Thursday, August 4, 2011

God is Good

I've really been struggling through what some have called the "dark night of the soul", ever since the middle of Lent.  There have been glimmers of goodness and grace at times, but I've also spent (what seems like) more than my fair share of time feeling like I'm all alone in the universe, not hearing or feeling God's love for me, only his demands and expectations.  In short, I've been a very good Luther-an, haha.  I've clung tenously to the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, resting in my intellectual faith that they are true, and trying not to worry about not "feeling my faith".  Faith is not based on emotions.  I keep coming back to Thomas Merton's prayer, a beauty:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
But one of the ways that God has revealed his presence to me lately is in the grace of friendship.  I have so many good and wonderful friends, from whom I have been separated for months, and sometimes even years.  And I have been afraid that even when I return to campus this fall, that I won't have any friends.  I've considered that many of the people who are nearest and dearest to me were either a year ahead of me, or are a year behind me.  And I've thought, "Am I going to have anyone to play with?"  What if I'm just as lonely there as I am here?  What if there's no one who understands me, no one to rejoice in the goodness of God with me, to rant about rank heresy with me, no one to watch TV with or have dinner with or study with?

A strange fear, perhaps, but a real one, for a person who has spent the last 11 months living with virtually no human social (non-work) interaction.  And yet, God is good.  Because slowly but surely, more friends keep cropping up who will be near me.  Real, good, solid friends, the ones that aren't just aquaintances, but the ones that God brought into my life for a reason.  Individuals that I didn't expect to see, people that I was surprised to hear would be "around."  Some on campus, some not.  And I am looking forward to seeing them, spending time with them, learning and living and loving with them.  This is a good thing.  Because God is good. 

Internship Update

So...I have 3-and-a-half weeks left in my internship. 

I'm sorry, what?  Four Sundays left - what happened to the last 48?  It's strange looking back at the year, as I realize that when I got here, I said, "Oh, I know the year is just going to fly by," and now I'm noticing that, um, indeed it did. 

There was a time after Easter where it seemed to drag a little, but since Pentecost, it's been crazy.  What happened? 

I'm going to miss the people here, I really am.  One of the struggles of this one-year internship is that, at least for people like me (introverts unite?), it takes about 9-12 months to really get to know people and get comfortable with them, to feel like I've built relationships and have a good idea of where I really fit in the community.  So just as I'm finally feeling settled in, it's time to leave. 

Also, I'm a bit of a long-term planner, and the anxious part of me is feeling like I really need to get on the stick about thinking about Advent, and getting ready for possibly working with a "different" lectionary, rather than the RCL.  And then I stop and realize that it's not my job to plan Advent for this congregation this year, and if they're going to start a new lectionary in September, it's not really my concern.  Weird, just...weird. 

It's been a good year, but a hard year.  As a community, we have suffered through a lot.  Insane amounts of snow and cold, and then insane amounts of rain.  We have more water than we know what to do with.  (Texas peeps: want some?)  Then it was ridiculously hot.  As in "too hot to do anything but draw the shades and turn on the AC and sit still."  And humid.  As in "every surface you touch is wet because of the condensation" humid. 

There have been a lot of deaths, and a lot of hard pastoral situations.  Lots of terrible diagnoses, lots of broken relationships, lots of people making bad decisions. 

But there have been births and baptisms.  There has been love, and care, and support.  The Holy Spirit has been here through it all, and people have laughed and prayed and lived their way through it.  We all have. 

There have been moments that made me laugh - when one of our little girls ran into my office after the Good Friday service (as the whole rest of the church was silent), handed me a paper-plate Easter bunny she made, with a joyful "Here, this is for you!" and then ran right back out.  There have been moments that made me cry - when one of our parishioners, who is newly blind, made his first unassisted trip up to the communion rail.  The person helping me distribute communion that day is rarely in church (I think generally he's only there when it's his turn to usher or whatever), and not very familiar with the parishioner's situation and abilities.  But after giving him the bread, the Body of Christ, and then stepping aside, I watched to make sure that the wine, the Blood of Christ, was well-received (so to speak).  What I saw brought me to tears: the Communion Helper took such great care with the man, the glass, and the whole process, it was just astonishingly beautiful.  I don't even know how to describe it. 

There are so many stories to tell, things to remember, that I don't even know where to start.  I'm sure they will come in bits and pieces, as I reflect and grow from this year.  There are things that are totally hilarious, and things that are horrifying.  Moments of great beauty, and places of struggle.  Times of birth, and of death.  And yet, God remains.  Always. 

Man, it has gone fast.  So fast.  In so many ways, I am ready to go back - to friends, to the classroom, to the city, to Starbucks and Sonic.  And in other ways, I am nowhere near ready to leave.  Not when I've just now started to figure things out.  Not when I know how I would start to move this place forward, while loving them where they're at.  Not when these people are so great, and I love them, and they love me. 


Catching Up

Well, it seems that a gentle nudge from a good friend has reminded me that I haven't written much here lately, and what I have written has been largely emotionally overwrought and crazy.  So it's time to catch up a bit on what's been going on, a task that I am looking forward to, loving writing as I do.

As I sit here and type, I've got Christmas music on in the background.  Pandora was not really rocking the 80's music very well today, so I switched to the Macy's Holiday channel, which makes me very happy. 

First of all, I should note that the Great Birth Control Experiment is OVER.  Completed.  Finished.  No more.  From the time I started taking it at the end of May, I just felt..."off"...I described here before some of the physical stuff, but the part you can't really put into words is the part where I just didn't feel like myself.  I don't know if some of that was mental/psychological (I wouldn't doubt it), but I also think some of it was legit.  Then, last week, I ended up in the ER at midnight, getting a CT scan to check for blood clots in my lungs.  Thankfully, everything came back negative, but it was enough to scare me.  As much as I knew that something "just wasn't right", I was trying so hard to be the "obedient patient" that I just kept taking it, even though my body was telling me STOP STOP STOP.  So I did.  It's been a week and a half since I took the last one, and I feel SO much better.  I just feel more...engaged in the world, I feel like myself.  I've started eating a little more, which I figure is good.  As I think I mentioned earlier, I had completely lost my appetite while taking BC.  After a while, I started feeling so out-of-whack that I thought I was going to end up in the hospital for malnutrition or something.  I eventually bought Gatorade (which I hate) just to try to keep my body somewhat balanced.  It got to the point where I could objectively know that I needed to eat, and somehow find the motivation to cook something, and then I would eat 3 or 4 bites and just stare at the rest of it, completely uninterested.  And I am not a person who is uninterested in food.  Clothes are falling off me, and my doc asked if I was intending to lose so much weight.  So, although I definitely don't mind the fact that I fit into a smaller jeans size now, it feels good to have somewhat of an appetite again.  And it also just feels good to know that I'm not poisoning every cell in my body to maybe-sorta-control the few that are causing me problems. 

Which leads me to the next piece: I've been (unofficially) diagnosed with endometriosis.  Technically, it's a disease that can only be diagnosed by surgery (it can't be seen on ultrasound, CT, or MR, and won't show up in bloodwork), but apparently if you're a gynecologist who has seen enough cases, you can make a pretty good guess off symptoms alone.  It's good to have a diagnosis (that even happens to agree with my own self-diagnosis based on obsessive late-night symptom Googling), but it's a little disheartening because there's no real clear path forward.  The disease is so ... random, almost, and there's no real cure, per se, that treating it becomes an exercise in throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks.  Clearly BC, which apparently works for some people, isn't an option for me.  Others have tried a drug called Lupron, which rather than adding hormones (BC), takes them all away for a few months, and then slowly adds them back in.  This does not sound like a good plan.  At all.  While on the BC, most of the craziness was confined to my own head, which is torturous enough.  I'd hate to do screw around with my hormones so much that the craziness starts to leak out and impact the people around me.  That would be even worse.  Two other options are surgery or physical therapy.  I'm thinking eventually it will come to the combination of those two.  Just based on a little bit of work I've done myself (again, with the Googling), I've found that I think the PT could be helpful.  It's more natural, it can be done at home, it's got to be cheaper, etc... But, I'm moving in 3 and half weeks (insert "Holy Crap" here).  Fortunately, I've got a couple referrals for MDs in the Cities, so I'm just postponing dealing with this anymore until I get settled back in at school. 

And with that said, cue "next post on getting ready to move."