I think it happens to me late May/early June every year. I get a little sad.
Ten years ago, 2004 we were loaded up a U Haul barely fitting everything in (we joked it was like playing Tetris) and left our home in Fruitport, Michigan. I had a job as a youth director there from May of 2000 until June of 2004. My husband and I lived in a house next door to the church from May 2001 until we left. In some ways this move was harder than our move to Oregon in August of 2006. (We lived in Gary, Indiana from June of 2004 until June of 2005, Muskegon, Michigan the summer of 2005, and Grand Rapids, Michigan September 2005 until August of 2006.)
I felt like God was calling me into youth ministry when I was in my teens–“a kid in youth ministry myself.” Although I went through some difficult years as a pastor’s kid that made me question actually working for a church, God blessed me that first year with an amazing group of kids I loved. As I went through my first year of ministry, I kept feeling God’s peace. I expected chaos and conflict, but I was blessed with the opposite. I am not saying everything that first year or the next three were easy. There were difficult times, heartbreaking moments, times I made mistakes, and days I questioned my calling. There were times I was exhausted and felt inadequate. Yet I cried almost every single night our last week in Fruitport and it was like mourning the death of a friend.
I did not talk it very much until later…it seems like it came out at all the wrong times…but I was not just mourning our church, but youth ministry in general. I knew it was very unlikely I would do youth ministry as a job for a very long time…if ever…and I would do some new thing for work. So I searched for that thing.
When we left in 2004 and the years that followed, I quickly tried to fill that hole of missing youth ministry with something else. I thought I would go into early childhood education. After a brief stint of working in a day care, I felt like a door was closing. I thought about becoming a veterinary technician because I love animals. After a couple classes, it just wasn’t me. I had to move on. When a friend of mine asked me a couple weeks ago, “If you could do anything for a job, what would you want you to do?” I honestly don’t know. I don’t have an answer right now. In some ways not much has changed in ten years.
Don’t get me wrong–I’ve had some good jobs. Jobs I love. I love my news writing job. I love interviewing people. I love writing. My world has opened as I see God working in places like inner city Seattle, rural Minnesota and the suburbs in between. I do enjoy child care. It has worked absolutely perfect with our schedule, the kids are sweet, I can stay home with my own kids, and I think I need a house with more chaos than serene. There are always kids here, art projects on the table, toys in the backyard, and laughter–I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I have done youth ministry as a volunteer for many years. I do enjoy it. I love the kids as much as I loved my Fruitport kids. But it’s different. And it was an adjustment to be on staff versus a volunteer. For one youth ministry is a small compartment of my life and I cannot give it the attention to the degree I wish I could. I have very little time to read youth ministry books, go to conferences, meet with other youth leaders, visit schools, go to sports games, and take kids out for ice cream. Those are some of the things I enjoyed in Fruitport and I can’t do those things here because of my demands as a stay-at-home mom, my kid’s schedules, child care, writing, and other responsibilities.
When the kids are in school all day and a few years has passed–I have a feeling our lives will be different. I may be doing “that new thing” even though I have no clue right now what it is. Maybe it’s paid youth ministry. Maybe it isn’t Maybe it’s not much different than what I am doing now. Maybe it’s something I never dreamed of doing.
But whatever it is, I am grateful for the four years of youth ministry I had. And I am grateful for the ten years of doing odd jobs, writing, child care and being a stay-at-home mom. I don’t know tomorrow will bring, but I can know God has a plan for me.