Category Archives: community

Twenty-ninth

I’ve stumbled over how to start this post. And despite my hopes to make it a 2017 in review post, time has dragged on and so it is, instead, a look at all that happened during year number 29 for me. Typically, I would do this chronologically, but there are too many connected thoughts and ideas across the year…. so….

(hopefully you follow the chaos that is about to come)

  • Antioch Community – I stumbled into finding this church, and waffled around about whether or not to jump in with them. Eventually, I realized the goodness of God on Sundays, and maybe even more in my Life Group. I struggle to be fully present in community, even though I know it’s good, but these people knew (know) how to love and challenge well. Many songs, prayers (including some truth-speaking int my life and future), laughs and good conversations on life, faith and community.

lifegroup

  • Returned to monthly counseling, which transitioned to more life coaching. Still need to get better about voicing my opinions, and being okay with the messy present. (Progress is greater than perfection)
  • Working at RYSS – My job often had me frustrated at the school system or exhausted from substituting or laughing with my Latino coworkers and students. The stress of state testing, but the joy of seeing students “get it.”  My 3rd graders made leaving the school tough. They reminded me of the joy of learning, the desire to have an adult listen to their story or idea, the struggles of childhood. And I wrestled with whether or not I was supposed to move on from that school. Despite the amazing smiles and stories, something new would come for me.

20170516_130355_1494958378835

  • I realize, looking back, the importance of some consistency in reading and discussing Scripture. Whether it was reading through the Torah to get to perspective, or messaging about Proverbs or Colossians with friends far away, having that accountability and structure for reading is good. And it forced me to take time to think and ask questions about what I was reading.
  • My post-Mission Year community. What a blessing (that I didn’t always realize or acknowledge) to have other alum to live with after such an intense year. The consistency of my roommate and our conversations, drives and coffee. The joy in exploration and digging into issues with another teammate. The monthly alumni dinners we coordinated with another couple from our first year. Something that was happening, that I’m still trying to notice now, the simple goodness of “those little moments” that develop and solidify community, friendships.
  • After reading Your Other Brothers, I connected with their group of supporters. And while I was just expecting to give thoughts on future blogs or podcasts, I found myself quickly in the midst of the “Yobber” community.  Having a group of men to share the ups and downs of life with. And then I was invited to blog for them as well! This online (and sometimes in person) community has blown me away with the vulnerability and welcoming and engagement in tough conversations. Plus some good gifs.

22688587_747660096905_5887755933184769694_n

  • I had an open summer after quitting my job, and was introduced to the amazing organization, Love Fosters Hope. If you’re in the Houston area, check them out. Two weeks of my summer were then spent helping at their week long summer camps for children and youth in the foster care system. We ran and sang and encouraged and ate and laughed and played gaga ball and swam. The boys from my cabin the first week made me laugh so hard and confused me and broke my heart by the end of the week. To see their pain, to see their capacity to love and enjoy life in the midst of everything else that may be going on. Such incredible kids (and staff).
  • There were so. many. trips. this past year.  Started off visiting Arizona for the first time ever to surprise my friend.  Then Denver for a wedding. Spring break trip (with McKenzie) to visit Mission Year friends in Raleigh and make my first trip to the Jewel of the Blue Ridge.  With no work during the summer, I was able to take a longer vacation – Minnesota to visit CrossFire teammates and all the wonderful people I left when I moved, Kansas to be with family and meet my niece Amelia, and then Denver (again) to meet some of the authors of YOB.  Plus I got hangout in Boulder for a few days with McKenzie and her family. Made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision to join some friends on the East Coast to watch the eclipse. And rounded out my travels with a long weekend in St Louis.
  • With the future somewhat uncertain, I tried to figure out life in Houston back in the Beulah house with a new mix of housemates (and two dogs).  There were lots of good conversations, great food, and confusion (for me) about where I should be living, what I should be doing. And just as I was getting close to a possible answer – Hurricane Harvey. So… got to experience a real hurricane and flooding with some great people, and witness neighbors and churches being authentic. But then it was on to the next journey.

