Archive for the ‘JVC’ Category

What JVs actually do

Perhaps you’ve seen those “what I think I do” memes popping up on facebook lately. I thought I’d get in on the fun.

Alternatives for the last frame were drinking, knitting, and composting. But given the freak blizzard we had this afternoon, I thought the last one was most apropos.

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I’ve seen a lot of searches coming to my blog lately with JVC questions like “what to wear” and “what to pack.” So to any future JVs leaving for orientation in two weeks that might be reading this blog, or anyone who is considering a year of service, I, as a former Jesuit Volunteer with 2 years of experience, can tell you (with 90% assuredness) what your year will be like.

Orientation will be the longest week of your life

You discerned, you prayed, you talked to your friends and family, you applied. You were interviewed, and interviewed again, and maybe even a third time. You have filled out countless forms and completed your physicals, graduated from college and for the 1000th time explained to someone what the Jesuit Volunteer Corps is (it’s kinda like a faith based Americorps type program where I will live in community, volunteer at an organization and make $80 a month) and can say it in one breath. You have waited during a painfully long summer, saying goodbye to everyone and everything you’ve known, you have packed in two impossibly small suitcases and have boarded your plane for this grand adventure.

And finally, finally you are here. And now you must wait another week before you go onto actually starting your JVC year. But relax. Listen. You will get there soon enough. You might come away scared out of your mind, convinced that your housemates are crazy, and sore from sitting in plastic folding chairs all week. But you will be home soon.

Your expectations will surface and then be shattered

Now after spending a week hearing “let go of your expectations” you have convinced yourself you have. But trust me, they will arise when you are least expecting them. Maybe sometime mid-winter when you have realized JVC wasn’t exactly what you were expecting, but you still have that nagging desire to (fill in the blank) play more, pray with your house more, travel more, live a more simple life, have a job with more responsibilities, have a job with less responsibilities.

Observe them as they come up, and do not judge them. Do not be heartbroken when your expectations are not met. But learn to see what else is in store for you.

You will fall in love

For me, it was with my housemate that I thought was pretty cute as soon as I got his picture in the mail. 6 weeks later we were dating, terrified that we would somehow wrench our house apart. But they were nothing but excited and supportive and thrilled to be at our wedding two years later.

You will fall in love. With someone, with something. I don’t know what it is yet. But if you keep your heart open you will fall in love with your town, with the tribe, with the mountains surrounding your house, with biking to work, with that new food you had never heard of, with your clients, with God in a new way, with the big sky. It will happen if you let it.

Whatever you do for Christmas, it will feel like the wrong decision

During orientation, your leaders will urge you to stay in your community for Christmas and immediately you will say “well I would, but I promised my mother I would go home and while my community is important my family is more important and I just don’t think I am ready to do that yet and unless my job requires me to work I am going home.” And then you will go home and think about your housemates you left behind.

Or you will stay, and it will be hard. You might have to work and while you may have this incredibly moving life changing Christmas experience that so many others have had, you may just end up working like it’s any other day, and watching movies with your housemates that night. You might spend the afternoon alone trying to call all of your friends who are too busy celebrating to answer, leaving you to stare out the window, alone and crying.

But you will remember that that is what Christmas is about. Loneliness, coldness, and tiny star in the night sky telling you that hope has come. It is light in the darkness, and it will be a Christmas like none other.

You will realize $80 is a lot of money, and not a lot of money.

You will quickly see that the monthly stipend of $80 is more than some of your clients have in their pocket, ever. And that when you have room and board taken care of (though you will probably have to budget some to cover those), $80 of “fun money” left over is not that bad of a deal at all.

Then you will run out of shampoo, of toothpaste, and the holes in your jeans have worn completely through. And a friend gets married and sends you the link to her registry, an all of a sudden $80 (or the $20 you have left over after buying jeans and toothpaste, well, make that $18.03 because you treated yourself to a cup of coffee earlier that month) is not a lot of money at all.

But while you may have to turn down social invitations and send people homemade gifts, you will be surrounded by others doing the same thing. You will never worry about going hungry or becoming homeless. And you will realize that’s all the financial stability you need.

You will have fights over what to have for dinner

There is no way around it – deciding what to eat will be tough. You will shudder at the thought of putting expired, canned, processed, commodity food into your body since to you, “simple living” meant returning to nature, to real food, to wholeness. Or you will roll your eyes at the suggestion that you only shop organically, since to you “simple living” meant eating in solidarity with those rummaging through garbage cans and shopping at the food bank.

But let it go. You are breaking bread together, and that is what is important.

You will work hard

You will come home at the end of the day tired, exhausted. Not every day, maybe not every week, but there will be days. It may be the ache of an honest days work, or it may be the relentless frustration of ramming your head up against a wall of social injustice day after day. You will work hard. So rest hard; play hard.

You will deeply regret your decision to do JVC

There will be times of deep doubt, where you are thisclose to calling home and booking the next flight out of there. You will hate your job, your community mates, your town, the winters, the eighth-day-in-a-row of tomato soup for dinner. And you will be done. You quit, you tell everyone.

Have a little mercy on yourself, on those around you. Take a deep breath and rest a while. The (especially in the northwest) long hard winters cooped up with nothing to do but fight with your housemates can take a toll. Get out and stretch your legs a little. Pray hard. Remember why you came on this adventure in the first place and what you have left that you would like to do. Spring will come, and you will survive and wonder what was ever the problem in the first place.

You will have fun

Despite the work, the struggles, the challenges, you will have a blast. Hiking or biking or canoeing. Getting your car stuck in the mountains in rural Montana. Getting lost on your way back from Canada. Spinning around in the backyard until you fall down. Playing games you haven’t played since you were in middle school. Exploring your house and the treasures left from JVs past. Potlucks. Lots and lots of potlucks. Playing with the children in your day care. Cracking jokes with a homeless man. There will be joy.

You will make a difference

You probably won’t see it, but it will be there. I promise you.

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This weekend we were off to New Hampshire.

Please, any rumors about one of us declaring our candidacy for presidency is purely rumors.

Actually one of our darling housemates from JVC was getting married to the love of her life.

This is the only picture I have of the eight of us. The bride was the girl to the far right.

So yeah, I hang out with one of my former housemates 24/7 but other than that I don’t get to see the crew as much as I’d like. I have seen everyone since the day we left, but we haven’t all been in the same place since August 3, 2009. Sadly, we couldn’t make that happen this weekend either, but 7 out of the 8 of us got together.

It was a short trip. We only got about 24 hours together then John and I headed to Boston to spend the day with my cousin. But it was worth it. It was so worth it.

Getting ready the morning we were going to meet up, I was blow drying my hair. I was not enjoying blow drying my hair, which is not saying much because I very rarely enjoy it. But I remember thinking “ugh, why am I trying to make myself look nice?” Then I remembered I was meeting up with people that I haven’t seen in years and thought, eh, maybe I should put in the effort.

But why?

This group of people has seen me at my worst and and at my best. They know what I look like in the hospital (little GI bug, no big deal), after getting 1 hour of sleep, after a night of too-much-fun, after being puked on by a baby, after hiking 15 miles, after biking home in the rain.

Let me tell you, none of those are a good look for me.

But they love me anyway. And with this group – I feel no need to impress them. You know how when you get together with high school friends you want to show your successful side, your college friends you want them to see you as cool or hip or one of those things I’ve never been able to manage.

But with my former housemates there is no point of putting on a facade. I can be honest with these guys. No point in being someone I’m not. They’ve seen me in good and bad, and I’m not just talking about hair days. Times when I’ve been a great friend and when I’ve been a flat out jerk. When I’ve needed some love and when I’ve been up for adventure.

It’s a relief to be authentic for a day. I should try it more often.

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Last night I popped over to the JV house to say hi to a few old friends. They were two JVs doing their second year in Hays, MT, a tiny, tiny reservation town out in Eastern Montana. Their year had finished up (since they were teaching at a school) and were now touring Glacier and Yellowstone Park before heading off to their final retreat. A few hours of sharing JVC war stories made me all nostalgic, and so I thought I’d share my one biggest lesson from JVC.

Just a brief info session of JVC if you haven’t heard of it: JVC is the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a program that sends volunteers to sites all over the country and the world to commit to a year of full time service to an agency and the community they are living in. It began in Alaska back in the 1950s, when college students were sent to help at a small school up in St. Mary’s, Alaska. It was founded by the Jesuits. If you aren’t familiar with Catholicism, their are basically different orders of priests, monks, nuns, etc. That doesn’t mean they are separate religions, just different organizations within the church. The Jesuits are known for their emphasis on education and  social justice, as well as “Ignatian spirituality.” St. Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits, and promoted self-examination and constant reflection as a spiritual practice.  JVC has four values it lasts its members to live by: social justice, simplicity, community, and spirituality. As far as community goes – you live in a house with other volunteers. For simplicity – you make $80 a month, plus get a community stipend that covers room and board. That stipend is pretty small too; last year ours was about $450 a person to cover rent, food, electricity, travel to and from retreats, heat, & our phone bill.

Now JVC has three branches: the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (which serves the East, Midwest, South, and Southwest parts of the country), Jesuit Volunteer International (the world!), and JVC Northwest, which focuses on Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The Northwest region is where JVC started and so it has many more placements and thus its easier for it to be its own organization.

I did 2 years in JVC – one in Spokane, WA working at a day care center, and one in Missoula, MT working at a drop-in center for homeless people who were under the influence.  I met my husband in my first year of JVC.

So anyway – what is this life shattering realization I came to whilst in JVC?

I can be friends with anybody.

Okay, scratch that. I’m not going to be friends with everybody. Some people will just have personalities that I don’t mesh with. I won’t get along with everybody. But what I mean is, the variables I used in high school and college to determine if someone was a potential friend (are they similar to me? about my own age? do we have the same interests? same values?) don’t really hold up anymore.

My first year in Spokane, we established that out of the 8 of us, none of us would probably have been friends in college. I mean, we would have probably been friendly, and maybe good acquaintances, but we probably wouldn’t have hung out in the same social circles to really get close. But nevertheless – we were great friends. Okay, we had our issues, and things got bumpy in the winter, but really, we complained a lot over nothing. Community is stressful and difficult, but the relationships I developed were priceless. Even if they had to go through fire first.

My second year, I hung out with homeless people. A lot. I worked 12 hour shifts, and my job description was basically “keep the peace,” so I had a lot of down time to shoot the breeze with folks. Can’t really say before that I would’ve enjoyed chit chatting with a high school drop out, or a convicted felon, or drug addict, but heck, I got along with a lot of them great! I’m not saying we became ‘friends’ because that’s obviously a boundary issue, but I realized I could share with, talk, relate to, and enjoy people whose lives were vastly different than mine.

It might sounds simple, but really, it was pretty life-changing. I don’t have to look for friendship just in 20-something college educated girls anymore (okay, sounds awful, but lets admit it – that’s what we tend to do!). The whole world is brimming with potential teachers and friends.

Hopefully that doesn’t make me sound like I was an awful, judgmental “to good to be friends with you” person before I did JVC. But heck, I probably was.

Have you had any life-changing lessons?

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Los Angeles

Next stop on our road trip was LA. We got there late Friday Saturday evening, just in time for dinner. We have impeccable timing. We were staying with one of our housemates from JVC in Spokane, Jon. He’s also in law school, so the guys had lots of (boring) things to talk about. It made me laugh because whenever John and Jon get together they usually talk sports non-stop, but this time they threw things like tort reform and habeas corpus into mix.

Not really those two things specifically, but they are the only two legal terms I can think of at 8 am.

Can you read that sign? It says “Doctor Office.” We were in Venice Beach, and several street vendors asked if we wanted to “get legal.” Marijuana, people, I’m talking about marijuana. It has been a big fight here about if its regulated enough, but California makes Montana’s laws look like a dictatorship.

Dodger Stadium

Jon pointed out that while the Lakers are popular, the Dodgers are really LA’s team, since real people can afford to go to them. We sat in front of a hilarious 4 year old girl, who was determined to cheer despite knowing zilch about baseball. She kept yelling “Strike him out!” no matter who was at bat and attempting to start a “Let’s go Dodgers!” cheer with her squeaky little voice. After one failed attempt she turned to her dad and asked, “Why is no one clapping?”

We all got Dodgers snuggies, too. Win.

Beautiful sunset behind the stadium.

After the game (Dodgers won!) we spent an hour walking around the parking lot looking for our car. We didn’t park in one of those areas that had a number, and every corner of the parking lot looked exactly the same. Plus it was multileveled. It was awesome.

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Happy Easter!

Below is a re-post of my Easter last year. My JVC community travelled to Hays, a tiny reservation town in Eastern Montana. By tiny, I mean like 700 people. The nearest grocery store is an hour away. It was the most beautiful Easter I’ve ever experienced, and since most of you weren’t reading my blog last year, I thought I’d share this. Hope you have a blessed Easter and find some time to rejoice and relax today!


His hands shook as freely and unpredictably as the flame of the candle he held so precariously. He spoke slowly, waiting patiently for the words to reappear as they disappeared in the flickering light. The children were amazed by the dancing light in the bowl which sat on the table beside him. My heart leaped up into my throat every time they decided to see whose fingers were brave enough to get close. As the tiny ones leaned on the table, the alcohol sloshed to one side of the bowl and the flames would leap up higher, and eyes would open wider.

This would a far cry from the Easter Vigils of my youth. A nicely lit wood-burning fire would be lit outside in a well-contained pit. But this year, I was in a room another world away. This year, in a small gym, crowded around a table precariously balancing the previously mentioned lit bowl of fire, in the community of Hays, a town of 400 in the Fort Belknap reservation.

The procession thankfully began, and those gathered processed one-half of the way around the gym. Although it was only 6pm, the room was pitch black. Blankets hung on the walls, blocking the light. I found this mildly ironic that we were trying to make night come early, especially after the long cold Montanan winters. But I imagined several of the parishioners had long drives home.

The priest, an 82 year old Jesuit, sang on, continuing to struggle in the unreliable candlelight. He must be used to persevering, living on land like this, I mused, and the fidgeting of the crowd definitely didn’t phase him. He finished his prayer, and the lights came on.

“Okay, time for the baptisms!” he yelled.

“JOSEPH!” A nun, quite obviously from New York, yelled. “You forgot the Liturgy of the Word!”

Thus began the liturgy of the world. Children ran wild, mothers pursued. Members of the congregation read, in that quick, flat reservation accent accentuated by nerves and punctuated by cries of children. A college student on an alternative spring break trip sang a responsorial psalm. She was one of about a dozen students from Michigan, who looked utterly bored (or exhausted) throughout the mass. Also in attendance, and the reason I was there, were the all of the Jesuit Volunteers in Montana.

And then (as the priest predicted it eventually would be) was time for the baptisms. About a half dozen children were preparing to make their sacraments this night. It was easy to pick them out in the crowd. The girls’ hair was perfectly coiffed, even though the curls would soon melt in the baptism pool. The boys stood tall, although they could not resist nudging their younger brothers mischievously.

The room was filled with the smell of sweetgrass and sage, as the herbs for the smudging were burnt. Once again, I was reminded of my Easter Vigils where the smell of incense hung heavy in the air. An elder, holding the bowl of smoking herbs, circled the bowl around the children – to the north, south, east, and west. The ceremony of smoke and fire, and the ceremony of water.

This was not a solemn, reverent occasion, although I fear I am making it sound that way. Mothers, Fathers, Godmothers, Godfathers crowded around the hot tub (ahem, baptism pool). Cameras flashed, and girls ran to change into their communion dresses. At one point, I stood up.

“Are we supposed to be standing?” Bree asked.

“I don’t think there are any ‘supposed to’s’ in this mass.” I replied.

I snuck out in the midst of the baptism to run over to the JV house, a mere 50 feet from the church, to use their bathroom. The legendary winds of the plains whipped my long skirt and drew it out into the wind. The sun was setting over the…

I have no words for it. They have all been used.

The wide, open plains.

The vast expanse.

The house of sky.

It felt as if I was standing on the entire world.

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Hi. No apologies about not blogging much lately, because I realize that’s annoying. But just FYI, I am writing my thesis proposal so posts might be scarce over the next few days/week. Don’t loose faith!

So last time I wrote about detachment. On a related note, I want to talk real quick about simplicity. I do believe that Christians are called to a life of simplicity. To live in solidarity with the poor, like Oscar Romero did.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

On the other hand, I don’t believe that simple living requires austerity. It does not need to be an aesthetic way of life. There is moderation.

Give me neither riches nor poverty, but let me be fed with the food that is needful for me. Proverbs 30:8

I know I’ve been talking a lot about trying to resist materialism lately (see here and here). But today I’m just going to embrace it and tell you about one of my favorite things. I think part of simple living is not just taking material objects for granted, but appreciating what you do have, and cutting the stuff that you could do without.

I bought this quilt when I lived in Spokane doing JVC. Back then, I made $80 a month (plus money for room and board, though that wasn’t much either). This quilt cost me $25, over a week’s salary essentially. But it was worth it.

I wanted to have a souvenir of the experience (little then did I know I’d get to keep my then-boyfriend now-husband as a souvenir). At the time, I was working for Catholic Charities Spokane, one of the largest charities that side of the state. One month in the newsletter I saw an ad for the Quilting Ladies of Spokane.

These ladies have been sewing for 100 years. (I think some of them have literally been sewing for a 100 years). They don’t buy any of the material; a good amount of it is repurposed. For example, the backing on my quilt looks to be a bed sheet, not muslin. The liner is apparently reused liners from old electric blankets that no longer work. All of the quilts are just simple block quilts, and they range in size from twin to king. The twin ones go for $15 and the largest for $35. All of the proceeds go to Catholic Charities Spokane.

They only sell these quilts on Thursday, the day they set up in the basement of the Chancery to whirl away on those machines. I worked every Thursday, but one day during my lunch I biked furiously downtown to stop by, spend 10 minutes picking out a quilt, and bike furiously back.

It’s quite a site to see. There are piles and piles and piles of fabric squares, all arranged by color. In every room in the basement, there are women hunched over sewing machines. The operation is nothing fancy. Big cardboard boxes were full of the finished projects, with “Twin,” “Full,” “Queen” scribbled on the side in marker. I picked out the one I liked the best, hopped back on my bike, shoved a peanut butter sandwich in my mouth, and was back to work.

I love this quilt. I love the bright and sunny patterns. I love the kind of funky patterns, like the leopard print.

I wrapped up in this quilt during the cold winter months in Spokane. Its sunniness brightened up my basement room during my second year. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s special to me all the same.

What’s one of your favorite objects?


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Oscar Romero

Way back when, in the days of my Jesuit Volunteering, I lived in the Oscar Romero house.

It looked like that. Except it wasn’t sepia in real life.

It also had really ugly wallpaper and a weird candelabra that we didn’t realize was plastic until the we took it down to paint over the wallpaper that spring.

The house only had one shower for 8 people, but other than that, it was a good house.

Our house, Casa de Romero, was named after Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated today March 24th in El Salvador. He was shot while saying Mass.

Romero was a champion of the poor and oppressed. He was a proponent of liberation theology, essentially a belief institutional sin. Meaning entire governments or companies could be guilty of the sin of oppressing people. Liberation theology taught a “preferential option for the poor,” meaning that the poor should always be considered in decisions of policy making and the like. Liberation theologists believe that it is our duty to begin building a just society on earth, to build God’s kingdom in the present. The Catholic Church has not fully embraced liberation theology, as it was a movement often associated with violence since it sprung out of the violence in Latin America late-mid 20th century. Pope Benedict has asserted that there should not be a preferential option for the poor, as all are equally deserving of God’s grace.

Think what you will about liberation theology (like everything it probably gets some things right and somethings wrong) the point is that as Christians we are called to love God’s children regardless of factors such as economic status, social status, or any status. We absolutely cannot ignore those who are the poorest among us.

I’m no expert on 1980s Latin American politics, so I won’t try to explain all the reasons why Romero was murdered. But basically, it was his love of the poor and belief that their voices should be heard that made him an international figure, and thus a target.

There is a poem that was read at Oscar Romero’s funeral, and is often misattributed to him. (It was really written by Bishop Ken Untener). A verse of this poem was written on one wall of our house, and after long days at work, we’d plop down on the couch and stare idly at it. I only consciously read it through a handful of times, but the words have sunk into my heart. We knew we wouldn’t change the world in a year, but we had to have hope that we were working towards something greater.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

God’s work is not done. It was not finished in the last pages of the Bible, or in the yesteryears of great famous saints. It continues today, but it will not finish today. We must continue to fight the good fight, the fight to spread hope and love and justice to the poor and all of God’s people.

And so I leave you with a few quotes of Oscar Romero, and one Jon Stewart clip in case you are wondering how Romero is being remembered today. I also highly recommend the movie “Romero” if you are interested in learning more about this great advocate for peace.

“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.”

“Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world.”

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.”

“Aspire not to have more, but to be more.”

The Daily Show on Oscar Romero

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Don’t Mess With Textbooks
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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Crotchety Old Lady

I’m going to turn into a crotchety old lady, and I’m practicing now. I already have a chronic illness, but unfortunately my husband is allergic to cats. So I guess I will have to resort to writing letters to the editors.

