I want to explain a little bit about how I got here – here being back home in Rhode Island and working as the director of the summer camp I attended as a teenager. I can promise you it wasn’t because I planned to return. No, this came as a total surprise to me. But then, God always manages to surprise me.
When I graduated from seminary in Virginia I was called to serve as the Assistant Rector of a large parish down in Southern Pines, North Carolina. I hadn’t ever even considered moving south before, but it turned out it was exactly where I needed to be. I spent four wonderful years there as their assistant then associate rector. I served as chaplain to the day school that was attached to the church, and worshipped with 200 children and teachers and parents twice a week. I learned and grew and discovered the priesthood, and I did so surrounded by some of the most loving and encouraging people I will ever know.
But then I just started to get the feeling it was time to go. I fought that feeling for awhile for two reasons. First, because my husband Jonathan and I were very, very happy there. We had a beautiful home, great friends, and work we loved. Why leave? And the second reason was even more disconcerting. Even though I felt pretty clear that God was nudging me to leave where I was, I wasn’t feeling particularly called to anything else. So every time I felt the need to leave, I’d end up yelling at God “AND GO WHERE EXACTLY??!!”
Well, sometimes you get an answer to your question. I went to a conference for young female clergy out in California, and I left for that conference good and ready to just stay put in North Carolina for another year. But then, over the week of sharing and discernment, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I just needed to leave. Without someplace new to go. I just needed to leave.
My dog happened to die while I was in California, which is something I actually think is critical to the story because I’m not sure if we would have gone for it without that having happened. But on the day I was planning to call my husband Jonathan to tell him about my big discernment, I woke up to a phone call from him, telling me that our sweet Tanner had gotten into anti-freeze, and needed to be put down. Boy was that a mess. We spent the whole morning on the phone with one another, crying and consoling each other while we grappled with losing our little family member. Finally, after hours had gone by and we had exhausted everything we could possibly say to each other about how sad we were, I said to my husband, “Well, do you want me to tell you something that might distract you for a bit?” When he said sure, I laid it on him:
“I’m thinking that we sell our house, and sell one of our cars, and sell most of our stuff and we just take off. Travel. Find someplace pretty to live for a little while. Rest. Be together. And then figure out what’s next.”
And to his credit, my wonderful husband basically responded with a sniffle and an “Okay.”
So that is exactly what we did. We frantically painted our brick house (a terrible, terrible project) in order to make it look a little more appealing in an awful market, and miraculously it sold in just over a month. The newer of our two cars (the only one that would actually make any money) sold on Craigslist in a similarly short time to a new owner we just loved. We had the yard sale of the century, and at midnight the night before our neighbor knocked on the door and he and his wife said they wanted to buy most of the furniture before we even had it out in the driveway. And while we did all that, and started what would be some very difficult goodbyes, we began to plan our two month trip around the country and think about where we’d land for our rest and renewal. There were many, many days where I had no idea if we’d pull this off. Trust me when I tell you there was no trust fund supporting this venture. But though a variety of wonderful blessings, and a generous gift from the congregation, we somehow made it happen. Before we had even left it had become clear that our resting spot would be Camden, Maine, where I would spend my days reading and writing (at least that’s what I thought I’d do) while Jonathan participated in a 12 week intensive furniture making program at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. On September 4th we bid our congregation farewell and literally drove off into the sunset.
Two months later we were finishing up our trip around the country getting ready to head to Maine and I was starting to feel like it was time for me to at least think about going back to work. Rector searches take forever, and I was hoping to take only six months off. I was already late to the party if I wanted to work again. But every time I looked at a parish profile I just couldn’t bring myself to get excited. I decided not to panic, and just hoped and prayed thatGod would make the next thing clear. I even said as much to my sister while we visited her in Miami. “I just need someone to say, ‘here, here’s a job’. Because honestly I’m not sure what else to do.”
And then a couple of hours later I got an email from a friend of mine, who happened to be the director of my old summer camp. She was thinking about making the switch to full time parish ministry, and wondered if I had thought about coming back to RI. I’m not even sure if I thought about it for a full minute. I emailed her back immediately:
There was a lot more that had to happen before I settled into this position: discernment and discussions, meetings and interviews, but that same clarity I had that day in Miami never left me. I feel so deeply called to this ministry right now – and it amazes me that our journey has brought us back to our home state and to the camp where I met God – and my husband, for that matter!
I want to be clear that leaving my job in North Carolina and taking off not knowing what would come next was petrifying. It was one of the biggest – if not the biggest – leapof faith I have ever taken. And most of the time I couldn’t believe we had actually decided to do it. But God’s magnificent will was made abundantly clear, and I am so, so grateful for that. So this is me, in this new job, thrilled to be here – excited, nervous, and not sure what to expect – advocating for leaps of faith. Take them. Because it is so exciting to see how God helps us to fly. And it’s even more exciting to see where we land.