The color of grouch

Blue is the color of sadness and also of cold, so I think it’s accurate to say that I’m a little blue. I am not sure why I am feeling so gloomy, but I am. It might have something to do with me missing my friends, church, mom and Tucker. I am not getting any exercise here either so that can’t help.

Last Sunday I worked at two services at the altar. At the 7:45 a.m. service I was a chalicist, and at the 9:00 a.m. I was a chalicist and reader. While serving at the altar I ended up being on the side where President and Laura Bush were receiving the Eucharist so I actually made eye contact with both of them. They intinct, or dip the wafer in the wine.
Whatever my own political beliefs, in church we are all the same before God. We are there because it is so easy to sin or drift away from God, and we all seek a closer relationship with him. So for that moment they aren’t the President and First Lady, but two parishioners seeking what we all do in communion, union with the holy.

At the 9:00 a.m. service I read the Epistle and chaliced as well as giving the dismissal. Pretty cool. That was something I’d never done and it was a tingly experience. Sunday I also burned my fingers on a kettle on the stove at my hostess’s house. This would be the same kettle she cautioned me to check to make sure it had water before turning on the heat since another houseguest burned up the last one. Before I left in the morning for church I put water in it and not really thinking I just turned the kettle on when I came in since I was freezing. In the interim, Ellen had used all the water in the pot I’d left. So her very nice, very expensive enamel kettle burnt up and damaged not only the kettle but the burner on which it rested. In my haste to remove it from the stove I ended up getting a couple of surface burns that blistered up on top of two of the fingers of my left hand. Ouch. It hurt so bad and for so long I went up and got some Neosporin pain relief and “aqua pad” burn dressing to cover them. I also had to report to Ellen what I’d done, since she was visiting her mother in D.C. when it happened. It was hard to make that call, but she has been so understanding about it. I felt like such an idiot and was all jangled up for hours.

I’d also heard that my 16 year old nephew was car jacked in Mobile and had a couple of men put guns to his head before he was able to flee on foot. He got glass in his feet because he’d just been wearing flip flops and he lost them in his haste to get away. The only car he and my sister had was taken and the Police said they expect it to be ditched and set on fire. He also lost all his money and his cell phone. They used his VISA debit card to buy gas at 5 different places in a nearby town called Pritchard. Hopefully he will get that back since they were fraudulent charges.

I’ve decided to take a quick trip back to Roanoke this weekend to get some things I left behind. I think it will be restorative. I’ll leave Thursday night and come back Saturday night. I am at the altar this Sunday at the 9:00, the 11:00 and am supposed to shadow a Lay Eucharistic Minister here. The woman I will be going with is really cool though. I met her last night at a training session for community organizers that I attended with the Reverend Saunders. She and I talked for most of the dinner portion about how weird it is to us that everyone intincts in the state of Virginia and even here in the DC area. We both spent most of our lives in churches where most people shared the common cup and to do otherwise was perceived as Eucharistically incorrect. We had a good old Episcopalian gabfest. It was awesome.

I also had a nice noontime Eucharist today with a visiting minister who I talked about my “call” with. She said she also got a very strong call and that she used to feel weird about it in seminary where people were saying things like , it just seems like a good career. In the long run though she said it’s been a tremendous blessing because she has never felt lost in her sense of mission. I can identify with that. I also identified with being surrounded by a group of people who were more focused on the the material, social and external world reasons for church work than any sense of the holy and awesome presence of God. This never happened at St.John’s in Roanoke, but I am guessing it is a common thing in the church.

This goes back to my philosophy of church being a place to worship God, not to make ourselves feel better. What I experienced during my near death experience was enough to inspire lifelong awe, amazement and a sense of how we can be both so incredibly small before the greatness that is God, and so dearly loved at the same time. My worship comes from that place and when I work in a service it is to that moment that I turn to meditate before it begins.

Thursday I will also work with the Hispanic Youth Group and I really look forward to it. I had a great time with them last Thursday when we went bowling. They are full of energy and life. I’ll try and get some pics I took there printed to take to them.

