Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Refreshment.

Being back in Colorado's crisp, cold air has felt like a refreshing drink that has reset my mind and soul.

This past semester and fall has been chock full of moments of feeling at peace, making time to stay healthy, tailoring my learning on things I care about (feminism, liberation, clerical celibacy, the Trinity), connecting deeply with a couple of people, and continuing to feel my call to be a minister, teacher, and chaplain.

Yet I also felt surrounded by moments of lost connections, deep insecurity (whether mine or another person's), and doubting my ability to engage with others.  It's been great living into the fact that it's more important to do what I need/want to do rather than trying to be the Kaitlin that I think everyone else wants, but in living into that I find myself not being the life of the party part of me that I lean on and appreciate.  This has required a lot of introspection for me this past month.  Do I like being a jokester for myself or for others?  Why do I have this compulsion to be the go-to person for others?

I spent much of last year spending a lot of my social time laughing, joking, and feeling that I was socially connected with a lot of people in my seminary community.  But in my deep inside, I was lost and lonely and unsure of where I fit.  Now I have places to be outside of the community, boundaries that I set for myself to have time for homework and sleep, and focus on precious people rather than pleasing everyone.  Deep down, my calling is clear and I have people that I have made wonderful memories with.  Yet I'm still here, in the confusion of being comfortable with who I am enough to not try to prove myself to others and still wanting to be a person people seek out to laugh with.  I'm in the tension of what it means to be me right now.

Anyway, that was a very long explanation of why I felt cloudy recently and getting back here to Colorado has been a beautiful comfort in showing me the ways that I am me.

I have streets that remind me of a girl who learned to drive timidly; there are coffeeshops that remind me of my first employment as a barista.  There are houses that I've been to countless times that are filled with faces that are etched with lines of laughter and tears that I have been active in experiencing.  There is a church in which I showed up to church early and stayed late (not by choice...), sang loudly, danced proudly, and played games when I maybe should have been in worship.  The cold air reminds me of the winter nights I drove with my windows down in order to feel the bitterness.  The quiet, dark nights in my neighborhood beckon for awakenings not unlike those of my teenage years; my soul feels refreshed so that I can feel deeply about new things.

My mind feels cleared so that I am able to articulate my stories well and interests spring up inside of me about the people and places that are changing along with me.  The twinkling lights scattered on the trees in the gorgeous Old Town Fort Collins stir up giddiness within me and bring a smile to my lips.

Fort Collins has been my home; my place for recharging.  I never sleep better than when I am comfortably in my bed in the room I spent most of my teenage years in.  I've struggled here, I've thrived here, I've grown so much here.  It's safe here.

What will happen once this place no more is a place where there is a house that has my family name attached to it?  When I will have a reason to not spend my holidays here, since there will be no place to vacation at?  When coordinating visits will no longer be as simple as showing up with a home to stay at?  What will I do without the refreshing breeze of change that flows through this place and into my heart?

What does it mean to refresh anew?  It means holding unto the home that my family has created with each other.  This house that was called home for 10 years has been stripped bare, but the memories are plentiful.  I've leaned on Colorado to be a place where I can clearly see me for me and now it's time to see the ways that I have been created me, without borders.

But this reminder and refresher of who Kaitlin is has been so delightful and helpful during this season of massive change for my family, so I'll hold on tight for all it's worth as long as I can (which will be just another 5 days....).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Transform: (a sermon).

Matthew 11:2-11
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
 
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
This question feels familiar on my lips. We ask questions like this every day. Questions like:
Is this job the one that will stick as my career, or am I still looking for another?
Is this is the house for my family; is the search over or are we back to square one?
Is the person that I am daitng the one I will spend the rest of my life with, or am I supposed to wait for someone else? Or, Wow my spouse is getting on my last nerve today, maybe I was better off marrying somebody else....
As we look around us and search for things in our lives that we know to be true and right, we also turn those questions in on ourselves.
Am I good enough? Or am I a shadow of who I could be?
Is this it? Is the path I'm on the right one for me?
So many questions. They feed into our consumer-driven consciousness, telling us that there must be a right and wrong choice. This natural urge to look for a definitive answer speaks to how important it is to make meaning in our lives. We are a people that are anxiously awaiting hope amidst devastation and struggle. In this Advent season, we are present now in our waiting of the coming of Jesus. As we look forward to the story of Jesus's birth, we see that we are still waiting for the answers of the mysteries of God.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
John the Baptist is asking this not only as an important prophet who had people following him, but someone who had been clear about his belief that Jesus was and is the Messiah. Now John finds himself stuck between his strong convictions and the painful experience of prison. I find it comforting to see that even John the Baptist held a quiver of doubt and fear when he sent his disciples to go to Jesus and ask if Jesus is the one that John had been waiting for.
I have also been in that place of questioning God and Jesus: Jesus, are you for real? God, have I rightly placed my trust in you? I spent so much of my teenage years thinking that I was alone in these questions and doubts. And yet here is a prophet that Jesus describes “as the messenger that will prepare a way for him” who is questioning and searching for truth. Rather than seeing doubt as a detrimental aspect of faith, we see in John's question that to be uncertain is part of life. We cannot be sure about what happens in our lives and we are not able to tangibly see who God is. So we hold these questions together in our hearts and minds.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
John the Baptist asks his question from a place of being uncertain; he wants to know that his life of being a messenger for Messiah has purpose. This question calls for a definite answer; a yes or a no.
But Jesus doesn't give a yes or no answer, which isn't necessarily out of character for Jesus or God. Moses asks for God's name in Exodus and God replies with “I am who I am.” God encompasses all that we understand about this world and then goes beyond all of those things. God is who God is and we will never have clear answers that give us a complete picture of God. Instead, We are able to see glimpses of God; Jesus speaks to this as he answers John.
Jesus tells John to look out into the world so that he can hear and see the works of God that are everywhere in this world. Jesus quotes Isaiah in saying that the blind will have sight, the lame will walk, deaf people will hear, and the dead are raised up. Jesus is pointing not to the properties of his holiness as Messiah but rather how people are being transformed in the world. Jesus is saying: “Do not look for me but see the ways I am working in the world.” We cannot fully understand what it means for Jesus Christ to be divine and human, but we can witness the actions that Jesus did and continues to do in the world. How do we live into being a witness to the works of God here and now? We are witnesses as we orient ourselves to be open to see the transformations that Jesus is doing.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the ways that I've transformed and developed into a young adult. Sometimes I'll be walking around Berkeley and all of a sudden it hits me: Wow, I'm such a different person than what the 13-year old Kaitlin imagined I'd be. Of course, my viewpoint was narrow since my biggest aspiration as a pre-teen was to be the youngest female country music star, but instead that label went to Taylor Swift. As awesome as it would have been to be a country music singer, I think that 13 year-old me would have been astounded by how cool I turned out to be. My hair is short and edgy, I can spitfire sarcasm any moment of the day, and I even have a tattoo on my left shoulder blade. And setting aside the easy ways to see change, I've gone from someone who held all of her questions inside to someone who calls out for people to discuss the pieces of life that are unknown. I recognize the gift that God has given me to sit in the tension of the insecurity and doubt. I've walked with my own fears of loneliness and uncertainty about the future and in the midst of the pain of growing up, I'm getting closer to realizing that the more you know of the world, the less you understand it. In some ways, I'm still that 13 year-old girl trying to figure out the ways to be secure in my own body and self. In that respect, I wonder what 60 year-old Kaitlin will think of who I am now as a 24 year-old.
I've gotten pretty good about living in the questions that we cannot answer and I feel like I am a good space in my life. I have a passion for helping people and am privileged to work towards being a pastor and leader; I will soon be surrounded by my family as my parents move to San Mateo this January; and I have meaningful and deep relationships that enrich my life. Yet here I am on tip toes, waiting for a pin to drop. I feel like John the Baptist and asking: Is this it? Am I the person that is to come; am I who I am supposed to be? Are we as a church community being the church that is to come? Are we living into the future that God hopes for us?
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
When you ask for clear-cut answers from God, most likely you will not get them. God calls us instead to reorient ourselves to look for the answers out in our community. When Jesus speaks that we will know him when we see that blind will receive sight and deaf will hear, maybe it is us whose eyes can now see and ears that can hear. By the gift of grace that we have been given through baptism, we have been born into a community of God. The Holy Spirit is active in our community; Do you see it? Do you hear it? Jesus calls us to look and to listen. Someone in your home is suffering; someone is hungry for deep connection. As we pause our life to open our ears to hear the pain of others, we connect our hearts together in a way that Jesus has called us to do.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
I wonder what it felt like for Jesus to hear this question from John's disciples. The weight of the label of “One who is to come” is heavy; Jesus knows the Old Testament Scriptures that describe what the Messiah will look like. Jesus has this Isaiah text in the back of his mind that says that God will come with vengeance and terrible recompense; Jesus knows that it has been written that in God, there will be a Holy Way in which no fools, unclean people, or beasts will be. If Jesus says, Yes! I am the one who is to come, does this mean that he will be the one of vengeance and judgement?
Jesus focuses on the part of Isaiah that shows that the coming of God means that people are changed; the lame will walk and the dead shall be raised up. The vengeance of God looks like a tiny child in Mary's arms, borne into the world as a human and as the Divine. The vengeance of God looks like Jesus teaching people that they are to love one another as themselves; judgement looks like Jesus healing the sick. The ultimate act of vengeance and judgement that God makes is Jesus being placed up there, on that cross. Jesus suffers as Christ on the cross and in doing so, we as humans are shown that the vengeance of God turns in on itself so that all who believe are saved by grace.
When we ask if Jesus is the one who is to come, we are looking for a sure answer that Christ is the salvation for all people. Jesus tells us instead to look at the people around us and listen for the ways that we are changed by the love that God gives us. Look around you—do you see the beauty of this world? Do you see the moments of rawness in pure joy and pure pain? Is that God, who loved you before you even knew yourself? Is that Jesus Christ, who has suffered so that all have already been saved? Or are you going to wait for something else to hold you together?
God has given us grace so that we can live freely in the spaces of sacred love that are here and now. Jesus calls us to be active witnesses in Christ and be the actions of Christ as disciples in this world. Christ has freed us so that we have the ability to create opportunities of transformation for others. We are Christ's presence in the world; we have a call to be a part of giving the blind sight and helping ears to hear. We are called to ask ourselves:
Are we the ones who are to come? Or are we to wait for another?
All this time we may have been waiting for somebody to create the changes we want to see in this world, but we are those somebodies. With the gifts that God has prepared for us, we can be the future in this world.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seek out the Light.

 I had a dream.

I found myself on concrete steps with a slow descent towards a beach. The sun was hiding behind gray clouds and the air was still. As I walked closer to the water, I noticed that I was the only person on this beach. The waves were calm and the stillness of this place settled into my soul as I stood alone.


My heart sank into the serenity of that space. I looked around with curious eyes and all at once, I realized that something was there in that place with me.

She was hovering above me and was clearly still, yet an air that I could not feel was flowing through her being. I could not see her face, if there even was a face to look upon. She came to me as a black substance that billowed and swirled like a dark cloak that moved like a full head of hair immersed in water. She was dark and unknown to me but I felt no fear in her presence.



She came to me but was silent; her presence changed nothing about the peace of this beach. I did not know her by sight but the feeling of her in my soul was familiar and soothing.

I asked her for her name so that I could know her. I asked and asked; I prodded. Every time I asked, she answered calmly. “Golgotha.” I continued to ask because this name made no sense to me; did I create this name for her or was this really her name? It is my dream after all, this is my own truth. But she answered every time in the same quiet, calm voice: “Golgotha. I am Golgotha.”

I told Golgotha about me. Everything I said to her she already knew; she had known me before I had ever known myself. But she was patient and listened. She listened to my probing questions about her and she heard my thoughts. I had a feeling that I had met her before but not in this way; I had never seen her billowing blackness before. There was something different about this space and time; I held no fear. I was enveloped in calm and curiosity; I was not holding my limbs tight around myself but my body was loose and free.

I spoke to Golgotha: “I want to hear what you have come to tell me. I am ready. Speak.”

Golgotha's voice flowed out of the sky: “I am a creature of the dark; I am the creature of the night. I am the creature of depth. You have depth. You will teach people about this depth.”

Yet as these words became understood by me, my eyelids became so heavy; my mind drifted into the great deep. Golgotha soothed me, saying, “There is time for speaking but now you need a rest. You are exhausted; close your eyes.”

I sank into the deep, rolling into unconsciousness. Yet rest did not come; my left ankle came alive with huge amounts of nerve activity. It felt a bit like pain but it wasn't; it was an awakening. The stabbing of awakening punctured through my unconsciousness in this deep. Energy that had been stuck in my body rushed out my ankle as if it was being pushed out by a current. I felt the pumping of release and I welcomed the change. I knew that this was what needed to happen. I let the energy move and rested once again.

As I lost my sense of self in deep rest, I was calm in the silence.

Suddenly, a huge burst of light came at me. It was a sunrise in my soul; it warmed my toes and set my heart on fire. My eyelids were closed but the light was there and brightened my being.

Golgotha spoke in this light; she spoke so strongly that it felt like she was shouting, even though it was the same quiet voice, “This is the Light. It is everywhere and out there. Go and find it. Seek it out, it will be there. Go now, always look for it. You will always find it.”

I lost any air that had been in my lungs; I gasped quickly for the breath of life. As I opened my lungs for air, I awoke to the room around me. I felt my body on the chair I had been resting on. I opened my eyes to this world. I remembered me. And I remembered Golgotha and what she told me. I remembered my task: Seek out the Light; it will always be there but you must look for it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Importants.

This past week I had a paper due. In a fit of anxiety and exhaustion whilst writing, I randomly picked up "The Courage to Change;" a daily devotional from Al-Anon that my mother gave to me quite a few years ago.  It's a devotional that I have found useful in accepting what life truly is: a mixture of joyous and dreadful moments.  So I thumbed my way to the correct day, read the first two sentences of the devotion:

"I read somewhere that the things that are urgent are rarely important, and the things that are important are rarely urgent.  I can get so caught up in the nagging, trivial matters of day-to-day life that I forget to make time for more important pursuits."

Soothing words for my brain that was full of worries about how to question the divinity of the Trinity in my History of Christianity paper.  That paper has since been turned in and is no longer the newest urgent thing; now there are 2 other urgents that I'm fretting about.  Yet my importants remain neglected.  This blog is one of my importants and if this blog could talk, it would be shouting a lament at me because I've left it so alone lately.

What else is lying over there in the corner while I scrabble to check off my urgents?  What importants are you letting slip by as you focus on your urgents?

I think so often about about the people in my life that have dramatically changed how I think, love, and live.  I appreciate these people in my heart yet I never get around to sharing that appreciation; a simple email/card could easily bump up my importants above the trivial urgents.  I've even written these emails in my head when I'm biking, walking, working, or any place where writing an email is impossible; it hasn't come to fruition.  Clearly I'm not placing any sort of urgency to my importants.

What about my spiritual connection to the divine?  I spend so much time reading, writing, discussing, and listening to lectures about theology and the ways that people connect with God.  A common worry/complaint I hear from seminarians/pastors is that they don't know where or how to feed themselves spiritually because of a few reasons: 1) Theological exhaustion; 2) Too much head thinking and not enough heart connecting; 3) No time; 4) Focusing on other people's spiritual well-being.

I find myself in this predicament often, though I can be pretty good at taking myself out of it with blues dancing, acupuncture, spiritual direction, and creative outlets.  That takes a lot of dedication on my part; I have placed a lot of value on my own spiritual and emotional well being this fall, and even so, I often get into cycles of time scarcity.

