O Lord Our God, the majesty and glory of your name…

The title of this post is the opening line of one of my all-time favorite songs that we sang in chorus in high school. I forget the full title of the song, but we always just called it Majesty and it was a favorite of just about everyone I knew in chorus. The words of the song are derived from the words of Psalm 8, when David is proclaiming the glory of God.

Psalm 8: Lord, our Lord, How majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You have made them rulers over the works of your hands; you have put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim in the paths of the seas. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Davis is astounded that God would have such regard for man that He would make “them [men] a little lower than the angels”. As I reflect on this, I am filled with the same astonishment as David. God, Creator of the Universe, designer of mountains, sculptor of the seas, all powerful and omnipotent God, regards us humans as only a little lower than the angels. It seems impossible to me sometimes because there are time when the vastness of creation seems to shrink me down in comparison and it becomes easy to forget that God knows me, that He resides in me, and that it’s possible for me to know Him too. He chooses this, and I must choose it too.

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In the psalm, David also praises the works of God’s fingers. The actual created world: mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans, stars, planets, and all the rest of creation. And what a wondrous creation it is! Last weekend, we took a trip for our fall retreat. We went down to Cochise County and stayed at the Half Moon Ranch, nestled in the Dragoon Mountains near the Cochise Stronghold. Like so many times in this beautiful corner of the country, I was confronted by the beauty of creation.

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Far from city centers, the stars popped out. And there were more than I ever could have thought possible. I also saw several shooting stars, a new(ish) experience for me. The vastness of the night sky and the seclusion of the ranch where we were also afforded me my first glimpse of the Milky Way. Needless to say I felt small and insignificant. But I marveled at God’s creative genius and I wondered how it could be that the God who created the vastness of space is mindful of me, an infinitely small being in the “grand scheme of things”…

The highlight of the fall retreat came on Saturday morning, our last full day in Cochise County. Mirra, Mary, Alison, and I left the ranch around 7:30 in the morning to hike, boulder, and climb our way to the Cochise Stronghold, where a tribe of Native Americans held out against a US Army force. What a climb. During the course of our 3.5 hour journey, we walked almost seven miles, climbed the equivalent of 113 floors, and burned almost 2,000 calories (statistics provided by fitbit). We confronted the challenges of the trail, climbed open rock faces and pushed through jelly legs and tired minds. The reward was one of those rare views of the world from on high. Houses were small, other mountains were at eye level, and we could see far into the distance. We witnessed some awesome rock formations. We witnessed the quiet of isolation. We appreciated the beauty of the desert and the mountainous terrain. Most of all, we reveled together in the counqering of a challenge and in the beauty that God is. He is there in the mountain, in the challenge, and in the overcoming. And, even in our smallness, He knows and loves us. It is an incredible, wonderful, overwhelming, amazing feeling. Last weekend was good for me to remember that feeling, to appreciate creation, and to reconnect with my housemates.

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The view from the Stronghold

The night before the climb, before finding the Milky Way and playing some awesome games, we had an impromptu praise session. With only a ukulele and our voices, we praised God with songs familiar and unfamiliar. With one voice we praised our Creator. And that moment of communal singing rivaled the climb to the Stronghold as a high point for me.

Salmo 8: ¡Oh Jehová, Señor nuestro, cuán glorioso es tu nombre en toda la tierra! Has puesto tu gloria sobre los cielos; de la boca de los niños y de los que maman, fundaste la fortaleza, a causa de tus enemigos, para hacer callar al enemigo y al vengativo. Cuando veo tus cielos, obra de tus dedos, la luna y las estrellas que tú formaste, digo ¿qué es el hombre, para que tengas de él memoria, y el hijo del hombre, para que lo visites? Le has hecho poco menor que los ángeles, y lo coronaste de gloria y de honra. Le hiciste señorear sobre las obras de tus manos; todo lo pusiste debajo de sus pies: Ovejas y bueyes, todo ello, y asimismo las bestias del campo, las aves de los cielos y los peces del mar; todo cuanto pasa por los senderos del mar. ¡Oh Jehová, Señor nuestro, cuán grande es tu nombre en toda la tierra!

Thank you, Creator God, for your creation, for your knowledge of us, and for community.

