My Commute Home

David Burman

One of my favorite things about work is the commute home.

It’s not that I dislike the work itself, but it’s so busy. I work some of the time at a shelter for homeless youth, and there are not many moments to catch my breath. There’s always a youth who needs bus tickets, or a youth who needs to be reminded to do the dishes, a meeting to go, or an encounter with a youth to log, or even mop buckets to empty.

But then when I clock out and leave the shelter something changes – all of a sudden there is nothing to do but walk to the bus stop and get on the bus. Since I can do these things without thinking about, my brain is free to process what happened at the shelter during the day. If it was a hard day this means I can breathe a bit and let my mind relax.

But what happens more often is that I find myself being grateful for the experience in a way I wasn’t during my shift. All of a sudden all the events of the day, and all of the youth and staff at the shelter, become transformed from hectic waystations marking the passage of the day to a complete picture – I can appreciate all the quirks, foibles, and humanness of the people I encountered.

I guess that sometimes space away from a place is the perfect way to help me appreciate that space.

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The Spirit of ESC Christmas

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Once upon a time through mountains and snow, there lived four young tots in Denver, Colorado.

One a self-described “indoor cat,” she called herself Courtney. Fancy that!

Alaska was another, always in learning-mode; she was an expert in foreign language and even Morse code!

One was a postulant soon to give sermons; on the street he was known as Lil Davey Burman.

A lover of the Dolphins and tasty hors d’oeuvres the last tot was called Andrew Cornelius Watson the third.

With hearts full of joy and a big fire roasting, one tot realized Christmas Day was approaching!

“Alas!” said Courtney, giving the silence a rift, “We only have three days to get Rebecca a gift!”

“Of course!” David cried, “How could we have slipped?” Then Andrew caused a commotion and tripped.

“Perhaps too much eggnog?” he asked while burpin’. Alaska then peered her eyes through the curtains.

“Either way,” she said, “the snow is getting heavy. We must adjourn nightly prayer and then go get ready!”

So the tots all got bundled and strapped on their boots, on their way to find their director a gift that would suit.

The streets were so messy no buses were running, but luckily all of the tots were very cunning.

“Over here!” Andrew, with all his might, said, “we can use this tree trunk to build a big sled!”

But once the sled was built Andrew started to mope, “this sled is dope but we’ll be stuck without rope!”

“Don’t fret,” Alaska said, seeing gloom on their faces, “we can replace the rope with my shoelaces!”

Courtney said, “without something on the bottom to glide us, we’ll jerk. Here, these metal poles from the street signs should work!”

Just then the dogs next door started barking and Andrew yelled “Shush!” “No! No!” David cried, “we can use them to mush!”

Alaska asked, “well now that we have a sled, where should we make our way? All of the stores at the mall are closed today.”

“I know of a place!” David said, grabbing the strings, “the magical land they call Steamboat Springs!”

“Then quickly young Burman, let us make haste!” Andrew called out with a Christmasy smile on his face.

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It took them some time as they were without engine, but soon the tots arrived in the town of ski bingin’.

“Well what do we do now?” Andrew wanted to know, “if we don’t move fast we’ll freeze in this snow.”

Then a sight for sore eyes that stopped all the tots’ doubtin’! The sight of a snowboarder came down from the mountain!

As the snowboarder got closer their excitement continued to grow; it was clear now it was their friend, Harlowe.

“Hello St. Columbans!” Harlowe said with a cry, “follow me out of the storm, we must get you inside!”

After a quick trip the tots were bundled and warm; now they had to get to thinking during the cold winter storm.

Their minds were burnt out but they were in luck, just then three others pulled up in a truck.

“Hello!” Cried a familiar voice through their litany. Before them appeared Georgi, Catie, and Brittany.

“Thank goodness you’re here!” the St. Columbans said together, “we’re in quite a pickle and the more heads the better!”

“What seems to be troubling?” Catie then asked, “whatever it is Centennial will help with the task!”

Courtney said, “we came all this way for a present for Rebecca! We’re all broke but are we full of spirit? You betcha!”

“Well,” Brittany said with a jolly old laugh, “with that attitude and our help the time will be half!”

Georgi asked, “What if, instead of a gift that costs money, we whip up one of my delicious recipes for Mrs. Crummey.”

