O God- my God,
It is Sunday morning and, as usual, we are running late. I am standing in the bathroom that I share with my daughters, blending concealer and foundation onto my face, the counter lined with cosmetics standing at attention like little toy soldiers. Amelia wanders into the room, still in her pajamas, and watches as I go about the work of putting on my face. She grabs the tube of concealer and I quickly snatch it away- it’s expensive, and it’s only a small tube, and there’s so much that needs to be covered. I have to make it last. “Mommy, I want to wear makeup too,” she says, at first absentmindedly, but becoming more adamant. “Mommy, give me makeup. I need my makeup now.” I hand her the brush- she likes the way the soft bristles feel against her face- and begin applying eye shadow to my eyelids. “Why do you need makeup, baby?” I ask, not sure that I like the color I chose. “I need to look pretty.”
Her words stop me cold. I look at my beautiful, compassionate, funny child and wonder how, at three and half, she already thinks she needs to do something to herself to make herself pretty. “You are already pretty,” I tell her, at a loss for words. She goes back to stroking her cheeks with the brush, every once in a while looking in the mirror. I want to stop and get down on my knees to talk to her, talk with her, but there’s no time. We’re running late, and she’s still in her pajamas.
I want to tell her that she is fiercely and wonderfully made. I want to tell her how she has been made in the image of God, just like her sister, just like me. I want to cup her cheeks in my hands and tell her that I see God in her face, so please don’t cover it up. I want to tell my daughter all these things, but I don’t. Because she is insisting there is not enough makeup on the brush- I tell her that there is (she’s right, there isn’t, in fact there’s none). She demands that I get lipstick for her, and I tell her that it’s lost, which is a lie. I know exactly where it is; tubes of varied hues ranging from the natural color of my lips to a radiant red have all somehow found their way to the bottom of my work bag, each one coated with the powdery flakes of crushed communion wafers, thrown in hastily after serving Eucharist at the nursing home. Lipstick mixed with the body of Christ.
I want to tell her I see God in her face, but then I wonder: why do I cover up the imago Dei in me? When did I stop seeing God in my own reflection? And if I wipe this covering away, what will God show me?
It may be a bit soon to be calling you that, Neighbor, because I most likely haven’t met you yet. It is with great excitement (and a little nervousness) that my family and I are packing our belongings in preparation of moving to your neighborhood. It is with equal excitement (and perhaps a bit more nervousness!) that I prepare to step into the humble role of Pastor at Hurdtown and Lake Hopatcong United Methodist Churches. I imagine that you may also be feeling excited and nervous- after all, you’ve never met me either! It’s perfectly normal to have mixed feelings in the midst of a big change- and getting a new pastor is definitely a big change. When my daughters get nervous about something new we often sing a little song that we learned from the children’s television show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that goes like this: When something is new, holding a hand can help you.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a spin off of the classic children’s television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Fred Rogers, or “Mr. Rogers” was a Presbyterian minister who used public television to engage children of all ages and to teach them valuable lessons about emotions, how things work, and living in community with one another. The theme song, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, is the title of a recent documentary that is being shown in theatres now, and is also the inspiration behind our worship series for the month of July as you and I get to know one another. Each week we will look at a key element, character, or lesson from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.
July 1st: Loving Ourselves & Loving Others
July 8th: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
July 15th: Look for the Helpers
July 22nd: In Some Ways We Are Different
July 29th: The Neighborhood of Make Believe
Before we meet one another face to face let me tell you a few things about me that may answer some questions you have. First, if you ask where I’m from I may stare at you blankly for a second or two before answering. You see, I’ve moved six times in the last ten years and have called many different neighborhoods Home. I will most likely tell you Towson, Maryland, as that is where I was born, raised, and my family still resides (I have a mother, father, three sisters, a brother in law, a soon to be brother in law, and two nephews. Family gatherings are really loud!). You will probably meet most of my family over the next few months, as they love to come visit us here in New Jersey. You will also meet my husband Evan, who is also a pastor (so you probably won’t see him on Sunday mornings).
Outside of Sunday morning when I usually wear a robe you will most likely see me in a clergy collar, a sweater (if I wasn’t a pastor I’d probably be a librarian), or an apron. Sometimes I might be in all three at once! I’ve also been known to wear some pretty wild leggings from time to time- life’s too short to wear boring clothes!
Finally, I’m often asked what I would like to be called. The two names most frequently used are Pastor Amanda and Mama. I have four year old twin daughters named Auden and Amelia who you will see quite a lot. Together we are Triple A, ready to save the day! I consider both roles, pastor and mama, to be my calling in life, and for me they go hand in hand. I would not be the mother I am without my experience as a pastor. Likewise, I would not be the pastor that I am today if I were not mother. If you would like to follow along on our daily adventures or sneak a peek at old sermons or other pieces I’ve written you can check out our blog, MamaPastor
Mr. Rogers’ had a favorite quote that he carried with him that read, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” I am so looking forward to hearing your stories and getting to know you over these next weeks and months! So let’s make the most of this beautiful day, Since we’re together, we might as well say, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Grace and Peace,
God of soft and safe spaces
Thank you for our bed.
Thank you for the giggles in the morning
As I pretend to “make” my daughter’s into the blankets
Drawing the sheets over their heads.
Thank you for the whoops and shouts as it
Is used as a playground or trampoline
As “five little monkeys” jump, and fall,
And jump again.
Thank you for the dolls and stuffed animals
That get carefully lined up and then
Tucked ever so gently under the blanket because
The girls are playing doctor and their
“Babies” are “sick”
and that’s how you take care of
Something you love.
Thank you for the evenings when we sink
Into its warm embrace, a child nestled
In the crook of each arm.
Thank you for the plaid flannel sheets
That make me think of Maine,
For the fleece blanket that my mother made
Which carries within it the smell of
Incense and lavender that was burned
The night before.
Thank you for the safe space
Where my daughters are fed,
Where we say evening prayer,
Where we whisper “I love you”.
Thank you, O God, for this bed
That holds each one of us safely as we slumber
As if in Your own hand.
Thank you for this intimate space
That is big enough
For all of us.
“Come and see!” I call to my daughters
“I have a surprise to show you!”
They toddle over to me and together we crouch
On the kitchen floor
Huddled around the dusty red orb I hold
Cupped in my hands:
“Mommy wants to show you something,” I murmur, as I
Carefully pierce it’s flesh with a knife
Then dig my thumbs into the rind and
Someday I will tell them
It was a pomegranate in the garden of eden,
Not an apple.
I will teach them how are ancestors believed
There are the same number of seeds
As there are commands in the Torah,
How the Promised land was flowing
But also pomegranates.
Someday I will tell them how it once represented Christ,
How the red, red juices flow from its wounded side.
Someday I will teach them that they, too,
Will flow with blood once they are
That deep inside they contain seeds that may,
How their bellies may ripen with the new life they carry
Maybe then they will understand
Why their mama
Has this inked on her back;
Maybe then they will know
What this symbol has come to mean for me:
Body and blood
Beauty and promise.
But I will not say any of this today.
It is enough
To see their eyes widen
In awe and joy and surprise
As they see the ruby-like seeds inside
In hushed voices,
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton