Tuesday, December 30, 2008


What a year this has been ...

So much has happened in 2008 and I can't believe that it's almost over!!

It's definitely been a year of highs and lows.  There have been some wonderful times - Bruce and I got engaged, we've settled in with a wonderful church family, moved into a nicer apartment and definitely grown in our relationship.  But there have been some stressful times - wedding planning is taking its toll on both of us, we haven't been as steady financially, I've had some doctors appointments and tried out some new medications to get my hormones under control (I think it made them worse), I had the worst academic semester of my life and my anxiety has resurfaced.  I have SO much to be thankful for, but I think I'm ready to close the door on it.  I have definitely had my share of stresses and I think I'm ready to start fresh.  That's what I love about the new year - even though you can't officially start fresh, symbolically you can.

Bruce and I are packing up to go to PA for a few days.  It's going to be a very quick trip.  We're leaving this afternoon, staying in a hotel somewhere tonight, finishing the drive tomorrow, visiting Neal and Alex and then going to West Chester for my cousin's wedding / New Years bash.  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, but I get a little bit tired thinking about the trip!!  I don't know how I used to travel the way I did in college!!  Right now I'm packing up and getting ready for the trip and then I'll pick Bruce up around 1 and we're going to go from there.  I'm praying for an uneventful trip.

I think I'm ready to start a new phase of my life spiritually.  I'm going to try to be more diligent about daily prayer and devotion.  I'm going to spend time reflecting and meditating, connecting to God and trying to release my tension and anxiety.  It's not so much a resolution as it is a refocus.  I've never been good at following through on resolutions so I think I'm just going to look at this as making a change that will strengthen me and those around me.

Blessings into 2009!!
Sarah :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Blessings & Hope this Holiday Season

all my love,
Sarah :)

Christmas Eve Sermon

Sarah Keck
December 24, 2008 – Christmas Eve, 7 p.m.
Pilgrimage United Church of Christ (Marietta, GA)

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

This well-known Advent hymn was written in remembrance of the cry of the Jews being held captive in Babylon in sixth century B.C. Come. Come. Emmanuel – God with us. Save us – Israel – from captivity. And God’s children cried out.

I think many of us can relate to “captive Israel.” What a year this has been. The U.S. is officially in a recession. Bailouts have been considered for Wall Street, the housing market and the automobile industry. Millions of jobs have been lost and homes been foreclosed. Food banks and pantries have bare shelves. Homeless shelters have no room. Millions more died of hunger and treatable diseases in the Third World. And God’s children cry out.

That mourns in lonely exile here.

How terrifying must it have been. Nothing tangible to prove God’s existence. There was no ark; no tablets etched with the Ten Commandments; no visible encounter with the living God. And God’s children cried out.

A recession can be a very lonely time. Every man – or woman – for themselves. Young families trying desperately not to lose houses and college funds. Older families trying desperately not to lose retirement funds. No help in sight. No end in sight. No relief for the millions in barren villages all around the world. And God’s children cry out.

Until the Son of God appear.

Wait. This sounds like hope. The Son of God is going to appear. In the flesh; walking on earth; tangible proof that God is with us and that we are not alone. The prophet Isaiah promised long ago: “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6 NRSV)

Isaiah was right. Last Sunday we heard of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her that she would bear a son, the Son of God. And tonight Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem where she gave birth to her firstborn son, the Son of God. The Messiah. A savior. Emmanuel – God with us.

Okay, so maybe the captive Israel was saved, but what about us? What about God’s children who cry out today? Those who are struggling in the United States; those who wake up cold, hungry and sick all over the world; those who need Emmanuel now.

In the late 1700s biblical scholars started to turn away from religious models of looking at scripture and began to look with historical models. The “Quest for the Historical Jesus” was an attempt to piece together the biographical realities – the facts – of Jesus’ life – including his birth. Now here’s what I don’t like about this particular quest. “History” – to me – implies something of the past; something that the door is closed on; something that isn’t going to happen again. I don’t think that’s true when it comes to how we should view the Christmas story, how we should view the Christian faith, and how we should live our lives.

