Okay Folks, this was such a long one, I just couldn't make you read it in one sitting! So I've divided it into parts to unfold over the next three days. I hope you'll hang with me as I tell the story of how my self-inflicted angst over a way to serve the community resolves itself into an answer of total simplicity. (Hopefully you get the irony here - there should be no angst in giving! Sometimes I wish I were more Irish and less Italian...sigh...)
PART I - July & August
To set the scene for those of you who weren't around me at the time, in June I was just coming off of a period of sorrow and anxiety such that I have never known. For three months I was having trouble getting out of bed as I was mourning the loss of my vocal ability and my teaching career. I had no idea what God had in store for me. I was, however, finally coming to the realization that I needed to begin trusting Him. Otherwise I would seal my own fate as one of those reclusive little old ladies with wildly unkempt gray hair who only sneaks out of the house after the sun goes down to retrieve the mail and about whom the neighborhood children create scary stories. The stories I could deal with - the hair, not so much!
July and August found me searching for a way to volunteer in the community as a way to focus outside myself and my problems, giving back and hopefully gaining strength. For years I wished I had had the time to join our church organization called Movement for a Better World which makes sandwiches for the homeless, feeds and diapers babies, gives assistance to unwed mothers who want to give birth to their infants among other things. Lord knows, I had time in abundance so I began prayerfully contemplating it. No sooner had I been praying for a sign to guide me when a plea surfaced in our church bulletin, "Help Wanted! Chairperson or chair-couple to take over Movement for a Better World." Oh my gosh, God - talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. "Is this really what you want me to do?" I thought. I felt I wasn't nearly strong enough for that kind of commitment, so like every good, willful Christian, I decided to chalk it up to coincidence, ignore the sign and go about my business. As the weeks passed and the ad remained - haunting me at every turn - I finally said to God, "Look, if this isn't filled by September 1, I'll take it as a sign and I'll do it." At least that would buy me some time. More weeks passed and the position remained open. You would not believe the hours I spent agonizing over how in the world I was going to suggest to my husband that I take on something so huge after being a pile of mush on the couch the entire spring. By the middle of August, the ad maniacally staring at me from the pages of the bulletin, I broke down and nervously discussed it with my husband. Of course, my hours of angst and rehearsed mental conversation with him were completely unnecessary. He thought it was a great idea and agreed he would help me co-chair. In fact, he said, "I think this is exactly what we need as a family." "Allright, God, now we're getting somewhere," I prayed. I was finally really becoming interested in something other than my voice and my problems. Hooray! August 28th came around and the ad was still beckoning. At this point, I couldn't wait to make the call to the parish to nobly and selflessly sacrifice my time in service of the needy.
On Sunday, September 4th, anxiously attending church, knowing that the call I would make afterward would change my family's life and my schedule for an indefinite period of time, I opened my bulletin...only to see a thank you letter to the new chairman of Movement for a Better World, nobly and selflessly sacrificing his time in service to the needy. I was crushed! How could this be? Would I never get my signs right? Would I never understand my calls? What was this excruciatingly confusing two months for anyway?
Little did I know, the answer would be revealed before me...not in my timeline (hello, Cynthia, when are you ever gonna get that part through your thick skull?) but in the patient and chiding timeline of Him who's calling.
(Check back for Part II tomorrow when I tell how truly dense I can be!)