Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I am a dinosaur on the verge of extinction

I am a dinosaur on the verge of extinction. I am clinging to the ground on the edge of a tarpit about to be sucked in. I am a youth pastor (or as some would prefer I say, youth director).

In junior high I quite clearly felt the call of God, and if you don't get that, I'm sorry, it's not easy to put into words. I knew this was what I was supposed to do, and all dreams of being a zookeeper went out the window (although there are some similarities). I had my parents who warned me that it was going to be rough as they lived through years of church drama, a high school teacher who told me it wasn't economically sound, and a college professor who told me if there was anything else I thought I could do, I should do it, because this was tough.  This job has always been more than the money, more than the drama, more than just a job.It is not my identity, but it is a huge part of who I am, what God gifted and created me for.  Youth ministry as a calling and a career has it's limits though, like the tiny arms of a T-rex. 

It is an honor and a privilege to walk with students and their families through the dark years of adolescence, and help them to see that God is with them, he loves them, and his plans for them are amazing. It is by no means easy though.  Each year our group is totally different as kids graduate, move up grade levels, or move away. The ways that we minister to students is always changing, as each generation has different technology and challenges. You can rarely use the same curriculum twice, you can't count on those that you are serving to even show up every week. It is a lot of nights, weekends, and weeks away from your own family.  It's a lot of tears shed with families through tragedy, and tears shed for students who you know are hurting themselves. For all the challenges though, it is amazing to see the growth in students, to build a community where they feel safe being themselves and to help them understand who Jesus is. It is exhilarating to see students change and become life changers themselves, to help empower them to make a difference in the world. That privilege though, is threatened everyday.  Churches are constantly downsizing, and the first to go is always the youth pastor. While we are the ones constantly evolving to meet the needs of those we serve, we are the ones easily dispatched at the first signs of trouble in a struggling church. We get the short end of the budgeting stick always.Many churches are taking their youth and children's ministries to part time positions, and those churches suffer.  Or they hire one person to do what I do, cover ages preschool through college, and then we get spread very, very thin. It is a privilege to work as a youth minister, but it's not something I can cast aside or move on from, it is my evolutionary handicap, and right now I am a cold blooded reptile on the verge of the ice age.

There are bigger churches, with bigger budgets, that have staff coming out their ears, but for me, most of those churches are not an option, because I am not only a youth pastor, but I am a girl. God may have gifted and created me to do what I do, but for a lot of churches, many of those big, cool ones, my gender makes me unqualified to be a leader.  They interpret scripture in a way that makes what I do a sin.  That makes my blood boil.  How, how can you look at the work I have done for sixteen years, and say that God was not a part of it, that I wasn't supposed to do it? God made me a woman, God made me a leader, and so I guess God also made me a dinosaur.

So I am a dinosaur, running from that volcanic lava flow of shrinking budgets and archaic theology.  I am trying to live as the person God created me to be, for as long as I can.  I will do my best to survive and walk with students.  And if you see me working the register at Target someday, a fossil in my red polo and khakis, know that I fought hard.  Gaze at my bones on display, picked clean of the work that brings me more joy than heartache, and know that I tried.  I will follow God into the tarpit, I am a dinosaur on the verge of extinction.

NOTE: currently the elders of my church are not in discussion about  this, they have taken the idea of laying me off, off of the table for now.  This is the reality though, for many of my colleagues and could be the reality for me in the future. Like many other professions these days, youth ministry is waning, and youth pastor hours are being reduced or eliminated and have been for years.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Confession: I am a frustrated parent who just yelled at her kids.

This parenting stuff is HARD.  Can we be honest about that, and not put guilt on that statement, like the cherry on a Sunday?!?  Children are wonderful gifts, that we as parents chose to bring into the world, yes, that is correct, and we are blessed, especially so if they are healthy, able, naturally conceived etc. Yes, that is true, but no matter who the child and how they came about it is HARD, and at times it sucks and is so frustrating you just want to scream.  Then inevitably you do scream, most likely at the object or child of your frustration, and you feel like the biggest a- hole in the world.

Can we really be honest about that?  Can we really without playing the one up game, as to who has it tougher.  I am a full time working parent, that is very grateful that I will not have to also be part time stay at home mom anymore, as both of my kids will be in full day school in a week. I try and work, and stay home, and then go to work later, and that is hard, but my full time stay at home friends get just as frustrated with their kids.  My full time working friends do too.  We al,l no matter what our parenting situation want to walk away at times, throw in the towel, and give up. Somehow though as parents, we aren't supposed to talk about that too loudly or to too many people.

Why can't we? Teachers can complain about their students, grandparents, aunts, uncles, daycare providers can complain, but because we choose to bring these kids into the world, we aren't supposed to.  We are supposed to treasure every moment, be exceedingly grateful, put our lives on the back burner and suck it up.  Well, when my kids fight all day for the 5th day in a row, when I have been working very hard to help them have an amazing summer, I can't suck it up, because it just SUCKS! I want an hour to myself without yelling, butt wiping, food preparing, crap cleaning etc; that isn't at the crack of dawn, at midnight, or in the car. I want to then not feel guilty about that hour and have regret for all the things I should have done for my kids.

Realize that a lot of nights after our kids are in bed, my husband and I, in the collective 20 minutes to an hour we have together before one of us goes to bed, will marvel at our amazing children.  We will revel in their personalities, their silly stories, their amazing smiles. We do love and adore them, and we absolutely wanted them, and will want them forever.  That does not change the fact, that we also often yell at those precious little faces in sheer frustration, as they for the thousandth time do that thing we asked them nicely nine hundred and ninety nine times before not to do.

Then there is the problem of how much you might be screwing them up because you are frustrated.  It seems as if their entire future rides on how you handled your frustration when they peed their pants for the hundredth time or got out of bed for the millionth. You might scar them for life, they may tell horror stories about you to their friends for decades to come. Ohhh so many things to worry about...

But instead of picking up another parenting book, I am just going to be honest.  I am going to say with no guilt attached, that I am a parent that is frustrated, and I yelled at my kids today.  I am not going to follow that statement with a declaration of my love for them, or how grateful I am.  Hopefully, you will extend grace to me, as I do so, and realize that I am not an ungrateful, first world problem focused drama queen, I am just a parent having a bad day, so here goes:

Today was a parenting fail, today sucked and today I am not happy with my kids.