Mess and Bless

I lost my keys, in the great unknown

Call me please, cause I cant find my phone…

These are the opening lyrics to Francesca Battistelli’s Song This Is the Stuff . Pertinent and relatable. This summer I was home in North Dakota for a little over two months and while I was showered with the beautiful blessings of being with family and friends; I struggle to say it was a replenishing or relaxing holiday away from work.  The two months were filled simultaneously with joys of celebrations, games and a couple of beers as well as a mess of undesirable things like playing a waiting game for VISAs, selling nearly everything I own and everyday dramas like misplacing your keys and phone.

I seemed to find myself caught up in the mess instead of the bless which brings me to Francesca’s chorus…

This is the stuff that drives me crazy

this is the stuff that’s getting to me lately

In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I am blessed…

I know I am certainly not alone when I say that it is so easy to get caught up. All summer long I found myself swimming in mess after mess, feeling the discontentment of nothing really going right and most definitely not in the timing that I desired.  I am not sure when during this summer I came to a moment of awaking but it was a lot later into my time home than I would care to admit.

To put it into perspective,  my summer was a lot about waiting. Waiting for paperwork from the UK to be submitted, waiting on calls back from friends to make plans, waiting on my own Visa submission… waiting…All of which wasn’t really in my control but spun me anyway into a tight little mess.  You know know as well as I do that all our lives are little messes, losing keys and playing waiting games are all just gentle annoying reminders that the time we do have isn’t really ours. We have this threatening desire to hold on to time as if it somehow is in harmony with our own wants. It isn’t. The only harmony between our desires and the happenings in time are God.

(certainly, you knew I would get to God eventually.)

I lost sight of God in each mess. I felt more sorry for myself in each mess. I didn’t think about talking to God about each mess. I just let the stuff , the struggle bus that I was riding just take me for a ride and then had the audacity to say, “uffda, I feel lukewarm. I cant seem to feel God lately. I feel distant from God.”

What a loser am I that I came to that place.  I wish I could say that this is the first and only time that this has happened to me but it is just such a part of our human-ness. Francesca concludes her chorus with this…

This is the stuff that gets under my skin

but I got to trust you know exactly what your doing

might not be what I would choose

but this is the stuff you use…

“But I got to trust you know exactly what your doing”… Oh how trust is so hard in any relationship let alone with a God that this is active, living and a complete mystery. So I decided that the only way I could resurrect my summer and give my relationship with God a good jolt was go to him. Confrontation.

I grabbed my notebook, my bible and sat in the quiet. I wrote page after page of prayers and when I couldnt find the words that my head needed to say I opened up to his. I sat there and slowly became immersed in his desire of time, his desire for me.

How silly to let little petty things and waiting get in the way of a relationship with Christ. I learned from James chapter 4 that there is literally no point in making plans if you dont invite God into them. Hold on to your plans loosely, trust in the fact that Gods plans will be better because they are bigger.

God has such love for us even in our human-ness. He understands the mess and he chooses to bless us through it if we let him. In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” God’s blessing in our lives only requires us to ask, seek or knock…

In the waiting game I was playing, I felt encouraged by Matthew as he wrote of Jesus saying, ” Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus frees of all our burdens whether they be the giants we face or the petty little stumbling blocks. An authentic relationship with God means we can seek him anytime, anywhere and he will arrive ready to help with the mess.

Most of all I learned once again that God needs to be my number one. He needs to be invited to all happenings or I get discouraged, tired and defeated. My mess seems to be bigger then the bless and that just isnt true, ever.

With Christ, flights can be canceled and what once would have been getting stuck in Amsterdam all of sudden felt like mini vacation in beautiful foreign city. Plans will change and that’s okay. God’s plan is so big and vast we cant comprehend whilst in it but trust that God wants what is good for you teaching you patience, resilience and love along the way.

What is your mess? Where is the bless? If you cant answer that, I suggest a bit of communication to work out your relationship.

 

 

 

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WOMAN power.

