Monthly Archives: March 2011

If My iPhone Doesn’t Ring on the Farm, Will I Still Exist?

I adore my iPhone.

I know a lot of people with iPhones and truthfully I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love the iPhone. (Well, maybe those people who got messed up with daylight savings time, but I don’t know any of those….) My phone was a gift from my church–a tool to be used by the pastors in an effort to help us organize our plate-spinning lives. And wow, did it do that for me! All of a sudden, my dual life as a full-time mom and a full-time pastor became so much more doable. I could take my boys to the park and still not miss an important email. I could work my calendar waiting in carpool. I could take a picture of this widget I wanted to buy for VBS and send it immediately to someone’s computer for evaluation. I could work on bulletin boards while listening to my iPod and never miss a call, a text, or an email. I got push notifications for weather alerts, school closings, important meetings, and breaking news. I was efficient before, but with my iPhone, I became Super-Me. (Or is that Super-i?) Always on top of things.

Of course I’d be remiss to leave out all the fun I’ve had with the thing as well. Downloading music from a satellite orbiting who-knows-where while driving through West Virginia, just because an old song popped into Orlando’s brain and he wanted to hear it. Games to keep my kids occupied while waiting at restaurants. Networks that allow me to listen to every single Mets game I want to while living buried in the heart of Phillies country. Engines to search anything, any time I want so I always know what I want to know when I want to know it. And of course, the Facebook app that allows me to check up on my friends all day long if I feel like it.

So today, as I sat chatting with my dear friend and boss, I just had to ask the question–is my iPhone mine? Or is my iPhone yours?

He laughed at me. “Your iPhone is yours,” he said.

Well, that ended that question, but it did begin a bunch of others in my head at the same time. Am I really going to need an iPhone living on a Nebraska farm? Would it be worth the expense? For what purpose would I be required to carry the thing in my pocket all the time there? Who is going to need to reach me so urgently? The corn? The cows?  Will I even get bars there? Any bars? At all?

And suddenly I was once again faced with the reality that soon my world will get a whole lot smaller. Not less significant or less important, just smaller. My sphere of influence will undoubtedly shrink, and the people who need to get a hold of me so urgently now will have someone else to call. Now I spend a little time with a lot of people every day. Then I am going to spend a lot of time with a few people every day. But at least I will be with the most important few. At least, the most important few to me.

So will I exist if my iPhone doesn’t ring? Probably. But my existence will probably look a lot different from the way it looks today. I guess if  that happens, I’ll just have to take a picture of that new me and upload it to Facebook, just to keep everybody in the loop.

Well, if I can find a way to get internet out there…..

This Old House

Just minutes ago I confirmed an appointment with a realtor. The process of selling our home has officially begun.

It’s so hard to believe. We’ve lived here for just eight years, but in some ways our family as we know it began in this place. Orlando and I  had been renting a townhouse on the other side of the borough when we finally decided to buy our own home. We put in an offer on this place the day we toured it. It was only the second house we had seen and it had been on the market for just ten hours, but it was perfect for us and we knew it.

It’s an old place, built in 1906 and sitting just two blocks off the square in town. A big house with green shutters, a wrap around porch with a creaking swing, an open stair, and an upstairs balcony. When we put our antiques inside, it was like we were transported back in time–we could almost imagine some woman in a bustle sitting in our front room, sewing or knitting or doing whatever women did in 1906. Orlando loved it, of course, for all it’s interesting woodwork and history. He loved the spindles and the hardwood floors. He loved the carved banister and the swirly wooden designs around the door frames. Ever the practical one of the two of us, I was drawn to the beautiful cherry cabinets in the kitchen, the laundry room on the first floor, and the spacious rooms. It seemed so big compared to that townhouse. Our massive furniture actually fit in the rooms and looked beautiful. We bought an oriental carpet and it was just perfect. Our backyard, although small, was a gorgeous flower garden. Lilies and roses and forsythia and lilacs. Flowering trees and a sweeping Eastern Redwood that touches the sky.  Lush and scented. Lovely. Serene.

The day we toured the second time was the day we learned we were expecting our twins. We bought the house in March, but waited until May to move in to allow the previous owners time to get into the new house they were building. I was six months pregnant when moving day finally came. I was pretty useless, but an army of our dear friends formed “bucket lines” and brought all our stuff in. Another army helped us unpack it and put it away. Just two months after that, our family went from two members to four. And the house began to fill with baby gear around the antiques–a pack and play in that front room that transported us back in time, Johnny Jump-Ups attached to those door frames, and soon, two baby boys giggling their way into the bottom drawer of those cherry cabinets.

And then a year later, there were three boys! We kept the pack and play but added in exersaucers and walkers and slides and ride ons. Three cribs in one bedroom, two changing tables, two highchairs, one lego table, one train table, and one preschool basketball net. Orlando began to work hard to transport the blooms outside to new homes and plant some grass. He reconfigured the beds to allow some room for walking and running along with the flowers and shrubs. Still beautiful, just a bit more balanced.

