Four years ago today, I had my second stroke in eight days. I was blessed that I maintained my cognizant thought and most of my speech. But in those early days, I didn’t embrace what I had as so much what I didn’t have. It was also one year ago that I read the letter to my Missouri congregations tendering my resignation.
Reading Deuteronomy 5 we see the 10 Commandments handed down to the people of Israel. This was their go forward moment. They could look back on their enslavement but look ahead. They had new rules and a new outlook. Change was in their future and some of them didn’t like that. They probably originated the often heard phrase, “We have never done it that way before.”
I have had those life changing moments that are a part of my history, part of my makeup. When I went into foster care, my marriages, my divorce, the births and the adoption of my children, deaths of loved ones, career changes, moves and illness. Each of those events brought a new normal to my life. A new time to become more or at times less.
When I had the strokes, I lost part of me. Not just physically but emotionally also. I felt wired differently. My thought process and memory were less than I’d want it to be. I couldn’t concentrate as I used to. There was no way in he’ll I could even multi task. I lost confidence in myself. In a sense, I became less in my mind. I felt I was letting folks down. My thoughts would not process all the way through from point to point.
My two churches supported me through but they began to take care of me and I wasn’t taking good care of them. They suffered for three years. Maybe suffer is a harsh word but they did not get a pastor running at 100% capability. It was hard to have two churches and two churches so vastly different. I loved both congregations and they each were blessed with talented and loving folk. Choosing to leave was hard but I think a benefit to them.
I had interviewed at my present church but had not been called at all to serve them. I resigned based upon my faith in God and knowing I was hurting the congregations more than helping them. Was I trying my best to serve them? Yes. Was I giving them a 100%? No. They each deserved better.
Now please understand, I am not saying these congregations were perfect. They were churches made of people…and in that we all have our quirks and twitches. But they deserved more of someone who had more to give them. I miss the people to this day. I will probably continue to do so for a lifetime.
I miss fish fry’s, the Lord’s Acre Sale, Hope for the Holidays, the Back to School Fair, Ice Cream Socials, Spaghetti Fundraisers, Champ Clark Days, seeing the Amish and going to the Muny. I miss my ministerial alliance guys and Every Child Every Day and the Summer Lunch program. I know these will all continue without me but I hold those times closely in my memory banks.
I look back at all of this and remember it and build upon it. I use it as reminders of what I have done well and what could have done better. I use that now. I take care of one church now. One single small church.
We are rebuilding, not the building literally. But the hearts and hopes of the congregation. “Behold, He makes all things new”. Being new isn’t always easy. It can be messy and ugly but given time it can shine.
Four years ago, I had no choice but become something new, something different. Do I always like the new? Depends on the day. I miss walking without a funky gate and not being able to wear high heels. I miss having control of my hand and fingers and having someone think I am giving them The Middle Finger. (It has happened in church.) I miss having the energy I use to have and the ability to multi task.
What I have learned is tenacity. Not to give up, to push through. To not always look at myself for what I can’t do but what I can do and have done. I learned that I have a deeper layer inside of me. That I am more than what my body says I am.
Time changes each and everyday. I look back so I can look forward and be more of what I need to be and what God wants me to be. I hope and pray when my time comes, I will stand before God and He will look at me and say, “Dawn, you weren’t perfect, you are flawed. I love you for those imperfections, those scars. I am proud of you. Well done, my good and faithful servant, well done.”