Dearest pinnacle woman,

You do not know the amount of blessing that you have brought to my life. Thank you for wanting more for me. Thank you for blessing my mom with the opportunity to be a parent. Thank you for making what I can only imagine to be the hardest decision. Thank you for being an example of bravery and love.

You are a phenomenal woman. A woman, who I can only imagine has the greatest of hearts.  A woman of God that must have a heart on fire similar to my own. My soul knows you because my soul knows God. Only a woman could do something so honorable and selfless as to give up her own flesh to another who wanted nothing more than to love me. You blessed my life with the first example of Godly love. Thank you for putting my life in God’s hands.

God blessed my life firstly with you.

Thank you for endowing me a life filled with fort-building, climbing trees, laughter … birthday parties, soccer games, water skiing, choir and band concerts, swim meets, pets, camping trips, learning to drive, going on my first date, going to my first college party, getting my nose pierced, traveling the world…

Thank you for delivering me to spectacular parents that love me and nourished me to be a free- thinking, confident, God- fearing resilient misfit of a woman.

Birth-mother, thank you for life. I am trying my best to bless others with it just as you were first to bring God’s blessing to me.

Peace,  Love and Fire,

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This is the letter I wish I sent to my Birth mother. But perhaps even more than that its a reflection of the weird and wonderful ways that God has blessed my life through Maternal influences. Being adopted, I always felt a radical amount of love from my mom. She isn’t my biological mom but she is in every sense my MOM. I used to walk around as a small child telling the other little kids that my mom “chose” me. (Humble, I know.)

But my mom is spectacular, fabulous, awesome, intelligent, loving, compassionate, beautiful, wonderful, fantastic…. She expressed the deepest and wildest kind of love, I have ever known. I have come to three conclusions about her ability to do this… either A) I must be incredibly easy to love. B) Mom’s have super powers and not just the “i know when you are lying”, “didn’t put your clothes away”, and “Could have studied better for exams” kind of powers that we know they hold. Or the more plausible conclusion C) God is ‘super’ and women are a divine vessels God inherently planned to use for each of his children to have their best start. Which must mean that God resides at the core of each woman naturally.

It is my belief that mothers and to be quite honest all women, whether biological mothers or not are divine in their own right. In Psalm 139: 13-16, it says this,

For you (God) formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

God used women directly in the creation of each of our souls. He worked within them and with us to prepare our souls for our individual journeys. That is spectacularly divine. He doesn’t use men to do this he uses women. Women carry this intimate connection to other humans. What we may call being ‘maternal’.

I looked up the word “maternal’ to find it’s definition to be, of, pertaining to, having the qualities of, or befitting a mother: maternal instincts.

I then wondered what are these maternal instincts… Kind, protective, affectionate, gentle, comforter, caretaker, kind, devoted, watchful,sympathetic, sheltering.  Don’t these also sound like words we use to describe our God?? (Awesome coincidence?) I think not.

In 2nd Timothy 1:3-8, it says this,

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” 

I am reminded of the women in my life that have brought me closer to God and reflected God. Now it is the time to fan the flame and live out faith wildly and boldly.

Women are special. Women are phenomenal vessels for God’s blessing to pour out of. I guess this is the post where I gush about the amazing women in my life and say thank you for being outstanding role-models, resilient warriors, encouraging pinnacle women and inspiring misfits. I love and admire you.

So, Thank you for pouring God’s blessing into my life whether you meant to or not, I guess it comes naturally…  Mom, birth-mom, Grandmas, God-Mothers, Moms of Friends, Friends who are moms, aunts and for my friends in England, Mums as well as ALL women.

Woman power.

It is an actual thing.

 

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One heart pulled in two…

Not that I am any sort of fan of this particular series of nauseating romantic comedies but Bridget Jones Diary; very plainly makes us feel like it is not only possible but normal to be in love with two men at the same time. While, I find it vastly unsettling that she seems to drag along these poor blokes down what I can only assume is a rather bumpy and dramatic ride, I can’t help but feel like I understand her heart being split in two ridiculously opposite directions. She literally couldn’t pick between the most opposite of men.

