Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Discovered Passions batter baked with Lessons for Living icing=A Blog Cupcake

"Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives."
This is a quote from the National Novel Writing month website, which you should totes check out (  Yes, I am participating in this exhilarating stupidity. Starting November 1, I along with other absolutely crazy, yet passionately devoted writers across the country will embark on a month long writing marathon. 50,000 words in 30 days. Can I do it? I have always wanted to write a book, so why not let this be my first shot at it? I know there are tons of people who toss the idea of writing a published novel out into the air every day. OK and less than 1% actually do it. However, I have come to realize that writing is a part of me, just like a toe or a kneecap or a nose hair. My drawers at my room at home are filled with so many journals I have kept growing up.  Little bits and pieces of stories and poems and lyrics are like dust bunnies cluttering the cracks of corners of anywhere I have ever lived.  I am constantly conjuring up characters, plots, phrases mentally describing my surroundings. Words just fascinate me. I love writing. There. I said it. And now it is time to do something about this passion, despite every insane obstacle that will stand in my way. And what better place to do it then in the wonderfully upside down, unique city of New Orleans!! So please support me in this lofty endeavor!

Lately I have been drawn to the joy children bring into my life. I got to babysit three adorable children last weekend, am continuing to teach children's Sunday School each week at both my respective churches, am tutoring a wonderful little girl named Leslie twice a week, and continually play with the children that come to the homeless ministry. As taxing as the little ones can be on our nerves and patience, I find that we can learn so much from children if we simply watch and listen. They look at the world with such fresh intensity, such untouched awe. They are frighteningly honest (sometimes make you rethink your fashion choices.) with their questions. I think as we grow older we tend to stop our questioning, simply accept things, and just throw in the towel as cynical pessimists. We become tortoises slugging through life, weighted down by our constraining beliefs we have grown too accustomed to. But, I think it is worthwhile to learn from all the curious young ones out there that we should never stop questioning, never stop doubting, and never fully give up searching. Because it is only through this ongoing, often times frustrating process that we allow ourselves to be renewed again and again. Each baby step, each slight inch forward, brings us closer to truth after truth. These truths will transform the world that we are a part of into something chaotic at times but beautiful always.

Children have pure joy in their hearts that infectiously radiates to their surroundings. Being around little kids pries open this closed valve in my heart, perhaps a part of me that I hold back in many "normal" situations. I love pushing my imagination to the farthest edge of possibility, inventing whole other worlds to scamper around inside, doing things that are silly and ridiculous but just FUN. Kids put their whole heart into everything they do, and we could benefit from doing the same. I feel like our daily routines have become spiders that catch us like flies, tangling us in their stifling web of structure and rules and limitations. We are buried under deadlines and to-do lists, putting on this stoic front to the world so no one knows we are stretched like rubber bands ready to snap. We forget that our hearts desperately need to let loose, to stretch their cramped legs once a while. To pretend to be an evil vampire or a princess fairy, to make cupcakes with ingredients that don't follow a recipe, to dance to a song about dinosaurs with complete abandon, to be enamored and completely happy by one simple toy. To run around, to get dirty, messy, tainted without worry of what consequences will happen or what judgments will be made as a result of our actions. To just be alive. We survive, "make it through" every day, but we forget to live.

And just one smile, one laugh from a child, and my heart melts a little around the edges, like a piece of paper touching a flame.  Sure they drive you crazy...when then they howl and scream or say something rude or stubbornly refuse to listen to you. But at the end of the day, I am thankful for every moment, good or bad, I get to spend playing with or talking to kids. Because I am reminded about what life can be like if you let yourself not only push through it, but taste it, reach out at it, experience it fully.

After all these life lessons have been shot out at you readers from my mind cannon, I would like you to remember the most important one that glows among the coals. Sometimes, it is enough just to be. The power of presence is underestimated in a society that begs and pleads and stresses us to do do do day in and day out. At the end of the day, when our actions seem fruitless, we are called by simply be. Our presence is a mere miracle in itself, and there are moments we must let this understanding speak for itself.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Food For Thought...Munch. Munch.

