There’s Freedom in being myself! <3

1Getting_practical

I have always been a very logical and practical person, because well… I had to be. It’s human nature to survive and be self sufficient. Some people are thinkers while others are feelers, and I have been a thinker. Dreaming wasn’t something I had time for; I needed to figure out how I was going to support myself financially and ensure that I wouldn’t let people down if I didn’t become successful, because ultimately, I have so much potential, right? I have always taken pride in being a very organized and disciplined person and in always knowing where my next steps in life were- whether that be school or doing a year of service. As my year of service is coming to a close in June, I have found myself in a bit of a tizzy trying to figure out what my next steps are, after all, our society tells us that if we don’t have a plan then we are lazy, have no sense of direction, etc. I have applied to Azusa Pacific University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate program (that is a mouth full, luckily you’re reading it!) because one of my passions is mental health… yet another passion of mine is to lead worship and to travel… while another is eating healthy and working out and just leading an all around healthy life style. So, I was faced with the decision of “which one do I choose?” Should I go to grad school and put worship on hold? Or should I try and find a full time worship position somewhere and hopefully I’d make enough money to support myself… but that’s not likely. Or maybe I could just teach Zumba classes and hopefully that would sustain me..

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Leading worship with my best friends, Troi’elle Green, Ashley Smith and new friend, Abraham Arce!

 

But then, a light bulb came on and the Lord revealed to me that He is the God of impossibilities. Why does it have to be just one? Why can’t I do all of them? Why does it have to be one or the other? The Lord has given me a peace about pursuing my dreams and ensuring me that He has great plans for my future and that He has indeed placed those passions in my heart. I don’t see myself sitting in an office everyday from 9-5, I see myself traveling, speaking at seminars, leading worship and teaching at seminars on mental health. So, why limit myself (or limit God rather) to just one? If I can dream it, He can make it a reality if I allow Him to. I believe that this generation has amazing opportunities and has the potential to change the world! We are a generation that WILL go after our dreams, we are a creative generation that is continually coming up with new ways to bring in income and better yet new ways to exalt our Lord.

After realizing all of this, I felt a sense of peace knowing that I don’t have to conform to the world’s standards and choose one profession, that my life isn’t summed up based on what I “do”. I am free to be me and to go after what I am passionate about, and now I know that the dreams I have are only impossible if I don’t try.

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My face after realizing that I serve an AMAZING God who is capable of all things!

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We Have More Strength Then We Know

I want to start off with the fact that we hit 6 months in February! Six months in the land of dreams. Six months of new adventures. Six months of self-examination. For me, this week also marks one year since I traveled across the US to check out what this St. Joseph Worker program was all about. And here I am. I had no idea that my life would look like this a year ago. No idea that I would be a case manager. Zero clue that I would have just finished my first half-marathon. Couldn’t even imagine the personal growth. My life has taken so many fabulous turns in this year, and I just want to offer up some serious gratitude for the life I live.

But what I’m really here to write about is the wonderful adventure that the St. Joseph Workers started all the way back in September.

March 9th I ran my first marathon, with the girls at my side. What once started as an outlandish idea, bloomed into this beautiful project that allowed us to work for a cause much bigger than any of us. Teaming with World Vision allowed us not to “run aimlessly” but rather run for a cause we felt deeply connected to.

First off I need to thank all of you have been there from the beginning to finish. Whether it was a donation of workout clothes (shout out to my big Sis and Bro-in-Law), our very expensive running sneakers, donations to Team World Vision, liking my status on Facebook, prayers, suggestions or enough encouragement to last me 13.1 miles, we’ve all been so blessed from the beginning. I don’t know if I ever truly realized how tangible the power of prayers and positive thinking could be. I could feel it, especially around mile 23 (I ran the LA Marathon course, but the second half of it. My partner in crime, I mean charity relay partner, Gabby ran the first 13.1 miles and Michele ran the full) when the idea of giving up briefly crossed my mind. It was brief for a few reasons: 1) because I had come too far to stop now and 2) I knew that I couldn’t give up, not with so many people counting on me and cheering me on. All my thanks goes out to YOU. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without you. Running a marathon is like no experience I’ve ever had before. And it’s truly because of the community that surrounds you. From the streets of Hollywood to the interwebs to my fellow SJWs, there is such a powerful connection. Also, a special shout out to the Sisters of St. Joseph who supported us from day one of this crazy adventure. They support us so much, both through donations, well-wishes and prayers. We are deeply indebted to you and you amazing women were definitely part of my inspiration for finishing.

