2014 Wrap-Up: Reflections Thus Far

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve wanted to, but I’ve just been overwhelmed with too many thoughts, experiences, stories, questions, and emotions to even know where to begin. Some days I have a million stories I want to share with the world. Other days, I sit down to write and feel as though I simply have nothing to say, certain that my words can never do justice to the stories and lives of my clients or my USC community. I haven’t known how to adequately articulate the lessons I’ve learned, the ways in which my life is been transformed, or the questions on my heart. I’ve been deep in a season of learning and of listening, and much of what I am discovering is still unfolding. But my heart has once again been prodding me to write—just write. Even if the thoughts aren’t complete, even if I can’t neatly wrap up my ponderings and draw a clean conclusion by the end of this post. So here they are, an imperfect collection of my thoughts as I attempt to make sense of the last four months.

In many ways, the past four months have been some of the most challenging of my life. In recent weeks I have found myself treading on the verge of emotional and physical burnout. I’ve had to force myself to slow down, to actually take sick days, and to learn the hard way that I can’t fully love and effectively help others if I am too run down to have any part of myself to give. I’ve struggled to find the balance between remaining present here in Denver and desperately reaching out to friends back home, in constant need of their emotional support even from multiple states away. I’ve struggled to process the realities of my clients’ lives and have grappled with the never ending feeling of inadequacy as I learn to accept my own smallness and the limits to my ability to help them. I’ve tried in vain to wrap my mind around the sheer number of people desperately in need of shelter, safety, food, transportation, clothes, and mental health resources. I have been humbled as I have recognized the limits of my own worldview and my inability to ever fully understand what it is like to be living in homelessness or extreme poverty. I have been forced to confront nearly every ugly stereotype I have ever held and accept time and time again my own imperfections. And time and time again I have struggled to understand exactly how God fits into it all.

However, I have also found myself in the midst of the most incredible beauty. I have been blessed with a fantastic community of USC volunteers and housemates. We’re not perfect people, and we’ve encountered our fair share of messiness as we have attempted to figure out how to live life together. We’ve had to work through everything from who unloads the dishwasher and how we use our grocery budget to how we can best support each other emotionally after a tough day in our placement sites or on the days when we’re particularly missing loved ones back home. Together we have explored the sights and sounds of downtown Denver, on missions to find the best coffee, live music, and craft beer. We’ve embarked on adventures in the mountains and have relaxed together at the end of a long week with Harry Potter movie nights, brownies, and games of ping pong. Together we’ve asked questions about the broader picture of social justice in the world. We’ve come together for worship and for reflections on faith and life. We’ve shared meals. We’ve eaten lots of bagels. And through it all, through the moments that come easily and the moments that take extra effort and commitment, this community has become one of the best support systems I can even imagine.

At my placement site I’ve met some of the strongest women and children I have ever known. I’ve seen the devastating effects of abuse and poverty on the lives of children but I’ve also gotten to witness the uncontainable joy of so many kiddos and have experienced their seemingly endless capacity to love. I have met women who have forgotten (or perhaps have never known) their own value as human beings, but I have often seen a sense of their humanity restored when we have been able to provide them with something as simple as bus tickets, a box of food, or even a compassionate listening ear. I have gotten to work alongside some of the most incredible, compassionate individuals who are dedicated to social justice and who care deeply for each and every client who walks through our doors. I have found an alumni network of Urban Servant Corps volunteers who have forever been changed by their experiences with this program and who have gone on to live beautiful lives of integrity. It is truly an honor to be among them.

At times I am overwhelmed by the thought of having seven more months here in Denver; other days I can’t believe how fast the first four have flown by. All I know is that I am deeply grateful for each and every experience that has shaped my time with Urban Servant Corps thus far. I am thankful for the tears: the tears of joy and gratitude, the tears of homesickness, the tears of frustration, exhaustion, and sorrow. I am thankful for the overwhelming support of my community here as well as my beautiful support networks back home. I am thankful for the many random, spontaneous adventures in the city and for the breathtaking views of the mountains. I am thankful for the people I’ve met, especially those who have helped me think differently about the world in which we live. I am thankful for the simple things, like good coffee, yoga, library cards, and music, that help center me at the end of an especially trying day. And I am thankful to you all for accompanying me on this journey. I truly am looking forward to discovering what the New Year will bring.

Peace, my friends! Best wishes in 2015. ❤