Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meetings.

I don't like church meetings very much. I like LEADING them even less. In 45 minutes, I have to lead a meeting for which I have yet to write the agenda. So I probably shouldn't be blogging.

There have been very few "meetings" I have been a part of that have been very productive. It's often a lot of circular talk and "laying the groundwork" sort of stuff. Not much is usually accomplished or decided because some decisions you just don't want to rush into. I'd much rather be a part of a lot of conversations rather than meetings. Maybe I'm the only one. Maybe you guys enjoy meetings and you think they're worthwhile.

I think for my next meeting, though, I'm going to gather everyone around a table for a meal. And let the conversation happen. There are lots of good things that happen at the feasting table. Not a lot of great things often happen around a conference room table.

Grr... that agenda is calling out to me, waiting to be written. Later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Introducing... Our Little...


Girl!! We are so delighted and can't wait to meet our daughter!! Everything looked GREAT today, and little girl Lawson is happy and healthy and perfectly beautiful! We cannot wait to meet her... and we can't wait for YOU to meet her!

Here's one more photo-- the scan came out a little fuzzy, but her little face is just adorable, I think.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Well, tomorrow we find out if we're having a son or a daughter. Don't expect to see a big announcement up until Wednesday, though-- we want to be sure to tell our families first, and THEN we'll make the news public on the blog.

I just want to point out the results of our online poll. When I first posted the poll, Billy said, "You know it'll end up 50-50, right? That's what happens when you have just two choices." And all along, the boy votes have been in the lead-- by a pretty substantial margin at times. But today, on the eve of the day we find out, BOY still has it, but just by one vote! So... tomorrow, we'll hopefully have a baby that cooperates for us, so that we'll be able to know the gender, and this waiting game will come to an end!

Blessings...
Kelly

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One of the Funniest Things I've Ever Done

This Holy Week, our church set up a Prayer Labyrinth in our Fellowship Hall-- a fantastic opportunity for individuals to go through a Christ-centered journey and prayer experience. There are several stations where you look inward-- at the distractions of your life, at the hurts you're holding on to, creating holy space, and a station for communion. There are stations where you look outward-- praying for God's creation, praying for others, etc. Really very cool. And very unlike anything VUMC has done before.

Well, tonight was my night to "man" the labyrinth. What that means is greeting people as they enter the fellowship hall, inviting them to relax and get into an attitude of prayer and inner contemplation, and explaining to them how the labyrinth works. The labyrinth is guided by audio tracks-- we have iPods and handheld CD players available. Each person enters the labyrinth at least 5 minutes after the previous person has entered so there is plenty of space between persons and plenty of time for folks to walk through each station without feeling rushed. It takes about an hour to get all the way through the labyrinth.

That's the set up. Tonight at 7:00 p.m., the Soul Survivors group came to the labyrinth following their group dinner. The Soul Survivors group is our widowed womens group. So you can probably imagine the average age of these lovely ladies. They are probably all in their 80s, and precious as can be.

This is the funny part. I had the honor of giving these ladies a crash-course in using an iPod. It was hilarious. Hysterical, actually. The ones that didn't use iPods used CD players. And that was an interesting game in and of itself. "What do I do if I need to stop? What happens if I need to go back? What do I do if I need to turn the volume up? Do I need to wear my hearing aids at the same time? You mean, these little white things go IN your ears, and I'll hear the sound?? Oh, my granddaughter would be so proud! I'm using an iPod!"

It was a sweet moment. Some of them figured it out. Some of them didn't. One woman came out of the labyrinth after about 15 minutes and said, "Well, I don't know how this thing works. It just quit playing so I figured it was done. I did make it around to all the stations, though. What a WONDERFUL experience!"

So maybe they didn't "get" the technology, but I REALLY am so impressed with them for trying! And they weren't afraid to try. And they all had terrific, meaningful experiences. What a great day.

Blessings...
Kelly

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A VERY long weekend...

For one of my classes, Mentored Ministry, I recently completed one of the most time-consuming projects of my academic career. Actually, I guess I've probably worked longer on other projects, but this one was just... exhausting.

