Thanks to Natalie I have a whole new understanding of the word “bless.”

Natalie received her first Holy Communion almost twenty years ago with great joy and the accompanying ceremony that welcomes new members to experience the body of Christ in this way. Her uncle, a devout man of the Greek Orthodox faith, gave her a very special gift to honor her commitment, a rosary dipped in what he believed are the tears of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He had been saving the rosary for her specifically for quite awhile.

After services that day, Natalie and her classmates met with their priest to have their gifts blessed by him. The priest also wanted each child to tell the story of the gift they had received, why it was important to them. Natalie was pleased to share the story of her uncle’s gift to her, of his own devotion passed on to her. She also proudly told the priest and her classmates that she wanted to serve God as a priest herself.

None of this went over very well with her priest. He called her a liar about the rosary’s origins and subsequent baptism of tears. Then he told her that her only choice for service was to be a nun. She would never be a priest.

But Natalie was a young lady of strong mind and great faith. So the story continues.

When Natalie got home she told her mother what the priest had said to her. Then Natalie went to their backyard, clipped a pine bough off a tree, dipped it in water, took her gifts to her room and proceeded to bless them herself. Her belief was that the priest hadn’t done a good job if it because he had such a poor attitude. And, just in case she could be of further service, she yelled down the hall to her brother, saying, “Hey, if you need anything blessed. I’m blessing things here in my room!”

I think the Roman Catholic Church missed out on something special here, don’t you?

I believe stories have the power to transform our lives, even the old ones filled with a mix bag of messages. Natalie’s story touched me deeply. As she told it, one of her mother’s favorites about her as a small girl, I remembered a few points of departure in my relationship with my own denomination. Most ordained clergy and many lay people have come to terms with the fact that we do not all believe the same way. The great moments of truth, literally, are in the standing firm and the telling of the story. Sometimes all we walk away with is exactly that.
Other times, there is much more in the letting go of the story itself.

I love Natalie’s story because it speaks of power and personal truth. Not only did she claim her own story and act on it, she never even considered that the priest was anywhere near right. In fact she knew that he did not have the right to define her by imposing his own stories on her. In that moment the priest was trying to tell Natalie who she was and what she could be, and she wasn’t buying it.

What I’ve come to realize is how easily we all fall into this trap every day, of creating convenient stories or transplanting our own realities onto other people.
In conversation with a woman at the grocery store the other day we discovered we both like cruises. She takes her family, I travel with friends. I suggested I may go for a balcony room the next time out because it may be fun. In her mind I could do this because I don’t have to book ahead, work around school schedules and I have more money to play with than she does. Her assumptions were all false, but she clearly described herself in those assumptions, telling me her story while telling herself it was mine. I understood that at the time, and simply said, “No. I just like balconies.”

We do this to ourselves too.

I grew up only seeing ordained ministers in pulpits on Sunday morning. But now I know that many ordained clergy do this and other things that are equally valid in serving God, me included. There are, however, still a whole lot of people who believe that if you are an ordained minister you serve a specific congregation as its pastor. Interesting, eh? If I began to let their story interfere with my own belief in the work that I do as God’s servant I would have only myself to blame. I am only responsible to live my story, no one else’s.

So here we begin, at advent, the season of hope that tells us God is with us, but also coming to tell us again that all our stories matter, as do we in their telling. All of our stories have old parts, vignettes that we use to define ourselves in the moment or over time. Some are worth saving because they inspire us to be more, to do more, and to give more. Others, not so much. Holding on to the latter makes us stay stuck, become much less that the person we are created to become. The power of the spirit moving through us and the gifts that are our tools diminish; hibernate, their blessings fading along with them.

But Natalie’s story tells us that we are indeed blessed to be a blessing, that hope is ours for the choosing, and that no one else’s story can match the fit for us that God intended but our own.

Author's Bio: 

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay with a double major in Communication and the Arts and Social Change and Development and a minor in Women's Studies, was ordained into the ministry of the Moravian Church in North America after completing her Master of Divinity degree studies through Moravian Theological Seminary. Over twenty-five years of experience in individual and community ministries gives Rev. Kemp an informed perception about faith, its implications and struggles in everyday life. Rev. Kemp focuses her work on helping people understand their faith and how faith can become transformational in their lives. Challenge your faith - visit