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Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

Once a year the Congregation gathers to pass a new budget for the year.  We gather to share our stories because I find looking at numbers on a page does not inspire me.  I want to know the story of the people I serve and after 7+ years in the congregation, I know many of those stories.

We compile our reports into a Vestry book that each parishioner receives.  A copy also goes to Church House so the Bishops can read them.  And they do.  When I arrived at this church the reports all seemed to revolve around money and the lack thereof.  While I understand that I am the largest expense, it’s also difficult to truly “record” what it is I do.

I find myself uncomfortable when I look at the numbers for attendance.  We are growing; we are attracting new people and families every year.  We have children coming to Church…not every week, but they are coming.  Many of our new members are active in the congregation and to me, that’s an exciting thing.  On the down side of that, our congregation is aging and many of the workers from years past are dying.  They are dying faster than we are attracting new members.

It would be reasonable to lament our shrinking numbers, our decreasing donor base, but instead there is a feeling of great hope in the congregation.  We are active, we are alive!  We care for each other and we share our stories.  But that isn’t measurable, which can be very frustrating to people like me.  I see numbers on a page, but those numbers themselves, don’t tell a story.  We need to add a narrative piece in order to balance the measurable and the immeasurable.

Last year’s Vestry was a challenge.  We had two sections of roof that needed replacing.  We had fewer members than the year before with four well-known and well-loved members dying through the year.  Parish Council brought the budget to vestry and it was projecting a deficit.  A decision was made to lower our Diocesan Apportionment and raise our budgeted givings.  At the time I wasn’t sure we could do it.  I prayed that we would, but honestly, I wasn’t convinced.

When we sat down, as a council with our treasurer and looked at the amount that was given by our congregation I was astounded.  We surpassed the originally budgeted amount by $10,000.  Not only did we meet the newly forecasted amount, we surpassed it.  AND we paid more Apportionment than the modified budget.  Not 100% of the full amount, but closer to 80%.  And that was a huge feat.

As I reflect on where the congregation is now, as compared to where we were when I arrived, the change is phenomenal.  The tone of the congregation is that we can do it.  We want to be vibrant and a necessary part of the community.  We have learned to trust each other again and not fear the stranger.  In short, we have learned again to be a family.  None of that is measurable in black and white, but it is emotionally and spiritually measurable.

This year’s Vestry will have a different tone than that of year’s past.  We will be concentrating on our abundance and celebrating our accomplishments.  We will encourage the congregation to give with all they have; through prayer, attendance, financial support and ministries.

We have learned that we are better together; and together we can change the world!  What a journey this has been and will be as we go forward.

Thanks be to God!

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This past couple of weeks has been nothing short of chaos.  Trying to get bulletins together, work on homilies, home communions, home visits, catching up with friends, scheduling medical appointments and surgical consultations.  And then there’s time needed for sleep.

This morning I drove to a community nearly an hour away.  I met a friend I had not seen in 10 years.  I wasn’t sure she would recognise me or that I would recognise her.  I was 15 minutes early and as I walked into the restaurant I saw her beautiful smile.  We hugged, she cried (she’s a crier) and were a flurry of hands and excited words…”been so long”…”how I’ve missed you”…”you look so good”…the poor server couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

We ordered our lunch, and continued talking. Yes, we did manage to eat while the food was hot, but more importantly, we reconnected, in a place where it seems we just pressed pause.  There was no awkwardness, there was no hesitation, we were simply two friends reconnecting after a decade.  Before we parted we set a date to meet again, in two months.  And on air I drove home. Through construction, ignorant drivers, road-blocks…none of it mattered.  Not even the migraine that had been plaguing me most of the day.

I got home and looked at the still unfinished pile of stuff on my dining room table.  And I turned my back on it.  I’m not afraid if the pile stays untouched.  I met my daughter-by-marriage as she got off the school bus and she chatted in 3 word sentences about her day.  “Didn’t do much”…”no homework, yeah!”…”where is Christmas?”  Every year my in-laws get together for a family Christmas.

Usually it’s held the first Saturday or Sunday in December, to coincide with Dutch Christmas and the coming of St. Nicholas and Black Peter.  I was in Florida so it has been rescheduled to this Sunday afternoon.  This Sunday is Advent IV.  There’s still so much to get ready for Christmas Eve.  But it will wait – I will not be afraid.

