So much is changing in Vicarage life.There’s: my new role as lead pastor, Amanda’s new role as youth and next generation pastor, Brenda’s work with this new missions sending agency A.C.T., The vicarage facelift….and my son-in-law, daughter and granddaughters are moving back to WInchendon!
Yesterday a team of us braved the July 4th traffic to pack up the apartment in Lynn and drive all their furniture back to WInchendon. We finished up about 10 P.M. last night…..
And restarted at about 9 A.M. this morning.
Thank you to everyone from our Cornerstone family who made this move happen! Amanda, Art, Kaden, Ray, Christian,Dan, Jim, Toni (James’ parents from CT) Juan James, Melanie (so nice to have you and the girls in Winchendon). Curt, Tyler, Ken, Betty, Brenda, Jody,Ezra and Josh (our visiting missionaries from Rotterdam) and Pastor David and Emily (pastors from East Coast International who helped us in Lynn.
Since March the world has settled into a new rhythm.
Five and a half months in, I have grown use to the new pace. I do wonder how much of my old routine I will even want back when the pandemic is over.
Tuesdays is staff meeting day. Since our offices at the church are still not officially open, we meet by Zoom. A few staff members, including my daughter, vid in from the church office. I work from home.
So the rhythm for this day is: rise by 6 or 7, walk the dogs, pray, write the morning blogs, exercise, go to the store for mom’s daily supplies (papers, scratchies and cigs), then it is back home and with any time left before staff meeting I study and pray a bit more.
In answer to the question you may have asked in the last paragraph, yes Mom smokes. She has for almost 60 years. Stopping at 85 would probably kill her. She has no wish to stop and I really have no wish to fight that battle.
To be honest smoking is one of the few things Mom enjoys now. Dementia has stolen from her the ability to be comfortable away from the house. She gets very nervous even going outside now because it is too confusing.
She likes her living room, her TV (The Hallmark channel almost exclusively), her newspapers with the crosswords, and suduko (which amazingly she can still do), the daily comics, which after she has read, she likes to color…AND she likes her cigarettes.
Her doctor has tried to get her to quit, even using the argument that it will lengthen her life. That argument does not work because Mom has no wish to lengthen her life here, She is beyond ready to move beyond and is, as the saying goes, “Waiting on God”.
I have to say being the child of a parent who is fighting the battle with dementia can be confusing and difficult. As we lose mom…as she loses herself by inches to this disease we are caught between the two ideas of losing her to death or losing her to dementia. Part of me wants to have her stay with us in any condition because I do not want her to go. Another part of me doesn’t want her to suffer the ravages of this horrible disease. Both mindsets come and go, and both of them feel selfish in turn.
one of the reasons I love the pandemic rhythm is it has given all of us here at The Vicarage precious time to be together. To sit together. To watch TV together…. and it has given us time to talk, even if we do answer the same questions over and over, even if some of what is said is just silly.
Tonight after I had finished a remote sustainability seminar put on by a local resource group, I came down to sit with Mom, Brenda and Amanda. We were having a discussion about gall bladders….yes…. gall bladders.
Here is how it went in my daughter’s words
Convo with grandma… Me: grandma do you still have your gallbladder? Grandma: nope Aunt Brenda: when did you lose your gallbladder Grandma: I didn’t lose it… Aunt Brenda: what do you… Grandma: *interrupting aunt Brenda*… it got cut out Everyone silent for a beat…then busts out laughing.
This new rhythm is perhaps the most massive lifestyle change I have experienced since my divorce. It has been hard and uncomfortable Honestly, though, I never want to go back to normal if I can keep having conversations with Mom about gall bladders.
Well i have blathered on long enough tonight. So I will sign off here saying….
Those who follow “Notes” regularly know that Brenda, Amanda and I are living in our ancestral home while caring for our Mother, Nancy (Amanda’s grandmother), who struggles with dementia.
In many ways this disease ( at least the stage we are in) reminds me of raising teen-agers. Mom has gotten very cheeky, and that leads to some very funny conversations.
One of the things we are working on with Mom is her diet. She does not eat very well, partly because of her teeth (the repairs to which are put on hold for the moment due to Covid) and partly because she has a sweet tooth that never quits. the 3P.M.-5P.M. hour is reminiscent of when my kids were teens. They would come in from the day and start snacking, to which this parent would say, “Don’t eat too many snacks. You will ruin your dinner.”
