31 August 2005

I Hear You

God doesn't talk to me that often. Or, I should say, I don't hear him that often. A Presence, yes, that I understand. But I tend to be a bit, erm, cynical when I hear people talking about getting specific instructions from God on a regular basis. Maybe they're just tuned in better. There's a song by Chris Rice that I identify with. It starts out: "I would take 'no' for an answer just to know I heard You speak. And I'm wondering why I never see the signs they claim they see." So there I am.


Sometimes God gets through anyway. Not in a burning-bush way, just coincidences that seem not so coincidental.

See, I rarely feel at home in church. I'm right in line with what basic Lutheran theology I've read and had explained to me. But I tend to be more conservative than the mainstream ELCA (the denomination we were members of in the States) and a bit more--moderate? less fundamentalist? less of a black and white attitude?--than the conservative Lutheran and evangelical denominations. In some cases, I can agree right down the line with conservative theology (and politics, for that matter), and yet feel creeped out by an attitude of absolute certainty. "We've got all the answers. God's on our side." I'm just not sure it's that simple.

But mostly, I long to feel a part of a community of faith. A group of people that are welcoming, authentic with each other, have a sense of mission and purpose for their church, and want to learn more about God and really try to put into practice what they learn. Realistically, no church can live up to my little picture of how things "should" be. But, still...

Anyway, I haven't really felt at home in the church we've been attending here. But it's not like there are a lot of options for English-language churches. We're lucky to have a Lutheran church made up of Americans (a mixture of ELCA and Missouri Synod members, but offically affiliated with Missouri Synod). It's struggling, though. It's small, it's looking for a permanent pastor (their former pastor retired), and it has a challenge unique to the military community: every summer, one-third or more of its members move away to their next assignment. We've already gone the small, struggling church route, and neither of us is eager to do it again.

So last Saturday, Jon and I were talking about this, along with some other things concerning churches. I told Jon that I just want a church where I felt I belonged. I've always wanted that, and rarely if ever found it, but that "longing for belonging" is even stronger now that we're in a new place.

Sunday morning, we went to church. What do you suppose was one of the main points of the sermon? That as Christians, we belong to the family of God. It was like God was saying, "Wake up! Remember that you already belong!" What really got me was that the pastor's choice of words were so similar to what I had been saying the night before.

One can argue for coincidence. But my heart tells me that there's a message there. After church, we were talking to only two elders (that's what they call the governing board of the church) that remain after the latest round of PCS's (permanent change of stations, otherwise known as moving). And I found myself volunteering to work on the church's Web site.

So I guess we're committed. I rarely say things like this, but I think this church is where God wants us.

But I'm not volunteering to be on the council/board of elders. The last time I did that, our pastor resigned within a few months and the church pretty much fell apart. (Uh, not because I was on the council. But why take a chance?)

29 August 2005

Heard on the News...

"Katrina is proving more formidable than many people anticipated."

Well, I could have told you that.

23 August 2005


Outside the cathedral in Trier: "Let's go in the castle! Who lives in the castle? A princess!"

Inside the cathedral, at the altar rail in front of a shrine containing a relic of Christ: "Mama, what's the god's name in this church?" (She's not really clear that the pastor is not God.)

She's been playing on and off with "pretend Sophia" who seems to come in all shapes and sizes.

  • "Fophia is 'ittle, 'ittle. (clenches her fist and then opens it) Look, I smushed Fophia!"
  • "Come on, baby Fophia. Mama, I can't hold baby and go down the steps. (mimes eating something out of her hand) Look, Mama, I ate Fophia! Now she's in my tummy and she will grow and grow and grow and grow!" (hmm, still remembers pregnant Vicki, I guess)
  • "Mama, Fophia needs a plate, too! Fophia needs macaroni and cheese, too!"
  • Tonight, getting ready for bed: "Mama, Fophia is in my house (her playhouse in the back yard). She's having a time out."

Goldilocks also comes to visit, but she just mostly eats pretend porridge.

17 August 2005

Dating Again, or Insert Foot in Mouth

Trying to connect with other moms has a lot in common with dating, except that you're trying to make two couplings work: her kid with your kid, and you with her. So I meet a good many moms on the playground, usually because Katrina and their daughters start playing together.

