(Karen and Jim, Easter 2014)
Our past three years could be described as the proverbial “roller-coaster ride” of life. In 2014, I was delighted to be called to serve in ministry with my husband Jim, who was a pastor at our dear church in Toledo. Nine months later, I learned that I had ovarian cancer. While I was undergoing chemotherapy, Jim was told that he had an aortic aneurysm. He had open heart surgery and two weeks later had a small stroke from a wayward clot. I then had my surgery and followed up with nine more weeks of chemotherapy. By Thanksgiving of 2015, we were especially thankful to be recuperating and slowly getting back into ministry and life.
We soon realized that we were different people. We no longer had the stamina nor the enthusiasm to serve well in ministry. Following a few months of prayer and discernment, Jim took a leave from his call and I resigned. We moved to a small apartment in West Virginia, to be close to our grandsons and nearer to the rest of our family. Earlier this year we moved into our lovely new home and have settled in well. Jim has found a career in sales, and I am staying with my grandsons after school while also writing my blogs and book.
I feel as if we have finally reached the end of our roller-coaster ride. We made it up the challenging, steep climbs. We savored breath-taking moments at the tops of the hills. We hung on through the fast and fearful free-falls. We made it. We are catching our breath, thankful for the ride but grateful for the relief. We are feeling a sense of accomplishment and are now ready to enjoy the rest of our lives.
But this morning it hit me… WHO AM I? AND WHAT DO I DO NOW?
So much of our identity is framed by what we do. I had been living out my roles as pastor’s wife, youth and education director, retreat leader, devotional writer, ministry organizer, hospitality host, and avid walker. My roles influenced how I related to others, how I reacted to situations, how I organized my life, and how I felt about myself. Now I am no longer doing most of those things. I am in a new home, a new state, a new church, and a new vocation. My walking pace has slowed and my distance has shortened. I almost feel that disoriented, queasy feeling one has at the end of a roller-coaster ride. My perspective is unclear. I imagine those of you who have retired or changed careers have felt much the same way. Who am I, REALLY?
But I am reminded that I am still, forever, a child of God. I am still a servant of God. I am still Karen, with unique gifts to share. There are a variety of ways to serve God; some are just less visible, out of the limelight. Whether I am leading a retreat or helping my grandsons with homework, I am still in ministry. I trust that there many opportunities yet to be discovered.
God says in Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19). Perhaps there is another roller coaster ride in the near future. I’m truly hoping for a more peaceful ride to enjoy! But for today, I will exit the roller coaster and head to the nearby shade tree, where God is waiting to spend time with me… Karen, roller-coaster rider, searching soul, wandering wayfarer, humbled servant… but always, beloved child.