an ancient voice
is calling us
all over the sky
an ancient voice
is calling us

I have this song by Trish and Richard Bruxvoort where these lyrics from Black Elk repeat over and over again.  I'm waiting for them to summon me into that deeper place that so often happens with Taize. I'm not singing though. I've listened it to a enough that I could know it by hear but I'd rather muse on the words that have been offered in this online adventure I'm making during Advent. Each day, an email arrives in my inbox. I read these words even before I get up to get my coffee. And each day it's the same question. Over and over again, I'm being asked where and how I've fallen asleep.  I'm asked what it is that needs to be awoken.

And I have no clue. I was excited about this journey because I thought it might be a way to deepen my creativity. It would be another way to explore that inner artist that seems to want to awake -- but that's not it. That's not what's really asleep for me.  There must be something else because all I really know is that I'm totally uncomfortable.  (I receive daily affirmations from a friend's Advent journey which is truly helping to calm my nerves, but I'm still uncomfortable.)  My back is tense.  My body feels tired.  I've been writing about this journey (a little) on my more public blog that church members read.  But, I know there's something else.  Something I need to say aloud so that someone else will hear it.  I'm just not totally sure what that is.  And then, tonight, I read this quote from Phil Cousineau's The Art of Pilgrimage. I haven't read it but I want to simply because he says this about pilgrimage:

Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren't trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn't the real thing. The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion.

I am that emotion. In worship on Sunday, I couldn't stop trembling. I couldn't overcome my nerves -- which I found strange and confusing. I've served this church for 4 years. I've started taking some serious risks in worship. No one has died. On Sunday, I didn't do anything unique but I was scared.  My body told me so even though my mind assured it didn't need to be frightened. "Do not be afraid," my mind said. My body rebelled. It was caught up in the terror and tremble that something was coming. Something big. Something that would change everything. Something that will make me move across the whole country. My paperwork was released today.  I'm officially beginning a search for the next thing -- whatever God may bring.  I knew that over the weekend. I knew that on Sunday.  But, my head and my body weren't really on the same page on this matter.  Now, I know it's that my relationship is changing with this community. I'm preparing to no longer be their pastor and I'm trying to understand who I am apart from this community. I'm trying to differentiate what is my ministry and what is their ministry. I'm trying to unravel myself from the work that I do to prepare for what is coming next. I'm trying to wake up to the fact that God is doing a new thing in me. It's strange that that is so uncomfortable. It seems impossible. But, there it is. I'm trying to awaken to myself this Advent. It wasn't in the music. It wasn't even in the words. It's in me.



I'm getting a massage tomorrow.  I feel like that says a lot about how I am emotionally, spiritually and physically. I really need this massage.  My entire back is a knot.  Thank you colleague on medical leave and ungrateful congregation who is driving me insane.

I went on a rant in my kitchen this week. Not to myself. I wouldn't tell you that here. This was to a friend who was over for dinner. She asked me about something else -- something related to the work we do (though she's not clergy) and I went off the deep end. I said lots of things about why I feel so disconnected from this ministry.

Thanks be to God.  There is movement.  Paperwork went to the Big Cheese (in our non-hierarchical tradition where the cheese just stinks) today. With God's abundant grace, we should be live soon. Like next week soon. And then, I can fantasize even more about leaving these people in the dust. I mean, I love them. They're just driving me nuts. We need some distance. Big time.


What I Didn't Say

There are some things that I want to say. I'm not sure how to say them -- and I'm quite sure that I'm not going to say them all that well. I don't like that I'm saying them here. But, in at least one of the circumstances, I want it to arrive sooner rather than later. And you are reading. I know you are.

We didn't talk about it. You're right. I'm not sure when that would have happened though I wish that it had. Maybe the words don't need to said. After all, we both know that there's nothing that either one of us can say or do that will make this particular moment in time hurt any less. And yet, I'm in the habit of writing letters. It's what I do every year and it's rare to find a friend to know the depth of the grief I feel so well. So, dear friend, I'm writing you a letter because it's what I do. It happens that it appears on my blog. Technology. Bleh.

I wish I could wave a magic wand for you and make all of the pain and hurt disappear. I wish that your last memory didn't interfere with your celebration on other days. Still, I know what that's like. The last time I saw my mom I fed her chocolate ice cream. She was the color of the hospital sheets. She was too tired to eat -- but I was just a kid and didn't understand why she wasn't eating the ice cream. (The fact that she wasn't even eating lunch might have been a clue.) I thought she should eat that chocolate ice cream. So, I fed it to her. You already know that I don't eat chocolate ice cream now. It stands in for some memory so that it's impossible to enjoy. Plus, I don't think you should ruin good chocolate by putting it in ice cream but that's another matter. I know how much those last moments sting. I know that there aren't enough words to take those moments away because -- as awful as it is -- it's all we have left. We only have the memories. We don't have the stories of who she will be in the future. I don't think that ever gets easier.

I don't think you ever really figure out how to move on. I don't think you ever stop wanting to pick up the phone to tell her what just happened. I don't think that ever goes away. That's what makes it sweet though. That's what makes that relationship powerful. There's something about it that carries on. Beyond all assumptions. Beyond our imaginations. It's still there. Damn anyone that says otherwise. You and I, dear friend, know differently.

In our shared faith, we don't do a good job with the concept of missing someone. Jesus comes back when the tears are barely dry. Paul insists that this life is just a stopover. Both bug me. I flip back to the Torah and read about the Promised Land. I don't know what that is but I know it's a place where your tears and mine are wiped away, where we're held and loved through the things we don't dare understand. (Yes, I know I flipped back to the New Testament. I am a Christian. It happens.) I don't think that these visions make the pain disappear. They just make it possible to survive -- and that's all we're trying to do. We're trying to survive. Oh yes. I know. You want more than that. You want to live joyfully. You want to praise with the limbs formed in her womb. You want to reach beyond this pain and find her mysteriously, wonderfully still there. I know. She is.

I can see her in you. I won't go all e. e. cummings on you. I'll just reference it and remind you that I'm here. Holding you. Knowing it hurts. Trying to understand the things that neither one of us do.  And then, having more wine. And cheese. Love you.


Honoring My Need to Cocoon

This is the word that I fell off my lips today.

My therapist picked up on it.  What is it about honor that you need?  What is it about honor that you want?  What is it that you understand in that word?  she asked.

The snapshot I offered was one from the Church and Ministry meeting yesterday.  Our conversation explored the differences between Commissioned, Licensed and Ordained Ministry.  In the end, when all of the various aspects of each were named, we tripped over the problem of prestige in our non-hierarchical tradition. None of these ways to ministry are better than the other. One is not more loved by God. One is not more valued by the church. Instead, they each articulate the different ways that we seek to serve God in the various ways that we explore our service. When I offered this in therapy, I clarified that I'm not interested in prestige. I don't want my honor to be determined by others.  Instead, I want it to be my own.  I want my honor to come from within me.

