I knew it was going to be a little stressful: I was already conducting the choir in our Advent Lessons and Carols service. Four anthems in addition to the normal hymns and service music, and one of the anthems was a piece by the modern mystical composer John Tavener that the choir was none too fond of.
I had also invited our priest associate from Kenya who is attending the seminary I will be attending next year, S, and our associate rector, L, to lunch. I had made an Indian lunch (beef curry, biryani rice, saag paneer (a sort of Indian creamed spinach), and paratha. I thought I had everything under control by getting up VERY early to set the table and get the pots into the oven, which I had set for delayed start, thus to heat up the food while we were at church.
As Julia Sweeney titled her great book, "God said Ha!"
I had to serve as chalicist on the altar for the 9 am family service. That went fine, even when the little kid who was tasked with lighting the Advent candles seemed a bit shaky with the big pole with the flame on the end.
I talked to S and L and said PH would drive S over to our house after the 11 am service (I would leave a few minutes earlier to finish cooking the meal while they did the usual after-church greeting and chatting with parishioners). S said, "I hope lunch will be not too fancy, because I have a paper to type this afternoon (he's working on his MTS) and I have to study for a test for tomorrow morning. L said she, too, was under time constraints as she had to drive to Philadelphia in the afternoon.
No problem - I could have lunch on the table in 15 minutes. I committed as well to S that when I drove him back to the seminary - did I tell you he doesn't have a car? - I'd type up his paper for him.
So we got through the 11 am Lessons and Carols service. The choir did a lovely job. The organist forgot to play the Agnus Dei, or the Angus Dei (must be the Scottish variation, as printed in the bulletin) and was a little slow on the Communion hymn, and the service ran a tad longer than normal, but it went well.
I bade farewell to PH, who was helping someone with something related to the Building and Grounds Committee, and told S and L I'd see them back at my house very shortly.
If God was saying Ha! before, He was laughing hysterically by now.
I got home. The food in the oven was hot. I stated cooking the rice. I started browning the paratha and putting it in the oven to stay warm.
I finished cooking the rice.
I finished browning the paratha.
No sign of anybody, except StrongOpinions, who called down the stairs every two minutes, "Mom, can you get my jeans from downstairs by the dryer? Mom, do you have a white blouse I could borrow? Mom, these pants are still damp. Can I borrow your sweatpants? Mom, where's my eyeliner?" Parents of teenage girls will recognize all these phrases.
Another twenty minutes passed.
Still no sign of anybody. StrongOpinions borrowed some cash so she could run up to the Vietnamese nail parlor and get her eyebrows waxed. "It'll only take a sec, Mom."
Sighing by now.
The biryani rice was a solid pot of rice cement by now, I was sure.
Shortly thereafter, PH and S arrived. S had decided to call his wife in Kenya from church, where our calling plan gives great rates on international calls.
"Where's L?" I asked. "Oh, she had to stop home before she came over here," S said.
Oh, well, no point in sighing and letting people know my blood pressure was up 30 points.
So we finally sat down to the lunch which had to be quick because everyone else had stuff to do about 45 minutes later than I had thought.
Did I mention that my Parish Discernment Committee was meeting for their final (decision-making) meeting back at church?
Back to the lunch. everyone was there, even StrongOpinions with freshly waxed eyebrows, everyone enjoying the food - the ricy was only slightly clumped up - and the phone rang.
I answered it. It was the chair of the Parish Discernment Committee. They had a couple more questions. Could I come back to church and talk with them a bit?
It was not like I could say no. I apologized to my friends around the table, and went to church. I had to take PH's car, since he was blocking mine in our tiny driveway. As I got to church, I noticed S's briefcase in the back. Too late now. In PH's hands (and God's) at that point.
So do you remember how I mentioned that one of the members of the committee seemed unhappy with one of my answers when they were interviewing me? My read of that moment was right. He wanted to revisit that issue, plus how I might use forgiveness and how I forgave others when bad stuff happened to me to inform my pastoral care. So he took 25 minutes to ask the questions. Another 10 minutes to elaborate on them. By that point, I was not even sure I understood what the question really was, but I soldiered on. Another member of the committee wanted to press me on what doctrinal issues I have problems with. That led to a little riff on how one preaches and teaches on the difficult contemporary moral issues that may evoke controversy. (gee, aren't I supposed to be learning about this in Seminary??????)
So I finished up with them at 3:45. I went back to the house. PH has taken S back to semianry, swinging by the church to pick up S's briefcase fromt he back of PH's car. L has long since left for Phillie. PH didn't know about the dessert (Pears poached in spiced red wine with mascarpone cheese), so they just had some coffee and Christmas cookies. The table and kitchen are full of dishes and glassware to be washed, and it's the good stuff which doesn't go in the dishwasher. PH calls to tell me he's going to stay at the seminary and type S's paper for him. Have I told you what an angel he is?
I washed the dishes.
If I had to handwash dishes every day, I wouldn't enjoy it so much. But the once-in-a-while Zen of dishwashing at this moment is a balm. I play some Nichole Noordman on the CD player. I can feel my blood pressure going down.
I think I answered the PDC's final questions reasonably well. It is their job to challenge me, and to see where my growth opportunities might be. I'm feeling glad they called me a gave me a second bite of the apple to help them understand who I am and how I see my call and the work ahead of me.
The dishes and the glassware get done. I start a load of wash. I plan on taking the poached pears to the Red and Green supper that night (chili potluck plus hanging the greens int he church).
Poor PH comes home with a splitting headache. S, coming from Kenya, likes his dorm room warm. 85 degrees worth of warm. An hour of typing in the warm room seems to have incubated a case of the the flu or bad cold or something. PH takes to his bed (something he NEVER does, so I know he's feeling bad).
I go to the Red and Green supper, with poached pears in hand. Good chili. Good company. Folks love the pears. We hang the greens. I come home to a reasonably clean and quiet house (StrongOpinions is out babysitting). I end my evening doing the most peaceable thing I can think of...reading the day's devotion from our "A Light Blazes in the Darkness", enjoying reverendmother's poignant and timely meditation on Mary and RM's Blessingway.
We are all blessed.