At this point, anyone who has heard me introduce myself on even just one Zoom call in the last month knows that I’m a writer. (If we haven’t met yet: hello! I’m a writer!). Words are my favorite, however, I’m finding I can only come up with one good one to sum up my JSC experience so far: it’s been awesome.
And I don’t mean that in the “yeah bro, it’s awesome,” sense of the word. I mean it in the “I’m standing on the Carrboro house back deck watching the morning sun come through the persimmon tree,” standing in awe, awesome.
My decision to do a service year with JSC was a complete leap of faith. I’ve never lived outside of New England before, none of my friends or family have ever done (let alone heard of) a service year, and making this commitment required me to abandon a fairly well developed five-year plan. Still, I found a remarkable sense of peace in this decision, so I jumped.
Oh man, am I glad I did.
While I’m not expecting the “bigger picture” to come into focus anytime soon, my awe in these first few weeks has come from the innumerable ways God has shown up in the details. I know I’m incapable of communicating to you all how this has felt to me—how I have felt so thoroughly known through all of this—but in an attempt to share, here is a short list of Divine details thus far: first, and foremost, the family of deer that live in our backyard. The “Fancy Gap Jams” playlist, in honor of our opening retreat. My miraculous placement with L’Arche. Our family cat, Ruth, pushing over the table lamp during our first house meeting (she didn’t even offer to help pick it up! The audacity!). Absolutely slaying gluten-free baking in the kitchen with Lydia. The perfect spot for a hat wall in my bedroom. Deep life talks in the woods with Liv. Giggling with Laura through our work in the L’Arche office, because our tiny office is such a blessing, but there are also small children screaming down the hallway and construction workers hammering on the roof above us. Hosting Durham house for a Mexican feast and “My Name is Pauli Murray” viewing party. Quiet, post-morning prayer bird watching on the deck with Henry. Dancing our hearts out at an outdoor concert in Raleigh. The combination bookstore-coffee shop on Franklin Street. And so much writing encouragement.
As I reflect on all of these “little things”, I’ve been drawn back to one of my favorite details in the Gospels. In chapter 2 of Luke, as the events of Jesus’s youth are unfolding, it is written twice that as Mary observes what is happening she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (NIV 2:19). I think my heart is in exactly this same place: it is so clear to me that I am witnessing the work of God, and I’m just trying to cherish it all as best I can. I have no clue what God is going to do next, how I am going to be shaped by this year, or what I’ll feel called to. I also know that difficult moments are bound to arise as our house’s “honeymoon phase” wears off, and things like grad school applications and homesickness set in. But for now, it is such a gift to be awestruck, pondering and cherishing. If you need me, I’ll probably be standing on the Carrboro house back deck, looking at the persimmon tree, so incredibly hopeful for the year ahead.