Saturday, December 11, 2010

Settling In

"I am the one for whom God waits. I am awaiting the One who is awaiting me. Embrace the season of winter with hope, it is a good teacher. It will lead you to your innermost depths where God is contemplating you."
~ Macrina Wiederkehr

I'm settling in.

I have returned from Guatemala. I wish I had been able to blog while I was there but there just wasn't the space to do that. I also wish that I could explain my time there, but it is about as hard as explaining Mission Year to people. But I'll say this, being in Guatemala completely affirmed my desire to remain in Camden and moved me to officially decide on moving into Camden with my friend, Molly, and her roommate, Jannelle, after Christmas. I have a job in Cherry Hill planning birthday parties for kids that I have been somewhat surprised to find that I really like. I am still pursuing acting and being a working artist and taking voice lessons and circus classes. And I am trying to build deeper relationships with new people who have chosen to make this area home as well. Soon, Molly, Janelle, and I will work on discovering together what it means to love God, build community, love our neighbors, and pursue justice in the context of real life responsibilities. It feels strange sometimes. Sometimes I feel so busy and I'm with people all day, but still have such a sense of loneliness in my heart. But amidst that loneliness, I am also sensing this incredible feeling of strength and power. Strength that comes from somewhere inside but also somehow beyond me. It is my sense of God in the midst of some hard post-Mission Year processing/grieving, but it's really hard to articulate well. The best I can really explain it is, I'm settling in. Settling into where I find myself and where I choose to be. I feel so much more that I can actually put to words, but I am opening myself to God and trusting that even when I don't know what to make of everything I feel or what to do with it, he does.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The space between

We are here, there, not here, not there, swirling like specks of dust, claiming for ourselves the rights of the universe. Being important, being nothing, being caught in lives of our own making that we never wanted. Breaking out, trying again, wondering why the past comes with us, wondering how to talk about the past at all. - Jeanette Winterson

I read this quote earlier and just loved all the contradiction in it. I'm finding a lot of comfort in contradiction. I think I always have but the word "contradiction" was always said in ways that made it sound forbidden, dangerous, and dirty. Like the whole world would fall apart if there wasn't one right and one wrong.

Today I had a to do a demo as part of an interview to be a substitute yoga teacher at a local yoga studio. I really value the way I was treated. The woman gently corrected and critiqued me through it. She didn't expect me to be perfect, have all the right answers, or do every pose flawlessly. I was hired. It's a small step, but a step nonetheless. I love how open yoga is and how open theatre is. They exist in this world of contradictions and questions that may or may not have answers.

On another note (and I can't even believe I'm admitting this), but the truth is that facebook is depressing. I think my sister is right in calling it "The Devil's Notebook." Okay, that might be a little harsh. Still, as petty and foolish as this sounds, all the engagement pictures, wedding pictures, and baby pictures of friends and people I went to college and high school with are often the worst part of my facebook homepage experience. Not that I'm not happy for all of my facebook pseudo-friends and not that I'm even sure I want all of those things anytime in the near future, but I'm sure there must be a hint, a dash maybe, of envy? Yuck. I should just cancel my facebook account, but then where would I stalk people?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Today I sat in the emergency room for hours with Marilus. She's been really sick the past few days and today, after preaching two sermons, she finally gave in and admitted her need to go in. Lately I have been feeling like I'm in this awful space of nothingness. I have no rhythm or routine in my life outside of brushing my pearly whites, feeding my insane Lorelei Gilmore coffee habit, and journaling when I wake up. Other than Marilus, there is no group of people I see on a daily basis. I was gifted a free month of netflix which in theory was a wonderful idea but in practice has taken up too much time and blocked too much thought and feeling. But in a conversation with a far-away-friend, I was able to finally voice what I had felt too foolish to say out loud before. Essentially my issues boiled down to, "I don't feel like I do enough every day to live out my values and who I want to be. I feel incredibly alone and afraid to face brokenness in others and myself all over again. I feel like the Where of my life prevents me from living out Who I am. And that I don't think I trust God very much that he is present in people and places even when I'm not."

