Extended Member Introduction: Ian

Ian

Hello, everyone.

My name is Ian Tan, and I come from Kuching (Cat City), Malaysia, SouthEast Asia. Well, if you came here to know me a bit more, what can I say? Here are some facts about myself that I feel are the most key to my identity.

I am ethnically Chinese, and speak Mandarin with my parents and most of my relatives. I haven’t been in touch with my Chinese roots for ages (not speaking or reading the language much). I want to begin sharpening my knowledge of Mandarin, and possibly getting into Chinese literature. I enjoy a diverse literary range, from Romanticism era poetry to modern era poetry, and from classics (e.g The Iliad) to newer works showcasing previously hidden voices (e.g the Song of Achilles). But really, I am pleased to try anything that highlights the flaws of society while celebrating its qualities and the hope of a brighter today.

Being an INFP, I value freedom and mobility in my work and everyday tasks, even if I mess up. Because then I can learn from my mistakes and ask for help on my own terms. Not that I don’t appreciate guidance though, especially if it comes from someone with greater experience. I feel at my peak when the work at hand is some sort of creative, literary project. Another INFP trait is that I tend to make myself an emotional outlet; I want to make everyone feel heard, and during conflicts, I usually try to take the other person’s context into account. This has helped me navigate many difficult occasions and preserve my relationships with others.

I think I can say I love living in the city, especially one as pretty as Harrisburg. Being at the hub of so many businesses, opportunities for nightlife, and festivals has helped me see how lively urban settings can be. It is so much fun walking around remembering new hangout spots, what routes are the most peaceful, and finding new favorite eateries. Future choices of cities to live in are Philadelphia, Washington DC, Rome, or GeorgeTown (small coastal capital of Penang, Malaysia)

Favorite things (in the spirit of Savannah’s format)

Character: Edmund Pevensie

Tea: Classic Chinese Green, the subtle bitterness helps get me into a more alert state

Organizational Strategy: Memorizing tasks, and occasionally to-do lists

Candles: No solid preferences yet.

Season: Midsummer through Fall

Candy Bar: Kit-Kat

Weather: Thunderstorm for sleeping warmly indoors, or a cool sunny day for a pleasant stroll/jog

Singer: Karliene (Youtube singer/musician who creates Celtic, fiction influenced music)

Color: Forest green paired with silver

Dinner: Roasted chicken thighs and steamed jasmine rice

Book: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland or the Chess Machine by Robert Lohr

This year, I am working in two placements – Habitat for Humanity as a grant writer, and St Stephen’s Episcopal School as a staff member in the after-school program. Both are rewarding in different ways. The first allows me to utilize the skills I sharpened in college, like analysing texts and building narratives, while the second gives me the chance to help nurture children. It sounds cheesy, but I appreciate this chance to work with the next generation, because I can see my past selves in a number of the students and I’m aware of how they might feel in certain situations and what they would need. I hope I can walk away from the Service Corps with lessons that can help shape my future journeys in professional writing and handling children.

As for church service, I recently thought it would be good for me to try my hand at joining the Finance Vestry, and so far I have attended one meeting. It was a lot of scouring budget records and keeping track of so many expenses that St Stephen’s had to oversee. That was such uncharted territory, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel out of bounds, but it was time I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned how institutions like the Church run its books. I am thriving in my space amidst my housemates. Yes, I know I am the sole male and person of color here but my housemates are as aware of it as I am, and do their best not to agitate anything about it, which I am so appreciative of. I hope that we can continue to grow and learn around each other.

Extended Member Introduction: Faith

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Hi, everyone!
I’m Faith, and I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee. I graduated in 2018 from Asbury University, where I studied English. I’m very excited to be a part of the Sycamore House.
I am working at the Episcopal Diocese of Central PA as the diocesan events coordinator and assistant to the canon for communications. I develop, oversee, and publicize all events for the diocese. An upcoming event I’m excited about is our Live Nativity on December 13 th at St. Andrews in the Valley. There will be live animals, including a camel! We’re all pretty excited about the camel. I assist with communications by creating, editing, and proofreading social media posts, newsletters, flyers, and other documents. English major skills for the win! I’m really enjoying my work at the diocese and the people I work with. Another great perk of
working for the diocese is hanging out with the cats! The diocese office has two adorable cats, Lilly Grace and Rey. You can follow them on Instagram @episcocat_diocpa to see all of their adventures.

