The Ones We Love

Long-Distance Relationship

I met one of the great loves of my life at an Interim Ministry seminar.  Listless in a basement classroom at my seminary alma mater, I found myself alternately annoyed and intrigued by the laughter erupting from the small group at the far side of the room.  As the week progressed, I discovered the source of the merriment – a pastor who served a church located just over a hundred miles from the church I served.  By the time the week drew to a close, I had a new friend.

Our friendship grew slowly.  We began by meeting monthly at a chain restaurant near the highway; at a half-way point between our two homes.  Eventually, I coaxed her into buying her first cell phone.  Soon we were chatting daily.  My first trip out of my house after a dramatic surgery involved her taking me to lunch and to a local bookstore.  

When my ministry and my spouse’s professional life moved us first fifteen hundred and then twenty-four hundred miles away, I worried that our friendship would wane.  But God’s Spirit continues to flourish in our relationship.  We talk multiple times a day on the phone.  Our families spend vacation time together.  My children refer to her as their “auntie” and to her husband as “uncle.”  Plans are underway for a European vacation to celebrate a milestone birthday she will mark in a few years’ time.

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For Richer or For Poorer

by Angie Mabry-Nauta

Editor's Note: This article is one in an occasional series called "All About the Benjamins," running this fall on Fidelia's Sisters. As many congregations and organizations are running stewardship campaigns and lining up budgets for 2012, we'll be taking a look at the sometimes-taboo topic of money, and the role it plays in our ministries.  This is the third in a series of articles by this author, reflecting on how she and her husband have navigated the variety of financial situations they have encountered during her ministry.  The previous articles, "For Better or For Worse" and "In Sickness and In Health," can be found in the October and November editions of "The Ones We Love," respectively.

One dark night, 
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! – 
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

(St. John of the Cross, “The Dark Night of the Soul,” in
The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross) 

Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) calls it the “dark night of the soul.”  It is the journey of the soul towards God for the purpose of union with its Creator.  And in said union the soul finds its true identity and raison d’être.  In his famous poem bearing the same name, St. John speaks as the soul itself.  The entire journey towards union with God is through utter darkness, which for John (and by extension the reader) is richly polyvalent.  Psychologically and emotionally darkness symbolizes the uncertainty, fear, hardship, pain and suffering the pilgrim experiences.  Indeed, psychologist Darryl Pokea confirms the truth of this allusion, for within this “lonely, painful process” the ego is unraveling as the True Self is being born (Darryl Pokea, “The Dark Night of the Soul is the Gift of Illumination in Higher Consciousness”).

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In Sickness and In Health

Editor's Note: This article is one in an occasional series called "All About the Benjamins," running this fall on Fidelia's Sisters. As many congregations and organizations are running stewardship campaigns and lining up budgets for 2012, we'll be taking a look at the sometimes-taboo topic of money, and the role it plays in our ministries.  This is the second in a series of articles by this author, reflecting on how she and her husband have navigated the variety of financial situations they have encountered during her ministry. The third and final article in the series, "For Richer or For Poorer," will be published in the December edition of "The Ones We Love." 

I thought I knew what I would be experiencing as I began a Friday-to-Saturday retreat at my church in March 2009.  After all, I had gone through this curriculum before with a different group of people.  I’m not sure Nostradamus could have foreseen and described clearly how the retreat would end for me, for an explanation beyond “this must be God” continues to evade me.  

I had been serving as a solo pastor of a small congregation for 4 ½ years at this point.   Ministry was my second career, and this was the first congregation to which I had been called post-seminary.  My weeks consisted of a combination of, but were not limited to preaching; planning and leading worship; caring for and visiting the congregation; leading Consistory (the church’s governing board); teaching Sunday school; engaging the surrounding community and assisting the needy; working to revitalize the church through various programs; serving at other levels of the denomination; counseling; conflict resolution; weddings; funerals; and “other duties as required.”  Congregational ministry was a vocation that was all-encompassing, not a job, and I believed it to be my true purpose in life for which God created me.

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For Better Or For Worse

Editor's Note: This article is one in an occasional series called "All About the Benjamins," running this fall on Fidelia's Sisters. As many congregations and organizations are running stewardship campaigns and lining up budgets for 2012, we'll be taking a look at the sometimes-taboo topic of money, and the role it plays in our ministries.  This is the first of a series of articles by this author, reflecting on how she and her husband have navigated the variety of financial situations they have encountered during her ministry.  The next article, "In Sickness and In Health," will be published in the November edition of The Ones We Love.

