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.

-Margaret

Celebrating with “The Nine”

Oh I am so pumped for Saturday!  Bummed that we are leaving my in-laws house and bummed about another day that involves so much driving, but pumped because tomorrow afternoon and evening I get to hang out with my girls.  Not everyone will be there in person, but if I know anything about gatherings with “The Nine” I’m sure everyone will be there in spirit and we’ll try to phone anyone in that is available.  [smile]

It is amazing to think that I’ve been celebrating the milestones of life for the last 11 years!  That’s over a third of my life that I’ve been journeying along with them.  Over the next 14 months we will all be celebrating the big 30!  It seems so impossible to finally be turning the age that we all thought was so far away when we met each other as 18 year olds.  [smile]  Blair our resident craft-loving theologian has us all picking out photos of us from college, our childhood, and the last year for a project she’s compiling to celebrate.  I’m sure that whatever it is it will be excellent.  She is so creative.

So a bit of our time on tomorrow will be given over to celebrating our 30th birthdays, but the majority of our time will be spent celebrating our Megs who will be marrying her firefighter fiance in October.  Celebrations for weddings began before we had even graduated from college.  Katie was married the summer after our junior year and sometime during the spring semester we had our first bachelorette/bridal lingerie shower.  We laugh about that first shower now because we really had no idea what we were doing picking out lingerie for her.  The gifts ranged from cute pajama pants and t-shirts to that crazy fruit roll up-esque edible underwear.  [smile]

Oh 11 years together means we share so many wonderful memories!  We gather now on the pretense that we are celebrating someone, but really I think what binds us together is that at every gathering we celebrate us.  I love us.  About a month ago, Jane Marie forwarded to the group email address we share an email she had received from her mother which included a meditation written by Kimberly Broerman, a spiritual director in Atlanta.  The meditation sums up so well how we all feel about our circle of friends.  She writes:

It started in college. At first, we called it a Bible study, because we wanted to be together in an intentionally spiritual way. But as the seven of us met together, week after week, and shared our real flesh-and-blood hopes and hungers and hurts, the real text became the stories of our lives. We read and learned each other with great affection and interest, and with increasing care and compassion. We renamed our group “Group” (I know, clever, right?) and we met together faithfully every week until we graduated. No matter what was going on in my life, I knew there were six girlfriends who had my back, and I could come bare my soul and be held in their care without judgment. And I became as invested in their wholeness and well-being, bearing their joys and sorrows as if they were my own.

It was delightful and transforming to know and be known, to love and be loved in such an intimate and complete way. I expressed my affection frequently and enthusiastically, exclaiming “I love us!” I didn’t just love them, or love the me I was with them; I loved us all together.

Hope you have as much to celebrate this weekend and have a great circle of friends to celebrate with.

-Margaret

 

 

“The church now confirms your calling.”

Six months ago the word on the street was “BOOM.”  If you’re not up on UM acronym lingo that stands for Board of Ordained Ministry, the group of lay and clergy members of an annual conference who interview candidates for ordained ministry.  I’ve always thought it appropriate that it sounds like some sort of explosion because it’s also the one word that can make the brow of 3rd year UM MDiv students begin sweat with a single mention. [smile]  Journeying alongside Caleb and the rest of our seminary cohorts as they went through these interviews in early spring was a practice of remaining calm in the midst of an anxious storm of preparatory activity and then waiting for results.

Now the prepping and waiting is over and I get to experience the joy of watching as one by one their conferences affirm and confirm their calling to be ministers in the UM church.  Last week the first of our group of friends, Jana, who went through the process this year was commissioned in Oklahoma.  Tonight two others will be commissioned– Emily in North Georgia and Chase in Arkansas.  Tomorrow midday I’ll watch my Caleb be received officially as a provisional member of the Holston Conference.  Then next week Jeff will join the Western North Carolina Conference.  How I wish I could attend each service to celebrate! [smile]

I am so proud and excited to watch them begin ministry.  At the same time it feels a bit weird to watch as we are all embarking on the journey we’ve been “packing” for over the last three-ish years.  Even at graduation last month this day felt so far away.  Now here it is.  Now we’re about to step over the threshold into a new life.  Obviously emotions are mixed.  One of the things that make the process especially hard is being out of the comfort zone that was the seminary community.  In a dream world we’d all be in a conference together and get to witness firsthand the joys and sorrows of being in ministry.  We can still share and witness from afar but I would be crazy to think that sharing will have the same closeness.

Not being members of the same conference does present new opportunities.  Instead of focusing on the separation from our friends, I’m trying to focus on the potential to build new connections.  I rejoice in knowing that others in Oklahoma, North Georgia, Arkansas, and Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to experience the ministry, friendship, witness, service, and love of our friends who will be serving there.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Commitment and Connection

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.

We woke up this morning in Lake Junaluska, aka Mecca of Methodism in North Carolina. [smile] We are here to participate in our Annual Conference and to celebrate the wedding of our dear friends, Nickie and Christian. It is such a blessing to be in this thin place where the Spirit feels so near.

I love a day that starts with a wedding. [smile] I find weddings to be such a powerful sign of hope. It is a joy to share in this public affirmation of the love and commitment of two persons. Yesterday’s wedding was intimate and in the best way possible an authentic celebration of the lives of our friends. Nickie’s family heritage is Mexican American and Irish and parts of the ceremony reflected these traditions. I particularly found beautiful the tradition of “arras.” The bride and groom were given bags of coins symbolic of virtues and blessings by their mothers. They then combined their “wealth” in a bowl as a symbol of their commitment to journeying through life together.

Today I am thankful for commitment.

