Monday, June 1, 2015

Growing Season (#SmallWonder Link-up)

(The field of soybeans coming in across the street from our house.)

Late, I arrived at a recent Pastoral Development Day on the tail-end of opening worship.  I slipped quietly into a single stuffed chair down low in the back of the room, curling my legs and feet up tight beneath me.  I was never once late when I returned to work five weeks after my daughter, my oldest, was born.  Waking at 4:30 in the morning I nursed, then showered and drove the hour to work with her in the car seat, then nursed again in a bathroom before joining the rest of the staff with my infant in tow at 8:00.  That was nine years ago and I was not late once the whole summer that I worked with her at my side. 

This Thursday, though, was her field day at school and just as the bus pulled up we realized her lunch – the packed one she needed – was sitting still inside on the kitchen counter.  “Go,” I said, “I’ll bring it to school.”

After the babysitter came early so I could be on time, I gathered my things and hers and made the out-of-the-way trip to her school.  I got there just as the buses were loading and watched her walk out with her class. 

I was late that morning and frazzled, but happy too.  As I described it later to a friend, “My daughter forgot her lunch and I had to drop it off at school,” then, pumping my fist in the air I added, “Mommy, for the WIN!”

When the singing ended a friend of mine invited me to take his seat closer to the middle of the room – he would stand.  I gathered my things and moved for a few minutes, but eventually I turned and whispered, “I need to sit in the back to unwind.”  Then I got up and returned again to my single chair way down low in the back of the room. 

It’s been a year or two since I attended a Pastoral Development day put on by my local denominational conference and even longer since I resigned my pastoral position.  In the past I’ve felt the need and desire – the pressure – to mingle and fit in at these gatherings, to be both visible and vocal.  But this past Thursday I listened to my own heart, which was jangled and tired from rushing out the door and performing the emergency lunch delivery.  I needed to sit in the back and unwind and so I did. 

Seated in the back I watched several pastors working on their phones during the presentation or getting up and leaving the room to field phone calls.  This was one of the hardest things for me to give up when I left the pastorate – the feeling of importance.  It used to be routine for me to receive upwards of twenty emails a day and now I’m lucky to receive three or so a week other than twitter updates and notifications from my kids’ schools. 

Watching them I heard my spirit say, “I’m so grateful to be unimportant.”  It was such an unexpected thought that I wrote it down.  Having struggled so much with feeling unimportant,  I never expected to find myself grateful for it.  I thought immediately of John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30)” and understood them in a new light. 

The initial presenter shared his story of incredible success followed by a stripping of all he valued as God called him back to his “first love,” back to the relationship at the heart of all things.  Much of what he said resonated with me – the invitation to love, the unknowingness of God’s leading – and the fact that he spoke from a time and place in his story that is as yet unresolved were all encouraging. 

I could have told his story, as it is also my own, except for the great success part.  God has kept me from that – a fact over which I am often frustrated, bordering on bitter.  It’s one thing to have great success and be called away from it – it is another altogether to never have arrived.  And yet, listening, I felt my spirit say, “God loves me very much.”  This also, I wrote down. 

In that moment the love of God sank down from head to heart, from abstract idea to incarnate reality as I pondered my life and the word-made-flesh love of God within it.  Who knew that the sorrow of my own professional stuck-ness could also hold within it a revelation of such joy – “God loves me very much.”

This all took place on Thursday and, halfway through Friday I pulled a muscle in my back while trying to maneuver a free coffee table into the back of the van.  I knew it was bad, but I’d promised my son I would attend his field day so, without resting, I made lunch and showered up before carting myself and the twins over to the park. 

By the time we got home I was in excruciating pain, the likes of which I haven’t known in a long time.  I could barely get myself onto the floor and sitting filled my core with sharp spasms.  With the pain came fear – laying on the floor, helpless, reminded me of last summer’s panic attacks and the tension caused anxiety to rise within me until I felt close to drowning. 

I loaded up on pain medicine, ice and restricted myself to the floor.  Relaxing, I felt a sense of peace and gratitude wash over me.  My back still hurt, as it does also today, but in the midst of the pain I knew also that it will get better.  The reality of the pain was inescapable, yet I now know that the reality of change is also inescapable.  Nothing in life is stagnant, no one fear or hurt has the power to cancel out the possibility of change and healing in the future. 

//

I took joy in meeting my daughter's needs where once I felt such great pressure to conform her needs to my own.

I tended to my own need to unwind in a spacious place rather than seeking to fit in with the expectations of others.

I felt gratitude in my un-importance where once I envied the importance of others.

I felt the love of God in what has not been given me, rather than resentment.

I felt pain, but also knew peace at the possibility of its passing. 

//

I read a children’s book by Ruth Krauss not long ago called “The Growing Story.” In it, a young boy puts away his winter clothes only to find that by next season they are too small.  Trying on the now-too-little clothes he exclaims in wonder, “I’m growing too!”

