Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mom and I opened the forbidden door. Not that it was "off limits" as a verdict from my parents, but behind that door was a room, a series of rooms. Behind that door were steps to an old, dingy, dusty, poorly lit area where floorboards creaked and squirrels, racoons and rumor has it - ghosts all roamed the walls. The attic. I hate the attic. Almost as much as I hate the basement which has an equal amount of creepiness after you trade in the dust for mildew and the squirrels for spiders. Truth be told, there are two rooms in the attic I've never even been in (and two tunnels in the basement...).

But the attic holds several large boxes and bins of my "possessions." December of 2000, mom and I packed them up, labeled their containers and hoisted them up to the attic.

Five full years later, we're retrieving them. I want to buy a house in Austin. It's time. I'll be 28 soon, I have a real job, I've experienced real love and real pain and by golly it's time for me to get to process my life in a clean well lighted place that I will be able to call "my own." Selfish? Perhaps. But the time feels right, so before I came home to Missouri, I got a loan, a real estate agent and a list of houses and began the search.

And now I'm beginning to get it all together. My stuff that is. Hopefully my life will follow, but who knows.

So mom and I began the journey up to the place I only force myself to visit thus beganing my journey back to a place I haven't visited in a very long time.

I know five years isn't a long time when you're eighty, or fourty or maybe even thirty. But it is for me, and I had forgotten so much. And so, I began the process of remembering.

There were two things I knew I would find. Yearbooks were the first. What I didn't expect to find alongside them were graduation hats, diplomas, a letter for the jacket I never bought and a couple of pins and graduate awards. College and high school: eight years meshed together into one pile of paper and fabric.

I peeked into one box. "Uh, this box is mine, mom. But what is this crap? Get me a garage sale box - enough time has passed to me to get rid of some of this stuff that held too much sentimental value for me to throw away before." Don't ask me why though. Probably because such items were gifts from people I cared for. I always had a hard time disposing of gifts I hated when they came from people I loved: cheesy Christian calandars I once found inspiring and cute quotes etched in glass. Garage sale... garage sale... garage sale.

And then there were the items that I didn't even recognize. Why had I put this ugly jar into my box of "keepers"? Because it once held the pens I used to write bad poetry with in high school? Because I used it for... because someone important gave it to me... because? I couldn't tell you. Or rather, I couldn't remind myself. That memory is gone.

There were books, lots of children's ones that will go back up to the attic to await the arrival of grandchildren. And there was memorabelia from trips: Israel's hand pic was there that I used on the dig, along with my gloves, an artifact and Israeli soda bottles. There were cards, letters and awards that will probably be saved and put in a scrapbook someday. There were empty bottles of wine. What from? From France. The bottle David and I shared in Montpellier. The one I brought home to drink with my family. Both went in the trash.

And then came the nick-nacks box. I knew it would be in there: the second item I remembered packing away.

My senior year in college, Amy and David took a pottery class together. Amy is my sister, David was my college boyfriend, the first man I ever intended to marry. The goal of the class was simple: produce 100 items (bowls, plates, vases, whatever) and receive an "A." The grades went down from there.

This was a funny, but classic time in our lives. David and I'd been together off and on for four years, and Amy and David were BFF's since we'd never had a brother and he was the first boy and thus "brother" I ever brought home. The class was from 7:30-10am. David rarely made it to class on time. Often Amy would go ring his room at the dorm until he would struggle out of bed. Neither did it look as though David would be getting his 100 pieces finished, so Amy the artist worked overtime throwing pots, firing and glazing them, and marking the initials DJC in the bottom of them. This of course irritated me because I wanted David to work harder, be more diligent with his studies, succeed. So I was always hounding him to go to the art building off hours, get his pots done, catch up!

One night toward the end of the semester, David and Amy were down at the studio working extra hours trying to produce 200 pieces between the two of them. I could not understand why David was moving so slow, why it seemed to me that Amy was finishing so much more quickly. I though a little motivational lecture from me might speed up the process, so I bundled up against the William Jewell winds and headed for the art building.

I knew the downstairs door by the kiln would be open so I headed that direction. I was right, as I always was back then;) so I entered the studio.

I saw Amy there and some of the other students. And then I saw David standing next to a table. "Dave! What's taking so long? I don't understand why you can't get these pots done. This is ridiculous. You said you'd be over by 8 and it's 8:45 and I'm sick of waiting for you. What could possibly be so difficult about throwing a pot? And why didn't you work harder earlier in the semester so we wouldn't be having to do all this now?"

At some point during my tirade between the hand gestures and the exasperated gasps I looked at the table next to Dave's right hand. And there it sat. His work in progress, his secret, his gift for me that kept him from finishing his pots: a large cyramic turtle, hand made.

I love turtles.

And I knew immediately it was for me.

Moment of dillema: do I pretend I didn't see it and leave ever so un-graciously? Or do I acknowledge the unfinished secret gift that I just totally ruined.

A smile crossed my face. "Is that for me?"
"Is that why you haven't been able to finish your pots?"
"Oh," (awkward pause as the other students stare at their feet, embarrassed for me and for me).
"Well, I love it."

And I helped the boy finish his pots. I threw one, but was horrible at it and so moved on to glazing. I let David finish the turtle and helped pick out the colors. It was fired and shined and finally given as a present. One year later, David asked me to marry him. I said no, put the turtle in a box in the attic and moved to Texas.

Other than the yearbooks, that was the only thing I knew I would find, and I've wondered as I thought of those boxes in the attic, how I would respond when I someday opened them up and saw it again.

That someday was today. And nothing happened.

I sat it and some pots and vases with the initials ACP and DJC that had been given to me in college on the bathroom counter and called Amy in to see them.

I held up the turtle.
"What's that?"
"The turtle David made me."

She didn't remember, but I did. The guilt, the joy, the decisions, the packing, the move, the men, the never-marriages. I remembered.

But I didn't do anything with it. I set it on the counter in my parent's bedroom and went downstairs to write. I didn't cry, I didn't laugh, I didn't have a nervous breakdown. I honestly just felt like going to bed, so I wrote instead. I didn't want to forget what I found. The memories: good, bad and awkward that I had packed away in boxes, that I unpacked and put in a garage sale, that I re-packed and loaded in my car.

Maybe I'll keep one little pot to remind me of Dave.
Maybe I'll keep one little calandar to remind me of hope.
Maybe I'll realize that hope lies not in memories but in mystery: in a God who I'll never understand like I once thought I could, in a life that exists not for the past, but for the future as life lived in choice hopefully for good, in a world that thrives on gifts, especially of ourselves.

What have I learned?
Where am I now?

I'm in Austin, Texas: educated, employed... and never empty.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas from Missouri!

Merry Christmas to Hawaii: Gloria, Ann, the Bystrom boys...
Merry Christmas to Pennsylvania: Sue and Freddy
Merry Christmas to Minnesota: Ardys, Phil and Stephanie
Merry Christmas to Florida: Jim and Bonnie, Kristie and Megan
Merry Christmas to Arizona: Yo, Jamie, Lindsey, Ryne and Shelby
Merry Christmas to Tennessee: Lynnette, Sam, Jon
Merry Christmas to Alaska: Heidi, Damon, Neil...
Merry Christmas to Texas: FBC, Mosaic, UBC, Lance, Josie, Bwack, Chris, Michelle, Bethany, Gabe, Julie, Billy, Renee, Jessy, Paul, Jen, Myles, Wee One, Wags, Darrell, Mel, Jess, Ash, Mike, Angela, Patrick, the Eades...

And to those here in Missouri who I have and have yet to see this Christmas: Mom, Dad, Amy, Emily, Grandma, Grandpa, the Campbells, the Smalls, the Hamiltons, the Rays, Zachary, Marsha, Moxi, Brooke, Danny, Katie, Rob, Mary, the class of 96...

And the list goes on and on. I love you all. Thank you for making me richer, stronger and more fulfilled.

Peace of Christ be with you this holiday season...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

36 years is a long time.

Longer than I've been alive.

That's only 27 years.

But my parents have been married 36 years as of yesterday. That means 35 Easters, 35 Christmases, 70 birthdays, 3 children, four grand-cats, 1 grand-dog and yes, 36 years of sharing life with another person.

Congratulations mom and dad. Here's to 36 more.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Chris Johnson says "Missouri loves company," and company has arrived. After a CRAZY weekend and a resulting illness, a friend (affectionately titled "the wee one") drove me to a town just north of dallas last night. I slept there in his parent's guest bedroom and awaking rested and excited, I headed for St. Jo Mo.

But I wasn't entirely sure I would make it.

Some of you who know me well may remember a little episode with my car in September of 2002. In an attempt to make it "all the way," i.e. a one day drive from St. Jo, Mo to Waco, TX, I awoke early, felt totally un-rested and as a result, fell asleep at the wheel in Marietta Oklahoma and wrecked Blackbell, my cute little toyota carolla. I remember promising Jeremy on the phone that I would be careful and not fall asleep, I remember my eyes groggy and heavy, and I remember thinking "I need to stop and get coffee..." and the rest is, well history. And a good story, but one for another time. Consequently, I haven't driven more than eight hours in one block since that year. But as I was saying, I felt good this morning and hit the road with high spirits.

The spirits faded, I admit, but my energy didn't. I missed Radley snuggling in my lap and I cried. I wondered whether my ex-boyfriend would propose to his new girlfriend this Christmas and I cried. I marveled not at the unpredicatibility of the world (whose cruelty is ceasing to startle me) but rather at my own unpredictibility and cried again.

Truth be told, I have very little control of my emotions right now.

But maybe that's a story for another time too.

Once at home, I realized that though we've put up another tree (number 4), and have now added decoration to the three daughters bedrooms, not much has changed. And everything has changed. Someone always cries (usually low-self-esteem-Ann, or I-can't-get-registered-for-classes-Emily, or that-movie-was-sad-Amy). I'd already had my cry for the day though and was passed the phone with Amy called. Amy has experienced change.

And Amy cries a lot. But not because anyone died, rather because tonight a child is born. Tamara birthed Quintin at 7pm. Doyle, Amy's soon to be former father-in-law called with the news. Where to one the child brings joy to another he brings pain.

I suppose the same could be said of Christ.

For me the Christ-child brings hope: imagine a God who would call both kings and shepherds to his birth. Roger preached a great sermon Sunday, calling the shepherds the "smarmy used car salesmen" of 2000 years ago. I'd never thought of them as such. Usually they fill the sweet little poor, stinky people role, not the untrustworthy, manipulative gypsy role. But God calls both. Does God really love everyone? Even the really shitty, manipulative, selfish fools?

And here, Christ brings pain too: the confrontation of my nihlism by my faith, my agony by a child, another human-yet-God who felt damaged and beaten as I do now.

Where the hell did all this pain come from?

I went to see Harry Potter, but when Cedrick died, something in my head clicked and I thought of Kyle, and in tears, my brain shut down and in self-defense, blacked out the remainder of the movie. I went to Petsmart as I entered, I smiled at the baby kittens displayed before me, until I reach the last cage filled with a fat tabby, colored just like my precious Radley. I burst into tears and hurried to the kitty litter section. Just when you think enough time has past, something triggers a memory and all is lost.

And so, misery loves company, but company I will not give.

"Watch a movie you haven't seen yet Amy, you have to create new memories."
"We'll go see the baby this weekend, you and me."
"Tell me about the Christmas cookies you made with Watts and Brooke."

That pepped her up. If pain isn't a testimony for community, I don't know what is. The key to surviving it is asking for help.

So help me.

Mom, dad, Amy, Emily, Grandma, Grandpa, I am fragile right now. I can't control myself like I usually can. My body and brain react to visions, sights, sayings I could never know to avoid. Help me get through the grief that is neverending.

And you are hurting too. There will only be five for Christmas this year. The first in five years. Odd. Wrong. But real. So I will help you too and together we will make it through this difficult yet beautiful season.

Missouri loves company.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I'm terribly deliquent. I'm sorry. Usually this is out by October, but it's been a rough season. Here you are though, as demanded. Happy Shopping!!

-A Mac Powerbook
-An Ipod
-DVD Jesus Christ Superstar The Movie (1974 version) If not this then, CD Jesus Christ Superstar, the original Broadway cast
-CD “Prayer Cycle” various artists
-CD Patty Griffin any CD (A Kiss in Time, 1000 Kisses, Living with Ghosts)
-CD GreenDay “American Idiot”
-CD Outkast "Speakerboxxx / The Love Below"
-Nintendo Game: Super Mario Brothers 2
-Nintendo Game: Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Jr.
-Nintendo Game: Dr. Mario
-Book: Genesis: Translation and Commentary by Robert Alter
-Book: The Book of Exodus: a Critical Theological Commentary by Brevard S. Childs
-Book: The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian McClaren.
-Book: The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
-Book: Proverbs-Ecclesiastes by Milton P. Horne
-Book: God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It by Jim Wallis
-Book: You’ve Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the Musical by Ian Bradley
-Book: Re-Understanding Prayer by Kyle Lake
-Gold Earrings – hoops, medium size.
-Black Leather Gloves
-**Mockneck Jacket in rhubarb or chocolate. RS194-555 Size Small.
-**Shrunken Cardigan in Celery Metallic or Lemon Metallic RS 186-619 size small.
-**Gift certificate to Victoria's Secret
-Velour jumpsuit in a chocolate brown color, or a soft pink color.
-Cute skirts for work (I have one in soft pink, one black one, one black pinstripe and one short khaki and the blue and green printed one mom gave me for bday).

** These items are from Victoria’s Secret Magazine # RS4803632 1-800-888-8200. I ask for a gift certificate in lieu of printing my undergarment size online :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

So I decided last night that I would take today off.

Last week (Sunday the 27th-Sat the 3rd) I worked 75...76...77 hours at my job?

Again, I love my job, but damn. By Saturday at dinner I was starting to shake as my eyes darted from person to person. My emotions were on edge and everything made me cry. Maybe I'm working a little too much.

Sunday wasn't much better. I had to finish out the long week with the start of a new one. Sunday night we had the alternative service on Waiting at Mosaic that I'd invited my FBC college students to attend. So I went to work at 8:30 am, taught Sunday School, Ecclesiastes, fun and uplifting, went to "big church," went to lunch with my college students, returned to church to prepare for the evening service. Acted in a skit and served communion at the service. Tore down afterwards and went out for food and beverages at 10:30. A little after midnight, I crashed into my bed. All I had to do on Monday was go to lunch with a woman from church. No need to set the alarm. Need to sleep in.

And sleep, I did. At 1:10pm, the phone rang. I missed the call, glanced at the clock, realized I'd slept past my lunch date and called back the number. It was Amelia. She was running late, and obviously I was too.

I slept until 1pm and only woke up because my phone rang.


I guess I was tired.

Last night after the service, I laid on the stairs of First Baptist and stared up the spiral to the ceiling. I didn't want to leave. That church feels like home and I certainly spend more time there than I do at my house. I'm becoming attached to a building. Is that right? Is that psycho?

Yes, it is.

I should consider returning to counseling.

It's good to love your job but, and I repeat... damn.

So I slept in today. I took out Mosaic's pastor's kids for a couple of hours. I needed a reality check. I needed to be with people, and children are by far, the best type of people.

We visited an exotic pet store and then went to PetSmart so I could buy hermit crabs for my office. Of course, we had to visit all the pets in PetSmart as well though and they had kitties.

"You have two titty tats," Alison says to me.
"Actually, I only have one now, sweetheart."
"Her other kitty died," Jackson informed his sister.

I knew Jack knew. Someone at church last week came up to me and said that Jackson had told him, "Ann's sad right now. Her cat died." Jackson is 6.

In the car, Allison began to talk about when she met my "two titty tats" again.

"You met them?" Jackson asked. Then the said, "I guess I'll only ever get to meet one of them." Sigh. Then he tried to help me with my sense of loss that he must of known I felt. "But everything on earth dies, Ann," he consoled. "But not in heaven. No one in heaven dies. But everyone on earth has to." He tried to explain his point further. "Cars die. Buildings die...if they're crushed."

"What about people?" I tested him.

"Oh, they're easy," he replied.

And he's right. We're fragile. Life is unpredictable. And I shouldn't work so much, should call my family more, and should take every opportunity to have dinner with friends.

This week I won't work 80 hours. I'll just work 4o, and I'll meet up with friends for drinks. And I'll try and go out on a date.

Or I'll just spend every day at work and let the secretaries dictate my social life.

It could be worse... or it could be beautful.
They say these things come in threes. They lie.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Thank you God for a pastor who let me preach my first semon in a church (and let me keep on preaching). Thank you God for a pastor who always smiled and hugged and sometimes poked which I never understood until after his death. Thank you God for a pastor who read lots and wrote lots and let that inform his theology. Thank you God for a "postmodern" pastor who wasn't "too good" or to "different" to join a book study with pastors who differed from him in age and worship style. Thank you God for a pastor who was honest. Thank you God for a pastor who dared to do a few things differently. Thank you God for a pastor who loved his wife and his kids more than life itself.

Thank you God for a dance instructor who loved art and never released that passion to age. Thank you God for a dance instructor who loved me and encouraged me and helped me learn to love the world in so many new ways Thank you God for a dance instructor who knew what it meant to lose and carry on. Thank you God for a dance instructor who always asked about me and reminded me that dance originated in the church...

Thank you God for a man who love the east side and the west side. Thank you God for a man who devoted his life to a church that was different enough to get him criticized, but open enough to listen and love him. Thank you God for a man who impacted people he didn't even know...

