Thursday, September 1, 2011

Same sights, same sounds, new heart

YAV year take two began with an “Oh Snap!” as my new roommates picked me up from the airport and I proceeded to get them lost. Just when I think I figured how to get around the city, I am humbled by the streets of New Orleans.

I then proceeded to break out into what I like to call a sweat-a-thon by moving in my things in the sweltering heat of a southern summer. We (the 2011-2012 YAVs) are now living in a house in Uptown. It is a two-story duplex type house, however we do have an indoor staircase.

After a few days of getting re-oriented with my lovely city and her story, it was right back to the skies. We caught a flight to New York for a weeklong YAV orientation. It was an intense week for me, because I was caught between decompressing from my last year of service and being excited and prepared for this year. Regardless of working through residual vicissitudes, I had a blast meeting new YAVs and hanging out with the other “Super Seniors” of the YAV program.

As I make my way through the air back to NOLA, I am reminded of a couple things. First, I am never going to enjoy flying because every little bump causes heart palpitations and it is too confining. Second, I may never be able to be able to give a definitive answer to the question everyone has been asking: “Why are you doing a second year in the same place?” The only thing I can tell you is, same sights, same, sounds, new heart.

With my heart and soul attached to New Orleans, and passionately fixed on justice, I can’t turn away. It is my prayer that all of you who have been so supportive will continue to keep me in your prayers, and stay in this walk towards change and progress with me. 

Stoney Point
"So do not worry tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it's own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34

Friday, August 19, 2011

Making for Lost Time

Well, my first YAV year has come to a close. It was such a crazy time during the last few months of year one. CPC (Chinese Presbyterian Church) launched our first year of "Happy Summer English Camp," which is a three week day camp for Chinese kids to learn English or improve their English skills.
Me, teaching the K-3rd grade class.

It was so much fun working with the children. They made me laugh every single day, a couple of times they made me laugh when I really shouldn't have been laughing. It was a truly life enriching experience to be able to improve their communication skills and begin to prepare them for their next steps in the regular classroom. 

Most all it helped me affirm my passion for working with children. Even though I had some days where I was ready to give up, I knew the next day could be better. So I would spend time after all the children left each day to prepare for our next time 

together. My favorite time with the kids was when we would go outside to blow bubbles or write with sidewalk chalk. Seeing them so joyful and willing to express themselves was such a blessing. 

As soon as Happy Summer English Camp (HSEC) came to a close, it was time to gear up for Vacation Bible School (VBS). Our theme for VBS this year was "God is Wild About You!" It was a blast since I got a chance to focus on what I do best, crafts! We had a new story each night, but tried to really focus on conveying the message of God's love for those of our children and youth who are new to not only America, but Christianity as well. 
The Story of Esther Play!
Then as everything began to calm down and my first year with CPC began to come to a close I got a chance to share my gratitude and year through a sermon (you can find it on the "Things You May Like" page).

After all us YAVs packed away their things, and prepared to leave the Blue House it was time for our final retreat, and our final days together. We got to go our closing retreat in Navarre Beach, FL. It was a really beautiful place and we had a lot of fun in the gulf and watching cable! Our lastnight at the beach was a very emotional one, as we did washing of the feet. It's really hard to say good-bye to such a roller-coaster ride of a year. But I know that all of my roommates are for better or worse apart of my life altering year in New Orleans.
All the 2010-2011 YAVs & Mentors and Kathy

I will be starting my experience over with a new house and new set of roommates, which is kinda stressful and exciting at the same time. I am just hoping that all these new YAVs will be open to my sage advice (this is sarcasm). I hope that despite my tendency to abandon my blog when I am not feeling inspired enough to write, has not scared off all five of my avid readers. I will do my best in my new year and new adventures to keep you clued in so I do not have to make up for lost time.

 Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive over last year and I pray that you will keep me in your prayers and continue to support me.

Hence my diatribe...


Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This is my twentieth blog. A major feat for me, as I have in the past created blogs that did not make it this far. 

I have even been extra productive at work, trying to get things done ahead of time, in order to focus on others things I am trying to finish. 

Who is this Emma? Concerned with deadlines, and security? I don't know. I would actually like for her to back into her hiding place, and let the former me come up with ways to defer action. 

