Monday, November 10, 2008

The Art of the Visit

This is a blog I've been thinking about for a while, but alas, time, you crafty vixen, have gotten away from me.

A few weeks ago my mom and I traveled out to Chicago to see the city, yes, but also to visit some folks. I went to see some good Mississippi friends who have resettled there and she was looking forward to seeing an old college friend and a cousin she grew up with.

There have been times, I'll admit, when I feel like because I am single and in school (which means you have all the time in the world right?) I have been expected to be the one to go, to travel. And I often resent that. Yet, I'm coming to realize what a great gift it is to be able to visit others, both for them and for myself.

For one thing, because I generally avoid phone conversations and long e-mails about my life or anyone else's life (if you send me a mass e-mail from your summer trip, I probably won't read it), visiting gives me a chance to catch up on those things in person. Linda's trip to Europe for instance, was much more interesting to hear about while I visited her in Austin and we lounged spring side in the city. I understood her excitement and frustration more (yeah those French airline people stink) when I could hear and see her.

I also love seeing where people live. While visiting Ben in Baltimore, I saw his new place and where he works. I have some context now when he tells me about his day to day life.

It's great to have friends in fun places too. It's so much better to listen to the funny tour guide on the architecture tour with Erin than by myself. Also, it's good to be lead around sometimes, to have someone who knows where the good restaurants are and which museums are boring.

Often the visit is informative too, in a personal way. When I visited the Boston ladies at the beginning of September, I got in touch with my college self. Oh right, I remembered, I like dancing in the kitchen to ABBA, and telling dirty jokes. I am bonded with those women through a very certain time and place where we learned who we were.

The most interesting thing about visiting Juanita and Ann in Chicago was learning about my mom and indirectly, about where I came from. When my mom and Juanita talked, it was as if no time had passed, although it had been 30 years. I could see two college women who perhaps also danced in some kitchens and told dirty jokes.

I got to ask our cousin, Ann, something that has always intrigued me. I wanted to know about my grandmother, my mom's mom, who died before my second brother was born. What was she like? I asked. Because I feel like we have made her into a saint, and I'm sure she wasn't. What was she really like?

According to Ann, she was something close to a saint. Except she was sassier. She was warm and caring, but knew how to tell the truth. She could prepare a feast out of almost bare cabinets. Ann still remembers her as one of her favorite cooks. These memories were a great blessing to me.

Of course, I'm not the first to understand the transformative nature of a visit. Jesus visits all kinds of people and sometimes he transforms them, and sometimes he is transformed (see certain interpretations of the Syro-Phoenician woman). I think in a culture consumed by texting and facebook, it seems to be a great gift to be able to give if you can, all the way around.

Maybe some of you will be inspired to come visit me!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh the horror

So today, for no reason in particular, the second of two coffee makers my roommate and I have in our apartment quit on us. What is God trying to say?

I'd appreciate any feedback you have on models of coffeemakers or good places to buy them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Birth of a Frustration

I've had one of those days, except its been a series of days. Those days where so many little things keep going wrong. Anne Lamott, a favorite Christian writer of mine, says these days, these little frustrations serve to birth something really beautiful. I'm still waiting for the something beautiful.

Let me explain. On my way out a Hebrew Exam on Friday, I found my driver's side mirror hanging off my car, three hours before I was supposed to drive down to Baltimore. After cursing the town of Princeton and all the rich, SUV driving yuppies in it, I took my car down the street to the mechanic where I was guilted into renting a car.

Next at the pharmacy I needed to stop at before leaving town, I discovered my doctor had not called in my prescription. Awesome.

On the way down to Baltimore, I stopped for a coke. I asked for a medium, but seeing that a medium meant a cup as tall as me, I asked for a small. The girl working the register looked at me as if I had just asked her to build a spaceship out of paperclips that could send me to the moon. I said I would take the large.

There was all kinds of traffic.

Upon arriving at my hotel, I realized my door was difficult. I tried unsuccessfully to open it with all my bags on me for about 10 minutes before going to the front desk. After the hotel "engineer" showed me that I paradoxically needed to pull and push it at the same time, I kind of got it, but it provided endless entertainment the rest of the weekend.

Later that night, coming back at midnight, my friend Erin couldn't park her car because an event entitled "Fierce, Fabulous and Fortunate" was taking place in the hotel's ballroom.

The next day, I tried to find a movie theatre but got stuck in traffic and missed them all.

