Self Care

It’s important to care for yourself – seems simple, right?  It’s not as easy as it sounds, depending on the person.

This is a message that those preparing for ministry hear often – don’t overextend yourself when it comes to pastoral work – and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

What about those not in ministry?  What about those working a job in the secular world – even a job they enjoy – who tells them to care for themselves?  Normally, it is the supervisor, someone in HR or other person in supervisory position.  But for those who don’t have this luxury, those who are self employed, or work for a boss that overworks themselves, who is encouraging them to keep from overworking?

In the case of our household, it has to be me.  My husband has been slowly transitioning into a new position at work – one that offers more responsibility and better pay – but while the transition is taking place, Marty has been asked to work a little extra to help things along.

That was almost four months ago.

Since then, Marty has been working 50 or more hours a week, helping his very pregnant and demanding wife around the house more than usual, trying to keep up with a garden and yard work, spending time with friends, and of course, spending time with his son.  He gets less than 7 hours of sleep during week nights, and almost no time to relax.

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I’ve been nagging him for a few weeks now that he needs to get things adjusted – he’s running ragged.  His bosses aren’t the type of fellows to overwork him -but Marty isn’t the type to let them know when it’s gone on for too long, either.  That came to fruition today – a hollaring match where I said things weren’t getting done, and he said he has no down time.  I thought about it bit – and he’s right.  I’m amazed he’s gone on this long.

He’s right when he says he needs to work – we need his job to maintain our house, pay bills, eat (you know, all those silly things:) but I think he knows he can’t keep pushing himself this far.  I’ve said it many times – the owners of his company are not unreasonable, they just don’t know what he’s going through unless he tells them.  I hope this weekend encourages him to tell them, and not to keep pushing himself too far.

I’m interested to hear if others have had to be that voice for their spouse, significant other, friend, parent, child, etc. – to be the one who says you’re pushing yourself too hard and it’s time to take care of YOU for a change.  I know Marty is driven and hardworking, and I want him to stay that way – but I also want him to have time to enjoy life and his family so he doesn’t look back on this time as that time he was barely keeping it together.

God bless those who are hardworking and caretakers – they sacrifice often for the sake of others, please help them realize it’s ok to take time for themselves!

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Vulnerability

With all the talking I’ve been doing with our Domestic Violence awareness team at church lately, I have had plenty of time to think about safety, and what makes a person vulnerable.  As much as I am pushing to have people know that violence can happen against men, I realize the reported numbers show a majority of women are the victims of violence.  Reported, not real numbers – but even so, at 90%, one must admit that perhaps women might be at a physical disadvantage.

I grew up in a very traditional area – my parents were pretty good about encouraging gender equality and telling me I could do and be whatever I wanted, girl, boy, both, indifferent – I was able to be what I wanted. And all I ever wanted was to be a cute, dainty, girly-girl that did the right things, kept herself neat, was shorter than boys she dated – most boys – and much less, well, “mannish” than I am.

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This was highlighted by my spending time with good friends who were tiny, dainty, cuter than heck – or even my sister, though tall, built much more femininely than I.  Note the picture above – My good friend, Kristen, is wearing very tall high heels – I’m wearing ballet flats…I look like a jolly green giant instead of Tinkerbell..well not really, but I’m trying to make a point!

I still wish I were daintier and “cuter” as a woman, but luckily for me I was taught that looks aren’t what dictates happiness.

I realized in this training to fight abuse and violence, that I don’t often feel threatened by outside force.  I’m really confident walking down a street, and even though I am not in terrific shape (and understatement as now I’m pregnant:) I’ve always felt like if someone really wanted to mess with me, they’d be sorry – I’m strong and not small, and when I need to be I can fight mean!

My vulnerability has always been emotional – I’m somewhat easily bruised by others, even if they don’t intend it.  I have been strengthened by maturity, influence of good friends and deeper growth in faith, I’m feeling even confident emotionally.

Where I feel vulnerable today is in regards to others.  I want to protect others with all that I can.  Specifically now, I want to keep my family safe – especially my little boys.  Royce is a bit easier – I can tell when he’s not well, and I know what I can do to help – even if it’s resorting to a trip to the ER to make sure a puffy spot isn’t too much more than a bug bite.

But the little boy in my belly – I have small things to tell me he is ok.  He kicks – even though it’s not on a schedule, I know I should feel him at my down times at least, more hopefully – but that’s the most I have.  And sometimes he has sleepy days – and I have to understand that.

