Shopping isn’t my favorite thing. I know it’s hard to tell; I’m such a trendsetter in clergywear. *snort* I’m usually behind the curve where fabrics, designs, and contemporary coverings are concerned. When I do go shopping, I want to find what I want directly, try it on if I have to, and then if it fits, I’ll get a bunch of them so I don’t have to go again anytime soon. So today I have on a dress. The first appointment I had this morning was outside the church and before even sitting down the statement of awe and wonder was expressed, “YOU have on a DRESS.” I looked wearily and warily at the statement maker and simply said, “I hate all my pants today, ‘nuf said.” First world problems, they’ll just eat at you, won’t they? I “should” just be happy to have something to wear, but that argument doesn’t really hold water when I’m standing in my closet and everything looks stupid.
I’m guessing my issue today might be something more than not liking my pants. It’s hard to say goodbye, I think. We had a staff lunch at K-Macho’s for Tiffany and I like that place – the food, the atmosphere, the guac, and the company we were keeping wasn’t bad either. But it didn’t change the fact that there’s change happening. Tiffany isn’t flying out of our orbit, she isn’t moving across the country, she isn’t leaving for a high desert monastery or convent to never be seen by regular people again. She’s simply following a different call on her life from God that will take her to heights and depths of ministry outside the walls of the church in ways poetic, and creative, and life-sustaining. See how good I am at being positive and supportive?!? AND, it’s still change. I suppose if our clergy-staff team was icky, changes wouldn’t be any big deal, but today, it feels like a big deal that upsets a little of our equilibrium.
The United Methodist appointment system is a love-hate relationship for most of us, both clergy and lay. Every UM church has “appointed positions,” therefore clergy are not employees that are hired and fired at the local level. It’s easy to forget that. Each year some of those appointed clergy positions open because of retirements, some because of personal leave, like Tiffany’s, some for other reasons. When those positions open, the Bishop and Cabinet meet together to figure out how, who, and when to fill them, in consultation with Staff Parish Committees and the Pastor and family in question. It all sounds very clear, very systematic, very objective; AND it is all those things and oh so much more because there are feelings and relationships and feelings and friendships and feelings and families involved which means it’s also well, just messy – good messy, challenging messy, and simply messy. There’s grief and celebration and tears and laughter and memories and hopes and gratefulness and fears and love and the unknown for the leave-takers and for the stay-ers. AND there is the ever-faithfulness of God. Oh yeah, there’s that.
So two and a half weeks ago on a Saturday into Sunday morning, on Confirmation Sunday no less, I had the throw-ups. Sorry if you’re reading this while eating. And I couldn’t get them stopped in time for church. And Tiffany and Kyle and the rest of the staff came through like gang-busters and I listened to Tiffany’s message online and it was so very good, and so very right, and so very God-thingy that while I know God doesn’t cause sickness, I truly believe her message was what was needed that day. And last Saturday into Sunday Tiffany had the throw-ups. Sorry again if you’re eating while reading. It was supposed to be her final worship with her tribe in the River of Life worship service, so kind of a big deal. She’ll be with ROL this next Sunday and it will be fine. But we’ve both remarked that neither of us has ever had to call the other and KYLE to save a Sunday morning worship service, but the last two weeks we each have. Yes, this stomach virus stuff seems to be running through the community, and I suppose if it’s going to hit a couple clergy folks, it’s bound to be on a Saturday night, but still, you know? It makes you wonder about the spiritual nature and the sacred rhythm of life. Neither of us has completely processed what’s there, but it’s an interesting occurrence. Maybe because goodbyes are hard and complex and can affect bodies and spirits and expectations and emotions and systems and all the messiness of feeling all the feelings. And as odd as it sounds, I wouldn’t have it any other way… mostly. *snort*
I may get up in the morning and decide on wearing a dress again because all my pants are stupid. It’s highly unlikely – dresses two days in a row – I think not. But maybe tomorrow it will be something else, and maybe I’ll decide that being happy and sad and everything in between because of goodbyes and changes and feelings is okay, and if the worst thing that happens is deciding my pants are stupid, or that I suddenly need to wash all my windows (I know, right?!?), or that my bathroom walls need to be painted, the world and I can survive that. AND we can survive the changes and growing pains that the God of all grace envisions for us as communities and individuals knowing with assurance that God wants good things for all of us! Even in the hard stuff.
One more thing. Pastor Kyle, please know how grateful Tiffany and I and the Grace congregation are for you! And your request that the next time you preach you would like to have more preparation time than a couple hours? Really?!? You’re so high maintenance! *snort* Actually you are our glimpse of Grace!