I have spent the last year of my life investing love, enthusiasm, and passion into the places I have visited and the people who have become my life. My time as an ABQ YAV is over and I don’t know what’s next. Not knowing has its benefits because I will have some transition time to travel, relax, and reflect. Here are 4 things I do know I have learned about during my YAV year:
Importance of Community
Two incredible women who have been by my side through our whole ABQ YAV experience were my main community. If you have never lived in an intentional community then this is a concept you might not understand especially because I just spent the last year of my life living in a community and I didn’t always understand it. My experience living in a community provided me with a space to be loved even after I made mistakes, a space for fun and frustration at the same time, and a place to be authentically myself. The three of us together became invested in each others everything. We had hard times and happy times and through it all, we were resilient together. My intentional Christian living community impacted my experience and I will miss our times sitting on our front porch, the way we stuck together in new social situations, our trips to The Range for fries with ranch and desserts, our nightly walks, driving places windows down blasting a song on repeat until we reached our destinations, and many more experiences.
The community I was placed into at work was one who provided me with so much support and an incredible amount of joy. Heading Home allowed me the opportunity to grow their volunteer program while learning about the organization as a whole and taking a hard look at the social justice issue that is homelessness in Albuquerque. Many people at work invested in me and made me feel loved and valued. My community of coworkers positively influenced me and I will miss walking around the office to bounce ideas off different people, having people stop by my desk to discuss a wide variety of topics, and many more situations.
Putting Faith into Action
This year has provided me with many opportunities to subtly put my faith into action. I have learned to value and put into practice walking humbly and loving genuinely and to read more about that please click here. The two Bible verses I have consistently used to guide me through my YAV year were Matthew 25:31-46 and Micah 6:8. Click here for a previous reflection on Micah 6:8. These verses are important to me because both call us to boldly and compassionately engage in the spaces and places we are.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” -Matthew 25:31-37
My work placement has no religious affiliations but that never stopped me from interacting with clients in the office or residents at the shelters in a compassionate manner. Kindness and compassion matter to me please click here to read more about that. I will miss the work I did because being the volunteer coordinator at Heading Home because I consistently had the opportunity to host all kinds of awesome groups and individuals and to be an advocate and educator about homelessness in the community. To read more about being their volunteer coordinator click here.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -Micah 6:8
Over the course of my YAV year, I had the opportunity to visit the United States-Mexico border two different times. Frontera de Cristo, a boarder ministry, does an excellent job of humanizing the experience of living on the border and providing multiple viewpoints by incorporating stories and organizations that fall on both sides of the immigration discussion. To read more about my border experiences click here and here.
Honoring Native Land and Enjoying the Outdoors
New Mexico is a truly beautiful state with a lot of different terrains to offer from mountains to forests. Being in New Mexico has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation for native lands and Native American culture and more of an appreciation for nature in general. I had the opportunity to worship at a Presbyterian church in Laguna Pueblo, to visit a few other pueblos around the state as well as visit several National Monuments. There is something powerful about the way the land is appreciated in New Mexico whither its native land or not. At the start of different public events I attended held on native land there was an acknowledgment of the traditional Native inhabitants of the land. That acknowledgement is an easy way of showing respect and making a step towards honoring the truth of the Indigenous people’s history. Taking a moment to struggle with the history of the incredible outdoor spaces before enjoying them and being invited to learn about different pueblo cultures and traditions has been a meaningful part of my YAV year.
Throughout this year I have intentionally practiced vulnerability. I have been reflecting on being vulnerable from the start of this experience and to read a previous reflection click here. Vulnerability for me has been about letting go of the need to be in control and having the courage to continuously be authentic and to enthusiastically show up and be present no matter what. This has not been easy and I am blessed to have so many different individuals in my life who can have meaningful conversations with me and who continue to push me to maintain vulnerability even when it’s difficult.
At this point, I will be seeking employment opportunities in Albuquerque and Minneapolis. I have fallen in love with the Southwest and I don’t know that my time there is done. Even if I return to Albuquerque things will be different because I will no longer be an ABQ YAV and the thought of continuing to work on other relationships I have built makes me happy. To read more about how important building relationships was click here. I have been truly fortunate to have built such a strong support system in Albuquerque and to have entered into my YAV year with such a strong support base in Minneapolis.
I’m sure I will continue to learn from my YAV experience for years to come, those four things are just the start of my reflections and processing. Not everything about me has changed but during my time as an ABQ YAV, I have had so many different challenges, experiences, and opportunities that I am not the same person I was a year ago. Moving forward wherever I end up, I want to continue to challenge myself to grow, to take hard looks at social justice issues and systemic problems, to practice vulnerability, maintain my enthusiasm and optimism, and to continue to find meaningful ways to put my faith into action.
To read more from Kim, click here.
