The Static and Sometimes Sporadic Smatterings of the Rev. Kate Morrison

Those of you who have been with me from the beginning of this blog know that my very first post four years ago was about my grandmother being moved into hospice. Throughout those first posts, you journeyed with me as I grieved her passing from afar as I was living in Nairobi, Kenya for an internship.  Some of you will know that her husband, my grandfather, Sammy Lee Myers, passed away on October 28th, 2017, and that I was honored to deliver the eulogy at his memorial service.  Just as I honored my grandmother on my blog those four years ago, I likewise honor my grandfather’s life and celebrate the years we had together with this post.

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 27 – 31  (New Revised Standard Version)

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

27Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable. 29 God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” This is the word of the Lord, thanks be to God.

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Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  We have gathered together today to seek comfort for ourselves, to acknowledge and celebrate the life of a great man in my grandfather, Sammy Lee Myers, and to proclaim the good news of the gospel – that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  A lifelong member of the Zion Baptist Church and later a Deacon, Sammy was born October 4th, 1932 to Anna and Shady Lee at the Myers homestead.  From an early age, his faith was an important part of his life, and you could say he wanted to make sure all others had the same opportunity to profess their faith, including the cats that his mother once caught him baptizing in the river by their house. I never did ask if he walked away from that experience unscratched, though it’s hard to imagine that any cat would willingly like to be dunked under the water, even if only for a second.

Sammy was in many ways a man of few words, often resorting to grunts of approval or pensive “hmmms” when you asked him questions.  In fact, it is often hilariously recalled that when his daughters, Joy and Laura, brought home a boyfriend, he wouldn’t speak to the man.  So when he spoke to both Roy and Dave when they were introduced, it was taken as a seal of approval, and sure enough both decided to stick around.  He was a man of few words because I believe more than anything he wanted his actions to speak for him and likewise express his faith.  He was an advocate for many an organization, most especially organizations that helped those with special needs such as the Victory Junction Gang.  He and my grandmother, Laura Nell, were also only too happy to host when members of the special needs Sunday School class that my parents teach needed a place to go for the holidays.  He would always get so excited about making the Christmas traditions come to life for these individuals, making sure milk and cookies were always left out for Santa, maybe some carrots for the reindeer, and making sure everyone got to bed on time for fear of Santa skipping over our house that night.  Likewise, if he knew people were in need, he often did his best to help raise funds, talking to his friends privately to find funding to purchase wheelchairs and other supplies to try to make life easier for folks.

This attitude also led him into a life of public service.  He served as a firefighter for 30 years with the Winston-Salem fire department, eventually retiring as a battalion chief. Although he did not like to brag about it, as the battalion chief, he did his job and he did it well, having a 100% success rating for getting fires put out with no flare ups. Any time we would drive passed one of the fire houses in Winston, he would always wonder about the many friends he had made during his years with the department, and would sometimes arrive home to immediately pick up the phone and check in on them.  Whenever there was a fire in the area or being covered by the news on the TV, he would always watch until the coverage was over, because he wanted to make sure everyone was okay. He knew the dangers associated with his work, but that still did not stop him from suiting up and heading out each time there was a call, and after his retirement, from reaching out and worrying about the women and men that so bravely followed the same courageous path.

He found pleasure in the simple things, his farm and especially his family chief of those.  His daughter Laura remembers how he loved to climb up in his Massey-Ferguson tractor and work the family farm.  He had such an affinity for his home place, that when he found out that Interstate 77 was going to run through the middle of the farm, he dismantled the house board by board and stored them instead of seeing the place demolished.  Likewise, he loved spending time with both his family and his beloved Laura’s family.  When they owned a small plot of land on Lake Norman, gathering the family for a nice day of sunbathing, boating, and eating was a joy. And many family members remember that he was the one who taught them or others to ski.  In his later years, he always looked forward to the week when his family would gather at the beach for relaxation and to catch up.

He adored his beloved wife of 57 years, Laura, and always sought to provide and care for her and their two daughters.  They remember how on my grandmother’s birthday or for holidays, he would love to surprise her with a special gift, a new piece of jewelry or a nice new outfit, and then beam with pride as she modeled her new gift.  He was her adamant guardian, protector, and strongest supporter.  He also brought a great sense of humor to the household. One Christmas Laura Nell had insisted that the four of them go to see the Winston production of the Nutcracker.  After they arrived home, Sammy still grumbled, “I just don’t understand why anyone would want to go and watch GROWN men dance around in their long-johns”, after which he quietly disappeared. Except moments later, he reemerged having changed into his own pair of long-johns, pirouetting, dancing and leaping all over the house as the rest of his family laughed!

Sammy’s children and grandchildren were his pride and joy, although he rarely if ever said it to any of our faces directly.  I think this was an attempt to help keep each of us from getting “too big for our britches”.  However, he loved talking about each of our accomplishments to others and introducing each of us to any of his acquaintances that we ran into when we were out and about.  In his later years, when at least the three of us grandchildren graduated from our secondary educations, he was present with us via the livestream of the ceremonies which he was always so meticulous to get set up, usually with Lalee’s help. He learned to use FaceTime and earlier iterations of technology, all in an effort to keep in touch with us more. He didn’t want to miss a thing and especially loved to spoil us grandchildren rotten, almost always stopping at Krispy Kreme doughnuts when we were all gathered together. And trust me, the HOT Now light was always on, and a half dozen doughnuts or more never even made it to the house because we’d open that box right up! He beamed when Andrew and Liz got married.  He loved checking in and hearing all about Physical therapy school and how life was going  from Sarah, and he loved grilling me about being Presbyterian and why we did this and that because in his words “being a baptist just seemed so much easier”.

In the last four years, when his mobility became impaired, he was still so bound and determined to do as much as he could by himself, for as long as he could.  This stubborn attitude ran off many a caregiver, until Tarsha Woodberry came along.  Lord only knows how much she had to put up with, but we are so profoundly grateful for her presence as she was a friend to Sammy Lee when he most needed one.

I know that I have already mentioned my grandfather’s faith, but it was so profoundly important to him, especially after the death of my grandmother.  After her passing, he often said how much he couldn’t wait to be with her again and knew that when his time came, they would be reunited.  Within the last few months of his life, he had begun to see her and his mother, and found comfort in knowing he would be seeing them again.  He also always had an affinity for birds, especially eagles, and often felt that they were earthly reminders of the saints who had gone before. This is why our scripture passage from today from Isaiah resonated so much with him. It is a passage that has long been my personal favorite and which will now hold an even deeper meaning for me.  You see, Eagles are strong, with keen senses.  They are also incredibly graceful and soar to amazing heights.  Eagles are everything that I imagine my grandfather being.  He was strong, yet graceful. He was gruff, yet incredibly loving.  In his final years when he would be so frustrated with his leg and getting around, it seemed like this passage gave him more and more hope that when it was eventually his time, he would soar.

And he is.  He is soaring.  He is dancing with my grandmother.  They are finally reunited, just the way he wanted to be.  He is no longer in pain, and his bum leg is no longer an issue.  And just as he believed birds were reminders of saints gone before us, I know he is fully embracing that.  As I was driving to the airport on Tuesday afternoon, a hawk, gliding on the wind flew right in front of my car.  It was so low that if I had not put on my breaks, I would have hit it, but at the last second, soared upward and out of sight.  As I told my mother, I have no doubt that hawk was my grandfather, soaring in just to remind me of his presence in my life.  I know that he is free. I know that he has finally found the rest that his body and soul desired for so long.  And I know that not only is he with my grandmother and his mother and all of his other loved ones who have passed, he is with God, for as Rev. Tomlin read earlier from Romans 8: 35-39, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [him and] us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

So, while we who are left behind mourn the loss of Sammy Lee’s presence in our lives and will will miss his smile and quick wit, we should also celebrate.  Celebrate because he is made well. Celebrate because he is with his beloved Laura Nell.  Celebrate because we know without a shadow of a doubt that he has entered into glory eternal and will meet us with open arms when we one day make that same journey.  We celebrate because just as the scripture says, he waited upon the Lord and the Lord has indeed renewed his strength! He is running and not growing weary, walking and not growing faint.  And best of all, he is soaring. Soaring with and upon the wings of eagles that he so loved and found strength in.  And for that I give God all of the glory. We love you Papa. Rest well in the heavenly presence.

