camp cerebrations one: thursday

it’s no accident we’re here tonight, we are once in a lifetime

needle and haystack life, switchfoot

Thursday was a rougher day.  I felt like I had to coax, argue, plead with the girlie to participate all day.  I spent a lot of my downtime/solitary supervision time at camp praying anyway, but I was really asking God for strength, persistence and most importantly patience.

I never thought it would end [or Friday would begin] so beautifully though, through all the chaos.

I had to plead with the girlie to get out of bed to go to the bathroom and brush her teeth.  She wasn’t biting at all.  Wouldn’t move.  This had gone on all day and my patience at 11:30 was just done.  I broke down, tearfully pleading her to just get ready for bed.  Finally I just couldn’t stand it anymore and asked E, another camper who was absolutely amazing to have around, to ask Nadine [the girls' counsellor and an amazing person] to deal with the girlie while I went to the bathroom and got ready for bed.

I was better by the time I got back to the cabin.  I was just tired, exasperated and frustrated.  As I was coming back, E was taking the girlie to the bathroom to get ready for bed.  I was so, so grateful for that girl.

When they got back, the girlie sat with me for a bit and we talked.  Her ankle hurt, she wasn’t feeling good . . . mostly, though, I think she was just tired.  So was I.  We hugged it out, were okay, and she climbed up to her bunk and fell asleep relatively quickly.

E and R were still up talking after everybody had fallen asleep, and I joined them haphazardly a bit, but then decided to roll over and try to sleep.  I’d been noticing change in E in chapel–resistance changing to longing for exploration of God.  I saw so, so much of myself six years ago in her and I really, really wanted to hear her story so far, where she was at.

“Okay, I can’t sleep, your conversation is getting too good.  So, [E], where are you at with God?”

She told me that at the beginning of the week she’d not been a believer.  She hated chapel, hated worship.  Hated devotions.  Like I did my first year of camp before I believed in God.

Then, she said, she’d done a one-eighty.  That everything around her felt so genuine, so real, that she believed in God.

I am so, so excited for her journey.  To see where God takes her.

“Is it okay if I sit on your bunk?”

“For sure.”

We talked until nearly two am.  I prayed for her, her journey with God, her Opa who’s been sick.  We prayed for healing.

I had, once again, the opportunity to tell my story.  Both E and R looked at me wide-eyed and couldn’t believe the stories of who I used to be.  And it is ALL God responsible for that change.  Our amazing, awesome God.

As we were talking, the Switchfoot lyric from above came into my head, and I quoted the first half.  “You know, another thing is that I don’t believe that the fact we’re here having this conversation right now is an accident.  I think there’s a reason for everything.  Talking with you girls has been so, so good.  All that’s lead to this . . . this moment . . . happened for a reason.  And that is so, so cool.”

R and E told me some of their stories, their journeys with God.  I love hearing where people are at, where they’ve come from.  R, it sounds, has always had deep faith.  E went to church when she was younger, then it faded out, and I’m praying now that she’s recommitted to Jesus and that He’s helping her to take on everything she’s faced and is facing in life with Him at her side for support.

You’re not here by accident . . . and life it lives.

life, flyleaf

Thank You, Jesus for beautiful transformation, beautiful change and beautiful stories.

 

(to be continued)

searchin’ for prayer warriors

Next Monday I’ll be heading off to a Bible camp with one of the amazing girls I do inclusion with.  I think, though, that this is going to be a challenging week [especially emotionally] as I attempt to help integrate and involve her on a more personal level than she integrates and involves herself.

I want to see growth so, so much.  I want to grow by seeing her grow.

I put a call out on Twitter last night for people who will engage in prayer with me during the week next week, and to those of you who have responded I am so grateful and want to hug all of you.

