Monday, November 1, 2021
Monday, June 28, 2021
Monday, May 10, 2021
Thirteen years ago I met Jan Brown when she started attending Hickory Neck Episcopal Church. I was fresh out of seminary and had just begun my ordained ministry about a month earlier. No sooner had I learned about her work than I was referring someone to her for services at the recovery community organization that she had started, SpiritWorks Foundation. Three years later, in 2011, after having partnered with SpiritWorks on a number of projects, I found I was in need of the recovery community myself. I sought out Jan's advice as I was facing the consequences of a lifetime of co-dependency. Exhausted, overwhelmed by my need to please every one, be the hero, and save the day, I was running out of energy, health, and hope. Jan recommended I start attending a 12-step group, and thus began my journey to co-dependent recovery.
About a year later I began working at SpiritWorks. Having experienced healing and hope in the recovery community, I wanted to be part of offering that to others. Since then I have had the great good fortune of participating in the transformation of lives. It is such a huge privilege to walk with people as they make the transition from despair to hope. The journey from addiction to recovery can be very challenging, and not everyone makes it on this side of the grave. Some days the work is heartbreaking, and other days are a celebration of milestones achieved. We offer groups and activities, trainings and education, community and coaching, healing and hope.
The greatest joy of my work has been creating the First Fridays Recovery Eucharist. On the first Friday of each month, our community gathers. It includes individuals in active addiction and in recovery, parents with addicted children and parents whose children have died as a result of fatal overdoses, friends and family, allies and mentors, members of Bruton Parish and members of other congregations around the area. Pre-Covid we even had someone who journeyed each month from North Carolina to attend. We have baptized babies and adults, witnessed marriages and vow renewals, buried those who have died, and had memorial services for those we've lost. At First Fridays tears are welcome, and we all celebrate joys together. To me, the First Fridays worshiping community provides a glimpse of what the heavenly banquet will look like.HERE.
It is my great pleasure to support SpiritWorks, and Kasee and I hope you will too, if you can. We're so grateful for so many who are a part of the healing and hope that we offer to people journeying from addiction to recovery.
Micah, Martha, and Shadow also appreciate your support!!
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
A year ago today, after having symptoms for five weeks, I tested positive for Covid 19. My bishop had instructed me to stop working until I was fully recovered. We couldn't have known then that "fully recovered" might not happen. After close to a month off, I returned to work, not really feeling better, but not feeling quite as bad. Of course, I continue to live in hope (or denial) that I will fully recover at some point, that my energy will return, that I will be able to take long walks again and work full days without having to lie down for meetings or rests, that I will feel like me. Until that time, I will be grateful for good days.
Folks at church have learned to ask, "Is it a good day?" Sometimes they know by looking at my face or by how fast I'm moving. Sometimes I look good even though I feel ready for a nap. Masks can hide a lot. Nothing pleases me more than being able to say, "It's a good day." That means I didn't struggle to shower, dress, and drive in. That means when I walked up the steps of the pulpit to place my sermon or to light the pulpit candles that I didn't get short of breath. That means that I might have energy to make lunch when I get home instead of falling over in a heap as soon as I walk in the door.
Last week I was blessed by a series of good days. Days when I could take a shower when I got up rather than waiting until later in the day in the hopes that it wouldn't drain all my energy. Days when I could go to Bruton and then SpiritWorks like I'm supposed to. Days when I was able to make hospital visits. I don't get lured anymore into thinking that I'm "cured" or that Long Covid has ended. So when they ask how I'm doing when I arrive at SpiritWorks, I answer, "I'm grateful for some good days."
