Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Going on This Week?

Oh you know, just working in our office. 

And I preached Sunday morning.  You can listen here

Otherwise, finished Veronica Mars Season Two, writing a Congregational Leadership paper, having some of my favorite international students (Reina from Japan and Yunseon and his wife and 11 month old daughter from South Korea) over for black bean burgers tomorrow evening, working on developing healthy eating habits with the help of this website from the USDA, and plowing forward on the ordination stuff!  


Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's Goin' On, and Some Lenten Resolutions

Hi folks!  Sorry it's been a while.  My number one Lenten resolution, to reduce my internet time, has greatly effected my blogging time.  Additionally, Evelyn is turning out to be a routine lover.  How on earth did a routine lover come out of me?  

She wakes up approximately 5 minutes before the alarm goes off at 7:30.  She requires two naps a day, at 10:30 and 2.  She goes to bed at 8:00.  If this doesn't happen Fussy Francine, as my sister-in-law used to call Little Zoey in her fussy moments, comes to live with us.  I'll tell you what, keeping Evelyn's routine and my complete lack of routine in sync is quite a struggle.  I never used to have to turn down appointments or playdates, and now I do.  It's also kind of nice.  At 8:00, Maic and I get to have our own time.  Lately, we've been spending most of our free time watching Veronica Mars and eating cheese and crackers.  Oh shoot, we're my parents! 

For example, I need to think twice about signing my babe up for a fashion show
that starts at 11:00 when naptime is at 10:30. 
If we get all the naptimes straight, she's the happiest baby on the block! 

I made it over some big hills the past couple weeks as well.  I finished my ordination paper and my thesis proposal finally got accepted.  I'm feeling great about both.  Two weeks from today, I have my ordination interview back in Ohio, after which I should be able to start searching for a call, providing that my profile is put together by that time.  My thesis is living like a fiery flame of passion in my mind right now.  I discovered an artist, Artemisia Gentilesche, who painted some interesting renditions of Judith, but most importantly painted Biblical heroines from a female point of view, something that we don't see much of.  Her commentators speak to a lot of my observations about Judith and art, so it is helping me to find the right sources to integrate into my thesis. 

One of Artimisia Gentilesche's Judith paintings.
"Shoot girl, why are you writing about this horrible woman
and why are you posting such violent images on your blog?"

 I know, I know, just wait.  It will all make sense in the end.  

The journey to May 19th, my graduation day, still seems quite uphill.  But I'm having a great time, making sure not to miss the awesome things that come with being a Mama in St. Louis.  

We're super excited for our friends, Emma and Rob, who are having a baby in March!
Stacy, our friend Jacq, and I threw a baby shower for them last weekend. 

Had a great playdate this week with our good friend Collin,
who's four days younger than Evelyn...

And Ellie, who's eight days younger than Evelyn! 

Oh, by the way, wanna know my Lenten resolutions?  
1.  I am spending less time on the internet.  You know, I really am addicted.  I hate it.  I don't know what "less" will look like at this point, but it's a process.  Definitely not going on as long as Evelyn is awake.  
2.  We are not going out to eat during Lent, with the probable exception of when we are home in Ohio.  
3. Reading the UCC daily devotionals and these really great expansive language prayers at each day. 

I'll leave you with a photo of Evelyn in her favorite hat.
It's softer than the stupid ones her mama knits for her. 

Thanks for reading, everybody.  Sharing this journey is so much fun for me.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!  If you have a moment, I'd love it if you would "follow" my blog by clicking "follow" in the upper left hand corner.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Evelyn and Sybil

Over the past few months, a relationship has developed that has really changed my outlook on life.  I've mentioned before that Evelyn and I do visits to home-bound members of the church.  Usually they are in nursing homes, but sometimes they still live in their own home with a nurse who visits frequently.  Seeing them together, there is this beautiful image of two people so close to God-- one at the beginning of her life, and one coming up on the end.  I feel like they both know something about God that we can't know.  They have this unique spiritual connection.  In the case of the older women there is often dementia or lack of muscle control or simple inability to explain the loneliness and frustration of getting older and in the case of Evelyn, her inability to talk or control her body.  These limitations and frustrations somehow bring them so close to one another.  They seem to "get" each other, and I feel like they communicate more deeply with God because of their inability to communicate with humans.  

I  know a lot of that is my perception rather than the reality.  I'm not trying to pretend that Evelyn isn't a baby, doing baby things and thinking almost constantly about eating or reaching for the closest fragile object or sugar-coated donut to shove into her mouth when I'm not looking.  Evelyn and these women certainly aren't speaking to each other telepathically or in some other realm, but I do think they connect in a way that I can't understand or explain.  

