Monday, November 24, 2014

The Role of a Lifetime

I’ve lived my whole life being called “Mom Meredith.” It probably started when I was three and my brother was born. From the moment I held that little baby I decided I was in charge of taking care of everyone. I used to play a game with him in the bathtub where I was the mom and he was my “baby boy hippo.”

I never said I was normal. 

Through the years the “mom” nature never left. In college my friends in the dorm started calling me mom, much to my own mother’s dismay. I reassured her that it was an endearing term and people meant it out of love, whether that was actually true or not. I just cared for people a lot. And I liked rules. So I thought other people should too. 

It was this innate tendency that I couldn’t rid myself of, even if I had wanted to. I was always the nurturer, the bossy one, the rule enforcer, the listener, and the let’s-eat-chocolate-to-make-it-all-better kind of friend. 

It was at 25 where I realized that all my practice (whether invited or not) had been for a reason. No, I was not yet a mom to babies, but I looked up one day to find myself firmly fixed in the role of “mom” (or "auntie") . . .to 15 teenagers. Talk about unexpected. 

Finally it seemed that all those skills I had honed over the years were coming into use, and I fit the role like a glove. 

As challenging as it is to “parent” teenagers I love getting to find the balance between disciplinarian and comforter. Bossy is my nature, so having the authority to tell students what to do is awesome. But what I love even more are all the moments in between the discipline. I love getting to listen to problems and feelings, giving advice or simply empathizing. It is awesome getting to be embarrassing in front of their friends and I cherish the moments when they choose to hang out by my side. I love getting to be a part of their lives, not just as a friend but as a mentor, a confidant, and an authority figure. It is the best job in the world to "parent" these crazy teens. 

Being “mom” is something ingrained in me, and praise God that He has given me a place to use it, even though it is far from what I dreamed. I find that at the end of each day I am so in love with my job, and it doesn't matter what the mornings bring or what personal life goals I haven’t reached. It doesn’t matter what else I could be doing or what other people think would be better for me. 

There is never a day where I wish I was doing something else. 

Getting to be with these kids is the greatest honor and the weird little family we create is more than I could have dreamed for. I wouldn’t trade this family for anything. I wouldn't leave this role unless a Divine force came down and told me to move along. This is what I have been prepared for, and I love these kids like crazy.






Monday, November 17, 2014

Faith Alongside Disappointment

This weekend we took apart our Little Bluebird Retail Store, a vital part of AYM's ministry. 

The tribal council came on Friday and told us we had to be out by Monday because they wanted the building for their own purpose. The building is owned by the tribe so as their property it is also their right to use it, but it was still disappointing. It seemed not to matter that we had a business there, that we had renovated the building, or that we employed tribal members. What they wanted they got, without much concern for who it harmed along the way. It reminded us of the stark reality of working on the rez, that we are outsiders, and no matter the good we provide we could always be seen as temporary.

So we all gathered together on Sunday and started the move out, bundled in coats and scarves and an impromptu dance move or two to try and lift our spirits.

It was as we were loading the shelving into the big green bus that a homeless man walked over from the neighboring food ministry that was also being kicked out. As he walked through the gate into the retail store I asked him politely, "Hey man, what are you doing?"

"Oh," He replied somberly, "I was just going to look. Man, I am so sorry this is happening to you guys."

"Its ok," I replied, "We know God will provide for us."

"Yea. . . Man, I'm so sorry you guys have to move out. I'm so sorry."

It was a touch of kindness in the midst of a long day and it struck me as a rather significant moment, for being so small. In the midst of the work and disappointment this man united with us in our loss and it reminded me that together we are all part of something bigger than our troubles. From the homeless man, to the ministry next door, to the people all around the US who have partnered with us throughout the years, we combine to create a community that is strong. Yes, we are frustrated that things we work hard at can be taken away without concern, but the time was not a waste. 

Each person that gets fed, each student that gets loved, each email and note to our staff, is a vital part of God's glory being shown here on the WMA reservation, and Little Bluebird is a big part of God's glory. Little Bluebird is more than just a screen printing shop. 100% of the proceeds go right back into our ministry and keep things running. It provides jobs, services, and sustains AYM.  And the work continues, no matter what opposition comes our way. The tagline of Little Bluebird is "You gotta wear something. . . wear hope" and that is what we choose to do.

(Check out www.littlebluebird.com to see some of the great work they do).

When things get challenging I watch as our community, both on the rez and beyond, becomes more united and an even better testament to God's power and love. There is nothing that can separate any of us from the love of God and this weekend proved that despite the disappointments our community is still united. It was a beautiful, though bittersweet, moment to be united in this challenge because it was a reminder that God will provide.

Nothing can stop God's people from uniting for His glory, building or no building.  

The Little Bluebird T-shirt business still stands, it is just a little homeless for now. And we believe that God will provide in a way that is even greater than we could guess. We know He will give it a new home, and at the end of the day we choose to hold our faith alongside our disappointment, because there is nothing that can change His love and the work of His hands.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

There and Back Again

I spent last weekend cocooned within the comforts of a Maryland farmhouse. It was a restoration for my soul and I slept beneath the covers with complete peace of mind at the end of each lovely day. The days were filled with comfort food and long drives through the rolling hills of the Northeast as I began to breathe out the stress and breathe in the peace of God. It was a beautiful time of reconnecting with the quiet parts of my soul and the carefree fun that is getting lost with a good friend as I escaped the day to day of my normal life and entered into a world so far from my usual.

The brilliant changing colors of Fall and the comforting embrace of farmland lay out before me and I was sublimely happy spending the days exploring new towns, walking in the cold air, and conversing with lovely people. It was a dream of a trip and I woke up each morning feeling entirely blessed for having the chance to escape to the farm.

What made it even more lovely was that I had been there before, though it is now only a quiet memory. I wasn't more than 8-years-old the last time I roamed the hills next to the red barn at the house I stayed in. I was young and carefree with my long blond hair and my habit of wearing Sunday dresses to run around in.

Of all the things I have forgotten from my childhood I have never forgotten that little visit.

The sheep on the hill, the boys running beside me, it has sat quietly in my mind for over a decade. So on Monday morning I found myself standing in the same spot that had produced the memory, reflecting on where God had taken me since I first ran on that little hill- the paths He had reconnected, the unexpected directions, the beautiful blessings. I wondered, in my lively imagination, what that little girl would think of the woman that she has become.

I know it sounds silly, but I almost imagined meeting my little self there, connecting hands as we connected my past with my present, my present with my future. 

And I knew with absolute certainty that my life has been an orchestration of a lovely God, who takes quiet joy in making these connections that we would never even have the capacity to imagine.

As I boarded the plane to return to my normal, so very eager to see "my" kids on the reservation, I found that I was able to breathe in deeply the beauty of the 18 years between those farmhouse visits. What great adventures those years held. What brilliant opportunities for growth and what amazing turns my life has taken. I could not have predicted this path, but I find so much joy in getting to reflect on God's creativity and goodness that these years have contained. 

And all this from standing on a hill by a farmhouse in the autumn wind. :)