Archive | June, 2008

Five Years Later

23 Jun

There are certain dates in my life that I will probably always remember. Dates that had a significant impact on the person I am and the person I am being formed to be. Today – June 23rd – is one of them.

Five years ago on June 23rd, I boarded a plane in New York headed for Miami and then for Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I was traveling with a group of people from my church and some from a church in Norwalk, CT. I wasn’t really sure why we were going to Honduras – my mom had explained that our church was supporting an educational mission and we were going to observe it, but that was the extent of my knowledge.

That trip changed my life. I was planning on matriculating into the Ursinus College class of 2007 with a major in Business and Economics. I wanted the high powered, high paying job. I wanted to live through my job. But when I looked into the eyes of devastation, when I saw, when I touched and when I lived in the third world, I realized that there was a cause much larger that I needed to commit myself to.

I spent the week understanding the Children’s Rescue Mission, an Christian-based mission that focuses on education for children as a pathway towards a better life. Miguel, the director of the mission, explained to me that education is very expensive in the villages because children need funding for school uniforms and books. If they don’t have enough money for either of these, they are denied an education and are usually forced to leave their villages for the closest cities and solicit their bodies for income. The Children’s Rescue Mission offers children classes in sewing, music and basic computer skills. Hairdressing classes were once offered as well. Because of Miguel’s efforts, children are now growing up with marketable skills. A feeding program was also quickly implemented, responding to the realization that children cannot learn if they are hungry and malnurished.

I don’t think anyone can fully understand the third world until they’ve lived in it. And while I understand that the roots of the problems are much longer and deeper than I can solve singlehandedly, I also understand that I am very capable of addressing some of the resulting symptoms to alleviate some of the pain that is felt on a daily basis. And this was the most valuable piece of knowledge that I brought back to the United States with me.

I started college and immediately knew that the business thing wasn’t for me. I’d like to think that I had some great visionary moment where this was clear, but I’m pretty sure my B- in Financial Accounting speaks for itself.

I did, however, find comfort and ease behind the pulpit, something many have told me since is a gift that I should hold onto. A few weeks after my first semester at Ursinus began, I found myself back in CT preaching to my congregation about how our trip to Honduras had impacted my life, and how the truth of the Gospel had come alive to me during the trip and in the days and weeks following it as well. It wasn’t a connection that was hard for me to make, and it didn’t take long for me to formulate my thoughts into a sermon. It was easy. I quickly realized that the thought of devoting my life to ministry made me so much happier than the prospect of fighting to get to the top in the business world. I quickly realized that the prospect of studying religion – the history behind it and the sociological implications of it today – brought much less anxiety than the prospect of taking an accounting exam. Rather than wanting to live through my job I realized I wanted my job to live through me.

And now here I am, five years later, still responding to a call that I felt so many years ago. It has been such a long journey. Throughout these five years I had a serious bout with anxiety, found comfort once again beyond the walls of the Children’s Rescue Mission, was introduced to the Fund for Theological Education and people like me who were similarly discerning, found and explored new hobbies, was lucky enough to travel to conferences all over the country, represented my association as a delegate to General Synod twice, was voted as a Student In Care in the Litchfield North Association of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, moved 1,000 miles away from the comfort of my parent’s house and home church and the list goes on. I also met the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with, someone who believes in me more than I believe in myself. Someone who believes in my ministry enough to give me the strength and the courage to walk forward every single day of my life. Someone who will allow me to let my ministry live through me because it will be his ministry too.

I still have a long way to go. But it’s good to take opportunities like this to stop and look back at where I’ve come from and the progress that I’ve made.

In Hope and Progress,

In Times of Transition …

18 Jun

So I’m pretty sure that I’m going add the title of this post “In Times of Transition …” to my vows next summer.  My mom and I were talking about transitions this morning and how hard they are, especially if you’re used to a steady routine in your life.  My parents are in a huge period of transition right now.  They’re packing up the house that they’ve lived in for almost 15 years and moving to Kent.  The new house is less than a mile from the church, it has a big flat yard and a short flat driveway (something my father has craved after nearly 15 years of singlehandedly plowing an up and down one-tenth of a mile long driveway that gets no sun and usually freezes over) and a pool.  The house is a little bit smaller (from four bedrooms to three) but it’s a good move because it’s going to give them a chance to get rid of some of the stuff that is old and they don’t use anymore.  It’s hard to imagine the amount of stuff that accumulates after living in the same house for 15 years and being married for 30 years.  Bruce and I have only been living together for one year and we’ve already managed to accumulate a lot of stuff.  And that is before wedding presents!!  When Bruce and I were visiting my parents we went through their entire attic and found wedding presents that they never used.  I think registries were potentially the most brilliant invention ever.

