Monday, August 31, 2015

Untitled

So. Since I am now - once again - getting back into the groove of this writing thing, I feel the need to write about where I've been and what I've been up to. Basically, I need to bring myself up to speed in writing about this past year. Yeah, yeah - I lived it, but I've worked in higher education long enough to know the Golden Rule: if it's not documented, it never happened. 

A Pulpit By Any Other Name

Back in October 2014, right about the time my blog went radio silent, the local church where I'd been attending (admittedly off and on) pretty much since we moved to South Carolina found themselves without a full-time pastor. Since I had in the past stepped in to insure there was no vacancy in the pulpit on given weeks, I was asked if I would step in again, but this time stay in. On a week to week basis. 

These people were (and still are) my friends. There was no way I was going to say no. 

For all the times I spoke at New Hope, I fought against the idea of labeling myself "Pastor." When asked what title I wanted on the bulletin (not so much so people could have a title to call me; I was always referred to by my name or "The Bald Guy"), I opted for the moniker "Interim Teaching Pastor." It summed up what could have been my time in the pulpit along with what I saw myself as: a teacher. I saw myself as a DEAD POETS SOCIETY era Robin Williams crossed with VELVET ELVIS era Rob Bell, with a pinch of CHAGALL GUEVERA era Steve Taylor for good measure. 

Basically, a non-conformist, educated, teller of stories that could foster spiritual growth, with an openness to all, and love free of judgment through the lessons I taught, with a passion for people over theology.

So, in other words, kinda like Jesus.

Titles within churches are tricky. I can be and am comfortable with the label of "Youth Pastor" or "College Pastor," because (1) they sound comparatively more like they belong to someone who might be cool to be around, and (2) they make me sound younger than I am. Outside of church, these titles don't create as much of a negative social flinch in some people; again, those with these jobs traditionally can be and tend to be less stuffy and proper in many regards. 

Part of my reluctance in taking on the name of "Pastor" stemmed from my insecurity of my theological lineage. I don't have the MDiv to go along with the name. My ordination comes from the same basis as the Apostles (that is to say, none). My "proper" church pedigree doesn't exist. And while I love being a spiritual mutt, with respect to those who have done due diligence in obtaining the proper credentials, I felt awkward about taking a title I didn't feel I had earned. 

But as I came to see and feel in the eyes and hearts of my people, the people at New Hope, I was a pastor. I am a pastor. A messenger of faith, hope, and love. And whatever hang up I had on the name, I needed to get the hell over it. I was there for them, not for a name I gave myself because of my insecurities. 

And being their pastor made me feel special. Because I challenged myself, week in and out, to be as transparent as possible, to teach what they needed and not what I wanted to talk about, and to be the first among equals. And I can only hope I was as good for them as they were for me. 

A Blog Backlog

Unlike other pastors who have "study hours" in their offices in the church, my study hours were conducted during nap times while Eli slept. My bi-vocational life as a stay-at-home dad/pastor was so rock star it defies description. As such, something had to give. I mean, there are only so many hours in the day to cook breakfast, fix coffee, do laundry, clean, vacuum, play, go grocery shopping, break up sibling fights, run to Target, go to parks, fix lunch, explain why we are not having grilled cheese again, play, clean, do dishes, put a toddler down for a nap, play board games quietly, have a snack, prep dinner, break up another fight, and do research on a sermon. 

So, I drew the curtains on the windshield for a little while. 

But..I kept writing. Sermons. Ideas. Outlines. So I have a load of stuff to edit, adapt, and load up. I could upload the notes from my sermons after I rewrite them so they're not so crazy scattered to the untrained eye. It's what all the cool pastors do. ...actually, they probably have someone they pay to do that, but neither Kai nor Eli are eligible for employment yet, so...

So folks from New Hope? You'll be able to read my sermons and actually see what I was talking about. Trolls? You'll be able to read my sermons and actually flame me over what you see as theological impurities. Everybody else? You'll be able to read my sermons and actually see if I am capable of a deep thought or three. 

My email address is linked above at the CONTACT ME section. 

But don't worry - I'll also write about beer and my kids as well. Just in due time. First, we have to set up this new house...

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Emphasis of Stress

I'll admit it: the allure of the simplicity of living in a trendy "tiny home" is massively appealing. Every time I would watch yet another one of those episodes on television where they show the design and implementation of transforming a residence into "the perfect" home for a couple, I would think, "Yeah, we could totally do that."

Except.

See, almost without exception, the couples who move into these tiny homes are retired or have kids who have already gone off to college. I can tell you from first-hand experience of just two weeks (and counting) of living in a one-room hotel room with a kitchenette, two double beds, and less square footage than a two-car garage with a two year old and a six year old?

Tiny houses must suck if you have kids.

No Migration Without Representation

Ashley recently accepted a position at Lehigh University in PA, so two weeks ago we packed up all our crap in SC and loaded it onto a moving van bound for our new home. Only...we didn't have a home quite yet.

You see, we have lived in University Housing for our entire married life. Our kids don't know life outside of a residence hall apartment or house adjacent to a university. This will be the first time I am going to be responsible for such joyful homeowner experiences like cutting the grass. 

Moving to a new state for a job for Ashley has in some ways become a thing for me: first it was Miami, then SC, and now PA. I don't have an issue at all with moving for her job; as a matter of fact, it's my pleasure to do so. I want her to be happy and fulfilled with her job. She's beyond amazing at what she does, and from what I can tell from Lehigh thus far, it's going to be the best (to date) professional and personal experience she has ever had in a job. ...except at UGA, where she met me. 

We made the conscious decision to literally drive out on faith, hoping that we would find a home in a good school district for Kai that met our needs as a family (in other words: TWO BATHROOMS). We naively decided that we could stay in an extended stay hotel for as long as it might take, so we could get "the perfect" anti-tiny home to live in.

And we may have found it. As of this writing, we still haven't closed on the house yet. The negotiations and counter offers have taken on NATO-level proportions. Hopefully the closing will happen in the next week or so and we can have physical keys to use instead of card keys like this place utilizes.

We Should Have Diamonds Any Day Now

But here's the reality: until we have someplace to be able to literally stretch our legs out, we are spending more intentional time together as a family than we have in the two years since Eli was born. This isn't a bad thing, per se. We have initiated a new family tradition of thirty minutes at the end of the day of laying on the beds (pushed together to make them more accommodating for sleep) and tickling each other and just laughing. We are testing the limits of my culinary expertise by eating meals prepared in a microwave, range top, and a toaster oven. We are limited in exposure to TV thanks to the dozen channels offered on the hotel's system.

The downside is that there is no time away. No room to breathe. No "me" time for any of us. (Case in point: I'm writing this at 4:00 AM)

This has made Eli a bit more fussy than usual. He loves his brother, but in SC, he could just take a toy to play with on the couch away from Kai if he needed to.

This has made Kai a bit more frustrated than usual. He can't read by himself, he doesn't have room to get some of his manic energy out, and I feel bad for him every day that he has to sit quietly (to the best of his ability) and color, play a game on my iPad (don't judge), or do some kind of activity in relative silence while his brother takes a nap in the afternoon about a dozen feet away.  

This has made me...a jerk.

My temper has gotten the best of me. I've been angry, short with the boys and with Ashley, tense to the point where I'm sure I grind my teeth at night, and I have lost my temper on more than one occasion. 

I'm having to constantly entertain, constantly come up with places to go and things to do, constantly serve as referee between these two, and not have one break in the midst of it all. Eli has been off his sleep rhythm at night for two weeks now, which frustrates both me and Ashley; once he finally falls asleep, we're both so exhausted we can't even see straight. We've been less than kind to each other so much so that I made the joke to someone for a housewarming gift, Ashley and I would give each other couples therapy and/or time on a firing range.

A lot of what has frustrated me and made me act like Hyde to my usual Jekyll comes with the package in being a stay at home parent. I'm quite used to being a children's entertainer/executive chef/housekeeping staff. That's not the problem in the least. 

Every outside force acting upon our usual ebb and flow of living with and loving each other has changed. And while it is temporary, it's the reality of the here and now. And in my naïveté, I thought we could change ZIP codes as easily as we could change our lives. 

I wasn't prepared for the emotional claustrophobia of being no less than six feet from my family at any given moment. I wasn't prepared for how Kai and Eli might react to the situation. I wasn't prepared to take their needs into account of how they might process through overly acting out with every incident that makes them unhappy (like when a dog from the Paw Patrol cartoon uses a tool they disagree with and they throw the remote across the room) that EVERYTHING has changed.  

Once we have a residence with a driveway, we can physically and psychologically stretch out. I don't believe my giving into the Dark Side has caused an irreparable rift between myself and either of the boys. There's a bittersweet beauty in that I can and have talked to Kai about my anger, and I have had to show that dad has feet of clay and needs to apologize and make amends just like we tell him he needs to. There's a lot of forced honesty and transparency this adventure has bestowed upon our little foursome.   

We're gonna make it. We're going to be better for it on the other side of this experience.

I'm just going to need a lot of wrinkle cream and hair dye for my beard.