In the particular relationship I'm talking about, it feels less perceived and more real.  Sybil is a bright woman.  She is an artist, and was a commercial artist for much of her life, but had a debilitating stroke 20 years ago that left her more or less unable to use her gift.  You can tell that she still looks at the world with the eyes of an artist, and she reads probably a half dozen books in a week.  Talking isn't easy for her, though, so she is very brief and often silent.  She listens well.  

I believe that Evelyn sees the world through artist's eyes too.  Obviously she's only six months old and still developing a personality, but she is very aware of art, colors, and patterns.  If you've ever spent time with her, I think you will understand what I'm talking about.  She looks at things like she wants to know everything about them, with a very real sense of awe.  And if you haven't spent time with her, you've at least seen her eyes.  That girl's gotta soak everything up.  

Well, when I bring these two together, I can tell that they have a bond that I can't quite get.  It's more than the glasses and the bright, beautiful lap quilts that Sybil wears.  Evelyn is so calm and gentle when she's by her.  She touches her fingers so gently and stares into Sybil's knowing eyes.  And Sybil smiles when she's around her.  I can tell that Sybil is excited to see that for some people, life is just beginning. 

I've been wanting to write about this on my blog for a long time, but I haven't had the words.  I hope that what I'm trying to say makes sense.  Their's is a very spiritual relationship for me, which makes it difficult to explain to anyone.  I know I will always remember these moments, and I hope that as Evelyn continues to grow, she will continue to minister to people in beautiful and extraordinary ways.  

Finally, I'd like to include a small excerpt from my ordination paper, in which I wrote a little bit about this exact subject: 
"God did not just liberate through Jesus Christ, but continues to liberate through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is our renewal and our guide, constantly meeting us here and now to remind us of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the grace and hesod (steadfast love) of our Creator.  Because the Holy Spirit is so ethereal, I am better able to explain this person of the Trinity through experiences in my life than through the writings and musings of other theologians.  The Holy Spirit is ceaselessly sustaining me, but is tangible in the “thin places” in my life—those places where the divide between Heaven and Earth is thin.  I believe it was the Holy Spirit who encouraged me into the ministry—as a fleeting breath, present, certain, but unable to be contained.  Each Sunday during coffee hour, the Holy Spirit brings together my daughter and a woman in hospice care—an artist who had a debilitating stroke 20 years ago.  I watch them from that thin place, Evelyn tracing her tiny, uncontrollable hands over the patterns on Sybil’s lap quilt, and Sybil understands that Evelyn is just like her—unable to control her hands and unable to explain her discomfort—and feels for just a while like someone gets her, and I know that in that moment church is happening."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Finished, and relaxing!

I'm sorry I left you all hanging.  I did finish my ordination paper.  I still feel like a lot of it is a draft, but the hardest part is done.  Next, I meet with the working group in Ohio via Skype and they offer suggestions for revisions.  

I really want to take a little time to rest, but I'm aware that a final revision of my thesis proposal is now overdue.    Finishing it requires at least a couple hours in the library developing my bibliography.  I have the motivation, it's just a matter of finding the time.  

Rest will not be left undone this weekend however.  Maic and I are going on a date Saturday night-- something we haven't done since Evelyn was six weeks old, and even then it was to an Eden fundraising event so it wasn't much of a date.  Not sure what we're going to do yet, because it's the weekend before Valentine's Day and restaurants are sure to be packed.  All I know is Evelyn is hanging out with Stacy, and we're going to do something fun together.  Then on Sunday, we're having a baby shower for another Eden student who is having her baby next month!  

Other than that, here are a few things that are going on around here: 

We're trying to get Evelyn on a sleep schedule instead of putting her to bed whenever we go to bed.
As a result, Maic made this comic strip, which I think is pretty much the truest thing I've ever seen.
 If you can't read it, click on the photo to enlarge it.  

Evelyn and I Skyped with Gramma and sent an e-mail to cousin Zoey's new e-mail account.
They set one up so people can send her memories and letters, etc.
I think we'll do the same for Evelyn soon. 

I'm stash-busting (aka trying to clear out my yarn stash by knitting a bunch).
Here is a big shawl, and a summer tank top.
I'm also making a baby blanket for a friend.  Not pictured :)  

Evelyn learned to put her foot in her mouth.  Okay, now you try.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Writing My Ordination Paper is So Hard

The first draft of my ordination paper is due on Thursday.  This is the basic prompt, but it is a bit more complex than this: 

One of the last steps in the Discernment process is the writing of an ordination essay, a theological essay of approximately 4,000 words (16 pages) in which the candidate sets forth her or his Christian experience, sense of call to the ministry, and articulates, as clearly as possible, his or her understanding and appropriation of classical theological concepts.
I have been writing it since November, on a lovely afternoon when Evelyn was taking a nap and the three of us went up to Cafe Nura with a yellow pad of paper and a pen and I talked my way through my theology of God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Scripture, Humanity, Christian Education, the Church (local to universal), and Ordination.  After that talk, I had so much written on that pad of paper that I was sure the actual execution of the essay would be a cinch. 