Before your brains explode and your hearts go to mashed potato; my heart is in fact being pulled in two enormously different directions. One string pulled by a long time relationship, the history looks more or less like a roller coaster, however, there is comfort, stability, no- real surprises or risk. The other string pulled by something fairly new, exciting, frustrating, refreshing, spontaneous and honestly raises more questions than anything else.  Both, however, respect me, shower me with blessing and encourage me towards God and envelop me with love.

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t need to make a decision about either and in fact I don’t want to.

When I left North Dakota this second time; I left parts of my heart there with friends and family, in my childhood home, playing with my dog and basking in the wide open skies that are NoDak. Coming back to England, the village I have grown to love and also call home holds parts of my heart as well. Doing a job I feel called to do, finding community among all ages and enjoying the conversational banter and lovely chaos that ensues my host family day in and day out.

These are the strings pulling at my heart.

I have one heart and two almost completely different lives in which I am immersed in. In love with both and yet I don’t really feel like I belong in either. This summer I felt as though I had out grown and overstayed Fargo but I never really feel like I belong here in England either. I don’t sound the same and my American brash-ness makes me stand out like a sore thumb.

So maybe, I can be in love with two places at the same time. In fact I feel as though if I don’t leave bits of my heart scattered around how will I ever be able to find my way back to the beginning where it all started. Where I found God knocking on my door, begging me to pack my bags and trust in him. It is okay that my heart is both here and there and hopefully many places in between because God is everywhere.

Much love, all the joy and Godspeed,

Chels

 

The Prodigal Daughter returns

I am home, back to my roots and the Fargo stomping ground. It is exciting to be back and to surround myself with fantastic friends and family. I have truly missed all of you phenomenal people. YAGM marketed itself as IMG_5638a “transformative experience”; it most certainly has been. My year in England has been challenging, beautiful,
lonely, inspired and completely life changing to say the least. I dont think I truly grasped how much I changed until I returned to the loving arms of my family.

As I reflect, I realize I did an exceptionally poor job of communicating my experience with all of you. Even now, being home and in the presence of family and friends. I find it difficult to communicate my experience in a way that encompasses what this year has been for me. My pictures only speak to where I was and what I saw. Unfortunately, if you follow my Facebook, my year looks a little like I frolicked my way across the UK and parts of Europe hanging out with new friends and exploring pubs and countrysides. I did in fact enjoy building new beautiful relationships with folks that will be lifelong friends and I most definitely enjoyed local beers and lost myself in adventure of new experiences. However, the moments that I feel depict my year more accurately cant be found in my Facebook album but in my own witness to God’s grace. Stories of God moments that rocked me and shook me to the core.

I feel as though not only do I owe it to all of you to share these experiences properly but now I can do it in a place of reflection and growth.

 

Uffda, a Depressed Christian

Uffda, Things go pear-shaped.  Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes, I work really hard and it doesn’t go to plan.  People may break my heart,  let me down and disappoint me. Every once in a while, I  even fall on my face. This tends to be life.

But I am resilient. I know and accept that I am a child of God. Before anything and after everything else; I am his. He created me, sustains me and loves me so I can keep going. I can push forward. He is there when I fail, he teaches in those moments. When I stumble and fall, he picks me up and carries me.  When I am weak, he is my strength. I can do anything and everything through my God when I know and accept I am his child; I just have try, try again and again. Trust in him to be the light of my life.

Unfortunately, the darkness comes uninvited, unannounced and without much warning. Sometimes my depression is the buzzing annoyance of a fly and other times it’s a shadow of Godzilla terrorizing me. The monster taunts me with the venom of insecurities and lies. It gratifies in its ability to so easily take me down by planting doubts.

I have learned a couple of things in my darkness.  I must avoid mirrors. It waits there for my reflection to insult me. It pulls at my body and suffocates any confidence that dares to flicker. I avoid the sunshine, also. Although, it looks pleasant I know it will use the light against me to  burn holes in my brain only to  fill them with the darkest of thoughts; intoxicating me with anxiety and despair.

