Tag Archives: Christian

Inspired by the Inspiring

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Yesterday, my parents and I attended a morning service at a church that was not our own so we could hear my godsister, Mallory, speak about the missionary work she has been doing in Uganda for the past 18 months. Though she is, in fact, a missionary, she doesn’t like to be referred to as a missionary because she’s just doing God’s will where He has called her to serve. She has sacrificed a lot — seeing her family, spending time with friends, worldly possessions, a first-world lifestyle, things most of us don’t even realize we take for granted — in order to do the work she believes God has called her to carry out.

Now, I don’t usually get super-religious or super-political on Le Blogge because I’m not a believer in forcing others to read about my political agenda or my beliefs about certain laws or even my religious tenets. But I am a firm believer in Christianity, and just because I don’t blatantly paste it everywhere doesn’t mean I make a secret of it.

Anyway, the way Mallory got wrapped up (for over an hour, I might add) talking about the humbling and uplifting work she has done in Africa with the “street children” of Uganda and her calling to serve got me thinking… What’s my calling? What is God’s purpose for me? I’ve asked myself this question many times before, and I’ve never received what I would consider to be an answer. (It took me an exceptionally long time to learn that “no” is an answer, too.) I’ve always enjoyed the quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” as I believe that God has plans for me I may not yet have even imagined. I don’t think that God has in mind for me to give up everything (material) I have in this world and serve in a poverty-stricken, HIV-ridden, danger-imminent country thousands of miles away — a thought I’m not brave enough to stomach, let alone carry out. I think God may have plans for me closer to home.

During my junior year at Longwood, I was searching for a place to complete my mandatory internship experience. Most LU students fulfill their internship requirement during the summer after their junior year, but time was ticking by, and I still didn’t have a location in mind. One day, as I was probably panicking in a cold sweat in front of my computer, feverishly researching Richmond-area internship opportunities, my mom reminded me that my sister had completed a one-week sample internship in high school at the Faison School for Autism and that she had loved it. Then we both remembered that one of my mom’s dearest friends had a daughter currently working at Faison. Without any hesitation, I whipped out an email to the then-Director of Personnel and Hiring, inquiring about internship opportunities. Not only did he respond positively and with information that set my frenzied mind at ease, he immediately offered me an interview date and the possibility of 35 paid hours per week! I knew that I had struck gold even before I interviewed, but afterward, I felt incredible. I felt purpose-driven and useful and interested — something I hadn’t experienced at my previous thinkless Abercrombie or Aeropostale or Holiday Barn jobs. I didn’t know the first thing about autism, and I was frank about my inexperience and my lack of knowledge in my interview, but what I lacked in those areas, I made up for in hopefulness and willingness.

My first summer at Faison was 2010, and it was the learning experience of a lifetime. I learned more about autism and about myself than I would have thought possible. I learned that I can be patient. I can present the statement, Point to the green block, 40 times if necessary before a student responds. I can absorb sign language without being aware that I am learning. I can assist in an emergency on a spontaneous five-person team when necessary. I can handle poop and puke with an iron stomach when necessary. I can refrain from texting for an entire seven-hour workday — something I would not have thought possible for my 21-year-old self (hell, something I might not find possible now). You get the point. Bottom line, I loved working at the Faison School, and I fell in love with autism. As strange as that sentiment might sound, I could not get the quirks and personalities and orderliness and spontaneity of those kids out of my head.

With my acceptance to graduate school the following spring came the obviousness of the next step: I needed a job that would hire me for less than half of May, all of June, all of July, and half of August. I returned to the Faison hiring body to determine my fate. Sure enough, they were able to hire me for another summer, and they even threw a small raise my way! (In truth, everyone who was hired that summer made what I made.) I enjoyed that second summer even more than I had enjoyed my first — all new (to me) kids, all new ages, all new behaviors, all new (to me) coworkers… same old passion for what I was doing. I was terribly sad to leave on the last day of summer school. I vowed then and there that if possible, I would return for a third summer.

