I have spent most of today working on “El Palacio de las Gallinas” (aka, the Chicken Palace). This included learning how to use a spray painter. The paint goes everywhere. And it takes about 20 minutes to clean the machine properly, following lengthy and detailed instructions. There are a few more small things I’ll need to do but this is a tired and happy person this evening.
The kind of work I did lent itself to long stretches of silence and thought. I am keenly aware that it is was almost exactly these days, last year, when Sherod and I drove up to check the farm out and then made an offer on it. I read my blog posts from those days and am reminded of the awful sorrow I carried. To say they were days of desolation doesn’t even begin to describe them. I don’t want to whitewash the ways in which the rebuilding has cost. There have been days of bleakness all along the way since last spring. At the same time, I find myself surprised by the happiness that was waiting for me in Alabama.
The thirty day retreat, the hard work of sorting through and letting go of the magical thinking that was driving so much of my ministry in Ft Lauderdale, the willingness to face into the truths about our beautiful daughter, each one of those hard pieces of work I had to do got me through the day. And in those last two years, a lot of what I did was get through the day. What I could not see was the way in which I was being tempered–and built up. I got stronger walking all those nights and I got stronger praying, trying my best to discern and be faithful to what God was calling me to next. On the day Sherod pulled away, headed back to Ft Lauderdale to finish his tenure at All Saints and I turned back into the house to begin unpacking, I stepped into ‘now this” with so many more inner resources than I had ever had in my life.
I am stronger, and by God’s grace, our marriage is stronger. Working together, especially working together, way out on a limb as we tried to launch a regional ministry, pushed and pulled and tore at us in ways I couldn’t even see. One of the graces I treasure most is how we are able to talk about all that in new ways that are not about accusation and regret. There is far more honesty than I had thought we’d be capable of but if we are doing anything, we are learning some more about the forgiveness that refuses to allow us to be stuck in the past. Maybe that is possible because we end up laughing a lot these days too.
Since January of last year, I have been working on an ECF project that now is going live, at least as a pilot program. I like the place where the rubber hits the road in the Church, and that’s where I am spending my work days. And something else has happened. With the blessing of Bp Sloan, the Diocesan of Alabama, I am in the midst of discerning with the leadership of St Paul how I might accept a call to be their next priest-in-charge. I follow in the footsteps of a remarkable priest and I come to this possibility with far more humility than other times of new beginnings. But for one who had wondered a year ago if I would ever get to do parish ministry again, a prayer has been answered. It is very, very part-time, and my ECF work continues. If there is a word for 2015, it is gratitude. So much gratitude.
Although my priest friend Joe’s last Sunday at St Paul’s will be Easter, this is the 5th Sunday of the month so St. Paul’s will host the community service for Lowndesboro. Joe can’t be there so II will be the celebrant and preacher. In the words of Emmy Lou Harris’ song: tomorrow we go to Jerusalem.