Uncensored, unedited me!

2013 What a year!?!

I don’t know about you but I get really reflective at the beginning of a new year. I look back and see what happened in the previous year and where I am today. 

The most exciting thing of 2013 was moving to Missouri and getting a job. 2 significant things that changed things for me late in the year. At the end of January I will reach my 90 days at work. An achievement to be sure. I still really like my job. There are days when I feel like I am in in my stride and know what I am doing and then days where I still have no clue what to do. It’s very interesting. 

2013 Also brought changes to the family. One of the saddest was the loss of Grandma Shirley. I spent most of today watching The Ghost Whisperer which is a good show but I don’t recommend it if you have recently lost someone, talk about depressing. I cried at the end of every episode and am crying now deeply feeling the loss of a woman I loved wholeheartedly. No grandmas left :(……

2013 Brought other changes to the family like heartache and complete disbelief. I mean you think you know someone (sorry to be cryptic but it’s not my story to tell, nor did it really happen to me….it just happened to a great woman and her awesome kids that I love and the betrayal is still shocking to my core…but again not my story so that will be the last I say about it.).

2013 Also brought great joy in the form of my younger sister getting married. It was a great celebration and Jeff was a  great addition to the family and I thoroughly enjoyed his company this Christmas. 

I finished my 2nd Masters but there was hold up with people dropping the ball and I’m still waiting to receive my degree. Very annoying but luckily it didn’t hold up me getting my job so it’s all good. 

My health was pretty good. I mean I wasn’t hospitalized that year which is a feat in itself. There were no surgeries and the only time I was in the ER was for work :). That’s pretty good. I did have some gluten issues but that was only when I wasn’t supremely careful which even now I make a mistake and only know it after the fact…its annoying but luckily infrequent. I do have migraines pretty frequently which I still blame on that stupid accident and I still pass the occasional kidney stone and have the occasional kidney infection but nothing too serious (its all relative).

Life in 2013 had ups and downs but I still have my health and a car that works, a roof over my head and a family that I love. I’m still single and I live alone and I don’t know my neighbors but there’s always next year, right? 

I hope your year had more ups than downs as well and that this year will bring new goals reached, new joys surpassed, and new adventures. 🙂

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I love the Christmas season, it’s a time of hanging out, seeing family and my favorite playing board games! What I don’t love about Christmas is Christmas Hymns and Church services before Christmas. I cannot stand them, I cannot stand them so much that I actually skip church during the month of December and listen to old pod-casts and my Christian music favorites. Don’t worry, I feel guilty about this but I ask for God’s forgiveness and move on. I’ll be back in the New Year when sermons return to relate-able topics and move past the virgin, the inn, and the newborn babe. I just don’t know how churches stretch this for so long. Seriously?

I know I’m hard on Pastors and churches at this time of year, mainly because I’ve been in the church since before I came out of the womb and sitting in a pew for 32 years listening to the same boring music and the same sermons about the baby Jesus is a bit much for me. Can’t we move beyond it? I know I could try to get beyond my bah-humbug church feelings and show up on a Sunday morning ready to worship but the truth is, once that first hymn is sung after Thanksgiving it’s over for me. I’m annoyed and I bring that to the service. The only service I don’t mind singing Christmas music for is Christmas Eve. Until then I can handle the occasional Christmas song on the radio but once they play 2 in a row I’m onto the next station.

I know this is crazy and that Jesus had to be born this way so that he could die later that way. I get it. I know the theology, I know the Scripture stories. I can tell you everything you need to know about the baby Jesus and his parents and the angels that came and I can sing you every verse of the favorite hymns over and over again without looking at the words. I want something fresh at Christmas, not retired old sermons that I could repeat for you, year after year. I want something new, and since I know I’m not going to get that at church, this close to Christmas I stay at home and keep my bah-humbug ways to myself and listen to podcasts of previous sermons until Christmas Eve and then I am full on Christmas spirit and ready to hear all about the baby boy that saves us.

