Bridesmaid Babblings

It's 2:24 a.m. I need to be awake in 4 hours and 36 minutes. Obviously, it is the perfect time to blog.

In recent and exciting news, one of my nearest and dearest friends from college got engaged. I mean, yes, we all knew it was coming, and I even knew her fiancee (also a good friend) had the ring seven months ago, but still, when it actually happens, it's incredibly exhilarating. I imagine it must be even more exciting for her, but I'm not one to offer discourse on how it must feel to know you're getting married in the very near and real future (more about this later, which you can take as either a promise or a threat).

Now, I have been to a decent amount of weddings, especially considering the fact that I am only 22. I have plenty of friends who have already been in more weddings than I have attended, but I consider them the anomalies. In any case, I will let you in on a little secret that actually isn't anywhere near a secret:

I. love. weddings.

A few weeks ago, at a cocktail party, my fellow seminarians and I went around the circle and said what we would be doing if we weren't in seminary. I appreciated that we didn't say what we would be doing if we weren't going to be pastors, because, shock of all shocks, there are some of us in seminary who are not going to be ordained pastors. But I digress. As we went around, a few people said that they would be teaching or writing, and there were some other more diverse career paths that I cannot remember because, let's face it, it was a cocktail party. When it was my turn, I revealed that, even though I wanted to be a teacher for a really long time, I would most likely be planning weddings for a living. Let me reiterate: I. love. weddings.

If I could go to a wedding every weekend, I would be deliriously happy. I giggle with glee when friends start posting facebook albums full of pictures from the weddings they've attended. I don't care if I knew the bride or the groom, where the wedding took place, what the color scheme was...I could look at wedding pictures all day long. I'm intentionally not following wedding photography blogs on blogger because I do need to pass my classes. I love anything that has to do with weddings. It's really more of an obsession than an interest.

That being said, I practically passed out with joy when said newly-engaged best friend (ALP, as she will be known henceforth) asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I've never been in a wedding before, and I couldn't be more honored to be asked to be in this one. It's even more exciting because, as I mentioned, her soon-to-be husband (JD, for space's sake) is also a good friend of mine, so there won't be any of the awkwardness of "who is this guy you're marrying?" going on. Added bonus: her maid of honor is her younger sister (RP), who I've met a few times and is completely fantastic, and the other bridesmaid (LFT) is my other best friend from college! LFT and I always have more fun than I believe is legally allowed at dances and weddings, so ALP & JD's wedding is going to be absolute insanity. Oh my word, I am excited.

As of now, the wedding is potentially in July of 2010...meaning I have about ten months to get Bridesmaid Hot. I'm going to be honest here: ALP, RP and LFT are flat-out hot. We don't mince words here at the seminary, in case you haven't noticed. I would like to be hot as well. So, that means a few things:
  • Raid my fridge and eliminate anything that is disgustingly unhealthy. This should be easy, since my fridge is kind of empty now.
  • Only get lunch in the refectory (read: mini-cafeteria) on days that have healthier food. Sadly, this means I will not get to experience the wing bar or creamy pasta sauces, but I will indulge in huge plates of salad with generous portions of cucumbers, carrots and broccoli, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, and some fat-free dressing.
  • Eliminate soda from my vocabulary. This is very difficult, especially when it tastes so good mixed with a little bit of rum. Which brings me to my next point...
  • Cut down on alcohol consumption. Honestly, I don't drink that much (and I'm not just saying that, it's actually true). It's like my incredibly-strict-on-alcohol undergrad institution is still looking over my shoulder with every sip, so it's a little like a guilt trip every time! But sometimes, when we're sitting around a campfire and having a grand old time, we lose track and have one too many watermelon Smirnoffs, and then all you have is a stomachache and empty calories coursing through your body. Unnecessary.
  • Use that YWCA pass! The seminary pays for most of our yearly memberships, so students only have to pay $25 for a whole year at the Y. This is an incredible deal, which I did take advantage of. I've gone to a few Zumba classes (Latin dance workout...incredible) and I've used the elliptical a few times, but I have not been diligent. Tragically, an increase in workout time means getting up at 5:00 so I can be at the gym by 5:15 (it's a blissful two-minute walk from my apartment), back by 6:00 and ready for my 8:30 class. This will require quite a bit of motivation, but it's probably the most necessary part of this plan.
  • Get more sleep. I'm currently running on an average of 5 hours a night. That is definitely not enough. In addition to making me unhealthier overall, when I'm tired, I don't feel like cooking. When I don't feel like cooking, I end up eating something quick, easy and really unhealthy, or something that a friend cooks, which is delicious and home-made, but also really unhealthy.
So, on that note, I should probably get to sleep, since I now have 3 hours and 53 minutes until my alarm is going off. And it's not like I can hit snooze and roll back over for a few more hours. I have to read a lot of material and then write a paper on it, so coherence will be a necessity. Thankfully, God made coffee for this exact purpose.

