this is forty.

At the beginning of June I turned 40.  And on the last day of the month the Pastor and I celebrated 17 years of marriage.

A few weeks prior to my birthday a good friend Jennifer asked me about my plans for the weekend.  I wanted to have a party. She asked if I liked surprises.  My response?  “I don’t like to be disappointed.” So there’s that.

Jennifer was smart enough to know that even though I had big plans, my life is just too busy to execute any other big events.  She is also just bossy enough to take over and plan something great. The best memories of my adulthood are moments when lots of people I really care about from the different aspects of my life are all having fun together.  So we had a party.  A big party; with music and food and dozens of friends….and it was totally worth it.

I have been alive for 40 years.  I remember thinking that being 40 meant you had been alive forever!  It has occurred to me that I have spent roughly half of my life in medicine. Studying, testing, learning, preparing, practicing. Twenty years of sleepless nights and long days and lots of restless moments.  Twenty years sprinkled with memories of incredible joy and terrible tragedy.   The profession of medicine can be a deep sea where the waters cover over you, and not just over your head but push you deeper and deeper down and into more than you intended.  Some of those years were true immersion. Some years you manage to keep your head above water; and some you might even feel like you are riding the waves. This year I was surrounded by water.  Completely immersed. It didn’t matter where I looked.  Up, down, left and right as far as my eyes could see there was work to be done. And if you know anyone in medicine, when there is work to be done we do the work. And so I did.

My 40th birthday was an opportunity to lift my head above the waves and take a deep breath.  I spent 5 whole days away from work.  Not just away from the hospital and the office, but away form my computer.  The Pastor was very concerned to see me detached from the laptop.  In fact, he panicked and asked if I had left it at home on purpose.  It was the first time in a long time I was away from email, away from charting, away from creating schedules, answering questions and solving problems.Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 4.42.07 PM

The thing is, I don’t think we even realize how far immersed we are in the work until we come up for air. I suddenly found myself in the midst of conversations about books and parks and outings and all the rest of life.  And I literally could not think of a single book I had read or a non-scheduled activity or even a day without work in the last few months.  The opportunity to take a giant deep breath and put my head above the water and look around was both a moment of relief and a moment of sadness. You see, the work needed to be done.  It still needs to be done.  And I will continue to do the work. To get to thebottom of the to do list. To find a day when there are not problems to be solved, schedules to be made, charts to be completed or projects to be fleshed out.

The truth is that the work will never be done. But I can do better and be better balanced. As a part of our anniversary celebration, we went to see the documentary about the life and career of Mr. Rogers.  One of Fred Roger’s lifelong virtues was to “love your neighbor AND yourself.”  In my forty years of completed life, my 17 years of marriage and 20 years in medicine, I more than believe that you cannot love your neighbor if you do not love yourself well.  And you cannot love

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 4.44.29 PMyourself if you do not know you are loved. Every Sunday as I sit by the Pastor on the front row we hear the phrase “God’s mind about you is made up.  And the news is good.” What a great reminder that we are constantly and consistently loved. For me it is a reminder to have the birthday party, to celebrate with friends, to go see the movie, to play the game with the kids or take them to the park.  To sleep in or be still and accomplish nothing on a rare day off.

We are at our best when we know we are loved and take the time to take care of ourselves.  With so much bad news infiltrating our news feeds and our tv’s and radios these days it is critical that we remember we are loved and that we care for ourselves so in turn we can love and care for our neighbor.  So in the next forty years I will try to live a more balanced life.  Take the nap, read the book, write the note, shoot hoops with the kids host the friends, take the vacations. Then go back and work fiercely and care deeply.  Solve the problems, cure the diseases, publish the research, set the standards and, most importantly, love our neighbors.

Here’s to the next forty years.

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pounding on the door.

I’m not sure I knew what I was getting myself into when I married Pastor Jason. Nor do any of us who sign up for marriage, children, medical school, semesters abroad, adopting a pet or any other new venture we begin in life. There are lots of pastors and preachers in my extended family but I didn’t grow up in a pastor’s home and really didn’t think it would change my life that much. After all, I went to church a lot. Like, almost always. That’s got to translate to something right? I figured I would show up a lot and volunteer for a few things and call it all in a days work. Sounds fine, right?

People, being a pastor is not for the faint of heart. And neither is being the pastor’s family. One of my running buddies Brent says I really only meet 1 of the 10 requirements for being a pastor’s wife. To this day I’m not sure what the 10 things are or which one I am fulfilling. What I do know is that sometimes the phone rings in the night and it’s not for me. I know that pastors get caught late at work dealing with the hurting, broken and disheartened just as much the gynecologist does. I know that some days at the church are full of joy and some are full of doubt.
Today I sat next to Pastor Jason as we heard a challenging sermon from Luke 18. In the passage we hear of a relentless widow who will not accept injustice from her society. In the parable recounting this vulnerable woman’s experience we learn about the hope and restoration that God aches for. I was reminded that this is really what the pastors I am surrounded by are doing. On a daily basis the men and women in clergy are working to restore peace and bring mercy for the rest of us. They usher us into worship, bring us the truth of the gospel; they teach our children to love others and be brave and kind, they shape our young people into adults who can change the world. Or, like Pastor Jason, they sit with the wounded and weak, pray with the sick and dying and listen to our deepest fears and hurts.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-4-14-16-pmOctober is clergy appreciation month. Each week I am thankful for the faithful and thoughtful community we are surrounded by, in our local church and by those in ministry near and far. The work clergy do is wonderfully exhausting. It happens at all hours of the day and night; it interrupts meetings and dinner and sometimes even other church work. Your pastor deserves to know that you recognize their work is difficult and valuable. When I really reflect on what life as a pastor is about I am faced with the profound words of Isaiah 58: 6-7.

“6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? ”

If you have a pastor or other clergy leader, please know that they are working daily and weekly to undo the injustices for the most vulnerable in this world. Please know that they sacrifice their time, their families, their financial gain for the work of the Church. If you don’t have a clergy member in your life I hope you find someone to lead you in your spiritual life who will pound on the doors of injustice, who will share bread with you and with the least among you, who will do the most for the least of these. Then you know you have found someone who will lead you into the ways of God.  And if you, like many of my dear friends, have experienced injury and hurt from the church, take heart. Find one of the many voices of truth from across the nation and listen to them in the hopes that your faith in the people who do the work of God is restored (see my list below).

I hope this week you find yourself being ministered to and being thankful for those who do the hard work of ministry. I know Pastor Jason deserves more thanks than his family of girls does on a daily basis and we could not do life without him.  After all, your pastor is human, hopefully doing the best he or she knows how to do.  And just like me when I said a resounding “yes” to the Pastor, they probably didn’t realize what they were getting into when they answered the call to ministry.

A few of my favorites you can find on twitter and listen to on their pods
@D_Quan87 and his pod HCN Weekly Sermons
@RichardRohr_OFM and his Homilies podcast
@jonmiddendorf and the pod of Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene
@bobgoff and bobgoff.com
@shawna_SG and shawnasongergaines.com
@michaelrpalmer and michaelrpalmer.com
@tarabeth_82 and tarabethleach.com

 

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