I am not going to rehash my story about finding Wilshire, because I have written about it extensively in other blog posts. But, I still sit in wonder about how I am now in seminary because of Wilshire. This was not my goal at all when I arrived just over a year ago. When George Mason asked me if I was called, my second month at Wilshire, I did not know what being called meant. Now I am in seminary – Perkins School of Theology- asking everyone about their call story. It blows my mind. The call is real. And the threads of our stories amaze me how they brought us together through space, time, and the world to the same place-at this moment in time. I do not want to underplay how significant the moment is we are living in right now.
I remember when George sat me down and told me he could tell I had been listening over the last two years. He then asked me what I wanted to do with that. The question stunned me, because I wasn’t planning to do anything with it. I mean, I came to Wilshire-that is what I was doing with it. He took me to meet Geri Mckenzie, past residents were in her office for the reunion, and I was greeted with such hospitality. Books were given to me. They all told me they were glad I was there. I walked out of that meeting asking myself: What is happening?!
Those two years I was down and out, I listened to Nichole Nordemon music and Jonathan Martin preaching nonstop. They were life to me. These song lyrics by Nichole when I was so incredibly sad (the song is Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus-she added a few lyrics):
So look up, look up
This is a song about the morning
After a long night
You will walk on waves again
When you have set your gaze on Him
I wanted to believe these lyrics so badly. I have written them out of order- separate lines, but they ran through my head all the time when I needed to believe I was going to feel better one day.
After I walked out of Geri’s office, I started wondering if this was my morning. Am I now walking on waves-but for the first time? The journey from there never slowed down. If you know George Mason, he doesn’t just give lip service – he means it-and it is going to happen.
So, now I am in seminary. The first week was action-packed-from a really fun orientation to a jam-packed Monday that flowed right into Tuesday. I am also helping create the Baptist House of Studies with Jaime Clark-Soles and George Mason. I am now comfortable enough to call them my trio. How I am getting to work with a trio like this is beyond me. Literally beyond me. These are legit people of faith who move, and things change for the better because they do.
By Wednesday, I was melting down though. I was tired. I have been taking in so much information. I was worried about keeping up. I am still worried about it, but I am just going to trust the process as Chad Mustain keeps telling me to do. I had so many people checking in on me the first day. I can’t believe the love I am receiving these days. Also, on Wednesday, my friend (and Guardian Angel) Nancy took me to lunch and then school clothes shopping. She told me the most fun she had was with her aunt before school when they went school clothes shopping. It was a relief to be with her that day. I needed rest, and a change of scenery. I was feeling extremely unsettled b/c I could not see the family much being gone all night, and too exhausted to talk when I got home the next day at a decent time. I also almost dropped the ball on Blake’s band meeting and soccer team. Thankfully, we got those worked out.
Thursday I felt better in class. I love everything I am learning. I am just concerned about assignments. The questions are weird. They expect us to know a lot of terms right away. When I get in a groove of what it is like; I will feel better. Thankfully, I am surrounded by amazing people. Friday we had a Spiritual Formation retreat from 2-9 PM. It was an out-of-this-world experience. I was beat though. This past week has been a shock to my system. All I can do is the best I can. But I live all in. I don’t know any other way. I have to pace myself. I am a 4 on the enneagram (professional reflector), and time away to reflect is an absolute must-or a meltdown is coming. I don’t feel so badly about this when my first reading for class talked about Jesus needing to retreat. I felt solidarity with Jesus at that moment. This is why I love the Bible. Every time I am out of sorts, a story comes to me and calms me down. This isn’t new.
I have had some wild dreams. I will write one of them. This Sunday (today if read this today) I read the opening statement for the 11 AM service. Well, I dreamed earlier in the week that I forgot about it. I remembered last minute, and then couldn’t find the office. I heard the organ playing, then I passed out because I knew I missed it. I know this is dramatic, but I am hoping this dream means I am overreacting to a challenge not as big as I am making it out to be.
Here are some FB posts I wrote this week regarding seminary:
I cannot express in enough detail the depth of my gratitude for the outpouring of support I have received this morning.
I woke up to text messages from every single member of my book club wish me love today. I also received a message from Jonathan Martin today- the day before I start seminary. It is so wild b/c he made me realize how much I love the Word, and his words always reach me at the exact moment I am in!
I have talked to George Mason. Jaime Clark-Soles has been by my side these last two weeks making me feel not only a part of Perkins now, but in the future too.
My family has been reaching out.
I am on the computer my former boss is letting me use. Valerie Palmer Meeks tell Herb thank you again! It is a God-send.
My Twitter friends are wishing me good luck today.
My Bible class has messaged me to wish me well on this new journey.
Several years ago, I thought I was finished with the faith. I thought maybe everything I once knew was wrong. Now I know it isn’t about right and wrong, but about life. The falling of our soccer world-in addition to the political environment- revealed to me a problem with theology. Most people in the soccer world were claiming faith in Jesus, but so much of what we were doing was destroying relationships, not making them stronger. Church was doing the same thing. It is connected.
After we finally let go. I needed Jake Bruehl to do the same. When he and I both finally let some people go at the end of story that just wasn’t anymore-I felt the storm in my life go from a storm to a quiet rain. It was palpable. Jonathan Martin had a tweet for every day of my grief, and weirdly enough- a tweet for every day I started to get back up. He taught me to sail with the story. This is something I told George Mason the first day we talked. I wasn’t holding back. I was living the song- “Let it Go” and had no idea. I should thank Ed Stetzer and the TGC for pointing me towards my prophet Elsa. I needed it to be ridiculous so I would see she was speaking to me. Ha!
Dan Bouchelle, Gordon Dabbs, Nancy Russell Ulrich have stayed by my side, and been a source of encouragement to me throughout this journey. My Church of Christ world is still so important to me. I did not leave them- I am on a new journey, but still taking Church of Christ with me.
I was listening to “Let it Go” this morning. Ha! Shocker. It is my theme song now. This verse stuck out to me today-I hadn’t heard it before:
“I know I left a life behind, but I too relieved to grieve”
Today was good. I’m overwhelmed as expected. My first class, I felt myself (in the beginning) getting really tired thinking there is no way I can do this. I know nothing. But then the story started going and that class is the whole reason I came to seminary. It is Church in Social context. One of our books is by a sociologist which made me think about when I first went to Oklahoma State in 1996. I had a sociologist professor talk about faith. He said this (I remember it clearly bc I agreed):
He wasn’t sure if he believed in God or not, but if God is real then God’s churches don’t make sense. They should be in the public square making the community better – not sectioned off in their buildings.
Then OT was super fun, even though I feel lost. But! Our first story to dissect was Jonah. Jonah was the first book I led discussion on with adults. And Bible class – Perennial- we did good on our discussion based on the discussion in class. That boosted my confidence a bit.
I had 3 classes today, and 2 more tomorrow. I just got home and I’m exhausted.
I also got a chance to promote BHS too. That is effortless for me.
Also, I’m using a folder from my Oklahoma state years. It has a transcript, and notes I took my senior year with Real-Estate terms. Which reminds me of I can make it through that (bc I didn’t love it). I can do this. Real estate actually matters in church in Social context, so those notes still help!
An answer I gave regarding my direction when I complete the MDiv program: I want to leave the door open for Holy Spirit. I’m just now living a life unhindered by my gender in the world of faith. I want it wide open to all possibilities. 😇
Also, I have a meeting at 2 (in a few minutes) when my classes ended at 10:50. I was so sleepy. I had to get in my car and sleep for a bit. I have experienced 5 classes, and now I’m training for my job. This week is a bit daunting, but every class talks about things I love. In my undergrad, there were many classes I could not stay awake in bc it was not interesting. Thankfully, that’s not a problem – I’m just tired bc it’s been a lot to take in – AND LIFE CHANGE. I didn’t feel the need to crash until after class, so that’s good news. 😴 (I didn’t fall asleep in undergrad, but I was miserable staying awake).
I also made it in a thunderstorm this morning on time. I didn’t get off at the Wilshire exit either. I have gone to Wilshire instead of school 3 times! It’s automatic for me.
I’m so so tired. I came home after 10 last night; finished dinner at 11; got up after 6 am and left at 6:30 to make sure I’d make an 8 am class (no breakfast); made it through 2 more classes; trained for my new job for 2 more hours; and now I’m home.
I remembered Blake has a band meeting tonight. I looked at Jake Bruehl-not only am I physically too tired-I physically cannot take anymore stimulation. I am an outgoing introvert, and all of this is wearing on me. Jake, who is working night and day is squeezing in 15 min to make that meeting. I hope it’s enough.
Plus, Blake apparently has been assigned a soccer team, and we didn’t know it. Can’t get the coach to return our emails.
Profile picture giving me trouble for our BHS social media.
I need something to be easy for a second.
Other than that – I do love it. Trying to breathe. Tomorrow is off, so I can finally read. My brain is mush. No way I can read tonight.
I slept so hard last night. I still feel like I could sleep another day, but this quiet moment is heavenly- and I finished my first reading for one class. No matter how tired I am-I feel so much energy reading about Jesus. All of scripture too, but I really love Jesus. 💕
i picked a good reading to start with to give my soul the fire and fuel it needs to keep going. Oh, and I’m reading about Jesus needing to retreat also #solidarity
I know I can do this, but I can’t do it without all of you. This is not my journey alone.
I want to give a special shout out to Teri Colleen. She is a dear friend to me. We have been Twitter friends awhile, and I had the privilege to meet her in person in DC at the Alliance of Baptists conference. She sends me words of encouragement for every feeling I have. I am a 4 on the enneagram- that’s such a gift. She even wrote me a back to school poem.
I pray everyone has a friend like Teri.
Update: 15 min of bad meeting was fine. We knew most of it from Kimbo. And I just heard from the soccer coach. We are getting him there Thursday. And social media image has been reconfigured- I’ll have social media up and running today.
Sometimes just walking away to breathe works.
My guardian angel is the best. She walked me through my life falling apart, and now she’s here for this part. She took me to lunch and told me she loved clothes shopping with her aunt when she went back to school – so she took me shopping too!
I’m going to have to learn to pace myself, breathe, give myself time to learn and grace to fail. I have people all around me through it all. This is what a community of faith looks like.
I LOVE YOU, NANCY!
The difference having a day at home makes. I think going straight from the lake house to starting school full-speed had me off-kilter. Today was so much fun. My NT class info fed (a little) into Christian heritage-giving me further insight and clarity. The professors are fun too.
Also, something I have learned: I love taking notes by hand. I’m not into computer note-taking. In NT, we have to do handwritten notes. He said theology is active learning, and he’s not here to make us typists. If we just type, he’s going to tell a joke-and instead of laugh, we type it. 😂 he’s a riot.
In Christian Heritage, a profound statement was made that sums up what brought me here: Good scholarship and history is about listening to the voices that have gone before us.
That’s what brought me to Wilshire, and now seminary. Those who went before me wrote it down. When I was falling apart, they talked to me. They guided me through it – letting me know this isn’t new. Here’s what they did to make it.
I had to tell the professor after class. I’m not for talking in class yet. He was so kind to receive my joy about this.
Last night I figured out something kind of funny-but actually makes sense. I put together that my pastor George Mason, Jonathan Martin, and Cheryl Bridges Johns (all ministers who have formed me spiritually over the last couple of years, and picked me up off the ground) are all 7s on the enneagram. That is actually important to know, and now I am working closely with one of my favorite people in the world Jaime Clark-Soles who is an 8.
I am a 4 on the enneagram-I once thought I was 7, but my book club showed me the error in my thinking-and they were right. I feel all the feelings, and I have to feel them, or I can’t move. But, the danger is I will stay there too long. It makes sense I would need 7s to help me keep moving. To not go to my unhealthy state of looking back and wondering what people think of me.
