Summer’s several anniversaries

This summer started with our second anniversary and ended with our first anniversary. How about that?

May 27th marked two years of marriage and August 8th marked one year in California, and we’ve certainly tried to enjoy each day in between.

Santa Barbara, two year wedding anniversary

Santa Barbara, two year wedding anniversary

Back in May, Kyle and I commemorated year #2 by hopping on Highway 1 up to Santa Barbara, where we strolled a 1786 Catholic Mission hosting a sidewalk art festival and wandered in and out of restaurants and wine tasting bars, eventually making it to the ocean shore. We had a fabulous day.  Inevitably the memories surfaced from first floating down Highway 1 in our rental car, dizzied with newlywed excitement, the June breeze perfectly cued every time we stepped out of the car to enjoy the California coast. That was over two years ago, on our honeymoon, just a few hours north of where we live today.

I remember casually tossing phrases into conversation on our honeymoon like, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to actually live here, 365 days of the year? This state has it all…”

As luck would have it, now we’ve truly lived here 365 days a year!

Yosemite

Backpacking Yosemite

The most recent 60 or so days here have been full…

Kyle is currently hunkered down to write several final papers for his two summer classes, The Art of Evangelism and Old Testament, both of which were taught by outstanding professors.  At the end of June, Kyle was best man for his brother Tyler’s wedding in St. Louis, and in July I co-hosted a baby shower for my good friend Kathryn and initiated a ‘Christmas in July’ party for my department at work. The first few days in August we traveled to Yosemite National Park for a weekend backpacking adventure with our Swiss Fuller friends Sabine and Dario. I began a weekly Saturday position at the Adult Day Center of a local homeless service provider in Pasadena.

Just this past holiday weekend we made it down to La Jolla for the day, an expensive San Diego suburb, where we mostly enjoyed the free, clean beach and charming farmers market (ok, the farmers market was not free–we succumbed to a melt-in-your-mouth tub of California dates before we got out of there).

All these occasions and milestones cause me to reflect on how far God has brought us since our first drive on ‘the’ Highway 210 into Pasadena a year ago:

  • We both looked for jobs and heard what the other desired so deeply in a career. Kyle landed in some really rewarding part-time positions this year, and I landed at a company that has proven to be a God-given fit so far.
Kyle's Birthday Dodgers Game

Kyle’s Birthday Dodgers Game

  • We both walked through the process of choosing and being chosen by friends, which can be a beautifully raw process. Just a year later, we’re rich in new confidants and mentors, family away from family so to speak, even as we stay in touch with many from back home.
  • We held each other when we were homesick, and held each other back when we (most often me) wanted to go on lavish Cali dates we couldn’t afford. (Side note: California seems to have an hourly rate on their weather and accessible-everything. It’s daunting to be residents on one and a half salaries while in grad school, and remains one of our biggest sources of strain, but God has provided so much, and more).
  • I supported Kyle as he labored away in year one of grad school, wrestled through some really pivotal questions, and humbly succeeded in ways big and small. Kyle supported me as I labored away at Russ Reid, wrestled through questions about my career and giftedness, and humbly tackled whatever the task at hand with eagerness to learn.

In fact, these things have carried us seamlessly into year three. And year two. Ah, you get the picture.

Here’s to our second California fall, when it’s still 92 degrees but hey, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks!

Would love to hear what milestones you are celebrating in your own life!  YosemiteLa Jolla's beauty

No April Showers, But Lots of Flowers

The flowers spring from a different kind of soil here in Southern California. I’ve been amazed that they have survived and flourished on literally a few days of rain since we moved here seven months ago. Below is a wonderful portrait of what an iPhone can capture on a five minute walk during my lunch break! flowers

Local chatter these days is often about the recent earthquake activity (did you see our local news anchors’ reactions here in L.A.?). I also overhear a lot about the ice cap levels in the mountains surrounding L.A.–this is allegedly the ice earmarked as L.A.’s water supply when it trickles down to all of us sea-level folks during the summer months. Ok, so maybe not allegedly–for real. It’s fascinating conversation for a Midwesterner who has never lived in a desert nor on a tectonic divide, and whose state is still getting snow showers in April. Earthquake readiness kit with lots of bottled water, coming soon to our front hall closet!

Kyle’s spring break came and went during March; he used his time in both relaxing (read: went to the beach) productive (read: oil change and doctors appointments) ways. Now he’s immersed in quarter number three, with a lineup of Greek (still), New Testament Introduction: Romans through Revelation, and Church and Mission in Global Contexts. I’ve already received a few homilies at dinnertime. He’s REALLY excited about Theology Week this year at Fuller, May 1-3, when Miroslav Volf and THE N.T. Wright will be giving lectures throughout the week.

Beach day reading and relaxing during spring break

Beach day reading and relaxing during spring break

I’ve grown into my role at Russ Reid and am especially encouraged recently by the friendships I’ve built with many of my coworkers. Russ Reid celebrates 50 years this June and will throw a big party in Pasadena to celebrate. Speaking of celebrations, for the first time ever, I’m actually feeling ok about going in to work on my birthday in May, because our department usually makes it pretty special! I am also looking forward to “summer half-day Fridays” starting in late May, when the company hours are 8am–5:30pm, and–you guessed it–a half day every Friday. That is, if I can get away–operations work is the most stressful from June to August, so I hear.

Outside of work, I’m pleased to have joined the Young Leaders Society of Union Station Homeless Services, a group of young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s. After looking into various service opportunities since moving here, I knew this was IT as soon as I attended one event. The group volunteers together, first and foremost; they also meet together in committees to support Union Station’s core goals and they even have social events. On April 26, we’ll cook and serve breakfast to 100+ homeless people. Perhaps I’ll serve a familiar face; I pass so many homeless people each day I walk to work and I’m anxious to know more of their names.

Kyle and I are counting down the days until two exciting trips this summer. My brother Austin graduates from Clemson University on May 9, and Kyle and I will take a long weekend out in South Carolina to celebrate him and see my immediate family. Then, in late June we’re headed to the Midwest to be at Kyle’s brother Tyler’s wedding in Iowa and to see Kyle’s family. We’re grateful for the opportunities to see both our families (albeit briefly) in the next few months.

Easter is something we’re looking forward to celebrating with our new church home, Fellowship Monrovia. It’ll be especially exciting this year because we are partnering with two other churches and gathering as one big community at the Hollywood Bowl!  Talk about a memorable first-time experience at this famous outdoor venue. We’ll let you know what it was like in our next post!

Happy Easter,

Natalie

Checked out another amazing hiking trail about 20 minutes from home with some dear friends from Switzerland, Dario and Sabine.

Checked out another amazing hiking trail about 20 minutes from home with some dear friends from Switzerland, Dario and Sabine.

 

 

Five Things I Love About Fuller

Kyle on Library Steps

On the steps outside of Payton Hall.

In thinking back over previous blog posts, it occurred to me that we have said a lot about our lives here in southern California–what Pasadena is like, the kinds of people we’re meeting, the sorts of activities in which we’ve taken part–yet we haven’t really said all that much about the thing that brought us here: Fuller Theological Seminary. In fact, I went so far as to share a blog post about things that I had learned outside of the classroom while at Fuller. 

But you might be wondering what Fuller itself is like from my perspective, and I’d love to tell you. So far, I have felt nothing but confirmation about coming to Fuller. It is a great school for me to be attending to receive my M.Div. (which is kind of a gateway degree to all things pastoral). Many denominations still require their pastors to receive this particular degree. It also is a common degree taken by those pursuing even higher degrees, so there is a really nice blend of practical education as well as theological reflection contained within an M.Div. program.

Right, you might say, but you could have gotten that degree anywhere. Why go to the other side of the country to get the same degree you could have right down the street? I’m glad you asked. Here are five things about Fuller that set it apart, things that I believe will help to shape me into a more faithful pastor. After all, isn’t that what this is all about?

1. Fuller has a unique voice in the evangelical community. The oft-heard joke around here is that Fuller is too conservative for the liberals, and too liberal for the conservatives. Some see this as a deficit; I tend to see it as a strength. There is deep concern here for academic rigor, but unlike some places, I truly feel as though the academic rigor is always in service of God’s kingdom–not the other way around. This critical reflection sometimes pushes Fuller toward stances with which not everyone in the evangelical community would agree.* However, I feel as though the stance they have taken has given them a vantage point of credibility, both within the church at large as well as with the secular community–a bridge sorely needed in our increasingly secular society. Those in leadership at the seminary have historically set the tone well in this area, and with the inauguration of our new President, Dr. Mark Labberton, I think this will only continue. He is a class-act.

Greek w:Coffee Pic

Unfortunately, this is indeed what 6:30 A.M. looks like for me all-to-often: an already half-empty mug of coffee and Greek textbook in front of me. We all know I secretly love it, though.

2. Fuller is concerned with the redemption of the total person. The seminary itself is actually composed of three schools: the School of Theology, the School of Psychology, and the School of Intercultural Studies (formerly known as the School of World Mission). Together, these schools address the total needs of people, ministering to one’s entire self. True redemption is not merely a matter of the soul, but also concerns the minds and bodies of people and their social situations. Each one of these schools produces some of the finest scholars and practitioners in their respective fields, and there is much cross-pollination. For example, I plan to take a class next quarter in the School of Intercultural Studies called “Church and Mission in Global Contexts,” discussing the way other cultures envision church and how the church can learn to be a force in whatever context she finds herself. Fuller is particularly good at this because of the next point below.

