Moved to tears

Two things I have been sure of my entire life is that I am called to be a leader in the church and that I am called to be a mother. From early on when I felt this nudging around the time of my First Communion, these were two seemingly incompatible vocations from where I was planted. I could not be priest because I was a girl. And even if I were able to be a priest, I could not be a mother. I have tried to be true to these calls my entire life and lived with the inherent tension and contradiction with my Roman Catholic faith.

Deep heartfelt tears of joy, sadness, heartbreak and awe are indicators to me that I am catching a glimpse of and connection to God.

From an early age, one of my favorite movies was the Sound of Music. Two lines that always cause tears to well up and strike me to the core are:  ‘When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window’ and ‘My daughter, if you lovethisman, itdoesn’t meanthatyou love God less.’ Reflecting on them now, I see they affirmed the call to motherhood and a call to serve and follow God.

In both high school and college, I had intense spiritual awakenings and tear-filled transcendence through service immersion experiences. In high school, it was when the sisters at my co-ed Catholic high-school took a group of us to an inner-city church to help with their Christmas program for low income families. I remember many details, especially the conversation on the way home. For our carload of white, middle class, suburban girls, it truly opened our eyes and hearts. In college, it was on a campus ministry alternative spring break trip my sophomore year in which we learned and served in an Appalachian mission church. I had a profound awakening and renewed sense of doing justice as a follower of Jesus. Looking back now, both gave me a sense of living out the duality of my call because I could be a leader in charity and justice work, and a mom.

Tears of deep truth surround becoming and being mom to each of my four children. From knowing I was pregnant / connecting with birth moms to delivery/meeting through every milestone of holding, caring, guiding, watching their development, being part of their highs and lows, and more, my life is fuller and richer for which I am ever grateful. I welcome the further evolution of this role with adult children and I hope and pray I will get to experience ‘grand-motherhood’ someday. As part of this vocation of motherhood, having a miscarriage, struggling with secondary infertility, and adopting two children were intense and formative experiences. Through them I learned the power of faith, the value of counseling, and the lifeline of peer support. I gained empathy. I processed pain and loss. I got to experience healing and wholeness – and a surprise pregnancy. All are children are miracles – our youngest truly was a statistical / mathematical improbability. Being a mom was and is a calling for me. During most of this time, the call to church leadership was realized through a church coalition ministry where I served for 26 years.

A possible way to combine this continued nudging was presented when I became aware of the Roman Catholic Women priests movement in 2006. I spent a day workshop at Call to Action. The single most significant event was participating in Roman Catholic liturgies led by women.  It was amazing.  I was in tears. As I and others went to communion, you could see tears and hear sobbing and sense a deep wellspring of emotion.  There was a spontaneous and heartfelt round of applause at the end of the service.  Since that time, I have been discerning if that was a possible way to combine my dual sense of call.

The last tear-filled awakening of call was when Hillary Clinton recounted a story of how as a young girl, she wanted to be an astronaut. They said girls can’t be astronauts and she found another way to live out her call to public service. Tears streamed down my face and I was crying. Yes it was about injustice that I and many women experience. As I prayed and reflected more, it was also because I knew as a young girl, I wanted to be priest and they said girls can’t be priests. I again cried when we did not elect our first woman President.

In that time of mourning and soul-searching, I knew that I again had to find a way to live out this dual call to motherhood and church leadership. Being ordained in a community of believers was being true to my authentic self and to follow the calling God has continued to lay on my heart and mind. As I am approaching my sixties, I also needed to be part of a church that at a micro and macro-level affirms my gifts and call and is an authentic prophetic voice in our world and models the inclusive and expansive love the Jesus exemplifies. In October 2019, when I was officially accepted in the process of discovering, discerning, and, God-willing, receiving further confirmation that my dual vocational call will be even more fully realized within the UCC family, I was again moved to tears.

10 thoughts on “Moved to tears

  1. Hi Mimi – I am so delighted that you will be with “the Pines” this evening. I am in awe of how you have let each tear work for you to bring you to a place of, the word I would use is, completeness . I don’t know how you would describe it but as I read your stories I experienced longing & love come full circle to a place where your gifts will be embraced by and for the community. Diane

    1. Thanks Diane. It was so good to share and feel connected across the time zones..I do feel each step of my journey has brought me here. We’ve come this far by faith…as a favorite hymn goes.

