Reflections from the Road

Well I’m on the road again today.  This is my third trip in about 2 months to ASP’s center in West Virginia and I’m beginning to learn the route.  I am beginning to anticipate when I am approaching both tunnels on I-77 and brace myself for the nervousness I feel whenever I travel through the massive mountain in my path.  I imagine in another few months I’ll comfortable enough with the directions that I’ll even be able to flip off my GPS.

Happily a dusting of snow added a little extra magic to what might have been just a regular journey.   If the Farmer’s Almanac is right, the magic might wear off a little after my first winter in Appalachia.  That traditional trusty weather predictor and the prolific wooly worms are foretelling a hard season ahead.  I know I am probably being a bit naive, but honestly I say bring it on.  Even though I’ve experienced plenty of snow in adventures in North Dakota and the UK, the Georgia girl in me still sees snow as a sparkling and elusive gift. [smile]

I am so excited for my first snow day in “the Parsonage” when we’re both stuck at home drinking hot chocolate eating warm chocolate chip cookies and putting together a puzzle.  [smile]  That vision of the perfect snow day will have to wait a few weeks or maybe a month or so to come to fruition.  The small snow shower doesn’t look like it will bring on the blizzard or ice storm that will keep us indoors for very long yet.  Still the promise of the perfect snow day certainly feels closer than it did yesterday and that is something to get excited about.  [smile]



October was too short…

Life is too short to ice cakes; cakes are good without icing.
Life is too short to read all the church periodicals.
Life is too short not to write regularly to your parents.
Life is too short to eat factory baked bread.
Life is too short to keep all your floors shiny.*

October was too short.  Time passed so quickly this month– so quickly that I just couldn’t keep up with all our happenings here in real time and I must confess I’ve felt a little guilty.  [smile]  But October was too short… Full of little anniversaries of our first date and first kiss and bigger celebrations like my 30th birthday and our first wedding anniversary, October is already a busy month in our household, but happily we added a bit more hustle and bustle with a record total of 7 overnight guests this month (my parents and our seminary friends), the wedding of dear friends in Georgia, and of course Halloween.

Life is too short to let a day pass without hugging your spouse and each of your children.
Life is too short to nurse grudges and hurt feelings.
Life is too short to worry about getting ready for Christmas; just let Christmas come.
Life is too short to spend much money on neckties and earrings.
Life is too short for nosy questions like “How do you like your new pastor?” Or—if there’s been a death—”How is he taking it?”

October was too short.  The busyness of October bubbled over into our lives at work as well.  At the beginning of the month, Caleb celebrated his first baptism and we welcomed four new members to “The Church.”  What an exciting Sunday!  That evening at the prayer class I’ve been teaching, I had a hard time focusing our discussions because so much joy was spilling over from the mornings activities.  [smile]  “The Church” is slowly growing and we are blessed to bear witness.  This was my first full month in my new job with Appalachia Service Project and essentially I spent the whole month establishing and living into new routines.  Since October 1st, I have made trips back to each of the centers in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  I have loved discovering how I am being called to be present for these young adults who are serving in these centers.

Life is too short to be gone from home more than a few nights a week.
Life is too short not to take a nap when you need one.
Life is too short to care whether purses match shoes or towels match bathrooms.
Life is too short to stay indoors when the trees turn color in fall, when it snows, or when the spring blossoms come out.

October was too short.  The most brilliant transformation during the month happened to the mountains.  Slowly the greens of summer have been replaced by the yellows, reds, deep purples, and oranges of fall.  It’s really been quite a spectacular show!  We’ve tried to be intentional about using down time to take in the colors as much as possible.  We’ve taken long drives, biked the Creeper, and spent mornings just sitting by the great floor to ceiling window in our living room.

Life is too short to miss the call to worship on a Sunday morning.
Life is too short for bedspreads that are too fancy to sleep under.
Life is too short to work in a room without windows.
Life is too short to put off Bible study.
Life is too short to put off improving our relationships with the people we live with.

October was too short, but I don’t feel like we’ve let it pass by without taking in the fullness of this very special month.  So I didn’t write about it all until now… at least I have the memory of having lived this October in a way that I can happily proclaim with orphan Ann-(with an)-e Shirley that “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”


*Poem by Doris Longacre, the author of the Mennonite cookbook More with Less and the book Living More with Less.

11 Questions: Do the people I’m surrounded by bring me life?

There is no more denying it… I am about to leave my twenties behind and journey into a land unknown, a new decade.  In 11 short days, I will be 30!  [wince… I mean smile]  Truthfully, I’m not very worried about turning 30.  I love my current life situation and when I look toward the future I am excited about all the new adventures waiting ahead.

That being said I am still a bit sad about leaving behind my twenties. I’ve loved being a 20 something.  I’ve felt more comfortable in my skin… more empowered… more inspired… more excited about the future… more in love… and mostly more me in this decade than any other. [smile]  I don’t think when I turn 30 any of these feelings will magically disappear, but I feel a little of the sadness I felt when I was leaving behind high school for college or college for the wide world.

The whole big birthday coming up has me in a mood for reflecting and a few months ago I ran across an article from Relevant online that provided the perfect inspiration.  It’s a list of “11 Questions Every Twentysomething Should Ask.”  Follow the link for the full article.  So for the next 10 days (while I’m still a 20 something) I’ll try to answer a question a day.  The first one is easy:

“1. Do the people I’m surrounded by bring me life?… Are your friends anvils tied around your ankles or jetpacks helping you fly? Your life will resemble the lives of your closest friends—does that fact excite you or freak you out?”

The answer is a resounding “YES!”  I am incredibly blessed to have many intelligent, kind, faithful, and all around good people who are my friends.  Their drive is inspiring.  In terms of friends I’ve hit the jackpot! [smile]  And my closest friend/husband well, he’s just the bees knees.  Daily I am amazed by the blessing of living with him and learning from him.  Today is actually the second anniversary of our first date.  October 1, 2011 was just about the best day of my life because I began a conversation that has really never stopped.  [smile]

So yes my friends bring me life and that life is full of peace, hope, passion, service, joy, and love!  Friendship like that is the greatest gift.


His and Hers: Reality TV Roundup

Last night was a big night for TV in the Fragwell household!  In the perfect storm of network programming, the premier of Survivor:  Blood Vs. Water and the finale of this summer’s season of Big Brother were scheduled by CBS for the same Wednesday night! [smile]  Happily the stars aligned so we could both watch most of both shows.  My new work schedule doesn’t start for another week and Caleb’s Wednesday night was relatively free considering the normal hiccups and delays that can happen with church Wednesday night programming. [smile]

A few spoilers follow so beware if you haven’t watched the episodes and plan too:

Overall, we were both really happy with the set up for the new Survivor season and the conclusion to Big Brother!  Caleb’s the real Survivor expert, but since we’ve been married he’s been putting me through a crash course of the history of this still popular after all these years reality show.  [smile] He and I love that this season features returning players and the loved ones twist is really quite genius.  The dynamics of the game seem to be much more complex and there is some unpredictability in a show that’s been around for a while.  Caleb says:  “Even though nothing can trump the first season or Heroes Vs. Villians, this season may come close to achieving Survivor gold!”  [smile]

If Caleb is the resident Survivor expert, I guess my few summers of watching Big Brother make me the expert in this regard. So then what can I say about Big Brother?!?  I guess, “Go Andy” is appropriate.  Honestly, for me this show isn’t so much about watching to see who will win, but watching the game in progress.  The premise of the show is such a fascinating social experiment.   While the finale was fun, my favorite episode this summer was that second double eviction when the big showmance was finally broken up.  So much drama!  [smile]

I must confess that I was a little hesitant to share our reality TV obsessions for fear it might shatter our super cool image.  [smile] Seems like reality shows like Survivor and Big Brother are out of vogue these days.  So I’m curious… are we the only ones still watching these “traditional” reality TV game shows?  I would love to hear what you thought of either show last night or hear what reality TV shows are your favorites.  Leave a comment with your reality TV confessions.


3 AM Feeding?!?

Funniest thing happened last night or I guess it was actually early this morning– Caleb and I both woke up to the sounds of a crying child.  I am not kidding.  We were both so confused.  Our sleepy exchange follows:

We don’t have a baby.

No, we don’t.  What is that?

I don’t know.  It sounds like a crying kid.

Maybe it’s a cat.  It could be a cat.

[wild cat shriek right outside our bedroom window]

There’s a neighborhood cat that hangs out on our porch.  It’s a cat, but it sounded just like a child.

What would we do if someone left a baby on our front porch?

I have no idea.

Clearly we’re not ready to respond to a crying baby at 3 AM, but hey I’m counting it a victory that we both woke up.  Made for a great laugh this morning when we remembered our sleepy powwow about the crying baby, aka crazy cat.


His and Hers: Inbox maintenance

Daily Musings “His and Her’s” series is back! It’s Thursday and its been too many weeks since my last “His and Her’s” post, plus I just can’t talk about the bathroom remodel for another second.  For those wondering where we are in the process, I’ll just say our one day project is turning into multi-week project.  In the last 48 hours, I feel like I’ve learned the secrets of DIY homeowners out there: plan to expect the unexpected and everything takes longer.  [smile]

Back to the “His and Her’s” post for today- inbox maintenance.  Da da duuuummmmm!  Did you hear the scary music too at the mention of such a heavy and dreaded topic or was it just me?  Perhaps I’m the only person whose anxiety slowly increases with the number of unread items in my email inbox.  [smile]  My inbox anxiety disorder began near the end of college when I found myself with a very full and very mismanaged inbox where I could hardly find anything that I needed.  The ever-growing inbox was a result of a summer of little to no email access when I was a camp counselor and my tendency to be a bit of a pack rat. [smile]  By the end of my 4 year stint at LaGrange College it seemed like dozens of more messages were added to the pile each time I logged on.  It got to the point that I just thought for sure I was going to lose it.

Thankfully around the same time my inbox anxiety disorder was reaching its peak I discovered Google’s Gmail.  Gmail’s user-friendly platform with the capability to create different folders and archive just about any and every email I wished felt heaven sent. So I said goodbye to my old address and became mnellbagwell [at] gmail [dot] com.  [smile]  When I converted to Gmail I thought my days of anxiety producing inboxes were over but boy was I wrong.  I’m sure by now you all know where this is going– Caleb’s inbox is bursting at the seams!

You may be wondering why the state of Caleb’s inbox should even matter to me.  Well I must admit that is a great question and my not so great answer is “I don’t know.”  It is his email inbox and not mine.  Only occasionally does something that I need to see only get mailed to him, regardless his very full (we are talking 7000+ messages) makes me break out in sweats.  [smile]  The obvious difference in our ideas of inbox maintenance got me wondering whether one or the other of us were more “normal” than the other.  Time for another poll. [smile] Share your thoughts below.



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