Still Keeping Me Company

My day started with a phone call from the hospital around 8:30, wondering if I was interested in working a four-hour shift tomorrow.  I agreed, hung up, and laid there quietly in the dark for a moment, getting my bearings as I made the decision of whether or not to roll over and sleep some more, or start the day.

My phone buzzed again with a text from one of my people, asking how things were going.  I laid there in the dark and responded, thankful for people who reach out.

I spent a little while longer laying there, playing a game I enjoy on my phone, answering a few emails, reading a few more, and just thinking.

It was a slow and quiet start, the kind I like best.

It’s been more than two months since I’ve written any sort of blog post. More than two months since words really flowed (other than the very occasional time I put a pen to paper in the privacy of my journal).  This last week, though, thoughts have percolated under the surface, bubbling up into sentences that form as I go for walks, or as I stand in the shower or sit on a bus.

When I last wrote in this space I talked about feeling fragmented. Two months before that I talked about juggling. This morning in the update text to my friend I told her that my spiritual life had felt secondary to other parts of my life for much of the summer and that I’m not precisely sure how to change that.

I’ve spent that last month thinking a lot about health.  Just before my birthday in early August I came across an author whose work on health I appreciated greatly, and the day after my birthday I embarked on a ten-day detox diet, using a book written by that same author. I was motivated by a variety of factors, many rooted in my education as a nurse, to aim for a healthier weight and lifestyle, and the structured ten days that the book provided were a good start.  I spent those ten days listening to my body, reading anything I could find on health, and answering the journal questions for each day that the book contained.  The author suggested using the ten days as a personal retreat of sorts, and to some extent I did just that.

In the midst of that same period I changed jobs, moving from nursing in labor and delivery to postpartum care.  I gave up a full-time guaranteed position to accept a casual position with no guaranteed hours.  But in changing jobs I left behind a huge stack of anxiety and moved into something that fits who I am more fully – that has me dreaming about ways to be better at my work and not trying desperately to simply keep from drowning in it.

And I spent a lot of time thinking about how to carry the lessons I was learning about health, about food, and about my body forward into a new season of work.  Just last night I was struck by the realization that the reality of a casual more on-call position requires planning and discipline if I want to maintain the areas of growth that I’ve seen in lifestyle and eating habits.  To have things available in my fridge that are healthy, so that if I get a call at 6am asking me to come into the hospital ASAP, I have choices that are healthy to bring with me, rather than falling back on fast food or whatever is cheap in the hospital cafeteria.

For years I have preached that as humans we are the sum of parts.  That the body and mind and soul and spirit all come together to form a whole being, created in the image of God.  I’ve talked, too, about seasons – about how life is comprised of seasons in the same way that creation and nature are.  That there are seasons for all the different things that are encompassed in the whole of a life.  (The author of Ecclesiastes puts it best when he comments that there is a time for everything, a season for every purpose under heaven.)

I’ve been frustrated with the season that I’ve been in since joining the Catholic church. It felt like any hint of a spiritual life that I had held dear had died in the days immediately following my entry into the church.  (In reality, in quick succession I entered the church, started an intensive training process for a new job, barely survived that training process, decided to make a change, and trained for a new job, plus so many other facets of life.) I’ve missed the deep community connections of my days as a protestant, and the lengthy charismatic worship times and preaching.  I’ve been lonely and drifting.

And for the last month I’ve focused almost exclusively on health, seemingly ignoring my spiritual life yet again.  But have I been ignoring it? In the last few days I’ve begun to wonder…

I’ve learned deep truths about myself in this month focused on health. Truths about how I relate to the world, and how I use food to either numb me or to encourage relationships. Truths about self-discipline and schedule and pacing. I’ve learned that even though I mostly hate exercise, it almost always helps me deal with emotions that are hard to process, especially if I plug-in my headphones and listen to a humorous podcast as I walk. I’ve learned again that my soul strives when there are wide open spaces – that it is only when it doesn’t feel crowded that my soul begins again to hunger. I’ve had realizations about truth, about growing up, about life as an adult, and about how my life is shaped by decisions I make about food, about money, about how I spend my time.

As I ponder all of those thoughts today, I begin to wonder if perhaps I’ve forgotten that thing I’ve preached to others for so long.  If I am truly a whole being, then that means God can (and will!) still speak in a month where I spend less time reading overtly spiritual content than I do reading articles and books on healthy living.

Huh.

Because the truth of it is, as I sit here typing on a September morning, I’m pretty sure I’ve met Jesus in the things I’ve learned this month.  It doesn’t look anything like other seasons of meeting him that I’ve experienced, and I’m still hungry for spiritual community and food, but I’m finding my soul fed in unexpected ways too.  In a plate with mostly vegetables on it, or a plum instead of a cookie. In choosing to go for a walk when there are things I need to process and pray through, and in finding ways to laugh. In leaving the security of one job for the insecurity of one that fits me so much better.  So yes, I’ll move forward and build ways to more consciously pursue my spiritual life back into my schedule, but today I’m reminded that even when I’m not quite managing it consciously, this God who has journeyed with me is still keeping me company as I walk through these seasons.  And there’s something rather encouraging about that.

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