This photo was taken by Madhu B Nair.
In this moment in time, I'm aware that something big is changing within me.  My therapist says that I might be in a cocoon.  It might be that something big is happening and I'm feeling that need to pull myself tightly together before something new emerges.  I like that.  It fits me -- even though I really don't feel comfortable blogging about it publicly.  (I might go to a password protected blog very soon.  I have another blog though so you can read about me there.)  And yet, in these past few weeks, I've been holding my cards very close to my chest. I've been aware of a change that is happening within me but I've wanted to solve it.  I've wanted to make it better without living out all of the questions that are so deeply embedded in my core.

These are things I would tell church people not to do -- but life would be far too simple if I were able to take my own advice.  I need someone else to play my pastor.  I need someone else to reflect that part that I'm not able to see as I'm wrapped up in this cocoon. So, I'm trying.  I'm trying to be in this cocoon.  I'm trying to be aware of that space that I need to change and to grow.  I'm trying to be gentle enough with myself too feel all of the things that I'm feeling.  I'm trying to honor myself enough to be in this time and this space so that I can experience resurrection.

I need to honor myself.


What Do You Need?

This is the question that I'm asking myself.  Over and over again.  

What do I need?  

It's a question that has emerged from my shiny new therapist. She's pushing me on this question -- as apparently I fall into that dreadful category of clergy who think of others before themselves. (This is news to me.) There are lots of things that are pushing up against this question. Lots of things. Too many things. It's why I haven't blogged.  I'm just not sure what to say about myself.  I'm not sure how to answer this question about what I need.

This afternoon, a friend called.  She told me dramatic news that makes my heart break into too many pieces.  It's not my story to tell, so I will only ask for prayers upon this friend.  She needs them.  Of course, I didn't say I'd pray for her.  (I will but I believe she knows that. Or she better.) Instead, I asked her, "What do you need?"

Like me, she tripped over the answer. She offered the things that she had to cross off a list -- those things that I can't really do anything about. So, I interrupted her train of thought. "The list must be long," I said. "I know you'll do those things, but I want you to know that I'm here to hold your hand if you need it."

And I will. 

In my own words, I heard that reminder that there are others that will do that for me. I'm trying so hard to find the words to talk about the things that I'm feeling about my call to ministry and the new expression of grief on my heart, but I need to remember that others are asking me that question too. (There's a reason that this post isn't making sense.  I'm struggling with words.  It's a big problem.)  But, even when I can't find the words, someone somewhere is holding me in prayer -- and that's something I really need.


Saying Goodbye

I've always thought that I know how to say goodbye. After all, it's part of grief and I know quite a lot about grief -- but as I search for wisdom on how to say goodbye to a congregation you've loved, I find that I don't have a clue. This goodbye is on my terms. I'm more than aware of how God is calling me toward the next thing. I don't know what that next thing is. Not exactly.  That's the hard part.  I know where I want to go.  I know that there is a change that needs to happen, but it's a change that only I feel.

The congregation I serve still makes those biting comments about my staying forever. They don't hear my reminder that nothing is forever. They've embraced me. They love me. It's hard to leave that comfort. And yet, I know that there's something else happening. In grief, when someone is dying, everyone knows. It doesn't matter how thick the denial is. Every party involved knows that the relationship that has been is coming to a determined end. Not here. In this transition, it's my secret. It's my truth to share. Carefully. 

So, I'm searching the internet for that wisdom about how to leave. I'm wondering how on God's green earth a clergy person asks for recommendations in a discreet way that doesn't explode with the parking lot conversations of which my congregation  is rather famous. I'm wondering how you tell that story of God calling you to the next thing without hurting feelings and betraying the trust that will need to endure through the months of a search.  I know that I have to get clear on those things that I am called to next. I'm doing that. I'm reading. I'm painting. I'm praying. I'm journaling. I'm finding those things to be clearer. And yet, the last time I discerned where God was calling me, it wasn't a call against anything else. It wasn't a rejection but a possibility. I'm trying to find that same space now as I affirm God's possibility while leaving behind this chapter of my first call. Honestly, it's not really working.

I've told friends that I'm uncomfortable in my own skin. They've misunderstood. I'm not rejecting my life in this beautiful seaside town. I love it here -- but I know that I can't stay here and live the life that God is calling me toward. Trust me. If I could do both, I would stay in my beautiful condo with the comfort my fabulous friends. But, the truth is: my call to live as a follower of Christ needs more. So much more. It's hard not to feel uncomfortable. That's what I feel like when I'm wrestling with my own angels. It's painful. It's frustrating. It feels endless but it's important work to know where God is calling me next. I just wish She'd speak a little plainer. That'd be really sweet.


Life Line

On Tuesday, in the midst of a pastoral visit, this favorite church member announced that she might be done with this town. She came home from a vacation to discover that this is not where she wants to be. I perked up. Too much. If you know me well, as it turns out she does, you know that I have no poker face. None. What. So. Ever.

As with every other pastoral visit we've shared over the years, she asked how I was. It happens the same way every time. She asks once in the beginning. She asks once in the middle of our conversation when she realizes she's "monopolized all the air time." And once more when our conversation is nearly over. I always dodge the question. She knows I'm doing it. I offer small bits of information but my walls are so high that I don't share all that much. 

This image first appeared here.
Not this time. This time I spilled.  "Well," I said. "It's interesting. I'm compelled by part of your story as it relates to my own." And then, it just came out. Choppy. Awkward. Honest. I'm discerning a move. I'm wondering if its time to do the next thing. 

She said what I would have expected her to say. She referenced her concern about me from the beginning. She was always nervous I wouldn't stay. She didn't think I had a prayer to last here. She knew the track-record of my colleague. There's a pattern that she noticed. She wasn't going to trust me, but she did.

Rather quickly. 

She started to refer to me as her life line -- which obviously made me uncomfortable. And yet, I was. I was the only safe space that she could talk about her mother's illness, her divorce, her children and her shattered relationship with her church (the same one that I serve and try to invite her into). She let me listen to things that she wouldn't let anyone else hear. She trusted me. And, in this choppy, awkward and honest moment, I realized how much this trust meant to me. I realized the indelible mark it has left upon my own hands that I could now trust her as she as trusted me. Yes, it's tricky and far from simple -- but to read these words in her email just now reminded me how important this beloved community is to me:

We’ll not be done with one and the other when geography or polity might suggest otherwise. I’ll be insisting on that.


Wander Lust Again

I went to France. I got the blissful opportunity to return to London -- where I lived for 4 months after college. I am so freakin' lucky. I have wonderful parents who want to give me their miles to satisfy my wanderlust. For some reason, when I blogged about this long ago, I thought wanderlust was two words. It's not. I was wrong. I'm also in a very different place than I was.

While on my journey through Europe -- seeing friends marry, seeing old friends and bastardizing the French language -- I was thinking a lot about my wandering. The fact is: I did buy a house. I did settle in. I did decide to call this place home. And now, it seems that God has something else in mind.  I'm feeling that pull. It hasn't gone away. If anything, it's gotten worse.

