Table for one, please

There are times when I am perfectly content being on my own. Dining in a restaurant is not one of them. Especially on Sunday after church, when it seems most folks are connecting with family or friends, it seems weird to be solo.

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Recently, this was the very situation in which I found myself. Because my daughter just began serving at a new restaurant, I drove there with the intention of being the friendly face in her section. I would give her some encouragement and a fat tip while enjoying a meal with Prince Charming. When he was unable to join, I found myself there alone.

This is what I imagined my experience would be… without the todka vonic.

Sure, I could have easily sat at the bar, but that wasn’t her section, defeating the entire plan. That’s when I noticed a single lady also waiting for an open table. I asked if she was dining alone. When she confirmed this truth, I confessed my discomfort and asked if she would share a table with me. She agreed, and we proceeded to enjoy a lovely lunch.

While we didn’t have a lot in common, our conversation was certainly pleasant. It turned out she had been recently widowed – a major life shift after 35 years of marriage. Grief is a heavy companion in the early phases, and my church experience helped me to proceed with grace.

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I tried to simply be a good listener, but I think I may have been a little too forward in my suggestions for her healing. I tried to frame it with, I know this ___ has helped others, and this ___ has helped me. Be a mentor, volunteer somewhere, find a cause and get involved.

Why in the world would I know what she should do? I don’t even know what I should do most days, and I’ve known me forever! This woman and I had only met a few moments ago. My hope was that she was encouraged, but I’m not sure a bunch of ideas from me provided that. I know better than to offer my opinion so freely. It’s clear I still have work to do.

She did thank me at the end of the lunch, and I found a card to share my contact info. I don’t know if she’ll ever call, or look me up online, but I was glad for our shared time. Neither of us sat alone, and my daughter received her encouragement and a bit of cash.

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My lunch companion shared that sometimes the messages we need to hear come in unexpected ways. The message I needed was that it’s good to reach out to a stranger, and also, that listening is better than talking. Maybe the message she got was to politely decline the next time a stranger invites herself to the table?

This is where having faith comes in. I’m going trust that somehow we both gained something good from our shared table. The next time I have an opportunity to befriend a stranger, maybe I’ll skip it and find the courage to dine alone. Or, maybe I reach out and practice doing a better job of listening.

It’s all about observing, and evaluating, and doing better than we did before, right?

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

 

 

Breathe in, breathe out, smile

That was the Sunday morning message today. Which I watched from home in my PJ’s. Breathe in, breathe out, and smile. (If you haven’t had enough inspiration today, and you’d like to watch, click here.)

How is it that I got to stay home on a Sunday morning and leisurely watch church? Because our Pastor said it’s “Take a Break” weekend, and gave everyone the weekend off. No services. It’s been glorious and weird and exactly what I needed. Extra time to reflect and rest and relax. After the most challenging semester, AND moving, I needed it!

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There are no straight lines

Nature is so freaking amazing. I think I could call myself a Nature Nerd. I am one of those people who follows National Geographic on Instagram, and then follows all the individual photographers that are also on Instagram. If I enjoyed studying all that scientific stuff, I’d probably be a marine biologist, but then it would become work. I’d much rather enjoy the beauty of all the patterns instead of figuring out how it all works. So maybe not a nerd, maybe just a fan? Either way…

In spite of a crap ton of homework, I decided to spend a little time outdoors. Last night there was a camp-out on the 81 acres of our church property. I went just for the s’mores, the hayride, and to chat with a few friends. It was so beautiful out! The moon was shining down on us.

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Moonlight & firelight. Photo courtesy of Teresa Gowin.

There was a family of deer hanging out in the field, and the kids were climbing trees like it was their job. I regretted my lack of camping gear, and returned home to sleep in my comfy bed.

This morning, I went on an Eco Meditation Walk at a local park. It was free, and partially guided, and exactly perfect. I spent an hour outside (it was 72 and sunny) gazing at nature. We walked slow, we stood and breathed and listened, we sat and meditated, and then shared our experiences.

Each of us had a unique perspective of our time. One lady shared about having breakfast with the squirrels, as they were all chowing down on pine cones nearly as big as themselves. One lady described envisioning herself as a bird flying around. Another gentleman confessed how much easier it was to meditate in nature than in downtown San Francisco. I tried to articulate how as people we strive to create straight lines, and how we find so few of them in nature.

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Red Bug Slough, Sarasota, FL. Photo credit: merevin.com

Sure, there are trees and plants reaching upward, but none are actually 100% straight. Everything is a little off. In fact, the more “crooked” they were, the more I found myself drawn to them. It was a perfect morning, but nothing was square, or symmetric, or even straight. This is exactly the perfect metaphor for the people in my life.