Plus, 7s (and now 8) have helped me find my adventurous side; the side that really wants to move and participate. The only thing is- I have to stop and feel things. I am exhausted keeping up with 7s and 8s, and if I don’t get a chance to stop and cry or reflect for a second – I will melt-down. It is fun watching them learn this about me. They haven’t left my side either. They are so full of ideas- they can let me stop and feel, so I can get back in the game- and they will go on to their next big idea until I am ready. I love my crew so much. George Mason – even prepped me for my first melt-down I would have starting school. I feel so known.
I am going to do a separate post about my family. I can see why Tony and Peggy Campolo were so curious about who I married. Ha! Jake Bruehl has been amazing.
Dolly Parton has my favorite quote to describe how I feel about feelings (I felt this when I was really young too): Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.
I could not do what I am doing without the support of my faith community, and I definitely could not do it without my family! Jake Bruehl and my mom Gina Fleming have been a huge help to fill in the blanks of what I used to do. Jake will do emergency meetings at school; Cook on nights not convenient for him b/c I am absolutely done- and he is taking everything on without complaint! He is taking the kids to school on Tues and Thur-which means the kids are getting up way earlier than they had to before, so they can walk from Sachse to Hudson.
We can’t walk this path alone. We are not designed to do that. Surround yourself with people, and also be that person too, to help people live their calling.
Tonight we had a Spiritual Formation retreat from 2-9 PM. It was so good. I’m tired though. I wish I was less tired. I’m about to fix that.
Anyway, I love being at a seminary that is multi-denominational. It’s fascinating hearing how other churches work- our differences only make us better.
I also love hearing people say: There are Baptists like yours out there? Baptists can do that?
Me: I’m just as surprised as you. And, Perkins is helping us uplift this Baptist story.
I had the opportunity to share our pastors podcast with Robert Hunt – a United Methodist Professor at Perkins. I want to share on FB if anyone else is interested. I learned so much.
For all the division we see, I see a spirit of unification happening too.
On the way to church today Blake said this( #blakeisdom):
Blake: I feel like the world is changing.
Me: It is. How does that make you feel?
Blake: I want to see where it’s going.
I was shocked by this conversation with my 11 yr old son. Wilshire is a church that moves with the story. This is why we are here. And in the words of Mark Wingfield’s prayer: we’ve been surprised by joy.
Today 2 women preached from the pulpit. Leanna Coyle-Carr first service; Leigh Curl the second service. Amazing sermons. I needed to see and hear this today. I’ve been sent on a journey, and seeing my gender preach has been scarce. I’ve had to go to conferences to hear them. (Wilshire has had women residents – they were before me. More on that later).
This is a worldwide problem, but not from the pulpit today at Wilshire – and not in my seminary world. God is raising up women. And George Mason and the men of Wilshire are rejoicing with us. They rejoiced today was a chancel full of women (is that what you say? I’m still a new Baptist- I don’t get terms right: Baptist Housing 😂 Jaime Clark-Soles).
I’m going to write a blog post. I have so much to tell you. So many people came to celebrate with me completing my first week of seminary. I should have brought cake with all the rejoicing we were doing.
a Wilshire member I met through Twitter met me in class today to rejoice with me in person. George is so caring. He has accepted every side of me, and that has given me so much confidence that God is not going to forsake me. Leigh preached a beautiful sermon about this. “My cup runneth over” is the phrase I’m saying all the time now. So many have done this before, but they are happy bc I’m so happy. “Mourn with those who mourn”-and “rejoice with those who rejoice” are charges given to the church that ushers in a new day.
Leigh’s sermon was so confident and beautiful. I love imagining I can get there too. I’m still nervous getting through the opening statement 😂 (I’m going to tell you about my dream in my blog post, bc I lost my spot for a second, and that’s when I thought my dream was coming true: I’m going to pass out. 🤣. I didn’t.).
Today was good. Today is a day to mourn and rejoice. The kingdom of God is at hand. Things are changing.