In the swimming pool in my backyard on Warvel Road is where I learned how to hold my breath. Holding breath is such an interesting thing to do with a human body. Our bodies rely on the rhythms of circulation; of in and out. Our hearts, our lungs, and our brains all function in the same way to keep our bodies alive. Yet as a child, in the swimming pool, I would hold my breath under water for as long as I possibly could. Sometimes I would do it to see how far I could go from end to end completely immersed and other times I would be a shark chasing my sister as if we were acting out a scene in Jaws. And then there were times when I simply wanted to be immersed in the unique sound bath that water creates.
The breath holding is not the full experience however. Our body is not designed to hold breath for very long. When our lungs fill with oxygen, our body absorbs it into our blood stream to give our body life. What we breathe out is waste, and like any waste, it is a toxin that ultimately deals death. So imagine the euphoric rush that came as the crown of my head pushed through the surface of the water and my lungs contracted to force all the built up carbon waste out. With toxins gone, my body craving more nitrogen and oxygen, new and deeper breaths would follow. The relief and rush of adrenaline was a reminder of my aliveness and the goodness of that life. In the aftermath of my breath holding experiments the sky seemed bluer, the sun warmer, and my body more receptive to the gift of life.
For months I have been holding my breath. For a time, it was fun being immersed in a new reality. I could imagine a thousand possibilities for my life and yet I was also scared and anxious. Unlike my childhood playing in the safety of the pool, I have been in the wild ocean of life, caught in a riptide that forced me under longer than I thought I could handle. There were momentary experiences of hope that kept me alive. There were deep conversations with those that I hold in the highest regard. There were new relationships and friendships formed. There was the gift of being given a place to live while I sorted out my life. There were plans of spending my life with another. There was the dream of a friend that I helped make a reality. There was travelling to new and familiar places. There was a part-time job that came at just the right time.
But the riptide kept pulling me under. Those beautful moments were just gasps of air as I surfaced from the loss of a job... a forced move... a breakup... a grant rejection... job rejections... finding out that some friends are not truly friends... my grandmother's death... repeatedly seeing my checking account drop to the point of knowing I wouldn't be able to pay next month's bills.
I've been underemployed and poor before, but never without possibilities for getting out. There has always been something I was working towards. This time has been completely different. This time I was drowning. Though I worked hard not to show it, I have been carrying anger, loss, hurt, fear, anxiety in waves since February of this year.
A few weeks ago I suddenly found myself on shore taking my first real, deep breaths. A church offered to call me as their rector. Then another call came. Still reeling, I was discerning between two great opportunities. Now I am writing this post sitting in a coffee shop in the West Central neighborhood of Spokane, WA; my new parish, my newest home. And... I can finally exhale.
I know that all of the hurt, pain, and anxiety I have carried for the better part of this year will not disappear quickly. There are still a lot of feelings around individuals and institutions. Trust has been broken, some of which is irreparable and some of which is already being rebuilt. I have a lot of work to do. Some of it is financial. Some of it is emotional and spiritual healing as I develop my capacity for forgiveness. Some of it is relational as I develop the capacity to let go. With gratitude, the work is also now about dreaming new dreams and drying myself off to find new waters to swim. I left Seattle a couple years ago and thought I had a sense of where the tide was taking me. I never imagined I would be back in the Pacific Northwest, much less in Spokane. Though I'm still a little disoriented and not quite sure where I am, I'm also ready to play again. I'm ready to imagine and hope again.
I have been called by the Bishop of the Diocese of Spokane to serve as the Vicar to West Central and St. Andrew's. West Central Episcopal Mission was once home to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the oldest buildings in the city. More recently the worshipping community has faded away, but the diocese continues to serve the neighborhood through a weekly community meal, partnerships with non-profits and community groups. I have moved into the vicarage across the street, which has been called St. Lawrence House. As we continue these ministries I will also be tasked with developing a new worshipping community in Holy Trinity Chapel, a spiritual community to support the outreach and service we also provide to the under-resourced neighborhood around us. For those that know me well, you'll smile to know that my work officially begins on October 4th, 2017 -- the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
The second part of this new work begins in December when I will become the vicar of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and forge a new partnership between that congregation and West Central. As the crow flies, St. Andrew's is only a mile away from West Central, which will allow for this shared call to be more sustainable. St. Andrew's has a rich history of having an orientation toward outreach, care for the poor, and desire to uphold the dignity of all people. As the church year begins anew this Advent, St. Andrew's and I will embark on a journey of mutual ministry together, a new chapter for each of us.
For the few people who have been swimming these waters with me the past few months, thank you for not letting me drown. I know that sounds dramatic, but there were days I didn't want to get out of bed. Your prayers, texts, conversations, were the air I needed to get through. For those who have only had glimpses or have known nothing at all, I understand if you are hurt by being left in the dark. I have been on the other side of this experience and know what is like to get blindsided by a journey I felt I could have been a part of. I am not completely leaving the brewery work behind in Asheville and have continued to be involved from a distance. I hope that I can continue to be a part of it and will just live in the uncertainty of whether or not I'll ever be able to make it back there. I loved Asheville and the community I helped to start at Habitat and I do miss it. Being in Seattle this summer reminded me of my love for that place and more importantly the community I have there. I didn't realize how much I missed you all in the northwest and hopefully Spokane isn't so far that it prohibits regular visits both ways... that includes you too PDXers!
Obviously I would need many more words and space to share all of what has transpired in the past eight months, but I did want to give an update for my people that are curious about what I'm up to. I wanted to at least give a big picture overview of where I am at. I welcome questions and conversation for those that would like to know more. For now, I'm grateful for the space to breath again.
With inhales of Grace and exhales of Hope,