Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hello From the Eastern Shore

The short version that I tell everyone, and that is mostly true:  things are great, I love my churches, my churches love me, I am thriving, my children are thriving, Harry is coping well with the commute, and I love being a pastor. I feel that I am where God wants me to be. Daily I am seeing signs of God transforming me into the person that God is calling me to be.

I am not lying when I tell people that, because it really is true. However, it's not the WHOLE truth.

Because in addition to the above, I am being stretched thin in so many ways and feeling overwhelmed in so many ways and...I often feel like I'm drowning. The combination of church and family responsibilities, especially when there is a lot going on in both arenas...sometimes has me weeping.

I am getting over period of time where I have been sick for about three weeks. I actually missed one Sunday (fever and flu-like symptoms), began feeling better, made it to church the next week, and then came down with the stomach flu. I did virtually no church work for two weeks, and did the bare minimum at home. I am better now, but dealing with guilt (from missing a Sunday and two meetings) and the pileup of responsibilities from while I was sick.

Tomorrow, I will be doing funeral #9 since mid-September. I am willing to buy everyone who is reading this blog post lunch if death #10 doesn't happen by Easter (NOTE: if you want the lunch, you need to come to the Eastern Shore to collect. The closest airport is in Norfolk, 45 minutes away).

I know how to be a pastor. I know how to be a mother. I know how to be a wife. I know how to be a follower of Jesus. However, balancing all of those, doing all of those decently, and trying to improve in at least a few of those areas...has me in frustrated and guilty tears more than once a week.

My churches ARE extremely supportive. God is teaching me a lot about grace through them. They keep telling me to take care of myself, and a few people offer suggestions like "take a nap", "read a book not related to ministry", "spend time with your family". They see me as a person, they have embraced Harry and the kids, they even like my dog. My ministry with them has been very effective. I keep receiving affirmation from them, and I can see fruits of our ministry together.

I have a decent support system, although it is still in development. I see my therapist every two weeks, I am seeking out a spiritual director, I have a clergy support group Across the Bay (how we on the Shore refer to areas south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel) that I attend every week, there is another one here on the Shore that I attend once a month or so (both groups are 45 minutes away, and Mac is in the one Across the Bay, and they tend to be more outside-the-box, so I tend to go there). I am trying to grow and improve in my disciplines of soul care, although I admit that I struggle in that area. Writing often helps me process, which is why I'm back to blogging after a hiatus. it normal for me to be feeling like this? Stretched out, overwhelmed, crying a few times a week, often feeling like I'm drowning? Yet, at the same time, I feel that this is where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing. Very similar to all those Sundays when Mac's sermon made me cry and left me feeling raw. I just naively thought that it would END. But, it HASN'T. Will it ever end?


Terri said...

Let's see, is it "normal" to feel so stretched and thin, worn and prone to illness? Yes. But that is not necessarily a good thing. It is however common. The real challenge is how to find time to tend to your self as well as tend to family and tend to does get easier with time as more and more of the church life becomes routine - but it is always difficult. and, all those funerals - exhausting! But funerals do come and go, so you will get a reprieve from that in time.

I'm glad you love your churches and they love you, no doubt that helps. I hope you can find other ways to help - do you have a housekeeper? Expensive but can make a real difference in your life....? and any other things you can find to ease your daily burden and increase your relaxation and quality time.

Wounded and Healing said...

I do have a housekeeper...although I am in the process of "firing" the one I have and getting a new one. My current one is rather expensive for what she does and expects the house to be VERY TIDY when she arrives, or she charges me more. It's more stressful than helpful. So, I'm "interviewing" another one on Thursday who will be cheaper and I get the sense we will "click" more. And if she's cheaper, then I can have her come every week instead of every other week.

Deb said...

You have a LOT on your plate... Self care (which yes, means getting a house cleaner) is a good idea. But also too is your "day off"... Praying for you as God nourishes and cherishes you and refills you.

BTW - if you are on Maryland's Eastern Shore, we should meet some time... I may have a child going to Washington College in the fall. ;)

Amy Wagner said...

Normal, I don't know, but you are not alone. So many, many parallels. Pastoring a UMC congregation that loves me and is gracious about their expectations and really does care for my family; mothering to two children and caring for a household and trying to be fully present as wife, too; and somehow nurturing my own spiritual growth in the midst of it...

Yeah, I feel overwhelmed too. And I do cry about it regularly. Although not as much as I did a year or two ago. But still weekly.

I have been wrestling with this a lot lately, and I don't know what the answer is. Are (even seemingly reasonable) expectations of clergy just so far out of whack? Is it that I'm trying to have it all (vocation/career, motherhood, etc)? Is it that my priorities are out of order, and I'm failing to care for my own soul first? Is it all of the above, or something else entirely?

If I have any insights, I'll let you know. :) In the meantime, prayers for grace and peace in the midst...

Anonymous said...

I can remember the first year or so in this placement [my first], regularly in tears ringing my mentor because I thought I had never left to offer. One thing that helped me is that I was diagnosed with depression a few years ago - with medication my emotions are now not all over the place. Experience and good supervision, as well as medication, has allowed me to be more realistic about what is possible in a week, and more aware of my energy levels and caring for myself as well as leading the congregation. I find it much easier to balance my various commitments, am better able to set priorities, and have less feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
I am not suggesting you are depressed, butthe diagnosis and treatement have made a huge difference for me.