Short Stories

Kathy Kirstner – Before & After

Short Stories By Jesus Series

Our fall worship series was entitled Short Stories By Jesus, in which we were looking at Jesus’ parables, especially some of the most problematic ones.  We enlisted the congregation to write Before & After stories.  Each Sunday one member shared a story in which there was a before and an after, and after which, many things in his or her life changed dramatically. Here is one of those stories.

Kathy Kirstner – Before & After

Before and after:  my first though is that is a Wheel of Fortune category – At my age, I can see significant events and periods in my life with some degree of distance and objectivity – There are three which I will share with you

The first one involves my choice of Queens College (fall of 1981) where I met one, Rev. E. Elizabeth Johnson (Beth), M.Div. Princeton and fresh off her MA from Yale.  The first women minister I had ever heard from a pulpit or met. The thought of women in the pulpit had never occurred to me.  She opened a world of social justice to me helped turn me from a kid raised in a home where many votes were cast for Jesse Helms toward a more liberal thinking open person.  I made that left turn in 1982 and haven’t looked back since.  My parents have grown to understand me, my maternal grandparents, who lived with my family, never did.  Beth often hosted us for soup/bread/beer (generic cans) on Sunday nights for conversations where we hashed out issues, like abortion and capital punishment, and listened and learned.  Beth was and still is one of the best examples of compassion and empathy with a loud raucous humor that I have ever known.

Ten years ago my 20 year marriage ended, well it probably ended well before that but —I came back to CPBC as a member not an employee.  I learned how to be a single parent and how to co-parent.  Mostly I have learned to be comfortable with myself.  There really is no one else – I manage the house (with Ingold’s, Wayne Jones’ and Dan Cottrell’s periodic help); I found a plumber and hired D. Schwartz to do my yard.  But really what I have developed is an ability to be alone – sometimes there is stark loneliness yet now I crave that time.  I decided I cannot stop living because I do not currently have a life partner so I go to movies, restaurants, concerts, and even vacations alone.  This spring I drove to NOLA solo, last weekend I went to the mountains – I am checking items off my bucket list – I have a bucket list.

These two periods have affected me and how I live my life.  The third is not something that happened to me directly but to a friend.  Two years ago a 12 year old girl died in a freak electrical accident in a pool.  She is the only child of my colleague and friend, Lori.  I never understood the expression that other’s deaths make us face our own immortality, until this happened.  One of my first thoughts was of my own only child who was on a 6 week building trip with his national fraternity and basically unreachable.  Lori and Keith have lived their faith through this.  They have not let their anger make them bitter at God and they work to make meaning and a new life for themselves.  It focused me on what is really important in life.  I decided that things are not so important, except for pictures and books.  How I spend my time matters – I am working to maintain relationships and be more intentional about what I do and where I spend money.  I have simplifed some areas of my life,  especially at Christmas – the race to buy, spend, give, etc. feels too frenzied to me. I am giving money to organizations that mean something and trying to spend time with family – fewer gifts, and no holiday frenzy for me. It is my intention to keep simplifying.

I am trying to life with more intentionality: enjoying sunsets on my way home, petting my dog, listening to music, creating time for friends, and family, learning to crochet, continuing to cross-stitch, and read.  Materialism keeps me from focusing on what and who are most important in my life. So I have to stop myself and ask will this add any meaning to my life. A good lipstick can add meaning but I do not need 5 new lipsticks. I am not going off the grid or anything.  Just trying to live with social justice in mind, independently, and with intentionality – with the hopes that my life will continue to be full and meaningful – sort of like our motto here at CPBC — act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our Lord.

Kathy Kirstner, September 2015

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