And then there were four boys! We kept the pack and play and everything else, but now we started adding in clotheslines to hang our artwork, organizers filled with playdough and markers, and hooks to hang our preschool backpacks on. Two toddler beds and two cribs. Then one bunk bed, one toddler bed, and one crib. And then we put the crib away and had just beds. These days we have two sets of bunk beds in one room and fill another with dressers and bookcases.

And now it seems to us that this old house isn’t so big anymore.  Truthfully, it’s still a lovely place when we can get the jackets and baseball mitts all in their proper places. But it’s value to us goes beyond it’s appearance. This is the house we’ve become a family in. We rocked our babies to sleep here, the boys learned to stand, walk, talk and run here, and God has given us a life far beyond any we ever expected, right here. Right here in these 1,600 messy, square feet.It’s going to be so hard to leave it. Even me–practical, not-nearly-as-sentimental me– knows that we will leave it with more than a few tears.

And even though we know and love where we’re going, it seems appropriate that I should say out loud that we also love where we’ve been. So, thank you, old house, for being our first home, all together. We will not forget you.

Clearing the Hurdles

My final day as children’s pastor at Petra Christian Fellowship is May 13. That’s about six weeks from now.

My work at Petra has been an exercise in multi-tasking unlike anything I’ve done before. I’ve had to learn to plan for the future while navigating the present. Most of our events and services are designed months and months, if not a full year, ahead of time. So I’ve had to line up what’s coming while accomplishing what’s  here now. I think about Christmas in the summer. I think about VBS in January. If I haven’t ordered my materials for Fall Fest by the beginning of July, I’m falling behind. And of course in between all this event planning is the other work–the teaching, the prayer meetings, the hospital visits, the children’s church preparations and so on. It all lines up on my calendar in an endless string of “to do’s” and “to be’s.” Not unlike running a race and jumping continual hurdles. Here comes Worker Orientation–jump! Here comes the Preschool Playdate–jump! Here comes the monthly newsletter–jump! And immediately when you clear one, the next one is coming so you just get ready to jump again.

This weekend I vaulted over a big one–a field trip to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati with 19 families. We’ve been planning it since last summer, and then just like that it whooshed by. I felt so good to do it and yet so good to have it done. Strange how it sometimes works like that.

But like I said earlier, my last day is May 13. It puts me in kind of a predicament because now I have just a few hurdles left and then there’s just nothing. A void. A black wall. Well, not quite. I have to plan the hurdles, set them out there so to speak, and just leave them standing there for other people to leap over without me. It feels so strange. Like I’m running, but I know that at some point the track is going to open up and swallow me.

And I’m going to fall into the Land of the Lost.

Well, maybe not. but life as I know it is going to take a huge turn. That could be the biggest hurdle yet.

Just Not First

Benjamin is in first grade. He is seven.

Benjamin is our second born son, the twin brother of Anthony. He would be sure to tell you, if you brought it up, that being second born doesn’t make him younger than Anthony. They were both together before they were born and nobody knows if God created them at the same moment or one after the other, but either way, nobody knows who was who or who is older. And in Benjamin’s construct that doesn’t make him anything but “not first.”

But Benjamin doesn’t mind being “not first.” As a matter of fact, he’d rather not be. He likes that he has a twin brother and other brothers to absorb some of the attention.  Even when he and Anthony were barely toddlers, Anthony would sing and dance on the rug and Benjamin would sit on the couch and laugh and clap for him. He didn’t need to be in the limelight, he was happy to cheer on the kid who clearly needed an audience. It’s his niche. Keep those nasty spotlights off me, please, I’m trying to encourage someone here.

Benjamin always wants to do the right thing. He’s careful and precise. Doesn’t want to make a sloppy mistake, so he takes time and great pains to do it correctly.He’s the kind of kid who is so deliberate he never ever gets sticky stuff on his fingers. Never carelessly knocks over your tower or messes with your toys because he know how maddening that can be. Cries if he can’t make his hands create the picture the way his head sees it. Laments his imperfections, but can so easily celebrate the successes of others. Worries about failure, but can’t conceive of it in anyone else. He’s a gentle boy who needs warm hugs, quiet affirmations, and a strong family who believes in him. Otherwise, he could miss how special he is himself.

Sometimes I wonder if there are any other young boys who have within them such old,  sentimental souls. He loves the family items in our home–our music boxes and old pictures and other nostalgia. Of all my children, he is the one who will come to me and request that I take certain items up to his “box” in the attic  (a Rubbermaid tub with collected items for each boy.) A shirt he loved and outgrew, his first baseball with a ripped cover, a painting he made at school that won an award. He “remembers when,” and he’s only seven. Can’t imagine what that will look like on him in the years to come.

Oh wait a minute, yes I can. It’s going to look just like Orlando. Because if you don’t know Orlando, suffice it to say I just described him here on this page. Benjamin is Orlando, again. Such similar creatures. Together, they are the embodiment of the phrase “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

So for this boy, the move will be the toughest–at least initially. Change comes hard and the “warming up” will take the longest for him. But when it sticks, and it will, Nebraska will be his homeland, too. The land of his Grandma and Grandpa whom he dearly loves. The land of his father whom he so closely resembles. A land he will  learn to love and will probably always long for when he is grown.

