Hi! We are so glad you decided to take a gander at all of our scattered thoughts and fun feelings! The last 3 weeks have been a whirlwind but it’s been so fun to start to get to know everyone and jump into community. We all come to you from different places, families, friend groups, and seasons of life. We are all still a little unsure of why we’re here and what we want out of this year. But for some reason, the Lord wanted this beginning for each of us. He saw an inner light within each of us that was waiting to be seen and fueled. So here we are. All 11 of us. With different purposes and different lights. John O’Donohue in one of his poems says “shelter and energy come alive when a beginning is embraced,” and my prayer for each of us is that we would embrace this beginning so that the possibilities and excitement can have room to grow and flourish and ultimately provide us a shelter and energy in our new home of Raleigh. It’s a little hard to end our college stage because of how many memories and friendships were made and nourished. But walking into this new home was like walking into a hug. I am so thankful for the community of Apostles and our host families for welcoming us with endless hello’s and meals and laughs. Stay tuned for how this beginning turns into chapter 2 and so on until the fruition of this year is revealed!
I am not really good at small talk. I think it is one of my least favorite things in the world. It is funny that I say that because this past month I have engaged in more conversations about the weather than I can count. For some reason, the LORD has placed me in a new city that is filled with opportunities for small talk. It is interesting I feel this way because God listens to my small talk all the time. I don’t know if he likes it or not but he definitely listens when I ramble on to him about little things bothering me throughout the day. This past month he has listened to me complain about how bad the traffic is, the amount of sleep I should have gotten, and how hot the weather has been. While it is comical how minute these complaints are they usually lead to conversations that are deeper than I ever expected. That is how I would explain this first month in Raleigh. I have had meetings with new friends, old friends, mentors, and pastors. Most of the meetings start out small, but then lead to deep fulfilling conversations about life, love, and salvation.
I don’t know why I am here or what I am doing really but I know it is a blessing. I look around at times and smile because there is a peace knowing that God is in control. There is little room to stress or worry when what you are doing is not for yourself. I have been able to engage in small talk that has laid foundations for life-long relationships. I definitely miss my old friends, family, and life I had in the mountains. But there is a peace that is beyond compare knowing that the plan you are a part of is not your own.
So, I’ll I try and get better at small talk and see what the Lord makes of it.
Next week marks one month since the Fellows program started, and my goodness it’s been quite the month! We went to the beach for 3 days, had a dance party, went to the White Water Center in Charlotte, made some music videos, started class, started jobs, laughed a ton, and started to see what it looked like to be vulnerable with one another. So much has happened that it’s hard to know where to start, but here’s a few things that I’ve learned thus far:
1. Every group of friends has different dynamics that you have to figure out. Joining a new group of people means learning how each other work, and it’s possible to have a much different role in one group of friends than another.
2. Getting to share an in-depth testimony (~45 minutes to an hours worth of talking) is one of the craziest, strangest, most FREEING things I have ever done. Vulnerability is tough, but I have seen the Holy Spirit work so clearly through it that I cannot deny its power any longer. Community and true, deep friendship/community requires truth and vulnerability.
3. Being new at a job is tough and weird. It’s easy to feel out of place, and it also requires getting to know another set of people and the personalities they bring along with the dynamics they cast.
4. Busyness requires that I take advantage of times of quiet to rest in the Lord, and I am really bad at taking advantage of those times. I want to grow in that this year.
5. Racquetball is FUN.
6. Living with a host family is the best, and it demonstrates to me the service-oriented and loving heart that Jesus has, and how He chooses to show that through other people.
7. Any life transition brings difficulties, no matter how many good and beautiful things may be a part of it as well.
8. Living in the present is essential to learning and growing the most, but it is also one of the most difficult things to do. Living in the past or future is often so much easier for my mind to take hold of.
I’ve learned and am still learning so much more than that, but I hope that can give a glimpse into what this past month has been like. I’m so excited to continue developing friendships with the 10 others in my program, and to continue growing in community together – keep praying for us!
During my college career, I worked a part-time job at JMU’s student union—go dukes. One shift a week, I would sit in a small booth on the basement floor facilitating the renting of pool balls and board games to any college kid that wanted to play. While the job was great, it offered a lot of down time to browse the internet. Naturally, my senior year shifts often entailed googling what I should do with my life post-grad. It was in these shifts that I stumbled upon reading more on the Fellows program, which I had heard of from friends of friends. In that semi-stinky booth I distinctly remember reading this very Raleigh Fellows blog, intrigued on what many past fellows had to say about the program. So, if you’re a senior in college wondering what you should do with your life while sitting at your part-time student union job—welcome! I’ve been there. Who knows, maybe this is a sign that you will be writing one of these posts in a year.
