Take a Breath

Getting a new enterprise going is tough. You have to go all-in because you know it’s all on you to succeed. I have been working on Tales of Glory since July, and I am starting to get traction with my work. However, I am hitting a bit of a wall. Burn out is real, especially after leaving trauma behind. But I am learning how to balance the time when I need to pause, take a breath, lean into healing, and start again.

 

I have had wonderful people reach out and encourage me. This encouragement has seemingly come out of the blue, but I believe that the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes when we are struggling. These messages people send me give me peace, and they soothe the pain and anger I have felt toward God, myself, and those who’ve hurt me. I have taken time to meditate, pray, and cry over these kind words. They heal me. But, the time I spend in prayer and meditation is time away from my work, and then I don’t accomplish what I had hoped for the day.

But I need these moments to heal. Healing is not linear and takes time. Also, I cannot minister if I refuse to talk to God out of anger and if I hold onto the suffering. Rage creates self-inflicted wounds. So I choose to pause, to heal. Instead of scolding myself for not meeting all of my goals for the day, I lean into the peace. I work through my anger or sadness. Then I take a breath. I let the love others show me and the love God is sending wash over me. I sit in the light shining on me. I can’t move forward in my work, at least not to its full potential, if I am not also on a path to healing. I cannot heal if I do not allow the space for it to happen.

 

When the weight of your work is bearing down on you, and your mind or your soul needs a break, then take a breath. You may not cross everything off your to-do list for the day, but you and your work will be better for it. And if someone crosses your mind, reach out to them. Encourage them. The Holy Spirit may be working through you; you just may be an essential part of their healing.

Lent Week 5

John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

 

Bold. Bold of Mary to use her agency to commit to a mysterious action that no one in the room would likely understand of anointing Jesus’ feet. Bold of her to use a potential source of wealth in an act of service. Bold of her to do something as intimate as using her hair to wipe his feet.

Bold of Judas to open his mouth and condemn the action.

Bold of Jesus to not only engage with her in this way, but to stick up for her.

In Lent, we think that our boldness might get us in trouble and lead us astray. If we’re quick to shoot off at the mouth, if we are speaking our mind without listening to others, if we act selfishly, these bold actions can hurt us and others. Those are the things we spend Lent repenting of.

But boldness is love, in service, in undermining oppressive power and authority, in eschewing wealth for the sake of equality, in devotion to Christ through our devotion to others is what we are called to do. Even if others misunderstand, or roll their eyes at us because we are “bleeding hearts”, or we are “too p-c”, or that we’re “snowflakes” because we make decisions to respect people and their needs, we are called to be bold. And this text shows us that Jesus is on the side of boldness.

Advent 4: Love

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

If you love, you get battered. It’s just true. You fray at the edges, then unravel. You get all used up.

Loving anyone or anything in any way empties you and dumps all your goodness out. Compassion fatigue and empathy erosion are real things that can take the kindest, tenderest heart and harden it up.

Love can break you down.

Love is always two-sided: you cannot love others if you do not love yourself; you cannot love yourself without loving others. Whether we like it or not, our hope, peace, joy, happiness, success, and prosperity depend upon each other. We need each other. You need everyone else. You are needed in this world. You need us. We need you, too.

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”

― Frederick Buechner

Love can break you down. If you seek out the love and care you deserve, it can break away the hardness of your heart and make it soft and caring again. You will be emptied of your love at the end of your life, but that can be good news. It can be a sign of a life lived well, filled with the care and love poured into you. Your goodness may be emptied out, but you can be full of the goodness of others. Love gives, and love receives.

You may be battered, but you may also be healed. Hold the tension of the battle scars, sutures, and balms that entail a life well loved.

Luke 1:46b-55
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 

Sometimes it’s good that relationships are complicated.

I think the phrase “relationships are complicated” is often used with a negative connotation. I know that I have used it that way. Those moments when you have your first fight with a friend or significant other, when you accidentally say something that offends your loved one and you don’t know what you did wrong, when someone you love is going through a hard time and you don’t know how to help…

The list goes on as to why relationships get complicated, and why that may be seen as a negative thing (or at least, a very challenging thing.)

I think we’ve all had those experiences where when things got complicated, either we or the other party has bolted. I have bolted. And I have been bolted from. And so, we kind of begin to expect that to be the typical outcome when relationships become challenging for one reason or another.

 

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Photo by Craig Dennis on Pexels.com

But some friendships and relationships really stand the test of time. I had made assumptions that I wouldn’t really have any friends left once I left Tennessee, especially when I may go a year or two without seeing them. We’ve all grown and changed in that time. We’re not the same people, so we can’t stay friends right? That has proven to be untrue with some. We have changed, maybe we have less in common, but we keep showing up and our relationships keep finding a way.

Somehow, that feels even better, even stronger than when we had been the people we were who saw each other on a regular basis.

To be able to navigate the complicated area of, “it’s been a while” and “I’ve changed a bit” and still be able to share meals with joy and laughter makes me appreciate a relationship all the more. It’s different, but familiar. It’s like coming home.

It’s complicated, but no one is bolting. We’re choosing to stay. And I think we’re better for it.

Ordination

I am now Reverend Glory Cumbow. It hardly seems real! After it was declared to me, “You are now officially an ordained minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church” I could not contain my joy. I had heard those words proclaimed to friends, and now it has happened to me! The ordination process is finally complete (of course, the installation is coming.)

It still seems surreal though. I wonder how long it’s going to take to feel like the title truly belongs to me (maybe after my first wedding?)

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While there were, of course, many people I wish could have been in attendance who were out of town, under the weather, or too far away, there were also many there to celebrate with me! I had numerous college friends who were local and some who had to drive a few hours who attended. It did my heart good to see the faces of so many of my friends, knowing that they are still there for me even though I don’t live close by anymore. It was wonderful to have church members there as they had seen me grow up from college to the minister I am now. I had great family support from immediate family to extended family who came into town for this event! And of course, my dear friend Betsy came to represent my CTS family. I also had many encouraging words from friends and family who could not attend, letting me know that they were rejoicing from afar. It’s hard to put into words just how amazing the feeling of support was for that day. I feel so loved! From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all who supported me on my ordination day.

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My husband sang beautifully during the service. Many who were there had never heard him sing before and they were impressed! As they should be 😉 He also placed my stole on me as the “symbol of ministry.” It was a special moment which was affirmed by the sniffles I heard coming from the congregation.

My voice made it! It cracked here and there, but all of my anxieties and fears didn’t stop the service from being beautiful.

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I’m also grateful for little joys along the way. I have seen a number of rainbows recently: walking on the beach a couple weeks ago there was a double rainbow, on Saturday night Andy and I followed a rainbow all the way home from his birthday dinner, and then Betsy sent me a picture of a double rainbow she captured on my ordination day. Also, two nights before graduation back in May, I had a dream about my Papaw. I have rarely dreamed about him in the 5 years since he has passed, but this dream was very clear. He stood in a doorway looking at me. I yelled, “Hi Papaw!” And he gave me an enormous, white, sparkling smile. That was it. Simple, but beautiful and meaningful.

I’m not claiming that these are “signs” or anything. I know some people have strong beliefs about those types of things, but I’m not sure what I believe about that. It’s just nice to find some peace and beauty surrounding me whenever I have anxiety or self-doubt.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all. This Rev will do her best to make you all proud.

Montreal

Andy and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary on June 15, but we will likely be preparing our move to Florida during that time. So we had decided to celebrate early! We have had our Montreal trip in the works for 2 years. We wanted to go international, but we had never planned an international trip on our own before. I had gone to France with a group from college and to South Korea with a group from Seminary. Andy went with a college group to Greece. And on our honeymoon we spent time in Charleston, Isle of Palms, and took a cruise from the Charleston port to the Bahamas. All of our international travel had been pretty well planned for us. We thought Quebec would give us the feeling of traveling far without going to far away and having English friendly places in a French speaking country would be helpful.

 

The flight was only about 2 hours and 10 minutes (much shorter than the 14 hour flight to S. Korea!) We checked into out condo that we rented through AirBnb. It was the perfect location to easily walk to Old Montreal and two of the major metro stops. There were also some great restaurants just blocks away. Of course the first thing we tried was poutine! It was as delicious as we had hoped.

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I will give a brief overview of each day:

Day 1: We went to Little Italy and explored their shops, the beautiful farmer’s market, the architecture, and had some authentic Italian pizza (thin crust topped with a layer of mozzarella, with shrimp, clams, and marinara on top.) The Italian folks who owned the shop had a great sense of humor! We then headed over to the Fine Arts Museum which was downtown. Again, great architecture downtown with tall buildings alongside old-world looking churches and businesses. The museum was enormous! They had a special Picasso exhibit alongside of an exhibit that showed various styles of art from all over Africa and contemporary African-Canadian art. It showed how Picasso had been inspired by (or maybe had taken from…) these art styles. There was renaissance art (my favorite!), various other styles through the centuries, and a large section of contemporary art.

Day 2: We walked over to Old Montreal and explored the Old Port, various statues, old-world architecture, visited shops, and looked in multiple churches. The stand out for this day was the Notre-Dame Basillica! We stopped by early in the day to see inside and attend noon mass in their smaller (though still fairly sizable and extremely ornate) chapel. Mass was in all French, but it was nice to listen to the liturgy, scriptures, and prayer being spoken while meditating on the art. We came back to the Basillica that night to see their light show “Aura.” The show was created using lights, lasers, projections, mirrors, and orchestral music to show the beauty of the Basillica and celebrate the 375th anniversary of Montreal. The anniversary was last year, but the show was so popular that they kept it going for this year! We were lucky to catch it!

 

Day 3: We went to go visit the “Underground City.” It was hard to find what we were looking for, but we learned that the Underground City refers to the tunnel system. One must follow the tunnels to find the shopping and restaurants. So we wandered around until we found some! In the future one might want a map or a specific location in mind before they find themselves wandering from tunnel to tunnel. Then we visited the McCord Museum of History, which focused on the difficult history Canada has faced with First Nations people and Jewish people. The museum attempts to honor their stories while owning up to the fact that they haven’t always treated these groups of people well. That night we visited the Comedy Nest and heard some awesome stand up!

Day 4: We visited the Botanical Gardens. There were so many flowers (every color of iris, my favorite!), a First Nations garden full of plants and trees, a beautiful pond, an Alpine garden with a waterfall and rock formations, a Japanese garden with a koi pond, and an insectarium with beetles, ants, moths, butterflies, bees, spiders, and tons of exotic bugs. Then we went up in the Montreal Tower to get a 360 view of the city.

 

We wore ourselves out! We walked all day for 4 days. But we saw so much of the city and used the most of our time. We figured out the Metro system pretty easily and could walk around without the GPS to the local spots. We could speak English pretty easily; in fact there were many conversations happening around us in English! We had some great food, and the weather was sunny every day. In fact, Montreal was having a heat wave while we were there.

It was interesting seeing so many homeless people in such a progressive country. I wrongly assumed that since Canada’s government is ahead of us in so many ways that they didn’t have as many homeless people as we do. But there are always people who are oppressed and who fall through the cracks. We all have such a long way to go in helping others.

All in all, it was a good trip! We were tired out, but it was so much fun to figure out a new city, and a new country on our own.

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After 5 years, Andy and I have been through so much together. We’ve moved states (and we are moving again soon!), we’ve gotten masters’ degrees, we’ve traveled together and apart, we’ve become better communicators, we’ve been through family illnesses and family deaths, we’ve been to weddings, we’ve seen plays, concerts, and eaten good meals, we’ve struggled with life’s tragedies and changes, and we’ve taken care of each other through it all. It’s not been easy. But I wouldn’t want to change a thing. Here’s to many more years of growth, changes, striving, and loving.