I went for a nap that ended up being 2 1/2 hours long.  My headache is not gone, but is much better. I decided to fold the bulletins for 4, 7, 11 pm Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day, our Boxing Day baptism and Christmas I.  They are folded and at the Church.  For the first time ever, I came to Church in my pajamas.  Now granted, I wear PJ’s for the Pajama Mass every Christmas Eve at 4:00, but tonight I am here with bedhead, in a ratty old sweatshirt and flannel PJ bottoms.  And I’m not afraid.

I changed the sign outside and used the short-form Xmas.  I know I’ll get at least one message on the Church phone that I have done wrong.  But I am not afraid.

Sensing a pattern here?

I wrote my article for the local paper today that will be published on Tuesday as Wednesday, the usual publication day, is Christmas Eve.  In the article I talked about the appearance of angels and how they always say “be not afraid” to whomever they encounter.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  The angels that appeared in scripture were grown men, with wings, suspended.  THAT would be terrifying!

Angels delivered messages, not all of them good.  The angels in the Christmas story appeared first to Mary to tell her she would conceive a bear a son who would be the Messiah.  They appeared to Joseph to tell him the Mary’s baby was God’s and he would raise the child as his own. They appeared then to the Shepherds, announcing the amazing arrival of the newborn baby who would save the world!  And so they ran to see this remarkable thing that had happened.

Angels appear in both the old and new testaments.  Arguably, the angels heralding the arrival of the Messiah are the most memorable.  And as they trumpeted glad tidings, and called on their choir, they said simply “Be not afraid”.

So with all the busy-ness of this season, my desk is a mess and so is my office.  I will not be afraid.  The living room and dining room at home look like a fur covered bomb went off…and I will not be afraid.

There will be time for cleaning, but there will also be time for friends and family.  And together, unafraid, we will heed the words of the angels who gathered to announce the arrival.  The angels never said “clean your house first”, they said “be not afraid, I’ve got something awesome for you to see!”

So be it.

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As a rule I generally don’t feel compelled to respond to articles I read, but this one made me cringe with every paragraph.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-brooks/being-fat_b_6097544.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

What upset me most was the undertone of self-loathing and helplessness.  It devastates me that people walk by this delightful human being and don’t recognize her humanity.  It’s a basic feeling that everyone needs and deserves…to be recognized for our inherent human dignity.  I am not skinny.  I haven’t been since high school.  I look in the mirror and most days I am comfortable with what I see.  Yes, I’d like to lose weight, but I don’t think weight defines my personhood.

I have called myself fat.  At times I still call myself fat.  And I am fat, by society’s standards.  My mother is underweight, significantly so, and is the first person to notice any weight gain.  It bothers me, but I don’t see her every day so I can usually shake off what she says.

There are times when I get looks from people, but I don’t care.  I know skinny people who have body dysmorphia, the same as me.  I am a food addict and I work at making healthy choices every single day.  Some days are better than others.

But I am more than what the scale tells me.  I am a gifted preacher and pastoral presence.  I connect with people on a spiritual and individual level.  I am an attentive and mindful listener.  I work hard at what I do.  God has blessed me in many ways.

I have curves, I have cellulite, I don’t like having my picture taken because I have not learned (yet) how to smile without looking artificial.  I am not as active as I should be.  I know I should get off my ass and move more than I do.

Yet I refuse to be judged because I cannot shop the petite section of a store and my dress size is in the double-digits.  I like my curves (for the most part).  I like how a dress hugs my hips and shows off my breasts.  I like feeling sexy.  And sometimes I actually do feel sexy.  I don’t think I would if I was as skinny as I was in high school.  Back then, I was built like an ironing board…and ironing boards are not sexy.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud women of all sizes.  I know women who have struggled with  and are currently struggling with eating disorders.

Being fat is not a sin.  While it may be seen as socially unacceptable, so is smoking in public places.  So is child abuse.  So is ignoring the homeless and refusing to see them as anything other than a nuisance and burden on society.

To Kathleen Brooks, know that you are a beautiful and remarkable woman.  Stop projecting what society is saying and making it baggage to carry around.  it is not your burden or cross to bear.  You are a talented, remarkable warrior woman. You have curves and hopes and dreams.  You have lived a remarkable life.  You have an incredible story to share.

Live your life out loud.  Don’t wait for someone else to make it okay.  Please stop putting yourself down.  You have a great life NOW.  You are successful and have survived kidney disease and transplantation!  That is no small feat.  You are woman, learn to roar…and share that roar.  Live your life larger than life.  And live it out loud.

