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Vermont Pure

I was staying with my parents for a few days this summer right around County Fair time. I love the fair, especially Maple Creemees (in Vermont a soft serve ice cream is called a Creemie, the spelling is negotiable). I also love Maple Cotton Candy, melt in your mouth heaven. However this post isn’t about the fair it’s about going to see my friend Val and her family. The maple delicacies recommends were a bonus added in as pure Vermont Maple products are amazing.

Val and I met at about age 4 or 5. We were both witches for Halloween and our hats seemed to get swapped. We could only determine who the owner was by the remnants of green hair that had attached itself to Val’s hat. I didn’t have a green wig, though hers was an excellent touch. Val and I more officially met when we started 1st grade together and remained classmates for the next 12 years. The first 6 years we were never in a class of more than 13 students so despite Val and I never being “best friends” we know each other well.

Val and I got together at her house. I didn’t ask directions, she has moved into her parent’s old home. I don’t know her address but know the road and that her lawn borders a pond where her 4 year old daughter and 6 year old son fish and look for turtles. They know the difference already between painted and snapping turtles and Val also probably learned this important information before starting 1st grade. On another side note, Val and her husband met because she was a single foster parent to a teenage girl. Her foster daughter gave her teacher Val’s number, a little lie about a requested call, some pursuit, and a marriage ensues.

When I think of the time with Val and her family an image comes to mind – purity. Imagine for a moment dirty children. Not the type that are necessarily caked in mud but ones who have been hard at work playing throughout the day. There have been hands washed, but where hands stop baths eventually must take over elbows, ears, and knees. Her son is bronzed from the sun and a shirt only dons his body when he needs it to walk into a store. Yet purity still comes to mind, especially when I think of her daughter. I’m told I witnessed the third outfit of the day. It was a long green dress with ribbons of pink and purple. Not quite a tutu but a similar material. She ran from back yard to front and insisted on showing me the flips she can do on her swing as her dress fell round her head. She hung upside down feet off the ground while Val seemed unfazed seeing it so many times before. Her older brother doesn’t do the same tricks but commented on how well she does them. Then this 4 year old wonder scampered to the back yard and came bounding back to show us her garter snake. This image I want you to imagine – a bronzed 4 year old girl in a green dress with a snake around her neck and hands petting it like a friend. The garter snake perfectly complements the green in her dress.

There was such joy for me knowing that she is doing what she loves. There is a purity her in her joy and living of life. There is purity in that she is learning and doing what she loves with no pressure from a culture that monetizes little girls’ dreams of a royal court. She doesn’t care that dresses can become dirty and aren’t really made for playing with snakes, turtles, and checking the fishing trap. She loves that she is good at swinging and is getting better at turning herself upside down. She loves snakes and even giving them a quick peck of a kiss before she releases them. When I think of purity and this time with Val I think about her kids and their motives being pure, their joy being pure, their curiosity being pure, and their love for their family being pure. When Jesus said “let the little children come to me” I’m going to imagine a little girl in a green dress with a garter snake to match.

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Summer Missions Trip 25+ years later

The impact of summer missions trips has been on my mind today. Because of my office moving to a new location there have been some renewed friendships. One friend, Kim, is a supervisor at the child protection agency we are now located with. She’s excellent at what she does. We have continued to see each other in various meetings in the 11 years I have worked in the city. She’s worked in the city twice as long. She’s a remarkable woman and as a teenager she participated in the high school youth program at the church I attend. For maybe 30 years my church has been sending off youth and adult missions teams. Many times I have gone with them and though I am not going this summer, my heart is with them. Over 110 adults and youth are headed off this year to Moldova, Thailand, Nepal, Haiti, New Orleans, Boston, Malawi, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Kim and I caught up a lot this afternoon but I will remember what she shared with me years ago. It was on a summer missions trip as a high school student through my church that her heart began to be stirred toward social work and adoption. As I’ve been feeling a bit stuck professionally lately she reminded me of the relational impact we can have on others. She reminded me of the impact that can’t truly be measured and that it is not about the title we hold rather the time we spend. Kim has had a rough year personally but I look at her life and see how God has used her in some many people lives. One of the staff she supervises came in as we chatted and the social worker talked animatedly. She shared how a teenager who had repeatedly run from one residential program is going to give her new residential program a chance. The teenager stated to her social worker, “I’m worried I’m going to be a bum when I turn 18. You’re not going to leave me are you?” So this young social worker, who is well supervised by my friend Kim, assured her she would continue to walk with her. The social worker stated “I really felt I connected with her and she’s going to try to make it work. I told her I’m not going anywhere.” Kim is leading and serving well.

A stirring in Kim’s heart years ago allowed her to recognize her purpose then and now, being a light in a dark place. In addition to being a social work supervisor with the state her other role is a mother to 3 adopted sisters from foster care, now edging into adolescence. This is the impact of a missions trip and what God can stir up in one’s heart. God re-stirred up a lot of other things in my conversation with Kim… including an adoption and foster care ministry. Will I be faithful to God’s stirrings as Kim has been? I don’t want to miss God’s “stirrings” and acting upon them.

What has God has been stirring up in you, now or years ago when you were still a teenager?

Friends in Dallas

The Catalyst Conference in Dallas this past week was my stomping ground. It was a fire hose of teaching that was amazing. The worship was moving, centering and refreshing. More on what I am learning through this experience later…it will take a while to unpack. The remainder of my time in Texas was spent with friends who have two young adult daughters. I have known these young women since they were in elementary and middle school and this coming year both will be in college. I am friends with their parents yet I also spent time with only them. They spilled to me a few of the challenges they have faced over the past year. I was a bit surprised how open they were as we haven’t seen each other in a few years. Really listening to the challenges of young adulthood is not to be taken lightly as they don’t always talk freely. They shared about their perspectives on family life and interactions with friends. Being close to their parents and also talking with them about the girls I found myself pondering the complexity of family life. Here I was listening to the stories of two different generations and I wanted to weave them together as I believe they all want the same things – both closeness and openness. They are not quite there right now, though I have hope knowing the foundation upon which this family has been built upon.

I found myself wanting to spend more time with these young women. As they talked with me and appeared to share with me openly and honestly I kept thinking I wish that they had not moved away and I could have mentored them. One young woman has a determination and emotional intensity that are strengths. Her sister has a quick wit and personality that is refreshing. I learned from them as they shared about music and culture. It was further confirmation that I love the “transitional years”, the decisions to be made during these years and the importance of discovering who you are created to be. As I thought of these young women I kept thinking how much potential they have and need to hear from adults other than their parents. Don’t get me wrong, they have loving and caring parents who want the best for them. Yet young adults need other mentors in their lives and I am continually thankful and humbled at the mentors and friends I have who are older and wiser and speak into my life. I have been thinking a great deal about adoption and foster care in the past years and the step(s) I want to take in this direction. Though I love mentoring I must remember that this is not the primary role I will play as a parent and it is essential to allow others to have this role in a child’s life.

My take aways from my time with friends in Dallas are:

I don’t want to miss out on recognizing that I really do enjoy mentoring transitional age kids (15-25) though I have sometimes denied it. I’m not quite sure why I deny it, or think I don’t relate to young adults sometimes, I just do. (I need to get over it)

Though I love working with transitional kids and envision myself having them in my home in the future, I don’t want to miss that it will be important they have mentors outside of my home as well, who can continue pour into their lives in other ways.