Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from Matt and Jessica!

We hosted everybody at our house last night! We were elbow-to-elbow with eleven adult guests, but it was a big success!
We hope you all are having/had a very happy holiday. Many blessings for peace and joy today and always.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Consolidating my blogs

Just a note--if you haven't already noticed that my posts on this blog are now both theological and practical/update-style--I've decided to only post on this blog, as opposed to keeping my theological thoughts and observations on American religion and culture (my academic focus) separate from pics of Matt and I and random other stuff about our life together.

I'm not deleting the blog from cyberspace, though, so if you want to read "back issues," so to speak, check it out here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Take my world apart

I was really excited the other day to find Matt's CD of Jars of Clay's self-titled album. I got the cassette tape of that album for Christmas in 1996 or so, but as with so many other tapes I've enjoyed for a decade or more, it broke a while back. So, it has been great to listen to that this past week, enjoying the combination of good music and good theology that is hard to find in Christian music.

My favorite song on that album is one that I probably didn't appreciate at first, but over time came to find absolutely spiritually gut-wrenching. The song, "Worlds Apart", uses that phrase first in the sense of what a great chasm there is between what we are and the way we should be. "All I am for all You are, what I need and what I believe are worlds apart." That chasm has brought me to tears numerous times in the last few years, as the coldhearted, hateful, prideful, and selfish person I often am falls so short of what I would ideally be.

Toward the end of the song, the words "worlds apart" shift, becoming part of a prayer for God's help in bringing us closer to that ideal self. Our pride and selfishness often comes with the routine and comfort we surround ourselves in, while it is often in the loss of what we know and love that we grow closer to God and more pure of heart:
Steal my heart and take the pain, wash my feet and cleanse my pride, take the selfish, take the weak, and all the things I cannot hide. Take my beauty, take my tears, send them so far, make it clear. Take my world all apart, take it now, take it now, and serve the ones that I despise, speak the words I can't deny, watch the world I used to love fall to dust and fall away...

That must be the most frightening prayer we can pray. We all want to be better people, but to submit ourselves to the crises and life changes that might help us in that process--holy crap. That's the gut-wrenching part. I pray those words as I sing it, but with fearful reservations--am I really praying a willingness to lose my home or my belongings, my loved ones or my health?

John Wesley prayed this, in what seems to be a less gut-wrenching way, but maybe it's just the 18th century decorum that seems to tame it.

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

The message is the same--a radical invitation to God to come into your life and do whatever it takes for you to serve God and the world in the most Christlike way possible. "Whatever" is a very scary word.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

Well, I thought I invented a game. I was about to write a post about the new, fun, dorky game Matt and I have been playing, but I thought I'd google the concept first, just to check, and sure enough, there is such a thing as "six degrees of wikipedia." Also known as "wikiracing," the concept involves finding the shortest path between two articles on Wikipedia.com, the open-source online encyclopedia.

Within the last couple of months, I've started browsing around Wikipedia, just for fun. It's pretty much the equivalent of what my dad and I used to do growing up, picking a World Book volume off the shelf at random and skimming through articles, learning random tidbits, for no good reason. Now, in the Internet Age, that activity is even easier, unhindered by that pesky task of lifting an 18-ounce leatherbound book.

So, anyway, as I told Matt about how fascinating it was just to start at some random article, like June Carter Cash, and end up at Terre Haute, Indiana, just by following the internal links in the articles. Then, I dared him to name any two things, and I could click from one to the other in less than six links. Honestly, I haven't yet found a pair that can't be connected by six degrees or less. So, this is our new favorite game. The trick is figuring out what obscure thing the two might have in common. For example, between chipoltle and platinum--the link is the search for gold in Mexico. Between a certain sexual organ and the light bulb--erotic electrostimulation (I don't exactly know what that is, but from the photo accompanying the article--eek!)

Matt just gave me turquoise and classical guitar. I did it in four steps:
Turquoise--United States--Music of the United States--Guitar--Classical guitar.

Now you try it: pantyhose and guava.
Can you do it in less than six links?

The "True Meaning" of Christmas

One of my biggest pet peeves in December (besides the fact that "Happy Holidays" is no longer just a way to add some variety to your greetings, but is apparently a huge political statement) is the way people toss around the phrase "the true meaning of Christmas."

