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Archive for February, 2010

I kept up my end of the deal today and stayed home with the kids so my husband could take the students to visit a Unitarian Universalist church. I would have liked to go to, but it was also nice to snuggle with my soon to be 5 year old for a while. I figure I’d better enjoy these times while I he’s still seeking them out. Pretty soon he’ll be a stinky school boy who doesn’t want his mom fussing over him. Well, he’ll probably still want me to fuss over him, just so long as nobody sees it!

This evening I got online to catch up on FB and see what everyone is thinking about life, which led to some ongoing bewilderment about aging. I plan on living to a ripe old age, so it’s not that I don’t want to get older. I’m just dragging my feet about leaving behind the young adult moniker. I was wistful about turning 30. It was good to leave my 20s behind; allegedly for a better, stronger, freer more mature but still young self. Newly married. Freshly minted MDiv. The whole “life begins when you start your career in earnest” thing. Turned out that the whole career thing was a bit harder to get started than I had expected. But then again, when you are geographically limited by your husband’s job, it’s not necessarily just going to fall into place. My 30s turned out to be one of the most tumultuous decades of my life with so many changes, ups and downs. I had 6 jobs in 3 years; 4 of them in the first. The longest I was employed anywhere was 4 years. I moved to two different states and 3 different homes. I had two children and one cranial surgery.

I kept trying to figure out how to make life really something; to make my career really something; to make me really something. I have a good husband who has stood by me through everything. I have two children who I love like crazy. I’ve travelled and done some interesting stuff, but I still feel like a mass of unfulfilled potential.

Back in my early 30s there was a lot of talk about Generation X. What would we amount to? Were we really a bunch of slackers who cared only about ourselves? Would we really make a contribution to society? While at the same time I noticed a lot more attention being showered on the generation behind us. It was like the rest of the world had just written off GenX. I began to think of mine as another “Lost Generation”, like our grandparents. And I began to notice how many of my peers were working hard, but also steeping back from the spotlight to do things that were important to ourselves, like spend time with our kids and doing things that gave us a sense of meaning. It hasn’t all been balanced though; take a look at what’s happened with kids sports and you’ll see a lot of my peers pushing for their own kids entitlement. Ugh!

There are still signs of GenX influence leaking into to the culture. You can see it in advertising, just listen to the music used for commercials that target people over 30. But we’re not getting much encouragement. To be honest, we’re a small generation sandwiched between two of the biggest generations in US history. We’ll have to work harder to make our mark.

But my truth is, that I still have a sense of not being ready for prime time. Sure, it’s my own insecurity and I’m master of my own destiny and that crap. But there’s also a sense of being held back, suppressed, even oppressed by the generation ahead of me; like the Boomers realized that they had become the establishment they had been fighting and decided it was a good place to be; so much so they don’t really want to give it up. And this generation behind us has been so trained and coddled to believe that they are entitled to it all that their parents are doing everything to make sure it happens whether the kids have done the work and earned the place or not.  (I know, sweeping generalizations, but this is my rant!).

So I’m lamenting that I need a solid mentor. I need someone to encourage me and yet speak truthfully to me. And I’m feeling so spent, here at 40, that I’m just not sure how to pick it all up and find the passion that my life is lacking. I used to be passionate about a few things. When I graduated from seminary I would have told you I was passionate about youth ministry and sexuality education. But I’ve changed. I’ve grown. I experienced more of the world and had my eyes opened. I’ve had my illusions disillusioned. I’ve been shaken, stirred, confused and changed. I’m still the youngest person in most of my professional circles, or one of the youngest. I have interests that relate to older ways and values and thoughts that relate to younger insights and ways of being. I’m in a sandwich- a thin layer of something, meat? peanut butter? jam? lettuce? between two very thick slices of whole grain bread. And I just don’t know what to get excited about. Where do I turn? What will I do that will make a contribution of meaning? Who will I be important to, other than my family?

I’m no longer a young adult. I passed that at 35 and really left it when I turned 40. But what is there for this betweener stage? Shouldn’t I be ready to DO something? Or perhaps I should have already done it? Don’t studies show that the most significant contributions to the world are made by people who are in their late 20s or early 30s at the latest? I’m not done yet, I just haven’t figured out what exactly it is that I am supposed to do.

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So this past Sunday I had picked out another church to visit, a federated church (UCC and PCUSA). They had a really attractive website and I had driven past the building a few times, which was also attractive.

Then my husband says to me on Saturday, “I’m planning to take one of the college students to visit a UU church tomorrow. Do you mind staying home with the kids?” (You’re wondering why we wouldn’t all just go together, right? Well, our older child is on the spectrum and new places with unknown expectations make visiting anywhere as a family a little, well, scary. I feel much better being the scouting party who can come back and give the low down on what to expect when we visit new church as a family. And honestly, as a pastor and parent, I need to be able to go to church and decide whether or not it feels like a place I can worship in. I don’t want to have to try to get a feel for it all while I’m worried about my kids and trying to shield them for any more bad church behavior of adults. Plus, I think it can be very scary for kids to be separated from their parents in a strange new place like a Sunday School class, no matter how nice it might seem on the surface.)

So I say, “Oh? I was planning to visit federated church tomorrow.”,  not even thinking also that it is the 30th anniversary of my brother’s death. Dear husband, who also has been icky sick this week, wisely says, “Well, maybe student would like to go with you. Would that be ok?” To which I respond, “Absolutely, I’d be happy to take student with me.” By the time the evening rolls around, I am taking two students with me.

I pick the students up Sunday morning, with just enough time to get to the church which is about 20 miles away. I talk a little about my recent visitations and fill them in on my recently honed church visitation skills, pointing out especially that when you arrive in the parking lot, it’s important to pay attention to which door people seem to be entering. That way you 1) Look like you know what you are doing and 2) Can be assured that the door is actually unlocked and 3) Will likely find other people inside who might welcome or direct you if necessary.

We head in through the door marked “Service Entrance” rather than follow the signs that say “Sanctuary Entrance.” A little strange, but everyone else is doing it and churches are notorious for doing things that don’t seem logical on the surface. (I know, you’re snickering because you know it is absolutely the truth!)

As we proceed down the hall I’m taking note of signage and people and all the church-y stuff. I can’t help it. I’ve been trained in this stuff! (Hmm, perhaps I could have a career as a professional secret church shopper? Wonder how much I could charge for my services?) One thing I notice right away is the choir members standing in the hall holding copies of MY denominational hymnbook!!!! Could it be a sign?

We snake our way through to the other side of the building where the sanctuary is located. Funny, with all the signs in this church, which are very attractive and useful indeed; there is no sign indicating the location of restrooms! Maybe these folk are so good, they just don’t produce any waste? Hmmm.

One thing I notice, too, is that most of the people are smiling and greeting each other; many of them even greet us! The greeters at the sanctuary door even offer to help us find a seat. Wow!

Just then I get a glimpse into the sanctuary. I think my heart actually skipped a beat! I know my jaw dropped. This is a sanctuary in which I WANT to worship. And I don’t even mind it when student #1 suggests we sit near the front. We site down on the 3rd pew from the front, and there are people sitting in front of us! I take this as a sign that these folks really want to be here and they aren’t holding any weapons that I can see, so it’s not because they plan to round up the pastor and run him out!

We look over the service bulletin and make note of the service order. I’m a little excited because there is a baptism today! It’s my favorite sacrament. It makes me feel like an honored guest because I’m here now, as an ecumenical visitor, representing the wider Church. This family will have no idea that we were here and made a commitment to their children for the oikos (whole house of God).

I do my best to put my criticisms in check and just let the worship leaders be who they are. And I start to get a little envious, because I know this associate minister was called to this church at the very same time I was called to my last church. And from all appearances, he’s in a good place. He’s in a place that is healthier than where I was. I can’t help but wish he would seek out a really great new opportunity for himself to grow in as a 2nd placement out of seminary.  It’s so wrong, and I so wish I would find a place like this for me.

The vibe is good here. Except for the organ being out of tune, this building is well kept and it is beautiful. It reminds me both of the church I grew up in and the church I served in our last state. It feels familiar and yet fresh. It’s the kind of church that I can see myself being part of, whether active clergy or not. I tempts me to step out of ministry and just be a member for a while. It tempts me to stop visiting other churches, even though I’m curious about what else is out there. As a usually employed pastor, it’s next to impossible to visit other churches. I find myself at this time wishing to belong in one place and every place. I want to have some new experiences, and yet I long to be what Kennon Callahan describes as “known by name and missed when absent” in a place where the feeling is mutual.

Reading over the bulletin and church schedule, I find myself wishing to attend the Bible studies and the book studies and the Lenten vesper services. And then the senior minister starts preaching on the story of Abraham and Sarah and the three visitors. Dear God! Really? This too is one of my favorite portions of the Hebrew Bible. “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?!”

The service ends with no communion, and I’m unusually fine with that.  I witnessed a baptism! We sang the song that I used for the mothers at my wedding. I didn’t cry. Well, I teared up, but they were happy tears and it didn’t cause a scene. We met the pastor and went to coffee hour in their LOVELY hall. Well, we didn’t actually get the full experience of coffee hour because we bumped into someone we know and  had a conversation instead. But it was good. And other people talked to us in a warm and welcoming way. It was a taste of the hospitality talked about in the sermon.  And when we needed to find the restrooms, someone actually walked us to them!

Yeah, it was really good. So good that I even treated the students to lunch and went home completely forgetting that there was a denominational area event Sunday afternoon that I had planned to go to. Didn’t even think of it. at. all. until late this evening. I was satisfied. Going to church hasn’t done that for me in a long time.

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