My Church(es)

So. Today I was thinking on my way to church.

By the end of this week I will have officially lived in Brooklyn for nine months. Which means that this term “my church” has changed a little bit. When I lived in Indiana “my church” was Roselawn Mennonite Church. This was the church I was born and raised in. This was the church my grandparents attended. This was the church I called home.

But in the last nine months I have attended Roselawn a total of seven times. Which is not that many times.

So. When I’m not in Indiana and I’m not at Roselawn I attend Followers of Jesus Mennonite Church (FMJC) in Brooklyn. Which makes sense, since I live in Brooklyn and all.

And sometimes people ask me, especially people from home, what my new church is like. And since I don’t attribute to this theory that one church can be ‘better’ than another I will instead present to you how my two churches are different.

So. In a word. I would describe FMJC as ‘relaxed’ and Roselawn as ‘home.’ But not the kind of relaxed that doesn’t allow reverence and not the kind of home “where your heart is” but rather the kind of home “where you’re from.” Let me explain.

Basically, the most noticeable differences between FJMC and Roselawn are:
1. Structure 2. Community 3. Culture

1. Structure
My Indiana church is an actual church building and is only used as a church building. It has padded pews and classrooms just for Sunday School. We could have a larger area in the entryway to encourage everyone to stay and chat. But really, it is a nice church. My church in Brooklyn is a nice church too. It’s just different. Mostly because the building also functions as a school during the week and we don’t have a full kitchen. We sit on chairs instead of pews and our sanctuary is not carpeted or air conditioned. This difference in structure (in my opinion) accounts for some of the interactive differences I also see in my churches. For example, in Indiana, when church is dismissed, I have to either talk to the people I am sitting by or ask everyone in my pew to file out in order for me to speak with someone else. However, in Brooklyn, if I want to talk to someone I just push the chair aside and make my way to them.

2. Community
Every church is part of a community, not only the community it surrounds, but the community it creates. In Indiana (almost) everyone’s community includes family, because (almost) everyone has family nearby. Family to help them move into a new home. Family to celebrate Thanksgiving with. Monthly family dinners, Christmas programs, and graduations. These are all things that people do as family. But in Brooklyn, not everyone has a family here. I don’t. I have to rely on someone from my church to be generous enough to let me borrow their car just to get groceries every month. That is not a dynamic that Indiana has. That said, the church here is very fluid. People come and go. Not week by week, but year by year. And the people adjust. And as I adjust to being here they adjust to having me.

3. Culture
The culture is different. Obviously. Because for every person who’s told me, “I could never live in the city,” there are just as many who have said the same of the country. And these people, who navigate to these separate spheres of reality, these people are different from each other. And what they give to the church is different too.
In Indiana my church has a culture that has been cultivated over generations and has found a routine. But in Brooklyn, my church is a mixture of cultures and countries that changes with each added member that attends.

So yes, my churches are different. FMJC starts later, lasts longer, and is louder. It has fewer “Mennonite norms” and more “urban norms” (Norms: group-held beliefs about how members should behave in a given context.) BUT. I want to be clear. My churches are different. But neither of them is ‘better.’ I like the way each of them is, as different as they are. And I don’t want either of them to change. Because ‘the church’ is called to be a part of the body of Christ where is it is at. And where it is will affect how it looks and functions. So, naturally, I don’t expect these churches to be the same.
I think sometimes people would like to say, “if it’s good than everyone should do it and if everyone shouldn’t do it than it’s bad.” But I think for things like church and culture and living within the church and culture- these things cannot be mass-produced. Rather. Christ must be culturally relevant- no matter where you are and what your culture is. (But let’s not confuse ‘culture’ here with sin. Because a culture that allows sin cannot be justified. Just to be clear on that.)

So. Perhaps this is what I like most about my two churches: that I can be part of both of them, despite their differences, because they are BOTH a unique part of The Body.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

One Acedemic Year and a Visit from Esther

It’s done. My first (academic) year of grad school is over. Even more importantly, for me, my ‘semester of death’ is over.  I said at the start of this semester that my classes would be hard and overwhelming.  And they were. And I survived.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about that.