People usually use the phrase when talking about something--anything--that is less selfish and commercial than expensive presents, elaborate decorations, or the insane stress people feel to create the "perfect" old-fashioned family Christmas. You hear it a lot on the radio, during sentimental little reflections in between "Frosty the Snowman" and "O Holy Night":

"Family... that's the true meaning of Christmas"
"Love... that's the true meaning of Christmas"
"Giving... that's the true meaning of Christmas"

Fighting the urge to say, "No! The TRUE meaning of Christmas is________," and perhaps miss the mark as much as these radio DJs do, I do feel obligated to point out (just in case we forgot) that Christmas is, at its core, a religious celebration--one of the high holy days of the Christian year. It is the day (well, 12 days actually--December 25 to January 5) when Christians celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Whatever theological nuances one wants to argue about concerning the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, and/or the significance of Christ's life and death, the one simple point we can't get around is that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birthday.

I've often thought that when I have children, we will have a family tradition of making a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day, singing "Happy Birthday," and blowing out the candles (assuming a divine ruach does not come blowing through our kitchen to do it itself). My hope is that such a tradition will help my kids really grasp the concept, and get excited about celebrating Jesus' birth, not just about getting presents for themselves.

Family, love, and giving are wonderful things, of course, and not entirely unrelated to Christ's birth, in terms of it being God's gift to humanity, the embodiment of love, or remembering the story of the Holy Family, but I wouldn't consider them the "true meaning" of Christmas by any means. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy giving and receiving gifts, spending time with family, and all the other fun, festive stuff that goes on at Christmastime, and sometimes I struggle to reconcile our cultural celebrations of the holiday with its religious meaning. I don't want to give up the cookies and the tree and all that, but neither do I want to let the holiday pass without real contemplation and worship of the one we are celebrating this time of year.

I've wondered if Christ would consider us to be "abusing" Christmas, using his birthday as an excuse for our own self-indulgence. But then, I realize it's kind of fitting, for a guy who put everyone else ahead of himself. He was holy, but made himself a servant, washing the feet of his own disciples. He was innocent, but willingly died a criminal's death.

It's Jesus' birthday, but we get all the presents. Isn't that just like Jesus?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fun with Typos

a) "Thank you for the office Christmas gifts. I got to play Satan Claus, delivering them to each recipient."

b) "The crows were amazed at all Jesus said."

Yes, I do have a little evil in me, and I do believe that all creation (including annoying birds) praises God, but I am glad I caught those before a) pressing "send" on that e-mail to an author, and b) sending the manuscript to copyediting.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Book of the Week: The Switching Hour, by Evon Flesberg

The title of this post is not to imply that I will be highlighting a book every week, but I do want to start showcasing certain books through my blog, and this is what everyone in the office is excited about this week (since it arrived from the printer the other day), so here we go.

Evon Flesberg, the author of this book, was a professor of mine at Vanderbilt Divinity (my one requisite pastoral care class). She wrote The Switching Hour out of a deeply felt mission to help children affected by divorce. I was not the editor of this book, but I have read the manuscript, and it is truly incredible, sharing the pain children go through living in the liminal state between two parents, two houses... two lives, essentially.
The Switching Hour helps parents, pastors, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. understand what children with divorced parents are going through as they transition between these two parts of their lives, over and over again. It also offers advice for things parents and others can do to ease the strain such a lifestyle puts on kids.
It's been getting a lot of attention already, partially because virtually everyone in America these days is touched by divorce in some way. (Matt and I are both fortunate to have parents that are still married, but we both have cousins who are children of divorce.) Family court judges and lawyers have talked about getting it for their colleagues and clients. Just seeing the cover or hearing about the book seems to spark conversations; the stories start flowing as people share what they (or their kids, or their nieces and nephews) experienced as a "Switching Hour child." One woman shared how she still can't bear to look toward the back of a Wal-Mart parking lot on Friday or Sunday nights; she hates to see the mini-vans idling there, waiting for the other parent to arrive to make the switch.
The book will be released on January 1, and I highly recommend it to any parent, pastor, or family friend who cares for divorced persons and their children. If I can snag a copy for Matt, he hopes to read it and will probably give a review (from a pastoral perspective) on his blog, matthewlkelley.blogspot.com.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Having just learned that at least one person checks this blog regularly, I am going to try to post more frequently. (Yes, I made that resolution a couple months ago and haven't acted on it, but I'll do it for Rachael!)

Matt and I spent our second married Thanksgiving (but our first in the states, since we were on our honeymoon last Thanksgiving!) at my parents' house in Louisville. My mom's brother and his family also joined us, and we really enjoyed the "big family" feel of the holiday, with twelve adults and four children around the table.

At left, the oldest and youngest guests: 93-year-old Grandpa, who is feeling so poorly he almost didn't come to dinner, but we're so glad he did, and 9-month old Olivia, his great-granddaughter.

It was great to see my cousins Jenny and Becky, whom I hardly ever see, and the rest of the family, of course, too. We loved hanging out with all the kids, but it was nice that we weren't the ones who had to leap into action if one started screaming or we smelled something icky. Our time will come, and while some days I get really eager for that day, it will still probably be a couple years off.

Here are some of the cutest pics from the holiday, including poor Sophie in a doggie diaper (she's getting old)--doesn't she look ashamed? Also, we love Linnea's response to the instruction,"Give Sissy a kiss"--sticking her booty in Olivia's face. Priceless.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where did the end of summer go?

Not that I'm complaining. August featured 100-degree temps and next to no rain at all, plus I LOVE fall, so I'm very excited that the air is a little crisper and I can actually pull out the fall decorations this Sunday. Still, where did August go? I (Jessica) was just writing on my other blog what a pathetic blogger I am because I hadn't posted on it since March, and I used this blog as my excuse, and then realized I hadn't posted on it since the end of July!

The only thing I really recall from August was my business trip up to Granger Community Church, near South Bend, Indiana. Wow--what a cutting-edge congregation! They have got their finger on the pulse of pop culture and their young adult target demographic. I also recall a knot in my stomach during August because of general work stress hanging like a dark cloud over the office. (Good thing Granger's current sermon series, which I've been watching online, is on "The Office"--what did I tell you?!) I might have gone to the gym two or three times, too, but other than those things, August was a blur.

September has been cool so far, though. Rob and Courtney's wedding kicked it off right, then Tracy came to visit for a weekend and I helped her catch up a little on her scrapbooking (senior year at Furman??? I don't feel so delinquent on the blogging now :0) Last Thursday and Friday was MinistryCOM, a great church communications conference at which I was able to connect with a lot of awesome authors and potential authors from the most innovative and tech-savvy churches out there. Excellent. This past Saturday was Wine on the River, put on by the same people that sponsor the Music City Brewer's Festival, which we'd gone to the past two years (our tastes are growing more sophisticated, perhaps?) It was a lovely (if a little crowded) wine tasting event held on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. Here's a pic:

We're also approaching our first anniversary, and in honor of that fact, I'll include a couple wedding shots that we just recently got ahold of.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

House Pictures, Part 1

So I finally got the house fixed up enough to take pictures of the main rooms, at least! First, our kitchen--note the beautiful peach roses on the counter, which Matt brought me for no reason!

Then, the kitchen opens into the den. The side with the fireplace is along the back of the house.

Along the front of the house is the combo dining/living room. Most of this furniture belongs to the house (which explains why there are two china cabinets--we already had the corner cabinet).

And, finally, the master bedroom. So, that leaves the guest room and our offices that are still filled with unpacked boxes and other random things.

In other news...the wild turkeys had babies! That was a fun surprise, to see the little turklings (like goslings, maybe? I don't know the real name for baby turkeys) wandering through the yard.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just Beachy!

Matt got to lead a workshop (AKA a "Splatshop") at the quadrennial United Methodist youth event, Youth2007 (the theme of which this year was "SPLAT!: Seek, Pray, Learn, Act, Teach"). The event was held in Greensboro, NC, so we decided that if he/we were going to drive that far, might as well go on to the beach and make it our summer vacation!

So, we left Nashville on Thursday 7/12, and drove to Asheville, NC, where we spent the night in the mountains and enjoyed a nice Mediterranean tapas dinner. (We'd planned to eat at the Biltmore Winery, but found that it closes at 5pm! How crazy!) Friday morning, we drove a few hours further, to Greensboro, where I did a little shmoozing with UM youth pastors, trying to promote a particular Abingdon book we're wanting to push. (Might as well plug it here, too--see http://www.cokesbury.com/forms/bookstore.aspx?pid=446592 for the "Unofficial United Methodist Handbook," a humorous but insightful dummies-guide to the UMC!) Matt led the two sessions of his seminar, "Evangelism for the Rest of Us," in which he encouraged the youth (and their chaperones, who weren't all thrilled with this anti-prostletization look at sharing the gospel) to evangelize by sharing their own stories of faith, telling people how God has actually impacted their lives, rather than "four easy steps to escape hell and damnation." The sessions went really well; the youth loved having a good portion of the workshop time to just talk in small groups about their views and experiences, prompted by a list of 15-20 questions Matt posed to them about God, Jesus, hell, the Bible, etc. Kids are so much more insightful than we give them credit for, and it's amazing how deeply theological they can be when given the opportunity.

