Today, I pushed the alarm for five more minutes of dozing before searching for my walking shoes in the dark. As I take to the streets of our neighborhood at 5:45 a.m., I am struck by the full moon on my left and the rising sun to my right. I do not want to be caught in-between all day, but I can already feel the reality of a day stretching out before me that will not allow for focused time to address what waits on my desk: the tools for Sunday’s sermon. Instead, I will be caught in-between duties and tasks that pull me away from what I believe to be my ultimate calling. These thoughts often cause my pace to slacken, and so my husband begins to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” We both laugh. It is a sound that will carry me through the paces of laundry, breakfast, feeding the dog, and getting dressed.

I stop by the hospital on my way into the office. There are prayers for surgery, prayers for recovery, and listening to elderly members’ reasons as to why they are not going to the nursing home. Then I listen to their children tell me all the reasons why they must go to the nursing home. Upon returning to my car, there is a message from the office to inform me that during the night, a member slipped into a coma. He is gone, and I am needed at his rehab facility to comfort the family. I carefully calculate my time as I drive, for this unexpected call means that there will be a visit to the funeral home and a memorial service to plan. At this point, my own personal sense of loss gets delayed until we get through all the outward formalities that culture dictates.

The person behind the counter at Subway knows my order by heart. I eat at the conference room table as the staff catch me up on what is happening:  Trunk or Treat is just hours away and the annual Bread for the World emphasis is approaching, and oh, don’t forget that this coming Sunday is not only All Saint’s but the church’s forty-second anniversary. Did I know that this couple is pregnant . . . that this person is moving . . . that this partnership is in crisis . . . that this one is having surgery soon, and that that one is too depressed to leave their house? Is my article ready for the newsletter? Did I have a chance to proof the bulletin? There are phone messages to return, emails that need responses, budgets to write, and the books I pulled and the articles I printed to correlate to Sunday’s text wait ever so patiently.

The books get packed into my trusty book bag, and I head for home. As I pull into the driveway, there stands my 6’3 red-headed-football-player son with his head leaning against his truck. His face is streaked with tears. He has been hurt in practice. So off to the emergency room we go for x-rays. After two hours, we are sent home with Tylenol and a diagnosis of a bruised tibia. He’s hungry (of course) so I busy about the kitchen pulling together a meal. Can I bake brownies for the team meal tomorrow? Did I remember to check on college recommendations? And here’s my dirty uniform that needs to be washed before tomorrow’s practice. I stumble over my book bag as I go into the laundry room.

When I finally lay down, I realize that the rhythm of my life is unique because of my calling. I am grateful for it even when I am caught in-between the sun and moon, the earth and the sky, the emergencies and the routines, the sorrows and the joys. When the demands seem to be too much, I have to remember the privilege that is mine to be invited into the lives of my congregants at critical junctures to offer a word of encouragement. Most days, I feel the blessing of that gift. But sometimes . . . well, did I mention that the funeral is planned for Friday (the only day the family can make it happen)?  Friday is my off day!

Sarah Shelton is pastor of Baptist Church of the Covenant, Birmingham, Alabama.