Watered Gardens

04.15.20 | Stories, Stories of Hope

    From Rev. Tamara Walker, Pastor of Congregational Care:

    Watered Gardens
    By Joyce Rupp - May I Have This Dance?

    God of little buds just now wearing green sleeves,
    God of lilac limbs all full with signs of flowering,
    God of fields plowed and black with turned-over earth,
    God of screeching baby bird mouths widely awaiting food,
    God of openness, of life and of resurrection,
    Come into this Easter season and bless me.
    Look around the tight, dead spaces of my heart
    That still refuse to give you entrance.
    Bring your gentle but firm love.
    Begin to lift the layers of resistance
    That hang on tightly deep inside of me.
    Open, one by one, those places in my life
    Where I refuse to be overcome by surprise.
    Open, one by one, those parts of my heart
    Where I fight the entrance of real growth.
    Open, one by one, those aspects of my spirit
    Where my security struggles with the truth.
    Keep me open to the different and the strange;
    Help me accept the unusual and also the ordinary;
    Never allow me to tread on others dreams
    By shutting them out, closing them up,
    By turning them off or pushing them away.
    God of the Resurrection, God of the Living,
    Untomb and uncover all that needs to live in me.
    Take me to people, events and situations
    And stretch me into much greater openness.
    Open me. Open me. Open me.
    For it is only then that I will grow and change.
    For it is only then that I will be transformed.
    It is only then that I will know how it is
    To be in the moment of rising from the dead.

    Four years ago I was a divorced single Mom, living in a one bedroom apartment with my three kids and two small dogs. I was unemployed and felt very hopeless and alone. At 48, I had lived a full and wonderful life.

    Let me explain:

    I grew up in Eswatini as a missionary kid, delighted with people and culture. I went to Boarding School in South Africa and loved my teachers, friends and youth group in Pietermaritzburg. I moved to college in Boston (a long way from home) and embraced a thriving city, pulsating with activities, ideas and places for a young person to drink in. I moved to Kansas City for Seminary and felt like I had found my heart, in preparing for ministry.

    I fell in love and married. We pastored a small church in Virginia together and I gave birth to my firstborn son. Life was full and rich with experiences of love and joy but also grief and pain, as a woman and as a pastor. I moved back to Kansas City and worked as an associate pastor in community arts and gave birth to another son and a daughter. I was surrounded by friends and a church that loved and encouraged me in this time. I knew I was blessed and I thanked God for each and every gift.

    In time my husband took a position in San Diego and our family of five, with three children under four years old, moved across the country. I embraced a season of motherhood and staying home with my small children. They were a delight to me.

    My marriage began to fall apart and I began work as a hospice chaplain, believing that I had found my wetsuit and was ready to swim in this environment. After my divorce, I continued as a hospice chaplain but struggled in burgeoning San Diego to work fulltime and raise three very special children on my own.

    Here I return to my state four years ago, living in a one bedroom apartment, unemployed and trying to see my way clear as a child of God, as a Mom, as a woman. I was reading Isaiah 54 one morning, and received it as a promise…but could not imagine how God could change my life and answer my prayers.

    The verse that I felt drawn to was Isaiah 54:2, which reads, “Enlarge the site of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold

    back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” I felt God was saying to me, “This is not the time to withdraw and pare down in life. I am building a new future for you. Open yourself to what I have for you. Trust in me.”

    I could never have imagined or dreamed that I would be your pastor of congregational care here at First Church. I could never have dreamed that I would be newly married to a loving and supportive husband not just to me and but to my teenage children. I could never have dreamed of the ways God has stretched and nurtured me, and continues to surprise and bless me with new gifts and treasures on the journey.

    We are all in a strange time, not unlike the place I found myself four years ago. We never would have believed that our lives would look like this in 2020. The poem by Joyce Rupp reminds me and calls me to a vulnerability and openness to God. It calls me to images of open fields, buds opening to blossom, and fragile baby birds opening their mouths in trust to their parent. It calls me, even as I am “shut-in”, to live trusting God, opening my heart to God and others. A new song begins in me, singing, “stay in this safe open place of trust and hope, not ease, but joy”.

    What does it say to you?