So in the pitch black of my darkness,  I cling to my bed. I play dead only to realize that this is also the monster’s lair. Fortunately, I am not scared of the monster or the dark. I am scared of the comfort I feel being held hostage by my own brain. That I can’t break down the invisible chains restraining me nor do I really desire to.

I have no recollection of the time passing  while I curl up with the companionship of my pillows and duvet. I exhaust myself entertaining my undesired company. Defeated and in a desperate state of yearning for the weight to simply diminish, I wait for my uninvited guests to hit the road. So, I can get back to, “normal”.

I know I am still a child of God even in this sad state of being. My God can’t vanquish my monsters, he can only walk through the darkness with me. I never know how long my visitors will stay, depression is rude like that. I pray for light to come as I get sick  of a darkness without the moon or stars.  During my darkness, I always cry out to God, “Save me from myself! I am yours! I need you. I trust in you!” God always has a strange way of meeting me in these moments.

He answers often by using others.  So, I am slowly released from the confines of my mind by my brothers and sisters in Christ. Their ability to answer my unequivocal silence is God working through them. With affirmations of loDSC00378ve and grace, they penetrate my darkness breaking me free. I  don’t question when the light will come anymore because i know God is on my case. He sends my friends and family as an army of light to scatter my darkness.

I don’t lose my identity in the darkness. I become confident in my identity that I am continually saved.

When the darkness leaves me, I feel my own light re-ignite.  I can live outward what my brain has trapped inside me. My resilience is what inspires me to live out my faith exuberantly. Boldly living my life as a resilient, misfit, child of God. Before anything and after everything I am a child of God. This is my true identity. Depression has no say in it.

God created us for relationship. To live pious lives among each other, to support and look after each other as family. We need others, friends, family, community to live life fully for Christ and be an army of light defending each other.

Brothers and Sisters, Thank you for being constant soldiers of love and light in my life.

I would like to re-assure you all that I am safe, happy and healthy.

I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression in 2013. I should have gotten help years before hand but was ashamed of my mental illness. After trying counseling, medicine and various other types of treatments nothing has helped more than re-giving my life to Christ and relying on him in everything.

More people suffer than we think and we are not alone in this. If you feel like something isn’t right, go to a Doctor, talk to a friend/ family member and ask for prayer. 

Godspeed.

 

 

So this is Christmas…

A Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year it was. Being away from home, friends and family wasn’t the easiest of course but instead it felt very Christ filled. I am pretty sure the holy spirit recognized my new comfort level and decided to flip me on my head and spin me making it very clear that Christmas was more about Christ than anything. So after doing a sermon on a Christ centered Christmas and how that perhaps may look. I became very much aware of my own flaws in celebrating Christmas. I even started to feel a little guilty of my own consumerism and sentimentality.

So now, that Christmas has come and gone, where am I?  Well, I feel I am still left standing at the manger, oogling at this wonder of pure and perfect love in human-ness and questioning everything.

Something, I often forget about Jesus’ arrival was that it was messy, it was not ideal and it was a imperfect world; “we” (a sum of Christians culturally) have romanticized it by taking out all the suffering. Their was a greedy empire, a war, people were selfish and righteous and the world is just as messy now as it was then. Jesus came into the world when it was suffering; He grew up in it and understood the broken-ness. The world needed Jesus, so God gave us Jesus. My head is whirling about Jesus and trying desperately to write a paper on Discipleship but yet my heart is still left intoxicated by my festivities this holiday season. I’ll leave that rant for another post.

This holiday season filled me with clarity and the kind of joy that makes your heart hurt.  I found myself feeling moments of sadness of missing cooking with my mom, playing games with my brother and convincing my dad to make homemade ice-cream. But these sad moments never lasted too long because well, these people (my friends, host family and fellow volunteers) showed me so much kindness. Christmas day, sitting at the front of a church with the choir in a thick, hot, wool robe I found clarity among my leaky eyes. (literally cried the entire service.) These people are family. They have blessed my life with laughter and thoughtfulness. I have many mom-like figures; that looked at me a little wonky when I came home with a nose piercing. I have many dad- like figures that give me thoughtful criticism and advise. I have many brothers and sisters that encourage me and comfort me. Christ has made it very clear that we were all created for each other. I am so thankful for all of the family here and there.

