Friday, August 31, 2012


You make me want to roll my windows down and cruise...

So I'm trying to be frugal and do things around the area that are inexpensive, enjoyable, and sustaining. I know many people would disapprove of my sightseeing methods.  I could get my bike out and ride around, but it's so nice to drive a backroad through the Georgia countryside and cruise.

My task for this week is getting times arranged with the cottage leaders to have a weekly bible study.  Originally, I thought, no big deal, I can do the same "study" with all of the groups and just repeat it 5 times a week.  Then, I realized how many questions they have...

Thank you Duke School (elementary/middle school in Durham) for teaching me that teaching is better for the kids and you, if you teach what they're interested in.  I remember in Sunday School how no one wanted to talk and if you asked for questions, you NEVER got a response. I am thrilled that these kids have questions, so we're going to start there.

I have a feeling I'm going to learn a lot in the next few months :)

P.S. Going to be sending out a newsletter in September.  Please let me know if you're interested in receiving a copy via email or mail.  I will post a copy on the blog, but I can also send it to you directly.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Love is a Beautiful Thing

Jesus wept.

I am not a crier and I rarely show emotion.  And when everyone else is struggling, I work extra hard to be strong.  After preaching a message last night on being with each other in our moments of weakness and not trying to eliminate pain, but instead suffering with our brothers and sisters, I cried this evening.

Without all of the details, one of the girls became very upset this evening about a situation regarding her family.  Feeling unloved, isolated, and alone in a world where no one seems to understand, she was at the end of the rope.  As she screamed and staff tried to console her, I was beside myself as I felt her pain.

So...I did the only thing I thought I could do.  I knew that I couldn't be physically with her, so I tried to meet her spiritually.  She couldn't see me, but I sat down on the floor and just started praying.  Tears welled up in my eyes and I was thankful no one was watching me, because I think they would have been really confused at why I was crying.

This was my prayer:

Lord, wrap her in Your arms, Your love, and let her sense Your presence.  Let her know that You have felt her pain, and even if she doesn't stop hurting immediately, that You are there to suffer with her.

Her screams began to subside, and I realized I was witnessing a miracle.  She screamed out again, and with that scream, I felt pain, but I saw beauty and continued to pray.

Lord, help her to know how much these people care about her and that we are here to be with her in this hard time.  Help us to be patient, be with her in her sorrow, and show her Your love.

I realized a transformation in myself.  I didn't pray for healing or for her to stop screaming.  Those words I spoke last night kept coming back to me, like a song on replay.  I've been sharing a Sam Wells quote the past few days with my co-workers: : "If you can't make it happy, make it beautiful."

I guarantee you that many of the situations here can't be happy, but they can be beautiful.  I was truly transformed as I felt the power of God come into that space.  I saw God in her, in the staff, and between them.

LOVE is a beautiful thing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

All My Ex's Live in Texas

It's the small details in the day that make great stories, so here are a few for the day.

I began reading Living Without Enemies, a book co-authored by Samuel Wells and Marcia Owen.  The Duke Wesley had a book group last semester that included discussion with the authors, but due to my work schedule, I was unable to attend.  I got a book, hoping to read along, but truthfully am just now getting to it.  This is one quote that I wanted to share: "the heart of ministry -- and the heart of God -- is about making things beautiful, even when they can't be happy."

I spent the afternoon in the Family cottage.  The name is family, but technically it's just another cottage (no more familial than the others) and is home to around ten teenage boys.  I was pre-warned that today would be difficult, and I'm guessing the idea of ten teenage boys scares most people.  However, today was a walk in the park for me.  Activities in the afternoon included playing basketball, lifting weights, picking weeds, and watching TV.  I like all of these activities myself, and having some companionship made it all the better.  I felt like I was one of the kids, just doing what they do.

Honestly, I felt useless as a staff person, without knowledge, experience, or much training.  So, I just hung out.  It was more "being with" and less "doing for".  I had prepared myself before I came to try to "be with" more and "do for" less, but I always was thinking about my relationship to the kids.  Now, I realize that there is also a power dynamic within the staff.  They are currently cleaning out a room to be my office, but none of the other staff in the cottages have personal offices.  So my lesson today reminded me to "be with" kids AND staff, especially because I am unable to do anything for the other staff.  Obviously, I need a whole lot more than I am able to give.

As I was feeling a little in the way tonight, I had a nice conversation with a young woman on staff who is probably closest to my age.  One of the boys was trying to remember "the song" that someone had mentioned when I said I was from Oklahoma (OOOklahoma, where the wind...).  Because his previous comment on things he knew about Ms. Jerrica included that Oklahoma sits on Texas, her first guess was "All my Ex's Live in Texas".  I laughed and said that currently none of my ex's live in Texas, but I was very pleased by her knowledge of country music.  My trial run in "being with" was well rewarded by this moment and the many other laughs.

I know that every day at Murphy-Harpst may not be as happy as today, but I will try to remember that the heart of ministry is about making things beautiful, even when they can't be happy.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grow Young (With You)

So I have successfully survived Week 1...