I really did not know what to expect coming to Raleigh. I found it difficult to articulate what I would be doing in the Fellows program when people asked me questions about post-grad. At the end summer I felt an odd tension of being ready and eager to move to North Carolina and experience the Raleigh Fellows, but also becoming more and more nervous as the date drew near. The evening I arrived in Raleigh, I pulled up to the Daniel’s home and as I walked up the drive, they opened the door and immediately welcomed me in. After they so graciously helped me move in, Spencer asked if pizza was okay for dinner. I knew I was in the right place (pizza is a love language, right?). The past 3ish weeks in Raleigh have just offered more comforting moments of knowing I am in the right place. It’s moments like when the Daniel’s continually invite me into their lives and make me feel right at home. When the Fellows went on our beach orientation retreat and “Yeah!” by Usher came on and we (well okay, maybe mostly me) came alive in dancing and singing together. Eating dinner with my mentor, Laura and having such easy, fun conversation over some dank grilled cheese. Going on mom walks with the Fellows ladies (thankfully, walking is an agreed upon fave hobby) and having meaningful conversation with each of them. Making weekly Triller music videos at Roundtable (even though we missed last week, sorry to the fans). How the Crutchfield’s have invited us not only into their home, but their lives as well. Playing games at the Byron’s, especially the most intense game of spoons I have maybe ever been a part of. It’s moments like these and many more that make me so excited to see what the rest of these 9 months will hold.
Our book for Family Systems Theory, To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue says it quite well, “There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could.” I am thankful we trust a God that knows our journey ahead better than we ever could. Here’s to a great year!
Alternative Title: Why Ice Cream Makes Everything Better
The first day I came to Raleigh I ate ice cream three times. Despite the risk of becoming known as The Girl Who Is Overly Obsessed With Ice Cream too early in my fellows career, I am here to share with you all of my favorite ice cream experiences in Raleigh. I am quickly becoming an expert- by which I mean self proclaimed expert as no one else has called me that - on the best ice cream places in town.
By the end of the summer, it was definitely time me to move to Raleigh. I had started declaring every day “take your daughter to work day” and showing up to my mom’s office unannounced. Most days I tried to convince her to leave work to either take me to get my nails done or, you guessed it, eat ice cream with me, despite the fact that my mom is a vegan. Also, I had visited Raleigh this summer on a trip where my boss took me to The Howling Cow Creamery, so I was pretty sure I was going to like Raleigh.
But, the day I moved down I was a freaking mess. Thankfully, Grandma Dot and Granddaddy Bob (who has quickly become a local legend) live close to Raleigh and took me in when I showed up at their doorstep the night before the program started. They played a few rounds of monopoly deal with me, which was great until my grandma told me that I had unleashed a monster in her. One piece of advice: when your grandma becomes a monster, it’s really time to get your act together and get on the road.
When I pulled up to the Dotson’s house, they warmly welcomed me into their home, they helped me move in, provided truly everything I needed and understood that I was likely to burst into tears at any given moment. They even offered me ice cream - twice.
On our orientation retreat, while writing our fellows covenant, my fellow fellow Alex Gilleland called me out on using one too many bank references as analogies for our relationship with the Lord. That was when I decided it was really time to stop reliving my undergrad economics days, stop listening to “Old Friends” and “Stop this Train” (both of which are worth the listen) on repeat and embrace what this new season has to offer.
For all the people that knew me at UVA, they knew it was always a mystery where my next meal was going to come from. That is 100% still true but as I’ve done some reflecting, I have some people to thank that I haven’t gone hungry yet. One of my first impressions of the program was how many people from Church of the Apostles invest so much into the fellows, and how overwhelmed with gratitude I was that they would do it for me. So here’s to the people and places that have fed me (honestly both physically and spiritually), made Raleigh feel like home in only twenty-one days and have made the Fellows Program come alive for me.
Aselya has quickly become my partner in crime in all things ice cream eating and Enneagram “nine”-ing, I mean just look, the girl is so innovative, she eats her ice cream with a straw when it starts to melt so none of it goes to waste. She’s gonna save the world some day. Ann has prepared almost every meal for me, nurtured me, cared for me as her own. Jim has understood me, has engaged with me and asked me good questions, has made me feel like a part of the family. Hunter and I have about eight more months to start acknowledging each other at the gym. And the Dotsons introduced me to Black List which is now a Monday tradition- so they have certainly changed me for the better. I am grateful for the months I get to live with them, it is truly a gift.
The first thing I heard about the Raleigh Fellows Program was that Ashley Crutchfield is awesome. And it’s impossible to overstate. I’ve already started taking Ashley’s open door policy liberally (my apologies to Mr. & Mrs. Butler to whom I have shown up unannounced maybe more than once). I told my friends this summer that the Crutchfield’s had ALREADY made me so welcomed in their house, that it was so exciting to have an older mentor whose life and ministry is centered around opening their family - the beauty and even the brokenness. The Crutchfields are an example to us all of love and grace and a freaking good time.