My heart grew in size (like a Grinch heart) this Christmas in absolute gratitude. God bless Everyone.

 

Blue Christmas lessons.

I didn’t predict that being away during the holidays would be so hard. I always said that Thanksgiving was never about the turkey or pumpkin pie and Christmas was never about the presents or fuss that we put into it. Turns out, I was right. It isn’t about the presents or feasts. By being disconnected from everything, I have been able to realize what is most important, what I miss most and how maybe the differences in celebration here in England have affected my heart.

No doubt, I miss my family and friends. I miss the time we spend together at the holidays; most of the time it was in preparation for guests or going overboard with decoration and spending frivolously on gifts. But the best part is that we did it together as a family. Within all the chaos, we had each other. Here, I am surrounded by colorful people that are truly blessing my life but We seem to lack the same kind of togetherness I long for during Christmas.

Lesson 1: Slow down and make time for each other. Time with friends and family is the most valuable gift to give.

Everything in my community seems to be simpler. There are very few elaborately decorated houses and the fuss of making it “look” like Christmas is not really a thing. One string of lights here, some tinsel there, an advent wreath, a Christmas tree and displayed Christmas cards is enough to recognize the season and  not rely on mass amount of stuff that has pulled us away from the reason for the season.

Lesson 2: Simple is almost always better. No need to re-decorate the house and clutter an already magnificent holiday. It isn’t about the number of strings of lights or presents under the tree. Less is often more.

Early in December the women’s bible group I participate in held a wreath making day. It was a fantastic event, brought a bunch of women together from the village to kick off the season with some crafting and fun  consuming biscuits, mince pies and mulled wine. Everyone brought loads of greenery from their gardens (everyone has beautiful gardens) and we made advent wreaths for our tables. To say I was horrible at it may be slight understatement but with bits of, evergreen, sage, holly, roses, pine cones and the generous (and much needed) helping hands of some awesome women, my wreath didn’t turn out half bad.

Lesson 3: Make things. Use your hands and what ever creative spirit you can muster to create. I am so proud of my awkward little wreath. Use your gifts and talents to celebrate creation.

The Dowson family is made up of some really great cooks. (My tummy is very thankful.) But with calendars disjointed and the busyness of life making itself known often, the only “real”time we have to together is during meals. I especially enjoy our Sunday evenings. Recently Sunday evening mean we light our advent candle wreath, read a section of scripture, pray and then are together for a meal. We make a good effort to all be together for dinners and we take turns cooking and doing dishes. I often realize in these moments how greatly I am blessed by this family. Meals together begin with thoughtful prayer, contain witty banter and discussion and end with a very happy tummy.

Lesson 4: Cook. Connect. Clean. Take turns serving each other in simple ways. Be present with each other and share the food, your day, your thoughts. (See lesson 1)

I have gone to so many Christmas carol services and  Candlelit Advent services. All in various churches, different denominations but all so wonderful. I went to a quiet, candlelit mass at Coventry Cathedral.  I attended a carol service in a theatre with the most soul filled choir. I worshiped at a small country church and  been messy and covered in glitter for a Messy Church/ Christingle service in Claverdon. My point here is no matter where I have worshiped with my Christian brothers and sisters, i am reaffirmed of the reason for the season. God is present in every place, helping me get excited and preparing my heart for his son’s arrival. Each service I have attended made the nativity star that much brighter in my heart. Jesus is coming and that is the reason to celebrate.

Lesson 5: Attend church. Make sure that during the chaos, that is often this season, you guard you heart to stay focused on love, hope, joy and Jesus… Keep yourself spiritually fed so you are capable to celebrate with the utmost exuberance.

During this advent season, I have been leading many sessions on the meaning of advent and the reason for the season. I come home realizing I do a really poor job of practicing what I preach. I tell my youth be the lights in the darkness. You know what Jesus has done for you, live for him. See a need, fill it. Witness darkness, bring light to it. It is so easy to say rise above it, take the high road, be the good guy. But am I? Lately I have been basking in my “blue” Christmas with out family, friends, no snow  and Christmas candies… uffda. My selfishness is showing. The world around us tells us via adverts that we need new products, great smelling perfume and romance to truly enjoy Christmas. I personally retreat into a burrito like state with my Netflix and overindulge in sappy Christmas movies. Normally, I get an alligator tear, or a good laugh out of the comical romance of Hallmark Christmas movies. But this year, even watching White Christmas (my favorite film) I was left feeling unsatisfied. I kept thinking that isn’t love, they just met!! In Love Actually, I got angry at how flippant and surface level love was referred. Then I came to this conclusion. The reason I can not handle love stories any longer is because for over the past month I have been talking to people about the greatest love story. The greatest love story to ever come into the lives of human beings is the love of selfless-ness. the indulgence of hope and exuberance of Joy when you know grace and peace are coming. Jesus coming into the world and his life is the greatest love story.

It is love that is patient, kind, generous, it has no expectations or motives. It is love that is absolute acceptance and freedom.

Lesson 6: The reason for the season. Love. God loved us so much he gave the world his son, to walk with us and teach us in his human-ness to be an example of God’s grace and light.

Merry Christmas everyone!

“Life with God is not immunity from difficulties but peace in difficulties.” – CS Lewis.

A few weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure to go back to College for a week and take a course in Christian Discipleship at Cliff College in Derbyshire with my fellow UK YAGMs. Firstly, It was so incredibly wonderful to see my friends from YAGM. I hadn’t seen them since we left each other at Orientation in August; So you can imagine the amount of energy circling the space. And secondly, Cliff College is located in the peak district; it was magnificent. Although it rained almost all day everyday during the week I was there; we had a serendipity moment when the rain quit, the sun shone as it was setting and we made friends with sheep and horses on our hike up a cliff. Thirdly, College… How was I supposed to focus when I was finally reunited with my friends from home. But after a catch up night at the local pub with my crew of 12 friends, it was time to start learning.

Before coming to Cliff College, I had few thoughts about discipleship mostly about Jesus’s disciples and how that could be a verb attainable by someone as clumsy, questioning and distracted as myself.

My only knowledge of Disciple- was that it came from the Latin word “discipulus” which means learner or student. Thank you Mr. Volk. I never expected to have my world rocked.

After the first day of lectures and presentations, I had a pretty good idea that I was in for a good shake up. God knows when I start to feel like I have more answers than questions and am getting comfortable because that’s when he rocks my world with something challenging… like re-evaluating my identity as a Christian.

That is a common trend in my life now. Re-evaluating myself. Do I really like easy mac or did I just eat it because it was available and my stomach was grumbling?? Turns out, I don’t like easy mac anymore. I think it tastes like play-doh. How many other things in my life have I done or do currently that I just do out of convenience and availability? What is really important? What makes me happy? What are my values? Direction? Goals? …

Every person I have met that has done YAGM says how transformative it is. But really how much can a person “really” change? I understand now. I feel and see a change in myself already and I have only been in England for three months.

Our first day at Cliff, we talked about vocation and accepting the call from God to serve. My head went bonkers with self admiration, “Boom”, feeling awesome! I did that! I answered the call to serve, I discerned like a champ, I am awesome. YAY YAY YAY!”

Sure, I took the leap of faith to get here but that’s not my calling or vocation. I have a continuous call to be more like Christ each day. Every morning, I wake up and am encouraged by God to live bigger, deeper, wider than the day before. My vocation is to walk alongside people as a faith filled person.

That’s ideal isn’t it? To be mindful everyday, to be thoughtful and God-loving in every action we make and every word we say?

I have been nourishing my faith with devotion, fellowship and loads upon loads of prayer. Still, living up to this particular call is beyond difficult. I fail at this everyday. But God never calls for perfection. (That is my motivation.)

