Thursday, May 15, 2014

Life as a Fellow.

I've gotten the question numerous times over the past year, in one form or another. "What is Fellows?" It is usually accompanied by one or more of these: "are you in graduate school or working?" "why do you look like you're dating 6 different guys?" "who are these Livingstons and why do you love them?" "what's all this #fellows14 stuff?" "why Birmingham?" and "who are all these small children that you post pictures of?"
As I sit here procrastinating, not yet ready to finish my paper for our Final Fellows project, (due tomorrow) I figured I'd take the time to tell you a little bit about what I've been up to the past year.

The Fellows program is a 9-month, intensive discipleship & leadership program, from September to May. There's something called the The Fellows Initiative, and Briarwood Fellows in Birmingham is just one of those programs. Our week is full of both internships and seminary class, youth and urban ministry, living life with 11 other fellows, meeting with mentors, and kickin it with a host family. There are SO many Briarwood people who have poured into us through seminars, meeting one-on-one, providing things for us, and making our professional and spiritual development a priority. There's no way to sum all of that up, but here's a little breakdown of our week-

My internship is with Foundations Early Learning & Family Center. It's a nonprofit child & family center in the community of Fairfield. Briarwood has chosen Fairfield as it's urban ministry focus, so Foundations was started as a way to prevent kids from being behind by the time they reach Kindergarden. This year we've had 1 pre-K class of 18 energetic, unique 4 year olds. I'm the Assistant Director, so I do everything from coordinating with speakers, volunteers, and parents to running the office to taking out the trash so that I can bask in the sunshine outside for 2 minutes. I also get to be in charge of After Care, so I work one-on-one with several of the kids who need a little extra help. The kids are cute, the long term goals are incredible, and I've learned a ton. Every other Monday night, we have parent trainings, where speakers from the community come and we talk about things like reading readiness, the importance of family, what to teach your kids about the Bible, health & safety, & much more, in an effort to build a partnership with these parents.

Sunday nights, I co-lead a small group of 10th grade girls (and I get to hang out with them on Wednesday nights too at youth group). I've learned so much from them this year. They have loved me so well, and keep me feeling young. It's been a true joy to walk through the ups and downs of life, as we pray and study together. They keep me updated with the boys, cheesy jokes & pick-up lines, and all the new technological savvy tricks. These girls are a breath of fresh air and too much laughter, and I can't wait to continue my friendship with them.

On Thursday and Friday mornings, the fellows take seminary classes together. This has been one of the best times for me, because it's just the 12 of us in class with a professor. So much freedom to wrestle with truth and ask questions. Thursday afternoons, we go to Fairfield (the community where I also work) and tutor 4th-6th grade kids at an Elementary school.
We get to hang out and build friendships, work on reading skills, and through that, share with them the hope of Christ through the book that we're reading (a modern-day Pilgrim's Progress). On Fridays, we have a Leadership Lunch with someone in the community who shares their story, their successes and failures in the professional world, and encourages us to strive for truth.

Then there are the Livingstons. My host family is incredible. I live with the Livingstons, and they're kind of a big deal. John & Connie have loved me as their own, provided food and a welcoming place to live, made sure I survived the snowpacalypse and tornadoes, carried everything for me when I broke my foot, and SO much more. Mary Lee & Millie are both in high school, and it has been a blast to be welcomed into their family. Chickens in the backyard, trips to the thrift store, and random singing/dance parties are all the norm. I am beyond thankful for them, and for the way that they have loved me so well. I get to live with them through June (a little after Fellows ends) and can't wait to spend some of my summer with these people who encourage me daily.


And last but not least, the best part of Fellows for me has by far been these guys. 11 other fellows who are in the same place in life as me. We are going through the same things, learning from the same people, challenging one another in what we talk about, striving for unity and community daily, and committing to be each other's "people." I think the Lord has used this part of the program in my life the most, as I have had to come face to face with vulnerability, doubt, trials, and tears, with the comfort of knowing that this community is a safe place for me. It is a place of laughter, lots and lots of laughter. True enjoyment of each other. A place of rest. Tuesday nights we have Round Table, where we take turns cooking for one another, get to enjoy a meal together, and then go through a study of a book or passage, where we learn from each other's life experiences, questions, and faith. It's the most encouraging time of the week for me- any time where I can come in from the day, as hectic as it may have been, and just BE. That's how you know you've found your people. We all need that safe place. And this is mine right now. These people. We are SO unique. There's not 1 of the 12 that looks or acts like the other. And I love it. It is a beautiful thing. Living life in this community has spoiled me for sure. So I don't want to think about after graduation yet- it's in a few weeks. But I've got time. God is good, and he has blessed me beyond measure with this Fellows year. Praise Him Amen.