Monday, January 23, 2012

A Little Life Lesson from Hemi

I wish I could tell you that I caught Hemi in a brief unguarded moment, but indeed this is daily behavior.  Check it out:

One of Hemi's favorite activities is rolling around on his back: in dirt, in grass, in puddles, in sand.  You name it, he'll roll in it.  He enjoys getting messy.  I watched him today as I was sweeping the front sidewalks (you can't let the sidewalks get too dirty, you know).  I quickly dropped the broom and picked up my phone to shoot this video of him.

Today, Hemi taught me a simple life reminder: it's ok to roll in the dirt.  It can be FUN to roll in the dirt!  Thank you, Hemi, for the wonderful reminder that life is messy, so we might as well enjoy it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I am a Flight Attendant

Ok, so I'm not really a flight attendant.  But sometimes I want to pretend I am....or something that our culture deems more "gender-appropriate."  As one who often corrects people at the hospital when they exclusively refer to nurses as ‘she’ and doctors as ‘he,’ you should know that I don't believe there are gender-specific jobs.  But some days, when I just don’t have the energy to explain my life story, I think that saying I’m a flight attendant or a teacher or a nurse would be easier than explaining that I am a pastor. Let me give you two examples.

Example #1: Today, I was at Publix (Thursday is the start of the new shopping week for coupons – I saved $60! I digress…).  I was in the checkout line when the bagger started to wheel my cart like he was bringing my groceries out to my car.  I truly believe that shopping at Publix is a pleasure and I love their customer service; however, sometimes I wish they would lighten up on the whole ‘Which way to your car, ma’am?’ talk.  I actually enjoying bringing my groceries to my car and loading them myself.  There, I said it.  But the guy today was insistent, stating that he had to go outside to get the carts anyway.  And thus began the awkward small talk…

Him: “Are you on your way home from work?”
Me: “Yes.”
Him: “Cool.  What kind of work do you do?”
Me: “I’m a hospital chaplain.”
Him: “What does that mean?”
Me: “We’re like pastors for the hospital.”
Him: “Oh wow…so what kinds of stuff do you do?”  (ugh, where to begin?)
Me: “Ummm, we provide support and prayer for people, help families at the time of death, held identify people in traumas....”
Him: “Well, a job’s a job in this economy, right?” (he awkwardly laughs almost out of pity)
Me: “No, I actually love my job.  It gives me life.”
Him: “Oh…ok. Have a good day, ma’am.”

Why, whyyyyy didn’t I just tell him I was a flight attendant??

Example #2: I remember how much I hated getting my hair cut in college because I never went to the same person twice.  Who needs a personal stylist when all you do is cut your hair in a straight line?  So every time I went to get a haircut, the conversation led to something like this:

“What are you studying at UF?”
“I’m studying music education.”
“Are you going to be a music teacher?”
“No, I’m actually going to seminary after college.”
“Seminary, is that where you go to become a chef?”
“No, that’s culinary school.  Seminary is where you go to become a pastor.”
“You’re going to be a pastor??” (HOLD THE PHONE.  SHE’S YOUNG.  AND SHE’S A….SHE.)

Why, whyyyy didn’t I say ‘Yes, I’m going to be a music teacher and wear denim dresses and own lots of cats.’ End of story.

During one of my haircuts in college, I had a man debate me on the meaning of baptism and was insistent that in order to enter the gates of heaven, one must be baptized twice, once in water and then in the Holy Spirit so one can speak in tongues.  I am certainly respectful of other opinions and practices of religion, but WHY are we debating this during MY haircut?  The manager came over and asked him to stop questioning me.  I should’ve given my tip to the manager instead.

There are definitely times in life when I want to be in discussion about my work as a pastor.  I even find it fun if people bring it up to me on a first encounter.  I am in no way ashamed of what I do – I LOVE what I do and truly believe I am living into God’s calling in my life.  But sometimes, you just want to get your hair cut in peace.  Your nails done in peace (yes, pastors get pedicures).  Your grocery shopping done in peace.  Sometimes, you want to fly in an airplane without the person sitting next to you questioning your ability to be a female pastor (yes, in seminary I was seated on a plane next to a Southern Baptist minister who pulled out his engraved, red letter edition Bible and talked scripture with me while I frantically tried to study for a Hebrew quiz I had the next day).

I guess it’s ironic that I am in a field where every day I meet new people.  I still get the occasional “I ain’t never met a lady preacher before!” and “Wow honey, did you hear that? This nice little girl came to pray with us.”  But in almost all my visits, patients/families are grateful for support, for an empathic listener, and for someone who can lift up their deepest needs to God through spoken words of prayer.  We must remember Jesus was dead by 33 – so by Jesus’ standard, I’m in my prime years!

