Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


A YEAR OF NEW THINGS

This was an exciting year in the Call household. Brady began his first year of school as he entered Kindergarten at Glen Cove Elementary. He was so excited to go and make new friends and ride the bus! There were a few tears from Mom and Dad, but Brady just ran away to catch that bus just as happy as he could be! Also this fall, Maryn started her first year of preschool at Community School where Mom and Dad were once again concerned about her shyness and fear of strangers. But she proved our fears unfounded as she seemed to fit right in there. Her favorite things are talking to her teacher, Katlyn, playing with her friends Ethan & Jupiter, swinging herself on the swings, and helping her classmates open their lunch containers. (Her teacher says the other kids create a line in front of Maryn every day, waiting for her to open their food so they can eat).  She has surprised us with her independence and outgoing nature at school.

NEW JOBS CAN BE REFRESHING, TOO

When the counseling company John had worked at for over 3 years closed suddenly, he was quickly hired on part time with Youth Advocate Programs, where he continued to counsel and work with families. But his primary job now is running his eBay business where he specializes in selling rare U.S. coins! (Yes, he’s in nerd heaven.)

Jenny also changed jobs this year when she resigned from HopeTree Family Services (after 8 years) and began as Interim Chaplain at Hollins University! Now, instead of working with pre-teens and high school students, she works with college students in a similar capacity. Needless to say, she is finding the change to be a breath of fresh air, and she has captured a renewed spirit.

‘MOMMY, ARE WE GOING ON THE MICKEY MOUSE BOAT?”

After many years of waiting, our family decided it was time to take a substantial vacation together; one that we knew the kids would certainly never forget. We took a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas, and it was AMAZING! Maryn really came out of her shell, talking excitedly to our waiters and all the staff, and bouncing around with a big grin on her face the entire time. Brady loved it all too; especially eating gourmet mac n’ cheese for every meal. While it was fun to watch the kids bursting with such excitement, John and Jenny also got a much needed break, thanks to the Kids Club who provided constant entertainment of the kids.  It was an amazing vacation and one we hope to do again in a couple of years.

Our family wishes you a Merry Christmas and
many blessings in the New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chri$tmas is coming

I've been reflecting a lot on the Christmas season.  Not all of my new friends are Christian, and I've been sensitive already about thinking that this season is just for those of us who worship Christ.  The holy-days are sacred to us in many ways...a time of rest, a time to focus on peace, a time for family.  Our worship will take different forms, and that is a gift.  I want to be more intentional in the forms that my worship takes.  Am I worshipping the culture's ideal of consumerism?  Am I turning Jesus' birthday into an event that alienates others?  There have been many articles posted lately that I have agreed with:
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-december-6-2010/the-gretch-who-saved-the-war-on-christmas

http://www.abpnews.com/content/view/6991/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/derek-flood/the-real-war-on-christmas_b_1128864.html

http://fatpastor.wordpress.com/2008/12/28/happy-holidays/

But with two young kids at home, one of which took a preschool field trip to visit Santa Claus, I have a lot to struggle with.  I understand the need to limit my own consumerism, the benefits of buying locally, and the necessity of buying well made imaginative toys instead of cheap (and often toxic) foreign made plastic (crap). 

This was the result this year:

It's an EPIC FAIL to my standards, yet my kids will be delighted.  I rationalize that it is not all from us; we have a $100 spending limit for both kids total, which is one gift for each, and some books and stocking stuffers.  The rest is from the grandparents, who ask us to purchase on their behalf.   This year, I was "too busy" to think, and it was much easier to shop.  The kids will get their wish, and we can rest easy.  I have to say that it was a joy seeing Brady unwrap his first gift at a family event this weekend and jump up and down, shouting, "Yes!  This is just what I wanted!!"  On the other hand, my proudest moments this season were when Brady asked, "If it's Jesus' birthday, why do we get presents?" and his joy and excitement of wrapping up his new gift he received at church to give to his daddy.  They have been enjoying our new Jesse tree and devotional tradition and have been playing "Baby Jesus", both acting out the story in real life and with our nativity set.  We chose not to visit Santa today (especially after Brady saw him at school on Friday and told him that he wanted a basketball, of all things...news to us) and instead spent a quiet family day at home.  We will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrating at church services.

