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Vaginas Everywhere

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Series 1, No. 8, 1919.

And so, I painted. I drew. I sketched. I took every art class my high school offered until I reached the very last class in Advanced Placement Studio Art. In this year-long class, I was challenged for the very first time to make a statement. After all, artists are supposed to have something to say. Artists are the ones that muse about the world. They express those musings in bold color and shape. They say something for which the non-artists struggle to find words.

I didn’t know how to do this. I had the skill to make a still life look almost life-like. I had the ability to blend colors to evoke the feeling of that apple. I had enough talent to be in that room with the other would-be artists. And yet, when it came time to create that portfolio that would ultimately determine my grade, I didn’t know what was unique about my artistic voice. And it had to be. That was one of the requirements. We had to have something to say.

I vividly remember sitting on that stool in the back of my art school art room staring at a set of pastels. I wasn’t making art. I was eating a clementine until I noticed how interesting it was. I noticed other colors in the obvious shades of orange. I picked up the pastels and started to draw. Thus, my portfolio was born. It didn’t say a darn thing. I was just looking really closely at the natural world. I was trying to understand it as much as I was trying to understand myself. I didn’t know that then. Then, it was just fruit and vegetables. Lots of them.

On the day of my high school graduation, my parents encouraged me to display this art around the living room. I had already received my grade and felt a little crushed. My beret-adorned dreams were dampened. The truth had been told. I didn’t have a unique voice. Still, in a family of artists, it’s important to show your work even if it’s terrible. So there it was for all to see.

I managed to ignore the ogling at my art until my aunt called me over. She pointed directly at the clementine. She told me it was a vagina. I was mortified. Was that what the AP Boards had seen? Had they concluded that I was some sex-starved adolescent with nothing but her own anatomy on her mind? Of course, my aunt went on to point out the vaginas in each piece. There were vaginas everywhere. With each exclamation she made, I sank deeper and deeper into shame. Read more

Becoming the Church Mom

You could see the furrowed brows on her puzzled face. It was an amusing moment for me and for the handful of congregants who noticed her dilemma. I believe that in our role as pastors sometimes, our humanness is overshadowed by the ministry we do, especially for those of us from liturgical traditions that wear robes. The next Mother’s Day, I was expecting our first child. The congregation had already thrown a baby shower for us and included all the children. My robes billowed out around my growing belly. Amazingly, that year, all the little ones knew with certainty that I was a woman and raced to be the
first to give me a flower.

I learned in those moments that being a mom, in the children’s eyes, defined me as much as being their pastor. These same children asked every week if I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, though we were never able to discover the baby’s gender. The children wanted to help with our baby during church services, even though she came to church with a very protective and capable young woman as her babysitter. Our baby was the church baby, and I became the church mom.

I noticed a change once we had our little one. To the toddlers, I became a lap on which to sit. Children I met only a few times as visitors or at Vacation Bible School came up and hugged me as we went for a walk as a family. To the teens, I became more of an advice giver. While I will always be the pastor, I am also now a mom, to far more children than my husband and I will ever have on our own. Our daughter has been graced with an extended family that calls me pastor, though to her I am her “Momma Bear.”