Saturday, May 31, 2014

Crazy Summer, comin' right up!

Well, the school year is officially over and this week summer begins! For some people, summer means a break. For AYM, summer means things get crazy.

This summer, for instance, we lose our regular programming but gain 10 short-term teams from around the United States. That means b.u.s.y. In addition to working with these awesome teams, we also have to work at making sure that we don't drop our own students in the hustle and bustle of accommodating and loving on our visitors.

For us, the summer becomes a balance. It is a balance of caring for multiple groups of people, from different backgrounds, with different stories and expectations. And we are blessed because our short term teams are fantastic, and our AYM students are so lovely and flexible and kind and excited. But there is a danger in trying to accommodate so many needs that we forget about the purpose behind it all. 

For me, as I prepare for the summer I get small bouts of anxiety, because I want it to be perfect for everyone. I want our teams to get a full picture of this beautiful place. I want them to leave with the right perspective, with new friends, with a new appreciation for God. For our kids, I don't want them to feel left behind. I don't want them to feel like a project or a show. I want them to feel loved and cared for and happy. My team and I have such a passion for God's work in this place, and I don't want anything to become lost in the busy weeks to come.

In the midst of the preparations I become easily overpowered by expectations, and I get tired before the summer has even started! But as I often have to do, I take a deep breath. And I find rest in the deep and perfect breath of God saying, "This isn't about you, your team, or even AYM. This isn't about the "perfect week" or the "perfect summer." This is about AYM letting go and letting Me work. Trust me. I've had this planned long before you did. I AM in control." 

And as I breathe in that truth I throw all the expectations out the window, because a summer in which God has control is better than any summer my team and I could plan.

So bring it on summer. We are ready for you. And we can't wait to see what happens.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The One Sure Thing

"You've got to believe in God," he said. "The world is too wretched for there not to be something beyond this. Believe there will be justice in the next life. We should fear no evil, eh? 'Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. . . thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.'"
- Mary Horlock 

In my line of work I see a lot of hard things. Much of it is the result of choices made, footsteps followed in, and one's own volition, but it is suffering all the same. As my daily life has joined with the struggles of Native American young people, my view of God has many times been clouded. It has become harder and harder to understand His ways, His goodness, and His character. But it is in those moments, when frustrations rise and my students' lives don't seem to make any sense, that I stop to think of the one thing that I do know for sure.

And that is this- that there was a historical man named Jesus, who could only have been Lord, the Son of God, And He, who was fully God and fully man, died because He loved my kids so much. Because He believed so strongly that each of us was worth dying for. 

And no matter what each day brings, what new struggles I or my students face, I know that Jesus makes sense. And there is nothing else that makes more sense than following Him and teaching Native American young people to do the same.

So as we go on with our daily lives, let us believe that the end has already been set. Let us believe that He is victorious even in the hard things, and may we be in prayer that our focus will never be fully clouded from the One who believed that we were worth dying for. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dreams and Vision on the Home front

Written after traveling to my university, Georgia College, at the beginning of my trip home. 

It is such a joy to be home, to be in the place that formed me, grew me, challenged me.

It is such a privilege to be around motivation, to cast vision for what my students could be, will be, with the right push and the right care.

As I walk around this place I envision what it would look like for my students to achieve this, to believe that this can be their future. I have dreams of walking the campus with my girls, of introducing them to key people, of inspiring them to reach for a better future that they can see, imagine, embrace.

What great blessing it is to have connections, to have good hands to pass to. How amazing that this has been my life. And isn't that what I bring to the table? No, I haven't had their suffering, but I have had the future that I want to be available to them. I have had the experiences and I have the passion to believe that they too can be formed by a place like Georgia College.

I choose to believe.
I choose to have faith.

And I will pursue these ends until God tells me otherwise. Because He has brought me to these places for a purpose, and I will live within that purpose to the fullest of my ability.

I choose to have unwaivering hope in the midst of disappointment.

I choose to work within my passions, my past, and my future for the sake of the one.
Because isn't it all worth it for that one student?
The one that decides that enough is enough.
The one that decides that they are done with mediocrity and ready for greatness. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Finding Peace in Dysfunction

I'm home. . .sprawled out on the couch at my parents' house, planning on visiting my alma mater Georgia College this afternoon, and I am thrilled.

Actually, more than thrilled, I am at peace.

My work, which I love with all my heart, is rather dysfunctional. Nothing is predictable. Nothing is simple. The issues are intense and the problems are serious. But that dysfunction is my normal. So seeing as I don't burst into tears all that often anymore, and I don't have terrific mood swings, I figured that my work wasn't really having a negative impact on me. I figured that my life was normal.

But then I got home. And my parent's house was so clean and functional. And my dad made the same obnoxious comment that he has made literally every time I get off a plane for the last 5 years ("So. . .does everyone where you live say 'like' so much?"). And there were no worries of bedbugs or hair-bugs. And it was
so quiet
and peaceful,
I was removed from my isolated world on the mountain and all of a sudden I felt something:
A lightness of being. 
Peace. Calm.

I hadn't realized that being constantly surrounded with dysfunction is a pressure that encloses one in and leaves a residue of stress that never quite goes away. I hadn't realized how important family is. Sure, I love my little makeshift family that is my team, but there is something about a home, a mom and dad, structure and predictability. I hadn't realized that my world was full of dysfunction and stress, and I had had no idea that being home would be exactly what I needed.

I almost cried when my best friend knocked on the door.

Because isolation, tragedy, teenagers and trauma, all weigh one down. Until the door opens and you are standing in the home your family has built a life upon. And the world makes just a little more sense. And the peace overwhelms your soul as you thank God for knowing just what you need, even when you weren't able to see it yourself. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Place Called Home

Home. It has always meant so much to me, even though so many places have been called by that name. Sure, I moved around quite a bit but I always had at least two places that I called "going home." As I've grown up I now have my own home in Arizona (that I have become mildly obsessed with making into my own) and I will forever have my parents' home in Georgia, to which I will return next week.

And as much as I have felt like a vagabond, a wandering traveler, a nomad, I've never had to worry for where I could go to and be loved on and feel safe.

This is perhaps one of my greatest heartaches and greatest challenges to understand as I work with these most fabulous and frustrating students. For some of them, there is no place to call home. There is a place where they can lay their head and be fed, but there is no place where they can go and feel safe, feel loved, feel cared for. Each house in which they stay comes with its own set of drama, sadness, distrust. And certainly they sometimes make the trouble for themselves, but I cannot imagine not having a place to call home.

I cannot imagine not having a place where you are wanted and cared for without strings or a sense of unwanted obligation.

I cannot imagine not curling up in a place and knowing that the whole world is going to be ok because your parents are taking care of things.

And as I wrestle with this for our students I begin to view the Kennel with new eyes. I begin to see the way that we love these kids unconditionally. I see how we are consistent in our rules, our discipline, our excitement. I see that we have a routine, which sometimes makes me antsy, but it provides for our students an expectation of normalcy that does not exist elsewhere in their world. These kids know that we love them, but that we will not fail to correct, to challenge, to concern ourselves with their problems no matter how small.

And it is in this that I realize that the Kennel has become, rather unconventionally, a place called home. The love that we have for these students goes past obligation, or a job, but rather becomes our privilege to walk through the ups and downs with them. We become a mismatched family, brought together by a whole lot of love, that these kids can't escape when they set foot on our grounds.

And that is just one of the many reasons that I love my job. Because no matter what it looks like, everyone deserves a place to call home.