Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Week and a Year

A year ago this week I was in Atlanta, madly throwing my belongings into boxes, getting ready to get commissioned at Annual Conference, and spending every spare second with my seminary friends. I was in the midst of transitions: finishing school, leaving my friends, moving several states away, starting a new job... Everything was in flux, and I didn't have a concrete role or identity.

Now, 360-some days later, I've spent almost a year in ministry. This week, instead of packing things away, I put them up. After almost a year, I finally put my framed diplomas on the wall of my office. Something about having diplomas on my wall made me feel grown-up and professional. And it's ironic, really, because I've been "grown-up" and professional for a year. But somehow the diplomas grant credibility. Which was helpful, this week especially.

This week I did nearly all of my pastoral duties. Last weekend I led three worship services, presided over communion three times, and preached one of the services. This week I assisted with a funeral, and this weekend I conducted a wedding. I did hospital visits and presided over meetings, studied Scripture and talked with clergy colleagues. And, until I stopped to think about it, it seemed natural and normal.

But when I stop and compare where I was last year with where I am now, I'm amazed. How did I reach the point where it seems almost normal to be preaching, administering the sacraments, and conducting weddings and funerals? Did one year really bring all this change? Did it transform my life this much? Of course, then answer is yes. In one year, I've taken some huge steps in my pastoral identity. I've become a pastor with books on my shelves, diplomas on the wall, robes in the closet, and ministry experiences behind me.

I'm not there yet, of course, I have a long way to go, a lot of learning and growing still ahead of me. But as I near the one-year mark in my ministry, I'm amazed by the transformation so far.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Vacation of Unbearable Cuteness (Part 2)

My niece is too smart for her own good, and she's only eight months old. For example, she finds eating boring. In order to sit still and actually eat the baby food my sister skillfully shoves into her mouth, she requires an array of distractions. She needs to have at least one and preferably several things she can play with. She likes to conduct gravity experiments with these toys: she drops them off the side of her chair and watches to make sure that they hit the ground. She has created a circle in which she drops an item, the nearest adult picks it up and gives it back to her, she waves it around for a few seconds, and then she drops it again. Repeat process, repeat process, repeat process... you get the picture.

She also needs a show. At various points through the week, my father, my mother, and I have found ourselves singing and dancing to entertain her while she eats. I've pulled out all the stops, bringing back old showchoir routines, complete with choreography, to hold her attention. I've caught my father, a usually-dignified law professor, waving his arms and singing "Master of the House" from Les Miserables. Even my mother, a very self-contained southern woman, has been seen singing old church camp songs. But perhaps my favorite moment was when I came in from the porch to find my entire family gathered around the baby making up new lyrics to "The Sound of Music" while a delighted Hannah giggled and devoured her mushed peas. This is truly the sort of thing that brings a family together.

My puppy, Charlie, is ecstatic about the attention he's getting and delighted by the presence of so many people for such prolonged periods. He is constantly wandering around the room, trying to get every person to pet him. He's also trying to pick out the weak link, the person most likely to share their food with him, and begging with all the cuteness he can muster. Fortunately, no one in my family is easily moved, so he is still a no-people-food puppy. But it's not from lack of trying on his part. And it's not just people from whom Charlie seeks attention. When we went walking the other day, Charlie tried to make friends with the ducks. He didn't bark or act in any way menacing, he simply ran toward them in a sniffing posture. The ducks ran away. I told him that ducks are jerks and he wouldn't want to be friends with them anyway, but he still seemed hurt. Poor puppy.

So, each day we take turns entertaining the baby so she'll eat, playing with the puppy so he doesn't feel left out, and appreciating the incredible cuteness of it all. As soon as I get pictures uploaded, I'll share that cuteness with you, too!