It seems that none are perfect individually. We all have our quirks and imperfections, yet when we’re all together, it’s beautiful. Each component added to the beauty and diversity of the landscape. It was a profound and delightful way to spend a Saturday morning.

So no matter your schedule or the weather, I hope you get to take a few minutes to soak in some time in nature this weekend. And also, appreciate all the slightly crooked people in your world.

Thanks for reading, until next time…
Sherri

 

 

At the end of it all…

I could be obsessed with time… seasons, schedules and how to pack it all in. I mean, I think about time a lot. Not like the lady in Chinatown who has nine different Rolexes up her sleeve. She’s just trying to make a buck off of unsuspecting tourists.

My one handed watch was gifted to me a couple of Christmases ago. It’s from Switzerland – not the lady in Chinatown – and it was not “a special low price for you today”.

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Everyone’s got one…

You know what I’m talking about. Opinions – and assholes.

Everybody’s got one. Lately it seems like everyone likes to show theirs off.

There was an article recently about a church in the UK that had a discussion about what kinds of activities to host in their building. And in this discussion, it was proposed that yoga should be banned from their facilities. Their reason? Yoga is a “non-Christian activity”.

People freaked out. It’s been all over the news. The discussion flowed right down into our office after someone heard it on the radio last week. Which, in case you missed it, I work for a church. It’s seldom good when a church is mentioned in the news, am I right?

What is wrong with “those church people”? What are they afraid of? Why are they so narrow minded? Yoga is good exercise. What difference does it make if they say Namaste or Amen when they finish? Who cares if the origins of yoga are found in Hinduism? Weren’t Christmas trees used to celebrate pagan gods and yet we find them in churches each December?

Those are good questions. But they are the wrong questions.

Churches – and the folks that run them – get to decide what kinds of events they want on their own property. This is totally and completely within their right to do so. We don’t get angry with Jewish Synagogues when they opt out of pulled pork dinners. And you may decide against hosting silly string wars for the high school football team in your house. (Or maybe you would be okay with it? I’m sure the team would be thrilled to know this).

But what if the Church and its people – the ones who claim to follow Jesus – considered these questions instead:

What can we do that draws people closer to God?
How can we build relationships with people who don’t come to church here?
How can we leverage our resources to help people in the community feel more connected?
What needs are in our community and how can we help meet those needs?

And then the ultimate question, what would Jesus do?

From what I know of him, Jesus is okay with people doing whatever they can to SHOW LOVE in real and practical ways. Like sharing resources and not judging. Loving your neighbor as yourself. Doing all you can to be in harmony and peace with those around you.
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My guess, to which I am entitled, as you are to yours, is that Jesus is probably okay with a yoga class.

You know what he is not okay with? People getting hostile with each other. People judging each other. People wasting precious time and energy on things over which we have no control.

Some don’t want yoga, which is within their right, and then others condemn them for it. Pot, the kettle is calling for you!

How are we showing love when we criticize others? How are we extending grace when we are judging and condemning those who think differently than we think? Isn’t grace for all of us?

It’s likely that I will not change the stance of the folks in this little church in the UK. And that is okay. Where IS my influence today? Who around me needs grace? Perhaps I can dismiss maddening conversations as soon as they erupt. Perhaps I choose something positive and encouraging to share in my circles, rather than continuing to repeat negativity.

What could this achieve? A few less opinions (and assholes) and a lot more grace.

I’m so glad.

Thanks for reading, until next time!
Sherri

PS. If you are looking for an amazing online yoga instructor who doesn’t care what you believe, is positive, encouraging, wacky and fun, check out my girl Adriene. She leads me each and every morning in my home practice. Namaste and Amen!

 

 

Me and my big/small mouth…

Do you have any idea how flipping hard it is to control your tongue? You probably know. Heck, the book of Proverbs (in the Bible) talks about this. It’s called the wisdom book for a reason, y’all. James 3:3-12 is all over the topic of taming the tongue. I think it’s in there so often because it’s applicable to all of us.

Do you have any idea how flipping hard it is to paint your own face? Maybe you do. Especially if you took a painting class and someone gave you this crazy hard assignment. I cannot imagine why you would tackle this otherwise. Maybe you’re a great artist- because I was told that every great artist does a self portrait. Or you’re into self torture. Same thing.

Last weekend was also Easter, which is the equivalent to Super Bowl Sunday in the church world. Basically we have twice as many people as usual. On top of that, we begin our day 2-3 hours earlier than normal. My church has this incredible outdoor sunrise service that is, well, frankly, just too early to be dealing with people. We gear up and plan accordingly, and smile and greet everyone. It’s really one of my favorite holidays, despite reporting for duty at dark-thirty.

I spent HOURS on my self portrait. Probably 2-3 hours on the one pose that I abandoned. (I need some gesso, obviously). I chose to paint the photo with the tricky angles (read about it here) and it was due for the final critique last week. I stayed up very late the night before finishing it. I wasn’t totally happy with it, but it was done enough. Plus, beauty sleep.

