From the Crossroads of the World to the End of the Road

7 06 2010

Well, I’m here!  And it’s HOT.  And drenched with sunshine.

It’s been just about a week, and I’m settling in nicely.  My Personal Atheist and I made the drive in 3 easy-going days, stopping in Raleigh, NC the first night and Jacksonville, FL the second night, finally arriving in Key West on Tuesday, 1 June.  It was quite an experience to drive down the Overseas Highway at sunset.   The Personal Atheist got to meet my mother over lunch last week, which was a treat for her as she’s never met anyone from Israel before.   She also has never met (to her knowledge) an atheist either!

Vacationing somewhere is very different than, say, living there, so I spent a day touring around town in the Blessed and Holy Jeep Saint Jeronica, found such essential things away from where all the tourists are like the gym and some other shops.  Everyone here is very friendly (some too friendly by half … ) and I have to tell you it is quite a colorful group of folks that live here!  As this is a family blog, I shall refrain from going into detail, but I will say that if I could write a book of things seen and heard and probably pay for seminary.

After spending a few days getting situated and meeting folks, I have started a job hunt.  In addition to the headhunter, I’m looking in the paper and craig’s list.  In addition to looking for a “job” job, it was suggested that I do some volunteer work to get something “key westy” on the resume as the locals have a very strong sense of community.  Which makes sense when you live on an island with a year-round population of 25,000.

On the job front, I have to say it’s quite liberating when you’re not looking to do anything in particular except make enough to pay the bills and have a little left over for disposable income, as opposed to say, furthering your career. For example, one of the local tour guides has an opening in their “haunted key west” tours, which could be kind of fun as a part-time gig, especially at Hallowe’en.

I spoke with the Vicar about the discernment process, if he had anything in mind for me to do specifically.  Obviously the first thing to do is to get to know the parish and more importantly let them get to know me.  And when a need for ministry is seen, fill it.

My new parish, St. Peter’s, was very happy to have a new member.  The parish is small, but has one of the biggest spirit and gusto I have witnessed.  It was the last Sunday our organist was serving prior to her going off to university, and some folks brought over some delicious food during coffee hour … fried chicken, two kinds of macaroni&cheese, cornbread, meatballs, and there was cake for dessert. After the repast, the Vicar and two other friends of mine went to brunch along with the a priest supplying at St. Paul’s while its rector was out of town. It turns out she officiated the service and celebrated the Eucharist sporting a very lovely pair of rhinestone-studded black sandals.  Needless to say, she is a lot of fun and we all wished that she come back to visit soon.

I really think I’m going to like living here, for however God wills me to be here.

Bye New York … for now at least

15 04 2010

If you saw my Facebook post yesterday, you will know that I’m leaving New York and moving to Key West for a while.

This was not a decision that was taken lightly.  After all, I’ve lived in Manhattan for almost 8 years and prior to that I lived on Long Island for 10.

After not working for a little while, I had lunch with someone from my parish and spoke about what I can do with the all the free time I had and about next steps in the Discernment Process in general.  One of the things that was suggested was going to another diocese, something which I had not thought of before because I had committed to seeing this through to the end here, and commuting across either the East River to the Diocese of Long Island or the Hudson to the Diocese of Newark just didn’t seem feasible for a wide variety of reasons. To paraphrase my lunch partner, she said “well … there is another option.  The Diocese of Southeast Florida.  You already have friends and connections there, and you have a parish where the clergy and congregation are at least familiar with you.”

Admittedly, this was something I hadn’t even really thought of before. I mean, here I am living and working in New York, with a great parish, great friends, and someone in my life that I really care about.  While I am not materially wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, having this life was something I had wanted ever since I landed here when I left NC at 18.  When I visited Manhattan for the first time, it truly felt like home.  To give all this up for the sake of a calling to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church seemed like a stretch.

Or … as I found out … maybe not.

I spoke about this with The Beau and other close friends, and they were all were most supportive.  I had already planned to spend a week in Key West in February and so extended the stay to get a feel for what life would be like there, and things began to fall into place….things like housing, getting a feel for the prospect of a job market, adjusting to what it means to live in a small town and participating in the life of St. Peter’s.  When I got back to New York, I spoke at length with Sista girl, and she was in a situation where she needs to move and would be happy to take over my apartment.

(Commandment #1 of NY living:  Thou shalt not give up thy apartment if thou canst help it).

I had a feeling this transitional time would be one where things happen and I would need to trust like i haven’t had to trust in a long time.   And given the sense that “this way shall not come again for a while,” meaning that I won’t have all this free time or the space or means to make such a move, I feel led to trust that this is something I cannot NOT do.

And so I’m doing it.  I’m moving to Key West to continue the Discernment Process.  With my current parish’s blessing (after all, this idea did not exactly originate as a pipe dream of mine).

The funny thing is that if I had not felt moved to start up a blog, then this likely could not have happened.  If you may recall, one of my first visit’s to Key West resulted in someone who actually reads this thing coming up to me and saying, “Excuse me, but are you the Reverend boy?”  After having cleaned up the beverage that had somehow found its way out of the glass and onto the counter, I became friends with some locals … one of which being the Vicar of St. Peter’s.

So .. I have a parish who will be happy to sponsor me  …. I have a place to live for the first few weeks until I get settled … and thanks to the place where I used to work, I have a few job leads.  I landed a temp job through the next few weeks to build up my “war chest” for the move, which will take place Memorial Day weekend (the last weekend in May for my outside-the-US friends).

As far as what I’m taking, for the first month, I’m only bringing clothes for a month and some books and other essentials.  It’s basically whatever will fit in the back of Sista girl’s jeep, affectionately named “Jeronica.”  My Personal Atheist and a friend of his is going to help me drive down.

Comments from friends and loved ones went like:

“You know, if this had been anyone else, I would think you are nuts. “

“This kind of thing only happens to you.”

“I thought I was doing good to have a two-week gig at the community church on Fire Island every summer, but this totally beats it.”

I go from being in denial this is happening, to being excited, to being sad, to some combination of the three.  But at the base of it all is a feeling of assurance and complete non-anxiety that this is the right thing to do.

After all, I have friends and a social network down there, I’ve already established somewhat of a connection with a worshipping community.  It was quite an experience for someone to come up to me on the street with a big smile on his face a few days after I preached saying “Hey I know you!  You’re that guy who preached about Jesus and Clark Kent!  That was so cool!”

And quite frankly, if God is calling me away from New York to continue what was begun, then quite frankly, there are far worse places to go!

Ecumenical Council

10 02 2010

Jesus shows up yet again …

My friend Deacon Rob and I were hanging out last night catching up and sharing a few laughs when into the establishment walks in a Russian Orthodox priest in full clericals who was meeting a friend of his that was visiting New York … when his friend came in, it was none other than a Roman Catholic priest…in full clericals.

It’s almost like the beginning of a joke ….

All will be happy to know that the Episcopalian contingent held their own at the New York Ecumenical Council.

Oy! Where does the time go?

4 02 2010

So, I’ve been gainfully unemployed for almost a month now … A MONTH!

I mean, really, where does the time go!

Very soon, I’m off to Key West for two weeks …

(My friends say to me “only YOU would would find a way to spend the first few days of Lent by the pool in Key West.”)

At some point over the weekend or maybe early next week my Personal Atheist and I are going to peruse laptops so I can post on occasion while I’m there and maybe work on a project my parish has asked me to get involved.

So what have I done with myself since being out of work?

Morning Prayer at “Smokey Mary’s?”  Check

Breakfast, lunch, dinner?  Check

Gym?  Check

Catching up with friends?  Check

Early Spring Cleaning?  Sort of…’s been slow going….

Bunny Slippers and Cheetos?  Check. Uh, Nevermind.

However, all is not entirely rosy in the Reverend boy household as my roommate informed me last Friday that he was sacked.  So, now we’re both not working.

Meanwhile, my roommate’s cat, Dexter, has decided that it really enjoys the fact that both me and my roommate are both home, and it’s really happy about that.

Where is God?

17 09 2009

No,  I’m not having a crisis of faith or asking some existential question.

This is a question I ask myself when things are particularly rough or difficult.  For instance, work is difficult and family stuff is difficult and will continue to be so for quite some time.  For the most part, I don’t mention specifics to too many people other than SIR, my personal Atheist or Sista girl (all three of whom, mind you, should be at the Integrity Eucharist on Sunday).

One particular session with my Spiritual Director, I vented for a few minutes about all these two different (but major!) stresses in my life.  She sat back and listened calmly and then asked the question as she sipped her tea, “so … where is God in all this?”  I replied that was a Very Good Question.

I’m not sure where God is, but I know that God’s there.  I mean as far as work goes, the issue stems from being overworked and the typical thing of having too much to do and not enough time or people to do them.  The people I work with are wonderful and we are all in this together.  So in one sense, I suppose God is in our little group as we are a community of sorts.   Even with the ever looming spectre of job losses or reshuffling or whatever, at the core of my self  underneath all the stresses is a lack of real anxiety.

For whatever reason, I’ve observed that no matter how stressful or just plain bad things get, everything just has a way of working out.

Now, for those who think this might sound a bit naive, I’m not talking about just sitting back on your haunches, God is on his throne in heaven and earth, and all is right with the world.  Hardly.

The point I’m making here is that God is not some genie-in-a-bottle that we pull out when things get tough and grants wishes.  If we’re faithful in doing our part, God will be faithful in doing God’s part … with the caveat, sometimes what God’s part is may not be clear or is usually not what we expect. 😉

Prayers for Mom

17 03 2009

Please pray for my mother.

Mom and Dad have been divorced for about a year or so, so Mom lives alone in rural North Carolina, where Sista girl and I grew up.  She’s a very young acting 57 and is a very social creature and has breakfast with a circle of friends just about every day.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from Sista girl late at night, saying she no one had heard from our mother for a few days.  She had been complaining about really bad headaches and had not been to breakfast with her “friend-girls” as she usually does.

Hearing the concern in Sista girl’s voice, I called the local police station who went to check things out and we also notified our grandmother.  Once they got in the house, mom was found in bed unconscious and unresponsive, but still breathing.  She was rushed to the local community hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit.  Sista girl and I flew down from New York as soon as we could the next day.  After the usual delays at the airport, on the runway, and getting a rental car, we took the 90 minutes trek from Raleigh down to the hospital. The most frustrating thing about the whole trip was that no one could or would tell us what they thought was wrong, even though we received a phone call asking permission to perform various tests on her.   My sister and I promised to each other that no matter what, we would make time to do some things that we enjoy doing when we visit, such as going to a certain shopping center or eating some good Southern food fixed which we don’t get in New York, just so we could keep our sanity and lighten up what was going to be a very heavy weekend regardless of how it turned

At the hospital we saw our grandmother and then saw Mom.  Her face was swollen and she was on oxygen.  Tubes were going in and our of her to pump out toxins and waste and pump in medicines and nutrients to sustain her. Luckily, she was still breathing.  All the nurses could tell us was that her vitals were “more or less OK” and they did not know what caused it or how long she had been out of it. Sista girl and I decided to stay at Mom’s place for the night, get some rest and return the next day to wait for the doctor to make his rounds.

Even though she was unconscious, we got the sense that Mom knew we were there, and that something was wrong.  We saw her on occasion try to bring herself out of it, but she was unsuccessful.  Call me crazy, but at times I felt like we were guarding her from the angel of death with me on one side of the bed holding her hand and Sista girl on the other side.  She would squeeze our hands and gave some resistance when we tried to release her.

From conversations with the doctor and the nurses that day, it became apparent that while the hospital really was doing everything they could for her, they simply did not have the equipment to give her the care she needed so we arranged to have her sent to one of the major hospitals in Raleigh as soon as a bed opened up.  We were lucky one opened up very soon (by no small chance, no doubt that her insurance information was current and the premium paid!) and she was on her way very quickly.

The hospital has very strict visitation rules with its ICU patients, so we went back to Mom’s place to get some rest, get up early to make yet another 90 minute trek to Raleigh in time for visiting hours.  When we got to her bed, the nurse said that she had been out all night except for a few fits and starts trying to wake up.  She still had tubes going in and out, including a new one up her nose and into her stomach.

As we approached the bed, Mom woke up for the first time after having been unconscious for five days.  It took her a little while to realize she was in a hospital.  Eventually she started an attempt at humour to say things like “well i guess the party’s over” or things like that.  All Amie and I could do was laugh.  The nurse even commented that she hadn’t heard anyone laugh in an ICU before and this was the first time she had woken up.

Our visitations were limited to 15 minute intervals every few hours or so, so the rest of the next couple of days went like that, at least for me.  Mom would go to sleep when we left, and then wake up on her own when we visited.  She could speak somewhat, but not too well. Sista girl stayed on an extra day or so while I returned to New York.  Mom left ICU and got in a private room where she stayed for two weeks.

We almost lost my mother.  We did eventually find out what was wrong with her and what led to her condition.  If I had not called the police, we would have been going to North Carolina that weekend but not for a hospital visit.   Even so, for a while we did not know how things were going to end up, so we took care of the more mundane things, like the rent, the insurance, cleaning out the refrigerator, planning for an extended hospital stay or something else.

Mom slowly but steadily got better, and on my recent trip back to NC this past weekend, I was able to bring her home.  She still cannot walk too well on her own and is using a walker.  Some things returned to normal very quickly.  Before we went home last Saturday, I asked if there was anything she wanted to do before we went home.  She wanted to see a movie and was insistent that we stop so she can get her nails done so she could be “somewhat presentable.”  We also went to dinner.  All this wore her out but she had a lot of fun and slept very soundly in her own bed, which she said had never felt so good.

Her strength is returning very slowly day by day, and if she takes care of herself, she may be back to normal in four to six months.  The very good news is that she did not have a stroke or aneurism and what she went through did not affect her mind.   When I spoke with her earlier today she was sitting out on the deck enjoying some sunshine.   Sista girl is going back to NC on Wednesday to stay through Sunday.  Friends are visiting her to keep her company and to see if she needs anything.

Please pray for Mom’s continued recovery and for Sista girl and myself.

It Finally Happened

16 12 2008

I found two gray hairs in my beard this morning.

I have no fear or dread about getting older, but couldn’t this have waited until I was forty at least?


Update: Thanks to Fr Robert Thomas in the comments for reminding me that I should be grateful that while I have started the graying process, nothing is falling out or thinning yet.