Thursday, April 30, 2015

"At least you use your powers for good!"

Today I discovered three amazing things that I'm pretty stoked about:

Sarah, a woman involved with Hope Spoken, has developed the coolest relational project. She built this giant table in her backyard that can fit up to 20 people at a time. Her goal was to serve 500 people at this table in a year. Now three years later, she's had nearly 1600 people share life around this table. How cool is that?

Go watch this video I'll Think Of You for not only a beautiful song, but one of the most epic and flawless hand clap routines I've ever seen. I want to learn this.

Have you ever heard of Mercy Ships? I hadn't until today. Doctors, along with their families, work and live on these ships that port in different cities to give free medical care to people that wouldn't be able to get it otherwise. These ships have volunteer medical teams and sterile locations that save people's lives. How cool is that?

I have a quote beside my desk from Mother Teresa to remind me of the kind of teacher I want to be, "Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. Joy is infectious." It's a lofty and honorable goal to live like that. Lucky for me, I have a whole slew of people who are an example of that kind of presence. These FBC girls spread their infectious joy. I love time with Avery, Payton, Kim, Grace, Reese, Jayla, Hannah, Mandy, Sarah and Olivia. I wish you all could come hang out with us for an afternoon at FBC.

I worked another track meet as a timer tonight. I love getting to cheer on girls like Fudge and Lulu and they run miles with such fierce positivity. I love hanging out with teacher friends like Boss as we time every event. I love seeing older siblings like Anna and Grace that come to cheer on their sisters. I love being outside in the sun and wearing shorts even when it's a little bit cold.

Our fearless committee woman have been working to put on an event called Market At The Barn. For weeks they've been collecting people's donations of home goods and setting up this whole barn of awesome stuff. Tonight was the "Friends of YL" pre sale and the ladies and Ryan were all their snacking, talking and shopping.

I didn't plan on getting anything, but when I spotted these Indian carvings I couldn't pass them up. The big one has a plaque that says "DAD The Chief." It's fate-- my dad used to be the chief of Tecumseh every Friday night at Closing Campfire. 

Last summer Annabelle came to hang out with the CILTs and live in the Longhouse. She's all sorts of beautiful and creepy and amazing at the very same time. She adventured all across Tecumseh for 9 whole weeks. I didn't know how we'd ever compete with that kind of fun for summer 2015...

But I think these guys could become a big part of the CILT Pack this summer. Can't you just picture the standing one being a traveling award? Hiding The Chief in different people's bunks each night? Putting them in the Party Room on the mantle to watch over all of us? Taking them to closing campfire with us each week? Yep-- I think this could work.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"When I was in first grade it was the end of the day and my teacher wouldn't let me go to the bathroom and I had to pee SO BADLY so I went to the corner of the room and peed on her floor."

The big events of YL, the Clubs and Campaigners, are awesome but they're not the heart of what we do in Young Life. My favorite moments are when I get to sit down one on one with a YL girl and just talk and listen and ask questions. I got to do that twice today-- with Alli Sams before school and then with Sam after school. I'm so thankful for both of these girls and that we get to share life together. 

Tonight was the very last Campaigners of the year for Wyld Life. It seems a little sad that it's over and wild that summer is so soon. But isn't it crazy that last year we weren't even having Wyld Life Campaigners? When KCraig came on staff this year it was her goal to have Campaigners every other week for our Junior High kids. And it happened in a very big way.

Hanging out with these kids at Mama Bear's has become my favorite way to spend my Wednesday nights. It's also nuts to think about how just a year ago I didn't know these girls at all but now they're some of the main characters of my day to day life. It's exciting to know that you always have room in your life for more people, more friends, more love.

KCraig also ran with our HS friends in a more organized, intentional and supportive way than we had done before. Now HS girls like Rachel and Es are a part of this Wyld Life family and are building friendships with girls like Taylor, Abby and Cassie.

