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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Beauty in the In-Between

The season of Advent has come and gone. As January is on the horizon and people (aka me) train themselves to start writing 19s instead of 18s as the excitement of a new year dawns, I find myself reflecting on what this last month of the calendar year has meant for me. Leading up to Christmas each year, I find myself drawn into the theme of anticipation and waiting that advent stands for. As the advent wreaths begin to be lit during church, I remember the beauty of what it stands for. But normally as each new year or 26th day of December comes, I forget the beauty of the season in an instant—being some sort of shocked excited the next year when the wreath begins to be lit again. I found this year that God was giving me nudges (nudges of grace, honestly) to remember and reflect on the beauty of advent and the entire Christmas and Christian story.

There is so much beauty in the in between and ‘not yet’ of life. I was reminded of this as I was flipping through the winter issue of Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal magazine (the theme was anticipation. . .how fitting, right?! Jo knows). She says in the issue, “The anticipation that surrounds the advent season gently reminds us to look past our immediate circumstances to something bigger. To consider what might be coming with joyful expectation. To embrace living in the “not yet”—and to sink into the beauty that’s hidden beneath all that is still unknown.”

This year is an in-between for us fellows—some may even call it a gap year between college and ‘real life’. We are in some ways taking this year to start well slowly into ‘adult’ life. It feels like we are waiting in anticipation to see what life brings next. And the fellows' program brings to light the beauty of this in-between sort of year. I have treasured every moment. It is in some ways a tangible way of embracing the not yet of life, as Joanna says. This year will not be the end of some sort of anticipation or waiting in life. Can’t we all think of something we are ‘waiting’ for?

I am thankful that God doesn’t meet us in our waiting empty-handed. Christmas and advent remind us to look past our immediate circumstances to something much bigger than ourselves. That God met us in our waiting with a baby; the Savior of the world. We see from looking at the Old Testament that God fulfilled the promise of a Savior through Jesus. It is a gift to celebrate that this holiday season. I want to remember this as the forefront of each of my days, not just once a year. And now as Christians, we are in a new advent season—we wait for Jesus to come again. But that doesn’t mean that we wait for hope to start. Hope has come, hope has begun. He who promised is faithful.

Happy New Year!

xox Lauren

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Lean With It, Rock With It

I once compared my mind to a hamster in a wheel. My hamster even got his own name, that’s how easy it is to envision the scattered state of my attention span. My life has always had two speeds: fast and faster. I’ve challenged myself to write down my stream of consciousness and my pen quite literally couldn’t produce enough ink to keep up with my mind.

The past 4 months of starting the Fellows my little hamster wheel feels like it has grown larger than the ferris wheel at the fair. Every week we are taught new things in class, everyday I learn new things about life, and every minute I unfold a piece of my own story. My little hamster legs are just trying to keep up with every carrot taunting my onward (honestly a very funny metaphor to picture, I hope you are imagining alongside of me).

The Raleigh Fellows Programs subtitle in italics should state: A Season of Life Where You Gain Enough Information to Write a Textbook. The insider edition of said textbook would be pages of facts, nuggets of Truth, and quotes from ordinary people doing really extraordinary things. Sometimes the pages of information feel so heavy and daunting that I don’t know where to begin, so I just place it on the shelf and hope it goes along with the rest of the decorations.

One of my most recent chapters of my Italicized Informational Textbook would be titled “Leaning In”. It’s something I am not familiar with reading or doing. It takes me having to sift through as I process the words being thrown at me. It means creating margin of stillness in a schedule of chaos to think and hold and pray. Leaning in takes curiosity to search for answers and courage to realize that the A’s to your Q’s might not be displayed in a pretty way that you hoped them to be. Leaning in means looking lies straight in the face and saying no more. Leaning in is an invitation to walk and weep and laugh with Jesus.

