Archive for the ‘Youthworker Self-Care’ Category

Retreated: 2 Things Learned This Week   Leave a comment

This week I retreated to a camp in Glen Rose, Texas, for three days of spiritual retreat. Going on a minimum 3 day spiritual retreat is a requirement for my ordination in the United Methodist Church. I had a lot of flexibility on how the retreat itself would go.

Inspired by the TED Talk I heard from “planet walker” John Francis, I decided to incorporate silence and not using a vehicle as part of my retreat.

Two things I learned in the process:

1. It is relatively easy to be silent when you’re by yourself, but it is a challenge to be around people without feeling pressured to say something. For most of my time away, I was on the camp by myself. I went for a long walks, I hiked through the forest, I spent time creating art and reading. I was quiet.

In the silence, I was able to rest. I was able to just be, just listen. I noticed things I might have overlooked – the smell of dew in the morning, the sound of deer as they scamper away, even the sound of a bird’s wings flapping. I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was tired.

On the few occasions I walked in to town, people were friendly and I felt compelled to speak. The person I talked to the longest, an elderly man in an antique store, seemed lonely. While a vow of silence seems like a noble idea, sometimes small talk is a compassionate act.

2. Sometimes I have to consciously choose to feel safe. One of the hardest parts about being by myself, especially as a petite female, was getting over feeling anxious about possible dangers. I had to let that fear go in order to feel at peace. The fears of unknown dangers, especially while walking alone at night in the dark, cluttered up my thoughts.

Once I made the conscious choice that I was going to feel safe, I could enjoy nature fully. I was able to pray and sing like no one could hear me. It was only then that I could fully experience God’s presence.

I think it’s worth mentioning that living in a culture that feels dangerous even if the dangers are not real makes spirituality more difficult. When I walk alone at night, a part of my brain is constantly on the lookout for possible attacks, alert for sudden movements around the corner. I cannot be the only woman who feels this way. It’s a bit heartbreaking to have to choose to feel safe. My hope is that by mentioning it we can all work together for more peace, working to create a culture of safety. (Maybe you were expecting me to learn something more profound, and I did learn other things – I spent a lot of time reading, studying, writing and creating. There will be more blog posts to come.)

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ” 2 Timothy 1:7

Project 365: Day 160 First Day of Unofficial Art Camp   Leave a comment

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During the last several months, I have discovered a love for creating art and I have a dream of sharing that love with others. The process of creating art can be relaxing, healing, even a way to connect with God. I would love to lead a ministry someday that encourages people to nurture their creativity.

I often use art and creative expression as part of the senior high Bible study I teach. Even though I have more enthusiasm than artistic talent, I don’t let that hold me back. This summer I thought I’d experiment with leading a mini art camp at my house.

How it worked: I invited just enough students (my friends’ kids) to fit around my kitchen table. I researched ideas from Pinterest and my own art classes, picked up supplies, sketched out a lesson plan. Old shirts were purchased from Goodwill to serve as art smocks, a drop cloth was out down, and voila! Art Camp!

Day One was focused on drawing faces and basic art elements. We created art journals and portfolios.

As a class, we came up with the following rules before we started:

1. We are all artists. (We are made in the image if a great Creator and Artist – Claim it!)
2. Be nice to others.
3. Sharing is what we do.
4. Be nice to yourself. (We tend to be our own harshest critics so those negative thoughts were not allowed at Art Camp!)
5. Everything is an experiment.
6. Be careful.

Pretty good rules to live by, don’t you think?

How could you adapt this idea and use it in your ministry? Who can you ask for help?

Here are pictures from Day One of Art Camp:

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Project 365: Day 103 How Not to be *That* Sports Parent   Leave a comment

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We are a sports family.  Between the 3 kids, my husband and myself, we have played soccer, cross country, track, baseball, basketball, football and cheerleading.  As an athlete, a sports mom and also a coach, I spend a lot of time at games and practices, and a lot of time on the sidelines.  Today I even had the special opportunity to watch my niece play in a volleyball tournament in Dallas (my picture of the day.)  What really struck me this weekend were the voices and messages from the parents and fans around me.

For the most part, the parents and other coaches I overhear are supportive and encouraging, but not all of them.  I heard a coach reprimanding his player-son this weekend in a way I would never accept as a way he could coach my child.  I’ve half-joked with other parents that you can always tell who the coach’s kids are because the coach reserves a special tone of voice for yelling at their own kid…although to be fair, usually that same coach’s kid reserves a special tone of voice for talking back to his coach.  Among the fans, there are a handful of parents that say things like “Why did you do that?!” “Are you going to actually play hard this game?” “What were you thinking?!”

