Hi everyone! Thank you so much for supporting my in my YAV year! Now that I have begun a new part of my journey in seminary, I have started a new blog about my very small kitchen in my apartment. I would love if you followed my new journey. https://thetinykitchenstruggle.wordpress.com. I hope to see you on my new site!
How do you pack for an entire year in a new city with only two checked bags. I asked/joked about this questions for months leading up to the start of my YAV year in Hollywood, CA. When I moved into my freshman dorm, I had a packed minivan with the seats taken out and more stuff in my own Honda Accord. When I started packing for LA, the day before as all good procrastinators do, I laid everything out on my bed. Piles of t-shirts, skirts, books, shoes, pictures. I had several of the plastic air tight bags that you used a vacuum to suck all the air out. It made for a lot of extra room, but also a 75lb bag. I reorganized and re-prioritized. So maybe I didn’t need 10 books, mom could ship them to me as I read more. I didn’t need 20 T-shirts and 10 long sleeve shirts (it doesn’t get cold enough in Cali for those).
In the last two day the YAV office has challenged me to think about something I brought that I didn’t need, and something I need that I didn’t bring. I looked around my room for things that haven’t been used since their arrival in LA. I still have too many books and too many shoes. As for things I wish I had, I am always sad to be in the kitchen looking for that one utensil or pan to realize that its back in Virginia. Don’t bring kitchen stuff, it wastes space, and you get much more creative with what you have. Who knew a double boiler could be replaced with a very precarious placement of sauce pans.
Something I definitely lacked when I got here was an open mind. I had it all planned out of what living in intentional community looked like, what working in a church setting looked like, what living in Hollywood looked like, and what the working with people experiencing Homelessness looks like. Everyday I am reminded that I have no clue what any of that will look like the next day. Some days I’m surprised by how supported I feel by my friends who live homelessly and how non-Hollywod Hollywood really is. There are days when I overwhelmed by the commitment of the intentional community to be with each other, I have really lucked out with my awesome housemates, but I also am adjusting to living with people who process differently, who have different priorities, different life stories and goals, and interact differently than I do. I’m an extrovert, I know this is not news to anyone, but I can be with people all day and then do it again the next day. Not all my housemates want to be with people, or even me, all the time. I’m learning to find restoration in my alone time, and I hope my housemates are learning to find peace in a crowd of people.
YAV’s tag line is a year of service for a lifetime of change. While I love this line as I do hope this year molds my future, I find that much of the changing is happening during my year. When I first arrived to Hollywood, the DOOR directors challenged us to flip that statement, this is our year of change for a lifetime of service. I packed a lot, and there are days I wish I had packed more (I brought stuff back at Christmas and now It will never all fit to go back to Virginia.) But what I wasn’t prepared for was the constant change and adjustment this year has brought. You can’t pack for that, you don’t know what will stretch you or challenge you.
Happy Holy week. Holy week is always a busy time in the life of a church. Beginning with Palm Sunday, continuing on with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, up to the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday. The Hollywood YAVs spent Palm Sunday in Phoenix Arizona. We took a long weekend to stay with Heather’s parents and watch a few spring training games. It was a mere 95 degrees for the Giants/Mariners game on Saturday. Fortunately, the temperature dropped 10 degrees for the Diamondbacks/Rockies game the next day. We celebrated Palm Sunday at the church Heather grew up in. We had an amazing trip of family and baseball. We quickly returned to our work week and the community house. Instead of attending a Maundy Thursday Service, we dyed Easter eggs and had an Easter egg hunt with the kids in our community. Some of our kids had never dyed Easter eggs before, and it was so much fun watching them explore the different colors and ways to make the eggs two toned. The Good Friday Service at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood was done in collaboration with Reality LA, a non-denominational church in Hollywood. I recently questioned why Friday is referred to as “Good” during Holy week, as it is the day that Christ was crucified. But then the pastor of Reality LA said, “In order to get the celebration of Easter, we must go through the suffering of the Crucifixion.” With out the death of Christ, there is no resurrection. Without death there is no life. It is through Good Friday we get Resurrection Sunday.
