To Be Kind and To Be Patient

This blog is split into two parts. Though I believe kindness and patience ought to be joined together onto a single path, I have only now begun my journey with these two concepts and ways of being. As I am on this journey exploring the realm and wholesomeness of kindness and patience, I long to reach a point where I muster enough skill to merge together these two concepts onto a single path—a single path towards righteousness: to be of good intentions and of goodwill.

Part 1: To Be Kind

Kindness has resonated within my soul for a long time now. For some reason, I have been bound to the idea that I ought to be considerate, kind, and generous to others. I have come to believe that kindness and pursuing it wholly will lead me on a path towards righteousness. Still, I struggle regarding this pursuit. I have come to learn that being bound to an idea does not automatically entail I will act accordingly to that idea.

I will admit, I am not always kind. I have often been harsh and spiteful in my engagements with others. This last presidential election and the dialogues that ensued captured the absence of my kindness. At one point, I believe I wrote on Facebook, “F*** those who voted and support Donald Trump.” That was my lowest point. It was a poor reflection of what I aspire to be, and I ought to do all I can to avoid repeating such hateful behavior going forward.

Fortunately for me, I am habitually reminded within that I ought to be kind regardless of the way an interaction may have been going. I am uncertain as to why I have this habitual reminder within, but I have not resisted it; I have only embraced it. I truly feel called to the interpretation of righteousness I wrote above. Interpreting, conceptualizing, and my want to embrace kindness as a way of being has never been a difficult undertaking for me. But as I alluded to earlier, I have struggled to wrap my mind around being wholly kind. In the many interactions I have failed in being kind, I have grown accustomed to reflecting on what I did and what I could have done for a healthier engagement. Often, I think to myself, “ZACH! Why did you have to push her buttons? Because you felt attacked?! Why did you not approach the interaction calmly and level with her to remedy the issue at hand? Why would you resort to harshness?” And sadly, even after these reflections, the process repeats itself. It is a behavioral pattern, and I must recondition myself to break away from it.

Without a doubt, I believe reflection to be a crucial step in my ability to grow, but it is apparent in my writing that I am exhausted of imagining and reimagining scenarios that could have been avoided if I simply stuck to kindness. Why is it so difficult for me to be wholly kind? Why do I have to find a reason in a tense moment to withhold my kindness? This struggle, obviously, will not fade away by me wishing it away, but by challenging myself to act kind in all types of situations may remedy my exhaustion. I know kindness may not always resolve moments of tension and of hate, but if I can do my part by not adding to a tense situation, I can at least leave the interactions with my good intention and goodwill for the other. And I believe that is where I ought to start my journey.

 

Part 2: To Be Patient

My mind rushes like no other, and when my mind rushes, my actions are rushed as well. This rush of thought and expression has led to a recurring response that goes like, “Zach, think before you talk.” I have heard this response from a range of people, and I never really thought anything of it. To me, it felt more like an attack against my being and against my blunt and very literal expression. It really wasn’t, though. Instead, I ought to have taken these recurring responses as fair criticism against my being and expressive nature. And in my failure to slow down, many of my interactions have been led astray. My failure to slow down has invited people’s frustrations and has led to people feeling disrespected. Though I may be hardheaded in my passions and I may not budge at times, triggering ill-feelings is not only a terrible approach to express my passions but is also not a reflection of who I aspire to be. I aspire to be calm, collected, kind, and of love. I cannot do that if I do not slow down.

To slow down is to be patient. And in being patient, I may actually be able to think before I talk. To many, this may be as simple as playing checkers, but I have come to realize that I do indeed speak as I think rather than think to then speak. It is rather refreshing as I practice this. I am much more able to collect my thoughts, consider the person I am engaging with, and envision the route of the engagement. I am in the moment. I am not lost, misunderstood, and I am certainly more attentive to my expression.

To be patient is to be in the moment. It is to let the experience come to you. It is to feel out the experience and to direct it slowly but assuredly. It is so powerful to be able to finish this written piece with absolutely stunning piano music playing and with the capacity to slowly do all of this simultaneously. Throughout my life, I have been unable to think clearly, to slow down my thoughts, and to feel the experience as it is happening. And with this desire to be patient, I am more able to be.

 

-Zach

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California

The Wow Moments

In 2014, my sister graduated from high school. I will always remember it vividly: she had a letter from Clemson University in her hand, she slowly ripped the envelope, tearing the return address lettering up and staring at the piece of paper for what seemed like hours, and with each passing moment, all I could think about were the countless hours she spent studying, working on her education to get to this point. And then the screaming, lots of screaming. She got accepted and there were hugs, tears, more screaming and just joy. There have been only a handful of times where I’ve been “living in the moment” and thought to myself just, “Wow”.

