Surprised by My Own Unfolding

"I would love to live as a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding." John O'Donohue

Have you ever had one of those moments when everything came together into a singularity of bliss? It never lasts for long and evaporates as unexpectedly as it appears. Nonetheless, when those occasions unfold, they exude hope, a sense of purpose, and oodles of joy.

I had such an experience Saturday night. At the Chaplaincy Institute's monthly interfaith service, I (along with three classmates) had the honor of receiving my certificate of completion for the Interfaith Spiritual Direction program.  I also transferred my ordination to the Chaplaincy Institute's Interfaith Community. The community celebrated these milestones along with the announcement that I am now the Acting Director of Interfaith Community for the Chaplaincy Institute.

What a change! Over the past year or so, I felt despondent, discouraged and utterly confused. Where was my life going? What is my work? Where is my community? What the hell am I doing? So I waited. I noticed. As each next step appeared out of the fog, I took it, not knowing where it would lead.

When I first moved to California, Stephanie Warfield, a friend in Austin, e-introduced me to John Mabry, the Director of The Chaplaincy Institute's Interfaith Spiritual Direction program. While I have been a spiritual director for several years, I'd never completed a certificate program. The opportunity to do so while also learning about multiple faith traditions (included working with people of no faith tradition), excited me.

Then a fellow student in the program, Amy Hoyt, became the first person to transfer her existing ordination to The Chaplaincy Institute, which is not only a seminary, but also an interfaith community. When I left parish ministry 17 years ago, my ordination was eventually "inactivated" since I was not in a ministry setting with the denomination that ordained me. Reactivating my ordination had not been on my radar screen for some time. Next thing I knew, I was completing all the requirements to transfer my ordination to the Chaplaincy Institute. Now I am once again endorsed as "clergy in good standing".

Then Jim Larkin, the kind minister who shepherded me through that transfer process, announced that he was stepping down from his position as Director of Interfaith Community. I applied for the position, was hired, and started last Monday! I now feel at home in community and in my vocation.

This was no strategic, step-by-step plan. I did set my intentions (prayers) for the kind of work and community that I longed for. Then I kept my eyes open, noticing any subtle hints that emerged. I waited. I struggled. I kept returning to my intentions. I applied for jobs. I tried out various communities and groups. The desert stretched out before me in limitless, frustrating desiccation. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, streams converged to form this oasis.

Of course, I still have no idea how all of this will evolve. But, in this moment, I am filled with gratitude for how this life is unfolding. I feel supported by the Universe (God) and by so many loving people, including my friend Kathleen who gave me the ministerial "charge" (words of encouragement and blessing for the way forward), and especially by my partner Herb who put the stole on me during the service.

As you reflect on your life:

  • What yearnings do you notice?
  • How might you activate that yearning into an intention?
  • What subtle hints, crumbs along the path, align with your intention?
  • What is your best guess as to your next, single step forward?

Those moments of bliss, those times when life "comes together", are neither guaranteed nor permanent. They, are, however, more likely to be noticed and appreciated through an open heart, an open mind, and a willingness to be carried along by the surprising unfolding of life's river.