No, Marty, it’s just time zones!!
So, our time at “disorientation” is complete, and we’ve also finished the first leg of our journey to Tucson. It is currently 1:53 PM MDT here in Denver. I’ve been awake since 3:00 AM EDT. Which was 1:00 AM here. We will arrive at 4:40 MST, because Tucson does not do Daylight Savings (PRAISE!) But that is also 5:40 PM MDT, or 8:40 EDT. I am not sure what our schedule really looks like tonight, as far as anything other than going to our new house and unpacking, but I doubt I will be in bed until 9 or 10. So 1 or 2 EDT. In short, I will have been awake for almost a full 24 hours.
Which means it’s totally a great idea to unpack some of what went on this week! Right? Right. A week ago today, after driving up to Bremen, GA from Tallahassee, FL on Sunday, my folks drove me to the airport at 3:45am. I met two other YAVs, Jonathan Freeman (Indianapolis) and Elizabeth Reid (Atlanta) there and we flew from Atlanta to Newark, where we met Savannah Caccamo (Miami) by a cool stroke of luck, and decided to take our train adventure together. Well, our train from the station at Newark got stuck behind another train that had broken down and we had to route around it. This meant we missed the connection we wanted to make and had to wait another hour and fifteen minutes for that train. After taking that train, we were picked up by the van to head to Stony Point. It was about a 30 minute drive (I think? Time is kind of fuzzy right now) We checked in and had some time to meet people before our first activity, so we played cards. Then we had worship and our first small group meeting.
The real disorientation began the next day. We discussed racism, racial prejudice, institutions, and other such topics with Jessica and Kara from crossroads. It was an exceptionally difficult session. The topics and discussions we had really made me realize that, for all the reading I do, for all the learning I seek, and for all the support I’ve tried to give to friends in the borderlands, I’m still a part of the dominant center, and through unintentional, subconscious actions, I am complicit in the structures that promote the disenfranchisement of marginalized groups. And it made me uncomfortable. There was a lot of language used that made this so readily apparent. The Center/borderlands relationship being just one of those things. Jessica talked about the idea of ally vs. co-conspirator and it really affected how I view my stance around issues of race, gender identification, and sexuality. And really, human rights in general. There are many things that will take so much time to unpack, and I’m glad to have this blog as a tool for processing.
One of the things I’m really going to work on early, and something I struggled with at the disorientation is using the idea of W.A.I.T. in conversation. It stands for “Why Am I Talking?” If you know me, you know I like to talk, and will happily rule a conversation, regardless of how many people are involved. I talk because I find silence in social interaction to be uncomfortable. I find it to be almost oppressive at times, and feel the need to fill it. This is likely because I tend to process out loud, whether it’s spoken or written. I’m hoping writing this blog and really beginning to journal will be a help. The real thing here is, I’ve got to practice and work to allow processing time for those who process differently and then allow space for people to express it. I know it is going to be a struggle in serious conversation, and often times in casual conversation. I’m hoping the people I interact with will be able to call me in on my tendency to just run with a conversation to the point that it almost becomes one sided. Admitting this is not necessarily uncomfortable here, but is certainly not the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
This week over all has been a wonderful week, I’ve certainly not even scratched the surface here of the more difficult things to process, but I will be doing that in other blogs. I also want to unpack some of the things that made my heart light. My small group leader, Kaley, encouraged me to keep true to my experience, to not leave out the parts that might make me uncomfortable, even in their positivity, so I will start as I mean to go on.
I was exceptionally worried that I would back-track, coming to orientation and then Tucson, in my growth I’ve made over the last three years in developing relationships with others. That I would allow myself to become the person who redirects personal questions, only allows people to know them on a surface level, and pulls back from relationships when they seem to be going to a place on vulnerability (on my part). I was also worried, that if I did manage to avoid this, it would be mentally and emotionally draining in such a way that it made me stop trying as hard. I was worried that the things the Humans of North Ave have taught me would slip away as I left, and I would return to old habits of avoidance. Much to my surprise, it was not a struggle. It seems that symptom of my anxiety has been practiced out in Atlanta, and hopefully the habit of developing close relationships will stick. I know I’m going to need it this year!
For now, this is it, I’ll have more in the next few weeks to finish unpacking “disorientation”, and update on site orientation and such. As my brain is steadily turning into mush from lack of sleep, I think it’s a good idea to stop before I cease to communicate any pertinent information! Have a lovely day, friends!
Peace and Love,
Hey everyone. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while. What with work and finishing to pack in Agua Prieta, our final retreat in Tucson, and a busy day traveling, I didn’t really find time to blog.
Luckily I’ve been home for a week or so, and have had the opportunity to catch up and rest some. Granted, I still have not unpacked everything and my room is a mess, but we all go at our own pace right?
While at home this week, I’ve had plenty of time to think. I’ve thought about a lot of things: how green it is in SC, how many trees we have, what restaurants I’ve missed (in Clemson and Agua Prieta), what to unpack/pack, and many other things. But what I’ve been thinking about most is words.
