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Lady Pastor: Something sacred in everything, even a lost summer

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In the weeks leading up to the first day of seventh grade, I was plagued by pre-junior high anxiety nightmares. In the dreams, I was perpetually lost in the school building. I was always running late — well past the ringing of the tardy bell — and just when I thought I'd made it to the right classroom, I'd find myself going up and down the stairs again and again unable to find the correct doorway.

If I were to summarize the last five weeks of my actual adult life, I'd say it was kind of like those dreams. I was lost and none of the entrances seemed to be correct. It was a maze of hospital stays, blood tests (35 in total), and platelet-related drama.

It was a bad sort of dream. Only I was awake. I could tell you that it all led to a really profound spiritual awakening, but that would be false. At least the awakening has not yet transpired. The truth: It stunk, and I'm seriously considering redoing the entire summer. So if you have any sort of magical backwards-moving clock, let me know. I'd be glad to swing by and pick it up.

John Mayer has a song called "3 x 5." In it, he sings, "Maybe I'll tell you all about it when I'm in the mood to lose my way with words." That's how I feel about #thesummerof2015. I could talk more about it, but it's all becoming a blur.

Also, when I think about it too much, I get a giant lump in my throat that is full of some combination of overwhelming sadness that suffering exists in our universe and overwhelming gratitude that in spite of life's rainclouds, there is so much beauty and goodness to absorb. It's enough to cause me to completely lose all my words and sit in tears because God is simultaneously so very mysterious and so very compassionate.

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That's the general backstory on the hiatus I took from the column. I was really sick and then I was healing, and now I'm back. Thanks for waiting for me! Hopefully the worst has passed. I'm certainly banking on the idea that the best is yet to come.

While I was healing, I did some thinking about this column's title. "The Lady Pastor" fit nicely for the past four years. It was my nickname among the volunteer chaplains group down in southern Illinois during my internship year in 2007. It was a nickname I initially resented, but then found a way to embrace. But something about it doesn't feel quite right anymore. It's like that favorite sweater that one day randomly starts to feel completely itchy and uncomfortable.

I think all the intense medical and emotional experiences as of late have inspired me to think in some different ways about life, purpose and healing. I've decided I just want to focus on being my real self from now on. Not the platelet patient … or the Lady Pastor … or the people pleaser … or the perfectionist … or any other subset of my identity. Just myself. Fully Emily, sans any itchy sweaters.

Thank you for accepting me just as I am. I hope you can extend that same grace to yourself. I hope that you, too, can honor exactly who you are and who you are becoming. Fully. Without judgment. Without shame. With total, complete acceptance.

Sometimes we spend a lot of life trying to be what we think other people need or want us to be. It's a dangerous path, and if you're on it, please join me in turning back. Just be YOU. Your real, whole self.

"Holy Everything," the column's new title, represents an approach to life. It is a way to acknowledge the world in which we spend our lives. It is to live as if there is something sacred wrapped up in all our days and experiences. The content will be generally the same. A focus on wonder, curiosity, spirituality and faith.

I hope we can continue to journey together. From what I can see from this new vantage point, the view up ahead looks promising. The doors are starting to open, and together, maybe we won't get quite so lost.

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