I’ve also overheard  plenty of parent-fans openly and loudly criticize the calls of refs, usually just teenagers or volunteers working as a referee for the game.  My brother shared with me that the niece I watched play today has spent time working as a referee, and was really hurt by snide comments fans made about her calls.  My niece is beautiful, smart, talented and an all around lovely young person, so it’s painful to hear about how thoughtless parents/fans could be.

It’s tough to just sit there and hear kids getting berated like that, especially about playing a game.  Sure, it’s tough to watch the kids you love lose a game or play poorly, but that doesn’t mean it is your job to criticize them.  I love sports and I hope that kids grow up loving sports too…but I wonder if how we adults are on the sidelines can kill the joy of sports. I even wonder how many of these vocal critics could play any better if they were on the field. There is a lot to be said for encouragement over criticism.  In fact, I think there are really important lessons here for parents, coaches and youth ministers alike.

To parents and fans:  As an athlete, I can tell you that players know full well when they mess up.  There are plenty of self-critical voices. Critical voices from the crowd or from parents especially do not help.  Here’s an idea on what a parent or fan could say at the end of a bad game or play instead of criticism:

Good: “I am proud of what a good team player you are/of how hard you work.”

Really good: “I loved watching you play!”

Even better, add: “I especially loved when you did [specific play here].”

The message that gets caught here is one of love, no matter what.  Add to this an offer to work on a specific skill in between games, or to somehow spend quality time with the kid, and you’ve got a kid who knows unconditional love.

To the coaches: The best coaches I’ve seen will substitute out a player after a bad play to explain on the sidelines what could be done differently, then put the player back in.  It’s the difference between openly criticizing (ouch!) and patiently redirecting…which may feel like the difference between being scolded/embarrassed versus being taught.  To the parents who are coaches (myself included here), let’s remember to try to treat our own kids like a part of the team – neither giving them special treatment beyond the rest of the team, nor giving them harsher criticism.

To my fellow youth ministers: There are great lessons learned on the playing field for youth ministry.  Our “players,” the members of our youth ministry, need us to come alongside as encouraging voices and coaches, not critics.  They need us to come alongside their lives and not say things like, “what were you thinking??!” “Why did you mess up like that?!” but rather, send messages into their lives that say, “I love watching you grow in your faith!” “I’m proud of who you are becoming.”  “I loved when you did [this specific act of love, grace, mercy].”  When youth mess up, we can quietly pull them aside, coach better behavior and then send them back in.  Correct privately, praise publicly.

What results from this is players (youth) who know unconditional love – that’s what we hope for, right?

Blessings,

Erin

Questions:

How do you handle critical voices?

How can you relate sports and faith?

Who has inspired you as a coach?

How do you encourage others?

 

 

 

 

Project 365: Day 100 Wholeness   Leave a comment

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I love Whole Foods grocery stores. There isn’t one near my house, so it’s a rare treat. I love walking the aisles surrounded by vibrant colors and aromas of natural, organic, healthy foods, most of which are foreign to me. Chia, flax, collard, gluten-free, vegan super foods with brands like Annie’s and Kathleen’s and Organic Pete’s. It almost feels like shopping in a foreign country’s market.

I’ve been focusing on the word “whole” a lot in my prayer life lately. Having been so broken for the last couple of years has made me appreciate the fullness, the vibrancy of Wholeness. I am so thankful to the God that restores my soul and makes me whole again.

From 1 Thessalonians 5:

“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Blessings,
Erin

Questions:
Do you have certain words that speak to your heart? What are they?

Project 365: Day 92 My Crazy Idea   Leave a comment

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I almost forgot to take a picture today. Other than Zumba class with mom, I spent most of my day sitting at a computer working on another scholarship application – which was completely lost when Safari suddenly shut down (grrrrr.)

I’m going to seminary in the Fall and I even got an article posted on Youthworker Movement today about my journey. You can check it out here.

The article mentions the expense of seminary, which is of course why I’m spending any spare hours working on scholarship applications. I also applied for a part time job that I hope will both give me a new type of nonprofit work experience, but also help us prepare for college financially.

What I’d rather be doing is working on turning the above unfinished pieces into art. So this is where I admit to a crazy idea – how about selling the art I make to help pay for seminary? It’s a long shot possibly, but why not? I’m thinking either open up an Etsy shop online, or sit on a corner with a cardboard sign saying “Will Make Art for Seminary Tuition.” (Probably the former, I’ll keep you posted.)

