The Next Chapter
Updated: Jul 20
17. July 2020
For the last two and a half years, I have had the pleasure of working with the children and youth at Smoke Rise. I have had a whole host of titles and I have done a whole host of different tasks, but the things I have learned consistently from the incredible people I work with I will take with me into every job, every relationship, and every moment for the rest of my life. Along the way I have also been blessed with the opportunity to spend two summers as a StudentDot Intern. From Louisville, Kentucky, to Prince George's County, Maryland, to Stone Mountain, Georgia, I have made life long friends through Young Baptist Ecosystem. In my near future there will be weddings and baby showers and graduations to celebrate with these wonderful individuals that I have grown so close to and consider my closest friends.
It is easy think about the next chapter of life and be a little sad about the doors that are closing behind you no matter how excited you are for what lies ahead, but if I have learned anything from the last two summers it's that while you can't go back to the way things were before, the moments that made before wonderful will stay with you in you heart. The people that made the past incredible still have a place in the future, even if it is in a different role. That is something I have had to learn and grow with. I have always had trouble moving from one phase of life to another because of the things that I leave behind, but I am grateful to have so many memories and people in my life that make those transitions bitter sweet.
During this time, I have held newborns in hospitals, bandaged skinned knees, sat in parked cars and listened to the hurts and frustrations of youth, and everything in between. I have worked with refugees and been in on conversations about racial reconciliation with my peers. I have seen the best and the worst of people. I have seen the best and worst in myself. I have laughed a lot, cried more than I thought I would; I have experienced the full range of human emotions in one Sunday morning, but I have also experienced pure joy, pride, and hope for the future watching these wonderful children and youth grow. I am convinced that more show tunes have been sung in my car by middle school girls in the last few years than in Broadway dressing rooms. I have been teased relentlessly for not keeping up with elementary school slang, I have squirted kids with paint in multiple states, and I would do it all again.
Looking forward, I am elated to know that though my time working for churches is done, at least for now, I will carry these moments and lessons with me into classrooms and schools as I work with an entirely new group of students where I will bandage skinned knees, listen to tales of high school heartbreaks, laugh when tomfoolery is afoot and cry when my children are hurting. I will see the best and worst in people, and I will see the best and worst in myself, because that's all apart of life and learning how to live out our callings. Every day can't be the best day ever, and that is okay. My favorite days are the days that seem just normal and run of the mill until you reflect on them later. It's the little things like finding an ax in the baptistry closet and tripping over the same spot in the office for the fifth time in one day while others playfully tease you that make the every day chaotic.
I know that any world with teenagers and children popping in and out of my life on a daily basis will have that same chaos. It may be a group of students simultaneously saying "hey Siri" to get class off track while everyone's phones say "I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that" and I am helpless to stop it, as opposed to asking about "OctoMan's Floppy Arm" in the middle of Sunday school on Easter, but it will be chaotic. When I look back on this next chapter as it is about to end, I hope, and I pray, that I see the beautiful chaos in those moments, and I see growth in those times of trial just as I do now. I hope that in 30 years, I will have shaken up the world for the teenagers I will have interacted with in the same way Jesus did when he said "let the little children come to me and do not stop them for the Kingdom of Heaven is made for such as these."