 

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Many people have heard about the mid-life crisis, but research has begun to show that many people in their mid-20s to early-30s also experience what they are calling a quarter-life crisis (For more on that read this article published in The Guardian from May 2011). From speaking with my own friends and colleagues, I can say that much of this anxiety seems to focus around people who have been students for the majority of their lives finally graduating with their degrees and being thrown into the work force, with astounding amounts of student debt, no insurance, and praying that all of the hard work they have done over the past few years might find them a job.  Likewise, relationships of all forms, especially a breakup or loss of close friends / friends moving apart can feed into feelings of loneliness and unhappiness, which are all factors that can lead to a quarter-life crisis.  I can tell you from my own experience that the quarter-life crisis is a very, very real thing.

Now, at this point in my life, I am months away from turning 27 years old.  Within the past year, I have graduated from my dual-degree Masters program, accepted a new job, moved all of my stuff from Atlanta, Georgia back to my hometown in North Carolina, just to purge and pack-up once more and move 1,600 miles to my current home in Wyoming to begin my call to be an Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adult ministries.  I have also experienced a significant break-up during this time. One would think that all of that might necessitate a crisis of identity, and while I will say that it has had its difficult moments, in all honesty it has been refreshing to experience a new place, get to meet new people, and delve into my call. No. My quarter-life crisis for the most part occurred a few years ago, during one of the most trying times of my life, seminary.

Many people will attest to the intensity of seminary studies, or I would argue most Masters programs.  Seminary just has that added level of challenging your own faith, and in many ways breaking it down before helping you put it all back together again so you can go out and hopefully preach and teach the gospel.  When I initially entered into seminary, I was excited. Excited to be in a truly large city for the first time in my life, excited to study, excited to see where God was going to lead me.  And then it all started.  As I was packing up to leave, preparing for this new adventure that would be seminary and life in Atlanta, I had more than one person tell me that if I did not find a man to marry while I was in seminary I should just give up and be content with being single the rest of my life.  Now, people who know me best know that while I am still very much a feminist and believe in achieving and focusing on my own career goals, I have always loved children and have always wanted to find my soulmate and have a family of my own.  Being told at 22 years old that the next four years of my life were my last true chance at finding love because after that I would be “undesireable” was a bit of a shock  and ultimately sent me into a panic.  If I don’t find the right man now, especially in the big city and especially among a fine group of seminary gentlemen, I am destined to be forever alone.  Now, we all know that’s not true and that I still have plenty of time to fall in love and for the right man to come along so that we can start a family together, but this almost desperation to find the right man led to my being and staying in relationships that were in many ways not the least bit healthy, including emotionally and verbally abusive.  But I stayed because I just knew they might be my last chance at that perfect stereotypical American family.  Praise the Lord that I have finally learned from those mistakes, and though I admittedly still struggle from time to time seeing so many friends and family members getting engaged, married, and having children, I have decided that it truly is better to wait until the absolute right man comes along and sweeps me off my feet instead of settling and being unhappy for the rest of my life.

Just as I struggled with romantic relationships in seminary, there were aspects of community life and living on a very small campus that caused my quarter-life crisis. I was studying at a seminary, training to be a Christian pastor, teacher, and preacher, and instead it oftentimes felt like I was re-living middle school or the movie Mean Girls.  Cliques formed, people were excluded, some people were very open about their willingness to make life a living hell for others on campus, and overtly racist incidents occurred to a number of dear friends.  This was a Christian community y’all, and that’s where I struggled.  How could people who were studying to be ministers be so incredibly hateful toward one another? Understandably, we’re human and as a theologian I understand that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and I admittedly pushed a few people away because I was not sure if I could trust them.  However, there were many times that I felt like giving up and getting out of there altogether.  It made complete sense to me why many people no longer wanted to be affiliated with organized religion because the hypocrisy that I was witnessing in this so-called beloved community of Christians was absolutely heart and gut-wrenching.

Fortunately, for the beginning of my fourth and final year of seminary, I was accepted to study abroad for a semester in Cambridge, England.  The space and time away and the absolutely brilliant friends I made, gave me time to recharge my own batteries for that final spring push toward graduation back in Atlanta, and it also helped me reconnect with one of my favorite literary characters, Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Being abroad, visiting so many of the places that Austen would have know, though a bit more modern, reminded me that even though society puts all sorts of expectations upon us, especially women, we must stay true to our own hearts and do what we believe is right.  Lizzy never settled. Though she was meant to marry for the sake of her family, Elizabeth followed her heart and ended up finding the love of her life in Mr. Darcy.  Likewise, she read and wrote all of the time to better her own mind and education, activities which I have found to be some of the most grounding for me now that I am out of school.  And just as Lizzy reminded me to be fiercely independent and to fight for the things I believe in and want in life, her elder sister Jane, also reminded me that kindness is the best way to overcome any who would seek to look down upon you.

Throughout it all, aside from drawing personal strength from Elizabeth Bennet, I am thankful to the close friends who carried me through my tough time of trying to figure out what was going on in my life.  These were the women and men who consistently reminded me that I am above all else a beloved and beautiful child of God, the people who listened to my hurts, who held me when I cried, and by golly helped me to find things to laugh about.  These are the people who give me hope for the future, the future of the church as they are amazing Christians and are each going to be brilliant and loving church leaders, and the future of the world as they continue to shape their world in love and use their privilege to stand up to the injustices that they see.  I could not have made it through without them, and I pray that each person who goes through a crisis, whether it be quarter-life, mid-life, or general life crisis is able to find yourself a squad of people who will continually uplift and encourage you, when you’re struggling to do that for yourself.  I’ve found that it’s those friendships that are the most honest, open, real, loving, and everlasting and for which I am the most grateful.  Though my life may not have ended up where I thought it would thus far, I can say that the experiences that I have had have continued to shape and mold me into the minister, friend, and person that I am today, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Live, Love, Laugh,

Kate

Why I March

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a male colleague to explain why I marched in the Women’s March on Saturday, January 21st, 2016, as he was attempting to foster conversation and understanding on social media with a group of women who were saying that our marching did not represent them.  I originally posted my thoughts as a reply on his Facebook status, and later posted the same to my own Facebook.  I decided to share my response once more to my blog and with you all here because to me, the message remains the same, and because I will continue to march as long as injustice and hatred are allowed to rule the day.  As always, I welcome your comments and polite discussion.

I marched yesterday because first and foremost I am a white, privileged woman, who for the most part does not have to fear that I will be attacked because of the color of my skin, or because I choose to cover my body for religious purposes, etc. While I marched, I carried with me the women and people of color I know, the men and women I know who are a part of the LGBTQQIA community and others who don’t have that luxury and are often harassed because of their skin color, how they embody their gender, etc. My privilege allows me to be able to step into some spaces than many of these friends, colleagues, and loved ones would seem unsafe. So I marched for them.

I also marched for myself because I am a survivor of sexual assault who was in fact “grabbed by the pussy”. Hearing those words over and over again triggered me and made me relive a nightmare that I never want another women to have to experience. So I also marched to say that we have to stand up to such horrific talk and normalization of sexual assault. We can not allow people to boast and brag about such things as we are only feeding into and furthering rape culture.

I also marched because the Jesus that I know and love and have been called to proclaim the gospel about, was a brown skinned, undocumented, Middle Eastern refugee. And as a minister, I feel called to stand up for those people who are on the edges of our society just as Jesus was, for which this campaign and the rhetoric used throughout was and still is particularly horrifying. Jesus also ministered to people on the margins of society, preaching and teaching messages of radical inclusion and was a radical prophet who spoke against the evils of the Empire that was Rome. This is why he was ultimately tortured and crucified by those exact authorities. I marched and will continue to march because Christ is my first and foremost example. He ministered to the poor, the downcast, the shunned, the sick, the non-believers, etc. Likewise, I will continue to minister in the ways I can, including using what privilege I have as a white woman to further the causes of equality, acceptance and love for all peoples, of all races, of all faiths, of all beliefs, because I believe it is what Jesus Christ and my faith has called me to do.

This is why I marched. We still have a ton of work to do but may we continue to do so unified.

 

(Trigger Warning: I describe my own sexual assault in this so please read with your own stories and cautions in mind).

Please, please just stop.

Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, I sat in dismay. How, and I mean, how could it be that America could elect such a person as Donald Trump to our highest elected position? Wait, let me stop myself there, because I do know. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, etc, has long run rampant in our so called United States of America.  What happened on election Tuesday and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning was just a public unmasking to white citizens of clear and present facts that people of color have been dealing with for lifetimes.

In response, my social media feeds have been filled with Trump supporters angry that Hillary supporters are showing our dismay, when many of those same supporters have done exactly the same thing these past eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency.  My feeds have also been filled with stories of fear and worry, from women and people of color, fearing for their lives, the lives of loved ones, and for our world as a whole.  Many of the responses to these posts of fear have been from white people saying “Don’t worry. We’ve got to make the best of things. It’ll all be alright”.

My response, please stop. Please stop saying that things are going to be okay now with such a man and his vice-president elect at the helm.  Although, you may not be scared, let’s be honest, you’re probably white and have the privilege of not having to worry about how such things will affect you, your lack of fear does not negate the very real fear that many of us are in fact feeling.

Have you ever been grabbed “by the pussy”?  Well, I have, by a very drunk man one night in college, and it’s an experience that I don’t like to recall or remember in the least.  However, ever since the tapes came out of our now President Elect uttering such words about women, I have relived that moment over and over in my head.  I’m thankful that I had a few male friends around whom I was immediately able to surround myself with to get the man away from me, but I keep thinking about what might have happened if I’d been by myself?  I find myself thinking about how so many other victims of sexual assault must be feeling in this day and age, knowing that a man, who so blatantly disrespects women and our bodies is soon to be taking over as the Commander and Chief of our Nation.  Do not tell us not to fear as many of us are now being triggered and forced to relive nightmares that we’d rather forget.

Likewise, I would ask, do you actually have any people of color, people of different faiths, or people who identify as part of the LGBTQQIA community with whom you have been in conversation regarding how safe and welcome they feel within our nation?  My guess, probably not.  The day after the election, as I reached out to my friends and loved ones who fit into a variety of these categories, the fear was and still is palpable.  People are worried that their rights will be taken away, that they will now be the targets of open and allowed violence and discrimination, and I worry with them.  I worry for my black boyfriend living in the South, for whom I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear that he has made it home safely after work, and for all my friends of color who are forced to deal with the realities of mass incarceration and literally doing anything while having black or brown skin.  I worry for immigrants and refugees who are anxious about being separated from their families, and in many cases being forced to go back to countries that they are fleeing due to violence and war.  I worry for my LGBTQQIA friends and acquaintances who continue to be physically attacked and told that they are less than.

I worry.

I worry now that the mask of white supremacy has been fully thrown off (to those of us willing to see and acknowledge it), and the United States has once more shown who it truly is to the world, that people will continue to live in complacency.  That we will continue to deny that we have any problems, that we will continue to allow white supremacy to reign and rule all in the name of serving God.  It was, after all, the white Christian men and women who elected Mr. Trump with a resounding majority of 64%.  I worry, for my future, for yours, and for the future of the peoples whom I love and respect deeply.

Almost six months ago now, I moved to a very conservative state. I knew it when I moved there, and I knew that it would be hard for me as a woman who for the entirety of my adult life has identified as a rather liberal person.  For the most part, I’d say that I’ve handled it fairly well, though I have often been warned to think very heavily before I write or say anything as a minister because it could damage my reputation in the community and my ministerial career as a whole.  But I can’t stay silent.  Not when the lives of so many of my friends and loved ones are on the line.

So please, please don’t tell us not to worry.  Please don’t tell us to “suck it up” and accept these results.  Some of us are seeing two men coming to power who look and act just like the men who grabbed our pussy in the bar, who attacked and berated us as we walked to class, who beat us up and left us on death’s doorstep because they honestly believed that we were better off dead.  Lives are truly at stake now, and I’m sure that if you were in our shoes, you’d be just as worried and scared.