I think: When we celebrate Christmas tonight, this year and every year – when we sing the familiar hymns, when we hear the familiar stories and when we share in the familiar fellowship – we should do so as if the Son of God is born today, as if Emmanuel – God with us – is here, is with us now. Not celebrate something that has happened but celebrate something that is happening. As if the hope that Christ brought 2,000 years ago is being brought to us here today.

Rejoice!! Rejoice!! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Emmanuel – God with us – is coming. There is hope. God’s grace, love and mercy will shower us all in the year to come.

Rejoice!! Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Mystery

The two big ones are for me!!!!!  But I have NO idea what they are.  It's driving me crazy!!

Bruce and I have spent the afternoon relaxing and getting ready for worship.  I tweaked my sermon while he worked (only until noon) and then he came home and we watched Friends and played "Friends scene it?"  Only the true fans play the game while actually watching the show.

I made a final trip to Target today for some last minute gifts (I can't say what they are because Bruce is sitting next to me on the couch while I'm typing this!!), hair clips (my hair is getting too long for bobby pins to work) and a black shawl for me to wear with a sleeveless dress on New Year's Eve (my cousin Jodi is getting married and the reception is a black tie New Year's party).  All things considered, Target wasn't that bad.  The isles are big enough in the store that I wasn't tripping over people and they had extra registers open so I barely waited in line.  Apparently Publix wasn't as pleasant.  Bruce ran over there to get some groceries for tomorrow and came back mumbling about Christmas idiots smiling!!

Now it's time to finish getting ready for church and head out.  I'll post my sermon tomorrow.

Have a safe and merry Christmas!!

Peace & Love,
Sarah :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blinking Cursor ...

I told myself I would write my Christmas Eve sermon today (it is tomorrow after all).

So far today I have ... 
- Cleaned the kitchen
- Picked up my amazon packages at my leasing office
- Gone through and filed misc. stuff that was on my desk
- Updated my wedding registries and website on the knot
- Starting reading for J-term
- Watered the Christmas tree and poinsettias 
- Put out all of the Christmas cards we've gotten in the mail
- Knitted several rows on Baby Grant's blanket

Productive, huh?

Too bad I'm still staring at the blinking cursor on my sermon document!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 Cookie Baking Extravaganza!!

Kari came into town after her last exam of the year and we spent Saturday baking cookies ... here are some pictures of the final results!!

We started with Peanut Butter Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies ... 

... and then moved to a more traditional Chocolate Chip (mini chocolate chips, of course!!) ...

... then made a batch of Butter Cookies dusted with Powdered Sugar ... 

... (more of the Butter Cookies) ...

... they're yummy with coffee ... 

... then we adapted a recipe for "Valentine Sugar Hearts" by using Christmas Cookie Cutters instead :) ... 

... and finally Bruce asked for Ginger Snaps ... we found a recipe and started working on it, not realizing that it yielded EIGHT DOZEN ... 

... Bruce approved of the recipe and now has LOTS of Ginger Snaps to snack on!!

What a fun day, although we were TOTALLY exhausted (as were the oven and the electric mixer)!!  But what a great way to get into the holiday spirit after an extremely tough semester.

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

All my Love,
Sarah :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Testament Nightmare

Okay, I did NOT do well in LTJ's New Testament class this semester.

But ... I learned a lot.

It's a shame that I'm not considering switching to the other section of NT because my GPA can't handle another semester of LTJ.  It's a shame that even though I'm learning something the testing is too much that I'm going to need to switch out of the class.

I'm very frustrated.  I tried so hard this semester.  I don't know what I could have done differently.  I'm trying desperately to think of things that I could have done differently but I was just completely over-scheduled this semester.  I was doing too much and there were simply not enough hours in the day for me to do everything.

I really need to look at my life and make some changes.  I cannot handle another semester of this - especially because I'm going to be completely engulfed in wedding planning.

What can I do?  What can I give up?  A class at school?  No - I want to graduate on time.  Work?  No - money speaks.  Church?  Absolutely not - I can't even believe I put that down.  Bruce?  Oh great, now I'm considering spending less time with my fiance when I already don't spend enough time with him (and we live together!!)  Friends & Family?  If I have any left - I spent so little time communicating with people last semester that I'm starting to wonder if I'm going to have any friends left.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! ... Why oh why did I decide to come to Candler?  Look at what it's doing to me!!!!!

Okay, in the meantime I'm just going to try to relax.  There is a Blue Christmas service at church tonight and Kari is coming tomorrow and we're going to bake Christmas cookies on Saturday.  Whitney and I having a cookie exchange tomorrow, too!!  This doesn't leave a whole lot of time for work but I think I really just need to chill out right now and not be so concerned with working all the time.  I know money speaks really loudly, but there comes a point where self care needs to speak louder.

For now - I need to shower and get ready for the day.  The youth were putting on a toy drive for MUST and there is some donated money that we need to go spend today so I'm trying to get a group together to do that.

And I'm going to try to not obsessively look for my other grades to be posted.


Well, that's highly unlikely but how about this - I'm going to try to not obsess about it?

That's more like it.

Love, hugs & peace,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ohh, we're halfway there ...

done Done DONE!!!!!  Finals are over and I couldn't be happier about it.

I didn't realize how long it would take me to finish my Ethics final - but I wrote for two and a half hours!!  My hand hurt SO bad when I finally handed in my blue booklet.  Now it's just a matter of waiting for my grades to come in.  I'm trying not to think about it but every now and then thoughts kind of sneak into my head wondering what the final outcome is.  I try to chase those thoughts away.

Now it's a matter of tying up some loose ends.  The youth have been collecting toys for the MUST toy shop so I really need to get some kids together to go shopping and then bring the toys over to MUST.  I haven't even attempted to clean in weeks, so there is tons of laundry and organizing that needs to be done.  I still don't have a guest list for my wedding and I have a two week class starting on Jan. 5th!!  But I'm just going to take things one day at a time.  I haven't been very productive today.  I brought Bruce to work and hung out there for an hour, came home and watched a little bit of TV and did some work (there are certain things I can do from home - or anywhere basically as long as I can get online) and then took a nice long walk.  It felt good to just walk and not have to worry about getting back to study.  I could just daydream, it was SO nice.

Now I'm going to try to keep myself moving.  It's very tempting to just lay around all day but I'm going to try SO hard not to do that!!  Bruce has choir tonight so I've got time but I have a feeling it's going to take awhile for me to get this place as clean as I would like it!!  I'm also going to try to go through some of my clothes and general stuff - I feel like I've managed to clutter up the apartment a little bit and I am willing to bet that there is a lot of stuff that I could get rid of.

Wish me luck!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What happens when you exam is as thick as your bible?

Don't panic.

Literally - that was the conversation I had with myself when I got my Christian Thought exam today.  It was huge!!  But luckily before I panicked I listened to Dr. Strom talking and realized that there were two sections where he had given us more options than we had to actually answer.  That made me feel a little bit better.

I'm not really sure how the test itself went.  It was really tough.  There was material on there from the first semester that I wasn't expecting at all and hadn't even looked at.  But I went through it once, left a lot blank, wrote one essay, went through it again, filled in some of my gaps, wrote my second essay and went through it the last time.  It seemed to work fairly well - at least I could more calmly try to put pieces together in my head knowing that I had more of the exam completed.

After I finished my exam I went and got my paper back.  I ended up getting a 90 on the paper which made me REALLY happy.  I've done solid enough in that class now that I'm not putting as much on the final.  Besides, I had one of those moments after I handed in the paper where I really wasn't sure if it made sense.

