Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring, but not enough Break

Students are unloading their cars packed full of clean laundry and Spring Break stories. I'm hiding at a coffee shop with a book, white mocha, and my laptop. I know they're back and I'm not ready to see anyone yet. Even though NCC does not celebrate President's day with a vacation day, I am thankful we observe Good Friday, and boy, was it good!

I keep hearing stories of friends who've observed Easter in a new light this year. I'm sad to admit the opposite. I think I neglected the reason for the season...until now. As I reflect on the days leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, I can't help but wallow in my own despair from those days. (It sounds pitiful, I realize, and Jesus' beating cannot be trivialized to my own rotten week.)

The week prior to Spring Break was one of the hardest I've experienced in a while. I made to hired a new RA staff and chose not to rehire any of my current staff, even though 4 out of 6 reapplied. (The other 2 are seniors.) Looking back, I think some of them expected to be hired again; some even reapplied at my encouragement! What I didn't know at the time, was that 15 people would apply, (3x as many as last year), which meant making tough decisions for that many more qualified, capable people for only 6 positions. This speaks volumes for the Admissions staff and the amazing recruitment they've been doing. I also like to think it reflects the current staff who have each raised the bar of Residence Life, creating an environment for residents to flourish.

I agonized over making the tough phone calls, and then proceeded to host a staff meeting later that evening with my current staff. Yikes. I knew they'd be upset, and I felt like a jerk. They congregated in the hallway, hesitant to come inside. I tried to make eye contact with each one as they sat down, and failed miserably. The carpet held their gaze - understandably so! I read Psalm 23, hoping it would offer some comfort and honest dialogue. Unfortunately, only awkward silence was produced. I called out the awkwardness, told them how sorry I was, and tried to affirm their disappointment. More silence. (I was shocked to find out later they took a "vow of silence," agreeing not to say a word to me during our 2 hours together. ouch.)

I left campus the next day for 2 days of staff development with my colleagues, only to return to campus with a note on my door from an unhappy resident who felt "offended" by a Residence Life sponsored program that was meant to encourage her to listen to God in the silence, and a rather angry email from an unhappy RA.

Instead of processing either event, I avoided dealing with them by cutting a student's hair - he raised close to $100 dollars before finally agreeing to chop it. It was longer than mine was, and the money went to his Cambodia fund - awesome! The slogan was "more $$ raised = less luscious locks."

I escaped to Grants Pass last Thursday evening as close to 5pm as possible. I didn't return until Monday night. I stretched my off-campus adventure as long as I could to soak up every last minute of sitting on the couch in my sweats with my book, a sleeping bag, TLC on tv, and our family dog at my feet. I enjoyed mom's cooking (as always), a free washer and dryer (as always) and a dishwasher (as always)!

I felt sufficiently rested, that is, until I pulled onto campus, and the pit in my stomach came back. All my responsibilities immediately returned and I quickly admitted I wasn't ready for any of them. I walked past some students in the lounge and couldn't figure out why they didn't leave for the break. (Call me selfish, but I was looking forward to a quiet dorm where I could spread out in the Rug Room, which I call my living room, and veg in front of the huge flat screen tv.)

I worked all week in the office and also spent a significant amount of time reading various work-related articles at Starbucks to appease my cabin fever. Even though the dorm was fairly quiet, I took every opportunity to leave campus. I watched several movies, went out to dinner, and even drove to Newberg for the day.

I'm glad I'm not "on-call" this weekend, because I don't feel pressured to open my door for visitors.

For the first time, I've come to grips with the fact that I cannot do this job forever. I simply do not have the 'right' responses for tough conversations. There are times when silence is all I know and it's still not enough. I say the wrong things or not enough of the right things. I hold awkward staff meetings when maybe I should just cancel them. I'm living and learning and making mistakes.

It's times like these that I daydream about living off campus someday, and having a job with some sort of normalcy... and yet I still feel called here. I'm unconvinced that my life will ever be "normal." The funny thing is I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

Church today was all about vision. We explored 1 Kings and studied the way Elijah prayed with such expectancy and anticipation. He knew God would set his water-drenched altar on fire when he called on Jesus' name. Elijah's vision accompanied his relationship with the Maker. I'm encouraged to hold fast to the vision God has given me for NCC, even when I'm burnt out. Emotionally drained. Exhausted. Needing a longer Spring Break and an actual break.

Out of death comes life. Oh, Lord, I pray for new life, energy, and enthusiasm for the last 6 weeks of school. I am so grateful that You did not stay dead. You rose out of the grave so I might have "real and eternal life, more and better life than [I've] ever dreamed of." -John 10:10, The Message


Anonymous said...

I've been anxiously checking your blog and I was pleased to see that you had written. No matter what you have to say I always enjoy reading :) I think you're right, though. You won't always be able to stay in this job but I think that you are definitely there for a reason. It's good to see that you're still being stretched and challenged, it means you're learning.

Oh El...... de veras me gustaria verte y hablarte. A mi me encanta escuchandote y mientras leo tu blog, puedo oir tu voz. Puedo imaginarnos sentando y hablando en un Cafe y despues el silencio que no nos ofrece respuestas sino comodidad. Voy a estar orando por ti y espero que Dios te de paz y sobre todo, descanso. Te quiero muchismimo mi hermosa amiga. Cuidate.

Anonymous said...

Oh El -
You're blog resonated with me so much! I wanted to drop you a line to let you know that you are in my prayers. Picking a staff is tough and I'm sure your year next year will be blessed by the staff you picked. I appreciate your honest, open heart. We all know that a career in residence life comes with the best of times and the worst of times. Don't let the tough times drag you down too far! Continue to lean into Him and seek his guidence!

- Jessica Nims

Robby said...


Wow...I wish I had known all this was going on when you were up. Although, I guess part of the reason for being up in Newberg, as you said, was to be away from it all. Nonetheless, I understand all that you were (are?) feeling. Thanks so much for sharing your heart here.

Hope this past week has been better and that you are getting some much deserved (and needed) sleep.