I think both my mom and my sister are very stressed about this move (it’s not that I think my dad isn’t but he tends to think more in terms of what he can accomplish rather than everything that needs to be done).  My mom told me this morning that she doesn’t like transitions.  I was quick to agree with her but then thought about some of the amazing joys in life that transitions often bring.  When Bruce and I moved to Atlanta we were basically in a state of transition for months while we figured out our apartment, money, jobs and school and it has turned into an incredible life for us.  I think most parents would admit that when they had children the transition was hard but incredible.  Marriage is a transition but also the be
ginning of a new and wonderful life.  I was quick to agree with my mom when she said that transitions were hard because I agree with her – they’ve never been easy for me.  But then I started to think about my attitude during transitions …
What if, instead of treating a transition like something terrible in your life, you treated it like it was a blessing larger than life?  What if, instead of just trying to stay afloat during transition, scrambling to find any semblance of a schedule or routine, we were to treat transition as if it were a vacation, wher
e schedules and plans don’t tell us what to do, instead we listen to our hearts and our minds?  What if we embraced times of transition as a joy in our life, and released the tension of the need to control and just enjoyed life?

Transitions seem a lot like waterfalls.  The water is still before the fall and still at the bottom, but in transition between the two it rushes to the bottom at a speed faster than most of us can fathom.  There is no control as to where the water will land and even though it’s fast and hard to control it is absolutely beautiful.  And eventually the water lands and begins to move peacefully with natural flow again.
While transitions are fast and hard to control – they have the potential to be absolutely beautiful.  They are showered with the grace and beauty of the hand of God – and eventually everything and everyone lands and begins to moves peacefully with the natural flow again.
With Blessings,

Support and Blessings …

17 Jun

I went to the doctor today to follow up after my ER visit this afternoon.  The doctor that I saw said that everything looked good and that I should follow up with her in a couple of weeks.  While I was waiting for her I noticed that her card was sitting on the sink and after her name was not only MD but also MPH (Master of Public Health).  After spending a lot of time with the curriculum at Rollins, I’ve gained a lot of respect for physicians who obtain an MPH and it put me at ease to be treated by one.

I’ve been slightly stressed out lately.  When Bruce and I first announced our engagement, people were overjoyed.  Tim and Elisabeth’s smiles lit up the car on the way to the square for the concert after we told them.  The e-mails, text messages and voicemails that we both received as our parents slowly were able to tell everyone on each side of the family were heartwarming.  We got cards from friends and family.  A bunch of my girlfriends arranged a girls night and a night out at the wine bar to celebrate.  Bokang, a friend of Bruce and Cameron’s from Lesotho who lived with them this summer, messaged me on facebook to congratulate me.  Andy took us out to celebrate and then started planning an engagement party at his house.  When we finally got to my parents house, my mom started crying when she saw the ring.  I saw so many people’s faces light up when they saw Bruce and me at church, hugging us and asking to see the ring.  So many of the women who watched me grow up, who had me babysit their children, fumbled around for their glasses so they could get a good look at the ring.  When we went to Chris and Pam’s wedding that night even the bride and groom (who had a lot of stuff going on that day!!) seemed elated and asked to see the ring.  Bruce’s parents were thrilled, as well as his entire family who congregated at the Weaver’s house to celebrate Jason and Amber’s graduation.  Max was not only thrilled when he heard about the engagement but also told me that he had secretly wanted me to ask him to perform the ceremony when I asked him.  Kristin practically started crying when I asked her if she would be a bridesmaid.  Gabriella twirled around in circles and waved her feet in the air when I asked her to be the flowergirl.  Andy hosted us a wonderful engagement party at his house and so many of the people there are thrilled to be planning to drive to CT for the wedding.  It was such an amazing response.  This is such a joyous time in our lives and we are thrilled to be able to share it with the people who we love in our lives.
Everything seemed perfect.  Bruce and I set a date, asked our bridal party and have started looking at venues.  My mom and sister and I went dress shopping and I bought a beautiful dress that I love!!  I picked colors.  I’m starting to envision a perfect night.
But then Bruce told me about a conversation that he had with a mutual friend of ours.  She halfheartedly congratulated him and then expressed her concern that we were moving too fast.  She encouraged us to have a long engagement and do premarital counseling – she even said that she would help us to find a way to pay for it.  This really hurt Bruce and me and then we started to think back to the reactions of a handful of our mutual friends who have been with us since the beginning of our relationship, who knew us before we knew each other, saw our friendship as it was turning into a relationship and saw us make hard decisions about where I was going to school and whether or not Bruce was going to move to me.  When we thought back to some of these reactions, the elated high that we were feeling was suddenly deflated.  We felt discouraged.  It’s just frustrating to have that kind of negativity in our lives.  We want so badly for people to see how happy we are together.  We want so badly for people to see that our families have embraced each one of us like children of their own.  We want so badly for people to be happy for us.
But we’ve come to realize that people are going to believe what they believe and feel what they’re going to feel.  We can’t change it.  But we can continue to be happy in our relationship and be in love.  We can make a conscious decision to choose to focus on the people that have been so supportive and not on those that bring negativity into our lives.  We’ve spent a lot of time talking about this and rejoicing in the people who have brought joy to our lives.  We have each other and that’s what is important.  We’re going to get married and pledge our love in front of our friends and family and that is the most important thing right now.
With gratitude to all those who have brought blessings into our lives,

In Good Times and in Bad Times …

15 Jun

It’s been a crazy couple of days.  On Friday I was at work and I knew that something was wrong all day.  Without going into details, I’ll just say that I started to freak out and called Bruce, who left work early and brought me to the Emergency Room.  I really hate going to the Emergency Room, so I didn’t go without a struggle.  We got there and I was seen by a Nurse Practitioner, who I really didn’t like at all.  She was kind of rude to Bruce and to me and she asked me the same questions five times.  She also wasn’t gentle either.  In the end, the best way that I can describe what was wrong with me was a bacterial infection, which had formed an abscess.  After the woman drained it she had a nurse give me some pills and then a shot.  We finally got to our car at 10:30 p.m., at which point I called my mom to let her know what was going on and started bawling.  I don’t think I realized how stressed the whole process had made me until after we were out of the hospital.  And Bruce was incredible.  He stayed with me in the psych room that they put me in for the entire time and held my hand while I was crying through procedures.  He told me to breathe and that it would be over soon.  I am such a lucky, lucky person to have found someone who will be with me and be so supportive and wonderful through something like that.

We woke up on Saturday and he called one of his managers and asked her if it would be okay if he left work a little bit early.  She said that it would be fine, and he set me up in bed for the day.  Wedding planning stuff, two seasons of Friends, my phone, gatorade, food, etc.  I slept a lot throughout the day, which I think I needed.  My mom called me and then his mom called me.  I realize how lucky I am not only to have Bruce in my life, such a wonderful person who loves and cares for me, but to be part of a new family who cares for me, and worries about me when something is wrong.  I’m so happy to be marrying into such a wonderful family who has embraced me so much.  Even though I’m still not feeling 100% better, I’ve learned a lot about the people who care about me and that makes me happy.
Speaking of wonderful people who care about me, Andy hosted an engagement party for Bruce and me last night.  It was a small group of people but it was SO much fun!!  It’s so wonderful to be surrounded by people who are so supportive of Bruce and me, who love the two of us together, and who want to see us together and happy.  Most of the people at the party told us that they were really excited to road trip up to CT for our wedding – from Atlanta!!  That’s incredible to me.  Bruce and I are blessed to have found such wonderful community down here.
Now we just really need to focus in and get some of the initial plans set in stone.  I don’t think having the reception at my parents house is going to work – there are just going to be too many people there.  So I think the next step is to try to get some ideas of numbers from Bruce and me and our mothers and then start calling around.  I’m trying to stay calm through it all but it’s not easy!!
But for today I’m just going to continue to try to get better.  Bruce is cleaning and I think I’m going to help him out a little bit.  Tomorrow I need to call the Emory Clinic and arrange a follow up appointment.  I also need to call my insurance company and let them know that I was in the emergency room.  I’m going to continue to pray for the God’s grace to shower me as I start to be faced with situations and choices that I’m not used to.
With Strength,

Closing One Door, Opening Another …

11 Jun

Bruce and I had a busy couple of weeks.  On Friday, May 30th, I picked him up from work with a car full of luggage and we started to head north towards Connecticut.  We stopped in Roanoke, VA for the night (which was BEAUTIFUL – I looked to see if there was a UCC church but it looks like there is a very small church which was only started two years ago – I doubt the pastor is ready to retire!!) and then got up and drove the rest of the way to CT.  It was a long drive.  As much as we love Atlanta, we don’t realize how far away it is from our family until we start to travel to visit them.  It’s not easy and I think it’s something that we need to be reminded of when I start looking at churches in two years.

The next day we got up and went to church.  Miguel was preaching and I really wanted to see him.  He was wonderful as usual – he talked about what a blessing the church has been to the mission.  It’s funny because when I think about Children’s Rescue Mission I think about what a blessing they have been to us.  They’ve given people who didn’t even have passports the opportunity to travel to the third world and to see devastation and poverty in a way that empowers them to find solutions.  Because Bruce and I are planning a wedding and I’m in school full-time for the next two years, I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit the village of Teupasenti again.  But I carry the children in my heart with me every day of my life.
After church we all piled in the car and went to the Candlewood Lake Inn for Chris and Pam’s wedding.  It was absolutely beautiful.  The weather was perfect – sunny with white puffy clouds and a breeze so it wasn’t hot.  The wedding was outside in front of a gazebo that was in front of the lake.  My mom performed the ceremony and it was short but sweet.  The reception was amazing.  It was the first time I had seen most of the people at the reception since Bruce and I got engaged so everyone asked about our wedding plans and I got to start thinking about what I wanted to do as well.  Bruce and I went out with Barbara and Ken after the ceremony, which was fun.  I was glad we got a chance to catch up with them and see how things were going on their house.
The next day Bruce and I got to work.  My parents had rented a dumpster while we were in town because their house had gotten a little bit cluttered and they’re down-sizing when they move to Kent.  Collectively, we decided that we would get rid of the furniture in my old bedroom because, even though it had been through three generations, it wasn’t in good condition.  The first thing Bruce and I did was bring that furniture into the dumpster and then went through odds and ends that we had found in the drawers and in my closet, throwing away some of it, donating some and putting aside some to come to Atlanta.  Once I saw my room a little bit more empty I decided the walls looked a mess so I spackled and painted.  I painted white so whoever buys the house will have a clean slate.  It’s amazing what a coat of paint does to make a room look SO much better!!  We really got into the whole project after that.  We went through and emptied out my parents entire attic (they had boxes from computers they don’t have anymore in it!!), went through the garage (the sailboat with the whole in the bottom finally got thrown away) and then got rid of some miscellaneous furniture.  At that point Bruce decided that the house would look a lot better if it was powerwashed so we went and rented a powerwasher – I didn’t realize how powerful a tool they were!!  I didn’t really get sentimental about anything until I was gettin ready to leave.  I looked in my room (at that point only my desk was left because we had thrown away the bed) and realized that if my parents sold the house within the next few months this would probably be the last time I was there.  Then I got sentimental.
We then drove down to Myerstown to spend some time with Bruce’s family and watch Bruce’s brother and cousin graduate from high school.  At the graduation, everyone in Bruce’s family was reminiscing on their own graduations from the same place.  It made me think about how connected his family is, and how blessed I am to be loved and accepted by such a close-knit group of people.  We had a party for Jason and Amber on Saturday and got to see more of his family, which I was happy about.
It was sad to leave Myerstown, but we were ready to get home.  When did Atlanta become home?  I realized as we were driving south that I really am starting a new phase in my life.  Soon my parents house will really be my parents house, not the house that I grew up in.  When I drive to Atlanta (at least for the next two years) I’m driving home – to an apartment that I pay the bills for and a small family (Bruce, me and the cat!!).  I’m working towards a degree that will open the door to something I’ve felt called to for a very long time.  I’m marrying my best friend next year!!  So while it’s sad to think that the door to my childhood and youth is closing, it’s exciting to think about what is going on now and that the best is yet to come.
With Grace,
Sarah 🙂