floood

  • Asheville, NC – With little notice, two job interviews, but a place to live for up to a month, I said goodbye to Houston. Within a week, I had a job offer. The next two months would be a roller coaster. Waiting for the job to start, getting to know my friends in Asheville better, exploring the city, waiting as my start date continued to be pushed back, crazy adventures with Yobbers coming to visit – Clue movie night, bruppers, hiking Craggy Pinnacle, finding waterfalls, plenty of coffee and dancing. Finally moved into an apartment (and got a roommate) and then started working at Cambria hotel as a front desk agent.
  • As I re-read journal entries and blogs, I can’t help but see the over-arching idea of “directionless” through this year. Not enjoying my work at school, but not wanting to quit because I didn’t know what I would do next. Having community in Antioch, Beulah and Asheville, but always holding it at a distance – not sure how to be fully present or authentic. Jumping around during my summer to visit places I have been, wondering if it might give me ideas on a place or a next job. Yet, in the midst of all this confusion, there remains some sense of hope. Though I have often felt unsure of who I am, what my work is, or where I belong, I can look back an see the moments that friends and family were right. there. with. me.

So, while the next year remains pretty blank in terms of knowing what may happen, maybe I can take heart, learn a lesson from twenty-nine, and trust living as presently as I can to see this moment for what it is.

Advertisements

Books of 2017

The following are the books I read this year, and a quote (or two) from most of them.  Let me know if you want to discuss any of them in more detail, if you have suggestions for books for next year, or if you think I should post reviews/thoughts on books as I read them!

Between the World and Me – Ta Nehisi Coates

“So you must wake up every morning knowing that no promise is unbreakable, least of all the promise of waking up at all. This is not despair. These are the preferences of the universe itself: verbs over nouns, actions over states, struggle over hope.”

“You have been cast into a race in which the wind is always at your face an the hounds are always at your heels. And to varying degrees this is true of all life. The difference is that you  do have the privilege of living in ignorance of this essential fact.”

Torn – Justin Lee

“More and more, I felt like the gay people out there maybe weren’t so different from me. I was still a Christian and  I still stood for Christian values, but I was gay too. This polarizing language didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t seem very much like Jesus.”

Struggle Central – Thomas Zuniga

“I gradually opened up to others – other guys – and for the first time in my life, I found unhindered freedom to be me. To struggle and be okay with struggling, because everyone struggles and everyone exists to help everyone else”

Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannan Hurnard

“When you wear the weed of impatience in your heart instead of the flower Acceptance-with-Joy, you will always find your enemies get an advantage over you.”

Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer

“But before we come to that center, full of light, we must travel in the dark. Darkness is not the whole of the story – every pilgrimage has passages of loveliness and joy – but it is the part of the story most often left untold.”

To Own a Dragon – Donald Miller

“I have a sense that wounds don’t heal until you feel them. What I mean is, I could lash out against the world for the rest of my life and nnerver stop to do the hard work of asking why I am angry or why I feel pain, then come to the difficult truth thtat the pain is there because I wanted to be loved, and I wasn’t… I wanted to be guided, but I wasn’t. And then, honestly, to feel whatever it is that hard truth created – to respond in the I needed to respond.”

Abba’s Child – Brennan Manning

“… the heart of it is this: to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”

Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chobsky

“It’s much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and than make the choice to share it with other people. You can’t just sit their and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to be who I really am. And I’m going to figure out what that is. And we could all sit around and wonder and feel bad about each other and blame a lot of people for what they did or didn’t do or what they didn’t know. I don’t know. I guess there could always be someone to blame. It’s just different. Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it’s okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.”

Black, Red, White – Ted Dekker

“We love love because Elyon loves love. And we love to be loved because Elyon loves to be loved. In all these ways we are like Elyon. In one way or another, everything we do is tied to this unfolding story of love between us and Elyon.”

