Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Calendar

2010 I bought a calendar today. It's one of the more optimistic things I've done lately. I have a 2009 calendar, but it's been gathering dust for a few months because I've had no interest in planning more than one day at a time. I'm still pretty apprehensive about special plans or complicated outings, but routines are awesome. Right now there are at least three days every week for which I know exactly what will happen and those are my best days.

The last weekend was long and oppressive. I was on my own with (two of) the kids and the days were vague and disorganized. I lack the energy to create my own plan on that kind of day. I wandered through those two days with no forward motion.

Near the end of summer I remember Husband saying he thought the school-year schedule would help me. I thought he was way off -- the pressure of getting anyone anywhere on time seemed like it would be too much. But it turns out he was right. The requirements of my son's schoolday, and my other plans, motivate me in the short term. And that's much better than no motivation at all.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Without Ceasing

The last several months have taught me a lot about prayer, especially about prayer as ongoing conversation. I’ve begun, occasionally, to ask God for help in the midst of a challenging moment/hour/day. When I want to crash and never get out of bed again, I complain to Him that my life is too much for me.

The admonition to pray without ceasing has taken on new meaning, too. The more aware I am of how much I need God’s power, the more aware I become of all the pain around me. I recently met a woman who told me, in a 5-minute conversation, about the series of difficulties that have shaped her family’s life in the last months: she was laid off at the same time they moved to a new house, she is expecting a baby soon, and her older children are struggling with the new school year. All I can offer her is compassion and prayers asking God to care for her family.

Now I have become increasingly concerned about the spiritual condition of our congregation. In the last months, more than one parishioner has said something to Husband about Satan being at work in the congregation. These are people who know more than I do about the interpersonal relationships and conflict among laypeople and leaders. It is alarming to me. I feel helpless. My first thought is, “I guess there’s nothing I can do except pray.” That is awfully dismissive of God’s promises to work through our prayers. I try to revise that thought: “God has given na├»ve, depressed, wishing-I-were-somewhere-else little me the opportunity to support our entire congregation by praying for them.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Which I Question the Reliability of God

Last Sunday surprised me. On the way to the worship service, my son whined “I don’t wanna go to church!” I answered, without premeditation, “Really? I’m excited to go to church.” I don’t when I last had that feeling. Sitting in the pew, I felt glad to be there. I could see Mrs. Sr. Pastor several rows in front of me, and I was glad for her to be there, too.

During the first portion of the service, I kept thinking of how God seemed to have changed my heart. Somehow, He had prepared me to look at things differently even though not much has changed.

Then the sermon. Oh, my. It was not offensive in, it just seemed empty. It seemed like this to me:

Today, I am going to talk to you about red bricks, yellow bricks, and blue bricks. In the Bible, there are five red bricks. I will read you every passage that mentions them. There are four yellow bricks in the Bible. Here are the passages that mention them. Blue bricks are mentioned four times. Let’s read a blue brick passage together. All three bricks are important. God made them all.

It struck me as a series of textual observations with no meaningful interpretation.

Then, later in the service, the congregation was asked to fill out a survey. The survey is intended to measure something about how involved we are in volunteer service. Seriously? During worship? I hate that survey. I have absolutely nothing to write on it, and looking at it makes me feel worthless. Generally, I understand that I am in a time in my life when structured involvement with anything outside my own family is limited. God is with me here, my life is meaningful and purposeful. But none of my life fits on this form, so I look like nothing there.

WHY? Why would God change my heart and then leave me hanging like that? It looks like poor follow-through.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good Things

My brain feels flooded with things I'd like to write about, and most of them are stressful, but it's always good to pay attention to what is going well. So, here are some good things that have happened in the last week:

Mrs. Sr. Pastor spoke to me first at church yesterday. Pleasantries only, which is perfectly fine.

Oldest son was happy to go to school this morning.

Spent a morning with a friend and our, together, three children. We were both surprised by how relaxed we felt. While sitting in the grass having a snack, a 50ish woman stopped to applaud us for having our children outside to play. She was obviously moved by something we were doing that she considered good parenting. I didn't quite understand, but I liked the unexpected encouragement.

Joined a Bible study group for moms that seems to be exactly right for me. Lots of friendly women, my kids were happy in child-care, and the course of study looks like what I need.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pep Talk to Myself

I will not be disappointed that I am moody and tearful. I will not be surprised that I feel good for a while, and then feel fragile and sad. That's depression. That's life right now; it will not be this way forever.

God has been faithful to care for me. I felt more comfortable at church this morning than usual. Mrs. Senior Pastor and I exchanged pleasantries for thie first time in a year. Though the morning exhausted me, I did not have any attacks of anxiety.

This weekend I took my kids to the playground and I played with them! It was very encouraging to have a few episodes this week of feeling like the me I recognize.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Both Ways

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It is the title of a short story collection by Maile Meloy. They are gorgeously simple stories, and I don't think one turned out the way I'd hoped. It is not about simple indecisiveness; it is about irreconcilable longings. The book’s epigraph is from a poem by A. R. Ammons: “One can’t have it both ways, and both ways is the only way I want it.”

These stories came to me at just the right time. I am beginning to understand that I can't have it both ways. I want to be kind, compassionate, understanding of human frailty AND I want to have a life free of tragedy or major disappointment in myself. I had the latter for quite some time. Now that the happy bubble has popped, I realize God has given me quite a greater share of the former. In the last week or so I’ve heard of an infant with a dire medical crisis, a friend who is getting divorced, and a stranger injured in an auto accident near my home. News of each one almost put me on the floor in tears because I could sympathize with the feeling of intense pain and hopelessness.

I feel myself both less and more than I was.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday

Deliver one child to school. Take two children to the library, and then the playground. Feel like the mom I want to be. Then minor trauma, premature playground departure. Crying children. Oh, well, that's how it goes.

Industrious afternoon. Accomplish things, talk to people. Retrieve child from school. Manage post-school moods. Keep up the good work.

Husband comes home. Unexpectedly burst into tears. So tired! Cannot make one more decision! Dinner? I have no idea! What if I choose something no one wants to eat? DISASTER!!

It feels like the number of decisions I can handle in 24 hours is very small. I easily use them up, and then any small decision-making responsibility feels overwhelming. I know when it's happening, and I know it is illogical, but I cannot override the feeling that disaster is imminent because of me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Divine Call Goes Both Ways

I’m a little fuzzy on the Lutheran Church’s doctrine of the Divine Call. It is, very roughly, that God uses congregations and individuals to call pastors to specific churches, but that He is the one doing the work and a pastor cannot be fired just because a church disagrees with him.

Having grown up in a church that did not define the pastoral office this way, and having been in two churches that don’t seem too attached to the concept, I have only a vague notion of it myself. But I resonate with the idea that God is in control, and we need to acknowledge that He sometimes works in ways we don’t prefer.

I expect our congregation to respect my husband as pastor, even the people who disagree with some of what he is doing. This is not a corporate position; he does not work at the whim of a manager or CEO.

It has sometimes troubled me that this seems to be a one-way expectation. We have very practical expectations of them to pay his salary, to support our family. How are we committed to them in return? They can expect my husband to fulfill his duties by God’s power and guidance, but that’s precisely what tends to be in conflict.

Then an opportunity arose to test our family’s “divine call” to this congregation. There is a project going on at our church that involves a major, special financial commitment. We have struggled with what our involvement should be in that. It is hard to feel excited about sacrificial giving to a congregation about which we feel so conflicted. As we talked about it, we realized that God has given our family to this church, to support it and fully participate in it as He enables us. I think the divine call entails a commitment on our part as much as it does on the part of the congregation.

So, we are supporting the special project. Honoring our commitment to the church reinforces my sometimes-wavering sense the I belong there. God is helping me to focus on the people in the congregation who appreciate me, and I believe He’ll give me the grace to skip or crawl through interactions with people about whom I feel deep anxiety. His grace is bigger than even this.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Still Crazy After All These...

Vacation was good, I came home feeling better. For a few days, I found it easy to make a list for the day, enjoyed crossing things off, and felt a pleasurable sense of capability and accomplishment.

Whenever I have a blue-sky episode like that, I start to think I am better and now I will go back to my regularly-scheduled life. I don't need all this help with the kids anymore, I don't need to see a therapist anymore. I'm fine!

But I'm not fine. It seems I am still depressed, and I've been blessed with a few good days. I can see this is counter-productive: when I feel sad again, I am disappointed and discouraged that I am not well, and that magnifies the sadness, etc., etc.

People who understand this better than I do encourage me to think of it as I would a broken arm or cancer. Depression is an illness as real as those. What my depression lacks is the objectivity of an x-ray. I want someone in a lab coat to run a test and tell me what's wrong. When I start to feel better, I'd go in for a follow-up. They'd do another test, and say, "Oh, it looks good. The depression is shrinking. But it's still there, and you need to continue treatment or it will get out of control."

My treatment is annoying in its lack of certainty. Therapist does not tell me what to do, she suggests things I might want to try. Some of them work, some don't, some of them I don't want to try. What I want is a to-do list with a guarantee that if I complete it, I will be well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Question

How can my children be both a primary purpose in my life, bright shining lights of joy, meaning, and intimate connection AND a force of mom destruction?