About six years ago I was lying in bed at my new apartment. I was all snuggled up under the covers, the last box unpacked and everything in it’s place. And a thought popped into my head.
If I’m still single in five years…I should look into fostering.
And then I drifted off to sleep.
I met people who told me that the system is horrible. That it is broken and they send kids back to terrible situations. “Don’t do it,” people said. “It will break your heart.”
And I thought, “Ok. Maybe I won’t.”
More time passed. And I was invited to help out with Camp Agape, a weekend camp for kids whose parents are incarcerated. My first year there I was blown away. I was in a cabin with little girls ranging from five to fifteen. And as the weekend progressed and the walls came down, the stories that these little girls shared…broke my heart.
But I realized something.
There was a common thread woven through their stories.
No matter what their parents had done to them, these little girls wanted their parents. The just wanted them whole.
I should really foster.
Now by this time, God had already changed the trajectory of my current life. I was studying for the Praxis and headed back to school to become a teacher.
And in a surprising plot twist, I got hired to teach on the OTHER SIDE of the island. This was not what I had signed up for when I agreed to change jobs. Because when I felt the call to teach, I knew I wanted to be invested in the community. I wanted to see my students outside of school and be able to build relationships with their families. So a job on the Westside, meant moving to the Westside.
I’m already giving up my life at the church. Do I really have to give up my life in Kihei?
I’ll be honest. This whole process has been very baffling to me. Because in a million years, I never imagined I would become a foster person. (I hate using the word parent because these kids have parents. I’m their person. For a season.) It was never on my list of things to do. Ever. But I knew in my heart that the Lord wanted me to keep moving forward with it. One step of obedience at a time.
So I did.
And as I began my first year teaching on the Westside, I realized how much space I had in my life. For another person. I could easily foster a high school girl. The middle school where I teach is right down the road from the high school.
So I made a little petition of the Lord. If you want me to foster, will you find me an affordable two bedroom in Lahaina? The words affordable and Lahaina don’t really go together.
I moved October of last year. And started the training to become a “Resource Care Giver” which is the states new way of saying foster person.
It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. On the heart.
Because the reality is, there are children who are trapped in terrible situations. Because the adults in their lives make selfish choices born out of their own brokenness.
And the foster care system is designed to give those kids a safe place while their parents heal. That is the big vision.
It doesn’t always work that way.
But it can.
So last May I completed the training. And got my certificate.
And in the Lord’s amazing timing, two weeks after my ACL surgery, just when I could start driving again…
I got the call. To become someone’s person. And offer a safe place to a very vibrant and intelligent 13 year old while her mom gets some things figured out.
Next week, it’ll have been three months. And it has been a blast.
I’m laying on my sofa, “recovering” from ACL surgery and reminiscing.
Indulge me, if you will.
Last Summer, I fell in love. It was totally unexpected. I wasn’t looking for it. It just happened out of the blue. People had warned me it might happen. And they were totally right.
I fell in love with Prague.
If Rome is like lasagna, with layers and layers of history built on top of each other, then Prague is like an onion, sliced in half.
Where buildings from different centuries stand side by side. Telling their stories.
And it is stunning.
Charles Bridge morning
Not only because of it’s beauty.
But also because of it’s history.
The people. Their story. Of Freedom. And Oppression. And what it means to stand up for what you believe. And be martyred for it.
I went to visit my friends Marek, Cori and Te’a.
They are Christ followers who moved back to Marek’s homeland to help grow a church. Talk about kind, generous and welcoming. I had such a marvelous time visiting with them.
Now, I’m a huge history buff and love to take tours to learn all about what I am seeing. In Rome, Heidi and I hit up every tour imaginable. We learned all about the buildings and the history of the city. I totally geeked out.
Prague, was different. Instead of learning the history of the city, I got to hear her heart. We didn’t take any tours.* We just walked the city. Saw her sights. And as we walked, Marek shared the story of his people. And I fell in love.
Like any powerful story, there are multiple narratives that are woven together as the story unfolds. During my time with the Tyls, there were two plot lines that really moved me about the Czech people.
The Bread and the Wine.
I grew up in the South and my church history is spotty at best. The whole Armenian vs tulip thing is new to me. (For the record it is Arminianism but I just learned how to spell it during this post). So when I got hired to teach Ancient Civilizations which includes the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation, I had to do a little tons of research to bring me up to speed.
