Thursday, December 31, 2009

Arrows 2009

It's time again for year-in-review segments on the news and weight-loss resolution advertisements on TV, which must mean it's also time for my annual "arrows" entry. Here goes:

Family ↑
Last year my family added a member: my brother-in-law Matt. This year we welcomed another fantastic addition: my niece, Hannah. She's an adorable, tiny person with lots of feathery, dark hair and deep blue eyes. She makes strange squeaking noises and fascinating faces. I've really enjoyed getting to know her, and I'm looking forward to seeing the person she grows into.

Travel ↑
This year did not involve overseas adventures, which is always a little disappointing to me. I also had to make several for work, interviews, and other less-pleasant reasons. On the other hand, I did get to do a fantastic family vacation to Colorado. I got to spend time in the mountains with my grandmother, aunt, uncle, cousins, mom, dad, and sister. We hiked and played games, swam and dined. It was a time of great laughter and bonding, and it reminded me of just how much I love the people on that side of my family. I also made a road trip of awesomeness with several of my friends in January. We drove through the night on our way to southern Florida, singing along with CDs and noshing on junk food all the way. We attended a friend's wedding, then spent a few days at Disney, going on rides, taking in shows, posing with characters, and having the kind of magical, silly fun that is only possible at Disney. Between those ventures and my treks to see my sister, brother-in-law, and new niece, it was a pretty good year for travel.

Sports ↓
All of my teams let me down this year. The Cubs... well, let's not even go there. And my Broncos and Mizzou Tigers both did well at first, then crashed and burned late in the season. Mizzou even got destroyed in their bowl game. It would take a miracle at this point for the Broncos to make the playoffs. *sigh* Maybe next year.

Ministry ↑
After five years of working through the process, I finally, FINALLY got commissioned as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church this year. I survived the papers and the interviews, and got to start my ministry. I was appointed to a church and started working as an associate pastor on July 1. I may still be in the honeymoon phase, but so far the church and I seem to be really good fits for each other. I really like the people I get to work with, both the congregation and the staff, and my job responsibilities are both challenging and fulfilling. I've gotten to use skills and gifts that I had never anticipated using as a pastor. In redesigning one of our worship spaces, I ended up using my ASP skills to draw to-scale room sketches and apply for a building permit, then use a tape measure and power drill to facilitate the move. I have used my journalism training to create a weekly e-mail newsletter. Plus I've used TONS of things from seminary. The work is stressful, but I love it.

Moving ↔
This year I finished graduate school and left the city and community I had loved for three years. My friends scattered all across the country, which was incredibly sad. My roommate, who I had thoroughly enjoyed living with for three years, moved to the opposite side of the country, and I had to learn to live without that companionship. I had to leave behind my favorite restaurants and coffee shops, art museums and hang outs. I'm no longer in quick visit distance of my great aunt and uncle, and second cousins, and I can't just pop over to watch football with my aunt anymore. I really miss the city and my life there. On the other hand, though, I'm having fun exploring my new city. I'm starting to find new hangouts, restaurants, and coffee shops, and I'm enjoying the proximity to historical landmarks. Now I'm closer to my sister and her family, so I get to see my new niece more often, and I'm learning to like this new state. I also really like my apartment which, though I haven't used it, has a putting green. It has just been a bit of a tough adjustment.

Friends ↑
It was tough to leave behind my wonderful seminary community in May. But I have managed to stay in reasonably good contact with many of my friends both from there and from undergrad. One of my seminary friends even got called to a church pretty close to where I'm serving, so I get to see her every month or two. And, thanks to licensing school that I didn't really want to attend initially, I've made some great friends in my new conference. One in particular has rescued me from a cancelled flight, showed me places to hang out in town, and really helped me to feel at home in my new place. Another joined our staff in October and became my going-out buddy, my "date" for church events, and my "go ahead and do it!" supporter at work. A third meets me for sermon prep over coffee and even brought me a care package when I was sick. With these people, I'm definitely going to be able to adjust to this new city.

