Sunday, October 30, 2011

Savoring a Sunday Sabbath

As a Children's Minister, I am normally in church every Sunday, but Sunday is rarely my Sabbath day. Sundays are work days.  I come in and out of worship services delivering a Children's Message, then heading back to the hallways to support the directors and teachers, answer parent questions, observe in classrooms and greet families coming and going.

Until recently, I was always able to carve out time to actually attend a worship service on Sunday mornings.  As a member of the chancel choir, I not only got to worship God through song, but no one disturbed me or paged me during that scared hour. I sat beside good friends whose voices blended with mine and I truly felt the Holy Spirit through God's Word and our music offerings.

And for three years, I was blessed to worship with my husband almost every Sunday. It was heavenly!  You see my precious husband claims he can't carry a tune in a bucket, so all those years I was in the choir loft he was either in a sound booth or ushering.  Yep, I had to give up chancel choir to worship with him, but it was worth it. We sat side by side, experiencing God together and as a result people actually knew who my husband was!

Yep, for a decade or two, when church members would see my husband and I holding hands, they'd say, "I had no idea you were married!" or the uncomfortable and confusing, "I had no idea you were married to him!" I always wanted to mess with them and say something back like... "We're not married." Or "Please don't mention you saw us together." or worse "Whom did you THINK I was married to?" But I didn't because they had a reason to ask.  We were rarely seen together. Such is the life of a Children's Minister.

But even getting to actually worship for an hour, still wasn't a day of Sabbath rest.  I was clearly at work and on call.  And for the past several months, needs in our growing Sunday School departments pulled both my husband and myself out of our precious hour of worship. He became the darling of the directors by serving as the standing substitute for the Preschool and Nursery Department while I put out fires and recruited substitutes to rock babies and fill in for sick teachers or simply assist in the growing classes. It was the same for the rest of my team, so I didn't complain. I knew it was only temporary.

Don't get me wrong.  It is a HUGE privilege to work for God as a church staff member in a growing Children's Ministry. It's just we had to intentionally create a Sabbath day other than Sunday. My Sabbath day was usually Friday. While my husband was working, I would lounge around in my PJ's and spend time with God for a few hours.  I'd read scripture or scholarly books on scripture, meditate and sometimes write.

Sometimes, I used a portion of my Sabbath time to plan my Children's Message. I'd meditate on the pastor's scripture, study a few commentaries and pray about what God wanted me to share Sunday morning.   Some would say it wasn't a true Sabbath, but it worked for me. I felt the Holy Spirit with me and I praised God by recounting the blessings of my week.

Today, I find myself in a rare situation.  I'm celebrating the Sabbath on Sunday!  Having resigned my Children's Ministry position last Sunday, my husband and I decided to take this Sunday off - from church that is.  Really, this was my husband's idea.

If I'd had MY way, we'd be visiting one of the umpteen churches I've been dreaming of visiting. I'd be sitting in a new sanctuary - whether Gothic, Jeffersonian or early warehouse style as an anonymous worshipper.  Either that or I'd create my own little homecoming Sunday by attending worship at one of the other churches I served in the past.

My husband rarely demands ANYTHING. He suggested sleeping in for a Sunday or two or three. When I countered with my adventures in church hopping idea, he simply told me he was "done" with church for a while.  Knowing his "done with church" attitude was born out of the spiritual stress of being "married to a Children's Minister", I caved.  I love and adore this guy! How could I say no?

So today we are savoring a day of real Sabbath rest on Sunday.

I'm not going to lie to you and tell you we sang hymns on the deck and then read scripture to each other. Far from it! Today, we slept late, then enjoyed a leisurely brunch of fresh fruit and waffles with a few cups of strong coffee. Now the afternoon awaits us and we're trying to figure out what normal people, those that aren't on church staff, do on Sunday afternoons.

I don't have a CLUE what to do.  We could go to the gym for a workout and sauna. We may take a nap or venture out to Costco or the mall. Scratch the mall idea... I HATE the mall.  (Frankly, I imagine Malls were Satan's idea, so no Malls on MY Sabbath.) We could take a ride in the country and enjoy the fall foliage - a true marvel of God's creation!  For $18 each, we could see the Rembrandt exhibit at the Art Gallery. The choices are endless.

I CAN tell you what we're NOT going to do.  We're NOT going to do any housework other than make the bed! I'm NOT going to return emails or plan for any meetings or classes while Frank takes a nap. We're not rushing back to church for Bible Study and Youth Group and returning home late for an even later dinner.

