Sunday, September 21, 2014

Birthdays and Beginnings

Hello all,

It's only been a month that I've been living in the BVS house and I already feel like there are so many fun memories and stories that I could share. This month has been a very busy one for all in the house. There has been lots of traveling, lots of dinner-ing, lots of game playing, and lots of exercising together, among many other things. It obviously has been a time of transition for all of us, but we have been enjoying getting to know one another as well as the wonderful Brethren community in Elgin. One special thing about our first month together was that we celebrated two birthdays! Kristen's birthday was on September 5th. The big storm that came through Elgin hit on her birthday, leaving the offices and the house without electricity. So, dinner was a bit of an adventure, but we then all went to a play together and enjoyed some gluten-free cake afterwards. Hannah's birthday was on the 11th. We celebrated with a waffle and game night at Cat, Don, and Russ's (also known as CDR in our house). Here are some pictures:

Kristen and her cake :)

Chelsea and Cat with Hannah and her waffle cakes!

After recently going home because of my step-sister Samantha's unexpected passing, it has been a blessing to be able to come back to a home-away-from-home where I feel loved and comforted. I'm looking forward to the next eleven months in Elgin with new friends.

With love, 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Miles Accumulate

I've been back in BVS now for about eight months. In those 240-ish days I have done a lot of traveling. Yes, I was well aware that this was a large part of what I'd be doing in my position with recruitment and public relations. Still, to think that I've covered more than 30,000 miles between plane, train, car, and bus since then is pretty impressive, and that doesn't include the commute to the office, airport runs, and grocery trips!

Sometimes the travel can be very rewarding. Driving to the eastern shore of Maryland to work with an orientation unit may be a long haul, but being part of the beginning of a dozen different BVS stories makes it worth the miles. There have been three separate occasions where I've met up with a young adult to discuss ways to better connect with the youth they're involved with only to find out that the young adult is considering joining as a volunteer! The amount of scenery I've seen that tugs on your heartstrings for one reason or another is innumerable at this point.

Other times the distance, destinations, and discussions are disheartening at best. The intelligent college grad decides to pursue graduate studies rather than volunteering for a year. Individuals connected to the greater church make a dig at me because I'm connected to the national offices. A representative of a college or other organization stops e-mailing me just before a trip where I planned to see them without ever giving a reason. Ugh.

While I'm entirely aware that much of my work is planting the seeds of an idea that may come to fruition years from now, it's still frustrating to see the number of volunteers in our program declining this year. True, last year may have been a more plentiful time as far as our participant numbers are concerned, but we weren't bursting at the seams or anything like that. Considering how much of my time is devoted to connecting specifically to congregations and individuals within our denomination, it's hard to see a summer unit with less than 10% of the unit coming from within the church. Yeah, it's good outreach and I wouldn't dream of switching out any of the non-Brethren participants to increase our percentages. Still, numbers like that aren't easy to see and continue to believe that my work is fruitful and that the future of the organization is promising.

Maybe this is on my mind because of where I was most recently: California. Prior to my move out here I was living outside of a small mountain town in the southern mountains of The Golden State. This last trip was partly personal vacation days to attend my former-suitemate-turned-boss's wedding on the beach. I know I was getting burned out a bit from my work there, but there are a lot of good things, good people that I left behind when I chose to reenlist in BVS. How do you know that you made the correct decision to leave a paying job that suites you in a geographic region you love and amongst people that fulfill you to come to travel more non-commute miles in a year than many will travel in their lifetime with a home base that has yet to grab ahold of your heart?

You don't. There's no clear answer. And it sucks.

Instead of giving up and backpedaling my way outta town, it's time to dig in and try for a bit longer. Maybe I'm just starting to hit my stride and things will improve at work. Perhaps there will be a bumper crop of stellar volunteers coming in during 2015. There's a chance that Elgin will still find a way to grow on me more than it has at this point. And maybe nothing will change and I'll finish out my time here because I feel obligated to complete what I said I would do.

I'm a big fan of having this house blog because I believe it allows for a glimpse into our lives - professionally and personally as housemates. That said, it feels a bit odd to be getting ready to click "Publish" on something that isn't cheery or upbeat and may not even qualify as contemplatively pensive. However, it's good to outwardly state that there are going to be days where the work you do doesn't feel important or that there may not be much to be hopeful about as you look forward. At the end of the day, though, it's all part of what it takes to be a BVSer. The road that shapes you may not rise with you, but rather in spite of the load you carry. The wind will knock over your trees, the sun with burn your skin, and the rain will flood the streets.

And you'll continue on, adding up the miles, because that's what a BVSer does.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Out With The Old and In With The New!

      A week ago I returned to Elgin after being on the road all summer long. Being "on the road" is something that many of the housemates here do, whether it's leading Workcamps all summer, leading conferences or orientations, or recruiting for BVS - we all have our share of "oh the road" time. But, I say this in a more literal way lol. I just returned back from a cross country bike trip, starting May 1st at the coast of Virginia, and in a round about way, ending in Cannon Beach, Oregon. If you want to read more, check out! I left Elgin, in April, with a full home of housemates, only to return with almost a completely new set of housemates. A little weird to say the least, but I've been loving getting to know each of them, and it's been fun seeing the difference in house dynamics.
     Without further ado, I'd like to introduce to you our new housemates! Kristen Hoffman, Hannah Shultz, and Theresa Food! Kristen is working on Junior High Conference and Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS), and Hannah and Theresa are planning and leading Workcamps! They'll each have times to blog, so I'm sure you'll meet them more later! Welcome to the  BVS House !! :)
As you can imagine, with a house that has had many different people living in it over the years, you collect a lot of random things. Since each person only is living here for a short amount of time it's hard to feel ownership over all the random things to sort through them and throw out the random junk. But! Today we did just that! With the help of many gracious people, we went through the garage, basement, linen closet, flower beds, and chainsawed the tree that had fallen in our yard yesterday, from a huge storm that passed through. (side note: we didn't attempt the scary attic) There's still lots to do, but it's a start.  

Glad to be cleaning up the house, getting rid of the old and welcoming the new!!