Thursday, January 31, 2013

Staring down the final semester.

This past Tuesday there was a meeting for all the staff who are not returning to BFA next year. Among the 35 or so staff members who were present two different camps were represented. Those who are leaving for a year on furlough/HMA and those who are leaving with the intention of being gone for more than a year. I fall into the category of the latter.
It seems a bit odd to begin talking about leaving and all the paperwork/check-list items that need to be taken care of prior to departure. But if the final semester is anything like the past four and a half years, it will be over before I can blink. Though I generally detest cliche phrases this one seems appropriate and a bit prophetic as I look down the road to June: Time flies when you're having fun.
Between now and graduation I will be fully involved in:
- The finish of our basketball season. We have three more weekends of games, and then the end of the season tournament. Coaching means 6 days a week of practice/games, but it is often one of the highlights of my day.
- A week after our basketball season ends, soccer starts. I am having a team meeting next week to begin setting the foundation for what our season will look like and delivering the expectations I have for the players.
- Toward the end of March I will be helping lead a mission trip to Bangladesh. Our team is meeting on a weekly basis already as we come together and learn more about each other, as well as the plan for when we arrive in country. This trip will be 8 days long, and I already have the sense that some incredible things are going to happen.
- Senior activities. As one of the class sponsors there are a few activities in the spring we are involved with as we try to help usher our students into the next chapter of their life. It may mean moving to the States for the first time, or perhaps going "home" to their passport country.

There is a lot that will happen on top of the daily duties as guidance counselor. While the schedule ahead of me may seem a bit daunting, I can only look at it and smile. I see a lot of opportunities for which I can engage with the students and rub shoulders with them.

As I stare down the final semester; I know it will be a lot. I know it will be tiring. I know it will be demanding. But, I know it will also be great. I just don't want it to go by too quick.

Thanks for checking in on life here in Germany. I'll write again next week. As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions/comments. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Guest Speaker

It isn't much of a secret to many people that I really enjoy study History. It is a subject that has always fascinated me and always been interesting. Even to this day, I enjoy reading historical books and trying to learn new information about the different historical time periods. It is enjoyable when I learn myself, but even better when I have the opportunity to share that knowledge.
My good friend Ross is currently a 9th grade history teacher. Fully aware of my nerd attitude toward history, yesterday he invited me to be a guest speaker in his classroom. His class is currently learning about World War II and Ross thought this would be a perfect time for me to speak to his class. Despite some technological difficulties I was able to do a video chat with his entire class and share with them. There were two really meaningful nuggets I pulled from this experience.
The first is that I have been extremely fortunate to live in a place that is so rich and full of history. As part of my talk to the class, I shared with them pictures of historical places I have been. Even though I've been to the places I talked about, and took the pictures I was sharing, it almost seemed surreal as I was talking to the students. I could sense the students really getting into the material and enjoying the pictures and it was a bit odd for me to stop and think, "This took place less than an hour away from where I have been living for five years." The Second World War has always been one of my favorite time periods of history to study, and it has been amazing for me to have so many opportunities to see so many historical places.
The second little nugget I walked away with is that friendships are not defined by distance. Ross lives thousands of miles away from me. I haven't seen him in over six months, and have no idea when I will see him again. Yet, he had a desire for his history lesson to become more alive to his students, and through my knowledge and experiences, I was able to help him out. He had a need, and I was able to be there for him. Following my little lecture we allowed for the students to ask a few questions. The first few were about history, Germany, and the war. Then the question became "Tell us a funny or embarrassing story about Ross." There are too many to choose from, but I had fun sharing a few of our memories with his students. Then, tonight as I had dinner with my usual Thursday night crew, I heard a song that Ross loves. I started telling my friends about the song, and about Ross, and it felt as if I was talking about someone I had seen earlier in the day. It didn't feel like I was talking about someone I haven't seen in six months. Why? Because friendships are not defined by distance.

