looking for color in a shade of grey

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We spend our Wednesday nights at church, helping with the youth group. On Sunday nights, we open our house to the youth group and invite them over for fellowship and community. My husband and I also talk about the youth group, the kids who attend, our hopes for them, and etc. on the other five days of the week. Working with teenagers has always been a passion of mine. Even as a teenager, I dreamt of how when I was older I would offer my love and help to others. I just never thought about how hard it would be.

There was a stretch of about 10 months when I wanted nothing to do with children under the age of five, and I have just know gotten to a point where I once again find babies adorable and toddlers not annoying at all. In fact, I almost miss working with children on a daily basis. I never wanted nothing to do with teenagers, though. Teenagers are interesting. Their brains are ready to absorb, and while so much of their personalities are defined, there is so much room for growth. It's the growth that inspires me, that helps me to stay around even when I feel like nothing I do or say will make a difference.

Last night at youth group, though, I finally got to see some growth. Instead of worship and then a message, there was an open discussion. Everyone was invited to participate and offer criticism of the inner-workings of the youth group. Honest conversations were had about Jesus and Christianity. There wasn't one person (leader or teenager) not paying attention. The Holy Spirit was present and moving.

Sometimes I go to youth group with a grudge. I'm tired and worn out from a day of work. I feel like I'm not doing enough at home, at work, or in my spiritual walk. I'm tattered and feel I will always be tattered. Yesterday was one of those days. I was overwhelmed by the upcoming holidays and my disdain for them.

During the open discussion, I paid attention. I listened to the words being shared, but I also took a minute to walk away and spend time away from others. I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, moving in me and changing things around yet again. The past several weeks I have asked for direction. I've also understood that, even though I did not want to, I was supposed to remain still. I'm not the most patient person, so I have not been the best at resting and waiting and not moving forward with my own plans.

But it was clear, yet again, last night that I need to continue to let go. My Achille's heel (as my husband has put it) is that I am a motivated individual. I am stubborn and strong and a fighter. It's good for many things but makes letting go of control more difficult. Not only do I need to let go of control for my own life but for other's as well. This was what was spoken to me last night, an honest picture of how my need for control does not help others but can stand in their way. I was heavy and burdened for the rest of the night, on the brink of tears and not understanding why I had to hear from God in the setting of youth group. It didn't fit with my plan, but I know His ways are so much better than my own.

I returned to the open discussion with my heart beating a little faster and lump forming in my throat. The conversation turned to Jesus as a man and the temptations he went through, the hard labor he endured. And the speaking to my heart started again.

I've tried to be optimistic, but I've failed. While it takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown, giving into the exhaustion and frustration often seems so much easier than remaining positive. Letting my shoulders slump requires less work than reminding myself to sit or stand up straight, to smile, to not complain, to give thanks, to do all these things. But smiling and not complaining and giving thanks in all things is what I am called to do. It's one thing I've never done well on my own, and I know it's something I can only do through God.

I'm thankful that God is sovereign. I am thankful that God never forgets. I'm thankful that it hasn't snowed yet in Oklahoma. I'm thankful for two rambunctious dogs who like to cuddle at night. I'm thankful for a husband who works so hard. I'm thankful for a husband who loves me on my best and worst days (and every other day in between). I'm thankful for family who make me laugh and remind me of who I am. I'm thankful for time spent with friends. I'm thankful for a roommate who cleans our house (and has made it look better than ever). I'm thankful for good television shows and nights spent cuddled on the couch. I'm thankful that God blessed everyone with different personalities and talents. I'm thankful for a church that preaches the Gospel and stresses the importance of community. I'm thankful for the written word - both mine and others. I'm thankful for employment, for a house to live in, and food in the refrigerator. I'm thankful that I am learning about life, love, hope, joy, and what really matters - even though the lessons are hard. I'm thankful for the chance to serve in a youth group that teaches me, and I'm thankful for the teenagers of the youth group and that God uses that time to work in their lives as well as in mine.

There's so much more to be thankful for as well. My heart is full.

(title from "closer" by shawn mcdonald)

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