Archive | February 2013

Day 17: A Shift at Son Rock Kids’ Camp

Three months after being hired as the Student Development Specialist, I found myself volunteering to move to the Admissions Assistant position.  I had been itching to work closer with Admissions since about my second week on the job.  Given all of my experience working in Admissions at Mars Hill, I was dying to see how it worked on the Community College level. 

I got moved.

It was around that same time that I found myself settling into the church I had grown up, a place I didn’t think I’d ever return to.  But I was there and it was time to start thinking about Vacation Bible School.  Oh, how I love Vacation Bible School!  I volunteered to teach the Youth.

They let me.

A new position at work and a week with teenagers at church.  My entire world was about to shift a little more…

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Son Rock Kids Camp.  That was the theme for Vacation Bible School.  Kids Camp and I had teenagers.  So, Ms. Laura and I got together on how to decorate that Youth Room for the week.  It was kind of surreal leading teenagers with Ms. Laura in the very room that I used to sit and listen to her as one of my leaders.  We set up camp and I was excited.

On our first night of the week, we had: four students, one pitched tent, lanterns, sleeping bags, and the kick-off of a study about Paul.

By the end of the week, we had: tye dyed t-shirts, painted a sheet with graffiti, gotten Mr. Travis to host a Slip-n-Slide on the back hill, learned from Paul how to share our own “life stories” by candlelight, and written more names on our attendance sheet than we had room for.  Guess no one figured we’d have 19 youth? 

Yes, 19 within four days!  And I was falling in love with these students and this whole thing called Youth Ministry.  It was really bumming me out to think about the fact that our week together was coming to an end.

Little did I know that Son Rock Kids Camp was just the door God opened to get me to walk into something much bigger than one week of Vacation Bible School.

I had just agreed to be hired as their Part-Time Youth Minister…

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Day 16: Like We’re Friends

“Hey Dad.  I’m walking out of my interview with Nash.”

 “Well, how did it go?”

“I don’t know if he’ll call me back or not Dad, but I do feel like we’re friends now.”

“Who did you interview with?”

“Timmy Tucker.”

“It’s weird.  I sat there feeling like the position he would offer me isn’t the one I will ultimately fill.  Like this is just my foot in the door or something.”

“Could very well be the case.”

A few weeks later, Timmy Tucker called me to come back for another interview.  “Come like you are,” he said.  I looked down and saw paint from Christmas crafts with my three year olds under my nails and glitter ingrained in my jeans.  Jeans.  I was about to wear jeans to the second round of a job interview.  The man must really want to hire me or have been incredibly jealous.

 

“There will be times when you will encounter students with major life issues going on and you will be the first person they come to tell about it, as they figure out what their next steps should be regarding school.  What’s the first thing you do in those situations?”

“I hope I see the person, not just the student.  I know this is a school, but there are more important things in life than just going to class.  I know class is the main thing here, but they’re more than just students and sometimes life just happens.  I would want to hug them if they’re crying or get upset on their behalf if things are unjust.  I guess I would just want to see the person and then be for them whatever it is they need.”

 

Student Development Specialist– that’s what my business cards would say.  I would be responsible for running the Front Desk of Student and Enrollment Services, which was similar to what one of my old work-study jobs on The Hill included.  I would spend time seeing people with my new friend, Timmy Tucker and learning that Youth Ministry can happen outside of the church.

I would also soon find out that this job really was just a stepping stone to something else…

Day 15: From the Mouths of Babes

“Miss Snephanie!”

“Yes sir, little man?”

“Hers said hers gots five deers in her house!”

“She did?”

Took all I had not to laugh at my little John Deere wearing three year old when his eyes got as big as his head over his friend having “five deers in her house”.  I knew what they both meant.  They meant that she had five deer in her back yard, but the way they told it was precious.  Maybe I could teach this thing called pre-school.  It had taken eight months from the time I walked across that stage and shook the President’s hand to land a job.  Here I was, teaching at a church pre-school.

Except, truthfully, pre-school was teaching me.  It was from these little people that I was reminded what it was like to see with a child-like faith.

“Do you guys all know the story of Noah and the Ark?”

“Yeah!”

“Yes ma’am?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And what happened in that story?”

“Noah just gots on this ol’ big boat, Miss Snephanie.”

“Hey, Miss Snephanie.  Yesterday one time, I just got on this big ol’ boat with my dad.”

Noah got on a boat with his Father, just like that little one did.  It really was that simple, wasn’t it?  I also learned ways to see people, not differences.  In a room where America, Russia, India, and Mexico were all represented in their faces– these kids just saw other kids.  It didn’t matter that they didn’t look the same, they could still play together.  At a table where every seat was taken, they always made room for one more during snack time.  They lived life innocently.

For a while, I thought that maybe the Lord forgot I majored in Youth Ministry and preferred thirteen year olds to the three year olds when He dropped me into a pre-school classroom.  I had no idea that I would get a phone call during Christmas Program practice from a guy who wanted me to come see people with him…

Day 14: When Planners Are Empty But Big Plans Are Coming

In the midst of trying to research and write and finish up my Senior Thesis, I also found myself packing.  Packing up four and half years of college into Rubbermaid boxes, suitcases, and trash bags; I was moving home.  I was bummed, but to this day, I’m still not sure what I was most bummed about.  It wasn’t leaving Mars Hill.  After all that went down over the last year, I was more than fine with packing my bags and leaving.  I don’t even think it was knowing I was coming back home, because the idea of going home had never sounded so good.  It was not having a plan for what would be next.  I was about to shake Dr. Lunsford’s hand and walk across that graduation stage to nothing.  I did not have a job to take or a Graduate School to move to.  Some of my classmates had acceptance letters, job offers, or engagement rings.  I had a big, empty planner.

