Church, Appointment and Practice

Hi Sweetheart,

I’ve been thinking a lot about church, lately. Church in the appointment type of church and church in the practice sense.

Your Dad and I haven’t been to church, the appointment kind, much in a while. Really since you got sick. At the time, it was safer for you not to go. For you, it was a place of a bunch of people with germs, in the moment. For me, it was a bunch of people that might give me germs that would lay in wait until I was with you, only to infect you.

And then you died…

And church, the appointment kind, didn’t seem to fill the need we had, to connect with God without just being mad. That’s really your Dad’s thing. He thinks about your death and gets mad. At cancer, at God, at the church, as an institution, that didn’t really minister to us. Our fault? Maybe. Me, it just seems like a duty that I don’t care to pick up and pack around.

Instead, we find God in the practice of church. Nature, snow, spring lightening shows, our dogs, your dogs, a hug from a loved one.

But sometimes, church, the appointment kind, does minister to me in a profound way.

First_Communion

A few weeks ago, your Sister/Cousin’s 2nd received her 1st Communion. She’s a rule follower, a leader, a judge and social worker, all rolled into one. And she was super excited for this milestone. She’d done the work of learning the what and the why and the how, and was excited to receive Christ in this way. So I put her appointment on my calendar and showed up to project my love into her day.

I walked into the church and saw my Bestie, your Auntie, in the back, following #5 around as she explored and demanded and asked “this?” over and over. When Mass started, we sat with the family. #5 crawled all over Aunt C, and proved that she has no whisper yet available, in her repertoire of words and actions and inflections. #4 saw me, and for some reason decided I was the one for the day. Which is crazy, because as the surly one, she usually pretty much ignores her God Mother. But she saw me and came to me and sat on my lap all through Mass. She and #5 played with my jewelry, trading necklace and bracelets. And then E played with my Apple watch, scrolling through the pictures, and scribbling in Evernote. All of this, pretty much wanting me to not help her!! Haha! So I gave her directions, which she’d follow when she thought I knew what I was doing, and ignore when she knew I didn’t, and in general, was a quiet little dictator on my lap. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had the skin rubbed off of me in this wonderful way. Through all the little girl space in my lap and next to me, I missed most of Mass, though the rhythm and cadence of the ritual was familiar, even as the “new” words, that were introduced when you were sick, are still annoying to me. But still, as always, I cried through Communion. I always cry through Communion. And as annoying as I find that, I just let myself cry. You’d think I’d remember to bring Kleenex to church.

peace-officers

Later that week, I had another appointment church. A memorial. The opposite end of the life spectrum, I guess. A friend’s husband, gone after a yearlong bout with thyroid cancer. This just 2 years after he came into her life and brought light to her eyes. She’d lost the light when her son died, just 3 weeks after you. You’d wanted to meet T so badly when you were so sick that last hospital stay. You were too sick, he was too sick and it just didn’t happen. And yet I know you greeted him when he joined you in the arms of the Angels.

Anyway, that church appointment was beautiful in it’s own way. A different sort of service, in a church of a different denomination, but church by appointment, still. Beautiful words, said in hopes of softening the hurt, bolstering the spirit, a video of a life that had joys and hardships aplenty, and shortened too soon. Lunch in company of another Mom of an Angel, and a Mom of a Warrior, there to support our friend, as she moved through the day in a trance of hugs and memories and words of sympathy. An appointment to grieve, though the grieving started with the diagnosis and will continue from now until forever.

Church by appointment, serving a purpose.

hummer Salida

And I keep thinking about Church as a practice. The sacred time of driving through the mountains with your little brother, as we talk and laugh and breathe each other in. The tending to your Uncle B and Aunt J’s old dog, while we stay in their house for the night to break up the drive. She is feeble and deaf and blind and grateful for company. And your brother got to breathe in the nectar that is Salida. The snow on the mountain, the first hummingbirds at the feeder. The sun, the air, the magic of this place of the heart.

hats-off-graduation-clipart-1

And this weekend we will come together as a large extended family to celebrate a twin graduation. Church in celebration, church in family, church in embracing these young men with love and laughter and advice and prayers of grace. There will be hugs and delight and food aplenty. We are hoping for sun, but will celebrate in the rain, or the snow, if that’s where we find ourselves. Because these rites of passage, these rituals of ceremony and celebration connect us to each other in the most profound way. A church experience, a church practice, for sure.

And then your Sister-in-Law and her hubby arrive! I’m pretty sure she’s coming to see the dogs and is happy to get to see me, too. And we plan to camp. And they will hike, and I will read and we all will nap and talk and dream a little. And the church that is my beloved mountains will feed our souls, soothe our hearts and nourish our minds.

Church in practice, extended over days. Ahhhh.

I’m thankful for church, appointment and practice. I’m thankful for your Sister/Cousin and her brood and that she includes me in their lives. I’m thankful for twin nephews, graduating and looking forward. I’m thankful for car time with your brother.

I’m thankful for today!!

Sparkly snow

Hi Girl!

You can’t see the rainbows in the frost in this picture but it was there. Sparkly snow! My favorite! Your sweet Mia wanted out front, first thing, like always. She loves the front yard, she always has! Ever since we trained her for you, she loved the front yard. The back, in that house, had a giant stair to the grass, so we always let her out the front. It’s like she’s come home, every time. I think it’s really just because she likes to poop in the front! Haha!

Today was sit through meetings day. ALL DAY! But so much discussed and sorted and meetings are where the decisions are made.

I also finished a note your Honey asked for. He wanted opinions. I gave them to him. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know… He and his bride are making a life but boy, it’s a struggle! They remind me of baby birds struggling to free themselves from the egg shell they’re surrounded in. Whacking away, not realizing that perhaps all they need to do is stretch their wings a little and go back to the basics. But that boy of yours! He’s certainly wired for struggle! 

Your brother is finally back in his own apt after being gone for a month, starting the day after he moved! You know him, he needs everything in place but it’s not there, yet, and he’s beginning to get crazy! Today, he struggled with injustice. The designer he is working with lit out after his assistant. He feels the wrong in that so acutely. He is so conscientious and kind that those kinds of things really hurt his heart, his sense of justice.

Today I’m thankful for frost and sparkles and Mia and her front yard penchant. I’m thankful for your brother’s heart and ways. I’m thankful your hubs has a wife who is willing to see his heart through the charm, because we both know his charm is just the icing. I’m thankful for people who work hard to keep our business moving forward. I’m thankful for you, my Angel Baby!

I’m thankful for today!!

Friends and dinner

Hi Sweetie,

Working this week, the first road trip of the year, I’m finding myself sliding into the complaining, in my head and out loud, that I really started to notice last fall, as I was constantly traveling and just over dealing with people. Most people don’t believe me when it comes up that I am not a people person, but I know you understand this. You, too, would get to the point of just being done with people, though I think for you it was more about needing quiet time with yourself, for me, it’s about feeling assaulted by people’s attitudes and energy and anxieties.

So I’m reigning that in and sharing the happy in my day. I got to have dinner with long time friends! Friends I haven’t seen in several years. Their little boy is 5 going on 6 and other than a quick hug at our yearly conference, I haven’t gotten to sit down and share in their life since their little guy was around 1. We had Mexican food at a place in the middle between where they live and where I am working. A 45 min trip took me about 75 min! When I got to the restaurant, she asked me if I was crazy with the traffic. My reply, not really. I’m so thankful that traffic just doesn’t really get to me. I can plan and be diligent, and then, it’s not up to me! Can’t change it, can’t fight it, so I don’t. And I’m so grateful for that! These friends have work in common, though not in the way they did when I first was getting to know them. It’s fun to hear how his business is growing and how the crazy woman started teaching high school math. What the…?!?! Brave woman! Not me!! It was fun to get to see them interact with their little boy; tender and clear and timely and truthful and consistent and…just sweet.

This dear woman and I have a deep connection. As we would meet on the road, years ago, her doing her work, me doing mine, we did our best to sit down for a few minutes and catch up. We shared deep things with each other. Sometimes it’s almost easier to share with a compassionate heart that doesn’t reside in your day to day world. That’s the relationship she and I have. She always asks me about you. Her question today, “How did Jen show up for you today?” What a PERFECT question! She must not have seen the gorgeous sunset as I entered the restaurant, or she wouldn’t have needed to ask that question! She always asks about your little brother, too, and celebrates with me, as I love my kids out loud. Thank you, Sweet Friend, companion of my heart. She shared with me how she is missing her Dad. He was a safe place for her, as she was an adult. A consistent encourager to her and someone who always had time for her, always had space for her, someone she could receive from. As a fellow giver, I connect with that. Needing someone to receive from; receive encouragement, receive space, receive forgiveness, receive a hug in the form of words, receive lack of demand, receive grace. I hope she has that again, if even for a moment. I would be that for her, in time of need, as I know she would be that for me.

Today, I am thankful for safe travels in bumper to bumper traffic, Shipley’s Donuts, chips and queso. I’m thankful for friends who are easy, and who go out of their way to connect with me. Such a gift. I’m thankful for someone who cares enough to ask how you are in my day, today. I HAVE to remember that question. It’s appropriate for so many people so many times! I’m thankful for the weird end of day congregations of mockingbirds in Houston. Randomly (to me, probably not actually randomly), at close of day, giant flocks of these birds gather together to commune before calling it a night. I have no idea why they do it, why they choose to congregate where they do, or what is really going on in their heads, but it’s interesting to me, that they do congregate. And interesting is happy making, for me. Oh, and they’re a little bit creepy in these giant flocks, which also peaks my interest!!

As I mark the 1/2 way point of this work week, I’m thankful that today, I was reminded to be thankful.

I am thankful for today!!