During this YAV year, especially on the US-Mexico border, words were important. Speaking both English and Spanish, it seemed like words were always on my mind (Is this the right translation? What exactly does that word mean? Did I just royally screw up and translate apples to bananas?). Needless to say, words were everywhere. And it was tough.
Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to people. However, sometimes it just seems a tad unnecessary or uncomfortable for me. Small talk just isn’t my thing. And huge conversations about feelings and needs and issues always made me (and still do to a degree) feel uncomfortable. It’s a struggle.
But this year, I’ve learned to appreciate words and even began to use them. I’ve found out how polarizing and hurtful words can be, and how they can also be used to heal the soul. I’ve seen how words can be used to express joy or weakness, pain or excitement, and how that expression is powerful.
A quote I hear a lot is “Preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words”. I really like this quote because that’s how I like to share the news of Christ. I like doing things, a physical act, to show that love. No words necessary. But this past year, I’ve learned that while we should preach the gospel with our actions, words play a pivotal part as well. Yes, action is fantastic, but you will have to rest at sometime. That is a perfect time for a story, a conversation, or a joke to get people interested or invested. And this shouldn’t just be about the Gospel. Words can be used to motivate others, to teach them, to help raise them up. Words can be empowering and create movements. Words can lead to actions and change. Words are used to give voice to the action, to raise awareness and to show others that they too have voices.
So let us work to use our words as well as our actions to help create change in this world.
One more week.
One more week in the comfort of my house in Owensboro, my job with the Grounds Guys Landscape Management, everything I have that is familiar. This is strange to contemplate because it isn’t a permanent goodbye, but it almost is. I’ll be away for a year serving with the other Tucson Borderlands YAVs and, after I return, I’ll have a little more than a month before I get married in September and leave behind everything I know more permanently. So in a way, this coming year is a preparation for that eventual goodbye. Only now that I am at the cusp of it, I’m not so sure that I’m ready. Especially today the nerves have been overwhelming even though I know that this is something that will be good for me in ways I can’t even imagine yet. Still I am nervous and still, today, I found the need to introspect and add to this blog in hopes of finding some sort of inner peace. One more week until I begin the journey of a lifetime.
One more week until I get to meet the people with whom I will be serving over this next year, as well as all the other YAVs who have decided to answer the call and devote a year of their life to the work of God. This is a source of some excitement for me. I’ve been able to get to know some of the others who will be in Tucson with me, but there’s only so much you can do to get to know someone via email and Facebook. It will be good to get to meet everyone at last and learn more about what this YAV thing actually means. One more week until we are all finally together.
One more week until I move across the country from my fiancée Mariah. She has been a rock to me during this summer, even when she hasn’t quite accepted the fact that the date of my departure quickly approaches. But at the times when I need it most, she reminds me of why I’m doing this, even as she would rather me stay and be with her. One more week until the thought of leaving becomes the reality of separation.
One more week.
One more week to prepare myself through prayer. One more week until I begin to see if I have what it takes to complete this year. One more week until I face challenges like never before, grow like never before, and experience things that I never would have dreamed of.
One more week.
Here it goes. The first post. I am not sure what has made this first post so intimidating that it has taken me over two months to write.
A. The admittance that the next step of my life, for the first time in 16 years, does not include enrolling in classes or attending the first day of school.
B. I graduated and left the place I felt the most comfortable, moved across the world to a country to “do ministry” and learn from a culture that pushed me out of my comfort zone on multiple fronts.
C. In 13 days I will be embarking on a one year journey in which I knowingly volunteered to do it all again.
D. All of the above.
I am drowning. It’s obvious, expected even. It is overwhelming to be tossed around in an ocean of change and transition. At the same time though, it’s strangely comforting to know that in the sea of confusion is where God chooses to meets us.
In Matthew 14, Jesus not only calms the wind and the waves, but rebukes the entire storm. He commands the waters and the skies themselves. Then breaks every notion of normalcy as He strides effortlessly through the chaos directly towards me.
Such awesome love.
As I flounder in the waves (no pun intended) I know that my fear, confusion, and exhaustion overwhelm me–pushing me deeper into the abyss. When I see the world spinning around me, or myself spinning around the world, I am afraid. In the storm the disciples are overcome with fear when they see Jesus on the water. Jesus speaks to them and says, “Do not be afraid. Take courage. I am here!” (Matt 14: 27).
God is in my life. Physically. Taking up space. By my side. He was there, is here, will be there. His very presence is enough for me to take courage going into the next season of life. I await excitedly for all the ways in which God will show His love for me this next year as I grow to trust Him more.
I have no idea what this year will bring. I know that I will feel uncomfortable, exited, inspired, challenged, homesick, tired, joyful, moved, and renewed.
Pray for me to be okay with the unknown, learn to take courage in knowing who is by my side, and try to balance all the emotions of fear and excitement heading into the this next season.