Spring is coming, and with it a new home for me. I’m moving to Spokane, WA. I’m excited about this move and its potential for my quality of life and my work and ministry. Although I’ve moved many times, this is the first move I’ve willingly chosen. It’s given my spouse and me an opportunity to be thoughtful and intentional about the place where we live.
Looking at houses caused us to wrestle with what we wanted in a home and why. We chose an older and smaller house in an established community for many reasons. We didn’t want to contribute to the destruction of land and ecosystems that comes with urban sprawl, and the most environmentally friendly material good is the one already in use. I’m looking forward to the joy of a smaller place to clean! The smaller house means our household will have a smaller carbon footprint, even more so because we chose a house where we can walk to stores and have access to public transportation. I’m most excited about becoming the guardian of three massive native spruce trees in the yard and the easy access to many hiking trails, one of which we can walk to from the house.
My spouse and I have much to gain from our new house, but it requires us to give up some things. Being able to walk to a transit stop means we’re not going to be living on a remote, quiet, residential street. The older house doesn’t have many of the so-called “necessary” amenities we’ve come to expect as U.S. houses have gotten larger and larger over the years. The rooms are small. As we prepare to move, we’re engaged in the discipline of letting go of things that will not fit into the smaller house.
Maybe it’s fitting that this change is happening as the season of Lent begins. This year, Lent for me will be a period of letting go of the things that bind me to the materialism of this world and choosing things that are truly life-giving. I’ve decided to embrace this time of transition and reflection and extend it to my ministry and work.
My move to Spokane is coming at the 3-year mark of my consecration as a Lutheran Deaconess by the Lutheran Diaconal Association. At the time I was full of anticipation for where and how I might be called to serve. My spouse and I were anticipating his retirement at the end of the year. We were excited for the next phase of our lives. We had moved to Fort Worth under duress. As the end of 2019 approached, we looked forward to the move we hoped to make in 2020.
Then, we heard the word that was going to change everyone’s life – Coronavirus. Or COVID. Or pandemic. Or many other words I shouldn’t write in a public space. Our lives changed along with the rest of the world. My experience of how my neighbors, community, and our country responded changed me in ways I’m still seeking to understand.
For the past couple of years, my work and ministry were determined by living with a “soon but not yet” move and the constraints of the pandemic world. I said yes to whatever could be done, without thought to whether it was a good fit for me. I just wanted something to do. I’ve facilitated discussion groups, led book studies, taught workshops, volunteered for national organizations, advised county environmental departments, created and maintained a Facebook page, and started this blog. I’ve learned so much from these experiences and the people who engaged in them with me. Some of the activities have been life-giving; while others sucked the life out of me.
The one I wrestle with the most is writing for my website and social media presence. Writing is a new thing for me and is way out of my comfort zone. Except for engineering reports and technical papers, I have no history of writing. I’ve never even kept a journal! Now I spend hours each week writing and creating content. It’s difficult for me. At the same time, I now realize it has helped me think through things and find my voice. Readers have been supportive and encouraging. Writing served a purpose for the in-between time, but I’m wondering if it’s something I should keep in my new phase of life.
Part of my discomfort with writing is the isolation of working alone, sending something out into the world, and seldom knowing if it connects with anyone. I also struggle with my lack of the technological and promotional skills needed to get my writing seen, nor do I have an interest in developing those skills. Maybe the most troubling aspect is the need to have a social media presence, particularly Facebook.
The content I create and post on Facebook becomes their property. They determine who sees it and what is done with it. I, along with everyone else, is their product. They sell us, and access to us, to make money. The whole business model seems morally bankrupt. Hugh Hollowell recently wrote and explained it better than I can. You can find his post here. If I keep writing, I’m considering his approach of shifting more to my website and an e-newsletter.
Facilitating discussions, workshops, and forums has been the most life-giving to me during these past couple of years. I love learning from those who bring different perspectives to the conversation, while also preparing soil and planting seeds for new ways of living within creation. I love nurturing the new growth of living differently.
The past couple of years have revealed missing aspects of my work and ministry. I long for more in-person connection with people. I’d love to find a congregation or non-profit that would embrace my ministry and give it a home. Maybe most importantly, I need more than writing and talking. I need collaborative action with people and groups who are willing to engage in the challenging work of living the spiritual discipline of creation care. Like the decisions my spouse and I made about our house in Spokane, this discipline means giving up things to gain well-being and wholeness for all people and life within creation.
As I make my physical transition to Spokane, I want to be intentional about my work and ministry in the new context. To do this, I’m stepping away from most of my ministry and work for the next few months. Part of it is the logistics of moving. More importantly, I need a sabbatical to reflect and discern how I’m being called to serve those who want to participate in God’s work of eco-justice within my new context and phase of life.
This post will be my last blog post for a few months. I’m thinking maybe a three-month break until June, but I don’t really know. It’ll depend on where the Spirit leads my discernment, particularly with regards to writing. During my sabbatical, I’ll be available via email@example.com if you’d like to talk about anything.
Shalom / Salaam,