Thursday, July 30, 2015

Seeds: (the end of) The Intern Diaries

Be patient, therefore, brothers,until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
James 5:7

It's officially over; today was my last day. Whoa. While I am trying to figure out where ten weeks went so quickly, allow me to share an insight from my final day of work.

Every Thursday, we set out all of the resources our volunteers will need for Sunday mornings. It's a piece of the weekly rhythm I have become quite familiar with. This being a Thursday, I resourced. It struck me that I was preparing supplies for events in the future that I would not get to see. I was equipping volunteers, even though I do not necessarily know who is leading this Sunday, for success in the future. Planting seeds, if you will. I will be on the trail by the time those resources are used, so I will not see them in action or maybe the immediate fruits of that labor, but I can trust that Daddy will use them. 

This is a metaphor for so many things in life. So often, especially in ministry, especially in children's ministry, we do work equivalent to planting seeds. The stories we tell kids, the ways we interact with them and our co-workers, the truth we speak over them, and the ways we love them plant seeds in their little hearts about who God is and who His people are. Though we may not immediately see the fruit of our work (which can be rather frustrating), God is keeping careful watch over those baby plants, and knows exactly when they will bloom and produce fruit. 

I certainly have a handful of memories from early childhood that the people involved probably would have considered small in the moment, but they helped define the way I understood people, God, and the way the world works. Small seeds, but with big impacts over time.

Consider what sort of fruit you plant in the lives of those you interact with. Perhaps first impressions you leave and what those look like in the future when people find out you love Jesus. Perhaps how you treat coworkers in front of your kids, or how you interact with cashiers, waiters, and custodians. I have a friend who is incredibly friendly to those who are often taken for granted, like custodians and cashiers, and she changed the way I think about those interactions. Because of her over-the-top friendliness in just a handful of moments when I was around her in those situations, I consciously try to emulate that every time I interact with people I do not know. She unknowingly planted small seeds, but they have definitely made a considerable dent in my day-to-day (and I doubt she knows that). 

So I encourage you to consider the types of seeds you plant. Consider if people know what you stand for by how you live, and if not, perhaps address why that might be. It certainly will be food for thought on the trail for me this coming week.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Little Fish, Big Things, and Closure: The Intern Diaries

I don't say a whole lot here, I realize, so it feels somewhat counter-intuitive to be writing a post about closure when I've hardly discussed the opening. But no matter what I have or have not said, this intern-ship is docking soon (see what I did there?), and I figured I might have a few words to say about it all.

This is such an incredible opportunity. I cannot put into words how valuable the past nine weeks (and this final tenth) are to me. I have learned a lot about my own motivations, my spiritual gifts, my love of kids, and my best and worst sides. A few stories could  be in order.

One of the beasts of the summer internship is the craft closet. It doesn't take too much imagination to picture how a closet full of glitter, popsicle sticks, every shape, size, and color of paper, paper clips, paint shirts, stickers, birdseed, and everything in between that is accessed by many volunteers with varying amounts of time to put things back correctly over the course of a year could quickly become chaotic. Thus, our (my co-intern's and my) task was to tame the beast. This involved hours of putting things in bins, making the label maker cooperate, taping over the labels that refused to stick to the bins, and generally organizing things in logical ways (i.e. the markers with all the other writing utensils, not hiding under the sticker bins). Sometimes though, our tasks were as simple as sorting out the different types of ribbon or throwing out a heap of messy tinsel.

There is a pleasant rhythm that hides in tasks like organizing ribbon and stickers. Granted, some of that rhythm is pleasing to me because some of my main spiritual gifts are helps and administration-- I like organizing and doing little tasks to free others up to do big tasks. But there is something satisfying looking at the rainbow-ordered rows of ribbon and knowing that order has been restored (for now). In those moments of detail-oriented organizing, Colossians 3:23 had a habit of crossing my mind: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." That verse was a great reminder that in the smallest (and biggest!) tasks, the Lord is near and cares about my heart as I work.

