Archive for July, 2013

I have been away from posting for a while because the internet connection has been down at the Church, and with that, also comes the wireless signal going kerpluey. I have no idea if that’s how you spell kerpluey.

The past couple of months have been exhausting. My eating habits are back to awful (again). My weight has stabilized which is good in one way, but not in another. My body shape continues to shift, making me unsure of what size I am or whether a piece of clothing will fit me properly from one day to the next.

I’ve presided over too many funerals. I’ve officiated too many interment services. My focus is not where it should be. My body aches from fatigue and I can barely get through the day.

I need a vacation.

Thankfully, I have two weeks vacation starting on Sunday. After Church I only need to change the Church sign and get a ride to the train station and I’m on vacation. My cell phone is coming with me to check in with my mother and my husband, but that is it. No Facebook, no email, no internet. I don’t know if I will find the time and resources to blog.

Tonight, my husband and I need to go into the city and while we are there I am going to buy a journal. I used to journal regularly and then I stopped for a number of reasons. I think it’s time to start again. I bought a new yoga mat and that is coming with me. I intend to practice yoga every day, sometimes outside, and move my body every day.

I intend to eat well every day that I’m away and drink lots of water. I want to come back from vacation healthier than I was when I left, and with good practices in place.

Yesterday was a 12 hour day for me, and by the time I had presided over two liturgies, a Memorial Service, mediated a conversation between mother and son and had a “brief” home visit to a teenage parishioner who is about to leave home for her first full-time job; I was absolutely starving and knackered.

We heated up some left-overs, I kissed my husband good night and I went to bed.

I woke up about 10 hours later, still feeling as tired as when I went to bed. And I don’t like that.

So I wonder, what comes after exhaustion? And if you get there, can you come back to health?

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Lately I feel as though I’ve had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m struggling with what it is to be a person as well as a priest and IF it is possible to separate the two. I knowingly signed up for this lifestyle, this vocation, knowing that I would always be on-call and I would always be working, in one way or another.

Most days I can separate my administrative duties from my household duties as I keep regular office hours. But now that we are in summer, my daughter is home with me every other week, which makes office hours a challenge. I still get the work done, but it’s from the kitchen table as opposed to the desk at the office. And in between tasks, I take a break to get more coffee or water, and then throw in another load of laundry, sweep the floor, change the bedding, etc.

Is the multi-tasking healthy? I’d like to think there are times for it and benefits for it. Laundry, for example, mostly does itself. So I can throw in a load, work on something, take a break for fabric softener, work on something, take a break to hang it out or throw it in the dryer in inclement weather, and so on.

I have been trying to grow my hair out. And I really shouldn’t. I decided a few months back that I’d like to be able to put my hair up on really hot days. My hair is also quite thick. And so in the hottest days of the season (so far) I had my hair stuck out at all angles, because it was too short to put up but too long to lay flat. Argh.

I had a baptism on Saturday and afterwards I was feeling quite good, but also in need of a significant change, so I went to the hairdresser where I have been going since I returned to the city (about 9 years). Two of my favourite stylists were working. They had similar hairstyles and I wanted what they had, plus a hit of colour – red and I mean red. So I am now sporting what is called an “undercut” whereby I have a mop of hair on my head which is streaked with brown, blonde and red. The hair has movement and on the sides and back it is shaved close to the skin. LOTS of versatility and apparently if it show one side of the shaving, it makes me “badass”. Something I never realised I wanted to be…lol.

Last night my beloved and I went to the Pride Church service where the banners were blessed. It was quite warm in the sanctuary, but we endured and enjoyed ourselves. My beloved and I both sing in the choir and the choir presented “Climb E’vry Mountain” which was quite well received. We have a new musical director and he is awesome. The entire service was fantastic.

One of my favourite parts of attending church at MCC is how communion is done. You come forward; by yourself, with your partner, your family, or friends. A wafer is dipped in grape juice and placed in your mouth, then the Eucharistic minister blesses you and prays with you. Last night’s blessing and prayer brought tears to my eyes…hearing how much I am loved, how our union is blessed by God, how we are never alone…all things I really needed to hear. I say them often enough to other people, but it had been a long time since someone said them to me.

So now I find myself happy but weary. My two-week vacation begins in just under two weeks. I have two more Sunday services and I’m on the train to “elsewhere”. I am really, really ready to be away.

I am ready to disengage from the frenetic pace that is parish life, and really and truly be away. I have lists to make, instructions to send, pastoral visits to follow-up on and then I’m well and truly on vacation.

I am ready.

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Today we gathered to celebrate the life of a truly awesome 89-year-old lady. She raised five children, taught school in a one room schoolhouse and after her husband was left a paraplegic after a work accident she cared for him. For nearly 30 years. She never complained. Not once. Or never out loud.

She always had a smile on her face and she would always find the positive in the situation. The last visit we had together in hospital was to put the finishing touches on her memorial service. We had talked in broad brushstrokes prior to her having surgery, but now it was time to be a little more specific. I asked her what readings she wanted and she replied “Isn’t that why we pay you?” I laughed and agreed that she was likely right. She requested the 23rd psalm, the rest was left up to me.

I asked her about hymns. Keep in mind that R wore two hearing aids and for whatever reason she did not have them in while in hospital. So I had to shout my questions. The lady in the next bed was suffering with dementia and answered the questions I asked R, and quite loudly. The exchange went something like this:

Me: What kind of hymns would you like?
R: Pardon? I can’t hear you?
Me: (shouting) What kind of hymns would you like for your memorial service?
Roommate: (from the other side of the curtain) Rock of Ages
R: No! I hate that one.
Me: Do you have any suggestions?
Roommate: The Old Rugged Cross!
R: No! I hate that one too.

The daughter of the lady in the bed opposite came over waving apologies. I mimed her writing down her mother’s choices, which she did.

Eventually R. did choose two – Amazing Grace and What a Friend we Have in Jesus. We added Precious Lord, Take my Hand to round things out.

The church was full to capacity on a blistering hot day. The service took as long as it needed to take, and everyone who was there accepted the heat with aplomb and with thoughts of R.

It was difficult to watch the hearse drive away with her in the casket. She will be cremated and her remains will be buried in the next week or so.

On Saturday I am baptising a two month old baby boy. He is beautiful. His parents were married in his grandparent’s backyard almost two years ago to the day of his baptism. It will be a very special and poignant day. His grandmother has been diagnosed with an incurable illness which will greatly affect her mobility and has left her almost completely house-bound. They will be building a barrier free home closer to their daughter and grandson.

There will be laughter and tears on Saturday, as there were laughter and tears for R.

It seems the longer I stay in this community, the closer I get to the community. I am blessed beyond measure and humbled to no end with the trust I have been given by the community of the Church and the wider community. When I look out in the pews on a Sunday morning I not only see the ones who have braved the heat or cold to be with us. I also see the ones who have left the congregation to move into retirement living or have passed away. And the view I see is of a full church.

The Church needs to change as an institution. It needs to diversify and grow. It needs new ideas and new people. But it also needs to know its history. It needs to know on whose backs the Church was built and whose legacy we remember. To Renew ourselves is not about throwing out the old, but learning from, examining, growing and moving forward. The past and the future need to work together for a brighter future.

And so tomorrow I will change the Church sign. I have made a commitment to ensuring every week the sign says something about love. Last week it was “Keep calm and love each other”. This week it will say “Where there is love, there is life” Gandhi.

So as we move through our own life cycles we are reminded of those who have gone before us; we savour those who are with us; and we long for those whom will join us.

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I have a parishioner in hospital who is 92. His circulation is poor and he’s in a great deal of pain. A well-meaning friend of his insisted he go into hospital and has taken over deciding what he needs and what he doesn’t. I went to visit him yesterday and he was sleeping. I gently woke him and we spent some time together.

With his permission, I anointed him with oil, we prayed, and shared communion. The entire time he was crying because he doesn’t want to live this way anymore. His wife of 72 years died nearly two years ago and he’s been bereft since. My heart aches for him because he wants to die. He’s not suicidal, he’s simply had enough of life and wants to be with his beloved.

When I was getting ready to go, I asked if he wanted a final prayer and he said yes. So we prayed for God to comfort him, to bring him peace and, if it be His will, to call this man home. H cried harder and said “please” over and over again. I held his hand, I kissed his forehead and I said I would be back later in the week to see him.

I pray that he will slip peacefully away and rejoin his beloved. That he will be called soon into the arms of God and be free of pain and suffering.

