Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Muffin Saga, Part VIII

The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

~ Robert Burns

When my wife made the decision to move to Louisville to attend school full time, I promised to join her within the next year. By mid-summer I had made arrangements to switch from “settled” pastoral ministry to “intentional” interim ministry, which meant taking additional courses for certification. The plan was simple:

  • Resign as pastor of St. John and move to Louisville at the end of November
  • Put household goods in storage and stay in the apartment in my mother’s basement until after the first certification class
  • Attend initial certification class in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in early January

From the moment I began the implementation of the plan, the lives of Muffin and me changed. I had less time to take Muffin walks. Muffin was confused about all of the activities in the parsonage: packing stuff, going through property belonging to my wife and two sons; making arrangements for auctioning off items I decided not to move. More than once Muffin intercepted me in the hallway and barked that I really ought to sit down, relax, and pet her. She was right.

In late August or early September my wife visited to help me decide on how to dispose of some of the stuff. It was then that she informed me that she wanted to be married “only a little bit” and as of that moment considered us formally separated.

I felt as if I had been kicked in the head by a mule! If we were separated, then why was I making this move from a church I had pastored for over ten years to Louisville and interim ministry?

Muffin ministered to me. When I would sit in a chair staring at nothing, she would sit beside me, usually licking my hand or face until I was willing to get up and on with life. One evening a parishioner came by the parsonage on her way to watch her son play basketball at the city gym which was behind the church. We sat in the living room rather than then my study. Of course, Muffin sat beside me.

Marsha knew—the whole congregation knew—what was going on between my wife and me. A couple of the elderly women had even told me a year before when my wife moved into the dormitory in Louisville that I had better follow her fast or our marriage was over.

As we sat in the living room, Marsha said, “You know, Nick, when I was going through my horrible divorce a few years ago a very wise man told me that the pain wouldn’t last for ever. It just seemed like it would. Then he gave me a hug. And he was right. The healing came. That wise man was you and I hope you can listen to your own wisdom and know that there are many of us in this community reaching out to you as you reached out to us.”

Then she gave me a hug and, of course, Muffin, who never wanted to be left out of hugs, joined in.

The week before the move four of the widows in the congregation, a couple of the men, and a teenage girl who wasn’t part of the congregation but who I had counseled for a couple of years all came to the parsonage to help with the final packing. Muffin alternated between trying to help and territorially barking, “Don’t touch that!”

On the day of the move the same folks were there, plus two more parishioners and their friends to load and go with me to unload my stuff in Louisville. The teenager had permission from her family to go along and she rode with me in the big rental truck, holding Muffin in her lap. Muffin was, of course, excited about going for a ride and had no idea that out lives were changing forever.

Part IX of The Muffin Saga will be posted in a few days.


  1. Hi Nick ~~ Just catching up on your posts and enjoyed another Muffin story, though a sadder one apart from your good friends in the Parish.
    Glad you had your oxygen tubes repaired. I hope the storms and tornadoes soon stop ~~ far too many people and homes lost and ruined.
    I have given you an award over at my blog. I hope you enjoy it Nick. Take care, Regards, Merle.

  2. seems like divorce has the same effect on everybody, good advise btw! this "story" is getting very sad indeed :(

  3. It's good to have friends when life is in flux. Cheers Nick!!

  4. Were you going to fight for your marriage or was it too late to stay at the parish?

  5. Wow, redirect warning there...I don't know what to say other than you are a very strong man to have made the move still.

  6. MERLE: Actually, the divorce wasn’t sad—at least not in retrospect. I was married for 30 years, father two wonderful sons. I’m not on bad terms with my ex-wife and soon realized the marriage could not have continued: after being bi-sexual all of her life, she had concluded that she wanted to be 100% gay. The advice I gave to Marsha was very valid for me.

    SWEETS: I believe the initial response for the spouse who doesn’t want the marriage to end is usually the entire grief process, beginning with denial: “say it ain’t so, Darlin’.” However, time truly does bring healing.

  7. MATT-MAN: You are so right about friends. The problem that a pastor has is that ethically the members of one’s congregation should not be considered friends. I realize that’s crazy, but it all has to do with professional boundaries and the (legal) fear of denominations of being sued.

    RIMSHOT: I continued with the move to Louisville in an attempt to “save” my marriage which, as I discussed in my response to Merle above, was never realistically possible.

    THE MAMA BEAR: Strong? Maybe. Stubborn? Definitely!

  8. Nick,

    You write in such a way that I feel that I'm the one who got kicked in the head by a mule. Maybe it is that you touch on universal experience; maybe it is your writing style - or both.

    Regarding all the support you got: Beautiful how kindness given is still always there for us.

  9. CAROL: Thank you. Perhaps I write the way I do because, in seminary, it was stressed that to do theology—“God Talk”—one’s primary tools are words.

    Much of the beauty of being part of a faith community is the love, care, and mutual support of the people.

  10. To bad you had to leave your parish but in the end, life is full of lots of twists and turns and sometimes you just have top go where it takes you.

    That is wonderful that what you shared with a parishioner was able to come back and help you when you needed a little help.

    I can not help but think how much I am going to miss the Muffin Saga when it comes to an end.

  11. BRYAN: Possibly it was time that I moved on from St. John. However, through the years I had become rather a major part of the community: president or vice-president of the county Clergy Association for 9 years; founding vice-president and second president of the local chapter of the National Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse; coordinator of the chaplain’s services at the local hospital; volunteer chaplain at the state prison, where I also taught classes in the prison’s pre-release program; writing a weekly column in the local newspaper. I was even into city government as chair of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. It was a big change for me to come to Louisville and find that I had few responsibilities other than being interim pastor of a dying congregation.

    There is still a quite a bit to go in The Muffin Saga. Soon I’ll get into how the vet named her “Muffin, the Duracell Dog” who just keeps going and going and going.

  12. I was aware of your move from Cannelton back to Louisville. I did not know that you first moved into your mom's basement. OK, tell us about Muffin and you living in the basement.

  13. You are the recipient of an Egel Nest Blog award for blog eggsellence.

    Come by and pick it up!


    The Egel Nest

  14. I have said it before: I am addicted to the Muffin saga.

  15. Nick:

    First of all, let me say that I am so excited that Bradley awarded you the Egel Nest Award for Blog Eggsellence. You, of ALL people, have deserved it for some time, and I am thrilled that you now have it!

    Secondly, I love your Blog, and I enjoy coming here often to read it. I must say that sometimes your tales make me so sad, but I so admire your fortitude and courage in times of trouble.

    May you live long and well, and be healthy!!


  16. I'm a new blogger, so forgive me if I faux pas! I'm disabled but like to refer to myself as "retired" in order to avoid the label "bipolar" in general company. I went through my divorce over thirty years ago (another man apparently came along) and never was the same ever again. Without my cat Smokey... well, I would probably be pretty lonely. But now, in the blogging world, I've made quite a few friends. It would be great to count you among them, Nick.

  17. Time is a great healer - a cliche I know, but a true one.

    Dogs are good at ministering - they listen to everything you tell them then give you a lick and somehow you feel better! x

  18. When I lay down, whenever I do it, whatever the circumstances, day or night, my cat Smokey is there to comfort me. Thank the Lord for all our canine and feline friends!

  19. Good one nick. Touching and Inspiring memories.

  20. I'm glad your example of loving care and support found its way back to you. A sad story but you've moved on, and you seem at ease with yourself.

    Good ol' Muffin!

  21. I never met Muffin. I wish I had.

  22. I'd like to stay longer, but I have too much work! Keep happy, Nick, and have a great weekend, too!

  23. oh Nick, I'm kinda scared how this is going to end....! But I so need a Muffin right about now...

  24. Please hurry with the next part.

  25. Your pets really do stay with you through thick and thin.

  26. hey nick i got alaptop hay for me lol so i am connected agian my new e-mail is write me

  27. ANGUS: Be patient, my friend. I’ll have the next part up this evening. (I hope).

    THE EGEL NEST: Thank you, Bradley. I love the ward. Did you know that I collect prints and statuettes of eagle and keen-sighted diurnal birds of prey?

    CHINA GIRL: Thank you. I am delighted that you are enjoying the Muffin stories.

    BRADLEY’S MOM: Thank you so much, Linda. I’m touched by your words.

  28. IMPERFECT NERD: Welcome to Nick’s Bytes. Yes, you may certainly count me among your friends. One question: of the 4 blogs listed with your profile, is there one that you consider your primary blog?

    AKELAMALU: I agree. Usually time is a great healer. It was for me. It was another two and a half years before my wife and I divorced. Of course, I held out hope for a while during that period. But by the time the papers were signed, I was ready to end the marriage which had by then lasted for 30 years.

    Muffin was an excellent minister. During the fourteen or fifteen years we were together she proved that time and time again.

    VISHWA: Thank you, my dear friend.

    LIZ: Thank you. I have come to accept that it was best for me that the marriage ended.

  29. EX-LOUISVILLE GUY: I hate to question you memory, but you did meet Muffin. It was during the first summer I pastored Christ Church and you stopped by as Muffin and I were walking in the park-like space between the church parking lot and the Altenheim.

    BETH: Please don’t be scared of the ending. There are still years of Muffin Saga to cover. I wish you find a Muffin to be with you now.

    FIOCRA: Yes, my friend. The next part may be up this evening. (God willing and Alex not too demanding of my time).

    VON KRANKIPANTZEN: For the most part, that’s how pets and I relate. I really can’t think of an exception, except perhaps the German shepherd my dad brought home when I was about 5. But that’s another story.

    CHICA40208: It’s wonderful to hear from you, Tiffany. I’ve already posted an email to your new email address.

  30. Muffin stories are really good.

  31. Nick, you have so much mental strength.
    We all have to walk our earth walk, don't we.
    Bless you.

  32. LUCKY OWL: Thank you.

    LITTLE WING: There was a graduate of my seminary, Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote a prayer that goes:
    “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
    courage to change the things that should be changed,
    and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

    Hopefully I have learned the wisdom Niebuhr speaks of.