Sunday, August 30, 2009

nothing routine about it

i'm still reveling in the fact that the laundry machine in my new house is just steps outside of my bedroom. it seems weird for it to be so easy to wash clothes, after spending a summer hauling a bag full of YouthWorks shirts 1.5 hours to a laundromat. it's amazing how quickly we can slip into new routines--or new versions of old routines.

as it happens, there are many new routines i am trying to establish. the newness and novelty of life in Atlanta certainly haven't worn off after one week, though i do feel like this is home now. some things i've already gotten down--like setting the security alarm and loading the dishwasher and sharing a bathroom. others i'm still working on--finding the best route home from Emory, deciding what to buy at the grocery store now that it's just me, knowing where the best gas station nearby is located.

and there is one routine, one pattern that i want to establish in my new life here, that i know is still a long time coming--church.

it's a daunting task, really. a huge, Southern city full of churches. it's more than just one on every corner--just up the road, we have Latter-Day Saints, Orthodox, and Lutheran worship buildings right in a row, with a Primitive Baptist church across the street. there are big churches and small churches, Methodist and non-Methodist, contemporary and traditional.

so what is it, exactly that i'm looking for? i wish i knew. the truthful answer is that i'm looking for God and a community of people with which to seek after Him. that doesn't necessarily narrow it down--and then, on top of that, i know that i add the qualifications of worship style, age demographic, theology. and, as with most anything, i'm waiting for that 'it' factor.

i do know that where Arden & I went this morning was probably not it. we decided to try a big Methodist church in Decatur-traditional service. i have to preface our experience by saying that today was children's Sunday, which we both understood to be a bit of a hindrance in our actual experience of the church service. today was atypical. but what i can say is that it was huge--too big, i think. and a little too "high church"-y for me (Catholics and Episcopals might laugh at my threshold for high church tolerance, but what can i say? i haven't really been in a hymn-singing, liturgy-based, doxology-and-gloria-patri-filled church since i was in middle school. my experience of church as an adult Christian has been "contemporary").

i'm going to buckhead church again this evening, to get a second impression. i'm not sure if it's exactly what i'm looking for--might be a bit too big, a bit too trendy. however, the preaching was fantastic (hologram though it was), the "flavor" and atmosphere are more of what i think i'm looking for. hopefully, as class begins this week and i begin to meet more second- and third-years, i can stop searching websites and start asking people where i might find all of these things.

this process is made especially difficult by the fact that the past experiences of "church hunting" in my life ran fairly smoothly. after leaving the church in which i was confirmed, my mother & i stumbled upon our current church with relative ease, and felt at home almost immediately. it wasn't a hard decision for us to transfer our membership there. at UNC, i spent my first year attending a traditional Methodist church based on the sole factor of distance--i could walk there. when i acquired a car sophomore year, i attended a kick-off event at Chapel Hill Bible Church in September, and decided to call it home after only a few more visits. i got plugged into the college Sunday school class, volunteered in the nursery, fellowshiped with a local family that took in college students as their own. even this summer, in Hyde County, we knew almost instantly that Swan Quarter Baptist would be our church family--and they truly were, in every way.

is it supposed to be easy, though? seeking out true community and a place to worship and meet God and experience life change. i guess we're lucky if we ever find that, much less multiple times over the course of our lives.

the really good news is that i think i'll have all of those things in my faith community at Candler. two days until i'm an official student of theology!

i'll also have one more routine to learn--and that is the routine of things at my new job! yes, i finally landed a work-study position. i'll be working in the office of the vice president. i applied for the position of office assistant as it was listed on Emory's job bank. the posting mentioned possible work on a new book on the history of Emory. as it turns out, that seems to be most of the work i'll be doing! as a former literary editor of the South Meck High yearbook, it's right up my alley and completely unexpected. i had to complete a little quiz of grammar during my interview and i guess i still have a knack for it because i was hired mere hours later. it feels good to be wanted, you know? more about that as it, too, becomes part of my routine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

atlanta's newest resident

well, here i am, sitting on my bed in atlanta, taking a look at the world from my latest vantage point. it still all feels a little surreal. i mean, only two weeks ago did i leave birmingham after youthworks debrief. which means that only two & a half weeks ago i was still a fully functional site director--hosting a group of 70 in Hyde County. experiencing a new level of sleep deprivation, living in a middle school, and interacting 24/7 with my amazing friends & fellow staff. and now i'm here. in a house in atlanta that is my own. today i went to the first day of grad school orientation. yesterday i had an interview for a job here (which actually helped me process a bit more through the YouthWorks experience--they kept asking me questions on it & I sure had plenty to say!). tomorrow we'll have to fight the Atlanta morning commute. next week--class begins! really, really am I back in school? i'm still not sure. i bet when i sit down with my first mound of reading--then perhaps it will feel real!

