Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Heart Filled with Love

I have become more faithful as I have gotten older.  As a child I was reluctantly dragged to church every single Sunday where I would sit, pick out the cute boys and daydream.  I attended a Catholic college but not for religious reasons.  At the time very few colleges offered the major I was looking for, International Business.  Occasionally I would attend mass, but it was a rare occurance.  
I have to thank my parents for making us go every single week.  It gave me the foundation of a faith formation so that when I checked out as a young adult, questioned my beliefs and doubted certain doctrines, I knew what it was I was questioning.  I knew enough about my faith to be able to choose to stay with it and commit to it, or to leave it and follow another path of spirituality.
Back in my twenties and early thirties, if someone told me I would be teaching religious education I would have laughed, one of those laughs that sprays soda over a table or makes the horrible snorting noises that are both embarrassing and funny.  I often say I am the worst religious ed teacher ever.  I do not know as much as others about the bible.  I do not know the answers to many of the questions I am asked.  I am not a great planner and sometimes walk into class totally unprepared.  Amazingly, those are the days that are the best!  Twice now it has happened that what we were talking about in class has been the topic of Father’s homily.  The first time Grace (who is in my class) did not realize it,  but last week she did!  She was proud of the fact that unlike her mother, who at her age was usually daydreaming the homily away, she was actually listening and making connections.
This year I became connected with the youth group that is forming at our church.  While I was attending a conference this fall, I heard of the gift of a huge room to the teens and I blurted (without any thought) that I would help paint the room and draw murals for the teens to paint.  Little did I know that this room has 20’ ceilings, that I would become the Brownie leader for Lilah's Troop, and we would be doing major home construction....

I thought about withdrawing from the group, but that did not feel right.  Instead I was honest about my time constraints.  Despite being committed to this project, I was overextended and I would find ways to beautify the room but would not be able to do the murals until summer.
We had so much fun painting this HUGE wall!
Last weekend we painted the back wall.  The church is just a few hundred feet away from Long Island Sound.  It is quaint and picturesque.  The teens wanted blue, to symbolize the sea.  Greg kindly offered to help me with this project.  So we packed the truck with a ladder, paint rollers, drop clothes, and a can of blue paint.  While Grace was at alter server training we began.  What was once an overwhelming project for me became a memorable family experience.  Lilah helped me paint the bottom of the wall.  Greg took over the top.  When Grace came back she finished the last empty space on the wall.  With one coat and one can of paint the room took on a whole new look.

Furniture was donated.  Snacks were purchased.  The youth of our church were going to have a comfortable, welcoming place to meet twice a month.  So often you hear of kids not having anywhere to go.  What can you do when you are 14, need a ride to get anywhere and your two main choices are the mall and the movies?  I love walking into this room and seeing 5-6 kids talking, playing games and planning events.  Honestly teenagers scare me.  I am not comfortable around them.  But I do love to listen to them.  I love their sincere embarrassment when a song pops up on their ipod that is not quite appropriate for church and they rush to skip over it.  I love to hear them talk about their friends, their teachers and their worries.  I know I am connected to this room, this group and this church in a very strong way.

Welcome to the Youth Group room!
Last night we again returned to the teen room.  Three very old, very ugly card tables are going to be transformed into chalkboard tables.  All this work is being done in preparation for a grand reveal, a reception for all the teens of the church later this month.  While the room will not be finished, it will be greatly improved from the huge, empty, sterile, boring classroom it once was.  I loved that my girls feel comfortable here.  They helped paint the tables and they talked to the older kids.  The youth leader, who is just a kid herself, always makes them feel welcome, includes them in games, offers them snacks and a place to sit.  

These will be chalkboard tables....
This is what we want for our girls.  I want to give them a firm foundation in their faith so if one day they choose to walk away, they know what they are walking away from.  Hopefully, like me they will come back.  If they do not, I hope they find a path that leads them to God.  I believe there are many and one is not better than the other so long as your intentions are pure and your heart is filled with love.


musicalmary said...

I love the chalkboard tables, and mostly I love how God has worked in your life to make you a teacher for your girls. :-) Great post.

I'm starting a recipe linky at my blog today, so if you have a recipe the girls really love I'd love for you to share it with us.


Karen said...

I love your room for the kids! I so agree that kids need a place to go. My faith has become so much more important to me too. The older I get, the more I find comfort in it, happiness, joy. I love that Kei loves it so much, that she wants to be such such a good God girl, that she is learning things that weren't that important to me when I was her age. :) Love this post Jess.

Theresa said...

I love that your church painted and prepped this room themselves. One of my pet peeves about our church is that they would hire outside people to do things. I don't know why. Possibly years ago they had trouble getting volunteers and just decided to pay for what they wanted.

Our church building is very old and the basement is all stone, thus it is called "the cave". A few years ago, we did a HUGE renovation and with part of the money, a pool table, flat screen TV, xbox and wii, rockband, apple computers and a state of the art kitchen were put in. It's used for fellowship for various ages. But on Tuesdays the junior youth group (6th grade to 8th grade ) use it and Wednesdays the high school youth group uses it. Choir is on Tuesday afternoons and while the 4th-6th grade choir rehearses, there is a special discussion time for the k-3 choir; then while the k-3 choir rehearses, the 4-6th graders have their discussion with our youth pastor. On the first Tuesay of the month the youth pastor invites the younger kids to stay for dinner and a movie or games. The girls love it.

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