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.

Meet the Members: Chloe

Hi, my name is Chloe! Last May, I graduated from Calvin College in Michigan with a degree in English Literature and Environmental Studies. I’ve spent my life thus far split equally between three places: Beijing, China; Birmingham, Alabama; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Because of this, I’m not entirely sure where to call home, but this year I’m excited to explore a new place.

Since I spent the first chunk of my life in China as a missionary kid in a small Reformed denomination, I’ve grown up appreciating the role of culture and the importance of community. When I studied in England for a semester during college, I was drawn to the liturgical and ecumenical aspects of the Anglican tradition. Through my time living in the Sycamore House, I hope to learn more about the Episcopal Church as well as how to live intentionally with others.

This year, my service placement is with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. As a national grassroots environmental advocacy group, the Sierra Club is largely volunteer-run. My position as an Organizing Fellow primarily involves supporting these volunteer leaders across the state, creating resources for local groups and coordinating statewide strategies for their environmental justice campaigns.

The majority of my work supports the state’s “Ready for 100” campaign, a national movement that advocates for clean and equitable energy, urging local legislators and decision-makers to make commitments to renewable energy and offering action plans to back these resolutions. In light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report, this work feels more critical than ever.

Although it’s been just over a month, I’ve already been challenged and stretched by my time here. And I’ve been incredibly grateful for walks along the Susquehanna River, the goodwill and humor of my housemates, the kindness of my coworkers, and the generosity of the members of St Stephen’s.

Here’s to a good year and to good things to come.

– Chloe

Meet the Members: Katie

Hi, y’all!

My name is Katie Lamp, and I came to Sycamore House by way of small town Alabama. I graduated from the University of South Alabama in December 2016 with my Bachelor’s in Social Work. Before arriving in Harrisburg, I worked in community mental health as a case manager. This year, I will be serving with Capital Area Head Start. I am excited about this opportunity because I have always loved working with children and I am looking forward to being a part of early interventions that will benefit these students for years to come.

Whenever someone finds out where I’m from, the first question is always, “Why Pennsylvania?” The answer is that Pennsylvania is home, too! I was born here along with my mother and three of my grandparents. I fondly remember many summer vacations here and always told my parents growing up that I was going to live here one day, even if just for a year. I’m happy that my statement was correct!

In my free time, I love exploring my new surroundings, reading, and listening to music and sports radio. I love watching football (NOT an Alabama fan!), baseball, and hockey. I am also very interested in genealogy and have composed a substantial family tree archive. When I’m back home in Alabama, I spend a lot of time with my Godson who is almost 4.

Serving with Sycamore House is a dream come true, and I cannot wait to see how being a part of the house, St. Stephen’s, and the Harrisburg community over the next year will impact my life for years to come!

Building Community

 

In my last post, I wrote about doing “small things with great love.” Each of us are only given so much time, energy, and gifts to do these seemingly “small things,” and yet, when we work together we know that we can make big changes in our community and world.

Consider the current Sycamore House year, for instance. This year is a little different (due to several circumstances, including low enrollment for national service years), and our corps members are working at various jobs and have various roles in the community. While we will return to our normal model next year, there are good things that are happening in the house currently that should also be highlighted.

The group has started a weekly free yoga class in the house, offering this option to others in the community. They have been building community through a Dungeons and Dragons gathering bi-weekly. When they had their housewarming party, they helped gather coats as the weather was getting cold and distributed them at a local meal for people in need of food and warm clothes.

Serina is working at Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market at RiJuice and is gearing up to grow herbs and vegetables to increase her farming skills and provide locally grown produce to the Market customers. She is passionate about growing things, and this is evident in where she spends her energy and time. She is looking forward to doing some planting at the house as spring comes closer.

Joshua works at the Broad Street Market as well at Urban Churn– I’d venture to say that serving delicious ice cream is definitely a community building activity! He is also involved at a local retreat center and at Gamut Theatre, whose mission is to “tell classic stories in new and exciting ways for the entertainment of children and adults alike.”

They both regularly serve food at Food not Bombs to individuals who are in need of a hot meal in downtown Harrisburg.

Mike started as an AmeriCorps member at Habitat for Humanity, and then was hired on as the Outreach Coordinator. He can be found all over the Harrisburg community- collaborating with organizations and residents to make positive changes. Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, he has jumped into the Sycamore House and St. Stephen’s Community, using his gifts and talents in many ways.

And that’s only 3 out of the 6 current members of the house. Stay tuned to find out more!

Peace,

Micalagh

Pictures Above:
Left: Sycamore House Corps members during a yoga session, Right: Coats collected for individuals in need

Work site Week – CONTACT Helpline

Hello readers!

This week, we’ll be having a new post every single day.

You read that right, a new post from your favorite Sycamores every day this week!

This week, we’ll be focusing on our work sites. We’ll be sharing what we love most about working there and what we’ve learned so far. Our first work site is CONTACT Helpline, where corps member Emily Hibshman is serving as the volunteer coordinator. Read more below the cut.

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7 Reasons Why You Should Attend Party Gras

It’s that time of year again – we’re halfway through winter, Lent is approaching and thanks to Punxsutawney Phil, we’re looking to an early spring. It’s the time of year to celebrate – that’s right, it’s time for Party Gras! You may be asking yourself, what is Party Gras? It’s a fun(d)raiser hosted by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral, the sponsoring parish for your favorite service corps, the Sycamore House! Here are 7 reasons why you should attend Party Gras this Friday.

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