Archives for category: Work

There were so many times in the past three months I wanted to blog, or had an inkling of a profound idea for one, or had a lot on my heart that could have been shared…

But even though my life for the past three months was a cornucopia of wonders, hardships, contentment & confusion, I don’t have a lot of pretty words bubbling over to pour out into a post right now. I thought I might just bullet-point the bigger goings-on in my life.

  • My favorite thing to do as of late is READ. Not just anything, though. My sister found a box full of my old paperbacks in our attic, gems like Sweet Valley High, Fear Street & Gary Paulsen. I read about five R.L. Stine books in the past few weeks, they’re like candy to me. I read them like I did when I was in middle school, under the covers with my small lamp on, straight through or until my eyes involuntarily clamp shut (out of sheer terror, or exhaustion).
  • My little sister & I are growing closer. I love it. I know she cherishes me for who I am & gets my quirks. I am super comfortable & happy to be myself around her. Our relationship has grown a lot, she is super precious to me & our mutual respect is something pretty neat.
  • I am working three jobs, neither of which are satisfying or nurturing. I tutor approximately zero science students at a community college & I have two retail jobs. Each still require work ethic though & I’m saving up money so it isn’t all unproductive.
  • I am gaining a little confidence, one week at a time, about making future plans. About what my life is going to be. “What the heck am I doing with my life?!” with varied tones of exasperation, clarity & conviction, is my mantra lately. These next few months I feel are some of the most pivotal of my life — the next job I land might be the one that lasts half my life (something a friend lovingly shared last week).
  • I am thinking about going to grad school. Not for science though, for counseling. I had a fruitful experience in Minnesota working with at-risk youth last year; it may be a calling? Who knows about these things? So wherever I move this year, that’s likely (or not, perhaps, maybe) where I am staying in order to go to a good school, in state, to get a counseling certificate. There’s a chance. Or I might move to Boston to live with my older sister. Or I might move to Baltimore to be a part of an intentional community & teach children about gardening & environmental friendliness. MAKING DECISIONS IS NOT MY FORTE.
  • I miss my friends. Edit: I NEED MY FRIENDS. There are not many at home anymore & since I am out of the instant community of college or a volunteer program I seem to have become a social recluse. A little bit. Turns out I have some social anxieties I didn’t know about before, because there’s never been a time when a friend wasn’t a few minutes (or a few doors) away.

  • The week of Thanksgiving, my cousin’s husband decided to kill her. He committed suicide after. They left behind their daughter who is about to graduate high school. The entire experience, for everyone, is completely & utterly horrific. Pam was her name. She was young, beautiful & sassy. The kind of grief we experienced/are experiencing is sometimes blinding, it’s so painful. It completely stuns you, the shock & the sadness of it, to a point where speaking is hopeless & your mind races with convoluted excuses & sorrows for weeks on end. There isn’t a time since the funeral that I don’t feel heavy & empty when I think about losing Pam, or wonder about what it’s like for her daughter, or my aunt, or her sister.
  • God has not been a part of the picture, at least not much, since Pam’s funeral. My sadness, I think, has overrun my desire to let God be a discerning part of the grieving process (or my life, frankly). I was never belligerent, but I did put up defenses around my heart like Fort Knox & refused to let any vertical communication persist. I stopped caring about the Gospel, or God’s perspective. It means nothing to me that God might understand or sympathize with our pain; the idea made me laugh more than once. Hysterically. Deep down, though, my soul is always stirring for Something more & I hope that His sympathies might mean something, someday.

That is the reason I didn’t post anything for three months. It is the biggest thing that happened in my life since. How could I write about anything without considering Pam? Such an experience is impossible to process into a coherent blog, or words at all. In any case, I had no idea how to approach it so I just stopped trying to write. Lately though, I think I am beginning to look objectively at things… I talked openly with a friend about it this weekend & that encouraged me to blog a little. It’s not that I’m finished grieving for Pam & my family but maybe God could be a bigger part of the picture now that emotions/defenses aren’t wreaking havoc?

As I am sitting here, I am wondering if longing for something is healthy at all. Some longings heavily based on reminiscing seem dangerous. Dwelling on the past can be borderline sinful, something that’s concrete, at least for me.  It clearly is not God’s desire to dwell on what once was a part of my life & things or experiences I am missing. Longings. But have them I do so maybe blogging about them will help keep my thinking from clogging.

