AngieDuring this time of year I, like many people, take time to reflect on that for which I am thankful. Over the years my list has been simple. I am thankful for God’s grace, my sons, and friends and family. And this year, Candler has a place on the list.

I entered Candler three years ago, expecting to learn about, well…all things theology. However, Candler has done more than that; being here has taught me about myself, helped me gain clarity regarding my call, and extended my family. At Candler, I learned that all I need is a little dance party in class to reignite the spark that brought me here. And here that spark has developed into a flame that has sustained me these three years. At Candler, I discovered my theological voice. On a silent retreat with Candler peers, I fully accepted God’s call on my life and experienced the peace that can be found in silence. Working at my Contextual Education site with the women of Helms Facility, a facility for pregnant or terminally ill inmates, I learned about true compassion and was reminded that God dwells in the most unexpected places. During worship on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my soul is fed and God’s word comes alive. For these experiences, I am thankful.

It is at Candler where I have been able to feel God’s presence and experience God’s grace in new and profound ways. God's grace is present when walking down the hall and a professor or fellow student can sense you need a hug, and provides it without questions. God’s presence is manifested when one of the facilities staff encourages you to keep pushing through when you don’t feel like you have another ounce of strength to attend another class or read another word (they are really rooting for and proud of us). God’s grace is evident every time you sit down to take an exam or turn in a paper that you just aren’t sure about (we have ALL been there), and the grade is better than you expected. God’s presence is there when you and your classmates get together for dinner and laughter after finals. And God’s grace is present every time there is an unexpected email saying that there is extra food when your cabinets are empty and you weren’t sure how you would eat. For this love, I am thankful.

It is in this space called Candler that I have encountered amazing people whom I can confidently call family. Candler is a place where people from different backgrounds come together to form unlikely friendships and create strong bonds. I have engaged in conversations and relationships that have confirmed my call and some that have challenged my way of thinking. There have been tears, laughter, disagreements, worship, and dancing. There have been Shabbat dinners, death penalty protests, end of the semester gatherings, die-ins, birthday celebrations, all night Waffle House shenanigans, vigils for black, brown, and LGBTQ brothers and sisters taken from us too soon, and Saturday flag football games between students and the facilities staff. I would have never had any of these experiences if not for the people I have come to love and who love me here at Candler. For this family, I am thankful.

Yes, as I reflect upon that for which I am thankful, Candler has gained a permanent place on the list, because Candler has gained a permanent place in my heart.