I will write a Lent meditation for the churches in-house Lenten publication by Friday and am ruminating on a Homily I am to give at the weekday service on Monday the 26th.

Tonight I am on my own for dinner etc. so I am thinking of driving out to the Leesburg Outlet Mall, I think I might find a good deal on a kettle there to replace the one I burned up and with tomorrow’s temps and all my warmest stuff at the cleaners I am thinking a quick dash through the bargains might be in order.

Perhaps that will de-grouchify me.

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High Highlights of Arriving in DC

I arrived in Fairfax, VA on Saturday at my alumnae sponsor Ellen’s townhouse in time for a late dinner. She was kind enough to hold it for me when I got caught in a little traffic jam and we enjoyed some chicken, rice and salad along with some nice white wine while we discussed the following morning’s commuting plans. Since St.John’s Lafayette Square is located across the street from the White House, it’s also located across the street from the Hay-Adams where the Obama’s are staying so the entire block is closed off. Luckily the church has valet parking for the 11:00 am service so we planned on getting there for that a little early with her mom.

My room is beautiful with a cozy daybed and pink walls, plenty of closet space, a dresser and my own private bathroom. There’s even a pull out trundle bed if I have a guest visit. I quickly unpacked, put out my pictures of my daughter and Tucker along with my new Tinkerbell snowglobe and my Tow Mater plush toy. There’s wireless internet access and a comfy basement living room with TV and couches. Ellen is great company and such an interesting person. It makes it easier to come to a new city when you have a welcoming face and such a wonderful hostess.

On Sunday I attended my first service at the church, and it REALLY IS right across from the White House. I mean, I think I was imagining it a little farther away. But it’s pretty darn close. It’s overcast today, but I will post pictures on Wednesday or Thursday when it’s sunny. I want to get some pics of the stained glass in the church then too. The entire block is locked down, the area crawling with cameras, secret service, police and dogs. I was in the bathroom and looked out the window to see men on the roof of nearby buildings. I was worried they could see me but I think they probably aren’t interested. The service Sunday was celebrating the Epiphany and the liturgy allowed a little procession of people dressed as the three kings to approach the altar with offerings at the presentation. They even broke out the incense which delighted me of course. One of my favorite smells. I heard the Reverend Lisa Saunders give a wonderful sermon. It was about the journey to Epiphany and it had many access points for people to find meaning for themselves. I found my own meaning in the journey of the kings leaving all they knew and loved behind to follow the will of God in my current life. I took communion from The Reverend Luis Leon and met him after the service. I will likely spend more time with him tomorrow.

I then visited the National Cathedral and took some pictures with my fabulous new camera. Check it out:

Following that I was invited to join Ellen and her mother at her home in the Georgetown area for dinner. We enjoyed a hearty veal stew, a delicious Beaujolais and some fresh strawberries for dessert. Her mother shared some of the history of the church with me and talked about being on the search committee to call the current rector and what it was like to attend some of the previous inaugural events with the Reagan and Bush families. She was the head of the altar guild the year the church dedicated the George H.W. Bush kneeler so she showed me the picture of that moment. Pretty neat.

Today I met with Lisa and we talked about me immediately helping with a print piece for the Young Adult fellowship group they have here for 20’s and 30’s called the Latrobe Fellowship, named for the architect of the church and the White House. I also assisted at the 12:10 Eucharist. This consisted of the Old Testament reading which today was Joshua 1:1-9 and collecting the offering, as well as chalicing. How awesome is it to be where I can take Eucharist/worship daily while at work? This is what kept going through my mind as I was preparing for the service. How wonderful my life is at this moment that as part of my job that I am getting to worship God. I can’t express how joyful that is. I try to live my life as if it is a prayer anyway, but to get to take specific time to worship in this way is very meaningful. The Eucharist is especially resonant for me. The Gospel reading today was from John 15:1-11 and was about the metaphor of the vine. Not too long ago, while praying over a troubling issue, God simply gave me a kind of word sense…it was “abide, abide in me”. That was all. So I just kept repeating that to myself as things got harder or upsetting and it helped. I found myself reciting the first verse of the song of Isaiah:

Surely it is God who saves me;

I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,

And he will be my Savior.


