Saturday, August 27, 2016

To Nap or Not to Nap... (After 16 days at Seminary)

View of storm from the Cumberland Plateau
Today's one of those Saturdays where I would have loved to sleep in. In fact, I truly need to catch up on sleep because now that seminary orientation, Quiet Day, Matriculation, and the first week of classes have all come and gone, I am a bit sleep-deprived. Last night featured lots of fun and new friends together for a fun community cookout and big birthday party too!
All Saints Chapel in Sewanee
Nevertheless, it was not to be. My new neighbor's music was loud and constant from 6 AM onward. So, by 8 AM, I had decided to leave and drive to Manchester, TN to explore a bit and pick up a few more necessary items at the Walmart there. 
I found a couple of farmer's markets while there and bought a few things: muscadines from a nice man playing the autoharp, honey & lip balm from a local beekeeper, and lemon bread & a peach fritter from a nice grandmother .
St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Manchester, TN
I found the local Episcopal church, St. Bede's, and decided that I'll attend there tomorrow morning! After exploring the town and finishing errands, I cam on back and straightened up the apartment, fixed my sink drain, sprayed some more for bugs and spiders (I have a feeling this is going to be VERY regular up here!) and dozed a bit after starting the crock pot on a delicious roast for later. 
I'm loving being here! Everyone is so nice and our 2019 class is full of super smart folks. The choir has begun and the director, Kenneth Miller, is outstanding, both as organist and rehearsal technician. It's going to be great to sing for him. I'm really very happy about that as I was worried that I'd be picking apart every choral thing and feeling like I'd want to jump up and fix things. Those feelings will surely arise every now and then, but I'm happy that Professor Miller is excellent :-)
I also love all my other professors. EVERYONE is BRILLIANT. Wow. It is truly and deeply humbling. I'm a bit worried about getting behind already because the vocabulary and amount of assumed knowledge and reading history is MUCH higher than I expected. I bought a book on an "Introduction to Theology" and will be buying a dictionary so I can try to catch up behind the scenes on some of the basics which every one else seems to have already. There are more than a few students in my class who majored in Philosophy or Classics and they all are very well-read. Even though I have a D.M.A. degree, the learning curve is STEEP right now.
Chapel of the Apostles, Sewanee School of Theology
Chapel services are plentiful and well-arranged. Sermons have been terrific and thought-provoking. I've gotten to read and be a chalice bearer once in a noonday Eucharist and that was both exciting and a little scary since the community is new to me and everyone is both listening and watching intently!
I have two work study positions and they are:
1- sing in the choir! (YAY!)
2- social media and photography! (YAY!)
Here are some albums I've taken already:
1- Seminary's Quiet Day and Matriculation 2016 (none from during the service from me)
2- Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage 2016

Last night, a fellow student's suggestion (Garrett Boyte) of raising funds for Episcopal Relief and Development to be given for Louisiana flooding was realized in the weekly community cookout. My rector in NOLA at St. Paul's Episcopal asked his friend Jude Tauzin from Tony Chachere's if they could donate anything and they sent a GIANT box of spices, jambalaya mix, and koozy's. 

Garrett made a ton of delicious jambalaya, another student in my class, Forbes Mann, made tasty boudin balls, and I made chocolate walnut pralines! Over $1500 was raised because lots of folks came out, the seminary's St. Luke's Mission committee agreed to match raised funds up to $500, and the Dean got us to the level we needed to have them match! It was a great success!

It HAS been busy indeed. It's hard for me to fathom that I've only been here since the evening of August 11th! Only 16 days and SO MUCH HAS BEEN GOING ON!
Please keep me, my fellow classmates, and our tremendous faculty and staff in your prayers! 
A beautiful misty Sewanee morning

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This Fullness...

Frenchmen Street, New Orleans at Washington Park. This is right across the street from my old apartment and I usually park my car on the street near where this bike is.
The last few weeks for me have been full, VERY full. In fact, it's been so full that it reminded me of the December concert season and trying to be in several places at once, scrambling just to reach the finish line before 1:00 AM so I can legitimize sleeping five or six hours! 
There have been lots of goodbyes, especially the last three days. There have also been old friends coming into town and some hearty and wonderful times of catching up! 
A few of my NOVA friends: margaritas and Mexican food at Superior Grill :-)
Then there was the packing. 
LAWD, the packing
If my friend Meg hadn't come over to help me wipe out the kitchen, I wouldn't have finished a few days early and wouldn't have been able to enjoy the last three days here as much as I have! The packing was exhausting because at first, I had to sit down and pack. *Just so you know....when your doc says "no bending" or "as little as possible of the bending over" you try to follow instructions, BUT, as fate (or Mr. Murphy of Murphy's Law) would have it, you drop more on the floor in one month than in 
your ENTIRE life.
I speak the truth y'all. 
Keys, my brush, the cat, keys again, my fork, and on and on.
50's themed farewell from St. Paul's
Packing, sweating, fancy dinners, coffee, 
one heck of a send-off from my beloved St. Paul's Episcopal, 
a nice chat with my amazing bishop, staff lunch, cat shenanigans. 
"I sure hope Mom remembers to take me too...maybe if I pack myself, that'll work!"
Let me stop and say here that little miss Bluebell went to the vet from Monday until we left. She was driving me crazy climbing on boxes, pulling stuff out of bags, scampering all through the night, and she looked pretty stressed as more stuff started to pile up. It was for the best....and so I could get some actual sleep.
Loading the truck! Wow! I had a team of super phenomenal friends helping me and it took only from 9-11 AM. I could not have done it without them. I'm only allowed to lift 25-30 lbs right now (surgery recovery) and don't want to be doing that repeatedly for hours on end.
Cleaning the apartment, blech.
That last meeting (I'm looking at you, ACDA!) the afternoon after loading and discussing the fabulous Louisiana Fall Vocal Conference!
Cutting off utilities, turning in keys, banking errands, getting gas! (Side note: I'm so impressed that I remembered to fill the tank!)
Nice, quiet Starbucks, thank goodness. Feet up, relaxing! Enjoying the oaky view :-)
Coffee!!!!!!!!!!! I spent a good while in the coffeehouse. As time passed and I was sitting in a super comfy chair, I began to discover previously unknown muscles, presumably from the truck loading adventure.
I'll be wandering the French Quarter with a friend in a little while for my last evening around in NOLA and for dessert too, of course. Either beignets or white chocolate bread pudding, I haven't quite decided yet. What a gift to be able to chill and enjoy a restful evening! Glad the rain stopped!
Tomorrow, I'll pick up my sweetie pie Bluebell and get on the road for this great new adventure! SEWANEE!!! 
My heart is so full right now!
This fullness has no words and yet has every word. It has swept me off my feet.
The fullness of friends who have become family. 
The fullness of goodness. 
The fullness of fun. 
The fullness of help. 
The fullness of the mixture of sad and happy. 
The fullness of anticipation, of change, of newness.
The fullness of love. 
The fullness of calling.
The fullness of life.
This fullness of God.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Today was my last Sunday as director of music ministry at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in New Orleans. Last night, my beautiful, sweet, caring, fun, and amazing congregation threw me a gigantic going away party and fundraiser. 
It was a 50's themed Grease dinner/dance event, complete with poodle skirts, pony tails, delicious 50's comfort foods, live music, tributes, balloons, letter jackets, and much more! 
Here's a piece of the Second Line I got to lead with my parasol "made of Episcopal colors!"   
(Please excuse the giant gap between the video and this text...something in the embed code I don't understand!) 
As usual, I was a little nervous, but that passed very quickly as people entered, laughter ensued, and hugs were shared. SUCH a wonderful evening! I got to talk to so many folks that I wouldn't have been able to reach otherwise because of everyone's busy schedule. 
I also got to dance and I was serenaded - twice! The first song was "Summer Nights" from Grease with new lyrics written by my dear friend Meg that totally busted me and my stickers, puns, and coffee habits. I laughed SO HARD! Everyone enjoyed that and laughed right along with me! I promise to add the photo of the lyrics tomorrow. (It's in my car down the block and I am being lazy right now.)
*holding spot for the picture / text *
Next, I was given the benediction written by John Rutter sung by three choir members and it was super lovely and heartfelt. I cried. I love them so much.
Several folks spoke and my heart is so full from hearing their kind words. I will miss everyone so very much. 
My organist Liliia, who has taken up painting as a hobby, even painted a portrait of me WITH STARS in the background! 
I know that I will return. I will see them again. It's difficult to leave, but I am SO EXCITED for the journey ahead! I'm deeply grateful for St. Paul's - my choir, Fr. Rob, Bishop Duncan Gray, Fr. Ed, the congregation, the staff, our amazing school, and the beautiful building itself. I thank God EVERY DAY for this place and such genuinely loving people. I have changed in seven years here and I have grown. I have opened. 
In a super cliche of words....
I am extremely grateful!
It's hard for me to accept gifts sometimes. It's also hard sometimes to accept unconditional love. I have trouble during these wonderful times with overthinking and wondering what I can do to say thanks or to give back in response to such wonderful support and love. I will "give back" by studying my rear off (and there's plenty of THAT to work off!), working on a fulltime ministry of BEING - and at that - being a student of theology. This is all a given. It's what I'm going to seminary to do. In addition, I am stepping back and enjoying this love and these fun times. I am accepting this wondrous love. I am simply being grateful. 
You know what? It makes it easier to see God this way.
God is love...
I see God in the people of St. Paul's and in their ministries. I see it in the ways that they interact with me and with others. I'm seeing and experiencing God in the outpouring of thanks and love.
Expressing gratitude helps us benefit from the world and people around us. By getting out of ourselves, we become blessed. It also helps me to think that one doesn't create gratitude, but one sort of...."channels" it. How do we know the depths of gratitude? I think we must become aware of its source which for me, is God. Practicing gratitude allows us to connect with God through the humility it brings, followed by God's grace. How's that for a cool circle / trinity of motion?! 
Gratitude also reveals how much we need God, love, and each other.
So, THANK YOU my dearest St. Paul's and friends!!!! I love you all! I will savor the love, kind words, songs, cards, gifts, and laughter.  Thank you SO MUCH for my very first study Bible and the GORGEOUS St. Paul's cross! Thank you for also letting me keep my office laptop as I am in need of a computer that isn't thirteen years old with 100 MB left on it (yikes!) 
You are not only in my heart, but you own a piece of it :-) 
"God be with you til we meet again..."
(I'll be returning to New Orleans for holidays after semester exams and Sewanee's Lessons & Carols and I'll be spending a couple of weeks in the Crescent City. It will be in a different capacity, but I will be helping out at St. Paul's as needed. I know I'll probably be doing some singing. In the community, I'll be conducting a New Orleans Civic Symphony concert and the fabulous St. Paul's Lessons & Carols!)

