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Serendipity. {Not the movie. My life.}

As I get ready to fly to Oregon for a 2 1/2 week jaunt through snowy weather to friends and family, it is necessary to tie up a few blog-related loose ends. This holiday season has been unique. Never have I been out of Oregon during this time. Never in a city. Never without family. But there is a common theme running throughout each holiday (and really–my entire life) and that God is real, He is near and He cares for me.

Above are many photos from my Thanksgiving weekend in NYC with my dear friend Rachel. These are just simple depictions of the incredible time we had together (Macy’s Day parade, frozen hot chocolate [w/ peanut butter!] @ Serendipity, the Statute of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge). While short and simple: fun will best describe that weekend (and all my weekends following). Yes, my vocabulary may be running low this snowy, December morning, but maybe the simplicity of that word is the most descriptive. We just had such a good time together–enjoying the museums, the food, the buildings, and Christmas-decorated streets of NYC.

While fun is the simple, descriptive word for that weekend I’ll pull out one of my favorite words (I know, the big guns…):

serendipity |ˌserənˈdipitē | noun.

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way : a fortunate stroke of serendipity | a series of small serendipities.

I’ll admit, my initial encounter with this word is from the movie Serendipity, starring some of my least favorite actors. Yet for some reason I absolutely love the movie. Mostly filmed in New York City during the holiday season, it depicts a series of fateful events strung together to bring two people to their destiny. (Oh, goodness, as I write that I am disgusted by my overly romanticized words…too realistic at 6:30AM, I guess).

Back to this word: serendipity.  I’ll admit, this definition seemingly makes light of the Sovereignty of God. But I think there is something our hearts long for in that definition–not just the happy and beneficial outcome, but in the “occurrence and development of events” and not just “by chance,” but with purpose.

That said, I feel like there are 4 rather recent serendipitous occurrences that I will share:

1. My first visit to Serendipity:

Last time I was in NYC, I found at the Serendipity was a real place. I guess I always assumed it was just a part of the movie. Silly me. It is a real place and it is in fact right by Bloomingdales (just like the movie…). Thus it is a quaint, highly sought after, odd café with incredibly large frozen hot chocolate (yes, great, chocolatey oxymoron). If you are just going for dessert, you cannot get a reservation; therefore, you must put in your name on the waiting list, joining others in a 2-3 hour wait. Nope, not a type-o that is TWO or THREE HOURS. Luckily, I have a wonderfully flexible host who was down for my only movie-crazed excursion I’ve ever wanted to participate in (I’m assuming the last as well—unless of course it has to do with Julie and Julia…back to my food-related themes). Our tentative plan was to put our name on the list at 3PM so we could get in at 5PM in order to accomplish our plans for the remainder of the evening. Let me just say, that in the world of public transportation or just mere city life, start times are always tentative. There are series of events that constantly prohibit promptness—highly frustrating for this type A, who is becoming more and more a type A minus. Include subway + city + a possible 3 hour wait list, our plan was highly improbable. Yet somehow we arrived precisely at 3PM to get our names on the list. Spent the next two hours at Bloomingdales and the MoMa. After a good fill of the modern art, we headed back to Serendipity—arriving precisely at 5PM and were swiftly escorted up to what had to have been the best place in the restaurant (in front of the fireplace). I know, I know, it sounds so simple—but both Rachel and I were having way too much fun pointing out all the rather serendipitous moments we were having throughout our evening. So, was there purpose in our perfectly timed date to Serendipity? I don’t know. But it was fun. We were grateful. Again, those simple moments led to gratitude—I think sometimes that is enough purpose; the larger picture rests in the Lord’s hands.

2. My bus ride to/from NYC during Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving weekend was my 4th bus trip from DC to NYC. None of these trips have been particularly bad—they’ve had their quirks from the man who watched Sci-Fi movies the whole time and then offered my some of his fresh blueberries to my least favorite trip on the Megabus that was too cold with the kid who placed games on his cell phone for four hours… Like I said, nothing I can really, truly complain about—but one thing they did all have in common: they were late. Like I stated before, those times are mere suggestions. So I prepared myself for this trip. I was, of course, going to NYC the day before Thanksgiving—one of the worst travel days in the year. While standing in line for the bus in DC, on college student shared that she has done this same trip for the past 3 years and it has always taken 6-9 hours instead of the estimated 4 ½. I got on the bus braced. Anticipating that my 6:30PM arrival time would in fact be 1AM. But as a clever bus driver hit off my series of serendipitous NYC moments, in his strategic back roads route—we arrived at 7PM. I think he was glad to deliver such a grateful group of people to the corner of 33rd and 7th. As was I.

