One Year Later

Well it’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back, but I just couldn’t end this without one last post (pertaining to my YAV year…I may keep up this blogging thing after all). It’s a post that has been in the works for a while, but I wanted to share it now. I want to remember what it means when I say that this year changed my life. It’s actually in the YAV program’s slogan: “a year of service for a lifetime of change” and sure, at first I was a bit skeptical. Sounds a little bold. But I think just moving outside of the norm, living intentionally in service and simplicity really opens us up to the kind of life-changing we’re talking about here. So without further ado, I present to you a list I call:

“What I learned from living deep in the heart of Texas.”

I learned…
-that simple living, in what I bring, need, shop for, and live off of is super doable and kind of awesome
-how to do ministry more sustainably while being mindful of our impact. House of Teens/MEYO seriously has this on lock
-that tacos and paletas (popsicles) can change your life and make you feel more Westside in an instant
-that food stamps make volunteers really really happy
-how little I actually need to drive and how you can really get to know a place when you take the time to walk
-that Barbara Brown Taylor still consistently rocks my world
-that being a volunteer=people take you out to eat all the time cause they know you poor. Oh, I’ll miss that.
-maybe just a little bit more about who I am and who I think God has called me to be
-how to lead a children’s choir (anytime!)
-how to play the wedding march and here comes the bride on the piano, that one’s for you, Adriana.
-how to sing and play many many mariachi rancheros
-a whole lot more Spanish than school ever taught me. Well ok…a whole lot of Tex-Mex if you want to be exact…
-that los Spurs are the greatest team in the NBA, and this city knows how to party when they win
-how to drive a 15 passenger bus, particularly one full of singing children
-that the art of fonts and clip art for the Spanish worship service is a serious business
-how to draw Elsa (but never as good as sweet Alex)
-all of the words to “Let It Go” (That’s on me. That’s what I get for including it in Karaoke Day…)
-that I have been lied to my whole life about what a true flour tortilla should taste like (the fluff is the key)
-how the church can be welcoming and inclusive to all people, regardless of their race or sexuality.
-that stray dogs and dog packs aren’t really so scary when you get to know them
-that living in community is hard and takes a lot of work
-that cascarones (confetti-filled eggs) are a painful tradition
-that my 3 point shot could still use some work, even after all the ballin we did this year
-some very interesting, and hip focused, dance moves from my very favorite dance partner, James
-that El Chilaquil has the best carne asada tacos you’ve ever had in your whole life. Plus the karaoke with mix master DJ Tony on the weekends ain’t too shabby either.
-that Meredith is a very difficult name to say in Spanish
-and with a little practice, how to play the djembe to the Spanish beats of ranchero guitarist David for church

Really, I miss being there everyday. I miss what my life looked like there. And also it’s just strange to look around and constantly find myself in a room full of white people. But mostly, I am thankful for this year because it has shown me a different way to live and it is an experience that will shape and inform my life from now on. Where would I be if I hadn’t move to San Antonio for a year? I honestly don’t know. But I thank God I was there. Because the people I met and the experiences I had really confirmed this one thing: God and this world full of God’s own creation is so much grander and more beautifully intricate than I’ve even began to realize, and stepping outside to see more of that is always worth it.

I want to say thank you to all who have journeyed with me throughout this experience. Your support means the world to me and I can’t thank you enough for that. Really.

Next stop: Princeton, New Jersey. Who’s with me?

Faces

On my last night here, I can’t help but reminisce about all these faces I will dearly miss! It’s hard to say goodbye to good times such as this…

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Diva shots with Maggie.

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Teen Nights with these two pranksters.

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Peace Pals with these two BFFs.

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Moments like this with Karla.

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Tee shirts like this with James.

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Community days with these goobers.

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Everyday I spent with sweet Alex.

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This selfie king.

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Obviously this guy. Oh Jules.

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This most incredible couple.

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Dinners with this crew.

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Selfies with my House of Teens girls.

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Peace Pals with these cuties.

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All the times jamming with Lea and all my Wimberley crew.

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And the most incredible going away gift from these House of Teens all-stars, Amber, Karla and Oscar.

Already missing this place so much. But more closing thoughts to come soon… Stay tuned!

A Little Reprise

Today was my last Sunday at Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church. It’s definitely hard to say goodbye to all the people who have supported me and loved me for a whole year. But since I have to go, this was the way to go out. This morning I got to church hoping to jump in the choir for one last hurrah, but sadly no choir this week. I was a little bummed but eager to see how I could contribute. Alas, at the end of the service as the postlude began, I recognized it in an instant. Ramiro, our insanely skilled pianist (who I will miss dearly), started playing the samba version of “Shall We Gather at the River” that he and I had practiced way back in November (here’s it from before!). As soon as I heard that intro, I jumped up and ran to the djembe to join in! And what a way to go out it was. Jamming to my favorite song of the year along with my great choir director and friend. And though the video is a little shaky and at the time I wasn’t too excited about a flash in my face, I’m grateful that my roommate Julius caught a clip of this moment. I’ll miss this place dearly and today, especially all the wonderful music that has been added to my life! Atlanta, I’ll see you on Saturday. Ahhh.

Albuquerque Mission Trip

Just had to share some pictures from our New Mexican adventure last week! Such a great way to end my summer with the House of Teens kids. Proud of the work they did and thankful for the fun times we shared!

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Los Holy Boys (and the Angel)

Here’s to one last Sunday performing with the Holy Boys! Grateful to these guys for letting me be apart of their group this year. Already missing it!

T-minus 13 days until I’m home. Wow.

Jazz Drums

This past weekend was another exciting one spent in Wimberley! Beth Watson, music minister at Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, once again recruited me to play in her band at church (really, I’m a sucker if I’m asked to play a drum set). I was eager not only for the opportunity to play, but also to spend another weekend eating incredible food (Beth is also a caterer) and hanging out with my new cool friends (Beth’s kids basically ran Peace Camp). Though Beth told me jazz drums is easy stuff, I know from years of being in jazz band that it’s actually the hardest of all the drumming. A good jazz drummer knows the music well enough to drive the band with every pop and kick of the 1st trumpet line. But luckily, this band was kind of a hodgepodge of players, so my less experienced jazz drumming sufficed. And we had a blast! Though I would label the music we played a little more “Dixie swing” (is that even a thing?) than jazz, it was the greatest. I mean, how can you play When The Saints Go Marching In and not have fun? The congregation sang along with the jazzed up hymns we provided like Peace Like A River, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and What A Friend We Have In Jesus. All in all, it was just too much fun not to share! So this is for you grandma, grandpa and mom (and anyone else who particularly likes jazz or just wants to hear my best attempt at jazz drums).

PS. If you get to the end of the song, listen for the part when I dropped my drumstick and casually had a freakout moment for about half a second. Oh good times.

Peace Camp!

Well today finished up the craziness known as Peace Camp. It was two weeks of 9 to 5, non-stop kid time and though it was exhausting, it was also a blast. From the staff friends I made to the 15 foot inflatable water slide, from the karaoke days of hearing “Let It Go” four times in a row to our weekly trip to the river at Rob’s cabin, I must say this goes down as one of my favorite times of work yet! My specific part was leading the music time, and though I have never led a kids’ choir, we had fun every day making beats, singing loud and learning songs. And here is one of the songs we ended up with! Performed for the congregation this morning, this is about half of our kids singing a mash-up of “Ale, Ale, Ale” and “I’m Gonna Live So”. I’m proud of those kids for sticking with it, even if they would have much preferred to have karaoke day always and forever.