Last night, I sat down to figure out some financial stuff only to realize A: the website the financial aid people sent me to wasn't acknowledging my school's existence, B: my credit card payment was actually due the day before, resulting in a $35 fee, C: I haven't gotten any work study or field ed money yet, and D: the people in San Antonio that owe me a refund (long story) are choosing not to acknowledge me

The section of the library I need has been closed both times I've tried to go.

The auditorium I need for the play I'm putting on has a roof that's caving in and we can't rehearse in there for a month.

I looked at the wrong shuttle times (because remember my car is still in the shop) and got to school way late.

My curtains have fallen down.

By now, you're undoubtedly all singing the Charlie Brown sad song for me. But seriously, all this has been so frustrating, and one side of you is like "How bad can it be? You have food and shelter and don't have AIDS or someone chasing you with a machete." In my selfishness, though, I don't what the beautiful thing being born is. I didn't fall in love at the mechanic's, or find a space even better than the auditorium, or find out about some amazing opportunity to build orphanages on the Galapagos Island while riding the shuttle.

If my frustrations have impacted your life for the better, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This is a funny place

Well, it's been a while. Since my internship ended, I've been travelling, catching up with friends, and packing (and packing and packing). I've arrived safely at my new apartment in Princeton, and while a lot of my stuff is still in boxes, I feel remarkably at home already.

Sometimes it takes some travelling, I think, to help you realize how much you miss a place. This summer when people would ask about seminary, I would often say that I was enjoying it, but that I didn't necessarily feel at home here. While that might be true to some extent, this week I'm realizing that I've probably carved out more of a niche than I was aware of. Somehow I was personing (my alternative to "manning") two tables at the Organization Fair, have several birthday parties to go to already, and have known more people than not in most of my classes. That's a good feeling.

A few things have happened this week to remind me what a funny (in the good, beloved, funny valentine way) place this is.

- a professor cried during a lecture. Twice! A little awkward, I'll admit, but when do professors get so into what they're talking about that they cry?

- people have helped me out! From fixing the copy machine, to passing out fliers, to carrying the top half of my desk, colleagues have been anxious to kindly be of service. In case you live in a bubble, that doesn't happen all the time.

- we didn't get classroom assignments until the night before classes started. While this was not funny in a lot of ways since no one knew where their classes would be until 8 hours before they started, I choose to see at as another way that this place is personal and not robotic.

I'm looking forward to what the semester will bring!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

10 (possible) Upsides to Having Your Wallet Stolen

In no particular order:

1. You get to feel very Law and Order when you go to not 1 but 2 ghetto police stations in Philly at 11 o'clock at night. (This after you've been sitting in your apt. for 3 hours because no one came. Apparently in Philly when a theft moves to a fraud, as in someone spending $317 on your card at CVS, an officer has to physically see you. Then when you go to station 1, they inform you that actually your particular crime happened right on the edge of their precinct and you need to go to station #2)

2. You don't have to worry about being mugged in said ghetto areas because everything worthwhile is already gone!

3. You become very chummy with your Bank representatives who, after detecting the crime before you did, seem like the Second Coming.

4. You get to make an unexpected trip to everyone's favorite place (wait for it)...The Jersey DMV!!

5. You get to make little jokies with the one nice guy of five people who check your IDs about why exactly you're carrying your College diploma, framed, into the DMV.

6. You find out your seminary is kindly not going to charge you for a new I.D.!!

7. After said DMV trip you get to see your baby niece for a little while.

8. You get to work on that all important Christian quality of forgiveness while picturing someone stealing your wallet out of your bag, running to CVS, spending $317, using the cash in your wallet to get to Cherry Hill, then spending $500 more at Target.

9. You get to hear everyone else's story about the time they lost their wallet, and kind of feel less bad about your situation. Kind of.

10. You get to correct everyone's assumption that the homeless people you work with took the wallet by saying, "Actually, my wallet was stolen in a food court in a really swanky hotel that caters to wealthy people and wouldn't let a homeless person in the door!"

Now doesn't all that sound awesome?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Caution: May be controversial and unpatriotic

For those of you who know me, you may know that I struggle with the relationship between the church and politics, specifically American politics. I wonder if it is the church's role to speak out about things like the war or gay rights (either for or against) or if we are called to speak more generally about the Kingdom of God and let people fill in the gaps. This is getting stirred up in me again this summer in light of an event the church I'm working at is having. We're hosting author, Shane Claiborne, in a few weeks to talk about his book, Jesus for President. I've read some of the book, but even if you haven't you can gain a lot from the title.

