It’s been over a month since I’ve given myself the opportunity to sit and write here. At 7am I’ve already been up for a few hours and part of me, despite my usual cups of coffee, is beginning to feel it. I was supposed to be on the road and headed to Philadelphia by now to reconnect with two of my besties, Shay and Stephanie. Shay is in from Minnesota for the first time since we graduated from seminary; we were going to spend the day at Stephanie’s who lives outside of Philly. But, it is January and it is snowing, and though Al Roker who is on in the other room says it will probably stop in just a few hours, I am having to find other things to do with my caffeinated time than get on the road to see two of my loves.
So here I am.
A few quick updates:
My experience at the MFC was certainly positive. Though my interview began just over an hour later than scheduled, and despite the unsettling deer and pheasant dance wallpaper on neon color squares and striped carpet aesthetics of the hotel we interviewed in, I received a ‘one’ and upon the completion of my internship here in Annapolis will be in Preliminary Fellowship with the UUA. This was the goal of all goals and I still cannot believe that after five years and one hour’s interview, here I am. The process is certainly never over but I am restfully grateful to tuck this part of the process away. I am pretty sure that my ordination will be scheduled for September at my home church; a thought that gives me butterflies.
On the 24th I did the 5:00 family Christmas Eve service. Friends, Tara, Emily and Emily’s sister and mother were here. It was the first Christmas I was away from my family; the first Christmas Eve I did not sing Polish Christmas carols or hear my father sing Silent Night while playing along on his guitar; the first December I went without pierogies; the first of a lot of new traditions and new understandings of family. So, with that said, it was a gift to have people I love with me, even if it wasn’t the usual suspects.
I bought a fake Christmas tree, Tara helped me decorate it with construction paper and bows. A few days before Christmas I received a carepackaage from my Mom with my old ornaments from my grandparents and my home church as well as my grandmother’s town figurines and little angels that I set up; a Christmas runner and some hay that I put under it to represent Jesus’ bed in the manger, just like we do at home. It made this place my home and in some way connected me to my family in a way that can be missed when I am with them.
The Christmas Eve service went very well and in fact, I had fun doing it. I’m not always confident speaking to the children from the pulpit but perhaps this Christmas Eve awoke something inside of me I want to explore and unfold that I hadn’t expected.
In between returning from the MFC and Christmas, actually the day I returned from Chicago, I was given the opportunity to apply for my first choice job though I wasn’t entirely prepared with everything I’d need to hand in; meaning, I had nothing I needed to apply. Thrown together with what I could get, I was given the opportunity to interview. A week and a ridiculous amount of stress-eating later, I have been given the opportunity to Pre-Candidate the first weekend of February. Maybe because the coffee is wearing off, or maybe because it is working and I’m just so tired despite it, but I can’t explain how excited I am about this possibility, and about the process I’ve already been through leading up to this point.
In the last few weeks I met with, and showed myself to, the Ministerial Fellowship Committee; I’ve applied to my first job that could turn into a career; I spent my first Christmas without my given family and continued traditions that reminded me that I will never be without them. Work continues to be busy but rewarding; I have begun running just over five miles at my fastest pace and have set a goal to run a half marathon in April; Owen continues to make me laugh and smile and remind me that I am not the only thing that exists in my world; my college friends and I brought in the New Year together; I have begun cooking with new confidence and excitement than ever before; I haven’t eaten meat or poultry since the New Year.
These are just a few things that have taken my attention; not nearly all. I guess the only update I can really give is, it’s been a busy month.
The sun is coming up. Even at 5:45 the sun seemed to creep up with more confidence as it reflected off the snow. Its a blue grey outside; still and quiet. Owen is at his usual spot looking out the window. I wonder when the next time will be that Shay and Stephanie and I will be together. Maybe I should have gotten on the road. Maybe I should have just taken it slow; drank some more coffee; taken a nap even when I got there to prepare for having to come back only a few hours later. But here I am at 7:30am; the Catholic Church bells are ringing.
By Jenn Lindsay, classmate at Union and UU friend. Do take the time to read this one!
For me, God is not a given, but rather a giving of myself to what is being asked of me by a friend, a family member, a sweetie or a stranger. For me, it is important that my faith is not about belief or cognitive acquiescence or suspension of disbelief. I like theologian Paul Tillich’s notion that faith is the act of being grasped by ultimate concern. For Tillich, being right about what God is might be comfortable, but it is not faithful, because faith requires humility and a sense of the enduring mystery. For Tillich, engaging with questions about the ultimate is an act of faith. Your questioning, your rejection of this and that, your seeking: it is all a very fine prayer.
It’s Sunday morning. Folks in Annapolis are scurrying in the office prepping for the 9am service. Or, they are sharing stories from Thanksgiving. Or, they are taking a few moments to themselves before the morning begins.
