Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walking Meditation

When my mind becomes too cluttered and it becomes hard to focus on what is at hand, I find I do my best thinking with my feet.  I have to step out and walk away from it all for a while to come back to myself.  The movement is like a prayer without words, and slowly the jumble of thoughts and the burden of all that is left undone is surrendered and peace fills the space that was where there was pressure.

Along the way, the light shifts.  The sun is going down, but the fogginess that clouded my mind has lifted.  There is light where there was once darkness, and it's the golden light that makes everything glow instead of the harsh and glaring midday sun.  All is quiet, even with the evidence of activity and sound--the fallen trees, the animal tracks.  There is just the sound of my steps and the awareness of the effort of my muscles and legs.  All that was dulled before is now alert and alive.  I feel full, but not in the unpleasant way in which I started.  There is now a sense of possibility and I return, inspired.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014


We pass the baptistry font on the way in and out of the church we've been visiting.  The kids view it with curiosity and love to touch the smooth sides and peek in to see if there's water.  Maryn wonders how she will fit in it as she has been considering baptism recently, after watching me baptize her brother two years ago.  We try to explain how people don't get immersed in Episcopal churches, but our explanation falls a little flat as we're not sure ourselves exactly how it works.

We love this church--the beauty of the architecture, the people we know who attend and minister there, and the loveliness of the liturgy and music.  We appreciate the Sunday evening service that leaves most of our day free for a family Sabbath.  Even the kids have been excited about returning to church again, which has been a happy change.  I was still caught off guard when Maryn saw a drawing of the church and referred to it offhand as "our church".  We've just visited four times and although it feels right, I'm reluctant to commit.

I still feel guilty about leaving our former church and yet I'm relieved not to feel the anger and negativity I was beginning to feel each time I thought about church in general.  Old scars are easily reopened.  I miss old friends, but feel that those relationships will continue in new spaces.  I worry about the message it sends to our kids and what it means that they have left their Sunday School classes and children's choir.  As usual, though, I seem to be the only one concerned as they are quick to move on to what is new.  But how long will it take before this becomes "old" to them?  On our way home tonight, Brady asked how long we had been at our previous church, and I answered, "Since Maryn was born...six and a half years."  And he responded, "Then we can stay at this one six years, too, and then find a new church."  They are quick to pick up on what we don't want to teach them.

I've been Baptist all of my life, but I never felt that it was an integral part of my identity.  I have attended Baptist churches, went to a Baptist seminary, and worked at the Virginia Baptist Children's Home for eight years.  But I've often been more frustrated by Baptist stereotypes than inspired by Baptist freedoms.  I get tired of always having to qualify that I'm not "that type" of [judgmental, closed-minded] Baptist.  But seeing the baptistry font instead of a baptismal pool seems like a marker of all we would be sacrificing.  I would not have the joy of holding my girl under the symbolic waters and raising her to new life in Christ.  I'm sure I could be convinced by the meaning and symbolism in the Episcopalian ordinance, but it is truly a departure from an identity I didn't know my soul had claimed.

It doesn't feel like a crisis of faith, but it is one of identity.  What does my Baptist tradition truly mean to me?  Am I Baptist only because of the tradition I was born into and the prevalence of it where I live?  What does it mean to be called elsewhere?  How is my current (Episcopal) seminary reshaping my theological leanings?

As I continue to fumble through the service, learning when to stand, kneel, cross, and bow, I fumble, too, with the tradition that has shaped me, scars and joys alike.  And the memories plunge me back into the waters of baptism where I was joined with a Church family I hoped to never leave, where my small son made a commitment in innocent trust and childlike faith, where we were both joined into the family of God that goes beyond denomination and finds common ground in the Spirit that connects us all.

Perhaps that same water fills the small font in the Episcopal church.

Perhaps it is enough.

Friday, September 12, 2014

In Praise of a Small Life

Sometimes I want to feel like I have made it big (whatever that means).  As much as I believe it's all about the journey, there are moments when I want to realize that I've arrived somewhere.  I fantasize that I would like to be known, when the little bits of recognition and affirmation I receive lead me to crave it on a larger scale.  What would it be like to get that kind of attention on a regular basis?

I know it's not exactly appropriate for a minister to desire these things; I should be a humble servant of God and others.  But last night I dressed up and went to a fancy dinner.  There was wine and good conversation and names I recognized.  I thought, "I could do this."  I can be somewhat social in these moments, and I'm not afraid of speaking in public.  The spotlight is not so blinding and the stage is not so very high.  The praise goes to my head and I think, "I could be a speaker."  Perhaps one day I will be touring and sharing about my book.  But the inner critic reminds me that to get there, I would actually have to be working on a book.  Meanwhile, there is the work that I am paid to do (which blessedly I love), a calling that takes me in a different direction.  There are my kids who are growing so fast and are at the age where they still want me to be involved in their events.  I want to be there as well, and it is a gift to be able to be present with them at their school and activities.  But it is a sacrifice in other areas.  There is more gray in my hair every day and time keeps moving ahead even when I feel behind.

I've been having more conversations lately about work-life balance, about the pull between career and family. We have been told we can have it all, but it rings false when you're playing the juggling game.  What if we don't want it all?  There is so much already, good things, but there can be too much of a good thing.  Perhaps we can have it all, but not everything will be in balance at the same time.  It's a shifting scale that is simply exhausting at times even though I'm grateful for all my gifts; I'm grateful for the ability to choose a lifestyle that many have sacrificed to earn and many have not yet achieved.  I am only here because of the work and support of those close to me who make it possible.  There are still things I have to say "no" to in order to say "yes" to what is necessary and important.  I made my choices years ago, but I'm learning they are choices we make each day.

So tonight I finally felt as if I had arrived, but it wasn't at the fancy dinner.  I arrived when I came home to my cozy house with my sleeping kids and my husband waiting up watching football.  It was when I took off the painful high heels and got into my comfy pajamas that I felt like things were as they should be.  It was in thinking ahead to the weekend with the promise of some Sabbath time and maybe some books that I found fulfillment. Sometimes bigger is not better, and sometimes fullness is not about lots of activity but the peace of fully engaging in what truly matters to us.

Sometimes I just want a small life.  I want to be known.  And suddenly I realize that I have it made.