So then this happens. Today I got yet another e-mail forward of the "look at how hard the troops are fighting to protect your right to drink Starbucks, you unpatriotic hippie" variety. While I totally feel like people have a right, and should fight for the right, to be excited about our troops and the war on whatever, the fact remains that I have a right not to. More than that, I wonder how being patriotic has gotten boiled down to supporting a war or not.

So I looked up "patriotic" on This is what came up:

inspired by love for your country [ant: disloyal]
patriotic [pӕtriˈotik, (especially American) pei-] adjective
(negative unpatriotic) having or showing great love for one's country Example: He is so patriotic that he refuses to buy anything made abroad.

Two interesting things came out of that for me. The first being the antonym, which is "disloyal", and the second being the use of the word in a sentence.

These are interesting to me because firstly, my views are often called unpatriotic and, yet, I don't feel disloyal. Because if I am disloyal to America, who am I loyal to? And secondly, apparently buying things here makes one patriotic, which is funny considering so many of our clothes, toys, etc are made in sweat shops abroad.

Ok, then, in a very loose train of thought, I'm mixing around these ideas of God and country.

- Who am I loyal to? I should first and foremost be loyal to God in the way that Jesus was more loyal to God than to the Romans or Pharisees. The irony in that is that so many who are "patriotic" would also claim they are very loyal to God. Why then is there such a breakdown in ideologies and viewpoints?

- Many people who only buy "American", like in a real and true sense, are the same people who are called unpatriotic. You know who i mean -- people who do food through co-ops, make their own clothes, and use bio-diesel in their cars. Often though they also have some sort of bumper sticker on their car that talks about ending the war. Hmmm...

- I always thought that patriotic meant to help your country in some way be the best it can be, and for me that has meant speaking out against things I don't agree with or living with 5 other crazy people in a trailer in Mississippi fixing homes and lives, or eating the same meal with someone who has lived on the streets for 20 years. I do this firstly because God challenges us to love God by loving each other, but also on some level because this country has bestowed all kinds of amazing rights and privileges on me that I feel need to be realized by all in this country, and if the government can't do that for its own people than its our duty to do it for each other.

And so I think my point is not to pat myself on the back, but to really grapple with how to build bridges between two vastly different groups of people who both call themselves Christian and who both proudly call themselves American. Where and how does that conversation start?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Blog in Two Parts

Part 1 in which I learn something new

Something I didn't realize until recently, which maybe you can relate to, is how informed people living on the streets are about politics and issues of social justice. They often hear things before the public, have witnessed both the pros and cons of service providers, and have a lot of time to discuss policies. The irony I caught on to this week, as I was telling my friend Irwin he should run for mayor since he knows a ton about Philly after 18 years on the street, is that many can't vote because they don't have permanent addresses or an ID to get them into the shelter (yes shelters in Philly require an ID) that might provide a mailing address or the $20 it costs to get an ID. Essentially, then, the people who are more informed about politics than most liberal college kids and who would benefit most from radical changes in government have no voice in that system. Huh.

Part 2 Its not all about you.

In talking with the youth this summer about different issues, the one topic that frequently comes up is why a lot of our homeless friends tend to be unsocial or resistant to conversation with them at our church meals. Many times the guesses from the teenagers about why this might be the case are something like, "They're jealous of us" or "They're intimidated by us". We gently explain that while there is a chance of this possibility, because our friends are battling larger systems of oppression than just who has the better iPod, "jealous" is probably not the word and because many of them have been beat up, robbed, or sexually assaulted in their time on the street, they're probably not intimidated by a bunch of rich, white kids.

The point is they make it about them without realizing our friends carry so much baggage with them into this place, both physical -- bags, duffels, backpacks -- but more importantly emotional -- shame, rejection, anger and fear. With all that, they may not want to talk about the weather with some kids they've never met before.

*I should sidebar here and mention that many in our congregation love to talk for hours and to meet new people, but there are a few who stick to themselves.

But in this misunderstanding I begin to reevaluate my own frustrations with this job and calling. I'm constantly frustrated about time off, how my work is received, who's doing what, how moving chairs fits into my job description. In other words its often all about me. Huh.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sometimes Jesus talks to himself

So the ideal with ministry, particularly in a place where you're working with the disadvantaged, is to see Christ in the face of every person you meet. A professor once gave us a hint for this task. The face itself is a cross. The nose leading up to the forehead, intersected by the eyes forms a cross able to be seen on any person's face. A reminder to others that this person is loved. Also, like any muscle, you need to exercise your heart on this. You need to look past the dirty clothes, the skin color, the gender, the rotting teeth and disabilities. It's tough work, but in time one gets better at it and is able to conjure up some love that has long been repressed by the teachings of a fearful society. In other words, in rare moments, one can feel onself simultaneously looking at Christ and being Christ.

