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

chapters.

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.