3. Fuller emphasizes diversity in many forms. I could be wrong, but my sense is that very few seminary communities are as diverse as Fuller. Where else could I share creative writing with a friend whose family originated in the Philippines, have delicious dinners with our neighbors from Vietnam, and meet for prayer each Wednesday with an African American youth pastor? This is teaching me a greater cultural dexterity and offering me a new set of questions to ask when I meet people and engage with them. Further, one unique thing about Fuller is that it offers certain degrees taught entirely in Spanish or Korean. But the diversity does not only deal with race or ethnicity. Each day, I sit next to students who come from literally EVERY denomination imaginable. It really pushes us to refine our own assumptions about our denominational traditions.

Aughtrys at Getty

Our good friends, the Aughtrys. Matt just might have the best bi-vocational calling ever: pastor-filmmaker.

4. Fuller attracts some pretty amazing people as students, faculty, and visiting presenters. You would not believe what some of my peers, colleagues, and mentors have done. One of my best friends on campus studied film at USC (“Not that USC,” he is quick to point out. “The University of South Carolina.”). Part of why he is here is to be stretched in how he connects his art with the Gospel. Currently, I have a professor who has produced award-winning work on the relationship between science and religion. The kicker? I studied her work in some of my undergraduate courses in philosophy (at a secular university, mind you). Two people I respect deeply in the Christian community–John Ortberg and Andy Crouch–serve on the Board of Trustees at Fuller. This spring, both N.T. Wright and Miroslav Volf will be presenting on campus within a week of each other (if you are nerdy enough, this should be eliciting goosebumps for you). I could go on and on. But maybe this is the best evidence for my case: one of the former deans of the School of Psychology founded eHarmony. Does it get any better than that?

5. Fuller students are passionate about following Christ. This is the one that really matters at the end of the day. We could talk theology all day long, but if it was for our own ends, all would be for naught. Fortunately, there are a lot of folks here who have some really sweet, bold, audacious, holy dreams in their hearts, and they are fired up to see them be realized in service of the Kingdom. It makes each class a privilege and a joy to attend.

Stay tuned in the next couple weeks for a follow-up post, because I’d love to share with you some of the specific, important things that I’ve learned from my classes thus far.

Until next time,
Kyle

*Note from above: One example of an issue that some evangelicals would disagree with is Fuller’s refusal to use the word “inerrant” in describing characteristics of the Bible. If you are curious, I’d encourage you to see their entire position on the Bible, outlined here. For the specific issue at hand, read below the heading The Language of “Inerrancy” and its Dangers.

Turning a Corner

Gorgeous January afternoon in Old Town San Diego.

Loving the gorgeous January afternoon in Old Town San Diego.

While getting ready for work a few weeks ago, Natalie yelled to me from the bathroom:

“Have you heard anything from the housing office recently?”

Me: “No, why?”

Her: “Because I just realized–our lease is almost up. It’s already been six months!”

Me: “Six months? We haven’t been here six months! Our lease began on August 1st.”

Her: “Exactly. So…” And then both of us counted on our fingers to work out such highly advanced math. And she was right. We have been in California for nearly six months.

If I had to sum up last fall for us, it was all about getting our feet under us. We had to answer some really important questions about what our working lives would look like and how we would orient our schedules and what kind of relationships we could build and what kind of budget we were really working with and whether the Dodgers would beat the Cardinals in the playoffs…? You know, the really crucial questions. Answering these required greater amounts of attention, thought, energy, and prayer.

Of course, we knew (or at least hoped) this period of adjustment would not last forever; and over the past few weeks, we feel as though we have turned a corner. Here have been some encouraging reflections for each of us recently:

From Kyle:

  • Our sense of community has deepened since Christmas. For Natalie, her involvement with a group of Fuller wives has provided great support and amazing new women of all ages to connect with. She also has become closer with some of her co-workers. As for me, I have been blessed to have met some really wonderful people at Fuller, and have begun to foster great friendships outside the classroom.
  • Sunset on Coronado Island.

    Sunset on Coronado Island

    We have chosen to take root in a church called Fellowship Monrovia for the time being. It is a church plant that just turned two years old and is associated with Redeemer City-to-City‘s church planting network. We will probably have much more to say about the church in the future, especially because we have started to explore serving opportunities there (including with their college ministry, which brings back many warm memories of CCF for both of us).

  • Natalie has expressed a better sense of belonging to Russ Reid. Her co-workers and supervisors think highly of her (no surprise there, right?), even hiring a woman that Natalie referred to the company. As an added bonus, Natalie got the privilege of traveling with the company much sooner than she expected to go on a press check at one of the largest direct mail printing vendors in the country, Segardahl. A surprise blessing was getting to have an impromptu dinner with her parents during her quick 36-hour trip!

From Natalie: 

  • Kyle is thoroughly enjoying his seminary experience. I’ve never seen the man so focused, so intentional. He’s acing his classes. He is connecting spiritually with a few other married men on campus. He is contributing a great deal to the Field Education office at Fuller (where he continues to work). He is telling me all (only) the interesting things he learns. In fact, I’m auditing Pastoral Counseling with him every Wednesday evening. All right–we are both enjoying this seminary experience. Because it makes me so happy that he gets to do this.
  • The most delightful coffee shop stop on our way to San Diego!

