Wednesday, November 23, 2011

feels like it's been forever since you've been gone

Well, I haven't blogged in almost a year! So that is quite a bit to catch up I will try to keep it short, but knowing me, thats unlikely. :)

From January to August of this year I served as the Discipleship Intern at Shelterwood. I loved it! I was able to continue relationships I built with Littles during my time as a Big and get to invest more in the Bigs I worked with. I was able to take Bigs out to coffee, ice cream, to the park, dinner, etc once a month individually and ask them how they were doing, if they felt supported, what God was teaching them and so much more. It was incredible to be able to hear each of their hearts and I learned a lot. I was humbled to get to know them and for ways they were honest and vulnerable with me. I would call several of them "friends" and am grateful for ways they loved and encouraged me. I also saw struggles within the ministry and heard both sides of situations where people were in conflict. It was definitely a growing experience and showed me how we are all humans. I think the idea of leadership was a theme that came up for me, as I wrestled with what a leader is, how I was called to be a leader, etc. I think the metaphor for leader I came to love the most is a shepherd - and the importance of the shepherd knowing their sheep. I am grateful for the way I was able to get to know the Bigs, and hopefully learn how to love each one more as time went on. The role definitely had its challenges but I also enjoyed being able to encourage and support the Bigs. And I still got to be involved in whatever activities I wanted to with the house, but had much more free time. Overall, it was incredible! There is a lot more I could say, lots of things that happened, but it would take forever to talk about.

Over the summer, I began to come to the end of the time I had committed for. I had originally said I was leaving in August. My parents were ready for me to come home and told me I was emotionally exhausted in ways I didn't even realize. I wasn't so sure I wanted to leave. Some of the Bigs I had grown very close to had decided to stay at Shelterwood, and I wasn't ready to say good-bye. I took a day to pray and journal through what God wanted for me, and it seemed like I needed to go home and rest. I would move back to Austin at the end of August and take some time to see what God had planned for me next.

I enjoyed my last few months at Shelterwood. I got to spend a lot of time with Bigs and Littles, and God allowed new relationships with Littles to develop as well. I have still kept up with a couple of Littles that are there through letters. I was blessed to speak at two graduations for Littles and for a Big as well. At the end of August, I packed up my stuff and moved home. It was really hard to say good-bye to the life I had known for over a year and a half. I cried a lot...I still miss Shelterwood a lot, and the people I know who are there. I visited once, and hope to visit again soon.

Coming home I didn't know what was next. I had decided to join the Women's Development Program (WDP) at Austin Stone, the church I was a part of before I moved to Missouri. I also knew I had a passion for counseling, but wasn't sure what to do with it. I registered for an online Biblical counseling class, and just tried to take some time to adjust to life outside of Shelterwood. It was like reverse-culture shock! It was also hard to not be surrounded by people who know you so well. Shelterwood is definitely a place I love very much and I am so grateful for my time and experience there. I am especially grateful for the relationships God orchestrated with so many people, some I know will continue for many, many years.

Lately, I have been humbled by God's faithfulness to provide for me in Austin. I love my group with WDP. For WDP, we met Sunday mornings for class, Tuesday mornings for Theology, and Wednesday nights with just my group. There are 7 other women in my group and I have loved getting to know them over the past 3 months. I am excited to see what God had planned for the rest of the year! I am so thankful for this source of community, especially after leaving the tight-knit group I had at Shelterwood. It is definitely different, but I am learning a lot and grateful for each of the women in my group, and the leaders of the program.

After a few conversations with people God placed in my life, I began volunteering with the counseling ministry at Austin Stone. The church opened a counseling center this summer and are thinking about ways to grow the ministry. I started out planning a dinner event to honor people who serve in the ministry, and I was asked to consider interning with the counseling ministry. Crazy! And the vision behind counseling at Austin Stone connects with my heart for counseling and what I would want to do with it! I have wrestled with whether or not I want to pursue a professional degree in counseling. I see counseling as a daily thing that happens in every day life through relationships. We all counsel people every day. The question is - how are we counseling? Are we speaking the truth of the gospel or worldly wisdom? Austin Stone counseling ministry seeks to train up as many people as possible in the body of Christ in how to effectively apply the gospel to every aspect of life through the relationships we have around us. They believe counseling should happen in the context of community. There is still a need for professional counseling, but ideally we as believers should be counseling each other as we speak the truth of the gospel daily into one anothers' lives. Amen! I am so excited to be more involved with the ministry and humbled to work alongside the staff, as well as being able to interact with the counselors. I have already been so encouraged by them. God is so good!

I will be interning part-time and then I have been applying for part-time jobs. I have applied to a couple residential treatment centers for children and teenagers, as well as a few coffee shops. We will see what happens. God knows the plans He has for me, and that's good, so I don't need to worry!

Anyways, that is where I am at right now. There are more details obviously, but time and time again God reveals His faithfulness to me. I have been through seasons of doubt for sure, times when I had no idea what God was doing, felt like I had been forgotten or abandoned, but God promises to never leave or forsake us. He has been present and active even in those times, and it is exciting to see now how He was orchestrating things when I didn't understand. I pray that my faith will grow, and that I will trust Him more even when I don't see how He is working. He is worthy and His love never fails. This is the hope I cling to, and He will be faithful. May you all come to know Him more! Have a great Thanksgiving!