A start

She hustles in the door, smile glued to her face behind clenched teeth and a racing pulse. “Good morning!” she says while quietly thinking the rector’s wife should have a reserved parking space but who would think of that? Ironically, Sunday mornings are a time of tension in any church going house  but none more so than in the home of a priest. One family member gone and additional items on the check off list: ironing dresses, tights, matching shoes, money for the collection plate, let the dog out, a good answer to “…but God doesn’t care what we wear” (yes but everyone else does and you get to choose every other day so just put the dress on for 3 hours and no you can’t wear flipflops in the snow) food, and oh yeah, that peaceful spirit which teaches kids going to church really is a good thing.

I am a preacher’s wife. It is a role I never thought about really, a life story that seemed extremely out of the question -well not even in the running- until I found myself in Honduras falling for a man headed to Seminary. I say that because I have an image of who that woman is but I am not sure how it was created. As a child, we moved as often as the Navy told us, which usually meant about every 2 1/2 years. Up and down the east coast we would find different episcopal churches: St. Mary’s Portsmouth, St. John’s McLean , Christ Church Shrewsbury, Emmaunel on the Hill, Emmanuel in the Hole, Eastern Shore Chapel, and finally Christ Church Alexandria. I remember my 3 year old Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Light,  whose perfectly set hair was so white and her smile so kind, I thought she was married to God. I remember playing musical chairs and being too young to go on the youth trip to Great Adventure; I remember hurting my ankle at a church picnic and Dr. Rixie coming to help me and my Mom realizing this was the first time anyone at that church had ever talked to us. I remember a phenomenal youth group  led by  Keith whose brother was killed in the marine barracks bombing in Beirut. We watched the movie the Morning After and talked about nuclear war as if it was going to happen tomorrow, back in 1985. I even remember the prayer my rector said before every sermon when I was in high school when attendance got spotty: “Uphold thou me that I may uplift thee”. Most of the memories are good, easy. Church was not a haven for me or a place that evoked much of any emotion. When I was mad with God, it was between the two of us. When happy, same thing.  But what surprises me, looking back, is I can’t remember any of the rector’s wives. Sure I know some of their names but I can’t conjure up one memory of any of them. Did they have a ministry and I didn’t know? Was their ministry more personal, holding the family together while the problems of the parish sucked the priest dry of emotion and questions and time? Did they think their duty was that of the mother of the groom -show up and were beige? I don’t know.

I do know I am not that.

Here is what I am in 50 words or less. A searcher, a boundary breaker, a change agent. A mom, a college All-American lacrosse player,a runner, a tennis player. Teacher, coach, marketing executive, entrepreneur, writer. Insane competitor, passionate person, friend who likes fashion and living on the edge -it’s where my best work is done.

This blog is started for 3 reasons. 1) My friend Susan says I am a writer and my friend Dean says the only thing that makes a writer different from everyone else is that a writer writes. 2) I want to write a book and it’s a lot easier to get my brother to create this blog than it is to find a publisher. 3) I need a better answer to the statement: You are not a typical preacher’s wife.

No I am not. I am me, Melanie Anne Bartol Jones. I am the conversations in my head and the moves on the dance floor of my 40th birthday. I am a “radical liberal feminist” as the boss at my first real job labeled me and I am everything and nothing that means. I am a child of God and I believe what Marianne Williamson says so eloquently: “playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you.” I am a preacher’s wife and I don’t where beige, but you may catch me one Sunday morning, rushing in the back door of church in fishnet hose and heels.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cindi Bartol on April 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    What an exciting adventure! This first one is delightful, insightful and takes me back to your late nights in high school – listening to reflections due in JP’s creative writing class the next morning. I know I’m going to enjoy this journey…


  2. Posted by Sarah K.G. on April 5, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I am so excited you’re doing this! I remember being new to the Episcopal Church, sitting next to you in choir and thinking, “*This* is the assistant rector’s wife? But she’s awesome!” Can’t wait to follow this blog and continue to be reaffirmed in my initial assessment of you. 🙂


  3. Posted by LCM on April 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Fabulous!! Enjoyed and embraced every word!! Good job my friend!!


  4. Hey, Sugar. I’d suggest barefeet . . . and if you take the fishnet route, I hope they’re some vibrant color, just for good measure.


  5. Posted by Kathleen Abrams on April 6, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I look forward to your blog as I too am an “Unconventional” Preacher’s wife (Episcopal too). Growing up Roman Catholic I had no preconceived ideas of a minister’s wife when I fell in love with my already ordained husband. He encouraged me to be me and not give in to the pressures of others. For 27 years he has supported me in that. Blog on. I look forward to your writing.


  6. Posted by Ashley on April 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Love it!! I can’t wait to read more!


  7. Rock on, Mel. Blogging is the perfect way to enter our best decade yet.


  8. Posted by Robin Gibbs on April 7, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Mel – you had me at the web address. Loved the first piece, can’t wait for more. I will respond with similar reflection but in a less public sphere – Brad and I are living in South Africa now – more on that later. But congratulations on launching the blog – I look forward to being in closer touch!

    lots of love
    Robin xx


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