    The most delightful coffee shop stop on our way to San Diego!

    We are making Southern California our own. On Sunday we drove further into the Angeles National Forest and hiked on Mount Baldy, the highest point in L.A. County at 10,068 feet. Over Martin Luther King weekend we used Christmas money to drive south to San Diego and spend the night in Little Italy. And most recently, we walked the majority of downtown Pasadena deciding on a restaurant that fit our date night budget. No doubt we’re getting some great exercise here thanks to our sense of adventure, indecisiveness, and frugality!

  • We are beginning to feel full again. Starting over in a new place means that at first we inevitably felt a little needy: needy for friends, for a church home, for familiarity with our city, and so on. During the fall, we definitely felt as much on the receiving end as the giving. This was good. It has also been good to turn a corner and realize that, without trying explicitly, we are becoming less focused on our own immediate needs or worries and more inspired to bless, encourage, and be generous toward others.

God has been good in His faithfulness; give glory to Him for His steadfast hand on us thus far! We love what is forming here in Pasadena, and we’re grateful for your support and excitement for us across the miles.

~Kyle and Natalie

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A completely different world above the clouds in the Angeles National Forest, just 45 minutes from our home

A Christmas Message from the Oesches

Russ Reid Christmas

The two of us at a Christmas party hosted by Natalie’s employer, Russ Reid

Just before moving to Pasadena, I sat down with the lead pastor at The Crossing (the church I worked at in St. Louis) and talked to him about the seminary plans Natalie and I had. In that conversation, I expressed to him our mutual excitement, as well as our mutual concerns, about moving. Would we be employed and/or receive enough financial aid? Would the classes be hard? Would we make friends? Would there be as many hippies there as we were told?

As is often the case with these sorts of things, his response was incredibly simple–something like this: “Of course you’re worried about those things, because you won’t know the answers to those questions until you are there.”

And now we are here. It’s already been quite a ride, and we’ve only been living in our little apartment for four months or so. Some of the worries we’d had have evaporated now that we are actually living here. On the other hand, some unforeseen circumstances and challenges have come along that have forced us to change our perspective and our plans at times. And some new opportunities, goals, and dreams have come along that never would have had we not stepped out onto this new leg of the adventure. We had to be in Pasadena in the flesh before we could know whether our hopes–and our fears–were founded.

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A picture sitting in the congregation of Saddleback Church, one of the largest churches in the nation

Coming in the flesh…the intersection of hope and fear…reflecting on our lives here has truly pointed us to celebrating the birth of Jesus this year. The Incarnation is a beautiful mystery for many reasons; one of them is that it represents God’s fullest and final statement about what he really is like. He came to a guest room in Bethlehem to show us. People didn’t have to wonder anymore, because God came to be with us in the flesh.

“The hopes and fears of all the years/Are met in thee tonight.” It’s one of my favorite lines in the whole Christmas carol canon and is from “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Technically, it’s referring to the meeting of humankind’s hopes and fears in Bethlehem; but by extension, of course it also is referring to the meeting of our hopes and fears in the one that was born in Bethlehem. The fact that Jesus came in the flesh to dwell among us created the opportunity for our hopes to be realized and our fears to be dealt with once and for all.

IMG_0011That’s what makes every day an adventure here. We know that we are here because we have found this great hope in a living Lord, and that our greatest fears have already been accounted for and dealt with. Are we still adjusting? Absolutely. Is it uncomfortable sometimes? Oh yeah. But here at Christmas, we are thanking God for being “God-with-us” during this first quarter of seminary.

Tomorrow, all of us will celebrate the birth of God himself (and for the two of us, it will be with Natalie’s family, actually, which is a pleasant surprise for our first Christmas here!). We wish that we could be there to do it with you too. But since we can’t, let us say that we miss you from afar and are looking forward to the time when we can see you again! Have a blessed Christmas, full of the hope and assurance that comes with the birth of a baby–our King.

Grace, peace and love always,
Kyle and Natalie

Getting to Know the Neighbors

Our friendship with the Nguyen family from Vietnam began with a simple gesture of neighborliness.  Today they call us “Uncle Ky and Auntie Natalie.”  I’ve been waiting for weeks to share with you one of the unexpected blessings of moving into Fuller housing!

Rose (still with baby) and Timmy at Blaze Pizza in Pasadena, Timmy's birthday destination.

Rose (still with baby) and Timmy at Blaze Pizza in Pasadena, Timmy’s birthday destination.

How We Met

We met Peter Nguyen within the first few hours of arriving in Pasadena, when a bunch of good-natured seminary students decided on a whim to interrupt their afternoon and help us move our life from two small Relocubes to one small apartment.  As we walked out our front door, there was Peter, one end of our desk in his hands, serving us by showing up just in time to carry in what was our last piece of furniture.