“Of course!” they all yelled, “we’re all cotton-headed ninny muggins! We should just whip up some cookies and muffins!”

So with Centennial house’s help, the girls assumed the role of cookie cutters while Andrew and David whipped eggs and churned butter.

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Within no time they had finished the delicious sweet treats, but they only had hours to get back to Denver to eat!

“Don’t worry Columbans,” Catie said, “going back will be better! My snow tires can handle any kind of weather!”

So joined with Centennial house, the tots were all fixed; speeding down the road towards Rebecca and Rick’s.

After a couple of hours they reached the foot of the mountains, where they were greeted at the party by Travis and Mary Halpin.

“Hello good friends,” Mary said with a smile, “it would appear you’ve been on an adventure of hundreds of miles.”

“How could you tell?” asked David, who was quite confused. Travis laughed and pointed down to their snow-covered shoes.

“Come inside!” they declared, “we’ve got cocoa and cider, tell us of your travels before you become too tired!”

So both houses joined the party where there were good friends and singing; Alaska joined David in some holiday bell ringing.

Mary and Travis told stories of past holidays together, while Tory and Nathalie were busy knitting sweaters.

The Centennials caroled, Rebecca and Courtney discussed the book of Mark, while Andrew and Rick talked of new episodes of South Park.

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The tots laughed into the night until the sky was all sunny, happy they’d finally gotten their gift for Mrs. Crummey.

So here’s a Happy Christmas to you and your peeps, and I hope my poorly photoshopped pictures didn’t give you the creeps!

The Importance of Playfulness

How is it December 20th? This advent season has flown by, and actually life seems to be picking up a lot of speed all of the sudden. Georgi and I were talking this morning about how it seems like Halloween was just here. As you age, life moves faster. My brother shared this realization with me years ago and my eyes are suddenly seeing the truth within his words.

Although days, months, and years zoom by, the sentence doesn’t end there. We can either lead a boring life or we can be enchanted by the mystery of our existence! I have been ebbing and flowing between the two — basing my choice on how I am feeling that day. And I’ll let you in on something, living this way is EXHAUSTING. Plus, I don’t believe our playful God created humans to be a humdrum.
As I sit in my new room (Harlowe and I switched rooms this past Sunday — Georgi and I share now) with warm yellow walls, I am exhausted from being serious. Pondering serious questions. Having serious conversations. Worrying about serious issues. You get the idea, I have been like a light switch of either goofy Brittany or serious Brittany. Not both together.
Add on the fact that this past week was the busiest work week I have ever experienced (making over 100 calls to middle school parents in 2 days wowza)— totally understandable with the holidays. However, that did not make it easy. I barely felt like I could be present to the work in front of me and the people.
There is goodness in this. A delightful (and needed) lesson sprouted — We all need playfulness! For our Tuesday formation time, Catie gave us gals the reigns to decide what to do with our morning! There was much indecisiveness from Harlowe and myself, but we ended up grabbing breakfast at this cozy, local restaurant called Winona’s. We then went to Georgi’s work site, Lift Up, to take an ugly christmas sweater photo. This kooky (which has become my favorite word), goofy day together was needed for each of our well-beings. Snow fell and my heart lightened, my body relaxed, and I genuinely smiled. This was huge! I was unaware of how I had been responding like a dang robot. I was able to bring my whole self into the conversation and physical space; the crazy part is I actually sensed the difference. I shared my thoughts because some things in this crazy head of mine ought to be heard! Yes I have felt tired this past week, but I saw and felt myself open up to being where I am — and that’s a pretty incredible thing!
So here’s the dealio: we need playfulness in order to be sincere, present, and fully ourselves. I firmly believe it. After tubing down a huge mountain on retreat, I was significantly happier and more myself! While dancing around our living room like a crazy person, I felt at ease. Driving home from our retreat last week, Harlowe and I decided to stop at Rabbit Ears Pass where folks backcountry ski and snowshoe. We walked around in the most snow my eyes have ever seen! Y’all, I was in a long dress and snow covered my bare legs. I was stinking cold! But, it was a delightful, magical, whimsical, spontaneous, out of the ordinary event. And I think everyone needs this! We began our life as little people playing each and every day —and  somewhere along the way most of us let go of this part of our essence. I’m choosing holy belly laughter, sacred silliness, and divine curiosity within the routine! I hope you too can embrace your innately playful nature. Thankful for a God who is interested and invested in the business of whimsy this Advent season.

