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Archive for September, 2010

It’s been some months

I haven’t posted since I was hip deep in radiation treatments, and honestly, it’s because keeping up with facebook and my caringbridge blog site was about all I could handle. It’s been ten weeks since I completed radiation. My husband came down for the last day of treatment and helped me celebrate. Then we drove to my parents house to pick up our children. They had a great time while I was away, and I suppose that’s what most parents would hope for: that young children would be doing kid-friendly summer activities rather than moping around the house missing the absent parent. Yeah, I wanted them to miss me a little, enough to want to talk to me on the phone, but really I was glad that they will remember this summer as the one where they got to do so many fun things with their grandparents.

As for me, I did amazingly well through my treatments. I believe the secret was massage therapy and acupuncture treatments, alongside being cared for by faithful friends and a church community that embraces opportunities to help. I could never have imagined what those churchfolk would do for me and mean to me. I had been their intern 20+ years ago, though only a small number of the church members have been there since then and remember me.  I prayed it would be like church camp for me, and in many ways it was. I was also blessed to be able to preach for them my last two Sundays. The congregation was going through its own crisis of sorts with the departure of their senior minister and the associate minister. The senior left the Sunday before I arrived; she’d had a long and fruitful ministry and felt the call to move along. The associate, who was planning to leave and go back to school, had agreed to stay on through the summer but abruptly left about halfway through.

I began to think that God had called me to them as much as God had called them to me. Honestly, it was a gift to be a listening ear for several of the church members. Obviously, I know how interim periods bring up anxieties for church members and I was somewhat uniquely prepared to walk with them. And being able to focus on someone else’s challenges instead of my own was a perfect distraction.

Another way in which God used me was through the caps I had been given by knitters back home. I had planned to shave my head for treatment since I expected to lose some of my hair, but one of my docs deeply discouraged it. I was ok with that because the hair loss thing was the one thing my kids were upset about and keeping my hair would help my kids cope better. Since I had hats that I didn’t need, I had the fun of finding other patients who did need hats. And, oh my, it was fun to give them away!

Coming back to this place I live has been the most difficult of all. My energy started to wane shortly after I got back. Some of that I blame on radiation, and the lack of access to massage therapy here (financially I can’t afford it). Some of it I blame on food poisoning that took close to a month to resolve. And some of it on the lack of a support network here. I was all set to come back and make the best of things but it turns out that is really hard to do when you don’t have a group of friends to bring you meals and help you keep house and do things that friends do for each other. I have felt abandoned by my colleagues and my local judicatory staff. FB has been my lifeline for friendly contact. And it has taught me how out of balance my life was when I was serving in full-time ministry. The church so dominated my life that I didn’t have much relationship outside of the church. That said, I do think that the relationships I did have with others outside of the church have been negatively affected by the church dismissal experience. I feel shunned. It may be an exaggeration, but when there are only a very small number of people who will initiate contact with me, I can’t help but wonder.

Lillian Daniel and her husband have said that God doesn’t call clergy couples to live and work in places where they can not both use their gifts. I go back and forth on whether God called both of us to this little town, but I think I’ll have to work on believing God did. In the meantime I am worshiping in a partner denomination’s congregation and getting to know their judicatory leaders so that I can find ministry work again. After looking through thousands of job listings, I’m beginning to think God wants me in ministry and not just doing any old secular job; not to mention that in this economy it’s hard for anyone to find a job let alone for an ordained minister to go secular in work. Add to that the whole “tumor patient” aspect of it and I may as well move in with the lepers.

I try not to let my thoughts go to “that church” and start blaming them for my current circumstances. I am well aware that those thoughts can contribute to disease in the body. On the one hand I remind myself how overbearing, taxing and negative much of my time in that church was and that it’s truly liberating to be away from it. I have time with my family. I don’t have to be at meetings 5 nights out of 7. And I get to watch the tv shows that everyone talks about. On the other hand there is the constant worry over finances and how I will pay the mortgage and my medical bills. I think I would really like to be working part-time, both for my continued recovery and for my family. My kids really like having me at home to greet them after school and to tuck them in at night. I’d like to optimize that while they are still young enough to appreciate it.

About a week after I returned “home” the new pastor of “that church” came to see me. She wanted to make sure there wasn’t any ill-will between us. It was awkward but I assured her there were no bad feelings between us. I’m not about to blame her for what happened to me, she had no part in it. But when she asked me if there was any way in which she could help me I was truly speechless. I didn’t know what to say and I told her as much. What could I say? Fire the personnel committee or they’ll give you problems? I could only wish her a very long and happy honeymoon in that church.

I can say there were a handful of people from “that church” who did things for my family this summer. There was one family who mowed our yard. Another who helped my parents when the power went out after a storm. Another who called to check on my family. And some others who have shared produce from their gardens. They have all done this very quietly, kind of under the radar. And I am grateful for it. I know there are others who are lurking on my caringbridge site. They won’t leave public messages, but some of them have sent me cards.

As for me now, I pray that God will revive my sense of gratitude and help me write the notes of thank you that I have been putting off or felt too depressed to write. Building a new support network is going to be up to me and God knows I need one.

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