The Divine Secret of the Ho-Ho Sisterhood

Here’s my second You Are Here Stories post, filed under the theme for January, Laughter and Place. 

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Their husbands didn’t get it.

Lauren, Mary, Suzy, and I made plans to meet at Beth’s house near Chicago for a long April weekend. Lauren would drive in from Indianapolis, and Mary could handle the six-hour drive from St. Louis. Naturally, Suzy and I decided to make the trip to Beth’s together, from Pennsylvania.

Which is why we booked flights to St. Louis so that we could drive north to Beth’s house with Mary. Because, road trip.

This is what their husbands (and probably mine, if I had one) could not understand. It’s all about the journey.

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Homecoming

My first You Are Here Stories contribution is live. December’s theme is Finding Place. Enjoy!

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The snapshot is of a girl in a gray Allegheny College hoodie, one she purchased in the campus bookstore on one of her pre-college visits. She is gazing at the camera, chin on fist, an open notebook on the table in front of her, a pen clutched between her fingers. She is not smiling.

The girl in the gray sweatshirt is me, more than three decades ago.

I look at the photo today, and I remember the melancholy and relief, the complicated emotions I experienced upon completing the first term of my first year of college. I remember that unmoored sensation, adrift between old and new and unknown.

Read more>

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Finding my place: You Are Here Stories

Some of you may have heard that I have embarked on a new writing journey for 2016—starting in December of 2015. It’s a year-long writing fellowship with the You Are Here Stories blog: You Are Here | True stories about roots, identity, and place.

The founders of this blog met in the Glen Workshop West Spiritual Writing workshop taught by Susan E. Isaacs in 2014, in which I also participated. As they kick off their second year of publication, they invited in a handful of new writers to join them for a year-long fellowship. The 11 of us will write one piece every month, inspired by a particular theme, and we will edit and be edited by each other.

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I hope you’ll check out You Are Here Stories, both to read my stuff and the great pieces by my fellow team members.

I am here! And I am over there too:

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Advent 2015: Some thoughts for the longest night of the year

On the second Sunday of Advent, we lit the peace candle at Friendship Community Church. Then we were given a few moments to write our own prayers for peace before walking forward to place them into a basket next to the burning light. I didn’t have nearly enough time or space on my 3×5 index card to write everything that I was feeling.

As a member of Friendship’s Worship Committee, I helped to design this new approach to observing Advent. But when we had those initial discussions a few weeks ago, I had no idea how meaningful I would find the practice.

2011-Advent-copyI feel the darkness of this season more profoundly this year than any other time of my life. While the circumstances of my own life are relatively peaceful—and hopeful, loving, and joyful—I find it startlingly easy to get swept up by the spirit of fear and divisiveness that seems to characterize our nation and our world these days.

I don’t believe that the world is any darker or scarier a place than it has ever been throughout history. But given current events, I’m more dialed into that dark fear this year. I need the weekly—daily, hourly, minute-by-minute—reminder that a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.*

I need to remember that The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.**

ADVENT-VESPERS-2I am grateful that my daily work is within a ministry of hope that is equipping a new generation of leaders to live for the One for whom we wait this Advent season. I find so much to celebrate about the stories I hear coming from campus, to know that college students are catching a vision for what it means to bring shalom into their classrooms and residence halls today, and into their families, communities, and workplaces in the future.

Jesus Christ used the CCO’s ministry to change my life so many years ago, and He continues to change students’ lives three decades years later.

Wishing you a blessed, hopeful, peaceful, loving, joy-filled Advent and a very merry Christmas.

*John 1:5 (NIV)
**John 1:14 (The Message)

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New website, new colleagues, new cousin: my July newsletter

This morning, Bonnie, Tyler, Peter, and I gathered for a team meeting, reviewing our goals for the upcoming school year and talking about what it means to do “holy marketing.” How do we pursue our work in a way that reflects God’s Kingdom, both explicitly and implicitly? I love that I get to work in a place that considers that question. Not only does the CCO call college students to serve Jesus Christ with their entire lives, but we do our best to model that in the way we do our own work, on campus and behind the scenes. What a privilege that is!

New website!

The highlight of 2015 so far has to be the launch at the end of May of the newly redesigned CCO website. You may not remember what the old site looked like, but trust me when I say that after eight years, it needed more than a facelift. Bonnie, Tyler, Peter, and I experienced the ultimate team-building exercise this past year, culminating in a brand new ccojubilee.org. Please check it out—I’d love to hear what you think!
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New colleague!

In one of those “it’s a small world after all” moments, I discovered via Facebook that one of my newest colleagues, Eric Richey, and his wife, Alicia, are moving from Indianapolis to Ohio, to pioneer a CCO ministry at University of Cincinnati, Blue Ash. And they happen to know my cousin, Lauren Testerman, and her family from when they all lived in Indy. Crazy!
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New cousin!

On June 28, I got to celebrate with my cousin Mary Cooper and family the wedding of her daughter, Miranda, to Colten Lindberg. Miranda participated in the CCO’s Ocean City Beach Project in 2012, which has created a fun bond between us. I love it when my worlds collide.
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I look forward to more family time later this summer when, on August 1, we’ll gather at my cousin Linda’s house in Greensburg for Maczuzapalooza 2015. It will be poignant, as it will be the first family reunion without Dad. He loved his big family, and I know he would be glad that these gatherings continue.

