Tuesday, December 05, 2006

With Pride

My wife and I moved recently. After devoting two years of our lives to service with AmeriCorps in Tehama County, we have relocated to Rancho Cordova (just outside Sacramento). We are living with family while we go to school, I'll be pursuing my teaching credential and Jordana her Masters in Social Work. A few weeks ago we spent some time reflecting on the last few years of our lives. We committed two years of our lives to the community in which we were serving, which was a relatively new feeling for both of us to realize. As we reflected, we realized that as we moved on we would be leaving our imprint on this community in a very real way. Traditions such as Family Fun Nights did not exist before we created them and have now become a much-loved staple in the community. As we reflected, I felt a real pride in what we had done and I realized that in spite of the bitterness and cynicism that we had worked through in the past few years regarding the church, God was still very much at work in our lives. Using two broken vessels to bring fresh light into a community. We also quickly realized how difficult it would be to leave the community to which we had devoted ourselves for two years. We had developed relationships with families, children, and co-workers, we were invested and involved in their lives. Though I have moved often in my life, this was one of the most difficult transitions I have ever made. When I spent my last time with the young boy I have mentored for the past two years, he nearly cried on the drive home because he was afraid he'd never see me again. This caused me to tear up as well. I developed a real love for him during the time we spent together. It was hard to leave.

The most exciting realization I had as we were reflecting on our last two years was the way in which my wife had begun to live out what she has fealt called to for most of her life. She has always had a passion for women, to see women rise up into their identity as loved daughters of God and live in that confidence. While she was somewhat involved in church ministries for women in the past and enjoyed that, it always felt like there was something missing. Within the last 10 months I have seen a new passion arise in her because she has discovered a heart and talent for working with teenage girls. This, I believe, is the fulfillment of her vision and passion for empowering women.

Jordana spent the last year working with foster youth who have spent many years in the system. It is not uncommon for her youth to have been placed in 30-40 different foster homes in their short lives. She worked with these youth to help them with basic life skills that most people take for granted, such as how to open a bank account, how to write a check, or how to pump gas into a car. She also helped them to establish goals, find housing for when they turn 18, and find resources for school and jobs. One of the projects she was able to lead this year was called Girl's Circle. Jordana facilitated this 12-week group for girl's in which they talked about a range of issues such as body image, sexuality, dating, violence, and family. While only two girls ended up committing to the group long-term, it turned out to be a monumental experience for both the girls and Jordana. As the group went on week after week, Jordana would come home with a very heavy heart because of the pain that she was learning about that had taken place in these girl's lives. Out of respect to the girls, Jordana kept the confidentiality of the group and never shared details with me. She only told me that she couldn't believe the pain that these girls had experienced in their short lives. I respect her so much for that, for maintaining the girl's trust and not sharing details with me. I'm not sure I could have done the same.

She did share one detail with me. She said that during the group in which they talked about relationships, Jordana asked the girls what a healthy relationship looked like. One of the girl's quickly responded "you and Colter". It blessed me to hear that the Lord was working through our marriage in that way.

Because Jordana and I worked in the same office, I became somewhat aquainted with the girls in this group. On the last day of group, the girls came into my office and said that they wanted to show me what they bought for Jordana as a going away gift. They had bought her a beautiful bracelet with the words "strength, believe, and trust" engraved on it. They also gave her a card in which they wrote their gratitude to her for the influence she had on their lives and asking her to never forget them. As a result of this group, the two girls became good friends and have served as great support for one another. They both said that this group had been life-changing for them, teaching them to deal with their past pain so they can move on with life. Teaching them to establish goals for themselves. Helping them to realize their beauty and that they deserve to be treated well. One of the girls said that the group had helped her to reconnect with God as she began to deal with the hurt and bitterness that she was harboring. As I saw the excitement and pain on these girls faces as they prepared to say their goodbyes, I knew that Jordana was living out her vision and her passion. I knew that the Lord had worked through her to influence the lives of these girls in a very positive manner. I knew that these girls would never forget Jordana and Jordana would never forget them. As they walked out of my office I was so filled with pride for my wife that I began to tear up. She had finally found an outlet for the vision the Lord had given her. She had finally found a way in which to live out her passion. And I know there are at least two lives that are better for it, Jordana's as well. With the pride of a husband, I honor my wife. With the pride of a father, I know the Lord honors her as well.

Here's to you Jordana.

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