28 March 2007

I guess social graces come later

Yesterday, after the funeral for our patriarch, I came home to pick up Annalivia and Daniel and take them to church for the funeral lunch. I had dressed Annalivia in one of her cutest spring dresses, complete with bobby socks and shoes the same color of the dress. She was behaving wonderfully, too, greeting people right and left and smiling. Oh, and also she was holding onto my hand and walking beside me. Those of you who know her can imagine how proud Mommy was at this rare and timely convergence of appropriate manners and behavior.
So we walked into the fellowship hall at church and went to say hello to the ladies in the kitchen. Annalivia walked in and smiled at everyone, saying hello, engaged in some chit chat with some of the ladies, then when she had everyone's attention, proceeded to grab her diaper area and shout (and I do mean SHOUT), "Poooooooooop!"
Yes. Well. Like I said, I guess social graces come a little later.

27 March 2007


So I googled myself tonight as I was avoiding writing my newsletter article and found this link. For those who don't care to read it, it's a sermon by someone who was quoting part of a sermon that I had published in a book a couple of years ago. I think, in academic standards, the gentleman would have been found guilty of pretty heavy plagiarism, but at least he parentheses-ed me. How crazy is that?

24 March 2007

I've seen that look somewhere before...

This is the McClure Look of Consternation. (The Stewarts have a version, too, but it involves one's mouth being slightly open.) Glad I could pass something on to my son...

23 March 2007

Accident injury update

Today we went to see our orthopedic surgeon in Rockford to have the progress on our wrists, ankles, and Dennis' toe checked out.
The good news: Dennis is doing really well with his wrist, fingers and toe (this first pic is of his internal bling). He's had some pain in his sprained ankle, but the doc said that should continue to get better.
The bad news: My ulna bone is not regenerating. Apparently the ulna is a hard bone to regrow and when it has 17 breaks, well... (here's a pic of my bragging rights). Further, a pin has broken in the wrist causing elbow pain. The doctor thinks that there is also some loose cartilage in the elbow causing it to ache and pop related somehow to the wrist injury (I'm unclear about how that would work...)

The good news: There is an electro therapy thingamabopper (that's its official title) that I can wear that will hopefully prompt the bone to grow again. I will wear it for 8-12 hours a day and they'll check it again in 6 weeks, though they'll give it 3 months to start the bone regrowth.

The bad news: If this doesn't work, I'll need a bone graft. When he was explaining taking bone from my pelvis to graft to my wrist, I, who is generally just not at all squeamish, felt physically ill. I hope it doesn't come to that.

The good news: We are less than 30 weeks from the accident and have experienced a lot of healing.

The bad news: Further treatment drags out the possibility of an insurance settlement and some money to pay these doctors' offices. We know that eventually the other drivers' insurance will pay everything, but in the meantime dealing with creditors is tiring. They aren't real pleased about waiting.

The BEST news: We are alive with BOTH of our children.
Today Daniel, Annalivia and I picked up Dennis just like I did that morning. I drove up the same road and by the accident site for the first time since then. I felt like it was time to slay that dragon.
Oh, we are so, so, so blessed... We were both reconstructing our memories and I was telling Dennis that I will never forget the sound of his voice when he saw what was happening. I just knew something was very, very wrong. And I don't think I'll ever forget thinking that I would obviously lose the baby and just praying again and again the 23rd Psalm as I breathed past the pain and focused on my Celtic cross visor clip.
That we are HERE -- right now in our living room -- me holding that baby I thought was lost -- Dennis standing in his stocking feet just like he was on the side of the road, having left his shoes wedged up inside the van so he could come and wrench my door open with his bone sticking out of his arm -- the daughter we left at home that day unfolding clothes for us right now... Geesh... all the rest of it seems so very, very inconsequental when I think of what could be. I'll still put the other paragraphs up to let those who have inquired know, but really, the only news that should matter is this part. We're here. We may still be broken, but we're here. Thank God.

Friday Five: Rivers in the desert

Songbird writes:

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.

For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.

1. Purposeless driving
I love to just set out and think...pray...drive. It's nice to see where I end up, but what's along the way is even nicer.

2. Hanging wit' my sistahs
My three sistahs are renewal itself -- my favorite way to recharge. If I could bottle Kali's wit and Lil's laugh and Rissy's phrasing, well... no one would buy it, but I'd be awfully happy.

3. Listening to good music... or not
Sometimes I like to listen to Palestrina or Vaughan Williams or Rachmoninoff really loudly. Sometimes I want to hear Fred Astaire or the Andrews Sisters. Sometimes it's Uncle Tupelo or Paul Simon in the background. But sometimes quiet is what my soul really needs.

4. Having an empty dining room table
Yeah, it sounds weird, but clearing off the table in the parsonage's open living plan offers visual respite like nothing else.

5. Watching Dennis and Annalivia play
I love, love, love it when the loves of my life have laughter just bubbling up between them. That is beyond refreshing; it's sacred to me.

Prayers for baby Sawyer

My friend, Amy, is someone I've mentioned before on this blog. Amy and her husband, Jim, lost their little boy Brian last July when he was born at 22 weeks gestation. Now Amy is now a little past 22 weeks pregnant with their second son, Sawyer, and is experiencing a lot of difficulty. She had a cerclage procedure in which the cervix was sewn closed because she needs to carry little Sawyer as long as possible so that he will have a chance to make it outside of the womb. However, she has been dealing with infections that are causing her cervix to funnel, or open from the inside.
Right now the cerclage is holding. Amy is on complete bedrest and is being cared for by her husband who is also working full-time and her parents. They are all people of strong faith and are counting on God to carry them forward. They know that lots of people are praying for them, but I'd like to ask your prayers also for the entire family. Please pray specifically for Amy and Jim, and especially for little Sawyer. They need physical and emotional and spiritual strength right now. If you'd lift them up, I'd appreciate it.

22 March 2007

The feta factory and the ketchup queen

Annalivia is going through a ketchup phase. She'll eat most anything if it has ketchup slathered on it. And if someone is reminding her to bite into her food. Otherwise, she just sucks the ketchup off of whatever mode of transportation the ketchup has taken to her mouth. Yesterday she was eating it plain off of her fingers.
Daniel, on the other hand, is a little feta cheese factory. He never did catch on to breastfeeding, so we turned to formulas, which was just an icky adventure. Finally, I settled on making my own goat's milk formula, which is great because it has goat's milk, water and syrup in it and that's it. Nothing I can't pronounce. It's also significantly less expensive than formula. (He does have to take a vitamin supplement, fyi).
The only downside of this solution is in the fact that for some reason, both of my children have been spitters. Now he constantly smells like a little feta cheese container. But he's healthy and pretty happy, and that's what counts, right?

(And yes, I do realize that my last two posts have been about sleeping and eating. I'm stopping here, I promise.)


Little Daniel actually slept for about 5 hours last night! Then he went back to sleep for another 3 hours. And now he's back to sleep again.
I feel like a new person. It's amazing what a stretch of sleep in a real bed will do for the body. Wow.

21 March 2007

Blog bump

Since Daniel was born, I've had a hard time posting to this here weblog. I've started about 10 posts that are in various stages of completion before they were interrupted by either Daniel or Annalivia's needs. I may or may not finish them.
The other stumbling block is the stuff that is on my mind. When I became a parent, I was amazed at how fascinating one's child's biological functions become. Basically, a newborn sleeps, eats and evacuates. The sleeping and eating are pretty standard, even if there is a sore lack of the former and the latter has some problem-solving associated with it. Which leaves evacuation to be the focus of one's thoughts. And really, no one except my husband is interested in it (and he, like me, is disturbingly interested in it), so I've been choosing to spare y'all.
But I've been thinking a lot. And eventually, one of these days, I'll post something of interest. Maybe.

Privilege of ministry #1,387

So the patriarch of our church is dying.

He's 92 and has been suffering from Alzheimers for the last 9 months. He was taken to the hospital Monday morning and it was discovered that he suffered a heart attack and has pneumonia. The family has authorized only pain meds to be administered. Now they are just waiting for death to come.

This man is the son-in-law of the beloved pastor who was here for 47 years. The beloved pastor's daughter is 90 and still in our church. So is her daughter and their family.

When the beloved pastor (BP) retired, he tried to pass the church to this man. This man felt he couldn't do ministry as well as his father-in-law (and from what I hear, Jesus himself could have learned a thing or two from the bp), so he declined. And he always regretted it. But he was a devoted servant and led this church even without the title.

I have been with the family a lot so far this week and it is clear to me that he was also the spiritual rock of this family. His children have left his side only to force their mother to go home and go to bed, grandkids have been driving and flying in, great-grandchildren have been seen, legs impatiently swinging, in the lobby chairs at the hospital... he is very much loved.

And probably the most inspiring thing to me is that they are all very ready to let him go Home. They have a faith in Heaven that puts this pastor to shame -- such a strong belief in the glory of the Promise that they all smile through their tears. As one of his daughters said, "It's almost like we're excited for the funeral so that we can really just celebrate his new life. We need that."

I think all in my little church need a real celebration of life, too. I know I need it. It would do us good to remember that there is Life beyond us -- beyond budget woes or ministry challenges or service attendance. There is Life.

And it is just like this guy to give us this gift. He was an amazing servant in life and he'll be an inspiration even in death. I'm grateful for the opportunity to celebrate with his family. To think I get paid for this...

20 March 2007

Recipe:Bunnies in the green garden or Fishies in the grass soup

If there is one thing that I truly fail at, it's feeding my family enough vegetables. What makes this even more sinful is that every week, I buy veggies for us to eat and every week we end up throwing veggies into the trash. It's terrible.
This week, a couple of zucchini, three bunches of broccoli and two bags of salad have been shaming me every time I opened up the refrigerator. Yesterday, I came to a reckoning with the zucchini and cooked it with some stuffed chicken breasts. Dennis ate it, but Annalivia declined to be so enticed.
Today, I confronted the broccoli and also some leftover brown rice and made one of my favorite soups. After I made it up, I sprinkled some goldfish crackers on top and told Annalivia that the fishies were hiding in the grass. She ate it up and for her second bowl, I sprinkled Annie's Cheddar Bunnies on top and told her it was bunnies in the garden.
So I accomplished two things -- I used the veggies and I actually got Annalivia to eat them. Now if only we can figure out what to do with salad for 20...

Bunnies in the Green Garden Soup (or No Cream Creamy Broccoli Soup -- original recipe here)
5-6 pieces of celery
15ish baby carrots
3 stalks of broccoli, chopped coarsely
2 cans of chicken broth
2 ish cups of cooked brown rice
Cook in a big pot til veggies are tender. Whirl in batches in a blender to desired chunkiness/ smoothness. Then add, if desired...
1 cup milk
1/4 parmesan cheese.

Heat and eat. It's SO good (and the milk and parm is really pretty optional -- it's good without it!)
Top with cheddar bunnies or goldfish!

19 March 2007

Praying for Bill

My dear friend, Bill, my supervising pastor in seminary, whom I wrote about here, is entering a phase of intensive chemotherapy. It has about a 30% survival rate and is meant to be a bridge to a transplant procedure that has a 20% survival rate.
If you are so inclined, would you join me in praying for him and his family? Many thanks.

16 March 2007

Digital redemption

Our pictures are safe!! HURRAH!!

The computer will be back tomorrow. It only cost $90 and we only lost a few things, but all of the pictures are safe. Wake-up call, it was! Go forth and back up!!

13 March 2007

A danger of digital dependence

So my laptop has died.
It was either an act of Annalivia, who was trying to fit the power source plug into other holes in the back of the computer, or Jesus, since I was literally just finishing typing a sentence that read something like, "I'm being called to better stewardship -- of myself, my resources, my children and my time."
I was not all that upset about it until Dennis came out and tried to fix it and we suddenly realized that all of our pictures from the last 18 months are on that computer and we have not backed them up.
So -- let this be a lesson unto you, cyber friends!! GO HOME AND BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS!!
We are taking the computer to a computer doctor today and I'm praying -- praying, praying, praying -- that even if the $800 laptop cannot be saved that they'll be able to take off the photos. Sermons and church stuff would be nice, too, but photos are all we care about right now.
If anyone else wants to pray that this will just end up to be a wake-up call rather than a rude awakening -- well, we'd appreciate it.

