Women’s Retreat with Divine Redeemer

What a great weekend! 27 of us women from the church headed down to Port Aransas for the yearly beach retreat. And I was the youngest. Classic. But really it was awesome! These women are hilarious and it was so fun to spend the weekend with them hanging out, eating great food, watching funny movies and having really honest discussion. And even though it was cloudy and windy the whole time, I still enjoyed walking on the beach, even in the light rain, and taking in the foggy morning.

But what I’m most thankful for is that I can be in a room of 27 women, a good portion of them in their 60′s, and I can be completely honest about what I’m going through and they accept me. I feel so very lucky to be among such genuine and supportive women who affirm me and care for me. Thank you all for this great weekend and allowing us to be apart of this beautiful community!

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A Little Update

Hello again! So it’s been awhile. I apologize for that. But things here have been going well!

I mean, sure I would say I’ve got a lot going on personally and community life can be real hard and sometimes the job is frustrating and kids put a giant hole in the wall on accident, but all in all, life here is really good. I am consistently thankful for this opportunity to be in such an incredible city with all these wonderful people. Plus, the weather for now is clutch, it will be  in the 80′s all week and I’ve already got an impressive chaco tan. Win.

So here’s what we’ve got coming up: First of all, Fiesta. For those of you who don’t know, Fiesta is like a 2 week party in San Antonio that happens every year. Really all I know is that everyone says it is crazy fun and my marching band will be playing in two of the parades! Luckily, my mom and dad will actually be here the weekend we play those parades, very exciting! But what’s even more exciting to me is that April 27th, while my parents are still here, I will be preaching at Divine Redeemer! Rob will be out of town, so that means I will be orchestrating the whole service, speaking the prayers of the people, choosing the hymns we will sing and then leading them, giving a children’s moment, the benediction and doing most of these things in two services, in two languages, 9:00 Spanish and 11:00 Bi-lingual service. Huge. As if preaching in two languages isn’t enough! But really, I am so thrilled for this opportunity to get in the pulpit again. My sermon mostly ready and I have begun the slow process of translating it into Spanish. I did the math, and in my almost 10 years of learning Spanish, this is definitely the most difficult thing I have done. Being nervous is an understatement, but I also am so looking forward to it. It has been nice getting to lead a little more at church recently. Today I led the music for the Spanish service and it was so refreshing to plug in my guitar and lead again. That Isabella (my guitar) is the best. I even learned a new song for today that has quickly become my new favorite Spanish hymn. That melody is so catchy and fun. (Check it out below!)

But really, I want to say that this year I have learned more about myself and calling than ever before. I am so thankful for being here with this community that is so loving and encouraging and I also thank all who have been conversation partners by phone or email, whether that’s just been recently or over the past few months. And I pray we continue in conversation as this journey continues and beyond, encouraging one another in learning what it means to represent Christ in all.

A Night at Rob’s Cabin!

What a good weekend! Friday, we headed out for community time at Pastor Rob’s cabin. And I know he said there’s no running water there and maybe there are mice, but it was still a shock to roll up to a CABIN. Like walls are actually more like a screened in porch and there is an outhouse kind of cabin. And it was awesome! It’s about an hour out from the city and is located on the Guadalupe River. We spent the day crawling around in the river, lounging around and reading (great time to finish Divergent hello) and then eating dinner outside and sharing smores. Plus, you can’t beat waking up to the sun and a view like this! Even if I did see two mice chasing each other through the room bright and early in the morning… Here are some pictures from our cabin time in a series I like to call “Adventures in Texas!” (Check back next week as we hit up the beach for the DR Women’s Retreat starting Friday!)

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Mid-Winters with House of Teens!

This weekend definitely goes in the books as one of the best yet! Seven students from House of Teens, James and I went to the Mid-Winters conference at Mo-Ranch, a Presbyterian camp in Hunt, TX. Being there and getting to be weird and use accents and dance crazy with these awesome students was just all too good. I also had my first experience driving a church bus (the first of many to come I’m sure) and it went remarkably well! All in all, it was a great weekend full of laughs and photo shoots.

Here are a few of our best:

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When we first arrived.

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Because sometimes we take selfies….

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The dreaded cat walk…a required part to getting anywhere. Terrifying. A bonding experience for sure.

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Too good.

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At the half way of the cat walk. Such a great group!

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Oscar carrying Kassandra up to the lookout. Sweetest.

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The hiking selfie. feat. Karla – the selfie queen.

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The whole gang at the top!

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But this takes the cake for best pic of the weekend.

Thanks again for everyone who came (you all are seriously the best) and everyone who made it possible for our group to be there!

8 things that have made this the best YAV site of all time

Here we are again at the airport, headed home for a whole two weeks this time! So as I sit here and wait on my delayed flight, let’s take some time to review what life has been like in the great SATX thus far.

1. Since coming to San Antonio have since learned the meaning of a good tortilla. I’m talking flour tortillas so soft and fluffy and filled with wonderful things like eggs and papas or chorizo and egg, and have I mentioned I like breakfast tacos? I’m obsessed. I’m seriously. Anyone who actually makes it over here for a visit, breakfast tacos on me. It will change you.

