I've learned the power of prayer as my father was quickly scheduled for open heart surgery, and I became the one begging for prayer instead of showing up to pray as a pastor often does.
I've been on the receiving end of extraordinary generosity through the Lilly Endowment's National Clergy Renewal program. The grant enabled me to have an extended time away from the church in which I traveled to the tiny island of Iona in Scotland, revisited the city of London where I had not been since college, and smooched my husband in a park in Paris. I had time to go to the gym regularly and work out with my trainer. I took a bus to New York City by myself and saw three Broadway shows in three days. I went to Missouri to be with Dad following his surgery. I took my niece to South Africa where we encountered people who opened our hearts in powerful ways before beholding the beauty of the land at a game reserve. I've learned the importance of time away and am profoundly grateful to have had a summer with funding to do what makes my heart sing. The summer changed my life in real and tangible ways.
I walked on to the floor of the United States House of Representatives, journeying into space where I had not been since I left the Hill to go to seminary in 1997. This time, rather than giving a tour to constituents, I stood behind the same podium where the President gives the State of the Union in order to open the House in prayer. The prayer was composed of the most carefully crafted 150 words ever, and while there were hardly any people there with Congress away, it was a great gift to have my former Washington life collide with my current Washington life. I loved it!
I've watched Emmanuel, God with us, show up time and again in the church where I have been privileged to serve for the last 8.5 years. When our congregation made the decision to become a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network four years ago, we knew it was important to do everything possible to welcome people who are often turned away from the church and specifically LGBT people. What we did not know then is the fuller picture of the difference a wider welcome would have on our church. This wide welcome has created a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God as we grow more diverse in every possible way - housed and unhoused, liberal and conservative, gay and straight, white and black, US born and immigrant. God has done and is doing a mighty thing in this place. I would not trade it for anything and am humbled and thankful to be the pastor at this place where people are regularly struggling with what it means to be faithful in downtown Washington.
I've fallen in love with Craig all over again. My father regularly says he could not live with either one of us but he's glad we've found each other. In Craig, I see what God meant when God first called us to live in community in the book of Genesis. Craig is my biggest source of support, my loudest cheerleader, and my partner in life who brings pure joy through sharing the ordinary tasks of life. Our family is not as big as we imagined it would be when preparing for marriage, but we are so grateful to have each other.
There is a bit of sadness as this year comes to a close as so many hopes and dreams have come to fruition in the last twelve months. And yet, I also eagerly anticipate 2014 because I know God is with us and working powerfully in my life. There is a clear sense of being on a journey, and I cannot wait to see where the journey leads.
It's a rather wonderful life, I do believe.