Ok, enough sap, and here’s all the juicy deets you came to this blog for 🙂

The day before the marathon was filled with all sorts of uncertainty.  Will we survive? Will KT Tape actually give us super powers? And most importantly, does that have carbs? My roommates and I headed to the LA Convention Center to pick up our bibs. It was amazing seeing all the different types of people in this room. All shapes and sizes, all fitness levels, all convened under one roof for the same crazy mission: to complete a marathon. For me, I was super unsure of myself at this point. Am I fit enough? What if I had trained a little better? What if I don’t run fast enough? What if I can’t run at all? So seeing such diversity at this event helped quiet some of my nerves.

There are most definitely carbs in this.

There are most definitely carbs in this.

The almighty bib number

The almighty bib number

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening I also dedicated quite a bit of time to remembering why we were even running the race. Sure, running a marathon for personal fitness is a great goal. However that has never been a great motivator for me. The reason why I even thought about doing the marathon was because of the charity I ran for. Team World Vision holds many events across the United States, raising money for clean water in Africa. Interestingly enough, Team World Vision is a charity I had researched last semester for a project on poverty. I was inspired by the stories of the children who walked up to 9 miles, three times a day to obtain water for their family. There is never a guarantee that the water is clean, and many times it is the female child who is forced to walk under terrible conditions. She is not only forgoing her education, but she is also at risk for being kidnapped and trafficked. Deaths due to dirty water is the #1 most preventable cause of death in the world. One of the reasons why I support Team World Vision is that they teach these villages who lack basic sanitation on how to choose the right system for them. They teach them how to keep is sustainable. They really subscribe to the “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” mentality. The girls and I have put a lot of time and effort to fundraising. We’ve held yard sales, we’ve done talks, we’ve held bake sales. We have become more aware of our own water usage. I wasn’t only running for myself. I was running for those villages, those families, those children, and those young girls. I used my KT Tape as a small reminder that this run meant much more than a finish line for me.

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Race Day:

We needed Strength to wake up this early.

We needed Strength to wake up this early.

Eventually I made it to the 13 mile marker sideline. As the time was getting close for us to make the exchange, I got a call from Gabby indicating that she injured her hip and would be walking the last mile. When she got to my point, I could see how much pain she was in, and knew how hard she worked to reach me. When I saw her I grabbed her hand and, in one of my favorite moments from the entire race, we finished the last leg together. At that point I said goodbye and kept running, leaving everyone behind and starting my own personal journey 🙂

Honestly, a lot of the race was a blur. I tried to stick to running every other traffic light, until I started tiring out. It also started getting hot quite quickly. I hit the pavement at 11am, and it was already in the 80’s. A lot of the race was spent looking for the next water station (and subsequently the next port-a-potty). An amazing part of the race is seeing all the people along the streets. They stand there simply to encourage complete strangers. Some come bearing gifts of red vines and peanut butter pretzels, while others allowed us to continue having a sense of humor while reading their signs. But all of them made sure we knew that we could do it. At times they provided the strength that I was totally lacking.

One concern I did forgot to mention earlier was my diabetes. Despite a few long runs under my belt, I only experienced lows after my runs. However from all the adrenaline, I started the race pretty “high.” Luckily I was able to get it down pretty quickly, but for me that meant two lows in a row. Any runner knows that glucose is imperative to continue running, and I depleted it twice. Luckily around the second low and mile 19, I was able to meet Gabby and Michele’s parents. I will never forget the look on their faces when we saw each other. I think at that moment I could have stopped, knowing all that I had accomplished at that moment. Michele also met up with us and we continued together, struggling through each other’s metaphorical “walls.”

Up until mile 22/23, I was feeling great. Exhausted, but limited pain. That was until out of no where my knee began bothering me. Much like out of scene of a movie, I told Michele to go on without me. I thought I was going to have to walk (or crawl) to the finish line, and didn’t want to slow her down. After attempting to stretch it out, I still experienced a deep pain. At this point I knew I had two choices: quit or keep going. And I knew I didn’t come ten miles to stop now. I stopped to stretch a little more and saw a text on my phone from my mom telling me to keep going. So I took out my beloved rosary beads that were given to my mother by her grandmother and prayed the last two miles of my run. I prayed for my knee, I prayed for my roommates, I prayed for all those who were praying for me, I prayed for all the other runners, I prayed for all those who will now have water because of Team World Vision’s efforts and all those who still need water.