So it was interesting to hear that verse today. Reminded me of that moment.

Just back from having a spot of tea down the street at a place called Teaism. I only had a ginger scone and some tea but it was very filling and the music was soothing and reflective. It’s eerie walking down H street past the police cars littering the park and all the barricades. There are so few people on the street that you feel like there is a target on your back. I feel like putting my hands up saying…just an intern at the church! Studying to be a priest…nothing to see here! It’s pretty cold too so it makes you hunch over when you walk and shrink down into your jacket, walking fast, letting your scarf ride up to cover your nose in a feeble effort to block the wind. It’s a surreal moment. I see people hanging about out in front of the church, cameras stationed there, presumably from news outlets. Reverend Saunders said that the Reverend Leon might want me to help at the early service on Sunday, which is too exciting. The more opportunities to be at the altar the better of course. But especially in a different setting, learning from someone new and feeling the energy of God here.

Plus I found out that the new Associate Rector for St.John’s in Roanoke is in DC so I can probably meet her in advance! Not only that but my friend Jennifer from Roanoke is gonna’ be here tomorrow and the next day so we can probably catch a meal together. What a strange and wonderful life.

Coldplay

The concert was worth the trip. I parked across the street from the Verizon center for $20 and made my way to my cheap seat. By cheap seat I mean crappy seat as there is nothing cheap about a $70 nosebleed seat. Still despite the price and the drunk girls who were sitting next to me, I enjoyed the music.

Here is the somewhat accurate playlist (I was writing in the dark while trying to avoid slung beer from aforementioned drunk girls).

Technicolor
Violet Hill
Clocks
In My Place
Viva La Vida
Yes
42 (Part I)
Fix You
Strawberry Swim
42 (Part II)
God Put A Smile On Your Face
Square One
The following two songs were sung from the rear of the venue. The band went down into the audience. If the stage was at 12 o’clock, the went to 7 o’clock for the following two songs, which they played standing with a single spot and minimal instrumentation.
Hardest Part
Yellow

Back to the stage for:

Lost
The Scientist
ENCORE
Low
Lovers in Japan

One of my favorites of the evening: Fix You, when the crowd sang along. Then there was Lovers in Japan when there were tremendous confetti explosions. I have clips but I don’t want to infringe on Coldplay’s copywrite privileges. That would be unethical. Taking a picture is my own work.

This is the only decent picture I was able to take. I use the word decent lightly. Chris Martin is on the left.

Coldplay August 3rd, 2008 on stage at the Verizon Center, DC

Coldplay August 3rd, 2008 on stage at the Verizon Center, DC

We will look for the resurrection of the dead…

I know that I have referenced my near death experience a few times and I would like to post my recollection of it. It’s a very vivid memory for me. When I focus on it, I can relive it in my mind. One of the most interesting qualities of the memory though is that specific elements of it come into focus for me periodically. It’s almost like I forgot this critical thing, and then it comes flooding back and I can’t believe I forgot it. It’s always something tiny.  But every time it happens it changes the nature of my feelings about the experience. The most recent example… I recently remembered the moment I couldn’t hold my breath anymore and I breathed in the salt water. I remembered it intensely, the cold, salty, burning sharp shortness of it. It only lasted an instant and then I was out of my body. But I recall giving up and breathing it in, the water flowing past my lips…my intense terror and then the sudden lack of it. It’s the discomfort of it that I had put aside. I wonder why I remembered it now. It has had the effect of reminding me of the costs and sacrifices of bliss or union with the holy. While they seem overwhelming and painful, they are really brief and needed in order to transition. I thought about this on my drive up to DC tonight. For the rest of this post I though I would share my NDE or Near Death Experience in full:

When I was 9 we went to the beach at Gulf Shores, AL as we did on many weekend days during the summer. On that particular day it was me, my sister Dawn, her friend Jane, my brother Jaison and my mother. We had stopped on the way to the beach at a gas station and I had begged for a blow up Mickey Mouse swim ring.

