It all started with one ninth grader.
She joined a group hug with me and Cam and the rest was history. Within minutes she claimed herself adopted and started play calling us "mom" and "dad." When we saw her at the Kennel yesterday she jokingly started singing, "Reunited and it feeeeeels so goooood!" Cameron had willingly and lovingly accepted this first newfound daughter, but little did he know it was just the beginning.
We had spent the past weekend at the bi-annual Rising youth retreat. 28 middle school and high school students from our Thursday night youth service and it was awesome.
From almost the moment of our arrival four of the middle school girls had attached themselves to my hip. It all started with a comment of, “Is that your brother?” and the response of, “No, he is my boyfriend!” and the jokes and bonding was well on its way. At one point I asked them, "Do you want me to kiss him to show you he isn’t my brother??" To which they said, "YES!" I was so surprised at that answer that I replied maturely with. . . "Ew! Gross! No!"
Later Cam slammed one of the quiet ones in the face with a dodgeball so hard it left a mark. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The 7th grade girls were mostly interested in me and Cameron as a dating entity. Most of these students have never seen a healthy dating relationship or an example of healthy affection, so it was cool seeing the platform he and I were able to have with them. On the first day I was so excited to be able to have conversations with some of the girls about why I don't live with him and what God intended for relationships, both physically and emotionally. It was a joy to be able to speak into their lives in such a way.
But it was the last night that I loved the most. After a bonfire with all the students I gathered my middle school girls to help me make french toast casserole for the next morning. Cameron decided to walk with us and before you knew it we were all linked arms and holding hands in a line up the hill. It was only minutes before they started calling us the Apache words for "mom" and "dad" and it felt for that moment like we were a little makeshift family, full of laughter and love and health.
And I was so impressed because Cameron took to his newfound “daughters” with such goodness (yes, I am going to brag about him for a minute). In this moment he was able to show them what a good man, a really good man is like. He took to these girls like they were his own, without question or complaint. He showed them love, a good healthy kind of love. He told us all that we were beautiful and gave the girls strict instructions not to date. He let them call him dad and the girls noticed the way that he treated me. “We saw him help you put your jacket on in the session.” “He takes your tray after you eat.” The little things make the biggest impact.
As we all linked arms up the hill he showed these little girls the love of a father, and by loving me well in front of them he showed them the kind of man that they deserve. As middle school girls living in a culture where men will use them and abuse them, I knew that this moment could be life-changing for them and I couldn’t have been more grateful that God chose to use us to show them what a healthy relationship can look like.
We walked away from the weekend with five new daughters. And I walked away with a rich appreciation for the man that is willing to jump with both feet into this crazy thing I call my life, to love these kids with the heart of Christ, and to be a shining example of God’s love for me and others.
I couldn’t have been more happy.