I headed back the homeland last weekend for a triple graduation extravaganza. I was blessed to be able to spend the weekend with my bestie and her family and to top it off with the party, where I got to celebrate three of the most amazing college grads I have the privilege to know and see a lot of folks I hadn’t seen in some time.
It’s a long drive from my place to where my people are and I had a lot of time to think. I had had a conversation with a friend in town the evening before about some areas of my life with which I’m increasingly unhappy. I’ve been slowly but surely trying to look at them a little deeper and plot out a course for the inevitable change that is needed; my friend’s viewpoint was that I was not being open to all the possibilities that were before me. And frankly, I’m not. There are some non-negotiables that ARE limiting but I don’t see them as negatives. Like a lot of things, they just are. It’s part of growing and maturing, I think. In the past several years, I’ve come to realize that I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t like – and that’s ok. It’s so much easier for me to say, today, “No, thank you. I really don’t feel like” doing XYZ. Or to say, “Yeah, no, I’m not into opera.” I’m certainly willing to try new things but there is a degree to which they have to first appeal to me in some way and some things simply don’t.
Sometimes, though, it’s hard to see what you do want to do.
My best friend and I spent a long while on her sofa hashing out what’s been going on and how I can actively pursue healthy changes going forward. We’re of the list-writing variety and so she acted as scribe; I can’t tell you what it means to me to have these plans we created written in her handwriting, to know that she cares and that she is a PART of it all. I knew that before, of course, but this is the tangible reminder I need while we are far away and I often feel like I’m out here on my own.
The idea of what I want to do and where I want to end up is fairly nebulous…or at least it was. I spent some time at the graduation party talking with a pastor friend of mine. We both served in youth ministries and he knows my heart will always be there. He knows my struggles in my current place to kind of replicate that experience. We went back and forth a bit about what I want with me hemming and hawing about finances, debt, etc. quite a bit. But his bottom line was this: if money and location were not issues, what would you want to do? I didn’t hesitate to repeat what I’ve said to others in the past few weeks: I’d work with at-risk teenagers.
Yet I had no idea what that should look like.
I’ve served in church youth ministry for more than 12 years. For various reasons, that hasn’t come “easy” here and I’m willing to bet there is a larger, bigger picture reason I can’t see right now. I thought that serving as a CASA would help to fill that hole and it has, somewhat. I totally get that my role there is exceptionally important, especially to the child(ren) we serve. Yet it doesn’t feel like that, by itself, is”it”.
Several weeks ago, a bunch of local organizations spoke at my church about their missions. One was Young Lives, an offshoot of Young Life. They mentor pregnant teens and teen moms. It took me about half a second to pull out my business card and write my personal information on it. I had to cut out quickly after service to meet some friends for lunch but made sure I stopped and talked to the Young Lives person first. I ended up getting a call from the director of the program a few weeks later and we talked for a long time about what they were doing and how I might fit in. Yet the end of the year was coming for them and I was held back by my own what ifs (which were totally unrelated). But my bestie and I put it on the list and so I headed out on Monday evening, after driving six hours home, to check it out.
It felt like home.
The next day, I got an email about a new CASA program called Fostering Futures. It’s specifically designed to match teens in foster care with mentors in the community to help better equip them for when they “age out” (I hate that term and the idea of it) of the system.
Again, my heart was stirred.
I don’t know what will come of any of this or of the plans we wrote out. But I do know that God is working, even when I can’t see or feel it.