Pain, Gain, Joy, And Thanks


As I continue to write about my journey in the hopes it opens some doors, or provides an opportunity to tell one’s one story, or to give voice for those struggling for the right words, I want to begin with the following video.

As I have mentioned numerous times, one constant thread throughout my life has been music. I was fortunate to have two very gifted parents who passed along that music gene to all five of their children. Some of my earliest memories are of learning to play the piano, then the flute and guitar, primarily. And there was singing – lots of singing. We were one of those families who when we went on trips to the mountains or wherever, sang. I spent years in choir, singing on my own while playing the piano, hours spent practicing the flute, and even if there was temporary frustration learning a passage here and there, the outcome was always one of joy. Music continues to move me to my very core, from the ancient tones of Gregorian chant, or Celtic drumming, or good country to Glee, music has been integral. Even when I had my first knee surgeries, I continued practicing the flute and guitar.

So to set the tone (ahem), the following combines my love of music with flash mobs:

Joy, joy, joy…

We have such amazing talented people in our military, don’t we? This moved me to tears. To see people come together to make such a beautiful sound, whether through physical instruments or the instruments of their own voices, it is powerful indeed…

Music has also been integral to my ministry. I have chuckled to myself when people would come up after a service and mention how the hymns went along with the readings and sermon. Um, yes, we PLAN it that way, being “trained professionals” and all. The music chosen helps to set the stage, and is an important thread woven throughout. When I worked in a church, music wasn’t just through hymns, but through contemporary music, or classical, or jazz, whatever fit the theme. Heck, one Pride service, a number of us, myself included, performed an Indigo Girls song, “Language or the Kiss.” My partner and I sang, I played the guitar, and we were fortunate enough to have a number of professional musicians in the congregation to fill out the band. It was a powerful moment, I can tell you.

Here is the Indigo Girls’ version:

That could well be the theme for many of us – the choices we make, and why.

But through it all, through the frustrations, the relinquishing of opportunities due to physical limitations, I ended up where I was meant to be, of that I am certain.

I have known since I was a young child that ministry was where I was headed. For a number of years, I thought my vocation would be as a religious, a nun, and tested my vocation in a couple of different Episcopal convents. I loved that life, the Gregorian chant that takes one deep within one’s soul, the understanding of those around that the spiritual life was most prominent no matter with what works it was coupled (teaching, for instance). But once women were allowed to be ordained to the priesthood, my true calling was revealed. I won’t go into detail now about how I transitioned from the process for priesthood to becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister now. That’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say, I always knew that ministry was where I was headed.

And my ministry has taken different forms from parish to prison, from university to hospital. One overriding aspect, though, which has been most meaningful to me, is pastoral counseling, a ministry of presence, if you will. Whether it is being with a family I did not know while working as an ER chaplain following the loss of a child, to praying with someone who was afraid, in spiritual pain, or in thanksgiving, pastoral counseling was what I loved doing best.

And then my knees got in the way.

How can that be, one might wonder? When I was discussing with my partner what it feels like is going on in my knees, she mentioned this strip from Mad Magazine, Spy v. Spy:

Spy v. Spy

That pretty much sums it up. It feels like one of them is taking a baseball bat to my knee while the other one is jabbing it to the bone with an ice pick, with a throbbing pain always present in the background. It is walking along (or limping along, more accurately), and being drawn up short, unable to take another step because the pain is so excruciating, I cannot bear to put weight on it, leaving me to hop over to a seat as fast as possible (or get Suzy to help me, if she is around). It is having your breath snatched from your throat by the intensity of the pain when you try to stand up from a chair or sofa, or get up from bed, or getting something from the fridge. It is unpredictable and instant, a searing flame deep inside the joint, all while someone is beating the crap out of it. That’s what it feels like. Whee!

Oh, add to that stenosis and arthritis in the lower spine, exacerbated by the manner by which I walk, gingerly trying to keep my knees from freaking out too much. Good times, good times. Ahem.

And that is why I had to retire from active ministry, easily the most difficult and painful decision of my life. It was not an immediate, “Okay, I’m done!” sort of thing. It was trying to continue at least doing pastoral counseling with clients, having to cancel half the time because my pain was so great, or have a client focusing on me as, despite my best efforts to hide it, was clearly in pain. It is not therapeutically helpful to clients to interrupt their stream of thought because I wince, thus diverting their attention and have them worrying about me. Or, me not being able to be fully present to them because I am in so much pain it is consuming the vast majority of my thought-process, not to mention my center.

After all the work, the time, the energy, the effort, the money of years and years, I had to let it go. That was one of the most painful decisions I have ever had to make, I can tell you.

