So yesterday I met with the clergy at my parish to discuss initial ideas in discerning the direction of my current sense of call. I well know that among churchgoing folk, the word discernment automatically makes most of us fill in the unsaid words for ordination, and I want to emphasize that I am absolutely not engaging in discernment for ordination, but rather a process of listening to the voice of the Spirit, to the voices of the people I’m in community with, to the voices in my own mind and heart. And I think from those, we’ll triangulate on the right path for me to walk… for now.
It was a good meeting, and I’m very glad I went. I was so excited after first getting things set up, and then the fears crept in, those voices that tell you everything’s fine, don’t rock the boat, don’t change anything, just keep on like you are. I realized that thinking about those voices made me unhappy, rather than soothing my nerves, so I think I’m pretty clear on where they come from. I recently picked up a book on the Ignation model of discernment of spirits, and though it’s written at a pretty basic level, it was very good to have the confirmation: if the general direction of your life is toward God, then motions toward God will feel good and right, and motions away from God (or those little voices that encourage you in an away-from-God direction) will feel uncomfortable and wrong.
The hell-month that April was for me has come to a close, and we’re having a glorious day here in southeastern Virginia for May 1 – MayDay, Beltane, Ascension. It is sunny and breezy and warm, everything a spring day should be. There are roses just beginning to blossom from their tightly-wrapped buds, and the squirrels and birds and ducks and goslings are at play. Yesterday morning, I went in to the pain management clinic, because my neck and shoulders had been spasming. The doc did nine trigger-point injections in my neck and shoulders, and sent me home with a boatload of muscle relaxants as well as instructions to drink lots and lots of water, as she’d released lots and lots of lactic acid from those knotted-up muscles. Unfortunately, by the time I’d gotten home, my entire upper body was one big knot of stiffness and pain. So I took my meds, drank a whole lot of water and decaf-sugar-free iced tea, warmed up my heat pack, and went to BED. I ended up calling in to my boss, rather than telecommuting, and I’m glad I did. This morning, I felt great, so I neglected to take the meds, and I was feeling the tension again by about 9:30. I ended up leaving the office at 3 to come home and hit the muscle relaxants. I’ll probably take the pain pill at bedtime, to be sure I get restful, healing sleep. But it’s better, and if it stays better, then good. If not, then I’ll be having the cervical facet joint injections again.
Tuesday night, my parents came over for supper with their new sheltie puppy, Dundee. I left work a little early to pick up my daughter at school, and we stopped at the supermarket for a couple things on the way home. We had slow-cooked ribs, homemade yeast rolls, grilled squash, and mashed potatoes. It was wonderful, AND it was the first time we ate in the dining room of my new house. The new furniture for my bedroom was delivered last weekend, and that room finally feels like the peaceful, restful haven that I had at my apartment. I am enjoying this house so very much, even when the work to take care of it is hard. It is so much more satisfying to vacuum the rugs and clean the bathrooms and then look around and see my home looking so nice. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have this place.
I will not be any more specific than this right now, but my daughter could use prayers. There are some obstacles in her relationship with her father, and she’s having a hard time of it.
Now, for something a little more uncomfortable. After I wrote the Six Ps post last week, I shared links to that post and a couple others here with an email community I’ve belonged to for most of the last six years. In the email, I asked anyone who wanted to, to provide feedback to poetproph on her model, and then asked for prayers for myself as I embarked in a period of listening and discernment for my path ahead. I realized that the blog posts invited feedback, but did not ask for feedback or advice in my email. Advice is what I was given at the outset, though, and I’ll admit to having a little bit of a temper tantrum at being given pat answers that I already knew very well (as well as to getting them in a forum where they hadn’t been invited – feedback as blog comments would have been entirely different). I really regret mouthing off in the email list, and I’ve since sent apologies to almost everyone whose toes I stepped in. But in the middle of my April hell-month, I realized that if I continued to read those responses, I would b*tch out every last one of my friends, so I put myself in time out.
The standard response I was getting seemed to be, “You’re engaged to be married; this isn’t the time for discernment” (with the unsaid assumption, once again, that this was discernment for ordination). The problem I had with this was the idea that someone whose life is in change, or has just emerged from major change, should hold off on listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that this would be the very time when you would absolutely, critically need to do this sort of work. After these changes, I would expect anyone to need to do some inner work, to take inventory of who you are now, what you have learned about yourself, what your newfound strengths (and weaknesses) are, where you were headed before, where you seem to be headed now, and where you want to be headed. There was another piece of this that had to do with not doing this kind of listening and exploration during this (one year plus) engagement period, and it was gratifying to hear my fiancé’s opinion that to avoid this work would be dishonest and a disservice to us both. He’s in a place where he is going to need to do some similar inner work on the direction his life is going to take. His move to Virginia allows him to do some real pie-in-the-sky thinking about what he would do if there were no limits to his choices, and then to think about how those things could be brought to life within the limits we have. Because, you know what? You usually can still bring those deep desires of your heart to life.
So I’ve been away from that email list for a week now. I miss the individual people who are my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ. There are people in that community I’ve known online for about ten and a half years now – longer than I’ve known most people who are currently my friends in meatlife. But I’m feeling a definite sense that I need to be more engaged in, well, meatlife. I need to be more involved in the flesh-and-blood people at my parish, at my workplace, in my family. And this feels very good and right and sacred, so I am honouring it. It is strange to be an introvert who is pushing herself into more face-to-face interaction, but there it is. God continues to call me, to draw me out of my comfort zones. And when this happens, I usually recognize those comfort zones as my desert places. Those of us familiar with Isaiah – civil engineer of the bible – know what God does with our desert places, when we let God into them – which is to turn them into fertile gardens of beauty and food and richness.
So that’s what’s going on for me right now. Want to sit down and talk for a while? I just got a new stovetop popcorn popper, so we can make some fresh popcorn with real melted butter, grab some iced tea or fresh limeade, and have a chat. C’mon – join me here on the couch, and we’ll munch on our snacks, natter away, and watch the squirrels play in the trees out back.
Peace to you and all those you love today!