11.17.2010

Writing and the Pastoral Life (and the Parenting Life)

Ever since I attended that Eugene Peterson workshop at the Collegeville Institute titled Writing and the Pastoral Life, I pay more attention to the ways my dual callings complement one another. There's surprisingly little competition. The writing feeds the ministry, and likewise. As the mother of a nearly-three year old, it goes without saying that all of this happens in the context of the Parenting Life.

Some days go smoother than others. But some days positively glimmer. Yesterday morning I met with my monthly clergy writing group. It's such a highlight on my calendar. It's writing critique and collegial support and self-care and resource-sharing and coffee with friends all wrapped into one morning. It's no wonder we stay longer than we mean to; it's that good. I'm so grateful to God, the Collegeville Institute, and the Internet (in particular, The Young Clergy Women Project and RevGalBlogPals). It would have been a completely different relocation process without this little community to soften my landing.

In the afternoon, I spent a couple hours at a local retirement community. Along with my church's Minister of Congregational Care, who is also a resident, we made some pastoral visits to church members. The gentleman was just that: a gentleman. And not by accident. As we were leaving, he quoted G. K. Chesterton regarding the definition of a gentleman; "one who would never hurt another person intentionally." After we made our farewells, we headed to the nursing unit to chat with a woman who is 104 years old. She was as bright-eyed and sharp as could be, though she admitted things aren't so easy these days. She smiled and shrugged. "A little suffering never hurt anyone, you know." She seemed to forget her sufferings as she told us all about the people in the pictures on her wall, from the antique portrait of her mother to the snapshot of her youngest great-grandchild.

I love my job.

Juliette's school is nearby the retirement center. Even during the short trip, I felt the same bursting excitement that always builds on the way to pick her up. By the time 4:30 rolls around, I can hardly bear another minute away from my daughter. I am so happy to see her, and without fail she hollers "Mama!" and runs into my arms. We went home for snap, time enough to doll her up a bit, and set back out for school again, where they were hosting the annual fall potluck. We brought homemade chocolate chip cookies. She ran around in her red party dress like a little lunatic; when Ben arrived, straight from work, she was bouncing and giggling with her classmates so much he assumed she'd already visited the punch table.

I tried to write this last night, but halfway through the first paragraph Ben came down and told me that Juliette was asking for me. We stay with her until she goes to sleep. It doesn't take nearly as long as it used to, and mostly she voluntarily decides she's ready for bed at 8:00pm, give or take a few minutes, so there's little to no fight involved. On the nights when I am the one to lie down with her, to help her say her prayers and tell her the story of the three little pigs for the thousandth time, I feel so blessed. Even if I'd meant to be writing, or responding to the emails I'd missed while out of the office all day. She put her hand on my cheek and fell asleep smiling.

Then Ben and I ate salt & pepper potato chips and watched Parenthood and stayed up late talking.

It's a pretty good day when you can't even begin to decide which moment was the best.

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