Monthly Archives: March 2014

the club.

I realized that I’ve never written here about my current job. And I figure, hey, 14 months in isn’t too late.

When I decided to move north two winters ago, I had no idea what I was going to be getting myself into.  I practiced talking myself up for interviews, bought a new cardigan (I seize any and all opportunities to do that…my last roommate and I once figured out that we had upwards of 25 between us…but I digress), and started looking for jobs that involved working with a lot of people.

After realizing that the “social service” field wasn’t as ripe with opportunities as I had once hoped, I broadened my scope and ended up as the coordinator of a Teen Center at a Boys & Girls Club. Essentially, I traded spending time with homeless women and children for hanging out with low-income at-risk teenagers (this is how they have been defined to me. I generally define them as “outrageous”, ambiguous as that may be).

I still have a hard time explaining what exactly it is that I do, and all that this position entails.  Sometimes it’s as crazy as simultaneously running two mentoring programs while teaching a class on financial literacy or planning a 12-hour overnight event.  Other times it’s teaching teens how to play board games so I can beat them…I mean…teach them good sportsmanship…

It’s interesting how my time at the Mission prepared me for my time at the Club.  I have attempted to cultivate just the right amount of genuine care and seemingly lackadaisical demeanor that inadvertently tricks people into trusting me.  The techniques I used with former addicts who preferred arguing to listening are the same ones I use for 14-year-old’s who would rather play Minecraft than learn about leadership and community service.

Though I would hope it goes without saying, Jesus is just as present here as he was there.  I can still tell when I am spending too much time relying on my own strength to get through each day, because programs tend to fall apart and I find myself becoming annoyed by the most ridiculous things.  It’s also those times that I tend to focus on the transitional nature of this job–I know that I’m not going to be there for very much longer, and it’s easy for me to get caught up in that, to think only of the future instead of being present in the here and now.

This all goes back to the idea of waiting that I’ve been mulling over–this truth that regardless of the season we are in, we are in some way being prepared for things to come.  And we have to hold onto that, lest we go crazy always wanting to be somewhere else.  For example, I know that this season has already taught me much about what Jesus is actually calling me into.  While I was sure for so long that it was specifically ministering to those who find themselves homeless, I am realizing more and more that what I get most excited about is the equipping and sending out of all people.  When I was at the Mission, I found the most joy in the situations that resulted in learning; whether the person in question all of a sudden realized a bit more about their true worth or they realized what  small steps they needed to start taking, it is those things that I still think about.

And even now, I get to be a part of equipping and sending out:  I have daily conversations with teens that result in the reshaping of their concepts of respect or tolerance or gratitude, and then I get to watch them go and live that out with each other and with their families.  Instead of working directly with every demographic of people that I want to, I am learning to center myself in one and then send them out to the rest.  Funny that it took me so long to figure this out, because it’s the model Jesus himself used, when he first spent time with his disciples and then sent them out to do the work that he couldn’t be directly present for (Matthew 28:16-20).  Please note that I am in no way trying to equate myself with Jesus; rather, I’m just reiterating the fact that this idea of Jesus-replicating discipleship is straight from the Bible.

Anyway, let’s set that aside for another time.  If you made it to the end of this somewhat rambly post, I applaud you.  And I leave you with these snippets of what my days at the Club are sometimes like:

The other day I was at a park that’s essentially in the backyard of the Club and a 6-year-old wandered away from her group because she wanted to be with the teens.  I asked her to please go back with the other kids, and she let me know, very matter-of-factly, that she was going to bite herself to death if I made her go back.

There’s another kid who, upon learning that we had temporarily banned glitter from the Club, brought her own from home and proceeded to “share the love” by spreading it across every single surface she could before someone finally stopped her.

And then there are my teens.  At least once every other week, they tell the story of how, on one of our drives from their school back to the Club, I ran over a curb with the van.  In their retelling, they maintain that I nearly killed all of them, neglecting to mention the fact that I was actually avoiding being hit by a car.  They also remind me often of my singleness and that they’re sure I’m going to live alone with multiple cats if ever I reach adulthood (their words, not mine).

At least they’re keeping me grounded.


wait. and then wait some more.

I thought it only fitting to post this on Ash Wednesday–the day that marks the beginning of our 40-day season of giving things over, of surrendering, of letting ourselves be emptied so we may be filled.

I am realizing that I have inadvertently let my life be characterized by disappointment:  I begin things, only to have them go in a different direction than I had originally hoped or planned for, and so I leave them where they are.  I tell you this almost as a confession, not so that you would absolve me, but so that it would be my first step towards recognizing and correcting.  And I also know that I am not alone in this practice; we have been raised in a culture that says it’s okay to leave things half-finished, to end relationships instead of working on them, to give up instead of asking for help.

All that to say, my last post was about 10 months ago, and in it I wrote of transition and how I felt as though I needed to be somewhere that I wasn’t.  Did I end up somewhere that I’m supposed to be?  That remains to be fully seen, I think, and so I have spent the last year struggling with that question.

But back to Ash Wednesday.  In January, or maybe earlier, I realized that there was some part of me that was already looking forward to Lent–the name given to the period of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  This is, as some of you may know, an odd thing to be ready for.  It’s a season of mourning, for one, and is the time when Jesus followers remember, among other things, the sacrifices made for us on the cross (though, really, we should always be remembering that).

As I thought about it more though, and as people began confirming that my overwhelming sense of anticipation for it was strange, I realized I had felt the same way about Advent–another season of waiting–and Passover–more waiting.  So I took a step back and looked at my life, in an attempt to figure out what I was supposed to be gleaning from all of these realizations.  And…ready for this?  The last few years of my life have been about waiting for something, whether it’s a new job or relationship or housing situation or conversation or any number of other things.

During those times, I chose anxiety and fear as my companions, rather than trusting in Jesus to walk through it with me.  I allowed disappointment to rule me, because it was easier than admitting that I needed to work on something.

While I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fullness of this lesson, I know that the Lord is building in me a posture of joy and peace in waiting.  As you may know, changing a way of thinking can be incredibly painful.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that it has been.  I also think that there is something to be said to all of us about waiting, and about what exactly we do with it when it seems like it’s going to stretch on forever.  I don’t actually know what that something is as of now, though, so I’m going to continue to wrestle with that.