Which I did.

You can see it here:


Don’t want to click over? Fine. Though you really should to see the funny comments people wrote.


Each year in Montana, thousands of AmeriCorps members and members of affiliated programs serve communities throughout the state, providing invaluable services such as education, health care and environmental preservation.

In Missoula, programs such as the YWCA and Poverello Center Inc. rely on the services of these volunteers. In return for their service, these volunteers receive a small living stipend and an education award upon completion of the program.

What does our congressman say in response to this service? “No thanks.”

Rep. Denny Rehberg has proposed the termination of the AmeriCorps program, which would result in the loss of over $15.1 million in funding for the program in Montana. Six thousand seniors in the Senior Corps would lose their living stipend, colleges would lose an opportunity to inspire responsible service-oriented citizenship without the Learn and Serve program, and young college graduates would lose an opportunity to gain necessary job skills. AmeriCorps provides a variety of necessary services to Montanans, but just as importantly, it encourages service, benefits the economy and reduces unemployment.

In addition to voting to terminate this program, last May Rehberg voted against a bill (HR 1338) to “recognize the important contributions” and “acknowledge the significant accomplishments of the AmeriCorps members.” Rehberg not only doesn’t see the need for service in Montana, but he even refuses to encourage it.

AmeriCorps is an investment our country and our state’s future. By proposing its elimination, Rehberg has done all of Montana a disservice.


Unfortunately they didn’t use my catchy title, “Congressman Says No Thanks to Service.”

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If you ever invite me over to your house, I will probably look in your medicine cabinet.

If I stay, I will definitely use your shampoo, not the one I bought.

I will be super-excited to try whatever lotion you have by your sink.

Ooh…lemon rosemary. Mmm…citrus mint.

Not cause I’m nosy. (well, maybe that too). But because I just love trying new beauty products. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

This weekend we are staying at my sister in law’s apartment while she is away on grad school interviews. I’m jealous. Her apartment is in a quaint little town with a beautiful view of the mountains. Her living room has fun teal curtains and cute purple accent pillows. It’s cute, it’s modern, it’s girly.

My apartment is brown.

When I go home to visit my parent’s, I raid my sister’s closets like mad. No matter what, their clothes will always be way more stylish and exciting than whatever brown sweater is crammed in my suitcase.

And their makeup? Oh, I’m all over it.

The problem with my borrowing/pining habit, is that I can’t just look at my sister in law’s crinkly and lush curtains and think “oh, nice.” I think, “oh, I wish I had that.”

I see my sister’s make up and think “Hmm, I should really hit up a Clinique sale.”

Gimme. Gimme. Gimme.

When I was in JVC, I had to give up a lot of those “oh cute shirt I should buy it” type thoughts. Not that I would say I was overly materialistic before. Probably no one would describe themselves as overly materialistic. But I’ve always been cheap, which helped temper my materialistic side.

My husband and I don’t exactly have disposable income, or really any income, but we’re still better off financially than when I was living on my $80 a month stipend. And so all of my “gimme” feelings have been creeping back up. I kind of thought two years with two shopping trips had cured me of these desires. Guess I was wrong.

I want to live simply. When I was in JVC, I wasn’t missing bumbleberry lip gloss and round-toe high heels. When I was in Haiti, I didn’t think about how I really needed a new computer. I don’t miss those things when they aren’t available.

So how come when they are, I convince myself I really should buy them?

I think its because I see my sister in law’s pink and green bright bathroom and think, “I wish my bathroom was that bright.” But really what I’m thinking is, “I wish I was a bright and sunny person.” I see my little sister’s pearl earrings and think “I wish I could pull those off.” But really I’m thinking “I wish I was a classy and graceful person.”

I know that we’re being fed a lie. That if we buy X, Y, or Z, we will become X, Y, and Z. That if I bought that new Kleen Kanteen, I will becoming an effortlessly cool environmentalist. I know that its a lie. I’ve seen Mad Men. I know its a lie, but at the same time I want to be a put-together stylish woman, not just a grungy hippie.

So why is it a trap I keep falling for? How do we temper our desire for material goods while remaining true to the simple life Christ called us to? Does anyone else struggle with the desire to reject materialism, but enjoy modern culture?

I dunno. I don’t have time to ponder this full cause I want to go blow dry my hair with my sister in law’s honey scented styling mousse before we go out to dinner. But if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.


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