Finding God in a New Environment

I’ve been with my new job for two months now. I have gotten comfortable with my position and have settled into the rhythm of my work. I have spent a great deal of time training, but, being fresh out of college, I continue to learn pretty fast (which is good, because as part of our commitment to continuous improvement, there are many exciting changes occurring in the next few months.) I’ve gotten feedback from my supervisors about what I have shown talent for, as well as areas in which I’m striving for further professional development.

While I believe I am finding my place within the organization, there is one thing I continue to search for: where is my faith in my work? How does God play a part in my daily tasks?

Knowing God was in my work was much clearer during my time at Benedict Inn. For one, we shared a common faith. Each morning, we prayed that God’s will would be done. Second, it was easy to be open about how God’s will was being accomplished around us and through the individuals with whom we interacted.

Working for an organization that is not religiously-based changes the dynamics. While I do feel comfortable expressing my commitment to my faith, faith is not a central, or unifying, drive within the office. I don’t get the opportunity to pray with my co-workers each morning, and there are no Bible verses painted on our walls.

However, being part of a secular organization doesn’t mean that God’s will isn’t being done. The individuals with whom I work are passionate about promoting innovative education for future generations. I watch them strive daily to give their best effort to serve our network. My own team members will even pitch in on their days off, if they are needed. These are people who aim to make a positive impact on the lives of children, and our nation as a whole, by promoting educational opportunities.

On a personal level, I have found how I connect with God’s will by praying about the purpose of my work. On a given day, I communicate with anywhere from 50-100 people via email and phone, helping them get the answers they need. It’s wonderful to talk with teachers and administrators who have an enormous passion for their students. However, not all people are cheerful when they contact us. I believe my purpose here is to serve them by being positive, welcoming and compassionate. Each time I can better the day of someone who has called in confused, frustrated or angry, I have learned to thank God for giving me that opportunity.

Just this past week, our CEO called my team, as well as other members of Operations, into his office. We were told that everywhere he goes, he hears great things about the work of School Support. The fact that people praise this work is notable, because, as he says, people are quick to express their dissatisfaction but are not as vocal when things are going well. He let us know that we present a positive face across the country and play an important role in the organization’s mission.

So, although God may not appear in my workplace through daily prayer or crucifixes hanging on the wall, He is there nonetheless. Seeing Him in a secular environment has taken a different effort on my part, but I am up for the challenge. So far, I have learned that He is there to help me serve others the best way I can through the passion and gifts with which He has graced me.

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Leading the Way (Part Two)

Yesterday on the way out of the office a senior member of Operations, the team in which I work at Project Lead the Way, asked, “So, Laura, do you like us enough to come back in on Monday?”

I can only answer with a sincere Yes. Although I’ve only been with PLTW for two weeks, I have begun to truly value what the organization has to offer. Initially, I was impressed by the mission to deliver high-quality, hands-on education to students all across the nation. Having the opportunity to read through some of the curricular programs myself, I am amazed at what these children are learning, and intrigued by how they will shape the world’s future. In my daily routine as a School Support Representative, whose main duties are to support the needs of the network, I encounter much positive and inspiring feedback about the program.

However, having had such a unique experience at Benedict Inn, I know that there is so much more that goes into a job than the tasks it requires. From the Sisters of St. Benedict, I learned about hospitality and how it applies to the workplace. I had hoped that I could bring this to my new position, but was pleased to find it waiting for me there as well. Imagine an office where the CEO checks to see how you are doing every day, where the CFO tells you his door is open to you any time you need something, and where the COO brings in cookies & cream brownies to share on a Wednesday. That’s where I have found myself.

Although the organization is not large, and almost half the staff works remotely, it is close-knit. This is highly beneficial to the mission, because cooperation is everywhere, and communication is easy. No one ever hesitates to ask for help from those who are more expert in the matter. There is so much for each employee to learn from one another. I believe this is one reason that PLTW was recently named one of the best places to work in Indiana.

Hospitality goes a long way. It is important in the workplace, and invaluable when working with a diverse network of government leaders, district administrators and teachers from across the nation. It is only one point of professional growth that I see happening among the employees at PLTW. I’m eager to see where else I can grow, and am reminded of the Circle K International Pledge that I have become so fond of:

“I pledge to uphold the Objects of Circle K International, to foster compassion and goodwill toward others through service and leadership, to develop my abilities and the abilities of all people, and to dedicate myself to the realization of mankind’s potential.”

I’m excited and grateful to be beginning a career of serving others at Project Lead the Way and look forward to all that I can accomplish and all that I can learn.

Leading the Way (Part One)

A few weeks ago I was frantically trying to “figure out” my future. After getting back from Honduras, I became very anxious about moving into this next stage in my career.

I recall one Monday in particular when I spent a good deal of time feeling bad about not having secured a job yet (although I’d graduated less than two months earlier.) I wanted to be a productive member of the workforce and society, and sitting at home writing cover letters did not immediately fulfill that desire. Deep down, I knew that though God’s timeline doesn’t always match up with mine, He did have something in mind for me. However, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with myself and the process.

Needless to say, God answered my prayers just in time. The following day I was contacted about a potential position. It wasn’t a position I had sought out, not one I had inquired about in the countless cover letters I’d written, but I was instantly intrigued by the idea of working for a non-profit invested in the education of young adults. For those who have read my previous blog posts, you will understand that this seemed almost tailored to my interests.

The week passed in a whirlwind as I met with a recruiter, went through a phone interview, and was called in to meet with a panel. As much time as I had spent whining to God about bumming around the house, that’s how little time He gave me before diving head-first. I was offered the position the very same day.

Now, I am so excited to be in my second week working with Project Lead the Way, a non-profit that provides innovative and interactive STEM curricular programs to middle- and high schools across the nation. God graced me with an answer to my prayers, leading the way to employment with a non-profit whose mission I am passionate about. I can only trust that He’ll continue to walk with me down this path.

Part Two coming soon!

What Happens In Honduras…

“Lo que pasa in Honduras, se queda in Honduras” or “What happens in Honduras, stays in Honduras” was a phrase I encountered on my recent trip to that country. I read it on t-shirts sold in shops in the tourist town of Valle de Ángeles. My Honduran friends used it when joking around about North American visitors. It became a comical mantra of my week.

But, in truth, what happens in Honduras does not stay in Honduras; something I already knew from my first trip to this Central American country. While my group did leave behind the physical traces of our efforts – the construction of a security wall behind the group homes at Nuevo Paraíso, the backpacks full of school supplies for over 300 children associated with Sociedad Amigos de los Niños, the bags of food distributed to the rural village of Quebrada Grande, even the cupcakes and small gifts given to the children – I have brought back with me so much more.

The most important parts of my time in Honduras have been the personal connections made with others. I have met some truly amazing people, and appreciate that we have taken the time and care to know one another deeply. I value our shared experiences and the relationships that have developed from them. I love the children and those that we help care for them. We share a common vision that they will grow up safely and have outstanding opportunities in a country that needs passionate individuals. Many of us share a common faith, and the belief that we have been put into each others lives for a purpose that may not even be fully realized yet.

These are the things don’t stay in Honduras: the memories, the connections, the love for the country and its people, the call to make a difference in each others’ lives, and the desire to return again and again.

From January 23-30, 2013, I went on my second humanitarian trip to Honduras. I traveled with eight other members of Immaculate Heart of Mary, my parish in Indianapolis, working in conjunction with Friends of Honduran Children Indiana. There we worked with Sociedad Amigos de los Niños, the same organization I visited on my first trip to Honduras in May 2011. It was this experience that first sparked my interest in the work of non-profits.

What’s On Your 2013 Calendar?

While this may be an unpopular opinion, I do not buy into the importance of the “New Year.”

To me, there is nothing so important about January 1st. The seasons of our lives are not ruled by the calendar year. Time continually moves forward, whether we choose to mark it or not.

I also do not believe in resolutions for the new year. If there is a goal I want to achieve, a project I want to tackle, or a change I want to make in my life, I won’t wait until the “New Year.” It seems superstitious to think that beginning something at the new year will automatically make it fortuitous or successful.

However, that said, I can appreciate the events in life that mark our experiences. For instance, near the end of 2012 I graduated college and earned my B.A. degree. Now, in 2013, I will continue my job search and possibly begin down my career path. I will go back to Honduras on my second mission trip and visit old friends. I will train to become a coach with Girls on the Run. I’m going to continue as Vice President of Service for Circle K International at Butler, despite no longer being a student. I will visit my family. I will hang out with my friends. I will continue to grow in my relationship with my boyfriend. I will celebrate the gifts given to me along the way, and foster my faith in God. But also, I might move. I might have an experience that changes me. I might alter my perspective. Without a doubt, though, I will experience all the expected and unexpected that life has to offer at this time of my life.

I wouldn’t say that the New Year is a new start, but I do have a positive outlook on what I will make of the next 12 months and more.

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Advent

Today marks the beginning of the end for me. Only a few exams separate me from my bachelor’s degree from Butler University. Now that the end is so near, so tangible, more than ever I’m getting asked, “What’s next?”

The truth is, I’m not quite sure what’s next. While I do know that in the next few months I’ll receive my diploma, spend the holidays with family and go on a second mission trip to Honduras (more about that later), the big-picture, long-term future isn’t certain.

Normally, this would both me. In fact, I spent a good deal of early last week frazzled that no crystal ball will be delivered to me upon graduation. I made many phone calls to my parents, and spoke with many of my friends. The relative helplessness to plan my future right this moment left me feeling vulnerable and distressed.

However, one visit with a very wise friend of mine, Judith Cebula, who is the director of Butler University’s Center for Faith and Vocation, provided me perspective (as our conversations typically do.) While talking about a race that we were both running in, she asked me how the course was laid out. “I don’t know, I never check the course. I don’t like to know where I’m running beforehand,” I replied.

Bingo.

I didn’t realize what I had said until she drew my attention to it: I like not knowing where I’m going. What?! Funny, but it’s true, when running I don’t need a plan. Judy helped me understand this by relating it to my faith; I know that someone else has mapped out the route that will lead me to the finish line, just as God has done for me.

What several of my friends have said about this season of my life is that it is, perhaps not coincidentally, an Advent. It’s a period of waiting in the darkness, which isn’t comfortable by any means, but is necessary. Advent is a time to develop our faith while pressing on for the gifts that God has in store for us.

Right now, this is an Advent for me. It’s one that I share with my boyfriend, who is incredibly supportive of me despite the relative uncertainty of our future (as individual players and as a team, as I like to say.) Knowing this, my heart has been calmed and I feel that I can proceed with much greater confidence, though I do not know my exact destination.

My (Unusual) Birthday Blessings

God gave me a number of wonderful gifts for my birthday: love from my family, the opportunity to spend time with my boyfriend and roommate, and a gorgeous day. However, He also taught me a lesson. Actually, two lessons, to be exact.

Lesson #1: Networking Can Happen Anywhere (as told by BU’s Internship & Career Services)

Yesterday I got up early to go to Mass with my boyfriend at our parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. We sat in the pew we usually take during that service, in front of two women with whom we like to chat. In our greetings, I was asked whether I had a job lined up yet for after graduation in December. As anyone who’s hunted for a job (read: almost everyone) knows, it’s not easy to always have to say, “No, I’m still looking, though.” This mantra can be discouraging. To my surprise, however, rather than just politely wishing me luck, my acquaintance was quick to offer her assistance and connections. By the time I left after Mass, we had exchanged cards and she had made another introduction. I now hope to speak with veterans of the not-for-profit network to learn more about the organizations that serve the Indianapolis community. Which leads me to….

Lesson #2: God Provides (as told by Scripture)

I don’t think it could have been a coincidence that two of the day’s readings told the stories of widows who gave of themselves despite having so little, trusting that God would provide for them. Without the promise of a job at this moment, I’ve worried what my life will be like upon graduation. Yet, hasn’t God always provided for me? Hasn’t He allowed me to attend excellent schools, offered me great academic and practical experiences, and given me a supportive network?

“And it’s all because we went to 8:00 Mass,” said my boyfriend as I overflowed with gratitude for the generosity of others.