This is the wonder I want to share with you this week – the grace that time passes and we change.  Time away from my ministry context formed these changes in me and in returning I am able to see them and celebrate.  Like the little boy, this post is my own shout of wonder, “I’m growing too!” and I am so very grateful.

There is one last thing I wrote down on Thursday, which is this - “It is all gift.” 

May you be blessed, friends, with grace and wonder in each and every one of your growing seasons.   

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are. 

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.      




20 comments:

  1. Kelly, praying your back begins to feel better quickly. I smiled as I remembered a conversation with my 7YO granddaughter on Saturday. Upon seeing someone excuse themselves from a table to take a phone call, she made the observation, "That they were important." I quickly sensed in her that she felt unimportant & quickly told her, "Everyone at this table is a very important person." I then proceeded to tell her the reasons she was important to me. I so realized how we are equating importance with what we do in life. May we come to embrace the truth that our "importance", our value comes from who God has created us to be. Thank you for reminding me of the beautiful conversation I had with my granddaughter this weekend :) She truly is a #SmallWonder :)

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. I've been through this back thing a number of times, so I've got the routine down - it's just the waiting and resting that get old! That conversation sounds like a real gift.

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  2. I think taking a break from ministry provides perspective and rest. I had to step away from obligations after giving birth to my son while simultaneously moving to a new church. Now I'm in a ministry that I've never imagined myself to be in before and it's given me new life. I appreciate your honesty in your post. Visiting from #playdateswithgod.

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    1. Yes, rest (not so much with twins) and perspective. Thanks for stopping by :)

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  3. Sometimes it's a gift to be "unimportant" because we can be more present to that moment and that experience and what God wants to do in us.
    And, oh . . . I'm so sorry about your back. I detest the claustrophobia and panic of a back injury, the not knowing when it will subside, and the helplessness of not being able to function for a time. Trust that you are beginning to mend. Thanks for persevering to host us today in spite of your intense week.

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  4. Grace and wonder..... The best changes are the ones within, Kelly. I rejoice with you in the little steps you share with us. They are such an encouragement.

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    1. It's such a gift to find we're growing even when we don't know it! Thanks for being here, Jody.

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  5. Reading your words and wonder are like reading my own. My heart, my thoughts and prayers. I am growing too Kelly and feel graced to spend a bit of this season of change with you. Praying for your speedy recovery.

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  6. I've had back spasms, and they are excruciating. And yes, they have a way of forcing us to slow down. I love what God is teaching you (and me, through your words) about the benefits and blessings of a more *un-important* life. About the need to be still and reflect. About the great and unchanging fact of God's infinite love. I did some reflecting on that myself this week.

    Life comes and goes, sometimes fast and sometimes slow - but in every moment, God is present. THAT is the only truth of utmost importance.

    GOD BLESS!

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    1. "Be still and reflect" Yes, I'm thinking about that as I lay on the floor resting my muscles.

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  7. This is all kinds of beauty, my friend! And this: "The reality of the pain was inescapable, yet I now know that the reality of change is also inescapable." Yes... I am praying this line over a few friends right now! Praying over you, as well!

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  8. Ah, such beautiful God-moments (except I'm sorry about your back pain!). Thank God that he keeps us all growing. Your importance can't be overestimated in the lives of your kids though, especially when your daughter hit lunch time. :) Thanks for sharing your sit-in-the-back moment. We all need those occasionally. God can reach and teach us wherever we are, wherever he places us.

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    1. I know, that's so true, Lisa. Isn't it funny how our values and measures of importance change over time?

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  9. Kelly, somewhere along the way I lost "unforced rhythms" link - up because I have been going through a quiet, recovery kind of season. Amber told me she hangs out here and i figured any place Amber hangs out is good for me too. I have been here before and I like what you do here. At the Jumping Tandem retreat, I too sat in the back, content in this season of like to be "unimportant" as you said here. And I found I was still enough and it was good and life-giving. And I do hope you back gets well soon.

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    1. Welcome, Carol. It's good to see you here. Unforced Rhythms was actually passed along to me and "re-branded" as #SmallWonder. I look forward to seeing you around!

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  10. I'm floored, Kelly, reading through this. Floored by the magnitude of it for you. And floored by these revealed, pressed-into-truths: "Nothing in life is stagnant, no one fear or hurt has the power to cancel out the possibility of change and healing in the future.... the grace that time passes and we change." I just finished writing a post on this very thing before coming here to read. The wisdom you wear in your story, friend, is profoundly beautiful on you.

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  11. This is beautiful! I know I'm commenting a little late, but I especially love what you said about remembering to slow down and go back to your first love. I feel like my last few years since college have been a season of God stripping me of the things I use to define myself, and I need to learn to sit back and rest and trust Him in that process. Thanks for sharing!

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