Monday, October 8, 2012

YASC re-entry, NYC, VDC

So I just returned from an amazing trip to NYC where I reconnected with other YASC participants and friends from Hong Kong.

The retreat portion was a chance for the participants to reflect on our experiences and aid in processing all of the things we faced over the last year. It was a little daunting even though I have been back for a while longer than the rest of the group, but I found myself in tears over not only my own feelings but things the others had experienced too. There's a lot that I still need to let go of so that I can be fully present in my journey right now (among them my wanderlust... why is travel so expensive :( ) but overall I feel like I am in a good place to be starting the next phase of my life. This time marked the end of a period of my life that was full of a lot of pain and confusion and guilt and I feel like I got some amount of closure.

The love and support of my fellow YASCers means so much and I love each and every one of them. As we all move into new and exciting times in our lives I know we will remember the special bond we share. I truly felt the presence of God within these people and it is a comfort to know they carry that presence out into the world.

Another wonderful aspect of the trip was seeing two of my very best friends that I made in Hong Kong, Alex and Becca. Their friendship gave me light in dark times and I think Becca and I probably scared some people when we were screaming and hugging at the airport. The sheer joy of being with them again was overwhelming. We had some good times together; I went out with them on Friday night and we sang karaoke and hung out like old times.

I also got to see a lady that used to go to my church here in Murfreesboro, Gail. She moved back to New York a while back so it was good to meet up with her and chat for a bit. So many connections made!

Sunday I had the pleasure of going to Church of the Transfiguration, an anglo-catholic SUPER high church, with my friend Alex. In chatting with the rector there I discovered he had not only gone to seminary with my own bishop, but he also claimed to know Tennessee better than any other state in the union! (He is Australian). Crazy! The service was beautiful, the music was lovely. It was their celebration of Foundation Day (when the church was founded) so the readings and the sermon had to do with church being the place of God. The sermon was brilliant, given by a professor at GTS whose name escapes me. I did take away a thought that I think will help me in my own discernment. He was talking about how becoming an ordained priest is actually a step down; ordained priests step down to serve the royal priesthood of which we are all a part. I think sometimes ordained clergy get lifted up above congregations when really it goes the other way: priests lift up the people they serve. That really stuck with me and I think will be a valuable thought to keep in mind as I go through my own discernment.

Alex and I also met up with Fr. Matthew Moretz, of the Father Matthew Presents video series. I met him at General Convention over the summer and he is really a cool guy. I didn't think he would be available to have a bite with us in the evening but we ended up having pizza around the corner from St. Bart's. St. Bart's, btw, is a BEAUTIFUL church and I could not get over the "beauty of holiness" that the architecture, paintings, and sculptures really imbue in that worship space. It is truly awe inspiring. General Theological Seminary is definitely climbing my list of possible seminaries to check out if, God willing, my process goes that far!

Sadly my time in NYC came to an end this morning as I headed to LaGuardia and boarded a plane. As the sun was rising over the city I felt new joy, new hope for my life and I know that wherever I go, God goes with me.

One final note about my discernment process: we had the first of six meetings last week and will meet five more times over the next several months (ending in April, hopefully). I am delighted in all of the people who agreed to serve on my Vocational Discernment Committee (VDC). I think we have a balanced group of people who will thoughtfully and prayerfully participate in the process. Praise Be to God!

I feel like this saying that our EfM class uses at the end of spiritual autobiographies is appropriate for this moment in my life: "For all that was, for all that is, and for all that will be, thanks be to God." Amen!

Grace and Peace,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life Update + God is Love

I'm not dead! I promise. Just busy and haven't been inspired to write in a while. This changes today!

It's been almost a month since my last post I realize. Too long.

Life is moving forward, sometimes fast, sometimes at a snail's pace. C'est la vie, no? Work has its fun moments, most of which come out of us fighting boredom. I'm lucky to have great co-workers who make work fun. I'm about to go through my first Gift season, which in cosmetics world is a big deal. Pre-selling, calling people, sending cards, placing orders, etc. It's a lot of work. I've never done one of these before; the previous cosmetics/skin care line I worked for didn't do a gift. Luckily, the lady whose counter I took over is going to come in and help show me the ropes so I'm optimistic. I have big numbers to make!

