Saturday, March 22, 2014


Last weekend I preached at my home church, that is seminary speak for the church that I grew up in, which is also the church that has endorsed me through this school and ordination process. I was so excited to preach at home. I was also really nervous,  it would be the first time my mentor of nearly 14 years would hear me preach. I knew with out a doubt that he would give me honest and constructive feed back, if it went well no worries, if it went poorly I worried I would be a terrible disappointment. Even with some of my family present, my mentor was the only person I was nervous about. It went well better than I imagined it would.

There were several things though that I didn't expect. As our time of worship began the thought occurred to me that the next time I worship in this place will likely be my ordination. I sat with that in the quiet empty church after worship for awhile. This is the church that welcomed me at 15 when I didn't know what church was. This is where I was confirmed, ordained a ruling elder, married, prayed for, commissioned, where our daughter was baptized, this is home. I learned to be a church leader and a teacher here. I sat in the quiet I shed a few tears. As I enter in to this time of transition, it seems many moments are becoming bitter sweet. These tears were relief that this process is nearly over and the nervousness about what comes next. They were happy but unexpected tears. 

During worship something else happened, toward the end of my sermon, something I can only call the Spirit came over me. Later my mentor asked me about the energy in the end of the sermon, it was only then that I realized it was evident to other people. This was my first preaching experience where I was aware of the Spirit moving in me as I was preaching, it is hard to describe, but it was certainly full of life giving energy.

I still wasn't done with the unexpected emotions. My Aunt came that morning to hear me preach, my dad's sister. She has been incredibly supportive and encouraging as I have taken on seminary, something I find myself regularly grateful for. It was great to look out and see her as we worshiped. After church she told me how proud of me she was and motioned that she had to wipe away a tear during the sermon. Now as an aunt myself I get being proud of your niece or nephew.  She has always been as supportive as possible and shows up when ever she can. On this day though it was something more for me. Most of my readers know my dad passed away after a long illness in my late teens, he had been sick most of my life. As I processed all that had happened that morning as we rode home, I realized  I was gifted with what I can only call a place holder. She was standing where her brother could not, she was proud for both of them, her affirmation for me was the closest thing that I will ever have to affirmation from my Dad. Perhaps I understand this differently now because after the sudden passing of my sister in law, I find myself trying to be at the important events in the lives of my niece and nephew, to show extra support for them as the navigate this messy life. I cannot replace the presence of their mother but I can hold the holy space that is for their mother. When you loose a parent at a fairly young age, you get used to not having them there for the big life events like graduations, weddings, the birth of children. These places though also open us up to the tender wonder, what would my dad think? Would he be proud? So in this tender moment, I am happy to accept the closest thing I have to his voice, his sister's affirmation. 

While we are on the topic of place holders, I am forever grateful for my mentor, who has consistently been willing to hold the dad space for me. I don't think he became my mentor because he thought I needed a dad but he hasn't been afraid to help me work through some of those dad issues that come up. All I will say is that we shared tender moments where I was able to see for the first time what holy work it is to hold the place for one who can't be there. When your mentor beams with pride there isn't much more you need in the world. 

Today I am grateful for the people in my life who have taken on the holy work of being a place holder for my dad. Who have through their commitment to me have allowed me to hear his voice, know his love, and continue to grow. May you be blessed with such love and support from the place holders in your life.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for making me cry at 8:30 in the morning Becca. I know my brother was there in spirit and yes I have always tried to "take" his place. Taking his place in your life is very important to me and I know he is watching you from heaven and his heart is bursting with pride as my heart is bursting also