This gets easier working at a place like BSM, where I'm working this summer. Everyone here has committed their life to this task -- to being welcoming and loving to those who have been tossed out by the world. In fact, the love is so overwhelming that I'd nearly forgotten that the rest of the world isn't actually like that. Good thing it only took a trip to Starbucks to remember.

This week, while waiting on line for my coffee, I realized our BSM friend, Pat, was ahead of me on line. He was counting out his money while the young lady behind the counter grabbed his coffee. Simultaneously, however, the manager (I guess) began loudly, so everyone could hear, to inform him that he couldn't stay. Pat asked if he couldn't just stay for a few minutes to drink his coffee. The manager said no. Pat asked for his money back and didn't take his coffee. When it was my turn, I grabbed his coffee with mine and ran outside to find him. I told him I knew him from BSM and asked him to sit with me at one of their outside tables. We sat for a while and talked. He seemed to know the area I was from. Then Pat drifted off. He seemed to be getting angry at people who weren't there. I went back to work and when we saw him later he was full out yelling at invisible enemies.

Two things, then, are causing me trouble. I don't feel like my sitting with Pat makes a difference. He's still homeless and he won't remember me tomorrow. I mean I can rationalize it and I know it's better to sit with someone than to not sit with them, but the problems seem neverending. Secondly, I don't know how to transfer the love and passion from someplace like BSM to the people at Starbucks and the people at City Hall and the people at the White House. How do we expand the bubble of faith and love and hope?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

(Melted) Reflections on a Summer Heat Wave

To preface: Many of you know that I am tolerant of the heat. I like it even. I love feeling warm and not having to worry about a jacket. I like wearing tank tops and flowy skirts as often as possible. To that end, I had no trouble moving to Mississippi. I loved sitting outside even on the hottest days as long as I had a cool drink in my hands.


Then this happened.

Three days after moving to Philly, I realized the AC in my apartment wasn't working. No sweat (pun intended) I thought. I have a fan and like the warmth and its not even that hot. My mom advised me to have it looked into anyway. Yeah, yeah I said. When I have time.

Then two days later, the worst heatwave Philly has ever experienced descended upon the city (I may be exaggerating this statistic -- I'm no weatherperson or historian, but I'm sure it was close to the worst if not actually THE worst). If you live in the Northeast, you know. The week went like this:

Sunday- Phone call #1 placed to management company. They promised to be there the next day. I also triple check to make sure the windows don't open. They don't. That's right, the windows don't open.

Monday- No evidence of anyone having fixed the AC. Call #2 placed. They say the guy works until 7 and he still might show up. 7 comes and goes without a rescuer.

Monday night/Tuesday morning- I believe that the whirring of my little fan meant for a small dorm is actually crying. I don't think the poor thing can take much more.

Tuesday/Wednesday afternoon- We go on a welcome retreat to the shore from where I place a phone call (#3) to the manager of my building. She informs me that she hasn't heard anything of my complaints and not only that, through a series of complicated situations (ask me about that on a rainy day) she doesn't have a key to my apartment so they can't get in. I call her back saying I will sit there all day or give her a key or beat up a grandma if she can fix the AC. I don't hear back from her.

Wednesday night- As my thermostat is pushing 90, I read that several people have died in the city due to the heat. I call the emergency number of the building. About an hour later, the general maintenance guy shows up and is able to get a small amount of air moving, so at least I know I'm not breathing my own carbon monoxide, but not much else.

Thursday- Finally success. After dropping my key off. I see results and sleep under my covers for the first time in a week.

While this incident was more of an uncomfortable annoyance for me than anything else, it did teach me something about not being listened to by the only people who have power to change the situation. I think this is the case with a lot of the people we're working with. With no voice to represent them, one leap forward (finally talking to the bldg manager) is often met by a set back (she doesn't have a key). For many of our homeless friends, loss of a job combined with mental illness have allowed them to fall off the grid. I'm learning how easy it is to fall off, but how incredibly difficult it is to come back.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The City of Brotherly Love

This past weekend I moved to Philly to begin an internship. I'll be working out of a church that is trying to build a community between the homeless and the artists that live in Center City. For the summer, they're having youth groups stay at the church to do service projects in and around the city. I'm facilitating that and I'm slightly terrified.