After dinner with a friend of mine from Furman, who now lives in Greensboro (though he's moving to Israel soon--awesome!) Matt and I drove on to Wilmington, NC, where we enjoyed three days at Wrightsville Beach! It rained a bit Saturday and early Sunday, but by Sunday afternoon, we were frying in the sun, so much that Monday morning, we went to the NC Aquarium to avoid the midday sun before enjoying some late-afternoon beach time.

It's good to be back home now, since we've only had about 6 days by ourselves in our new house since we moved in three weeks ago! It's time to get those books on shelves and pictures hung, etc., and THEN I will finally take some pics of the new house to post here! Ciao!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Turkeys, Bunnies, and Deer, oh my!

Though we are theoretically in a suburban neighborhood, we have a good bit of wildlife here, which is a delight to Charlotte, as you can imagine. In the cat's-eye-view picture below, you see three wild turkeys just wandering through the yard, which is an almost-daily occurance. We also see deer and brown rabbits every couple days--which I get very excited about every time, despite the fact that I'm terrified I will hit or run over them!

Also, here's a few photos from moving day, including Jessica's "so-sad-to-leave-our-first-home-together" face, our crystal seat-belted into the car, and Charlotte enjoying her new digs!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Matt's First Infant Baptism

I (Matt) got to perform my first infant baptism this past Sunday. I had previously gotten to participate in the baptisms of teenagers and some very young children, but this was the first baby. Her name is Madison and she's one of the cutest and sweetest babies I've ever met. (This does not, however, alter our intentions of waiting a few years to have one of our own. Sorry, Mom.) Here are some photos, courtesy of Jessica:

Performing the liturgy (Madison was asleep but woke up right after this was taken):

Yes, we sprinkle (Methodists can also pour and dunk):

Showing Madison her new church family:

As we sung the last hymn, Madison helped her Mom and Dad hold the hymnal. She's already getting it!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Kelley Clarksvillians (not to be confused with Kelly Clarkson)

Sorry we don't have pics of the new house up yet--we don't have Internet there yet, but that is coming tomorrow, so we'll post some soon! We moved into the parsonage on June 30, using professional movers (I vowed after moving Matt into our duplex that I would never U-haul it again!) and a bunch of people from the church helped out, getting the house clean and ready for us, then helping carry boxes and furniture in once the moving van arrived! They brought tons of food, too, so we're still feeding on Subway sandwiches and Capri-Sun over a week later, now!

The next day we received a "pounding"--a church tradition in which parishioners stock the new pastor's pantry (traditionally, with pounds of staples like flour and sugar). We did receive some staples (including 14 pounds of sugar!) but also a bunch of canned goods, pasta, cake mixes, some fresh fruit, and even a Starbucks gift card! The folks at Bethlehem are so thoughtful--someone who knew we had a cat even threw in some kitty treats!

The house is great, with brand new carpet and paint, and enough bedrooms for us to have a master bedroom, guest room, and his and hers offices! (My--Jessica's--office also has a spare bed, so we have plenty of space for visitors!) I can't wait to post pictures, and even better, to have people over for a cookout or cocktail party! Matt and I drove in to Nashville together last Thursday and Friday (after I took Monday through Wednesday off to unpack and celebrate my 26th b-day on the 4th!), so today was my first day of solo commuting. The traffic wasn't bad at all until I got inside the outer beltway, when it came to a standstill! (I am still looking into carpooling, to reduce my smog contribution.) It took me right at one hour to get to work (42 miles, door-to-door), but 25 minutes of that was within the city limits! Hopefully, if I get out the door by 7am, I can avoid the tardy-worker rush that I hit today!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our First Sunday at Bethlehem