Today as I sat in the emergency room with my friend/roommate/pastor/mentor/whatever and as later I held another friend's hand as tears fell for her own brokenness, I realized that I actually do still love people. And that part of Who I am does not change because of Where I am or who I am without or what I can or can't do in that moment. I still hurt in their hurt and smile in their joy. I am awfully hard on myself. I thought I was getting better at that but maybe not. I'm reading a book called, "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity." It's slower going than I would like, but I was reading about self-affirmations today. Julie Cameron says basically that it is amazing how without any embarrassment we can easily "bludgeon" ourselves with negative affirmations but to offer ourselves positive affirmations feels embarrassing and silly to do even when we are alone. During our 4 or so hours of conversation in the ER, Marilus told me that there are 24 million Christians living as "untouchables" in India. "With a number like that," she asked, "how is it that they remain so oppressed? The number of oppressed people is so high, why does it stay like that?" Well, lucky for her I had just read that part about affirmations. Part of the problem of oppression is definitely the oppressors, but I think the other part is that we oppress ourselves and keep ourselves there with these negative affirmations.

"Who do you think you are? What good do you really think little old you can do? You, you one little person, really think that your love can make any difference? What makes you think you can be an artist? a writer? a scholar? a teacher? a minister? a college graduate? a high school graduate?" If I am constantly asking myself these kinds of questions, then I will live the rest of my life trusting in the little safety net of the worlds I know and not in the big hands of my Creator God who loves and cares for me. And I have to wonder, is that any life at all? Is that living or merely just surviving? All of these voices that tell me I can't, that I'm not good enough, or wise enough, or brave enough, or talented enough, or loving enough. And I listen to these voices and I don't do what I know I should do or could do because I'm afraid that they are right and I don't tell anyone else about these voices because I'm afraid to burden them, to sound stupid or crazy, or like I'm fishing for compliments and encouragement.

I need prayer. I mean, I really need prayer and I'm asking for it from whoever reads this. I don't normally ask for prayer because I'm not much into the idea of the ask-and-you-shall-receive God. I would ask that God be near me, but I know he does not know how to be absent from me. I'd ask to be provided for, but I think it is more likely that I just need to open my eyes to see how he's already doing that. Maybe that I learn to see myself as God sees me, which is not so perfect and not so much of a failure either. I want to find comfort and peace in the middle, in the uncertainty, the contradictions, and the questions. That's hard for me. I like structure. A lot. I like knowing which way is up and down, black and white, questions that have answers, and bread that always lands butter-side-down. But I think what I need now, is to find life in the questions, in the spaces between the known and the answers. Because what I'm learning more and more is that even the "known" and the "answers" are relative.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

the art in us

Tonight I went to see a play at the South Camden Theatre Company. It was fantastic. The space is amazing. It is this brand new little intimate theatre right in Waterfront South Camden. The play was called, "Last Rites," set in Camden (at exactly the corner the theatre is now) in 1967 when the New York Ship Building Corporation shut down taking thousands of jobs with it. It really was the catalyst of Camden's decline into what it is now. It was a heartbreaking play. This is a heartbreaking city. By as we drove in it, both Marilus and I said with a sigh, "My Camden." In the Director's Note, he said, "Camden fell because people lost faith in themselves." But there are still some people with a lot of faith left for Camden. I met some of them tonight. Plays like the one I saw tonight is why theatre is so important to me. If it were not for theatre, the stories we tell, and the lives we represent how would we remember where we come from? The choices and lives of simple people that impact us still today even though we have forgotten them? And how would we be able to ask ourselves the really important questions about how we choose to live now? Our stories and the retelling of them are important parts of who we are. And Camden deserves to have its story told and heard because it matters. That is why I am here and that is why I do what I do as an artist, as an advocate, and as a follower of Jesus' way.