I am home on Long Island at my parents’ house. On Tuesday night Owen the dog, and I stayed at my brother and sister-in-law’s in Delaware; on Wednesday morning I picked up my friend Stephanie from Union in Philly; by Thursday I had laughed and shared meals with college friends, seminary friends, church friends, and family.
Thinking to these last few days, my chest truly aches with gratitude. This was going to be a different Thanksgiving – One that distracted me from my upcoming MFC appointment (in 6 days); one that distracted me from the absence of our usual Thanksgiving guests. And at points this happened. But, and for me this is how Grace works, where I had only been expecting distractions or my anxiety veiled or pushed down … I was given love and laughter and tears of gratitude and also of remembrance. I was given family, my given and chosen, together.
I have been on two different emotional paths lately. Ministry is isolating and lonely – they prep us for this throughout seminary but nothing can truly explain it. No one can relay how important it is to reach out to friends and colleagues. No one can truly explain what an individual path this can be sometimes. So I have been in that camp half the time lately – the feeling isolated and lonely camp.
And then there is past week that I’ve already mentioned; but in particular last night. I had dinner with Austin’s family and some of his friends. How do I explain that I want to so say, I feel lucky? I feel blessed, unnecessarily chosen, and simply lucky — to be a part of his family in the ways that I am right now. I never knew what a personality his younger brothers has; I never knew how similar it is to Austin’s. I am meeting his close friends from work and camp. For as different as each seems at first meeting, they each illustrate Austin’s life; they are each strong good people with wonderful senses of humor, who care deeply about their friends and this life – just as he was. I feel lucky that I am a part of this circle, this litany of his life, that in many ways, I am getting a second chance at reconnecting with him beyond our few minutes at coffee hour during the holidays. I feel lucky to not only get to further discover his given and chosen family, but to be a part of it.
I guess that’s the other camp — the dumfounded overwhelmed feeling of being so blessed my chest aches with gratitude camp.
And that’s a pretty good camp to find respite in from the isolated and lonely one.
So in the next week, as I prepare for my Ministerial Fellowship Committee interview, I do not want to be distracted or have my emotions veiled for any reason. I want to be grateful. I want to take each person’s spirit, who I have been blessed to be loved by, with me into that room and speak with gratitude for my life and this process.
If you are one of them, thank you.
“This is about a culture of don’t ask don’t tell”
-i thank You God-
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
– e.e. cummings
Owen, the dog, has been propped up on the couch for about twenty minutes now, still looking out the window at the falling leaves and squirrels. It is his, or perhaps our, morning ritual. As I run around, drinking cups of coffee, throwing different outfits back into the closet, or talk back to the morning news, Owen watches the day begin at a different pace from the window.
I think he is amazed when I am can simply walk by such things. How do I not stop and stare at the big tails of the scurrying and tree-climbing creatures; how do I not chase after the grasshoppers who jump from the grass?
I joked the other day that Owen always helps me to stop and smell the flowers – he usually pees on them, but I get the point.
It’s been good for me to have this new life threaded into mine. Caring for something other than myself, I am being cared for. It might sound odd or backwards even, but he helps me remember that there is life outside the window, often moving at a different pace than my own.
I have spoken of vulnerabilities before — in fact, I often refer to vulnerability as one of the blessed emotions of our lives. It allows for, or perhaps, forces growth. It reminds us that even in our most naked, revealed state, we will survive – and in fact, often times, be taken care of or walked with. — As an aside, one of my favorite passages in the New Testament speaks of the Spirit as an advocate. I love this. Who walks with me? Sometimes it is someone I can name and touch; other times I must be content with the language of sacred texts, an Advocate.
Walking into a state of vulnerability takes courage and trust. Finding ourselves entangled in this “blessing” takes courage and trust to move through to the other side where stability and certainty once again steady our breath.
For the last few weeks I have only been living in my own world, on one side of the window, at the pace squirrels would find dangerously fast and curiously skittish. The vulnerabilities that have enveloped my emotions, my state of mind, and my physical movement have bordered on debilitating.
And what’s … sad? funny? ironic? frustrating? about this is, every day I have had an advocate offering to lift me from these vulnerabilities. Sometimes it is the dog who needs an extra half hour at the park in the sun or who stops mid-trot to discover a frog. Most days it is an email or a conversation with someone who has dropped a line just to say hello or that they believe in me. Some days it is my own body that says I can run an extra mile, and so I do.
When I was a chaplain at St. Luke’s in NYC I ran a Spiritual Formation & The 12 Steps program on the Detox unit. Some days I would ask the patients to shake my hand. When they would reach out and clasp my hand I would keep mine stiff and refuse to hold theirs. We would then talk about how reaching out, putting our hands out is only one step of the process. We have to take hold, embrace, and reciprocate if we actually want to receive of the other, of the Advocate.
I have been keeping my hand stiff. I have been stuck at step one. And step one is a big deal! But now it’s time to take hold of what is reaching out.
Owen and I are going to go for a walk. Maybe this morning I’ll pause a bit longer when he wants to watch the squirrels scurry.