Monday, December 16, 2013

Deep Darkness and Budding Hope

The past 48 hours have left me emotionally full and only one tiny step closer to being "ready" for Christmas. (We finally put up the little Christmas tree tonight!)

My church, which I have attended since birth, has been going through a difficult 3 year transition since our long time pastor retired.  So difficult in fact that on more than one occasion I have thought about leaving the church and that on a regular basis over the past 3 years I have sought my spiritual growth from other spaces and places. On Friday night, we had the opportunity to meet, for the first time, the woman who our Pastor Nominating Committee had selected to be our next pastor. Throughout the weekend there would be opportunities to meet her and then on Sunday morning she would lead worship. Afterwards, our congregation would vote on whether to officially call her as our next pastor (spoiler alert: WE DID!). 

I started my research on her as soon as her name was announced last Sunday, but it wasn't until I met her Friday night that I really started to believe that this church which I have called home since birth may not actually be pushing me towards the door.  In spite of the frigid temps outside, there was great warmth inside and the discomfort I have felt so regularly in my church over the past 3 years was slowly starting to melt away. After spending an hour and a half in that space meeting and greeting I left with a peace that something good was finally brewing at Kingston Presbyterian. I cried some tears of relief and joy on my way home.

I was lucky enough to start Saturday off with an appointment with my favorite massage therapist before heading off through some light snow flurries to my last race of the year. I joined my cousin and her husband for the Mistletoe 5k at the Mercerville Fire Company in Hamilton, NJ. It was 28 degrees, snowing, and a little windy. A month ago I finished a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in similarly cold weather in 25:17, definitely not a personal best but respectable considering the hills, the cold, and the fact that I hadn't run since November 9th. I wanted to do better on this run and finish out what has been an incredible year of racing by running a strong last race. But it was cold and snowing and the first mile the wind was blowing right in our faces. Oh, and I hadn't run since the Turkey Trot.
With my cousin and her husband at the Mistletoe 5k
Thankfully, I had a good playlist (that's really all you need, right?) and a Santa hat to keep me warm. There were also a couple of guys who seemed to lose their steam along the way and it's always fun to pass someone on your way to the finish line. So my playlist kept me plugging along even while the snow was coming down harder and harder.

Rise Today - Alter Bridge
Overcomer - Mandisa
Shut Up and Drive - Rihanna
Roar - Katy Perry
I Don't Wanna Stop - Ozzy Osborne
A Cut Above - Avery Watts
Lose Yourself - Eminem

I wasn't too far into Lose Yourself when I crossed the line - in 24:40something (official results aren't up yet, but I did apparently get 2nd in my age group). I had finished race #17 in a year that saw me complete my first (and second and third and fourth) half marathon(s) and my first full marathon. I had run a strong race in the snow to add to other races which I've completed in the sweltering heat, the punishing wind and the dark of night. I felt accomplished after this race because of the whole year of racing that came before. I am a different person now than I was before in so many ways. Knowing what I have accomplished this year makes me look forward to next year with tremendous hope, even in the midst of the deep darkness that is winter.

I have an awesome friend who has been taking good care of me, especially over the past few months and I'm glad that she has been encouraging me to step out of my comfort zones. Earlier in the week, she went clothes shopping with me and kept making me try on smaller and smaller sizes until I actually bought clothes that fit. (I'm still in disbelief by the way.) On Saturday night, she made plans for me to have an honest to goodness adult night out and it was a blast. The four of us didn't do anything special (unless you count discovering how poor of a capitalist I am by playing Monopoly as special) but we took advantage of being snowed in and drank some beers and laughed together. It was one of the best nights I've had in awhile and I'm thankful to my parents who held down the fort at home with the little guy while I enjoyed myself.

It wasn't until about 7:30am Sunday when I heard the horrible news. It flipped my weekend upside down and reminded me once again that our moments here on earth are incredibly precious. I learned that Connie, a friend and fellow organizer, had been in a tragic car accident the night before. Her husband, Herman, who had been driving, died at the scene and she was in the hospital fighting for her life. When I think of Herman and Connie I think of pure love. Of best friends. Of dance partners and life partners. He was a shop steward in CWA and she is an organizer with the Union. Herman was a wonderful man and Connie was his match. Needless to say, I went to church this morning with a very heavy heart.

I have been in a constant state of crying out to God for Connie's health all day today and I know from her Facebook wall that I'm not the only one. In church, I passed along a prayer request and asked the rest of my congregation to join me. Rev. Sharyl Dixon, our candidate for pastor preached and led our worship service. During her sermon, I finally started to feel at home in my church again. As she prayed and lifted up Connie's health and Herman's grieving family and friends, I was overwhelmed with God's presence there. I felt a level of care in that space that I have found to be intermittent at best over the past several years. I felt like there was a rebirth of sorts in our faith community. The waiting is finally over and now I feel something that I haven't in quite awhile...hope.

I am still sad and awaiting word on Connie's condition, but there is a profound difference in knowing that the faith community I call home is one where I once again feel I can go with both my deep darkness and my budding hope. 

Somehow that meant I found the strength to decorate the little Christmas tree tonight. 

This year, Domani was old enough to help so he "unwrapped" the ornaments and helped pick out a spot on the tree as I told him the story about each one. Some, like the ones with photos of Joe or a Mets logo didn't need any explanation, but he was quite interested in the ones from when he was born or the ones from Aunt Jen that had our names on them. I might need to be concerned, though that he seemed to know right away who Peter from the Family Guy was and seemed completely unfazed by the fact that the Peter ornament is naked except for a strategically placed gift. His father's son, I guess.
The little Christmas tree all decorated for 2013!

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for such a tragedy, my friend.

    This weekend really was not good for me too. My wife and I lost a young friend, the daughter of the owner of the school where my wife works. My wife was the first teacher of the little girl and taught her the first letters.

    The girl was 24 and could not stand dealing with the illness of depression, one of the greatest evils of contemporary society.

    Life is full of surprises, good and bad. We have to keep fighting for a better world.

    In solidarity,

    William Mendes (Contraf-CUT)