Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A day in the (ministry) life

I enjoyed reading the Baptist Women in Ministry's blog series recently, "A Day in the Life" of different women in ministry.  Vocational ministry provides many blessings, most often found in its variety.  I love using gifts of creativity, organization, and empathy.  Although I'm a planner, I've learned that you never know what you will get in a day, as ministry is about responding to those in your care and to God.  With this in mind, I was inspired to document my own day yesterday.

I woke up grouchy, in contrast to my perky boys (big and little) and my silly girl.  Staying cocooned under the covers until it was time to send my little guy off to the bus helped me to ease into the day a bit.  Driving my girl to school and seeing her funny faces in the mirror along with her giggle was a great mood adjuster.  I tried to sneak into my office in order to have prayer time before jumping into the chaos of the day, but made the mistake of turning on my computer first.  Attempting to ignore the dings of reminders, incoming email, and Facebook messages from students, my phone rang, the intercom buzzed, and the computer continued to demand my attention.  I was asked to say the blessing for a holiday meal (much better than the day-of notice I received last year), our media services person dropped by to answer my questions about an event set-up for the weekend, and the chapel housekeeper knocked on my door with a question about his tasks.  As I sat down again, my husband called, and we agreed to meet shortly to refuel our cars (yay, 60-cent per gallon Kroger gas savings times two!).  Seeing my sweetie was a nice pick-me-up, and we agreed to squeeze in a quick lunch.  There are perks to my erratic yet self-dictated and somewhat flexible schedule. 

Then it was back to running errands (picking up candles and lighters for a service, and searching, to no avail, for suitable corsages for the leaders of the service).  Upon returning, I briefly spoke with a student who had had a disappointment about internship plans, checked in with a student I’m mentoring, and then I spent an inordinate amount of time on my credit card statement paperwork, which was an impressive half-inch thick due to Thanksgiving and Advent/Christmas purchases for my department and the three clubs I advise.  I missed an appointment due to the paperwork, but it was necessary so that I could get it signed and submitted after my afternoon staff meeting.  I corresponded via email about a potential Lottie Moon memorial event (she was a Hollins alumna), a May wedding I’ve been asked to officiate, and received and updated a handbook and policy statement on what to do in case of a student, faculty/staff, or donor death (please, God, of the first situations I dealt with in my early days of my chaplaincy here was an unexpected faculty death).  I eagerly received a shipment of books that I could only give a brief and longing glance to, then stacked them away to read over Christmas break in preparation for January and spring term planning.  Trying to unclutter my chaotic mind, I blogged, and reminded myself to breathe to abate the spontaneous bursts of panic that kept arising over my impending Advent service on Sunday, my biggest event of the year.  Following this, I read and returned emails from the participants in the service (many saying they can’t attend Saturday’s rehearsal…cue more deep breaths).

On to the weekly staff meeting…spent time talking about all the great (and many) projects everyone is working on.  Got “rewarded” with two new ones.  Returned to the office to find a student waiting for me to talk about an emergency loan request, and then another with whom I was following up with pastoral care from a conversation the previous week.  Kept ignoring calendar reminders to work on Sunday’s homily.  Planned to leave work early as I had to return for a 6:30pm meeting, but looked at the clock to realize it was already 4pm with a full email inbox and a stack of work on my desk.

Discovered through final emails that I am committed to an event for 2014 (more like was committed to an event over my protests).  I attempted to turn it down when it was first suggested, and when I replied that I knew little about the subject, instead of dropping it, they just gave me an extra year to become an expert.  Fabulous.  What can you tell me about Lottie Moon?

I rushed home for dinner with my family, only to have to turn around and return to work for a meeting an hour later.  I'm blessed with a husband that is supportive and carries more than his weight at home, cooking, maintaining the house, and getting the kids to bed, among many other tasks.  I'm grateful to be able to give my time to my family as well, leaving work for lunch at the kids' schools and to attend their performances.  I love when John brings them to visit me at work and to be in a setting that encourages family involvement.  I'm also awed with a calling that is so perfect that I enjoy coming back at all hours and connecting with the students and staff that are so close to my heart.

Ministry:  it’s never what I’ll think it will be.  To-do lists are useless, and measuring impact by turnout is unreliable.  My seminary textbooks sit mostly unused on the shelves as I mentally annotate my list of "things they didn't teach me in seminary."  Some things, though, are only learned through experience and relationship.  Although there is more paperwork, more meetings, and less planning time than I hoped for, the unexpected connections and conversations are sacred and holy ground that make up for the time-consuming negatives.  After 14 years in the trenches, there's nowhere else I'd rather be (except maybe, some days, on a week-long retreat by a body of water with lots and lots of time for reading, walks, and naps).  But knowing me, I'd instead be dreaming up new ideas to share and try when I returned to work.

I'm already anticipating what I'll be surprised with tomorrow!

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