Friday, January 29, 2010

Authentic, Available and Affirming?

In a recent youth ministry class, we were reminded that the key to developing all relationships was to be authentic (like don't try to be who you're not), available (like not just show up..but show up ready to play/listen) and affirming(like sincerely..back to the authentic part). At the time I was thinking "well duh". But upon further reflection, I realized just how far I had removed myself from these basics with my own children in my own home.

As I have de-cluttered (still throwing out 26 things a day!)..I stumbled upon a bunch of old pictures. It is very bitter-sweet. Looking at these pictures. The boys are growing up so fast..and I am proud of each and every one of them. But I also found myself thinking when did we stop doing this..when did we fill our days with busyness? We still love each other..we still care for each other..but we have really drifted apart. All of us. Yes..the kids are off doing there own thing..but more than that..we are unavailable for each other.

(Cody showing Austen how to play a chord and Austen, Cody and Devin dyeing cascarones 3 years ago)

This all came at the same time that I had a real wake-up call with one of the boys here at home. This child of mine showed my just how unavailable I have become over the past few years.

It all happened innocently enough. I took a part-time job. We talked about it as a family..and we did this together. Part-time turned to full-time. Full-time turned back to part-time..but then I quickly filled that time with school, ministry, volunteerism. As things became crazier and crazier, I became less and less available. I forgot to be even remotely affirming.I piled on the responsibilities..and forgot to say thank you.

I quit saying.."I like the way you made the lasagna. What did you add?" And began saying."Oh..and don't forget we have 6 extras tonight..and why didn't you make bread to go with it?" I did manage to stay authentic! I made my statement loud and clear. I am too busy and why can't you do more to help. (ouch)

I keep adding on the kids responsibilities at home, so I can help others outside our home. I know we have established a strong relationships..a strong team identity. But I forget to keep the communication open on the home-front. 3 years later, I am shocked at how far I have drifted.

As I am reflecting on all of this, I stumble across a small statement in a Mothering magazine at my friend Carol's (Sardine Mama) house:

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don't expect you to change the world, I do think it's not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove those from your life who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.
(poet Nikki Giovanni) is official. I resign from the Boys and Girls Club this May. I need to tie-up some loose ends. I will enjoy this time at the well as this time with Kairos. Then no more weekend ministries, no more work. I am, however, continuing with the pastoral ministry training program. But keeping it on the academic level at this time.

Right now I want to be with my family in a true spirit of affirmation, availability and authenticity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Preparing for Kairos... a time of reflection.

Not too much has changed around here. Everyone is still doing the same things. I continue to declutter 26 things a day..and after 3 weeks of decluttering..I can honestly say, you can now take 1 entire step into my closet!
But it is not just physical stuff being decluttered. I am slowly preparing for a year at home. A year in which I hope to listen and sort through a (mid)lifetime of experiences before writing an honest/concise spiritual autobiography for the candidacy committee of the ELCA. I am preparing for a year of discernment, so to speak.
For now, though, I have the opportunity to serve on my first Kairos team (inside support..I count cookies). Kairos International is an Ecumenical Prison Ministry whose basic them is "listen, listen, love, love." This is not a weekend about preaching or convincing, but about sacrificing personal needs to be in control and to truly listen with our hearts.
To do this effectively team-formations are a place to "shed our self interests and put on the cloak of humility, obedience, sacrifice, vulnerability, and love - the face of Christ Himself."
..and I have to say that in just one team-building (a few more to come), I was truly humbled by the openness, honesty and vulnerability of those more experienced members of the team.
I realize that I need to take a long hard look at the more troubling parts of my life. Those wilderness/valley experiences so to speak. I need to be completely honest with not just others, but first myself. I need to be honest about things I'm still not sure I understand. I need to look long and hard at the more painful aspects of my life and let myself be vulnerable.
I am trying to look honestly at the difficulties(culture shock) I had to adjusting to life in the United States in early elementary-school years. To the grief for my obasan, to whom I never got to say a proper farewell. Grief for unknown outcomes of 2 foster-brothers and 2 foster-sisters.
I am still processing things I saw in Romania over 20 years ago.
I need to be honest about a time in my early 20's when I became so overwhelmed by the injustices in the world that I spiraled into a pattern of behavior of which I am not proud. I need to acknowledge that I was on the verge of a nervous break-down. I realize (now) that I was trying to carry the weight of the world on my own shoulders, which resulted in my spending 3 days wandering the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco before dropping out of a college I truly loved.(How's that for a run-on sentence?)
I fumbled into more ridiculous behavior after dropping out, only to find myself married and with a child just over a year later.
An assault by an ex-boyfriend. The suicides of two childhood friends. The loss of a dear adult-life friend to Lupus. The loss of a close relationship with a sister who is still a recovering addict, and the realization that the fact that I am not the one who is an addict or an alcoholic, is merely luck of the dice.
These are the places I need to visit as I de-clutter and allow myself to be vulnerable..and it is hard. Because, despite appearances, I am actually a fairly private person.
I have been truly blessed by strong family, friends and various faith communities throughout my entire life. I have been blessed with a husband and three children who have taught me much about how to live life to the fullest. Overall, life has unfolded fairly easily for me..and for this I am grateful. But I need to spend some-time reflecting on these more painful see those places where I truly believe God carried me through.
Because only true humbleness and vulnerability am I open to really listen.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Art With Veronica

We are preparing for The Big Game. UTAustin plays in The Rose Bowl tonight. We are not huge football fans around here..but we gotta support Brian and Angee!

