Tuesday, October 20, 2009

God's Call

I have felt challenged in many ways since moving to New Orleans. The past few weeks have been particularly difficult. I could tell you all about the things that are not going as planned--but it would be misleading because those things would give the impression that things aren't going well. Rather, things are just not going how I planned! Apparently my plan is not what God intended--maybe one day we will get on the same page. I still feel at peace with my decision to serve in New Orleans. I feel like God has called me to this place. So I thought I would share with you what I love about New Orleans and being a YAV.

Things that have kept me going this month:

-Until this weekend it was still 90 degrees outside. It cooled down some but I still don't need a coat
-Running for a cause. You should donate! http://pages.teamintraining.org/la/mardigra10/autley
-Free concerts at the park
-A friend at church who is also trying to figure out the path God is calling her to follow
-The idea that maybe God is calling me to Metairie Ridge simply to be an example of how young adults can work and dedicate themselves to the church (thanks Kathy!)
-Being able to play the piano whenever I want and exploring new worship music
-Learning to play the ukulele
-Talking about what it means to be a Presbyterian with an elderly woman as we waited in line for a flu shot
-Looking at Casey's church website and blog and seeing her dedication and passion for music ministries
-Pecan Praline Coffee
-Exploring my bible and learning how to back up my faith with scripture
-Starring at a candle in silence with my roommates--taking time to reflect, process, and pray

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2 posts in 2 days!

Before moving to New Orleans, I invested in some new running shoes. A new pair of shoes is not cheap so I am now obligated to run! I have decided to train for the Mardi Gras Marathon as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team In Training.

As a member of the program, I have pledged to train on the behalf of Faron Benoit. Faron is 14 years old and loves sports and video games. Faron is also a survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

In addition to running, I have also pledged to raise money for leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and myeloma research and patient services programs. My goal is to run 26.2 miles and raise $2500. If you would like to donate, please go to my website: http://pages.teamintraining.org/la/mardigra10/autley

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Stony Point, small groups and some training sessions were divided based on the location of our service (international or national). After being in New Orleans for a couple of months I think they might have made a mistake with the New Orleans YAV placements! New Orleans definitely feels more like like a foreign country!

This weekend has been one of the most eventful in my life, and without a doubt the most eventful of my time in Nola. Thursday night our house was broken into. The man wanted money and was surely disappointed that we had none! You can say a prayer of thanks because we are all okay and the man is in jail. Friday we helped at the food bank, and went to a home dedication ceremony. Saturday I had my first marathon training (ps. I am training for a marathon--more on that another time) and presbytery meeting at which we were commissioned for service. Sunday was a typical day. I drove through the rivers in New Orleans (previously known as streets) to go to bible study. I came home to find my roommates pouring buckets of rain water from their cars. Oh...we also had three visitors from out of town this weekend!

In the midst of all the emotion, tension, and stress I also experienced the best moment (so far!) of my time here in New Orleans. On Friday we attended a home dedication ceremony in the lower ninth ward. For those of you who haven't seen New Orleans since Katrina here are some pictures of the area...

The first picture is taken from on top the levee that broke. This area used to be filled with houses. This picture (which I stole from google) is musicians village in the upper ninth ward. This is just to give you an idea of the architecture and layout of the neighborhood pre-Katrina.

Back to the story...The house dedication ceremony was for a women who remodeled her house just before Katrina hit and then suffered many set backs on the road to recovery, including being hit by a car. In the beginning of the ceremony, Christina (the house's construction assistant) sang the song At Last by Etta James. I have heard this song a hundred times at karaoke but I will never hear it the same again after listening to it the context of the home dedication ceremony. At the end of the ceremony the home owner had the opportunity to speak. Through her tears, all she could say was "I Give Thanks to God." It was an incredibly touching moment that I will not soon forget. In the midst of a crazy weekend it was also a great and much needed reminder of why I am in New Orleans.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Simple Living

Every time I was interviewed for the YAV program I was asked what I worried about or what I thought would be the biggest challenge of my YAV year. Without hesitation I would answer, "simple living." I really like to buy things (especially cloths), I love to go out and do things, I like to eat good (expensive) food, I hate to cook, and I like to have my own space. I was not sure about having a roommate and living on a small stipend.

Parts of living on a small stipend have been difficult for me. And really, "difficult" is an overstatement. Shopping and eating out were such a part of my routine in Columbus--you might even call them a bit of an addiction. However, the recovery process is going well and I am learning how to cope with my addictions =)

Other parts of simple living have been great. Since college, I have spent most weekends going out to eat, going to a movie, going to a bar, etc. These things are fun but cost a lot of money. We know we can't afford to go out all the time in New Orleans so we are forced to be creative with out outings. This past weekend we all donated blood so we could get into a haunted house for free (saved $20). Other Saturday activities (we call them funtivities) include going to the SPCA to play with puppies and to an art market. It takes some time finding these funtivities but it is worth it. We are living simply and exploring so many of the things this city has to offer.

Living in intentional Christian community has also been a good experience. I love always having people to talk to and people to go places with. I like the idea of being dependant on people. I am in a Bible study on Monday nights and we have been studying the life of Paul. This week we talked about Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus. One of the lessons in this scripture is that we should be dependant on Jesus but I think God wants us to be dependant on each other as well. Jesus could have opened the eyes of Paul but he choose to work through Ananias. There are also a few chapters in Acts which describe how the believers lived in community and shared everything they owned. The believers always had enough, not only because God provides, but because they shared! I think American society values independence too much. It is refreshing to live in intentional community--to share and be dependant on each other.