Monday, October 16, 2017

On Finding Myself

Well my second year as a YAV in Chicago has started and there have definitely already been ups and downs. I chose to stay in Chicago this summer in between years so there hasn't been much of a transition phase. I live in the same city, same neighborhood, have basically the same friends, still volunteer a couple times a week at the place I worked last year, all of this with no break. I find it is very easy to get burnt out and feel a little pointless when I have nothing to keep my mind focused on. I love the work that I do but some days I feel that I am not really working towards a goal or really helping anyone, I am doing work because I like the people and place I work with. Working in most job settings, it is easy to set goals and progress with your work. When working in outreach, especially with homeless people, sometimes it feels like there is just no goal to work towards, I am just kinda there. Since I have started feeling this way at work, my goals have shifted to more of a personal level. I have decided that I want to go to film school and will be starting the applications to schools soon. I have always LOVED art. I draw quite a bit, I love taking pictures, but without setting my mind to really focusing on what I want to do, I wouldn't have discerned what I want to do with my love for art in the future. I want to make movies, TV shows, documentaries. I want to be able to tell a story through my work and through my art. Another personal thing I have been trying to work on (trying is the key word here) is my faith and what it really means to be Christian. In almost all of my interactions with people on the street, with people I work with, and with the people I serve, I usually try to avoid talking about my faith. To some people, that may sound weird and even wrong, and I get that. However, the truth of the matter is that the church and Christianity as a whole has hurt a lot of people in this world, specifically people that I work with and interact with, whether that be people experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ community, young people, people of color, etc. The list goes on. It is much easier to form a lasting bond if going into it, the mindset is to learn and listen rather than to evangelize and force my religion at people. Since I am so intentional about not sharing my faith unless I am asked about it, it makes it a bit more difficult for me to really think about it. Lately, I think my focus has been more on being a good person that it has been on being a good Christian. As I continue to work on figuring myself out more, hopefully I can grow and find out what it really means to be a good Christian in a space where the mention of anything about the church very well could end a conversation or even a relationship. Overall, I am excited about what this year and the future have in store for me. Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there friends.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Quiet Hours

Most nights I don't sleep well. I find myself waking up quite a few times and I struggle to fall back asleep. This usually happens between 2 and 5 AM. There is always a stillness, a gentleness about this time of morning. There are no real expectations, no deadlines to meet, no people to talk to.
I used to fill this time by picking up my phone and watching Netflix or by reading a book or by listening to music. None of these practices are particularly harmful but I always felt as if there was something better I could do with my time.
Up until about three years ago, prayer had always just been something I had done at church and maybe every once in a while if I felt sad or angry. However, in my last couple years and this year in particular, that has not been the case.
These early hours, this quiet time where I am free to do as I please, have become one of my ultimate joys in life. Some of my biggest life decisions up to this point have been made during these hours. Most of my long talks with God happen during these hours.
Waking up very early, something that used to bother me a lot, has become one of the reasons for the relationship with God that I have. Something that used to be a big issue for me has become one of my greatest blessings. Lately, I have been thinking about how I put that into practice in my life during the day, when I become busy and often forgetful of my duty to pray. If only there was a way for me to take the lessons I have learned in my quiet time and make them a reality in my every day life.
The way, I think, to do this requires a shift in the way that I see things. How do I see things? Especially things that I don't like? If I can turn something like irregular sleep into a major positive, imagine what I can do with other things. If my daily activities, especially the ones that seem tedious, turn into something that will help me grow instead of something that wastes my time, how could that change my life?
Beginning to see negative aspects of my life as challenges to get over and help me grow as opposed to things that weigh me down has been something I have been trying to work on lately. We, as Christians are called to do this in our everyday life. We are not called to fall victim to challenges in our life, we are called to use those hardships to strengthen us as people and as disciples. Think about what you can change in your life. What issue is weighing you down that desperately needs to be turned into a positive? Imagine what the world would be like if everybody felt empowered by their hardships rather than tied down by them. Think of how ambitious, fearless, imaginative, and loving people would be. In order for us to be the best versions of ourselves, we must begin to think positive.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Don't forget to thank God for something today. Be positive my friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking the Time for God

Wow these last few months have certainly flown by. I have been doing quite a bit with work and I sometimes find it hard to do anything but take a nap when I get home from work, even if I have other things to do. I love my job! For those of you that don't know, I work at LaSalle Street Church here in Chicago. A lot of my work involves working with the outreach ministries in the church so I don't spend a whole lot of time in the office. Admittedly, I have found myself very into the work that I am doing and sometimes I forget to take care of my needs, especially spiritual needs. Obviously working in a church, almost all of my work involves talking about or being an example of God's love, but a lot of times it feels like I am just doing work. I forget to take a second and think, "wow, that was God" or "this work is an extension of God's love." I find myself instead thinking, "when do I need this done by?" or, "did I get everything done today?" It may sound like there isn't really a difference in those mentalities, but there is a big difference for me. I have found myself making God's work into more of a task or a job, and not something that I should do because I am a Christian.
During all of this, my daily prayer routine has kind of faltered as well. I have doubted God on more than one occasion. "Why am I here? What do you want from me? Why did you choose me?" Questioning God can sometimes be a taboo thing to talk about, right? (Especially for someone who works in a church.) My relationship with God has definitely gotten better as of late, but I got a long way to go. I have found myself prioritizing other things over taking time out of my day to talk with God. So the question becomes how do I do that? How do I start to find little ways to take time out of my day just to talk to God? How do I begin to prioritize that again?
Obviously a lot of it is just a mentality thing. I have to intentionally take time to sit down and be with God. However, I think there is more to it than that. I have to change the way that I see the impact that God has in my life. I need to take time and realize all of the things that God has done for me. I need to let go and let God.
By far my favorite part of my week is Wednesday night when I get to work with Breaking Bread, our homeless meal ministry. I get to help prepare meals, serve, and clean up after. I find that conversations I have with both volunteers and guests alike always seem to be God-giving. None of this ever feels like a task, it is thoroughly enjoyable every single week. If only I could apply that mentality to every task that I do. I think recognizing what I really enjoy is the first step in the process of figuring things out. I want to work in non-profits and if I could make everything as enjoyable as Breaking Bread, well that would be alright by me. This week, I challenge you to think about things that you enjoy and why you enjoy them. Try to change your mentality on things you don't enjoy. And of course, let go and let God.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Adjustment Period

So it has been over a month since I have moved here to Chicago and I am starting to settle in. I am working as an intern at La Salle Street Church and I am definitely getting into the swing of things. My work ranges from doing office work to helping out at a senior food market to volunteering for our Breaking Bread program, which is a community dinner kind of thing for mostly homeless and less-privileged people around the area. My favorite thing about working at La Salle Street Church is the huge amount of outreach opportunities that the church offers. I have already met so many great people and have been involved in some really cool things like cheering on people at the Chicago marathon, going to some trainings in the city, and just being able to connect with people.
        Adjusting to city life is something that is a little bit harder for me to do. I am not used to hearing sirens on a daily basis and public transit can certainly be an adventure at times. Since being here, My housemates and I have found many different activities throughout the city. We have gone to the Lincoln Park Zoo, explored Navy Pier, checked out the downtown area, and many other cool things.
        One of the things that I have been struggling with the most is the reaction of people when I tell them that I live in Garfield Park. Even for people that live in Chicago, the view of Garfield Park is one of violence and crime. While that does happen here, there is also a lot of great things about the community. My favorite part about living here is the people that I have met, either through conversations on the street or people on the bus or train. People here are genuinely kind and I have felt extremely welcomed here. 
         Another thing that I am struggling with is figuring out what my life will look like after this year. I miss my friends and family back home a whole lot, but I have also fell in love with the city life so it should be interesting to see what I decide to do after this year. 
        Overall, I am having a great time and meeting some even better people here in the great city of Chicago. I look forward to hearing from you about any questions you may have. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Well I have been in Chicago for a little over a week and despite feeling overwhelmed at times, I have really enjoyed my time here so far. The food here is so incredibly amazing, and the people are even better. I have felt so welcomed here by almost everybody. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to expect since the biggest town I have ever lived in has 1,200 people; Chicago has almost 3 million. One of the first things that stuck out to me about the city was the diversity. There are countless cultures being mixed into one giant pot and it becomes a very beautiful thing. 
   Many of you may be curious about what exactly I will be doing with my year here in Chicago so I will try to explain it as best as I can. While here, I will be working at La Salle Street Church mainly working with kids, but doing a little bit of everything. One of the biggest parts of what I will be doing here is living in intentional community. I am living with five absolutely phenomenal people for the full year, so that could be pretty interesting. We will be living in intentional Christian community so we all have our own different job placements, we will have the shared space of our house to explore what it means to be a Christian in the city. I will also be involved in exploring issues with social injustice. 
    One theme of our orientation week in New York and a topic that has been discussed so far here in Chicago is social injustice. We have talked about ways that we can be aware of what is happening and how to contribute to a society that is welcoming and loving, not one that is oppressive. We have toured parts of the city and gone to many different neighborhoods. One of the things that stuck out to me about the neighborhoods was how almost segregated they felt. The city itself is very diverse but the neighborhoods themselves are not very diverse at all. 
   I haven't started working at my placement yet but I am very excited to start working with kids. I will try to keep you all updated on things that are happening and how things are going here in the Windy City. Thank you for reading. God bless