Sunday, August 16, 2015

Comfort Zones are Overrated

I would be ignoring a large part of how God has been growing me and prepping me for New Zealand if I did not talk about my time working for Gordon College's Adventure Camp. It's a side of the La Vida program I had never worked with before, but on a whim back in January I felt like I should see if any jobs were available for the summer. Little did I realize that I would be hired as an assistant director for the camp!

The theme for camp this summer was "comfort zones are overrated," and it quickly became a catchphrase applicable to all aspects of life. Especially in the beginning of the summer, it felt like every day I was doing things that were outside of my comfort zone, like driving huge trucks and buses around, sometimes with a trailer full of canoes being pulled behind it. Or leading talks during training week about camp things I had never actually experienced, like what to do on a rainy day. Or figuring out how to gain the respect from my staff, especially those who were returning counselors or my age or older. I knew they had so much to offer in teaching me about the camp, so I struggled initially in knowing how to be confident despite my newness to the program, and how to step up as a leader. But despite waves of feeling inadequate or insecure in my capabilities, my staff and boss gave me so much grace and trust; grace for when I messed up or made mistakes, and trust in continuing to give me responsibility and the space to grow as a leader, not just giving me easy things to do that I was comfortable with.

That's where the theme for this summer really came into play. It certainly was not in my comfort zone to climb a 20 foot ladder to set up an element, or to try and get the attention of thirty odd staff members who are all talking at once. But being uncomfortable was never a valid excuse not to try something. If my staff and I wanted to actually teach this theme of going outside of comfort zones to our campers, the best way we could teach that was by demonstrating it, and living it out. That's why outside of camp hours I tried to join my adrenaline-loving staff in their cliff-jumping or climbing adventures. A safe life isn't going to grow you as a person, and definitely not going to grow your faith. And I realized how much trust is essential to that growth. I had to trust those I went cliff jumping with that they would help me out of the water back onto the rock, and I had to trust my ladder holder whenever I climbed that 20 foot ladder, or trust my boss that he wouldn't give me a task I couldn't handle. And when those things became too comfortable I tried to continue to push myself, and tried on the role of counselor for one week. It was hard; harder than I expected. But without that final challenge I would have missed out on many more valuable lessons of learning and growth.

It wasn't an easy summer. Far from it. But I learned so, so much, and gained so much confidence in myself, my identity and in my leadership potential. I know I have much to offer people, but also a lot I still need to work on. I'm not afraid of those challenges though, both known and unknown. Because who would want to live a safe, comfortable life anyways?

Come, let's adventure together. Let's do something radical, something spontaneous, something you would have never thought you'd ever do, like ride donuts in a parking lot or climb up on rooftops or tackle each other on the beach in a game of "duck, duck, abuse."* And once we do that, let's do something crazy and radical for Christ, like be abnormally generous, or unorthodox in our forgiveness and compassion, or listen to friends without passing on judgment. Let's pray big, for not only ourselves and our close friends, but for whole communities of people, or for our enemies. Because that, my friend, is a life worth leading. Or as some would say, a life worth following.

*(like duck duck goose, but lots more tackling)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fear

I was anxious last year when I was about to leave for New Zealand.

This time, I'm terrified.

Last year I was afraid that New Zealand would be a repeat of some of my negative experiences in the Dexter House community. I was afraid of leaving my friends behind, of FOMO, of missing incredible experiences.

But what actually happened was that I had one of the best semesters of college. I loved the classes, the community, the place. And even though it was far from perfect I could've stayed another semester. It was when I came back that I realized the world and people I was returning to was completely changed.
While I had been having the best semester of my college life, some of my friends were having the worst. Break-ups, car accidents, lost friendships, illness. In New Zealand I had very little internet access and was bad at keeping in touch, so I had no idea. I came back and felt shocked, guilty, and depressed even. All I wanted to do was go back to New Zealand. This New England world I returned to was like a bad dream: a brutal winter on top of revelation after revelation from my friends of the hardships they were enduring.

I just wanted everything to go back to normal, for my friends to be okay or getting better. It's selfish really, though not necessarily a bad desire. And a lot of them are doing better, but some of them are not. So I feel guilty, because now that I realize they need me I want to be there for them...but I am leaving. FOR TEN MONTHS. This time it's not missing out on incredible experiences that I fear, but the guilt and fear that I'm leaving my friends behind when they need me most. I am almost tempted to reconsider going...