I was in the shallows with it around my waist. This was highly unusual for me. My brother and I were great swimmers. We were “Dolphins” at the Y. I liked to spend hours riding the waves and diving under them with Dawn and Jaison in the deep trough of water between the shore and the sandbar that paralleled it. This trip my mother had given in to my whining at the pit stop for the first time and let me get this silly toy, so I attempted to play with it in the foam, kick paddling and trying to ride it in little shallow waves. As the water was sucked out below me, I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a huge wave for an instant before it was over my head.

At first I was just annoyed and attempted to right myself so I could stand up in the shallow water, but I quickly became frightened when I realized I was caught in a powerful current and could not stand up. Which way was down? Which way was up? I had not yet seen any of the very helpful training videos that are now produced about following bubbles. As a matter of fact, people didn’t even have VCR’s yet.

I was rapidly being pulled out to the deeper water, and all of a sudden all I could think of was that I can’t breathe, out of time, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! Suddenly, I didn’t need to breathe anymore. I remember thinking that this was especially odd and about that time I realized I wasn’t in my body anymore because I could see my body rolling head over heels under the water right by me. I quickly rose up out of the water and turned toward the beach where I could see my mother reading her book and sunbathing. She hadn’t realized that I was missing yet.

I remember thinking dispassionately that she was going to be very upset that I was dead. I was caught by the idea that I was dead and I examined it for a second but didn’t FEEL anything. How strange, you just don’t fully realize how much of our feelings are just those: feelings…specifically attached to our bodies and physical processes. I looked at my Mom again. I loved my mother, but not in the way I was accustomed to. Not in the gut wrenching welling of emotion I was used to. Instead I saw my mother as Shirley, who had chosen me and had made choice after choice for my well being, often at her own expense for love of me. I could even see some of her choices in a weird kind of third person way I didn’t quite understand. I did not feel sad. I had a sensation of immense gratitude that she was my mother and love for her.

I then felt pulled to my left and up toward something that felt like the sun. Not because it was yellow or located where the sun would be. It was brightness, warmth and a feeling that I can best describe as the sensation you get when you are struck by something of extraordinary beauty. When you see a spectacular vista or hear a piece of music so beautiful it makes your chest ache and brings tears to your eyes in a kind of joy that is so immense it overflows you. I began to be suffused, to become that sensation and it was intensified and multiplied and at the same time distilled so that it was more intense. I became hyper-aware of the world and my place in it. It seemed to me that this feeling which was an awareness that I felt as God was all around me, was reaching for me as energy but with a clear identity as God the Father of All.

I could see a kind of transparency to everything. I looked again at the beach, at my family and what I saw was that the bodies we lived in weren’t us. That we weren’t really separate from the light that was God, which I could now see inside, suffusing each of them, that we weren’t separated from each other. I could see how He connected all of us together. It was very clear and instantly understandable to my 9 year old self. I was euphoric and happy and delighted to be seeing these things and to be going home. Because I also instantly understood that I was about to really go home, my real home and be safe, loved and get to rest, for lack of a better word.

It was about this time that the worst thing imaginable happened. A sensation like being sucked backwards through a giant vacuum cleaner grabbed hold of me and suddenly I was back in my body, hacking and gagging and coughing out gouts of salty water through a frayed throat and nose. Back in my body, which suddenly felt like an ill fitting pair of jeans from the Husky department at Sears. Somehow too small and too big in all the wrong places, vaguely cheap and certainly not built to last. I burst into tears and began to struggle with the person who held me, my sister’s best friend, Jane, who’d spotted the Mickey Mouse head crossing the sandbar on its way out to sea from a distance while she looked for sand dollars and pulled it up out of curiosity, only to find me attached and not breathing.