And for those of you who are feeling scared, threatened, worried, nervous, know that you have someone that is willing to stand with and alongside you in whatever is to come. I will sit with you. I will offer you words of encouragement. I will facilitate and preside at your marriage ceremonies while marriage equality is still legal.  I will stand up to the racists and bigots.  I will no longer idly and passively sit by as hatred, white power, and misogyny are allowed to rule the day.  As a Christian, it is my calling to stand alongside the oppressed and to help build up the kingdom in whatever way I can.  May God give us the courage and strength to stand up and say no more to the supremacy and hatred that was allowed to win in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Forgiveness…can you imagine?

(A pastoral reflection for an upcoming Church newsletter)

“Forgiveness…can you imagine?”  These are some of the most profound words in the song It’s Quiet Uptown from the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton”, one of my current listening obsessions.  It’s a wonderful song about the power of forgiveness, even from the darkest and most hurtful of situations.  Forgiveness, it’s a topic that I think a lot of people, including myself like to think we’ve mastered.  Forgive and forget. It’s a mantra that I have heard time and again throughout my life.  However, as most of us know when we’ve been deeply hurt, forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do. It can take time to process as the hurt can pop up at the most unexpected of times and can bring with it a plethora of emotion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately because recently a number of events happened to coincide that made it feel important.  One day, as I was listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, I saw on a social media website that that day was the International Day of Forgiveness.  However, immediately after seeing this, photos of people who have caused me great hurt and heartbreak and who are generally blocked on my social media sites, began to show up.  Upon seeing these photos, the flood of emotions came quickly, the anger, hurt, and sadness.  I began to wonder if these people who had caused me so much emotional and psychological pain were still up to their old tricks? They must be, because someone who could hurt another that deeply could simply not change.  And that’s when it hit me…

People can and do change.  Yes, we may have done hurtful things in our lives, and maybe one day we will realize the pain that our actions caused to those who were affected.  At that time, we may come and seek forgiveness for what we’ve done.  However, whether or not that day comes, the act of forgiveness lies with the person who has been hurt, and therein lies a choice.  We can choose to cling to the hurt and pain in the long-term, continuing to let it affect us negatively, or we can choose to work through our hurt and pain, pushing for the ultimate goal of forgiveness.  When we forgive, we reach a point where those past events and hurts no longer hold the power in our lives.  Yes, we may be reminded of the hurt from time to time, but it does not hold our constant attention and provide the source of our energy and focus.

We have all done hurtful things.  We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Yet, we believe in a God that is the greatest forgiver, who shows us love and grace through the life and ministry of God’s son Jesus Christ, and through the consistent movement of the Holy Spirit. So just as through Christ’s actions we have been forgiven, let us too, choose the path of working toward forgiveness when we’ve been hurt, and showing love to those whom we may feel are the least deserving of it. Forgiveness…can you imagine?

Radical Hospitality

Hello friends!  It’s been a little over two weeks since I arrived in the UK, and I must say that I am settling in quite nicely.  Now that classes have officially started and I’m feeling like I have a firm schedule under my feet, it feels great to FINALLY be in class once more (weird I know since as I’m just starting classes, so many of my friends are entering the hypothetical “valley of the shadow of death” that is midterms).  Cambridge has welcomed me with absolutely glorious weather, and it has been a pleasure to walk around and get to know such a beautiful and historic city, whilst still trying not to look like too much of a tourist.

I must also point out that almost every person that I have met in Cambridge has been so incredibly nice, especially the students who I have the honor of living and studying amongst while I am staying at Westminster College.  The hospitality that I have received is incredible, and I have been the recipient of some absolutely amazing hospitality throughout my life and travels.  However, being abroad has once more made me think even more closely about the idea of hospitality and what it really and truly means to be completely inclusive and welcoming of peoples of all cultures and walks of life.  So, I’d like to share just a few stories of how I have experienced such amazing hospitality within my two weeks abroad.

