Seminary Essay #2

During the summer of 2012 I had the honor and pleasure to be a counselor at the New Jersey Center for Tourette’s Syndrome’s YMCA Camp Bernie family weekend.  This is a  camp to help families of newly diagnosed children, and for established families to meet others and experience normalcy. I was very excited to be not only invited, but to be a cabin supervisor and activity leader for the children with severe symptoms. This continues to be a very proud moment for me. I was given the responsibility to show other families that we are normal people just like anyone else. We have a right to fun, pleasure, happiness and any other that non-disabled people have.

At first, when this opportunity was offered to me I was afraid. I was afraid that my own symptoms would get worse, or that I wouldn’t be the person the staff and campers are looking for.  I almost let those fears convince me not to go. When I talked to my mom she asked me what my ‘little voice’ had to say. My mom is a big believer in following your ‘little voice’, and after being prompted a few more times I explained to her my fears of inadequacy and about meeting other people with this disorder for the first time and my hopes to help make a difference in the lives of others. My desire to be a part of this fantastic community and to make sure that at least one other child will not grow up the same way I did. I learned that by voicing my fears I can give myself the legitimacy that I needed to move beyond them and to start towards this goal.

I arrived at camp and after the close of the first evening’s activities my nerves got to me. I hopped into my car and left the camp but only got as far as the Catholic Church parking lot across the street. I sat there for a few minutes to think about my own fears and what caused me to panic. My first time not being away from home for an overnight trip, being around people with my disorder for the first time, and fear of failure. I realized that without pushing myself further I will never become the person I want to be. I will be trapped in a life without love, passion and adventure.  Most of all, I had to face the reality of other people like myself. I was surrounded by adults and children with my condition when I have never seen them before and it was overwhelming to know for the first time in my life that I am also normal. The same thing I wanted to be able to show others had completely overwhelmed me.

After 20 minutes I returned to camp still wiping the tears from my eyes and rejoined the families in front of the campfire at our cabin. The rest of the weekend was absolutely magical and blessed. The children and I had a wonderful time together sharing our experiences, tics and other adventures on this path that we share. I realized about myself that if I always stay trapped by things that make me scared that I will never move forward into the life I want. Fear is something that is a natural part of growing up. The Divine can even show fear in situations that are overwhelming, or new, or can be painful. The thing I learned is to turn to the Divine and ask for support, and for trust. That I know to trust myself and to trust that my limits are broader than I know they could be, but I need to stretch myself, trust myself, and believe in myself.
Since camp I have become a very active member in the NJCTS and greater Tourette’s syndrome community by being an active listener to people in need and by sharing my life experiences openly when asked. This has become so valuable to me to watch myself grow through the work of others just as I’m growing through sharing my story with them.

Seminary Essay #1

My first experience at seminary was when the Spiritual Formation program was just beginning to bloom. The program was so exciting and I found that I loved being a part of the classes that challenged me to look at myself and the plans the Divine has for me and how I can grow into them. That was the beginning of why I thought that MAPC might be a good program for me. Sadly, I let myself become discouraged by the past and only finished the MATS. I knew there were times when I wasn’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of helping people grow through their struggles, even though my soul felt a strong call to the vocation. I have always had trouble with the idea of taking things slowly and letting the Divine work in me. I would try to rush through the motions to get to the finish line. I had to learn how to slow down and watch the growth within myself and I had to learn to trust that it would happen at the right time. When the time was right I would be able to achieve anything I put my mind to.

This was a journey that took almost three years, but I finally feel ready for the next step on my spiritual journey. I think that learning to work on patience, trust, and listening to the divine all around me will help me pursue this degree because I will be better able to understand how life and faith move together. Sometimes we can have a strong connection to both things and there is great beauty and hope… there can be a dark night of the soul we can become so focused on the darkness around us that we can’t see the beautiful stars above waiting to light our way back to the path. By learning these things about myself I think I can use my understanding and insight to help others find that in themselves and journey together through the divine experience of growth.

As I worked in the retail world, I saw that people don’t understand how important active listening and communicating is. It became painful for me to be a part of that environment. I wanted to communicate with people more openly and know that we were listening through the spirit, and not just through a lens of our own desires and ambition.

Finally, after a torturous weekend I felt a strong calling to go to the local Catholic Church for the 7am weekday mass. The Gospel was a reading from Matthew 25:31-46. The Lord will separate the sheep from the goats and the holy will be with him, and the sinners will be cast away. How we act towards our fellow man is how we act towards the Divine, if we treat them with love then love will be ours in the afterworld, if we treat our fellow human kind with distain that will be our reward as well. This truly spoke to me. It was time for me to step away from being surrounded by the ‘goats’ who do nothing for the weak, hungry, naked, lost, confused and become one of the sheep who offers help and guidance. Instead of just doing work, I need to do the work of the Divine.

After Mass I stopped to speak to the Priest for a few moments and he agreed with me. I have found my call but have been hiding from it and he urged me to answer the call so my soul will have its reward in service.

I decided to resign from that job, and all of the things that go with it. It was the right thing to do as I start to embark on this journey I know that I have made the right decision. I have mentally and emotionally taken the time I needed to mature since I graduated and worked find the peace in the secular world. Now I see after making that great leap of faith that this is a place that I should be. 

My faith experience has been complex and in my journey of self acceptance and self respect I have tried to create a path that would fit me instead of trusting the divine to have a place for me to fit.  I was raised Roman Catholic by a mother who had a very earth-based ideas. She followed many of the practices of Wicca while still attending Catholic Church on Sundays. Because of this, I was allowed to attend as many different churches or religious groups as I would like to explore since all gods are one God and all goddess’s are one Goddess. This has let me find a love for many expressions of religion and for the people who practice them. During my first experience at Seminary I learned so many valuable things about how to listen with gentle ears, and see with gentle eyes to all of the Divine children. This is something that I constantly strive towards and know it will be a goal I will continue to enjoy working towards daily.

My goals after I complete the Pastoral Counseling program is twofold. Firstly, would be to use the skills I learned to achieve my license and work as a counselor and minister to people of faith with disabilities. This is a very personal aspect for my call because I have multiple disabilities. 
From discussions within the Tourette’s syndrome community I have seen how important a relationship to the Divine is. This relationship is something that many in the secular counseling may over look. I believe that it would be an important part of an integrated therapy plan to help address the issues of the connections to the Divine in order to reduce some of the more cognitive symptoms of these disorders. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very common co-morbid condition and many of us fear of the retribution of God. After much meditation and contemplation I found a strong connection to Saint Paul. Just as he overcame his frailties I can use my own ‘thorn in the flesh’ to find humility, grace and help foster a feeling of peace in myself that can be shared with others.

My other goal for this program is to gain the skills and certifications to become a chaplain in the medical setting.  This is a continuation of my desire to be a part of active ministry that matches my calling. In the past two years I have found myself resting in multiple hospitals, talking to chaplains. As I spoke to them I admired the peace and beauty of their place and my spirit felt content as they talked about their experiences. This became something I wanted my soul to become open towards. I believe that by using my experiences in finding the way the Divine communicated towards me, combined with active listening and a desire to help others find the peace that has come to me I will be able to help others and their families find their own way and path towards inner peace.

I look forward to the challenge of working with people, putting in the time for my license, and the lifetime of learning I will gain from listening to their experiences.

this morning i went to church

…because i thought i'd go yesterday but it just didn't work out for me to do it … so instead I went today. The readings were pointed RIGHT at me … all about people being kind and how if you're a shithead to other people, then you're being a shithead to god. I really liked hearing that it made me feel better about what these idiots did to me at my last job.

so, after it ended I stopped to talk to the Priest about what I should do, because I'm confused and I don't know what I want to do with my life anymore … and I told him the whole story… he suggested I look into being a chaplain … how many flipping times has that come up for me?!?!? seriously!!!  I keep thinking about it too…

maybe it's time….