Austen has taken over the food prep for the evening. Roast, green-bean casserole, dinner rolls, all the "game food" (cheese dip, guacamole,etc.) What a guy!

Wanted to take a few moments to share some art-work from the co-op kids. Veronica Quintana has graciously worked with a couple of our kiddoes this year. She gave me a c.d. of some of their work from the Fall. Wanted to share.

The kids spent a lot of time at the fishing hole in our back-yard, so having their first attempt at water-colors be at the fishing hole seemed appropriate. Top left is by Amanda Mireles. On the right is by Austen Bates. On the bottom left is painting by Devin Van Bibber.

Next we have a first attempt of still-life with pastels on felt. Artist Devin Van Bibber below. Austen Bates on right.

Co-op was not limited to the house. Kids spent some time doing quick sketches at various galleries and museums. Below Austen, Mandy and Devin spend a morning at the Kerr Arts Center in Kerrville.

..and we can't forget the cool guy at the awesome print-shop in Kerrville.

So from the kids and their families to Mrs. Quintana.


Monday, January 04, 2010

A Resolve to Declutter Our Lives

Hoping everyone had an enjoyable holiday season. We spent a lot of time doing...well...a whole lot of nothing.

We enjoyed it thoroughly.

Two weeks of nothingness bliss. We would start to say.."you know we should"..and then sigh and say. "nah". Let's enjoy this. The Spring is coming.

And Spring..around here means busy.

Big B and I regrouped with Austen and the families from our homeschool co-op. We have agreed to continue studying the same subjects this Spring: Architecture/Art/IPC/Math/Cooking.

The co-op resumes this week.

In addition Austen and Devin will be hanging out in my living room for 4 hours every Tuesday and Thursday to study World History.

Cody is adding an Intro to the Great Books (Lit/Comp) and U.S. History to his list of things to study. He is continuing with AP Chemistry, his automotive repair course, Financial Peace and Advanced Math (trig/pre-cal) Currently we are reading Profiles In Courage by John F. Kennedy together. Michael has a lot of small automotive repair jobs for him. He is also filling out one scholarship application a week, hoping to find a way to cover some of the expenses of Full Sail.

Soccer season is in full swing for Cody and Mason. Austen is entering OM crunch mode. Meaning..he has a lot of Odyssey work to do. He continues to cook for the Club one day a week and participate in the Club's city-wide paper recycling program.

We resumed community dining this past Saturday. It is nice to return to a full table of family and friends in the evenings.

We had taken a break from Community Dining over the holidays.

The boys continue to cook one night a week. We have had a lot of trial and error..but everyone is beginning to adjust to the new rhythm.

We enjoyed having a lazy Fall. We REALLY enjoyed our break of nothingness.

The business, however, is not limited to the kids. I continue with my 4th semester in the Pastoral Ministry in Training Program. It is basketball season and Odyssey crunch mode (4 teams this year) at the Club. It is also time for our yearly reports. I have the opportunity to serve on a Kairos team this Fall..Which is more weekends of team-building etc. I am still reading The Great Books:)

It seems odd, I think. Because Big B and I both resolved to declutter our lives this year.
..and here we go with over scheduling again.

But we have a plan....

We are starting with material things..26 things a day. We are throwing or giving away.
So far I have thrown away countless bottles of expired medicines (frightening actually) and thrown or given away enormous piles of sheet music.

We are cutting out the time-suckers in our lives. For me..that would be facebook and ridiculous amounts of blogging. (Yes..I see the humor here) And as if on cue, my laptop has crashed. So..I am using an old computer that is very temperamental. So..I am cutting back to one or two blogs a month. You a reasonable person.

We are both planning to transition out of our current jobs in this next year.

I have spent a little over 5 years at the Boys and Girls Club. It has been a wonderful place for me and my family...but it is time to move on. The Club is growing and have plenty of competent staff to keep things going. I need to make the break from this chapter of our lives and prepare for the next ministry oriented chapter.

But for now, I immerse myself in Club life for the rest of this school year. I enjoy this time.

I selfishly hope to have a year to stay home...but only time will tell if this is feasible or not.

Once again. Happy New Year's to all.