I'm not really sure how much I'm allowed the share about the kids I'm working with, so to be safe, I will NEVER use real names and may alter little details for their protection.  But, I did want to share with you some of the things that happened this week.

Talk with my supervisor and HR before going to Rome to get finger-printed and drug-tested. This sounds routine, and it was.  I'm also quite certain that I passed with flying colors.

"Ever been to Rome, Georgia..."  I HAVE! Check that off the bucket list.

Get the official tour from the CEO and learn some of the Murphy-Harpst history.  Also, meet some of the staff and kids.  Dinner at Bojangles with two other staff and three of the girls.  I have realized that meeting the kids in a smaller setting is better, because I actually remember them.  Hopefully, these opportunities keep coming.

Meeting with the clinical team.  The staff has a holistic approach and these are the cottage leaders that discuss how certain kids are doing, where they're seeking improvement, etc.  Slightly awkward for me, since I barely knew any of the staff, let alone the kids they were talking about.  The afternoon was relaxing and I spent some quality time with my kitty.  I sat outside for a while and met several of the staff as they were leaving.  These quality conversations are the beginnings of some fruitful friendships, I'm certain.  That evening I had dinner with the CEO and his wife at their home, which was a blessing.  Having a personal relationship with fellow staff makes work more enjoyable for everyone.

Therapeutic Crisis Intervention Training-Day One
There are protocols and techniques for intervening in crises, so it's necessary that all staff are educated before they start.  I learned a LOT.  Chapel in the evening.  I was introduced to the kids present and got to worship with them.  One of the older boys told me he was only coming if I was helping lead the songs, so I got roped into standing in front (without microphones luckily).  Next week, I'll be sharing my story.  Right now, I'm trying to think of a creative way of doing that.  It will come, I'm sure.  My next best friend, the IT guy, installed a modem that gives me the power of the world wibe web in my apartment. YAY! (Definitely a highlight)

Therapeutic Crisis Intervention Training-Day Two
Review and testing!  I forgot why I loved middle/high school.  Before college, I was always good at tests.  Apparently I still am.  Yay for being certified and starting rotations next week.  Essentially every day next week, I will be in a different cottage with a different group of kids for eight hours.  Everyone new hire does this when they come on, so I'm thinking I'll make it, but I'm still a little nervous.

I picked up a Subway sandwich for lunch and took my book and blanket to a local park.  The sun felt great, so I laid down and started reading after lunch, enjoying the warmth on my back, the smell of the chlorine in the fountain nearby, and the sound of the kids screaming and playing in the fountain.  Then it got hot...  So I moved under the trees and continued my peaceful afternoon.

Seems like a pretty average week, but I wanted to share the BIG highlight last.  On Thursday, after Chapel, one of the girls asked if we could talk.  I complied (like I always do and will) and we sat on some swings for at least a half-hour as she shared her life, her struggles, and her journey with me.  She asked me why I wanted to work with kids.  Considering that's the question I address in my call story, I offered to share that.  Sharing in front of strangers or a large audience is easier for me and I struggled a little one-on-one, but when I finished, she looked at me with a smile I hadn't seen from her all day.  Maybe, the hope in my story will give her a little hope for hers.

As for my afternoon of rejuvenation, I remembered that not only do I see God in all God's children, but I am refreshed by the reminder of God's presence.  As I sat in the park today, a song came to mind: "I want to grow young with you, too young to ever grow old."

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.                                   -Matthew 18:3

There are so many beautiful things about children.  Their innocence, their curiosity, their hunger, their passion... I could go on and on.  Most of all, they have not formed as many biases and judgments about people and the world.  One boy walked past me and without hesitating said Hi with the biggest grin.  I was talking a few weeks ago about self-fulfilling prophecies and that we can't enjoy something if we don't believe we can or will.  If we walk through life dreading every day, hating our jobs, and expecting relationships to fail; life will be dreadful, our jobs will be terrible, and our relationships will fail.  It isn't always sugar and daisies, but believe that after the rain, the flowers will bloom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Family Tradition

So I've been without internet for almost 3 full days, which has been a struggle not because I needed to do work or check email, but because I have SOO much that I wanted to share here.  So forgive me for telling this story a few days late, but it's so worth it.

You ever heard of wedding crashers?  The movie, the sport, whatever... This weekend, in the process of moving all my stuff to Georgia, I crashed a family reunion.  If you've seen the movie, this sounds really silly.  Why would anyone crash a family reunion?  Most people spend their lives trying to avoid family reunions.  So here's how it all happened.
My mom is from a combined family of seven kids.  She's the youngest, and her father had been married before, having four children before his wife passed away.  So...growing up, the whole family traveled annually to West, TX (this is a town, not a regional description) to the Hykel family reunion.  Now, my mother has no blood ties to the Hykel family, but her father was considerate enough to take his whole family every year, so that his first four children could see their mother's family.  Although I never met him, I imagine my grandfather was a pretty upright guy from these stories I know about him.

