Saturday, July 13, 2013

One month to go!

Though the main thing I feel is a desire to go home, I am excited to see what this last month will bring, or at least trying to continue psyching myself up for it, rather than allowing senioritis to take over. (I told my community that I was feeling a touch of it, and Thien said "You're sick?... You should have just stayed home." Haha, thanks Thien!

Good things:

I started riding my bike again, and I chose the hottest month of the year to do it! I feel so much better though. My commute is cut in half, and I get exercise twice a day even if I don’t go to the gym. I've gotten to hang out more with my cousin Chad. I got to go to a beautiful wedding with Alex. Also, I’ve finally been given a regular outlet for making music at work. Once a week, I work in the family area, a full day instead of just an hour and 1/2 now, and at 2:00, we have Music Time with Lacy! The experience has taught me to broaden my spectrum on what it means and looks like to do what I love.

I was pretty set on this personal goal I had at the beginning of the year to bring a songwriting class to The Gathering Place. Music has been the best remedy for so much of what I’ve been through, and I wanted to bring that to the women I work with. Instead I’ve gotten a chance to bring music and even a few lessons to young people that may never get that kind of attention in their lives.

Sid, a volunteer, who has been at TGP for a while, always talks about what an impact music is on these kids, and he points out how exciting it is when you find the ones that are really into it and bring out that light in them. The other staff members in the family area also really enjoy watching the kids light up and have made me feel really welcome in that area. It’s only once a week, but it is such soul food to get me through this hot summer.

Speaking of broadening my scope, it has actually become pretty interesting trying to find jobs that don’t fall right in line with what I had originally planned for next year. Since, I sent in my first applications in April, I thought I would know by now what my job would be, but most of the jobs have gotten back to me with a timeline that is closer to the end of July or early August, both when interviews will begin and decisions will be made. And so we wait… But in that waiting time, I have searched the web, asked opinions, gotten some guidance from mentors and coworkers, and have a much better idea of what is out there in Northwest Arkansas than if I had just gotten a job in May or June.

The main bible verse that’s ringing out in my mind is “Do not worry about tomorrow.”
Matthew 6:33-34:

 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

So, that is how I need to finish out this year, by focusing on the day at hand, and allowing myself to fully see and experience the joy each new day brings, to indulge in pleasant conversations and challenging ones, to celebrate each child that gets excited about music, to be at peace in my home, and to continue basking in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. If this year has taught me only one thing, and that one thing is to be more creative in how I can enjoy my life and bring my full self to the table, I’d give the year an A. Yet, that’s not all I've learned. One more month!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding Color

Finding color.

It’s funny… my last blog post was all about being in the moment, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes we long for a place where we can’t be. My spring trip home for my friends’ wedding has been the one to make me the most homesick. As I flew into Denver over the beige desert I really pined for the green luscious rolling hills I had just left behind. But plane trips have always been good to have quiet alone time to think.

As someone who has been spoiled by vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of fall and earlier budding dogwoods and red buds in spring, coming to a wintery state where the main colors surrounding me over the majority time I've been here have been brown, white, and grey, has been a difficult transition. I’ve learned how much I thrive off color and beauty.

But I have had little glimpses of color this year: the opportune sunsets as I walk home after a long day, casting shades of oranges, pinks, and purples through the sky and over the mountains making everything appear to be on fire. The more variant skin tones on bus rides home, darker tones that make teeth appear the most beautiful white as strangers shyly smile back at you. The little girl at TGP with her consistent bright pink outfits, with just enough sass and dance moves to match her bright wardrobe. Rainbows! Going to a church that supports equality... Clothes! Though there are still a lot of natural colors, the more urban scene have splashes of color that some would not be so bold to wear or be able to pull off. But the colors of those shoes do not overcast those bright personalities and talents. Graffiti on the sides of buildings, with all the care and time they take. Bright blue skies on cloudless days...

