It has been 17 years, but I did do some math. Although by the calendar it has been 17 years, when you take into account the amount of overtime and extra hours I’ve put in, I calculated that it has been more like 25 years in work hours. And, besides, I’ve trained 3 sets of ministers, so it is time to retire.
People keep asking me what I am going to do once I’m retired…I don’t know. I’m approaching it like an adventure. In one of Rev. Brian’s recent talks, he mentioned having more time for contemplation. That works! Of course, I might just opt for naps. Oh, yes, and I do have three grandchildren. And I feel certain that there will be opportunities placed in front of me that I can check out.
Just as Kristen often does, I looked up the definition of retirement. It stated, “the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.” Don’t know about you, but I interpret that to mean I’m supposed to do fun things. So, I guess my answer to the question about what I’m planning to do once I retire is…have fun.
Fun at UCOH
After all, I’ve had a lot of fun over the past years. UCOH has sort of been my playground. I got to write scripts and plan parties and meet lots of cool people. I got to pray and sing and speech-ify. My daughter was proposed to right here on this stage, married here in this Sanctuary and we partied in the foyer…or should I say foy-é. All three grandchildren have been christened here. I was instrumental in getting the Board to create a policy so that we could serve beer and wine here at the church. Something we’re grateful for tonight. The term “ever-expanding” in our Vision Statement came from me. I’ve helped to coordinate celebrations for the 10th, 15th, Sweet 16, and 20th Anniversaries of this church. I’ve gotten ministers and Board members to dance down the aisle together and grown men to wear pink tu-tus. I’ve been the Volunteer Coordinator, the Special Events person, Director of Worship and Executive Director. I’ve sung with 4 different choir directors, written thousands of announcements, created 10’s of thousands of PowerPoint slides and sat through 1500+/- Sunday messages.
When I started this job on June 2, 2002, I was replacing Heather Davies who was going to go to school full-time. No one thought she could be replaced. I’m sure many of you feel the same way now. But I am of the opinion that no one, not even me, is indispensable. Now they might not do things the way I have done them, but it doesn’t mean that they are doing it wrong.
I do want to give everyone fair warning,… if I hear that any of you have said to those taking over my responsibilities “Ellen didn’t do it that way,” I will come hunt you down.
Conversely, I know that the person no longer around gets blamed for a lot of things. Let me just say that it would be extremely unfair to blame me for things that may go wrong or not get done, especially when I am not around to defend myself.
So as I was contemplating about what I might share this evening, I felt compelled to share some of the things I’ve learned over the past 17 years. Most of the things I want to share are general and everyone can benefit from them. A couple are just for the staff, and one is even for the Board. Some you may have heard before.
Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom
#10 – Your present creates your future.
Everything you do is preparing you for your future. Little did I know when I took journalism in high school and college, that those writing skills would come in very handy in this job. Or when I was learning a graphics program, or presenting crime prevention seminars, those skills would be invaluable to me. So, whatever it is you are doing, do the best you can no matter what. You’ll never know when it may come in handy.
#9 – The Universe is always conspiring on your behalf.
Last year about this time, I had that once again proven to me. I was on my way to an Edwene Gaines workshop in Alabama. All attendees were supposed to have a 5-minute speech prepared on something that you believed to be true. I had struggled to determine what to talk about, and of course, had been very busy. If you know me at all, you know I like to be prepared. But here I was, on the plane on my way to the workshop and had not jotted down a single thought. I was randomly flipping through a magazine when I came across an article. As I read it, my entire speech was downloaded to me. It was such a strong message to me that indeed … the Universe is always conspiring on my behalf.
#8 – UCOH is not a job (or a church); it is a way of life.
This community is a family, complete with a couple of weird uncles. It has been the place where I had my social life, received additional education, grew spiritually, created, loved, laughed and cried. To quote from my favorite book, Illusions, by Richard Bach, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.” That is UCOH.
#7 – God is my/your/our source.
This is the pearl for the Board.
It was a couple of years after I had been on staff that Ron Scott, one of our founding ministers, told me that when I was hired, they had no idea how they were going to pay me. They simply trusted that God would provide. And God has always provided. I’m happy to report, they never missed a paycheck. God always provides, even when we…I have my doubts. It has become a mantra to me when I feel uncertain and fearful of the future. God is my source. God is my source. I highly recommend it.
#6 – Never take yourself too seriously.
Please take my advice on this. Otherwise, you will only cause yourself a lot of angst. And, no one else takes you as seriously as you take yourself. Again quoting from Illusions… “We are game-playing, fun-having creatures; we are the otters of the universe.” Nothing is ever so serious that there cannot be some humor hidden in it somewhere. Find the humor. And, never take yourself too seriously.
#5 – This too shall pass.
This was one of my mother’s favorite sayings. When in the midst of what we deem as trials and tribulations, it is a good thing to remember the impermanence of all aspects of life. This was incredibly demonstrated years ago when we hosted the Buddhist monks here, monks who loved Burger King. They worked on a sand mandala in the foyer for four straight days, creating this beautiful work of art. On the final day, at the closing ceremony, they took a brush and swept the sand up. It was a powerful demonstration on the impermanence of all things. So, when you are challenged, always remember that “This too shall pass.” Besides, it keeps things really interesting.
#4 – There is nothing as constant as change.
Everything changes, but few of us like it. There is nothing we can do about change, but if you subscribe to my 9th pearl, the universe conspiring on your behalf, change can be fun. One footnote to the staff on this pearl, change is always a part of life. You just don’t have to do it all at once.
#3 – Look for those little everyday miracles … and be grateful.
It took me several years at this job to recognize that I was blessed so many times with little events that could be taken for granted, but that were, and are, in reality, little miracles. A cardinal showing up on the window sill, the phone ringing and it being the person you really needed to talk to, someone walking in the office at the perfect time, a kind word at just the right moment. Never underestimate the power of the universe and always look at those little everyday miracles. And … always be grateful.
#2 – You can never have too many pairs of shoes, too many clothes or too much bling.
There are those who would disagree with me, but I firmly believe that when you look good, you feel good. Plus…I feel compelled to justify all the shoes, clothes and bling I have. It’s fun playing dress up!
And the #1 Pearl of Wisdom, paraphrasing film maker Mel Brooks…It’s good to be the Queen.
Thank you all for 17 wonderful years filled with love and laughter, joy and caring.
As I step into my future, I leave you with one last quote from the book, Illusions…
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”