Firstly, only days after I had arrived, still slightly jet lagged because my sleep cycle had not yet made the five hour transition from Eastern Standard Time, I finally ventured out to downtown Cambridge to find some proper fish & chips.  A friend suggested a very popular pub, and not feeling too adventurous just yet in terms of striking out to find another, closer restaurant, I decided to give The Eagle a try.  When I arrived, the place was absolutely packed, not a free table in sight.  However, right at the moment that I was about to search out a host to place my name on the list for a table, I noticed another young woman looking for a table.  Randomly striking up a conversation about how crowded the restaurant was, she quickly realized that I was not English, and our conversation turned to why we both happened to be visiting Cambridge.  Just then a table opened up and this woman who I had only just met politely asked me to join her for dinner.  At first I was slightly shocked, asking a complete stranger to eat with you is not something that I’m exactly used to, but I accepted and was quite glad that I did.  It was so wonderful to be able to sit down with someone my age and have a conversation over dinner and drinks and be able to learn more about the city that I am calling home until December.  She also taught me that in a proper pub, you find a table first that has a number on it, which you then proceed to the bar, order your food and give them the number of your table so that they can deliver it.  If not for Natalia, I would have looked like a complete idiot that night, so I am likewise gracious to her for showing me the ropes.  That night I was absolutely blown away by just how kind and generous Natalia was, extending to me the hand of friendship and hospitality knowing that I was in a completely new country and context that I am used to.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the amazing hospitality that has been extended to me by the staff and students here at Westminster.  I know that many people would be wary to call people their friends after spending such a short amount of time together.  However, as some of my classmates and I have discussed, our incoming group has become quite close and the other members of the school who are second, third, and fourth year students have all been incredibly welcoming.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt like the people I’m around are genuinely interested in getting to know who I truly am, but I can firmly say that the group of friends that I have made here at Westminster are just that.  I mean, the student council here at the school is currently planning to host a Thanksgiving meal since I’m here to help me not feel homesick and so I’ll be able to cook and enjoy the holiday (which I had set my mind on that I was just not going to get this year).  Likewise, a number of the students having learned that I intend the visit the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, Wales while I am in the UK, have decided to make an entire weekend out of it, carpooling and spending the entire weekend together.  I literally have the biggest smile on my face just thinking about these absolutely amazing people that I have gotten to know over the last few weeks, and I can not wait to see what the rest of this term holds for us and for our ministries together, even as we leave this place.

Cambridge and Westminster, you are such an amazing place with such amazing people and hospitality.  Thank you so much for welcoming me with open arms and smiling faces.  You are precisely what the doctor ordered for this part of my life journey.

Well hello again everybody! I do apologize for my two year writing absence.  I never have been especially good at keeping continuous writings in journals.  Apparently this carries over with blogs too. However, as I am about to set off on another adventure, I figured that now might be as good of a time as ever to try and get back into the blogging game.

Yes, you read that correctly.  As of 6:45pm on September 23rd, 2015, I will be jumping the pond! That’s right! I’ll be flying across the Atlantic to spend the semester studying at Westminster College in Cambridge, UK.  In many ways, this is a dream come true.  As many of my closest friends (and probably Twitter followers) know, I’m a pretty big fan of many things UK.  So much of the literature, television, and film that I have fallen in love with over the years comes from those countries.  It is a place that I have always longed to visit and now to not only have the opportunity to visit, but to live and study in England for three months is just fantastic (as the Ninth Doctor would exclaim)!

Traveling has long been one of my greatest joys.  Whenever I get the chance to travel, my spirit of adventure is always sparked.  Being able to experience different cultures, hear and learn from people from all over the world and from all walks of life, it really is such an honor and a privilege.  However, as the years pass and my travels continue I have had people exclaim to me that all of this adventuring…wandering, have you, makes it seem as if I’m lost or constantly looking for something.  To this I answer that when I travel, I am looking for something.  I’m looking for the adventures, and the stories of the people that I get to meet along all of my journeys.  I am looking for the ways that I can better get to know and love peoples from all over the globe by understanding how they live and think.  I am looking for the ways that I can one day be the best minister that I can be by learning from and listening to as many people as I possibly can.

A few weeks ago, I got a tattoo that very much summarizes what I feel at the moment.  It’s a quote from one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, who just so happens to be British.  The man most well known for writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he writes as part of a larger poem found in The Fellowship of the Ring that “Not all those who wander are lost”.  As I enter my final year of seminary, only eight months away from graduation and with so many uncertainties about my future, at this moment I most certainly am wandering.  However, I am most certainly the farthest thing from being lost.  That’ll happen when I land in London and try to navigate the Underground for the first time.

Next time you hear from me I’ll hopefully be all settled in Cambridge.  Until then, get out there and wander!