I have the best friends in the world.

In a training program for new pastors (and anyone else who’s interested) that my Conference offers called “Tending the Fire,” we do this exercise where we examine our support network. How many people do we have in our network? How many are *not* church members or colleagues, so we can vent about work? How many are *not* family so we can complain about our familial dysfunction? How many live within a half hour’s drive and will be at our doorstep in a moment when we need them?

Typically, we end up with a short list of people who are the universal, good-for-any-venting, easily accessible friends. In fact, at the time I did this, I had one. One person who was neither family nor church member/clergy, and lived within a close enough distance to be at my door when I needed her. And that was because she had recently left the United Methodist Church and become non-religious, something which ironically qualifies my best friend from college L to be my best all-around friend.

But in addition to L, I have a support network that rivals anyone I know. Some are clergy, some are laity, some don’t set foot in a church. Male, female, old, young, related and dear friends. They are the best people in the world, and they love me, and when whatever mess in my life hits the fan, they are there for me.

Which brings us to today.

My housing in Montpelier fell through in a bad way– I think the proper military definition is FUBAR. My husband arrived at the apartment in Montpelier last night to get the keys and move in some minimal stuff (so he could start work this morning). He found that the promised maintenance, including clearing the house of lead paint, had not been done. We had not signed a lease, nor had we made any written agreement about the work to be done prior to our moving in; we have nothing on paper, nor does the landlord. Husband spent about two hours in the apartment, mostly on the phone with me. Then he put his stuff back in the car, left the keys and the unsigned lease in the mailbox, and drove to his sister’s house.

And so the moving van arrives here in six and a half days, but to where it drives with its merry load is anyone’s bloody guess.

I have spent the morning calling said landlord (who thinks he’s owed at least a deposit/half a month’s rent), cancelling the electricity and cable set ups scheduled for today, issuing stop-payments on the rental check on the off chance the landlord wants to try to laugh his way to the bank with my church’s $3850, and calling realtor after realtor and landlord/lady after landlord/lady in Montpelier.

But I haven’t done it alone.

This went down last night at about 9:30. By 9:45, while I was still on the phone crying to my mom, neighbor (and soon-to-be former congregant) M was at my back door with comfort, er, food, and helping herself to my internet so she could research apartments. Aforementioned college best friend L soon joined her in the online search from her apartment 40 minutes north. Meanwhile, my mom and my in-laws ran interference with my husband, calming him down and helping him prioritize while his sister and brother in law calmly packed his car back up and escorted him on a midnight drive back to their house. This morning, my inbox loaded with housing leads from M and L and notes of encouragement from friends and strangers via the internet, I was contacted by seminary friend M, who took me out to a sanity-saving lunch and drink (that’s Starbucks chai latte, folks, so don’t get excited!), while my sister in Seneca offered to organize my leads into a convenient chart. My sister in law is talking with a contact of hers at a landlord-tenant advocacy group to see what our rights and responsibilities are for the failed lease. My in laws are poised to do kid duty if I should need to make another trip up to Montpelier in the next couple of days to nail down a new place (but I hope that one of the four appointments I made for Husband this afternoon is satisfactory and we’ll be un-homeless again in a day or so), and they are 1. paying for full time rather than half time daycare this week and 2. picking Ari up from daycare today and bringing her home for dinner, whereupon they will help me pack the kitchen and the basement.

(pastors, take a moment to thank God if you live in a parsonage, and laity, remind people of this nightmare should anyone suggest that a housing allowance is actually ‘easier’)

Just now, I’m thanking God for my friends and family, the greatest support team I’ve ever seen.

[Edited to ad: and I’m thanking God for a three bedroom house, for $1200 plus utilities, in Montpelier proper, that was built in 1980 and therefore has absolutely no lead paint. The application and the deposit are in the landlady’s hands, and she’s just going to do a background check and the place should be ours.]

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5 Responses

  1. “…because she had recently left the United Methodist Church and become non-religious, something which ironically qualifies my best friend from college L to be my best all-around friend.”

    I didn’t realize I had officially qualified, and all. :o)

    Am very, VERY glad that all has worked out now, and am looking forward to hearing the details. Shall still plan to arrive around 4:30 tomorrow, and I’ll make a stop for ice cream in advance — chocolate with lots of stuff in it, since B isn’t here to moan about it. (Silver linings!) If you need me to stop for more boxes on the way, let me know — there’s a liquor store across the street from my office and they always have extra ones.

    Lastly, just want add a qualifier to your second to last paragraph. Personally, I think that forcing people to uproot their lives and move without notice or care for their personal networks is utterly monstrous, but you’ve willingly chosen that as part of this whole pastor-gig thing that is the massive, life-altering focus of your life, so more power to you. But forcing people to uproot their lives and wreak havoc on their security and rip apart support networks as they pursue a course of service that they believe in with heart and soul and voice and feet *while failing to provide adequate service for housing so as to relieve one modicum of stress from a heart-wrenching time* is bastard laziness marked by unequivocal sadism and, in a civilized country, plain inhumanity. Shoudl I wait a little while before I visit, so I don’t try to pound that into some non-violent Christian skulls with your frying pans? :o)

  2. @ Lissa,

    of course you qualify, my dear, as if bringing me chocolate and gooey-loaded ice cream isn’t evidence enough.

    Now I would never accuse my denominational structure of unequivocal sadism,

    but, readers, friends, dear world at large, that last bit is *why* she’s my best friend. you can’t buy love, loyalty, and protectiveness like that!

  3. I’m crossing my fingers the background check doesn’t uncover all those crazy hijinks at your sorority house during seminary!

    😉 sounds like you have an even better place in the works… ah, Provision!

    and contract-schmontract… if he didn’t step up and do the lead paint removal on time, I’m GLAD you’re not locked into a binding agreement with him!

    I really, really loved the series of posts on your mission trip, BTW. I just felt so touched and at the same time so humbled I didn’t know if I had anything to say that would communicate my awe and gratitude for your incredible representation of our faith.

    🙂
    I think you’ll love Vermont. I hear it’s AMAZING!

  4. and one of my heroes–David Mamet lives there. Let me know if he ever shows up at church!

  5. @ sean,

    You should know I’m not a sorority girl! 😉 If I have anything to worry about it’s my civil rights protests…

    We definitely feel the same way about the lack of contract. The landlord seemed like a nice enough guy and I think he actually gets the short end of the stick here (had we actually signed even a rental application, I think we’d owe him a deposit), so it’s not that I think he;s a bad person or anything. I do think that he let other things get in the way of fulfilling the work he’s agreed to, and no, I don’t shed any tears for *not* being locked ito a relationship with a landlord who can’t follow through for whatever reason when it comes to maintenance.

    I’m glad you enjoyed my posts about Ecuador. There are one or two entries left in my journal– I only keep a paper one when I travel; never been able to keep up with one otherwise, but I love the digital variety. Someday, I’ll have to go back and transcribe my entries from last year, which are far more interesting in many ways because they are my first impressions. I remember that the biggest surprise was not the bugs or the dogs or the smell or the lack of bathrooms; it was realizing in the middle of the third day that I was helplessly in love with the little girl on my lap. In my ignorance, I somehow didn’t think it was possible to love and be loved so strongly when we’d only just met. Now I know better!

    I grew up in Vermont, so this is a big homecoming. Montpelier is a great town and I am really excited, and think it’ll be great once I get there. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for celebrities!

    Thanks for all your comments. I think you communicate your impressions just fine.

    Bless,
    Becca

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