This past weekend was one of those experiences. The UC Berkeley Speech team travelled to Chabot Community College, in Hayward, California for a Forensics Tournament with five students. We were facing schools with 15-20 members on their team, with over 15 colleges and universities attending; they had an uphill battle to face. However, at the end of the weekend, of the 11 speaking events that are offered, Berkeley won 7 of them. With just five members, this team was able to win the entire tournament. Wow. Rewind two weeks ago: the team was spending hours in coaching sessions, they were messaging me daily with updates and questions. On a regular basis, each member puts in approximately six or seven hours a week on their speeches, not including being full-time students, and I working at my placement site. Time and time again, I was antagonized by my friends, family, the team alike, all wondering why are we (the UC Berkeley Team) putting in so much effort into this. And from that work ethic, to be rewarded with winning a tournament?

Just wow.

If being the coach of this team has taught me anything, it’s the value I have for hard work and dedication. Throughout my time here in California, one of my biggest concerns was my mentality; I thought I would go back into “College Mode,” just going through the motions and trying to survive. Working a full-time position, coaching tens of undergraduate students, keeping my personal/ spiritual life in check, it’s a lot. Most would say (and still do) that it’s too much. And they’re not wrong, this is a lot for a 24-year-old to undertake. But to see that “Wow” moment makes it worth it. Now ya’ll have to understand, in general, I’m a very active person. In high school, I grew up playing every single sport you can think of; I had some sort of practice whether it be sports, theater, instrumental, clubs, you name it, I was probably involved. In college, I played soccer, was in five theater performances, was on the speech and debate team, held two jobs and a “student”. But I do this, all of these events, clubs, organizations, for these moments. Watching my team stand in front of the entire tournament and accept their awards, seeing the smiles on their faces as their name is called, the joy I see in each face as they hugged and supported one another, moments like that are once in a blue moon, and when they do happen, all you can do is take a step back and enjoy it.

Early on in our LEVN Program, one of our directors, Casey, talked about having an “Aha” moment every time she takes the program to Lake Tahoe for an annual retreat. The beauty, the serenity up there just makes you truly look at the world in a different way and all you can say is, “Aha!” I like to think this is something along those lines. Seeing the dedication of each of these students and the constant effort they put in makes driving all those hours, the editing, the critiques, the painstaking arguments convincing a young adult that they are in fact wrong worth it. It puts into perspective what this is all about: volunteering for a year of service. I don’t get paid to coach this team. I do this for those moments, to see these students grow and develop their abilities not just in their speaking skills, but life skills. Just last week, one of my students was accepted to a news anchor position at school with over 300 applicants; another one received the part in As You Like It; all I can say is just, “Wow”. I won’t lie, sometimes I think to myself, “Nicky, why in tarnation are you doing this to yourself?” It’s overwhelming at times. But to see these accomplishments of these kids, in myself, it makes it all worth it. It’s like opening an acceptance letter, the obnoxious screaming, the tears, the joy that we all felt. It’s for the “wow” moments.

-Nicky

Impact Foundry

 

Home

This year is one of transition for all of us in our little yellow house. We are all—in many different ways—between one stage of life and another. The nature of LEVN lends itself to being a time of change, exploration, and discernment. No one stays in the service corps forever; everyone comes with 20+ years of unique experiences and challenges, and everyone will, after a year or sometimes two, move on to something new.  For many of my housemates this is their first year out of college; I have been out of school and working for a few years, but it’s my first time living somewhere other than Anderson, IN.

A little over a year ago, I was sitting in a movie theatre watching Moana. It was a time in my life when I did not know what the next step was, but I knew that I needed to step into some changes. I had not found out about LEVN yet and I was applying for jobs, beginning to seek out volunteer opportunities in areas that interested me, and looking into graduate schools. I’m definitely a crier at the movies, so no one who knows me would be surprised to hear that this animated Disney feature got me really emotional. Following your calling out into the unknown is a central theme of the film. One scene/song in particular summed up much of what I was feeling, in which, when asked who she is, Moana sings: “I am a girl who loves my island, and the girl who loves the sea, it calls me…” Cue much weeping.

In those moments I didn’t know what was coming but I wanted so badly to move forward; I was more exasperated than sad. Fast-forward to August when I was driving to California and heard the lyrics in a new way: I was scared to leave my friends and family, but I was excited to see what the year had in store for me. Fast-forward AGAIN to hearing the song in the present (I love musicals, so, of course, I’m going to listen to this soundtrack throughout the foreseeable future): I somehow feel both more hopeful than ever in my calling and also incredibly sad at times to be so far away from dear friends and community who I had lived near for many years. I really do love my island. And during this season, it’s a struggle to define what ‘home’ looks like.

“Did you go home for Christmas?” many parishioners at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral asked me during the last few weeks. The seemingly simple question brings up a host of confusion for me. Did I go to Indiana? No. Do I want to continue to think of Indiana as my home when I am not at all certain where I will be living next year? I’m not sure. I feel the same way about the church I grew up in: I find myself referring to it as my “home church” often, even when I don’t intend to, but do I want to continue thinking of it that way when I don’t plan to return after my year in LEVN is up? Especially if I hope to continue church ministry somewhere completely different after LEVN is over?

