“One of Those Days”

Singing in the choir at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church this morning was “one of those days.” We warmed up in the sanctuary which meant going upstairs to the choir room first and getting my bulletin and robe. I already had my music since I take my folder home every week. I use a large print bulletin for two reasons. First my vision isn’t good and second, I can’t hold the hymnal like other choir members and the hymns are printed in those bulletins.

There was no bulletin in my music box in the music room. I said a few choice words before realizing I was going to have to get one downstairs that wouldn’t be three-hole punched. Well, it was there but I had looked in the wrong box. I didn’t put my robe on because it is unbearably hot.

Sherrie McCleary-Small modeling our wonderful choir robes.

Sherrie McCleary-Small modeling our wonderful choir robes.

These robes are the exact style my husband wore when he was an alter boy in the catholic church in the 60’s. We need new robes!  Here is a picture of them.  I figure I would spend time complaining about it on my blog today so I can get it out of my system. I suspect other choir members are tired of my complaints so perhaps writing them down will keep me from complaining so often!

I joined the choir for the rehearsal in the sanctuary. Only a couple of us weren’t wearing our robes which I don’t really understand. I would roast if I wore the robe so early before worship.   Any day now, I will probably have hot flashes but they haven’t started yet so I don’t even have that as an excuse! Other choir members have told me the robes are hot as well and even in winter women often wear sleeveless shirts to try and keep cool.

After rehearsal, I went downstairs underneath the choir loft to “rest my brain.” I do this by putting in my ear plugs in a quiet place and closing my eyes to avoid visual stimulation. I put both pieces of my robe on before remembering I needed to punch three holes into my bulletin. I figured the office would have a three whole punch and it was only one floor up so I looked there first. No hole-punch. “Great,” I thought. “Now I’m going to have to go all the way upstairs to the choir room to use the hole-punch.”

I headed to the elevator to keep from having to take the stairs, pushing the wrong button so it stopped on the wrong floor. After getting to the correct floor, I punched the bulletin and went back down to my quiet place. By then I was sweaty so I fanned myself with the bulletin. I didn’t have any time to “rest my brain” because I heard the first hymn. I always enter from the back and don’t process in with the choir because the narthex is so noisy and the stimulation is too much for me.

I have a zipper compartment where I keep my chap stick (I’m addicted to it), a pencil, earplugs and Kleenex. I even keep throat lozenge there as well. To go right along with the rest of the morning when I was finally seated, the zipper on the compartment broke allowing the contents to fall out. Of course they didn’t all fall out at once. First the chapstick fell out which another choir member returned to me. Later, a throat lozenge dropped followed still later by the ear plugs. The choir sits in the front of the sanctuary facing the congregation and it was all I could do, not to make faces. In fact, I probably did!

I have always been sort of what is called a “space cadet.” I’ve been known my whole life for dropping and losing things. Now, I always try to allow extra time for this reason because it is worse now. I must admit, this morning I felt a little like Lucille Ball.



Don’t Believe Everything

Happy to meet you!

Happy to meet you!

Yesterday I took Sparky for his morning walk. One of the houses previously had a big tree on the property. I don’t know what it was but it may have been hundreds of years old. A couple of years ago, the home’s owners cut the seemingly healthy tree down so they could have a garden. I fumed every time I walked by for this seemed like a rather selfish thing to do.

I thought. Yesterday I saw the owner taking out his garbage so I decided to ask him about the tree. Environmentalists can be pretty harsh and I didn’t want to come across this way, so I was careful how I broached the subject.

“Didn’t you use to have a huge tree right there?”

The owner responded, “No, we didn’t have a tree there but we decided we didn’t want to garden so we removed the raised beds.”

“I know there was a tree there!”

“We’ve been here a year or so and there wasn’t one when we bought the house but we’re thinking about putting in some trees.”

I then understood that previous owners had taken down the tree and then moved so I boiled inside again. However, there’s nothing I could do about it so I vented my anger this morning while swimming at the Y.

1796477_10152164945718444_14085413_nThis phrase is a good one for me to remember. I always think things about people or situations without checking to make sure they are true. I’m trying not to do this for often I am wrong and the only person who suffers is I.

Waiting in the Darkness

I don’t want to accept life as it is which is why I’m often stressed and depressed. I’m angry because I can’t be a minister at a church. I’m angry because I haven’t been able to improve my preaching. I’m angry because I can no longer play my violin or my viola. I’m angry because I can’t be in large, chaotic groups for very long. I won’t accept life as it is which makes me even angrier!retraining your mind_n

I don’t know what I believe about death but I do believe this: I need to help bring new life to this world right now. For many people, this is through children and grandchildren. I’m out of luck there so the new life I must leave is different.  Who knows how much time I have? To be honest, I’m not too happy with the amount of new life I have brought thus far but I figure I still have a couple of years so I’m getting to work!

I love John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” It’s funny because the Sunday after 9/11 in 2001, I was scheduled to preach my first sermon at Oakhurst Presbyterian in Atlanta and I was scared to death. I’ve always gotten nervous when I preached but after the brain injury this increased ten-fold. I’m told I don’t look nervous but I’m always a mess inside.

