Finding My Hair Dryer

In my late fifties, I discovered that I had naturally curly hair.  Prior to that discovery, I wore my hair very short and would become frustrated with the little ends that would stick up and be uncooperative in keeping my hair looking in place.  There was very little chance that I would discover the curls that were lurking in the background, just waiting to be released into the world.

When I moved to my last full time appointment, I had a hard time finding a hairdresser who cut my hair the way I liked to wear it, so I “went on strike” and just let it grow.  The longer it was untouched by a scissors, the more it began to curl.  Eventually, I found a hairdresser whose own head of hair was even curlier than mine, and she was able to cut it so that it was not quite so unruly and still longer than I used to wear it.

My hair dryer kept it from being frizzy and gave it a softer, light curls look – at least until the humidity changed the curls minds, and they started having a party on my head.  I really didn’t mind in the long run, but I still made sure I used the hair dryer to “straighten” my hair after washing it.

Recently, we moved after a year at our apartment, which meant packing everything up again and then trying to find the boxes that held the most needed items as soon as we moved into our new apartment.  One of the “missing boxes” (yes, we did mark them with the room where they were supposed to go) contained my hair dryer.  For about a week, I would wash my hair and let it dry naturally – what an interesting conversation that produced between me and my curls.

They were set free to be frizzy, especially since we had some pretty muggy weather, and I  believed they thanked me for the reprieve from relaxing so they could spring to life.  Finally, as my husband and I were setting up our study, the box with the hair dryer appeared, and I felt like I was in control again – well, a little, anyway.

This made me reflect, as it so often does, on how lost we become when we are sidetracked by life.  It is so easy to become caught up in the little annoyances, small irritations, and not-so-important challenges that we miss the big picture.  In the midst of our unpacking, my husband and I have had the opportunity to spend more time together and be reminded of how much we enjoy each other’s company.

And, we are appreciating our move (in spite of the boxes and missing hair dryer) because our new apartment is a larger, newer, brighter, and in a less congested location. In addition, we have a small wet lands that we can see from our windows, and at night we are serenaded by a bass chorus of bull frogs who sing to us all night long.  We have already seen a blue heron land there, turtles swim across the little pond, red-winged blackbirds nesting and singing, and a variety of other life in what looks like a dead pond. It is far from dead.  I look forward to the peepers in the spring – they bring a whole new type of music to my ears, and I love hearing them sing.

So, finding my hair dryer, even though my curls may not be happy (they will still have their way eventually!) helps me to remember that, even though there are times when we feel lost, God is still with us in all of life’s circumstances.  Eventually, we emerge from whatever it is that keeps us from seeing God’s presence, and we can trust that eventually, things will be better.  Go ahead and have the party, notice the life around you, reconnect with loved ones, and try something new – it may be even better than the way things are now.  Blessings!

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It’s a Funny Thing

It’s a funny thing, this retirement!  Amazingly, I have gone through nearly a year of being retired, and I have enjoyed it mostly.  I like having the freedom from schedules and quiet time almost whenever I want it.  Fortunately, I like my own company, so being alone for a while doesn’t bother me.

When I applied for and accepted the position of Youth Ministries Coordinator at the church we are attending, it seemed like a perfect fit. Not only would it provide a little extra income, but it would also give me the opportunity to continue in ministry, just in a different way.  But it’s a funny thing, this retirement!

Not long into my tenure at this job, I realized that God was nudging me back to the pastorate.  Maybe it’s because I had the time to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate, and restore my soul, or perhaps it is because I was finally ready (as I was many, many years ago) to hear the voice of God saying, “You are not done as a pastor.”  Hmmm.

Eventually, I cast my fleece, like Gideon when he was seeking assurance from God that the battle he was about to fight would be won.  It’s called bargaining with God, and the funny thing is that God really, ultimately, doesn’t bargain.  However, I thought it would be a good way to see if anything happened.

But then, I thought it was rather foolish to cast my fleece when I had not said anything to “the powers that be.”  I contacted my district superintendent to say that I was reconsidering serving a church in retirement status, and I received an email back quickly.  We had a meeting, and the rest is history.

