I started dreading this past week sometime this spring, when I realized I would have to commute to school during the week & be away from my beloved. Of course, getting extra time with my grandies appealed greatly, but the separation 2 nights a week was too much to even consider.
Tuesday morning, things were crazy, with getting the kids ready & out the door at the same time as J. I bid them farewell & thought that I would also not get to see J again until I returned because she had to go out of town for work. Luckily, though, she was able to stop by on her way, so we got to have a more relaxed goodbye after all. I did some things around the house, packed my bags and was out the door by noon. After a few errands, I was truly on the road. I finished listening to Frances Mayes' A Year in the World, which was a fun listen but not as good as her Tuscany books, perhaps. Then, I listened to a great audio seminar by Joan Borysenko called Your Spiritual Quest, which I highly recommend! She is grand, with wonderful teaching stories, deep wisdom and a delicious, silly, sweet laugh. I like a spiritual person with a good sense of humor. This was my first exposure to her work. I've been meaning to read her for years.
I spent time studying at the seminary library, then went to the church where my UCC history & polity class meets. I already knew most of my classmates. It's really going to be different to be in a class with all UCC folks. Different and nice! The instructor I didn't know was thrilled that I am a transitioning Presbyterian, saying he always likes having a Presbyterian in his classes. Laura joked, "I don't know, it always makes me a little nervous." Later, when she discovered that I took the Reformation portion of church history with my particular prof, who is a Luther expert, and am taking his Reformations course this semester, she said, "Oh, I'm in trouble." After class, it didn't take me long at all to get to my grands', where my grandmommy had meatloaf waiting for me. She cooked me an ear of sweet corn from the local stand and I made some mashed potatoes. When I went to bed to study, I found a little plate of Oreos on my pillow. She is so sweet!
In the morning, I popped up & went to class. I sat with one of my new UCC aquaintances at the plenary. I was sorry to discover that I have the same core group as last year, as I didn't feel that we ever really meshed. They are kind people, it just didn't seem like it worked the way it is supposed to. However, we have 3 new members, all women I respect and like. The dynamic will change, I imagine. When they heard about all the custody craziness that is going on, they decided to pray specifically for me & did a laying on of hands. I felt kind of weird having all the prayer be directed for me, knowing that the others in the group have stuff going on, too. My life coach says I need to work on accepting gifts. She used a really good analogy regarding this. She asked me how I would feel if I found a really special little figurine for J, brought it home and she dropped it on the floor & broke it. Same thing, says she. (by the way, if you'd like to avail yourself of her wisdom, she is quite wonderful & her website is www.blueprintlifecoaching.com)
We went up to the Catholic church for the convocation & graduation ceremony for Fall grads. My church history prof gave a good keynote speech, about the importance of history for our ministry, in the lemon-furniture-polish-scented, light-filled sanctuary. I always like seeing everyone process in their robes & velvet caps, like so many Hogwarts wizards. We had lunch afterward & I ended up sitting next to a new student whose brother-in-law turns out to be Boot's principal! Small world happenings like that are so much fun. I attended the dedication of a model of the Wright glider & then went to my Reformations class. There are only 6 of us in the class & it promises to be great.
After class, I went back to my grands' & had some hot tea & a Russian sandwich with my grandmom while I made soup for our dinner. They had some amazingly good rye bread from Big Sky that we had with it. My grandmom made a spinach salad with feta and olives, too. When I was studying in my room, she brought me a little slice of apple cake. It's lovely to be so pampered. It's even lovelier to have grandparents who are also close friends. We talked some about the whole ridiculous custody case. Brendan had his interview with the ad litem Wednesday & turned up at Bible study in his black shirt & clerical collar. I have never, in all the time I have known him, seen him in it. He usually looks more like the attorney he also is, in crisp shirts and dress pants. I guess I had better give some thought to how I will present myself as a pastor. Jeans just aren't going to cut it all the time. J talked to Brendan on the phone for an hour Wednesday evening. He sounded upbeat, which is a comfort. he is such a good pastor & such a good friend.
Thursday morning, I hung out with my grands & wrote my reading summary for the other Laura's class. I went to school a bit early to get some materials for next week. Then, I had my class with Laura, which promises to be interesting. It's about spiritual formation & how to prepare ourselves to guide our congregations in formation. She made us go around the room & introduce ourselves with name, denomination and hobby that's not to do with the church. I named anything to do with food (cooking, going out to eat, food writing), reading & altered art. Next, we had to number our paper from 1-15 and then we had to list, in two minutes, as many life-giving activities that we like to do as we could think of. I got all of the spaces filled in. Then, she asked us to jot down the last time we did each of them & asked us to share insights. Mine was that I seem to have been playing too much lately. She said, "I knew you were gonna mess up the curve!" She said that most clergy can only fill in about half of the spaces & had rarely done any of them recently. There is a real crisis in self-care for the clergy, with them often being the most spiritually hungry. Laura then explained to us that we will be committing to one "life-giving practice" that we will be expected to do every week & report back on doing to our classmates. Wow, graduate school credit for playing! Yippee! I think that I am going to choose art, but I may end up being led otherwise during our discernment process.
Another thing she said, when going over the syllabus, is that she will often deliberately use the feminine pronoun when reading from scripture or praying. She likes to prepare students for that probability in advance. She said, "I always leave a little extra time for comments & questions at this point. So, any questions? Comments?" I said, "Hallelujah?" Several other women laughed & echoed me. She said, "Thank you." Honestly, that is one of my very favorite things about Laura as a prof. I was absolutely electrified when I first heard her do it, when reading a passage from Isaiah to the ministry formation groups last fall. I was electrified when she said, "She who was, She who is, She who always shall be" during Brendan's installation service, too. She gave me the courage to do it in the benediction at the UCC last winter. While Brendan is more directly a mentor-type for me, being a pastor full-time, I greatly admire Laura, as well.
From school, I drove right home & was ecstatic to see my dear wife. How good it is to fall asleep in the arms of the one you love.