My time here on Earth will always include enough time to do exactly what my heart wants to do.  My heart does not want to spend that time procrastinating on Facebook or Huffington Post, getting up ridiculously early to finish a paper, and drowning out the voice of God with my anxious thoughts or constant stream of blasting music.

I want to sip my macchiatos slowly; I want to cook with gentle care.  I want to hug with no abandon and write kind words to people that are probably hungry for them.  I long to write because my fingers itch to write my thoughts down; I yearn for a moment when I hope that someone brings up spirituality and theology because my heart wants to connect on a deeper level and not from a space of exhaustion.

I want to rearrange the way I live out my importants; the urgents will get done but do not need to consume.  My energy withers when all I have to give myself is checking off of the lists of urgent; my soul glows when my importants are at the center of all actions.  It is important for me to be in graduate school but it's not important for it to suck the soul out of me, especially since the end goal is to minister to people and build up other leaders.  My goal is to glow. :)




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Integration.

Here I am, halfway through my third semester in seminary.  I'm sipping a macchiato at Sisters Coffee Company in the Pearl district of Portland.

Is this real life?  I have literally pinched myself throughout these past weeks.

I leaked this whole summer; the tears seemed like they would continuously be present behind my hazel eyes (why yes that was a Kelly Clarkson quote).

I have only cried once in the last 1.5 months and it was because I am so deliciously satiated currently.  I wept for happiness; those tears felt so different than the pain of last spring and this summer.

I feel as if all the pieces are coming together for what it means to be Kaitlin.  I ask the questions that burn on my tongue when I'm class; I readily share my opinion.  I am learning to be authentically me in all situations, whether I'm chatting with a regular customer at Yali's cafe or puzzling over God's authority in my 8am systematic theology course.  When I alb up to be an assistant minister at my Teaching Parish congregation (Holy Trinity in San Carlos) or the PLTS Wednesday chapel service, I feel a smile tickling my lips rather than the familiar fear that had previously paralyzed me.

Each day no longer feels like a constant wrestling with God; I hadn't even realized that I was wrestling until I felt the calm of congruence.  Of course I am still exhausted now; the busy GO GO GO schedule that I have created for myself in Berkeley weighs on me as I try to find time to work on my studies while having time for myself and the people I care for.  I have plenty of worries and doubts that circle in my mind.  Yet I am comfortable in sharing the fears about theology that might break my resolution.  In telling my perspective of faith and doubt, I am calmed in the constant tension.  I am comfortable with the push/pull of not fully understanding anything in this world.

Last year, I tried to absorb the parts of the Lutheran tradition and Christianity fully, hoping that if I did so, I would feel as if I fit into this role of spiritual leader.  Doing so destroyed my soul.  Now I know that I am always going to be me; I am my best Kaitlin when I am honest with myself and my professors/peers about what I believe.  I am true to myself.  Now I continue to wrestle with God and the people around me, but I am bringing all of me to the table rather than who I thought I should be.

I am pulling all of the pieces of Kaitlin together and letting them fit or not fit together.  I find myself not worrying about being the bubbly, sociable Kaitlin but rather just being someone who genuinely cares about people yet doesn't need to be the center of attention.  I'm working on taking some of the pressure I put on myself to be liked by everyone and rather being healthy about my own time and focusing on my precious people.

I feel congruence in my bones; that feeling is so wonderful that I cannot even begin to express how joyful I am to be able to write that.

Does that mean I'm done growing? Uh, FUCK THAT. I've got plenty of insecurities, vulnerabilities, and stumbling blocks ahead of me.  But I'm certainly relishing in the imperfect beauty of contentment with myself.

I've been rereading my journal from these past 9 months and I steep in the pervasive loneliness that permeates from my previous entries.  I glanced at my writing from this semester and the transformation is deeper than I ever could have imagined.  I'm glad for a step back during this reading week vacation in Portland to soak in all of the ways that I have morphed through all of the self-reflection and leaking that has occurred for me during these past 9 months.

I am Kaitlin and I am a minister in many aspects of my life, but that does not mean that the things that defines me is the word minister. I am spiritual when I overuse the word fuck; I am a woman who asserts my faith and theological perspective; I am strong in my vulnerability; I am adventurous and I am precious. And so are you, dear reader; you are adored and loved because you are you.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pieces.

Collaging. If you know me at all, you know that this is something that I loooove to do.  I've probably mooched some magazines off of you at some point in time (and if I haven't, feel like sending some old magazines to Berkeley?? I'd totally take them! Or better yet, come visit me and bring them!).

Collaging is fun because it essentially is organizing pieces of paper together to make something new.  I oh so enjoy organization.  I also love finding ways to creatively put things together; I like to think that I am able to capture feelings in my collages.  I especially like to collage for my friends because then I get to attempt to capture their personality (try combining a teenage-like dirty humor and extreme thoughtfulness/melancholy on an 8x10 piece of paper....yea my brother is hard to pin down).  I've made some collages that I've been really proud of and some that I cringe at; some take over three hours while others take fifteen minutes.  But mostly I enjoy doing it because it's cathartic and helps me get through the every day stresses.

I was talking with a lovely, talented artist friend (shout out to Celestie!) and she urged me to post my collages.  Truth is, I don't consider them art pieces because they seem simplistic to me (I mean, I've had four year olds make collages at church camp and they were pretty damn good at it).  But that's my own limitation and judgement talking; collaging is one of my mediums as an artist.  Because I am an artist. (Maybe if I say it enough times I'll believe it....)

The first page of my journal

Individuality

Calling

Being chic

The Long Wait

I love Ohio pt. 1

I love Ohio pt. 2

My Theology board

My Theology pt. 1 close up

My Theology pt. 2 close up

California Love pt. 1

California love pt. 2


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Cannot See

I Cannot See

I cannot see my eyes,
Yet I know what they behold;
I cannot see my ears,
Yet I am not deaf to the music
of the spheres;
I cannot se my heart,
Yet I know when it has touched another;
To understand is not necessary
When one has mastered the beauty
of the unseen.

-Donna Rogers

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Turns out cancer jokes are funny.

When I was in high school, I worked at a local coffeeshop called Deja Vu.  One of my co-workers wore a button that loudly stated "CANCER SUCKS." We would talk about it and how there seems to be no one who is thinking, "Yea, cancer has redeemable qualities!"  Cancer is seen as this big huge blob of unknown that seems to eat away at the people we love.  Cancer feels foreign and evil and ubiquitous.

But really, what is cancer? It's cells in our bodies that continue to replicate and can't stop.  Each of these cells are our own and are not foreign to our body.  It's a process that occurs naturally and yet it is so unnatural because the cells are unable to stop replicating.  These cells somehow become this huge cloud of worry and fear; the fear seems almost as destructive as the cancer itself.

This summer, my father had his thyroid taken out because there were cancerous cells in it.  My dad says this summer has been like being initiated into a club that he never wanted to be a part of; part of my life story now includes my papa being diagnosed with cancer.  The label of cancer seems to loom over bigger than it needs to; it was particularly hard to give support to people that were dealing with a cancer diagnosis while in CPE because I had my dad's story on my tongue.

For me, there has been a shift in seeing cancer as this dangerous, deadly monster to see it as something that people are living with.  Life continues on; a new sense of normalcy begins to emerge as the storm of diagnosis settles down.  It's been helpful to be back here in Colorado for a bit to experience the life post-diagnosis for my parents.  As it turns out, cancer jokes are hilarious.  It's much easier to belly laugh about it than wring my hands and shout out frustrations.

Does cancer suck? Yes, it totally does.  It includes a shift in lifestyle, adds plenty of medical bills, and forces in new perspectives about the world and our bodies.  I'm still soaking it in and I think my whole family is.  All I know is that I'm glad to be able to laugh about it with my dad and enjoy some moments with my parents this week. Love you Papa and Mama!