Not first in this either, is he?

Stop, Drop, and Pray

Can’t get my mind on moving today. Can’t get my mind on anything for long without the feeling that I need to stop, drop, and pray.

We have two young ones in our church fighting for their lives. One is a teenage girl, lying in a bed at a hospice center, out of energy and weary. The other, a preschool boy, struggling against a weakened immune system in battle with leukemia and RSV. Truthfully, I don’t know how either of them is doing right now, but my thoughts keep returning to them and their families. Stop and pray. Stop and pray. Stop and pray.

Please pray with us for these dear little lambs.

How great is the goodness
you have stored up for those who fear you.
You lavish it on those who come to you for protection,
blessing them before the watching world.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence,
safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence,
far from accusing tongues.Praise the Lord,
for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.
He kept me safe when my city was under attack.
In panic I cried out,
“I am cut off from the Lord!”
But you heard my cry for mercy
and answered my call for help.

Love the Lord, all you godly ones!
For the Lord protects those who are loyal to him,
but he harshly punishes the arrogant.
So be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord!

Psalm 31: 19-24


Old Friends and Tied Tongues.

Today was the first day of little league! So Orlando and I packed up all our boys, some folding chairs, and a mountain of gear and headed off to practice. I went in one direction with two boys and he went in the other with two boys. I was all set to be completely bored when  I realized one of my dearest, long-lost friends was standing with the T-ball crowd. (God, in His mercy and grace, arranged it so our sons would be on the same team.) So while they were learning to run to first base instead of third from home plate, we enjoyed a long overdue, catch-up session. Commenting on how big our children have gotten, marveling at how much they look like their dads or brothers, laughing and telling stories of times gone by and times to come. It was wonderful!

So in the middle of this whole thing it occurs to me that I really should be mentioning something about our upcoming move to Nebraska. But for some reason, I couldn’t get the words to come out of my mouth. They were stuck somewhere between my head and my tongue. I tried several times to say it out loud, but I just ended up clearing my throat.  Maybe it was because it had been so long since I had seen her and we were so excited to be in each others’ presence. Or maybe it was just because I didn’t have the energy to explain the whole thing from beginning to end. Or maybe I just wasn’t willing to let our joyous reunion get weighed down with the impending doom of separation. But whatever the reason, I sat with the woman for an hour–talking about how far we’ve come since we met in college, how funny it is to be a mom of young children in our forties, and wondering together what has become of our other long lost friends–and I didn’t breathe a word about the move. Not one.

Odd, don’t you think?

Well, it tells me one thing about myself–I’m still not completely comfortable with the idea. But I think my discomfort is originating from a different source. I’m getting used to the idea of all the change for myself and my family, but I’m not so at ease about the holes we’re leaving behind. Holes are empty and horrid. They beg to be filled with life. I am a builder by nature, not a the kind of person who enjoys creating holes.

And today, I just wasn’t willing to dig another one. But maybe next time. Maybe.

Adjudicating Up the Down Staircase

When I was a freshman in high school, my mother came home with an old book. I don’t remember where she got it or why she thought it would interest me, but she brought it home for me to read and I miraculously consented. (When I was 15 years old, that kind of easy consent didn’t happen too often.)

The book was entitled Up the Down Staircase, and it really isn’t a huge masterpiece.  It’s a story about an English teacher beginning her first year in an inner city school, and it  is told through the typical teacher communication materials used in a school: memos, hall passes, letters to college friends, suggestion box offerings, student files, teacher notes, scribbles on student notebooks and the like. It’s quirky. It’s dated. And it totally changed my life.

Funny how books can do that to you, especially when you read them when you’re young and figuring out all the gifts and talents that God has placed in you. This book helped solidify the direction my life was taking.  When I went to college I remember that my desire to become a teacher was something of an anomaly in the English department. No, I’m not a would-be-author. No, I’m not a would-be-actor. No, I’m not a would-be-playwright or poet or newspaper reporter. Just an English teacher. That’s all I wanted. I kept that old book sitting on the shelf in my college dorm to help remind me of why I was there. And it did it’s job. I became the teacher I’d always wanted to be.

But of course as time moved along I became other things as well. I became a wife and a mom. I became a school administrator and now a children’s pastor. And that old book, getting edged out by others, found it’s way to a box and sat in there for years until recently when I pulled it out in the endless sorting that comes with moving. The thing was old when I got it, and now it was simply falling apart. The binding was broken and the cover was falling off and the whole thing was kind of warped. Pages were loose and were coming out in my hand as I turned them. Dear old book. How do I part with you? You’ve served me so well!

I held it in my hands and debated. Could I get it rebound? Could I find a special box to put it in so it would at least stay together? Could I just glue it to death? And then it struck me. If I’m ever going to get through this move, if I’m ever going to lighten the load, something’s going to have to give. You just can’t keep everything.

So I went over to my computer, looked it up on Amazon and found it right there–still in print and only $11.20. So I took my old friend the book, walked into the kitchen, and with more bravery than I thought I had in me, put the thing squarely in the trash.

My first amputation in the name of moving.