Amazingly enough, I finished the last two miles in twenty minutes. My best time for the entire race. I was able to run to the finish line, with my roommates cheering me on to the end. Hitting that finish line was extremely emotional for me, especially as I called my mom, and we cried together on the phone. To me it still is so surreal that I actually did it. And as my sister so lovingly put it, I always have been stubborn, but even this seemed really out of the realm of possibility for me. To put my mind to something and actually achieve it, has been an incredible experience for me. I may not be the perfect body, I may not be the pinnacle of health, but how can I hate a body that allowed me to achieve the unthinkable? How can I look at my body with anything but love, knowing that it carried through 13.1 miles, barely complaining the entire time? We are so much more than we appear. We have more strength than we know. And we can achieve more than we can imagine.

Thanks for bearing with me on such a long post. And again, thank you for your continued support. You were part of my reasons for finishing.

xoPeace&Love

Kristen

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Change Begins With Awareness

On Saturday, February 8th, the St. Joseph Workers went to the Southern California Partners for Global Justice’s symposium on Human trafficking and healing through the arts. It was important for us to go because justice is one of our four pillars and learn more about human trafficking. A couple weeks before the symposium, I had mentioned to Sister Judy that I wanted to go to more justice events. This particular event had fulfilled that want. It was great to see a symposium done in a different light through the arts.

The opening prayer ritual was a beautiful opening to the day. While the presenter was reading the prayer, there quiet background music and mime, dancing on stage. The presentation brought it all to reality, especially using the arts. There was a play, written by someone who was trafficked. A poster contest of what people thought of the issue. The whole day was about bringing it to reality and to our attention. One of the things that stuck out to me is when someone said “change begins with awareness.” Going to the symposium made me more aware of the issue of human trafficking around the world and in the United States. If you do not know it is happening, then you cannot help. Once you learn about what human trafficking is, you have an obligation to help stop the issue and spread awareness of the issue.  Like the presenter said on Saturday, change begins with awareness. Being aware of human trafficking, changes things. It changes your knowledge on the issue, it makes you pay attention to situations that look suspicious, and makes you an advocate for those who are trafficked.

Here are some facts for you to be more aware of human trafficking:

  • 99% of victims of human trafficking are never rescued (projecthopeLA.org)
  • In the US the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 (projecthopeLA.org)
  • There are 12.3 million slaves worldwide (US state dept)
  • 50% of those trafficked are minors (US DOL 2010)

You might be thinking, “This is a big issue, i can’t do anything to change it” False, you can change it. By reading this, you are already changing the issue because you are aware of the issue. What else can you do change the issue? You can keep your eyes open and call 1 (888) 373 7888 if you suspect a victim of human trafficking.

You can also look for these signs of a child being trafficked:

  • Seems afraid to talk, socialize, or tell where they are from
  • seems traumatized and fearful
  • unable to go out or move about freely or alone
  • never seems to leave the home or workplace
  • physical injuries

The biggest thing you can do is to tell someone about human trafficking. As disgusting and repulsive as human trafficking is and hard talk about. We can’t stop the issue if no one talk about it. So tell your friends. Make them aware of what Human Trafficking is and how awful it is. Be an advocate who can’t stand up for themselves. Be a voice to those who suffer through trafficking. Be aware and pass on your knowledge of awareness. Pray. Prayer changes things, too. Pray about the issue and for an end to it.

After the presentations at the symposium, I am more aware about human trafficking and will be using my knowledge of the issue to pass on to others. Human trafficking needs to end and we can a part of the end of human trafficking.

Remember change begins beings with awareness. Be aware. Be a voice. 

Thankful.

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, here are a few things that a St. Joseph worker has to be thankful for. There are many, many things to list, but I will keep it to this list:

*The St. Joseph Worker Program
* Sister Judy
*All of the Sisters of St. Joseph
*Family and friends
* Faith in God

I am forever thankful for the St. Joseph Worker Program. Without it, I do not think I would have all of the opportunities that I do right now. As a St. Joseph Worker you have a plethora amount of blessings. It all starts out when you start considering to be apart of the program. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to be in the program. A few short months ago, we started our official journey as a SJW and there is not a day that goes by that I Thank God for the program. It is a program that challenges you, challenges you in a good way so that you can grow and learn. It’s a program full of different opportunities that come up through the year. I am also thankful for my community members, Kristen and Gabrielle, who are on the journey with me. It’s a program that I am Thankful I am apart of, not only this year, but for the rest of my life. You see, the St. Joseph Worker program is only one year, but all of things I learn will be with me for the rest of my life.