There are more splashes of color in this world of grey, if you’re looking. I’m ready for the summer to get here, though, to bring warmer weather and more outdoor adventures. I’m excited about things that are still coming up, but I’m also really ready to go home. Each “see you later” only gets harder instead of better with time. When I was younger, I never would have thought I’d be the type to get homesick, but now there are so many things calling me home: upcoming marriage, family, friends getting married, the beauty,  green grass and dogwood trees, music, favorite places being sold, Beaver Lake, and so many things to look forward to.

Both the Rockies and the Ozarks have very different things to offer, in landscape and activities. It’s sometimes hard to be torn, to a degree, between two so special worlds. But I can’t miss the forest for the trees. I have to expand my vision to find the colors. Look a little further off and see the way the mountains look a bluish purple under the sky from this distance. I won’t take the warmth for granted, and I so look forward to the season that brings the budding flowers, as short as it might be. I’ll go visit the mountains more, now, and I’ll miss them when I leave. I have made some great friends, ones I hope will keep in touch. I will have another wonderful place to visit and people to see.

 It’s cool though, that there are so many different places in this world, and just as large of a variety of people to fill it, to call the different parts home. The same things that might turn me off of one place, church, person, or activity might be the very aspects that attract a different person to those same things. We all have our physical “Beulah Lands,” and it’s not always where we grew up. Sometimes it takes going away and defining yourself outside of those comfort zones that really makes you appreciate that coming home. There may be other places that I call home over the course of my life, but certain ones will always have a special place in my heart. I think my favorites will always have blue skies, green hills, folk music, and wildflowers in every color.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Now what?

Now what?

That’s the question that seems to enter the minds of we 6 volunteers, now that it is less than 4 months 'til the end of our volunteer year. However, that question implies that we are not acknowledging the now that is still now, that we are still in this year, and we have 4 more months ahead of us to continue to be part of a community and discern together what this year as a whole means in our lives and world today. We can't just wait to answer now what in 4 months. What “DOOR” stands for outlines what this year is all about: Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection. That in itself implies that not only are we providing a service to others, in our little household of 6 volunteers, in our job placements, and in the community of this new city, but we receive a service from all of those around us: learning and growth. Each new person teaches us something new, and each new day brings a new nugget of a story.

What we provide for each other is a chance to cope through that and to reflect on those opportunities as they come. This is really the part of my year I’m so grateful for. I’m a deep processer, making connections to and from everything, and it’s been really nice to have dedicated time to do that out loud with my housemates, mentors, and loved ones over the phone. It’s one thing to think and feel things; it’s another to find meaning for them and put them into words. It’s still not easy.

This year has brought on so many challenges, some I was more ready for than others, and sometimes I find I have more to feel and say than I have time. Just as I can’t find the energy to start cleaning my room unless I can finish it, sometimes it’s hard to take the time to just jot down my thoughts when there are so many.

My housemates, DOOR city and assistant city directors, and I discussed this challenge of making and trusting community enough to really let each other in. In some ways we’ve passed this test already, with flying colors. In others, there is still room for growth. There is always room for more growth. We made spoken and unspoken promises to take those challenges to invite each other in. Introverts will come out of their rooms more, and extroverts will express their frustrations better. We all have come a long way, but there are still 4 more months. I’m sure it will fly by, but it can also be the most pivotal part of the whole year if we allow it to be.

So, what now? Now I’m still living in community, working at The Gathering Place 4 days a week, where I’m currently helping prepare for a big art walk in which artists from TGP community will have a display, and I’m in the process of applying for jobs. Have an interview on May 1st, cross your fingers! And, I’m getting married in a little over 5 months! Though now is not void of it’s preparation for tomorrow, we can’t lose sight of where we stand, currently.

We are reading An Alter in the World, that addressees just that. By only focusing on what you’re waiting for, you can lose sight of your present opportunities or only perform your current tasks halfway or not to your best potential. The best example of being in the present but still preparing for the future is learning: new tasks and skills or ideas. This year is a chance to be in the moment, and let all of the experiences prepare us to be the best versions of ourselves. I can feel myself starting to get it. I’m excited to live each day as a new one and meet and love each person and opportunity I can over the next 4 months. It ain’t over yet!!

