This week, I managed to take two - count them TWO - days off, after a long season of not very many whole days off. Actually, a year of it. Not surprisingly, I am feeling quite tired, although there is one more busy season to go before a prolonged break for deep rest and recuperating energy in January.
When anyone asks me how I am, they receive an honest reply, 'exhausted.' To which I add, with a generous amount of gratitude, 'It's been a big year for me.' By 'big', I mean that there have been a number of breakthrough accomplishments this year. These have been immensely satisfying and affirming - they have also taken a lot of hard work, cognitive, physical and emotional energy. With two or three of the highs coming one immediately after another earlier in the year, followed by a very long season of hard slog, an intense period of creativity and two 'highs' back to back, there has been little time for reflection, transition from one thing to the next, or rest.
So when rest comes around in just over six weeks' time, it will be very, very welcome.
But what of this 'big' year I've had? Though the accomplishments themselves have been satisfying, it doesn't quite feel satisfactory to simply list off the publications and presentations. I have a CV for that.
No, when I look back over this year, there is more than that for which to be grateful - and I think it can be summed up in community, in my having taken my place in community/ communities as a person with something to give.
The early months of the year saw me preparing a book for publication, a talk for TEDxAdelaide and a paper for an international conference on storytelling.
In the midst of that, I helped my congregation to tell our story for the 85th anniversary of our family of faith in February. This involved coordinating individuals with tasks of collating and presenting photographs of our members at church and in the community, collating and telling the story of a pioneer of Belair, Mary Gault, and inviting family members who have scattered to gather once more for a meal and the hearing of these stories.
I also started Wisdom Literature at college, as a student, and became better acquainted with my friend the Old Testament, as well as meeting new and old friends with whom to share this journey of discovery and delight.
In March, whilst suffering with a serious, but thankfully short-lived illness, I met a poet, Jan Sutch Pickard, who had written a poem that inspired and shaped the Maundy Thursday gathering for The Esther Project and Christ Church Uniting in 2010, one of the more profound experiences of that two years. Over dinner, I was invited to read aloud the two poems, Jan's and mine, which I wrote to partner hers. The gift of poetry over a meal with friends - aah.
April saw me join with friends and colleagues Steve Taylor and Mark Hewitt to teach Sense Making Faith, a course designed to invite deep connection and reflection upon the five senses, the Sacred, and the biblical Story. I revelled in this opportunity to learn along with the group, as much as to share from my own gifts.
May - one amazing month! The first weekend was TEDxAdelaide, and I was so honoured to speak last, telling a story that affirmed the very act of storytelling from all the speakers all day. And I would never have thought I would sing in Elder Hall (see the talk / story / song here). In nominating for this event, let alone the actual speaking, I found that I had come to believe I have a place in the wider community, a place and a voice, and delighted in standing among that group as biblical storyteller/ poet and uniting church minister.
Two weeks later, I turned my attention to Prague (I think with a tutorial paper in between), where I joined with 70 or so other people from around the world who value the gift of story, and use story to facilitate healing, peace, beauty, identity, spirituality ... This was one of the most generous communities in which I have participated, and about which I have written already.
From Prague, where again I confidently took my place among scholars and artists, practitioners and wonderers, to speak and to learn through each others' stories, I travelled to Scotland, with a brief stop in London to see an old friend and meet her daughter. In Scotland I found a potential home for further study I wish to undertake, an environment at both a university and a storytelling network that would be nurturing for me as I continue to grow as storyteller, poet, minister.
On this trip I met people who I hope to meet again, with whom I hope to share in community, and whose friendship I am already continuing to enjoy.
Returning home I entered a season of hard, hard slog, as life in the congregation, personally and professionally offered me almost more than I could handle. June saw me attend meetings, birthday and induction celebrations, music and theatre events, a mad hatter's tea party.
In July I was travelling again, this time to Brisbane for the Network of Biblical Storytellers' gathering, which is always a very important time of connection with fellow storytellers, and following which I got to hang out with my aunt and cousins. Two days off. Luxury! In July I also went on a date (the first in I don't know how long!) but found myself choosing singleness, at least for now, as the most appropriate state for me and my calling; was interviewed about storytelling and public speaking, and presided at my first funeral.
While thesis writing for honours in theology became a priority, life in the congregation became even more demanding from July through August and September. We had a season of listening to prepare for, during which we would intentionally and carefully identify who we are as a congregation and what focus we feel called to in our life together at Belair; we also prepared for our season of creation, which gives us a particular focus in our gathered worship for a month; and we held our annual bush dance, which offers a wonderful night of fun and connection with each other and friends from the wider community.
Meanwhile, I was mentoring a younger leader in the UCA and planning events with the Centre for Music, Liturgy and the Arts.
In October, I had another day off, spending 24 hours in Brisbane to see a show and go to Movie World
with my sisters & brother in law, before coming home to preside at a baptism solo for the first time.
Then, finally, a chance to breathe. The gift of study leave gave me almost three weeks in which to concentrate on finishing my honours thesis, and though much of that was a very solitary pursuit, my friend and supervisor was with me all the way, as were friends and colleagues and family, who invested much time and energy into supporting me.
October also saw my book published and launched - On Wisdom's Wings, 17 or more years of poetry, at least two years of intense preparation before one of waiting and publishing, and here it is, my first collection of poems. The delight of friends and family at this moment again demonstrating how intertwined our lives are, and that when one member of a community rejoices, all rejoice together.
Back to back with this celebration is the celebration of handing in my thesis.
Now, well into November, I have begun to turn my attention back to the congregation, seeking one final surge of energy to see me through another Advent and Christmas season.
Phew. See what I mean? A big year! Many, many opportunities to give from the fulness of who I am, and I am aware that these opportunities represent a lot of hard work and sacrifice, from me and from my communities. I am also aware that so many in the world barely have the opportunity to survive, let alone thrive.
So though I am very tired from giving my all, I will not begrudge one moment of it, but rather offer thanks. For I am grateful for these moments, for the relationships and communities, and, yes, for the personal accomplishments I have enjoyed in a full, rich year.