Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Very Merry BVSers Christmas

It's Christmastime! And boy, have the Elgin BVSers been busy. With Christmas Parties, trips into the city, Star Wars, and fort building, there seemed to be little time to actually keep up with our Elgin House Blog. Alas, here we are, just two days away from 2016, and it seems unreal.

Much has happened since our last post in...September?! Yeah, it's been a while. Amanda McLearn-Montz and Deanna Beckner have joined us for the Workcamp Coordinator position and Elizabeth Batten joined the BVS team for Recruitment in November. We are also happy to have Kelley Brenneman live with us for a few months as she does her archiving thang. I'm still around and will be finishing up my over-a-year term with the BVS team on April 1st. Nope, it's not an April Fools joke, i'll legit be gone.

But to keep spirits up and the merriment going, check out some pics from our Christmas Party we had the other week. :)

See some friends starting to make some Christmas Cookies!

Some cool people eating some cool food and having some cool conversations.

Important gentlemen and their important conversations.

One of the first decorated cookies of Christmas!

Bruno getting in some snuggles...yes, there is a child under there.

We've had some good times together as a totally new house. We hope all of our friends and followers have had a delightful holiday season, and Happy New Year!!!


Monday, September 21, 2015

Tree Hugging, Incense Burning, Jesus Freaks.

Kum Ba Yah

This Land is Your Land

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

These are all songs we know; they are all songs of peace.  And frankly, some of you might think they are over done and a little cheesy.  People who want peace in this world get labeled as hippies, tree huggers, Jesus freaks.  Sometimes I feel like one of those judgmental persons who rolls her eyes at the excitement of singing some of these songs.  I've been singing them for my whole life and they are getting a little old.  Some people think all peaceful people do is hold hands while they sit in a circle and sing Kum Ba Yah in their yurts while burning incense.  I am here to tell you that this is a pretty extreme example of a person who wants peace, however I have often found myself in situations similar to this.  There might not be a yurt or incense involved, but definitely hand holding and sitting in circles.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for Peace, and tonight my housemates and I joined several other Elginites at the Highland Avenue Church.  We shared a meal and sang.  We sang some of the songs that I sometimes label as "cheesy" or "over done".  I admit it.  But the message inside each song is timeless and important.  We sang songs and enjoyed a peaceful and enjoyable evening with each other.

I believe International Day of Prayer for Peace doesn't get enough attention.  It is so important.  So many people in this world don't know peace.  They don't know what it is like to be safe, to have freedom of education, to walk outside and not worry about being attacked.  I believe it is a perfectly acceptable thing to want the world and all humans to know peace.

Think about it: when you get down to the bare bones of human existence, why are we here?  Are we here to try and be better at everything than everyone else?  Are we alive and on this planet to destroy each other to get to the top?  Were we put on this planet to beat each other up and put each other down?  I have no idea what God had in mind when we were created, but I can say with absolute confidence that God did NOT put us on this planet to kill.  I believe we were put on this planet to THRIVE.  To support each other.  To use our individual talents and gifts to collaborate with one another and enjoy the life that was given to us.

Sometimes I get really sad; I feel that it is too late for the world and all its inhabitants to make things right.  We are too concerned with money and things being "fair".  We have gotten wrapped up into this terrible idea that if someone looks, believes, or talks differently than you then you should hate them.  I like to think that it's not too late.

If I have learned anything in BVS, it is that diversity is the most beautiful thing in the world.  I have made so many incredible friends this past year and a half that are of all different religions, cultures, and ethnicity.  Just because I believe in Jesus doesn't mean I can't be friends with a Muslim.  Just because I am attracted to men doesn't mean I can't hang out with my lesbian friends.  Just because I'm a United States American doesn't mean I can't love persons from Palestine and Israel.  Just because I loath Donald Trump and everything he stands for doesn't mean I can't be cordial to republicans who worship the guy.  We all have differences.  If we were all the same, the world would be such a dull and meaningless place.    

So, for what it's worth, I'm asking you tonight to pray for peace.  Whether you pray about bringing peace in your yourself or peace for the world: pray.  Pray for people on Death Row.  Pray for the refugees of the world.  Pray for the military to no longer be needed in any country.  Sing Kum Ba Yah if you want.  Burn incense.  Hug a tree.  Wear your T-shirt that says "Jesus Freak".  Remember: blessed are the persecuted.  Just take a moment to pray for the peace this world so desperately needs.



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Good Chi Bad Chi


Moving unused furniture into the basement.  Re-arranging rooms.  Moving out of rooms.  Cleaning rooms.  Spending as much time together as possible.  Get the bad chi out and the good chi in.

This past week has been all about Chi.  It was the last week in Elgin for three of our housemates and two more are moving in this weekend so the house has been in a tizzy!  We've had fun activities each night to enjoy the make the good memories last.  And I've been doing a lot of re-arranging of furniture in some of the rooms in the house while cleaning as I go. 

When you move into a community house there are a lot of things that don't seem to get used: bookshelves, dresser drawers, chairs, lamps, mattresses, the list goes on.  It can be difficult to feel at home when there is so much crap sitting around that isn't yours.  
Last weekend our house had a yard sale to help with this problem!  With so many of us moving out, we all went through our things to try and get rid of things we don't want anymore.  We also had a lot of things that were in the house (that were here when we each moved in) that we didn't want/need anymore.  So we got rid of it!  And it felt great...but we still have some furniture that we don't really use.  As a community house connected to a church, many people donate things to the house.  It is SO greatly appreciated since we come here to live without anything but our personal belongings, but sometimes it can get crowded.  So we got rid of some of the junk that has been sitting in the basement.

The Elgin BVS house also has a bunch of mattresses for when we have visitors.  We had three stacked up in our piano room and since I have such a large room I decided to move one of them into my room as an extra couch!  And I love it, but it took the place of the gross, heavy, uncomfortable chair that I don't even use and can't get out of my room because it's too big...and Hannah moved all her things in my room so that our new housemate could move into that room...so my room right now has some pretty terrible chi.  (I'll spare you a photo...)

On the flip side, I cleaned and re-arranged our living room, ridding it of unnecessary furniture thus opening up the room for more activities and more sitting!  Good chi.

Three of our housemates are moving out.  While they are excited for new steps, we are all sad to see them leave after growing so close to each other.  Bad Chi.

Celebrating with each other at yard sales, cook outs, movie nights, game nights, and snuggles: Very Good Chi.

I also bought the George Ezra CD and have been listening to his delicious voice all week:  GOOD CHI.


It's been a week of ups and downs, good chi, bad chi, sadness, and happiness, but the house is happy and the future is bright. :)

Peace out, y'all.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer Breeze - Winds of Change

It’s that time of year…

Transitions are in full force. School is starting for many, Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren is undergoing a pastoral calling and discernment of the congregation, summer is in its final glory before fall arrives.

The BVS house feels this as a significant time of transition as well.

So, we're kinda crazy, but we're a great bunch - this was taken during our last day of shenanigans. 

For Hannah, Theresa, and I transition is feeling very real to us as part of our BVS experience. We are preparing to leave in a little over a week. This is my final blog post for the house.  And yes, that is a weird thing to admit, finally.

These past few weeks have become another significant part of my BVS year – an important part that sometimes gets neglected or ignored or rushed. The end part.

Ben has already left. His transition out was one of packing, lots of office “see-you-laters,” a final meal with the housemates still around for the summer. And then he was off.

Endings are hard; I don’t think anyone has ever claimed to feel ease or stress-free during the end of something that has been a major part of their life. Life in these strange times, becomes suspended in a feeling of limbo, perhaps wildly searching for the right thing to come next, preoccupation with rushing to finish everything, the pull of people staying for goodbyes, the anxiety of moving on. This can be quick for some or can seem to drag on, wondering how the next step will look. You can also find yourself with transition for the perfect amount of time.

This coming week I will be planning and speaking for a final time at chapel. Not surprisingly, a lot of my mind has been processing this new change in my life – transition from BVS. Funny, the end of something can really sneak up, even when you have been preparing awhile for that feeling.

BVS has been an interesting year in my life. This is the first year I’ve been without a structured schedule, the first time I’ve lived in a house without family, the first 8-4.30 job I’ve ever had, the first time I’ve ever intentionally and publicly dedicated a year of my life for full-time service.

There have been many ups and downs this year, as any other year goes I suppose. I am so pleased to report that I’ve grown in many ways, feeling a deeper awareness of myself emotionally and physically, honoring time and space in spiritual ways, extending my own health through self-care and boundaries.

BVS has taught me to dream, to keep searching, to keep serving. My role as coordinator for two major denominational youth conferences (Christian Citizenship Seminar in NYC and DC and National Junior High Conference in Elizabethtown, PA) never changed. At the office it was difficult at times to understand my service to the denomination and to the world. Today I began to realize my service impact. For many of the youth at NJHC, this was quite possibly the first time they spent time away from home without family. I facilitated many of the inner workings of both conferences in ways that make the conference what it was. With this BVS position, as coordinators, programs become extraordinary. Events can be imagined and evolve into meaningful experiences for youth are in the perfect stage of growth and wonder.

That is an amazing feeling.

Service looks like a lot of things. Anytime you smile at someone, sit to chat for a few minutes, look someone in the eye, pick up trash, you are serving. There is not one type of service; there is not one act of serving that is greater or less than another.

My term is coming to a close. This past week I have begun to realize that as reality. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s crazy, and awesome, and terrifying. I am so grateful for the support in colleagues who have formed relationships with me, housemates who are loving and funny and challenging, for BVS for the program that provides such real experiences. The service that one provides has a lasting effect on any who are privileged to be the recipient. And, you know what? Just like positivity and happiness are contagious – I believe serving is passed on, too.

My year is coming to a close. But really, that is only my year. To everyone reading this, your years all look different to you. We all find ourselves in different stages of life. 

Sometimes all it takes is a shift in perspective. 
Thus, at this time I would encourage you all to enjoy the journey… because after all, we are all in a journey, woven with others in their life journeys.

This is an ending for me, but the start of a beautiful beginning. I’m on the cusp of something great that’s about to start, I just happen to not know where life will take me next.

Tonight – it’s my choice to grin, to eat a lot of cake, and watch a movie with housemates. Because I know life is changing and I will continue to embrace it. And I know that I can also let myself have fun in the process!

One step at a time…


Some things I've not mentioned but are fun updates of the house:
We have a new piano - graciously donated to the house from Ms. Nancy, a colleague, in place of our old (1917) upright grand piano.

Our garden is making lots of wonderful produce. We hope it keeps it up a lot longer!

We are hosting a yard sale!


Two more housemates are moving in soon! :D

...And so it goes...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Stop Crying

There have been a lot of things worth crying over lately.  There have been cries of sadness, of joy, of anger.  These United States have seen a lot of news recently.  A terrible shooting in South Carolina.  Marriage equality for the LGBT community.  The passing of the Affordable Care Act.  There has also been a lot of news and continued heartache abroad.  The kidnapped girls of Chibok and their dying and displaced parents.  The corrupt and ongoing terror of Boko Haram and ISIS.  The poisoned relationship of Palestinians and Israelis.  A lot of celebration, yet still a dominating appearance of fear and pain exists.  A lot worth crying over.  

I've cried a lot over the past couple of days.  On Friday evening the EYN Women’s Choir of Nigeria visited Elgin.  They are traveling the country giving concerts singing songs of their culture to give us thanks for our support and to share their stories.  Some of these women are displaced and all of them are hurting.  They sang joyful songs of letting the light shine for God.  But not all their songs were happy.  They sang of despair, sadness, and terror for their people. 

Being a privileged white woman, I couldn’t imagine their pain and I wept for them.  It is so difficult to imagine a life on the run from Boko Haram, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, and being separated from family.

And yet, as their songs continued, I realized something.  These women are the most thankful people I have ever encountered. 

Yes, they sang of pain, but they also sang with a heart of thankfulness.  They are thankful for their children and especially for the love of God.  Terror abducts their lives but the love of God overcomes all.

Back in the states there was an act of terror in South Carolina.  A young man broke up a peaceful bible study by murdering those participating.  Of course there is outrage.  Weeping for the lost.  Cursing at the murderer.  Plenty to cry about.

But then there was the President’s Eulogy.  He didn’t speak of condemnation for the murderer nor did he focus on hatred.  Instead, he spoke of forgiveness and grace.  Not just grace, but AMAZING Grace.  He spoke of faith and how we all need to strive for justice for ALL.  Not just those who abide by the law or who live their lives by the bible, but for every human being on the planet. 

Many tears were shed at the funeral.  Many tears are shed at the expense of our Nigerian brothers and sisters.  Many tears are shed for all who are treated unjustly.

But I'm telling you to STOP CRYING.  

Terrible things are happening every day, but sitting around and crying about it isn’t going to change anything.  We can’t just wait for good to come.  We can’t keep waiting for a leader to empower us.  Injustices themselves should empower us to make change. 

Take the recent story of Marriage Equality for the USA.  For decades the LGBT community and their allies have been rallying and striving for equality.  Now that it has passed, we have to remember what it took to reach this goal.  We rallied, we spoke to legislators, we shared articles and had table conversations about the issues to those who didn’t know much about it.  The passing of marriage equality didn’t happen by crying over the fact that not all of us could marry whomever we loved.  It happened because people DID something about it. 

Stop crying. 

Some of us choose to be neutral.  We don’t cry and we don’t advocate.  We remain silent.  We sit in the sidelines and wait for everyone to just get along.  Some might see this as good.  But I’m telling you that if you aren’t mad then you’re part of the problem.  Ignorance might be bliss, but there are no redeeming qualities of being blind to the injustices that surround us.  You don’t have to live in an impoverished community to be near unjust situations.  They could very well be happening in your back yard or even in your house.

Let me be clear by stating that this is not to say you need to grab a pitchfork and a torch and raid the streets screaming at everyone.  No.  I’m saying that God calls us to help those who are hurting.  In the Christian faith, we are called to love.  We are to love everyone no exceptions.  NO.  EXCEPTIONS.  This means that we love everyone under the sun.  Gays, Muslims, terrorists, those in poverty, those who are rich, EVERYONE.  It doesn’t matter who they are or what they look like.  We are all called to love. 

So….whatever you do, whomever you advocate for, go out and do it. 

Donate money to organizations that strive for justice.  Volunteer with these organizations.  Give a family in need food or shelter.  Take a person who is without a home out for a meal.  Attend rallies.  Provide space for support groups.  Pray.  Share stories with friends.  Have a peaceful conversation with someone of differing opinions. 

Whatever you do, do it with LOVE. 

And stop crying. 


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Keeping in text

As we move into our summer months, we find that the bond we've formed as kindred Elginites these past months has become pretty strong. That said, it's difficult to be away from each other for long periods of time, especially when we know that there are some end-of-service dates looming not too far off. Because we're hip, modern young adults, we've improvised. Texting can be a beautiful thing. Here are some samples of how we've kept in touch with each other these past few weeks.

Hey, Laura! Check out what I put in my YAC evaluation form! B-)

Kristen sent this one to me earlier today. From outside the house. While I was inside. Y'know, because yeah. But let's focus... Our peas are blooming! There was a lot of squealing. (Yes, it was from me.)

Kristen saw this while walking home (her choice - we didn't abandon her) one day. She thought it was funny. I agreed.

Hannah loves bounce houses. We seem to spot them all over our neighborhood when we're out walking or running. She was traveling to New Orleans for her second workcamp today so she's not in Elgin. Those of us here, though, could see a bounce house from our kitchen window. Hannah was super jealous.

So I sent her another one I encountered elsewhere in the neighborhood. More jealousy ensued.

This came from Hannah and Jessie at their workcamp this past week down in Georgia. They'd been working on and around farms all week and sent Kristen and me a picture of the scenery to let us know the farming reminded them of us. (Kristen's response: "That's what that was? I was wondering why they sent me a picture of a road!")

When Laura was gone for more than a week, this was the picture I sent her to let her know how excited we were to have her coming back. :-D

In the midst of all this, one of us (whose name rhymes with "Zeresa") had a birthday!

She was in the Dominican Republic for her first workcamp of the summer, so we couldn't celebrate with her on her actual birthday (have no fear - a cake has been made since then [and mostly consumed]). Tessa loves blueberries or, as she calls them, "bluebs," so I sent her a pic of the ones we had in our lunch bag on her day.

It only seemed appropriate to show her that they didn't go to waste and that we enjoyed them, too.

As I think about past housemates that have already moved away, I am beginning to have a new appreciation for these texts. While a good old-fashioned hand-written letter is always nice, sometimes it's just as nice to get the quick picture that let's you know that someone saw something that reminded them of you. Maybe it's kinda insignificant, but it helps to reaffirm our value as a community that has coexisted, struggled together, and moved on to the next steps in life. I certainly hope there will be plenty more texts to come (and send).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thoughts of a Volunteer

Here I am, sitting in the blanket fort we made last rainy Saturday and haven’t taken down yet.  I am writing a post to put on our community house blog.  Hannah is cleaning up from dinner, Ben is gardening, and Laura and Kristen are talking on the phone with good friends.  All are in anticipation for our late night Van’s Frozen Custard run which will commence shortly.  We’re all tired from being at work all day but enjoying our post-work relaxations.  We are all missing Theresa who is in the Dominican Republic for the summer’s first workcamp and wishing she was here because it’s her Birthday.

This is a typical night at the Elgin BVS House.  Not all of us are here.  We just finished a long dinner with each other full of delicious food and lots of laughter.  We’re all doing our separate things now, but we’ll soon be together to share our mutual love for frozen custard.

We are a colorful mix of working and personality styles.  We don’t always get along.  Sometimes we can’t wait to be alone and have our own space, other times we love being around each other.  We gossip, we hug, we complain, we love.

It seems that very soon, four of the six housemates will be gone.  Done with their BVS year.  Onto whatever is next for them.  Then soon after that, we will gain TWO NEW housemates, followed very quickly by a former housemate to leave.  Then, just like that, Jessie will very quickly go from being the newest housemate to the oldest.

All this turnover seems so crazy.  Just one year ago there was a completely different set of people living here.  And in just a few months there will be a whole new set apart from this years’.  And it’s not just the house that experiences this change.  The offices and the church see it too. 

It must be difficult to get to know a set of people so well only to have them leave months later and new ones take their place.  I know that we as a house are extremely grateful for the people in our Elgin lives have cared for us and been there for us.  Church families invite us for dinner.  Work folks give us free produce from their gardens.  Our bosses invite us to have lunch with them.  We are a blessed group of young adults.

Volunteers are special.  They go to communities in which they’ve never been and are expected to make friends, find their niches, and engage with the locals on a personal level.  All the while we are emotional from leaving behind our families and friends yet excited for the promise of tomorrow.  We are constantly getting criticized for not getting a “real job” after college and are often not taken seriously when we say that we are devoting at least a year of our lives to take care of kids or the homeless or the emotionally unstable. 

I can’t speak for all volunteers in the world, but I know that this is not just the way BVSers feel.  We have difficult jobs and lives.  Yes, being a volunteer is a job.  It’s not easy or time wasting.  It’s not silly or frivolous, it’s a big deal.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re all that important.  Other times we feel so overwhelmed with love and respect from others that we are truly humbled.  We have uneventful days and stressful days.  All of which we are grateful for at the end of our yearlong volunteering journey.

Frozen Custard.  Outgoing and incoming housemates.  Stressful days.  Meaningful blog posts.

These are thoughts of this volunteer.  What are yours?


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Season of Change

Spring is one of my favorite times of year. It marks the end of a season which sometimes feels eternal, and brings a sense of new beginnings. The snow has been melted in Elgin for quite some time now and there is freshness that abounds from the Earth as we see new flowers blooming and as the first of our veggies in the garden are ready to be harvested. I love the way the world smells in the early morning in the spring. We walked out of our house this morning to go to work and the sun was already warm, there was a light dew on the grass and you could hear birds singing.

For me, every season means something. Even though I’m out of school now (temporarily, at least) fall still means back to school, changing leaves, warm sweaters and pumpkin spice drinks. Winter makes me think of Christmas, snowy days, long nights and warm fires. Spring has always been a time of transition. School ending, anticipation for the summer. In the past few years, early summer, this time where we now find ourselves, has meant camp. I was on program staff at Camp Swatara for two summers where I spent my days as a counselor, playing four square, going swimming, and singing around campfires. 

As this time of year has approached once again, our whole house was lucky enough to find ourselves at Camp Swatara last weekend for Young Adult Conference. We had a wonderful weekend connecting with other young adults of the Church of the Brethren, worshiping, hearing from amazing speakers, and exploring the many beautiful natural settings camp has to offer.

That weekend was a much needed time of renewal for me. It was great to be back at a place I’ve learned to call home, and to revisit some of my favorite spots at camp. On Sunday morning two of my friends and I hiked up the mountain to a spot called the rock pile where we watched the sunrise. The world is unbelievably peaceful at this time of day. God’s presence surrounded us as we watched the sun appear from behind the ridge to our left and shine light to the valley below us. We then walked down to a spot called Vesper Hill where we met Theresa, Kristen and Don who were spending the early morning journaling. Camp is a place of healing, of beauty, of light and of love.

This year, although I’m not returning to Camp Swatara for the summer, I am still preparing myself for a season of camp. I leave in six days to start the great adventure of traveling around the country leading workcamps. My first workcamp is in Americus, Georgia on a beautiful farm called Koinonia. I’m nervous and excited but feel ready to get on the road.

Late spring/early summer is a season of change. The Earth sheds its winter cloak, animals reappear, the ground softens, flowers bloom, leaves come back to trees, and the sun stays around longer. For some, the world slows down. Kids are off of school, families go on vacation, and people take time to simply be. For others, this is just the beginning. Theresa and I will spend the summer traveling, Kristen and Ben head to Junior High Conference in a few weeks, and Jessie will be at summer orientation in a little over a month. Change, I’ve come to realize, is bittersweet. Goodbyes are hard, so instead I’ll say “see you later.”


Wednesday, May 13, 2015


We have officially been welcomed into spring this year in Elgin! Ben and Kristen have done a lot of work in the garden and around the house, making room for new and fresh plants. As space has been created from the removal of grass, onion grass, and weeds running amok, we discovered lots of possibilities. Most of these photos are of the areas around the house that have undergone extensive work. We are able to get out most weekends and even some nights after work. It helps that the light is staying around longer, too!

This magnolia is at its peak blooming stage in the photo and that was two weeks ago. It's still blooming even as it has dropped most of its petals! 

The rest of the photos are from our projects of landscaping. Ben, especially, has been very proactive and creative in acquiring and arranging plants from various generous souls. 

This Iris is the only one of our plethora that 
has bloomed yet this year. 
This bed is well established.

Ben thinned the hydrangeas, moving them various places strategically around the yard.

This space actually looks quite empty. Don't be fooled. Ferns keep coming up, we planted some Russian Sage, Echinacea, and daylilies there, and we have rescued and transplanted a forsythia in the corner, that previously had grown up in the lilac bush and in the crack of a neglected piece of cement. The plants in the foreground are simply taking off! They have clearly been well-established and produce purple flowers sometime late summer, early fall. We have yet to learn their name. Can you help us? Any guesses?

Lillies around the house are out of control, so they were thinned and given away. Ben pulled out five major stumps, which is part of the reason we have so much space now.

We have been gifted so many plants and would like to express a huge thank you to several of our generous neighbors for splitting their hostas (among other plants) for us. Ben rescued a group of hostas from the middle of the street and planted them last fall (pictured above.) They look great!
We were also gifted dozens of plants by a generous co-worker and would extend a special greeting to he and his wife. All of the transplants are finally looking healthy and happy! 

