Word of the Week

Something happened to me on the morning of November 9th of last year. I felt so sad not just as a private citizen but as a faith leader.

I felt so sad for what our newly elected administration would mean for the rights of people of color, immigrants, women or any minority groups for that matter.

I felt so sad for what this new administration would mean for America's peaceful relationship with our global neighbors.

I felt so sad for how the Bible would continue to be misinterpreted to support a theology of nation over liberation and care for all the citizens of the world.

While many of you who also felt this way have found yourself doing more marching, more letter writing, or more organizing over the last six months, a desire bubbled up in me to return to a familiar place.

On November 9th, I told a dear friend, Amanda that post-election I needed to preach. Not just in the ways that I was already engaged in (and enjoyed!)-- through short-term interims and supply preaching-- but I needed preach to a particular congregation.

Who was in the White House became for me a heard calling for "all preaching voices on deck." My colleagues and I talked a lot about what it meant to preach in times like this. AND I could not not be one of these voices. I could not shy away from speaking up even when it was unpopular. I could not keep from leading toward hope.  I could not hold any good news for living in days like this to myself.

But here's the thing. I knew I'm not a traditional pastoral candidate. 

Different from when I began this ordained vocational journey over 10 years ago and immediately pursued a full-time position, I am not the kind of pastor that could give one congregation all of my work anymore. My soul thrives in diversity of tasks.

There's other callings on my life too whose nudges are equally as important to me as preaching.  

Callings like being a writer. Promoting books like I just wrote, Birthed and new books to come!

Callings like being an advocate for children growing up in children's homes internationally. Raising funds for scholarships through the foundation, Our Courageous Kids, that I lead with the help of some great board members.

Callings like being a wife and mother and a friend. Making time for playdates and movie dates and long lunches where I believe the best conversations happen.

And a calling to not do it all, all the time. Sometimes our passions need to be put on the back shelf for a season so that another passion can shine.

Not willing to budge on calling, I knew I would not be a fit for most churches.

(And, I would never ask a church to accept anything less than they need. Most congregations believe they want full-time minister or at least a part-time minister who is full-time available. Yet, that's not my scene. It's ok to not be what someone needs.).

I was wondering how it would all turn out. Especially as my calendar continued to fill with short-term assignments that I enjoyed very much.

I was very content. BUT, here's the news:

I accepted the position of Senior Pastor of Palisades Community Church in Washington, DC. 

This Preacher on the Plaza has a new plaza where you can find her most weeks beginning on September 5th. Palisades is a lovely walking community just outside of the Georgetown neighborhood. 

I want you to know that I said "YES" to this invitation to preach and lead because it wasn't lost on me that this was a parish in Washington DC proper. Proximity matters.

I want you to know I said "YES" because Palisades Community Church is theologically and denominationally in the camp I find myself most comfortable these days-- ecumenical, progressive and with liturgy that looks a lot like a merge of the best mainline Protestant traditions. It's a congregation where gay, straight, young, old, believing or doubting are welcome. And this is how I know how to do church.

I also want you to know I said, "YES" because of how our relationship began with one another. I felt accepted right away. I did not hide the other callings in my life during the interview process. I told them that my child would need a nursery every week and times might come when my husband needed me to support his work in other places. And they said, "Great! We think your other work will enrich our life together."

So on we go together this fall. I'm excited to see how our congregation can grow in community with each other. I'm excited to welcome in more of our neighbors. I'm excited to see how the weekly texts lead me to preach.

Journeying with God is most certainly full of surprises, just as I wrote about last week. And I am continuing to learn how to talk about and lean into this surprise. Most of all, I'm glad for it.

These feel like dark times, don't they?

I feel like the world in which I called to minister changed dramatically post 11/8. 

No matter who you voted for President. No matter if you were happy with the results. No matter if you were deeply troubled. No matter what. The world felt different. The way we related to one felt harsher.

Going on Facebook felt like a battleground. Opening up twitter felt like war. Opening up your mouth at work about your feelings felt close to impossible.

"You voted for ___? Really? How could you?" has become a point of conversation among us. Sometimes we just don't want to know the answers.

I've heard how family members have stopped talking to family members.

I've wept over stories like this one as acts of bullying has increased.

I've talked with friends about how they are now deeply afraid for their internationally adopted children's citizenship status.

I've ached with some of our babysitters about how their family member worry they might be asked to leave the country soon or not have access to healthcare anymore.

I've heard from pastor friends all over the country who are now getting frequent calls about whether or not their congregation will be a safe space of refuge if situations call for it.

These are dark times for those of us who are so passionate about inclusion, multiculturalism, and uplifting the cause of the marginalized.

These are dark times for those of us who want harmony, peace, and good feelings throughout our land.

These are dark times for those of who plan to sit next week at Thanksgiving tables alongside folks who are hostile toward any viewpoint that isn't theirs.

So with this brand new day in America, how are we going to get through it?

This week, my book, Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility is launching over at Chalice Press. 

When people ask me what's it's about, I say it's a story of how I got through a dark time in my own life.

I say it's a memoir of how I got from point A to point B when the worst case scenario happened to me in my dream of motherhood.

I say it's my offering to others walking in similar shoes of grief, pain and loss, infertile or not.

birthed-elizabeth-haganI learned so much from our long season of infertility. I believe I gained some wisdom that I could have gotten in no other season of life. At the very least, I gained some survival tips.

Here are three I'd like to share for those of you despairing today:

  1. Find your tribe.  Find your support network and stick close to them. None of us can do this work alone  In Birthed, 5 friends play a central role in moving my healing along. I couldn't have made it toward joy without them. So, in the words of Brene Brown cling to those who put marbles in your jar instead of taking them from you. Don't let your tribe go.
  2. Take a Time Out.  It's ok to say no. Sometimes life demands that we do the bare minimum. Sometimes we must skip overachieving on a work project or happy hour with friends. Sometimes the best gift we can give the world is our silence. Birthed tells the story of how I sat in the dirt and re-organized rocks for weeks after an intense time of loss. I was all the better for saying yes to the time out my soul needed. You will be too.
  3. Befriend Someone You Disagree With. I know this might be the toughest suggestion. But this is what I know: some of our best teachers can live on "the other side of the fence." They were for me during the time I wrote Birthed. Though these teachers didn't see eye to eye theologically on all things, I got schooled in a richer love from their presence in my life. Their stories overflowed with wisdom I needed to see the bigger picture of my own sadness.

These suggestions might just be drops in the bucket. But somehow, someway you and I have to move from where we are to somewhere better.