My time as an ABQ YAV is coming is wrapping up at the end of July, which has led to a number of conversations surrounding my future plans. Throughout my time here I have fallen in love with many different local spaces and people. When I mention potentially staying in ABQ I always get asked things like “What do you like about Albuquerque?” or “Why would you want to stay here?” So, here are four things I like about Albuquerque.
If you have never had New Mexican food you are missing out. New Mexican food from enchiladas to sopapillas is rich and delicious. New Mexico is known for putting green and red chile on almost everything. After living in New Mexico for a while now, I am confidently prepared for when a waiter asked if I want red, green, or Christmas (both). I’ve been enjoying the added heat from the green chile on everything from cheeseburgers to ice cream.
I love being 15 minutes from several foothills hiking trails and always having a nice view of the Sandia mountain range. At night when the sunset is reflected on the mountains and they turn pink is my favorite time to be facing the mountains. Having such breathtaking natural spaces to experience has reminded me of natures wonderful ability to help me release stress, clear my head, and remember that the best views come from the hardest climbs.
Hot Air Balloons
Not to get carried away but attending Balloon Fiesta is my favorite event from my time in Albuquerque. Fortunately, that time in the fall is not the only opportunity to see balloons. Seeing hot air balloons in the mornings brings me quite a bit of joy and there is a childlike wonder that rushes over me each and every time I see a balloon going up, up, and away.
I have been fortuitous enough to be able to surround myself with so many lovely individuals, who are motivated, open minded, passionate, and kind. People who have invested in me and have pushed me to continuously challenge myself to grow. People who remind me to not take myself too seriously, people who make me laugh, people who have accepted me for who, and people who empower me. I am grateful for my people who have helped me like Albuquerque so much.
There are many more things I like about Albuquerque and New Mexico as a whole but I have yet to make a decision about staying here for more than a year. Right now I am happily finding a balance of being mindful and enjoying the time I have left as an ABQ YAV while looking ahead at the ever-looming question of what’s next…
To read more from Kim, head over to her blog here.
As I enter into the last 1/3 of my year, I’ve put together a few pieces of advice for future YAVs – but I think they also double as life lessons I’ve learned over the past 7 months.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
There’s no such thing as a normative YAV year. Let me say that again – there’s no such thing as a normative YAV year! After knowing several fabulous women who have completed their own YAV experiences, I could not help but enter into my YAV year with grand expectations, and I don’t think I’m the only one that does this. Afterall, there’s a reason we feel called to do this program. We all have our own reasons, intentions, and goals for the year and these things tend to lead to having a certain level of expectations, whether we acknowledge it or not. However, in my experience, nothing’s turned out how I imagined – not my work placement, not our community life, not our intergenerational housing situation. These things have been challenging and difficult, even disappointing at times, but the unexpected has also been delightfully surprising and beautiful.
INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY DOES NOT MEAN YOU’LL NEVER BE LONELY……but it does mean you’ll have people to support you when you are.
We arrived in Albuquerque seven months ago as independent individuals and as different as can be. I think we all thought to ourselves, what the heck are we going to do this year? But over the past few months, humanity has taken over and bound us together through the good and the bad. Today, I’m unbelievably grateful for this community, the strong women I get to see every day, and the ways in which we love and support each other. We aren’t a perfect intentional community, and often, we tease and annoy each other like siblings – but we always extend grace to ourselves and others and manage to make it through. There’s certainly times I miss my family and friends back home and the feeling of being truly known, but the beauty of intentional community is that we are all in this together. Each day, we chose to be here with each other, and we continue to learn how to be supportive and show up for our community members in the ways that they need. We can have honest and sometimes difficult conversations with each other and remain a loved and valued member of the community. We are going through real life together and that means we have good days and bad and that we are experiencing real emotions.
BE PATIENT. THE CHANGE AND GROWTH WILL COME.
I spent the first few months of my YAV year searching for that personal growth and change that everyone promises you will have. I was frustrated when my year wasn’t like all the alumni had promised at YAV orientation. We weren’t fighting over the dishes. I wasn’t making lasting connections with my students, who couldn’t even remember my name for the first few months, and we had way too much going on in our community life to even take a crack at discussing the many systemic problems in our world. How was I supposed to accomplish all my goals for the year and grow in the ways I wanted to when things weren’t going as planned? I knew YAV was intentionally designed to be challenging and that we were supposed to embrace the uncomfortable, but for some reason, I thought our challenges were supposed to look like everyone else’s.
I’m learning to let go and be patient. Life happens at the speed it’s supposed to. I didn’t always think that this was going to be a transformational year for me, but it is – just not in the ways I thought. When I envisioned my YAV year, I always imagined participating in protests, serving food to the hungry, and becoming really good at reading the bible every day. While I’ve done all of these things (okay, I’m still not great at reading the bible), these aren’t the things that I’m going to remember from my YAV year. Instead, the moments that surprisingly stick out the most when I reflect on the last few months are the everyday, mundane things that demonstrate how far we’ve come. From conversations we’ve had walking around the track in the evenings to the people we’ve met and formed relationships with, I’ve learned that growth and real change happen when you least expect it.