  2. Dear Mimi – thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with us. Your tender heart are so clear – St Dominic spoke of “the gift of tears” and it appears a gift you have, and a sign that you are in a place of consolation. I have witnessed how women who are mothers can bring the experience of motherhood to enrich various aspects of their ministry (preaching, pastoral care, organizing, etc) and sense this would be true for you as well.

    I appreciated your sharing about your high school and college experiences in the context of the inner city and in Appalachia, and your own naming of some elements of your social location in these early experiences which drew you into charity and justice work. It sounds as though in those encounters there may be a mirroring in some way of your own experience of injustice you have faced as a woman in the church. A wondering that surfaced for me is around how your understanding of God’s call in those early experiences has changed or sharpened over your decades of life and ministry. Especially given our current context of the global pandemic (wherein not all are equally vulnerable), church polarization, and national uprisings about racial justice, is there anything stirring in your discernment as you look back at those early experiences and awareness of your own social location, and where your reflections on them land now?

    May the Spirit continue to guide you as we share in this cohort, and may you cry many more tears of belonging, affirmation, and consolation!

    1. I’d never heard of St. Dominic’s “gift of tears!” I will remember this when I next receive this gift and every time thereafter. Thank you for sharing that!

  3. Many thanks for sharing. Tears have a way of cleansing us so we can see things differently and clearly. I really resonate with your phrasing of duality of call–how do we bring together our multiple callings. Maternal pastoral ministries 🙂 I am glad you have found a home with the UCC; I too have been discerning a call to ordained / clergy life, just haven’t quite found my place. Perhaps we need to reword from calling to callings

  4. I’m grateful that you spent the evening with the Pines last evening. I, too, love the Sound of Music. I believe that God uses every means available to speak to us, including movie scripts and song lyrics! I, too have two adopted children. The adoption of my two kids (a son and a daughter, they are not biologically related) was the first time that I understood this notion of “God’s plan.”

  5. ‘When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window’… Mimi, I look forward to having you in the Aspen group when we meet again next week. I appreciate your connection to the lines in the Sounds of Music, and this is a good reminder of the many creative ways God can speak to us in film, literature, art, etc. This spoke to a deep truth within you. Perhaps the same place from which “tears of deep truth” surround your motherhood. I look forward to hearing more about the window you are looking through these days. What do you see there? What does it feel like?

    I look forward to journeying with you.

  6. I was struck by how deeply you know that being a mother is a calling to you, particularly because I’ve struggled with NOT having this sense in my own life. How do you think your calling as a mother shapes what you bring to the table now, as you consider shifting your focus toward being a leader in the church? Do you see yourself becoming a mother to people who haven’t had a functional mother-child relationship? Or do you see these dual callings being integrated in different ways?

  7. Ignatius Loyola also spoke of “the gift of tears.” 🙂 It’s a beautiful gift. You have discerned well how this indicates God’s powerful presence and call in your life.

    I’d love to hear more about your experience of the RCWP liturgy in 2006. Amid the tears, what was moving in you during that liturgy? What did it open up for you? What were you “seeing” that you had not seen before? What was God showing you in that experience?

    You are confident in your call to be a leader in the church. I say Amen to that.
    In your bio, I can already see the many ways you’ve led; for example, your profound leadership in faith-based direct service ministry.

    Now you’re pursuing ministry in the UCC — an exciting prospect. I’d love to hear more about what’s drawing you in that direction.

    What’s been missing in the church leadership you’ve been exercising for so many years? What’s the Spirit nudging you toward? What are some of the divine indications that God is calling you to ministry in the UCC? What are you seeking there?

    God bless your journey and your courage. I’m inspired by it!

  8. Thanks Mimi for sharing your story. You are a woman of many gifts. I am also so frustrated with the church. Women have waited so long. This pope seems to have a blind spot when it comes to women. Keep on sister, keep on.

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