Thank you God for Radley.
Thank you for a cat who purred long and loud even after you'd finish petting him. For a cat that purred out of sheer contentment at being by his mommy's side.
Thank you for a cat who thought he was human, hanging out at parties and meetings, claiming his chair, welcoming the guests.
Thank you for a cat who loved to be massaged. Jeremy figured that out, or maybe he created that, but Radley loved a good massage. Smart cat.
Thank you God for a cat who was so close to humanity that when his brother misbehaved, he and I would just look at each other in helplessness and sometimes annoyance. I'd roll my eyes and Radley'd close his eyes and we'd go back to sleep.
Thank you God for a cat who would re-adjust his position on the bed to make sure a part of him was always touching a part of me.
Thank you God for a cat who never misbehaved or embarrassed me at the vet.
Thank you God for a cat who never ran away and always knew how to find home.
Thank you God for a cat who was sweet to strangers unless they threatened his brother or mother.
Thank you God for a cat who let me kiss him on the nose without flinching or turning away.
Thank you God for giving me three years with a cat who loved me more unconditionally than any human ever will.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My friend, my baby. My cat. Melodramatic as it may seem, I loved this animal. And he loved me back.

Radley, you were calm, calming, loving, friendly, well-behaved... a beautiful cat and my first "baby."

I love you...
I still have a little bit of dirt underneith my fingernails from when I pushed the dirt into his grave.

Not Kyle's though.


I watched Chris dig a hole as I huddled, shocked, sitting slumped on the floor by the bedroom window with tears running down my face. I could hear Chris coughing and saw him drop the shovel and bend over as if to get sick. Did he have a cold or did Radley's death make him vomit as it did me?

I sobbed in the shower, choking, getting sick.

I had called for him several times after I had put them both outside at 1:30am. Radley'd been misbehaving. Not sleeping, eating paper, knocking stuff off my desk: the usual. So I got out of bed and opened the back door. Zorba scurried out and I tapped Radley's bottom with my foot shooing him out as well. At some point, I awoke to a cat fight and opened the door to call both Radley and Zorba in. Only Zorba the scaredy cat came racing inside. At 7:30 I called again. I'm so used to Radley sleeping on my legs in the early morning, I wanted to spend the last few hours in bed this Thanksgiving morning snuggling with him. But he didn't come. At 10:30 Chris phoned and woke me up. So I arose and called for Radley again. He didn't come. I went to the front door to call again. A little girl across the street hollered over to me, "Do you have an orange and white cat?"

"Yes." Oh good. His collar must've fallen off, and they thought he was lost, and he's inside their house.

"Someone hit a cat with a car and put it in our yard."

I saw the cat in the grass. Breathe. It's not Radley. I can see from here the colors are too faded.

"Hold on, let me put on some clothes and I'll be over."

Breate. Don't panic. Don't cry. Breathe. Don't panic. Don't panic.

As I approached him though I saw Radley's gentle face. Then I saw the indent around his neck where his collar usually lays. I dropped to my knees as tears began to drop down my face. Oh Radley. I stroked his body. His paws were folded one across the other like he sometimes used to do when he was alive. Poor baby.

"I'm sorry," the little girl said. "We have cats too."

Her mother or aunt came out and gave her condolances and said something about a box.

I looked in his eyes which were still open. Oh Radley. I cupped the end of his tail which was the only part of his body without rigamortis. I pet him over and over again, crying.

I lifted him into my arms, stiff as he was and looked at the other side of his body, searching for clues to his death. All I saw was a little scrape on the back of his heal as if he'd been in a small brawl. No bones jutting out, no skidmarks, so "flat" anything. Just Radley, sleeping, stiffly.

Another neighbor arrived with a towel and I wrapped him up. We put him in a trash bag because we couldn't find a long enough box. I returned to my house and noticed how soft and fat his belley still felt. No rigamortis there either. I set him beside the trash can though I could never "throw him away." I looked up and saw Zorba watching us from the window. I began to sob and walked inside and into the shower I'd already started. That's when I got sick.

I've hyperventelated three times in my life. Twice over a man and once over a cat. All three over an empty heart.

I dressed, still wet and picked Radley back up. I drove to Chris and Michelle's.

All I could get out was, "Will you please bury him."

"Of course."

And that's where the dirt came from. I handed over my baby and went inside sliding to the floor, staring out the window. I watched Chris jump on the shovel to break the groung. He eventually pulled over the water hose and even had to grab the machete. The ground was hard as a rock and obviously unwilling to bury another creature prematurely.

Finally, Chris motioned for me to come out. I picked Radley up and laid him in the shallow grave.

I burried him in tears and dirt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dear David,

I won't read your xanga anymore because it makes me cry. I go to work for 10 or 11 hours a day, and I laugh because no one there reminds me of saddness. They don't know, they don't remember and it's a totally different world from the one I came from. But it is still the church and inevitably someone mentions a baptism or someone jokes about getting shocked. And only then do I experience a brief wave of pain, soft pain, the kind that makes your eyelids droop. They and the smile that momentarily lapses are the only visible sign that I remember.

But I do.

Just not much at work.

When I come home, I remember. When I am alone, I remember. When I pray, I remember. When I return to Waco, I remember. And when I read your blog, I cry.

And I don't want to cry anymore.

Why someone says, "God is good," I remember. When someone says, "I could just die!" I remember. When someone asks, "Any prayer requests?" I remember. And because I don't know how to feel, I feel guilty.

Don says Jen is doing so well. That makes me cry. But talking to Don is community. Reading your xanga on my computer at home at night is just me. Well, me and "the babies." I think you remember them. Kyle used Radley in a sermon one Sunday. You were probably on tour that week. But the babies aren't community that I can flesh out my saddness in, or cry and have someone notice and remind me it will be okay.

It's just me.

And I don't want to cry anymore.

I try so hard to remember so many things: names, dates, events, love, laughter... but this I want to forget.

Is that wrong?

Is it wrong that when I think of UBC all I think of is loss? Loss. Loss piled on top of loss like the flowers on Kyle's grave.

Doesn't that make you sad? How do you keep writing? How do you keep crying "victory"? I don't feel victory. I feel loss.

So I won't read your xanga anymore.

Much love and apologies for your loss that I know exists so much deeper than mine,


Sunday, November 20, 2005

I like my job. I just don't like my hours.

Sunday: 11-12 hour days and I haven't been to Mosaic in over 6 weeks...

Monday: not too heinous except that we have a lot of meetings on monday nights. so there goes monday nights, and not to something fun like friends or dinners or movies, but to meetings. boring. and the people aren't always even nice to each other. lame.

Tuesday: 12+ hour day. But I love this day. Staff meeting is fun for me, so is staff lunch and worship planning. Then Tuesday nights, I teach my literature small group for Mosaic which I treasure. But it's still a twelve-hour-plus day and another evening not given to relaxation or going out.

Wednesday: I try to come in late to work because Wednesday is church night, and First Baptist is very Baptist in this respect. I'm usually home by 8 but in bed by 10 cause by now I'm emotionally exhausted from Sunday thru Wednesday.

Thursday: This is a normal day. I try really hard to have Thursday night off, and just work during the day, but if I haven't spent a lot of time with my students, then this is a good evening for them... or for something else I need to do for work. It's been a couple weeks since I had Thursday evenings free.

Friday: Supposed to be my day off. Often I work on Saturday because of football cames, college students or preparing for Sunday. So I try hard to take Friday off. This past Friday I spent all day cleaning house, grocery shopping and preparing for a bridal shower. Not the funnest day (funnest, you like that? yep, English major.), but a day when I didn't have to stress out over work. But the Friday before that I had to go in. Special meeting.

Saturday: as mentioned before, this is a come and go day. Sometimes I don't work, sometimes I do. Yesterday I was sleepy with an earrache and a sore throat. Not a fun day off. Plus I had to research Ecclesiastes, which I like, but still, not fun work when you want to be in bed or out with friends.

Friends. I still have those right?

I know, I've neglected you. My days off aren't your days off. My lunches fill up quickly with appointments. And I get off work late in the evenings, but you work early in the morning. Or I'm having dinner with some stranger or going out with my new roommates. And when I am free, I'm tired, or sad, or unmotivated to go karoke-ing, biking, dancing or to a movie or whatever.

So friends, I'm sorry. I love you, I love my job, I'm finding my new roomies fun, and dating is always. . . well . . . dating is dating. You don't remember probably. You're all married. But I don't hold that against you. All this to say, I will try hard to balance these different parts of my life. I will try to adjust my schedule to allow much needed time for you and me. I will try to prioritize. I will try to wake up early so I can take afternoon breaks. I will try not to get a boyfriend so that you see me even less (although I won't try as hard on this last one).

I love you. I need you. I'm just a little busy right now.

Thank you for your grace...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I attended the Baptist General Convention of Texas conference briefly yesterday and Rockhurst's Women in Leadership conference today. I am conferenced out.

But I saw old friends at the BGCT, and that was good. I hadn't been back to the convention center since Katrina and Rita, so that was a little weird, but everything looked so different, I quickly forgot about it.

We often do.

Kyle's funeral brought old friends together again.

So did the Baptists.