As I was walking home (Bruce dropped me off at school so I didn't have to worry about the scooter in case we got the rain they were predicting that hasn't come yet) I realized that I am now completely done with my Christian Thought cycle.  The only history classes I will take from here on out will be by choice!!  Strange - I'm one step closer to graduation, which I really just cannot believe.

So now I've moved on to ethics, a final that I REALLY need to do well on.  I'm going through the material and I'm happy to report that I actually know a little bit more than I thought I did.  But I still have a long way to go.  Luckily the test isn't until 2 p.m. tomorrow so I'm going to continue to study tonight and then get back to it again tomorrow.

And then I'm done.

Deep breath.  I can do this.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Anything but studying!!

Okay, so I'm at the point in my studying for Christian Thought that I no longer care, but I still can't match theories and movements to people.  I'm pretty sure this is not a good place to be in.  And I haven't started looking at ethics yet.  I KNOW this isn't a good place to be in.  But I can do this.  Two more days.  I was just talking to Paige on learnlink and I said that at this point it was like running up a hill at the end of a marathon.  It's important to focus and breathe.  Everything else will follow.

In the meantime I have a really strong desire to anything and everything that is not related to school right now.  I'm talking about everything from playing my saxophone to cleaning the apartment to scrapbooking for the wedding.  I'm starting to think I should just hang it up for the night and get up early tomorrow to look over my notes again.  And maybe say a long prayer before I got to bed.

Bruce is watching something on the Discovery Channel right now about scientifically proving the existence of the 10 plagues.  Actually, they're talking about Exodus in general.  Apparently, scientists are coming to the conclusion that if certain conditions were in place, these miraculous events really could have happened.  I think the whole study is fascinating - history in general is fascinating to me (although I never did well in it) because we're talking about things that we really have no concept of through our current lens) - but it's hard to think about that in relation to spirituality.  How can I bridge the gap between faith in God and science that proves the existence of X, Y, & Z in the bible?

Anyway, I shouldn't be thinking about this right now.  I should be thinking about Christian history (hey, my thoughts are MAKING Christian history, right?!).

Love 'n stuff,

Friday, December 12, 2008

One down ...

... two to go.  Finals that is.  I took my New Testament exam this morning and will spend the weekend getting ready for Christian Thought and Ethics.  And then I will take a big deep breath and say a not-so-fond farewell to this semester.

In the meantime, there are so many things that I am grateful for.  I think it's about time I start talking about that for a change.

For one, I am grateful for the beautiful red Poinsettia plant and card Bruce brought me last night.  It was beautiful and just the thing that I needed.

Despite the fact that we went down to the car for about five 
minutes to bring up some groceries and in the short time we were gone, Lilly had jumped up onto the counter and devoured on of the leaves on my Poinsettia, I am still grateful for her.  She came into my life during a very stressful finals season and she always knows when she needs to be especially affectionate.  (Although I don't know if it's her being affectionate or just demanding attention seeing as she continues to do this - jump up on my desk and lay down on whatever I happen to be studying at the moment.  This time it was a pile of notes, she had done it on my bible earlier.)

I'm grateful for my father who immediately kicked into "Daddy" gear when I sent him an e-mail telling him how stressed I was.  He told me that it was going to be okay and that it wouldn't matter if I finished last that I just needed to finish and then I could move on to the next stage of my life.

I'm grateful for Max who responds to my e-mails with questions ranging from ordination to exegesis to wedding plans and never tells me to shut and leave him alone.

I'm grateful to my mom who gives me hope tat I can make it through Seminary - hey, if three generations before me did it, so can I, right?

I'm grateful for friends who have picked up the fact that this hasn't been the easiest time for Bruce and me and have taken the time to ask how I have been, gone to coffee, sat and talked when I know they had others things going on, all of the above and etc.  That being said, I'm also grateful for the friends who live thousands of miles away who don't hate me when I get stressed and essentially fall off the face of the earth.