Well, Matt's survived his first week as a Senior Pastor! VBS was last week, so he drove up to Clarksville every morning (we aren't moving til this coming Saturday) to participate in that and to get to know the children as well as the youth and adults helping to make "Lift Off--Soaring to New Heights with God" (the Cokesbury VBS this year) a big success. All this commuting was complicated by the fact that by the end of the week, we were down a car in the Kelley household: someone ran a red light and slammed into our car Wednesday night! I saw that this big red SUV wasn't stopping and alerted Matt, who floored it and swerved enough that she hit the rear door of Matt's Saturn ION, rather than the driver's door. The impact crushed the door and spun us up onto the sidewalk, where our passenger-side rear tire burst and the hubcap dug into the dirt like a meteor, spewing dirt over 15 feet! It was pretty scary, but we are fine, and the car isn't quite totalled, so we'll get it fixed within a few weeks, I guess.

Yesterday, we drove up to Clarksville (delayed a bit because Matt couldn't get his sermon to print--and he ended up just making some notes by hand and preaching from them) and enjoyed Bethlehem's weekly pre-Sunday School breakfast. I attended the younger of Bethlehem's two adult Sunday School classes while Matt both tended the one baby in the nursery and went over his sermon notes. Worship went well, though Matt accidentally skipped the prayer time and had to backtrack! People were amused and all was fine. Matt preached on Isaiah 43--"Behold, I am doing a new thing." The people at Bethlehem had told us they were ready and willing to grow, and even have some extra land that was given to the church, on which they might end up building a new facility! I think exciting things are in the future for this historic and wonderful congregation!

We have a lot of new names to learn and family trees to remember, but this looks to be an exciting new era in Matt's ministry career and in our life as a couple. Though I'm still wary about having to commute an hour each way to work, I'm definitely excited about moving into the parsonage and getting all set up there. We'll post pictures once we get settled!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The End of an Era

Jessica and I said goodbye to the folks at Crievewood this past Sunday. It was bittersweet because while we are excited about going to Bethlehem Church, we will miss everyone at Crievewood. Still, a pastor doesn't always have the luxury of going out while (almost) everyone still likes them, so we greatly value the time we have had there and the opportunity to go out on top.

Our last Sunday was especially meaningful because it was also confirmation Sunday. Jessica got to be Allie Cate's mentor, and she and Allie found the experience to be very meaningful. Allie couldn't have picked a better mentor and role model!

Here are a few pics:
Allie and Jessica
Serving Communion
During the farewell liturgy

At the reception
We have two Sundays in between churches, so we're taking the opportunity to attend services together as ordinary people, rather than as pastor and spouse. Our first Sunday at Bethlehem is June 24! Pictures and stories will follow.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A New Chapter

Matt and I met the first night of orientation at Vanderbilt Divinity School, in August 2003. We were engaged by the time I graduated in December 2005, and married by the time Matt graduated, just two days ago, on May 11, 2007. So, we are now embarking on a new, Vandy-free chapter in our relationship, experiencing life as two out-of-school, full-time-working people for the first time.

My position as Associate Editor at Abingdon Press was made final 10 or so days ago, finally, and I am really enjoying my new job. My role is to be focused "with laser-eye-vision," as our Director said, on church leadership authors, and I'm working on several books now with pastors from Ginghamsburg UMC (the one I visited several weeks ago in Ohio), and a couple other titles as well. I've had a three-day weekend because of Matt's graduation, and I'm actually looking forward to going back to work tomorrow!

Matt's last Sunday at Crievewood is June 3, the same day we'll confirm three young ladies whom we've been guiding in confirmation class the last few weeks. We move to Clarksville in just over a month, where Matt will start his first full-time, solo pastorate with Bethlehem UMC, and I'll have to commute an hour each way. Changes are a'comin', but in the meantime, here are some pics of the graduation, good-riddance-to-Vandy event:


And here we are, standing on the spot where we first met, in the Refectory of the Div School.

Farewell, VDS!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Call me Kramer

The business manager of the unit I'm (tentatively) working for was joking with me that if they don't give me an official job offer soon, he's going to start calling me "Kramer."

Apparently, there was an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer wandered into an office building, found an empty cubicle, and sat down. Pretty soon, people started giving him work to do! Several weeks later, the boss called him in and said "These are the worst reports anyone has ever written! I'm going to have to let you go." Kramer said "But I don't actually even work here," and the boss said, "Yeah, that's what makes this so difficult..."