Happy Christmas to all of you lovely folks!

With love and kookiness,
Brittany

Rest Daily and Retreat Monthly (or more if necessary)

On Thursday, ST. Columba and Centennial will meet once again for a ColoESC retreat. This time, we have a bunch of fun things planned, a couple to host us and a wintery mountainside to enjoy. When applying for ESC, I found the retreats an attractive quality over similar service organizations. Other programs didn’t offer the same number of retreats, which seemed to me to be a real shame for the overall formation impact. On one hand, it’s an opportunity to change up the regular flow of work-weekend-work-weekend, which I find will renew my spirits even if I complain about every little thing related to the trip. On the other hand, retreats allow for some much needed time to release the steam on the pressure cooker that is our service experience. Additionally, two critical things will happen for me during this retreat; I will get to sleep in until 7 or 8 am – a couple hours later than my normal 5:45 am wake up and I will get to journal.

When I first decided to do this “Jesus thing”, as Christianity was so lovingly referred to by some people associated with my former lifestyle, retreats were a comfort. Let me tell you a little bit about how my college ministry retreats were structured:

1. 100-200 people would take part in our Fall retreat in the middle of nowhere Illinois.

2. We held 3 services daily so the bulk of the teaching would take place in front of the whole group.

3. Small groups were assigned and could not be with people you felt comfortable with. Ok, maybe you could have 1 friend, they weren’t so cruel.

4. Night times were made for FUN. I mean massive games of hide and seek, rolling down hills in old tractor tires and flirty bonfires for boys and girls that needed a reason to cuddle.

During my first few experiences I found the most comfort in these two ways; one, I could hide a little bit amongst the crowd when we were in the big group atmosphere and two, I could come out a little when we were in the small groups. I wasn’t great at sharing what was going on in my heart. I wasn’t great at the whole singing songs out loud thing. But I was getting better little by little after the impact of each retreat. Retreats forced me to ride a train of thought for longer than 2 hours. Among my most formative memories for my faith are the moments at Fuel Fall Retreats where something that had stewed for 48 hours let forth a satisfying feast.

As time went on, retreats were a place for me to COME ALIVE, like dressing up as Effie Trinket to be used as a pawn for the entire group to play with. Or, like approaching students that God had placed on my heart and praying, out loud with them. These 2-3 day long trips proved to be a place for me to experience the heavy, deep and real side of my faith. I think that’s why I wanted to be a part of a program that offered intentional retreat space for the community. Knowing that I would have some long simmering stews during my year with ESC, I wanted a place where I could ride my heavy, deep and real train for an extended period of time and release the steam. (My the metaphors are confusing me!)

Our first retreat as a cohort wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for (I’m not sure that’s a story I’d like to write this year) so I am looking forward to a more positive result after this retreat. Here are the top 5 things I’ll be taking to the retreat to stew with:

1. How do I love my corps-mates like Jesus?

2. What ways can I improve my communication with the students at my workplace and my corps-mates?

3. How can I take my faith into the workplace more aptly without trying to evangelize every person I meet?

4. How do I cope with all the tragedy my students deal with in light of the Gospel and the goodness of God?

5. How can I let go of expectation and live in anticipation?

I have participated in only a dozen of retreats, but I can firmly say I count on them. I have been told many times that resting and retreating are crucial to the mental success of a Christian. Not only is it a Christ practice, it’s a critical soul practice. To get in line with the stews and heavy thoughts we have to deal with, we have to sit in silence and listen for the voice of God. ESPECIALLY if the voice of God is a still small voice. In my experience, when I let a thought stick around for a little while, ask God for help to figure it out and then wait for some holy perspective, I get the still small voice to expand.

At ST. Columba, we often talk about how each of us can rest. For me, it’s morning prayer and retreats. I can fill up for months’ worth of pouring out during a solid 48 hour retreat. That’s my plan for this weekend. Rest and retreat to fill up. Pour it out on those God has brought us to. Repeat until sanctified with Christ.

-Courtney