Post Author: Kendra Joyner Miller
We found out we were pregnant the day Mary Oliver died, life entering into this world and life leaving. Opening pink box after pink box just to be sure, I began to have the best and worst feelings of my life, wanting to constantly vomit and simultaneously filled with revolutionary hope. This was our polar vortex baby that taught me about life finding a way in the deep cold and dark of a midwest winter. I sat by bedsides and anointed the dying in my church and held onto our little secret of life and hope. Our little one was of dreams and poetry but never to be more.These days parents-to-be can know so much, and it is a gift as you dream and track your little one. Our little one grew from the size of a chocolate chip but will never be more than my maraschino cherry. All this knowledge is a gift until it isn’t and saying “I had a miscarriage” seems woefully inadequate, as if I was careless or irresponsible, language here fails me. I was and am heart broken. But life is full of consolation prizes and clubs of which you never want to be a part.
I had been planning on taking parental leave, postponing my first sabbatical for diapers, sleepless nights, and the life changing love of a newborn. My consolation was that now I would get three beautiful months to tend my soul and my broken heart. Becoming a parent, and specifically the parent that carries, I was excited about making my body a home, a safe place that would nourish, tend, and cherish this little human as it grew and developed within. The words of Genesis “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” taking on a whole new meaning. I wanted to make my body a home. I wanted to be a homemaker. I still want to be a homemaker.
Over the three months of my time away I traveled to my own childhood homes, met with pastors of the congregations where I grew up, and joined with them in worship. I saw how communities of faith can be co-creators of home. I also spent time at my own home outside Chicago tending my garden and soaking in the summer sun on my back deck as the ducks in our creek became my daily
visitors. But what is home?
Home is the place where you are known and belong. While home used to be known geographically, you would be from the place your ancestors are from, that is largely no longer the case in our transient society. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that for him home was “Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, a mother and a father and uncles and auntys. And there’s no way I can get there again.” Vonnegut’s words ring true for so many. We think of home as a particular location in time and place and often we cannot get there again. I wonder, what does this mean for the places where we find ourselves? How can we be cultivators of home, how can we be homemakers?
Home is something that I deeply yearn for, for my own life has been largely transient. Serving my church for five years is the longest I have lived anywhere since we moved from Colorado Springs when I was eight. As a pastor’s kid (PK) there were three years where my family moved every year as my Dad served as an interim pastor in a variety of congregations. We went all over, from the mountains of Colorado, the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts, rural downeast Maine, and the wilds of Wyoming. As I loaded up my car and traveled back to these places where I had been known and loved I was curious what wisdom they still held for me. I met a former cult members as I camped in Wyoming and had conversations about how our longing can lead us astray. I visited the park on gallows hill in Salem Massachusetts where I would play after school as a young girl and wondered about this juxtaposition of violence against women who hung from that place and where now young girls swing from monkey bars. I saw churches thriving and vital in their worship and spirit, and I saw churches faithfully asking how they could be God’s people as buildings have become unsustainable.
As religious leaders I think we are all called to be homemakers. Not in the Joan Cleaver-esque or superficial way where everything seems picturesque and perfect, whatever the hell that means. We are called to make home in a way that demands we have hard conversations, that we create places that are both courageous and comforting, where our joy is coupled with commitments of justice. Home is a place where each of our enoughness lets the demands of the ever more culture subside, where we, as pastors and the church, don’t have to be all things to all people.
The last Sunday of my sabbatical I had time before my husband, a Lutheran pastor, was done with his church services for the day, and I had run down to the basement to finish a load of laundry when I stumbled across a stash of boxes that I stored underneath our stairs when we moved into our home two years ago. My husband had been saying “We need to recycle those,” but I had been resistant, “Oh it’s not that important; let’s leave it for another day.” I have always lived in homes with stores of boxes waiting for the next move, boxes of things we didn’t need to unpack before we move to another home. That Sunday I went to our tool box, got my exacto knife, and spent hours breaking down boxes. I don’t know if our little house will be our home forever — chances are it will not be — but these are the places we go about the hard work of homemaking. Here’s to being homemakers to breaking down the boxes we keep as an escape hatch. Here’s to rolling up our sleeves and getting it wrong, and sometimes getting it right. Here’s to the ways we all make home in the places we live and the places we serve. May they be places of courage and connection, places where we dare to dream big, and where we can sit and be held in our heartbreak and disappointment. Here’s to being homemakers.
Kendra is the Associate Minister at the First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, where she has been for the last five years. Kendra's two main loves are being outside in creation having adventures and making delicious food to share with loved ones. When not busy doing, Kendra loves to be in her little creek-side home with her husband Dan, a Lutheran pastor, and their dog Connie reading mystics, poetry, and bad fiction while drinking a good cup of coffee.
Image by: Kendra Joyner Miller
Used with permission