open ears

I have had more in person conversations with people outside of my family in the last week and a half than I have had over the last sixteen months. 

I truly believe that ministry is based on relationships, and I am doing my level best at practicing it. People love to share. People are hungry to tell you their story, even if it is the happy version of that story, because sometimes the telling of the story is also the crafting of it. But still. Listening matters. 

And I’m hearing the stories. 

I had a woman stop me in the grocery store and share with me for twenty minutes. I get this all the time. I am a sponge or magnet or glue for stories. I’m the heat signature for the tracking device. 

Its become so common that I get surprised when stories don’t overflow. When my norm is barely prompted outpouring of the deepest past and part of someone, when I encounter someone who is not eager to spill, I forget the prompts. What was easy becomes monumentally difficult. 

I’m remembering to stay curious. 

I’m reminding myself to stay curious. 

And in the midst of staying curious, to also allow and receive nuance, to hear the story behind the statement, to not fall into the trap of assuming that a single decision point is the defining part of the whole person in front of me. 

If only because I don’t want that done to me. 

I’m in this strange space of having five years of paid employment and ten years since I finished school… ten years of conversations deeply embedded in church without the performative or compensated part of it. 

And I wonder how that changes how I listen. I hope that the ten years have changed me. Rather, I know they have… I could go and read what I was writing right as I finished and see what changes have been wrought in my perspective. 

It makes me wonder what the next ten years will bring. What stories I have yet to hear. What heartbreak I have yet to sustain. What transition I have yet to navigate. 

How many more conversations I get to have. 

I am looking forward to listening and learning. 

In Threes

We did it again. We hit a triple major transition all at once and we are still in the middle of it.

Third time now, after ten years of marriage, and I’m counting the summer we got married as one of those super transitions. 

Something that has been going on this time around is the feeling that I’m behind. Behind what, I’m not quite sure. It feels like it is the end of the summer, somehow, and I have to keep reminding myself that it is still the beginning of July. I think it has some to do with missing the cadence of Annual Conference, and that mom and dad have been living with us since the beginning of june, so June was soooooo huge that it felt like the whole summer. It wasn’t. I still have all of July to get my feet under me before I have my third year intro to RiOM but it still… still feels full. 

I’m having to remind myself that it’s still beginning. That the expectations here are different than my last appointment. I’m learning the cadence and the feel and honestly I haven’t had my first sunday yet. 

Sunrise walks in the neighborhood

So in the remembering, I’ve been taking walks. I’ve been learning grocery stores (some of which I’ve shopped at before). I’ve been getting things set up in my house and figuring out what goes where and what is still packed and what I might end up storing in the guest room when my guests get their new house at the end of the month. 

I guess it’s made this transition weightier, because my dad retired and my parents are moving up to live in the same state as we are, an hour up the road. And so they are in the middle of a massive transition that is taking two months, essentially, because they don’t close on their house until the end of the month. 

It’s been good. Full. And good. 

This year is is going to feel so different than last year. I wonder in a few years if I will remember much about salisbury besides yoga, having shingles, and that blasted staircase. Good things happed there. I loved our creek in our back yard and our next door neighbor was wonderfully welcoming with her back yard. But half the time we lived there we were in the middle of lockdown. More strict than most of our neighbors because not enough of our neighbors were strict enough. 

So I think that’s part of why I’m so ready for this transition. I am ready to change. I want to change from what our last year and a half felt like. The memories of that house will fade, and we will learn in our new walls, with our new windows, and on our new porch, in our house that is nearly as old as my grandfather. 

And in the midst of the change we will learn our new church, and set new rhythms for our family where I am doing the work and my husband is caring for the kids. And we will celebrate that our kids play with our new neighbors. And the welcome continues. 

settling in to the new office

Singing Through It

Heres a thing about me that you should know. 

I like to sing. 

It’s like… essential. 

It’s how I process and express joy, sorrow, despair, frustration, anger, hope, happiness, peace, rest, playfulness, and encouragement. 

I can track friends by which songs they remember me by.

I wonder, in part, if that is why I chose to be a Bard in our roleplaying game. I tell stories and sing, as a character. I have created a character that is who I want to be. 

I miss singing with a congregation.

I’ve not sung with a group of people in over a year, and I can feel it in my bones. This, as much as the Lord’s Table, is communion to me. 

And I want to state, our church is beautifully mundane in it’s singing. We’re not going to go on tour, or have someone come record us for our brilliance, but we are a group of people who gathered to sing and worship and praise and have communion together. And I miss that.

Not so much some of the different navigations that I had to attend to. But that, the singing. The worship. The coming together and joining our voices in shared statements of what God is actively doing? 

I miss that so much. 

In my aborted procedure two weeks ago, I was trying to stand the level of pain I was experiencing, and so I started to talk to the women preforming the procedure about the sermon I’d preached a couple days previous. I almost started singing, to keep my mind off the pain radiating down my hips towards my knees and through my core. I rubbed my fingers in circles against my thumbs, and if anyone had been paying attention to the motion, it was in cadence with the songs in my head. 