At church, I oversee several areas and the people within those areas. My teams, and more importantly, the leaders of those teams, are incredible. Most of the time I just walk around and chat and make sure everything is going well. I don’t actually have to do much of anything except put out fires or make minor corrections. Easter Sunday seems to have more pressure than normal, and I was really feeling it.

My cool hippie art professor deemed my painting “most improved since the last class”. I took that as a high complement. He commented how tricky mine was because of its perspective and lack of shadows on my face. I had captured my eyes well – which is critical. I had mimicked the background style with the highlights in my hair. One could sense that my arms were correct (even though I think they looked hairy) and overall he said I did a good job.

And then I blew it only two hours in. I overstepped my bounds in a sensitive area with a new volunteer. She left in tears, vowing to not come back. I erred, and it was on the side of judgment, not the side of grace. This was upsetting to many in this serving area, and it hung heavy like a dark cloud. Traces of it rumbled on throughout the next week.

Though I said I was done with this painting, he suggested I make one more improvement. Then he said something I’ve never heard in my life. He said my mouth was too small (could he please sign a sworn statement to this?). One of my best features was captured in the photo, but I didn’t translate it very accurately onto the canvas. My smile wasn’t quite as full and bright as the one I am known to share.

After much prayer and conversation with other leaders, the young volunteer and I made peace over coffee last week. I was grateful that she was willing to meet. We were open and honest about our Easter morning exchange. She expressed her vulnerability and ensuing hurt. I expressed my deepest and most sincere apologies, which she accepted. She extended so much grace, though I am the one who should have granted it to her in the first place. She will be back, and all is well. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

I am grateful that humble pie doesn’t have too many calories. I would also agree it’s best if you can eat while it’s still warm.

It’s been an interesting and learning experience with these two swirls of thought in my head over the past week. My mouth is too big. My mouth, without a filter of grace, can be so damaging. My mouth is too small. My mouth, when I’m smiling, is one of my best features.

So for today, I will be smiling more and judging less. My self portrait isn’t finished, but then, neither am I.

Thanks for reading, until next time,
Sherri

 

 

Handling disappointment

It’s been said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I beg to differ. Let me tell y’all a little sad story…

So I was all signed up for this long-awaited painting class, and since I have an entire wardrobe of church t-shirts, I thought it would be ok to sacrifice one. I’m just making wise use of my resources (sorry Pastor Larry). Now you need to understand, I started dabbling with paint on canvas 20 years ago, and every now and then I remember. I stroll galleries and think, I could paint that. Why am I not painting? I could splatter some paint and sell it for big money!

The chance to go to a real-live art class is beyond thrilling. I registered over a month ago. All $70 worth of supplies have been selected and paid for, oh and $25 for the class. The bigger sacrifice is this happens to fall in the sacred Sunday-afternoon-nap slot. That’s enough right there to prove just how excited I am about doing this.

I arrive a few minutes early. There is no one there. No instructor. No other eager students carrying in their supplies. I wait a few minutes, and then I sort-of-politely ask what’s happening. I am eventually directed to the store manager. There is no class today.

(Pause here for dramatic effect.) 

My heart sank. I wanted to cry. (This happens on other occasions when the nap is not to be had.) The manager owned it. It was her fault. The instructor no longer taught there, and somehow they overlooked this class when notifying all the students that it was not going to happen. 

She apologized twenty-seven times. She gave me a full refund without the receipt. She gave me a coupon for future purchases. She took my name, number and email. She touched my hand and looked me in the eye and apologized again. I think she wanted to cry a little bit for me.

I could not be angry with this lady. I was just disappointed. And then I was so grateful that I wasn’t the totally mean bitchy person who really wanted to flop down on the ground and have a full blown tantrum. After all, I was wearing my church t-shirt. 

There is something about wearing this that makes me a better person. Or maybe just keeps me from being a total jerk in public. I probably won’t put a church sticker on my car yet. I am not a rude driver. I just like to get where I am going. Quickly. Ok, to finish our story…

I’m still bummed that there is a bare spot on my gallery wall, waiting for a new piece of glorious art. But that spot has been there a while, and it will fill with something lovely when an instructor is ready to appear.

And really, it was okay. I salvaged the day by heading to Lido Beach for several hours. All by myself. I took a much needed nap while in the beloved beach chair, toes in sand. It was not what I had planned, but it was perfect. I’m learning to just go with it…

There are much bigger things in life to have tantrums about. Maybe that lady will take note of the fact that I didn’t throw a fit, and that I was gracious when I had every reason to be downright upset. And that maybe wearing an attitude that matched my shirt got noticed. For the right reasons. 

Thanks for reading…til next time,
Sherri