Every M.Div. student is required to do 2 semesters of Mentored Ministry-- one placement inside the church walls, and one placement outside the church walls. The requirement is 8 hours per week. My situation is a bit unique in that I actually am employed by a church, and am paid to work 30 hours per week. Luckily, the Mentored Ministry powers-that-be approved my Mentored Ministry "placement" to be at the church where I already work. And I don't have to add 8 additional hours on to the 30 (or more) that I already work.

Our big project for the semester is a case study on an "event" that takes place in our ministry placement. Not an event that you attend-- but rather a conversation or an interaction in which the student is involved and is required to make ministry related decisions. I chose a recent conversation between a church member and myself.

On Monday, as I faced my 14th straight hour of work on this project (that was just on Monday-- I had spent pieces of the weekend working on it as well), I was cursing it. There was a verbatim to be done, a character analysis, an exchange analysis, research, self-evaluation, and decisions made about how I will move towards self-improvement. It was grueling.

But today, as I walked away from class having been a part of a peer-led critique of my case study, I feel great. And am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have looked at the situation with fresh eyes, and acknowledged areas in my life where growth must take place.

I must say, that even though this was one of the most difficult assignments of my seminary career, it definitely had the greatest payoff. Seriously. I myself saw weaknesses within me, and I was part of an affirming critique by my peers-- they pointed out some strengths I was not aware of, and offered invaluable insight as to how I might grow in knowledge and experience.

I am grateful for this entire process!

The other part I failed to mention was that my case study was the first to be reviewed, which made me extremely nervous! Each student in the class is to complete a case study, and each week one is reviewed. Mine was the first to be turned in and the first to be reviewed. I was bummed about this at first, but now that it's done, I'm very glad that the majority of my work is now done with for the semester.

Um, that's all. Not a big profound post or anything-- but today I am rejoicing over new things learned!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The boxes


This is a picture of the gift boxes for our parents that I mentioned in the previous post. I think they turned out well! I'd show you a picture of what's on the inside, but that would spoil all of the fun. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I can hardly stand it...

The days pass by. Slowly. All I can think about is our ultrasound appointment on March 25th. March 25th is a big day. This day we will see our baby for the first time and find out whether we're having a son or a daughter. We can hardly wait to find out!! When we set the appointment a month ago, I thought March seemed so far away-- and now that we're IN March, and just 2 weeks away from the appointment (actually, 13 days... but who's counting?), it still seems like it's taking forever!

I guess if I had to be honest about my "hunch", I'd say Little Lawson is a girl. Billy thinks it is a boy. I think we've both gone back and forth on this one, but at least we know one of us will be right, come March 25th! It's been interesting to watch the poll on the right (thanks for all of your votes!), and to see that all along, the results have favored "boy". We'll know soon enough.

If you know me, you know that I tend to be a bit of a worrier. And if I had to be REAL honest, the aspect of this coming appointment that I think about MOST often, is the fact that we'll be seeing our kiddo for the first time, and finding out if everything looks healthy and "normal". So far, there's been no cause for concern-- my bloodwork was normal, the heartbeat has been normal, my weight gain has been normal. But still... when I think about all of the intricacies of pre-natal development... I keep thinking about all of the things that COULD go wrong. All of the things that I don't want to go wrong.

So today I am reminding myself that God is in control. I am not.

Last night I kept myself occupied by shopping for some treats for our parents-- we are a little saddened by the fact that we live in Kentucky and don't get to journey through this pregnancy alongside our families. So in an effort to include them a little more, we wanted to do something special for the big "gender reveal" moment. I did an adaptation of what Jeremiah & Lindsay did for Lindsay's parents when they found out that they were having a little girl.

I mailed each set of parents a package that included two smaller boxes. I also sent an email with VERY strict instruction that they are NOT to open the boxes until the 25th of March. One box is marked "Box A" and the other is marked "Box B". Inside one are some girl-related items and inside the other are boy-related items. Only Billy and myself know which is which. Then, when they get home from work on the 25th, they will call us, and we will tell them which box to open. It's simple, but fun!

