Posted by: sarahkennedy33 | November 16, 2008

Thanksgiving from A-Z

This has by far become my favorite blog-related tradition, something I love encouraging others to try to do as well! I started it two years ago, and hope to continue for many more! I keep a “Thankfulness Journal” all year–where each week I try to remember to write down 5 things I am thankful for–from the large (Chuck survived his bike accident) to the mundane (a great latte from the local coffee shop) Then, each November I go through my journal and come up with 26 things I am thankful for from the year, from A-Z. You can read my 2006 list here and my 2007 list here. Enjoy 2008’s installment below, and happy thanksgiving everyone!

A: Authenticity
I have learned a lot this past year about being authentic with God and with those around us. The Psalms have been incredibly helpful in this process–the writers of the Psalms don’t hold anything back, if they are angry at God, they tell him. If they are grieving, you know it from their words, they don’t try to gloss over things and put on their happy face. And likewise if they are really excited, that is conveyed as well. I’ve come to value and be so appreciative of authenticity this year. I’ve learned more about telling God where I’m really at, and I’ve learned a lot through my relationship this year that honesty and authenticity are absolutely essential to making a marriage work well!

B: Blog Readers
That’s right, I am thankful for all of YOU who are reading this! I love the comments some of you choose to leave (even when you may disagree with me!), and while I really write for myself, as a creative outlet, I am thankful for those of you who take the time to read my ramblings, and share life with me!

C: Chuck KennedyI am not quite sure I have the right words to express what a gift this man has been to me–I am daily thanking God for his presence in my life! Chuck pushes me to care more, learn more, question more, and experience more in this life than I ever would on my own, patiently holding my hand along the way. He truly has been my encourager, my best friend, and the one who can make me laugh no matter what kind of mood I am in. I love him so much and cannot wait to marry him on March 21!
D: Drs Dennis and Hammer
Back in February I decided I had put it off long enough, I wanted to start therapy at the suggestion of MANY people in full time ministry. They kept reminding me how important it is to know yourself when you are going into a field of helping others full time, knowing what our buttons are, how we react to certain situations, how our family systems have shaped us, how we deal with conflict and confrontation etc. Dr. Dennis has been my amazing counselor all year, and I absolutely adore her–and am so thankful for her listening ear, solid guidance, and understanding. Dr. Hammer is the counselor doing our pre-marital counseling and we are both incredibly thankful for his presence in our lives as well, as he’s helped us look at who we are as individuals and how that will shape our relationship as a couple. Praise God for people who use their gifts to strengthen others!

E: Ethics Class
I have never been a huge fan of ethics classes. I took one in undergrad on Christian ethics and found it to be dry, boring, and not really relevant to my life as a college student. So I was dreading taking my christian ethics class here at Fuller. In fact, I put it off til my 2nd to last quarter. I have been amazed at how much I adore this class, how much it has made me think, and how much I have been pushed to grow because of it! The whole class is based on the Sermon the Mount, and centers on the theme of justice–justice in all kinds of relationships. We’ve covered a bit of war/violence, poverty, marriage and sexuality (looking at what justice means in these relationships–it’s been fascinating!), and this week we start looking at what it means to have justice present in the midst of various cultures (issues of justice between whites and other cultures primarily–and how we have not treated other cultures with justice, really ever…) I am SO thankful for our professors passion and engaging way of teaching and pushing us to think!

F: FoursomeThis whole ‘entering ministry’ thing is a little overwhelming. Almost all the time. God knew I would need a few amazing women who have also been called to this journey to walk with me. Sophie, Jenn, and Becca have been an incredible gift, sharing the ups and downs of life, ordination exams, interviews by committees of pastors and elders etc. with me, and on days when I just say “that’s it, I don’t want to be a pastor!” they are right there to say “oh yeah, been there, stay there for awhile, it’s ok, you’ll come out of it!” Friends who let me be me–an amazing blessing!
G: Going Green
I am actually kind of thankful for the high gas prices and the water shortage here in Southern Cal. I know that sounds strange, but I do feel like I’ve been encouraged to make changes in my lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint on this earth. I’m recycling more, using water less, driving less, and am actually thinking about things like buying locally grown produce, eating more vegetarian meals (it’s harder on the environment to process the meat, and it’s harder on our bodies to digest the meat) and have been thinking more about how God has given us the job of being wise stewards of the earth and resources He has given us. I’m thankful for this small part we have the chance to play in caring for His creation.