Beyond all of the information, I can’t get over the people. We meet and hug and shake hands with humans whose stories breathe new life and redemption. I wish I could tape a GoPro on my forehead and rewatch every moment and listen to every conversation that unfolds whether it be in a seminar or at a coffee shop. I’ve seen a grown man cry as he explained “why would I hide my tears if I don’t try and cover up my laughter”. I have heard the Ambassador of Human Trafficking tell stories about his job and then sit across me at a cafeteria table and tell me about his wife. I have been encouraged to fight for equality by individuals who have worked for anti-racism rallies. I have learned about prayer through priests and family systems through teachers. I have seen life lived and healthy marriage displayed through family members in Raleigh who have invited us into their normal dwelling. The lists of fascinating people only fuel my fire of wanting to be Oprah in the hopes of getting paid to hear their stories (honestly, at this point hold the commission I’ll listen for free).

My desire for 2019 is to continue to lean with it rock with it.

And because my newfound passion includes me vibing with poetry I’ll end with this snippet by Idelette McVicker:

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.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.

Let us honour those who have been devalued.

Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.

Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart and wise.

Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.

Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.

Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.

Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.

Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.

Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.

Let us be women who Love.

Xo,

EMagz



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I'm Not That Important

YMCA.jpg

There is a weird feeling that I have started to cope with while at work.  It is embarrassing to admit but I feel at times as if I’m above the work I am doing.  I cannot really explain it but it creates a type of entitled mindset that is not healthy. It started after a month of working my new Job with the YMCA. I love the people I work with. And I love the mission and good work that the YMCA does in this area. Which is why I was conflicted on why I was feeling this way. My days were filled with middle schoolers and inventory management.  I have deemed myself the title of Director of Snacks because for a couple hours each day I organize snack in a windowless room for after-school programs.  I kept hearing a voice saying, “are you really becoming a professional here? Is this where you want your career to start? How are you really going to make a difference working here?”  

I think this is a problem that many others who are my age face their first year after college.  I spent four years studying theory and expected to have the perfect job handed to me instantly. I really woke up one day and started to take a step back and think on why I felt so entitled and how I could change it.  

This whole experience reminded me of a story from high school.  I grew up playing basketball and I was pretty good in elementary school.  I grew earlier on than all my friends so I was 5’7 in the 6th grade. Life was the best, I didn’t have to try that hard, rebounds were essentially handed to me.  I thought that this was going to be what forever would be like. I was under the impression that I would just be a good basketball player because my Dad was good.  So I never really worked that hard at it. So I woke up one day and I was still 5’7, but everyone I played against was a lot taller than that. Junior year of high school, I went from starting to coming off the bench, to no playing time at all.  It was never my fault though; it was always the coach. He was out to get me. I mean there was no way it had anything to do the fact that I was a liability on defense. It definitely had nothing to do with the fact I spent all offseason playing video games and munching on Doritos.  I remember feeling entitled. I believed that I deserved to be the best without any work. Then my dad came downstairs one night while I was playing 2K13 on my Xbox. I had complained to him all season and I think he was tired of hearing it. He said he didn’t want to come to my games to watch me ride the bench, but if I wanted to work hard he would help me get better.  Then before he walked back upstairs he turned to me and said, “your attitude is going to affect your altitude in this.” It was super cheesy but it was awesome. So we worked out together all spring and most of the summertime. We would go to the park and do sprints together. I watched youtube videos on how to improve my skills and even tried to become faster. When the next season came, I had a starting position again and it was awesome.   My basketball team was still really bad but it was my favorite season. I don’t really remember what our record was. All I remember is that my dad cared enough to work with me through the process.

Jesus worked hard, and he served others.  So I’m checking my attitude at the door of this YMCA and focusing on the blessings God is showing me at work.  It is a blessing that God does not care where I work but how I work. It is a blessing that I am not as important as I think I am.  It is a blessing that I get to work with wonderful people and help make a difference in kids lives. And it is a blessing that the Lord is working with me each and every day in the process. Maybe one day I will be a starter, but right now I am going to enjoy the process.

-Alex

For Work by John O’Donohue


May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work

You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those

Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.

May your work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you be present in what you do.

May you never become lost in the bland absences.

May the day never burden you.

May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams,

Possibilities and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.

May your soul calm, console and renew you.   

