Friday Five: On the Move!

Today’s Friday Five on RevGals is about moving. Mother Laura says…

We are right in the middle of a move–only twenty minutes away, but we’re still a mix of busy, excited, nervous and surprisingly full of grief about what we’re leaving, for me at least. So this week’s Friday Five asks about your experience of the marvels and madness of moving…

1. How many times have you moved? When was the last time?
2. What do you love and hate about moving?
3. Do you do it yourself or hire movers?
4. Advice for surviving and thriving during a move?
5. Are you in the middle of any inner moves, if not outer ones?
Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what moving means to you.

So here goes.  I’m a Navy brat, so in the first 12 years of my life, I moved twelve times.  Since then, I’ve moved six more times, and now I’m settled for at least a few years, in my happy new house.

I loved moving as a child.  It was exciting, and we would find all the things that had gone missing in the last year or so.  🙂  Of course, Mom always hated it, because there was so much to DO and just not very much time.  I both love and hate the organizational aspects, and I really dislike the feeling of being unsettled.  I still don’t feel quite settled into my house, because I need dressers in my bedroom.  Right now, I have to go fetch my socks and undies every morning from a dresser in another room, so even though I’m not living out of a suitcase, that’s how I feel.

The last two moves, I hired movers, and it was soooooooooo worth it.  I also hired a cleaning crew to do the move-out cleaning at my apartment.  Also soooooooooo worth it.

My advice is to plan as much as you can, so you don’t end up surprised.  Moving is pretty much guaranteed to cost at least 50% more than you expected, because there are lots of hidden costs in there.  Pay particular attention to self-care during the move, because everyone in the family is going to be on edge.

Inner moves… yes, I am.  I’m going to answer this one below the fold, so you only have to click and wade through it, if you’re really interested.  Either way, I hope you have a happy Friday and a great weekend!  Peace and blessings to you all on your journeys, no matter how and where you’re moving.

So the question was, are you in the middle of any inner moves, if not outer ones?  And the answer is, yes, dammit.

I’ve written before about this vague, strange sense of call that I’m trying to make sense of.  It is a long story, on a twisting, winding path.  I have felt this call since I was about 12 years old.  But I never thought of talking about it with my parish priest at the time – he was a bit scary to me, actually! – and by the time I graduated from high school, I’d convinced myself that my deep love of liturgy and music were about form and not substance, and were thus all the wrong reasons to seek ordination.  So my big discernment decision was to walk away from Sunday church for a while, to see whether I still felt this call, and to see how that affected me.  After I’d effectively plugged my ears and started singing to myself, I found that I was no longer really hearing God’s voice, and I was frankly relieved… while being yet one more 18-year-old who graduated from high school and essentially graduated from church.

In my last year of college, I joined a different parish with my fiancé, and the rector of that parish married us.  We worshipped there for some time, and then drifted away as we moved, had children, and just got too busy for church.  There were two experiences in this time that really amazed me.  One was at a service where my sister-in-law-to-be was received into the Episcopal Church and her husband was confirmed.  And as we spoke the creed and corporately renewed our baptismal vows, I found myself inexplicably in tears.  Something was happening, but I didn’t know what, so I pushed it aside for later (pondered these things in my heart?).

A couple years later, we’d resisted having our kids baptized because of all the people telling us what a horrible risk this was.  My opinion was, if God was going to send these babies to hell because of original sin, then God could bite my shiny metal ass.  Eventually, five of the six cousins on my then-husband’s side of the family were all to be baptized together, on Christmas morning – including my two kids.  And in his session with us, the priest said these words on this very topic: if I believed that God would condemn a perfect, innocent child to hell – if I really believed God could do that – then I would choose not to be a Christian.  Wow.  That took me completely by surprise, and it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

Several months later, I had a conversion experience in the form of a recurring dream.  I wrote about it last spring, and it was the impetus for me to get my butt back into a pew again.  The sense of call had come back, full-force, with a vengeance.  And this marked the beginning of the end of my marriage.  I do not want to say that God wanted my marriage to end; in fact, I think we had many chances to make things better, but we failed them.  I do remember more than once being told, “Well, I guess when you go to seminary, then we’ll get a divorce.”  (I also remember that he never once said if, only when.  That intrigues me.)

