Monday, December 31, 2007


I don't usually make New Years resolutions, and I had no intention of doing so this year, either. But, as I was cleaning my room, I had an idea. I love getting mail, particularly cards and letters from people I care about. I have boxes of cards that I've received over the years, all saved because they remind me of people I care about. I have birthday cards from years ago, graduation cards, valentines, and postcards that are souvenirs of other peoples' vacations, and I love them all. I like to open those boxes on rough days and remember that there are people who care about me.

Those cards got me to thinking: there are lots of people I care about, who've sent me letters or cards, and I've never gotten around to sending them letters. Moreover, there are lots of people who have impacted my life that I've never taken the time to thank. So this year, I want to send letters and cards. I'm going to take the time to send the letters I often compose in my head, thanking the people who've made me who I am. I think that, since this resolution calls for both self-reflection and giving to others, it's a pretty good idea for something to do over the next year. Now, how am I going to find all of those addresses?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Arrows 2007

I love this Newsweek practice of rating events and people at the end of the year using arrows. So I'm copying it again this year.

↔ Graduate School Ever since I began my 3-year masters program, the other students have insisted that second year of the program, which I started this year, is the hardest, both academically and personally. In some ways, I can see what those students meant. Systematic Theology, which I took this semester, is one of the hardest classes I've taken in the program, but it is also one of the most rewarding. I really enjoyed getting to consider and begin to formulate my own theological beliefs. I also took two of the classes I've enjoyed least in this program, mostly due to the pedagogical style. All in all, I feel like I'm a lot better prepared for ministry than I was before, which, I suppose, is really the point.

↑ Harry Potter 2007 marked the end of the waiting: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in J.K. Rowling's bestselling, history-making series, finally reached the shelves. Rowling brought her story to a phenomenal conclusion. In addition, I got to celebrate the publishing of her last book with some of my favorite people. My mom flew out to my city so that she could join me, my aunt, and my friends in buying copies of the book. My mom, my aunt, and I then spent the rest of the weekend reading the story aloud together, in keeping with our family tradition. I loved getting to share such a wonderful story with the people I care about. And, finally, nearly all of my questions about the wizarding world were answered. The only downside to the joy of finally getting the last book is that it is, sadly, the last book, and there are no more Harry Potter books to look forward to.

↑ Romance No details, I'll simply say that I'm extremely happy.

↔ Summer Work I spent my summer doing Clinical Pastoral Education, a program that trains people who are going into ministry to develop pastoral care skills, often working as chaplains. Thus, I worked as a hospital chaplain for ten weeks this summer, meanwhile taking part in individual and group supervision with other students preparing for ministry. Hospital chaplaincy wouldn't have been my first choice for how to spend my summer, but it was a good experience and excellent preparation for ministry. I had a really good group and my supervisor was fantastic, but I'm pretty sure now that I don't want to be a hospital chaplain. I'd like to serve in ministry in a way that I get to be part of lots of parts of people's lives, not just the disasters and crises.

↑ Friends It seems obvious to me that anything entitled friends should have an up arrow next to it, but this year was particularly good for such relationships. The longer I'm around my classmates, the more I like the vast majority of them. This year I got closer to my female friends, aided by the weekly girls' breakfasts many of us shared. I got to know several of the third years much better than last year, and I've found them to be wonderful people. At the same time, I managed to keep up with my friends from my hometown and from undergrad pretty well. One even came to visit me, which was great fun.

↓ Football I was VERY proud of my Missouri Tigers this year. They exceeded my expectations, defeated Nebraska and Kansas, and even spent a week as the number 1 team in the nation. However, because of two losses to Oklahoma, they were knocked out of the national championship race. My disappointment and anger are less with the Tigers, however, and more with the BCS system, which privileges teams from conferences without championship games. It's ridiculous that two teams that Mizzou defeated, Kansas and Illinois, were selected for BCS games, while Mizzou was relegated to the Cotton Bowl. And I won't even get started on my sadness about my beloved Denver Broncos. *sigh*

↑ Travel This was the first year in the last several that I haven't left the country. In fact, I hardly traveled at all. I did, however, get to visit Seattle. It was my first visit to either the Pacific northwest or Texas. It was also my first major trip with friends, rather than with family, by myself, or with a school trip. I had a BLAST! While it wasn't out of the country, it was still new, and still very fun.