      


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a whole lotta discomfort

I’m not entirely sure where November went, but all of a sudden it’s December 5th and November is over and it’s that time to reflect on the past month of Fellows yet again. This month has most definitely been the busiest month of Fellows thus far, with a regional Fellows retreat the first weekend, being in a friend’s wedding the second, family birthday celebrations the third, Thanksgiving the fourth, and my first PA school interview (conveniently in Kentucky hah hah) the fifth. I feel like I haven’t gotten a chance to take a breath, and that has left me feeling drained and disconnected from the program and the people in it in a lot of ways.

I forget when or where we talked about this, but at some point this past month we talked about busy-ness in a way that made me incredibly uncomfortable because it was convicting for me. Basically, we talked about how in the past the idol of our culture has been leisure, as in you know you had ‘made it’ when you no longer had to work, and could spend all of your time doing leisure activities. But now, the idol of our culture has shifted from leisure to busy-ness, and a constant competition between one another to see who is busier, because in that busy-ness we find our value and worth as a productive human being. And is that not often how I find my worth as well? That if I do enough things, fill my time with enough activities, or people, or work, that somehow after all of that I will find that what I’m doing is finally sufficient? But it never is, so I keep adding. Because that’s what we do, what I do, when our idol is busy-ness.

The whole concept of busy-ness is tricky, because there is a certain degree of that which is good, for the Lord designed us to work, and to work hard. But how much are we supposed to work? How much is too much? When is the last time we also listened to the part of His design for us that involved a full day of rest? There are so many questions and so few concrete answers, and that’s so hard. Because I want nothing more than to ‘fix’ myself and make myself do the right thing, and yet I can’t seem to. There are so many things that I’m learning in Fellows that are so convicting; I’m being forced to push the boundaries of how I think and why I think that way, and where to give grace and where to give up legalism. There’s so much that I want to absorb and take in to myself, and yet I just can’t seem to do it. And that leads to feeling like I’m not taking advantage of the resources I’m being given, which leads to guilt and sometimes to shame, the latter of which is never good. So how do we stop the cycle? Where does it end?

Something cool that we talked about in class last Monday was the difference between guilt and shame. And while talking about them, I realized I had never really articulated the difference between them, but I knew there was one. That day, I was finally able to articulate out loud what they each are, and I realized how vital it is to for me, and for everyone, to understand that difference. Guilt, which is inherently good, is our first sign of a sin committed. That recognition leads to conviction, which leads to the foot of the cross, where Jesus is patiently waiting for us to lay down our sins so He can forgive and gently wash us clean, clearing us of sin and guilt. Shame, on the other hand, does the opposite. Shame tells us that we are what is bad, not sin. Shame takes us away from the cross, and towards our own self. And this is where things get dicey, because shame tells us the opposite of what the gospel does, which is that we are never worthy, and always unapproachable and unforgiveable. Shame takes the truth of who Jesus says we are and twists it into a form beyond recognition, disallowing us from seeking Him and coercing us into seeking some ugly form of self-correction instead. Shame is what we have to FIGHT, because Jesus doesn’t want us to feel ashamed. He wants us to come to Him rather than to ourselves.

These are only a few things that I’ve learned this month, but I hope they give you a small peek into what Fellows is having me reflect upon and dig into. What I’m learning makes me uncomfortable sometimes, and it digs at things that I don’t always want to be sought after, but I’m learning and growing and that’s the point of this program. To push things that are difficult, for the sake of sanctification and learning to sit with Jesus more every day. It’s crazy to me that the Creator of the universe actually enjoys just sitting and being with us, but it’s the truth that I will always hold on to in the midst of so many other moving pieces.

Until next month –


Rachel

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A Sentimental Nomad

Chapter 3: The Sentiment Floods Back In. One of the main attributes that my friends back home know me for is when I get so overwhelmed in a moment of joy that I just scream I LOVE MY PEOPLE. And as my last two blog posts have recognized and reflected, I have been on a slow journey to sentiment with these new people here in Raleigh. As we live life together, as we learn about what it means to love God and love neighbor, as we battle with asking our families hard questions for an assignment that requires deep reflection on self and family, as we giggle about nothing when we’re supposed to be paying attention and being intentional, as we find ourselves at karaoke bars that are set up as mini living rooms, as we create relationships with teachers and mentors and just down right wise people who open their homes to us and make room for all 11 of us in their lives, as we are taught to sit with the Lord and give Him time and ourselves grace when we don’t find that time— all of these things are all of a sudden making me stop in mid-jaunt and scream I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!!! It’s all cultivating this true sense of community that in my head is actually exemplifying what the heavenly Table is going to be like. This place where we are walking and talking and growing and giggling and always yelling I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!!! So that’s been cool.