As a part of my family’s Easter tradition, we dye Easter eggs on Easter Eve each year. I have a picture of my first Easter, sitting with 3 of my siblings and my parents, the dining room table covered in newspaper and cups of vinegary dye with eggs in all of them. It’s tradition. As long as I can remember, I would plop my designated number of eggs into various colors and be done dyeing eggs in 5 minutes, and then sit very impatiently while my wildly creative sister would spend what felt like forever on her eggs. I got better as I got older, but never quite to Jennifer’s level. The wax crayon was my best friend, and I would write different things that I loved, my school, my pets, my sorority, my friends, my parents, and many other generic tokens. This year, I watched the kids dye eggs as fast as they could, trying to remind them to take their time, and enjoy the process, word I never heeded as a child. But today, my new YAV family and I sat down to dye our own eggs. This year it took me 2.5 hours to dye 5 eggs~ Here are my creative masterpieces:
Aren’t they lovely. The dyeing of Easter eggs is the tradition which brought us all to the table, to bring us together in fellowship and laughter. Most of the time only food can do this! Speaking of which, I finished my next book on the list! Peace Meals, is the personal memoirs of war journalist Anna Badkhen. She tells her journey of reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war torn countries in the Middle East and Africa. In each chapter, she tells the stories of former warlords and terrorist, rape victims, American soldiers, translators and drivers, prisoners, and everyday people, and how the meals she ate with each person forged a bond. Badkhen writes in the epilogue of her book ” In extremity, an offer to break bread is more than invitation to hear someone’s story. It is a chance to link that person’s life and yours.”
Exciting News! I’m going to Virginia in May! I’m so excited to see all of my sisters for the first time in a year. I just booked my ticket so I can see my nephew graduate from VMI! See you soon VA!
Also, my birthday is one week!
On January 4th, The Hollywood Church Collaborative entered into the 4th annual Winter Refuge. First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood opened its doors and joined together with Ecclesia, Reality LA, and Broken Hearts Ministry to run an 8 week, relational, winter shelter. Los Angeles County runs several winter shelters in the city, adding about 1500 beds to their existing 14,000 shelter beds. Most of them exist outside of the Metro LA area, which includes Hollywood. Our friends experiencing homelessness in our area can find it daunting to get to a winter shelter an hour or so away only to be turned away because it was first come first serve. Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) doesn’t fund our shelter, however, the churches do, which means we get to create our own model of ministry based shelter. Our shelter features 25 beds, which are promised to each guests for the full 8 weeks, or however long they choose within those 8 weeks. Our guest are referred by case managers or chosen based on their vunerability on the streets. Our goal in this shelter was to provide a safe space, and inviting and warm space, for each of the guests to get what they need physically and emotionally. Many people who live homelessly experience mental illness, which may stem from prolonged drug use, family history, or just simply not having a safe space to get a good night of sleep for months on end.
Because of this model, we do spend some time turning people away. I mentioned earlier the amount of beds for those living homelessly, and they barely house the 60,000-80,000 people in need of them. We only have 25 beds. Most of the people who came looking for shelter in our space were people that had stayed at the church before, or friends had told them about it. Some people understood that there simply were no beds, and other spent the next five minutes yelling at me. Working in a shelter, you get used to people yelling at you. Our guests, and many people experiencing homelessness, have been in and out of prison, experience mental illness, suffer from substance abuse, and are sleep deprived. And now, while our guests do have a place to sleep, they are sharing a room with 24 other people with different personalities and experiences dictating their actions. I have been yelled at a lot in the last 8 weeks, I’ve been called names, cussed at, told I was not a good Christian and that my boss “God” was very mad at me. I have also heard our guests yell at each other a lot, and have had to attempt to deescalate situations before they get physical. I’ve had to ask people to leave for the night and for good, I’ve worked with volunteers and staff with loud and difficult guests, and I’ve learned a lot about the comforting and peaceful power of prayer.
Before I start each shift, I share with our volunteers the goal and history of our ministry and I ask someone to pray for the space. Some mornings I would forget the crucial part of prayer and my mornings would run hectically. Sometimes my mornings and evenings would run hectically even when we did pray. But during those times, I felt more calm and prepared and I felt that the volunteers did as well. One evening in particular there was an extremely volatile with an ongoing screaming match between a few of the guests. And while I and the other staff worked with the guest, the volunteer group was able to continue on with the evening and work the the remaining guests.
Each of the four groups took two weeks to coordinate food, volunteers, and activities. Ecclesia took the first two weeks to serve as host at FPCH. I was grateful for the model they provided, as I then coordinated the next two weeks with members of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. The last month were hosted by Reality LA and Broken Hearts Ministry. Each of the groups sent volunteer teams for both morning and evening and food for both breakfast and dinner. Evening groups also planned an activity to join our guests in fellowship. Some nights there were games, art projects, worship, bible study, or movies. Some nights, the guests were all asleep by 7:30 pm. I worked with amazing groups from all the churches and watched as they played, prayed, and talked with our guests.
But most importantly, we had amazing guests. Each came in with their own history and story. Each came in with their own needs and wants. They came it for a place to sleep and something to eat. But more than that, we wanted to provide a place to create community, to have real conversations, and to break bread with one another. Christine Pohl writes in her book Making Room “A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s Kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.”
Now that the 8 weeks of the shelter are over, two of our guests moved into apartments, five moved into transitional housing, and many more continue to work with case managers. We continue to work with our guests at the shelter and our friends at the lunch program by continuing to create a space where everyone can come together and be in community with each other. I will be working with a program called Dinner with Friends, in which both guests and volunteers from the shelter will eat dinner together, play games, and create friendships. Pohl writes that “to welcome those who could not give anything in return is “our true and just work,” the work that relates to God … Generous hosts, though not seeking to gain , would find themselves blessed in the hospitality relationship.”
Sorry for not posting for two months, but as you can tell I was quite busy. Stay tuned in March, as I will be trying to make up for my lack of writing. The next post will be the exciting information from the dweller retreat in Northern California March 4-9th. As always, thank you so much for all the continued support!
Merry Christmas! Even though you are probably reading this after Christmas, I think we could celebrate the birth of Christ well after Christmas Day and Epiphany. This post is a few days late for week 3, but after 14 hours of flying and layovers, I decided that this weeks advent update would be best saved for Christmas Day! Now that the official season of advent is over, here are the remaining advent photos.
Monday, December 15th – Strong
This is a type of Labyrinth that was at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Monday was community day, as usual, and we spend part of the day touring the concert hall. While I didn’t get to complete the labyrinth before the automated tour guide told me to continue to the next part of the terrace, I was able to enjoy a section of it. I love labyrinths. I find strength and renewal in the path to the center. There were labyrinths at discernment and orientation for YAV that helped me prayerfully focus on my upcoming adventure. Luke 22:34 -Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.
Tuesday, December 16th – Justice
This picture was taken a few days before at Topanga beach. There was a small stream that flowed into the Pacific Ocean. One of my favorite worship songs that I learned at YAV camp had the following chorus:
Let the rains go, let the healing river flow
Let justice roll like water
Let the day begin when new life enters in
And let your Kingdom come.
Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of steadfast love of the Lord.
Wednesday, December 17th – Awake
Today was our Christmas party at lunch during the Lord’s Lighthouse. After an awesome donation from a local school, we were able to give all of our guest a hygiene kit complete with soap, deodorant, razors, shampoo, conditioner, socks, a brush, and wet wipes. During the day, I also gave out several blankets. Many day, this is what our guest wake up with not much more than these item. These are also the item I am most often asked for. Psalm 17:15 – As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
Thursday, December 18th –
On Thursday, we made Christmas cookies with the kids in the neighborhood. If there was a more true belief in Christmas than children, I am not sure where to find it. While most children believe in Santa, it it through the Jolly many that Christmas can be found. It is not just the want for Christmas present that makes this time so magical for children. It was Jesus who said that all should have faith like a child. John 3:16 – This is how much God loves the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
Friday, December 19th – Gather
I spent most of Friday by myself, as it is my day off. I did finish making more Christmas cookies, and as I made many angels I was reminded of the verse for today. Luke 2:13-14 At once the angel gathered with the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
Saturday, December 20th – Holy
I have seen many beautiful sunsets from Hollywood! Many from the beach, few from a hike, and quite a few from my own balcony. The most beautiful sunsets come after many days of rain. And on Saturday night we saw a beautiful sunset from our own balcony once again. It is time like this that I have no doubt in one Holy creator. Luke 1:35 – And the Angel said to her, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will over shadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy.”
Sunday, December 21st – Love
The Lord’s Lighthouse was having another Christmas celebration with the church’s Chancellor Choir. The room was decorated with lights and I could not help but to see this beautiful image of the cross lit up with white lights. Christ, the pure messiah born during the advent season, to one day be sacrificed for all of us. Luke 1:46-48 – My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor, on the low lines of his servant.
Monday, December 22nd – Comfort
After a 14 hour Red eye, (2 layovers) I finally arrived home to my family. It is extremely fortunate (or planned) that the day I came home was the same day represented comfort. I love living in Los Angeles, but there is something very special being home, surrounded by family and tradition. Matthew 11:28 – Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will five you rest.