Until then, you’ll find me home on a Sunday morning listening to Christian music and old sermons. And trust me, you wouldn’t want me in your church during this time of year, I’m much more critical than any other time :).

My new Job

Ever since I got my new job everyone has been asking if I like it or not and I realized that I haven’t shared much about it. Some of that has to do with fear, fear of losing a job I like and some of that has to do with HIPPA and sharing just enough but not too much.

So let’s start with the fear. My last job was ridiculous, lots of pressure for no reason. Sure students taking tests are important but not that important. This job is really important. I’m advocating for people that need help advocating for themselves, I’m part of the checks and balances system that makes sure that they are being treated like people and that they are safe, have comfort, are healthy and have some security. My job is important and I really like doing it and I don’t want to lose it. I’m still in that 90 day period which was when I got fired from my old job. The first 30 days of this job I was on edge, because I made myself that way. No one else did that. I did it to myself. My boss is very nice and she keeps reassuring me at every turn. I’ve settled a little bit because I’m learning the ropes and things are making sense and my case load is starting to grow. Plus my co-workers allow for an atmosphere that allows you  to ask questions and to learn more and more as you go. I love that.

HIPPA is a system of importance but it makes sharing things about my job kind of ridiculous but I can give you some generalities without any specifics :). Most of the time I work in an office with right now 13 on my case load with an eventuality of possibly 30. I make sure that all the paperwork is done for Medicaid, Medicare, and DMH (Department of Mental Health). I also check on my people and go and visit them throughout the year. The frequency of my visits depends on each individual’s personal plan. I visit them in their home, at their work, or at an activity center. I visit with them to make sure that they: are safe, are comfortable, have security (has more to do with money than with safety) and that their health needs are being met.

The people on my caseload are awesome. And they are PEOPLE! They are not their disability. How we talk about people matters.

My office is actually in the same building as the Sheltered Workshop which gives jobs to individuals that can work and choose to do that in an atmosphere that is built for them. Some work in the job prep section that teaches them how to do the job. Some work on finish work like making tables for those in the workshop or making things to be sold in craft shows. Some work in the section that does all the recycling. They work hard and they make a wage. The finishing area is where the ice machine is located so I see the individuals that work in there more often than those that work out in the recycling center. I talk with them every day and they tell me about what they are working on with such pride.  It’s awesome and they look forward to seeing me everyday. It really is nice.

I like my job. I understand it’s importance. I have a 2nd cousin named Brianna who has Sturge-Weber. She had a Hemispherectomy a few years ago and it really helped her because she was able to learn where previously that was not a possibility and it stopped her seizures. I love her. She loves to do all the fun things: watch Disney movies, color, and play with animals and kids. She’s fun. She’s 18 or so (sorry I can’t remember) but functions more like a 12 year old. In the days of the Habilitation Centers she would have been dropped off at the front gate of a large facility and never picked up again.

There is a Habilitation Center in the town of Marshall, where I work, and it saddens me. Luckily it is no longer used as a habilitation center and it is slowly closing it’s doors. It has a long history that saddens me, people simply didn’t know what to do with people with disabilities but that is not how we treat people and they are learning that there are better ways to treat individuals.

I’m really glad that the life of the Habilitation Center is not the life for Brianna and I’m really glad that I look out for people and make sure that it is never again. I love that individuals are given every freedom that they can possibly have. Some live on their own in apartments, or in their own homes. Some live with other people in group homes, like having house mates. And some simply cannot live on their own and need full time care and provided that in the least restrictive environment as possible. We work to do the best for each individual and we do what is best for them based on their needs.

I really like my job and I’m hoping to do a good job and keep it. So far, so good. This week we are hosting a Winter Ball and it should be a lot of fun.

Here is a photo of the old Habilitation Center (remember these people were just housed and were not allowed to do really anything, they lived and died on this land). 

Here’s a link to an old article that explains the closing down of Habilitation Centers: article

So that’s my job. I don’t provide services but I make sure that people are receiving the services that they need so that they can live a full quality life.

Church Shopping Week 3

Last week I had the flu so I didn’t go to church at all but this morning I attended a church that was recommended to me by someone I work with so. Today I give you:

First Christian Church of Sedalia, MO

I told my co-worker what I was looking for in a church: people in my age range, contemporary music and a community I could get connected to. I did tell him I was picky, because try as I might I can find anything wrong with any service because I sit there and say to myself, “wow you went that way with that” or “I would have done it this way.” It is extremely difficult to turn that part of myself off and to really focus on the church and the service.

I did feel a little pressure to like this church because I had been invited by my boss’s boss. But when I arrived I talked to myself in the car and told myself to just check it out, without the pressure and to just see how it went.

When I arrived I went in the opposite door, on the complete other side of building where the service was to be held. And instead of aimlessly wondering around the building, I went to the first group of people I found and asked them where the 11:00 service was and then the Children’s Minister kindly walked me to the room and gave me a visitor card to fill out and a pen to keep. It was very painless and I was very grateful that she actually walked me there instead of just saying, “it’s on the other side of the building.” So they definitely get welcome points.

Alright, back to the format: (to visit the first in this series click here and for the second week in the series click here)

  1. Welcome 5. A very welcoming bunch of people. At my old church I always groaned when the pastor, my father, would ask us to turn and greet someone new, because hello I knew everyone. But this morning when the pastor asked us to greet someone new all I had to do was turn around in a circle and greet everyone in the circle. Very nice indeed. Before the service began the pastor came and introduced himself which was nice and like I said the Children’s Minister walked me down to the fellowship hall, where the service was being held. Very nice indeed.
  2. Ease of flow 4. I did actually find an entrance outside, it just wasn’t the entrance I needed, but had I been going to the first service it would have been the correct entrance because the Sanctuary was right off that entrance. If I think back to my old church their entrances could easily have the same difficulty as this church. Since I was coming from the north side of town I parked on the north side of the church. I didn’t even see the south side entrance, where the service was held. Had I gone over there, perhaps there would have been an easily visible entrance. You almost need signs at each entrance telling you where you are headed. So 1st service head to the sanctuary and 2nd service head down to fellowship hall ie keep walking straight. Besides posting signs or people at each entrance I’m not sure how you combat this issue of too many entrances but with help I easily found where I was going and I could easily find my way out.
  3. Age range and size. From what I could see (I was sitting towards the back but not all the way in the back) there was a nice mix of ages and about 50 people present. There were some older people but there ages were probably in the late 60s early 70s. There were quite a few in the 50s and even more in their 30s-40s. I think there might have been one or 2 in their 20s and then some teens and some young kids. I liked that it had a range of ages. Where I was sitting I was probably sitting with mostly people in their 40s which was nice. There weren’t a lot of men but to be honest I’m looking for church, not a singles club and community will probably be wrought through relationships with women anyway.
  4. Music 4. The music was pretty great. It was contemporary, there was a band and there were one or 2 songs I hadn’t known but the ones I did know, I knew from listening to the radio which was a special treat. The only reason I’m not giving them a 5 is because the soprano sang things that were obviously out of her range. The alto did a great job and I loved that she led a good portion of the songs because her voice was soulful, which was excellent. There were a few moments where she was out of range as well but it wasn’t too bad. The drummer had a solo and there was a woman playing the base. It was really great and fun.
  5. Sermon 5. I really liked the sermon, mainly because it made me think. I even wrote down quite a few notes, which was great.
  6. 6. Overall feel 5. I really liked this service and not just because my boss’s boss recommended it. I really liked the peace that flowed over me and that I got something out of the service. I’m kinda bummed that I won’t be back next week, because I’ll be back in KC for Thanksgiving.

Overall I really enjoyed this church. The two churches I have attended have served communion by intinction which means I don’t even get to participate in even a little bit of communion. Back home I could at least have the juice but that’s not an option when inside the cup is a whole lot of poison to my system. Oh well. What are you gonna do about that? Not much to do except, accept it.

So overall a pretty great service and I look forward to returning in a couple of weeks. 🙂

Total: 23/25 92% not too shabby 🙂

Church Shopping: Week 2

My first week in the series: Church Shopping: Week 1

Today I went back to Broadway Presbyterian Church and it was worse than last week.

I had high hopes as I got up and got dressed this morning. I was hoping to see younger faces, hear better music and be filled with great words from the pastor and I was disappointed on every level.

  • Welcome 4. They were still a very welcoming bunch. They introduced themselves and were overall very pleasant.
  • Ease of which to follow 3. Things were a little easier to follow this morning. They had a worship team who led all the songs. They did a pretty good job but most of the songs were out of the leaders range so as a worship goer it was worse. The service I attended last week had probably about 50 people in it. This week we were down to maybe 25. And they all sit on the same side of the sanctuary. When I came in, a new person not knowing this rule, I sat on the wrong side. I was going to be rebellious and sit on that side but when two people came up to me and said that basically I was sitting on the wrong side I decided to move. What would have been better, is if the people that had been attending for awhile decided to conform to the new person. I know that is completely out of our comfort zones but when a new person shows up it is much better to put them at ease than to make them feel weird and out of place. They should have just adjusted to what I was doing, but oh well. There was no offering this morning which I thought was weird and there is no formal acknowledgement or directions that you need to sign the attendance pads. These are little things but when you are new to a church/service, the little things are all that count.
  • Age range and size. I already noted that the size was smaller than their other service. The age range is pretty bad. There were about 5 kids under 10. There were 2 teenagers. There was 1 32 year old (me). I would say there were 4 or 5 in their 40s and 50s and the rest were 60-90. I’m looking to join a church to build community. I mean sure it would be nice to meet and marry but that’s not the goal. The goal is to have somewhere, where I can contribute in some way, where I can meet people in my age range 25-40, and where I can get something. I want the give and take but I want there to be that opportunity. In this church that’s just not a possibility.
  • Music 4. They were playing contemporary music and I knew all but one of the songs we sang. They did not execute it very well and it was obvious that they probably got together that morning for the first time singing the songs but for a small church they did pretty well. I do have to say another annoying thing about the music was that they printed in the bulletin every word for the songs but we didn’t sing it all. For instance, we sang one of my favorite’s this morning, “Hungry” by Kathryn Scott but we only sang about half the song. That was really annoying. I love that song.
  • Sermon 2. I was really hoping the sermon would be good this morning but it, like the rest of the service, fell flat. It was disjointed and really didn’t go anywhere. I felt like he had ADD. It was really disappointing.
  • Overall feel 2. I just don’t feel like this is the church for me. I was hoping it would be but I’m going to have to go church shopping again next week and I don’t know what church I’m going to go to. Any ideas?

There was a bonus this week and that was that they announced that they were going to add two people to the second service that would lead the hymns which I thought was really great. They need that and they recognized the need.

Overall very disappointing and I won’t be returning. Also they are not having the contemporary service for the next 6 weeks. What’s up with that?

Overall score this week: 15/25 60%

It was definitely a fail.

Oh well on to the next….

Church Shopping: Week 1

Today I went to my first church in Sedalia. I wish that the first church I went to was the church I stuck with but the visit this morning has me doubting that will happen.

So instead of just telling you how it went or what I thought, I thought I would turn it into a Church Shopping  blog series. That way I can continue to update you as I continue to experience churches. Plus I thought this would help me turn disappointing churches into fun blogs to write. There’s nothing worse than sitting down and realizing within minutes that you don’t want to be there. Such an experience happened to me this morning but I said a little prayer and asked God to help me get through the service and out popped this idea for a blog series.

In this series I will name the church, and talk about particular points and ratings for each individual church.

The points will be

  • The welcoming atmosphere
  • Ease of which to follow
  • Age range and size of congregation in attendance
  • Music
  • Sermon
  • And over all feel

There might be bonus points that I go over as well but those could change week to week so there’s no point in bringing them up now.

The ratings will be on a scale of 1-5 (1 being they’re missing the mark, and 5 meaning they’re doing it just right). This is of course a subjective system and is only reliant upon my opinion.  You might be offended by my ratings and if so invite me back to you church and I’ll give it another try.

I decided this morning that each church will get 2 weeks to impress upon me it’s ways. I thought 1 week might be unfair because people have off weeks and so church’s might too because after-all they are made up of people.  Plus if like today’s church they have another service to attend I would like to give that a try. So with that said let’s get down to the first church in the series.

Broadway Presbyterian Church of Sedalia, MO

It must be said that I didn’t really like their website but this church is .6 miles from my apartment so I figured I could walk there on nice days. Today was a cold and windy day but I walked anyway. It was chilly but I made it and I got to see more of the town I now call home.

I went to the 10:30 service and I’m glad I did because their 8:30 service was not actually held today. This might be a good thing to put up on their website. If I had tried to go to that service this week I would have been disappointed.

Anyway, I walked in the church which was actually much harder to do than I thought. The front of the church had doors but they were all closed, probably because of the cold, so I just assumed I couldn’t go in that way. When I walked to the back none of the doors were clearly marked even though that is where there main parking is. I that once in the building it was clearly marked which way was to the sanctuary but I would have preferred a sign outside. My church back home has it clearly marked on the outside of the building which entrance is the main entrance. It is the one under the “Welcome Home” sign.

Let’s get to the points of discussion and rating.

  • Welcome 4. When I speak of “Welcome” I mean were the people welcoming. Yes they were. I had 3 separate people invite me to the after church coffee social that I didn’t want to attend. I had the same 3 people try to find out information about me and to invite me to go the weekly dinner (that I work too late for) and the weekly Women’s Bible Study. Which I thought was really great. The pastor even came up to me when Communion was being done (intinction style) and asked if I wanted him to serve me. But I’ll come back to the that in the bonus. Overall I found the church very welcoming so I gave them a 4.
  • Ease of which to follow 2. When I say, “ease of which to follow” what I mean is can I easily find the entrance, can I easily follow the music, is there an atmosphere in the service’s flow that makes me feel welcome? I have to say that they failed at this. They are a welcoming group but not being able to find the entrance to the church is kind of a big deal. The entrance I did find had me going in through the doors at the front of the sanctuary (ie stage area) so everyone that was already seated got to watch me walk to the back of the sanctuary where I wanted to sit. It was kinda creepy. The bulletin was also not easy to follow or understand so I was at the beginning stumbling quite a bit. And the hymns we sang no clear voice was leading it and the pace for at least the first one was off, so that by the end of the song people were ending on different words. It was so bad I stopped singing. Also when it was time to sing a hymn they gave you no time to find the hymn. I need at least a few seconds to find a hymn please.
  • Age range and size (there’s no rating for this I’ll just give you the range and size). The age range in general terms was 0-90. But that’s not taking into account that they have no 20 somethings, 5 30 somethings including me, and the rest of the congregation fits into the 50-90 range. So not a lot of people in my age range and those that were, were married couples with little kids. The 3 people I had conversations with were in the 60-80 range. Not that there’s anything wrong with an older congregation but let’s get real. I’m young and would like to hang out with people in my age range. Even at my previous church the people I hung out with met the 30-60 range. But there was a range. I need the range. I need people my age in attendance so that I can have a community that has range. The size of the congregation in attendance today was probably 50 people. It’s a small congregation but this is a small town so that is to be expected.
  • Music 3. The choir was good and the instruments that were played were good. But it’s not my style. Their earlier 8:30 service I have been told is contemporary so I will be checking that out next week. I like contemporary music and style because it’s easy to follow and I understand the words and can easily find meaning in the songs. Hymns for me are an older style that I cannot get into because I have to stop and read the words and then find out the meaning of the song. I know hardly any hymns and the way they were played today is definitely not my style. But like I said the choir did a good job and they deserve props for the music that they sang.
  • Sermon 4. I was actually quite surprised by the sermon. I mean the pastor is still wearing robes, and the music was so old I figured I was in for a real snooze fest but he was actually really relate-able and interesting. The sermon was all about being careful and thoughtful when you speak because we cannot take back our words. He told good stories and even though he spoke from the podium he did so without a manuscript which I thought was great. He also pulled out a guitar at the end of the service and played some of the songs with the organ. It was an interesting sound combination but I like that he tried to bring the service some contemporary pieces.
  • Overall Feel 3. I didn’t feel out of place in the service but I did at the beginning have to talk myself out of leaving or even leaving early. I had to convince myself that it would be worthwhile to stick around. I’m glad I stayed for the whole service. I’m not sure I would attend this particular service again but I look forward to giving their contemporary service another try next week.