Dating ↓
There's almost nothing to put under this heading, since almost nothing has happened. In 2009, I didn't go through any breakups. I didn't start any new relationships. In fact, I didn't even go on any dates. Sad, I know. But between writing my thesis, getting through the commissioning process, graduating, moving, starting a new job, and adjusting to a new city, I didn't really meet any available men. And, in light of my schedule and my vocation, I may never meet any eligible men EVER AGAIN. Seriously. I don't know where I'd find them. There aren't any eligible men at church, and if there were I shouldn't date them anyway. I can't meet a co-worker. And don't even get me started on trying to meet strangers. I can't even have a normal conversation with a HAIR DRESSER once he or she finds out I'm a pastor, so there's no hope that a random attractive stranger in a coffee shop will be able to handle that information. I've even become skeptical of online dating options. Thus I have concluded that either I will be single forever or a man will miraculously be delivered to my doorstep.

Weddings ↑
I finally got into the proper spirit for all the weddings this year. One of my first actions of 2009 was to go to a friend's wedding in South Carolina. Then, a week later, I went to another wedding, this time in Florida. Both brides were beautiful, and the gatherings of friends at the receptions and during the travel were really, really fun. Then in the summer I started another round of weddings. I was honored to be the maid of honor in the wedding of two seminary friends in July, watching my friends so beautiful and in love that it brought tears to even my skeptical eyes. All of the people in the wedding party were friends from seminary, so the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, reception, and other wedding events became joyful reunions. I also got the joy of being the maid of honor for the August wedding of my best friend since childhood. She looked gorgeous, and I had a lovely time with her family, who are all close enough to me to be my own family. It was a blessing to get to celebrate the unions of such wonderful people.

? 2010
I'm intrigued to see what 2010 will bring, and to experience the adventures that I'm sure it has in store. I'm taking the advice of one of my friends, who has told me that my resolution for the new year should be to "get a life". I'm going to try to do just that by meeting new people, working a little less, and traveling a bit. We'll have to see how that goes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve!

This was probably the longest day of the whole Advent season. I got up this morning and wrapped some presents, then headed to the office to get some work done. I did some small parts in the children's service at 5:00, then helped lead the 7:00 and 11:00 services. It was great to see so many people in worship, and to celebrate the birth of Christ in this community. The greetings and hugs got me through the evening, helped by a picnic dinner with my parents. All of the church activities were bookended by relaxing at home with my parents, watching bits of the Star Wars Trilogy on Spike TV. Worship, family, and Star Wars? It doesn't get much better than this.

Here I am, still alive and smiling at the close of the Advent season:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


My face split into a grin today when, at 4:00 a.m., my parents arrived at my apartment. I left them to sleep while I went to work, but we had lunch and dinner together, and did some shopping in the evening. My parents brought a box of my childhood Christmas ornaments with them, and this evening we got them out and put them on the tree. With each ornament, we retold stories of the people who gave them to us, the places they were purchased, or the events or phases they commemorated. It's still Advent for one more day, but today it felt as though Christmas had suddenly burst into my apartment with my parents and our family traditions.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Catching Up

Like yesterday, I forgot to carry my camera for some of the best parts of the day. Our staff meeting was particularly exciting today. In addition to our usual laughter, we played Family Feud with some information that our Minister of Youth and Young Adults gathered about Christmas traditions and practices. It was a great pick-up in the last few days before Christmas, and combined with the silliness that results from being tired and overstressed, we shared some fantastic laughs.

In the evening, I went Christmas caroling with the youth. We shared songs and smiles with our homebound members and our members in assisted living facilities. We are NOT great singers, so the songs left a little to be desired. But we visited, listened, and smiled, then spent the time on the church bus between stops joking around and relaxing. It was lovely.

Finally, I came home to clean up and get ready for my parents' visit. They called and informed me that they were going to drive through the night and arrive twelve hours before I thought they'd arrive, so now I'm excitedly awaiting their arrival. And I made the deadline: My apartment is clean, and they're not here yet! Of course, my shopping still isn't done, but the absolute musts are taken care of.