There is a beauty in all God touches.


This summer of spending my days and some nights at Nationwide Children's Hospital has come to an end. A lot of people told me what this summer of clinical pastoral education would be like: draining, breaking, and full of moments where I was in conflict or unsure of what to do.

All of that happened. But every moment holds an undercurrent of affirmation for me.

When you watch parents cry over their child's body or be with a mother as she wrings her hands in worry about her son in surgery, you see it. The love. It's heavy in the air and it doesn't dissipate; the love in the grief and worry is strong. It doesn't make the emotions easier to deal with; in fact, love makes the pain worse.

Love carries people to the ugliest moments, to the places where there is not enough anger in the world to blind the pain. Love stirs up our vulnerabilities and leave us feeling ragged, torn, and exhausted. But love does not leave us weak; we are strong in our compassion and reaching out to the other to adore, argue with, tease, worry for, and hug them. This summer I have seen this love between patients and their families as well as seen how emotionally and spiritually hungry people are when they have not experienced love in their close relationships.  Humans have the ability to take a pure love and mangle it into something that is unrecognizable.  Having seen the pain of this summer,  I treasure the love I have with my family and friends and look forward to people that will be very important to me throughout my life.  I am affirmed in how vital it is to continue working on how I express my love for others and my role in mangling the love I've received and give out to the world.

My eyes have seen things that made me cringe and my ears have heard cries of grief and worry.  It has been a heavy summer of feeling lonely and overthinking situations, while it has also been a light summer of connecting with friends/family and exploring beloved as well as new parts of Columbus.

What have I learned from this summer of CPE?  There are so many things that I cannot even begin to cover it all, but here are the things that stand out currently.
1.  Everyone is searching for a sense of normal.  There is nothing more bitter than perceiving that you are different than others or being pushed into a traumatic/shocking situation that gets out of your typical life.  But what is normal?  It's at completely different levels for any given person.
2.  Emotions trump situations.  I've spoken with parents waiting to for their child to get through a 10-hour brain surgery that were feeling quite calm. I've been with a crying parent while they waited for their child to get through a 10-minute ear surgery.  It doesn't matter what they are going through but rather how they are handling their emotions and the state that they are in.
3.  The little things count.  Hospitality is one of the skills that I most treasure; people will not be thinking about their tired feet or parched throat when they are watching a loved one poked by 10 doctors.  It's my job to anticipate how they feel and any little things I can get for them.  Just as important are the simple conversations that establish some normalcy; I've spoken about One Direction, hair cuts, Game of Thrones, traffic, gardening, and etc. for hours because people needed a little time to rest their worried heart.
4. A chaplain's job is to feel clueless.  I don't need to know any medical details to be present for people.  I don't need to know what a person does or any past history in order to reflect back their present emotions.  The stories pour out on their own and the details are a treasure that I receive by staying in the present for the person I am with.
5. I am supposed to be doing this.  Does chaplaincy terrify me? Yes, every day I quiver in fear because this job has little certainty.  I do it for the moments when someone opens up about a past trauma or lets their tears spill out.  I do it for the moments of connection (especially when patients or family members tell me I look like Emma Watson--what up!), even when the conversation is as simple as how it was raining that day.  I get empathy, I understand emotions, I am filled with exhaustion and joy when I am a chaplain.  I wear that label like a badge of honor.  Is chaplaincy the only thing I will do as a spiritual leader? No; I will wear the pastor badge and someday I am going to be a CPE supervisor. I have a lot of time do all of this and I am dreading and looking forward to all of those moments.

I left Ohio two days ago; I spent half of the summer wishing that I was back in Berkeley and my heart was aching for the Bay Area culture.  Yet I left the MidWest with a heavy heart and feeling how odd it is that I don't know the next time I will be back.  I hear one of my fellow CPE-ers in my ear, who told me over and over these past weeks, "Transfer! Transfer! Transfer!"  I'm thinking of how precious the Short North, Innis Woods, Hocking Hills, Bexley, and German Village are to me.  I'm remembering the late nights out with friends and hikes with my aunt.  This summer has been a bittersweet one, with the pain and joy of the unknowns that come with being in my mid-20's.  One of my friends told me that there is a beauty in all that God touches; there is a beauty in the grief of this summer.  I have fingerprints of God all over my skin and I take the people I've met this summer in my heart as I continue back to Berkeley.

Affirmed and Striving.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A little E and D.

The countdown has begun and the end seems so close.  I feel it in my fingers; I feel it in my toes (No, Christmas is not all around but I couldn't resist quoting one of my favorite movies).

What do I feel? CPE is a constant beratement of that question.  I've gotten pretty good at being honest with myself  and hazarding a guess at the feelings that are coursing through my body at any given time.

The feeling right now? Excitement and Dread.  E and D.

Excitement?
1. No more verbatims! (It's surprisingly quite difficult to retain and write down conversations that I've had with patients/family members at the hospital).
2. I can't wait to visit with my family and friends in Colorado! It will be especially great to spend time with my parents, whom I have been particularly wishing I could be with.  They have both been through a lot this past month, since my father had surgery to remove cancer that was localized to his thyroid. Looking forward to mountain adventures, sitting out on the deck, thrifting with my mom, and nights out in Old Town.
3. I GET TO GO HOME. Berkeley feels like a bright little piece of my heart that is longing for me.  Maybe it doesn't actually miss me, but I certainly miss it.  It will only be my home for two more years and I intend on savoring every last minute of that time.
4. I have recognized quite a few gifts within myself this summer and I am thrilled to discover the ways that what I have learned will transform my experience as a seminarian in class.

Dread?
1. Finishing CPE means that I have to work on and finish my endorsement essay for candidacy. BIG DEAL=bundle of nerves.
2. I have loved getting to know the staff at Nationwide Children's and part of me will be left in that hospital as I leave.  I have been touched by the huge hearts of the patients, family members, nurses, doctors, and support staff.  What a wonderful place to be and it is hard to leave.
3. This summer has really affirmed my calling to be a leader in ministry, whether that means being a chaplain, a pastor, a CPE supervisor, etc.  I feel grounded and secure in the path of seminary.  Yet I remember quite clearly the feeling of being lost last spring.  Being in class fogged up the connection between my head and heart.  I dread that I will forget the calling that I feel so deep in my soul; the calling that brought me to PLTS in the first place.  I want to find a balance in the action of helping others and learning the theology and doctrine so that I am most equipped to be a spiritual leader.

I hold the E and the D dearly as I prepare my heart and head to continue on to the next part of this journey.  What a transition this will be; PLTS is going to be a brand new community.  I am forever changed by this summer.  I will leave here armed with confidence in my voice and perspective, knowledge of my judgements and growing edges, and empathy that goes beyond my understanding.

Now to keep focused in present as I have 7 more days to talk with people on my units, 2 more on calls, 1 verbatim, 1 theological reflection, and a few evaluations to get through.  Whew. Oh, and be immersed in an abundant social life here in Columbus. And.....GO!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Secret Keeper.

Ever feel like your head and heart are just so full of stories and secrets that it feels impossible to let anymore information in?

Oh, just me?.....haha, I know I'm not alone in the overwhelmed feeling.

Jillien gave me a beautiful leatherbound book for my birthday (it smells wonderful...mmm...alright done with that small tangent) and told me that it would be my place to write down the stories and let them go.

You cannot imagine how amazing it feels to write the pain, the unknowns, the worries unto those pages.  I had previously been infiltrating my journal with these images but felt wrong about bulking up my journal with feelings that were not my own.

Stories live on, but they are held inside that book and stay there.  I need them to stay there in the book instead of soaking up all the emotions inside of me and letting them reside there.

I'm glad to have people to listen to my stories after my long days and grateful for all of you readers who supposedly enjoy my writings.

Appreciative of the great, big, everlasting hug that connects us all--the love of God (to quote one of my Dad's songs).

