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What are you doing again?

Hey friends, family, potential future fellows, or really anyone else that stumbled upon this website on a random Google search for, “Things I should do when I graduate college.” WELCOME. We as a fellow class (hopefully everyone else agrees) are stoked to be here and have been welcomed, loved, and treated as rock stars since we started this past Wednesday. The welcoming week and orientation stellar to the max. Very much Oui, Chef. I am grateful for each hand that went into making this Fellows Program come to life. Thank you. 

I wasn’t really sure what I wasn’t getting into when I started applying for this program and to be frank with all of you I’m still not sure what I am getting myself into with all of this.  We just returned from our orientation retreat and it was full of laughter, karaoke, food, fellowship, late nights, early mornings, and bliss.  I would say the Lord has already begun to chip away at some misconceptions I’ve had about the program and has been molding me to hopefully what this year will have in store.

Why are you doing that? I had this question posed to me many times this summer when I would tell people about the program. People with genuine desires to want to know why and people who were wondering why I wasn’t going to find a job in my field and trying to move up the career ladder. To answer this question, I’m not sure why I am here. I did not want to live in North Carolina, I didn’t want to move to Raleigh, I didn’t pursue the dreams that I wanted to do. I didn't really decide to do to the Fellows program or even care about other options until Jesus pruned the vine and began to chip away at my (keyword, my) life plans. It's hard for me to even fathom being in Raleigh, much less a fellow. So, I still don’t know how to answer the question, “Why are you doing the Fellows?” Ask me again in 9 months and maybe I will have an answer. Until then, I will be listening, living, absorbing, and cherishing every sweet moment that I get to spend here.

Talk to you all soon, 

-Daylon Shaw

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Letting Go

Yesterday, we arrived at Figure Eight Island for our final retreat, one last hurrah together as a Fellows class before we part ways. We’re not sure yet where we’ll all end up, but we know we’re losing at least three to different states, if not more. And last night, as the waves crashed just outside our generously rented beach house and the smell of Ashley’s chocolate bundt cake baking wafted into the living room, The Raleigh Fellows Class of 2018 was having a party. DT3, our resident beats master, was the DJ, with Emilee Paige Grissom as MC because if anyone is going to bring energy and life to a party it’s her. Elaina and Rachel tore up the “dancefloor” with moves that would give Beyoncé a run for her money. Faith successfully sang pretty much every lyric to every song that came on, a feat even more impressive when you consider I don’t think she ever stopped dancing. Hayes twirled and dipped Katie around until they both got adorably flustered. Dan and Chris, of course, made us all laugh as they confidently jumped, lunged, and spun like dorks, each playing off the other’s energy. Taylor slept on the couch close by because he has the coveted ability to sleep any and everywhere. And I sat there watching them all with the biggest, goofiest grin on my face. I was overwhelmed with love for these people who have become some of my closest friends. These past few weeks have been pretty hard as Fellows comes to a close. There was so much to be done, so much to plan, and so much to cling to as it slowly slipped away. But last night, watching my best friends laugh, dance, and even sleep, I didn’t have a care in the world. Everyone was 100% themselves and it felt perfect, for however brief a time.

This morning, my Enneagram thought for the day, as a Two, was an affirmation. It said, “I now affirm that I can let go of loved ones.” Well, that didn’t sound like a particularly good thing to do. Not at first. But I do think there’s a reason I read that thought today. Over the past few weeks, the Fellows have simultaneously spent a ton of time, and yet almost no time together. There’ve been conferences to attend, families to host, and job interviews to be had. But when we finally came back together yesterday, with no interruption in sight, it was like no time had passed. I can let go of these people, a hard, hard thing to do. Because we will, at some point, come back together, and I believe it’ll be like no time has passed. I don’t want to let them go, but I need to. I love them, but like all things that I love that aren’t God, they are meant to be held loosely. Holding things loosely is not my strongest quality, which I imagine is why that was the affirmation for Twos today.

Over the course of the next few days, we will affirm each other. Trying to put into words what each of these people means to me, and the beautiful things I see in them, is an insurmountable task on my own. As Taylor said to us Fellows at our closing banquet, “Y’all know what you mean to me.” I do hope the other Fellows know what they mean to me, because sometimes, most times, words fail. But—and I forget which of our class readings this comes from—where words fail, the Spirit intercedes. I think that pertained to prayer to God, but I think it’s apt here too. As I affirm each of the Fellows, I pray the Spirit will intercede for me, so that they can truly know what they mean to me, what I see in them, and how much of a blessing they have been in my life. I will see them again, in this life or the next. No matter where we go after we leave this beach house, we’ll all reunite in heaven. That’s the beautiful truth our Savior gives us.

~ Calley

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Chow Chow for now

A glimpse into 9 months with these wonderful humans. Thank you for everything, I love each of you so much. 

-Rachel 

Love these people and this place.

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Begin with the End in Mind

"There is a manifesto by Idelette McVicker that has followed me throughout high school and college and has taken on a much more profound meaning for me as a fellow. I am going to read a section of it for you guys -

 

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell. Let us be a garden for tender souls. Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God. Let us be a womb for Life to grow. Let us be women who Love. Let us rise to the questions of our time. Let us speak to the injustices in our world. Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation. Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide. Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love. Let us be women who Love.”

 

 To my host family, The Jordan’s, not only have you guys accepted me into your family. But you have individually accepted me as your friend. I feel known and loved by each of you guys. You are silly, joyful, and loving and have affirmed these things in myself. I love you guys.

To my mentor, Marsha, this poem describes what is strong and mighty of women and also what is beautiful and delicate about you. Thank you for everything.

To my work at The Green Chair Project, not only are you guys welcoming people, but you are creating space in Raleigh for families to be an extension of that. Allowing them the space to be the “table” where others may fest on the goodness of God.

To the Crutchfields. Not only have you literally welcomed me to your table through numerous round table meals but also on those days where I show up at 2 pm and linger until 1 am. You have no other choice BUT to feed me. There are not enough words to say thank you. It is the biggest honor to be mentored by you guys and to be friends with you. And I can not leave without saying thank you to Molly Crutchfield. You have shown me so much grace and patience, that which far exceeds any 12 year old I know….. because I was never once on time picking you up from dance. I am sorry.

You guys have embodied every part of this poem. I have gotten to experience the tangible feast of the people of God this year. The celebration of the life of Christ Jesus. Thank you guys for everything and most importantly thank you for teaching me how to me a woman that loves."

 

The first practice we did in MVY's Spiritual Formation class was writing an obituary. It was to reflect on our lives and to learn the discipline of "beginning with the end in mind." So it seemed only fitting that my last blog post be my speech from the celebration dinner; my last public declaration of thanks to the Raleigh Fellows Committee and to all the people that have agreed to walk alongside me this year. Simply because. It is weird to be sitting in that "end." I would have never thought in September that the end would be this sweet and equally sad. But this end really is the beginning. THANK YOU Raleigh Fellows, you have changed my life. Ashley Crutchfield, I'm sorry I didn't do more of these. Consider this my parting gift. 

 

 

- EPG

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faith

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Oh how I have learned this year to step out in faith (yes ok its my name gr8 lets keep moving). I wasn't super sure why I was to do Raleigh Fellows, I just felt a nudging toward it that I couldn't shake and with somewhat shaky confidence, I moved toward it. 

I look back and see that the Lord did immeasurably more than what I asked or imagined. He has shown me that while yes, there are dry and hard seasons, there are also rich seasons and He is a Good Father that gives us good gifts. 

I could type out hundreds more words of all that I learned and all the ways that I was blessed, but I think I will just leave this: may I continue to step out in faith to what I feel the Lord is calling me to do, trusting that whether it is a valley or a peak, he will not leave me and will continue to bless me. 

-Faith Dunn

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a time for endurance

It feels like just over a month ago maybe that I drove into Raleigh for the first time. And yet, my 9 months here is coming to an end. And as it does, Ecclesiastes 3:1 comes to mind, “There is a time for everything under heaven,” and for me, these last 9 months have been a time for endurance.

Endurance in a whole host of ways.

Endurance in a spiritual sense – as I’ve become aware of and fought the lies to entrap me and tell me that I am not beloved, and I don’t belong. As I’ve been prayed over and prayed against these lies. As I’ve spoken truth over myself against these lies. And newsflash: I still fall into lies. Mess up because I’ve fallen for those lies. It’s happened this week. and I’m embarrassed about it. But I keep preaching to myself the truth: I am not clothed or bound by the mistakes I’ve made, but by Christ’s righteousness alone. And I let that sink in a little bit. It’s true, and it brings freedom. But this is a process of endurance, it’s not fast, nor is it simple or easy. The Lord’s redeeming work is a process, but a beautiful one. And slow is fast, as I’ve wisely been reminded, so hang on for the ride. We aren’t riding a train to the top of the mountain; we are ourselves are the mountain climbers, taking one step at a time, and not wavering from the end goal.

Endurance in a relational sense – this season has not been particularly easy for me relationally. I came out of strong college relationships, and those people will always be my dearest friends. But this season has looked like letting go a little bit of those expectations. Being willing to embrace people that I wouldn’t have befriended in college (probably), and seeing Christ in them. This endurance has also been tied with my spiritual endurance – letting go of the lie that I don’t belong, and having the confidence to say, because I am in Christ, I do belong and I have a voice. And every other person here belongs and has a voice that matters too. I have also witnessed the generosity of the church community through this year – both generosity towards me, and generosity towards others — both have shown me Christ.

