A new call, a new journey

I couldn’t have been more excited to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight that would land me, eventually, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It had been over a year since I’d visited my parents. When the pandemic began and travel shut down in March of 2020, I feared I’d lose them both. My parents live separately in a retirement community — my mom in a nearby skilled nursing facility for residents with dementia.

At 82, my father is sharp and active. He’s great at computers and tech, and providentially installed an Echo Show 5 (a small TV-like device with two-way audio and video) in Mom’s room before the pandemic. Duct-taped to the dresser to keep it from getting bumped by one of her aides, Mom’s “little TV” allowed me to visit virtually. Sometimes I’d tune in to find her curled up asleep, her room dark, wishing I could plant a kiss on her forehead like I do when I sneak into my kids’ bedrooms at night for one last look at them.

When I bought my tickets to Florida for Mother’s Day weekend, I’d carefully selected my seat, trying to steer clear of other passengers, hoping for at least six feet of separation. This proved impossible once I boarded to find all seats full. Every person as eager as I to travel again, to visit family again, to go somewhere, anywhere, again. Even with two shots of the Moderna vaccine in my arm, I grew anxious. I’d been raised by stalwart germaphobes. My KN-95 mask a welcome comfort, I eagerly received the packet of Purell wipes the flight attendant placed in my palm like a token to receive communion.

 From my cramped window seat, I felt the wheels of the plane leave the ground and my mind took off as well. I’d just accepted this call to serve as the next editor of the Presbyterian Outlook, my head abuzz with ideas and excitement, fears and hesitations. I did not expect to make a professional move this year. But God never seems to give much thought to my expectations.

I spent the flight reading through past Outlook issues, coming to understand our voice and history. In 1932, when E.T. Thompson first acquired the paper, he did so believing that the church’s focus on matters of the soul, spirituality and salvation had kept us (or protected us) from engaging pressing social and political issues. Thompson wanted the church to reclaim its Reformed emphasis on social responsibility. It was a risky venture, one that wouldn’t guarantee Thompson a smooth road to publishing success. But he saw a need for a prophetic voice calling us to grapple with the aftereffects of slavery, voting rights for women and people of color and issues of social and economic equity. This mission was forefront in Thompson’s mind as he announced his search for writers to contribute to a “full, free, frank and fresh discussion of real problems now before the Church.” Our mission remains relevant. The issues Thompson wanted us to engage are still before us.

God calls, and calls, and calls us again to new places, new people, new ideas and perspectives, new needs and old needs still waiting to be addressed. This journey is never completely smooth, often painful, always exhausting, but inevitably liberating as it moves us closer and closer to the fullness of our humanity, people created in the image of God, and the fullness of God’s beloved community.

When the door to my mother’s building buzzed and let me through, I found her seated in her wheelchair in the common room. She doesn’t remember the last time I visited. She can’t keep track of the fact that I live in Illinois and not across the hall. She doesn’t know I’ve accepted a new job, and after I tell her, she won’t recall this information a few minutes later.

But she does remember me.

Her face lit up in a bright smile. “Ohhh… my daughter,” she said as I leaned down for a hug. It took a lot to get here, I thought, my back stooped, my mom’s arms around me. But the journey was –
and is – worth it.