12 March 2007

Powerful motivators

During Lent, we have been joining our sister church in our twin-city area for a mid-week worship service we call Soup for the Soul. We meet for a brief half-hour service, then we have a simple soup supper afterwards. It has been incredibly well-attended and has been a great experience, which is wonderful, because these two churches have long and somewhat contentious histories. When a crisis happens there, we tend to get their evacuees. Similarly when a crisis happens in our church, they get our evacuees, which is what happened most recently. Also these churches never seem to be able to thrive at the same time. When we do well, they are in crisis. When they do well, we seem to be in decline (and right now they are doing VERY well, so you know where we are in the cycle...)
So my church has been doing this service for five years by ourselves. Traditionally our services have been casual, casual, casual. Uber casual. I wear jeans, stand on the floor, ask for volunteers to read the scriptures, sing a capella, have recorded Taize music for communion, etc. It has been a nice mid-week respite and the one year we didn't have it there was mass dissension, so this year, because I was going to be on maternity leave, I asked our sister church to join us. And they have. Every other week, we trade hosting responsibilities and for the first three weeks, my colleague preached and I will preach for the last three.
ANYWAY, what has been interesting is that the services started at the other church and so they got to set the tone -- which was complete with a liturgist, organ, suited pastor in pulpit and I'm not sure if the pastor over there just did not hear my repeated insistence that the services be casual or whether he had other ideas from the start.
Whatever it is, having visitors from the OTHER church has been a powerful motivator for my people. Broken things are getting fixed, the sanctuary has been all decked out, and yesterday after church a couple of folks came up and asked if we could pay our pianist extra so that she could be at the service on Wednesday.
I guess that's the way it works for all of us; we all want to impress the neighbors on some level. But I wish that the motivator was being good stewards of what we have and sharing our best with everyone regardless of whether they are the wealthy relatives or not. But perhaps that's a little too much to hope for...

11 March 2007

The saddle remains...

And I am back in it.
Today was the first day back at regular worship for me. It went well. It is a beautiful day -- gorgeous, actually, and despite the fact that the entire church was sleep-deprived from the time change, their pastor foremost among them, but not necessarily because of the time change, the sun being out and folks who were not frozen upon entering the congregation made for a pretty happy church. And there was a new baby to coo at and that never hurts.
My sermon was good on paper, poorer in execution. I felt a little off -- by the end, I felt like I was able to execute it pretty well, but in the middle -- not so much. And there were about 5 people asleep, which is pretty unusual, but had I been sitting out there, I'd have been one of them and not necessarily because of the subject matter.
Anyway. Church was good, and I'm sure it will get a little better.
We went out to lunch afterwards. That was not part of the plan. Culvers has a walleye sandwich that is just delicious, so we had fish. For some reason, I've been craving fish lately. This happened after I had Annalivia, too. I wonder if my body is needing Omega-3's?
We are now home and I'm getting ready to get Annalivia down for a nap and then get Daniel fed so that I can take a little snooze, too. Although, right now, Annalivia is practicing her jumping, which is one of the most hilarious things ever -- jumping is hard work, you know -- so perhaps I should feed Daniel now. Dennis ended up sleeping out on the couch with him most of the night so I could get solid sleep for my first sermon back after leave, which was very nice of him. But rather than taking a nap, he's going to be headed outside where beautiful weather is beckoning him to fix things.
But me -- I'm being beckoned to my pillow.

10 March 2007

The perfect Pandora mix

I have finally found two perfect stations at Pandora. The first is a station based on Uncle Tupelo and Mason Jennings. The second is created from Colin Hay (thanks, Amy, for reminding me about him!). I hardly ever skip songs. Awesome background music for computer stuff.

09 March 2007

Trial separation

I went to see my OB today for my post-partum visit. She said I don't have to come back until next year.
After seeing me at least twice a week for six-seven months, she doesn't want to see me anymore? Just like that?
I told her and the nurses that I'd try to cope, but that they should not be surprised if I accept their invitations to just show up periodically to get my Dr. -Stone's-office fix.
A whole year! I'm going to miss them...

