Excited-Worried-Idon’tevenknow

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.

*sigh*

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.

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Ridiculous Expectations

I have a lot of expectations. Of myself, of others, of products and fictional universes–but mostly of myself. I’m perfectly willing to admit that other people are flawed, and do things that don’t make sense, and need days of rest. I’m almost as willing to admit that my favorite character isn’t perfect, or that the fictional universe doesn’t have to be what I really, really want it to be.

But myself? It’s so much harder to give up my own expectations for myself.

So many of my expectations are ones I don’t even realize I have. Like when it comes to adults: I can verbalize that adults are not perfect and do not have it all together. Really, though, I still believe that other adults are in fact perfect, or at least have this adulting thing down to an art, and I’m the only one still bumbling along, avoiding doing my taxes or taking my car to the mechanic. I have this expectation that adults doing avoid anything, ever, and certainly clean and do laundry on a regular basis and want to go to work. I’m not even sure where these expectations came from, actually, because I don’t actually know any adults who want to go to work all the time, and it’s ridiculous to think that no one ever avoids doing things or always does all of their chores. And, see, I can name that ridiculousness, but I still feel guilty thinking of the pile of laundry I need to do. 

And when it comes to writing–boy, do I have some expectations about that. I expect myself to write consistently, ideally an hour or two every morning before I go do some laundry or whatever. I expect my ideas to come regularly (but not overwhelmingly). I expect the words to come easily. I expect myself to always balance perfectly the need to write and writing for money and writing becoming addictive again and writing what I love and writing well. And then I get so frustrated when, oddly, I am not perfect. And, see, I can recognize that these expectations are ridiculous, too, but that isn’t that helpful when I’m in the midst of feeling like a worthless writer because I have no ideas or haven’t blogged in two weeks, or like a worthless human being because I’ve fallen into addictive, destructive behaviors towards stories, or like a failure because I want to write so much that I sit at my computer and watch Netflix because sometimes feelings are just too overwhelming. 

And, yes, recognizing a problem is the first step in solving it. Sure. But I’ve always struggled with this and I suspect I always will. I struggle with my ridiculous expectations, but I’ve also been doing the work to let those expectations go.

Rest

Sleep. Prayer. Exercise. Reading a good book; working on a craft project, a hobby, a labor of love. 

Rest.

I don’t rest. I don’t feel like I do enough in a week to “deserve” it, and so instead I shoehorn in an episode of something here, twenty guilty minutes of reading there. Guilty time, when I could be doing something else–should be doing something else. It’s not terribly restful; if anything, it’s time when I “give myself a break” by doing something I don’t have to think about much, and end up feeling even more tired and frazzled than when I started. Maybe it’s the guilt; maybe it’s the looming threat of unproductivity; maybe it’s that not thinking isn’t really that restful. Maybe it’s because getting sick of working and so casting about for anything to fill the time with that isn’t “productive” isn’t really that restful.

One of the books I read mostly in guilty spurts was Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church–except, of course, once I got to the second half of the book it was impossible to feel guilty about reading it. It got beautiful and emotional and true. I read huge chunks of it and it was restful. In it, she narrates her journey from working as a pastor to working as a professor, and all these things she realized about church and herself once she wasn’t working at a church anymore. I was struck by many of the things she wrote, but most immediately by her chapter on Sabbath. She writes of the struggles and joys of setting aside a day where there’s no housework, no work, just worship and the things that you enjoy doing–the things that refresh you.

I used to do that. I was really good at it in college–I would take walks, and read books that needed attention like Shakespeare and a history of biological thought and epic poems. I would reflect on my week, and avoid homework, and spend time with friends. It was wonderful, too–I admit, I’m not sure why I stopped, can’t quite remember. But I did. I haven’t kept a good, intentional Sabbath in–far too long. (I’m not not being cagey or intentionally obscuring an embarrassing number; I really can’t remember the last time I had a true Sabbath)

And I’m tired. I need to start again.

I have, actually: last week I took a Sabbath, and it was difficult and joyful just like Taylor described it. I rode the full ride, from ‘This is so wonderful and restful!’ to ‘I want to do something productive!!!’ I’m excited to continue that this week, and next week, and on and on. I’m excited to remember that everything does not rest on my shoulders, that leaving some dishes another day will not end the world, that deserving and productivity and everything else that I put in quotation marks above doesn’t mean the constricted, guilt-laden things I put on them. They’re not the be-all, end-all of my life. I can let them go for a day, and when I pick them up again later they’re not quite so heavy and bent out of shape.