The Greatest of These is Love.

This is a reflection I wrote for the weekly worship at Nationwide Children's Hospital.  I had originally tried writing it in a Word document and then realized that I write so much better when I pretend that I'm blogging it, so I wrote it in Blogger.  Therefore it makes sense to share it with you all. :)


1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.



I've been thinking lately about love as the deepest emotion that grows and multiplies into different facets of itself. This is quite useful when encountering people that might not seem like they are showing any type of love.  Which is odd, because if love isn't just a lovey-dovey paradise, what does love look like? Sometimes you have to look for the love that lies hidden behind the surface.
 Love looks like the indents that a father made when he punched his angry, grieving fists through a wall.
 Love looks like clenched, white knuckles in a mother's hand as she watches her child struggle to breathe.
Love is a nurse carefully placing a soft puppy in the arms of an injured and scared child.  Love is a teenage girl shouting insults from her hospital bed in a struggle for attention.
 We are all fighting for love, whether we need love for ourselves or are in a whirlwind of worry and fear for the people we adore.

It is easy to watch all of the pain in this world and want to shrink away from love.  Why connect with other people when there is the potential of anger that blinds us, grief that paralyzes us, and fear that spins our hearts much too fast?  The fear and agony of grief stings too much for us to bear, and we long to curl up in our comfort zone and hold fast to our wordly bearings.

Yet, we are entangled too closely to love to fully comprehend how much it saturates our being.  There is love in our ability to push back against it. To paraphrase Corinthians, when we were young, we reasoned in childish ways, and resisted the love that we were given. That resistance is not the end of the love that God gives.  This is because we are not the ones holding the true Light; God was, is, and will be the love that shines throughout our lives.

Using Paul's words, as we reason like children, the childish act that we fall into is denying the deep connection that we have with each other as sacred beings.  We spend time attempting to figure out life by gazing at ourselves in a mirror, though we are called to understand life and love by encountering each other face to face.  Together, we are whole in our brokenness.
When we bare ourselves, flaws and strengths all together, to one another and look truly into the pain and joy of another person, we learn once more how to love.  We practice this over and over again because we stumble and even flee from this mission.  In our struggle towards perfection, we forget that we are beautiful and whole, including our sins and sharp edges. The setbacks and misery that seem to crop up in this calling to love are just as much a part of this journey as the merciful and passionate moments.  God is holding us in love throughout all of our time in darkness, even when we feel most alone.  God is constantly pulling us towards one another, in order that we might grow with each other and be forever changed.
In this hospital, we are surrounded by new faces every day.  We could be a patient or a family member that spends a days or months here.  We could be a staff member who spends years here.  I am a student that will spend merely weeks here.  We all encounter an endless stream of faces, names, and unique stories that bring a new perspective to our lives.  I sit down with many different people who speak the truth of their experience and the weight of the details overwhelms me at points.

But each of these stories adds to the current of emotions that I see flowing through this hospital and beyond.  The faces blur, not because I remember them less, but because they are all jumbled together into a kaleidoscope of love.  Each day, we face each other with deep emotions and vulnerabilities: anger, fear, despair, joy, grief, and relief.  And the undercurrent of all these is love.

Today and every day we come to one another with love. Paul says that we find ourselves looking into a mirror dimly; we at first are searching out for our role in this world by focusing only on ourselves. The real treasure is turning from ourselves to look at another person's face. When we connect with another person, we are picking up the broken pieces of humanity and together creating a community.

 Love can show itself in many different ways; we are called to give Light to all of the  facets of love.  We are called to strip ourselves and embrace the emotions that we hide or run from.  When we strip ourselves down to the core of our being, we find Light.  God calls us to see the Light in ourselves and in others.  That Light includes the rawness and pain of exposure and grief.  We come into this hospital and see so many people each day.  New faces but the same emotions.  The same beautiful loving Light of God. We are called to recognize the Light in others and to be the embodiment of light for people in pain.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Exactly.

Having finished 5 weeks of being a clinical pastoral education student aka a chaplain intern, I've learned that most of my conversations with people involve me having one goal and one goal only.

If you think that it's to convert all people so that they are saved by Jesus, you would be....CORRECT! That's what all good Christian chaplains should want to do in order to get into heaven.

Ok let me stifle the vomit that is wanting to come out because of my poor taste in jokes.

As a chaplain, I encounter people at a time in their lives in which they feel helpless and scared.  These feelings move straight into reactions, such as anger or tears or withdrawal.  My purpose is to support these people by giving them a space to breathe in the emotions that are coursing through their veins.  My job is to be a mirror for these people that interprets the emotions behind the words of their stories so that their response to what I have said is along the lines of "Exactly!" or "Oooh yes" or "Definitely!"

As a chaplain, I don't want people to remember my name or think of me as someone important in their lives, but rather come face to face with their emotions and feel as if they can understand themselves better because someone out there was listening and empathizing with their story.  I have the privilege of being with people in the terrifying moments; the bits of time that blur in our heads because our hearts fill up with fear.  I see my job as being a reflector of emotions so that people can pulse through the fear and be able to move back into a balance of their heart and head.

I find myself 5 weeks into CPE and it is heart wrenching to be doing such personal growth work in verbatims, interpersonal group time, and supervisory sessions.  Yet there is this wonderful balance in which I get to experience precious moments of raw emotions in myself, peers, and patients/families/staff that I encounter.  I breathe empathy; it pours out of me when I am with patients and their family members.  It isn't difficult for me to pinpoint emotions and reflect them back.  I know that this gift is not mine; God holds it in my heart and keeps it there for me to be able to best support others.  I am grateful and proud to be a messenger of love, grace, and peace.  I have my own judgements, insecurities, and pain that can keep me from being a messenger sometimes and I will be working on my growing edges. But the time is now to bask in my gifts because here is my calling.  I am meant to do this work.

5 weeks ago, I would fight myself to get my body into that hospital because I felt so terrible about being there.  I dreaded walking into the rooms of patients and baring my soul and vulnerabilities while presenting a verbatim (discussion on a pastoral care conversation that I have had with a patient/family member).  After that first week, I feel as if I have blossomed.  I love walking into Nationwide Children's and I treasure the moments I have with the people that enter that place as staff, patients, or loved ones.  I have gifts of ministry that I utilize every day whether I am aware of those gifts or not.  I am doing the work that I am being shaped to do.

Right now, I feel my calling in my bones.  I didn't realize how much I had lost that feeling while studying in seminary this year.  That loss of feeling my call had been terrifying me and leaving me feeling empty a lot of days (also something I didn't know until I felt it again).  My soul is affirmed.  I am here to go out into the world with my heart, hands, and mouth to be with others.

Which is why I spend a chunk of my days introducing myself to strangers: "Hello, my name is Kaitlin and I am here as a chaplain to be an emotional and spiritual support.  I am here to hear how things are doing for you." Words and/or silence is exchanged, and those words that remind me of why I am there are beckoning to be blurted out by that other person's mouth: "Exactly. Oooh yes. Definitely."

And that makes me feel quite fulfilled. :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

So, you've had a bad day.

So, maybe it's been an terrible, awful, no-good, horribly rotten day (as per that book/movie with the character named Alexander).

My day? It was pretty standard for CPE, meaning that I felt vulnerable, tired, content, tearful, useful.  This empathetic listening really is for me; I enjoy connecting with people on a daily basis (too bad it means that for these people, something scary/unexpected/tragic had to happen to land them inside Nationwide Children's).  At the end of today, I feel peaceful and lighthearted.  Some days, peaceful is the last thing I feel or could ever imagine feeling again.  Which is why I made a list.