As it often happens when you live in close proximity, we began to bump into Peter as we walked to our car or to get the mail, and soon we met his wife, Rose, and six-year-old son, Timmy. We returned the neighborly gesture by sharing a meal together not long after.

Expecting

At the time, Rose was nearly eight months pregnant. This is an important detail for several reasons. First, there were a few nights when Rose showed up at our door around 8pm to deliver a foil-covered plate of treats. I felt so tickled each time I uncovered the aluminum foil because with it, I sensed I was uncovering a growing friendship and fun exchange of culture. I was thankful for our very pregnant neighbor who had a sweets craving.

Timmy (middle) starring as Tacky the Penguin!

Timmy (middle) starring as Tacky the Penguin!

As her due date approached, our relationship developed with the family whose floor was our ceiling. One day the Nguyens approached us about taking care of Timmy if the baby came at an inconvenient time (which babies tend to do). Without family in the area (let alone the country), we felt privileged that they asked us to be “on call.” I distinctly remember a sweet moment running into Rose’s mentor soon after; she grabbed my shoulders and said sincerely, “Oh! I have been praying for someone like you to come into Rose and Peter’s life to help them when the baby comes. Thank you.”

Seemingly overnight, Kyle and I became “Uncle Ky and Auntie Natalie.” I attended Timmy’s 1st grade musical (hilarious, and Timmy was the star!), we celebrated Timmy’s 6th birthday over dinner out, we carved jack-o-lanterns together (their first time!), and the Nguyens taught us about Vietnamese church, culture, and shared REALLY hot peppers that they grow on their porch.

Sharing cultures: carving pumpkins!

Sharing cultures: carving pumpkins!

Then came Grace Quynh-anh on October 11!

We got the 6am call one Friday morning and rushed upstairs in sweatpants just as Rose and Peter were walking out the door on the way to the hospital. Timmy was beside himself with excitement, so Kyle and I took turns getting ready for work, one showering while the other built Lego cities with Timmy as the sun came up. I’ll never forget the wonder of being with a six-year-old whose first sibling was finally arriving.

Grace was born without many complications at all (Praise God!) and the family returned home the next day. Just days later I got to hold Grace in my arms. Timmy, of course, still wanted to play Legos (babies are boring to a six-year-old).

Grace at 3 days old.

Grace at 3 days old.

Sharing Life

Fast-forward to November 11th, Grace’s one month birthday. Vietnamese tradition has it that the mother stays in her home for anywhere from one to three months after the baby is born; Rose and Peter ended this healing time with worship, prayer, and celebration. And they invited us to be there.

We sat on chairs in a circle in their tiny living room, Peter with a guitar, radiant Rose with baby Grace in her arms, Timmy, Kyle and me. We sang songs in both Vietnamese and English (and by “we” I mean the Nguyens definitely carried the Vietnamese songs…). We read Psalm 65 together.  We prayed in thanksgiving and joy over the family, and the family prayed (in Vietnamese) over their new daughter and over us. It touched me so much. Their happiness was tangible and their deep reverence of God so clear.

We have made many special friends here, and maybe you’ll hear about them in subsequent posts.  But for this week, I wanted to share about God’s divine inspiration in sending us neighbors like the Nguyens. We have learned so much about faith, trust, family, and service through their friendship. It seems God gave us to them and them to us for many reasons.

Not to mention we’ll be taking the Auntie and Uncle titles very seriously.

-Natalie

Four Things I’ve Learned in Seminary (That I Haven’t Learned in Class)

Inauguration Pic

From the evening before the inauguration of Fuller’s new president, Dr. Mark Labberton. I helped out with some of the inauguration events.

Yep, we still do have a blog.

And yep, it’s totally my fault that it was left dormant for a few weeks. It was my turn to write, and, well, let’s just say time has gotten away from me a bit. Fortunately, Natalie resurrected the blog last week. If you haven’t read her post from last week, you definitely should–she does a great job of quickly summarizing what life has been like for us recently.

Time really has flown. We have ten weeks of classes each quarter before finals, and we are finishing week seven now. I’m learning that each quarter feels much more like a sprint than a marathon–a much different feeling than in undergrad. It’s been an adjustment.

Actually, I’ve learned a whole lot of things this quarter already. Many of them have come through my studies, like the historical background behind covenants in the Ancient Near East, or how issues in translating Greek affect our understandings of the Biblical text (two things we discussed just yesterday). But as with many things in life, some of the best lessons have come outside of the classroom. I’d like to share just four of them with you below.

1. Past experiences have opened doors for many present opportunities. On almost a daily basis, something comes up in a class or at work that reminds me that I have been very fortunate to have had some wonderful experiences prior to coming to seminary. Some of the people I meet have come to seminary to start over; they’re on a second or third career and are back in school to try to discern their true call. Well, I’m still trying to discern my call too. But fortunately, it feels much more like I’ve been on a trajectory, and seminary has just been the next step. My classes at Truman, the ministry and leadership opportunities at CCF and The Crossing, and the family, friends, and mentors throughout my life that have intentionally invested in me have offered me a really, really great foundation. I am grateful for that, and I am excited to see where this trajectory leads next when the time comes.