On Wednesday we will gather at the Church to celebrate the life of R. She was a feisty lady who was a school teacher, raised four children and looked after her husband when he had a debilitating accident. She cared for him at home for as long as she could, and when he died, she threw herself into the volunteer world in our community, receiving a Volunteer of the Year award about five years ago.

The last two years of her life have not been good, as she’s been struggling with health issues. She died in hospital and that would have bothered her greatly as she would have preferred to die at home, the retirement residence she moved to a year or so ago.

On Saturday I will be baptising a two month old baby boy at his grandparents home. Traditionally baptisms are done in a Church setting, but his grandmother has ALS and is confined to her home. Her daughter and son-in-law were married two years ago in the backyard, so that is where we will baptise her grandson. It will be a beautiful and poignant day as we will gather for the beginning of her grandson’s spiritual life, as she faces the premature end of her life.

There are times when I get angry with God for letting people suffer. And while I shouldn’t likely be angry with God because there is always a plan, I WILL get angry when people suffer needlessly.

I will miss H, I do miss R and I will miss C. And while it will be difficult, and has been difficult to let them go, I know I must, as it is God’s turn to hold them safe and comfort them.

And as for me, I, thankfully have many who hold me safe. So while I will be emotionally fragile for the next little while, I know that God is with me, every step of the way, bringing hope with every tear that is shed; love with every hug that is exchanged; and peace with every bought of laughter.

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Life has been a series of struggles lately, physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. Lately there has been a great deal of loss in the community and in our small parish family. I am reaching the place where I have gone from burying parishioners, to burying friends and sometimes to burying family. It hurts. But it is my job and I have to function well to be able to care for the congregation.

On the fourth of July a parishioner died who had been in and out of hospital for the past few months. She was 89. She was ready to die and at peace with the world. Another parishioner who is 97 was admitted to hospital this evening. He’s got some serious circulation issues, and may need to have a toe amputated. Two years ago his wife of 73 years died. He was devastated and has wept for her every day since. His family is telling him to “get over it” and the truth is, he doesn’t want to. I don’t blame him. He is not suicidal, he is simply ready for this life to be over so he can join his bride in the next life.

I’m feeling torn between the friend who is trying to get him “better” so he can go back to his life in a retirement residence, and the desire he has to die. I tend toward his want. He isn’t afraid to die. He is ready to go. But his heart is strong, thanks in part, to an operation he had 4 years ago to repair a faulty valve. He had the surgery so he could live longer and care for his wife whom he was losing every day to Alzheimer’s disease.

When I go and visit, we often sit in silence and I will hold his hand while he cries. I encourage him to talk about his wife, and watch his smile come from his heart and light up his face. We share communion from the traditional Book of Common Prayer and he knows every, single word by rote…even the priestly parts.

Quite often he weeps only while we go through the Eucharistic Rite, and he apologises profusely. I remind him that it is not a bad thing to weep, and often I feel like weeping at the sheer volume of the gift that Jesus and God gave us. He nods understanding and we wait, in silence, until we continue again.

I don’t expect he will see another birthday or another Christmas. He is really and truly ready to leave this life. And in my humble and non-medical opinion, I believe his wishes should be honoured. Lead him out of pain, and let his life come to an end. No more medical procedures, other than for pain relief. No more surgeries.

We have talked often about his wishes for his funeral. He wants a traditional Requiem Mass, the same as we did for his beloved wife. I received a couple of comments that the service was very somber, but that was his choice and that choice needs to be honoured. He and his wife had talked about their wishes while she was still well enough to understand. The service has been written, the readings selected and even the hymns have been chosen. And when his time comes he will be honoured with a Requiem Mass. We will honour his legacy, celebrate his life and do it soberly, with honour and tradition. And there will be laughter. I have promised him, that there will be laughter, as there was for his beloved bride.

So tomorrow I will go and visit him in hospital. I will bring communion and oil for anointing. And we will pray together that if it is God’s will that he should heal, then that will be done. And if it is God’s will that he be called home, then that will be done. I will miss him terribly, as I miss his wife terribly, but I know that he will be in a place where he is no more pain; only joy and love as he his reunited with his wife, his parents and siblings.

I find myself struggling with the ongoing significant loss in the parish and how I process it all. I know I was created with a large heart, but it’s also a delicate surface that is easily hurt, bruised and battered. There are times when I wish I had a harder heart, but then I wouldn’t be me. And the only person I can be is the person that God created. For better or for worse.