What do you think? Should I do the crazy thing? Anybody want a commissioned piece of art made with much love and gratitude?

Blessings,
Erin

Questions: What would you do if you could get paid to do what you love? Is that the same or different than what you do now?

Project 365: Day 91 Creative time   Leave a comment

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I got a lot of productive work done today, scholarship essays and other legwork, but I also carved out an hour to go to my happy place, my painting table.

I painted and got my hands sticky with gel medium. I’m working on about 5 mixed media canvases at once, alternating as my heart whispers to me. I would love to create art that inspires others, and I would love to inspire others to create art.

If we are the sons and daughters of a Creative God, and we are made in His image, it only makes sense to me that we can draw closer to Him as we explore our creativity. How do you do this?

Project 365: Day 78 When I Grow Up   Leave a comment

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My husband Dennis recently told me a story about an interview he saw in the late 1980’s with Howie Mandel. Way before the days of a shaved head, “Deal or No Deal” and AGT, Howie got his start to fame as a comedian, and then played a serious role as a doctor on the 80’s show St. Elsewhere. The interviewer asked Howie what it was like to change from comedian to serious actor. Howie shared that he didn’t see it as a big change, when he woke up, he was always “just Howie.” Sometimes Howie did comedy, sometimes Howie played a doctor, but he was always “Howie.” I like how this way of thinking frees us up from being our job title. We are not really meant to be a particular job title, we are always just ourselves doing certain tasks.

Since becoming an adult, I’ve been “Erin the college student,” “Erin the salesperson” and “Erin the Youth Director.” What I learned is that the trouble with identifying yourself as a particular job title is that you can lose that title. Who are you then? How do you answer the “what do you do?” cocktail party question?

When I was little, there were a lot of things I wanted to be when I grew up – a mom, teacher, author, artist, veterinarian. As a high school student, I even said I wanted to be a business woman and maybe volunteer with the youth group (I have a senior memory book to prove this, by the way!) What I didn’t realize then was that the process of growing up takes a lifetime, providing opportunity to be more than one thing in a lifetime. I am still growing up.

I’ve punted on veterinarian, but, in a beautiful turn of events, I have managed to become all of those things I dreamed of becoming. I am even getting to dabble in the “impractical” roles…the ones where even the people you love most respond with “good luck with that” when you say you want to be that role. Depending on the day or hour, I am taking in the role of mom, teacher, author, speaker, coach, artist, business professional, entrepreneur and youth minister. Yesterday, I wore my painting clothes pictured above, today I was primarily a writer. Throughout all of this adventure, I am “just Erin” doing different things. I am having an amazing time living beyond a specific job title, even if it makes explaining what I do extraordinarily complicated.

What do I do? I’ll get back to you when I grow up.

Blessings,
Erin

Questions:
What are you called to be?
What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

Project 365: Day 75 Whole Hearted   Leave a comment

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“Live a Whole Hearted Life”
I have spent too much of the last few years of my life being a bit broken inside. Not necessarily unhappy, but not completely myself either. It’s hard to put in words, but it’s as if I’ve been missing some fullness, some of my more spirited self.

I don’t know that I even realized I was a bit broken until I reached a point of healing and wholeness. My sense of self has returned – I am back. It has sometimes been a rough journey, but I am joyous and thankful to God that I am beautifully whole again.

My prayer and hope for you is that you can find your own place of healing and wholeness. I pray that you can live with your whole heart, that you can choose to soar as your very best self. With God’s help, live your whole hearted life.

Project 365: Day 57 Senior High Sabbath Bible Study   Leave a comment

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Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

Tonight I gave SBUMCSHBS the gift of quiet time with God. We have been studying time, Sabbath and connecting with God a lot this year. We began the hour by centering ourselves, getting the noise out of our heads and putting aside our phones:

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Students, journals and pens in hand, quietly rotated through five prayer stations. Each station had a description, Scripture, reflection questions, an activity and a prayer.

They lit a candle and asked for God’s light in the areas of life that needed guidance:

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They wrote on a stone as they remembered what God has delivered us from and what He has given us:

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They enjoyed grapes and bread as they remembered God’s blessings from the earth:

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With water, they were cleansed and made whole and renewed:

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And, perhaps most importantly, they
simply rested in quiet meditation:

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What a joy to share the gift of quiet time with God!

Shalom,
Erin

How do you observe Sabbath time?
What can you do today to quiet yourselves and just be in God’s presence?

Project 365: Day 44   Leave a comment

Thursday at the Academy of Spiritual Formation

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