30 September 2009

A Little Taste of the Fun...

I finally got around to uploading photos!!! Pictures will be more integrated into my posts as the year goes on, but for now, here's a little preview for you! You can also go to my Flickr account and see everything!

Volleyball Little League Champions
(back row L-R: Bill (the coach!), David, Steve, Pierce, Leck, Rob
front row L-R: Lauren Bleam, Elizabeth, Sabrina, Kim
not pictured: Lauren Black, Kelly, Carrie)

Dressed up for a fundraiser and taking Pierce to the prom!
(L-R: Elizabeth, Sabrina, Kim, Pierce, Carrie, Lauren Bleam)

Posing with the park ranger at Great Falls Park
(L to R: attractive park ranger, Carrie, Lauren Black, Kelly)

What happens when I leave my phone unattended
(L-R: Sabrina, Steve, David)

This is for all my Portland loves...you know who you are!

29 September 2009

Fellows Season 3 - 11 Reasons Why This Was the Best Decision I Ever Made

Here’s what I think: going insane with 11 other people is a lot more fun than going insane on your own.

As I enter into my fourth week as a Fellow and begin to realize that this is probably going to be the busiest, most challenging year of my life, I am indescribably grateful that I have 11 other Fellows to share the experience with. Coming into the program, perhaps my biggest anxiety was who these 11 people were going to be. Knowing that I was going to be spending 9 months seeing them almost all day, almost every day, I had a lot of fear concerning the issues that can come up with 12 people in the same space and time. Would I like them? Would they like me? Would we trust each other enough to be honest and vulnerable with each other? Would we have enough fun to make all the pressures of the program seem a little less demanding?
Let me tell you: every single question I had was answered in a positive way. From that awkward first day when we sat around in a circle trying not to act like complete idiots to this point, almost exactly four weeks later, I am amazed how much I have grown to truly and completely love these people. They are the best part about my day…EVERY DAY. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. First and foremost, there are 11 reasons why. They are (in no particular order): Lauren Bleam, Leck Shannon, Elizabeth Gillespie, Steve Metzger, Kim Mascher, David Braddy, Pierce Babirak, Rob Bloss, Kelly Davis, Sabrina Moran, and Lauren Black
2. We laugh A LOT. I think I have laughed more in the past four weeks than I ever have in my lifetime. We dance in the car to Miley Cyrus (that’s right…we know how to Party in the USA!). We take Leck to the “big city” (DC, that is) for the first time and try to hook him up with pretty girls on the Metro. We take Pierce to the “prom.” We abbreviate every word we possibly can. We rejoice at the array of mistakenly (or not) inappropriate gestures and comments, including jokes about what will happen at our year-end banquet. We go to the park and take pictures with attractive park rangers. We email each other ridiculous pictures and a million little notes every day we are at work.
3. We have no cliques. All the girls hang out with all the guys. We always have to move tables around at restaurants so we can eat together…they probably hate us. Everywhere we go we bring the party.
4. We trust each other. After only 4 weeks, I am somewhat shocked at the level of emotional trust we have with one another. Especially with the girls, we are already telling each other aspects of ourselves that we have shared with very few people.
5. We love and respect each other. Even if we do have little issues later on this year (which, considering the almost excessive amount of time we see each other, I’m sure we will), it is a comfort to know that we have built a pretty strong foundation from the beginning. No matter what happens, I am confident that we will continue to keep our unity because of this respect.
6. We are all different. We come from lots of different places and backgrounds. We have vastly different personalities. But we somehow mesh together rather serendipitously. We learn from each other and since we respect each other, we embrace our differences pretty wholeheartedly. As the year goes on, I think I might have to write a post about each individual because they are all just so wonderfully unique and special.
7. We love Jesus. This may seem like an obvious point to make, but it truly is really unique to find a group of people who honestly, genuinely, and fervently love God. This is what allows all the other amazing aspects of our group dynamic to fall into place. From our class discussions, to our conversations of vulnerability and honesty, our desire to see God in everything is always at the center. It brings me so much peace to know that I am going through this crazy time, I am with people who truly know me and accept me and who are seeking after the heart of God first and foremost.

My Slow Descent into Insanity

As I enter my fourth week as a Capital Fellow, I am beginning to wonder what I got myself into. They say the third week is the hardest, and given the mental breakdown that a few of us had yesterday, I believe it. We have finally finished with every introductory BBQ (there have been about a million), met EVERY SINGLE person at MPC, started all of our classes, began trying to memorize the names and faces of the kids we will be working with at youth group, and started our third week of work. Don’t get me wrong, I am still super blessed and excited to be here – but I am also a little bit worried that I might die of exhaustion before the year is over. I probably won’t, but in an effort to explain to you just how busy I am, I have provided a little day-by-day schedule of events to illustrate my slow descent into insanity. Plus, I am hoping this will assure some of you that I am not avoiding your phone calls or not returning them out of my own volition…I really do want to talk to you, but here’s why I am the worst friend ever right now!