Sick of Scared

I’m sick of being too scared to go after my dreams.

I’ve been scared since I started my internship–of the time commitment, of my cohort, of being honest, of the emotions being stirred up, of the emotions I face every day. 

And I’ve been scared of my dreams–of writing, of becoming a pastor. They both seem too huge and impossible and overwhelming that I don’t even know where to start. There are so many places I could submit my work. Where do I choose? How do I choose? What kind of writer am I? How do I gather up the courage to keep submitting and keep writing and keep submitting and keep writing when I get rejection notices, when I am exhausted after work, when there’s too much to write about and not enough  time? How do I gather the courage to write my final sermon and write my pastor resume and write my statement of faith when, the longer I’m away from seminary, the more I wonder if I could ever actually be a pastor? How do I convince people that I’d be a good pastor when I’m not sure?

I don’t know. But I’m sick of giving in to my fear. I’m sick of avoiding my love of writing and my love of pastoring because I’m afraid. I’m sick of avoiding, period. I’m sick of being too scared to go after my dreams.

Here I go again, then. Chasing my dreams, one step at a time. One step isn’t overwhelming: one blog post, one poem, researching one magazine, writing one pitch. One step isn’t overwhelming: looking up one Hebrew word, answering one question, writing one sentence of my statement of faith.

I refuse to give up on my dreams.

What is success?

As I prepare to graduate, and as I approach the date with no long-term plans for afterwards, I find myself thinking about my writing. My prospects are slim for getting a job straight out of my summer internship, and one goal I have is to make writing more than a hobby.  More than something I do in odd moments and only for myself. 

That goal feels so far away. The viewing numbers of this blog are pathetic. My novels are all half-written at best. The list of publications I’ve been paid to write for is nowhere close to becoming a double-digit number. The money I make from writing is barely a trickle. 

Yet, when I list my writing achievements to others, they are always impressed, even enthusiastic. “That’s so amazing!” they say, with utter sincerity, and “You could do far worse than the places you’ve been published in so far.” 

I have accomplished something as a writer. Sure, there’s more to do, more I’d like to do–always–but I have written pieces and reached goals that are worth celebrating. Sure,  I haven’t reached the point where I could live off of my writing, but I do make money, and I’ve worked hard and reached so many mile marks in the past year alone. Having farther I’d like to go doesn’t mean I haven’t already come far. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far but still have more that I dream of doing.

So, that’s where I am right now: proud of what I’ve accomplished, but dreaming and planning and writing still.

An unfocused week

Yeah. It’s been a rough week. Focus was very far from my mind. I didn’t get a whole lot done.

I want to say, to be able to say, that I felt God in the midst of my bad week. I can’t, really. I didn’t take time even to listen for God. Yes, I did my devotions and Bible-reading and whatnot, but only as an act of distracted habit. Anything that required real engagement, like journaling or praying, got shoved aside in the midst of worry about getting things done. It was not a week of focus.

It’s funny, actually, because it’s the first year I can remember being excited about Christmas as an adult. I’ve been willingly listening to Christmas music (normally it’s more of a torture until a week or so before Christmas). I even decorated for Christmas. I’m planning Christmas presents and a Christmas party.

But it was not a week of focus. It was a week of avoiding work, and avoiding the difficult questions, and avoiding the darkness all around that seems to just be growing. It was a week of drowning in worry but not feeling like I could do anything.

But this is the week of the peace candle, isn’t it? Prayers for peace, then, for you and for me. Blessings this Advent season, whatever that might look like!

Dwell (Five Minute Friday)

I’m in the thick of finals week, and one of my papers is far, far from done. Every time I’m not working on it, a little bit more panic builds up. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not be working on it. Breaks are good. Getting water to drink is good. Not being a hermit and actually talking to people is good. Taking time to pray is good.

This final is currently all-consuming, but it’s not the ultimate good. It’s not the most important thing I’ll ever do. It’s just another final!

I woke up this morning from a dream about frantically writing a paper. I woke up nervous about everything I’d like to get done today, and about how much I’ll probably get done today. Before I’d even turned my light on, though, I felt surrounded by God. “I’m right here. You can do this, because I’m right here.”

Today isn’t a day I feel capable of dwelling in God, but God came down to dwell with me.


 

Five Minute Friday is worth taking a break for. 🙂

(If you’ve never heard about Five Minute Friday before, head over to Kate‘s and check it out! She posts a word every Thursday night, and we write about it for five minutes. It’s lots of fun!)