With six children still living, you can imagine how difficult it is to round up all the kids to see each other.  So this year, they got the brilliant idea that they should all meet up in West and go to the family reunion (including my mom and aunt who have a different mother).  Since West is conveniently on my sister's way back to College Station and semi-not-out-of-the-way for my trip to Georgia, we got to come along.  Keep in mind that NO ONE else's children went.  This is where the saga begins.

We arrived at the Czech Inn, which made quite a joke.  Are you at the "check-in" or the "Czech Inn"? The first thing we notice is all of the "No Pets Allowed" signs.  So my mom asks if it's alright if they stay in the car.  Actually, ma'am that's against Texas law and you can be fined if someone reports you.  However, it's a $250 fine if you bring one inside, too.  So, the pets (Duke and Kaiser) stayed in big comfy cages in the car.  Trust me, they're far from mistreated.  Breakfast included kolaches, which I mention because West is a historically Czech community (Czech Inn), and the bakeries have the greatest kolaches I've ever tasted.  Every time we drive through, we stop, and I'm not sure that didn't attract us to making this extra trek.  We ventured back up to Hillsboro for lunch at Braum's and my last real ice cream, before dad and I were given the pets to find a park or something for them to roam. 

We decided to go to the community building where the reunion would be and find a place close.  Now, most community centers are in the middle of a community, but this one was in a field on a rock road with a few houses in the mile-radius.  We found a tree to park under to keep them cool and let Duke out to run around and use the bathroom.  Of course, there are already people at the community building, but dad and I are far removed from being semi-related, so we keep our distance and let them just watch us.  About thirty minutes later, our family arrives.

There are ribs smoking and pitchers of beer being passed around by the adults.  The kids are runnning around the room, while the adults catch up on each other's lives.  Apparently, this side of the family does reunions a little differently.  After meeting the other kids my age, I was invited to play a game of beer pong.  I declined the offer and was prompted to answer that question I had been trying to avoid.  Who are you, and why are you here?  Apparently, my sister and I don't blend well.

"Well, actually I'm not related."  They appear intrigued.  See my mom's half-brother and half-sisters are here and they all used to come when they were kids... Yes, the conversation was officially awkward.  My dad and I found a television with the women's basketball gold medal game and kept to ourselves until we forced my mom to leave.  An exciting day, but hopefully the last family reunion I'll be crashing. 

Main Street, West, TX

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Way Ticket

The train (er, car) is heading Eastbound and I've got a one way ticket...for now.  Every year, about this time I pack up to head to North Carolina (it seems like every year even though it's only been four).  I was finally getting used to the long drive, the good-byes, and the moist eyes.  This time, it's a little different. Without having a set return time or plan to move my boxes of accumulated junk home next summer, I'm having to really say good-bye, not just see ya later.

I may have called Duke my temporary home, but the reality that my home will invite me back as a guest in only a matter of time is a little frightening.  Although my parents don't have any master plans for turning my room into anything but my room, things will never be the same.

But maybe...that's not so bad.

I have said many farewells, and despite the practice, they are far from eloquent.  "Uh, um, I'll see ya" seems to be my particular favorite.  This evening I said goodbye to the local Sonic, the smell of the Thursday cattle sale, and the Oklahoma sunset.  After an hour identifying stars in the night sky, I said goodbye to a friend that has grown closer to me, even as I've traveled further away.

And it hits me...

None of my friendships or family ties are based on distance.  They are part of the growing process.  As we develop and change continually, we grow closer to some and further from others.  As I cherish those that have drifted away, I am so thankful for the change that has brought me closer to others.  Whether my heart is in Oklahoma or Georgia, you will forever be in my heart.  To friends and family, I send my love, as I lie in my bed, drifting off for the last time in this place that will forever be my home.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ready to Roll

Drumroll, please...

2012 US-2 Missionaries have now been commissioned!!  I am exhausted but wanted to share a photo of our class before the ceremony.  It was amazing, and if you missed it, it will be available online for viewing.  I will post the link as soon as it's made available.

 Didn't want you to think we were too serious...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Just Another Day in Paradise

So today was my birthday, and a great day it was!  There are so many ways to celebrate a birthday, and I am lucky enough to have celebrated 23 very unique ways.  From celebrating several times at the pool to my 16th at cheerleading camp, my 18th with a cookout, my 20th in Kenya, and my 23rd in NYC/DC, I can say one thing for certain.  The location and activities change, but what is really important is the people that I get to spend those days with.

Today, I spent it with a new family, my fellow young adult missionaries and Global Ministries staff.  After being sung "Happy Birthday" at least ten times and hearing the words Happy Birthday from nearly everyone in the group, we made it to our hotel in DC.  At dinner, I was presented with a beautiful Statue of Liberty crown (my birthday hat) and a card from the group.  If that wasn't enough, a half dozen pink roses followed, and another card and "Happy Birthday" in French, German, and Arabic.

All of this is to say, that birthdays may be just another day, but spending it with people you love and people who love you makes it just another day in paradise.