That $ y’all

One recent Sunday night, I walked past the counter in the kitchen and noticed a new thing. This time, something was different when I left my paycheck and the deposit slip for Nick to deposit before work the next day. The paycheck, the reimbursement check, the deposit slip were all facing up on the counter, instead of folded in half or face down.

I don’t know if this was the first time this happened. Nick only occasionally runs by the bank for me. Usually those checks stay crammed in my purse until I make it the couple miles to a branch.

You may wonder why this is of note. It symbolizes a solid ground of trust where I now walk. Nick’s always been trustworthy. My ability to talk about money (instead of shutting down or raising my voice) and remember that it is tool has been a slow, long journey. But, I’m there. I’m so there. I’m there enough to not even subconsciously shame myself by folding a check or placing a deposit slip face down.

Money is a tool. Money requires a plan. Using money instead of money using me means gaining skills over many years. There’s always room for my improvement and learning. I’m not going to be teaching an investment portfolio class. But, I live now without a recurring shame around money. And that freedom is so damn good.

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how I don’t know how to pray

Often, I sit down at my desk and wonder what I am supposed to be doing. I stare at the computer screen, the stacks of stuff on my desk (it’s always out of control), and feel helpless to consider what from my post-it notes of reminders gets my attention first. Usually that ends up in me organizing the stacks or creating stacks out of the mess of my desk. While it is helpful in the short-term, it does little for me in the no-beginning and no-ending work called ministry. I know that what grounds me in this work is prayer.

I’m a task-oriented pray-er. It has to do with my task-oriented brain. Even in that orientation is the constant tempter that functions like a pinball wherein I become easily distracted and bounce from one project to another without even knowing it. If you’ve ever engaged me in conversation, you’ve experienced this as well. I get diverted with a separate thought, blurt it out and then return to whatever we were talking about as quickly as I can. It’s desperately rude and I try really hard not to do it, but like the way I pray and the way I work…it happens over and over again.

Back to prayer. Above the screen on my laptop is a note that says, “Did you start with prayer?” I look at it, and usually proclaim, “o yeah, let’s do that.” I say a quick prayer and then move into the tasks at hand. Or, I make a list, pray for said items and feel in one way that I have done what I needed to do. But a list of prayer requests just doesn’t always bring about the peace of God. I’ll pull out another post-it note and write down the things creeping up into my prayer that are really to-dos. Sure, I know how to pray with other people, in the midst of worship, by a person’s hospital bed, but all by my lonesome, in my closet, like Jesus said? It is chall-en-ging.

I try mighty hard to focus those moments into quiet, reflective prayer. For many years a recurrent theme has taunted my distractible heart: prayer as being rather than prayer as a doing. What ends up happening is that I feel frustration and shame that I can’t just spend hours resting in God’s presence with prayer, silently reflecting and emptying myself to be filled up with God. It’s kind of impossible for me. I could give you example after example of my attempts, but I really don’t want to go down that road.

For me, prayer is doing and I’m learning to be ok with that. Prayer is singing the hymns for next week’s service, hoping people experience the string that weaves them together whether they see it or not. Prayer is walking the rows of chairs in the sanctuary so long that I forget how many times I’ve passed through them asking that God make a place for all people who walk in the doors. Prayer is watching as people come up to Nick after worship as he holds our daughter and giving thanks for each person who looks her in the eyes and smiles. Yes, prayer is being. Being in the presence of God and knowing it so much that everything else fades away. For many this comes in meditative prayer. For me, I can’t know it without some sort of embodiment, without the reclaiming of action as the method that speaks for me.

So, excuse me; I have something to do. I need to pray.

