"Faith is different from theology because theology is reasoned, systematic, and orderly, whereas faith is disorderly, intermittent, and full of surprises.... Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting."

Frederick Buechner

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Five: Whatcha Hauling?

Deb, over at the RevGals offers this Friday Five:

Sometimes, as pastors, chaplains, moms or just itinerant workers, our purses and backpacks do become “carry-alls.” So this made me wonder: what are you carrying around that perhaps you could unload or set aside? Please share
Physical: What do you ALWAYS carry in your purse/wallet/coat pocket/backpack? I always carry chapstick. I use Burt's Bees pomegranate. 
Whimsical: Is there a surprise inside? What’s among the unusual items. No surprises, but among the usual - lipsticks (a variety of shades and brands), the chapstick, receipts for various things, sometimes my Kindle, keys, business cards.
Practical: As a chaplain, I always have some breath mints and tissues. How about you? Yes, always. The tissues, however are for me and my perpetually runny nose, although I'd offer a fresh one to anyone who needed it. 
Spiritual: Share a question or lesson from your spiritual life that you’re puzzling about. I have taken hours and hours of workshops on Bowen's Family Systems Theory this past year and particularly how Family Systems relates to my life as a parish priest. What I am pondering is the role of faith and spirituality in Family Systems theory. There is a proposed 9th Concept that Murray Bowen was working on when he died, which dealt with how spirituality fit into the theory. I am considering how faith and religion, God and spirituality, are foundational in my experience and understanding of Family Systems. It will be some time to think it through. No doubt I'll be blogging about it along the way. 


Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Five: Taxing Edition

Cindi, over at the RevGals offers this post-tax day Friday Five:....
Taxes: What events do you find “taxing”..... I am taxed when life throws me endless demands and I have to switch up my schedule, over and over, to meet them. Often this means that the things that keep me calm and healthy, like yoga and other exercise, fall by the wayside. Eventually I get back on track but it's ironic that when I need those practices most, I am unable to engage in them..
Withholding: Aside from money, what do you put aside for when you need it? During those unplanned demands that happen from time to time, and soon as I can, I take some time to rest and renew. Sometimes this means reading a novel while riding the exercise bike (two birds with one stone...). When the weather is nice I walk to yoga, again two birds...
Exemptions: What things do you do to take some time off? I like to go away to visit family in Chicago or Utah or go off with my husband to a quiet place in the country to renew and refresh. He and I have not gone away in a long while, but we hope to do something this summer for our 30th wedding anniversary.
Deductions: What things in your life help you get through trying times? Yoga, meditation, and reading good fiction, going out to eat with my husband, or enjoying a glass of good wine. 
Refunds: How do you realize the benefits of what you do all year? When Easter Day is over, and I have completed the "Liturgical Crunch Season" (All Saints' Day to Easter), I can look back at a year well done and look forward to a slower liturgical season from summer through the fall. I also look forward to warmer weather when I can just slip on shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals, and off I go.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I will, with God's help....

I was baptized when I was nine years old. I have vivid memories of the baptism because I was terrified as I was fully immersed three times in a deep pool of water, and relieved when I did not drown. But I have no memory of any preparation for that baptism. I don’t recall anyone talking to me that morning or the day before about the meaning of baptism and how it would impact my life.

In the early church people spent two years preparing for baptism. Then, only adults were baptized and the two years were spent unlearning one way of understanding the world - particularly that the emperor was God - and replacing that worldview with an understanding of who Jesus was and the Christian understanding of God.

Now, when I prepare a person for baptism, or meet with parents and Godparents of a child or infant who is to be baptized, I spend about an hour in conversation with them followed by a rehearsal. 

Baptism is the beginning of one’s journey of faith. The first thing baptism does is “name” us. In the month leading up to a baptism we pray for the individual by their first and middle name. We do not use their surname. Who knows why? Because in baptism we all share the same last name, “Christian.” In baptism we are named and become a member of the family and body of Christ.

One learns what it means to live as a Christian through being part of a faith community and through facing the challenges of life, making decisions based on the values of the Christian faith. In the world today it can be confusing to know what Christian values we are to live from. The baptismal covenant in the Book of Common Prayer offers Episcopalians some clarity on this. 

The covenant asks a number of questions including: Will you share? Will you treat others with dignity and respect? Will you learn about the Christian faith and will you worship in community; and our response is, “I will with God’s help.” We are not asked to journey alone, we are invited into a community of other people of faith and supported throughout our lives by the presence of God. Everything we do, we do with God’s help.

The conversation I have with people preparing for baptism covers three renunciations and three affirmations. Each person preparing for baptism is asked to renounce evil and affirm a new way of life. My hope is that people have a good sense of what they are renouncing and affirming in these vows. The first question I ask is, “What is evil? What does evil mean to you?” To a person this question, the idea of evil, is challenging. We live in a world that is full of evil but we are losing the ability to talk about evil from a spiritual perspective. This is because what gets defined as evil is culturally bound in time and place. Binding evil within the confines of a culture and a time tends to minimize evil and eventually, as times change, people reject that which has been defined as “evil.” 

In baptism we are reminded that evil is a spiritual force that pulls us away from God, causes harm to other people and causes harm to ourselves. I define evil as that which causes broken relationship in all its forms - broken relationship with God, broken relationship with the earth, broken relationship with other people, and a broken relationship with ourselves. How are you living with and struggling through broken relationships like these? What does it feel like when you are living with a broken relationship with God? What does it feel like when you are living with a broken relationship with another person? In what ways are you broken within yourself? How do you feel bad about who you are? Can you think about these broken places and recognize the evil spiritual forces at play in your life? Growing into being a mature Christian requires that we think about the broken places in our lives and work to heal them and make amends. 

Secondly, the baptismal candidate or the parents and Godparents on behalf of the candidate, are asked to affirm a new life in Christ. What does this mean? What does “savior” mean to you? Again, “Savior” is one of those complicated Christian words that gets culturally bound up in time and place. The end result may diminish the meaning of savior in one’s life. I have often said that I think God called me into the priesthood in order to save me. By this I mean, God was saving me from myself, from my own propensity toward self destructive ways of diminishing myself. As a priest, as a wife, as a mother, I have felt called to do the hard work to be the best person I can. I have worked to have greater self-awareness of what pushes my buttons and how I can be more reflective and responsive and less reactive and emotional. I have gone to therapy and spiritual direction and worked to recognize my feelings and use them appropriately. Years ago, disenfranchised from church, I chose to return to church for the specific reason of having a community with whom to grow and mature as a person of faith. One cannot be a Christian by one’s self. One needs to be in relationship with a community of people who are facing life’s challenges so that we walk the journey together. Becoming a mature Christian and working to have healthy relationships is the bedrock of Christianity. 

This is why we baptize people on a Sunday morning in the primary worship service - so that baptism is central to our lives, central to who we are as a community, and so that the person being baptized understands that they are being welcomed into relationship, into community. 

In a few moments we will baptize Alexander Frank and welcome him into the body of Christ. Alexander’s father was raised in Christ Church. John and Suzanne were the first couple I married when I arrived at Christ Church. John’s parents have been members for a long time and even though they have moved away and spend part of the year in Florida, Christ Church is still their spiritual home. Today we baptize Alexander Frank into a family, into a history, into a faith community, and he takes on our name, Christian. May we do everything we can to support Alexander in his life in faith, as we have done for his parents and grandparents and for one another. May we do all of this with God’s help. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Five: Adieu Karla.....

