Monday, January 25, 2010


If you would like to see pictures of my experience, you can look at my albums at the following links:

I posted a lot of pictures.... enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Over the Mountain

I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I may never stop being afraid of everything. For example, I am terrified of riding on curvy mountain roads. When we went to CA for Erin's graduation we drove up a mountain and I closed my eyes most of the time. Thanks for the ride but I'd rather walk up. Add to this fear my car accident-related skiddishness and the fact that the roads have been icy/snowy/wet and we're riding in a small bus.... I'm a total sissy. I love the scenery and the beauty of the mountains but oh my goodness on every turn I pull a Jodi (which is to say I flinch, flail my arms a little and inhale loudly).

The other day we drive up Pine Mountain, and I spent the while time listening to a soothing playlist on my iPod (Jimmy, Regina, Deathcab, Glee). It was totally worth it though because the view was amazing (as you can see in the picture). It was warming up and we all piled out of the bus to enjoy and take pictures. The downside to the view is that the MTR sites that I talked about in my last note are really visible. In the picture those high flat parts aren't meadows; they used to be peaks but were blown up for strip mines.

It is good we stopped that day because we had to go around the mountain today since it was raining. The roads were ok down here but at the top it could be sleeting or snowing. The road was still winding but the mountains were beautiful with mist rising out of the forests. We made it safely to our next home away from home and I'm gratified to say that I am totally not the only one who gets nervous on the roads.

These blogs are woefully incomplete. I'm leaving out so many important people and experiences. But, these blogs are coming to you via text and my thumbs are not up to the challenge of boiling down these amazing people to a few paragraphs. Just know for now that I am meeting a lot of amazing people who are filled with love, compassion and hospitality, and who are totally passionate about serving other people.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thawing Out

This is a quilt hanging in the place we are staying - one of many. It is a tradition in quilting that every quilt has to have at least one mistake as a way of acknowledging that only God is perfect.

I am tired but I want to post a quick update. I think time moves slower in Appalachia... sort of like Easton. I feel like we've been here for weeks, but in a good way. I'm exhausted at the end of every day, but I think that's because I'm still waking up in the middle of the night a lot. Yep its been three weeks of bad sleep..its getting old.

On the upside we had sunshine today at it was above freezing. We went an awesome coffee shop, a Presbyterian church, a great cafe with bookshop selling local crafts, and a community arts org that preserved Appalachian culture by teaching locals about the arts. More on that later hopefully, but in the meantime Courtney Moore you need to go to and die because you'll be in preserving local culture heaven. The people who started it got grants to so similar things in developing countries.

I am learning a lot about issues related to coal mining and I can't wait to come home and research it so I can do a thorough description on my blog. In the meantime go to Google Images and search "mountain top removal mines" and be horrified. The cheapest and easiest way for coal companies to get to coal is by just blowing the top off the mountain and filling in valleys with the debris. Deep mining and auger mining would create more jobs without devastating the landscape but it costs a little more.

Then search "sludge reservoir disaster" and be disgusted. Coal companies wash coal in water and leave the waste in ponds all over Appalachia. It leaches into the lands and water - and worse - occasionally floods communities with something resembling lava-tar. There is waste-free way to clean coal but it costs $1 more per ton. The spill in Kentucky in 2000 was 30 - YES - 30 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

I plan to write a lot more later on what I am learning about these issues. At least for right now the region needs coal to survive, but the systems that are supposed to protect the people are not doing their jobs.

That said there is a lot of awesome stuff happening here. Each person I meet is doing good work in such different and creative ways. They are speaking up for the people but in ways that are gentle and compassionate.

And as a side note, my accent is gradually relaxing into a definite drawl. When I'm around Brits, Aussies and South Africans it is more like my inflection gets yanked around in odd ways. In the south its just like I fall into the accent. I have a feeling I am going to end up with a more pronounced Eastern Shore accent as a result.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hazardous Worship

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend worship with a Disciples of Christ congregation in Hazard, Kentucky. They were meeting in the living room of the parsonage for reasons related to the cold. I was wondering how awkward it would be to worship with 10 strangers in a living room but it was absolutely wonderful. Their pastor Joan greeted is warmly and has tea and cookies ready. A good start.