Bonus: Communion. They had communion today by intinction (dipping the bread into the juice/wine), which with a smaller congregation you can get away with that. The deacons served the meal and then the pastor walked around serving it to the older members who were not able to go the front. Before the whole thing began the pastor mentioned he had a gluten free option which I thought was really cool. I was going to go up but when he came around I noticed that the gluten free option was on a plate right next to the bread! EEK! And that the gluten free option (rice cake) was going to be dipped into the same juice as those with bread! EEK! EEK! I politely declined knowing that God would understand that I’d rather not poison myself today. I thought it was cool that they offered the option but they obviously need some more education about gluten free and how to properly serve it.

Bonus: Cute kid. There was a little girl being baptized today and she screamed through out the whole thing. She even grabbed the pastor’s mic (wire on face) and tried to pull it off. She was cute but her brother was cuter. After the sermon her 3 year old brother kept saying, “All Done.” He said it so much I was beginning to think the same thing. This service should have been “all done” quite a while ago. It was super cute.

All in all it wasn’t too painful but I’m holding judgement until I see what their contemporary service is like.

For today their total score is: 16/25 64%

Sunday

I posted yesterday (Monday) about my move and how it’s going.

This past Sunday I chose not to go to church for two reasons: 1) I was worried about my car and 2) I was sick. My lovely sister helped me to move on Sunday and she gave me whatever sickness she had that day. This sickness has stuck with me but I’m taking lots of C and sleeping a lot and taking a decongestant in order to get over whatever this is, because my unemployment ends tomorrow. Yay!

Anyway, Sunday I didn’t go to church but I wanted to read some scripture so I would stay grounded for the day and the week.

See I know several things about myself: 1) I have a tendency to be independent in everything and go into myself, 2) if I don’t get to know people soon I will begin to think that I don’t need people, even though I know I need them. 3) I need to be in the Word to get through tough times, and what’s tougher than moving again.

So I picked up my Grandmother’s Bible and began the search for the piece of scripture I knew I needed. I was feeling off because of my encounter with my landlord (that is continuing to eat at me) and my car and this sickness that is hanging on a bit too long for my liking.

When my parents and sister left on Saturday, I was sad. I was sad to be left here alone but I knew God wanted me here. God wants me in this town, in this job for a reason and I am totally leaning on him to sustain me and to show me why here.

So I went looking for my favorite piece of scripture, my favorite piece that reminds me that God is my strength and that I can lean on him when I am troubled. The problem was, I wasn’t sure where it is.

I know what you’re thinking, “You went to Seminary, shouldn’t you know where all the verses are?” I know I should but I’ve never been someone who is awesome at memorization and I often find myself lost in the scriptures. I know where they exist and I know the general location but the actual location is lost on me.

So I knew Paul wrote my favorite verse but I wasn’t sure which book to begin in.  So I started in Philippians and luckily I was right.

My favorite verse is Phil 4:13. Once I found the verse I went seeking for my favorite translation. My Grandmother’s Bible is the New Living Translation but it’s not my fav: “For I can do everything  through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Then I went looking in the New International Version : “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.” Again not my favorite.

Then I went looking in the New Revised Standard Version: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I know it doesn’t seem like a huge difference but I prefer this translation.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He gives me strength and because of that I can do whatever it is he wants me to do.

it was a good day. Today has been another day of rest with a scatchy throat but I’m hoping a restful evening will help me to feel better tomorrow.

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