We are approaching the last week of February, which means that my TimeHop, Google Photo memories, social media and the basic muscle memory of my mind is telling me that we should be heading into tech week for a church musical.

Instead, I am still working to return costumes and set pieces from the last production. Annie: The Musical was the last thing to happen in the sanctuary before the COVID lockdown; the props and costumes still lay in state in the choir room in a way that is almost ghostly at this point.  A “to-do” list left undone. A grim reminder of the pieces we were going to give to a nice church planning to do the show last summer; a chilling contrast to know that sometimes the show can’t go on – even when you feel it must. 

I have been a part of many challenging shows across my decades of performing but I can honestly say: that production was the hardest thing I have ever participated in as a leader.  At more than a few moments, I had to remind myself that we were already selling tickets and there was no going back.  

When Sterling Church first started doing musicals, it was something that wasn’t being done at many other churches – certainly not in this area.  We made the jump from smaller, church proportioned one acts to a fully licensed piece of musical theater with Godspell.  As a church, you have a few years of theatrical “low hanging fruit” – the shows everyone expects you to do (Godspell, Children of Eden, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) but you eventually either need to venture out, or back.

And back never felt like a good option.  

So we stumbled into some of my very favorite years of musicals; shows with complicated decisions and unlikely heroes.  Shows with something to point to, shows that ended with a happily ever after (sometimes several!) And…shows that made people look at me and say “What, exactly, does this have to do with Jesus?”

And the answer was always the same:  Ministry.

Because in the end, the actual performance was the smallest part to me.  Yes, we always wanted to do our best because we worked for the glory of God.  Yes, we wanted to sell tickets because the lights don’t run on prayer (usually) and it costs money to do these things.  Yes, I wanted every single soul involved in these projects to stand back that one glorious, exhausting weekend and feel like they had been a part of an offering worthy of what they had put into it.

But the real magic has always been behind the curtain.  In exhausted rehearsals and late night light cues; in prayer when we should be rehearsing and laughter when we needed to get serious an hour ago.  In group chats where everyone decides to wear pajamas to rehearsal, and invites someone who may not be signed up yet to come on the mission trips because they are just so amazing.  In a herd of teenagers, all joyfully dancing and singing to a collection of preschool songs with an autistic 5th grader.

In a cast, independently huddling in a prayer circle backstage every night, silently offering the show to the Pastor whose death inspired us to make our show about courageous hope and joy.

In the midst of challenges and heartache we can lose sight of the when, the how or the what of these shows, but we never forget the why.

It isn’t the performance that’s important; its the ministry.

And so even though the show may be at intermission, it goes on.


This morning I was adding the ingredients needed for a recipe to a grocery list, and proudly thought to myself: “oh, I have celery seed”, and patted myself on the back for having a well prepared spice situation.

It’s the little things, y’all.

I think that one of the first mantras that we internalize as we are growing up is “Be prepared!”. It may be the Boy Scout motto but it is a message that is everywhere; whether or not we do it, we all know we should.

And it’s a good idea right? You should come to class with a pencil. You should wear a coat when it is cold. You should go inside when a storm is coming. You should put gas in your car before a long trip. But I think other things are harder to plan for. They require just a general, overall state of readiness that can be a source of significant anxiety, at least for me.

Because my spice cabinet is prepared for everything, but it is a mess. A lot of times I don’t even know what I’m prepared for when I look on those shelves and I think that the situation in my brain can look very similar. Looking at the chaos, sometimes I wonder if I am prepared for anything at all.

I have received many phone calls in my life I wasn’t ready for.

I wasn’t ready for stay at home orders, cancelled plans and the nuanced planning required to do things that used to be second nature.

I am not sure I was ready for being a Mom, even though I was *aggressively* preparing for that for years.

The disciples at The Last Supper were not prepared to see their friend die a gruesome death in the next hours. The morning when the women set out for the tomb where Jesus was laid, they were prepared to anoint his body as it lay dead in the grave and found no such thing. His followers weren’t prepared to be on their own, building Christ’s church in a hostile world. But they were ready.

So on the days when your brain feels like a jumble of spices in a messy cabinet, have faith that the good work that was begun in you from birth has been preparing you in ways you can’t imagine for the best and worst things you can’t predict.

You won’t feel prepared, but you are ready. Even now.


Today, Sterling Church celebrates the confirmation of a group of young people who had quite the unusual program to grow through. After all, they should have been confirmed last Spring in the earliest throws of the pandemic – they had already been in their confirmation class for nearly a year! I’m sure they were looking forward to their confirmation Sunday, complete with a full sanctuary of loving spectators and banquet to follow.

But like many things in 2020, that didn’t go to plan.

I am sure that anyone who is reading this could make a “CVS Receipt” worthy list of celebrations that should have been different in the last year. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.

Graduations. Weddings. Funerals.

We even celebrate communion in a mostly empty room that aches for the laughter and music that used to fill it.

I know in our family we could absolutely list out the big and small moments that were at best very different and at worst, wholly inadequate.

But I think that one of the most inspiring things to me about this mid-pandemic society is the way that the spirit of celebration found a way to grow. Our lives and loves went on and a deep joy and pride bubbled up inside of us; it flowed over the edge of our quarantine mindset and encouraged us to try new things. To seek out new ways to honor our accomplishments, to worship, and to celebrate the most significant moments in our lives.

Or, sometimes, to wait. And that might be the most inspiring celebration of all.

Because to look around and know that the time isn’t right, that is faith.

To have faith that the right time is coming, that is hope.

To hope, and endure the work of waiting, that is love.

And that is worthy of celebration.


This afternoon, as Willis and I were gearing up to leave the house and go have dinner with my parents, the boys were bargaining for the opportunity to bring one of their devices with us. It had been passing back and forth between them all day and of course no one had charged it. Still, we reluctantly allowed it to come even as we anticipated the meltdown when it inevitably powered down.

“If that thing still has a charge by dinner” I joked “it will be a miracle”.

Miracle has always been one of my very favorite words; I love the way it sounds, the way it dances off the tongue. The way that declaring even the most ordinary of extraordinary circumstance a miracle immediately bestows it with a certain light, elevating it from mere coincidence to something nearly divine.

The most basic definition of the word says that a miracle is something completely unexplainable, but I don’t know about that because I *understand* a lot of things that I think are miraculous.

I know the science of how children come into the world, but there was never a time in all of the ultrasounds and tests throughout my pregnancies when I thought I was looking at anything less than a miracle.

I could learn the make and model of every bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but that would not explain how my Granddad survived that day and lived to build my family.

And because we all live together on a miracle in a sea of miracle stars, it feels possible that the same wonder that creates and secures life might also be in the midst when you realize that running late had saved you from the accident, when you made that doctors appointment just in time, or even when you had enough toothpaste left for just one more night when you thought you were out.

We can understand it and still be in complete awe of it.

I am a woman, freed by science. I am a sinner, saved by Grace.

What a miracle.