I haven’t come to any great conclusions, but I think, for now, that I’m just going to have to be OK with home being more explored by my questions than defined by my answers. My task then becomes noticing and grabbing the bits of home I discover along the way. I did go to somebody’s home for Christmas: I tagged along with a housemate to visit family in Washington state, where I found comfort in some of my favorite rejuvenating activities: reading books of my own choosing and going to the movies. I also found home in quality kitty time, being welcomed into a stranger’s home, and a stunning hike in the snow (obviously, a Midwest winter staple that I was missing in California)!

One of the movies I chose to see with Christmas gift money was Lady Bird, a coming-of-age story about a young women’s last year in high school, which takes places in Sacramento. There was something so sacred about experiencing a film about Sacramento in Sacramento with people who “get” Sacramento. Hearing them laugh and sigh and recognize the various landmarks made me feel like I could almost borrow their home for two hours. The way the main character, Christine “Lady Bird,” feels about her hometown reminded me of my own conflicted relationship with Anderson, IN. Take, for example, this conversation Lady Bird has about an essay she has written with one of the administrators at her Catholic high school:

Sister Sarah: You clearly love Sacramento.

Lady Bird: I do?

Sister Sarah: You write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care.

Lady Bird: I was just describing it.

Sister Sarah: Well it comes across as love.

Lady Bird: Sure, I guess I pay attention.

Sister Sarah: Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?

This scene struck me on two levels (again, in the form of questions):

The first being, how important is it to define clearly my relationship with my hometown right now?

And the second: in what ways can I love where I live now? Or, if you prefer: how can I better be paying attention?

When most of your close friends are in a three-hour different time zone, it can start to feel like you’re on different planes. It’s hard to find times to talk when everyone (including me) is busy with the kind of time-juggling and emotional roller coasters that so often come with being in one’s mid-twenties on top of the fact that my 7PM is Indiana’s 10PM. The idea of home to me feels similarly fractured right now. Sometimes I try to process it more thoroughly, only to remember that in six months I will almost certainly move and have to start all over again.

I can only strive to follow the oft-quoted advice of the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke: “be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…live the questions.” For me it usually comes down to trust. Do I trust my Midwestern friends to keep me in their minds and hearts even if that looks different now? Do I trust my own ability to ask for what I need and then be grateful for what I have?

Do I trust God to provide?

Even when—especially when—providence doesn’t look like I think it should?

The thing is, I am currently living an abundant life with beautiful humans in a world where we all belong to each other. And I have to remind myself continually that it may not be the season to Define The Relationship with me and Home. Grace abounds when we don’t know whether or not we are dividing our time up correctly and when we are doing our best but it doesn’t seem like enough. Sometimes just moments are powerful enough to carry you when you feel nomadic, whether it’s cuddling up with a housemate to watch a movie or paying your full attention to a parishioner or client.

Moana’s song ends:

“The call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always falling and rising. I will carry you here in my heart, you’ll remind me, that come what may, I know the way…”

Dear Lord, please cleanse us of our incredible Fear Of Missing Out and replace our need to know with a desire to trust. Amen.

 

-Hannah

Next Move

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

My Love-Hate Relationship with Blogs…or, Myself

I find blogs to be absolutely fascinating. It seems like everyone is either writing or reading one now a days, myself included. I subscribe to several blogs, which I take great pleasure in reading. In fact, receiving a new post from one of my favorite writers is often the highlight of my morning.

Quick Side Note: One of my absolute favorite bloggers is a fantastic woman named Sarah Bessey. If you don’t know who she is, stop what you’re doing right now and look her up immediately. She’s absolutely spectacular!

While I have always enjoyed reading blogs, I’ve never tried to create my own. I’ve always thought it would be a really cool experience, but I just wasn’t super motivated to get started. So when I found out that I had to write a blog post every seven weeks to meet the requirements of being a LEVN volunteer, I was actually pretty excited. This was going to be the perfect opportunity to finally try something I’ve always wanted to do.

I decided to write my first blog about adjusting to my new home in California. Finding a topic to write about was pretty easy, but I struggled with putting into words all of the emotions I was feeling about being in this unfamiliar place. I went back and forth between thoughts, typing and erasing sentence after sentence. It was a painstaking process, and it took me much longer than I had anticipated. After hours of revision, I was finally happy with the piece and submitted it for publication. But when it was finally posted, I reread what I had written and found myself extremely displeased.

“This is so dull,” I thought to myself as I read. “I don’t find this even the least bit interesting, and it’s about my life! This is so poorly written…what a stupid thing to say! What was I thinking?” I took note of all the mistakes I felt I had made and created a list of things to avoid when writing my next post. It would be much better next time. I was sure of it.

Seven weeks passed, and it was time to submit my second blog. This time, I found it much more difficult to select a topic. I had so many things going on at work and in the house. How was I supposed to pick just one? Eventually, I settled on the issue of presence, a broad topic that I had little difficulty elaborating on. After consulting the list I had created of mistakes to avoid this time, I felt very prepared to write a good post. It took me much less time to write the piece, and I was extremely content with the final product when I sent it off to be posted on the website. But of course, when I reread my post online, I found myself equally as disappointed with my second piece as I was with my first.

