"Leaving" is a series of blog posts having to do with my process of transitioning out of my first call and into a new call; leaving St. Timothy Lutheran (Naperville, IL) and moving to First Lutheran (Decorah, IA).
This is a post that I wrote back in December, when I was in conversation with First, but before I was able to say anything about the process to anyone at St. Timothy. The call process is weird and secretive like that. I wrote it in anticipation of sharing it here on the blog once the news was out. So here it is.
As I write this, Christmas is still one week away, but Christmas cheer is in full swing. If you were wondering what it's like to be (quietly and secretly right now) preparing to leave a church, while also living life as a pastor in the Christmas season, let me tell you: it's HARD.
I feel keenly aware that the Advent season this year is just about as short as it can possibly be. We hit the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, and then immediately jump into Christmas Eve on Monday and Christmas Day on Tuesday.
This makes everything seem rushed. The worship details that need sorting out need to be sorted out before Saturday. The presents that I haven't purchased yet need to be purchased this weekend, and wrapped. The time I want to take soaking up the dark almost-winter afternoons of Advent by lighting candles and looking at Christmas lights is being taken up by sermon-writing, and Christmas preparations, and getting stuff done that can't wait until after the first of the new year.
And in the midst of all of this, my head and heart are also wrestling with the knowledge that I am doing my own secret sort of Advent waiting - waiting to tell people that I have a new call; waiting, in essence, to leave.
Knowing that you are leaving makes you all the more eager to love everyone and love them immensely. Last Sunday, I was distributing bread at communion. I realized that even though I was saying the words "The body of Christ, given for you," I was actually saying "I love you" to each and every member who came my way.
Once you know you are leaving, you say "yes" to the Christmas parties and casual invitations to events or programs or meetings that you would otherwise have passed up. You start to dig in when time runs short. There is no doubt that I love this congregation, and there is much grief yet to be had when I move on.
And the Christmas season makes it even worse. I have a basket of cookies sitting on my desk, and a Christmas card alongside it, from a dear woman who is a blessing to me in this place. A tender, hand-written note inside of the card thanks me for my listening and teaching, and for my hugs.
At Christmastime, the hands I shake after worship hold on a little longer before letting go, and the hugs that are given to me linger a few extra moments. We all feel the anticipation of the season together, and Christmas brings out our love, care, and appreciation for one another.
I feel very much loved right now, and very much in love. And my eyes are opened wide to the Holy Spirit flowing freely through this place.
I still know that God is pulling me (pushing me, dragging me, encouraging me) to this new place and this new call, and I know all of my reasons for trusting that stirring in my heart.
But it doesn't make it easy to leave.