Saturday, September 24, 2011

work that worth the work

I've been at my new position as Interim Chaplain at Hollins University for over three weeks now, and I'm way overdue for some processing.  And yet, I feel reluctant to begin, partially because I'm so tired, and even more because I feel so...full.  It's hard to put into words the insights I've gained, the connections made, the stress I've felt, and the affirmation I've received. 

I knew from the beginning that God was planting my steps in this direction.  I've felt a calling to college ministry (particularly with women) for years.  My own experiences as a college student in the Baptist Student Union helped lead me in the direction of ministry as a vocation, and I served as an intern in the same BSU as a seminary student.  Yet budget cuts and ministry restructuring within the Baptist organization made campus ministry impossible when I was searching for my first ministry job.  But my time as a youth minister and then Director of Christian Education/chaplain at a group home continued to hone my gifts of relationship-building, and continued to deepen my interest in mentoring young women.

After shifts at work left me feeling burned out and apathetic, I knew it was time for a switch.  I couldn't imagine anything I wanted or was qualified to do, but kept feeling at home during visits to Hollins University for Brady's preschool programs (his preschool was right across the road and used the campus often).  I thought to myself that it would be a perfect (if largely unlikely) possibility.  Yet, within months, I heard that the beloved chaplain of 24 years was leaving, and I quickly made contacts and sent in my interest letter.  I bounced between feeling that it was a God-ordained situation and that I was woefully unqualified.  I continue to bounce between those extremes, but feel amazingly blessed to have been given this chance to serve as chaplain.

I have found the campus and its students to be warm and welcoming.  I have made many attempts at reaching out (not always my strength as an introvert), but have found it to be effective as people are starting to reach out to me in return.  While my first event was a little crushing in terms of response and attendance (low), there has been growth and interest in the two following events.  Dialogues have been initiated and I feel like I'm becoming somewhat known on campus.

It has also been humbling.  Not everything has gone well and I've already had to work my way through a couple of conflicts.  It has been a growing and stretching experience.  I'm stumbling to find boundaries in work that could easily become all-encompassing.  There are never enough hours, and my phone rarely stops "dinging" from all the incoming emails.  My daughter has cried asking to come see me at "Collins" and has asked me not to go to work.  I've had to surrender a lot of responsibility to my fantastic husband and haven't yet learned how to give up the guilt from that.  But it's been a lesson to me, too, in how well my family has managed and how supportive they have remained.

The bottom line?  I love it, and I feel loved.  I'm finding my place, finding my people, and finding God in so many new ways.  I'm learning my gifts and my weaknesses, and how to reach out for help.  I'm seeing that I will be learning for years and years to come, and I'm excited about growing again.  The work is tremendous, and it's hard to build a program at a secular university that is fantastically diverse.  It is hard to go beyond my natural tendencies and reach out continuously.  The work rarely lets up, and I go from one event to planning the next (and all the unexpected things and meetings that come in between).  I am exhausted most of the time and living on too little sleep.  But I am energized by it, and am so thankful to God for work that is worth all the work.

1 comment:

  1. How does the "interim" part play in to all this?