“I can’t even finish reading this,” I scoffed. ” It’s an absolute mess. It sounds so forced! It doesn’t come off the way I wanted it to at all. UGH.” I scrolled down and read through my housemates’ posts again, all the while thinking how much better there’s were than mine. “Why can’t I be funny like _____ or witty like _____? So-and-so writes so beautifully. Why can’t I put words together like that?” I got more and more frustrated the more I read. I kept going until I reached my first post and refused to go any further. “That’s it,” I thought. “I’m not doing this again. This sucks. I hate writing blogs! This whole thing is just stupid!” I could feel myself getting angrier as I thought about my next deadline. It was coming up shortly after the new year, and I knew that I was going to have to submit something no matter how much I didn’t want to.

January rolled around, and the deadline to submit my post passed. I started to feel pretty guilty about not sending anything in, so I begrudgingly pulled up a blank Word document at work and hoped for inspiration. I knew I had to come up with something quickly. Suddenly, a thought came to me. “I know just what I’ll do!” I exclaimed in a very Grinch-like manner. “I’ll write a blog post about how much I hate writing blog posts! That’s perfect!”

I started typing without a second thought, and the words starting flowing out of me like they never have before. I wrote paragraph after paragraph about my strong disdain of writing blogs, and out of my misery, this piece was born. It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing this post that I even realized what it is really about. It’s not about the love-hate relationship I have with blogs. It’s about the love-hate relationship I have with myself.

I think the realization came to me as I was reading the middle section where I talk about critiquing my previous posts so intensely. I started to think about how ridiculous the whole thing sounded. After all, there are maybe five people that even read my posts, so why do I care so much about them? Why am I aiming for this unattainable standard of perfection…

Why am I being so cruel to myself?

Self-love is something that I’ve never really understood how to practice. I understand the principles, but the idea of loving myself despite all of the flaws that I feel are so incredibly visible is really difficult to wrap my mind around. I feel honest and truthful when I say to someone else that they’re beautifully and wonderfully made, yet when I try to say that to my own reflection, I’m incredibly uncomfortable and feel as if I’m fooling myself. I’m not saying any of this out of a desire for pity or for affirmation. I’m just hoping that if you’re reading this and it sounds like your own experience, you can find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.

Learning to love myself is a journey that I expect I’ll be on for a long time…maybe even a lifetime, but each step I take closer to loving myself is a step I take closer to God. After all, what kind of relationship do I have with God if I don’t truly believe that I’m worthy of His love?

He says to His people, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you,” (Song of Solomon 4:7, ESV). The psalmist echoes His sentiments, reminding us that He knitted each of us together in our mother’s womb, and thus we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139: 13-15). These are truths that I cling to in this journey. It may not be today or tomorrow or even a year from now, but I hope that one day I can truly believe that these truths apply to me too. Until then, I’m making a promise to myself. No matter how hard it is to believe or how much I don’t want to say it out loud, I’ll look at my reflection in the mirror and  remind myself of these truths: I truly am altogether beautiful, beloved, and without a doubt, wonderfully made.

-Nicolette

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California

Am I wearing my patience pants today?

First, I’d like to give a little shout out to my dear friend and housemate, Nicolette, for coining the term patience pants. How stinking cute is that?!? I’m totally going to use this phrase for a little comic relief when checking in with my patience and kindness towards myself and others. So thank you beautiful nugget (Nicci) for being a guiding light in my sporadic dismal thoughts; I truly appreciate your creative outlets.

Lately it feels as though everything is testing my patience… could it be that mercury is in retrograde? Possibly. But, in all honesty I know that it’s just my subconscious telling me that I need to check in with myself. I’ve been experiencing a world of emotions in regards to previous mistakes I’ve made and been a part of. The blame and shame is still something that arises, and I try to combat with self-love and kindness. Being away from friends and family back on the east coast has been a blessing, because it’s given me the time and space needed to be with myself and authentic thoughts without any physical reminders. Being out here with no immediate relations or connections to my past gave me the chance to start over and create a fresh mind frame on how I view and treat myself. Creating and maintaining love for yourself is essential for the happiness of your life and as being a constructive human in society. You can’t give what you don’t have, and we all know that the world could use A LOT more lovin’.

Talking with my spiritual director, Pastor Jocelynn, and housemates has helped me rationalize my erratic thoughts; easing my anxieties and concerns. Although I’m hyperaware that the only true fix already exists within me, it feels good to be affirmed that I am not alone and senseless. I’m reminded every day that I am only human and mistakes are bound to happen. One must only suffer the consequences once, because any more than that is a form of self-abuse and only does more harm. Knowing and living that truth are two totally different entities, and I now know that. I’m currently in the process of forgiveness and developing more self-love; I just need to keep my patience pants on for the time being.