  • Volunteering.  I miss the support that being a part of a program provides.  I miss the deep encouragement of knowing that I had friends to live with & love 24/7, a job to keep me purposeful, a roof & amenities that I did not have to worry so much about.  I worry about all of those things now.
  • Minnesota.  I miss it for the above reason, but also for the warm neighborhoods, gorgeous gardens, “Minnesota-nice”, all the state pride, frozen lakes, feet of snow, the joy of returning spring, Viking-mania, Lake Woebegone, the Beaver Island Trail for biking, the parks & the tater-tot hotdish.
  • Living within walking distance of 98% of my closest friends.  College creates community.  Really good community, too, even when it includes many people you do not care for.  You realize this as soon as you are out of college & suddenly you do not know any of your street neighbors & your best friends are more than an hour driving distance away.
  • City life.  I feel drained when I am not in the city.  Maybe that is because of all the people, all the agendas, all the possibilities for good friends & growth.  Out here past the suburbs where it is not quite the country but the nearest theater is half an hour north, I do not see people unless I need to spend money.  We drive everywhere.  There is little community.  No one is ever outside, which is the worst part.  If I lived in D.C. I would find parks & benches & patches of grass for lunch or anything else I could get done sitting down.
  • Having a sincere, big-picture purpose.  In college, I did not need to think a lot about what my life’s goals were, or understand my genuine motivations for life, or determine my purpose.  In the short term, even though I grew to not enjoy my major, I knew my purpose was to go to school, do my work, pass courses, do things with friends, eat, call home once in a while, etc.  As a volunteer, a lot of what we did was dictated by the program.  Sure, there was more wiggle-room for figuring out my long-term purpose than in college, but when we were not working, meeting, eating or retreating, we were passed out in front of “How I Met Your Mother” reruns… my point is now, without much else giving me purposeful shape to my life, I feel restless, sometimes listless, unsure & doubtful about what happens next.
  • My own coffee pot.  I share morning coffee with my folks now.  This is extremely petty of me, but they like their coffee a certain way & at different times with varying degrees of mess.  I sincerely miss being able to make a pot of coffee to my taste & not have to worry about it all being drunk in ten minutes or a big coffee/cream/sugar mess on the counter top.  I have to safe-guard the pot when I make coffee nowadays.  But coffee is one of my prime worldly comforts so it is not that big of a surprise that I am so irked.

Also: I entirely deleted both Facebook & Twitter last week.  It has not been long enough for me to know if that was the craziest thing I have ever done, especially about the former.  All those connections lost, especially considering my aforementioned “community” longing, makes me think yes.  But they are both huge distractions while I job search & are two things I care way too much about for God to be impressed.

This week I was denied from a Cleveland volunteering position I worked really hard for, since the opportunity first opened up. There is no funding for me. It is understandable, to be sure. However, also most significantly to me, this makes a handful of potential placements I was rejected from this year.

I am convicted about this year of service. Truly. Which makes each rejection painfully confusing. If there is a plus or satisfying side to all this, each interview or placement I was denied has not passed without a sincere lesson etched on my heart.

For one, I know I often need a dose of reality when it comes to pursuing spiritual matters and I always need accountability. God is graceful to me in that he does not sugar-coat any wisdom he imparts or dim the reality of my sincere foolishness. These past five or so months I have realized in my heart that I am slowly turning to reliance on myself and worldly connexions and rather denying further dependence on a sovereign God’s provision.  That is a dear thing to realize.  Sometimes it takes a good shakedown to be able to sincerely see what is already being revealed.

For another, each of these denials offers priceless humility. It seems that learning to be humble and find a sturdier footing is a life long lesson for me. I have species of pride that are rooted and grow feverishly if they’re not checked, that was obvious from the moment I converted. So I am not surprised anymore by this particular pruning, that has lately come from all these denials.  Though to my chagrin, that doesn’t quite take the sting or confusion of rejection and I confess I am tired from this  ‘sanctification’. A genuine slice of humble pie is sour, not sweet. Humility isn’t or shouldn’t be delicious.  I understand, but on a human level, that doesn’t make the experience any less gross or tiresome.

What encourages me the most, through all of the chagrin, is the obvious peace that is fighting bitterness to win my heart. It is proof of God’s continued furnishing in my life that I see joy winning more and more in response to these circumstances. As frazzled as I am about nomming my dozenth slice of pie this summer, I’m also satisfied that through my learning humility and footing in a steadfast Lord, God is glorified, and that is the point, the only thing worth it! That is my joy and reassurance.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you… for my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should My name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” — Is. 48:10,11

This week I started to feel strongly that I should never, ever forget my time as an FCV and relish in the memories, the lessons and joys.  I am actually thinking about my volunteer experience every day now and hindsight has brought loads of clarity to me.  Hindsight is marvelous.

The more I reminisce the more fond I am of all of it and the smaller gems of communication with the children themselves.  I keep reminiscing about particular conversations I had, or games I played, or activities I led and remembering vividly how I felt, from nausea and sweaty palms to calm clarity and steady hands.  Having been allowed a full month to take a breath, to step out of the overwhelm of it all — which I never did truly get over through the entire year — and to have God continue to reveal His promises and purposes through retrospect, I am quite keen to return to my coworkers and the children.  My supervisor always told me that after I left, I would miss the place terribly and I usually felt to awkward to be honest and deny it.  But weeks later, I feel the way I never felt after leaving my university: sad.  As anyone would feel after saying goodbye to the dearest of friends.  It makes sense really, because the entire year seemed to revolve around a lesson on sincere relationships (see posts from August 2009 to June 2010) and I suppose I learned, because there is some tangible void in my heart now that the experience is behind me and so many who shared it with me are out of my life.  To me, although I am sad in leaving them I rejoice in making good, real, sincere relationships.  This is the way it is supposed to feel when a life is plainly, genuinely shared with another.

If this was the only purpose for being in Minnesota, to intimately learn the value of our relational qualities as created persons, I’m incredibly satisfied.

Aside from my newest fascination with all that was and is Jane Austen, there are some neat things going on during this transitional period of my life, like living back at home and thus becoming closer to my family, learning more about myself from being around them twenty-four/seven, and pursuing other volunteering gigs when not occupied by the former two.  The latter “neat thing going on” is not going so well though, and that is discouraging, because I would like to have these things ironed out months in advance.  The title to my post is owing to the rejection and upset I experienced with most things pursued these past few years, i.e. Campus Crusade for Christ, LVC, botany & all else related to my science degree.  I won’t lie and say I am never depressed over these facts, but I am simultaneously reminded to stroll gracefully onward and keep working on placing my trust in God.  God commands the impossible-ist things.

This week I received a letter of refusal from another Catholic program that would place me in D.C., where I might work with youth by way of tutoring, mentoring, teaching and leading various programs.  It might have suited me well, considering this past year at the Children’s Home and that I am wanting to pursue a teaching certificate in the near future possibly, perhaps, who knows — ?  I thought it a perfect match as my conversation with them went well (actually, stellar) and I thought I aced my application, so I was at a loss over the rejection.  My mom recommended I call just to ask, but since they did not return any of my emails or calls beforehand about my acceptance, instead ignoring me and choosing to inform through some bland rejection letter, I imagine history would simply repeat itself.

Then I thought about what my application gave away that stifled my chances, and I immediately thought it was because I am not Catholic, which failed to come up during our stellar conversation.  It makes sense; I did a little digging (via a single sweep through the FAQ provided by the program’s website) and found that they are not only founded on Catholic principle but are exclusive to Catholics, distinctly asking for ‘Catholic adults seeking to further their spirituality through service, community, etc.’  Yikes.  That is a pretty important pre-requisite, and I admit that if I were a volunteer coordinator for such a program I would assume that all those who apply are not Protestants — why would anyone other than a Catholic want to be a part of a Catholic program?  So I get that, but I suppose I was making an assumption based off of FCV, which although it is founded by a religious order of women, is entirely an ecumenical program.  After reading the letter and giving some thought to it, I am grateful to be led away from a community that probably would have hindered rather than allowed much flourishing growth, if the goal of the program is to particularly foster Catholic spirituality.  At least as an FCV, I had room to stretch my Protestant feet.  I would rather be situated among others that shared basic theology and feelings similar to my evangelical roots which is, let’s face it, many facets away from Catholicism.  So while I am bummed to be snubbed, no less ignored for a couple of weeks beforehand, I am thankful because God is sovereign over it and my faith perspective leads be to believe that it is a good thing, even perfect for me,  since it is a door closed by God Himself.  His designs are best.

There are two more programs in waiting, each in two different states.  But I am not done searching and I am still encouraged.  This year is a gift of discernment and I know where my heart lies, with children and the needy, and I am convinced God wants me to be with and serve them.  What more motivation and direction to I need?

