Thursday, May 31, 2007

Last Day of Kindergarten

My little boy had his last day of Kindergarten today. For several weeks now, with good reason, my emotions have been just right under the surface and even things like McDonald's commercials have been making me cry. Yesterday, I was driving my son to school and the sappy song that goes, "Oh, how the years go by. Oh, how the love brings tears to my eyes..."
And, of course, the tears came and I was furiously wiping them away before we arrived at the school.

I am going to miss his teacher, Senor B. so much and not just because he is a gorgeous 29 year old! You can tell that he really and truly loves his job. I am so glad that my son at this age got to be influenced by a man, other than my husband, who is nurturing, intelligent, strong and loving. Also, I cannot believe how good my son's Spanish is already. It's mind-blowing, really.

Sr. B. threw a party for the last hour of the school day with cookies and awards (everyone got one.) Then, he had to go and make me cry some more! He gave each student a sealed envelope that had "Do not open until High School graduation" written on it. One step at a time, Sr. B! I'm having a hard enough time with my baby finishing Kindergarten! Don't get me thinking about his graduation! I know, I know. . . blink of an eye, they grow up so fast, blah, blah, blah, graduationcakes!

But really, that was the sweetest thing I have ever seen a teacher do. I bawled, but I wasn't the only one, gratefully.

It's only gonna get worse, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8: 14-17)

This was the text I preached from this past Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday, the Apostle Paul's beautiful and assuring words that we are God's children. The Spirit "bears witness" that we have been adopted into the family of God, which is good enough in itself, yet we also are joint heirs with Christ. What an amazing inheritance we have! What a loving, merciful, and compassionate God we worship and serve!

I don't want anyone to read this post and come away thinking that I am against adoption. I am very much a proponent of adoption. My husband and I are praying about whether or not we are being called to adopt. I know many loving and gracious people who have adopted children. These folks are among my personal heroes. Some of them read my blog (Hi, Alex!) Some have adopted from within the United States, some from overseas, while some have adopted a child who was first their foster child. Some have adopted nieces and nephews and some have adopted their spouse's child from a prior relationship.

This last scenario was how my mother came to be adopted. I wish I could say that her adoptive family exhibited the "spirit of adoption" that I admire so much in my friends who have adopted, but that was not the case, sadly. No, she was never abused or abandoned or in want, except for want of acceptance from her adoptive father's side of the family.

My mother's biological father was newly married to my grandmother when he left to fight in WWII. He was a pilot. I'm told that he was quite the go-getter and extremely intelligent. This may be just family lore, but the story goes that he was the first person ever in the army to earn his pilot's wings who didn't have a college degree. Tragically, like so many young women at this time, my grandmother became a widow at the age of 23. My grandfather had been shot down over China on Christmas Eve 1943, less than one month after my mother was born.

Three years later, my grandmother met a young man fresh out of out the service and married him 3 months later. When it was decided that this man would adopt my mother, my grandmother made a mistake that, honestly, I have a hard time forgiving her for. She gradually lessened my mother's contact with her biological dad's family, until it was non-existent. The reason given: "We didn't want to confuse her because she had a new father and a new family." In fact, my grandmother would become angry whenever my mother would ask questions about her father, so she stopped asking.

My mother describes her adoptive father as, "distant, but I knew he loved me. Although he never told me so." The grandparents were very wealthy, very proper, very tall and willowy and very concerned about what other people thought of them. My mom, who has struggled with her weight since childhood and who by nature is quite gregarious and dramatic, often felt like an embarrassment to them.

After my aunt was born, my mom had a nagging feeling that her sister was loved more than she by the grandparents. Over the years, whenever this feeling would pop up, she would dismiss it as just her insecurity talking. She certainly never voiced this feeling to anyone. By and large, my mom had a happy childhood and was close to her mother's side of the family and her sister.

My mother graduated high school and enrolled in a Junior College about 40 minutes from home. (This was where she met my dad, incidentally.) Less than a month into her Freshman year, she got the horrible news that her dad had been killed in a car accident. My poor grandmother was yet again a widow and my mom lost her father, again.