H: HikingI have never been much of an outdoors person, I don’t mind being outside, I’m just not usually adventurous on my own to go exploring. Thankfully I am marrying someone who is! Our hikes this past summer have been awesome times of exploring God’s creation together, and even though I ended up getting a hernia on one of our hikes I can’t wait to get back out! (which reminds me, I am also thankful for the camelback Chuck gave me for my birthday…)
I: Inspiration
I feel like a lot of people or couples have a theme, or saying, or something that designates who they are and what they are all about. Chuck and I have talked a lot about who we are as a couple–who we want to be to one another and to the world around us, and one word that keeps coming up for us is “inspire.” We want to be the kind of people who inspire those we interact with to be who God created them to be. We want to constantly be inspiring one another to live the way we are called to live, and I am incredibly grateful for the inspiration he has brought to my life this year!

J: Journey Companions
I have always tried intentionally sharing life with a few people who are invited to walk with me, and I am forever grateful for these groups of people! This past year I have had the incredible privilege of journeying with these amazing women–most of whom just graduated from Fuller in June. We share a few hours together every other Saturday morning and dinner together every Tuesday evening and have had the chance to walk together through some difficult and joyful seasons in one another’s lives. These women are amazing and I have been shaped in many ways by the love they have shown me!
(from left to right: Tera, Becca, me, Jenn, Christina, and Alethia. Megan wasn’t here this morning.)

K: Kitchen
I have learned this past year that I really enjoy cooking! I don’t mind making grocery lists, going to the store, and spending time prepping a meal, it has become kind of relaxing for me. It’s way more fun having someone to cook for, and Chuck doesn’t seem to mind eating, and I am very excited about a few things we registered for that will make cooking even more fun =)

L: Long Distance Friends
I am not always very good at keeping in touch long-distance. There are very few people who I have successfully managed to maintain an intimate and long-distance relationship, not because I stop caring about people when I move away, but simply because I am such a face-to-face, quality time person. Connecting with people on the phone is tough for me sometimes, so I treasure visits from those who live far away! Several friends have been down here in the past year–Heather, Jen, Missy, Jenn, Miranda…I am so thankful for all of you! For making the effort, taking the time to come visit, and for loving me even when it is weeks before I manage to return a phone call!
(Missy & I during her September visit)
(Jenn and I when she came down for our engagement party)
M: Mono
I know, this sounds like a very strange thing to be thankful for, but I really am! I had mono back in January and February, and while it was a fairly mild case, I was pretty out of it for a couple weeks, spending a lot of time on my couch by myself. I managed to make it to most of my classes, but couldn’t do very many other things for awhile. I realized during that time a few things I am thankful for. One, that much time alone with nothing but my own thoughts to occupy me was actually the catalyst for starting therapy. I realized how many things I did need to process with someone, and am so thankful for that. Two, it showed me that Chuck cared about me for me, not for what I could go out and do with him–since I couldn’t do much, and since he showed me with his faithful visits that he cared, I knew he was dating me for me, which was an amazing realization! And three, I’m thankful for mono because I had the chance to be cared for by so many friends–friends who stopped by for visits, brought movies, food, and their company was truly a picture to me of God’s grace and community!

