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]

-Margaret

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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!”

-Margaret

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

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

Nada te turbe

In October 2009 just after completing my archaeology Masters coursework and right before headed back to the states, I retreated to Taize– a special spiritual center nestled in the Burgundy region of France.  Sometimes I have trouble believing I was actually there.  Looking back on the solo journey from Bristol to Paris where I boarded a train at the Gare du Nord then got off at a small station in the middle of the countryside where I was just hoping a bus that would take me Taize would show up, I am amazed I had the courage to take so many risks and just trust that everything would work out.

At Taize, the day is broken into periods of rest, prayer, work, and table fellowship.  Prayer happens corporately three times a day and is characterized by silence and song.  The unique music of Taize (sparsely accompanied, simple chanting) is what initially drew me to explore the prospect of retreating there.  It’s simplicity provides a spiritual connection that I find myself falling back into at the most random times.

Tonight as I am laying down to rest, this chant adapted from a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila drifted into my mind.

Nada te turbe, nada te espante;
todo se pasa, Dios no se muda.

In English:
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing distress you;
While all things fade away, God is unchanging.

I’ve felt distressed over the last few days– not by anything super serious, but just by the everyday struggles of adjusting to a new life phase in which I’m/we’re no longer students.  Learning to adapt to new routines, schedules, and budgets as well as the continuing search for a job is overwhelming.  Add to the mix that my little sisters just turned 25 and I am now less than a month away from a big birthday myself (the big 3-0), I feel a bit like the world is spinning and I’m trying to keep up. Yet God’s love/presence/grace in my life is steadfast and ultimately I know having the courage to trust that all will be well is what I am called to.

Tonight this chant feels like a place to rest for a while.

-Margaret

Arrivals

Caleb is home!  I couldn’t be happier or feel better.  This weekend I had a crazy 24 hours of feeling dizzy and nauseous that could have been some bug I picked up or might have been, according to my mom the nurse mind you, “Caleb withdrawals.”  [smile]  Whatever the cause of my 24 hour bug, it was completely gone and I felt great when I woke up yesterday morning to head to the airport to meet his plane.

In my years of travel to places unknown, I’ve had many experiences in airports, but greeting someone at the arrivals lobby at Atlanta’s busy airport isn’t something I’d done before yesterday.  I have flown into Atlanta many times and I can attest that arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson airport is like no other arrival.  I know so many people complain about the size and complexity of Atlanta’s airport, but I think the size adds to the drama and allure of arriving at the end of a journey in Atlanta. What really makes arriving in Atlanta unique is that your journey through the airport ends at a final long escalator that you slowly travel up to be revealed at the arrivals lobby.  I’ve never arrived at the Atlanta airport when a crowd wasn’t waiting at the top of the escalator.

Yesterday the same crowd was there and happily I was among those waiting.  [smile]  Aside from the representatives of the USO and the random town car drivers with name placards, most of the people gathered were anxiously waiting the arrival of their loved one like me.  Each time a new group of travelers arrived at the top of the escalator everyone’s eyes were glued to the arrival gate.  Between my own anxious panning of the arrivals for Caleb, I glanced around to watch the people near me greet their loved ones.

Just beside me was a little (under 2) girl waiting with her grandparents for her mother and older sister.  When they finally appeared at the top of the escalator, I could tell immediately because the little girl began to reach out her hands, palms up, and grabbing for a hug from her sister.  It was an absolutely beautiful image of love and sisterhood.  I loved her complete abandon to the need to connect with the people she had missed.

Last week I wrote about the tears I shed at the departure gate and concluded that I wouldn’t want the tears to stop me from someday encouraging my little ones to fly away on their own adventures.  Yesterday I thought of a new reason to encourage them to take flight.  Without departures, we don’t get to experience the joy of arrivals.  If only I could remember that the next time I have to say goodbye.

-Margaret

Tears at the Departure Gate

Woke up this morning feeling a little lost and missing Caleb.  Yesterday afternoon he left for about a week long trip to Portland to serve as the Best Man at a friend’s wedding.  We decided months ago that I shouldn’t make the trip with him, but that still didn’t prevent me from getting so teary at the airport.  [smile]

Thinking about him in the air for 8+ hours was the worst part of the whole situation.  I have this love-hate relationship with air travel.  I love the convenience of flying.  I love how flying enables me to explore this world further.  I even love the in between time of the flight itself when I’m speeding forward cradled in the pocket of air.  There is something in that feeling of being suspended above the earth that always lulls me into a mode of deep relaxation.  But I hate the jarring feeling when we travel through a wind pocket and I’m reminded again of how close I am to disaster should all the mechanics of flight suddenly fail!  Take-off and landing too leave me feeling completely anxious.

My air travel anxiety has only increased since Caleb and I met.  We haven’t yet had a chance to fly somewhere together and so every trip to the airport now involves a teary goodbye and hours of me praying for the assurance that this is a trusted and safe method of travel.  It doesn’t matter whether I’m the one flying or the one waiting on the call that the plane landed safely.  I am anxious either way.  Can you blame me?  My heart was on both of the jets speeding towards Denver and then Portland yesterday.  [smile]

It’s situations like these that give me some glimpse into the anxiety I’ll one day feel for the “little ones” who I’ll carry for 9 months then have to watch take on the world.  I’m just hoping that I can get a handle enough on my own anxiousness to encourage them to get on the plane anyway.  Even though each flight I’ve been own has brought me mini panic attacks, there is not a flight I’ve made that I’d want to have missed.  At the end of each terrifying journey have been such wonderful experiences– in France, England, Scotland, Greece.  And all of those experiences led me to DC and to Caleb.  I wish the same grand adventures for our “little ones” and the same love at the end of them all even if it means tears at the departure gate.

-Margaret

“We look like tourists.”

The roller coaster that will be Graduation Week starts today.  My parents arrive midday to BWI and we couldn’t be more thrilled!  So excited that we will have a few days with them to show them our DC before the rest of the family arrives this weekend.  We haven’t seen them practically all year!  Caleb’s spring classes began on January 2nd so we had to leave Georgia on January 1st.  It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this day to come.

We have been preparing for their arrival and are basically finished with the bulk of packing, but the apartment is kind of a wreak– remnants of boxes and packing material everywhere.  Even though we can’t show them our best “home” I still want it to be clean so I’ll have to make this post short.  Insert classic photo dump blog post here.  [smile] Fortunately I have the perfect set of pictures to share.

The Seminary Gang: Group Shot at the end of DC Day

The Seminary Gang: Group Shot at the end of DC Day

Last Friday, we joined some seminary friends for “DC Day.”  We’d planned this day as a way to wish this fair city we’d called home over the last 3 years a fond farewell.  We had a perfect day: weather was lovely; crowds were relatively low for a Friday in tourist season; we ate at some of the most fun restaurants; and even got to visit a Senator’s office.  We looked like tourists and it was so fun!  Photos are courtesy of the wonderful Jana Hogg, seminary cohort and actually the person who introduced us to each other.  Hope you enjoy following along with our adventure.

-Margaret

Love this shot!

Love this shot!

Watching Caleb interview for Russian TV.

Watching Caleb interview for Russian TV. I was so nervous I covered my ears!  Not sure how that was going to help.  [smile]

Caleb's interview for Russian TV

Caleb was randomly interviewed for Russian TV outside of the White House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the my favorite place in DC- Library of Congress!

Outside the my favorite place in DC- Library of Congress!

 

Us with Jana and Chase

Us with Jana and Chase