However, I am not quite at the end of all this yet.  I do have, what looks to be, an intermittently crazy summer coming up, starting with my first day at my placement tomorrow (or externship as some professions call them) and my first day of summer school on Thursday.

That said, I’ve had (almost) a whole week’s break from school and I decided to spend it well (with the help of a friend.)

So, my long time bestie Esther came out from Ohio to visit. It was a celebration for both of us because she just finished her bachelors and I just finished my semester. She was here for a total of 6ish days and we packed each day full of adventure, relaxation, and conversation.

Day 1: We went straight from the airport to the beach.  The day started with clouds and drizzle and ended with sun burnt legs and faces.  We also got our lunch at the grocery store and had a proper picnic by the ocean.  And I took her to (one of) my favorite spot(s) in the city for dinner. Yup. I like to adventure, I like to host, and I like to plan out people’s visits. I’d say day 1 was a success.

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Day 2: Was our museum day.  We hit up the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters but ended the day early because our sunburns were stealing all our energy. I think maybe it was also this night that we had a cockroach (water bug) hunt at 3 am. It ended successfully but not without flashlights, moving furniture, and me falling off a chair.  (I believe in giving my guests an accurate depiction of life here in the city.)

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Day 3: Was unexpectedly rainy.  So we rescheduled our day and headed to the city for crepes, Brooklyn for my most hispter experience yet- a flea market, and back to the city to visit The Strand (a book store) and an old-fashioned boat ride around the city.

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Day 4: Was a chill one indeed.  It is nice when my friends can visit long enough to enjoy the city AND chill with me.  Plus, it was raining, so enjoying the city is hard when only one person has a pair of rain-boots.  So we settled for lunch at Dumont- a place in Williamsburg I’ve been wanting to try for a while b/c 1. they are known for their baked mac&cheese 2. I’ve never done anything in Williamsburg and wanted to check out the neighborhood. In review: We didn’t see much  because my shoes became so full of water that I was literally walking in a puddle. And they should serve something (like bread?) with the mac&cheese as I got rather tired of the flavor by the end of my meal. BUT. We loved the restaurant and had an amusing time there.  I guess I’ll have to try it again to get a conclusive reading. And to end the day we made fridge magnets using 1.photos from pinterest 2. my color printer 3. my paper cutter 4. my laminator and 5. magnet strips.  Yeah. We are too clever.

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Day 5: When I plan a trip with (or for) someone I always like to plan so that the last day is one of the best.  That way it ends with a smile.  So. We headed to 1. Chinatown for Esther’s first use of chopsticks and to properly stock up on souvenirs, 2. Little Italy for Esther’s first canoli and gelato, 3. the highline (which is a park), and 4. ended at Times Square with a Broadway. Twas a winning kind of day.

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And that, my friends, was my summer break.  A whirlwind of long talks and much needed giggling. And now it’s over. Happy Back to Real Life Day tomorrow. Let’s end with a pep-talk.

My Mother is the Best (and other obvious statements)

In light of the fact that today is Mother’s Day and I have the best mom ever, I decided I should blog about it. Just to set the record straight and all that.

(Though I think in reality, since we all are different people, we all need different kinds of mothers.  And so, while my mother is the very best mother in the world perhaps you may feel the same about your own mum.  And I realize that this is merely a reflection of the impeccable compatibility you have with your mother and not a threat to the greatness of my own mom.  So I respect that.)

But today I was thinking. About my mom (it is Mother’s Day you know). And usually when I think about my mom I think, ‘Man, she is sooo great. I don’t know where I would be without her.”  And then I think of some very smart parcel of wisdom she imparted on me in one of the last few days.  And then I go on.

You see, this is very characteristic of people who take things for granted.  We choose not to take the time to review their full value and therefore excuse ourselves from the gratefulness due them.

But today is not a day to be ungrateful.

So here we go.

My mother.  Graciously allowed me to be born on her own birthday.  She has now officially spent half of her life sharing that day with me.  Or, to be more accurate- celebrating that day for me.  I’d like to think she celebrates her birthday vicariously on that day through me.  But I know that really she’s just doing what mom’s do- and letting her daughter live the innocence of selfishness for the sake of the innocence of youth.

