Living into Enough

Richard and I left Charlotte the morning of July 31st sweaty, grumpy, and exhausted from two days of POD loading in ninety degree heat. Cars packed to the brim, four hundred miles of road stretched out in front of us. The trip was peppered with bathroom breaks, food stops, and one fantastic visit with old friends. At 9:15PM we finally pulled up in front of a two story house with the porch light on. It did not take long for my relief at arriving to slip into anxiety.

To be honest, I spent most of the first week worrying about one thing or another. As we unpacked I thought of all the things left in storage that I wish had made it into the car (we will be sharing a four-bedroom home with another couple until the on-campus apartments for students with families are completed). As we met my classmates I felt unprepared for seminary in comparison. As we sat through orientation I thought about how paying for the next three years seems impossible. As we heard the construction update I yearned for a move in date.

With the beginning of classes on August 8th I started to feel as though I had been dropped into a fast moving river. All VTS MDiv students are required to take an intensive course in Greek or Hebrew during August of their first year. I chose Greek. I’m glad I didn’t know exactly how “intensive” the class would be before we got here. The class moves so fast that each time we get our feet under us we are knocked over by the next lecture.

This image of being dropped in a rushing river has come to me often over the past few weeks. When it seems overwhelming to balance the academic demands and spending time with my new husband I think of the rocks that bump your backside as you speed down stream. When I sit staring at a Greek quiz with no idea how to translate the foreign sentence I think of the waves that smack your face as you go through rapids.

But I know from my countless trips with the River Adventure Program of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia that when your canoe flips, you get on your back with your feet pointing down stream, toes out of the water. You keep your head up, relax, paddle with your hands to avoid large objects, and wait until you wash out in calmer water.

What does this look like for a new seminarian with a little over a week left in Greek intensive? I am still figuring that out. But the idea of “enough” I came across when reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown has been floating to mind often (check out this great blog post for a recap). Brown suggests our lives could look very different if we change our internal narrative from scarcity to enough. When we come from a perspective of enough, “I am not smart enough to learn Greek” becomes “I have what I need to learn Greek” and “There is not enough time for everything I need to do today” becomes, “There will be enough time in this day for what needs to be accomplished.”

Day by day I am trying to live into enough. Just like life, rivers are uncertain. Each time you paddle a stretch of the river it looks slightly different. That is one of the amazing gifts of this part of God’s creation. One’s anxiety about what might be around the bend does nothing to prevent it from appearing or allow you to navigate it more successfully. And yet for many of us living into enough and managing anxiety is one of the ongoing struggles of life.

I am beyond grateful that I am not alone, I have the most amazing classmates who are rushing down river in the “lazy swimmer” position right beside me. I feel blessed to be surrounded by family and friends, new and old, who remind me daily in small and large ways that I am enough. That anxiety does not define me. That I will wash out in calmer water.  Perhaps, with their help, I can relax enough to enjoy the ride.

Photo: Classmates During Orientation (photo credit: Maurice Dyer)

Charlotte in the Rearview

As I meticulously pack framed photos between layers of bubble wrap and stack sheets and towels in boxes, I can’t help but reflect on the whirlwind of the past three months. It has been a season of letting go. A season of learning what it means to take leave with grace and gratitude. A season of giving thanks for people, places, belongings, experiences, and opportunities while embracing the impending changes in my life.

Just twelve weeks ago I was working on a notebook for my successor at St. Mary’s and writing notes to the children in Godly Play. Even though I knew my replacement was the perfect person for the job, even though I knew I was called to seminary, even though the celebration of my ministry on May 15th was an overwhelming and joyous occasion, it was hard to leave. St. Mary’s is often in my thoughts and always in my prayers. I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to serve there. Ministering with the staff and parishioners of St. Mary’s over the past four years led me directly to my next calling and pushed me to work for the betterment of the Diocese of North Carolina and the Episcopal Church.

Although there were a few weeks in between, I feel as though I drove straight from my last day at St. Mary’s to Hendersonville for our wedding. Over a year of planning came to a head so quickly! Our photographers, Jen Yuson Photography, captured the fantastic day so well, it was all I could have hoped for. Throughout the weekend feeling of excitement, love, gratitude, and joy were mixed with a sense of letting go. As we join our lives in marriage to another we gain a life partner, but we let go of our family of origin as our primary relationship. We let go of personal dreams and independence in order to dream and form a life together. I don’t think this can be anything but a leap of faith. Richard and I have taken the leap with excitement, but we are already praying for the support, strength, courage, and love needed in the challenges that will come.

After a fantastic honeymoon in Jamaica we began to plan for our second leap of faith this summer: moving to Virginia Theological Seminary. I am thrilled to be starting the three-year Master in Divinity program this August and so grateful for Richard’s support. He will be leaving behind a city he loves, family, friends, co-workers, favorite restaurants and disc golf courses to join me in the unknown. Moving this year was not his first choice and I am thankful beyond words for his willingness to sacrifice so that I can follow my passion.

As of today…

Boxes are stacked up all around our apartment, mail forwarding is set up, cable and utilities cut off at the end of the month, and the movers are schedule for Saturday. We will be packing everything in a POD, which will be shipped to Alexandria, then driving our cars up on Sunday. We will move into temporary housing at VTS while the new married student apartments are being completed. The current timeline for our building, Osage Orange, is the end of August.

As I have been going through this season of letting go the New York Times best seller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has given me a unique framework for processing the changes in my life. The author, Marie Kondo, suggests that when we take stock of our belongings instead of asking, “Do I need this?” or “Will I use this at some point?” we start asking, “Does this bring me joy?” By trashing or donating the household items that no longer bring us joy, the things that do bring us joy become visible. Instead of letting things that we don’t even like pile up around us, we can choose to surround ourselves with the things that bring us joy. This summer I have realized that the concept applies to much more that belongings. Letting go of the commitments that no longer bring us joy makes time for the things that do bring us joy. Letting go of the relationships that no longer bring joy to our lives makes room for the people that do. As The Church we should also follow Kondo’s advice, letting go of the ministries and programs that no longer touch people in a meaningful and spiritual way in order to spend more time, talent, and treasure on those ministries that bring transformation and joy. 

As we head north on Sunday with Charlotte fading in the rearview I am newly committed to  filling my life with joy. I look forward to filling my walls with photos and artwork that make me smile. I look forward to finding time for the activities that make my heart glad. I look forward to strengthening my relationships with the people that make my life in this sometimes terrifying world not only bearable but joy-filled.