Just show up.
When Myrna asked me to write about my experience this past school year with YoungLives, I agreed with enthusiasm. I have felt that words have been bubbling up within me and perhaps this would help to process what the heck happened when I agreed to “just show up”.
Somewhere between 2013 coming to a close and 2014 fast approaching—(the year I would be turning 50) I became very uncomfortable. I was challenged by sermons, books and blogs. I could hear that still small voice inviting me. The problem is that when I get quiet, when I listen to God’s very still small voice in my heart, when I pay attention to what makes me feel alive and joyful and in my place (as opposed to displaced), it almost never revolves around being awesome.
It looks more like being present.
And being peaceful.
And being less grabby and afraid everything is about to run out.
And being generous.
And being at home with my people—my three adult daughters and my Saint Bernard!
And being in my kitchen.
And being ordinary.
I showed up for a teen surf camp the summer of 2014 with the Oakview community, and I showed up at a YoungLives kick off meeting where I expressed an interest in mentoring a teen mom, while I was also wrapping up classes to become a foster parent through the County of Orange. I almost forgot to mention that I listed “interested in a teen” on my application.
Can you guess by now that I’m a little crazy about teens? The messier, the wonkier, the further out from the bull’s-eye—the better. The word “awkward” is practically synonymous with the word “teenager” — every adolescent undergoes a difficult physical and emotional transformation as he or she transitions from childhood to adulthood. Unfortunately, that awkward quotient messes some of us over more than others; all teen angst is not created equal.
I understand God best through people; their gifts and strengths, their love and compassion, their character and courage. I sincerely believe we were made in God’s image, and when I evaluate the goodness of people, I love God more. I crave a world of justice where people are safe, loved, empowered. I plan to use whatever influence I’ve been given on behalf of edged-out people—especially teens for all my days.
When I showed up at YoungLives committing to the role of a mentor, devoting myself to a teen mom and her son, I admit I thought it would look so very different. Not a surprise. Loving this young girl and her son continues to teach me, stretch me, and even prepared me in some ways to embark on the challenge of fostering a teen. In February of this year a 15 year old spit fire of a girl was placed in my home. We like to say “she is a force to be reckoned with”. What I’ve gleaned from my relationship with these two young ladies is that they both have a hard time trusting others. It was hard enough parenting my three daughters through their teen years, but it’s even tougher when the teen hasn’t had much of a start in life. How do you undo at least 13+ years worth of hurt, anger, and disappointment? I would try to teach these girls how to act appropriately, how to trust, and how to be responsible. One girl has built walls around her heart to keep out fear and pain and another girl has been let down so many times that she can’t see any reason to believe me.
Paul told us in Romans: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” This would pretty much solve it. If I am devoted to you, if I prefer to honor you than disprove you, then we can preserve loving community in the midst of thousands of differences, even monumental ones. As long as I prefer the sound of my own voice and the affirmation of my choices, then brotherhood and sisterhood is hopeless. Sure, we must love our neighbors as much as ourselves, but as themselves.
Life is too short to live small and afraid and disgenuine and guarded. Just go ahead and live your one wild and beautiful and spectacular life with all the you-ness you can muster.