Tuesday, December 23rd – Mercy
Today is my mothers birthday! And as a recent tradition dictates, my sister and I spend the day shopping for the last few gifts for Christmas. While shopping in my favorite store in downtown Staunton, I found the most recent version of the PC(U.S.A)’s Book of Confession. The book offers different historical doctrines that outline many of the denominations beliefs. While many view confession as a time of admitting what we have all have done wrong, I see it as the time in which we are covered by God’s grace and mercy.
Wednesday, December 24th – Sparkle
It’s Christmas Eve. My family celebrated it as if it were Christmas Day however. My sister and her boyfriend had to leave that day to visit his family. We opened presents, had a big breakfast, and said goodbye! That evening my mom and I went to a Christmas eve service filled with carols, fellowship, and communion. There were many chances for a sparkling picture. The picture I chose, however, was post manicure with my mother. We spent the evening applying sparkling nail wraps and playing games. Luke 2:8 – And there were shepherd living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flock and night. An angel appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
Thursday, December 25th – Light
The Christmas season is filled with lights. Christmas lights, candle lights, village lights, and Christ light. Christmas as a season is only celebrated once a year, as the birth of Christ. But the whole year should be celebrated as a continuance of the Christ’s birth. During Christmas, more people give of their money and time. People share their gifts, live a Christ like life. My goal with this Advent challenge was to be more intentional in my community. Now that advent is over, my goal is to not let this fade, but to try to live as Christ did and to be a light in the darkness. John 1:1, 4-5, 14 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the Word was life, and the life was the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Another week in December has passed. This week was filled with planning, prepping, fellowship and rain. As we inch closer and closer to Christmas, I find that the spirit of Christmas grows stronger and stronger. The past four years I celebrated the advent season stressed over finals. I remember saying, almost every year, that it didn’t ever feel like Christmas. I was caught up in papers and exams that even decorating, ugly Christmas sweater parties, and the occasional holiday movie could not make it feel like the advent season I was raised with. And even though it is sunny and 65º in Los Angeles (almost constantly minus the crazy rain storm), it still feels like I am able to actively and presently prepare for Christmas. Let me show you my week of Advent Preparation.
Monday, December 8th – Star
On Monday we celebrated our housemate’s, Stephanie, last day with DOOR. We went out to lunch, went to Santa Monica and hoped to end the day with star gazing from Mulholland Dr. What I should have known is that there are not many stars viewable in the sky anywhere in Los Angeles. I knew this coming to L.A. but was still hopeful. There were a few stars, but the overlook of the city(where many stars most likely live, was a beautiful end to the night. While stars in the sky are rare, manufactured stars are everywhere. Everyday I walk on the Walk of Fame (Matthew McConaughey’s star was placed the same day that photo was taken), stars are hung for Christmas decorations, and celebrities can be seen on billboards, grocery stores, and movie premieres. These are different stars then I am use to, but no less beautiful then the stars I will see back home in Virginia. Matthew 2:2 -For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.
Tuesday, December 9th – Patient
This is the beginning stages of the Dweller Christmas tree. When I first took this picture, I joked with my housemates that it would represent the patience I must have to live with all of them. We live in an extremely dry, sarcastic house. The word “no” is a common occurrence, especially when it’s not meant. However, shortly after I found a picture of an evergreen forest with this quote laid over it “Things take time, so just be patient.” I am not good with patience, I like instant gratification, I want things when I get them. Intentional community requires patience, it takes time to create relationships, and it takes time to decorate. The tree is set up, but it still has no light or ornaments almost a week later. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warm this who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Wednesday, December 10th – Go
When guests come to lunch on Wednesday and Sunday, they often bring their stuff with them. If they were to leave it where they lived, it would probably not be there when they got back. Some people have shopping carts, some have multiple bags, some have back packs. But most of the time, its everything they own all ready to go. When I first left for Hollywood, I complained to people that I had to pack everything I would need for a year in just two suitcases. I squished as much as I could and I still left stuff at home. John 8:8,10-11 -And once again He bent down and wrote on the ground. Jesus straightened up and said to her “Woman, where are they? Has no on condemned you?” She said “No one , sir.” and Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go on your way.”
