an old song on my birthday

It’s the last hour of my birthday and what’s on my mind? The words of the Simon and Garfunkel song that always find their way to me on this day. It’s my rewrite of Mrs Robinson.

(the angels sing) And here’s to you, Carla Robinson,

Jesus loves you more than you will know

Wo wo wo

God bless you, please, Carla Robinson,

Heaven holds a place for those who pray

Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

(Ingersoll says) We’d like to know

A little bit about you

For our files.

We’d like to help you learn

To help yourself.

Look around you. All you see

Are sympathetic eyes.

Stroll around the grounds

Until you feel at home.

(the angels sing) And here’s to you, Carla Robinson,

Jesus loves you more than you will know

Wo wo wo

God bless you, please, Carla Robinson,

Heaven holds a place for those who pray

Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

(the family says?) Hide it in a hiding place

Where no one ever goes.

Put it in you pantry with your cupcakes.

It’s a little secret,

Just the Robinsons’ affair.

Most of all, you’ve got to hide it

from the church.

(the angels sing) Coo coo ca-choo, Carla Robinson,

Jesus loves you more than you will know

Wo wo wo

God bless you, please, Carla Robinson,

Heaven holds a place for those who pray

Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

(I say) Sitting on a sofa

On a Sunday afternoon,

Going through my internal debate,

Laugh about it,

Cry about it,

When I have to choose,

Every way I look at it I lose.

(I saw to myself) Where have you gone, guy I used to be?

My church once turned its lonely eyes to you

Ooo ooo ooo.

What’s that you say, Carla Robinson?

“Ol’ Nice Guy has left and gone away”

Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

reflecting on my 56th birthday

pondering pastToday is my birthday. 56 years ago today I came into this world. I should say I was brought into this world. They had to come and get me and I didn’t come quietly. I understand that there were some touch-and-go moments during the C-section that brought me into this place but in the end mother and child were well. “Congratulations,” the doctor said. “It’s a boy.” OK, so you can’t be right every time.

Usually I consider my birthday a festive event. For the last several years I have celebrated my birthday as an octave. I usually treat myself to something special each day of the octave. I usually buy a balloon and keep it all eight days. However this year I don’t feel very festive. No balloon this year. I think I’ll just mark the day of my birth and not celebrate the octave this time.

I’m pensive this year. I’m reflecting on all that has happened since my last birthday. What year it was! Bits and pieces are floating through my mind now.

Last October found me celebrating with my husband and wondering about my job at the Print Center. I would eventually lose my job at Providence but then get hired on as a temp worker with nothing but an uncertain future guaranteed.

Thanksgiving Day Howard and I had a wonderful private dinner. It was a joy to cook together and share that meal in our home. We slept late the next day and enjoyed each other’s company and got up to lunch on leftovers and sweet potato pie.

Christmas Eve found me at St Mark’s, serving in the same community that has nurtured me since the day I came to Episcopal Church. Christmas Day Howard and I boarded a plane for Cleveland, his first visit to my home. My mom’s health was failing and during our visit she had to be taken to the hospital. When it was time to go back to Seattle I left with a heavy heart knowing that this was the last Christmas I’d spend with my mom. I cried on Howard’s shoulder most of the way back.

January I came down with the flu and then pneumonia. On the day of our first wedding anniversary I was sick and in bed. Howard and I had no chance to celebrate. It took a long time for me to fully recover. I don’t know what I would have done without Howard.

February 25th–Howard brought me to work. We kissed. And he droves off happy and excited about many things. I watched him drive off as usual and turned to walk into my workplace. That would be the last time I saw him alive. March: funeral, Shiva, Lent, darkness.

Holy Week found me at St Mark’s. At the Easter Vigil I had the honor to deliver the words of St Chrysostom Easter sermon. But even this incredible week held heartbreak. I found out that all three places at which I thought I could land a position had chosen someone else. Easter Sunday I headed for church but didn’t get there. I ended up at Howard’s grave weeping and feeling very much lost.

In May I got a call from my sister asking me to come home. She didn’t really know why she was asking. She just wanted me to come home. I went home. A few days after I arrived my sister and I were in the room with our mom when her breathing changed. I’d seen it before and knew what was about to happen. Prayers, oil, tears, words of love, holding hands, stillness. The rituals of death and farewell were well observed.

Less that three weeks later, news from home came: Dad is gone. He quietly slipped away to join his wife of 60+ years. They lay now side by side, as well they should. I wrapped myself in a prayer shawl that the ladies of St Stephen’s had given me and wept long.

Grief consumed June and July and August. Painful days: my mom and dad’s anniversary, Dad’s birthday, Howard’s birthday, the anniversary of my ordination. But in August came a conversation. That led to an invitation and a surprising new chance to serve in a parish. I find myself in the midst of children and carrying forth my vocation at Ascension in Seattle.

It has been a hard and deeply sad year for me. Yet by the grace of God, here I am with yet another chance for a new start. Though I don’t feel like celebrating this year I do still have joy. If I were to sing a song today, this would be the one I would sing:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

10-17-2014: letter to him

Dear Howard,

The World Series is set. It’s the Kansas City Royals versus the San Francisco Giants. Both teams were wild card teams this year. It should be a good series. I’ve got no dog in this fight so I’ll just watch and see how it goes and enjoy some good baseball.

