February 1, 2023
A Note from Pastor April
Over the years, I’ve started to notice the telltale signs in my body that indicate that things are off.
Achy shoulders and a stiff neck? Usually I’m feeling SAD.
Headache and sinus pressure? Usually I’m OVERWORKED and need a break.
Tightness in my lower back or trouble breathing? Usually I’m feeling ANXIOUS.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that anxiety was something I struggle with. I used to just lump everything listed above as STRESS. It’s taken a lot of self-compassion and practice to get used to saying —
Yes, I’m anxious, and it’s OK.
One of the things I’ve learned over time is that my anxiety usually has something to teach me.
Last year, after a nearly four-year hiatus, I dusted off my running shoes and started up again. Moving my body through running has always been a place of stress release for me, and I knew my life needed these rhythms.
As soon as I would start running, however, I would start to have a panic attack — heart racing, feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
Let’s be clear, I’m not known for my speed, so it wasn’t because I was moving too fast.
After a few frustrating weeks of this, I mentioned it to my Spiritual Director. She asked me an important question:
“What do you think your anxiety is trying to tell you?”
As I spent more time in reflection, I began to listen to my body and the wisdom it held within.
I’ve been running since I was 12. While running had certainly been a place of stress release for me over the years, it had also been a place of pain and injury.
In high school, running led to a broken foot. In college, I would push myself so hard in races that I would usually throw up at the end of the race. In early adulthood, I developed plantar fasciitis while running long miles on bad shoes, something I struggled with for almost twenty years. More recently, I had been training for a half marathon when a series of painful deaths in my family happened. I never completed the race and hadn’t run since.
For my body, running was connected to some hard memories. The body remembered them.
One of the things I had been working hard on in the years since I stopped running was valuing my body, listening to it, and honoring it with compassion and care. Those things mattered to me — perhaps my body was trying to get my attention — “Are you listening April? Let’s not push yourself so hard that you end up back in the place of pain and injury.”
Once I listened to that and acknowledged this anxiety and the gift it offered, the panic attacks slowly went away. Running could be a place of stress relief and wellness again. (Here’s a picture of me after a recent run.)
So, when the telltale signs of anxiety creeped up again this past week, with a tight lower back and a bit of trouble breathing, I needed to listen.
I’m anxious, and it’s OK.
It’s not a coincidence that the anxiety appeared the morning that I was helping to edit this year’s Stewardship Campaign letter, written by our Finance Chair, Will Thorsberg, something that I hope, along with your pledge cards, will be in your mailboxes this week.
Few things make me more anxious than talking about MONEY… especially in the church.
It’s not the spreadsheets or the numbers or even the budgeting that scares me.
It’s the nagging question that always seems to be underlying it all…
Will there be enough?
I know I’m not alone in this, and neither were the disciples in Jesus’s day. They are constantly trying to steer Jesus away from the crowds of children, away from the needy throngs of people, and away from extravagant expenditures.
Time and time again, Jesus corrects them. There is enough. There is enough space for children to be included. There is enough food to go around.
There is an abundance in the Kingdom of God.
The question is not simply, Will there be enough?
The question is, Where is God calling us to be faithful?
Can we, the community, trust in God and one another to provide for what is needed, as we listen wisely and act responsibly to move forward on that path?
Just as I’ve been learning to listen more fully to my body in recent years, I’ve been learning to listen to God and God’s call. To trust in the promise of abundance and to not allow the narratives of scarcity to hold me captive.
So, I write this letter today with an ice pack on my back, trying to listen well to what my anxiety is trying to tell me.
This church matters deeply to me. Our hopes and dreams and plans for the year are things that I believe are rooted in the call of God in this moment in our community.
And, sometimes, as your Lead Pastor, I can get the mistaken idea that the work we are dreaming of in these days ahead all rests on my shoulders.
I could hear the gentle warning.
Are you listening, April?
Let’s not move forward like this is all on your shoulders.
Can you trust in the movement of God and your community?
This Sunday, we’ll be sharing about the powerful work that happens when we learn, in the quiet, to listen to the voice of God at work in our lives.
The work of learning to trust ourselves and God is the first thing Jesus focuses on before beginning his public ministry. From this place, Jesus’s generosity flows out into the world from a source of abundance where scarcity is never an issue.
Will, our Finance Chair, will share with you all some updates about the finances from last year, as well as our vision and plan going forward for 2023. We will both invite you to be prayerfully considering how you can invest in HUMC this year in ways that make this a reality.
I’m so grateful to be on this journey with you, and I look forward to our shared work of trusting God in the future.
The Rev. April Blaine