Peace and blessings, and love for my housemates, who I haven’t introduced you to yet:

That's me in the front, on the left!

Behind me, on the left, Kaitlin, from Sacramento, California, is a vivacious, strong willed woman who loves to laugh and take care of others. She is, in a lot of ways, our house mom this year, often putting the needs of others before herself. She is a great listener and an awesome friend. I’ve enjoyed our bus rides to work together and a little extra one-on-one.

In the front, on the right, Emma is a sweet, often mistaken (by Antonio) for a southern belle, has accepted the challenges this year has brought on, and grown as a teacher to her students and a friend to her housemates, all while maintaining her strong connections back home. She is from Lexington, Kentucky, and it’s always fun when her accent slips out. She loves dogs upon sight. I share a room with her!

Against the wall with the wooden moose, Lauren, from Littleton, CO, can disguise herself as a wallflower, but her beauty shines out in her deep thinking and awesome laugh. She has such a mature and bright mind but youthful spirit, and this year has made that flourish, in my opinion. Whenever she sees anything with children, she lights up like she is one!

Thien, in the back, is hilarious and can easily put a smile on all of our faces just by being himself. He also is a child at heart with great little nuggets to add to the community from his experience and passions. He’s a very talented graffiti artist and break dancer, and I’ve learned about a side of culture, that I never would have known had he not been my housemate.

In the center is Matt! Matt is from “The Carolinas” as he puts it. He’s been everywhere man. He spent a year as a volunteer in Tanzania and has used what he learned there throughout this year, as he helps refugees get settled into a new home. He has very strong leadership qualities and whenever no one else will step up, we can always count on him.

This picture was taken during our last retreat, to Breckenridge. Good times! We had a week of relaxation and our own private hot tub!! I love these guys and look forward to these next 4 months so much. Ready for this weather to get warmer and brighter so we can get ourselves into more outdoor activities!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Footprints and reflections


Friday night, I got asked the ultimate questions for Christians, and probably a lot of people: Why religion? Why church? What’s the point? As someone who didn’t grow up in an evangelical church, and wasn’t raised with the idea that it’s my job to convert people to my way of thinking, I didn’t have a rehearsed answer. I’m curious as to whether this makes my way of communicating more embracive to people of different ideas, or makes me sound more full of crap.

Whenever I get asked questions like this, I try to mention that my ideas on the “God thing” aren’t 100% stereotypical or, to some, ideal, Christian. Her biggest argument against religion was that it’s man made, and I told her, to a degree, I agree with her. Another argument is that so much hatred in the world is stemmed from religious beliefs, and I also agreed with that. I told her that my only way of explaining what I understand of God is energy that inspires all human connection, and she argued that you can get a feeling for all the connectivity without going to church, without labeling it God. I also agreed with that, to an extent. It’s points like these, where I believe many arguments or debates are stemmed more from semantics rather than ideas or understanding.

 I get the sense from a lot of people that on some level we have similar ways of thinking about the world, but we have extremely varying ways of explaining how we think about it, stemmed from so many things: our raising and surrounding culture, books we’ve read, our education, our friends, our personality, our likes and dislikes, etc. My friend asked me if I thought that I was mostly Christian and went to church because that’s what I was used to. I answered, “Probably so, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.” However, had I been raised under different circumstances, in a church that shoved religion down my throat rather than nurtured my faith, or grew up under a different “faith,” all together, I’d like to think that there would still be an essence of the person that I am today under there somewhere.

