Monday, March 9, 2015

Adventures in California

What were were up to traveling this time, you might ask?!

Well, as Hannah alluded to in her recent post, Laura and I both went to the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE for short), a vocations conference, hosted in beautiful Lake Arrowhead, CA. 

Throughout my 6 months in Elgin thus far, Becky and I have come up with a weekly project, similar to a check-in, to help me think about life after BVS and what direction I want to go. Spoiler alert: I have no clear answers yet. Becky, Laura, and I are in this, what we are calling a "Faithy-Professional Development" (referred to further as FPDJ), and the way I find best to learn is by interviewing people, interviewing myself, and creating journals based on this information I've gathered. 

The following are pieces of a reflection of myself and experiences in the midst of our FTE gathering. 

Feb. 26, 2015     
Give and Take, Ebb and Flow
Reflecting on the state of my well-being (incorporating musings from conversations with Becky, myself, leaders at the FTE conference, and others)

                I am very aware of the wonderful and strong network of support persons I have here and surrounded in various communities I’ve found myself a part of throughout my short life. I know this is a luxury that many don’t get to see and experience, and frankly one that I have not and will not always have. For this space to talk, and muse, and reflect, and speak, I give many thanks.
                I think I spend a lot of time trying to pinpoint what is going on, whether it’s good or bad. I spend a lot of time in reflection. I’m not sure what is affected directly because of that, but I can probably surmise that once in awhile I should probably start thinking about the future. During a recent conversation in which we discussed the self-care I was neglecting and needing to create space to embody that again, there was a huge release of tension. I do try so hard sometimes, that those fall second to what is happening or needs to happen and how I should respond. All of that control, all of the trying hard, really does wear on a person and creates exhaustion.
              In the grand scheme of things, taking that time for myself – what? – will actually create space for me to think about next steps and future plans. But what if I did give myself some room to grow and muse, on my own? Well, not necessarily “on my own,” I have a whole community of support.
                This is a weird phenomenon for me, that I have not looked after myself intentionally that I remember well, and looking ahead. After listening to church services and other faithful sources, I think that, “Wow, God has a plan for me, and I’ll know because doors will open that I hadn’t heard of or known of before.” I still believe this is the case; it is less easy, admittedly, to believe that I have to put in effort, too. “How much is enough? How much is too much? How am I influencing myself and the outcome of the situation?"

                In letting go.

                One important lesson we learned from one of our first sessions at that beautiful retreat in CA for Forum for Theological Exploration, discussion led by Callid, was the concept of discernment and what vocation meant. His explanation really helped me and others, understand in a new way what discerning might look like. Think of a salad bowl, and imagine you are using it to rinse something (yourself in this case?) through a colander. He said, the colander is like the discernment process. Vocation comes out of the sifting of what you already have, filtering between what is important and meaningful to you and your work and your ministry, and what is holding you back, or no longer necessary and important, or something that is not holding your attention at the moment.
                What do we use to identify us? Which of those identifiers could/do we need, to give up in order to look ahead? (Sound familiar??!!)
                Susan, one small-group leader and spiritual director for the entire group, said this as she led the workshop Jesse and I went to, about Listening to Your Life. “Imagine you are holding on to something so tight… so tight that it will not leave. Now, open your hand up.” It is only as we are acknowledging our action in letting go, that something has the potential to be placed. (If that’s not revolutionary enough, it’s worth noting that’s not the first time I’ve heard that in the past couple of weeks.)
                So now, I wonder what I am needing to “let go”. Do I have the answer now, or part of the answer, or am I still searching? Surely, the process of the week is not lost; in fact, conversation with others since, is invaluable and totally part of my journey. 

Path to the lake from the conference center

                In another interesting note, to tie in I think with both the premise of this FPDJ and the conference itself, I went to a grant-writing workshop. We opened with a set of expectations that included every member’s opinion, definitely acknowledging our previous experience and what we hoped to learn by the end of the session. Joscelyn named these for us, and we had exactly 10 minutes to write what was important, vital, life story-esque, that we would then have the opportunity to share in the group.   
                Everyone’s interpretation of the assignment was different and we all ended in different places. New ground was broken that afternoon; we heard stories told as they hadn’t been shared before or ever, we connected with each other, and we reflected on our feelings in our interactions with each narration and words. She also gave constructive feedback and tools that would enhance our story-telling skills.
                Because. For grant-writing, Joscelyn explained to us that the simple motive was to create strong relationships (I’m good at that!) and to notice that everyone does have a story to share (which includes the premise for the FPDJ and other desires I’ve had before this BVS year). With each story we were telling, as individuals, we were telling stories we thought were important for others in the group to hear and to give reflection about. It really was quite the affirming and healing place, to be in a group of intentionally disciplined discussion of emotion and reaction.

We closed that session, again in community with each other, in seeing each other.

Greetings we used during conference, from South Africa:
Sawa bono - greeting in Zulu, meaning "I see you"
Seecona - greeting in Zulu, meaning "I have been seen"


In peace,