Dear University United Methodist Church and Friends,

Merry Christmas!

I miss all of you, and I hope that you are all doing well during this holiday season. As some of you know, I moved back home to the Houston, Texas area soon after graduation this past summer to be with my mom as she underwent treatments for cancer. While it has been a rocky road for her and our family this past year, I am happy to say that she has had a very good response to her treatments and is doing so much better! She’s been very active lately, and we’re all excited to host my brother, sister-in-law, and my first nephew—my parent’s first grandbaby—for Christmas this year.

Because I did not get a chance to see some of you before I moved, I wanted to write you and thank you for being a home away from home for me during my two year stay in St. Louis as I attended graduate school. I remember the first day I came to UUMC. I decided to visit this church simply because it was right down the street from my apartment, but after being greeted so warmly on the street corner and then inside the sanctuary, I decided to return and not out of convenience but because of the love I felt within this community (and because of the monthly potluck lunches). Over the next two years, I was not only welcomed into the church family but also challenged intellectually and spiritually through engaging sermons and conversations with several of you, especially during the young adult book studies. One particular good challenge for me was serving as one of the Children’s Story Time leaders. I volunteered thinking I would just be reading books to the children and to my surprise, found out I would be speaking in front of the whole congregation! It was a growing experience as I studied selected scriptures and learned how to distill and translate them for young minds, while also forcing me to move out of my own quiet comfort zone.

I’ve carried with me those growing experiences to my current job as an adjunct faculty member at Lone Star College here in Houston. This past fall, I taught four art appreciation courses, and while as a new teacher, I was completely overwhelmed and discouraged at times, I also grew so much confidence in myself as a leader and educator. Next spring, I will be teaching drawing in addition to art appreciation, and I look forward to seeing where this path in teaching will lead me.

Thank you again for all of your love and encouragement as a church family, and I hope to visit St. Louis again soon when I can!

With Love,

Natalie Rodgers