The cul-de-sac of faithfulness

February 22, 2009

This past Friday, I was out walking on a suburban street with my eighth grade English group. They come, if you can imagine, from 4-6 pm on a Friday afternoon, to do vocabulary, to read and to discuss literature with me. Oddly, they are all boys, and there are only three of them. On our walk, I asked them to pay attention to details as they looked around the California suburbs, to use those details in a writing we were going to do later.  I’d never walked on that particular street, and it turned out to be a dead end, so our walk was short.  When we got back to class, I wrote about the dead end being a surprise to me.  As I was writing, one of the students asked me how to spell cul-de-sac.  I almost laughed out loud.  He was right, it wasn’t a dead end, but a perfectly tidy, circular cul-de-sac.

When we were out walking, I was once again surprised by my own life. What a strange way to spend Friday afternoon. I finally know what I love to do vocationally, but I am hanging out with three thirteen year olds, walking down a suburban dead end cul-de-sac. This is not chaplaincy.

I do not mind so much, anymore, that it has taken me so long to find the thing that I love to do so much. But waiting to do it, the time that it is taking to equip myself to do it, that wears on me sometimes. The economic realities of my family’s life dictate that I cannot do another full-time un-paid CPE internship right now.  I need to do two more internships.  The possibility exists that I may find a paid internship, but they are rare.  I want nothing more than to be walking through a hospital, meeting people and having the opportunity to accompany them on their walk through difficult times.

Instead, I’m working at an after-school program, teaching English.  I am very grateful for the work, especially given our economy’s downhill nature these days.  My husband has been looking for work for about three months now, which is also dispiriting.  I was laid off from my ESL teaching job in January.  With all my heart, I wish I could be making a living (even a small living!) doing the work that I love.  But, for now, I simply can’t.

This brings me to faithfulness.  These days, when we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we pray it fervently.  When we give thanks, as we do at every meal, we do it even more reverently.  There is something about being on the edge of poverty (I know we are not nearly as close as many) that makes us even more grateful for what we do have.  We are trying to be faithful, to hold on to just a mustard seed of faith in a time of great unknowing and great need.

I try not to despair, to think of all the things that could derail me from the path that I believe God’s asked me to take.   Jesus meant something when he told us that moving a mountain was something we could ask for and expect.  He wasn’t joking, I assume.  My husband keeps moving forward, looking for some kind of job that a former pilot could do well, even if it’s not for much money.  This continual searching without much positive feedback requires the fuel of hope and faith on his part.

Faithfulness for me, right now, means trusting that God’s hand is at work in the midst of our want and confusion, even though I can barely discern what His hand is doing.  Faithfulness is not giving up on a dream of serving His people.  It means that even though I’m walking on what looks like a dead end, as the eighth grader reminded me, it is not a dead end.  It’s a cul-de-sac.  Hopefully this time will be like a cul-de-sac in my life.  I will get to the end of it, turn around and be back out on the road that I want to be travelling.


CPE, I heart u, but you wore my butt OUT

June 25, 2008

In the past umpteen weeks since I last posted the following things have occured:

a) I went up to Whidbey Island to visit my parents as a post-CPE treat.  It was lovely.

b) While there, I GOT BIT BY A TICK CARRYING LYME DISEASE!!! GRRRROOSSSS!

Please, allow me to tell you more about the tick.  It did not so much bite me as insert itself into my body.  How freaking gross is that?  EXTREMELY GROSS.  G-Wiz had to pull it out of me, it was on my side, kind of below my armpit.  With tweezers.  So nasty.  And alive! Just thinking about it makes my toes curl.

I went to the Dr. who told me that I was showing all the signs of being bit by a Lyme-carrying tick.  You should have seen the site where it was in me.  Nasty, nasty big red target circle woundy thing.  Now I am on these super antibiotics that are making my tummy feel ick and giving me the old lady fatigue.  Boo.  But, yay, no getting Lyme disease.

c) I finished my CPE unit!

Yay!  I loved, loved, loved CPE.  It was challenging and frustrating and rewarding and meaningful and . . .phew.  Mucho.  I think it was week five or six where I was walking down one of the hallways, just heading somewhere, brain in semi-neutral, and I realized I was really content.  Satisfied.  I was like, hey.  What is that strange feeling?

I like being in the hospital visiting sick people and their families.

What?

I know.  I was shocked myself.  There is something amazing about chaplaincy work for me.  For the first time in a very, very, very long while (maybe ever?) I feel incredibly well suited to a given work.  Chaplaincy uses all of me – all of my experiences – all of my skills – all of my flaws – in a way that no other work does.  I loved going into the hospital, never knowing who I would meet that day, what lives would touch mine, however briefly; what tears I would witness and cry myself; what laughter I would share.  It was dope.

I’m not sure where God and I are going with this, but it was an intense, amazing ten weeks that I am super grateful I got to experience.  Thank you Arcadia Methodist, thank you Amy, thank you Magdy, Aline, Mark, Thomas and Darren, thank you G-Wiz and Douglas, Thank you Lord.

d) I did not blog hardly at all during CPE.  I was working + interning for about = sixty hours a week.  Throw in a family and a girl who needs a LOT of sleep, and that leaves -3 hours for blogging.  Sorry, dudes.

e) My sweet Tasha died. More on that later.


I heart u, CPE

April 27, 2008

I recently started a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) chaplaincy internship at a local hospital.

First, I would like to say that CPE should totally ask the Peace Corps if they could have “the toughest job you’ll ever love” slogan, or at least share it. There are six of us interns in the group, and we are a fabulous mix of young, old, gay, straight, American, not American. . .etc. What we have in common is that we’re all kinda evangelical, but not in that icky conservative I-will-now-attack-you-with-a-Bible way; and everyone is pretty smart. We also share the fact that we are all trying to learn how to hold a holy space in the midst of quotidian places. We have a great supervisor who manages to corral all of us into a reasonably cohesive and caring unit most days.

I’ve learned so much about my ability to be pastorally present in the past few weeks. I’ve also learned a lot about myself. We choose a ‘theme’ to focus on during the CPE unit, and mine was outing my hyper-critical voice. Ouch. The voice that gets all judgy, especially on me. The more I get to know the voice, the sadder I feel for it. She (he?) really thinks that by criticizing, worst-casing, over-analyzing and over-assessing, something productive can be gained. She is, of course, sadly mistaken.

The CPE schedule is from 8:30-5:00 every day, and some days, by the time I make it to 3:30, I am whipped. Even with purposeful self-care breaks, healthy lunches and plenty of sleep at night, ministering to sick folks takes energy. Sometimes, a lot of energy. Especially if you’re dealing with a death. So far, I’ve dealt with three, and each one was pretty intense. Plus, I’m still tutoring some kids after work (I know, I know, it’s nuts, but a girl still has to make a dollar), and I’m working Saturday afternoons at a local academic enrichment school. My Sabbaths have become inviolable. I don’t even run an errand on Sunday. I go to church and chill the hell out and that’s it.

So that’s my days and nights for the next six weeks. Learning and growing some more – in a direction I never could have predicted, but that is super good. I heart u, CPE.