If I put all my energy into God; my life is completely and amazingly fulfilled. I have felt my heart change, I don’t get easily angered, jealousy has left the building and patience is less of a virtue and more of a habit. I have also felt my mind change, I don’t glorify or desire things the way I used to. Going out on the town for a night out has lost its luster and the need for material things has gone awry.

My vocation is as much about being as it is about doing. So when I had a meeting with my dear friend, Phil, the Vicor of Claverdon Church and he said, “Chelsi, Don’t underestimate the power of just being.” I realized that my whole life I have been intoxicated by service, that it isn’t just a hobby but a way of life. I love people. I have many gifts and a wide variety of skills that I can apply to people through service. I have done so many jobs from nanny-ing, to building houses for Habitat, to Marketing, to Nursing, to Sales lady… they all have serving people in common. None of these jobs were ever to build me up and they were surely never about money.

I think I just realized what A) Aristotle means when he wrote, “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, their lies your vocation.” and B) How beneficial it is to listen and move, consistently taking leaps, jumps, hops in your faith.

So I am reaping many rewards in my life right now to living more like a disciple than a “Chelsi”. I no longer deal with debilitating depression.  I only drink alcohol in celebration. If I see a need, I don’t hesitate to volunteer or try to be a support and for the first time in quite a long time I love myself. I haven’t been able to say that in quite some time. But I give God, a high five for creating such awesome people in his image. I have so much gratitude in my heart for everyone in my community, my host family, my family in NoDak, YAGM, TFG and every friend, mentor and family member that has supported me in this experience.

It’s okay that you dont miss me.

Here, in England, I get asked these two questions quite often; do you miss home? and What do you miss most from home? I usually respond too quickly with I don’t so much miss home, only miss people. What do I miss most from home? My mom, my dad, my brother, my aunt Tudy, my dog… The list could go on and on of people I genuinely miss. I came upon the strange realization tonight during my prayers that some of them don’t miss me.

It is quite a harsh realization to realize you aren’t missed.Here, I sit daily in prayer for everyone back home, friends, family, my church, social issues, justice and the wellness of my friends debilitated by Alzheimer’s disease.I regularly spend time lifting these people up in prayer and it just occurred to me that they don’t have any recollection of me. I miss them so much, yet I am not missed. It’s remarkably sad to reflect on the fact that they have touched my heart so profoundly and will never know their work.

Before coming to serve, I worked as a nurse aid on a memory care floor for a little over a year. It was one of the most heart breaking and beautiful experiences of my life so far. I was a witness to God’s abounding grace and his deep love in so many miraculous times. I had the unique experience of not just being an aid; to help them to the bathroom, get ready for the day or make sure they got from point A to point B safely. I was also whoever their mind perceived me to be; often I was a daughter, a neighbor, a niece, a grand-daughter, a friend. I smile at this because they weren’t just my residents, they were my grand-parents, my friends, my teachers.

I’d like to share a poem, which I carried with me as an aid in my scrubs daily.

Do Not Ask Me to Remember

BY Owen Darnel

Do not ask me to remember,

Don’t try to make me understand,

Let me rest and know you’re with me,

kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I’m confused beyond your concept,

i am sad and sick and lost.

All I know is that I need you

To be with me at all cost.

Do not lose your patience with me,

Do not scold or curse or cry.

I can’t help the way I’m acting,

Cant be different though I try.

Just remember that I need you,

That the best of me is gone,

Please dont fail to stand beside me,

Love me ’till my life is done

I remember my last day of work so vividly. I did rounds of the unit eighteen times avoiding the end of my shift. I went into each room and sat with each resident affirming to them how wonderful it was to meet them and care for them. I felt God walking with me in those emotional moments, saying goodbyes to people not just for the evening, or the weekend or the holiday but forever. The residents always responded with a polite, “It was great meeting you too.” and many did the lovely, soft things that older people do, like hold your hand in theirs and pat it gently, wave and a nod, a smirk and hug. I am so glad I took the time to have these moments with my dear friends, I took mental snap shots of them and hold those in my heart. I carry those with me to remind me that they were teachers of profound lessons of patience, grace, forgiveness, innocence, joy, trust, dignity and above all Christ’s love.