You probably all know I don’t do these kinds of things often, so here’s what I’m requesting prayer for:

  • Spiritual growth and engagement; lessons that become tangible.
  • Health [for both of us!] and safety
  • Emotional preparedness — for the weeklong and perhaps intense journey that camp will be.  For the girlie, manageable homesickness if any.
  • Patience and compassion
  • Sleep.  Oh my goodness, sleep.
  • FUN

I’ve never done anything like this where I’m on-duty 24 hours a day for like five-and-a-half days.  I’m very stoked to see what God teaches me through this.  I feel really blessed by those of you who have already committed to be on my team of prayer warriors next week.

I love you all — thanks for joining me on this journey!

pausing with Jesus

i find myself reading blog posts, skimming past the parts about Jesus without even thinking about it.

Why?

why.am.i.overlooking.what.actually.matters?

Jesus.  Jesus who actually matters.

Jesus.  Jesus who changed and changes everything.

Jesus.  Jesus who is everything.

Friday at youth, our theme was Pause. Play. Repeat. Amidst the reflection of the past lessons we’ve covered during the year, Ramona went over Matthew 5:4-8, pinpointing people whom she saw the verses majorly representing.  That was a push I needed, direct application of scripture.

4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.

And these things, certain people are evident in all of them.  And these things are things that we should strive to have evident in all of us.

I was shocked, though, because I was the first example.  The Message translation puts it this way, and I feel connection in this:

4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

Ramona phrased it as that I “mourn” with people–work through struggles and tough stuff with them.  I see the second translation, though, linking my past with my future once again.  Having identity in nothing was previously “dear” to me.  It’s true.  Being stronger alone was who I was.  God took that from me, forever.  And I was embraced fully by His LOVE.

Moments of blessing appear so often.  I am blessed that people allow me to intertwine into their stories, engage in their stories.  I am blessed every single time I engage in worship with one of the girls I do inclusion with.  I am blessed every time my other girlie looks at me and holds onto my arm and says “I love you” because that is exactly what’s on her heart at the time.

I do a lot of playing and repeating.  I need to do more pausing.

Pausing like this.

Pausing with Jesus.


rejoice for He is risen!

I had a really cool Easter. 

I started the day with my 3rd ever Easter church service of my life, and it was awesome.  It just felt really energizing and focusing and fantastic. 

I then got to hang with one of my girlies from youth where we mostly played with my camera and she hugged me a lot :).  Love the girls I’ve had an opportunity to get to know through my church’s youth program.  Also, one of the other youth leaders found candy canes on his dresser and brought them to church.  Because, really, what says EASTER more than candy canes?

This was followed by spending some chaotic time in the three year old room, where everything simmered down when they got in for stories and worship.  I had a little buddy who was so adorable through the time we spent in the teaching portion.  He’s three but has just started talking, so he repeats EVERYTHING you say, and decided I was his friend for today.  Three year old cuddles between praise songs are the bestest.

At home while waiting to go to family dinner I did some varieties of running around because the city turned off our water so they could fix something at our neighbours’ place.  Once that calmed down [aka we had showered and acquired a port-a-potty from my grandparents—gotta love being lake people] I read some of the Easter story in the Bible which just felt super awesome. 

"display the bright splendor of your Son, so the Son in turn may show Your bright splendor"

John 17:1

Intermingle this with a lot of praise music, and even the chaos can be really refreshing.  I think that’s kind of a reminder of where I should be ALL THE TIME.  In the chaos, REJOICE.  PRAISE.  SEEK.  And I have to get better at that.

a letter to the humane society

As I was perusing the net for summer jobs tonight, I came across a statement on the Humane Society Day Camp’s website that completely shocked and repulsed me.  Humane to animals, yes.  Humane to children with disabilities? I’m not so sure.

As a university student, I was investigating day camps to apply for for summer positions within the city and came across the Humane Society Day Camp.  I formerly thought highly of the great things I had heard of this camp from kids who attended until I came across this statement:

“Please note that our day camp programs are geared to children who are able to participate in group activities. We are not equipped to provide one-to-one supervision for children and may not be able to accommodate children with challenging special needs or behavioural issues.”

