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being present

This past month we got to go on our very own silent retreat with our Spiritual Formation teacher, and it was incredible. To have peace, stillness and quiet be a built in part of our schedule was both restorative and refreshing; it truly brought life and rest to my soul. A lack of rest seems to be a theme in pretty much everyone’s lives, but having a full day to truly be able to do so reminded me of how important it is, even though I often don’t make it a priority. Being able to rest allows me to be more fully present in my own life and others, and honestly at the end of the day, that’s all I want. I want to be present with myself, my friends and the Lord, and to not waste a single breath that I am given.

As Fellows is coming to an end, that is a mantra that I want to hold firmly and tenderly close to my heart, because otherwise, it will be only too easy to wish away the rest of this season of life for the next. It would be so easy to let thoughts of a job, travel, and PA school consume me rather than enjoying the time that I have with the people who are with me right now, so I’m going to fight as fiercely as I can for the present rather than the future. The future has a place in my thoughts and plans, but the present is what should consume me, for it is what I can be a part of and change right now!

So, here’s to the last month and a half of Fellows, and to living fully into it.

-Rach

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Everything Is Waiting for You

David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

LM

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The Art of Gathering

“The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in, in both our intimate and public realms . Gatherings---the conscious bringing together of people for a reason---shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world.

We spend our lives gathering---first in our families, then in neighborhoods and playgroups, schools and churches, and then in meetings, weddings, town halls, conferences, birthday parties, product launches, board meetings, class and family reunions, dinner parties, trade fairs, and funerals. And we spend much of that time in uninspiring, underwhelming moments that fail to capture us, change us in any way, or connect us to one another.

As much as our gatherings disappoint us, though, we tend to keep gathering in the same tired ways. Most of us remain on autopilot when we bring people together, following stale formulas, hoping that the chemistry of a good meeting, conference, or party will somehow take take of itself, that thrilling results will magically emerge from the usual staid inputs. It is almost always a vain hope.

I am endlessly intrigued by the small and important interventions we can all make to help groups gel. In all my gatherings, whether a board meeting or a birthday party, I have come to believe that it is the way a group is gathered that determines what happens in it and how successful it is, the little design choices you can make to help your gathering soar.

I believe that everyone has the ability to gather well.

You don’t have to be an extrovert.

You don’t have to be a boss or a manager.

You don’t need a fancy house.

The art of gathering, fortunately, doesn’t rest on your charisma or quality of your jokes.

Gatherings crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them, when (often invisible) structure is baked into them, and when a host has the curiosity, willingness, and generosity of spirit to try.”

-My Own Personal SparkNotes version of the Intro in The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

We have 44 days left as Fellows (I mean, but who’s counting right?). In this grand slam finale we have been given mini pep talks on “how to finish strong” and “remain present” and all the good things associated with wrapping up our 9 months left with the ever-prestigious title THE Raleigh Fellows.

When I think about this year, I think of the gatherings. I think of the whirlwind of our first day where our gatherings were filled with introductions and way too many awkward hellos. I think of our beach retreat and singing karaoke and the hysterical laughter that made strangers feel less strange. I think of when we shared our testimonies and heard each other's lives unravel. I think of Thursday night round tables and the questions asked, the discussions had and the shared joy of fitting 13 people around a dinner table. I think of how far we have come from having to explain who we are to each other to now feeling the deep sense of belonging. I think of the birthdays we’ve celebrated, the brunches we’ve eaten, the church services we’ve attended, the homes we’ve invaded, the walks we have went on, the porches we have sat on, the prayers we have prayed, and the people who have graciously and relentlessly let us into their lives.

Jesus gathered His twelve disciples together and each meeting had purpose, meaning, and was driven by love. What if we decided to be fully present in the spaces that we occupy? What if we didn’t just go to work out of routine? What if we looked up from our phones? What if we entered into doors and sat down at dinner tables and introduced ourselves to new people in ways that redefined the art of gathering?

The way we gather matters.

TILL NEXT TIME XOXO,

Em



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sentimental tuesday: a prayer

“FOR THE LORD COMFORTS ZION; HE COMFORTS ALL HER WASTE PLACES AND MAKES HER WILDERNESS LIKE EDEN, HER DESERT LIKE THE GARDEN OF THE LORD; JOY AND GLADNESS WILL BE FOUND IN HER, THANKSGIVING AND THE VOICE OF SONG.” Isaiah 51:2-3

lord, you are the one who takes our burdens, our shame, our overthinking/overwhelmed brains and souls, our insecurities, our comparisons, our false assumptions, our defeats, our sadness, and turns it all into comfort. turns it into Eden. turns it into a plush land full of forgiveness, love, life, happiness, confidence. this is not always felt in times of rejection and despair. but i pray that we all will search for your promised garden. that joy and gladness will find its home in us. that thanksgiving will be comfortable and stay awhile in our souls. free our assumptions and reactions. your salvation is forever. fear not the reproach of men because his love is forever. was it not you who split the waters for your people to go through? your power and words and opinion of me is the only one i should care about and fear. your children will have and hold everlasting joy- “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (vs 11). you say to me “YOU ARE MY PEOPLE” we are your community, you never leave for something better.