I had already written the sermon using John 10:10 when the planes crashed into the Trade Center. I remember calling the pastor, Nibs Stroupe, and offering him the pulpit. He said, “No, you do it.” I suspect he didn’t want to preach that Sunday either! I liked the sermon and changed it a little to fit the day but when I got up to preach that Sunday, the place was packed to the rafters.

I don’t know what it is but after I get over my initial nervousness which is always huge, I let go and preach the sermon just fine. I get energy from the congregation which happened that day. It’s a wonderful memory for me and I’m so grateful to Nibs for allowing me to preach that morning. What is really hard for me to fathom right now is, yesterday was Sept. 11 and it’s all coming back.

Anne Lamotte describes wanting to make things right as her sister-in-saw was dying and when her son became a father at a young age. “This is what I did,” she writes. “I surrendered. I lay down my weapons and went over to the winning side. I am a recovering Higher Power.” I love that phrase for I am one too.

These past 18 years, I figured I would work on my preaching and pastoral care skills and help bring new life that way. This is one reason I volunteered as a chaplain at Wesley Wood Retirement Center in Atlanta. I figured it would be a step in the right direction. Even now, deep inside I want this. I know it isn’t possible, but I can’t seem to let it go.

However, like Anne Lamotte, I’m surrendering and going over to the winning side. “I am a recovering Higher Power” and it’s time for me to get real about my life. She writes about something she learned from Veronica, a pastor she had fifteen years ago.   “Veronica said that when she had no clue what direction to take, she imagined standing in a spotlight, as if on stage, and waited, prayerfully, until one more spotlight began to appear nearby. Then she would go stand in that circle of light.”

My friend Laura Collins  took this picture of the recent full moon on her camera phone.

My friend Laura Collins took this picture of the recent full moon on her camera phone.

I don’t have a picture of a spot light, but my friend took a picture of the full moon we had a couple of nights ago. She took it with her camera phone so it isn’t great, but I’m crazy about moons. This one reminds me to wait for the circle of light. New life will come. I only have to wait in the darkness a little while longer.

Do you have any reflections after reading this? What does being “a recovering higher power” mean to you?

New Vision

enjoy the journeyIn his sermon at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church on Aug. 24, 2014, Mark Ramsey spoke about the Emmaus journey and how two weary, grieving disciples had bet their lives on the wrong savior. “After three years of imagination-stretched living, they can’t imagine how their time will be filled other than some wish-dream cobbled together by the tyranny of immediate and the already known.”

While my situation is not the same, I can relate all too well. I started out my adult life as a freelance violinist/violist in the Kansas City area with a vision of being in a professional orchestra. After traveling to one audition in a city I can’t even remember, I thought long and hard about whether my dream was realistic. I also thought about what achieving this vision would entail.

During a difficult time of discernment, a pastor suggested I consider the ministry. At first, I was taken aback. Me, a minister? No way! Like the disciples, I had bet my life that God was calling me to be a professional musician. I had imagined I would spend my time serving God by playing in an orchestra, doing freelance work and teaching. All my years of practicing and imagination-stretched living, seemed to have been for nothing.

However, as I thought about it, it made sense. While continuing with my private students and doing some freelance work just to make sure I was on the right path, I took classes part time at Central Baptist Seminary. When I felt called to give up my music contacts in Kansas City, I transferred to Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA to finish my degree.

I loved the theological discussions seminary provided. It was a difficult year after graduation before receiving my first call but God did call me to a church in Atlanta. I am thankful for that call because I learned quite a bit about what being a pastor meant. After a few years though, it was time to move in. I was in the process of looking for another position when my car accident happened. A new vision was harder for me this time since lack of awareness is one of the hallmarks of a brain injury. It took me a long time before realizing I wasn’t going to be a pastor of a church again.

Years have passed and depression has always been part of my journey. It’s a hallmark of brain injury and I’m not immune to it at all. It’s appeared over and over again these past 18 years. Recently it’s been a problem and I’ve been dragging for several months now but yesterday, I had a little glimmer of hope. I’ve seen therapists for years and it’s my belief that anyone in a helping profession must see one. While I am no longer in a “helping profession,” I am, and will always be, “a helper.”

I’ve had a difficult time connecting with someone here in Asheville though. It’s important to find the right fit, which finally happened. In my session yesterday, I was able to express some of my feelings and concerns and got in touch with parts of myself often buried. We are often hurt by what is buried without even knowing what is happening. Yesterday, I glimpsed a better future for me. I still grieve for what I’ve lost but now I’m looking forward to what’s in store.

There was a quote in the bulletin on Aug. 24 by Peter Gomes, Minister of Harvard’s Memorial Church, 1970-2011. “When people come to The Memorial Church on Christmas Eve and on Easter Day, I always say, ‘If you have come for an explanation this evening, or this morning, and you want me to explain the virgin birth, you are in the wrong place. Why don’t you leave now? Leave the seat for somebody else, and we will get on with it.”

Resurrection, new life and new visions, are not easy. I have no idea what the future holds for me but I’m going to keep on the journey even though I can’t imagine how it will unfold. I’ve seen too many folks in their 50’s and 60’s who give up because they think it’s too late for them. I don’t believe it’s ever too late for a new vision or a new resurrection. I believe Resurrection happened long ago and it still happens today.

I’m going to enjoy my journey.