I'm grateful for rainy days with Christmas lights.  No explanation necessary.

I'm grateful for the wonderful church family Bruce and I have found at Pilgrimage.  They've been shepherding me as I've stressed throughout this semester and continued to encourage me week after week.

I'm grateful for lucky bamboo.  Bruce and I bought a plant for my office over the summer and Catherine gave me hers (it was a promotional gift that she didn't want) so now I have two in my office.  I love all of the symbolism and ancient traditions behind them.  I've started to scheme about where I can put lucky bamboo at my wedding and reception - three plants, of course, to represent happiness, wealth and longevity.

I'm grateful for Christmas music.  I'm pretty sure I would have gone crazy by now if I hadn't been listening to Christmas music around the clock.

Words do not describe how grateful I am for Bruce.  Not only did he bring me flowers last night but he also did grocery shopping for at least two weeks (we had no food!!) he stayed up with me (fell asleep on the couch but the effort was there) while I studied for New Testament, has outright told me not to cook, clean or do laundry until finals are over (he's taken care of most of it, too - the laundry remains unfolded but there are some things that just need to wait for me!!), and continues to tell me that I'm strong.  He has been my strength throughout this process and I don't think words can ever describe how lucky I am.

Okay, so I have so many things to be grateful for.  Two stupid finals are not going to get in the way of the happy things that are going on in my life.  I won't let them!!

Monday, December 8, 2008


My car is fixed!!  The guy from the shop called and left a message for me at noon to say that they FINALLY fixed my baby Yaris from the unfortunate encounter with an evil '95 corvette back in July.  All I need to do is get Bruce home so he can go with me to pick it up!!

I think it's going to be good for me not to have a visible reminder of the accident anymore.  It's also something else to check off my list.  This has been something pending for almost half of a year and adding to my anxiety.  It's proof that I can finish things and hope that I will be successful in finishing this semester.  I will be so happy when my car is back and I can once again try to protect it from the craziness that is Atlanta traffic.

My goal for today is to finish my stewardship paper for Leadership & Administration.  I've got everything that I need to finish it, I just need to finish it!!  I'm having a very difficult time getting through it, but I need to remember that once I finish this I will only have three finals to get through and the semester will be over and I can look forward to lots of other things!!

Even though it's final and I know I should be focusing on school, I happened upon a book at the Cokesbury sale this weekend called "Sometimes I Wake Up Grumpy ... and Sometimes I Let Him Sleep."  It's by Karen Scalf Linamen and what I've read so far is brilliant.  I think ALL women need to read this book.  Here's a little excerpt from it:
I don't know about you, but I for one had all these amazing ideas growing up.
I thought that my life was going to be simple and perfect, just one Kodak moment after another.
I figured I would keep house like Donna Reed, raise my kids like Harriet Nelson, and wear the same dress size as Jane Wyatt.
I used to think life was going to be a bed of roses ... a piece of cake ... a walk in the park.  Of course, what I didn't figure on, way back then, was that roses have thorns, cakes have calories, and a walk in the park increases your odds of stepping in doggie doo-doo.
Now wouldn't it be nice if I were the only woman on the face of the earth who had been surprised by the fact that life has turned out differently than she expected?  Wouldn't it be great if I were the only woman since Eve who had been experienced a gap, a rift, a chasm between happily-ever-after dreams and desires ... and reality?
But my guess is that you know what it feels like to have life fall short of your expectations and end up filled with more stress or crisis or pain than you had originally planned!
It's enough to make you grumpy, isn't it?
It's really been a wonderful reminder that life isn't the perfect image that I have in my head.  It's an even better reminder that seminary isn't the perfect image that I have in my head.  I had this strange idea when I got to seminary that because God called me into the ministry that I would therefore coast through the program, be the envy of everyone who didn't have as strong of a call as me and stand strong during my ordination (as strong as a person can stand when 30 ordained pastors are laying their hands on you).

