Hey y’all! It’s time. My time as a YAV is complete and I want to leave y’all with some of my favorite pics and things I’ve learned and grown into. This list is not complete and is NOT my last blog, I still plan to post once in a while during my time at Louisville.
So there’s a Maya Angelou quote that I JUST found out I’ve been misquoting all year. The quote is, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I thought the quote was, “When someone shows you who they are, forgive them.” The first one is the correct one and it probably means a lot to many different people and I’m happy for that! But in my own reality, the second one has meant more to me. I really struggle with judging people and between living in community and working at 12 Baskets, I’ve seen the ugly side of a lot of people and I’m sure they’ve seen that in me from time to time. But since I misheard this quote, it’s been easier for me to look past the ugliness and not let that hold me back from trying to love them as the beloved child of god that they truly are, not judge them as a person based on one bad decision or one bad day.
There’s a friend and a guest from 12 Baskets that has been struggling with addiction all year. His drinking got so bad that he was passing out in the Cafe and by the grace of God and a lot of me and Shannon’s time and energy, we managed to help him into a detox program and later a sobriety center and things were looking up. But my friend lives in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in towns in terms of drugs and shootings and when he got out, he had nowhere else to go but back to this neighborhood and he’s drinking again. Walking alongside him in this journey has gone from devastating to hopeful to frustrating to heartbreaking and now I’m feeling helpless because there’s nothing I can do. I can love him and encourage him to get sober, but I can’t judge him or be mad at him for the circumstances of this situation. I can’t be mad at him for his alcoholism, it’s a disease and he lives in an environment where it is all but impossible to stay sober. I compare it to someone who has cancer and can’t afford to pay for treatments. I can love and I can support them to the best of my abilities. I can’t judge or be mad at them for the society that has put these systemic injustices in place. But, I can try to fight to put an end to these systems.
“What if changing our perception of God has the potential to change everything?”
Here’s a quote I got right! This has just been my life. I could go into a lot of detail here but that would be a whole other blog post. To sum it up, I’ve gone from not being able to see myself or people like me ANYWHERE in organized religion to realizing that my relationship with the Divine is exactly that, MY relationship. I believe that as long as that relationship isn’t hurting myself or anyone else, that relationship is no one else’s business.
That being said here’s what I believe. I believe the Church should be a community where ALL are truly welcome in all of their brokenness. The Church should be a place where radical hospitality and self care are embraced and practiced. I believe God transcends race and gender, I am convinced that Jesus was a non-white rebel who was sick and tired of systemic injustices and fought to put an end to these injustices by radical acts. I believe the Holy Spirit is a communion of faith and of sinners and saints, past, present and future connecting and loving ALL–no exceptions. By being able to redefine my faith in these new ways, I’ve been able to view myself and the world in more life giving, affirming and often challenging ways. And it’s not always pretty and easy. But if everything were pretty and easy, how boring would that be? I don’t know about you but I don’t want my faith journey to be a boring one.
That’s another one I could write a whole blog about. I’m still a fairly impatient person but more patient than the person who showed up to YAV Orientation almost two years ago. I’ve learned to be patient with God like when I really want something to happen or for someone to do something. I’ve learned to be patient with other people like when it comes to cleaning the kitchen or with people who have mental illnesses at work. I’ve seen so much of that this year and I’ve learned just to accept the individual for who they are, try to give them some grace and if they’re causing a ruckus or threatening to hurt others, I invite them to leave for the day and to try to come back another day, hopefully in a better state of mind than they are in at the moment. I think what I’ve learned about patience has manifested itself in who I am as a person. I’ve been told by many that I have a calm, open presence and I manage to maintain this presence when there’s 80 people in 12 Baskets (don’t tell the Fire Marshall) and it’s 80 degrees in there and I can also maintain that when I’m having a 1 on 1 conversation with a friend. It’s something I pride myself in and I hope to improve during my time in Louisville.
My favorite metaphor for my life!! I’ve come to see myself as a bookshelf. The wood and screws stay the same but the paint, the decoration and the things on the shelves have changed and will continue to change over time.
As people of faith, we are people of stories.
I preached this to EVERY group that came through The Pilgrimage and it still means so much to me. As Christians, we are dedicated to the Bible which at the beginning, middle and end of the day is a book of stories. We choose to live our lives inspired by these stories, stories that we challenge ourselves to understand, stories that we try to see ourselves in. But it can’t stop there. We need to seek out and really listen to stories of people that are different than us. People who come from different places and backgrounds, believe different things, have experienced life differently than us. The familiar is comfortable and there’s a time and place to be comfortable. But I believe that God doesn’t call us to always be comfortable. If we float around in our same circles, with the same people doing the same thing, we don’t learn, we become complacent and we lose our ability to empathize and care about other people–speaking from experience.
We can and should learn from the uncomfortable
I have been pushed and challenged SO much in the past two years, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally and I have reached my capacity in all of these areas during my time as a YAV. But I have also GROWN so much in all of these areas and I have to believe that there is a correlation there. Yes it’s been hard, yes I have been in some VERY uncomfortable positions, there’s even been times where I’ve considered just leaving and going home. But I have to admit that I’ve learned something from each of the times that I’ve been uncomfortable over the past two years. And I am tired-physically, emotionally, socially spiritually, mentally. But I have grown and learned and been challenged from the uncomfortable and I am grateful for that.
Brokenness is real and brokenness is everywhere
It’s a hard thing to admit to ourselves but once we are able to it’s so freeing. We are all broken in different ways. None of us are perfectly whole beings that haven’t experienced loss or haven’t had something taken from us or haven’t been demonized by society or our peers or our families in one way or another. We also don’t know what it’s like to walk around with other people’s brokenness. This is another thing that helps me in my life goal to judge people less. If someone does something that annoys or angers me, I gotta remind myself that I don’t know what they are (or aren’t) carrying around with them.
There are so many outlet in our world trying to tell us that if you do a certain thing, it will make us whole-eating organic, doing yoga, pray a lot, read the bible, read self help books, etc. I believe that not only do we need to get better at accepting and embracing our own brokenness but we also need to get better at sharing our own and embracing the brokenness of others. Vulnerability is SO important when it comes to meaningful relationships in and outside of communities. If we show our brokenness (in safe and affirming settings) we are able to give others a chance to grab onto our jagged edges. If we try to exist in a way trying to show off how perfectly whole and flat we are, we aren’t giving others anything to grab onto.
We are all beloved children of God. Period.
Pretty straight forward I think. No matter what we do, who we are, what gender, sexuality, race, nationality, who we vote for, where we live, what we believe in, God’s gonna love us. It’s not negotiable. God meets us where we are at and we both figure it out from there. This is what I try to do for others because I believe that’s what God does/did/is doing for me.
How can your faith mean anything unless you’re doing something with it?
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” Frederick Douglass
“When I marched in Selma,” Rabbi Heschel wrote, “my feet were praying.”
“Faith in action is Love-and Love in action is Service.” Mother Teresa
I believe faith and action go hand in hand. Unless you are living out your faith in your actions and interactions with others, I don’t know how that’s faith. I’m not saying that you always need to wear a cross on your sleeve and talk to everyone in your life about your faith. I’m saying seek justice, love with kindness, walk humbly with your God, volunteer, show grace to all, if you’re not apart of the problem you’re apart of the solution, live in the Jesus narrative. He didn’t get killed cuz he was a nice guy and doing good things for people. I’m not advocating to go out and do things that will get us killed by the powers that be. But try to live counter cultural and walk alongside “the least of these”. Jesus doesn’t call us to always be safe and comfortable.
Thank you all for reading and for supporting me in my time as a YAV. It really feels like an end of an era in my life and Im excited and nervous for the journeys ahead. I’m so grateful for everything that I have done, learned and experienced and happy to have connected with everyone I’ve met along the way!
Grace, Peace and Love to ALL, no exceptions,