That’s a pretty big human question isn’t it? One we cover in every social science, just about. Am I who I am because that’s the way I was born, or have I become the way I am because of how I was raised and the things that I’ve learned? Easy answer: yes. Trying to define one part without the other, I believe, is impossible. “I was born this way.” For me I really was Presbyterian before I was born. My dad’s side of the family can trace our Presbyterian minister lineage back to some of the first churches in Scotland. So, I was raised in the tradition and taught the stories, but knowing something and accepting it are two different things. Both my church camp, and my college and post-college experiences have taught me to challenge ideas, and to ask questions, to allow myself to be challenged but to find a foundation within my core being, that keeps me grounded. And, that’s what I explained to my friend, in not so many words, church and religion is for me, a foundation.

But I respect people that find that rooted quality from other aspects of life, such as family, friends, books, nature, or just life in general and all its fascinating twists and turns. I find it completely fine if someone wants to label that as something other than God. But I also think it’s completely fine, and doesn’t make me a lesser person for having something that I know gives me a good sense of checks and balances within myself, a chance to get “out of my head” yet dig deeper into it at the same time. Church gives me a chance, once a week to come to a familiar community and think with my “big picture” mind, and hopefully learn something new, as I also do from going to work every day, riding the bus, or indulging in conversation with others. The bible says “Where two or more meet, there I shall be also.” So, maybe that’s not about meeting in a particular type of building, or with a certain group of people, or even about a particular subject, but setting aside time, making time, and investing time in being in and seeking community in order to learn and grow from it, and to gain a deeper awareness of the world outside of ourselves.

I guess my best answer for “Why Christianity” for me is solidarity in my life. While I can combine some of the teachings of Buddha and Gandhi and others, I am rooted in my first teacher, Jesus. (Well, my parents, and Sunday school teachers, but yeah.) I am personally more “in love” with the person than the savior that of Jesus Christ, (which is where that “not ideal Christian” philosophy might come into play for some) and his example was the first one I was taught. I don’t think that discounts my other teachings and other life experiences, but enhances them. Each new experience broadens my scope, but “I was born this way,” and I think it would be disrespectful to myself and to all who have nurtured me to discount that. I would have said before that Christianity isn’t all that defines me. To an extent, that’s true. Just as someone who was gay would say being gay wasn’t all that they were, though still in today’s society, people get tripped up on that one detail, or being woman isn’t the only deciding factor in my abilities, or being older or younger doesn’t always make you more or less wise.

So, maybe it’s labels that are to blame, words that are misused or misunderstood that create so many dividing lines. Those dividing lines, to a large degree, are what are “human made.” To put my religion in a box and leave it for Sundays and say it doesn't define me would discount the beautiful ways it has lead me to exactly where I am today, just as each new soul I encounter should have the chance to make an impact on mine. It’s okay to allow things to define you. In a sense, that’s what life is all about. But it’s even more important to acknowledge what those things are so that they don’t create barriers that disallow you to listen and to hear and see new ways of thinking about life. It’s important to embrace the challenges and ask the questions so that you can continue to shape and gain perspective. It’s a pretty big puzzle, and to think that one person could have every piece would not only be arrogant, but sadly misinformed and limiting to all this life has to offer.

Had a quick reflection this morning, as I was walking through someone else's snow tracks so as not to soak my boots, how many people's footsteps I've followed while discerning my own path. I’m grateful for my family and teachers who have set great examples for me. Sometimes though, we do need to get our feet wet. There is still exploration to be done and new discoveries to be made. That’s why I’m grateful to be part of a church that tries to discern what our world needs to look like in 2013 and onward instead of 2000-some-odd years ago, just as we hope our country, our families, and our teachers will make decisions that make for a better today that will lead toward a positive tomorrow for those who come after us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Being Engaged In and During a Year of Service

“…and what about this Valentine’s Day? Isn’t that, uh… everyday? Shouldn’t you love… the people you love… each day of the week?” says a stranger on the bus on my roommates’ and my way home from the zoo, on community day. 

Though the rest of his rant took some interesting turns, talking about how he would only send people he hates to the Catholic church, and that he wouldn’t tell his crack smoking friends where they would go after they die, but, “uh, when you get to hell, you won’t be smokin’ no more crack, because hell is gonna smoke you…,” his first statement rings of some validity. One has to ask the question why we have all the holidays. Why do we pick one day of year and call it the day of love, of for some “singles’ awareness day?”

