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Canada, Michigan, and Nashville, Oh My!

WOW. So many transitions!

In the midst of all these transitions, I’ve been making a list of things I wanted to blog about. This post is about the things on that list.

1. The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America Summer Peace Camp 2014 (a.k.a. “Peace Camp!”): Imagine a ton of progressive Baptists from California, Texas, Ohio, New York, Ontario, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, North Carolina, Tennessee and a bunch of other locales gathered together at a large Canadian university in the Niagara region, singing and praying and dancing and laughing and worshipping and loving together while doing conference things, attending workshops, sharing meals, riding the Maid of the Mist (in Canada it’s called the Hornblower) at Niagara Falls, and of course, visiting some beautiful organic wineries. Wish you were there, right?

One of the best things about this conference (and there were a lot of best things I could talk about) was the young adult group. The young adults ranged from college aged to folks in divinity school to teachers and people who self-identify as a young adult (and who’s to say what “young” is?!) These folks welcomed me (a non-Baptist first-timer) into one of the official Young Adult Townhouses (read: we stay up late and chat and are goofy ’til the early a.m. and then are late for breakfast and morning worship) and also into their fun and friendly group dynamic. Everyone was willing to share of themselves, discussing spirituality and God and their life, and just simply walking alongside each other in each other’s spiritual journeys. So much love and life and peace in that group. ❤

2. Michigan

So, post-Wild Goose and pre-BPFNA I was mostly hanging around my hometown in mid-Michigan. This was a much-needed rest period. I got to hang out with some awesome friends from high school who are still the hilarious, loving, and supportive folks I remember them to be. Much love was shared!

 

I also got to hang out with my family, boating and watching our favorite tv shows and movies, as well as traveling to Illinois to see my mom’s side of the family for the 4th of July. My cousins and their children are some of the most important people in my life and I value any time I get to see them! Being around my family is an incredibly important part of my life, and I always feel warmed and renewed by their presence.

And because family is not only defined by blood relations, I valued the time to see my best friend, her husband, and her mom more than usual. They are some of the strongest people I know, and whether sharing spaghetti together or going out for drinks or eating pizza on the couch, they are the coolest and definitely part of my family.

I also, importantly, got to sleep in and watch Netflix and do crafts and cook tasty things. Yay.

3. NASHVILLE

Oh my goodness! So, guess what? I moved! To Nashville! The first five days have been amazing. I thought I’d have some separation anxiety (from the Great Lakes, from Michigan, from family, etc.) but it’s going really well. I’m part of an amazing group in the Belle H. Bennett House at the Scarritt-Bennett Center, nestled in midtown Nashville between Vanderbilt University and Music Row. (Yes, THE music row. Celebrities are found running around everywhere, from what I hear. I was pretty sure that I saw the actress who plays Rayna James in the show “Nashville” the other day, and we can see Taylor Swift’s (or TayTay, as I fondly call her) penthouse from our porch. Wut.)

Our house is beautiful. The people inside it are beautiful. The campus of SBC is beautiful. The programs are beautiful. Wow. I’m just amazed at the amazing things going on around here. In the first several days of this fellowship program, we have attended seminars on interfaith relations and Nashville’s role in the civil rights movement (watch “A Force More Powerful”), mapped big events in women’s history, and mapped the trajectory of our own lives and spirituality. It’s been, quite simply, amazing. I am so convinced that I made the right decision as to what program I engage during this year (or two) before going to divinity school. While I know that working for AmeriCorps would have been a wonderful opportunity, and one that I might still do sometime, I am so glad to be living and working alongside a group of young women that hold the same values and ideals as I do. We can (and have) talked about race, sexism, immigration, faith, church, friends, family, life plans, and how we can encourage each other to live the life we want to live. They’re great. I’m blessed.

So, yeah. That’s my list. Since I’m in a listing mood, I’ll give y’all another list:

Things I’m thankful for:

  1. gardens–including the dirt, bugs, sunburns, and weeds they come with
  2. Skype–I’m taking advantage of this a lot! It’s a great way to stay in touch with my loved ones. Sometimes it’s so nice to see someone’s face after a long day.
  3. walking–my housemate Elena and I went on a 3.47 mile walk yesterday, all around our neighborhood and a nearby park. Even though it was 91 degrees, we lasted very well and I felt energized all day.
  4. Oberlin connections–a good friend of mine from Oberlin just moved here to start at Vanderbilt Divinity School in several weeks. It was a blessing to see his face yesterday and know that some good friends are nearby!
  5. church–I love church. And I’m defining church as a community of people that get together and support each other and enjoy fellowshipping with each other. I was invited to a church this morning through some Peace Camp connections, which was so uplifting and inspiring. The service was beautiful and familiar, and I’m super glad I got to go.
  6. Country songs that I know–my house has been exploring the area a bit and has stumbled into some cool venues for country music and dancing. I feel really good when I know the songs–but my country music knowledge is in need of improvement. If you have some favorite singers, send them my way!

Food for thought: What are you thankful for today?

 

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Commencement and Pentecost

Two weeks ago, I graduated from Oberlin College. After four long years of reading, studying, writing, taking tests, living in dorms, sharing bathrooms and showers, listening to lectures, eating in dining halls and paying tuition, I have come to the conclusion that it all went wayyyyy too fast. In the moment, I know I dreamed of that day when I wouldn’t have to be writing this paper on Exodus or studying for my chemistry exam, and now I don’t exactly wish for those days to return. Certainly with the popularity of social media, I will be able to keep up with friends much more easily than past generations, but right now that’s really hard to be thankful for. What I miss is my community.