My mom's contact with this side of the family gradually lessened over the years, mainly because my dad was always moving us here, there and everywhere. I remember we used to go visit this set of grandparents every year a few days before Christmas to have "Christmas" with them. Oh, how I hated going. Not because I hated them, but because of how much my mother would freak out beforehand. We had to dress up and be lectured about how we needed to be on our best behavior:"Don't talk loud. Don't get your clothes dirty. Smile and be pleasant. Don't be opinionated- Iris, I'm talking to you!" Jeez, I felt like I was entering a Jr. Miss pageant rather than visiting my great-grandparents.

Time passed and we all got older. This great-grandfather died in 1989 and although she had Alzheimer's, my great-grandmother hung in there until 1996. As I mentioned, they were quite wealthy and they had a considerable estate. My great-grandfather had set up an enormous trust to bestow on all the grandchildren. Well, almost all the grandchildren. My mother was not listed in the will with the other grandchildren. She was included in the will, however, with my grandmother, her mother. The wording in the will was: "($$ amount) goes to our son, C.'s widow, E. and her daughter, J."

I can't even imagine what that must have felt like to my mom. She cried more than I have ever seen her cry before in my life. And these were not merely self-pitying tears, they were tears that come from having your heart broken in a thousand pieces. Although to have been included in the trust would have helped our family immensely, my mother wasn't crying over the money. This will had confirmed what she had felt intuitively since she was a little girl, that in the eyes of these people she wasn't family; she was someone else's kid that their son was forced to raise.

In the weeks and months afterwards, my mother grieved over this sense of loss, not only of this family, but of the one she had never known. I was 24 years old at the time and was living with my parents for year while I completed a year of AmeriCorps service. So, I was the one who listened and cried with my mother again and again and again. I internalized much of this hurt that my mother was experiencing and, I'm afraid, that bitterness and anger took root so deeply that it became a part of me. I'm just now beginning to see that.

Four years ago, the family that I had created with my husband, son, and daughter (in-utero) moved to this city in the Bible Belt. I haven't mentioned yet that this is the city where my mother was born and was raised in and around. A couple of months after we moved here, I announced to my mother that I was going to call her biological uncle, my great-uncle, who lives here in town. My mother had never met him and I wasn't even sure if he knew that I even existed. At first, Mom recited the "family script" of ,"No, don't bother him. Why do you want to shake things up?" I told her that shaking things up was my role in the family and that I, too, felt cheated that there was entire branch of my family tree with which I had never had any contact. "Besides," I said, "I'm looking at his name in the phone book right now and it will drive me literally insane if I don't at least try to make contact." My Mom said, "Okay, maybe if you break the ice, I'll be brave enough to meet him when I come to visit you after the baby's born." She was cautiously excited, I could tell.

On Labor Day weekend, while my older sister was visiting, I called him up. I said, "Uncle M., my name is Iris and I'm your great-niece." He was, understandably confused, until I told him that I was J.'s daughter. Silence, and then, "Oh, I was hoping that one day I would get to meet J." My sister and I went to his house the next day. He was visibly excited to meet us and was more than willing to talk about our grandfather whom we never knew. We promised to bring our mother by when my parents came to visit after my daughter was born the next month.

I can't even begin to articulate how it felt to introduce my mother to her uncle. We stayed for hours as Uncle M. told stories and we asked questions about this part of our family. Uncle M. and my grandfather were extremely close, so we couldn't have found a better person to describe to us what my grandfather was like. Well, my grandmother could have, but she wasn't willing.

I had no desire to make contact with the other family.