I may have cared for them physically but they cared for me spiritually. My residents, my dear faith filled friends with Alzheimer’s were my caregivers.

Here is a poem, I wrote in response to Owen Darnel’s poem and dedicated to all of the residents at Bethany Retirement Living.

I Will Never Forget

BY Chelsi Argabright

You may never remember,

please know, I completely understand.

I will move on and carry you with me,

I will recall holding your hand.

You may never hold these memories,

The good times or the low

But I will cherish them all

that you lead me and taught me to follow.

Your mind was in another time,

Your heart was in another place,

You taught me to meet you and be present,

To accompany you in this space.

Thank you for showing me you,

that was the “you” before

That I had the privilege to see your heart,

And find God’s love at your core.

You may never remember me,

know that that’s just fine,

Because you changed my life, you see,

and taught me how to love mine.

A Ship in the Harbor is safe but that is not what ships are for.

I woke up the morning of my flight feeling wonderfully and fearfully made. Slightly nervous, mostly excited and anxious to get to England. Adventure was awaiting me and God had plans for me, I could feel it.

Hopping on my flight, I was awaiting a wave of emotion where the reality of my decision to answer this call to service would wash over me but my plane landed in Birmingham, England and the only emotional turbulance I felt was that of watching the film “Still Alice”. (Definitely recommend) Otherwise, I felt nothing that resembled panic or fear. My heart seemed to be at ease.

I felt overwhelming excitement and joy when I saw my host parents, Mandy and Chris Dowson waiting for me outside my terminal with my name on a sign.  Adrenaline kicked in and I became instantly aware of the fact that THIS WAS in fact HAPPENING. We gathered my bags filled with my processions from home and hurried on our way to the house that I would make my home for the next year.

That drive from the airport to Claverdon was nerve-wracking, I found myself in the backseat having major anxiety about driving on the left side of the road, I could have put money on the fact that we would get in an accident. I was anticipating each corner to be a head on collision. We got to the house and I could have jumped out and kissed the ground. (It’s not the wrong side of the road it’s just different.) Maybe this was the wave of emotion, but it wasn’t what I anticipated. Instead, I was introduced to the wonderful comforts of my new home planted on the countryside.

My first couple of days were filled with copious amounts of coffee, lots of introductions and very little sleep. Sam, Mandi and Chris’s oldest son, just got home from serving God intentionally and traveling the world. He and I will be sharing the annex. (A garage that has been converted into an apartment.) Mandi and Chris also have a daughter Alice, who is my age and just recently graduated from College and another son, Barney, who is 16 years old. The Dowson family also opened their home to another young woman my age named Sai. She is a lovely girl from Iran. The family has grown from three to seven in just a matter of weeks.

The Dowson family is so incredibly generous and kind. I can only imagine how weird it is for them to have me here, bumbling around and clumsily trying to figure out how to eat properly with the fork in my left hand and knife in my right. Nevermind, my habit of hopping into the wrong side of the car almost everytime I get a lift anywhere. (Woops) Or the fact that when I cross the street I look for cars coming on in the wrong direction. So many awkward situations I have put myself into thus far. My host community wasnt anticipating the comic relief of my day to day struggles, I bet.

I surely am not in Fargo anymore living a few miles out of the village, Claverdon, it is peacefully quiet and rich with gardens and spectacular sunsets. I am sure it has marvelous sunrises too, but who am I kidding, I don’t see those. Claverdon is a beautiful village of about 3,000 people; it comes equipped with a couple pubs, a small store, a primary (elementary) school and the church. It is quaint to say the least, but what it lacks in luster, it makes up for with the most intoxicating and vibrant community.  I have only been here a week and I feel the community pulling me in with love, excitement and copioius amounts of generosity.

I came to Claverdon to serve them, however I feel I am being served with an amazing dose of grace, joy and hospitality. God is so Good.