I think this is absolutely ridiculous, discriminatory and unfair to children with these sorts of special needs AND their parents, as an inclusion youth leader and a former childcare worker.  Inclusion for children with physical, social, emotional, behavioural and intellectual differences IS possible within camp programming, and can be provided in various facets to be tailored to the individual child and their needs.  Inclusive participation is not only highly beneficial to the social development of children WITH special needs, but also those without.  ALL children are ABLE to participate in group activities providing inclusive practices are in place, which can be provided through a variety of organizations or family provided respite care.

If I am incorrect in your policy, please correct me, but if I am incorrect then your website’s response to inclusion of children with special needs requires revision.  If I am not, then I stand by what I have written and I am unimpressed at the pure lack of effort in facilitating inclusive camp experiences to a specific group of children who could likely benefit from them the MOST.

Needless to say . . . I didn’t inquire about applying.

F**king ridiculous.

Or am I taking their “may not” as a will not, and thus making myself being the one being f**king ridiculous?  Am I the crazy one?

knowledge, people first and adapting

Last term I was in developmental psychology for a good, oh, quarter term.  During the span of the time in this class, my prof—who was, granted, nearing his seventies—constantly referred to children as their disability first and as children second.  NOT okay.

It pissed me off, so I wrote him a stern but not condescending e-mail exemplifying his errors and explaining HOW to rectify his speech.  I wrote the message sitting in the front row of his class, and received a simple “thank you, Kerri” in response about ten minutes after class concluded.  The next class, he tried to drop an ‘autistic child’ as he had been doing.  He got to “autis—“ paused, and said “child with autism”.

I recieved an e-mail that said a child “IS special needs”.  [ALL kids have special needs, so I actually don’t like that catch-all too much either].

A child is NOT their difference, their disability, their special need . . .

They are who they are and who they are likely is partly shaped by how they have been socialized to feel about who they are with regard to their disability.

As a leader, a facilitator, a friend, it is important for me to know how I can best adapt a program to ANY child’s unique circumstances.  Because knowing SOME level of specifics makes so much make more sense.  How chain-reactions occur, what to watch for, and how far it is okay to push—a big thing we’re dealing with at work with some kids right now.  As a leader, facilitator and friend, it’s hard to adapt something to a child if there’s something behind the scenes I don’t know about.

But all in all, I still need to know the child, the person first.  I go by the same saying with many, if not all, chronic medical conditions, disabilities, et cetera I encounter . . . In my own case “asthma does not define me . . .  but it helps explain me”.

whatever we go through i will follow You

now that i know i’ve finally found my home, this life is not my own, whatever we go through, i will follow You

You held me up and made me learn to love more than myself, You took my hand before i knew there was more than myself

myself — fireflight

Before I started inclusion at my church’s youth group, I have likely mentioned before, that I declined opportunity to apply for inclusion positions at many, many daycares this past summer.  This was for various reasons—such is life, you never know what you are getting into, until you are already in.  Not trusting myself to have adequate skills was another one.  When I was asked if I would want to try working with a sixteen-year-old at church, I handed it over to God, trusted Him that He was lining things up as He wanted . . . and said yes.

This began my experience in inclusion—working toward the full potential that just needs to be unleashed from the kids I volunteer with.  I feel that as I grow in this experience that started five months ago, and grow in Jesus (the two very much go hand in hand, as does my current field of study at school with kinesiology and developmental studies, which is something only God could plan!) that this definitely, definitely was not an accident.  I’m sure there was a lot of prayer involved that I did not know about, and I never would have dreamed when I said I would try, that it would lead to so much—so much adaptation, change in perspective, love.

I was recently asked by the parents of both of my girls I do inclusion with if we could arrange outside-of-youth hangouts or doing respite care for their families.  We are now ironing out details, and I am excited to go out and have some fun on my first outing with one of them next Thursday.

I have thought of it time after time, how happy I am to be in my church.  And in addition, how happy I am to be able to work one-on-one with the kids in a group setting but not be a small group leader.  How exciting it is that it has led to experiences such as those that have been transpired, how much I am growing, and how only God could have brought me here, how I am GROWING in Him.