Megan is my mentor, and when I read her description of what she likes to do, I truly thought I was reading my own. The first time I showed up at her door she fed me and I poured out my life to her and now I think she knows me better than I know myself. I think I am the luckiest fellow in the world that I get to hang out with Megan this year AND her three daughters Lillie, Mary Hardin and Cate who make me melt every time I see them.
Chris Byron interviewed me for the program and I knew I was talking to the coolest person ever. But little did I know I was talking to someone who would take spoons as seriously as I did, would invite me to zumba with him as his mid-life crisis hobby, who I would share ice cream and croquet with. Chris’ wife Pauline might also just be tied with Chris for Coolest Person Ever, so it’s a good thing they are married. She is someone who will go on five (!) mile walks with me and kick my butt, who will go deep and hold nothing back. Who will challenge me to learn more about prayer and about the Spirit, who can make everyone who walks into a room feel welcome. I am thankful for the Byrons and that they have opened their home and their lives to us.
The group of girls in this fellows year is incredible. Thank you to the committee that hand picked Rachel, Sarah, Lauren, Amy, and Emily to be my friends (boys, you’ll be featured next month if you keep letting us watch This Is Us in the Boulton’s movie room #thank #you). Emily has introduced me to my new favorite band, Lauren has taken me through the hardest circuit workouts of my life (#still #sore), Rachel is teaching me new strumming patterns on guitar, Sarah is asking me hard questions as I go through my EnneaCrisis of figuring out which number I am on the enneagram, and Amy offers to go to Madewell with me at least once per week, which should definitely be listed as the sixth love language.
Point of Clarification: No Mom, having kids is NOT in my five year plan.
My rational brain fully understands that the bird scooters are a boom and bust phenomenon and are quickly going out of style as they dont actually solve any issues of microtransportation. I get it. But BOY are they fun to ride through town. And through the cemetery. And the church parking lot. And literally everywhere. And for a year that is supposed to have very little expenses, your money sure goes quick when you spend $0.15 per minute on these things.
The Morgan Street Food Hall
S/O to my girls at Carolls Kitchen who already know my name. That is friendship my dudes. I think I have walked over here during work more days than I haven’t. Make Your Own Lunch Break.
And, last but not least, the embarrassingly long list of ice cream places I have already ventured to, most of which I have been to multiple times: Two Roosters, Goodberry’s, Raleigh Rolls, Howling Cow, and lots and lots of Double Dunker. Thank you to all of my Double Dunker kindred spirits and supporters in the journey this has been.
Raleigh, you might be stuck with me for a while.
“In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening:
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”
You better believe I underlined, circled, and wrote out the word AMEN next to just about every word in this poem. Appropriately titled, “For A New Beginning”, Johnny here seems to perfectly package what every Fellow is feeling into pretty words and good phrases. I think a common theme amongst every Fellow and human that walks the planet is the desire of comfort and yearning to be known. So we choose to cling to the kingdoms and life plans we have perfectly curated for ourselves, but somewhere along the way we are forced out of the places that have sheltered us. For most of us, we outgrew our four years at perspective universities where we could escape the impending doom of adulthood and cling to fun, adventure, and year-long sleepovers with roommates that became best friends. After four years of learning what it looks like to settle into a place and build up a community, we packed up our cars for Raleigh and had to courageously enter into something new and unknown.
So here is to a year of new beginnings, to trusting that He who promised is faithful, and that we would all learn to delight in the process of stepping onto new ground and into new seasons.
peace and blessings,
Hey friends, family, potential future fellows, or really anyone else that stumbled upon this website on a random Google search for, “Things I should do when I graduate college.” WELCOME. We as a fellow class (hopefully everyone else agrees) are stoked to be here and have been welcomed, loved, and treated as rock stars since we started this past Wednesday. The welcoming week and orientation stellar to the max. Very much Oui, Chef. I am grateful for each hand that went into making this Fellows Program come to life. Thank you.
I wasn’t really sure what I wasn’t getting into when I started applying for this program and to be frank with all of you I’m still not sure what I am getting myself into with all of this. We just returned from our orientation retreat and it was full of laughter, karaoke, food, fellowship, late nights, early mornings, and bliss. I would say the Lord has already begun to chip away at some misconceptions I’ve had about the program and has been molding me to hopefully what this year will have in store.
Why are you doing that? I had this question posed to me many times this summer when I would tell people about the program. People with genuine desires to want to know why and people who were wondering why I wasn’t going to find a job in my field and trying to move up the career ladder. To answer this question, I’m not sure why I am here. I did not want to live in North Carolina, I didn’t want to move to Raleigh, I didn’t pursue the dreams that I wanted to do. I didn't really decide to do to the Fellows program or even care about other options until Jesus pruned the vine and began to chip away at my (keyword, my) life plans. It's hard for me to even fathom being in Raleigh, much less a fellow. So, I still don’t know how to answer the question, “Why are you doing the Fellows?” Ask me again in 9 months and maybe I will have an answer. Until then, I will be listening, living, absorbing, and cherishing every sweet moment that I get to spend here.
Talk to you all soon,
Yesterday, we arrived at Figure Eight Island for our final retreat, one last hurrah together as a Fellows class before we part ways. We’re not sure yet where we’ll all end up, but we know we’re losing at least three to different states, if not more. And last night, as the waves crashed just outside our generously rented beach house and the smell of Ashley’s chocolate bundt cake baking wafted into the living room, The Raleigh Fellows Class of 2018 was having a party. DT3, our resident beats master, was the DJ, with Emilee Paige Grissom as MC because if anyone is going to bring energy and life to a party it’s her. Elaina and Rachel tore up the “dancefloor” with moves that would give Beyoncé a run for her money. Faith successfully sang pretty much every lyric to every song that came on, a feat even more impressive when you consider I don’t think she ever stopped dancing. Hayes twirled and dipped Katie around until they both got adorably flustered. Dan and Chris, of course, made us all laugh as they confidently jumped, lunged, and spun like dorks, each playing off the other’s energy. Taylor slept on the couch close by because he has the coveted ability to sleep any and everywhere. And I sat there watching them all with the biggest, goofiest grin on my face. I was overwhelmed with love for these people who have become some of my closest friends. These past few weeks have been pretty hard as Fellows comes to a close. There was so much to be done, so much to plan, and so much to cling to as it slowly slipped away. But last night, watching my best friends laugh, dance, and even sleep, I didn’t have a care in the world. Everyone was 100% themselves and it felt perfect, for however brief a time.
This morning, my Enneagram thought for the day, as a Two, was an affirmation. It said, “I now affirm that I can let go of loved ones.” Well, that didn’t sound like a particularly good thing to do. Not at first. But I do think there’s a reason I read that thought today. Over the past few weeks, the Fellows have simultaneously spent a ton of time, and yet almost no time together. There’ve been conferences to attend, families to host, and job interviews to be had. But when we finally came back together yesterday, with no interruption in sight, it was like no time had passed. I can let go of these people, a hard, hard thing to do. Because we will, at some point, come back together, and I believe it’ll be like no time has passed. I don’t want to let them go, but I need to. I love them, but like all things that I love that aren’t God, they are meant to be held loosely. Holding things loosely is not my strongest quality, which I imagine is why that was the affirmation for Twos today.
Over the course of the next few days, we will affirm each other. Trying to put into words what each of these people means to me, and the beautiful things I see in them, is an insurmountable task on my own. As Taylor said to us Fellows at our closing banquet, “Y’all know what you mean to me.” I do hope the other Fellows know what they mean to me, because sometimes, most times, words fail. But—and I forget which of our class readings this comes from—where words fail, the Spirit intercedes. I think that pertained to prayer to God, but I think it’s apt here too. As I affirm each of the Fellows, I pray the Spirit will intercede for me, so that they can truly know what they mean to me, what I see in them, and how much of a blessing they have been in my life. I will see them again, in this life or the next. No matter where we go after we leave this beach house, we’ll all reunite in heaven. That’s the beautiful truth our Savior gives us.
A glimpse into 9 months with these wonderful humans. Thank you for everything, I love each of you so much.
"There is a manifesto by Idelette McVicker that has followed me throughout high school and college and has taken on a much more profound meaning for me as a fellow. I am going to read a section of it for you guys -
“Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell. Let us be a garden for tender souls. Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God. Let us be a womb for Life to grow. Let us be women who Love. Let us rise to the questions of our time. Let us speak to the injustices in our world. Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation. Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide. Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love. Let us be women who Love.”
To my host family, The Jordan’s, not only have you guys accepted me into your family. But you have individually accepted me as your friend. I feel known and loved by each of you guys. You are silly, joyful, and loving and have affirmed these things in myself. I love you guys.
To my mentor, Marsha, this poem describes what is strong and mighty of women and also what is beautiful and delicate about you. Thank you for everything.
To my work at The Green Chair Project, not only are you guys welcoming people, but you are creating space in Raleigh for families to be an extension of that. Allowing them the space to be the “table” where others may fest on the goodness of God.
To the Crutchfields. Not only have you literally welcomed me to your table through numerous round table meals but also on those days where I show up at 2 pm and linger until 1 am. You have no other choice BUT to feed me. There are not enough words to say thank you. It is the biggest honor to be mentored by you guys and to be friends with you. And I can not leave without saying thank you to Molly Crutchfield. You have shown me so much grace and patience, that which far exceeds any 12 year old I know….. because I was never once on time picking you up from dance. I am sorry.
You guys have embodied every part of this poem. I have gotten to experience the tangible feast of the people of God this year. The celebration of the life of Christ Jesus. Thank you guys for everything and most importantly thank you for teaching me how to me a woman that loves."