Why is all of this coming to the surface right now? Yesterday was Memorial Day and my family decided to go visit the graves of my biological grandfather and my great-grandparents (my grandmother's parents whom I absolutely adored.) We visited my great-grandparents' graves first. My kids asked lots of questions and we took pictures. Their graves are right next to a pretty little pond with lots of ducks, geese, and turtles, so my husband suggested that we take a walk. We were halfway around the pond when I realized that we were right by the graves of my Mom's adoptive father and his parents. Since my husband and my kids had never been to their graves, I decided to show them. My husband suggested that he take our picture and I couldn't believe the feelings that welled up inside me. "No," I said, "We've already seen my great-grandparents' graves and they are on the other side of the pond. These people were not my family!"

Within 15 seconds, a couple came up to the grave and the woman put fresh flowers on the great-grandparents' graves. I wanted to just walk away, but instead I asked if they were relatives of this family. The woman said, "Yes, they were my grandparents." I identified myself as J.'s daughter,(you'll notice not as their great-granddaughter or her cousin.) She and her husband seemed happy to see me. They knew that I lived in town and that I was a pastor. I suppose my aunt had told them. We chatted politely for a few minutes and then went on our way.

I'm not sure what to make of that. I had just made a speech that demonstrates how bitter and angry I am about this piece of my family history and at that moment members of that family show up. I know that God wants me to give up the anger and outright hostility I feel. I believe that I am more bitter than my mother is. Perhaps I felt that I had to take it on for her because I felt that somebody needed to be loyal to her. I don't know.

I do know that God, always the ultimate opportunist, has made the most of our time here in this city!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Check It Out

I read about this online labyrinth over at Towanda's place last week and I thought, "yeah, yeah, maybe I'll get around to checking that out....later." Friends, it is well worth your time.

Take some time for yourself. You've been giving and giving; it's time to receive some refreshment and nurture. It takes about 40 minutes.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Service

We had a fantastic service this morning! Of course, it was Pentecost service, but it was also Confirmation Sunday, complete with a baptism of one of the confirmands. The confirmands were the liturgists and read their statements of faith to the congregation. Oh, and we also had communion. I am exhausted, but also very full and satisfied with how the Spirit blew through our congregation today.

I did, however, have a perplexing encounter with our music director. I heard the choir rehearsing the final hymn, "Spirit," and the organist was playing it as slow as a funeral dirge. I asked if it could please be played more quickly, as I was trying to create a joyful and celebratory mood for worship. The music director got annoyed, and in front of the choir, told me that I needed to arrange these kinds of changes beforehand. I repeated that I wanted it played faster and left. I wasn't asking for any major change like adding a hymn or asking for a soloist on a verse. Was I off base?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

9:34 pm

Have you ever had one of those days when you were getting on your own nerves?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Five: Hard Habit to Break

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.
Well, I used to chew on my hair. I know, that's a pretty lame habit! I'm non actually sure that I've gotten over it because for the past few years my hair has been too short to chew. I'm growing it out now, so we'll see in a few months.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for _________________!"
American Idol! After every season I say, "I done with that," only to begin watching again when the top 24 begin to compete. (I never watch the auditions because those shows are so mean-spirited.) My Mindy Doo didn't win and I'm disillusioned, so I'm vowing not to watch again. Ask me again next winter!

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.
I floss every single day! Like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, before she has sex with a stranger, "You shouldn't neglect your gums." (She should have said, "You shouldn't neglect your dignity," but oh, well.)

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.
Okay, when I and other normal people get their clothes out of their closets, we take the shirt (or whatever) off of the hanger and leave the hanger in the closet. My husband, on the other hand, takes the hanger out of the closet and then takes the shirt off the hanger. Now, I really don't care how he gets his clothes out of closet, except that he doesn't put the hangers back and there are fireplacin' hangers everywhere! Grrrrrrrrr..........

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of ___________________."
Yeah, that would be daily exercise.

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?Tap into whatever Cathy has that is making her the amazing walking woman! But, really, I have begun to use a pedometer and my goal is 10,000 steps a day. Not, that I've gotten near that goal yet!

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future postIf I ever begin to lose this perpetually pregnant look, you will hear about it!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here's a Question For You.

Again, thanks everyone for your words of comfort, support, and most importantly, your prayers for all involved.

Okay, new topic now.

