June 23, 2010

Word Waffling

Now that Lindon has completed seminary, he devotes vast quantities of time to researching, searching, contemplating, and analyzing job listings. In our denomination, pastoral applicants typically complete and submit a resume and Ministerial Data Form (MDF) to each church looking for a pastor. More specifically, this information goes to the church's Search Committee, a group of congregants trying to discern which resume and MDF in the mile-high stack represent the person God wants to fill the position and, in some cases, lead the church. Yikes.

For those who have never seen an MDF, it is as thrilling possibly as it sounds. It boasts a number of scales on which the applicant ranks his perceived level of experience in different areas from preaching to counseling to administrative giftedness. It also includes questions about things like a "defining experience" in ministry. It offers some insight into what a potential pastor can do, but is little help in the way of who he is. And while Lindon's resume is awesome, compelling, and super cool, it is still a just-the-facts-ma'am resume. Oh, some churches are also interested in a brief biography and/or testimony.

All told, these documents give a pencil sketch of a person, as opposed to a portrait. We're aiming for portraiture here. No, not quite portraiture. That's too posed. More like a penetrating candid snapshot that serves as a window to one's soul. Eek.

Lindon saw the gaping holes created by these sterile documents and sought to add some color to his packet of information by employing his wife to create a "Meet the Fowlers" bio about our family, highlighting our interests, some of our story, and what makes us unique. And since his wife is a sometimes-freelance writer, surely she could knock this assignment out of the park with a few deft keystrokes, right?


It seems that summing up the Fowlers for a nameless, faceless audience is a little trickier than I imagined. After all, it's hard to know what they are interested in knowing. A piece of information I might think is helpful might ultimately be a distraction or negative point in the process. If I mention that Lindon enjoys home improvement projects, does it make him seem too much like Bob Villa? Will I sound pretentious because of my proclivity for using words like "proclivity"? I tell myself that I am over-thinking things, but, really, this is hard! The only thing I feel confident about is NOT telling them that I blog...

Oh, and I feel fairly confident that they need to see a photo of Levi. He's pretty awesome.

So, dear Search Committee, please know that we are the Fowlers - deeply flawed, peculiar, quirky people who might or might not be a good fit for your congregation. We love to laugh, and sometimes it's at appropriate times. We want to be agents of redemption in the world, but don't always know what that looks like. We like to read, write, use big words appropriately because they are highly descriptive and serve a key syntactical function, not just to try sounding smart. We like to work on Jeeps, remodel houses, chew on absolutely everything, and be a human Swiffer.

If you're ok with the brokenness, quirks, and drool, we are happy to share more about our life. You might even find that you like us. And we might just like you!

June 17, 2010

What's in YOUR name?

This is a follow up to my post earlier today. I am curious if any of you (now don't all comment at once, you throngs of adoring fans) have a story about names. Were you named after someone special in your family? Were you named after a song? How did you decide what names to give your children? These stories fascinate me, so I would love to hear yours!

What's In a Name?

I'm a full-name kind of person. Rather than coining nicknames for people I know best, I just use their full names. I realized this quirky habit when I heard myself calling my boyfriend-turned-fiance-turned-husband Lindon Lee instead of just Lindon. My college roommate became Emily Jean, though nearly everyone else simply called her Emily. Recently Lindon and I attended a dinner where place cards marked the seating arrangement. While everyone else's place card simply held the first and last name, mine inexplicably had my full name printed. I was thrilled. Most people think of full-name calling as something parents do when they are ticked at their kids. For me, it's a sign of familiarity (and also perhaps a tip of the hat to my upbringing).

Not surprisingly, I often call my son Levi Smith. Each time I say his full name it makes me smile. Part of it is that I am still shocked (and pleasantly surprised) that I am a mom and that I have a son. Part of it is the continued amazement that this name that had been rolling around in my head for so long now actually belongs to the squirmy towhead who rolls around my sun room (or sings on the deck). For those of you curious about how this name came to be, here's the story

Lindon has always been partial to the name Levi because his father had suggested it as a name for Lindon before he was born. It was ultimately vetoed, but Lindon liked the fact that it was his almost-name.

And Smith made the cut because of its two fold, possibly three-fold, significance. Most obviously, it was my maiden name, and while I was happy to shed the anonymity of such a common name, I was equally happy to bestow it on my son. Secondly, it was the middle name of Lindon's grandfather, Coyle Smith Fowler. Here's where the third fold comes in. Lindon's sister and brother each gave their first son the middle name Smith, so among the cousins on the Fowler side, there are three boys with the same middle name.

Ever the contrarians, we resent the rise the name Levi has taken in popularity polls (currently it ranks #88 as the most popular boy names), though there is nothing we can do about it, and loudly protesting does nothing but make us look like whiners.

But there is another dimension to the significance of our son's name that makes it special to me. As most know, Levi is Hebrew. It means "joined." His name illustrates what he does so beautifully, joining the Smiths and the Fowlers.

Perhaps names mean so much to me not just because they are a key way of identifying people, but because of the stories they represent. Levi Smith Fowler has his name for a reason. Each part of it is significant, and saying it all together seems to draw on the full significance of who he is and what he represents for me and our family. His name has a story; his story is part of the story of our family; and both Levi's story and our family story are a teeny part of a greater Story in which we count it a privilege to participate.

June 13, 2010

Garden Variety

Ever since we started landscaping around our house, I dreamed of one day cutting flowers from my yard and putting them in a vase in the house. What I failed to realize at the time - but anyone who has ever planted anything will surely understand - is that it takes a while for one's gardening efforts to actually look like something. So after two years of investing in our flower beds, they still looked sort of weak. Why did my hydrangea not resemble the explosion of color I always admired at my mother-in-law's house? Were azaleas supposed to be so measly? And our periwinkle ground cover just looked like little splotches of green. Of course it was nice to have stuff growing around the house, but for the first two summers nothing seemed to, well, thrive.

Regardless, we pressed on. Shortly before Lindon's graduation, we finally got around to adding some more plants to the beds we created when the deck went in (again, "we" means Lindon. He added the beds while, I, being quite pregnant at the time, came out and admired their potential). Not only did the healthy dose of mulch help make the beds look more orderly, but the plants really added a sense of life to our house. And what's more, stuff is blooming! Since I have an addiction to hydrangeas, we added two of those, plus some hostas for volume, bugleweed, an arborvitae, and columbine because it is oh so pretty.

The end result? Color! All around our house!  The lacecap hydrangeas have tons of blooms, and not to be outdone, my existing hydrangea has kicked it into high gear with gorgeous flowers. And that rose bush that we inherited from friends seems to have decided it likes our house and has produced not one, but TWO flowers! My heart smiles whenever I see these colors dancing around the exterior of our home.

And how about this for random. During our first summer in this house we were quite pleased to find tiger lilies popping up around the outside of our house. What did not please us was that drivers seemed to enjoy cutting the corner by our house and driving through our yard. So Lindon took the random rusted barrel we discovered in the yard, and we transplanted the lilies to said barrel and plunked it at the corner of our property. Now the lilies are blossoming from the most unattractive planter. 

The contradiction of the ugly barrel and pretty flowers always makes me smile.

Lindon mulched the front beds, too, and they look so nice. It looks like nice people live in this house, doesn't it? At the very least, one could assume from the exterior that one very cute baby resides within. Clearly. 

And check out my hydrangea! This year I am FINALLY getting some gorgeous color from this plant after two rough seasons. It's quite exciting. 

So guess what I did? Clipped some of these gorgeous blossoms and put them in a vase. It made my heart happy.