Here's a list of things I made for myself to remind myself that a bad day doesn't have the final say:

1. Remember--you are truly loved by God (the Great Spirit), your family, and friends.
2. Even when feeling awkward, your true love and care for others is present and visible.
3. Your body is beautiful and useful. SACRED.
4. When you feel like you don't deserve it, God loves all of you.
5. Be open--there is immense possibility for growth in vulnerability.
6. Give yourself 5 deep breathes. Stretch.
7. Take a few minutes outside. Pause.
8. Make time to balance a hard day or situation with a time to bask in love and friendship or solitude.
9. Treat yourself to something small. (macchiato?)
10. Take a walk or bike ride. Run.
11. Wear a dress. Twirl.
12. Say fuck. It's allowed.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ants in the Pants.

This past week, every other thought in my head usually begins with, "When I'm back in Berkeley..."  Most of these thoughts have included yearning for a macchiato, because apparently any coffee shops within a 5 mile radius of where I live and work are not aware of how properly steam milk.  And yes, I am an old curmudgeon (or a snob, but curmudgeon is just so much more fun to type or say).

Whenever I'm biking up a hill (and by hill, I mean a tiny incline that you wouldn't be able to notice unless you were huffing up it on a bike), I think about the Berkeley Hills and how much I desperately want to conquer them.  I want to know I can do it. That being said, I am very glad for the training session that this summer has been--my calves are starting too look a tiny bit like the infamous, defined Bay Area calves (what up!).

I keep reminding myself to breathe. Where am I now?  This is the here. Ohio is the now.  Yes, there is plenty to do out there in the West, but there is also so much to do here.

Like figure out who the hell I am.  And maybe shed this people pleasing thing I have going on.  And stand up for who I am.  And who I am is an amazingly strong, brave, passionate individual who happens to be a woman.  Where other people turn around and find a hiding place, I run right in because I don't realize how scary the obstacle is.  Some days I call that naivety/stupidity/stubbornness, but mostly it's brave.  I often tell myself the worst things and I really don't deserve that--no one does.

I guess where I'm going with this is that the journey is not done now or here.  The journey is still working it's way through and I have 6 weeks here in Ohio.  No more, no less.  6 weeks of precious time that will be full of interactions, bike rides, perseverance, laughs, hugs, tears (oh so many tears...), and change.  I'll be a better Kaitlin because of these next 6 weeks and all it takes is breathing the humid Ohio air in and being here. Here in the now.

Yesterday, I biked to Three Creeks Park and plopped my sweat-slicked body on a bench in the greenery.  The birds were chirping.  The breeze was rolling through the trees and the leaves rustled continuously--the beautiful song of time.  Right now, I'm sitting by a bay window and the sun's rays are warming my toes.  Outside I see five shades of brilliant green that lighten my soul.

Ohio. Columbus. here. now. me.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sirens.

It's a holiday and all I can think about are all the mishaps that will occur with flammable things and/or alcohol related incidents that will land quite a few people in the hospital tonight. While everyone woke up today with big or little plans of how they would spend this day celebrating, some of those people will not wake up for another tomorrow.  Or they will wake up with lots of stitches or a broken leg or burns. The list of scenarios in my head goes on and on.

And this is how four weeks of hospital work has impacted my thoughts.

But maybe I was always like this- thinking about this odd circle of life and death. Ever since I was little, I would pray whenever an ambulance or fire truck go by.  I would pray for the family whose life had been turned upside down in that crucial moment. That pain, the shock, the unknown. Fear. This is life but we don't have to openly face it every day so we hide from it.

 I'm glad that my job is to be present in that terrifying place of fear because its much too difficult to be in that place alone. Is it hard? Yes. Does it feel weird? Yes. Is it fulfilling and life giving? Oh yes yes yes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Held Together by the Beat.

I never know what to say when someone tells me that they are nervous about going or knowing that I am going to a certain part of town.

I was wary of entering Oakland for the first time, since I'd heard so many stories on the news about Oakland's protests and violence.  I hear my initial thoughts echoed in friends who ask me about the places I travel around while living in the Bay Area.

I don't know how much to express to people that Oakland is so beautiful and rich with culture; that the food in Oakland is experimental and awesome.  I want to say that the pain of poverty and the violence of hate means that Oakland is a complex place to be in community, and that there is so much need to love the people and places in Oakland.

I've heard the same stories of fear in entering certain parts of Columbus.  The neighborhoods between Bexley and Downtown are full of unkempt yards, graffiti, roads that have not been maintained, and plenty of foot traffic.  This is where I bike and this is where I bus.  People have asked me what precautions I take as a woman going through this area alone.

I walked alone on Livingston Ave. today.  I was walking past a bus stop and a man asked me to take out my earbuds so he could talk to me.  He didn't even ask for my name before offering me 2 dollars for busfare so I wouldn't have to walk.  I was absolutely floored by his offer.

Just two weeks ago, I was biking through Bexley and a group of high schoolers were walking on the sidewalk as I past them.  One of the girls sneered at me and said, "I hope you can afford a car!"

Does it matter if the lawns and houses look immaculate and well-kept if there is no love or compassion for the other? Does it matter if I have little money but choose to give it to others to make their day easier?

All I do know is that the man who offered me money said a blessing to me as I walked away from him and that I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face for 20 minutes.  Compassion has a way of spreading through everything.

I know hear myself raising up fears and doubts when entering a hospital room or the trauma center to support a patient, their family, or staff.  I feel as if my body is tensed up with nervousness and I fear that I might not say helpful words or have a fruitful conversation with someone.  That hospital room is my Oakland or Livingston Ave.  Inside there are people who are have joy and pain; doubts and fears of their own.

I am not afraid of walking down Livingston Ave; I just do it and know that I can handle situations as they arise.  I am afraid of knocking on that hospital room door.  But I know that entering that room will happen and I will just do it.  I thank God for words of compassion and support for people that are in need.  I can and will handle situations as they arise.  The anxiety is still there and it goes in with me.  My heart emanates off of me; the beat of love is the part of me that enters first and meets the people where they are. Sometimes my head and mouth might think or say some things, but my heart is there always, caring immensely.  That's what matters and what I need to remind myself of every time.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Take-Aways.

So.
I'm now three weeks out of my first year of seminary.  My head and heart are still trying to mull over all that has been shoved into my thoughts and feelings from books, lectures, conversations, and jokes about theology.  I was swimming in the world of theology; I woke up to a pile of books to read and write about on my desk, took classes with a small community of people, talked about homework or theology or community life with the same people, and adventured around with again the same people.  Being in such a specific community was helpful in getting to understand what it means to be a spiritual leader and see the variety of perspectives and experiences that every leader brings to this table that is humanity.  I am beyond glad to have the community of PLTS with peers, professors, and pastors as classmates, friends, supervisors, teachers and spiritual mentors.

But this swimming in theological perspectives sometimes felt like drowning.  There is an immense amount of history, ritual, and perspectives that are out there to discover about theology and the meaning of life.  It's been difficult for me to sit with this perception that I hold in myself that I have to meet the criteria of ELCA Lutheran.  It can be easy to lose one's calling amidst this tradition and how it has been done in one's own experience growing up Lutheran and how church has been done for Lutherans/Christians in the past.  This tradition is rich but where is the balance between the church life and the world out there?  The people that I encounter out in the world would think that I was talking gibberish if I got into theological concepts.  Where is the healthy balance of understanding complex doctrine and being able to put it in the context of the modern world?  This is tough stuff to tackle, especially when the experiences with the real world seemed to lessen as I settled into the seminarian life.  We do examine this balance in courses that I've taken, but I find myself coming up empty with concrete answers to how to handle it in my own faith life and on a personal level with other people.

This is my job. Straddle the line between clergy and lay.  "Hold the tensions" (ha such a seminary phrase...) between Christian, Lutheran, Jewish, atheist, and so on.  At least I want that to be my job.  I came to seminary with a clear vision of how to do that and with clear foundations of my faith life.  I still hold those AND what I've learned in the courses that were Lutheran-focused.  Sometimes these two viewpoints clash.  Is that alright? Yes.  Does that cause me anxiety? Yes.  Will it definitely be ok out in the real world to have tension? Yes.  How honest can I be about that tension with the rest of the world? Er...not sure.  But here I am blogging about it so I'm making the choice to share it out in the open, with my few readers.

