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I am Joy

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For Halloween, the Blurple House has decided to dress up as the emotions from Inside Out. There are five of us and five emotions, so it works out perfectly. There is Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Joy. I happened to be chosen/picked/volunteered to be Joy.

For the past few days, I’ve told several people that I was dressing up as one of the emotions. Every time, they’d say, “Oh, it is so obvious. You’re going to be Joy.” I didn’t understand why, but each time someone guessed correctly, I felt shocked. People think I am joyful? People think I am happy?

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I guess it is so shocking to me because I haven’t felt pure joy in a long time. College was a wonderful experience. It was so worth it. I would have never met some of my closest friends, learned so much about myself and the world around me… but it was also incredibly difficult. Life built around papers, studying, and late nights was not a fulfilling or joyful time for me. Certainly, hanging out with friends and exploring the town were ways I survived anxiety and stress…but four years of college changed me.

Freshman year was a year where I experienced joy. I flourished my first time ever away from my home town, Houston. I loved that Austin was just far enough to where I wouldn’t feel tempted to go home every weekend. It forced me to form friendships and step outside of my comfort zone. I spent so many nights hanging out with friends until the crack of dawn, whether we were eating Kerbey pancakes or playing Smash in the Roberts TV room. I didn’t feel homesick. Sure, I missed my family, but the opportunities present in college were exciting. I was so excited to live life.

Then, my sophomore slump began. I had such an awful year living in a different and less appealing dorm, taking extremely hard Spanish classes, and having very little down time. I felt so drained by class and by the commitments I made to the Wesley. I was spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. I gorged myself on Amy’s mac and cheese from Kins Market. I drank so much tea in hopes that I would feel a little happier. I became so good at sleeping. I also binge watched so much Netflix. I based my time calculating how many minutes I had left to watch another episode. My attachment to TV show characters became unhealthy, and so I would try to stop watching, but it would never work. I didn’t know I had depression, but I certainly was aware, afraid, and unsure how to talk to anyone about what I was experiencing.

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At least it was organic pasta, right?

Things got better. My memories of being numb, checking out of life my sophomore year in Kinsolving are vivid, but the memories of my summer after that disastrous year are also vivid. I went back to staying up late, adventuring with Andres and Rowena, and living life. My heart slowly healed from the loneliness, lack of purpose, and pain. Despite working at a difficult job, God healed me through friends and community. I was able to experience joy and who God made me to be: a happy person!

The past two years have been hard. The pressures of doing the right things to be successful and making the right choices to land a job definitely caused extreme anxiety and stress. I was *suppose* to graduate and find a job and have a sense of something, anything! There is still a giant question mark for my future…but here is the cool thing:

I feel joy again.

Praise the Lord I am no longer in college. There is so much relief to come home and not have to study or do homework. Sunday afternoons are actually peaceful! I no longer have that sense of dread to finish all the work before Monday morning. Having the time to play the guitar and read books in the park is so rewarding and wonderful.

I feel like I am *me* again, and people can recognize joy in me. Even though I go to bed between 9-10:30pm every night, I have so much joy to wake up at 6AM and be at Mercy Church to make the soup, wash dishes, and sing songs about a revolution of love. Yes, there are long and hard days that I want to just throw my hands up in the air and say “nope,” but I go back the next morning with a smile on my face, ready to do whatever needs to be done.

I am grateful for the experience I’ve had in the seasons of pain and lonliness. I am reminded of God’s unwavering love and that He knows me, understands me, and has a great plan for me. I am grateful and so relieved to experience this season of joy and of self-discovery.

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First Week of Work

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One week has seriously felt like a month, but I’ve had such a fantastic time! I love my placement, the community, and ATL in general.

Here is what a typical day is like for me working at Mercy Church:

I go to bed really early now! It is terrifying. I have gone to bed the earliest in years, not including being sick- 9:15pm. I wake up most days at 5:50-6AM to catch the 6:40 bus, hitch a ride on the train at 6:50ish and then hop on another bus at 7. I get to work at 7:20ish and wait for Pastor Chad to open up the church. In total, it can take me about an hour to commute to work.

We fix coffee, serve breakfast, and get ready for the day. Chad throws various ingredients into a pot for soup. Then we have worship, prayer/meditation, and varied activities depending on the week. Introverted Sarah really enjoys washing the dishes! At exactly 12:30, we use rolling carts to take water, soup, sandwiches and snacks out to the streets. We stop at two places along Ponce. The walk back (uphill!) is a workout. Then we clean up and prep for the next time we are open.

So far, I love it. The people I have met are fantastic. Pastors Maggie and Chad are incredible individuals and work well together. They do so much for the church and it is amazing to see so much love and care in the community. I am excited to get to know them more and learn from them.

Things aren’t perfect. There have been arguments, uncomfortable moments, and lots of conflict. The 9/Peacemaker in me feels out of place at times, but it is OK. It is good to be uncomfortable and to learn how to deal with conflict. I experienced my first moment yesterday and had to check in with both parties. It was heartbreaking, but it was also a reminder of how difficult it is to have an open community with many different personalities, personal struggles, and various physical, mental, and emotional states. At times I feel ignorant, but it will be a great learning experience. Ultimately, I know God wants me to learn more about how to work with different people, and I definitely will learn a lot this year.

Despite the difficult times, the community at Mercy is beautiful and wonderful, so I am happy this week has felt like a month. God has done and will do great things!

General thoughts about this week:

Transportation

It takes an hour to get to work. Yes, it does suck! It also takes me a long time to get home, at most 2 hours. It would probably take me 15-20 minutes if I drove to work and back.

But when I look at it, the people at Mercy may not even have a bus pass. Many of us walk where we need to go, and fortunately I am good health and can get around easily. I hit more than 10,000 steps every day. I feel like a freshman in college. I had no other option but to walk around UT campus, sweating up that hill.

Most of all, I meet and talk to people. Cars are so individualized, which can be nice and convenient, but there is something about using public transportation that grounds you to the city’s community. I feel a lot of freedom to explore, meet, and see more of Atlanta because of public transportation. Even if it takes me 5ever, I can do it!

Free Time

No more school, homework, 10 page papers! I have time to do the things I want, like learn guitar (new hobby!), read books, and explore. I can navigate my way to Target and purchase a book in my favorite series and read all I want! Reading for fun is so delightful after years of required reading. I also want to take advantage of all the free things/events in Atlanta. Becca, Hannah, and I ventured to the Lantern Festival last weekend. It was super Austin-y but very cool! Since I don’t see myself settling down in Atlanta, my perspective is to do all the things I can this year.

Time Difference

Since my family, boyfriend, and friends are all in Texas, talking to them is harder than I expected! When I’m ready to go to bed around 9:30-10ish, boyfriend is still at work (restaurant life!) and sometimes doesn’t get off until 11-midnight, even 12:30 AM. I can’t possibly stay up super late to talk to him, but it means we have to be intentional and plan when we can talk to each other.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Such a hipster/snooty place. It is very jarring how this is right across the street from where Mercy serves a free meal.

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After a long trek to the Target, I was delighted to see this wonderful piece of art!

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Hiking at Sweetwater Creek State Park. Nature is so cool!

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Where’s My Stuff?

I’ve been “settled” in my new room in Atlanta for a few days and I’ve been questioning why I feel uncomfortable being in my room for long periods of time. There are things I do like about my room. The green walls remind my of a similar shade of my room back in Houston, just less intense. There are two big carpet pieces and one of them has flowers and is super soft. A previous YAV/Dweller also put up a beautiful flower sticker above the bed.

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Other than the bed, a large side table/storage box, a wooden dresser, and a lonely chair, I don’t have much. I also don’t need much. The only thing I really would consider a need is a side table lamp because it is inconvenient to walk to my door to turn off the light. In no way is it necessary, but it would make reading more enjoyable since I prefer light from a closer lamp rather than my ceiling fan lamp.

Nevertheless, I have this uncomfortable feeling that my room feels empty. There is a huge space with only this beautiful flower rug. Every time I look at that side of the room, something inside me goes *what can I move to fill the space*? It reminds me of years of playing The Sims and how my Sims would wish for more furniture in their rooms. Their “environment” meter would be low with lack of decoration, furniture, ambiance. Lately, I’ve felt like one of those Sims, frustrated by the emptiness, the lack of *stuff*, but do I need more stuff?

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My sad space.

 

I think I have been influenced by this “Culture of Having Lots of Stuff” in ways that make me feel uncomfortable to acknowledge.

First, because I grew up privileged in a White middle class household, I had (and still have) access to a lot of stuff. I’ve had many birthday parties, Christmas presents, hand-me-downs (The best part of being the youngest! But is it a good thing?), etc. to have access to more stuff. For my last two years of college, I accumulated so much stuff my parents and I had to rent a U-Haul to move everything out. To justify myself, I said, “Well, I did basically supply most kitchen items and living room furniture.” But man, did I have a lot of stuff, and it certainly all wasn’t necessary.

Here is my second thought. In The Sims, I could easily fix my Sims’ complaints that their environment was uncomfortable. I could spend the money they had from working hard at their job to buy furniture. In the game, if you buy expensive items with a high environment level, such as a very nice couch or a fancy paining, it will increase the state of the environment. If your Sim didn’t have enough money, you could always “cheat” the game by entering cheat codes and accumulate wealth without having to work hard. The money could simply be handed to you, and you could buy anything and everything and live in luxury.

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In my life, my “cheat” code has always been using my parents’ money. I am not financially independent of them, but this year is a step away from my dependency. Yes, I am on their health insurance and they are paying my phone bill, but I will be living off a very low monthly stipend. I certainly could ask them for money and receive it, but they know they shouldn’t. The main thing I recognize is no matter what, my parents could step in if I was without food or a place to live. I am very grateful for their support and love they share, especially financially, but I recognize that I am so privileged to have access to my very own money cheats.

So, let’s go back to the thought of having stuff. I have more stuff than other people do, and some people have more stuff than me. So what do I miss more, the clutter of my room back in Houston or really just the sentimental items, like my books, pictures, and nick nacks? I rarely used my desk during college, but why do I want one to fill the empty space? Why was packing my suitcase one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do in my life?

I suppose this is just one of the challenges I will have this year. The culture I’ve grown up in tells me I should have stuff, that I deserve to have it. I can get more stuff so easily, y’all! I can buy all the things (but I won’t because I should be a responsible adult and I don’t have much money)! But in reality, I don’t deserve anything. I am so blessed by God to have what I have, especially a bed and a roof over my head. Not to mention things like air conditioning, running water, and my own room. It may not be the ideal I’ve grown up with, a room that feels empty, but it is someone else’s ideal. Someone would rejoice over the thought of a room with so much to offer, a room that actually has a lot of stuff!

I hope to think more on what I find to be most valuable.

As a way to feel more comfortable in my room and celebrate what I do have, I hope to decorate the walls with art. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and how it changes my comfort level, or in Sims lingo, my “environment meter.”

Colossians 3:2 is a reminder of how I want to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things. I hope you consider your stuff like me, and I wonder how you feel about your *stuff,* or even lack of stuff.

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Getting Settled

It has been more than a week since I left my home in Houston, said goodbye to my cat and family, and left the state I’ve lived in my whole life. I ventured to many new places! I visited two new states (NY and NJ) and went to NYC for the first time. I now have a room in Atlanta and four new housemates for the year. Life has changed so much in a week, and it is both scary and exciting!

So first, I left on a plane from Houston and flew into Newark. With a few buddies, I took a few trains to Stony Point, NY where we would have our orientation. (Dis)orientation at Stony Point Center will be a memorable experience of (re)discovery and of things I knew but was too ashamed or scared to voice out loud. I met so many wonderful people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and practices. This community of YAVs/YAVAs and staff will do (and already have done) so many great things in God’s name and in service. Also, can we talk about how NY is a beautiful state? The weather was so wonderful compared to the Texas heat. Shout out to Stony Point for giving us amazing home-grown food. The vegetables were seriously the best. Especially the sweet potatoes.

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Yesterday, I finally arrived in Atlanta to our new home. We will be calling ourselves the Blurp House (or the Blurple house. The outside of our house is either a blue with too much purple tone or a purple with too much blue tone. I personally feel it is purple with too much blue tone). We went on our first shopping trip to Kroger with a budget of $70. We killed it with a total of $69.49. We are all settled in our own rooms and we shared our first meal, sandwiches, with our site coordinator Chad.

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Here we all are! From left to right: Elizabeth, Becca, Melacia, Hannah, and yours truly.

One big question mark has been answered. I learned that I will be working at Mercy Community Church! It is a small church that welcomes homeless people to engage in community through bible study, workshops, sharing meals and more. They even offer an art workshop which sounds similar to a small group I co-lead at the Wesley. I am very excited to serve here and absorb everything.

Tomorrow we are learning how to use MARTA (the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) which will be my main mode of transportation for the year. But thankfully, there is an app for that! I am so excited to explore, especially the neighborhood nearby, and learn more about the city.

If you would like to know my mailing address, please ask! Also if you have any questions and would like to know more about what I am doing, please ask about that too. Thanks for reading!

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Embracing the “Abyss”: From Austin to Atlanta

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I figured it was about time I posted something! Hello! If you’ve happened to stumble across this blog, then I hope you will stick around.

My name is Sarah Morrell and I just graduated from UT in Austin, Texas. For the next coming year, I will be participating in the Young Adult Volunteers/DOOR program. I will be moving to Atlanta and serving at an agency. I will be living in a Christian community with girls doing the same thing as me. I’ll get to share God and his love to people in Atlanta. I’ll be living simply with a small monthly stipend and learning how to live life with less. I have experienced a lot of transition this summer, and while there have been lots of tears, moments of anxiety, and question marks for the future, I know God has something amazing planned.

To accurately sum up my post grad/current feelings, here is an excerpt from an episode of Gilmore Girls:

RORY: Everything is just…ending. I just feel like everything is gonna be over. I’m done at the paper. Soon I’m gonna be done at Yale, and it’s just like I’m standing on this cliff, looking out into this huge, foggy…

LUCY: Abyss?

RORY: …Like, a huge, foggy abyss, and, in my whole life, there’s never been an abyss. It’s been abyssless. I’ve always known exactly what is in front of me, and I’ve always known exactly where I’m going, and now…I don’t know what’s out there.

OLIVIA: Besides fog.

RORY: A ton of fog, and I hate not knowing what is out there. I mean, what’s going to happen to my career and my relationship with Logan and the rest of my life?

 

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I feel exactly as Rory does at this point in her life… afraid of the “abyss,” the unknown.

My plan after college was always to find a job, make money, and survive paying rent with my low paying job. Instead, God has called me to the challenge of plunging into the abyss where I’ll be living far away from home, I don’t know where I am working, and I’ll make very little money… but thankfully I do not have to pay rent.

I’ve had various reactions to my choice to take what my mother calls a “vow of poverty.” Many are shocked I could leave Texas, my boyfriend, my family, and friends behind for a year away from home. Others are excited and intrigued to hear what I will learn. I think God has a lot for not only me to learn but my friends, family, and others.

So, this blog is an opportunity for me to share my thoughts, stress, experiences, stories and more. Join me in my adventure into the abyss! I can’t promise you perfect grammar or life changing stories. I can’t promise eloquent writing worthy of an award. I can promise truth of what God is doing in my life, through me, and through the people I meet on this journey. Please pray for me, and please let me know how I can be praying for you.

Feel free to contact me at sarahmorrell2001@yahoo.com. Ask me anything! Check in, let me know how you are doing. Also, please email me and ask for my mailing address if you’d like to be in correspondence. I would love to send you letters!

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A few shout outs:

  • My parents. Thank you Mom and Dad for supporting me in doing this crazy thing at such a crazy time in our lives. I cannot thank y’all enough for the opportunities I’ve had in Austin and the ones I will have in Atlanta. Thanks for dealing with my scattered nature and attempts to “adult.”
  • My 6th grade (now 7th grade!!) girls. Y’all are such a blessing to me and I know God has awesome things planned for all of you. I promise I will be back to see y’all at some point! Also, here is where I will be, since there was some confusion 😉

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  • All of my friends and leaders at the Wesley. You have all impacted me and helped me in my walk with God. Community is the best! Love you all.
  • Andrés. Thank you, best friend.

 

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