Thursday, September 20, 2012

and everything in between


Our festivities lasted awhile last night, so I didn't get around to counting the Recovery Worship offering until this morning. I smiled when I found a scrubby, crumpled one dollar bill next to a crisp, folded fifty. That's Recovery Worship for ya. And everything in between.

We celebrated the third anniversary of this scrappy service last night...and everything about it was scrappy, too. I was pretty doped up on cough and flu medication. I can't remember much of what I said during the devotional, but it probably didn't make sense. We meant to plant a tree next to the two from prior years, but my husband convinced me to "call before you dig". I finally did...just 12 hours too late and we were told not to plant until Thursday morning. Oops. So I dragged a 10 foot crab apple tree and its pot into church so it could still be part of the fun. (When you're a solo pastor, people just nod and smile when you say you're bringing a tree into the sanctuary. Such freedom to be an idiot.)

We had a slightly larger crowd than usual, so we gathered upstairs in the sanctuary. (Most Wednesdays we're a circle of 20 chairs in the fireside room.) A violin, viola, and flute joined us so we felt extra fancy. The pastor who founded Recovery Worship was there so we felt nostalgic and grateful, too. Then we had dessert and lingered for a bit.

I had high hopes for productivity today since I spent most of the week under the weather. But then life happens and you bump into people and you never get to the piles all over your office.

The doorbell rings and Joyce* comes in. She's a regular at the Lyndale Community Dinner and needs some help programming her new cell phone. The government has been giving out free cell phones to low-income Americans this year. It helps many connect with their case workers or seek employment during these tough times. Joyce has never had a  cell phone and she was overwhelmed last night at the dinner trying to get her address book set up.

"I rang the bell and I came here because I needed help and I didn't know who to ask so I came here." Deana and I shoot each other a look. That happens a lot at Zion. We are the default/backup/home base for many and that's an exhausting, beautiful privilege. It takes a minute to figure out the world's cheapest, smallest cell phone, but we do it. We authorize her voicemail and practice calling each other and quiz her about the features. And then Joyce is ready to take on the world.

All the while an eccentric friend of a friend is doing a photo shoot in the sanctuary. Wedding cakes. But it's not about the wedding cakes - it's about the rare Japanese flower toppers on the cakes. He and his wife are starting a little business in retirement and so, naturally, this is the scene in our sanctuary on a Thursday afternoon. I love it.

No time for warm fuzzies, though, because Character #213 in the neighborhood is ringing the bell and has a letter for me from his lawyer. We talk in the parking lot about his service dog and the community dinner and the rule he detests: a leash. According to the letter, "places of public accommodation" must allow the tiny pup to serve him without a leash. Because we do not legally classify as one of these places and I have a whole file folder on this case, I remind him that the church is technically private property. While he'd love to put me on his To Sue list, I'm not changing our rule.

This is not received well and the conversation continues a bit longer than it should. I am repramanded for being un-Christ like and having bullshit rules. (This is a good sign, believe it or not. "You're a bad Christian" guilt is usually the last jab.) Blessings on your day, sir.  At least "Apocalypse Doug" hasn't called the church office today, warning me about the sixth trumpet.

Later I wander into the grocery store and pick up a basket. Ah. Like I did in my single days. I even follow a twenty-something around for a bit as she chooses my old favorites: a 12 pack of Diet Coke and a stack of Lean Cuisines on sale. God bless her.

The list. Ah yes. The list says four things not found in the Single White Female aisle. And getting back on track, I run into the most beautiful and curvy black woman I've ever seen. She's carefully touching pears before putting them in her cart when I realize there's a tiny baby hiding in her cleavage. Like, still-wearing-the-hospital-hat-tiny! And so I cannot resist. I walk over, put my hand gently on her arm and ask, "How old is your baby?"

He's just six days old, snuggled in tight. Up close I notice how tired and shaky Mom is. "Six days! Wow. Momma, look at you! You're out at the grocery store! You're doing it!" I want to throw her a parade when her eyes fill with tears.

"I don't know what I'm doing. I'm so tired and I'm scared he's going to wake up and I'm going to have to leave a whole cart of food to go feed him somewhere. I mean, how do I do that? This is so much harder..."

So I put her pears down and I hug her. There is room for all three of us in her bosom. I march quietly in her parade until she's ready to wipe her eyes. "The most beautiful thing about this is how we do it even though things fall apart. You'll have good days and bad days and everything in between. But you're doing it! And that's so beautiful!"

She notes that I must have kids, too. And to make her feel better, I pull up my pants and show her the giant green bruise on my leg. "I ran into and fell over the bathroom baby gate the other night - totally wiped out." And then we had a good laugh.

The truth is, honey, we're all wiping out all the time. There's a little bit of everything every day. Sometimes we can hide it under cute trouser jeans or behind the grace of a hopeful outing. But don't be fooled. We're all in it.

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