The simple thing to do is to swallow everything I am taught as if it is digestible and helpful.  And believe me, I am being taught some wonderful things that have been life-enriching.  These are the things that I hold onto with my heart and will share with you all.  I've also been stretched to see how much work there is still to do and how....

The world sucks more than I thought.

Ah yes, the eternal optimist bubble was bound to get popped this year.  And believe me, I know that there is so much more pain for me to witness in this world and I am ready to abide with that pain because it still stir passions and motivation in me that will aide me in being a leader of growth and change.

Oppression is here. It is prevalent and sometimes it is glaringly obvious; sometimes it is as subtle as a slight eyebrow raise.  Oppression came crashing down on me this year; not that it hadn't been there all along.   More so, I suddenly realized the breadth of how deep oppression of any kind lies in our culture and language.  And how important my role is in oppression--everything I say forms my framework for how I think about the other.  I'll go into this concept further in regards to gender--look out for a blog post called "The Almighty She" soon.

Transparency.

The first kind of transparency is like a mirror.
You can only go as deep with other people as deep as you are with yourself.  As a leader, transparency beings with one's own self-reflection and ability to deal with their tough traumas, fears, and doubts.  How could I support someone spiritually about an issue that I myself have run from?  It just is not possible.  This is very difficult, because it feels like I'm in constant need of ripping off the bandaids of false comfort.  I try to remind myself that this whole self-reflection thing is life-long and that I don't need to figure everything out today.  Small self-understandings and one new thought that challenges me is rewardable.

The second kind of transparency is with other people.  It is vital to be clear about your aims, boundaries, and vision with people.  Conflict is conflict; conflict is life.  It can be good or bad conflict; maintaining or moving into healthy relationships with other people is about being intentionally transparent about your needs and vision while holding respect for the other person.  Conflict goes a lot smoother on the surface with clear communication than it does murking around in passive-aggressive land.

Congruency.

There is a difference between acting through or saying something that I have been taught is a good answer to difficult questions like, "If my child dies before it is baptized, does my child go to hell?" and actually wrestling with the question myself, knowing what I have been taught is part of Lutheran/Christian doctrine, and understanding the belief that resonates with me.  So I wrestle. and wrestle.

It is so important to me to attempt congruency across my thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs.  What does it mean to say that I accept and love all people yet I harbor anger or resentment toward others?  What does it mean for a church to say "All are Welcome" on their church sign yet not talk or get to know new comers?  What does it mean for me to think that unfair work wages is unjust yet buy the cheapest produce that no doubt was picked by someone who was underpaid?

Incongruency runs deep in my life and in the culture that we are a part of.  We separate so much of our lives from the natural order of things; I've never killed an animal to eat it and do not intend to. Yet I love hotdogs with such a passion.  I do not want to shut other people out or condemn other people in my belief system and I intend to hold that ground.  But as I go deeper into theological education, it gets harder to explain concepts even outloud to myself, let alone other people.  I want to speak, act, and believe in the truth that I feel called to proclaim.  I want to make sure what my actions are in line with where my values lie.


There you have it; my take-aways.  They may not be pretty or clearly cut, but they are here, holding a place in my soul for questions, reflection, and abiding.  People said this year would tear me apart--indeed. But it's not done yet; I have the rest of my life to simultaneously tear apart and build back up this experience that is life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Enjoy the Ride.

I learned how to bike in a basement.  Living in Kansas City in the Eastside, which was and is one of the poorest areas that is notorious for crime, it was not a good idea for the 5 year old me to bike around the neighborhood.  I fondly look back on the circular pathway that was made for me in the basement; I pushed those pedals around that circle countless times.

When I was in elementary school in Fort Collins, I cherished the bike rides I would take.  It was such a rush to be independently whizzing down a street and discovering the neighborhood around me.  I never went too far, mainly because biking on big roads seemed a bit too terrifying (uhhh still does).  I vividly remember that I decided to walk to a friend's house instead of bike and I felt so frustrated about how sloooow walking was.  I thought to myself, "Why walk when you can bike? The wind in your face as you speed to your destination is so worth it." (Even back then, I was sentimental...or as poetic an 11 year-old can be)  I walked a block and then turned around so that I could get on my bike because walking was just not good enough.

Somewhere in the middle of junior high, I forgot about biking.  My bike got a flat tire and I never bothered to pump it back up--it has been gathering dust ever since.  I think I've taken out a bike for a short spin three or four times since junior high.  I've used stationary bikes a lot at the gym and thought that was comparable to real bike riding, only because I forgot what it felt like.

The rushing wind.  The quick turns.  Completely eating it when you slide unto a wet patch of leaves (that's probably fueled the lack of bike riding...).  Hearing the birds chirp.  The low hum the brake makes when you pull it.  The switch of the gears.  Standing up to pedal to get really fast.  Using your arms to signal turns.  Feeling the sunshine warm my skin while the air breezing by cools it simultaneously.  I can't help but giggle when I bike that first block away from the house I'm staying at.

These small things enrich my experience of this summer in Bexley.  I am lucky to be here, with people supporting me in every way that you can imagine.  I have a place to stay (Thanks Langknechts!), a bike to ride on (Thanks Marcia!), and deep levels of love and care being poured into me (If I mention all of you, this post would be entirely too long).

As I petal through the streets of Bexley, I remind myself to relish in this journey.  I'm really skilled at worrying and creating anxiety within myself that makes obstacles seem too big to handle.  CPE seems like this scary blob right now, but I can already feel the energy of massive change moving through me.  Soak it up and enjoy it.  This road is meant to be travelled and I'll be heading down it no matter what I do.  Might as well grab the helmet, roll up my pant leg, petal hard, and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Clinging.

A year ago, I was absolutely terrified to leave Columbus, OH.  I recall a dream I had last June in which I was in a room with many people; there was a small girl that resembled me as an 8 year old.  She was sitting on the ground with her knees gathered up so that her chin was resting on them.  She asked to stay in Columbus.  Columbus was familiar and full of people that know and love me;  it makes sense that leaving across the country away from my undergrad home would be difficult.  Pieces of my heart clung to Ohio last year and were not prepared to leave.  I kept telling myself, "You have to leave in order to come back. You can come back but for now you will experience something new."

This week, I make the trek back to the Midwest; I will once again live in Bexley, OH.  My heart longs to stay here in Berkeley.  I want to continue making (and drinking) macchiatos and grabbing fresh vegetables from Monterey Market.  I want to see the water of the Bay sparkle as the sun sets in the horizon.  I want to walk through the streets of Berkeley that are adorned with greenery and flowers; I want to be able to stop for a second to sniff the sweet aromas held in between colorful petals.  I want to stay out too late dancing with my friends here.  I want to cling on to the daily routines I have here in the Bay.  I don't want to put my life here on pause; but it's happening and the change is soon.

Does this mean that I love Columbus any less? Absolutely not.  I know that my experience will be wonderful and I cannot wait to be surrounded by the loving support that I have in family and friends in Ohio.  This summer will wrench itself into my heart; not only will I be tested in ways I've never imagined in working and learning at Nationwide Children's Hospital, but I will be able to spend time with amazing people who are important to me.  It will be a great breather outside of seminary community while being a clinical pastoral challenge.  I cling to this future because I feel called to aide people in their time of trauma; I hope it is as fulfilling as I have imagined and felt in the past.

I am going to have indescribable experiences and part of that is why I am holding on to my Berkeley life that I have established here.  Luckily, my narrative in Columbus will live on and Berkeley will hold a place for me to come home to.

Here's to the knowns and the unknowns, on both of which I cling.  Here's to the beauty and familiarity of both Columbus and Berkeley.  I am grateful that these places both feel like home now; my heart continues to splinter as it holds memories of Fort Collins, Columbus, London, D.C., and now the Bay Area.  What is next for this ever expanding heart?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stay Weird.


Thanks to a fellow seminarian, I have a KEEP CHURCH WEIRD sticker that I placed on my laptop cover.

While working on an essay at a local coffee shop, someone walked up to me and asked about that sticker.  He had seen it before on a car and wanted to get one for himself.  I couldn't help him in that respect but in our two minutes of interaction, we connected in our love of weird and love of church.

This man was wearing a Berkeley Farm Collective tank top and looking very much like the stereotypical hippie.  In this Berkeley community, I often feel a great disconnect between what I believe or do and what the people that live in my neighborhood or the people that frequent the coffee shop I work at.  This city of Berkeley holds so much love and community but not often in the context of church or religion.  We have fresh markets, quirky little cafes, neighborhood gardens, co-ops, and plenty of bike culture.

In the scheme of US culture, Berkeley is weird.  The Bay Area is weird; it's the place where composting is city-wide affair (it still surprises me that I could put a steak in our compost bin and it would travel along with the banana peels to be turned into fertilizer).  But the Bay Area is infamous more for it's political dialogues than religious or spiritual practices.

And here I am, embracing the weirdness of Berkeley yet putting the people of Berkeley in a box.  Because I assumed that the man coming up to talk to me was not interested in my KEEP CHURCH WEIRD sticker but my SAVE THE POUDRE sticker (that's a long explanation but it's a Fort Collins environmental thing).  But weird means no boundaries; weird means out of the norm.  Berkeley has constantly gone against the cultural norms politically and will continue to defy norms when it comes to spirituality and religion.

As this man grabbed his coffee and headed out the door, he called to me, saying, "Stay weird!"  He has no idea how wonderful it was to hear those words.

I am here in Berkeley to be weird; I am here in seminary to be weird.  I will not fit into boundaries and I will open closed doors.  I will call for change where I see pain and suffering and I will be that weird one refusing to be quiet.  Thanks, man in the coffee shop, for reminding me that there is no boundaries for who the people of Berkeley are and supporting me in my journey of weirdness.

And now back to essay writing...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sigh of Relief.

Today is the sigh of relief.
Not because there are more answers or less questions.
Not because there are less thoughts percolating in my head.
Not because there is less pain in the world that needs to be addressed.

I am relieved because today I let go of the labels that I feel I have to take on.
I have been holding a label in my hands that is too heavy for me to carry.
The label of spiritual leader, pastor, chaplain, deacon, etc. is huge.
It's big because other people place their own ideals on it,
and I also hold the memories of leaders I know that make this label bigger than what I will ever be.

I will not be a leader that is like any of the 50 pastors that I know because I will be me.
My calling is personal and walks with me everywhere I go.
It's hard to connect who I am and who I am in comparison to the multitude of pastors that I know.
It's hard to connect who I am and what the label of pastor is.

So why do it? Why pain myself into doubting what I can do or if I should be here?
Why should I be able to be comfortable taking on a label?
Why should we be comfortable to place labels on everything, including God?

I am me, I am Kaitlin.  I am called by God and Jesus walks with me.
I would be doing the work of God anyway, no matter where I was or what I was doing.  I am here, in Berkeley, continuing to learn what it means to be a church leader in the ELCA.  That does not define me; my relationship with God defines every fiber of my being.
I am a leader and I have a strong relationship with God but those are not mutually exclusive.

I am me and that is all the label that I will ever need to do the work that I am here to do.  Does my future include a label of pastor/chaplain/ordained minister? Yes, as it happens.  For me, the label worth emphasizing is my humanity and the love that the Divine One has given to all humanity.
 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Candles and Prayers.

"Let my prayer rise up as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you." -Psalm 141:2

The sun rises and each day; people around this world encounter death and birth every day.  Yesterday, in particular, the minds of people here in the US were focused on the bombings in Boston.  There was the same stirring of anxiety within our hearts as the Sandy Hook elementary shooting and the Batman movie shooting in Aurora.  We pour over the headlines and Facebook statuses, hoping for assurances of safety for all of our loved ones.  But for some, that day is a crack that will be permanent on their family's structure.  These tragedies in our own individual lives are not reserved for massacres and acts of violence, but our own deaths that we grasp in our hearts and the deaths of the people we know and adore.  Every day, there are many life stories that have ended here on Earth; maybe it's the celebration of life of someone who lived for 93 years, or it's the silence found in the sadness of losing a 9 year old child.  Every day these senseless acts change the reality of people; these stories are the ones that affect us all many times throughout our lives.

When is the grief done?  It isn't done now; the tears are still being held behind our eyes.  When will the groans of pain cease? I don't know, but I do know that I want to be a part of the love that hugs the pain.

My adopted grandmother asked me last week, "Why am I breathing here still when I am old and wrinkled and that young child died? What am I doing here still while that kid is gone?"

I told her that she is here to support and help.

Last night, a group of us in our apartment complex met in a living room for a prayer vigil, around a table adorned by candles and Salvadorian crosses.  Together, we held the pain, the prayers, the love, and the scars.

All around us, every day, people are left with only themselves and other creatures around them (I say creatures because animals are such a great comfort during times of trial).  Together we face events that are so strange because they are inherently inhumane or senseless.  We join the the endless song and prayer that says that we are deeper than the pain and grief.  There is love, there is kindness, there are helpers everywhere.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I think I might have inhaled you.

"I think I might have inhaled you,
 I can feel you behind my eyes,
 You’ve gotten into my bloodstream,
 I can feel you flowing in me."--Bloodstream, Stateless

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3b1CDLsiGU

This is one of my favorite songs to dance to that I've encountered in my past two months of blues dancing regularly.  The first night I danced to it, I went home and danced by myself with this song on repeat the rest of the night.  It touches the deep recesses of my soul, just as blues dancing has these past months.

The first time I encountered blues dancing, I absolutely hated it.  It made me nervous, being so close to someone.  Following a lead dancer seemed difficult because I was too anxious to stop and listen to the beat the lead dancer was trying to show me.  It's hard work to stop our bodies and minds to tune ourselves to the heartbeat of another person.

How often does that happen in our regular lives?  We run about our days so quickly that our interactions are prepared sentences or our own shit circulating outside of our heads with others doing the same thing towards us.  We walk around with our own worlds constructed around us and these worlds collide together in community, for better or worse.

Dancing teaches you to drop your self conceptions and listen.  If I don't attune myself to the beat of the person leading me in a dance, I end up looking like an ass.  And dancing doesn't just call me to listen; it calls me to boldly step along with another person.  Sometimes that means being unsure that the move I am about to make is the one my partner intended and messing up.  Within that mistake lies me, covered in the fear and shame of being unsure and having to admit that.

We hold these masks over our faces that let other people know that we know exactly what we are doing and that we are doing just fine always.  This assumption that we make up for ourselves is so far from the truth and it not only damages others into thinking that they are alone in their insecurities, but it tears apart any hope we have of development.  How can you change if you teach yourself to believe that you are fine and have things in control?  Because you do not hold the control.  You never will.  And that is a gift.  Revel in the fear of being wrong or not knowing what comes next and laugh at it.  Be content with the mystery because there is nothing else to do.

Dancing has taught me to face the mystery and see the gracefulness of what happens when you tear away the insecurity and just be.  Be the body that moves to a beat that matches the music and a dance partner.  Be the lead dancer and move to the rhythm as it unites with your soul and the wooden floorboards.  Dance by yourself and see how graceful it is to move to the feeling before thinking about it; letting your soul soar through your body's movements.  Be the embodiment of the music-you hold the musicality of every song with your fingers, toes, shoulders, and hips.

I think I might have inhaled the divine.  I can feeling it in my bloodstream; I can hear it in the pumping of the bass line and the pauses in the music notes.  I feel the divine flowing in me.