2. “Small places need big men.” And women, I might add. These words were prayed over me two nights ago as I worked with Fuller’s calling program. One of the perks of that job is that we get to chat with, and pray for, Fuller alumni from all over the country. A kind man from Montana, who pastors in a town of only 5,000, said those words, and they have stuck with me. Many of us young bucks want to go out and change the world, but I must admit, some of the people who have been most influential on my life are the ones who were faithful with “little,” but their “little” yielded much. It reminds me that the kingdom I now consider daily deals not with the majestic palm trees I see daily, but with meager mustard seeds. A good lesson as I continue.

3. My wife is a stud. You know how this is related to seminary? Because she is totally making it possible for me to be here. She’s always making dinners and buying groceries, doing some laundry, paying bills…you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong–I try to pull my weight. But the truth of it is that I’m a full-time student and I work 20 hours a week. Free time is not as abundant as it once was. We even joked the other night that we don’t know how single people would get through seminary. “They eat lots of ramen and wear the same underwear for a week,” I think I said. Not only this, but she also has really done a fantastic job at Russ Reid. She would never tell this to you personally, but I will: three days ago, Natalie’s boss’s boss–the woman that hired Natalie–told Natalie’s direct supervisor that Natalie has been a model employee since coming to Russ Reid. Nat has gained a reputation for asking good questions and being a constant learner. I am proud of her, and you all should be too. Seriously.

4. Being at Fuller is great, but it also forces us to make some tough decisions. Fuller Theological Seminary has so many opportunities available for students. Not only is Fuller’s faculty world-class, and not only am I working with some world-class students (from all over the world, actually), but the school also provides world-class opportunities to hear from voices outside the seminary. Just yesterday, Natalie and I both got to hear from a professor from Columbia University discuss issues related to humanitarian aid and how people of faith must interact with secularism to bring about good. So we really have been soaking it up. The difficulty, as you might expect, is that we are a long way from home and living on the seminarian’s budget. From our front door here to my parents’ house is 1,780 miles away. To Natalie’s parents, it’s 1,989 miles. For the first time, we do not expect to make it home for the holidays, and we have already seen how life here forces us to miss big life events for others that we care about back in the Midwest. And we are coming to terms with the fact that this is the new normal. Unless anyone has a private jet they would like to bequeath to us…

And if there was a fifth thing I might have learned, it would be not to bite off more than you can chew with blogs. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with it a little more moving forward! Thanks for reading, everyone.

All the best,
Kyle

What’s Going On

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Our street corner…pretty nice view at sunset!

Remember that one time when Kyle and I liked the idea of keeping a blog about faith, marriage, and Southern California?

We still like the idea.

However, our new life is in full swing here, and with that many weeks of adjusting and readjusting have arrived. I think we both agree that it’s been more taxing than we realized, thus….never updating our blog. But we’re back!

Here’s a brief update on what’s goin’ on at 251 N. Oakland…

Seminary

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Kyle on his first day of seminary!

Kyle is already rounding the corner into the second half of the quarter! The stack of greek vocab cards he has learned grows taller every week on top of our desk (he’s kind of a god when it comes to Greek). He’s right in the thick of Abraham’s story in his Pentateuch class and always has fascinating things to teach me over dinner. An atheist artist came to his Theology and the Arts touchstone course a few weeks ago, and last week I actually got to attend that class, which was a lecture on theology and narrative featuring famous (and old-man-adorable, might I add) Eugene Lowry and Pixar employee Bobbette Buster. Fascinatingly good times.

Work

Many of you already know that since I last wrote about my employment situation, Russ Reid offered me a full-time position as an Operations Manager which I  began on September 30th. I am thrilled to have found something full time! My current position puts me as one of four managers of direct mail, digital, newspaper, and radio projects for our 80+ U.S. Mission clients (one is the Los Angeles Mission right here in town, which Russ Reid grew from an operating budget of $125k  in the 80’s to $15 million today!). I interact with our data controllers, print buyers, creative artists, writers, and client-facing teams on a daily basis. To be honest, the month of October (and into November) has been stressful and taxing, with long hours and information overload. This is one of the busiest seasons of our advertising year, so I’m doing my best to hang in there, because I know the purpose of the company and the people who work there are one-of-a-kind.

So far we've seen bridal magazine photo shoots, a fashion show catwalk, and a concert in front of City Hall.  And yes, it's also the setting for the TV show Parks and Rec!

So far we’ve seen bridal magazine photo shoots, a fashion show catwalk, and a concert in front of City Hall. And yes, it’s also the setting for the TV show Parks and Rec!

Pasadena

Kyle and I are starting to get a knack for finding free things to do around L.A.! A few weekends ago you would have found us at a pumpkin festival at Cal State Polytechnic’s campus (along with literally 20,000 other people); in early October we attended the annual Pasadena Pops Concert Under the Stars, right in front of City Hall; this past Sunday, we took advantage yet again of the great hiking in “our mountains” right up the street. We’ve been really good about making our fun time together Saturday night into Sunday afternoon, and its actually one of the few times we use our car! We’re also having couples over to our apartment and starting to form memories with new friends…more on that in another post.

Church

photo

At President Mark Labberton’s Inauguration Luncheon on Fuller’s mall this week.

We successfully finished the Partnership class at Christian Assembly and both agree that its a really solid place. While it was helpful to take and informative about the church, we’re glad to have a few precious hours of our Sunday morning back, too.  We’re still inclined to explore a few more churches in the area before settling on CA, so we’ll probably bounce around a bit more until God confirms our placement at CA or reveals something better for us. It’s so encouraging to hear about what churches are doing to cultivate God’s kingdom here in this city, and we’re anxious to invest in one.

We miss the faces (and foliage) of home quite often, even as we hit 3 months of living in (and truly loving) Pasadena. Thanks to many for your encouragement from afar, for your prayers, and for reading this post! We’d love to hear more about how you are doing.        -Natalie

 

A Goal Before the End of the Year

Stained Glass WindowKyle and I both have a passion for the local Christian church. It’s kind of what brought us 2,000 miles out here to good ol’ Fuller. Naturally, starting completely over generates anticipation but also work. During this season, we consider ourselves casual students of the Church all over L.A., connecting the dots between what a Hollywood-based church emphasizes versus a multi-generational Pasadena one.

Here are some churches we’ve visited around L.A., mostly based on recommendation:

1. Lake Avenue Church

2. Mosaic

3. Pasadena Presbyterian Church

4. Christian Assembly

5. First Baptist Church-Pasadena

As a couple, our short-term philosophy is simple: while we are not employed by a church or ministry, we want to intentionally benefit from this time to explore. Right now, Kyle won’t get in trouble if he decides to just show up at a different church for the weekend! But hopefully this exploring stage won’t last longer than twelve weeks–it’s important to us that we settle in somewhere.

That said, our long-term (well, our 3+ year) philosophy is also simple: we would love to serve at, know, and be known at a local L.A. church.

Now that we’re a few months in, we’ve found a rewarding and admittedly funny reality that occurs when one is new to the area and looking to establish a church community.

Most churches have several services…

Saturday evening services rock! They allow Kyle and I to “double-time” on weekends to expedite our exploration. Unfortunately, sometimes the service times get mixed up, like when we showed up thirty minutes late for a Saturday service at Christian Assembly…thankfully, we were greeted extremely enthusiastically nonetheless.

…which becomes awkward when you choose the service immediately preceding the annual church “beach party.”

Like at Pasadena Presbyterian, where most folks in service are over 60, bless you. We thoroughly enjoyed the announcement (complete with beach pail and scavenger hunt page for later), but didn’t feel quite like making too much of a splash at the beach party during our first visit. That church in particular didn’t seem like a fit for us demographically or doctrinally, but we enjoyed the architecture of the space and the incredible brass quintet that played.

Big and small, L.A. has got them all…

A few of the churches we’ve visited would be considered pretty large by most’s standards, while some have had a few hundred in service. Music styles have ranged from “Jesus rock concert” to classical orchestral pieces. The churches we’re returned to are Christian Assembly, which has about 2700 people come during its five weekend services, and Lake Avenue, which has even more attending than that.

…And it’s still hard to decide whether we prefer being greeted 61 times or being able to slip out of the crowd.

L.A. churches get the friendly points, for sure!  We’ve felt welcomed and encouraged. Christian Assembly wears name tags–even the pastor and worship leaders–and Lake Avenue gives a question-and-answer prompt for greeting time. Without being cliche, it’s funny how much exploring churches is truly like shopping…sometimes you’d really like to be helped, and other times you’d like to politely blend into the clothes rack…(insert church equivalent to clothes rack here).

It’s hard to articulate exactly what we’re looking for in a church…

When we open up this can of worms, the conversation about our preferences does not revolve around how many people or how many songs or how many types of coffee. We’re caught up in a deeper question of what a church should be–and that, my friends, makes this discerning process personal. Kyle and I are looking for a church that is committed to glorifying Christ with how they plan their services, with the motivation of their worship, with who they encourage to attend and what they preach about or pray about. We’re looking for a church that is leaving a fingerprint on L.A. We’re looking for authenticity with biblical accuracy. We’re looking for a home away from home.

…so doing some soul-searching about “church as God imagines it” has been healthy.

Many of our thrown-together (because who is not starving when they get home from church?!) Sunday lunches include very purposeful dialogue about our visits. Kyle and I continue to learn much through this search, because it’s a big deal for us as a couple. We look to the church as one (but not the only) means for spurring us on to love God, each other and the world. We hope to use our spiritual gifts in the context of the church. As a couple, we long for the example and guidance of more mature marriages found in the church. Someday, Kyle might intern or work as a seminary student at this church.

