Folks, I made up a word. Tenderfierce. Tenderfierce: a softness that compels one towards protectiveness, action, anger, hope, energy. It’s a state of being or a descriptor. Tenderfierce is something we see in ourselves or in another person. We can feel or observe it through a season or in just a moment. Tenderfierce is a little like “tough love” although perhaps deeper, less obvious. It’s less: “I love you so eat your vegetables” and more: “I notice my own internalized racism so I am going to use curiosity and wonder to make room for understanding and courageous action.”
I made up or found (sometimes it feels like things just arrive in my soul) the word tenderfierce a couple of years ago. The timing isn’t important to me now, but the way the word has stuck with me is. Together with my practice of noticing, tenderfierce has been a guiding word these last couple of years. Coincidentally, the last couple of years have included a global pandemic and greater consciousness of systemic racism and destruction of our planet. These last 2 years have included personal disruptions, transitions and losses too. Tenderfierce has been a powerful guide.
I want to share an idea with you: what if we were to notice and uplift our tenderfierce moments/seasons as a community? For the next few months during our pastoral transition, I propose we do just that. I’ll take volunteers or make invitations for individuals who want to explore and then share a tenderfierce moment or season. Then, we’ll meet. You will have your stories and I’ll have my noticing skills and camera. We will make a tenderfierce portrait to share on this blog. I’ll write it up and shine up the pictures we make and post them (all with your consent and approval). Your church family will get the honor of listening to and seeing you. It’s a powerful thing to witness and be witnessed in a tenderfierce time.
Below, please find the first entry in the series: A Tenderfierce Portrait
“We are before the beginning & always becoming.” – Natalie Diaz
“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.” Brene Brown
If You Need Meaning
In the ever-morning, meaning
is determined by light. It is ever.
The meaning. Meaning you
have a lifetime to figure it out.
When the light’s out. Or
when the ever is
out of the light.
My mind often thinks in pictures these days. Not only that, but it mostly moves forward only when actively creating something. With my yarn or camera in hand, my thoughts travel along the path of memory, discernment, worry, growth, grief, new life. This has always been true but it’s just gotten to be more lately, you know? Since I can’t give you a reel of dialogue and emotion as it rolls through; since maybe you can’t discern anything palpable as you hold something I’ve made; this photo essay will offer a window.
In late 2019, my work at Children’s Hospital ended. I was a part of the Palliative Care Team, serving patients and families in life limiting situations. As 2020 began, there you were (UCUCC), with an interim need in Children’s ministry. After a little over a year, that was finished too. Through the spring, summer and into the now, I’ve been home. Just home. Of course, as a single parent of school aged kids (during a global pandemic), there’s never “just” home. There’s always something and I’m constantly working. It’s just different. Dramatically.
Many of you know I live with multiple sclerosis. I aim to thrive with it, but it is always a conversation between my body and I, with circumstances mostly outside of my control. So, I live with it. As my body has changed, so have my call, home life and even friendships. The main medication/therapy I’m on has compromised my immune system and though it’s doing its’ work, it has changed everything about my life and my family’s life during this long pandemic season.
I’m home. It’s pretty tenderfierce around here. Every single decision feels like it needs guidance from the tenderfierce discernment center that has taken residence in me. The biggest, most noticeable, notable is in my call to ministry.
The days of a typical “call” are most likely behind me. I probably won’t work for a hospital or church or hospice with regular hours, paycheck and expectations again. I’d still love to be surprised about this, but it just doesn’t seem possible. I’m (mostly) done railing against this reality with grief and anger. I’m (mostly) in the creativity and adaption phase.
After periods of transition and grief, I’ve noticed that my call keeps pace with change. It adapts. The tenderfierceness in this season is to find the essence and offer it in a way that is sustainable for me and meaningful for all of you.
So, ministry now takes the form of seeking light, sharing it, exposing it to conversation and community. Ministry takes the forms of seeing and being seen. Ministry takes the forms of inclusion, examination. None of this is all that different than it ever was, I realize. And it’s not all that much smaller, at least not to Love. Now I have a camera in my hand when I’m doing ministry. Now I’m offering spiritual direction alongside literal and figurative mirroring back. Now I offer my seeing in relationship to yours. Now I am called towards the preaching of the good news of unconditional love and the invitation to the welcome table, the water of life.
I love my call. If such a thing is possible, it loves me back. Though I am in a tender moment of change, I am fierce in my protection of my call, my essence. It will be alright.