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Sometimes it’s good that relationships are complicated.

I think the phrase “relationships are complicated” is often used with a negative connotation. I know that I have used it that way. Those moments when you have your first fight with a friend or significant other, when you accidentally say something that offends your loved one and you don’t know what you did wrong, when someone you love is going through a hard time and you don’t know how to help…

The list goes on as to why relationships get complicated, and why that may be seen as a negative thing (or at least, a very challenging thing.)

I think we’ve all had those experiences where when things got complicated, either we or the other party has bolted. I have bolted. And I have been bolted from. And so, we kind of begin to expect that to be the typical outcome when relationships become challenging for one reason or another.

 

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Photo by Craig Dennis on Pexels.com

But some friendships and relationships really stand the test of time. I had made assumptions that I wouldn’t really have any friends left once I left Tennessee, especially when I may go a year or two without seeing them. We’ve all grown and changed in that time. We’re not the same people, so we can’t stay friends right? That has proven to be untrue with some. We have changed, maybe we have less in common, but we keep showing up and our relationships keep finding a way.

Somehow, that feels even better, even stronger than when we had been the people we were who saw each other on a regular basis.

To be able to navigate the complicated area of, “it’s been a while” and “I’ve changed a bit” and still be able to share meals with joy and laughter makes me appreciate a relationship all the more. It’s different, but familiar. It’s like coming home.

It’s complicated, but no one is bolting. We’re choosing to stay. And I think we’re better for it.

Transitions and Expectations

This blog post may end up being fairly disjointed, so apologies in advance. I just have some weird thoughts that I want to write down.

“Liminal space” is a term used commonly in seminary as we learn about pastoral care. In fact, it’s one we use ad nauseam, but when you find yourself in transition you’re grateful to have a term to give the weird place you’re in a name. Liminal space is known as a threshold, a beginning, a transition, a period of waiting for something to start, and all the complicated feelings that come with it.

You would think I would have dealt with my “liminal space” when I had just graduated and was preparing to move. And in some ways that is true. I felt proud, excited, and accomplished to finally have graduated from seminary. I was nervous and filled with some dread about packing and moving. I was sad to be leaving CTS and my community there. And I felt odd, loose, free floating when I no longer belonged to the CTS community, but hadn’t yet established my new community in my new church.

So here is where I find my emotions to be complex and difficult to articulate. I had a lot of my expectations of this new stage undermined. I didn’t expect to have everything go smoothly or to have my ministry all figured out in a month (HAHAHA no.) But I thought I would be out of the weird space by now. I thought I would be in a new weird space of being in a new place, and that I would have moved on from the transitional feeling by now. So let me try to explain:

My identity was stolen right before I moved. A credit card was opened in my name and someone was making expensive purchases. Apparently I caught it quickly, but it was frustrating especially since I was literally putting boxes into cars to be moved from one state to another.

Then mine and Andy’s furniture came early, which sounds like it would have been a good thing. But the driver arrived at 8pm with our furniture,and he couldn’t find any workers to hire who were willing to come in that late at night. So he unloaded the truck ALL BY HIMSELF. We helped unpack and set everything up, which we shouldn’t have had to do since we were paying for full service moving. But it wasn’t this guy’s fault! I felt so bad for him, and we were glad to help this guy, but we were justifiably aggravated at the company.

We were promised to have our internet and cable set up the day after we moved in. We didn’t get them until a week later.

Our cat, Blinky, had been sick for a few months. He kept sticking his tongue out and drooling. He had a mouth infection that apparently came from home cleaning products. We had always been careful not to get anything in his food and water, but breathing in the chemicals was enough to poison him and rot some of his teeth. Andy took him to the vet and he had 7 teeth removed. He is doing so much better now, but it sucks knowing you made your cat sick just by using every day products.

It’s been a bumpy road and we’ve done well handling it, but you just don’t expect all of these curve balls being thrown your way.

Now Andy and I are home in Tennessee, and being home feels weird. Usually I am thrilled and at peace to be here. But I feel troubled, unsettled. Maybe it’s because we’ve left Florida so soon after moving there; we’re clearly still settling in. It feels like we’ve left something important undone. Also, things are changing. We’ve got parents with some health struggles, and a grandparent on the verge of losing her independence. I expected to be happy here in Tennessee, but I feel like I shouldn’t be here.

I currently have either laryngitis or allergies; I have been hoarse for 3 days. I have no idea what’s going on, and I am getting ordained tomorrow. I am genuinely worried. I have waited for this day and worked so hard to get here. I spent hours planning the service. I have literally dreamed about my ordination day. Whenever I had a difficult time in seminary and felt like giving up, I would think about the hymns I would want to sing on my ordination day or picture the laying-on-of-hands. But now I am afraid that I won’t be able to speak tomorrow. I’ve had such great expectations for this day, and on the eve of such an important day I’m filled with anxiety and dread.

I guess I just expected to have gotten some form of “settled” by now and that I would no longer be in the liminal space. But here I am, still kind of floating and trying to piece things together. I’m navigating all of the undermined expectations, and hoping things work out (while taking Sudafed and drinking TheraFlu.)

There’s no neat “wrap up” to this blog, because, well, I’m still making sense of it all. I’ll let you know when I’m feeling grounded again.

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. -Ecclesiastes 9:11

Moving

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. – 1 John 3:17-18

hate moving.

Packing. Lifting. Bubble wrapping. Stacking. Unpacking.

Putting an angry cat in a carrier and having him cry the whole time in the car.

(We tried the sedative thing last time and he fought it the whole time. It only made him angrier and louder.)

Fortunately we are getting reimbursed for hiring full service movers, so putting everything on a truck and then getting it off the truck will not be our responsibility!

We aren’t moving for another week, but the packing has begun.

I rue my love of books when it comes time to box them up.

As much as I hate packing and moving, It’s nice to relive old memories. My mom boxed up my old yearbooks, trophies, and plaques from school. I looked through them and remembered my accomplishments, saw pictures of myself through the years, and read messages written by old friends. I couldn’t help but laugh at my second grade yearbook. At the front it asks about all the “favorites”: favorite TV show, song, sports, etc. I filled them all in, and when it got to “favorite star” I wrote “Dolly” (as in Dolly Parton.) I am a Tennessee girl through and through! Like most Tennesseans I love Dolly, even though I am not a country music fan. I grew up going to Dollywood fairly regularly, so she is very much a part of my childhood.

It is also cathartic to go through my items and get rid of things I no longer need. I am giving away items Andy and I no longer use, donating clothes and furniture, throwing away expired items, and cutting down the clutter. Not only does it feel good to lighten our load, but it also feels good to give away items that may be of use to someone else, especially someone in need.

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Andy and I have all of these little piles of change lying around the house. We keep saying that we need to do something with our change, but then never rolling the coins and taking them to the bank. One time I found myself sweeping and found a dime. I was tempted to sweep it up and throw it away, and then it hit me: what a privilege to be able to consider throwing away a piece of money. I also know how guilty I am of not having cash on me. Growing up, I didn’t live in area where there were many people on the streets asking for money. It was a shock to see so many in need here in the Atlanta area, and I have regularly had to turn down someone because I mostly use my card and don’t carry cash. So I bagged up all of our change in small plastic baggies and I plan on keeping one or two on hand to give to whoever needs it. It’s by no means a super-cure-all for those in need, but I realized that this money could really be given to someone who could use it instead of me seeing them as coins that clutter my home.

I hope that all the items we are donating and giving away are helpful to others. While cleaning out clutter isn’t a profound theological endeavor, it is eye-opening to see what a privilege it is to have all of this “stuff”, possessions that sit, go unused, and take up space. I hope to take these moments to address my privilege and find a way to use it to give to others, even if it’s just some change, some gently worn clothes, and a couple cheap pieces of furniture.

Montreal

Andy and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary on June 15, but we will likely be preparing our move to Florida during that time. So we had decided to celebrate early! We have had our Montreal trip in the works for 2 years. We wanted to go international, but we had never planned an international trip on our own before. I had gone to France with a group from college and to South Korea with a group from Seminary. Andy went with a college group to Greece. And on our honeymoon we spent time in Charleston, Isle of Palms, and took a cruise from the Charleston port to the Bahamas. All of our international travel had been pretty well planned for us. We thought Quebec would give us the feeling of traveling far without going to far away and having English friendly places in a French speaking country would be helpful.

 

The flight was only about 2 hours and 10 minutes (much shorter than the 14 hour flight to S. Korea!) We checked into out condo that we rented through AirBnb. It was the perfect location to easily walk to Old Montreal and two of the major metro stops. There were also some great restaurants just blocks away. Of course the first thing we tried was poutine! It was as delicious as we had hoped.

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I will give a brief overview of each day:

Day 1: We went to Little Italy and explored their shops, the beautiful farmer’s market, the architecture, and had some authentic Italian pizza (thin crust topped with a layer of mozzarella, with shrimp, clams, and marinara on top.) The Italian folks who owned the shop had a great sense of humor! We then headed over to the Fine Arts Museum which was downtown. Again, great architecture downtown with tall buildings alongside old-world looking churches and businesses. The museum was enormous! They had a special Picasso exhibit alongside of an exhibit that showed various styles of art from all over Africa and contemporary African-Canadian art. It showed how Picasso had been inspired by (or maybe had taken from…) these art styles. There was renaissance art (my favorite!), various other styles through the centuries, and a large section of contemporary art.

Day 2: We walked over to Old Montreal and explored the Old Port, various statues, old-world architecture, visited shops, and looked in multiple churches. The stand out for this day was the Notre-Dame Basillica! We stopped by early in the day to see inside and attend noon mass in their smaller (though still fairly sizable and extremely ornate) chapel. Mass was in all French, but it was nice to listen to the liturgy, scriptures, and prayer being spoken while meditating on the art. We came back to the Basillica that night to see their light show “Aura.” The show was created using lights, lasers, projections, mirrors, and orchestral music to show the beauty of the Basillica and celebrate the 375th anniversary of Montreal. The anniversary was last year, but the show was so popular that they kept it going for this year! We were lucky to catch it!

 

Day 3: We went to go visit the “Underground City.” It was hard to find what we were looking for, but we learned that the Underground City refers to the tunnel system. One must follow the tunnels to find the shopping and restaurants. So we wandered around until we found some! In the future one might want a map or a specific location in mind before they find themselves wandering from tunnel to tunnel. Then we visited the McCord Museum of History, which focused on the difficult history Canada has faced with First Nations people and Jewish people. The museum attempts to honor their stories while owning up to the fact that they haven’t always treated these groups of people well. That night we visited the Comedy Nest and heard some awesome stand up!

Day 4: We visited the Botanical Gardens. There were so many flowers (every color of iris, my favorite!), a First Nations garden full of plants and trees, a beautiful pond, an Alpine garden with a waterfall and rock formations, a Japanese garden with a koi pond, and an insectarium with beetles, ants, moths, butterflies, bees, spiders, and tons of exotic bugs. Then we went up in the Montreal Tower to get a 360 view of the city.

 

We wore ourselves out! We walked all day for 4 days. But we saw so much of the city and used the most of our time. We figured out the Metro system pretty easily and could walk around without the GPS to the local spots. We could speak English pretty easily; in fact there were many conversations happening around us in English! We had some great food, and the weather was sunny every day. In fact, Montreal was having a heat wave while we were there.

It was interesting seeing so many homeless people in such a progressive country. I wrongly assumed that since Canada’s government is ahead of us in so many ways that they didn’t have as many homeless people as we do. But there are always people who are oppressed and who fall through the cracks. We all have such a long way to go in helping others.

All in all, it was a good trip! We were tired out, but it was so much fun to figure out a new city, and a new country on our own.