? 2008 I can't believe how fast this year went, and I sincerely hope that next year won't fly by quite so quickly. May 2008 be filled with joys and blessings for you and yours.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Contemplations

Christmas this year was a bit strange for me because it is only the second one in my memory that I have actually spent at home. Almost every year, my family has traveled to my grandparents' house for Christmas, but this year, my grandparents were in the process of moving, so traveling to visit them really wasn't a viable option. So we remained at home.

There were a lot of traditions that I missed. I missed getting to hang out with my grandparents, hearing their stories of the birds in their yard, the rabbits in their garden, and the weather of the fall. I miss my grandmother's lemon meringue pie, made just because it is my favorite. I miss the potato casserole and the frozen salad, and trying to cram at least twelve people into the dining room/kitchen area, all talking and laughing and eating together. Since we were in my hometown, we also skipped our usual tradition of getting terribly lost trying to find the Catholic church in my grandparents' town, then lifting our voices with a whole church full of strangers to welcome the birth of the Christ child.

On the other hand, this was one of the most relaxed holidays I've had in years. My sister, my parents, and I just stayed at home and had a laid back day. We led the music at the 7:00 Catholic mass at Dad's church, then simply worshiped at my United Methodist church's 11:00 service. We visited with our friends and neighbors after both services, and went home to our own beds to sleep. We slept a little late, took our time opening presents and making and eating breakfast, relaxing so much that we didn't even change out of our pajamas until after 1 in the afternoon. Then we watched a movie, put together a wonderful dinner, and spent the evening playing games. In some ways I missed the commotion, clamor, and craziness of Christmas at my grandparents' house. In other ways, though, this calm, quiet holiday was just what my family needed. The fall was ridiculously busy for all of us (as evidenced by my total lack of entries in over a month), to it was a huge relief to have a quiet, low-stress day together.

I am sure that, as I think about it over the next few days, I'll become melancholy that the Christmases of my youth: the crowded busy holidays in the mountains of Virginia. But at this moment, I'm glad for the holiday I had. I'm especially glad for it because I don't know how many more opportunities I'll have for quiet holidays. Lately I've begun to think about my future, and I know that this is one of the last times I'll simply get to sit and worship on Christmas Eve without being in leadership. In fact, I worry that this is one of the last Christmases I'll actually get to spend with my family, since I'll have to be serving my church on Christmas Eve in just a few years. I don't know what those holidays will look like. But for the moment, I'm savoring the memories of those Virginia Christmases, and cherishing this relaxing Christmas at home, hoping that it won't be one of my last. I know that Christmas is about welcoming God incarnate, not what you eat for the holiday meal or who you eat it with, but it's a lot easier to celebrate the Holy Family when you don't have to be all alone.

I pray that, traditional or not, busy or relaxed, alone or with family and friends, you have a holiday filled with joy and peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


At the beginning of the semester, I was terrified of Systematic Theology. It is in the curriculum area that is the hardest for me, and I was dreading another semester of classes from that area. But, as it's a required class, I signed up and started attending classes.

In Systematic theology, everything is connected. One cannot talk about creation without addressing the issue of theodicy, which leads to questions about evil and sin, which lead to discussions of Christology and Soteriology and, eventually, eschatology. Likewise, talking about the end of the world leads us back to questions about what the world is and whether it is good, or bad, or both, and about salvation, which is essential for discussions about the end of the world, anyway. Every question leads to another set of questions and, no matter how hard we work to define things, there's always the caveat of, "But it's all a mystery and, as much as we know, there are things that are incomprehensible for us."

In spite of the exhaustion and the circularity, though, I have really liked my Systematic Theology class this semester. Instead of just being required to memorize specific phrases from councils a thousand years ago, Systematics let me consider my own beliefs and consider the ideas of different theologians in conversation with each other. It finally gave me the opportunity to articulate my beliefs and questions in ways that make sense. I don't have all the answers, in fact, I'm not sure I have ANY of the answers, but at least now I know how to ask the questions. And I can begin to refine my beliefs, as incomplete as they may be.