I bought this refrigerator magnet just as I was leaving Delaware in November 1994. I had just accepted my dream job. The Church of the Good Shepherd in Dunedin, Florida had called me to be their associate rector.
During the discernment process for ordination, I had often been questioned as to how I saw myself in ministry in the Episcopal Church. I would jokingly say to the inquisitors: “I do not feel called to be a bishop or cardinal rector. I simply want to be a beach priest.” God heard my prayer.
The address of Good Shepherd is 639 Edgewater Drive, right on the inter coastal waterway, just across the causeway to the Gulf of Mexico.
While this was a dream come true, it also meant leaving behind family and friends as I moved to the Diocese of Southwest Florida. When I first mentioned to my loved ones that I was interviewing for a ministry position in Florida, I don’t think they quite believed that I would actually get the call. But then it came.
It was hard for my husband and I to say goodbye to the life we lived there…to the house where we had raised our four children, to our neighborhood of almost 20 years, and all of the friends we had made while living there…and especially to our grown children who we would be leaving behind to start a new life. Even though all of our children had “left the nest,” they told us that it was still hard on them as they always thought that they would be able to come back to visit us in their childhood home.
About ten years after we moved to Florida, I actually interviewed for a job back in the Diocese of Delaware at a church not far away from where we used to live. During that interview process I realized that even if I got the job, I would not be going back to the life I had lived before. People had moved on, including two of my children who were establishing lives in different states.
Once you leave a place to follow a new path, you have reached the point of no return. But that is the life of a Scout…always exploring new worlds, and leaving old worlds behind.
I think of my grandmothers and how they left the old world for the new, never to return to their native lands. They never saw their relatives and hometowns again. It does give me comfort to know that I am only a text or Skype visit away from my family…a luxury that my grandmothers could not have even imagined. And I am also only a few hours away thanks to modern day travel such as trains, planes and automobiles. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
In 2006, I decided to retire in part because I wanted to be able to hop in the car or take a plane to see my children and grandchildren whenever special occasions would arise, especially on weekends. That has worked well, but not perfectly. There are times when I have wanted to be with them, such as family emergencies, but I felt stuck in Florida…grounded.
So along with the joys that come from being a scout, there are also times when you realize just what you have given up. As the magnet reads, some things are no longer an option. But on our journeys we can give thanks for the things that we do have…those every day blessings that are part and parcel of living in a new land. We can push on to making more and more discoveries as we continue on new paths.
We also have memories of loved ones who have made journeys before us. I find strength and comfort from my grandmothers who continue to inspire me along life’s journey. In fact, I believe they are lighting my path and helping me every step of the way. It helps me to realize that we never walk alone.