By Kelsea Willis, May 10, 2022
For the past six years, I have lived and built a specific and fulfilling life. I spent hours in prayer, structured my life around Sundays and the offerings of prayer in morning, noon, evening and night. I have learned to walk the ancient paths and seek the solemnity in silence. I have wandered through churches and sought out meaning in holy places, laying the foundations for serenity and structure for the vine. I attended services several times a week and composed poems and blessings when I would weep or cry or exult or sing. I left all I had ever known and found a community who sought the same yearnings of my little being. A place to call home and a place where I could grow. And I did, I did grow. I flourished and reached for the sun, capturing it in my palm and placing it within my heart. I could look in the mirror and enjoy my smile, and I could speak truth to the deepest parts of my being. Two years ago, my time had come to depart. I mourned for months their absence. I yearned to return though I was still growing and learning apart from them. I discerned and walked, and walked and walked some more.
The mountains have been my shelter and my guide. This spirit has toiled and sought the promises spoken in baptism and the covenants fulfilled in sacramental being. Gathering those close to me, we came together in prayer and purpose. We discussed my life as it was and what this place had been for me, and how I was certain the Trinity was guiding me to return to be in their enfolded wings. It was right and good and a future to believe in. I deferred once, to spend more time in this valley and with this way of being. I stopped going to church between this moment and today.
I felt her sting too keenly. She had given meaning to my suffering, and did not give purpose to my joy. I have been an Anglican all my life, often not wondering why or where I might want to decide to belong. I reached into her pews and found in the liturgy’s womb a solemnity that would behold me in my grief, in my weakness and disrepair. A shape that I could fit around me like a cloak to hold in all the pain, and offer comfort for the wounded child in me, and to the child I no longer had with me. She swept along the earth as I walked, and brushed against my cheek in each litany and thanksgiving. She gloried in the ashes and succoured in the eucharist’s body. She fell over my shoulders when mourning brought me to the earth, to my knees, again and again. I stopped going to church when I put down the suitcase and took off the woolen comforter; their itching and weight no longer necessary for where we are heading.
“And sometimes, just showing up, burial spices in hand, is all it takes to witness a miracle.”
Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday.
This past week, after two years, I went home. I went to be held and to hold the women who ushered me into being. When I was yearning to break through the earth, they brought the seed and fertilizer for the rain to nurture and saturate thoroughly into my garden. I went home because it is where I am known. I went home to tell them I will not be finishing my book within their walls as I had sought and planned to do. It ought to have been more devastating, but life will be lived wherever we find ourselves.
The liturgy brought me peace, the silence wrestled with my restlessness, and the women laughed with me in the sunlight. It was good. It was a joy, and it is not where I will be come September as the timeline was at one time set. Instead, I have no plans. I will be in the mountains’ shelter and amongst the wilderness. I will be me. I have a life, unplanned, before me. Four months ago, after using my own palms to try to put life back into a friend, I was grateful to have been the one to be there in the end. Today, I am still grateful, and these palms bring me life. They stand out, open, ready to receive. These six years of discernment and gestating are complete. I am different now. Six weeks ago, I asked myself, what if I stay? What if I do not go where I so longed to be? What if I stay right where I am? What if I just live for today?
“The Glory of God is found in a human being fully alive.”
Pádraig Ó Tuama, In the Shelter, Finding a Home in the World.
I woke up this morning to a message from a beloved friend, there was sadness spoken of, and she said,” I feel that after you left here that you have closed a chapter in your life.” I have wept this morning at these words, and I have wept at the departure from the church I made last year.
And… and I am more than the places I have been, and this life is not in the affiliations and affirmations I have spoken into being. I have found myself in these valleys and mountain ranges speaking to the trees and whispering in the forest’s ever-changing panoramic terrain. I have seen my own insignificance and found purpose in the poems I forget to write down on the page. I have looked for the good way, and here it lies. Love has no expiration date and healing has no receipt. These transitions were stepping stones taking me into the next valley, over the next hill, and into the vast, lush warmth of spring in all her wondrous, extravagant glory.
I have said no many times, and at each and every turn, the Creator has blessed over me again and again, ”Welcome.”
Welcome to the first day of a whole new chapter.
Welcome to a journey, as always, just begun.
“But this life, what a shining thing. It is enough.” Sue Monk Kidd, The Book of Longings
Kelsea was a Companion with SSJD for two years, Sept 2018 – July 2020 and is now living in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of B.C.