The Week

It hit today. It's a week before the anniversary and I thought it might not happen. Maybe I brought it on myself, but it doesn't matter. It came anyway -- that sadness that I feel this time of year. I can't explain it. I'm never sure how to share it. I don't know what to do with it but acknowledge that it's here. It's here and I miss my mom. That's what this week holds for me.

How did it happen? I picked up a recommended book by APBS. She said it had some great, honest insight on loss and grief. I'm always interested in how people write about this topic because it's rarely either of these things. I'm almost done with the book and it hadn't hit yet. I hadn't caught this insight quite yet. That is, until I tried to read this afternoon. Until the author started to talk about the word widower. I remember learning this word. I remember how it stung and how the other kids didn't know what this word was -- but it's what my dad was. And then, the author started to talk about how nice everyone was to him. I put the book down because I remember that. I hated it. I wanted them to leave me alone and instead my classmates showered me with presents like it was my birthday. It wasn't. My mother had died.

I didn't think about reading this book right now -- and how that might be hard. I was just curious. I mean, I'm dating a musician. Love should be a freakin' mix tape. I didn't think about the mix that I made years ago about my mother. Love actually has been a mix tape for me. I need a conversation partner and a few friends. Thank God that order will be filled in only 30 minutes.



More often than not, I feel like some version of a thirteen year old impersonating a soon-to-be 30 year old woman. That's right. I will turn 30 this year. It won't happen for a few months and I can't say that I'm that anxious about it. In fact, I'm not anxious.

That is, I wasn't anxious. A conversation started recently among the Young Clergy Women Project about turning 30. I commented in the online forum with confidence. I said that I accepted the challenge and was ready to live into this new chapter in my life.

Somewhere over the arc of my afternoon, that confidence started to erode when I realized that 30 meant I was that much closer to 33. Tradition has it that Jesus died at 33. That's not what scares me. I'm scared that 33 will be the end of my days. You may have heard me say this before. And before you rush to concern, I know it's irrational. It's totally irrational. It's ridiculous. That doesn't mean that it doesn't scare me. My mom died at 33. She suffered a fate that no one should suffer then or now. She fell victim to cancer and her life was taken by disease. She was too young. And I'm just going to say it, I'm too young. There is still too much that I want to do. That's the challenge. I'm ready to be 30 and do all of those things that I've dreamed about -- like publishing a book or singing karaoke (that would be Musicman's idea) or writing a sermon I'm still proud of on Monday or getting married or even having children (my step-mother got all upset today when I said I might not be interested in having children. I think I may have dashed her hopes of grandchildren. Oops.) I want all of these things and yet my silly fear is that I won't get to because ... it's all over when I turn 33. Again, I know it's ridiculous. Fears are like that though.

Clarity of Call

The NAACP turns 100 this year. Our local chapter hosts a celebration on the Sunday night of MLK weekend every year. Last night, Sweet Honey in the Rock graced us with songs of hope. I've seen them perform in New York before. Twice, I think. I sat in majestic Carnegie Hall before I was risen to my feet in a call to sing for justice. Last night was no different. I was moved to sing. I was empowered by their words -- the songs they sang and the stories they told. And yet, it's not just that. It's how they create community in a concert hall. Suddenly, you feel wrapped up in something. You feel like you belong and that you have a purpose.

That's when I started thinking. They're just singers. They get on stage and sing. That's what they do. They sing. They just sing.

Of course, it's more than that. They give us a song to sing, like the Freedom Singers did during the civil rights movements in the 1960s. Sweet Honey continues that tradition. These are songs for justice. These are the songs that give us meaning and give us hope. They are songs for now because justice hasn't yet rolled down like water.

This is what makes me think about my call -- because most of the time I don't feel like I'm doing anything that will transform our world into one of justice and peace. Instead, it feels like most of the work that I do is unrelated to the world that I hope to see. Seated beside me at the concert was a friend who's a teacher. She teaches ESL. Last night, she told me that teaching is social justice. This stuck. This is rattling around in my head as I realize that I'm called to teach. This is what I enjoy most about my work -- even though I never, ever, ever thought that this is what mattered most to me.

This is the clarity that came in that concert last night. It made sense. I not only had a song. I understood more about who I'm supposed to be in the world. I'm supposed to teach -- as I did last Sunday night. I sat with a group of parents and talked about how to share your faith with their kids. It was the last of three conversations where we got to push each other in thinking about our story and why faith matters. I push. That's one of the things that I do in my ministry. I ask hard questions about faith -- because these questions were asked of me. I learned more about myself and my God through these questions. That's what I want for all of God's people. That's why I do what I do. I teach. I remind them that they already have the answers. I give a vocabulary for things that they may never have expressed. And that's the thing that really strikes me. I realized that I have spent lots of time thinking about my understanding of faith and how it relates to who I am. That's why I went to seminary. Now, I'm figuring out how to share that. I'm giving others a song that I was taught to sing -- but in every beat, I'm working to make sure that they lyrics are their own. This is how I work for social justice. This is how I will work for peace.

Every day, this is how I celebrate and remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


The Chance to Be Blessed

"The distresses of choice are our chance to be blessed."
W.H. Auden

This quote is hanging on fridge on a 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper. It caught my eye this morning when I was getting my coffee. It made me stop and read it again and again -- and then smile. This particular paper was tucked safely in the folder of materials that the congregation I now serve offered when I was interviewing. It was a subtle message from the man that is now my colleague. It struck me then and it continues to echo in my heart because I feel so blessed.