i cannot fully express how thankful i am that i participated in the leadership candler event back in the spring. from that experience, i have a great roommate (arden, for future reference). last night we went out to dinner with a group of 8 of us. today at orientation, i saw familiar faces again & again. it is so comforting to have a bit of built-in community here in this new place. it's so scary to pick up & try to dive into life in a new city because, more often than not, you're completely alone. making friends is possible, but it takes time. here, i've got a core group of friends from the get-go. maybe we'll be tight all three years at Candler, maybe we'll all find our own niche & group of friends elsewhere. but for now, at least, it is the hugest blessing to have friendly faces.

and let's see--the house! it's pretty amazing. i am mostly settled into my new room and it's nice to have a new environment. i also like moving in that it helps you downsize in some ways. right now, i know exactly where everything is & know that it's only stuff that i need (well, mostly). we have an amazing front porch, extremely well-furnished and well-decorated common areas, a kitchen with every gadget known to man (including a dishwasher that achieves such heat levels that it melted my youthworks water bottle :( not okay!!). we're in a cute neighborhood that is green & hilly & full of beautiful & eclectic homes. it feels so good to be in a house. and our third roommate/landlord, Courtney, seems really great. She's about 3 years older than me, and works in the area. She is super friendly & clean & organized I went to church with her on Sunday morning. She's quite the social butterfly, so it's almost the best of both worlds--we'll get to spend time with her around the house & when we plan little house dates, but it's also nice that we don't all 3 have to always be in each other's hair & spending every waking moment together. i'm sure it will eventually be nice to have someone outside of our Candler bubble to talk to about it all. i think things are really going to work out great.

speaking of church, the place i visited on sunday with Courtney is called Buckhead and it probably falls on the mega-church end of the spectrum. It is a satellite/daughter church/church plant of Andy Stanley's main campus in Alpharetta. The santuary space is the huge auditorium--no crosses or artwork of any kind, just a very neutral space. The worship band was amazing but we only sang two songs & it felt a little too rigid for me. In the past, when I have experienced this "rock band", super loud style of worship, there has been a feeling of complete abandoment among the worshippers. I didn't really feel that in this space (not a judgement & certainly not necessarily accurate of how anyone else was feeling) & it was just cut a little too short as well. There followed an amazing baptism ceremony of a 30-something couple, and a great sermon by Andy Stanley himself. Come to find out, however, that though he was slated to preach that day, he was broadcasted in. And they didn't just play a video up on the screens--they had a life-size version of the recording projected onto the stage space...almost as if it was supposed to look like he was really there. Weird. BUT nonetheless it was an amazing message. They're currently doing a series called "Losing Your Religion" and he preached on Acts 17, where Paul gives his famous Mars Hill discourse. Beautiful stuff. And I loved how he gave a great exegetical sermon--very tuned into the word itself, and referencing the Greek all over the place (quite inspirational for an incoming seminarian). His main point was that Paul was making it clear that Jesus did not come down to be another option on the list of religions or idols. Religion is man's way of seeking the divine, reaching out for the unknown--manifested in all the ways we see today, and in Paul's time, in all the temples and different gods that covered every base, so to speak. Yet God chose to end the process of man seeking the unknown through religion (since so much was off the mark) and came down to us, in the person of Jesus--God in the flesh, emmanuel.

So--GREAT teaching, but still a lot to figure out. One advantage of such a huge church is the amazing things they're able to do with community ministry. There is a (groan) "singles" ministry that actually seems pretty cool. You sign up & they intentionally stick you in a group with people you're likely to connect with. Then you just have several Sunday evening gatherings where the point is simply to meet & mingle. Christian speed dating? Perhaps--but a great way to meet people in a relatively safe way. There is also the opportunity to get plugged into more traditional small groups. So I'm sure I will visit there another couple of Sundays & possibly get hooked into those ministries. Depending on how I'm feeling, I've considered going to multiple churches on one Sunday (several I've looked at have night service anyway) so this "shopping" (another groan) process can go a little faster. But I suppose trusting in the Lord to lead me into the right place is the best option. I know that there is a community of faith here that I can belong to (the nice thing is I've already got one at Candler!)

