Just left the library with 25 books, the first load for my dissertation. They're almost all books on itineracy, the appointment system, the UM Bishops, and pastor mentoring. It's like reading the phone book over and over and over. Got me thinking what I'd be doing if I hadn't done this program and just stayed in Lima.
So, at the risk of sounding like a whiner or an ingrate (I mean this program is free and very good), here are the Top Ten things I'd be doing if I had just stayed home.
10) Blew out about eight pick-up truck loads of leaves, bark, and nut shells from the gazillion Shagbark Hickory trees that were in our front yard. Sounds pretty boring, I know, but I kind of enjoyed the work. There was a beginning, a middle, and an ending... no brain required. Besides, I'd listen to music all day while I did it. Never thought I'd miss yard work.... I'll rue this statement next year. Mark my words.
9) Lunch with Roger at Arbys on Thursday/Covenant time with Eric on Tuesdays: Looked forward to each of these things each (or in Eric's case, every other) week. Two great guys who work in far different fields (Roger owns the Arbys... makes it easy to decide where to eat /Eric is a family practice doctor) than my own, so it was nice to hear what challenges they faced in their worlds. Good times of discussion and prayer.
8) Sunday Night at the Nest: This one really bums me out. One of the great things about moving back to Lima was that I got to spend time with my grandmother, or as the boys call her, grandma-great, or as she's known in this blog, The Great One. For the past couple of years, most Sunday nights The Great One and I would enjoy some ice cream, an episode of "The West Wing", and then whatever else we could find on TV. But, mostly, we just talked. Politics, my job, catching up on family.... I hate losing this for an entire year.
I'll be back as soon as I can, grandma, I promise.
7) Watching Bucks games with Dad: Another unfortunate outcome of this year. When you've lived in Illinois and Indiana for six years, coming home to land of football mecca is like coming out of the desert to find a really nice pool featuring all you can drink cokes. People are wearing Buckeye shirts and hats. You can say O-H, and someone will say back I-O. Particularly after living so close to South Bend, and working for a M-school fan for five years, living in Ohio on Football Saturdays was just, well.... a blessing.
And, in our own house, which we had to leave, there was this home projection system that featured a 100-inch screen. Believe me, when it comes to TV's, size matters. Dad would come over, and we'd watch the game. Big spread of food at basement kitchenette... phone calls from my Brother when the Bucks scored.... the boys pretending they were AJ Hawk and flying around the basement.
Now, we've got a 19 inch TV and no cable. I always said I'd like to go a year without cable, and now was my chance. The Verdict? In Hell's Sports Bar, all the TV's are 19 inchers and there's no cable. That's the verdict.... oh, that and all the games feature SEC schools. Can't forget that one... nothing but Arkansas and Alabama (or any of the rest of them) crapping all over themselves each and every week.
(gotta say, one of the good things about living down here is the trash-talking.... especially when your team is the unanimous number one in the polls, and everyone else is whining about the SEC is so hard.... good times!)
6) The Lima YMCA: Now, here's the deal... I go through these phases. Sometimes I exercise on a regular basis, sometimes I'm spotty, and other times I think about exercising while I watch Law and Order re-runs. I like working out at the Y. It's a great facility, and I always see a lot of people I know. Plus, this would have been the year that Max would have gotten into winter swimming and Xavier would have learned to swim during our Friday Family Night Y excursions. All I do here is read, write, pray, eat, and sleep. I'm getting so big that pretty soon I'm going to have my own orbiting moon and start effecting the tides. Once again, I'm saying I'm missing exercising, Cathleen Baker is reading this, and now I'm opening myself up to a whole new round "get off you duff, chubby" motivation when I return. I will rue this too.
I'll have plenty to rue.
5) Grocery shopping with Xavier: Every Friday, I'd take the day off, and Xavie and I would head on out to Meijer and do the grocery shopping. We'd find the special cart built for larger kids to ride in, find all the stuff we needed, pay up and take off. All the while I'd listen to Xavie tell me what was going on his then 3 or 4 year old life. Next year he'll be in school all day.
Fortunately we have another son, so the tradition will continue, only now the passenger will Elijah, but this is just another reminder that my kids are growing up, and there's nothing I can do about it.