This poor little boy has been in a mommy who has taken a beating lately.  About a month ago, I slipped in a rogue puddle at a local CVS – nothing was broken, but my spirit.  I was achy, which is probably normal in pregnancy at this point, but I worried for a long time if everything was ok – was he moving enough, would he have any brain damage – I almost lost my mind waiting for the LNP to find the heartbeat at the next appointment.  She did, and he sounds very strong.

I barely had time to get over the scare that caused before a new “thrill” came to pass – our local water supply was compromised by a serious storm that killed power for over 70,000 customers for 4-18 hours.  I found out after having drank from the tap all day.  They said it was only a precautionary measure that we shouldn’t drink the water, but risk for E-coli was low and we’d know soon.  Then they told us symptoms that we may had – I had a few and was immediately sent into a sense of panic.  What happens if I had contracted E-coli?  Would the baby be ok?  Can he survive all the crazy things that seem to be happening during poor little man’s gestation?

What a cheap trick for the universe to play – I’m not afraid for myself, so I’m given intense fear for someone who’s health I have limited control of….and yet feel completely responsible for.  I do what is right – limit caffeine, eat well, exercise, don’t do things that may hurt him, and lately it’s felt as if the world is out to get me.

Perhaps the world is trying to prove to me how strong this baby is along with me – perhaps he’ll be born completely healthy and I’ll be able to look back and laugh at all the craziness that occurred while I was pregnant with him.

My prayers will now focus on his health and God’s proving to me the strength that all his creatures have, and even though love and motherhood makes me feel vulnerable, it shows me I’m human and God has given me capacity to love and care – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Worship Class

So I’ve felt a call to ministry – I knew I would be good at many aspects of the job, and had a real strong sense God wants me to be there.  That doesn’t automatically make me feel like I can do those “pastoral” things that you see ministers doing up front every week – not to mention the multitude of background work I KNEW they were doing!

I wondered what might make me feel prepared – I have been a regular church goer most of my life, I’m very familiar with services, and in non-religious times in front of a crowd, I’m in my element and can do what needs to be done.  The week before my Worship Class started, I noticed I had an assignment to do the prayers in my teaching congregation – which is my church of membership, Augustana Lutheran Church in West Saint Paul.  I spoke with the pastors about it, and they were not only supportive, but excited for me to have the experience.  I couldn’t help but feel nervous – terrified – at the thought of standing behind the altar, possible in an alb, praying for the church and people of God!!

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The more I spoke with the minister who was preaching that day, the more she sensed it might be best to take it down a notch for me – having me stand behind the pulpit with a regular microphone instead of headset, and just wearing dress clothes.  I was relieved, I must say, but a part of me felt a twinge of sadness.  What was up with that?

I figured it out during worship class – our professors were adamant we get not only “book learnin'” when it came to how to run a worship, but practical experience to see what it feels like to perform the gestures of a pastor in front of people.  There was a serious case of the sillies, especially at first, but once it past, it almost felt normal to lead a group in worship – dare I say, I might be comfortable with the robe, the hand gestures only appropriate in that one setting, and a crowd of people looking to me for spiritual guidance?!?!

The final day of Worship Class, the class was broken into groups to do a part of the Three-Day Feast – our group did the Easter Vigil.  It’s much longer and more involved, especially if you read all TWELVE readings that the ELW has, but we also got to play with fire – one of my favorite things!

Our group was amazing – talented musicians, dramatists, readers, and of course, fire-makers.  I got to sing the proclamation, read a story from Exodus with the visual of water (Parting and unparting of the Red Sea symbolism) help act out another story from Isaiah, and even read the Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom during the sermon.Image

 It felt great to be a part of a group that was so passionate about Worship and how to make it new and engaging for others.  It was also good to see that hey, I can do this too!

So when it came time for me to pray on Father’s day Sunday, I felt an amazing sense of calm.  It helped that the class had given us a prayer writing formula, and that Pastor Megan gave me an amazing amount of tips and examples, but all in all, it felt right to be praying with the congregation.  So far I’ve not been told it was terrible, which is an ego boost – but I think what I have is just one more stone in place on the path that God is laying for my life in ministry – and it feels good!

Patience

I find myself lacking patience these days.  It is no surprise, I’m 27 weeks pregnant, hormonal, heavy, exhausted, and at this time of the year, hot and cranky!  I normally have a hard time with patience, but as I’ve grown into adulthood I’ve become much better about trying to understand other’s points of view, which helps me to achieve patience and understanding.

