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Scatter Flowers: One Word 2024

Updated: Jan 11

Hear me read this piece or read below.

“Sometimes we find our callings and sometimes we’re chased down by them.” – Kate Bowler

I’ve joked the title of my memoir one day might be Accidental Priest. Two years ago, I entered a process of discovery to find what my place in the Episcopal Church might be. By the end of that year, every sign pointed to the path to ordination.

Gone were the protests of, “I’m a writer, not a public speaker” and “I can’t do that as a mom of teens.” I knew in every cell of my body I had to stop running from what was chasing me down. I planted my stake in the ground. “Here I am, send me,” I cried, not knowing what could mean, but that everything was about to change.

The itch to run never went away. I longed to flee when the fear set in. I wanted to retreat into the crowd instead of facing the uncertainty and years of preparation ahead. I vowed to establish myself in the calling I felt, to stand still and know the place I had found myself.

This establishment took my full focus in 2023. When people comment on the laundry list of things I can accomplish, it’s easy to say, “I don’t know how I do it.” The answer is, sometimes at great cost to my personal life. Sometimes it is just about barreling through and not paying attention to the exhaustion or being off-center.

This year I became a licensed preacher, entered a second graduate program, and became the seminarian (basically the priest-in-training) at my home church. I was awarded a grant and a scholarship that meant I could do all this, while I worked full-time and walked with my kids who tumultuously transitioned into Middle and High School. My mom went through an extended period of immobility after surgery. I submitted my dissertation prospectus and became a Doctoral Candidate.

I found the thing that makes me come alive. There were countless moments of joy. All week I looked forward to serving at the altar, teaching my precious children in chapel, and having lively conversations in the classroom.

And yet, to say it was a lot was an understatement. To say my focus was on my vocation is completely accurate. Sometimes I could not focus on anything at all.

“The balance is, as always, delicate. We seldom find the center. We are constantly falling off one side or the other. But the center is always there, waiting for us to discover it.” – Madeline L'Engle

I saw it all clearly as I looked out over the expanse before me. The snow crunched under my feet, the only sound to be heard. The sun blinded me as I looked from the simple memorial stones to the towering 14’er on the horizon. I came across the country to be in the sacred valley where Father Thomas Keating had lived and taught.

This trip, like the year nearly behind me, felt like an ascension. It was the peak of the year in which I claimed my place as a preacher, a theologian, and a scholar. And yet, I didn’t want to stay alone on the mountainside for long. This was a necessary trip and a vital year of grounding myself in this tradition and this preparation. But I knew at that moment that it was time to come down from the mountain. There is a family, a community, and a life waiting to be lived down below. I shook the snow off my shoes and walked toward the road where my friend was driving up to meet me. “It’s time to move on,” I whispered.

“The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and the flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions of love.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

As I sat in the lavender light filtering through the stained glass in the early afternoon thinking of the year ahead, I kept thinking about the need to find a balance between momentum and rest, work and play, structure and freedom, going deeper in Christ and living in service to others. I kept hearing the call to slow down and really see others, to listen slowly and intentionally. I thought of all I gained in the past year and the full way I wanted to pour it out, to move from a more grounded center and look outward more.

Over the break in semesters, I’ve been listening to the words of a Saint I am just getting to know. She is known for her small, simple acts of love. This is the kind of life I want to live, so I’ve been looking to Therese of Lisieux’s words. This unassuming French nun’s words wouldn’t leave me. I kept thinking of the Little Flower and her words about sacrifice and love shown in simple deeds.

The word that has found me each year has most often been for my development, my hidden life with Christ: practice, presence, still, build, dwell, establish. I had thought this week about the word ground or deepen. As I paced around the balcony of the abbey church, trying to pick another word-any other word- the phrase pounded through my head and I knew there was no other: scatter flowers.

How can my research and writing serve the churches I will interview and the people who will read my dissertation? How does my presence as a seminarian at the church bless the people in that community? How will the simple tasks I do at home and work impact the people who go so often unseen and unsung everyday in my life? These are the questions I am pondering as I head into the year ahead. These are the questions that won’t leave me be.

I hope this phrase stays with me each day like a guidepost with which to measure my prayers, my work, my personal growth, and all I do. Whatever things I do…Are they done with love? Are they for done without complaint? Are they making someone’s life a little brighter, if only for today?

We never know how the little flowers we release into the wind can take root. This year, may we scatter flowers and live Love personified.

"Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them."

– St. Therese of Lisieux


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