When I got to the shore I blubbered to my mother and tried incoherently to explain what happened to me, but she just shushed me and patted my back and told me I was fine. For a while, days, weeks, I tried to get her to understand but I could tell it frightened her so I stopped.

I never told anyone else about it for a long, long time.  Not until after I saw a special on TV after the Challenger disaster. I was watching a discovery type channel a lot back then. At the time I had dreams of being an astronaut, before I found out my height would disqualify me. I’ll never forget walking into the room just as a special on undertows was airing. There on screen was an animated figure rolling “head over heels”. Apparently this happens when you get caught in one. I remember feeling lightheaded and like the world stopped for a second and the entire experience flooded back into my mind. To me, as I had grown older and reflected upon it, that memory of my body rolling by “head over heels” was the most unbelievable part. At 9 I hadn’t know this about the undertow. There was no Internet back then and it simply hadn’t occurred to me to check something like that. This was a kind of validation and one of many incidents in my life I would begin to see as a pattern of “God Winking” at me, to quote the book by SQuire Rushnell.

Mamma Mia

I’m off to DC today, my next post wll be from there. Very excited about seeing Coldplay tomorrow and visiting the National Cathedral. Also hope to catch the film, The Fall that I have mentioned before. Mom and I went and saw Mama Mia last night and found it to be very enjoyable. It was faintly ridiculous, funny, beautiful and I had a grin on my face most of the time.

WordPress, Rooibos and DirectTV

Welcome anyone who has been reading on MySpace or Blogger. I have consolidated a couple of blogs here because I prefer the features.

Here are a few of my new favorite things: Numi Rooibos Teasane, English Breakfast with Splenda and cream, Plain white rice, Carr’s crackers with goat cheese and Cinnamon Pecan Special K.

Lately I’ve only wanted those things. I’ve been skipping lunch and having afternoon tea instead. Yummy. Oh and one more thing, DirectTV. We switched to DirectTV and it is SO much better. The channels are fantastic. I especially like all my movie channels and FIT tv. I can watch a movie every night and do a different workout every day.

Today was Parish Communicators Day at the Diocese. I had a great time meeting new people and talking about the web. I even met a fellow internet pro, so I got to speak geek.

Tomorrow is my last day at the internship and I am feeling a little sad that it will end. I had a great time, but it was so brief. I will probably stay in close touch to help through August with the website. I am looking forward to a little break before school starts again. I leave for DC on Saturday. I am planning on going to Les Halles for Brunch on Sunday, then go see The Fall in the afternoon in Shirlington before grabbing Tea and heading to the mall for a little shopping prior to the concert. I will drive home Monday morning. Perfect little weekend get-a-way.

I hope to go see Mamma Mia on Friday evening. Maybe have some Mexican beforehand.
I will also be driving my advisor to the airport earlier in the day so we can chat about some changes I need to make to my schedule.

Project Runway was good tonight, But…I don’t like this one guy named Suede. He speaks in the 3rd person. Really irritating. One of the dresses tonight was amazing, though it didn’t win. I actually didn’t care for the winning dress.

The challenge was about NYC. The designers even took pictures of night time in New York and were to create a night time look relating to one of their photos. The dress I like was inspired by a rain grate…a beautiful architectural looking, rounded, black rain grate.

My Favorite Dress of the challenge on 7/30/2008

My Favorite Dress of the challenge on 7/30/2008

Well then…

I am off to DC. I had a change of plans. Couldn’t snag a light kit so I am going to go and see if I can get some shots in Arlington anyway. I think I will try and see the horse races while I am up there too, and of course go to the cathedral.

Best of all I have an appointment at my favorite salon, so I can get a little pampering.  I admit it, I miss some of the world I left behind, and that is one of the things I miss the most….getting to be a little bit of a princess.

Still owe Columns a story, but waiting on some editorial feedback before I finish it off.

I have the Chaplain Facebook group up to date from my point of view, I am hoping the rest of the ladies get a chance to add their stuff before we do a PR push.

I also put in a call to Rev. Barkley Thompson’s office. I hope to get an appointment with him soon about discernment.

~Ciao bueno~