And so we go.

The Past Few Weeks

So we’re coming to the end of Veteran’s Day. This is always one of my favorite days of the year because of the outpouring of support and recognition for and of our servicemen and servicewomen. It’s something I wish I could see all year round.

The past couple weeks have been crazy busy. Last week we joined with the YAVs from Denver and Austin (shout out to y’all for hanging with us for a week) for a border delegation that took place in Tucson, Douglas, AZ, and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. Over the course of this trip we were exposed to parts of our immigration system, the border, and life in Agua Prieta, as influenced by the border. We learned about Cafe Justo, a direct source, no middleman coffee roastery that partners with co-op farmers living in communities around Mexico. We learned about the journey, or part of it, of migrants through the desert to the border. We learned about organizations in Agua Prieta that work with migrants on their journey to the US. We talked with a Border Patrol agent and a federal judge who oversaw proceedings for Operation Streamline, which expedites the sentencing process for migrants who are caught crossing into the US illegally. We learned about and were exposed to the humanitarian crisis at the border, the dangers of crossing, and some of the details of the antiquated system of immigration used by this country. We confronted the difficulty of finding solutions to the problems surrounding the border.

The humanitarian need surrounding the border was hardest for me to confront. It’s one thing to hear about the deaths and the wall; it’s quite another to experience that firsthand. I know that my opinions and ideas and potential solutions probably differ widely from my brethren in the YAV program, but I also know it’s impossible to deny that something should be done. Our system should be updated. Bilateral solutions should be found that include both sides. Ideas should be considered from all parts of the political spectrum, and real debate on those ideas should be encouraged. Consensus should be formed. And then, I think real solutions, lasting solutions, can be found and utilized. This is my hope. This is my prayer. Because, if I learned anything last week, it’s that something needs to be done.

Now to the election, the other big happening of the last two weeks. I don’t want to dwell on this, but I do want to say something. And that something is to share the thoughts of someone in the sports world, Ernie Johnson, who comments on the NBA for TNT. Please take a moment to listen to what he has to say. You can find the video of this here. In the aftermath of a contentious election, his words encapsulate my thoughts and how I want to conduct myself moving forward. That and he says everything much more coherently and succinctly than I could ever hope to.

Señor, nos guarde en su palma. Nos sane. Nos consuele. Abra nuestros ojos al valor inherente de nuestro prójimo.

And so we go.

One Wednesday Last Week

Hey y’all. This blog is something that I love doing. I love being able to share my thoughts and experiences with people back home, with others in the YAV program, and any other random people that may be following this blog (y’all are the real MVPs). Thank you for the feedback I’ve received and all the support from afar.

I really wanted to share one particular story from this past week that had a profound impact on me. So this past Wednesday was like any other. It started with my FitBit going off at 6:30 telling me that it was time to go swim. I dragged myself out of bed and to the pool, but, since I had a meeting at 9 that morning, I had to cut my workout short to make it to work on time. The work meeting was an orientation of sorts for new staff members at Primavera. It was a three hour affair that, I’ll admit, was hard to stay awake for by the end. All told, it was a good morning with lots of activity and lots of good information thrown my way. It also helped that the meeting ran a little long and shortened the rest of the day considerable.

After the meeting, Cody and I returned to Las Abuelitas to prepare for the day and to prepare for the UA public health students. Wednesdays are our long days with the kids getting to the program around 2 instead of the usual 3. Once the kids began arriving I could tell it was going to be an interesting day. Karl, one of our recurring problem children, was in a fine fettle for some unknown reason. After only about fifteen minutes Karl was causing issues prompting me to have a conversation with him. That conversation started out in the usually unproductive way with Karl making faces at me, mimicking the things I was saying, and not giving me any hint as to what was bothering him. I finally got him to calm down and, after arranging a “spot” for him to go when he was upset, tell me what was wrong. There had been an incident on the bus with another student and he was upset that there wasn’t any computer time that day (which is normal for a Wednesday). So I left him to calm himself down and told him he could join the day’s activity whenever he was ready. Things were going relatively well. Then, before he decided to come join the activity, Karl’s attitude took a turn for the worst. He began verbally and physically acting out and, despite numerous pleas from me to stop, his actions began escalating. After giving him way more warnings than I should have I told him he needed to go take a break (our “timeout” and not a favorite punishment for Karl)…about fifteen times. Once he realized I was serious (and because he didn’t want to go take a break) he started crying, loudly and seemingly without end. I sat next to him and let him throw his tantrum. Once he stopped, he got up and left the playroom (where this entire episode had gone down to this point). I waited a minute then left the room to find out where he had gone. Not being able to find him, and figuring he’d try to return to the playroom at some point, I closed the door and waited for him to come back. Sure enough, about two minutes later, here comes Karl. After denying him entrance to the playroom, I again told him that he needed to take a break. This time, even through tears and yelling, he acquiesced. I gave him a moment to calm down then began talking him through why he was sitting out, even though he hates that punishment, and, though it felt like pulling teeth, got him to promise to improve his attitude and behavior. I told him he could leave whenever he was ready.