When the permanent Unit Assistant was hired, they pretty much did just tell me to "hang out" til they figured all this out, and they gave me work to do. After a couple days, I asked if I could have an office to work in, rather than sitting in a conference room. Then I was sent on that business trip last week. Then, I got a computer and a phone... and yet I still don't even officially have the job! (I love the work, though, so I'm not really complaining--just musing at the irony!)Hopefully the editorial work I'm doing while I'm not technically employed as an editor is not "the worst ever," and hopefully they won't let me go, but this situation really is starting to look oddly Seinfeld-esque.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Relocation, and Lessons from Grandpa

First things first--Matt found out his appointment for next year!

We're going to be at Bethlehem UMC in Clarksville (about 45 mi. NW of Nashville). It's a small congregation, founded in 1836, way off the beaten path, with a charming building that's on the National Register of Historic Places. It will mean a long commute for me, since we'll be living in the parsonage there in Clarksville. (The parsonage, luckily, is fairly near the beaten path, on the other hand.) Matt was scared how I would react, since I was so opposed to the idea of a parsonage and really hoped we'd buy our own home, but I actually handled it quite well. ("I'm maxed out" in the stressor department, I told him.) It's a 4 bedroom, 2 full bath ranch with a fireplace and two-car garage. There's even a kitty-door from the garage for Miss Charlotte! It's pretty nice, and we can't really afford a house right now anyway--so, why not have free rent and utilities for a couple years? This could be really good for us!

Take a look at the church and house:

So, that's all very exciting, though it means quite a big life change for us. It's good to have one part of our limbo-situation resolved, though my side of things is still up in the air. I am still serving on a "temporary" basis in our academic/ministry leadership books unit, though they hired a new unit assistant (the position I was theoretically filling in for) two weeks ago. I have been doing some editorial work these past couple weeks, and this past week even went on a business trip with two colleagues, up to one of our most important churches. I got to meet and discuss book ideas with some of our major ministry-resource authors, and I loved every second of it! It made me ever more determined to get this job and to become a great editor. The details as to why my position is not already permanent and official are long-winded and strangled in HR red tape, but I have been given every reason to be hopeful it will all work out.

In the meantime, I am remembering a lesson learned from one of my maternal grandfather's many stories that he tells over and over again. Life seems to have stopped for this 93-year old back in 1952, as most of his oft-repeated stories are from his time in the Navy, in the mid-'30s, and his early days with General Electric in the '40s. Apparently, after a year or more on the factory line at GE, he wanted to move up to a higher-ranking position. His boss was skeptical, since he was younger than most of the other men in that position, so Grandpa offered to do the harder work for the same pay he'd been receiving on the line. The boss accepted this idea, and after a few weeks or months, he was granted the better position and its according pay on a permanent basis. As I return to work on Monday with a longer to-do list due to this past week's trip, I will try to remember Grandpa's work ethic and confidence that his abilities would win him the job.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The knot in my stomach is making itself at home

It's been about two weeks since my last post, and yet there is STILL NO RESOLUTION!!!

My old job ended last Friday, March 30, and with a heavy heart, I packed up my office and was ready to load it all into the trunk of my car until a new job was found. I still had hope of hearing good news with regard to the "dream job" I'd interviewed for in-house earlier that week. Mid-morning that day, my HR advocate called me into her office, but since she had informed me of that other job I'd been offered by phone, I figured a face-to-face discussion could not be good news. Sure enough, it wasn't, but it wasn't exactly bad news either. The men who'd interviewed me for the job I really wanted said they couldn't make a decision in such a short amount of time, especially since they had only of yet interviewed me. So, they suggested an alternative that would buy them (and me) more time. Their Unit Assistant (read: secretary) had just left, and they hoped that I could fill in at that post for a few weeks until a permanent replacement was found, and/or until they decided they wanted me for the other job. So, while I was not thrilled about this arrangement (it's low-ranking, obviously, and only pays BY THE HOUR!) it still seemed like the smart thing to do. While this gig will pay less than my severance package would have (assuming I was only unemployed for two weeks), my hope is that I can prove myself to the higher-ups in this unit, and that they can get to know me better, such that they will want to keep me!

So, I'm on my third day in this post, and it's a totally different world up here on the 5th floor! I feel very disconnected from my old colleagues, as if I'd left the company entirely, but I enjoy the collegial, academic environment up here, and the natural light is a godsend! I also had a follow-up interview this morning at another company, and think it went really well. I just might accept it if it were offered (though not before checking with my current boss-men about my potential for getting said dream-job!)

