Memories Of a More Innocent Time

As I have considered this renovation project at The Vicarage I have had to ask myself why. We have had those offers that come from buy as is companies. We could sell and rent a condo or even buy a smaller house. So why do the renovation? I think a piece of it has to do with my past. I got thinking about that as I read fellow blogger

CEE NEUNER’S FUNFOTO CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK, COAT OF MANY COLORS.

Dolly’s music always gets me nostalgic about what seems like simpler times . Cee asked us to create a photo post based around the song, and here is what the song made me think of.

Mom and me

These photos are all taken in houses that are within a mile of The Vicarage.

Me and Brenda at Gramma and Grampa’s house around the corner from The Vicarage.

It is so strange to think that such a huge portion of my life has circled around this block I am living on, have lived on in every season of my existence.

Mom, Dad and me at the house on Pearl St. across from the Duvarneys

This place is my memory, my coat of many colors.

Brenda at the house on 360 Front St.
Dad, Gramma, Brenda, Grampa and me at The Vicarage.

But it is not just about my past. This is the place where my past, my present and my future meet in their own dazzle of color. This is as much about me putting a stake in the ground for myself and declaring what my future is going to be, as it is about me tipping my hat to the choices of my ancestors.

The Vicarage is our generation’s Coat of Many Colors Project that we will leave for the next generation to display the love that we have come to know in this life.

Using My Tools

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.

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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.

BBJ Tile – Professional Tile Installation in Raleigh NC Since 2005

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.

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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.

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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?

The End….Of the Beginning

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.

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Mirjam,one of Brenda’s chief partners in ministry in The Netherlands picks her up from the airport.
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The new house

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The neighborhood.
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THE END…..OF THE BEGINNING.

The Nexus Of a New Day

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.

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So much has changed in two years:

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Brenda’s new dining room.

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.

The front gardens of The Vicarage at dusk last night

It is the end of one day.

the forest garden of The Vicarage by first light.

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.

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

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?

#WeekendCoffeeShare: The Quick March

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.

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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.

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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.

Red Birch Hardwood Flooring

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!

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Signing On the Dotted Line

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.

May be an image of outdoors

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?

Back To Busy

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.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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.

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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?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

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.

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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.

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Her new bookcase
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The dining set she will be bale to pick up upon arrival in The Netherlands…a second hand deal.
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Her new couch… another second hand deal found by her team.
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A new bedframe.

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.

Updates From Among the Trees

I really love the forest garden at The Vicarage.

But the forest has encroached on the house over the years.

As we look at our big renovation project, the first thing we have to address is the trees that are rooting at the foundations and branching into the Shingles of the house.

On windy nights the branches of one of the maples actually scratch against my window like the scritching of nails in a horror film.

Today is the day! The tree guys are coming!

The work started around 7:30 A.M.

Mom needed lots of reassurance as the men worked outside her window. It sort of let me know what we will be looking at as we head into the house construction.


It seems strange being able to see every corner of the house.

Now to the trimming and cleaning work! The yard around the house will look a lot better when the contractors come to set up their staging for the siding work.

If We Were Having Coffee 8-7-21 #Weekendcoffeeshare#31

I haven’t done the weekend coffee share in a long time. Actually I haven’t participated in any challenges for a long time, but it feels like things are shifting and the time is right to start in with the challenges again. IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE TODAY, we would be sitting on my front porch at the Vicarage where I have drunk most of my coffee this week.

I would tell you that the renovation project at The Vicarage is moving forward. Our loan was conditionally approved this week and the design team came out to see the house together and put together a more concrete estimate of what this is going to cost us. So we are waiting with bated breath. Meanwhile I am continuing to clean and prune and prepare the Vicarage for the work that lies ahead. We of course are going to need to empty the kitchen as it is going back to the studs. So step one is throwingout things we will not use, do not need or things that are just plain broken.

If we were having coffee I would tell you this has been an exciting month at Cornerstone Church.I am preaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit just now and this has been a very exciting study. Here’s just a taste of what we are talking about.

If we were having coffee I woul tell you all about Brenda’s new home in The Netherlands.

May be an image of brick wall and outdoors

I would tell you she has bought her ticket by faith and is heading back to her home in North Holland on Sept. 1st. I am so excited for her.

If we were having coffee I would share with you that life is full…not busy…just wonderfully full and exciting right now.

WHAT WOULD YOU SHARE?

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith

5:20 A.M. get up walk dogs.

6:20 A.M. Pray and prepare for the big day

7:20 A.M. Get mom her breakfast and medications/ Make coffee for household/ Vacuum/ move clothes drying racks/ make beds/ sweep kitchen/ clean bathrooms/ move broken pallets from stone porch to burning pile/ Gather trash for dump run/ light candles to fragrance house (I love fragrance)

9:30 A.M. Meet with contractors and sub contractors to begin getting Nitty Gritty Reality framework into place. Here is where the dream begins to take on earthly shape and all the warts and pimples begin to show. I think this stage of a project is the part that needs the most faith.

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DREAMS ARE GREAT

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AND WHILE JOURNEYS CAN BE BOTH DAUNTING AND EXHAUSTING THE ACTUAL GOING BUILDS MOMENTUM.

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BUT THIS SPACE BETWEEN THE DREAMING AND THE JOURNEY IS THE PLACE WHERE MOST OF MY PLANS COME TO NOTHING. THE “WE’LL SEES” AND “WHAT IFS” BEGIN TO TAKE THEIR TOLL AS MAYBES BECOME NITTY GRITTY REALITIES.

For instance we discovered….Not just new shingles. We will need new windows.

And…Yep…. This old house will need some new electrics.

And before we can even think of beginning the trees must go.

We will have appointments this week with the plumber and the gutter people and get their thoughts on the job.

For me faith in this part of the project is the part that just keeps going, just keeps organizing. This is the part where I just keep telling myself it will be all right and we will handle whatever comes our way and make whatever modifications we have to to get the project done. This is the part where I guard my prayer time. It is in this season I most appreciate the place of quieting the soul.

NITTY GRITTY REALITY FAITH LOOKS LIKE…

11:00 A.M. Dump run and then reviewing the appraisal for the house. Send it off marked “done” to the bank

12:00 P.M. Lunch for me and Mom. Brenda is off to deal with the fact that her furniture in The Netherlands is all gone. Her old landlord decided to remodel and just chucked all her stuff!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

1:00 P.M. Contact one of my old students about the trees (he runs a landscaping and tree service)/ Contact our insurance company to get information the bank needs sent off/ cancel haircut …it just ain’t happening/ send e-mail to personal assistant about a ministry event coming up that we need to coordinate/ field phone calls and messages from church members.

2:00 P.M. Prayer break…I really need to center down

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3:00 P.M. Walk dogs/ Brenda goes to have tire fixed before she heads out for weekend of ministry in Buffalo.

4:00 P.M. Amanda starts supper/ I do daily devotional and start writing.

5:00 P.M. Supper!

And now I am heading back into prayer…

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith is the faith that keeps pace and keeps peace and keeps hope and just keeps going.

DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER NAME FOR NITTY GRITTY REALITY FAITH? WHAT IS IT?