I also am just incredibly thankful for every family in this community. Because another prong of this blog post is about homes. Each of us live in someone’s home. That’s 11 families that were like, “Yea, I’ll give up space in my house to a stranger and let them roam and eat my food and share my couch and possibly probably mess up my routine and leave dishes in my sink sometimes and leave my bathrooms dirtier than they were before and invite other kids to my house. That sounds fun.” And then on top of that is all the other families who welcome us into their homes for class, for dinner, for talks on the porch, for random intervals between responsibilities, for opening their REFRIGERATORS and their PANTRIES, for us nomads who just float from house to house and receive actual nourishment. It’s hard to not have your own common place, your own house, your own couch, your own fridge. It’s hard being this kind of nomad. Because yes we all have homes but recently I have felt the effects of not having one space to go to and feel completely at home and comfortable. But when I think about it, all of these families are not feeling that completely either. Because their house which used to be completely theirs is now being shared. So my point is, our homes are meant for each other. They are meant for sharing. They are meant for cultivating these heavenly environments of community and sentiment. And I am so thankful for all of the families who are seeking that by being a part of the Fellows community. As Jason said in a prayer recently, we are an adult cohort that reflects life and eternity in a world of darkness.

We are nomads in this world because it is not our final home. So there is always going to be a sense of discomfort and crossed boundaries. But praise God from whom all blessings flow for the homes that we are able to create and the people that fill them and the promise that the memories made by these homes and these people are relevant today and will be even more relevant and beautiful in eternity.

peace out girlscout, Amy

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Raleigh the Sequel: Ch. 2 (Oops)

Well folks, we have a lot to cover since our last interaction. I am now three months into the Raleigh Fellows program and I’m just now writing my second monthly blog post. In case you were wondering, 3 ≠ 2. I did not do my blog post from last month and so I will do my best this time to fill y’all in on everything from October and November. Maybe you are asking yourself, “hmm self, I wonder why Philip didn’t write his second blog post?” I wish I had a good answer to give you. The truth is though, I don’t know why I didn’t write it. I didn’t forget… how could I with Alex and his marvelous Groupme reminders that blogs are due? I think I just didn’t want to. I didn’t want to sit down and reflect. I am realizing this is a problem I have. Reflecting. I feel as if I don’t know how to do it. I’ve grown apathetic to it because it is easy to simply enjoy experiences and not look back on them. It is easy to go through life without reflecting.

There have been some amazing things that have happened in the past two months. I went to the NC State Fair with all the Fellows plus more friends and ate way too much fried food. We have heard some incredible speakers come and talk to us about truly important things. Dan Nobles spoke about contemplative prayer; Pastor Jay Traylor explained the “why’s” behind Anglican liturgy; Sam Bass (that’s my host dad!!) and Geoff Hall showed us all about managing our finances and what the scriptures say about that. We went to a weekend camp with the Apostle’s youth group. It was so much fun to hang out with my tenth grade guys and see how God is working in those relationships. We went to a weekend retreat for all the eastern Fellows programs where we got to hear the US Ambassador-At-Large for Trafficking in Persons talk about what it means to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). I wrote and presented my own eulogy in which I made everyone present toast my memory with a Nacho Cheese Dorito eaten via fork. I went to Southport, NC for Thanksgiving with my family because my parents will be moving there in the spring! Additionally I was able to visit one of my best friends from childhood along with one of my best friends from college and his wife in Boston, MA where I am currently sitting in Terminal A Gate A11 of Boston-Logan Airport writing this already late blog post (it was due November 30).

