Monday, February 2, 2009

Part 2: A Big "Up" and Several "Downs"

In December 2006, Harry and I learned that I was pregnant with our first child. The news was welcome and we were very excited. We didn't announce our news to the church until the first trimester was over; I didn't even tell my PPR chair until I was 10 weeks along. However, my pregnancy began affecting me pretty early in the game. I was exhausted all the time, very forgetful, and experienced a great deal of nausea. I wound up getting overwhelmed, and found myself finishing the bulletins on Sunday morning. Generally, I tried to have the bulletins copied by the time people began arriving for Sunday School. However, there were several weeks when I was still copying bulletins as people came to Sunday School. One of my most confrontative members mentioned this to me in a fairly combative way. On the way out of church that morning, my PPR chair told me that we needed to have a "called" meeting that week, and proposed Wednesday. I agreed.

Being six weeks pregnant, I was rather emotional about this turn of events. I was scared to death that the PPR was going to rake me over the coals and "ask" that I move in June. I prayed and sought the advice of several friends and went into the meeting prepared to listen and respond to any issues that arose.

During the meeting, several issues were raised such as; the bulletins being copied on Sunday morning, my yawning in the pulpit, and my general lack of experience. I was told that many people had expressed doubts about my maturity and my ability to lead them. I tried to get more details (what does a mature and capable leader look like to them?), but I got blank stares instead. After a brief discussion, they unanimously voted to ask me to return for another year (At the end of my time at this church, I learned that they had seriously considered not asking me to return for a second year).

My confidence was shaken (who likes to be told that they're seen as immature and inept?) but I resolved to respond to their concerns and improve my performance. I accomplished that, or at least I thought I did. I tried to be "more mature" and not let my youthfulness show as much. I suggested new ministries and events. I tried to be more organized (although I'm very disorganized by nature). When Harry and I announced my pregnancy, there was (at least outward) rejoicing and congratulations. For most of the spring, I did not sense anything amiss between the congregation and myself.

In late January 2007, Harry's stepdad, Bill, was diagnosed with cancer...for the third time. They (Harry's parents) lived in Indiana, so any updates came through e-mail or phone calls. Bill declined rapidly, and by the first week of May it became clear that he didn't have more than a month or two, if that. Harry headed out for a visit and I stayed at home. Two days later, Bill began actively dying and Harry told me I needed to get there ASAP if I wanted to see him alive. I booked a one-way flight to Indiana, boarded our dogs (oh, the dogs...they're going to need their own part of this saga. The church hated them), arranged for pulpit supply and pastoral coverage, and got the heck out of Dodge (Note: my PPR chair sounded surprised when I said that I needed to leave town that night because Bill was dying. She didn't question me, but I did wonder...). I arrived in Indiana early the next morning, and Bill was dead by the time I got to the house. I had gotten close to Bill over the past six years, and took his death harder than I had expected. We stayed in Indiana for a week, in order to help Nina (Harry's mom) with arrangements, insurance, home repairs, etc. I kept in contact with my PPR chair, calling every few days (Again, she sounded surprised that I stayed that long, but Nina needed Harry and me during that time). We returned on a Saturday evening, and I preached in church the next day. The congregation didn't support us very much, at least beyond lip service. We received a few sympathy cards and a few people said, "we're so sorry." One woman gave me about five minutes worth of platitudes. But that was we were left to deal with our grief. I was 25 weeks pregnant, we were four hours from our closest family, and Harry had just lost his SECOND father to cancer (His dad died of cancer when Harry was 13, and Bill had truly been a father figure to him). It was a very difficult time.

For the next part, click here

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