In Between Life Sizes

August 29, 2018

It’s hard to resurrect a writing “career” when your other career and roles get in the way. And a cold. Yes, one of those nice late summer/early fall colds. Those are super special.

Anyway, my absence here hasn’t been negligence. It’s been coughing, and full-time jobbing, and parenting, and wife-ing that has delayed me writing. Plus, even for someone who enjoy writing, the work itself can take some time. Especially with the INFJ battles that go on in my head when trying to start a new entry, be creative, and yet also keep an eye on the goals and end result. That gets a little noisy (if there are any pure, unadulterated INFJs reading this, you totally get what I’m saying).

Anyway, the goal was to write at least once a week. I clearly knocked it out of the park failed to meet that goal already. Plus side: It’s all uphill from here??

But just because I haven’t been back to the writing routine doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the things that I feel, see, hear, and experience. And one thing that has been on my mind since I wrote this post revolves around a message or two I received about being “in between life sizes.” One message asked me more about its meaning, another expressed his resonance with the concept, and yet another wanted to know  more… just because. And I get it. I mean, how does one not fit into their own life? It makes no sense. The life we have is the life we have, right?

Warning- this may seem like a religious post. It’s not actually. It’s just my story, so you non-religious readers bear with me. Also thanks for being here- perhaps one day we can chat about how I really feel about religion these days.

Years ago, I was told by a trusted advisor that at some point in our lives we reach a space where most of us find ourselves looking back over our years with a need to justify the decisions we made. It’s sort of an existential thing. We mature, realize that life is bigger than we thought it was, realize that life is fragile and there are more years behind us than we ever thought could happen, and suddenly we face a reckoning of sorts. It’s not regret. Maybe for some people it is, but not for me. It’s just more of a reflection. And for me, at this stage in my life, it’s more about trying to make sense of- or at least make friends with- the course my life has taken.

I will try to explain…

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Photo by Lynnelle Richardson on Pexels.com

I entered college with very little clue as to what I would do and be. I had gotten a great education in my childhood and had lots of creative and glorious ideas for career field, but I had never really settled on what I should DO with my life (see… INFJ at work right there… see?). So I did what what a lot of undecided college students did back then- I looked at Communications and Psychology. And then I pretty much just closed my eyes and picked one. My finger landed on psychology.

It was decided. Right? So it was strange when I was dating this amazingly cute guy named Rob who happened to volunteer with a youth group and when I would go with him, something deep inside of me flickered to life. I was surprised how much I liked working with teens. Weird, since I didn’t even like teens when I was one! Rob didn’t actually work out, but the desire for ministry stuck in my soul, and so one day I walked into a church and started working as a ministry leader for the youth group. And the gifts for ministry just began to pop out.

But it was clear that 1) I was gifted for ministry and 2) I had a clear calling on my life. (Calling, for those not religiously inclined, is a really poor term used in ministry to determine and describe a sense of purpose for the job of pastoring, etc. I didn’t coin the term and I don’t endorse it very much these days- at least not in the way I was taught to use it- but I also know with all its problems, it’s kinda true and doesn’t just apply to those in ministry.)

So I became a pastor. It didn’t come without loss or pain. In fact, I sacrificed a lot in those years of ministry. But it was my passion, my heart, my calling. And I embraced it and didn’t look back. I was also really good at it and even on the days when I considered quitting it all, I still loved it.

Until I didn’t.

Until I needed a break. Burned out, exhausted, tired of the politics and the dysfunctional relationships and isolation, weary of the competition and the lack of significant change in “church,” I stepped away. Plus I was becoming a mom and really wanted to make sure that my son had his mom- all of me- when he was born. So I quit. And I don’t for a second regret it. I missed things, yes. I questioned some things, sure. But when I stepped back I did it for all the right reasons.

And I expected that the “tribe” I had been part of- the denomination that had taught, trained, nurtured, ordained me- would hold my place. I thought they would remember me. After all, they always claimed it was about relationship. So I stepped out thinking I could easily get back in because I had a relationship with them.

I was wrong. Instead, that tribe forgot me. Rather than save a space for me, the crowds filled in and there was no room.