The first practice we did in MVY's Spiritual Formation class was writing an obituary. It was to reflect on our lives and to learn the discipline of "beginning with the end in mind." So it seemed only fitting that my last blog post be my speech from the celebration dinner; my last public declaration of thanks to the Raleigh Fellows Committee and to all the people that have agreed to walk alongside me this year. Simply because. It is weird to be sitting in that "end." I would have never thought in September that the end would be this sweet and equally sad. But this end really is the beginning. THANK YOU Raleigh Fellows, you have changed my life. Ashley Crutchfield, I'm sorry I didn't do more of these. Consider this my parting gift.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
Oh how I have learned this year to step out in faith (yes ok its my name gr8 lets keep moving). I wasn't super sure why I was to do Raleigh Fellows, I just felt a nudging toward it that I couldn't shake and with somewhat shaky confidence, I moved toward it.
I look back and see that the Lord did immeasurably more than what I asked or imagined. He has shown me that while yes, there are dry and hard seasons, there are also rich seasons and He is a Good Father that gives us good gifts.
I could type out hundreds more words of all that I learned and all the ways that I was blessed, but I think I will just leave this: may I continue to step out in faith to what I feel the Lord is calling me to do, trusting that whether it is a valley or a peak, he will not leave me and will continue to bless me.
It feels like just over a month ago maybe that I drove into Raleigh for the first time. And yet, my 9 months here is coming to an end. And as it does, Ecclesiastes 3:1 comes to mind, “There is a time for everything under heaven,” and for me, these last 9 months have been a time for endurance.
Endurance in a whole host of ways.
Endurance in a spiritual sense – as I’ve become aware of and fought the lies to entrap me and tell me that I am not beloved, and I don’t belong. As I’ve been prayed over and prayed against these lies. As I’ve spoken truth over myself against these lies. And newsflash: I still fall into lies. Mess up because I’ve fallen for those lies. It’s happened this week. and I’m embarrassed about it. But I keep preaching to myself the truth: I am not clothed or bound by the mistakes I’ve made, but by Christ’s righteousness alone. And I let that sink in a little bit. It’s true, and it brings freedom. But this is a process of endurance, it’s not fast, nor is it simple or easy. The Lord’s redeeming work is a process, but a beautiful one. And slow is fast, as I’ve wisely been reminded, so hang on for the ride. We aren’t riding a train to the top of the mountain; we are ourselves are the mountain climbers, taking one step at a time, and not wavering from the end goal.
Endurance in a relational sense – this season has not been particularly easy for me relationally. I came out of strong college relationships, and those people will always be my dearest friends. But this season has looked like letting go a little bit of those expectations. Being willing to embrace people that I wouldn’t have befriended in college (probably), and seeing Christ in them. This endurance has also been tied with my spiritual endurance – letting go of the lie that I don’t belong, and having the confidence to say, because I am in Christ, I do belong and I have a voice. And every other person here belongs and has a voice that matters too. I have also witnessed the generosity of the church community through this year – both generosity towards me, and generosity towards others — both have shown me Christ.
Endurance in a physical sense – This one perhaps informs the way I view endurance. I was a high school cross country runner, and despite injuries, never fully stopped running in college either. So you’d think physical endurance would come easy, right? wrong. I learned that one while training for and running the beloved Tar Heel 10-Miler this spring. Running is not easy, and doesn’t feel so good. But mentally, once you tell yourself you’re in it, you should be ok. Well, usually. Unless there’s a 3/4 mile hill at mile 8.5 on the 10-mile course. But even then and there, as I dragged myself to the finish line from the top of the hill (which in itself was harder for me than the hill itself – go figure), I told myself not to quit. Even if I did a slow sprinter’s shuffle the rest of the way, I wasn’t going to quit. And so, I finished. Got myself over that finish line. Not fast, not glamorous (especially at the end there), but endured. And this informs so much of how I view endurance. Keep going, don’t quit, it may not be pretty, it may not be fast, but you have to keep going and not quit.
Endurance in the job hunting sense – yes, I wish I could tell you that I have a job lined up, I’ll start June 1st, and everything is neat and clean. It’s not. I honestly don’t have a clue what I’m going to be doing. And as I’ve loosened my grip on my plans a little bit and given the Lord control, I’m a little bit less sure where I’ll be too. But it all comes back to endurance: enduring through the process and trusting that the Lord is faithful in that. That somehow He is refining me through the tedious process of writing cover letters and filling in my employment history even though the company also has my resume. He who has promised is faithful, though, and He will surely do it. So this endurance race, should have an end soon. At least a temporary one.
So here’s to endurance – the gift it is to know that in the pain, in the difficult times, in the unknown,that still He is faithful, and He is good, and He is in fact the strength in our weakness who Himself gives us endurance.
“being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:11)
Peace out for now y'all. Thanks for following along with my fellows journey this year!
