Posts

In the words of Beyoncé

My 2019 Easter Outfit

In 2001 I was in a car accident that briefly landed me in a wheelchair. That event physically changed my body forever. Rolling myself around but also being relatively immobile, I noticed my upper arms got larger and stronger. For lots of different socially imbedded reasons, I did not like this new look in my arms. Over the next 18 years, my body lost and gained weight in different ways – I even grew an inch taller in my 30’s – but for whatever reason, my arms have always stayed about the same size. They are what have been called by trainers, boyfriends, and myself alike a “problem area.”

Then, a couple years ago, I found something that was both freeing, covering, and good for work; a cape. My cape made me feel strong and feminine. I wore it the first time I preached to help me get over my stage fright. It became known as my “preaching cape.” I have always liked fashion, and I have also always shopped for a good deal, this cape fit the bill for both.

As I do every year, this year I spent weeks pulling together my Easter outfit. I was so excited I even found a new cape in white-perfect for Easter Sunday. So, when I got dressed for our Easter worship service this year, I looked in the mirror and, in the words of Beyoncé, I was “feeling myself.”

I took a picture outside of church and after a wonderful worship service, I posted it to one of my social media pages. I live in New York and my family lives in California, so I wanted to share my Easter outfit with them. I was proud of the way I looked because unlike Beyoncé I did not “wake up like this.” I also saw a post on the Young Clergy Women International Facebook page asking for pics of the amazing preachers in the group and their Easter outfits.

Everyone looked amazing and the group was incredibly supportive and affirming of each other’s outfits. This unfortunately gave me false hope, and I shared the picture on my wider media networks which were less supportive. Which reminded me of a very important fact; God called me to this work: a woman who loves fashion, a good bargain, and using the two to share the good news of Christ Jesus.

In the wider network I was met with the view that my outfit was an exploitation of riches from an elite New Yorker. Little did they know my bag, glasses, and shoes are from TJ-Maxx and Who What Wear made my cape and jumper. That’s right, my elite New York look was from Target. And they were on sale! However, the highest price I paid that day was that of my confidence. The same thing that helped me bring the word of the risen Christ to a church full of joyful Easter congregants, ended up being the price as well. Once the criticism snuck into my head, I had a hard time not believing it myself. Read more

watercolor drawing of three women's swimsuits - one flowered 1-piece and two striped 2-pieces

A pastor. In a swimsuit.

watercolor drawing of three women's swimsuits - one flowered 1-piece and two striped 2-pieces

swimsuits

Sometimes I forget that my sunglasses don’t actually make me invisible.

It is a Sunday afternoon. I am at the pool. I dig through my big, floppy, flowered bag that is stuffed with towels, water toys, extra swim diapers, the pool pass, and a meager amount of cash for buying popcorn and hot pretzels with cheese as our post-swimming snack. I spray thick layers of sunscreen over my kids’ arms and legs. I sunscreen my own face, rubbing furiously so that I don’t leave big white goopy streaks across my nose and cheeks. I pull on bucket hat that I purchased years ago on clearance. (It was probably so cheap because it is a strange neon color somewhere between yellow and green, a color that is flattering on absolutely no one.)

And then, before we march across the pool deck to the graduated edge of the shallow end, I put on my sunglasses.

Sunglasses are good for keeping your eyes safe. They are good for seeing lost toys at the bottom of the pool. They are great for staying inconspicuous while people-watching.

But they do not make you invisible.

I live in a town of 8000 people. Summer in Iowa gets hot. We all go to the pool.

I can deal with seeing congregation members at the grocery store and at the park. I make small talk when we bump into each other at daycare pickup, at the library, or at the Sugar Bowl, ordering our ice cream cones.

But the pool is different.

Because I am their pastor.

And I am wearing a bathing suit.