Sure enough, I was rehired for the summer of 2012 in another entirely new setting. This time, instead of parceling out the summer students into already established classrooms, the powers that be decided to lump all of the summer school teachers and the summer students into one newly formed classroom. I admit, I had my misgivings about the system, but it worked beautifully. Every single day, I was impressed with the patience my coworkers demonstrated, the way people stepped in to help in emergencies without being asked, the way people volunteered for clean-up duties without hesitating, the flexibility and tolerance for change my coworkers displayed, and the hilarity we experienced on a daily basis. I truly would not have thought it possible to love each passing summer at Faison more than the one preceding it.

Now, here I am after three summers at the Faison School for Autism, preparing to begin a Practicum in two weeks at a day-treatment school for behaviorally- and emotionally-disturbed children and adolescents, some of whom have autism. I’m considering earning a certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder Studies from the school where my fiance is studying medicine. Loving autism is a part of me now. It’s wormed its way into my soul and stolen my heart.

I think I have the answer for which I’ve been searching: maybe God’s purpose for me is loving and working with this misunderstood and rapidly-growing population. I don’t know for sure what God’s mission is for me as a future counselor, but I know that I have a passion for autism and for those individuals and families affected by it. I know that He placed this love and passion in my heart for a reason, and that He will guide me on His mission for me. I owe this realization to my godsister, who inspired me by speaking about homeless African orphans…

If you’d like to read more about my godsister’s work in Uganda, I’ve provided the link to her group’s most recent blog post. Or, if you’d like to learn more about the Faison School, here is the homepage.

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The Real Reason for the Season

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This morning, our pastor’s sermon was truly powerful. He spoke about the 80-mile journey Mary and Joseph trekked to Bethlehem, with Mary as young and pregnant as she was. I was really struck by his message and by the real season for the hustle and bustle of the season. I also can’t help but notice, surrounded by family and close friends, how truly blessed I have been this year. I didn’t want for anything, I didn’t lack anything, I wasn’t without those I love, and I have all that I could ever desire or need.

My immediate family has grand Christmas Day traditions, including unwrapping the multitude of presents that have been gathering under the tree, but we try to never let the commercial trappings of the holidays stray us too far from the real reason for the season. It’s incredibly easy to allow the merriment of cookie exchanges, the stress of hosting parties, or the anxiety of checking every shopping item off of the Nice List to overshadow the celebration of Jesus’s coming to Earth — and I’ll be the first to admit it!

Spending yesterday evening with my godparents and my godsister, who as I mentioned has just returned from more than 18 months in Africa, renewed my faith that human beings really do look out for one another and love one another unconditionally. As I listened to Mallory’s tales of the expense of sending even one Ugandan child to school, the effort it took for her and her fellow missionaries to acquire a car, and the hardship of taking in street children and becoming their foster parents, I couldn’t help but think of the Newtown tragedy. I chose not to blog about Sandy Hook Elementary because I had too many thoughts swirling around to make logical sense of them enough to write about my feelings and my reactions. Even so, I have no doubt that God works in mysterious ways, and that the reason for something isn’t always logical or even evident. Nevertheless, all that has happened this year has kept my heart and mind focused on the real reason for the season.

Just one more thing…

If you haven’t ever seen this video, I encourage you to check it out. It’s pretty awesome.

Have a happy Sunday, blends, and enjoy yourself if you are one of those lucky people out there getting snow! It seems to be snowing everywhere but Richmond, VA…

So, I Pray at Restaurants…

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I didn’t have class yesterday, and since the semester is so close to being over (T-minus 6 days!), I don’t have much schoolwork left. I decided to take my textbook to Chick-Fil-A and get a little reading done while I munched on my beloved Chick’n Strips Salad and a fruit cup. I thought of it as “Treat Yoself” day 😉

Turns out, I’m a complete flippin’ idiot. I pulled up to Chick-Fil-A at 12:10. The drive-thru line was wrapped doubly around the building. I almost thought I’d have to park at Sheetz and walk over when I finally spotted a teeny space wedged between two SUVs. I made a beeline for that mother and then dashed inside… only to realize that there were two available tables in the entire place. I was about tenth in line, so I could’ve been that incredibly rude customer who “reserves” a table using her suitcase-sized purse or some non-essential item of clothing, but I just couldn’t do that. I patiently waited my turn, barely being able to hear myself order over the thundering din of screaming toddlers and businessmen on Bluetooths. Somehow, I found a small booth by the window. As I dressed my fragrant salad with Honey Mustard and admired the freshness of my fruit cup, I noticed that the booth of college students — hulking, male college students — in front of me was holding hands with their eyes closed, saying a prayer.

