Sunday, January 25, 2009

There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met...

The tiny people and I are going to Minnesota this week.

I cannot describe to you how excited the boys are. Aunty K and I planned this trip back in … August? 2005? I'm not sure, but it feels like it's been on the books for millennia. And, considering that it's been planned for a high percentage of Cooper's lifetime, he's about to blow his top he's so eager to leave.

Back in October, he would look at the clock and say, "It's January o'clock! Time to go to Minnesota!" We finally got him to understand that we weren't leaving until after Christmas. This gave him the distraction of Welcoming the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so as not to get too stir crazy in the meantime. A few awesome presents worked well to defer the hourly questions about when we were boarding the airplane.

But, as soon as school started again, the children returned after a two week break and learned that "Jingle Bells is over." This was a favorite song in the 2 year old class, and Cooper's classmates were totally destroyed to learn that they couldn't parade around with loud, clanging instruments and shout "HEY!" at the top of their lungs for another 11 months. With the decay of Christmas excitement came the realization that it was, finally, JANUARY, at long last.

Their completely wonderful cousins sent J and C a huge box of hand-me down clothes and accessories a couple of weeks ago. Included in the box of super-fancy, totally grown up "my cousins wore these then sent them to me?!!!" clothes were a pair of L.L. Bean boots and two, separate but equal Billabong backpacks. Upon receiving the good news that they could pack stuff in these backpacks to take with them on the plane, the boys ran around collecting both beloved and arbitrary, yet available, objects and stuffing them inside. We haven't seen some of their favorite toys in days, since they've been tucked away for safe keeping since.

Now, I know what you're all thinking: Minnesota in January?!?!??! Really? Really!

Yes, I know. I know it's cold. I know it's colder than I've ever felt in my life. Aunty K's calls throughout the years with updates on the weather have prepared me, somewhat. In fact, I got a call from her on Wednesday saying, "I just want to let you know what -20 degrees feels like: When I blink, my eyeballs freeze."

Let us all give a collective shudder.

Here's the other thing: We're not just staying at their house. We're going to a gorgeous, beautiful retreat center about an hour north of St. Paul. This idea, in theory, is stunning and brilliant. Our trip was planned out of the collective excitement about some quiet time with our children and each other, and a desire to get away from the other constant stimuli of daily life. What we're slowly realizing is that we've committed to a week in a cabin in the woods in the dead of Minnesota winter with four children, four and under, no media assistance and the necessity of walking to another building for all of our meals.

God be with us.

And it looks like God has already softened the blow a little. The high on Tuesday is going to be 24F. That's, like, FOURTY DEGREES warmer than it was last week. I'll take it. Aunty K is prepared and resourceful, and has already packed tubs of winter clothes for my children who have only seen snow twice in their lives and buckets of art supplies for all of them. We're praying that the unusualness of it all will entertain them more than we can: extra, dear buddies to play with, new scenery, a gorgeous cabin with stunning views and lofts in which to sleep. We're also planning to do some Lenten planning for our churches, so at night, when the children sleep, I can pick her brain, which is far more creative than mine. I am the total winner here. For my prize, I awarded myself with cozy, flannel pajamas.

We also get to spend a week at a place where our delicious meals are prepared for us in the quiet of a holy kitchen where good and kind people are available to lead worship, inquire about our lives and ministries, and remind us that we are equipped with all that we need to do these jobs.

Next week is going to be wonderful for a thousand reasons, but it's an especially wonderful time for me to embrace the two pieces of me that I hold so dear: Ministry and Motherhood. I've said before that I came into these two roles simultaneously, and I met Aunty K at the same time. When we met, we were both pastoring in churches, our husbands were both PhD students, we were both pregnant for the first time with boys who were due on the same day, and were delivered by the same midwife at the same hospital. Gonzo was right: there's not a word yet for old friends who've just met. We spent the first few months of our sons' lives running through the specifics of how this new world order was treating us. We signed up for swimming class with our 12 week old babies, and spent every Wednesday after class lunching, nursing, changing diapers, drinking decaf coffee and talking about everything we could find to talk about.

Our roles as wives, mothers, pastors, and women have developed side by side, and I'm so grateful for her friendship. Neither of us are good at keeping up with long-distance friendships, and yet, we've made this one work for 4 ½ years. I credit this to our ability to have serial 30-second phone conversations throughout the day:

Aunty K: I just called to tell you that your 18 month old Goddaughter is a brilliant smart-ass.

Me: What did she do?

Aunty K: She and her brother were shouting "POOPEYHEAD" at each other, and I told them to stop. I warned her that if she said it again that I'd take away her teddy grahams. I turned to tell her brother what his consequence would be and when I looked back at her, her mouth was crammed full of snacks and she said through stuffed cheeks, "MRPHOOPYFHEAD."

Me: I've never been so proud.

Aunty K: Okay – gotta go. I'll talk to you later.

Me: Okay, when we talk next, remind me to tell you the story of Cooper, his penis and a bike helmet.

Aunty K: Can't wait!

Me: Me neither! Bye!

It's amazing how much information can be conveyed in such short interactions.

So, next week is a chance for us to nurture our friendship, the friendship that our children are developing, and to work on our lives as ministers and mothers at the same time. For me, it's also a chance to feel unapologetic about my calling to both of these vocations. Like many mothers who work, I feel an awful pull to be in both places at the same time. I love my church, my calling, my congregants, my vocation. I am blessed, if not equally burdened, by this call to serve the church in such a way. I am also completely head-over-heels for my baby boys, and would relish the opportunity to just be with them all day, every day. Except that when I've done that, I've felt a little lost and off-balance.

I know that God called me to both of these tasks for a reason. Without the perpetual call of my children to be present with them for bedtime, mealtime, Saturday playtime, Friday movie night, Sunday lunch, I would be out all the time. I am an extrovert to the nth degree, and I would fill my schedule and say "Yes" far too often if it wasn't for the anchor and grounding of my family's needs. They force me to set good boundaries, even when I don't want to. And my church gives me a place to use the gifts and talents I know I've been given. I also really like talking to grown-ups and having conversations that don't end with me wiping someone' s bum. I like feeling needed by people other than my children, who are sort of programmed to need me. I enjoy that people choose me, from time to time.

So, next week I will get to be with both a person who has chosen me and the tiny people who are stuck with me for life. I will live out my calls as mother, minister and friend in the snowy, frozen tundra of northern Minnesota, which, despite all logic, sounds a little bit like heaven in a way.

And yes, I'm going to go back there someday... but hopefully when it's a tad warmer.

1 comment:

Sharmaine said...

Wow! Enjoy!

My friend, Christa, just moved to Minnesota not too long ago, and I love reading about her "adventures" on her blog. :)