The most recent development in our search: we began a class called “Partnership” at Christian Assembly (CA). The class (led by pastors and featuring free breakfast!) teaches us more about the church, its purpose and ministries, and its doctrine. Whether it ends up being CA or somewhere else, we are looking to be sent into a local church in Los Angeles under the direction of God’s great guidance. Please pray with us as we discern where He’d have us.

Until next time,
Natalie

Three Jobs + Three Classes = One Much-Anticipated Quarter

Last week, you may have read about how my wife got her job at Russ Reid.  I am happy to report that she started on Monday and really enjoys the people and the organization.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Well, she got her job, but what is he doing? Isn’t he supposed to be taking classes by now? Is he just sitting around listening to James Taylor and reading Tom Clancy novels?”

Well no, but now that you mention it, I may have figured out what I’m doing this afternoon.

Hubbard Library

The David Allan Hubbard Library. With classes about to start and the call center you’ll read about below housed here, this is about to become my home-away-from-home.

Actually, my classes don’t start until Sept. 30. As we may have mentioned previously, we came out well before the beginning of the quarter (Fuller works on a quarter, not semester, schedule). This was to make sure that we had nailed down jobs and such before life got crazy with school. And it’s a good thing–it took a little longer than we’d had anticipated.

Fortunately, I now have a pretty good idea of what my life will look like over the next couple of months too. In reflecting on it, I thought it was interesting that in terms of classes and employment, both came in groups of three. Depending on who you ask, the number three can be pretty lucky, as in, “Third time’s the charm”; or it can be pretty unlucky, as in, “Bad things come in threes.”

I’m hoping it’s the former, and that three will prove to be a magic number.

Here’s a brief cross-section of the three sources of income and the three classes that will be filling my time for this first quarter.

Three Sources of Income

Work-Study Building

Carnell Hall, the building where I will be doing my Field Education work-study. Interestingly, many of the offices and classrooms can be found in houses such as this one on campus.

1. Field Education Assistant (Field Education and Ministry Formation Office): This is a ten-hour/week work-study job in one of the best departments on campus in my opinion. Field Ed is the office that helps students take all the academic STUFF they have learned and integrate it into a guided experience of vocational ministry. That’s some fertile ground. My job will mostly be behind-the-scenes, data entry and project management kinds of things. But they were not shy in telling me that I was hired precisely because of my past ministry experience–and because I may have something to contribute to the office and to others because of it.

2. Student Representative (Development Office): The title here is a little misleading, I think. It boils down to a job in a call center for another ten hours/week. In general, Fuller just wants to continue a relationship of mutual support between itself and its alumni. The best part of this job? Fuller has a lot of really quality alumni. It’s not uncommon for a caller to get to speak with one of them. And from what I hear, some of those connections stick, providing really unique networking opportunities.

3. Weekly Guitar Lesson: While trying to secure a tutoring job for a sixth grader in the area, it came out that he also was interested in learning to play the guitar. In the end, his father did not ask me to tutor Michael, his son. Instead, he asked me to give Michael guitar lessons for an hour every week. Michael is a great kid; his heart is good as gold. We’ve had one lesson already, and I’m counting the hours until we meet again on Thursday evening.

Three Courses for the Fall Quarter

1. Introduction to New Testament Greek (Part One): Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The goal here is for me to learn the basics of biblical Greek inside and out–from alpha to omega, you might even say. The course catalog says that I’ll be learning twenty (yep, that’s two-zero) chapters’ worth of vocab this quarter alone. You can start praying for my sanity now.

2. Pentateuch: This class deals with the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (and, of course, the Christian Bible). Thus, it’s a natural starting point for my biblical studies. The real draw of this class for me, however, is the instructor. We met Professor Butler when I visited Fuller, and our conversation was honestly one of the biggest selling points for me on Fuller. A long story, so I won’t tell it here, but a good one. He is by no means one of Fuller’s “heavy hitters.” People don’t come from all over the world to sit under his teaching. However, as I’ve talked to Fuller students and even other members of the Pasadena community, his name keeps coming up. With his quiet and humble manner, he has made an impression and had an influence on many folks out here. Seems like my kind of guy.

Fuller Sculpture

Christopher Slatoff’s sculpture, “Jesus is Nailed to the Cross” which sits prominently and dramatically across from the library.

3. Worship, Theology, and the Arts Touchstone: Fuller is known for valuing the intersection of theology and art. As a former English major (read: wannabe writer), singer/musician/worship leader, and pastor-in-training, the Worship, Theology, and the Arts concentration of the Master of Divinity seemed like it was made for me. This class is the introductory course to the rest of the classes in the concentration. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to build some creative space into my degree program. Here’s a sweet example of the kind of stuff this program produces.

So that’s what I’m doing this fall. Should be a pretty good quarter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a certain singer-songwriter from the 70’s to listen to.

Faithfully yours,
Kyle