“have you ever thought of doing the peace corps?”

NAMIBIA

NAMIBIA (Photo credit: Rui Ornelas)

How, you may ask, do you tell someone that you’re moving to Africa for the Peace Corps?

Well, let me tell you – there’s no nonchalant way to do it. Whether it’s your family, your coworkers or even your eye doctor, there’s no casual way to slip it in. So sometimes you just have to come right out and say it, no matter the anticipated reactions.

One of the best conversations I’ve had thus far was with one of my coworkers. We have an open floor plan, so we have desks in little pods but no cubicles (praise Jesus), and my teammate is looking up something on his computer in a brief moment while we’re both not answering phones, and goes, “Hey, Ali, have you ever thought of doing the Peace Corps?” Now, I haven’t told pretty much anyone at work because I’m seasonal anyway and I know I’ll just be done at the end of my contract this summer and then jet off to Namibia, so this question was out of the blue. I kind of thought he was kidding, but this seemed like a simple enough opening to share my news, so I answered: “Yeah, actually, I leave in July for the Peace Corps.” Silence. I was still working on some customer’s account on my computer, so I tore my eyes away and looked at him to see him staring at me. Unblinking. Eyebrows furrowed. He was so confused. After a long, uncomfortable pause, he just goes, “Wait, really?” And then I told him more details and it turned into a jolly little sharefest, but that conversation literally captures the majority of conversations I’ve had when I’ve told people I might be going or now that I am. Because moving to Namibia isn’t a normal thing. And taking a moment to realize that I’m serious causes awkward conversations because moving across the world isn’t typical. It’s not an everyday sort of occurrence.

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saying no and nablablabla

A week ago, I received an invitation from the Peace Corps to teach English in Namibia.

Say whaaaaa?

The first sentence of this post are possibly some of the last words I ever anticipated writing. Back when I started applying in February in the midst of a lot of refinement, I did it on a whim thinking it was an exercise in trusting God more. And then I kept making it through to the next stage, and the next stage. Yes, the possibility tended to hover in the back of my mind, but I never actually expected to get to this point… So now I have to decide to go or to stay: yes or no. Two simple, single syllables that change the trajectory of my life. Not a big deal or anything. Continue reading

the process of un-mullet-ing

It’s true – I had a mullet. By choice.

photo cred: Brittany Zeinstra

It looks a bit more like a hipster mullet than anything else in this photo, but it was as mullet as mullet is going to get on my head. And it went from hipster, 80’s-esque mullet to pixie cut, and then perpetual growing out mullet until now, over a year later, my hair has yet to reach my shoulders again.

The process of my un-mullet-ing is legen….wait for it…. DARY! It’s a story of humility, one of courage, and of figuring out what makes me, well, me.

Let’s start with why the heck I cut my hair into a mullet. I worked for this high school ministry my first year out of college, and our big winter retreat theme was “Mullets, Mohawks, and Mustaches.” Aka EPIC. Check out our promo video (awesome, if I do say so myself). Well, I had a conversation with some adorable sixteen year old ladies that were complaining about the theme being too masculine and kind of sexist. I flatly denied any such thing and to my horror, the words “I’m cutting my hair into a mullet” escaped my lips. Wide-eyed, in absolute horror, wishing I could stuff those fatal 7 words back into my mouth, those precious girls started laughing. And so just a few short months later, I did it. I went over to my friend’s house and asked her to give me a mullet. When she was finished  and swept up the loose  strands of my dignity off her floor, as I pulled on my coat she softly said, “Hey, Ali… can you not tell people I cut your hair? I’d really appreciate it.” Continue reading

the ultimate question

We start asking it almost as soon as we can speak, as teeny, under two-feet tall mini people, just starting to be curious about how the world works. We ask it as elementary school students, attempting to endear ourselves to our teachers while being bratty and consumed with tetherball during recess. We ask it as angsty teens, confused college students, adults with responsibilities and as older adults who have announced retirement and finally waylaid some of that responsibility.

It’s the ultimate question: “Why?”

In the aftermath of the most intense roller-coaster of a week, that is what my heart is stuttering out. “Why? Why? Why?”

Not just why this, but why now, why them, why that way?

This week has been full of some diverse news – I bought a car on Monday, got a job on Wednesday, and on Friday my friend’s mom died in Denver and 27 people in Conneticut were murdered. What?! How does that happen? How can such highs coexist with such lows?

But as the pieces fall, the tears leak, the excitement builds, and rollercoasting emotions feel like they might tear me in two, my heart keeps on stuttering out, “Why? Why? Why?”

And the answer I keep coming back to are the promises of Scripture. Hosea 6:1-3 says

“Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”

No matter the season, no matter the circumstance, I am learning that the only answer to my “Why?” is not palatable. It isn’t easy. I don’t like it. But the only answer is that we turn back to Him. That we press on to know Him and remember that He is coming.

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5 things i wish i had known about job searching

The title of this post is mostly self-explanatory, but here’s the gist in a longer version. I am 23 years old, a part-time employee at a local coffee shop, living back at my parent’s house(s), and with a lot of free time on my hands. So, when you get only have a little 4 hour shift that ends before 10 am and the rest of the whole day looms in front of you, calendar empty, what do you do? Well, personally I’ve found that I’m either going to fill it by watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix or trying to go for a run or rearranging my room (yet again), and spending hour upon hour searching the internet for some company somewhere that might hire me. Or staring at a cover letter and resume that I have tweaked so many times I’ve got the versions saved as resume_1.doc through resume_28.doc in my “job search” file on my computer. I have my personal business card ordered (though I still am not sure exactly why I need one when I don’t have a big kid job) and have spent an embarrassing amount of time making sure my Linkedin.com profile is 100% complete. (You can check it out at www.linkedin.com/in/aemason, I’m pretty proud of it).