While I wandered on planes and trains through Europe, I tried a little bibliotherapy by reading The Geography of Bliss. In this book, the author wanders around the world in search of happiness. It's unclear if he's looking for his own happiness or whether he's more interested in being surprised by other's happiness. It seems he doesn't believe in the possibility of happiness -- as when he comes close to it, he tries to talk around it. He also fails to understand the place of religion in that would-be happiness. However, what surprised me most is the assumption that happiness is always somewhere else. You have to travel to find it. You have to be in another place where you'll find happiness.

That's not where I am. I love this city. I love this state. I love that I can drive 20 minutes to a beautiful beach. I love that fantastic culinary wonders are around the corner. I love that I can drive 20 minutes in the other direction and hike a mountain. I love this place. It is indeed home. I don't really want to leave it -- and so, I'm a little annoyed at God. Still. It hasn't gone away. I wish I could find a way to talk myself into loving the ministry I'm doing, but I'm bored. I love these people. I love them so much that it hurts to think about leaving them, but it seems that it's getting closer to that time when I have to answer God assertively by saying, Here I am Lord. Here I am. Send me. But, I'm not really ready for that. Not yet.


Too Much

It is.  It's too much.  I'm not sure where to put any of it.  It's just too much.

It started when I attended The Young Clergy Women Project Conference 2010. It wasn't what I was expecting. I'm not even sure if it's what I wanted -- but God is a freakin' riot. The conference focused on leadership -- specifically about our leadership.  And so, there were many moments for personal reflection. (That is, after I was able to adequately download the information I'd been offered into the crevices of my brain.) There were also moments for lots of conversation. I reconnected with old friends -- including a friend from seminary who has called Atlanta home since our days in New York City. I met new friends. I ate. I drank. It turns out I didn't eat as much as I drank. Oops. 

It was the small group conversations that shifted my question. I had come to understand my role as a leader and young clergy woman. I had thought that this question lingered in my eternal dance of staff dynamics with the beloved Senior Pastor. (He's so, so, so much better than he used to be, but still.) That's not what I heard myself saying. That's not what I heard in my peers. I heard an affirmation. (I firmly believe this was only in my head.) I heard the resonating truth that I am called to serve the church. I'm called to serve her until I'm old and gray -- but more than that, I'm ready for the next thing. 

My ministry in the past year has been all about trying to create a new thing. They need change. I've offered some of it, but what I've really felt is the push to do something new in my ministry. In my current context, I feel stale. I feel bored. Ew. I hate that. I really don't want to be bored, but I am. I'm really bored. I'm ready for the next thing. I'm just terrified to do it. Totally freakin' terrified. In that circle, in that small group in Atlanta, I heard the divine affirmation I needed and didn't want to hear.

And so, like any good child of discernment, I ignored it. I ignored it until the end of the week of vacation that followed when I walked on a foggy beach alone. The tears came pouring out of me. I shook my fist at the heavens. Damn it. I'm not ready. I just bought a home. I just began to feel settled. I thought I was here longer. Really, God? Really?

This is all too much. 


Being Heard

Tonight I went to our city's local art museum. The new exhibit was opening. I drooled. Literally. There were Hoppers and an O'Keefe. There were two whole rooms of Homer. It was inspiring. Each brush stroke. Each splash of color. It made me want to paint. Oh, how I want to paint. Of course, ironies of ironies, I'm not painting. I'm blogging.

I went with a new friend to this exhibit. She's a member so she gets to be there for these fabulous openings before the rest of the city gets to see this work. I was honored to be her guest. In general, I'm honored to be in her presence -- but the relationship is a little complicated. We met when I hosted a dinner party and invited friends to bring friends because I wanted new friends. She was one of those guests. And yet, when she walked through the door, we both recognized each other. I knew her. I had done her grandmother's funeral only a few months prior. It was one of those moments where the reality of the small city I call home loomed true.

And yet, we're friends. We're in that wonderful dance of getting to know each other as friends. We both share a passion for the arts and a curiosity about life. It's a boundary violation maybe but I want to be her friend. It doesn't mean it's not complicated. Our conversation often returns to the moment we met when I sat holding tissues for her family and listened to their stories. It did again tonight when she asked me about my family -- but it didn't feel weird. It didn't feel strange. It didn't feel like that creepy feeling you get from church members that really want to be your friend and know all your inner-most thoughts. (It's not just me that has those church members, right?)

She listened to me. She heard me. I listen all of the time in my ministry. It's why I do what I do. I love stories. I love how stories form people. I love the sacred space of allowing someone to tell their story in its full truth -- but I have to say, it's been a long time since that space was made for me. Tonight, I found that space. She asked me questions and she let me speak. She let me tell my story in a way that others have let me do for them so many times. Maybe it's because I don't really have a pastor now that I'm a pastor. I have wonderful friends who listen to me -- but it's been some time since I've told this part of my story and had it be truly heard. It just felt so good. And so, tonight, I go to sleep grateful for strange things I don't understand and the wonderful sacred space in so many places in my life.


Heavy Hearted

Today, I've been working on my book proposal for The Young Clergy Women Project Book Series. I asked for intentional time this summer to work on this project from the Church Council. Their response was a concern for pastoral coverage -- which slapped me in the face as my colleague almost always fields the calls for direct need. I'm the one that actually visits but they all reach out to him because he's the Senior Pastor. Double standards aside, they "allowed" me to use this time over the slower summer.

As I sit here writing, I'm aware how my heart is racing. It's not only that I'm excited about what I'm writing -- and terrifically nervous about how it will be received having just sent it off to a series of friends and editors to read. It's also that I ran into Musicman on Sunday. I didn't actually talk to him. I ran away when I saw that he was holding the hand of another girl. Months ago, I had seen something on Facebook that indicated he might be dating someone. I knew her name. They were friends. The comment on Facebook inferred more than friendship. I tried to dismiss it though I promptly defriended him. On Sunday, I saw him holding her hand. He didn't see me. He didn't see my reaction. He didn't see how much I wanted to vomit. And yet, two days later, my heart is still racing. I'm angry. I'm really fucking angry. At him. At myself. At the whole world. Let me have my drama. I know it's over the top.

I just don't feel like my ground is all that firm right now. My home has been in various states of disrepair. My first blip with homeownership exploded a few months ago and it just seems to be constant in its affects. That's another reason why I'm home writing today. There's been a rotating door of repair people. Lots of checks written. I'm overwhelmed.

In a few moments, I have to pry myself away from the computer to drive to have my annual mammogram. This is didn't go well last year. Let's be honest there. I fall apart a little bit every year. I have flashbacks of my mother's hospital visits. I try to grit my teeth and even smile when the radiologist interrogates me about why someone so young should be having a mammogram at all. My heart is on my sleeve on these visits so I usually start crying somewhere in the middle of the ordeal. Today, it might happen earlier. I sent a text to my stepmother this morning to ask for her update. She's off to see a surgeon and an oncologist today. Seriously, this thing seems to be coming at all angles. So, my heart is heavy --really, really heavy. 