Growing up is a strange thing, because it always seems that yesterday you were drawing your growing empire in chalk in your driveway. Instead of losing your temper in the car, because for what seems like the twentieth time today someone in traffic has either cut you off or decided they should follow so closely that you can literally see them taking breaths.

Becoming older is also a strange thing, because you seem to take a longer pause in reaction to things.

I am currently listening to the NPR program "This American Life," which is covering individuals reactions to the death of Osama Bin Lauden. It seems to me, that I have been stuck in a dryer with this story, tumbling over it again and again. The noise of it humming and overwhelming my thoughts. I finally think I've come to stop and figured out exactly the right reaction is and then someone else's opinion gets thrown in and I'm spinning again.

I'm still not sure what's right. Should I be proud of my country and my president? Or should I feel upset that we solve our problems with violence? Maybe it's right to stop evil and stand up against evil people. Maybe it isn't for us to decide who or what is evil.

So you see my confusion. Most of all in everything I have seen on facebook, or heard on the news, or read in the press, I feel a sense of that "longer pause" in myself. I did not make any rash jumps to an emotional reaction. I just felt stunned, and let that sit.

The cycle continues. Therefore, I suppose this whole "adult life" I hear so much about isn't the future. I am the adult, but it isn't a linear process. I am just that lost sock, toppling over the top and circling the bottom. I'm going to make to end of this cycle, and I may even be looking forward to the next.

Hence my diatribe...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Got A Feeling.

Sometimes you flee a place, running full steam ahead. You are full of excitement and you are sure that where you fled is behind you. The urge will never cease for you to return there and put your feet in the water of the place of your origin.

I love New Orleans. It is really that simple. I even secretly love the things I complain about the most. My job and my community here is fantastic.

However, like any human being there are days when I look around and everything looks so unfamiliar, so vastly different from my childhood surroundings that I am filled with sadness and longing. I want to not just Skype my parents but, to be able to put my arms around them. Being homesick is temporary, and I know that. Yet, I still feel the need to physically be around my family members.

I recently read the book Water for Elephants (I know I am late to the party, thanks). This book struck a huge cord with me. Not only is it an amazing recant of a unique and exciting life, but it is about human frailty. More specifically, it is about a man in his 90's who finds himself in an unfamiliar place (a retirement home), physically longing to be surrounded by the place where he found his true home. Through his dreams the reader sees his vivid memories of working in and on a circus. When he wakes up he does not recognize his aging body and is frustrated by his inability to recognize family members, and the waning visits with him they make.

This man's story reverberates in me. I consider deeply what this means in my own life. It not only speaks to the reality that I have a grandmother who is going through a similar situation, but to a part of me that wonders what home means to me. Also, what does it mean to dream big and chase the things that seem the most impossible?

While my tumbling thoughts race around in my mind, I am learning to find solace in the good times. Remembering the times that brought me joy, always fulfills new joy. Most of all it is important to know that I am something small that makes up something vast and beautiful. The way one star, when seen with many, makes up the night sky.

Hence My Diatribe...

Side Diatribe: In our current times, let us all consider the words of Martin Luther King Jr.,

"Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Discerning to Discern my Discernment

"True teaching will issue from Zion, God's revelation from Jerusalem. He'll establish justice in the rabble of nations and settle disputes in faraway places. They'll trade in their swords for shovels, their spears for rakes and hoes. Nations will quit fighting each other, quit learning how to kill one another. Each man will sit under his own shade tree, each woman in safety to tend to her own garden." Micah 4:1-4

Currently in YAVsphere we are working both individually and as a group to complete vocational discernment. Ultimately, what that means is each one of us to trying to figure out where we feel called to go in the future. For some of us it could be grad school, or what career field we want to pursue in first place. 

For me this is very confusing. I have no idea where exactly I feel called. The above quote from Micah was apart of one of our discernment exercises. In the exercise we were supposed to paint a picture of God's will in that scripture, figuring out what it would look like, who would be in it, and what are people doing, and most of all what am I doing?

My gut reaction to this exercise was "really?" How is anyone supposed to gain something specific from something so abstract? 

