working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Posts tagged ‘new in town’

Holding my breath

Life is a rollercoaster these days. Yesterday, I was feeling ambitious and energetic and I actually got the whole house clean. Except the downstairs bathroom. Cleaning 2 bathrooms is my limit. The day before, I had no desire to move from the living room. It was a good thing my laptop was in reach so I did manage to get some work done. And it seems there’s no predictability about what the day will bring. Could I do better with my eating habits? Probably. Would it help if I was more regular with my yoga prayer? Likely. But it seems that whether I’m taking care of my mind, body, and spirit, or not, each day is full of unpredictability and the anxiety that comes with it.

The pandemic has interrupted our lives in so many ways. People have lost loved ones. Many have lost their jobs. Lots of us had to learn how to homeschool, and likely will have another opportunity to hone those skills. For my family, the pandemic interrupted our connections to our new community.

In January, we moved from New Braunfels, TX to Charleston, SC. I started a new job at a social services ministry I love and was thrilled to return to (I used to be a pastor in town.) My son started at a new high school, known for the quality of their band program – the only thing he really loves about school at this point. I had high hopes that we would quickly find our favorite restaurants that we enjoyed walking to, that we would reconnect with all of my old friends from my former life here in town, that we would be overwhelmed with new people to get to know through band and Scouts and yoga and choir and all the other activities we love. And then, before we could even finish unpacking, life shut down.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re doing ok. I’ve survived the homeschooling of a ninth grader and used my engineering brain at work to reimagine food distribution outdoors. We have a roof over our heads and food on the table and since we’re both introverts, we like it just fine to be left alone a little bit. But we can’t really get out and try new restaurants – the streets are full of tourists and locals desperate for a not-home-cooked meal. We haven’t been able to connect with my old friends because we’re all staying home to stay safe right now. And we haven’t had the chance to meet new people at band practice or Scouts or yoga or choir because all of those things are either cancelled or online (not my favorite way to meet new people.)

But I didn’t realize how much I was missing community until I got to be part of a Zoom call with our Texas church family. We all gathered online to say goodbye to the pastor who’s moving and the experience just took my breath away. Now – I’m a pastor and I’ve spent my life working to create Christian community because I know it’s the foundation of discipleship and the place where people learn how much God loves them and an essential part of a life of faith. But our congregation in Texas was the first Christian community I’ve been a part of as an adult where I wasn’t in charge of all that. I just got to be me and show up and be loved and share my gifts when they were needed and watch my kiddo get wrapped up in love and acceptance and learn what following Jesus looks like. And that’s what I’m missing.

There’s no substitute for Christian community. No Boy Scout committee or band support team or yoga class or even choir can replicate authentic Christian community. When people make a commitment to walk as disciples together in the world, it changes things. When you ask, How are you?, you stick around for the answer and ask how you can help. You check in with all the kids and teenagers, making sure they know that they’re loved and seen and heard. You make room for disagreements because you respect one another’s contributions to the discussion, and you practice forgiveness together. At least, that’s what we did at New Life Lutheran Church. And I miss it.

Godly Play at New Life (outdoor) Lutheran Church

We haven’t had time to connect with a church here in Charleston. And so we’ve mostly been watching worship from back in Texas. But today’s Zoom call with all the familiar faces, with the kiddos who are growing up too fast, and with friends who are recovering from illness – that was church for me. I needed the connection. I needed to hear everyone’s excitement when we joined the call. I needed to share how much I’m missing them. And when I texted after the Zoom, I needed to know how they’re doing. Connection. Human, Christian connection. I need it like I need air to breathe. I just didn’t realize I’ve been holding my breath.

May we all take the time to breathe in deeply the love of God shown through Christian community. Praying that we will meet again, and soon.

living day – to – day

I don’t know about where you are, but around here, we’re all exhausted.

It’s the end of the first week of classes at TLU, and everyone is frazzled. This makes me happy. Why? Because I don’t feel so bad about being frazzled myself. Everything is new for me – the names of the buildings, the code names for the groups on campus, the names and faces of students, faculty, and staff, and this week, especially, the pace of life on campus. And taking in all this newness is wearing me out. It’s been all I can do to show up to events on time, in the right place, and with whatever presentation or sermon already thought out.

It’s not like I’m some incredibly prepared person on a regular basis. Since becoming a mom, and a single mom at that, I regularly find myself in procrastination mode, throwing events together at the last minute, finishing a sermon just before putting on my alb to lead worship. And as a former perfectionist, I’ve come to terms with that reality. But the last couple of weeks have been worse than usual. Each morning I wake up and check the calendar: what am I supposed to lead today? And each night I fall into bed thinking “I hope there’s not something huge happening tomorrow morning that I should have planned for.” All I can do is whatever I’m supposed to do today. Like Scarlett O’Hara, I can’t think about all I’ll have to do later on. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

But in the midst of my panicky planning for the presentation I’m giving in 1 hour, a beautiful thing has happened: I’ve been living in the moment. Everything I’ve been doing is for right now. All of my conversations are about what’s going on today, what’s happening next. And in focusing my attention and heart and brain power on what’s right in front of me, my anxiety level has dropped. I’ve realized that all I can do is what I’m doing, and so my focus has been extra-sharp. I’ve eased up on trying to make everything spectacular, and so my fear of failure has been replaced with joy in the moment. I’ve been dependent on others to accomplish each project, and so I’m filled with gratitude for the student leaders and faculty and staff who are helping me along.

Being present in the moment wasn’t my goal. Getting through a crazy schedule of events was my goal. But instead of trying to seize control of every detail and manipulate every outcome, I just let go and trusted that the Spirit would work through whatever effort I had to give. And that letting go and being present has made all the difference.

rainbow in New Braunfels, TX

rainbow in New Braunfels, TX

Driving to yet another campus event last night, I pulled out of my driveway only to discover a beautiful rainbow in front of me. I could have missed it if my mind had been working out curriculum for next Wednesday’s Grace Place Bible study or my next sermon for Sunday night worship. But I wasn’t. I was there, enjoying a moment in the car with my son, and noticing a small rainbow in the sky. I’m glad I didn’t miss it, because rainbows are one more reminder that God is ever present in our world, in each and every moment.

Praying for all of us, that we can live in the present moment, and participate in God’s gracious action in the world.

 

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