In the last few days — literally — of this commitment to service, of course I am reflecting constantly on what the program and my time at the residential treatment home for kids has meant for me. I’m writing in the middle of the day and I need to go back to work, so I’ll keep this short.

It is true that there is significance in our suffering and stumbles — how deep it turns out to be depends on me and my perspective. I am naturally a negative person, not necessarily pessimistic, but I zero in on flaws rather than perfections, struggles rather than successes. And I haven’t really kept those particular experiences a secret on my blog, though they were considerably toned down when I figured out that many are capable of finding and reading my blog, i.e. coworkers and supervisors, and I didn’t want to step on toes or discourage anyone by mistake.  Also I’m unable to talk about particular hardships that concern kids because of policies on privacy.  Regardless of specifics, it’s been a hard year. I’m still recovering from a less-than-mild (traumatic in my hindsight — !) beginning with these children, and my confidence has been rebuilding itself with painstaking slowness. But the significance in these stumbles is surfacing, and if nothing else, they served to shape my character and God’s as well.  For instance.

I know that I have a gift of calmness that automatically rears itself in otherwise frazzling circumstances. That is such a gem when working with frustrated, on-edge, at-risk kids.  Perseverance, too, has shined when both staff and students let me down or don’t follow through. And I’m learning flexibility when dealing with the childrens’ mood swings.  In general, I’m learning, and that is satisfying.

On the flip side, I’m ridiculously self-conscious around kids. I always have been. That triggers doubts in my recent decision to pursue a career teaching/mentoring kids, despite the feeling that I am intentionally nudged by God to do so.  I’ve realized how little trust I put in God and how much I put in the kids’ perception of me. Getting that improper source of validation out of my system, which has honestly been in place for a decade, is a hard pill to swallow (or regurgitate, if you will).

As far as my relationship with God is concerned, I have a more rooted understanding of the deep impact of grace in my life.  I also understand that God is good and works out good things through anything and everything — especially amidst the terror in the world of the poor and marginalized, and the hurt and battered children I see every day. I don’t think I would have made it through these challenging months without a firm grasp of His goodness, because without it there is such little purpose to the suffering that goes on in these kids’ lives. God has to be infinitely and supremely good, otherwise we would go insane. That is more truth than I’ll ever spout again on this blog — !

There’s more, so much more. I’m determined to make the most of these last few days with the kids; I know God wants me to take advantage of this time of service, to grasp the blessings and experience sincere joy by caring for the marginalized. I pray this is my perspective as I wind down my time as a volunteer, I pray that I finish strong and give God the glory.