We had learned beforehand that Joan is from California and came here as an intern and then an interim pastor before deciding to stay. Being from a small town myself and knowing how Appalachians are often uncomfortable with "come-heres" I was expecting there to be something of a square peg round hole situation. California and Appalachia have fairly distinct cultures after all. I was happy to see that Joan was thrilled (if a little surprised) to be living in Hazard. And the congregants were just overflowing with gratitude for her presence! We sat in a tight circle and she led the group in worship that struck me as very emergent with a California flavor and the group was right there with her. I later learned that their worship is generally a traditional 1950's style Disciples service. It is quite a testament to the power of relationship that Joan and her congregation are able to share
their worship styles with each other and everyone is comfortable and happy. No doubt being in an informal setting helped too.

The message was about the Magi and their twists and turns and detours. Joan talked about how our paths are generally full of twists and turns - like car accidents and ending up in Kentucky. I could definitely relate having just had a couple of weeks full of unexpectedness and plan changes. In that comfortable circle Joan's words and calm presence reminded me that God is present with me on my crazy winding path and that there is a rhyme and reason to things even when I can't see it.

My trip has been full of surprises so far - like the fact that the congregation was not as elderly as we were expecting. Today we visited a state of the art hospital, a thrift shop, another Disciples church, the number one custom motor sports shop in the country, and applebees. Tomorrow its a coal mine and a rural medical clinic.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Knit Together

We are required to journal each day so I'm going to pass some of my thoughts along...

Today my group arrived at the Hindman Settlement School and spent a lot of time in the cottage where we are staying. In the midst of out chatting an impromptu knitting circle has sprung up. We spent hours today in the cottage. A couple girls are learning to knit, some of us are working in projects and others have been watching or reading as we chat.

I have been thinking about how knitting is about connection for me. There's the visual and tactile reality of twisting yarn into something beautiful and functional, but there's also the fact that as I knit this scarf for my cousin I am thinking about her and all of the things we are talking about doing together.

The practice of knitting is also very social though. Newer knitters need the help of more experienced hands and in the meantime conversation happens. This afternoon we shared knowledge about knitting but we also shared stories, wisdom and hopes for our future lives in ministry.

More than that I also feel connected to the greater tradition of women who create and nurture and provide for others. It reminds me that although this is a hobby to me, people throughout history and in the world today work hard with their hands to provide things they cannot buy. Knitting reminds me too that many hands have been involved in the creation of everything I wear.

Yarn is addictive. What starts with K1P1 often leads to spinning one's own wool into yarn. Step by step I am being led into a closer connection with the process that starts with sheep grazing in a field and ends with garments that we wear.

It strikes me as so appropriate that we have formed a knitting circle on this trip. Knitting illustrates things we are here to witness - community, labor, working to provide, natural resources, crafts that are beautiful and functional. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we are going to learn a lot about Appalachian crafts - I can't wait to learn more about how this bundle of connections is lived out in Appalachian art.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

I'm not going to lie: I was really tired and sore today which is why I am super grateful that some of the other students in my program took it upon themselves to look out for me today. I got a call this morning from Chad, a student at Lexington Theological Seminary, who told me that his wife was going to pick me up at the airport and bring me to Berea. I hadn't wanted to ask for someone to come get me because I didn't want to come late and be disruptive but apparently the other students didn't need to be asked.

I went through my travels in a bit of a daze but fortunately I love flying and I've done enough of it that I fall easily into a travel routine. When I arrived at LEX I got my bags super quickly because there were literally like 20 people on the flight. When I got outside Chad's wife Cara picked me up and told me that there was a change of plans. It was snowing steadily and the roads were bad so I was staying at their house.

So here I am on the LTS campus. Chad is coming up to pick me up in the morning and I'll join the rest of my group (finally). Besides the fact that people are showing me great hospitality it is actually a blessing that I flew instead of driving down - I would have been driving through the snow late at night. In other words if I hadn't wrecked my car yesterday in Earleville there's a good chance I would have done so in Kentucky tonight of would have at least been very stressed and tired on the drive. I still don't like remembering the hanging upside down in the car but there is definitely a silver lining here.

So I will attempt to update when I can... I am blogging by email on my Krakenberry so it all depends on having cell reception. Possibly people do not need to be updated on my exact whereabouts but this is also goingg to serve as part of my sharing my experience with other, one requirement of my immersion.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Annual Nostalgia

One of the great things about blogs is that in January I don't have to go searching through journals to find last years' resolutions, because I always post them. So, of course I went back to look at last years resolutions. They were:

1) Write more. (Fail)
2) Develop better spiritual habits. (Fail)
3) Manage my money better. (Semi-fail).