But that's not reality.  And it's not a bad thing, it just is.  Andy Peabody (my supervisor for Con Ed I, Director of Programs for MUST Ministries) always says:  "It is what it is."  And that's so true!!  I can't change the fact that sometimes seminary sucks.  But I also shouldn't get frustrated by this fact either.  I just need to take things one day at a time.

And I think for the moment that means finishing up this blog and getting back to work!!

Peace & Blessings,
Sarah :)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Images

This is my favorite Christmas image ... Lilly at two months old, confused by what the tall green thing was.  By Christmas Eve she had mastered the art of climbing up the middle and balancing her way out to the end of the branches.

Photo credit goes to my father.
December, 2006

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Resurrection of Ursinus Sarah

So I texted Kari the other day and asked her how med school was.  I think I was looking for some affirmation that life beyond Ursinus was much more difficult than life at Ursinus.  It's not that I was never challenged at Ursinus, it's just that I always seemed to feel like I had things under control.  I don't quite feel that way at Candler.  And this doesn't make any sense to me - because I'm finally in an environment where I'm taking big steps towards ordination, something I've felt called to in one way or another since I was landed in Honduras in June 2003.  So I'm trying to figure out what's changed in the year and a half since I graduate from college that's making it more difficult for me to get anything accomplished well in school.

Well ... when I put it like that.  A lot's changed.

I'm living with Bruce now.  Even when bruce and I were dating the last semester at Ursinus, I didn't see him everyday, usually about twice a week.  When I was with him I never did any work, but I had gotten really good at being productive when I wasn't with him.

Bruce and I are living on our own now.  We have real responsibilities.  I went from having one credit card and Bruce went from paying his cell phone to us having rent, utilities, credit cards (including food and essential items).  This doesn't leave a lot of room for fun.  That's been a really hard adjustment.  We haven't been able to unwind the way we used to because we just don't have the money to go out a lot.  And going along with that - I work more.  The money that I make isn't just my fun money anymore, it's my pay my bills money.  And so that entices me to work me.  And I do.  I work twice as many hours now that I did in college.  And I work.  I don't sit at the museum and be able to get work, e-mails, etc. done.  And that definitely takes its toll on me and my school work.

I don't live across the street anymore.  It's not that I have this gravely long commute, but it makes a difference that I'm not just rolling out of bed and walking across the street.  I have to think about my day more, carry more around, leave earlier and get home later.

No big band.  I think it makes a difference that I haven't been playing my sax as much as I did in college.  There was something so fun about opening up a solo section and just jamming.  I miss that.  There's no place for me to do that right now.

I don't get as much exercise.  I miss having the fitness center right there.  For all of you who are still at Ursinus, you are spoiled!!  Most college campuses don't have gyms as nice as Ursinus does that are so accessible.  I need to get those endorphins flowing again!!

Okay, so how am I going to resurrect the Ursinus Sarah again?  Good question.  Here's my solution.  First of all, I'm not going to take myself so seriously.  When I don't take myself so seriously then I won't get so stressed out.  Second of all, I'm going to try to summon the "get to the point" person in me and not try to be so good about getting work done ahead of time.  Sometimes it just needs to be put off in order for it to get done quickly and efficiently (I'm already there, actually I have to put together an ethics paper for my group by tomorrow and I haven't started yet!!).  I'm going to eat more peanut m&ms (this was Kari's suggestions) and lastly I'm going to try to get more exercise.  Totally contradictory, but we'll see how it works.

Come on, Ursinus Sarah.  Come back!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


For your viewing pleasure ... 

I decided to be in denial about being a student last night and get the apartment ready for Christmas.  Now I can be a student in the midst of Christmas lights and decorations!!  Much better.  Here's the final result!!

The wonderful fire Bruce made last night ... roaring in a fireplace lit up with lights!!  Notice our stockings on either side!!

Our beautiful tree ... 

The tree and the fireplace ... 

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree ... 

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