Endurance in a physical sense – This one perhaps informs the way I view endurance. I was a high school cross country runner, and despite injuries, never fully stopped running in college either. So you’d think physical endurance would come easy, right? wrong.  I learned that one while training for and running the beloved Tar Heel 10-Miler this spring. Running is not easy, and doesn’t feel so good. But mentally, once you tell yourself you’re in it, you should be ok. Well, usually. Unless there’s a 3/4 mile hill at mile 8.5 on the 10-mile course. But even then and there, as I dragged myself to the finish line from the top of the hill (which in itself was harder for me than the hill itself – go figure), I told myself not to quit. Even if I did a slow sprinter’s shuffle the rest of the way, I wasn’t going to quit. And so, I finished. Got myself over that finish line. Not fast, not glamorous (especially at the end there), but endured. And this informs so much of how I view endurance. Keep going, don’t quit, it may not be pretty, it may not be fast, but you have to keep going and not quit.

Endurance in the job hunting sense – yes, I wish I could tell you that I have a job lined up,  I’ll start June 1st, and everything is neat and clean. It’s not. I honestly don’t have a clue what I’m going to be doing. And as I’ve loosened my grip on my plans a little bit and given the Lord control, I’m a little bit less sure where I’ll be too. But it all comes back to endurance: enduring through the process and trusting that the Lord is faithful in that. That somehow He is refining me through the tedious process of writing cover letters and filling in my employment history even though the company also has my resume. He who has promised is faithful, though, and He will surely do it. So this endurance race, should have an end soon. At least a temporary one.

So here’s to endurance – the gift it is to know that in the pain, in the difficult times, in the unknown,that still He is faithful, and He is good, and He is in fact the strength in our weakness who Himself gives us endurance.

“being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:11) 

-Katie

Peace out for now y'all. Thanks for following along with my fellows journey this year!

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Where I'm From

As my workplace internship for the Fellows program, I have been blessed to work at Ravenscroft School in North Raleigh. Not only is Ravenscroft filled with incredibly welcoming people, but it also incites hundreds of memories in me, since it is where I attended school Pre-K through 12th grade. For seven months now, I have worked in a place that feels like a second home, with people who treat me like family. I am not blind to the incredible blessing this is, and I am so very thankful to the school for the opportunity I have been given to work in such a place.

This semester at Ravenscroft, my work has looked a little different, because I am now teaching a creative writing class in the Upper School. So, for an hour most days, I head down the hill from Lower School to a classroom of four students and one other teacher, and I try to share what knowledge I have about a subject that has always been a passion for me. This week, we're on poetry, and I had the students read a poem called "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. Then, they had to write their own versions of that poem, but talking about themselves. Crafting this assignment inspired me to, for the first time since I started Fellows, do a little creative writing of my own. I completed the assignment along with my students, and I thoroughly enjoyed it...

Where I'm From

I am from empty bread aisles with chances of snow,

From high school sweethearts still going strong.

I am from Cheerwine and Cook-Out.

From chocolate and summer rain storms.

 

I am from a bubble, a glass floor, a name that weighs on my shoulders.

From Little Coo to Mango to Calleykinz.

I am from “Bless your heart” and Falls of Neuse.

I am from privilege that the world will never let me forget.

 

I am from touch and heart.

From smelling old books, cracked seams, torn edges, quiet turns.

From fat, carb, comfort,

Gallons of swallowed pool water and countless softball sliding scars.

 

I am from Disney princesses, The Fellowship, and The Jedi Order.

I am from daydreams of kisses and swordfights,

From sharp sarcasm and thin skin,

From war and rom-coms.

 

I am from Iowa City, Branson, and Deer Valley.

From Eze, Spoleto, and Lancaster.

I am from duned beaches and Blue Ridge mountains.

I am from airplanes and wanderlust.

 

I am from Blue Devils and a pack of red wolves,

From Hurricanes and hurricanes,

Cherokees and pale, sunburned skin.

I am from contradiction after contradiction.

 

I am from a kingdom and the King,

From another world to come.

I am from my past and for my future.

I am from more than anyone could ever imagine.

~ Calley

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February: such a quick layover

Y'all, February came and went so fast! I know its the shortest month of the year and all, but wow, it actually felt short this year (in college, I swear February would turn it's 28/29 days into what felt like 40 days or longer!) Lot's happened this month, and it's hard to sum up/be reflective; but I'll give you a quick recap and then share some pictures. 

February found each of my weekends full - full with good things, but not restful. I had a friend from childhood visit the first weekend (a true blessing); Calley and I went to Greensboro and hung out with Taylor's parents the 2nd weekend; I went back to good ol' Wheaton, IL and my alma mater to visit some friends the 3rd weekend (wonderful, but so far from restful); and finally: we had the women's retreat at Wrightsville Beach - which was the most restful of the weekends and truly a wonderful time to be filled. The Lord also showed up and gave us 75+ degree temps and sunshine. And now that it's March 1st it is, of course, not that warm. 

 

 With my childhood friend, Sarah, who visited the 1st weekend in February!

With my childhood friend, Sarah, who visited the 1st weekend in February!

 In the good ol' Windy City for a weekend (the 3rd weekend in February)

In the good ol' Windy City for a weekend (the 3rd weekend in February)

 some fellowz girlz sass @ the women's retreat in Wrightsville Beach

some fellowz girlz sass @ the women's retreat in Wrightsville Beach

 With my sweet mentor at the beach retreat

With my sweet mentor at the beach retreat

 the sunrise at Wrightsville beach!

the sunrise at Wrightsville beach!

There's a few pictures to give a little glimpse of my month. I cannot believe it's March. The tension and stress of needing to figure out what is next has definitely amped up; and I need a lot of grace to stay both calm in that process and present in the fellows program. 

March also brings the birthday of 4 of us (myself included) in one week...can't wait to write about that wonderful week of celebration at the end of March! 

So - to Him who is able to immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine - here's to the remaining 2.5 months of fellows; and what ever is next for each of us. He is good and more gracious than we can grasp through it all. 

 

-Katie

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Words I (try to) live by

Those who have spent any time with me over the past few weeks may have noticed a word written on the inside of my left wrist. The word changes between three: “valuable,” “patient,” and “trust.” Today, it’s trust. Tomorrow, it may be different. I started this new ritual as a reminder to myself, and the words are indicative of what I am struggling with that day or week.

There have been many days recently when Satan has tried to whisper lies into my heart, and sometimes he succeeds. The most prominent of these lies has been that I am not valuable to anyone. Now, I know in my mind that I am valuable, but to believe that in my heart is another thing entirely. Particularly in my relationships with the other Fellows, I find that Satan has a foothold in my heart when it comes to my value. I am learning to combat these lies with truth; when I hear the lies creep in, I often recite in my head instances where I have been shown how I am valuable to someone. But this struggle with value points to a bigger problem, which is another reason why I write the word on my wrist: I should seek my value in God, not in others…should being the crucial word in that statement. I should, but often I do not. I see that when I seek my value in the other Fellows, or in people in general, I am often disappointed. But when I seek my value in God, I am never disappointed. So why do I continue to do the former? I suppose because I am human and sinful. Because I am still a little Christian, immature in so many ways. I really am trying, but it is not easy. Walking with God is not easy.

The other two words, “patient” and “trust,” go hand in hand as struggles for me. I like control, I like plans, I like certainty. I desire immediate results, and I don’t like playing the waiting game. I have been this way my whole life, but in the spirit of growth that surrounds the Fellows program, God is pushing me and forcing me out of my comfort zone. “Trust me,” I hear Him say. “I am preparing something wonderful for you. Be patient.” Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I am being patient and trusting, but I know my grip on my life is still as tight as ever. I was, for example, supposed to hear about a job for after the Fellows program ends, but instead of being told yes or no, I was told a noncommittal, “We’re not sure yet.”

I almost had to laugh at this. In God’s teaching me patience and trust, did I really think it was going to be that easy? To be that in line with my own plan? I don’t know when I’ll hear about this job, but I have a feeling God is going to teach me a lot about trust and releasing control between now and then. And as the weeks pass and my struggles change, new words may appear on my wrist. I like this ritual, though, if only for the image that I cannot avoid God in my life any more than I can avoid the black letters written on my skin.

~ Calley

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Back At It

Back to blogging and a new semester! (This will be a repeat if you have read the newsletter-sorry!)

We started off our spring semester with a vocational retreat to Fancy Gap, VA. We stayed in a beautiful mountain house with an incredible view. It turned out to be quite the bonding experience as the pipes froze, which left us with no running water. Although it may have been a rather smelly week, it was a great time to be together- we played lots of games, shared meals, worshiped, learned and made many trips to the local Food Lion to replenish our water supply. We even picked up a broken-down motorist and brought him home. The week was full of great and unexpected things.

A big shout out to our instructor for the week, Bruce(he had an incredible Australian accent),who spent the week hanging out with us and investing in our lives. Bruce led us through multiple group sessions a day in which he taught us about the foundation of our calling and how that informs our vocation. We also each met with Bruce individually and talked about our personal strengths and our motivations for work, which was very informative. It’s just another way that I have learned more about myself this year.

We also started our new classes- New Testament, Worldview, and an inductive bible study. I’m excited about each of these because of the topics, but mostly because of the incredible people that teach them and speak wisdom into us. The associate pastor at Apostles, Eric Bolash, teaches our inductive bible study and I feel like I have already dug deeper into scripture in two classes then I thought I was able to.

The main highlight though, as always, has been being back with the fellows, my host family (quick shout out to the Boulton’s for being the best), my mentor, and people in Raleigh. There is such a special community of people here and I’m thankful to be a part of it. There’s nothing better than getting together to talk life with the guy fellows in the sauna or sharing a meal and dialoguing through questions as a fellows class at Roundtable. It has been so fun to see the growth in relationship with all of these people. In particular, it has been amazing to see the transformation within our fellows class. We were just strangers and forced friends when we met, but now they are dear friends who I genuinely care for. I’m excited to spend the next 3-4 months together.

