Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Welcoming in // junior girls

When we came home from Denver with our newly established bonds of community, my soul's sister Greta relentlessly asked Ali + I to lead her small group. Over and over she asked. I smiled amusedly the first time, said, "Oh maybe..." the second, really listened the third time and started to pray about it after the fourth. I opened my heart then and there to these girls -- I didn't realize it at the time. As I prayed it was pressed on my heart that Ali + I were meant to lead the Junior girls' small group this fall. So we signed up. And when the leadership board wanted to match us with the Freshman girls instead because we were younger and inexperienced we stood firm on what the Lord had called us to and He changed hearts. We were granted the Junior girls with the leader's blessings!

My Little House has always been a blessing meant to be held in open hands and shared with many. It's been a place of refuge for each person that's stepped through it's door and opening it up to the girls was the no-brainer of a lifetime. 

I'd never led a small group before, but I had a model. It was definitely outside the model of most small groups led in our church, but I trusted that since the Lord apparently wanted it done, that He would also change hearts in the leaders and parents who may come against it. See, we weren't going to do a "traditional" study -- with a book, and homework, and discussion questions, and prayer requests -- we were going to do community instead; intentionally open and vulnerable and honesty and caring community. I didn't know what it would look like. It wasn't neat and tidy. But we did it. 

It started with creating an environment within the group where the girls felt safe and wanted and heard. A place that we genuinely cared to hear each other's hurts, where it was safe to be raw and where they knew that their burdens would be lifted, prayer would be offered and truth would be spoken into the hurt and confusion. A place that we were sincerely interested in each other's celebrations, where it was encouraged to rejoice and laugh and cheer each other on. And when I say "we" I don't mean just Ali + I, I mean all the girls -- all of us working together to build this Body close. This took weeks. And I wondered if it was working at all. But then I saw the quietest girls begin to boldly open up, saw the silliest girls share what Jesus was doing deep in them, saw all the girls look at-home and loved and restful. One night only one girl shared because she had a lot of hurt that needed spilling out and relief-finding and to be healed with love. The other girls speaking truth into her life and praying for her was what was needed that night -- so that's what we did. Another night we just sang worship songs all night. Praising our God for Who He is. This was done in the midst of a month where we were all weary and faint from life. Some nights the girls shared a lot -- whether it was what was going on in their lives or what the Lord had shown them recently. Other nights I would share vulnerably about what He was revealing to me in my life and I watched as the testimonies of Our God met girls right where they were at. 

There were nights where we said very little of consequence, where we snuggled on the couch and were just exhausted together. I felt like I was failing as a leader those nights but later on I saw what a treasure it was to have a group so at-home with each other, so at rest in my space and under my authority, that they could totally relax and be comfortable in total silence. 

Near the end of the semester we tried something new. We had gotten to know each other broadly as a group but I wanted to provide an opportunity for the girls to get to know each other more personally than sitting in a circle once a week affords. So we wrote letters to each other. And that was maybe a little awkward and stretching at first, but it turned out to be some of the sweetest nights of bonding we had. These hearts were knit together. Perhaps not as tightly as the hearts of the Mission:Denver team got knit during our mission trip -- but as tightly as they were meant to be in this season. They have bore my burdens with me, have celebrated the exciting developments in my life, and are sad to see me leave. Can they ever know how the Lord used their care to minister to my heart and heal it of its belief that though it give all the love it has it won't be truly + unconditionally loved in return, that once I leave I am forgotten, that the impact of my life is like a foot printed washed away by the waves? To not just have been their leader but to be their sister -- that shows me like nothing else that it worked, we really did community together. 

And to think that this happened because of the relentless love of one dear girl... because we said, "Yes" out of our weakness and led from a state of dependence on the Lord... because I opened my heart and I opened my door over and over to sweet strangers who became my soul's sisters. I'm just so grateful to have been a part of it, to have been used to touch their lives for a few months, to have our stories interwoven forever. He uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. 

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