Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tis the season...

If the Magi had been really wise, they might have chosen this option for gifts for the Christ child.

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Caro's Christmas Message

Yes, time has escaped me again, and I have resorted to a cut and paste to the blog directly from my latest email update (so apologies to those of you who have received the email and thought this might be something new)

Well, it’s that time of year again; the days are longer, the weather warmer, and Christmas is just around the corner. Where did the year go? Well may we all ask.

Executive Summary (more detail below)

* Study stuff - I have received my results for the semester which were reasonable, given the heavy study load I had this semester - still have one reading unit to complete (2 more essays to go) and then the whole degree is finished! Yay J

* I get around, round, get around, I get around - The end of year travel juggernaut has commenced, and last Wednesday I returned from 10 days in WA, most of which was spent in New Norcia. Next Sunday I head off to Sydney for Christmas and New Year, then Tas in the new year, and then moving to Myrtleford in March (after which I think I’ll just stay put for a while). Phew!

* Health stuff - The diet (and weight loss) continues. Now up to a total of 15.9kg (which is approx 2.5 stone in Imperial). Have finally seen an orthopaedic surgeon about my knees, and it looks like there may be surgery in my future- exactly how serious will depend on results of CT and MRI scans I am having next week.

* … and in the New Year - I officially start my placement in Myrtleford-Beechworth on 1st March, although the first fortnight is moving & settling in time. The Presbytery of NE Vic has set the date for my Service of Recognition for the evening of Friday 13th March, and my first Sunday “on deck” will be the 15th.

The Gory Details (for those of you who want it all… make a cuppa, put your feet up, and enjoy :-)

Study and College stuff
This semester I had 4 B.Theol. units (Pastoral Care & Ritual, Continental Reformations, Genesis and Ministry and Sacraments) as well as the Friday Program Dip. Min. unit on Prayer and Spirituality. This was quite a heavy workload, as all units involved classes during semester (as opposed to other semesters when I have had 4 units, but one of these was an intensive for a fortnight at the beginning of the semester, or over a few Saturdays). So this meant my weeks were pretty full, and I found it hard to do more than the basic minimum requirements for each unit. This was reflected in my marks, as for my B. Theol. units I ended up with only one Distinction (in PC & R) and Credits for the rest (and I still haven’t received the results for the Dip. Min. unit).

Even though my marks this semester weren’t quite up to the standard of previous semesters, given the factors of workload and other things I was managing (like the exit/placements process) I am happy to have done as well as I did, and to have those units behind me. Alas, it seems the High Distinction will continue to elude me (as it will be nothing short of a miracle for me to get an HD for my reading unit on Trinitarian Theology! I think even aiming for a D will be optimistic!), so maybe I will need to do another degree sometime in the future (the far distant future) to see if I can crack that final frontier :-)

I get around, round, get around, I get around
Wise Woman Goes West (again!)
I have just returned from a lovely time in WA. Once again it was good to catch up with Adrienne and the Brauns in Perth, and this time I also managed to have coffee with another friend in Perth, Ben, who calculated that it had been about 18 years since we last saw each other. It was delightful to catch up with him over a coffee en route to the airport on my way home.

Of course, the main reason for my visit to the Wild West was to spend time in the monastic community at New Norcia. This time, I deliberately did not take any study material with me, and enjoyed the experience of being immersed in the monastic timetable and lifestyle (with no TV, radio or mobile phone coverage, it was a real retreat!). I was in New Norcia from the Tuesday to Tuesday, and during the weekend in the middle of my stay participated in a formal retreat titled, Growing in the Reverence of God, which explored different aspects of the biblical notion of the ‘fear of God’ and what that means for our personal and corporate devotion and spirituality. For the rest of the time I read (totally for pleasure- 4 books bit the dust during the week!), finished off a cross-stitch project that I hadn’t touched in over three years, did some volunteer work in the monastery archives and museum and of course, spent time in prayer and reflection, which is so easy to do in that environment.

I was telling one of the monks how every time I visit New Norcia God seems to teach me a lesson about patience, tolerance and humility. After settling into the peace and silence of the place for a few days, I found myself getting a bit annoyed when other people would come into the guest house and behave in a loud and (what I considered) unnecessarily boisterous manner (and yes, I am aware that in saying this I am sounding like a grumpy old woman!). One of the general practices in the community is to observe the “Great Silence” from 8pm (after Compline, the final prayer each evening) until 8am (after Mass in the morning) and I always try to observe this silence and so usually take a book with me to read over breakfast, and if anyone is around at that hour (my habit was to have breakfast around 6:15, and most people who didn’t get up for Vigils at 5:15 tended to be still in bed at that time), I would try to avoid eye contact so as not to be engaged in conversation, and just focus on my book. This strategy usually worked, except for one morning, when I just couldn’t avoid being dragged into conversation by a particular woman. At first I felt impatient, and tried hard to cut things short and ‘escape’, but after a while it became apparent that she really did have something on her mind that she needed to talk about, so I settled into ‘pastoral listening’ mode and encouraged her to proceed. I got the impression that I was not the first person (and probably wouldn’t be the last) in whom this woman confided, but she seemed to appreciate the opportunity to be heard.

