Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And the winner is...

Ok so for my blog from Princeton Seminary, I'm going with "The Master of Divinity". I'm going to change the web address as well to www.brennainprinceton.blogspot.com. You can link to it from here and begin reading my new blog!

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Conundrum

So I have officially moved out of Mississippi and into a lovely dorm room at the lovely Princeton Theological Seminary. The name of my blog is Mississippi Queen. That just won't do. Suggestions for something more permanent?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

And this bird you cannot change

Well this will probably be my last post from Mississippi. This year has come to an end. I've started the very sad goodbye process- first with the kids at the after-school program, then the kids in the youth group, and then with some roommates who won't be here when I leave.

This is tough.

I just reread my first blog which included a first impression of "pros" and "cons" of the area. Not much has changed- it's still wonderfully hot, the locals are still amazing (although still nosy), and I can't get enough jambalaya. Yet all that would be fine to leave behind if I could just take my friends and experiences with me. I'm struggling with the realization that my roommates, my fellow volunteers, the Teels, The Castlemans,Karen and Sean, Martha-Lee, all the kids at Andy's Club, Miss Ashley, all the kids at GLT, Mo, and even the congregation at Handsboro are not coming with me. And while I've done this enough to know that those holes will be filled by equally wonderful people, it still hurts every time.

I strongly believe in a transient ministry as modeled by Christ. However Christ brought his family (the disciples) with him and didn't seem to develop deep relationships with locals of the various areas. He offers no advice on what to do when those you've come to help have helped you and restored you more than you ever imagined possible.

I begin to understand why people spend years of their ministry in solitude on a hill in Europe somewhere.

I have been spending this week with First Church Boonton as they've been doing their mission week at Long Beach. There has been a much needed peace bestowed on this week by their being here, and certainly not because it's been a particularly smooth week for them. It has, however, been a good reminder for me of what I came from and what I'm returning to. I have also been able to see, through their work, the ripple effect our presence has had this year. Without my time here, they wouldn't have been able to help the family they've been working with this week.

I don't know, I wish I had really elegant, profound things to say. My life has been change completely and mostly for the better. I think mostly I've learned over and over that we have no control over anything and the best we can do is just love one another and have faith that somebody up there's looking out for us.

I want to thank everyone that's reading for their support and encouragement this year. It's meant so much to me. Please look for my first blog installment from Princeton coming next week!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Some things I'm thinking about today...

With 11 days left on the Coast, I'm doing really well with the packing stuff. I've sent stuff home with parents and am getting ready to ship some more things today. This may be the first time in my life I'm not throwing things willy nilly into my backseat hours before driving home. I'm very proud of myself.

I'm excited that my trip home is going to be bookended by parties. I'm having a "packing party" here before I leave and I'll be greeted with a party at home when I get back. Very nice.

In two weeks I will be 23 years old. Sometimes this feels very old and sometimes very young.

This past weekend I had one of the top 48 hour periods of my life. Friday included, a Gator/Swamp Tour with Cajun music, a BBQ, Cajun dancing, and a horrible cover band. Saturday, not to be outdone by Friday, included Waffle House, Tattoos, coffee and frisbee, and a carnival with pirates and pig racing.

First Church Boonton will be here in 3 days! I'm very excited to show off my "home" away from home and to see my church family. I'm praying that everything goes smoothly and that it's not too hot here, but that might be asking alot.

Lastly, I'm thinking of something Michael Moore said on The View today. If you are not familiar with Moore, he's the controversial documentary director of Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 911. He's also written alot of books like Stupid White Men and Dude, Where's My Country. I think he's great but I know that's not everyone's opinion. His new movie, Sicko, looks at the health care system in our country as opposed to other nations. The trailer notes that we are ranked #37 in the World, right above Slovania. This is all beside the point though. Mostly I liked that he compared Socialism with Christianity, pointing out that Jesus said we should what we have with those less fortunate, that we should take care of the poor and hungry, giving up our own material possessions. I like this because I myself believe in Socialism because I think it's Christian. This tends to ruffle some feathers in our nation (which, in fact was created on and continues to refer to Christian principles) because "Communism has never succeeded". To that, I say, it has never been accurrately tried, and I would add, Capitalism has never been accurrately tried since there has always been racial/gender issues preventing it's actual practice- the harder you work the more you will gain. How do we place a value on women making sneakers for pennies a day, 15 hours a day vs. the CEO of Nike working in an office and going golfing with business associates? Both work equally hard, yet only one makes the millions of dollars that CEO does.

Anyway, I digress.

Mostly, I like to see a Christian Liberal on television quoting Jesus. It makes me feel less alone in the World. Furthermore, while Moore was talking about healthcare specifically, the principle can be applied anywhere. There's alot of frivolity here next door to a lot of poverty. I think there must be a way to equalize the two. Maybe not to make everyone live in the same exact house, but at least to get everyone to a livable condition.

I know there are some things I could be giving up for the cause, but am afraid to let go of. What are you holding on to?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Turning the Page: Reflections on Montreat

Sometimes there are moments in life that catch you completely off guard. These may be awful- car accidents, illness, breakups- or wonderful- winning the lottery, seeing your favorite movie in a marathon on TBS, or falling in love. Last week definitely fell into the latter category.

Two weeks ago, I was ready to go home. Why don’t I go home and give myself a break, I thought. Things are pretty much wrapped up. I resolved to stay mostly because of a promise I had made to chaperone a youth conference in Montreat. Granted, I was greatly looking forward to it but not for any of the right reasons. I thought it would be a great networking opportunity, time to relax in the mountains of North Carolina, and maybe a chance to pass on my vast experience with life and faith to some young, na├»ve high schoolers.

