Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

It’s Father’s Day and today’s edition of “Life in the Balcony” is, of course, a tribute to my father.

My first thought was to list all of the things that I learned from Dad, but I didn’t want to limit myself, so here’s a free-form list of things I learned, remember or appreciate about my dad.

*I learned that real men and fathers can build or fix anything. I don’t ever remember having a serviceman in the house. Daddy changed his own oil, closed in the screen porch on one house and built a screen porch on another. He also grew his own beansprouts on top of the refrigerator for a time but I don’t know if that actually goes onto the list of what real men do… (He also made me taste his liverwurst sandwich once – that was gross.)

*Daddy taught me that there’s never too much music in the house. There was always music – either we were listening to it or playing it. This is something for which I will always be grateful. There was also never too much music in the car – especially when we were making the trek from Atlanta to Clarkesville, VA to see my grandparents. There was a regular song list that we’d go through – but not, of course on an iPod or even a tape player. We’d sing and sing in the car. Probably until the kids got carsick or fell asleep.

*Daddy taught me that time spent together is way more important than material things.

*Daddy got really mad at me when I was about 10 because I laughed when he told me I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I hadn't ever heard that phrase before, and it sounded funny to me so I laughed. He was already frustrated with me because I was running around like… well, you probably know. I guess the laughing sent him over the edge. But every time I hear that phrase I think of Daddy and laugh.

*There were a couple of things Dad said to me over the years that have always stuck with me (besides the chicken thing…). The summer I turned 16 I was madly in love with an older guy. I would sit around and wait to see if he called, and would be really bummed out if he didn't. One night, Daddy told me that he thought I might get hurt more than some because I didn't have a lot of filters – I didn’t put up walls around my feelings. But he also told me that he didn't want me to change because he believed that while I might feel hurt more strongly, I would also feel love and enjoyment more fully.

*Daddy taught me that church and worship are important parts of life. He didn't say this though – he lived it. He has always been a committed, vibrant, involved member of whatever church he attends. And I've never, ever gotten the impression that any of the things he volunteers to do are a burden. It’s just how he gives back to his worship community. I’m as involved at my church as I am because I learned that lesson from him.

* Daddy told me once, when I asked him if he was proud of me, that it was more important that I be proud of myself. I didn't really understand it at the time, but it’s true.  Dad taught us all to have high expectations of ourselves, and if I’m not going to be proud of myself unless I've met those expectations. Being proud of myself means that I worked hard and did the right thing.

*Dad told me numerous times not to “try,” but to just “do it.” Oftentimes this was said in exasperation, because I was an exasperating child most of the time. In these instances it was generally in response to my promising to “try” to get better grades or something that I obviously had control over. Daddy wasn't going to give me an out when he knew I was capable. I use this on my kids now, so it was a good parenting lesson as well.

*He also taught me that it takes much less time to do something right the first time.

*Daddy was right when he suggested that I shouldn't be changing my major from Music Education to English but he supported me anyway.

*The most important thing I know about my dad is that he loves me. I've never doubted this for one second in all of my 49 years.

One final note. Daddy is a loving, wonderful father and grandfather. I’m so blessed to have him and thankful for all of the lessons, memories and fun we’ve had over the years. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Wineskin

I lost my job yesterday. It was a total surprise, but not really a total surprise. Either way, I was devastated. As expected, I’ve had periods of tears, laughter, despair, hope, anger and relief.  I have some time to figure out my next step because I got a pretty good severance package but it’s still really scary.

But that’s not really what I want to tell you. What I want to tell you about is what happened in the past few days leading up to yesterday.

I recently decided that I needed to look for a part-time job - one where I could work on the weekends to bring in a little bit of extra cash. I reached out to a friend from church who sent my resume to some people he knew, and within a couple of days I had a job offer.  That’s pretty amazing. I started last Saturday and while I wasn’t actually at the prospect of working on a Saturday night, I really enjoyed myself. I’m not sure what it was that made me actually send out feelers when I did. I had been thinking about it for a long time, and one day I just took the plunge. And now, the knowledge that I have something that will bring in some extra money makes me feel a little bit more comfortable. I’d call that a God thing.

Sunday morning I had to serve at the 8:00 service so I got up early. When I left St. Martin’s, I met Rick for a quick breakfast and we went to a 10:00 service at Grace-Midtown Church. We have a neighbor who plays in the worship band there, and since St. Martin’s is getting ready to start a youth service, we wanted to hear the music they were playing. There were all sorts of reasons why we might have decided against going. I was pretty tired from the night before and getting up early. Rick was a little bit later than he wanted to be and we had to rush through breakfast. It was raining. But we went – were drawn there, I believe.

The congregation and the pastors were casual, young, and lively. And while the music was good, the message was designed just for me, but I just didn’t know it yet. Looking back now, there were several things: a prayer from one of the music leaders that encouraged us to believe in our own self-worth because we are created by God; a message in the main lesson, taken from The Gospel of Mark, that talks about how you can’t put new wine in an old wineskin without damaging both, and discussion about the contrast of fasting and feasting. I thought it was a good lesson on Sunday. Today, I think it’s a great lesson.
I can look at this time as a fast, and put on my sackcloth and be miserable. But when Rick and I were talking about this last night, I said to him that I don’t think God’s plan is for us to be homeless, destitute and panicked. I truly believe that God has something in store for me, I just need to find out what that is. This should be a time of feasting for me – a time to listen to God and find out what He wants me to do. What kind of new wine to put in my new wineskin.

So while I’m certain to have some more times of mourning and fear, I hope that I’ll turn to God to lead me through this and on to the next really wonderful thing.

One other point that I need to make is that the friends and family I’ve spoken to have been enormously caring and supportive and for that I am grateful. I either heard or read the words “I love you” so many times yesterday. I’m incredibly blessed.