It is now two days before its due date and I have three separate documents in a folder entitled "Ordination Paper"-- Ordination Paper, Ordination Paper 2, and Ordination Paper 3.  Funny how the only thing actually due on Thursday is a draft. 

I've been on edge about it.  Quite moody, actually.  I can't write it if the dishes are dirty or if Evelyn is awake.  I can't write it if it's cold outside or when the construction workers are noisy (and they are).  I can't write it at my office at First Congo or in my apartment or at the cafe. 

These are all ridiculous excuses.  Why is this so hard?  

I was thinking about it just now, in the shower, after yelling at Maic for being so "negative" about my ordination paper (he wasn't) and realized that the reason this is so hard is because this paper has so much emotion wrapped up in it. 

It's been almost exactly seven years since I received my call to ministry on January 23rd, 2005.  Writing this paper and talking about my ordination process is bringing back so many memories of people who have been involved my my call and moments when I have questioned and moments when I have felt so sure.  My head is just very full.  

As I write my paper, I am thinking about my friend, Kris Doychak, who served as a youth delegate to General Synod with me in 2005, smiling at me as the two of us held up our voting cards to approve the UCC Resolution in support of Marriage Equality.  He died in 2006.  Too soon.  I am thinking about my Grandpa Smyres, who was already in the beginning stages of dementia when I realized my passion for theology.  I never even knew how into theology he was himself until it was too late, so now I have theological discussions with him through underlines and margin notes in his old books.  I am remembering the more recent deaths of my Grandpa Smith and friend and colleague Ryan Matthews (who, too, wrote his ordination paper), who I never even really got to mourn because I have been so wrapped up in Evelyn and school.  And I'm thinking about my first sermons, preached at First Congregational UCC of Berea, in the sanctuary that is now a concert hall for Baldwin-Wallace College.  

A photo of Ryan Matthews, at his memorial service at Eden Chapel,
taken by Katie Hotze and stolen from Facebook by me. 

First Congregational UCC of Berea, Ohio, 2008. 
Additionally, I'm thinking of friendships that have faded away.  There are people who were so strongly a part of my early call who I have, for some reason or another, not spoken to in a long time.  Namely, my boyfriend at the time with whom I spent every waking hour for three years and who was with me as I first came to terms with who God was calling me to be, my Sunday School teacher and youth group leader who probably knew I was called before I did, but for reasons I either don't remember or don't understand, we stopped talking, and the religion department faculty at Baldwin-Wallace College, brilliant men and women, most of whom I haven't spoken to since I graduated.  

Our Confirmation banner, put together collaboratively with
Patty Collins, Rev. Kurt Katzmar, and the confirmation class
at a little association-owned cabin on the lake in Ohio.  

Finally, I'm remembering moments.  Like the thin places where the space between Heaven and Earth was barely there-- like my two summers in France and Eastern Europe when I realized that Van Gogh didn't make up those colors-- God's Creation really is that beautiful, our wedding when we brought together our two faith traditions in an attempt to demonstrate the way "that they may all be one" (John 17:21), and of course the moment when I pressed my baby's cheek to my lips for the first time.  And the struggles-- that same time in Europe when I thought I didn't need God anymore because I had mountains and endless fields of poppies and summer flings, the beginning of my relationship with Maic when I was desperately in love but not Catholic enough, and the times when Seminary just seemed like too much.  

Atop Les Alpilles in Southern France, 2007

My first day in St. Louis, waiting for the Fall Semester to start, 2009

Our wedding, co-officated by
Reverend Martha Chenault and Father James Ols, 2010

Miss Evelyn, minutes old, 2011. 

So how on earth does one flesh out a comprehensive theology when these thoughts are piling up and taking over my brain?  That's my dilemma.  That's why it's so hard.  

But guys, I hope you're not reading this wrong.  I'm not trying to complain about having to write this paper (it's a really great exercise and I'm glad I have to do it) or say that I'm bothered by all these thoughts.  All I want to say is that writing this paper is like sitting in a room with all of these people, traveling to these places, and reliving these events.  Could you write a paper with that many distractions?  And I only named a few!

Well, I do have 2,600 out of 4,000 words down.  And the first sentence is, "I am extraordinarily blessed."  

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