The last day of 2009.
The last day of a decade that began with so much promise - so much anticipation - so much wonder - so much delight.
As I review all that has happened since the new millennium marched to fruition, I realize that nothing has fallen short of expectation. There has been an abundance of wonder and delight.
I've held three jobs since 2000. I've had the joy of being the associate pastor for a large United Methodist Church in the mountains of Western North Carolina. It was this church that taught me the joy of being a pastor. It was this church that kept me wanting to be a pastor in the early days of my current appointment where joy in ministry was hard to find. It was this church that taught me the wonder and delight of birth and death, sacrament and testimony, rebirth and new life. I'll always be grateful for the people of First United Methodist Church.
I've also had the joy of being the Director of Admissions for Duke Divinity School. For four years, I had the privilege of hearing about how God works in wondrous and exciting ways to call people to ministry. I was able to sit with students as they discerned their calls to ministry or their calls to another vocation. I was able to cheer the Duke Blue Devils Basketball team several times. I was able to preside over worship in Duke Chapel and preach there once on the Sunday following my ordination. I was able to grow and change, and in the midst of it all I discovered a more profound love for the local church.
And, for the last part of this decade, I've been completely transformed through my appointment to Mount Vernon Place UMC. It is here that I have seen resurrection with my own eyes. I have discovered how you are never too old to study the Bible, even at the age of 101. I have realized that it takes an entire congregation to go from decline to growth. I have watched miracles happen through a real estate development that still makes me pause in disbelief when I look at the numbers. I have learned that it does not matter what you wear to church - your being present is what matters. I have discovered that the more diverse a congregation is, the more it will look like God's kingdom on earth. I have realized that church growth is not reflected in the numbers but what happens when people are really willing to allow the gospel to take claim of their lives. I have learned time and again that the place I find the most joy in ministry is in the center of the city. And, there is no where else I would rather be than here.
I have had five different addresses in this decade, starting with an apartment in a complex called Strawberry Hill where I lived with another seminary student for three years. My parsonage in Hendersonville was a large house where three bedrooms sat empty and unused (imagine!). My favorite house of the decade was a great townhouse in Durham with vaulted ceilings, wonderful windows and a quaint breakfast nook where I learned about the downsides of polybutylene pipes. My condo in Washington exposed me to the competitive nature of the real estate market in 2005 and also to the joy of living in a diverse neighborhood where I learned to take nothing for granted. I continue to be grateful for my four years in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington. And, my current home is wondrous because of the one I get to share it with! I hate to admit how much I love suburban living - but there is something to be said about getting away from it all at the end of the day, crossing the river to a different way of life where parking is always available.
I have experienced the gift of relationship and love this decade. While I am grateful for the relationships that preceded my move to Washington, I am also grateful for the ways in which some relationships end so that one can come that will last forever. Just this morning, I was reviewing emails from the early weeks of my relationship with Craig. I remembered how it was an instant connection we shared, how we were able to be vulnerable with one another almost immediately, and how much joy he brought then and continues to bring to me today. Marriage is a gift. I am still in awe that anyone would want to spend their entire life with me, accepting my sometimes cranky moods, my tendency to spend more time at the church than I probably should, my self-centeredness that comes out at times, and my mind that wonders all over the place, traveling a thousand miles a minute at times. I praise God for marriage and for Craig.
And, I've experienced God. I have watched God show up in expected and unexpected places. I have seen God in nursing homes and funeral homes. I have experienced God around the bed of someone who just took his last breath and around an infant who had just taken her first breath. I have felt the joy of God in becoming the Godmother of three children who are the birth children of three wonderful and unique friends for whom I would do most anything. I have watched God heal broken relationships and broken spirits. I have experienced God in mourning and in laughing. I have seen God at the altar on my wedding day and on the wedding days of so many friends and others. I have seen God in so many beautiful places and people. I have learned that there really is a season for everything, for every purpose under heaven.
It's been a good ten years. Thank you, God, for all the blessings of this decade.