The four of us doing this program are living in a very swanky apartment that shares a building with Banana Republic. That's right -- I live in Banana Republic. My co-workers seem great so far and I can tell that we were chosen for our unique gifts, hopefully leading to a cohesive whole that will run like a well-oiled machine. Hopefully.

Back to my job specifically. I am to be the non-anxious presence as I take groups of kids around the city to various service projects such as soup kitchens, shelters and parks. While on the move, I need to be asking them such as questions as "Yes, why DO you think that sign says no shopping carts?" or "Well, actually this community used to be fairly run down and now its what we called 'gentrified'. What do you think happened to all the people who lived here before?" and the classic, "Ok you're angry about this, what do you think God is challenging you to do?" And when plans fall through or buses are late or someone gets the one and only recorded snake bite in the history of Philadelphia, I need to be the non-anxious presence that calmly says, "Oh snake bites? Happens all the time! This way to the hospital, team!"

Yup, its gonna be tough. Its going to be a summer of leading with faith and trusting that God is there before us, paving the way.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

After some research...

Tonight in the middle of writing a 10 minute feminist speech on Esther, another Lesley Gore song came on my Pandora station. This time it was "She's a Fool". I decided I needed to procrastinate and do some research. Now, Lesley Gore's history might be interesting only to me, but I was excited so here goes.

After several "do anything to make your stupid boyfriend happy because God knows you're not good enough on your own" songs, she recorded "You don't own me". I know those of you in your 60s are like, yeah we knew that, but isn't it ironic? So that was shock #1.

Then she went to Sarah Lawrence College, the world's epicenter of feminism. Shock #2

Then later in her life she came out as a Lesbian. Shock #3!

I just feel like writing her a letter and telling her how awesome her journey is, but I can't help but wonder if she regrets any of those early songs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No wonder the women's movement had to happen

So tonight as I struggle to finish a paper on Hebrews, I'm listening to my quick mix of old music. For those of you who don't know Pandora, its a website where you can type in one artist, say The Supremes and it will play music by that person as well as come up with other similar music. I have a "station" with stuff like Ella Fitzgerald, Doo-Wop groups, Glen Miller, etc.

A few minutes ago this song "That's the Way Boys are" by Lesley Gore came on. I'm going to put the lyrics up here and I'm pretty sure everyone under 40 will think it's a joke and all of my older lady friends will sadly shake their head remembering when they rocked out to it in their bobby socks. Ok here's the lyrics and if you don't know it, just picture a happy, bubbly tune similar to that "Wishin and Hopin" song (which is another song with lots of problems).

"When I'm with my guy and he watches all the pretty girls go by...Well I feel so hurt deep inside, I wish that I could die!Not a word do I say...I just look the other way!'Cause that's the way boys are!That's the way boys are!

When he treats me rough and he acts as though he doesn't really care...Well, I never tell him that he is so unfair!Plus, he loves me and I know it...But he's just afraid to show it!'Cause that's the way boys are!That's the way boys are!

Oh, when he wants to be alone...I just let him be!'Cause I know that soon enough...He will come back to me!When we have a fight, I think that I won't see him anymore!Then before I know it - there he is...Standin' at my door!

Well I let him kiss me then...'Cause I know he wants me back again!That's the way boys are!Yes, that's the way boys are!Oh, I love him!Well now, that's the way boys are!I said that's the way boys are!"

Yikes! Although, as I think about how shameful it must have been for Ms. Gore to produce that song and sing it over and over, I wonder how far we've come with the singers teens look up to today. Their messages are probably not much better only now they wear less clothes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Hopeful

Last week I thought the world was ending. This week things look better.

Sunday was an amazing day. I did my first full service and I think it went really well. More importantly, my whole family came out to support me, including those who haven't been in church in years and years.

For Mom's birthday/my Aunt and Uncle's anniversary, we went out to a fancy brunch. French toast and penne ala vodka always renew my faith in God.

Then yesterday at our first event of BGLASS week, 95 people showed up! It was amazing and definitely a sign that this community is turning toward a more open, loving stance.

Erin's coming to visit this weekend! I love seeing my MS friends because they remind me of who I am in a way and what I've been through.

All in all, I'm pumped!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

While I take five minutes to catch my breath...

Hey everyone. Hopefully you haven't given up on me even though I haven't posted in a month. Things have been very busy. With midterms and working at a church, I feel like I haven't really had any time to reflect, but here are some things on my mind.

