Growing in Gratitude: “The hills are alive”

There’s just a chance that we will receive a sprinkling of snow tomorrow.  Can you believe it?  It’s April for goodness sake, but I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised.  I’m fairly certain the first snow fall I experienced as a child happened around Easter.  [smile]

Looking out at the verdant mountains and blue sky surrounding our little valley I’m not as convinced that these predictions will come to fruition.  The only snow that seems likely to fall tomorrow are the rest of the white petals from our Bradford pear tree in the front yard or the fading pink  petals from our neighbors cherry blossom.  In the last week the hills have come alive with color.  The grey spindly winter branches are all beginning to show signs that after this long cold winter spring is actually on its way.  Along with the signs of spring, I am increasingly aware of the impending arrival of our sweet little one.  Kicks that are not my own are getting stronger and more frequent in my growing round abdomen.  More posts about our little one are for sure coming in the future, but for now I’ll close…

Today I am grateful for the colorful hills surrounding our valley that hold the promise of spring.

-Margaret

[An addendum:  blame my pregnancy brain for forgetting that I had this ready to post last night and not doing so until today.  Looks like the forecasts were true at least in part.  Freezing rain seems to be a real possibility today.  Praying that warm temperatures come back soon and that the beautiful spring blossoms won’t be affected by this late freeze.]

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Growing in Gratitude: My (new) Day Job

Even though today was the first long day of a long week, I am so thankful to be able to announce that I am now officially the chaplain for Appalachia Service Project (ASP)’s Year-Around Program.  I  am tired and don’t have much energy to explain all the details now except to say that I will have the privilege to work with some great young adults who are spending the next year of their lives serving others and discerning their vocational calling.

Thanks for all the prayers and the patience in waiting for the big reveal.  Plan to not hear from me super regularly this week.  I will be traveling to four different states in the next four days and any spare minute will be spent resting up in preparation for the next drive.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Glimpses of the future

I’ve been job searching for about a month now.  I guess in the grand scheme of unemployment trends in the US currently that’s not very long, but when you are the person in the midst of “the hunt” it can feel a bit like walking up an enclosed spiral staircase when you can’t see how far you’ve come or how far you have left to climb.  That blindness to the length of time I’ll remain on this journey to find a job can be maddening.  There are few moments during that day that I find I’m not trying to tease out the blueprints to that metaphorical spiral staircase.

How many steps will I travel before I at least reach a landing where I can rest for a while?  How many more times will I search Monster.com or Idealist.org before I find that listing for my job?  Which interview will go well?  Should I wait to accept one job in hopes this more interesting possibility will be offered?  What will I eventually find at the top of all of these stairs?

Then for me at least there is this underlying question that I’ve been asked since I was 8 and one that I’m still not sure how to answer even though I’m almost 30.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I’ve always had a diversity of interests and I’ve enjoyed exploring multiple avenues of career possibilities in my twenties, but now I’m at a point when I feel like I need and want to make a move toward narrowing my focus.  Even though it feels like the right time to be making this kind of big decision, the prospect of doing so is somehow terrifying and so I begin to feel a bit claustrophobic.

Yet in the midst of all the angst of the job search, I find moments when I am afforded glimpses of the future me that I’m journeying toward.  Like beams of light shining in through small windows built into the walls of that spiral staircase, my path seems illumined for just a moment and I feel some hope knowing that there is still a world outside this enclosure and that when I reach the top I’ll emerge to enjoy a whole new perspective of my journey.

Yesterday evening I had one of those moments when I led the first session of a 7 week small group study at “The Church.”  Channeling my energy into teaching others some of what I learned while in seminary was completely invigorating.  [smile]  It felt so natural to be fostering our discussion about prayer and encouraging those gathered to let go and experiment over the next few months with some new prayer practices.  I felt for a moment like I was fulfilling my purpose and that I could enjoy doing something like this for the rest of my life.  That feeling was such a welcome respite from all the uncertainty that I’ve been carrying with me lately and exactly the boost I needed going into another job interview this afternoon.

Today I am grateful for glimpses of the future.

What are you grateful for?

– Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Cooler mornings

The weather is changing.  All around the Tri-Cities this morning communities were waking up to temperatures in the upper 50s and forecasts for sunny days in the low 80s.  It’s not even September and still 28 days away from the autumnal equinox, but fall is almost here.  I can feel it and even caught of glimpse of it’s approaching glory yesterday when Caleb spotted a tree whose leaves were beginning to change– from bright green to yellow and orange.  Though calendars show that fall marks the beginning of the end of a year,  fall feels like a time of new beginnings.  Perhaps its because we’ve been students for so long and every fall marked a new school year.  Whatever the reason, the seasonal change that happens sometime between August and October feels ripe with possibility and promise.