To read more from Julie, click here.
We as ABQ YAVs spent this past weekend on a silent retreat at the beautiful Norbertine Community here in Albuquerque. The Saturday of silence started with morning prayer at the Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey, followed by 10 hours of silence, and then evening prayer once again at the Abbey. There was quite a bit of build up and anticipation for this silent retreat because being left alone with your own thoughts for 10 hours seems a little scary but I was looking forward to the experience. The silence provided a nice opportunity to turn my phone off and to choose to be present and aware of God while knowing the rest of the world continued to live their lives as just another day and that everything would be okay.
The idea of engaging in complete silence, thinking of nothing and just being is not new to me. Unfortunately, I am often forced to use the meditative and biofeedback practices of focusing on nothing, blocking out the world (especially pain), and focusing inward when I get migraines. For those of you who aren’t familiar with biofeedback, it is a technique used to learn to control some of your body’s functions such as heart rate by monitoring yourself by using electrical sensors. Biofeedback was presented to me as a way to manage pain by focusing on my whole well-being meaning body, mind, and spirit and has been highly useful to me not just to control pain but to relax.
When I experience migraines and have taken my medication the only thing I can do is just sit and be in silence. I can concentrate to relax one muscle at a time, use internal imagery in order slow my breathing and open blood vessels to increase blood flow in my body and get rid of the bright aura colors I often see. Biofeedback and meditation are two practices I quickly learned and put into practice when I was 14 and have since perfected due to necessity but I always like to have the opportunity to them into practice for enjoyment as well.
Taking intentional time to just be with nothing to do and nowhere to go in what otherwise is a relatively busy and scheduled life provided a nice peaceful space for deep relaxation. I didn’t bring any activities to do except for two books to read. We had nice weather this weekend so I time enjoying the meditative walking path as well as just sitting outside. I liked embracing the silence. I am not going to pretend this retreat was some life-changing experience for me or that I think continuous hours of silence will reveal some deep insights for you. The silence was nice, peaceful, calming, centering and relaxing. Being in silence isn’t something you need to go on a retreat to do but being in our intentional community before and after the silence added to the experience.
Simple silent breathing techniques and meditative practices are things I like to include in my day to day life at work and before I go to sleep as a way of remaining grounded, centered and calm. For Lent, I will be taking on an increase in the amount of time I set aside for meditation each day. I would encourage you to try to increase your relaxation and meditation time in an effort to know that you are loved by just being.
To read more from Kim, click here.
Change …it’s inevitable. It’s always gong to happen and come around. The question is do you want to be a part of the change that will inevitably come for the better or for the worse? I think most privileged people are always saying change is hard, it’s too hard why not just keep everything as it is? No, what's actually hard about change is realizing the injustice that has integrated itself into our society to where we now think it’s the normal. Changing our perspective on how we function as a person, a community, a society, social group classes or on the grander scale a nation as a whole.
This weekend as ABQ YAVS we were blessed enough to be able to attend the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr community commemorative breakfast. At this breakfast we got to hear from some amazing speakers, the Honorable Tom Udall Senator of New Mexico, Mrs. Elizabeth Kristen-Keller First Lady of the city of Albuquerque, Reverend Dr. D Charles Wharry, presiding elder Arizona New Mexico district, Reverend Donna Marie Davis pastor Grant Chapel AME Church, Reverend Michelle Sumbry Albuquerque New Mexico and Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, Presiding Prelate 10th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. These men and women stood before hundreds of people and talked about injustice, change and most importantly faith and having the courage to stand up against oppressors to enact social change and to always remember that it’s up to us to keep Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream alive. To not have violence against violence but to have kindness be the weapon of our choosing, to using all of our voices as a whole over the use of our fists or firearms to be heard.
We will never be able to control people’s opinions but we can show them how to change them if that is their wish, through selflessness, standing up for what is right, even if it makes you uncomfortable(especially if it makes you uncomfortable). Change happens all the time changing houses, jobs, friends, lifestyle, etc…what should never ever change is being kind to one another. Respecting someone as a human being standing up for the unjust, for the ones who are meek, the ones who get passed over without a second thought, the ones who voices get taken away just because they’re different or weren’t born here or because one(or more) group(s) think that they’re superior because of who their parents are or what school they attended or whatever their mindset may be. I personally forget some of this. I get too caught up in my own trials that I forget to use my voice, my power, my vocation to assist. Am I going to be the person to change the whole world? Probably not. Am I going to be the person who strives everyday to assist and stand up for whats right no matter how “uncomfortable” it makes me? Absolutely!!! Knowing your strength is crucial, knowing that yeah I may just be one person but I do have the power of change for the better. Just accepting thing because that’s the way they’ve always been has come to an end. This is a battle of unjust that has been going on for centuries, it’s time to quit being scared to stand up for what you know is right. it time for change.
Change….it's inevitable…know where you stand.
Click here to read more from Lauren.