I'm so glad that since week 9 at Tecumseh, Sarah Woodward has been such a big part of my life. I love that Jess, and her husband Conner, have been a huge part of this team and such consistent leaders and friends. I've been doing YL with Hannah for three years now and I hate that our time together is running out so quickly.

We were reminiscing about Wyld Life and one of the 8th grade guys said, "I look forward to Campaigners even more than Club." I think that's so different that what people expect from 13 year old guys. But these kids have shown us over and over how much they want to be in relationships, in conversation, in meaningful time together.

We sat outside tonight to sing Set A Fire, 10,000 Reasons and One Thing Remains together. I love when Conner leads us in worship. Over this past year these kids have sang so many different songs to God together. For many of them, this is the only place they get to do that.

Inside Mama Bear's we had about 15 different envelopes hung up around the room with questions on them and slips of paper nearby. The kids walked around and tried to answer as many as they could, putting their answers into those envelopes.

What's something you always pray about?
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
What's something you're proud of?
What's one thing you wish was different about your family?
Think of someone that inspires you--what's special about them?
What do you wish your friends would start or stop doing?
What have you learned about Jesus this year?
Think of a friend that has always been there, what do they do that makes them a great friend?
Who is God to you?

All of us spent time writing a letter to our future selves. Conner asked us to reflect back on the things that we've learned this year, the things we heard in Wyld Life talks and conversations. We wrote down things that we hope we're still doing by the time we read this letter-- reading the bible, being nice to our siblings or going to church on Sunday. We encourage our future selves and wrote who we hope we will be by the time we read it.

*The most difficult part of the whole night was when the kids each had to write their home address on their envelope. So much confusion. Further proof that we need a handwritten letter revolution.*

When I visited the HS yesterday, one of the teachers had "What are you passionate about?" written in the middle of a white board and kids wrote their answers all around it. I bet you won't be too surprised that I added, "My campers, YL kids and students."

I'm so thankful that my youth pastor in HS inspired me to go into youth ministry. I'm so thankful that in my first week at Hope, Emily and Lani invited me to come to Young Life Leader Training with them. I'm so thankful that when I moved to Indy I got a call from Jenna Tyler asking me to coffee to talk about Carmel YL. I'm so thankful that my HSE YL family has been filled with beautiful people like Maddie, Haleigh and Hannah.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Wait, what are you doing here?"

HSJH has block scheduling for two weeks because of ISTEP testing. Now each period is an hour and a half and we only have four classes a day. Today my prep period overlapped with lunch so I had two hours off in the middle of the day. That's a really long time....  So I drove to the HS to visit YL kids during their lunches. I saw KCraig and Jesse at his swim lesson. Hannah and Ashley introduced me to their favorite teachers, the Senior corner and Han's locker. I saw Cass in gym class and Katie and Courtney with peer mentoring. I ran into Natty B, Erin, Devoe, Lauren and Abby Martin in the halls. During lunches I got to see Genna, Allison, Kate, Ally, Kaylee, Julia, Chloe and Kara. HS was a little terrifying and a whole lot of exciting. 

While Insta stalking #younglife pictures I found this company called Camp + Out. It's run by Ally and Steven Wallace, husband and wife, who say, "Camp played a huge role in our lives: In who we've become and what we stand for. We wanted to create a business that provided the same opportunity for others-- all the whimsy, wonder and life camp has to offer."

Camp + Out sells really cool apparel and other item. Then each month the money support kids going to a different featured Young Life camp. That's awesome. This month you can help kids from Salida Young Life in Arkansas go to camp.

"We believe in a life full of adventure. We believe there's infinite freedom and grace in knowing you are loved more than you could ever imagine. We believe in whimsical love that is out of this world."

Julia and I visited the track meet tonight which is always a good time. I love seeing Hannah jump, Katie Timmons coach, Courtney and Grace run so fast, and bumping into our little peanut of a friend Anna from LC. Beautiful Spring days are so much more beautiful when you get to spend them with great people.