I’m having fun getting involved at St. Stephen’s by singing in the choir. You can catch me every Sunday hitting those soprano notes. I’ll also be singing in the October Music by the River concert on Saturday, October 26th at St. Stephen’s! It’s a 1920’s-themed concert, and it’s going to be a roaring good time, Old Sport. I’ve felt so welcomed by the incredible hospitality of the St. Stephen’s community. I feel like part of the family.

Here are a few of my favorite things (cue Maria in The Sound of Music):
Comedy: Legally Blone. Elle Woods is an inspiration!
Drama: Ordinary People. If you’ve seen and loved this movie, I will be your best friend.
Book: Hard to choose just one, but The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a great one.
TV shows: Parenthood, Call the Midwife, and Breaking Bad. I realize the latter is quite a
contrast from the former two!
Broadway belting songs: “Burn” and “Satisfied” from Hamilton, “ABC Café” and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, and “Memory” from Cats. Road trips in my car are a one woman show starring me.
Band: Simon and Garfunkel. I mean come on. We got a Queen movie, and I loved it, but where is my Simon and Garfunkel movie??? (The Graduate does not count).

I’m looking forward to getting more involved in the Harrisburg community and seeing how we all learn and grow this year. Thank you so much for reading!

Extended Member Introduction: Savannah

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Hi all,

I’m Savannah and I am from Fairfax, Virginia. I just graduated from University of Mary Washington down in Fredericksburg, Virginia with a degree in English and a minor in Environmental Sustainability.

In looking at my favorite activities, I either love to be very active or very cozy. I love learning about trees and flowers while hiking through nature, but I also love  crocheting while listening to audiobooks or watching Netflix. I love to read while sipping tea with my favorite candle lit, but I also love playing Ultimate Frisbee with my teammates. I love doing yoga at the gym with my mom, but I also love baking while watching John Oliver on Netflix with my fairy lights on. Everything I love to do is all about self care, whether it is taking a moment to appreciate the beauty in nature or learning about current events through comedy (we love modern comedians!), or doing something athletic, its nice to have a variety of feel good activities that make me happy!!

I have noticed that sometimes hearing about a person’s favorite things is a wonderful way to learn about them. It is a simple and easy way to learn quickly some of the things that make them tick. So, here are a list of 11 of my favorite things (I would do 10, but 11 is more fun).

Character: Snoopy
Tea: Lady Grey by Twinings (picking just one was very hard)
Organizational Strategy: To-do lists
Candles: Vanilla Bean or a Fall Scented one (apple, pumpkin, cinnamon)
Season: Fall
Candy Bar: Take 5
Weather: Light drizzle (perfect for dancing in the rain)
Singer: Ingrid Michaelson
Color: Purple
Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken, Rice, and steamed broccoli (simple and yummy)
Book: Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss or Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This year I am working at Capital Area Head Start as a STEM Teacher. School starts this upcoming Monday, so you could say that I am more than a little excited! I will be helping incorporate more STEM into the kids’ lives, whether it is teaching them about the math and technology or encouraging them to be curious and explore the outside world and why our earth is so important (clearly I’m a bit more interested in the latter haha). I spent this past month training and spending excessive amounts of time with my nose buried in preschool STEM books and Pinterest trying to figure out how to approach my new role. As we get closer and closer to opening day, I am actually more confident and excited than I am nervous. And more than anything else, I am definitely ready to leave that training room! 😉

Another key part about our year of service is that we are supposed to be active with our affiliated church. As you might expect from someone who both loves nature and beautiful things, I signed up for flower guild. While I am not scheduled for a month or so, I am super excited to start and learn the process of flower arranging. On top of this, I spend about two weeks a month working in the nursery during the 10:15 service. It’s a blast to play with the kids and teach them the Old Testament stories that I grew up on while singing my favorite kiddy songs (Peace Like a River is def my favorite).

While it has taken some time to find my groove and place within the city of Harrisburg, as the weeks have progressed I have felt more and more comfortable. I love the framily dynamic that we have at the Sycamore House and I cannot wait to see where and how we grow as the the year passes. A month has flown by and while I can feel a little homesick, technology has allowed me to stay active in my loved one’s lives (my favorite times being when my friends and I take each other on different walking adventures using facetime).

Thank you for listening to my lengthy account. Stay tuned next week for Faith’s post! 🙂

2019-2020 Blog Introduction

It’s that time of year folks!

Community dinners? Well… yes those have started, but we aren’t talking about that
Cold and flu season? Um. Yes that too, but again not my intended subject. (Sycamore? More like sick-some-more)
SpOoOoky season?! Yes, it is the first week of October, but wrong again!

It’s time to start our 2019-2020 blog! In our first entry, we will be doing a brief recap of our past month and a half here, including first hand perspectives of orientation!

The members of the Sycamore House are starting to find their groove in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The stressful, but fulfilling and exciting orientation, orientation showed all the members just how much Harrisburg has to offer. The dinners allowed members to meet wonderful families from church while eating some delicious foods. Adventures, such as exploring midtown and going to the capitol and the Pennsylvania Museum allowed Sycamoreans to better understand Harrisburg culture and how we might want to fit into this charming city. We also went to many church services and even got a house blessing! While exhausting/hectic/busy, orientation was a great way to start building up a community of wonderful, loving people that we can continue developing relationships with as the year progresses.

Orientation was stressful but fun!! I really enjoyed going to Mid-Town and exploring the area! -Shelby

I loved meeting the people of St. Stephen’s and getting to know Harrisburg. I especially loved seeing the capitol! -Faith

Orientation day was exhausting but fulfilling. We got to break in to the system and the system got to break into us, never truly comfortable but utterly necessary for the days to come. One of my favourite moments from the week was walking around the town with my housemates and navigating as a group. Another one is sitting down and eating meals together, no matter where we are invited. -Ian

It was really lovely to be hosted for dinner by all of the different board members. The food was always delicious and it was a fast way to meet some familiar faces from St. Stephen’s. -Emily

I loved getting so many opportunities to meet people one-on-one at the meals we shared together. It has been wonderful to spot those familiar faces at different events! On top of that, exploring the city in different adventures and outings allowed me to start feeling less like a stranger and more like I belong. -Savannah

As the weeks have progressed, the Sycamoreans have started finding their niches. In the next few weeks, we will be featuring each member and allow them the chance to tell you about how their life in Harrisburg is looking; from their placement to recreational activities to involvement in the church! Stay tuned 🙂

The Consequences of Healing

Hello! This is corps member Elisabeth Ivey. I’m sharing a reflection I’ve had about my journey through a year of service. I want to make clear that my interpretation of the following Biblical passage is just that – an interpretation. I welcome dialogue about the passage and any part of this post. You can comment below! 


A couple weeks ago, the Scripture reading came from Acts 16, telling the story of the slave girl possessed by a spirit that allowed her to prophesy: 

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Though I’ve heard this story before, it’s been sitting with me these past several weeks. I’ve thought a lot about this woman and this: her healing resulted in a direct loss of value for the people who owned her and benefited from her.  

***

I’ve often joked that I should add “anxiety” to my resume because it manifests in behaviors that benefit many workplaces. My anxiety means that I’m early wherever I go. The clock in my car is set three minutes behind so that I don’t show up too early. And before I even leave, an event will slip into my mind hours before it starts, ensuring that I can’t get anything else done for the day.

My anxiety makes me meticulous.

My anxiety pushes me to perform well.

My anxiety makes me want to please everyone around me with disregard to my own feelings. 