From an anthropological side, it’s pretty simple, ritual. I mentioned in a recent blog that we as humans need ritual. Times of Advent and, now, Lent, are good times to get into a certain mindset, not that you don’t think about the things you think about at those certain times, but that you focus on certain aspects of your life that can be interrupted by the day-to-day.

So, in light of this Valentine’s Day, (it's officially 2/14/13 in Arkansas) I’d like to address a topic that I haven’t mentioned as much on this blog. Since I got the permission of my fiancé, Alex, I wanted to talk about what it’s like to be engaged in a year of service while also being engaged to someone who is 12 hours away. A lot of people have asked me why I’ve done this year, and what it’s like to be away from a fiancé, and you might also want to know how I keep focused. Well, I’ll tell you, it’s not always easy.

I found out when I got to orientation, that I was actually one of 3 girls that got engaged, I believe about the same time, who were entering a year of service, one of whom has gone home, and another doing seemingly fine even further, and across the sea from her betrothed. But it goes with my theme of this year, that I’m “Not Alone” in this journey. I assumed I would be a rarity, being engaged and moving away, but I wasn’t the only one. And it gave me some comfort.

Culture is different in Denver. Not that it’s Super common to be engaged to someone 6 months after you started dating in Arkansas, but it is more common. Here, couples can date years and years, and marriage never crosses their mind or isn’t as high on the priority list. But, since Alex and I knew from the first day that we met that I was going to go away for a year, we were from the start able to think about what tomorrow would and could bring. It didn’t take long before the long-term and then forever topics started becoming apparent to both of us. In fact, it was a month in when I knew I wanted him to be the father of my children. Haha! We went to see the Lorax, and there was a girl who said some thing cute, to which he replied, “Aw, I want one!” Yep… Sold!

He mentioned something about wanting to give me something special before I went to Denver, and I asked him if he was going to send me to this new city with a ring on my finger. I knew for certain that he had big plans when he told me that he wanted to “have a talk with” my dad. And then, when his mom showed up to our family reunion, not that that’s the weirdest thing in the world, but still a nice surprise, I had a feeling it was it.

And, man, my boy can deliver a speech. He told my dad’s whole side of the family, before we said grace, about how along the way, Alex and I had taken a good amount of challenges on, which we had been pretty good at overcoming. He said, that this year raises questions of what this year will hold, and he decided it was another challenge, and one he knew we would overcome. He got down on his knee and asked me to take on the challenge of being engaged, and to be his wife.

Alright, so… fast track, 6 months later. Have we fought? Yes. Have we cried? Yes. Have we had lots of moments where we’ve thought to ourselves, “This would be a lot more fun” or “easier if my fiancé was here”? Most definitely! There are times that it’s been way harder than I imagined, but even more moments that he reminds me why I committed to this. He’s been really supportive during my rollercoaster rides of emotions and challenges this year. He doesn’t like it when I cry, and wishes he could make it better, but we’ve both learned what it really means to appreciate our time together, time on the phone and the time that we’ve gotten to see each other, every other month or so. Do we wish those times were fewer and further between? Umm, without a doubt. But, we, to some sense, knew what we were getting ourselves into and that it wouldn’t be easy. The last 6 months have been full of surprises, but mostly I’m pleasantly surprising myself.

I know it would be easier to be engaged and together, but the distance, on my end at least, has made me a stronger person, and more faithful. I’ve retrained the way I am when I go out, when I think about my day. I make sure I call him when I can, and when I meet strangers, yeah strangers, at a bar, I’m quick to delve into how much I love my fiancé. I’m sure to some people it’s annoying or weird, but it’s also been really cool to meet the people that are supportive of me, and want to know more, people that don’t just treat me like I’m crazy for doing this.

