When I prepared to travel to Nicaragua recently I stressed out a little over peanut butter. I was not checking any luggage, which meant I needed to pack my clothes and lunch food for the four-day trip in my carry on. This is a challenge I happily accepted. I gathered food that would not melt and would give protein to sustain me. However, as I packed my roller suitcase for the third time I started to question my choice of peanut butter. I read the TSA requirements online and realized that this could be considered a liquid. OH NO! All of a sudden my stress was not about scorpions or mosquitoes in this third world country, it was all about how I could be stopped in security and my peanut butter would be pulled. The rule follower in me comes out at the weirdest times and can consume my thoughts. I packed and repacked those peanut butter packets a half a dozen times. The whole time knowing I don’t even really like peanut butter that much.
On Saturday, I will be ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church. The service will be moving and sacred. However, all I can think about is…will I have too many people on stage with me? What is the rule? All of a sudden I cannot remember any of the dozen other ordination services I have ever attended. The rule follower in me is screaming out in terror at the possibility I may exceed some limit. How do you sum up twenty-three years of ministry? Whose role in my life was so pivotal that they are allowed a walk up the stairs?
The pastor I grew up with was a minister to my family when my mother died and later officiated when my father married Alice. I learned how to pray listening to the Associate pray on Sunday mornings. If we are going to be honest, many people from Wesley UMC filled my life with words of encouragement. One of my bosses as I hid out in Kansas City reminded me of the strengths of the United Methodist Church, allowing healing to happen and later recommended I go for a Masters of Divinity. Then after running from church, a Springfield pastor took a chance and asked me to consider ministry once again. Later he would recommend me as the first woman pastor at a community serve. Let’s go ahead and bring up those families from the church formerly known as Dale Street UMC. Doing ministry with a crazy couple reminded me how fun it is to serve God. Many paved the way to Campbell UMC, who I now consider dear friends. Where the co-pastors gave me more responsibility and experience in ministry than was probably smart on their part. There are the parents of youth that worked and served alongside me and became friends as they let me into the lives of their children. The interns that worked with me and trusted that I might know something about youth ministry, even on days when I probably didn’t. When I stepped out in faith and started seminary, God used many to make that journey possible, financially and physically. Then there were the Staff Parrish committees that when change was in the air, had confidence in me that I did not have in myself. Many people had leadership roles that led to a meeting at China Star where the next chapter was started. When the door opened for being Associate Pastor, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. However, the “president of my fan club” told me I could every time she saw me. My family, who know me better than any other, knew I could do this and told me so. Friends along the path who held me accountable, mentored and listened as I worked through the struggles. Many of the hundreds of people who have poured into my life are captured in pictures around my office reminding me of how they made me who I am.
Each of these people led me to Saturday. I guess when it comes right down to it, four people on stage with me might break a rule that I don’t know exists, but it is better than the four hundred that should be with me. So Missouri Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, you can thank me later for not asking them all to lay hands on me.
And by the way, the peanut butter slipped right on through security.