Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nashville Epiphany Project

This post is a little over due--as Ella manages to kindly remind me in her emails:) And from talking with friends, I realize that I've only sort of informed some people of what exactly it is that I'll be doing this next year. So here it goes:

On September 1st I am moving to Nashville, Tennessee to begin an eleven month position with the Nashville Epiphany Project, which is part of the Young Adult Volunteer Program of the Presbyterian Church (USA). It's sort of like AmeriCorps meets Christianity.

Funny--when I was part of AmeriCorps back in 1998 I worked with a guy named Thomas who was what Billy would call an "uber-Christian," and I thought his beliefs and practices were very odd. I used to ask him questions as if he were from another planet or something. I never would have imagined that about ten years later that I would not only share his views but believe that sharing my faith with others is one of the most important things I can do.

And my position with NEP will give me the opportunity to do so as well as grow in my faith and serve others. My primary responsibility will be my Monday through Friday job with Preston Taylor Ministries (PTM). PTM was formed to confront many of the issues that arise in public housing, such as drug use, illiteracy, and gang involvement. Specifically I will be working in an after-school and summer program for junior high aged children who live in public housing. I will also be coordinating a lunch-mate mentoring program for children at local schools and a job shadowing program. I'll also work with high schools students, preparing them to serve as mentors to younger children. In addition to those responsibilities, I'll be working at the church some, although the specifics will not be worked out until I've gotten settled in.

The other NEP volunteer (she's been in Guatemala this last year!) and I will live in a small house (nicknamed "the tool shed" because of its size and appearance) on the church's property. Today I learned that there are only two volunteers this year, so it looks like I will NOT be sharing a bedroom or bathroom. I must admit that this information makes me incredibly happy since I'm an introvert and need a lot of alone time to recharge.

Part of my responsibility is also raising support--both spiritual and financial. I'm asking for prayers for wisdom, patience, and understanding as I work with junior high students for the first time. This will be 100% different from the individuals I've served the last three years as an attorney, and I suspect middle school aged children will present challenges that I've not faced while working with younger children. Should be interesting--and rewarding. I love the idea of helping to enable children with the gifts of education and faith--especially children who have not been given so many of the blessings that I enjoyed at their age.

The approximate cost of my year of service is $18,000; that amount includes housing, utilities, health insurance, a monthly stipend, etc. The general presbytery covers some of this expense as does Second Presbyterian and the agencies we serve. I am asked to raise $4,000 of this amount, and I must admit that this task is one of the more daunting parts of this process for me. I guess asking people for money, even when it is for a wonderful cause, makes me uncomfortable. Thankfully I have a lot of friends who have done this before and encourage and support me in this regard. If any of you would like to donate any money, I would certainly appreciate it. Unfortunately there isn't a quick high-tech way (i.e. credit card or Paypal), but you can send a check made payable to Second Presbyterian Church attn: NEP. Please write my name on the memo line and mail it to the following address: Second Presbyterian attn: NEP, 3511 Belmont Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37215.

And of course, I'll be keeping you guys posted as things progress. Only one month until I get started!

p.s. I'm grateful the accountability, love, and support my best friend Nicole gives me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eight Things

Ryane tagged me on July 2, and I'm finally sitting down to write eight things about myself. I think I've written something along this line before, so I've been pondering what quirky things I should share. Since the stipend provided by my mission position, which begins on September 1, is only $400, I've decided to share eight ways I'm (already) cheap and/or like to save money. I encourage you to share any tips you might have since I'm going to have to get pretty creative to live on $400. Thank goodness this position also includes utilities and housing as well as health insurance. So the $400 "just" needs to cover food, gas, prescriptions, oil changes/tire rotations, etc. I figure it'll be easier and harder than I expect--all in one.

I get some of my thriftiness from my father--who has had the same mattress for at least three decades now, "saves" ice I've poured out in the sink, and refuses to order a cheeseburger because the half slice of cheese is too expensive at 25 cents (and you can get a whole slice at home for less than a dime). He also says that when you eat at Cracker Barrel "you're just paying for the name." Mind you that what I order there costs less than $5.

So here are my eight:

(1) I buy generic whenever practical. If you live where there are Kroger, you can try the Kroger brand risk free. For example, I tried the Kroger version of wheat things. Well they were gross, so I returned them; Kroger gave me both a refund and the national brand (normal Wheat Thins) for free. Score for me. Kroger brand white chocolate bark is great; Kroger brand cheese is just as good; generic sugar, flour, etc. always works fine for me too, and it's often saves me forty cents or more per item.

(2) Cosmetics: I no longer buy them at department stores and instead research them on this website. I discovered Paula Begoun when I wrote a research paper on the cosmetics industry in college. I personally think it's embarrassing how we (some women) let ourselves be tricked by these companies who promise the moon and never deliver. Imagine if women invested the money they spend on $45 bottles of foundation, $25 mascara, etc. Anyway, years ago a dermatologist told me that L'Oreal and Lancome (which I once wore) were made in the same factory but just poured into different bottles. That prompted me to look into this area more, and some research made it clear that I was just letting myself be swindled by some of these higher-end companies.

(3) Shampoo: See much of what I wrote above. I now use shampoo that costs less than $2 a bottle, and the end result is MUCH better than when I used Redken, Nexus, etc.

(4) Lotion: I am now hooked on lotion from Wal-mart. It's body butter and smells like ginger and is cheaper than even the Jergens stuff I used to use.

(5) The Library: I rarely buy books and either borrow them or check them out from the library. I've even been so cheap as to read an entire book at Barnes and Noble. That's awful, but I've only done it like once or twice. In case you've not visited the library in years, they now have DVDs and books on CDs, which is much better than giving stupid Blockbuster $5 for a video.