This was what I explored in spiritual direction yesterday. I talked about this earlier post and my frustrations around it. However, I wasn't focused on my frustrations. I was talking about my call. My call to be myself -- not just the call that I answered to this particular congregation. This is my struggle. I want everything to be integrated but I'm still in that new pastor phase (which lasts longer for some). I still put the role on when I could just be me. I think about what a minister would do rather than being myself. Not all of the time but enough that I haven't felt genuine. That's all I want.

So, I told my spiritual director about my call and how I understand it now. It helps that I just filled out an application yesterday that made me realize that this is where I'm heading. I'm writing a lot about what my call is and how it's shaping. I'm realizing that I am blessed. I love the ministry I'm doing. I feel badly because when I'm not doing my ministry I don't want to go to church. That's what that earlier post is about. I am comfortable with friends and with Musicman so that I don't feel like leaving that comfort for the role. And yet, I have so much to celebrate in my ministry. My spiritual director let me celebrate those things. She wanted more details and heaped praise on me. It was just lovely.

Today, as I see this quote on my fridge, I realize that each choice I make has led me to blessing. Lots of blessing. I thank God for all of those blessings today.


Respect My Authority

I don't do accents. Get over it.

I'm staring at a list of goals that I created after the dreaded review. For those that don't remember, it was awful. I got triangulated. My clergy group told me that I should duck and cover. I probably didn't blog about that because I was so freaked out that I might run for the hills and leave ministry forever. I'm dramatic. It's not going to happen. I'm here staring at these goals, or as the document is titled "what some might call goals" and wondering what it is that I want in my ministry.

When the clergy group told me to duck and cover, they were listening carefully to the fact that I wasn't ready to leave this congregation. I wasn't ready to go. I knew I'm here and need to be here even if I peek at the possiblities out there in minsitry right now. This group of women encouraged me to find something that would invigorate my minsitry and give me life. They thought I should take a class outside of my ministry. I thought about taking an art class, but didn't really like the possibilities at the local art school. Instead, I'm thinking about writing a book.

Truth be told, I've wanted to do this for a long time. I thought it would be a work of fiction -- but that was before the Young Clergy Women Project came up with a book deal. I have an idea so I started to write a proposal. I didn't get far at all. One of the first questions that they ask is about where you've been pusblished before. The only place I've been published is Fidelia's Sisters. And so, I'm not respecting my own authority. I closed the document and sighed wondering if I have enough experience and wisdom to write a book at all.

I am my own worst critic.



I've been thinking about my blog and where it's going. It's grown a wee bit stale in recent months. It couldn't even be charged with my competitive edge in the Reading Challenge which I finished meekly. I'm still reading -- but if you want to know what I'm reading, you'll have to find out on Goodreads. I've been wondering where I want this to go and if I even want to cotinue with my blogging. It seems that it's time for another direction -- though I don't know what that is.

Today, I'm thinking about my call to ministry. I'm thinking about why it matters to me and where it connects with all of the areas in my life. Actually, this question arose a little while ago. I got to thinking about what the church is supposed to be. We used to talk about this in seminary. It may be that I'm mentoring a seminary student now. He has ideas that seem so idealistic that I have been known to laugh at his grand thoughts. I used to have some of those same thoughts -- and then I became a professional. I was ordained. I was set apart.

Once, this made me feel special. It made me feel like I had joined some really cool club where there was lots of job satisfaction. Now, I'm not so sure. I get those comments about how church people are jealous that I get to live my faith all of the time. I never understand those comments (and never respond well to them) because I feel like my life is separated from my ministry. I don't feel like I'm living intentionally into my spirituality. I'm trying to get others to do that but I don't really feel like I'm doing that work myself. It all feels a little ingenuine.

In my life, which doesn't come into work, I'm dating a boy. Alex seems to think that we'll be engaged by Easter. I think she's crazy. Then, there's my family where my brother isn't speaking to me and I don't seem to have enough time to see all of the people that matter to me. Four weeks of vacation doesn't mean I'm eager to spend that time at home. I have wonderful friends that I've found nearby. We go on adventures outdoors, eat excellent food and talk about stuff that matters to us. I'm trying to cook more and use more local vegetables. I'm trying to read. I'm trying to be present in the ways that I can.

However, none of this is related to my ministry. That is when I feel like I'm clocking in to the work that God called me to do. More often than not, I sit at a desk and plug away at something related to educating the congregation or formatting something that really isn't part of my professional call. I'm not tired. I'm not bored. I know that I'm in the right place. I know I'm doing good work. I know that there are great things happening in my work.

I just want to be whole. I don't want to feel separated. I want to feel like it all fits together even with the boundaries that I erect for my own safety and those that I serve. I just want to be whole. I don't want to feel like I should be doing anything. You're wondering what that should is, aren't you? I was told that I should share with Pastor Parish Relations about Musicman. The other pastor wants me to save my relationship with them. He thinks it's a good idea. Actually, he thinks that we should talk about the breakdown in communication. I told him that wouldn't work. We're dealing with personality conflict. What I need to do is trust them with something. That's what will work for me. The problem is that I'm not ready to trust them. I'm not ready to trust them about this part of my life. I want to keep it as my own. And so, I feel terribly separated when I just want to feel whole.


New Year

On New Year's Eve, I had a few too many martinis. I was that girlfriend meeting the parents. Luckily, they had already fallen in love with me. His mother wants us married. Tomorrow. She wasn't so discrete about this fact -- which I found kinda cute. A little scary as well but it was a great few days and so here we are all happy before I started dancing my little heart out.

Happy 2009 to one and all!