Friday, October 26, 2007

Not only is there a full moon (which I never realized had so much of an impact on the moods of the guests and the Team), but it is coming at the end of the month, a time when the Inn is bustling with higher numbers and more need.
I went to the Women's Center yesterday for only the second time since I've been here. The night before I spent a lot of time complaining about the Women's Center because I don't feel like I do anything there, but was surprised when I got to spend the day there yesterday and really enjoyed it! Before even getting into Sr. Xavier's car, my day began by picking up a 20-year-old girl who was "dope-sick" and was cold and hungry. If you can call to mind what you'd picture a young drug addict, you've got Brittany. She was scared and has little use of her right hand because it was recently stabbed and is now swollen and infected. Her hair was matted to her head and looked like a big dreadlock, her pants were stained and all she had on was a rain coat and a tshirt. We got to take her with us to the WC and she was able to eat breakfast, shower and participate in some of the activities the women do (group meeting, "flea market", eating lunch). After showering Brittany was transformed. Her hair was still a mess but she looked almost refreshed (aside from being high) and she was given dry warm clothes and a bathrobe to keep warm.
Jan, one of the other women who lives at the WC, helped me while I spent an hour and a half trying to untangle the mess on Brittany's head. Fortunately she was high and could barely feel us tugging at her head, but we made some progress and I'm hoping that Jan was able to finish up last night. Brittany ended up staying at the WC for the night and Sr. Xavier is trying to get her into a detox clinic at Kensington Hospital.
I got to spend time talking to Brittany and another woman at the Center, Bridget, who is just a firecracker! She was telling me that she has HIV, emphysema, bronchitis and perhaps hepatitis and that she's just ready to die. Brittany and I both assured her that despite her many attempts, God still has lots in store for her here... I just hope she realizes it.
After the Women's Center, I came back and worked the evening meal. I was handing out tickets and gave one to a man I've never seen before and legitimately, not having passed me about 20 seconds and only about 10 feet, the man turns around and says, "Ma'am, I lost my ticket, give me another one." We're generally hesitant to give out more than one ticket and this man didn't go very far and hadn't spent any time looking for the ticket I gave him so I told him that he couldn't have another but needed to at least spend some time looking for the ticket I'd given him. I know I'm pretty naive and don't really pick up on a lot of stuff, but the ridiculousness of the situation just made me laugh! I just didn't see how he lost it in the brief time after I'd given it to him... I eventually gave him another and told the maitre'd and the line-up person to keep an eye on him. While that whole ordeal was happening, another man, Zach, was kind of shadowing what I was doing. After the dust settled, Zach informed me that he was just hanging around to make sure that I was okay and that he "had my back" if I needed it. It's such a blessing to have even the guests looking out for us! It was a hectic meal, but in the end, everyone was served and that's what we can ask for the day.
My trip to Siena was wonderful!!! I really enjoyed talking to college students and trying to recruit them to this program that I love already! It was also really great to spend time with Katie and Joanne apart from my community here and in a different setting altogether. It was a fun road trip and I'm really looking forward to our retreat next weekend!
I am spending my second free day this week going into Center City to Barnes and Noble and taking care of some things around the house. Have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just an update...

I'm just going to write a quick update before I head up to Siena College with Katie (our program director) and Joanne to speak at a volunteer fair!
This past weekend we were blessed to have Emily's friend, Anne, visiting us from Rhode Island. Saturday was a great day filled with personal prayer for me, along with some fun times with Emily, Annie, Joanne and I in Center City. We had a nice dinner at a pub and then watched the city come alive at night! We stopped at another pub and had a beer before heading home. It was such a normal night with some incredible people!!!
After the meal on Sunday, Annie left us and Emily and I spent the afternoon napping and then making dinner and doing Pilates! Aaaahhhh, the normal life! We picked Maureen up at the airport (she went home for the weekend) and we spent some time catching up before all heading to bed.
I coordinated the meal last night with few problems. Emily and I planned mass and we had our weekly community meal! After all the insanity, we're all so tired, but we come back to our house and have our community meeting to review our schedule for the upcoming week and plan our community fun night, our community dinner, and our prayer. Well, this week is kind of overloaded with about a billion different things, sending us all in different directions, but we're managing to find some time to spend together, a necessary component to developing and maintaining our community here!
This morning I worked with Barbara on the breakfast shift and got to give out tickets. Our breakfast is a take-out meal so everyone gets the same ticket and it's only an hour long (it's a lot less stressful/confusing). But that did not stop it from being a crazy morning! I had to pacify Hector, a man who has recently become disabled because of his diabetes and is now wheel-chair bound and will soon be a double-amputee, who was riled up from another guest, Harry. Harry isn't allowed in the yard primarily for his own safety. He's very particular about what he wants, yellow cake with white frosting, cinnamon buns with pecans and raisins, pumpkin Tasty-kakes, and juice. I've come to know Harry's likings and do my best to accomodate him, but today he was egging Hector on and I did my best to diffuse a situation that could've been pretty dangerous. Hector carries a knife on him for his own protection, as he is in a wheel-chair, and I just am not quite sure of what Hector is capable so I prevented anything from getting to that point and asked Harry to ride away on his bike.
Right around this time, Darlene, a special-needs woman who is also an alcoholic arrived on the scene drunk and beer in hand. We obviously do not allow alcohol or drugs on our property (to the best of our ability) so I asked Darlene to leave our property until she finished the beer. She put up quite the fight and I had to ask for backup from Karen, another team member. Karen ended up kicking her off our property and Darlene didn't return to get a bagged breakfast.
I also had the blessing of talking to Rambo today... I find that so many people don't take the time to listen to him, which can be really hard, especially if there are a million other things going on, but when you really listen to him and allow yourself to engage in conversation with him, he's actually really funny! We were talking about the tv show Hogan Knows Best, of which I know nothing about, and then I got to catch a glimpse into his past. He used to be a truck driver/mover. I still haven't pinned down the reason for his disability, but I think the more Rambo and I talk, the more I'll be able to find out!
Thank you for your continued prayers! I couldn't do what I do here without them!!!
Much love and peace are sent your way!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I have been blessed...

