Wednesday, August 19, 2015

hello again.

Before bed on Sunday night, I went through my whole closet. I pulled out anything that reminded me of postpartum compromises and pumping milk. I piled skirts with busted zippers and shirts I resent ironing. The bags were bursting and the hangers looked lonely. I took pictures of what remained.

Monday morning involved a bottomless cup of coffee and eggs at my favorite coffee shop. I wrote for fun and slowly made my way through lists and mail piles until my laptop died with grace. Then I wandered toward the mall.

Five things. I used the pictures on my phone to decide what five items would make my wardrobe feel new and versatile and...mine again.

A saleswoman rapped on the dressing room door to ask me if I needed anything. I realized I'd been sitting on the bench in that small room for awhile, just facing the mirror. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been in a mall dressing room. It had been years since I'd tried on wild skirts for sheer amusement. And so I sat completely lost in my reflection, relishing big feelings until the woman knocked a second time.

These weeks of vacation and continuing education would be about slowing down in unexpected places. They would be stretches of time apart from a schedule and demands. They would be opportunities to honor myself away from my callings of pastor and mother. And, because these things are so rarely attended, they would be filled with startling realizations and heaps of gratitude.

When I finally stood, I twirled in a skirt I have no occasion to wear. But it looked fabulous. And in it, I thanked my body for the people I've made and the years it has so generously shared itself. I started to cry tears of grief - that stage of my life is over. My body is all mine again.

And when I was done shedding the sadness that comes from saying farewell to something that beloved and well enjoyed, I cried tears of relief. I am happy to have myself back. I am ready to see and love myself for the sake of her independence again. My physical being is familiar but also brand new. I am curves and tones of who I have always been, but I am also very shaped by these childbearing journeys and the sacrificial love I've discovered in becoming both broken and reclaimed.

I'm glad I had an enormous mirror for that moment. Because she is marvelous and I wanted to see every bit of her when I smiled through glad tears and whispered, "Hello again."

Monday, August 3, 2015


I was describing my hopes and dreams for Zion's future to an older colleague the other day when he interrupted. "Have you ever thought about interim ministry?" Every day, actually. I think more plain ol' pastors should view what they do as interim ministry.

I don't have anything against the long pastorate - and maybe I'll be called to one someday - but most of my contemporaries are enjoying leadership a few chapters at a time. They are nimble and creative and effecting change quickly. They are acutely aware of the warp speed at which Being Church is changing. We don't make 5-10 year plans anymore - not with our councils and not with our own calls.

Some of us are on a shoestring and a prayer.
Some churches pay their pastors below synod guidelines.
Some are accepting part-time calls even though they long to work full time.
Some churches are living month to month, giving their pastors just weeks or months notice when their position will be cut.

And so we make 1-3 year plans. We are brutally honest with call committees and congregations and committees and leaders. We preach sermons without assuming the text will come around the lectionary cycle again while we're still in the same call. We think about sustainability and lay leadership all the time - because what's the point of pastor-centered transformation when we're serving year to year?

I met with five colleagues last week who were all acutely aware of the chapter at hand. There are beautiful, thriving things. There are exciting things. There are stressful things. There are intimidating things. There are both sprint and marathon things. There are reasons we long to stay for years and reasons we imagine moving on sooner.

Our sanctuary has 27 pews today, but 20 will be unscrewed and loaded onto a semi trailer this Saturday afternoon. There will be a few funny looking weeks while we hodge podge chairs, rip up carpet, and start fresh with pew chairs. We will bless the mess. Some will cry for these perfectly good benches and some will clap with glee when the freshness of September comes. Most of us will cry and clap, for this is what it means to be the church.

We are living and serving in the hinge moment, in between pews and chairs, in between tears and joy, in between Sunday and Saturday. And I can't think of anything better.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

sisters and butterflies.

Darlene called me early this morning with news that Bev had just died. Darlene and Beverly lived together their whole lives - and with their brother Earl until he died several years ago. When they were young, Beverly would leave for work first each morning. She would call from the doorway, "This is the day that the Lord has made." Her siblings would reply, "We will rejoice and be glad in it." 

It has been a difficult 18 months - since Beverly moved into a care center. Darlene has grown both weary and resilient through these daily treks back and forth. Like many caregivers, she has poured her whole self into this bedside role and seeing Bev decline this week has been a mixed bag of dread and relief.

I changed into a black pencil skirt before heading down Lake Street toward the Carlson sisters. This would be the last time I would see them together. I turned north on 11th Avenue, forgetting that it dead ends just a few blocks up and I have to wander west in search of a thru street to Franklin. I have made this mistake several times since February 2014 and find myself on the corner of 10th and 26th when raw emotions overwhelm me and I start weeping. Every time.

