I just finished with a year long process called Christ Renews His Parish at the parish that I work at. Today was the last day my team met in an official capacity. It all started last year around this time when we attended a weekend renewal. We were then invited to stay on to go through a year of formation and eventually to plan the next weekend for a new group of women. I went on the weekend never expecting the graces I would receive in the next year. I agreed to attend because I knew from other people that the teams in charge were relentless about asking and I’m awful at saying no. I just wanted to get it over with so they wouldn’t bother me about it in the coming years I was planning on being at the parish.
The weekend was great and I did feel renewed after, but I had no inclination of continuing on to be the team for the following year. Little did I know, the Lord had different plans for me, as He typically does. I missed most of the informational meeting following our weekend which gave dates for future meetings and commitments and things like that and I was kind of okay with that. But over time, I experienced a nagging feeling that I needed to at least try this formation thing out. So, I inquired and went to the next meeting. I remember going in convinced it was going to be my only meeting. And then, I met one of the spiritual directors who happened to be giving her faith history that evening. Something that she said struck me so much I realized that the Holy Spirit was working here, so I decided to come back the next week.
Each evening prior to the meetings I would complain about having to give up another week night, as a youth minister I have very little free evening time. I continuously complained that I was above this whole process, that I didn’t need a community – I had a great community of friends who supported me. I felt like an outsider being on staff with a bunch of parishioners. I wondered if I could really be honest about my life with people who I was being paid to minister to. I worried they would think poorly of me if they really knew what was going on with me. I spent the majority of our time in formation questioning why I had decided to make this commitment. I even got to the point where I seriously considered backing out. But something kept me going every other week and eventually every week to those meetings. For some reason, I felt like I couldn’t back out of this commitment.
Even up until the day before the weekend we put on as a team I was questioning why I had put so much time into this whole process. I didn’t want to take another weekend out to be at church when I could be hanging out with friends or really doing anything else but sitting and sleeping at my work. But then we put on the weekend. As soon as the first guest walked through the doors something changed. We really became a team. I saw the love and acceptance that ran between every woman. I saw the humility and servant leadership that each woman had to really minister to the participants. I felt the Holy Spirit take control and be given the room to do His thing.
At the end of that weekend, I was left with an overwhelming sense of loss. I realized that I had taken this lovely group of woman for granted for a year. I saw their hearts all laid out on the table, their vulnerabilities, strengths, and weaknesses all used to serve and bring Christ to the participants but not only that they brought Christ to me on that weekend. It takes a lot to minister to a youth minister, someone who is so used to ministering that I do it without realizing it. These women really and truly ministered to me on our weekend and over this whole past year.
They taught me about strength, courage, love, compassion, motherhood, loss, balance, marriage, trust, and the list goes on and on. They showed me what it really means to be accepted for your strengths and your weaknesses because they’ve loved me through this entire process. They loved me when I didn’t want to show up and when I refused to participate. They loved me at my worst and at my best. They continue to show me how to love better and how to let the Holy Spirit work within.
I still don’t completely understand how all of this happened. The Lord had an incredible plan for me this past year. On this feast of the Annunciation, I recognize the grace that comes with saying yes to the Lord especially when you don’t know what may come. He knew, when I didn’t, that I would need these wonderful ladies to support me, to be there in the good and the bad times, to show me how to live joyfully even through loss and hardship. I am so very grateful that I listened to that nagging feeling from the Holy Spirit to go to that first meeting and then to stay true to my commitment.