When I accepted my first (and current) call, I was intentional in looking for congregation that had time and space carved out for children during the week. To put it bluntly, I was look for on-site childcare for the future, hopefully at a reduced (if not free) price for future dream fulfillment. Four months into my call, I became pregnant with our first child (“that was quick,” my head of staff remarked with amusement). At three months old, Daniel was just three doors down from my office. At two and a half years old, he is now two doors down, having graduated from the baby room to the “two’s.” In the fall, one door away at the “three’s.” While the privilege of bringing my son to work was beyond measure, the blessing was hundred-fold when my marriage fell apart.
I don’t recommend divorce.
Then again, I kind of do.
Becoming a divorced clergy who also happens to be a single mom was a huge adjustment, and it came hurtling so quickly that I’m not sure I was standing for much of 2009. I stood for Daniel when I had him, but the days when I found myself alone in my apartment fighting depression over shared custody and a slew of other divorce-y battles left me wondering how long the waters would be up to my neck. In his absence, I would gather Daniel’s favorite stuffed animals (doggie, tiger and bun-bun) and slept in his sweet embrace, my soul emptied not just of spouse, but now too of child three days a week.
A couple of years ago, I applied to be a commissioner to our denomination’s General Assembly. After glancing at the essay questions, I went back to the top of the form to fill out the easy stuff: Name… Address… Phone… Email… Gender… Ethnicity… Age…
The “Age” line had several ranges to choose from. I began scanning the numbers with some smugness—This will be my ace in the hole! They’re always looking for young people to go to these things—until I realized which box I would need to check at age 37:
I am a single rev. At least I think am. At least for now. And for a while to come. I think.
I am falling into that “liminal space” (thank you seminary vocabulary) that comes between single-but-dating and single-but-engaged. For some couples, this space is short, maybe only a minute or two, but for my significant other and me, this space is turning out to be extremely long. We have known for two years that we want to marry each other, that it's okay to talk about “when” rather than “if,” but right now there is no end in sight.
We are choosing to do it this way because neither one of us is ready to leave our call to a congregation, and while it's certainly not ideal, there's no one way to negotiate this part of a relationship. Every couple has to figure it out for themselves. It seems to be working for us so far. But I have a feeling it won't work forever.
Sometime during college I came across Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics –- a neat collection of writings that focus on various spiritual disciplines. It was a welcome change in pace from the Max Lucado and Phillip Yancey books I had devoured during this time as I sought to articulate some kind of theology for myself. The different perspectives and voices were rich, and as “classics” they nourished my soul in their passionate language and timelessness. Afterwards, I picked up his Celebration of Discipline, and it is something that I refer to often especially during seasons of change and transition for the way it grounds me in tangible practices as I make my way through what is unfamiliar.
With the arrival of the twins, who are now almost three months old, and our move to the mid-west where Andy has taken on a new call, and I’ve taken on the strange, new vocation as a stay-at-home mom, I’m in “that” kind of a season now. Except that I can’t find my copy of Foster’s book because most of my books are still in boxes – officeless. As I try – through my scattered mom-mind – to glean the lessons from the many readings in the past what vaguely strikes me is how I sort of passed over the last chapter, which is on celebration…and that this particular discipline is one that I need to continuously cultivate in my life. I started to think about this when something wonderful recently happened in my life and Andy’s first words were “let’s go celebrate,” and my first response was “nah, it’s no big deal.” He continued to insist, and my giving in made me wonder why I had to force myself to let go of that usual resistance to rejoice in something I did or accomplished in the moment.
Full disclosure: When Tina Fey was hosting Weekend Update in the early oughts, I rocked a pair of tortoiseshell glasses, mostly because my boyfriend at the time had a giant crush on her. But also because here was a woman so funny and relatable that I both idolized her and was pretty convinced if she knew me we would be BFFs. Over time my affection for Ms. Fey has only deepened. I thought Mean Girls was brilliant, watched every episode of 30 Rock, laughed at Date Night, and, okay, never got around to seeing Baby Mama.
So, I downloaded her memoir, Bossypants, as soon as it was released. I forced myself to only read one chapter at a time, so I wouldn’t run out of book too quickly. While many celebrity memoirs are interesting to read for their gossip value (Who were Rob Lowe’s lovers?) what I found compelling about Bossypants was Fey’s relationship with her work. Comedy is clearly a calling for her, just as ministry is for me.