2022 marks my tenth year operating Grace Ceremonies. Over the past nine years I’ve officiated over 250 weddings, plus dozens upon dozens of baby blessings, mother blessings, vow renewals, funerals and memorials, and rituals for miscarriage and infant loss.
As I think back over all these ceremonies, it’s ALL about my heart. I see the faces, hear the voices and feel the joys and sorrows I’ve shared over these many years. I picture the homes and hospitals and gravesides, the mountaintops and meadows and ballrooms. I remember the hugs, the hand squeezes, the stillness; the belly laughs, the tears, the silences. I recall the challenges, the surprises, the obstacles, the leaps; the accomplishments, the awarenesses, the discoveries, the shifts.
My couples, families and clients have shared with me the most meaningful of moments; the most significant of milestones. They’ve entrusted me with their own stories, and now they are a part of mine.
Part One: Calling
It all started 13 years ago, on Christmas Day (merry merry!🎁), when I was laid off from my job. I’d been single-mindedly pursuing my career for nearly a decade by then, but the sudden job loss threw me into a chaos of uncertainty about my path and purpose.
Enter unemployment checks (blessed be) and time to figure out NOT just my next move, but whatever had been nagging at the edges of my awareness. I knew something was missing in my life. Not a thing, really, or a person or circumstance. I vaguely sensed it was more like some deep part of me.
Nine months later, after an intense period of therapy and yoga and meditation and Al-anon and dancing and gardening and church, I received my calling: “Your purpose is to be a minister.” Just like that, the clearest voice I had ever heard spoke those words straight into my heart.
So I praise the chaos, the messiness, the unbaked, the uncertain, the yearning, the inklings, the vagueries, the not-knowing… These are powerful times of incubation and emergence.
Show up for them. Attend to the questions. Follow the prickling of intuition. Open your heart. If you’re like me, it is going to change your life.
Part Two: Service
How was I supposed to be a minister if I wasn’t even religious? How could my purpose be ministry when the idea filled me with terror, shame and dread? I was an ex-smoker, a high-school dropout and I got a tattoo when I was 14 (that’s another story). Those seemed like three pretty good reasons why I wasn’t qualified to be a minister…and I could easily list fifty more.
But my heart. Oh man, my heart would NOT let it go.
While the rest of me wanted to run away from that calling as far and as fast as I could, my heart was prepared to stand its ground as long as was necessary. Because I discovered that hearing and listening are not the same thing: I had been incredibly blessed to hear my call, but I would have to be tremendously brave to listen to it.
Looking back, I am SO proud of my 27-year-old self for having the courage to face such a wild and scary unknown, and the willingness to make such a monumental life change. But I did it. Finding Interfaith helped (I always knew the call wasn’t to get a divinity degree, or to adopt a faith or choose a denomination). Discovering the root of the word “minister” helped, too. In Latin, it means “servant.”
I didn’t yet know how I could be of service, but a few days before I entered seminary in the fall of 2010, I got my second and third tattoos. I had grace—my middle name—written in script on my left and right wrists: one direction symbolizing receiving; the other, giving.
Two years later, as I prepared to be ordained, I knew how I would serve. And the idea for Grace Ceremonies was born.
Part Three: Minister
Ten years ago, I proudly walked down the aisle at Riverside Church to receive my ordination as an Interfaith Minister. I was 29 years old.
For that ceremony I wore for the first time the long silk dress and jacket that would become the template for my attire at every ceremony I’ve officiated since. I still remember how different I felt in those clothes—how they helped me begin to embody this new identity.
For my ordination, I made my own minster’s stole using raw silk my grandmother had brought back from Japan decades earlier. I trimmed the stole with rose quartz beads, the heart’s stone. I wear my stole at every ceremony I officiate to honor my journey, and the path of those who came before me—the ancestors who made my life possible.
And on that day, the day I became a minister, my mother gave me the most treasured gift I have ever received: my prayer shawl. With the tiniest of needles and softest of threads, she imbued each stitch with her love, her joy, her faith and her hope.
With this gift she said to me: You are worthy of this calling.
Her gift said: Take this, and share it with others.
With the shawl spread across my shoulders and tears streaming down my cheeks, I knew I would carry with me always her blessing. I knew I would forever walk this path; I would eternally follow this calling. And I would have everything I needed to do it…not in the outfit, or the stole, or even the shawl.
I would have it in me.