I am forever thankful for Sister Judy. I am thankful that she was so willing to answer God’s call and start the St. Joseph Worker Program on the west coast. She is an absolute God send for the program and for me. Without her and her willingness to start this program, there would not be a SJW program on the West Coast. Not only is she the fearless director of the program, she is an awesome supporter of us workers. She spends so much time invested in us and I am so very thankful for that. I believe with my whole heart that it would be completely different if we did not have Sister Judy on our side. Thank you, Sister Judy, for all of the hard work you put into the program and us.

I am forever thankful for the Sisters of St. Joseph. Before they knew our names, they have been supporting, loving, and praying for us. They are super sweet and so very giving of their prayers to us. Like we are apart of their family, they are an essential part of SJW family.

I am forever thankful for family and friends. Without their support for my service year as a SJW, I would not be able to be as strong as I am. They are there for me to lean on when things get tough. They are there to hear me laugh, cry, etc. They are so special to me, each and everyone of them. If it wasn’t for their constant support, love, and prayers I do not what I would do. All of them are a complete blessing to me.

I am forever thankful for my faith in God. My faith in God continues to grow more and more as I get older. It is an extreme blessing to be able to practice my faith freely. He gives an over abundant blessings to me and that I am grateful. He watches over me while I live here on Earth. He walks with me through my journey. Everyday, I am challenged to have faith in Him. That is what this year is about, growth and challenges. I am grateful that I have the chance to grow and be challenged in my faith as SJW. Without God, this would not be possible. Thank you, God, for walking with me on this journey.

I am so very thankful for everything in my life, and especially for the SJW program. I am excited to see where the year takes me. As always. I will count my blessings and be forever thankful for all of the opportunities that come my way.

Blessings and Have a happy Thanksgiving!!!

Meet Gabrielle!

 

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Hi there! My name is Gabrielle Burton and I am one of the St. Joseph Workers! I am originally from Las Vegas, NV but went to high school and college in St. Paul, MN. I majored in Communication Studies, meaning… I love to talk! I also love to sing! I am serving at the Alexandria House In LA, which is a transitional shelter for women and children who were victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, or are just facing homelessness. I work in the childcare, and it’s been an eventful three months so far!

Working with kids can be exhausting, especially with ones that have faced some really harsh realities like our little ones . Everyday I find myself being stretched more and more past my comfort zone and giving more and more of myself. Each day I am realizing the importance of making sure that I am filled up with the Holy Spirit so that I am not giving of myself, but that it is the Holy Spirit flowing in and through me. I have to get rid of my personal preferences and hang ups because at the end of the day, it’s not about me- it’s about the people I am serving. While I may be serving the people at my site, some directly and others indirectly, they are probably teaching me more about life than I am helping them! I have really found the importance of just being with the people and building relationships with them. For the first month, I would get in at 9 a.m. and leave exactly at 5 p.m. I was concerned with getting home and going back to my life, but more recently, I have slowed down my pace and taken the time to chat with some of the residents and see how people are doing, and it is at those moments that I find myself having the most meaningful conversations.

Relationships are the most important thing we can build on earth, and I am who I am today because of the relationships in my life. I know I will be a better person because of the relationships I am forming and conversations I am having at my site and I am eager to see what these next few months have in store for me!

How did you get here, Michele?

Hi, my name is Michele and I am a part of the inaugural group of women for the St. Joseph Worker Program on the West Coast. One of the most frequent questions asked is “How did you get here, Michele?” I am from Buckeye, Arizona, which is a small town outside of Phoenix. I graduated in May with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the University of Arizona.

My family on graduation day

My family on graduation day

Nearing the end of my college career, many people asked me what I was going to do. I had ever intention in going to grad school to receive my Masters in Education. After working hard on my applications to grad school, I did not get accepted into the grad schools. At the time, I thought I that I would just stay in Tucson and work on getting my teaching credential. Even though I had a plan that I was going to sought out after graduation, but God had a different plan in store for me.

In Mid-February, I was given a brochure that changed my life. My friend, Brian, gave my roommate, Mary, The St. Joseph Worker Program brochure. She thought I would be interested in the program and that I should take a look. I read the brochure, and quickly became interested in the program. Sr. Judy was still around the Newman Center, I went to go talk to her about the program. We talked at the front desk about the program, my interests, and what I wanted to do after graduation. We exchanged contact information and she told me to look at the application for the program. That night, I went home, prayed to God about the day and asked him to show me his will for me after graduation, (which was 3 months away at that point). He had told me that I needed to do something different, something new, and that He would protect and watch over me.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I would apply and consider for a service year. I had always thought that it wasn’t for me and that it was for others. Well, I was wrong. After praying about the program, I came to a realization that I love to serve others. Which should have been easy to realize because all of my life I have had a passion to help others. To make a long story short, I applied for the St. Joseph Worker Program in Los Angeles to work as a teacher’s aid at St. Joseph School. A month after I submitted my application, I received a call from Sr. Judy extending an invitation to accept to be a part of the inaugural group of SJW’s in Los Angeles. I remember that day like the back of my hand. I was so happy and ecstatic! I finally had concrete plans after graduation. Not only did I have concrete plans, the plan was to help make the world a better place, to serve those who have little. I was doing what God had in store in me which was that something different and something new.