This summer marks my 27th year with the CCO. It is not an understatement to say that I could not participate in this work without your support. Thank you for being a part of my life and ministry.

I need to raise a significant amount of my monthly salary in order to work for the CCO. Are you interested in joining my support team? Donate online, or find out other ways to give. Thank you!

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51 years

On June 20, 1964, Janet Fulton Hamilton married John Anthony Maczuzak at Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania. Today would have been their 51st wedding anniversary.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you both, and I miss you very much.

  

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On Ships, Harbors and Sailing into Uncharted Territory

One of my young campus ministry colleagues posted something to Facebook recently and I was reminded of this article that I wrote more than a decade ago for publication in the September 2003 issue of the monthly publication I edited back then for the CCOThe Ministry Exchange: an exchange of ideas & resources by & for CCO staff. Maybe it will resonate with someone today?

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I’ve been a little bit emotional lately. Between returning to Allegheny for homecoming and missing that place and those people — especially missing the feelings of being known, recognized and loved, and being totally familiar with my environment — and the uncertainties about my position here, things have been a bit rocky inside.

I recently read this passage in one of my old journals. It documents the spring I graduated from college, the summer I participated in CCO Summer Training, and the autumn I arrived at Geneva College as a full-fledged campus minister. It reads like a coming-of-age novel…or maybe a poorly-edited coming-of-age memoir. The above reflection was recorded on October 11, 1988, a little over a month into my time at Geneva.

A few months earlier, on June 8th, just before graduating from Allegheny College, I had made this notation:

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

These words were printed on a poster which hung on a friend’s bedroom wall. I’d seen it several times before, but reading these words just days before my college graduation added a fresh poignancy.

The transition from college student to working woman was predictably uncomfortable. Even my relative familiarity of the CCO couldn’t cushion the very real fact that my carefree undergraduate days were now a thing of the past. Even if your first job out of college is to work closely with college students, the fact remains: you are not in college anymore.

Going into New Staff Training, I believed that I was well-prepared to minister to college students. After all, I had been an active participant in the CCO-advised Allegheny Christian Outreach all four of my college years, attending large-group fellowship meetings and leading Bible studies and discipleship groups. The summer before my senior year, I immersed myself in the Ocean City Beach Project, and it was at OCBP that I discovered that I just might have what it takes to do campus ministry. A year later, I found myself with 17 other new CCO recruits at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, preparing to fulfill a four-year commitment to this ministry which had changed my life.

And then I arrived at Geneva College.

I was an intern at Geneva, which, at that time in CCO history, meant that I would move on to spend three years working at a different campus after completing my first year on staff. It also meant that I had a very fluid and flexible job description to allow for extra meetings and the study to which I had committed through the intern program. Ultimately, it meant that many Geneva students never quite figured out who I was or why I was there.

Was I a resident director? Not exactly — although I did end up filling an abruptly-vacated RA position shortly into my first semester at Geneva. I also supervised a group of upperclass students who served as mentors to the entire freshman class via small groups. (The irony here was that I was piloting a brand new freshman orientation program while basically feeling like a freshman myself.) When the mentoring program wrapped up at the end of the fall semester, I transitioned into my new duties — assisting the Assistant Chaplain (CCO associate staff member, Brad Frey) in administrating Geneva’s arts and lecture series.

And through all of this, I was learning how much I had to learn about doing campus ministry.

Beaver Falls may only be 75 miles from Meadville, Pennsylvania, but as far as I was concerned, Geneva and Allegheny Colleges may as well have been different planets. At Allegheny, I freely visited friends of both genders in their residence hall rooms at any hour of the day or night. At Geneva, I was expected to patrol the halls, making sure dorm room doors were propped open during the occasional (two or three per semester) open houses, when men were allowed to visit women in their rooms. Drinking and dancing were regular practices among Allegheny students, and strictly forbidden at Geneva. And then there was the whole Geneva College Sabbath-observance thing — no sports, no studying, no doing laundry on Sundays. (Is it even necessary to suggest that this would not compute at Allegheny?)

The external differences between my alma mater and my first-year ministry setting were merely symptoms of the biggest challenge of all. My experience as a college student had taught me that being an evangelical Christian meant being in a distinct minority, a member of “the remnant,” part of a fellowship which was merely tolerated as a recognized student activity, not encouraged. At Geneva, RAs were trained to lead Bible studies, close to 300 students showed up for the first Sunday Night Fellowship meeting, and we took turns leading devotionals at student development staff meetings.

At Geneva, even if a student did not necessarily embrace the Gospel message, she knew enough to “talk the talk” — whether or not she chose to “walk the walk” as one of Jesus’ disciples. How to minister to her?

And that illustrates one of biggest lessons I learned as I left the harbor of my undergraduate experience for the uncharted waters of campus ministry.

I learned that ministry is not about formulas or programs or doing-it-the-way-I’ve-always-seen-it-done. Ministry is about real people — individuals created in God’s image. Ministry is about God’s power working through my humility.

Ministry is about leaving the harbor and taking the risk of sailing into choppy waters — and trusting that the One who can walk on water will be right there, keeping me safe and doing the real work of ministry — softening hearts and changing lives.

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