Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oh, the Irony

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to work from home. The only reason I left my house was to attend a training session for the Point in Time Homelessness Census. Next Wednesday night, weather permitting, I will join about fifty teams of people to canvas every neighborhood in the District, surveying those experiencing homelessness on the street that night. The training consisted of an overview of the survey we will administer through relational conversations and explanations of how to keep ourselves safe and care for those we encounter who need emergency services for problems like hypothermia. We were told to prepare to be outside for four hours 10 pm until 2 am at the end of January. It will be cold. It will not be an easy night.

Five months ago I may have had a few more reservations about this work. Despite my extroverted, friendly nature, I may have been more hesitant to wake people up to ask demographic questions. However, I have been having these conversations on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Depending on where my team is assigned, I could even run into some of our Radcliffe Room guests. I am genuinely excited about this event, what data we will collect, who we will connect with more resources, or just a McDonald's gift card.

As I rode the bus down toward Logan Circle, I saw the snow start in small flurries. Immediately, I told my roommates.

"It shouldn't be too bad," they said.

I left the training at around 8, and the snowfall had covered the ground with a nice solid dusting. I waited inside until my handy dandy NextBus app told me I had five minutes until my bus came. All bundled up with my leggings, yoga pants, socks, tennis shoes, t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, jacket, scarf, headband, hat, gloves, and hand warmers, I confidently walked across the street to the bus stop. I even paused to take a time-lapse video of the snow, which I still considered beautiful and mystical.

This was nice and cute when I thought I would get on a bus in 4 minutes...not in an hour. DC, why are you struggling so hard with the snow this early?! #snowmageddon #notquite

Then five minutes turned to four...for over ten minutes. Then the sign at our stop went to eight minutes. About twenty minutes later, the first bus passed us by, completely full, without stopping. It's ok. Another one was coming in three minutes. That bus flashed the "NOT IN SERVICE" sign. After waiting for thirty minutes, I decided to start actively walking toward a different route rather than passively waiting in the cold to watch buses pass me by.

From 16th and P, to 14th and Q, then to 14th and Rhode Island, and 14th and N, and finally 14th and L, I walked trying to meet a bus at a stop that would actually let me board. According to my phone, those maneuvers added 2 miles to my daily distance. I had waited in the cold for an hour when I was finally able to board a bus that would take me closer to our house, rather than walking farther away from it.

I felt frozen and incredibly angry. Come on, DC! You're not South Carolina! You have to know how to deal with snow better than this. Meteorologists exist for a reason! We knew this was coming...where was the salt? Why couldn't the buses be on time? What good is public transportation when it doesn't run the normal schedule or pick up everyone who is patiently waiting? Why were all of the transportation apps (Uber, Lyft, Split) busy or incredibly overpriced? Why didn't I wear better shoes? Why couldn't I just get home to my warm bed? Why did I even decide to leave my house tonight? Ugh.

In the midst of my angry mental ranting and curse-filled texting, it hit me. I left my house to be proactive about caring about our neighbors who experience this on a nightly basis. If I could barely stand an hour in this cold, what about our guests who will be sleeping in this or trying to find a place warm all night? What about when they get kicked out of a McDonald's or CVS for not being a customer? Would I receive that same treatment?

The bus ride was slow-going because of so much traffic, ice, and the panic that always induces. The hour I spent on the over-heated bus gave me plenty of time to thaw. As we rode along, I saw that the bus I would normally transfer to had stopped operating for the night. Curse you, E4. So I walked the remaining 9 or so blocks back to the house. I opened the door feeling cold, but not as cold as when I had first boarded the bus. Immediately, I took off my snow-filled shoes and yoga pants and peeled off all the extra layers. I was able to come into a warm house with freshly clean sheets to put on my bed, a computer where I can write this blog to help process this experience, and a functional intentional community full of people I love dearly.

Ok, got it. Privilege: checked.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Holding the Tension

Even though I am no longer a college student, I had the great privilege of attending College Conference at Montreat earlier this month on behalf of NEXT in order to host two listening sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed this time of personal and professional renewal that I had experienced as a college student; however, I came to College Conference from a different place than I did previously. For the past four months, I have been thrust into the professional church world. I am so grateful to be a part of the NEXT Church network that is truly on the cutting edge of moving the new church awakening forward. Simultaneously, I am experiencing what it is to work for the church and not simply be an enthusiastic, active member for the first time on my journey.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Recently, NEXT Church director Jessica Tate and I discussed where NEXT fits in Diana Butler Bass’s Arc of Awakening. We came to the conclusion that NEXT is in the thin space at the base of the arc, where we are free to imagine and experiment. NEXT must work with those who find themselves on all points of the arc, whether they are grasping the loss of the old way or already marching forward with new visions in hand.

Personally, I feel as if I have a foot on each side of the arc. I get to imagine the future of the church with NEXT at the same time that I work with incredibly valuable ministries of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church that have been spreading God’s love for over fifty years. In each of these placements, I am working closely alongside other humans and all of their beautiful messiness, some of whom are mourning the church of their childhood, others who cannot wait for the church to catch up with their ideas.

