For today’s Friday Five, share five occasions or events in your life that have been turning points…when you have felt like a new thing was being born. You can refer to the birth of children, career, your kitchen garden, or whatever moves you.
It was a moon-lit winter night. The ground was blanketed with a fresh coat of snow. I had just pulled the car out of the garage. My Airedale was in the back seat. At the point when I stopped to shift from reverse to drive, I felt my Airedale and me bathed in light. I heard the words, “Behold the Lamb of God” sung in deep, rich harmony, and experienced a deep peace unlike anything I had ever felt before. I knew that whatever happened I would be ok. The strange part was that I was not in the least religious. I was not primed for anything like that to happen. And yet it did. And it made way for me to make the changes I needed to make in my life. I think it was that experience of deep peace that made it possible for me to break out of the abusive marriage in which I’d been trapped for almost nine years. Not long after that night, I began taking the steps necessary to free myself (and my Airedale) from a relationship that had never been healthy for me.
I heard about him before I even met him. A colleague had roomed with him at a conference the year before. That same colleague had recommended that each of us attend a six-week long workshop in a small town on Long Island–three thousand miles from his home and two-thousand miles from mine. We met at dinner the first night. He was so earnest and so kind and so filled with interest in and ideas about so many things. I was fascinated. I’d never met anyone like him before, anyone so intentional in all that he did. After the opening program, all twelve participants in the workshop headed off to a local bar. He asked me to dance with him. We’ve been dancing together for over thirty years. He’s made my life deeper and richer and a lot more fun.
Some turning points in my life have the dark times, times when I couldn’t even imagine a shred of light streaming in. And yet those dark times seem in some way to have been the soil for amazing transformations. Twenty-three years ago, I was named the first woman Head of Upper School for a very old and prestigious boys school going coed. It was a plumb job. When they offered it to me, I felt like I had won the lottery. My husband, the product of years of prestigious single-sex education, warned me not to take it. But ambition and ego won the day. It was a horrible mismatch. I cried every day for the three years I was there. In the wrestling with the aftermath of that experience I gained insight and strength and confirmation of that sense I’d had on that moonlit Minnesota night that everything would be alright.
One of the gifts of that dark time was the gift of fiber. On those many nights when I couldn’t sleep from two to four in the morning, I’d read quilt books. I began hanging out in quilt shops. Not buying anything. Not making anything. Just looking at the fabric. Taking it all in. Getting a sense of color and texture and my own palate. It was a chance conversation that turned a late night diversion into an avocation. When we moved to New Mexico, my husband introduced me to the mother of one of his students. I learned she was a quilter. She taught me how to put it all together. A quilt. First one and then many. Now I’m never far from my fabric and my thread. A gift from the darkness.
An off-hand comment, a lead on a job, was my most recent turning point. A friend had heard that there might be an opening at day shelter for homeless people. I’d done a little work with homeless but not much. I was intrigued. I made a call. And then a visit. And after that a ministry that has changed my life and, I like to think, is changing ministry in the diocese in which I serve and helping people in deep need. There’s a change in me. Doing the work I’m called to do has emboldened me. Who knows–maybe one day my spine will turn to steel!