my first sweatlodge experience…. I stayed in there 2 hours, and it was almost 130 degrees for most of it. I sweated, I prayed, I contemplated…. and then a took a super duper shower. It was most excellent.

Mainey Maine.

So if you haven’t guessed from the title, I happen to be in Maine currently.  To be specific, I am in Harrison, Maine, in Snowbird Lodge, the delightfully secluded and wonderfully beautiful home and lodge of the equally delightful David Thorpe, a local Mainer who happens to produce amazing art and delicious apple muffins (he made muffins for us yesterday… what a host!).  Even better still, the place is filled with his art, all photography.  And there is internet access, which is why I am currently blogging as I sit in front of a warm hearth and stare out the large spacious windows into the currently blanketed forest.

There are many wonderful people here with me… well actually there are only 7 of us, because most people were apparently too busy for spiritual renewal of the sort that Harrison Maine is in a position to offer.  I can tell you that there is an abundance of forest and wild turkeys, as well as an abundance of herbal teas in the kitchen to enjoy.  There is a dog here as well–Corey, who came with Dan Schriever–and he is a joy to play with.  After I finish this post I fully intend to go snowshoeing with the dog.  Delightful.

My main(e) point, I suppose, in writing this is to say that it is good for the soul to get away…that escaping to Maine is a wonderful idea.  I fully recommend it to anyone, and if anyone takes my advice, I would only ask that you allow me to come with you when you do.

Ah Annual Meeting.

Long day at church today… because of the Annual Conglomeration’s meeting for budgetary and other administrative Issues.  In other words, CHPC experienced an annual 2 hour recap of last year and the challenges facing next year.  It was brutal (not as brutal as the session meeting on Wednesday) but it was also amazing to see people committed to the church speak up about their commitment.  The best part in fact of the meeting was that people seemed unified about mission and about direction, something that you don’t always see in a church, no matter what the size.  It looks like we are setting goals this year for membership, and I think we might just make them, to be honest.  The goal the pastor set was a 25% increase in membership, a steep feat for anyone, but then again 2 people approached me after church today and indicated that they want to join, so it can’t be that bad, can it?

Really it all comes down to discernment I guess, if you think about it.  This church has a mission that it is so clear and vocal about—but somehow the mission doesn’t always translate to action.  And I guess thats the real doozy, isn’t it?  I think one of the things I have really begun to realize about church ministry is that the buildup to action is the biggest roadblock to change.   Because it’s so easy to talk, and really it is easy to act too–but so often we tell ourselves that action is hard, that it will take too much out of us, that perhaps it will be a waste of resources.  The risk of failing makes action all but impossible.

Recognizing that, and then realizing how little it requires of us to actually act on our words, is the situation I find myself in this afternoon as I reflect on Clarendon Hill.  We have an amazing opportunity to give to the community of God, to the community of Somerville.  What we need is the faith to do it, or perhaps otherwise stated the courage to act on our professed faith.  I think it will only seem difficult until we do it.  And that’s where I am now.  I am trying to figure out how I, as an intern, can help this church have courage to act.  I don’t think its something I can accomplish alone, but if I can figure out how God is calling me to help it along, that’s a start, right?

Virgin shark births… for serious.

No joke, some shark in Hungary apparently produced a baby shark pup without any contact with a male shark… someone should call the Vatican about this… a virgin birth in the shark community!

Here’s a picture… isn’t he adorable?!

sinless offspring of the virgin mother

hittin’ the hump

So as of this afternoon, I am officially 50% done with my MDIV, which means that I am halfway done and a year and a half away from possibly being an offically ordained spiritual guide.  Whew. And I have to say, that man this feels good!  The past few months have truly been challenging and so I am grateful to have survived them.

A look back on the past 8 months–

June: I was dead set on getting the heck outta Cambridge.  I was convinced that Harvard was a mistake, that I had let my selfishness and my need to seem successful get in the way of my vocation.  I had internalized HDS as “The Harvard Death Star” as Prof. Patton aptly put it, meaning that I had blamed this institution for many of the frustrations that I had experienced.  If I could get out, and go to a Presbyterian Seminary, I thought, perhaps I could save my vocation.  I spent a lot of time hashing this out with my pastor and with my boyfriend at the time, Tim.

July: Still convinced that Harvard was a problem, but I was beginning to realize that perhaps it was salvageable.  I began to notice that more than anything I was just tired–tired of working, tired of studying, tired of school.  I thought back and realized that I hadn’t had a break since sophomore year of college, meaning that I probably was just exhausted more than anything else.  Of course, I realized this in the midst of working 40+ hours a week in the summer… so go figure.  Anyways, I resolved to put the issue of transfer on a shelf and sit with the idea of rest for a while.  At least I knew at this point that my advisor and my pastor were there to help me out if I needed it.

August:  I completed the petition to transfer and indicated interest in Austin Presbyterian, Columbia Theological, Union PSCE and Princeton, with the natural consequence that I was inundated with literature about the programs.  Columbia and Austin in particular were enticing because they were small and they went out of their way to talk to me in person.  I still get emails from them, in fact.  However, I was beginning to doubt my plan to transfer.  I figured out that if I transferred I would more likely end up with an MTS at Harvard and then start over again with an MDIV somewhere else, meaning that I would be 26 or older before I actually got around to ministry… and if anything I was NOT down for even more school.  I wanted to be working, not studying.

September: I withdrew my petition to transfer.  Tim and I broke up.  Life sucked for a bit, but it also got better.  I started my internship at Clarendon Hill and began meeting regularly with Karl, my advisor.  He has been a great person to chat with, even if his views on ministry are a bit unique, to say the least.  He has been a great influence though.  This month did have a lot of ups and downs though.  I spent the first half working up the courage to break up with Tim, and once I did I felt horrible, but then felt better.  Something like relief I guess.  And deciding not to transfer had a similar result… relief.  I was going to stick to Harvard and stick it to the institution…. meaning that I wasn’t going to let Harvard get in the way of me doing what I needed to do to get ordained.

October: interesting month, to say the least.  I plugged into a group on campus around now that has ended up being my main source of support, the Emergent Group at HDS.  Anna, Roger, Matt, Tyler, Laine, and the others have been wonderful people to me, and I think they helped me the most with getting through the suck.  Especially Matt, though.  He has turned out to be an awesome friend, and definitely helped me when I was feeling crappy.  Renee informed me around now that she was going to get married next year and that she wanted me to be a bridesmaid.  Sweet.

November: I feel like I started to feel my groove in November.  Classes were challenging but not overbearing, my internship began to feel less scary, and I got to know my friends better.  Had a few get-togethers at the house, and those were fun as well.  My birthday was in the middle of the month, and my roommates constructed a fantastical cake for me that can only be described as “one-of-a-kind.”  Matt and Ramy and I hung out a bit, one of my favorite times being the time we spent the WHOLE DAY watching TV and movies together.  That seriously rocked, guys.  I won’t forget that anytime soon.

November also became significant because that is when I got asked out on a date by Alex, a guy from my church.  It was both exciting and nerve-wracking to get asked out… because he was at the church I work at.  But we knew each other from before.   But I didn’t know what to do.  I am so glad we went out together though… after alot of consideration and advice-sessions from Karl and others, I decided to go for it, and it ended up being an awesome date.  We met up at 7pm and I didn’t get home until 2am.  And we talked the whole time.  Then he walked me home from church twice in one day.  It was literally amazing.

December: The semester drew to a close and I began to realize that time was moving faster than I expected.  Which is bittersweet.  I want school to end, but I also want to spend more time with the friends I am making.  It’s tough I guess.  Anyways, school was going fine, in fact it was quite unstressful.  Alex and I were getting more serious, and he invited me to visit him at his home in San Rafael during Christmas.  I in turn invited him to the mountains with us at Tahoe.  Both experiences were awesome.  His family was so nice, so kind.  And my family liked Alex a ton, even though he is profoundly nerdy 🙂  And Christmas was awesome.  I got to preach and help do communion at Foothill, and I felt super-confident with the experience.  Ben freaked me out a bit about dating Alex (I hadn’t told him about it yet) but it ended up okay.  By the end of December, I was more than ready for my red-eye flight back to Boston.

January: These days have been going fast.  I hit the ground running at about 75% when I got back, and finished my finals pretty quickly.  This afternoon I completed my last exam.  Alex told me he loved me, and we have been dreaming together for a few weeks now.  He decided to go to UPENN for his first Junior Faculty appointment, meaning he will be leaving this summer, but for some reason that hasn’t scared me yet.  For now, I am just happy to be with someone that makes me feel the way he does, and am happy to be halfway done with school.  I started working out my schedule for next year as well, and I have come to the conclusion that I am gonna rock this semester.  Bring it!

Alone in a room full of secrets.

I know how I feel… I just don’t know how to tell you. And that’s what makes things so frustrating for me, I suppose.  Every time that I think of you, which is a lot because almost everything makes me think of you, my stomach starts to hurt.  I think its because I want to tell you things but feel incapable of articulating them correctly–or maybe it’s more like I am afraid of saying the wrong thing, of messing things up and looking stupid.

And I have a lot I don’t know how to tell, I suppose, both the good and the bad. But where would I be without my secrets?*

I feel like I am a character in a bad made-for-television lifetime drama.  Science Dammit, somebody please cut the funding for this crappy movie 🙂

*hint: I would probably be a lot happier.

New Year

Once upon a time, I knew a girl who didn’t love herself very much.  At least, that’s what I assume, because she certainly didn’t act like she loved herself.  I think that growing up, she must have had self-confidence issues or something.  She had some pretty cool siblings, and they all loved each other a lot, but somehow along the way she convinced herself that her sister was a lot better than her– prettier, better liked, more popular.  Sure, my friend was smart–she always got good grades and her parents were proud of her–but also seemed to feel awkward in her own skin.  She liked to play sports, but she also liked to play make believe alot, and that meant that sometimes other kids made fun of her.  Her sister’s friends, in fact, made fun of her a lot.  And the guys at school.  People that she had thought were friends were sometimes so mean when they made fun of her that she would run behind the tree at her middle school and cry alone, or she would walk through the field and think to herself, I guess because that was when people left her alone.  When she was alone.

So anyways, to continue the story, my friend went off to high school, and she made some decent friends, but I think that her experiences in middle school really stuck with her.  She was so certain that she was the silly, smart kid while her sister was the popular pretty kid, that she began to treat herself that way.  She assumed she wasn’t all that special, with the exception of school, and I guess it was sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy in its own way.  Sure she had friends, but most of them were other kids that felt similar to the way she did–insecure young teenagers who were trying to fit in somewhere.

The problem is that my friend started doing things to herself to try and be the sort of person that she thought her sister was.  She started freaking out about how she looked all the time, obsessing about how much she weighed and what guys thought about her.  She was still a pretty cool girl, and definitely a tom boy, but she also seemed really sad sometimes.  I think high school in fact was when she started developing an eating disorder.   She was so certain that she wasn’t good enough, that she was willing to risk her health to change.

I know that she knows that it’s bad, that she shouldn’t be doing the things she does and that she could hurt herself.  We’ve talked a few times about it, and its clear that she doesn’t like the fact that she throws her food up when she is feeling sad, or that when she gets stressed out she eats things that she doesn’t want to eat, thereby creating situations in which she is more likely to engage in that behavior.  She knows.  But still she doesn’t stop.   She even tried to get counseling for it once, but it didn’t work out very well.  She told me that the psychologist didn’t seem to understand her, or to care about her enough for her to put the energy into it.

Anyways, the point of my post is that I am worried about that girl.  She’s my friend, and I can’t stand to see her like this.  I wish she didn’t feel like she was ugly, or waste so much time trying to feel prettier, thinner, more liked.  I think that if her friends knew this stuff about her, they wouldn’t believe it, because they seem to think she’s awesome.  I know I do.   So I guess I am hoping that this year might be different, that this year she might be able to begin to change, to begin to see that she is a wonderful human being.  I hope that this year God reminds her and her friends finally help her to see the truth, that she is unique and wonderful the way she is, and that nothing needs to change.