It’s about three weeks into my last semester at Candler, which means I’m starting to panic just a little about the future. I am planning on being commissioned towards ordination in 2010 and am applying to various jobs this spring working with homeless people, since I’d like to incorporate that into my future ministry. Leaving Candler is going to be tough, though. I really don’t know what I’m going to do without my friends.

In undergrad it took me a semester or so to find my niche, so when I moved to Atlanta three years ago I braced myself for a few months of awkward friendlessness. And in the two weeks or so between moving and orientation, it seemed like that might indeed be the case. I went so stir-crazy in my apartment that at one point I practically begged my third-year roommate to let me come to her church and help the staff clean out the youth room. I signed up for the Spiritual Life retreat the day before orientation started, and to be honest, I was a lot less concerned about spiritual life than I was about just talking to people who weren’t on instant messenger. Well, at the end of the day I happened to stumble upon a group of girls headed out for ice cream. Sometimes if you stand around looking awkward enough, you can get yourself invited to things.

So I got myself invited to ice cream. The next day, day one of orientation, I met a guy filling out bubble sheets and ran into him later when he was looking for a lunch buddy. (Sometimes, if you stand around looking awkward enough, you’ll find someone looking for a lunch buddy.) The circle has grown a lot since then—but as it turns out, the girls from the ice cream trip and the guy from the bubble sheet table are some of my best friends to this day.

I don’t know exactly what it is about Candler that made me feel so much a part of a community so easily. I know that the people here are awesome, the kind of people who are irreverent enough to stay sane and still make you feel good about the future of the church. I know I can walk into Brooks Commons at practically any time and see people I know. I know that Candler’s just the right size to make me feel at home but not get bored.

And I know that when I leave here it will be with memories of potluck holiday dinners, country line dancing outings, ghost tours at Stone Mountain, birthday parties, weekly breakfast dates, days at Six Flags, and of course some of the best times we had just hanging out.

Right before this semester started, Kathy got married. She’s my former roommate and one of the ice cream girls, by the way. A group of us roadtripped down to Ft. Lauderdale for the wedding. We left at midnight Friday and drove through the night. Well, Meg (pictured without her eyes on the road, left) drove through the night. The rest of us provided moral support by singing cheesy music and passing around the car snacks. We really hoped to see some alligators as we headed south—but the only ones we saw were dead and stuffed at some of Florida’s classier rest stops. We arrived in time for a few precious hours of sleep before the wedding (which was beautiful!)

Emily and Steve left the next day, but Meg, Lauren, Beth and I drove up to Orlando for an optimistically-early graduation celebration in Disney World. It was the perfect way to spend the last few days before the semester started—playing with the toys in the shops in downtown Disney, getting to meet the cast of the Lion King show, needlessly freaking out about the Tower of Terror, and a whole day from open to close in the Magic Kingdom.

There was one really horrendous ride at Disney World. If you’ve ever been on Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland you know what I mean. You sit in a circular room and they harness you in, and the ride looks like it should be some spinning gravitron-like adventure. But instead, Stitch “escapes” from the center of the room and you feel him jumping on your shoulders and actually smell him digesting his chili-dog lunch. We walked out of that room silently, half confused and half disgusted. And then we started laughing at just what a terrible idea it was and laughed for hours straight. I think it’s friends you share those random things with who are the forever kind.