Jeremy Everett, Chris Thacker, Jamie and Sean Allen, Carmen and Aaron Conaway, Chris Jones, Velma Porez. Old school Truett. Well, not Velma, she's covenant group Truett. But the others: old school. I miss them. They were a challenge and I was a spark. Then the tide went out, they moved on, and we got a new dean.

No comment.

So I stayed out until 2:30 am last night with them cause we just couldn't seem to pull away and make the night end. Unfortunately, I had to be at church at 8:30 to meet the painter who didn't show up until 9:30. That was not a sufficient amount of sleep. But the woman's conference today was interesting and I was reminded of good leadership skills, how to handle conflict and managing stress. And that reminds me of Professor Treadwell.

Speaking of remembering, I also saw a friend from High School, Erin Moore this weekend who drove in with her boyfriend to see the KU/UT game. It was like old times, and I was refreshed by her voice, her laugh, her facial expressions. We caught up on all the old crew. Who has how many children. Who's still single. Who's still in Missouri. Who's going to plan our 10 year reunion since Rick never will...

I'm only 27 but I feel already as if I have lived forever. And I'm already forgetting it all. I want to remember the smiles, the books, the challenges, the ambition, the love, the sermons, the travelling, the parties, the papers, the thoughts, the spirit of everything: high school, Jewell, Truett, Waco, UBC.

I don't want to forget anymore. God help me to remember.

Friday, November 11, 2005

My fortune cookie fortune is gone.

I'm not amused.

I blame the cats.

"Time heals all wounds, keep your chin up," it read. I pulled it out of what we always joked were "Bwack's brother's fortune cookies" cause Jay used to work at the factory that made the plastic wrappers.

But it's gone.

It used to be taped to my computer, right below the built in mouse that doesn't work.

Five bucks says Radley nibbled at it until it fell loose and then ate the scraps. He does that with papers, receipts, bills. But, I don't know, it's just gone. I looked at my fingers yesterday doing their thing on the keyboard, and noticed it no longer resided alongside my wrists.

Maybe Radley ate it.

Maybe God knows I don't need it anymore. And maybe I don't. I'm so mature and wise and never let boys hurt me.

Maybe Radley ate it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

okay, i'm late.

not that kind of late.

just blog late.

There's just been so much to process over the past week and a half.

I drove up Sunday the day of the dreadful event and attended the immediate service that evening. It was mainly designed for the college students. Baylor's former president, and interim president and chaplain spoke. The good part was that the chaplain is the former community pastor at UBC and so he knew Kyle well. He said if he'd flip Kyle the bird for leaving everyone in this position if he didn't know Kyle was standing next to the Great I Am. But that service was hard. I kept seeing people I knew from the past and present . . . Kris Freeman, Dorisanne Cooper, Jen Alexander, the band wives. To start the "service" Crowder's All I Can Say song came on and I broke into tears. That was Kyle's favorite song. Every time Crowder came out with a new album Kyle would say, "You know a band is good when you're still in love with songs from two CD's ago..." When I walked up to Ben after the service to offer my condolences and my services, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "It's so good to see someone who's not 18."

"As soon as I get my shit together, I'd be happy to help."

The next night wasn't much easier. Fortunately, I was staying with the Eades and Wes was in a reading group with Kyle and other local pastors, so he went with me to everything. Monday night was the viewing. Everyone waited in a 30 minute or longer line only to round the corner and be confronted with a table full of pictures. Cue tears. Then Kyle's brothers and then his parents.

"I'm Ann Pittman, I used to preach for Kyle." My eyes welled up. I tried to remain calm, as calm as Kyle's parents, but it was hard. "Oh honey, we know. He spoke so highly of you."

"Thank you. I'm so sorry," was all I could get out. "You're so gracious."

Then you entered a room floor to ceiling with flowers and a coffin. I stood behind the Wilibanks in line (another blast from the past - and she's pregnant with her fourth!) I walked up to the coffin and burst into tears anew. It was so wrong to see him there. I could hardly see him through my tears, but it was him and yet it wasn't. Kristi grabbed me around the shoulders in a hug. "We can't do this alone," she said.

Jen was not with the family, but in a room off to the side. I wanted to see her, hug her, let her know I cared. When I found her, she grasped me in a hug and then stood looking at her hands which nervously folded and unfolded a Kleenex.

"Keep praying for me Ann," she said. "What if in a few days when this becomes real, my hearts breaks?" My heart broke. "And the children. That they remember. I know the boys won't, but Avery, that she remembers."

"I love you," was all I could say.

Her heart will break, said Holly later that night as I laid in her bed crying. And it will be a long several years.

But Jen has such loving parents and a great family on both her and Kyle's side. And I believe she has the strength to make it through this. It will just be miserable for a long time.

The funeral brought some relief, and more friends. Jason Jenkins, Mars and Jason Mueller, Robert Pilgram, Kristi Sikes, Bushwar, Monte, Phil, Lynnette . . . For the first time, I felt good. Thanks to Crowder.

It started off painful. The family processed in, the organ played; it seemed very wrong and very un-Kyle. Then the speaker led us into the hymn, but David stopped the music and opened his mouth.

"I shouldn't be speaking. They told me not to, but they gave me a mic, so I just gotta." Then he relayed a story about Kyle always poking and hugging him (despite Crowder's distaste for physical affection or even contact) and it spoke volumes about Kyle's attitude toward life and reminded us of Kyle's playfulness. "Death has not won," David spoke into the mic. "It thinks it has, but it has not."

Finally, a step toward healing. Laughter. Theology. Familiarity.

And the road goes on.

I stayed in Waco until Wednesday night. I tried to work Thursday and Friday, but only managed a few hours. The rest of the day was spent in bed. Saturday brought funeral number two, the death of a beloved deacon of First Baptist and influential civil rights leader in Austin. He deserves a blog entry of his own. Sunday FBC celebrated All Saints Day and called out the name of every congregation member and loved one who died this year. After each name the congregation spoke in unison, "Thanks be to God." I think Roger called out "Kyle Lake" because he knew I couldn't. I stood next to Leigh Jackson and cried with her arm around me. I knew Leigh in seminary and never pictured us in that setting together, but God provides.

From Monday on, I've been better. I feel a little guilty because I know Jen, Craig, Ben, David and others are not better. But I know I can't stay sad either.

Yesterday I had lunch with Shanna Beth and we laughed at some of Kyle's sermon illustrations that were sometimes so funny, so creative, or even so bad. He was such a lively, beautiful pastor and father.

We will miss him.

As we approach this week may we love God, embrace beauty and live life to the fullest.

We will miss you Kyle. Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I've finally stopped crying. For now at least.

My pastor, colleague, and friend, Kyle Lake, died yesterday.

It's so wrong, so sad, so surreal. Friends from the past stare at each other in shock as our eyes well up with tears. Those who have to provide structure for the chaos are in denial. So many traumatized teenagers. So many grieving friends and family.

I cannot process it all. I cannot believe it. And I'm still waiting for someone to say it was another stupid stunt.

I can't even think of what to say because . . .

because . . .

it is just stupid. As Wes Eades told me last night, the world is just stupid sometimes.

But that's not much help.

As with Katrina and so many other tragedies, the laws of nature intersected with humanity, and humanity lost.

Jen, Avery, Jude, Sutton, Craig, David, Toni, TK, Ben, Jamie, Blair, Jordan . . . I am so sorry. I know I only feel an ounce of the loss you feel. I love you.

Good-bye Kyle. Thank you. I'll write more later. And I love you too...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I totally played softball last night for the first time in 20 years. Okay, maybe 18.

This is a weird story.

So I'm trying to get updated info on single adults ages 22-29 at FBC because we're starting a new Sunday School class for them (us). I've been emailing parents, calling phone numbers, talking to random people who have taken over those numbers or addresses... blah blah whatever.

So there's this guy named Jeb who I heard is currently living with his parents. I called them to speak with Jeb, to get his email so I could forward him the info. So I explain to him who I am, and what I'm doing. I get his email and we hang up. Not three seconds later, he calls back...

"Do you play softball?"

"Umm, not since I was a little girl...why?"

"Well, I coach this team and we need a girl player tonight or we'll forfeit. Wanna play?"

So I have this dilemma in my mind. I'm kind of shy (believe it or not) at meeting new people, I could talk or sing in front of a thousand people, but one on one with peers I don't know... plus, I suck at softball and am totally out of shape. Not to mention, I hardly know this dude. But then again, I need to network, show my parishioners I am interested in their lives... blah blah minister crap.

"Okay, I'll do it. What time?"

"9:15pm Kreig park."

So I get to the field, it's dark, I've gotten lost twice, but I do finally arrive and meander up to the group of people wearing the shirts Jeb had described. Oh god.

"Are you Ann?"


He introduces me to the other players who are dressed in total sports attire: wind pants, matching tee-shirts, etc. I'm in jeans and green tennis shoes...

"Let's warm up." He hands me a mit (because I obviously don't have one) and I steal at glance at his own to see which hand he has it on. The left. I should have remembered that.

He throws me the ball. I drop it. Oops. He throws another. I manage to catch this one, but wince at the sting it makes in my hand behind the glove. What a wus.

