Monday, December 31, 2012

Listening to God Giggle

Remember just a few weeks ago, when I was complaining about waiting? God has such a funny sense of humor! He must have read my post, giggled and thought, "Hmmm...tired of waiting, are we? OK then, try some extreme multi-tasking for a while! See how you like that!"

On December 21st (seriously, 4 days before Christmas!) we closed on The Oasis ranch property, David sold his car, and I got a confirmed date for my Ordination!  (January 12 - more on that in a bit)

We have also received many donations and offers of volunteer help for The Oasis, and began the daunting tasks of demolishing some of the unneeded walls and closets in the house, and launching our remodeling plan. (The photo above is the half-wall in the living room coming down, thanks to Tanner and Jake.) Then I noticed the after-Christmas sales, and began to think about furnishing and decorating....

All of that sounds like fun, right? It sound wonderful and downright amazing! The problem is that while we were waiting...and waiting...and waiting...we felt a little stuck. Now that the waiting is suddenly over, it seems like everything has to be done right now, and I feel like I'm herding cats! It's been a bit overwhelming to have to coordinate renovation materials and crews, file our our zoning application, write my Ordination service, and still maintain my focus on celebrating Christmas in a reverent and meaningful way. (I can hear God laughing and slapping his knees at that one!)

Please understand that I am not complaining. I am overjoyed - and very humbled - by how lavishly God has blessed us this year! In fact, I simply stand in awe at how God has pulled everything for The Oasis together in the way that He did. Just six months ago, we were still trying to discern in which part of Arizona our retreat center would ultimately be located. And now I'm comparing prices on wood flooring. Meanwhile, God has been taking care of all the details. 

Which brings me to my Ordination service. It will be held on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 5pm, at Longview Community Church in Phoenix. Afterwards, there will be a casual reception with refreshments. I'd be honored by your presence. 

I know that God called me to become a Minister of Word and Sacrament within the RCA. The road has been long, with several detours along the way. I mean, I graduated from seminary in December 2006, for Pete's sake! Silly me - I thought I'd graduate, find a church, get ordained and start full-time ministry within...I don't know... a month? 

Now here it is, six years later... And I can hear that giggle starting up again...          

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Christmas Personality

I’m not sure why, but every December our personalities change. At least, they do in my house.

Eleven months out of the year I avoid the kitchen like the plague.  I am allergic to housework. (A domestic diva, I am not!) And I Do. Not. Sing. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, as they say.

But when Christmas rolls around, you will find me in the kitchen, covered in flour, baking cookies and Nisü, (a Finnish coffee bread, sometimes called Pulla) and maybe even fudge! You will hear Burl Ives’ songs in the background, because I will have Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or The Little Drummer Boy playing on the TV. Yes, I’ve seen them before. I watch them every year! And I sing along with all the songs. Loudly.

You see, I love Christmas! I love the twinkling lights; I love our gigantic artificial tree, even though it takes a 12’ ladder and three people to put it up, and the lights never work right. I love putting the ornaments on, and remembering where or when we got each one, or who gave it to us (even the one from Lisa, one of my husband’s high school girlfriends, whom I did not like very much).  I love shopping for all the presents, and I love the special foods we eat only once a year. I love setting up my porcelain Nativity scene with the king riding on a camel, and the donkey which is missing an ear because my kids were little once. I love going to church on Christmas Eve and tearfully singing Oh Holy Night by candlelight.

My husband David, the man I love and adore; the man I’ve been married to for more than eight years, loves to cook, and is the most giving man you will ever meet. That is, for eleven months out of the year.

During the twelfth month, my husband turns into a Grinch. He seems to hate Christmas. He doesn’t like any part of it.  He hates the gift wrapping, the abundance of food, the glittering decorations; even the family gatherings. I think this is partly due to damage inflicted during his first marriage.  He tells a story of being up on a ladder with the flu and a fever of 102°, putting lights on the second story eaves during an ice storm when the wind chill was 23 below zero; because his then-wife insisted the lights go up THAT DAY. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but something sure puts a damper on his attitude around Christmas.

So every December, I put up the tree and the lights, by myself or with the kids.  I set up the Nativity scene by myself.  I bake cookies and Nisü with the kids.  I shop and wrap presents by myself. I watch Rudolph alone. And my hubby hides behind his laptop screen, or buries himself in a novel. If I ask what he wants for Christmas he always says, “Nothing.”  And when I ask if he wants to help with any of the Christmas preparations, he just stares at me blankly.  I figure having a husband who is near perfect in every other way and loves to cook during the rest of the year, is a reasonably fair trade, so I don’t force the issue. And to his credit, he always manages to sneak at least one perfect gift under the tree.

Christmas does funny things to people. It’s never perfect. It’s hardly ever what we expect. It can be messy and noisy and crowded and it can change our personalities for a month!  But Christmas is always a reminder that God came to earth dressed as a baby and that is enough for me. 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

They Don't Understand the Way You Live!

I love that commercial for an insurance company, that ends with the tagline: "There are people who don't understand the way you live." I can totally relate!

I tend to fall into this category myself. I don't understand the lifestyles depicted on Keeping Up with The Kardashians, or Jersey Shore, or The Real Housewives of Atlanta, (or New York, or Dallas, or Beverly Hills, etc.) I don't understand the appeal of TV shows that glorify family conflicts and dysfunction (Sister Wives, Dance Moms, or 16 and Pregnant), or "game shows" on which people embarrass themselves with bizarre challenges (Fear Factor, Wipeout, Hell's Kitchen, or Survivor) And don't even get me started on Honey Boo-Boo!

The rise of reality TV has given us a fascinating peek into the lives of people we might never meet otherwise. It has given us a glimpse into careers that we may never have thought of: like driving a big rig with Ice Road Truckers, tuna fishing a la Wicked Tuna, or helping people dig out from under their clutter in Hoarding: Buried Alive. And reality TV has proven that most of us are living in denial and we are apparently doing everything wrong: (What Not to Wear, Kitchen Nightmares, The Biggest Loser.)   

Don't get me wrong. I am not judging here, I just don't understand the way those people live! And I don't understand the appeal of watching the way those people live.

There are people who don't understand the way that David and I live, either. We get it. 

There are people who don't understand what we are doing with The Oasis. They seem to think that following God's intention for our lives is bizarre. They don't understand why we don't "have real jobs" or why we aren't worried about money. They don't understand our desire to move to a rural area and open our home to strangers. They don't understand why anyone would want to go on a retreat to experience a closer walk with God. They don't understand that prayer and worship can change, and vastly improve, their lives. They just don't understand the way we live! And they probably don't understand why I watch the TV shows I do (Doctor Who, Falling Skies, Haven, The Walking Dead, and yes, I'll admit it: The Simpsons).

So here we are. I do not understand the way other people live, and they do not understand the way I live. However, I do understand that we are all beloved children of God. And He understands everything. 

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, 
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." 
(Mark 7:1-2)