#amwriting, Family, Interim Ministry, Ministry, NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo, The Minister's Wife, Writing

Life is full

Victorian House floor plan I'm adapting for the family in my novel.
Victorian House floor plan I’m adapting for the family in my novel, from this book. Because you can’t describe a life without knowing where the sunlight comes through the windows and how far the bathroom is from the bedroom.

It turns out I am more of a promoter of NaBloPoMo than a participant in it. I have, however, been working on my novel, which is fun, although I do not have enough time for it, not really. Today I plan to spend some time on the novel, some time on a sermon and some time on overdue essays for Lectionary Homiletics, a sermon publication. That’s a full day of writing.

Every day this week has been a full day of living. Among the hats I have worn are Long Distance (College Student and other grown up people) Mama, cook, laundress, furniture duster, Pastor’s wife, Bible study leader, non-profit ministry Director (with it’s sub-categories of technical support, Social media minister, event planner and erstwhile visionary), book editor, novice novelist, floor plan researcher, freelance curriculum/sermon resource writer, colleague, friend, Facebook friend, Words with Friends player, step-mom, stationery supply shopper, cat owner at vet (twice, each with a different cat), leader, reader, pray-er, Stewardship letter writer, pastor myself and wife (minus Pastor’s for the times that isn’t the priority).

That leaves off a few descriptors for things I didn’t get around to doing.

Juggling multiple part-time jobs (Interim Pastor, Director of RevGalBlogPals, writing/editing) requires me to learn compartmentalization, a skill I have both envied and resented in others. This week I spent time on that task by setting up another email just for church and a connected Evernote account that works across devices. That’s my to do list just for church. And the truth is, I really only look at that Evernote in the blocks o time assigned to working at the church. It goes against my nature, but it has to be that way if I’m going to keep to the 20 hours a week for which I am contracted and also have time to do other work and be present to my family.

Oh, and God.

There are a lot of days in this season of life with its delicious if sometimes exhausting fullness when I count on God’s presence more than I invoke it. I think a lot about what God wants for and from me, from RevGalBlogPals, from the church I am serving, even from the church my wife is serving. There is not much downtime in which to regroup, much less to be contemplative, but I can feel the need for it. I made an appointment with my Spiritual Director — much-needed — but I can see the pace is going to continue this way for the foreseeable future.

So, I may not blog every day. But I am writing every day, at least a little, and I feel good about it.

A-Croc-Alypse Now, Call, Chez Songbird, If I Were Preaching, Interim Ministry, Ministry of the Meantime, Preaching

Saturday Night Thoughts

  • Communion WafersIt's hard to know what to do on Saturdays when I'm not preaching.
  • I wonder where I will end up next?
  • When I hear young people singing beautifully, as I did at LP's District Honors Chorus Festival today, I feel hopeful for the world.
  • When I come home and read news about the Tea Party Convention, I don't.
  • Really, it's hard to figure out how to structure my week when I'm not preaching.
  • I fear I sound whiny, which is not nice to some of my pastor friends who are between engagements, so to speak.
  • Leaving is an inevitable part of life, but in Interim Ministry, it comes with alarming regularity. 
  • Maybe I ought to be less mopey and watch TV with LP instead.
  • We have that "What Not to Wear" with the Episcopal priest on our DVR.
  • Next week I'll try to find a writing rhythm, but at the moment it feels pretty pointless because…
  • it's not for preaching or the associated preparation.
  • And maybe I need a writing project.
  • But I don't know what that would be.
  • Except I did suggest to Pure Luck that maybe someone might be interested in the story of a pastor married to an atheist, and he said sure, and I said we could write it together, and he suggested I could interview him, which is to say, do the work myself.
  • Lastly, in response to the ways we have tried to accommodate various worries about Communion (germs, gluten, etc.), LP suggests it's getting to the point we will be handing people a plastic wafer to hold, contemplate, and then return to us.

Interim Ministry, Ministry of the Meantime

Ministry of the Meantime

I've been at my current job for six months now, and it was great to meet with the Pastoral Relations Committee tonight and have a wide-ranging conversation about the job, the church and the preparation for a settled Associate Pastor. My work as a consultant to the Search Committee will soon be over, as they get closer to running an ad and beginning to look at candidate profiles. Although I continue to leave open the possibility of seeking a settled call myself when this job ends, I *love* working with search committees. It's exciting, challenging and creative work, helping the committee to paint a picture of the church that will speak to the heart of the pastor who will be the right match.

