Wednesday, July 29, 2009

winding down

it's hard to believe, but we've only got a week and a half left in Hyde County! next Saturday we'll be pulling out of here on the way to Birmingham for summer debrief, and then home. back to real life--what's that going to be like again?? and i'm starting grad school in a month, what?!?

there's still a lot to be done in our short time left here. we've got an awesome group this week & we still have a couple days left with them. this weekend we'll be working on saying our goodbyes to community members & church congregations. then next week it's one last hurrah for our final week of youth before packing up our site on friday & saturday. oh, and did i mention the end of summer paperwork? there sure is plenty of it. as with everything this summer, it's funny how that week and a half can seem so short & so long all at once.
  • it feels short in the time i have left to spend with the staff team here--my new family! soon we'll be scattered across the country again
  • it feels long when my alarm goes off at 6-something every morning
  • it feels short when i think about going to Swan Quarter Baptist for the last time this Sunday
  • it feels long when i look at the pile of evaluations and information packets and building checklist forms and inventory lists and...
  • it feels short when i look back on how far we've come this summer

but time will go on as it always does. this may be one of our hardest weeks of the summer & we're already past the halfway point! (wednesdays are our favorite days, too--pasta dinner, church at SQB, and of course, my time off & chance to blog!) this week is hard because we've come to the end of our strength & are so close to crossing the finish line...but we've still got one left. we've still got to do it all one more time. it seems that the general consensus among the staff is that we're doing okay mentally & emotionally--we can make it in that sense. but it's so weird when your body starts rebelling--from the lack of sleep & exercise, from the weird diet, from being pushed to the extremes of what it can handle. so we get headaches & our eyes beg to be closed & our stomachs hurt--but yet we press onwards. we want to continue giving our all to the participants coming in & to the community here & to each other, but it's so hard when physically you've reached your limit.

Yet God is a God of strength. He does not grow tired or weary. In Isaiah 40 He promises to give strength to the weak & weary--the strength to keep running the race, such that we'll fly on wings like eagles. Every morning I wake up with a prayer for the strength to make it through the day--it's actually pretty amazing to know that you're not making it from sunrise to far past sunset on any of your own ability. i'm solely running by the power of Christ in me--this body, this person called Whitney has nothing left, it's empty. but that's the God we serve--He demands everything but He gives everything. the tough part is figuring out that we can survive on what God gives and not just what we think we need. That we can live outside our comfort zones & away from our families/friends & everything familiar, and go 11 hard, long weeks without much sleep, and still come out praising His name. I got angry at God a little bit there in the middle of the summer--angry at Him for demanding so much. But I'm here to say that I'm still in this. Jesus, I'm in. I'm ready to run the race set before me. This summer has been an uphill climb on that race of my life--but I know the light & momentary troubles & struggles are achieving an eternal glory--lives have been changed over the course of this summer, including my own. I'm so thankful that this job in this place with these people was set apart for me & that God would ever look my way & choose me to be His instrument. I am a broken one that still needs a lifetime of reshaping & molding, but I am in His hands.

We're not quite done yet--and your prayers would still be greatly appreciated! All my love <3

Saturday, July 18, 2009

post-week 5 update

greetings from the Outer Banks! my goodness, I've been waiting a long time to make this post. We seem to have had our main internet source in Hyde County blocked, and the computers at the school, of course, do not allow access to certain sites. I could make it the rest of the summer without facebook, if I had to, but without blogging?! So here I am, using the earlier half of a cloudy day at the beach to catch up on life outside the YouthWorks bubble. I hope you are all doing well!

We had an awesome week of programming wrap up yesterday--our first week where everything truly clicked! And I don't think we could've asked for a much better bunch of youth and adult leaders. Talk about servant-hearted! I mean, taco Tuesday dinner was served early--that's a group that comes ready to work in any way they're asked. And please ask me about a game called "bunny bunny" sometime--we'll have to get 20 of our closest friends gathered in a circle & we'll play. Trust me, it's fun--I certainly couldn't have been playing it at midnight on Thursday night if it wasn't.