It gets even better. While the leg there I figured would be awful; I had come to grips with the fact that the leg back would be horrid. An estimated arrival of 9:30PM on a Sunday night was probably going to look more like Monday AM with a long workweek ahead of me. But surprising to us all, we passed 3 other buses to arrive—no joke—at exactly 9:30PM. Serendipity? I’ll say so. Simple blessing? Most definitely. I arrived home in time to make it to the store and bake cookies for my book club the following evening.

3. New Apartment:

About a month ago I came to the realization that if I am going to live in DC, I really want the chance to invest. Possibly a prompting of the Holy Spirit—I’ve come to the point that the studio and life solo has been great—but I am a homebody who loves having people around. And that is not exactly a great combination for living by yourself, thus I need roommates. In conjunction, I decided I wanted to be back on Capitol Hill. I love, love the feeling of the neighborhood with the row houses. Another plus, almost all my friends live on the Hill. I looked casually on my church’s website and on Craiglist, but was really in no rush. Last week, was…well, it was quite the week. (This is a conversation story, not a blog story). That said, in the midst of making a lot of decisions, I decided one morning at about 5:45AM that I would peruse the GraceDC classifieds to see if anyone had available housing. I stumbled across a basement apartment, with four other Christian women, on Capitol Hill, decent rent and available January 1. And get this—come January 1 I will begin volunteering regularly at the Pregnancy Resource Center on Capitol Hill (I hope to some day work full time with them in some capacity…) and this apartment is literally half a block away! Sound fateful? Serendipitous? It gets better—one of the women who lives there is someone I connected with this summer at Bible Study who I just automatically loved. I e-mailed, just to see if it was an option, and it was. I visited. Fell in love with the place. And on Monday I found out that I got the apartment! Even better, my friend Nick is moving to DC mid-January, wants to take my studio—thus when I return from Oregon I will move back to Capitol Hill the weekend before my birthday.

I am still smiling as I type this. It was just one of those crazy series of events that seems fateful—but my heart is assured that the Lord who knows far greater than I His purposes. For now, I am in a place of, “Lord, really? Why do you keep blessing me? I haven’t done anything to deserve this. In fact, I keep making the same mistakes over and over again.” My gratitude has led to praise; I hope it encourages you to do the same.

4. Metro vs. Cab:

Last of all, I’ll share a serendipitous moment that does not reflect well on myself. I like my pride, so consider this my mid-December vulnerability. Last weekend I spent an entire day in a Board meeting, an appreciation dinner, and then Christmas party. It was almost 1AM when I decided I needed to head home. My friend offered to either walk me to the Metro station or help me catch a cab. Wiser decision: catch a cab since it would go straight to my apt. But in my attempt to save money (yes, roll your eyes, I am) I decided that on that cold, rainy Saturday night I’d just go with the Metro. My wonderful host graciously walked me to the Metro station, a good 10 minutes away from his house. I got down to the station and realized that the next train wouldn’t be there for another 20+ minutes. Which would mean that once I got to the closest train station and headed the 10-15 minutes back to my place, it’d be about 2AM. This girl from the small town even knows that’s probably not a great idea… So I decided that I would just head out to the front of Union Station to catch a cab on my own. I’ve done this before (twice…). I came out to the pouring down rain, I had already forgotten that I didn’t have my umbrella. So as I walked to the front of the station there were definitely fewer cabs than I expected (as in one that picked up someone else…). I was regretting my choice of Metro over cab as my 5’3” stature seemed rather unintimidating. I finally found myself a spot to wait for a cab when I turn to someone calling my name…and there was my friend. He had gone into the station and came out a different way than usual to find me, alone, waiting for a cab. While my pride was a bit bruised from my revealed poor decision-making, I think it is safe to say that God my have had a hand in orchestrating that serendipitous occurrence. Like I said, theme of my life: God cares for me. And that rainy, cold Saturday night for some reason, I needed someone over 5’3” with me.  Bruised ego aside, I am grateful—and awestruck by a series of events orchestrated for my benefit.