I’ll be serving a church in a half time position starting July 1.  It’s a funny thing, this retirement!  Just when I think I have it figured out, God comes knocking at my door – again.  Well, God comes knocking at all our doors over and over again, and our job is to listen and use our ability to discern whether or not this is really where we are called to go or not.

Years ago, I encountered one of my colleagues at our annual conference, and I asked him if he was retired.  His wife piped up and said, “He’s half-tired, now.”  He was serving a church half time.  I like that – we maybe be retired, but when we return to pastoral ministry, we may be half-tired.  I guess that is why we need to be diligent about our hours, our self-care, and the use of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional resources.  When we are good steward of these things, half-tired becomes joyful service.

Yes, it’s a funny thing, this retirement.  We don’t retire from life or purpose or being at work in the world in some way.  Rather we are set free to return to what we love doing or find a new direction for our passion.  It’s God great?!

The Circle

I write this at the tail end of yet another snowstorm.  This one brought us over a foot of snow, and it is the third in a succession of Nor’easters here in Maine.  We are used to snow, and our road crews are really good at removing it so we can be on the roads when needed.

Having said that, I have enjoyed not HAVING to go anywhere if I prefer to stay home and “do my own thing.”  Of course, I would probably not enjoy it for long periods of time, but for a day or so, it is rather nice.

Retirement, I am learning, has cycles – maybe circles would be a better term.  So far, I have not been turning around in circles, but the idea is similar.  We somehow move into routines that repeat themselves over and over, and when that routine is disrupted, we have to rethink where we are and where we are going from there.

For example, the snow storm disrupts the routine.  We are not able to just jump in the car and go somewhere without a lot of clearing, shoveling, warming up the car, etc.  Planning ahead helps!  My husband drives a mustang convertible, so driving that on snow days is not very practical or safe, so he uses my car, and I stay home.  That disrupts my calendar, so I shuffle activities around to accommodate being home all day.

The thing about moving out of the circle of routine is that we exercise our mind (important any time but especially as we age!), and we become more creative.  Yesterday during the height of the storm, I was hauling laundry up and down the stairs to our laundry room in our apartment complex, and then I made two chilis for our supper which also gave us lunches for a few days hence (does anyone really say “hence” any more?).

Another circle that changes is taking a part time job.  In February, I was hired as the children and youth ministries coordinator at the church where we are attending.  In essence, it has returned me to the same – or at least similar – schedule I had when I was serving as a pastor – circling back in a new format, I guess.

That circle now has led me to a time of wrestling with God, and I am again considering serving a church in retirement status.  This is only in the early stages of consideration, and so much depends on the need in our area, and how the District Superintendents can place me in a good match.

The difference would be that it would be part time, and we would most likely remain in our current living situation.  Of course, it is still in circling around, but if I am appointed to a church, the circle will be complete, just look different in the end result.  We’ll see!

Life is cyclical, and the circles in which we move are not closed but almost like a slinking that are linked together bringing us to a new place, yet with similar characteristics and circumstances.  Nothing in life is static, and we are fortunate to be able to sometimes step back and look at where our circles take us so we can assess our situations and move forward.

I will write again when I know more.  Have a blessed day, no matter where you are in your circle of life!

Seven Months into Retirement

Well, I have been retired for almost seven months, and it has been a great “ride!”  There have been surprises, challenges, joys, and realizations along the way.  I suppose it is all in the attitude and approach I take to this new phase in my life, but I would like to share some reflections on the journey so far.

For the most part, I haven’t been bored.  In fact, I have developed a routine that is really comfortable, and I almost prefer to not change it.  However, because this is life, I know that just is not possible.

After recovering from my knee replacement surgery, I started writing in the mornings.  That whole process has sparked my creative juices a little more, and I am learning the challenge of reviewing my writing from a different perspective than I did when I was getting ready to preach a sermon.  In addition, I have started writing a synopsis for each of the books I have written, and I realize that it actually helps me to be more aware of weaker points in the book.  There is a lot of writing, editing, and rewriting that goes on!