Growing up- the thing I liked most about my mom is that she knew everyone I knew and she always knew what I was talking about.  Which makes my mom very smart.  But she volunteered at my elementary every week and went on field trips with me and hosted my sleepovers and attended all my programs.  My dad attended all my programs too, but he didn’t spend every week at my school and had a hard time keeping all my friends straight.

When I got a little older my parents started their own business.  And I got to meet the side of my mom that is organized, driven, responsible, and interactive as she worked with her employees and customers.  And in turn, I learned to be like her.  Except that I’m also a lot like my dad, so I’m not exactly like her.  But, the work-ethic and people-skills I learned growing up I learned in the bakery.  And that was with her.

And then (if you can keep up with this step-by-step through my development) I graduated high school (like most kids do these days) and faced some pretty scary months of indecision and discontentment.  And it was my dear mother who made the headlines and suggested speech therapy to me. (She now gets the privilege of making an appearance in my college story when people ask me why I chose my field).

Then it was my mother who found a place for me to live in Fort Wayne during the weeks of my undergrad so I wouldn’t have to commute so far every day.  It was my mother who discouraged me from moving to Arizona for grad school because there would be no support group for me there.  And it’s my mother I call nearly every day as I seek to remain sane in my sea of homework, friendship building, and city living.

And so, like all of you, I wouldn’t be me and I wouldn’t be here without the work of my mother.  But the biggest thing my mother ever did for me (by far) was (and is) consistently pointing me to Christ.  When I was 7 or 8 or whatever age I was it was my mother who prayed with me to accept Christ into my self-righteous little heart.  When I was 12ish and going through that stupid stage of giggling it was my mother who made me call my grandmother and apologize for giggling through her choir program at church.  And, true to form, it is still my mother who continuously reminds me that my identity is in Christ and I have nothing to fear.

And so, in summary (if you are just tuning in), my mom is an advocate for her children.  She cares about people.  She doesn’t waste time being offended and lets people run her over for the sake of friendship.  She is corny and funny and impatient at band programs. She loves people. And she loves God even more. And every day I wish I could be like her a little more than I already am.

And so. Mother Dear. I love you. Thank you for loving God so much that you were forced to love us (as bratty as we all are) and for taking the time (even with your busy schedule) to be the perfect Mom for me.

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BlueGreen Sky and Sea

On Wednesday it was decided that my parents and my baby sister would coming to NY on Friday to visit.

And since they have all been here before, since my dad hates the city, since they all love doing anything as long as I’m along, and since I didn’t feel like exploring with people who didn’t want to explore- I showed them my life and then some.

So. One of my sister’s primary goals in visiting was to ride the train. Easy Peasy.

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My mom HAD to try a waffle. So. We went to central park. Image

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Briana got some senior pictures squeezed into her visit. Image

We saw a skateboarding dog. Image

We visited Bethesda Fountain. Which is one of my favorite places in the park. Image
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And we saw more spring.

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Then we went in search of bagels for my mother.  (Having parents who are bakers leads to a very high carb weekend.)  But we saw this on our walk:

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And then we took the train home. Image

And took a feet picture together so everyone could see who was with me. Image

And since my parents drove my car out (insert happy sigh to have a car here for a weekend) I drove them to the beach.  It was rather windy and chilly but we loved it.

My car: Delilah. So happy to introduce her to the city.  Even if it was just for 3 days.  And then I was glad to send her home (parking really is a pain here).Image

My parents are cheesy. But cute. 🙂ImageImageImage

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My sister is beautiful at 17. ImageImage

And my hair is as crazy as ever.  Miss Hostetler, looks like I never outgrew my 2nd grade nickname “miss messy hair.”  Oh help.

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Sandy Damage remains. Image

But the clock (although it doesn’t work) is beautiful. ImageImageImage

Yup. She put her toes in that freezing water. Sillllly girl.ImageImageImageImage

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And that was our weekend. We hung out and chatted and played cards and ate pizza and walked and it was nice.  “Just a happy day in May,” as my mother would say.