There is nothing boring about being alive. 

Life throws out the unexpected.  Curveballs.  So what else to do but CATCH them and make the most of it!  LEARN, help others, LOVE and do your best to follow where God is leading!

blessed

I came to the realization earlier today, once again, of how blessed I am.  I came to this realization when I was freezing cold after the bus didn’t stop at my stop.  I thought of opportunity for grace as I told the bus driver “Thank you, have a nice day!” as I was getting off the bus.  We have frequent opportunities for grace in our lives, and it is something we do not always act gracefully in accepting.

So I live in the coldest city with a population of over 500,000.  And I was freezing my quads off and simultaneously reflecting upon how blessed I am.

I taught an asthma education class to grade eleven biology students this morning at my old school.  Yeah, Mr. T just lets me come in and teach, how awesome is that?  I call the shots—decide what I want them to come away with.  Blessed to have the ability to educate, to speak my mind, to help cure ignorance.  Blessed that I have managed to find whatever good I can out of my own asthma, to help others.  Blessed that I have medicine to help me breathe.  Blessed that I have these kinds of relationships, still, with my high school teachers.  Blessed that they still allow me to channel my energy into my old school, as I spent countless hours doing when I attended through social justice projects.  Education on the overlooked.

apples

I walked into my grade 12 biology/dance teacher’s classroom, and was greeted with a big smile and a hug.  We talked school, and then she decided that I should talk to her class.  So I talked about asthma and wellness and kinese and dance and how they should continue their studies in biology.  And they asked me questions about kinesiology, which was fantastic.  I wish somebody would pay me to travel and teach on wellness and asthma for a job; to meet people; to educate; to cure ignorance.

It was totally impromptu and I just love talking to people.  Mrs. P actually teaches a kin/dance class at another university, and she is just awesome.  She has a parrot at home and adorable rats in her classroom.  She lives on a farm, which is just super cool.  She has chickens.  She had no idea I was coming, but she gave me these

straight from her farm.  I got to bus home and trek through snow with a carton of eggs.  Life on the prairies.

The other day I was asked by another youth mom whose daughter I do inclusion with at youth to do respite care for the family—which is super cool fun stuff like going shopping or to a movie or bowling or whatever.  My other girl’s mom asked me if this was something I would be interested in doing with her daughter awhile back, and I said totally.  I am blessed by all of the pieces falling in line, pieces that will contribute to where I am going in the future with both occupational therapy and asthma education.  Blessed by the amazing girls I get to work with who see the world a little differently—who help me to see the world differently for the better, too.  Blessed by the church, the body of Christ, that is facilitating these things in me, stirring up these passions within me and helping me to LOVE, and use that LOVE to build into what I am growing passion for.

I am in love with kinesiology.  It is SO hard, but it’s awesome.  I am going to have to work my butt off the next three years, but I like learning things that might actually be applicable to my life.  I am blessed to be able to go to school, to have found these communities i fit in, to have a job that works with all that, to have all the stuff in my life.  To have all the people in my life. 

Blessed to have all this love in my life that comes from unexpected places.

These blessings are the everyday . . . things I don’t think of as often as I should.  What are the blessings in your life?  Let me know in the comments.

living the revolution – youth retreat ‘10

It’s been nearly a week, and I’m still having a hard time gathering together everything that went down on this youth retreat from the perspective of a leader—a leader doing semi-one-on-one at that.  I think I experienced the youth retreat this past weekend bit differently than most.  Not in a way that was any better or worse, but just, different.  A good different, though.

I think there were times in all of it that I was really challenged.  That is a good thing.  There are things that happen and you realize “Wow, I am here for a reason.  This is where I am supposed to be.”  And they rock.  I think that was a biggie for me this past weekend.  Like, I have no words—God is just too faithful, too big, too awesome for me to have words!

