I love you, so I won't steal your Tristan Prettyman thunder with the title of this post

Today is a special, special day.

Exactly twenty-three years ago, the second mom that I didn't even know I had at the time (I was only 34 days old, you know) gave birth to one of the most fantastic and beautiful people I've ever met.

Mom & Dad #2 named her Lindsay.

I met Lindsay in first grade, and we hated each other. Don't worry, there's a happy ending, and it gives us a good story to tell now. You see, we were in different first grade classes, but we were both in a group of students who were pulled out of the milieu of seven-year olds for Gifted & Talented. Because we were excessively both (I'm so modest), we were arch-enemies. But we realized that we could join forces and obliterate the competition (it is fierce in grade school), so we decided to be best friends.

Then, the cosmos aligned on the first day of second grade, and we showed up to school looking like this (completely unplanned):

The rest is history.

To go through our entire friendship, even at the speed of light, would take weeks. Maybe even months. But this, this I can say in the space of a blog post:

My dear Lindsay, I love you so very much. Thanks for being the first sister I ever had, and my mom's favorite 1.5. Thank you for decorating Barbie cars with me in art class, and helping me learn how to ride a bike, and getting in trouble with me for taking the long way around the block, and saving my sister's life that one time, and prank calling boys at my birthday party, and always being my favorite softball teammate, and giving me the tajas, and being there for every crush and subsequent crash, and coming to visit me at the Mess, and letting me come visit you in North Carolina and Annapolis, and learning so much about yourself in Australia, and having the best New Year's Eve parties, and entertaining me via gchat at the most opportune times, and a billion other things that have absorbed into my subconscious over the past sixteen years.

Oh, right, and thank you for being my best friend.

Happy birthday, beautiful. I hope it's the best one ever.


Processing the process

In order to gain admittance to many of the degree programs offered by ELCA seminaries, you are required to be in the Candidacy process. Those of us who are immersed in it often roll our eyes or groan when someone unfamiliar with the process asks what it is. So here is the brief version (and I promise I neither groaned nor rolled my eyes; I am in a library after all):

Candidacy is the process through which synods (regional groupings of ELCA congregations) evaluate a candidate's readiness for ministry. There are three steps in the process: entrance, endorsement, and approval. At each step, there is a reflective essay and panel interview. At times, the interview will be with the entire candidacy committee of the synod (my committee is composed of about 15 members, if I recall correctly), which is made up of the bishop, synod staff, pastors, seminary professors, and lay members; or it may be with just a few members of the committee (but the final approval process involves evaluation from both the seminary faculty and the entire committee).

At each step, the committee has three options, one of which they will bestow upon the candidate: approval (different from final approval...confusing, I know), postponement or denial. Every candidate strives for approval. That means that your essay met their requirements, or if it fell a little short, your interview made up for it, and you are ready to continue in the process. Postponement can mean many things, but it often means the candidate has some things to work on before completing the next step; it does not always mean that the candidate is not qualified for ministry, but that they need a bit more time. From what I understand, denial is rare, but it can happen, and it can sideline a candidate for an indefinite period of time. I'm not clear on whether you can enter the process again after time and growth, or if you are finished with candidacy altogether, but I've found that most candidates avoid thinking about it at all.

My entrance went well. I had months to prepare, and I was ready for the interview, as it mostly assesses where you are at this first step of theological education and preparation for ministry. I was approved for entrance without difficulty, and I have been riding on the coattails of my entrance for the past few months. But now, it is time for endorsement, and I am scared out of my mind. Most candidates wait until the beginning of their second year, after their Clinical Pastoral Education, to seek endorsement. But because I am in a two year program, rather than four, I need to be endorsed before other parts of my academic program can move forward, so this is all happening very quickly.

Very quickly as in April 16th.

With the essay due April 1st.

By my (read: my Dashboard countdown clock's) calculations, I have a mere 6 days, 7 hours and approximately 53 minutes to finish this essay.

I took over seven months to write the last one.

And now, I have to show growth.

Writing the essay is the hardest part. They want me to think theologically about my vocation as it is as it is grounded in baptism, in contexts such as family, confirmation, friendships, work settings, school and community. In one page. I barely know what it is asking in the first place, much less how to address all of those topics in 23 double-spaced lines. And then there are eight more questions beyond that! When do I get to stop writing about myself?
As far as the interview, I'm intimidated. I'm afraid that my committee will ask questions to which I haven't learned the answers, or want to know why I still don't feel called to be a pastor. I cried in my last interview, and my number one goal for this interview is to not repeat those tears. But I am afraid it will happen.

I hope this doesn't sound as if I'm degrading the Candidacy process; I actually think it is necessary and well-developed to raise up qualified leaders in the Church who can clearly articulate theological groundings and a sense of call. But in the midst, it seems like I'm drowning in an ocean of essays, interviews and decisions that keep me up at night worrying. And all I wanted to do was help young people encounter Christ.

I'm not sure if there's a greater purpose for this blog entry. Maybe it was just to vent in the middle of the process, or maybe it was to encourage someone who feels he or she is the only one with anxiety about the process. But I do know one thing for absolute certain: I now have 6 days, 7 hours and 42 minutes to put the last seven months of learning and living down on paper, and I still feel as strongly about my call as I did eight years ago.* If my committee knows that, I think I'm doing just fine.

*Interestingly enough, I just realized that today is exactly eight years since I felt called to youth ministry, to the day. I wasn't sure exactly what it was at first, but I quickly identified it, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Funny how these things work out, eh?


In loving, loving memory

It's funny; my grandfather's favorite holiday was St. Patrick's day. He was Irish to his core. I vividly remember his excitement when he and my grandmother traveled to Ireland (for what I doubt was his first visit) and he was able to kiss the Blarney Stone and survey the land of his ancestors. In 2008, he passed away on Friday, March 14th, and the process of laying him to rest began on Monday, March 17th.

The day he loved.

It was appropriate and touching and painful and beautiful.

Today makes two years since we began to say our last goodbyes and cried what were far from our last tears and continued to thank God for giving us so many years with one of the kindest and most loving men I've ever known.

One of the hymns we sang at his funeral was I Am the Bread of Life. Today, we sang that hymn in chapel. I joined in when I could, but mostly I just wept. It was a poignant and unexpected moment of remembrance for my dear Pop-Pop, and it was a fitting tribute: the hymn that always brings him to the front of my mind on the day that does the same.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. 

[ecclesiastes 3:1-8]


I got 90 problems...

Okay, I try to keep my corner of the interwebs free of what some would call "foul language," but this was TOO GOOD not to share. I'm there are great lessons to be learned about the importance of youth ministry here, but they're going to have to wait until I stop laughing.

What are they teaching in DC charter schools?!


Born to Fly

Over the past nine months, I have boarded an airplane 16 times. If my memory serves me correctly (and actually, I’m not sure it does, but work with me here), this is one more than the number of airplanes I had boarded in my entire life, prior to June 2009. Given the increase, I’ve learned some things about myself and air travel in the process. I pondered these between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Baltimore last night, so I figured I’d share a little mindless fodder with all of you.
  • I am chronically early to the airport. I don’t love sitting there, but I am always nervous that I’ll have to empty all of my belongings at security and miss my flight, or they’ll change the gate and I won’t notice and miss my flight, or some other scenario that involves me not getting on the plane. I’d rather sit and suffer than not get on that plane.
  • On that note, I believe that every airport should have free wireless. If I have to sit at your gate for an hour and a half (at least), you can let me catch up on my Google Reader, twitter feed and facebook updates.
  • I’m passively pushy about getting on the plane. I’ll never actually push someone out of my way, but I will walk quickly and stand firmly to be one of the first in my boarding group to get on the plane. I hate having to check my bags at the side of the plane. That’s why I brought a carry-on, thank you. I will fight (in the nicest sense of the word) for overhead bin space.
  • My ears always pop and it is always terrible. More about this later.
  • After all of these flights, I haven’t figured out which seat I like best. I do know, however, that I don’t like the aisle seat. If it were a life or death situation, I’d probably pick the window seat.
  • One of the reasons I do like sitting next to the window is that no one ever has to climb over me.
  • I also never have to climb over anyone else. I try to use the airplane bathroom as little as possible. True story: on the flight from London to New Jersey (about seven and a half hours), I used the bathroom once. The seven and a half hours from New Jersey to London? Not a once. This is definitely because I can hold my bladder for an incredibly long time, but maybe I should save that for TMI Thursday.
  • My favorite in-flight beverage? Sprite with no ice. The only time I ever asked specifically for ice was on the flight from London to New Jersey, since I hadn’t had ice in almost two weeks. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I had to use the bathroom on that flight.
  • In addition to wireless in airports, I think every airplane should have little touch-screens on the back of every seat so you can watch movies and listen to music, even if it’s a short flight. On those two international flights, I watched two full-length movies and four episodes of House. On each flight. Those were the greatest flights ever. Oh, and please include a live flight-map. That was totes awes.
  • When touch-screens are not available, I’ve found that I can only listen to two different artists on my iPod: Regina Spektor and Skillet (anti-folk and industrial rock? No big!). When I was flying to Florida, I tried to listen to the Glee soundtrack, which I seriously adore, but I could only get through two tracks. I was unsettled until I switched to Skillet. Strange, I know.
  • I will always always always end up sitting behind someone who reclines the seat almost all the way. I hate this, but that person paid for a ticket too, so I keep quiet.
  • I can always tell when we’ve started to descend. My ears become totally clogged, to the point where I can’t hear at all (not kidding, I can’t even hear myself cough); I get really hot really fast, but don’t sweat…it’s like an internal furnace; I start to squirm and move my legs A LOT because I get incredibly uncomfortable. If you are flying with me, do not try to have a conversation with me until we touch down, because [a] I can’t hear you and [b] I am seriously uncomfortable and just want to sit silently until it’s over. This is for the good of everyone on the plane.
  • Even though I don’t need to stand up during the flight, as soon as that little bell sounds, I jump up like my seat is spring-loaded. I don’t mind being the last one off the plane as long as I can stand while everyone else is deplaning.
  • In the past, it has taken as long as three days for my ears to return to their normal state. 
There’s no point to this entry, but I’m trying to make blogging more of a habit for me, so you get this lovely little gem. Enjoy.