“Mawwage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam…”  The Princess Bride is one of my husband and my favorite movies.  Eric and I have seen it so many times that we can speak the characters’ lines with them, and we laugh preemptively.  We know well what is coming, and yet we find it hilarious anyway, again.  One of the sure-fire mutual crack-up scenes for us is Buttercup and Humperdink’s wedding.  Peter Cook, the actor who portrays the unnamed clergyman, does an outstanding job with the juxtaposition of looking and behaving pontificate and sounding completely ridiculous.  Conceivably it may be a woman thing, but every now and then I take sensuous pleasure in these shared moments with Eric.  I’ll be suddenly aware of our connection, our commonalities and ways in which we compliment one another while we’re laughing synchronously; and I relish in our “bwessed awwangement,” thanking God for my “dweam within a dweam” of being married to my soul mate.  

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BEautiful!

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder...why don't more of us behold beauty?

I have a friend who used to regularly greet me by saying, "Hello, beautiful!"  This was often accompanied with a smile and hug, and I knew she meant it.  I would not say that before that I had a bad self image but something about hearing that word associated with me on a regular basis gave me the extra push I needed to really see what she saw and to celebrate the beauty I beheld in the mirror each morning.

The thing I learned was not that I didn't need to be active, eat well, and consider what choices I make to feel better and look better.  But I learned that most of what I see is up to me.  That is true about all kinds of beauty.  I sometimes look at crumbling buildings around town and see a beautiful image of use and life in community.  Sometimes I see the opportunities for renewal which are also beautiful, new life just waiting to be embraced by someone with the vision to see other possibilities.  

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Love the Ones You're With

Conference 2011 Here at The Ones We Love, we've developed an unofficial tradition of publishing an article each summer about our latest conference for The Young Clergy Women Project. Even in 2009, when we didn't have a conference, we published an article about the sisterhood found at that year's board meeting.

I'm glad to write this next installment in the tradition, in part because I loved pretty much every minute of this year's conference, but for another reason too. As of this month, my term on the board is complete after four years of service. Beginning in September, I will be handing over the editorship of this department to the capable and talented Stacey Midge.

The Ones We Love has become my baby over four years. It's hard for me to say goodbye. Which is kind of funny, considering that after our first board meeting in 2007, when the idea for Fidelia's was born, The Ones We Love was given to me without a lot of choice in the matter. If I wanted to be on board, this was my assignment.

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“Help Thou Our Unbelief”

Despair “Pray for us,” my mom says whenever we speak. “God listens to you. He doesn’t listen to me anymore.”

This all started one Monday morning in June 2008 when I received a phone call from my dad. He asked—in his stern, concerned voice—if I was home, and I said I was. Then he told me that he had been laid off from the job he had held for the last eleven years. While eleven years may not sound like very long for a 61-year-old man to have worked for a company, it was the longest job my dad had ever held. And now he was, again, unemployed.

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Weekend with Friends

vineyard It was a beautiful weekend in late October, when the rest of the country was already slipping toward winter. Fall lingers in North Carolina, though, so on Saturday afternoon some good friends and I sat outside for hours on the patio of a nearby winery, marveling at the colors cascading down the mountains.

I should probably call them old friends, based on the age of our friendship—though I fear that says something about my own age as well, a fear confirmed by the increasing number of gray hairs appearing at the edge of my forehead. These friends live halfway across the country now, but our friendship goes back to early college. They were in town for a conference, and tagged on a couple of days to visit us.

Our children—who had never met before—played together delightfully, while we sipped wine and caught up with each other, enjoying the scenery and the company and the antics of our kids. We laughed, easily and often, about things that happened yesterday or years ago. We talked about hard things, job changes and complicated families and deep sorrow. We told stories and reminisced, teased each other lightly, and reveled in the comfortable conversation of friends who know each other well.

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Naming Number Five

Number Five Number Five. That’s what my dad called the baby growing inside me. He had waited long enough for us to decide on a name. This baby would be his fifth grandchild, but the name stuck for all of us until the day he was born: Number Five.

It really wasn’t until that day that my husband and I finally chose a name. It was so important to me that his name mean something—that it would express the hope we had for him, and the hope that he was giving us. Number Five would be our third child, but it was the first time that we knew early on that he would be a boy. It seemed like it would have been so much easier if he was to be a girl. We could have simply named him Hope or Faith or Grace. But the ultrasound picture was clear that we would be blessed with a boy, so I continued to struggle.

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A Vibrating Friendship

Vintage vibratorSo it begins with a mentor in ministry. She begins with her hesitancy. I’m somewhat reluctant to share this story, she says, considering the recent attacks on Rev. Wren Miller after she shared her story and struggles with Marie Claire. After a brief pause, she clears her throat and continues. Most people will either applaud me or think I'm headed straight to hell. I’ve decided that’s okay. I think more women, and especially clergy women need to share their stories—how they love, hate, embrace, despise, relish their bodies and sexuality.

This is the story of a ten-year old friendship that really gelled when a mentor took the young soon-to-be clergy woman to purchase her first vibrator. It was not the first time they met. As the mentor recalls, We became true friends over Flor de Cana in Nicaragua on a mission trip. From there we journeyed together, me through a painful break up and her through a discernment process.

This is that story.

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