When I shared this with the committee, the Moderator of the church pointed out the cost at which doing this very gratifying work comes: the wrenching nature of the goodbyes that come at uncomfortably close intervals.

He's got that right.

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Call, Grief, Interim Ministry

Missing Piece

Sam Dogbook

Sam went to Youth Group with me tonight. We met with the Senior High kids and then checked in on the Junior Youth meeting, where half-a-dozen sixth grade girls raced across the room to pet him.

(He likes girls a lot.)

I had been away at our Annual Conference Meeting and got home only a short time before I needed to go to church. I missed him and didn't want to leave him, even though he had the company of Pure Luck's BFF all weekend. I'm grateful I could take him with me.

But I can't stop thinking how weird it is to be at a church where they've never known Molly.

"Our other Berner," I say, or "our first Berner." The first sounds too immediate, as if she might be waiting at home; the second sounds too distant,practically historic.

We've had a lot of transitions this year, loss and separation and disappointments and graduation and disconnection and one new entry after another for each of us at jobs and schools. In all the time I've known him, Pure Luck has never worked at so many different locations in one year. And I'm aware that moving from one church community to another, despite the interesting nature of the work (and the rather wonderful time I'm having at Y1P), creates additional strain on the family system. I wonder what's next, and it will need to be an active form of wonder fairly soon. I'll undergo another criminal background check, since they are only good for 18 months and I had my last almost two years ago. I'll need to update my ministerial profile.

On the old one, I listed ministry work with Molly as one of my interests. 

31 Raffaello-trionfo di galatea

When Pure Luck and I first knew each other, when we decided to see if we had more in common than the spark we both appreciated so much, we bought a jigsaw puzzle and put it together on my dining room table. No lightweights, we chose a 1000 piece puzzle for our experiment. I remember his long body leaning across the table, patiently piecing clouds while I focused on the swath of red cape, or the little lilac cloak. We worked on the puzzle for several weeks and our anticipation grew as we neared completion.

But in the end a piece had gone missing. Perhaps a cat walked across the table and knocked a piece aside with a paw. Perhaps a young child picked one up and carried it away. We did not know, and with disappointment, we put the pieces back in the box.

Some time later I found the missing piece when I lifted the corner of the oriental rug to vacuum. 

I find I'm looking back and wondering about my choices; it seems inevitable after a weekend with colleagues, seeing who has moved, or what pulpits have been filled, knowing some got where they are by the rules of our system, while others…well, let's just say a few pieces of the process may have gone missing. I look back and wonder if I made good choices, if I really understood where God was leading me. I look ahead and wonder where God will beckon and whether I will be able to finish the puzzle the right way, wonder if I ever have?

The painting is Raphael's Triumph of Galatea. As in so many mythological stories there is love between a human and a nymph, and there is a jealous monster, and there is a tragic death and in this case a river that holds the spirit of the dead lover. Galatea's triumph is not to defeat her enemies or to bring her love back to life but to transcend this plane of existence.

I fear I want my satisfaction, my completion, my meaning on this plane instead.

We still have the puzzle. I can't remember whether I put the missing piece in the box with the rest of them. It's been eight years, and that memory might as well be under the rug, too. Galatea still has her apotheosis, with or without it.

Interim Ministry, Ministry

No Such Thing as a Wrong Note

Yesterday I had a visit with a friend from college days, and we asked the sorts of questions you do when four years have gone by since the last meeting, about kids and work and pets and extended families. Her husband asked, "Don't you want your own church?"

I have to confess, that's one of the most frustrating questions to be asked, because the answers are "Yes" and "No" and "Maybe."

First, yes. There's a certain appeal to being in a settled call. You have the chance to start things and see them grow, to develop relationships of depth, to live through the cycle of the year and then another and then another, to build trust and be present. Those are all good things.

But second, no. Because the question suggests that there is something "less than" about doing Interim Ministry, and while I would welcome a settled call if that's to be, I don't see what I'm doing now as stop-gap, for me or for the churches I've served.

And third, maybe. When I consider my gifts for ministry and make a list of which suit me to settled ministry and which to transitional ministry, both lists look respectable. A career assessment tool would not answer this question.

Pete seeger "There's no such thing as a wrong note as long as you're singin'."
Pete Seeger said this at his 90th birthday celebration, showing on Public TV as I
write tonight.