I’m going to have a different version of the same procedure tomorrow… in an OR, under full anesthesia. It’s expensive (there goes our entire stimulus), and also I don’t look forward to being intubated, because I really really care about my voice, and how I sing, and that I can sing mostly any time I want. 

But I’d also rather not bleed so much each cycle that I have to make all my plans centered around whether that will be a lost day. And I’m ready to not bleed so much that my iron stores are dangerously low. But it’s womens’ health… so it took two years of bleeding like this to figure out how to work towards health, especially since I “look” healthy. (PS, y’all know weight is not an indicator of health, right?)

So I’ll rest, and pray, and sing tonight… and drink a full glass of water before bed, and rise, waiting, not especially ready, but prepared, for what I’m facing tomorrow. 

And tonight, when I sing my children their lullaby from Veggie Tales, (a surprisingly new tradition), I’ll sing it with all the heart I wish I could put into the song that I long to sing with a gathered community. 

But I don’t know how long it will be until it is safe to sing together again. Probably around the time we can share at the Table again. 

yeast patience

It’s two months until I learn where I will be serving in ministry next, and two more after that until I will be taking my appointment and joining my new community, but tonight I will be starting a new loaf of bread again. 

And as I work the yeast and water into the flour and salt, I’m thinking about how we will continue to trust in the invisible gentle work of God. 

I was working through a liturgy from Kendall Vanderslice, a theologian baker, who wrote, in the midst of her recipe for bread, “Now stop. The work is not done, but it is not all yours to do.”

And what a word of grace that is for me, still. 

When I wash the traces of gritty, sticky flour from my hands after drawing the ingredients together, I must walk away and let the dough sit, overnight, resting, as the yeast gets to work and doubles and triples the batch in size. 

I’m practicing, see, practicing for my new church. They’re already working together, waiting for me, even though neither they nor I know who we are yet. There’s a deeper truth here, too, we’re still all becoming more of what God is calling us to be. 

It won’t be perfect, when we come together. We’ll still be in some portions of covid protocols, and I don’t know when the first time I will celebrate communion with them will be, and it’s coming on a year now since I last joined in a communion table, with a body of worship, with a people gathered to share and be the Body of Christ.

But I’m practicing this bread as a gift, to share, if they will accept it, as long as their tradition may allow it, since I have been at churches where a family already made the loaves that were used to celebrate. But I’m working on this loaf, still, for our family, and for the congregation where I will worship next in person. 

As I fold the water into the flour tonight, I pray for the people who may not yet know that their pastor will be moving. As I let the yeast proof in water the temperature of blood tonight I pray for the people who have lost family and friends in the past year. As I sift the salt into the flour tonight, I pray that the energy I bring will draw flavor to the entire gathered body. 

And I pray, and I wait, and I rest. 

Epiphany Revealing

Sing:

You don’t have to sing it right/who could call you wrong?/You put your emptiness to melody, your awful heart to song/you don’t have to sing it nice/but honey sing it strong/at best you find a little remedy/at worst the world will sing along/so sing.

—To Noise Making, Hozier

Oh. There is so much. The unveiling continues. The cracks are showing in the foundations. The brokenness built into this country is echoing it’s purpose loud and clear. 

And I? Broken and brave. Refusing to be silent in yet another atrocity in a line of atrocities cast by the very system itself.

You know, democrats now have control of the house, senate, and as of January 21, the presidency. You know that right? That was yesterday morning’s news. Is that why they mobbed? Because they do not know how to exist and lose? 

Lord, white supremacy doesn’t know how to exist and lose. So let it not. Dismantle it. My hope from this is that this is yet another breaking in the foundation of white supremacy. A shattering. 

When a coup is instigated by the outgoing president, and an insurrection happens with a mob of angry white people, who storm the U.S. Capitol building and take it by force, and the police manage to not use deadly force as the very Capitol is occupied… this is who we are. This has been building since the foundation of the nation. For four hundred and two years since the first enslaved African survived the middle passage to be claimed as property by my ancestors who had no right to do so. 

We are not surprised. Appalled, yes. Angered, yes. Even furious. But I am not surprised. This is just another example of how terrible we are. Our sin. Our recklessness with human lives. 

How interesting, as well, that it took place on Epiphany: that this revealing took place when the church calendar marks the time when a political occupying force was so afraid of losing power that a generation of children were murdered. Shine light on this, then. Let’s reveal it for the brokenness it is. And for the way that our systems of power laid the groundwork for it. In clear daylight. Let’s see it. Look. 

The unveiling is happening. O God, open their eyes. Can the people who have been so blinded to how they have been manipulated see that someone is trying to pull their attention away from the truth? And those things I have chosen not to see, the things I have turned away from, turn me to action, in the midst, to healing from the root. 

I could not have written my reflection without the influence of the Black women and activists from whom I have learned so much in the last few years, namely adrienne marie brown, Prentis Hemphill, Morgan Harper Nichols, and Austin Channing Brown. I’m still learning.