I got to church a little late yesterday, and so when I sat down (in the balcony, where I always sit -- I love the view from up there), I looked to where the choir sits and was delighted to see that the Madrigal Singers from our high school were there. Each year during Advent they come to share with the congregation their lovely voices and musical hearts. My mind immediately wandered back to the Sunday when they were in church one year ago, and it stunned me into a deep silence to think about how much has changed in my life in one single year.
Last year at this time I beginning to dig into my CPE (clinical pastoral education) experience at the hospital (then called Fletcher Allen, now the University of Vermont Medical Center...even that has changed). It was still very mysterious to me; I really had no idea what I was doing there, practicing to be a chaplain, except acting on a beautiful hunch that that was something I was supposed to be doing. And darn it if hunches aren't loaded with truth, after all. I love everything about chaplaincy and hospice work, most especially being with those who are in the process of dying. For some reason I find a version of home there. All of this was news to me this past year.
I moved into the spring of last year and took a writing class at UVM. Propelled forward by a growing curiosity around my work at the hospital and a desire to be of service in the world, I applied to seminary, was accepted and offered a generous scholarship. All of these things -- both scary and magnificent.
In the summer I was invited to lead worship in Landgrove, Vermont, in a gathering space of sublime simplicity -- we were perfectly matched. That led to my preaching in the church I first joined when I moved to Vermont, nearly twenty years ago.There is absolutely no way, not a chance in hell, if you had said to me on Madrigal Singers Sunday last year, "Melissa by this time next year you will have moved from up here in the balcony down to the pulpit," that I would have believed you. I would have laughed until I couldn't breathe.
Funny thing, this life, as I always say.
I was chatting with a friend of mine the other night and the conversation went like this:
L: I should have called you last night, instead of texting.
Me: I hate talking on the phone, everyone knows that.
L: Yes, but it's my job to get you out of your comfort zone.
Me: My god, my whole life is about moving myself out of my comfort zone.
One of the things I absolutely love about this time of year is opening the Christmas boxes and looking at every single ornament and remembering: this was Sam's sock when he was a baby; our friend, Erin, made this for us when the boys were very young; we got this one for Coco's first Christmas; these were on the tree when I was a little girl. My great friend, Steve Amick, made all of our stockings for us one year, and they are, like him, intricate, quirky and delightful works of art. Each year when I hang them on the mantle I think of the decades that have flown by since we met in college and how grateful I am that we're both still here. The tsunami of nostalgia and the anticipation of being together with my larger family fills me with a warmth and settledness. It grounds me and repeats for me, year after year, the story of who we are.
Susan's sermon yesterday was about offering our hearts to God so that God can use them to do good things. And that, my friends, requires a measure of not only trust, but also a willingness to keep moving forward into the spaces and places where the light may not be shining quite yet -- the wilderness of your very own existence. Always with one foot holding steady in the beauty of the life you have and one propelling you forward into the unknown. It's all very good; there is purpose and meaning in every single bit: the old and the new; the wistfulness for what was and the curiosity for what isn't yet. There is great mystery in this season of light and hope and expectation and waiting, just as your life holds its own secrets and purpose for what is to come. Let it be a blessing, for as long as the ground is underneath your feet, let your very heart guide you forward into that unwritten story. And may you move, in this year, from balcony to pulpit, too, whatever that means for you, wherever you are.