I tell this long story to illustrate how a typical encounter with Karl goes. And this one was relatively successful; most of them aren’t. I don’t know why I feel such a bond with Karl, but I think it stems from seeing a reflection of my younger self in his attitude, in the way he acts out, and in the things he says when he’s mad. All these things earned me the nickname “Grizz” from my grandpa and also led to a lot of personal issues in my formative years. I feel drawn to Karl because I know what it’s like to be an angry kid, to react to situations with anger first and then sulking afterwards when forced to confront the consequences for our angry actions. I want to help Karl see a different way, like so many people did for me, and, hopefully, help him avoid some of the results my anger had for me.

I also told that story to juxtapose it with another involving Karl from later that same day. We were playing Knockout again, and, like last week, things were going well. I had to step inside for something and when I returned to the court, I found that disaster had struck. And incident had occurred between Karl and another kid, Mark. I was able to separate Karl from Mark (who went to talk through things with one of the public health students). I asked Karl to tell me what had occurred and, without any fuss at all, he told me what happened between him and Mark. Mark had taken a ball intended for Karl. Karl got mad and called Mark a name, which was followed by the typical playground scuffle as payment for someone being called a name. The public health students had told both kids that they couldn’t play basketball anymore because of the fight; I saw an opening in Karl’s dissatisfaction with this punishment. Without him crying or mimicking me or yelling, I was able to talk him through what happened, where it went wrong and how his choices in the incident had directly impacted what happened afterwards. I told him that he can’t control a lot in life, but he can control how he reacts to adverse situations. Did he want to lash out and risk negative consequences? Or did he want to be more constructive in his reactions and build relationships instead of breaking them? It was remarkable to see how, in the space of one day, Karl came to at least acknowledge that there might be another way to approach life. I don’t know what impact this will have going forward, but it is heartening to see progress like that. And it’s nice to use the word heartening when talking about my experiences with the after school program.

Thank you Loving God.

And so we go.

Fall Break, the Cubs, and Life Working with Children

This is one of the best moments of the year so far for me. And that has nothing to do with things that are happening to me as a YAV. I’m currently listening to a stream of the Cubs v. Dodgers NLCS Game 6 at Wrigley Field. I’ve been a Cubs fan for quite a few years now, not lifelong by any means, but long enough to have become a more die-hard fan than I would have thought back when I was a young kid experiencing my first Cubs game in Wrigley with my family. That day (an extra-innings win versus the Giants in a year after the Giants had won the World Series) cemented in my heart a love for the Cubs, for Wrigley Field, for the city of Chicago, and, more broadly, baseball. I love sports and there is something about the competition, the effort given, watching guys play and succeed at a game they’ve worked their entire lives to be great at…there is something about that that resonates with me on a deep, deep level. As I listen to the Cubs shake off their history, as I watch Cubs hype videos, as  I talk about what this means with my friends who also love the Cubs, my heart is strangely full. I love the game of baseball and the memories I have that are related to the Cubs are some of the dearest I have. Go Cubs Go!

So anyway, back to the year and things I’m experiencing firsthand. I have kind of slacked lately on recording my daily thoughts and feelings. Coming off the kids’ fall break last week (and thus not having to run the after school program) made me lazy. It was also a really quiet week last week. Not a whole lot happened and there wasn’t a whole lot that I felt I needed to record. But this week is a very different story. This week was awesome.