You would have enjoyed this season. The Mariners what is the playoff chase right up to the very last game of the season. They finished one game out of the wild card. They were a frustrating team to watch and also a fun team to watch. My sense is that they overachieved but it was sure fun to watch.

I like baseball but I like it more than ever these days. It feels like one of my last remaining links to you. I watch as much of the series as my work schedule allows. And I’ll be thinking of you as I watch. And when the World Series is over I’ll start counting the days until pitchers and catchers report.

As always I miss you.

Love,
Carla

a big job

st_peterI was having my morning coffee,  thinking about all of the things that I needed to do today in preparation for Sunday. Suddenly a gate opened up and I saw into the immensity of my responsibilities: forming the spirituality of children, passing on the faith to another generation.

Like Peter on the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee I felt myself sinking. “I can’t do this. It’s too much.” Like Peter my next response was to pray. And just as fast God replied, “Stop being afraid. I am with you.”

Today I am aware of how big the job of Director of Children and Youth Ministries really is. At the same time I hear God’s word saying, “Great is the Holy One is in your midst.” Today I hear God’s word saying, “Greater is He that is in you than the one that is in the world.” I feel the powerful arms of Jesus lift me up out of the water and I’m comforted by his nearness.

So off I go into the things that I must do today. Let tomorrow come. With God’s help I will fulfill my vocation.

changing the schedule

Its been crazy busy of late. The last month has flown by. This is all because of my new job. I’m now working at the Church of the Ascension as the Director of Children and Youth Ministries. The position is 20 hours a week.

At the same time I’m also still working in the Providence Print Center. That position is 24 hours a week. On paper the two positions add up to 44 hours a week which is a full time job. In reality it’s much more than a full time job because of the nature of church work.

The position at Ascension summons me to my vocation and calls forth my greater gifts and stirs my passion. As a result I end up working a lot more than 20 hours. Much of the off the clock hours are spent thinking, creating, planning, musing and praying about what I want to do. When you’re doing work you love this is what happens.

However I realize that I must be careful with my time or I will neglect other important aspects of my life. For example my health. Over the last week I’ve only been in the gym once. I’ve been over eating. And I’ve been missing my medications. Any one of these is a big no no. All three together add up to a serious health threat.

To help me get back on track I’ve had to look at my schedule and reconsider how I spend my time. I have faced the fact that once I get home at the end of the day it’s highly unlikely that I will walk out the door again until the morning. I’ve also noticed that in the evening I’m basically do nothing and stay up far too late doing it. I’ve developed the habit of eating after 9 p.m.

So I’ve decided to change the schedule. I’ll go to bed at 9:30 p.m. And get out of the bed at 5:30 a.m. Although I’m not a morning person there are things I can do in the morning as long as I don’t have to think about them. Things like exercise. And if I go to bed at 9:30 p.m. Then I’m less likely to eat anything.

I actually tried this plan yesterday and it worked. I’m trying it again today. So far so good.

letter to him: 2

Dear Howard,

It’s been over 7 months since you’ve gone and I still feel lost without you. I miss you everyday and especially I miss you at the end of the day. I miss you when I come home and you’re not here. When I go to bed you’re not next to me. When I wake up in the night I can’t feel you. Sometimes I get so sad I don’t know what to do so I just cry.

As far as the world is concerned I’m doing fine. Everyone sees me as a strong woman who is dealing with a lot of grief and doing it heroically. I don’t talk about it much I don’t write about it much. Mostly I just deal with my grief privately.

My subconscious is working hard on the issue. I dream about you or mom or dad practically every night. My inner self is doing the hard work of mourning even if my outer self appears happy and carefree. When I’m alone I think a great deal about out time together. I relive so many of the good moments the special moments that we shared.

This past Sunday I had the chance to pray for a couple who were celebrating their first anniversary. As I prayed I thought about us and the one year of marriage that we had. Suddenly something happened to me that has never happened before: right in the middle of the prayer I choked up. I almost broke down I came so close to losing it right there in front of everyone. It was all I could do to hold it together and finish the prayer. Moments like that happen from time to time. I cannot control them. I just do my best when they happen.

I have to go to sleep now. Tomorrow is Friday and I’m working at the Print Center all by myself. It will be a long hard day so I need my sleep. Goodnight baby. I miss you so much.

Love,
Carla

october at last

october countryI’ve become aware of the fact that I’ve not been writing of late. It’s not because there hasn’t been much to write about. It’s because life has been moving a bit swiftly. September passed in a flash and now we’re in the fair month of October. October is my favorite month, no doubt about it.

I’ve always thought of October as a dramatic month. The sun in the early part of the month is spectacular as it passes through strips of clouds and its light shimmers off the green/orange/red leaves of the changing trees. The light is fading as the month progresses but it makes the whole month feel like nature is praying a long slow vespers. As the month wanes and the nights wax, a sense of mystery grows in me; and maybe even a little taste of the thrill of fear, as stories of things that go bump in the night are shared. It’s a month that keeps me on my two, listening hard.

October is my birth month and the start of what I call “The Season of Celebration” which runs from October 21st to January 6th. This year it will not be as festive as in years past. In fact, I expect that moments of that season will be exceptionally painful. However I must go through this coming Season of Celebration in order to see brighter ones in the future (God willing).

Yet here in October I always think of the little paragraph that opens one of my favorite collections of short stories by Ray Bradbury called The October Country:

. . . that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and mid-nights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain. . . .

Welcome to October.