“The Great Romance is for you. If only one of you would have followed me, the heavens would not have been able to contain my cries of joy.”

Single, Gay, Christian – Gregory Coles

“When I allow myself to be known – when I tell the most baffling parts of my story to trusted friends and encounter their unconditional love in return – I begin to understand the love of God. A love that knows me fully. A love that, when I feel too weak to hold on to it, is strong enough to hold me instead.”

Green – Ted Dekker

“What was once obvious to them was no longer quite as obvious. Why was it that humans lost sight of truth so quickly?”

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

“…the very basic core of a mans living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon…”

“…how difficult it is for those of us preoccupied with the humdrum concerns of adulthood to recall how forcefully we were once buffeted by the passions of youth.”

From Scattered Ashes – Markus Garnett

“According to what I could gather … that Kingdom knows no racial boundaries, no language barriers, no timidity, no strangers, no greed, no isolation in the midst of community.”

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle

“If you aren’t unhappy sometimes you don’t know how to be happy.”

“You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it? Yes. Mrs. Whatsit said. You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

Pilgrim’s Progress – Paul Bunyan

“For to speak the truth, there are but few that care thus to spend their time, but choose rather to be speaking of things to no profit.”

“I have given Him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to Him; how, then, can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?”

 

the Next season

For many reasons and in many ways I’m an unsettled person.  It’s taken some time, but I can admit it now. Part of who I am wants to explore, move, meet new people, see new things.

Most of this summer was spent in a space of trying to be present in Houston, with the people around me – and feeling the call to go.  Every other time I’ve moved, there’s been a job or ministry that I knew I was headed into.  Not this time.

I spent time at a camp for teens in the foster care system. And I spent time with friends and family in Minnesota, Kansas and Colorado. Returning to Houston and looking for jobs left me confused.

20170731_120538

Great people to live with in community – but still feeling disconnected from the city.  Amazing small group at church (who, if it hasn’t been mentioned before was true community and welcomed me as one of their own, challenged & encouraged me more than I could have expected) – yet the physical distance left me feeling somewhat disengaged.

Not feeling at home where I currently was, I began looking elsewhere.  But where does one even begin?  I’m almost 30. Society tells me I should have some roots by now. (I don’t care too much about this, but the pressure is still felt).

As I had conversations, something that kept coming up was the idea of jumping.  As big as a move felt to me, with no strong ties anywhere, it is only a move.  If I were to go somewhere and hate it, I could leave after  6 months, a year.

So I talked and journaled and prayed. And applied to far too many jobs.  Eventually I landed a few potential interviews in the same area…. and I decided to jump.

And, the leap of faith looks like one that is moving me forward.

I have been in Asheville, North Carolina for less than a week. After four interviews, and one declined interview, I accepted a job as a front desk agent at a hotel.  I have some friends that I’m currently living with as I adjust to a new place.  How long will I be here? Do I have a church / community?

I don’t know.

But I’m trusting that this season will grow me, teach me, stretch me. Help me be more fully me.

Welcoming

A couple weekends ago, a group from church helped our friends move apartments.  During the numerous trips, I noticed decorations at doors that I passed – plants, door hangings and welcome mats.  One doormat caught my eye – a Welcome / Goodbye mat.

Image result for welcome goodbye doormat

Depending on whether you going inside or out, the mat greeted you a certain way. The reason it caught my attention was that it was “backwards.” Typically it says Welcome as you get ready to go inside and goodbye as you enter the outside world.

But this mat was reversed.

Why did this bother me?

Probably because I value rules, order, tradition and the like. But that was not a good enough answer for me.

So, I thought about it more. What if it wasn’t ~backwards~ as I saw it? The “Welcome” as one leaves their living space could be ushering in a new day. A chance to start new, to connect with people, to welcome an adventure. Honestly, that sounds like a great attitude to take as I head out the door.