Silver Linings

Last night, I had picked up on a Twitter conversation about this article. I hadn't read it myself. Not yet. Still, I knew that I wanted to read it as so many preachers seemed to have been working these pearls of wisdom in their sermons. I would still like to read these sermons -- though I really couldn't finish the article.

I still have a wee bit of insomnia. Last week, after I'd heard that my stepmother had made it out of surgery just fine, my best friend told me I should acquire a good prescription for sleeping pills but that still seems too severe to me. I had the news about the pathology report. I knew that they had "gotten it" and that the damn cancer hadn't oozed its way into the lymph nodes. (I'm saying damn a lot lately. Sorry about that.) We also found out that it's one of the most aggressive forms of cancer there is. They gave a name with letters and numbers. I don't recall and I'm not the type that goes to the internet to find every little bit of information out. Well, at least, I'm not about this. So, there will be radiation. There may be chemotherapy. There will definitely be a third and fourth opinion from what I can only gather to be the best oncologists my stepmother can find. Still, I'm unsettled.

I don't really believe it.  Tell me about science.  Tell me all you want.  There's something about this particular disease that makes me shut down. I knew this in CPE. In fact, it was sung to me over and over again so that I had to deal with the fact. The first issue I had in CPE was not having a panic attack every time I stepped into the hospital. (Um, yes, it was that bad.) Then, I had to deal with the supervisor (whom I didn't enjoy at all) insisting that I deal with the reality that not everyone dies when they come to the hospital. Yes, I got over that so that I can know walk in and out of the hospital with ease. I can stay there at the bedside. I can be the non-anxious presence I was told was the pastoral ideal.

Still, I don't believe this. The word cancer halts all reality. It whips me back into some place where logic never really existed. Not for me. That word sucks me into place where I assume it -- the damn cancer -- will win. Eventually. It always wins. There are hands that I have held that haven't shattered this place. There are tears that I've shed while driving to the burial to say prayers for those that heard this diagnosis too. There people even now in our church that struggle with the reality that the damn cancer keeps coming back. For those people, there is no silver lining. Or at least, it's really not that easy to find.

I know that my stepmother would strongly resonate with the words that appeared in this Sunday column. I'm grateful. I hope she always finds that silver lining but there is part of me that is too broken to find a silver lining in this. Definitely not in this. Except that this is exactly what I pushed the confirmands on yesterday.

They were planning worship centered around Psalm 5 for the day of their Confirmation. (The Lectionary left with them with some crappy texts, but that's not the irony here.) One of the girls planning the children's sermon wanted to ask the children about their fears.  She wanted to point to those things that scare us -- like thunderstorms -- and remind the children that God's presence comes when the sun shines again. It's the silver lining that makes God visible, she seemed to say. Of course, I wouldn't let that slide. I pushed her. I asked her if God could also be in the thunderstorm too. She was shy about her answer, but ultimately told me that God wasn't in the bad stuff. God was waiting for you when it was over. Though I tried really, really, really, really hard not to roll my eyes at her horribly trite theology, I wish I had that kind of faith right now. I wish I could simply be content with the silver linings.



The New York Times Well Blog has recently found a lot of fodder in the topic of insomnia. I've noticed these posts appear on the homepage -- but I've never actually read them. I didn't think it applied to me. I sleep like a baby. Usually, that is. Except tonight. Tonight, I can't sleep. I've been tossing and turning until I decided to do the only sensible thing that I could think to do: pull my computer into bed with me. Logical, right? (I did think to read first but I'm find this Stieg Larsson book to be a lot more work that the hype.) I would rather blog.

Last week, I learned some news that I don't know how to process. It's the sort of news that requires the big girl pastor pants -- where I don't dare share too much for fear that I'll totally fall apart. Indeed, ministry goes in circles but I'm a freakin' mess. Last week, while sitting in a meeting on ordination expectations, I got an email from my father that my step-mother has breast cancer. That's right. Breast cancer. The whole story unraveled over the weekend when she had surgery -- along with my ability to have any logical perspective. The surgery was fine. They didn't need to remove much of the lymph nodes. Good sign. They discovered that it's one of the more rare, aggressive cancers. Bad sign.

Now, it's probably obvious to you that this is my worst fear. Actually, in my worst fear, I have breast cancer. I die the same death that my mother died. Painfully. Awfully. Tragically. While I know that my step-mother is not dying, my heart is totally broken. How could this happen? Why isn't there a cure yet? Dear God, in all that is holy, how could you let this happen? I mean, I know you're rather busy with the oil spill on the Gulf Coast and the forest fires in Canada. I know that you're pretty pissed about the sins we've committed to this natural world -- but really? How could this happen too?

Of course, I'm not really praying right now. I'm not really talking to God at all. I'm mad at her. I know it's not her fault. I know she didn't cause these things to happen -- but I don't feel her tender caress. Instead, I feel the hard lump in my stomach that is so familiar to my grief. I feel the brimming of tears. All of this scares me. It scares me that my step-mother is going through this awful ordeal that may or may not result in chemotherapy, radiation or even a mastectomy. It scares me because I'll have my own mammogram next week. It scares me because my prayers have started to look like breasts -- which has given me pause to wonder if this image could be a symbol of my own salvation. And then, the lump aches again. The tears brim and I can't sleep.

It's hard to know how to deal with one horrible reality -- like the diagnosis of an aggressive cancer -- when it keeps bumping into the other horrible realities that have made life challenging for so long. My prayer has always been that this disease never, ever, ever strike someone I love again. My prayer has been that there would be a cure. I've walked, donated and lobbied for that cure. It's not so simple that I can be angry because there is so much sadness too. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross doesn't have a stage for that. She doesn't offer an adequate explanation for my confused grief characterized by insomnia, sadness, anger and tears. It wouldn't matter if she did. I would reject it. I don't want it explained. I just wish it wasn't happening. Obviously. Who wouldn't wish that?

And so, I'm trying to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning. I'm hoping that I actually get some sleep before getting out of bed -- but as that damn psalmist insists, joy always comes in the morning. Bullshit. I'm attempting to brave the pastoral life of loving people when I can't let them know how much I'm hurting. I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do -- and how I can possibly begin to speak to God again without yelling and shaking my fist.


The Presence of Clouds

I can't seem to allow my creativity to be my prayer today -- at least, I can't find that creativity in images. The text from Exodus 40:16-38 just doesn't inspire me. It's too precise in its description. It reminds me too much of math. I don't want to draw the tabernacle even if it does have a mercy seat. (I find this a strange term since the mercy seat is really the covering and no one is going to sit there at all except perhaps God. Somehow I can't quite get my head around God needing mercy -- but I suppose if I need it, then so does God.)