And yet, I feel I have a long way to go.  I've grown weary of strangers (and family members) asking the kids if they've been good and wondering what Santa will bring them.  Although I also use Santa as a tool, and we threaten to call him daily unless behavior improves.  I'm frustrated by commercials geared to my young ones...and the ones that I buy into as well (how much joy would an iPad 2 bring me?)  As a friend commented on Facebook, I too, struggle with the competing desires to live a simple, but meaningful life, yet also wanting all the fancy goods that are advertised.

It's not easy, but worthwhile ideals never are.  I want my kids to be excited about the REAL Christmas story...which means I must be, too.  I want to be prepared for Christmas, which is more about the state of my heart than the state of presents under the tree.  I want to focus on giving, so I need to be better of giving of myself, my resources, my time...and to not do it grudgingly.  My goal for next year is to focus on the gift of giving to others with the kids by having them shop for those in need (other than our usual shoebox gifts) and to buy presents for each other (because I know that they truly enjoy this when we give them the opportunity).  I want to be a better example for my children, so I must start now.  Advent is a time of waiting, of expecting, of light coming from darkness.  What a wonderful gift, one that I can receive and learn to give.

Be still...

There is quiet.  No laughter in the office, and no students coming through the door.  The sun is setting and all is still.  This is a rarity on a bustling college campus.  It it the beginning of Christmas break.  The pace around here has gone from 70mph to 25.  I have a hard time figuring out how I should spend my newly found "free" time, a gift I've been praying for over the past 3 months.  I have a stack of books I've been waiting to read, and a January class that I desperately need to put the finishing touches on.  There are holiday preparations and craft projects to finish.  But for now, I relish the quiet, the calm.

These past few months have been a whirlwind; exhilarating, connecting, creative, busy, and affirming.  They have also been exhausting and draining, but not in the ways that in my former position led to burnout.  I feel settled here, at home, and actually eagerly anticipate the challenges the next semester will bring.  But for now, I rest.  "Be still, and know I am God".  I hear the voice, and I submit.



Friday, December 16, 2011

Pinteresting

I've enjoyed Pinterest for some time as a nice diversion (i.e. time waster).  For years, I've collected files and magazine cutouts of craft projects I'd like to do "when I have time" , and I thought Pinterest would be a way to inspire creativity without so much clutter.  I've surprised myself, however, by completing some projects and wanted to share them in the hopes of motivating me to continue.

Easter egg cake pops for my daughter's 3rd birthday party (to go along with our Easter egg hunt).

Mini cupcake cake bites for a friend's baby shower.

A tree of Thanksgiving (which morphed into a Jesse tree for Christmas).

Origami cranes and stars.

painted and decoupaged ornaments

decoupaged candleholders

my Christmas gifts: dry erase tile coasters

Friday, November 11, 2011

Growing and going

This morning, I had the chance to send my sweet boy off on the school bus.  Usually this is John's job in our hectic morning division of labor, but he left early to go hunting.  I was a little daunted by the task of getting two kids ready for school by myself, then trudging out into the frigid morning to wait at the bus stop, but it ended up being a poignant start to the day.  Shuffling through the fallen leaves, across "Brady's bridge" that John and his dad built over our creek in the side yard, I delighted in the sound of smaller, faster steps behind mine.  Bundled in my coat over pajamas, I marvelled at how this boy was excited and ready to go out into the world and tackle this new day.  At the bus stop, he greeted a neighbor (who I didn't know) by name, and I saw the boy soften from his toughened older elementary posture, grin, and say, "Hey, buddy."  The two had a conversation, and I was just struck by how confident and outgoing our once silent and withdrawn boy has become.  When the bus arrived, he grabbed my leg and hugged hard, said "I'll miss you, Mommy," then ran off past the other waiting and more reluctant boys to get his place in the front of the line to climb onto the bus.  Then off he went into the wide wide world, ready for an adventure.