Final updates:
-I really may have a touch of bronchitis--my whooping cough is quite fierce & wheezy. Nonetheless, I'm auditioning for the choir here next Tuesday. So excited!
-My dad got me a new computer for school as an early birthday present. It really is great & I can already see how much better & faster it works than the old one. But...I miss the old one. A familiar story: missing what is comfortable & familiar when CHANGE happens to bring along something new. It's just that all my favorite websites are preset over there, and my pictures are on the screen saver, and don't even get me started about trying to switch my iTunes library over.
-It feels a little weird to shower every day...without shower shoes on. But I think I'm slowly & surely acclimating back to real life post-YouthWorks.

I apologize that this is not a terribly poetic or thoughtful post--just a few updates on my new life here. Call me anytime to hear more--there is plenty more going on!

LORD, you have assigned me my portion & my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me.

Psalm 16:5-7

Friday, August 21, 2009

body in rebellion

my body is sounding its rebel yell. last night i was up from 3:30 to 5 hacking up a lung, tossing & turning (i seem to have caught the whooping cough from Liz across time & space). i think my immune system is just freaking out, really. i'd been trying to exercise every day between arriving home & moving to Atlanta, and yesterday i had to admit defeat. i missed my last chance at cardio funk. that's serious business. and i've been so tired--this week, nearly every night, i've slept almost twice as long as i did on a normal youthworks night.

and that frightening fact, my friends, is what caused the following realization to dawn on me: my body has every right to go haywire on me as i've been trying to shift it back to normalcy after a youthworks summer. for those of you who don't know, being on staff with youthworks caused the following to happen to my body:

  • no (intentional) exercise. not only is exercise, obviously, a way to stay in shape, but it is my primary form of stress release. i had an outlet for neither on our schedule.
  • not only was i unable to relieve my stress through exercise, but instead i began eating my way through it. and it wasn't just stress--i ate my feelings. tired? have a 11pm bowl of cereal. frustrated? here's a peanut butter & honey tortilla wrap. angry? poptart. sad? bag of Doritos. impatient? animal crackers. you get the idea...
  • Martelle's, the Johnsons, David & Anita, and Beck's (good enough to slap your grandma, but way too many calories)--all the local favorites kept us saturated in grease & sweets.
  • i think i've established that a lot of junk was going in (4 pounds worth, as it turns out. grr) but there wasn't a whole lot of good stuff mixed in there with it. we had salad out every day--but it was iceberg lettuce aka water in leaf form. occasional fruit & fresh veggies (Sunday afternoons were our salvation), but not as much as I usually eat. just a general lack of variety in diet.
  • Hyde County water. affectionately referred to as "poison" or "cancer water." we purchased a well of salvation (that is, a Brita filter) but couldn't drink from it 100% of the time.
  • we. didn't. sleep. we had to push & push & push our bodies far beyond what they'd normally endure, and as everything inside us called out for rest, we had 6 more hours to go before the day was over. "tired" headaches became a common occurrence--a literal pull behind the eyes, the brain trying to shut them, which had to be ignored& thus developed into a headache.
  • inhalation of bleach fumes.
it really should come as no surprise, thus, that i'm currently in such a state of disarray. i've had over a week of rest & recuperation (which is a good deal more than at least one of my teammates) but i feel like it's all just beginning to hit me--not good for the big move tomorrow. i want to be 100% myself as i dive into this new life, this new adventure.

another after-effect of the summer: continued numbness. right now, all my possessions are packed into my little Focus & ready to drive off down I-85 tomorrow morning, where 4 hours hence everything will be unloaded into my new house. my amazing new house. where i will be living this year. and attending seminary. i'm excited--i am. but not enough. the same thing happened at the end of the YouthWorks summer--it kept drawing nearer & nearer until finally it was the last week, then the last full day, then we were saying goodbyes at 5am next to airport shuttles, and it still wasn't real. i still don't think i really have gotten that the summer is over, that YouthWorks is over. i mean, i get that--i'm sitting here in Charlotte, not Hyde County, on a couch, not a classroom floor. but i haven't felt it. the first half of the summer, i kept wondering how it would feel--how sad or bittersweet it would be--to drive out of Hyde County for the last time. then when that day finally came, it just happened. we just drove away & that was that. and now, i'm about to move to Atlanta and earlier this spring I was bouncing up & down with anticipation. i know, i KNOW that is all buried down inside me, because I am thrilled to be attending seminary, but i still just can't feel. being on staff at YouthWorks requires you to repress so much--you're "on" all day long. so no matter how angry or upset or frustrated or elated you are about one thing or another, you've got to keep going. so you push it all down. you swallow your feelings (often times washed down with an oreo or poptart, as mentioned above) and plan to deal with them later. but it never relents, there's never time or space to deal with it. so we became numb.