One of my coworkers was a lot of help. She and her now husband spent 2 years apart while he did 2 years of service in Texas, and she was getting her Masters in New York. She said that the biggest thing to remember is to “buy in” to this year, and to expect that of Alex too, thus the title of this blog entry: being engaged in and during this year.

I knew before coming that I didn’t want to just be “the engaged girl.” I wanted to fully commited to everything I came into this year to accomplish. I wanted to be a part of my home community in Denver, to get to know a new city, to learn about the urban context and ways God was working in it, and to bring my skills to the table and offer them for free for the one year that I could. I’m so thankful that I have someone who, mostly, patiently waits for me 12 hours away, who knows that it’s better for me to do this year and follow a calling, than to throw it away for love. That makes our love stronger, and we continue to grow day by day.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the love of my life, Alex Hampton. Thank you for being there and holding on. You’re the strongest person I know, and I’m grateful for everything you are and mean to me, as a still growing woman and as your future wife.

I would also ask that my friends and family and passers by who read this blog to pray, if you haven’t already, for continued blessings over our relationship, that we always feel his presence and each others love, even from a distance.

Peace, love, music and the best of things,


                                                                                          Picture from Valentine's Day '12

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Beauty in the Dissonance

Can’t see the forest for the trees…

On transfiguration Sunday, it seems appropriate to mention the growing process that is this year. I’ve always been a heavy processor, so sometimes it’s hard for me to be in the moment. But these blogs help me to get my thoughts out as they come.

Just as the caterpillar might not be able to imagine what it will one day look like, sometimes in this year it’s hard to see the impact that this year is having, while still in the midst of it. It’s always easier to see how far you come when it’s all said on done, but it’s is also important to process along the way, imagine the big picture and continue to set goals, for constant improvement.

At The Gathering Place, my first week, we took the Strengths Finder Test, and my number one strength was Connectedness. It’s a pretty handy strength for a year such as this, but it can also create the sensory overload, if you don’t take the time to step back and ponder the steps along the way.

It was perfect that Transfiguration Sunday happened to be Youth Sunday this week, as the youth pastor pointed out that there is no better time to see transfiguration in its rarest form take place than in young people. I like the way he worded it, not that it’s a change, but that it’s becoming the truest best version of yourself. My addition would be that back on the butterfly analogy: The butterfly isn’t all of a sudden no longer the caterpillar, but is just a heightened version of its old self. I think any parent can attest to an understanding of this, that when they watch their kid grow up, it’s not that the child is not that baby they held in their arms, but it’s a beautiful process to watch this life take form and flourish, blossom, and grow: transfiguration.

Of course the butterfly metaphors always stir deep emotion in me, to the time I wrote a song two days before my first college roommate, and one of my best friends passed away. I wrote a song in about thirty minutes and had no idea where it had come from. The lyrics seemed to pour out of, with, mostly, a detachment of meaning at the time. All I knew of the song at the time, was the emotion it gave me at the time, an intense feeling of connectedness to something that I didn’t understand.

4 days later, after I had been playing the song during the music festival in Winfield, Kansas, I learned of Haley’s passing. Again, I had no idea at the time that this song I had written would become one that would give me comfort, until I was driving to Springfield for the memorial service, and the words started playing in my head again. “It doesn’t always make sense, unless you make it make sense. And you can’t make a difference, unless you choose, to make a difference.”

The song was Beauty in the Dissonance, and as I said before, I honestly didn’t know what I was writing at the time until I got there. It was a real “God moment” for me, when it was told to us at the service that “Haley loved butterflies.” That’s when it clicked! One of the lyrics of my song was, “It’s a tapestry, but you can’t see it from the bottom: all the butterflies that would have flown by if you hadn’t caught ‘em.” I realized then that Haley had been one of my butterflies that I had had the fortunate privilege of catching for a few year of my life, one day to let her move on.

And of course, the tapestry is also a beautiful metaphor for someone with a Connectedness strength: that we can’t always know how complete the picture of our life’s story is, until we gain perspective, or maybe we’ll never really fully know. But occasionally we get little glimpses of the transformations and transfigurations we’ve made along the way, as we become heightened and better versions of ourselves.

