Remember senior superlatives from high school? Sure you do. I was most talented one year, according to Northwestern High School in the booming metropolis of Rock Hill, South Carolina. One would think, having received this exalted ranking by popular vote, that I would consider myself to be creative. More-than-a decade-old, no-longer-relevant title aside, I've been wondering lately if I can honestly call myself "creative."
After six years of lessons, all I can conjure up are bits of Beethoven's Fur Elise and Bryan Adams's Everything I Do (I Do It For You) when I sit down at the piano. I associate my sketch of marbles reflected in a pocket mirror more with punching the boy next to me for laughing that I had "chicken legs" than with the middle school art show second place ribbon it garnered. I can sing in a surprisingly loud, mostly on key alto, but good projection is only that. My poetry, well, it sucks so hard that I've destroyed everything I've tried to write for the past decade.
And then there's dance. Well, to be more accurate, there was dance.
Adelaide Christie was born on an early Tuesday morning. We had been watching and waiting and waiting and watching. Monday morning I woke up with contractions and saw the doctor. All was well, but I was not in any way in "active" labor. I love all the medical jargon. What kind of labor is inactive? Anyway, my doctor scheduled an induction for Friday if those contractions didn't get active. All the inactive contractions decided to take a break. I had the rest of the day to rest on the couch and try to get these inactive, slothful contractions into active and intense contractions. Well, they eventually heard my plea and did their job.
Women were not ordained in the church I grew up in until the year I graduated from high school. I knew, thanks to my parents, that it was wrong not to ordain women. And I realize now that they went out of their way to expose my siblings and me to women pastors in other churches. But still, I didn't have many role models for women leading worship.
It turns out this is true of many young women pastors, even those who were raised in church settings where women were ordained. There just weren't as many female as male role models. And so, for many of us, one of the early struggles in finding out footing in ministry is carving out our pastoral identity as worship leaders. Young men have the same issue, too, but they have inevitably heard a few more voices in their own register. But the range is more limited for women. Do we imitate the one or two or three women we've seen leading worship? What if that doesn't feel authentic because it just isn't really who we are? Can we use our own voices, our own experience, our own age and generation, as a valid version of the woman-worship leader?
It was hot and sticky—humidity has always been my enemy. Fatigue and crankiness were hovering just under my surface, ready to break forth. My cute sandals were giving me a blister on the sole of my foot. I was drenched in my own sweat. I wasn't entirely sure of the way back to the hotel, where I planned to simply blast the room AC and lie catatonic for a few minutes. I was at the recent conference of The Young Clergy Women Project, but this was not my best day among new friends.
Fortunately for me, Lara and Heather paused up ahead, waiting for me to catch up. Thanks to them, I would not be wandering around the Emory University area looking for a place to lay my head.
That's when I saw the streaks of light, darting and fading in the dusky shadows under a cluster of pine trees. Fireflies. I stopped dead in my tracks. “Are those...fireflies?”
In my very first article for this column, in October 2007, I wrote the following statement: "In my better moments, I remember to choose not to be defined by absence. I choose to be defined by presence: by my own full presence in the world, by the presence of those who love me, and by the presence of God within and around me."
Wow, was I wise or what?
Frankly, there have been times in the last three years in which I should have been reading my own writing, or paying more attention to the thoughts of some of the other wise women whose work I have had the pleasure to edit and post for Fidelia's Sisters. So much of what has appeared here has been, as the column's title suggests, a guide - but perhaps more than that, a voice whispering in my ear, at just the moment when I have thought that I am the only person on earth who has ever felt like this, "You know, I feel exactly the same way!"
The phenomenon known as LOST came to a close a few weeks ago. If you don’t watch the show, your life isn’t that different, except maybe some people you know are now able to converse about other subjects besides The Island. Talk of “candidates” probably refers to the upcoming midterm elections, rather than the list of possible folks to take care of the island. And mention of a plane flight probably relates to summer travel instead of the ill-fated flight that crashed into prime time six years ago.
Up until the finale, the big question of the series for many of us was, Will this thing cohere? I’m one of those who was burned by The X-Files so many years ago, and have never quite forgiven the creators for letting the show’s narrative get away from them so spectacularly. That experience made me a little gun shy with LOST—there were moments in the last couple years when friends and I fretted that the show could not possibly come to a satisfying conclusion. LOST just had too many loose ends, too many intriguing red herrings, too many trips down too many rabbit holes.
I am now closing out an almost nine year ministry at my congregation. I started my journey as a 25 year old and am now 34.
In all honesty, I am grateful that these people took a chance on me, regardless of why they did it. Being 25 and in ministry is like being barefoot in a rock garden, hardly knowing where to step, often finding your feet hurting. I remember my friend Hillary Wright telling me once, "You have to get your minister shoes", and that definitely was true. I wish I could say the garden was always plush with lots of grass that you could run barefoot in for hours, and there were moments of that, but all in all, ministry in this place has always been walking in a rock garden: looking down once in a while to see a beautiful shiny rock, sometimes seeing broken rocks and sometimes those jagged rocks that stab you right in the toe. After nine years, my shoes helped to navigate the landscape, not so much that I didn't feel the pain once in a while, but enough to keep me walking forward, around in circles, or blazing new paths in new territories. Here's what I found out these past nine years of the journey: