May 22
11:15 a.m.

“Faith is the new interim music director? I thought they were going to hire a new one.”

I am aghast. This is horrible. Kate rolls her eyes. How? Why???

“Church politics. It also saves the church money. She’s volunteering her time.” This is depressing news. Good thing it’s a Friday or I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I can see it already. It’s going to be worse than Mickey Mouse’s nightmare in Fantasia. She already practically lives in the office—maybe she’ll set up a desk in Tav’s office.

I’m thinking about Allan. I adore him. It’s a good thing, because he’s also our Personnel Chair. Anyway, Faith had managed to manipulate Wanda, the soprano section (whatever that was) leader’s BFF and had wangled her way into being the new music person. If Mark protested, the whole choir would have rebelled and made his life miserable. Such was the power of Wanda.

“Did Allan approve it?” I couldn’t imagine Allan going for it.

“She bypassed Allan. He’s sending her an email telling her he’s going to talk to the Personnel Committee—so to wait until he gets back to her.”

“Maybe it won’t happen.” I can hope, can’t I?

Kate gives me this pitying look—you know, the one you give that sad, hungry puppy that shows up in your neighborhood…and it just grabs your heart that you have to go out and feed it. I did that.

Three times.

Except each time it turned out that the puppy had rabies, and I had to get shots. I remember telling my horrible History teacher that the dog bit me and the dog died. She said she figured it would.

Anyway, those shots are so not fun. Seven, fourteen, twenty-one. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by the second time.

Not I.

I believe in giving people and animals many chances. I think the bites from people are much worse though. Thank God for hell.

What a terrible thing to say. True. But terrible.

_____

2:30 p.m.

I find out firsthand about the response to Allan’s email because Faith bursts into my office, all teary-eyed, about being given this opportunity to share her humble gifts.

Wanda has trumped Allan. This is very bad news.

And, she pointed out, as she laid the music on my table, people said that they really felt God’s presence when she sang. Probably because they were begging God to make her stop…

“So…you’re going to be our new music director?”

“Yes,” she responded breathlessly, one hand raised, palm upward, “all glory to Jesus.”

Oh God. I’m going to be sick.

“How did you wangle that?” That was obviously not as smooth as I intended it to be, but now it was already out there, I decided to just go with it. “I thought the Personnel Committee were still interviewing candidates.”

Faith gave a little modest smile. “Well, Pastor Mark felt that the church already had what was best for his church.”

Liar.

“Peachy.”

“Yes, aren’t we blessed? Pastor Mark saw my gifts…and I won’t be taking any money… And Tav… Tav.”

Yep. Mark had wanted her to lead the worship team. Not. And Tav.

“The choir must be sooooo excited to have you lead them.”

“Oh yes.”

Obviously, she didn’t get the sarcasm, irony, or anything. I didn’t want to do the stereotype thing as I watched her shake out the waves of her blonde hair. She must have noticed me staring as she gave a little giggle, “They say my hair is like a halo that frames my face and makes me look like an angel.”

This is a real thing that she said to me…in all seriousness. No trace of banter here.

“Definitely.”

“Don’t hate me for that. Your hair is…”

With that cryptic statement, she walked out.

“What a…”

“Not worth it. Not worth it.”

“I was talking out loud?”

“Yes. Very loud.” Brad’s laughing. “I like your hair.”

“Such an idiot.” This only makes him laugh more.

I knew what my hair looked like today—just your typical bad hair day!

It wasn’t just a bad hair day—it was a nightmarish day in general.

_______

4:45 p.m.

“First Church. May I help you?” And please don’t make it an emergency, Lord.

“Natalie? You okay?”

“Allan! Yes. Why?”

“Your voice sounded strained.”

“It’s been a long day…”

“Faith?”

“You too?”

“Yes. The best I could do is get them to agree to a one month trial. Wanda’s on the Personnel Committee.”

“I know.”

“Please let Mark and Tav know.”

“Will do, Allan.”

“Say hi to Allan for me.” Tav calls out. I hadn’t realized that he was in my office running some copies in the corner of the room. This man is a ninja.

“Allan, Tav says hi.”

“Ditto.”

“Why do I have to convey your message to Allan?” I ask while hanging up the phone.

“Because you’re my slave.”

“In your dreams.”

“In my dreams, you’re much more.” He gets this look on his face when he says ridiculous things and this is one of those moments.

“And that’s the only place anything will happen.”

“Such a kidder.”

He’s so confident about himself.

“I hate church politics.” I needed to change the subject quickly.

“What happened?”

So I’m already irritated about all this behind the scenes maneuvering, just about to tell him so, and back into my office rushes Faith in tears.

“Is Pastor Tavish here?” she’s sobbing, wiping the tears coursing down her well-blushed cheeks.

I didn’t have to answer the question as Tav was already there…standing right there. I think she saw him in the corner of the room, but wanted to make a dramatic entrance.

“Oh, Pastor Tavish,” Faith choked…and I gagged, “I’m so sorry to bother you. It’s just that I was hired to be in charge of the music…and Pastor Mark’s away…”

I wish she’d just decide to either call him Tav or Pastor Tavish. One or the other. Choose, woman.

Okay, I’m being petty.

“…for just one month,” I cut in, since I hadn’t been included in the conversation.

Faith gave me the nobody-asked-you look.

“…and I’ve already picked the music. But Wanda called me and said that Allan wasn’t happy…he didn’t want me…” She paused to mop off some more tears from her face.

Why didn’t her mascara run? Two tears and I looked like I had been out in an Indian monsoon—mascara streaks down my face like this year’s favorite Halloween mask.

“That’s not true. I just spoke to Allan, he said you’ve been given a one-month…”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

Yes. But I don’t know how to say it out…LOUD! I do need my job.

“And it’s Allan, not Wanda who…”

“What am I to do?” Faith swayed like she was going to faint, and then leaned in as Tav stretched out his arms to steady her.

Ignore the church secretary or whatever I am. I’m not here.

“Faith, don’t worry.” Why is Tav talking to her gently? I’m not liking the gentle tones. Isn’t he already seeing someone somewhere? “Why don’t you just go ahead with the music as planned? I’m sure we can work things out when Mark comes back from the pastors’ retreat.”

“Oh Tav, do you really mean that?” Faith asks in adoring tones. Eeew!

“Faith doesn’t need to plan for more than a month, or sooner if the Personnel Committee finds a new music director.”

Okay, I add that because, hello, I just don’t feel like being ignored any more. I think I’m usually a very generous, loving person. Why am I being so peevish?

“What’s that, Natalie?” Tav seemed to recognize that I was trying to say something.

Yes, hello? I’m here.

“Yes, Natalie,” Faith is suddenly overly sugary, face still tear-streak free.

“For pete’s…I mean Faith’s sake,” I begin, one had to be diplomatic about these things, “I wanted to make sure everyone understood that Faith was filling in just temporarily…very temporarily.”

“Sure,” Tav agreed. “Mark has to make the final decision, anyway.”

“Yes, he does. You are so gentle.” Faith is running her hand down Tav’s arm affectionately and it’s just about the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen.

“Tav, could we speak privately in your office?” Faith shot a glance in my direction—like I wanted to hear what she was going to say. “I don’t think we need to discuss Sunday’s preparations in the secretary’s office. I want to make sure that my music matches your sermon topic.”

My. Your. Whatever. Isn’t it all supposed to be about Jesus anyway?

I’m back to doing whatever it was I had been doing before Faith had burst into my office. Happily undisturbed I carry on, until a glowing Faith shows up again, twenty minutes later…with Tav.

Folks, it’s Friday, and you’ve made me late. And churches don’t pay overtime.

So I now see a happy Faith, at last. With Tav. Back in my office.

