Sunday, May 1, 2016

New Beginnings

Our family is emerging from an almost week-long "quarantine" as we passed a stomach bug around,  and we are feeling well again with energy and ambition which feels a bit like having a fresh start.

It is interesting to me that this fresh start coincides with recent news that drives me forward in the calling I have been discerning for the past 10+ years. Two weeks ago I visited the Southeastern Iowa Synod office for my candidacy entrance interview and received a positive decision, which means I am now a candidate for ordained ministry in the ELCA (one of many "first steps" along the path). Yesterday I received word from Luther Seminary that I have been admitted to the Master of Divinity Distributed Learning program, to begin study in the fall.  I started the process to get to this point last summer and have been in the process of discerning if this was my call to answer for many years.

The months in between deciding to pursue candidacy and beginning study for a career in ordained ministry have been a bit of a fallow season, which has been hard for me. Certainly there has been much work to continue in my current vocation (and there will continue to be). However, as I stepped back from making new commitments of time and energy to prepare for this new step, I have often found myself lacking motivation to "do."

With our youngest entering Kindergarten this year, I leave the early years of motherhood that are so time-consuming and physically exhausting and enter a stage when my children are more self-sufficient. With this transition comes a sense of "what now?" With all three children in school, there is time in my schedule that was once filled with the moment-by-moment demands of parenting. It is an eerie feeling, as if I am always forgetting something.

I have to admit, in the absence of such obvious needs to be met, I feel like I have not made the best use of this season. Soon, I will embark on a five-year (hopefully!) period of study and preparation for ordained ministry that will involve 25-35 hours a week of course work on top of my 25 hour a week current vocation and roles as mother and wife. With all of my current free time I have done little more than rest while I watch my fellow mothers pour their time and energy into projects around the house, cooking and baking, school and sports activities, and other pursuits.

As I live in this time "in between", this fallow season, my new devotional led me to several renewed questions today:

  • What does it mean to be thankful, even when it LOOKS like there is nothing to be thankful for? (What does it look like to rejoice in this season of stillness and let it prepare me for a season of activity?)
  • How can I spot God's blessings "in, with, and under" the mundane realities of life?
  • How do I push through the days when I don't want to? (What happens next year, when time is so limited, if I experience this same sense of apathy?)
  • What does it mean to live my best life in grateful response to God's grace and love -- to push through the rough days in grateful response to grace?
Pondering these questions reminds me of how God's hand is at work in my life even in this fallow season. The rhythm of life in the wintertime before electricity and modernization  was a time of preparation for the needs of the spring. It is hard to watch the world around me continue to push forward when I feel called to rest. Yet, I am called to acknowledge the indwelling of the Spirit -- God working in and through me to prepare me for what is to come, even if it sometimes presses hard against the norms of modern life. 

Soon it will be time for long days and late nights. Soon enough it will be all about the doing. For now, I prepare. Like a mother who rests to prepare for the birth of a child, this fallow season is allowing me rest to prepare for the birth of something new.

I am excited for all this new beginning will hold.

Thanks be to God!