As my workplace internship for the Fellows program, I have been blessed to work at Ravenscroft School in North Raleigh. Not only is Ravenscroft filled with incredibly welcoming people, but it also incites hundreds of memories in me, since it is where I attended school Pre-K through 12th grade. For seven months now, I have worked in a place that feels like a second home, with people who treat me like family. I am not blind to the incredible blessing this is, and I am so very thankful to the school for the opportunity I have been given to work in such a place.
This semester at Ravenscroft, my work has looked a little different, because I am now teaching a creative writing class in the Upper School. So, for an hour most days, I head down the hill from Lower School to a classroom of four students and one other teacher, and I try to share what knowledge I have about a subject that has always been a passion for me. This week, we're on poetry, and I had the students read a poem called "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. Then, they had to write their own versions of that poem, but talking about themselves. Crafting this assignment inspired me to, for the first time since I started Fellows, do a little creative writing of my own. I completed the assignment along with my students, and I thoroughly enjoyed it...
Where I'm From
I am from empty bread aisles with chances of snow,
From high school sweethearts still going strong.
I am from Cheerwine and Cook-Out.
From chocolate and summer rain storms.
I am from a bubble, a glass floor, a name that weighs on my shoulders.
From Little Coo to Mango to Calleykinz.
I am from “Bless your heart” and Falls of Neuse.
I am from privilege that the world will never let me forget.
I am from touch and heart.
From smelling old books, cracked seams, torn edges, quiet turns.
From fat, carb, comfort,
Gallons of swallowed pool water and countless softball sliding scars.
I am from Disney princesses, The Fellowship, and The Jedi Order.
I am from daydreams of kisses and swordfights,
From sharp sarcasm and thin skin,
From war and rom-coms.
I am from Iowa City, Branson, and Deer Valley.
From Eze, Spoleto, and Lancaster.
I am from duned beaches and Blue Ridge mountains.
I am from airplanes and wanderlust.
I am from Blue Devils and a pack of red wolves,
From Hurricanes and hurricanes,
Cherokees and pale, sunburned skin.
I am from contradiction after contradiction.
I am from a kingdom and the King,
From another world to come.
I am from my past and for my future.
I am from more than anyone could ever imagine.
Y'all, February came and went so fast! I know its the shortest month of the year and all, but wow, it actually felt short this year (in college, I swear February would turn it's 28/29 days into what felt like 40 days or longer!) Lot's happened this month, and it's hard to sum up/be reflective; but I'll give you a quick recap and then share some pictures.
February found each of my weekends full - full with good things, but not restful. I had a friend from childhood visit the first weekend (a true blessing); Calley and I went to Greensboro and hung out with Taylor's parents the 2nd weekend; I went back to good ol' Wheaton, IL and my alma mater to visit some friends the 3rd weekend (wonderful, but so far from restful); and finally: we had the women's retreat at Wrightsville Beach - which was the most restful of the weekends and truly a wonderful time to be filled. The Lord also showed up and gave us 75+ degree temps and sunshine. And now that it's March 1st it is, of course, not that warm.
There's a few pictures to give a little glimpse of my month. I cannot believe it's March. The tension and stress of needing to figure out what is next has definitely amped up; and I need a lot of grace to stay both calm in that process and present in the fellows program.
March also brings the birthday of 4 of us (myself included) in one week...can't wait to write about that wonderful week of celebration at the end of March!
So - to Him who is able to immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine - here's to the remaining 2.5 months of fellows; and what ever is next for each of us. He is good and more gracious than we can grasp through it all.
Those who have spent any time with me over the past few weeks may have noticed a word written on the inside of my left wrist. The word changes between three: “valuable,” “patient,” and “trust.” Today, it’s trust. Tomorrow, it may be different. I started this new ritual as a reminder to myself, and the words are indicative of what I am struggling with that day or week.
There have been many days recently when Satan has tried to whisper lies into my heart, and sometimes he succeeds. The most prominent of these lies has been that I am not valuable to anyone. Now, I know in my mind that I am valuable, but to believe that in my heart is another thing entirely. Particularly in my relationships with the other Fellows, I find that Satan has a foothold in my heart when it comes to my value. I am learning to combat these lies with truth; when I hear the lies creep in, I often recite in my head instances where I have been shown how I am valuable to someone. But this struggle with value points to a bigger problem, which is another reason why I write the word on my wrist: I should seek my value in God, not in others…should being the crucial word in that statement. I should, but often I do not. I see that when I seek my value in the other Fellows, or in people in general, I am often disappointed. But when I seek my value in God, I am never disappointed. So why do I continue to do the former? I suppose because I am human and sinful. Because I am still a little Christian, immature in so many ways. I really am trying, but it is not easy. Walking with God is not easy.