I said not a whole lot happened last week, and, because of the quiet on the child front, Cody and I were able to take some needed time to revamp parts of our program, inventory and sort donations we had received the week before, and, generally, catch our breaths from the whirlwind that had been the last few weeks. By and large, we got all these things accomplished. That was awesome for me as I’ve come to learn that I value accomplishing tasks and setting an agenda and getting those agenda things done. I also had the chance to work with Destinee on a lot of garden stuff. We planned the bed layouts for one of the gardens that is (very nominally) under my control and we worked on prepping the compost piles we are building at Las Abuelitas. Last Saturday I also had the opportunity to work with students from UA to plant the beds we had planned earlier in the week. What a success that was! I love being able to work in the gardens and working with the students (who know a lot more about gardening than I do) was an awesome experience for me. We got all three beds planted, spruced up our stock of wildflowers (for color and bee attraction), and, as I hinted above, I got to learn a lot about gardening and caring for plants. It was a wonderful week last week, but, like all good things, it had to come to an end.

Monday came and Cody and I rolled out our updated rules and discipline policy while also incorporating our more strict enforcement of said rules. Surprisingly, the kids responded really well to this and I noticed a marked improvement in their behavior. I think being able to make sure the kids actually knew the rules and understood that their actions in contrary to those rules would be punished helped a lot!

On the whole, Monday and Tuesday were unremarkable in terms of things happening. The kids were good and they were just two smooth days! But Wednesday was awesome. We had the public health students in to help us (as usual) so Cody and I were able to take a backseat and ensure that the kids paid attention to the students. Once the students were done with their activity, the program resumed its normal flow. I went outside with some of the older boys (as normally happens) and we played a game called Knockout on the basketball court for about an hour. The amazing part of this was that the kids played well together. The original three that I went out with respected each other and had a lot of fun. Then another two of the younger kids came out and the older kids let them play and the respect and fun continued. We shared, worked with each other to accommodate one of the boys who has a broken arm, followed the rules, and everyone enjoyed playing together! I think I can honestly say my heart has never been as full as it was today playing with those kids. They showed themselves what they can have fun while playing within the rules. They showed me that they CAN actually show the behaviors that we are trying to teach them. I haven’t been that happy during this year yet and I thank God for these glimpses into what is possible when working with kids. Those moments are what make this work worth it.

After the high that was Wednesday, Thursday was a day without the program. Cody was going out of town and Destinee needed some help with gardening stuff so we decided to cancel the program. I got to do some garden work and get my hands dirty. Even though it was a tiring day (we did some work at three different gardens over the course of four hours) it was a good end to the week for me.

Now I sit here in the middle of my weekend, trying to remind myself that I still have one more day off before I go back to work. I’m preparing myself for Sunday and going back to church. I’m preparing myself for a full week of the program again (followed by a week off for a retreat with the YAVs). And I’m preparing myself for watching the World Series with my Cubs playing for the championship. Literally haven’t had a chance to experience this in my entire life. I can’t believe this is happening. Excuse me for ending this on a slightly unorganized note, but I can’t contain or quantify my emotions right now. Go Cubs Go!

Thank you, Redeeming God, for kids, who provide small windows through which we can see your face, for good weeks, tired legs, and cooler weather. And thank you for the Chicago Cubs!

And so we go.

When Your Heart Is Somewhere Else

We have now reached October and, as hard as it is to believe that, it’s also crazy that it hasn’t been longer. The “normalization” of this year is becoming more complete. I have a routine now; instead of trying to find that, my daily “quest”, if you will, is searching to tweak that routine to take the most advantage of YAV life in Tucson. A housemate of mine recently gave me a little note of affirmation (because we’re all fans of words of affirmation in Tucson house) and at the end she mentioned something about admiring the fact that I seek to be present here in Tucson even though my heart is somewhere else. In reflecting on that, I’m taken back to one of my first thoughts coming into this year. I’m living life in two separate places this year, and sometimes the desire to be back home is stronger than the desire to be here in Tucson. So much of orientation spoke of living life in tension between where we are and where we want to be, and I feel like I just add this into the mix of everything else that I’m am presented with in this crazy life. And some days, I miss the simple fact of being around familiar things. Even more than a month into this journey, I miss my dogs. I miss Mariah. I miss my family. I even miss Owensboro, something I never thought I would be caught saying. The struggle between the familiar and the new haunts me every day, and it is a struggle that I’m slowly, but surely, starting to embrace.me-and-mariah