Here's what he had them singing:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

I clearly can't see the answer to this question by myself.

And I am left wondering if maybe there's no such thing as a wrong ministry as long as I'm ministering.

Finally, Writing It, Interim Ministry, Writing

Back at It

It's that time. It's Saturday morning, and I'm preaching tomorrow morning, and since I've been on vacation this week, I've got a sermon to write.

I don't usually arrange it this way–I prefer to have vacation begin after preaching and include the following Sunday–but for a variety of reasons, this was the way it needed to be. It's just harder to get the motor started after a week of idling.

This is also the first day I am full time in the newer of my two jobs. I've left the Freeport UCC and said all my goodbyes and passed along the necessary information to the long-term supply pastor who will be with them through the end of the year, at least. Today I am fully in the employ of Y1P, as their Interim Associate Pastor.

I'm still working out exactly what that job means. Interim ministry is a funny hybrid of pastoring and consulting, and it seems this particular interim will be those things but in a much different ratio, with the emphasis on making sure certain programs continue apace and the consulting more of a condiment than the main course or even the side dish.

This also means I'll be preaching much less often, and I have to wonder what that means for this blog, which was titled in such a way to suggest I would be engaging the lectionary with regularity. I saw it as a way to deepen my reflections and sharpen my writing, but I also saw it aimed toward the weekly sermon. 

Now, I wouldn't dare ask what's the point of it if I'm not preaching, since there is plenty of point to engaging with scripture, for all kinds of reasons. But there is a sense of loss for me that there will be no end-product, or no need for one, most weeks. This month, while my colleague is on vacation, I'll preach a lot, but after this month, it's once a month for the duration of this job (at least until he figures out any other time he's taking off).

I can't decide whether this just makes me sad, which is silly since I knew going in it would be this way, or whether I ought to see this as an opening to do other things with my writing. I'd like to think there is some deeper purpose to this particular direction my ministry is taking, if only for a year, that there is something I will learn that I needed to know.

But for today, there is a sermon to write. I am back at it.

Interim Ministry, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Laughing Jesus

My husband sometimes wonders why we have no stories in which Jesus laughs, and it's one of the things that makes him, serious though he is himself, take Jesus less seriously. How could be be fully anything without laughing? Even the solemn Pure Luck laughs out loud occasionally (especially when people sample Moxie in his presence, right, MB?).

At Y1P, it's traditional that the pastors receive "gifts" culled from the donations to the Pink Pachyderm portion of the Clam Festival, and my colleague now has three year's worth of Jesus-related tributes in his office. One is a laughing Jesus. I tried to find the image on Google and mostly found things that make his laughter terrifying.

But I think a lot of his storytelling must have been based in humor so contextual that we just don't get it, the humor people suffering under oppression share with one another because being humorless ultimately doesn't help. And wouldn't you need a sense of humor to lead those disciples for three years? I suppose I see his humor as dry, more a wink and a nudge than a guffaw.

This morning I'm reflecting on God's sense of humor. I really enjoy Interim Ministry, which of course is all about transitions. But I'm finding, once again, my own transition to be difficult, sad, a little painful. I've left three churches since January 2007. I've learned three new congregations. I'll be with the current one for less than another year. No sooner do I arrive than it's time to update my profile, renew my background check and begin to consider what's next.

Meanwhile at home, I've lived in the same house for 11 years. I've managed to provide stability for my children, who have grown up here and started to grow away, too. I love our quiet street, the trees around our house, the things I see when I get to the corner and turn right or left into the busier world. I wonder how much longer I can continue in this work from this home base?

Since the RA diagnosis last year, I've thought a lot about stress and chronic illness and the relative desirability of more settled employment. I've weighed those things against all the stresses related to a geographic move, and the desire to have my daughter finish school where she started, and the complications of a two household family. I've struggled with the fear that I will run out of possible jobs, although that is probably needless. There are always churches in transition, and I like to think I do this job well.

This morning I'm considering the ways my life seems destined to be at least until LP finishes high school: a string of jobs, a host of new people to learn and fond goodbyes to be said, the continuation of Pure Luck's life on the road for up to half the year, the wondering about what the future will hold. These form a pretty funny spiritual lesson for a mildly anxious gal at midlife who still contemplates her abandonment issues and hates to think of abandoning others. These form a pretty funny lesson in trust.

Do I believe in a laughing Jesus? Maybe he laughs when we finally get the joke.