When someone knocks on my door, it’s not my friend bound for circus school who wants to go to the local bar and club. I can no longer walk over to my crush’s house just to ask him to come to dinner with me. I’m not able to be there for a friend struggling with anxiety, able to hug her and tell her that her life is going to be ok. Evenings don’t hold swimming in ponds and secretive bonfires in the woods and singing cowboy songs; instead I’m in front of the TV. The kids that I get to watch grow up will not be the adorable grandchildren of my pastors that I have colored, played, and danced with. When I go home at night, my friends and roommates are not there to cheer me up with dancing to Taylor Swift’s “22” song on the kitchen counter. Past are the days of singing Gillian Welch on a front porch with people far more brilliant than I am. When I’m overwhelmed with a complicated mix of joy and sorrow, my strong, intelligent, beautiful girlfriends aren’t here to sit on my bed and cry with me, exchanging stories of how they overcome internalized sexism every day of their lives. The people that I am used to lifting me up and holding me in the palm of their hand are not there. On Sunday mornings, I won’t be worshipping in a space where I feel completely at home and loved, having left behind the fear and shame of crying in public to embrace instead the beauty of being able to feel emotions in these wonderful peoples’ presence.

I have been more homesick in the past two weeks than I was my freshman year, when it physically hurt to be away from my hometown. Now there is an empty, dull gnawing in my chest. I long to fill it with cookouts with religious studies nerds, conversations about feminism and capitalism with my radical colleagues, and friends who make pottery, keep chickens in their dorm room, dance barefoot at midnight on the bandstand, cook home-style meals for upwards of 60 people a day, and who can quote lines of Rumi or Neruda on the spot. It’s safe to say that I feel landless—plucked away from the place where the roots that held me steady were those that I planted myself. My college town has become the only place that feels like home. Of course, I feel as if I’m home whenever I’m in the presence of folk that I love, but there is something definitely special about the geographic location of Oberlin, Ohio.

Fortunately, the past two weeks back in my hometown have been a time of rest and relaxation—something that I rarely did fully over my college career. I have been sleeping a lot and watching a lot of mindless television (though I do argue that since I am moving to Nashville, the new-ish show about Music City USA is “research.”) I have been spending time cuddling with my cat and laughing with my brother. I’ve been spending time reflecting.

This past weekend I was fortunate to be able to travel back to Oberlin for a dear friend’s wedding. This friend was the reason I made it through my freshman year of college. Upon a painful breakup with my high school boyfriend right as I was getting acclimated to college life 200 miles from home, this friend scooped me up and set me right. She cooked me dinner, sat me down with a box of tissues to listen to my story, and gave me a Jane Austen book. I love her so much, and it was a complete honor to be able to be a part of her wedding day. Her wedding so fully expressed the individuality of her and her partner, as well as the grace and unity of them as a couple. The bride and groom were fully embraced by our beloved church community, and there was an amazing envelope of love all around those of us that shared in that sacred time.

Also this weekend, I was able to witness a thoughtful and moving sermon delivered by another Oberlin alum, Kathryn. She is currently in Divinity School, and I’d heard many stories from our beloved pastors about her. Today was Pentecost, and her sermon was just what I needed to hear as my reflective and emotional post-grad self was overwhelmed with the situation of being back in a town that I had just left…and was having trouble leaving again.

Pentecost takes place several weeks after Easter, and is the official time when the Holy Spirit comes down among the people of the Earth, a little bit after Jesus ascends into heaven. This “little bit” of lag time is really important, according to Kathryn. The disciples, who had been through so much in three or four years, were suddenly plucked out of the world they had come to know and forced to reckon with a world they were not sure they were prepared for. They had listened to Jesus, confided in him, questioned him, traveled with him—they had stored up an immense amount of knowledge from his teachings. But when he was taken up into heaven and the Holy Spirit didn’t come down to earth right away in an easy switcheroo, they must have felt awfully lost…and awfully scared. They had entered into a strange limbo where they had to turn inwards toward their community to collectively remember the lessons and teachings of Jesus which they hoped had prepared them for whatever uncertain future was to come. They were in a holding space where they were not yet embarking on the path which they were meant for, but were waiting…but for what? The disciples had to strengthen and support each other before they could turn outwards empowered by the Holy Spirit to be God’s hands and feet in the world.

Similarly, senior week and commencement weekend were a time for us graduates to turn inwards before we turned outwards, hopefully towards what we are meant to do. I feel like I am in limbo just like the disciples, stuck between graduation with both head and heart knowledge and getting to a place where I can use them. I find this time between graduation and moving on to the adventures to come in Nashville scary and frustrating and sad—I’m used to being busy and so I just want to jump into more projects and preoccupy myself such that I don’t have any time to miss my friends and my church and what feels like a “real life” that I left behind in Oberlin. But the disciples must have used this sacred time to re-collect themselves, to feel and process the things that had come to pass between Good Friday, Easter, and the ascension. Reflection time is one of the best things that we can give ourselves, though it is by no means easy. But it is entirely necessary if we, if I, am to continue on this path—towards what, I can’t claim to know. I do know this: the Holy Spirit is not only waiting for me with tongues of flame that will help me speak the languages of peace, solidarity, and justice, but the Spirit is traveling with me every step of the way.