Reflections & Ponderings

If there is one thing I have learned more than anything this weekend, it is the power of God's unconditional love.

This past weekend, I was blessed enough to attend my final Discipleship Weekend with the Navigators. Although I only attended two of the past four, it has always been, by far, my favorite retreat the Navigators puts together. Fall Conference is wonderful and it is always exciting to compete against other campuses in the Navs Olympics, but Discipleship Weekend has a special place in my heart. Let me tell you why.

I joined Navigators at the very end of my freshman year in college. I didn't really do much with them, but I knew I wanted to be more involved the next year. As a sophomore, I was asked to do the comedic announcements at NavNite with Nikhil, a man who has now become one of my closest brothers in Christ. This minor involvement led to me becoming extremely involved and, at the end of the fall semester, I was asked to go through New Leader Training to become a small group leader the following fall. The selected few were asked to come to a secret meeting, where we were given roses and letters upon arrival by the two current leaders (Stephanie and Cristin) and the Navs staff member, Mark Bruner. The whole thing was beautiful. That night, I left NavNite in tears. I was filled with joy, and I knew God had chosen this path for me for a reason.

Discipleship Weekend (Key Laborers) 2011
In the midst of training, I attended my first Discipleship Weekend retreat (which was then called the Key Laborers Conference). We are paired up with another member from our group, and that is our "spiritual buddy" for the weekend. This retreat, my buddies were Miranda Gerber and Elizabeth Krach (I was in a triple because Elizabeth had to leave for part of the retreat). This was the beginning of getting to know each other very well, and both of them have proceeded to become two more of my closest friends and sisters in Christ.

Discipleship Weekend 2013 - look how much we've grown!
The reason I came to love this retreat was the reflection portion at the end of the weekend. This is a Navigators tradition, where everyone meets with their school and all reflect on their experience over the weekend. This is usually everyone's favorite part of the weekend. However, this session was especially intense for me because I had just gone through a rather large emotional struggle with my now ex-boyfriend. I broke down in tears. This was followed by one of the leaders, Cristin, breaking down about law school school applications and her struggles. Everyone in our community pulled together to comfort one another, share tissues, and hand out hugs. The reflection was ended with some hilarious comments by Nikhil to lighten the mood ("Nikhil, what would you do if your wife was on her period and needed tampons?" "I'd give her cotton balls and sticks."). Later, I had a hysterical breakdown in the car with Liz Bruner, the wife of Mark (Navs Staff). This breakdown was the beginning of a very long (few year) road to recovery from brokenheartedness (for reasons I won't get into). Although emotionally challenging, this retreat showed me the love and community that Navigators brings to its members, and I felt the love of God shining in my life.

Save me from the walls that I build
From the broken heart inside of me
That just will not heal
Save me, when it's hard to believe
And the faith I need
Is so far from the world that I see
Won't you save me from myself

"Save Me," Nate Sallie

Fast forward two years, and I'm now a senior on that same retreat. This time, the retreat takes place at my own church, Faith Church. I'm surrounded by a community I have spent the past 3+ years with, with new friendships and new experiences. I am a leader of a women's Bible study with some pretty amazing women. Watching how much Navigators has grown over the past few years has been such a blessing. I'm preparing for graduation, terrified and unsure of what I should be doing with my life. My best friends are still the people I met in Navs my sophomore year - Sean, Jack, Nikhil, Miranda, & Elizabeth - and we are all on the retreat again (minus Elizabeth). It's clear the weekend is emotionally charged for everyone and many of us are going through some big personal struggles. The seniors - myself, Becki, Jamie, and Alex - are graduating soon. Jack is transferring to Cincinnati State//eventually UC to become a biomedical engineer, so this is his last retreat. Many members are struggling to overcome broken relationships from highschool and college. Others are struggling with intimacy and self-esteem issues, and others have broken relationships with their parents. Some of us fit into all of those categories. Whatever the problem, this retreat is needed for the entire Xavier Navigators community.

