It’s barely above freezing, but I’ve opened my coat. There’s still a scarf wrapped around my head, my ears and neck and chin. My hands are in my pockets along with my phone, with headphones snaking up to my ears. I keep having to shove them back in.
I’m walking. I’m going on a walk. Every day for the past week. I’ve been going down roads I had never even really noticed, not knowing where I’m going but knowing how to get back to my apartment. I think I’ve found all the hills, even though there’s plenty of ways I haven’t gone yet.
Today I started off down another road I hadn’t noticed in four months of driving past it, and ended up somewhere I’d already been: the field with impossibly green grass and one single soccer goal placed crookedly somewhere between where it should be and the middle of the field. One side of it drops away to an empty, abandoned-looking pool; the next side is a baseball field crowned with a stone building that looks like the gatehouse to an estate.
I walk around the field. “Open from dawn to dusk,” the sign proclaims, and the sun is up. It’s cold, but that’s been blunted by walking.
I’m not really going anywhere with this: on my walk, other than back to my apartment; with this piece of writing. It was just a moment, one without revelations or tragedies but not without joy and the chill of almost-snow and the ordinariness of an almost-habit.
The rain roared down; I kept clicking my windshield wipers another level faster. Two manholes were gushing water like springs, feeding a river that vanished off the road. Lightning snapped across the sky; I never heard the thunder.
I slowed down, just a bit, once I wasn’t driving through a submerged bit of road. Even my headlights weren’t much helping me see through the downpouring night sky.
But it was warm. Maybe that was why I didn’t hate the rain. I used to love the rain, dance in it, revel in getting soaked by sudden downpours. I could listen to rain pounding on a roof for hours. Nothing was more beautiful than rain… until it was, until rain instead made everything go tight and uncomfortable and ravenously miserable.
Maybe it was the monsoon-like rain, coming down with the fierceness of a waterfall–a reminder of those desert times, when rain felt once-in-a-lifetime, when clouds softened and deepened and hid the scorching sun–maybe the pounding on the car roof reminded me of all those times roads had swelled over with water and we’d pulled over so mom could see to drive.
Maybe I had just stopped trying to make myself still like rain, stopped pretending that I hadn’t changed since I was ten. Maybe I was finally willing to accept that I didn’t have to like rain until the end of my days, revel in it when it was almost freezing or it had been overcast for two weeks or enjoy how rain turns concrete sullen.
Maybe it was just beautiful and wild, and next time it rains I’ll be suffocated with unspoken misery again.
I can’t sleep. I’ve been trying for a while now, but tomorrow I go before Presbytery (the regional church gathering in my denomination) for the final step in the process, the final approval before I can go ahead with my ordination service: I have to defend my statement of faith before Presbytery, and they vote whether to approve my joining the presbytery or not.
I’ve been telling myself that I’m not nervous, that I know my statement of faith and believe it, and that I tend to get the same questions and I can answer them well, that even if I get a question I’m unprepared for I will probably still be able to stumble my way through an answer. I don’t even feel nervous, or didn’t before I tried to fall asleep. It seems doable, and distant enough that I don’t need to worry yet. (That comes in the minutes or hours beforehand). But still I’ve been unfocused and unmotivated all day.
And–I am nervous. It’s the final step, and a big crowd, and I’ll have to be loud. I’m sure at least one question will be unexpected, and I’ll fumble around and just feel so awkward the entire time I’m up there.
I’m just trying to remember that it’s okay to be nervous. It’s natural. It’s okay to acknowledge that I’m nervous and that this is a big deal. It’s okay to name my fears about tomorrow. And that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to let it take over. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to let my nerves turn me mean or frozen or anything else. It just means totally ignoring it or shoving my feelings aside is a way of lying to myself, of saying that I’ve got it all together and I’m a good little robot of a human and I don’t need God to keep me from turning into a quivering mess. None of those things are true. None of them are even worth striving for.
It’s just way harder to sit with the fact that I’m nervous than it is to shove it aside. It’s way harder to remember that I don’t have to do it alone and depend on God and other people. It’s difficult to listen to myself, because what about those moments when I say things that are ugly and uncomfortable and that I’ve been trying to avoid for weeks?
But there’s something so incredibly freeing, too, about being honest, about admitting what I’m feeling and sitting with it. It becomes so much less serious. It becomes something I can embrace rather than avoid and deny, and with embrace comes acceptance and that moment of letting go of judgment. “It’s okay that I feel this way.” It’s never okay to act that out in ways that are hurtful or sinful or dangerous–but it’s okay to feel.
I got a job!!!
Technically the term is “accepted a call,” …and technically it’s two churches! I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve accepted a call to Chartiers Valley Presbyterian Church and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. I start soon, and I’m beyond excited.
But I’m trying to hold on to that excitement, because the reality of the matter is that these past few weeks have been stressful. Getting ordained is no task for the faint-hearted: there have been committee meetings and session meetings and joint meetings, with all of the attending paperwork. There’s the planning of the ordination service, asking participants and figuring out a service I’ve never seen done (I had a forty minute conversation with the officiant about all this) and the music, and then there’s letting all the important people in my life know this is happening and arranging for them to stay nearby or being sad they couldn’t come. I’ve been completing background checks and rewriting my statement of faith. I went home to sort through everything I have there and start packing it up to finally come stay with me–in the apartment I don’t yet have but am trying to look for, in between meetings with future congregants and reading annual reports and writings sermons and maybe hopefully cleaning so my parents don’t think I’m a total slob.
I think I forgot something–which is how I’ve been feeling pretty constantly for weeks now.
Look. I’m not trying to throw a pity party here. I know I stress myself out about everything sometimes, whether it’s important or not. Trust me, I know. (I live with that anxious voice saying maybe my background check will have a non-existent crime reported even though I’ve literally never been in a courtroom and maybe the robe I ordered will be terrible and maybe I screwed up something tiny on my last piece of paperwork so that now this is all going to fall apart)
I just want to say that I really really don’t want all this stress to be my memory of my ordination and starting this new job. I want to do what I can and leap in rather than linger and worry and stress out about things that in all likelihood will never happen. I want to rejoice in the blessings, like seeing my family and extended family, like receiving a call and being ordained and all the other people who are also working to make this happen. I want to not worry away the time.
I’m so not there yet. SO not there: Writing this reminded me of three other emails I need to send and one other place I’d like to clean and one other appointment.
But it also reminded me of where I’d like to be. So, here’s to holding on; here’s to wading through all the worries while sometimes pointing out that they’re kinda really stupid without bashing yourself for worrying about them. Just…let’s keep holding on. Let’s keep moving forward, worries be damned, and enjoy the good things.
I haven’t been cleaning very much. And by “very much” I mean it’s been more than a month since I’ve done anything that wasn’t laundry. (Necessary about laundry?)
It’s not just that. I’ve been at my place for almost a year now and still haven’t hung anything up, except for one post it reminding me that “The internet does not inspire you.” (Truth!) As much as not cleaning has partly been about being exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s also been about a lack of permanence. I know I won’t live here forever. I plan to move out when I find a church. I’ve been actively trying to not set down roots: I have more boxes than furniture, and most of my books and winter clothes are still packed (because last September, I optimistically thought I wouldn’t need them before I’d moved). I haven’t really bought anything for the room. I haven’t bought anything future-oriented since I moved in.
And I’ve been thinking about that, as I try to get over the hump that is “I haven’t cleaned and nothing has exploded!” so that I can reach the other side and start cleaning again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not completely unpacking, or not buying things I’ll just have to move again–but intentionally distancing myself so I don’t form any attachments is not really the goal. I don’t like it. What’s wrong with loving the place where I am, even if I’ll be moving someday? Why do I feel the need to hurry through instead of getting to know my neighbors?
I’d like to love this place, even if I’m not here much longer. I’d like to clean, and leave it better for whoever comes after me. And I’d like to remember that organizing and cleaning and putting pretty things on the walls and shelves is good for me, too.
Which is why I’m going to the store in a bit to get a new shower curtain. Which is why I’ve been rearranging my room so that there’s more than one path (because it’s a start) and making piles to donate.
Which is why I found myself mopping the bathroom today, dripping with sweat because I made the bright decision to start cleaning when it was pouring rain and so the humidity was through the roof.
And…loving is mostly hard work, and messy, and made up of moments that aren’t particularly memorable.
But I think I’m ready to love a little more.
Like everyone else, I’m going to start with the eclipse! I didn’t see much of it; I went outside briefly, but it was much more fun to watch other people stare at the sky and share eclipse glasses, and then I could stay inside and continue my crocheting and conversing.
I may not have ended up being too excited myself, but I hated hearing people get so disdainful and even mean about how excited people were to see the eclipse, like there was something wrong and childish in getting excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a cool nature thing.
I’m sorry, really?
I’m all for people getting excited for pretty much whatever. Yes, there are limits, i.e. legality and morality, but other than that: woodworking? button collecting? beetles? lighthouses? your job? an obscure species of plant found only in a square mile of the Amazonian rainforest? You go!
In honor of that spirit–and, as that person who sometimes feels self-conscious about the “weird” things that I sometimes read–here’s a list of books I’ve been loving lately, even if I do feel self-conscious talking about them, and loving them.
- 100 Essential Modern Poems by Women: I just always feel self-conscious about reading poetry, as if by doing so I’m shouting to everyone that I’m conceited and obnoxious. I’m not sure why that’s my first thought about reading poetry?? Anyway, it’s a collection of a hundred poems written by women over the last hundred and fifty years, and while I haven’t loved every poem it’s a really good collection. It also includes biographical information about every poet, which is fascinating. (I may or may not now be dreaming of reading a book of poetry by each of the women featured?) I just find poetry so interesting and truthful, even and maybe especially when I don’t understand it. And I love reading more by and about these women poets that I’ve mostly never heard of.
- From Midterms to Ministry: Practical Theologians on Pastoral Beginnings. Because…it’s so bad that I want to be a better pastor? *sarcasm alert!* I’m not quite sure why I feel so self conscious about this, although I’m sure it has something to do with not wanting to admit that I still have so much to learn. Or maybe I just feel self-conscious that my first learning instinct is to find a book about it.
- God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation by Terence E. Fretheim: This book is a bit of a brick, complete with a final third made up entirely of footnotes in a tiny font. I love it! I love most of Fretheim’s work, in fact, for he’s very thorough and methodical, and it’s been oddly fun to slowly work my way through a such a scholarly work.
What about you? What have you been loving unabashedly, or trying to?
It's been a while!
I really hate starting with that–and I hate having started with that so often in the history of this blog.
I just…haven't felt like I've had much to write about. Part of that was taking on a new job at the beginning of last month, which put me at just about full-time between all of my jobs. What a transition! It hasn't been bad, really. It's been tough, sure, and an adjustment, but I really love it. It's a good job. But between the new job and my other jobs, there have been lots of little good moments (and lots of irritating, frustrating ones, too!) but nothing big enough that I wanted to write a whole post about it.
But good grief it's been a long time since I wrote anything here.
And I think those little moments are worth celebrating and cherishing–and isn't that what I wanted to do here, in this space? find the good and beautiful and God in the routines and small moments of life? So let's take a moment–let's celebrate all the tiny things that being us joy. For me, that's been:
- Walking to work. It's a tiny way to make space for myself, and I love it.
- My new friend.
- Going to the park. I live right by one, and I've finally rediscovered that is a great place to go to read or get some work done.
- Beautiful sunsets. Enough said, right?
- Work. Definitely not every day–but there's something beautiful about seeing a task be completed, and being the one working towards that. There's something wonderful about having a clearly defined goal.
- Crocheting. I've been crocheting more lately and loving it! I find it such a soothing way to spend an hour or two.
- Writing. Surprising no one but myself, developing a regular writing habit has been giving me so, so much joy. (Perhaps this is a post for another time, but why do we so vehemently avoid the parts of life that give us the most joy?)
- Rain. We've had so much rain here I've the past month, and I love it. It's my favorite weather, full of such beauty and potential.
What about you? What small things have you been loving?