So, without further ado, my clean apartment:

Monday, December 21, 2009


I had a Grinchy day today. A family in our congregation is going through a situation that is painful beyond imagining. The preparation for Christmas Eve services is reaching fever pitch. My apartment is not yet clean for my parents' arrival. I spent an hour in traffic trying to get around a train derailment that created a huge traffic jam. I had to fight the crowds at the mall and I still didn't manage to finish my Christmas shopping. I got back to my apartment tired, frustrated, and sad.

In that low moment, I was really thankful for faraway friends and the ease of communication. I often forget how blessed I am to be able to pull a cell phone out of my pocket and call loved ones any time I want. But today that made me smile.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I wish I could have captured this on film...

Today I was unable to get pictures of most of the things that made me smile.

For example, this morning the DCE and I attempted to go to church at 7:30 a.m. My car had other ideas, though. It got stuck in the ice/slush/mess in the parking lot, and refused to move in any direction. So there Amanda and I were: wading through the snow and slush in our church clothes, trying to push the car out. As annoyed as we were by the snow and ice, the cold slush in our shoes, and the frustrations of trying to get the car out in spite of the weather, the situation was hilarious. We found ourselves laughing out loud, and I wished we could get a picture of that moment. Finally a few of her neighbors helped us, and we managed to get the car out.

When we got to church, we had our usual two services and Sunday School, though the turnout was small. I also tried something in a worship service I had never attempted before: I preached a first-person narrative sermon. The text was the Magnificat, so I preached as Mary, explaining to Joseph about her pregnancy and her interaction with Elizabeth. I was really nervous about stepping away from the pulpit and doing something so different. But in the second service, it went really well. Several of the people who heard it said it was meaningful for them, and I really had fun trying something different. I wish I could have caught their facial reactions on film, but I couldn't exactly pull out my camera while I was preaching.

I got spoiled by having lunch out with friends from church, then I returned home to work on cleaning my apartment and finishing up Christmas preparations to get ready for my parents' visit. I was productive, but there weren't a lot of great moments to capture on film. But I did FINALLY hang up some of my pictures, so my walls are no longer bare.

This picture doesn't capture the best moments of my day, but it is something that made me smile.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Double Post!

I know you're deeply disappointed in me for not posting any pictures yesterday. The fact is, I took lots of pictures. But I couldn't post them because I was out of town and forgot to bring the cord to connect my camera to my computer. So today I'm going to post two days' worth of pictures.

Yesterday I spent the day shopping and hanging out with a seminary friend. We visited Colonial Williamsburg and went to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens.

Just as we walked into Busch Gardens, it started to snow. It made for a beautiful evening.

Today I returned home to discover that about eight inches of snow had fallen during the night. I caught up on some things around the apartment, but soon began to worry about getting to church in the morning with the snowy, icy roads. I decided to spend the evening with our Director of Christian Education and stay at her apartment overnight, since her apartment is closer to the church than mine.

We played in the snow, made some dinner, and watched Christmas movies. It was lovely.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I didn't think to get out my camera today, though I had a great time shopping, joking around with co-workers, and attending a Christmas party for a group from church. But this evening, as I was relaxing in my living room, I looked up and saw my nativity. It was made by a member of my church in Atlanta, and it always makes me smile. The figures are woodburned into blocks of finished 2x4, which always makes me think of supplies from ASP. Plus, every time I look at it, I remember the fun I had with my friends from that church: singing in the choir, laughing at terrible puns, talking sports, and ministering to the people of the community.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shepherd Staff

During Advent, church staffs are very busy, putting together bulletins, planning extra worship services, going to meetings and celebrations... the very things that I was afraid would keep me from really observing Advent and celebrating Christmas. But for a few hours this afternoon, we took a break from that busyness to celebrate together. We shared a potluck lunch and had a gift exchange at the senior pastor's house. It was wonderful to get to share down time with one another, to laugh and joke and converse about non-work things. It reminded me how blessed I am to have a talented, kind staff to work with.