The other two words, “patient” and “trust,” go hand in hand as struggles for me. I like control, I like plans, I like certainty. I desire immediate results, and I don’t like playing the waiting game. I have been this way my whole life, but in the spirit of growth that surrounds the Fellows program, God is pushing me and forcing me out of my comfort zone. “Trust me,” I hear Him say. “I am preparing something wonderful for you. Be patient.” Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that I am being patient and trusting, but I know my grip on my life is still as tight as ever. I was, for example, supposed to hear about a job for after the Fellows program ends, but instead of being told yes or no, I was told a noncommittal, “We’re not sure yet.”
I almost had to laugh at this. In God’s teaching me patience and trust, did I really think it was going to be that easy? To be that in line with my own plan? I don’t know when I’ll hear about this job, but I have a feeling God is going to teach me a lot about trust and releasing control between now and then. And as the weeks pass and my struggles change, new words may appear on my wrist. I like this ritual, though, if only for the image that I cannot avoid God in my life any more than I can avoid the black letters written on my skin.
Back to blogging and a new semester! (This will be a repeat if you have read the newsletter-sorry!)
We started off our spring semester with a vocational retreat to Fancy Gap, VA. We stayed in a beautiful mountain house with an incredible view. It turned out to be quite the bonding experience as the pipes froze, which left us with no running water. Although it may have been a rather smelly week, it was a great time to be together- we played lots of games, shared meals, worshiped, learned and made many trips to the local Food Lion to replenish our water supply. We even picked up a broken-down motorist and brought him home. The week was full of great and unexpected things.
A big shout out to our instructor for the week, Bruce(he had an incredible Australian accent),who spent the week hanging out with us and investing in our lives. Bruce led us through multiple group sessions a day in which he taught us about the foundation of our calling and how that informs our vocation. We also each met with Bruce individually and talked about our personal strengths and our motivations for work, which was very informative. It’s just another way that I have learned more about myself this year.
We also started our new classes- New Testament, Worldview, and an inductive bible study. I’m excited about each of these because of the topics, but mostly because of the incredible people that teach them and speak wisdom into us. The associate pastor at Apostles, Eric Bolash, teaches our inductive bible study and I feel like I have already dug deeper into scripture in two classes then I thought I was able to.
The main highlight though, as always, has been being back with the fellows, my host family (quick shout out to the Boulton’s for being the best), my mentor, and people in Raleigh. There is such a special community of people here and I’m thankful to be a part of it. There’s nothing better than getting together to talk life with the guy fellows in the sauna or sharing a meal and dialoguing through questions as a fellows class at Roundtable. It has been so fun to see the growth in relationship with all of these people. In particular, it has been amazing to see the transformation within our fellows class. We were just strangers and forced friends when we met, but now they are dear friends who I genuinely care for. I’m excited to spend the next 3-4 months together.
Go Hoos- Dan
A glimpse into my 5 months as a fellow!
So a lot has happened since I last posted on this blog. I got to wear my Duck Dynasty “MERRY CHRISTMAS JACK!” shirt three times in December. The Fellows celebrated Christmas (which means lots of little elves giving gifts, snack, notes, and knick-knacks). It also means a good ole secret Santa and white elephant exchange. I was one of the lucky ones who snagged a succulent (that is hopefully still alive in Greensboro), and my own “lucky machete”, given to me by the famous Hayes Thielman. Christmas break brought me home to Greensboro for the couple weeks we had off, and was filled with time with family, getting back to my woodworking and wood burning, and reading. New Years was an adventure to Richmond to hang with several other Fellows and has gone down as one of the best yet.
Instead of hitting the ground running when we arrived back to Raleigh, we headed out to Fancy Gap, Virginia to spend time in the mountains in a beautiful learning about vocation and calling, and hearing from the wise “Bruce”. Although the frozen pipes and lack of running were a highlight the brought me back to my camping days with Boy Scouts, the week was filled with insight, real conversation, and challenge. I learned a heaping about myself from the assessments we took (Highlands Ability Battery, MCORE, and E-QI). Some was reinforcing what I already knew, like how strong of an introvert and generalist I am, my strong abilities in concept organization, spatial awareness, observation, and verbal memory, my inherent desire to improve things while establish a solid plan, overcoming obstacles, and collaborating with those around me. It also brought forth realization and conviction over my weakness and areas of my life where I have been lacking. Although I am consistent and stable, can tolerate and take on stress well, and make thoughtful and considered decisions, these traits have hindered me in other aspects of life. I am in need of stronger confidence and self-regard, better awareness and expression of my emotions that I tend to bury or forget, and to welcome change. I have seen great growth in these areas already, coming from great healing and restoration from the Holy Spirit, but it is still a process that I need aid in.
A new year and the second semester of the program has brought new perspective on things. I only have a few short months left with these people in this season of life. Exhaustion is real thing in “real life” and especially in the program. You get pulled in so many directions, and you just can’t do them all (or more accurately, do them all as well as you wish). People never stopped asking about the future concerning jobs, where to live/move, and career goals. These questions, challenges, and conversations are only exacerbated these days. It is true that I still have questions, but also have more focus and answers for myself. However, I am still looking for clarity and opportunities to chase after.