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After 5 years, Andy and I have been through so much together. We’ve moved states (and we are moving again soon!), we’ve gotten masters’ degrees, we’ve traveled together and apart, we’ve become better communicators, we’ve been through family illnesses and family deaths, we’ve been to weddings, we’ve seen plays, concerts, and eaten good meals, we’ve struggled with life’s tragedies and changes, and we’ve taken care of each other through it all. It’s not been easy. But I wouldn’t want to change a thing. Here’s to many more years of growth, changes, striving, and loving.

 

Graduation

Seminary is by far the hardest thing I’ve done so far in my life. I remember getting to the end of my first year, looking at other seminaries and even other master’s programs to seek other career options, trying not to freak out over the fact that I still had 3 whole years left. I thought graduation day would never come.33027122_10216841036200720_246261471858655232_n

Some people come to seminary for only 1-2 years. Many come for 3 years for the MDiv program. I chose Dual Degree, which combined the 2 year MAPT program with the 3 year MDiv program, for a total of 4 years at CTS. It was daunting to think that I would be here so much longer than many of my peers.

After the halfway mark of finishing two years, I finally made peace with four years. Around that time there was a shift in the social atmosphere at CTS. Exclusivity and power-cliques were being called out, and more people were stepping out of their exclusive groups to promote inclusivity. I started to finally feel at home at CTS. Graduation was still far off, but I didn’t mind so much.

At the end of my third year, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was sad to see so many of my peers graduate. Many of them had been with me through my entire seminary career up until this point. But I looked around and noticed that there were so many of us who had chosen the two-degree, four-year program. We were sticking it out together. And the majority of my friends were in the class that had entered seminary the year after me. I knew that I was going to be fine.

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I overloaded a few semesters so that my final year would be lower stress. After hours of Hebrew and Greek keeping me up late, after an especially tough semester when I wrote about 80 pages in 3 months, after struggling through and passing my ordination exams, I had a lighter load my final year. I interned at two small rural churches, I interned at the Outreach and Advocacy Center in downtown Atlanta working with people experiencing homelessness, and I took numerous electives. I enjoyed my work and I enjoyed my classes. It was a relief to take a breath during this last year and just enjoy the last months of my seminary education. It also freed me up to interview at churches to find a job for after graduation.

I was so excited for graduation day, counting down the days. People would approach me through the year and ask how many days we had left! At long last, I knew graduation was coming. But I also enjoyed my time. I took pleasure in my classes, my friends, the campus community, and all of the “lasts” (last dinners, lunches, meetings.) I wanted to savor the moments, not wish them away, as I looked forward.

I dreamed about graduation day for four years. The actual day was even more exciting and even more joyful than I had imagined. My husband, my mom, my grandmother, and my aunt came to cheer me on. They were all filled with joy, and all told me how proud they were of me. It made my heart so warm to hear these words.

My friends and I all laughed, took pictures, and cheered so loudly for each other when we accepted our diplomas. We were like giddy children. No matter how long we had been in seminary, 1 year or 4 years or somewhere in between, we had worked so hard for this day. Our communities were proud of us. And we were proud of ourselves!

I was surprised by winning two awards on top of my two degrees! I won the “Indiantown Country Church Award” for my work I did in the rural churches last summer. I also won the “William Rivers Waddey Award” for my work with youth ministry and my continued work with youth once I graduate. I was nominated by the faculty to receive these awards, and I had no idea I would be receiving them.

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I am filled with joy and gratefulness. I am grateful for the CTS faculty and staff, my mentors, pastors, and supervisors, my friends and family, my church, and my husband. Without this support I wouldn’t have been able to make it. I’m also a little sad. Goodbyes aren’t easy. But it’s ok that I’m sad. I’m glad CTS became a place that I am sad to leave.

God has reminded me that this call isn’t about me. God poured out the Spirit to calm me when I wanted to run. The Spirit whispered, “Just show up” when I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. And I did. I just kept showing up, even if I didn’t know why. I wouldn’t be here without God’s guiding hand. Praise God for goodness, guidance, and peace. I struggled. I didn’t always have peace. I just remained as faithful as I could, and God’s grace did the rest.