Instead, I'm wishing I had a different kind of faith. I'm wishing that it were possible for me to see clouds and fire and claps of thunder and even the birds of the sky as God. I'm too rational for that. I can explain it away. As in, it's a bird. It may have been created by God but just because it landed there doesn't mean that there is any purpose for you. It's just a bird doing its thing. And yes, it's just a cloud. It doesn't matter how low it is or if it feels like it's covering you. It's just a cloud. Everyone else sees it too. It doesn't mean that God wants you to stay. It's just a cloud. Of course, the Israelites didn't think this. The cloud was their protection. It let them know when to travel and when to stay. They didn't send a bird out like Noah had. They had something more immediate. They had a cloud that stayed with them, that covered them, that let them know when it was safe to continue the journey.

I would like something like that. I would like to be able to believe in the presence of clouds in this way, but I can't quite grasp it. There's a metaphor there, I think. Certainly, there are things that let us know when it is time to do and when it is time to stay. There are things that protect us and allow us to feel the safety that the Israelites knew in the presence of that cloud. I just don't think it's a cloud for me. It would be nice if it was. If I could just look out my window and see the cloud and know that it's time to stay, I think life would be pretty simple. Obviously, it's not. It's more complicated than that. And so, I have to look for metaphors in other places -- or I have to decide if the freakin' "cloud" is there at all.

See, I think this story could be about call. It could be about the times when we know it's time to go and do a new thing and when we know that we're in the right place. My faith is simple enough that I trust this concept. I just don't know what the damn cloud is that will clue me in to when those particular times are. Right now, I'm feeling like the cloud has lifted. I'm feeling like there is something nudging me toward going on the journey. I'm not really sure what that means though. There are the practical aspects -- like who the hell wants to move to a new place and make a whole new batch of friends, the fact that I bought a home here less than a year ago, the fact that I'm still trying to write this book that I don't seem to find enough time for and the fact that there are things that I've said I would do with this congregation that I haven't done yet. But, there are other thoughts that pop in my head too. There's the fear that I don't know what it is that I would want to do differently than the ministry I have right now. (Not being an Associate Pastor is obvious but I know it's more than that.) There's the reality that every time I look at the Employment Opportunities, there's nothing that grabs my eye. (There are far too many churches that identify as traditional and I want progressive and socially active.) So, I'm left to wonder if the cloud really has lifted or if I just need to allow myself a wee little bit of grace. Maybe I should just plop myself on that mercy seat. Hopefully, God will sit down beside me.


If you come to me in friendship...

Can I confess something to you? I didn't pray this morning. I opted for a trip to the farmer's market instead. Oh. I love the farmer's market -- especially when there are yummy veggies starting to appear like fiddleheads and asparagus. Yum. It so beats all the plants all over the place. As if I know what to do with those. Ha! Despite the fact that I didn't pray, I'm still thinking about this line from Monday.

If you come to me in friendship...

It's an invitation, but there is caution. There is hesitation in these words. There is trepidation like someone that's afraid of being wounded, someone who has perhaps been hurt before, someone who (just shooting in the dark here) had her heart broken recently. There's a desire for relationship, to be connected but it's not clear if it's worth the risk. It's not clear if this invitation will be held as tenderly as this person (ahem) needs to be held.

If you come to me in friendship...

It's a line that should be familiar to me. Over the years, I've made decisions about what friendships I want to go into. I've been fairly clear about where I'm willing to put in the work and where I'm not. Recently, I've been a little sad that my college friendships have eroded. The women that I was dear friends with in college are scattered across the country. We haven't seen each other in a long time. I'm not a phone person. They don't email. They're all in relationships. I'm single. It's not for lack of care. Our friendship has just faded.
And then, well, something weird happened. First, I got a Facebook message from a woman I knew in college. I'd like to believe there was a kindredness between us -- but we were never really close. It doesn't really matter. Somehow, through Facebook or life or God, we've been pulled back together. 

If you come to me in friendship...

She's studying to be a therapist now and wrote in the interest of understanding how faith informs the human construct. She's never had faith. She has a longing for it but it's never been something she's claimed. So, who better to ask then a college friend that posts on Facebook about her ministry in the Christian Church? 

If you come to me in friendship...

She came to ask me what I thought. I'd totally forgotten the similarities in our stories -- the loss we'd both experienced at a young age, the ways we coped and the ways we didn't. She came to understand -- or in the language of David -- she came to help me. Sure, she was asking out of her own wonder but she came to me in friendship. She wanted to know what I thought. She wanted to know how I felt

And so, though she might never know it, she helped me. She gave me peace -- and so my heart is indeed knit to her. (I like knit better than bound.) Perhaps it already was. Perhaps it was always there. I just didn't notice. I hadn't paid attention to the similarities -- but felt the distance as I had with so many relationships in my very, very secular college -- in the differences I felt as a person of faith. Perhaps I've used this as an excuse too often. Ok. I definitely have. I've allowed this thing about my faith separate me from those that don't get it. I've ignored the fact that at some point in our past, these wonderful people that I knew in college came to me in friendship. They've been knit to me. They will always be part of my heart. Always... even when I shudder at the photos of us.

The emails continue. Other relationships have reformed. I just forgot that they are indeed still there. They will always be knit in my heart. I just needed a reminder.


Hell Yes!

After the weird retreat last week that did nothing to rejuvenate my prayer life, I finally sat down to pray again this morning. I took out my Daily Lectionary book to discover that the reading for today came from the chronicles of war-loving David. Awesome. Just what I need after Mother's Day. I'd much rather read the Mother's Day Proclamation but instead I'm stuck with David. Kill me now. 

However, David surprised me. I like that about the Bible. I like that I can find rare treats that I never would have expected. I like that I can find words that I really need to hear from people that I don't really get. David may have written lovely poetic songs, but the dude had issues. I'm not over it. Anyhow, it was only the second verse of my reading. It's this one.
‘If you have come to me in friendship, to help me, then my heart will be bound to you; but if you have come to betray me to my adversaries, though my hands have done no wrong, then may the God of our ancestors see and give judgement.’ 
1 Chronicles 12:17 NRSV
Yes, I know there's terrible war imagery there. I prefer to think of it as a wounded soul here. You know, it's the injured person that really wants to be open and welcoming and gets squashed. Fine. My God will take care of you. So there. But, that first line. Wow. That first line. I needed that. Amen.


Am I Bitter?

Last night, before I tucked myself into bed after a really lovely night of excellent food and bluegrass, I read Anne Lamott's article Why I Hate Mother's Day. I appreciated these words so much that I tweeted them. My tweets end up on my Facebook page which means that my grandmother read the article. Her comment was that Lamott seems "really bitter" and hopes that I'm not turning into a bitter woman too.


