My writings and musings have been quieter this summer. What with my children home from school and a deep-belly sense that our family is in a time of transition, I intentionally drew a boundary line around ourselves that would require me to stay present to them. It is far too easy for me to live in my head where words and phrases are lined up in a beautiful order, out of reach of honey-sticky hands and air-borne balls, and not fully see or hear what they are needing me to watch (for the hundredth time) or say (do I really need to repeat the answer to that “why?” AGAIN?!). I needed to call myself out of my writing reveries to be available for spontaneous fun and play, of which we have had a summer full!
This awareness and intentionality has also been motivated by my response to a clear call that was as loud as the spring-time crrrrrrk-crrrrrrx of Iona’s corn crakes this past May. I’ve been dawdling with my graduate studies for years, a common thing to do when starting your young family begins simultaneously with M.Div work…eight years ago. However, while walking beside corn crake filled fields and working out my own personal questions while convening the 2013 Iona Pentecost Pilgrimage, it was evidently clear that a concerted return to school was in order for me to continue the vocational work to which I have been called. Fear clutched onto my excitement as I entertained this possibility, an emotional combo that has always affirmed God’s presence and pointing in said direction.
The early summer months had me writing emails to deans and directors and soon was involved in the process of discerning whether to remain in my eight year old intended program, or imagining anew as a result of clarity around my work these past few years. And to tell the truth, my decision was made when the Admissions Director from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology handed me a smallish, palm-sized journal with Mary Oliver’s words inscribed on the front cover:
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
These powerfully simple words break down the pilgrimage process with facile force, and the effect wasn’t lost on me in my own journey towards making a decision to cross this school-threshold once again. I was paying attention to the signs and wonders that were imparting a message to get myself back to a community of learners and engage the rigor of academics as it relates to my work. I absolutely was astonished as synchronicity after synchronicity affirmed the call to return to my studies, but at a new place, with a new focus. And so now, I must tell about it.
I want to be transparent in this process and share with you all the inevitable shifts, disruptions, and tears I will likely move through in the coming months as I exercise my work within this academy. I want to log how this decision and formation will both buoy and break me, fill me up and leave me flat on my face. Going back to school will humble and hone me…and require me to live within the pages of books, the whitish rooms of blank papers, and reveal myself to new relationships. My family will be impacted by this, and this understanding has moved me to tears many times over these summer months.
Knowing that my decision will place my youngest in someone else’s care several times a week and that I won’t always be home to greet my boys with oven-fresh smells has made my heart ache. This tremendous feeling of anticipated loss stalled my hand many a time as I went through process after process to matriculate to The Seattle School. Even last night, as my daughter lay asleep in my arms, her warm smells wafting to my nostrils, I wanted to bury myself into her, imprinting her onto my cells for fear I will miss something, or not notice something once school starts up for me next week.
I had to go to campus today to pick up my books and Anna came along. I hesitated, projecting a negative outcome for her seeing the school that will take Mommy away. (All this sounds very dramatic, I know, its just school for goodness sakes!) The feelings were there all the same, and I tentatively brought her in the front doors. She grabbed my hand…and I was prepared to dally and even turn on my heal to leave…and led me towards the desk, mounted with bags of books for students. Her smile engaged the administrative assistant and we were at once in the final process of my enrollment. Once we had my books for the quarter, I quickly felt ready to go and return to my life as a full-time mom, she tarried and asked if I would take her into the library.
Hand in hand we walked through high shelves dauntingly packed with hundreds of titles; I matched my step with hers, not wanting too much of my excitement for this realization of a dream, or dread of breaking a bit from my family to impact her experience in this charged place. She whispered, “Is this your classroom, Mommy?” No, honey. Those are upstairs. This is where I will read and study. We passed the librarians. “Are those your teachers, Mommy?” No, sweet-one. My teachers are likely upstairs, too. With each question and step, she gripped my hand harder, until she finally had me walking bent beside her. With a pride-filled whisper, she stated, “Mommy, I like it here. And I’m glad you are going to school, just like my brothers.” Tears streamed down my face as I was given the great gift of grace by a two year old, who knows nothing of posturing, or producing false statements. With her inquisitions, genuine interest and understanding that school is a lovely, held place (her knowledge of “school” comes from where her brothers go, surely a place of comfort and peace!), she was giving me permission to pursue my passions. Surrounded by the smell of new worlds and ideas, this library became a holy place for me today. A place where I could bring my fears about this new transition and God’s saving grace would be imparted through the tender hands and words of my daughter.
And so, I cross the threshold into this new season of student life, with the goals of holding a Masters in Theology and Culture in my hands in a few years, and share this with you all in hopes that you will be willing to listen to my rants, my wails, my inspirations and my breakthroughs. I hope that Waymarkers will still be a place where our little community is on the look out for God-given markers that guide our way through this life. That this will be a place where I can reflect with you all the great gift that my daughter gave to me today: standing in the library and helping me mark the way.