N: Newness
Ok, honestly, I am not a person who handles change and transition well. (Good thing I have NO changes coming up in the next year…ha ha…) BUT, every now and then new things show up that are pretty fabulous =) This year, I am thankful for four “new” things. One, a new family. When I get married I am being brought into a family who has been so welcoming, encouraging, and genuinely willing to get to know me! I get to “inherit” two fabulous nieces and a pretty wonderful nephew, as well as a new brother, sister, brother in law and parents. Even though I don’t know them well (and haven’t met two of them yet) I am thankful for them!
Chuck with his nieces and nephew: Diana, Jon, and Helen
Two, I am thankful for the Company of NEW Pastors. (I didn’t know what letter to put this under…) I had the chance to participate in Fuller’s branch of CNP for Presbyterian students who are pursuing ordination in the PCUSA. It’s been a great support group, where we have met monthly for prayer, fellowship, and theological reflection. (This is us a year ago in Louisville, KY at the PCUSA headquarters)Three, I am thankful for NEW LIFE! I adore it when friends have babies I can love, even if from a distance! This is Jean’s little one, Catherine Emily who was born in July (and makes an awfully cute caterpiller!), and other new little ones are on the way! Miranda’s baby Isaac is due to arrive in the next few weeks, and Jodi (Chuck’s good friend from FL) is due to have baby Noah in February–there will be a lot of babies at our wedding in March which I love!!And four, I am thankful for my new macbook, which I absolutely adore =)

O: Ordination Exams
I know, it doesn’t sound like something to be thankful for…but I kind of am! One, I am thankful ordination exams are over, that I passed, and that I don’t have to think about them. But two, I am actually thankful for the process of having to study Reformed theology in so much depth. I am thankful for the time I spent in our Book of Confessions this summer, and am thankful that the process has shown me that this is how I understand God and the world around me, through the lens of the Reformed faith. Plus, ords prepared me to teach a 4 week class at First Pres on Reformed Theology this October!

P: Pray-ers
When I left Seattle 3 years ago, a small group of women at my home church volunteered to commit to praying for me once a week while I was in seminary. All I had to do was send them emails and let them know what life was like for me, and they would pray. These four women, Dianne, Julia, Michelle, and Karen have been SUCH a gift to me from a distance! I know that no matter what is going on I can send them an email and they will pray–they prayed me through the transition of moving down here, adjusting to classwork, friendships, my internship, meeting Chuck, wrestling with discerning about marrying him and my future calling as a wife and pastor, and my ordination exams. They have been such a faithful team of people who I absolutely adore!
Another team of people has cropped up in my life over the past few years as well–my Cursillo prayer-warriors in Houston. This community of people are incredible, when they say they are praying for something, I have no doubt that they are! Again, just an email away and I know they are there to lift me before God–so to all of my faithful pray-ers out there, I couldn’t have survived these past three years without you, you are my guardian angels!

Q: Quiet
I’m not very good at sitting in the quiet. But, this past year I have developed more of a tolerance for it, and have even found quiet space to be good and restful! Usually I turn on the TV or radio as soon as I’m alone in my apartment, but I’m trying to create more silence in life, and thanks to Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, which my small group just finished reading, I am slowly learning to enjoy the solitude.

R: Rest
I think this probably goes along with Quiet, but this year I feel like I have gotten much better at actually resting. The concept of Sabbath has been important to me, taking time out to not work, giving myself permission to take a day off. The more burned out I have become on school work, the more I have needed longer Sabbath breaks, and I realize that when I take time to give to myself, I have so much more energy to share with those around me! I am a much happier fiance, friend, and student! This past fall Chuck gave me an incredible gift–a day of reading for fun, where I wasn’t allowed to do anything related to the wedding, computer, phone, or other people–I had to go pick a novel and a spot and read for fun. Those restful days have been such a treasure and I hope I will always continue to take those for myself!

