April 27
9:10 a .m.

It’s Monday again. I’m not sure how the weekend goes by so fast, but it does. I’m really tired today. After last Friday, I’m a little apprehensive about the office. I’m still thinking about the Cowboy. I’m telling myself that won’t happen again, but I keep getting this sick feeling in my stomach.

“Hi. Sorry. He better not let me ever see him.” And he continues to mutter on his way out the front door.

That would be Pete’s expression of care, but it comforts me in a strange way, like when you put on your favorite gym shoes and start your workout.

I pulled out my desk keys and start the usual routine. I checked to see if anyone tried to pry the desk open. The only other key to my desk is in Mark’s office in his filing cabinet. Everything seems in order.

I checked the voice mails.

“Hi Natalie, I just wanted to let you know that in the bulletin I found a mistake…”

Okay, time to sit down and kick my shoes off. It’s going to be a long line of messages. If one person finds a mistake, I’m going to have many more calls. I still can’t figure out why church members get into such high anxiety over one mistake. I can understand if there were a whole lot of them, but one? Really people???

Delete.

“Hi. I thought you’d want to know that the bulletin…”

Delete. Just as I was going to listen to the next message, Tav walks in. “You look happy, perky, full of life! All that Monday morning, start-of-a-new-week vigor!”

“Oh yes. The joy of the Lord is in my heart.”

“I’ll be back to add more joy as soon as I’ve done with some calls.”

He ignores my groaning.

“Hi. I know it’s hard to proof your own bulletin, but it is a reflection on our church so I knew you’d want me to point it out to you. People feel that if you know how to use your spell check there shouldn’t be any mistakes. I’ll be happy to come into the office and help proofread the bulletin. I was the editor for my school magazine. I was also the head cheerleader and was crowned Miss—”

Delete.

That was Faith looking for any excuse to come into the office to be near Tav.

Fifteen calls to tell me that I had used “our” instead of “are.”

Yes, a volunteer had proofed the bulletin, and I did use spell check. It’s just one of those things that happen to make a church secretary’s life miserable!

I can’t figure out why there hasn’t been one call to say, “Thank you for all your hard work. The bulletin was 99% correct!”

Isn’t everyone supposed to be worshipping God instead of nitpicking the bulletin??? I don’t want to hear about the bulletin. On the other hand, I’m thinking about the bloopers that Sally had sent me. Maybe I’ll add some of them in for next week.

“Thursday night—Potluck Supper. Prayer and medication to follow.” This I can believe. I’ve been to some of those Potluck Suppers.

“The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind and they may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.” Please. No. Never. I’m thinking about some of the ladies of the church.

“The senior choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.” Somehow, I think that would be inappropriate…for our church right now.

“…change the prayer on page 15 and put it…”

Faith’s voice jars me back to my present hell.

Changes? To the prayer booklet again?!

I pressed replay and this is what she actually said. I am not joking. This is real.

“Hi Natalie. The Holy Spirit led me to switch the prayers.” Does the Holy Spirit know he did this? “So if you could put the prayer from page 3 on page 5, and change the prayer on page 15 and put it…”

And then it stops.

Won’t play forward.

Or back.

Or anything.

Everything gone.

Digital failure.

And this is what I’m dealing with. My mind is like a frozen popsicle. I don’t want to call Faith about the changes in the prayer booklet. Tav will think I purposely deleted all her messages again. Just because of one tiny incident. Okay, two. Maybe three. But that’s all it was. How am I going to fix it???

My life is over.

Tav’s back again asking if there are messages for him. Uh…not really.

I’m feeling guilty because of losing Faith’s message. Not that she had left the message for him. Or had she? I’m never going to know.

“No. And…I really do appreciate your help last Friday.”

“Good. Any time. And call me on my cell phone any time. Any time at all. I only live three minutes away.”

“Thanks.” Three minutes away? Tav is only three minutes from the church office.

For some reason, I’m feeling reassured. And distracted.

But I have to solve Faith’s booklet problem.

Tav lives only three minutes from the church. He’s only three minutes away even when he’s not at the office.

Back to Faith. Seriously.

Three minutes!

_______

10:20 p.m.

“…but you caaaaaan’t.” This is me whining at Gwen. “I just got here.”

“We’re only going to be gone for a little while. Look, here’s a calendar. You can cross off the days on it and before you know it, we’ll be back.”

I knew about Mitch’s mission trip, but I didn’t think Gwen would be going.

“When do you leave?”

“Wednesday.”

“So soon?”

“I know…I’m sorry, Nat. One of the team members got ill and it’s a great opportunity to be with Mitch. You know how much I hate being away from him.”

“I’m sorry, Gwen. Sorry for being such a brat. You and Mitch deserve some time together.”

“It’s not a vacation…”

“I know. But it’ll be fun to work on a project together.”

“Look on the bright side. You’ll have the whole house to yourself.”

I don’t want to have the house to myself. I don’t like being alone. Insecurity. That’s all it is.

“That will be fun. I’ll invite Frankie…”

“Don’t you even think about it!” Gwen warned me, and I burst out laughing.

Not a chance.

________

April 29
9:35 a.m.

Let me put this out there—out there wide in the open out there.

I hate staff meetings.