<3 me (amy)

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Here are photos of some go-ers.

They are on the move, they are leaning into this season in a new city and allowing it to form who they are becoming. They are dreaming big for the future and longing to see restoration in broken places. They are growing in confidence of who they are yet daily waving the white flag to their Creator who knows them through and through. They are pushing forward while simultaneously learning the centrality of rest and retreat to being an embodied creature. They are engaging hard topics and willing to expand the borders of their minds, their presuppositions, and their comfort zones. They are pointing one another towards their need for a savior and the hope of redemption.

I want to go with the go-ers.

LM

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i'm sandra bullock and the world outside my blindfold is ADULT LIFE

Tonight Ashley said “You have two and a half months left” and I said “I’m sorry what.” These months have FLOWN. Like tomorrow is March 1st? I literally did not know how many days were in February this year. How is it March already? I mean granted it’s BIRTHDAY MONTH so I’m not complaining but HOW did we get here (also side note it’s birthday month for me AND Laura so if you want to take part in our party planning committee HMU-- so far we have a pinata and biodegradable glitter).

I was having a conversation about my future the other day. Which tends to happen these days because we’re getting closer to adult life and regardless of how much I am totally with my entire being trying to deny that, there is some part in me that is making me internally subconsciously think about my future. But in that conversation I was not only talking about future plans for jobs and workplace and where the Lord is calling me, but also I was trying to reflect on what my year in the Fellows is going to mean to me this time next year. Because now is the time for me to start taking this experience seriously. And I’ve taken it seriously from day one but I think now is where it can really come to fruition in thinking about how I am applying it to my future life outside of Fellows.

The things we do inside of Fellows make so much sense- retreats, reflection, testimony sharing, weekly host family dinners, weekly roundtable discussions, only working 3 days a week, always having a 4 day weekend, going to class Mondays and Fridays, and having ample access to resources for jobs, mentors, community, and spiritual growth. All of this is normal right now. This is our schedule and this is our routine. But what is all of that going to mean when I get out of Fellows? When and if I sit down with a current fellow next year and she/he starts asking me how I’ve applied Fellows to my ordinary life, what am I going to say? I don’t know the answers to these questions now, but I’m thinking that starting to think about that now is going to affect my answer then. Because thinking about how to make this time intentional and worth something is going to make it intentional and worth something then.

So here are my ideas: start thinking about the future in terms of what I want to do with my job and what my career goals are, but also be extremely present in every moment I have left in Fellows. Be intentional about meeting with people and talking through logistics of staying in a job, leaving a job, how to apply for jobs, what people look for on a resume, how to know where the Lord is calling you, being open to listening to how the Lord wants to use my nursing degree. But in every conversation with a fellow Fellow, listen, laugh, enjoy, press in, learn more about them, go to McDonald’s at 11pm, eat another Cook Out milkshake, gain another 10 lbs because the food is all free and who cares if you ate a happy meal the last 3 nights. These are the moments that are going to mean something next year. The Lord loves your presence and He loves your supplications. Enjoy where He has you now and be excited about where He is taking you. That’s a letter from me to me. Thanks for entering into that moment with me.

x’s & o’s ~ Amy


sometimes logs are hard to chop and sometimes you smash your already ingrown fingernail in between two logs and it starts bleeding and it’s 30 degrees outside so your fingers are already numb so it just adds to the hurt but i think that’s life. we’re all carpenters and wood choppers in a world full of difficult logs. and at the end of the day all the chopped wood is going to sit neatly stacked on a wall and you’re going to rest and do it all again tomorrow.

sometimes logs are hard to chop and sometimes you smash your already ingrown fingernail in between two logs and it starts bleeding and it’s 30 degrees outside so your fingers are already numb so it just adds to the hurt but i think that’s life. we’re all carpenters and wood choppers in a world full of difficult logs. and at the end of the day all the chopped wood is going to sit neatly stacked on a wall and you’re going to rest and do it all again tomorrow.

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Genograms and Sacred Relationships

Our genogram paper is due Monday, and even though I’m stressed about it because I haven’t yet broken my proclivity for procrastination (whoops), I think it’s one of the coolest things that I’ve had to do as a Raleigh Fellow. It’s essentially a paper in which I’ll try to trace patterns in my family through generations and see how I fit into those patterns. I’ve had to interview my grandfather, parents, and siblings, asking them questions covering topics such as how their families of origin handled conflict and what sort of unsaid rules or expectations governed them. While I was extremely nervous to do these interviews, they led to some of the coolest conversations I’ve ever had with my family, particularly with my brother and sister. This assignment has opened the door to my having deeper relationships with my family members than I had thought possible.

Something else that has been on my mind recently is the sacredness of fellows relationships. There is something so beautiful about this community that I did not choose but that was chosen for me, this community that I share life-rhythms with. Although we all work different jobs, we work the same three days a week. Although we all have different host families, we all live with a family who loves Jesus and Church of the Apostles. Although we all didn’t specifically choose each other, we chose to be a part of a community that chooses to love one another, whether that loving is hard or easy.

I don’t know how to express why I think that this fellows community is so sacred. But, as I’m reflecting more, I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that this community is like the community that Jesus gathered around Him when He walked on this earth. He called the disciples; they didn’t choose each other. Some probably got along more naturally. Some definitely had more similar backgrounds and upbringings (looking at you brother-pairs: Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John). We know that they definitely argued and competed against one another (Luke 9:46). And yet, Jesus gathered them all together and called them to love one another, as He loved them.

Raleigh Fellows is a microcosm of His church. We’re called to love Him, to love one another, and to love the world. I do believe that our community is sacred space. What will it look like for me to remove my shoes, as Moses did in front of the burning bush because of the holiness of the ground (Exodus 3:5), for these last two and a half months of Fellows? What does it look like to honor the gifts that Fellows has given me, which includes the gift of this genogram assignment? I trust that the Lord delights in these questions and I know that He’s going to continue to meet me in ways that exceed my every expectation.

Much love,

Sarah

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Look Back

Reflection. Processing. Leaning in. These are three phrases you’ll hear thrown around a lot if you sit in on a Raleigh Fellows class or Roundtable on any given week. It’s beautiful the opportunities we are given in this program to not back away from topics or ideas, but instead we are constantly invited into space to challenge, dive in and dig deeper. This past month especially, we’ve been given a lot of practical means for reflection. A little gem of the fellows is that once a month we get to go to Mary Young’s house for our Spiritual Formation class. Although we may call it a class, it really is a retreat, as Mary often refers to it. We are given guidance and time to press into scripture, thoughts of our peers, and thoughts of our own. This has become one of my favorite parts of the fellows as I crave the alone time we have during the class and the practices Mary gives us to guide our spiritual walks. This month, we were given the practice of Examen prayer. Examen prayer is when we set ourselves before God and literally examine how we have felt and experienced life in the past day, week or month. You pick a time frame and look back at it. There are steps of gratitude, petition, review, forgiveness, and renewal during the practice. You thank God for His many blessings, ask Him for help, become aware of the ways you moved with God during the day and the ways you moved with insecurity and fear. You then recognize that you are forgiven and then invite God to show up. During the review section of the practice, Mary gave us an idea to write down adjectives that we remembered feeling during the week, day or month that we were examining. Then, we were to recognize if these feelings were a consolation or a desolation. It is extremely helpful to go through the days, weeks and months of your life doing a practice such as this. It helps us to remember the places that are bringing us life, showing us God and renewing our spirits. It also reminds us that God wants to be with us in the desolating parts of our lives—where we feel alone or let down. He wants to fill those voids. He wants us to consciously recognize when we feel those ways instead of passively forgetting about them.

It is so easy to go through life passively. Sometimes ignoring things that are difficult and breezing by them is more comfortable. I think I am learning a lot this year that God doesn’t want us to be passive in our walk with Him. He is a God who isn’t afraid to walk through the deserts and the valleys of life. He is not a passive God, but an active one. I am thankful that the Raleigh Fellows has given me space to lean more into this life He invites me to live—here’s to 2.5 more months! Time, slow down.

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call me own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me. I return it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give my only your love and you grave and I am rich enough and ask for nothing else.” - St. Ignatius of Loyola

xoxo Lauren

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Random thought of the day.

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Random thought of the day.

I’m a dreamer.  I love coming up with ideas that are usually ridiculous.  When I was little I wanted to be a famous musician. Then when I got to college I realized that I mainly wanted to help people.  From that dream, I fell into aspirations of money, fame, and owning a lot of land. I have ideas all the time of what I want to accomplish or gain.  I still have some of these dreams but lately they have led me to a different thought. What if I accomplished them? What would that be like? What would be the fulfillment brought on by having a lot of money?  Where does Jesus fit in to this? I mean being debt free would be nice. (talking to you student loans) I do not think money is the true answer to fulfillment though. I was happy in college when I lived in a house that should have been condemned with four other guys and two dogs.  

It is fun to dream.  It takes us away from reality.  It takes us away from how boring life is sometimes to be honest.  But what does God say about our aspirations? I think he loves them. And he wants us to really shoot for the stars. (Mark 11:23)  But mainly he wants to be the center of them. When I used to hear that I would kind of sigh and think, “but I want to have a fun life.”  

This is something a lot of people can become confused on.  We hear that God wants to be involved in every part of our life and think of him as a helicopter parent.  But I do not think that is who God is. I think he just wants us to trust our dreams to him so he can use them. (Proverbs 3:6)  

Jesus wants in on our dreams.  He is active and transformational in our dreams and aspirations.  We will find ourselves doing things that we didn't know we would ever do because of him.  We will find fulfillment in leading a bible study of middle school boys (something only those who have the blessing of patience should endure) or even donate thousands of dollars to a ministry we will never see the fruit of ourselves.  (Side note I am still fundraising for fellows.) (Romans 12:2) These acts and desires are crazy and without Jesus in the center of them, they will leave you empty. God is an all in kind of God that moves in and takes over. There is no halfway.

So I'm living with the hope that one of these dreams will stick.  Laying them at the feet of Jesus, and watching him mess my life up, as only he truly can.     

