Thursday, May 30, 2013

Off to Taize!!

I leave tomorrow for the first adventure in what will most likely be the most amazing year of my life.  This part of the journey, however, started almost 4 years ago.  I had recently graduated from the University of Wyoming and was home for the summer and beginning to look at what my life was turning into.  I had idealistic dreams of what my life was going to look like, but knew that I had steps to take to get there.

I received a message from the Christian Education Director at church about a new program they were planning on starting with our middle school students.  It was a program I was not unfamiliar with, but they were having a meeting in hopes of finding a couple of mentors to lead the first group.  After the meeting, I knew that if I didn't take on this project, I would be mad at myself. 

In the fall, I began working with what I discovered was an incredible group of 6th and 7th grade students.  I quickly began to think of them as my kids and we grew together for the next two years.  We talked about some deep things and it was fun to watch their insights develop as they grew beyond childhood.   I don't think they will ever really know how much I got from them and can only hope that they got half as much from me! 

When our 2 years were over, I was sad to let them go, but excited to share them with others who would get to know the amazing people I already knew.  Since then, I have watched them turn into wonderful, responsible young adults with the help of Mary and Ernie, their current mentors.  You know those kids that are just "neat kids?"  That's them!  They are really more mature than I was at their age.  For this reason, I was honored to be invited, by them, to join them and their current mentors on their pilgrimage this summer.

So, tomorrow morning, at 5:30 (ugh!) we are beginning our pilgrimage at the airport here in Cody.  Our journey will take us to Paris, France for a day to do some sightseeing, then we will be traveling to the community of Taize for one week.  We will return to Paris next Saturday, then fly for home on Sunday and return changed for the better to our families on Monday. 

From their website:
From its beginning the community has been inspired by two aims: to live in communion with God through prayer and to be a leaven of peace and trust in the midst of the human family.
A stay at Taizé is an opportunity to seek communion with God in prayer, singing, silence and reflection. It can be possible to rediscover an inner peace, a meaning to life and a new impetus.
Experiencing a simple life shared with others reminds us that daily life is the place where Christ is waiting for us.
Some young people are looking for ways of following Christ with their whole lives. A stay in Taizé can help discern this call.
- Each day, brothers of the community introduce a Bible reflection, followed by a time of silence and sharing in small groups.
- In the afternoon, workshops help to deepen the relationship between faith and life in the areas of work, social questions, art and culture, the search for world peace....
- Young adults who wish can spend the week or the weekend in silence, to take time to listen to how God speaks to them in prayer, in the Bible or through the events of their life.

If you want to find out more about Taize, click here

I am looking forward to this opportunity to begin my year of transition.  For most people, a trip like this would be the highlight of their year, rather than the start of an incredible year-long experience.  I am really blessed to get to experience this with an amazing group of people!  I don't have the words to express my gratitude to my congregation and to the families who are trusting me and the other two adults with their kids. 


Monday, May 27, 2013

The World's Slowest Roller Coaster

This has been a week of emotional ups and downs.  I had to say good bye to some amazing people at work on Friday and hug all my kids goodbye.  The kids didn't really understand that I wouldn't be seeing them next year.  For them, it was just another last day of school.  It was really bittersweet.

After school though, some of my friends from out of town came to visit for the long weekend.  One of them drove all the way from PA!  This weekend has been so much fun.  We had a picnic with my family and Cody friends, played Monopoly until the wee hours of the morning, and took in a drive-in movie.  This is their chance to see me one last time before I leave for Africa this summer.  They leave today so they can get back to work tomorrow, but they are leaving me with reminders of our friendship and mementos to take with me to Tanzania.  I have been blessed with the best friends in the whole world!

I may not be able to post for a while.  This Friday, I leave for Taize, France!  I am REALLY looking forward to this trip.  I get to help chaperon a group of amazing high school students as they complete their first pilgrimage.  We are flying into Paris on Saturday morning and leaving for the Ecumenical Community at Taize for a week of prayer and reflection.  We will be returning to Paris the following Saturday and will leave for home in time to arrive on Monday.  To find out more about Taize, check out their website at:

Not only am I excited to be a part of this experience for these young adults, but I am excited for the experience I will have while I am there.  Taize has programs designed for each age group and, though I am travelling with a group of young people, the program I experience is tailored to me.  I view this trip as the beginning of my YASC experience, even though it is not a part of the program. 

I am excited to be able to have a refresher experience in international travel.  I am also excited to have this chance to spend some time reflecting on the whirlwind year I have had and the adventure I am about to experience.  This is an experience I will most likely never have again and I intend to make the most of it! 

I am also getting closer and closer to my fundraising goal.  I have collected almost $4,000 and have pledges for more than $3,500 more!  I was able to talk at church yesterday for the first time and people were eager to hear more about my trip.  My church family has been really supportive.  I will miss them, but it's good to know they will be thinking and praying about me during my year abroad.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My last "last"

I have decided that I am not going to think in "lasts" anymore.  It makes me sad to think of the "last day of school," the "last time I will see my students," the "last time I will hang out with my college friends," and such.  It is easy to get into the habit of thinking this way.  For the most part, they are true statements, at least in the short term.  I know that I can get stuck on these thoughts as they are, and I would much rather have a positive outlook. 