Mark loves them. Kate loves them. I think Tav doesn’t like them, but since Mark is the Head of Staff, we have them. Every Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. I like Executive Staff meetings on Tuesday mornings, that’s usually just the Mark Kate, Tav, and me. We laugh, joke, eat donuts…but when the rest of the staff are present, it’s my version of hell.

Well, another version. A lot of things remind me of hell. And they take up so much time. Why can’t we just send an email around and get caught up on what needs to be done?

“Unless the Lord builds this house…” Mark begins the meeting.

Then the devotional, and the discussion of the day’s Bible verse begins. This is when people will ask any stupid question just to show they’re participating or that they know more than the pastor.

Hello? Does anybody really care?

Okay. Emily does.

Emily, whom I call our resident theologian because she wants to impress with her fresh-from-Seminary views always has opinions, begins, “When I was in Dr. Piper’s class…”

“Anything from the pastor’s daughter?” That’s Mark’s way of cutting her off today at the meeting.

Emily was not happy and I swear I heard soft hissing sounds.

“I like totally really agree with what Emily has to say,” I say. “Emily, like would you like to repeat your last point? I like would like to take it down.”

Emily is happy again.

Tav’s staring at me, an eyebrow raised.

Kate and I got into giggles and ruined everything. Mark got red and rushed out of the office.

______

10:00 a.m.

Thank God for the five minute breaks during our meetings. I call them my life-saver moments.

Brad is on my heels. “Caffeine. I need caffeine.”

I told him I need chocolate. Brad rushed off and came back with a big grin on his face, hands overflowing with chocolates of all kinds.

“Where?”

“Youth Chocolate Tasting Party.”

“And you didn’t invite me?”

“Next time.”

“You’re my new favorite person.” I savor the nutty, dark chocolate.

“What’s with Mark?”

“I have no idea. I hope he’s okay.”

Kate comes into the office laughing.

“What?”

“Mark!’

“We’re fired?”

“No.”

“Need to know,” Brad demands.

“Mark…” She can’t stop laughing. “Mark thought we were laughing in his office because his zipper was undone.”

“Seriously.” I’m shocked. Pastors aren’t supposed to be talking about such things. And we wouldn’t be laughing.

Brad’s laughing now.

I love our office.

_____

10:15 a.m.

“What’s on the prayer list?”

“Well, there’s a concern that there are too many youth during the worship service.” Kate shared Olga’s, a pillar of the church, prayer concern.

“And most churches would long to have our problem,” Tav laughed.

“Oh I know what that’s about,” groaned Brad, putting his cell phone down for a second. “The youth like to sit together in the front of the church. I asked the ushers to rope off the first four pews on the right side of the Sanctuary. Unfortunately, they roped off pews included Olga’s favorite pew. Not only was it her pew, it had been the pew of their family for three generations.”

“You’ll take care of it?” Mark asked.

“Yeah. No probs.”

Besides being the youth director, Brad is also a computer nerd. If you need stats on anything, obscure illustrations, or facts, he is the man for the job. He keeps up with everything that’s going on on the interwebs. The youth really take to him and it’s thanks to Brad that we still have a lively youth group.

So it was obvious that Brad would be the first one to know.

“Uh… Tav,” Brad starts tentatively. He’s so in awe of Tav. I’m beginning to think everyone is. Not sure why, maybe because he’s gorgeous and dreamy.

Tav looks up from his iPad, and Brad lapses into silence.

What is that about?

“Brad, you need something?” Tav asked.

“Um…I was just doing a search on web…you know, checking on the pastoral staff…not, like, trolling. But it’s like I have this alert on all our names and if anyone is mentioning us, I get a notification.”

“And…” Tav was curious.

“Jessica started a blog about…uh…you.”

“About me?”

“Well, about the church. She mentions you a lot. Pretty bad stuff.”

Mark sighed. “The Internet is a place for cowards. Do you want me to speak to her?”

Kate spoke up. “I don’t think you’ll need to.”

“As her pastor, I could tell her she needs to follow Matthew 18.”

“She left the church.”

I’m thinking this is not true.

“When?”

“Three days ago, but her friend Janice just mentioned it to me. I was at the grocery store and ran into her.”

“So that’s it?”

“Pretty much.”

Staff meeting over.

“Kate…I don’t think Jessica has left. I think it’s just an emotional ploy.”

“I hope not. I would just like her gone.”

______

May 1
1:45 p.m.

Have just told Kate what I found out. I just got off the phone with the secretary from Tav’s last church. She loves Tav. Couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful he is. Anyway, she says a woman from our church was making inquiries about him. The woman wouldn’t give her name. Apparently, she’s been calling all the churches he’s been at looking for any piece of dirt she can find. Kate is disgusted but not too bothered.

“She can dig all she likes. She won’t find anything.” That’s all she said. I asked if I should mention it to Tav but she said no, and that he wouldn’t care anyway.

Kate is right. Tav wouldn’t care. He’d just say, people will believe whatever they want to. If they like you, they’ll like you no matter what, and if they don’t they’ll use anything they want to diss you.

Same thing my mom always says.

I know Kate’s irritated. The pastors are her boys, and she doesn’t like anyone trying to hurt them.