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon here at the Blue House. Football is on the TV as usual! My roommates and I are watching the Saints. I hope they play better than Bama did yesterday because I can't handle both my football teams losing in one weekend! But I suppose the cookie will crumble the way it will crumble.

One highlight of this past week is that I am starting to be an after-school tutor for underprivileged children twice a week with the STAIR program. The kids are all in second grade and absolutely adorable. We basically help them with their writing and reading comprehension skills. These kids do me a much greater service than I do them. Kids have such wild imaginations, and I love watching and listening to their profound insight into the world around them. I also am happy to be a positive influence in their weekly lives. It is definitely a treasured component of my weekly routine.

This past week I got the pleasure of meeting and hearing from Joel Tendero. He is an international peacemaker from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. His speech to the church was quite moving. It saddens me just how much violence and corruption is occurring in their government. It is also disheartening to hear that 15 million people in his country are living on just one dollar a day! These kinds of statistics really put things into perspective for me and allow me to step outside of my comfortable, middle class upbringing. The minimum wage  in the U.S is around 7 dollars per HOUR. These people are barely surviving in a world where money goes through a clogged drain and becomes stuck in a small handful of people's pockets.  I really want to help, but it is hard to even think about where to start. Joel says sending money does not help because it can often end up in the wrong hands inside the corrupted government. However, I see such remarkable faith and optimism in Joel, and he gives me hope that these people's voices are going to be heard. A new government is coming in. I am glad the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) is working in partnership across the seas to help this struggling country. It is important because we often get very caught up in our problems that we fail to step outside of ourselves see the lack of the distribution of wealth in this world. There is enough for everyone to get by, but people hold their wealth in such tight fists that making them unclench is a task that is better left unattended to most of us. I know I fall guiltily in this trap.

All this is not to say that we should overlook the many problems we are facing within our own country. One of the reasons I chose to be a national volunteer instead of international is that I feel it is important to remember that there are many settings within this country that are unlikely, overlooked mission fields. Five years after the storm, New Orleans becomes a faded news story as the media has moved on to more current issues, but we cannot forget those still struggling to rebuild their lives. I don't mean to say that one disaster deserves more attention than another, but we can't forget these people.  On a side note, I admire other YAVS that were willing to serve internationally in a completely different culture, and I know they are having a powerful impact on their respective countries. It is wonderful to think of how all of us that gathered at the Stony Point orientation this past August are now scattered around the world making small but steady changes that are sure to have a profound impact on a world that seems to be desperately falling apart at the seams. It gives me such great hope to know that this group of young people I am a part of can help the world move in its entirety towards some sort of realistic peace, one daily interaction at a time. Things fall apart, but the fact that they fall together in the first place supplies me with enough optimism to make it through each day.

This weekend: some of my roommates went to the Voice of the Wetlands festival in Houma. We also were commissioned by the Presbytery of South Lousiana. Emma and I participated in the Light the Night work supporting the treatment of blood cancer. Never a dull moment in beautiful,colorful, southern Louisiana!

Things are about to be very busy I think. I plan to try and start up a "Thirst for the Word" young adult program where people in their 20s and 30's can gather in a contemporary venue to discuss Theological issues. I am also going to try to start a youth group if I can find some kids. In addition it is October, which means Fall Fest and pumpkin patches galore! ( The Blue House plans to go as Mario Kart 
characters for Halloween FYI)

My life here in New Orleans is not always as happy and simple as I would like to be. I see injustice, often feel frustrated, and can feel very uncertain and out of place. Intentional community is a bigger challenge than I expected, but it is also a rewarding challenge. At the end of the day, I try to remember the people that support me and love me and am very thankful for their presence in my life.  I am lucky enough to have had a wonderful life thus far, and am humbled by this experience in New Orleans which allows me to change and transform as a person. I grow so much each day. I look forward to sharing my experience with congregations back in my hometown. 

Comment and spark thoughtful discussion if you so desire!

 “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow.” Marry Anne Radcmacher

My fellow YAVs and I working for Bayou Rebirth propagating some plants to help coastal restoration!
Intense gardeners!