I'm very concerned about the cycles of Imperialism and its relation to religion. For instance, we read an article for class about the Spanish conquest of Latin and South America in the 16th century. Although they basically were committing genocide, the Spanish felt they were doing it for God. Sparing you from multiple other examples of this throughout history, I'll jump to the Iraq War. There is so much Christian language that goes along with the war that makes me very uncomfortable since it is ultimately also a war about gold, or oil in this case. I find it very important that the church speak the truth in these instances and yet I don't see it doing much now. What is our responsibility?

Secondly, I'm still struggling with the Katrina stuff. If you're like the rest of the country you've forgotten what that means and think I should get over it. But I continue to hear awful things from my friends down there, and none of the Presidential candidates are really talking about it. I wonder in all of Bush's talks about terrorism how he can't see that the gross ignorance and blatant racism in this situation is also some type of terrorism. Obviously I'm angry. And all this has been compounded by discussions on evil and providence in class these past two weeks. I'm not sure how Katrina fits into those topics.

Thirdly, I'm getting very excited for some time off and a summer in a city. I will have most of May off and then I'll begin my summer internship in Philadelphia. I know being back in a city, even if only for a few months will be a good change of pace. I really miss being anonymous, being able to walk around without bumping into a million people I know.

Speaking of summer, I'm taking suggestions for a summer reading list. Any ideas?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I met Anne Lamott!

On Thursday night one of my dreams came true. My favorite Christian author, Anne Lamott, came to speak and read at Barnes and Noble. If you haven't read her books, you just need to. She is known for her amazing faith journey, irreverance and the way she weaves Christianity with politics. She writes a lot about addiction, motherhood and being a woman. I just love her.

I have to admit, I was a little worried about going. I was worried that her real self would ruin the image I had of her in my mind. What if she was boring or rude? She definitely did not disappoint though.

I got to ask a question, which was one of my main goals. My question was if she ever edited herself or thought something was too far out there to write about. Initially she said no, but then proceeded to explain that she believes in the devil, especially as it pertains to addiction, but thought that was too much for most Christians to handle. Then when I met her and got my book signed, I told her how her writing has really freed me in a lot of ways to be who I really am. I was hoping she would invite me to come and live with her in California, but she didn't.

Some of my favorite Anneisms from the night:

"I don't know who shot the Holy Ghost." This came up as she was describing how many interviewers press her to have a more defined theology. It was Meaningful to me because we had just been talking in lofty terms about the Triune doctrine in class that day and I sort of thought it was all BS, that it's personal and emotional and nothing we can define anyway.

"If you're a woman over the age of 12 in this country and you aren't angry, then you've really missed the boat." On anger and how women aren't allowed to express it.

"We'll just do this one last time and then tomorrow we'll stop." On the voice of the devil and addiction.

"I'm stoked." The way God feels about who we are currently, not who we should or will become.

"Make mistakes." She talked a lot about this in terms of writing and creativity, but also in terms of life, that we've all grown up with this mentality that our best isn't really good enough.

One of the main reasons this night was so important to me is that I am currently thinking a lot about writing. I think this blog is a testament to the fact that I enjoy writing and maybe even am a little good at it. It's scary to me, but something I want to keep exploring. I don't think I've ever had complete time and freedom to really work on it so I want to seek out those opportunities.

Feel free to contact me with your Anne Lamott questions as I can now tell you what she smells like!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's like Mardi Gras Happened in my Room

So funny story. This weekend as many of you know, I was in and co-directed The Vagina Monologues here at Princeton Seminary. As our "costumes" we all wore black with one piece of pink or red flair. Because I was doing a monologue on New Orleans, I wanted to have authentic Mardi Gras beads. I sent word to my friends there to "Send me somethin' mister!", that is, please mail me some pink or red beads.

However, due to bad weather up here and the holiday last week, all my mail got delayed and I didn't get the packages until today.

So now I have a million pink and red beads (with some extra funny ones thrown in). My room and possibly whole floor is about to be decked out!

I love my friends and their thoughtfulness. It makes me feel like I'm back home in the double wide.

Thanks Linda, Erin and Kerry!

