1. I know, I know, it's supposed to be 7, but I missed last week, so I'm giving you 3 bonus takes because it's been 2 weeks since I posted anything. I spent last weekend in the Poconos with the High School group from church and so Thursday and Friday were spent getting everything ready for me to leave and then Sunday and Monday after my return were spent in recovery. Somehow, and I don't know how this happens, I never get enough sleep on these retreats.
So, Reason #1 is the opportunity to get away with High School students and leave all of my problems at home (with my children, in my house, with my exceedingly patient and generous husband).
And, by the way, I stole all of these pictures from Briana Graves' Facebook page.
2. Reason #2 is the privilege to watch young ladies grow and mature over the course of 4-7 years. It's really cool to meet them as short little sixth graders and then bless them as they finish high school, seven years later. I cry a little every June when I finish the graduation cards, but that is the nature of Youth Ministry.
3. Reason #3 is that spending time with these young women challenges me to be honest and come to them with a lack of pretense. Control is an illusion; a relationship with Jesus is what really matters.
4. Reason #4: Many of you know I spend a lot of my time during the week writing postcards to these young women. Often I print my own cards with scriptures on the back and they are always passages that God is challenging me to meditate on even as I share it with them. Example, this week's focus was Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG):
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The phrase that has stayed with me all week is "learn the unforced rhythms of grace." You could spend a month on this idea alone and not run out of useful ways to let it change your daily life.
5. Reason #5 is that loving other people, especially these students, changes my life. Real love, love that comes from God, is sacrificial. I become less concerned about my own stuff (less selfish) and more generous with my time and energy through my love for them.
6. Reason #6 has to be the huge amounts of time we spend laughing together.
7. Now I realize why Jen only does 7 Takes; I'm running out of brilliant ideas.
Prayer! Right. Prayer is always good for filler. Right?
Reason #7 is the encouragement the students are for me to be in prayer more as I remember them and their needs as well as my own.
Not exactly a perfect visual inspiration for prayer, but still, an amusing picture.
8. Reason #8 piggy backs on #1 and #5, (I know, I know, more filler), but spending Sunday evenings with the Youth Group not only gets me out of my house, it pushes me to adjust my focus so that my children don't become my whole world and reason for existing. Big thanks to my Honey who so ably takes care of things while I'm gone.
9. Reason #9 is the encouragement to accept the challenge to live more like Jesus, in public. Hope Church defines Discipleship as the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ for the sake of others. When we accept Christ we accept the challenge of being conformed to his image as well as encouraging others to do the same. And often the easiest, and hardest, way to do this is to live this way, every day, in front of other people. Which reminds me all over again of "learn the unforced rhythms of grace."
This picture was just too beautiful not to share. It was supposed to snow on Saturday but it rained instead, making everything soggy and muddy. But the frozen pine needles were gorgeous, for a few hours.
10. Reason #10 is the joy of meeting young people like the ones pictured here. Their energy, their hobbies, their ups and downs cheer me and break my heart regularly. A huge part of my heart would be empty if I didn't get to spend time with them every week.
Here's Jen. If you missed it on Facebook earlier in the week, here is Simcha's hilarious post on How to Get Up in the Morning.