Ben also started a lot of garden veggies and many are already 
growing well in the garden and there continue to be starts
of flowers also finding their way into the beds around the house.

As we have mused this spring, there is something enchanting about fostering growth for others coming to the house after us. Many of these plants will only have a good beginning, thanks to hard work and some TLC. I hope that in the few years it takes for the majority of them to become established, future houses of BVSers and our neighbors will be able to appreciate our efforts and feel compelled to add their own creative and nurturing skills. While we may not see the bounty of our labor, it is exciting to know that the effort we have extended can be noticed and enjoyed by many to come. Perhaps this is a bigger lesson for all of us than just simply planting some random plants because "it just feels good." 

It does feel pretty good to play in the dirt, too. :)

I'll leave you with this:
      In the spirit of reflection on friends made here, in past life connections, and in relationships to come, I will share a calligraphy note I penned and mailed recently to a couple of graduating friends of mine. 

With love,

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Labyrinths and Sabbath

Hello friends!

For those of you who may not know, as a house (like many houses before us) we have Spiritual Direction meetings once a month, led by David Doubt. Every month we try out different spiritual practices, have journaling time, and discussion. During Spiritual direction this week, we walked the labyrinth in David's backyard. I have a serious affinity for labyrinths, so this was my favorite Spiritual Direction that we've had so far. I don't think I'll be around for any further meetings, so it was nice to end on a special one. Below are some photos of Laura, Kristen, Hannah, Jessie, David, and I walking the labyrinth.

Tonight Highland Ave. COB is having a special evening service to celebrate the spiritual gifts of its members, and to allow for an intentional sabbath all day tomorrow. As a house we decided that we wanted to take advantage of a true Sunday sabbath  and have come up with a list of things that we're going to do tomorrow. I'm pretty stoked about it. We're going to cook and have a special brunch, go for a walk (weather pending), write cards to church members, and have a hymn-sing. For a few of us who are getting ready for a seriously full summer, this next week or two has been dubbed the calm before the storm. It will be nice to have tomorrow for rest and celebration of our community, before we part ways for a little while. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Where's HOME for you?

Today marks the 3 month-a-versary of starting my new Brethren Volunteer Service position in Elgin, IL!  It is difficult for me to believe that I’ve already been here for 3 months.  I felt the same way when I was at my first BVS project for this long (or short, however you look at it).  Something that I noticed as soon as I arrived in Elgin was that everyone was asking me the same question:  “Where’s home for you?”  This caught me off guard a little because most of the time people just ask you where you’re from.  But ever since coming to Elgin the question has been re-worded to where I call home instead. 

I didn’t even know how to answer.  I call so many places my home.  Of course my initial reaction is to say, “Bridgewater, Virginia!”  Yes, Bridgewater was my home for nearly 15 years but I technically don’t live there anymore…so does that make it not my home anymore?  Last year I lived in Sullivan County, New York.  I called that my home for nearly one year…but I don’t live there anymore, so does that make it not my home anymore?  Now, I live in Elgin…so do I call this my home?
These are challenging questions for BVSers.  Where do we call home?  We leave the safety of our original home to go and live somewhere else for a year or two or maybe even six or seven!  Our year might take us to a new home, a new town, a new community.  Then after that, do go back to our first home?  Do we move on to another new home?  And after all this traveling, where are we supposed to “call home”? 

Here is my answer to where home is for me:

·          Bridgewater, VA at my parents’ house with my two cats and our stunning mountain views.
·         Wherever there is a campfire.
·         Liberty, NY with my amazing Youth Economic Group members and Methodist church community.
·         Wherever my friends are.
·         Elgin, IL with my 5 housemates and a new Brethren church community.
·         Wherever I sleep at night wearing my sweatpants and a watching a movie on my laptop.
·         Camp Ithiel, where I had my orientation for BVS.
·         Bridgewater College, in my room with my best friend, Katie Smith.