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Dialogue on Prayer from the perspectives of Faith, Hope and Love

Tonight I went to my friend and former roommate, Erin's blog. She's still in MS doing amazing work and she had these great thoughts on prayer:

Hoping and hoping....and hoping some more.
Back one sunny morning this past June, I went with two roommates to get a little ink. I had the word HOPE tattooed on my wrist. Brenna put FAITH on her ankle and Linda put LOVE on her arm. It was as important for me to share that experience with those two amazing women, as it was important for me to toss a little scripture on my person, as it was important to mark the theme of my year permanently. I debated over where to put that word and how to write it. I ended up placing HOPE inside my left wrist, facing me, in my own handwriting because I needed to be a constant reminder. I needed to be able to see it all the time. And in my handwriting, I hoped (good pun) it would remind me to have hope in myself.
Well, since putting that on my arm in permanent, black ink, I've been seeing hope everywhere, and nowhere, all the time. I have great hope in the church teams that come down here and change lives- those lives of the people they help, and their own lives as they experience a new kind of service and community. I see hope in home dedication ceremonies, church re-dedications, new business openings, bridge openings, and increased tourism. I see hope in the commitment and continued efforts of folks who've long past burn-out, but keep working and moving, powered by the grace of God.
But I lose hope every day too. Hope fades in the knowledge that funds are running out and agencies are shutting down while there are still so many homes to rebuild. Hope fades in volunteer villages sitting empty for weeks at a time. Hope fades as homeowners become more and more frustrated with the process that's gone on for far too long. Hope fades in another twister in Alabama, flooding in the Northwest, fires in California, and disaster upon disaster. Hope fades in the smog of agency and church turmoil. Hope fades in my own failures and limitations and feelings of burnt-out-edness.
For the past year and a half I've attempted to manage the ups and downs of my journey in hope with prayer. I've never been a good pray-er and it was something I decided to focus on upon accepting life as a churchy-worker-type two Augusts ago.
The thing is, I desperately want to be a prayer warrior. And not just for the awesome costume I imagine I'd get to wear. I admire the women in my life who will stop and pray any time any where. A man here once prayed with me over the phone and it blew me away. Folks that I've befriended on this journey really, really believe in this prayer stuff. For me, it's something I've always done because I am supposed to do it- like making my bed. I don't really believe in that either. I mean, you're just going to mess it up again later in the day, so what's the point! But I say my prayers at night, before meals, in church, when an ambulance passes, and whenever someone else asks me to pray for them or their family. And I mean it. I think. Kinda.
I tried prayer journaling last fall. It lasted about a month and a half. Wasn't for me. Then I tried prayer walking. I was just a freak talking to myself and almost getting hit by cars all the time. I attended Handsboro's weekly prayer meetings. I let Linda talk me into praying with her whenever she wanted. I sought guidance from my favorite religious leaders. I started doing morning devotions. I tried it all, but remained unconvinced.
Recently, I survived another rough fall. Another season that challenged me- professionally and emotionally, but more importantly, spiritually. Lately, I've been feeling that I'm failing that challenge. This prayer problem has been kicking my butt.
I called Lauren this week, because she's that church friend that I can ask anything- no matter how ridiculous or blasphemous or vulgar or ignorant- without freaking her out. I asked her if I don't really believe in prayer, if that meant that I don't really believe in God. She told me a hippie story about prayer as molecules of energy that made a lot of sense, but in that warm-fuzzy hippie way that you really can't argue with, since there might be a flake of truth to it and anyway you want it to be true because it would be so beautiful. But I'm still not convinced. Then Linda wrote a blog about people who don't believe in prayer. Then I started reading Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert talks and talks and talks about prayer.
So the whole prayer thing is being thrown in my face big time. And I still don't have an answer. But I've decided to have hope. Hope in prayer. Hope in my prayer. I don't know if my prayers are really appropriate. I don't know if it makes sense for me to ask for specific or general guidance in prayer. I don't know if my prayers are silly. I don't know if my prayers are truly genuine. And I really don't know if my prayers are really heard....
but I hope so. I've decided to hope so.
I really, really hope so.

Then, I, Brenna responded with this as a comment on her blog:

ok so funny story about prayer. I applied to the international field ed program, which you know, and got rejected, which you know. But I think I got rejected because of prayer. On the app. we had to state what most in our faith we were struggling with and I put prayer, namely that I don't always feel it and often forget to do it. The people interviewing me looked like I had just said that I believed Crystal Meth to be my personal Lord and Savior. I tried to explain, my issues and the fact that I was working on it, but it didn't seem to work and I was rejected.

But I'm learning (and this might just be the hope of those who struggle with prayer) that prayer is not for the confident. It is not an easy conversation. I am learning to look at it as mere honest conversation with God. I don't expect anything -- I just want to get it out, unpleasant though it may be.