“Tav just loves the music choices. His Scripture verse is love,” she’s stressing on the word “love”—luuurrrrve—as she looks up at him, smiling like a total psycho.

“Inspiring,” I murmur as I read the bulletin she’s handing back to me. I already know what’s in it. I did the bulletin…and have already dry-heaved over the choices… “Sweet, Sweet, Spirit; Love Lifted Me; They’ll Know We Are Christians; and, hmmm…In This Very Room…” These songs were ancient even for the ancient churches my dad had been at! So over done.

And Tav loved her choices?

I’m not hearing correctly. Faith is humming? Yes, she definitely is.

I guess the love must have been way too much to contain because Faith hums her way to the copy machine, sets her purse down, and starts in hushed, worshipful tones,

“In this very room there’s quite enough loooove for one like me,
And in this very room there’s quite enough joy for one like meeee,
And there’s quite enough hoooope and quite enough powerrrr to chase away any gloommmm,
For Jesaaahs, Lord Jesaaaaaahs … Is. In. This. Ve. Ry. Rooooooommmm.”

I. Am. Fascinated. Faith glides toward Tav, arms stretched out in front of her. I think this is fast becoming one of my most favorite moments in my short church secretary’s life.

I think what Tav’s face is mirroring is shock. Faith, eyes closed and arm’s distance from him now, isn’t aware of this though. I think it definitely is shock…or trauma.

“And in this very rooooom, there’s quite enough loooooove for all of us,” Faith continues to croon, now gazing up at Tav. “And in this very room there’s quite enough…”

“Wow! Amazing! Yes, there’s been quite enough love…in this very room. Thanks, Faith.”

Faith whips around, the outstretched hands now fists pointed in my direction.

“You interrupted me,” clenching her fists tighter as she drops them by her side.

“Sorry, Faith. I’m late and have to go.” I smile. “I’m sure Pastor Tavish can’t wait for Sunday.”

“See you Sunday, Pastor Tav-Tav.” Faith is all smiles again as she loves her way out of the church building.

“Well, I can’t wait for Sunday,” I responded. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“You’ll be there? You can’t wait to hear me preach?”

“Yes, I’m searching for a new sleeping aid.”

May 24
11:10 a.m.

I was going to sit in the back, but I was late (what a surprise!) and got the worship service latecomers special place—the first pew in the front of the church. Under the pastor’s nose. This is so not how I had planned it.

“Hi Tim!” The church’s head usher is taking his ushering duties too far and decides to give me his whole attention.

“Hi Natalie! What a treat for us to have you here. There’s a place in front.”

“Huh? Thanks. I’ll just go up to the balcony.”

“No. I insist.” Tim escorts me up front. I try to ignore the “It’s Natalie,” “There’s Natalie,” as members recognize me, and slide quickly into the end place of the pew. I suffer from claustrophobia when I have to sit in the middle.

I check out the chancel area and Tav’s grinning at me. Faith, who had just happened to look in Tav’s direction, saw him wink, and turned to see who had grabbed his attention. When she saw it was me, her mouth fell open. So I smiled at her, and then fell into my deeply devout, head bent and hands folded on the lap—don’t-disturb-me-I’m-praying position.

“Welcome, all you precious people!” That’s how Faith is starting. It’s going to be an amazing morning.

Someone bumps into the place next to me.

“You can’t fool me. You’re not praying,” Kate whispers as she sat down.

“Kate!”

I guess my voice carried to our worship leader. Faith glared in my direction. I had interrupted her—again!

“Wouldn’t have missed Faith’s debut for the world!”

So began a strange routine. Faith would look at Tav and bat her eyes, Kate and I would follow her gaze and catch Tav’s eye and grin, Faith would notice that Tav’s attention had been diverted, and then she’d turn in our direction and her flared nostrils would indicate her displeasure with us.

Tears streaming down Faith’s face.