I think what it is, is that I really struggled to find a church where I felt like I belonged.  Where people outside of the people I came with knew me.  Where I got to meet new people, pray with new people, and worship with new people . . . People who have huge love and passion for God that extends outside of the physical building that is church.  And then when the time was right, maybe bring new people into the mix once in awhile.  That is where I am now.  And that is something I realized in the midst of worship on Saturday.  “This is where I’m supposed to be” and that just felt so awesome.  It took me five years to finally found a church I love.  This is it.  It feels awesome.

The fact that I’m doing inclusion-ish stuff, like I’ve said before, is just crazy that God would put me in a place where I’m totally stepping out of my comfort-zone and needing to trust Him more in knowing that I will do okay.  And I really believe that is part of the reason He’s brought me here, too.

The girl I was hanging out with was awesome and a sweetheart most of the time, although she did have a bit of a rougher time at some points which is fine, that’s why I was there.  We clicked really quickly, and we had a lot of fun, even on Saturday night when she started having a rougher time because she got a bit homesick [the first night wasn’t a problem.  But this was the first time she’d been away from home for two nights before].  She and Brenda called her mom during worship, and then she and I headed back to the cabin to chill and take it easy.  [We were supposed to be going on a night hike to shout their declarations into some valley, and I kind of thought she wouldn’t dig the night hike part—I wasn’t gonna stop her, but I’m really glad we just hung out in the cabin together.  We had a really good talk, too.]

I finally got her to go to bed because she was totally zonked.  Her mom wanted us to call before she went to sleep, so we did that too.  [Actually, calling her mom was totally a good incentive to get her in bed.  “Okay, take your inhaler, get your pajamas on, go to the bathroom, and then we’ll call your mom.”  Worked like a charm, especially because her mom was coming earlier the next morning to get her.

So after she said goodnight to her household and her mom and I talked about how she was doing at the retreat, I asked her if she wanted to pray together before we went to bed.  And let me tell you, it just pumps me up when kids say yes to that!  So we prayed, talked a little bit longer until she started trailing off.  My favourite thing was that the last thing she said before falling asleep was “Jesus rules”, and then 30 seconds later she totally conked out.

At this point I really got to just sit and reflect on the weekend, and pray, and read my bible and stuff.  I had an hour and a half of downtime between then and when the other girls came back, so I spent a long time writing, read Ephesians and finally got in my sleeping bag and just about fell asleep when the other girls came back.  Oh well :-)

To switch gears, food.  Remember how I like, take food everywhere because of my picky not-eating-meat-ness?  The food at this camp freaking rocked.  There was SO much of it, and pretty fruit plates on the table at every meal, and fresh bread!  It was yummy.  I was pumped when on Sunday morning when I said to Brenda and Elisa on the way to the dining hall “I hope we have cereal!” and I walked in to find a bunch of cereal on all the tables.  I don’t usually eat breakfast, but on Sunday morning I totally had half a muffin, Raisin Bran and fruit.  Epic.

All in all, despite the minor challenges, despite being eaten by a stick [oh yeah, my kiddo dragged me through the middle of the forest and killed herself laughing when I told her a stick tried to eat me.  It totally did.], despite the freezing-cold bus with no heat on the way back . . .

it was awesome.  And as much as the retreat was to challenge the kids to go deeper . . . it challenged me, too.  I think it challenged several of us leaders, too – engaged  us in the process of growing with the students.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

James 1:5-8

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

James 1:12

maybe its just me

So, I work at an after-school program a day or two a week.  It keeps me in coffee money and it’s fun.  My placement was for the program for kids in grade 3-5, which is definitely the age group I have more experience with, so I was stoked about being placed there when I got hired [the program runs at several different elementary/middle schools, so there were different positions].

In the grade 3-5 group, we basically have snack, play gym games for an hour and a half, some kids go in smaller groups with my coworker and do crafts, leaving my other coworker and I to do gym games.  It works well.  [Although, why someone decided I was good at doing gym games is a mystery to me.  Did somebody tell these people I’m a kinese student or what?]  A couple weeks ago, though, I was asked to work the Girls Club.