That said, like being a Marine, once a minister always a minister. And that is the gift of this blog for me. Being able to continue interacting with people in a manner such that you can’t see how much pain I am in, or how distracted I can be by the searing pain in my knees or back, allows me to still have discussions with you, or learn about what you are dealing with in your lives. It is, in short, a blessing to me. It allows me to continue a ministry of presence in a way I can no longer do in person.

Oh, sure, most of the time it’s me running my fingers (!) about some political BS that is going on in DC, but it is always more than that. Because of you. Because of what you bring to the table in our discussions as a result of your life histories and experiences. And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being here, and for coming back here.

What better way to close this out than with – you guessed it – music. I think this says it all:


30 Responses to “Pain, Gain, Joy, And Thanks”

  1. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    And while I am giving thanks, I want to thank Cuz’n Cindy and HonestLawyerMostly for their lovely “pick me up” gift:


    I might add, I have a cold hence the “comfy” clothes! πŸ™‚

    Thanks so much, Cuz and HLM!! Y’all are too sweet!

    • Cindyindie Says:

      Aww,……You are most welcome…..and most deserving!

      Hope you and Suzy have a great weekend! We’ve got the boys and are decorating our pretty Noble Fir tree, making hot chocolate, and playing on the computer with the Jacquie Lawson Edwardian advent calendar—It’s fabulous!

      Love to all who blog here…..and a happy Christmas season!

      • Cindyindie Says:

        P.S. Loved your honest and poignant post….and the music.
        here’s my favorite Christmas song—-we sang it in Glee Club…
        Enjoy it!

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        You are such a love, Cuz! Thank you!

        And it sounds like you are having a lovely weekend with the boys. What fun to be decorating the tree and drinking hot chocolate. I haven’t seen the Lawson Advent calendar. I’ll have to take a look.

        I wondered if y’all had been getting some of the harsh weather they’ve been reporting. Sure hope not!

  2. helenk3 Says:

    my only musical ability is to listen to and enjoy it. Music does so many things for people. brings back memories, can make us laugh or cry and sometimes make us think in a different way. It is a universal language. You are a lucky lady to be able to make music

    • foxyladi14 Says:

      I sing a lot Helen always have.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Absolutely, Helen – music is incredibly evocative. I am reminded of this beautiful Trisha Yearwood song:

      And Foxy, good for you! That’s one thing we can all do, right? No matter out ability, we can still belt them out! πŸ™‚

  3. helenk3 Says:

    In Honor of Pearl Harbor Day with thanks to all who fought and the families that sacrificed

  4. helenk3 Says:

    the rise of secretarial journalism.

    and you thought I was kidding when I call them stenos

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Oh, no – I thought you were spot on, Helen – stenographers they are, without a doubt! Thanks for the link.

  5. helenk3 Says:

    just because

    brotherly love

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      That is so cool. It reminds me of this man who runs the Boston Marathon pushing his adult disabled son in a stroller of sorts. If he wasn’t pushing him, chances are good he would have won a few times in his age range, but he refuses to run without his son.

      Anyway – thanks for this!

  6. helenk3 Says:

    another just because

  7. helenk3 Says:

    Dr Ben Carson will be on Judge Jeanine tonight

  8. Cindyindie Says:

    For all of you (if any) lifelong Baylor fans who endured SO much grief for years (esp when we were kids) from those tea-sips at University of Texas, congrats and huge “bear” hugs all around!!
    Love ya. Bears!!! Sic ’em!

    • Cindyindie Says:

      Cuz, you may remember that Honestlawyer was a bear trainer while at Baylor… he is especially overcome with emotion at this fantastic Baylor team ….!

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Dang, that is fantastic, Cuz! What a great victory!

      And I know HLM must be over the moon! WOW! πŸ˜€

  9. helenk3 Says:

    on Huckabee they are singing the obamacare 12 days of Christmas.

    when the video becomes available you have to see it. I have not laughed that hard in a long time

  10. helenk3 Says:


    did the backtrack bunch build the obamacare mess using the jingo game or the weebles as model to learn from?

  11. Linda Anselmi Says:

    Dear Amy,
    What a beautifully articulated and moving post!

    I’ve given up on the political two party game we have evolved into instead of a government of, for and by the people. So avoid political agruments and sites these days. But I always check in on you and your regulars. So glad I didn’t miss this post.

    Sorry for all the pain you are dealing with. Glad you have your music, your blog and your Suzy!

    Yeah, there is something so joyous and touching about a flash mob…

  12. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Thank you so very much, Linda, and it is a DELIGHT to hear from you! I very much appreciate your keeping up with my blog, and I completely understand your having given up on the political parties. That makes your stopping by that much more touching.

    And thank you – I appreciate that. It has been a long, long road, and I am hopeful that this will be the last surgery for some, some time…

    Again, so nice to *see* you! Hope you and your family are well!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: