And meanwhile…

A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined being where I am. I couldn’t have imagined leaving a life and a career that – sadly – were no longer bringing me joy and fulfillment. I couldn’t have imagined standing up for myself and saying – enough.

And – again, sadly – I couldn’t have imagined the pathway God has laid out before me. I should know better than to ever doubt that His Grace will always be more than I could ask or imagine…but every time I find myself stunned by it. Stunned that He really loves who I really am. Stunned that when I’m at the end of my rope, He’s just not anywhere close to done with me yet. 

And so I find myself sitting by a lovely pool, on a warm night. I just watched a truly spectacular sunset. I took a nap and read some of the book I’m loving, today.

And you know what? Slowly, I am letting go of the hurts of this last year. They still sting me from time to time, my blood boils when I think back on things, but I am also getting to the place where I regret nothing. 

I don’t think I’m at forgiveness yet – and I may not be for a while. But I can feel its approach. I will get there, just as I got here, in  God’s good time. 

And meanwhile, step by step, he is leading me back to myself. Not to the me I was, but to the me that I have become and am becoming. Because, after all, He’s still not done with me yet. 

And meanwhile, I am making space for myself – space to rest and to heal and to allow what is new to emerge. 

And meanwhile, I am blessed to reconnect with friends, to share laughter and silliness, deep talks and best scars. 

And meanwhile, my eyes are trained on the beauty of the world around me. I forgot, in my darkest times, that life really IS beautiful. I am remembering and recognizing it again.

So, dear friends, wherever you find yourself, may you know that God is not done with you yet. Whether you are thriving or just surviving, trust that God has you where He needs to you to be, and is laying out a pathway for you that is better than you can ask or imagine.

Green and growing…

I’ve long said that I’ve got two black thumbs, that plants can just look at me and spontaneously die, that if you have a plant you can’t kill – just give it to me. I meant it to be funny and to reflect the reality that I have often been so busy that remembering to water the plants just doesn’t happen.

My mother loves flowers and cares for them tenderly. If you want to make her happy – give her flowers. Especially if they are potted and will bloom again. Or if they are bulbs that she can transplant once she’s done enjoying them.

I’ve tended to lean more towards the thought that flowers die. And they are pretty and all, but way more work than they are worth.

Now, planting a garden for food purposes….that I get. Both of my grandfathers were great gardeners. I know that there is nothing more tasty that food that has just been harvested from one’s own garden. I have a strong memory of sitting among the pea vines in the “back 40” of Nana and Poppa’s cottage, with one of our dogs (Penny, the miniature schnauzer, I think), pulling pods off the vine, opening them and eating the peas and sharing them with the dog. For an introvert like me, that was pretty much heaven.

So when I moved to the farmhouse, Mom asked if I wanted to plant a garden. She got plants and seeds for me, and together we planted them on the long weekend in May.

I’ve been delighted to wander up to the garden every couple of days and see the shoots coming up. The radishes were first, then lettuce and peas, the carrots were last, but are making a healthy go of it now.

As I watch the green and growing things in my garden, I’m reminded of many good things: that what starts out small may always grow; that in order for the plant to grow, it must die and be buried first – the life/death/new life cycle is imprinted in the very fabric of our world (and so the life/death/resurrection of Jesus is less incomprehensible miracle, as true revelation of how God made the world. We are NOT meant to end in death!); that even someone with two black thumbs can be changed into someone growing their own produce.

Today I am thankful for green and growing things – not just those in my garden, but those in the fields and forests around me, and especially those within our souls. God is doing a new thing – and even when we feel like we’ve been buried, faith tells us that this is just part of the process that God Himself designed.

Unpacking….

As I settle in to my new home – my happy place – I realize how much unpacking both sucks and doesn’t suck. It sucks because it seems to take FOREVER (are the boxes MULTIPLYING behind our backs?!???!). It doesn’t suck, because as I pull things from boxes and organize them, I come across so many memories.

Marie Kondo has famously stated that the key to decluttering is to hold an object in your hand. If it sparks joy, you keep it. Of it doesn’t, you get rid of it. Simple, right?

Only, no…not so simple. The reality is that most of us own things that hold mixed emotions for us. I unpacked a pair of running leggings today that I wore when I completed my first half marathon (and for that matter, another pair that I wore when I completed my second half marathon). Those memories spark joy, for sure. But they also make me a little sad (and, I hope, a lot determined) because I cannot do more than about 1.75mi in a run right now, I weigh more than I have in the better part of a decade, and if I had to attempt a Half tomorrow I could neither fit into those running leggings, nor expect to actually finish the distance.

But…I didn’t throw them out. And not only because they are ridiculously expensive LuluLemons (though, let’s be honest, that’s definitely a part of it!), but because as I unpack my belongings I am also unpacking a couple of years of unhealthy living. I’ve begun running again (I have said that FAR too many times in the past two years, but I hope and pray that this time it sticks). I’ve signed back up for WW (where it all began), and I’ve stuck to it for a few days. I am living in a place that nourishes and strengthens my soul, and I am determined that in the next few seasons, I will also strengthen my body.

It’s going to take time. Just as the unpacking and organizing of belongs will. But I am determined. I am motivated. And the only thing standing in my way, is me.

So, I’m getting out of my way. I’m reminding myself that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and I am grateful for the suck/doesn’t suck reality of unpacking.

May you, also, find ways to move forward into the future Christ has for you, may you know that you can do all things as he strengthens you, may you press on.

Quiet and unapologetic…

A few days ago I moved in to my happy place. No, not the SkyDome/Rogers Centre, but the Farmhouse which has been the home-base of most of my vacations and some of my study leaves over the past 15 years.

I have always felt that there was something magical about this place. I can’t quite explain it – the house is a century-old and used to be part of a working farm. Now it sits on an acre of fenced-in land and plays host to my family, friends, and our various dogs. There isn’t a level floor or a square corner anywhere in the house. But it goes on standing through winter snows and summer storms.

And I guess the magical thing about this place is that it is a place of rest for me. A place where no one raises an eyebrow if I indulge in multiple naps. A place where I get to make really good meals for my loved ones. A place where my dog can get the zoomies as often as she wants, without any fear of being hit by a vehicle.

So I admit for the last two days I’ve just been taking it quiet. True – there is unpacking and settling in that needs doing, I have a few more things to plant in the yard, and I really ought to get back to running and walking regularly. Instead, I’ve cuddled the doggies (my folks’ bulldogs are with me for a couple of days), done some reading, watched the Jays win. I’ve stared out the windows at the colour of sunlight on Spring leaves, and taken deep breaths of air that smells like lilacs and freshness.

I’ve spoiled myself with quiet and rest.

The reality is that I’m tempted to feel guilty about that – I should be DOING more, I should be ACCOMPLISHING things. But a friend gave me some great advice yesterday. She said: do what feels right, this is a time of healing.

So I don’t apologize for nourishing myself with quiet and the lack of accomplishment. It’s what I need right now. It’s how I’m healing.

And I guess I just want to ask you to consider what you need right now, and how you might heal. And then I want to encourage you to do what you need to, and not apologize for needing it.

Why we sing…

I came across this, this evening:

I loved it instantly and thought of two recent experiences.

I’ve been making runs out to the farmhouse as I get closer to move there – taking things like my art and other treasured belongings, and just spending time in the house (sometimes alone), as confirmation about the fact that I WANT to live there. My Mom warned me that the birds would wake me up around 5am if I left the windows open when I went to bed.

She wasn’t wrong – I left the windows open and heard the birds greeting the dawn. The crazy thing is that it didn’t bother me. It didn’t upset me. Instead, I felt a small smile form on my lips, my eyes still closed. Then I rolled over, and slept peacefully until I was ready to wake up.

I’m NOT a morning person, and sometimes I think of myself as not particularly outdoorsy. Yet, hearing the joyful song of the birds as light began to bloom again in that corner of the world brought me joy and peace, that I could not have imagined.

The other experience was a more difficult one. A dear friend’s (really, a chosen sister’s) mother is dying in palliative care. We visited her together in hospital . Visiting the dying is not one of my particular gifts. But I’ve always said that if a friend asked for something, and it was in my power to grant, the answer would always yes.

So we went. I prayed, and held her mother’s hand. And after a bit, I asked if it would be ok if I sang to her a bit. My friend told me to go for it. So I sang – just a couple of choruses, just some simple songs of our shared faith. And I don’t know – I can’t know – if her mother heard me. But I know I felt better singing over her.

Yes, we sing – like the birds – to say that we are still here, we made it. But I also think we sing to find our way through the darkness and the unknown. (The Australian Indigenous people have songs they sing to find their way through the barren outback. I’ve always loved that thought about why we sing – to find our way through the wilderness.)

So sing, friends. Whether you have a a “good” voice or not – sing. Sing because you are still here, sing to find your way through, sing to reach deep into your soul and find strength you didn’t know you had.

Sing.

In your car. In your shower. With an audience or without. And if you can manage it, find opportunities to sing with a group of other people – at a church service, at a choir practice, at a concert or as part of the crowd at a sporting event.

Sing.

I promise it will be good for your soul.

Emerging…

I feel a little like I’ve begun crawling out from under a rock, or making my way out of a deep pit. It’s a process, and it will take a long time, I’m sure. But I think I’ve begun to emerge.

In the last week or so, I’ve found myself looking around. Noticing the world and my fellow humans in it – far more than I have been able to over the past few months. I find myself gazing out the window at the buds that are bursting on the trees. Or people watching as I sit in my car at a red light. I’ve been having long conversations and renewing connections that went a little cold during the last two years.

And as I look around me, I see two things: first, there is so much beauty to be found when we choose to pay attention (or when we have the energy to pay attention); and two, everyone is weary. In terms of the pandemic, we are in a season of hopefulness, living with fewer restrictions than anytime during the past two years, but we are also aware that Covid isn’t done with us yet.

Add to that the rising cost of – well – EVERYTHING, the ongoing brutality in Ukraine, the worsening realities of climate change, and the polarization of the political landscape….

We are just tired. Tired of things be difficult, tired of uncertainty, tired of things getting worse rather than better.

And I guess in all of this I simply want to encourage you a bit – if you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone. It’s ok to feel not ok – because our world hasn’t been ok for a very long time. But it’s also possible to find a way forward. To change what you are feeling. It’s hard, and I know that exhaustion of our times makes it even more difficult to put the effort in.

If all you can do is hang on, that’s ok, too. Hanging on is a very good thing, because your circumstances WILL change. Hold yourself gently and give yourself credit for making it through each day.

But if you think you are able to make changes, DO. Do not wait. Figure out one thing you can do today – spend time in meditation/breathing exercises/prayer; start making a regular bedtime routine; eat a vegetable or fruit at each meal; make a list of gratitudes; go for a walk and take pictures of the Spring flowers (then look at them when you are down or struggling).

If you need to, make bigger changes: career, relationship, where you live – make those changes, too. (Make sure you talk this over with trusted inner-circle people, and aren’t making huge decisions based on a bad day or a whim. Make a plan to put larger changes into place gradually, don’t just up and quit your job or move across the country. Running away from what you are struggling with will only make life more difficult in the long run.)

May we continue to press on – making it through the day, making the changes that will draw us closer to the life we have in Christ, and remembering that we are never alone.

Thankful…

I was afraid to post about the severing of the pastoral tie, and moving on from congregational ministry. You just never know how people might react, and there is such stigma around the dissolving of a pastoral tie, even when it is for non disciplinary reasons.

But I have been delightfully surprised. So many have reached out with a kind word, offering prayers and time for conversation. I have felt the support of colleagues and friends alike. It is good for my soul.

So today I am just thankful. And that is another step forward in healing. Never doubt how much good a simple kind word can do for another.

Leaving Church

I remember hearing that Barbara Brown Taylor, one of my preaching and writing heroes wrote a book entitled, “Leaving Church.” It is on my to-be-read list, but that list is always SO much longer than what I’m able to tackle. So I haven’t read it, but the title came into my mind as I thought about writing this post.

My blog has always been an exercise in my own faith – I love that it helps others, but most of the time, I’m writing for myself. I write in order to process experiences, spend time in God’s word, and to keep track of what I was thinking and feeling in a certain season.

Today I want to write about leaving congregational ministry after 15 years. I feel a little like I’m blowing up my life, but the reality is that the last two years have been horrible. Between my own struggles with anxiety and depression (thanks, Covid), the realities of having to pivot several times from in-person worship to online and back again, and the burden of caring for a congregation during these uncertain and painful days, it has all been too much.

I had two choices: keep going until it killed me (it’s already come close a few times), or find a different path. Though I grieved the reality, I knew I couldn’t keep going until it killed me. There are too many people I love in this world, too many experiences I still wish to have, and too much good to be done, for me to be ready to leave at this point in my life.

So the only choice was to find a different path. I admit to you, I toyed with the idea of leaving my faith entirely. Of just giving up faith all together – no more church, no more prayer, no more scripture, no more sacred singing.

But I quickly realized that was my hurt and anger (and, no doubt, the enemy) whispering in my ear. That’s not the Voice I want to listen to. And at the end of the day – I can’t see a sunset without whispering a prayer of thanks; in my darkest nights, I sing the songs of my faith to find my way through the darkness; the scriptures still have the power to reach off the page and wring my heart with their beauty; and though I have been hurt by it, I still wish to serve the church that Jesus died to save.

And the thing is – God isn’t done with me yet. Thank God!

Instead, he quietly laid a path in front of me. For the next couple of years, I will be retraining in order to become a Christian psychotherapist and spiritual director. And it no longer feels like blowing up my life. Instead it feels like hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit – it feels like listening to the voice I WANT to listen to, the voice of the triune God who loves me.

The pastoral tie with my congregation has been dissolved. I’ve been moved to the appendix to the role in my Presbytery. I have applied to Knox College for the MPS (Masters of Pastoral Studies) program.

I’m other words, I’ve begun taking steps forward. There are still many steps ahead.

My hope is to blog through this process – for myself, of course. But I also invite you to join me on the journey. May God use my experiences to bless and encourage others.

Final Meme Monday for a bit…

Dear Friends, thank you so much for checking out my blog, letting me know what it’s meant to you, and being part of my community. As with so many of us, the pandemic has taken its toll on me. My doctor has recommended a leave and told me that my full-time job during this break is to work on my own health. It’s really difficult to choose not to blog for the next several weeks, but I trust my doctor and wish to follow her best advice.

So this will be my last blog for a while. I’d appreciate your prayers and look forward to returning to blogging once I am back from leave.

In the meantime, there were just too many good Easter Memes to not do one final post. So, let’s go!

This made me giggle, but also made me sad as Ontario is in its third lockdown since the pandemic began (and I pray it will work, because the stories from the ICU are scary!):

An oldie, but a goodie:

If it all happened now, this would be how that episode would go down:

But, SERIOUSLY:

Bunny jokes are seasonal, right?!:

Seriously, bunny:

Ryan Reynolds cracks me up! And that comment – perfect (also, get your jab as soon as you can, and I will pray you stay safe until you do!):

Loooove:

This lovely bit of poetic encouragement:

And this reminder (it’s not just for the parents!):

And finally, this blessing for your day:

Until I return, dear friends, be blessed and be a blessing!

Easter Sunday!

Welcome to Easter Sunday on the blog! May the service be a blessing:

And just because it’s been a while since I shared anything from Fountainview Academy, and this hymn always makes me think of Resurrection Sunday, here is “Blessed Assurance”:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, Easter blessings to you!