Education for Ministry class is amazing as ever. We have a HUGE class this year, which means we do common lessons as one big group and then our year lessons in small groups. It has been wonderful getting to know my classmates and building a great community. Year Four is about "theological issues" and picks up where Year Three ("Church History") leaves off. I have enjoyed reading about The Great Awakening, which for some reason is absolutely fascinating to me. American Christianity is so unique in how it developed and what it has grown into. Maybe that's why I'm such a church/history nerd...

In regards to my discernment process, the committee members have all agreed to serve and we are trying to set the date for our first meeting. I'm so overjoyed that everyone is able and willing to do this--it's rare that every person asked says yes! I'm hopeful that God will guide us through this process and that the outcome will be according to His will. Please continue to pray for this!

The project that two of my friends and I have been working on is complete and we are ready to post it online somewhere. I'm very excited to hear it and get it out there as it was a labor of love and these two guys really stepped up to make it awesome. I'm looking forward to continued work on this with them and to see what amazing things come out of it. More on this later!

This morning I served as Eucharistic Minister at the 8:30 service. To my surprise, and delight, the Choristers were singing as kind of a mini-choir. They were SO sweet. They processed in with us and sat back where the choir sits. Their little voices always bring tears to my eyes. The processional was "God is Love", which is beautiful in itself. The second verse really tugged at my heart and I found myself kind of whisper singing.

God is Love; and love enfolds us,
all the world in one embrace:
with unfailing grasp God holds us,
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow's iron rod,
then we find that self-same aching
deep within the heart of God.

God loves us, ALL of us, and when we suffer God suffers with us. Moreso, as when a parent watches their own child suffering. Think about how much it hurts to watch a child suffer, or your own child suffer, and how you would do anything, ANYTHING to ease it. That is how God feels for us, His own children. I find so much comfort in knowing this. 

Grace and Peace,

Monday, August 27, 2012

What's Happening

Hello Friends!

It's been a while since my last post I realize... I don't really have a good excuse!

I am still cat-sitting Earl and Mable, two of the sweetest cats I've ever met. Mable's existence is purely to just be cute and Earl is kind of a goofy cat. He and Jasper still get into it occasionally but a brief separation seems to calm things down.

Education for Ministry classes began last week and I am so glad to be back in that group. It is bigger than ever!! That is an excellent problem to have. I am giving my spiritual autobiography tonight and I'm a little nervous. It was fun looking through old photographs with my parents in preparation for it though. I'm excited to begin lessons and community and growing in love with this amazing group.

This last week I have come down with some kind of upper respiratory.. crud... I was very ill Thursday and Friday. Migraine was making me nauseous and I ended up tossing my cookies (so to speak) at Walgreens. (Thankfully I made it to the restroom in time...) It was not a fun experience. I did, however, make it to my meeting with Fr. Polk that morning and he was kind enough to lay hands and pray for me.

The meeting was a discussion about my committee for discernment. It is coming together!! Hopefully we will begin meeting in October. Please keep this in your prayers as it moves forward!

The other morning I had a bit of a shocking wake up call. Not an actual phone call, but I definitely sat up and took notice. I stood on the scales at my parents house and noted that my weight has gotten out of hand. Like, in a really unhealthy range. The very next day I signed up for a gym membership and have been going almost every day. I met with a personal trainer this morning and am hoping to get healthier. As motivation I signed up for the Ragnar Relay here in Tennessee. It is basically a half marathon broken up into sets that you run with other people--from Chattanooga to Nashville. A group from St. B's was kind to invite me to join their team and I'm looking forward to running with them. It is a tough run but I'm hoping to make it happen!

In October I will attend the re-entry retreat for YASC as well as hopefully meet up with some friends that I met in Hong Kong. It will be so lovely to see some of those friends again. Maybe they will make it down my way sometime too! I'd love to show them around Nashville.

And finally, we've been reading through Ephesians in the lectionary and I wanted to leave you with this prayer:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mosque opens in Murfreesboro

Read news articles here and here and here, and also here.

After overcoming legal hurdles and threats and vandalism, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro opened yesterday for Friday prayers during the holiest month in Islam, Ramadan.

Insha'Allah, it will be open for a long, long time.