I am really having the time of my life. I love this program. I love the people. I love my job. I love Raleigh. Despite this, I keep coming back to the reality that even though life feels mostly amazing right now, I know I am missing a huge part of it. My time with the Lord has been mediocre at best. I have been struggling to sit with Him and talk with Him. He feels distant to me at times and I think it stems from me having a hard time reflecting. Having a hard time looking back and seeing how God is shaping my life through all of these amazing events that have been happening. My mentor, Bob, has been such a light in this. Whenever I get together with him, he is so patient with me and so good at having me look back and sift through everything around me. I know the other fellows are always there to love me as well because they are a group who loves and cares so deeply and well. Amongst all the madness and laughter of the first three months, I think God has been revealing to me this struggle I have with reflecting. So I am excited to see how he is going to work in me in regards to that. Unfortunately it’ll probably take some reflecting to figure that out. It is easy to go through life without looking back and reflecting, but is it worth it?

I hope y’all enjoyed Ch. 2 and will look forward to Ch. 3. I’ll give you this question to think about in anticipation. Will Philip actually submit a blog post on time? (let’s be real, I was already late on this one and the only reason it is getting done tonight is because my flight got delayed an hour and 40 minutes.)

-Philip Greco

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Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Shalom! 1/3 of the way through the program, I wasn’t really sure what to expect this far into it all. I wasn’t sure if I would be living my very best life or if I would be miserable. I wasn’t sure if I was going to love my job or if I was going to hate it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get along with my host family or if I would be going directly up to my room after I got home everyday (Chris and Pauline if you’re reading this then know it is the former and not the latter!). My introduction into the fellows started with the unveiling of walls that I had intentionally forgotten about. Month 2 had a lot of focus on sitting still and having courage the Lord will love me exactly where I’m at currently. Month 3 I’m not quite sure…

 

I have lacked a lot of motivation to do really anything this month. I have struggled to be present with my friends, present in classes, present in work, and honestly present in my relationship with Christ. This month has been a month of struggling to fight for joy. My usual motivators, the things that really get me going, have been dragging me down. I have felt alone in a room full of friends, and have let the negativity of the world and thoughts that come along with that creep into my daily actions and words.

 

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

-John 1:45-46

 

I feel like Nathanael here, wondering can anything good come out of where I am? Can I really be happy in my current state? Can I be filled with joy and thanksgiving? If you were to ask me now I would probably give you some fluff answer of how the Jesus is the great provider and that He loves us and fills us with joy. But that would be unauthentic. A more honest answer would be to say, “I honestly am struggling to find the good in anything. I can’t seem to find joy in whatever that I am doing and I really have no motivation to even get out and do the things that usually give me life.”  But this is the walk. This is where leaning into the sufficiency of Jesus begins. This is where we see the difference of, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” and “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

 

Philip said to him,  “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him; “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

-John 1:46-50

 

Come and see, three words that are used fairly often in the Bible, inviting people into the truth of Christ. Even though currently I sit in the jurisdiction of “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I am hoping as I walk closer to Christ he will call out to me, “Come and see what good has already come out of the Nazareth and I will show you greater joy, love, and peace than you could ever imagine.” I know there are seasons of this, where it just seems like nothing is joyful or happy, but I know that this is a season. I know that the Lord is good and he calls us like he called Nathanael. So as I continue to walk to where Christ is, absorbing and cherishing what is around me, I am intently listening for this call of come and see the good that surrounds you Daylon.

 

Shalom,

Daylon Shaw

P.S. If you were wondering if the fellows is Raleigh exclusive, it isn’t. BUT Raleigh be the city.

P.S. If you were wondering if the fellows is Raleigh exclusive, it isn’t. BUT Raleigh be the city.

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I'm a Carolina Basketball Fan Now!

