Tag Archives: faithfulness

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.


transition.

What happens if you wake up crazy one day?

What happens if you’re living comfortably, thinking that you’ve found the place that you love and the little ministry niche that you fit into perfectly, and all of a sudden it hits you that you can’t do it anymore?

What if you’re surrounded by people who tell you that you’re exactly where you need to be, that you’re making a difference despite what you may think, but you can’t find it in yourself to believe the words they’re speaking to you?

Or what if you spend months losing sleep over scenarios that you can’t control and you spend every waking moment going over and over the mistakes that you made in conversations and you can’t figure out why these things are happening, why life is harder for some people and why there’s not a thing you can do about it no matter how hard you try?

I guess if someone were in that place and desperately wanted to remain alone there, they’d probably write safe things that resolved themselves in around 500 words, they’d put off questions with answers that satisfied but weren’t entirely truthful, they would push truth away in order to maintain a semblance of sanity.

And then they’d quit their job–the place they thought they just might stay for the rest of their life–and end relationships and move 227 miles north in the hopes that there might be more clarity somewhere else.

That’s exactly what I did.

I recently read something that a guy named Paul E. Miller wrote, and it said this:  “The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”

Meaning that we don’t have to have it together to spend time with Jesus.  He wants us to come to him as we are–be that exhausted, overwhelmed, distracted, or a combination of the three.  It’s in those places of feeling less-than that we let him work best; often it isn’t until we’re at the end of our proverbial rope that we even begin to ask for help.  After all, we’ve been taught (subconsciously or not) that we must be self-sufficient–if we’re struggling, it’s because we’re not doing enough.

Here’s the thing, though…that’s just not true.

So what have I been learning these last few months?  Too much to say in this post, but I’ll begin to break it down over these next few weeks and months as I continue to process what my life is now.

Know this, though:  our God is a faithful one.  Within two weeks of moving, I had a new place to live with pretty fantastic roommates, a job working with crazy teenagers, and an overwhelming sense of relative security.

And really, while I’m not “on a mission at the Mission” anymore, I’m still very much on a mission.  My kids here need to know about Jesus just as much as my kids in Yakima did.  And I’m going to keep sharing him with them, and sharing the stories of what that’s like with all of you.

 


a thought.

An online Q&A forum (Quora) recently asked people outside the U.S. what things they’d heard about our country that they didn’t believe could possibly be true until they actually came and visited.

I’m just going to go ahead and quote straight from the website rather than try to paraphrase and lose some of the impact…some of the things they said were:

Poor, hungry kids.  Really hard to believe this one. I read somewhere recently that 1 in 5 kids in the US is at the risk of hunger. That’s a lot for a country that boasts to be in the first world…

The astonishing number of homeless people on the streets in San Francisco. It is presumably one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest state of the wealthiest country in the world.  I expected to see wealth. I didn’t expect to see poverty like this. It seems a little worse each time I visit. I have visited lots of countries, and lots of cities, but I was shocked by the severity of the situation.”

If you have a minute, look at the other responses on the site; some of the other things are actually pretty funny (like, our penchant for wearing way fewer clothes than necessary in freezing weather conditions). I’m posting this for a couple reasons.  One is because I just realized yesterday, as I was walking around my city, that there’s such a disparity here (as in a lot of cities, I’m sure) between the wealthy or even middle-class citizens and those who live below the poverty line.  There are at least a couple places where an incredibly nice house sits adjacent to one that’s broken down or condemned.

Another reason I’m posting this is because I think it’s important for us to realize that these things shouldn’t be the norm.  We should be appalled by the number of hungry kids and the amount of people there are without permanent living situations, rather than thinking that that’s just how it’s going to be.

Just two days ago, an amazing group of Jesus-followers here in Yakima handed out 5000 backpacks to families because they love our city and the people in it, and they wanted to meet a need that they saw.  You can read the story here.  They recognized that they needed to put their words into action, and they believed that it was up to them to rise up and make a difference.

Maybe right now you don’t have resources available to gather a huge group of people to hand out school supplies, but what are some small steps you can take to begin to make changes in your community?  It could be donating time to a local shelter or food bank, going through your closet and giving away some of the things you don’t wear or use anymore, or even just beginning to educate yourself more about the things already happening around you that you can partner with.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” (Mother Theresa)


transformed.

During chapel last week, the speaker told the story of Paul–how he lived his life one way until the Lord grabbed him and turned him completely around.  If you’ve never read about him, check out the book of Acts.  His life is a prime example of the transforming power of the love of Jesus.

On this particular night, I sat in the back of the room with our kids and gave them some coloring pages in the hopes of keeping them relatively quiet.  In an attempt to get them learning about what their parents were hearing about, the pictures were all various scenes involving Paul in some way or another.  About halfway through the service, I looked over to see that several of the boys had used green markers to color in Paul’s face and hands.  I was confused…until I realized that they had crossed out the title of the picture and written in “The Incredible Hulk”.