I guess the week was all these things but it held so much more than I expected as well. For instance, in understanding and reflecting on the theme of the week, “Turning the Page”, I was able to come to some closure about leaving the Coast. My story here is done and I need to leave to make room for others to finish the stories I’ve started here.

I also was able to see our denomination working and operating in a healthy way. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen power and politics corrupt the Presbytery of Mississippi, Handsboro Presbyterian Church and the Gulf Coast Mission/Young Adult Volunteer program. Because it seems like no one is listening to residents on the Coast as they cry out to our government, those frustrations have been turned inward. Until I got away, I don’t think I was able to accurately see how this chaos has affected me. I have become angry, cynical and judgmental, to the point where I was criticizing the projection people at Montreat for writing breathe not breath in one of the song’s lyrics. Yes, I realized, it’s time to step back and take a breathe.

This is certainly not to say the year has been bad for me. It has been amazing, affirming and life-giving, but the effects of disaster work are real and deep and it is certainly not work that can be sustained forever.

Equally amazing, were the relationships I created with some of the kids in my group. Some of the highlights:
- Dancing our butts off for morning warm-ups
- Good, long, intense talks
- Climbing a mountain
- Pirate Tattoos (shout out to Blue Beard, Scurv, and Gimpy)
- Shaving Cream Wars
- Rock Hopping
- Chicken Pot Pie and a Coke
- The Mellon, The Limo, The Microwave, The Toaster, The 1491, The Pineapple, The Tuxedo, The Podiatrist (please ask for demonstrations the next time you see me)
- “Red Banding” while cracking up at the same time
- Car games
- Egyptian Rat Screw
- Creepy, Awkward, Collar Pull
- Bears in elevators

I don’t know if those kids will read this, but if they do- Thanks Guys. I had a blast and my tummy still hurts from laughing. Hopefully I gave you even half of what you gave me.

So, yes, life is full of surprises. I feel much better equipped to handle my leaving now and way more affirmed in my desires for/gifts in youth ministry. Thanks too, to First Church Boonton for making it happen.

I'll leave you know with a game Linda and I came up with after leaving a baby shower for our friend, Sarah this Sunday. The game is called, "If I was 9 months pregnant in the Mississippi summer heat, what would I be doing?" Our answers so far include: sitting in a kiddie pool filled with ice in my underwear, movie hopping at the theater for the free air conditioning in my underwear, and laying on my bed in my underwear having my husband fan me with large palm branches. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Trinity of Blogs: All separate, yet all the same

So I have three things to blog about and I'll just go in the order they happened. But please read to the end.

1. Reflections on children after the Andy's Club field trip to the Exploreum Science Museum in Mobile, AL.

Things I like about children:

How they smell like sunscreen upon arriving for a field trip
When they grab your hand unexpectedly
When they ask the tour guide smart questions that stump her
Seeing their faces when they're learning something
How they bring their friends to the program
Watching them make connections and "put the pieces together"
When they get excited about something new, like an IMAX movie
How they can be unexpectedly kind to one another
When they say thank you
When we sing and dance together in the car

Things I do not like about children:

Asking repeatedly for the same thing I have already said no to
Mystery rashes
When they shoplift
When they push each other
When they change their order at the last minute and refuse to drink what you got them
When they are mean to each other

For now, the good still outweighs the bad.

2. Who sings that song? I think it's the Bee Gees. No, it's AirSupply. (actually it's Chicago)

Erin and I took a road trip this weekend to her sister Carrie's house in Westminster, South Carolina. There was pool time, boating, laking, hiking, and eating. I also met Erin's nieces and nephews and had some great talks about things like pirates. This was a much needed break from work and time to relax.

On the way home we took our time hitting Atlanta and Montgomery on the way. In Atlanta, we saw the Margaret Mitchell Museum (she wrote Gone with the Wind). There was a lot about the book and a lot of movie memorabilia, including the original Tara doorway. For me, it was like a pilgrimage to Mecca. Probably not so much for Erin so I was glad she humored me and came. Everything was closed but we did get to see the outside of the Civil Rights Monument (recommended to anyone in the area), the State House, the first white house of the Confederacy, and the church where Dr. King preached and planned the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Then as we were leaving Montgomery, I learned about this...

3. Seriously?

My Dad had a major heart attack on Sunday night. He is fine and is home already, but it was really scary. He was in a lot of pain for a while and had to have a blockage cleared in his heart. The worst part is that we don't really know what caused it since he has fine blood pressure and cholesterol and hadn't really been stressed out that day.

I'm bouncing between being relieved that things weren't worse, wondering why all this stuff with my Dad is happening at the same time, and just wanting to go home. The wanting to go home is probably winning over at this point.

Coming up this week:

Another Andy's Club Field Trip (Will I or won't I have transportation? Oh the suspense)

I leave for Montreat, a national youth conference. I'm pumped and fully anticipate it being the time of my life.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tell me something good

After the last, sort of downer blog, here's some good news:


The Bay St. Louis bridge, destroyed during the storm, is re-opening today. I'm on my way to the festivities.

The bridge connects Bay St. Louis with Pass Christian along highway 90, which runs along the beach. It's a big deal for two distinct reasons. Firstly and practically, it will cut alot of time off that trip. Secondly and sentimentally, it is a much needed sign of progress and rebuilding.