Shavasna and Dogs… preggo pastor post #2

I got stuck in shavasna pose this week. It’s ridiculous to even write on paper, much less say out loud. If you aren’t familiar with yoga, shavasna is the ‘corpse’ pose wherein you lay on the floor on your back, completely relaxed. After 35 minutes on the elliptical, I transitioned to yoga poses and stretching to complete my exercise. Taking seriously the modifications my pregnancy-yoga video suggested, I placed a blanket under my hips and started to lie down. Quickly, it became apparent that I would not be able to lay my legs down to complete the pose. With knees bent, I became stuck attempting shavasna. Thankfully, Nick had made it home already. Calling him over and laughing as I explained, he picked up my legs and pulled the blanket out from under my hips. Isolation work with the body is not uncommon for me as I stretch and move with yoga and old ballet habits coming into memory.  Isolation work with extreme pain and an inability to move; well, that’s new. Chalk it up to pregnancy. My chiropractor has been working diligently on my hips that are giving me fits.

It was a hilarious scenario, something that felt straight out of a sitcom. Even after I had been rescued, I was rolling from back to stomach to push my aching body upright. I couldn’t see Nick at the time, but I could feel the look of confusion on his face as he asked me, “what are you doing?” Making it up, I went about my business making dinner and talking to the dogs.  As I shared this with my chiropractor, his response was “that makes quite a sermon illustration.” Yes, yes it does, Dr Lau. When life changes, can we really continue to do things the same way, even modified? Can we listen to the innate wisdom in our hearts, minds and bodies in a way that creates new methods of living? Then the last couple days happened and I discovered a new connection, the way in which I am beginning and ending this week.

Nick and I have been trying to take a break from fostering German Shorthair pointers. Our last foster was with us for nearly a year. Given that and being pregnant, we thought it was time for a break. That worked for all of 5 minutes. I keep seeing the posts of dogs who need a caretaker. The leader who recruits fosters reminded me of our desired break, in a healthy way, since she had just had her own baby. But, then this elderly male popped up in my facebook feed with the need for someone to share with him hospice care. He was pulled from a shelter that put him at 3 years old with major health issues. That, we can handle. The vet we use for the organization put him at 10-12 with major health issues. The OK GSP Rescue decided to give him some time with a foster until it was truly time to end his suffering. We thought we’d foster him for a few months, maybe less. Nick was rightly concerned about exposing our girls to anything he might have. So, we were to pick him up Monday and bring him home for love then. I couldn’t escape this deep desire to care for this dog in his last days. Perhaps it is this privilege of caring for a growing life within that pushed me to care for this dog who was at the other end of the cycle. Perhaps this strong heartbeat we heard yesterday for the first time encouraged me to pick up this drum for dignity at death. Perhaps my getting stuck in shavasna was only the first time this week I’d deal with death. You see, this sweet male won’t make it to our home on Monday. He is simply too weak. I’ll be meeting his current care taker at the vet at 5 p.m. I’ll meet him for the first time in order to be the last human he knows.

People often share with me the stories of their long-gone pets. They wonder how Nick and I can foster dogs and pass them along to their forever homes. Occasionally, I’ll go into a hidden-until-home rage when someone tells me about how they let their dog have pups “because we wanted her to do it once.” I pass over the statistics and Sarah McLachlan commercials because I don’t need to be reminded of how many pets get put down each year simply because people are too lazy to have their pets fixed or self righteous enough to think they ought to breed them for profit. All I need to do is remember Sally the beagle, our first foster, who wasn’t sure about walking on grass because she’d never really done it before. Her life before rescue was in a lifted chicken wire cage. She now lives with an awesome couple in Columbia, Missouri.

Maybe fostering brings me closer to death than I’ve ever realized. It keeps me with one leg in shavasna and one leg moving around. Being closer to death, however, brings me closer to the true meaning of life; that all life matters enough that it should have full dignity. I’m more and more convinced that ignorance surrounding death both as individuals and as a culture keeps us from truly appreciating and living lives with dignity. It certainly keeps these companion creatures called dogs from having full lives. An obsession with creating more life oddly enough brings about more death, and those deaths are not ones that end with love and human tears on shining fur.

Shavasna, catch me. I need to see death to know life.

Update: Little Buddy was a sweetheart. He could barely walk with his bowlegged front paws carrying the most of his weight. He let me carry him in and pet him softly. I told him he was a good boy as they relieved him of his suffering peacefully.