There are so many more!  I realized that the “Where’s home for you?” question is a broad one.  I am at home whenever I am happy. This might seem silly to others but it makes perfect sense to me.   Although, I do think everyone can relate to the fact that wherever there is familiarity and comfort there is a sense of homey-ness.
I feel completely blessed when I think of ‘home’.  I have been traveling a lot recently and in my travels I have found so many places that I can call home.  

So whomever is reading this, I challenge you to pause and think about what the word home means to you.  Maybe you start with where you live or one moment in your life when you were most happy.  Would you call that home?  Maybe home isn't an actual physical place but a state of mind.  If you’re a faithful type, send a Thank you up to God.  I also challenge you that anytime during your day or week that you feel at home, recognize the feeling and give thanks.  In a world with riots, suffering, and natural disasters, take a breath of thanksgiving for the happy things in life.




Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Old and The New

Sometimes is seems that there isn't much that can be new anymore. I'm not getting any taller, I've had the same haircut for more than a year (and don't plan to change it anytime soon), I'm at my third project and in my fourth BVS year. "Coasting along" would be a pretty accurate description of how I feel many days.

Despite the familiarity of it, springtime is never quite a coast-along time, though. The first of our garden seeds - kale, I think - sprouted on Saturday, followed by the quick-germinating alyssum that had been planted indoors just a few days earlier.

They're tiny lil' suckers, alright. Part of the excitement with these is due to it being the first success story of an effort begun by Kristen and me last fall. We'd been collecting seeds whenever we happened to think of it and saving them away "for such a time as this" (sound familiar to anybody?). These seeds came from LeAnn's house which she's currently renting to Don. As exciting as sprouting seeds can be (but seriously, I love it), it's even better when there are stories of friends and travel intertwined with them. Still yet to come (hopefully): Cosmos and Zinnias from Kristen's parents; Marigolds from Taste of the Himalayas at Chelsea's farewell meal; Moon Flowers from the Mid-Atlantic District youth advisor's house (which I remember seeing when I was there as a youth for meetings); some more seeds from the Spring Street house; and Columbine and Chinese Hibiscus gathered during a walk at fall orientation in New Windsor.

In other news, I joined the smart phone world. As much as I'd resisted it, I had to acknowledge that there are some benefits to access to this sort of technology. Considering how much I traveled this past year, it would've been pretty nice to have a map readily available that 1.) didn't need to be printed and 2.) was smaller than my U.S. road atlas. I'm also able to keep up with (read: learn how to use) Instagram and potentially Twitter. This Snapchat thing has happened, too. Apparently I snap current and former female housemates quite a bit. This was me learning how to take a screenshot, FYI.

Another first happened this past weekend. Theresa (whom I've taken to calling Tessa without really realizing it) and I spent the entire weekend with the house to ourselves. To preserve the sanctity of housemate relations and bonds of trust, I will not go into any further details regarding movies watched and amounts of ice cream consumed. Suffice it to say we enjoyed ourselves.

Maybe it's not as old and boring as I'd initially thought. To be fair, ice cream always helps. Until next time...


Monday, April 13, 2015

We're all here! Here's a great shot of everyone in the house, plus our friend Kelley, at the house for Spiritual Direction.
This was a novel photo, as we only had about four days during the last two or three months where we were all together. Crazy, huh?

Here are a few more photographs from the past weeks including mid-year retreat, my time pet-sitting, fun remembering and celebrating Easter with good friends and dying eggs, a birthday story in pictures, and gardening!

Our fantastic mid-year retreat group at Camp Dickson Valley:

 No. Way.
 Yeah, that's right, Jessie! We DID make all of these! :D

Easter sunset in Kansas

To round it out, here's a look at our gardening and planning thus far.


These beautiful flowers, "Siberian Squill", can be found ALL OVER ELGIN. It's crazy!!! It is not uncommon to see a front lawn covered in hundreds of these little things, making a wonderful sea of blue beauty. Gorgeous.

Happy spring, everyone! From our house to yours, have a peaceful and fresh start to the spring season!