Although, come to think of it, I should probably cut caffeine from my diet as well. What have I gotten myself into?


The Guilt-Ridden Samaritan

There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I'll pay you on my way back." -Luke 10:30-35, The Message
 Almost everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. Even if you've never been to Christian church in your life, you could probably give a pretty good rendering of the story. A guy gets messed up by some bad guys, and they leave him to die on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite walk past him (doesn't this sound like the beginning of a bad joke?), and you'd think that they would stop to help him, but all they're worried about is becoming unclean after having contact with this half-dead man. Then, a Samaritan comes by. Now, Samaritans were basically the most ritually unclean people you could find back in the day. Jews didn't want to have anything with them because they were part Gentile. The Gentiles wouldn't touch them because they were part Jewish. So the Samaritans really understood what it meant to be passed over. It's nice to think that that's why the Samaritan stopped; he had seen these two religious leaders totally ignore the guy, and he knew what it felt like to be ignored for pretty surface reason. But I'm not a biblical scholar, so I can't make any bold claims about why the Samaritan stopped; we just know that he did. He helped this poor guy out and followed up with him, paying for any additional cost, not just pawning him off on the next willing participant in this story. The story of the Good Samaritan is lifted up as the paradigm of Christian brotherly/sisterly love: that we would help someone because they need help, putting our own concerns (like cleanliness or cash flow) second to their immediate and long-term needs.

Today, I had to go to the library to copy some pages out of a book for a paper I need to write. As I was walking back to my apartment in the rain, I saw a man standing in front of my building with two large bags, the straps crossed in an X across his chest. I didn't recognize him, and even six weeks in, I can at least remember seeing almost everyone at the seminary. So I was a little wary. As I got closer, he called out to me and asked if I was a student here. I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me his dilemma.

He needs to get to Chambersburg (a town about 30 minutes away) because his brother is picking him up there tonight. He stayed in Gettysburg last night, but it was too expensive to stay a second night, so he's going to just hang out in Chambersburg until his brother arrives. But as he was driving out of Gettysburg, his car broke down and he can't afford to get it fixed. He wants someone to drive him to Chambersburg, and he'll give that person $10 for gas. He asked the "pastor" if he could help (my friend was supply preaching in a congregation this morning, and thus was wearing his clerics while he took another student's dog for a quick walk), but the pastor said he was too busy. He just wants to know if anyone can give him a ride so he doesn't have to stand out in the rain. One of the large bags is a $2,000.00 breathing machine that the VA bought for him, but if it gets ruined, they're not just going to buy him a new one. Can someone please give him a ride?

I agreed to go inside and ask if anyone would be able to give him a ride. This is where the guilt set in. In reality, all I have to do today is work on some homework, watch the Ravens beat the Browns and go to a church thing later this evening. Do I have an hour to drive someone to Chambersburg and back? Absolutely. But let's break down this situation and what was going through my head:

I have never seen this guy before, his broken down car is nowhere in sight (he said some old man let him push it into his yard), he's got two sketchy looking bags with unknown contents, and if I'm being honest, he just looked pretty shady in general. So am I going to invite him into my car and take him to a small town 25 miles away on a rainy Sunday? Not likely. But will I go inside and alert someone else to the situation? Sure.

I went upstairs and heard a male voice, so I figured that was a good place to start. Three seniors (two girls, one guy) were just sitting down to watch a football game, and I gave them the rundown. The guy, D, affirmed the creepiness of the situation, and the girls agreed. However, D agreed to go back down with me and talk to the guy. D was very upfront with him, and told him that the situation sounded shady, especially because the guy told us that neither he nor his brother had cell phones or any way to get in touch with one another. After some more back-and-forth, D agreed to take the guy to Chambersburg, rejecting the gas money the guy offered.

I went inside to tell the girls that D was taking this guy to his destination, and they were just as concerned as I was. We agreed that it was better that D was taking him than if a girl were, because there are just too many red flags for that to be a good idea. I expressed my guilt over the situation to the girls (M & K), saying that I just kept running the Good Samaritan story through my head. That I wanted to be a good and faithful Christian who would sacrifice her own concerns for the needs of the other, but I couldn't shake the creeped out feeling, even if the guy's situation was legitimate.

Then K said something that stuck with me. She said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I think we forget that, in the Good Samaritan story, the guy on the side of the road was half dead. He wasn't a threat to anyone at that point...except for the priest and religious leader who didn't want to become ritually unclean." Great point, K.

