probably ended several months ago. It was definitely over in August when I made a few scheduling errors and ended up consistently working 80+ hour weeks. But like most seasons in nature, it's end was gradual and graceful and not at all harsh or shocking. I don't really know what to call this new season in which I find myself, but it feels a little like winter.

I do enjoy winter (at least winter in Alabama) because it's generally quite pleasant. It's cool enough for sweaters and hot cider and occasionally we get a little bit of snow. It's busy, but full of life and joy and hope. Yes there is darkness and sometimes the cold can get a little overwhelming, but for the most part, even in its quiet stillness, it's full of promise and primes us for the hope of things to come in the spring.

So that's where I find myself now - relishing the good things, savoring the joy and life that surrounds me, appreciating the busy-ness, and hoping for the beauty that I know is yet to come!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All Saints Sunday

For the past seven years, this has been a difficult day for me. For it was on this day seven years ago that my mother died. The specific date was November 5th, which will be on Tuesday this year. But for me, the day I remember is All Saints Sunday. My mom died right about 11am. Everyone was gathered around her bed and we had some sweet special moments there in that space and that moment. But when that moment was over, I had to get out of the house. I couldn't stand to be there when the people from the funeral home came to take her away. I knew I wasn't ready to watch that happen.  So I got dressed. I put on my jeans and my favorite pink sweater and my black ballet flats and I drove to church. My reasoning was that I wanted to tell some people in person that mom had died rather than calling them on the phone or having them hear it from someone else. By the time I got there it was about 11:30 so I knew the service was well underway. We never went to the late service, so I decided the best and easiest thing to do would be to slip into the balcony. I did, and just as I did, the portion of the service began when they were reading the names of all the saints of the church who had died in the last year. As each name was read a bell was rung and a candle was lit. I didn't hear any of those names. I just cried for my mom, who was now with the saints in glory. I couldn't help but think of the line "every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings" and thinking that perhaps, as these bells and all the others all over the world were ringing that maybe my mother was getting her wings. I knew that she was standing and walking without help, that she wasn't hurting or struggling to breathe. I knew that she was loving on her parents and brother and my twin sister and the baby she miscarried. I had all these beautiful comforting images, but still I cried.

 I didn't know what to expect as we prepared for church. I knew that, while still fairly liturgical, this is still a baptist church and I don't know how big a day All Saints Sunday is to them. I had also just returned home from another session of Academy, so all that is still being processed, so I knew that something was going to happen today but I didn't know what it was. All Saints wasn't the focal point of the service, but it was mentioned and there was a very lovely moment in which everyone was invited to share the names of the saints in their own lives. Since Jeff was sitting with the choir I was by myself but it was a very nice little moment to remember momma, daddy, and my twin as well as others. I don't know that I would call it a "healing" moment, but somehow it felt right.

It will be a few more years before November 5th falls on a Sunday again. I'm wondering if that will have a different impact on me. I'm not too worried. I know that there is grace to be found and shared in all these moments and I'm very blessed to be surrounded by what is indeed a great cloud of witnesses!