***

I remember the first time I told someone “no” at the beginning of this service year. A friend asked me to speak on a panel for an upcoming event, and I hesitated because the request came on the tail end of a week that I’d already spent visiting and speaking to classes. I was exhausted. My fatigue came not just from the preparation but from the mental energy it took to overcome the intense and pervasive anxiety that accompanied me when  I spoke in front of people. Throughout my senior year in college, I pushed through it. I wanted to grow, and so I shouldered the anxiety and exhaustion that came with these opportunities. 

After graduating, I realized I could choose differently. While I still wanted to face my challenges, I realized that I could also choose to care for myself. Distanced from the intensity of academia, I gained enough perspective to understand and identify the unhealthy dynamics that pattern many systems, urging people to push themselves to the limit. 

Still, I hesitated to say “no” because I respected this person. I cared for them, and I didn’t want to let them down. And even as I told them I couldn’t help them, I inwardly cringed as I opted not to make up an excuse (“sorry, I already have a meeting at that time”) but to deliver the news with the truth: I just didn’t have the energy to withstand the anxiety. 

I fretted after sending off the email, convinced that my decision made me fall from this person’s good graces. In this past year, I’ve struggled with feelings of guilt as I’ve accused myself of being stingy with my time. It’s true – after saying no once, it’s easier to say no again, and sometimes I can veer towards the other end of the extreme where I’d rather isolate myself from the constant demands that wiggle into my life even after college. Balance is a process.

I also remember one of the first times I didn’t arrive to work exactly on the hour or half hour, but a couple minutes past. I’m fortunate to have a flexible schedule at my job placement (so I could adjust my schedule as needed), but I mourned what felt like the loss of perfection. I’ve felt that uncomfortable sense of loss in other areas of life, as I’ve eased my grip on the need to have everything ordered in a particular way. Even though it allows me space to breathe easier, I worry about losing my grasp on the “strengths” that helped me function in the workplace, gaining me praise even as I struggled with the burn-out. 

***

I think of that girl, the one whose struggle looked like a strength, like an incredible ability that her masters exploited. I think of how her healing meant that according to her masters, she lost her value. And I wonder how she felt. Relieved? Afraid? Conflicted? 

Through this year of service, I have struggled, healed, and struggled again. I’ve adapted to new situations and set boundaries to preserve my well-being. I’ve had to face a worldview that I’ve developed through my lifetime that service means self-forgetfulness. To serve others meant I couldn’t serve myself, that I must forget my own needs. As I continue to wade through these murky views, I keep urging myself to settle into the grace I need to acknowledge that my needs are a part of my humanity and my imperfections are not unforgivable. 

These changes haven’t come easily, but even as I’ve experienced the growing pains of guilt (for not throwing myself into every possible opportunity) and shame (for failing to live up to a high standard), I’ve also been able to see that I’ve been healthy. In setting boundaries and pursuing healing, I may have limited my value to the world, just like in the story when all the masters cared about was their loss of money.

It makes sense.

The more we live into our healed selves, the less we’ll function in a broken world. Rather than making us worry about falling behind, perhaps the shift should rather incentivize us to invest in the healing of the world alongside ourselves. 


Above image by halfrain, used with permission under a Creative Commons License.

Slowing Down: A Reflection on a Year of Service

This week, corps member Elisabeth Ivey shares about some of the challenges she’s faced in her year of service and offers a reflection about how she’s been able to process through the doubts and emerge with a desire to take intentional steps through life. Continue reading below! 


A year of service has its challenges, and one of the most significant ones for me was discerning if I’d made the right decision in the first place. Taking a step forward down my chosen path, I looked to either side, wondering if I should’ve chosen one of the different routes my friends had taken.

As a new college graduate, each decision I made felt heavy-laden with pressure, but despite the uncertainty, this year has afforded me time to distance myself from the frantic pace of undergrad years. Through this opportunity, I’ve been able to clearly appreciate where I am, even if I’m still unsure of what’s ahead.

A year of service can mean many things and have many manifestations, and for me, it meant slowing down, which is a reminder I continually need. Recently, I published an article with The Porch Magazine in which I explored these thoughts more deeply. Continue reading below to read how I decided to lean into a meandering way of living.

The Meandering Way


Above image by Eddi, used with permission under a Creative Commons License.