Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Is there a positive way to say, “When it rains it pours”? If so, that’s how our lives feel right now. Matthew and I have a lot of big and exciting changes on deck for 2015, and we’re going to need your help. We need your prayers, your advice, and your love.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

(1) Matthew is graduating from law school, taking the Bar Exam in two states (Mississippi and North Carolina), and searching for his first job as a real-live lawyer. He’s so ready to be done with school. The two Bar Exams come in because we love our home away from home in North Carolina, but we’re looking forward to getting back to our Mississippi roots sometime in the next few years.

Matthew studying

 

(2) We are getting married! I would tell you when, but Ole Miss hasn’t posted their football schedule yet. (What? Me, bitter about planning our wedding around SEC football? Never!) We know it will be in September next year, and we cannot wait to make our family official. Although, we already have a joint checking account– it doesn’t get much more married than that.

Engagement Ring

 

(3) I am in the process of being commissioned (to eventually be ordained) as a deacon in the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. According to our Book of Discipline, deacons are (and I just love this) ordained to “Word, service, justice, and compassion.” The first time I saw that, I thought, Perfect! I had no idea the Methodist Church ordained social workers! That means that, God willing, I will become a provisional deacon at Annual Conference next summer, commissioned to go out into the world to connect the church and the community in service and fellowship. Although I won’t become the Senior Pastor anywhere or preside over the sacraments of baptism or communion (in our tradition those roles are generally reserved for people ordained as elders), I will be equipped to minister to people both inside and outside of the church walls, to preach, and to perform weddings and funerals. Before that happens, though, I have a lot of paperwork, physical and mental evaluations, 15 short essays in response to questions like, “What is the nature of evil?”, a sermon, and a Bible study on one book of the Bible to prepare and submit by mid-January. Whew!

Elizabeth preaching

 

(4) I am going to be attending training to become a certified yoga instructor through Yahweh Yoga next fall. As some of you know, I was sexually assaulted many years ago, and later developed an eating disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of carrying around all that pain and shame. Through tremendous love and support and the help of doctors, counselors, pastors, and friends, I’m on the mend. I did a lot of counseling, journaling, talking, crying, etc. in search of healing, but the thing that consistently offers the most instantaneous relief is yoga. I call it my time of kinetic prayer. When I started seeing how much it made a difference for me, I did some reading on the subject. Tons of studies have shown that regular yoga practice can help people dealing with not just eating disorders and PTSD, but also people dealing with depression, anxiety, and general stress. It’s hugely beneficial (especially in addition to more traditional treatments like counseling and medication), and way cheaper than most other treatments– all you need is your body, some space to stretch out, and maybe a yoga mat. That makes it accessible to people who are most likely to benefit from it but least likely to seek it out in a studio or class: people experiencing homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, sexual assault, incarceration, eating disorders, etc. Not to mention the people who serve these communities, who are likely to have what we call “compassion fatigue” or “secondhand trauma” from seeing people go through such rough stuff day in and day out. So I have this dream of bringing yoga to where people are: shelters, treatment facilities, prisons, fire and police stations, you name it, and sharing this easy, effective tool to help cope with life. And being a deacon means I have the flexibility (see what I did there?) to look into out-of-the-box ministry opportunities like this one.

Yoga

 

(5) We are applying to be licensed as foster parents in North Carolina. We’ll begin as volunteers providing respite care (read: babysitting) for full-time foster parents, but we eventually plan to have foster kids call us home someday. We visited a church early last year that had a booth about adoption and foster care in the lobby, and in the announcements the pastor told us, “Make sure you stop by and talk with them. Scripture tells us over and over again to care for orphans. Fostering and adopting is one of those things that you don’t need a good reason to do it, you need a good reason not to do it.” Growing up with wonderful step-parents and step-grandparents and step-aunts and step-uncles and so on and so forth, I saw firsthand how little biology has to do with being a family. And since learning about the huge numbers of kids in foster care and how many struggles they face–including suffering from PTSD at DOUBLE the rate of US military veterans– I’ve wanted to be a foster mom. Matthew has caught the vision, too, and as we’re becoming real grown-ups, our reasons not to do it are fading away. So we’re starting small on this long journey to live out James 1:27 (and all of James for that matter!).

My graduation from Divinity School

 

So how can you help? I’m so glad you asked, you generous soul you!

(1) Pray for us! We can’t wait to get started but we also realize we’re not completely sure what we’re getting ourselves into–and I think God likes it that way. There are a lot of unknowns, which means a lot of opportunities to stress out. So please pray for wisdom and discernment about all the big decisions we’ll need to make. Pray for peace in the midst of chaos. And pray for our relationship to grow stronger as we let these challenges bring us together.

(2) If you have experience with any of these things, call us! Tell us your story and what was helpful to you. What do you wish you knew then? Let’s get coffee or come on over and I’ll bake you something.

(3) Please be patient with me talking incessantly about our excitement over all this.

Big things y’all!

We’ll keep you posted!

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