I had to laugh, knowing that they didn’t really understand what they were coloring.  They had no idea who Paul was or why he’s important, so they turned him into a fictional superhero with some serious anger issues.

It is so interesting to me that that’s something that we begin to do at an early age.  I mean, isn’t it just like us to change something confusing into something we can more easily comprehend?

I find myself doing this often.  If I come across something that I am unfamiliar with, I try to fit it into what I already know.   One thing that is particularly difficult for me to grasp right now is grace.  Because I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, I find myself painting an inaccurate picture of what it means to be forgiven, of what it means to have the mercy of the Lord extended to me.

That’s a misconception that I run into a lot; I talk with women regularly who think that they are beyond redemption.  The concept of being given a clean slate is unfathomable to them.  They can’t understand how that could ever be possible, so they twist Jesus’ words and come to believe that those promises are for someone else more deserving, that there is certainly no way forgiveness would ever be offered to them.

They–rather, we–cheapen his grace and make it into something easier to understand.  Instead of viewing it as a complete restoration, we make grace out to be a quick fix, akin to throwing a fancy sheet over a ripped piece of furniture because company’s coming over.

That’s not what it is at all, though!  As broken as we are, we have to be made completely new. I love to think about how Jesus must delight in knowing that he gets to piece us back together and cover us with his sticky, messy grace.  It makes me think of glue, how it covers and holds together but usually makes it pretty evident to everyone looking on that something was once in need of fixing.

I’ve heard stories from women who have been rescued from years of drug abuse and prostitution, shame and self-loathing, destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and I am always amazed at how open they are about their pasts.  They spare no detail when talking about the things they were once involved in because they want it to be so obvious that they were able to overcome them solely by the grace of God.

Without Him, they would still be trapped.  Really, without Him, we are ALL bound up and enslaved to something.

It is only by His grace that we are freed, and we need to embrace that and continue to learn about what it means to truly be forgiven so we don’t keep living in such a way so as to suggest that we don’t know what the implications of that are.  And then, when we begin to recognize what it truly means to be forgiven, we need to share it with everyone we know.  Because why would we ever want to keep something like that to ourselves?


faithfulness.

The admission I’m about to make is not for the purpose of trying to gain either your affirmation or your sympathy (really).  It is just something that needs to be written because I think I can often come across as overly confident when I’m talking/writing about what I do at the Mission.

And so, I think it needs to be noted that there are times when I don’t think I’m very good at my job.  For those of you reading for the first time, I should probably explain that I work at a homeless shelter.  Because I work long hours, and because I have the unique privilege of living on-site, I spend a lot of time here.  And because not all of the women who come in have people in their lives to give them solid Godly advice, they often use me as a sounding board for their problems and ideas.

The thing is, though, that a lot of the things that they face on a day-to-day basis are things I have yet to encounter.

For example, I’ve never been married.  I’ve never had a boyfriend who cheats on me or spends all of my money on his drug habit.  I get along–for the most part–with my parents, and I know that I’d always have a place to go back to if things didn’t work out the way I thought they would.

I haven’t ever known what it is like to be hungry because there is just no food to be had and I have nearly always had a bed to sleep in (the exception is on mission trips, where sleeping on cement floors is an adventure).

Because of that, I have to try harder to understand how people at the Mission think.  It’s not easy for me to always recognize the instinct that most of them have in them that causes them to be a little unsure, a little brusque, not always willing to automatically let me into what they’re thinking because they’re afraid of being looked over or looked past again.

I have this sometimes overwhelming desire to try to fix everyone and everything, even though I know there’s no way I can.  I’ve mentioned that before, but I think it’s worth writing again because, despite the fact that I know better, it is still easy for me to get swept up in the unrealistic notion of measuring success in terms of results.

When I can’t immediately find the right words to say to someone, or when I get so tired of having the same conversations with the same people over and over, frustration takes over.  The results aren’t what I want, and so I feel like I’m failing.  Hence my earlier admission of often feeling like I’m not very good at my job.

And so, I’ve had to remind myself that I need to shift my thinking.  I want to share this with you because I think it’s a reminder that we all need:  If we are following the Lord and desiring to do things His way, then success cannot be measured by standards that we make up ourselves.  Neither can it be measured by standards set before us by other people.

For at least two straight years, one of my favorite people in the world beat it into my head that true success has to be measured by faithfulness.  She’s a wise woman, that one.

Success measured by faithfulness is such a freeing concept, when you think about it.  To be faithful means to press ahead in what God has called you to, even when you want to give up day after day after day.  It means sitting and listening even when you know you aren’t going to have a solution to whatever problem is being presented, and trusting that the Holy Spirit will let you know what, if anything, needs to be said.  It means that, if you’re earnestly desiring to serve Christ and to show his love and grace to the people around you, the concept of “being good” at something takes on an entirely new and different meaning.

Is being faithful easy?  No.  Definitely not.  But it is absolutely worth it.