This past summer has been a whirlwind – which is part of the reason that I haven’t written anything since it began… sorry about that! But, dear readers, it has been one of the most incredible summers of my life.
Rescued from a long season of solo mentoring by a new co-mentor shortly before the summer began, I was cautiously optimistic about the coming weeks. Then, when the first real week of summer brought the loss of two kids whom I’d come to love, my emotions were in turmoil. Now the house would only have two boys for a majority of the summer, the teenagers all of either working at camp (2) or visiting home for the whole season (1). It was a drastic change from the weeks preceding and I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it all. Suddenly, instead of juggling five kids on my own, at least when the house parents were off, there were as many as four adults caring for as few as two children!
But this meant that those two boys got exactly what they needed: tons of individual attention and loving discipline. The absence of teenagers meant that we could spend ample time doing things that only younger kids like to do; things that teenagers would find silly or boring. We could let the younger boys just be what they were: kids.
And it was great. It was excellent. It was wonderful.
Yes, the boys still struggled with following the rules. Yes, the boys often grew too comfortable and pushed boundaries – hard. Yes, the boys fought constantly – just like brothers.
But it was great.
And then, suddenly, camp was over, the teenagers returned, and life shifted, once again, into a more chaotic direction. A few days later we learned that a new boy would be arriving shortly, just two days before the house left for a week-long vacation in South Carolina.
What had happened to out perfect summer? So close to its close, our two boys had turned back into five and our well-planned vacation suddenly became much more complicated as we added a ninth member to each of our outings.
But it was still phenomenal.
The new boy was a great addition to the house. He fit in perfectly with the other boys and adjusted quickly to the group dynamic. All of our vacation plans still worked out with the extra person.
And so, though I suppose it wouldn’t ever be considered an ideal situation, commenced a fantastic house vacation complete with alligator sightings, boat rides, historical exploration, late night antics, geo-caching, games, and more than its fair share of laughter. By the end of the week, we had almost forgotten that the new boy was new and hadn’t yet experienced a typical day at the Ranch itself.
He had become so fully integrated into the home – so well accepted by the other boys – that it was as if he’d always been there. It was an incredibly fast transition but it was necessary since summer was drawing to a close and the students’ two week break was rapidly approaching.
But none of this – none of this – was what I had expected at the beginning of the summer.
It was so much better.
It was as if God had taken my ideas and my plans and thrown them over a cliff, never to be seen again. But he didn’t leave me empty-handed. Instead, he gave me a new set of situations which made the ones I had just lost look like trash by comparison. The entire summer was so much better than I had expected it to be because it looked nothing like how I had expected it to look.
Sometimes God has to take away the garbage we’re holding onto before he can give us the good gifts He has planned for us to use instead.
Now is a time of transition for me. I’m officially starting in my new position as a teacher in the school here at the Ranch. I don’t know what my official job title is yet but Brain Trainer and Fine Arts Director might be the most accurate description. And I am so excited for this new season in my life! God has brought me into a place where I can use almost all of my skill sets in various ways. I’ll be doing what I love in a place that I love with kids that I love. And while I’m a bit nervous to start out the school year, I can’t wait to start working with these kids in this capacity. It’s going to be strange to no longer be a mentor; I won’t be working as much with some students but I will be spending more time with others. It will certainly be different in a lot of ways, many of which still remain to be seen.
But I’m optimistic.
And, who knows, perhaps God will change things up and make it even better than I can imagine?
Grace and Peace,