It was so meant for me to find the St. Joseph Worker program through my friends. Now, it has been a little over two months since I officially started as a St. Joseph Worker, and I thank God for bringing me here. The past two months have been a complete blessing for me. I often say that this program was created at the right time for the right group of women. I have two beautiful roommates who support and love me. I have a wonderful director who nourishes and loves us. Then there is the community of CSJ’s who are fully supportive of the work we do and send their love and prayers to us. We are so incredibly blessed here in Los Angeles. I can not help but to think back to the day in February that started my journey in becoming a St. Joseph Worker and smile.

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Introducing Me…Kristen Daniels

Hi everyone! Thanks for checking out this blog. We (the St. Joseph Workers) will be starting out with some posts just to introduce ourselves. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave comments!

Like I said, I’m Kristen Daniels. I am originally an East Coast Girl (shout out to the 203!) and am now finding my way on the West Coast. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a completely different country in California, but I absolutely love it here. I love being so close to the beach and I love the atmosphere out here. Living out here is also fulfilling one of my life dreams. Since I was a wee tot, I’ve been talking about moving to California. I should preface that comment by saying that all I knew about California in the early years came from listening to the Beach Boys… so clearly everyone surfs all day, sits in the sun and then every evening steals their father’s car for a totally nifty drag race. Ok so clearly that’s not all true, we only drag race on the weekends…

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(Me and The Fam, 2006. Already knew I was meant to be a Cali Girl!)

While I’m not spending my days surfing life away (okay, truth statement: I have yet to surf. But it is on the bucket list!), I am so blessed to be at an awesome placement site for the St. Joseph Worker’s Program. I am currently serving at St. Joseph’s Center in Venice, where I’ve been placed in the Food Pantry and Senior Services. It is an absolutely fabulous placement. The staff is incredibly supportive and the people I’m serving are great. I’ve encountered amazing, life-changing stories from the first day I’ve been there and it’s just been a great environment to work in. Each day presents a new set of challenges, which I love because it keeps me on my toes.

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A question I get a lot is: how did a small town East Coast girl like you find her way out to a year long volunteer program, in the big city, on the West Coast? Kind of complicated answer, but one of the easiest responses is: God. Simple, but it’s really through His guidance and grace that I found this program. There’s no other way I would have come across this program and discovered how perfect it was for me. I found this program at a time in my life where I had no idea what I was supposed to do after college. I didn’t want to go to graduate school just yet, and I didn’t want to join the “work force” just yet. Thankfully I found that there was an option c, one which I wish I knew about much earlier. It would have saved me a lot of grief that last semester!

Ok here’s the fun part of getting to know me: ice breakers! I graduated from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. Yes, it is a real college. Yes it is associated with the Quinnipiac Polls. Yes, we have an awesome hockey team! I majored in psychology with a minor in political science. But I also majored in Theatre for one year and I’m pretty proud of that one year. Not surprisingly, I’m a huge theatre/music nerd. I am a huge hockey fan. I love watching it and going to games. It’s hard being across the country from my teams, so I’m on a trial basis with the LA Kings (their goalie is a CT native- represent!). But we’ll see. I played soccer for a huge part of my life, and still love to play pick-up games if I get the chance. But you can catch me watching almost any sport. One of my goals in life is to travel to all 50 states, and go to each continent.  I’m incredibly close to my family (re: see above picture). My immediate family consists of my sister Karen (and later on we added my brother-in-law Jon), my younger brother Robert (just turned 21, which scares the bejesus out of me) and then my Mum (she’s a saint). I’ve been blessed beyond belief to have an amazing group of friends, which certainly helps when you’re almost 3000 miles and 3 time zones away. I’m also blessed to have a new group of friends here, namely my new roommates. We constantly make each other laugh, which is good for me because that’s my favorite pastime.

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This is my family. Aren’t we a cute bunch?

I hope this gives you a brief snapshot of where I’m coming from. I’m looking forward to updating this more, and you’ll soon be hearing from the other two St. Joseph Workers of Los Angeles!