On Thursday, I finished my fall semester at UDTS. Yesterday, I cleaned, ran errands, got a haircut, celebrated my mother in-law’s birthday, and made a late night run to Michael’s with Jason.
Today, I slept all the way until 7am, something I haven’t done for weeks. And then when I got up, I poured the coffee and started making my pretzel, chocolate, M&M buttons to give away to neighbors, delivery people, co-workers, and some of Jason’s clients. And–here’s the confession–I turned on the cheesiest, happiest, most implausible Christmas movies I could find. And I’m currently on my third Christmas movie. And I expect to watch at least three more today as I finish writing cards, crocheting gifts, and wrapping things.
Tomorrow is church-a-palooza with all things 4th Sunday of Advent. And Monday, my J-Term professor gives us our pre-load for the class that starts January 2. So today? I’m doing whatever I want.
The kids pictured here who attend elementary schools or pre-schools in Henderson County have been out of school all week this past week! Today, we celebrated getting out of the house and being together again at church this morning and at Pump-It-Up this afternoon. We made a huge mess in the art room and talked about Jesus and the season of Lent and some kids dug jack-o-lantern foam pieces out of the big box of foam pieces and stuck them on their crosses. Because: kids.
Hi friends! Time’s flying and I’m in the middle of my second trip to Iowa for an intensive as I seek to complete my Masters of Divinity degree in the distance program at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS).
Last semester, I completed a Theological Research class, a Spiritual Formation class, and Foundations of Worship during the August Term and Old Testament and Missions/Evangelism during the semester (distance learning). That turned out all right.
This semester, I am taking Spiritual Formation and History and Confessions of the PC(USA) during the January Term and I will take New Testament and Presbyterian Polity during the Spring Semester (distance learning).
Things are going well. We’ve had some adventures here. I arrived in Iowa on Saturday (January 3) at supper time. Around midnight, I got in the passenger seat of classmate Krista’s vehicle and we drove to Moline to pick up Jennifer when her flight landed at 1:00 a.m.
Jennifer had an interesting time getting to Dubuque. Starting on Friday night with her original flight, and then several attempts at other cities that would get her close to Dubuque, every flight got canceled. Just when she was setting up a permanent living space in the Denver Airport, she got on a flight to Moline. Krista commemorated this with the following sign that greeted Jennifer at the Moline airport:
On the way back to Dubuque, it started snowing:
If you’re reading this, you might get used to weather related observations. There is a lot of weather in Dubuque, Iowa. In fact, let’s just get this one out of the way:
I have taken several photos of the weather app on my phone this week.
Finally, come Sunday night, most of us had made it to Dubuque, and come Monday evening, all of the first year distance cohort (minus Evelyn, who is not able to join us this time) had finally, safely made it to Dubuque. Everyone got scarves!
Living in a hotel is interesting. When you volunteer to cook dinner, there are limited options. Our standards for where it is acceptable to prepare food are lowered here. For example, a rather popular place to cook and prepare food here is the bathroom. I gave that a try on Monday. The result was a Hawaiian Chicken that is now known as “Bathroom Chicken.” Yum, yum!
Class is going well. As I mentioned, I’m taking my spiritual formation credit with my wonderful Spiritual Formation Group and I’m taking a class with Dr. Gary Hansen on History and Confessions of the PC(USA).
My mother has pointed out that it appears coffee is very important in my spiritual formation. I do consume a lot of coffee normally, and it seems to be a much higher level of consumption when I’m in Dubuque. First, coffee is hot and it’s pretty cold here. Second, coffee has magical powers to keep my eyelids open, which is pretty important when one is in class and Chapel 7-8 hours a day.
On Monday, it snowed.
(Yes, that photo is jarring for many reasons. I think the camera on my phone was shivering when I took this.)
We bundle up when we go to class. Or anywhere else. Especially those of us from slightly warmer climates. It’s cold here.
Our classes are interesting and fun, for the most part. I’m very much enjoying the things we are learning. There are breaks that include dance parties, prayer and song, and other shenanigans (like this selfie with John Calvin).
I’m working some on my bubble and block letter techniques, but at least I’m keeping it relevant.
Six weeks ago today, we said goodbye to our sweet Sam. It’s still sad when I think about that day. Or when I still reach down to pet the top of his head when I’m sitting at the table. Or when I think about getting home to let him out. Or when I’m left with a piece of sandwich I can’t finish. We do still miss him, but like grief usually does, it gets better every day. In the place where we buried him, Jason has created a beautiful garden with flowers and a bird bath.
