Coming into the Fellows community I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what I had
gotten myself into. I knew absolutely nothing about these people I was about to spend the next
ten months of my life with or even that much about what this program would actually look like. All that kept going through my head was fear about not being accepted. I was used to communities back home revolving around always having to be “on”. Always having to be bubbly and positive, I was worn out from putting on this front. Completely exhausted, I just wanted to be a member of this community, but not have to put in so much effort. My introverted self was screaming for rest.
Before coming to the Salt Lake Fellows, I had never truly embraced my introverted self. I never felt
like it was an option. I always felt like the odd one out because I would have these moments
where I just needed to be alone for a while. Everyone I was around in college seemed to thrive
off of being around people constantly, whereas I just wanted to hideaway for days in order to
feel like myself and gather my thoughts.
It has been a new experience for me, to come to a place where there were others so
open about being introverted. It is so refreshing. It has also been so reassuring, to know that it
is not wrong to need to be alone sometimes. That it is possible to be a member of a community
and be an introverted individual. It’s encouraging to know that I no longer have to feel the need
to constantly be “on”. I can take time to be alone and not have fear of being judged for it..
I mean sure, it was hard at first and it still can be hard. Often times in class you can find
me journaling away about the thoughts going through my head. Just trying to make sense of
everything while being in a room full of people. It’s still a struggle to be present, but it’s a
struggle that I so deeply want to work towards overcoming. I am slowly, but surely, fighting my
way into this group. Fighting against my own giants in order to fully be myself in a group of
forced friendships turned family. It’s a daily struggle, but for what feels like the first time, this is
something that I want. Something that I want to fight for, no matter how hard it might be
So my fellow Fellows, thank you for accepting the introvert. Thank you for allowing me
to embrace this part of myself. Even if you didn’t realize it, I truly appreciate it. I can already tell
that this year is going to be filled with so much growth. Growth for us as a community and our
individual selves. So let’s get comfy, it’s going to be an epic ride.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous!
SLF Class of 18-19
When I was in college, I was the doodler. I have journals and journals full of notes on Chemistry with pictures of mountains and streams all throughout. I am not good at drawing, but mountains are not hard to draw. Mountains are simple to draw, and simple to the eye, but climbing mountains is very complex. When I arrived in Salt Lake City, I was told the first thing that we would do together as Fellows was climb a mountain together. We drove out to the Uintas, a beautiful mountain range to the east of Salt Lake City where we would pack our way up to the base of Ostler Peak and Lake Amethyst. The group of us that were in the Fellows program came to involve ourselves in community and this was the first time that we would all hang out. The hike was about five miles to the place that we would be camping and the hike was grueling, but I think that was really important to that first time together.
There is this old video that REI put out about an ultra runner that I love. In the video he is talking about the fellowship of the sport and he says something that I find so true about life. “Suffering breeds comradery”. As we all hiked gasping for air we laughed about it, and it brought us closer. After a few hours of hiking, we made it to our campsite, a massive meadow below huge peaks that spanned every direction. It was something out of a dream. There were flowers all over the meadow and even a stream that ran through it where one could see trout darting around from rock to rock. We even went up to a small lake and jumped in the icy cold water. It took your breath away the moment you touched it, but after a long hike with a pack on, it was exactly what we all needed. As the sun set we built a fire and sat around for hours talking and laughing. We played games and told stories and it didn’t feel like anyone was a stranger. It felt like we were already 3 months into the program.
That night we all huddled up in our tents and experienced our first rain in the high elements. We got blasted by rain and there was lightning flashing and we were getting wet as we slept, but we were happy. I remember waking up, and building a fire the next morning while shivering with a smile ear to ear. I was excited about my new community and all the hard things we had already gone through together. I thought about that quote over and over, “suffering breeds comradery”. All we were doing was growing closer out there in the mountains. The next day we took some time to go be by ourselves in the mountains. I sat on a huge rock scramble for a bit and watched the marmots and pikas poke their heads out at me. I got to use that time to pray for the year and what I wanted out of this year.
For some people I think this program is a year of rest, or maybe a lull between undergrad and graduate school. For me, this program represents new beginnings. I always knew I wanted to move west after school and now I had the chance to be in a place I really connected with (SLC). This program had created a healthy community for me, which is not something to be taken for granted. This past summer I learned about just how important love is. In case you were not aware, love is everything (1 Corinthians 13; John 15). I was realizing as I sat on those rocks that with this new beginning came new opportunities to learn how to love well. I was going to be surrounded by people that were both easy and hard to love at times and I really suck at loving people that are hard to love. I was going to be in this new city and I was going to encounter people that needed love, but if I couldn’t love my own community well, how would I ever love the city well. This was pretty convicting for me at the time.
At the end of the trip we went to a burger place in Park City and it was cool to see everyone stretched across this long table. We were all exhausted and stinky, but all with big smiles just excited to be in the company of great community. I don’t think I will ever forget that first backpacking trip with everyone; I have never been with a group of people that connected so quickly, but that is what adventure does, it connects people.
