Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sacred Stories (and the people behind them)

Sometimes it feels repetitive to write.

It seems silly to tell and retell you that this job can be both devastating and lovely. It seems boring to tell you that "I wish I could tell" you the stories. I really do wish I could tell you what happens every day here. Some days would bore you, others you wouldn't believe. But I always have to leave you wondering because it isn't right, I don't think, to exploit the stories so trustfully given to me. It doesn't seem kind to throw the stories of my students into the wind, even if they do have the potential to inspire or impact. 

The fact is that their stories are their own to tell. More people would probably read this if I wrote them out for you, but what would be my goal in that? To be glorified as a hardworking missionary? Or perhaps it would be so that I could share the burden, so that you could understand the pain that occurs on our own soil. Yes, that would be a more noble reason, but I don't want you to think that these kids are just sad stories and hard days.

You see, even if I told you their stories they would be flat. You wouldn't have the dimensions that make them so beautiful, so filled to the brim with hope. You wouldn't know the history, the circumstances, the looks in their eyes or the quirks of their personalities. They would simply become a story, and perhaps less of a real person, with a real life and real choices.

And perhaps I am wrong and knowing their stories would enliven them to you, but I will stand my ground, at least for now. I will tuck their stories close to my heart, knowing that in your prayers God will fill in the gaps. I will walk alongside these beautiful people and I will trust that you understand. That we will all hold their stories as sacred and special.

But even still, no matter what I feel, I will not cease to write. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pictures of a Beautiful Week

I could write out everything about the last week but that would probably bore you and you would tune out somewhere in the middle and go eat a sandwich instead. So I will give you pictures and hope that you can read the story better that way.

The whole AYM Staff/Family together for a delicious meal. 

Some awesome moms came and spent the week with us. We took them on a tour of the reservation and got to share about our work, passions, and home. 

The hat switch!

Hat switching is not my favorite, but I let go and went with it. 

Isn't my team so cute? 

These mamas served us so well for a whole week. We ate a TON of delicious food and got our fill of hugs and love. It was the biggest of blessings. 

Caitlin left for Oregon! I shed a few tears but I am so proud of her as she embarks on this adventure. (She is holding a bag of snacks, because we all know that I think snacks are the most important thing to pack.) 

Over the weekend we remembered what it was like to live in the real world. We went to Phoenix for a week of birthday fun and started it off with some country two-stepping. 

THEN I discovered my new love for sushi. Who knew it was so delicious!? 

We ended by climbing Camelback Mountain, which included a lot of boulder/rock climbing. It was incredible. 

I also discovered a love for spandex pants. Seriously, they are so comfortable.  
I am definitely becoming a "mountain woman" (my dad's words), which makes me so happy. I never knew I was capable of being athletic, but I love it!  

So there you have it. It was basically one of the most fun, best weeks and weekends of my life. From good food and lots of hugs, to climbing mountains, going out dancing, and drooling over froyo, it was a beautiful reminder of the fun this life can entail. 

Hiking mountains and looking good doing it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Small Reminders of Grace

To be woken up at 4am with a phone call, a worried student, and a dilemma. 
To respond to mistakes without the expected anger or judgement. 
Knowing that it is ok to struggle in our walk towards God and that no matter what, you are not alone. 

This weekend has been full of interactions of grace. Though the days were not easy or simple, the presence of God was real and tangible. It was in the words that came out of our mouths, the expressions on our faces, and the love that came through our actions. None of it was our own. None of it was our ability, of which we could boast. All of it was of the Lord, so that we could boast in Him. These moments of grace meant that His compassion could be made known, even at four in the morning. 

One of the worst heartbreaks in this job is hearing students doubt their own worth. It will bring out the deepest sense of nurturing in a person, when a teenager speaks the quiet "no" when asked if they believe their life is worth anything, or if it would matter if they died. It is the saddest of moments to see the depth of their despair, wrapped up in the idea that they are neither important or necessary in this world. 

But what a moment of grace. What a beautiful moment of truth and light to get to tell them otherwise. It is one of the best moments in the world to get to tell them about the depth of love that is in Jesus Christ, to tell them that someone loves them enough to die in their place so that they may have life, and life to the fullest. 

It is a beautiful thing when we can take a moment of despair and turn it into a moment of life. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The One with the Four-letter Word

The other day I said a four-letter word
 and I said it loud.

Normally, if I stubbed my toe in my room or lost my keys in the dark parking lot, it wouldn't be a problem. After all, if no one was around to hear me, did I really say it? But this time I was not alone, not even a little bit.

In fact, I was in the middle of a group of our students, some strangers, and a mother, all in line for tickets to the Alchesay High School basketball game.

It was not my finest moment, and it was probably the closest I have ever gotten to seeing things happen in slow motion. One minute I was standing there with students and co-workers and the next moment a rogue skateboard had slammed into my ankle. The world slowed down to the speed of snail as my head turned to see what had happened and the dreaded word began to leave my lips.


I'm telling you, I've never pronounced all the letters so articulately and so loudly. As the last "t" left my lips I looked up to see everyone staring at me and the oh-so-high-school "Oooooooooo!!!!" resonating from 10 middle school and high school mouths.

"You said a cuss word!!" They exclaimed as the mother looked at me disapprovingly. I seriously hoped that my ankle was broken as I walked into the building ashamed and praying for a brain-washing to randomly occur amongst all that had witnessed my moment of weakness.

Like I said, it was not my finest moment.


When working with teenagers in ministry, little slip-ups like this can resound across the hills. You never live down the one time you said "the S word," and the tale turns to urban legend as generations are told of the fated moment. So I gave up cuss words on the spot (that is until I spilt boiling water on my hand today. I am a work in progress.) and declared that I would, from that moment forward, be a better person.

And really, that is all we can do, right? We can declare before God and our peers that each day we will try to be the best version of ourselves. We surely cannot control the rogue skateboards or unexpected bruises that a day might bring, but what we can control is who we are. I can wake up each morning putting my left best foot forward and preparing my heart, soul, and mind to be the best version of myself. And maybe, equipped with that mindset and a handful of grace, I can make it through each day leaving a different kind of legacy.

After all, I would really like to be remembered as the hilarious, kind, dancing youth leader instead.