                


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the big picture

As someone who is incredibly detail-oriented, I tend to get caught up in those details. I love that the Lord has given me the ability to notice small things and pay attention to them, but sometimes those same things also just get in the way! And in the past couple of months, I think I have often lost sight of the bigger picture in light of the smaller things that I get caught up in. While it’s wonderful to talk about ‘hot topics’ per say, questions of faith, and to dive deeply into past and present struggles, I often find that I just need to let go of all of that stuff and take hold of Jesus. Because at the end of the day, it’s not my enneagram number, or my past and present sin, or my belief on whatever Biblical debate there is that matters. What matters is that Jesus knows me, loves me more deeply and intimately than literally anyone else on this entire planet, and He acted upon that love by choosing to die for me so that I may live.

THAT IS WHAT MATTERS.

Not money, or power, or my vocation, or being admired, accepted and loved by others; it is all utterly meaningless. And on the other hand, while listening to the Lord and following His ‘calling’ is important and good, there is way too much of me that gets caught up in trying to figure out exactly what the Lord is up to, rather than letting Him just do His thing. He knows that I don’t know what’s going on, and He’s allowing that for a reason, and the reason is probably that my teeny tiny human brain probably wouldn’t get it anyways.

Basically, it’s about dang time I started letting go of all of the little things that get me so tied up, so that my hands might actually be empty to receive from the Father! I mean, how can I possibly receive anything when my hands are clenched tightly around so many other things?

I don’t think that it’s fair to just tell someone “God is good” when they’re hurting and expect all of their problems to magically go away, and honestly I think Christians can sometimes be really unpleasant to deal with throughout hard times because they expect that response to somehow be a magic fix. But, even though it’s not by any means some magic cure, it is still true. And while truth doesn’t take away pain, it does bring comfort, and the truth is that the Lord is good, and that He LOVES you and me and cares for us, and He is WITH us, God, Emmanuel. And that, if nothing else, is something to celebrate.

I want to celebrate that more, and get bogged down less. I want to celebrate the difficulties along with the easy parts, and to walk through them joyfully and with contentment because I know I have the Holy Spirit always with me and for me. Our Father is truly good and faithful, and today, I’m going to CELEBRATE!!!

-Rachel

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The Oscars

While the months dwindle down for the Raleigh Fellows to come to a close, the nostalgia is starting to trickle its way in.

Last Thursday at Round Table we went around the table and said the things we have been grateful for so we wouldn’t pass them by in this season of looking forward to what is next. Here is a low quality video that gives a sneak peak into the last two months and the start of 2019 with some classic iMovie theme music that replays over and over to match. This video captures the small and big moments that have made my heart sing and my belly fill with laughter. Don’t be deterred by the pixelated images or the ones that simply got cut off, we all have humble beginnings.

Including but not limited to: Deltaville home of the sunsets, music videos, attempted athleticism, Monopoly Deal, house hunting, teeth chipping at the YMCA, UNC visits, brunch bunches, clean eating (Taco Bell and McDonald regulars), park sitting, coffee shop going, sickness spreading, Statesville hometown dates, Rachel doing the worm, Windy Gap axe-throwing photo-shoots, writing love letters to ourselves and always always dancing whether it seems appropriate or not.

All the love,

Em

P.S. If you’re looking to hire a videographer suscribe

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What should I do for the rest of my life?

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What should I do for the rest of my life?

“Our work is essential to our being as humans.” - probably someone


Work comparisons are easy to make.  Everyone has eyes so it is easy to see what is on the outside of other people's lives.  I am also at the age where professional/college athletes are younger than me which is a wild phase of life.  A good chunk of the people I follow on social media moved away and got big fancy jobs after they graduated. And I am happy for them, but it is easy to fall into the trap of looking at their life and saying, “they are doing it better than me.”  I know that this is not true and that the Lord has a different plan for everyone, but it is still easy to think. The truth is comparisons of our work are always easy to make and do real damage to the soul, stealing joy and replacing it with regret.   

The cool thing about these past five months is that I have been able put life on hold and learn about what the Lord says is true about us.  I have been able to dive deep with others my age about what God, says about work, dreams, goals, and using them for his purpose. The fellows and I got to go on a retreat at the beginning of January where we spent a week learning about what gifts God has blessed us with and how they can be used in the marketplace.  

The retreat in Deltaville, VA, was full of down time and reflection.  I think this was the point but I am someone who has a hard time sitting still and staying in one place for too long.  Nevertheless this week long experience ended up being one of my favorite experiences in life to this point, not just in Fellows.  I mean the setting could not have been more beautiful. We were in a remodeled cabin located right on the river. Coffee was consumed like oxygen, and laughter was found around every meal.  The sun was always rising, setting, or doing something else remarkable that the Lord designed. And here we were ready to find out what it was we were made to do in this life.