8:00am – Accountability with the Girls9:30am-12:30pm – Class (Reading the Word and the World Together)
*we are supposed to have Monday afternoon off to study, but once a month we volunteer at a homeless shelter, and once a month we have a leadership meeting for youth group…I haven’t had a free Monday afternoon yet
6:00-9:00pm – Roundtable (Dinner & Group Discussion at the Director’s House)

8:30am-5:00pm – Internship at Philanthropy Roundtable

8:30am-5:00pm – Internship at Philanthropy Roundtable
7:30-9:30pm – Class (Spiritual Formation)

8:30am-5:00pm – Internship at Philanthropy Roundtable

9:00-10:00am – Bible Study
10:00am-12:30pm – Class (Kingdom Seminar)
*we are also supposed to have Friday afternoons off, but also have other obligations such as meetings with our mentors, contact time with kids in the youth group (i.e. attendance at soccer games, choir recitals, etc.) to attend to

MY ONE DAY OFF!!! (Usually spent sleeping and studying like crazy)

9:00-11:15am – Sunday School with the 7th and 8th graders
11:15am-12:30pm – Church (during which we sit with the youth group and make sure they are quiet and listening)
4:00-7:00pm – Sunday Evening Youth Church
7:00-9:00pm – Harvest Young Adult meeting (this is optional, but many of us love it since it is the only event during which we have no responsibilities and are not on display)

**Further obligations that take up the one full day and about 8 hours/week (that’s right, 8) that we have free:
- Fellows Retreats on the weekend (there are 4 throughout the year)
- Youth Group Retreats on the weekend (there are 3 throughout the year) at which we are counselors and one of which I have this weekend
- Meetings with our mentors
- Contact time with kids in the youth group (i.e. attendance at soccer games, choir recitals, etc, as well as taking them to things like coffee, movies, mini-golf, etc)
- Homework, homework, homework (I have about as much reading for 3 classes as I had for 6 classes in undergrad)

Oh goodness.

22 September 2009

And So it Begins...What is the Capital Fellows Program???

Here it is folks, the long post you have all been waiting for! Well maybe not, but nevertheless, in the next few paragraphs (pages?) I will try my best to layout what this crazy year is going to look like as I am a “Capital Fellow.”

Formal Mission Statement: The Capital Fellows is a Christian Leadership program that brings together recent college graduates in community to wrestle with calling and vocation. Together we explore what it means to have Christ be lord over our lives, work, relationships, culture, community, and world.

The Many Exciting Elements of Being a Capital Fellow (in no particular order):
**This is a just a brief overview of every aspect that makes up the program, I will dive more deeply into them as the year goes on and I start figuring out how to manage my time!

1. The Fellows: In all, there are 12 of us from all over the US. I am from the farthest away, but we have people from Alabama, Maryland, Maine, and all over Virginia as well. Throughout the year, we will see each other at least 5 days every week and will be able to build the type of community that Christ calls all His apostles to in the New Testament. We are all vastly different, but God-willing, our personalities are seeming to mesh rather serendipitously. I am SO excited to tell you about all these wonderful people I am already in love with!
2. Being a part of McLean Presbyterian Church (MPC): It has been astounding to me how the people at MPC have been beyond excited that the Fellows are here. I have had countless people come up to me and tell me how happy they are that I am here and that they will be praying for us throughout the year. I feel so blessed and loved to be accepted into a church with such open arms! It is definitely a much different church than I am used to in terms of traditional worship and liturgy, but I am definitely in love with the people and mission of MPC!
3. Weekly Classes: We are taking 4 graduate-level seminary classes (2 yearlong and 2 on a semester basis). It will be A LOT of reading (one semester of 3 classes is about equal to a semester of 5 classes in undergrad reading-wise) and a lot of pretty intense discussions. Three are more academic based, and one is a spiritual formation class taught by the wonderful pastor of MPC, which I am SO excited about! We also get to do a Bible study once a week with the young adult pastor (who has an amazingly awesome Scottish accent!) which is starting out in Galatians, my favorite book! I am positive that there will be quite a few blog posts regarding these classes.
4. Host Family: Part of being a Fellow is to live with a host family for the year. These are people from the church who have volunteered (and are getting no financial reward for doing so!) to let each of us live with them and be a part of their family. I am living with Amy and Dave Johnson, their 2 ½ year-old daughter, Summer (who is the most energetic little ball of fun I have ever met!), and their 6 month-old son, Caleb (who I have yet to hear cry after almost 2 weeks…seriously!). I am going to dedicate an entire post to them in the near future, but basically put, they are the most AMAZING family I could have asked for as I am going through this year!
5. MPC Youth: In our quest to do learn how to glorify God in every aspect of our life, the Fellows will also be volunteering for the youth at MPC. I am one of the 6 who will be serving the “Breakthrough” ministry to 7th and 8th graders (the other 6 are working with kids who are a bit younger). This will probably be the most challenging aspect of this year, simply because it is not something I have made a priority over the past 4 years. But I am also really excited to get to know girls who are going though what I think is the toughest part of their school career (really, who didn’t hate junior high?).
6. Part-time Internship: You can’t learn how to see God as the center of every aspect of your life, if He isn’t the center of your work life, right? I mean, other than sleeping, we spend a biggest part of our week working (or in DC, commuting) right? I will be working 3 days/week at an organization called Philanthropy Roundtable. PR is a non-profit organization that serves private foundations and helps them learn the best ways to give away money. Given my desire to work for a humanitarian non-profit, this is a little more indirect than what I was hoping for, but it will be an awesome way to learn about fundraising and potential donors for my future career! Plus, because of all the other stuff I am doing in the program, for the first time in my life I am actually going to work everyday with the thought of building God’s kingdom first and foremost in my mind! The only down side? It costs me $10.50 and two hours (an hour each way) to commute everyday!!!! I have to drive to the metro station, pay $4.50 to park and then pay $3 each way to ride the metro. For the first time, I am actually going to have to budget for transportation… about $200/month, no less!

What the mission statement and all the aspects listed above are going to mean for me on a personal level this year:
Throughout my college experience my passion for a more just world has intensified as I explored various human rights tragedies such as extreme poverty, preventable diseases (especially HIV/AIDS), women’s rights in developing nations, and an increasingly violent and war-prone world. As I have continued to dive deeper into these issues, I have felt confident in the vocational path God is leading me towards as one who will “be the change I wish to see in the world.” In combining this passion and my experience within the non-profit and private foundation world over the past two years, I am increasingly aware of God pulling me toward a long-term career improving the world through non-profit development. I am not sure if this will first lead to a graduate degree in something like International Relations (with an emphasis on gender studies, I think) or lead directly into a job with a non-profit that I am, first and foremost, passionate about. I truly believe, that no matter what kind of job I have in the beginning, if I am invested in the mission and vision of an organization, I will do almost anything to be a part of it…even if I have to start off answering phones!

In deciding to be a part of this program, I am essentially taking a step back from this path in order to wrestle, not so much with God’s call on my life, but with how He will continue to remain an active voice in this call. As ridiculous as it sounds, too often, in my need to proactively pursue what God has for me, I forget that He is the reason I am pursuing it. So this year, as I still continue to work toward my vocational goals through my internship, I am also praying that God will use the classes I am taking and the church and community I am a part of to teach me how to live everyday with a deep understanding that He is at the center of every single aspect of my life. Especially in my tendency to sometimes become desensitized to what I am passionate about because I over-commit myself and forget why I am saying yes to everything!

So there it is, my hope for this year and what God will do with it. For one of the first times in my life, I am totally and completely ready to be changed by Him…and I am expecting it. If I could ask for one thing from you people who love me enough to actually read to the bottom of this beast, it would be to pray, pray, PRAY:

- Pray that God continues to teach me how to live with a tangible and deep understanding of my place in His Kingdom and that He will be building a strong foundation in me regarding this for the rest of my life

- Pray that I continue to be open to this teaching and constantly seeking it. I want to be like Jacob, who wrestled with God and would not let go until he was blessed in what he was searching for.

- Pray that I will not die of exhaustion! Although I absolutely love every aspect of the program (and would never dream about getting rid of anything), I am already feeling like we (the 12 fellows) are dangerously close to being a little too busy. The only day we have off is Saturdays…and don’t forget all the reading we have to do! Prayer for physical energy and alert minds would be greatly appreciative.

- Pray that the 12 fellows as a community would continue to grow in our ability to be vulnerable and honest with one another and that we would continue to tease out what Jesus meant when he called 12 apostles to follow him in community. Pray for open minds and respectful opinions in class, for continued cohesion throughout a long year, in which we see each other A LOT, and for a continual reminder of how blessed we are to all be in this together.

There are lots of other prayer requests, and so much more to say, but it is late and I have probably made your eyes bleed with all the reading! I promise that I will not write such a long post ever again…let’s be honest, I probably will, but I’ll try my best! In closing though, I just have to say how much I love and appreciate who you are in my life. Regardless of how well you may or may not know me as you are reading this, I hope you know that in some small (or perhaps very big) way, you are the reason I am here! I love you!

07 September 2009

Days 5-8 :: Finally in DC!

Although this post is essentially the climax of the “Carrie and Adrienne are Off to DC!” adventure, I am going to make it a little short. For one thing, I am SO excited to start telling you about the Fellows program. And secondly, I am tired...really tired.

Adrienne and I finally made it to DC on Wednesday proceeded to pack about a weeks worth of tourist fun into the two days we actually had before she left on Saturday. The first night we got here, we stayed with her high school friend who is currently getting his Master’s degree from George Washington University and lives right downtown. We were planning to go see the monuments, but ended up getting to go to a DC United (Major League Soccer, in case you didn’t know) game – and guess who they were playing?!? The Seattle Sounders! After driving across the country and landing in a city so different from anywhere on the West Coast (I will get to that later!), it was surprisingly comforting to have a little piece of the Pacific Northwest in DC. Adrienne, Collin (her friend) and I cheered loudly and proudly for Seattle, and considering the hardcore DC United fans around us, I was a little surprised we didn’t get beaten up. But in the end, Seattle was victorious so it was all worth it! Definitely the best way to spend my first night in my new home!

For the next two days, we managed to squeeze in most of the monuments, the National Portrait Gallery, the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, and the National Geographic Museum. It was quite a whirlwind, and each day ended with us almost passed out on our hotel beds, with aching feet.

I also have to mention that I got to reconnect with one of my friends from high school who is interning for the Smithsonian, and I am SO glad to have her here for the next few months! It will be awesome to have a reminder of home and someone who understands all my Northern California references!

Adrienne left me to fend for myself on Saturday, thus beginning Carrie’s new adventure on the East Coast!

01 September 2009

Days 3-4 :: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, & Pennsylvania

Here we are…in A LOT of corn. When I mentioned in my last post that we were not surprised Nebraska is the Cornhusker state given its abundance of corn stalks, it was only because we had not yet driven through Iowa and Illinois, and Indiana and every other state that is consumed by kernels. In the past few days we have driven through not only a lot of corn, we have also discovered the highway robbery that is tollbooths. Being a West Coast girl, I have never had to stop at one of these lovely little “toll plazas” (do they think that sounds nicer or something?) and pay to drive on a road until now. And let me just say, it is a bit more confusing than I ever thought it would be. For example, who knew that in addition to knowing and having the exact amount you will need to get on and off the freeway, you also need to have it in change. Really? I mean who actually drives around with nine dollars in change in their car? I guess people on the East Coast.

On Monday, we drove from Nebraska to Illinois, crossing through Iowa on our way. The drive was pretty typical, but when we stopped for lunch we somehow found our way to Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. As we drove in, to what we thought was going to be a Subway on the side of the road, we were greeted by college students everywhere… they replaced all the corn we had been seeing. This college town made Adrienne and I nostalgic for our own college days that ended not to long ago. And it kind of freaked us out to think that we were older (albeit, not by much) than all the students wandering around the town…is this what it feels like to grow up? Nevertheless, we made it out of Hawkeye territory and continued on to Chicago.

Chicago on the other hand, was NOT the quaint little place Iowa City had been. As we entered the city, we entered into the most confusing freeway construction I have ever had to drive in. Not only that, but there were tollbooths everywhere. The drivers were definitely not as nice as Portland drivers, and by the time we finally made it to the hotel (after accidently blowing off two tolls) my hands were shaking and my heart was racing. You would think that would be it though, right? After checking into the hotel, we somehow thought it would be fun to go downtown for authentic Chicago pizza – through the construction and tolls, but at night this time. It was not our smartest idea, but in the end we made it to this really cool restaurant called Giordano’s and had some truly amazing food. We even splurged and got tiramisu for dessert.

Tuesday was another pretty uneventful drive to Pittsburgh, by way of Indiana and Ohio. We did get to cross over the Mississippi River which was awesome, but other than that it was just a lot more of the same landscape. Don’t get me wrong, beautiful (corn-filled, of course) landscape, but by our second to last day of driving we were ready for a change of scenery. And once we got into Pennsylvania we did see some change. The mountainous and lush East Coast seemed to open out of the flat and arid middle-of-the-country like an oasis in the desert. Suddenly we were out of the corn and driving under tall, green trees arching over the highway. It was a much-needed change of pace and we were grateful to be reminded of the West Coast as we entered the last day of driving.

See you tomorrow…in DC!!!