Yesterday was an anything can happen day. As we left Taos, my friend and I had a plan for the drive to Albuquerque. With the first surprise of the day, we decided to let the day lead the way.
We started with coffee at Coffee Apothecary, our coffee place in Taos, where the owners feel like friends. They sent us on our way with gifts of freshly roasted coffee beans.
As we drove south, the flag was up at the Rio Grande Gorge Visitors Center in Pilar. My heart had been heavy throughout the trip seeing the consequences of the government shutdown, and the innocent workers who had been effected. We circled back and went in and welcomed the rangers back to work. As we had conversation, we all teared up.
We continued to let the day unfold. We drove to a favorite place on the Rio Grande River and met a woman from California celebrating her birthday. She told us her next stop, after her hike, was at a winery. Departing before her, we made a stop at the winery, left her a birthday note, and paid for a bottle of wine for her when she arrived later. Such fun!
We next drove to another favorite place–Abiqui, where we had a picnic lunch beside the Chama River.
We then took a drive through mountains, calderas,
reservations, before ending the route in Bernalillo as the sun set.
Since today is the day I fly back to Houston, it’s most likely another anything can happen day.
Beginning with coffee then worship at the local Episcopal church, I’ll see what God has in store.
Since my last Sunday at St. Mary’s, I’ve worshipped four times at New Hope Church in Bend, Oregon, once at the home of dear friends as we blessed their home, a Eucharist at Camp Allen with new clergy, Evening Prayer at Camp Allen with nearly clergy, Eucharist with the Junior Daughters of the King beside the lake at Camp Allen, at St. Helena Convent, Facebook Live Episcopal Worship to Anchor Your Day, in the Agnes Martin Gallery at the Harwood Museum, Morning Mindfulness at the Georgia Museum of Art, and ever so many times from my prayer chair.
Not once in an Episcopal Church.
Except from my prayer chair, all of these were within community. All were full of grace in their own way, and I believe that I was led by the Spirit to each of these holy places to worship God.
As God is teaching me about home, God is also teaching me about church.
One of my favorite descriptions of church is from the second chapter of the book of Act
No longer a layperson who has “joined” a parish, no longer a priest called to serve in a specific parish, now serving in missions and parishes, as invited or sent, I am a peripatetic priest.
Today, as I celebrate twenty-six years of ordination to the priesthood, God is inviting me to reflect on my definition of Church.
From Saddle Blanket by Blanche C. Grant, The Harwood Museum
Church is God’s people gathered, and Jesus gives us an easy bar:
Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst. (Matthew 18.20)
If my home is in God’s heart, and God’s home is in my heart, then perhaps church is when two or three of us gather in the heart of God, and when we know that God is in our gathered hearts.
From Husking Corn by Mary Blumenschein, The Harwood Museum
Walter Ufer’s Winter in New Mexico, Harwood Museum
For the past three years, I have been pushed, not always gently, into learning what home means.
Nearly three years ago, rising waters pushed me from my house of nearly twenty years into guest bed rooms and then into a parishioner’s vacant house. I returned to my newly rebuilt house until even higher rising waters floated me into other guest bedrooms and another rental property. I rebuilt the house again and planned to stay there awhile. Until a new call from God sent me looking for another house closer into town
I’ve been looking for that next house for two months. I put a bid on one place that seemed perfect, but I was outbid. I put a bid on another house and had to withdraw that bid because of too many issues revealed during the inspection.
I’ve spent a lot of time these past two months thinking about the next place I’ll live. Lots of conversation with others and myself, and, oh yes, God.
Before I left Oregon Christmas, departing a day early because I was still searching for my next living space, my grandson, Austin, prayed a beautiful prayer for me. I usually don’t remember the specifics of most prayers, but in this prayer Austin ended asking that God would give me wisdom, especially as I looked for my new home.
As I’ve asked God for guidance, I’ve thought about Austin’s request for wisdom.
I think I have an answer: In my searching and frustration and longing and ever hoping, I’ve finally realized: I have a home. Always. I may not know where my next house will be, but wherever I am, that is my home.
Home is where we are. Whether we like it or not. Whether we want to be there or not. Whether or not we long for another type of home are not. Home is the place we are standing or sitting now.
When I was in my first post-flood rental, the Spirit gave me a verse to repeat during Centering Prayer:
My heart is your home.
I understand this prayer in two ways:
God’s home is in my heart.
My home is in God’s heart.
I always have a home. All of us do. It is in the heart of God, and it is God dwelling within our hearts.