Preggo Pastor Journey begins

The idea of having kids always seemed like “that’s what people do.”  People get married, have kids and probably get divorced. I know it sounds nihilistic, or negative at the least. However, that just seemed like the routine. I could see myself being a parent, but just as much, or more so, I could see myself never being a parent.

I spent 7 years as a children’s minister, dearly loving that time. I saw a variety of parents: the overprotective ones; the somehow bend-space-and-time parents who were everywhere with the early 2000’s version of a pinterest project in hand; the balanced ones; the waited so long in hope parents; and so many more. I marveled at them, their children and often took for granted the trust I’d been given to nurture their spiritual development. I too often judged them as I dealt with my own adolescence and teen years, wishing they had been different. I regret that.

In those years, I spent a great deal of time with children and in personal relationships that weren’t exactly what anyone would call healthy. Suffice it to say, that mixture ended up with my take on having kids as “what people do.” A more accurate description would be that’s “what other people do.” When friends would talk about wanting to be a mom one day, I couldn’t relate. An internal shrug of my shoulders resulted and an outwardly vocal, “ok.” Things started to change, albeit slowly, around 7 years ago.

The Monday after Thanksgiving in 2006, I went on the last first date I will ever have. It’s completely corny, but true. It’s another thing that I never thought would happen: a last first date. While I didn’t exactly talk about it, I was pretty sure that divorce would be in my future. I mean, when your mom, grandmother and great-grandmother had all been divorced; you begin to think, maybe, it’s in the blood. (It was most certainly in the familial habits of relationship.)

A couple months before that Monday, my best friend and I had one of our Thursday girl nights. We’d drink wine, watch Grey’s Anatomy, talk shop (church) and complain about dating. Sound familiar? Eventually, she talked me in to signing up for match.com. My response was basically, let’s get a few meals and meet a few jerks. That really was my state of mind. The idea of meeting someone I’d actually like, much less had the social and life skills I finally understood were necessary in a mate, became a joke. I went to that first date without much trying. Seriously, I wore khaki pants, a denim jacket and dansko clogs. It wasn’t exactly a come-hither look. Nick looked nice, even prepared (!), with his button down shirt and dress pants. We talked for hours and sipped wine. Little did I know that this one date would change my life so fully. In seven years, I’ve fallen in love, managed to learn more about who I am as an individual, grow a strong marriage and, eventually, get pregnant. Here’s to a life journey I never thought would happen and one I didn’t think I deserved. Little baby, you’ve already got a big life to come into!

ME TOO!

The most frequent way my husband gets on my nerves is when he is behaving child-like.  Do not pretend that you do not have a similar peeve about your significant other. Especially, do not confuse child-like with “childish,” the word adults use when someone’s behavior is negative and we wish to cause embarrassment by equating him or her with a person not yet fully grown. (That word childish is really an example of linguistic laziness, that instead of defining behaviors we dislike, we demean children. Must be Victorian.) Anyway, back to Nick.

My husband is often child-like. He lingers too long in what should be a glance. He smiles to himself and likes to pat my nose with the tip of his index finger. He can stare out at nothing. Nick even will run around in the back yard to let the dogs chase him. It’s wonderful and sometimes annoying. He regularly mixes Emergen-C with a variety of juices and Gatorade although the directions clearly state to mix with 4-6 ounces of water. It reminds me of kids at the soda fountain making a mixture of each available soda. Why did it always seem like the boys did that the most? Nick enjoys a lot of life the way I see children enjoying life. Not so serious all the time. He’s serious when he needs to be, when it is required, but I get to see that not-serious side more often than most of the world. I’m not as thankful for that as I want to be. I’m learning.

I’m not sure if I was a serious baby, but ‘round about 8 or 9 I became a serious kid. Others may have noticed it or maybe not, but that’s about the time I did. A lot of my childhood is fuzzy on account of that seriousness creeping in. Many memories are locked behind walls of seriousness. I could explain it, but it would sound like blaming others and bringing more hurt into the world is not on the to-do list.