Which is of no particular concern to them, I must be clear. They have no problem with it. It’s a non-issue. I’m the one with the problem. Read more

From Shaking to Leaping

wtcco-dec-2016When I was preparing for my ordination, I was scared spitless to be in the pulpit and to preach in front of a congregation. My legs would start to shake at the beginning of the service, and I could barely stand. I did not come from a church that celebrated women pastors, so pastoral authority was hard for me to embrace. I realized that in order to survive a career in ministry without my legs shaking every time I preached, I needed something that would help me grow in confidence and establish my voice.

As unconventional as it might sound, l decided to try Scottish Highland Dance. Having studied the Scottish roots of the Presbyterian denomination, I thought Scottish Highland dance might be a perfect fit for me. Although most Scottish Highland dancers start when they are seven years old (or younger!), I found a teacher who believed that no one is ever too old to start dancing. At thirty-two, I joined a bunch of elementary school children who were learning the basics of the “Highland Fling.” Read more

How to Walk to a Meeting in Manhattan…While Female and Wearing a Clerical Collar and Red Leather Boots

  1. The Author

    The Author

    Be female.

  2. Be ordained.
  3. Be in Manhattan and, if at all possible, have plans and credentials to attend sessions at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
  4. As you prepare for the day, put on a dress with a clerical collar and knee-high red leather boots.
  5. Leave your hotel room early in the morning and walk up Lexington Avenue, in search of coffee, before the first session begins.
  6. Note the odd looks that people give you (when they don’t completely ignore you, as do most New Yorkers), and remember what you are wearing. Breathe in, breathe out. Note that it takes more energy than it should to be a walking contradiction. Plan to go to bed earlier tonight as a result.
  7. Locate a Starbucks and stand in line.
  8. Barely register the fact that a man has gotten in line behind you, until it becomes quite clear that he’s trying to get a good look at your collar without being too obvious, which isn’t working.
  9. When the man says, “Excuse me, but what are you?” remind yourself that he hasn’t had any coffee yet today, either. Smile your best smile and say, “I’m a pastor!”
  10. When the man registers this and then asks, “So, are you like the Mormons?” remember to breathe in, and breathe out. Ask him, “What do you mean?” and then immediately realize that a simple “no” would’ve sufficed. Tuck this realization away for next time. Reflect for a nano-second on the fact that there will always be a next time.
  11. When the man leans in closer and asks, in a tone reminiscent of trying to pick someone up in a bar, “Do you have to wear that special underwear?” take a brief moment to consider your options. Recognize that your least-favorite response is also the safest. Choose safety, every time. Glare at the man long enough to make him understand that you find both him and his question repugnant and then say, quite curtly, “No.”
  12. Go back to looking at the menu above the register, even though you knew what you would order before you walked through the door. Recognize that this man, knowing as he now does that you aren’t wearing Mormon underwear, is quite possibly still thinking about what kind of underwear you are wearing, especially now that he knows you got to choose it yourself. Resist the overwhelming urge to use any and all self-defense moves on this assho- I mean, customer. Order your coffee and head to the bathroom.
  13. When you find the only unisex bathroom stall occupied, wait patiently, hoping the underwear customer will be gone when you are finished.
  14. When the bathroom door opens, and the man who comes out is startled by your presence, find it odd that he stops for a moment to look you up and down, before he sneers at you and then chuckles.
  15. Connect the dots after he leaves and you walk into the bathroom stall, only to find that he has left the seat down and pissed all over it, not in the manner of a man with bad aim, but in the manner of a man who gets off on the idea that whoever comes after him will have to clean up his mess; this marking of his territory. Realize that he didn’t necessarily expect to see who that person would be, but that in his wildest dreams he probably couldn’t have conjured you up; try not to think about what he’s thinking about right now. Breathe in, breathe out.
  16. Because you really need to go, wipe the seat (and handle and floor and wall) with what finally amounts to half the roll of toilet paper. While you do, make connections between this man and the group of male Ivy League students you heard about in a session yesterday. (They were asked, by someone researching the effect of pornography on men’s brains, to list one thing they wanted to do to a woman, but never had. Every single one said, “Come on her face.” When asked why, they said it was a matter of power. When pushed further, they were able to articulate, “It’s because we know that women hate it.”) Try again not to think about what this man is thinking about right now; this man who somehow needed to prove himself by pissing all over a Starbucks bathroom. Breathe in, breathe out.
  17. When you have finally finished your surprise janitorial duties and used the bathroom yourself, grab your (now lukewarm) coffee and continue up Lexington Avenue.
  18. At a stoplight, when a cab pulls up and three men tumble out, appearing still drunk from the night before, move over to give them plenty of room. When one of them spots you and yells, “Hey, are you a priest?? Are you a priest?!?” simply smile and nod, especially given that this is the most tame encounter you’ve had all day, and it’s not yet 8:00am. Walk on, with your head high, as he yells behind you, “Hey, I’ve got some confessing to do!” Laugh to yourself, because you know no other way to survive.
  19. Arrive just in time to help lead worship for a group of ecumenical women at the Church Center of the United Nations, where it is so busy and chaotic that you forget about what has just happened until lunchtime.
  20. Stand in line for lunch at the U.N. cafeteria. While you wait, notice a woman approaching you. When she greets you, with a thick east-African accent, saying, “Good afternoon, Reverend! How are you?” realize immediately that she seems to know you, but that you can’t place her. Say, “Please remind me how we know each other!” When she responds that you have never met, but that she saw your collar and simply wanted to greet another sister in the church, smile wide and embrace her.
  21. After this woman leaves, remain in line, waiting to pay for your pre-packaged sushi. Notice the tears welling up in your eyes.
  22. Breathe in.
  23. Breathe out.

