Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My final goodbye...

This will be my final post in this blog. This space has served me well for three long years of study at Princeton Theological Seminary, but life has taken me on to Newark, NJ- so I will be saying farewell to this blog, much as I said goodbye to my PTS community over 3 weeks ago.

As a final recap, I'd like to say a bit about how the past three years have changed me....

In some ways, the changes I have experienced at Seminary have been subtle and reaffirming, rather than any radical shifts in perspective. I have maintained my commitment to worshiping within the Reformed Church in America, although I have decided not to pursue ordination in any particular denomination as of yet (one of the aspects of ministerial life I imagined I would have figured out by now) :) In fact, all my experience with delightful cohorts from a variety of faith perspectives has solidified that I must continue pondering where God is exactly calling me as a minister.

In some respects, this faith exploration began 10 years ago when I felt a distinct call from God to follow Jesus into ministry with my whole heart- and I am confident this I have done- although I have never once felt a "distinct" direction toward ministry. It has remained a vague calling to service of my fellow humankind in the name of Jesus. I am excited to be involved in my final year of Social Work studies here at Rutgers. As I continue to pursue future plans for ministry of some kind, I am understanding that social work is a practical way to facilitate the kingdom work in the lives of Jesus' "least of these." I am thrilled to integrate my theological studies with my social studies, and I have faith that my life will bring ongoing moments in which a fuller integration of these two essential disciplines will collide in a positive way.

My graduation week was delightful. My parents came for a visit for the first time, and I enjoyed sharing my graduation celebrations, in addition to exploring Jersey. Here is a link to an album of photos from the trip:

After I said goodbye to my parents, I had the terrible task of saying goodbye to my dear neighbors, friends, and prayer circles. Although I was emotional at times, I am beginning to get used to such transitions, and I found myself focusing on the task ahead: Newark, NJ.

So here I am, living into my 4th week as an RA of a house operated by my church's affordable housing corporation. AJ and I are up for the challenge, but it can certainly be overwhelming at times. We are finding our groove, and on this Fourth of July, I have decided to end this blog forever in recognition that our time in Princeton is most definitely at an end....we are Newarkers, :) and this is our calling for the next year.

My summer class will be over once I (hopefully ace) my final exam in psychopathology tomorrow, a stepping stone that leaves me with 6 classes and one intense internship before I graduate with my second masters degree! I imagine this year will simply fly by, and because of the sensitive nature of my position here, I have chosen to not blog about my experience. Even my personal stories will involve tenants and clients, a confidentiality I do not wish to breach for the sake of my own need to express myself. Thus, only short snippets on facebook shall suffice, unless of course my readers would like to email me with any questions- :) I would be happy to respond!

Okay, as I sign off for the last time, I'd like to end with a prayer:

Holy God of the finite and infinite- bring peace to your nations, bring grace amidst horror, bring love in the most unlikely of places, and bring all humankind to one day recognize your face for what it is: pure goodness. Bring me, your servant, to the places in this world that are ready to accept the ministry for which you have equipped me. I will always be your daughter, your friend, your admirer, and your humble minister.

With love and appreciation for all of God's goodness, thanks for joining me on this journey, friends.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Official Announcement

Here it is folks, the moment I've been anticipating sharing on this blog for three years.....

Get ready...

Get set.....

Okay, here it is.... I have officially completed all my requirements for a Masters of in reference to this blog title, I suppose I can claim that I've found God! :)

Yes, the completing seminary bit is true. At 11:45am on Saturday, April 21st, I turned on my final 2 papers of my divinity education. And it feels great!

I haven't had much time to reflect on what all this means, however, because I have been busy with Rutgers classes and the Institute for Youth Ministry forum. Once those two things are done, however, 2 free weeks in May will afford me all the reflection time I desire! (and time for painting my nails, exercising, napping, writing letters, reading novels, organizing school materials, and cooking!)  I am pretty excited.

The last two months since I updated my blog have been eventful, although I'm sure I cannot remember half of what I've done....which brings me to a particular moment of reflection. In keeping a blog, I have come to understand more about life priorities. For example, if I don't recall things that have recently happened, how important was it that I spent so much time on these things?

Here is what I do remember, hence, things worth my time...

I remember celebrating Easter- and sharing the joy of the season with AJ and his family (and I remember AJ asking why I cried during the church service...because I responded with "I'm loving Jesus on Easter, I don't get why you think I wouldn't cry? It's me, you know.")

I remember celebrating my women senior cohorts at a lovely seminary brunch, the first senior year milestone that brought me to tears.

I remember celebrating the final paper submission with a lovely drive and lunch in a gazebo with my husband.

I remember a girls' night where close friends shared our ups and downs through seminary.

I remember senior banquet, during which I cried, of course.

I remember bits of conversations with friends and family.

I remember moments of shared intimacy, understanding, and spiritual reflection with my husband.