Perhaps I said something yesterday about history that his students will remember and will inspire them to become interested in history and World War II. Even better, if Ross and I displayed a type of friendship that is worthy of emulating. A friendship where you are always there and willing to help one another, no matter what the situation, regardless of distance.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Multiple roles

Multiple roles: It is one of the most enjoyable things about being here, yet can also be a tricky part of being here. Let me explain...
Yesterday I had to track down a student during lunch to gather information regarding a mission trip. In a few months we will be going on a trip together and I am serving as one of the leaders of the trip. Therefore during lunch I was acting as a mission trip leader.
A few periods later I met the same student in my office and talked about college applications. She had given me her college essays and asked that I look over them and provide her with feedback. During that time I was acting as guidance counselor.
Shortly after we finished the final bell rang and school was over. That signaled time to quickly change and head to the gym for basketball practice. This same student is on the basketball team. For the next two hours we were on the court together and I was acting as basketball coach.

Multiple roles. I love it.

By plugging into the students and being involved in a mission trip, I get the opportunity to engage them spiritually. I am looking forward to learning and growing with them both before, during and after the trip. I am excited to see the different ways in which they connect with God, and the different things they walk away with.

By being a guidance counselor I get to interact with them educationally and intellectually. It provides me an opportunity to talk about the future - their plans, their visions, their goals, their desires. It also enables me to have an office where students feel comfortable to come and simply chill.

By being a coach I get to interact with them athletically. Who can complain about that? I love sports and love interacting with athletes in the context of competition. It is a lot of fun to teach them about the sport but to also join with them and participate. Recently I have been running the sprints with them, and have found out how I am not quite in the "sprint" shape I once was.

The concept of multiple roles can also be a bit tricky. I find myself a bit more relaxed and more goofy while on the sports field. I joke around more and crack more jokes. Stepping off the court and back into the office and being professional can be tricky - and at times it can be difficult for the students to make that transition as well.

But, overall, I love it. It allows me to rub shoulders with students and walk through life with them. Together we go through many of the dynamics of life they are facing -and I get to walk with them. It truly is amazing. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year

I feel like every time you turn around right now all you hear about are resolutions. To be honest, I am not one who likes to sit down and write out a list of resolutions. In fact, all the talk about them kind of annoys me. Though I can hardly disagree that it is an ideal time to reflect and map out the days to come, but all the chatter still annoys me. Given my pseudo addiction for running and sports, my version of a new year resolution is to come up with a few mantras. These do not necessarily produce clear cut goals like "losing ten pounds" or "better my putting game." They are more ideas and mottos to help me have a focused year. So here are a few...

1. Enjoy the adventure. 
I don't know where I will be in 365 days. I don't know what I will be doing. This is a year that seems to be initially smothered by a lot of unknowns. Those unknowns can at times give birth to fear, worry, and doubt. But it is my desire to enjoy the adventure, wherever it may take me. I am willing to try new and different things, travel and live in different parts of the world. I don't like not knowing - I want to know. But, I want to enjoy the adventure of getting to where I will end up. I do not know what the future holds. But I know the one who holds the future, and I trust Him. 

2. Cherish the moments.
I have roughly six months left in Germany before I will pack up and leave. No doubt about it, that thought leaves me very sad. Over the past four and a half years Germany has become home. It seems so bizarre that I feel more at peace and more at home in a Lidl grocery store in a small farming village in Germany where there is NO English, than I do in a Wal-Mart. There is something strangely comforting about hearing German, even though I'm not fluent. Odd, I know. Yet, with the knowledge that my countdown to departure has started, I want to cherish the moments I have left. The interactions with students in my office, the long bus rides for sports, time on the soccer field, those are memories I will carry with me the rest of my life, and I want to cherish them while I can. 

3. Laugh often. Laugh hard. 
They say that laughter is the best medicine, and sometimes I can hardly disagree. It is amazing what laughter can do for the heart. When circumstances do not seem ideal, and when things do not bounce your way, sometimes you simply need a good laugh. Over the past week, and especially within the past 48 hours, laughter has done great things for my heart. I hope to laugh often and laugh hard throughout the year. Being someone who cause laughter (even when people don't recognize that I am funny), or someone who will give a courteous laugh when needed. Laughter is a beautiful thing. 

4. Be a person of joy. 
For some unknown reason recently I have felt as though my eyes and heart have been opened to see many a people who are hurting, bitter, angry, frustrated. We live in a world full of hurt. The nightly news and paper headlines showing circumstances within our country and our world, only go to prove this. Within this hurting world, I desire to be someone who has joy and lives out the life of abundance stated in John 10:10. 

Welcome to 2013. Who knows what it will bring, but I hope it includes these four things.