I realize that these words might come out of the same hurt place that so many others feel when I scorn at Mother's Day. I'm fully aware that my rejection of the holiday seems like I'm rejecting the whole idea. I'm not. I've been blessed with two amazing women that I've affectionately and lovingly called "Mom." One of them was the woman that gave me life. She was the woman that taught me about God and reoriented my life forever with her death. The other "Mom" in my life was the woman that my father married only two years after my first "Mom" died. I was so thrilled to have a mother in my life that my eight year old self gave this wonderful woman a "New Mom" ribbon. My stepmother has healed more wounds than she knows. She allowed me to write late night emails to her in college to process all of the hurt that I didn't understand. She didn't reject me. She wrote long, thoughtful emails back. In every sense, she's been my mother -- and I'm so lucky to have her in my life.

I don't intend on removing that honor on this day to either of these women -- nor do I seek to devalue the fabulous mothering relationships I've found in grandparents, cousins, great aunts that stare at the ocean with me, friends that are like family and too many others that have formed me to be the person I am today. All of these people deserve my love and respect each and every day. Instead, I struggle with this one day. It's complicated. I want to insist that I honor all of these loved ones every day. I want to believe that I tell my stepmother I love her and appreciate her on other days than this one -- but it's not really true. I fall short. Still, I hope she knows that she means the world to me. I hope she knows it as much as my great aunt, my best friend who I talked to for an hour on the phone today when we could have just gone for a walk and my little sister. I probably don't say it enough -- but I hope they know. Of course, on this day, it's more complicated than that. It's not just about all of those wonderfully affirming relationships that are present in my life. It's also about the one that's missing.

I suppose this is what makes me sound bitter. I prefer the language of today's Gospel Lesson. I'd rather identify with those that are blind, lame and paralyzed by the pool under five porticos -- because I can really relate to that man who Jesus asks, "Do you want to be made well?" Yes. Obviously. What a stupid question, but don't we always ask stupid questions about things that we don't understand? That's what today is like for me. I listen to all of the wonderful demonstrations of love among my church members. I'm happy for them. I don't want to take that away from them, but still my stomach turns. I don't really know how to explain it, except to point to all of those moments where you really want to call your mom. That never goes away.

There are certain moments in life that you'll always want to pick up the phone and call your mom. There are big moments like graduations and when you realize you're falling in love, but then there are smaller moments. There are the silly trivial things that you just want to tell her that you kicked ass in that interview or that he broke your heart. (My stepmother fielded both of those calls.) There's the moment where you just start thinking about her and you wonder how she is so you grab your phone from your purse and start dialing. That never goes away -- even if she's been dead for over 20 years.

That's what I feel today. I want to call my mom and make her breakfast and thank her for giving me life, but I can't. That might mean I'm bitter. It might but I tend to think that this is the reality of my grief. It's the part of me that's blind, lame and paralyzed to Mother's Day. I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry if my grief ruins your day but it's not really cheering me up either. I'm trying as hard as I can to pick up my mat and walk, but I need your help just as much as you need mine. I might be blind to what this day means to you. I may be so paralyzed in my own grief that I can't see through it. I may be lame right now. Ok, I'm definitely lame right now but I'll try again tomorrow. So will you. But, right now, I'm just trying so hard to be made well. I wish that for you too.


I'm Young, Damn It

This week, I went on the Spring Clergy Retreat hosted annually by my denomination. I was interested in this particular program because it was about art and I'm hitting a wall in my prayer life where I needed and wanted some new energy in my drawn prayers.

I have never been to one of these retreats before. I have not gone for a very specific reason. I'm at least 30 years younger than all of my colleagues -- and though I don't feel this is a barrier when those that I call peers are often older than I am, it's the first remark that graces my colleagues lips. This time was no different. I was singled out for my age. I was told that I was younger than their children. I was told that I could be their grandchild. I am not graceful or gentle when these comments are made. For me, there's nothing gentle about wanting colleagues.

Of course, it so happened that this was the theme of the retreat for me. It wasn't at all about art. It wasn't about my prayer life. It was about my youth. Damn it.

The context of my ministry is in an area of our country where there aren't many young people. There is a seminary in the area. In fact, there are two that aren't far from me -- but most of the graduates from these institutions that serve the churches in my context are second career women and men. And so, I don't fit the mold. I constantly enter into the conversation that there is a trend in seminaries now that reveals the opposite that we see here. There are more young people in seminary. They are just not here. Of course, these eager elders want to know what will draw young people to our churches here in the snowy North.

The answer in my eyes is obvious. I want to look them narrowly in the eyes and proclaim, "Well... You want young clergy to act like you. Stop it. Really. Stop. We're not you. Don't call us for what we represent. Call us for who we are." In the four years that I've been ordained, serving the same church, I've struggle with these assumptions of who I am as a young person. I constantly force the reminder that I'm not the same age as their college-aged kids. I'm not  even a millenial. Really. I took the quiz. I'm so not a millenial. I'm Gen-X if anything but I really don't want to be placed in an age bracket. I want to be who God called me to be without having to fit neatly into a box. I don't want to be seen for my age.

In the church, we honor everything that is old. If it has been around for a long time, we think it's good. The old chalice connects us with the founders of the church. The old Bible connects us with the language that some of our members heard as kids. The old preacher obviously has more experience and knowledge. His gray hair proves it. He's been around the block a couple of times and can relate to the vastness of human experience. There is no point of entry for me. I'm young. I push for new language, chalices that connect us to a global community and highlight my hair to celebrate my youth. (I miss being a towhead.) I celebrate older women (and even men) and the validation that they need for their own calls in the wisdom of their age -- but that pushes me out. It gives me no place. Plus, in my worst self, I can't help but think that the church is going to die with these old crones. I don't really believe that. I want to think that there is another way where we can celebrate a new thing -- even a young thing. After all, isn't that in the Bible?


Needed Distractions

Today, I've been thinking about a Radiolab podcast I listened to a week or to ago. In this particular episode, a nurse relays her own story of working with dementia patients. She worked for this particular facility where someone had the grand idea of putting a bus stop at the entrance. The logic being that this bus stop would act as a momentary blockade for those patients that were trying to "escape" back into their old lives. Not only is it brilliant. It's sweet and loving.

When I first listened to this episode, I thought it had tremendous analogies for the life of faith simply because we're all so determined to get where we're supposed to be. We rarely stop and just wait. This  has crept into my prayer life. I'm trying to wait more. I'm trying to leave more space instead of just trudging ahead with the images, thoughts and ideas on my own heart. I'm trying to listen -- like these patients at a bus stop that goes nowhere, I'm trying to let those little moments surprise me with unexpected stories that needed to be told.

Mostly, I just feel distracted. I feel like I'm not paying attention when the entire point is that I'm supposed to be present to the distractions. Yes, well, I didn't say it would make sense. My prayer life rarely does -- but today, it's not just my prayer life. (Yes, I realize I can't really separate my prayers from the rest of my life.) However, this whole break up thing seems to have reappeared.

