but I was having more and more trouble finding patience and tolerance for them.
And just before Easter, I started working with a group of new pastors, teaching them "Administration" in the church. This is my fourth year to teach the class. And this year, I decided to do something different. I designed a simulation game for them to play with me. I send them a problem (the kind pastors encounter in congregations) and they send me back what THEY would do about it. In round 2, I let them know the different ways that their solutions caused ADDITIONAL problems, or made the first problem worse. The game goes for four rounds. It gets more complicated for the students each round. I didn't make up anything new: I just gave them problems that I have encountered myself through the years...or problems that my close friends have encountered. I only changed the names...usually.
Playing this simulation game with19 students at the same time, giving each one a unique and different problem...turned out more emotionally taxing on me than I imagined. First, it felt like playing 19 chess games...simultaneously. Second, it brought back more painful memories than I was prepared to deal with. And third, most of the students came up with answers that would take a bad situation and make it worse...much worse! Lord, have mercy!
And this leads to the final pity I'll share today. Three different ophthalmologists told me this spring that my suddenly deteriorating eyesight (starting in early March) was caused by too much stress. Since March, due to vision problems, I have had trouble reading, writing, and driving. And since 95% of what I do for both work and pleasure involves reading, writing, and driving, my productivity... and satisfaction... slowed to a snail's pace. And the stress went higher.
In the middle of May, Jie went to China, and I took the remaining weeks of vacation I had and tried to get caught up with everything. At a much slower pace than normal, I got my backlogged church work done, caught up on my writing, finished critiquing a novel for a friend, got caught up with my students and their simulation games, built a raised garden bed, visited the grandchildren, planted the garden, listened to audio-books, organized my desk and my closets, and tried to get rested up.
The only thing I could totally walk away from during this time was my Sunday letter. And as much as I get satisfaction in writing it, it also involves an enormous amount of reading and writing (by the time I edit it like I want.) And so I took a Sabbatical: didn't even write to all of you and ask if I could. I knew you would let me...even encourage me.
In the meantime, Jie was given two new churches. They are moving her from a 10 hour a week job at the small church in Pesotum (35 minutes from here) to a 40 hour a week job being pastor of a church in Sidell and another one in Chrisman. The churches and the district superintendent want her to live in Sidell, an hour away from Mattoon. She'll give it a try about three nights a week. But it doesn't feel like it will be any less stress for us.
Mindy still has job applications out there...all over the country. And my parents are taking it a day at a time.
The eye issue (four different problems with the retina) is being addressed, with medication for right now. Time will help two of those four problems...but it may cause the other two to get slightly worse.
To be fair, many people have worse eyesight problems than I do. But because I tend to take on 25-30 reading and writing projects EVERYDAY, and eyesight is so central to what I do for people, I'm having to learn how to adjust. And sad to say, I'm a really SLOW adjuster!
If you see me driving down the road, don't worry. I have no trouble seeing you. I just can't make out the name of the street sign you are standing under...until I'm about 30 feet away.
In the meantime, the eye doctors have encouraged me to believe I will be able to resume a more normal (for me) reading and writing schedule in a few months. Until I get back up to speed, I'm taking on less new projects. This Sunday letter starts again... because writing this... and staying connected with the people I care about... and offering you a little something each week... is good for my soul.
Next week, I'll not be such a downer for you. I promise. But this week, since my relationship with my readers is built on openness and authenticity, I wanted to give an account of where I've been...and to let you know that I'm glad to be back. SEE you around!