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My life has changed drastically since I last blogged. My husband has resigned his call to the church where he’s been pastor for the last 11 years. I knew his ministry there was coming to an end because of recent events within our church and the denomination that the church belongs to, but I did not know that it would happen so soon, or that it would be so sudden – or that the whole process of saying good-bye would be so painful.
One unfortunate consequence of this whole unfolding mess is that I have learned I am being cyber-stalked. Parts of my previous blogs, taken out of context, were read aloud at a church council meeting where my husband and I were then berated. This kind of thing hurts me deeply as a person and a writer. I have always tried to be honest but discreet in my blog posts. My intention has never been to diss others, but to honestly express my own feelings about the impact of certain happenings and actions on me. I have never even thought a bad thing about the women who were upset with me. Quite the opposite! Knowing that my words were twisted and used against me, and my husband, is a horrible feeling.
So what to do from this point forward? Clam up? Shut down? Shut up? Stop writing at a time I most need to release my angst, vent my frustration, ask for prayers and gain support from friends and family, many of whom my only connection to is online?
I suspect I shouldn’t care what the people who criticized me because of what I wrote think of me (although I do), but a concern is that my husband is obviously looking for a new call, and I really, really don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his chances. But when I think of trying to live out the next however many years under a gag order, not able to say what I really think or be who I really am, is is so disheartening that I want to cry. Am crying.
A year and a half ago, I was in a group at Gather.com called Shedding Light, led by the wonderfully insightful Mariana T. She asked us to make a list of the things we needed to shed, the things that are holding us back, and dragging us down. Among the things I listed were Clutter, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurity, Low Self-Esteem, Excess Weight, Inertia, Excessive Possessions, Computer Games and other Time Wasters.
To the past and future church council members who may be reading this – there you have it. You now know all of my vices. Look no further. Dig no deeper. It’s all right here.
The sad thing, as I read this list, is that instead of shedding the things on the list, I seem to be attracting them like a magnet. I feel like I’m inside a huge snowball, gathering unwanted masses of the above items as I roll downhill. I feel like I’m about ready to hit a tree and explode into a million fragments of icy debris. I can’t concentrate. I am terribly over-committed and way behind on everything, but I can’t seem to get anything done.
But maybe there is hope. I got my blog done, didn’t I?
It has been a different kind of harvest this year in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. We did not receive enough rain this summer – none at all for almost 2 months. As a result, the ears of corn hanging on the stalks are half shriveled up and burned dry.
None of the crops matured the way they should, and the yields will be low. Mid-summer storms brought devastation in the form of hail and high winds to many fields. Some of the crops are laying flat on the ground, making them nearly impossible to combine.
In early September, a few days after it finally rained, giving the soybeans what seemed like a reprise – one last chance for the pods to fill out, an early frost turned the fields from green to black. And that was that. We have had two weeks of hot, 85 degree days this October – highly unusual for this far north – making everything so parched and dry that there have been many fires in the fields.
Like giving birth to a stillborn baby, our farmers must still go through the labor of harvest, even though the joy of reaping a bountiful harvest will not be there to reward them for all their hard work and sacrifice.
My husband’s 11 year ministry at the church where he is pastor has also come to a disappointing end. Two weeks ago, a congregational vote that might have saved the day failed when people who rarely even attend church were brought in to vote, skewing the results. The majority lost because there was not a 2/3 majority. The result means the end of life as I’ve known it for almost 8 years. My time there has been the honeymoon period in my life as a wife, and a pastor’s wife, and will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m not ready for it to end.
I am trying to leave things in God’s hands, knowing that the God of the universe does not need my stress, anxiety or exhaustion to accomplish his plan in the world. But it is hard to let go and trust, to believe that after months of stress and worry, arguments, threats and political maneuvering by people we thought were friends and higher-ups in a church that is supposed to be my refuge and sanctuary, that this whole terrible mess will suddenly be all better. And the truth is, that although joy is promised at the end of the journey, some of the wounds caused by this battle may never heal. I know I sound bitter. I am trying not to get caught in the caustic cauldron of resentment and anger.
I am having Circle at the parsonage tonight – a time to say my good-byes, and hopefully, to give closure. I miss playing the piano with my friends, a wonderful drummer and keyboardist, more than I can say. Making music with them and glorifying God through our praise and worship has been my ministry, and one of the highlights of my week for over five years.
The time of harvest has come to an end. A door has slammed shut. I know God will open a window. I can’t wait to climb through and fly high. I am increasingly ready to let go and move in a new direction.
Yet I know that winter lies between fall and spring.
God, please provide another call for my husband, one where he can use his gifts and talents for you, one where he will be appreciated and loved. And please let it be within an hour of the Blue Belle, and please, if you would, let them like contemporary praise music. Let them love rousing old hymns. Let them sing lustily. And let them need a piano player.
Thank you for listening.
And now, to new growth, to moving onward and upward.
Second Wind Publishing invites you to submit an entry to their short story contest.
Stories are to be about spring or renewal.
Contest entries must be your own original work. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Self-published stories are acceptable, but the story must not exist in print form or in any other anthology. The story must be no longer than 5,000 words.
The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. All entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment. The authors and management of Second Wind Publishing will choose the three finalists, but reader comments will be taken into consideration. Entries will be judged on originality, readability, writing skills, characterization, and plot. Spelling and grammar count. The decision of the judges is final.