Whatever we do today, I promise it will be restful and will rejuvenate us spiritually and physically.... and I will SAVOR every moment of this unique Sunday Sabbath rest with my husband until we're ready to return to a new church setting and corporate worship.  I will sing "This is the day that the Lord has made." in my head and I whatever we do, I will rejoice in doing it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Experiences in babysitting - taking on a new leadership position


Not my brother, but my brother's son, Thomas.
Looks & acts so much like his father, it's scary.
My most vivid memory of being in a new leadership position was the first night I babysat my two much younger brothers without my older sister’s supervision.

With the established person in charge clearly absent, my youngest brother sensed my weakness in my new leadership position and suddenly refused to go to bed on time.  I was totally taken off guard, and to this day, regret my decision to drag him down the hall kicking and screaming to his room and barring his door closed.

Yeah buddy, I was “in charge” and made sure my brother knew it, but the experience was traumatic for me AND for my brother! 

The next time I babysat, I spent a little extra time before bedtime playing with my brothers, letting them choose the activity and control the play. The extra time I spent with them helped us build our relationship.  Letting them lead me in play gave my brothers a sense of autonomy and helped them learn to trust me. When bedtime came, relaxed and content, they snuggled up with me for their story time and easily drifted off to sleep.

I learned that forcing my way with my brothers, even though I WAS the designated leader, led to chaos, mutiny and conflict.

Reflecting on my experience, I now know, why when I am in a new leadership position, I take time to play and just be one of the gang. It builds relationships, establishes trust and creates willing  followers. 

Disequilibrium- A curable disease caused by change. And what to do when you think you might be in it!

 I recently, (OK, less than a week ago) resigned my position at a local church, so I'm brushing up on my strategies for coping with life change. The following was the most useful information I learned while training to be a Teacher Mentor for NC Public Schools...credits go to Dr. Sprinthall.  

Disequalibrium -  
Description-a feeling of being overwhelmed by job and personal life, usually characterized by reduced job performance related to a reduction in accuracy and efficiency, that strikes in times of change. Disequilibrium is a natural product of change, but prolonged disequilibrium can threaten job security, health, and personal relationships, if not recognized and treated. 

Disequilibrium strikes in times of change-
·               New job or change of job description
·               New baby
·               Death of a loved one
·               When learning a new job skill or taking on a new task
·               When starting a large project at work, home, or as a volunteer
·               When there is a change in your daily routine; (soccer season or changing to Daylight Savings Time)
·               Divorce, separation, or any major change for family member

What are the symptoms?  How do I know I got it?
·               Suddenly and uncharacteristically forget routine chores,(i.e., forgetting to pick up the kids from school, missing appointments)
·               Become accident prone
·               Cry easily and/or are irritable. You snap at others over little things
·               Feel exhausted and tired all day long and have trouble falling asleep at night
·               Oversleep, uncharacteristically late
·                Lose and misplace things like your keys, wallet, important documents
·               Unable to recall simple or basic learned information.
·               Exhibiting a majority of the above behaviors during a period of change and feeling overwhelmed by life.

How do you treat Disequilibrium?
·               Eat a balanced diet.  Skipping meals is forbidden.
·               Get to bed at a reasonable hour and make sure you get your normal 7-9 hrs. of sleep
·               Exercise.  Even though time is at a premium, don’t cut back on your fitness regime.  If you don’t exercise regularly, start now!
·               Cut back on the junk food and caffeine. 
·               Block out time for a leisure activity you enjoy.
·               Treat yourself! A movie with friends, a long hot bath, or read that novel you bought last year.
·               Cut out all “social obligations” that drain you instead of rejuvenate you until you are out of disequilibrium.
·               Make lists. Plan your day out on paper if you have to, but make a list and stick to it.
·               Give yourself a break!  Realize and admit you are only human and do not have superpowers. We all make mistakes.  Simply correct your errors and move forward.
·               Pray for focus, patience, and guidance in the face of change. See ISAIAH 41:13
  
If symptoms persist, seek counseling- Stephen’s Ministry, clergy, or Medical Professional 

But seriously...

A repost from my old blog, My Life in the Fish Bowl October 20, 2011

Sometimes, even when I take my med.’s, my filter slips...  Why just last week at Kidmin, in response to a rhetorical question “Have you ever wanted to quit?”  I replied, “Yep, every Monday!”. 
The embarrassing part is I didn’t realize I had said it out loud.  One colleague standing beside me quipped “Why do you always say what I’m thinking?” and we both shared a laugh. (I’m goofy that way.) 
Were we kidding or were we dead serious?  I don’t know about my colleague, but for me the answer depends on the Sunday before the Monday. 
Did we get through the morning and evening classes with a full staff? Rarely, so the questions should be, “Did we find enough substitute teachers?” 
Did the teachers engage the children in transformational lessons? Nothing makes my Monday like Sundays I see evidence children are growing closer to Jesus.
Is my email inbox full of questions, comments and suggestions from parents and teachers? It’s Mondays like that that make me LOVE my job! I thrive on feedback . Truthfully, internet silence is dangerous. 
Was I able to greet lots of teachers and parents or was I caught up in administrative busy work? I work hard not to get caught doing paperwork on Sundays, but reimbursement forms from the weekend can derail me from my face time. I hate when I let that happen.
Did I get to worship and hear our awesome Pastor’s message? When the answer’s no, I realize my Monday will be tainted with negative energy. In the past two months, I’ve worshiped twice. Once at Kidmin 2011 in Chicago. Usually, I answer YES, but this year’s it’s just not happening for my team, so it’s not happening for me either. Now, that’s a real Monday buzz killer! 
Club56 2011
The answer to the above questions, and more I DIDN’T mention determines my Monday employment outlook. Now there ARE Sundays where the morning is a downer, but the evening Club56 slaps me back to the reality that God MADE me for Children’s ministry.  Hanging out with a crowd of 5th and 6th graders and experiencing the incredible depth of faith they possess will erase the memories of a bad Sunday AM in a heart beat. Yep, I’m THAT easy... Deep down I’m a “God you had me at hello.” girl.
But WHOA is me on those Monday mornings I’m plagued with ministry troubles and overwhelmed emotionally, spiritually and physically.  Those are the mornings, I pick myself up by yelling, “I QUIT!” to my awesome savior. I save my screams for the drive into the office cuz it really scare the dog when I scream in the house.   
But seriously, the beautiful thing is those are the times I feel closest to Jesus.  He knows my pain. He lived an earthly life that made my Sunday drama traumas like a week in Cancun. By Cancun, I mean the resort part, not the scary part, but that’s another story.
Now I’m not saying I look forward to the “I quit!” Mondays. It just means that I have a life line who saves me from the pit of despair. And because of Jesus, I’m not afraid to share that, seriously, sometimes on Monday mornings I simply want to quit.  
... but I don’t.   
Let’s thank God for that!  
“Thank you God for those “I QUIT!” Mondays that keep me clinging to your son Jesus. It is in His hands that I will find peace, strength, direction and focus to continue doing what You specifically made me to do. Amen and amen!”

Pray. Sleep. Eat. Work out.

Met with my loving, yet tough, personal trainer Joni yesterday.  She always seems to have the right words of encouragement or rebuke to gently, yet effectively, challenge me body and spirit.  
Yesterday, Joni shared some truths her physician had shared with her to help lose those last pesky 10 pounds and/or hedge that creeping weigh gain we all tend to experience as we age. 
As she shared, I realized she was sharing truths I already knew, but in times of stress and change.. well... they are the very things I neglect or let slide. 
Get eight or more hours of sleep a day.  The body needs more sleep that we allow it. When we deprive the body of sleep it stresses the adrenal system which regulates the thyroid causing weight gain, and I guess for some lucky “so and so’s” - weight loss.  
Graze on healthy foods throughout the day.  Eat small snacks and meals throughout the day. Choose lean meats, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Do not fast or binge... both suppress your metabolism and burn fewer calories. 
Add session to your weekly weight training routine.  Add extra sessions of weigh bearing exercise, NOT more cardio, to your weekly routine.  Yes, cardio burns calories, but weigh training burns calories for hours after each session.  So when under stress, it must mean that fight is more productive than flight? Hum? So, fighting, punching, kicking IS good.  Running for your life is not going to make a difference.  (OK, that analogy makes good sense to ME because I HATE running and would rather stand and duke it out. If you don’t get that analogy, then simply add some weigh training to your running plan.)
plan is straightforward and simple to remember.  
Sleep. 
Eat. 
Work out.
And it goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway, Joni would agree to add prayer to that list. Matter of fact, Joni would agree it’s a given.
Now, tis time I put this plan into action... or since it’s not really new news to me, it’s time to put it into re-action. 
Pray. Sleep. Eat. Work out.  

Go Ahead - Google it!