I’ve most noticed this “settling in” effect every time I look at my personal calendar. There are so many events that I’ve agreed to go to. And, regrettably, so many that I have forgotten about and been unable to take part in. Another side effect of settling in has been the continued comfort in biking. I always remember to pack a change of clothes if my biking clothes are not appropriate for my destination, I remember to factor in the increased time it takes to bike somewhere compared to driving, and then to factor in extra time to change clothes once I reach my destination. These calculations have slowly become second nature. Last week alone I biked almost 80 miles. That’s basically just to work and to swim, with the occasional extra group adventure thrown in for fun. One thing that never ceases to amaze me about the human body is how long it takes to adjust to a change in activity (i.e. biking), but how quickly it “forgets” the muscle built if the activity is not performed even for one day. For me, this adjustment to biking continues to occur, and will probably for the rest of the year.

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The sunset over the pool where I swim with the obligatory flyover by a C-130.

The vistas in Arizona never cease to disappoint me. These sunsets only tell half the picture. I once heard a fellow volunteer from another program say the sunsets here were really disappointing. I don’t know which skies he is looking at, but these come on an almost daily basis. When it’s not the sunsets, it’s the mountains. I wish I had a good picture to show y’all the mountains that are everywhere around Tucson. The city is so flat that it’s hard to believe the mountains are as close as they are. God’s beauty is so evident here in the desert. I used to think of the desert as a place where not much happened. Things hid during the day (when it’s too hot to do anything) and became active at night. The desert, to me, was always a barren place. But there is creativity and diversity in the way the sun’s rays find the clouds every afternoon. There is majesty in the rugged edges of the mountains, clawing their way into the sky. There is life here. And there is abundant life. Part of my adventures of the past week was planting my first bed at Las Abuelitas with Destinee (the garden program is finally getting off the ground!!). In this one bed alone, we planted broccoli, cauliflower, onions, dill, arugula (which I didn’t even know was a thing), kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, and cilantro…in the desert. Now we may find that this was too much for one bed. We may find that we should have transplanted most of these into the bed following their sprouting in another, more sheltered place (that is true, but we’re hopeful they’ll all still grow). But that’s what I love about gardening. It’s an experiment. It’s about taking chances, making mistakes, and finding out what works. It’s interacting with God’s creation to bring forth life from the soil. That sounds really familiar to me (if you’re interested see Genesis 2) and I enjoy being a partner in God’s creative story, even in the desert.

I’m glad it’s Friday. My weekend began yesterday at the conclusion of the after school program and I’m really going to miss these four day work weeks when I return to the “real world”. I’m also super excited because next week we don’t have the after school program at all. Our program schedule follows the Tucson United School District’s calendar, so when the kids don’t have school, we don’t have the program. I will miss seeing the kids every day, but after this week I’m glad we get a chance to breathe before moving through the rest of October. Cody and I have the chance to recharge and, in light of the past rough week, revamp some of the rules and consequences of our program.

As I mentioned, a couple times, this past week was crazy. The kids were, simply put, ready to misbehave at any and every opportunity they could. We could not get in front of the disciplining curve and as such spent a frustrating week leading from behind. Thursday was better and gave me hope that we do have this thing somewhat under control, even though I don’t feel prepared at all to work with children. I’m still feeling my way in that regard. I mentioned above that Destinee and I planted our first bed at Las Abuelitas. Things are smoothing themselves out. We are attempting to bring life out of the desert soil (albeit in a raised bed). We are attempting to direct the life and energies of the students that come into the after school program. We are attempting to join in and contribute to the diversity and beauty of God’s world. We are attempting to understand what it means to take these 20 kids in every day and be a positive influence in their lives while also seeking to understand their situations and “walk in their shoes” for the altogether too short time that we get to know them. We are finding our way, day by day.

And so we go.