Even though I don't think I'm better, it still surprises me when morning comes like it did on Friday, after a week of good days, including preaching on Sunday, and I can't make myself wake up. I eventually roused enough to shower and eat some lunch and go in to work, but then I found myself needing to lie back down before I could prepare anything to eat, and I slept for two more hours - 11 1/2 total for the day, and I still had no energy. We had been invited to a friend's house for dinner, and I didn't know how I would make it. But I wanted to try. And I needed to eat. When we arrived, I was overwhelmed by the sound of friends talking and dogs barking and a warm house. I seem to have developed an oversensitivity to sound and heat. I joined Jan outside, and we walked carefully down to the stone terrace overlooking the water - I wasn't sure I would be able to get back up the stairs, but Jan said she'd help me. The view was worth it.
Sitting there, looking at the water, listening to the gentle breeze rustling the new leaves on the trees, I felt soothed. That's the word that came to mind. The view and the air and the new growth of spring were soothing, like a balm for my soul. One at a time friends came down to talk to me - and I could manage that. I took a picture so I could remember how it felt to sit there - being restored so that I could enjoy the delicious dinner and good company that would follow. The rest of the weekend was hard, not bad days, but not good days. Yesterday I had to attend a meeting lying down with my camera off.
Today, though. Today was a good day. I woke up and showered - always the key, if I can get through that. Worked from 9-7:30 including four significant meetings and took a walk.
Today was a good day for a much more important reason than my energy level, though. Today Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three counts for killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck. A white police officer was found guilty for killing a black man. Accountability. Police officers risk their lives every day, and I am grateful for their service, but they cannot be above the law, and too many black people have died unjustly. Today was a good day on the long journey to justice for people of color in this country.
My experience with Covid-19 is no parallel for the injustice and oppression that people of color endure every day. But it has helped me understand what it means to be grateful for a good day. And what it means to know that tomorrow might not be a good day. Today was a good day for me - but truly I think what boosted my energy was witnessing a tiny step forward in a centuries long struggle - a struggle in which people with one color of skin fight desperately to maintain power over the lives of people with another color of skin, while those people fight to stay alive.
As I breathe a prayer of thanks, I pray for more good days ahead. May "justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." May we one day know that we are all of one blood, one race, the human race, and may we all treat one another as if each life matters. Because each one does. Then, at the end of every day, we can be grateful for a good day.
Friday, March 12, 2021
Change is hard. This year has been a prime example of it.
A year ago today - March 12. I canceled the Women's Retreat I was supposed to lead that weekend, wondering if I was overreacting. I had my last in-person pastoral appointment for months with a young man who wanted to know more about the Episcopal Church. Before walking out of my office to meet him, I thoroughly washed my hands. I was feeling "off" but couldn't identify what was wrong. Several nights before, I'd awakened in the wee hours to a pain in my chest, deep behind my left breast, but I decided it was an overactive imagination - no way did I have the novel coronavirus. Just in case, I told my rector I'd be leaving for the day after my 2:00 community outreach meeting.
In my 2:00 meeting, I kept my hands to myself, not picking up a cookie or touching the table or hugging anyone. We were there to present our tutoring ministry to other churches, and I wanted to support our folks making the presentation, but I could feel my energy starting to fade. As I walked to my car afterwards, I checked my email and learned that our Bishop had just announced we would be closing our churches.
The next day I had a burial at the local cemetery. Only a handful of people were there. By then I felt like I had a cold. When I arrived I stood way back from the other folks, declined to shake hands or hug anyone, officiated the burial service, and instead of heading for my scheduled day at SpiritWorks, I drove home and laid down. Feeling feverish with chills and body aches, I wondered if I had this thing after all. Or, more likely, the flu. That night the body aches grew worse, and it all went downhill after that.
Thus began my journey with Covid-19 a year ago. The details of the acute phase are in other posts on this blog.
This past Monday, I had a Telehealth visit with my pulmonologist. My heart and lungs are healthy. I have an uncommon heart condition - LHAS, but nothing to worry about, and my lungs have a slightly restricted capacity, but my use of oxygen is good, so no concern there. No worries about clots or asthma. What a relief. Thanks be to God!
The doctor looked at me through the computer screen and said, "Chronic fatigue. And I don't really have anything to recommend to you."