2. A given, but I have since come to speak a little more Spanish that I ever have before. Now I’m definitely far from being fluent, it’s still terrifying to speak, but the understanding part is really cool. And if I’m leaving a place where I’ve just had a lot of Spanish running through my head, aka dance class or the Spanish service at church, my first instinct is to speak Spanish. This week I was walking away from dance class calling my mom and as the phone was ringing I was planning out what to say in Spanish…to my mom. I then realized she speaks English, but decided to leave her a message in Spanish on the church phone anyway. De nada.

3. I am also constantly reminded that the name Meredith is not meant for Spanish translation. It just doesn’t work. I’ve been working with this one lady every week since I’ve been here and just last week she asked me what my name was again…as in she never learned it. It’s fine. But there have been some amusing efforts like Mary, Mary Beth, or my favorite, Marlin. Seriously. Oh well. They know this face. That’s enough.

4. My first week here I was coaxed into joining the Alamo City Community Marching Band, which is actually the best. I get to play old marches and songs about Texas and on the snare drum, that’s pretty fun stuff to play. So now I’m in my 9th year of marching band (that’s terrifying) but good news is I’m one step closer to my dream to play the quads (these if you are unfamiliar). They lent me some to practice with, but these are about a million years old and are crazy heavy. My goal: have them ready to go by Fiesta (aka the San Antonio party in the streets for a week in April). Fingers crossed.

5. As I have previously mentioned, I have also joined a dance crew, though when I say that I really mean I go to aerobics/zumba class three times a week in the morning and try real hard to move my hips and feet like these ladies. They’re really good. But maybe my favorite part of it has been getting to know the music and dances of the neighborhood. I mean you listen to El Coco No three times a week and it really grows on you.

6. I’ve also had the privilege of joining the Divine Redeemer choir and have loved every second of it. I may have mentioned my obsession with the piano player at our church and he is also the choir director and always picks the coolest songs for us to sing. I’ve also come to learn that singing alto might be one of my favorite things ever. It might be my calling. I love reading the harmonies that have been written and I also really appreciate singing in my range. Though our choir is only six people strong, they sing beautifully and I am lucky to be apart of it. They even have nicknames for everyone, quickly dubbing me as the “Youngin”.

7. Could I really go a post about my life here without mentioning the stray dogs? Certainly not. It’s been a journey, highs and lows, definitely the lowest of lows was when that stray dog and I collided while I was biking my first weekend here. Welcome to the Westside. But the nice thing is you really do get used to them. I hardly notice the pack of five dogs hanging out by the HEB or the pack of random chihuahuas that have come to hang out on the street of of the church. The good thing is if you’re walking, they’ll leave you alone. Even met some nice strays along the way (yes mom, I pet them) so I’m ok with it.

8. One final thing. Maybe the best part of it all has been living with these people in that beautiful yellow house. Though it was hard at first to even get us all together, I have found such great friends just within my own house. We adventure together (always on that dang bus), talk in weird voices together (new yorkers, target lady, etc.), do dishes/dance party together (James’ specialty), and give each other a hard time in that siblingly kind of way. I can’t be more thankful for the people I was placed with and the friendships we’ve made. Looking forward to many more adventures to come!ImageP.S. I may or may not have lost to James in what are the odds and I am now expected to dread my hair so…we’ll see if he remembers. #2014 #theyearofthedreads #maybe

La Tamalada/Las Posadas (and that time I debuted with my dance crew)

Yesterday was quite the day. El día de la tamalada (aka when we get to church really early and make tamales for hours) y nuestra celebración de las posadas (aka a Spanish Christmas tradition where you go from house to house singing and acting out Mary and Jospeh’s journey to Bethlehem). 

Our day started at 8:30 at the church where the ladies from my aerobics dance class and us volunteers met to make tamales on tamales for the event later that night. They all pretty much only speak Spanish but their faces were enough to let us know we had much to learn about how to correctly spread the masa on the corn husks. It’s way hard. But we had a whole lot fun laughing at our struggles and applauding when we blanquitos (new word we learned today for white people) successfully made one tamale. James was probably right joking that our turn out rate was about 3 tamales each hour. But three and a half hours later, a whole lot of tamales were ready for cooking.ImageImageImage

At 5:00 we headed back to the church for a marathon of festivities. As soon as I got there, I pulled out my guitar and ran through the song we’d be using for the event. Minutes later we were on our way. If you are unfamiliar with Las Posadas, you can read more about it here but essentially it is an acting out of Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem where you go to people’s houses and sing the posada song back and forth from the people outside and the people inside the house. We went to six different houses around our neighborhood with a crowd of about forty. Then six verses (back and forth each time) of las posadas six times and an hour later, my fingers were pretty done with playing guitar. But right away we were issued into the church with a round of “entren, santos peregrinos” and it was pageant time.

