The dawn of a New Year is a good time to reflect on what is past, to celebrate “new beginnings,” and anticipate and hope for that which is yet to come. Over the last few days, I have read many of my friends’ blogs and facebook statuses regarding this new year and new decade. Several have written about the changes that have taken place in their lives over the last year (or two or ten!). As I think about the upcoming year and the changes and new beginnings that will unfold, I thought it might be helpful for me to reflect on what has brought me to this place.
Ten years ago, I was 28 years old, in the middle my seventh year of teaching, and still trying to find my “niche” in life. Teaching in the inner city was not all that I had anticipated it would be, and to be quite honest, I was very unhappy. I was getting cynical in my work and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. In the few years prior to that time, I had felt that God might be calling me into some form of ministry. Honestly, though, I didn’t think that God could really use someone like me, and I could not envision myself as the pastor of a church. I just figured I would continue teaching and hoped that maybe some day, things would get better. In January, 2000, I could not have imagined that I would leave teaching at the end of that academic year to pursue a career in business.
Two years ago, in January 2008, I was embarking on another “new beginning” and career change. I had finally admitted that God was indeed calling me into ministry and was in the middle of my second year of seminary coursework. Up until that point in my seminary journey, I had been working full-time, but knew that it was time to move on. Trusting that somehow all of my financial needs would be met (even with an 85% pay cut!), I gave my notice at CardioNet, trained my successor (who happened to be my sister – how cool is that?!), and prepared for my pastoral appointment at Smithville United Methodist Church, effective February 1 that year. My nearly two years as pastor at Smithville has been a great experience, and I now know with my whole being that I am doing what I was called and destined to do.
One year ago today, I was packing and preparing for my cross-cultural trip to El Salvador. I had no idea at the time what a transformative trip it would be. That experience challenged me in ways that I could have never imagined. There I was exposed to poverty and oppression as I had never seen it, causing me to re-examine my priorities and the use of my resources. Prior to the trip, I knew next to nothing about the country. I could identify it on a map and I knew that there had been a war there in the 1980s, but nothing more. Unaffected and unaware, I was in “my own little world.” But after meeting the Salvadoran people, seeing both sadness and hope in their eyes, and hearing their stories of anguish (and resiliency!), I was changed. I have a new and inexplicable passion for people that I would have never dreamed possible. I can no longer sit idly by in “my own little world,” but must work toward calling an end to injustice, not just in El Salvador, but in the communities I serve and throughout the world.
And so here we are at the beginning of another new year. I know at the outset that this will be a year of changes for me as I anticipate graduating from seminary in May, being commissioned as a provisional Elder in the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church in June, leaving my beloved Smithville congregation, and being appointed by Bishop Coyner to a charge “somewhere in the state of Indiana.” These are exciting, scary, bittersweet, anxious (you name the adjective!) times for me, but I am trusting the process, relying on God’s provision and presence in the midst of it all.
So what does the New Year hold for you? Whatever comes, may you know of your Creator’s deep love for you and of God’s persistent presence in your midst. Until next time, peace …