The High School Xanga Lives Again

As a high schooler, I loved my Xanga. When its popularity decreased and Facebook became the new thing, I apologized to my Xanga and felt guilty for leaving it behind. As time went on, I didn’t see the point in taking it down, so I left it up, filling up a small section of the Internet with my rambling, jumbled, high schooler thoughts. Occasionally I’d go back to it, finding myself somewhat surprised by the good questions younger me was asking, but mostly horrified at the oversharing and complete lack of regard for the true publicness of the Internet.

Not too long ago, Xanga as we knew it ceased to exist. Archives were made available for those not wanting to switch to Xanga 2.0, and, unable to bear the thought of all those words, however embarrassing they sometimes were, being gone forever, I made sure to download mine. Finally, tonight, I uploaded them here, wanting to be able to walk down memory lane through those words should the mood strike me.

But then, for a few horrifying minutes, all of those archives were again public. Right here on this little blog.

As soon as I realized it I went through and changed the settings, but had you been on here at the right time, poking through the archives, you would’ve gotten a taste of High School Brianna.

Back when I scoffed at proper capitalization because I thought it made my writing look cool and casual, and I thought that being a Christian meant you had to share a Bible verse in every post (so, of course, I did).

But every once in a while there were glimpses of the future Brianna, of the way I think and write now. As unpolished as some of these writings were, I think I was picking up on things I didn’t entirely have words for yet because I had only begun to taste their truth. I’ll leave you with a snippet of one of my posts (in its original font, for the full effect), ponderings on the song “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine” by the band Switchfoot.

 

crooked souls trying to stay up straight
dry eyes in the pouring rain, when
the shadow proves the sunshine
the shadow proves the sunshine

two scared little runaways
hold fast till the break of daylight
when the shadow proves the sunshine
the shadow proves the sunshine

 

i really like this song. i think it has a good point. without shadows, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the sunshine, and the shadows prove that the sunshine is really there. i think the same holds true in life. if life was just good good good all the time, and everyone was always happy, we wouldn’t appreciate the happiness…it would just be a way of life. to really be happy, we have to know what sadness feels like, and occasionally we have to be reminded of sadness so we can appreciate happiness. 

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever been surprised by things you wrote when you were younger?

Confessions of a Youth Leader: Some Things Never Change

I have never been good at sports.

Gym class was always my least favorite, especially the days when we had to play basketball. Being the kid who was picked last for a team was not a cutesy way of suggesting someone was left out, but an actual concern of my daily life. My childhood wasn’t terrible because of it, but anything involving sports are certainly not my rosiest memories of days of yore.

Now I’m a youth leader at my church. The thing I forgot about middle and high school youth group is that it, at some point or another, always seems to involve some sort of athletic activities. Games involving throwing, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and catching are quite commonplace.

And, despite my additional years of life, my athletic ability has not increased accordingly.

If anything, it may have gotten worse.

Not being forced to participate in sports I don’t like anymore, when I do exercise, it’s activities I can do by myself, sometimes in the comfort of my own living room where not another living soul needs to see me. Basketball? Rollerblading backwards across a gym floor with a group of my peers? Wiffleball? No thanks.

But the funny thing about being a youth leader and not a student is that I’m no longer there for me. Yes, I’m there because I choose to be, but not with my own wants and needs specifically in mind.

Photo Credit: Flickr User seanmfreese, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User seanmfreese, Creative Commons

I recently posted on Facebook that sometimes I think I get just as much, if not more, out of youth group than the students do.

While my athletic ability has not increased, my insecurity about it has not decreased nearly as much as I thought it might have. A bit, but certainly not entirely. It turns out the lessons we talk about with middle and high schoolers aren’t just relevant for them, but also for me.

Because some things never change. Like the fact that I am still kind of terrible at catching and throwing things or anything involving needing to get from one location to another with any sort of speed. 

I am also, as I learned this past Saturday, terrible at climbing out of pits filled with foam blocks.

But it’s not about me. I might still feel insecure about my lack of athletic ability, but I’m not a youth leader to feel good about myself. If I feel a little insecure myself, but students feel comfortable and welcome, that’s what it takes. And in ways, it’s a good reminder of what middle and high school me often felt like, and what students might feel like too.

Maybe my own insecurity is exactly what helps me understand theirs.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you learned anything in your experience as a youth leader?

Youth Ministry is Terrifying

Being a youth leader is terrifying.

Am I allowed to say that?

This past weekend I attended a youth retreat where the theme was “Identity in Christ.” It feels a bit coincidental (though I suspect it may be, to use Christian-speak, “a God thing”), considering it’s a topic I’ve been thinking, writing, and hearing about in several places about lately. For the middle and high schoolers I spent time with this weekend though, “Who am I?” is an even bigger question than it is for me as a 23-almost-24-year old.

And the truth is, I don’t know what to tell them. I think “finding your identity in Christ” is a starting point, but the particulars of how that looks in everyday life are a very different story–which isn’t a very pretty, wrapped-with-a-bow answer to hand middle and high schoolers. It’s kind of what I want to tell them about all of life–“You just sort of figure it out as you go,” which isn’t a very good answer for a lot of things, much less how to find your identity in Christ.

But it’s the only answer I have right now.

Try as hard as I may, I will never get the answers “perfectly right” in conversations with the students in our youth group, or with anyone else.

I might say dumb stuff, or say the wrong words at the wrong time, or not say the right words at the right time, and I might not have the answers that will satisfy their questions.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying this, or at least shouldn’t be posting it on the Internet. Students or their parents or their friends may be reading these words, going, “Why should I trust this leader who doesn’t have her own stuff together?” Or “This is the girl who’s hanging out with my child and supposedly helping shape them in their walk with Christ?”

It’s not a perfect picture, but it is an honest one.

The questions students in my youth group are asking themselves are the same ones I am, in some way or another, asking myself. Sure, I have a few more years of life experience and some college knowledge in my head, but that only goes so far.

It’s one of the most terrifying parts about any type of formal ministry, and also about relationships in general–when we look at ourselves, it is so easy to think we have nothing to offer. My own stories are not be the same ones they’re living, and it can make mine feel inadequate.

But I’m trying to be reminded of what I do have to offer.

I can listen.

I can accept.

I can show up.

Maybe the simple act of showing up is the most important one of all.

And while my own stories will not be the exact same ones they’re living, they may have similar strands.

So yes, being a youth leader is kind of terrifying. I like to know the answers, and if I don’t know them I like to be able to find them–but life doesn’t come with an answer key. In the absence of perfect answers though, I can offer what I do have, and rest assured that God is big enough to use even that.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you dealt with feeling inadequate for ministry?