I’m still looking for that next house, but meanwhile, in the Casa de las Abuelas here in Taos, I am home.
I’m working this month. Some.
I am now officially on the Diocese of Texas payroll, and they have graciously given me some time to transition. It’s a time for me to find a new home–physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I’m spending the month reading in preparation for my new call, taking my annual Epiphany retreat in New Mexico, and doing ministry with the curates and the Iona School for Ministry.
And being the chaplain for the Diocese of Texas Junior Daughters of the King annual retreat. I realized last summer on the mission trip to the Dominican Republic how much I love chaplain ministry, and add serving children and youth, and I am over the moon.
On the Junior DOK retreat last weekend, with. the awesome music leader, Lee, I led worship in the morning, noonday, and at the close of day. I celebrated a very cold Holy Eucharist by the lake. I led the labyrinth prayer station. I hung out with wonderful girls and women.
We used plastic coffee cups and a plastic tray from the campsite for the paten and chalice.
Two Junior Daughters of the King served as Eucharistic Ministers.
There was time to talk and listen and laugh and be. With women and girls by the lake, it was community. It is something that I’m learning how to do now that my ministry is no longer in the parish.
As I reimagine Home–in body, mind and Spirit.
In years past, it’s made my heart sad to not have family around at Christmas. When I knew that I would have this time of Sabbath before beginning my new job, at the top of my list was to be with my grandboys at Christmas. It has been beyond wonderful.
Worship was lovely on Christmas Eve, and it was wonderful going to bed at a sensible hour snuggled with a grandson. However, I have been blindsighted by how I have felt not having a church family near.
I missed walking into the empty nave before worship began and feeling the fullness of a silent night. I missed my face aching at the end of Christmas Eve from smiling and greeting endlessly friends old and new. I even missed awakening with a Christmas morning worship hangover, and then driving to lead one more service and being greeted by holy quiet and the smell of incense in the nave.
What I’ve found myself missing the most was the accountability of being part of a faith community. It has been a challenge to keep the rhythm of offices and holy days.
In retrospect, I realized how much I need those faith relationships to keep myself centered in spiritual practices.
For example, it has been the custom of St. Mary’s to read the Gospel appointed for the coming year aloud in community in its entirety on an evening early in Advent. I committed to do this on my own this year but never made it through the whole of Luke. I need the encouragement of others to do what I know it is best for me to do.
Yesterday was my last day to be paid by St. Mary’s. Today I am officially Missioner of Congregational Vitality and an employee of the Diocese of Texas.
I ended my Christmas trip one day early in order to spend tomorrow looking for my new house. I’ll be working the rest of the week and needed to take advantage of the free day.
As important as it is for me to find a home with an address, this past month has shown me how important it is for me to find a home with a church community. As much as I crave my personal spiritual practices, this past month has clearly shown me how that is not enough for my relationship with Christ.
Good to know.
One of the gifts of being an Episcopalian is that Christmas lasts twelve days. In planning this trip to see my Bend family, I had all sorts of ideas of ways to celebrate each day.
At the beginning of Advent, I sent my grandboys a homemade Advent calendar, of sorts, with a card to open each day. In each envelope, there was a small card with a food item and a Bible verse. The first envelope had a one hundred bill to buy the food items. The plan was to buy the groceries during my Christmas visit and deliver them to someone who might be hungry.
Today, the second day of Christmas, was the day. My daughter-in-law suggested a local agency that serves those without homes called the Bethlehem Inn (how appropriate is that?). On their website, they had a list of items they actually needed so that became our revised list.
As we had made our plan on how to celebrate the second day of Christmas, the boys talked about sharing God’s love, and we decided to do something for someone else before we did something for ourselves.
We shopped the local Fred Meyer, and the boys used their $100 to buy two $50 gift cards. I matched their gift by purchasing the items on the list. The boys chose which specific meat, cheese, butter, cereal, paper goods and other items we would buy (the ones they would want for themselves) for our friends at Bethlehem Inn.
A quick stop at Starbucks for some personal provisions, and then we were off to the Inn.
Our outing was capped off with a trip to see the new Spiderman movie. One of the gifts of being a grandma is seeing movies I’d never choose to see myself–and enjoying myself immensely.
The second day of celebrating Jesus’ birth was full of joy. Jesus’ love shared. Given and received.
It is my first Christmas in over two decades to have no priestly Christmas responsibility. It’s a whirlwind of change as I move to a brand new place (in every sense). The other night my grandson, Austin, read from his Bible the story of Abram and Sarai traveling from their familiar home to the home God had yet to show them. It feels like I am walking with them.