My interactions with Muslims here in Murfreesboro have always been pleasant. When I worked for an all-female doctor's office, a large number of patients were Muslim. In fact I saw one of them yesterday at Dillard's, although I didn't speak to her (wasn't sure if she would remember me... my hair has grown quite a bit and it was like two years ago) I did say hello to her sweet mother who helps look after her children. She sat with the young ones while her daughter was shopping around in the kid's dept.--she's had at least one more since the last time I saw them! My church has held a few events with them also, although I wasn't able to attend.

Around the world in Hong Kong I lived down the street from the Kowloon mosque. I walked by it every day, even went inside during one of our interfaith group meetings. We got some strange looks but did our best to stand in the back and observe respectfully. What I saw were people dedicated to their faith, worshiping God with their voices and their bodies. Kneeling, standing, saying prayers... The workers from Indonesia who were Muslim always welcomed me with open arms and showed me great hospitality anytime I was in Victoria Park.

It saddens me that otherwise rational and loving people get riled up with fear and anger due to misinformation or ignorance. I wish they would go and visit with their neighbors and see that they are not a threat, they are peaceful people who just want to worship in their own space and have a place for their community to gather.

Hopefully I will be able to attend the open house when it occurs. I would really like to see the new mosque and visit with my fellow citizens.

And to the guy in the "I Love Jesus" hat who said he was there in protest to "represent the Christians" -- no sir. You do not represent me. I am a Christian and I support my Muslim brothers and sisters in their faith and their right as Americans to practice the religion of their choice.

Salaam alaikum!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Houseguests and Opportunities

Well things have certainly gotten interesting at my house!

I’ve taken in a few house guests in the last week, my friend Suzanne’s son Will needed a couch to crash on until his apartment (which is incidentally up the street from me) becomes available and my friend Alyssa’s two cats needed a place to stay until she moves into her new place. Will has been very helpful with the cats, being a fellow cat lover, but Jasper and the male cat Earl have had a few tussles here and there. They are both very vocal cats, suffice it to say. Hopefully they can make peace with each other...

Work has been chugging along. We have been a little short this week due to one girl being on vacation and another ending up in the hospital with a bad illness. She’s recovered, but we were all very worried about her! It has been a bit slow since last weekend was tax free weekend.

Two of my friends, Steven and Charlie, and I are working on a Taize service for the 19th. I’m excited about this since I love music and liturgy and hanging out with them for rehearsal. We have another project we’re working on that I’m also excited about but we’re still in the early stages so I’ll wait til we get further along with it before I say much more.

I had an interesting experience at work the other day. Two teenage girls came up to my counter and asked to be matched for foundation, so I sat them down in my chairs and set to work. I ended up doing full face on them (which was nice because it killed a lot of time) and during the course of our conversation I mentioned that I had spent 10 months in Hong Kong. They asked what I had been doing so I tried to be vague but it’s hard to avoid mentioning that it was through my church. Then they asked what church I go to and I cringed at having to say it. Not because I am embarrassed or ashamed of my church (far from it!) but because people do not know anything about it. I live in a place heavily populated with Baptists, Presbyterians, Churches of Christ, Methodist, Non-Denominational Churches and so forth, and not many know anything about the Episcopal Church. I remember in Hong Kong being glad that the most I ever had to say was that the Episcopal Church is the same thing as the Church of England. (Basically…)

So I ended up trying to explain it, at work, to these young girls. I was glad for their interest, I told them that their curiosity is a healthy sign of growth and to keep asking questions. One girl mentioned going with one of her friends to their church and she said, “It was so weird, the guy was wearing this black dress thing and we just read from this thing… and it’s like the same thing every time! At my church the pastor preaches and gets really into it.” Different strokes for different folks… I reassured her that we all believe in God’s love and that living a good life and showing that love to others is a good thing. … Then steered the conversation back to skin care and make up. I didn’t want to really get too deep with it at work but who knows, maybe she will get curious and google it later.

Sometimes it can be a little frustrating living in a place where the majority of people don’t quite know what my church is all about. Blank stares. “Episco-whuh?” Questions about what Episcopalians believe (how much time do you have? I can tell you what *I* believe but that might be different from another Episcopalian)… When I try to explain I am going through a discernment process the stares get even weirder. But, it’s an opportunity to share my passion with others and educate, and I can’t pass that up.

I am Episcopalian.

Grace & Peace,


Monday, July 30, 2012

No rest and no energy makes Kathleen a grumpy face...