(6) Not going shopping/to the mall: This seems like a no-brainer, but it really isn't because a lot of us go shopping just to shop and then find things we want/need. Now that I rarely go to the mall and places like Target, I buy a lot less.

(7) Children's Vitamins: Not only do chewable children's vitamins have a nice taste, but a careful analysis of their labels sometimes reveal that they have the exact same vitamins and minerals as the more expensive adult vitamins. I like Active Kids, which is a generic sort of brand at Wal-mart.

(8) I pretty much put all of my purchases on my Air Tran Visa or Delta Skymiles card and pay them off each month. My most recent trip to Europe was with a free round-trip ticket, and I only had to pay one way for my NYC trip. I even made the "down payment" on my car with my credit card and will be paying for my Lasik enhancement-type surgery this Wednesday with a credit card (please say a prayer for me Wednesday morning!). Another good deal is a Banana Republic Luxe card as you earn $25 gift cards with your purchases at BR, Old Navy, and Gap. Plus I get free shipping.

p.s. I am thankful for the new Buckhead Church building. I attended the 11:00 service there this morning and did not have to arrive 35 minutes early to claim a seat.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's That Time of Year

It's the time for lots of weddings and babies. Exciting!! I headed to Macon a little over a week ago for Allison's wedding; we've been in the same Bible study for two years now. It was great to catch up with lots of my friends. I feel very understood by my friends in Macon, and they are all very supportive of what I'll be doing this next year. It sort of stands in sharp contrast to my brother-in-law Billy Bob's comments a few weeks ago. Over dinner he told me several times that my choice for the next year is "stupid." From what I understand, he thinks it is dumb that I would forego making money for an entire year since I have so much education, etc. I've tried to explain that my college and law degree should not hold me back from making decisions I would otherwise but should only open doors. Oh well, thankfully not every one has to agree and understand, and regardless I feel a complete peace about my decisions.

During my visit I stayed with my friends K & M who are expecting their first baby next month. Their daughter's birth will be a good reason for me to head back to Macon one more time before I move to Nashville. It's interesting to watch them learn all of the baby stuff; there really is a lot to do and learn in anticipation.

I still remember my first (and last) visit to Babies'R'Us over seven years ago. My sister was expecting her first child, so I printed out the registry and set out to buy a few things. I quickly realized that I did not know what anything on the darn registry was and thus did not know where it was located. I should have grabbed an employee; but I can be a bit stubborn like that, so I set out to figure it all out on my own. I think I ended up purchasing something clearly labeled with "Baby Einstein" and left with a headache and desire to never return. Looking back I guess it was mainly all of the breast pump related registry items that threw me for a loop. Oddly I had that similar overwhelmed and lost feeling two weeks ago at Macy's when I was shopping off my cousin's registry. This time I asked for help right away, and no headache ensued. Much easier. Isn't it amazing how much we do without before marriage--or rather weddings? I'd never heard of a mandolin slicer until I bought my cousin one. And as a single person, I can't imagine buying china (I can't imagine registering for it either). Oh well, surely zapping things to add to a registry is more fun that shopping from one. Sort of reminds me of laser tag.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!!

p.s. I'm grateful for my niece Lauren; she turns 4 years old this weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Loved Despite Wickedness

Once or twice during my travels with my friend Sam his perspective on certain topics made me so angry that I changed the subject and wondered why we were friends when we’re so obviously different (or so I’d like to think). I do not remember this, but Sam has reminded me that during our first semester of college I once exclaimed that he was a “narrow-minded a—hole.” And on our trip, I had similar sentiments during our discussions. The difference is that now I give more thought to why he is so judgmental and hung up on his narrow view of morality. And I pray for patience and understanding and kindness in responding to him because sometimes I just want to give him an earful of unproductive judgment in return to his statements. Ironic, I know.

On several occasions Sam shared some of his “high standards” for a prospective date, mentioning that he’d never date someone who has: ever gotten a DUI (even if it was 10 or 15 years ago), cheated on a significant other (even if it was in high school), as well as a litany of other offenses he has rendered unpardonable. Since Sam and I share the same basic faith, I think I was angrier than I would be otherwise; extend a little grace please!

And before I go on, I must admit that there was a time when (middle school) my perspective was much like Sam’s. I saw things in black and white and swore I’d never do a list of things and honestly believed I was “better” than those types of choices. Several experiences have helped me realize that things are not so simple as us moral arbitrators would like to make them. So by the time I was 16 or so, I realized that life was grayer, but I must admit that I still thought I was the sort of person who would not do certain things, i.e. cheating on a significant other, etc.

Fast forward twelve years and now I’m at a point where I realize that I am exactly the type of person who could cheat on someone or do any of the other things I thought I was incapable of doing. No, I have not actually cheated on anyone, but in college I drove drunk several times. I have lied and been selfish. So I have done things that I never thought I would, and I am glad I have because it’s knocked me down a few notches. It’s also reminded me that I must be vigilant in avoiding further transgressions. For example, someone like Sam who thinks he is incapable of infidelity will likely not be as careful in his actions as someone who realizes he’s quite susceptible to adultery.

Despite my knowledge that I’m capable of anything and completely fallen, I still constantly find myself sitting in judgment of others. “How can a parent think it’s OK to give their child fast food five times a week? If I had children, I’d never do that." And similar dialogue flow through my mind on a daily basis, reminding me that as much as I’d like to think I’m "above" the type of judgment I heard Sam spewing on our trip, I’m not.

So I’m that much more grateful that my salvation is not earned by my actions because I fall short every hour of the day. I am so glad Christ fulfilled the law for me. Tim Keller sums up my feelings more succinctly than I obviously can, saying that “I’m more wicked than I ever believed, and I’m more loved and accepted than I ever have imagined.”