We recently had a young adult meeting for volunteers across the city at a church in the lower 9th ward. The lower 9th ward is one of the poorest districts in New Orleans. We went to a Episcopal church and the Reverend Lionel Edmonds spoke to us about the ministry they do in that neighborhood. About the children who are ten and eleven years old reading at third grade level, and the young girls with low self esteem falling into bad habits. He spoke to the importance of education and the tutoring program they use to intercede into the lives of these kids to help them strive for something better. Listening to this man speak with such conviction and emotion left me feeling reassured about the things I am passionate about. 

That is when this excerpt from Micah and the question of exercise came to mean a lot more.  What am I doing? I am working hard to create sustainable Christian Education programs for my church, to inspire the youth in my church to meet once a week, to change New Orleans one interaction at a time. Most all I am pushing to find out what it means to truly live out the passion that the Spirit fills me with. I tutor a young boy who is like many of the children Rev. Edmonds sees in his program. Working with him as taught me a lot about myself, what I want for America and our education system. Children like him can so easily falls through the cracks, and they do not deserve to. 

What does that picture look like in Micah? It looks like a nation who stops waging war on foreign soil and comes back to focus on reaping and sowing the greatness within their own citizens to create a place for every man and woman. We talk of peace, but what are we doing in our lives to create it? Each man with a tree, each woman with a garden. Something for everyone through hard work. We must pick up the shovels and pipe down our egos. 

I might still be unclear on the exact path I am taking and figuring it all out might take a while. But I will stick with what I know deep in my heart is right. I will reach out my hand to those who need it, and I will not pick and choose what those people look like. Most of all I will live God's way. "But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way the fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely" (Galatians 5:22-23). 

I cannot change the choices others make, but I can determine my own. Our choices are all we have. I choose to love. 

Hence my Diatribe...
My tutee Manny and Me

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action: My Stage.

Once again I am back to the blogsphere. I know these long hiatuses need to stop, but no promises readers.

I was home in Elizabeth City for the holidays and it was really great to see family and friends. However, things were much different than any other Christmas. So many of my friends are different and the dynamics of my family are changing. While there are so many things to give thanks for, as a human I cant help but grieve the loss of the things I hold familiar.

Before heading back to the warmest winter I've ever known, I stopped off at the Montreat College Conference in Montreat, NC.

This years conference was outstanding. The theme was "Wondering Wanders," and even though I am no longer in college I can relate to that. It is hard to admit that I am still finding myself, and searching for a calling. I often feel frustrated and upset with myself that I am not where my peers are or that I'm not where my older sister was at 24. Focus is always something I've struggled with. The keynote speaker at this conference Brian McLaren (keynote speaker) taught us about the four Stages of Faith. The four stages being: Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity, and Humility/Harmony.

Learning about these stages in terms of not only faith, but life in general, have helped me reassure myself that while time is often short and the demands of society are loud, the deep resounding call of a higher power is also urgent. I must let the quiet voice within lead me, and know that whether I am making lots of money or none at all there is a force moving me in the right direction.

I recently listened to a story on This American Life (nerd alert), about a man who continually pursued a woman for years, who he met in Thailand and had fallen in love with. He didn't keep his family informed because, he knew they would just deter him or belittle him. After several years of keeping up this long distance relationship the woman finally agreed to marry him. They are now together in the U.S. and very happy. His brother commented that everyone in the family thought that he (the man) was just moving at a turtles pace with all his siblings racing around him in their careers and through marriages, but he actually knew where he was going all along.

We live in a society that constantly asks "What's next?" but rarely do we contemplate the answer to that question. We race to next task, or place, dying to accomplish everything and attain everything that everyone else seems to posses. But, for those who take the time to reach a goal or those who follow their heart without letting demands around them shake their passion the rewards can be true happiness.

As a group we are beginning the stage of vocational discernment, and I feel strongly that I will be able to find some conclusions through this process. I look forward to listening, questioning, and sitting with the unknown to find my pace in this ridiculous race we are running.

SIDE NOTE: If I peaked your interest he explains them and more in his companion books Finding Faith: A Search For What Makes Sense, and Finding Faith: A Search For What's Real. I don't want to over sell these books, but they are currently helping me weed through a lot of my personal questions about my own relationship with God.


Hence my Diatribe...