It's been about two weeks since I took my little Cruze and drove away from that tiny town and began my journey east. And it's unreal that I could miss a place this much, it's an odd sort of missing, because I miss the people there that I love and hold so dear to my heart, but I also miss who I was at that time, in that place, and in my heart I know that I will never be that person again.
Never did the thought cross my mind that I would be spending two years as a volunteer youth ministry leader, it was not even on my radar. And honestly I didn't think I could do it. Didn't think I was qualified or courageous enough to be giving advice to high school girls about life and faith, when I felt as if my life and my faith were falling apart. I didn't think that any high schooler would even remotely want any part of my life or want to hear anything I would ever have to say. And I never saw myself being a part of the community I grew up in, because I never felt a part of that community when I was a kid. How was I, an unconnected woman, suppose to connect in this community and with these kids? I questioned and doubted what God was asking of me. Searching out excuses or reason to say NO... No way, not happening. But the more I searched and the more I questioned, the more reasons I found to say yes, the more I felt God nudging me towards ministry in this place with these specific people.
And I've learned in the past two years the my faith leaves me with more questions than any other puzzle and sometimes there are never enough answers. But that doesn't mean I quit moving forward or I quit asking, sometimes faith leaves us blind, and we follow with outstretch hands and trust that God is holding onto them leading us in His way. And in two years, I've learned that, for me, blindness leads to a outspoken, reckless, lived-out faith. And I could use more of that.
How do describe something so indescribable? In two years I feel like there were days I got a glimpse of what heaven may look like someday, I got to see what a church should be like, and experience community in such an intentional way. This was and is joy inexpressible in my soul, God laid hold of my heart and he hasn't let go.
These high school kids by far are so amazing, they are going to be world-changers, I really do believe it. I mean in my life I always heard or experienced people saying that they want community and friendship but when that means accountability or commitment, in my life it seems that people tend to run the other way. But these kids were different, they were intentional and honest and raw with us. The more I allowed myself to be real and human with them the more I got to experience and see Jesus in each and every one of their lives.
That youth group was my church for two years. I experienced more of Jesus in that old youth room on those nasty couches than I ever had in a church building or in a pew. It was a place where there was so much joy, and moments of struggle, moments of sadness, it was a family, that youth room was a living room, a place where only the word Comfort can describe. We intentionally lived life together, held each other accountable and poured into the lives around us. It's where I inherited younger brothers and sisters, who had the desire and fire to grow in their faith, and the courage to ask tough question. Which in turn made my desire to grow even stronger.
We found Love, His Love right were we stood and when we walked, it followed. I could see it in these kids, in their hearts and their faces. And I have words in me... fighting to find a way out. Sometimes there's so many words and they get so crowded in my head that I think it's going to explode. I want to write them down, but most of the time my thoughts and my feelings are bigger than what I can get on paper. And these kids are words I can't even describe. They are utterly amazing and loving and strong.
Was it perfect, No, by any means, there were so many imperfect moments, especially with me, and yet God used me, and nothing could express what that means to me. There is not enough breath in my lungs to praise God for all that He has done. It was messy, but that's what ministry is. And personally I like messy people; people who don't fit in a box or stay between the lines, who's hearts are as bound to Christ as an anchor grounds a ship.
And sometimes I have this urge to retouch the canvas of days past with today's paintbrush, to cover the things i didn't do or couldn't do. The things I regret or forgot. But then I think about it all, every moment. Every valley, every mountaintop, every night spent lying awake in tears and prayer, every question, every doubt. And I wouldn't change it for the world. I would trade it for anything.
God allowed me to pour into the lives of some amazing girls. To talk about life, love, faith and everything in between, He gave me the grace to lead even in my imperfections, even in my weakness, He was present and oh, so strong! I fell in love with these girls and their big hearts. They are my sisters, we became a family in that little youth room, and nothing or nobody can take that from us.
And outside of youth group He gave me an amazing couple that poured into me so selflessly, who loved me despite my mess. Who met me, accepted me, and took me in like family. Let me come over and lounge on their couch, and feed me, and talk with me and laugh with me. Encouraged me and pushed me to grow in my faith, when no one else in my community would, they reached out from another town, took me in their arms and intentionally loved me, and that is and was a beautiful thing.
God also gave me two of the most amazing men, that I can seriously call my best friends. Men I got to lead with, pray with, cry with, laugh with, and live life with. They were there in every moment, big or small, in every tough day, and in every celebration. I Love them both so much, and I can't thank God enough for them.
And sometimes all that's left to do is say goodbye. These past two years have brought grace and wisdom, and with them comes the realization that I don't know as much as i would like to believe. But I know better than to think that change will ever be over. For the unchanging character of the Creator gives Him the freedom to create change, and so this change brings grace. We all keep going even after Cameron, Colton, and I have left this tiny town, these kids will keep growing and they will go out and pour into the lives around them, whether that's family, teammates, classmates, in other states, in other countries. With them the possibilities are endless, and with God they will move mountains!
So this is goodbye, however hard and messy it seems, goodbyes don't have to be an ugly, grieving, horrifying process. They are a part of everyday life. Every step we take we are saying goodbye to the ground, and bouncing back down. Goodbyes are unique, colorful, and majestic, like the sun waving goodbye to the skyline. Sometimes. goodbyes are the most beautiful moment in our life. Beautiful and under-appreciated. But even knowing goodbyes are inevitable doesn't make them any easier.
So I say goodbye, not in sadness, but with so much joy.
I am so proud of these kids. And know that no matter what happens, God is always with them.
I want to hold on, but I hear His voice whispering in the depths of my heart, "Leave them, let them go. You've done what I asked, now let the Holy Spirit work in them."
My heart is heavy and is not quiet before Him
So here I am a little broken in His presence
Until again it is so
Yes, my heart is fragile,
But I see that His heart inside of mine
Is a powerful thing.
Until we meet again, whether on heaven or earth,
HIS and yours,