Some moms I know right away that I don't have a lot in common with. Others, I feel like we have a good chat while our kids are playing together, and I really would like to follow up and try to become friends. Especially when it is obvious that our kids get along (or at least as much as it is possible for 3-year-old girls to get along). So then comes the problem, as one or the other is starting to leave: do you, on first meeting, offer your phone number in the hopes that the other mom also wants to get together again? Will the other mom think you're desperate for friends if you do that? Did she even like you--or did you talk too much, or not enough, or did she think your kid was too bossy, or ill-behaved, or, or, or...?

You see what I mean about this being like dating. For an introvert like me, trying to give another mom my number is SCARY. The only people I've managed to contact have been the moms at the preschool. But I met a German mom (with an American husband) on the playground on base a few weeks ago. She was really nice, her daughter and mine were the same age and played together for a good 45 minutes, and we both said "oh, I hope we see you again on the playground" when we left. I think we both wimped out. I haven't seen her since, and I've been hoping to run into her again. I'd like to think that this time I'd be bold and say, "here, why don't you call me and maybe we can get our daughters together to play again." I just don't know if I can make the leap.

On the other hand, you can be making a gung-ho effort and still have it fall to pieces. I've been taking Katrina to "preschool skate" at the base skating rink on Tuesdays since her preschool went on hiatus. For the last two Tuesdays, she's played with a firecracker of a girl about 6 months older, along with that girl's friend. Three little 3-year-olds screeching and running around and laughing.

Outside the rink, the little girls were playing a little as the two other moms were chatting. One mentioned that she was writing some articles. Of course my ears perked up. Another writer mom!

"Oh, are you a writer?"

"Well, sort of," she said.

I repeated something I had heard at a writers conference. "If you write, you're a writer."

"I guess I'm a writer, then," she said. "I've had a few articles published, and I'm working on a book."

"Fiction or nonfiction?"


She went on to say to the other mom that she hoped to work on it more when her daughter started preschool in the fall. I kind of butted in, because I was all excited to meet another writer.

"What's your book about?"

"Well, um," (I thought, oh, she can't put it into a short sentence. Oftentimes, less-experienced writers launch into detailed explanations. Boy was I wrong.)

"It's called, How to Raise Your Child..." (Now, I'm thinking, cool, she's writing a parenting book. I'm interested in writing about parenting too. We may have a lot to talk about!)

"How to Raise Your Child Pagan."

"Ha-ha...oh, um, wow, how interesting." (Damn the nervous laugh! No wonder she wasn't particularly forthcoming.)

Needless to say, she didn't offer me her phone number.

12 August 2005

This and That

I keep thinking that I'll take the time to figure out how to put a list of links or other random info on the side of this page. I know I just need to copy some HTML from somewhere. But I haven't had the time or inclination to go looking. So here are some things I've been reading, thinking about, etc.

Secrets. The creator of PostSecret bills the site as an "ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard." He posts new postcards every Sunday. I find it intriguing, sad, disturbing, insightful. It makes me think: what don't I know about people I talk to every day? What secret(s) do I have? But mostly, the postcards speak of the loneliness of keeping secrets and the yearning to reveal your true self to others--even people you will never meet. How lonely do you have to be to send your secret anonymously to a Web site?

I'm Reading...well, nothing, at the moment. I finished The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini, a light historical romance/mystery. I have several library books, but haven't started them yet. I never did finish Gilead, which I left off in favor of Harry Potter and haven't picked up again. I think this alone pegs me as a low-brow, popular reader, rather than the literary reader I think I could/should be. I renewed Gilead, so I hope to come back to it. It is lovely, but it is the kind of book you need to read slowly and thoughtfully. I'm just not doing much slow and thoughtful these days. My reading time is at breakfast--right after trying to convince Katrina that her eggie is not broken just because I cut it up for her (and no, I am not going to cook her another egg)--and in the evenings, when I tend to be too tired to concentrate very well. Hope springs eternal, though. I borrowed Life of Pi from the library too, which was recommended by a number of people on a writers list I subscribe to. Maybe I'll get literary yet. You think my cousin Dave would ask me to write a booklist of light fiction you can read while your preschooler watches Teletubbies?