So here's my theological-but-practical point for the day: be smart. Yeah, as Christians (or just as human beings, really), we should try and help those who need it. But if you think that a situation could be unsafe, don't abandon all common sense for the sake of living up to the Good Samaritan. Because how can I be faithful to the Gospel if I blindly put myself in danger without considering the circumstances? God wants us to help people, but God also wants us to stay alive, and finding that balance is necessary. If D hadn't offered to take the guy where he needed to go, I probably would have grabbed a friend and asked him or her to come with me, to be safe. Could we still have gotten into a shady situation? Sure, but because we were smart, it would be a whole lot less likely. So I beg of you, make good choices that aren't just for the benefit of someone else but also ensure your safety...God gave us the gift of common sense for a reason!

NB: I just got a facebook message saying D is safe and on his way back. He gets the Modern Day Good Samaritan award today.


Humble Beginnings

Whenever I'm reading a great blog, I think, "I wish I had an awesome blog that people from across the world would stumble upon and gain profound insights just by reading my musings." Then I go through a cycle of motivation (where I try to think of a creative blog name and ultimately fail), self-deprecation ("I'm just not witty enough to have a successful blog!"), false promises to my now-defunct LiveJournal ("I already have a blog, I just need to start writing in it again! I'll post an entry tomorrow!") and denial ("I don't really want a blog, it's just a fad that takes up too much time..."), and then without fail, I read another awesome blog, and the cycle repeats. Such is life.

So now, I am breaking that cycle. While I don't presume that my blog will ever be widely read or turned into a bestselling book/feel-good movie (hey, my name is Julie and I like to cook, but I'm not getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to be me), maybe it will give me an outlet for all of those moments when I say, "I wish I had somewhere to chronicle this seemingly meaningless event in my life." Or, to vent my frustrations and document the vast array of indiscriminate thoughts floating around in my mind. We'll see.

That being said, a little background may be helpful. I am a 22-year old graduate of a private Christian college in Pennsylvania, where I studied youth ministry, music, and how to procrastinate on every assignment thrown my way (except for my Big Final Research Paper, which I completed more than 24 hours before the deadline, thankyouverymuch). I had planned to go right into youth ministry after college, but some things happened here and I decided to get another degree first. Now I'm at a Lutheran seminary in Pennsylvania (there are only two, so I'm opening the door pretty wide for stalkers) studying youth ministry (oops just narrowed it down to one) and loving almost every minute of it.

I'm originally from Baltimore, which is where I spend my time when I'm not living and learning on a battlefield. I have a mom and a dad who are pretty incredible, and an awesome little sister who is growing up way too quickly for my liking. We have a red short hair miniature dachshund named Gracie, who is the best dog ever (this is not up for debate). If I were in a sentimental mood, I would say something like "My family has made me who I am, and I am eternally grateful for everything they've done for me." Note: I am always in a sentimental mood.

Now, as for the name. Like I said, my number one deterrent in starting a blog has always been the name. I mean, what if this takes off and garners global attention? I don't want to have a blog with a second-rate name! By the way, if that happens, I'll probably hire a marketing team (Lindsay, you're chief of staff) and an internet expert to come up with a new name and transfer all of my posts to a new blog under it, erasing all history of this one. But we'll cross that bridge when/if we come to it.

Anyway, back to the name. I'm in seminary, so obviously that makes me a seminarian. However, I am deeply troubled by the image that most of the world has of seminarians. You think we're all serious, studious people who do nothing but read the Bible and theology books all day, or sit around in clerical collars talking about how pious we are compared to the heathens of the world. There are some like that among us, but I want to dispel that rumor!

The seminarians I have met (myself included) are people. Yes, you read it here first, seminarians are people too. We make poor choices and don't always say the right thing, and sometimes we even skip chapel. But we have a lot of fun and we do our best to love people the way Jesus loved people, and we're just following this (sometimes crazy) call that God has blessed us with.

All that to say: I like to think of myself as pretty sassy. Merriam-Webster says that sassy means impudent, which means "marked by contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others." I renounce that definition, for your information. Instead, I prefer to use M-W's other characterizations of someone who is sassy: vigorous, lively, and distinctively smart and stylish. The latter two can be debatable at times, but I am nothing if not vigorous and lively. I promise to you, my loyal reader(s?), that I will strive to make this blog as sassy as possible. You won't find a lot of heady discourse on deep theological topics; you will find me wrestling with issues that come up in my seminary education. If I start to get boring, send me a virus that will incapacitate blogspot until I've become more exciting (just kidding, seriously, don't send me a virus); nobody wants a bland blog!

Alright, well, I am off to plow through some busy work. That's right, folks, you heard me correctly: I am in grad school, and I have busy work. This may be a topic for another blog post in the future, so I won't steal my own thunder, but suffice it to say that if busy work took a long walk off a short pier, I would be none too disappointed.