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Hello and Goodbye

Summer is a season of transition in this community. So many people graduate in May, and then off they go into the world, to do the work God has called them to do. The town of Wilmore seems to empty, tipped on it’s side as a flood of people transition out of the area.

And after a few weeks, new families begin to move into the empty homes, new students arrive,  there are new faces to meet.  Where there was an air of sadness before, there is now a feeling of excitement that is almost tangible. As the town is refilled with people, it is also infused with a new energy.

Because it is so filled with transition, summer can be a hard season, both for adults and children alike. The face of a neighborhood can change in a weekend, and those who stay in the community can feel alone, abandoned, isolated.  Children lose their playmates, adults lose their connections with others. There can be a sense of loneliness that is palpable.

But summer also invites in a season for rest and renewal.  Leaning into the quiet and the peace can lend itself to a new awakening of deeper spiritual practices and a new sense of self.  Without the distractions that seem so abundant during the school year, summer can be a time to connect and reconnect with the Creator on a deeper, more intimate level.  A time to be in creation and appreciate it for the beauty and joy that it stirs up in one’s soul.  A time to forge deep and lasting relationships, to truly lean in to the friendships that have begun forming, and to solidify them.

Is your summer full of transitions, full of changes? Are you weary and over-extended, emotionally worn from the day to day? Perhaps it is a holy invitation to rest, to recharge.  An invitation to spend time with the Divine and be refreshed by Him.  Take a Sabbath, or two, or perhaps a week if you are able, and rest.  Rest in whatever way brings healing and renewal to your soul.

Our team regularly prays for people in the community, those whose needs we are aware of, and those that the Lord places on our hearts. If you are in need of prayer, rest, renewal, please don’t hesitate to contact Community Formation. We will pray with you and for you.  

 

 

 

Out of the mouths of babes

This past year, our office made a goal to focus on the children of the seminary. We had it on our hearts to transform our childcare from just babysitting children to offering it as an opportunity for spiritual formation for our children.

We made a change first in staffing, and rather than hire a university student as supervisor as we had in the past, we hired a seminary spouse to be our direct supervisor. In Christina Embree, we found someone with a depth of experience in children’s ministry, as well as a heart to connect and mentor the university students that we employ.  She came to us, new to the seminary and new to the area, but with a passion for youth that we could not have anticipated, but what we had prayed for.  She jumped in at the beginning of fall semester, creating lessons, making plans, her exuberance contagious. Immediately, she connected with both the children and the workers.  During the fall semester, she wrote out lesson plans, but in the spring, we decided to buy curriculum for childcare. We chose a curriculum based on the “Jesus Storybook Bible.”

And it has been a joy to watch children connect with the Bible and how they are a part of the greater Story.  My own children have come home, and surprised us greatly with the insights they have come to during childcare.  The stories, the crafts, the games all have a purpose and a connection to the Story. As they have worked through stories of the Old Testament, they have had questions and struggled with some of the greater questions that we have all had at one time or another. God’s goodness, His sovereignty, His anger, His grace. Though my children don’t know the big seminary words that easily roll off the tongue of so many in this place, they have a depth of understanding the heart of God that we adults seem to struggle with. They accept His love so easily, so readily.

As we continue to grow in this ministry, we covet your prayers. We desire for this time that our youngest community members spend together to be formative and transformative. We want them to know and to live into the grace that is offered to all of us, to experience the love of God in new ways, and to learn what their part in the great Story is.

 

Reinvention

It has been on my heart to utilize this blog more. There is so much that happens in our Family Formation office, so many things that occur behind the scenes, and I really want to highlight what our team brings to this community and what we offer for students and their families.  I want to create an awareness so that we can have members of our community come along side us and help with our ministry. What makes us unique is that we need volunteers and community involvement to make so many of our programs come to life.

Our hearts desire is to offer opportunities for students, spouses, and their children to strengthen their families, grow in relationship to others in the community, and be awash in the love and grace of Christ. This time here at ATS is unique for every person that walks across it’s campus, and yet we all experience so many of the same emotions and difficulties, joys and transformations, mountaintops and valleys.

I want to share with you why Community and Family Formation and it’s ministry is so dear to my heart, and I hope in future posts to share the hearts of the other members of our team.

My husband and I came for a preview weekend in April of 2011. We were on a long weekend, away from our 2 children, exploring several different seminaries. My husband had finally realized it was time to listen to the call on his life, and Asbury was our third, and final, seminary visit. There was something about this place that was apparent from the moment we stepped on the lush, green lawn (coming from wintery Minnesota any amount of green was a joy to behold!).  There was a feeling that we got during our time here, this sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and it felt like holy ground.  As we journeyed through the preview weekend with many other perspective students, we were impressed by the understanding the seminary had that school was not just for the student. There is a realization here that this is a journey  the whole family takes together, and they provide opportunities for growth for the family. I loved the thought of childcare being available for events and chapels, and the chance to audit classes or get involved in a small group even as a spouse.  We were sold on this place, for this time in our lives, because it seemed that it would offer exactly what we needed.

And it has. But not always in the way we have expected, or wanted.  The first year was a challenge. The emotional toll of transition, along with the surprise pregnancy of our third child, left me longing for what we left behind. I ached with loneliness. My husband poured himself into his studies that first semester, and I felt adrift. I couldn’t work in the field I felt called to, and I couldn’t find any job. Finances were tight. Stress was high. I found myself weeping during chapel more often than not.  But I leaned in to the community here. I went to chapel on Tuesdays and Thursdays, taking advantage of the childcare that was offered. I took the Spiritual Formation class with Marilyn Elliott, and found myself stretched and transformed by what I learned and how I grew through the class.  I went to every women’s communion, where every speaker seemed to touch me at my core. I joined a small group, and tried to get to know those around me.  As an introvert, some of these were more challenging than others, and taxed my already fragile state of mind.  My husband also leaned in to the community. He joined a men’s accountability group, and continued to adapt to the rigors of academic life. Together, we attended the monthly Couple’s nights (now known as Us Time) and realized the stress our marriage was under. In our second year, he joined the Healing Academy (and I have also since then) and it has been transformative in our relationship with one another and with our children. We have found healing in places that we did not realize were broken.

My heart breaks for those in our community who are lonely, who feel disconnected. The first year, especially in the throes of transition, is so very hard on a person. One of the many reasons I am passionate about the work we do in our office is because I found a place of refuge and connection through the activities that this office provided in my first year.  I know first-hand the ache of loneliness, even when surrounded by people. I understand smiling as you try to support your spouse in their call, all the while wondering why God would bring you to a place so far from family and friends.

THIS is why I am passionate in my work here. THIS is why I know the work we do is important. It touches people, it helps people. I find joy in knowing that we are helping make connections between those in our community, whether it is by helping them move in to their new homes here in Wilmore, or by providing a space for friendships to grow in a small group, or by offering childcare so that parents have a chance to worship in chapel, deepening their relationship with God. I feel blessed to be able to work for a department that has helped me be transformed in my time here.