For me, this has been a year of immense change.
This is a reflection on the year that is now coming to its end.
The year began badly. In January 2009, my family and I were focussed completely on prayer for my 51-yr-old brother-in-law, who, on February 7, 2009, sadly lost his battle against heart failure. This was devastating for our family, especially my sister and her two children. I never thought that my brother-in-law's funeral would be the first funeral I would conduct. It was a priviledge to spend three weeks with my sister and her family at that time, but it is now even harder living 6000 miles away from her. And another family bereavement in April, the day before Easter, in fact - my dear stepfather passed away unexpectedly while taking a nap. Very peaceful, which is a blessing, but my sweet mother and all of us miss him so much. These two deaths have made an indelible mark on our lives. I thank God that both of these lovely men had developed trusting relationships with the Lord.
At the beginning of this year, I had a totally different job. I worked in a veterinary laboratory for a university, part-time. I have worked in science for 20 years, before my ordination in July of this year. So my job change has been a big change! To be honest, I was so ready to begin full-time ministry that I couldn't wait to leave my old job, even though I had enjoyed the work, and worked with good people. I feel a bit guilty that I haven't yet been back for a visit since I left. But, no regrets about leaving. I am so thankful that this vocational change is proving so fulfilling.
Also at the beginning of the year, I was still in training for ordination. My ordination training course was three years long, and in that time I made some lifelong friends and learned so much. But no theoretical training can prepare anyone for the realities of ordained ministry, I'm now finding out!
In July my mother came over from California for my ordination. What a wonderful day it was! I felt supported by family, friends and parishioners from my sending church and my new parish. Since then, it has felt a bit like a roller-coaster ride: anxiety, suspense, and fear, but also exhilaration, excitement and fun! I've noticed the fear has decreased a lot over the past 6 months, mostly replaced by an adrenaline edge that can be very energising, rather than a hindrance.
We were taught in 'vicar school' that one of the most important things affecting our curacy is our relationship with our training incumbent (the vicar in charge). And in this, I have been blessed, because my training incumbent and I have very similar theologies, and we get along very well. He has a good understanding of different personalities, including his own, and is gracious to people (including me) because of that. He's humble, and that is a big thing. He has allowed me to proceed in this curacy with as little or as much support and direction as I want or need. I know other curates whose training incumbents control virtually their every move, and I wouldn't like that.
In the midst of all the new experiences of meeting so many new people in the parish, taking different kinds of services, regular preaching, conducting funerals, and working together in a ministry team towards an exciting new future for the parish, I have found it challenging to keep up the home front. My husband and children have adapted very well to all the changes, but it isn't easy for any of us. I now work a lot at home, if I'm not out visiting people or at church. I do short bursts of housework in between doing ministry-related things. But even after everyone else gets home from school or from work, I continue to do both housework and ministry work. So it can feel a bit unfair, and like I'm working all the time. And that can be draining. I don't think I've learned yet how to take time out for myself that would refresh me. And I really could do with getting more exercise. I try hard to minimise the effects this new 'job' could have on my husband and children, but there isn't much time left for me. I have, however, managed to find time to re-connect with many of my old friends from high school through Facebook, which has been really satisfying and heart-warming. What great memories, and how wonderful to see people as they are now (they've aged, like I have! lol).
I'm excited about the coming year. Many new things are going to begin at church, offering new training experiences for me. And I'll continue trying to keep everything running smoothly at home. I'm looking forward to the summer when I will be ordained as a priest, and the additional changes that will bring to my ministry. And my lovely mother, sister, and niece and nephew are coming over to England this summer, too. I hope it is a brighter year, but whatever happens, I know that God is with me. I will sign off with one of my favourite Old Testament quotes: Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.