A few weeks ago, I stepped back onto a familiar road. I parked my car on a Thursday morning and walked across a parking lot, up a walkway and through the doors of Metro Christian Academy in Tulsa, OK. For the next five hours, I met faculty and staff, started setting up my office and enjoyed watching students pass in the hallway each time the bell rang. Working in a school might be a very new geographical location for me to be in ministry to kids, but still the world of students has remained sweetly familiar terrain.
With twenty-some days down now as Metro’s Spiritual Life Director, I’m already realizing notable changes that have occurred in my own life in the four years I’ve been away from daily vocational ministry:
- I’m a little older. No news there! The last time I was up in front of students and families every week, I had a kindergartner and was 7 months pregnant. Now that I’m knocking on the door of age 40, I have a 5th grader and a preschooler. These few years have given me greater appreciation for the daily joys and struggles of parenting.
- I understand myself a little more. It sounds a bit funny, but I really do think God used the last few years to help me grow up a little more in my identity. There were so many things I did not recognize about myself until I stepped back from ministry for a while—1) I have some strong ADD traits that truly shape how I function in life and relationships, 2) I have a natural passion to help people lead well and 3) I find tremendous clarity and soul-centering in putting my words to paper.
- I’m a little healthier. Two years ago I got a reality check of arm pains during my runs, pretty high blood pressure and cholesterol levels that quickly reminded me to take better care of myself and not take my health for granted.
- I’ve climbed two not so little mountains. At a point in my life when I had plenty of fears about life changes and future possibilities, Gary and I started hiking on our vacations. The feeling of standing at the keyhole of Long’s Peak in Colorado surrounded by the tips of the Rockies was the triumph I needed to tackle some emotional mountains that threatened my hope and confidence. Last year, we drove out into literally the middle of nowhere in Wyoming with literally no one around for what seemed 50 miles and hiked Laramie Peak just before my 20 year high school reunion. That climb was memorable because it took me to the top of the world that I called home for most of my childhood.
I’ve also reflected on joys that have not only remained constant, but have dug deeper roots into my soul:
- I still love spending my days with youth. It doesn’t matter where I am or how much time has passed since I officially worked with students—their stories, their struggles and their spiritual growth is where I’m drawn. If they are aloof, I’m patient. If they don’t trust adults, I work to earn that trust. If they are exploring their abilities, I want to give them a place to practice and shine. If they have questions, I want to be a safe person to come and ask. If they don’t know how much God loves them, I want to make sure they know.
- More than ever, I want to live in the legacy that’s been given to me. So much of my story is rooted in the lives of people like my parents who opened their home for 20 years to foster children with no where to go. And, it’s rooted in the ministry of people like my youth pastor, Jeff Mugford, who modeled what it looks like to follow Christ in the real world. I want to continue to be faithful to the good work God began in my life through them and I want to be faithful to how God is urging me to live out that legacy today and tomorrow.
- I love words spoken, written and sung. From my son’s well timed one-liners, to my daughter’s wonderful prose, to my own addiction to my Ipod Scrabble game, I cannot get away from the joy of communicating with just the right word. I want every article I write, every song I sing, and each prayer I lead to guide people to a fresh, new place in their thinking. As this desire grows stronger, I strive to minimize the moments where I waste my words on futile endeavors like complaining, gossiping or boasting. Oh, that I could conquer that struggle for good!
So, I feel as if I have just returned from a long journey away—one that I needed to take in order to be ready to travel this road with students and families once again. I am so grateful for this beautiful wilderness that lies just behind me. It was not easy, but it was worth it.