I remember the good news of friends receiving job offers.

I remember moments when I felt the Holy Spirit overtaking my fears of transition into Newark.

You see, these memories are reminders of how I might best spend my time. Do I remember the plot of a Bones episode? Not really. Do I remember what I ate for dinner yesterday- no. I really don't. Do I remember what I've read this semester? Not all of it, for sure, but I do remember conversations that reading sparked.  In essence, self-reflection is a way to keep my priorities in check. Spend time with friends and family. Check. That's the gist of my list above, and I aim to make this a priority as I enter a new stage of transition away from seminary.

I'm sure I will have more to come, but as I near the end of this period of my life, I'd like to say thanks to everyone who has contributed to my network of support. I feel loved, appreciated, and motivated to serve God in so many ways.....

Now if only you all can help me choose a career path. My options only seem to continue expanding! :)

I sign off in the precious name that is above all names.
(that's Jesus Christ, something I learned in seminary) :)


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping ahead...

I am writing on the last day of February- thanks to a leap year! :)

That means that I can "technically" claim I've written once each month in 2012, although I have to admit I've been terribly neglectful. Good thing no one relies on this blog for anything other random "well, she might have written" updates. To you who are checking, thanks!!!

January flew by in a breeze, and I ended my month in sunny Santa Barbara (and fully recovered from Jan. 1 food poisoning)! The institute for youth ministry forum turned out well, and my mini vacation was splendid! I swam in an outdoor pool in January, went for jogs by the beach, and drove into the mountains to see a sunset. All while getting paid to be there. :) It hardly needs saying that I was reluctant to return to New Jersey! :)

February has been a full full full full (and did I mention full?) month! In addition to working 20+ hours a week at my internship, complete with consumer satisfaction surveys, our annual walkathon, and supervising the community activities for one group home, I am taking four classes, working at IYM, and babysitting. The second half of February I enjoyed the company of my friend Denise, who returned from Kazahkstan and shared life with AJ & I for 2 1/2 weeks (enough time to become addicted to the card game Monopoly Deal!) During Denise's stay I visited NYC twice, nearly equal to the amount of times I've been to the city the past three years! :) We saw Chicago on Broadway, visited various touristy sites, and met up with some of her Peace Corps friends. I can now say I feel comfortable taking my mom into the city when she visits in, thanks Denise!

Now that we are nearing March, many of my friends are in turmoil regarding their "next steps." We are graduating in May, and I am getting SO excited to have at least one diploma in hand, propelling me into my final year of study for the MSW. Although many of my friends are attempting the job search world, I am content to stay one final year and study. Thankfully I have a wonderful arrangement lined up for next year. More to come on that later.

So here I find myself, waiting at Rutgers University for my evening class, and deciding that I need to live outside of my daily grind and post on my blog. Here is a story for you all...

My husband AJ was recently going through his old emails, and he came across all the emails I sent him during our dating period. I thought it was funny that he had saved them, but then I started reading one of them..."my dear and darling and wonderful boyfriend, words cannot express my sorrow at not seeing you for two weeks, blah blah blah..."and I changed my mind. Not funny. Corny, cheesy, over-the-top, but not fact, they are embarrassing! So, anyone in that lovey-dating world right now, enjoy it, but don't look back. :) Those emotions are truly wonderful at the time, but the record of them is....well....weird. And the worst part of this story? He continues to save those emails. Oh dear. Three years from now I can look back again, and maybe I will appreciate them more than I do now. :)

Speaking of AJ, I feel like letting the world know how much I am still madly in love with this man, but the love is deeper somehow, a love that is shared with simple acts of mutuality. For example, AJ made me scrambled eggs this morning at the expense of being late to work. And he wakes me up with kisses, and when I respond to his chipper "good morning," with a groan, he breaks into "This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made." Oh goodness. Who exactly is the seminarian? :) We both are, that's what I've decided. My seminary experience would be lacking without a kind, dedicated, loving husband with whom I can share my faith.

That's all for now. February has been a tremendously eventful month, and I anticipate the same for March....and I might just decide to live it instead of blogging about it. That's the rhythm I find myself marching to these days.

In the surest faith that God loves us, I send my love to you.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Better Late than Never...

Happy 2012!

Over my (short, albeit wonderful) Christmas break, I received a few comments from dear people regarding my negligent behavior toward this blog, and I must admit, a few months went by when I literally forgot that I had this blog. Whew, I think that's called stress.

In any case, I'm still here, plugging away at this dual degree. I am learning SO much, particularly about the new and exciting world of social work. This past semester really opened my eyes to what is involved with social work....and I like what I see! The irony of that statement is the truth that my January term class here at seminary is extremely interesting, and I totally feel myself called to ministry as much as social work....I believe a fusion of the two will suit me quite well. :)

The trouble with skipping blog entries is my lack of detailed memory. Thus, I have no great stories from first semester, because it all lives as a blur in my mind. I finished with (likely) all A's, even though that was definitely NOT my focus. Also, I received my first A+ at seminary! Ha, I realize that nearly every other student in The Minister and Mental Illness also received an A+ but it still feels nice. :)

So, a story from Xmas break. First of all, my nieces are precious and beautiful- and I was able to spend 4 days playing with them. The final day, however, when I should have been bathing them in kisses and fond goodbye's, I was lying on the couch miserably weak....from food poisoning! That's right, I got food poisoning the first six hours into 2012. What a great start to the new year! Despite the horrible expelling of bodily fluids, I kept my humor about me and decided that most people choose to detox around this time of year anyway.... :) If I ever get the inclination to detox in the future, however, I'm pretty sure I will not choose food poisoning again. The sad part of this story is the fact that I couldn't spend time with my nieces on the final day of my break! :(

I finally arrived back here in Princeton a day later than anticipated, missing my first class and a few hours of work. The week turned out to be pretty positive, however, as I am healthy and well and not even very stressed! This January is suppose to be my crazy month, but here I am on a Sunday evening- blogging after a fulfilling day of reuniting with church family and catching up around the house- and thoroughly enjoying the company of my husband.

So here's to a involuntary detoxed beginning of 2012. I will say that my unofficial resolution for the year involves spending more time in scripture. Despite the fact that I am in seminary, a majority of my time is spent with social work focus this year, and I realized that not having the daily built-in bible discovery of seminary classes is a spiritual drain. Thus, AJ and I are reading through the Psalms and Proverbs currently....and I love it! :)

Okay, this is all for now. Eventually I may decide to post pictures, but it's also possible that I won't. :) If you are reading this and sent us a Christmas card, I send my sincere thanks; I regret to inform you that AJ and I did not create a Xmas card this year- mostly because I was as negligent about that as I was about this blog. However, you may expect to hear from us come May with an address change!

Writing this with peace in my heart,

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Year 3

Need I say more?

This is year three, and before I had a chance to blog about all the wonderful (and daunting) tasks that come with a joint degree program, the degrees swept me off my feet.

After experiencing more emotional roller-coaster days than usual the last few weeks, I have determined that one semester should never hold all this at once: 5 graduate level classes, 15 hours of internship a week, evening baby-sitting, work study, church commitments, and the occasional social event. Let me back up. One semester should never hold 5 graduate level classes. Period. And adding more commitments makes me a little crazy. But what do I give up? SUCH A HARD decision. I knew I was going into a whirlwind the moment I said yes to two degrees, but the reality of time restraints is hitting hard....

So I've determined something for my own sanity. I say, "Emily, you are not allowed to do all your reading." WHAT? But the reading is so engaging, and I am new to social work. I simply must soak in every thought each article or chapter has to give!

But then I consider my sanity level, and sanity is worth more than knowledge.

So here I am, trying my hardest to be less of a good student than I am used to. Any graduate students share my experience? AJ says if I ever need advice about how to slack, I should just ask him. :)

Enough about my busyness. That's a boring topic. I am going to post pictures. Hmm, I do not humor myself by imagining that thousands of eager souls are awaiting these pictures (I haven't blogged in over two months!) but if you happen to be tuning in, enjoy!!!

Summer Recap (Penance for not blogging)

I'm a readhead. Need I say more?

Our newly painted (and acquired) red bookshelf. Love at first sight.

Jersey Shore when Nealy visited in August. No big deal.

A hurricane came along and left a few wretched marks.

My adorable niece Lizzy. LOVED my surprise visit to SD in August

AJ and I saw U2 in Philly. Also, no big deal.

AJ & I at a June wedding. I may have run into my ex-boyfriend's mother! (and she MAY have asked me why I broke up with him- 8 years later). :)

Girlfriends the Fourth of July- Fireworks in Philly!

My equally adorable other niece- Alexis is precious.

Friends and I at the Falls- gotta love the falls- and friends.

My work trip groupies! Love them.

My husband is always so happy

We canned a lot of original salsa with friends!

I painted this chair and created the cushions! Impressed?

Peace to my lovely friends, especially those who haven't given up on my blogging efforts. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Flies- and I don't mean bugs.

Hello Friends,

I am requiring myself to write a blog entry today because I have yet to break my streak of writing at least once per month, and this will likely be my only free time between now and August 7th. J I am feverishly planning for a mission trip to a church located outside Camden, in a town called Willingboro. We are essentially helping beautify (painting, landscaping, cleaning) for a small Reformed church comprised primarily of an older population. I’m sure the week will be wonderful; however, the planning has been a bit excruciating at times, given the non-committal nature of most of my congregants. In part I do not blame them, as many live day-to-day, looking for jobs and maintaining their livelihoods, and others have small children and cannot commit to a week! All in all, I have come to the realization that whomever comes will be perfect, because that’s how it has to be.

