You are strong in the spirit of the Lord.

“You are strong in the spirit of the Lord!” I recently had this phrase yelled out me loudly, as Leisha put ice cold ocean water onto my forehead on the beach at Rehoboth.Our first night at the Church of the Pilgrims young adult beach retreat we were called to remember our baptism, and that we are all beloved children of God.

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Remembering my baptism is just as joyous as Leisha practically scaring the crap out of me with that ice cold ocean water in the dark. As a baby, I was lucky enough to be baptized by a man who still manages to inspire me even from beyond the grave, my pap. He made it special, even more special than a baptism is. I was a beloved grandchild of my pap. I am also a beloved child of God. Recalling my baptism and thinking about what that truly meant that weekend, made me realize that I have been surrounded by inspiring people my entire life. People who I hope realize how beloved they are to me and to God.

My pap, the young adults at the Church of the Pilgrims, my parents, my brother, my friends, my boyfriend, my housemates, my fellow YAVs, my community at the Office of Public Witness, and my community at Miriam’s Kitchen, all beloved children of God. They all have different gifts and qualities that make them so beloved. I think of all of these amazing people that have graced my life with their presence and I am truly humbled.

An unfortunate part of my job is that I see people struggling so much and often times they do not realize their own belovedness. Something unexpected happened last week. A regular guest of Miriam’s Kitchen passed away and it made me question where God was in this situation and what I possibly could have done wrong in this situation. A beloved child of God who was smart and kind left this world. His life had not been easy, but you could tell that he brought joy to those around him.

I’ve been struggling with the right words this week, and I haven’t been able to find them still. Perhaps the director of social services put it best when he wrote, “It is hard to go through this and not ask questions like, could we have done more? Does our work even matter?   And while those are all questions that I do not take lightly, we remain committed to our work and the MK mission. Right now, we are focused on supporting each other and just putting one foot in front of the other.”

For right now I will just choose to remember this guest as a beloved child of God. Knowing that God has a purpose for us all, and it’s possible that this guest was meant to bring joy to those around him, which he certainly did.  I hope while he was here he recognized his own belovedness, as I hope all of you do as well.

I will continue to strive to be strong in the spirit of the Lord, and to help others recognize and believe in their belovedness.

 

I’m going to leave you with some quotes that I’ve been reflecting on this week, and also some songs that have made me happy and helped me when I’ve been feeling sad lately. 🙂

“Go to the people. Live among them. Learn from them. LOve them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have. But the best leader is, when their task is done, the people will remark,’we did it all ourselves.'” -Chinese Poem

“You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.” -Winston Churchill

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Life updates in pictures. :)

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2016: get better at blogging. For my first blog post in a couple months, I thought I would share some quick updates with you all. 🙂

IMG_1419 I’ll start off with my work at the Office of Public Witness. The picture on the right was taken at an action that my office attended for Good Jobs Nation and the Fight for Fifteen. (More information on that here.) This was the third action that I have gotten to attend with Good Jobs Nation and Senate Cafeteria Contract Workers in their ongoing struggle for fifteen dollars an hour and the right to unionize. Here’s where I am going to shamelessly plug my office’s blog so that you can read more about the details of the action and what happened as a result of these actions!

http://officeofpublicwitness.blogspot.com/2015/12/faith-leaders-continue-to-support.html

http://officeofpublicwitness.blogspot.com/2015/12/senate-workers-get-raise-will-push-for.html

At Miriam’s Kitchen, one of our guests was featured on an ABC news special with Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl! Check out that story here! It was super exciting to see one of our guests get housed. 🙂
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I also had the pleasure of packing up gift bags for homeless guests who visit the Radcliffe Room at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church where my roommate Angela works. Guests in need can visit the radcliffe room for clothes on Sunday morning, and the Sunday before Christmas they had personalized gift bags. Huge shout out to my roommate Angela for being the fearless leader of this endeavor!

 

 

 

Living in DC, there’s always something to do. For one of our community days, our site coordinator Sarah took us to the Renwick Museum.

I highly recommend going to see the Wonder exhibit at the Renwick if you are ever in town. Definitely worth the trip! I laid on a bean bag and stared at the bottom right exhibit for at least 20 minutes. The net is constantly changing colors.

As a house we got into the holiday spirit by going to Zoo Lights and the Christmas Tree lighting at City Center! (With an appearance by Scott at the Christmas Tree lighting).

I ended my 2015 by spending some wonderful time with my family, friends, and Scott at home. I’ve had a whirlwind of a year in 2015 and cannot wait to see what 2016 brings! This time, I actually promise to blog again soon. Gotta keep up with my resolutions! I’ll close with some pictures from home. 🙂

I hope you all had a happy holiday season! Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. Sending you all love and light!

IMG_1648Peace,

Mara

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese

Hello everyone! I hope that you are all staying dry if you are in the areas affected by the hurricane. This rainy day has given me the opportunity to write another quick life update. 🙂

Since being in D.C., my house has done a lot of thinking about life giving experiences or moments. What experiences have given us life and what experiences have drained the life out of us. Here’s a glance at some of my favorite life giving experiences of the past couple of weeks.

I have two different work placements, so I’ll start off with Miriam’s Kitchen. Miriam’s is an amazing place to work. While I was working one day, I helped a guest at Miriam’s apply for some jobs online. What was amazing was how grateful he was to me for simply taking the time to help him. The next day I saw the same guest at a bus stop and he gave me the biggest smile and thanked me yet again. The smile that he had on his face when he saw me sitting at that bus stop was a life giving moment. Sometimes I wonder if what I do matters or if I’m making any difference at all. The only thing I did was help him apply for jobs, but that meant a lot to him. That small act made a difference to him, and that is what matters.

Another thing that gives me life is the sense of community I feel with the staff at Miriam’s. I was really worried about this since I only work there one day a week. This past Wednesday night I attended a fundraiser event for open arms housing with multiple members of the Miriam’s Kitchen staff (pictured below).  I had such a wonderful time, and it was great to be in such a relaxing and fun setting with people who work so hard during the week for such a great cause.

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I have been blessed with two amazing work placements.When I’m not at Miriam’s Kitchen, I am working at the Office of Public of Witness of the Presbyterian Church.The people there are so dedicated to their jobs and the issues of today. Every day I get to experience extraordinary people doing inspiring work. The Office of Public Witness is amazing in so many ways.  Each day is definitely a new adventure there. The office is located right next to the Supreme Court building, so I don’t think I will ever get tired of getting off the bus and walking down the street to the office. It’s an amazing view, as pictured below. My office is on the left, the Supreme Court is on the right.

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Two weeks ago, on the day the Pope came D.C., I had the opportunity to attend a strike with my boss, J. Herbert. Federal contract workers were striking to protest poverty pay. (Here’s a really great blog post written about the strike: http://officeofpublicwitness.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-struggle-to-make-federal-jobs-into.html). Different faith leaders were there to speak and offer prayers. Hearing the stories of those on strike was definitely a life giving experience. A sense of unity could be felt among all those attending. Their stories were heartbreaking, but their hope was inspiring.

IMG_0564At the end of the strike, when J. Herbert closed in prayer, that was a life giving moment for me. I felt like I was witnessing something truly special.

Another life giving moment that day, was getting to see a presidential candidate. The strike had multiple speakers present, and one happened to be Senator Bernie Sanders! I think that no matter your political affiliation, it is still pretty cool to see a presidential candidate. I did not see many of those in New Wilmington or West Newton. IMG_0471

After that exciting strike, my day still wasn’t over. I had the opportunity to attend the nuns on the bus rally! I even had the chance to sign their bus. (If you haven’t heard of the nuns on the bus, you should definitely google them..I don’t want to write too too much).

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IMG_0603a IMG_0609Sorry I lied to you, that was not a quick update at all. These are just some of the moments that have given me life while at work. There are definitely many others. These moments sustain me, energize me, and excite me. I cannot wait to update you all on more of these moments!

Also, for those of you wondering, I did in fact see the Pope as he drove by me in his fiat. 🙂

Has it already been two weeks?

To everyone that has been wondering what I am up to, I am so sorry that this next blog post has taken me such a long time to write. After a week of orientation at Stony Point Center in New York, I arrived in D.C. and have been living here for about a week. We just had our wifi installed today, so that has been a big part of my blog delay!

So much has happened over the past few weeks that I do not know where to even begin at this point. Orientation at Stony Point was an incredible experience. While I was there I had the opportunity to attend interesting seminars, make friends with other YAVs serving all over the world, and explore the beauty of Stony Point Center. Before leaving Stony Point for D.C. I was commissioned at Palisades Presbyterian Church in New York. I wish to extend my deepest thanks and gratitude to Reverend Angela and the rest of the congregation for being so welcoming.

Palisades Presbyterian Church

Palisades Presbyterian Church

On Monday August 31st I arrived in Washington D.C. and found out my work placement for the year. This year I will be working at two locations! On Mondays, I will work at Miriam’s Kitchen. Here’s a quick quote from the website to give you an idea about the work done there, “Miriam’s Kitchen is committed to ending chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C. Miriam’s Kitchen meets the guests’ short-term needs by providing healthy meals and high-quality social services to more than 5,000 homeless individuals each year, while also advocating for proven housing programs like Permanent Supportive Housing as a long-term solution.”

The rest of the week I will be working at the Office of Public Witness for the Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Its task is to advocate, and help the church to advocate, the social witness perspectives and policies of the Presbyterian General Assembly. I start work next week, and I am very excited!!

I don’t want to turn this blog post into a book, so I will leave you with some more pictures of my experiences during these past two weeks. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

While in New York, I had the opportunity to attend an interfaith service remembering the Nigerian Women abducted by Boko Haram. It had been 500 days since they had disappeared.

While in New York, I had the opportunity to attend an interfaith service remembering the Nigerian Women abducted by Boko Haram. It had been 500 days since they had disappeared.

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On my first night in D.C., our site coordinator took me and my roommates in a biking tour of the monuments!

On my first night in D.C., our site coordinator took me and my roommates on a biking tour of the monuments!

Now that I have wifi, I will be updating more! Also, a super special thank you to John David and Ionela Day for opening their home to me and being so welcoming. Having family members that live close makes the moving transition feel a bit easier!

Thank you all so much for supporting me.

Graduation and Beyond

Hi everyone! I am entirely new to writing a blog, so let’s see how it goes! After what seemed like an eternity and also the blink of an eye, I have graduated from Westminster College with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in Peace Studies. I even have photographic evidence.

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Now on to the big question…What are you going to do with your life? I actually have an answer for now. I will be spending the next year as a Young Adult Volunteer with the Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C.! I’m incredibly excited for this new adventure. I have always wanted to do service work of some kind, and then I found out about this opportunity. On to the next question, what exactly does that mean? I’m not entirely sure what it all entails yet, but I’ll tell you what I do know!  This August I will be going to Washington D.C. for a year to serve beside the poor and low-income residents of the area and engage in issues such as poverty, hunger, and homelessness. I do not know what organization I will be working with yet, but I will update you all as soon as I know! You can also find out more about the YAV program here: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/yav/ Thank you all for your love and support. Hopefully I’ll have more updates for you soon!