Patience is a beautiful yet incredibly challenging attribute to uphold at all times. It may seem impossible at times to keep my head on straight, but with a mindful eye and joyful reminders from the self and loved ones, I am soothed and comforted. Although I contradict myself daily, I am thankful for the imperfect life and relationships I have right now. I am grateful for past mistakes and connections I’ve made and lost. I am blessed for the hurt I have felt and feel, because it makes me resilient and creates a happier and radiant being that is just abundantly happy to be breathing.  I struggle internally with ominous thoughts that creep up from time-to-time, but I am able to reset and engage in more loving and affirming sentiments.

As I end this post I want to share a quote that I found that helps me refocus my worth and love for myself and others:

“Have patience with all things but first with yourself. Never confuse you mistakes with your value as a human being. You’re a perfectly valuable, creative, worthwhile person simply because you exist. And no amount of triumphs or tribulations can ever change that. Unconditional self-acceptance is the core of a peaceful mind.”

Thank you St. Francis de Sales for articulating a vital point that many of us need to adhere to and manifest within ourselves and others. I am going to try and continue with my positive mantras that keep my light illuminating for all to see and feel. Thank you friends, family, and universe that keeps me sane, and consistently showers me with love and compassion; you’re the coal that keeps me burning.

-Andrea

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California

It’s new years already I guess

Hi everyone! It’s been four months since I arrived in Davis, and they have simultaneously the shortest and longest four months of my life so far. Many wonderful (and not so wonderful) things have happened (I’m sure my housemates and I have covered at least half of what’s been going on in these blog posts, so I’ll spare you the details), but it really feels like it’s all been happening to someone else when I think back on my experiences. I suppose a better way of phrasing it would be that I feel emotionally disconnected from my memories? My work and home life are by all means pleasant, I am constantly thankful for the life that I have the opportunity live right now; but even Christmas feels like another monotonous, anticlimactic event despite it being only a couple weeks ago. It was supposed to be an exciting adventure where my housemate (Hannah) and I drove all the way to Northern Washington to spend the holiday with my extended family; it certainly felt that way while it was happening, but when I look back at it the experience feels empty and meaningless. This emotional dilemma is frustrating and confusing to me as a person who really only feels a spiritual connection to God in relation to events I call “once in a lifetime experiences,” AKA things that deviate from my routine at any given time. I suppose I could chalk it all up to seasonal depression since that’s definitely come back to bite me in the butt like it always does, but this would be a new symptom if that really is the case, so I don’t know. I don’t really know how to deal with this either, dealing with feeling in the present moment is one thing, but feeling about the past??? What am I supposed to do, delude myself into caring by repeatedly telling myself that’s how I feel? That seems like more of a band aid solution. I know I need to do something about it sooner or later, because my frustration is making me overwhelmed to the point where it’s starting to negatively affect my work and self-care.

I know I said in my first blog post that I needed to live in the present more, but I think this issue counts as an exception. Like, how am I supposed to write a decent blog post if I don’t have any particular feelings about anything I’ve done? I don’t want to bore anyone reading this with something canned or insincere like “yeah Christmas was so fun!!!! We sang carols and opened presents!!! Wow what a lovely time God is Great.” I don’t want to write things that I don’t mean; Lord knows I already make a huge effort to be as wordy as possible so each post can be a halfway decent length. I really wish I could say that I’ve been having the best time of my life out here, I really do. But my bottom line is that I know prospective members of LEVN will probably read this, and I believe it’s better to be real with myself and others. Doing a year of service is a major challenge; talking about how it’s a challenge for me will hopefully help future LEVNeers work through theirs and remind them that they aren’t (or weren’t?) alone.  I’m working very hard to decrease how much I focus on the negative, but completely bypassing the problem right in front of me for the sunshine and roses doesn’t feel productive. I have to figure out how to deal with this first, or at least learn to multitask. With any luck I’ll have at least half of an answer for myself that I can share here by the time my next turn to post rolls around. I’ll end on a slightly humorous note by leaving you readers with a picture of my aunt’s dog; the family calls her Bitsy the Wonderdog because they wonder if she’s really a dog…

 

 

 

 

 

-Livvy

The Belfry

Sierra Pacific Synod Office of the Bishop

Compromise

Compromise is not about losing. It is about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do.

– Donna Martini

I can be a very stubborn person. If I am discussing with a person regarding a topic or issue that I am well-researched on and that person makes a statement contrary to what I know to be true regarding that topic or issue, I will be the first to say, “No, that is wrong”. When a person interacts in a way that is counter to what I feel to be the right way to act or behave, I will often feel uneasy and will either hold that within or will do what needs to be done to cleanse that uneasiness. There are a number of other situations that invite my stubbornness, but the point is that to be stubborn is to not compromise. And I want to compromise even if it means moments of uneasiness.

I can assure the reader that I will not compromise every chance I get, but I ought to compromise in situations that will benefit both parties. That does not mean I will compromise a good for an evil to receive another good. Rather, it means I will compromise something like a personal tendency or a habitual action to ultimately accommodate the needs of another.