Every time I turn around, I am reminded once again of the many blessing God showers me with daily; my incredible family, my loving and thoughtful friends, my gifts, and His grace in my daily life.
Christen came to spend the weekend with me, the first time I've seen her since I left in August! It was so great to finally share this experience with her because it means so much to me and she only experienced it through my stories! She arrived Friday night and me, Christen and Emily watched Grey's Anatomy from the previous night (a Saint A's tradition). Saturday morning we helped to prepare the Inn for the coming meal and then Christen served the meal while I did tickets outside. Every time I was able to break away from tickets and asked her how she was doing, a big smile and "GREAT! I love it!" poured out of her mouth. I really have missed her passion and excitement!
After clean up, I was taken on a surprise birthday adventure! I knew nothing about it and was so excited to hang out with Emily, Joanne, Christen and Yvelisse for the day! It wasn't until we drove for about 45 minutes that I learned what the plan and our destination was. They were taking me on a Fall Foliage tour through small towns with windy roads north of Philadelphia! It was so much like being at home!!! I had been complaining a lot about not being able to see leaves change, or leaves at all, so Joanne decided to take me out of the city for the day! While we were driving around, we stopped by the Delaware River and had a picnic, then continued on to Milford, New Jersey for the big finale! We went to The Ship Inn, the oldest brewery in New Jersey, and had a couple beers! We met this man, Richard, who is from England, and bought all our drinks!

The Delaware River at sunset!

Now this may not seem like the ideal way to celebrate your birthday, but it was absolutely perfect for me! The love and thought that Joanne and Emily put into the adventure really reflected their love and care for me! It is such a blessing to have friends like that here!
Sunday, after walking around Center City for a short while with Christen, I sadly dropped her off at the airport and Maureen, Emily and I headed over to Camden for Inter-Community Prayer. We read Isaiah 55, which I highly recommend, and discussed how it relates to our lives here. Some of the most important things I took from it were that it is my role to be the best me I can be, not to compare myself to others or Jesus, but to strive, wholeheartedly, to really fulfill God's plan for me. Something else I took away from the reading is that at the end of every day, if I can show gratitude to God for the day and give all my anxiety and stress to Him, I can wake up the next morning, beginning a new day to live His will. I'm sure everyone can take something different from it, but this is what spoke to me at this time in my life!
And finally, Emily, Yvelisse, Joanne and I went into Philadelphia and got our noses pierced! It was kind of on a whim, but we had been talking about it for awhile and just decided to take the plunge! Now I know my parents aren't particularly happy about it, but they both asked questions and said, "it's your body". I know I'm 23 years old and am allowed to do what I want, but it was really great to know that they aren't mad. They're pretty great! Fr. Michael, on the other hand, called me a hussy- but I'm convinced it was said with love. :-)
In other news, I will be home November 9th-12th and can't wait to see my family, friends and home!!!
Well, I guess that's a long enough update for now! I hope everyone is having a great week!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