Thanks, Lindsay, for the great idea and for sharing your creativity with me!

I took pictures of the pretty little boxes, and will be sure to post a picture tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Amazing Grace

I'm not really the kind of person who is concerned about denominations within the Christian faith. If you're a Christian, you're a Christian, and there will be evidence of that in the way you live your life. Sure, we may differ on certain theological details, but the essentials are usually the same. I've never really been concerned about whether you're a Baptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or anything else.

I grew up in the United Methodist Church. I attend Asbury Theological Seminary, which is in the Wesleyan tradition (which encompasses many denominations-- United Methodist, Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Church of the Nazarene, etc. There's a long list). One of the requirements of the seminary is that all students take a class called John Wesley's Theology for Today. If you are unaware, John Wesley was the founder of Methodism.

Tonight, as I sat in that class, I was reminded of and moved by some of the work that Wesley did. He talked a lot about a thing he called prevenient grace. He gave a name to the grace of God at work in our lives before we even know it is God. It's one of the hallmarks of the denominations in the Wesleyan tradition. We talk a lot about it. And I'm grateful for it.

No matter what you call it, no matter the name you give to it, I think we all agree that God is a God who desires to be in relationship with his children-- and that he is at work around and in us, pursuing us.

My professor, Steve Harper, said this tonight:

Prevenient Grace is the grace that goes before... before we are even aware of our need for God, before our first desires to please God, before we have any awareness that God is searching for and pursuing us.

Grace is already at work in our lives. Calling us by name. Whispering in our ear. Preparing the way for that moment when we respond and say "yes" to God.

I'm going to come back to this one in a second.

Prevenient Grace is the grace which prevents

... it goes before us and prevents the total loss of the characteristics that God intended for us to have when we were made in the first place.

Prevenient Grace is grace which leads ... leads us into relationship with Christ, leads us to repentance, leads us to absolute abandon and surrender to God, and continues to lead us to new discoveries about God.

This does not mean that we are free from responsibility. Prevenient grace doesn't do these things for us. We absolutely are responsible to responding to this grace and saying yes to God. I believe that is absolutely key to our salvation. But this prevenient grace helps get us to that point.

So that's my 5-minute overview and I'm certain I have done an awful job of explaining it. So maybe I'll write more on this at another point. But I wanted to go back to that first point-- prevenient grace goes before.

My professor asked us a question tonight, and I want to ask it of you today: Who is your John the Baptist? John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord. He went before Christ and prepared the way for him.

So who was John the Baptist for you? Who prepared the way for the Lord in YOUR life? Who was God's "plant" in your life to get your attention? Through whom was God's prevenient grace in your life at work?

For me, there were a few folks. I made the decision to commit my life to Christ at the age of 19. But God's grace had been at work in my life since Day One. I believe that's true for you as well. But it was when I was 19 that I recognized that grace as God and said yes to him.

So who were the people that God used to get me there? Here's the short list. The REAL list is pages long. It includes parents, grandparents, strangers, and friends. But these I now name are those who were there at particularly pivotal moments in my spiritual journey. These are my John the Baptists.

Richard Luna, my youth pastor in middle & high school
Stan Copeland, senior pastor at my church while I was in high school
Sue Starrett, a very dear friend and mentor
My aunt Mary, specifically during the summer of 1997 when I lived with her & Uncle Tony
Jessica McCallister Knight, a dear friend and prayer warrior

The list continues to grow. As I mentioned before, grace never ends. And this grace that leads continues to lead me to new discoveries about God. God's people are a huge part of that.

I thank God for blessing my life with these people-- I thank God for his passionate pursuit of me. And I thank God that he calls me his daughter.

National Grammar Day

My friend Nina just informed me that today is National Grammar Day. It turns out there are quite a few other folks out there who like to celebrate nerdy things like grammar.

Thanks to all of you for your loving comments on my previous post. Thanks for joining in on the fun of grammar!