At one of the last national gatherings I attended with those colleagues in my “tribe”  I met with a friend. By this time I had stepped out of ministry and was already elbows deep in my stint as an entrepreneur running my own business helping leaders learn to lead, organizations learn to manage well, and conflicts find resolution. But at that time, I still longed to be back in ministry and still very much felt the calling toward it. My friend said to me that evening, “Karen, at one time you were everywhere in our denomination. You were one of the young leaders. And then suddenly you were gone. No one knew where you went.” He didn’t mean to, but those words actually hurt me. Because my first thought was “Well, why didn’t you come after me, come look for me, reach out to me, save a space for me?” But I never said anything.

It wasn’t until a couple years later that I came to accept that I would not be back in ministry as a vocational pastor again. Despite being really good at it. I tried to move to new denominations, and it was always the same. Everyone loved me, everyone saw what I brought to the table, everyone wanted me, until…. until it was time to actually want me. I was second pick for so many search committees I have lost count.

[Now here is where the religious-speak might start from former colleagues and tribe-mates who will wax eloquent about things like call, and holy indifference, and communal discernment. God bless them, and I still love them, but that’s a load of crap. The ministry job situation is as political, sociological, financial, and cultural as any other profession, and it’s a cop out to claim someone doesn’t get a job in that sector simply because they weren’t called.]

So I went from pastor, to mom, to business owner that served pastors and leaders, to….

Well, to now. I enjoy the work I get to do now, but it is not the same work I set out to do in my 20s. And I imagined at this time I would have a pension and retirement fund, that I would have written a book or two, had the next 20 something years of my life planned out, be able to afford a nice vacation once in awhile. But I don’t have any of that.

I also didn’t plan on having a child with (expensive, painful, agonizing) special medical and developmental needs which completely changed not only the course of my life, but who I am from the core of my being.

Life doesn’t look like I thought it would. And it doesn’t fit.

I used to guest speak/preach at churches nearly every Sunday, but I curbed that work a couple summers ago and now it rarely happens. But each time it does, I go back to trying on that life I started out doing and realize it doesn’t fit anymore. But the life I have now doesn’t fit entirely either. That’s what being “in between life sizes” means to me.

Yet, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I met a new friend last week who said to me that he believes my best years are only beginning. I don’t think he’s wrong. Sometimes my heart tells me he may not be right, but I don’t think he’s wrong. And I am grateful to have friends like him who see things I can’t see at the time.

So I’m learning that “being in between life sizes” isn’t all bad. It’s uncomfortable, sure.  I miss people in my old “tribe” and sometimes I tear up thinking about them. It’s sometimes hard to sort out who I am and who I am supposed to be. There aren’t a lot of answers to the question why? for loss of the previous “size,” there is a lot of mystery about my potential future “size,” and there is no shortage of weirdness in my current space. But it’s taught me to be more open to possibility and more gracious to myself. It’s afforded me to expand my skills and network in ways I never could in my previous career. It’s made me more welcoming of new people, new ideas, new beliefs, new thoughts, and new challenges. And it’s brought me new tribes- tribes that shape me just as deeply and love me better than I deserve.

It’s an odd place that doesn’t make much sense.

But it’s still a good place.

 

4 Responses to “In Between Life Sizes”

  1. kmeod713 said

    Thank you Karen, this is wonderful. I have two things to say…
    1. Anyone who has ever done anything of significance for the Kingdom of God has has to put away the ideas they had for their lives, turn around and follow Jesus somewhere unexpected. You are brave and courageous to walk this unknown, but genuine, path.
    2. If they were your REAL “tribe”, they would have saved a space AND searched for you. Keep looking.😘

    • Thank you for your comment, kmeod713! I appreciate you reading. I don’t know if it’s courageous or just following the path that’s in front of me… maybe both!

      In defense of that tribe- they were indeed my people for a long time. And they are good people. I still love them deeply though of course people I knew from there are gone now and new people I have never met have come. I’m sure they all have their own stories. This is mine. And I am grateful for that tribe. I don’t think what happened was deliberate as much as just something that occurs with humans. We all move on. For some it’s not a big deal. For others it is.

      Thanks for joining the journey!

  2. Kendra Berry said

    Karen, please keep writing. I have always seen your vibrancy and love the way you view the world…your honesty, your courage, and your strength!

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