I am a person who wrestles hard with major transitions in life.
I never want to move too quickly, to make big changes
in the routines and patterns I am used to
without a lot of thought, prayer, and discussion
with trusted friends and family.
I surprised myself when our senior pastor was hired in 2005,
midway through my time as associate pastor.
I thought I would retire; that had been the plan.
But then . . . he came, with his high energy,
and his working style that was so different from anything
I'd ever experienced before,
and he knew so much about the liturgical calendar,
and, and, and. . .
I realized I could learn a lot from this man,
things I hadn't done, in ways I hadn't done them,
so I decided (and he graciously agreed)
that retirement would go on hold for a while.
By July of 2009, it was becoming increasingly clear
to me that my time as a member of a church staff
to me that my time as a member of a church staff
was coming to and end.
What, I wondered, comes next?
Who am I without this title,
this connection to the
community of faith
I've worked alongside all these years?
So, I took a leap of faith - gasp! -
and enrolled in a post-graduate learning
experience, this one in Chicago,
to see if spiritual direction might be what the Lord
was moving me toward in this last stretch of life.
I flew to Chicago for a very intense week.
A good week, a rich week, an exhausting week -
"Like trying to drink from a fire hose,"
is how I described it to my friends.
And at the very beginning of that week,
we spent a day on retreat, in silence,
with periodic worship times spaced
throughout the day.
|I took a walk around the grounds of that retreat center,|
discovering a small gift shop with jewelry for sale.
Almost immediately, I spied this Jerusalem cross
(second from left above) and snatched it up.
Somehow that small, silver ornament became a
picture of God's promised presence amidst all the
things that were shifting in my life.
I wore it daily for the rest of that year.
It became a sort of touchstone,
a reminder that I was not alone as I
navigated the changing scene before me.
And I began adding other symbolic pieces to the chain.
The small bee, which says, "just be," on the reverse
and the beautiful spreading tree,
with, "free spirit," on the back.
Both of these, plus the charm with my first initial,
reminded me - as I caught sight of them
in the mirror or fingered them while
reading or praying -
that my deepest need is for stillness,
for practicing the presence of God,
for sitting in the silence,
in the Mystery.
About a year later, six weeks after my retirement
became official, my husband and I took a
lovely trip to Hawaii,
a place of my heart for the last 32 years.
So I added the heart with the palm tree on it.
after being too ill the previous year to continue
the program in Chicago with my own denomination,
I stepped into training with the
Such a gift.
So the last piece added was the medal
of St. Benedict.
Taken all together,
this set of charms,
speak to me of who I am becoming,
of where I am finding space and gift and grace now,
without the title,
without the role,
but with a life.
A rich, wonderful, Spirit-graced life.
During the hardest months of
this time of change - from about October of 2010
through May of 2011 - I took it off only to shower.
Somehow, the weight of it called to mind
the immensity of this time in my life,
this move from active ministry
to a more quiet and quotidian way of doing life.
Gradually, this way of living became the new normal,
and as it did, the necklace sat on the counter more and more often.
I still love to look at it.
And I still tend to wear it when I'm
feeling uncertain or anxious.
I wore it every day during my
last two weeks in community with the Benedictines
in July and August.
And I'll likely wear it every day that I'm on
retreat at Laity Lodge.
But I don't wear it to bed anymore.
I don't wear it every day or even every week.
Because I'm here.
I've settled - as much as it is possible for
a person of my personality to settle anywhere!
And I am grateful,
so, so grateful for what I'm learning,
what I've been invited to do,
how God is working through me
and in me and around me
even here, even now.
I'm glad I took that particular route as I walked around
the grounds of that retreat center in 2009.
And I'm glad to have this tangible reminder
of God's faithfulness in the midst of major life changes.
It's just a necklace.
But it's also a story, an Ebenezer of sorts,
a marker of how the LORD has been here,
right through the shifting sands of change.
I look at it and say,
"Thus far, the Lord has helped me."
And I say, "Thank you. Thank you."
My thanks to Amber Haines and her new writing prompt each week. The word this week was 'necklace.' I cannot write in poetic majesty as she does, but I very much enjoyed thinking about this one. So, thanks, Amber. You can click on this sentence to find her beautiful reflection and to find links to others who have taken up her challenge.
I will also link this to Jennifer's, Emily's, Duane's, and Ann's gatherings tonight.