Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: A Review

I apologize for the long absence from blogging. Life got busy and the blog got neglected, but I am here for a triumphant return. Which is odd because I was told by one of my friends that I triumphantly returned to life again at the beginning of 2009.

The end of the year is almost here and with it comes a reflection of what has past. It is something that I have done for a number of years and each year seems to bring about different changes, different revelations about myself and the people around me. Now I could probably look back with great concentration and see different lessons from some of the more recent years to compare, but I honestly don't have the energy so I will focus on what has happened in the last 365 days, give or take a few.

In the year of our Lord, 2009, day one began with heartache; or at least the lasting effects of heart ache. But at the same time it was counteracted with the arrival of new friends. New Years Day was spent with my family, watch the Rose Parade and eating some sort of wonderful hot breakfast cooked by my father. The conclusion of New Year's Day proper meant that I was to be returning to St. Paul, to continue with school for the rest of the year.

It was here that new friends were to be found through the arrival of my January Term cross-cultural class that took place in South Minneapolis. It was a wonderful experience, in an old and cold church, that involved many lively discussion and an even greater amount of churros. I met some wonderful people there, people that I probably never would have got to know if it wasn't for the class. And even though the course was spent largely in a cold room, the people were loving and warm and full of life. A wonderful experience no doubt.

February brought with it two beginnings: the beginning of the semester and the beginning of a long weight-loss journey that I am still wondering my way through. Academically the semester was hardly out of the ordinary (although I did complete my first fully online class), but the weight-loss was a totally different story. I actually had started this journey back in August, but due to illness and certain involvements in my social life, it came to a bit of a halt. So I started again. I found myself weighing at just around 250 pounds and I set a goal of 210 by the Fourth of July. It gave me a weekly goal of just about two pounds per week. So I started getting up a little earlier than I had before and going to the gym. This wasn't always the easiest of things to do when it was freezing cold in the morning, but I went none-the-less. It was a hard that first month, but I hit my weekly goals each week.

Month-by-month the semester went by. And there were two classes that I thoroughly enjoyed: (although I think that all of my classes in the spring were great!) my online Holy Spirit class and my creative writing class. My Holy Spirit class was one of the most work intensive courses I have ever had. Being that it was online, there were large amounts of reading and even more writing to be done (I averaged about 12 double-spaced written pages per week, just for this Holy Spirit course). But at the same time I think I learned more from that Holy Spirit course than I did from any other. Granted the burden of learning was on my shoulders. If I didn't read or reply to the postings online, then I wasn't going to learn anything. It was a great challenge and I only wish that all online courses were that well done. And then there is the creative writing course, which was entirely less work intensive, but equally as rewarding. The class was small and it was spent entirely in discussion about how to write creatively and religiously. Our creative outlets were through hymns, poems or short stories/vignettes. It was a good opportunity to flex some creative writing muscle in the middle of a world dominated by dry academic writing. It also provided a nice counter-point to the very work intensive Holy Spirit course.

The spring semester of 2009 also brought with it the fulfillment of two plus years of course work and learning as I was to finally find out where I was going to be headed for internship. This was a process that I had started and inevitably had to delay in the spring of 2008; which meant that going through the process again was bittersweet. It meant that I had to going through some of the same orientation, listen to some of the same questions and read through some of the same congregational profiles again. It was a stressful process and I really just wanted to get it all over with and find out where I being sent.

But I still went through it all. I went to each of the orientation sessions. I read through dozens of congregational profiles. I rewrote my internship application and when all was said and done I had my heart set on one congregation in particular. Now before you get your hopes up like I did, I didn't get assigned to the church that I had my heart set on. I wasn't even told that I didn't get one of my four preferred congregations. Instead I opened up an email and I was assigned to a congregation that I had only read the profile once: Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Vancouver, WA. I was shocked and I didn't know what to do. I was crushed. (Before any of you readers out there get any ideas, I have loved my internship site and I have been blessed to be here, but I didn't know that this was going to be the case at the time.) It felt like I was dumped; which is ironic if you know how 2008 ended.

But life went on, and so did the semester. I finished my course work and was looking forward to a nice summer, a summer of rest before life to a left turn at Albuquerque and I started internship.

The summer of 2009 was full of travels; and with three different driving trips that were no less than 500 miles each, it was a lot of traveling. The first was a trip back home. Normally going home would mean jumping on a plane, but I had to get my car back to California for an emissions test so it was a road trip this time around. My Dad flew out from California and we drove across the country and back. The drive out to California was great. We had great weather, and even managed to get a free stay at a hotel for the return trip. The return trip, that was another story. But first, I should say that I enjoyed my time at home. I knew that I didn't know when I was going to make my way back home again so I made sure that I took extra time at home. But after almost three weeks at home I was ready to get back to my friends. The return trip. The return trip was nice until we made our way into Nebraska and then the fecal matter hit the rotating blades. The check engine light turned on not shortly after we entered Nebraska and it wasn't able to be fixed by a dealership until we got to the other end. Which really only temporarily fixed the problem as the check engine light came on again in Iowa. Long story to a short story; it was $1200 and three dealerships later until the car was completely fixed. I was not happy about it, but there wasn't much I could do. The next few weeks were a blur of activity.

I went camping to Lake Itasca, MN with some of my friends from the seminary. It was great fun, even though it rained practically non-stop. Basically the only times it didn't rain was when we set-up and took down camp and the hour or so that we spent on the lake canoeing. I should be happy to say that I managed not to tip the canoe even though I hadn't been canoeing since the 5th grade. It really was a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed my tent bound trip with my friends.

I should pause this story to make note of the Fourth of July. It wasn't anything particularly amazing, fireworks and all the regular stuff that you expect from the celebration of our independence; but it is worth noting that I made my weight goal. In fact I had surpassed it by four pounds, weighing it at 206 pounds. It was a long and hard journey, but from August of 2008 to July of 2009 I went from 275+ pounds to 206 pounds. It was a net loss of approximately 70 pounds. I actually lost more total weight than that as I was down to 228 pounds in December of 2008 but gained the weight back by the beginning of February of 2009. My gross weight loss was approximately 92 pounds. Now granted some of that weight loss can be attributed to having mono at the end of 2008 and into the beginning of 2009. But I would like to think that I did most of the work.

After my trip to Lake Itasca it was a short rest before I had to back my life into boxes and head out west again. My last week in St. Paul was spent packing and organizing my life in to various size containers and figuring out what I was to keep with me and what was to stay back in storage. My final full day in St. Paul was marked by many good-byes and tears and packing up my car for the journey across the country.

My drive out to Vancouver, WA went without any sort of problems (thanks be to God!). I arrived at my new place of residence and was met by a few eager pair of hands to help me unpack. It was odd to not be living on a campus of higher learning any more, but I welcomed the site of a full kitchen at my disposal.

I arrived in Vancouver about a week before I was to officially start my internship and so I took advantage of the time and visited some friends in Seattle and took some time to set up and rest before a twelve month journey of learning and ministry.

At first start, internship was more questions than answers and I think that the first month I spent more time just trying to figure out what was going on than I did anything else. I spent much of that first month sitting in my office not know what it was that I was supposed to do, but that soon changed.

With the beginning of October came the beginning of what I think was my full swing of ministry. I took over the Adult Education hour (Adult Forum) between services Sunday mornings, as per the request of my supervisor; I continued working with the confirmation class; I started preaching on a regular basis; started thinking about my internship project; I started working with the youth; and much more. All of a sudden life didn't seem so boring, and I started to know what was going on at the church. This continued on into November, as I planned my first worship service (Thanksgiving Eve) and I finalized what my internship project was to be: a youth leadership program called F.L.Y. or Family's Leadership in Youth. In October I also met the other interns in the area and have been befriended by the other two that are here in Vancouver. I look forward to our Monday night gatherings and I am thankful for their opening their hearts and homes to me.

And that brings us to December. This month has been hard for many reasons. Not only is the season of Advent full of new challenges (mid-week services and many many get-togethers) but there is other turmoil, turmoil that I will not mention here in a public space. One of the bits of inner conflict that I can mention is that my family, for financial reasons is not exchanging gifts this year nor are they able to make it up to visit me for the holidays. This marks the first Christmas (of probably many) that I will have to spend away from my family. It has been hard to deal with but I know that this is something that I will have to understand sooner rather than later.

But I am not alone with my personal conflicts. I have a friend that has had many hardships at work; another that has had to deal with death and another that has had to deal with great illness. Great conflict is all around me at a time of the year when I am supposed to be filled with and surrounded by joy. It's a duality that I have found hard to deal with. So 2009 appears to close in the same way that it started, with heart ache. The only difference being that of the source.

But I look forward to 2010 with great joy and some trepidation. I look forward to see how ministry plays out here at Family of Christ. I look forward to seeing my friends graduate from Luther Seminary in May. I look forward to seeing multiple friends start a life-long journey in marriage. I look forward to my return to Luther to see how their internship experiences went. I know that it is going to be difficult to leave Family of Christ at the end of the summer of 2010. But it is something that I will have to do.

But most of all I look forward to the rest of 2009 and the promises that are brought forward each Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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