So as the darkness descends on another day and we approach another weekend, I pray for restorative sleep, for me and for my congregation. I pray for laughter and time with good friends. I pray for old friends and new ones. I pray for enjoyable time with my family. I pray for peace. And I pray for hope. I pray for hope and I pray for love.

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I’ve been slipping quickly with my food choices and today I fell off the wagon. Hard. There will likely be bruising.

I’m limiting my intake of alcohol because I don’t want the extra calories and I really don’t seem to be able to have “just a couple”. Compound that with a great dislike of losing control AND the fact that I am always on call. I simply can’t get hammered anymore.

Usually, whenever I leave the house, I have a bottle of sparkling water with me. I drink, on average 4 – 6 litres of the stuff every day. And when I drink the full amount, I feel great. My skin looks better, my eyes shine and my hair is soft.

Lately I’ve been indulging in things that I know are bad for me. Chocolate, cookies, chips, alcohol, ice cream, french fries.

I’m a big believer in moderation, but my body doesn’t quite seem to understand what that means. When I am on my own, I can talk myself through a craving, usually. I can make myself something healthy for lunch and savour it, eating it slowly, with flowers on the table, a cloth napkin and a proper plate. And then there are the days when I fill a bowl with ice cream and eat it while standing over the sink. Or even better than that, taking the lid off the container, grabbing a spoon and eating “just a spoonful or two” then before I know it the container is empty and I feel gross.

Today it was a potato chip binge. I’ve not touched potato chips in months. But for whatever reason, when I was at the grocery store I bought a bag of my favourites, and have eaten 2/3 of the bag. I guess I should rejoice that I didn’t eat the whole bag. But I still feel disgusting and really disappointed in myself.

I’m going to a party on Saturday night and I was thinking of getting some hard cider to take and enjoy. I’ve decided, instead, to bring three bottles of sparkling water and drink that. I’ll be much less likely to nibble and snack and will be in control of myself.

I need to menu plan and have healthy options at home, instead of garbage.

I need to cook more instead of grocery-store ready foods.

I want to exercise more, but there’s always a reason why I can’t. And it has to stop. Now.

I’m taking a course in MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) in September for 8 weeks. We will be spending time on yoga mats stretching and breathing. To celebrate and honour that, I ordered an eco-yoga mat from a company called Barefoot Yoga. I mean, how could I not? I found a fabulous deal on the internet and it should be here in a week or so.

I’m going to get my original mat, which has scuffs and scratches on it, and use it every day. Even if its only 15 minutes to sitting still and breathing. Then slowly I’ll add more time on my mat.

I’ll take up the stretches again, and focus on breathing, instead of eating.

I’ll get up and move instead of staring into the abyss of the internet.

I’ll try to stop beating myself up about falling off the wagon and instead, get back up on the bloody thing.

I’m determined to buy a bikini and wear it this summer. No matter how my body looks.

I’m determined to make myself feel better through a combination of food and exercise.

I’m going to stop reading about the latest “diet” and “guaranteed successes” because nothing in life is guaranteed, other than at some point, that life will end.

I’m determined that by the time I go on vacation (in 5 weeks) that I’ll be walking healthier and will walk every day that I’m away. And every day once I return.

By the fall I want to be running for pleasure. I haven’t done that since I ran long distance in public school and I quite enjoyed it. My body is nowhere ready for it, but if I am determined enough to do what needs to be done, then it will be.

I need to forgive myself for falling off the wagon. As Miss Sullivan said to Anne Shirley, “Tomorrow is a new day, fresh and free of mistakes”.

So, tomorrow I climb back on again, and start again.

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Recently there seems to have been a lot of negative energy spent towards the LGBT+ community. As an ally to the community it saddens me to read articles where people are being cruel, mean and horrible with one another.

Recently a friend of mine who is a member of the trans* community, mentioned that she was having a difficult time, due in part to some hateful words and jealousy that was rearing up and taking over. I have only ever her known her as female and cannot understand why anyone would see her as something other than female. I guess I’m naive as I tend to take people as they come; and I tend to treat everyone the same.

Today I had breakfast with four of my friends, two of which are part of the trans* community. One of them has been so upset at the slow process and information shortage that she was contemplating hurting herself. Thanks be to God her fiance was able to help her through, but how horrible that she felt so marginalised that she couldn’t find a way forward?