That is the last stoplight on the way to the Mother Baby Center at Abbott. Sitting at that light brings me back to the early mornings right after unleashing my daughters. I would coo to Solveig in the backseat, assuring her that we'd see her sister at Children's in a matter of minutes. I would take a deep breath for strength as the opposite lights turned from green to yellow:
You can carry all of this stuff in there.
You can own that space next to Tove,  even though you feel like a visitor.
You can feed your babies, even if the lactation consultant fails to come again today.
You are doing the best you can.
You are helping them be together in a new way today and that is a worthy mission.
Sitting at that light still makes me weak in the knees, overcome by my unraveled life that is now...normal. Their birth and those daily treks first felt like a jar of marbles dropped and scattered. Waiting at that intersection confirmed again that my marbles are still strewn about - that my heart is still beating in my own chest, but also toddling around in Tove's and snuggled up inside Solveig's. My arms were covered in goose bumps and my eyes welled with raw love-soaked tears.

I pulled over until I could compose myself. This morning was about a different set of Carlson sisters, but something would be familiar: I got to help them be together in a new way today and that was a worthy mission.

When Bev's body was ready to leave her room, friends and staff gathered to walk alongside her. "It's called a butterfly sending - a chance for everyone to accompany her well from this place to the next." Darlene smiled with gratitude as her marbles slowly scattered about beneath us. Everything was unraveling for her as we moved outside and Bev rode away.

Not ending. Just scattering and unraveling. 
Just becoming something wildly different.
Just daring to live anew.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


I am especially giddy about my call these days. Some strategic planning has begun. Systems are being challenged. Interns are coming and going, leading and learning. People are digging in while also letting go. Signs of deep belonging and belovedness are everywhere. Summer Wednesdays are filled with feisty potential.

And while my heart is leaning in and I am easily swept away each day in the vitality of this work, I am also being called to step back a little. There are a few good reasons.

One. These interns know what they're doing. All are capable, communicative, brave, and bright. While it is my job to build connections and reflect with them, I also need to get out of the way. 

Two. I am coming up on seven years of ordination. Many pastors take a sabbatical every seven years - a few months away from their call for rest and renewal. I will carve out my own mini-version of this for ten days in August and I can't wait!

Three. A fabulous and generous grant organization emailed me last week with a daunting and exciting proposal. They've got $10,000 they'd like to gift Zion. What would we do with ten grand that could be transformational for this little community and her mission? They're holding the funds while we propose some ideas this month. I will need to step way back and see the bigger picture if I am to notice looming transformation.

Always transition. Always moving and rearticulating and listening and sharing and challenging and being convicted and resting and regrouping. My whole generation of ministry is interim ministry. We are wedged between the way things once were and the first moments of something still unfolding.  I feel all of it with great awe for the present moment and the rush of its intensity. Stepping back will continue to balance all that leaning in and being shaped with good perspective and pace.

We are on the cusp of more beauty at Zion. I can feel it in the sanctuary and on the lawn. I can feel is driving down Lake Street in the morning. I can feel it when I see photos of Zioners camping or eating together on Facebook. This threshold fills me with gratitude for the last seven years and eager joy for all the years to come.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Last Sunday we blessed and sent a couple from Zion off to Canada for pastoral internship. We made them promises and prayed and anointed their foreheads with oil.

After worship, three more came and asked to be marked with the sign of the cross. They carried grief, regrets, enthusiasm, and nervous energy. They asked to be marked because of these things.

I don't take these moments for granted. I get to stare deep into people's eyes as I declare promises much bigger than either of us. And, while I'm shouting, they are staring back at me. They are soaking up the words and the grace and the trust we share because of the Pastor in front of my name. It is lovely, transforming work.

Tove is toddling around now. She is covered in lasagna sauce and hiding in cupboards and shouting across the house for her sister when they get separated by a few rooms. Tove is wild and sneaky and full of good ideas. She makes this face that shows her humor and determination in the form of big lips. I just love it.

Every night at 9:30pm she starts to cry. I creep up the stairs quietly and find her sitting up (still sleeping) in the middle of her crib. I hold her against my chest and whisper in her ear, "This is not a nap. This is nighttime. You're not missing anything." Then I kiss her cheek and she kisses my neck. She is peaceful and cuddly, so I continue to meet her in these moments. Tove is usually busy being goofy during the day and snuggles are rare.

Something about our moment and my words anoint her for the night. Tove's fear of missing out and the day's energy fade away as she relaxes into my body. And then I put her back down, still asleep until dawn.

There is great power and privilege in my roles and words. I get to say so many things with confidence (even when I am not confident) because these gifts or truths do not belong to me. But I do get to share them. I am entrusted with a voice and arms and eyes.

I am made for naming and anointing, holding and releasing. And for that I am grateful.