Friday Five: A Matter of Taste (following instructions this time)

Ok. Well, I did this with things I don't like that others around me do. Now here's what I do like -- this is a much easier list:

1. Routines and schedules
Not that I follow them or keep to them, but I like the idea of them, which I think most of my free-flowing family does not

2. Sleeping through the night
Daniel, the person who has been closest to me most recently (i.e. inside of me) does not like to sleep more than an hour and a half at night. Me -- I'm fond of a good 8-10 hours.

3. Keeping water IN the sink when doing dishes
Annalivia is currently exploring how well containers with no tops or bottoms hold water. Apparently she hasn't reached a verdict yet because the experiment continues...

4. A church with members under 40
Ummm, I would think this would be a no-brainer for most church folks, but given the actions of the beloved folks here, I believe otherwise...

5. Blogging
I think everyone I know should have a blog. It would be nice to see how they'd answer this.

Friday Five: A Matter of Taste

From the Rev Gals:
"My mother loved figs.

I only like them in a Newton.

It's all a matter of taste.

Name five things you like a lot that some close relative or significant other did/does not like. This could be food, movies, hobbies, music, sports or whatever springs to mind."

edited to add: Well, apparently reading instructions is not one of my loves. Here's a list of things I DON'T like that others in my family do. Ooops. Read my list following the above instructions here.
1. Ham
My family members all love ham, especially for Easter. My mom is really an excellent cook and prepares ham in a way that makes it really as good as ham can get, but I really don't like ham. And Dennis can't really eat it, so we never do. But we are definitely the odd folks out in our family.

2. Animals
Not a fan of animals, especially indoor pets. This puts me at odds with 80% of my friends and 59% of my family.

3. Retentively clean cars
I mean , they look nice, but why have one? Cars are for getting one from place to place. If a spare pretzel on the floor destroys that, well...

4. The Lord of the Rings movies and books.
Saw the first one -- 3 hours of my life I'll never get back. I think this puts me at odds with approximately 99% of my conservative Christian friends and 95% of all boys between the ages of 8 and 17.

5. The hymns "I was there to hear your borning cry", "Here I am, Lord" and especially, "Spirit of Restlessness, Gentleness and blah blah blah" (not its real title)
They just seem to go on and on to me. And one of them has been in almost every ordination service ever, including mine (Borning Cry -- my home church's choir picked it out to sing for me, so I kept my mouth shut.) This puts me at odds with 98% of all clergy and nearly 100% of female clergy.
Please -- try not to hold it against me.

07 March 2007

The family bed

We have a big king-sized bed and though the kids have their own places to sleep, they often end up with us, sometimes, like last night, sooner, rather than later. And though I sometimes think of the family bed as an inconvenience, last night as Annalivia pressed herself into my back and threw her arm around me, and Daniel snuggled into my side, and Dennis let out a long sigh in his sleep, I realized that if life never got any better than this, it would be great beyond measure. We have a family to put in our bed. What a gift.

06 March 2007

Slow-ish return

Yesterday marked the end of Phase I of my maternity leave -- absence from the pulpit, and therefore, more understandable absence from the rest of the workings of the church. I've been fielding phone calls since two hours into that part of the leave, but for the most part, I was gone. It was nice.
But now we're onto the beginning of Phase II or what I called "Slow Return." Basically, I proposed that instead of the 6 week leave I took with Annalivia, this time I'd take 4 weeks off of preaching and then over the next four weeks, be involved in preaching and whatever I could do, but not be expected to be in the office during the day.
Which I'm glad I stipulated because this week holds two meetings, one choir rehearsal and one mid-week worship service, and a board meeting. And I have to write a sermon and do a bulletin for the first time in a month. Ick.
Why isn't there something in the "take up your cross and follow" passage that exempts parents until they are sleeping at least 6 hours at a time? I'll talk this over with Jesus and let y'all know if he has reconsidered.

02 March 2007

Friday Five: Artsy Crafty

From the RevGals:
"During Lent here at Suburban Presbyterian Church, we are exploring the creative and liturgical arts, with classes and speakers dealing with storytelling, iconography, dance, visual art, writing, and so on. The theme is "A Beautiful Thing," inspired by the story of the woman anointing Jesus and his declaration that "She has done a beautiful thing for me." (Mark 14, NIV)

We are working on the notion that everything we do can be considered a beautiful thing--a creative offering to God--whether it's gardening or scrapbooking or accounting or sorting clothes at the clothes closet or child-rearing. And so:
1. Would you call yourself "creative"? Why or why not?
I would because I like to create. One of my favorite things about being a pastor is that there are so many opportunities to be co-creative with God. What other job is there where one can choose fonts for a newsletter or make banners or put words together or arrange music and images and get to count that as paid time? AND ministry, to boot?
2. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you currently do that you'd like to develop further.
I really like to play with photos digitally. Here's a couple of my recent experiments with one-color "pops":

And I really do like to do print media things -- newsletter, flyers, etc. And I like using my musical abilities to direct our church choir. Right now we're working on a lessons and carols type thing for Easter Sunday. I'm really pretty excited about it. As a trained musician, I always hated singing in church choir, but directing it -- that's actually fun.
3. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you have never done but would like to try.
I've been wanting to do some artwork with the collage media -- basically using a whole lotta Mod Podge to create something. I have a couple of images in my mind that I'd like to get out at some point. There just never seems to be time.
4. Complete this sentence: "I am in awe of people who can _____________."
Play piano well. I'm downright jealous. After 8 years of piano lessons, I should be one of them, but I think I practiced for about 35 combined minutes during that time. Oh, if only I could tell 9-year old April that she'd regret getting creative about how to shirk her practice time!
5. Share about a person who has encouraged your creativity, who has "called you to your best self."
I am blessed to come from a family who understood the need to be creative. My mother required that my sister's teachers would let her have time to draw instead of asking her to put her paper and pencil away. Around our home, we always had lots of music, lots of crayons and markers and pencils and REAL watercolors, space to dance, etc. And we had art and music and dance lessons when we wanted them, which I'm sure was a difficult financial burden. So , I guess I'll always be grateful for my family's commitments to creativity, but especially the efforts of Mom.

01 March 2007

Just put some breath into it already

Celtic Woman is on PBS right now. It is disconcerting to me that these women can open their mouths so wide and make such little noise. I wonder what they do with the other 89% of their lung capacity.

Overwhelming tiredness

Oh man, I am tired. Tired in the way that I keep falling asleep sitting up and anytime I sit down, my whole inside just seems to settle downwards. Tired in the sense that when I do fall asleep, I sleep way too hard to be a good mother right now.
I've ditched some of my friends this weekend because of it. This weekend was to hold a visit from Jimmy and Joby, my seminary homeboys -- two of my dearest friends who basically hauled me through seminary despite my kicking, screaming, and crying. I don't know what I would have done without them. Trina is my best friend from my childhood. We became best friends in fifth grade and have matured (at least a little) together and have granted each other a good deal of grace in the process, for which I am continually grateful. Somewhere along the line, Trina came to visit me when I was in seminary and the boy who lived next door to me came in the room, eventually stuck his finger in her ear in a bizarre form of flirting, and three years later, they married. They added little Ethan to their family two months after Annalivia joined ours. The rest is history.
Anyway, the amigos were all to visit this weekend, but I've cancelled on them. Ditched them, I think, would be accurate. Daniel has been reacting poorly to formula and sleeping badly. The poor little guy's belly gets hard and he grunts and groans and then cries for a long while. I keep thinking that if he'd just nurse, this would all work itself out. But perhaps not. Trying to entice a baby to nurse is not exactly the kind of entertainment I want to share with others, even these dearest of friends. That's my excuse, but the truth is I'm just so darn tired. So I've ditched them. I'm sad though. I hadn't realized how much I was looking forward to seeing them.
Instead, we are going to be spending the next couple of days recharging (I hope). Dennis has been working so hard this week, staying up every night to finish papers and getting far too little sleep. Annalivia has been entertaining herself while I take naps on the couch whenever Daniel sleeps. I think we all need to spend some time lounging around together, playing, and sleeping whenever possible.
And maybe we'll be over the big tiredness by Saturday when Dennis' family is going to be visiting and Sunday when we are going to go down to celebrate Annalivia's birthday and take Daniel to meet my family. That's my hope at least.