Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pre-Move-In Note

I move in to Wellesley for the first time tomorrow, and I feel frighteningly uncentered, unfocused, and ungrounded. I suppose that's to be expected when one is suddenly a two day, 17 hour, traffic-jam-y car-ride away from home, and about to move into an unfamiliar place with a couple thousand unfamiliar faces.

No matter how nervous and ungrounded I feel, whether I'm conscious of it or not - often I'm unnaturally calm about all of this (though it has brought out a grumpy, snappy side of me that I don't particularly enjoy or approve of), there is still Light and Spirit within me. It is this that I need to remember whenever I feel hopelessly overwhelmed - though, I'm aware that this is true even if I'm not conscious of it all the time.

Instead of going on about the range of emotions naturally flowing through me right now, I'll stop here. I move in tomorrow, and I have faith that it will be great - whether I realize it immediately or if it takes me a whole semester.

A great thank you to any and all who are keeping me in their thoughts. It means a lot to me.

Love and Light,

Monday, August 22, 2005

It's ok if you don't know everything

In five days I leave for Wellesley. I'm in the process of packing up my current life again - as I have so often in the last couple years going to boarding school or living on my own for a summer - and also going through the corners of my closets and bookshelves, throwing out or giving away my past life - old pieces of paper, toys, clothing; sentimental items such as old concert tickets or programs, my old band t-shirt which I know I'll never wear again, and so on.

As I continue to freak out and calm down (and freak out again and calm down again and then freak out again.. etc.), I keep reminding myself that regardless of the scariness and awkwardness the first week of being at Wellesley will exude, it will be ok and I'll get through it.

I've learned over and over again that at the beginning of an experience, no one expects you to know everything - so I've stopped expecting myself to know everything. It's part of my experience of faith.

Take, for example, my experience beginning to work in a research lab this summer. On the day I walked in for the first time, I hadn't met anyone in person yet and knew only vaguely what I would be doing. I knew it had something to do with gene expression and that I was working in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, so kidneys would be involved. Other than that, I knew incredibly little about gene expression, kidneys, autoimmune diseases, or even about what I was about to begin to do! Not only that, but I'd been focused on doing chemistry rather than biology for the past couple years - I didn't have a solid backround in what I was getting into.

But instead of freaking out about how little I knew, I walked in with confidence and faith that I would learn what I needed to know in good time, and that someone was about to explain to me just what I'd be doing. After a week of feeling like I was in a foreign country where everyone spoke a different language - the language of nephrology, immunology, and molecular biology - I began to pick up the language, and researched words and concepts I was entirely unfamiliar with and couldn't pick up from context. I learned more than I needed to know for what I was doing, expanded my horizons more than I ever expected to, and I was more than ok - this was incredible!

I've learned to let go of my need to know every detail of everything before stepping into something new. This same mindset applies in the Quaker world to things like joining a new committee, walking into an unfamiliar meeting, or going to a gathering or conference for the first time. This also applies to leaving for college for the first time. It is the experience of life.

I may or may not post once more in the next two weeks, but I have faith that in two weeks from today, after a week of orientation, the day before my first day of classes, I will be ok. I will be embarking on an incredible four-year adventure, and I don't need to know everything before I first set foot on the path.

Love and Light,

Monday, August 15, 2005

The 'young Friend' Identity [perhaps]

"As a young Friend.." I began to write. I stopped right there. What do I mean by that opening phrase? It seems as if I'm about to speak from the perspective of a young Friend, but just what is a "young Friend"? In many contexts among Friends, young Friends are usually the teenagers. What about children? They're young, and they're Friends, too, are they not? I sense that the term 'young Friend' may have a little more to it than just young-ness. When I speak "as a young Friend", I am claiming 'young Friend' as my identity within the Religious Society of Friends. But what identifies me as a young Friend other than just my age? Is it my spiritual yearning and seeking? My amount of experience with or level of understanding of Quaker Faith and Practice? Is it really just my age?

Age is, indeed, the most defining feature of young Friends. In my experience, it is very important to connect with one's peers on a deeper level, so it naturally makes sense that strong communities of young Friends form, seperate from intergenerational ones. Age can be a vital part of one's own identification, and can be important to a young Friend's spiritual journey. A great many young Friends are in the process (or about to be in the process) of a great transition - from high school to the beyond, from First Day School to the full meeting for worship, and also the transition away from familiar high school gatherings or programs. This is a very important and distinctive time of life, and not a very easy one. While young Friends may need extra support and some gentle eldering, it's not to say that young Friends are not also capable and ready to listen inwardly and follow leadings; young Friends, too, can have great ministry to give.

As a young Friend myself, I seek connections not only with my peers, but also with older Friends. I want to engage in meaningful relationships with those who have more experience than I; I want to share my own experiences so far; I want to have experiences together with Friends of a variety of ages. Each and every Friend, young and old, has something amazing to offer (whether they're aware of it or not), and I want to share in that as much as possible. I speak also of the great transitions young Friends are making each year and the support needed; I speak of this as I am right in the middle of preparing to transition to college and to a new monthly meeting - the relationships I do have with adult Friends are very important to me. In such a particular time of transition, young Friends are in a very different place in their lives than adult Friends. However, I sense that there are many more similarities between young Friends and older Friends than most Friends consciously realize.