I guess I will continue engaging random people about my work as a chaplain.  It really can spark some interesting conversation.  But in case I’m not in the mood, I can at least locate the nearest emergency exit.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Party of One

I go shopping by myself.  I go to the gym by myself.  And sometimes I’ll go eat food by myself.  But for the most part, I’m with people.  I love planning hangouts and spending quality time with others.  Why?  Because I LOVE PEOPLE.  Being with friends gives me more energy than curling up alone with a book (my sincere apologies to all the introvert roommates I lived with in college and seminary).  This is the blessing and the curse of being an extreme extrovert.  I love being with people so much that sometimes it’s easier for me to be with others than it is to be with myself.

A 1,000-bed hospital rarely provides you with alone time.  As chaplains, we’re always with patients, with staff, and with other chaplains.  As a supervisory student, I have students on any given day who have questions and curiosities about pastoral care, theology, and protocol.  If I need to work on papers or do research, I have to go to my office.  It is the only place where I can be (mostly) uninterrupted.  But my office gets so lonely sometimes!  Let me paint a picture for you…

In order to get to my office, I have to go downstairs to the basement, walk past the morgue, walk through the hallway that has pipes in place of ceilings, go through the door of the unmarked hallway with nothing but a ‘ladies restroom ‘ sign on it, go past pest control’s office and unlock my office on the left just before the security guard’s break room and lockers.  I have a wonderful office and I am grateful for the space to get my work done.  But it sure can get lonely for the average extrovert.  On a related but slightly off-topic note, today I was walking to my office with a piece of pecan pie in hand.  I walked past the morgue, looked at the pecan pie in my hand, looked at the morgue door, and thought, ‘How odd it is that people on the other side of the door are dead and here I go with pecan pie in my hand like I don’t have a care in the world.’  This work teaches me something new every day.

Anyways…once I was in my office, I decided I’d go to the Bible and find all the awesome things that happened in the Bible where large crowds were gathered.  This task had two goals: 1) it would help me with the research for my theology position paper; and 2) it would help me see how the extroverts of biblical days found energy and life.  I found many stories: The feeding of the five thousand in the gospels; the rebuilding of the walls in Nehemiah; the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts.  Boo-yah.  I could definitely prove my point that God is present when we are in community.

But then I read the story of Jacob (Gen 28:10-22).  And Moses (Gen 19:20-25). And the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26).  And yes, even Christ (Luke 22:40-44).  Example after example of people alone in the presence of the Holy One.  I was humbled.  I wondered if leaders like Moses were introverts or extroverts.  For Moses’ sake, I hope he was extroverted because he was always with the Israelites…and they definitely had no qualms about telling him how they felt on any given day.  And still, Moses is called by God to the top of the mountain in the presence of only himself and God.

And then I had a thought.  I wonder how much better introverts are than me at practicing stillness in the presence of the Lord.  I wonder how much I can learn from being alone.  This is one of my greatest growing edges as I continue my supervisory work.  How can I be alone with myself? With my story?  With my struggles?  With God?  It definitely won’t be easy for me.  But I promise you I talked to no one – not even myself – as I wrote this blog.  Little victories count, right?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Baby, It's Cold Outside

The low tonight is 19 degrees.  That is low considering two days ago, I was sitting around a bonfire in my backyard in beautiful 60 degree weather.  Feeling the cold makes me remember back to my seminary days.  My last year at Columbia, there was a big snowstorm.  Ok ok, so it was a big snowstorm for Decatur, but still.  It was snowing enough for the Atlanta airport to close down because there was no way to remove the ice from the runway.  Lots of us seminarians - young and old - came outside to play in the snow.  We made snow angels and caught snowflakes in our mouths.  We had snowball fights and made make-shift sleds to ride down the hill in The Village.  My favorite part was walking with friends to our professors' homes to built giant snowfriends in their front yards and then knocking on their doors and surprising them with our creations.  I always loved how our professors lived walking distance from the campus and often invited us into their homes.  One of our professors came out of her home with a shirt on that had a manger scene on it and said, "It's a GIRL!"  I really, really loved our professors.

The top of my blog says 'Seasonal Grace' and has a picture of snow.  May seem a little odd for a Florida girl.  But I didn't randomly google this image or find it on a website.  This picture was actually taken in the front yard of Rodger Nishioka's house, a professor of Christian Education at Columbia.  We built a big snowfriend in his driveway that blocked his car in the car port.  As we stood in his front yard, I remember looking at the trees and being amazed how different they looked from trees I had always known in Florida.  They had no leaves and therefore were bare, and yet they looked so full of life.  I just loved the way the snow rested on the tree limbs as if the limbs were some kind of holding place for nature to rest.  It is a beautiful glimpse of God's grace.  I thought I would share this story with you on this chilly night.  As the weather continues dropping into the night, may you feel the gift of love...the warmth of friendship...and the joy of a God who gives us such beauty in every season of creation.