So it was with this mindset that at College Conference, I heard amazing preaching on John 3:16 from NEXT Church strategy team member Carla Pratt Keyes, the story of a football player who left the NFL to follow his calling to become a farmer, creative accounts of witnessing from Nadia Bolz Weber, and tales of transformative mission from leaders across the country. Through the listening sessions, I heard invigorating narratives of presbyteries that energize local congregations to meet the need in their communities. I also listened as some expressed hurt that a denominational program with so much potential fizzled. If I learned anything from these sessions, it is that we are not alone in the struggle to follow the Spirit through times of tension. Any questions I have about my ministries have found a home in others’ hearts, too. That solidarity that we found in an hour of relational conversation energizes me to keep imagining, while holding the tension of the church that was, the church that is, and the church that is to come.

This post originally appeared on the NEXT Church Blog.

Monday, January 11, 2016


I had the great honor to write a music review for the Presbyterian Outlook recently. Although this piece does not directly discuss my YAV year in DC, Adele's latest album, "25," has definitely become a soundtrack to my life, mostly because I have been listening to it so much. Many thanks to the Outlook for the opportunity to have my music critic debut. Below is the text of the article that you can find originally posted here. Hope you enjoy it!

Hello, it’s me.
She’s back. Finally, after a four-year hiatus, Adele has graced the world with more ballads that are sure to become instant karaoke classics. She explained that while “21,” her sophomore album, was a break-up album, “25” is more of a make-up album. This record clearly comes from a place of more life experience and maturity, something that particularly resonates with my own life’s path. I remember belting out “Someone Like You” before I was ready to acknowledge that an ended relationship was never going to have a resurrection. While I have not become a mother in the past four years, I have seen and learned more about the world that has also allowed me to journey toward a place of healing, wholeness and self-love, ready to let go of what once was. Even as Adele acknowledges that it is time to move on from the past, she still yearns for the positive aspects of those times, places and relationships.
Listening to the lyrics of “Hello,” it can appear that she is singing to a former lover, but I hear it more as a letter to her younger self: Hello from the outside/At least I can say that I’ve tried/To tell you I’m sorry, for breaking your heart/But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore. She has moved on past the heartbreaks that used to keep her up at night. As indicated by the overnight success of this first single, Adele is still making people experience all the feelings they forgot they had.
My personal favorite on the album is “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” which has a playful bounce and pop feel that can be compared to Taylor Swift’s sound. When writing this track, Adele expanded on something she wrote as a 13-year-old girl after a break up. That inspiration definitely comes through in the sound reminiscent of listening to No Doubt on the playground in middle school.
The driving beat under “I Miss You” was extremely motivating as I streamed the album at my desk at work; you have no idea how many emails I cranked out to this song. Her angelic high notes floating over an entrancing refrain give way to her second single from the album, “When We Were Young.” The lyrics drip with nostalgia and yearning for the past: You still look like a movie/You still sound like a song/My God, this reminds me/Of when we were young. As a young adult still trying to figure out this whole adult thing, it is easy to wish I were back in my college years, but I know that transitions and life experience have taken me further on my journey than was possible in that context.
“Remedy” is the song I would send to a close friend or family member in need of special care. Its vocal and lyrical warmth seeps into the soul in a way that it seemed clear to me that when writing the song, Adele was thinking of her love for her close friends and family. Turning the tables, “Water Under the Bridge” has a chill tropical groove, but a very different message: If you’re gonna let me down, let me down gently/Don’t pretend that you don’t want me/Our love ain’t water under the bridge. She wants to be given a respectful ending to their relationship so she can continue on in grace, valuing each other for who they are but knowing that what they have is only for a limited time. This request transcends the romantic realm of relationships and can venture into friendships or working relationships.
We find the ode to her roots in “River Lea,” a gospel ballad set to organ and hauntingly beautiful backup vocals. She explores tensions between the influences cast by where we were formed and the reality of never returning the same as when we left – a different tone from “Hometown Glory” on her first album, “19.” The farther I go from my own hometown, the more I realize how much it has shaped my story on a fundamental level, – but through my years as a Young Adult Volunteer in the Philippines and now in Washington, D.C., I know that I am still growing and have much to learn.
The album’s theme is a yearning for wholeness, healing, flourishing and closure. This is especially poignant against the strings in “Love in the Dark.” The acoustic guitar in “Million Years Ago” gives a nod to Spanish classical music and places the listener in a sleepy cafĂ©, pondering past experiences and choices after exploring the streets. While listening to “All I Ask,” it might be difficult to discern if it is the last song of the night at the piano bar or the final night of a relationship. Perhaps this is a prequel to “Someone Like You.” The finale of the album is a pledge of “Sweetest Devotion” to a relationship. The percussion, electric guitar and swing-three-beat feel drive the song forward so that listeners are ready to proclaim that devotion to the next person they see. All in all, by the time you reach the end of the album, it is tempting to go back and experience it all again.
Rumor had it that Adele was not going to continue writing music, as she experienced severe writer’s block and health issues after achieving worldwide success with her last album. However, the birth of her son and the transition that comes with welcoming a new life into the world gave her the inspiration she needed to make up with herself and her past through “25.” We, her fans and avid listeners, thank her for this new album that speaks to our inner beings, passing through the transitions of life but yearning for the comforts of our past.