In case you would like to know the lyrics of the whole song, to get a better knowledge of why, as arrogant as it my sound (though I truly believe that when true inspiration comes, we should be grateful for it), this song of mine has taken many forms and fit many needs for me, the lyrics will follow. And, maybe it will mean something else for you. That is the beauty of music to me, that it can touch us in many different ways as our paths wind and change and intertwine with one another. Songs can somehow transfigure themselves to meet our needs at the time, just as I believe our relationships with God and with others have to.

Also, if you would like to listen, and this isn’t an intentional plug, the recording of the song is on iTunes and Amazon: Beauty in the Dissonance, from Jeremy’s and my album, Going Up. Enjoy!

On a journey, barely begun
On a journey, so far from done
And I will continue to strive,
But there are pieces, I don’t understand,
Pieces that demand more of me
And force me to see

That it doesn’t always make sense,
Unless you make it make sense
And you can’t make a difference,
Unless you choose, to make a difference.

So, breath in the good.
Breath out the bad.
But let it linger on your tongue, just so you’ll remember,
And you’ll do better!

It’s a tapestry, but you can’t see it from the bottom:
All the butterflies that would have flown by if you hadn’t caught ‘em.
Hope you gained something from their beauty: an experience.

No, it doesn’t always make sense,
Unless you make it make sense,
And you can’t make a difference,
Unless you choose to make a difference.

So breathe in the good.
Breathe out the bad.
But let it linger on your tongue, just so you’ll remember,
And you’ll do better…

The beauty in the dissonance, the beauty in the dissonance.

You make your life beautiful by making it yours,
Seeing open windows, rather than closed doors.
The wrong notes can make you cringe,
But you can weave around them, count them as fringe.

The beauty in the dissonance…

(It's good to remember that sometimes, the picture might not seem beautiful, because we're seeing it from the wrong side or angle. Discussions with a variety of people can help expand our knowledge, and broaden our view.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

A New Year, A New Perspective

A New Year, A New Perspective

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes, you might just find, you get what you need.” Almost 5 months into my YAV year, and I have had to shift my idea about what this year must be about. I definitely think it’s important to dream, and to make strong goals, but on the flip side of that, we can’t get so caught up in our dreaming and wants that we miss out on what we’re given.

To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of the time over the last 5 months being disappointed that this year wasn’t what I had hoped it was going to be, but I’m starting to realize that to some degree, not having what I want is part of what I need to grow this year. And after this year, once I have the job, the marriage, and some of the things I look forward to and want, I will appreciate it even more.

I need to stop trying to get what I want out of this year, and start embracing what I do get. Yesterday, in church, the sermon was all about the embrace of God’s love, and how it’s a lot less limited than our minds generally fathom. Often we can create barriers for why we deserve this love more than the next, but it’s limitless. Does that make us any less special? No, because we are still children of God. So, then the challenge, instead of “earning God’s love” becomes embodying it. The guest preacher also preached more about being part of one body. Some would follow that with “In Christ” but the preacher yesterday seemed to think that was just one way of wording it. He said he had a Muslim friend who said he would pray for him on Saturday, and he expected the same from him on Sunday. One body… I will come back to this point…

I have kind of flip-flopped day to day wondering if I came in too open-minded, to maybe I wasn’t open-minded enough. I was very open minded in accepting my job for the year, when my main goal had been to work with children. I also focused on the parts of my job and was more excited about the parts that aren’t the bigger parts. But the decisions I made got me to where I am. So…now what?

Instead of regretting the decision and wondering, “What if” I had been more stubborn about the things I had wanted to get out of this year, and stronger in making decisions that would reflect that? And, would I be happier if I had waited around to find the perfect job for me? There was a time when I was excited about this job, and open to this job, and I’ve had to get back to that.