The Girls Club is an interesting thing, at least in my mind.  The only experience I really have with grade 6-8 girls is a) being one and b) youth group [which my main experience in is inclusion, but I mean, I did get to hang out with the grade six girls when we were talking about sex.  Meaning, I got to go pull them out of the bathroom when we leaders apparently said sex one too many times].  So, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.  I don’t seem to know the dynamics of grade 6-8 girls very well, or respond very well to them [at least not the first time].

Two weeks ago I was asked to work the Girls Club.  Sure, they need me, whatever.  Okay,  It went down way differently than I expected.  However, we had volunteers then.  Said volunteers attempted to run the program.  I mean, kudos on them, but that’s what we paid facilitators are for, that’s why we have planning e-mails and why I get there early.  I mean, I’ve done volunteer stuff before, and volunteering is cool and sucky in the way that you basically are a robot waiting for and completing instruction, and not going outside of your box.

So, the volunteers were taking over, I had no idea what was going on, and it was just pure chaos.  I honestly thought that was just the dynamic of the Girls Club, and was like “Whatever, they’re all hormonal and whatnot, that’s probably just how they are.”

I worked Girls Club again today.  I honestly thought it went much better [no volunteers anymore, and four paid facilitators], even though my coworker who basically runs the show primarily thought it was rough [I think she was just stressed after a long day].  Unfortunately, the library got snatched outta our hands so we ended up in the gym and just played gym games when were supposed to be discussing human rights [which is half of why I was there, that’s kinda my thing].

Which was chaotic.  I mean, I totally get that some of the girls didn’t wanna play dodgeball.  I mean, I wasn’t playing either even though the other three facilitators were.  But they were totally not getting that if they were not going to participate, they were going to sit quietly on the bleachers and talk quietly?  Finally I gave up and Bethany dragged them off the bleachers and made them play.

The other thing is, we get kids there who are hurt, or sick, or don’t have proper running shoes, or have lost a shoe [yes, true story yesterday, one of our kids lost one of his shoes.  His mom was not impressed.  I mean, the lead facilitator even went out and tried to find it with him, and they had no luck.  And I was the one who got to talk to his mom about the missing shoe.  Yep.]. 

The thing is, the program is optional.  It is free, it’s a government-sponsored school-division run program.  We’re there to help keep these kids off the streets between 3:30 and 5 because apparently according to my sociology prof, this is when kids are doing things like stealing things and having sex and vandalizing stuff, in their little hour and a half opportunity when their parents aren’t home.  But yeah, anyways, nobody has to be there, they are there because they want to be there.

Which is why it’s crazy frustrating when they don’t participate.  Yes, it’s a place to hang out with their friends and be safe.  Yes, it’s a place to have fun.  But you don’t have to go there to talk with your friends or have fun.  If you don’t participate once in awhile, hey, that’s cool.  Not everybody likes everything.  But if it’s game after game after game that you’re sitting out, then why are you even coming?  It’s not like our snacks are that great or that we do anything super-cool [usually].

I mean, I can’t even find a parachute in the equipment room.  Not even after two weeks when we found the light switch to the equipment room.

I’m totally not ragging on the program.  For most of these kids, they come, they have a blast, and they get excited when they see you in the hall on the day their program isn’t run and ask if they can come.  But the participation factor is something we really need to work on with them.

 

On another note about grade six to eight girls, I’m off to our Youth Retreat this weekend.  I get to hang out with the seventh grade girls and Elisa and Brenda, and I’m sort-of doing inclusion, but not as one-on-one as I do most Fridays. But semi-one-on-one.  Sweet.

The craziest thing about this one-on-one thing is, last summer when I was looking for jobs, I wasn’t applying for inclusion positions.  Because I didn’t think it’d be something I’d be good at, didn’t think I was capable of it.  So, like I mentioned before, when Ramona asked me to do it, I was like “God, You better know what You are doing here”.  Of course He knows what He’s doing.  I just gotta make myself remember that again, and I ave huge hopes that we have a blast this weekend living the revolution at the retreat!  It should be epic.