A few weeks ago I made the disappointing discovery that I had lost my Deaconess pin (again). And I shared that story here on the blog.
I wrote about how I was getting down on myself about losing something so important, but then it occurred to me that I lost it because I was wearing it a lot. And I was wearing it a lot as I cared for my mother-in-law, Elaine, in the time leading up to her death. And I was wearing it a lot as I worked in Elaine’s kitchen, cooking for the family in the days surrounding Elaine’s death.
So I came to terms with having lost it because those were good, important times to be involved in serving and such.
And I really had let go of the need to berate myself for losing my pin.
But the fact still remained that I did not have my Deaconess pin. And that was still an issue for me, because it still is an important signifier of my ministry.
And then I started this new job as the interim minister of a church near where I live. And I really felt odd not having my Deaconess pin on at this new gig. This is the first ongoing job I’ve had in a very long time, and I preach there every Sunday and they call me Deaconess there and everything. So, to not have my pin on was just not right.
I had almost made up my mind that I was going to call up the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA) and order a new pin–if you’re counting, that would have been my fourth pin. But I still held out hope that I might find my pin somewhere. I kept checking and rechecking any place I might have left it.
Even Wednesday night as I was packing my tote bags to come for Thanksgiving at my father-in-law’s house in Houston, I rechecked the side pockets of the bags. But the pin still wasn’t in those same crazy pockets I had checked a bazillion times before.
And when I got to the guest room where we sleep at my father-in-law’s house, I looked once more on and around the desk and bed just in case I had missed the pin there before. But it still was not there.
It wasn’t anywhere obvious. I didn’t give it a whole really lot of thought. And it was late, and I was tired, so I put it out of my mind and went to bed.
By Thanksgiving morning, I had entirely forgotten about the pin. There was work to be done because I was the chief cook for Thanksgiving dinner for 24 people. And that alone is enough to think about. But this was at my in-law’s place…in Elaine’s kitchen…without Elaine.
And I tried not to think too much about this being the first Thanksgiving without Elaine. Because there was work to be done.
So I was just focusing on what needed to be done. Turkey was roasting and other prep was underway. I was in the zone.
I had chopped up all the celery and onions for the dressing, and I needed to get a pan to sauté them in. I knew exactly which one I wanted–the giant, enameled, cast-iron skillet. Of all of the utensils in Elaine’s kitchen, this one is by far my favorite.
It’s a heavy pan, and it’s a bit hard to get to as it is nested under a stack of other heavy pans, each layer carefully separated by protective layers of paper toweling. I could explain to you the intricacies of how everything is stored in Elaine’s kitchen, but the main thing you need to know is that it is really a pain to get this pan out of there. But it is my precious as pans go, so I am always willing to do the acrobatics needed to get it out.
And as I made the final contortions to pull the prized pan out of its place and prepared to remove the paper towels from inside it…there, on top of the paper towels, inside my favorite pan was my Deaconess pin.
There’s my Deaconess pin–right where I left it apparently–inside my favorite pan in Elaine’s kitchen!
It made total sense that it was there. Because that is my favorite pan. And I was the last one to have used it. And I was the one who put it away–partly because I was the one who got it out, but mostly because it’s even harder to put away than it is to get out. It must’ve fallen off while I was putting the pan away, landing so softly on those paper towels that I didn’t even realize it had fallen there.
Finding it then–on the first Thanksgiving without Elaine, and there–inside my favorite pan in Elaine’s kitchen, finding it like that was the perfect encouragement. And I wept. And then I put my pin on and cooked.
It’s not like the pin gives me super powers, but symbols do have meaning. And that pin helps me remember who I am, whose I am, and what I’m about. I know those things even without the pin, but sometimes when life and ministry and kitchens get overwhelming, I forget to remember.
But there is so much work to be done in life and ministry and kitchens that I want to be sure to remember my identity as a servant, my belonging to a gracious God, and my purpose to share love and hope and joy in all I do and say.
Now, I don’t have to call the LDA and order a fourth pin after all! And I can wear it the very next time I preach! And each time I look at it, I will always think of Elaine. And I will have this story to tell about the surprise of finding my Deaconess pin inside that favored pan on Thanksgiving 2014.