A Home of Her Own


I blamed the puddle on the kitchen floor on my dog Sophie, who sat,
wagging her tail and gleefully chewing on her bone as I ranted about
her apparent issues with appropriate places to pee.  Then I felt the
drip on my head.  A quick sniff of the liquid I’d just mopped
up was further proof that the puddle of water was from my leaking
roof.

Yip
– pee.

Oh,
the joys of homeownership.

At
least I live in a condominium, which means instead of stressing over
roof repairs all by myself, I can call the front office, tell them of
my newly acquired in-home water feature, then stress until it gets
fixed.  I became a home owner about a year ago, when I accepted a new
call.  My accountant, my parents, and my own common sense told me
that I could afford to buy.  I would appreciate the break on the
irrationally high clergy income tax, and I would not end up like many
of the clergy I knew who were retiring in their mid-60’s with
no place to live because they’d spent their life in
church-owned rectories.  So I did the most sensible thing a
first-time home buyer could do – I came to my new city and
allowed two days to buy a home.  Sure, I did some research, and I did
pre-qualify for a mortgage.  But I decided that I’d have faith
in the help of a new parishioner who, thanks be to God, was also a
realtor. 

Sometimes
I push this faith in God a bit.   

After
a frantic day of looking at homes with kitchens from the 1960’s,
yards that resembled the deepest Amazon jungle rather than suburban
Louisiana, and foundations with cracks like gullies, my faith
wavered.  A few more tours of homes of former smokers who scented
their home via Marlboro and cat owners who allowed kitties to use the
front living room as the litter box, and I wondered if a complete
crying fit would be inappropriate in front of a new
parishioner/realtor.

Then
we looked at the condominiums, which were the last resort on my list.
Three condos later, I found my new home.  I never thought I’d
own a condominium, but I fell in love with the screened back gallery
and marble counter tops and the idea that I was the first to live
here.  No smokers, no feral cats, just me.  After signing several
thousand papers, I took the keys to my new home.

Okay,
it wasn’t quite that easy.  I endured the credit check and all
the last minute snags that inevitably come with purchasing a home,
including a frantic dash to the bank for a certified check for $38.17
because cash was not allowed.  Then I signed several thousand
papers and received the keys.

After a short drive to my new home, I opened the door to the empty
space, sat down on the newly-installed hardwood floors, and cried.
All this was my responsibility, from hanging the curtains on
blazingly bare windows to fixing the pulls on the ceiling fans that
were absent, and I’m not even that adept with a mop.  The
frightening words “sole responsibility” flashed before my
eyes, and I felt sick.

This
would all be so much easier if I had a husband.  Wasn’t that on
the rules of life for me?  I was supposed to buy my first house with
my husband, and he was supposed to know what to look for in a home
and how to fix windows that don’t open and sinks that leak and
all those boy things they’re supposed to know.  That was the
plan. 

But
God, as She usually does, reminds me that I don’t write the
plan.  My plan, in college, was to be a married agnostic, probably an
English professor or an FBI agent (nothing like related career
choices).  I didn’t believe in religion then.  I believed in
spirituality, which meant I liked to believe in God on my terms
without the annoying voices of others interjecting their experiences
and thoughts which were likely different from mine.  My boyfriend
didn’t believe in God at all.  We talked of our plans, which
were vague and mostly ungrounded, and we were in love.  Then we
weren’t in love, because love that’s vague and ungrounded
eventually dissipates.  In my alone-ness, I went to law school to
become Episcopalian.   

Then,
eventually, a priest.

And
now, some years later, a single priest who is also a homeowner
staring at a puddle of water coming from her ceiling.

But
I am a priest.  I hold the hands of the dying and I baptize babies.
I’ve married people who were young and in that vague,
ungrounded love who showed up in my office months or years later
wondering why grounding love is so difficult.  I preach the gospel to
those who want to hear an exclusive version of it and stand in the
fire of their wrath and invite them into the still center of
community.  I’ve marched for the rights of the disempowered and
laughed with young people over South Park episodes.

I
am a priest, and I am a woman, and I am not married.  God tells me
that those are descriptions of me and not definitions of my limits.
I can figure out how to hang my curtains (I did).  I can fix my leaky
faucet, and I’ve learned when to call a repair person (anything
electrical).  I’ve discovered that I am capable of caulking
bathtubs and fixing clogged drains, even painting a room or two. 

In
my life, in my home, and in my vocation, God reminds me that I, like
all of humanity, am capable of much more than I often think.   

My
leaky roof will be fixed, much more easily than some lives of my
parishioners.

I
find my mop and soak up the water.  Sophie chases the mop, and I feel
God’s laughter as She tells me to look at what I did, on my
own.


6 replies
  1. Sarah - from the UK
    Sarah - from the UK says:

    Although I live in a manse – I’m with you!
    It is amazing and liberating to discover that I can do basic jobs around the house and that all those occasions when I’m tempted to not even pick up tools and call a friendly man, to at least take a look myself first!

    Reply
  2. Teri
    Teri says:

    I too bought a condo (though that was my first choice because I live in a place with lots of snow, and condo means someone else does the shoveling!) when I took my first call, nearly two years ago now. And I also took two days to choose, offer, and do everything that needed to be done. Awesome! And, like you, I have discovered that I can do some things I never thought I could do, and I’ve learned when to call for help (something I also never thought I could do). Thank God for the front office and for (in my case) the church buildings and grounds administrator who takes care of my house. Sure, I can paint and unclog drains, but he can fix garbage disposals and install ceiling fans and wiring!
    Thanks, too, for the reminder that “pastor, woman, not married” are descriptions not definitions. I needed that this week.

    Reply
  3. Heather
    Heather says:

    While married, I too am often awed by the responsibility of owning a home after having lived in a rectory for 9 years and in rentals before that. The same things that are wonderful (I don’t have to get a committee’s approval before fixing the furnace!) are scary (I have to fix the furnace!)
    (And I was going to be an optometrist… but FBI agent sounds much more fun!)

    Reply
  4. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Thank you for summing up my feelings. For the first time in 2 months, I finally feel like someone knows all the fears and anxieties that I am experiencing as a newly appointed, single, clergywoman.

    Reply
  5. Heidi K
    Heidi K says:

    Brava all! I have not yet managed to take the plunge into home ownership (partly because even a condo in my area costs $350,000 and up!), but I applaud all those intrepid women who’ve done it – and on their own! I raise my plunger to you!

    Reply
  6. Adam Waterford
    Adam Waterford says:

    You should ask the building inspector or superintendent to fix the leak for you, Reverend. Small leaks like that could lead to big problems. I like the way you compare your roof problem with the problems of your parishioners and your faith in God. Don’t worry, every problem has a solution.

    Reply

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