It’s fall. The summer is over and the seasons of work have begun….at least that is how I have always viewed fall and winter….seasons of work.
It’s back to school time and done with vacation time. It is also the time when people launch into their winter routines and the daily disciplines that help them make it through the darker seasons. I have a sense that this year the church is being called to some work which will call us all deeper into the presence of the Lord and into the spiritual harvest field that is our region.
The to do list for the ministers of the Vicarage is pretty big:
1. Facilitate the Execution of the mission God has given Cornerstone Church to…DO LIFE TOGETHER….TO REACH THE LOST….TO SEND THE FOUND….TO DISCOVER OUR GIFTS…..TO CHANGE THE WORLD.
2. Relaunch our children’s programming starting in September.
3. Launch the Bridge Artistic Network in Zaandam starting in September
4. The reconstruction project for the church altar begins in November.
5. And finally…The Vicarage reno project is heating up. This week we are choosing the tile and the countertops.
As full as my plate looks to be over the next few months I am finding myself oddly at peace. God keeps telling me that I can do this if I will just use the tools He has given me. Over the last decade I have been practicing disciplines under the Lord’s direction which I now understand are going to help me through this very full season. These disciplines are like tools in my tool management tool belt. What I know about them is that if I can use these tools successfully to help keep myself organized and sane then anyone can use them.
The tools in my tool belt are:
SCHEDULING ACCORDING TO MY ROLES….When I first started scheduling myself I thought it an unspiritual necessity. Over the many years of keeping a daily schedule I have learned scheduling is perhaps one of the most spiritual and fruitful habits I have developed. But I don’t schedule according to my tasks anymore. I schedule according to my roles. I am: a child of God, a family man, a lead pastor, a writer and a friend. These are my roles and my schedule has to reflect these roles. The things I allow to populate my schedule have to reflect these roles. When a task that does not reflect one of my roles keeps showing up in my schedule I need to either accept a new role or get rid of the activity. That leads to the next tool.
PRACTICE SAYING NO A LOT…. When something doesn’t fit in the schedule or when something gets in the way of me living out the roles God has given me I need to say no no matter who it disappoints, even if that someone is me. I also need to decide in advance the things I am not going to try and get done in this season. That requires me to…..
BE HUMBLE ENOUGH TO ADMIT I CANNOT DO EVERYTHING….I had forgotten how much work renovation projects were and I really am just doing prep work for this one. The heavy lifting is all going to be done by our contractors. That said there is a lot to do up front and during this project I am realizing Mom is going to need more help than I previously thought. Add the work being done at the church and I have to be realistic in saying that is about all I can handle. I think the book project I hoped to complete this fall before Christmas is going to have to wait.
CALL IN FRESH EYES… I have learned there is wisdom in calling in someone who can look at my situation from the outside to help me keep a well rounded perspective. I have asked a certified life coach if he would walk with me through this season to help keep me on track. My first session with him is this Thursday and we will be talking about prioritization.
PRIORITIZE SELF CARE…. For me this means a couple of things. Prayer. Exercise. Eating right. and immersing myself in nature. I love my wild forest gardens at the Vicarage. As the flowers fade I am already planning my winter of birdwatching and how I am going to set myself up for that.
THESE ARE THE TOOLS I HAVE IN MY TOOL BELT. WHAT AM I MISSING?
Last night, Brenda and I headed to Logan airport. We parked in the parking garage so I could help her in with her bags.
She didn’t take much considering she is going to be gone for months. Still it was more than she could carry to the gate on her own.
Airports always remind me that there is a big wide world beyond the Vicarage’s front porch.
When I began “Notes…” I kind of thought that this day, of Brenda’s leaving, would be the end of the story. I am beginning to see that while Brenda returning to the Netherlands is an end of sorts, in God’s estimation it is only the end of the beginning. In some ways I think the story that is about to unfold about the denizens of The Vicarage is the story He always meant to be told.
So…On Sept. 1st 2021 Missionary, Brenda Lillie, boarded her plane at Logan to fly to her mission field in Zaandam, The Netherlands. Her brother, Pastor J got back in his car on Level 7MM in the parking gargage, and after doing his on line devotional with his Digging Deeper DLT group, he pushed out into the remnants of Hurricane Ida to make his way home to The Vicarage.