The last week has been crazy!

I got to see my precious nieces and nephew on Tuesday when I went with my mother to drop my nephew off (he spent a few days at my mom's). They are precious little ones. However, that was my last day off. 

The downside to working retail is that sometimes I have a really crummy schedule. I didn't realize that I would be working seven days in a row--our schedules came out Friday, after I had gone to the late showing of Batman with my boyfriend. We had been putting it off and rescheduling and we both really wanted to see it so we elected to go to a late showing, which meant I didn't get home until very very late. I have been paying for that one!! 

When I don't rest, when I don't take care of myself, I get really grumpy. Okay so maybe "really grumpy" is an understatement. Things that I can normally deal with in a positive manner are suddenly the most irritating things under the sun. I'm short with people. I'm not kind. And I expect other people to take care of me, (I'm the youngest child so I'm guessing that's where it comes from) and when I'm not being taken care of I blame other people. I take it out on others. That's not very fair now is it?

Self-care is part of self-love. How can I love my neighbor as myself if I don't love myself? Take care of myself? Jesus often retreated by himself to pray, and I can only interpret that as Our Lord needing some time to himself to rest. Being the Son of God seems like a pretty exhausting job. Counter Manager at a department store might also involve a lot of time on my feet and dealing with the public but I'm not healing the sick and preparing myself for betrayal and sacrifice. (I hope...) Either way, it is important to find time to take care of myself so that I can be who I am called to be. 

Tuesday and Wednesday are my days off this week, so I am hoping for time to rest and get some things done around the house. I have been putting off so much due to lack of time and energy, so I am looking forward to having some time to devote to those things. I have a very exciting project I'm working on with some friends but I haven't been able to devote any time to it. Deep breath. One more day on the clock and then I'm out!

Grace & Peace

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Reflection: Romans 7:15; or, What I Really Want To Do...

So anytime there is major upheaval in life means that you have the chance to totally change your daily routine. Sometimes this is a good thing--you can stop some bad habits and start some good ones. Sometimes it is a bad thing--changes in the amount of time you spend doing things you like decreases and you have to spend more time doing things you don't like.

Thankfully for me the recent move to Murfreesboro has meant a lot of positive changes to my routine. In fact, I'm still in that new phase of trying to figure out what I want this routine to look like. There are some things that Must Be--like I Must Leave The House At Least 20 Minutes Before Work. (Which honestly is a lot better than the Hour And 20 Minutes it used to be...) But there are other things like leisure time that I get to have a say in. If my cat had his way, I would do nothing but sit on the sofa and pet him until it was time to move the cuddlefest to my bed for the night. But Jasper does not always get his way, much to his discomfort.

How do I want to spend my mornings? How am I actually spending my mornings? What do I do when I clock out at work?

Well, I --want-- to spend my mornings on an hour long morning run/workout of some kind, then come home and either get ready for work or do some housework. (Let's face it, Housework is one of those Things That Must Be) I want to spend at least 20 minutes with a cup of coffee and the Pray As You Go Podcast (or some other devotional podcast/reading/meditation time). And eat something besides dry cereal in the car on the way to work. (BACON. mostly Bacon.)

What I actually do is sleep until 7:30 or 8, have a cup of coffee and fiddle around on the computer (and, yes, pet Jasper) until I realize it's 8:45 and I am going to have to rush to get ready for work. (this sleeping late thing works out better when I work a closing shift and don't have to be there til noon...)

When I clock out at work I usually come home, talk to the cat while I change out of my work clothes, eat something, mess around on the computer, and then oh jeez suddenly it's 10 or 11 and if I want to get up early and spend my morning the way I want to then I should have been in bed two hours ago.

Paul says it best: "I do not understand what I do. I want to do what is right but I don't do it, instead I do what I hate to do." (Romans 7:15)

Sigh. I don't really understand it either, Paul. I know how I want to live my life but we all know that knowing and doing are two very different things. Each day is a new day. That's what I keep telling myself.. no sense in beating myself up about it. Each day I get a new chance to do things the right way. Each moment, really. But it's kind of easier to start when everything else is getting started up in the morning...

It's 8:30 so I'm going to go get my laundry started... and get my running shoes out of whatever box they're still sitting in... and maybe Jasper will be okay with some head scratches after I do those dishes...

Grace & Peace,