Someone once said, “Don’t quit your day job if you want to be a writer.”  Well, I guess that  now IS my day job, at least for the moment.  (I have applied for a part time job at our church.  More about that shortly.)  After choosing the book I wanted to submit, I worked on it for quite a while, wrote the synopsis, and submitted it to Harlequin Romances.  The possible date to hear anything from them is March.  While I hope to have good news, I also am aware that there are thousands of “wanna-be” writers out there who have a lot to offer in the way of romantic entertainment.  It is a wait and see thing!

The challenges I am facing mostly are monetary, and it isn’t really bad.  Actually, I have found this very good for me because I’m honing my frugal skills and learning (or continuing to learn) about what the difference is between what I want and need.  I have discovered that I stock up a lot.

Maybe I learned it from my mom.  When she was in the later stages of her Alzheimer’s disease, she would tell Dad that they needed more paper towels, so they began to buy them until, after she died, we discovered an entire closet full of them.  I handed them out to my family saying that they were family heirlooms, but I wonder now if I had been doing the same type of thing.  I have definitely cut back on the stock piling!

Another challenge has been adjusting to shared living in an apartment complex.  Our apartment is nice, and it is all we really need for size (if it was much bigger I would probably fill the spaces with extras that we “might” need!).  My biggest challenge was having people overhead who made a lot of noise.  They moved out around Thanksgiving, and it has been blissfully quiet for a month and a half.  However, I know that will not last.  For the most part, our floor is pretty quiet – actually whole complex is relatively quiet, so we are happy for that.

I have some trouble with the amount of natural light we have coming through our slider and two windows.  By mid-afternoon, I have to turn on lights in the living room, even when it is still light outside.  I finally put up a decorative string of lights to brighten the room, and I just bought a salt lamp with the hope that it would truly work by sharing its positive ions (another wait and see!).

Our joys have come from becoming involved in a church.  I had originally thought we would be visiting many church of different denominations, but we stepped into the church we are now attending and knew we were home.  A big criteria for us is the music, since I have two degrees in music and love to sing; so does my husband.

The first Sunday we went to visit was the week before my knee surgery.  People were welcoming, and the organist was awesome.  I have known the pastor for many years, and I knew she would be find with the presence of a retired clergywoman there.  However, I did let her know that I was there to worship and be part of the congregation, not to take over or make suggestions.  We get along well, and the choir is just wonderful.

It is so important to know that the church is a whole, not just the pastor.  If it is a spiritual home, it is first of all the sense of the presence of God, and the realization that it is made up of God’s children who are imperfect, but offered grace.  That is what we found, and the music is part of it.

Realizing that I would need to supplement my income a little, I applied for the youth coordinator’s position at the church.  It is just the right number of hours, and the pay is all I need to have a some “fall back” savings.  I will be interviewing for the job this next week, and if it works out, that’s great.  If not, there are other possibilities out there.  One step at a time.

Maybe I really forgot that everything in life – actually life itself – is a process. I seem want everything fixed and resolved right away, but that is usually not the way it works.  So, as Paul says in Philippians 4:11b:  “. . . I have learned to be content with whatever I have.”  Or at least I am working on it.

May you see the blessing even in the challenges as you take this amazing journey called “life.”

Birthdays

Today is my sixty-seventh birthday.  I remember as a child thinking that anyone who was even 50 years old had to be REALLY old!  Probably, children today aren’t that much different.  Occasionally, I would be reminded of that from the youth group members who would tell me that they would never say things the way I did in an e-mail.  Every so often I had to remind myself that I was old enough to be their grandmother!

Being old enough to retire was something I looked forward to for many years, and when it finally arrived, it almost took me by surprise.  Where did those years go?  My dad always said that time goes faster the older you become, and, as a young adult, I would just say, “ha!”.  He was right!  In fact, Dad was right about many things, and, as my husband says, “Our parents become smarter the more we mature.”