I’ve decided to put all of the disappointments that I’ve had so far out there, so I can see them and move on:

  1. I’ve been with children less than 2 hours a week.
  2. I’ve yet to start any sort of music class.
  3. I haven’t written any great songs yet
  4. I’m not teaching.
  5. I’m not perfect at my job.

But then there are also the good things:

  1. I’m learning new transferable skills that I’ve never had before such as making flyers and calendars, and computer clean-up
  2. Working with a larger population of women
  3. Being part of a team
  4. Learning greater self-discipline
  5. Fine tuning my time management within a new job and new requirements

So, maybe I wouldn’t have grown near as much had I simply been in a job I loved every minute of. If I was sitting around with children and musical instruments every day, yes I would absolutely love it, but maybe that’s not what I need this year. Who knows, maybe I really do need to know how to scan and de-frag a computer. But I think also, it has a lot to do with the people that I get to meet every day.

As it is coming up on MLK day I think it’s important for all of us to embrace our differences, and for me as well to step back and see the transformation my life really is taking, even through the frustration. We’ve been talking during our community days about the people that are often discriminated against and marginalized, and I feel that I get a chance to be a part of that community every day I go to work.

5 months ago I might have said, “work with those people.” But now I see that that’s separating myself from part of the reality of discrimination and poverty. I am neither above that system nor apart from it. Part of discrimination is, what I understand as, a natural human phenomenon to categorize things. I don’t think that this part is wrong. But it’s when that categorizing is used to separate, hate, or be made to feel better or justified in one’s self, that we have a problem. None of us are free from this judgment. I, as a white engaged woman have my own “standards” placed upon me by others. Fortunately there are a select few people that have gotten to know me outside of my stereotypes and know me as the person that I am instead of the boxes I fit into. I call these people friends and neighbors, lover, and family.

During YAV orientation we sang the song “We Are Homeless.” The different verses describe a world that has pain, but instead of separating ourselves from that pain and casting it off as someone else’s, acknowledging this “one body” concept that we are taught, that we are in it all together. “We are man, woman, we are children, and oh, we are homeless.” One body. So if one “part” of the body suffers, don’t we all? I know if my tummy hurts, I’m probably not in a great mood, and if I’m not in a great mood, I need to someone about it, and maybe eat some chocolate. So, one malady causes a complete sensory phenomenon. When one part suffers…

I still struggle with the balance of doing and being, another concept that was often brought up at orientation. What does it mean to do to “be a Christian” or whatever terminology you would use in your faith, as opposed to “doing Christian things?” A lot of bad things can come from good intentions. (They need a house, so I’ll build them one they can’t afford the property tax on!)

Shane Claiborne says that the problem isn’t that people don’t “love the homeless” but that they don’t know them. I do think that The Gathering Place is modeled around being rather than doing and accepting people where they are. I think my daily experiences are helping me grow around that philosophy. I have had times in my life where I really needed to be accepted where I was, and luckily I had people there to embody that for me.

Again, the challenge is not to “do Christianity” but embody it, to not believe every word of a book, but to embody its teachings, to learn to love to the core of humanity rather than just the surface. I was saying the other day that I know atheists that are better “Christians” than some people that go to church, not that it’s a competition. But it’s easy once you pinpoint one idea to base your life around to miss the mark, for lines to get skewed. If only we knew what “Christian” meant.

I have focused a lot on my job, because that was my biggest reason for coming here, but I’ve also gotten so much out of the people that I live with, the church I’ve started to go to, and the city of Denver. Overall, it’s a very laid back culture, very casual style, and mostly up for change. Maybe that is only the side I’ve seen and the people I’ve gotten to hang out with, but it is a much nicer culture than the weather. Haha.

So, new year, new perspective: I do think I’m growing, I know I’m learning, I miss my family and Alex, but I have 7 more months and need to live in a more embracing approach to all that the rest of this year has to offer. Every challenge is a stepping stone, and every tear is a mile toward who I’m going to be when this year is all over and done with. I can’t seem to get everything I want, but I’m going to try real hard to get and love this year for what I need.