"Let's play ball," the ref calls out. So we herd into the dugout, and I am so nervous I could shrivel up and die. What am I doing here?

So I make multiple gross apologies for my ineptness in advance to my newfound teammates. I watch them hit and they're doing pretty well. No grand slams, but they've obviously played before tonight.

Then comes my turn at bat. Oh god, what am I doing here?

But I hit the ball. I always was okay at that (ahem, in the third grade). But as I'm sprinting to first, they easily throw it to the baseman and I'm out. Third out of course. Innings over. Oh well.

The game continues and Jeb puts me in as catcher (he must have noticed my horrible weak throwing arm) and warns me not to get to close to the batter so I don't get hit. Well, now I'm terrified I will (you know only I would return to softball after 19 years and get hit by the damn batter). So, of course I don't catch a single ball cause I'm too scared to get too close. And so the ump starts trying to slow them down and stop them with his legs and feet so that I don't have to go running after them every time. Then he gets whacked hard in the shins cause I miss a ball and it hits him. He has to walk off his injury. I'm mortified and giggling nervously, trying to crack jokes so he doesn't throw me out of the field.

And the rest of the game continued pretty much like that.

I did manage to "score" in the last inning, so that was fun. (I accidentally told my secretary at work that I had scored a goal. "Scored a run, darling," she corrected me.) One of the girls laughed at me cause I like to jump on the base when I land. It's more graceful I feel.

I grew up a dancer, not an athlete.

Although with my brilliant show last night, maybe I chose the wrong career.

Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Stupid allergies.

Great weather, but stupid allergies.

I sneezed all day long. Now everything on my face hurts.

Took two benedryl.

Must sleep now...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Man we partied hard last night. I haven't stayed up that late in a long time.

But it was my roommate's birthday (28 years!) and so we threw a 1989 Birthday Bash complete with "costumes" (yep it's been that long), milli vanilli tapes, Super Mario Brothers and St. Elmo's Fire.

As soon as I get the pictures, I'll post 'em.

I didn't actually know many of the 70+ people who came in my house last night (other than my 3 roomies, our resident boyfriend B, my ex KC, a friend i met online, and some friends of B's that I've seen at Mosaic once or twice.) And i did walk into my room late last night (read: this morning) to find Coop asleep in my bed. I guess she arrived at the party late and already tired, so she just crashed.

All in all, it was fun, the house has already been cleaned, and Mel had a great Birthday.

Rad man.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

After getting dumped by my latest "boyfriend," worrying relentlessly about my sister in med school, and suffering through FOUR fever blisters, I finally got my sermon written and delivered it this morning at First Baptist. Enjoy...

This is a tricky passage. Quite frankly this is a tricky chapter. We read earlier in the service the verses preceding those designated here by the lectionary. And the story tells us Israel is in trouble. But let’s go back a little further. In chapter 19, Moses went up on the mountain to receive the ten commandments, and in chapter 32 he returns back down to find the people that God led out of Egypt, the people God protected with clouds by day and fire by night, the people He brought through water safely, delivered from the Egyptians, and finally fed with food falling from the sky, Moses returns down the mountain to find the very same people who experienced all those things worshipping a fake cow built out of gold. Classy.

How quickly we forget what we have been given.

And how often we experience that same loss ourselves. We support our spouses through law school and then they leave us for their secretaries. We raise our children to the best of our ability even when we didn’t know what we were doing and in a fit of discontent, they drive out of our driveway and out of our lives. We give our money to an organization that we really believe in and respect, only to watch it be convicted of embezzlement. Or we love our churches only to discover that they too are filled with forgetful people who fight and split to start new churches not under the conviction of outreach, but under the influence of separatism and anger.

How quickly others forget how much we give them. And how quickly we too forget what we have been given.

Mortified at the naked prancing of his leaders around the idol fashioned out of bracelets and trinkets, aghast at the people bowing and chanting, praying and beseeching the oversized calf that three weeks earlier hadn’t even existed, Moses throws down the stones with God’s laws of love for the Israelites and stomps off to exchange words with his disobedient, forgetful people.
And God has a few things to tell them too.

In verse 3 of chapter 33 God says to the Israelites, “You go on up to the beautiful land that I have prepared for you. You go on up there you ungrateful people who I used to consider my own. But I’m not going. For if I were to go with you pompous, prideful people, I would become so angry I would destroy you.

Whoa. Quite a contrast from the “God is so good, God is so good…” that we sing in children’s choir. “I am so angry with you that were I to go with you, I would consume you,” God says. And the people get the message.

Realizing their folly at placing their trust in an object made of their own hands instead of in the love of a real and relational being, they rip their clothes, throw off what jewelry they were still wearing, and begin to weep and cry, mourning their loss.

All seems to be a lost cause. Yes, the people got out of Egypt, yes, they will have a beautiful, bountiful land to live in, but at what cost? They lost their God, their livelihood, their life.

But hope is not gone, for Moses puts aside his own initial anger and goes to talk with God.

“This nation is your people,” Moses reminds God. “How will anyone be able to tell that I and these people are yours if your presence is not with us? How will we be a distinct, unique nation, designed by your Hand if you take away your presence? Please God,” Moses pleads. “Please go with us.”

The people knew that without God’s presence they were lost. And they were at a loss as to how to get God to come back. But luckily for them, reminiscent of Abraham who pleaded with God on behalf of Sodom, their leader Moses pleads with God on behalf of them.

And God agrees. And God chooses to go with them.

Well, that’s one heck of a story, you may complain. What a fickle God to choose a people, deliver them, and then when the going gets tough, God gets going. Give me a break. Why did I give up my Sunday morning for this? Why would I want to participate in the worship of an inconsistent God like that?

And all of a sudden, we become just like the people in the story.

However what if the point of this chapter is not necessarily to tell us about God or God’s nature? At the time this chapter was written (which actually covers several hundred years because it is composed of three or more fragments of different stories pieced together by one author), but at that time 2700 years ago, the Israelites were still developing their theology of God, who God is, God’s nature, God’s relationship to people. The Old Testament reflects their developing theology. So I think this story may say less about who God is and more perhaps about who Moses is.

This is a story of a leader who saw the fickle nature of the people he had been given to lead, and instead of abandoning them in anger, he goes before the almighty God (who we know could have destroyed him with the blink of an eye) to argue their case.

And that is a beautiful story of leadership: a man who would put his own neck out on a limb for his people. Moses was afraid. In verse 12, he frets because he fears tackling the task of leading the people into the Promised Land alone. He tells God, “Hey, you haven’t sent anyone to go with me!” And he reiterates (perhaps to encourage himself even more than God), “I know you love me,” he says, “so please, go with me.”

And in the true form of a leader who loves his people, “and please God, go with them too.”

This story is a challenge for me. I’d imagine it is a challenge for every minister. I can’t imagine being the pope and having the pressure of being the priest of millions of people. I can’t imagine the daunting task of pleading their case before God. Fortunately though, I’m Baptist. And as Baptists, we have this beautiful little distinctive called “priesthood of the believer.” Now, this theology can mean several things. It affirms that an individual, you can read the Bible and interpret it for yourself using the brain God gave you. You don’t have to rely on a priest to tell you what the Bible says and what precisely it is supposed to mean. Priesthood of the believer also means that as a child of God, you can go to God whenever you want and wherever you want in prayer. You don’t need to rely on a priest to do it for you. You don’t have to go to the church, to the confessional and to the priest to talk to God. You have the authority as a child of God to pray to God in sorrow, anger, joy or confusion whenever and wherever you want. And priesthood of the believer then, allows you the privilege to petition God on behalf of your “people,” your community as well.

You are a lucky congregation. I’ve been here at this church for a whopping month and a half and in those 46 days, I’ve experienced many things. I’ve seen you rally together at only a moment’s notice to raise over $10,000 in one offering one Sunday to help victims of Katrina. I’ve watched you give up your Labor Day to gather and store items to ship off to evacuees of Katrina and then of Rita who we didn’t even know was coming. I’ve seen you get off of work to walk the neighborhoods of Austin to learn how FBC can better serve its community. I’ve seen you give up sleeping in on Sunday morning to teach or even just attend Sunday school, committed to your friends that you may only see once a week. I’ve seen you give up two Saturdays in a row to build Habitat houses. I’ve watched you open your checkbooks when you noted a need. I’ve seen you writing cards to those homebound or in the hospital. I’ve seen you offer your gifts of music, organization, economics, all your expertise and passions to help this community grow emotionally, worshipfully, exponentially, spiritually.

And I’ve seen some other things too. I’ve seen you bicker and argue and mumble under your breathe. But that’s nothing new. We are people living in community, and we get tired, haughty, distracted and forgetful of the love we’ve been given.

We can be so beautiful and we can be so blind.

You are lucky too, not only to be living with one another in a community who loves each other, but you have people that you have called to work full time as your leaders, and I want to tell you this morning that they love you very much. Roger, Louise, Dorothy, Kevin, and Doug are all committed to leading and loving you. Marshall, Ginger, Janet, Judy, Kathy, Jack and others are all committed to serving and loving you. And I want to affirm in you today that even though I have been here only a short while, your love overwhelms me, and I too am committed to serving, leading and loving you back. You are a lucky community and I think Moses would have been proud.

You see, I bet there are times when God looks over at us and thinks, “what in the world was I thinking loving a people like that?” Perhaps there are times when God wants to abandon you, me and us as a whole. It’s na├»ve to think that today we are doing so much right in our materialistic, individualistic world that we never disgust God.

But when we get off course we can take heart, for we have not only the pope and the priests and our pastors and ministers to intercede before God, but each other.

And because God loves us and is committed to his children, God’s presence goes with us.

I met with a man earlier this week who told me a story. He said that many years ago, he became involved in a lawsuit, the victim of someone who wanted to rake him over the coals, milk him for all he was worth. And he wasn’t worth much. In fact, he couldn’t even afford a lawyer. So he was going to defend himself. But the night before the trial, he ran into an old friend who happened to be a very affluent, effective and prestigious lawyer in the state of Texas. As they were talking, my friend asked his old friend for some advice on the case. The man replied, “Well, who’s your lawyer?”
“I haven’t got one.” my friend said.
“Well you do now.”
So the next day they were standing in court, my friend the defendant and his lawyer, and then the prosecuting lawyer and his client. The judge shuffled in, rustled around with some papers and finally looked up. His eyes opened wide when he saw the famous lawyer defending my friend. “Sir,” he said, “What is a man of your reputation doing working on a two-bit case like this?” And without batting an eye, the lawyer said, “Judge, I’m working pro-bono. I believe in this man and I believe in his case and I’m here to defend him.” Almost immediately, the prosecuting attorney began to move to dismiss the case because of the power this lawyer brought to the room. Later that night as my friend drove home his eyes welled up with tears as his thoughts turned from his generous lawyer friend who defended him to his Savior Jesus Christ who would one day stand beside him before an even greater judge to intercede on his behalf.

First Baptist, we are a people who need to continue interceding for each other and for the world around us. This world is hard, and we cannot combat it alone. We need to continue to be people petitioning God on behalf of each other and begging for God’s presence to remain with us. For it is not a budget or a building or a program or a pastor who will either ruin us or make us more, but a community of people interceding for each other and begging God to go with us.

And God is faithful, and so must we be.

On the front cover of your bulletin is an excerpt from a song by Lori Chaffer called Hush. I think the words and the story it tells is beautiful:
When you feel like the days just drone on and on
And you feel like the night’s so quickly gone
And on the inside you feel like your heart’s just gaping wide.
And on the inside you feel like no one’s on your side…I am.

I am. I am.


Ann Pittman
October 16, 2005
First Baptist Church Austin

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

lynnette tagged me...

5 things I plan to do before I die:
1. sing in professional broadway show
2. get married
3. own a huge fish tank full of turtles
4. return to france
5. publish a book

5 things I can do:
1. sing
2. write
3. preach
4. organize stuff
5. speak frankly with my mother

5 things I cannot do:
1. play the banjo
2. run a mile
3. date republicans
4. make myself invisible
5. eat fish

5 things that attract me to members of the opposite sex:
1. creativity (i'm addicted to artists! musicians, photographers, you name 'em i've loved 'em)
2. intelligence and openness
3. strong arms
4. sense of humor
5. maturity and wisdom

5 things I say most often:
1. g.m.a.b.
2. that's fabulous
3. #@&!
4. the babies!
5. that's lame

5 celebrity crushes:
1. Toby McGuire
2. Jimmy Fallon
3. the guy off of Prison Break
4. Tiger Woods
5. Beonce

5 people I want to do this:
1. Michelle
2. Sarah Pitre
3. Jen A
4. Steph Krall
5. someone i don't know who reads my blog...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I guess I should say a few more positive things about the weekend other than my financial woes. After all, I have a job that allows me to pay off that costly weekend, right? Right.

So what else happened you ask? Well, mom and I went to Austin City Limits together compliments of the church. (Yes, I am really digging all the free stuff I'm getting from students - Dali Lama ticket, and from congregants - 2 tickets to ACL.) So we got to hear Death Cab for Cutie and Jet which was really fabulous. We left before Oasis (sigh*), but I'll survive.

Plus, the boys' new CD is really amazing. Parts 2 and 3 especially. Tracks 11-19 are comprehensively the most creative, lyrically solid and generally innovative pieces I've heard in a long time. And I live in the live music capitol of the world. Kudos to you boys, you've seriously outdone yourself.

Big Phil was in town with his wife Stephanie whom I haven't seen since their wedding in January. Bwack flew them in for the concert. Plus our Rita evacuee friends, Josie and Lance were stuck in Waco to their chagrin but our delight. So it was a blast from the past with regard to community.

Carol loved FBC too. She thought the church was visually stunning (it is), and even though the service was different (it was an ordination service for a young woman finishing seminary), mom cried and so I knew she loved it.

Minus the car trauma, the weekend was fabulous and I'm so glad mom got to come down.

I love you...

Crazy Carol came to visit me at the end of September. Her birthday was the 26th, and we spent the day eating lunch at Buzzard Billy's in Waco, going to the DCB CD Release Party ("how sweet that David's throwing me a birthday party") and taking my not-so-trusty vehicle to the car doctor after it broke down on the highway. Yes, that was a costly endeavor.

My car quit working at the most convenient of times as is always the case. While shopping with my mother, I had just purchased my first two real pieces of furniture, pictured above. One is a delightful vanity and the other a chair for me to sit in while I play nintendo. That of course set me back a couple hundred dollars. But it was worth it and afordable. What a big girl I am.

Plus, it was mom's birthday. So we had to get manicures together (in fifty-blah blah mumble years, mom had never gotten one!). Then lunch with my poor (literally) friends two of whom were refugees, and then, just when i was getting so proud of my money management and spending it on my mom and friends just cause i could... "um yeah, yer starter's gone cuz there's a leak in yer valve probly caused by yer belts which shoulda been replaced at 60,000 miles."

17,000 miles later, mom and i are driving down the highway at 40mph in 108 degree heat with the windows up (cause they're broken too) and the air conditioner turned off for fear that the shuddering the car was already doing might actually shake the car to pieces. yikes.

All that to say, in one weekend i spent $1,100. Never before in my life. And hopefully not again for a long while...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Paul Chambers died, and another part of my life is gone.

That's a closed door I guess. I've always entertained thoughts of moving home when the money or the motivation ran out, moving into my grandparent's basement, scrapbooking, volunteering and dancing for Paul again.

But that will never be.

I haven't cried. God, I cried a river when Cliff died (yes, his lover. die now and then read on you homophobes), but i was a little girl then, and i would dance on the same stage as David Parsons at the memorial performance and watch "Caught" from the wings. And it really was glorious.

But Paul is dead and who dances now?

Saying good-bye is getting harder, and I am becoming more stale...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chris Johnson says I go to church more than the Holy Ghost.

He might be right.

But I love my job. I love it so much, and I know that I am blessed (sorry for sounding so churchy) beyond measure. Holy shit (sorry grandma), I can't even comprehend how many things fell into place and how seriously face-in-the-sand i should be with my reverance towards God.


Isn't that always the case with us humans. But... However... If only...

And I found myself with tears streaming down my face Monday night thinking just these things. Why would God ask me to leave the man I loved to pursue a profession? Why would God bring two people together just to divide them with separate callings? Why give love and then take it away with gifts?

I don't know the answer. And to be quite honest, I realized that in the past two years, I haven't placed much stock in God's presence in my love life. Maybe that's why I've been making the dating decisions I have.

Of course this two years follows the leaving of someone I loved due not to incompatibily of spirits, but incompatibility of professions.

I just hope the members of a certain Christian worship band know that's why. So when they (and you) sing "Glory to Him, He is holy," they know what holiness cost. Love.

Hello and Good-bye. We are called to different lives.

I am Jeremiah. And I may not be called to normalcy. And I may not be called to love. But I am called to preach and "love" under very unique circumstances. And so it goes.

And so it goes.

And You're the only one who knows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

His Holiness the Dali Lama spoke yesterday at UT and I got to hear him. One of the many perks of my new job as a college minister! He was adorable, putting on a red visor half-way through the event cause the lights were too bright. He remarked on Americans' ability to laugh at his jokes (whereas Britain just sat in silence).

Here are my personal notes from this "humble monk" who spoke on "Individual Responsibility in the Global Community." Some of the language is funky cause I was writing what he was saying and translating a little here and there on my own. Mostly, these notes are all in his own words however...

"I am one of you. I am the same. We are both human. Physically, emotionally we are the same."

What is the thing we call "I"? We desire a happy and substance-filled life - to overcome problems. Our purpose is happiness.

Animals and plants have certain rights to exist. But our unique intelligence is helpful to achieve happiness. They also hurt us . . . Expectations, doubts, fear, etc. Intelligence should not cause more problems.

"We" and "They" language is no longer relevant. We need to broaden our worldvision - broaden our minds so our problems as individuals become much easier to bear. People who use the words I, me, my, mine are more prone to have heart attacks... think "other."

When you broaden your vision beyond yourself, you develop inner strength and more self confidence and less fear. This brings about peace of mind. Thinking globally is a huge benefit to the self. Prayer trains your mind. Peace of mind brings physical health.

I (Dali) have nothing to offer you buy my personal experience.

Reality is, everything is interdependent. Our approach (picking one factor) is in reality, unrealistic. This is not a holistic view.

Materialism is false hope.

Look inward and feel the emotion. Some emotions are useful to bringing inner strength and happiness and others don't. We must make distinctions between emotions and understanding the reality of our emotions better. Some emotions are instinctual and some come through training and reason.

For example, attachment. Often what you feel is an exaggeration. Same with anger.

We explore outer space, spending billions of dollars, but perhaps it would be better to explore our inner self. We can only understand happiness experientially, not externally. Stop thinking about your houses and jobs and start thinking of your inner self. A basic stability of the mind and calmness protects you because when disaster strikes, it is not so traumatic.

Look at events from different angles. On the one hand things may be painful, on the other, more positive. Then we learn and grow out of that and it becomes an actual opportunity. Creatively, we transform these tragedies into opportunities.

1. Inner value/strength brings peace of mind which brings a substantial life.

Our intelligence can help us overcome every obstacle. But that obstacle may be our intelligence - that we can't see reality.

We need more gentleness and compassion. We are not taught affection - we do it naturally from the day of our birth. Why is human affection natural? Because it is crucial to survival. Nature requires the butterfly to exist as an individual, but birds and mammals instinctually rely on each other, like humans.

Therefore our teachers and parents MUST show affection to their children. This will give them clear minds and the ability to learn more. At a young age affection is crucial not only to survive but to create quality human beings.

Sometimes anger protects you (ex: a mosquito - anger will kill it and protect you from further suffering, whereas patience may give you malaria). But decisions in the heat of the moment are not your normal mind. It is blind energy, self-destruction.

Compassion affection and caring are opposed to anger, hatred, etc.

Since WWII, humanity is becoming more unified and more opposed to wars. But we still need to work for world peace. Mechanisms for peace are inner strength, confidence, etc.

Distinctions between rich and poor result from lack of concern for others - same with ecological problems.

2. Religious harmony - religions have different issues and stories, but the same message of love.

There are two aspects of every religion: Theology and Experience/Practice/Ethics. The theology is different, but the ethics are the same. All religions can help humanity and all are needed to strengthen basic human values.

After some questions, he made the following comments...

Terrorism indicates negligence in the past.

Solve your problems with dialogue. Tell your children. Equip your children to talk.

Violence is unpredictable.

Suggestions for the world...
1. No more nuclear weapons
2. Reduce armed forces
3. De-militarization

Solve your problems with humility and dialogue...

Friday, September 16, 2005

So i think i'm getting sick and that is no good.

I had coffee with a gentleman last night (actually I had an italian soda - raspberry and orange - fabulous!) and as we sat outside I felt what I thought were allergies coming on. A sneeze or two occurred.

But then today I woke up with a sore swollen throat. Uh oh.

But I went ahead and went forward with my lunch date today, taking a shower, wearing clean clothes, gargling with salt water, swallowing tylenol, all the things my mother would tell me to do to try and trick my body into thinking is is well. but I'm not sure it has worked. Now I have a runny nose too.

Buh! (as an old friend would say). That makes me cranky. I've no time to be sick - especially on my "off" days. And I only get one a week!

Speaking of days off, I'm fighting hard to keep from going into work today, even if I'm feeling bad. "I just want to check my work email," I tell myself. Or, "I just need to write one little set of learning goals." But no, I will be disciplined and I will take a day off damnit. I at least need to give the impression of trying to be a healthy individual and not a nerdy workaholic - right?


So I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well, had anyone showed up for the 1:00pm Protestant worship service in the convention center, this is the sermon I would have preached... but no one did. Of those who are still there, most were either sleeping or waiting for their number to be called for housing, FEMA, jobs, hairdresser or whatever line they were sitting in. But before mom asks me to send it to her, here it is, enjoy...

Soon ah will be done with the troubles of the world, the troubles of the world, the troubles of the world, Soon ah will be done a with the troubles of the world, and goin’ to live with God. No more weepin’ and a wailin’, no more weepin’ and a wailin’, no more weepin’ and a wailin’: goin’ to live with God.

Soon. But not now.

Right now you live in a convention center. Right now you can’t find your children. Right now, you don’t have a job.

Soon we will be done with the troubles of the world, but not today.

In New Orleans you had a house. It wasn’t huge, but it was home. Your grandchildren knew where to find you, as did the neighborhood boys who always seemed to find their way to your front porch with their harmonicas and pants that drooped too low.

But the rains came down and the floods came up and now everything has changed.

Now you sit in a convention center feeling sick with disease.
Now you sleep shoulder to shoulder with people you don’t know.
Now you wonder if you’ll ever stop seeing rushing water when you close your eyes at night.

And you cry out to God with prayers on your lips and in your dreams. You plead with the Master of the Universe to have mercy on the people who have been displaced across America. You beg God to see, to relieve, to fix, to love, or at least to cut you some slack for-the-love-of-God.

But take heart, you are not alone and never have been.

The Bible is full of people crying out. Lamentations reads, “Remember O Lord what has befallen us; look, and see our disgrace! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to aliens. We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.”[1] Psalm 69 reads, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”[2]

Although these poets speak metaphorically of their lives, these passages bring forth real images for you. Both you and the poets of 2500 years ago cry out for mercy from God. But there is one distinct difference between you and them. In each of these passages, the poets acknowledge their sin and transgressions that have antagonized their souls and tormented their spirits. Their wrongdoings caused their pain. But for you who saw the waters wash away your homes, you sit with a different ache inside your soul. You did not cause Hurricane Katrina, you did nothing to provoke her fury, and your tears of anguish come from victims’ hearts. And so, the psalmist’s words are not for you today. And neither today are the prayers of lamentation. Rather today, you are like the Israelites in Egypt who cried for mercy when they found themselves helpless in a foreign country due to no fault of their own. The new Pharaoh feared their strength and so enslaved them to the land. He feared their numbers too and ordered the murdering of their newborn sons. Imagine the anguish not only of unrequiting physical labor, but the emotional torment of losing your babies to the sword.

But deep in the pain of Egypt, we find God. In Exodus 3 God tells Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians.”[3]

God remembered Israel, and through Moses’ leadership he delivers his people from bondage and oppression! And though Moses often got cold feet, God persevered to protect and free His children. God heard their cries and knew their pain, God remembered His people. And the good news is, He remembers you too!

Yes, it will be a painful process to relocate, re-situate and create new roots. Yes, it will take time and energy and spirit you may not be sure you still possess, but God remembers His children, and God remembers you. God heard the sound of your saxes in the streets of New Orleans, and those saxes will sing again. God saw the dancing on the rooftops of people whose blood pumped to the beat of the jazz club below, and God tasted the gumbo that went into the mouths of every foreigner you fed. And now we feed you. You, who gave your spirit to us and your souls to God, will now be tended to. For God has not forgotten, and neither will we.

There is hope.

On TV we see what once was New Orleans and we are homesick or afraid. We are reminded of the passage from Lamentations that hits so close to home. “How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations!”

But the good news is that though waters poured over the land you once called home, God pours over your hearts with his love, compassion, tenderness and hope. Our God is like a mother who sits in her rocking chair, cradling her child, and singing the songs of her grandmothers into his small ears. Our God is like a warrior going to battle for you as he warms the hearts of your new neighbors in Austin, and breaks the hearts of the government that has failed you time and time again. Our God is like a song that soothes your soul in time of trouble, and reminds you of a unity and peace only achievable through his love and beauty.

And so we cling to the Exodus story of a God who remembers his people. We write God’s remembering on banners across our hearts. And we make Psalm 10 our daily prayer: “Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed… You do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan… O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.”[4]

Our God hears your prayers. Our God sees your tears. Our God commends your courage. And our God works diligently on your behalf, and so will we. Take heart, God remembers and hope has come. You will rise from this pit of pain to walk with newness in the hope and love God offers His people. God sees, God knows, and God heals.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrow like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”


Ann Pittman
Austin Convention Center
September 15, 2005
[1] Lam 5:1-2
[2] Ps. 69:1-3
[3] Exodus 3:7-8.
[4] Psalm 10:12, 14, 17, 18.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What to say? We now have refugees in the convention center downtown. They will sleep tonight shoulder to shoulder on the floor. This will not just be for tonight or for the rest of this week, but for months.

It makes me want to buy a house, a two or three bedroom one, and invite families, couples or individuals in to stay. But there's nothing I can do to house them now.