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Our kids all lined up and Adriana, my amazing Spanish teacher, led the program flawlessly. The kids were all so precious. I mean give a tiny shepherd a staff that is taller than me and it’s destined for cuteness. And that star? Too cute. Even the choir kids were dressed in their white button downs with their hair slicked back, oh I remember those days well. But the best part for me was getting to accompany them on piano. I wouldn’t say piano comes as naturally to me so for the past month, and especially this last week, I practiced las Campanas de Belén (aka the Christmas classic Pat-a-pan) and Silent Night an obnoxious number of times. The last thing I wanted to do was to be a distraction for all that chapel filled with parents excited to see their kids sing. And praise praise, I played it just right. Not a one mistake. The kids sang great. All around a win. 

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But then, it was time for a costume change. Time to dance. For those of you who don’t know, for the past two months I’ve been going to the aerobics class that meets by the church as an outreach program to promote healthy living in the neighborhood. Those my first few classes were rough, I mean I’m significantly taller and whiter than the other women, plus choreographed dance is hard for me. I prefer to crazy dance. But the ladies are so gracious to me and since only a handful of the women speak English it’s also good practice for me. A few weeks ago, they convinced me to perform with them for this church event and just like that I was on the dance crew. Ok, they don’t actually call it that, but I mean we have embroidered jackets with our names on them so I feel like that makes you a dance crew. So there I was, in my spandex, glitter shirt, embroidered jacket, and armed with long sashes in each hand (for ribbon dancing of course) and it went great. Mostly I was cracking myself us trying to do these hip moves and looking out at the crowd of my housemates, coworkers, House of Teens kids (even with a sign for me!), Peace Pals kids, and church members, but all in all it was a blast. The last song was the very best though as we invited the crowd to jump up and dance with us and I was immediately surrounded by some Peace Pals kids jumping around and dancing with me. ImageImageImage

But one more thing. As soon as the song ended, I ran to the office, grabbed my guitar, then ran to my backpack and got the music for the big Dwellers performance. Pastor Rob had volunteered us to perform so last Wednesday night after dinner we sat down and wrote the ultimate mashup of perfect songs that encompassed our time here so far, complete with singing different songs at the same time, abrupt changes, harmonies, plus both Spanish and English songs. We were ready to go. Unfortunately though with only one mic to pass around and the poor acoustics of being outside, most of it was lost on our crowd. But still proud of our handy work, we are going to perform it again this week and record it (keep your eyes open for it!). Though the part that went over the best was the very beginning when James just yelled Allá en el Rancho Grande at the top of his lungs. The crowd was hooting and hollering along. It was the best.

Needless to say, at the very end of it all I was dead. I went to the kitchen to grab a few of our precious tamales and those were the very best tamales I’ve had since I’ve been here. I sat there in awe of the opportunity I have to experience all of this and thankful for where I am.

Photo creds: Maggie Wood and Julius Lorenzi. They rock.

Princeton.

ImageHello again. In honor of having some time to kill while I wait for my flight home (YAY), here’s a post I like to call “this is what dreams are made of” -Hil Duff. On Friday, I received the email I’ve been anxiously awaiting since the dream of attending Princeton Theological Seminary was put in my head Spring 2013. The more I talked to people and researched the seminary possibilities, the more convinced I was that Princeton is the place for me. All my personal heros of professors and mentors encouraged me to look into it, knowing it’s quite the place to study youth ministry. Once I read some of Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, I was convinced she was basically the best mind for youth ministry out there todayand she just also happens to teach at Princeton. But at the time, I also knew how I desired so much a place where I could study both for my Masters of Divinity as well as some youth ministry specific studies. I wanted a place where I could study pastoral ministry in the context of the whole church, avoiding the siloing out youth ministry already does, as well as a place where I could learn more about what I’m really most excited about: youth. Not only is Princeton a Presbyterian seminary, convenient since I’m in this whole Presbyterian world right now and kind of diggin it, but also it has a dual degree program perfect for what I want to do. In four years I could pursue both an M. Div and an M.A. (Masters of Arts), focusing on youth and young adult ministries. HELLO.

So way early, I started the application progress, I worked through essays and even had a Skype interview. Then I waited. Waited for the message that would confirm or deny the future that I am so sure I want to pursue. And Friday it came. An email that announced, “You have been accepted into candidacy for the M.Div. and M.A. (Dual Degree Program) program starting in the Fall Term of the 2014-2015 Academic Year.” My reaction: YYYYEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS (JUMPING JUMPNG JUMPING). Too good to be true!

But it got even better. Yesterday I heard again from my friends at the admissions office with a message that again made my heart stop and evoked such a response that I jumped out of my seat. “It is my great pleasure to tell you that you have been selected for a Presbyterian Leadership Award for the academic year 2014-2015. These fellowships are awarded on the basis of outstanding promise for the pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and high level academic achievement. The Presbyterian Leadership Award covers tuition…” Wait. What. I’m sorry, WHAT. Dream come true. Times a million.

In awe of such great news, all I can really say is this. I am extremely honored to be even considered a member of a theological community. It only excites me even more to think about the future I will have as a minister and the learning I will get to do over the next four years to prepare me for that ministry. Thank you to all who have supported me and encouraged me over the many years.  Feels like that 7th grade girl who decided she wanted to be a youth minister is one step closer to being the minister she feels called to be. And I can’t thank God enough for that.