It may be because I went on a date on Sunday night. I liked him. I wanted the connection to be there -- but he hasn't called and I feel rejected. I feel unlovable. I didn't realize that point until I heard it voiced by a friend yesterday. She's discovered she can be loved. Love can be unconditional for her -- not just for the love that she gives out. In her words, I heard myself. Minus the clarity. I'm not sure it's just this particular boy that hasn't called. I'm aware of something else that's pulling at me. I'm afraid to name it, but I know it's there. It's been there even though I'm trying to distract myself from it.

Honestly, it's the only way I know how to survive. I need distractions. I'm hunting for them. I need something that will pull me back into life and way from this broken, hurt, unlovable feeling that I can't seem to shake today. I refuse to think that this is a bad thing. No matter how stubborn my insistence on distractions may be, I can only pray that they are what keep me safe. Like the men and women that wander back into the nursing facility having totally forgotten what was so urgent, I'm trying to allow myself to be so distracted that I find the embrace I need.  


Bless Our Hearts

Bless her heart. My stepmother called twice today. She's eager to book my would-be trip to France this summer in which I'll watch a dear friend say her vows in wine country. I appreciate her generosity and attentiveness without any allusions to Southern snideness. It's actually her mother that taught me this phrase. Bless her heart, she says with all sincerity and love. Bless her heart, she says through spits of laughter. She means it and so do I. Bless her heart.

While I managed to rush her off the phone in the first phone call, she didn't let me hang up the phone this time without asking how I am. She's worried about me. I can hear it in the way that she asks -- tentatively, eagerly, lovingly. She really wants to know that I'm going to be OK.

My reply isn't what she wants to hear. Although, I'm not really sure what anyone wants to hear from me right now. On Thursday, I had coffee with a dear church member whom I invited to "talk" after the two year anniversary of his wife's suicide. To all outward appearances, he seems like he's doing just fine. I know that grief is private. Trust me. I know what it's like to put on a brave face and pretend like everything is peachy keen. I know what it's like to present that facade in order to avoid the frustrating comments from people that have never experienced grief of their own -- and certainly have never met my own particular form of grief. I know all of these things, but I was not certain that he would want talk to me. He did. Over half a cup of coffee, he poured his heart out. He told me all of the things that he's been holding in his heart that he doesn't know how to tell a soul. And then, he sighed. "This must be hard on you," he said. I looked perplexed. "It must cause you to relive your own grief."

He would never let me touch him but I wanted to hold his hand. I told him not to worry. My own story of grief has pulled me into this work. I told him that I know what it's like to not be able to really say how much it hurts. I told him that it's my deep honor to sip coffee with him and hear these stories. "Bless your heart," he said. He can hear it in the way that I ask -- tentatively, eagerly, lovingly. I really want to know that he's going to be OK.

Of course, the truth is that we're both broken. We're both hurting. There will be things that happen in both of our lives from now on that will heighten that sense of loss -- silly things like wondering if we can ever love again. His story is different than mine. I'm a young lady, in his words. He'll start receiving social security on Monday. And yet, the story is familiar. Another church member asked this debonair widower on a date. They're going to dinner, but it's not just a casual meal. It's loaded. It's filled with emotion that she can't possibly understand. Only he can know that array of emotion that explode with a simple dinner invitation. (I want to rip her to shreds, but that's another matter.) He cried into his coffee when he said this. He wiped away tears that a veteran of his age doesn't ever get to show and turned to his "young lady" pastor to ask if this meal was a betrayal to the woman that he couldn't save. Bless his heart.

This is what always surprises me about ministry because I heard my own story in this story. I heard that story of lost love. The story that reeks of rejection. The one that insists that you didn't love that person enough in the way that they needed to be loved -- even though there never would have been enough. I heard it. Clearly. And yet, even though I heard myself in his story, I told him something I wouldn't ever tell myself. I told him about the love of God. (Simple enough concept, right?) I told him that if we really believe that our knowledge of God is revealed in love, shouldn't we always seek more love in our lives? Isn't that what God would want for us? The monologue was longer than that, but you get the gist. When I was done, and finally caught my breath, he avoided my eye contact. "I guess," he muttered.

Damn it. I don't want to hear it either. God may be love but I don't feel very loved. Theology doesn't matter when the heart insists upon its own wisdom. Well, maybe the heart isn't wise but it certainly is stubborn. It doesn't want to be happy as I'm grateful to read in others words. It just wants to figure out a way to heal. Or at least, that's the best that I can really figure out about my broken heart.


Change Agent

I seem to have lost the notes that I took at the meeting on Thursday night when my least favorite committee (and ironically the one that is supposed to be my advocate) sat down with me to review the goals that I'd set six months ago. Perhaps it's the hand of God that they are missing -- but I'm going to dinner tonight with the committee chair. He couldn't make the meeting so I offered to reach out to him. I'm super nice like that. I believe it's what that dove did after the flood. Going where no one should ever go to find the impossible. 

So, I'm trying to wrap my head around what happened at that meeting. There were a couple things that were really frustrating. Essentially, this is a group of people that can't reflect with me in my problems. They want to solve it. I explained that I'm worried about the youth program and the various reasons that I'm worried about it. I wanted them to tell me that it'll all be well. (I do like Julian of Norwich.) Instead, they wanted to solve the problem. There are other committees for that purpose. There are other people working on that very problem -- but these are members of the church that don't really know how to do anything but solve problems. I don't want them to do that. I just want them to listen. They did the same thing when I tried to articulate my frustration in the shift that we've made in our governance. I feel like I'm carrying a burden that this congregation started before I even arrived -- but I can't solve this problem for them. I can only be the prophet that points to the problem. (I'm a United Church of Christ pastor after all. I'm not running the show.) They may not know enough about Scripture to understand this. They might not even really want the church to be any different than the places of business that employ them. I don't really know. I wanted them to listen and tell them it wasn't for me to hold. Not alone anyway. They didn't. Instead, they swept in and tried to solve the problem.

Then, the meeting ended before this particular church member offered the wisdom that I'm a change agent. "Pastor Peters," she said. "You should see yourself that way. That's why we called you. We expect you to make change." (She was on the search committee but this is a broad statement that I don't think she fully understands.) I joked back. "I'm going to be remembered as the pastor that came in and changed everything." She insisted that wasn't a bad thing, but I just read the series of responses from the survey that will eventually lead to our vision. We are a congregation struggling with change. For many church members, I represent that change. It's my youth. I hate that fact but it's true. I live and breathe change because I'm a young person. Oddly, I'm fairly traditional. I don't read the Bible literally and I certainly don't believe in substitutionary atonement, but I like older forms of worship. I'm really an old lady trapped in the body of a 31 year old. I don't really know what I'm going to share with this committee chair tonight. Maybe I'll just tell him about the change thing and let it be at that. Sigh.


Seeing Blue

I did it.  I added color to my prayers this morning. It was the weirdest reading ever. I mean, I don't really know what to do with passages where the lesson is embedded in whether or not to fight. I suppose I could relate to that if it weren't that the word army appeared. Somehow, when I see that word, my mind checks out. That's exactly what happened when I read I Samuel 17:1-23 this morning.