Our best option is to help get them out. Buy movie passes, or museum passes. The flood victims' vouchers won't arrive until Tuesday at the earliest because the mail doesn't run tomorrow. Our church office which was to be closed Labor Day, will open tomorrow to bring in supplies for relief. Roger preached a moving sermon this morning (as usual) calling FBC to respond immediately to our new neighbors here in Austin.

At Mosaic, Seth led us in a song written by a psalmist, put to music by Laurie Chaffeur...

"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we thought of home so far away. On the branches of the willow trees we hung our harps and hid our hearts from the enemy. And the men that surrounded us made demands that we clap our hands and sing. Please don't make us sing this song. It used to be happy when we were free and home. If I can't remember, may I never sing a song again. I can't. I won't. I feel so far away."

Of course, this references Israel's exile to Babylon when they too lost their cities, their homes and to many, their religion which was entirely wrapped around the Temple where God dwelled. Can you imagine being told to sing, worship, and rejoice by the priests? How could they? They lost their God. Of course out of the exile came synagogues and a reminder that God is not just a God of the Temple, but the God of a covenant, a God who dwells with his [sic] chosen people.

I believe that God will make good result from this pain. If these waters are such that rain down like justice, then, as my pastor says, it is not the judgment that some fundamentalists are claiming, but rather judgment on us as a nation who fails to help the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed. To the corrupt city governments who turn a blind eye and take the bribe, to the police forces who sell more drugs than they extricate, to the racism, rape and pillaging of the hearts and homes of the poor, we stand judged: we the white, we the rich, we the religious, we the people. A wise friend wrote me, "Katrina has pulled back the covers, rendered the curtain of the temple and said, "Look at how you treat the least of these...look! LOOKGODDAMNIT!"

Let justice roll down like mighty waters . . .

"Poor, poor America" who used 9-11 to not remedy relations overseas, but to kill and destroy innocents, de-humanize our neighbors by creating a monstrous "enemy," and boost our self-esteem through shopping.

When will we stop crossing to the other side of the road?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

okay, another website. it's a must see. i've added it to my favorite websites.

enjoy! . . . (and try not to be depressed, disillusioned or disuaded from the truth. truth may just some day prevail).

Monday, August 29, 2005

I am no longer homeless. whew! That was a trial.

In case you missed it, three weeks ago i moved to waco. two days later i got a call from fbc austin asking for an interview. two weeks later i started my job. and then i began living out of my car.

my bed, dress clothes and chair were located at sabrina's... my normal clothes, desk, mary kay products and nintendo were in olivia's and my bedroom in the eades house... my computer, backpack, toothbrush and empty crab fish tank were in my car... all the rest of my shiz-ite was stuffed back into the eades garage as it was a year ago. to everything a season and to some things two.

so after anxiously working in the mornings at fbc and then househunting in the afternoons, i finally settled at at house on the eastside (please insert proper vocal inflection and make the 23 symbol with your fingers). i'm living with three other girls, one of whom i know from mosaic (yeah jess!) and one of whom's parents own the house.

so rent is reasonable as was the deposit (unlike EVERYTHING else in austin). I do not have to pay over $700 for a house with an equal deposit and 300 dollar pet fee. again, whew!

obviously, i will not put my address or new home phone number on my blog, so friends, know that i will be emailing it out to you soon enough.

peace out from the eastside...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I got a job!! Through a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship grant I have been hired as an intern at First Baptist Austin. I will be trying my skills at every area of ministry from children to hospice, from liturgy to retreats. Specifically, I have been hired to create a college ministry. FBC sits downtown, just miles from over 4 colleges and universities, one of which houses the most students of any in the nation. So, they have hired me to go to shows, coffee shops, bars and campuses to talk to students about life, love, god and goodness. does it get much better than that? i'm super nervous, but ready to begin loving and serving this community. "we are god's eyes . . . we are god's hands." thank you blog faithful for all your support over the past year reading my rants and raves. i love you all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

s . . . i i i i . . . c . . .k . . .y y y y . . . That's what I would tell my mom if I lived with her right now. I'd put on my best "i'm pitiful" face and tell her I'm sicky. I'd crawl into bed and have her make me hot tea as she would make me gargle salt water. I have a puss pocket on the back of my throat (too much information, I know), and my glands have swolen to the size of large green grapes in my neck. my body aches and all i want to do is sleep.

but i'm not sleeping. michelle gave me a bunch of healthy organic pills to take and some emercenC, and then she told me to gargle with saltwater.

so i'm well taken care of.

i love friends who will listen to you gripe and then lovingly give you what you need. i love falling asleep on their couches at 8pm and having them cover me with a blanket and letting me crash. i love friends who become mothers and mothers who become friends. no wonder they call it community.

Monday, August 15, 2005

No more crankiness. ;) Life is in perspective, and it is good. I am coming much closer to aquiring a job, to being asked to serve, to getting paid. "Praise the Lord oh my soul . . ."

I saw a beautiful chapel today near Driftwood, TX. It had no walls, just open space - beautiful! It made me feel like I was in Israel again. Someday I would like very much to go back.

But in the meantime, I'm here, travelling only to Waco, Austin and back again. And that's enough travelling for this girl right now.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I'm cranky and frusterated today. Do not read further if you want to think nice thoughts about me . . .

Sigh. It is tiring being constantly critiqued by friends and professionals. I'm considering staying at The Buzz for the rest of my life. At least there I am a stellar performer - a fabulous waitress, a hard worker, a welcome smile (unless you're a lazy co-worker in which case you make me sigh and think rude thoughts in my head about you that i will probably share with my manager). It just sucks. How can some people be so screwed up and never admit it or work on it, and it's me who gets shat on with verbal diarhea laced with hypocrasy? please.

Maybe i'll move to canada or switzerland. that sounds like more fun. and the people seem amiable.

In other words, please stop comparing me to other people and just let me be me.

I am not perfect, I am not beautiful, I am not compassionate, I am not patient, I am not pleasant. But I am amazing, I am lovely, I am benevolent, I am persistant, I am charming.

Take the goods and the bads peeps, and for the love of god, will someone just love me?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Another "jorb" update (i'll love you forever if you get the reference!). There are a couple of churches in Austin who are interested in hiring me. No word from Florida, no word from Grand Rapids.

I'm inclined to think that I will be making some big decisions within the next month. So please pray, light a candle or send a pleasant thought to something somewhere with regard to my life. I need discernment with regard to gifts, dreams, and finances.

And thank you for your kind words and prayers already offered over the past year.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Well, I've done it. Back at the Eades and already life is turning and flip-flopping and i'm leaving kids sitting outside their school for an hour and a half.

Not entirely my fault.

Holly woke me up yesterday morning asking me to take Ben to trumpet camp at 10am. "You need to have him there five minutes early, okay?" Okay. So I set my alarm and went back to sleep.

Ben actually made it to school 9 minutes early, but didn't complain.

So 12:30 rolls around and I wonder when Ben will be returning and how. I have no idea where Holly is today (work, running, the Y . . .) or Abby for that matter (who now has a car). So I call Wes at work wondering if he knows if Ben went home with a friend or when I should expect him or any of the family home.

"You were supposed to pick him up at 11, Ann!"

oops. honestly, i don't remember holly telling me that.

So i rush off to pick up ben, and he greets me with a knowing smile. i apologize profusely, blame his father, and promise him anything he wants for lunch. sonic. and of course i had to get olivia lunch too so she wouldn't be jealous.

so i'm pleased to report that i am back in the swing of things here in wacky waco. $12 in the bank account and $7 of it went to sonic to fix my mistakes. lord. stay posted, more to come i'm sure . . .

Monday, August 01, 2005

I'm in Austin as scheduled. I sit cosily on Sabrina's couch in her house that she hopes to sell. I sit in what seems like silence save the dripping of water in the fishtank which I find very soothing. I do hear sound outside now that I'm conscious of it - Sabrina moving the lawn, the cars on the highway. Is this what it sounded like in the womb?

I think of old friends, of returning to waco to the Eades, to Jessy and Paul, to the porches that pulled us through so many seasons. I think of new friends, of Mosaic, of rebirth, of life, of potential. I think of friends missing: the Wee One, Phil, Bwack, Moxi . . . even David and Brooke and Swell. How can so many years of living make me only 27?

My bed is officially in Sabrina's spare bedroom. It has clean sheets and blankets. I will sleep here tonight. My life's collection is relocated to the Eades' garage and in Olivia's bedroom. The babies are in Waco, re-adjusting to life with Diablo, Lily and now Barley.

No word on the job front so I help friends manage their lives: sweeping drywall, cleaning porches, making beds.

And I guess life is beautiful - messy, unpredictable and often irritating, but peaceful sometimes too.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

I'm in Waco!!!

But I'll be returning to Austin tomorrow.

We made it though. Much love to Jen Wags, Chris, Todd, and Bethany. They loaded and unloaded and kept me sane throughout the day.

Tomorrow morning, church at Dayspring with the Eades, and then off to Austin to finish some last minute things. Church at Mosaic in the evening and then sleep until kingdom comes. Man am I tired.

More soon to come . . .