Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's next?

I love this picture.
My sister and I in our backyard pool in the summer of 1969. 
I was 3-years-old and my sister was 6-years-old.
I love the look on our faces.
That tiny little pool was barely big enough to fit one of us, let alone both of us AND that huge boat-like toy that my sister has, but neither one of us seems to care.
I am just happy as a clam to be standing in 3" of water, squinting into the sun with my hair a mess (as it usually was) and wearing a sundress that was probably passed down through 3 or more sisters before it got to me.
And my sister looks equally thrilled to be sharing that precious pool space with me. That's not a mischievous look on her face - that has never been in her nature. Instead I see it as amusement over my attempt to "smile for the camera" or some other silly thing that we did or said. 
I look at this picture and I see love.
And I see the unbridled joy of a 3-yr-old who has not yet learned any other way of being in the world other than to live in the moment.

Astute observers (my sister being one of them) may have noticed that I have changed the name of my blog from the 40-year-old Seminarian to the 45-year-old Seminarian.  I was 40-years-old when I started this blog (and envisioned the title as a takeoff on "The 40-year-old Virgin"), but I think it's time that the title more accurately reflected my age, especially since some of my newer classmates upon seeing the blog title assume that I am 40-years-old. As flattering as that is, I want those five years. I earned them.

Of course now that my age finally matches up I will need to come up with an entirely new name for this blog very soon anyway, for in a few short months I will no longer be a seminarian. 
I've considered changing it to  "The 45-year-old Seminary Graduate Who Has A Few More Hoops To Jump Through With The Committee On Ministry Before Getting the Go-Ahead To Enter the Search-and-Call Process and Actually Look For a Job" .....but that seems a little long to fit at the top of the page.

But back to the age thing....Those of you who know me well (again, my sister being one of them) have asked why I changed the title of my blog with my birthday still two weeks away. 
Technically, I am still 44-years-old.

OK - so I jumped the gun. 

I've been doing a lot of that lately.
I decided to give up Facebook for Lent, but I started my sabbatical last Thursday....two weeks before Lent actually begins.
And my brain has whizzed right past graduation and is already obsessing over my chaplaincy internship this summer and the 100-mile bike ride I plan on taking right before it begins. 
Right now I am the Queen of premature-actualization.
I keep willing things to happen before they're ready to happen.
Remember that Paul Masson commercial from the '80's with Orson Welles?
"We will sell no wine, before its time."
Yeah right, sorry Orson....I'm selling the wine.

I don't know why this is.
Perhaps I've been on this journey for so long that finally being within sight of the finish line has me sprinting for the tape.
I'm no longer taking the time to enjoy the scenery and "live in the moment" - I'm anxious to see the results. And I'm anxious to discover what is going to happen next.

But in my anxiousness, my restlessness, my eagerness to keep hitting the fast-forward button, I'm letting a lot of moments-to-be-savored pass me by with hardly a recognition. 

I started this blog four years ago as a way to keep my family and friends informed of my progress as I finished up my undergrad degree and headed off to seminary. 
I also intended it to be a kind of "online journal" - a record of my journey that captured the events and the emotions in a form that I could look back on in the years to come.
I've moved away from those intentions in recent years for reasons that I've already blogged about back in September.

But this has been a week worth documenting.
For those following my progress back home and for myself, as I try, try, try to slow down and savor the good moments as they come, and restrain myself from leaping ahead prematurely.

Moment #1
Last Monday I had an interview for my CPE placement this summer (chaplaincy internship) at a hospital in Derby CT. The interview went very well and I was offered one of the last remaining slots in the program right there on the spot. The hospital is small (160 beds) and I can choose my own area in which to work for the entire summer, so I anticipate getting to know the patients well, which is what I wanted. The hospital follows the  Planetree model, which honors the mind-body-spirit connection of patient care, and I love the fact that the interior space looks more like an upscale rehab center rather than a hospital, with carpeting, natural wood finishes, plants, waterfalls, and family lounges and kitchen facilities. The community the hospital serves is primarily blue collar and Catholic. I got on well with the two supervisors of the program and I really think I'm going to enjoy my time there. Imagine that. I'm actually looking forward to doing CPE. Will wonders never cease.

Moment #2
On Tuesday I was notified that I am being inducted into the Jonathan Edwards Society, the seminary's honor society, which is for "students who have established a distinguished academic record and exemplify the highest qualities of character and a demonstrated capacity for leadership in church and community." - - Or, as one my fellow students called it, "the smarty pants club."
The grade geek in me will admit to feeling pride over keeping my GPA high enough to get into this select group, but I know it is my work as a Spiritual Formation Group leader that ultimately got me in. And I feel uneasy about that. Working with the SFG takes time and prep work but I get so much out of it that I feel strange accepting any honors for doing it.  I feel as if I should be the one honoring the members of my group for being full and willing participants, and the school for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the program.

Moment #3
This is a big one. I finally got my graded Ordination Paper back from the UCC Polity class that I took last fall, and the comments the professors wrote on my paper just floored me.  This is the paper that I will be presenting to my Committee on Ministry as the next step in the ordination process. It's a 24 page paper that details my spiritual journey, my Christian theological viewpoint, and my understanding of UCC polity and history.
My professors said that my paper was "exceptional" and was "one of the two or three best papers we've seen in the last ten years."  They recommended I make no changes, other than a few terminology clarifications, and they asked if they could use my paper as an "example of an excellent paper" in future polity classes. Apparently students always ask to see an example of one but they've never had one to give them before. Wow. Wow. Wow. 
I have nothing more to say about this other than I am amazed and grateful.
My Committee on Ministry may have different things to say about the paper, and they may want me to make changes or edit its length.  But it feels wonderful to have impressed my professors, one of whom I know very well and greatly admire. She's tough to impress. This one is definitely going in the "win" column.

Moment #4
I was asked to participate in yesterday's Community Chapel service here at school. The service celebrated the Border Crossing experiences that we as students are required to participate in to get us outside of our comfort zones and interacting with people and environments that are unfamiliar to us. We had students sharing reflections about trips taken to China and Mexico, work done with the homeless and interfaith projects, and I shared a story from the trip we took to the Appalachian region in eastern Kentucky last May. Everyone did such a wonderful job and it was such a moving service. The affirmations that we all received after the service, and that I've received from random people coming up to me since then has been wonderful. That's what it's all about. Reaching people where they are and inviting them to shift their perspective....and having them confirm that you've helped them to do just that. 

(a full video of the chapel service is available  HERE. My part is towards the end at 42:35)

These are just four of the positive affirmations that I've received this week. There were many others both small and not so small.
In reality, my anxiousness, my restlessness, my eagerness to hit the fast-forward button is tied up with my desire to move beyond a major struggle that is going on in my personal life right now. 
I am growing and I am changing.
And my world is shifting around me. 
And God keeps sending me these signs of grace, in the form of people and events, to let me know that it's going to be okay. 
I'm moving in the right direction.
All I need to do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and I will get where I need to be. 

In the meantime I need to stop trying to get where I'm going BEFORE I'm supposed to get there.
I need to take a long hard look at that little girl standing ankle-deep in the pool and rediscover what it means to find joy in the moment. 
I have much to feel blessed about, this week and every week.
God is good, all the time. 

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