This experience, and conversations I had with other people during the week, reminded me that people go to New Norcia for all kinds of reasons, and with all kinds of agendas, and none of them are necessarily any more or less valid than any others (so after that I managed to not get quite so stroppy with others).

On a lighter note, I also fell in love during this visit to New Norcia… with a lovely dog called Sandy. Now some of you would be aware that I tend to be more of a cat fancier than a dog lover, but that in thinking of moving to the country, I have been considering getting a dog for company, exercise and security (or at least the appearance of it). When I met Sandy (who was the companion of a rather interesting guy who was also staying in New Norcia), after spending some time with her sitting on my feet, and snuggling up to my lap when I sat on the bench outside the guest house, I thought to myself that I could handle having a dog like Sandy. She is a medium sized Staffy X (not sure what with) and has the most delightful temperament. So, when the time comes for me to actually make a decision about getting a dog, I think I will have to drop a line to the folks at Staffy Rescue, to see if they have any suitable dogs I can adopt.

Sydney here I come!
Next Sunday (Dec 21) I will be heaving on a jet plane (again!) en route to Sydney this time, to spend Christmas and New Year up there with Mum. I’ll be there till Jan 7 (which is almost 3 weeks) and am looking forward to catching up with a few people whilst there (so, Sydney people, feel free to get in touch to book in a time to catch up!)

Heath Stuff
As you may be aware, I have had persistent problems with my knees for most of this year, and have finally managed to see a doctor about it (What? Me? Procrastinate? :-). The X-rays indicated moderate osteoarthritis in the right knee, and the beginnings of mild OA in the left, as well as a significant lateral deviation of both kneecaps from where they should go when I bend my knees. The orthopaedic specialist was making dark mutterings about the worst case scenario being knee replacements, but she said that I’m too young for her to consider doing this, and so if the CT and MRI scans indicate that my knees are so bad that there isn’t any other realistic option, she said she would consider doing some minor maintenance (which may involve injections and/or minor surgical scrapings to tidy things up inside the joint and maybe take some pressure off) until I’m old enough for her to consider the full knee replacement surgery (I think she said something about needing to be at least 50 for this). So I guess I will have to wait and see.

As I mentioned above, my weight continues to decrease, and I now find myself in a tricky situation of having shrunk out of many of my clothes (I went to wear a pair of slacks to church this morning and had to go for ‘Plan B’ as they were just far too big, and would have fallen off). I have started to resurrect some of my previous ‘skinny clothes’, but have effectively shrunk out of all of my jeans, so may need to pay a visit to an op shop to get something that fits for this in between phase (as I still have quite a bit more weight to lose, so am reluctant to spend too much money on clothes that fit me now, as I’ll hopefully shrink out of them soon too).

Intern Placement
A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the North East Vic Presbytery (along with Linley and Martin, the other two interns who will be starting placements there in the new year). It was good to meet some of the key people in the Presbytery, and to start talking turkey about dates for a Service of Recognition (to officially welcome me into the placement). Yesterday I also received a copy of the preaching plan for Beechworth, Yackandandah and Stanley for the first half of next year, and it was both exciting and a bit weird to see my name peppered through it. Kind of adds to the feeling that it really IS all happening!

My mind is gradually turning to address a few of the pragmatic things that I need to do in preparation for commencing my ministry up there, and first thing on my list tomorrow will be to ring the Synod removalist to start the ball rolling to arrange a quote and then book a date for the big move. At this stage, if everything lines up with the removalist and the manse availability, I am hoping to shift my worldly possessions as early as possible in the first week of March, so I will have the maximum possible time to unpack and settle in before I start work in earnest on 15th March. Mum’s planning to come down to help with the packing and moving, so that will be great (and she’ll finally be able to get a good look inside the manse, as we could only really do a drive-by and look at the outside when she was visiting last month).

Well, I think that’s enough for now, thanks for your support and friendship. I look forward to hearing news from your neck in the woods, so please keep in touch. I hope that you have a happy and holy time this Christmas, and manage to take time to reflect on the significance of the season beyond the hype and busyness and commercialism.