My husband and I are having a disagreement. Is it ever okay to throw away a book if you don't want to subject anyone to the bad, bad theology contained within its pages? What if it was sent to you unsolicited?

Whatcha think?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Media

I'm hearing from my family scattered around the country and from some of you that this story has appeared in papers nationally. I haven't gone looking because I don't have the heart, but I'm guessing that what others around the country are reading is just a blurb about what happened. Thanks again for all of your wonderful support.

I've had to stop watching the television news here, at least for now, because I get sickened both by the awfulness of it all and by how our local stations are covering it. They show footage of overturned tricycles and get up close to the chain link fence, which gives the impression that the children were in some kind of hellish prison. It's as if they are trying to give the impression that anyone with half a brain would know that this was a horrible environment for children.

Damn sensationalized news coverage.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I nearly told a Session member to f***-off today after church. Instead, I channeled my inner valley girl and a very mature "Whatever!" flew out of my mouth.

I've learned that the church is not immune from those who attack when they see the slightest sign of weakness. Today I was the vulnerable one, as I shared with the congregation about all that's been going on. Needless to say, I shed a few tears as I asked the people of God to pray for all involved in this situation, including my family and another family in the church who used this childcare worker.

I've been one raw nerve since Thursday, and I did NOT want to listen to this elder as she cornered me right after service to berate me for not calling communion servers for next week. (NOT my job anyways!)


BTW: Thank you all so much for your kind support and prayers. I can't even begin to tell you how much it has meant to me. Of course, I don't have the words for a lot of things right now.

Friday, May 18, 2007


The little boy died.

According to the police report, this woman tied his hands and covered his mouth with masking tape because he wouldn't go down for naptime.

I'm completely numb.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


My child care worker was just arrested for critically injuring a 2 year old under her care. DHS made a surprise inspection at her place when the boy was found and then rushed to the hospital. Thank God they came.

This woman has watched my children off and on for 3 years. Her in-home day-care is in a rougher neighborhood (where my church is located) and she has always taken in children who no one else would. She has come over to our house for my kid's birthday parties. She just watched my daughter this past Friday while I chaperoned my son's field trip.

Oh God, have I been blind? Ignored some big, flashing warning signs?

My children both swear that no one has ever hurt them while they were there. I still can't stop crying.

ETA: The news just reported that there was a warrant for her arrest even before this incident. Also, the child they found today was found unconscious and without a heartbeat. So, we may be talking about murder of a child. God, what if my children had been there? I am devastated and scared that there are things that my children haven't told us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Deep Question for the Night....

How did My Pretty Pony Disney Princess
make it to the Idol finale over "my girl, Melinder?"
Huh, America?
I mean, really!?!

Monday, May 14, 2007

More to Consider

I found out this weekend from the "Presbytery grapevine" that the pastor of a terrific, mid-size congregation in this city in the Bible Belt is leaving next month. For a long time, I have been imagining myself as the pastor of this congregation, but never believed that this particular pastor would be leaving any time soon.

I've also heard through "the grapevine" that some key lay leaders of this church have been asking my Presbytery colleagues about my potential interest in this call. Man, this would be a great call: we wouldn't have to move, the church is three blocks from my son's school, I wouldn't have to take my son out of his Spanish immersion program, I could continue in my Spiritual Director training with my group and my Spiritual Director.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!! There's always more to consider.

Since this pastor is going to be leaving next month, it will be 6 months or more (probably more) before they will be ready to begin the search process. I am certainly not arrogant enough to believe that I have a lock on the position, but it hearing about this has exposed my true feelings that were hidden even to me that I really would like to stay here in this city.

I am still rather keen on this congregation far, far away with whom I've been interviewing. I am confident that my husband and I will know what is right, when the time is right. However, sometimes I think God says to us,"This would be good *and* that would be good. You'll be useful and blessed whatever." All I know right now is that I am called to pastor a congregation and that I am languishing in my current position. I know that sounds awfully melodramatic-languishing- but that is exactly how it feels. Would I be able to wait potentially a year in order to be considered for this call, which I may or may not get?