A professor here started class by telling us to not be afraid to think and say the crazy thoughts because the crazy thoughts might just end up helping someone else. I think this is what prayer is. I'm getting tired of my feelings about God being wrapped up in nice packages with big words that are afraid to feel anything. The great thing about our God is she doesn't leave when things get tough. God can take the anger, I think more so than luke warm sentiments. Anyway, I've preached too long and you know all this. I love you and you're fabulous.

Now to complete the triology you should go to Linda's blog at and read her thoughts which didn't allow themselves to be copied and pasted.

Lenten Blessings

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Third Time's the Charm

I am currently on the cusp of round 3 of the "Hodge Plague". By my estimations, the plague begin in our dorm somewhere in November. I was immune for several weeks, looking at those infected with pity and also with a sense of "thank god that's not me".

For those of you unfamiliar with said HP, it begins with a day or two of a scratchy throat and a moderate headache. In phase 2, the disease moves into the sinus cavity causing congested and/or runny nose. Phase 2 lasts for anywhere between 1 and 3 weeks before the final, and possibly worst, phase sets in. In phase 3, the disease creeps into the lungs lingering like the smell of leftovers sitting in a car too long. It makes its presence known in fits of coughing and lots of phlegm.

As I said, I avoided the HP as long as possible until it caught up with me about two weeks before the end of the semester. Fine, I thought, I'll get it over with in time for the holidays. Sure enough, it was over for Christmas, only to return for final exams after the holidays. Now, as I am poised for the new semester, I am feeling the symptoms again.

Many cures have been attempted: sleeping for weeks at a time, intense amounts of exercise to sweat it out, swallowing dayquil capsules like candy, and alcohol. Yet nothing but the slow march of time seems to work, which is why I am dreading my third fight with the HP.

The thing about me is, I don't enjoy being sick and yet, the 3 bouts of HP combined with one serious stomach virus have made this time at Seminary the sickest I have ever been. This phenomenon has forced me to retrace my steps and see where I could have gone wrong.

1. The dorm is a cesspool of germs. This is certainly true, and yet I am no stranger to dorms and close living quarters (you will recall I lived with 5 roommates in a trailer last year). This cannot be the option.

2. I work with kids who are carriers of all kinds of things. Also a good option, but if true why wouldn't the symptoms have set in sooner, say in September when the work began? Plus, I pretty much beat anything they can offer in the famous "Student Teaching Hospital Visit" of 2005. Clearly, I can take the kids.

3.The stress of moving and settling in here is getting to my body. Definitely not a possibility. If you know me, you know this is one of my longest stints anywhere.

4. This building is old, with old heat, old dust and old air. Lots of people have weird aversions to that kind of thing. Maybe I do too. However, I did live in a disaster zone last year where the air was full of spackle and dust, in old buildings in a polluted city 4 years before that, and NJ (need I say more?) 18 years before that.


Is my body rejecting all the theology, faith and church history? Is the HP the demons' way of escaping my body?

I think not.

Perhaps in regards to number 4, the air here is actually TOO clean, TOO pure, and TOO wholesome. Could my sickened self be craving some action, something gritty to make it well again? Do I need to breathe air that is more diverse, more complicated, more in your face?

Then again, maybe I just need some OJ and a nap.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

From Mike Huckabee's Website (Theatre Ed. people don't want to miss this one)

Firstly, if you're wondering where I've been the past few weeks, let me remind you that we take our finals after Christmas, so mostly I've been elbow deep in books and laptops. Combine that with the holidays, traveling, and family illness, I haven't looked at my blog in a while.

Now though, as I sit listening to CNN's coverage of the Iowa Caucus, I begin to be intrigued by Mike Huckabee. If you know me, you know there's no way I would vote for him, but like a lot of people I met in the South, he seems like a nice gentleman that I could have coffee with and get some good stories from, despite some big political differences.

So I went on his website. I was drawn immediately to a section on "Education and the Arts". Finally, I thought, a Republican making sense. Many of us who are or have been arts educators know the No Child Left Behind Act is stifling creativity and imagination in favor of memorization and drilling via standardized tests. Apparently, Huckabee also wants the arts available to all children. But then he said this:

Music and the arts are not extraneous, extra-curricular, or expendable - I believe they are essential. I want to provide every child these "Weapons of Mass Instruction"

Seriously? Is the culture of war and violence so pervasive that he cannot communicate his thoughts about the arts (which by the way often serve to be anti-violent) without using a pun about WMDs?

Mr. Huckabee, I retract my coffee invitation.