It's difficult to write about many things when there's one thing struggling to be heard. As poet Ellen Bass once instructed a bunch of us burgeoning poets, "You have to write the poems you don't want to write before you can write the ones you do want to write. Otherwise, they'll all have to crawl over the ones sitting like a lump in the back of your throat." Or words to that effect.
So...I haven't been writing much of anything because of one true thing (thank you, Anna Quindlen) that needs to be said.
I am grieving. I thought it would nice to have a rest from parish ministry for a few months (no telling when they will end), but all I feel is sad and angry...what most folks call depressed. I didn't just go from 90 mph to nothing; I parked the car in the garage, put an old parachute over it, and tucked the keys in a drawer. Yes, I've done some things this summer I would not have done had I been working: I went to South Dakota on a mission trip with my Monroe peeps to an Indian reservation with Simply Smiles; I co-deaned a conference for twenty 5th and 6th graders at Silver Lake Conference Center with my friend and pastor Jennifer Gingras entitled "Clowns for God"; I traveled to Costa Rica for a week-long adventure with my family. I'm teaching myself how to play the Native American wood flute. I'm working on a clay sculpture at the high school that will serve as a Communion set in some future ministry setting.
But it's not enough. This November I will be celebrating 20 years of ordination; 15 of those years have been in temporary ministry positions. I want to settle down with a congregation and see what that feels like. Ever since I left full-time ministry to be home with my girls (which I have never regretted for an instant, for which I am immensely grateful) I have also been grieving the loss of that ministry. And please do not attempt in the comments to mollify that emotion or to help me realize the blessing of being able to stay home with my children. I know that. I've heard all of that for the past 15 years. What seems to be beyond understanding is how something so wonderful can also be a source of pain; how a life with God can be life-giving and be a struggle, that God can be the one thing that saves you and the biggest question mark of your life. A life with God, like any other relationship, is complex and sometimes there are no answers--not even a 'yes' or 'no' as whether or not to stick with it. Most days it's a 'maybe', which might turn out to be the most faithful answer we can give.
I've written my profile. I've received all my written references and I've submitted my profile as 'complete' to the UCC Profile Office in Cleveland. I've decided that despite everything, perhaps because of everything, that I need to do this: I need to love and to serve and to make it my life's work. And I think I'm good at it, at least, as far as I've gotten to this point, and I still have a long way to go. But it is a calling I can't let go of and that won't let go of me, even if I wanted it to; a heartstring that does not break when stretched but only keeps pulling.
Tricky part is...my husband feels called to work in the solar field, research and design specifically. This is the other reason I have kept myself temporary and loose; so that when he finds that dream job we can pick up and go. But for one reason or another he has not been able to find that job. And he's paid just enough at his current job to make it difficult to consider leaving, even though he's miserable there. It would be easier having him lead the way since he has the higher earning potential. But I can't wait any longer. Four years ago he earned another Master's degree, in computer and electrical engineering, that took three years to finish. Another temporary ministry gig for me and I just might go the way of John the Baptist.
Prayers, people, I need prayers. Big ones, small ones, one word of hope. Strike a match, hold a vigil of candles, a campfire in the backyard, a bonfire on the beach. Bring them all together to make this light big, that a faith community in need of a pastor like me might see it, that I might go to where they are.