My journey so far...
A year ago, I attended a retreat for women discerning a call to ministry. I was in the midst of chairing my church's pastor search committee, and I felt pushes and pulls in so many directions. I remember feeling loved and supported and so very unsure. At the time, I didn't (and still don't) feel called to parish ministry but did feel called to a more purposeful role in and commitment to the church. I hadn't yet figured out if that would or would not include seminary. Needless to say, I left the retreat with more questions than answers. I do, however, remember one piece of advice that really stuck with me, "Get a spiritual director. Now." I believe the exact thought that ran through my head was, "What the hell kind of foo foo shit is that?!"
A few weeks later, in my role in the search committee, I was on the phone with the chair of our Presbytery's Committee on Ministry. Without knowing too much about me, my story, or even my sense of call, this woman mentioned that she was a Spiritual Director and that she'd be interested in working with me if I ever felt so inclined. That time, I looked up toward the heavens and thought, "Cute. Real cute." But it really did feel like a sign. Here was someone who had no idea (at least not from me) that I had attended this retreat, that I was discerning a call, that I was considering seminary...and yet, she felt called to reach out.
We started working together in May 2017. The more we talked, the more I felt called to go to seminary. I began to see voids in the way the church responds to and prevents child abuse - voids I felt called to work to fill. I started looking into seminaries, desiring to have a stronger Biblical knowledge prior to working within the Church.
I made a conscious decision to be "out" for my seminary search. I wasn't about to go back in the closet. I felt perfectly welcomed at the first seminary (my mom's alma mater), but I felt wanted at the second. After much prayer and discernment, I made the decision to only apply to the second.
In September, my Spiritual Director and I started working with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, which are designed to help you discern your sense of call: a 9-month commitment of an hour of prayer each day (a commitment I continue to fail at, but God continues to work with me, and our intimacy is developing in ways I could never have imagined).
Early in these exercises, I was learning how to recognize how the Holy Spirit spoke to me, how I felt her move through me physically, how I heard her voice. I continue to wonder how many times I have missed her, how many opportunities I have ignored or simply not even recognized. But this lesson came just in time.
On November 13, 2017, I walked into a courtroom to observe dependency hearings.* I watched this little boy walk in and speak with the Hearing Officer. They joked back and forth, and the Hearing Officer asked him, "Is there anything you think I need to know before we let you wait outside?"**
The little boy replied, "Yes. I'm being bullied in school, and I need you to make it stop." I have never seen a child so assertive in court, especially someone as little as this guy. He left the courtroom with the Hearing Officer's assurance that we would discuss this because it was, in fact, not okay.
In the hearing, it was revealed that this kiddo is being bullied because he likes to wear makeup and paint his nails. I could feel the tears collecting and my gut lurching forward (something I had recently identified as a way the Holy Spirit communicates with me). I thought of all the things I could do to make this child's life better: I could assign him to a CASA volunteer, I could help her advocate for him, I could make phone calls to the caseworker, etc.
And then he walked back in court, and I realized I was looking at my son. He didn't need a volunteer - he needed a mom.
In just over three months, my son has moved in with me and is now sitting on the floor putting together a puzzle while I type this. He has his play makeup on, his new pink skirt, and his high-heeled boots. We go to church every Sunday, where he attends Sunday School with his peers and comes home feeling like a beloved child of God, and he can't wait to go back.
And to top it all off, I have been accepted to my dream school, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, with a full ride. To say this is a huge relief would be an understatement.
So in August, my son (I'll refer to him here as DJ) and I will be headed to Austin, Texas to continue our journey. By then, the adoption should be finalized; I imagine DJ's hair will have grown out beyond its current pixie; and our smiles will only shine brighter
If you've never tried listing to the Holy Spirit, I highly recommend it. She gives great advice.
*This is part of my job - I'm in court on an almost weekly basis. I hear stories you haven't imagined in your worst nightmares. But I go home. I maintain boundaries...because if I didn't, I could never do my job, and someone has to do it.
**In Pennsylvania, the Judge/Hearing Officer must see the child at least once every six months, but if they are under 14 years old, they are often excused from the hearing.