Sunday, September 30, 2012

Made to Honor

I wonder what you see when you see this picture.

Do you see a young girl making her way down the aisle to witness the marriage of her best friend?
I do too.  But I hear so much more echoing within me when I look at this picture.  After all, the old adage says:  a picture is worth a thousand words.  I’d say that’s fairly apt; this picture is full to bursting with words written deep within my heart. 
When I look at this picture, I see a girl who is walking with quiet purpose towards her God, her patient lover who waits, smiling radiantly, at the altar.

But she has a burning question within her soul:  is her God waiting there to hand her to one of His beloved sons?  Or is He waiting there for her to accept the gentle invitation of His open arms?

This walk—this journey—transpires beneath the watchful gaze and silent support of the one woman who knew how to say an unequivocal “Yes” to the will of her God.  The girl considers the bouquet of flowers in her grip and acknowledges her desire to do as her best friend will do shortly and place her bouquet, the offering of her love and life’s gifts, at the feet of her Heavenly Mother—the first lover, follower, and teacher of her beloved Jesus.
A young boy runs headlong towards his parents just out of the camera’s sight, and the girl seems to wonder if the children that bring such joy to her will be her own, or if she is called to be a mother to the unwanted and abandoned, to the children of others. The girl wonders where her heart fits in the coming of her Beloved’s kingdom. 

She wonders if she will ever meet a man who will strive with all of his might to love her as God does.  She wonders if she will have to seek God’s love and Truth without a warm hand holding her own, guiding her.

She wonders if she will ever loosen her grip on the fetters of broken trust and lost love that plague her weary soul.  She wonders if she will ever stop resisting her God’s gentle touch, untangling her from those chains.

She is full of wonder.

But she is not waiting. 
She is fighting her demons, learning to believe that she truly is God’s beloved, that He has every intention to fulfill His promises in, through, and for her.

She is learning to see herself through His eyes.

She is wrestling with her fear.

She is walking towards her God through it all, anchoring her heart to His, not despite how heavy and burdened hers is, but because He knows and bears that weight and burden with and for her.

She seeks her God joyfully, lovingly, and, most significantly:  hopefully.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Expectations & Community, Honestly

Honesty has been on my mind a lot lately, especially in terms of this blog.  For example:  how do I be honest with all of you about my experience without violating the privacy of my housemates and/or the agency I am working for?

In all honesty (there it is again), that one question has kept me from writing for a few weeks.  That and, you know, acclimating to a new 40-hour work week, a new job, a new community, a new bedroom, a new diet, a new city…I could go on if you’d like. ;)

Being serious, though, I’m not sure how to write this blog with integrity if there’s so much that I cannot share.  I can’t share much about the clients I work with at the agency.  I can’t share much about my housemates’ personal lives.  I can’t share much, honestly, about my opinions and experiences thus far because they’re either wrapped up in the lives of my housemates or of my clients and co-workers.
But here’s what I feel I can share, and share honestly about the past month and a half:

Even surrounded by eight other seemingly omnipresent people, I have been lonely often.

Perhaps just as often, I have felt as if one or another of my roommates truly cares about me as an individual.

I have had to fight for the acknowledgment and respect of my personal boundaries as far as being an introvert goes.  Admittedly, I have been less adamant about asserting personal boundaries on other topics.  To say the very least, it’s difficult to demand or ask for respect of your personal values.

Because I naturally gravitate towards some of my housemates more than others, I have driven myself crazy with worry over how to authentically become closer to those I don’t.  But every opportunity I have made and taken to spend time with each of my housemates has been more than meaningful to me.

I have not shared many facets of my belief system and personality with my housemates at large for fear of persecution or my own inability to articulate my beliefs, thoughts, and feelings clearly.

I have been affirmed in love and truth daily by my housemates, especially in cherished moments around the dinner table as we each shared joys and sorrows from our days.

I have seen my pride rear its ugly head more times than I would like to count.

All in all, very little of my experience here has been what I expected. 

When I start a new journey, or dream about starting a new journey, I always somehow seem to forget that the same person I am now will be the girl she has been all along and will be the girl present when that decision comes to bear:  faults and all.

I seem foolishly to have thought I would naturally be more patient, more understanding, more kind, more loving, more intentional, more forgiving…you name it.
In short, I somehow expected the ideal Kara Lynn Olenick (the one who is compassionate but speaks her mind, the one who doesn’t mind picking up her roommates at all hours of the night from the L station, the one who will happily do all of the dishes left in the sink, the one who doesn’t chicken out of every radical opportunity for growth she dreams up, on and on) to be the one ringing the doorbell to our Amate home in Little Village back at the end of July.

But the reality is this:  that’s not the girl that showed up on the doorstep here a month ago.  And thank goodness.  Because that girl wouldn’t have had any learning or growing to do anyway.  And, perhaps it’s not clear to you, but it sure is to me:  I have what seems to be an insurmountable bit of learning and growing to do.  Thankfully, I’ve got prayer, the grace of God, and my community on my side, which allow me to approach each new day with more hope than trepidation, more excitement than dread, more intentionality than passivity.
Living in intentional community is hard work.  Some days I feel like seeking out a divorce lawyer and filing for irreconcilable differences.  But, as far as I’m concerned, giving up is not an option.  So we will work through all of this not only out of necessity, but because we want to, because we have a vision for love and what it sincerely can be—can mean—among nine volunteers with vast differences.  So we will work to treat each others’ misgivings hopefully and be mindful of our similarities as well as our differences, and learn daily that both can be beautiful and life-giving.

I suppose, then, in that way, this experience thus far has been exactly what I wanted and expected:  the most worthwhile challenge I have ever undertaken.  I will not walk out of this house at the end of the year the same as I entered it—I will be more myself, God willing:  more the girl I am meant to be.  The story of this year as I share it with you will make an indelible impression on me. 

I sincerely hope you are all finding ways to take a lead role in a similar story in your own lives.

Until next time,

Kara  < 3

PS.  The Amate Website has been updated to include photographs and contact information for the thirty-three of us in the program this year!  Check it out!