The holiday season went well. It was incredibly busy but a very good. Here's a brief recap-
Our drama "A Gift for Clara" was wonderfully received. The children did a wonderful job at proclaiming God's love and desire to fill the empty spaces of our hearts and lives. I learned a lot from the experience - mainly that there is much to know about the background details in a church that is technically saavy. The churches that I have been working at have grown in their technical sophistication. From the South Pasadena Episcopal Church which we had nothing technical at all during my internship there - I think the Rector was blessed with an over the ear mic my last few months there - but no video/recording or lighting etc. to speak of; to the church in Oregon which had some lighting and technical (sound) stuff but was not set up to do productions to my current Church. Here our tech booth upstairs is awash in serious sound and lighting boards, video cameras, DVD and CD recording and duplicating objects and at least two different montitors projecting or tracking what is on the two jumbo screens in the Sanctuary. It's amazing. I wish I had a picture at the moment of the tech board but alas I don't. The response from the community and kids was positive and we are looking at ways to incorporate more drama in the future as an outreach ministry to the community. But I have to say again our parents' commitment to the ministry and to the project was phenomenal. From our volunteer director/producer/choreographer couple to the people who pitched in to help with costumes, wrangling, etc. There was much that I didn't know that needed to be involved and now have a good idea of a pre-production list/accounting that will get us off on the right foot next time.
Moving directly into the Christmas Season from Clara came our Family Christmas Eve Service which was well received. I had wanted to do several stations and backed away from that after talking with some people who thought it was a bit "scary" to do - and later was told by my SP that if I have been given the authority to construct a service to go ahead and move in the direction that I am envisioning. Quelle Freedom! We had the entire service done primarily with children and youth - from our worship leaders, readers, object lesson presenter (a college guy who work/interns with our youth on breaks) to a special presentation of the christmas story by Linus Van Pelt of Peanuts fame. I shared a small message aimed at both parents and children and we concluded with a "christmas story in a bag" station which had children come forward and put together objects into a bag which they in turn could tell the christmas story to another person the next day. Next year - watch out we may be into something very different....
School ended the day before Clara and I was plagued by massive problems with my computer. I had pulled up the saved and completed paper only to need the gift of interpretation of tongues if I wanted to translate. Gobble, pure gobble. Nothing could convert it back to any version of English so I had to wind up rewriting and submitting it late knocking my A paper down to a horrid C. And bringing my overall grade down to a C as well. And to think that I had a B+ average going into the final and paper. Oh well...
Then - the drama began. My mom came into town the day before the performance and promptly began to suffer back pain and I had to eventually admit her into the ER and hospital for pain management. The goal was to have my sister fly down, care for mom (she's an RN) and then together fly back to Portland but within a day or two after discharge we realized that she was not going to be able to fly and my BiL drove down to escort the two back home between snow storms. She's doing better now, still struggling with some pain but that apparantly will take time to work its way out.
With all that drama out of my world I attempted to relax and rest prior to starting school again. I picked up my exercise - moving towards getting healthy enough to run a 10K in the summer and managed to drop some weight during the holidays - not much but some. One of my resolutions or goals for the year had to do with finding out what it was going to take to really connect me back with loosing weight. I had done it in the past, and successfully I might add. Yet gained 5/8 of the weight back when I ceased exercising and lost sight of portions. I was working out with a trainer/PT and feeling better than I had - though really tired and exhausted all the time.
Then after a good work out the day before, I woke up two weeks ago with a pain across my back -traps, lats, obliques. Just what my PT told me to expect. But the darn pain didn't seem to go away, it just seemed to increase over the day to the point I was apologizing to a fellow CM leader who came to visit about my having to keep stretching during the conversation. After cutting the meeting short, I decided to go home and sleep it off thinking my body was just recouping from the witner and new schedule it was on. But the dull ache in my teeth just didn't seem right and I drove the 1/2 block from work to the ER thinking it was just strained muscles.
The pain in my jaw got worse from the car to the ER, and then I began to get short of breath. I used the two magic words in triage "chest pain" and was immediately brought in and strapped up to monitors, IV's etc. Still hurt but was ok for about an hour when I really began to hurt...
You know that you're in trouble city when the nurses eyes get big and all of a sudden cardiologists and radiologists are swarming your bed. And then you start hearing stats that match your description and the word "ICU" being used in the same sentence. So obviously - I'm not going anywhere and began to call and cancel my speaking engagement for the next day, a couple of meetings and letting work know I'm not going to be in the next day and send some Elder's over please to pray.
What the huh?!!!???!! I suffered a heart attack. And had angioplasty the next day to clear a blocked artery.
I'm way too young to be doing this S*#T! Way too young to be watching a cardiology team put pieces of metal into my heart to prop up an artery. And while I am incredibly thankful for technology, and medication and knowledge and especially incredible HEALTH INSURANCE (thanks EPC and my church) it's a major slap in the face.
So the good news. God answered my prayer. You remember the one that I mentioned about what it was going to take to get me focused to loose the weight and make better life choices? Found it. Not necessarily what I would have liked but I do appreciate the irony in the entire experience. Already 10 pounds are off the body in two weeks and I am slowly moving back into the world - with a new perspective on what a reasonable schedule DOESN'T look like. I've been spending the past week organzing, and purging all over the house - as though it is an emotional response to the need to reorder my life. And spending lots of time exploring how to rebuild a new rhthym in my spiritual life because obviously what I had was broken.
So here is the thing - I look at many people in ministry and we have many of the same qualities - especially in Children's and Youth Ministry:
*We are often great nurturers and caretakers - sometimes to a fault;
*We like a good challenge and excel at seeing things accomplished;
*We take a lot of work onto our plate setting an example for those who work with us;
*We may be a "mellow" type A but we are type A's at heart;
*We expect a lot from ourselves;
*We balance too many balls in the air;
*We care for everyone else and put our own health and wellness at the bottom of the list;
*We may not have the funds to regularly see medical professionals, or care for our physical health;
*We will schedule out time for exercise, rest, family time but then let the cares of people and ministry impede;
*Many of us are overweight;
*We are more Martha's than Mary's
Craig Jutila in an article this past year addressed his departure from Saddleback Children's Ministry to focus on his health and wellness and that of his family. In that article he shared how he thrived on ministry and used that sense of success and achievement to feed his soul and emotional needs. Sometimes to the extent that his family was shut out of portions of his life. After a considerable time of refelction Craig did an amazing thing and left Saddleback, choosing to focus on recovery. Now back in ministry in a new project (successfully, I might add)he is attempting to take back parts of his life that the "ministry monster" devoured.
How many of us fall in this trap? Whether you are in ministry or not we daily are forced to make decisions for our family. Do you put the kids in yet one more sports or after school activity? Take the promotion knowing that it means even more time away from the family, travel and late nights? Push ourselves to achieve that A even if it means we suffer sleep deprivation while balancing work. We lose sight of what it means to be the one who sits at the feet of Jesus. Soaking in his presence. Basking in the love of the Spirit.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it a result of our brokenness? Sin? Unrealistic expectations?
I return to work next Tuesday and church on Sunday. There will be 300 pairs of eyes watching every move that I make, every morsel that I put into my mouth. I know by virtue of my position that I will be in the fishbowl during my rehab and recovery. And you know what? I welcome the attention as difficult as it will be. It gives me an opportunity to model and live out an attempt to conform my life, my passions, my appetites more close to God's desire that we be health and prosper as our soul prospers. And in the end, I hope that it will be a sense of encouragement to others that they too, can find balance and wholeness in the midst of the cacaphony which attempts to drag us from our true focus and calling.