Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Random catch up details of life:

Had a wonderful week on a trip with my family. The girls are seeming older and it is more obvious during traveling.

Feeling that inner warming/nudging again that I associate with "call." It's just this wonderful "sweet unrest" that both gives me peace because it feels like God is near, and tumult because it always feels like I need to act....but in what way...still in discernment and feeling more sure somehow, which feels good. My committee is definitely needing to see some confidence and vision right now. My rector has been so busy and overwhelmed and it's really time for a crucial conversation and I'm having to be very persistent and assertive. Which is good for me but c'mon now!

Speaking at the college was a good experience. I was very nervous and I think it showed, but that's okay. I listened to it and I didn't rush so that's good. It's so interesting how I can get consumed with anxiety. In the end, it wasn't that hard to write and all the energy was used up in anticipation and worry. I assume the more I do this the less scary it will be. Someone gave me some very encouraging words afterwards. Someone I respect deeply. And though it really made me feel good, I don't want to depend on positive words from others to feel good about a talk. That's why I spoke about authenticity and speaking through fear. Cause it's the path I'm on.

Anyway, the girls are suffering from my morning blogging. Got to get them ready. Until later!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm back

Wow, I can't believe it's been since March 7th since I blogged. I feel very out of touch and I'm missing the blogs that I love to read. I've been out of town and just need to find a rhythm again. All is well. I'll write soon, but probably not till the weekend.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I feel like I've given birth

Phew! If this is what you pastors go through writing sermons, I have found a new appreciation. Not that this is a sermon, but still. I think I'm done. and it's fun to post it here. It's the talk I'm gving with my husband at a local college this coming week.

I have a confession to make: It was back in October of last year that (Pastor) asked (Husband) and me to speak here. At that time, the date March 15th, 2008 seemed very very far away. No problem! Even though I have NO IDEA what I’m going to talk about, I’ll DEFINITELY know in March! That’s 6 months from now and even though I’m having a lot of trouble lately as to who I am and what I’m doing on this planet, I’ll have NEW INSIGHTS come March 15th! And here we are. March 15th. And it came very quickly. And a month ago I was in a bit of a panic as to what I was going to share with you. I even had fantasies of just making (Husband) do it himself. After all, he’s used to this. (right, Husband?) So what I want to talk to you about today is that very thing: not knowing…panic over not knowing… and yet speaking and living from that place of uncertainty. And this is timely because it just so happens that we are in the middle of LENT. A time set apart in the church to mirror the WILDERNESS that Jesus found himself in during those 40 days between his baptism and the beginning of his public ministry. So I want to talk about that wilderness, that desert, that Jesus found himself in and that we so often find ourselves in and I’d like to speak from that place as well.

So…what does my wilderness look like? Well…it’s a pretty 5-star wilderness: I live in this beautiful city, I have a great marriage, I have two adorable little girls. These are all dreams that have come true. But perhaps, like many of you, I find myself still asking the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” It’s a question I thought would stop once I reached ADULTHOOD (whenever that starts), but ten years after graduate school and as a mother of two young children, I find myself asking that question once again. And it feels disorienting. I’m realizing it’s a question that will keep cropping up throughout life, in various forms. It was a little crisis for me when I realized one day that being an adult didn’t look like I had always thought it was going to look like. I remember day-dreaming when I was a teenager about being grown-up: I would be TALL, even though this defied my genes. I would be neat and tidy and put things where they belong – all the time. I would be completely mature and TOGETHER. I would know what I wanted in life and how to get it. I would be a benevolent presence with total integrity. In one sense, this speaks highly to the adult role models I had in my life back then, but it is very funny to me now. Now that I’m officially “an adult”, I think to myself, “Oh, I’m still me. I’m not tall. I do not have my stuff all together and I sense I never will. I feel a pull towards integrity, but I realize I will never be fully whole. Not in this life, anyway. I guess the only grown-up who fit all these criteria was Jesus. (though not sure how tall he ever was.)

A pastor here in town says that one of our assignments in this life is to become who we are, and that it’s a trial and error process. I think a lot about “call.” What is God calling me to do? Who is God calling me to be? And I think God is calling me to be myself. I think we are called to be ourselves. And this takes time. It takes a lifetime. No wonder people change careers, change paths, change their minds. Sam Portaro is an author who writes a lot about vocation and he describes the Bible as stories about the vocational journeys of our forebears. I like that. There was a lot of wilderness wandering in the Bible. The Israelites wandered through the wilderness for 40 years and it was a time of them finding out who they were. (and it kind of makes me feel better that they complained the whole time, despite the fact that God rescued them and provided for them at every turn). And then of course there is the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness -- the time that Lent is meant to reflect:

In the 3rd chapter of Matthew, it is written:
“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was LED by the Spirit into the wilderness.
In the gospel of Mark, the language changes slightly:
“And the Spirit IMMEDIATELY DROVE him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

Jesus is baptized, then goes directly into the wilderness. Jesus has a revelation of identity, of vocation, an intense encounter with the Holy Spirit, then he’s driven immediately into the wilderness. The gospel writers describe the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus “like a dove”: a shy and gentle bird, but the writer Madeleine L’Engle likens the Spirit to a hawk. And as I read these Bible passages, the Spirit that drove Jesus into the wilderness definitely seems more like a hawk than a dove. There’s something about entering into the flow of our vocation that sometimes drives us into the wilderness, at least for a time.

We can’t talk about the wilderness without talking about temptation. It is clear that Jesus was tempted to be someone other than who he was. In this world, we are tempted to conform. We are tempted to fall for the mirages of self that aren’t true to who we really are, the mirages of things that look like they offer life. We are tempted to try to leave the wilderness before we are meant to. Or at least to numb the experience somehow. I’m definitely facing temptation in my wilderness. But the thing I’m trying to discern is: what is temptation and what is call? When we read the passages in the Bible, we KNOW it’s Satan tempting Jesus, so it doesn’t seem that tempting. We KNOW it’s “temptation.” But what makes discernment challenging, is we don’t know the source from which possibilities present themselves. Ah, now we’re really in the wilderness.

Sam Portaro talks about Jesus emerging from the temptations in the wilderness with a new confidence, as if he’s truly in possession of himself. He writes, “It is a sense of assurance that reveals an essential trust of himself in relationship to his creator.” This goes back to the notion that we are called to be ourselves, that we are called to be in relationship to God, and we are called to TRUST that.

There’s a saying that you can’t give your life away until you possess it. I’m starting to see that that journey into authenticity, into relationship with God, begins with letting go: letting go of caring what others think, letting go of expectations of being perfect or “successful” – basically letting go of all the bad parts of EGO. As I’m trying to discern my vocation, I realize the question is different as a mother of young children. And this is a role I cherish and value. And it’s a vocation in and of itself. But I was raised to believe that women can do it all. That we can have fulfilling family lives AND fulfilling careers. But then that word “fulfilling” trips me up. It’s such a hard question…wanting to follow our heart’s desires, but wanting to make sure our hearts are focused on God. Not easy. Walking that line between having the courage to “go for it” and be who I have the potential of being, and grasping at something that just looks good or makes me feel better about myself. It’s a discipline of SURRENDER. Of TRUST. It’s about showing up. Despite the anxiety and the uncertainty. And it’s about letting God into that place. Because the wilderness is also a place of ENCOUNTER, a place where we meet God. There’s a beautiful paradox that when we feel most abandoned by God, we are closest to Him. The Gospel of Mark tells us Jesus was in the desert with the wild beasts, but the angles waited on him. And I think of the moment when Jesus was dying slowly on the cross. He was in the wilderness then. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was utterly forsaken AND utterly held in God’s arms. At the same time. Isn’t that the reality of our lives on earth?

My favorite image right now of being in the wilderness with God comes from a poem by John Shea and he writes: “So now when I pray, I sit and turn my mind like a television knob till you are there with your large open hands spreading my life before me like a Sunday tablecloth and pulling up a chair yourself.” Now that’s a metaphor of vocation and relationship with God that I can get behind. When I get stuck and paralyzed trying to figure out what God’s will is for me, when I obsess on finding the right way, I can remember that there is always a right now way. I can imagine God spreading out a Sunday tablecloth and pulling up a chair. “Okay, Grace-thing. What are we going to do? What dishes are we going to put on the table? What centerpiece? Who are we going to invite? What surprises are in store for us?”

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tonight's dinner table conversation

5 year-old: Mommy, you need more sleep than Daddy.
Me: I think you're right, honey. Different people need different amounts of sleep.
5 year-old: You should go to bed before Daddy, okay?
Me: Well, usually mommies and daddies go to bed at the same time.
5yo: Why?
Me: Because it's cozy.
5yo: Do you sing each other songs? (This made me laugh out loud. Just the thought of Husband and I singing each other lullabies. But hey, why not?)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Call in the Wilderness

Well...I've slacked off with blog posts again. sigh. I still read others' fairly often, but not as often as I'd like. It's hard to blog when things feel full and muddy. I'm sitting down at my computer attempting to focus my talk I'll be giving next week with Husband. I'm such an odd mixture of fearful and brave. Aren't we all? It's just so funny to me how much fear/anxiety sieze me. I can actually watch it happen...which is a good step. At least I can have some objectivity and humor when I'm seized by it. And that is good. But in considering ordained ministry, in considering being a leader of some kind, I've got to get over this. I think that's why this talk feels so significant. I'll be speaking from that place of fear and uncertainty and discernment. Once I figure out what I'm saying, I'll post the gist of it. Husband is the best. He thinks I'm funny. I wouldn't want to have to plan a talk with me. He's so mellow, go-with-the-flow. Thank God I married him. He took the girls to the farmer's market this morning so I could work on this. Until later..