It may be my planning ahead tendencies or the increased volume of questions we’ve received from family and friends, but my husband Tyler and I have given ourselves times to dream and wonder and lightly search for what may come for us in the next few months.
For those wondering, we still have around 4 months left–the program ends the first week of August–and we have so many more things we want to do and learn before that time comes. With summer coming, opportunities of outside adventures begin (like climbing some 14ers) along with our involvement in the weekly mission groups that will come from all over to learn about what is happening here in Denver.
While making bucket-lists for our last few months, we have also spent time reflecting on how much we have done so far and how much we experienced. It is definitely clear that we will be walking away from this year as different people than when we first started. I look back at the things I had to transition into getting used to at the beginning of the year:
- Using Public Transportation. From learning numerous bus and train routes to learning to fit into the culture of those who ride the bus to learning my life had to rotate around a bus schedule, I will never just ride in a car the same ever again.
- Living with five other people. Oh the naiveté my little Residence Life brain had when I figured I totally had the community living aspect down. Things I will never look at the same way again: chores, grocery shopping, choosing movies, calendars, game nights, communication, and the list goes on and on.
- A budget of $100. Yes, we are asked to live off $100 each month—apart from the money we are given for groceries, which is also budgeted. Let’s just say I haven’t walked into a Target in a very long time. It’s too risky.
- Social Justice Issues. Nothing can prepare you for the transition your mind, body, and heart have to make in order to experience first-hand heart breaks that come from systemic injustices. It is definitely one that I have not “gotten used to,” only learned how to keep going in spite of it.
A picture of us on Public Transportation
So much of this is newness that has now become habit. Each part of this year—these examples and others—has had a part in transforming me in specific ways. And with so many deep changes made on my heart, it would seem that nothing could ever be the same and these will always be my new normals.
That this is what the rest of my life will always look like now.
But even surrounded by these opportunities and mentors, there have been moments where I have struggled with the normal I had up until now and this year’s normal. So many moments I have cluelessly been walking down a path, only to have someone point out that it may not line up with what we are learning this year.
I mean, there really is something frustrating and suppressing that can be felt at times when living on the budget we have been given. Have I experienced great solidarity with most of the families we work with and those with whom I spend most of my time? Yes. Do most people I know have to follow a semi-strict budget? Yes. But the strength of frustration sometimes births dreams and conversations of the future where I don’t want such restrictions and where spending money without guilt or fear is one of the first things I want to do.
So where is the balance? With whatever we are receiving next year, how do we use the useful habits we have from this year of simplicity to be grateful for what we will receive and celebrate that, while also remembering from this year how much easier it is to connect and learn from your neighbors when you can choose to live more simply.
And what about the great job search? Definitely part of the future that I have a major love/hate relationship with. As we search for things that somehow fit with our experiences and past education, I have been made aware of how important it is for Tyler and I to spend time reminding ourselves what we really want out of our jobs. Whatever job we get, how can we use our habits from this year to combat toxicity that is the American Dream. We have felt the nudge for bigger and better as we watch our generation check off each stage of the American Dream success list. We have also felt our hearts grow this year as we learn to choose time to deepen relationships with our neighbors and friends, living within our means, placing ourselves purposefully in communities of diversity and cultural experiences, and finding ways to incorporate social justice into our everyday life.
The beauty of this Door program is that, as we try to dream and eventually create our after-service life, we have been offered tools, Scriptural foundation, and habits as a structure for a meaningful lifestyle for a couple trying to listen to what Jesus asked his followers to do. I think we all long for that—to know that our faith is interacting with all areas of our lives, which makes us live a certain way. And gratitude fills me that we have been given this year to try to grasp what that means for us.
Here are some pictures of what we have been up to lately:
Coloring eggs for Easter!
Cheering on the Colorado Rapids—Denver’s MLS team
Posing with the hundreds of caterpillars in my office at my placement
Easter Sunrise Service at Red Rocks Amphitheater