Another month has come and gone here in Raleigh. Happy November 30th! It is hard for me to believe that one-third of our program is done. I am in a season where I want time to slow down. I have found myself hoping for longer mornings, more time in the adventurous, still and everything in between with other fellows and in sweet conversation with the people I work with. Going to Richmond (home sweet home) over Thanksgiving, I was longing for more hours with family and familiar friends and coming back to Raleigh I couldn’t wait for more time to spend with my host family. I am yearning for more time in the simple moments of everyday. In reflecting on this, I realize how special this is. It is not all the time that I am wanting to stay in so many moments for as long as I can. The Lord is revealing me so many sweet blessings during this time of life in the fellows program. This is not to say that every day is easy, but God is showing me small snapshots of beauty that I want to cling to. Beautiful moments like running through the rain and enjoying my first ever Carolina basketball game with Emily and her parents (I am now a certified fan [see title of post] TAR!!) and the authentic friend that she is. Working with Rachel and knowing she will pop into my office almost every Tuesday - Thursday promptly at 9AM to chat; a beautiful consistency. Having Philip as my roundtable cooking partner and getting to see more of his incredibly patient and kind soul. Always knowing Daylon will be my hype man in an instant, but also someone to be real with. Getting time with Sarah who can get to the bottom of your heart in a five-minute conversation and how the Lord is beautifully using her in our fellows group. Looking across the room at Jun during a funny moment and knowing that he will be giggling right along with you. Laura feeling like a person of refuge and home, whether that be because we actually frequent her host home’s porch a lot (thank you sweet Dotson family, we love you) or because that is just who the Lord beautifully made her to be. Sitting next to Josiah at roundtable dinner and hearing his hilarious side comments but also intentional questions about how people are. Giggling with Alex about memes and moments and knowing he is always down to bool (is that how you spell that?) (it means “hang” if anyone did not know). Being around the joyful, peaceful presence that is Amy and knowing that I can always count on her for anything—whether it be meaningful conversation at LBC or dance breaks with our 6th grade girls in youth group.

I am thankful for all these beautiful moments and more, especially with the 10 people I get to walk alongside this year with. I am thankful to be given moments that I am always longing for more of (can’t time slow down?). But I know this feeling of longing for more time in sweet moments won’t go away. We may always have this sense on Earth. God gives us little glimpses of glory each day. This glory that will one day be shown in full when we reach his kingdom. I am grateful for the promise of that kingdom and that it is beginning here on Earth with little peeks into it each day.

xox Lauren

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Write It Down

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Write It Down

My friend Erin once told me that we should write down the things that we love. So began “The List of 100 Happies”. This list became a compilation of places, moments, things and people that make your heart do a little dance and your smile grow a little bigger. Every year (honestly everyday) I think of a revision. I knock down number 76 and add emphasis to number 20 and I look back in adoration at number 4. This list doesn’t have a particular order and there are no rights or wrongs. They are just words to match feelings and pen on paper to ensure that I never forget the seasons life and little things to be thankful for.

I moved to Raleigh and naturally I started a new list. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving and all the holiday cheer, feast your eyes on the happies that have slowly but surely made this new pin on the GPS feel like home.

I’m thankful for the spaces that feel familiar. For LBC on a Sunday night under twinkly lights and a table full of strangers that have become community. For the Crutchfields open-door policy that ensures a free La Croix and a cozy fire to sit around. For Sola and their addictive oat milk lattes that have convinced me I can never drink lactose again. For Church of the Apostles warm greeting on a Sunday morning and generations of people that feel like family. For the Jordan’s kitchen that has facilitated conversation and without fail provides mini cinnamon rolls ready to be eaten. For the Dotsons front porch swing that I have consistently occupied even when Laura isn’t on the premises. For Mary Vandal Youngs living room couch and the spiritual formation that makes time feel slow and good. For the Kranhert’s home that feels like my second place of residence, praise God for that trundle bed and Amy Gross. For Emily Tripps backyard and the laughter and side conversations that take place while pushing kids on a swing set. For Molly Crutchfields room that I get to sneak away to on a Thursday and hear all the middle school tea. For the Byrons backyard and the inevitable croquet games played there. For Sallie DuBose and Erin Naziris’ homes that blend my old world into my new. For the Boultons basement where movie nights are guaranteed to be better than going to a theatre.

