Last year I hoped at this time that 2014 would be a quiet year. And to some extent, it has. I’ve continued to find my curacy challenging and joyful in equal measures and have settled into the rhythms of priesthood. But a few events have stood out. So here are my top five in (roughly) chronological order.
It was around Christmas 2013 that I started nagging Justin to let me get a dog. We talked about it a lot. I spent an obscene amount of time looking up the different breeds. I talked to people who had dogs. After hours of research and numerous conversations, I had my heart set on getting a greyhound. ‘Greyhounds are the best!’ everyone told me.
No one warned me how neurotic greyhounds are.
No one warned me that though they rarely bark, they are capable of singing arias for hours when left alone.
No one warned me that they are amazing thieves. That they will hoard wool. Or try to eat coffee. Or rummage through the bin in search of the perfect nearly empty container of cat food. Or hog the couch.
Or steal my heart so completely.
Judy is now my constant shadow. She comes with me on some visits and accompanies me at dog-friendly meetings. Because of her, I have come to appreciate even more the beauty of the city I live in. I laugh at her gangly clumsiness in the house, but her carefree, deer-like elegance when she’s outside running still takes my breath away. Sunday afternoon naps are our favourite time, as we curl up on the couch under a blanket together and fall asleep watching rubbish tv. And when I am upset, she will come and lay her head in my lap, look up at me with those kind brown eyes, and the world becomes a gentler place. She is by far the best part of 2014, and I hope that she will continue to be the best part of many years to come.
My trip back to the States was not the easy, lazy holiday I needed. I was already suffering from depression then, although I had not yet admitted it to myself or anyone else. That made some relationships that are difficult at the best of times even more complicated. It made some goodbyes — which look likely to have been final goodbyes — very, very hard indeed. But family is family, and home is home. And there were many precious moments, despite the Fog that was rolling in. Some of the best hours I spent in silence with my dear friend Suzi, drinking tea and just being together. Friendships like that are rare, and I do not give thanks enough for those times when I feel blessed simply by the presence of someone I love.
#3: the fog
Maybe it seems odd to include illness amongst my reminiscences of this year. But it lasted nearly half a year, so it wouldn’t feel right to pretend it never happened. And as horrific as it was — as much as I denied its existence and then fought against it when I could no longer deny it and then hated it when I could no longer fight it — I am grateful for the insights it gave me.
I learned the wisdom of daily prayer which gave a structure to days that otherwise would have faded into nothingness.
When I had no words of my own, I heard my deepest fears and sadnesses echoed back to me in psalms thousands of years old, and I found rest and comfort there.
Every time I said the 1982 Eucharistic prayer and prayed ‘He is the Word existing beyond time … bringing to wholeness all that is made’, I knew it to be a prayer I needed too.
I fell hard into the messy muddiness of myself and my life and my mistakes and my regrets, and when I didn’t have the energy to get back up, I realised over the weeks and months that there were people who had stopped to sit in the mud with me until I slowly regained my breath.
And that helped me, most importantly, to learn to accept the illness for what it was. I felt weak and imperfect and disappointed in myself. I worried others would be disappointed in me too. But during those dark hours, I saw what unconditional love looks like.
#4: palestine and israel
This post still sums up how I feel about my time in Palestine and Israel. I long with my whole being to be back there. It has made me rethink ministry, reread the gospels, review my understanding of peace, renew my commitment to justice, and, after a time of feeling so fragmented, re-member myself.
The experience changed me, in ways I did not expect, and in ways I will no doubt continue to discover in months to come.
The blessings. The goodbyes. The silences. The confusions. The encouragements. The poems. The laughter. The stories. The tears. The honesty. The kindnesses. The hurts. The forgiveness. The prayers. The peace.
The daily moments that are too many to count, that sometimes seem insignificant, that often are not mine to name, and yet that remind me time and time again that my truest calling is to Know what you do. Imitate what you celebrate. And conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross.
For another year of the privilege and pain of this calling, I give thanks.