"Vocation is where our greatest joy meets the world's greatest need."-Frederick Buechner
Last weekend I went to the Volunteers Exploring Vocation Conference in Norcross, Georgia. It was a three day, two night conference hosted by The Fund for Theological Education. There were around 50 volunteers from the Southeast region attending the conference. The event took place at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center located on the Chattahoochee River.
Still to this day I am not sure how I got signed up for the conference, neither does my roommate Emily. Randomly we received e-mails about two weeks before the event giving us details on the conference. On Friday two weeks later we headed north for the weekend.
One of the main reasons I decided to do a YAV year was the chance at living more "intentionally." The reason I put quotations around intentionally is because that word can have lots of different meanings. What I imagined when I signed up to live in an intentional Christian community was lots of discussions both deep and surface level, a tight community feel, bible study/readings, simple living, and community living. As a house I think that we were accomplishing only some of these things. So starting about a month ago I decided to find some ways of living more intentionally on my own. I started by meeting with Chad the pastor at Mercy Church at least once a week, usually we will meet twice. It was in that space that I verbalized the frustrations I was having with my year. As we continued to talk we decided that we would study a book together, the book Chad picked out was ‘Lifesigns’ by Henri Nouwen. That weekend I went to the VEV conference.
At the VEV conference nothing life altering happened, I couldn’t even tell you much that we talked about that weekend. Not saying that in a bad way, I enjoyed the small group discussions and playing spades with other mission volunteers from the area. It is now when I look back on the weekend and see that it was the start to the shift in my year. It was during that weekend when I started to truly see that my search for vocation was not going to be easy. It was going to take some thinking outside of the box and challenging myself with different, uncomfortable things. Before taking part in the VEV conference I read ‘Let Your Life Speak’ by Parker J. Palmer and in that book it talks about vocation being a lifelong process. I get that; I know that I not close to finding my true vocation. I do know that things are changing inside and out, so I am happy for that.
The things that I was hoping for in the beginning of the year finally started taking place. Our house community each Tuesday during our meeting is now studying a book; this month we are reading ‘St. Francis and the Foolishness of God.’ I personally don’t think that the book is great but each week it sparks group conversations where we can share, listen and learn from each other. Also last week I asked if our house could meet and talk about what was not going so good from the first part of the year. The meeting ended up lasting almost three hours but at the end I felt so renewed because as a community we discussed the hard stuff and came out better because of it. As a community we took a step to becoming more intentional and I hope that those discussions continue.
We now have Megan who is a spiritual director come and meet with our community twice a month as a group and once a month individually. We have only had a few meeting with her at the house but each time it has been a very good experience. I believe that continually engaging in community activities like these are going to be very beneficial in creating a much close nit house community. During our first individual session we talked a lot about vocation and how I have been struggling to find mine. Megan helped me talk myself through some situations; I am very excited to continue to work with her throughout the rest of my time in Atlanta.
My meetings with Chad have continued, recently we have been meeting two times a week. We meet after we close down Mercy on Thursday and then again before church on Sunday. We have now started reading and discussing the book ‘Lifesigns’ which has sparked some great conversations. I truly value Chad as a friend but also as a follower of Jesus in his work at Mercy. He helps me put certain parts of my life in perspective with the work I am doing now to the work that I came from. I always end my meetings with Chad feeling hopeful. I look forward to learn all I can from Chad and the community members that make up Mercy Church.
I asked for change and I got it. I was looking for more and now as you can see I have a lot on my plate. My hope is that I now don’t take for granted the resources that are in front of me. I am excited to see where the rest of my year takes me! Nouwen talks a lot about moving from the house of fear to the house of love in the book Lifesigns. So this is the start of me being intentional about moving myself out of the house of fear and into the house of love!
I look forward to getting to see the mission trip group from First Presbyterian Church who are coming to Atlanta to work with Chad and Mercy Church!!