What's the Weather? What's the Weather? At the slightest provocation, Katrina launches into this little ditty from preschool. I'm not entirely sure what the tune is. "Is it sunny? Is it rainy? What's the weather today?" For the record, the highest temperature in the last week or so has been maybe 75 degrees F. Often cold (50s to 60s) in the mornings, then warming up and getting sunny in the afternoons. On the whole, I'm liking August in Germany. It beats bad air warnings and 90+ degrees with stifling humidity in NoVA. Europe can have hot summers, like the one two years ago where a number of people in France died of heat-related illnesses, but so far the longest hot spell has been about a week.

Oscar the Grouch. Here's a fun and informative site for your perusal: Muelltips (in English). That's trash tips. You need trash tips when you have to make a choice between:
  • the brown trash bin (biological waste--food scraps, lawn trimmings, etc.);
  • the blue trash bin (paper products, and only paper products, no combo things like a box with a plastic window);
  • the gray trash bin (restmuell, or anything that doesn't go into any other category);
  • the yellow bag (recyclables excluding glass, combo packaging, plastics); or
  • the huge community glass recycling bins, always in threes for white, brown, or green glass (we have some right across the street from us behind the school).

We're trying to cut down on our Restmuell, because for some unknown reason, the trash company took away the second Restmuell bin that mysteriously appeared a week or so after we moved in (Jakob Becker gives, Jakob Becker takes away. Blessed be Jakob Becker.). Now we have only one Restmuell bin. I don't know if they will collect trash that is not in a bin. In theory, the garbage collectors have the right to "reject" trash if they feel it is not properly sorted (nonrecyclables in the yellow bag, for example).

As Americans, we do have one other option--chuck it all into undifferentiated bags and haul it to the dumpsters on the base. What is more disgusting...growing maggots in your bio bin (which is only collected every 2 weeks) or hauling loads of trash in the back of your car? For now, we're trying to prevent eau d'garbage in the car. Plus, really, if a whole nation can get this thing right, I think we can figure it out eventually. Emphasis on eventually...I haven't yet memorized the rotating pick-up schedule. When Jon was away last week I waited until my neighbors put their trash out and then copied what they did.

05 August 2005

Along for the Ride

Tomorrow my cousin Amy is getting married. She's about 10 years younger than me, and was my youngest cousin through my growing-up years.

When Amy and her parents came to visit, it sparked a competition between my sister Wendy and me. Amy was a little cutie-pie, bright-eyed and red-haired. Each of us wanted her to like us best. Wendy usually got more attention, since at 6 years younger than me she was young enough to really play with Amy. At least that's my memory. Wendy may tell you something different. In any case, if Amy had lived any closer to us, we cousins probably would have spoiled her rotten.

Amy was the guest-book attendant at my wedding, a pre-teen at the time. I remember my mom telling me that Amy cried at my wedding, because she thought my getting married meant we would never see each other again.

Unfortunately, it did mean that our paths crossed less. We see each other rarely enough that I always have a bit of a jolt when my mental picture of Amy at about age 12 comes up against the reality of Amy as an adult.

You know what's still there, though? Yes, of course that glorious red hair. But I would say that the hallmark of Amy's personality is her enthusiasm. I was just thinking the other day that I don't come across a lot of people who are enthusiastic about what they do or about life in general. Or, at least, we're all too cool or jaded to show enthusiasm. But Amy positively exudes it, and takes everyone around her along for the ride.

And what a ride marriage is. It's cliched to say that there are ups and downs, but it's also the truth. I found the first few years of marriage the hardest. It takes time to really know someone, and to get yourself out of the way long enough to learn how to love your spouse well. I still have to get myself out of the way. Marriage is a long lesson in "it's not about you." (Parenthood is a boot camp on the same subject.)

But the ride--side by side in the same seat, clutching at each other's hands during the scary parts--is so worth it.

I really wish we could be there for the wedding. I'd probably return the favor of crying the whole way through. I'll have to settle for hoping that tomorrow will be only the first day in a long line of days spent living, loving, and laughing together...with delighted enthusiasm.