One body with many parts

It's hard to believe that we've been here for almost 2 months already! There is still so much to learn, so many guests I have yet to meet, and so much more spiritual growth I am looking forward to and need.
Last night we had community prayer night; we take turns planning what prayer will be for the week (in addition to praying intentions together as a community) and it has taken many forms already. We've had some more reflective prayers, the four of us painted a picture together, we took Bible passages and prayed about them... but last night was my turn to plan and something I have been struggling with, especially since I've been here, is discerning my spiritual gifts. So, I decided to take Emily and Maureen along with me in this journey so that we can all assist each other in this discernment process and cater to each other in a way to best utilize our gifts.
Since my time here, I have been really trying to figure out the charisms God has given me because I find it so easy to see my shortcomings, gifts that I haven't received (anything artistic). But a couple of weeks ago, it was Emily's turn to plan prayer and she put lots of quotes, including Biblical quotes, on slips of paper and we drew them at random. One of the quotes I got was in 2 Corinthians, which said, "Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). If I hadn't already known that God speaks to us through many different ways, I certainly learned it that night. I found myself dwelling on my limitations rather than celebrating the gifts I have (which I hadn't realized yet) so after reading and praying about that passage, I am trying my best to embrace the gifts I have and not lament for those I was not given.
We took a 140 question quiz with so many different types of questions pertaining to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and had instant results from the website. I scored the highest in hospitality, then helps, administration, and encouragement. My housemates and I all had different top gifts; it was certainly a moment of grace for us to realize this as we all were given different gifts to form our community. In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about how each of us has a part to play, and that we rely on everybody to make us a unified body in Christ. It cannot ring more true than when you look at my house, or the Team here, or even on the broader scale of the world, that we are all so intimately connected that we must acknowledge and accept everyone so that we can all build God's kingdom together.
As I continue to embrace my gifts and really try to hone in on them and how I can best use them, I am working at being a "cheerful giver".

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Make me a channel of Your peace...

Since I last wrote, two major holidays occurred... the Feast of Saint Francis and my birthday!
We celebrated the feast of Saint Francis starting on Wednesday night with Transitus which is when Francis died and went to heaven. We went to Camden for the celebration, as they are also a Franciscan parish. It was a beautiful ceremony that comemorated the life of Francis and allowed us to reflect on the role he plays in our lives.
I'm not sure how familiar you all are with the life of Saint Francis, but he embodied humility and solidarity with the poor. He never wanted praise or glory, but sought to live among the poor and to rid himself of earthly distractions to focus on his relationship with God. If you get a chance, read up on him, he's a pretty cool guy.
The Franciscans here in Kensington are constantly challenging me and inspiring me to be more like Francis, an ideal that I feel is so unattainable for me. Every day I am reminded of how much I have to learn and how far away I am from how Francis lived his life. Francis never liked power, he never wanted to be in control and really purged himself of everything that was unnecessary in his life. Now, for those of you who know me even in the least bit, you know how much I am a control freak. I like knowing what's going on, I like being the boss (some might even call me bossy), and I certainly have a hard time surrendering that. However, when I see how the Team runs the Inn, with no one person having more control over the others, their sense of community and sharing is so evident that I pray that some of it rubs off on me.
In the Alcoholics Anonymous program, they have a saying, "Let go, let God." I think my struggle comes with not only giving up control here on Earth, but also completely trusting my life in God's hands. I believe that until I can surrender my life to God, there will be a barrier that prevents me from becoming more Franciscan.
In the meantime, I am trying to challenge myself to make smaller sacrifices in my daily life and am really praying for the strength to surrender the control to God. And I think this is the perfect place to help me with that.
As for the other big holiday, my birthday, I got to do pickups with Fr. Michael and then got to relax at home for awhile. I ended up in Camden with Joanne (she didn't want me to be home alone on my birthday) to see Into the Wild- a great movie, but really made me nervous for Paul's departure. He left Saturday morning after mass on his bike. We're praying that he is safe and finally feels as if he is doing what he should be. I went to lunch with my parents and Joanne and then my parents and I went into Center City to do a Duck Tour and walk around. It was a beautiful day and I am so grateful that they came down to spend my birthday with me (and to celebrate my dad's birthday too!). Today they worked the meal at the Inn and I am also grateful that they finally got to experience what I've been talking about so much.
It was a really great weekend and I am looking forward to more visits from them and others! (hint hint)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Feast of Guardian Angels

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly..."
I'm not so sure that I've ever really given too much thought to the idea of guardian angels. And, quite honestly, the Vatican has never officially confirmed or denied the celestial beings that are believed to keep a watchful eye on us humans down here on Earth. So why, then, do we attribute some acts of grace to angels rather than to God Himself?
Today at mass, Fr. Bill talked a lot about our guardian angels as a means of secondary causality; sometimes God speaks to us through other people or uses His heavenly angels to speak to us in ways that we perhaps wouldn't hear ordinarily. I think many people find comfort in the belief of a guardian angel, perhaps a loved one who has died or one's patron saint...
But I wonder why we need the intermediary between ourselves and God? What is so unattainable that we need angels to connect us with the Divine? Fr. Bill also talked about the idea of continuity, whereby living things are ordered in their relation to the Divine, plants, animals, humans, angels, then God. Well, there exists a vast chasm between humans and God that it is the angels that connect us so intimately with the presence and grace of God.
With all of that being said, I'm not sure I've come up with a conclusion on guardian angels. But I do know this, whatever way God chooses to speak to me, either through other people or through angels, I'm trying my best to listen. It's not always easy or what I want, but like in Jeremiah, it is not my will, but God's. What a tough lesson to learn.