oh come all ye faithful

I love Christmas.  I love almost everything about it.  And for the most part – it’s not about the presents.  Although I will say that I love being able to pick out the perfect gifts for those I love the most.
Today I officially rang in the Christmas season in a couple of ways but mostly by my first viewing of Elf for the season.  I’m not even really sure what I did before this movie came out to officially feel Christmas-y!  But alas, I watched it today with my roommate Cathy, I assembled our Christmas tree which I bought this morning at Target (at 4 a.m.) and we are ready to go!
As always, the ringing in of the season finds me a little conflicted emotionally…a little melancholy and a lot joyful for what the season brings and means to me personally.
This season was hard for me last year, dealing with my dad’s death.  I remember writing in my journal how much I hated the fact that I had to celebrate Christmas while being heartbroken.  Christmas is a time of family and while traditions have been hard for a few years in my family there was always the hope that some day we would be able to celebrate as a whole family again.  That hope ended quite suddenly for us, for me, last year and it was hard.
Last Sunday I was in Church listening to an amazing sermon by a fellow seminarian where he talked about the verses in Acts 20 where Paul is talking about going into Jerusalem even thought he knows not what he will find there.  Paul writes the words: “but I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24 – ESV).  Tom likened the verse to race metaphors and talked about how we aren’t finished with the race yet, and how amazingly it is that we have a God that is with us, that sends a Spirit to guide us when we are weary and tired and feel like we cannot go on.  That our focus should be on finishing the course – the ministry that God has bestowed upon us.
So I sat there and suddenly realized … I am weary.  I am tired.  I am hurt.  The week before had been extremely hard on me and I sat there last Sunday and began to put my finger on just where I was emotionally.  I looked back on where I had been a year ago and realized that a year ago last Sunday I was in the midst of daily visits to the hospital.  Waiting to hear news on what was going on with my dad and when he would regain consciousness – if it was going to happen.  I sat in Church realizing just how broken I still am – looking forward to the one-year anniversary of losing my dad.  And realizing that while I am surrounded by a lot of people that I love and love me, I feel alone in this big city.  I realized that I miss my family more this year than in years past and that I was coming up on a holiday season that would be hard, once again.
Enter in Thanksgiving week.  A lot of people left town – which doesn’t help the loneliness.  And those that did stay around tried to keep me included but I have shrunk back, taking time to myself to figure out what the next week and a half is going to look like for me.  I have a few choices – do I completely shut myself off from those around me and have a “dark day” ala Luke from Gilmore Girls?  or do I attempt to live into this community around me and allow people to see the real me, even if it’s a little broken.
I pray that I would have the strength to fully engage here, to allow others to see the places in me that I don’t like.  That I would allow myself to fully feel and experience the emotions that are totally normal and allowed in these circumstances.
Although all these …feelings… can be found just below the surface with me lately, I do also feel a certain kind of warm fuzziness that is Christmas cheer.  I do love it oh so much and am hoping it will help me a long in this grieving process.
Mostly I believe in a God that is so much bigger than all this pain and he will see me through this pain and sorrow because He is a good God.  He is a God who sent his Son to the earth for us, so that we would have someone who looked like us that we could follow.  And for that reason I will celebrate the Christmas season, it is (when done well) a beautiful reminder of an unbelievably gracious God.

California girls, they're unforgetable

This is Roomsmate.  She’s my second roommate who has joined the amazingness of the Ladies apartment.  With most of my friends I don’t remember the moment we became friends but with Roomsmate, I do.  We were at a breakfast on the second day of orientation and I walked up to her and we decided to walk together to Starbucks and her house before our next event.  From that moment on, we’ve been friends.
Roomsmate and I have a lot in common.  We like a lot of the same things, not all the same things but a lot of the same things.  She shares my love for the Gilmore Girls, the Office and Diet Dr Pepper.  We both have a heart for youth ministry and we both love to sing anything and everything at the top of our lungs at any given moment of the day.
She’s outgoing, beautiful, thoughtful, caring, super smart and basically makes my life better everyday.  She is one of the few people I’ve met at Seminary that I can let my guard down and be real with.  Sometimes we don’t even have to talk.  She finishes my sentences and enjoys my hilarious jokes.
She is a wonderful woman of God and I am unbelievably blessed to have her as part of my Seminary life and to have her as my newest roommate.
Today is the perfect example of our friendship and our interactions together.  Roomsmate moved in about two and a half weeks ago and continuously commented on how we didn’t have any seating in our front room as well as the fact that we have a TV and everything to hook it up but it hasn’t been hooked up at all.  So today we come home from church and Roomsmate decides to be in project mode.  She took me down to the basement storage area and we picked out two love seats and then she went to one of the guys’ apartments and requested their assistance.  Within 2 hours we had two love seats vaccuumed and fabreezed, our TV hooked up to basic cable and we were reclining watching football.  It was glorious.
Maybe one of the funniest parts though was the fact that I had been putting off hooking up our TV because I kept saying I didn’t really watch much TV and Roomsmate’s the one who wanted it so badly.  Then Roomsmate goes through all the trouble to hook it up and we end up watching football – which Hilary does not enjoy but I do.
She’s a good roommate and an even better friend.  I like her … a lot.
So there ya have it, you’ve now met both my roommates here in Seminary.  More to come about both of them I am sure.

I was made for sunny days

There are few things in this world that I truly, truly love with all my heart.  (emphasis placed on things as opposed to people).  A few of them would include coffee (duh), good books, music, laughter, and experiences that stretch you in your understanding of life.  Even though I am exhausted after this past weekend, I look back and see that I had all of these things and it makes my heart swell with love and unbelief that I get to live this life.
If you talked to me at all last week, you would know that I was pretty stressed out.  In terms of school work I had two papers due and a midterm.  Plus I was putting together final details for the worship portion of the University Ministries Women’s Retreat we had Friday into Saturday.  I was busy and stressed and probably took it out on those closest to me (sorry Hil!)
But Friday night came and after everything had gone like a roller coaster of good and bad, I sat down at the piano and looked out at the room of about 60 undergrad women and I felt extremely blessed and in awe of the fact that I got to be a part of this weekend.  Our theme was “Becoming Unbound” and our focus was on how to step into the freedom of Christ and become unbound.  Worship didn’t go perfectly but it went well and I was stretched.  I had never led worship before and I’ve learned a few things which is always good.  It was a great experience and it was really amazing to hear all the women’s stories of where they are at in this journey of stepping into the life that God has created for us.
I came home from the retreat on Saturday early evening and walked into a transformed apartment which was being prepped for our Halloween party.  Soon enough the whole apartment was buzzing with music, dancing and laughter.  It was a great time and I got to see sides of people that I haven’t seen before.  I really enjoyed this time with my seminary friends and I laughed more that night than I have in a long time.
However, I did have to leave the party early in order to make it to the WEEPIES CONCERT!  A few good friends  had driven up from Kansas City to attend with me and it was amazing.  It was just a really good show by one of my favorites artists.  They told stories and laughed and played from their hearts.  I even bought a t-shirt with whales on it…so fun!
Sunday was a day of paying the piper though.  I had to get reorganized, do laundry and think forward to the week ahead – plus clean up the massive mess left from the party.  However I did it all in the company of my lovely newest roommate Hilary and that made everything feel so much better.  Next blog is gonna be all about her, she’s fantastica!
So that was my weekend.  God had truly blessed me in my life here in Chicago.  I stand in awe at all the ways he’s provided for me everything I wanted and needed but couldn’t put words to.