If you couldn’t tell by my waxing philosophical outburst above, fall is our favorite time of year in the Fragwell household and any sign that it’s approaching is greeted with great fanfare.  [smile] This year the first cooler mornings are particularly exciting because they signal the start of my first full autumn in Appalachia.  I can’t wait to see the changing colors in a brand new setting and am already anticipating the beauty of the views surrounding “The Parsonage” that will only be revealed when the leaves begin to fall.

Today I am thankful for cooler mornings.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

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Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Growing in Gratitude: Visions and Dreams

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Sunday marked a month of living in “The Parsonage!” [smile] In the grand adventure of life a month is not so long, yet in many ways those 7 weeks of transition that characterized the first half of our summer seem like so long ago especially because of everything that has happened in between then and now.  Visits with parishioners, Sundays, tons of boxes unpacked, cleaning, moving furniture, placing frames on the wall, making an empty house our home. In that time, we’ve been living into life together in this new place and I am so grateful. 

This month of discovery has also been full of dreaming and visioning.  We’ve been dreaming what our house will look like with pumpkins on the porch and Christmas lights lining the eaves.  We’ve been dreaming what fun adventures we’ll take exploring the parks and sights near Kingsport.  Ever since reading Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap I’ve dreamed about visiting that magical little town just a little way down the road.  [smile]

Happily the dreaming and visioning have not been limited to our own small vision of life together, but has spilled over into our interactions with “The Church.”  Spurred by the excitement that always comes when a new minister arrives to a United Methodist congregation, we’ve joined our parishioners in dreaming dreams and seeing visions about what this next chapter will be for this church, these people, and most importantly the community surrounding us. 

This state of dreaming is a glorious place to be and such an important step in moving forward.  A friend/second once or twice removed posed this question on Facebook earlier in the week and I felt it so relevant to where we now find ourselves. 

Kathe:  Thinking about what church was supposed to be, and what it is now. How did we get here from there? More important, where next?

Her questions aren’t ones that has an easy answer and I think its interesting that Kathe hasn’t received any responses to her query online.  I think part of the answer lies in the process of dreaming and visioning.  I am reminded of the passage from Joel that is quoted in Acts: 

‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.

Dreams and visions move us from where we already find ourselves toward the not yet kingdom of God that is to come.  So today I am thankful for a faith that encourages such imaginative dreaming and visioning. 

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Running Partners

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

Now that the transitions of life have settled down a bit we started a jogging routine with the help of the “Get Running” app.  Essentially it’s a guide like Couch to 5K.  We have a goal set to be able to run in the Apple Festival 5K in October and slowly but surely we are working up to it. [smile]

After our run today, we sat on the back porch for a few moments of devotional and silent prayer.  We started with reading from Psalms for Praying by Nan Merrill.  Psalm 1, the one we read today, seemed particularly appropriate for the state of post run bliss in which we were basking in at the moment. The psalmist writes:

Blessed are those who walk [or run] hand in hand with goodness, who stand beside virtue, who sit in the seat of truth; for their delight is in the Spirit of Love, and in Love’s heart they dwell day and night.

I’ve tried building a running routine before, but it never really took.  This time running with Caleb I feel like its probably something I can stick with.  Caleb ran cross country during high school, but to say I’ve never really been a fan of running is an understatement.  Still working some exercise routine into our lives is a must and jogging has the added benefit of getting to know our neighborhood and our neighbors better.  I’m learning to enjoy the process but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like cursing a blue streak while running up that final hill on our way back to our house.  [smile]  Tackling the task of running together is what’s been making all the difference.  I love the quiet conversations that we can have during our running and having a running partner to push me through the last running interval or up that last hill makes each task a little more bearable.

Partnership is so essential to cultivating a rich spiritual life as well.  Together with my family, with my friends, with Caleb, and with our church I am challenged to think more deeply and live into the questions that arise on the journey toward discovering who God is, who I am in relationship, and what is the call on my life.  Running and walking together I am learning what it means to really be alive.  What a blessing!

Today I am thankful for running partners.

What are you grateful for?

By way of a happy coincidence, my mom forwarded me this illustration by StoryPeople today.  Hope you enjoy

Run Proud by StoryPeople

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Little Ones

Growing in Gratitude: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth! Serve the Lord with a glad heart! Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying). Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible. Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

With the big announcement from Clarence House yesterday that the newest royal had been born and with VBS (Vacation Bible School) in full force at “The Church,” I am overwhelmed this week with gratitude for the raw honesty, exuberant joy, and boundless energy of children. [smile]

It has been years since I’ve helped with a vacation Bible school and I’d forgotten what a wonderful organized chaos it is.  Let’s be honest if you have ever participated in VBS you know that no matter how well it is planned ultimately every VBS is an experiment in letting the children take over the church and boy if it isn’t fun, except for maybe that one VBS song that gets stuck in your head for the next month! [smile] In the process, we, the adult leaders, can only hope that the children learn as much as we are.  Reliving the Bible stories at VBS through the inquisitive minds of children is a revelation of God’s grace and a lesson in cultivating a practice thoughtful curiosity that makes faith come alive.

Today I am thankful for little ones.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret