All You Have to Do Is Show Up
Friday, December 18, 2009
When I was in Divinity School at Vanderbilt, I was friends with a fellow student who had suffered all kinds of setbacks after beginning her program in Divinity School. Keeping up with her academic responsibilities was a challenge for her, but she doggedly continued to attend class regularly and somehow got her work done. Later, when I experienced my own terrible and tragic setback, she took me by the hand and said, “Lynn, all you have to do is show up.” Having watched her move steadily through her program, I knew that I could do the same.
I showed up. I graduated with a Masters in Theological Studies in 2008. I applied for jobs as a campus minister that spring, and then I showed up for an interview at Furman University and was hired as a chaplaincy intern.
The next spring, my husband, Joel Vaughn, and I showed up for the May discernment weekend at Casa San Salvador, and became Franciscan lay missioners.
As I write my first blog, I am again showing up. At this time, I am in my own hometown, which is the town where my children also grew up, Nashville, Tennessee, and its environs. I am saying good-bye to my family and friends. With all my anxiety about missing someone on my list, I have returned to my friend’s advice, “All you have to do is show up.”
I showed up at the Vanderbilt Divinity School all-faith chapel service. It was the last service of the semester, and we were praying over and “sending forth” the December graduates. One of these happened to be a young friend of mine, who had been discerning to be a priest (Vanderbilt is primarily a Protestant and “other” Div School. He was being sent forth by his community of scholars. I had the privilege of placing my hands on his shoulder (along with about ten other people) and praying for him. Another student, an ordained Methodist minister, who had asked me to participate in a panel discussion at her church, was also being sent forth by her peers. When the service was over, I shouted to her, “I’m going to Bolivia!” “I know!,” she shot back, “I got your letter, and I am going to support you!!”
I showed up at my children’s parochial school this morning, around 8:10, and the school was having its first Eucharistic Adoration service for the young students. Memories of my children’s Masses there at this beloved academy came to mind as I watched the children in their uniforms absorb this new experience in the church, one which I as an adult always treasure. Afterward, I happened to see the teacher whose religion class is going to follow my husband and me as FMS missioners in Bolivia. I also saw my children’s teachers, who have never forgotten them. This was a good way for a mother to say good-bye to her children’s childhood.
Tonight, I went to a special service for bereaved parents whose children had died. My husband and I have been in this exclusive club for three years, having lost our son during his freshman year at Middlebury College, in Vermont.
Tonight, at the service, all we had to do was show up. We celebrated Mass with all the parents there who had lost children, as well as those who had come there in solidarity with their suffering. After the service, a couple walked over to us. It was my advisor from the Div School and his wife, another professor of mine. “We were thinking about you during the service, and now you are here. “ I had been anxious about missing out on seeing these people while I was in town.
We showed up. Our trip back home has been one in which we have bumped into friends whom we never would have seen. We have carried our new Franciscan Lay Missioner cards with us wherever we go, and complete strangers have asked for our cards. Is this what is meant by the Franciscan ministry of presence? All I know is that all we had to do was show up.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
Theodore Roethke, “The Waking”