I don’t know if you have ever tried that line with someone over 80 but if you do you are likely to get a response like I got yetserday….
Scene is the Vicarage Kitchen and living room.
Mom eats a Swiss roll at three.
At four she eats an ice cream sandwich
J. Says- Supper is in a little while Mom. Don’t spoil your dinner.
Mom says- I won’t. I am just really hungry now.
J says- Do you want me to fix you a sandwich or something now?
Mom says- This is a sandwich.
J rolls his eyes.
After her ice cream sandwich Mom takes a brief nap and wakes up around 5P.M.
J says- Would you like me to fix you something for dinner?
Mom says- No. I am not hungry.
J says- OK, let me know when you are hungry ,and I can fix you a plate.
20 minutes later Mom comes out of the kitchen with A NUTTY BUDDY!
J says- Mom would you like me to fix you something for dinner before you eat that?
Mom says- No. I want this.
J says ( a little exasperated)- Mom you need to eat something more than sugar. You have been eating sugar all afternoon.
It is time for another episode of “Don’t Do It This Way” or as Amanda calls it “Without A Recipe”. This is one of the ways Amanda is keeping our congregation connected during the pandemic.
This was Amanda’s birthday addition. She made ice cream sundaes this week. While she was doing this, I was home making her cakes. I made her two favorite cakes (lemon and carrot) as a consolation for not being able to go to Pennsylvania (which was the plan pre-Covid-19).
Social distancing has changed the way we do church work for sure. That said church work still needs to get done. Tuesdays is still staff meeting day and we have continued to meet using Zoom tech. While it is called Zoom that is no indicator that our meetings are any shorter. Today we met for two hours.
I know most people think that pastors only work on Sundays and Wednesday nights, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our Tuesday meetings as a staff of nine cover a lot of territory, and there just is no way to shorten up the weekly business. I have actually been to weekly staff meetings which take up to five hours. One deacon board meeting I attended recently engaged us in six hours of business, and that was with us pushing things along.
Now with Covid-19 entering the discussion we have even more to talk about as we plan for the future. Like the rest of the country, we are looking forward to reopening, and discussions are being had on the regular about just how to do that, and of course when. Here in the North East we are bracing ourselves for a long haul.
All that to say Tuesdays- Meeting Days are busy days and sometimes I don’t really realize how busy they are until I take a look back at the agenda and see all we have done. For instance: The house started stirring this morning around 6 A.M. By 9 I prayed, ate breakfast with Amanda and Mom, walked all three dogs (which is something of a process as Mercedes is in heat), got ready for the day, got Mom’s morning supplies, fed the birds, washed a load of laundry, changed out my pillow cases and folded yesterday’s laundry. At 9:30 we found out that we lost a congregant last night to the disease (she had several other health conditions as well) . At 10:30 we found out another congregant was being sent home on hospice after a long battle with a series of health issues.
Then staff meeting. While Amanda and I had staff meeting, Brenda took some time and sat with Mom and then with the dogs who were beside themselves with heat. Then she did some writing in her study.
After staff meeting Brenda and I finished up some errands Amanda had started yesterday for an elderly congregant. Then it was back home for afternoon prayers and the afternoon dog walk (in the rain).
Brenda had an on-line meeting with an artist from the South and I made dinner for the house while Amanda got herself ready for youth group.
In the midst of all of this I have even had time to write! Amazingly, I have not felt rushed at all. I’m kind of marveling at that in fact, and I am wondering how it is possible that I do not feel half out of my brain. Maybe it is just the fact that most of this did not involve me leaving the house…..hmmm. Ok it is time to walk the dogs again because one of them is beginning to howl like a six pound wolf.- See Ya Soon!
So I haven’t posted here in a while. The skinny is that I have been keeping myself busy with distractions. Well, at least they are distractions now. You know how it is. Yesterday’s priorities can easily become today’s distractions.
A few months ago God told me He was going to be shifting my focus and that I would be entering a new season of life. In December He clarified that a bit with these words which have become my words for the year :“Shift focus to wonder.”
I guess I didn’t anticipate how hard it was going to be to shift my focus and to begin to concentrate on the new priorities God has given me. I also didn’t realize how much I have allowed other people to make decisions about what the important things in my life are. God warned me that people wouldn’t understand.
When Mom’s health took a turn, I understood that as the gateway to the changes. Everyone has been so supportive. It has been arranged that I should work more from home. Things have been put in place to make all that possible. Everything should be going so smoothly but I can’t seem to adjust to this new rhythm I am called to. The problem is me you see. I am finding it hard to say “No” to the things I used to say “Yes” to. I am having trouble giving up my freedom to use my time however I want to.
I was chatting with my boss the other day and telling him how I would love to join a certain committee in town, but that I really need to be careful of my commitments now. It made me kind of sad and yet at the same time felt like destiny was being unleashed.
I understand this is an exercise in crucifixion, a dying of a part of me that has to die. Yet I miss this free part of myself everyday and so I keep resurrecting it.
I know I must decrease so that He might increase. I must surrender my plans so that His plans might be accomplished, but honestly I really loved my plans. And here’s the other thing. People don’t understand. They have gotten used to me following a certain pathway and being a certain way and pursuing life a certain way. I have revealed to them intrinsically over years…even decades that I consider my ministry to be a certain way and they don’t yet know that the ministry plan has changed. The world around me can do nothing else but encourage me to keep going after the same old plan. They don’t fully see that God has made a change and that a new plan exists for me…for the church.
My sister asked me the other day how she could help me make this adjustment and I honestly don’t know. I have to get the new rhythm myself before I can play it for others. I think my time with my Son and Daughter-in-law in the Philippines really began to clarify for me the size of the change which was upon me. I understand now it is going to take me a little while to figure it all out. I think I am becoming better every day with understanding and implementing the changes.
Here are two things I know:
My changes are just a part of a much larger change God is bringing to our church.
Watch out world! Once I figure out this new rhythm I feel like a new level of effectiveness and achievement is going to kick in quickly, not just for me but for all the people God is moving me out of the way to release into their proper places.
It was such a busy weekend at the Vicarage, I haven’t finished all the work it created yet…and it is almost Thursday. Part of that work is this post which I started writing on Monday morning and had to keep putting off until now.
The sad thing about getting behind like this is that life events don’t just stop so you can catch up. Oh no! They just keep rolling in so the work you didn’t get done when it was supposed to be done, keeps getting pushed back behind the work that you have to do today until saying things like “It was a very busy weekend”, really don’t matter because it is almost next weekend.
But I really want to tell you about the weekend we had here at the Vicarage.
Amanda started the weekend off when one of her friends who works at an adult dayhab in our area was burned out of her home. Amanda put out the call for clothing and essentials and spent a good deal of time gathering those items for delivery this week.
In the meantime Brenda left for a weekend tour of Connecticut. She performed her show, My Hiding Place, in Bristol on Friday night, taught a teen seminar in Greenwich on Saturday, and then preached twice on Sunday in Farmington.
Monday she started jury duty and got selected for a case she has been sitting panel for since.
For myself, I have been holding down the home front. Saturday our artist’s community set up an art show at one of the local libraries.
Sunday of course was church and then housework. I think I did something like nine loads of laundry this week! Of course none of us including the people who stayed here in Massachusetts have yet recovered fully from our trip to the Philippines. Some things have changed with Mom since we left and that leaves us all a little worried about her health.
So we watch and wait and work and wonder what is coming next for the ministers of the Vicarage. In the end, we can only deal with things as they come along. All of us are learning to just live in the moment and rejoice in the busyness and the blessedness of serving God in it.
I awoke again this morning at 2 A.M. and finally rolled out of bed at 3. The dogs yawned sleepily as I rousted them from bed. Mercedes snorted at me with disdain as I put her in her crate so I could get ready for the day. Her white fur stuck out at indignant angles and she glared at me with the one eye which was not blocked by her wiry hair.
I filled the food bowl, got dressed and shuffled downstairs to finish getting the dogs’ breakfast and mine made. As I spooned the wet food into the dog dish and popped it into the microwave to warm (my dogs like a warm breakfast) I found myself wondering if I was ever going to get over jet lag.
It’s a week today and my days and nights are still reversed. I kind of thought I had it licked the other day when I stayed up until 1 A.M. to pray and then slept until 6:30 A.M. That is until noon rolled around and my body once again spontaneously shut down. It doesn’t really matter where I am when that happens. I just fall alseep!
That all said, this has been really good for me concerning this season of prayer we are having at the church. I have been able to go in at 11 at night and pray through until 1 A.M. without a problem. This morning I am in the church by 4 A.M. catching up on some writing until 5 and then I will pray until 7. No worries folks I imagine I will be taking a nap by 1 this afternoon anyway. Maybe this is my new normal.