Anxiety is high in the Kelley household, as both Matt and I wait to find out where we will each be working next year. The tax-man was not good to us this year, and we need to control our spending on incidentals. Will we be able to afford a downpayment on a house? Will the knot in my stomach turn into an ulcer? Will I be able to buy new khakis before Ann Taylor Loft sells out of "real-person" sizes?

...Find out next time on Lifestyles of the Poor and Infamous!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

UMC: Understanding Mass Craziness

As you may or may not know, Matt (and I) have been experiencing a trying time, not just with my job and his appointment being up in the air, but with an upsetting setback in Matt's ordination process. Matt and his parents, of course, have been United Methodists for a couple decades now, and are fairly well-versed in all the different boards and committees and agencies and all the terminology that accompanies this crazy microcosm called the United Methodist Church. Having been raised in the Disciples of Christ tradition--one of the "Christ-only" denominations that came out of the Second Great Awakening, notoriously anti-credal and anti-hierarchical--I've found all this bureaucracy hard to adjust to, and it often frustrates me, to put it mildly.

As we have been entrenched in commissioning, probationary, appointment stuff in recent months, I have gained a better understanding of UM polity, and have delivered my brief tutorial to my parents numerous times as they struggle to understand what's going on in Matt's career and our life right now. My cousin e-mailed me this morning, asking how life is going, and what's new with our up-in-the-air career situation. My situation was fairly simple to explain--current job ends March 30, still job hunting, turned one job down and am interviewing for my dream job on Monday--but explaining Matt's situation took a bit more effort. How do you explain the ordination and appointment processes to someone totally outside the United Methodist system? Many UM laity don't even understand how all this works, and it sounds utterly ridiculous to someone totally outside the system. Can we say red-tape, anyone?

My lengthy explanation (with minor edits) went as follows. Consider this a tutorial for any of you readers who are unfamiliar with exactly why we have been so upset the past week. The sheer length of this discourse, and the number of times I had to use quotations for all the terminology bears witness to the confusing nature of UM polity:
"The United Methodist Church is pretty bureaucratic, so there's all these steps before ordination. Matt is currently a "licensed local pastor," and now that he's graduating, it was time for him to begin his three years of full-time "probationary" ministry before he could be fully ordained. He has spent the last year doing all the stuff necessary to go before the "Board of Ordained Ministry" so they can "commission" him into his "probationary" status. Matt spent countless hours doing the essays and paperwork, and it cost us about $500 in various fees (like getting a physical, getting a psych evaluation, hundreds of photocopies, etc.) and they told him a week ago today they'd decided not to commission him, which was devastating to us. There was very little explanation why, and it's not even that a majority of the board didn't approve him, but there are 4 committees, and you have to get approved by 3 of them, and so a majority of the people on two of the committees voted him down. We knew a lot of people were getting rejected, and that it was a possibility Matt would, but we really didn't think it would happen to him because he is highly regarded in the Tennessee conference as an up-and-coming innovator, doing outside-the-box ministry and all that. But, boards typically don't like outside-the-box, I guess, and anyway, that's been a major blow to us this past week. Lots of people have been calling us with condolences, and a lot of people are outraged. Besides a blow to his pride, we then began to wonder what we should do--stick around and try again next year, or move to a more forward-thinking conference, or pursue ministries outside the UMC. In the UMC, the church (not the Board of Ordained Ministry, but the bishop's cabinet) tells you what church you're appointed to, so we worried that even though he's still got his "licensed local pastor" status, he wouldn't get as good an appointment because of this. All this happens in the spring, and then pastors change churches (not every year, but if they do) in June. So, we've been anticipating hearing where he's appointed sometime between now and the end of April...."

And so on. I fully admit that this may not seem crazy to someone raised in an episcopal system, but to a born-and-bred congregationalist like me, it seems like layers of human controls buffering between the work of God and those carrying out that work in the congregations. That aside, I love the high-church liturgy that often accompanies episcopal traditions like the UMC and the Episcopal Church USA, and am considering all this education in church polity to be a useful addition to my studies of the American religious landscape.

