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.