Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

I have spent the past two weeks drafting and discarding blog posts. Any time I try to write something that adequately summarizes the past year's experience or how the transition has been, I devolve into really obnoxious abstractions that don't do justice to either topic. Suffice it to say, I am so glad I took the risk of going. The year was rich and challenging, and the transition out of such an experience, particularly leaving the community behind, has been difficult. But I'm happy to be where I am!

Today is the one year anniversary of arriving in Columbia Heights for the Sojourners internship program! It's fun to think back to that day, with all of our awkwardness and first impressions. Cycle 31 is enjoying that stage right now -- they just arrived yesterday! And the newest class at Columbia has been immersed in the get-to-know-yous these past few days as well during their orientation. It is certainly a season of change!

So, with all of these folks in mind, and knowing that plenty of others are going through periods of change in their own lives, I'll close out today with a prayer for all of us in flux:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself.
And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in everything I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire, and I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton ("Thoughts in Solitude")

Happy anniversary, y'all. And God be with you on the road ahead!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The homestretch

I will arrive back in Georgia a week from Thursday. Somehow a whole year has managed to go by, and I don't quite know where the time went. Logistics for the impending move have been dominating my conscious and subconscious mind, squeezing in questions about how much packing capacity I have between each remaining spreadsheet and Sustainer update at the office. As I've been getting things in order for this latest transition, it struck me that it's been several months since I last posted. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time or mental energy to devote to writing a really good update for you all -- I'll save that for the eerily quiet space between the move and the start of classes. So I'll cheat instead.

Below is a little something I wrote for a development newsletter that will be sent out soon. It's kind of vague and promotional, but it's still true. Hopefully this will count for something as I concoct a more exciting blog post that will make its debut in the coming weeks. Enjoy!


Expect the unexpected.

I suppose that should be par for the course when it comes to a faith journey, but it is a lesson I am constantly learning and relearning. I applied for the Sojourners Internship Program midway through my first year of seminary, when I discovered a deep need for more time and experience to discern my sense of call. In an impressive spurt of optimism, I expected to end this year with perfect clarity – I'm sure those of you who have more years under your belt are laughing, and you should be! Now that I am just a few days from the close of the program, one thing I can say with perfect clarity is that perfect vocational clarity was not achieved. But something else is perfectly clear as well: this is exactly where I was supposed to be.

Simply listing my daily tasks wouldn’t be enough to explain it to you. Yes, I have gained a slew of practical skills that equipped me to serve Sojourners’ mission to articulate the biblical call to social justice in ways I had never envisioned for myself before. But it goes deeper than that. This year has taught me humility. It has taught me vulnerability. It has taught me creativity and sacrifice and hope and patience and how to talk to strangers on the telephone without fear. It has taught me about faithful witness and social sin and the healing power of partnership and reconciliation. Surrounded by a community of passionate colleagues and friends in the office, surprised and delighted by our committed supporters and friends, and enveloped by the warmth and challenge of a house full of fellow interns, I found myself both grounded and uplifted. Never before have I felt this small. Never before have I felt this empowered.

The year has been so full that inundating you with the nitty gritty would be overwhelming, so all I will say is this: I am grateful that I had the chance to be part of Sojourners' mission and work for a year alongside such faithful disciples, both within and beyond the office. No, I didn’t end the year with clear-cut answers. I am, however, ending it with so much more.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Being here

Spring flicked by in heartbeat, and here we sit in summer -- maybe not by official calendrical standards, but certainly according to colleges and thermometers. I have been on the road (or, in some cases, in the air) for a good chunk of my weekends ever since temperatures started rising. During the workweek, I have been occupied with spring appeals and phone calls and special projects. My planner filled up to capacity, I found myself with little down time. Hence the fleeting passage of months… and the absence of a blog post.

Not that I’m making excuses. (<-- Definitely making excuses.)

Anyway, after a tortuously long winter (the polar vortices would hit the year I go north), spring fairly skipped by and plopped us three months from the end of the intern year, which smacked all of us with a sudden sense of anxiety. Most of my housemates are trying to figure out jobs for next year, and even those of us who aren’t do not find impending transition very worry-free. For my part, I had plenty of paperwork to fill out, reflection essays to complete, and registration to finalize. The preparations have begun.

This is the point when year-long communities like ours start to dissolve.

We were warned about this. At the very beginning of our tenure, as we constructed our covenant and met with sage experts on community living, we repeatedly heard how crucial it is that we remain committed to and engaged in our life together up until the day we go our separate ways. We all nodded, assuming that it would be a piece of cake if we thought and talked about it enough.

But it’s not that simple. I’ve been there before. Just a couple of years ago, I was in the final leg of my Young Adult Volunteer journey preparing, just like I am now, to attend Columbia in the fall. While I busied myself applying for scholarships and driving to campus to eyeball my apartment for the first time, my housemates spent hours on their computers job shopping. We quarantined ourselves as we sorted out our logistics and imagined what futures would greet us come the end of August. What separate futures, that is. Despite the insistence of veteran Dwellers that we stay firmly grounded in the community, we started shooting off before it was even time to go. It was kind of the instinctive route, to be honest. Disengagement happens naturally.

This time around, though, it happened even sooner than I expected. Being gone so much this spring uprooted me from my home base and my fellow interns, to a certain extent, and by the time I was here more consistently, everyone was doing their planning. Feeling slightly out of place amidst the flurry of job hunting, a little bit homesick for Atlanta (our late spring didn’t help with that), and weary of the hard work that goes into community life, I mentally threw my hands up and called it a day.

It didn’t take long for guilt to kick in, though, and that guilt was quickly followed by healthy perspective. Every community goes through cycles; it’s whether or not we choose to stay in it that matters. I made a commitment to this community when I came here. I committed to loving them, supporting them and allowing them to support me, laughing raucously with them on the good days, walking alongside them on the rough days, praying with them, working with them, getting frustrated with them, working through conflict with them, and sticking with them even when I feel like calling it quits. That is, by and large, what the “intentional” in “intentional community” means.

So much about this family of interns brings me joy. Sure, we still have house meetings, which are some of the least fun things ever, but we also play games and watch movies and laugh our heads off and read Harry Potter out loud and eat donuts and go on adventures and dive into deep and fruitful conversations and rally around each other during times of loss, stress, or triumph. We tease each other and teach each other. We are lucky to be here with each other.

This is the point in the year when communities like ours usually start to disintegrate. It’s up to us whether we’re going to let that happen. As for me, I’ve resolved to stay in it this time. It will require extra effort, but it's work that's worth it. I am excited for the changes ahead, but I refuse to let the future divorce me from such a terrific present.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shameless plug!

Sojo Cycle 30 (as we call ourselves) is approaching our six-month-iversary! On March 3, we’ll hit the halfway mark. It’s amazing – only seven months ago we all had no clue what it was like to live with each other. Oh how quickly things change!

It blew my mind to hear that applications are already pouring in for the next round of interns, Cycle 31. But now that I’m a veteran of nearly half a year, I suppose it is time to start thinking forward, and with that being the case, it’s probably a good time for me to chime in on the whole application thing.

If you’re thinking about it, do it. You cannot surround yourself with better people. You cannot find an internship that more highly values your hard work and input and that is anxious to see you develop as a whole person. Surrounded by community, you find challenge right alongside encouragement and know that you have faithful companions walking beside you on the journey. This is a place that opens doors, that forms connections, that presents myriad opportunities you didn’t even know you could have. To be a part of the work of articulating the biblical call to social justice is incredible. You never, ever stop learning. And hey, you get to be in Washington, DC for a year, which makes it even cooler!

So apply, if you are even vaguely considering the possibility of coming here next year. It’s worth the long application, I promise! At the very least, you may get to correspond with Karen and/or Elizabeth, both of them marvelous people whom I admire greatly.

Click here to access the application and more information, and of course, you can get in touch with me if you want to know anything more firsthand about the internship (A small aside: CTS-ers and other seminarians, you can get SM credit for this.). You can find more input from other Cycle 30 interns here.

The deadline is March 1.

You could be as happy as these people. :)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

No place like...