 

So, home I went.  Home for days filled with reading and writing and dreaming.  Days crammed with One Tree Hill reruns and playing with little cousins and endless job applications that led me to believe I was wasting my life away.  Literally, no one was hiring. 

 

Looking back on it, I know that those were some of the most healing days of my life.  I was able to sleep, something I rarely did in school.  I was eating right again, not just maintaining a diet of late night muffins or pizza.  Friendships were slowly being renewed and new ones were made.  Little did I know what was around the corner.  That when my planner was empty, God had big plans coming.

Day 13: Put A Face On It

Most of Administration didn’t seem to believe my story.  Campus Police not so much either.  Why, because I couldn’t give a description of the guy?  Maybe I could identify him and didn’t want to.  Maybe I didn’t want to spend the rest of the year reliving the story.  Maybe you should get over the fact that I didn’t follow “proper procedures” when it happened and just admit that no two students will react in the same way. 

Given that I was the Student Body Vice President and a Student Ambassador, I had to find ways to continue to assure students and parents that their child was safe on our campus all while I continued to feel very unsafe.  I had to appear to be “together” in all of this.  I was so far from being “together” or “okay” that those two descriptives weren’t even in my rear view mirror as I continued to look back on that morning.  I would give Campus Tours and politely but unenthusiastically respond to moms who asked me, “Do you feel safe here?”  What would happen if I said, “No ma’am.  I feel very unsafe here.  I feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder and would it be okay if you dropped me off in Rocky Mount on your way back to Greenville?  

Part of the response of the College to my “situation” was to throw me into counseling.  I remember thinking “but I’m not crazy”.  From Amy, I learned that “if you can put a face on it, you can beat it”.  Oh, I could put a face on it and trust me, my idea of beating it and your idea of “beating” it wouldn’t be the same.  However, after several sessions of talking it out and letting all kinds of other heartache come to the surface– I’m a big fan of counseling!  

In the midst of Amy guiding me through ways of dealing with my psychological damage as a result of all that had happened, the emotional damage was running a little deeper…

Day 12: Shattered and Scarred

It was now the Fall of my Senior year on The Hill– my favorite time of year on campus.  All of the leaves are orange, red, yellow and crunchy!  The morning air was cool and crisp and I enjoyed getting up before most everyone else and getting out in it.  This morning was a little different.  Instead of getting up and going for a walk, I opted to go up part of the hill by our apartments for some time of getting in the Word and journaling. 
 
While sitting there, I noticed a guy come down the hill from above me; Men’s Hill sits above our apartments.  He had a seat near me and before I knew it, our casual conversation was ending with me running.  He ran after me until I was inside our building.  You’d have to have a student ID that matched our door code to get into the building; he knew that and he knew didn’t.  I remember running up the stairs, into our apartment, and sitting on the floor in front of the door.  With ripped shirt, messy hair, and mascara running down my face– I was in utter shock.  I was frozen.
 
I had spent the last two years trying to identify a new niche on campus, my Junior and Senior friends had graduated and I was discovering that I didn’t really know many of the folks in my own class.  I had been on multiple Mission Trips with New Beginning Singers and an oversees trip to London with another local Student Ministry group and somehow felt confident to just be “me”, whoever that even was, take it or leave it with people on campus.  I wasn’t back and forth to Boone anymore and I rarely went home.  Somehow, I had found my home away home in this campus and I felt safe here.
 
And now, that had been taken from me.  I didn’t feel safe in my own home anymore, and I like to feel safe….

Day 11: Camp Is Over

I grabbed my phone card and our cordless phone before walking out the door.  I made my way around the corner and sat on the very steps where strangers had helped move my stuff in, but this time I went quietly.  I was fighting back the tears when I told my roommate I would be back.  I sat and listened to the phone ring and ring and ring, whispering prayers of pleas that someone would pick up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey Moma.”

“Well, hey Stephanie.  How are you?”

“Come get me, I’m done here,” I said through tears on the phone to my mom.  “Camp is over.”

Christian Student Movement was being more than good to me and for me.  It was there that I met some pretty awesome folks who allowed me to be one of them and encouraged me to get involved.  So I did.  I got involved in New Beginning Singers (NBS), In-Reach, and Journey Teams, all of which kept me meeting with folks and having something to do all the time.  Staying busy helped me to forget that my heart still hurt, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from being guarded.  It wasn’t enough for me to not want to be with people who really knew me, but I was afraid to be genuinely known by anyone new.  The last “new” person I let get to know me broke me of that desire.  My mom stayed as positive as she could and assured me that it would get better.  She also suggested I may want to find a way to work something out with Natalie and go see her.

Natalie!  Yes, that was a GREAT idea!  I needed to go see Natalie.  With AppState less than two hours from me, as compared to the five and half hours it would take to go home, it seemed like the next best thing.

Before I knew it, I was spending practically every weekend at Natalie’s.  By going there, I got Boot and Jonathan as part of the deal too.  I knew Jonathan from church and he was pretty cool, but I’d known Boot since Elementary School.  Getting to be with him and Natalie was a breath of fresh air.

Before long, it felt like I was living in two different worlds.  During the week, I was slapping on a happy face and hanging out with new people.  New people who were fun and welcoming and adventurous and Juniors or Seniors and everything that a Freshman girl could want in new friends.  Every single week felt like camp and I love camp, but by Friday I was ready for camp to be over so back to Boone I would go.

There was something about being up on that mountain that was almost freeing.  It was never anything spectacular.  We were just playing games, eating homemade food, and laughing.  But there was something about doing that with them that made everything seem okay.  I felt safe with them and I really like to feel safe…