Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow Globe

On Wednesday morning my world was flipped upside down. 
As most of you know, I have been working at a church in Indiana since I graduated last April. I have blogged more than once about my experiences there, about the kids that I love so dearly and about the friends that I have made. This church, these people, have become a huge part of who I am. They have become like family to me, accepting me into their community and loving me right where I am. They have given me the INCREDIBLE privilege of being able to care for their children and teach them about God. I was informed yesterday that this privilege has ended, my time at this church is over, and that in a few weeks I will no longer be a part of the community that I have loved so much. When I heard this news I felt as though I was trapped inside a snow globe, like someone picked up my entire world, flipped it upside down and shook it around violently while all of the pieces floated to the floor. Needless to say, I am heart broken. Even now I am writing with tears streaming down my face and a big, fat lump in my throat. I can not imagine leaving these people that I love so much. I can't fathom the thought of leaving the Hines boys, two of the most intelligent and kind hearted little boys I have ever met. I can not imagine leaving Luke Wilson, a boy with a sweet, sensitive spirit and a kind heart unlike anyone I have ever known. I cry when I think about saying goodbye to Sophia Finklea and Ali Upchurch, two amazing little girls who don't have the slightest idea how beautiful they really are. I wonder who is going to blow kisses at Katie Gue in the hallway and who is going to tease Owen Gerig when he looks up with his big puppy dog eyes. I love the children of this church as if they were my own and I can't even begin to understand how difficult it is going to be to say goodbye to them. I want so badly to be able to explain this transition to them and to help them understand that I am not leaving because of them. I am not leaving because they are not good enough or because they did something wrong. I want them to know that they are worth the world to me and that they are absolutely, without a doubt, 100% irreplaceable. I think about the year that I have spent serving this church and I cry knowing that I will never again have an experience like this. I am grieving this incredible loss and praying that God helps me to cope and persevere in a way that honors him. I have realized in the last 36 hours that other than my mother's death, this is by far the most devastating loss that I have ever experienced. I feel as though a part of me is lost and a chunk of my heart is missing. I want so badly to honor God in the next few weeks and bring glory to Him as I transition out of this phase of my life and on to the next one. I am praying that He provides me with positive closure and a chance to say a proper goodbye to my kids. I'm asking God to give me the strength that I need to finish out my time at Fall Creek in a way that portrays His love and spreads compassion. I am praying that the church succeeds in their new approach to ministry and I am praying that God takes good care of my kids after I leave. 
This is an extremely difficult thing to deal with but I know that God has a plan for me. I have no idea what that plan is right now, but I do know that God has brought me through uncertain times before and He will most definitely do it again. I'm thanking Him for allowing me to spend a year with some truly amazing and loving people and that He has protected me as I have journeyed through some difficult moments in ministry. I serve an awesome and powerful God and I know that He is in control of all of this. He will provide for me when things look tough and He has enough grace, compassion, love and strength to bring me through this time. I am comforted knowing that I am not alone, that God understands my hurt and that He is willing to take my broken heart from me and hold me in His arms while I heal. His love is greater than any heartache I will ever experience. I feel honored to have been able to serve at Fall Creek and I anxiously await God's new plan for my life. I know that never once in this whole process have I ever been forgotten or overlooked by Him. He knows exactly what is going to happen next and He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

He who has promised is faithful.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How to Eat Humble Pie...

The past few days have been full of embarrassing moments for me. What's the deal, anyway? Is it the recent change in climatic pressure? Is it the fact that I haven't slept in about 472 days? Is it the fact that I have always been a prideful, snooty little stink-pot and God is finally trying to send me a big, fat message? 
I hear you, God. I'm listening. I see the giant, neon sign flashing 6 inches in front of me. I GOT IT. The joke is over.
Let's back this train right on up. It all started last Thursday night. I came home from work to find a note on the door of my apartment that read, "We were here to fix your dryer but were unable to reach the attic door because of the things in the closet. Please move things around and we will be back to fix the dryer soon." I was MORTIFIED. You see, the attic is located in the storage closet which is located in my bedroom. One must walk through my bedroom in order to get to said closet. The only problem was that my room was an awful disaster. It looked as if this had recently passed through:

(minus the rainbow).

Let's just say it was....a mess...with my "unmentionables" strewn about.
I could not believe that this poor, unsuspecting maintenance man had to walk through the pit that was my bedroom. Immediately after reading his note I vowed to clean my room the next day (my day off). I swallowed my pride, gave myself a good, stern talking-to and went to bed.
Fast forward to approximately 10am Friday morning. I was laying in my bed snoozing away. I was actually having a very trippy dream, but I don't remember what it was because that's what happens when you are awakened unexpectedly by the sound of a man's voice INSIDE YOUR BEDROOM. I pulled my mask off of my sleepy eyeballs and prayed that the covers were in all the right places, as I have a tendency to kick them off in my sleep. 
The dryer-fixer (who happened to be my age) was shocked, to say the least when he saw me there. I tried to look him in the face, forgetting that I am BLIND AS A BAT when I'm not wearing my spectacles. I told him that we had not yet moved the things in the closet and could he please leave before I puked from the panic that had suddenly ensued within my person. (Ok I didn't say that last part). But I think he got the message. He stuttered something and then stumbled out of my bedroom in a state of shock and awe. 
And must I reveal to you the worst part? My room was still a mess and my unmentionables were still strewn about. 
What did I have for breakfast on the morn' of March 13th, 2009? A big, fat piece of humble pie, that's what.
Now don't you worry. This is not the end of my humiliations as of late. 
This morning started off like every other morning of my life since I was 10 years old. I woke up 15 minutes late and ran around like a crazy person trying to get ready and get all my stuff out the door in due time.  I decided to skip makeup and throw my hair back with some bobby pins. I grabbed some random clothes out of my closet and ran out the door and down the three flights of CEMENT stairs to the parking lot. I was but two steps from the ground when I realized that my shoe was a little bit too big. My foot slipped right out of my shoe, but mind you, I did NOT have time to deal with such an unfortunate mishap, as I was already running late. Therefore I attempted to get my foot back in my shoe in mid-step. I stepped to the ground at an extremely awkward angle and my ankle completely gave out. I slammed to the ground, landing on my right knee and bracing myself with my hand. This was not a graceful fall, people. It was the type of thing I pray I witness when I am in need of a gut-busting laugh. 
As I mentioned about 18 times above, I was running late. I didn't have time to get myself together or mentally process the trauma that my poor body had just survived. Instead I stood up, shook the dirt off my jeans, grunted, gasped and caught my breath. And then I scurried out to my car, thanking my lucky stars that none of my neighbors had witnessed my clumsiness. 
I used to think that this girl was the only one who lived through falls like this:

Seriously, Crissa has lived through many a fall in her day. She's probably the clumsiest sister I have. And I have made fun of her almost every day of the past 22 years. One time she fell up the stairs when we went out to eat. She slid on her belly across the floor much like this:

(only not quite as graceful).

So now, here I am, sitting in my apartment and nursing the giant bruise that has developed on my right knee. I'm writing this post and praying that you will all come visit me in the hospital in the coming weeks, as I fear I may need a hip replacement. ASAP.
What did I have for breakfast this morning, you ask? A big, fatty mcfat, jumbo, double helping of humble pie, that's what.
It's probably about time I lay off the sweets.
And Crissa, I'm sorry I have made fun of you for so many years, even though I do think you are unusually comical when you bite the dirt in front of politicians in Washington, DC, college students in Cedar Falls, Iowa and waiters at the Ground Round. Ahem.

Thank you. And goodnight.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Finding the Balance

