Sunday, January 21, 2007

Third Trimester Hormonal Freak: A Real Life One Act Play

Characters: R. and C.
Setting: The comfortable family room of the couple's home. R., a dapper man with beautiful silver hair sits in his leather recliner. C., his seven-months-pregnant wife, who happens to be feeling especially frumpy on this particular Sunday evening is lying on the couch trying to get in a comfortable position where nerve pain doesn't shoot down her leg. They are happily watching the sitcom "The Office" that they taped earlier this week. It has been a good day and all is well, the dachshund snores contentedly under the blankets next to C., the cat purrs lazily while lying on the back of the couch. The show ends and R. fast-forwards to the next show, "Scrubs." But then...the action begins.

C: Wait! Don't start it yet.
R: (Pausing the tape and turning to C., assuming she will be making one of her myriad trips to the bathroom during the commercial break) Yes?
C: I just...well, I just feel like I've got to eat something or I'm going to throw up again. And I think it needs to have protein (tears welling up in her eyes and a catch in her voice).
R: Okay. (Long pause as he waits for C. to continue speaking or get up to find her protein-fueled food).
C: And...(struggling to sit up as her sciatic nerve throbs and her belly keeps her from moving gracefully) And...I just think I'm going to cry.
R: Oh no...I'm sorry...(Stands up gingerly and walks to sit next to C. on the couch).
C: (Bursts into anguished sobs) I'm hungry and I don't know what to eat. (More sobbing as tears pour dramatically down her cheeks).
R: (Hugging C.) I'm sorry.
C: And my leg hurts. And I need some protein. And I don't want to throw up again. (More sobbing, burying her face in R.'s shoulder, undoubtedly snuffling snot into the fleece of his sweat suit).
R: I'm sorry.
C: And I don't think I can do this (More tears).
R: Do what?
C: Be pregnant.
R: Well, sweetie, I think you're already doing it.
C: (A pause in the tears as this realization sets in) Oh....(more tears) But, I don't know what I want to eat. And I can't stop crying (more tears). This is so stupid.
R: It's okay.
C: Some day you're going to tell Grayson about the fact that his mom started crying because she couldn't think of anything to eat.
R: Probably. But it will make a good story.
C: (More tears) I need protein. I need someone to take care of me. My leg hurts. I hate this.
R: Would a grilled cheese help? (Whereby C. and R. make their way into the kitchen where C. sobs some more and R. suggests all sorts of delictable protein-rich treats to entice her).

Raspberry yogurt and green beans never tasted so good.

Tune in next week for more "Tales of the Third Trimester Hormonal Freak."

The View from the Pulpit

I am smitten. I may even have fallen in love a little bit. I wasn't going to do it. I was careful about the way I gave my heart. I set all sorts of boundaries and was careful to remain in control. And yet, when I sit on the pulpit side of the chancel and look out over my sweet interim congregation, my heart softens and it is through the gooey eyes of sugarlumps and wagging puppy dog tails that I see them.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...for they have accepted me exactly as I am (even as the ex-wife of a former beloved pastor). For they accept what little pastoral care I can give as grace. For they can sit with one another in a Sunday school classroom and respect the differences amongst themselves with neither fear nor anxiety. For the welcome they grant new visitors, flocking to them and surrounding them with interested questions and hearty hand-shakes. For the "mistakes" in worship which end up being holy hilarity and for the freedom they feel in their laughter. For the candor they share in the joys and concerns time, when simple joys like using a new snowblower are celebrated. For the melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls that age-worn and gnarled hands have kneaded to sell at the local fair and which raise money to send to their sister church in Nicaragua. For the honest way they yearn to be followers of Christ.

This morning my eyes scanned that sea of expectant faces as I stood up to preach and I thought, "I am not worthy of this." And the hush in that room said, "Christen, this is what grace is."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Marital Differences

Part of what it means to be married is to recognize and celebrate the things which unite and strengthen a relationship--the conversations while lying in bed at night, the ability to know one another's story and history, the utter acceptance of who you are. Even the struggle to understand one another's point of view when it doesn't coorelate with your own reality can become fodder to learn more about one another. I have come to find marriage is safe haven, and pilgrimage all in one. And I find that with each year that I am married I know myself more because of the nurture of the one I love.

But, and you knew there was a but matter how you slice it, in my world there ain't no thing as an "Epiphany Tree." And I am already anticipating some sort of nonviolent demonstrations in order to ensure that the tree will safely make it back into it's box in the garage since my elephantine figure makes it impossible for me to do myself. But, the case has been made by the other partner in this marriage that there are all sorts of creative uses for a pine tree throughout the year which could change with the seasons...a Valentine tree, an Easter tree to hang with eggs, a 4th of July tree to decorate oh-so-patriotically, an autumnal theme with real leaves draped throughout it's branches. And, with the baby coming, there could be a Grayson themed tree with baby booties, and pacifers. Heck, during ordinary time we could just pick a theme and decorate. The possibilities are endless in our house based on the things we seem to have an overabundance of: cat hairballs, embroidery floss, bobby pins, old Beta tapes, half mangled dog chews.

As I said before, different viewpoints are all fodder for growth in a marriage. Who knows, I may have discovered my latest decorating passion. Or not.

Monday, January 01, 2007

O Captain, My Captain

Last night we sat at the dining room table and we played dominoes and I watched your sturdy hands, hands which have fixed numerous engines, and coaxed numerous machines into humming order, and hooked worms on countless fishing lines. I watched those hands as they shakily pieced together tiles of nine dots with other tiles of matching number and I noticed that while they are camouflaged with age spots from your years out in the sun at the lake, that they are the same strong hands which scooped up baby painted turtles for me, and placed them gently in my own small hands.

We talked honestly last night about your aging, about what happens next for you in this life and in the next. We wondered and we pondered and as I told you stories of my Hospice patients you repeated softly, "Is that that right" in your own reassuring, dulcet tones. I don't know who I was trying to comfort, you as you bravely face your mortality, or me, who marvels at the courage of you.

You have no idea how proud I am of you, of your ability to shift gracefully as your body changes and your vision dims, at your continuing sense of calm even in the face of gradual losses, at the smile that lights up your eyes when you talk about your home on the lake, and your life with my grandma.

I know you now better than I ever have, and I still feel sometimes as if I have barely scratched the surface of learning who you are, and what made you the man you are.

We sat around the table last night at the closing of a year, and when I left you said, "Goodnight, Granddaughter" and it felt like benediction.