So here I sit, a relatively quiet house, a much smaller pile of laundry facing me than usual, and feeling like the mother of 1 instead of the mother of 5. The "big kids" all went off to camp today, and will be gone for 6 days while Joshie gets the pleasure of being an "only" for a short period of time.
I had down time this week when Dominick took the kids to Denver while I stayed home and worked on homework, and an interesting thing happened upon their return...I realized something. I'm Back.
Me, the old Cindy, or at least the new version of the old Cindy (for I can never truly undo the work God performed in my heart this past half a year, nor would I WANT to) has reappeared. Don't know when or how it all started to feel normal again, but there is a sense of feeling more as if I am inhabiting my own body these days.
This has been the most amazing, spiritual, wonderful...and painful...period of my life. I have, perhaps, been more aware and attuned to my own personal transformation than I ever have been before. At times I have felt more elated and yet more isolated than at any other time I can recall in my life. To say it has been uncomfortable is an understatement. It also was necessary for the next phase of my life, whatever that might bring.
When I look back at our life just 12 months ago, the amount of change our family has undergone is dramatic. The changes I personally have undergone are not as obvious, but are equally dramatic.
It wasn't really the events themselves that were so difficult, it was the emotional aftermath that I struggled most with. Who am I now? I have changed my life entirely from a part-time working mom of 3 to a homeschooling mom of 5. I have lost circles of acquaintances and friends, I have lost freedom in my schedule, I have lost familiarity, I have lost independence and earning capacity no matter how slim it was, I guess I sort of lost "me".
I gained much more than was ever lost, but putting those puzzle pieces together in the correct order takes some work.
Thank goodness I am blessed with patient and loving friends, a truly gifted and Spirit led Pastor, a husband who understands what he doesn't understand...and even that statement alone may only be understood by him.
I have never gone through anything like this before. How good it feels to be emotionally energized and engaged again! How wonderful it is to feel like the ol' brain is clicking again, to be excited about the world of ideas, to feel like I am doing more now than just trying to make it through each day and not fail at everything I do. It's not really that I have more confidence in a single thing I am doing right now, but that I don't fear the failure anymore and that I am back to a place of seeing it all as a process, not the "end all and be all".
Then, there is God, our amazing, transformative, loving God who speaks to us in winsome ways, luring us ever closer, ever deeper into relationship. A month ago I was very close to walking away from my ministry classes, feeling overwhelmed and as if it was all pointless. I have tried so hard to follow the Spirit in every single thing I do and this time I was really in doubt. I am sure at times I am way off base, and that usually becomes pretty obvious and I re-reroute myself. I was beginning to think it was clearly time to do that re-routing. An in depth conversation with our minister helped me exhale a bit and bought me some time to do more reflecting, more praying, more seeking...and if I am being honest, more healing. It was the one person who could understand what I could not articulate with anyone else about this weird thing called "The Holy" that I am doing a gentle, slow waltz with.
Signing up for the lay ministry program was one of the single most ridiculous things I have ever done, particularly in light of what I knew was coming down the road for us with the adoption of Angela and Olesya. But being in tears over and over again as I tried to fight it didn't work either, so finally I gave in, not having a clue where I was being led or even why. It certainly was not something I had ever imagined or asked for. Committing one's self fully to study something so intense and deeply personal when free time is not exactly abundant makes it hard to stay "in the game". Factor in that you have no clue what the end result will look like, or why you are doing it other than "God told me so."...well...you feel like an idiot half the time and wonder what kind of practical joke you are involved in. It makes it easy to say "I quit" when you see no concrete game plan laid out for you. Ashamedly, I admit that is where I was at a few weeks ago...letting the comments of others create doubt in my mind, letting my current inability to connect strongly keep me from trusting what I had felt was definitely a call to ministry in some form, regardless of whether it made sense or not.
Having faith is one thing...acting on it sometimes really stinks.
As I prepared this week for my class yesterday, it was with lackluster interest. Church History is a bit dry to begin with, I suppose, and throw in my own issues right now and let's just say I was going through the motions, mainly just so I wouldn't be a "quitter". The joy and captivation I had felt with previous courses was gone, and I entered the class with homework done, but no additional mental work accompanying it.
Ahhhh....but our Great Mender knew just how to "hook" me, and yesterday I was led down a path of debate, questioning, intrigue and unexpected sheer delight as I became deeply involved in our class work and conversation. Doggone it, God knows how to get me every single time!!! I know this sounds totally stupid to 95% of you...OK...100% of you, I'll give you that. But I can not explain how a part of me has come alive through this process, how my courses have fulfilled me in profound ways, engaged my thinking self as I have never experienced before. Perhaps it is not going to college before and never having really had this sort of opportunity to participate in an exchange of ideas on this level. Maybe it is that I really belong where I am. Or maybe my life is so narrow in some ways right now that it takes on an added dimension for me.
Or maybe it was the balm my soul needed...a different balm than what might work for others, for sure, but for me it was a thirst quencher of sorts.
I am also gaining a glimmer of a notion of purpose for ministry. Or not. Wrestling with it tonight with Dominick in conversation, he sees possibilities and I am ever grateful for his insight and encouragement in something that must have taken him by surprise a couple of years ago just as much as it did me. Having him say "Yes, I feel you are right...you are being called to do something we never expected and I'll be beside you every step of the way." is one of the loudest ways of saying indirectly "I love you.".
So instead of flickering out, I am hoping to finish off my last semester with great enthusiasm. By November I will have completed all my requirements, and then move on to Stage 2 of becoming an officially licensed lay minister (not ordained, that takes "real college" and a heck of a lot more smarts than I'll ever have!). I am beginning to realize that ministry takes on forms well beyond standing in a pulpit delivering a sermon, or visiting the sick in the hospital. There are beautiful and subtle layers to ministry, and my particular layer may yet to be determined but it is awaiting recognition and will make itself known clearly soon enough.
So while this week is spent with 4 of our children in the serene security of La Foret, surrounded by young seekers and skilled sages, I too am listening for God to speak in new ways. It's still a little fuzzy sounding, but gaining clarity and richness of tone with each passing day.
Now, in the quiet of an emptier home, I will head off to sleep, feeling for the first time in 6 months that everything really and truly is all right in my world and trusting more than ever in what I don't know...yet.