The Ending.

Well, I'm back in Oklahoma and my YAV year is officially over.  It still doesn't seem real, but it is!  I'm kind of slow at processing these kinds of things, so I expect that I'll be thinking and blogging about it for quite some time yet, but I wanted to update you a bit on the end of my time.  

Saying goodbye to all my elders was exhausting.  Many of the PA's at LBFE had goodbye parties, but that's not really my style, so I decided to simply go visit each of them one last time.  I brought each of them a framed photo of them with me - or just me if I didn't have one of us together - that I had decorated and written "Don't forget that you are loved" and I wrote each of them a note thanking for their friendship, listing my favorite memories of them, telling them they'll never be forgotten and that I will be praying for them.  We talked about the future, and I gave them a big hug.  A few of them offered me some sort of parting gift - a Butterfinger bar, a paper peace crane, several cards that I will cherish.  A few of them had tears in their eyes as they walked me to the door.  It was really beautiful, and I truly will never forget them.  Even now, as I haven't seen them for a couple of weeks, I keep thinking about them and wondering how they're doing.

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Then I had a few days to pack.  Boy oh boy, I made a mess!  Trying to fit all that stuff back in those three suitcases that they came in...  But in the end it all fit - even if it took both of my housemates to zip the suitcases!  And funny story - the weight limit for the airline was 50 lbs and since we don't have a scale, I had no way of knowing how close or far I was from that limit.  So when I got to the airport I just held my breath as I lifted them onto the scale.  And one of them weighed 49 lbs and the other exactly 50!  Woah!

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Our last weekend, we (Krista, Billy, Clarissa, and I) had our closing retreat.  It was really the perfect end.  We went to this cute little tourist-y town in Indiana - Monticello, IN.  There is a lake there and lots of camping and stuff - and an amusement park.  We stayed in a wonderful cabin at one of the campgrounds - rustic enough that it still felt like camping, but with a roof and beds. :)  We alternated between silly, fun moments - at the amusement park and water park, mini golfing, swimming, playing cards, etc - and serious, reflective times.  It was truly wonderful.

And I LOVE amusement parks - especially these cute little ones.  We didn't have to wait in long lines and most of the employees were happy retired people.

 

For our reflection, we finished discussing the book we had been reading together this summer, An Alter in the World, and the final chapters were about Grieving, Prayer, and Blessings.  So we spent time mourning for the things that didn't go as we had hoped/planned this year, we spent time thinking about how we had experienced God this year, and then we each wrote a blessing for the others as we left.  Krista also incorporated my creative nature by planning an activity where we made "totem poles" with a section to represent different areas of our years, which of course helped me to process things.  And we wrote on stones to build an alter to remember what God had taught us this year.

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Peace Walking.

On Friday we were invited to a Peace Walk that was put on in our neighborhood by a local nonprofit, specifically by the children in their afterschool program.
I didn't have any idea what a "Peace Walk" even was, but I've learned to just go with it and enjoy whatever these events bring!
It turns out that a Peace Walk is more like a march.  The kids had made signs to carry - they said things like "Stop the shooting - I want to grow up!"
If you aren't aware, the number of shootings in the inner city - including my neighborhood - skyrockets around this time of year, as the weather gets nicer.  It's literally in the news every Monday morning with headlines like "9 dead, 32 injured in shootings in Chicago this weekend."  It's crazy.
So we carried signs, we walked with the kids, we chanted,  we wore "Peace for All" buttons, and we heard speeches from children on how violence has already affected them in their young lives and about how they don't feel safe even when they take their garbage out - and we pleaded with the neighborhood to stop shooting each other.
It was pretty cool.  It was empowering to see little kids standing up for themselves and their friends, so that they might be able to play in their yards without being afraid.  Will it actually make a difference? I don't know.  Maybe.  Who knows, maybe someone who might otherwise not care had their window open or was walking down the street and heard us.  Let's pray they did.  Because something has to change.
 

Ice Cream Adventures: Memorial Day Edition

My friends went to Costa Rica for two weeks and left their car at our house - with permission to use it as much as we want - thanks Michelle & Josh!! So, with the freedom of having a car in this city for the first time ever and a day off, we set off on an adventure. Ice cream was the goal, of course - Clarissa loves ice cream like no one I've ever met before. Rainbow cones, driving around the suburbs, and a picnic dinner = a wonderfully refreshing day!

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Spring has finally made an appearance here in Chicago!
Of course, it's supposed to be gone tomorrow, when the temperatures are supposed to be back down to 40, but it made for a wonderful weekend.
Saturday Clarissa and I headed over to the lake (that's Lake Michigan if you aren't familiar with Chicago) to sit at the beach and read.  We were both reading a book that we're supposed to read for community day in a couple of weeks - Our Black Year.
It was so foreign to the Chicago weather that we've gotten used to.  It truly felt like the whole city had come out of hibernation.  Everywhere we went there were people enjoying the fresh air, walking the dog, riding bikes, etc.  It was like an entirely different place!  It makes me so excited to experience Summer in this city - I have a feeling it's going to be fabulous!