I’m thankful for the small and ridiculous moments. For the sheer volume of our Fellows group. For the way we all think it’s socially appropriate to burst into song. For the pranks. For interactions with middle schoolers because we all remember how weird that season of life was. For the “talent shows” that include hand dancing in white gloves under a blacklight. For the unpredicted moments when we can’t hold in a giggle. For the Triller music videos. For every word that comes from the mouth of Emilee Grissom. For Bethany Dosters infectious laughter. For the times that Laura Merten starts krumping to worship music in church. For the dance battles and rap creations. For every single time Lauren Brawley lights up to a song and turns on her performance persona. For when people do something goofy or come alive. For the way that people allow each other to live in full freedom to be themselves. For Dance Dance Revolution at Boxcar. For the stories that we belly laugh over.


What I’ve realized while making these lists is that places and things cultivate goodness, but it is the humans that help bring life and light into the spaces that make them feel complete. So here is a shout out to the people that have challenged me, walked alongside of me, laughed with me and edified me:


Ashley Crutchfield and her wild personality that screams life to the full. The woman loves Jesus in bold ways and can dance like there’s no tomorrow. Sam Crutchfield and his wisdom. When Sam speaks we all lean in a little closer to hear what he will say.  Rachel Ricks and the way she lights up and speaks about something she is passionate about. And her pipes, shawty can sing. Sarah Macris and her ability to ask Qs that make you uncover things about yourself. Philip Greco and his boldness to eat Doritos with a fork because he doesn’t what to get “cheese dust” on his fingers.  Amy Gross and her “YES” attitude. I mean the girl will show up for me and join me in shenanigans at any hour of any day. Jun Soo Kim and his ability to tell a good story and have everyone else lean in, elbows on the table and all. Daylon Shaw and his DTB (Down to Bool) mentality. Remember that time we put on wigs and went rollerblading just because we could? Yeah, me too.  Laura Merten and her thoughtfulness. Sister will get you a cute card and a small gift just because she wants to remind you that you’re worth it. Josiah Lindquist (JoJo) and his consistency and willingness to spend time with people. Lauren Brawley and the way she RADIATES (especially when Usher comes on Spotify que). If you want a mixture of energy and entertainment with a side of authenticity hit up LB’s line. Alex Gilleland’s quirky mannerisms that allow everyone to take off their masks and be goofy (if anyone needs a hand-dancing routine to Firework by Katy Perry, he’s got you).  

C.S. Lewis of course said it best when he talks about friendship:

“In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

All the praise hands that the Master of Ceremonies was at work in knitting together this group and continues to be faithful as we lean into life together.

You heard it here first, the sneak peak of my happies. Txt it for the full list.

Peace out<3

Emily Magnus


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The Meanest Person in the World

 Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to

follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of

soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek

no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven

around the heart of wonder.

For Presence

by John O’Donohue



I don't really love being in the same place for long periods of time.  I love being on the move and having something to look forward to. I struggle often with the practice of being still in God’s presence.  I love it when I do it but busyness seems to be getting in the way of my time lately. These past couple months as a Fellow have been some of the busiest months of my life.  We spend so much time doing things for God that it is hard to find time to actually spend time with God. I usually react to this by questioning where God really is and getting angry with him.

My Fellows Internship is with the Young Men’s Christian Association which is a non-profit in Raleigh.  They do a lot of good in the community

There is this kid that loves to not listen to what is asked of him and go with the flow.  It is awesome to watch. One afternoon when we were outside he decided to act like he couldn’t hear me when I asked him to come sit down for a game.  I called his name and warned him 3 times and he stuck out his tongue, continuing to do his own thing. Obviously this is not okay so I told him he was gonna have to sit in time out for 10 minutes.  This was definitely not part of his plans for the afternoon. He wanted to show me this so he pushed me as hard as he could and told me I was the meanest person in the world. Another counselor came over and talked him down then he came over to me to apologize.  

I think I kind of act the same way with God.  I want to run around and do my own thing. I want freedom.  Then when I come to the Lord and he doesn’t say what I want I get angry.  He doesn’t put us in time out though. He loves us where we are and says he is here and always will be an that we can be present with him in the here and now.  I realized that instead of enjoying this truth, I often look ahead to what the next big thing is. I look forward to things. I look forward to what job I will get after fellows, where I will live, how much money I can save, when I will get married, and so on.  None of these things are bad but if I am not letting them happen in God’s timing, I am wasting what he is giving me right now.

So I’ll try and look towards where God is right now, and stop pretending I cannot hear him; because he is here and it is time to come sit.


  • Alex


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Irreplaceability vs. Replacing Ourselves

I’ll never forget when Richie Rojas texted me asking for my “fun facts” for fellows. I was elbows deep, head spinning, about what I could say that would make me sound unique from this sea of seemingly similar people - all college graduates seeking discernment in vocation and in this community. I wanted to differentiate myself with something other than “hiking” or “coffee shops,” manipulating and overanalyzing what response would most make me stand out.

I’ve been conditioned to speak like a broken record on what MY strengths are, what I (and only I) can bring to the table, and heck, what enneagram number I identify with. I think we all strive to be - or atleast to present ourselves as - irreplaceable. Our culture and our internal narratives tell this that irreplaceability that this is the peak of success and height of security. To work our way to the top at any cost, even if it means exploiting others in order to keep our irreplaceable knowledge and power.

The Fellows recently got to hear from Josh Hancock, Cafe Manager at A Place at the Table, a nonprofit in Raleigh providing community and healthy food for all regardless of means, who spoke to the fear we all have that if we teach someone everything we know, they will replace us, and not need us anymore. In our pride, we hold power over others. We like to be needed. I am learning that this sense of irreplaceability is hurtful - breeding a sense of pride within ourselves, damaging growth in community, and destroying human flourishing.

Our own strength and power will always fail. Fellows recently read Joshua 24 in Old Testament Class, reminding us of the strength and power coming from the presence of God. In our world, we are ritualized to blindness, overstimulated to to the point that we fail to see reality clearly. In the Old Testament, the Israelites faced this competing reality with Baal, who presented his own narrative that was mutually exclusive and territorial. Like the Israelites,  we also have counter narratives. In class, we pointed to success and busyness as temptations we feel acutely today. We project busyness because it gives us worth, value and productivity. Yet busyness, drives us into despair, loneliness, isolation. Our pursuit of irreplaceability - to stand out - can lead us to ultimately stand in isolation.

We aren’t irreplaceable, and if we are honest, we don’t want to be. We are simply a mist, a vapor, and our time is not guaranteed. Being irreplaceable is a huge burden to bare, a constant source of worry and stress. If we are irreplaceable, failure isn’t an option, and we wouldn’t dare to admit we are overworked, overwhelmed, or ever ask for help. The weight on our shoulders will take us one of two ways- either crush us, or inflate our ego to create a suffocating, competitive ladder within our community.

Irreplaceability can’t outlive itself. As fellows, we recently wrote eulogies for Mary Vandel Young’s spiritual formations class, the concept being to “begin with the end in mind.” But, if we live with a mindset that we are the only fit for our role in our vocations, communities, or ministries, then those very eulogies truly are the culmination of our lives. Upon our death, that moment will, at best, proclaim truth ever about us, and at worst, depict an inaccurate picture of what we did or who we were. In order to truly leave a legacy, we need to learn to replace ourselves, to cultivate a movement beyond this mist of a lifetime we have. Irreplaceability takes no care to the enduring quality of the places we care most about, because it dies, relocates, or moves on with us.

As much as I want to believe the opposite- I am not the only girl for the job. I am not the only fellow who could sleep in my upstairs bedroom at the Dotson’s house, I am not the “best fit” to tutor my friend Jay at Neighbor to Neighbor or lead eighth grade girls small group. Nothing stands out about the work I contribute during the week in class or at my internship. But, I am passionate about empowering these people and giving them dignity so that they may flourish with life and vitality. And, most of all, to make room for someone to come after me. My hope for this year, and for this community, is that we are paving a way for a legacy filled with grace, peace, and love to go behind us. If we believe we are the only fit for the job- we will be. But in a few months, the year will end, and so will our influence here. What this community needs is not more of me, or another person just like me to come after, but, for me to pave the way today for flourishing long beyond my time here.  To care deeply these people and this place beyond the nine-month timeline I’ve been given in this space. Who will I equip and empower in this season? Who will I be proud to take my place when Fellows Graduation rolls around?

What a beautiful thing to strive for - to replace ourselves.

Laura Merten



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