Thank you, Loving God, for challenging weeks, restful weekends, and reminders of your beauty in unexpected places.

Growing Pains and Lazy Saturdays

What a whirlwind, challenging week this has been. Between the kids at the after school program, beginning a more rigorous schedule of physical activity, and continuing to learn about myself and this wonderful program known as the Young Adult Volunteers, I feel like I haven’t had time to breathe this week. But, I have made it to Saturday. I have no plans today other than being completely and totally lazy and I think it is a well-deserved break for the day. Maybe I’ll try to read a book…who knows?

How else to describe this past week but crazy? It started last Sunday when I visited a new church. I’m still in the “church shopping” process as I continue to settle in to Tucson and sometimes this involved stepping into some unique situations. Last Sunday I went to Vineyard City Church. Like the church I attended in college (shoutout to Vineyard Lexington!!!), Vineyard City is associated with the national Vineyard USA movement. The people there really are awesome. I felt welcomed and included even though when they had woken up that morning, none of them knew me from Adam. I loved the atmosphere and the people there but it made me miss my friends and church family back at Vineyard in Lexington…

Then came Monday. Mondays are rarely a favorite day of the week for anyone, but usually I don’t have any “beef” against the day. This past Monday, while it wasn’t bad, per se, it did open my eyes to the reality that exists beyond the after school program. One thing that happened was when I was working with a boy to help him finish his homework for the day. Things were going well (despite his childlike attention span and desire to chase down each new distraction) until we got to his reading homework. It was then that I realized two things. One: he could not read at his grade level. And two: I was going to have to help coach him through his reading homework. This broke my heart and terrified me at the same time. As a life-long reader, I realized how much I had taken this skill for granted. I also realized that Josh wasn’t able to experience the joy of reading a story, a joy that I have never thought about experiencing for myself. I also confronted the fact that I was (and still am) ill-prepared to teach him and help him through this assignment. Coming face-to-face with this reality jolted me on that Monday afternoon.

Then Tuesday came. I had woken up Tuesday morning still tired and stressed from Monday, but I was determined to make the day a good one. I had my first one-on-one meeting with Alison (these occur monthly and I will definitely be looking forward to the rest of them) and I really appreciated the conversation we shared. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, Tucson has the best site coordinator. And no, I’m not biased at all (#tucsonhousebesthouse). After that meeting I headed in to work. Most mornings are pretty quiet and we usually don’t get around to planning the day until after lunch. Things were going well…and then the kids arrived. For whatever reason, Tuesday decided to make the kids the craziest they had been for us thus far. Everyone was moving at a million miles an hour, there were just three adults trying to keep track of all the kids moving in different directions. We had planned out a science activity (making slime with borax, glue and water) and for whatever reason, despite testing out everything before hand, the slime was not working. Tuesday also presented us with our first “runner”. He escaped after I had told him he couldn’t do something. What followed was almost an hour of trying to track him down and bring him back inside…what a day.

The rest of the week actually went fairly smoothly after that. Wednesdays are when our helpers from the University of Arizona Public Health program come and help us out. The extra volunteers really help out a lot. If you’re reading this blog and want to extend a volunteering hand to the after school program, please do!! Working with those students has been awesome thus far and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn from them and their experiences. Thursday was actually the best day of the week. We didn’t have as many kids show up and I was able to get some one-on-one time with several kids who have posed some problems for us in these early days. It was awesome to get the chance to talk and interact with them on a more personal level. They really are great kids, they just don’t always want to show it. Childcare is a uniquely challenging field. Trying to keep kids entertained and busy while also trying to take care of them and make sure they’re doing something constructive…it’ll probably take me all year to figure out that particular puzzle. But figure it out I must. Fortunately for me (and for the kids) I am not alone. I have my team and Primavera. I have a community in my housemates that have provided a wonderful space to be vulnerable and to support me. I have a really really awesome site coordinator (some might say the best one in the YAV program…I won’t disagree). And I have a really really great group of kids…

And so we go.

Thank you, Creator God, for seemingly insurmountable challenges and the strength you give those who are in that season. And thank you for the Primavera After School Program.

Three Weeks? Really?

Wow. Monday (tomorrow) marks three weeks since my arrival in Tucson. I can’t believe it’s been that long. But at the same time it feels like I’ve been here forever. After a whirlwind couple of weeks, things have settled down, the changes aren’t coming quite as quickly. About a month ago, I said goodbye to Owensboro and my family for what is realistically the last time (more on that later). I flew to New York and spent a week there for some serious disorientation in preparation for my YAV year. At the end of that week, I took a two-leg trip to Tucson where a week long orientation commenced. After that week, I started my position with Primavera and had another week of orientation for the work I will be doing there. Then, last week, I helped to kick off the after school program that I will be helping with throughout the next year. Every single week there has been some sort of change, but those are starting to slow down. Life in Tucson is taking on some semblance of normalcy, for this I’m extremely grateful.

The after school program, as I mentioned above, is one of my responsibilities with my position at the Primavera Foundation. It started this past week on Wednesday and what an experience that was! The kids are awesome, they really are, but they are also difficult (as most children can be right?). You never know what they’re going to do and the job definitely keeps me on my toes. I can’t wait until I can get my feet more fully under me and I understand more what my position looks like. This after school program has definitely sucked up a lot of my time as we only had effectively four days to prepare for our first week and beyond. I can’t wait to get some good planning done and to implement mine and Cody’s plan for this program. I am so excited for what this year can be and to put our stamp on this program, but I’m slightly frustrated that we haven’t made more progress along those lines. I just have to keep reminding myself that our time has been short and eventually we’ll get there.

So that was my week and that led into the weekend. Let me just say that I love having an automatic three day weekend every weekend. Even if we have community events (like our ongoing discernment activities) on Fridays, we still don’t have to work and that is awesome to me. Anyway, part of our activities this weekend included a bike safety class that started Wednesday evening with a classroom portion and ended this Saturday with a scheduled six hour long practical skills portion. That Saturday portion was particularly hard to get through. We ended up getting up before 6 AM to prepare ourselves for the 30 minute ride to the Shalom Mennonite Fellowship where we were to begin our course. I began the journey there extremely resentfully. I wanted to sleep in, I wanted to enjoy my Saturday, do some laundry, journal a little, and finish up writing my thank you notes. Thus I set out to the site of the class with a less than positive outlook on the day. I saw this in myself, and, instead of living with that, I decided to pray. I asked God to help me “flip the switch”; instead of looking at the negatives of what I was doing, I wanted to see the positives and I wanted to enjoy the day. Living into that, allowing those changes to occur in my psyche, turned my potentially bad morning into a fun day. I got to learn some new bike skills, help Mirra through yet another flat that she got on the trip back home, I was able to finish more thank you notes to those at FPC-Owensboro who have made my year possible, and I got to go to a pool party with the other volunteers serving this year in Tucson. It was an awesome day, and I thank God for that change.

Earlier I mentioned the beginning of this adventure involved me leaving my home for what is basically the last time. Well, since I’m getting married a month after returning from Tucson means that I’ll be living between Ashland and Owensboro after I get back. It means I’ll be moving away without much chance to live at 311 Resolution Way. Another thing that hit me today regarding my future marriage is how far away I am from Kentucky and the decisions that are being made surrounding the wedding. Mariah (my fiancée) got her wedding dress yesterday. Admittedly, that is a part of this process that I would not have been a part of even if I was available, but it did highlight to me that I am very much removed from that process except via FaceTime and text messages. This process is hard.

But I want to end with a new person I met this week. She came to the after school program on Thursday as the younger sister of another boy in the program. Her name is Soledad. She is four and she is adorable. We played “soccer” for the last 30 minutes or so of the program on Thursday and her laugh and smile were so infectious that I was cheered up considerably. Before that moment, Thursday had been tough. I was dragging from the day before and just wasn’t sure I could make it through the entirety of the program. Seeing Soledad’s simple joy in kicking the soccer ball with me, and in everything that she did that day was just a wonderful reminder that we can find joy wherever we are. The saddest part of the day was when it was time for Soledad to leave, she didn’t want to go and she was really upset that she had to leave. It broke my heart, but I hope she returns on Monday and I can’t wait to see what else she has to show me about life throughout this year.

Thank you, Faithful God, for changing circumstances, changing mindsets, and the joy of children.