Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reflections on my 42nd Birthday

w “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” MasterOogway, Kung Fu Panda :)

One of the boys from the Singapore Odyssey of the Mind team posted this as his facebook status earlier this week...and it has stuck with me. It seemed appropriate, today, on the morning of my 42nd birthday.

It is a birthday that has surprised me in contentment. I once had a friend in college that said she thought we would all be really content in our 40's...because in our 40's we would know who we were..and weren't. We would have arrived.

..and she is correct. True..I am still discerning the next portion of my life. I am still living pay-check to pay-check. Not too cool at this age..but I also am acutely aware that on a global scale..I am extremely blessed. Also?According to Oprah 70something % of Americans are currently living pay-check to pay-check. validating is that?

I know that for me, turning 42 is a.Thank Goodness..I am finally, truthfully, the age I should be. Not 10 feeling 20. Not 20 feeling 30..but simply 42..and feeling 42. It's a shoe fits sort-of thing.

..and so? I spend this morning blogging (because blogging is a ridiculous and fun outlet I have given myself these days), listening to Gregorian Chants (because it is my birthday and no one will dare protest today), drinking reheated coffee..and rotating laundry. Still with the laundry.

 I am spending this morning reflecting on my journey so far..and speculating on where it will go. It is said that all great leaders must stay true to their own experience and convictions. I believe this is true.

My experience as a missionary kid, a foster sibling of 4, the child of local political and social activists, a teen musician who traveled in the Eastern Block (when there was one),a women's college alumnae, a catholic university alumnae and a young,unprepared wife and mom with  three children who were high needs for various medical and developmental reasons, leaves me with an equally unparalleled and super-paralleled view of the world.

Sort of like the Apostle can find common ground with many..but whole picture with few.

..and that is okay.

Because? Everyone has their own, unique experiences to bring the world story.

As I ramble I realize that I am now able to see the hand of God, Universe..whatever you want to call it, throughout my life story..and the story is still unfinished.

I have spent the past several years, trying to discern my calling, so to speak. I have really struggled with whether I should serve within or without the traditions of organized religion. Specifically in the position of a parish minister.

I have just about concluded, that this is not the direction for me..and this decision  is a place for both grief (for me to let go of an ideal I have had since childhood) and a relief..for I am then free to serve with my true spiritual gifts. It has been said (by the church powers that be) that my strongest gifts lie in prophecy, vision, mission and hospitality. The rest (including pastoral care) are farther down the list. Truth be told, there is something like 52, 72, 102 ..I don't remember..math is not one of my gifts. But there are a LOT of gifts considered "gifts of the spirit." it seems like I should pay attention to the few I have.

You know the saying. Spend 80% of your time on what you are good at. 20% on what you are not.

I have been struggling, since I've started this parish ministry educational journey, on how these gifts best fit within the context of the church..or do they? Because..truth is, we live in an inter-faith/non-faith world..and I enjoy that world as much as I enjoy life within the church..and because I do not believe you can separate life within from life without the church.

Upon further prayer, meditation, conversation and discernment, I realize that the part of me that is holding onto the security of the church is the part that wants the comfort of a community that I dearly love...but that also feels the need to transform from within. Transform what? is my feminist voice talking. The clincher? When I studied Church History. You know..when you read The Great Books it is a given that women are either seen as trophies or predators..but they at least exist. As I studied Church History...the women existed in the Bible..and then? Poof...not until the 21st century. This is eerie...and I realized that this is not where I need to be. Because transforming from within is not a reason to go into ministry. Sort-of misses the point of bringing people closer in their relationship with Christ.

I spend more time in reflection..and then I have a dream....

 I have a dream in which my younger self meets my older self. Only in the dream, I do not realize this woman is my older self. She is heavier than I am. She can wear all those cool big women clothes that I always admire and can never find in my size..she has hair that is not flying everywhere..all the way around she is just pulled together. This woman runs a refugee transitions center..and is mentoring me (for some unknown reason) as I babysit lots of children (go figure).

Then? We start working together on a particular fund-raiser for women from some specific country that I don't remember now. The whole time I am grateful for this woman who is mentoring me along..and thinking Wow..I want to be like her.

Then? I wake up..and realize ..I AM her. (grin)

So..I will finish my parish minstry program and be content as a lay minister, because it is a program I enjoy and a community I enjoy. I hope to serve the church in other capacities. I am happy filling in when pastors are out of town, hoping to serve on global vision committee type of role..eventually. Finally I want to stay involved with the 4th day community. (Kairos, Via de Cristo) This is very selfish on my part. These weekends take a lot of time to prepare for..but they keep me grounded. And it is amazing to see that "aha" moment in others. A glimmer of what grace can be.

 The world is still wide open.

I feel very pulled to open a women's refugee and immigration transition center in San Antonio. Why? Because there isn't one..and THIS is something that truly places me with my God given stays true with my experiences and my convictions. It is an inter-faith world of which I am an embracing participant.

And  for now..I am hanging with my teenage boys at home because I can. I will return part-time for some graduate work in ESL and non-profit leadership while I hang.

..and today? I will listen to Gregorian Chants, transport kids from the Club to VBS and back, pick up my nephews from San Antonio

..and celebrate my birthday over mint-chocolate-chip ice cream with la familia  tonight.


Christina said...

Happy, happy day... and life.
So glad you got your chance to reflect.

And did you really get to listen to the music you wanted to without being gainsayed? That must be special!

grillledcheesechic said...

Yes I did!..because a..they were asleep and b..they were asleep:)

Hi, I'm Terri! said...

Youre too awesome. I love that you feel your are now the age inside that your out, lol, that speaks to me a lot. Youre so inspirational to me!!! I hope your bday is wonderful, you deserve it!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post, Nicole. I am still waiting a visit from my older self to direct me to what I want to do with the rest of my life, although I still have a little more mothering to do.

Happy birthday.

grillledcheesechic said...

It really was a weird feeling. And there were, you know..forest fires..and oceans..and all sorts of symbolic things (google dream dictionary) intertwined...and I kept thinking. Who is/was this/that person?..and then there was like this AHA moment...and it all came together. Hope you get a visit too.

Lisa said...

This is a thoughtful and brilliant post. All I wanted to add is, wow, you are REALLY old! bwahahah

Happy birthday sweetie.

grillledcheesechic said...

How does that go again.

Lisa..Piece a....

We taunt you because of your evil laugh!

I believe you were the college friend, babe.

See ya soon. (I hope, I hope, I hope)

Lisa said...

I thought that sounded familiar. And I think it's true. The 40s are awesome. It's much easier to tell what's worth worrying about now. :-)
Hope we see each other soon....