This may not be clear to the reader, so I will play out a scenario. Imagine two people interacting with one another five days a week. They may or may not want to interact with one another, but they work together, so they must. These two people differ in personalities, and work is becoming increasingly difficult because they both have different mentalities to how work ought to be done and how interactions at work ought to occur. So far, both have chosen to be stubborn and have failed to realize the need to compromise. Both, however, will ultimately lose because they both toxify the workplace. What can be done? Well, they can reach a compromise. To do this, both parties must be able to reach common ground. Reaching common ground could be as simple as both wanting to be their best at the workplace. Once that common ground is found and communicated genuinely between the two parties, it becomes a matter of finding out what causes the difficulties between them when working together. This may be tricky and is a bit unrealistic if there is not a neutral third party mediating this communication. Regardless, once the cause of tension between the two parties is addressed and thoroughly understood, the option to compromise and what to compromise on is now presented to both parties.

To resolve workplace tension, both parties chose to compromise. Party A chose to stop calling Party B every single day to take on tasks, and instead chose to email Party B once a week to take on tasks. Party B was flustered when Party A called each and every day requesting them to take on tasks, and instead preferred to receive emails once a week. Party B chose to stop slamming the office door next to Party A’s office, and instead chose to gently close the office door next to Party A’s office whenever passing through. The slamming of the office door disrupted Party A on a weekly basis and often embarrassed Party A in meetings with clients. As the two parties reached compromises after communication, their relationship became much easier to navigate and control. They may not have become the best of friends after these compromises, but they functioned much better together at the workplace. And that would be a type of situation I feel compromise is necessary and an opportunity to grow with another person.

The point of compromise is not to win or lose, but rather to build a bridge of compassion and understanding between you and the other person. Even if I fundamentally disagree with another person, that does not warrant me to do what I please and to neglect the way I ought to behave. The worse that can happen is I challenge myself to compromise for the good of both parties and it does not work out. The ball, as I think it should be, is always on my court. If I will not even get myself to compromise in the type of situation I played out earlier, then I worry that my stubbornness defines me much more so than my difficulties in compromising with others. I want to be defined by my goodwill, my compassion for others, and my intentionality to be the best version of myself for others. I am here to grow and learn with others. I am not here to stifle growth and understanding between myself and others.

Spiritually, workwise, personally, and over time, I believe my capacity to compromise will determine my happiness in all of these areas. Happiness is really all I want for myself and for others, and the more tools I can add to my toolbox, the better I will be able to structure and build a happy life for myself and others. When I am stubborn and resolved to not compromise or fail to be civil, I only end up losing. Maybe the lost does not reveal itself to me immediately, but as I continue on in this life, I am often reminded of the lost and the harm that derived from my past actions. I want to be reminded of my compromises, not my stubbornness. It is about time.

To end, I would like to offer the reader a haiku of my own creation:

Compromise is tough

But it will teach you enough

 Don’t be in a huff

 

-Zach

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California

Navidad

The holidays are always an interesting time for everyone. For some individuals it’s the most magical time of the year while for others it is not so fun. The holidays can be difficult because they can bring up memories of family members that are no longer living, broken relationships, family members that live far away, family disagreements, etc. In one way or another it seems like all the drama that comes up during this time of year connects back to our family. I find this ironic because it’s during the holidays that we strive (and are encouraged) to spend more quality time with our family. I suppose there’s nothing wrong to work for better relationships with family members, but we shouldn’t wait until this time of year to do so. By this time there’s so much hurt and resentment that it feels like we are just trying to wrap up the holidays, pretend we all love each other, start the new year, and return to “normal.”

My family and I celebrate Christmas but my feelings towards the holidays are unclear. Now that I’m a little older I acknowledge that I am starting to appreciate Christmas more because I’m learning how others celebrate this day and, so I am starting to adopt certain traditions that I appreciate. I’m understanding that the way I celebrated Christmas (the holidays in general) as a child and adolescent were not always positive but I also wouldn’t change them for anything.

There were Christmases that were lonely and some that were too chaotic but nevertheless alcohol was always present during the holidays. It felt like Christmas was not a celebration for Jesus but rather an excuse for the older folks to get unbelievably drunk. Before my teenage years I knew I didn’t like the holiday parties because it would almost guarantee some form of verbal or emotional harassment by the end of the night. I didn’t like going to other family’s holidays parties that we were invited to because I would feel embarrassed by my parent’s drunk behavior. I felt forced to excuse unhealthy behavior from my parent because I was getting presents and therefore shouldn’t have a reason to complain.

There were also years when my family would stay at home on Christmas day and it would just be the five of us together celebrating. These celebrations felt quite lonely. I didn’t grow up with aunts, uncles, or grandparents, essentially no extended family. I didn’t miss any particular family member because I didn’t know them, but as a kid I did wish that they were close to us. My parents and I were undocumented for about 20 years so during that time we couldn’t leave the country. I remember the feelings I had as a kid when my classmates would tell me that they were going to Mexico for Christmas to be with their grandparents. At this age I didn’t understand why we couldn’t go to Mexico. But despite how I felt, not being able to go to Mexico was undoubtedly more difficult for my parents since they did have memories from back home. Christmas celebrations were always on an extreme. Some years it was quiet and some years there were parties for days. As time went by I started to feel indifferent towards Christmas. During my college years I began to pull away from holiday festivities—I started to feel a little like the Grinch.