Good Council

Tonight was the Christmas celebration for the council, and the dinner, games, and conversation were a wonderful part of my day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fog Delay

Today I awoke to a dense cloud outside my window. The whole area was blanketed with fog. So, since I'd already arranged to come into the office late, I rolled over and granted myself a fog delay. It reminded me of those days when I was in elementary and high school when, upon waking up in the morning, I'd discover that everything out the living room windows was obscured by fuzzy gray. At that moment, I'd run to my radio to listen for the school delays. We'd start with a one hour delay - I'd hustle back to bed for as much extra sleep as I could manage. When I woke up and checked again, we'd have moved on to a two-hour delay, and I'd use the extra time to sit in my pajamas on the couch and watch cartoons or the Today show. If I was really, really lucky, school would be cancelled by ten a.m., then the fog would burn off by eleven. Then we'd have the rest of the day, unencumbered, to relax and enjoy ourselves.

So, fog is attached to wonderful memories for me. It seems magical, softening all the hard edges and making the world seem calmer somehow. Today that softness seemed like a gift from God.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweet Treats

Sundays are, as you might imagine, very long days for pastors. Today I was at church for twelve hours. Some of those hours were really intense: leading worship, conducting interviews, teaching confirmation. Others were powerful: the service of Lessons and Carols was beautiful, and incredibly meaningful. But by the end of it, all I wanted to do was kick off my shoes and chill on the couch. I didn't even want to scrounge for dinner. So, I threw some frozen veggies in the microwave and opened the tin that a couple of wonderful church folks left outside my office. Inside the tin was an instant smile: sweets and baked goods of many kinds, that I didn't need to cook or bake myself. YUM!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Staying In

I stayed in most of the day today to catch up on things here. I did chores, wrote prayers for tomorrow, wrapped some Christmas presents, and generally relaxed. So, my happy thought for the day is this: my Christmas tree with actual wrapped presents beneath it. It doesn't have a ton of ornaments on it (and none on the back!) but it still reminds me of my favorite Christmas memories. There are ornaments from my parents' tree at home, ornaments my seminary friends and I made together, and ornaments from friends from my new church. It has tangible reminders of great times with loved ones, and it's almost like a tiny part of each of them is here in my apartment, even though they're far away.

Season of Light

This evening was a fantastic! I went out for dinner and the tacky light tour with our Director of Christian Education and two wonderful friends from church. We feasted, laughed, had great conversation, and got to see some incredible decorations.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pastor Friends

Today I had a meeting of my provisional covenant group, and it was fantastic to get to share some laughs and some great conversation with my clergy friends. After a long drive home and two hours of hectically trying to catch up on the work I didn't get done earlier in the day, I took a break for a fantastic dinner with another clergy friend, followed by sharing a slice of cheesecake from the Carnegie Deli. In the midst of a stressful week, this time with colleagues helped me keep my sanity.
(And I know this says it's Friday, but it's only fifteen minutes past Thursday...)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Old Man and the Shoe

I had a great time today making a gingerbread house with the girl I mentor. But because of child protection policies and stuff I couldn't take a picture of that. And I had lunch with a friend from out of town, but I didn't have my camera with me. So, I found myself at a friend's apartment at the end of the day, having not yet taken a picture of something that made me smile. Then I saw it: something that made me laugh that I can share with you.

This is Santa, sitting on a shoe-shaped chair.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Chapel Redefined

The Minister of Visitation and the Minister of Missions apparently bought ties for the mission team a few years ago. The ties, which feature outlines of the Blues Brothers and the words "On a Mission from God", are AWESOME. Since we liked them so much, the guys gave them to me and to our new Director of Christian Ed. So, we showed them off by wearing them to Home Depot today.

Then this evening, after lots of planning and sketching, after meetings with Trustees, fire marshals, building inspectors, and the emerging worship planning team, we finally rearranged the chapel. We had help from youth volunteers, members of the team, and a few brave adult volunteers. I couldn't get a good angle to get a picture of the whole room, but I got these that show some of the arrangement.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Deep Breath

Today was all go-go-go, from the moment I woke up until about five minutes ago when I got home from a church event. The morning was stressful and I had moments when I nearly tore my hair out. The evening was awesome, I had a great time relaxing and laughing with a committee of hard working people I've been in ministry with this year. But for a brief moment between the workday and the evening events, I drove into the sunset. I took deep breaths and noticed, for the first time all day, that the sky was an interesting color, that the clouds were dancing in graceful shapes across the sky. And in that moment, there was peace.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Second Sunday of Advent: Productivity

Today I led three worship services, taught a Sunday School Class, and put together a bunch of Christmas cards. If I could, I'd show a picture of the setup for the Blue Christmas Service, which was lovely, but I'm pretty sure pulling out a camera during that particular service wouldn't have been a good idea. So, here are some of the cards. I'm not done with all the ones I need to send yet, but between the chores I did yesterday and the stuff I got done today, I feel like I'm going into the new week ahead instead of behind.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snow Day!

Granted, it hasn't snowed very much, and it hasn't accumulated at all, but it was nice to look out at the falling flakes while I cleaned, decorated, and did chores around the apartment!

Warm Hands

This evening I had the opportunity to spend some time with two of my clergy friends. We broke bread together, talked and laughed around a warm fire, made S'mores, drank hot cider, and watched the Muppet Christmas Carol. It was a lovely break from all the work of Advent, and it was deeply relaxing. There's something about being in a safe space, sharing food and stories with people that sets my heart at ease. So, today I'm thankful for the care of friends, and for warmth in the midst of cold weather.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Blind Side

Today was an incredibly long day, and I faced some unexpected setbacks in one of my major projects. Most unexpectedly, I spent the day talking with a building inspector and filling out building permits. So, by the end of my 12-hour day, I was exhausted and a bit grumpy. But a friend called and invited me out to see the Blind Side after my meeting. I'm reading the book, and so far I've really enjoyed it. And the movie exceeded my expectations. Sandra Bullock did a fantastic job portraying Leigh Anne. By the end of the movie, I had released all the stress of the day and I found myself smiling again.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Stepping Up

I walked into the office this morning expecting an ordinary day. Then our office manager informed me that our church had become a disaster management center for the day. I had been told when I arrived that we are a Red Cross Disaster Center, that we take people in when crises occur and provide a place to stay, but I hadn't seen it in action before. I was amazed and extremely impressed.

The previous evening there had been a fire at a retirement community nearby. Many of the residents had to be evacuated and had nowhere to go for the night. The Red Cross contacted the coordinators at our church (trained and very dedicated lay members) who contacted our Facility Manager and Minister of Missions. Together, they made all the necessary arrangements for the displaced people to have beds and meals, they helped facilitate communication with families and arranging temporary placements for all of them. They worked with the Red Cross volunteers and employees to keep the situation under control. Church members and people from the community stepped up to offer whatever help they could. And as I watched all of this happen, as I watched people who had stayed up all night smile and minister to people as though they weren't exhausted, I was amazed. This is what the incarnation is all about.

Today, this ministry was what made me smile, and what made me proud to be a part of this faith community.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Model Box

In his prayer during our staff meeting this morning our senior pastor referred to Advent as a "pregnant time". I love that imagery. It is a time when we are heavy with expectation, curious and excited about what is to come. It was also interesting timing, since this is a bit of a "pregnant time" for one of my big responsibilities at the church: a new emergent worship service. Part of my work on that service has been planning a rearrangement of the chapel where the service will be held. I can explain theologically what I want to do, and I can brainstorm ideas, but interior design and arrangement of space are not my strengths. Fortunately for me, we have a very gifted member who is also studying theater at NYU. She volunteered to advise us and to provide us with some tools for our planning. Today, a wonderful gift arrived from her: a model box. The model box is a scale model of the space, complete with all the important things that will go in the chapel. It allows us to arrange and re-arrange the space in 3-D without having to move all the furniture. The arrival of the model box made me grin and actually jump up and down with excitement.

Here is a picture of the awesome model box. The brown space around it in the picture is another happy thought: the surface of my desk is actually visible!