Thursday, December 11th – Sign
These are lemons from the front yard tree. Some times the tree grows limes, sometimes it grows lemon. I know it sounds weird and some might say that the limes are “unripened lemons.” But they’re not, it is a mixed citrus (ungrafted) tree. I have multiple former dwellers to vouch on this fact. The lemons just started to ripen and on Thursday I made lemon curd from them. I’m not sure ripening times here on the west coast, but most time, new produce is a sign of new seasons. December is bringing more rain and more cold weather (it was actually in the 40’s here so I’m not just being a wimp. Isaiah 7:14 -Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
Friday, December 12th – Hope
And the rain came. All my housemates were awoken at 3:30 am by terrifying wind, crazy rain, and possibly hail. A tornado touched down in south L.A. later that day. The day was not all rain and there was even some sun. While I don’t love the rain, our garden enjoyed it thoroughly and so did most of L.A. as it helped with a terrible drought. Audrey Hepburn once said that “to plant a garden is to believe in a tomorrow.” The hope of tomorrow is a beautiful embodiment of our budding pea pods (which Heather is gleeful over each time she sees them). Psalm 130:7 – O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
Saturday, December 13th – Peace
Once again, I have used a picture of a beach for my word. This time the picture was taken on the same day as the word though. We went to Topanga beach (like in Boy Meets World). This beach is home to surfers, rivers that flow into the ocean, and vicious seagulls. In case it wasn’t clear before, I love the beach. It is my favorite place ever and I find great peace in the rhythmic roaring of the waves. There are few places that I am content with sitting in silence, and at the beach, I almost insist it. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 – Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.
Sunday, December 14th – Joy
What is more joyful than the happiest place on earth? While I did not step foot in Disneyland, we did spend several hours in Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is a shopping area with restaurants, shops and kiosks, Christmas decorations, and several live bands. We walked around, ate dinner, and watch the firework display. It was beautiful, and joyful, christmasy (it was even chilly and I got to wear my vest). Psalm 126:2 – Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
Next time I update you it will either be from a plane or from Virginia!!
This week I began the Advent photo challenge. I looked around my own world for images that embodied pre-selected words of the day. I posted these picture on both Facebook and Instagram with a verse from the lectionary for that day(usually, sometimes I picked a verse that matched better with the picture or word.) Now I would like to share with you what I discovered in this first week of #HollywoodAdvent
Monday, December 1st — Give Thanks
On Monday we were planning a community Thanksgiving event. We wanted to invite the neighbors to join together at a potluck dinner to share the space of the community house and make sure that everyone knew that they were welcomed in this place. Even though it was December 1st, we still enveloped the feeling of Thanksgiving, asking everyone to write what they were thankful for. We had parents, kids, and many neighbors over for turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, tamales, watermelon, and gingerbread cookies. Psalm 145:10 — All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.
Tuesday, December 2nd – Rejoice
On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, my housemates and I open up the community house to many of the children in the neighborhood for homework, games, and other fun activities. This Tuesday that included getting the house ready for Christmas. We hung lights, cut out snowflakes, and drew pictures to prepare us for the holiday. The children delighted and rejoiced in the holiday spirit.
Psalm 85:6-7 —Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Wednesday, December 3rd -Wise
First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood has started a Wednesday night advent worship series. The time for worship, preaching, singing, and meditation provided new insight on the hope and prophecy of the Christ. The sermon on Looking at the miracle about to happened reminds us all to be wise in our intentionality during this season and all other. Psalm 53:2 — God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
Thursday, December 4th – Time
Inside the house, there is a white board on which my housemates write quotes of inspiration, whimsical pictures, and reminders to one another. On this particular day, I found this quote: “Don’t wait, the time will never be just right,” which I had written the day before, unaware of it’s opportune timing.Psalm 62:8 —Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Friday, December 5th – Water
To be honest, this picture was not taken on Friday. This picture was taken in September at Manhattan Beach. It is one of my favorite memories and pictures from this year so far. Not only was it a wonderful of community but the beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Any time I hear the repetitive nature of the water rising and falling, I feel refueled and restored. Isaiah 58:11 — The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.
Saturday, December 6th – Neighbors
On Saturday the La Casa de la Communidad partnered with the deacons at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood to run a Christmas store. All the toys were donated by church and community members and then sold to both community and church members for 75% off the original cost. This store was open to all who could be blessed by this opportunity. The neighbors of the Community house and many church members were busy shopping. Mark 12:31 — The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
Sunday, December 7th – Ready
One of the truly great things about living in California (especially southern Cali) is the amazing access to fresh, local organic produce all year long. Many other places can get produce all year long, but it is much more limiting than what is readily available in the extremely temperate climate of Los Angeles. The house has tries to purchase, as often as possible, a CSA box. This Community Supported Agriculture box is filled with 10+lbs. of produce from Los Angeles. This box not only helps us get ready for the meals we plan, but also supports those in our own community. Isaiah 40:3 — A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Thank you for joining my Advent in Hollywood series, more to come!