One Last Good-bye…

Linking up with Jen at Finding Heaven at midnight Monday/Tuesday for this lovely sisterhood gathering:

This farewell has stretched further than just about any I’ve ever experienced.  I retired from ministry at the end of 2010, and then chose to take the first four months of 2011 away from worship with our church family.  

I’ve been glad I did that for lots of reasons – I was more tired than I knew, and it was good to not be around a place where I have worked hard for a long time.  It was also good to remind myself every single week that I am no longer a parish associate pastor.  Though I will remain a pastor until I die, I no longer practice that call in the setting of the local church.  I needed this time to face into the reality of that new truth.

The fine man who will move into my former office is a friend and a treasured colleague.  But he, too, has been gone from our fellowship these same four months – teaching history in France.  
So…I had lots and lots of time to move out of that space, right?  
From January 1 until May 8.  Whew – that should be a snap, even for me, the book pack-rat queen.


Oh, I did get those books moved.  Most of them are now situated in the long hallway outside all the offices at church.  My husband came to help me sort – one pile to give away, one pile to come home, and many, many piles to move out into that hall.

And there they are – in all their splendor!  Five sections of seven shelves each.  That’s a whole lotta books.  But now, they’re available for anyone to use and they include a lot of great resources for biblical study, small group ideas, care ministries, worship and liturgy – all pieces of my ever-shifting job description over these last 14 years.

So today was the last Saturday of packing and schlepping.  I opened the windows behind my former desk as wide as they would crank – to enjoy the view and the breeze.  It was a glorious spring day, sunny and just warm enough to be comfortable in lightweight clothing.

I went through the last of my files, loaded all my CDs into a box, emptied the various basket containers scattered around that space, took down the last of the artwork and made piles in the hallway for my husband to help me load into our cars. 

In the photo above and the one below you can catch a small glimpse of the bookshelves which surrounded me – at my own request when we built this building from 2003 – when our former senior pastor of 23 years left – until 2005 – when our current senior pastor arrived.  

Yup, that’s right.  We were in a two-year interim stretch while we undertook this long-planned project of building a glorious new worship space and creating staff offices all in the same place for the first time ever.

That stack of brightly colored yarn work just left of center?  Those are prayer shawls, created by a variety of folks in our community.  They would appear on my desk, or in a bag, hanging from my doorknob.  I never knew for sure who made what, but this much I did know: the maker prayed as s/he worked, offering sweet supplication for the recipient of this gift of love.  

And I hand carried them – to people facing or recovering from surgery, to brand new moms, to recent widows or widowers – whoever was facing a life transition of one kind or another.  And as I wrapped them in this beautifully textured love-gift, I would say:  “As this shawl touches your skin today, may it be a tangible reminder that the people of God are praying for you, even as the person who made this prayed for you over each stitch.  Wrap yourself in it as you pray in the mornings, or lay it over yourself as you nap in the afternoon.   And as it comforts and warms you, may you know the sure, sweet presence of the God who loves you, the God who walks with you through every step of your journey.

One of the rich parts of this work that I will miss deeply.

After about 3 hours of slow, steady work, I called my husband and said he could come over any time now and we’d pack up the last load.  Four file boxes, two large baskets, two open boxes, a CD player, small heater and fan.  That’s what was left.

Taking turns and wedging the exit door open, we made a half dozen trips down the hall, out the walkway and down a half flight of steps to the cars.  And somewhere in there, the door wedge got bumped and slam!  We were locked out.

Are you kidding me?

On a Saturday afternoon, no one around, no key.

But… I had left those windows open….

My ever-resourceful husband walked around to the front and stood beneath those windows.

“Honey, I think these jeans are just a little bit too straight-legged for me to bend these knees enough.  Can you find me something to stand on?”

Well, not exactly.  EVERY DOOR IS LOCKED.

So he kept workin’ it and eventually got up there – straight legs and all!  What a guy.

Almost there…


And now, of course… the almost-equal and opposite problem awaits.  My home office is approximately 1/3 the size of my church office.  And I really, really did a lot of work trying to ready it for the deluge that was coming.

But as you can see – it flooded anyhow.

I think I’ve got at least another 4 months of work ahead of me, don’t you?

There were a couple of other important things that came home with me today, too.  A poster we bought in Paris on our 40th anniversary trip – one month after my husband had surgery for prostate cancer.  And what you see below – a gorgeous hand-calligrified gift from my sister-in-law, one of the most talented women on the planet.

She told me to choose a quote – any quote – and she’d make something for my office.

I chose this quote from Rilke – which is my very favorite of almost anything I’ve read, except for scripture.  It was quoted in a class I took and I bought the book just so I could find these words and savor them. To me it speaks such beautiful truth – life is about asking questions and then living the answers.  And all the people I’ve counseled and prayed for, all the kids I’ve encouraged in Confirmation, all the troubled couples – or happy pre-wed couples, all the recently bereaved friends, or happily moving-on friends – everyone who walked into my office walked right past this beautiful gift:

 The framed piece – so lovely.

And a close up of the quote itself, so that you, too, can relish this wonderful writing.

As I left my office for the last time today, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of this life, this pastoring life.  And I walked out into the sunshine, climbed into my car and drove home.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I, for one, am grateful for your years of ministry and impact on many, many people. Thank you for giving me a voice to speak. For encouraging my gifts and passions. For loving me and my family. God allowed our paths to cross for a short amount of time, but your influence on me and my ministry was great. Thank you, sister.

  3. Ah, Joellen – you are more than welcome. Thank YOU for brightening my life and partnering with me in ministry those years you were here. It has been all joy to watch you bloom from a distance. Believe me, you were (and are) a total gift in my life. Thanks for these kind words, friend.

  4. Thank you for your faithful service. I pray the transition goes well, even the piles of boxes. It will be fun to see just where God uses that sweet pastoral heart of yours, next.


  5. Oh, I love the poster and all the words contained in it. I’m excited for you — moving on into a new period of your life. So much awaits.

  6. I remember the sadness felt at the end of a ministry.

    I also remember the joy and excitement when we begin a new one.

    I hope your sadness fades quickly leaving time for the joy.


  7. Thank you Glenda, Jen and Pamela – I, too, look forward to whatever comes next. I’m just praying that I don’t get swept back into a whole lot of ‘busy’ stuff and too much schedule. These four months of slow-down have been such a great gift.

  8. I’m so amazed we were both shown this quote today! Although we are experiencing change and questions of different levels and in different ways, I’m grateful God is working in both of us. Blessings as you move forward in this new phase of life.