In all seriousness, I think my body is starting to rebel a bit more over the extreme levels it's being pushed to this summer--very little sleep, weird diet, little exercise. It's craving rest. On staff, we've all decided that our first couple of days at home will involve nothing more than lying in our pjs and alternately sleeping, watching movies/mindless TV, and otherwise doing nothing. I'm looking forward to that--about 3 weeks to go. But besides wanting to rest & recuperate, I think we're going strong. 3 weeks is not a long period of time (well, unless it's measured in YouthWorks days ;) and truthfully speaking, it's a lot of good time to do ministry). this past week absolutely flew by. we're all a lot more settled into our roles, so for the most part, the days flow smoothly (except for the unexpected bumps along the way). and now, especially as site director, it's time to start anticipating end of the summer tasks--such as planning community member gifts, preparing as a staff for the upcoming transition, etc. with these additional to-do's in my day, i know i'll continue to stay busy. and even as 6:15 feels earlier each morning, even as the repetition of certain meetings & activities starts to wear me out, even as i begin to count off the days until i never to put on a YouthWorks staff shirt again ( i mean that in the literal sense--I'm sick of those shirts!)--I think we'll suddenly wake up & it will be time to leave. i want to anticipate that because even with the chance to consider it ahead of time, it's going to be insane. we're going to be messed up for several days and/or weeks. so it may take me a while to get in touch with you all personally--i'll need some serious processing time before i can somehow communicate to you what happened this summer. but i look forward to that--i've missed you all so much & miss knowing what's going on in your lives. YouthWorks is truly an alternate universe, a parallel dimension, and I'm sorry that I haven't been better about keeping in touch with the real world. But I think about you all often.

Okay, now it's story time! I decided this week to write down what a day in the life of a YouthWorks site director looks like. Let me start by saying--no two look the same. Nothing is truly predictable. I did this for 2 of my days in the past week. I don't have the actual full-length list with me right now, but here are some highlights to whet your appetite:
  • wake up at 6:10, get ready for the day in a middle school bathroom, and proceed to lead a team of 12 youth in preparing 100+ waffles and other breakfast & lunch items
  • wash a load of dirty kitchen rags & footwashing towels--and reconcile my weekly finances in the $18,000 budget I manage while I'm waiting
  • clean out a tub of several dozen rotting cucumbers
  • play a game of Apples to Apples with a group of youth
  • listen to a history talk--twice-- on Lake Mattamuskeet as part of an evening activity
  • mop. lots of mopping
  • drive 20 miles to "town" and visit with my friends at Dollar General, the post office, and the Red & White (grocery store) as I run errands
  • clean out pre-wash bins & sink. i am afraid of no disgusting food particles. egg shells, soggy cereal, lettuce--all have passed through these hands.
There's rarely a dull moment, I will say that.

And now for one final story--I am thankful that we weren't washed away in a flood last night! There was an absolute torrential downpour yesterday. We've had more rain this week than usual, and the sky was definitely threatening yesterday as we left for our 1.5 hour drive to WalMart. The cool thing was, the rain came while we were inside shopping, and had finished by the time we needed to load up. When we got back to the school, again we had just enough time to haul everything into the kitchen before the skies opened up again. However, the actual drive back was quite the experience. It was not the worst rain I've ever driven through, but it was close. All I could do was watch the reflectors in the middle of the road to know I was staying on course, and pray that the lightning striking right next to us would avoid hitting the car. What a metaphor for life--for this summer, at some points! But we made it home safely. And then laughed about it this morning when "Flood" by Jars of Clay played on our mix cd.

The sun's coming out! We're off to the beach :)

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God was making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:18-21)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

best pics so far

i'm sitting at starbucks in greenville, nc, and i'm not thinking much about YouthWorks at all today. it's so nice to step outside that bubble for a little while. i've been away from home for 7 weeks, in Hyde County for 6 weeks, and hosting youth groups for 4 weeks. we have 4 weeks of programming left--in fact, my flight home leaves one month from today. this weekend has been strange in that sense. i feel as though i'm perched on a precipice, having made the long climb to the summitt, and now i'm waiting to begin the descent. but until the new groups arrive tomorrow night, i'm just watching & waiting. and second half of the summer will not be "downhill" in the sense that it will be a breeze--it will be as tough of a climb down as it was on the way up, i'm sure. but we've crossed the halfway point. i think we're all a little unsure how to feel about it. is it going to fly by? or as we get more tired & home/real life draws closer, is time going to start dragging? will we be able to keep our energy up to serve the last 4 groups as well as we could the first 4? i'm not really sure what to think or how to feel. so for now, i'm just perched here, watching.

here's a few of my favorite pictures from the summer:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

youthworks week 4

this will be a short update because i'm nearing the end of my time off this afternoon! plus we're planning for another day in Greenville this weekend, which means Starbucks and/or Panera, which means wireless internet, which means laptop, which means I can finally upload some pictures! and more blogging, of course.

this week has been so much better than last week! first of all, we're at about 54 participants compared to last week's 72, so that's just a nice breather for us. we took what was constructive criticism from our evaluations last week and have worked to improve those areas. but the biggest sigh of relief this week comes from having adult leaders who are on board. it makes a world of difference.

this week i've had a hard time avoiding the urge to count down the days we have left in the summer. after this week wraps up, we'll have completed 4 weeks of programming with 4 weeks left to go. when i've been frustrated or tired or unable to see the fruit of our efforts, i've thought to myself, "only 4 more times do we have to manage canoeing," or "only 4 more weeks of dealing with the insurmountable task of keeping this kitchen clean." in those moments, it's easy to get lost in the to-do's and forget that ministry is happening in all of it. it's been a real blessing for me to remind myself as i mop or set up tables or empty garbage cans (etc) that this, too, is work for the glory of God. Psalm 84 says, "better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere. i would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." sometimes our work is as doorkeepers--maybe not the top of the line or a job that is gratifying or a position where effective ministry is immediately apparent. but it's work in the house of God.

and sometimes it feels like a YouthWorks day is as long as a thousand elsewhere ;) i've really been learning just in fact how much sleep you can run on.

this past weekend my mom came to visit and we all together spent the day at the Outer Banks! it was fabulous! we climbed the Cape Hatteras lighthouse & sat on the beach there for 2 hours & watched fireworks on the top of Jockey's Ridge. pictures definitely forthcoming :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

youthworks week 3

another week gone by. it's interesting really--the days are interminable but somehow you wake up & realize it's already wednesday & there's just one more day of ministry before things wrap up. it's been a bit of a rough week & i'm not entirely sure why. maybe we're stuck somewhere between the excitement of beginnings and the rhythm of mid-summer. we're toward the end of week 3 of 8, but overall we've reached the halfway point. factoring in a week of training & two weeks of prep is how we've gotten here, but it's been bizarre to be filling out mid-summer paperwork when things have really only begun to gear up.

another note on the week--my vague references to something big happening last friday can now be uncovered. we had to let go one of our staff members. on the same day that happened, our new staff, Liz, joined us...and we still had to finish Friday paperwork & shopping. it was quite the day. so it's been a transitional week with Liz learning her role & our site. she's been fabulous all things considered! i'm very encouraged for the rest of the summer--even though she's just arrived, we feel like more of a team already. responsibilities evenly shared. through this situation i think God had a lot to teach me about leadership through conflict--which is definitely something i was scared of as i trained for this job. and i got a huge dose of it. i think i'm stronger for it. and i was thinking today that the way this experience is preparing me for the future will only be revealed in months & years to come, but i know that i'm growing in ways that i don't even realize.

the hardest part of my week was definitely Monday afternoon at our adult leader meeting, which i lead each day. i actually really enjoy my interaction with the adults & have been glad that it's such a big part of my role as site director. but the meeting Monday turned into a complaint-fest. one of them started & the ball just kept rolling. quite a few of the ladies acknowledged after the fact that they had been overly crabby, and things have definitely been better since then. but it's led to a continued discussion about how YouthWorks does and does not encourage missional living. this is a mission field we're working on here. and to an extent, certainly, the youth groups know that because they are coming on a mission trip. but only some of them really get it. complaining about the water pressure in the showers & other little nit-picky things like that is extremely frustrating. sure, it's an inconvenience. but being missional is world away from being comfortable. and it's really dependent on the youth leaders' and groups' experiences and spiritual awareness of missional living--you either have an understanding of it coming in or you don't. so how do you teach it to those who don't? you can't snap back at an adult leader with, "well, we're trying to live out the Gospel here & Jesus probably wasn't focused on the shower pressure in Him ministry" or "you know, think about all the people in the world who don't have running water. consider what a blessing it is to even be able to bathe! no less on site and in private stalls." i hope that some of these concepts will work their way into participants' worldviews, but we may not see the fruit of it during this week alone. one of my fellow staff, Jake, & I have also been talking about the usefulness of our end-of-the-week evaluations. in making sure that we're doing our job--enough food for everyone to eat, safety, programming, etc--they're extremely helpful in keeping us on track. but Jake said he felt the evaluations were partially asking, "how was your stay at Hotel YouthWorks this week?" and neither of us felt that's really what it should be about. it's hard to walk the line between serving our participants & catering to them.

just fyi--this blog may serve as a venting outlet :) a lot of things have been going very well. we've had great energy at worship this week & a lot of focus during our times of reflection & teaching. most of the youth have big servant hearts & have gone out of the way to help out. we have an awesome adult leader who was actually a YW staff two years ago. she's been a huge blessing--mostly because she understands what it's all like behind the scenes. we're getting better at the less fun aspects of the job--Friday inventory & shopping, leading meal & clean-up crews. I laughed today, thinking how once we get it all down perfectly, it will be time to pack up & head out for the summer.

My focus verses this week have come from 1 Corinthians 13. I have been pursuing the most excellent way:

If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy & can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (vv. 1-3).