In a spontaneous move, Beef came to Indy tonight and had dinner with Eric and Emily Glanders and me. We've been good friends since being CILT counselors together years ago and I love when we all get to have dinner when he passes through town.


Monday night at the start of Campaigners, our whole Young Life family got to witness Riley Rapp's proposal to the one and only Hannah Blachly. Be still my heart.

Riley has always dreamed of proposing to Hannah at Young Life and coming back from Purdue for Love Tanks was the perfect opportunity. She had no idea it was coming.

In the spirit of Love Tanks, Ryan, KCraig and I each pulled an "example" love tank note out of a bag and read it to the crowd. These notes were actually written ahead of time by Riley to Hannah. Slowly people caught on that something bigger was going on here. Riley came up front after we finished reading our notes and told us more of their story.

When they started dating in HS, going to Campaigners together on Monday nights was one of the best parts of their whole week. (When they were Seniors I got to witness Riley's Prom Proposal at a Campaigners too.) Now years later, their faith is still the foundation of their relationship, they've been to camp together countless times and they share a passion for loving Jesus and loving HS kids.

Hannah of course said yes and cried. It was beautiful. Everyone in the audience was also crying as they watched and captured the moment on video and snapchat. We love these two-- they're two of my very favorite people in the world. When I think about relationships and marriage, theirs is one I aspire to be like. Love you Hannah and Riley.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"Writing love tanks >>>> homework. People need love more than I need a good grade."

Tonight was one of the most special nights of the whole year-- our once-a-semester Love Tank night. We had such a crowd of leaders gather together before the night began-- KCraig, Ryan, Hip Hip Jorge, Mike and Lauren Feldman, Joey and Kylee Tharp and sister Katy, Abby Back, Mike and Lauren Feldman, Jackie Renick, Hannah and Riley, Scott Perry and JD. This team just keeps growing and I'm so lucky to get to be part of it all.

The gym was packed tonight. When kids hear we're doing love tanks they show up in droves because they know this is something they don't want to miss. The basic idea is that we've each got a love tank inside of us that's filled up by people and where we draw from to give love. On this night we get to love others by writing notes and we also get a bag stuffed with notes from kids and leaders and some people you probably didn't expect.

Tonight I was thrilled to greet friends who have never been to YL before or ones that aren't here very often like Erin, Hannah, Emma, Ryan and Katy. I love seeing girls that come to camp with us but can't always make it on Mondays during the year. I love when it feels like almost all of the YL fam is here with us. We love these people. 

Better than an explanation from me, I asked several YL kids to share why they love this night...

Telling other people why they're so great makes me so happy. I don't think people ever get tired of hearing why you love them and everyone can always use a little encouragement. The feeling you get after reading them or after receiving an unexpected one is indescribable. I love knowing that I get to make others feel that way too. -Julia

After last night, I think Love Tanks shouldn't be an everyone once in awhile go to Young Life and write a bunch kind of thing. I think they should become a daily thing! Nothing is better than giving and getting love. -Katy

Love Tanks reassure anyone and everyone about how much they are loved by others and God. My heart overflows with love when I can make someone's day through a love talk or when somebody makes mine. -Anne

Lately I have been feeling down, and almost thinking of myself as not good enough for some people. But after reading these love tanks it was the pick me up I needed. It made me change the way I think and made me feel like I was worth a lot to people. I am so glad I attending YL this Monday. -Michael

It was just a fun opportunity to pour love to people that you don't say loving things to enough. And it was pretty surprising to get notes from people that just see you from afar and wish they knew you better. -Rachel

I think so many people show up to Love Tanks because you receive so much unexpected love. When you open your brown paper bag and read your small squares you can't help but smile. Also, the feeling you get when you place a love note in a bag hanging from the wall is life giving. It fills your heart. It's as much fun giving as it is receiving--it's kinda like Christmas! -Cassidy

It was my first time both writing and receiving Love Tanks and I couldn't have imagined it being more perfect. The feeling of sharing the love in my heart with others was incredibly fulfilling. It's amazing how God's love is so powerful that it shines through us all. -Devin

I absolutely love Love Tanks because of the love shared between friends. Whether the person you write to and get written from is your best friend or you hardly know them at all, it is great to share love with one another. It is sometimes tough to say it in person, so writing love tanks is a great way to express feelings and show love to others. Love Tanks are so positive and supportive and they make everyone happy. -Andrew

Love Tanks simply brighten everyone's day. When I open my love tanks and find some from people that I have talked to only once it fills my heart with joy. Or when I can't think of someone to write to so I look up from my paper and look around the room and see someone else doing the same thing. Then that person and I decide to write to each other. It's telepathic. -Genna

How can you not love Love Tanks? They are so uplifting and special because they are meant for you and written with you in mind. They are often extremely vulnerable you know that they aren't lies because no one would write them if they were. If they didn't feel that way then they wouldn't spend the time writing you a note. I love writing them to as many people as I can because I have so many people that I want to know how much I genuinely care for them. This time I received so many that touched my heart, but I had a few that really hit home. They said things like, "You are one of the strongest people I know," and "You shine with the light of Christ and it's easy to see that." -Lauren

I think the most powerful part of Love Tanks was I got them from people I barely knew or didn't know at all. They still had such meaningful things to say to me. I think it's easy to forget that you're loved but love tanks show you that there's so much love from so many people that you never knew existed. -Emma

I love Love Tanks mostly because I like making people's day. Even if I didn't get any in mine, I would still feel great after Love Tanks because I know I made someone's day. But, it's great having that reminder that people do love you even in the toughest of times. Love Tanks is definitely a night when I can see God working through people. -Allison

So often I think that HS kids think that to share love with other people requires them to "lower themselves" but I think Love Tanks show that sharing love can be so uplifting. They give you a way to intimately express how you feel and to tell people what they truly mean to you. It feels so good to tell people you love them and know you are putting a smile on their face. I received love tanks from people I never expected. I felt so full and important because I truly made an impact on other people's lives. Love Tanks show us that spreading this unashamed love doesn't require any special occasion. -Katie

Compliments are little blessings. Through Love Tanks we have the opportunity to bless people around us. -Libby

I love getting love tanks because they are undeserved notes of kindness. I feel overjoyed to read such kind notes, even though I didn't do anything to earn them. Giving love tanks is the best because the feeling I get when giving them is so fulfilling it's crazy. There is no better way to fill my heart with love. -Mallory

I think Love Tanks are an amazing opportunity for us to really feel loved and accepted. I think that there is so much negativity, judgment and hurt around people in HS so they are attracted to Love Tanks automatically. There were so many people that came who had never been before, they wanted a chance to feel that love and acceptance that only God's love can provide. YL is amazing because we don't condemn those people for not normally coming-- we just want to welcome them. For my personal love tanks, I felt like it was God reassuring me that I'm on the right path. All of the people that said I'm their role model warmed my heart. It made me excited for the future and getting to know more people. Hopefully God will give me the wisdom to impact their lives. I wish I did Love Tanks on a daily basis. -Chloe

Love Tanks are awesome because when I was writing them I realized how genuine people are. And when reading them it's so amazing to feel the love from Young Life friends and the random people that don't even know you that write amazing things about you. -Erin

Love Talks allow people to tell you what they really feel without the influence of social media and peers. My favorite love tank I have ever received said, "I want my daughter to be exactly like you when she grows up." It is just so important to remember to always lift people up rather than tear them down. -Natalie

I love Love Tanks because everyone can always use some loving. "We accept the love we think we deserve" (Perks of Being A Wallflower) but no one understands how much love we deserve. I got a love tank from a person I have never spoken to and it was my favorite just because I've never seen myself from afar. -Brian

I love writing love tanks because it gives people to opportunity to just be real with one another. You're not only getting them yourself, you're doing it in return too. I think that's so cool. God's love is so powerful, He always wins. -Hannah

*Honorable Mention Blog Title