Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bi-Annual Posting

Apparently good intentions fall by the wayside.

Blogging/journaling always seems like a great way to compartmentalize thoughts and reflections, but I find it nearly impossible to keep this discipline up.

In case you missed it, between the last post and today, we have had 2 successful years of ministry at FPC Canadian, TX; we got busy raising a precious baby boy named Barrett; and we added another precious baby boy named Henry to our family. And today is his first birthday. Travis and I are pretty transparent about our family's life on social media, but I wanted to share some of the most adorable 1 year old portraits of our Henry with family and friends, rather than emailing them all out (in multiple emails) or posting the all on Facebook.

I'm not tech savvy here, so I'm hoping our little slideshow video actually works. If you're one of Barrett and Henry's grandparents, aunts, uncles, or beloved other family, and would like a copy of these pictures, please let me know.

If you happen to like how the pictures look, you should check out our sweet photog friend, Natalie, and her business Peanut Photo. She's talented and a brand-new parent, too!

So...maybe we'll be back in less than 2 years...who knows? :-)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just As We Are

Last Sunday, Travis and I headed out with baby B and Scout for a week of traveling and study leave. The last time I was able to take some continuing education time was last February for the APCE annual conference in Orlando, Florida...the conference in 2014 is in San Jose, CA, and I'm wondering if I'll be able to swing a trip to NoCal this winter. :) I don't think Travis ever took study leave while we were in Greenwood, so when the opportunity came up to travel to Mo Ranch this fall for their Couples in Ministry Conference, we jumped at the chance to go! Our friends, Clayton and Kate, developed and started this conference about 7 years ago, and it is such a fruitful time to spend with your spouse and other couples in ministry...as one friend said, it's great to spend time with "people who get it." 

We get asked a lot, by friends, family, and people we randomly meet, if working together really works. Travis and I answer resoundingly, "Yes," each time. When the time came to look for our first call in parish ministry, we knew that God was calling us to serve somewhere in the same church. This is tricky in our Presbyterian tradition for lots of reasons - salaries, pensions, sharing 1 position,"two-for-one," etc. But we were willing to answer this call and bravely worked to serve our first church together as Co-Associate Pastors. As newlyweds (our first anniversary was 2 months into our first call) and new ministers, we learned so much about each other, about boundaries about work at home, about communicating and triangulating, and on and on. For our second call, we weren't sure if we wanted to serve the same church again, so we filed our PIFs (fancy acronym for resumes) separately and as a clergy couple. FPC Canadian immediately matched with us on our little online dating system, because they were looking for a clergy couple. And, much like a good pair of boots or jeans, the fit was just right. So, here we are, with more responsibilities and more to learn about God's workings here and about God's workings in our life together. 

Over the last week, we soaked up the wisdom, experience, and "I can't believe that happened" moments with other couples in ministry. We shared our call story to joint ministry - the good, bad, and the ugly - in a safe place with folks who understood and could respond helpfully. Our fearless leaders, Amy and Derek, centered us in the story of Jesus calming the storm from Mark 4, and led us through conversation after conversation about expectations in life and ministry. For the first time, I noticed the phrase in verse 36, "they took him with them in the boat, just as he was." Earlier in the chapter, Jesus had been teaching the crowds of people in parables, and, as anyone who has ever taught any kind of lesson knows, he was exhausted at the end of the day. So, the disciples took him, just as he was, into the boat at nightfall (a dangerous time to sail), and he immediately fell asleep. As a group, we wondered what "just as he was" meant for Jesus and for us. Sure, he was tired from teaching and ministering to the crowds of people...but was Jesus so tired that the disciples carried him? Was he grouchy and hungry? Was he reflective, contemplative, and fresh out of words? 

Immediately after arriving on the other side of the sea of Galilee, Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac. Our new friend, John, an 83-year-old lay minister (Methodist) from Lubbock, TX, commented that Jesus needed to sleep to rest up for the confrontation and healing. With this in mind, I haven't been able to get Jesus' state of "just as he was" out of my mind. We are called to minister to God's people just as we are...some days energized, other days exhausted, wondering how we might go on. Some days, I really need to shut my office door, while other days, the door is revolving and my desk chair is cold. But God is continuing to call my whole self to the work of this congregation and community, just as I am, and God prepares me for the next day by giving me exactly what I need to be ready. It's so easy to become frustrated when things are left undone, or to be grouchy because too much as been done...and yet, the storm is somehow calmed in the midst of it all. 

Travis and I have promised each other to not bite off more than we (and the session and the congregation) can chew - and it's hard. The Spirit has been preparing this congregation and us, even before we arrived in Canadian, for new things together, from adding structure to church school and worship to discerning some fresh ways to be missional together. But, we have to embark just as we are, not rushing ahead, taking time to listen and prepare, and hoping for low winds and smooth sailing. 

My prayer these days and into the rapidly approaching Advent season, is that we recognize where we are, and that we realize that it's ok to be there just as we are, for good and gracious God is right here with us. May this be true for our families and friends, too. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Been a long time comin'

One of the great sages of our time once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Well, thanks Ferris. You are indeed wise. 

Life does move really, really, quickly. And, we've been gone from this space for a long time. But in giving up, being too busy, or just not feeling like blogging, Travis and I certainly did not miss much of life. In fact, here's a rundown of everything that happened in the last 2.5 years:

1) Home Away from (any) Home - Mo-Ranch & Massanetta Springs. Shortly after our last blog post, Travis and I accepted a summer job to be the co-chaplains for summer camp and the Alive @ Mo program at Mo-Ranch in Hunt, TX. I also worked as a lifeguard on the beautiful Guadalupe River. We put our belongings into a storage unit in Atlanta, loaded the truck (we were a one car family by May 1, 2011), and headed west. Then, for 2 weeks in July, I left Mo, traveled to Massanetta Springs Camp & Conference Center and was a Workshop Director for the Middle School Conference. We had such a great time, and both places quickly felt like home to us...that summer stretched us, was ridiculously fun, and just what we needed. 

2) Call, Ordination, Installation - We prayerfully accepted our first call as Co-Associate Pastors to First Presbyterian Church, Greenwood, MS in May, 2011. We moved to the MS Delta about 10 days after finishing up Mo, and in those 10 days, we packed more of our stuff, were examined for ordination, drove all the way from TX to ATL and back to MS. Still in one car. We laughed most of the time. I was ordained August 27, 2011 at FPC Lexington, NC by Salem Presbytery. Travis was ordained the following weekend, September 3 at FPC Graham, TX by Palo Duro Presbytery (foreshadowing alert). We were installed into our call by St. Andrew Presbytery the first Sunday in October, with celebration and a great reception by the awesome PW of that congregation. 

3) Shenanigans with Friends - we began making some pretty incredible friends while in Mississippi. From presbytery colleagues to people our age in Greenwood, Travis and I quickly found a niche and started having lots of fun. There are so many adventures to be had in the Mississippi Delta - over the 2 years we lived there, some of our favorites included bartending at River to the Rails, late nights at the Alluvian, trivia at Webster's, and heading over to Po' Monkeys juke joint. We have so many stories, jokes, text conversations, and pictures to remember our season of life and ministry in the MS Delta. 

4) Family - while in Mississippi, a lot happened in our little family. Joe (bro) graduated from college and joined the Navy, Meredith (sis) started college, Emily (sis-in-law) graduated from grad school and got a job in Dallas, Thomas and Tara (bro and sis-in-law) got married, eventually left Houston, and now live in Ft. Worth. Jacque and Nathan Allen both passed away after illnesses a few short months apart (Aug 2012 and Jan 2013). Travis and I got on a waiting list for a puppy, and Scout joined our family on Dec 19, 2011. He'll be 2 in November. Look at that face...he's about 6 months old here. 
5) Ohh, Baby. Then this happened. 
We found out in late October 2012 that we were expecting...almost exactly this time last year. I had a great pregnancy - pretty normal, even with preeclampsia at the end (no pictures of how swollen I was, thanks anyway). We found out at the very end of February that we were having a son, and Jeffrey Barrett Allen joined the world on June 14, 2013. He was 2 weeks early, I had to be induced, but he's our Mississippi baby. And he's just the best thing Travis and I have ever seen, done, loved. He is now 4 months old and full of snuggles, spit-up, and laughs. He was baptized last weekend, surrounded by his great-grandfather, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. 

6) Moved to Texas - about the time we found out I was pregnant, we began seriously praying and discerning about where God was calling us...to stay in Greenwood or to move closer to one side of our family? While we loved our friends and congregation, being 800 miles from either NC or TX was really hard. So, in late February, after some hard conversations, we began circulating our PIFs, and were picked up pretty quick by 2 churches. Along with the PNC, we discerned that God was calling us to be the next Co-Pastors of FPC, Canadian, TX. So, when Barrett was just under 12 weeks old, we moved to the northeast corner of the panhandle of Texas. We're closer to Oklahoma than to Dallas, y'all. We love it here so far, after about 6 weeks, we're slowly finding our rhythm and are adjusting to life in the panhandle. It's windy, they don't lie. And this happened on Sunday, Oct 12. 
We were installed on Saturday afternoon, then Travis and I led worship with a retired minister in our new congregation, and Mert baptized Barrett. It was more special than I imagined...having our little boy sealed into God's big family by the sign of water on his head, in front of a church family that has covenanted with us to nurture and raise him in the way of Christ, to love God and his neighbors. Blessings abound, y'all. 

So, this is where we are. Moving forward in life, stopping to look around most of the time, and hopefully, returning thanks for the many blessings God has given us. 

I'm hoping to write at least once a week, as transitioning back into full-time ministry has really been a challenge for me so far. After 7 weeks of maternity leave and 3 weeks of vacation with our little guy, it's hard to stay focused on anything other than sweet Barrett. Here's hoping that writing out our experiences in Canadian, Texas will be life-giving and centering as both Travis and I pause to reflect on God's grace in placing us here. 

To that end, come visit us, we'd love to see you!