However, as I gave in and did some discernment work on my own, I realized that as introverted as I am, I would be a disaster in parish ministry.  I came to the conclusion that the politics would tear me up, that all the after-hours meetings and social events would wear me out, that I’d burn out within my first year in a parish.  And at the time, that was very true.  Now… I’m wondering whether that has become a comfortable and comforting excuse for me.  I’m still introverted.  I still dislike politics, but I’ve become much better at observing the behaviours around me and inferring the motivations behind what I can see on the surface.  I’ve gotten much better at hearing the words that are said, and knowing some of what is remaining unsaid.  I’m getting more involved in stuff outside of Sunday morning, at moving further from my comfort zone and finding it really to not be so bad.

Recently, I’ve gotten several messages from people that basically say, warriormare, you’re very pastoral, and you need to live that out more than software engineers usually do.  At physical therapy, one of my fellow patients told me, “You need to be a nurse.  Whenever you come in, you make everyone here feel better, even the people who work here.”  That very day, one of my coworkers said, “You need to be an advocate for victims of rape and abuse.  Everything you’ve been through, and everything you know – you could really help these people.”  Several months back, three different people told me I’d be a good spiritual director.  One of them said I’d be particularly good as a director for clergy, since I have a really good grounding in the challenges that clergy face.  (Of course, I know that most clergy aren’t going to want a layperson as a spiritual director.)  One of those people used those same words: you need to.  When I told my spiritual director about this, she was agreed immediately, without hesitation, and started recommending training programs to me.

These have all come together for me, pointing in a similar place.  You need to help people. Meanwhile, my love of worship has not gone away, and has only strengthened over time.  When I joined my parish home, the rector and I discussed ministries in worship (reading the lessons, serving the chalice, taking communion to the homebound), he told me that whatever I wanted to do, he’d get me licensed by the bishop.  My brain immediately said, “License to preach?” but I kept my mouth shut.  I do yearn to preach, though, to proclaim the gospel to my brothers and sisters and to take it further and relate it to the things we all struggle with.  Just as I yearn to stand at God’s table and break the bread and serve the wine, and just as I yearn to pronounce those words you are sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever, and just as I yearn to speak God’s blessing and the words of absolution and what God has joined together let no one put asunder and yes, even, into your hands, O Lord, I commend his spirit.

But I am so torn up by this.  I’m comfortable in my life – or, I would be, if God would leave me alone.  I make a very nice salary, and I have a wonderful home, and I have the resources to live comfortably and amuse myself with fun tech toys.  I don’t want to move again.  I don’t want to spend three years in grad school, scrimping and saving and going tens of thousands of dollars into debt.  I don’t want to go into an uncertain future, starting out in a brand new career path again and having to re-establish myself in a completely different environment.  I don’t want to leave my wonderful parish, now that I finally feel like I’ve come home.

And yet… if I don’t ask these questions, if I don’t engage in this discernment… do I run the risk that I will never be happy again?

Last night, I spoke briefly with our assistant, and I asked her if I could sit down with her and the rector and talk about starting a discernment group in the parish.  It is literally years before I would be allowed into the discernment process for ordination in this diocese, but I am also well aware (even hopeful!) that the discernment group would come up with some other path that resonates with my calling.  I know there’s another member of our parish who is getting ready to go into discernment for ordination.  It is a long path, still winding and twisted, and not an easy one.  But is also well worth walking.

Pray for me, my friends, as I pray for you.  And I wish you all the blessings and joys of Eastertide.

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5 thoughts on “Friday Five: On the Move!

  1. EFM might be a great pre-discernment path for you. I went through the ELCA version; the experience confirmed for me that ordained ministry wasn’t something that appealed to me, but the process equipped me for finding my own niche as a lay minister in my own parish. Others in my lay ministry class eventually heard the call to seminary.

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  2. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Stacey Derbinshire

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  3. I loved reading your story. First, as a clergyperson, I would be glad to have a layperson as spiritual director. No problems there. And I hope you find peace in this journey (or that peace finds you, more like). I am an introvert too (most clergy are, I understand) so I can relate to your worries. For me, they work out somehow and I appreciate that some pieces of parish work are particularly good for introverts.

    Also, I almost spit coffee on my screen snorting laughter at “bite my shiny metal ass.” That may be my new favorite phrase. Thanks for the play. 🙂

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  4. Many things you say here resonate deeply with me…I wish you well in your discernment.

    I will also add that clergy most certainly DO want lay people as spiritual directors…or are open to the possibility.

    All things are possible with God…so hold yourself open for whatever emerges!

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  5. In the Army, my father actually “homesteaded” for 7 years in the same job, but about halfway through some gov’t quarters became available so we moved a few towns away.
    I so agree about the cleaning service, had we not sold our last house to a rehabber we would have had one for sure.
    Blessings on your discernment path. Spiritual director sounds like it might work?

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