The week we lost Sam, we took time slowly. We worked few hours and spent lots of time at home. Jonas was with us (and his friend, Chris, who is part of our family).
But since then, time has gone very quickly and there have been a lot of things going on. Vacation Bible School, a family camping trip with Jeff and Stefanie to the Turkey Run Area (Indiana), the High School Mission Trip to New Jersey, the Middle School Mission Trip to Paducah, KY, various adventure weekends for Jason, a trip to backpack in Medicine Bow, Wyoming for Jason, a trip to Biloxi with his mother for Jonas, time spent with much loved friends and family, and several evenings spent in our kayaks on local bodies of water.
It’s been a bit of a blur! A really fun blur. A blur filled with knowledge of God’s goodness in our lives. But a blur, for sure! When this summer is over, Jason and I will have spent more nights apart than together in the June-August window. I still have my 2 week school intensive and he still has a trip to the Boundary Waters. We will spend our 12th anniversary 400 miles away from each other as it will happen during my time at UDTS.
During the high school mission trip, my first University of Dubuque Theological Seminary “class” started. It was an online orientation (no credit, of course) to help us get used to using the online system and give us a chance to meet our classmates, I’m enjoying it very much. Also, this summer, I’ve been dealing with financial aid, buying books and preparing to do my first August intensive. I’ll take three classes in August: Theological Research (1 credit), Foundations of Christian Worship (3 credits) and I’ll meet daily with a Spiritual Formation Group (1 credit). Yesterday, I got my first pre-load assignments for both my Worship and Spiritual Formation classes. Because I’ll only have two weeks on campus, the August and January sessions will require a two week pre-load and a two week post-load, meaning that class actually starts before I leave and continues even after I get back. The assignments this very first time include a lot of reading, a 5-7 page paper, some journaling and some memorization.
I’m anxious, excited, and terrified. But ready or not, it’s time to get busy. I realize that for the next four years, life will always include homework, papers, books, memorization, critical thinking, bibliographies, lectures, exams, discussion and everything else that goes along with a Masters degree. I also hope it will be full of deep conversation, deep understanding and interaction with Scripture and theologians, ancient and modern, and deep relationships with my classmates near and far.
A lot will happen in the next four years, just as a lot has happened in the previous four years.
But for now, I’m sipping a second cup of coffee, looking out at a beautiful day, and getting ready to crack open a brand new book!
You probably know that for the last one and a half years, I’ve been participating in Zumba classes that are held at Presbyterian Church in downtown Henderson KY. Three instructors teach in the gym at the church on Mondays (5:30 p.m.), Tuesdays (5:30 and 6:35 p.m.) and Saturdays (9:00 a.m.).
Almost all of the participants are women. Many are mothers. Some bring their children with them to Zumba. Sometimes the kids play in an attached classroom, but sometimes they watch or participate in the class. The instructors are very gracious, and I think it’s great when kids are there.
Yes, it’s great because they are exercising and kids exercising is a “win.” Yes, it’s great because they are learning some basis dance moves (cha cha, mambo, salsa, single single double). But it’s also great because they are seeing something they don’t get to see everywhere: women of all ages and body types, of all abilities and inabilities doing something fun and healthy.
We worry about daughters in our society. The media available to them is often full of air-brushed and plastic body parts. We worry that they’ll try to obtain something that’s impossible–the perfection that only comes with personal trainers, personal chefs, personal plastic surgeons and Photoshop.
In my Zumba classes on Tuesday night (I took 1.5 classes on Tuesday), there were several children present. At one point, there was a part of a song where we were all facing the north wall of the gym and shaking it. I mean, that’s the instruction: face that wall and shake it out. Bodies of all types, created by God and beautiful in each one’s own way, shook and moved. Young and old, short and tall, thin and curvy, full of energy and exhausted after a day at work or at home. Women, who got up that morning and themselves may have looked in the mirror and made a face because what they saw was not the impossible perfection they wished the were seeing, were smiling and shaking and laughing and encouraging each other.
When you take your daughter to Zumba, she gets a different message than the traditional media gives. She sees real bodies,none of them completely alike, being strong and healthy. She sees real women, some of whom she may look like when she grows up, doing something fun and energetic. She learns that “normal” isn’t airbrushed, and “perfect” isn’t impossible. She sees that “healthy” involves laughter, that “strong” can mean trying something new and that no body moves exactly the same way.
When you take your daughter to Zumba, she may just be learning to love her own body. And that’s truly a “win.”
Today is the day! Spring is here, and despite the threat of snow (again) midweek, we’re getting the kayaks out to paddle them around Audubon Lake this afternoon. Here’s hoping for sunshine and mild temperatures!
Other things happening:
I filled out my enrollment paperwork for UDTS. First day on campus: August 2!
I’m two months wheat free (or mostly wheat free…there was Fat Tuesday when I hate pizza and last weekend when I ate some breaded shrimp on Friday and some dutch oven corn bread on Saturday)!
I get to see Jenny, Zach and baby Samuel this week while they are in Jenny’s hometown visiting her family.
We scheduled our dog, Samson, for surgery in less than two weeks. He has a tumor that needs to be removed. We struggled with whether to put him through surgery at his advanced age, but we’re going to hope it improves his quality of life for the years (God willing) he has left.
I filled out a bracket for March Madness. After yesterday’s games, I’m at 37.3%. Ohio State lost and Harvard won and for some reason I thought Virginia would lose their first game. Basically everyone else in my bracket challenge group picked Virginia to be national champions, so apparently they know something I do not. And I know nothing, actually. It may as well have been a monkey pointing at team logos for all the knowledge and sportiness that went into my bracket.
Wearing the same 7 items of clothing all week has not really bothered me. I am tired of wearing the same pajamas every night. Go figure. Also, my zumba shirt smells like a campfire this morning because I wore it when I sat at the fire pit last night. It is ridiculous that I have over 300 items of clothing in my closet, considering that I sincerely do not spend a lot of time worrying about my clothing. I’ve been working to pull items to donate and box up items to save.
I’m floundering in the EmptyShelf Challenge. I’m mid-way through so many books. I need to finish some and move on!
In addition to kayaking this afternoon, tonight we are grilling out for the first time this season.
I sat on the back of the borrowed four-wheeler, leaning into my husband as we pulled to a stop.
“Cut the engine,” Jerry, the driver of the second ATV advised. Four of us (Ashley was the fourth) sat in silence for a moment.
It was twilight in Pike State Forest and the landscape was beautiful. The day had been full of sunshine and the afternoon had not required a jacket. We could see the sun setting and the moon rising. The land also rose and fell all around us. We were at a high point and we could see a good distance.
It was a beautiful. More beautiful than I would have expected when we went off road just half a mile back.
Jerry broke the silence. “They call this place [explicit name for a specific sexual act] Hill,” He explained. “And if you want to know why…”
The quick reply from the rest of us was, “We don’t!”
The ride was bumpy, too fast in some places, too slow in others, muddy and fun. We ended up at the banks of the Patoka River. We stood together, shooting the breeze, talking about what it was like there in summer (overrun with mosquitoes, apparently) and telling stories about toboggans and weird dreams the full moon brought, of all things.
At some point, we decided to head back. Both vehicles required headlights for the return trip. Over tree limbs and through mud puddles, in and out ruts forged before us, up and down hills to the main road, where we sped through the darkness faster than I was comfortable riding, but not fast enough to keep up with the vehicle in front of us. Taking the wrong turn at a fork in the road, we found our way to an old fire tower. Realizing our mistake, we turned around and headed back the other direction and found our way to our friend James’ house.
Several times during the hour or so we were gone, I thought, I wish I had a camera. I had left my phone behind because I didn’t want to break or lose it on the bumpy ride. It’s not every day…or any day except this one, really, that I get splattered with mud riding on the back of a four-wheeler. Or that I have such a beautiful vantage point at sunset. Or that I get to spend an hour holding tight to Jason while we ride around river bottoms.
What is a picture worth, anyway? I think about how important our cameras have become. Yes, they capture memories, but they also get instagrammed and facebooked so we can let our friends (the world) know what we’re doing. I love sharing pictures of fun moments and interesting things and I love seeing the pictures and interesting things that are shared by others.
Every time I thought about my left-behind camera, I stopped myself and soaked up the memory and thought about what I might miss by looking at the evening through a camera lens or fooling with photo apps on my phone. I love photographs and the memories they secure…but sometimes I think about the things pictures can’t capture. Those are things I don’t want to miss.
Breathe deeply. Enjoy where you are now completely. Live life in all its muddy grandeur fully.