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All my life I have struggled with naming my emotions. As a child I was not allowed to be angry. Raised voices were a “no-no” in my house. We were to be bright, happy yet silent as children, an interesting combination.

As a child I learned to be a pleaser, and if my Mam or Dad were angry/upset, I would do everything I could to make them happy; overachiever, overworking, entertaining, being the clown, etc.

Growing up, if I was presented with an angry or upset person my first instinct was to make it better for them. Recently, I’ve found myself feeling a heightened sense of outrage at the injustice I see around me. I am experiencing emotions, without really understanding what they are.

For example, this morning I was driving in the village and as I approached one of the two intersections with traffic lights, I had the green light, so continued through the intersection. At that exact moment an elderly man was making a right hand turn against the red light. He did not see me. Thankfully I was able to stop before we collided.

As I sat in the intersection he gave me a disgusted look, yelled “bloody women drivers” and waved me through. I had stalled my car on an incline, so it took me a few seconds to get the car running again. Instead of waiting for me, he continued on his way, making a sharp right turn at the next street.

I was fuming, and felt that I had every right to be angry. But it wasn’t until several hours later that I could actually name the emotion of anger. I had every right to be angry. But I also had every right to be grateful that we did not collide and nobody was injured…other than egos and pride.

Lately I am realising that the predominant emotion I am feeling is anger…almost to the point of rage. By nature I am a caring person. I take satisfaction in doing for other people. It is in my vocation to give emotionally, spiritually, etc.

I believe part of the reason I am now on a medical leave is because I am feeling such great anger and frustration. I feel that many of the people in my life, especially in my immediate family, are taking much more than they are giving. Instead of seeing that I am doing for them because I want to, I am feeling anger that they are not reciprocating and/or they are not appreciative.

I am not supposed to do things to receive thanks. And yet, right now, it is something I need.

Why is that?

I am, by nature, an optimistic, balanced, happy person. But not lately. I’ve been surly, miserable and downright snarly. I raise my voice much more often, I feel an emptiness inside and I’m looking for something to fill it. Most often, it’s chocolate. But the thing is, the chocolate isn’t filling the void. It’s expanding my waistline.

Slowly it is dawning on me that I am looking for everyone else to make me happy, instead of seeking to make myself happy. I want everyone to behave the way I feel they should; instead of accepting them for who they are.

One of the most destructive enabling behaviours is the phrase “It’s just the way s/he is”. There is a parishioner who is a bully. He shouts, insults, bangs his fist on the table, in order to be heard and to get what he wants. It is hard work to deal with him. And when I challenge him on his bullying behaviour I am taken aside and told “It’s the just the way he is”, or “he’s much better than he used to be”. Neither of which are acceptable.

I believe that everyone should be held accountable for their behaviour and that everyone should do their best to understand how the other person is feeling. Seldom is this behaviour extended to me and, I have to admit, it upsets me.

Slowly but surely I am realising that there are very few things I can control. The only emotions I control are my own, especially once I name them and own them.

The Canadian Mental Health Association came out with this great chart meant for children, to identify what it is they are feeling. I think I need one for my office, so I can identify what I am feeling. It’s strange to be 46 years old and unable to identify basic emotions.

Life is a learning curve and lately the curve has been steep.

If I were to make a list of the things that make me happy they would include taking a bike ride through the village; walking the dogs; doing yoga outside; yoga inside; dancing around the house like a fool; writing letters to friends; reading a novel; writing in my journal; taking a warm, soothing bath with epsom salts and baking soda; blogging.

As I look at this list, I realise I don’t do any of these things as often as I should.

I will do more things on that list on a more regular basis.

Starting now.

Some realisations that have come to me are: My happiness does not depend on anyone other than me.
I have every right to be angry and express that emotion. Further, I can express anger without guilt. I can disagree with someone without being a bad person. And if that person thinks I am a bad person, that is their emotion to own; not mine.

I do not have to be held hostage by a crippling fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. It never stopped Jesus. And aside from the crucifixion, it worked out alright for him (in the end).

I have been mired up in anxiety, angst, frustration, anger and rage. It’s time to do, say and live in a way that makes me happy.

That’s not selfish; it’s self-care, and self-loving.

So that will be what I focus on for the rest of 2014…and perhaps longer than that.

Starting now.

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