Post-Covid Chronic Fatigue. What I've been concerned about since June. A year in and they can call it chronic. The doctor said it was time to start pushing. But I know from my Long Covid group that pushing is not good for this post-viral syndrome. I understand that we have to learn pacing. Which is hard. Last week, once I'd recovered from the extreme fatigue brought on by my 2nd vaccine, I had 3-4 days where my energy was almost normal. So, of course, because I felt up to it, I did a lot more. It felt wonderful! The tricky part is that the fatigue can hit 12-48 hours after the activity. So it's very hard to regulate. But I'm going to need to learn.
Today and yesterday I've also had some dizziness and my chest/back have felt tight again. This afternoon I told my therapist, "I'm discouraged, I'm frustrated, and I'm fearful." Discouraged that this is still going on and that it's so unpredictable, frustrated at how hard it is to figure out the variables, and fearful of what will happen as we start opening back up and I don't have the energy to do more than I'm doing. It's so hard to accept that I can no longer do what I used to be able to do.
I know I'm not alone. I imagine that even those who aren't dealing with Long Covid are discouraged, frustrated, and fearful about one thing or another a year into this pandemic. And yet, at the same time, there is hope. I've had both my vaccinations, and the US is vaccinating 2 million people a day. The weather is warming up and new case numbers are dropping.
I find myself wondering how I want things to be on the other side of Covid. The truth is, that I want my full energy back, AND I don't want to go back to the crazy schedule I had pre-Covid. As much as I miss seeing people face to face and hugging loved ones, I don't miss driving and rushing around so much. I want to learn a new way to be, and that, too, is going to require change.
Friends, what do you want things to look like post-Covid? Are you hoping for a return to the way things were? Or are you dreaming of a new way of being? What might that look like? I'd really like to hear.
Monday, February 1, 2021
One month ago today, I got married, y'all! I've waited my whole life to be married, and now I am. And so far, so good. People asked me before the big day whether I was nervous, and I didn't really understand the question. We waited until we were ready - nearly ten years! I was simply excited, and the whole event was unbelievably joyful. Honestly, the whole thing was perfect. Although we had not originally planned such a small service and a Zoom reception, for two introverts who are still not at full energy post-Covid, the smaller ceremony and virtual party were just what we needed. None of it was overwhelming or stressful. (Okay, there was one day when I thought only Jan and I were going to be able to be present for the ceremony, and I had a little meltdown, but that dissipated quickly.) We are so grateful for everyone who helped make it happen. I can't say it was just like I imagined it would be because I never would have imagined getting married in a pandemic. But I can say it was one of the three most joyful days of my life, and I can't imagine it being more perfect. If you'd like to see the service and haven't yet, here you go:
Today is also the anniversary of one of the other two most joyful days of my life - my ordination as a deacon thirteen years ago at Bruton Parish. It was an overcast day on which the rain held off until after the service, and then a storm raged while we were all eating lunch. That afternoon - rainbows. As joyful as my priestly ordination was, there was something about that first ordination that I can't describe. Family and friends gathered, Bishop Sean Rowe preached, Bishop Buchanan called the Holy Spirit upon us, and six of us became deacons. All on the feast day of St. Brigid.
St. Brigid might be my patron saint. I first visited her well in County Kildare, Ireland on a trip in 1996. My dad's great, great grandmother lived in County Kildare, and we visited the site of her home. I've also encountered St. Brigid in healing prayer on a silent retreat. Her Irish heritage and being known for her fiery spirit and compassion as a healer have always drawn me to St. Brigid, and so it was a particular honor to be ordained on her feast day. Last year on this day, our new bishop was also consecrated. Seems an especially appropriate day for females to be ordained, since St. Brigid may have also been a bishop.
As I looked through pictures of my wedding and diaconal ordination, I saw how some of the best pictures were with my brother. He has always made it to the big occasions in my life, and I am so grateful to him.
One month in, y'all. We are very happy!