S: Sister
My sister Megan is amazing. If you don’t know her, you should. Megs has been such a HUGE help when it comes to researching all kinds of things wedding-related for us on line, she helped organize my dress-shopping trip, has given helpful registry advice, and even created our wedding favor idea. Megan had a tough year with some health stuff going on, but watching from a distance as she and her husband faithfully trusted God and continued relying on Him was such an encouragement to me. She also recently got ordained as a deacon in the PC(USA) and has served her church in Providence in so many ways. I am VERY thankful for her, for her example, and for her friendship, and there is no one I’d rather have as my maid of honor than my little sister!
(this is her and Nathan doing something to a tree in their yard)

T: TA-ing
This is my second year being a Teaching Assistant for professors here on campus, and while it has been a TON of work, grading papers throughout the quarter at what feels like a non-stop pace, I have really loved this opportunity. I have worked with two different professors now, our professor of youth, family and culture, and a preaching professor–TA-ing classes such as introduction to family ministry, creative preaching, youth outreach and evangelism, and preaching practicum. I’ve had the chance to encourage students in their learning, listen to a lot of sermons and offer feedback, and see people come to all kinds of new realizations which has been awesome! Plus, it’s an income. A small income, but still, an income.

U: Unconditional Election
I know, I am such a Presbyterian…I am actually not really wanting to write about Unconditional Election, but what I am thankful for is the opportunity I had to teach a class on Reformed Theology at my church this fall, and one of the topics I had to tackle was the doctrine of election. I was terrified–that is a HUGE and complicated topic (and often controversial). BUT, I am thankful I made myself do it and that the experience showed me I really can engage in dialogue with people in a classroom setting that I have to be the one leading.

V: Vino
I know “vino” is usually used to denote an Italian red wine, but I needed a “V.” I am thankful for wine this year–mostly white, mostly cheap, but still delicious white wine =) I never used to like it, but this past year I have developed a taste for it and find blogging with a glass of Reisling nearby a fabulously relaxing way to end a day!
W: Wedding Planner
We knew when we chose Minnesota for our wedding we would need a lot of help! Planning a wedding in MN from LA is difficult…BUT, we have been given the most incredible gift in my mom, our official wedding coordinator =) Mom has spent hours on the phone booking and arranging the different pieces we will need for our big day, and has run all kinds of errands for us, and will graciously continue to do so up until the big day. Mom, I am SO thankful for you and all the self-less work you have put into this occasion, and I love you! (and Dad, our wedding financer…I love you a lot too!)
(me with my “wedding planners” back in June)

X: X-treme
I didn’t even have to stretch this one, it really is spelled this way: x-treme! Our small group through the church Chuck belongs to has been amazing. We named ourselves Team X-treme and have met every Tuesday. I have only met with them since about March, but this group of individuals has been such a gift to both of us. They have been so encouraging, and have been an amazing connection to the non-seminary world! It’s also fun that most of our group is Asian, so we have been introduced to pieces of their culture that has been such a gift to us! Here’s a picture of a very large group, not all these folks are part of Team X-treme but several are….
Y: Young, William

Since I love reading so much, I usually try to include something on this list about a book I’ve read this past year. Last year I was thankful for the 7th Harry Potter book which was amazing. This year, I’m thankful for William Young, and his new best seller, The Shack, which has drastically impacted the way I think about the person of God, and the trinity and the way that we depict God in our churches. We oft
en think God is this caucasian man with a long white beard. Nowhere in scripture does this hold true, but here in American churches this is often what we think. In reality, God is not male or female (Jesus did come as a man, but that does not mean God is male…) God is not connected to one race anymore than another. The way this author depicts one man’s encounter with the Trinity is powerful, and will push anyone who reads this to reflect on how we’ve been taught to view God. Best book I read this year, hands down =)

Z: Zuma
Ok, I’m stretching it here–I needed a “Z.” Since dating Chuck I have had the chance to spend way more time at the beach than I ever have in my life. He loves surfing, and I’ll sometimes ride out to the beach with him and then sit and read, take a walk, or just enjoy being outside. The beach is still not my favorite place, I’d still probably prefer to be in a cool mountain setting, but this past year I have become much more thankful for the beach, and for the place that it has, and will continue to have in our lives! So, since we go to Malibu beaches a lot, and Zuma is in Malibu, well, I’ll say here that I am thankful for Zuma =)
How bout you? What are you thankful for?


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