Steve Jobs

This whole thing feels like a rabbit trail. And with inspirational quotes on “calling” blowing up sites like Pinterest like a hailstorm, it makes me want to tear my hair out. Our world now equates who we are with what we do. It used to be the other way around, but now we crave jobs that are exciting and developing and sound cool to people – we want work places that encourage “Bring Your Dog To Work Day” everyday and who go on company-sponsored mountain biking adventures during lunchtime (Remember I live in Boulder, CO, so that really is a normal thing around here) and send you on all-expenses paid work trips overseas every other week. The difference between a “job” and a “career” can’t just be passion or what you want to do. And the only jobs out there worth doing can’t just be ones that we love. Calling everything else settling isn’t realistic. Because not all jobs are supposed to be like that, and that has to be okay. Yes, we can yearn for those jobs, but sometimes a job needs to just be a job and our passion, our love, our excitement, is what we do when we come home after work – to a family, to volunteer somewhere, the mountains we play in on the weekends, something, anything. Continue reading

confessions of a recovering only child

I’m an only child. Well, technically only half of one, considering having divorced parents and 50-50 custody and two stepsisters. My only-child identity, and all that comes with, becomes more and more apparent to me around the holiday season.

There are a lot of different stereotypes and studies on the particular nature of only children. A New York Times article quotes, ‘In fact, according to G. Stanley Hall, who oversaw the studies and was the acknowledged child expert of his day, being an only child was a ‘disease in itself.'” As mentioned in a Time Magazine article by Lauren Sandler, some other dated perceptions describe only children “as permanent misfits” and “overprivileged, asocial, royally autonomous … self-centered, aloof and overly intellectual.”

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would you come to my funeral?

Earlier last night, I was talking to my friend Annie about the loneliness and isolation this season of life has brought. It feels like I’m absolutely out there on my own – the phrase I used last night was something along the lines of “If something awful happened to me and I died or something, no one would even know what happened to be able to come to my funeral.” Because that’s how it’s felt lately – I don’t see anyone frequently enough where if I went missing or worse, anyone would notice until several days later. I know this train of thought is morbid, but I’m just being honest. Maybe people would be suspicious if I was never responding to phone calls or text messages, but I don’t see or talk to anyone frequently enough that they would notice anything amiss.

But the irony came full force  when a car slammed into me around ten last night. It happened so fast, I couldn’t even react. And as my car spun off course, I remember thinking two things: 1) Wasn’t the light green? and 2) Thank You, Jesus. And even though it happened in a town where both of my parents still live, both of them happened to be out of town last night. Because as a witness sprinted over to my car and started tapping on my window, shouting things, and I dazedly got out of the car, I realized that I am okay. But even for someone that values their independence and believes they are strong, facing something like that absolutely alone is terrifying. Especially when you have not a lot of money saved, a car is your only lifeline to get to work, and you have the most minor of health insurance policies. I panicked, totally freaking out over how I was going to pay for the situation, how I was going to handle not having a car, how the heck all I had was bruises. I sat on the curb, knees aching, body shivering, watching police officers pick up the pieces of my car, papers being blown down the street, my haven completely smashed, and I felt so alone. But I wasn’t alone. My Lord was with me. I’m still piecing together all the things that He has provided for ahead of time to help me deal with this situation and honestly, the fact that both of us drivers walked away totally okay is a straight up miracle.

But, let’s not forget now, my God is a miracle worker. And He loves me. I know this sounds morbid and weird, but in the midst of potential tragedy and being faced with my fragile mortality, I feel so unbelievably and overwhelmingly loved by Him.

Today, I woke up incredible thankful. Because I might not have.

Life happens in an instant. It can also end just as fast. And regardless of whether or not anyone else would be at my funeral, I have been forced to remember that death is the ultimate place that I won’t be alone – I’ll be with Jesus. But I got to wake up today. I can tell the people that are important to me that I love them today. I can walk and think and joke and face whatever comes. And my God is with me.

amen.

skydiving without a parachute

…is not a good idea, right?

I agree.

First off, I’m a little afraid of heights. Not conventionally, though. I’m more afraid of the heights that you aren’t strapped in for. Like bungee-jumping or rock-climbing or the Tower of Doom – pish! No big deal. Because there’s a harness and rope or some newfangled seat locking mechanism that are holding me in. Bridges or tall buildings? No big deal. That’s why there are railings. But free-falling at some crazy fast speed, plummeting towards the ground, just hoping this large sack on your back filled with some sort of perfectly tailored synthetic material will first off actually open and then slow you down enough that you don’t splat face first on an unforgiving patch of ground? Not so much.

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peace corps nomination

I am coming to realize that my life is turning out a lot differently than I was expecting. There have been so many twists and turns in the road along the way, and I have figured out in hindsight that those turns are exactly what needed to happen. But life lately doesn’t follow any kind of map that I’m familiar with. I feel like I am in entirely uncharted territory with so many unanswered questions and a Heavenly Father that feels really silent right now. I know, with confidence, that He hasn’t left me, but I have just been sifting and sorting and questioning tons of things lately and every other voice seems to be shouting at me, while under the cacophony He is still quietly whispering.

Enter crazy life decisions.

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