“She’s feeling the ‘spirit’!” Kate’s trying not to laugh at my comments.

Faith’s breathy, off-key bursts of song—because you didn’t have to be an actual musician to lead in worship… It was perfect. You just had to make a joyful noise, right? I was still searching for the joyful in the noise.

Horrors! Faith’s waving her arms like sheaves of wheat on a blustery autumn day, and jumping whoops of “Praise Jesus! Come Jesus! Yes! Yes! Come! Come!”

Bring it home, Faith…way down home.

Kate and I had to pinch each other to keep from going into fits of giggles. I bet Kate that Faith wouldn’t be leading in worship for Tav ever again. Maybe Tav’s sermon says something about God having a plan for where you are right now.

The service couldn’t end soon enough for me.

_____

12:35 p.m.

I’m still thinking about Tav’s sermon. “Waiting on God”—yes, something I have a problem doing. Have to trust God. Tav was a great preacher.

Is this man good at everything???

Kate had members swarming over to her. I wanted to avoid that. I sneaked away and headed to the back exit of the Sanctuary. This led me to the corridor that led to my office. I wanted to make a quick getaway so that I could keep from being asked to do someone a favor—just this once. Yes, I’ve heard that one before. Not buying it.

I would have gotten away if only Faith and a group of women from her Bible study hadn’t blocked my path, so oblivious to anyone’s presence.

“Faith, we were so blessed by your ministry today.”

“Yes, the anointing was really on you.”

“And Pastor Tavish and you make such a cute couple,” followed by a giggle. “You seem sooooo perfect for each other.”

“Oh bless you, sister.” Faith was all thrilled to hear her name coupled with Tav’s. “This was a very special moment in my life. Pastor Tavish insisted that I take this job. He said, ‘Faith, could you do this for my sake—just share the pulpit with me this Sunday?’ And—” dramatic pause, “—he said he loved…” another dramatic pause, followed by a few “oohs” and an “I knew it” and Faith’s new hysteria, “…he loved my music choices for his sermon!!!”

“Pastor Tavish will be so happy to know what you all think. I’ll be happy to mention it to him.”

Faith jumped and whirled around.

“You!” I was not feeling at that moment the love she had just sung about.

“Hi, ladies. Great service.” I continued my brisk forward progress.

“She’s very possessive about Pastor Tavish. She can’t keep us apart from each other. She doesn’t have the anointing.”

Oh puhleez. If I were interested in Tav, I would care about what she just said.

But I do care, don’t I? Okay, I’m lying to myself. I don’t want to get hurt again. What if Tav really likes her? Horrible thought. Not going to think about it.

Kate is going to love knowing that I’m thinking about Tav.

Nope. Not going to tell her.

_____

12:55 p.m.

The church newswire tell-a-Peony has been working overtime. Peony, a BFF of Faith, has been busy promoting the upcoming nuptials of Tav and Faith. “Such a perfect couple, made in heaven—pastor and music leader. Hallelujah!”

By the time I reached Fellowship Hall, I had a dozen people whisper, “Is there going to be a wedding in the church?” with a pointed nod in Tav’s direction.

“Not that I’ve heard.”

“But the church secretary knows everything.”

“Not everything.”

Not, apparently, everything.

I took a big chunk off of a donut so I didn’t have to answer any more questions.

Kate came over and joined me by the refreshments table. “Have you heard?”

“Yes. We need to pick him a wedding present.”

“I suggest earplugs,” Kate said.

“Can you imagine…?”

Kate chokes, and bursts out laughing.

“Imagine what?” Ninja Tav has joined us.

“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”

“What doesn’t he want to know?”

It’s Walt. Creeping up again.

“Oh nothing.”

“Natalie, any time you want to tell me something, I’ll be happy to hear it.”

“Thanks Walt.”

One Tav eyebrow raised in my direction as Walt walks away.

“New admirer?”

“Don’t even go there.”