I, on the other hand, paused for a moment, stilled by the weight of the moment, the beginning of our separation, and the reality of his independent life at school.  Although this process has been happening for months (years, really), I can forget about it in the busyness my normal routine, and assume that all is well.    And I know that all is (likely) well.  He loves school and is thriving.  He is quite a follower, which has worried us, but makes him an excellent follower of rules, routines, and teacher expectations.  Yesterday, however, he came home on "orange" for the first time, which meant that due to multiple behavioral reprimands, he had to miss part of playtime.  While John and I disagreed with the severity of the punishment, Brady seemed to handle it well.  The funny thing is that he got in trouble for yelling at other students to be quiet in the cafeteria lunch line...because the teachers were doing it, and he was trying to help.  We have the same issue at home with him trying to help us discipline his sister.  Sometimes his "helpfulness" is not always desired.  Another of his infractions yesterday was yelling "pick me!" at circle time instead of raising his hand.  Although he knows the rules, I have to smile at his excitement.  It's ironic to me as well that he is so focused on behaving well at school when it is often such a struggle at home!

But really, I don't worry about behavioral issues.  I worry about him losing his spark, his interest, his individuality.  I worry about him learning that he is different and deciding that is not okay.  I worry about whom he will follow and where they will lead him.  I worry about the day when he's not as eager to run to the school bus...and also about the day when he dreams of running away from us, his family.

But I thank God for the gift of him, the grace to watch him grow into the person God created him to be.  I thank God for the awesome and humbling responsibility to lead him in good directions and try to instill all our values and teachings of faith and love in the small time we have an influence.  I thank God for hugs and words of love and for all the love that follows him on his journey away from us.

And I thank God for Brady's own growing sense of self:



Thursday, October 20, 2011

We count people because people count

I used to be a paid youth minister in a church.  While much of it was delightful and I still have strong relationships with many of my former youth (who have grown into mature and lovely adults), the downside was having to do certain activities you would not normally choose to do.  One of these, for me, was big youth evangelistic rallies and conferences (the other being lock-ins, but that's another post entirely).  These events had a prescribed order: "big name" speaker with a tragic yet redeemed testimony, a worship band playing rock-like worship anthems leading up to a somber and drawn out "come to Jesus" altar call song, and lots of tears.  After each conference, the sponsoring group would always boast of how many youth were saved at the event.  I knew of some youth that were "saved" at each of these events, year after year.  When the evangelistic tide started to turn a little bit and people began questioning the appropriateness of basing your success on the numbers of decisions (as opposed to the discipleship that actually came out of these supposed conversions), the group retorted,
"We count people because people count." 

To me, it's one of those phrases that aims to sound good, but in actuality expresses nothing of value.

Yet working in ministry, it's hard to avoid the numbers game.  How can you measure if your ministry programs are a success and if your church is growing without counting the number of new and active members?  It is certainly apparent when the mortality rate is higher than the number of baptisms.  It's also an easy question to ask when you meet another person in ministry: "How large is your church?"  (and we're not talking square footage).  We all know that it's not the only (or the most important) indicator of spiritual growth, but it is the most quantitative one.

In my new position, numbers have been on my mind.  We have 850 undergraduates at Hollins.  How many have I met?  With how many am I potentially forming significant relationships?  I know I'm just a month and a half into the job, but the semester is half over, and I've completed almost a fifth of my guaranteed contract.  Time is limited.  Even if I become the permanent chaplain, I have four years (or less) with each class of students to make a connection and hopefully guide them towards spiritual growth.

When I started, chapel attendance was negligible.  It is a diverse and secular school in a time when less value is put on religious practice.  College students in general often put their faith on a shelf for a while (if not abandon it totally).  And yet the administration's goal for me as chaplain is to start a regular chapel serve that draws a significant group of students.  I started out with six, which was a grave disappointment to me.  It was my average chapel attendance at my previous ministry setting, although there, it was 50% of the population (and I was discouraged at that).  At Hollins, the number of attendees increased steadily for a couple of weeks, but made a sharp decline in the past two weeks.  For the work I (and others) put into planning and promoting, it could seem like a waste....except...

-for the significant conversation I had with a student while preparing for the last chapel
-for the one student who came this week, participated well, and then sent me a "thank you" message
-for the many students I recognize now as I walk across campus, who stop to chat with me
-for the student chaplains whom I mentor...who also teach and encourage me
-for the creativity that continues to grow within me
-for those who seek me out, not for chapel services, but for counseling and support
-for the student who found me to ask if I needed PR help for the chapel and volunteered her time and gifts to inspire me
-for the good ideas that others share with me, regardless of where they are in their faith journeys
-for the love I have for the students, the campus, and the Hollins community
-for the calling that is reaffirmed day after day
-for new chances and opportunities, and a hope that endures

-for reminders that it is not about numbers, but about hearts and lives and presence; that it's about the Spirit showing up in unexpected places and continually giving me sacred access into private places in the students' stories

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The meaning of it all


Some days at work, I feel like a child.  The tasks seem too big and I feel about two feet shorter, surrounded by giants.  I feel unqualified and worry that everyone can feel my own sense of inadequacy.  And then, some days, I feel just my age.  I feel my experience on my shoulders and my God-given gifts ready to assist.  Fortunately, thanks be to God, today was one of the latter kind of days.  It was certainly unexpected, which is why God gets all the credit (and should anyway, although sometimes I'm too selfish or stubborn or prideful to admit it).

This morning, I was standing in the checkout line of Walmart when I got a phone call from my supervisor, the Dean of Students, saying that there was an emergency at Hollins and I needed to meet her in the counseling office ASAP.  Heart pounding, I pushed the poor cashier to hurry (not a good scenario in Wallyworld), with multiple scenarios racing through my head.  Upon my arrival, I discovered that a beloved professor had passed away unexpectedly.  We had to put a plan in action.  After three weeks in my job as interim chaplain, I was being called to help support a hurting, grieving community.

Death is a viscious thief, not only robbing us our loved ones, but also eroding our confidence and security.  Within the span of a hour of the news getting out, I had the opportunity to counsel staff and students struggling with their own mortality issues.  While I wondered about being new and not having built complete trust yet with the community, I was awed by how they opened up to me and sought me out.  I was also touched by the spirit of community and collaboration.  I worked to plan a service where faculty, staff, and students could come together to grieve.  As I was on the phone trying to arrange flowers, I saw a student walk by my office window with a handpicked bouquet.  Another student volunteered to play piano, and held her emotions in check until the service ended, then let the tears flow.  I saw staff comfort students, and faculty support one another.  Several students hugged me as well, and I was given many words of thanks for my (brief, inadequate) words.

But I realized yet again what a gift ministry is.  How sacred, to be part of so many aspects of one's life.  To bear witness to the joys, the struggles, the celebrations, the unions, the births, and yes, even the end of life, when we ponder questions of meaning and purpose...and God.  What a gift to be able to offer comfort, and to feel the peace of God gently falling around.  What a blessing to see people coming together in support and love...and shared tears. 

I know there will be days when I question my calling, and when I feel small and incapable.  But I hope I'll remember how God guided me today, inequipped as I was, to be a presence of peace and hope.  Let me remember how God gifted me with the eyes to see the hope around me, shining through the hurt.  Let me not forget the meaning of it all.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

work that worth the work

I've been at my new position as Interim Chaplain at Hollins University for over three weeks now, and I'm way overdue for some processing.  And yet, I feel reluctant to begin, partially because I'm so tired, and even more because I feel so...full.  It's hard to put into words the insights I've gained, the connections made, the stress I've felt, and the affirmation I've received. 