It was a long rainy drive home during which he took one pastoral call about someone whom someone else thought had died, but that turned out to be a Facebook mistake…. another marvel of modern technology gone wrong. Anyway, two bluetooth calls later, the mystery had been solved and not too many people had been panicked.
“I’m home!” J called out as he entered the Vicarage after his rainy drive.
“Are you an axe murderer?” Pastor Amanda called out the customary greeting (another gift of Mom’s sharp wit and the Hallmark Mystery channel combined)
“No! I’m a poisoner!” Pastor J hollered back his customary answer as he thumbed through the mail on the table.
“Where is your sister?” Mom asked.
J realized, sadly, that Mom did not recall that Brenda had left for her new home in The Netherlands and would need to hear the whole story about Brenda’s work and future plans again because to her mind it would be the first time she was hearing it.
It took about an hour and a half to settle Mom into the story and the information, to the point where she was ready to go to bed. Finally the time came for bed and some much needed sleep. Even though so much remained to be done J shuffled off to bed. The rest of the day’s work would have to wait for morning.
As the sun rose on the new day the word of the Lord came into that space that exists between sleep and conscious thought….“I have work for all of you…The day of planning is past…..The day of preparation is gone….I have set you all to your separate labors….prepare for the hard work of harvest.”
Realizing the new day was dawning in more than one way, J got up and set about the work: Dog walking with an additional dog, breakfast and pills and papers for Mom….exercise (time to get rid of this spare tire)….and some early morning writing joined by another household friend who always seemed to show up when the tapping of the computer keys started.
The new day passed. Meetings were had. Conversations were spoken. Decisions were made, and Brenda reached home safely.
The new house
THE END…..OF THE BEGINNING.
I started “Notes From the Vicarage” over two years ago just as Brenda was coming home from her mission in The Netherlands for the regular furlough required by our fellowship. The blog was supposed to help her with connection and fundraising as well as giving our readers a glimpse into life at a vicarage full of ministers. In that endeavor I failed.
I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Brenda and Amanda were not really ready to launch into the world of regular blogging on the scale I was used to.
I wasn’t prepared for how difficult the transition back into American life would be for Brenda.
I wasn’t prepared for how my life was about to change professionally.
And none of us were prepared for a pandemic that would stall the world and missions fundraising efforts for more than a year.
We have come full circle. Brenda will be returning to The Netherlands tomorrow.
So much has changed in two years:
She is returning, not to her farm on the edge of the Jagersfeld, but to a new row house in the midst of a newly formed artistic district.
She is returning under the umbrella of a new missions agency….Artists for Community Transformation.
I am now lead pastor of Cornerstone Church.
Amanda holds the post of youth and children’s pastor.
The whole world is living under the cloud of what we are calling our new normal, which I think is not actually going to settle into any kind of normal from here on until the age changes.
And on top of that The Vicarage is about to undergo some necessary surgery.
It is the end of one day.
And the beginning of another.
Each new day is a nexus, a connector of past present and future. I am learning to celebrate what was. Hope for what is to come, and concentrate on what is.
The last two years have taught us God is able to bring the best out of even the worst circumstances. He is truly able to make beauty out of ashes.
Pandemic gave Brenda time to further her calling and connect to her new missions organization which is built for artist/ missionaries.
Pandemic prepared me for the work of being a lead pastor, by helping me to discover what my real ministry gift was.
Pandemic prepared our church for the move of God which is now beginning to take place.
As we approach this nexus of a new day I am looking forward to the story that is about to unfold before us. I realize that my role in this unfolding it to be the teller of the story. This time I am determined to make time to tell it.
WHAT STORY ARE YOU DETERMINED TO TELL JUST NOW?
If we were having coffee or tea or whatever today, I would tell you that this week feels like fall is rushing towards us.
Even as the garden remains in full bloom I am watching as the trees in the neighborhood take on the faintest tint of their autumn colors. But this year fall is about more than the shift of seasons, it is the changing of a host of things here at The Vicarage.
Brenda is packed and ready to leave on Wednesday for her new home in Zaandam. Her team brought in her dining set today.
