Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advent reflections

It is one week before Christmas! Time sure has flown by. This Advent season has been interesting. I directed my first Christmas pageant entitled "Shrek Seeks a Savior", with over 35 kids involved. I sang with the choir, who presented Vivaldi's Gloria. I will have given two children's sermons (counting this coming Sunday). I ate lots of food at a holiday brunch given by church members. And, I joined the older women's circle for their annual Christmas luncheon (again, with really good food). It's been really busy around here. Not to mention that I spent several hours at a Washington, DC hospital with a church member who had surgery & the numberous meetings this month. Oh, and I traveled to Tennessee to officially become a candidate for minister of Word & Sacrament. It went very well & I am so happy to have gotten through another hoop along this journey towards ordination!

Through it all, it's been a good Advent season. I am looking forward to my parents' arrival on Sunday evening. They are blessing me with their presence for Christmas & through the week. I am excited to show them my town, my church, & to travel around the area. I am so grateful for their willingness to come here for Christmas!

Even though I am focused on Christmas, I do look ahead to the sermon I must write for December 30th. I will be preaching at First Presbyterian in Greeneville, TN (my home church). If anyone has ideas about how to preach on the slaughter of the innocents, let me know!

May this Christmas bring you much joy & happiness!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Very Happy Birthday

Today I turned 27. This is my first birthday being away from my friends, which is hard. But, so many of them have sent messages to wish me a happy birthday. Each message made me smile, knowing they all love me, even though I am far away. I had a wonderful surprise from B this morning. He was coming home from NC and I knew we weren't going to see each other today due to meetings! I went to work & soon after I got a text message to go out to my car. He left a card, a bag of dark chocolate kisses, and this very adorable stuffed puppy on my car. What a sweet guy! I am a lucky girl. So, to celebrate today, I put up my new Christmas tree and decorated my mantel. It was such a great way to move into the holiday season. Now, I can enjoy my tree for over a month. It makes my living room feel very homey and comfortable. Now I am off to cook myself a delicious birthday dinner & enjoy some West Wing:)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Update on my life

So much has happened over the last few weeks! I've been traveling quite a bit- to Washington DC several times, Philadelphia, Richmond, Delaware, Eastern Shore of Maryland, New York City. I also went home to meet with my CPM and it went very well. After a painless 45 minute conversation, several pointed questions, and a 5 minute deliberation, the committee unanimously approved me to become candidate! This was a very important meeting and probably one of the harder hoops to jump through in my Presbytery. Now, I will return to Tennessee during the first week of December to go in front of the entire Presbytery. I do not anticipate any problems

One of the most exciting developments of late is that I am dating someone fantastic! We've been friends for over two years, both from CTS, and happen to be living here in Maryland. He's a great person who always makes me smile and laugh. I've never been happier! It's amazing, because I never thought it would happen for me. I thought I would always be single. Yeah...

Church is great. I still really love my job and feel so comfortable here at LPC. I must admit it is a great feeling knowing that I wake up and go to a real job, instead of class. We are moving through our Stewardship campaign and I can't wait until it is over! It's been a lot of work and stress for lots of us. But, I think the church will be better off for it.

I leave on Wednesday for Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I can't wait to see Micah, who is now 1 and he is walking!

Thanks be to God for life and family!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I am happy to say things are much better inside of my head now. I've come to realize there is nothing wrong with seeing a pastoral counselor on a regular basis. In fact, I think all those who are in ministry need to do this! We are the ones who people turn to in moments of crisis and pain, the ones who people ask many, many questions of, and the ones who have to handle the day to day business of the church. We need someone to keep us on track and a space to unload our own stuff.

Life continues to be very busy. This is what my week looks like:
  • The church is in the middle of a stewardship campaign- taking a new approach. So, I am knee deep into preparing the narrative budget and other communications. This means lots of email conversations and meetings.
  • I am preaching this Sunday- Luke 18.1-8- and I've got some notes, but it is a long way off from being a coherant sermon. I'll be hold up in Starbucks, drinking lots of yummy apple cider, trying to get it out of my head and onto paper.
  • Also, I am teaching an adult Sunday school class these next two weeks on Biblical Interpretation. Something I have a great deal of experience in doing, but it is still hard to figure out what I am going to say to a group of adults.
  • I am responsible for sending out the church's enews each week. This involves time to gather all the info and put it in a newsletter form, with pictures and all.
  • On November 5, I am meeting my CPM to revisit my candidacy. This is a rather important meeting, since it basically involves my life, not just my career. Trying to finish up the paperwork in the next few days to send off to the committee chair.

Needless to say, I could use all the prayers I can get!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sheep, coins, and sacred space

The sermon went well yesterday. I'm really glad it is over! Honestly, I was feeling a little uneasy about it, mostly because it was my first sermon at the church. It was on the parables of the lost sheep & the lost coin from Luke 15, which can be somewhat tricky to preach on, especially if you've only been here for three weeks. But, it happened. I didn't fall over and nothing crazy happened during the service!

I've been thinking about something over the last week or so. Pastoral presence. I've been told in the past that I have great presence in the pulpit and when I am leading worship. However, I heard a comment last week that I have all the right words, but I was a little timid during the service last Sunday. Although there might be some merit there, I was exceptionally tired from my whirlwind trip to my annual consultation and had only returned the night before. I admit I was struggling a bit to keep my focus. However, I do not think last Sunday was an accurate representation of me.

The pulpit is sacred space for me. No matter how nervous I might feel beforehand, whenever I step into the pulpit, I instantly feel calm and comfortable. It is something that is difficult to explain to others. I just feel sure of my call then, in ways that are very different than other areas of my life.

I felt strong and sure, calm and comfortable yesterday. It reminds me of the awesome responsiblities that come with being a pastor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Pastor's Life

I am learning a lot about what it looks like to be a pastor. There are a lot of meetings, phone calls to make (by the way, I really hate the phone!), visits to schedule, bulletins to prepare and proof, sermons to write (currently attempting that), budgets to read and interpret, liturgy to prepare, and then when the network goes down and you cannot retrieve the bulletin for this week, then the stress piles on! (This really did happen this morning and I am happy to note that it is now working, after an hour of running around trying to fix it.)

I am trying to make the adjustment from full time student to full time intern. It's harder than I expected. While I love this church, my job, and what I am doing, there is still a part of me that longs to be in the classroom. I don't know why. I was perfectly happy when I finished my last final in May, knowing that I would be out of the classroom for 15 months. But, I've been in school all my life, since I was 2, and it was a real sense of comfort for me. I knew what to expect- homework, reading, exams, syllibi, spending time at the library, counting down the days until the end of the semester. However, now my days are filled with church business, which is never predictable. I know that it is going to take some time for me to adjust to this new life.

I miss my friends. A lot. Being here, I have to things all by myself. There's no one to grab coffee or a drink with, go to Target with, or have dinner with. And, while it has been nice to do the things I want to, I miss the company of other people. Despite the fact that I am not a big fan of the food, I do miss community meals in the refectory.

However, I still hold onto the thought that the call of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot sustain you. It is true. I will make it through this year. God is with me. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Meetings galore

This is liturally the week of meetings! I have three today at church, including a session meeting tonight that promises to be lengthy. Yay. To top it all off, I fly to Tennessee Friday to attend my annual consultation meeting on Saturday morning, only to turn around and fly back that night. I must admit I am nervous about seeing my committee again. I've not seen them since February, when they tabled my candidacy process until this month. I don't know what is going to happen this weekend. I do know they cannot really do anything with my candidacy stuff until a real meeting of the CPM, which is on November 5th. It is kind of a wait and see thing. I am trying to prepare myself well for this meeting- I need to be on my game this time. I think I wrote good things in my paperwork for it, so we can only pray at this point. But, I guess it is time to revisit the dreaded paperwork for candidacy, since I will need to re-file it for that Nov meeting. Ugh. It's only 6 questions. Why is it so daunting? I'll let you know what happens...

Update (9.11): I met with the CPM on Saturday. It went well, with a lot of affirmation from several members of the committee, which was a good thing. I am now working on revising my written questions for my Form 5 and submitting them for the November CPM meeting. Pray for me. It is going to be a long two months!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New life

My living room

My kitchen

This is the view from my bedroom

I've moved. Yesterday. Today was my first day of work at the church. This is after I finished my CPE experience three weeks ago, drove to TN, then drove to Atlanta, took an ord, then packed my stuff and spent 7.5 hours in the car getting here to Maryland (including 21 miles on the Capitol Beltway in DC). Now, my new life has begun.

I love my job! My office is big, has a good internet connection, and a really big desk. The pastor and I had a good conversation this morning about calendar stuff, Sunday's service (which I am the liturgist), and the plan for this week. Then, we went on two visitations. One to a member who just had surgery and is at home. The other was at a hospital in Baltimore- a couple who just had their first baby last night. It was a great experience to watch the pastor make visitations. She is really great. I realized that we are so very similar and I feel so comfortable around her. I think this is going to be great.