I suppose it’s normal to reflect on where we have been in our lives as we land on those time markers, like a birthday.  My childhood was sheltered, but happy with two hard working and loving parents and a relatively healthy environment in our home and in the town where we grew up.

As I have reflected on my opportunities to go to college and graduates schools, I’m reminded now of my white privilege which provided me with those opportunities.  There have been struggles especially as a female in what used to be considered a “man’s” profession as clergy.  Yet, I believe I have been blessed to be able to work with folks who have affirmed my call regardless of my gender.  Interestingly, the congregations I have served have all accepted me and supported me, as I tried to do with them.

There have been highs and lows in my life, just like in other people’s lives.  I’m just a regular human being who makes mistakes as well as does things well at times.  It’s a journey – this life of ours.  We live in a challenging world, no matter what century or decade in which we exist.

I can remember air raid drills in school as an elementary student.  It was the height of the cold war, and we had to crawl under our desks if the siren went off.  That wasn’t an easy task; have you seen those little desks?  When I was in my teen years, John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Those were troublesome and painful times no matter what your party affiliation might have been.

By the time I was in college, the hippie and flower-power children were prominent in the news, along with the Vietnam war.  There were protests on campus, but I just never got into that.  I didn’t disagree with the protests, but I didn’t feel strongly enough at the time to be involved in them.  Yet, my heart breaks for those Vietnam vets who have returned home with such pain and anger.  I understand it and am glad that something is finally being done to recognize them.  It’s many years later, and we can’t take back what happened, but hopefully it brings a small amount of healing to them and to our country.

Our society today has such a mixed and jumbled bag of messages.  We have confusion and a sense of despair in our country and in our world.  We don’t know who to trust or believe because there is so much rhetoric in the news.  I would venture to say that most of us don’t trust much of anything coming out of Washington, and the threats of nuclear war are looming again and again, along with continuing terrorist attacks, people making the decision to kill others instead of work out their differences, relationships that break up after a fight or disagreement, and so much more.

But am continually reminded that there is a LOT of good in the world that we don’t see.  In fact, I suspect that there is MORE kindness, compassion, and caring than all the negative junk we see, hear and experience.  Maybe it’s our job to make sure we are the ones spreading it.  Maybe the change and goodness we seek only needs to be pointed out and demonstrated by those of us who KNOW that there is a better way in this life.

So, the best birthday wish I have is that we would learn to love one another (kindness, compassion, caring) and treat each other with respect.  Maybe we could find ways to listen to the other person instead of pressing our own agendas.  We can practice peace on earth and be part of making it happen, even if it only begins with where we live, work, and play.  I don’t have a cake with candles to blow out, but my wish is a prayer for hardened hearts to break open, for truth and justice to prevail, and for all of us to do our part in bring hope to this world because we have been called by God to make a difference.

Have a blessed day!

What Now?

The month of September is three months into our living in our apartment and two and a half months into my retirement.  It is also just over two and a half months since my knee replacement.

As I have gone through the surgery, recovery, exercises, and adjustments to having a prosthetic knee, I have been diligent in moving forward.  My focus has been on full recovery and use of my right leg with the great hope that I don’t have to go through this again with my arthritic left knee!

However, now that I am at a much better place with routine exercises to do and having my mobility back, the reality of retirement is setting in.  Not having a sermon to prepare every week or offices in which to work have opened up a whole new world of “where do I go from here?”

I’m not bored (most of the time) because I have plenty to do both in the apartment as well as on the computer.  However, as much as I like my own company, and love being with my husband, I’m alone most of the day.

This reminded me that I need to pull up the list of ideas I had put into my notepad on my cell phone which I did yesterday afternoon.  Some of the things are only speculative and take time to accomplish, but I would still like to investigate the items listed there, so I made an additional list of things I can do right now.

For example, I plan to set up lunch with someone once a week just to be in touch.  I have several lunch appointments already made, and I look forward to catching up with those folks and others down the road.  Last night, Dave and I went to the Riverton branch of the Portland Public Library which is right around the corner from our apartment.  We have our library cards in hand, and that will open up some possibilities for workshops or groups that meet regularly.

I’m trying to motivate myself to go back to the gym, and I finally joined Weight Watchers (again) to try to move my eating to a much healthier level.  It’s not easy, and I feel like I have worked at this part of my life every since puberty, but I’m trying again!

I guess what I didn’t anticipate was the loneliness and isolation that comes with not having a job, and especially a job where I was always with people.  My advice to anyone who retires from a people-oriented job would be to pay attention to what’s going on inside and figure out how to find ways to interact with others as need be.  It’s really up to us to find our own way and create our new purpose.

So, I’m continuing the journey and learning along the way!  That’s a good thing!  My dad always said that, when you stop learning, you die.  This comes from a man who taught himself computer at age 80, and now, at 94, just got his first smart phone.  He’s a great example of inquisitiveness and wanting to learn!

Oh – I also have been thinking about taking some kind of course in writing.  That would keep me learning for sure!  Don’t ever stop trying, but also give yourself space to figure things out.  The journey continues!

Knee Replacements and Recovery

It’s been a while since I have blogged!  Mostly, the reason is that I had a knee replacements, and sitting at the computer for any length of time has been difficult.  Now that I’m eight weeks out from the surgery, I’m doing much better, and I have been reflecting on what I have learned throughout this process.

“Pain” is what led me to have the surgery to begin with.  My right knee cap was on top of the the bones of my knee, and, as the congregations I was serving at the time will tell you, I was in a lot of pain.  However, I refused to have the replacement until after I finished the year, which was my year leading into retirement.  So, with the help of braces, cremes, and exercise, I managed to limp around and keep going.

It just didn’t make sense to me to take a month or two out of the work that needed to be done in preparation for a new pastor to come on board, as well as to lay the groundwork for my leaving.  So, I lived with the pain and tried not to complain.

The middle of June, I began vacation, and from there I went right into retirement.  It gave some breathing room for the congregations, as well.  The last week of June, I had my knee replacement.  More pain.  This pain, however, was different from the pain of an arthritic knee.  Instead, this was the pain that goes along with healing where the other was degenerative.  Over the two months since my surgery, I have improved, and the pain has lessened and continues to be better every week.

What else comes to mind in reflecting on this experience?  “Patience” is a big word!  I am reminded over and over again that patience isn’t something you automatically have or is bestowed on you by a benevolent God.  Rather, patience is something you practice and learn as you go along.  I wanted my knee to heal much faster than it has, and yet, I’m told that I have come along faster than many who have gone through the same surgery.

Even now, I wish away the remaining aches and tightness that comes with the healing muscled and rebuilding of the flexibility and range of motion in my knee.  I’m very grateful for physical therapy where I’m reminded that this does require patience, and that brings me to the next word which is “perseverance.”

Without perseverance in doing the exercises at home and doing the ice/elevate, the process of healing would have been much slower.  Push through the pain ran through my head every time I was doing the exercises.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t moan and groan throughout them, but I kept at it because I knew how important they were to my recovery.

“Perspective” is another word that comes to mind.  When I keep my experiences of the surgery and the recovery in perspective, it helps me focus on what I need to do and where I’m going with the post-recovery.  I can now walk without limping in great pain.  There is still tightness and some aching, but I also know that it will eventually go away.

That means that I will be free to pursue a more normal living pattern (whatever that is or becomes in my retirement), and I will be able to focus on things other than knee pain. Of course, my left knee also has arthritis pain, but it it tolerable and not yet bothering me in the same way that my right knee did.

Maybe someone who is reading this will find it helpful knowing that there is a “process” that can help them get through whatever it is that they face.  My knee replacement reflections, when I think of them in more spiritual terms, remind me of life itself.  We face challenges all the time, and there is “pain,” followed by the practice of “patience,” leading us to work at “perseverance” to get through whatever we are facing.  And, it’s helpful to keep things in “perspective.”

If you have read all the way through this, thanks!  If it has been helpful, wonderful!  May God bless your day!