November 17 (yet)

Music by Sia or Shawn McDonald

The blog posts by Your Other Brothers

The BlackLivesMatter movement

X-Men First Class

At first (or even fifth) glance, these things have nothing in common.  And maybe that’s true for most people.  But for me, they have something deeply in common.

In each of these, I see meaningful, authentic dreams being lived out.  Creatively, actively sharing stories, songs, lives that need to be shared.  Not caring about the political correctness, the “right” way to share these stories – just knowing, caring, believing that they are worth sharing, worth dreaming, worth fighting for.

Recently I’ve been realizing that while I can notice this around me, I still haven’t figured it out (or even a starting point) within me.  I don’t know what story needs to be told. Or how I would go about telling it.  Or what dreams are stirring in my head and heart.

There is more to say – I can feel it. But I cannot put words to it.

yet.

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.

 

practices

14364743_10206863199889564_5746550871970775427_n

One of my friends is currently doing his yearly campaign leading up to Thanksgiving – #warongrumbling.  For forty days he (and others who choose to join him & his family) posts something specific he is thankful for that day.

I am trying to join this year – but don’t always get onto social media – or remember some days.  But there is something about this practice. Verbalizing our thankfulness or writing our gratitude down can solidify it – making more of a practice of finding the good in each day, in each moment.

This is a practice that was suggested to me during Mission Year by my city director.  And I would do it for awhile, notice my attitude shift, and slowly stop doing it. As I lost my perspective, eventually I would find myself frustrated, more likely to grumble, until I remembered (or somebody reminded me) the practice of daily thankfulness.

[Just last week my roommate noted that during the year he could tell if I had been writing my thankfulness list or not]

How easy it is to lose focus.  To get so distracted by some person or situation that is drawing energy that we miss out on the good.  There are moments of growth and beauty happening every day.  I know that when I slow down and focus and listen, it isn’t that difficult to see God. But taking the step to stop, to slow down, to be mindful is not always easy.

What would my life look like if I consistently practiced gratitude? How would it impact my attitude?  How might it impact the people around me?

 

[photo credit – Kelly Hudgins]

little Moments.

How easily I forget my place.

14388912_10209546111881373_2077240144_n

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 Stars

14302600_10207680369949477_290683049_n

Darkness.  Night. All-enveloping in a way that produces both fear… and peace.

Some of my most peaceful, happy moments have occurred while looking at stars.  I think back to college and the trip to middle-of-nowhere Missouri and being shocked at how many stars you could see when there was little to no light pollution.  Or of my two summers on staff at Youthfront Camp West – the occasional night watch, or evenings on the weekends talking to other staff and just enjoying the view from the field or the waterslide tower.  I think of Youth Encounter trainings at Luther Dell – middle-of-nowhere Minnesota, and again being surprised and awed by the stars. And again, staying up late, under the stars talking about life.  I remember moments in my overseas travels and being comforted that the friends and family that I was missing were still present as I looked at the stars, knowing that they would be seeing the same stars.

Most recently, the stars were brought to my attention at the reception of my brother’s wedding.  Outdoors, beautiful weather, wonderful time with friends and family.  While everybody was chatting and dancing after dinner, I went out to the porch.  I looked up at the stars… and breathed. So much happening that weekend, and in my life, it was nice to see the stars and breathe and rest – even for a moment.  Seeing the stars reminded me that as much as I enjoy parts of Houston, it cannot be my forever home because I miss the stars, the open spaces too much.

I’m unsure what draws me into deep, reflective spaces when I’m under a sky full of stars, but it seems to be.

Ready, Set, Go!

14331574_10207602246197418_1755665019_n

Ready. Set. Go!

This is coming to you a day late, but, in my defense there was a dinner that I needed to go to on Friday and I ended up taking some people home from it so I didn’t get to my computer until almost 10pm – and that’s too late for me to consider (remember) a blog post.

And ready, set, go may be accurate for this photo as well.  It’s from the end of a weekend conference that I was facilitating.  One of my co-workers had done the planning, but there were too many events that weekend and they needed me to be the face/voice of our organization for the weekend.  Ah!!!

So, I felt thrown into the weekend. And there were hiccups, for sure – like a kid drawing on  the carpet of one room… or the elevators being down for most of the weekend…… But it was still such a great time.  Parents were gracious with me and the hotel, the bands, speaker and volunteers were wonderful, the youth all seemed to have a good time and not be too loud.

At the end of the weekend, the volunteers were cleaning out our hospitality room…and for some reason there were hot dog buns leftover…but no hot-dogs.  They graciously gave me the buns as my “trophy” for a successful weekend.

But honestly, the weekend filled me more than I felt like I did anything for anybody that weekend.

