Sunday, May 22, 2011

Other Places

So this past week-and-a-couple-of-days I went out to Pittsburgh to see my parents graduate from seminary --my Dad with a Masters degree and my Mom with a certificate-- and then to Colorado Springs to meet my beautiful new niece, Lily. I've been back in town a couple of days, will work a full week this week, then off to Vancouver a week from today for a business trip, back for four days and then off to Iceland and Germany to visit friends.

(Note to any potential thieves: If you're thinking of breaking into my apartment during this time, a) it will be occupied and b) I ain't got nothin' worth breaking in here for unless you really value hundreds of used books and dusty CDs, a small stash of cheap cigars, a mostly empty bottle of good whiskey, and furniture covered in cat scratches. I live like a 45 year old single male history professor.).

It has been a while since I've left town... realized that I actually hadn't left since NYC at New Year's, the last time I saw Vince. All of this travel was planned around the time he broke up with me, which was predictable. I do have a tendency to buy plane tickets after I've had my heart broken... a good chunk of my credit card debt is from just this tendency. Travel tends to be good medicine for me, as it turns out. I've seen some beautiful places and had some wonderful experiences, and I'm truly excited about these upcoming trips.

However, right now I'm in this weird space between trips where I'm just completely out of my rhythm. This week will be a normal week, but really my head is in where I'll be next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and all the little details I may not have attended to yet. I feel like I'm a bird without a nest, hanging on to a tree limb while it moves back and forth in the breeze.

So I'm grateful for the opportunity to travel, for the good, solid time spent with family, celebrating my parents' achievements and the life and love of my brother and his little family. I'm also grateful for the wonderful break in my internal monologue that this past week provided, and the coming opportunity to spend time in beautiful places with old friends. But I'm also unsettled and edgy and a little anxious. My sleep is off, I'm eating terrible food, and I can't focus on anything.

Back in the day, when I bought a lot more plane tickets than I do now and tried to get out of the U.S. at least once a year, I ran across this quote in The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and it stopped me in my tracks:

"Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many."

Whoa. At that point in my life, I was intentionally surrounding myself with friends who, like me, were constantly looking for ways to travel, to see the world, to experience Other Places and Other Things. This quote pulled me up short. I had known since I was a pre-teen that I wanted to learn the practice of contentment... not stagnation, but a deep appreciation and gratitude for the here and now. This fixation on leaving and going Somewhere Else was seriously eroding at any contentment I may have had.

Like I said, it's been a while since I've been in this space, but it's a good reminder to me that novelty is a drug. Contentment starts with patience and obedience and learning to look around you and love what is. My depression has been eroding at this, but I'm hoping and praying that I'm moving through to the other side of that depression and can begin to practice contentment and submission to the will of God again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Prayer for Parents

This morning at Church of the Common Table, we continued our tradition of baptizing a few of our Large Collection of Babies on Mother's Day. This morning we baptized four little ones, ranging in age from a year and a half to only a couple of weeks old. They were all very, very good babies and the service was long but beautiful.

I was asked to write a Call to Worship, and wrote the following prayer.

a prayer for parents

For loss of sleep and loss of hair,
for 2am feedings
and tantrums thrown in public places,
for the looks people give
that feel like stones thrown,
we give thanks
and we pray for mercy.

For baby giggles and toddler tears,
for language acquisition,
for the first time they
use a swear word
in front of extended family,
we give thanks,
and we pray for mercy.

For friendships and heartbreaks,
for shunning and acceptance,
for slumber parties
and first dates,
for driver training and drivers licenses,
we give thanks
and we pray for mercy.

For sacrifice and heartache,
for long-suffering and patience,
for learning exactly what love costs
and for reaping its rewards,
for the single most refining thing
we ever do as humans,
we give thanks
and beg for mercy.

Help us to love
as You have loved us,
and without fear.

This is a weird day for me, Mother's Day, and there are years where I've walked around feeling kind of like a shell, lifeless. This past week has been very hard (grief is so weird... it just cycles in and out without asking anyone's permission to do so), but I'm blessed that our church basically has as many kids as adults so it's full and vibrant and I did get to cuddle with at least one baby today. But I'm mindful of all the folks like me for whom this day really isn't a happy one on a personal level. If you're one of those folks, I'm sending out a general prayer in your direction.