Thanks for reading; if you're still reading, this stream of consciousness post. I feel like my brain has tilted inside of my head. Pray for me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Seven Things

SingingOwl has tagged me for this here meme.

So, here are "Seven Things You Really Didn't Want To Know About Me and Because Of That You Never Thought To Ask"

1. I moved over 20 times before I was 10 years old. My Dad was neither a pastor nor in the military, just a restless soul.

2. I am addicted to TV show, Heroes. Before this show came on, I never felt the need to read the online forums like Television Without Pity. Now, I read the online "graphic novel" (comic book to me) and read the forums about theories about how the season will end. Will Peter explode and destroy New York? Will Sylar kill Nathan and become President? Will the indestructible cheerleader ever have a bad hair day? Yeah, I'm a freak!

3. No one over the age of 18 months is allowed to touch me with their feet. This includes my husband and children who all have rather nasty feet. After 18 months, a child's feet have been walked on long enough to have lost their cute, soft, "babiness" and have turned into sweaty, smelly, "Bam-Bam" feet. Yuck.

4. Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and began using a C-Pap machine at night, I would wake up in the middle of almost every night sitting up in bed with my legs crossed, my pillow in my lap and my head resting on my pillow. This was from the time I was child and everyone just thought I was strange or doing it on purpose. The reality was that I would stop breathing when I was lying down and I sat up in order to breathe.

5. Right after my daughter was delivered via emergency c-section, my doctor showed my husband my uterine fibroids before he sewed me up. It's strange to know that my husband has literally seen inside me.

6. Dick Cheney spoke at my high school graduation. You see, I graduated from Dick and Lynn's alma mater. It was 1990 and he had just become Secretary of Defense, so Secret Service was everywhere, which completely sucked! I don't remember a word that Cheney said.

7. My feet grew 1/2 a size with each baby. These are the kind of things that they don't tell you!

Since tomorrow is Friday Five, I'm going to break the rules and not tag anyone. If you want to play, let me know and I'll visit!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Just Breathe

This is morning I presented my final project for year one of Spiritual Director training, which was a six session plan for a small group to practice breath prayer. I led my class in one of the sessions and I thought that it was going to seem forced and bit artificial because of being evaluated and all. But, man, even with my lowered expectations, the Spirit showed up!

Breath prayer apparently was exactly what the group participants, including my Spiritual Director, needed this morning. After the period of silent breath prayer, we entered into a time to write in our journals and then a time to witness to one another about our experiences in the prayer time. The depth of sharing was incredible, as God had spoken to each us in surprising, unique and very intimate ways. It was actually a bit overwhelming, but only because I found myself fighting against the part of myself that doesn't like to risk vulnerability. However, since the leader of the group is a participant, I did finally relax, followed my breath, and God was there.

In breath prayer, you pray a word or short phrase or sentence along with each breath you take. This prayer form helps us to "pray without ceasing." You discover your breath prayer by imagining God asking you, "What do you want?" Then, you choose a name for God that is meaningful to you at that moment. For instance, if what you are seeking is comfort and your name for God is "Shepherd," then your breath prayer could be, "Shepherd, let me know your comfort."

My breath prayer this morning was "Spirit, help me to be ready" because I am in a discernment period and believe that my next call is imminent. As I was praying, I found that I was having a great deal of difficulty taking deep breaths. As I inhaled through my nose, I felt like something was blocking my breath. I tried breathing in through my mouth, but that was only slightly better.

I felt the Spirit saying to me, "I want to teach you something here. Relax, don't force. Part of 'being ready' is to resist your tendency to be impatient and to force. Trust me to 'ready' you and know that a congregation is being 'readied' too for your leadership." In my prayer, I also felt the freedom to "let loose" of a congregation I have been in contact with that I know in my heart is not my call. I've been holding on to them as sort of a life preserver because I am fairly certain that they would extend a call to me. (I know that sounds really arrogant, but that is the sense that I get from them.) I understand now that, in a way, my holding on to them is like blocking the breath of the Spirit.

Tonight I had a second phone interview with the PNC (search committee) from a different congregation. While some phone interviews feel like an interrogation, this was more of a meaningful conversation among friends. When I pray about this potential call, my breath is free and I am able to fill my lungs.

Graduate Recognition

Does anyone know of a good litany or prayer for graduation recognition? If so, may I borrow? Pretty, pretty please? With proper credit given in our bulletin, of course!

I'm tired of the ones I've used before and my creative well is dry right now. Many of those that I have call for the graduates to say a part in the litany, which usually is a wonderful idea. However, this year we only have one high school graduate and she would mortified to be asked to speak all by herself.

If anyone can help me out, e-mail me.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Why are the month headings in my blog archive now in Spanish?

ETA: As soon as I posted this, it changed back to English. Is Blogger trying to gaslight me?

Friday Five: Party Time!

Songbird says: I hate to say it, but over the years I've been to too many parties where I, or the birthday child, has felt much like the chorus of Lesley Gore's old tune. I am therefore not the biggest fan of birthday parties.For this Friday (which happens to be my birthday), tell us these five things about parties, birthday or otherwise.

1) Would you rather be the host or the guest?

Oh, definitely the guest! Much less stress!

2) When you are hosting, do you clean everything up the minute the guests go home? Will you accept help with the dishes?

I'll clean up anything that might attract ants right away, but the rest probably waits until later. I absolutely would accept help with the dishes. I'd appreciate the help and often wonderful conversations arise from doing mundane tasks together.

3) If you had the wherewithal, and I guess I mean more than money, to throw a great theme party, what would the theme be?

This is less a "theme" and more of an "experience:"

I think it would be fun to spontaneously to show up at my friends' houses in a limo and then head to a spa to get pampered head to toe. Then, go to Nordstrom's and have a personal shopper choose fun "out on the town" outfits for each of us. Then we would go eat a sumptuous dinner with lots of wine and dessert, of course. I would want to "party" with only about 2 or 3 other women.

4) What's the worst time you ever had at a party?

Oh, this is easy. In my early 20's I had a crush on this cute guy from work. So, I was thrilled when one day he asked if I would like to go to a party with him that night. I was quite a bit less impressed with this fellow when we got to the party and it was a fireplacin' Amway party! To quote Deena Carter, "Did I shave my legs for this?"

5) And to end on a brighter note, what was the best?

I tend to not enjoy big bashes because it's a lot of work for me to "mill around" and be sociable. So, the best party I've ever been to was when my husband surprised me by taking the kids to a friend's house for the night and took me away to a B&B. Our room had a jacuzzi tub and there were roses and champagne waiting. Now, that is my kind of party!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Opening Up Pandora's Box

I just finished plugging in all of the relevant details of my life and ministry into the Church Leadership Connection data base. Blech! It's hard to squeeze all that I want to say into 1500 characters (not words, mind you, but characters) for each section. I'm not the most verbose pastor in the world, but that's tough to do.

I've resisted putting my name is "the system," because I much prefer to self-refer to Pastor Nominating Committees (PNC). My experience previously has been that I've been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from PNCs, mostly in areas of the country in which we aren't interested. Now, I know that the Deep South and the North East of the USA have numerous charms and delights, but no way, no how will my husband even consider living in those regions. Pretty much, if I should want to go east of the Mississippi River, I would have to go alone.

I hate having to tell a hopeful, faithful member of a PNC that I'm not even remotely interested. However, I can't do 12 phone interviews a week either and I don't want to waste a PNCs valuable time.

So, why have I opened Pandora's box and put my PIF (Personal Information Form) in the online system? I am feeling very hopeful and excited about two churches with whom I have already made contact. I am just getting concerned that perhaps I am closing myself off from potentially wonderful calls that, for whatever reason, I haven't considered.

The kaleidoscope keeps turning and I'm waiting for my piece to shift into place.