Perhaps young Friends have less experience than many adult Friends, but this is also the case with newer Friends; some young Friends even have more experience than some newer Friends. Many young Friends have experience on committees and meetings for worship with attention to business, as well as clerking these and other bodies. Like adult Friends, young Friends are spiritual seekers. My own spiritual seeking has involved reading many books, as well as conversations with other Friends - young as well as old - and is based on my own experience of the Spirit and the Light. I know I am not the only young Friend who has sought in any manner, whether using books or not (check out Whispers of Faith for some personal experiences of young Friends), and I am most certainly not the only Friend (young or old) who seeks! Also, as young Friends need support and guidance in their time of great transition, so do many adult Friends in times of transition, such as getting a new job, moving, having a child, marriage, divorce, and so on. To any older Friends who are at all skeptical of the level of experience and spiritual seeking young Friends are capable of having (and indeed are having!) or who have not realized the depth of young Friends' experiences, I highly suggest exploring this topic further by getting to know some young Friends yourselves!

While I cannot fully define what the young Friend identity is here and now once and for all, I have done my best to speak to it, and hope this opens the topic for further reflection and comment.. A young Friend is just as much of a Friend as older Friends, and thus just as much a part of Friendly communities. If you have not already, go on, introduce yourself to one and get to know them. There is growing to do for everyone.

Love and Light,

[Note: This particular post may undergo great editing in the future and may perhaps be shared in other places. Any editorial comments are welcome - it's very rough, and certainly not my best writing (it perhaps could be organized a little better and could use more here, less there, etc.), though I'm passionate about the subject.]

Friday, August 12, 2005

Poking the Coals of my Blog

It's been most of a week since I posted, and when I did post, it was only about blog tweaks - not very deep or meaningful.

I've attempted to post a couple times this week, but found myself writing mainly about how stressed I've been - not at all what I want to post about here. So, since my blog isn't really 'on fire' right now, I thought I'd give its hot coals a poke - this post - to keep things alive. As soon as I receive a good log to put on the fire to bring it back up - a post from a deeper place - I'll be sure to do that.

A couple nuggets have slipped in to my thought processes through all this stress, though. The other day a phrase from a (in some places classic) Quaker song came to me: walk in the Light, wherever you may be. I found myself picturing myself from an inward place walking in the Light, walking with a constant, conscious ear to the Nudgings of the Spirit (something I attempt to do all the time). I found myself wondering, what will I be called to do next? A question I know not the answer to, but it will come when it comes. I do try to keep a constant ear out for Nudgings and leadings, even if I'm doing something seemingly spirit-less (I mentioned something like this in a post, Where's the Spirit in This?). I strive to always walk in the Light.

I'm also trying to slow down just a little bit, eventhough time is short before I leave for college (and there's SO much to do before then!). My inability to focus enough to post something meaningful is a clear sign (to me) that I'm not slowing down enough to listen. There are times when I'm just not feeling called to post, but there are times when I'm not stopping to listen, and this is one of those times when I'm just not stopping for long enough to hear. Despite the fact that I feel like I don't have time to slow down, I'm taking it a little easier for the next couple days as I make the brief transition back home. No matter how insane my life is, I need to squeeze out some slow-down time to re-evaluate my circumstances and take time to listen more closely to guidance of the Spirit. This squeezing of time, in and of itself, can be a frustrating thing - squeezing time for calming down often causes me more stress, and thus prevents me from calming down.. a balance is to be found, and I'm working toward finding it.

That's all for now, Friends, as it's incredibly late and I have a dire need to get more sleep.

Love and Light,

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Blog Tweaks

Friends, if you look, you'll notice a couple of changes to the sidebar on the right.

I added a "Featured" section, with which I'm not quite sure what I'll do in the future, but for now has links to my two publications - Whispers of Faith, of which I am one of the editors, and The Importance of Friendship between Adults and Young Friends, an essay I wrote which was in the most recent FGC Connections newsletter.

I also got rid of the "Previous Posts" section, as it had links to posts that you could easily scroll down to find, and it was taking up space. (If you want to find a post that's less recent than the ones on the immediate page, search in the Archives section.)

There is now a link to each post of my series of postings about my experiences at FGC Gathering this year, all organized and easy to find.

Let me know if you like or dislike any of these changes, or have further suggestions. (I'm slowly improving my HTML skills.) Hopefully I'll have a more meaningful post up soon.

Love and Light,

Friday, August 05, 2005

Whispers of Faith: Young Friends share their experiences of Quakerism

I am overdue for a blog announcement of this book, Whispers of Faith: Young Friends share their experiences of Quakerism, of which I am one of the five young Friend editors.

The book is composed of essays, stories, poetry, and art from young Friends of all Quaker colors (liberal unprogrammed all the way to evangelical), from all over the world (though mostly from North America and UK). If you click on the link for the book above you can find out more information about it, and also a link to Lucy Duncan's Book Musings where she speaks about the book and a little about the process in Oregon (she was there, of course). It was a pretty amazing experience being a part of that process.