Verve, Faith, Chocolate, and Really Great Shoes

For a long time, in my mind, pointe shoes were the only shoes that mattered. In high school, I tried brand after brand, make after make, looking for something that would flatter my woefully flat arches. I
finally found Freeds of London. I religiously ordered shoes from a particular cobbler, whose mark was
stamped on the bottom of my sole. That brand and make of shoes accompanied me through hours of class, rehearsals, and performances. I spent a lot of time breaking them in and keeping them in good shape.

They transformed me into Sleeping Beauty; they turned me into the Dew Drop Fairy. They were my most important material possession. Oddly, my attitude towards all other shoes was as indifferent as my attitude towards pointe shoes was obsessive. In high school and college, I wore the same old school vans day in and day out (Hey, it was the 90s; don’t judge me). The object was comfort and little else.

And then I moved from the stage to the pulpit. As part of that transition, I went to divinity school at Yale in Connecticut; inclement weather and walking everywhere meant practicality won out. I wore unremarkable tennis shoes and cheap penny loafers. I bought a pair of bejeweled aqua peep toe heels on a whim my senior year. I got them with no intention of wearing them in the pulpit; however, sometimes, what I intend is not what I actually end up doing. I wore the peep toes one summer Sunday morning soon after I was ordained to the diaconate, just for fun. I didn’t do it to get a reaction, but, boy, did I ever. It seems as if every single person in that church had something to say about my shoes that day. I wore them again. And again.

It didn’t take long before I had more new shoes – pink patent mary janes with a 3″ heel, white ballet flats, green pumas. I don’t have that many pairs of shoes, but the ones I do have are… interesting. It got to the point where my picture in the church’s monthly newsletter was of my shoes.

For me, my shoes signal that I’m human, something that I found to be incredibly important in a profession where you are sometimes in a different category than everyone else, which I refuse to be. The fact is, people often think they know you when you’re clergy, particularly in the Bible Belt, where I grew up and now live and serve. People sometimes assume they know how you vote (Republican), what you do in your spare time (you have none because you’re always tending the flock), what you will find funny (jokes that involve religion – nothing remotely risqué), not to mention what about you think about issues such as the war, abortion, and homosexuality. My shoes tip people off that maybe there’s more than a clerical collar here; they’re my visual question mark to a world that desperately wants to pigeonhole. Read more