I notice that many people share my lack of patience.  I have been giving many accusatory, unhealthy answers about this in my head, such as, what have you got to be upset about, I’m pregnant!  In the calm, cool comfort of my home on my couch I can take a little more time to think, perhaps they have a reason as good as mine – bad knees, a family member sick or in trouble, or just overworked and underpaid.  Whatever your reason, dear neighbor, I ask God to hold you closely as you go through life, and I ask that you do your best to know that I’m only sneering because of hormones…:D

Baptism

After a somewhat blah day yesterday, I am happy to report I’ve been renewed with excitement by my Worship class!

We talked today about baptism – kind of a hands on, how to for us ministers in training, and rather than just following the standard procedure, the professor talked about some very unique experiences of his parishioners and his family that have inspired me to try something new and different with our second son’s baptism.

Our first son was baptized by his grandfather.  This was a unique and blessed event for him and will provide a great story to be told when he is older.  However, we won’t be able to make the journey this time for a few reasons – it’s over a 10 hour drive, and my father-in-law is retiring from his church, so it’s a little sad for my husband.

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I’m excited to have this child baptized in our current church – we have been active members, and we love the leadership, members, music program, everything really.  I’ve even been volunteering there during the year as part of my education, and have been accepted into the church as a summer intern working with the youth program director.

Even with these personal connections to this, the first church we were members as a couple, and as a family, I was hoping to give this little man something special to say about his baptism.  I think I’ve found that in hearing of the stories in our class.

The idea of possible immersion, or even baptizing baby before he is dressed, as it’s part of the ceremony in our book to be dressed in the baptismal clothes after the “washing” – which I think would be a fantastic visual ceremony, especially if my mother, who will make his baptismal suit, is there to help dress him after he’s baptized.  They also mentioned having all the children come forward to watch up close – and I LOVE the idea of the excitement it could bring to other kids!

These ideas of course will depend what my husband thinks, and of course what our pastors might think – but I’m feeling very refreshed by this discussion, and am encouraged to make this event something that is uniquely my second son’s experience, and beautiful as the actual sacrament itself.

Rejection

I must say something I am not great at is dealing with rejection.  It struck me today, when I’m turned down for something, I tend to shut down.  As of the last few years, I have been able to cope pretty well with rejection, and I’ve credited that to a growing faith, and proper management of anxiety.  But right now?  Well, I’m pregnant, hormonal, and just plain sensitive.

It’s not always a big rejection that hits me – sometimes it’s something as simple as someone cancelling on social plans – sometimes even plans that I had begun to think might have been too ambitious.  But when I offer something personal, like making a meal to share time with friends and it is turned down, I feel rejected, downtrodden, and zapped of energy.

It probably stems back to childhood – I was one of those kids that has a personality that didn’t quit – loud and weird, but someone that well-adjusted individuals could tolerate.  Other kids do not always appreciate the uniqueness that is children like me, and therefore teasing and avoidance of me occurred often.  I remember trying to invite many a young friend to hang out with me, and being told they had other plans or were busy, and hearing laughter later that they had managed to escape the pain of having to spend time with me.

It hurt my tender, young feelings.  I was a little too young to understand that sometimes people are afraid to accept others as who they were, and that being an individual might get you ridiculed – differences are seldom tolerated by people trying to fit in, especially in adolescence.   I had been taught to be me, and who I was wasn’t something people wanted to be around.  Not all people, but enough to have a significant impact on my feelings.

As I’ve grown up and expanded my social circle, I’ve found most adults are happy to accept different ideas and personalities, and if they aren’t, I am not usually hurt, I know people have different tastes and feelings.  However, the serious rejection with my peer group has cause me to want everyone to think I am as awesome as I feel that I am.  This has developed into a serious need to please others, entertain, and not offend, even if that means hiding my true feelings.

It’s hard for me to explain that during this time of discovery in school for ministry, I feel plunged back into the old childhood scene, but with the advantage of being much more socially aware and capable of making friends.  But when people turn me down, I immediately think they must not like me and are finding excuses to not have to hang out with me.  It’s a bummer way to think, but it’s where my mind goes.

I look to the Lord for strength while my emotions make me insecure, and am doing my best to understand that just because people are too busy to spend time with me, they aren’t necessarily avoiding my company.