I know it’s rude, but I couldn’t help but watch them as they quietly finished their prayer and went on about their meal. I was truly in awe that these guys would hold each others’ hands and pray in the middle of a crowded restaurant. I think I was also in awe because I knew I was about to do the same.

See, my family and I frequently pray at restaurants. Sometimes we hold hands, and sometimes we just lean in together. One of us says a few quiet words to bless our meal, and then we continue with our business. Each of us pretty much has a standard prayer when it’s our turn. Mine goes like this: Dear God, thank you for this food, and please keep us safe in our travels. Covers most of my bases, right? 😉

In my experience, there are two sticky things to consider when praying at restaurants: (1) whether any guests with us will feel uncomfortable if we pray, and (2) avoiding the waiter/waitress arriving to deliver food or refill drinks. While I shouldn’t have to compromise my values or beliefs for someone else, sometimes praying aloud is something we choose to forego if we’ve invited someone to dine with us who practices a different religion or someone we know we would be making uncomfortable. It’s not like my family is going to force a kumbaya circle, or insist that everyone go around and say five things for which they’re thankful, or enlist people to do a group Tebow in the middle of a crowded restaurant… We’re simply expressing our gratitude.

Honestly, I think it’s awesome when I see other young people praying in public. I’m not what most people would consider to be a conservative person, but it brings a smile to my heart when I witness other people sharing in their faith, unafraid that others might see them or judge them. I don’t believe in martyrdom or intentional showiness, but such a simple event can have such a profound ripple effect. I really wanted to shake those guys’ hands and tell them how cool I thought what they did was, but instead I just enjoyed what I witnessed, and I carried that happiness with me all day. They’ll never know the effect they had on me, but that’s one of the things I find coolest about faith.

Question: How does it make you feel when you see people praying in public?

Choir JAMmin’ with Mark Miller

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One of my all-time favorite weekends during the schoolyear in the fall was Choir JAM weekend, from sixth grade until I graduated from high school. Now I don’t have a musically inclined bone in my body, but Ruth (my mom) can do just about whatever you need her to do — short of being a one-woman string quartet. She usually volunteers to be in charge of coordination efforts; only one of her many strong suits. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass any of this talent along to me, but she did bring in the coolest director I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. As I mentioned, I’m at home in Richmond for 10 days for my Thanksgiving break (praise be to private school!), so I thought, what better way to help kick off my break than by observing Choir JAM? (#DorkAlert)

I’ll be straight with you — I spent most of my time at each Choir JAM event scoping out cute tenors and slouching like I couldn’t have cared less. (How “cool” can you really look with a dorky nametag strapped around your neck and a folder full of church music propped up on your lap…?) When Mark Miller is the director, though… it’s hard to pretend you don’t care, no matter who you are. I’ve worked with Mark at at least one Choir JAM event prior to this weekend, as well as at least one summer camp at Lake Junaluska, NC. Check out this I’m-too-cool-for-school attitude from the last time I worked with Mark:

I know I’m babbling, but I’m gonna fill you in anyway. Mark Miller is one of the coolest musicians I’ve ever met, period. He’s from NYC, and he writes original four-part music. Even if you’re not interested in Christian music, I bet you’ve never heard a hymn like this 😉

He can also come up with solo pieces, piano accompaniment, and changes to the music on the spot. My favorite thing about Mark is his ability to make even the youngest, least confident singer in the room feel as though he is being heard. He’s a humble guy for all that he’s accomplished. Truly, I was honored to shake his hand last night.

This is how I know I’m getting old — I’m actually interested in listening to choirs practice. I’m pretty sure I can feel my boobs sagging as I write this… Nevertheless, I’m off for day two of Choir JAM ’12!