RevKarla, over at the RevGals blog offers this, her final Friday Five meme after 8 years of hosting the game (thank you Karla!):

1.  What are you wearing right now?  (a question from my first FF play.) I bought a new pair of jeans the other day, a pair that actually fit me, so I am wearing them along with a black cotton turtleneck and a sweater, and a pair cute sketchers shoes. 
2.  What are you having for lunch (or dinner)?  (another question from my first FF play.) I will probably have carrot/ginger soup for lunch with toast and peanut butter. Dinner will be left overs: ham, smoked polish sausage, homemade potatoes au gratin, salad (finishing off the belated Easter dinner). 
3.  Share an experience of community that was transformative or precious to you. Being part of church communities for almost thirty years has certainly influenced my life. Thankfully my first adult experience of church community was a gift and a blessing of other young families with children, offering me companionship and playdates when I was raising children. That experience  eventually led me to embrace God's call to become a parish priest. 
4.  Describe your favorite mug or glass. A number of years ago I bought a huge coffee mug at a Starbucks in a hotel I was staying in while attended a convention. It's white with swirls of lavender and lime green, I've never seen another one like it. I put it away when I pulled out the Christmas season mugs and this reminds me to look for it....(and put away the Christmas mugs, lol). (yes, I have so many mugs I have to cycle them in and out of use)....
5.  Give a shout out to a friend or colleague! A number of my seminary friends and colleagues from around the church world are RevGals - and of course I have a number of RevGal friends whom I have never met in real life. Love to all of you!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Signs of Easter

Although the weather suggests otherwise, spring has arrived and Easter is here. We’ve made it through the long, cold, winter and the dry barren season of Lent. Now we rejoice and celebrate God’s love in the world, made known to us in the hope of the resurrection and the promise of new life.  As Christians we have adopted a number of symbols to help us celebrate the day, celebrate spring, and celebrate new life. For example, we have the Easter bunny, Easter eggs, and my favorite, jelly beans. 

I can say with certainty that the Easter bunny does not make an appearance in any of the stories in the Bible. So, how rabbits came to be a symbol for Easter is a bit of a mystery. Some suggest that it has to do with ancient fertility rites. Rabbits are very fertile, which made them a natural symbol for new life to ancient people. Later, Christians adopted the rabbit as a symbol for the new life of the resurrection. The tradition of an egg-laying rabbit came to this country by German immigrants in the 1700’s, who settled in Pennsylvania. The children made nests in which the creature could lay colored eggs and they left carrots for the rabbit in case it got hungry. Eventually the tradition of the rabbit and the colored eggs spread through the country. 

Easter eggs are also a symbol of new life which were used by ancient people in festivals to celebrate spring. Christians adopted the symbol of colored hard boiled eggs to symbolize Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and his new life in the resurrection. You can see that symbolized here at the altar. During the season of Lent, the box, which we call a tomb, held the alleluias that the kids made. Now that box, that tomb, is tipped on its side, and the alleluia’s have been released and are on display in the hall outside this door. Colored eggs now pour out of that tipped over tomb of a box. 

Decorating Easter eggs dates back to about the 13th century. Then, eggs were a forbidden food during Lent. At the end of Lent eggs were decorated and then eaten to mark the end of the Lenten fast. Every year on Good Friday we offer a Stations of the Cross for children. It’s a fun event and very popular with kids and adults as we learn about Jesus’ last hours in simple child appropriate meditations and prayers. We move around the building, each place representing part of Jesus’ last day of life. We learn about foot washing and the last supper, about being kind to others. We talk about the pain of being teased and bullied and the importance of saying sorry when we’ve hurt someone’s feelings. We talk about spring and new life, and God’s love. The final station is the coloring of Easter eggs, symbolizing new life.

Easter eggs hunts and egg rolling events have become popular Easter traditions.  The White House Easter Egg Roll is a race in which children push decorated hard boiled eggs across the White House lawn. It takes place on the Monday after Easter. 

The first official White House egg roll occurred in 1878, when Rutherford B. Hayes was president. The largest Easter egg ever made was over 25 feet high and weighed over 8,000 pounds. Someone constructed a steel, egg-shaped frame and then covered it with chocolate and marshmallows.

Did you know that Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in the United States, after Halloween?  Chocolate eggs, which date back to early 19th century Europe are favored by many of us.  Another egg-shaped candy, the jelly bean, my personal favorite, became associated with Easter in the 1930s. The jelly bean’s origins may, however, date back to a Biblical-era concoction called a Turkish Delight. Over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter. That’s enough jelly beans to fill this entire church space.  The top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy is the marshmallow Peep, a marshmallow bird covered in a sugary casing.  A Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based candy manufacturer called, “Just Born” (founded by Russian immigrant Sam Born in 1923) began selling Peeps in the 1950s. The original Peeps were handmade, marshmallow-flavored yellow chicks, but other shapes and flavors are now available. 

Although Easter has not quite become a secular holiday like Christmas, there are clearly some Christian Easter traditions that have become part of the culture at large. It’s helpful to remember that rabbits, and colored eggs, and egg-shaped candy, all have a link to what we are celebrating this day, Easter, the resurrection, and the many signs of new life God offers us in creation. 

Life always throws us curve balls,  unexpected challenges, but, sometimes, within the challenges we can also recognize signs of hope, love, and new life.

Regardless of the challenges that life brings my way, I am learning to trust God. It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over. Somehow, when I am really willing to try, I feel deep within or just on the periphery of my being, that God is present. I can sense God’s presence because even in the midst of anxiety, I might feel peaceful. I might feel hopeful. I know that all things pass in due time and the challenges of life serve to help me grow as a person and in my faith. 

This is the journey of Holy Week into Easter - the journey of life through the challenges that come my way, moving through them into a new place of wholeness. Jesus’ death on the cross is transformed by God into new life, like winter is transformed into spring, like even a bad day can hold within it something good. Because God’s love always has the final word. God’s love prevails. Rabbits, colored eggs, and candy are just symbols of the creative, life-giving, sweetness of God. Our delight as we enjoy these symbols remind us of God’s abiding presence and never ending love for us, today, and every day. 



Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Five: Whatcha Reading?

MaryBeth, over at RevGals invites to write about what we are reading for this week's Friday Five meme:

1. Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
2. Women and Redemption by Rosemary Radford Ruether (only about 25% through this book, will take awhile to finish it; very good).
3. Radical Wisdom by Beverly J. Lanzetta (I've finished this one, but still thinking about it, excellent book!)
4. Real Simple, April edition
5. Absence of Mind by Marilynn Robinson (I finished this, but still thinking about it. Very thought provoking.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Five: Signs of Spring

Jan, over at the RevGals blog invites us to name five signs of spring:

1.
Baby bunnies in green grass


2. 
Dogwoods in bloom





3. 
Planting the garden



4. 
Spring flowers in bloom




5. 
Easter egg hunt

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Of snakes and vulnerability

A reflection on Lent 4B  - Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-21.

When I was a little girl I used to visit my great-grandmother who lived outside Pocatello, Idaho, in a big yellow house on a family farm. My great-grandfather, and his parents before him, farmed the land. The front of the house was on a dirt road with a deep ditch that ran between the house and the road. I remember playing in the front yard of this house where my brothers and I would find frogs and garter snakes near the ditch. I had no fear of snakes and would readily pick up a  baby garter snake like I’d pick up a kitten. 

Years later, as a college student, I lived near several beautiful national parks in southern Illinois. These parks were prime hiking areas through rugged terrain, the remnants of glaciers which left huge rocky bluffs, dark forests, and deep freezing cold lakes. This was a natural habitat for venomous snakes; rattlers and black water moccasins, among others. The distinctive noise of a rattle snake always gave me fair warning, but water moccasins were more subtle, one had be attentive to avoid them. 

Now I rarely encounter snakes, but when I do I am extremely cautious around them because I can’t identify them, and I never know if a snake is poisonous or not. 

Some people are terrified of snakes, and for good reason. Statistics list a fear of snakes as one of the greatest fears people have. Certainly the Hebrew people were afraid, as we heard in our reading this morning from Numbers. The people were weary of walking and eating badly and never having enough water and they were really afraid of snakes. God heard their complaints and grief and responded by turning the very object of their fear, snakes, into a source of healing. Moses’ snake on a stick became a symbol of God’s healing grace to the Hebrew people. 

Many times in life, that which causes our greatest grief and sorrow is also the stimuli for our deepest spiritual growth. Looking back, we might consider Moses’ snake stick to be a metaphor for spiritual growth and maturity. The paradox of illness that brings healing, of vulnerability that brings security, of death and new life, is a theme in our chapter this week in our Lenten book, “The Restoration Project” as we consider what it means to be stripped. 

In “The Restoration Project” the author aligns being stripped with deterioration, with the process of reversing the deterioration of DaVinci’s famous painting of The Last Supper by stripping away years of dirt as well as paint from previous attempts at restoration. We humans deteriorate too from unhealthy behaviors such as feelings of entitlement, prejudice, and judging. Jesus reminds us that we are not behave this way; we are not strip others of their basic human right for dignity and integrity. 

And yet people are stripped all the time. People are stripped of life - think of those murdered or under the threat of terrorism and war. Stripped of hope, think of those in poverty or war torn regions or deeply depressed. One can be stripped of integrity, think of those who are raped, abused or belittled, those who have suffered decades of racism or sexism or genderism. One can be stripped of responsibility if one is fired or laid off or in other ways deprived of meaningful work. One can be stripped of one’s identity by abuse or oppression or imprisonment. One might be stripped of one’s name, sold into marriage or kidnapped or trapped into sex trafficking or human slave labor. One might be stripped of one’s knowledge by disease or an accident. There are countless ways that one can be stripped. 

On the other hand, stripping can be paradoxical. When one is intentional, one can  be stripped of the behaviors that limit our ability to grow in relationship with God. Stripped of envy, greed, gossip, complaining, or a failure to embrace our true self-worth as God sees us. These may be unconscious; learned behaviors from our family system, or socially reenforced values that emphasize the individual at the expense of everyone else.  No doubt there are behaviors and values from modern society that we need to be stripped of. Stripped of these so that we can recognize the ways that God is active in our lives. When we are able to truly embrace the depth of God’s love for us we find we have no need for envy, for greed, for self-aggrandizement, for belittling others, for belittling self. As one develops a sense of self grounded in God, one also forms with in one’s self a deeper level of self-awareness and other awareness, of compassion and acceptance of others for being who they are.

When I was growing up my role in my family was to support my mother’s version of her self and the world around her. This was a subtle, unconscious process between my mother and me, as most interpersonal family dynamics are. As a young adult I wasn’t able to sort out what I really thought about anything, my sense of self and every opinion I had were wrapped up in my mother’s definition of the world. Confused and depressed, I sought help by going to therapy. It took a long time for me to reorganize my interior sense of self. I had to strip away the false identity I had acquired from my family system, and grow a new sense of identity as my own person within that family system. Therapy was the process that helped me look deep into myself. But I was able to be vulnerable and do that deep work because of my prayer life and relationship with God. God pushed and prodded me, whispered into my soul, and sustained me through all my struggles, into a truer sense of self. Becoming a mature Christian is a lifelong process. I have been blessed to grow in my faith and in my personhood because I have been a member of mature Christian communities and thus with other people who are on a similar journey. 

The Gospel of John reminds us that God’s love, expressed in and through the life of Jesus, is expansive. Jesus shows us how to be mature Christians. I lose sight of what Jesus teaches when I put limits on what God’s love is like. But I have tried to strip away those limitations I’ve placed on faith, placed on God, placed on love, placed on other human beings. No doubt doing so has left me vulnerable. But, much like the people who encountered Moses’ snake on a stick, God’s grace was able to work through the most vulnerable aspects of my life, transforming them into healing and wholeness.

What is your snake on a stick, your vulnerable place, that is longing to be healed? 




Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Five: some silliness and some seriousness....

Over at the RevGals, Karla offers this Friday Five:

1.  What have you got going on today? I hope to get my sermon written today, because my husband is off work tomorrow (he often works on Saturdays) and the church has a fundraiser for the youth pilgrimage this summer. Thus, there will be too many distractions tomorrow to write a sermon. So far I have already ridden the recumbent indoor bike for 60 minutes and read "Feasting on the Word" in preparation for writing the sermon. I have a few ideas.....
2.  What about a prayer request, how can we pray for you today? I am still on the mend from six weeks of viral/bacterial cold/bronchitis/sinus infection crud, prayers for ongoing healing are appreciated. 
3.  What makes you curious? After years of interior peacefulness, my inner life is being stirred up. I have no idea what this means or what will come of it. I don't particularly like it, especially at my age (58), when all I really want to do is settle in until retirement, do some good work, but not be STIRRED UP. Oh, God, what do you have in mind for me, now? So, I am curious to see how this unfolds and what comes from it. I'm not expecting anything too dramatic, but it may be transformative, regardless. 
4.  If you got stuck in an elevator for three hours, (if that is too scary, locked in a room or stuck in a traffic jam), and could magically have any book or activity appear in a pouf to you to while away the time, what would it be? If I were stuck some place for three hours (and it's happened to me in traffic jams...oh how I hate that), I hope for a couple of things: water and coffee, my kindle so I can read, my cell phone so I can call people or play solitaire. Of course if I were to drink that water and coffee I'd also need a bathroom...
5.  Use these words in a sentence.   Thirteen, lampshade, [a historical person, like Cotton Mather or Judy Garland} basket, hedgehog, and daffodils. I would love to take a thirteen day vacation Hilary Clinton wherein she could tell me stories about women around the world, and her work for justice, while we carried lampshade shaped baskets and gathered hedgehogs and daffodils. 

Monday, March 09, 2015

God, where are you?

Melancholy.

Say it's this winter. It started off warmer than usual, and left me hopeful that winter would breeze by without much impact. November and most of December were easy, no snow, nothing extraordinary. I thought, I can do this. I can make it through winter. Then it all came tumbling down. Snow and bitter sub-zero temperatures that left one perpetually chilled. Cold and ice took hold of everything and forced me indoors, hibernating with a cup of hot tea. How long can it last? Surely not long, I thought. But it has lasted, relentlessly cold and snowy until I can barely stand the sight of the sun reflecting off the frozen surface of snow that lingers like a bad house guest.

Say it's the cold virus that struck me in late January. How bad could it be, I thought. A week, maybe two? I drank Airborne and consumed Zicam. Then I lost my voice to a bacterial infection from the chest gunk cold residue that made a home in my bronchial tubes and voice box. Ten days of antibiotics and I thought I was well. Two days later it all came back. Now three weeks later, a total of six weeks of this cyclical viral/bacterial crud, and maybe....just maybe, it's released its hold on me. We'll see. I'm on day three without antibiotics, there's still time for it trick me again.

Say it's the digestive crap I've been dealing with since last October. GERD? or not. Gall bladder? or not. I've seen my internist, see my chiropractor regularly and get massages twice a month, take yoga class and meditate. I've been to the ER for a migraine and a round of head and abdominal CT's, had an abdominal ultrasound, had blood work. It looks like something WAS going on back in December....but now everything is looking normal. A endoscopy is scheduled for the end of March. Maybe it's GERD after all, even though Prilosec made me feel worse. My mother had it. I'm not much like her, but maybe this is one thing I have inherited from her....in the meantime, Zantac is working well, except I have to take it twice a day....

Say it's that I have not been able to keep up with my beloved yoga practice during these six weeks of viral crud. I am off my rhythm and out of sync. I feel disoriented and a little scattered. Yoga and meditation ground me and help me feel focused.

Say it's my childhood and my dysfunctional family system. It's my brother who isn't answering my phone calls or text messages. Is he too busy? Is something wrong? Is he mad at me (and if so, what did I do?). Say it's a history of grief and loss and cut-off and lack of family connection which have grown more intense as I try to reconnect, and endlessly hope that maybe I could have a family. I do have family - my husband and children - are wonderful. We have made some strides toward health! Still, I grieve that the family I grew up with, who have known since my birth, are distant, rarely communicate,  and are mostly unavailable to me. It leaves me a little untethered and requires me to work harder to feel centered and anchored to the world. Grief is the undercurrent of my reality. It always has been. Not that I am always sad. I'm not.

But melancholy. That is the tone and texture of my life, and more so now. Shades of gray with out the icky sexual abuses of that stupid book and movie, but with remnants of what it means to be a woman in the world today. Always less than. Struggles to be heard, valued, recognized.

Say its a propensity toward grandiosity. I know this is a reaction to really feeling insecure and not worthy. So I begin to think I am better than I am, but underneath I know I am really not good at all. I'm a lousy priest. I don't know how to lead. I can't preach. I sure as hell can't write, I hated that technical report writing class in college. I'm not as good as.....and so I work to just accept myself as I am, as good as I can be. But damn, it's hard work. Daily. And, at 58, this is probably as good as it get.  The bell curve is swinging in the other direction, the downward slope. Can I just retire and not be in the public eye and just read and write and take yoga class and be a wife, mother, and maybe, if I am lucky, a grandma? I'll knit and drink tea and have a garden. Can I just drop out of life as I've known it for the last 20 years? Say that would fix everything. Or, not.

Say it's my Saturn return. In astrology Saturn takes 29.5 years to travel around the solar system. 29.5 years to return to where it was when one was born - astrologically significant for one's maturity - the return of Saturn to it's place in the horizon when one was born. At 29.5 I had been married for over a year, and had just had a miscarriage. I was working in a job I hated and life was challenging. But by 31 everything was different. The course was set for the life I have ended up living - married with children and a member of the Episcopal Church. That Saturn return matured me and set me on a course for life. Now, at 58, I face my second Saturn return. Again, a time of maturity, where not as much will change. Or maybe it will. It all depends on how much work I have done and how much work I still need to do to mature and be the woman I am called to be. The degree of suffering and constriction one feels from one's Saturn return is correlated to the degree that one resists its pulls and pushes to grow. My Saturn return will not be fully felt until the middle of 2016. But really, astrology is just a system, an attempt to explain the varieties of life in some system of order. But it's only that, and it's always wrong, because life is filled with unpredictability.

In the meantime, melancholy grips tighter.

Knowing that it will not help to resist the inner unrest that I feel, I can only accept it and listen. Listen to what the Spirit is whispering to me. I hear a call to growth, but I also hear a warning. Not yet. Now it not the time. I still have things to learn and work to do. So waiting is also a component of the melancholy. And wondering. What will come of all of this?

Say it's the work I am doing as a Spiritual Direction intern. But perhaps it's really the need to find a Spiritual Director. I've had two in my lifetime, great ones, perfect for me. But I've gone two years now without one. And I am feeling the loss of that companionship. It's not easy finding someone with whom to do this inner work. I have some ideas of where to go for Spiritual Direction, but haven't yet acted on them. Soon. I feel that will happen soon.

Say it's the work I am doing with Family Systems and Congregational development. That is the most life-giving work I am doing right now. It feeds me and excites me. And, I have no idea what to do with it. Waiting.

Melancholy.

Maybe this is the end of winter as the temperatures this week are forecasted to be in the 40's and 50's? Maybe the grip of grief, and sickness, and sorrow, and fatigue, and boredom, and yearning will ease if I can go outside and feel the warm sun on my face. At the very least perhaps it will make this lugubrious time feel less hopeless and endless.

And, honestly, I know that it is not endless. This too will pass. I just need to move through it, and learn the lessons it holds for me.