Go Hoos- Dan

 Faleigh Rellows

Faleigh Rellows

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Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Looking Around

So a lot has happened since I last posted on this blog. I got to wear my Duck Dynasty “MERRY CHRISTMAS JACK!” shirt three times in December. The Fellows celebrated Christmas (which means lots of little elves giving gifts, snack, notes, and knick-knacks). It also means a good ole secret Santa and white elephant exchange. I was one of the lucky ones who snagged a succulent (that is hopefully still alive in Greensboro), and my own “lucky machete”, given to me by the famous Hayes Thielman. Christmas break brought me home to Greensboro for the couple weeks we had off, and was filled with time with family, getting back to my woodworking and wood burning, and reading. New Years was an adventure to Richmond to hang with several other Fellows and has gone down as one of the best yet. 

Instead of hitting the ground running when we arrived back to Raleigh, we headed out to Fancy Gap, Virginia to spend time in the mountains in a beautiful learning about vocation and calling, and hearing from the wise “Bruce”. Although the frozen pipes and lack of running were a highlight the brought me back to my camping days with Boy Scouts, the week was filled with insight, real conversation, and challenge. I learned a heaping about myself from the assessments we took (Highlands Ability Battery, MCORE, and E-QI). Some was reinforcing what I already knew, like how strong of an introvert and generalist I am, my strong abilities in concept organization, spatial awareness, observation, and verbal memory, my inherent desire to improve things while establish a solid plan, overcoming obstacles, and collaborating with those around me. It also brought forth realization and conviction over my weakness and areas of my life where I have been lacking. Although I am consistent and stable, can tolerate and take on stress well, and make thoughtful and considered decisions, these traits have hindered me in other aspects of life. I am in need of stronger confidence and self-regard, better awareness and expression of my emotions that I tend to bury or forget, and to welcome change. I have seen great growth in these areas already, coming from great healing and restoration from the Holy Spirit, but it is still a process that I need aid in.

A new year and the second semester of the program has brought new perspective on things. I only have a few short months left with these people in this season of life. Exhaustion is real thing in “real life” and especially in the program. You get pulled in so many directions, and you just can’t do them all (or more accurately, do them all as well as you wish). People never stopped asking about the future concerning jobs, where to live/move, and career goals. These questions, challenges, and conversations are only exacerbated these days. It is true that I still have questions, but also have more focus and answers for myself. However, I am still looking for clarity and opportunities to chase after.

I’m in the midst of training for my first half marathon (even though its actually 14 miles) in the Tar Heel 10 Miler Double Down Challenge. Luckily, several Fellows friends and family members are in this with me, and I have great motivation. After running my first full marathon last April, this new race is another “milestone” goal of mine that I hope to work towards in a manner that reflects the gospel and God’s provisions and grace. It is amazing to see how The Lord works in and through our bodies and how it is pleasing to me and to Him when we honor the gift that our bodies are.

Lastly, all of us Fellows were tasked with finishing out Genogram paper for our Family Systems class. This was a great opportunity for me to interview my family members, learn so much more about my history and formation as a person, and hear each of their perspectives on things. It was a blessing to be met with open arms by my family when approached with these interviews. Clarity, understanding, reinforcement, and recognition of the patterns, traditions, processes, and events in my family history have been wonderful. These conversations, questions, and reflection will hopefully continue in my own walk, but also among and within my family. The paper was a doozie for sure, but I am so thankful it was apart of our program and that Jason Young guided us into it and helped us to reflect on it beyond what I would have been capable of otherwise.

So as the month of January comes to an end, and we approach things like Ash Wednesday, Lent, more time in the youth group, Neighbor 2 Neighbor, my time with Brad, new classes in the New Testament, World View, Inductive Bible Study, more “guy times”, Round Tables, “PPs” (prayer partners), great times with my host family, getting to know more of the congregation at COTA, and who knows what kind of conversations and interactions with the amazing people surrounding me in Raleigh, I am hopeful, expectant, and confident. I am reminded of the verses in Ephesians 3 that say:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21

-Taylor Irvin

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A Close Look

As mentioned in other posts, this month we had our Genogram paper due, which consisted of synthesizing a reflection based on in-depth interviews we have been doing with our family members. 

My family members displayed a wide variety of attitudes toward this exercise of being interviewed and forced to reflect on their childhood. Some were really happy to spill all, some were wary and even irritated.

The experience of interviewing them has prompted me to think about the value of reflecting on the past and reflecting on experiences that were hurtful, harmful, or in other ways, generally negative. When my parents were growing up, emotional expression and vulnerability were not valued. Now, in many situations, feelings and expressions are held up as truth.

Many seem to feel one way or the other about it, and I think this genogram project gave me a fresh insight on the value of emotional expression, self reflection, etc. I observed that there were emotions, experiences, and memories that desperately needed to be flooded with light. They needed to be brought out in an environment of love and trust to help gain understanding, perspective, and healing. At the same time though, people told me throughout the process to look back and be grateful, not focusing on wrongs and hurts and becoming a victim to everything, and I think there is truth in that as well, to a certain degree.