I hope God receives the glory in it. Isn’t that what it ultimately is about? Maybe I’ll redefine this great word,

serendipity:

A series or development of events sovereignly strung together in a strategic way to bring blessing to man and glory to God.

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Grace and Gratitude.

I think we often look at grace as a something striking, glorious, or magnificent. Songs like Amazing Grace, depict grace as something almost untouchable. While the grace depicted in said hymn is striking, glorious, and magnificent, as I reflect on grace this morning I’ve come to think of those instances in which I’ve received something undeservingly  led to gratitude. Often those things which quickly go unnoticed, such as a smile, a polite excuse me, or simple gifts are those ordinary moments of grace that produce ordinary moments of gratitude. With that perspective, we’ve all received grace at some point in life. We have, in a common manner, experienced the fluid relationship between grace and gratitude. I don’t think I have anything profound to say about this connection, merely my own thanksgiving for the journey of grace I walk. It may seem cliché to write about gratitude the day after Thanksgiving, but that is a cliché I am willing to embrace. For I think there is something sweet about this time of year in which all people regardless of religion, race, social status, etc will preach one common truth–gratitude. While I could write a mini-novel on the shortcomings I see within our society and myself during this holiday season, instead I will focus on the shared theme of grace, gratitude and giving.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving 2010, I spent the day with a former college roommate, in the great city of New York, and shared a table with new friends. Thinking back to one year ago, I never could have imagined my life as it is today. While my choices play a role in where I am today, I believe the overwhelming deciding factor in it all has been grace. Ultimately God’s grace, often expressed in the collective moments of grace I’ve received from others. There are simple moments in the last year, and some profound, that fills my heart with thanksgiving.

A letter I received from my Great Aunt Lena ~ Maya renting a Zipcar and going to Ikea with me for my new apartment ~ Faith allowing me to rent out a room for my first months in DC ~ Rich Meyers advising me to change my major ~ My Mom’s phone calls ~ Dr. Anderson understanding ~ Madi Lewis’s car rides to Salem Heights Church ~ Caitlin Hodges encouraging me to attend the church retreat ~ My 4:45PM chats with Femi Kirby ~ Dinner at the J House hosted by Rob Spackey ~ Carpooling to bowling with Eli Conlee ~ Sharing a room with Bonnie Zlatnik ~ Having my brother confide in me ~ Helping a woman at Macy’s with her little girl going up the escalators ~ My Dad’s hugs ~ Receiving recipes from my Grandma ~ Sharing a bowl of popcorn with my Grandpa ~ Driving back and forth from Salem to PDX with Kelsey Shields ~ My Grandma reminding me that she prays for me daily ~ Facebook messages from Lee Ann Zanon and Anne Jeffers ~ Text messages from Dan Morrow ~ Lindsey Coy’s hospitality ~ My butterfly from Laurie Smith ~ Receiving a letter from Darla Ashcraft ~ Having Dave Conlee be my most consistent blog reader ~ Beach Retreats with Ashlee Larkin ~ My DC Christmas To Do List from Chris Golden ~ Making veggie soup with Mary Hynes ~ Eating and laughing with Rachel Brown ~ Picking up after a year with Megan Brannen ~ Going shopping with my sister ~ Ford Family Foundation ~ OSU Football games with my Uncle Kevin and Brian ~ Aunts and cousins who always “like” my Facebook posts ~ Going for walks with my Aunt Gail ~ Borrowing dresses and giggling with Laura ~ Meeting Paige Morford in Woodburn for tea ~ The end of the year party with Kacie Woosley ~ Conversations with Justin Bibb ~ Gchats with Amber Cruz ~ Hiking lunches and naps with Donna and Cathy ~ Tea with Leslie

My list could go on and on and on. These are the ordinary moments of grace that usher me into ordinary moments of gratitude. In a collective form, I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving in the most striking, glorious, or magnificent way. And filled with a heart of praise for God who in His sovereignty placed me here, now, for such a time as this.

What is this time? I think, to live. To live life simply as it is. In grace and with gratitude.

Pumpkin Pie in Cupcake Form

There are many things close to my heart when it comes to the holiday season. The brisk cold, family dinners, old movies, snowflakes, pine trees, pumpkin spice lattes, scarves—and to no one’s surprise baking. In fact, this is the one time of year in which I choose another dessert over chocolate. The holiday favorite: pumpkin.

Growing up it was the only pie I would eat. (I know, weird kid that didn’t want apples or berries in pie form). I’d have my share of pumpkin pie, leaving the crust behind for my dad to eat. My mom would tell me that her dad only ever ate the filling as well. In fact, he would even get his own crust-less pie. One pumpkin pie baking day my mom made me my own mini-crust-less pumpkin pie. While delicious, I felt a special bond with my Grandpa who passed when my mom was eight as I enjoyed my personal spicy, sweet, crust-less pumpkin pie. In my family, there tends to be a bond formed around a shared love for food. That is my bond with Grandpa Way, crust-less pumpkin pie.

This recipe is not for pie, but the key ingredient in my favorite holiday treat—pumpkin, in cupcake form. I’ve already had the opportunity to make these cupcakes three times in three weeks. In embracing Julie Child’s mantra “No excuses, no explanations,” I’ve stopped explaining and apologizing for my baked goods. In fact, these ones I’ll even brag on. They are wonderful! Especially in mini-cupcake form.

Pumpkin Cupcakes adapted from My Baking Addiction

Yield: 20 Regular Cupcakes or 72 Mini-Cupcakes

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled

½ cup unsweetened apple sauce

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, unsweetened applesauce and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes for regular and 8-12 minutes for minis, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Spiced-Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8) ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 stick salted butter, softened

1 lbs. confectioners’ sugar

1 TBS ground cinnamon

1 TBS maple syrup

1 tsp ginger

¼  tsp salt

Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. (My measurements may be off, but look for a thick consistency, which will come from first whipping the butter and cream cheese for about 5 minutes). Finally mix in maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger and salt.

Entering the Holiday Season

I am entering the 5th hour of my journey on a BoltBus between DC and NYC to spend Thanksgiving with one of my college roommates. I feel as if I am on the brink of entering the holiday season from the movies. Think about it though, almost every great Christmas-time film has some connection to New York City. There is just a different feel to the holiday season in the city and I am in love… (with the city for those who need clarification). Which means I will probably need an entirely new blog post for this NYC trip. Therefore I will attempt to give a brief life update.

Since our Target 2020 Summit in North Carolina, life has slowed down just a bit.  Just enough to feel manageable again. I feel as if I’ve finally found my routine in the city and can really start building and investing my life in the things I love. Just weeks after the Summit, I had the opportunity to go to West Virginia with my church on a retreat in Capon Springs. I knew going into the retreat that a few things would happen: 1. My Blackberry wouldn’t work 2. I would get to be in the woods, see stars, and autumn colors 3. The friendships I had begun to develop would grow 4. I would meet new, wonderful people 5. I would be encouraged in my relationship with the Lord. And to no surprise, that was my church retreat. It was lovely.  (Twice now I began to write about what we discussed during the retreat, but I’m going to stop myself before this “update” becomes a mini-novel again. I’d love to share. So let’s chat sometime).

At the retreat I connected with two girls who love to hike as well! The following weekend the three of us conquered the Billy Goat Trail in Virginia. Yep, that’s right, the B-i-l-l-y Goat Trail. Check out this picture, I think you’ll understand it’s title:

We had a wonderful afternoon and it just felt so good to be away from the bustle of the city for a bit. It makes me enjoy the city that much more when I get chance to step outside of it. I am definitely a girl that needs both—at least for this time in my life.

Now I am entering the holiday season…last weekend I was a tourist for an afternoon, and spent some time in the Botanical Gardens. It was the first Christmas tree I’ve seen in DC so far and, of course, poinsettias. Don’t they just declare the Christmas season! (love them!)

Yesterday I attended the Macy’s Christmas windows unveiling.  This definitely felt like “city-like Christmas.” There was a marching band, elves, Santa (of course) and many children. Honestly, the best part was walking through Macy’s completely decked out in Christmas décor. But the part of me was totally discontent. Santa and “his helpers” kept reiterating the need to “Believe.” Just believe. Over and over again. In this postmodern age, I think Santa is literally the only one left who can say “Believe” or “I need to you to believe” without the liability of a lawsuit. Kind of made my heart sad that materialism is the one god that can be publically encouraged to our children.

Ugh, this is kind of a depressing life update. Again, when the parts of my life that are most compelling to me at the present are hidden within my notebook, I think I have a difficult time truly pouring myself into an update on my blog. I almost feel like I’m not being authentic by just telling you a few things that I’ve been doing. And not necessarily what is shaping my being. But these are just a few of the ordinary parts of my day that I wouldn’t be a part of if I was not in the place I am in at this time of life.

For that I am grateful, among so many other things. Including the fact that I am driving through the Lincoln tunnel, about ready to see NYC. (near the 7th hour of this Pre-Thanksgiving Day journey).

Love this city.

Profoundly Ordinary

I owe you at least three blogs. Please prepare yourself for a Life Update, Reflection, and a Recipe (pumpkin cupcakes, anyone?). My reflective heart is aching, so that is where I must begin…

Writing is the gate to my heart. It is the expression of the deepest part of my being. I cannot help but be authentic when I write. In writing, I come to a place of clarity, understanding and a peace with who I am, who I aspire to be, and the world around me. Thus writing is one of my most freeing, and most daunting experiences. Which in many ways is the reason my blog posts ceased. Yes, there was busyness (when is there not?), bet there were multiple periods in which I set out to update my blog and was overcome by, not writer’s block, but blogger’s paralysis. Let me explain…

I am a girl who wears my heart on my sleeve. If you spend more than 20 minutes with me, not only do I want to hear your entire life story, I will tell you mine as well. Which is partly why I enjoy blogging, it is a chance to share story. I am also a girl who takes life and myself too seriously.  When I am working through uncertainties in life, the only safe place to write is my notebook, for my eyes alone to see—Thus…

Heart on Sleeve + Far Too Serious + Working through Uncertainties (when doesn’t this happen, by the way?) = TMI Writing or Blogger’s Paralysis

The current diagnosis: the former

With that recognition, I’ve been walking down a new thought journey, or more accurately noted—I think the Lord is trying to teach me something. It began a few weeks ago with this Oswald Chamber’s Quote:

“Tis because I am ordinary,
Thy ways often look ordinary to me”

For we overly analytical type who are constantly dissecting life, decisions, opportunities and failures this spurs a paradigm shift. I cannot overly analyze this quote. I can only try to live and embrace it. Maybe a proactive attempt to live this out may be frivolous.  Maybe it is more like breathing. It already happens, but I am rarely conscious of it. The Lord directs our paths through ordinary means in which we are simply unaware.

This journey continues. This morning I continued to read Oswald Chamber’s and it cut right to my heart (I’ll share…):

My Utmost for His Highest: Shallow and Profound

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31)

“Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound. We sometimes refuse to be shallow, not out of our deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress other people with the fact that we are not shallow. This is a sure sign of spiritual pride. We must be careful, for this is how contempt for others is produced in our lives. And it causes us to be a walking rebuke to other people because they are more shallow than we are. Beware of posing as a profound person—God became a baby.

To be shallow is not a sign of being sinful, nor is shallowness an indication that there is no depth in your life at all—the ocean has a shore. Even the shallow things of life, such as eating and drinking, walking and talking, are ordained by God. These are all things our Lord did. He did them as the Son of God and He said, “A disciple is not above his teacher…”(Matt 10:24)

We are safeguarded by the shallow things of life. We have to live the surface, commonsense life in a commonsense way. Then when God gives us the deeper things, they are obviously separated from the shallow concerns. Never show the depth of your life to anyone but God. We are so nauseatingly serious, so desperately interested in our own character and reputation, we refuse to behave like Christians in the shallow concerns of life.

Make a determination to take no one seriously except God. You may find that the first person you must be the most critical with, as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.”

In many respects, when I began this new portion of my journey in DC I came with a fresh perspective , in that all I did, big or small, was to the glory of God. I often sensed an intimate connection with the Lord in the ordinary moments of my day—more so than when I engaged in what I believed to be the profound. Yet my perspective has slowly slipped away. I have reverted back to this place of taking anything and everything too seriously. Losing some joy in simplicity (not completely, but some). As my heart is overwhelmed by seriousness, I feared that writing would lead to an online forum of Too Much Emily Information. (Trust me, no one wants to go there… ) Instead maybe as I live and think and write about the ordinary the profound will simply flow. Or maybe not. And I think that will be ok too.

Visitors, Tours + Pictures

Any deep blogging thoughts are probably not going to make it up for at least another week or two.

So a really, really QUICK update: since September 24th I’ve had the privelege to:

1. Host Kelsey Shields, college roommate, from Alaska.

2. Watch the Braves beat the Nats w/ Kelsey.

3. Fall in Love w/ Fredericksburg, VA w/ Kelsey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Enjoy a quaint vineyard in VA w/ Kelsey.

5. Have my parents visit for 10 days.

6. Toured the Capitol w/ my parents + CPCC students.

7. Explore DC w/ my parents.

8. Take a whole lot of pictures (wait…that was mom, not me!).

Seriously, check out: Facebook Album

9. Gettysburg w/ my parents (wow…)

10.  Enjoyed the National Apple Festival (really, who knew?! my small town/country girl was totally satisfied).


11. Quick spin through Hershey, Pennsylvania w/ parents.

12. Eastern Market w/ parents (+a whole lot of DC + restaurants).

13. Mt. Vernon w/ my parents.

14. Annapolis, MD w/ my parents.

15. Bake Carrot, Red Velvet, and Chocolate Cupcakes (decorated like sushi by KC).

16. White House Garden Tour.

Thus, the key visitors + tours. As for pictures, please enjoy the many I’ve posted on Facebook. I will be heading to NC on Thursday for our Target 2020 Summit on Education. I hope to resurface to blogging about living, baking, and reflecting on 10/25.

Encouraged: A Collection of Moments

In the swiftness of a moment everything can change. For in just blips of time thoughts evolve, hearts heal, and troubled souls are graced by peace. Lives begin, lives end, and the witnesses of such moments are often transformed by the ripple of such grandiose moments. I’m sure there is a grand philosophic term to explain the times in which 30 seconds causes a 180 in life. I’ve experienced them. They are odd, exhilarating, sometimes debilitating–springing from deep grieve, or great accomplishment. No matter the source, the outcome is the same: life, as you know it, will never be the same.

Then there is, what I see anyway, as the transformational encouragement much more common to man. In which collective moments, seemingly meaningless, shift perspectives and alter attitudes–ultimately changing a being. Throughout the day, simple moments mend us, inspire us, and give us purpose. Yet we often miss these moments, for they are seemingly inconsequential–the flutter of a butterfly past your window, the sounds of a child’s giggle, or a passing quote from the roaring television. While often unnoticed, these moments have a way with us, they make up who a person is, and who one will become.

I think that last week I experienced a collection of such moments–or rather I, along with the rest of mankind, am in the midst of being transformed. (Brace yourself for an in depth reflection–I will not be offended if you stop at the pictures. They, although just from my blackberry–I’ve got to start carrying my real camera w/ me–they, will transform you).

Last week began with an honest, heart to heart blog. My week prior was…well…ick. There was nothing of great consequence to make it such. It was rather an encounter with my grimm humanity. Every since I was a child, I have released through writing. I have countless journals–the younger I was the more torn out pages there are. Look how much I’ve grown up–I’ve gone from tearing out the pages of confession for no one ever to be able to retrace, to posting them online for anyone to read (yikes, that’s a whole other post in and of itself). All that to say, in many ways I had no choice but to write last week, it was a matter of being able to move forward–and I do believe that the Lord is faithful to honor authenticity. For when I am truly authentic, there is a sense of a clean slate–not because of an act I completed, but by something outside myself. Grace.

Last week began with a deep sense of my need for grace, and the peace to walk forward in it. So that’s where I began. I woke up, I went to work, and I embraced the grace I had been given for that day. Monday, I had lunch with a co-worker in which I was deeply encouraged. Tuesday, our new Associates came. I was able to lead an orientation for them and I baked for my coworkers. I love the bond developed over a shared treat. Wednesday, I experienced a sunrise. Literally:

Thursday, we volunteered for NCoC’s Civic Innovators Forum and attended the latter half of the Forum. I had the opportunity to listen to a panel with Gregg Petersmeyer, John Bridgeland, and Shirley Segawa–representing the last three presidencies, spoke about volunteering and service. They provided the history and a perspective on the service sector that I apparently needed to hear. At one point, Gregg Petersmeyer, who was appoint the first director of the White House Office of National Service by President George H.W. Bush, noted that, Bush defined American success as serving one another. It was a passing moment, but a quote that gripped me. I didn’t even have paper to write it down with, or the thought to text it to myself, hence the paraphrase. But it, along with my simple Mon, Tues, Wed moments, began to slowly shift my perspective on where I am. Why wouldn’t I be in the service sector? I see the most opportunity for collaboration here, it is a place in which all people can find common ground, and it is who I am (or rather, the woman I desire to be). I desire to live a life of service, in imitation of Jesus. He came not to be served, but to serve. Petersmeyer also noted that people (especially young people) seek “meaning and adventure.” This is dead on with my experiences, and it just makes sense.Enjoy this view, the Capitol from the Newseum, where the Forum was held:

Moving forward, Friday was the National Conference on Citizenship, held at the Library of Congress. First of all, Library of Congress…new favorite place (yes, I do say that a lot). Its incredible though. While I did get a chance to wear both heels and pearls that day, it was so much more than that. (Check out www.ncoc.net for the video that’ll be up). I had the opportunity to support the staff as a volunteer. I had a small role, helping at registration. But I love that. I love helping to make something happen and I love the opportunity to make people feel welcome. The bit of the conference I was able to see was incredible. Aside from seeing former Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg speak (incredible women, can’t imagine my life without the work she has done), there was one panelist, Cheryl Dorsey of Echoing Green, in particular that said a few small words which encouraged, and thus transformed me. At one point she noted that, we must “marry passion with skill.” And that “success is not about being a founder.” Finally, its about “leveraging talent in an effective way.” This blog already has the potential to be a mini-novel, so I’ll try to be brief. But I am surrounded by passionate people, by many founders of non-profits, and great talent. I can’t help but compare myself to those around  me. My passion lacked in comparison, my talent quite dim, and no, I, at 22, was still not the founder of anything. I feel behind on life. But her words brought peace. I do have passion, I do have talent, and I may never be the founder of anything. That is ok. But I am passionate about people, about service, and about justice.So my week went on…

Saturday morning I visited Arlington Cemetery for the first time. I hadn’t really planned on doing it that day, but it happened. And I think, it was meant to be. It is moving. It permeates respect, honor, justice and injustice all at once. The sacrifice these men and women made for those they loved and never knew is….well…I honestly, do not possess the right words to articulate it. I was moved; I am changed.

I’m just not even going to say anything.
After the Cemetery I visited the H Street festival. Then went to a friend’s house for a party. On my way I walked alongside the Mall. Soaked in these moments:

When I first visited DC last November, the Supreme Court Building was one of the first buildings I saw. It impacted me in a way that I did not expect. It resonates justice. (surprising, I know…but none the less incredible). These moments continued to build upon those earlier in my week.

A final day: Sunday. I went for a long run, around the Tidal Basin.

Yep, I’ve been here for four months and am humbled to say that I had not been to the FDR or Jefferson Memorial. But that was the perfect day to go. I know I just said that the Library of Congress is my new favorite place, well, FDR Memorial, new favorite place outside. There were many quotes that struck me, but this one hit me hard:

On my way home from my run I stopped at 15th and Pennsylvania (I think..). It is where the Points of Light “The Extra Mile” in which the founders of the volunteer movement are commemorated. It is really cool and I hadn’t noticed it until Saturday morning’s run. So, dripping in sweat, I walked “The Extra Mile” stopping and reading about each of these great leaders. It is a must. Period. Everyone needs to do it. This one struck a chord with me, founder of Girl Scouts of America:

Thus, my week came full circle. I work on a floor owned by Points of Light. I heard from those who founded it that week. There are so many details last week, that were woven together to both encourage me and continue to transform me. A collection of moments that have brought me to this conclusion:

I am blessed. I am where I am supposed to be. I desire to serve. To be an imitator of God and live a life of love (Eph 5:1-2). To fight for rights. The right to life. To a healthy life. I have a passion to serve women–of all ages. And maybe I know my passion, maybe I know my talent…and maybe I fear what I know my heart beats for…

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8