4) Help Out my In-Laws: For those who don't know, my mother-in-law, Carol Allen, is undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer. For a number of weeks now, she's felt so tired that her day pretty much ends when she comes home from work. There's plenty to do at her place, and my father-in-law who is 70, has bad knees, and even though he can still beat me senseless he can't get around quite as well as he used to. They've been such a huge help to us our entire married life.. it'd be nice to begin repaying the favor.
I remember one time when we were living in our trailer in Oxford... first year of marriage, two college-students, little money, living on love, ready to kill one another. Often there was nothing to eat in our kitchen cause we just didn't have much money. I used to hustle guys over at Miami's Rec Center in games of HORSE for money to buy something to eat (true story... kids, don't try this home). Well, one night I was working, Aimee was at home, it was the end of the month, and the only thing we had to eat in the entire house was canned spinach. Who knows how it got there... Heaven knows I'd never even go near a can of spinach. Popeye must have snuck into the house and left an extra can, just in case he had to kick Bluto's keister in the Ray Day Trailer Park.
Anyhow, Aimee finds the canned spinach, checks our bank account, which is probably $4 in the red, and proceeds to break down. At that very moment, her mother called. My blubbering wife attempted to tell her mom what was wrong, but all she could say was "all we have is canned spinach", over and over again.
Next day, who's there with a car load of groceries?
Just makes you want to help that person, that much more.
3) Laying on the floor with our dog, Lucy: We're not allowed to have a pet down here. Not even a fish, although our gold fish, W, has decided to be a rule-breaker. Sidenote here... when we bought W (named by Max, after his favorite letter at that particular time), we really thought he'd be one of those disposable goldfish... like the ones you win at the county when you throw the ping pong ball into the glass. The average life expectancy of those county fair fish is like, seven hours. They almost guarantee you'll be doing a "burial at sea" where you have to explain death to your kids for the first time. Well, W has survived multiple moves, a broken fish bowl that resulted in him getting stuck under a refrigerator (I don't have time to explain this), cold weather, hot weather, not getting feed... you name it. And now I think he's about five years old, which in disposable fish years is 258.
Anyhow, Lucy is at our in-laws. The boys and I picked her out at the pound cause she was the only dog who wasn't barking or jumping. She was horribly thin, had been abused, was gentle, quiet, and just had to come home with us. Of course, Aimee was like, 8 months pregnant with Eli at the time, and had expressly told me NOT to bring a dog home from the pound (we were dropping off newspapers... that's why we were there). She didn't talk to me for two days after we brought her home. But within weeks we couldn't remember why we hadn't got a dog sooner. At night, after everyone else was asleep, she'd lay on the floor next to me so I could pet her and rub her belly. The scared abused dog we brought home became a part of the family. We all miss her.
2) Visiting Mom: What can I say... I'm a momma's boy. Always have been... always will be.
1) Church: I miss all the faces on Sunday morning. I miss Cathy, our secretary, obsessing over which place sells paper cheaper (Sam's or Office Depot?). I miss thinking through things with Charlotte. I miss my hug from Big Bill and Don Johnson every Sunday. I miss the way Dr. Becker ties his tie. I miss Don Knepper's smile. I miss Eric Truxal getting us up and singing. I miss Sharon Barr's laugh. I miss doing "Pastor Bryan Storytime" with the nursery school kids. I miss praying for people in need. I miss planning worship service. I miss that moment when you know everyone is listening. I miss teens stopping by office to ask questions like, "What do you do all day?" (Answer: Listen to people complain that pastors don't work enough). I miss Ad Board, PPR, Finance and Trustees. I miss visiting at the hospital, and doing funerals. I miss looking up the Aramaic word to figure out what Paul was trying to say. I miss riding and dining. I miss Tara Yunker calling me Pastor Bryan, even though she's the only one in church that does it, and we're the same age. I miss people poking their head into my office to say hi. I miss Stan Weller inviting me over for chili. I miss Lunch Bunch lunches. I miss Ruth Anne Lohr's quiet strength.
I miss the people God called me to serve, and the closeness I feel to Him as I do it as best as I can. I am a blessed man, indeed!
But, I've got to do this. There's an unsettledness, a fear, some pain, that some how, some way, is getting confronted down here. And I'm starting to dream dreams, and see visions (I'm middle aged, so I do both). So, my life isn't on hold, just filling out... just like me.
Better start hitting the gym..... chubby.