P.S. I have an audition on Tuesday! :) Hooray!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I am an artist. For a long time I wouldn't admit that. I was too afraid of too many things. But I am an artist and I'm talented. That isn't being arrogant, it's being truthful. I have finally gotten to the point in which I can admit that to myself and to other people. I am an actor and a singer and I love theatre as much as I love ministry and fighting for social justice. I'm on a quest to figure out how I can live out both of those equally strong parts of me. So next week, I am going to start auditioning again in the Greater Philadelphia area. I was texting my friend/mentor/voice teacher/etc. Tim and said, "This is scary!" To which he replied, "You've done a lot of scary things can do this one!" I seriously bust out laughing. Too true. I moved to Camden, New Jersey the "Most Dangerous City in the Nation" and hardly bat an eye but a little audition freaks me out. I am still laughing at myself. I appreciate friends who bring me back down to earth and help me not take myself so seriously. Auditioning isn't so scary after all and I'm really excited to do it again. This is the part where you say, "Break a leg!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lessons from Strangers

Once upon a time I had a livejournal I used to blog on and tonight, randomly, I decided to log in and read old entries. I mean really old. It felt a bit weird, reading about events and feelings I had entirely forgotten. It felt like I was reading the entries of an entirely different person. It was so impersonally perky even in the more thoughtful writings. I'm not that person anymore, but she was once me. I'm not sure I ever knew her well. She was so busy, so active, running from here to there, sometimes really mean. Every entry sounds like it was written in a rush. Not long ago, I complained to a dear friend that I was bored and he said, "Maybe this is a good time to ask yourself why you always keep yourself so busy." Being in Mission Year taught me how to ask the hard questions. I became a more self-aware person. At 24, I know that I don't really know that much, but I know that I see myself much clearer than I did at 20. I wonder if I will look back on this entry, years down the line, and think that I did not know much now either. Marilus says that I'm a very intense person, that I interact with everything and everyone like I am in love with them. I don't disagree with her. She warns to be careful, that people like me get hurt and become hardened. But I've walked that road most of my life and this last year I learned a different way, this intense way of love. And she's right, a lot of time it hurts and I've been disappointed more than once, but I like being a passionate, intense, emotional sort of person. I like the empathy I have because of it. It is tempting to return to my heart of stone, to rebuild my high walls, but I won't do it. I pray that I won't do it. I don't want to be tough, I want to have the sort of strength that comes from being in those hard places and walking through them trusting, and maybe not fully knowing, that God is with me in the darkness. Sometimes I feel like I walk for days in darkness and confusion and then have momentary sparks of light and awareness before the darkness falls again. More often than not, I choose it in a desire to be more self-aware. To the next question: why do I keep myself so busy?

This could be a separate blog but I think I'll just include this thought here. I met a homeless man last night who completely broke my heart. His name was Thomas, he was nearly 61 years old, and he is a veteran of the Vietnam war. I was broken by his story, disgusted with our society and American war patriotism, and crushed that I could not do more for him than listen. I think one day I would love to write a play about our soldiers, men and women, that we so recklessly send to fight our greedy wars, vehemently display "support our troops" bumper stickers as we sing "God Bless America"and pray he protects them, and then leave these veterans to sleep on the streets in the rain and eat out of dumpsters in their old age because they have made a few "bad" choices in their broken state. Whose fault is it that they were sent to take the lives of other humans and experience a side of life that most of us won't even choose to see by entering the "ghettos" in our own cities? Sometimes I get really angry because of how blind people are and sometimes I remember grace because not everyone has had the privilege of meeting Thomas.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Funny story....TWO days ago I went running in my neighborhood. I invested in a pair of barefoot running shoes and adopted the toe-heel running style. Mind you, I haven't run since before Mission Year ended and TWO days ago I decided to knock out two miles in my new shoes. Just an FYI: when your calves start hurting like a you-know-what WHILE you're running....that is bad news. TWO days later, I am STILL climbing up and down stairs like the 94 year old women in the church congregation. All I need is the pink cane...

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the Pursuit of Happiness

Thank you, well wishers

and good intentioned fishers

for concern and for hope

for my heart's happiness scope.

Thank you for your word,

your advice is well heard.

But I have one request

I hope in your heart it finds rest.

Please, let me be.