By no means am I saying that I am not grateful for my family or my holiday traditions because I am. I’m beyond blessed for having such a wonderful and accepting family that opens their home to me, including during the holidays. Now at age 26, and thanks to my involvement with LEVN, I’m relearning what Christmas really is and I’m starting to remove the negative memories that I’ve attached to this beautiful day. I’m learning that Christmas doesn’t have to be about parties or drinking. Christmas is about God, family, and love. Fortunately, my family is growing now, and I have hope that in the future I’ll have the big family that I’ve always wanted and start positive traditions with them.  I am taking time to re-learn about posadas and all the Christmas traditions from Mexico because I want to be able to teach that to my children. I may not have been able to control the things that created the negative memories I’ve attached to this holiday, but it doesn’t mean that I cannot create new positive ones at this point in my life.

 

-Leo

Computers 4 Kids

Chess

During my early teenage years, I somehow ended up being the Georgia State Champion in Blindfold Chess. I had three coaches that I worked with daily, went to two or three tournaments a week and even had a little, miniature chess board I carried around in my pocket to play. And because I loved myself, I decided to make this already seemingly impossible game even more complicated, by taking all the pieces away and basing every move off of memory and theories I had learned. Now the main difference between playing “chess” and “blindfold chess”, minus the absence of visible pieces, is that the strategy becomes completely different; the objective in blindfold chess is to capture the King, just like a normal game, however, you can also win if your opponent makes an invalid move. That key caveat is what makes blindfold chess hated by most. If you make a single mistake, you automatically lose.

 

I have lived the majority of my life by that standard. To me, my subjective idea of failure is just not an option. Jaded as that may sound, failing, to me, is something that I strive to never have: In my relationships, I try to stay in contact with all of my close friends, making it a point to call each of them at least once a week. At Impact Foundry, I try to stay on top of my work and then some, creating new graphics and contributing to the continual discussions and programs that we offer. I even accepted the opportunity to coach Berkeley’s Speech team and spend hours in the Bay, critiquing, editing and blocking speeches for these undergraduates. In other words, I do too much.

 

This program is starting to open my eyes and make me realize that I am 100% an achiever. I aim to do everything I possibly can, please as many people as I can and most importantly, I’m hurting myself because of it. A normal 24-year-old would not try and run tech for a YMCA Convention, single- handedly host 15 college speech and debate programs, play in 4 different soccer leagues, run the social media for 3 different organizations and be a newlywed. That’s insane. It’s no secret that I am a people pleaser. I always want people to be happy, and if that means at the expense of myself, I am more than willing to do it.

 

While I have been told it is never a bad thing to do as much as you can, I have learned that accepting more responsibility than you should is not a strength, but a weakness. While I try to do everything that I possibly can, if I try to do too much, it becomes devalued and I’m unable to give my full attention. Throughout my entire life I have been focusing and participate in most things that I have a passion for: chess, clarinet, soccer, speech. I was blessed with the opportunity to receive the proper coaches, teachers to aid in my passions. And while there will always be a debate about focusing and harnessing your skills and passions into a few, selective or broadening them even further, I have come to the conclusion that at the end of the day, if you’re happy with the end result, then that’s all that matters.

 

I’m tired. While I am attempting to complete so many tasks and help out every single person I come into contact with, I understand that sometimes, prioritizing your needs is a necessity. My yearning for having positive emotions from my friends and people I’ve met out here, while with good intentions, is hurting me. This may seem like something pretty basic to see and to understand, but coming from a background where I was taught to literally put other people first is a hard adjustment. I have become blinded by my desire to be a people pleaser to the point of physically and mentally exhausting my body. At the speech tournament I hosted, I didn’t sleep or eat for almost 60 hours, while editing and updating social media, then drove directly back and played two soccer games back to back, all the while trying to spend quality time with my wife. Learning a balance in my life is a huge necessity and I am improving on it. But the days of spreading myself out so thin that I snap is something that cannot happen anymore, and will not.

 

In blindfold chess, you play the opponent rather than the game. Instead of trying to take away the opponent’s most important piece, you instead make the opponent make a mistake. I have grown accustomed to playing the game. I continually try to win by ensuring that everyone around me is happy and that I help them in any way that I can. I know there’s nothing wrong with that, but unless I find a true balance with that, I will continue to be exhausted and feel like I’m being stretched to my breaking point. Prioritize and optimize is the name of the game. I’m just trying to get through it.

 

-Nicky

 

Impact Foundry

The Light

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

 

-John 1:1-5 (NIV)

The last two months, light has been on my mind a lot. There’s a reason that it has been a significant symbol for humanity throughout the ages, whether it represents goodness, faith, knowledge, life, or something else entirely. There is an undeniable mystical and alluring quality to flames, from a tiny candle to a warming bonfire. It gives us hope and helps us see. Even a seemingly tiny amount of light can make a huge difference in a dark room. If you have somehow forgotten this, I encourage you to find a space without any windows and then light a candle in the center to see how far the light can reach.

