I spent 12 hours at church today.
Twelve hours in the building. I didn't leave once. When I walked out the door in the dark, I forgot where my car was.
I'm not kidding.
It's been a long few days; it's the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. Seriously, in the church world, Christmas is more than just holiday cheer. It's special services and complicated productions and lots of extra busyness - and there's the reality of the "regular" Sunday services coming every seven days.
We had an event for our music and production team on Saturday night; I cooked chili for 30 people. We had Sunday services, a Sunday night worship event, regular meetings and planning on Monday, and today a long staff meeting, staff lunch, several more meetings and a Blue Christmas service this evening. In the midst of it all friends were getting injured, friends going in the hospital and people just being human.
My kitchen is a wreck. There's a wet load of clothes in the washer that's been there for...a few days. My daughter just sent me a paper to edit for one of her classes. My other daughter needs me to mail a bunch of Secret Santa Christmas gifts that she accidentally hid in my closet.
My boys have had to forage for dinner for the past two nights; our "dinner" this evening is a rotisserie chicken from Walmart. My husband just walked in the door, and I encouraged him to just stand at the counter and pick what meat is left off the carcass. I'm too tired to get him a plate.
So I'm busy.
But no busy than many of you, I'm sure. It is what it is. It's what we do. It's who I am.
In the midst of it, I'm learning a lot. My boss has this running mantra lately; when I express a bit of doubt or concern or confusion or lack of confidence, he gives me this serious look and says, "You're Beth Stoddard."
He's trying to encourage me and empower me, I know; he's good about helping me get out of my head and into rational thinking. But every time he says this, I want to say, "Duh. So what?" And then I kind of want to hit him.
But tonight, driving home, exhausted, God used that mantra to speak a truth into my heart. That's a fancy way of saying, Something clicked, and I attribute it to a higher power.
I am Beth Stoddard. I am exhausted, and I am Beth Stoddard.
I married three years ago, and the transformation has been slow, a subtle shifting. But most of the pieces have fallen into place, and I'm different now. I am the same woman, with the same personality and abilities and passions and weaknesses and faults.
But I am not who I used to be. Literally.
I am Beth Stoddard, and somehow God is showing me this new identity, this new name - with new roles as my kids grow up and leave home, as my role as a wife and business partner expands, as my responsibilities at my church broaden.
I get it. I'm ready.
Full disclosure: for the most part, I am Beth Stoddard. Really. I have taken my husband's name...but not completely. Like Brian preached about last week, I am almost Beth Stoddard...but not completely. I've never taken the legal steps to change my name on official documents. I've asked myself "why" several times; it's not a lack of love or commitment. It has something to do with letting go of who I was, how I saw myself, how I defined myself.
I get it.
And after an exhausting day doing what I am called to do, I'm confident of this: "There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." (Philippians 1.6, The Message)
In some ways, it doesn't really matter what my name is. I know who I am.
But sometimes, a little clarity goes a long way.