I knew from the beginning that God was planting my steps in this direction.  I've felt a calling to college ministry (particularly with women) for years.  My own experiences as a college student in the Baptist Student Union helped lead me in the direction of ministry as a vocation, and I served as an intern in the same BSU as a seminary student.  Yet budget cuts and ministry restructuring within the Baptist organization made campus ministry impossible when I was searching for my first ministry job.  But my time as a youth minister and then Director of Christian Education/chaplain at a group home continued to hone my gifts of relationship-building, and continued to deepen my interest in mentoring young women.

After shifts at work left me feeling burned out and apathetic, I knew it was time for a switch.  I couldn't imagine anything I wanted or was qualified to do, but kept feeling at home during visits to Hollins University for Brady's preschool programs (his preschool was right across the road and used the campus often).  I thought to myself that it would be a perfect (if largely unlikely) possibility.  Yet, within months, I heard that the beloved chaplain of 24 years was leaving, and I quickly made contacts and sent in my interest letter.  I bounced between feeling that it was a God-ordained situation and that I was woefully unqualified.  I continue to bounce between those extremes, but feel amazingly blessed to have been given this chance to serve as chaplain.

I have found the campus and its students to be warm and welcoming.  I have made many attempts at reaching out (not always my strength as an introvert), but have found it to be effective as people are starting to reach out to me in return.  While my first event was a little crushing in terms of response and attendance (low), there has been growth and interest in the two following events.  Dialogues have been initiated and I feel like I'm becoming somewhat known on campus.

It has also been humbling.  Not everything has gone well and I've already had to work my way through a couple of conflicts.  It has been a growing and stretching experience.  I'm stumbling to find boundaries in work that could easily become all-encompassing.  There are never enough hours, and my phone rarely stops "dinging" from all the incoming emails.  My daughter has cried asking to come see me at "Collins" and has asked me not to go to work.  I've had to surrender a lot of responsibility to my fantastic husband and haven't yet learned how to give up the guilt from that.  But it's been a lesson to me, too, in how well my family has managed and how supportive they have remained.

The bottom line?  I love it, and I feel loved.  I'm finding my place, finding my people, and finding God in so many new ways.  I'm learning my gifts and my weaknesses, and how to reach out for help.  I'm seeing that I will be learning for years and years to come, and I'm excited about growing again.  The work is tremendous, and it's hard to build a program at a secular university that is fantastically diverse.  It is hard to go beyond my natural tendencies and reach out continuously.  The work rarely lets up, and I go from one event to planning the next (and all the unexpected things and meetings that come in between).  I am exhausted most of the time and living on too little sleep.  But I am energized by it, and am so thankful to God for work that is worth all the work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Falling

My husband and I often joke that we are always on the verge of a catastrophe.  With two young kids and an old house, we're never quite sure what problem may pop up.  Our children are not the most graceful, either, so usually we're sucking in our breath as one teeters on the edge of falling, or makes an unwise leap off of the furniture.  We feel so blessed, however, to have missed many of the "almost" emergencies, especially when we hear the struggles of others.

Last night was other close call.  I was at work listening to a somber academic panel on 9/11: Ten Years Later and kept hearing a buzzing sound.  I couldn't believe someone could be getting so many phone calls.  Then I realized the floor under my feet was buzzing, and it was, in fact, my phone.  As a parent, you know instantly that constant phone calls do not bring good news, so I jumped up, pushed past the university president and my boss, who had the misfortune of sitting near me, and ran out to the car while checking the frantic texts, missed calls, and voicemails from my worried husband.  He was on his way to the ER with Brady, who had tumbled head-first down our flight of steep, uncarpeted steps. 

When I arrived at the hospital at what seemed like hours later (although driving 80 mph likely got me there within minutes), I found our sweet boy in one piece. 