I am going to start thinking in "firsts."  For example, this is the first time in 8 years that I have been able to experience life without a car.  For those of you not from Wyoming, we have no public transportation system.  When my brother drove off to school this morning in my car, I became the only person my age I know without a car.  It is also the first time my brother has been able to drive himself to school.  See, this is thinking in firsts.  (Side note to Ben: Take care of my car this year! )

Some other firsts I will be experiencing in the next month:
  • First time seeing France
  • First time chaperoning an international trip
  • First time my dog gets to spend more than a weekend at my parent's house without me
  • First end of the school year since graduation where I know what I'm doing for the beginning of the next one
  • First time going to church in at least 10 years when I'm not "on duty" for something
  • First time visiting New York State
  • First time since High School that I won't have my cell phone or internet access for an extended period of time
  • First time talking to my entire congregation as peers, and not as the person in charge of the kids

Looking at my world as a series of "firsts" makes it less scary.  Yes, I am still nervous about all of the unknowns in my future.  Yes, it will still make me sad to say goodbye to my school kids at the end of the year, and my friends and family.  However, I have so many new and exciting things going on that it just doesn't make any sense to dwell on the "lasts."  Here's to the beginning of something wonderful!

Kuleta juu!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The end is here.. sort of.

Yesterday was my last day of Sunday School as Christian Education Director.  It feels as if that should be the end, but of course there are still a few things to finish up with before I am really done. Nevertheless, it feels like it is the end.  We are also nearing the end of the school year. The school district here has only this week and next week before we begin summer vacation.  All of these endings are bittersweet.

I have said it before and I'm sure I will say it again, but I absolutely love my jobs. I get to work with the most amazing people and serve some fantastic kids and youth.  It is not going to be easy to say good bye to any of them, especially since the fourth and fifth graders will be in middle school when I get back, so I will probably only see them occasionally at the most.  I will also be missing out on a year with my high schoolers at church, after getting to go on an amazing adventure with them. We will share the experience of our first pilgrimage, then I'll be gone for a year.

On the other hand, I am about to begin an adventure of my own.  I would not be going if I wasn't excited about the things I'm going to learn and the experiences I am going to gain.  How many people do you know who are licensed to teach in 2 countries? I am going to be able to share my skills with someone halfway around the world while teaching and getting to know kids from a culture I have barely heard about.

As I enter the next two weeks, I will be open to the amazing things that are happening right here, right now. I will look to my future with an open heart and cherish every moment I have with those around me.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Everyman and Me

It seems like I am on a never ending trip on a clock stuck on fast forward.  There is so much to do, and it feels as if time refuses to slow down. 

This week, I was lucky enough to play in the "pit" for a production of "Everyman," a medieval morality play.  The play was a fundraiser put on by some amazing adults in my church.  The money raised went to help our Journey to Adulthood group make a pilgrimage to Taize, France beginning on the 31st of the month.  I have been lucky enough to have been asked to help chaperone this wonderful group of high school students as they learn more about themselves and get to take an amazing spiritual journey.  I am personally looking forward to the trip as I, myself, get to look at my spiritual journey.  I can't think of a better way to prepare for a year of service.

As I watched the play from my place in the choir loft (or more like listened to it as my seat didn't have a very good view) I couldn't help but think of the journey I am on.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the story of Everyman, it is about the journey we all take when "Death" summons us.  Everyman, a jolly representation of our lives who likes to have a good time, is asked to take a pilgrimage of sorts and is told that he can bring along anyone who will go with him.  He asks his friends, family, possessions, strength, beauty, wits, knowledge, and the like to join him on a long, hard journey which they will not return from.  Imagine his surprise when his "Good Deeds" are the only things that stay with him, even into the grave. 

While I don't expect my year with YASC to lead to death, I am nonetheless going to be making a long, hard journey.  I am going to leave my family, friends, and most of my possessions behind.  I do not expect to return to my home the same as I left it.  I know that I am going to grow and change in ways I can't even imagine right now.  I can go forth with this knowledge and the openness to be able to experience all I can and learn to grow.

I have also been getting more and more donations for my trip.  Once all the money that has been pledged arrives, I will be more than halfway to my $10,000 goal.  I can't believe the generosity people have showed.  I was a little worried about meeting my goal given the great amount of money my congregation has found to send our kids to France, but I am blown away by each and every donation that comes in.  I continue to ask for your support and will hopefully have online giving set up soon.  In the mean time, check out my "I need you!"tab to find out how you can help me!

Also this week, my good friend had a baby!  He is 4 weeks early, but is doing well.  I am so excited that he came now so that I can have another month with him before I leave.  It was going to be way too hard to miss his entire first year!