I don’t know, at all, how to say my goodbyes to the children this upcoming week.  Not even an iota.  I already had one girl flip out on me when she was inadvertently told about my departure in just seven days, right in front of me.  What do I say to someone who threatens to hurt herself and others just because I’m going back home — indefinitely?  I feel empty and helpless when I try to buffer any explanation to the kids.

I’m not as attached to this place as I’d like to be and you know, I can’t help that. The feel what I feel.  So as kids freak out over my leaving it’s so hard to relate or sympathize and I’m entirely unable to give them sound or comforting advice.  Now I do love the kids, developing relationships with dozens of them over the past ten months — but I’m pretty mild when it comes to the idea of saying goodbye forever.  I’m not as nonchalant as I was when I left college and all my friends last May, because I’ve grown a lot relationally since then.  So I’m really thankful for that.  Maybe I just have a difficult time reconciling my feelings to my experience, and I don’t know how to be open or wholly honest about them… but back to today.

Today the thought that I could barely console a girl who was in tears over the announcement of my leaving, left me in tears.  She was already depressed, angry and had quite a few reasons for being so, and I had nothing to give.  How could I comfort her when I experience depression as well, or did?  I know where she’s coming from, but I can’t verbalize that lest I belittle her reality and upset the societal trend of “No one understands me!”.  Knowing where she is coming from makes it hard for me to encourage — at my lowest, nothing encouraged me.  All I can think to do is listen to her and agree that she is as sad as she is, and in my heart know exactly how valid her feelings are.  I’m sick that I couldn’t think of anything to do or say that might exhort her or shed new perspective — more doubts about why I’m here or the vocation I want to pursue working with kids.  My experience today was terrible, and I never want anymore goodbyes, in the next week and next hundred weeks, to be that low.

If anyone out there knows how to say goodbye, the gentlest, wisest way to give my farewell to dozens of at-risk youth who are already hurting — please, please fill me in!

In the last few days — literally — of this commitment to service, of course I am reflecting constantly on what the program and my time at the residential treatment home for kids has meant for me. I’m writing in the middle of the day and I need to go back to work, so I’ll keep this short.

It is true that there is significance in our suffering and stumbles — how deep it turns out to be depends on me and my perspective. I am naturally a negative person, not necessarily pessimistic, but I zero in on flaws rather than perfections, struggles rather than successes. And I haven’t really kept those particular experiences a secret on my blog, though they were considerably toned down when I figured out that many are capable of finding and reading my blog, i.e. coworkers and supervisors, and I didn’t want to step on toes or discourage anyone by mistake.  Also I’m unable to talk about particular hardships that concern kids because of policies on privacy.  Regardless of specifics, it’s been a hard year. I’m still recovering from a less-than-mild (traumatic in my hindsight — !) beginning with these children, and my confidence has been rebuilding itself with painstaking slowness. But the significance in these stumbles is surfacing, and if nothing else, they served to shape my character and God’s as well.  For instance.

I know that I have a gift of calmness that automatically rears itself in otherwise frazzling circumstances. That is such a gem when working with frustrated, on-edge, at-risk kids.  Perseverance, too, has shined when both staff and students let me down or don’t follow through. And I’m learning flexibility when dealing with the childrens’ mood swings.  In general, I’m learning, and that is satisfying.

On the flip side, I’m ridiculously self-conscious around kids. I always have been. That triggers doubts in my recent decision to pursue a career teaching/mentoring kids, despite the feeling that I am intentionally nudged by God to do so.  I’ve realized how little trust I put in God and how much I put in the kids’ perception of me. Getting that improper source of validation out of my system, which has honestly been in place for a decade, is a hard pill to swallow (or regurgitate, if you will).

As far as my relationship with God is concerned, I have a more rooted understanding of the deep impact of grace in my life.  I also understand that God is good and works out good things through anything and everything — especially amidst the terror in the world of the poor and marginalized, and the hurt and battered children I see every day. I don’t think I would have made it through these challenging months without a firm grasp of His goodness, because without it there is such little purpose to the suffering that goes on in these kids’ lives. God has to be infinitely and supremely good, otherwise we would go insane. That is more truth than I’ll ever spout again on this blog — !

There’s more, so much more. I’m determined to make the most of these last few days with the kids; I know God wants me to take advantage of this time of service, to grasp the blessings and experience sincere joy by caring for the marginalized. I pray this is my perspective as I wind down my time as a volunteer, I pray that I finish strong and give God the glory.