In addition to planning for the work trip, I have given two sermons (and planned both services) in July, and I believe they are posted on our website: in case you’d like a listen. Beware, I may have cried a bit during the first one. J I thoroughly enjoy leading worship services, and this has been a firm validation of my call to some sort of church ministry…and we shall see how the future is unveiled.

Speaking of future, I am officially beginning my MSW in one month! The summer has flown by (see my catchy title for this entry) and soon I will become a student of books again. I am sitting here with AJ and my friend Karen in Panera Bread, and I just exclaimed how excited I am to be a student at Rutgers- my first state school experience! Although being a student at two schools simultaneously (hence, two financial aid departments, two insurance waivers, two of this, two of that) is a bit daunting, I am excited about a new genre of subject matter, and I will surely incorporate my experience together for a lovely “divine social work” angle. J

AJ’s mother came out for a lovely visit last weekend, which was AJ’s and my first time to the beach! We live so close to the shore, yet we hardly make time to enjoy it, so we appreciated her visit to spur us on toward appreciating our proximity to the ocean (I love the waves, BTW, and anyone wanting to come visit should come soon- or better yet, next summer!).

AJ just began a new job at Urner Barry Publications in Toms River, NJ- and he is really excited for the job. He is a market reporter for the company, and his first video interview with Cattlefax is Monday morning! Don’t ask me any more specifics. J

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time interning at RCHP, but in three weeks I will be finished with the internship (yet will continue attending for the next two years). I am beginning an internship with Enable, Inc. in the fall, which is an organization that works with people with disabilities. I am eager to begin this position, as I have much to learn regarding this population of folks, in addition to the world of social work at large.

What more to say, of course! I’m excited to be an aunt times 3 in the next few months. My sister Les is having a girl in less than a month (hang in there, Les!) and my sister Al is having a boy in around 3 months (wish I could be there)! Woohoo for being an aunt! Me- I’m consistent with birth control. J

On that note, I believe it’s time to wrap up. I hope everyone is experiencing God’s presence as life comes hurling by. May the grace of God and the presence of the Spirit be with us always as we strive to be patient in faith and hopeful in times of uncertainty.

Love, Em

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life Decisions

Hello Beautiful Folks,

I will not apologize for neglecting my blog, because I have been busy living life. This summer I immediately launched into my internship at Reformed Church of Highland Park, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience. With only four weeks of internship done, I took a 10 day vacation back to South Dakota, and now I am having a lazy Saturday morning, a perfect time to update my blog.

I can hardly express all the wonderful opportunities I have had at the church this summer. The congregation is so alive and full of needs, gifts, energy, and beauty. Everywhere I walk in the church I encounter different groups of people utilizing our building. In fact, over 35 different community organizations use our building space for meetings and worship....that characterizes the ministries of RCHP to a T. I am the general practitioner ministry intern, hence I am exposed to a little bit of everything. :) And I love it. One of my main events this summer is leading a mission trip to Willingboro, NJ (near Camden) and I have been making plenty of connections through the process of planning. In addition, I am helping with the youth group, meeting wonderful teens. I am also in charge of the "transitions" age group (18-30)- we meet for conversation and dinner, mostly- although last week we joined the "Alliance for the Disabled" for Karoke and dancing (going on in our fellowship hall)- and might I say it was a beautiful moment in my ministry.

In addition to my church internship, I had the wonderful privilege of celebrating my first anniversary with Mr. AJ Munger. We went to New Hope, PA for a fireworks show and stayed in a bed and breakfast town while perusing a local art show. It was wonderful to spend some romantic-y time with AJ, since he has also been super-busy with full-time work at Whole Foods, graduate courses, and making a little progress on his Small World Farms business.

So, to the life decisions component of my summer. I have been going back and forth regarding the Masters of Social Work degree at Rutgers, for plenty of factors that I will save you from at the moment. In any case, the important details is this: I'm Doing It! Yes, I am officially in for the long haul. Two more years in Princeton (well, NJ at least)....for a grand total of two masters degrees. Actually, I've already been offered a field education site at Enable, Inc....which works with children and adults with disabilities right in Princeton. I am grateful for this opportunity, as I contemplated pursuing a placement with this organization during my MDiv degree.

Let me recap- I am working toward graduating with my MDiv next year, and my first year of MSW work. I will graduate with the MSW in 2013. Woohoo! I can taste all the student loans already! :):)

Okay, that's my short recap of the past few months. I hope this post finds all of you enjoying the gifts God has given you- and might I say, my life is full of friends and family who are having babies left and right- I want to say my sincere congrats to all the happy families (and to remind everyone that AJ and I are thoroughly happy as a family of two at the moment) . :):)

Love to all in the name of our Loving God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit,