AMANDA WRITES…Well, while half of the Vicarage is in Florida enjoying Disney the Eldest and youngest of the Vicarage are left to guard the home front. This is quite the change for Grandma as she doesn’t see me as an adult quite yet. Just last month she started to allow me to wash the dinner dishes! With that being said, Dad asked me, what were the easiest and hardest things about being left alone with Grandma for a week.
The easiest thing is listening to her stories from her childhood and learning how my dad grew up. The first day dad left she was missing her kids, and she took out photos I had never seen before and with each photo she showed me she was able to tell me all the details of that time. Having these memories and moments are precious and I don’t take them for granted.
The hardest thing is the questions. As grandma grows older her memory is not what it once was. In the evenings we sit together and talk and she asks the same questions over and over. “when’s your father coming home?” “Is Brenda coming home at the same time?” “Have you walked the dogs yet?” “Where’s your cat?” While these questions aren’t hard to answer it’s the repetitiveness and the realization of what is slowly being taken away from her that is hard and frustrating.
J. WRITES… Thank you Amanda for giving us this time.
In the rebeginning the Vicarage had been formless and void for almost a month. But the Spirit of God moved over the rooftops and said, “Let there be new writings. Let the voices of the ministers spring forth and explain just why they have fallen silent for so long.”
And it was so!
The voices begin to spring forth and they began to tell the story: of a season of questioning and praying, of a season of hardship and blessing, of a season of weariness and intense busyness, of a season of rushing after things that should have been left aside, and of a season of putting aside things that should have been held onto.
The voices sprang forth and cried to the Lord, “Oh Lord give us strength not to fall silent again. Give us wisdom to know how to make the time to write and sing and paint and create as you have made us to do, and to know how to say “No” to the distractions and voices that would draw us away from the anointing you have given us.”
And God responded, “YES AND AMEN!”
Since Brenda and I both remember this poem as one of our favorite “books” from when we were little, and since each of my kids remember the version of the story I told them when they were little I thought I would show you one of our family favorites.
The ministers of the Vicarage have definitely been running the Earth this Memorial Day weekend. I cannot speak for Brenda and Amanda, but I think I shirked my responsibility to watch the sky these last few days. That is never a good thing.
Friday began with grocery shopping and then a day of admin work at the church. I got a bit carried away with accomplishing tasks. It felt good to be making headway on paperwork (one of the banes of my existence). I was doing so well I kept putting prayer off until it was too late.
Brenda and I had a 4 P.M. engagement with friends from church to go see Shakespeare.
It was a great night out in Worcester! Thanks Ken and Betty, Brenda and I had such a good time!
By the time we pulled into the Vicarage I was ready to just collapse into bed. I did and then proceeded to sleep through my alarm which was set to give me time to pray before Amanda and I had to hit the softball fields in Baldwinville MA for Cornerstone’s annual softball tourney.
My job at the tournament was to call “Play Ball!” For each game, to keep time and then call end of game. Then I had to collect all the score sheets and fill out the master round-robin double-elimination chart so everyone could see where they stood in the ranks.
Amanda’s job was to stamp the hands of everyone as they got their free ice cream from the concession truck.
She got a pretty good sun burn during her two hours of duty, even though she was reapplying sun block every 30 minutes.
While we were having a blast at the softball tournament Brenda was driving to Onset MA for the first of three services and a picnic she was attending with The Bridge Onset and The Bridge Carver.
By the time Amanda and I got home from the softball tournament it was time to walk the dogs and answer all mom’s questions about the family’s coming and going. She was pretty confused about where everyone was and why they had gone.
After supper and walking the dogs for their final time, I was so tired I again just plopped in bed. I awoke at 3:30 A.M. and realized I was not just physically tired. I was spiritually depleted and in deep need of spiritual refreshment. I jumped into 2 and 1/2 hours of prayer which I needed just to get my head on straight before church. Running the Earth can be fun for a time but when it is not coupled with watching the sky it can cause some real internal issues which take time to work through (at least for me by Sunday morning my attitude was pretty bad).
After a few hours of preparatory prayer I was ready to lead worship at Cornerstone. After service Amanda and I paid a visit to one of our parishioners in the hospital. Then we went home so Amanda could finish packing for her trip to South Carolina.
I dropped her at Logan airport this morning at 2 A.M.. She is off on the next adventure!
Many years ago God gave me a phrase I felt I was to live by: My life is to be built Slow, Constant and Intentional. I have never really struggled with the “Constant” part of that command. I am a pretty good plodder. I can keep going and going and going. I don’t have problems showing up early or staying late.
I feel like I have learned to be “Intentional”. That hasn’t come naturally. It has been a process learning to plan and live my life by a God rhythm. Even all these years into practicing the lifestyle I find there are moments where my intentionality misses a beat or six. In those moments, I have to replan and resubmit myself to the process of being intentioned or thought-out. Mostly I feel my failures in complying with God’s three-step plan have been founded in the trouble I have with slowing down.
Nothing in my life feels slow enough. I feel rushed everyday. Even when I am intentionally taking it slow I feel like the world around me is screaming “HURRY UP!” That external shout makes my insides fight against my attempts towards easing up on life’s gas pedal.
I can be intentionally moving along at a proper God-set pace, then the world comes along with its myriad requirements and my intentions which are geared to a slower lifestyle fly out the window. I am left scrambling to try and figure out which intentions to keep and which ones to throw away so I can go once again live as fast and furious as the rest of the world.
I’ve noticed over the last year how much this kills my creativity. I run from one thing to the next and frankly sometimes I feel like I am just “phoning it in”. In those moments I sense most powerfully there is something inside of me that screaming for a return to excellence.
I know this all just sounds like so much complaining about first world problems. Maybe that is part of it, but somewhere in the middle of that is a conviction from the Holy Spirit that things are supposed to be different.
When Brenda and I were discussing her return home I think we both knew that adding more complexity to our already complex lives was going to cause us to rush even more than we already were. I think we both also knew how much this would threaten our creative well-being. That is why even before she came home we had decided to do a study on rebooting creativity. The study by The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron is entitled It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again. It is a study created to help people facing life transitions to recapture their creative selves (It deals specifically with retirement as a transition but I am finding much in it for our particular transition at the Vicarage). I want to give thanks here to my blogging friends Cee Neuner and Chris Donner who put the book in my pathway.
Yesterday I spoke about the messy mental and spiritual threads I was encountering in the midst of this transition….
To this pile we are now adding an artist’s study thread, but as I open the pages of this book I am seeing that perhaps this particular thread will bring together several others. Perhaps, this will begin to help us make sense of the mess.
If you want to join us on this study the Book is available on Amazon.com.We have just finished the introduction and I took my first stab at writing the “Morning Pages”. My arm fell asleep…imagine that a writer who can’t write three pages without his fingers cramping up….
It strikes me that I never explained why the Vicarage now has three ministers living in it. Perhaps some of you have asked the obvious question, “If Brenda J. Lillie is a missionary to The Netherlands why is she living at The Vicarage in the good Ole U.S. of A.?”
Brenda is a faith missionary. Which means she is a missionary who is responsible to raise her own funds from individuals and churches to help her do her work of missions. The process of gathering partners is called “itineration”.
In our denomination…
…missionaries serve in four year terms. That is three or four years on the field (depending on the stage of their work)and then 1 year back in the U.S. to meet with their partnering churches to raise funds for new missions projects, or to make up for money lost due to attrition (churches or individuals not being able to continue their commitments) and cost of living increase.
Brenda spent the last three years in Zaandam, North Holland, The Netherlands building Stagelife Theater in partnership with Icthus Church in that city.
Now she is home connecting with partners and forging new alliances to help her plant the next phase of the ministry which is The Bridge Artist’s community.
She has been home a month. If you have been following us you know it has been a busy time. She is currently in a season we are calling the “May gauntlet.”
May is the month in our denominations when many of our regions host their Network Conferences. A conference is like a combination church service-pep- rally and stockholder’s business meeting. Brenda is traveling to several conferences this month to connect with potential partners. At each conference she sets up a table, and ministers from that region are encouraged to stop by and see what she is doing. The hope is that those ministers will set up services with Brenda and then consider supporting her. Each conference is on Brenda’s dime. She pays for travel, lodging and set up cost, but the idea is you invest to reap a benefit.
Last week she preached in Worcester MA and then drove to the Appalachian Network Conference in West Virginia. You can read about that HERE.
This week she is in Syracuse, New York attending the New York District Conference.
She is also selling photos from her home on the farm in The Netherlands as a way to raise money for the project.
If you would like to help Brenda in her ministry you can do that by going to gonetherlandsag.com
So here is what I noticed on my sojourn to West Virginia this week.
1. America, your roads SUCK! Seriously car eating potholes.
2. Almost every town in Pennsylvania ends with a “burg” or a “ville”. And they all sound quaint.
3. American Road signs are quite funny at 1am. And I kept thinking…thank you captain helpful and oh stater of the obvious! “STAY ALERT!” “BE SAFE-TAKE A BREAK!” “Keep a safe distance between vehicles”
4. My favorite part of the whole drive was when I was warned miles ahead of time that the right lane was closed…only to immediately get halted because the first 10 miles of the road work had the LEFT LANE CLOSED….then the right….SIGNAGE FAIL !
5. What is the deal with mushy green beans in the South? Seriously…do people actually like this?
6. Nothing beats listening to a true southern accent. Something about it, always makes me feel like moving Down South. Then the sun comes out and it’s 85 degrees and I think…YEAH…No thanks. But the accent sure is pretty.
As I have said before, I am way behind on yard work at the Vicarage…about five years behind. I had hoped to have more time in the yard this Spring. Between ministry schedules and rain those hopes have been mostly dashed. Still I did manage to get out yesterday and do a bit of cutting between raindrops and dog walks.
As you can see there is plenty to do.