The summer before heading to Alabama, I continued to be actively involved with the youth group, slowly becoming more comfortable in that role. We went to a big conference that summer in Atlanta. There were various talks throughout the weekend but then our group broke up into smaller groups for discussion. Leading and facilitating these discussions always made me nervous.
I don’t remember if I was in charge of leading all of these discussions for my group of young women, but there was one when I definitely led. It was scary. I remember the Holy Spirit really speaking to me in the preceding workshop. I wrote notes in the margins of my program.
When our group assembled, I asked that we go around the circle and identify abilities and strengths and the beauty that we saw in each other. I don’t remember if this was related to the message of that particular workshop, but it was something that really weighed on me. Strong women build each other up, make others feel welcome and acknowledge the good. We don’t need to keep tearing others down.
I modeled how this should go and shared something about each person. It was difficult to remain balanced rather than “gushing” about someone I knew well versus grasping at something to mention for a girl I had had limited interaction with. The overall experience was so powerful and uplifting! To hear what these girls said about each other. The smiles. The laughs. The acceptance. The love. And it was certainly heartwarming to hear what they acknowledged for me, the leader who was struggling to accept herself.
(Journal, June 2008) Small group session was awesome! The ladies identified and acknowledged the gifts and talents they see in each other. Just keeping it positive! Thank you for arranging it. It was awesome to see and hear them affirming each other and lifting each other up. Thank you for their words of gratitude. Generous, calming presence. The things I remember. Thank you that they were able to see that and shared. Thank you so much for everything. Thank you Holy Spirit for supplying me with the words I needed. You took me out of myself and allowed me to pour my attention on someone else. Wonderful experience.
About a week later I continued my reflections.
The conference helped me see that I’m not just a hovering head — at least with the girls. They recognize that I’m there and they’re grateful for it. They saw me as being inviting, calming and understanding, I guess. It’s amazing, Lord, how even though I’m a bundle of chaotic nerves on the inside, that somehow you’ve allowed me to come across as calm. Thank you. I was much freer that weekend — allowing myself to shine through more without worrying too much.
This really is an incredible phenomenon. A few years later I heard a description of the duck. I longed to be a duck gracefully floating along the surface of the water, without appearing to be exerting any amount of energy or allowing any obstacle to disturb the peace. Beneath the surface, those legs are paddling hard to propel it forward, yet the activity doesn’t register as a disturbance on the water. I wanted to be that duck, exuding a strong confidence on the surface. It amazed me to hear feedback from people that I came across as a calm person. I didn’t feel calm or in control at all, but somehow I was imitating that duck without knowing it.
Considering involvement in campus ministry
As August approached, I hated the idea of giving up this ministry. So I took a closer look at what was being offered in the form of campus ministry. I entertained the idea of being super involved in the program while completing my graduate work.
I found what I interpreted to be a lot of social activities with a few spiritual elements. So I drafted a long list of ways to continue the social interaction but with more opportunities to grow in knowledge and service. I shared this information with the campus minister.
Because I longed to dive deeper and wasn’t super comfortable with the social side of things, I figured there had to be others who felt the same way. Others who wanted a group that offered more than a dominant social angle.
As I talked to my brother about this, he encouraged me to take full advantage of the social opportunities, not to write them off. I was stubborn on this point though, before the semester began. I persisted in my lofty goals and unrealistic expectations.
That is until our fellowship program had its orientation and the panic set in for what my first semester would be like.