In fact, as part of the process, we (the editorial board) flew out to Oregon at the end of a QUIP (Quakers United in Publications) conference back in April. It was there that we did most of the discerning about which submissions would go in, what the title would be, what all the chapters would be, who would write which preface/introduction or editorial note, what we still needed, new deadlines, and all sorts of other logistical things.

Actually, this experience was a rather significant turning point in my Quakerism. I came up with the idea of starting a blog solely for my thoughts, feelings, and leadings regarding Quakerism and spirituality. I wrote the essay, The Importance of Friendship between Young Friends and Adults, which was recently in FGConnections, and also appears in this book in a more developed form (it was edited again). Martin (who I'd just met in person in Oregon) found my blog within a couple days (he's good at these things) and wanted to feature the very rough draft of this essay (which I'd posted on my new blog) on Quaker Ranter, where it quickly made its debut in the wider realm of Friends (at this point it was in its baby form and has since undergone many edits before being officially published anywhere). Through Quaker Ranter, other blogging Friends found my blog, and I in turn discovered other blogging Friends. Connections have been made and they're incredible to have.

Also after this meeting in Oregon, I realized that I could, indeed, be active and involved in the life of my local meeting - before I'd hung on peripherally without making much effort, mainly because that's how it'd always been. I can't remember any specific thing that was said or event while in Oregon that caused me to come to this realization, but it the experience certainly sparked something deep within me. So, with one month left of high school and three months of summer, I began making myself a bit less peripheral. I spoke with Karen Stewart, and active Friend when it comes to youth ministries on a national level, who was very excited about my participation with QUIP, and also very excited about me getting more involved with DFM (Durham Friends Meeting).

My main focus of 'active' involvement with DFM pertains to youth ministries and First Day School. I stopped attending First Day School in January of my Junior year of high school, a year and a half ago; I had realized that it did not feel right for me, and began attending the full hour of Worship. Almost a year later, I began discovering a lot of things on my own through Quaker books, things that I now feel should be shared and communicated (or perhaps 'taught', but I'm not sure if I like that word in this context) in First Day School.

After attending a Pendle Hill clerking workshop led by Arthur Larrabee (excellent workshop!) in November (2004) with my fellow then-future co-clerks of 2005 FGC Gathering HS Program, I had discovered the world of Quaker books. I began reading books such as The Amazing Fact of Quaker Worship (George Gorman) and Encounter with Silence (John Punshon) that spoke of experiences of Meeting for Worship and inward listening. I read books such as The Quakers in America (Thomas Hamm) that discussed Quaker history and began to help me find similarities between liberal, unprogrammed Friends, conservative Friends, and more christ-centered or evangelical Friends. I read books of vocation, such as Let Your Life Speak (Parker Palmer). There were so many thoughts, ideas, experiences, and leadings in these books that I had never realized existed before!

Already in Durham Friends Meeting, even before I woke up and dove in, there were efforts to improve and change First Day School. Currently, I'm working on sharing my experiences with First Day School and my experiences with Quaker books; there are some wonderful ideas floating around regarding all of it, and I'm very excited about all of it. Though I no longer attend First Day School and will be going off to college VERY soon, I want to help improve things for those coming after me.

I continue reading books today. In fact, a couple months ago I posted a request for Quaker book recommendations, which is an excellent resource, even if I'm currently overwhelmed with books and pamphlets in my possession.

Another door that opened before me with this experience in Oregon for Whispers of Faith is the one of Quaker journalism and writing. I had a strong realization that I can, indeed, write and be published in the Quaker world, and that this is an excellent way of reaching out to other Friends and communicating. I feel now like I have one foot in the door of Quaker journalism, something which I hope to pursue and continue. It's a little odd to me, though, and perhaps counter-intuitive, as I am so passionately into science that in the past, writing and being published (other than scientific journal articles) was not even near my radar, and here I am, ready to dive in!

Woo, now that I've rambled at length about the cascade of insights and realizations that came from my experience working on this book, I shall bring this post to a close. The book is really amazing (I say from a rather biased standpoint), and I highly recommend it. I have yet to see a real, in-person copy of it (aside from pdfs of final drafts and such), and will get to when I go home at some point tomorrow. I'm quite excited!

Love and Light,

Monday, August 01, 2005

Space for Comments

Friends, these last few weeks I've been posting about some really heavy, intense, and emotional experiences. I haven't really seen many comments about any of it (though there were a couple here and there - not discrediting those, I promise).

I would like to offer this space (this post) as a place for any thoughts or feelings that may have come up while reading any of my recent posts. It could be something that seemed too insignificant to say at the time, or something gigantic you didn't feel like saying just yet, or anything in between. I just feel that I've been posting rather rapidly, considering the topics, and sometimes that leaves no clear space to comment.

If you don't feel the need to comment, that's ok too. I just wanted to offer this space.

Love and Light,

Powered by Blogger