Well I've made a big decision, a big change in my life - and it wasn't just the tattoo. (See below - unless you're my mom, then pretend you didn't see it.) :D
On January 10th the congregation of First Christian Church Baton Rouge was notified that I accepted another call to ministry at Overland Park Christian Church in Overland Park, Kansas. My last Sunday in Baton Rouge will be February 24th. I will begin ministering with the people of Overland Park Christian Church on March 18th.
We've just finished Advent: a time of waiting, a time of pregnant anticipation and a time of excited anxiety, not knowing what could lie ahead. But we so often forget this anticipation and it is hard to recapture, because as devoted Christians, we know what lies at the end of that Advent tunnel: the birth of Christ. Each year in Advent we hope to capture some of that same excited anticipation, but so often we get sucked into the run around of a busy holiday season that we forget what that excited anxiety could mean.
This year I grasped a little bit more of that anticipated excitement, yet also nervous anxiety, as I made this decision.
I'll be honest - this was one of the hardest, if not the hardest decision I've ever made over these last couple of months. On some level I knew I was supposed to go to seminary, so while I didn't know what was ahead of me, I knew that was the right place for me with every ounce of my being, so the decision to go was a no-brainer. But when I left for seminary I wasn't leaving anything behind. I had just finished college and had the whole world ahead of me, no matter what direction I headed. The same can be said for my coming to Baton Rouge. All of us were graduating, getting ordained and starting new calls into ministry and so it was only natural that I would be making the decision for a new call, my first call into ministry, no matter how far away.
But when the idea of a new call to Overland Park came up, it was different. I have loved my life here. I have loved my congregation here. They have supported and loved me. I have loved the person I have become here. How do you leave that? So there were some tears, questions, chit chats with friends and family, a few glasses of wine, and some more tears. In the end though, after much thought, discernment and prayer, there was the confident decision to say yes to where God is calling me, "Here am I."
The Bible doesn't really say A LOT about Mary's life in between the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) and the Birth of Jesus (Luke 2). She gets way more press than most women in the Bible, and we have her Song of Praise, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-55, but I feel like if she really is a fully human woman, there were a lot more emotions than the Bible lets on. There's the knowing awareness that with God all things are possible, and the desire to listen to God's call to wherever God is leading you, (even if it seems crazy or not in line with your own "plan"), but there's also the anxiety about leaving comfort and a way of life you've known. I feel confident that if Mary really is the woman we believe her to be, then somewhere in between Luke 1:37 when the Angel finishes telling her why she should believe him, and Luke 1:38 when she eventually says, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word," there were a few tears, a lot of questions, chit chats with her friends and family, a glass of wine or two, and some more tears. It only seems fitting before she would confidently say, "Here am I."
I am so thankful for all the time I have had in Baton Rouge. I am even more thankful for the people and the experiences that have helped shape who I am, who I have become. However, I also know and trust that they have made me all the more ready to take this next step into ministry with a new congregation, in a new city, into the exciting unknown.
How does a tattoo fit into Advent? Well, maybe not with Advent, but it is there and part of this journey for me. I am a changed person because of the time I have spent in Southern Louisiana. The fleur-de-lis tattoo of dark and light that reminds me I am leaving this experience a changed person. Much like the four years I spent in Kappa, where I "stumbled up those back steps, only to walk confidently out the front door," I am confident in this next step because of these last 3 1/2 years in Baton Rouge. I can never take away these experiences in Baton Rouge, and for that I am thankful. I'm thankful they are permanently a part of who I am. I am leaving Baton Rouge changed, for the better, for good, confident and looking forward to the ways that God will use me in this next step.