Those of you who have been following “Notes From the Vicarage” know that Brenda’s old landlord had gotten rid of almost all of her furniture from her old apartment without telling her. He has made amends and God has given Brenda almost a whole new House of furniture (new to her anyway) for a total cost of less than $100.00 Euro. She still needs to buy new mattresses, linens, curtains and towels but her furniture is all set.
She is still dealing with a heavy heart over the knowledge that her dog Snug will not be able to join her on this trip. COVID has made the veterinarians who deal with oversea pet travel very busy and she could not get an appointment before October. So the Vicarage is becoming a 3 dog, 1 cat household.
Snug being dubious.
If we were having coffee I would tell you that the renovation for the Vicarage is moving forward quickly now. The floor guys came forward this morning and said that our floors can be refinished rather than replaced! That is good because apparently our floors are made of red birch which is super pricy if not impossible to replace.
I would also tell you that this week we picked out our new bathroom fixtures and cabinets. This week I have to make appointments to decide on countertops and bathroom tiles.
Finally, if we were having coffee I would tell you that tomorrow I am hosting the second children’s dedication of my lead pastorate at Cornerstone Church. I have the privilege of dedicating my grand daughters!
The summer has passed so quickly. Like the seasons everything is changing.
Brenda spent the week packing and doing last minute tasks that have to get done before she heads to her new home in The Netherlands.
Things like signing the loan paperwork this week so the Vicarage project can move forward. Yay! We have the money to fix this old house.
AfterI finished signing yesterday, one of my friends from church, came over to help me move some more brush.
Joe has come twice to take brush. I figure he has saved me about two days of brush burning. He was even able to fit a few of the pallets from the pile.
I am pretty excited about where we are going with the Vicarage project. I am also reminded that I have a whole life outside of the project. After moving brush I got ready for my evening meeting, a meet-n-greet for a town project called Heal Winchendon.
Having been through many other building projects in my life I am aware how all consuming they can be especially when they are this big. Balancing ministry and living the building project is going to be tricky. God keeps reminding me that prayer is the key.
HAVE YOU DONE BUILDING PROJECTS BEFORE? WHAT WAS THE KEY TO KEEPING YOUR SANITY?
A few weeks ago I said I was no longer using the word “busy” because busy carried the connotation of stress. Instead I had determined to use the word “full” for the life I was living because full speaks of abundance and prosperity…..Yeah…..I got back to busy today.
Today is writing day. The normal course of writing day is full….prayer-pastoral reading- Digging Deeper Devo- sermon- Prayer meeting planning- scheduling the week- prepping for staff meeting and other meetings- 5 Star Man Group. Adding to that just pushed the day from “full” to “busy” for me.
When the e-mails started rolling from the insurance company and the bank doing the HELOC for us about missing paperwork that was scanned to them last week I got just a little edgy.
A thirty minute call to our insurers…most of which I spent on hold…got the issue resolved and then a quick trip to the bank with some more necessary paperwork for the signing finished that part, and I thought the stress was over…..I was wrong.
As I got back to The Vicarage, I noted Brenda was working in the yard with the clippers. She was clipping down the Japapnese knot weed that was overhanging the sidewalk. I thought about helping, but I had a sermon to write. I had almost hit my rhythm when Brenda called m,y cell and asked me to come and help her. Did I mention I was wrong about being over my stress?
Stress is not about what is going on outside of us anymore than busy is. Busy and stress are all about what is going on inside. Shifting the interior world is what shifts busyness to fullness.
I realized it was time for more prayer.
Silencing the inner turmoil with centering prayer is an effective way to shift me from busy to full, from negative to positive.
The second step for me to shift from busy to full is to realize all that has gotten done this week…to count my many blessings so to speak.
We got the trees down around the Vicarage so the project can begin.
The paperwork is now complete for the HELOC.
Brenda’s team in the Netherlands continues to replace her furniture with deals they are finding with God’s help, and one of her Bridge M.A. Team has started a Gofund me page to help with the costs.
And I just found out that my friend Joe is coming to take another load of brush away for us on Thursday!!!!
And the final step toward shifting my mindset is to envision the possibilities before me.