To end on a high note, let me add that we've gotten a closer-to-definite sense of where Matt will be working next year, and it seems we'll be staying in the Nashville area and buying a house, which makes us very happy :0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Quarter-Life Crises and New-Life Celebrations

Sometime in the two weeks since I wrote that last post, about staying hopeful and peaceful despite the job issue and other instabilities that plague young adults facing their quarter-life crisis (it's a legitimate term--I did a paper on it in pastoral care), the stress hit. I didn't really notice until Monday night's meltdown how much the stress of these issues is affecting me/us.

We are nearing resolution, however, in that Matt finds out tomorrow if he is officially commissioned, and every day we are one day closer to knowing where he/we will be next year! As to my job, there are only 2 weeks and 2 days until my job ends, so I'm praying something good comes my way soon. I did get one job offer yesterday, but I don't think I want to accept it, and unfortunately I don't get two weeks to see how desperate I really am--I have to tell them by Friday! A few positions I am more interested in are still in the early stages (i.e. still accepting applications and not doing interviews yet) and hopefully they'll move to the interviewing stage soon.

I hope by the next time I post to have some good news for you, but in the meantime, I'll share the beautiful blessing of new life that emerged about a week ago: John Stephen Patterson, "Jack," was born March 6 to my long-time family friend Lindsay. We are so excited for the Pattersons, and wish all the best for this new family.

Isn't he a cutie?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Embracing our young adulthood...

While babies are still a few years off, Matt and I are embracing the stereotypical lifestyle of young adults. Hanging out in bars and drinking too much? Yeah, occasionally. Living paycheck to paycheck? Yeah, some of that too, but what I'm really talking about here is transience and instability.

I read somewhere that young adults today have an average of 8 different jobs between the ages of 21 and 30. Gone are the days of working your way up in one company and retiring from the same place you began as mail clerk. I'm already up to 4 at age 25, though short-lived school-year and summer jobs are to be expected while one is in school. Matt is on 4 too, I think, if you don't count freelance writing (which is an unstable job by nature, of course, but a highly respectable one). I'm all about embracing the character of one's generation (Matt and I are right on the cusp between X and Y--I'd say we fit more with Y) but being a person who's not a big fan of change, this instability is getting me down, and is affecting Matt too, though he's more of a roll-with-the-punches person than I.

As I said several posts ago, the funding for my job will expire on March 30, which means that if I do not secure another job soon, I'll be packing up my office four weeks from today. I've had a couple interviews, and they've gone reasonably well, though I'm not sure I would want some of them, even if they were offered to me. So I'm stuck between the fear of being unemployed (especially for these couple months before Matt will have a full-time salary) and the fear of accepting something I would not really enjoy doing.

There's also the issue of Matt's appointment, which compounds the instability of our little family, as we don't know where he'll be working, or where we'll be buying a house (assuming I have a job, so that we can afford a mortgage!) Matt doesn't even officially know if he'll be "commissioned," as they call it in the UMC, meaning that he will no longer be a licenced local/student pastor, but rather a probationary elder, a status he would maintain for three years until he can be fully ordained in 2010. There is no reason to think he would not be commissioned, but as it's not certain for two more weeks, he's still nervous about it.

With all these things--his job, my job, our potential home-buying--up in the air at the moment, it's easy to feel anxious about our future. I'm thankful it hasn't affected our relationship, as I hear money issues and stressors like unemployment are big causes of marital discord, and if I don't find a job, I could see lots of "how dare you buy the name-brand orange juice?! We can't afford that!" (that would be me to Matt, I'm sure). We are actively trying to stay positive, comfort each other in our anxieties, and have faith and hope that everything will work out. I truly believe that God takes bad circumstances and makes good things come from them. I believe that praying and keeping my focus on God will help things turn out for the best (even if that's only because I'll be more hopeful and positive). True, these assertions open a whole can of theodicy questions, but I do not claim to understand how God "works," just that God is.

I've never been good at staying calm and fighting the anxieties that plague me, but we're trying hard, and I have faith it will all be okay. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Yay Colts!

Rev. and Mrs. Kelley host their first social engagement...

An awesome Super Bowl Party complete with beer, brats, beer brats, and chili! Here's a few of the pics!

Scoring points with the hubby by going all out for his team!

Fire-gazing is a prehistoric male practice.

The partygoers enjoy the game (and the commercials...but not the halftime show)

The post-game Family Guy was good, though.

See you at the next event! (Derby Day, maybe???)



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