One of my mentors, the amazing Bob Hill, has told me more than once “to learn how to be a kid again.” (That’s not an exact quote, but the jest of what he’s told me over the years.) The important part of that advice has often boiled down to me TRYING to be a “kid again.” Inner monologue becomes: “Just have fun. Stop worrying. Let loose. Do something because you want to, not because there is a reason. Let the dogs chase you. Try. Try. Try.“ I’d try and fail. Then beat myself up. I’d try and fake it. Then beat myself up about that. Yeah, you read that right. I’d try to be a kid again and wind up taking it so seriously that I’d beat myself about it.

My epiphany in this advice is that my important word is LEARN. I’ve been loosening up with the help of my sweet Nick for over 5 years now, but it’s always been in relation to Nick. Moving to Tulsa at the end of July 2010 without Nick made clear that time alone was open for whatever I wanted to do. Netflix to the rescue. I watched serious movies, documentaries, and then whole series of Battlestar Galactica (21st Century version.)

My dad made a ritual of watching Star Trek reruns when we were little. We would build a fort out of couch cushions and blankets in the living room. We’d raise our hands as our own make-believe Enterprises. At just the right time –swoosh– our little Enterprises would move when the starship would warp speed across the screen to the next galaxy before the credits in the opening sequence.  If you do not know the glory of having your hand swoosh in such a way as a make-believe Enterprise, here’s the opening. Have fun! (It’s a :29 in the video.)

Battlestar Galactica came to my attention through some friends who talked about it A LOT when it was on the air. One of those friends is a total T.V./movie/pop culture/#everythingsupercool aficionado. I took his word for it and watch the whole series. It was really, really good. And very, very serious. Not at all like the campy, over-the-top elements of Star Trek à la William Shatner and Tribbles.

Not too long after, I happened upon the wonderful character of Capt. Jack Harkness and then the wonderfulness of DOCTOR WHO. I fell in love with the show. First it was Rose, then the 10th Doctor. Since then, more companions and another Doctor. It was a kind of love that needed to be learned. Love of something fun. Love of something magical. Love of something altogether impossible but true. Love of something silly. Love of something for no other reason than I liked it. I guess Love is kind of a strong word. Perhaps the better word is wonder, but you can’t really say, “I fell in wonder.” Well, I guess I did. I know it is wonder because I’ve seen that same look on a child’s face as I felt on mine when I saw this at the Tulsa Holiday Parade this year…

Dalek Getting Tune-Up

Dalek Getting Tune-Up

This, my friends, is a jumbo sized Dalek made by some interior design firm here in Tulsa as their float for the parade. “That’s a Dalek.” Pause. ”Hey, Nick, I think that’s a Dalek.” Pause. “Is that Dalek?” “Yes, THAT’S A DALEK!” Those are the words I said out loud, not just in my head. Those are words that very serious Kelli said out loud in a public place out of shear wonder of seeing something that made me so excited. That was the first moment where out of my own skin and with no one else’s encouragement I proved (to myself) I had LEARNED how to be a kid again! Turns out, it didn’t need trying; it needed doing.

I intend on a lot more doing this year. Doing, practicing, learning. NO TRYING. One day, Nick and I will be parents. I can’t let Nick be the only one who shares in the child-like fun. Me too! Me too! Can you see me with my hand raised high? Not behind a desk this time, but ready for the next ride!

In the words of Miroslav Volf “I don’t fear that at the end God will ask why I wasn’t Moses (great leader) or Thomas Aquinas (towering intellect), but why I wasn’t myself.”

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Tardis Water bottle, 4th Doctor Scarf, 10th Doctor Sonic Screwdriver, and Disappearing Tardis Mug!

Here’s a picture of me in my Doctor Who gear that Nick got me for Christmas. Unbeknownst to me, he ordered it online as soon as we got home from that Parade.

P.S. The more I embrace the child-like me, the less the child-like Nick bugs me. Funny how that works.