The man of the week was Bill Fullilove (yes that is his real name) and he was one of the most kind, patient, human beings I have encountered to this date.  He is currently a pastor and career coach but had also experience working in finance. He sat with us in group seminars and one-on-one meetings that could last hours.  He gave his time and wisdom to each of us that week. Some people cried and some people laughed when they looked over the results of the 3 different assessments we completed upon arrival.  The assessments were in depth; some were spiritual, and some were secular. But Bill used them to tell us what great gifts God has blessed us with. Bill also told us about work and how it is part of God’s plan, and if we are blessed enough, can be fulfilling.  Never once, did he tell us what we should do. He simply told us what we are motivated by and what could potentially bring us fulfillment. I am thankful that the Lord made me as I am and I am thankful for this retreat. I walked away with ideas of what I could do for work, but the good news is that our jobs do not define who we are.  They are just how we serve God through work, and that is a true blessing from him.


Proverbs 16:3

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”


“Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day

the blueprint of your life

would begin to glow on earth,

illuminating all the faces and voices

that would arrive to invite

your soul to growth.


Praised be your father and mother,

who loved you before you were,

and trusted to call you here

with no idea who you would be.


Blessed be those who have loved you

into becoming who you were meant to be,

blessed be those who have crossed your life

with dark gifts of hurt and loss

that have helped to school your mind

in the art of disappointment.


When desolation surrounded you,

blessed be those who looked for you

and found you, their kind hands

urgent to open a blue window

in the gray wall formed around you.


Blessed be the gifts you never notice,

your health, eyes to behold the world,

thoughts to countenance the unknown,

memory to harvest vanished days,

your heart to feel the world’s waves,

your breath to breathe the nourishment

of distance made intimate by earth.


On this echoing-day of your birth,

may you open the gift of solitude

in order to receive your soul;

enter the generosity of silence

to hear your hidden heart;

know the serenity of stillness

to be enfolded anew

by the miracle of your being.”


  • John O’Donohue

             

  • Alex


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new year same me

The past couple of months, I’ve realized that my life has been heavily defined by waiting. Waiting for PA school responses, waiting for comfortability in Fellows, waiting to know what my next moves can be after Fellows ends. There have been a lot of things in my life that have been uncertain, which I absolutely hate. I thrive in the certainty of a plan and following through with that plan, and when I can’t do that, I feel insecure and out of control.

But, there is so much value in waiting, and in being out of control. Because when I have no idea what a plan could even be, I can’t have faith in it alone, which strips me of my pride and brings me humbly to Jesus. And when that happens, I’m forced to recognize the many ways in which I prefer to rely on myself instead of the Lord, which works to re-center my heart and focus on what the Lord has for me rather than what I think I have for me.

So, as my mentor told me, this season is all about “expectantly waiting”. As we expectantly wait for Jesus’ return and as the Jewish people expectantly waited for Jesus’ birth, I can expectantly wait for the unknown because I have faith in God’s plan and purpose for my life. Not that I always trust as I should, and not that I don’t struggle with the unknown, but at the end of the day there is hope in Jesus, and that allows me to be able to expectantly wait in the unknowns of whatever life contains.

-Rach

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Raleigh the Sequel: Ch. 3

So I am not great about doing these blog posts on time. I forgot to do mine for December, but on the bright side I am consistently getting them in every two months! There has been a ton that has happened during the past two months. It would take me way too long to describe it all for you here, so if you want the full run down then call me at (703)-232-7441.

I want to share with you a reflection that I wrote the other night for our spiritual formation class. This paper was due on December 10, 2018 and I finally turned it in this morning, a full 49 days late. It gives a quick description of what has been going on the past couple weeks, but more importantly it shares what I am learning about silence, solitude, and prayer. Three necessary practices that have not played an important enough role in my life. I edited the intro a little for this blog post because the actual paper started with an apology for turning it in so late. If it doesn’t flow well, I’m sorry. Writing is not my strong suit.

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My Song of the Year

You may or may not have heard that the fellows began this month spending a week in the hoppin’ city of Deltaville, Virginia. If you didn’t get that sarcasm, Deltaville is in fact not that hoppin’. This made it the perfect, peaceful place to spend our mid-year vocation and calling retreat. We were cozied up in the most beautiful, serene home along the river (see pictures below) with fire was consistently burning and love and wisdom continually flowing. Wisdom shared through conversations with each other on long debrief walks about who we are and what we want to do with our lives, but mostly from Bill Fullilove who graciously led the retreat. Bill led us in group sessions and one-on-one meetings where we discussed our desires, gifts and opportunities. We spent time defining and analyzing the 3 tests we took prior to the retreat: The Highlands Ability Battery, EQ (emotional intelligence), and MCORE (testing your core motivations). This retreat was extremely insightful and helpful to me (and I think all of us fellows), so I decided to list some top things I learned during our time:

  1. We often worry about our calling in terms of what we will do for work in the future. In reality, calling is a much bigger term for life. Our work/vocation is a small spec of our calling. Our ultimate life calling is our call to Christ—we all have the same calling in this sense! There is such freedom found in this call. (Shoutout to my summer camp boss who really taught me this way back when).

  2. Our call to Jesus is our primary call. Issues regarding family, community, church, vocation, etc. can be seen as a ‘secondary call.’

  3. Where your desires, gifts and opportunities overlap is your individual vocational calling. Think each of these through! What are my God-given gifts? What desires do I have? What opportunities are there? It’s important to answer all of these questions with God at the forefront.

  4. I’m an ambivert!

  5. It’s hard to be assertive and I am not naturally good at it (thnx EQ). But being assertive doesn’t mean being a jerk. It’s important to find people who exemplify assertiveness in a way that honors God so I can learn how to be assertive. 

    • I’m realizing this is true for not only assertiveness, but all characteristics of life. We need to follow Jesus’ example in all characteristics we want to embody. We need to learn from friends, adults, mentors, etc. who live out differing characteristics in a way that reflects God.

  6. God has made you in His image. He didn’t mess up when He made you. Embrace that beauty! With this beauty, comes the responsibly to hold what you’ve been given well and offer it back to God. I need to constantly making sure I am using my gifts, abilities and core motivations for His glory and not my own gain.

  7. Read all of Psalm 139 for some peace.

That’s all for now. Special thanks to Bill Fullilove and all the people who have listened, and continue to listen, as I verbally process all that I am learning. I am thankful for the many treasured people who walk with me (literally and metaphorically) as God is showing me more of who I am in Him.

P.S. When thinking about this fellows year and the unknowns that will be coming after it, I often look back at my claimed song of the year. It’s called “New Start” by Weary Friend. The songs puts music and lyrics to the deep emotions of my heart strings. A lot of times I find music articulates the feelings and thoughts that I can’t put to words. This song does that. It has been a comfort to me since first hearing it in October. Everyone should listen—you can find it on Spotify!

Here are some of the lyrics:

”And I can’t see Him, but I’ll read His voice.

And He’s guiding me through all the noise.

When I can’t trace His hand, I’ll trust His heart,

Even in this new start.

And I used to think that when I was growing up I’d had my life figured out.

I’d know exactly who I was, I’d be set in my ways, not needing to change.

But now that I’m here I feel more like a child,

still learning my lessons and needing direction.

Still needing direction.”

Thank you Lord that You are the one who gives direction when I need it most.

Xoxo Lauren

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What do you do when...?

I have been pondering a question in my head over the past couple of months. One that not many people like to ask, completely stuff it away in a mental box somewhere, or even care to look into. What do you do when you hate yourself? This may seem a little extreme or even frightening to some of you, but I will tell all of you first and foremost that I am just self-reflecting and am in no way having any life threatening thoughts. Self-hatred isn’t immune to Christians it dwells in the darkest parts of our hearts the places not even a cardiac surgeon could see and I believe is something that needs some addressing.

In the fellows, you spend really your first few months dissecting yourself. Learning how you operate, what makes you tick, and what brings you joy. I have taken assessments, done counseling, met and worked with mentors and friends, and created a space to generally see myself from both the inside out and outside in. I came to the conclusion about halfway through the program that I hate myself. I never think thoughts of positivity or that I’m a good person. I am constantly trying to better myself, telling myself that I’m not good enough to accomplish anything and that I will be a failure. The last one is what gets me the most. Failure isn’t what others around me would describe me as or that if you asked people that have known me since I was young would even begin to characterize me as, yet, I tell myself this regularly. I tell myself one way or another that I am the worst person for thinking that thought, doing that thing, or saying that sentence. I am constantly looking for how I messed up this week and why I won’t ever get it right. I am fully convicted of shame when we pray, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you with thought, word and deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone.” Honestly, if someone were to come to me at that moment during our confession and just tell me, “Daylon, you are a… (Insert negative comment here).” I would most likely breakdown in a rage and utter sadness all at the same time. Rage and sadness directly pointed toward my own shortcomings and me. I’m not sure if any of you have experienced this feeling of self-hatred but it is a dark and lonely path that you can walk alone without anyone noticing.

I say all of these things in an abode of confidence that there are people that will read this and say I relate to that and will realize that they aren’t alone on this decrepit path. I also write this all out as a testament of a long obedience in the same direction. This self-hatred as I have defined it is a part of my walk with Christ. This is something that I am fighting it out with the Lord of lords in a hope that he will pull me out of the mire and onto the solid rock. That I will live in a place of sufficiency in Christ’s power and joy because of his work on the cross. But furthermore, it is something that I am still wrestling with God over. So what do you when you hate yourself? How do love yourself better in your own failures and shortcomings? If you have any thoughts feel free to send them my way (shawdaylon@ymail.com) because I am always willing to learn from the people around me.

Shalom,

Daylon Shaw

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Does it Spark Joy?

A Story of Talking to my Clothes

This week, I Marie Kondo’d my closet. For those who have yet to be exposed to this new Netflix show: “Tidying Up” – the KoniMarie method includes something called a “once-in-a-lifetime tidying marathon,” which means piling five categories of material possessions — clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items, including photos, in that order — one at a time, surveying how much of each you have, seeing that it’s way too much and then holding each item to see if it sparks joy in your body. The ones that spark joy get to stay. The ones that don’t get a heartfelt and generous goodbye, via actual verbal communication, and are then sent on their way to their next life.

 

In some ways, this year feels like the “once-in-a lifetime tidying marathon” for my soul and for life. Moving to a new place, being in this program, all of the emotional work – it is a part of bringing it all out, exposing just the volumes and depths to being a human. We are tempted to cover up and even forget those shoes in the bottom of the pile – or the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see – but when it is brought into the light, we really can see that not everything is working, or serving us well. The sheer intensity with which we rake through our souls brings everything out onto the table.  We are confronted with the good, bad and ugly. 

 

The next step is getting rid of things that don’t spark joy.  Maybe, like me, you have seven grey sweaters and some of them just simply aren’t necessary anymore. As we comb through ourselves as fellows – we can thank the attitudes and operating assumptions, maybe the habits or patterns of our lives, that raised us and have brought us to this point. They have served a function to protect us, but maybe now aren’t necessary to keep. We can let go of things and use only those that serve a purpose to bring life, not death. 

 

During her lecture, Marie demonstrated how the body feels when it finds tidying joy. Her right arm pointed upward, her left leg bent in a display of glee or flying or something aerial and upright, her body arranged I’m-a-little-teacup-style, and a tiny hand gesture accompanied by a noise that sounded like “kyong.” Joy isn’t just happy; joy is efficient and adorable. A lack of joy, on the other hand, she represented with a different pose, planting both feet and slumping her frame downward with a sudden visible depletion of energy. When Kondo enacted the lack of joy, she appeared grayer and instantly older. There isn’t a specific enough name for the absence of joy; it is every emotion that isn’t pure happiness, and maybe it doesn’t deserve a name, so quickly must it be expunged from your life. It does, however, have a sound effect: “zmmp.”

 

You can own as much or little as you want, as long as everything you own is truly treasured. How different would our lives be if we tidied our souls like this? If everything we did, everything we were – was measured by this test? If we chose to engage – in relationships, conversations, vocation – that was lifegiving and sparked joy within us? And in the marathon, we are on mile 14. Over halfway. And once the work is done – Marie encourages us that we can feel lighter and live freer without our objects weighing us down. My hope for us as fellows is that we will feel lighter and freer as we learn to happen to our lives and only let things in that truly spark joy. 

 

And for those who aren’t sold on this whole “tidying” idea – at least check out Goodwill sometime soon. This “ruthless war on stuff” could work in your favor. Thrift stores nationwide are experiencing the “Marie Kondo effect” as donation bins overflow. 

—Laura

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 Marie Kondo’s “JOY” pose

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s i m p l i f y

You are mine in this wild and wonderful life.

Praise God for this wild and wonderful life. Praise Yahweh that He calls us His. Praise Jehovah that he gives me grace to feel His love and His promises. At the beginning of this year, my friends encouraged me to think of a word that could be used as a theme for this new year. Not necessarily a new year’s resolution but rather something to give over to the Lord to commit to Him and strive for something different this year. My word was SIMPLIFY. So many times when thinking about my calling and my purpose I get very overwhelmed and it all seems so unattainable. Love your neighbor, have a good attitude about things that are hard, uphold a steady temper and love everyone the same, ask good questions, save the lowly, fight for your passions, say hey to the outsider, do more than what’s expected of you at work, make sure you’re making a difference in your community. All of these things are thrown at me and my small head takes all of them and warps them all into one confusing, overwhelming, powerful person who I will never perfectly be. Because all of those callings that I just listed are good and right and just. But it just seems like a lot sometimes. You know how many times I don’t say hey to the person alone in the room? You know how many times I complain about something I don’t want to do? You know how many times I opt for the easy answer when I know that working just a little harder will make the results so much better?

This life is wild. There are so many aspects of emotions and relationships and work and learning and conflict being thrown at us everyday. But YOU ARE MINE. I fail and mess up and don’t live up to expectations and let people down and let myself down. YOU ARE MINE. I want to be nicer, I want to be kinder, I want to be more aware, I want to seek Him more, I want to have more discernment. YOU ARE MINE. I want to be a better nurse, I want to be a better friend, I want to be a better woman of faith. YOU ARE MINE. Simplify. Lord, I am standing at your feet, bringing all that I am and all that I have, wanting to please and honor you with my response to this world and the decisions I make.  

This life is also wonderful. We live and we love and we experience joy and we laugh and we smile. We cry, we hurt, we ache, we want, we miss, we FEEL. We are alive. Remember that simple truth and I think it will be a lot easier and a lot more freeing to sit with all of these things that we are called to and have an actual desire to do them. When we realize that we are living beings on this earth, there is a natural desire in all of us to make something out of that. We want to seek justice, we want to love the unlovable, we want to go above and beyond at work, we want to respond well to the hard things. We want to live into the fact that WE ARE HIS. Every morning on my way to work, almost to a cliché extent, I play the song “Who You Say I am” by Hillsong and I most literally SCREAM the lyrics. I AM A CHILD OF GOD. IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE THERE IS A PLACE FOR ME. Simplify. He doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed. He’s not asking too much of us. He’s not grading us. He’s not comparing us. He loves us and just wants us to love Him in return. He smiles at us and wants to feel that smile. Simplify because “YOU ARE MINE IN THIS WILD AND WONDERFUL LIFE.”

“Your desire for more of God than you have right now, your longing for love, your need for deeper levels of spiritual transformation than you have experienced so far is the truest thing about you. You might think that your woundedness or your sinfulness is the truest thing about you or that your giftedness or your personality type or your job title or your identity as husband or wife, mother or father, somehow defines you. But in reality, it is your desire for God and your capacity to reach for more of God than you have right now that is the deepest essence of who you are” (Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton).

<3 amy

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New Year New Me 😝

Here are some principles that I want to rule my thoughts and rhythms in this year of 2019:

Be kind to yourself. This is the title of a song that Andrew Peterson wrote for his daughter, and one of the verses goes: “You can't expect to be perfect/ It's a fight you've gotta forfeit/ You belong to me whatever you do/ So lay down your weapon, darling/ Take a deep breath and believe that I love you.” Earlier this month, while on a fellows retreat, I spent some time sitting on a dock in the river writing down lies that I was believing about myself and then countering them with things that I knew to be true. One thing I wrote was:  “you have to do everything perfectly. No one else makes mistakes, so you better not.” I countered that with “even David committed adultery. Eve ate of the apple. Paul persecuted Christians. Peter denied Jesus. I will mess up, and the Lord will neither leave nor forsake me.” I’m never going to live up to all of the standards that I and others have for me, and I want to rest in God’s marvelous grace for me and have my self-talk reflect that. I want to see myself as Jesus sees me, beloved and one-for-whom-he-died.

Look for beauty. I want to see beauty in everyday things, but then also nurture my soul by intentionally seeking out beauty. This might mean pairing liturgies for everyday moments (casual plug for a book called Every Moment Holy - look it up) with intentional weekly forays into nature, where I can be still and see God’s face in the trees waving in the wind. I want to see beauty in God’s created world and in his created people. Lord help me to see you in everything and everyone.

Reflect. It’s easy for me to try to run away from my thoughts or feelings, instead of sitting with them and trying to understand them and see how the Lord is present within them. I want to be better about sharing my heart with the Lord and with other people instead of distracting myself by staying busy. At the same time, I want to be better about knowing when to leave my head and be present in the current moment.

Rest easy. “As the wind loves to call things to dance/ May your gravity be lightened by grace” (John O'Donohue). I often think and worry too much. I labor and am heavy laden, but Jesus promises me rest when I come to him, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Mt 11:28-30). Lord, help me to rest in the lightness of your grace and in who you created me to be. May I behold your glory with unveiled face and be transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18).

Lord, let this new year be for your glory and for our good. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

~ Sarah


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Raleigh Fellows: Prepared to Get Emotionally Wrecked.

I am begging for there to be a subtitle to the Raleigh Fellows Program. The fine print in italics needs to include “Raleigh Fellows: Prepared to Get Emotionally Wrecked”. It will be the behind the scene blooper to all of the fun pictures where we wear matching sweatshirts and attempt to be semi-adults. This authentic documentary will shed light on the soul-searching, mind-blowing and unearthing conversations that happen off of the Instagram reel.

Apparently if you are a Christian and live in Raleigh, North Carolina you simply cannot exist without knowing your Enneagram number. I like to think of it as a horoscope for your personality and motivations. In the world of Enneagram language I have learned that I am a Seven which is code for “The Enthusiast”. Contrary to popular belief “The Enthusiast” isn’t your typical cheerleader throwing pom-poms in your face or your average hype man (well, only sometimes). Sevens are described as whimsical dreamers who are driven by fun and motivated by the need to be happy. The default of the Seven is to avoid pain and difficult seasons by covering up the hard things with happiness or simply opting out of entertaining the hurt that lies beneath the surface. An invitation for the Seven is to learn to weep and notice where pain is deriving from.

When I first read the description my verbal response was “Woof”. This year as a Fellow has been deeply rich and rejuvenating, but also completely against the grain of how I am accustomed to operating. I have lived my 22 years of life up until now learning how to push things to the side, promising myself that I will eventually look at it again only to find an overflowing pile of miscellaneous thoughts that have never been properly managed. So you can IMAGINE the process of my naturally distracted-self entering a 9 month program that digs into the depths of pain with the hope of healing.  

I have had to put words to hurt and look it in the eyes without the option of running away. The past 5 months have been a process of sifting through areas that I have put on hold and being brave enough to lean in. Our director Ashley read us a poem by Jim Branch that reads:

“years and years of hard work diligently putting it all together piece by piece

thinking all is well

progress is being made

but then you

come and scramble the whole picture leaving pieces scattered everywhere

you lovingly smile

as I sit in the middle of the mess that I don’t know knowing that I’m undone

and thinking to yourself

now that’s progress”


Most days in Raleigh I feel undone and eagerly want see the fruits of being placed back together. With every class and conversation and unveiling, I am reminded that progress is being made in the in-betweens. I am reminded how gentle the Lord has made us but also how gracious He is to weep and walk alongside of us. I am reminded that He who promised is faithful and that faithfulness will not end with me.

So if you are a potential Fellow out there reading this, don’t say I didn’t warn you. But I also want to add a subtitle to the subtitle that says “Raleigh Fellows: Prepared to Get Emotionally Wrecked: But Also Be Prepared to Begin to Heal and Dance in Freedom and Experience Deep Grace and Transforming Love and Learn What It Actually Looks Like to Be Sought After by Jesus.”

That’s all I have for now folks.

PEACE AND LOVE,

Emily Magnus



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