I can speak with such confidence about this because I have done both. For a long time, I subconsciously believed that feelings weren't truth and I just needed to get over it. Then I started to learn to feel the hard things and kind of got sucked into feeling like a victim to a lot of things.

I am learning to live by grace and gratitude. To give myself grace to feel, to give grace to others who may sometimes treat me less than ideal (as I most certainly do to them), and to have a spirit of gratitude, choosing to focus on the blessings from my Heavenly Father and from my earthly pals- even if they don't do what I want them to do or treat me the way I think I deserve.

Faith

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Be merciful

"Be merciful, as your Father is merciful" - Luke 6:36

I don't have a lot to write. In fact, I'm supposed to be writing a 10 page paper about my family (see Calley's post referencing this). But I feel compelled to write about this for a brief moment. 

I read this verse a few weeks ago. Not a new verse to me, but not one that I often dwell on either. 

I think over this past month, this verse has really jumped out to me. I think the Lord is cultivating in me a work of mercy. I would not describe myself as a rigid or cold person- I have known from an early age that I am tender-hearted, and have a strong sense of empathy. 

But in recent months, I have not felt myself feeling this deep mercy towards other people. Not in the way I want to. Ever since I read this verse, I have felt the Lord press my heart towards mercy. I have felt mercy and compassion for other's pain in a refreshed, new way. Mercy and compassion for those I drive by on the street- people with little to nothing, people in great need, and people who we often don't even dignify. Mercy for the people who call me and write letters to StepUp begging for help. Even when the people are not particularly gracious with me on the phone, I have felt the Lord giving me mercy to share with them beyond my own ability to be merciful. 

Mercy is so important. It is such a huge part of the redemptive work of Christ. It is part of affirming the Imago Dei of each person. People respond to being loved. So we ought to show them mercy. 

He sends us mercy through His people too- even the tiniest of his people. This week, on both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, I walked into the nursery for StepUp's evening programs, and both nights the two littlest of children (who are just over a year, and just started walking) both gave me the sweetest of hugs. What a tangible reminder of the Lord's mercy, love, and compassion. 

I look forward to how the Lord will continue to work in my heart and through His people to show me what it looks like to be merciful as my Father in heaven is merciful. 

-Katie

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Meeting Expectations

I don’t know what to write. When it comes to these blog posts, I usually always have something I want to say. But there are six days left in January, and I’m holding myself to this high standard that not only must I complete my January blog post in January, but that it must be something worth reading. I think I always hold myself to this ridiculously high standard, because that's how I was raised. In my family, we were always meant to exceed the expectations of others, and it's something I still do even though I am an independent adult. There is, to my knowledge, no penalty for not doing a blog post, but I still do each one. Our genogram paper, a 10-15 page single-spaced discussion on and analysis of our families, is due Monday and is not graded, but I'm still treating it like it's a final paper in one of my college English classes. I think I speak for all of the Fellows when I say we are emotionally worn out from reliving and/or coming to terms with the more difficult aspects of our families, and none of us wants to write a blog post when we've got 10-15 single-spaced pages to worry about. I very well may be the only one who writes one for January. So, to update anyone who reads these, here is what the Fellows have been up to in January:

  1. Seven-ish of us (we lost Hayes but gained Dan) reunited at Elaina’s house in Richmond on New Year’s Eve, and celebrated the New Year together.

  2. We went on our mid-year retreat to Fancy Gap, VA, where the pipes were frozen and we had no running water. There was a lot of bonding and a lot of trips to the nearest grocery store. I actually kind of enjoyed it.

  3. We celebrated the life of Ray Seigler, to whom we owe the formation of the Raleigh Fellows Program. We also hosted the Knoxville Fellows, who journeyed to Raleigh for Ray’s funeral, and enjoyed a meal and a dance party with them. They’re pretty cool people.

  4. We got two days off of work thanks to snow and ice, and most of us enjoyed sledding, snowball fights, some quality time with Ashley and Sam at their house.

  5. Dan and Dalton turned 23!!

  6. We still love each other and we still love this program.

~Calley

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My family

For me, as a child, Christmas was all about family. I knew about Jesus and how we were celebrating his birth, but my warmest childhood memories of Christmas are all filled with family, not church services or heartfelt prayers. Now, as an adult growing daily in her Christian faith, Christmas has taken on a deeper meaning. Though it still is very much about family, it more about thanking God for the family He has given me. Far more so than Thanksgiving, Christmas is a holiday of thanks. Thanks for God’s gift of his son. Thanks for the savior of our world being born. Thanks for God’s faithfulness in his promises to us. Thanks for another year of blessings and growth.

So, for this final post before Christmas, I want to express thanks for my family.

Dear Chris the Worship Leader: Thank you for your warm and open heart. For asking questions in class. For your sense of humor. For blessing us with your amazing musical talent.

Favorite Moment: Talking (and laboring) while hiking Hanging Rock

 

Dear Satie: Thank you for your gentleness. For your positivity. For remembering the little things. For always being happy to see me.

