Chronic Illness · Chronic Pain · Grad School · Mayo Clinic · Mental Health · Personal · Recovery

New Semester Jitters, Same (and New) Me

agapétos: beloved: ἀγαπητός
Definition: properly, divinely-loved; beloved (“loved by God”), i.e. personally experiencing God’s “agapē-love” in God, Christ, and one another.

I can’t remember the last time I was this consistently happy, y’all. I feel cheesy and even nervous saying it as someone who lives with a mood disorder because my feelings can be far more fleeting than the average person’s. But I’m learning that I can’t worry about the next depressive episode to the point that I can’t enjoy my happiness right now. I will speak about my joy without fear of that, somehow, saying it out loud will jinx it.
2017 is shaping up to be a great year, even though I’m increasingly worried about the world that surrounds me. I’ve set some realistic, but still lofty and hopeful goals; started my second semester of seminary (after taking a life-changing January class in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories); headed toward my first internship as a hospital chaplain; and am continuing to figure out and prioritize what (and who) really matters to me in life. I’ll write a little bit about everything that’s going on.
Goals
Have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals?
S = Specific
M= Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Time-sensitive
I learned about them a while back, but when I was at Mayo, we wrote at least one daily. I wrote (a lot) of new year’s resolutions in this way, and so far, I’ve been able to consistently track my progress because they’re not vague and floaty. I set goals in all areas of life (spiritual, physical, emotional, vocational, political, and more) and this year, I feel confident that I’ll both keep them and give myself grace when I slip up (or even downsize them if I need to). Progress is progress, and I don’t need to make it a black and white, shame myself when I’m not on the top of my game, kind of thing. I can’t be perfect and neither can you, but we can work to be our best.
Health
I’m six months out from the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center – can you believe it? My life is so incredibly different from I could have imagined it or even dared to dream of a year ago.
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I kept up with my classmates in my travels, to my (and perhaps even others’!) amazement. We had long days (think 13-14 hours of intensely emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual work) and we even took a few hikes… including up to Masada, which was pretty much a 70-floor-story hike straight up. I was terrified of doing it, but I’m so grateful that I did it.
My health will always be a challenge, but it is a challenge that I’m willing to work toward. I have all the tools that I could ever need, and then some, and I’m always learning more. I’m beyond grateful for everyone who’s helped me to be willing to treat each day as a new day and try harder or give myself more kindness.
Seminary
Classes have just started up again and they’re going to be great. I’m studying the New Testament, systematic theology, speech communication, pastoral care of death and grieving, and insiders and outsiders in American Christianity. It is such a privilege to be able to study topics that I find so important. I make sure to balance my studies with real-life involvement, though, both recreational and service-related.
Travel to the Middle East
I had the immense privilege of going to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories for two-and-a-half weeks with a class from my seminary this January. I have far too many stories to share, so I’ll just refer you to the blog that I’ve been keeping for the final project for my class, “The Holy and Unholy.” I learned more than I could possibly try to describe here.
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My class and a few other travelers at one of the walls that separates Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We were on the Bethlehem (Palestinian) side here, and on the wall behind us is an icon of Mary called “Our Lady of the Wall.”
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We learned so much about peace-making, reconciliation, and the complexities of living in a multivocal, pluralistic, and highly political world.
My future
I have my first acceptance to a hospital chaplaincy placement this summer, meaning that I’m definitely going to be starting my career this summer! How cool is that?! I’m still freaking out with excitement. I can’t wait to share more details about it when I know for sure which placement I’m doing.
Priorities
My time in the Middle East continues to affect how I see my life and others. I could never fully explain the impact that it’s had on me (and will continue to have on me for the rest of my life, if I am so blessed to have and allow that to happen), but if I could describe what I learned about in 5 words, they would be hospitality, reconciliation, resilience, humility, and community. I’m trying to live more generously in honor of those who have given me so much. I pray each day for God to move in me and around me, to do with me what needs to happen that day (rather than whatever my iCalendar says… no matter how important I think that is).
Though I aim to honor God with my mind at school, it’s not all I do. I’m also working to put my people first – where they deserve to be – and to do things that I find meaningful outside of just studying.
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This upcoming weekend, for example, I’m going to be in my seminary’s production of “A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer,” an Eve Ensler show to mark V-Day. The auditions happened right after Trump’s election, and I listened to the Holy Spirit telling me to lift up stories of those who feel trampled in America (and around the world) right now. Now, I get to share the story of a strong woman whose story isn’t that different from mine, and it’s going to be great.
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Joy
Whatever happens this year, I intend to live with my arms wide open. To rise up to the challenges, to be humble and continue to learn, and to live so generously that people cannot help but feel beloved by God when they meet me and spend time with me – because they (you) are ἀγαπητός indeed. 

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