BUT. I know New Zealand is where God wants me. I know it's going to be good, and that I'm going to do a good job there. It's just going to take a little bit of trust. Last year I went with one of my best friends to the pond on campus and we each threw three stones into the pond to represent our fears for our upcoming semesters abroad. It being a year later, and full of fears, I decided to throw my fears, doubts, and sense of control into the pond. I'm leaving them behind, choosing to be hopeful for this upcoming adventure. It's an active choice I have to make, to trust God and his timing. But I'm working on it

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Yes. No, Yes."

Finding out that the no had become a "yes", that I am in fact returning to New Zealand this August, was the strangest phenomenon. For a while I didn't know how I felt, honestly. I had spent a week and a half (what felt like an eternity) repeating over and over again to myself, "No. You didn't get the job. You're not going back. No." During that time my overall emotion wasn't sadness or anger, but mostly confusion. As early as February, when the sun still rose over snow-encrusted trees, I started getting this very strong sense that I was going back to New Zealand. I had the feeling that this was an open door God was encouraging me to not only pursue but get excited about, and have faith and trust that the answer for New Zealand was a "Yes."
And it wasn't just me. My family got that sense too, and some of my closest friends. It was more than just intuition. Sometimes this wave of affirmation, revelation almost, would come over me at the most random times. I would be sitting in my car, driving to Starbucks or one of my other favorite coffee-shop haunts, and all of the sudden would find myself saying, "Oh my gosh. I'm going back to New Zealand!" It felt like God was calling me to a level of faith I had never attempted to before. I was so used to saying, "if God wills," or just assume that I could not know anything in the future for certain. But for some reason this, this one thing, seemed to be affirmed over and over again as a "Yes."
Needless to say, my faith was a bit shaken when I heard the answer, "No." NO? No to this dream I've been dreaming, even though I felt too scared and excited to dream it? Did I not know what God's voice sounded like? Or worse, was he a liar? Or not all knowing, or all-powerful? Was this door really closed, this door that seemed wide open for so long, just to slam in my face? I still felt that I would return to New Zealand one day, but was so confused, having believed that that day would be sometime in August.
It was such a shock hearing the "no," that I'm not sure if the eventual "yes" ever sunk in. Sometimes I wonder whether I'm less excited now than I was three or four months ago. I should be celebrating, that my feeling had been right, that God had been faithful, that a "yes" was in fact a "yes." But instead I feel the reality of this choice hit me: fears of being away from family and friends for so long. Fears of what I will miss while I'm gone, of how different everyone and everything will be when I return to the States. Fears even of how different New Zealand itself will be this time compared to last. This faith thing is really hard to master.
Which is why I am so glad that my Master is so, so faithful. I see His faithfulness now in the vibrant community I have at Adventure Camp; I felt it in my family and friends in New York that are praying and excited for me, and from my friends and mentors in the Gordon College community. Because His "Yes" is the only yes I need.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Podcast About Home

Finally, after many months I not only have finished my honors thesis, an hour-long podcast produced and recorded by yours truly, but now I also have found a stable site to link to it!

In this podcast you will hear five unique voices and stories, all exploring ideas of home and homemaking. This includes the tale of a British war bride, a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, and me! to name a few. So if you have some free time (or like to multi-task) grab some headphones, find a comfy chair or a sponge and dirty dishes, and be ready to be touched by some incredible people, and their powerful stories:

https://soundcloud.com/lauren-berg-7/a-podcast-about-home

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Beautiful Unknown

It's hard, not knowing. I certainly felt that as I waited to hear back about potentially working in New Zealand after graduation. It's a roller coaster ride of incredible hope and excitement and excruciating doubt and apprehension. But finally the answer came: No, I will not be going back to New Zealand.
At least not this August.

The relief of finally knowing quickly faded. Because now my whole future, at least after this summer, is a big question mark. Where will I work, live? And not only that, but there is an aspect of grieving at the same time. Intentionally or not, I had begun to imagine what it would be like to go back to New Zealand, remembering the way the sun rose on the Kaikoura beach with a sense of hope that I would see it again soon. Or thinking about my homestay family and their two young daughters, wanting to see them at church, stop by for some tea or milo, see their new house. It's a really painful thought to not know when I will go back, or even if I will ever return.

Even if I had gotten the job, if I had been returning to New Zealand this August, that only temporarily solves the problem of the unknown. After a year or two in New Zealand, what next? Will I then begin my life in the states, the job searching and apartment hunting, then finally face the huge question mark of unknowns?

Regardless of future acceptances or rejections, my future will be a series of unknowns. Rather than think of it as a problem, I want to think of the unknown as something beautiful. I'm glad I don't know. Not because it might be really painful at times, but because I can't wait to be surprised by the good things, small and big, that happen in my future. Who knows what friends I will make, what new homes in cities and buildings I will live in, what new skills and passions I will develop.

It is spring, a time of hope and renewal. Even as one hope is dismayed, more are sprouting up, tiny little hopes just waiting to bloom. So as I enter into my last week of college before graduation, I look into my future with faith, and call it the Beautiful Unknown.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Senior Moments"

Lulu wants to ring the Bell
I have "senior moments" some times. I have flashbacks to freshmen year, with all its random memories and hodge-podge friend groups. The night we went around campus tracing outlines of each other in chalk, or snuck into all the buildings after dark and took photos with my roommate's stuffed monkey, Lulu (wow, we were such...interesting... freshmen). My phone contacts hold memories of those once close friends, including "Hubby," and "Tennis Dude," "The Bestest Asian Eva" and "Freshie fresh"about a freshman (now junior).

But those senior moments have moved on from just cute nostalgic memories to earth-shaking profound realizations. Well, at least they're pretty momentous when they hit me seemingly out of nowhere, Like yesterday: I realized that after school finishes my success will no longer be measured in grades. GPA won't matter anymore. I can define my own measurement of success. How freeing!

I still don't know what the future holds for me. But that's true for even those of us who have jobs or schools lined up. So I choose not to stress about it. Why ruin the last few weeks left of my college career by stressing over my future, which is held in God's hands? And I know even if it is tough (my graduated friends all say it is) it will still be good. Because seasons of rain cause us to grow, not just the sunshine (to paraphrase The Oh Hello's).

I've been practicing falling in love three times each day. Sometimes I fall in love with the way the morning light pours through my window in the morning, or with my apartment mate's quirky behaviors. But mostly I fall in love with little things about my college- the sound of music during chapel worship, or favorite paths in the woods. I'll miss it. It was good, despite all the tension and difficult growing pains we have been experiencing as an institution. But I know I'm leaving it in good hands, with smart, capable, compassionate people. It's time to go. And it is good.

Maybe that's why they call them "goodbyes."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

[Silence]


            Like any monumental experience, studying abroad can often be portrayed in solely positive terms: “It was so beautiful; the people were so hospitable; I wish I could go back” (all of which I say). But just as valid a part of a long-term experience is the less-than pretty moments, the conflict that causes you to grow often more than the good times.
            At first I was oblivious. Between the beauty of the snow-capped mountains and freedom of less stressful academics, I couldn’t understand what anyone would complain about. Initially it was the cold. We jokingly signed a petition “for a fireplace in every room.” But then the group began complaining about the grading system, receiving lower marks than expected. Before long it was the schedule, the professors, the entire study abroad program — nothing was free of fault. Negativity was contagious, spreading unchecked until sometimes it overshadowed all the positive things that were occurring as well.
             As someone who generally tends to see the world in a more hopeful light, I began to feel ostracized from the group, not understanding how they could adopt such a negative and critical perspective. Was it even helping their situation, or cyclically serving to perpetuate their misery? I can understand camaraderie over things that are difficult or different, but what I observed was something that quickly got out of control, leading to gossip and ultimately discouragement. I, intimidated by the group mentality, kept silent. But I wish I had spoken up.
            Gordon is no stranger to conflict. Even though I was away last semester, I still picked up on dissent and criticisms directed at the college. I acknowledge the need to think critically and be able to pinpoint and recognize flaws with the need for improvement. And I admire those who speak up in the face of injustice, who seek to right wrongs and strive for healthy, life-giving change. But I’m worried that with our criticisms and focus on the negatives we are losing sight of everything for which we have to be thankful and hopeful. Not just mere optimism, or a shallow positivity that seeks to ignore wrongs. Rather, I’m talking about a deep gratitude that is fully aware of the many wrongs and obstacles we face, yet can still declare “Praise be to God!” if only because of the single fact that Christ lives. It is so easy to forget how much we have to give thanks for, and even harder to practice. But it is vital to a healthy Christian community.
            Even though I did not speak up while abroad, I wanted to speak about Gordon’s conflict here, just a little. I hope that others, when facing conflict, would have the courage to challenge oppressive negativity, and remind others of our call to give thanks in all circumstances.