I realized a few days ago that I've written very little about my new life. Partly, I haven't yet sorted out what I can write about and what I can't. And partly, and I think that I might be forgiven this, the last few months have been a series of challenges that often snowball into a sense of being completely overwhelmed: call to a church, breast cancer diagnosis, approval for ordination, two lumpectomies, ordination (!) service, mastectomy, several months of enduring varying degrees of pain (no, not "discomfort"), and of course, overshadowing and often overpowering everything, the terrible loss of Josh.
But yesterday I took some time to reflect upon what I do with my time these days, and realized that while I have my doubts about working, yet again, far from home, I am deeply grateful that a Sunday of mine included:
Leading worship and preaching,
Chairing a nominating committee meeting of folks dedicated to the well-being of their church,
Visiting and getting to know a young man in the hospital,
Visiting a woman in the hospital previous night's shopping trip last night resulted in three breaks in her leg, and
Stopping by to pray with a woman ~ as well as with her daughter and a friend ~ whose cancer has taken an aggressive turn for the worse.
As a bonus, I got to spend a couple of hours Friday with some of my favorite people, as I serve on the advisory board of the program in which I trained as a spiritual director, and then there are the people with whom I am able to meet again in direction, now that my energy has returned.
And as this week has progressed, there have been more hospital visits and, this afternoon, our first foray into after-school programming. The three children who are regulars in our church showed up, along with three others, and by the end of the day they were enthusiastically asking whether they might bring friends next week. After the kids had left and everything had been cleaned up, I sat down for a long and candid conversation with one of the women who'd helped and realized, as we left, that I am beginning to feel at home here.
A few years ago, all this seemed an unattainable fantasy. Absorbed by my life with God, fascinated by lives in ministry, completely intrigued by the then unknown to me practice of spiritual direction ~ I was filled with longings, but convinced that a complete life transformation for a woman in her fifties with two careers already under her belt and three sets of tuitions demanding payment was out of the question.
Life did not unfold as I hoped, of course, and yet: here I am. Minus a child, minus a breast (and only one of those losses matters at all, and it matters completely, and neither is a subject for gratitude), and yet:
I am so grateful that my work invites me into the nooks and crannies of people's lives of faith. I am so grateful that, when it became clear that ministry called, I did not sit around downing margaritas and muttering about how old I was. I am so grateful that, when matters of discernment loomed large, those spiritual directors in my life never communicated the slightest apprehension about my efforts to move forward.
Last year at about this time, I suffered an enormous disappointment with respect to a ministerial position which I deeply wanted. I was surprised and hurt by the rejection, and in a state of considerable despair ~ should I just give up? ~ called the Jesuit who has directed my last two eight-day retreats.
I could hear him rolling his eyes over the telephone. "You're doing just fine," he said. "What does Jesus say? 'By their fruits shall you know them,' right? You're teaching, you're doing spiritual direction, people are happy with your work. Look at the fruits; you're fine."
I'm finally beginning to believe that he might have been right.