Tuesday, February 05, 2013


To the left is a picture of my church office, taken a few months ago. The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and to me this picture captures the busyness and coziness that I have experienced and enjoyed in this space over the years.

There are many places on those shelves where books lay haphazardly on top of otherwise neatly- lined rows. I bought that small bookcase at Target because the supplied shelves weren't enough for my ridiculously-sized collection.

The cork board on the wall has a few trinkets accumulated over the years: pictures of church members, a Coffeeson baptism announcement, a palm frond folded into a cross. To the left of the window is a picture of St. Louis; just looking at it calls back to mind some of my most formative years. Strewn across my desk are papers for classes to be taught, mail to be answered, a sermon to be preached, the next Sunday's bulletin, action figures from Happy Meal boxes, and--duh--coffee.

I've always enjoyed the fullness of my church office. I don't mean just the stuff that I keep there, but the work that I've done: phone calls made to or received from grieving or anxious parishioners, moments of guidance for those planning important events or seeking a sympathetic ear. Thousands upon thousands of words typed for sermons, liturgy, newsletters, and reports.

Depending on the time of year, I could look out that window and watch the snow or rain fall, the flowers bloom, the summer wind blow. If you were there at the right moment, you could watch deer or wild turkey wander past. You can barely make it out, but on the middle frame is a solar-powered dancing flower given to me by one of my shut-ins.

This is what this room looks like, as of this past Sunday morning:

The books, the extra bookshelf, the pictures, the cork board, even most of my paperwork...packed away, thrown away, or already moved. I haven't packed up the action figures yet because Coffeeson likes playing with them after worship. I felt like leaving the dancing flower out for the time being, too. Only those things deemed bare essentials remain.

I've moved many times in my life. It's an inevitable part of being in a pastor's family. This, however, is my first time on the other side of it; the first time I've had to pack up and move an office in addition to making arrangements to move home and family.

I'm finding that many of the same feelings accompany the church office aspect as they do moving those other things. At this point, I'm in between worlds, not quite at the new place yet not fully at the current place any more either. There is no longer the same warmth. It's not as busy, not as cozy. The increased emptiness of the room has conjured that familiar empty feeling that comes with moving: that in-between feeling where you're unsure of what feels like home for a time.

As always, I could tell myself that a room is just a room. It doesn't physically hold the experiences and memories forged here; it's a place where they happened. I know this. But to watch my time and my presence decrease in this space is yet another reminder of the conclusion approaching in less than two weeks. In the name of efficiency and order, the interim is lined up and ready to step in. And I have one foot out the door of an office barely occupied.

This doesn't account for how full I am of those memories and experiences. I have eight years' worth of them, after all. And there are times when that fullness has struck me as I've packed and planned and moved. It is that fullness that will carry on with me no matter where I go or what my office looks like.

This is the juxtaposition of any transition. What has been and what will be. Sorrow and anticipation. A dancing flower and an empty bookcase.

Only two weeks remain in this empty space, but a fullness will follow me to the next one.