Friday, March 11, 2011

Desert Sojourn

A few weeks ago, the Tucson YAVs had our "lenten retreat" (although, a few weeks early). We spent Wednesday and Thursday night camping together in Cascabel, then Friday and Saturday night on our own, solo-sojourns in the desert.
Here are some photos from it:

(more photos to come soon)

window rock (tilt head 90 degrees)
the fish barrier
the first sight of water flowing in the desert
a view
a view from my "living room" on my sojourn

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My housemates are very wise

As a commitment to the new year, my four housemates and I sat down together and took a look at the covenant we'd made together at the beginning of the year. Brandon reiterated many times during the conception of this covenant, that it was to be a "living document" and looked at, thought about, and brought back to the table. Even though we had gone from six to five in the house almost two months before that, we hadn't re-looked at the covenant since then. It was a treasure hunt to find, even, since we couldn't remember exactly where it was. I didn't remember much of what was originally put on that covenant- goes to show how little we'd brought it back up together as the living document it is.

So, we looked at it together, after a month or so of sharing our own personal stories- which you can read a bit about here. We have really come together as friends since arriving in Tucson. When asked what its been like for me, living in Intentional Community with four others, who until August were strangers, my response is usually this: "I've been really blessed. I was really anxious about the idea of living with people I'd never met before, going through a new experience together, and still, at the end of the day, having to figure out how to live in community. I could be living with only house-mates, or with house-mates that I have to 'put up with' (so to speak) in the name of community. I, however, have received not only house mates in intentional community, but also close, supportive and loving friends, that I'm lucky enough to live with."
Most of the time we embrace each others personality characteristics. When we sat around our coffee table re-vamping our covenant to fit our commitment to each other as five adults in the house together, this came out in our covenant. It says we'll "Rock together Fridayzzzz."
And, on a Friday in January, all five of us and our site coordinator went to a Presbytery meeting to share with them about our experiences so far as YAVs.

And, to over 100 preachers, pastors, and elders, coming from a variety of walks of life, theological, and political perspectives, we rocked it.

The whole time I was listening I was giddy, thinking, "my roommates are awesome." We are five adults, living in the same house, all a part of the same program. But the presbytery heard five different descriptions, five unique experiences, five beautiful, inspiring and thoughtful stories.

"The mission field is anywhere God's kingdom is not fully realized. And that is everywhere." - Ali

"I don't know what the past tense of being is. But we be-ed." -Luke

"There is love, even in the brokenness." -Meredith

"Not because of a business degree, but because of the power of real human relationships." -Jacob

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Here I sit.

"Patience asks us to live the moment to its fullest, to be completely present in the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient, we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Let's be patient and trust the treasure we look for is hidden on the ground on which we stand." -Henri Nowen

The instructions are- go and find a place to sit alone. Experience what if feels like to be alone- in solitude- for a moment.

So, I climb. I climb up and see a nice rock and think, there's a nice place to sit for a little bit. But, the summit is just a little bit further. Only that much more to go and I'll be at the top, with a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur, dry lands and trickling water running through it. The contrasts of the shades of green and shades of brown will be so accented from way up there. I'll get a beautiful, vast, panoramic view of this area where we're hiking.
But, that's not the point. Achievement isn't the idea. Summit-ing isn't what we're doing. An outside view looking inward is not what I should be looking for right now.
And so I sit. From where I am, I can see the top of the hill- just that much further- and I can see the steep, sandy, slippery path where I came from just below me. And surrounding me are the trees, cacti, rocks, branches and thorns I stepped over and around to get here. And right in the middle, surrounding by all of that, is where I sit.
That is where I am.
Not looking downward on a bigger, prettier, landscape view of it all. Not climbing upwards to summit this little hill. Not striving for one more step.
Instead, I sit here, in the middle of everything, surrounded. Here I can still feel the wind blowing around me, the sunshine on my back, and the pebble in my shoe. Looking around, I can see only what's right in front of me. The rest lies hidden behind the rocks, thorns, branches, cacti, and trees. If I focus really hard I can see beyond them. But, I don't. I examine my place- exactly where I am and it is exactly where I am supposed to be.

What matters most to me and why

A friend asked me this question a while ago, and I thought I'd share my reflections. I find myself continually re-asking myself about what my priorities are.

I operate and think in numbers, lists, properties, definitions, and subdefinitions. So, in its most basic form, the answer to this prompt, is “I = i + c”- read as what is most important to me is the sum of what is most important to me as an individual (i) and me as I relate to the world (c).

As an individual commenting in regards to my autonomy and self-sufficiency, my health is the most important thing. On one hand, my health reflects my upbringing; malnutrition and hunger were never a concern. Because of my good health growing up, I was able to be more attentive in class, and better aprovechar of my education (more on that later), rather than worrying about dysentery or a grumbly belly. More importantly, I appreciate my health for another reason-

It’s no secret that I love to run. My long runs on the weekends are sometimes the one thing that gets me through the weekdays. According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I’m nearly all “E” and little “I.” Growing up in a big family, perhaps I learned early on how to be away from it all and think, while still being active. I don’t pray regularly; I journal sporadically; the thought of having “alone time” normally makes me anxious. But thinking is so clear and easy when I run. I can escape for hours with just the pavement and me. Some think with pen and paper while writing, some with a guitar playing music- for me its with a sports bra and tennis shoes, logging miles one after another.

My thighs are big. My butt is bumpy. And my legs are awkward and gangly- and I couldn’t be more proud of the thousands of miles they’ve run, and the thousands more they’ll go.

But, I cannot function in the world as one, singular, unrelated part. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human beings together.” So, basically- cast out those last 300 words as filler, superfluous, extra, but not necessarily unnecessary. After all, my legs and the miles they go, consequential of my good health, are incredibly important to me and my well-being.

(photos- sisters and brother in the photo on left, my 1229 community here in Tucson on the right)

I am who I am because of the community that surrounds me. Wrapped up in the importance of community, is my family, my education, my friends, and of course- love. To me, the definitions of all of those are wholly dependent on one another.

I attended some of the best schools in the city growing up- connecting me with other curious spirits along the way. Education impassions my community. Questions and inquisitiveness intrigue me. Through my education, I have learned one thing to be fact- there are few facts. Beyond scientific laws and mathematical formulas, little is as simple as cause and effect. Now, if you recall from my introduction, I appreciate the tangible, the predictable, the algorithms, the traceable, and the cause-and-effect relationships. So, needless to say, the more I learn, the more the way I’d like for the world to be and how life actually is collides.

It would be nice and mathematically sexy if your actions and my actions and his actions were directly related in a predictable quadratic equation of a sort. But, both of us have our lives behind us, filled with the crapshoots, the pitfalls, the ecstasy, and all of the places in-between. All of those stories, experiences, and interrelated webs of human existence completely fuck over any notion of predictability, formula, black-and-white, or binary code. But, as a community we continue to function. We continue to question each other, to converse, to build relationships, and to educate ourselves.

When I was younger after a fight with one of my sisters, I’d swear off speaking to them forever and ever. My mother, upon hearing that, would remind me- “cherish your siblings, because someday they may be all you have.” But, in a way, my mother was mistaken. It’s not that family is all I have- its that family is what I have that knows all of me. From the five year old ballerina, to the fifteen year old actress, to the twenty-two year old lacrosse player, my family has been around to celebrate with my and cry with me. They’ve seen me broken and they’ve seen me whole, and continue to love me.

My friends chose to stand beside me. They chose to grab my hand for a boost up, and to grab mine when it was extended. Friendship is built through laughter, through visiting a grave together, through stories, through experiences. We are all tied together through relationships; humanity is not an isolated occurrence.

I have a tattoo on my right ribcage that says "love." The tattoo itself serves as a visual reminder to myself about that word, that action, that commitment I've made to love myself and love others. Love is not something tangible, touchable, nor embraceable- but it is hidden within all of that. I speak of love in all of its forms- agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. As a community we are nothing worthwhile if we fail to love one another. "And the greatest commandment is this, to love your neighbor as yourself."

As a closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from Ellie Roscher, taken from her book that I just finished reading, about her reflections on a year of service in a very isolated community in rural Uruguay- “Community matters. Relationships matter. It makes life more bearable, more enjoyable, and more beautiful.”