I Believe Hope Is Winning

I am having a hard time with the jumble of emotions bouncing around in my heart like a load of laundry.  I’m getting thrown every which way, struggling to keep any sense of equilibrium.

The TEDWomen2018 talk was exhilarating, but tiring.  To follow that up with the panel at TEDxMileHigh, followed by Jonathan’s book launch in Brooklyn on Thursday, followed by preaching at Forefront Church this past Sunday, was all a bit much.

I flew to New York last Wednesday, and on Thursday evening Jonathan and I headed to an event center in downtown Brooklyn for a photo shoot for an article that will be published this week in the New York Post.  Then we watched over 200 people stream in for the launch of She’s My Dad, Jonathan’s book about his response to my transition.

Jonathan spontaneously asked if I wanted to do our TED talk for the crowd, so we hopped up on stools and without a hitch repeated the words we had spoken in Palm Springs seven days earlier.  It is probably the last time we will do the talk live, so it was wonderful to do it for such a responsive crowd.

As if the book launch itself wasn’t enough, over a dozen people from my former life were there.  Well, 15 people to be exact.  I notice these things.

Five years ago, almost overnight, I lost almost all of my work and church-related friends, as well as a lot of extended family members.  When any of those people show back up in my life (without judgment or an agenda) it is time for celebration.  It is difficult to have your life’s friendships split in two – to lose hundreds of friends overnight, and to have to build new friendships from scratch.  It’s doubly difficult to do it at my age.

Among the 15 were several of Jonathan’s lifelong friends, people I’ve known since they were in elementary school.  I also visited with a couple I worked closely with at the Orchard Group for over 20 years, and another friend who also served with us back in the day.

I saw two nieces I had not seen since transitioning, and five pastors of Orchard Group churches that were planted in the last 10 years.  It was exhilarating, and tiring.  Whenever I meet someone from my old life, my discernment skills go into overdrive as I try to determine whether or not they are comfortable in my presence.  For many, it is a difficult reunion, and I can almost always tell.  These people were instantly supportive, one and all.  Time and again I was moved to tears.

The party ended around 10, and continued at a bar in the neighborhood.  I didn’t go to the bar.  Exhausted, I headed back to the apartment to relieve the babysitter and head to bed.  I slept soundly.

Friday morning Jonathan and I took the train into Manhattan to do a podcast with a female executive who was at TEDWomen in Palm Springs.  She leads peptalkher, a company that works to bring about pay equity.  On the podcast, it was so satisfying to hear Jonathan’s words about the discoveries he is making about gender inequity.  He has not had the visceral experiences I have had.  His knowledge has come through hard work.

Saturday was spent finishing my sermon,  because on Sunday morning I preached at Forefront Church.  Before the first service I connected with two more friends I had not seen in over five years, a Long Island couple I dearly love.  They know what pain looks like, and they are full of wisdom and grace.

Then I preached for both services.  It might have been the most exhilarating part of the last two weeks, but it also might have been the most draining.  It felt like one of the better sermons I have preached.  I have preached different versions of this particular sermon before, but this time was special, at so many levels.

The title of the message was, “Lost Is A Place Too” and Forefront is a church full of people who know exactly what I was talking about.  They are people who have gravitated to a post-evangelical churches because they are honest and authentic and can no longer abide by doctrine that does not pass the common sense test, let alone a hermeneutical or exegetical test.  These are people who have suffered at the hands of the evangelical church, but still they are here, full of heart, working out their spiritual lives in community.  Time and again I was moved to tears.

Sunday morning also stood out because it was the first time I have preached in an Orchard Group church since I was let go after 35 years of service, exactly five years ago this month.  I am afraid I have not yet begun to process all the emotions related to that.  I am pretty sure a lot of tears need to be shed, but I’ll wait until I’m in a safe place before I let that happen.

After church on Sunday I met with Linda Kay Klein, a friend who wrote the best selling book, Pure, about growing up in the purity movement of the 90s.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, talking about the joys and fears related to putting your story out there for the whole world to see.  I told her, “Never read the comments.  Whatever you do, never read the comments.”  The book is excellent.  (Gloria Steinem wrote an endorsement and Linda was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air.)

Because I needed time alone, I walked all the way back to Jonathan and Jubi’s apartment, where I spent the evening with the girls putting together gingerbread houses that are now proudly displayed near their Christmas tree.  The evening was heavenly.

Yesterday morning I walked the girls to school and hugged them goodbye, grateful that they are not yet old enough to refuse a hug in front of their friends.  Then I made my usual stop at Dunkin’ Donuts and came back to the house to pack and leave for LaGuardia.  Jonathan and Jubi came back from the gym and we talked for about five minutes.  He expressed his thanks for my willingness to come, and I left pretty quickly, before I broke down in sobs.

This has been a hard journey, and it will continue to be.  But I believe hope is winning.

 

11 thoughts on “I Believe Hope Is Winning

  1. This sounds beautiful and amazing and like an introvert’s nightmare! 😂 I hope you get some rest and a few cuddled up in pajama days on the couch. You deserve it. ❤️

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  2. Dear Paula,

    Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts.

    I feel like I need to say it is not about what people have taken away from you. It is not about what could be taken away from you. It is all about what no one can take away. When it is about that, there is nothing to cry about anymore.

    Thank you for your fabulous emails.I love reading them.

    Jaci
    ________________________________

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  3. Next time you’re visiting your parents, let me know !! I’d love to have lunch with you and get to visit with you. Next spring if our 50 yr class reunion. Our class meet for Alumni Banquet ,2019.
    Janet

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  4. Hi Paula. Firstly, thank you so much for sharing your journey. I am so happy to see that God is going ahead of you and paving the way for you. Does not mean that it is easy, but your story is very encouraging to me and I’m sure others as well. God can do anything as long as He leads our journey. Praying God continues to open those new doors for you.

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  5. Paula, I appreciate your description of post-evangelical. I’ve grow up mainline PCUSA but appreciate understand the belief and practices of those in this “camp,” doing the hard work of de-constructing their faith. You’re voice and words set people free and enable us all to move forward. Hope is winning.

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