seasons of love

A few weeks ago at the end of another fabulous Zumba class my instructor introduced a new cool-down song.  The choreography of the stretching was new to me, but the song is one I have loved for years.  It caught me completely off-guard to go from our thumping latin and club music to this song, but I admit to being more than a little excited when the first notes of “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical Rent starting playing over the speakers.

I’ve loved Zumba for a while now, but I’ve loved Broadway musicals for a lot longer.  In fact, I think one of the reasons I love being at camp so much is that it’s the closest thing to a real live musical that I’ll ever be a part of: we break into song and dance spontaneously at any time.  Rent has been a particular favorite of mine since it first started on Broadway when I was in high school, and this incredibly beautiful song was one of the first I heard and loved.

525,600 minutes.  That’s how many we have in a year.  The song asks us to consider how we measure our lives, and makes the final plea:

Measure your life in love.

My instructor hasn’t picked this particular cool-down that many times since she introduced it, but I sure love it when she plays it.  I can barely do the stretches I’m so busy singing (and the music plays so loud that I can belt it out without anyone hearing me – it’s the BEST!).  It’s a great way to end class because I’m all happy and tired from a great hour of dancing, and then I get this surprise spiritual bonus at the end – a song that just warms my heart.

The other day she played it and I found myself particularly overwhelmed with gratitude.  Probbaly because we are approaching the end of the year, and it’s impossible not to reflect just a little on what the last year has held for me.  So while I was listening to the song, and the compelling request to measure our lives in love – well, I couldn’t help but think I’m sure measuring up pretty good this year.

It’s interesting, really. As far as the “real world” goes, I’m not sure 2012 was a banner year for me.  My husband and I moved in with my mom, where we lived for the entirety of the year.  Each of us worked part-time if at all over the past 12 months.  Jonathan had no insurance.  We had old, junky cars.  When all my clergy colleagues were “advancing” to rector positions, I stepped out of parish ministry and took on a part-time camp director job.  On paper, things don’t look all that great.

But love… oh we just broke the bank on love this year.  I remember writing in a blog post before the summer started that I suspected my heart was going to grow a bit over the summer, but I could never have anticipated how much I would love the staff, campers, visiting staff, and clergy that came to spend time at ECC this summer.  I cannot believe how full my heart is in this ministry.  Adding to the experiences I had professionally, I got to live with my mom for the year! While that’s not every thrity-something’s dream, it was, in fact, extremely sweet to spend the year with her – especially after living in different states for so many years.  I also had a new niece come into the world this year.  There’s nothing like having your family get bigger.  Holding that little one I think my heart might actually explode.  I started Zumba this year, which has brought friendships into my life that I couldn’t have asked for or imagined.  Not only do those friends make my life that much better but I get to spend several hours a week DANCING.  What’s better than that?  Then I got to share that dancing with the camp community and well… that was just about completely transformational for our little corner of Pascoag.

I could go on and on, but I realize that might start to get obnoxious.  But it’s important for me, as this year draws to a close, to make note of everything that I’m grateful for.  I am profoundly grateful that while 2012 was lacking some of the clout, status, and financial gain the world tells you is important, it was undeniably rich in relationship, grace, and love.

Friends, thank you for being a part of my year, and my life.  I am grateful for you.  As you reflect on your year I hope you also feel surrounded and blessed by people you love.  And don’t for a moment think you aren’t measuring up somehow.  Instead, just remember what matters: Measure your life in love.

Mother Mary

I am in North Carolina today where I have been now for several days visiting with my youngest sister, her husband, and their two beautiful little girls.  Maggie, the oldest, was 2 in August, and Lizzie was born six weeks ago.  These two perfect children bring so much joy to my life that I almost can’t contain it all.

This morning Maggie had her pre-school Christmas Concert at the Methodist Church where she goes to “school”.  We’ve been listening to her sing Jingle Bells (only the first line… “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way – hey!”) over and over all week in preparation for the concert, so we had a sense of what was coming.  But nothing could have prepared us for the wonder of the morning.  Maggie didn’t sing a word, despite all of her practicing, but she led the clapping at the end (or at what she perceived to be the end) of every song.  She was darling, and I’m not just saying that because we are related.  She looked a little confused when she was led out onto the “stage” clutching onto her portion of the ribbon connecting her to her classmates, but upon seeing her mom and dad sitting in the congregation she perked up, her eyes widening and her little hand waving to them like they were the only two people in the audience.

I admit to being skeptical about these kinds of concerts in the past, including a moment this morning when we tried to get tights and a dress onto Maggie and she was in full-scale meltdown.  I wasn’t sure why we go through all this trouble when the kids hardly remember the event and would be perfectly happy just to have snack time and read a story.  But I admit that my opinion changed the moment those little ones walked out in front of the room full of beaming parents.  I didn’t even wince when the 3 and 4 year olds nearly shouted an overly enthusiastic version of J-E-S-U-S to the tune of Bingo (yowzers).  No, I loved every single second of that show. I’d even go so far as to say that little Christmas concert was sacred, because in the midst of a very busy season there was an opportunity for parents and relatives to be overwhelmed with love for their children – even if those same children spent the morning screaming about getting into their tights.

The only problem with the events of the morning is that my heart was all warm and wide open when I then learned about a different set of little ones, who had a day that ended in total tragedy.  A day that should have been full of singing, and anticipation, and joy.  As we rode in the car after lunch I glanced at my phone and saw the reports about the shooting in Connecticut. And I know I would have been sick with grief at that news any hour of any day of the week, but there was something about just having been with all those smiling children this morning that made the pain that much more sharp.  Twenty children dead.  Twenty.  Maybe even more.  And adults too.

The numbers are staggering.  And they were children.   It is devastating.

I cried some.  I can’t seem to stop crying, actually. I pray in fits and spurts.  I check Facebook every couple of minutes because somehow that connects me to the other people in my life.  I squeeze my nieces just a little more tightly, and I smother them in kisses when they desperately want a little space.  I turn the news on, and them I’m disgusted, and I turn it back off.

And then there’s something else that I find myself doing – on repeat.  I keep watching the video from Music Camp at ECC this past summer.  I keep listening to, or singing,  “Requiem” – the song that my middle sister taught us during our all-camp chorus.  The piece was written for the victims of the tsunami in Inodnesia, but I’m finding that they are exactly the words I need to hear today:

Mother Mary, full of grace, awaken.  All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken.  Taken by the sea.  Mother Mary calm our fears, have mercy.  Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy.  Hear our mournful plea.  Our world has been shaken we wander our homelands forsaken. In the dark night of the soul bring some comfort to us all, oh Mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace that our sorrows may be faced…

Mary, fill the glass to overflowing.  Illuminate the path where we are going.  Have mercy on us all.  In funeral fires burning, each flame to your mystery returning.  

In the dark night of the soul, your shattered dreamers, make them whole, oh Mother Mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace.  Lead us to a higher place.   In the dark night of the soul our broken hearts you can make whole, oh Mother Mary come and carry us in your embrace.  Let us see your gentle face, Mary.”

I know that many prayers and lamentations are being offered up to God today, and I will add my voice to the throng.  When my voice waivers, I will continue to add my tears.  But I will also call to Mary today.  I can’t forget that it is Advent, and we are waiting for the coming of our Lord.  I can’t forget that in these cold days of winter we think of a young woman and the child she carried.  I think of how she loved him. I think of how she grieved when he died.  And I think she must be grieving today – understanding as perhaps few others can.  I like to think of her warm embrace around those little ones, mercy in her arms and love on her lips.  And I pray for her grace and mercy to extend to all of us in our broken-heartedness.

You can watch the video here.

Hug your little ones extra tight tonight – they need your love.  We all do.

May the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

maggie hug

Convention 2012

badgesOur 222nd Diocesan Convention for the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island was held last weekend at St. Luke’s church in East Greenwich.  For anyone who doesn’t know, at Convention each church in the diocese is represented by elected delegates from their congregation.  Delegates and clergy and guests gather together to worship, hear an address from the Bishop, and listen to reports from various ministries and committees.  Then clergy and delegates vote on resolutions that will effect the life of our Diocese.  Some years the resolutions require lots of discussion, prayer, and discernment of the Holy Spirit. Other years – like this year – the resolutions were pretty easy to move through.

Our last big diocesan event took place in March.  It was our Convocation – an education event for the whole diocese.  The theme was on Feeding the Hungry, and I was asked at the last minute to lead a discussion on Feeding the Hungry Youth in our midst.  I was happy to help, but had not yet met any of the staff or campers from ECC.  I knew some clergy and parishioners from my years growing up in RI, but I didn’t really know anyone.  I had only just returned to the diocese the month before.  I enjoyed the Convocation, but I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until the next diocesan event when I had finished a summer and knew more of the people in our state and in the camp community.

This past weekend, with my first summer as director under my belt and after lots of weeks supplying at churches around the diocese, I got my wish.  I knew LOTS of people at Convention, and it was really exciting to greet people that I have worshipped and served with all in one place.  But most importantly, this time I made a point to recruit some of my ECC staff to be at Convention with me.  We had a small display set up in the Parish Hall to tell people about camp, and we made an announcement about our “Send A Kid to Camp” program.  (The cost for us per camper each summer is about $700, and we only charge $350.  You can do the math… it’s bad for the budget.  So we ask our churches to “Send a Kid to Camp” by raising the other $350 to make up for the difference in cost.  It’s a great way for them to be part of our incredible ministry at ECC.)  When I got up to make the announcement I had some of our counselors by my side.  EVEN BETTER, when I was sitting in the pew in the back of the church soaking up the Convention I had counselors by my side.  I was so proud.  I loved having camp people there to represent ECC and to learn about what happens in our diocese.  After all, our ministries in this state are a combined effort – we have to support the diocese and we expect the diocese to support us!

I wasn’t sure what my teenaged counselors were thinking of the Convention.  I’ll admit that there were some moments that dragged on just a little, and it was a lot to take in, especially for people new to the Convention scene.  They were great sports about it though, and genuinely seemed interested what was going on there.  The best moment for me personally came at the end of the day when it was time to turn in our name badges.  The ladies with me were willing to turn in the plastic coverings, but asked to keep the part with their names printed on it so they could remember there day at Convention.

This is EXACTLY the kind of thing that gets me excited about being at ECC and working at the diocese.  I am convinced that we can do so much good in this little state working together and understanding the whole of what we do as a church in this place.  Having ECC counselors and campers showing up at Convention now will help turn them into the kind of people and leaders that will be at Convention years from now, continuing to love and care for our great church.  And it’s wonderful for the Convention to see the campers and counselors so that people in our parishes know what a great thing we have going at camp.

So now, I’m excited for the next Convention, where I am convinced we will have an even stronger ECC presence.  I’m excited to show off the incredible teenagers that we have working for us that give of themselves and their time and talents cheerfully and without reservation whenever they are asked.  I’m excited for our young people to have an impact on this diocese and on our church, because I am sure they will inspire the people around them and bring energy and enthusiasm to the ministry we share.

Thanks to my peeps that came out that day.  Stay tuned for more opportunities to be a part of the diocese!