there was a point during the summer when the staff was very seriously considering following through on our pact to get tattoos. okay, so it didn't happen (lame, i know--but i'm still up for it if anyone's in!) but at one point i turned to katy & commented that getting that tattoo would hurt--and that would be a feeling that couldn't be pushed down or ignored or swallowed for later. i wanted that pain, that hurt just so i could feel.

i know eventually everything is going to hit like a tidal wave. all the emotions & feelings are going to well up until they burst out in a "david after dentist"-esque scream of pain & release & confusion.

clearly, just like my body is rebelling, my emotions are going to be a bit scarred for awhile, too. i want to feel all the joy & anticipation & awkwardness of this new Atlanta/Emory/seminary/big grown-up adventure instead of just wading through--wanting to experience everything in its fullness but not being all there.

i think it's going to start when i get on my face before God. i know everything i experienced in His ministry this summer is stored up inside me somewhere--and i just can't tap into it yet. i want to so badly. SO MUCH happened and i want to feel the rush of it, the overwhelming presence of God in & above & around & through what i just went through with YouthWorks. i'm still waiting on that. that's a tidal wave i'm ready to get lost in.

i'm ready, God. open me up again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

some other beginning's end

i've spent an inordinate amount of time looking through old journals & blog posts today. it's funny--when i'm writing, i rarely ever flash forward to think about some future version of myself reminiscing over the words i choose to express my feelings & circumstances in that present moment. writing is a release, a way to process, a way to communicate--with God in my journals, with friends & family on the blog. but i've been reading back over past entries (the oldest being from 2001) and doing that reminiscing all the same. i think the fact that all my thoughts are written without that intention of necessarily being read again and are composed instead fully in and for that moment alone--that lends itself to a more honest rendering, a 'me' who was more vulnerable, more candid, more real. i read recorded prayers from my high school self saying thanks to God for an awesome weekend with friends and for a forgotten homework assignment that was conveniently postponed by a particularly intimidating teacher. that's where I was with God at that point. and then i read journal entries from college, from the very midst of my struggles with changing majors. it was beautiful to see how engaged i was with seeking the Lord's will & living for His kingdom--how those things mattered more than anything else in making these HUGE decisions. i read blog posts from this past year about my preschoolers and my Sunday schoolers and about my cat and about applying for grad schools and not knowing where the future was headed.

it's interesting to remember who i've been and where i've come from as i ponder where i am going--where life is about to catapult me head-first, no turning back now. but sitting here on this crux of transition, mere days before i move to Atlanta & begin another life, it can be hard to prepare for what's coming when i still miss what's behind, when there are still days where mourning the endings overwhelms anticipating the beginnings.

today i talked with one of my very best friends--a friend i haven't seen since february (that's not okay). but what are we supposed to do? we live in 2 different states now, not just 2 different dorms. (how sweet that long walk across campus looks now, huh?) and that's how it is with everyone--friends are in California or Boston or DC or Chicago or New York. and we have full-time jobs and husbands and lives outside of the UNC-bubble. and we miss each other. what a radical change it is to have all your closest friends living within a 5 mile radius of one central campus hub, and then suddenly you're scattered across the country, across the world. admittedly, this summer it was hard to hear my YouthWorks teammates make plans for going back to school & seeing friends & getting back into leadership roles on campus. i had home to come back to...and next, a completely new place to get to know. i have phone dates. not real dates. i like real dates so much more.

but there is also a time to look forward. so here's to new relationships (without the loss of old ones) and to a new niche on a new campus and to a new community, a new church, a new house, a new place to discover whoever it is I am becoming.