I got a taste of bigger tasks too this summer-- teaching Sunday School, planning and leading the games for 120 kids at Music Camp, and co-head coaching the four- and five-year-olds at Sports Camp. Sometimes it was terrifying, and I felt incredibly under-prepared. For example, all the mornings I had not prepared my lesson well for Sunday School and wondered if the words I would say would be life-giving. Walking into leading six high schoolers and roughly 120 kids in all manner of rowdy games with hopes of minimal injuries and too much fun, but feeling incredibly inadequate to lead such a venture. And most recently, co-head coaching with one of the coolest humans around (shout out to you, Mia), but also recognizing that neither of us had really been formally trained in what we were supposed to do, a job that usually required a week of formal training. But even in all those moments when I felt small, God did miracles. 

In the story of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus takes a little boy's lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish and feeds a crowd of at least 5,000 (probably more, because they only counted men back then, and the men usually had families with them). Not only that, but there were twelve baskets of leftovers. So many times this summer, I have felt like the little kid who brings forward a lunch with hopes of helping Jesus feed thousands. Surely people laughed at a little kid with dreams to feed what must have felt like the world. Surely that little kid must have felt a little intimidated walking up in front of all of those people to Jesus, the center of their attention. But Jesus doesn't laugh at the boy or condescend. He uses the offering to bless many. 

Countless times this summer, I have watched my few loaves be turned into dinner for many. I have watched my scared little self walk up to Jesus and ask, "could you maybe use this?" And every time He does something unexpected. 

We use high school volunteers for Sports Camp (news flash: high schoolers eat a bunch). We had planned to feed them lasagna, but by some miscalculations on our part, we wound up with food that was supposed to cook for two hours and only half an hour to cook it. So I was dispatched to pick up microwaveable ones from a nearby store. I got ones that were not ideal, but Daddy took those five small, too-frozen lasagnas and fed around 25 volunteers with voracious appetites. It took every microwave in the church, my fearless ministry coordinator, and our wonderful kitchen manager, but God used what we had to feed the masses. 

Right before Sports Camp, the head coach for Team 4/5 got incredibly sick and had to go home, leaving a volleyball head coach (Mia) and myself to teach 36 four- and five-year-olds how to kick, throw, stand in straight lines, jump rope, stretch, and dribble both soccer balls and basketballs. Intimidating, to say the least. She had watched Team 4/5 for just a day or two the week prior, and I had assistant coached as a high schooler last year and the year before. Needless to say, we might not have been the most qualified with our little fish and loaves of experience. But Daddy still used us in all manner of unexpected ways and places. Mia encouraged me in so many simple things, by modelling enthusiastic leadership, perseverance, and humility. Plenty of parents came up to me and told me how much fun their kids were having and how sad they were that camp was only one week long. The kids' smiles were evidence enough of a good time. 

I started keeping a list of big and little miracles I got to witness during Sports Camp prep and execution. God did some crazy things, some big things, some beautiful things. And it was not limited to Sports Camp happenings. All summer, I have been privileged to watch Him work in and through my co-workers, friends, kids, and me to build His kingdom. Needless to say, I am so excited. 

...And thus it also is very bittersweet to be leaving. Two more days of work left. Two. I knew the time would fly by, but I did not recognize it might fly quite that quickly. To all who have crossed paths with me, encouraged me, modeled leadership and so many other good things for me, welcomed me onto the staff, taught me new things about myself and the world, hugged me, laughed with me, thanked me, tempered my crazy ideas with some reason, and collaborated with me: thank you. Thank you for helping to do a good work in my life. Thank you for making an impact you might not have even known you made. Thank you for believing that Daddy would use your small lunch to feed a crowd, and for feeding me, a member of that crowd.

What's next, you ask? Final closing out of this internship, a week of backpacking in the beautiful south San Juans, a week and a half of annual doctor/dentist/ophthalmologist/physical therapist appointments and final coffee dates, and then back to Iowa! Maybe I'll check back in here with news of all that as it happens. 

Until then, the adventures keep coming. Keep trekkin'!