I'm not doing resolutions this year, unless I come up with something really good.

Anyway, while I was looking at my blog, I realized that I have been doing my blogspot page for 4 1/2 years which is kind of a long time. Looking back at my earliest posts, they are really Jesusy, and I realized that is because in 2005 I had blogger for spiritual stuff and xanga for randomness. So of course, I went to the xanga which I started in 2003. That seems like so long ago (because it is). I love going back and reading old blogs, journals, letters, etc, and I have to say, my 19-year-old self is pretty amusing.

A lot of it is pretty boring... random tidbits about my friends and things that I wanted to do. But I am humbled to realize that I was once guilty of those cutesy "I miss my boyfriend and he's so cute" posts. I'm sorry guys.

I also talked a lot about indie bands and the local Christian rock scene. I used the word "rad" at least once. Man I was such a hip ironically nerdy scene kid. This was of course before emo meant "suicidal" and when guys had to buy their skinny jeans in the girls' section.

Interestingly, I just read a post about struggling with leadership where I was lamenting the fact that my friends never respect my authority. This is actually something I was talking about the other day with a leadership team person... I'm really lucky to have had lots of leadership experiences and I think I've come a long way.

It was also nice reading comments from friends who I was close to at the time, and remembered how they influenced my faith, encouraged and respected me, dreamed with me, and talked about books and music. I also remember the blog wars from college, and how Bryna and I would have long blog back and forth discussions usually about existential crisis-related issues. Memories...

Long story short, its funny to see where I was 6 or 7 years ago, and I'm comforted that even if my 2009 resolutions fell short, I've grown up a lot in some important ways.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sad News and Blessings

I can be flexible. I was exclaiming this to my non-planner friends yesterday, as I was preparing to spend four days wandering across North Carolina, without any set plans besides a couple National Park Service sites I wanted to visit, and hopes of meeting up with some cousins. But minutes after I was bragging about my adventurousness, I received an email that one of the elderly saints of my church family was in the hospital, and this morning my dad texted me to tell me that she passed away. The news was sad, and Marilyn is one of a growing number of people who I will miss every time I worship at Trinity, but that the same time I know that she is glad to be with her husband Bud.

So I had to decide whether to change my course or not. I am supposed to be in Kentucky for my immersion program on Wednesday, and there was little chance that I could find out when the services are and no chance of clearing a late arrival to my program until tomorrow. I had been planning on doing some leisurely site-seeing on Roanoke Island and then enjoying restful solitude in a hotel that evening, but the idea of sitting tight and waiting until tomorrow to decide things made me antsy just thinking about it, so instead I decided to just drive home. I'd rather be doing something than waiting. The up side was that I got to have Courtney ride with me, and we had an enjoyable ride home and I even bought rain boots after my two-month boot quest. Much better than being impatient all alone at a Hampton Inn.

Of course now that I'm home there's a chance I'll have to turn around and drive to Kentucky without going to the funeral. It might be strange but I love funerals. As sad as it is when people in my life die, the ritual of funerals and the mixture of grief and celebration is really comforting. When it comes down to it, I am a routine person. I like that I live in a community that still has old-fashioned connections. When Erin was home for Thanksgiving, we went and visited Miss Marilyn and the Prigels (another couple from our church) and afterwards we were talking about how fabulous it is that we live in a community where everyone knows everyone and where we can spend a morning talking to wonderful elderly people who tell stories and share the news about everyone's kids and grandkids. I (usually) like going to restaurants in town and seeing 10 people I know. I love that at a funeral in our church I will probably cry, laugh and be uplifted, and afterwards I will eat amazing food cooked my familiar faces, and catch up with people who I've known for years. It's a celebration of life, grace, and community.

I'm not sure what the point of this meandering blog is, except that funerals remind me of how blessed I am by my community. I learn so much from saints like Marilyn McKee whose example have shown me what it is to live a faithful life and a graceful end of life. If John Wesley is right about Christian Perfection, then I know that I have seen a few examples in my community. I love to travel and experience new things and see new places, but I think my sister was probably right when she told me that I am a wholesome country girl. It sounds really boring, but I am starting to realize how much I love small-town life.