Friday, August 14, 2009

God's got a mean headlock

there's something about rainy afternoons and hillsong and setting your toe against the starting line of a grand adventure that will set your soul a-whirling.

i'm antsy. and still swimming in a sea of emotional upheaval from life post-youthworks. and i had a little wrestle with God this morning. a little throw-down over this ordination business. and wouldn't you know, i walked away limping. and without any real clarity. God just doesn't like easy answers, does He?

you see, today was my first meeting with my candidacy mentor. and though it was far less formal than the interview i had with the UMC-Charlotte district superintendant back in May, somehow today i was all torn asunder inside. so i walk inside this ridiculous church (apparently the biggest Methodist church in the whole southeast) and meet this crazy pastor man with a southern accent and a Carolina class ring and a theology library bigger than that of my wildest dreams. and he tells me his story, about how his family is broken and he flipped burgers and did drugs for a while before heeding the call. then all through seminary he fought doubts and uncertainties and personal shortcomings and unworthiness. then at one point in our conversation, he turned to me and asked, "so are you thinking about ordination?" my jaw metaphorically dropped open so wide that you could have shoved his complete collection of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics down my throat. excuse me, what? you mean i don't have to be all in at this point? and you understand that? you're okay with that? and so i answered honestly--i'm here to check it out. i want to know why i would need this for whatever ministry the LORD ends up leading me into.

i couldn't bring myself to open up just yet about the role my scholarship plays in all this--that my $7000 stipend a year is a big reason i was sitting in that room today. earlier today, talking with God, i was ready to march into the Emory financial aid office and declare that I was tired of fighting this internal battle with myself and tired of wrestling with God Himself over this ordination stipulation--so they can just take their money back & i'll figure something out. perhaps God is teaching me how to depend on Him for resources & calling me to faithfully give up $7000 a year. but i feel like that is the easy way out, crazily enough. so i'm going to walk this path for awhile, and see where it leads. i have the feeling that my world is about to be up-ended when i move next saturday. and when i begin orientation for grad school in less than 2 weeks. when i become an official student of theology on September 1. so despite the fact that i needed to have this meeting today in the midst of my emotional overhaul (dangerous enough) , i think i'll refrain from making major decisions of any kind within this wonky in-between phase.

but let the wrestling match continue...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

re-entry, day 2

i'm not tired--it's a novel feeling. i have slept so much & done a whole lot of nothing over the past 2 days, and i think my body is thanking me. it's also thanking me for the exercise (one class each of zumba and cardio funk--yes!!) and the non-youthworks diet.

but i keep turning around and wanting to tell things to katy & liz & jake. and they aren't there. who else would understand about the underwear on the clothesline or the Boots face or the million other things I want to tell them? because i was telling them anything & everything nearly 24 hours a day for the last 2 months. even surrounded by family, i feel lonely without my constant companions.

and i have to remember to lock my car doors. and know that i won't be at Swan Quarter Baptist on any more Wednesday nights. no more waffle Thursdays or Martelle's on the weekends. if life inside Hyde County is crazy & eccentric, being shoved back into life outside it is just as insane. why won't anyone wave to me as we drive past one another on the road anymore?!

but readjustment is good in many ways--my eyebrows are plucked! i'm moving to Atlanta next Saturday. i've got an interview for a work study position as an office assistant with the American Academy of Religion. i'm getting my haircut on Saturday. i've been to the gym! i talked to my 2 best ex-roomies today & am having breakfast in the morning with one of my closest & oldest friends. i got to laugh with my brother over dinner last night. i'm starting grad school in less than 2 weeks & i'm getting excited about it again!

life just keeps moving, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

back to life

so i don't know whether it's the large pile of mail, the 3 or 4 bags to unpack, the laundry scattered across the house, the phone calls to make, or the 2 week time span remaining until i MOVE to Atlanta and begin GRAD school--but there is rather a lot to do to get back into life. i did a lot of sleeping yesterday, but suddenly the several days that i planned to just lie around & watch movies seem a bit unrealistic in the face of all there is to do. hmm--funny how that happens when you pick up & leave EVERYTHING behind for 2.5 months and expect to somehow start again where you left off. a lot has happened while i lived life in the YouthWorks bubble.

now that bubble has popped, and the task of re-entry is looming. i'm still in a state of disbelief, of numbness. feelings are slowly beginning to penetrate my consciousness--realization that i'm about to start seminary, sadness at leaving behind new friends. and i have so much talking to do with God.

so i'll be back here to verbalize through a bit of all that. for now, i'm just taking some time to remember what it's like to watch TV and pay bills and find food in a normal, one-family sized kitchen. it's good..but still weird.