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Delayed post (from July 28)...
I'm in South Carolina for one of my regular visits of seeing my Mom for a few days and seeing one of my best friends (Sara) for a few days. Yesterday, I went with Sara to her church, Lake Murray Presbyterian, where she was to practice her organ music for a funeral. I've come here once or twice year for something like twelve years, always listening to organ practice, admiring the grounds, and singing in the choir on the Sundays after Christmas. It is a very welcoming church. Sara's last Sunday as organist here is August 7th. 
Photo by Caroline Carson
Coincidentally, MY last Sunday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church is also August 7th! 
Even more coincidence: we are having the SAME organ music played on that day, the only difference being that Sara is playing hers and I'm listening to mine! :-)
After listening a bit yesterday, I went into the fellowship hall to sit down and call the Sewanee School of Theology 
Student Account Services, and see about how to pay my bill for the semester. After numerous problems (on my end) and some excellent help from the Computer HelpDesk office, it was determined that I'm all set and my tuition is paid. That's done (YAY!) and while I'll need to understand how everything works later on, it was a great relief! Then, I logged into the self-service system that shows you classes, registration eligibility, etc. and wow! - it seems that I am already registered for Fall classes. I'll post that in a separate post soon.
I even got the orientation schedule, via the Facebook group for our class!
Photo by Caroline Carson
Then, suddenly, it hit me - I'm moving in 13 days! 
It has finally become real. 
I am entering the next step toward ordination in The Episcopal Church! I've left one job, am about to leave another, and will be living on a mountain - "The Holy Mountain". I will be a student again. 
I will see the God I know in different ways.
I will experience God in new ways.
I will need God in different ways. 
I will learn about myself and others in this amazing process!
I will all upon friends in new ways, and will be crossing the threshold into new levels of trust.
Photo by Caroline Carson
I've always been one to "Go boldly" and have enjoyed experiencing adventures and even risks when they come in the form of travels, new friends, and things like cooking. This, however, is a whole new and different kind of risky. I'm stepping out of my comfort zone - even more than usual. 
- I've watched as people passed from this life to the next...
- Hiked a glacier....
- Fallen off of horses while training them to be racehorses...
I've stood with other religious leaders on the site of a huge bombing in Pakistan, only days after the terror, hoping and praying for peace and that we would not be targets and news items. As the only American and one a very few women there, I was indeed nervous, yet mostly unafraid.
- I went for and earned a doctorate.
- I've eaten pickles (ewww), killed spiders, and given people bad news

So, why is this transition so intense? Well, I suppose it's not simply a powerful moment, an hour, an event. This is a life direction, something to a lot of ways, it's a new life, living and working consciously under a different authority. 
I'm going to stay me, but I'll be transformed
That often takes time, perseverance, dedication, and trust in the very opposite of involves trust in risk and change. It's also a different time in my life......and life is SHORT. You never know what the next second will bring!

I've taught music for about twenty years...that's not too shabby! It feels great that I've done my best and will maintain great relationships with my colleagues. I'll also keep singing regularly and directing occasionally. Still, I cannot help but pursue now what I have felt and do feel called to do in the church. It is high time to live into this journey!
Photo by Caroline Carson
In spite of this summer's tumultuous and emotional happenings (hysterectomy, trying to pack without lifting anything (recovery restrictions!), saying goodbye, excitement about my future at Sewanee), etc., I feel at peace with it all. It feels right and good!
More soon....I've got to go pack some more! :-)
Bluebell surveys the pile of boxes!