Tag Archives: bittersweet

Bittersweet and Beautiful

Yesterday marked the 28th anniversary of my ordination into Christian ministry.  I have no idea how 28 years flew by so quickly.  I still vividly recall, as a 25-year-old, kneeling and having hands laid on me and how heavy those hands felt as the ordination prayer was prayed by my favorite theology professor. I wish I could recall the exact words he prayed.  I just remember his words were beautiful. And, when I stood, tears running down my face, I was changed. Something happened in the kneeling and praying. I was somehow equipped, empowered and infused with God’s presence in a way I hadn’t been before.  It was strange.  But, then again, this whole journey has been strange.

A month after ordination, I found myself officiating the funeral of a 14-year-old girl in my youth group who had been killed in a fall off of a horse. I remember standing to speak thinking this was not at all what I signed up for.

Not too long after that, I interviewed for my first full-time ministry position, 7 months pregnant with our first child. A crusty west Texas businessman asked me a question I don’t believe was legal to ask, then or now. “How in the world do you think you are going to be able to be a mother and a pastor at the same time?” I don’t know what I said but I thought, “I have no earthly idea, I’ve never been either one.”

I got that job.  I became a mom. An older, shut-in church member there took my face between her weathered hands and prophetically said, “Trust God with your ministry and your baby.  God will provide.”  And guess what?  God did. God has. God will. Fabulously, stunningly, miraculously and with impeccable timing over and over again for 28 (!) years.

Ministry has been harder than I ever dreamed. It has taken its toll on my heart. It has driven me to my knees, to tears, to despair more times than I care to admit. One somebody asked me, “Is your job too much for you?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes, but that is when God shows up and the community of faith sustains. No one could do this job without that. It really is impossible.”

It has been hard, impossible and, at the same time, wonderfully beautiful. The births, the weddings, the new life, the grace, the transformation, I’ve seen it all. Like life, ministry is a Holy mix. I call it the bittersweet, beautiful ache of ministry.

28 years. I am humbled, honored and so amazed. God really does provide. And God, really is so good.

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It’s Springtime, But…

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers.  She just posted a new blog. It came to me as a lovely Monday morning gift, echoing what I was already feeling today.  Her words, “So life. It’s the whole deal. Mixed grille all the way, gorgeous and sad things all mixed up.  Us, at our best and worst, in it together; life death, rebirth, and life again.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Just like today here in Texas, the sun is shining brightly. The sky is this amazing blue color. It rained all weekend so spring is just bursting forth before our eyes.  And, yet in our world, from politics to terror; from lack of food and water to other injustices, so much is not right.  I can’t hold lovely springtime and my newsfeed in my heart and spirit at the same time. It’s just reality. Bitter plus sweet equals life.

How do we manage the sad and real weaving its way through the beautiful and tender parts of life? We hold it all lightly. We lift it all up to God’s healing light.  We offer up our mixed feelings, relationships and irritations to God’s tender care; not to mention of deepest angers, hurts, resentments, pains and losses.  We make it by praying, crying, laughing and letting go; by holding onto each other and being kind.

Oh yes, and by washing all of it, regularly, with buckets and buckets of God’s grace. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way forward, just dripping in grace and tracking it everywhere.

The Sweet and the Bitter

This past week I’ve been acutely aware of some milestone moments, like the two year anniversary of my cancer surgery.  I was aware of feeling so grateful not to be re-living that day again but also so happy to be two years down the road, still here, still healthy, enjoying life.   At the same time, our son got his Aggie ring at Texas A&M…you have to have 90 college hours to even order it.  Then, to get it, such a moment of pride and celebration.  We Aggies take Aggie rings very seriously.  We have 9 Aggie rings in our extended family.  Sweet.  

Intertwined with all that came the news of the shooting at the Naval yard shootings.  Bitter.

Friday night as we were celebrating with our son and his friends, we were on a covered porch enjoying dinner outside.  It was pouring rain and it was cool outside.  We haven’t seen rain in a long time in Texas, nor felt anything like cool air. Sweet. 

Then came the news of the shootings in the park in Chicago.  “Really?” I thought,  “Another shooting?”  Bitter.

Saturday was one of those amazing beautiful days in Texas, we were with our family and friends before and after a great Texas A&M football game.  Sweet. 

But in Kenya, there was terror, lives lost.  In Pakistan, a church shooting that killed so many.  Bitter.

I learned a long time ago that life is bittersweet.  The beautiful milestone moments are always mixed with difficult times.  I also learned a long time ago that none of us can be truly happy as long as one of us is suffering.    

What is so unbelievable is that we are doing it to ourselves.  Humans gunning down one another at work, in the park, in the mall in places of worship.   We do need saving from ourselves, we really do.