I don't have to smile or grin

or laugh till I'm thin.

I don't have to be happy at all.

It's okay to be sad when you call.

So please let me be

Let me feel all inside me

And trust that in breaking

A whole person God's making.

Our society is obsessed with "happy." Turn on the TV for 5 minutes and you get bombarded with all kinds of messages and advertisements that promise happiness if you just buy whatever they are offering. There are too many people in this world with unhealthy and often dangerously deadly addictions because instead of being told that it is okay for things to be hard and to feel wrecked over suffering and then taught how to face it and survive it, they are told to get on with life and find something to make them happy again. What is that song, "Don't worry, be happy?" So we search for immediate happiness and instant gratification wherever we can find it - drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping, adventure, motorcycles, movies - distractions, all, so we don't have to think about what we are really feeling. No wonder no one stays in the same place or job or church or relationship for very long anymore. Living in Camden, I see that so much. I wonder what would happen if instead of telling someone to move on and find happy, we said, "It's okay that this is hard. I'm here, I'm with you and I will walk with you through this pain." Compassion is not looking on with pity, it is suffering alongside. But we all want to be happy, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I am an emotional creature. And don't you dare tell me that's wrong. It is the only thing that feels right and real at the moment. Everything else is just madness.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Lord, often the things I want
are right in front of me
waiting for that moment
when I recognize you for who you are.
Maybe it isn't in the asking at all
but in the perspective.
Why do I ask my Provider
to provide?
Isn't that just who you are?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
I ask, not to move your hand
or reveal my needs to you,
but to make myself aware of my own heart.
And maybe your answers aren't in the granting,
but in the removing of the barriers that blind me.
In that moment when I finally see
how you have been providing for me all along,
I know beyond any asking that
the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Prayer

"A Friend in Need" from Aotearoa Psalms 

Lord, I am hurting
I feel like a tree 
with its roots laid bare.
Suddenly there seems to be no support
and I don't know what to do about it.

I know that adversity builds character
but that's tomorrow's story
and it has no meaning for now. 
What I need, Lord, is a friend. 

Choose my friend carefully.
Please, no one who's going to tell me
how to put my life straight,
no amateur analyst or teacher, 
no preacher, no well-meaning person 
who is going to "should" all over me. 

I want someone to come in the door
with a smile and a big warm hug
to let me know I'm valuable
just as I am. 
There'll be no advice,
no expectation of change.
My friend will already know 
that pain is important in journey
and must be travelled through.
My friend will stay beside me
and hold my hand 
while I make my own discoveries.

And then, when all this is over, 
Lord help me to remember two things:
To say "Thank you,"
and to be a friend
with a big warm hug
to someone else in pain. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wake up

I had a dream last night and it wasn't until I was journaling this morning that I understood it because I stood on the outside watching strangers like I would watch a movie. At first I just thought it would make an interesting play. I watched a group of people, strangers at first but had become a close group of companions, a community built through shared joys and sorrows. They had clearly suffered together, but I watched them laugh and build and work side by side. No one was the focus really, all were equally important. They lived in the wilderness and had learned to survive with one another. (It was very LOST, even though I haven't watched that show in well over a year now.) They were pleasant to watch, until the dream started coming to an end. As they were building, working, laughing, and talking, the focus suddenly shifted to one woman and all the others disappeared. She was still building, working, laughing, and talking but to people who were not there. She was alone. By some accident or tragedy, her companions were gone, like death, still and silent. But she heard them, she saw them, she acted as though they had never left her. As I wrote this down in my journal this morning, I asked if that woman was supposed to be me. If I am living and acting like nothing has changed, like my community hasn't left me, and like I still have the support system I once relied so heavily upon. The truth is that I don't have that. I know I am loved and like that woman, I carry them with me beyond their actual presence. But I wonder if how I am doing that is unhealthy. And I wonder if they are the shadows, or if she is? 

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Good Day

I think it would be safe to bet that almost every Mission Year person DREADS Saturday neighborhood outreach days. For some reason, leaving your house on a Saturday to spend intentional time with neighbors seems hugely daunting. Naps, movies, and snacks always seemed much more appealing. But this past Saturday, I walked around my empty "suburban" neighborhood and sat at a playground for about 2-3 hours to which no family or children came, and cried. I missed knocking on the doors of my neighbors and inviting myself in just to sit with them and talk for hours. I missed sitting on the steps with Miss Joyce and Miss Pat watching and commenting on the cars and people that go by. I missed puddle jumping with Anaira and holding Nay Nay and Mia in my lap as they talked my ear off about what they were doing in school. I missed sidewalk chalk, swings, little kid bicycles, hoses, snowball fights, random cookouts, coloring, and Hannah Montana. My first Saturday back in New Jersey and I didn't see a single person almost all day. It was heartbreaking to me. I thought about how much doing life in a year long program changed me. So much so that I'm finding it hard to work out how to live life outside of it now. 

Fortunately for me, Ellen came to visit me Saturday evening and stayed till this afternoon. We laughed so much it hurt and mourned the loss of our Mission Year together through many conversations, much sharing about what was in our hearts, and relying on the comfort of our friendship and deep understanding of one another. It was really good for my heart to speak to someone who understands what I'm feeling and who I know is so much on my side and for me. As a part of her visit, we went to our MY neighborhood and tried to see as many of our neighbors as possible. It was amazing. We spend Sunday evening and all day today with them. It was wonderful to see everyone again. It has only been a month, I know, but sometimes it feels like so much longer. Some of it was sad. It was hard to see how the neighborhood is already changing. People are moving and new people are moving in. The landlord is as negligent as ever. Maybe in a year nothing will be the same. I suppose that is what happens in this adult life. People change and don't stay where I leave them like I wish they would. This city has changed me and will continue to. I am excited for and afraid of those changes. But in this present moment, it was a really good Saturday on this Monday.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Haiku from a dear friend...

"Broken, yet still whole
Lonely, but never alone. 
Humbled and empowered."
I am the Beloved. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Beginnings

I really am honestly going to try to get better about blogging. The truth is that I love to write but I write so often and this is usually the last outlet I go to. Probably because I never know who is going to be reading it and I don't want to accidently offend someone. No one reads my prayer journals and emails/letters are usually only shared with one person. I have no control over who reads this so I feel like I have to be more careful. But I want to be honest still. So here goes...

I am back in New Jersey, living in Pennsauken which is just outside of Camden. It isn't as "dangerous" but it has its own problems. I walked around the last few days and explored the neighborhood and also visited some of my old haunts in between organizing my bedroom. It feels really good to be back here and seeing my friends and neighbors again. 

In Mission Year, I learned how to feel. I know that sounds weird but it is true. I became much more self-aware and learned to pay attention to what my heart was feeling rather than just ignoring it for the sake of "keeping it together." This last month I have felt like I've been in a limbo. I've wanted to feel things as acutely as I felt them during Mission Year but sometimes things just got so busy that I reverted to ignoring again. I miss having people around me who challenged that, it made it easier. Now I have to learn to ask those questions myself or look for them where they aren't so easily found. 

Last night was a really good night for me even though I ended it in tears. Lindsay and Ra, two of the other team captains from MY, came over to visit. Actually, they came over to help me organize my classroom but about 10 minutes into their being here I knew that wasn't going to happen so we went back to the house where there is air conditioner. We visited for a while and they met Marilus who kept saying, "I'm just going to tell this one more story and then I'm going to watch my show which I'm missing right now!" She's funny. Then we baked some very experimental cookies from just whatever we found in the house which turned out okay considering. We could probably tweek our recipe a bit and then they'd be worth sharing. We ate them. Afterward, I responded to an email I got from Caz. She asked me how my heart was doing; what made it smile and what made it tight. I sent her a very lengthy response (because I write novels) and realized how much what Marilus and Sheila said is true. Caz is a release for me. With her, more than anyone else, I am able to just release whatever is bottled up inside of me even if it is just in responding to an email. It is the need that she fulfills in me. 

I responded to her email in tears of relief more than anything that I was finally facing the hard stuff I've been avoiding. And I came to a very awesome realization about God and community. They say that God fills all our needs. I realized how that works last night in the context of community. Ra and Lindsay filled my need for laughter, understanding, and meaningful conversation. Marilus fills my need to be challenged and talked to. Caz fills my need to release and notice my feelings by asking the right questions. But ultimately, there is no Ra, Lindsay, Marilus, or Caz. There is only God, living in each of them and fulfilling my needs through human hands. Henri Nouwen says, "You have to move gradually from crying outward - crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs - to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community. No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love."

I think I have spent much of my life searching for that one person that can fulfill all my needs. But I realized last night that I will never find that. I will find my needs met "incarnate in the humanity of those who love me in community." That is how God will fill me. I think in my head, I always knew that. I love and find such joy in those moments when my heart finally catches up with my head. That was where my tears came from, in experiencing the joy of God's love in community last night. 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I haven't been a very faithful blogger this year. I enjoy it but I journal so much on a regular basis that I'm often burnt out of writing by the time I remember my blog. This year has been so full that I couldn't possibly catch up in one entry. I will probably be processing my Mission Year for the rest of my life. It seems really surreal right now that it is over. I've been dreading this day for weeks, crying practically a few times a day whenever I thought about it. And now, I'm not crying. It doesn't feel real. It feels like just a short break and in two weeks I'm going to go back to my apartment, neighborhood, team, and Mission Year and be back working at Christus, living in community, and having Team Captain meetings. I'm moving back to Pennsauken/Camden area in September but everything will be different. Honestly, I'm afraid. I'm afraid to be there without the physical presence of Mission Year in the Tri-City area. But I hold onto that I'm not going to be there without God. Before going to Mission Year, I prayed David Livingstone's prayer often, "Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the ties that bind me to your service and to your heart." That prayer was a lot easier when I wanted to go anywhere, when I had not understood "burden" because I did not know how to feel much, and when I didn't really feel tied to anything. But God revealed a depth of emotion and feeling in me that I didn't know I had and now it is harder to say goodbye. "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." -Matthew 28:20

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Past Mistakes

There is a song by the Indigo Girls called “Galileo,” that has a line that has really been speaking to my heart lately. It says, “And now I’m serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime.” She’s actually talking about reincarnation, but I think the idea is just as significant whether you believe in that or not. We all carry the choices of those before us. Good or bad, we carry them all. It seems unfair to me sometimes. In my idea of justice, we all should carry only the weight of our own mistakes and choices. But we are all interconnected and dependent on one another; none of us carry only our own choices. My whiteness carries the guilt of the oppressor, current and past, and the slave owner and the imposer of segregation. My neighbor’s blackness carries the lingering residue of oppression, segregation, and enslavement. My privilege carries an arrogance of entitlement as my students and neighbors carry the desire just to survive and be socially accepted. I did not choose to grow up privileged or White any more than my students and neighbors chose to grow up poor or as people of color. Our privilege and poverty were chosen for us and we carry the weight of those choices “made by another in another lifetime.” That’s been a hard thing for me lately, reconciling the meaning of all of this and what my responsibility is in it. It would probably be easier just to say, “That wasn’t me. I didn’t do that so I shouldn’t have to feel guilty or pay for what was done before I was even born.” That would be the easy thing. But it wouldn’t be the right thing. And it wouldn’t be reality, merely an illusion. The fact is, I am serving time for mistakes I never made, but if I didn’t recognize that, I would be indeed making my own mistakes. I have made many already. God never intended us to live separate from each other by our differences. God loves diversity and he loves ALL people. Why we don’t seem to get that, I don’t know. Maybe we’re afraid. Afraid of the stranger, afraid of our responsibility, afraid of God and his call for all his children to reconciliation. Maybe we like our hatred, though we may not recognize it as such or refuse to name it. Maybe we like to feel powerful and in control of the lives of others because we don’t always feel in control of ours. Maybe it is easier to condemn that to accept because we would rather reject someone before they reject us. But I’m really glad God doesn’t think that way. I’m really glad that he accepts rather than condemns and that he would rather be rejected by us than reject us. That is my experience of the unconditional love and grace of God. He waits for us patiently, whispering in us, asking us to choose him, wanting us to sense his arms around us as he rocks us in our tears and laughs with us in our joys.
I strongly believe in God’s desire for reconciliation because at the very heart of us, it is our deepest desire too. I believe he wants us not only to be reconciled to him, but to one another, and to his creation that he has given us to care for and take pleasure in. Not the kind of pleasure that is abusive, but the kind that stops to smell the flowers and admire their simple beauty. We have been on the path of destruction for too long, destroying each other, ourselves, and our home. Instead of caring with grace, we have been taking advantage of people and of our planet. I’m truly repentant for the part I’ve played personally in that and for the mistakes I carry from others in another lifetime. I have seen so much injustice in the world in the last month. The oil spill in the Gulf, caused by our greed and our laziness or fear of taking a stand, is heartbreaking and infuriating. It feels like the greed in the form of crude oil, is destroying my home and my whole childhood as it moves around the coast of Florida. The injustice of Arizona’s stance on immigration that gives law enforcement permission for racial profiling and mistreatment of aliens in the name of “protecting our neighbors” is insane especially when God calls us to love the alien as one of our own. They are our neighbors. We need to seek reconciliation as God calls us to, not separation and segregation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back in the Abundance of Camden

First trimester over and the second begins. A new year filled with new lessons, resolutions, and goals. Caz has been asking us to think about what our hopes and goals are for this new trimester. For as goal oriented as I am, I realized I’m not a very good goal setter. Mostly my goals have been set for me. In high school and college it was, “This is what you have to do. Do it well and get good grades.” Write a resume, get a job, do what they tell you to do at your job. Very rarely was I asked to set my own goals for life other than what was expected of me. Even in the first trimester of Mission Year, we were told what the expectations were and how we were meant to live up to them. There was a lot of structure and I’m used to structure. I like structure. Structure helps me to know what people expect of me so that I can living into those expectations and be who they want me to be. Their goals were my goals. Being who other people want me to be is a heck of a lot easier (emotionally) than trying to figure out who I really am. Or is it? While there are still rules and expectations in place, there is a lot more freedom this trimester. Hence Caz asking us to figure out what our hopes are for our own spiritual growth and the growth of our relationships.
Last trimester, I kept waiting for all of this to feel like life. I went home for Christmas and was surprised to find that most of the time it felt like a dream. When I got back to Camden, I realized that it does feel like life here. Sometimes I feel like people see Mission Year as a transitional period of my life as if I was living before and I will be living after but right now I’m in the middle. I don’t believe that. This is my life. Life does not begin or end in events, it just is. Life is wherever we are right now. Letting go of the idea that my life is on pause while in Mission Year and will start up again after is helping me to let go of all the expectations of what my life should be. Sometimes people’s hopes for me, sometimes even my hopes for myself are not consistent with God’s. Why must I always be and do more? Why can’t I just be? Why can’t life just be what it is right now, the good and the bad? In Psalms 66 the other day, I read:
“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”
So often we think of abundance as only the good things of life, but this passage refers to the “fire and water” and the heavy burdens as “abundance.” In the good and in the bad, God brings us to a place of abundance. All I went through, all the lessons learned and the coming into a deeper understanding of who I am, all of the really difficult fires and crushing waters I went through, has brought me to a place of abundance and intimacy with Jesus and I see the truth of this Psalm clearly.
My hope for this trimester is that I come into a deeper peace and understanding of the abundance that comes from God in all forms. I’ve just begun to surrender the expectations and judgments held over me by myself and other people of who I am. Until I can let go of that in myself, I know I won’t be able to let go of my own expectations of how other people should be and I want to. I want to come to that place of humility and freedom so that Jesus has His unhindered way in me to love others more completely through me.
“If growing up is the process of creating ideas and dreams about what life should be, then maturing is letting go again.”
-Marybeth Danielson