I’m in the midst of training for my first half marathon (even though its actually 14 miles) in the Tar Heel 10 Miler Double Down Challenge. Luckily, several Fellows friends and family members are in this with me, and I have great motivation. After running my first full marathon last April, this new race is another “milestone” goal of mine that I hope to work towards in a manner that reflects the gospel and God’s provisions and grace. It is amazing to see how The Lord works in and through our bodies and how it is pleasing to me and to Him when we honor the gift that our bodies are.
Lastly, all of us Fellows were tasked with finishing out Genogram paper for our Family Systems class. This was a great opportunity for me to interview my family members, learn so much more about my history and formation as a person, and hear each of their perspectives on things. It was a blessing to be met with open arms by my family when approached with these interviews. Clarity, understanding, reinforcement, and recognition of the patterns, traditions, processes, and events in my family history have been wonderful. These conversations, questions, and reflection will hopefully continue in my own walk, but also among and within my family. The paper was a doozie for sure, but I am so thankful it was apart of our program and that Jason Young guided us into it and helped us to reflect on it beyond what I would have been capable of otherwise.
So as the month of January comes to an end, and we approach things like Ash Wednesday, Lent, more time in the youth group, Neighbor 2 Neighbor, my time with Brad, new classes in the New Testament, World View, Inductive Bible Study, more “guy times”, Round Tables, “PPs” (prayer partners), great times with my host family, getting to know more of the congregation at COTA, and who knows what kind of conversations and interactions with the amazing people surrounding me in Raleigh, I am hopeful, expectant, and confident. I am reminded of the verses in Ephesians 3 that say:
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21
As mentioned in other posts, this month we had our Genogram paper due, which consisted of synthesizing a reflection based on in-depth interviews we have been doing with our family members.
My family members displayed a wide variety of attitudes toward this exercise of being interviewed and forced to reflect on their childhood. Some were really happy to spill all, some were wary and even irritated.
The experience of interviewing them has prompted me to think about the value of reflecting on the past and reflecting on experiences that were hurtful, harmful, or in other ways, generally negative. When my parents were growing up, emotional expression and vulnerability were not valued. Now, in many situations, feelings and expressions are held up as truth.
Many seem to feel one way or the other about it, and I think this genogram project gave me a fresh insight on the value of emotional expression, self reflection, etc. I observed that there were emotions, experiences, and memories that desperately needed to be flooded with light. They needed to be brought out in an environment of love and trust to help gain understanding, perspective, and healing. At the same time though, people told me throughout the process to look back and be grateful, not focusing on wrongs and hurts and becoming a victim to everything, and I think there is truth in that as well, to a certain degree.
I can speak with such confidence about this because I have done both. For a long time, I subconsciously believed that feelings weren't truth and I just needed to get over it. Then I started to learn to feel the hard things and kind of got sucked into feeling like a victim to a lot of things.
I am learning to live by grace and gratitude. To give myself grace to feel, to give grace to others who may sometimes treat me less than ideal (as I most certainly do to them), and to have a spirit of gratitude, choosing to focus on the blessings from my Heavenly Father and from my earthly pals- even if they don't do what I want them to do or treat me the way I think I deserve.
"Be merciful, as your Father is merciful" - Luke 6:36
I don't have a lot to write. In fact, I'm supposed to be writing a 10 page paper about my family (see Calley's post referencing this). But I feel compelled to write about this for a brief moment.
I read this verse a few weeks ago. Not a new verse to me, but not one that I often dwell on either.
I think over this past month, this verse has really jumped out to me. I think the Lord is cultivating in me a work of mercy. I would not describe myself as a rigid or cold person- I have known from an early age that I am tender-hearted, and have a strong sense of empathy.
But in recent months, I have not felt myself feeling this deep mercy towards other people. Not in the way I want to. Ever since I read this verse, I have felt the Lord press my heart towards mercy. I have felt mercy and compassion for other's pain in a refreshed, new way. Mercy and compassion for those I drive by on the street- people with little to nothing, people in great need, and people who we often don't even dignify. Mercy for the people who call me and write letters to StepUp begging for help. Even when the people are not particularly gracious with me on the phone, I have felt the Lord giving me mercy to share with them beyond my own ability to be merciful.
Mercy is so important. It is such a huge part of the redemptive work of Christ. It is part of affirming the Imago Dei of each person. People respond to being loved. So we ought to show them mercy.
He sends us mercy through His people too- even the tiniest of his people. This week, on both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, I walked into the nursery for StepUp's evening programs, and both nights the two littlest of children (who are just over a year, and just started walking) both gave me the sweetest of hugs. What a tangible reminder of the Lord's mercy, love, and compassion.
I look forward to how the Lord will continue to work in my heart and through His people to show me what it looks like to be merciful as my Father in heaven is merciful.