I cry bitter tears of anger when I think of my friends being mistreated because of something as innocuous as sexuality and gender. What people need to remember is that sexuality is not about what is between your legs, but between your ears.

One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is Love. No greater gift has ever been given then when Jesus knowingly and lovingly died for us. To tell one person that they don’t deserve that love is fallacy, is wrong and is infuriating.

it is time for the hatred to end. It is time for us to come together as the human race and accept everyone just as they are.

We are all God’s children; created in the image and likeness of God. For some of us that means we look in the mirror and see that shining face of God looking back at us. For others it means looking in the mirror and seeing something or someone else reflected. And in order for us to feel that we truly are God’s Children we need to have surgery in order that our outer bodies reflect our inner selves.

God doesn’t make mistakes. God creates from Love and we are all born from Love. Some of us know who we are meant to be, and others of us spend our lives trying to figure that out. I have been blessed in knowing that the gender I was born is the one I was meant to have. I don’t know how it would feel to be born in the opposite gender to what I am now.

My trans* friends who have found the support and strength to make their transition often describe a peace that comes to them once the decision is made to transition. It’s not something that is ever done lightly, but with much thought, prayer, tears and consideration. Every one of the trans* friends I have has come into themselves once they’ve begun the transition. It’s not easy. But it is what is necessary to live an authentic life and be an authentic presence.

I truly believe that the only way to rise above the hate that, at times, seems overwhelming, is to choose to love. It’s one of the two commandments Jesus gave us. Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself. Why do we have to complicate so simple an idea?

Rise above the hate with Love. Choose to live in a place where love governs your actions. Teach your children and your grandchildren to live in Love.

And most importantly, speak out when there is hatred and prejudice. Gay rights are human rights. And we are all the same in our humanity; are we not?

It’s time for us to get up, get out, and get lost in the abounding love of God. For God’s sake, and for each other’s sake.

It’s time. Let’s do it. Together.

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Yesterday I met with my therapist for our last session. Because she is in the network with my family doctor I will be able to see her again, should the need arise. We realised I’ve been a client of hers for almost two years. And then we noted how I was when I first saw her and how I am now. A marked improvement.

I now know what boundaries are and how to establish them. I know that I don’t have to compare myself to anyone else in order to gauge my success or failure. I am more confident in my abilities and feel that I have reached my goal…to be a person of integrity. I have learned to stand up for what is right, to advocate for those who can’t and to ask for help when I need it. It is also worth noting that I have learned when it is I need help.

These may seem like small things, but when I first met with A, I was unable to establish boundaries and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown or professional burnout. The burnout is still a real possibility, but the breakdown seems to have passed. Not that it went unnoticed or ignored, but that I developed healthy coping strategies and have put many of them into place.

We discussed the importance of a “team” in situations like mine and that each member of the team adds a different tool to the tool belt. In September I am starting a course on behaviour modification with people who have been diagnosed as depressive. It will be a “next step” for me on my pathway to wellness.

I know that depression and anxiety will be part of my life for the rest of my life. But I refuse to let it take hold of me and rob me of myself. I am the person that God created and I am the one who was set apart to be me. There is no other me in the world, except for me.

So I stand on my own two feet, confident in my ability (most of the time), and recognising that I will not succeed in getting everything done. Nor will I be able to change the world single-handedly. But I can start a movement to teach and encourage others to join me in the movement to eradicate hatred.

Is it a difficult thing to do? Absolutely. Is it going to happen quickly? Probably not. Is it worth the aggravation and heartache that will follow? Absolutely.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. The believe that hatred can be vanquished begins with one heart.

I will never stop loving. I will never stop advocating. I will never abandon the idea that love conquers all. Because I believe, with everything that is good and holy, that I can vanquish hatred. I have removed the “h” word from my vocabulary. I am encouraging other people to do the same. And I am very careful what language I use around my daughter. She is the hope of the next generation, and if I can teach her, she can teach her friends and they can teach their friends…and so it goes.

My story is ever evolving and expanding and contracting as events transpire in my life. There have been immense battles in my life. There will be more of them. And instead of living a five-year plan and forgetting to live in today, I’m taking smaller steps. The future will come, but I need to enjoy the now.

Is my story finished? Not even close. Is the chapter of mental illness closed? Not by a long shot. Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The rest will show itself as it is intended. And not a moment before.

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