Sometimes I look at the kids that I work with and I wonder about their lives. I wonder how it must feel to wake up in the morning, put on the clothes that someone else paid for, eat breakfast prepared by an adult, go to preschool and spend time with incredible teachers, color some pictures, play on the playground, take a nap, go home, play, eat dinner cooked by an adult, play, and sleep. Sometimes I’m jealous of my kids. I wish I could trade places with the little four year old goobers. I wish I could have their innocence, their blind faith and their positive outlook on life. It’s hard for me to look at these kids and see past their sweet, hilarious, huggable exteriors. I like to imagine them all as happy little creatures who skip merrily through their perfect little lives. It’s much easier for me to sleep at night when I picture them all in their carefree, safe little bubbles.
But then, there are other times when my idealistic picture is shattered. There are times when I ache for my kids and the hurt that they are experiencing in their young, sweet hearts. There are days when I cry for them and I sit dumbfounded, unable to come to grips with the fact that all of their lives aren’t perfect. Some of these kids are dealing with things in their fourth year of life that I have never had to encounter in all of mine.
I had a conversation with a little girl on Monday afternoon. She is four years old. She loves the color purple and REALLY loves her guinea pigs. (She has two. Their names are Guinea and Pig.) I have gotten to know this little sweetheart over the last year on a deeper level than most of the kids because she sometimes stays late after all of the other kids have left. I sit with her and we talk while she waits for her Nomi (Grandma) to come. Usually we’re laughing about her guinea pigs or talking about what she did in school, but Monday night was different. As we were on the playground my little friend started talking to me about her parents. She told me that they live in different houses and that they are never going to live together again. She explained to me that her mom and dad had to move away from each other because they were fighting a lot. Then she told me that she really, really, REALLY wants them to live together but knows they can’t. She goes on to explain that it’s scary to sleep at her dad’s house because she only has one stuffed animal there. She likes to sleep at her mom’s house because that’s where the guinea pigs are and they make her feel braver. “I’m braver at that house,” she says. She talked for about five minutes or so as I blinked away my tears. I could hardly look at her precious little face as she talked so innocently about the pain she was feeling inside. I could tell that she was really conflicted. She loves both of her parents so much and it is obvious when I see her with them that they love her too. But this little girl is heart broken. She’s confused about why she can’t live in the same house with both her mom and her dad (and her guinea pigs). The worst part about all of this is that there is not one thing I can do to fix this for her. I can’t tell her that it’s going to be better soon. I can’t tell her that her pain will eventually heal. I can’t shelter her from the tough world that she lives in.
This is where I lose it. I understand that we live in a sinful world and that because of that sin we have pain and trials and consequences on this earth. I also know that God is perfect and that He has a plan and a purpose for everything. But it is just so hard for me to wrap my mind around situations like this. I would so much rather take the pain and the hurt away from these innocent kids than have them experience it themselves. This little girl didn’t do anything to deserve this pain.
I look at her and think about so many of the other kids I’ve worked with and I am reminded that this is why I’m here. This is why God has allowed me to have this job, serve in this place, and minister in the way that I do. This is my calling. This is who I am, what I love and where I want to be. I look back on painful situations in my own life like losing my mom and losing my relationship with my little brother and I know that God has allowed me to go through those things for this exact reason. I can hurt with this little girl. I know what it’s like to be confused and angry and lost and sad and how tiring it is to attempt to keep it all together. I understand what it feels like to want to be safe and oddly enough, I understand why those darn guinea pigs are so important to her.
Sometimes I think about the kids that I work with and I cry. I cry because of their pain, because of the fact that they’re scared, because of the way that they don’t understand their own hurts. I cry because it’s not fair and I cry because I want to save them. I don’t envy their lives. I don’t feel jealous. I just want to make it better.
Then I remember that, as with everything in our lives, there has to be balance. I love that I can laugh with them, play with them, run with them, sing with them and act like a kid with them. I love that the world changes when I’m with kids. Suddenly it goes from a dark and lonely place to a place full of color and laughter. At the same time I love that I can pray for them, I can speak truth to them and I can teach them about God. I can listen to them and I can comfort them. I can give them big hugs and kiss their sweet little heads and know for a brief moment that they are safe.
I’m learning that I can’t fix everything for them. I can’t take away their pain but I can pray for them and care for them with the gifts that God has given me. I can show them His love and pray that somehow it makes a difference in their lives. I can trust that God is faithful and that He is going to care for them in the perfect, unconditional way that only He can.
And then I realize that I’m slowly getting there. As hard as it is I am slowly finding the balance between sympathy and celebration, between silliness and seriousness, between anger and confusion and peace and trust.

My job is to teach these kids. But the ironic thing is, I learn something new from them everyday.

I experience God through them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Social Life...

I'm sure you have all been sitting around at least once in the last two weeks and thinking to yourself, "I wonder what Cady is doing right now?" or "I wonder who Cady is talking to right now?" Well, you can breathe easy because I am about to tell you.
As a single 22 year old woman, living in a thriving metropolis, one would think that my social calendar would be bursting at the seams; full of dates, fancy parties, spa treatments and more dates. Oh how I wish that were true for me.
You see, the reatlity of the situation is that round abouts 73% of the time I am having a conversation with a human under the age of 10. I affectionately call them my little goobers. Working at a preschool and running a children's ministry allows me to have some pretty hilarious conversations.

For example, in the last week I have been greeted like this:
"Hi Miss Cady."
"Hey Miss Tady."
"Hey Chapel Girl."
" What's your name again? Uh...Teacher?"
And last but not least, "Hey Tootie Tot."
How am I supposed to respond when a 3 year old girl calls me, "Tootie Tot"? Am I supposed to take her seriously when she follows it up with a question? I think not. I laugh. I laugh a lot.

Here is a snippet of a conversation I had with a five year old boy recently. And by recently I mean every day for the past month.

Goober: "Miss Kay-yee? You are married."
Me: "No, Goober. I am not married."
Goober: "Yes but Miss Kay-yee. You have a boyfriend."
Me: "No, Goober. I do not have a boyfriend."
Goober: "But Miss Kay-yee. You kiss a boy."
Me: "No Goober. No kissing for me. You are a goober."
Goober: "Miss Kay-yee. Am I your boyfriend?" (huge smile)
Me: "I don't know, Goober. Do you want to be my boyfriend?"

And then....Goober runs away, leaving me in the dust, on the mulch filled playground, with nothing but a broken heart.