The four of us - me (top), Nikhil (middle right), and Jack and Sean (bottom left and middle) in 2011
A few things happened on this retreat that simply blew my mind. First, I was given incredible amounts of hope and blown away by the manifestation of God's love in some of the members of our community. On the first night of retreat, while the men were having fun wrestling each other in their free time, Mark dislocated his shoulder and was rushed to the hospital. Of course, when we all heard the news we prayed for him and hoped he would get better. I thought that was as far as things would go, but I was wrong.

The four of us at Discipleship Weekend in 2013
The next day, we are called together for a meeting by Nikhil and Reid, a sophomore Navs leader whom I was fortunate to watch grow as one of the leaders of his freshmen Bible study last year. The two announced that we would be heading into a time of worship and prayer for Mark, and they would be collecting donations from everyone to help pay for Mark's medical bills. Because Mark has been such an influence in all of our lives, especially the lives of the leaders, we felt compelled to help him and surround him with love and care in his time of need. No one was required to donate, and many of us still have yet to decide on an amount to donate. All donations are anonymous. I discovered later that the total raised in that half hour alone was huge. I won't share the exact amount, but it was enough to leave me standing in awe. I am speechless. This impromptu meeting really showed me a glimpse of God's unconditional love for all of us. This community of college Christians was willing to sacrifice a significant amount of money, that we could be saving or using to pay for school, to help ease the burden of the man so many of us admire. This left me speechless and thankful that I have been blessed as a member of this community.

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in you
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
"Beautiful Things," Gungor

I also appreciated getting to know Kathleen, my former resident (I was her RA last year in Husman Hall), a lot better. She was my spiritual buddy this weekend, and we had some conversations I never expected to have this weekend (but really enjoyed!). She helped me begin to process through one of my current struggles, and she opened up to me about her personal struggles. It was a blessing to talk with her.

During my person time of listening prayer, God confronted me about some issues I don't want to face.

I am currently considering applying for EdgeCorps, which is essentially a one to two year internship with the Navigators. I would most likely return to Xavier in the fall and work as a staff member to help lead and further student's relationships with God. The thing that worries me is fundraising - I'm not allowed to work, and I have to fundraise my entire salary for the year before returning to campus. 75% of this needs to be fundraised over the summer, or I won't be allowed to come on staff. 75% of my salary is around $27,000.
This is an outrageous number, and it worries me. However, I still want to take that leap of faith, trust God, and apply for the position.

Won't You lead me?
To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love
Chasing things that I could give up
I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me 'cause I can't do this alone

"Lead Me," Sanctus Real 

During listening prayer, God urged me to tell my story to certain people before I go around fundraising. This makes me nervous, because I don't want to tell my story to them. However, I know that doing so will give me peace. Yet there are so many reason why I don't want to share, and fear is only the beginning. How can I tell someone when I'm too afraid I'll be rejected?

God also brought to my mind the idea of taking a six-month break from dating anyone to simply pursue Him. A girl in my small group, Daniela, is doing this and is currently at the halfway mark. I bought the book she suggested and have begun to read it, and so far, I am enjoying it. But, really? Take a six-month break from thinking about guys, having a crush, or pursing someone? This is challenging for me because I've always wanted to date someone (not anyone specifically, just in general) from Xavier and within Navigators - someone who loves my school and God as much as I do. With only a few months left at Xavier, that doesn't exactly put me in a place to go on a six-month dating hiatus. However, it's been on my heart the past few days, and I think it could be good for me. It's something I have to pray about a lot more, but I'm starting to grow into the idea.

Finally, we reach reflection time - something always extremely touching and powerful for me. As usual, the girls are clutching toilet paper, ready for the massive amounts of crying that is about to happen. Landen makes his usual speech - he doesn't talk much, except for at reflection times, when what he says is always profound and has some deeper meaning we all love to hear. Some of the men share about their personal struggles, and the seniors reflect on how much they will miss NAVs when we all graduate. One of my closest friends this year, a freshman named Tyler, and I cried on each others shoulders. Without sharing too much of what people revealed, I will simply say that it was a reflection that left me contemplative and very sad about my impending departure from the Navigators community.

So, there you go - a really, really wordy story about why I love Discipleship Weekend. Thank you to everyone who made it so memorable - I love you more than you know. I pray God will be able to use me in your lives throughout the rest of this semester. Thank you for always being there for me!