When I was a middle school student in youth group, our pastor would light a “Christ candle” at the beginning of each teaching time to remind us that Christ is always with us. At our own campus ministry at UC Davis, The Belfry, the Christ candle in the chapel always stays lit regardless of whether someone is present. I have found comfort and solitude there when I needed to sit in my feelings without anyone around. When you live with six other people, it can sometimes be exasperating to find a place indoors to be alone. That place for me has become that chapel. Alone. With the presence of Christ, that is.

All too often the darkest and brightest moments of our lives happen near the same time. This has certainly been true for me lately, as I have been so grateful for my time in LEVN and all the experiences I have had so far, but have, at the same time, been coming to terms with the death of a friend back home. It is one thing to experience the death of a loved one when you are close by and able to say goodbye; it is a different process to be 2,000 miles away both from the person who died and the community who is grieving. When I found out she was likely not going to make it through the night, I didn’t know how to handle it. So I sought shelter in the Belfry, the darkness, and that one candle.

She was one of the most loving people I have ever known. She shared her kind heart and good humor with all she encountered. She was young and vibrant and hardworking and so real. She meant a great deal to many people – both those to whom she had ministered and those who called her a dear friend.

How could someone who had been so alive, be dead?

How could someone, who was a light for so many, suddenly not be in her own body?

These impossible questions linger in my mind.

She died on October 30th. And in the world’s horrible/divine timing, we would be celebrating Dia de los Muertos two days later. One of the wonderful (light-emitting) experiences I have had in LEVN is living with people from such a variety of backgrounds. Our housemate, Leo, is Mexican and helped us have a legit Day of the Dead altar in The Belfry. I had been anticipating this for a few weeks; the celebration aspect of this tradition excited me.

Then October 30th happened. And I started to get anxious.

Would I be able to handle participating in our Dia de los Muertos-Reformation Day-All Saints Day festivities? Would everything be too fresh? Would lighting candles for my friend and others I have known be helpful or just all too much?

I had to risk it anyway. The potential healing outweighed the potential aggravation of grief.

But the experience of contributing to the altar, lighting candles during our service with the UC Davis students, and observing the items afterward alone (alone, with the presence of Christ) exceeded any expectations I had for a meaningful experience. I cannot explain what happened. But the images were raw and the lights were overpowering and I was devastated and OK all at once.

I had actually planned to video-chat with a friend—my past youth pastor who had lit the Christ candle for me so many years ago—that night. But I told her I needed to reschedule and sent her a photo of the altar. She understood.

A few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to attend a Service of Remembrance for LGBT people who had been murdered due to their identity or perceived identity that was sponsored by my placement site, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. I walked in and noticed that the altar up front had candles that were to be lit during the service. This was not unusual, but what was unexpectedly emotionally impactful for me (someone raised in a non-LGBT-affirming church tradition) was that the colors of the individual candles together created a rainbow. Watching people light each candle while others read passages from different faiths and cultures – all focusing on love and connection—was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. It was both a sorrowful reflection and an ecstatic celebration of the diversity of God’s creation. Light piercing the vast darkness. Expressions of grief and delight co-existing and overlapping and somehow creating music.

I write about these experiences not to provide answers or establish one clear point but rather to wade around in the mystery for a while. I grew up in a tradition of children’s worship called Godly Play, which engages children in the presence of God through a unique mode of storytelling. This program invites them (and us, as adults) to imagine what these pivotal stories of the church might mean. There is time set aside to wonder freely out loud. Coming to distinct conclusions or reciting back a “moral” are hardly the point.

One central theme of Godly Play is The Light. The storyteller talks about how Jesus said, “I am the light” and that “those who love the light can become one with the light.” She lights a Christ candle and proceeds to light a candle from that original candle for each child in the room.

“I wonder how so much light could be given away and the Light still be the same?”

The group enjoys the light for a while. The storyteller then ends the story by explaining that, when the light is changed, it can be in many places at once. She snuffs out the candles one by one and encourages the children to watch how the light changes as the smoke fills the room.

The night that I sat before the Dia de los Muertos altar, I knew that before I could go back to the LEVN house, I would have to put out all the candles. (At the end of the day, even within the most sacred of rituals, safety is first). At first, I was sad at the prospect of all the little lights going away, when the candles represented someone I was not yet ready to let go of. But the candle snuffer propped against the wall reminded me of the story of The Light. And I was suddenly interested to see how the smoke would gradually disseminate throughout the room.

“The Light that was just in one place at one time is in all places at all times…So the Light can be everywhere in this room and even in other places…”

Although I was just beginning the grieving process in some ways, it was time to rest for the night, and I was surprised to find myself ready for the light to change.

Somehow it became even more mysterious than it was when it was burning.

Thanks be to God.

 

-Hannah

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Next Move