Category Archives: community

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

little Moments.

How easily I forget my place.

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Earlier this morning I read a blog post about finding beauty in the mundane. So when this photo came up in my list for Five Minute Fridays (or Saturdays), I was drawn back to this idea.

It is very easy for me to get stuck in my routines.  Wake up, eat breakfast, drive the same route to work, follow my schedule at school, tell kids not to run/yell in the hallways, take the metro buses home, make some dinner, check social media/news (if I’m lucky, journal) and get ready for bed.  There’s not anything wrong with the routine, in fact it can be helpful/healthy.

The issue is getting stuck in this routine.

There are little moments that I miss if I’m not paying attention. In the midst of my routine, do I notice (and appreciate, give thanks for):

  • the sunrise as I wait for school to start
  • the downtown skyline on my drive to work
  • the students who give me a high five
  • teachers and students who need some encouragement
  • teachers who give me encouragement
  • an honest question about my day
  • the perfect song playing

Moments happen all the time.  They are waiting if we notice and join them.  May I (we?) be ever more aware and willing to be part of the moments.

Photo courtesy of Becca Grenell

The struggle of Story

Over the last week month or so the idea of story keeps running through my mind and life.  How each person has a story, is living a story and our stories MATTER.  Our stories intersect, intertwine, run into one another.  As I’m in this period of transition, other’s stories grab my attention.  Whether it’s a fellow Mission Year alum who is vlogging about transition or an old co-worker doing weekly blogs, friends sharing thoughts through music, phone calls, or poetry.  These stories are touching something within me that I struggle to name.

And in all of this, there are levels – depths- to the stories shared.  Sometimes a story takes me into the daily life of a friend overseas.  A blog may discuss a current issue or Christianity.  Spoken word may talk about climate change, racial injustice or the joys and pains of high school.

Unfortunately, amidst all the reading and listening I’ve been doing, I haven’t found my medium.

I haven’t found the way(s) to share my stories.

I haven’t found my voice.

There is more to be said. written. sung. rhymed. colored.  It just can’t find its way out – clearly.

But, I’m not giving up. These stories will emerge.