My apartment is great. I've unpacked most of my stuff. It gets great sunlight in the living room and I have a beautiful view of the lake from the bedroom and bathroom. I still need to hook up the DVD player and put pictures on the walls. I don't have cable, but I might get it. Not sure yet. I can pick up a wireless connection in the living room, so let's hope it continues!

I went to the grocery store near the apartment last night. It cost $4 for orange juice! I just got a small bottle of juice and something small for breakfast, and decided to find another store. I found one today down the street from the church and I got lots of food for under $40. It costs a LOT to live in the I-95 corridor, so I need to get used to things costing more.

I think I'm going to love it here! I can't believe it took less than 20 min to get to Baltimore. And, I can get the Washington Post and the NY Times all over the place. I live near a bagel place, lots of good restaurants, and close to the Starbucks. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Inbetween Times

I'm back in Atlanta for a few days. Packing, spending time with my friends, getting my seminary stuff in order, and taking the polity ord on Saturday. I'm heading up to Maryland next Tuesday, which is great! I can't wait, but at the same time, I'm going to miss so much about living here in Atlanta. But, I know this is what needs to happen at this point in my life. I've changed so much over the last three months and I know I will learn even more about myself over the next nine months. So, I'm looking forward to what is going to happen next.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Power of Presence

I just spent last night on-call here at the hospital. I sat with a woman whose husband is dying. She was having a hard time accepting it, even though her family was telling her the truth along with the doctors & nurses. I held her hand and her husband's hand, told her God will hold him in God's arms. I was kneeling on the floor next to the chair- just holding their hands. What a powerful moment of presence ministry. So intimate. So holy. What an honor it is to be allowed to enter into these kinds of moments with complete strangers.

I am weary. All of the interns are weary. But, it is moments like this one that remind me of God's presence and why I love coming to work in the morning. Thanks be to the God who comforts us in our sufferings and allows us to comfort those who suffer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Life now

The summer is beginning to wind down. There is only three more weeks of CPE. It feels like it went by so fast. I've really loved being in the hospital setting, even though I was really uncomfortable when I started applying for programs. But, over the last 7 weeks, I've grown accustomed to working here and I've loved the three units I work on. There are always new challenges and new patients. Mostly, I've enjoyed the time on the inpatient psych unit when I get a chance to be up there. I have the opportunity to lead the Faith and Life group session this afternoon with the patients. I have such a strong interest in mental health and believe the chaplains can make a real difference for the patients. I could easily see myself working as a chaplain in a mental health hospital at some point in my career. Of course, that would mean more school, which is not in my immediate plans. So, we'll let that sit on the back burner for a while and see what happens.

I am looking forward to heading back to Atlanta for a week or so in late August. Of course, that means ordination exams (polity & worship and sacraments) and that is never fun. It's been hard to study this summer with all of the CPE stuff, but I think I'll be ok. Then, it's off to Maryland to begin the new adventure in pastoral ministry. Hopefully, this summer will help me with visitations in the hospitals there.

I just feel so different now. I've changed quite a bit this summer. I really like this Erin- I knew I could always be like this - rational, logical, calm, less emotional. I was thinking the other day in the care that I finally feel like I am 26 years old and an adult. It's a good thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer Update

It's been a long time since I've updated this thing! So much has happened over this summer. I moved from Atlanta to Dayton, OH for two & half months to work at Kettering Medical Center as a chaplain intern. I have really enjoyed my time here and I love the people I work with! They are really amazing- the staff chaplains are so supportive and loving, and I couldn't ask for a better group of fellow interns. I feel very blessed to be a part of the chaplaincy team at KMC. There are 36 hour days at times, lots of emotions, class work (after all it is CPE), and the ever present fear of the beepers going off in the middle of the night. But with all that said, I really have enjoyed my summer so far. We are in week 6 of 10. It's exhausting, but worthwhile.

One major thing happened to me this summer- I had gallbladder problems. About four weeks ago, I had some pain in my right side. I was sitting in a class session and I just really didn't feel great. I didn't think much about it at the time, but I was on-call that night. I made it until about 6:30pm and it was too much. Luckily, there was a staff chaplain still in the office. She took one look at me and knew something was wrong. We talked for a few minutes and I cried. She told me that I was no state of mind to be on-call that night, took the beepers, and said to go with her to see her husband (who is a doctor in this hospital). So, I went with her and he thought I needed to go to the ER to get looked at. I did and it was a VERY long night in the ER (from about 7pm until 4:30am). After running some tests, they confirmed that it was indeed my gallbladder. I saw a surgeon a few days later who wanted to try some pain meds to get the inflamation down. Well, that lasted about two days and I ended up back in the ER at 9am, after having so much pain while sitting in a morning report meeting. Again, a very long day in the ER. Saw the surgeon the next day who told me it is time to get the thing out of me. He scheduled me for surgery on Tuesday (July3). So, last Tuesday, I had gallbladder surgery. All of the chaplains were so supportive and came to visit with me before the surgery (many also came to see me in the ER those two times). They were amazing. The surgery went very well and I am recovering. I came back to work this week on Monday and learning how to pace myself. The whole experience has helped me to be a better chaplain for my patients. Thanks be to God for that!

I also visited Laurel, MD two weekends ago (pre-surgery), where I will be serving as a pastoral intern beginning in late August. I love the church. The pastor is amazing and I am going to learn so much from her. My apartment is great- there is a fireplace in the living room, a cathedral ceiling, big bathroom. The best part is- it is all furnished and fully stocked. There is very little that I need to bring with me from Atlanta. It is all paid for- the apt, utilities, plus cable and high speed internet. Amazing. Simply amazing. I am really looking forward to moving down there next month and really learning what it is like to be a pastor, without the pressure of school.

That's what is new in my world. Busy, busy. I miss all of my friends in Atlanta and looking forward to seeing them before the big move! I'll try and update this more often, especially from Maryland!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Times are changing

Updates on my life:
  • Big news is that I have accepted a full time internship at a church in suburban DC for next year. I start on September 1st and I am really excited! What an amazing church and I think it will be a great fit for me. So, moving....yikes! New adventures....yay!
  • Finished my middler year of seminary. I am officially a senior. Well, a two year senior.
  • My final day at my SM 210 internship church is Sunday. We were honored on Wednesday with cake (see picture) and presents. What a year it's been! I am going to miss the church a lot.
  • My good friend Whit and I took a brief vacation to Savannah this week (Sun-Tues). Amazing city, great food, met Paula Deen's sons Bobby & Jamie (so hot), and spent time with a good friend. Just what I needed!
  • I'm off to Ohio next week (after a brief stop in TN to visit the fam) to begin my chaplaincy internship at Kettering Medical Center for ten weeks. It should be an interesting, exciting, scary experience.

I've got lots going on. I've had to say goodbye too much this week. Friends are all over the place for the summer. But, I think it's going to be a good summer for all of us!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Shifting focus

I had my final class today. After it was over, I felt this huge sense of relief. I realized I will not have to sit inside of a classroom for 15 months! I've never gone longer than 2.5 months without class for my ENTIRE life. I've been in school full-time for the past 24 years, since I was 2. I seriously need a break. A big time break. I feel like I'm starting to lose myself. So much of my life has been defined by being a student, so this is going to be a major shift for me. I also realized tonight that I need to move on for a while. I know that I can come back to this community, even though it will look very different when I return. But, it will still be here. I will miss being here with everyone, but there is something refreshing about venturing out on my own. I've never really lived by myself - I had a single room in college, but I was the RA in the dorm. I lived with someone in grad school. I live here in my own space, but surrounded by my friends. Moving away on my own, without knowing a lot of people, will be amazing. But, I'm scared too. A good kind of scared. I know I'm doing the right thing. This is really all that's on my mind right now- trying to focus on final exams, but honestly, I'm just ready for new adventures. I'm about to take a leap of faith. And...we'll see where I land on the other side.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

As the end draws near

It is the end of the semester here. I have two more classes to attend. Two finals to study for. One paper to write. It really doesn't seem possible that I have completed two full years of seminary. So much has happened over these past two years, both moments of joy and moments of struggle. I wouldn't change it for anything.

I was sitting in a room filled with wise women last night. Women who are all powerful, articulate, beautiful, and flawed. Professors and students. I drew so much strength from being in their presence. It was simply amazing beyond all words. I had another moment today. My final leadership class- I was sitting in another room with these amazing people who I've spent the last four months of my life learning and growing into our visions of what a pastoral leader looks like. Today, we talked about our personal metaphors and images of leadership. There in that room sat: the Eastern Philosopher, the wise sage, the poet, the storyteller, the musicians, the multitasker, the photographer, and the conductor. All the metaphors were different, but had common threads, linking the nine of us together. I've been so blessed to be with them and to learn with and from them.

I am having a hard time accepting the notion that I will not be here this summer. Even more difficult is leaving this place for the entire year, which is quickly becoming a reality. I know it is the best decision for me. I know that I cannot simply sit in the classroom and learn what I need to right now. I feel called to be in a congregational settting full time. I think it will give me the necessary time and space to think, process, discern my ministry and call to serve the church. This semester was not easy- not becoming a candidate like others in this community was so hard. So painful. And, it still is at times. I am learning to see this as a blessing of time- time for serious discernment and just simply space to be in ministry. I've been given this time. I will use it for God's will. However, there are real emotions here. I will leave my classmates and close friends. They are my family. My insides. I will not be here to celebrate in triumph and comfort in struggle with the people who are so important to me. What will my life be like without them? I do know that I take them with me wherever I go in this life. They helped to shape me into the person I am right now, and for that I am eternally grateful.

So, here's to new adventures. And family. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week

It's been a different week. It just so happens that our spring break is the same week as Holy Week this year. Which sounds great at first. But, it's made things kind of hard for me. There is literally no one on campus this week- everyone's off enjoying time away with family and friends or traveling to fun places like California, Texas, or New York. I chose to stay here. My only other option was to go home to Tennessee. My home church doesn't really do a great job with Holy Week or Easter, so I thought it would be better here in Atlanta. I was here last year, but spring break was a different week and I spent it at home. So, my parents came for a few days this week, but left yesterday. I found myself rather sad yesterday afternoon and evening. I felt really alone. There was no one to talk to and nothing to do. I'm not really a huge fan of being alone. It's been really hard.

Today I went to a movie and lunch with some of our youth, which made things better. Tonight is Maundy Thursday service and tomorrow night, I am helping with the Good Friday service. But, that leaves time tomorrow and I don't know what I will do. Also, I have all day Saturday. Sunday is full of worship (I'm one of the liturgists), lunch with the pastor and his family, and youth group in the evening.

Holy Week used to mean a lot to me. I think I've lost it somewhere in my loneliness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Art Inspiration

I went to an art opening at a studio space where Fred (this amazing guy who graduated from seminary last May) was showing his paintings. They were beautiful and thought provoking. There was wine and an artist's talk, and Fred said something simply amazing that really made me think. He talked about how he finds great joy in putting paint on canvas, but that in high school, he was afraid to paint or draw for a period of time. He said he just dove right back in.

It made me think about the last couple of weeks for me. I was so afraid of climbing into the pulpit to preach this past Sunday. I just stared at the pulpit for a week and just couldn't gather enough strength to climb into it. Then, I just did it. It took me a while- I just stood there, holding on and remembering why I love being there. So, when Sunday rolled around, I had this overwhelming sense of comfort. The sermon went well. Worship was beautiful and flowed together like never before.

It does not mean I don't still feel a little lost as to what to do next on this journey. But, I am coming back around. Joy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

life moves on

A lot has happened over the past several weeks. Here's an update.

Merida was wonderful! I had such an amazing experience. We learned about the culture of the Yucatan, economics, political situation, family life, and about the church. Two experiences stand out in my mind: first was our visit to Hogar Mana. We met and played with some wonderful children who come from broken or abusive homes. We played with bubbles, tossed a football around, and had a great time. The faces of the children is something I will never forget. The other memorable experience happened in a home church. The group was split up to visit homes one night. I, along with two others, had the privilage of going with our translator Benito and his wife Kerin. They are both pastors in Merida, and they took us to meet some of their church members. We had the opportunity to be in worship with some members in the home of a woman and her two children. Ben asked us to preach, and we did. Without preparation or even a Bible. It was incredible. The spirit was moving in that place. I preached on Psalm 121 and seeing in the faces of the people, God's presence. The Yucatan is BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to go back.

The other major thing that has happened is I took the Bible Exegesis Ordination Exam this weekend. I just finished about 30 minutes ago. I really plowed through it, because I am leaving in the morning for Philadelphia, where I will attend the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators conference this week. I'm happy that the exam is over. Don't know how well I did, but we'll pray.

In the meantime, life moves on. This semester will be a busy one- it starts next Monday. For now, I am going to enjoy my time away from seminary. Philadelphia will be wonderful and I get to be there with my dad. For that, I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

O Mexico

I am leaving for Merida, Mexico in a few hours! I'll be gone until the 19th. I am so excited about being somewhere completely foreign and with such an amazing group of people from CTS. I'll try to get to the internet cafe every once and a while to post some stuff. Pray for us as we travel today, and prayers for the other groups headed to Eastern Europe, Jamaica, Appalachia, and inner city Atlanta.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Love: 2007

I think 2007 might just be a great year for me! I am grateful for everything in my life- my family, my friends, the opportunity to study, and my life in general. The one thing I hope 2007 has in store for me is love. I haven't given up on love yet. I know that I have love in my life already, but I am still looking for that one person. So, here's to waiting and a blessed new year!