SLF Class of 18-19
This past Sunday afternoon we went on a family hike up in Millcreek Canyon, the Little Water trail up to Dog Lake. It was about 2.2 miles to get to the lake from the trailhead, which is a gamble with Zoe hiking on her own, but we were ambitious and optimistic; it was going to be great. About 1/2 mile in, Zoe started complaining, and moaning, and sitting down in the trail. Pretty soon it was clear to us that we weren't going to make it to the lake as both girls were crying, asking for food and wanting to go home; and we weren't even half way there. Unsatisfied, impatient, not resting in the beauty around us...these girls were giving up on the journey because it had become too difficult for them.
So often, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we live our lives like this in our relationship with God. We might start out excited and ambitious, but soon the discomforts of the journey take our eyes off of the beauty around us and create a distrust and frustration with God...as if He doesn't understand what we want and what we are going through.
Right as Rachel and I got to the point where we realized we had to throw in the towel on the hike, we saw a cluster of gorgeous aspen trees wrapped in Autumn gold. And so we decided to go up the trail 100 more yards to hug some aspen and then we would turn around and head home. It was like a switch was flipped inside Zoe's mind, "I only have to go 100 yards, and daddy will help me get there." Once Zoe and I reached the grove, Zoe ran over to Rachel to join her in hugging this big bold aspen tree. And it was like all the joy and wonder of the woods and the mountains filled Zoe's tired body and she started running up the trail with our dog Chaco. While we shouted ahead to Zoe, telling her that she was going the wrong way, she quickly turned around and said, "We have to go to the end of the trail! I want to go to the lake! Come on, let's go!" And with that proclamation, she charged ahead, hugging trees as she continued up the trail.
Remarkably, we made it to the lake. It was gorgeous and restful. But it was the journey itself that made an impacting memory for me. Zoe's trail experience is such a great metaphor for life...even after that breakthrough moment, where she decided to charge ahead to victory, there were falls and moments of exhaustion and even disbelief if we would ever get there. But her response to the tough times had been transformed once she made this journey her own. Being told what she could and should do (by us parents) was not as empowering for her as discovering what this journey actually was for her, that it was enjoyable and challenging and fun!
Our worlds often feel shaped by what others think we should do; our goals and accomplishments and even our walk with Jesus seem to carry a weight of expectation. But when we rest in who God is, making the journey our own and allowing Him to carve it, while taking one step at a time soaking up the experience in front of us; we recognize that God is shaping our story out of a deep and bold love for us... When we experience this, we respond differently when challenges come our way. We come to understand there is a reason for the journey, and that the path will lead to somewhere beautiful. We become less concerned about the distance or the danger, and more concerned about sharing the beauty and encouraging others to follow us. We begin to see others around us as loving companions, rather than competitors or commanders. Our attitudes shift from "I have to.." to "I want to..."
I think it is in those moments, when our hearts are open and malleable, that we experience God so fully, so deeply, that we can rest ourselves into bold action. We are so content and confident in who God says we are...our identity and redemption and value coming from the King...that every step we take has bigger purpose, deeper impact, and greater meaning to the world around us. How else could a whiny, angry child turn into such an enthusiastic and brave leader? The journey becomes real. Jesus becomes real. Our story becomes less of an accomplishment or a competition and more of a life of trust, living humbly and excitedly before a mighty and loving God.
But perhaps, the most profound takeaway for me came from my own actions and heart posture on this hike. I started to recognize that my expectations, both those I communicated and those I did not, had an impact on Zoe's journey. It was once I accepted the fact that we would not reach the lake I so badly wanted to reach, and let go of my expectation for us to get the mileage I thought we should have easily been able to handle, that I was actually able to rest and be present in the midst of the beauty. I felt more free to slow down and look around at the rocky cliffs, golden trees and babbling creek. And that freedom was contagious. Zoe began to feel that freedom, that nothing was expected of her, that we were just there to walk in the woods together and be present within something bigger than ourselves.
Gosh, how true that is of us as Christians, as the Church. I think we have such a strong tendency to put expectations, goals and even judgments on other people's journeys that does damage and pushes them away. Could we be a people who share a contagious freedom; where our only agenda is to love others and allow them to walk at their pace? What would it look like to come alongside others to encourage, to share that moment with them; not to help them see us, but to see Jesus more fully. We should not be people-fixers, intent on lugging others up a mountain so that they can experience what we think they should see. We are called to love as Jesus loved.
That is what I saw in myself that day. Slow down. Be still. Stop striving, stop pushing, and look around. See where I am, see the beauty I am ignoring, see the people that are around me. Stop working so hard to make this journey different than what it is...embrace it. Allow others to experience it for themselves. And see that Jesus is with us, both in the beauty and the mess.
Director of Experience & Learning
Salt Lake Fellows
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative