How to Return Home

“Home just as you left it but still you’re shaken,
Like walking into a museum somehow out of time.
It’s all the same except the girl in the hallway”

How to Return Home by Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, some of my favorite contemporary musical theatre composers, was playing on repeat in my head as I boarded the plane home for the first time, since beginning this year of service.

I found myself very conflicted. I knew I was excited about going home. The prospect of rest was very exciting. I hadn’t seen or talked much to my twin brother, sister and dad. I was excited to hear about their lives. I plans to see as many of my friends as possible, with everyday dedicated to seeing one, sometimes two, of them. I was excited for home cooked food, for a refrigerator full of food and vegetables, to use a car to go places, and not having to worry/pay for things. Going into this week a home, I had told myself I would give myself a week of living unintentionally, letting family and friends spoil me, just while home. I’ll get back to this point later.

While I was excited, I found myself very anxious. I worried about how much my opinions, life and view of the world had drastically shifted in four months. How could I reenter a space that was comfortable, when I have spent the past four months being intentionally distrustful of comfort? How would people respond to this drastic shift? How annoyed would people become of my constant comments on systems, capitalism and the constant pointing out of the ways in which white privileged is ingrained so deeply into every part of our lives? I wanted to enjoy being with my family and friends, but how could also bring this new feeling of accountability to these issues to people who hadn’t gone through these four month with me?

So how did it actually go? Well, within the first day of me being home, I had sent this text to a friend.

“Friend: Sounds like home life is treating you well.

Me: If you count me going on a rant about consumerist culture in a Home Depot for all to hear, then yes. It has been a very interesting 7 hrs…”

Within 7 hour of being home, my mom had taken me out to eat, gone shopping at Home Depot, gone to Princeton to buy coffee and stocking stuffers (aka Lindt Chocolate), and then debated buying something for dinner to bring home.  I think by the end of those 7 hrs we had spent at least the equivalent of all four stipends combined. It was definitely a culture shock. I had to work hard to not be judgmental and lectury.

I found myself using my retreat facilitator skills with my family. I was asking questions of why were doing something; pointing out problematic language; questioning beliefs and opinions; using the phrase “Can you talk more about that?”; and my favorite conversation started with my family, say something highly controversial just to get conversation flowing.

I learned a lot about my family and their beliefs. We had MANY conversations about social justice issues. We talked about and I learned new opinions they held. I questioned them and myself. I stood my ground and articulated clear and personal points to my arguments. I had the last word in an argument/discussion with my brother (this never happens in my family)! I found myself not sacrificing what I had learned being in Chicago, and also, being confident in my knowledge to hold my ground. These conversations with my family not only fueled me in knowing that we had learned something, but also made me confident to return to Darst. If I could handle an argument over these issues with my family, I could surely handle retreats.

I found myself returning to Chicago a week later with a few discoveries:

One, New Jersey no longer felt like home and while that scares me, I’m actually excited to know that.  Chicago, Darst and especially the people here are my home. While I only have 6 months left, knowing that has helped in my discernment process.

Two, pick your battles. Some people, I felt comfortable to push, question and challenge. Some people, I couldn’t. I realized it depended on the relationship with the person. If our relationship was stronger and closer, I felt freer to challenge.

Three, this work is desperate and immediate. We are SO unaware of the ways in which we are broken in our communities and a society. While our society is broken, WE ALL ARE BROKEN. By returning home, I saw that in new ways. The places I that used to fuel me and be comfortable, made me so uncomfortable. I went to see a few Broadway shows and it pained me. The shows didn’t stand for anything. The people in the room were white and older. A place that had been magical, was now a hard space to enter. Doesn’t mean I don’t still love it, just sitting in the complexity of it all.

Four, I need to find a way to take care of myself. I felt myself battling exhaustion. I slept 8-9 hrs and then napped. Would go meet a friend and feel fueled by them. I need to start being ok with not doing everything. I need to prioritize and pick my battles. Sometimes that priority needs to be me.


Till Next Time,



Learning to See God

I began this journey four months ago. As many of you not in the church know, I described it largely as a year of service and social justice. And as my mother pointed out, ignoring the religious aspect of this program I was entering into. I would maybe mention the religious association in passing and describe it as a means to an end. As the easy option to do service.

I’ve thought a lot about why this was (and still is, if I’m being totally honest). I think part of this was not being able to explain that I was dedicating a year of my love to service through the church. I had compartmentalized my relationships so fiercely that those I didn’t know through church didn’t know I was religious. I held religion and my relationship to God very, very close.

But, I think part of this holding close was my inability to speak about or even accept my relationship to religion and God. Even as I write this, I feel myself stressing about the way I am phrasing things because I fear they will come off as too religious. But in order to write the rest of this, I’m going to let go of that. So…

PSA- if God, Religion and Jesus talk make you uncomfortable, then welcome!  I will be challenging myself for the next few paragraphs to use and write freely about my relationship to God.  Because if I’ve learned anything so far this year, it is that discomfort= growth. So here we go…

For those of you who don’t know, I am working at the Br. David Darst Center this year. It is a Lasallian, Catholic Center where we host high school and college students. For many of the groups, we end up trying to incorporate the Lasallian charisms (what is this? Still not even 50% sure. But when I know, I promise I’ll let you know) and Catholic social teaching. Being rooted in Catholic teachings, this means that there is a lot of discussion on religion and shared practicing of prayer in my office.

So you have a better sense of the office, I work with 7 other people. 5 of those 7 identify as Catholic and one identifies as Jewish but went to a Lasallian college. As you could imagine, I was a bit out of my element walking into the office. There was a lot of learning to happen in the month before the groups came and I would have to speak with a bit of authority about these teachings. Because I was one of the only Protestants in the office, I found myself talking about my beliefs as a Protestant and Presbyterian quite often. I was surprised at how much I knew. The more I talked about it and discussed the differences with my Catholic friends, the more I realized, that while problematic at times, I believed in the version of God I had grown up with in the Presbyterian Church. I felt strongly about the way the Presbyterian church, at least in theory, radically welcomed all people. I got really good at talking about what Presbyterians believed.

However, as this happened, I realized something. While I was talking about religion more than ever, it was at a distance. I was thinking about it in terms of what Presbyterians as a “whole” believe (at least the PCUSA). I was not talking about my personal relationship to religion, and especially my personal relationship to God. For the first time, I was actively looking for God and didn’t feel like I could find God. And for the first time, I was not ok with that.

So that leads me to now. Right here, sitting in a Starbucks, listening to Christmas music, desperately hoping not to lose the Little Drummer Boy game, writing about my relationship to God for the first time since confirmation. So here are the questions I have been sitting with the past few days.

Where is God?

Who is God and what does God look like?

I can’t answer these separately and I don’t have answers. But I am challenging myself to look at these questions each day. I think the thing that has been hard about these questions is finding God in our world today. I don’t like the image of God as a man on a cloud above us. As the almighty white man. I hate that image. If God is almighty and all powerful, why is our world so messed up? Why do we prioritize certain peoples lives over others based on race, gender, perceived sexuality, nationality, money…? Why do I have ingrained perceptions of people based on how they look? Where is my God in this mess? Also, where is our God in a church that doesn’t welcome me at the table for communion?

This last question may seem out of place and selfish, and it is, but I think for me it stems at the greater problem of religion and my struggle with God right now. Where is God in a world where the leading religion welcomes only certain people to the table? Where is God where only certain people are worthy to eat and drink at the table that binds us all to Jesus? Even when Jesus welcomed us all, even Judas. How do we not work to welcome everyone to the real and metaphorical table?

I obviously don’t have the answer to any of these questions. But one of thing I am trying to do is look for God in places I wouldn’t usually. I am actively trying to look for God, not in the moments I feel happy or at peace, but in the moments I feel uncomfortable. In the moments where I notice one of my internal biases; when I am catcalled walking home; when I see someone hurting; when the government continues to value the rich over human beings; when the Presbyterian Church is rigid and unwelcoming; when I don’t know what to say at a Catholic mass; when I pass by someone who is homeless, or hungry and do nothing. This list goes on. Where is God in this hurting, complex world?

That is not to say I am not also looking for God in the moments I laugh freely and ridiculously with my friends at work, or in the moments I feel most at home. I just think it’s simpler to see God  as only in those moments and I want to challenge myself to see God more fully in this world and I welcome you to this with me.

Till Next Time,


“Are You Lost?”

Before I begin, I want to put a bit of a disclaimer and an agreement that we will enter into for the next year. The stories and thoughts I put here are not going to always be uplifting or happy. They are often going to be challenging, uncomfortable and are going to make me (and I hope through me, make you) think about our privilege.

“Are you lost?”

This is what a friend and I were greeted with as two cops pulled over as we were walking down the street.

Now I realize that the initial reaction to this lacking in detail story may differ drastically based on your own experiences with police. Many may initially be relieved or comforted that I was being looked after. But to Greg (my friend and coworker at the Br. David Darst Center) and I, this interaction left us feeling uncomfortable and faced head first with out white privileged.  Let me help you understand why I felt this way. Some context:

First: Greg and I are white.

Second: We are dressed in fairly well-to-do, nice clothing.

Third: We are in Lawndale when this happens. We are walking from East Garfield Park. For those who don’t know, these two neighborhoods are majority black, poor neighborhoods.

Fourth: The cops are both white.

Fifth: This is my neighborhood. I have lived here for over a month now.

Sixth: We are the only two white bodies (besides the cops) on that street.

Seventh: They don’t pull over to talk to anyone else on the street.

I know the reaction of many may be still be something along the lines of “how kind the police were”. “They are doing there job and making sure that we are safe”.  And they were, but it was for the only two young white bodies in view on the whole street, who were drastically in the minority at that moment. They didn’t stop for anyone else around us.  We didn’t have phones out. We were not looking around confused. We were walking with some purpose, in the middle of a conversation, when they pulled over. And it is for that reason, that this interaction becomes a question of racism and white privileged. Hense my discomfort.

Why is this racism and white privilege?

In that moment, Greg and I, as white bodies in a black community, were told by authorities (the police) that this is not a place we belong or should be. It was solely based on our appearances (color and materials) and NOT behaviors, that identified us as outsiders. As not belonging. The authority of the police made a judgement that this deemed us worthy of being saved and helped. We were given value and worth to police because of our color. This small act of racism and ones like it, are so common. It is rare that we as whites notice it. That is part of priveledge.

It is in these moments, that I see the way I operate and contribute to racism that I become extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know what to do.

Greg and I in that moment simply said nope and continued walking. Why didn’t I question the police on why they were asking us? Why wasn’t I surprised that this was happening? Why did I then let that interaction effect the way I was holding myself in the community (my posture became closed off and defensive the rest of the walk)? I was complacent in that interaction. I perpetuated the racist standards and then embodied them on the walk and in thought.

I still don’t know what to do in that moment. I am racist. Yes, I just said that.  And we all need to start acknowledging it. Because that it the first step. We are racist. As a white women I continue to perpetuate and be complicit in so many ways that I’m still discovering.  But it is these small racist actions, like this above, that are SO dangerous to our country. And we need to start seeing them and changing them. How? I don’t know? But I’m trying everyday to figure that out.

I know this is probably making you uncomfortable or unsteady. Maybe you already knew this and heard it before. Maybe this is the first time you are hearing racism in these terms . Either way part of my job this year is to bring these questions and discomfort into view. This blog isn’t going to be easy, to write or to read (Trust me, I have sat down now 10 times to try to write it and kept running away because I was afraid to miss represent, not convey the right message, or not talk about the right things). My stories hurt and are my interpretation of the world as I see it currently. You may not agree. But we are a broken country.  We are hurting and I believe we can’t be complacent anymore. The first step is seeing where we are broken and how we are contributing. I’m going to do my best to show the ways in which I am complicit and how I see these things at work around me. I just ask that you try to see it that way. Feel free to send me questions.

Till next time,


Saying Goodbye

Well, here we are. 12 days till lift off.

Three days ago I would have told you that my life was lining up pretty nicely. I was excited to start this new journey. I was ready to move away. Meet new people. Discover new places. I was leaning into the exciting work I am about to be doing.  Leaning into living in a city. Three days ago, I couldn’t wait to get out of my small town and small condo.

However, my Spotify playlists of the last two days are saying something else. To just give you hint of what that might be, yesterday I listened to a playlist called Goodbye for 4 hrs. I think the reality of me leaving crept up on me. I wasn’t expecting to have to say goodbye. Yes, I was expecting to say goodbye to my family, but I will talk to them and see them on vacation. I already said goodbye to my college friends when we graduated. So I thought Goodbye wasn’t something I was going to have to do. Boy was I wrong! Going against my plan for my perfect goodbye, I had unexpected people come into my life this summer.

I have been blessed this summer to work at Eno Terra this summer. I have worked at restaurants before.  In past, I enjoyed my coworkers, but never really found more than one or two people I was ‘close’ to. This was not the case this summer. People were kind and welcoming, in the sassiest and most sarcastic way (which is exactly the way I act. We all got along pretty quickly). They were funny, warm, over the top. We had fun. They got my humor. I laughed more times at work on a daily basis than I have in a long time. I had deep, moving, honest conversations at the bar after shifts. I was not expecting these people. I was not expecting to be changed. I was not expecting people to trust me so freely. I was not expecting to trust them so freely. I was not expecting to have a “survival” job that most nights I did not want to leave at the end of the night. I was not expecting to be profoundly sad at leaving my job. I was not expecting to have to say goodbye. So to those from Eno Terra, I hate you for making me invested in you. And thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I will miss you deeply.

As I switch from my goodbye playlist to Another Day from Rent, I am beginning to lean back into the excitement of the uncertainty of the experience to come (The music I listen to always reveals and influences what I am feeling. I am guided by my musical nature.) While, I know that this is going to be a crazy roller coaster of emotions for the next few weeks, I am intrigued to see what comes next. I am nervous about the ways in which I will be pushed out of my comfort zone this upcoming year. I am anxious about living with four other young adults, as learning to live with new people is always an adjustment. But I am also excited to have new playmates! I am excited about the people I will meet. The skills I will learn. Finding new ways to share my passions with others. I don’t know what is is to come, but I kind of love that.

Before I wrap up this first blog post, I want to say thank you to all those who donated to my fundraising goal. I am excited to say that I raised all $4,000 dollars! People’s generosity in giving and in spirit was heartwarming. You all shared your excitement, support, and belief with me. You are my foundation. You all are the reason that I know, even when it is hard, I can do this! Thank you! And talk to you all shortly.