I read it again because certainly I must be able to find something to relate to in this passage. After all, I was the one that asked the snarky question to the author at my friend's stage reading last night. This particular author wrote a book that's loosely based on the Book of Esther. The inspiration came when she had tried to introduce faith to her son. They were going to attend a Purim party, so this author did her homework. I wanted to know how this retelling had helped her claim her faith. Her answer? I don't have any. I don't want be that chick that's so insistent upon not being able to find something holy in strange words. So, I read this strange narrative with David again. That's when I tripped over this phrase: "And David heard him" (I Samuel 17:23).

God's a freakin' riot. I get it. I'm listening. So, I drew an ear. I drew wavy lines. I drew another ear and another. Just the ear. That's what I needed to focus on. Don't be bothered that there's no body attached. I'm not. I kept drawing. I drew curved lines arching from the lobes. My pen stopped. What am I listening for? Not a clue. I drew more wavy lines. They got more intense. I decided these lines were the God speak that I needed to hear. I wrote words that I needed to remember from God. Ya know, the average stuff like love, justice and peace. And then, I turned my attention back to those arcs. I thought of those church members that didn't really hear my Easter sermon. I thought of the "helpful" email I had just received from a church member that weekend. I thought of myself and I colored those lines blue. So, today when I see the color blue, I thinking about my stubborn insistence that I don't need to listen. I'm thinking about how I rely on my own knowledge and how I put information out there in little spurts without really listening to what I'm saying to myself. Today, I'm seeing blue.


Dressed for Success

Tonight, I will be spending the night on a hard concrete floor of the church with two other chaperones and ten confirmands. Scratch that. Nine confirmands. One just dropped out of the entire program by email. Sweet. The mere thought of this exhausts me. I know it's important to these teenagers. I know it's an important part of their journey but... ugh.

It's things like this that further articulate to me that I'm not called to youth ministry. I fully respect the people that are called to youth ministry -- some of whom are good friends. I think you're amazing people to push these bratty, snotty teenagers in their faith and their personhood. But, I'm not one of you. I feel like a bad person every time I say this. I firmly believe that people look nervously at me when I saw that I don't like teenagers, but so be it. It's true.

I'm not sure I ever really was a teenager. But, really, the problem is that I still look like one. People always think I'm 12. I'm not sure why I can't seem to mature past 12 but I try really damn hard. It's symptomatic of so many of my young female clergy friends chopping their hair short. It makes us appear older. I'm that girl. Now, as I'm trying to anticipate how I want to present myself tonight, I'm looking at my attire and thinking about how little I want these teens to see me in pajamas. It feels so raw. So vulnerable. So personal. I'll bring my ratty hoodie sweatshirt from college, but I'm still squirming in my own discomfort. It's silly, but it's what's racing through my head right now.


Coloring in the Lines

Over a year ago, I started to really consider what my own spiritual practice would look like. Did I have a clue? No. No, I did not. Thankfully, something changed. Amazingly, this happened while I was on the Women's Retreat with the church. This is one of those weekend work commitments that I actually detest as it halts every feminist inclination as I have. These blessed women that I love and minister to just want to talk about being Martha when they feel like they should be Mary. It kills me. I don't think of the world as that narrow so the fact that I have to choose between Martha or Mary is only the beginning.

Anyhow, somewhere in the midst of this retreat, we were asked to make a collage in response to something. I don't remember what it was. I only recall that I didn't want to make a collage. I wanted to draw. So, I took a big felt tip pen and started to draw. Lo and behold, a spiritual practice was born. Praise be to God.

It emerged from that point. Of course, it required supplies so that now I own several prayer pens. I purchased a copy of Between Sundays: Daily Bible Readings Based on the Revised Common Lectionary because I like love the Bible. It was part of what needed to happen for me. I needed to find a way to relate to the text that made sense for me. So, now, I read, I sit and I draw. It's working so well that I want to share. This particular image was going to be my Christmas card as I thought that something was literally coming together in my life. I thought I was pregnant with possibility. No. I was not with child. Christ Jesus, have mercy. Let's hope that doesn't happen. But, then, the break up happened and I felt like I had miscarried. I don't actually know what that's like but it's the closest thing that I can imagine to how I felt. Um. Still feel.

Well, maybe not. I'm gazing at this image this morning and thinking it might be speaking to me again. Again. Not. Pregnant. But, I feel ready for something new particularly after picking up a copy of Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God (Active Prayer Series).  Now, I feel ready for color.  I love color. I love the idea that is posited in this book that every time I see purple during my day, I'll be reminded of that particular prayer that I colored purple that morning. I love this idea so much but I'm nervous. I can't bring myself to do it. Not yet. I still feel a little bit like Harold (obviously from the fame of The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon). I still want to be able to draw that world that is inspired by the Scripture I'm reading, so maybe my prayer pen should just change but that seems so boring. It seems to limit my prayers and now that I'm finally getting a spiritual practice, I don't wanna limit myself. But, I think I might be ready to color in the lines. Like anything, it just takes courage. I've got that, right? Right.



A few weeks ago, I got a series of emails from an anonymous person that decided to rip apart one of my old posts. This one, if you're curious. (I know. What a jackass! Of all things!) Anyway, this particular individual thinks I'm crazy for believing in God. I have nothing to say to this person. Forgive me. I have nothing nice to say to this particular person.

However, as I rejected these particular comments, I realized that I missed blogging here. Mostly, I missed the connection that it has offered to my beloved sisters in The Young Clergy Women Project. I know that lots of us have become less frequent bloggers, but it was through blogging that I found this connection to this group of women. By reading your stories, I found a connection that just doesn't seem quite as intimate as reading the wonderful articles on Fidelia's Sisters. And so, I'm back. Maybe. For now. Um. I'm not committing. Not totally.

I haven't stopped blogging actually. I've just been blogging publicly as a church pastor of a particular church focusing on the particular ministries we offer. It's been a good medium of communication with the church -- but it hasn't allowed for the confessions that were allowed in this space. And so, I miss being here. I miss this space where I can be me in a way that my public ministry doesn't fully allow. I can talk up and down about theology. I can blog about justice and trends in the church -- but I haven't had a space to write about my broken heart. I gotta say. It's sucked. Oh yeah, remember Musicman? Yeah. He was nice until he broke up with me. It's been three months now -- quickly approaching four months -- but I'm still picking up the pieces. Let's face it. I thought he was it. I really thought I wasn't going to have to ever date again. And now, I am. Fuck.

See? I can't say that to my church members -- but I can say that to you. You won't shun me. You even know the back story. Well, maybe you do. Maybe you don't. It doesn't really matter. I stopped blogging here because I didn't want to have a secret life anymore. I wanted to be more integrated so that my public life was more integrated with my personal life. Yeah, I know. Who was I kidding? I don't know what I was thinking. Damn it. I maintain two Facebook accounts. I can have a blog that's just for me. That's not too much to ask at all. Sigh. I missed you.