Favorite Moment: Our first one-on-one at Goodberry’s

 

Dear Danny Boy: Thank you for your laugh. For constantly sharing your home and host family with us. For how easy you are to talk to. For putting the whole group at ease with equal parts jokes and honesty.

Favorite Moment: Our conversation while driving to our November service project

 

Dear Emmy: Thank you for giggles. For listening when I need to vent. For affirming qualities I didn’t even know I had. For giving me confidence to be myself.

Favorite Moment: Our long talk after trivia night at the beginning of the program

 

Dear Papa T: Thank you for your steadiness. For amazing discussions about the things we’re passionate about. For loving your home state as much as I do. For comfortable silence.

Favorite Moment: Our Geminid watching experience

 

Dear Rach: Thank you for your beautiful smile. For our unexpected conversation topics. For being the greatest shopping buddy ever. For drawing me out of my comfort zone.

Favorite Moment: Our JC Penney fashion show

 

Dear Dalton (sorry, I’ve never called you DT3): Thank you for your openness in our group. For no judgement. For always having clear communication with me. For hugs that make me feel comfortable, safe, and loved.

Favorite Moment: Our PP walk and pretty much every single hug

 

Dear Faithie: Thank you for your vulnerability and your strength. For understanding what I’m going through. For knowing how to be gentle, yet also not allowing me to hide.

Favorite Moment: Mutual gushing over Daring Greatly

 

Dear Hayes: Thank you for being intentional. For your incredible and inspiring faith. For your support and reassurance when I begin to doubt. For hearing and seeing me.

Favorite Moment: Starbucks

 

Dear Lainey: Thank you for snuggles. For loving me when I was at my lowest. For your constant encouragement. For taking care of me when I forget to take care of myself.

Favorite Moment: Our second banana bread baking night

 

I love you all so much. Merry Christmas to my family!

 

~Calley

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there's more to it than me

It's not all about me. The world tells me it matters that I get what I want and my identity is based out of how successful I am at what I do. But reality, and in the reminder that John Richmond gave us at the Micah 6:8 retreat - apart from God we are completely insigificant but because of God we are eternally and entirely significant. 

I've talked a lot about me so far in my blog posts, so it wouldn't be hard to know a lot about me from those. But this program, while helpful to me and a place for me to learn about myself, is not predominantly about me. 

Before the year started, Ashley asked us all to send her a Bible verse that was of importance to us as it related to choosing fellows and/or looking ahead to our fellows year. I chose 2 Corinthians 6:4 "...in everything, commending ourselves as servants of God," and then Paul goes on to name circumstances in which they commend themselves as servants of God, "in hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness." So yeah, this year is not about me. 

Throughout this year, as I've spent time in community with these fellows, I've seen Christ in each of them in a unique way. So let me tell you a little bit about them. 

Rachel is overflowing with joy, thoughtful, and quick to share the love of Christ which overflows in her. Emilee gives great hugs, exudes joy, is deeply thoughtful, and brings people in. Faith is genuine, loving, makes people laugh, and is full of wisdom, a gift which she shares. Elaina is steady, peaceful, loving, thoughtful, and her deep faith points me to Christ. Calley is deeply caring, loyal, and loving to all the people who matter to her, and she not only exudes this but has shown me this care. 

Hayes cares deeply for others, is thoughtful, and is quick to put the gospel at the center. Chris has a huge compassionate heart, is a good listener, and speaks thoughtfully. Dalton makes anyone feel comfortable and speaks great words of affirmation. Dan can make anyone in the room laugh, and is incredibly patient and thoughtful (& writes great coded messages as a Secret Santa). Taylor is slow to speak and quick to listen, sharing wisdom and nuggets that point to the Lord. 

And Ashley and Sam Crutchfield. They show me week by week, even day by day, what it looks like to live life sacrificially, opening their home to us, pouring into us, listening to us, and caring for us; all while being awesome parents to their 3 awesome children; and awesome friends to past fellows and their other friends around Raleigh. 

While this year will involve a lot of introspection and self-reflection, and yet is also a year of service to the Lord. So that's a glimpse of how I've seen Christ in these 12 strangers over the past 3.5 months. God's image shines in them. 

And in this season of advent and expectation, I remain expectant that over the next 4.5 months and beyond, the Lord will do more than I can ask or imagine. Hang on, because all the tricks the Lord has up His sleeve are good and are "the better thing."

-Katie (at times known as Satie, too)

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A Semester in Pictures

I don't have a single writing bug in me right now. You know what's true though? A picture is worth 1,000 words. So here are 4,000 words to reflect on this semester. 

September

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Does it look like we love each other? That's funny because we had just met that morning. Gosh, and look at how tan and fresh we were. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. 

October

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Cute! Our first service project together and our first time visiting someone's place of work. We actually did love each other at this point. Service projects mean more time together, which is all we could ever wish for. 

November

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That one time we took our wonderful director out dancing for her birthday. I think we basically took over The Architect with Raleigh Fellows. 

December

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The youth group Christmas party... where we all learned to never throw a party with 50+ middle schoolers in attendance. And isn't that photo backdrop just the most beautiful creation you've ever seen? Papa T and I did that. 

 

My January blog post will undoubtedly be about how much I missed these people during our break. Thankfully I still have two more weeks with them. 

Till next time, 

Elaina

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Well That Was Quick

November came and went way too fast for my liking. Hence why I am writing this post in December… Although the month flew by, it was chock-full of events, learning, growing, challenge, questions, running, sitting, listening, and talking. Here’s a quick breakdown:

·      Work – It’s finally picking up. Some, at least. I’m still not interested in becoming a lawyer (in case any of yall were wondering out there). However, I’ve started to get more tasks, and tasks that really seem to “lighten the load” on the rest of the firm and actually seem to be helping the process in tangible ways. Now this isn’t always, but it is an improvement.

·      Class – Remember the days when you enjoyed class? Ok, maybe not, and I’m just weird like that. But really, I truly am enjoying class here in the program. And not just one or two, but them all. The conversations and even the readings have spurred so much thought and reflection that has so interesting coincided with things going on in life and in the Fellows. Learning is fun again; and practical.

·      Family – Y’all my host family rocks. I get to live with 8 other phenomenal humans, of all ages too. They all have such awesome characteristics and I have loved getting to know them. As busy as I am a Fellow, they are just as busy, if not more sometimes! 9 people in one house makes for a lots of moving parts, lots of commitments, and lots of catching up to do at the dinner table!

·      Mentor – Brad McGinity. I’m lucky to know him. He may not know it or think it, but he has imparted loads of wisdom to me (hopefully I am retaining it all). He is yet another example that takes time out of his crazy busy life to invest in me. I never thought that I would gain so much insight on life while eating a bagel at Panera. Really though; Brad is awesome and I’m really looking forward to more time with him and how he continually stretches me. He has a certain knack for picking into my brain and getting more out than I knew was there.

·      Church – If you are ever in Raleigh, you need to check out Church of the Apostles. If you live in Raleigh, please come to church with me and let me talk with you about how great this body of believers really is.

·      Fellows – These people may not have known what they were getting themselves into when they said yes to this thing. I sure didn’t have it all figured out. But this has been one special treat to have them to live with, learn with, fail with, serve with, question with, get in the sauna with, eat with, work out with, pray with, dance with, cry with, join hands with, watch Stranger Things with, cook with, play games with, and be with. Calley, Chris, Dalton, Dan, Elaina, Emilee, Faith, Hayes, Katie, Rachel, and of course, Sam and Ashley; Here’s to you and every way you help make our community full. 

Taylor

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Why Am I Here?

This is a question that has been going through my head many times within the past couple months. It seems to come up most when I am having a hard day at work or I am struggling with some situation. More often than not when I am enjoying myself, this isn't even close to a thought because there is no need for the question. So why am I here? What does that even mean? Why am I physically here in Raleigh or why am I in this situation doing what I am doing? 

I can't say that I have found an answer to any of these questions yet. However, I do find it interesting that they only come into my mind when I am feeling any sort of discouragement. So why am I even thinking these things in the first place? I will give you an example: I am working and I have some idle time in my day because the task that I was given to manage is being taken care of. I now feel like I am not being useful to my boss or my company, and isn't the whole point of my internship to help bring light to the world as an image bearer of Christ? How am I doing that while I am sitting in my car waiting for my boss to give me another task? It doesn't seem like I am doing that so my feeling of uselessness leads to a feeling of worthlessness. Then I am reminded of the fact that I am not even doing work to help me figure out what my plan will be long term and I feel hopeless. At any point along this emotional down spiral will all these questions come up about "what am I doing here?". I feel like this was supposed to be a step that I was taking to receive clarity about what my NEXT step will be down the road. Not just a step towards the end goal, but really a step to figure out what the end goal is. Why do I feel like this question is not going to be answered for me. 

The reality of things are that it is not hard to see why am here. Simply by opening my eyes to what God is doing inside of me to prepare myself for life in every aspect. I often become very tunnel visioned under stress as seen here where I am so focused on not seeing the clarity in my vocational field that I think that God is not shaping me in other ways. Insight into why I am thinking these questions has shown me a lot of my flaws in daily thinking towards God's shaping process. Scripture calls God the potter and us humans his clay. If this is true than many times when we are feeling pain and discomfort as I have talked about, we need not think of it as God punishing us but rather know that His fingers are pressing into us, creating a beautiful masterpiece of His handiwork. So I might go through the next 6 months not being shown what my job will be down the road, but does that make my time here useless/worthless/hopeless/un-meaningful as I often resort to thinking? Absolutely not. God is using each one of my steps here to accomplish HIS end goal. Let me tell you what, it is not the same end goal that I am thinking up in my mind even right now as I write this....and I certainly wouldn't want it to be the same as the end goal that I have in mind for myself. God is going to do something much bigger for me that will provide much more life than I can ever imagine experiencing.

Thanks for reading, till next time ✌️,

Chris Fronczak

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