I learned about the struggle for power between the Church and Kings. And how corrupt everything had become. How the Black Death leveled the playing ground, eliminating the feudal system and began shifting the power back to the people. I learned about Martin Luther and his contribution to the Reformation. And how the printing press gave the people access to the Word of God which allowed them to read God’s story for themselves. How the hymns were designed to teach theology, not neccesarily worship.
But one name I skipped over in my research was this guy. Jan Huss.
He is credited with being one of the first reformers. He lived 1oo years before Martin Luther guys. According to Marek (and history), he was a Czech priest who questioned the corruption of the church. If you have ever watched “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”and wondered, “What the heck?!?” about the priest…so did Jan Huss. And he was very verbal about his concerns. He stood up and spoke out against many things.
One of his big issues had to do with communion and the cup. Or the blood to be more specific.
At that time in church history, only the priests could participate in the drinking of the cup during communion. The people could have the bread and remember. But not they could not drink the wine. He was deeply bothered by this because the teaching of the Church contradicted the teaching of Christ. He felt all adult believers should have access to the Body and the Blood as they remembered what Christ has done for them on the Cross. Not just the elite.
So the Church invited him to Rome to discuss his concerns. And burned him at the stake for his convictions. Enter the Hussites. Those convictions led to war, reformation, opression and freedom.
I wish Lin Manuel Miranda would set the their story to music.
One of my most treasured moments during my time in Prague was sitting at a church service, watching a line of Czech believers share communion, where both the Body and the Blood were accessible to all. It may not seem like a big deal, but for me it was a Holy moment. This is the church the Tyls are helping grow. Ta Cesta.
According to a recent poll, only 19% of the Czech people believe there is a God.
That is why my friends moved home. To share the life and freedom that is found in a restored relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
Free from religion. And rules. And corruption.
Rich in connection. Meaning. And purpose.
Ok. My knee is starting to throb. I’ll share the second part of the story tomorrow.
Love, Love, Love,
The Girl Who Lives in My Head
*This is a lie. We did tour one castle. Where the guide spoke in Czech. Cori and I acted like ugly Americans by taking photos on the sly. Even though we didn’t pay for the privilege. We may or may not have embarrassed Marek with our antics.
Here is one of our contraband photos. I have no clue it’s signifigance. Only that I took it while hiding my phone from a very stern.
Heidi and I scored an amazing deal and while it was still a splurge, it was SO WORTH IT!!! Why? Located on the Via Margutta, we were right between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. It is beautiful, charming and feels very safe. There is a metro station a stone’s throw away (Spagna), yummy food and Fatamorgana Gelato.
2. Free Wifi in the Room.
I thought this would be important but didn’t realize how easy it would make things. No wandering down the streets looking for cafe’s or sitting awkwardly in the hotel lobby, trying to connect.
3. The Lobby/Breakfast area.
The lobby/breakfast area of the Hotel Manfredi is lovely. I struggled with jet lag the first 4 days. Having this area allowed me to get up early and have room to sit, read, journal and relax without feeling like I was going to wake Heidi.
4. The Breakfast.
5. The Staff. Lydia. Reno.
Other words that come to mind: Clean. Wise use of space. Ice. Cater to Americans. Coffee. Eggs. Bacon.
Last night, Heidi and I went on an Eating Italy tour. It was incredible. But what stands out as truly amazing was a hero we encountered on our way.
We have been taking the Metro quite often to get around Rome. There is a week long pass that makes it very affordable.
We have found it to be an easy and pleasant way to travel. After our maiden voyage, that is. Where we got the kinks out.
Like thinking Uscita was a stop (not the word for exit).
And spending 17 minutes trying to buy a ticket from the machine (it has limited change and will keep ejecting your bill if it is too large).
Yesterday, however, was our first time through the Termini station. It is the largest in Rome and where the A and B line meet. Heidi and I knew to be extra cautious because this is where most thefts occur.
The transfer was easy breezy, as the signs were clearly marked in English. We were prepared to box out in order to get on the train but the platform was not crowded and we both remarked on how empty the train was. Maybe 20 people to the average 50. Okay, my math might be off but you get my drift.
Anyway, we enter. Heidi takes a seat by the door and I stand next to her. There is a small group of 6 college students surrounding the pole next to us. They were American and very young. The train takes off and this blond girl, we shall call her Bambi, proceeds to fall into me. Repeatedly. Because she is not holding on to anything. It happens once. Twice.
On the third, maybe fourth time, I brace my arm (concert style) to keep her from hitting me again and she collides with my forearm pretty hard. She turns around and looks at me with doe eyes.
I feel a little guilty but this act is getting old fast.
Subway 101. Hold on.
Next thing I know, a very tall, very handsome, very fit man in a tangerine v-neck burst past me and starts yelling at a young teenage girl facing the door. I had not even noticed her. She is by herself, tucked in the corner where the door opens, staring out the window. He is shouting in Italian and I think he says the world bracelet.
I’m confused and look at Heidi.
He starts digging at her pockets. Grabbing her sleeves. Searching for something. All the while yelling in Italian. Relentless. Forceful. Heroic.
The girl never turns around but all the sudden there is a passport in the clearing by my feet.
I don’t see it fall but we all kind of realize it together. He takes a few more seconds where I hear the essence of “shame on you” repeated quite a few times in loud Italian. He then hands the fallen passport to Bambi (who has yet to hold on) and walks back across the car.
I am stunned.
It all happened so fast and the only thing that comes to mind is to say, “Thank you! Grazie!” Repeatedly.
Bambi finally joins in.
But he has already gone back to his spot, earbuds still intact, and is looking nonchalantly out the window.
Sweet little Bambi turns around looking like a deer in headlights. I mean, she was so out of it, it was like she was drugged. But I think it may have been shock.
I look down and she is clutching a tiny little box purse to her chest. The kind with the snap that is impossible to close and keeps popping open. Leather. Made in Mexico. Purse in one hand. Passport still out in the other. It is clear she had no idea that she had been robbed and was having a hard time processing what just happened.
Heidi observed that her friends were no help.
The three guy just watched the whole thing unfold and did not respond the way I would have expected. The whole group seemed non-plussed, including Bambi.
She kind of laughed when her friends asked if she realized it was gone.
I don’t know. I just keep getting bumped around. She put the previously stolen passport back in her tiny, easily opened, impractical purse. And just stood there.
I wanted to shout THAT WAS YOUR PASSPORT!!!
Instead, in a very sisterly tone, I stated, “Honey, you need to put that somewhere safe. You need that to get home.….. And hold on to the bar.”
The teenage girl got off at the next stop.
Heidi and I could not help but wonder what in her life had led her to thievery. How had she ended up, skulking around the bowels of Rome, stealing passports from unsuspecting college students?
My heart breaks for her. Because in a million years, no child chooses that life. They may convince themselves they do, but obviously someone holds power over this young girl. And she feels she has no other option.
As far as Bambi, I wish I felt more sympathy for her. But I don’t. I wonder what caring adult let her travel unprepared to Europe.
As far as The Man in the Tangerine V-Neck.
Thank you. You are a hero. Noble. Chivalrous. Brave. You had nothing to gain from that encounter but you were willing to do what was right. Because it was right.
And to paraphrase the words of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “Well done, Man in the Tangerine V-neck.The true hero doesn’t seek adulation, he fights for right and justice simply because it’s his nature.”
If I were a minstrel, I would write a song about you.
All together, Heidi and I have been amazed by how safe we have felt in Rome. It has not been as shifty or intense as we were expecting. Maybe that is because we have worked hard at being wise, cautious and thoughtful about our safety.
I don’t remember what my thoughts were as a 20-year-old Young Life leader but they certainly weren’t, “I hope my knees can take this.”
Fast forward 17 years, and that was my first thought when I realized that I would be taking middle school girls to camp this summer. Don’t get me wrong. I am VERY excited. So much so that I just very wrote very in all caps. It’s just, I’m not 100% sure that I’m up to the challenge.
It’s been 12 years since I took kids to camp. Add a torn ACL and the normal wear and tear on the body, and this accident prone not so young lady hopes her knees can handle it. The running. The dodging. The sliding around on tarps covered in shaving cream. What if I break something? is just one of the thoughts that flutters through my mind.
You might read that and think, isn’t that part of why you got back involved with WyldLife? To take kids on adventures and help them navigate life? Yes…and no. When I jumped back in the trenches, I had a plan of attack. I would be the really fun awesome new teacher, make lots of great relationships with my kids and eventually take the kids that I connected with to camp. Maybe get reconstructive surgery before I go. My plan.
God’s plan looks a little different. I don’t know why I’m surprised. Instead of taking a group of 6th grade girls who adore me that I have been building relationships with over the past year to camp, I will be taking girls that I barely know. Who have crossed over into the teenage world of insecurity and eye-rolling. Who really want to be going with another leader. Their leader. The one who has been investing in them, building friendships and walking with them the past year. Unfortunately, she has a family commitment on the mainland this summer that makes camp an impossibility. And so at a meeting over coffee, my team leader basically told me I was the only option. And when I said, “But they don’t want me to be their leader.” He replied in all honesty, “No. They don’t.” (insert the sound of truth piercing my heart) “But God does.”
Driving away from that meeting, memories of cabin times gone bad and over zealous leader faux pas starting whirling through my mind. And I could feel the self-doubt and fear begin to creep in. And so instead of jumping down the rabbit hole. I cried out to God and asked Him to remind me of the truth. His truth.
These are a few of things that popped into my mind.
I am here for the right reasons.
God loves obedience and faith. This is going to take a lot of both.
I have something that God wants me to impart and share with these girls.
I may no longer the hip, fun, trend-setting leader that kids want to emulate but I can be the steady, loving, patient rock that will not be moved.
I know my identity in Christ. I know that I have nothing to offer these kids but Jesus. He is the light that shines through me. Being young, fun, funny, Fill in the blank is not what leads kids to Christ. It is the spirit of God that draws them to Himself. For whatever reason, I get to part of the process, however God sees fit.
Over the past month, I have had to constantly remind myself of these truths. And God has been so sweet. On Saturday, I was driving and came across this little tree. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t believe something so little could create such big fruit. Those are full size mangoes growing on that scrappy little tree. And I felt like God was whispering. Pay attention.
I see myself when I look at this tree. Little. Scrawny. Not very mighty. And yet look at that fruit. It makes me think of Jesus talking to his disciples.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16
I don’t know what God is calling you to do right now or how you feel about it. Maybe you are like me, obeying with sweaty knees and shaking legs. Let this photograph remind you that the Kingdom of God is unique. Where the last are first and the scrawniest of trees sometimes produce the loveliest fruit.
One of the things I love about being single is getting to travel. Light. With no schlepping of strollers and car seats and suitcases that I am responsible to pack that don’t belong to me. Children. Toys. You get the gist. I look forward to traveling with my sweetheart and family someday but there is something to be said about traveling solo. It’s a bit easier.
Now that I have summer’s off (Teaching Rocks!) my plan is travel as much as possible. I’ve had moments of wanting to delay adventure because I’d rather see the world with that special someone. But time is ticking and there is no guarantee that a) he has put his life on hold for me or b) we’d always want to see the same places in the same way. I am an art history buff and love saturating my brain in museums. That may not be my Mr. Right’s idea of a good time. So. Bring on the adventure. Single style.
My trip this summer involves my friend Heidi. We both just graduated from college, again. She got her MBA and I got my teaching certificate. So we decided to take a celebratory trip. Heidi, being gracious, allowed me to pick the destination. ROME! Why, Rome? I visited for 3 days after college and that was just not enough for me. I want to be sick of the city by the time we leave.
Heidi was my first friend on Maui when I moved 13 years ago. She had just finished up an internship at the church and was looking for a roommate. Enter me. We lived together for a year and bonded over our love for God, love of Truth and love of the South. The rest is history. She is hands down one of the funniest people I know. Pee your pants, did she just say that, funny. She is also one person I want to be in the room with me while I’m giving birth. Her ability to distract and diffuse with humor will make her an amazing doula. Her squeamishness and slight horror at the birthing process, not so much.
Anyway, we will be there for 9 days and would love any tips, advice or suggestions that would make our trip to Rome unforgettable. We already have our hotel locked in but please feel free to overwhelm us with information. Places to eat. What to wear. Things to see. Little Nooks and Crannies that can’t be missed.
Love, Love, Love,
The Girl Who Lives in My Head.
P.S. I have a house sitter while I’m gone. That’s one of my favorite things about traveling is being able to offer my place to visitors while I am away.
P.P.S. I am going to Prague to see Marek and Cori too. So if you have any advice, I'm open.