Over the weekend as I was Googling thoughts about the end of the year, I found the quote below. It seemed so very appropriate for my journey through 2019 and the start of the new year. You might feel the same way about where you find yourself tonight.
My last post was on October 12th as I sat in the chair beside my mother’s bed. We knew her death was imminent and came three days later. In many ways, it’s been a long 11 weeks. Some days it seems like minutes ago that the call of the charge nurse changed our lives. This time of grief and mourning has taken some interesting turns. Each one a sacred space of its own. Each one a step that has been necessary to put pieces back together.
Looking back on 2019, my soul began to change a little each time another letter or email came from an individual or church related to the Called General Conference of The United Methodist Church. I read of congregations that had changed the lives of individuals and families through their love and acceptance of differences of all types. I cried with each remembrance of how those writing felt they could not have survived in life or in the church without the deep care and compassion of those they called their family of faith. I cried harder – screamed at times, hit the table at times, wanted to run and hide at times (and did) – when the messages contained much anger and harmful language, not just toward persons of the LGBTQIA+ community but everyone who was not just like the person writing. By the time of the General Conference at the end of February, I felt that there were enough people in the church that disapproved of me for one reason or another that I was lost. Letters shared dislike of women in leadership, God’s disapproval of all who could not or have not reproduced naturally, those who do not read and accept scripture very literally, and on and on. I fall into so many of those “categories” that I felt unwelcomed.
I couldn’t force myself through the doors of a church until Easter. Only then it was because Easter and Christmas Eve had become milestones for Mom. When illness hit, the goal was to make it to that next big church service. With her bout with pneumonia in the summer of 2018, Christmas Eve last year was a huge accomplishment, and then we made it to Easter 2019. No matter how many pieces my soul and faith had been broken into, we had to be present. As they had done since Christmas of 2015, it was the people of Culpeper UMC who welcomed us as visitors and broken spirits once again. Their warmth was the Light that was needed for our family. That service did end up being the last time that Mom, Steve and I were in worship together.
The community of faith that has emerged for me during 2019 has taken many forms. The uniqueness of each piece has formed me into a person that is very different than the one that started 2019.
- The group that attended the UMCNext event in Kansas in May. Oh the stories that were shared around tables and in times of fellowship. The hurt, the harm, the joy, the faith…oh the amazing faith of so many who have been broken and pieced back together by the love of Jesus.
- The work of so many to seek justice, to forge relationships, to start new conversations, to raise new voices so that the church can be a church where all are welcomed, nurtured and loved no matter what.
- The work colleagues who only a few hours after hearing me speak about recognizing the needs of the growing number of “elder orphans” walked with me through the journey of becoming one.
- The individuals who sat with me as I cried for my mother, for the church I love, for the world. From those in St. Louis who listened to the hurt in my heart to the dear friends who called and texted from afar to share their memories of Mom and offer their support…from the retired clergy partner who carried water in cupped hands across the parking lot so that I would not be excluded from remembering my baptism to the college friend who sent a handmade jeweled angel in a Christmas card…from the poor church folk (and most importantly Steve) who have had to listen to my voice crack as I attempt to sing once again to the cousin in Florida who thanked me for letting our mother be his mother, too.
I am a very different person on December 31, 2019, than I was on January 1st. The pieces are beginning to come back together with the help and support of a village.
Another quote popped into my Google search that I’m using to close out this year and look into 2020. For a couple of years, some intentionally and some purely through God’s grace, I’ve grabbed hold of the practice of choosing a word or phrase to guide me through the year. In 2016, it was a phrase from the Book of Esther: “for such a time as this.” On the first Sunday of 2017, Steve and I were guests in a church service where a cutout star was given to each person with a word for the year. My word was “possibility,” a very appropriate word in a year of building a new home and moving to a new community. Last year, the word/phrase came from a delegation meeting: “GentleHopefulThisness.” For 2019, it’s going to be “Delicious Ambiguity.” Thank you, Gilda Radner, for the inspiration.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
Here’s to 2020 and pieces that will fit together in now unknown yet delicious ways.