After multiple x-rays, he returned to his talkative, inquisitive self, and made sure they showed him the pictures before sending us back to his room.  He was quick to tell everyone he was in his 16th day of kindergarten at Glen Cove Elementary, and was excited about the stickers he received, anxious to show them to his classmates the next day.  John and I were sure by this point that he was okay, although we were still nervous wrecks.  It didn't take us long to start worrying over the $250 co-pay and the bill we will receive for the x-rays...and yet, still so grateful for his clean bill of health. 

So the first night of the kids sleeping in their new "big kid" beds did not go as smoothly or as long as we had hoped.  Fortunately, our gracious neighbors entertained Maryn at their house, and she was excited to eat cheeseburgers and have stories read to her.  Brady enjoyed his adventure, and we were all grateful to God for escaping a potential tragedy.

Life is full of so much grace, and yet there lurks so much fear.  I have friends struggling with so many serious burdens, and yet they seem more at peace than I do with my little inconveniences and scares.  I worry that my faith is not strong enough, that I could not survive such tests, and I fear that I will be tested.  I spend so little of my time thanking God for the multitude of mercy and grace that we experience and instead waste away the time quaking in fear of the unknown and the "maybes".  And then my fearless children dive headfirst (not always literally, thank God) into the world day after day. 

Brady, the morning after his ordeal, came downstairs and then began cheering for himself.  "Mommy!" he said, excited, "I didn't fall down the stairs this time!"

Thank God for the lessons learned in falling, and for picking us back up, every single time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jumping in

Forgive me, blogger, for I have slacked off.  It's been a couple of weeks since my last post.  So long, in fact, that I'm out of practice.  My writing bones are creaking and my mushy brain is reeling from the strain.  There's so much to write about, so much to process, that I don't know where to begin.  And thus the silence.  But it's now or never, I guess, and I enjoy this process too much to give it up.  I suppose blogging is a calling itself.

Over the past two weeks, I've sent my baby boy off to kindergarten, and my baby girl off to full-day preschool.  I've ended my 8 year position for a new job asinterim  chaplain of Hollins University (after juggling the two concurrently for a crazy two weeks).  I've said "goodbye" and "hello" over and over, and I've been welcome, affirmed, missed, and bid good riddance (okay, maybe not the latter...at least not outloud!).  I've met numerous new people, learned countless new procedures and processes, and worried how I would remember it all.  And yet, all has been touched by the spirit of God.  There is a newness and energy even in my exhaustion.  There is creativity and potential even as I have the arduous task of following a beloved chaplain of 24 years.  There has been the grace and opportunity to serve alongside and learn from my predecessor over the past few weeks and I'm so grateful for her gentle, supportive, and honest guidance.  I've fallen in love with this ministry and am dreaming far beyond the 10 months they've promised me, praying that I have years to explore and learn and teach.  I've felt both younger and older than my 34 years.  Sometimes I get swept up in the spirit of campus life and almost forget I'm not still a(n official) student, but, thank God, there are also times when the realization hits with relief.

I've felt guilt at the added hours away from my family and for the household tasks that I've had to surrender.  And yet I'm so thankful and proud of my capable husband who is handling it all with grace and love.  It is all such a gift, and I'm humbled by it.

There is still much to learn and many ways in which to go.  I have to make my own boundaries, for this job could quickly suck up my entire life.  I have to prioritize, or the minutiae could bury me.  I have to learn to let go (of fears, of unreasonable expectations, of comparisons) and jump wholly into the unknown, trusting that I've been given all I need.

My children, entering their new worlds with wonder and bravery, give me a great example to follow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

step by step


I've been walking through daydreams lately that are more like those awful nightmares when you dream of showing up for the first day of school, only to discover you are naked. I've been tossing and turning, wide awake, going through ideas, and possibilities, and fears, while my husband, sleeping beside me, wakes to his own fears of our son struggling at his new school.

