Who says winter is "the most wonderful time of the year?"
Even though our southern California fall doesn't hold a candle to the Minnesota fall, it sure still is fun! We spent yesterday carving and painting pumpkins, prepping pumpkin seeds, and Ali and mommy went to "Bat Night" at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary about 15 minutes away in beautiful Modjeska Canyon. They did crafts, saw (dead and stuffed) bats, Ali got her face painted... yes, like a bat... good times. Tonight, we baked those pumpkin seeds, this year opting for sweet nutmeg/cinnamon/sugar glaze instead of savory/spicy like last year. They are pretty good! Ali LOVES them, which I completely did not see coming, except for the part that they are SWEET... that goes a long way!
Today, Ali participated in a children's led service at church. The entire service was run by the kids... and I mean like ages 5-12. Bless the hearts of the parents who patiently worked with them these past several weeks prepping them for today, because they did absolutely wonderfully. The most unexpected moment was "Parent's Time." This was really great. Normally, they have "Children's Time" when the kids all come up to the alter for a brief lesson before they go off to whatever they do in Worship and Wonder. Well, today, since the service was run by the kids, they made the parents come up. Ang was holding Julian, and we were in the back row in the corner in case we had to make a run for it with the J-Man when they invited the parents up. It was my chance. To actually RUN in a church service and have it totally be okay! So, off I went, over-striding my way up to the front in a kind of "last-but-not-least" kind of way. Good times.
Ali sang in her first choir performance today! The kids sang "Dona Nobis Pacem" and while it wasn't exactly the mormon tabernacle choir, it was adorable, and it was a milestone: Ali's first musical performance. Of course, when she made eye contact with me, she winked and held up two thumbs up for me as if to say, "Oh yeah, dad, I got this one!" She just gets funnier and cuter every day.
I feel a little uneasy writing all this, because we have begun to attend a new church in our denomination, and while we miss the community of our old church, our new church has a phenomenal children's program, music program, and is much closer to our home. I know that some members from my old church read this blog, and out of respect, I haven't wanted to go on and on about changing churches, because we do love the members and know that we are missed, it's just our new church fits our needs better, and, well, what can you do? It really is the best place for our family right now. The good news is that we are attending church again, and today, I think, was the first service I've attended where I didn't start crying. I think one reason was it was so fresh being led by the kids that it kept me on my toes, and two, I really did turn a corner in my grief journey after Tuesday. I just feel... better... and thank GOD, I'm not (yet) making myself wrong for that!
Anyone reading this that has lost someone knows exactly what I'm talking about... it's the old, I feel bed from feeling bad, but then I start feeling good, and so I feel bad for feeling good, as if it means I'm somehow "over" the person...
Noooo! I'm over (some of) the pain, not the person! What a mistake to confuse those two, and yet I've done it before, so I get it. This time, it's weird; I can feel the urge to feel bad, but I just don't end up there. I'm really grateful for this. I keep plenty on my plate to keep me anxious and busy; missing this 'feeling bad for feeling good' thing has been just fine with me.
For some reason tonight, I had the urge to read what I wrote this day last year, and sure enough, we were celebrating autumn in Minnesota at an apple orchard with my mom, Ang's mom, and our dear friends, the Spectors. I wrote the following that night, and as I reflect on our new church community, it is strikingly poignant:
When you go looking for God's angels to intercede when times are tough, don't go looking for beings in robes with wings. Start with the people in your life. Right here, right now. Those are your angels. Remember my "3 F's Rule:" Friends, Family, Faith. That's all you need when you get blindsided by life. Today, I had all three surrounding me. No wonder I was at peace.