We resumed our weekly Friday seminars yesterday after a few weeks of holiday vacation. In case I haven't explained it already, seminar is an integral educational component of the intern program. We take Friday mornings off work to explore a topic or context that is relevant to our lives and work here in DC. Sometimes we go on field trips, and sometimes we have guest speakers, but this week we stayed in (it was pretty cold outside, after all) for some quiet reflection. The topic of reflection:


Coincidentally, this has been on my mind a lot recently anyway. I've been uprooted for a while now -- it's been seven years since I really lived in my hometown, and Williamsburg is now home to a new cycle of students. In the years that have followed graduation from college, I can name four different living situations. Now I've landed here, where I've been in the process of building a life and community for almost exactly four months. With the nucleus of my life moving so fluidly from one place to the next, and knowing that I still have a few years before I get settled in any one place for an extended period of time, home has been an intriguing and elusive concept.

So I Googled it. How do people define home? This is what I found:

               Merriam-Webster - "Home: the place (such as a house or apartment) where a person lives, 
                  OR a family living together in one building, house, etc., OR a place where something normally or 
                  naturally lives or is located."
               The Apache Relay - "Home is not places -- it is love."
               Oliver Wendell Holmes - "Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our 
               Robert Frost - "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."
               Emily Dickinson - "Where thou art, that is home." (note: this is seconded in paraphrase by 
                  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros)
               William Jerome - "Any old place I can hang my hat is home sweet home to me."
               Jane Sherwood Ace - "Home wasn't built in a day."
               Maya Angelou - ""The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are 
                  and not be questioned."
               T.S. Eliot - "Home is where one starts from."
               Hermann Hesse - "One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole 
                  world looks like home for a time."

I took some comfort in realizing that I'm not the only one who struggles to pinpoint what, exactly, makes home home. Is it dependent upon the place itself, and to what extent? Is love the one defining factor? Or time? Or vulnerability? Can anywhere be home? Can you carry home with you?

Last year, I had this same conversation with a group of really great, thoughtful twentysomethings trying to figure out where our respective boats are anchored, if they're anchored at all. Looking at the above quotes in conjunction with that fruitful discussion and yesterday's reflections, it became evident that the difficulty in defining home is not because nobody really gets it -- it's because we have to figure out what it means for each of us. In the end, we each have our own criteria for what makes home. Some people are tied to home by a deep and true sense of place. Others say it's entirely dependent upon where their family is. Those who are married or about to get married have said that home is the life they share with their spouse or spouse-to-be, wherever that is. I haven't decided yet what it means for me. For now I make do with packing my sense of home on my back like a turtle until I figure it out, and that's just fine.

(Strawberries are a bonus.)

So what about you? What, for you, makes home?

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Hi everyone! I realize I've been neglectful of my blog -- to those of you who were hoping to hear more from me, my apologies. And to those of you who were wondering if I'd died or dropped off the face of the earth, I am very much alive! Let me tell you a little bit about why it's been so long and what's been going on.

Let's start with the simple fact that I work in development. I was told that the end of the year is a busy time in the world of nonprofit development, but I had NO IDEA it would be quite this hectic. Between special events, extra logistical maneuvering, a higher volume of routine processing, and the office Advent festivities, there's been so much happening that trying to write a blog post on top of that just felt like too much. But it's all been good stuff, so I can't and won't complain.

The fact that it's Christmastime keeps eluding me, though. I know it, as I sit here in the soft glow of the icicle lights that line our fireplace, but the days keep flying by so quickly that I barely know where I am in the week, let alone in the timeline of an entire year. A few weeks ago we hit the three-month mark -- a quarter of the way through this internship already -- and it stunned me. How did that happen?!

Whenever I reach milestone points, however small, I like to take some time to reflect on the part of the journey that's passed, and in doing so now, I've spent a lot of time lately being grateful. Appropriately, it really kicked off with the Thankathon -- an entire week of reaching our to our donors to thank them for making it possible for Sojourners to do the work we do. The whole experience confirmed for me how awesome it is that I get to interface with the people I do in my position (Seriously, guys, our donors are such cool people, and we're so lucky to partner with them. You have no idea.). Follow all of this with the fact that I share a house with nine bright, passionate, talented, and fun-loving people. I have the blessing of engaging in remarkable conversations -- whether in the cubicle or around the kitchen table -- with them every day. Since joining them here, my life has been rich in laughter, challenge, and adventure, and I am so tremendously grateful for that. Add to all of this the rest of my wonderful work community and the endless assortment of interesting (and free!) things to do in DC, and it makes for a lot to be happy about.

