The adventure has officially begun!  I've been at Stony Point Retreat Center for about a week now, for an orientation with about 70 other YAVs (Young Adult Volunteers) who are also about to embark for a year of service all around the country and the world.  It's been a very hard and challenging week filled with hard conversations and so many new faces, but also a beautiful time of acceptance, love, community, and realizing that none of us are doing this thing alone.

All week long, I've struggled to put my thoughts into words that I could share, but I think it is important to do that, so finally, on Saturday I realized that even if I couldn't tell the story with words I could tell the story with a medium that I am often more comfortable with, images.  I'll add some words to explain each image, and I'm sure the story will enfold as I get started, but I'm going to let these images speak a thousand words that I can't find right now.

We have had very little free time this week - basically we head to breakfast at 8:00 each day and then go to lectures, conferences, worship, and small groups until 10:00 at night.  It's exhausting.  While most of the other YAVs have had a roommate, I haven't this week, which I was a bit disappointed about at first but has proven to be a blessing as I fall into bed as soon as I get the chance to at night.

Okay, a little about Stony Point, the grounds that we have spent our week on.  They are wonderful.  This place has been a Presbyterian retreat center for a long time, one where Missionaries used to come for months of training before a lifetime of service.  It is so very peaceful.  You can feel the Spirit almost tangibly.

This is the meditation room, a beautiful chapel building.

 A beautiful Prayer Labyrinth.
One morning, I woke up early, hoping to watch the sunrise and do some praying outside before the day started.  As it turned out, the sun had already risen, but it was still so lovely and peaceful and a wonderful way to start the day.

 One of the other awesome things that Stony Point is doing is living sustainably. Besides being a Retreat Center, there is a group of people living in intentional community here as well.  They have beautiful gardens where they grow a large chunk of their fresh produce that they serve in the cafeteria and they compost much of their waste - they even have pigs whose job it is to eat it up!

 During our (very limited) free time, this place feels so much like my college experience - people playing frisbee, laying in the grass on blankets, and groups scattered around engaged in deep and meaningful conversations.  Makes me miss the good ol' days at NWC!

Love it when I find a group of chairs set up in random places - it says "someone was having a good conversation here!"

Since I got into photography, I notice light like I never did before.  One of my favorite sights ever is the way the sun shines through the leaves, making them glow with sunlight.

 They have a pretty awesome gift shop at Stony Point too. :)
Eating wonderful food in the cafeteria.

 They have a "Prayer Wall" set up, with a paper for each of us, for everyone to write prayers for each other and take with us to remember that we have this whole community praying for us this year.
This is where it all takes place, sitting in these chairs we listen, discuss, talk, and worship.

 I have also really enjoyed the traditions that we have used this week.  They hold so much meaning.

So that's it.  Orientation.  This week started out really hard and overwhelming for me, and I couldn't wait to be out of here and on my way to Chicago, but as it comes to a close I find myself thinking how I am going to miss it.  Tomorrow morning, really early, so more like tonight, I leave for Chicago.  One of my housemates is on the same flight as me, so that will be nice.  I'll be landing in Chi-town at 7:30am, ready to get started!  Can't wait!!