Word of the Week

Can you remember something you've done for so long that you can't exactly remember when you started?

Maybe it's how long you've been on a board or have attended a particular church? Maybe it's how long you've volunteered at the PTA or the cancer society? Maybe it's how long you've gathered for coffee every Friday mornings with friends to catch up?

For me, this is how I think about my Sunday morning emails to you. Word of the Week has just become a part of what I do and how I think. I can hardly remembering not doing it.

It took some digging, though, and I realized that it's been over 5 years that I've been writing (hard to believe). Some of you have been on the journey the whole time (bless you), others of you just met me over 2 years ago when I moved to Georgia. Many of us lived through a global pandemic together. Many of you celebrated my book launch, Brave Church: Tackling Tough Topics Together with me in the summer of 2021 (thank you) and stayed around. Many of you have written me along the way letting me know how your stories have connected to mine (a huge honor). I'm so glad you are here!

But today, I want to tell you that the word evolve is inspiring me about what Word of the Week will look like going forward.

Evolve: to change or develop slowly often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state.

Evolving can seem like a scary word (who likes change?) but truly I like to think about evolving as a process of becoming more authentic.

Spoiler alert: this is not a "break-up message." If you are still game, I'm going to keep this going.

But here's the point: Where I was 5 years ago is not where I am now (as I'm sure if you look back on your life 5 years ago and the same could be said about you too!)

In the past year, I've come to know more clearly: "this is where I am" and "this is where I am not."

My circle has gotten smaller. I've claimed my best energy for myself, my family, and my congregation that I love dearly. I'm not as interested anymore in things that would have made my heart soar years ago . . . like publishing contracts, a growing social media followers list or a working outline for my next book. Less for me has become MORE!

However, I AM still interested in meaningful conversations, in spiritual wisdom that transcends the bounds of religious practice, and belonging to a community.

So, I'm going to keep writing Word of the Week as often as I can simply because I enjoy doing it. (Also: so many of you have encouraged me that it's meaningful to you! Yay!)

Here's the evolving part . . .

In the future, I'm going to have an index on my website of words that you can reference of previous entries. This way if what I ofter on a Sunday morning doesn't float your boat, you could pick your word based on your circumstances. (Stay tuned!)

And, instead of writing you in a sequence (which has been confusing because no one gets the same word each Sunday depending on when you signed up) moving forward, everyone subscribed to this email will get my thoughts in real time on Sunday mornings. So if you want to share with your friend or talk to someone else about it, you'll be on the same page. Yay!

I'm making this change because I want my offerings to you to be as meaningful as they possibly can be (and in a way that is sustainable to me too) and because I want us to keep building community as we do it!

Thank you for patiently listening my "evolving story" this morning. Know how thankful I am to be on a little corner of the internet that has somehow connected with you-

I'll be in touch soon after Easter-



Did a big life change recently happen to you and now you're on an unfamiliar path? Do you feel stuck in the in-between of a transition and you can't seem to get to the other side? To situations like these, enter today's word: middle.

Middle is a word that means: equally distant from the outer limits.

We can be in the middle of a degree program. Or the the middle of traffic. I have a good friend who's in the middle of divorce. And I've recently had birthdays that put me in mid-life.

And rarely do I hear these references as a good thing.

We're not where we once were and we're not where we want to be yet. We might pout when will the "in between" be over? It makes me think of that the song I've loved for a couple years sung by Avicii "Wake Me Up" that pleads to skip ahead from the middle of an unpleasant experience to the end.

But does "middle" have to be such a negative word?

Here's the thing: you can't get to the finish line till you've completed the middle work. You can't go around the middle. You can't go over the middle. You must go through it.

For as much as you want to go to the place where as Aviciil sings where you wake up "wiser and older" sometimes "the middle" is exactly where you need to be.

David Brooks in his book, The Second Mountain gives this advice about being in the middle: “Wait. See what it has to teach you. Understand that your suffering is a task that, if handled correctly, with the help of others, will lead to enlargement, not diminishment.”

And he's right, there's suffering that comes from not knowing how a project or decision or relationship or a phase of life will end up. But for something to be whole it must contain a middle, right? And isn't life about being made whole?

So all my "middle of" friends. You did not make a mistake. You are not behind. You are JUST in the middle.

Something beautiful is being birthed in you right now. Your heart is growing. God is working. Good is happening even if you can't see it.



P.S. I was recently interviewed by a radio show in Canada about what it means to be in the middle of a journey that is not blessed by others. In particular, I talk more about my story of becoming a pastor though it brought me a lot of separation from the community I grew up in. If podcasts are your thing, check it out over here.

Dear Washington Plaza Church family-

I needed to write you one more letter. I love you. I don't just say that lightly. I really do love you.

It has become abundantly clear to me again this week that goodbyes are always hard. But they're especially hard when you're parting as we are, having loved each other well for several years now. I've believed in you (and still do) from the first moment I met your pastoral search committee in that office in Reston Interfaith. I knew that if the rest of the church was as awesome as the search comittee then we were going to have a lot of fun. And, fun we've had! Over these years, I have always wanted to brag about you to my friends-- telling them that in Washington Plaza I found the church I dreamed to be a part of as pastor in seminary.

I love how you blessed me over four years ago now when you saw a 28 year old female with no solo pastoring experience and called me with an unanimous vote to be your preacher on the plaza. I love that you saw in me what I most felt true about myself-- that I was a pastor and that God had made me for a time to be your pastor. I love how you've followed my lead, taken chances with me to try new things and asked really good questions when we've faced crucial decisions together. I love how you've never told me "no" to my growing passion for writing and ministering to folks outside the church. It is you, dear Washington Plaza, who has given me a chance to hear my own voice clearly-- the voice I believe will be what I need most in the chapter that lies ahead of me. I have you to thank for gracing me with this great gift!

I love how kindly you have welcomed me in your community, just as I was (church baggage and all) and most especially I love how you've welcomed Kevin. It's a hard road being married to a pastor, but just as you help me to grow up over the past several years, you've done the same for Kevin. You've given him opportunities to serve in the kitchen and cook for a crowd (his favorite!). You've ordained him as a deacon-- a milestone in his own journey. You've given him the spiritual community he needed to be at the point in his life to say "Yes!" to God's ministry for him at Feed The Children this year. You've loved him and cheered him on as much as you have me-- and I know you'll continue to do this in all that lies ahead for us.

I love how you welcome those in whom other churches simply would not. You welcome so lovingly folks who may not come to church dressed just so. You welcome folks who call themselves gay and Christian-- who just need to know that God loves them too. You welcome those who have been hurt by the church and just need to have a place to come and take deep breaths for awhile. You welcome those who have deep burdens on their hearts who just need a place in corporate worship to unload them in prayer. You welcome those who aren't sure they believe in Jesus-- but really want to-- and a safe place to ask their questions as they figure it all out. You welcome those who often take more than they give without grumbling or complaining about doing more of your share of the work.

I love how I've seen Jesus in you:

Times when you've showed up with hymnbooks at bedsides singing to those who are dying.

Times when you've gone with me to take communion to shut-ins who could no longer come to church.

Times when you've built community with each other outside of the confines of the building-- over glasses of wine, during breakfast meetings, at walks for the homeless in Reston, or in one another's homes.

Times when you've given your money or time to help the homeless or nearly homeless who show up at our doorsteps and are in need of a meal or a conversation.

Times when you've believed in second chances for those who have hurt you or those who have hurt our church.

Times when you've said to me, "My faith is growing to be more important to me all the time."

Times when you've shown up at a week night Bible study with eagerness to learn and listen to each other.

Times when you never said anything mean about my wet hair on Sunday mornings or continual search for my lost keys around the church or even why there were spelling errors in the bulletin.

I will forever cherish this time in my life as the time when I was YOUR pastor. Know that I'm cheering you on in all that lies ahead and will forever think of you with gratitude for how you've altered the direction of my life and Kevin's life too in so many lovely ways. I know you'll be just as good to the next person who leads you too. And, they'll be a lucky pastor just as I have been for these four years.

I love you!