But what about the Goodbye as I return?  That doesn’t make sense. But it can.

Goodbye to the stress from the work day.  Goodbye to any drama amongst co-workers.  Goodbye to all of the “shoulds” and “musts” and “need to” from outside. Goodbye to all of that as I enter my place.

May that mat continue to make consider how I enter spaces.  Looking for the adventure expectantly and simply laying down stress and worry in order to be.

unedited week

Tuesday – You invited me to community. I hesitantly laid aside my “wants” and enjoyed a few hours without stress. A few hours with brothers, coffee and a board game.  Uncharacteristically, I asked if we could talk on the way home. We had a brief chat about my stresses, and you prayed for me. I felt normal.

Thursday – More community. I got to share my passion for cooking for others. We all shared an evening of laughter, good food and conversations. I felt included.

Friday – Reminded of my passion for other cultures. Tougher reminder that though uncertainty makes me anxious, it is better than certainly unhealthy options.

Saturday – Got a view of the growth that has happened in me over the past year.  Started evaluating what future could be possible. Cried through some prayers.  And, I felt some amount of peace.

.

Sunday – Somehow none of the past week seemed to be tangible. At some point, the Lies crept back in. And once the Lies have started speaking, it is hard for me to get them to stop. Their words tangle up my feet and put walls over my ears to anything more logical. I felt alone and confused once again.

There are no answers yet.

Just a vulnerable mess. Still searching.

I felt like a sojourner.

progress

The past month and a half have been stressful.  February into March seems to be a time (almost yearly) where I question what I’m doing, why I’m doing.  And for somebody who likes to plan, this is stressful and disorienting. Every time.  At almost 30 years, one would think I would understand this process of looking at my life without it shaking me so much. Nope.

My most recent session with my counselor was almost a month ago, but the words he left me with still ring in my ears. A saying from many 12 Steps programs – progress over perfection.

And unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – I see this in many areas of my life.  I long for routine, yet desire new experiences.

In my faith, my quest for the “ideal church for me” finally concluded. Not that I found a perfect church, but in considering the idea of progress, I realized my need to be at one place. To press into a community that is imperfect (just as I am) and learn from each other, trusting God with the longer, unseen path.

Work makes me want to scream and breaks heart and brings me joy I may not find elsewhere.  This job may not be ideal – but how can I continue to learn while I’m there? What can I offer to my coworkers, the students? Like many of my experiences, I don’t think I’ll understand what I’m learning until later…

And in my personal life…. I want to move from apathetic to creative & active. Instantly. Ha.  Logically, I get that this isn’t possible, but my mind still wants it to happen this way. These past weeks are beginning to show me that habits take time to form, to change. There will be days that, as I lay down to sleep, I wonder why I didn’t make different decisions.  And there will be days I go to sleep with a smile at the new rhythms I pressed into that day.  Both are part of life. And, just maybe, both are necessary and good.

.
.

.

Probably more on this as I continue to press into this season of learning how to see, experience and understand the small steps as good progress rather than getting dismayed that I’m not where I’d like to be (yet).

1/13/17

Much has been going on these first two weeks of the new year. And thankfully, most of the happenings and thought-producers have been good (positive).  But, too many of these at the same time means that my mind is everywhere – leaving me feeling distracted, unable to focus or feel productive, and sometimes anxious.

Quick snapshot into my brain:

  • I finally admitted that although the church I’m going to currently is awesome, it may not be the best fit for me. This means searching for a new place to break bread, to be in community, to worship.
  • My work environment isn’t always healthy…and I’m still learning how to work and love there well.
  • Looking for ways/time to be creative this year – painting?, drawing, collage-ing and writing more often
  • Still having conversations and reading about race in America (check out 13th on Netflix)
  • As somebody who travels, understanding community in a local and virtual sense.
  • Asking what it means to be healthy and how I can implement that in my life
  • Have an interesting offer or two on the table for future creative projects and / or travel to consider
  • Continuing to understand what it means to be a life-long learner and reader – finding books to read, discussions to have, ways to experience / live out my faith
  • Trying? to learn Spanish
  • And, as always, trying to better understand my passions / giftings

Even typing it out caused me some stress.

But, my friend reminded me this afternoon, that it’s important to keep moving forward. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you…. in order for them to follow, YOU need to be moving!” She’s right. While this may be overwhelming at times, it means I’m still thinking and not being stagnant.

And then this evening another friend reminded me  – You are okay.

  • I am okay where I am
  • It’s okay to have feelings
  • It’s okay to need to slow down and breathe
  • It’s okay to be confused
  • It’s okay to want something different
  • I am okay the way I am

So.

Breathe.

You are okay.

You are okay.

Breathe.

2016 – a year

What a year it has been.  There is much to be said…and maybe much that shouldn’t be said. But this post shares some of the ups, downs, in betweens and lessons of my year.

January – A lot was packed into one day that stands out for this month.  It was Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, which meant I wasn’t at school. It also happened to be my birthday. It also was the day I cried in front of my housemates – and realized (for many reasons) that love isn’t easy, but it is good.

February – The month that brought closure to Youth Encounter and me. They announced their closing and I went to one of my last events to lead breakout sessions in San Antonio. Family and friends visited during the first Come and See weekend. With a couple of my housemates, I enjoyed my first Shabbat service and meal.

March – Mission Year ran a 5K in Houston to raise funds…and actually had fun! Spent my spring break with friends in the Northwest and back in the Twin Cities. Spent a late evening with Tommy, Josh and McKenzie that made us feel like real friends, outside the Mission Year world.

April –  Our neighborhood mourned the loss of Ms. Helen – a grandmother of sorts to all.  We experienced our first “flood” which kept some of us home from work for two days.  I was introduced to the Your Other Brothers blog.  The Mission Year Houston teams took a day trip out to Galveston – and we had cupcakes by the ocean.

May – We participated in Green My Hood and got to care for one of our most dear neighbors. At school, the students (and staff) turned into robots for state testing. And in Mission Year world, Caz came for a training that shook me and made me question… lots.

June – Our family and friends joined us in Houston for another weekend. Also, we helped our neighborhood put on an art exhibit on what emancipation looked like/meant to them. Their were several shootings around the country… which meant more after living in Houston. And one of our neighbors had us all over for dinner to express his gratitude for our presence.

July – Independence Day was spent with Tommy and the Holy Family church plant, which was a nice break from 3rd Ward living. We had the Luu’s over to our house and then they treated us to a creative, community evening at their place later in the month. My school offered me a job at their primary academy?!?  Also, we finished our Mission Year with a retreat in New Braunfels – full of food, tears and laughter.

August – Lived with the Carpenters for a month while Tommy and I tried to figure out our own living situation. Spent time relaxing and then getting to know the staff during RYSS training weeks before school started.

September – My older brother got married! Which meant I got to see family that I hadn’t seen in awhile as well. Tommy. Moe and I took a spontaneous day-trip to Galveston. And the new Mission Year Houston volunteers arrived.

October -Decided to go to Life Group with a friend made through Mission year.  Although it was primarily college students, I got good vibes from them.  Talked about connecting with another group and then met Chad & Maddy, who have helped the transition to “real” life after Mission Year.  Also, the presidential debates happened…. Tommy and watched these together…. emotionally.

November – In order to get some real fall weather, I visited a friend in Delaware – which was a great escape for many reasons. I visited & volunteered at a couple art and cultural festivals. And my Life group took care of my Thanksgiving plans!

December – At school we had at least one full week of Christmas related activities – pictures with Santa, Jingle Jam dance, class parties, staff secret santa. Advent party with Tommy and the Holy Family group. And then a Dallas-delayed flight back home to spend almost two weeks with family in Kansas.

Some of the top books I read this year – The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen, and  Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

A few lessons that I think I’ve been learning:

  • Practice gratitude – So many times this year, when I found myself frustrated or confused or apathetic, something or somebody would remind me about the importance of thankfulness. And, when I’m attentively do daily gratitude, it’s easier to keep perspective.
  • Being present – This was literally the story of ALL of third trimester of Mission Year for me.  And most of second trimester.  It’s very easy for me to start thinking about the future and wanting to make plans on my own time.  But God is faithful. And there have been so many good moments that happened in the “here and now” that I may have missed out on if I had let myself get stuck in planning and worrying.
  • Messy is okay – So much of me wants organization. My education taught me to strive for the best and only show my good side – even weaknesses can be turned around in a “good” interview. But through the 7 people I lived with for most of the year, and some long distance friends, I am continually reminded that life is messy, I am messy… and it’s okay to not have everything make sense.

Conjunctions 12/21

Earlier this semester, one of the fourth grade teachers at my school was explaining conjunctions to her class. When talking about “but,” she shared that it was a twist in the sentence. If the sentence starts positive, it ends negative. If the sentence starts with a sad face, it ends with a happy face.  This may be simplistic, but it works for getting the concept.

14303929_732540172988_185249175_o

After some conversations, I’m brought to the conjunctions that are going on in my life.  Or have been going on this semester.

My church is spirit-filled and engaged with the community and takes time to celebrate and pray on Sunday mornings, BUT I still don’t feel connected or known.

The last two weeks of school was spent primarily on testing, yes the fill-in-the-correct-bubble testing, BUT I still want kids to learn and enjoy learning…not just become robots who can take a test.

Houston has amazing cultural, food, art, music diversity, BUT it’s also super huge and easy for me to feel lost or insignificant, BUT there are tons of festivals and the arts are celebrated all the time in this city.

I know the importance of community, but I’m struggling to reach out, but people both in Houston and further away have reached out to me, but sometimes I respond with half-truths because I don’t feel like being vulnerable in the moment, but I know the vulnerability is a good thing…..

The idea of a hometown sounds great, BUT so does continuing to wander and explore.

 

And as I’ve been reading in Genesis, I’m reminded of my place as a wanderer. A sojourner. A person from the wilderness, called to a life of following. (more on that some other time).

 

For now, I’m trying to understand conjunctions. Understand that dualities may, probably ARE, a reality to life.  There may not be many times that I can feel 100% sure.  At least my own tendency is to see possibilities in people, places – to assume the best and expect an adventure with any forward motion – which is both terrifying and exciting.

November 3

A fellow blogger is blogging EVERY day for the month of November. I am NOT going to try this.  But it has got my mind thinking.

  • Why do I take time to blog? (on the rare instances I do…..)
  • What stops me from blogging more often?
  • Do I have anything worth saying, writing?
  • Does that matter if it is good for me??

In a recent post, he wrote:

“Without connection, addiction wins. Without confession, secrets fester.

Without love, indifference wins the day.”

Bah. So much I could say about this. So, I’ll try.

Connection – this is what I’ve been seeking over the last month(s).  I spent the last year living in 900 sq ft with 7  other people – CLOSE QUARTERS. But we learned to love each other and share space and enjoy life. Since that community has disbanded, I find myself seeking ways to connect with people.  Whether this is church or Skype or on the internet or via Skype/phone calls – I need people.  And it’s true, without these people, it is easy for addiction to win – addiction to food, sloth, negative thoughts…..

Love – one of my least favorite topics… but it comes up all the time (we can unpack that in another post).  But how true?  The days and moments that I didn’t love, didn’t feel loved – are those that seem the most MEH. Apathy is easy… and disappointing.  Love is tough…but rewarding, even if it’s small.

Is writing a way for me to connect? Maybe. Maybe not. I will continue to seek.

And with God’s help, I will continue to try and love and be loved.