Do I want to work development forever? I'm pretty sure that's a no. Do I want to live in DC forever? I don't think so. But am I happy to be here right now? Absolutely. In a season of the year when we think a lot about what we want, I can say that what I have where I am right now is enough -- in fact, it is far more than enough.

So yes, very much alive and loving it!

On a totally different note, I want to put in a plug for Annie Bethancourt, who we hosted for a house show back at the beginning of September. She's really good at what she does, and I can vouch for her being a really cool, down-to-earth person.

Lastly, the interns' headshots are finally up on our staff bios. If you haven't already, go meet my friends (we're at the bottom under the group photo)!

Wishing a happy holiday season to all of you -- and a peaceful post-finals season for those who just weathered the storm (heeeeeeeey CTS people). :) Hope each and every one of you is well!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A monologue about dialogue

Earlier this week, I got to go to an event that hit on two of my favorite interests: music and interfaith. In celebration of 35 years of commitment to interfaith work, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington put on a concert combining the musical artistry embedded in eleven different faith traditions. A beautiful, diverse spectrum of people assembled in the Washington Hebrew Congregation's sanctuary. The event began with a series of sacred sounds -- first the shofar (Jewish), then the conch shell (Jain), then the gong (Buddhist), and then finally the azhan (Muslim call to prayer). The audience was hushed, recognizing the transformation of this commonplace gathering into a holy shared space. And it was with that in mind that we ventured forth into the richness of the evening.

I loved it. Loved it. And I want to establish that now before I take a turn in a different direction.

Because something happened that made me want to jump out of my chair in protest.

Our mistress of ceremonies was Greta Kreuz, a well-respected local journalist who originated the religion beat for the DC metro area's ABC station. She has covered a variety of events for a variety of traditions and has been a passionate advocate for interfaith work. After spending a little bit of time commending IFCMW and those who had convened for the event, her talk took on a different spin. Not only was our unity a powerful way of uniting against the social, political, and economic problems of the world, but it was also a source of strength in battling what she deemed to be the biggest problem facing people of faith these days: "non-believers."

I was so stunned that I nearly stood up to let out a "Hold up -- WHAT?!"

Some of my most fruitful conversations about faith have been with people who would categorize themselves as "none" when asked to identify religiously. These are the people who don't guilt me for my doubts, who ask clarifying and refining questions, who push me to articulate what I really believe without slipping into Christian-ese lingo that takes itself for granted but never asks for definition. I don't feel threatened by my non-religious friends; I feel challenged by them. And challenge is healthy.

Not to mention, excluding those folks from the opportunity to talk about faith is entirely against the principles that uphold interfaith dialogue. Interfaith dialogue is about both respecting and transcending lines of difference for the purpose of deepening our understanding of each other. We allow one another to be our distinct selves while also making room for the possibility of collaboration and mutual learning. Where in that model is there room to exclude anyone from the conversation, should they want to join it in that spirit -- even if they aren't religious?

Back in September, my supervisor gifted me with the opportunity to attend a day of the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge event at Georgetown University. During my lunch hour, I joined in on an interfaith "speed dialogue," which places interfaith dialogue into speed dating format. I expected to meet people who spanned from Protestant Christianity to Zoroastrianism, from Buddhism to Islam, all clearly identifying with a particular and distinct tradition. Instead, I found myself instead faced with one person after another who identified as secular, atheist, or agnostic. Yet none of them seemed to think any less of me for being a person of faith (let's hope not, at least -- they were at an interfaith event, after all!). They were searching for meaning in their own lives, whether that led them to religion or not, but either way they wanted to understand people of faith more completely. They wanted to be part of the conversation. I deeply respected that.

Welcoming that dialogue will do more to smooth relations between people of faith and people not of faith into something respectful than any belligerent or defensive ideological warfare ever can, and in the process we will find ourselves with a clearer sense of who we are and what we're called to because we've been asked to articulate it. I feel that the greater danger lies in a misled sense of certainty, which often lives in extreme fundamentalism but can sneak in practically everywhere. Our danger, I believe, lies in stopping the search and thinking we have nothing left to learn.

So, Ms. Kreuz, no offense, but I respectfully disagree. However, that won't keep me from dialoguing with you.