#fiveminutefriday

 

Photo sent in by – Sarah Kearney   (feel free to comment, email a photo for a future post)

P.S.

Writing the title of this made me think of the following song…. if you care to listen:

 

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.

Slowing down

Three weeks – amount of time I’ve been in Houston post-Mission Year

Two weeks – how long I’ve been employed in Houston

The time passes slowly some days, and quickly on others.

One morning last week, I noticed how quickly I was walking to catch my ride to work. Suddenly I had the thought – “just slow down.”  By this time, I know that my ride is never on time (and by that I mean I don’t have to expect it to show up early). Yet, my instinct at this point in my life is to show up early (always) and to rush – to hurry – to worry.

On that morning though, the idea of slowing down just stuck.  In that moment, I could slow my pace and enjoy the rest of the walk.  And in regards to my worries? Slow down brain!!  Don’t feel like you have a community yet? You’ve only been in this new season for three weeks – and you’re not even in your “permanent” location yet!  Work still seems unfamiliar? You’ve only been there two weeks… and school doesn’t start until Monday!

All too often I want quick answers.  And moving quickly will get me to answers/resolution sooner, right?  Wrong. I’m being reminded that life is about processes… and being present, enjoying the process, the relationships as they form, the moments of laughter.

There’s more to say.  But I need to start somewhere, or words will never be put on page/screen.

transitioning

It seems like the entire month of July was spent on the idea of transitioning well and/or finishing strong. Questions were asked such as:

  • What relationships can you push into these last weeks – at home, service sites, church, in the neighborhood? And how do you say goodbye well?
  • Which of the Mission Year values have you been drawn to more? How will I continue those after Mission Year is over?
  • What makes me come alive? What and where am I feeling called to?
  • What does it mean to finish strong with my teammates? How can we continue to be honest at the end? What does communication look like once the year is over? How can we celebrate this year together?

All that to say, there was a lot of reflecting and conversating during July. Lots of celebrations – breakfast one last time with Uncle, lunch @ Marcelina’s, meals with co-workers, an open-house at our place,”the last” affirmations and devo.

This culminated in Closing Retreat. Plenty of stories to share from our time in New Braunfels, but suffice to say – much laughter, more reflecting, relaxing by the river, good food, great conversations.

Now, the part many of you have been waiting to hear – I know because it’s the question I’ve been asked since May? April even? – What are you doing next, Kevin?!?!?

Well, turns out I’m staying in Houston!  Through a series of events, I applied and was offered a job at my service site, Raul Yzaguirre School for Success as Teacher’s Aide in English at the Primary Academy.  Currently looking for housing, staying with some friends. Though I can’t say I love the weather here, I’m excited to continue to mold young minds, explore Houston, enjoy the arts/culture and invest in relationships that I’ve made this year.

Stay tuned for more Houston adventures!

Solidarity (7)

Coming into my year in Houston, solidarity seemed pretty straight forward – Do things the way people around you are doing them.  Live as close to possible the same lifestyle, to better understand and come alongside my neighbors. So what did this look like?

It meant taking Metro (or walking) as my means of transportation.  Many of my neighbors had their own car, but on our budget it was either Metro or a super cheap, shared car for the house. Using Metro meant not always being able to get where I needed to go – more walking! And being on a somewhat unpredictable schedule – a continuing, built-in lesson in flexibility and patience for the year.  I also experienced the inconvenience of riding the bus with the week’s groceries because there is no grocery store within walking distance.  Many of my neighbors would complain about this as well – especially the older neighbors.  Why is there no easily accessible food in our neighborhood?!?

Speaking of food, my team and I lived on a budget.Each week we had a limited amount to spend on groceries, which meant some strategic meal planning.  This forced us to make choices on what is important – when do we get more toilet paper, dish soap, lights? It also put us in a place to rely on the “provision of the Lord.”  And while that sounds “Christian-y,” there were many times when our needs were met (and exceeded) by food leftover from a Food Fair or somebody offering to drive some of us home from work.

Solidarity meant using the Washateria (laundromat) instead of a washer and dryer in our house.  This, again, forced me to consider my budget, making sure I would be able to have clean clothes for the month.  And it also showed me the relationships that can form through solidarity.  Often I would witness neighbors connecting & catching up with each other while doing their laundry.  The Wash is a place to find out neighborhood news and re-connect with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

And, as I write this post-Mission Year, I continue to think what solidarity can look like in my life. Where will I chose to spend money? What kind of balance can I make between using Metro and a car?  How does my money impact the people and community around me (shopping/eating local vs. chain)?  Does the place I live fit me – and does that support the gentrification of a neighborhood?  Plenty to consider.