Instead of writing a sermon, I made Christmas cookies with the grandboys.
We went to church early afternoon, and I sang Silent Night with my candlelit family. As we walked out of worship, the world was wrapped in snow.
Christmas Eve was celebrated with my ex-husband and his family. I was warmly welcomed. That evening ended with singing happy birthday to baby Jesus.
All of the joy is underlaced with sadness. I missed walking up the farolita-lit walk to the Eve of the Incarnation at St. Mary’s. I missed the spiritual anchor of being immersed in the preparation and celebration of liturgy. I am on a new way.
On this morning of the Incarnation, my communion bread was cinnamon rolls made by my son. My grandson was the deacon as he read the Christmas gospel as our breakfast blessing. The congregation was my Bend family joined by their cat.
In the steps of the Wise Ones in Matthew’s Gospel, it is home by a different way. Filled with the love of Christ. Finding new ways to share that love.
I have been spending most of this season of Advent looking for a new home.
As my time as rector of St. Mary’s has come to an end, the Rectory needs to be readied for someone new. In this time of transition, I have generously and graciously been allowed to live in the Rectory. But I know that it is quickly becoming no longer my home.
Since my new office will be downtown, I’ve been searching with my realtor for a place closer into town. I have been surprised how exhausting it’s been–not the Sabbath I expected December to be. You see, the story I’d made up in my head was that God had a fabulous new place already prepared for me (which I still believe is true) and that the process would go much more quickly and easily. Now why in the world did I think this pilgrimage would be different than all of the others of my life?
My new job with the Diocese will be ever so much more different than being a rector of a parish. I’m imagining the kind of home that will fit my new way of life. I first had to decide whether to rent or buy. Since I’ve been in packing and moving mode for the last two years, I’m ready to pack one last time and unpack for a good long while. I’m going to buy and abide.
Part of the challenge of becoming set on my new home is that I’ve spent the last two years reimagining the Rectory and that house, after two renovations in two years, thanks to flood water, is as close to perfect, for me, as any place I’ve ever lived. Oh yes. Except that it is prone to flooding.
I’ve had to decide what is essential in my new home, and what I can do without. As I’ve driven from place to place, walked up and down stairs and opened doors, this has changed.
I’m also aware that any change involves grief. It also involves trust.
And so I’ll sing the O Antiphon for this 19th day of December:
O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
Today I’ll rejoice that I have a home.
Today I’ll rejoice that I have the resources (money, friends, wise counselors) to find a new home.
I’ll remember what Immanuel means…God is with us.
I’ll remember what Israel means…..God prevails.
Gracious! Holy Immanuel and Holy Israel. The Advent unexpected pilgrimage continues. God with. God prevailing.
Being on a Sabbatical in the season of Advent means
Letting the sunrise be my wake up call on a Sunday morning
Having space to visit a friend who is dying
Not hurrying anywhere, and so puttering my way back home
Reading books with abandon
Making a Mickey Cake on a Sunday morning because I feel like it
Having a whole day unfold before me to do as God and I will
I missed sharing the beginning of Advent with my St. Mary’s family. With the ear of my heart, I heard the music of the community. With the eyes of my heart, I saw the nearly bare manger and the new Advent wreath. As are so many things this year, it was bitter sweet.
I decided to create something new from things I already have. I had seen the idea of a living Advent wreath planted with succulents. I mulled the idea around in my head and used what was available to make my own.
I emptied a pot from outside (carefully moving the plants that were already in it). I gathered small live plants from around the house for the greenery:
A small plant that I’ve kept alive for probably nearly three decades. It came from a piece that broke off and was left behind on the floor of our car. The plant was a gift from my then husband and me to our sister-in-law as a thank you for hosting Thanksgiving.
A jade plant that has grown from a small branch that had fallen on the floor of an Episcopal Church in Washington. I had attended worship there on an early weekday morning during a long ago vacation. Later that day my traveling friend and I would receive the news that her mother-in-law had died. I almost lost the plant in the Tax Day Flood, but was able to nurse it back to health.
Two plants from an arrangement given to me by my son and daughter-in-law to thank me for caring for my newborn grandson, Jonas.
A new plant, given by a dear St. Mary’s parishioner, as a goodbye gift.
After Christmas, I’ll remove the candles and hope to keep this arrangement of plants alive until next year. It will be one of the items that will move into my not yet found new home. In the year ahead, if one or another of the plant dies, I know there will be something new that can grow in that no longer empty spot.