It's a time of transition for our family, and we tend to do them on a big scale. I remember being in seminary, newly married, and moving to a new city for two new jobs and a new home, while trying to juggle coursework for classes 3 hours away. The next year brought job promotions, a new house, graduation, and ordination. Then came the children, in quick succession, after adjusting to a couple of dogs, and then a new house. Now, eight years later, John and I are each adjusting to new jobs while we anticipate our son's first day of kindergarten, and our daughter's entry into a new (to her) preschool. You would think we would be used to it by now!

Who really enjoys change? Although I've been dreaming of it, anticipating it, praying for it (Dear God in heaven, PLEASE!!), the reality of it is staggering. It's leaving the comfort and security (the apathy and laziness?), the familiarity (the safety?), and facing the fear (can I? will I?). It's stepping out in faith or bravado, innocence or ignorance; it's facing a future that isn't written by me, but by God. The big transitions in my life are never my own plans. No, my plans are meek and small and static. God, however, enjoys shaking me up, and filling me with a passion that knows no bounds. It isn't comfortable or easy or predictable, but it is sustaining and exhilarating, and full of love.

It's a lesson in letting go of control, which is a constant battle for me. The battle will be even more fierce when I have to surrender control of my sweet boy's life as he goes off into the bigger world of school. I worry about his acceptance, and who will be his friends, and if he can learn to lead as much as he follows. I don't worry about his skills or competence or academics, but I worry about his heart and the quality of what his quick mind takes in. How will he find his way (figuratively, not literally...well, maybe a bit of that, too)? I know this transition will be good for all of us, but what will be the cost as we begin the life-long process of separation?

It all comes down to faith, and faith, I'm learning, isn't something that you ever just have. I'm always growing in faith, slowly, incrementally, through each new change. Each experience brings more faith, just enough to guide me to that next step. Through the process I will always have enough, if I can just let go and trust in the God that has placed each step before me. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Holding their dreams for them

I work at a place called HopeTree, which ironically, is a residential group home for those whom many would consider hopeless.  When I lead chapel services, my goal is primarily to share God's love and grace for them, letting them know that life can be radically different.  Although they come to us hurt, scarred (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), neglected, and angry, I want them to know that this doesn't always have to be their reality.  God has a better plan for them if they can only find the hope to go after God's dreams for them.  So many of them appear to have already given up at age 15, and after hearing their stories, I don't blame them.  But I am scared for them in their unknown and dark futures, alone, and only pretending to be tough on the outside when they are falling apart on the inside.

This past Sunday, I read a children's book entitled If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade.


In the story, a bird has to decide whether to leave the comfort and security of her cozy nest and try to fly.  She is afraid of failing or of getting lost, but she is also afraid of missing out on discovering new skills, places and friends.  It's a lovely book with a good message for all of us.

After reading the story, we discussed our own fears and what flying would mean for us, then I asked the teens to make a collage of what their dreams would look like if they choose to fly away (at the right time!) from the HopeTree.  They seemed to enjoy the assignment and set to work quickly.  After a little while, one guy told me he was done and showed me his result.  He had found pictures of a boxer and a guitar and shared that he would like to learn to box as a hobby while becoming a musician (a skill that he's currently working on).  I complimented him on his work and dream and he asked what he should do with his collage.  I told him he could keep it in his room as a reminder, but he said, "No, will you hang onto it for me?"  I promised I would put it on my office wall, and that's when it hit me...that's what we do here.

We are the dream holders.  We carry the hopes and dreams of our youth when they are too scared to do it themselves.  We carry them through the darkness, promising the light ahead.  We learn that they won't accept our answers or our truths, but I'm starting to see that when we accept their truths and understand the meaning behind their answers, we can see the faint dreams that linger beyond the hurt.  If we can carry them through in the short time we have, perhaps those dreams can be born in another time when they have begun to heal and to open to the love and truth we planted within them.