Yesterday evening Annual Conference began with the opening worship. I realize this will sound odd for a PK, but I feel a bit like this is my first ever experience of conferencing on the annual conference level. Whenever we joined my dad for conference in my childhood we spent most of the time in the hotel pool and missed out on the actual activity of conferencing. [smile] Given my general inexperience and being with a new conference altogether I was happily surprised to feel a strong connection already with the community gathered in worship. Their celebration was my celebration too and the visioning we were encouraged to give ourselves over to this week felt shared too. I’m probably revealing my “methodorkiness” by feeling this way but hey if you can’t beat them join them. [smile]

Today I am thankful for connection.

What are you grateful for?

– Margaret

Guest Musings: Jane-Marie

One of the things I love about the blogs I follow is that every once and a while they feature a guest blogger.  In fact, I started following Rachel from “6512 and growing” after reading her guest post on Kelle’s “Enjoying the Small Things.” I love how you can be introduced to something new by a chance essay from another perspective.  So I’ve decided to add an occasional series of “Guest Musings” just to add a few different perspectives to my site with the hopes that you find something new that perhaps inspires you.

My first “Guest Musing” features my best friend, college roommate, and maid of honor Jane-Marie.  Jane-Marie, who is originally a Georgia peach like me, writes from her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is a PhD student in Applied Psychology at Heriot Watt University and researches online social media engagement.  You can learn more about her research on her website, researchaboutsocialmedia.com/.  She is also the webmaster of Journey Towards Recovery, a blog that seeks “to provide an open and inviting space for individuals to speak out about mental illness, share their own personal stories, and in doing so help fight stigma and inform the public.”  Hope you enjoy her post below.

Margaret

Hi all,  I’m Jane-Marie, Margaret’s former college roommate and BFF. I was elated when she asked me to guest post for her new blog and will try not to disappoint.

I miss my dog.  Seven years ago when I was straight out of college, living on my own with my first big girl job, I adopted Charlie Brown from a rescue shelter.

Jane-Marie and Charlie

Jane-Marie and Charlie

Charlie and I became fast friends. He is the most affectionate, sweetest doggie and I love him to bits. Little did I know that my life was soon about to change. I got awarded a scholarship to study in England and before I knew it I was off to the motherland.

But what about Charlie? Well, my mom and dad gratefully said they would take care of Charlie for a year. But my year abroad turned into a postgraduate work visa which then turned into a PhD studentship in Scotland. Since my stay in the UK has become more permanent my mom and I talked about the possibility of me bringing Charlie over. But, the pet rules are strict and include a 6 month incubation period. That paired with the long plane ride is just too much for sensitive Charlie. Plus, Charlie has become best buds with Checkers (my parent’s dog).  I wouldn’t want to separate them. Not to mention that now my mom claims Charlie as her own. 😦

Charlie and Checkers

Charlie and Checkers

So, since Charlie is no longer an option, I’ve now started hassling my boyfriend Ian about getting a dog. Luckily, I think I have found a way in. He loves mountain biking and really wants a ‘trail dog.’ So, we’ve scoured the internet and found the perfect fit.

Jane-Marie and Ian's dream dog-- a vizsla!

Jane-Marie and Ian’s dream dog– a vizsla!

A Hungarian Vizsla.  Aren’t they gorgeous! They love to run and be outdoors plus they are very affectionate and loving as well. Perfect! I’m so obsessed that I’ve even named our hopefully soon to be companion- Autumn. But, unfortunately Ian and I don’t live in the same city and sometimes he has to go out of town for his job so it doesn’t look like I am going to own a dog any time soon.

In the meantime I will just keep asking to pet cute dogs on the street and search the internet for my perfect match.

-Jane Marie

Growing in Gratitude: Friendship

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.

I’d like to introduce you to my friends.  My precious girlfriends from whom I’ve learned so much about life and giving thanks– Amber, Blair, Courtney, Jane-Marie, Katie, Laura, Meghan, and Noelle.

8 of The 9 at our wedding in October

Eight (including me) of The Nine at our wedding

We met in college and as freshmen began a weekly bible study together.  We stuck with each other through the ups and downs of all four years of undergrad and came out on the other side of graduation closer than any group of friends I have ever had.  We call ourselves “The Nine” because well when we graduated there were 9 of us left of the original bible study.  Now after multiple weddings, a number of fiances and boyfriends, and most joyously 4 births (with 1 more on the way in September) we number much more than 9 when we get together, but who’s counting.  [smile]

Amber, who rounds out our number!

Dr. Amber who rounds out our number!

With their powerful witnesses of love and their challenges to think about things in new ways, these girls have helped shape me.  In fact the idea of this weekly series, “Growing in Gratitude,” comes in part from them.  Over the years as we’ve tried to figure out ways of staying in touch we’ve developed this ritual of naming 5 things we are thankful.  When we started out these lists were emailed weekly, but as life has gotten more complicated we scaled back to once or twice a month.  Still receiving these lists over the years has been such a blessing.  In many ways, these grateful lists carry the story of our lives.  Graduations, new jobs, engagements, and pregnancies have all been announced on these lists.  Smaller triumphs and everyday joys have also been named.  Often at the end of speaking words of gratitude, we have shared requests for prayers for peace in decisions that are being made or prayers of healing for family, friends, and ourselves.

By cultivating a ritual of naming both our joys and concerns aloud (in print), we have found a way to remain connected despite the physical distance that separates.  In exchanging these words of gratitude, our lives have been enriched by living vicariously each other’s adventures in jobs, graduate school, marriage, and motherhood.  Together we have shared in the abundance of life.

Today I am grateful for friendship.

What are you thankful for today?

-Margaret