Everyone is welcome to vote for the winner, which is to be chosen from the three finalists.
The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. (Title subject to change.) The winner will also receive a coupon from Smashwords.com for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs.
All entries will be deleted once the contest is over.
The contest begins today, October 3, 2011 and ends December 31, 2011.
December 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm: Contest ends.
January 1 — January 15, 2012: Judging of entries by 2W (and 2W authors) to pick top three entries
January 15 — January 31, 2012: Judging of the three finalists by blog readers to pick the winner
February 1, 2012: Winner announced
April 1, 2012 Book on Amazon for sale (In an ideal world …)
Please send your entries as a Word .doc or .docx to email@example.com
Best of luck to all of you!!
I’ve been at two conferences in the last two weeks. The first was a writing conference, the second a conference I’m attending with my husband, who is a minister. No offense to St. Louis, but I must say, when I compare the two cities, I have to say I prefer being in Des Moines where I have a nephew and niece, several friends, and no exes.
We’re staying in a beautiful, award winning B&B – Butler House on Grand. It’s a three story, brick English Tudor with a very impressive façade… and that brings me to my topic today.
- Butler House on Grand, a B&B in Des Moines, Iowa.
Mark Vander Tuig, one of the speakers at the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations for Ministry in Christ) Conference we’re attending, spoke about envy today. The word was mentioned at the Christian Writers Conference I attended as well.
It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others, whether writers or pastors. Published or unpublished, published by a large press or published by a small press, self-published, or getting 6 figure advances, there’s always someone to compare yourself to. Maybe your e-book sold 3 dozen copies and someone else’s sold 2000. Maybe you both write for the same publishing house, but one of you gets smaller advances than the other. Maybe your friend won two awards and you got nothing.
Comparing ourselves to others is a great temptation no matter what stage of life we’re in, and yes, envying the person who seems to have it better than we do is an easy trap to fall in to.
If you’re a pastor, you may be envious of the person whose once tiny church plant has grown to a 6000 member mega-church with six services because you’re lucky to get 150 at church on a Sunday. The pastor who gets 25 – 35 may be envious of you. One pastor might have a church overlooking the Pacific Ocean, another in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, whereas you’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cornfields and hog barns.
There’s always a man or woman who’s skinnier, prettier, or has more of whatever it is you want – money, kids, cars, whatever. If I’m honest with myself, there are plenty of reasons for me to envy Clark and Lauren, who own Butler House on Grand B&B. When they opened, a group of designers did a showcase at their B&B. They’ve been featured in a zillion magazines, and Meredith Publications has done all kinds of photo shoots at their property. (One of my dreams.) Midwest Living named them as one of their top 30 B&Bs… American Historic Inns, one of the top 10 romantic inns in the US (or is it the world?) I could go on, and on and on. They’ve won a great many honors – every one of which is well-deserved.
- The master bedroom suite at Butler House on Grand.
I’m sure there are B&B owners who whose dream is to have a place like the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House. It’s all relative, isn‘t it?
Our speakers point is that you should be thankful for what you have, and accept yourself – limitations and strengths – for what you are.
So why is it that we’re so compelled to compare ourselves and our situations to others? Perhaps it’s because we feel better when we compare and find ourselves on the top of the heap. We feel better about ourselves when we realize that we’re better off than this person or that person. Perhaps by comparing ourselves to others, we’re inspired to follow our dreams – that if this or that person could accomplish this, maybe we can, too.
But even when applied in a positive light, comparing ourselves is usually unproductive. Why? Because while the Blue Belle Inn B&B may be wonderful in just as many (but very different) ways as the Butler House is, it will always be in St. Ansgar, a quaint little town of 1000 in northern Iowa. It will never be a couple of blocks from the governor’s mansion, the art center, downtown Des Moines, and Better Homes and Gardens magazine. It is what it is, and so am I. If I want to be successful, I have to find my own niche and capitalize on my own strengths.
The church where my husband is currently serving, in a town of 600, nearly an hour from even a moderately sized town, will never draw the kinds of crowds or have the resources to have the kinds of programs that Hope Lutheran in Des Moines or Hosanna Lutheran in Lakeville, MN have. I’m guessing they have more members in their church than we have in our entire county. That doesn’t mean God can’t and won’t use them – ordinary people in an ordinary town – in extraordinary ways.
Jealousy is unproductive and a negative influence. It can destroy your self-confidence, eat away at your goals and aspirations, and sabotage your efforts to be the best you can be. Yet how easy it is to begrudge our many blessings and covet what another has.
As for me, I’m going to choose to appreciate all that I have. I may not get a hefty advance on my novels since I’m published with a small press, but when I look at what I’ve earned in royalties and profits in the last three years, I realize I have much to be thankful for. Given the odds of success in this business, it’s a miracle that any of my books are even in print. And in all honesty, if someone had offered me the amount of money for my books that I’ve currently made, I definitely would have signed the contract. Don’t get me wrong – if I’m ever blessed enough to make it onto the bestseller list, I’ll definitely do a happy dance, but in the meantime, I feel honored that people are simply buying, reading, and liking my books. (Which, if you’re interested, you can buy at www.SecondWindPublishing.com.)
And with that, I’ll close. We’re at a banquet, and I couldn’t help but notice that my husband’s piece of chicken is bigger than mine. It’s been a long day, and I’m hungry, and yes, I’m feeling a little jealous. Maybe if I’m nice, he’ll trade plates with me. (Just kidding.)