Saturday, December 18, 2010

Small groupies and Graduation

Whirlwind week. We graduated the Fall 2010 Institute class during the day on Thursday, had our staff Christmas party that night and left our house at 7:30 the next morning to catch a flight to Ohio. 

Though it would be easy to jump full force into Christmas, I don't want to blow past graduation, because it has been such an amazing semester. Yes, we definitely had a great class of students, but there was also something different for me this semester that I don't fully understand.

The two tangible things that stand out to me were 1) I got to be closer to the classroom experience than ever before by supervising the student internships, and I absolutely loved it, and 2) I had a wonderful small group. Yes, I say that every semester, but I need to write about these ladies and how God brought them together as a little community this semester. In my living room. Every Wednesday night. 

My small group was made up of four roommates and one extra. Which might have seemed awkward, but it wasn't. Right away, it was easy to tell how three of the four roommates had been placed together. Meghan, Beka and Whitney are all blond, Southern, and outdoorsy (their observation, not mine). An easy match. Apparently, there was originally a fourth roommate of a similar description assigned to their apartment, but she dropped out and was replaced by the next person on the alternate list. Her name is Anne Marie...dark hair, hails from Wisconsin, business major, interested in politics. 

It could have been a setup for a serious case of "one of these things is not like the others." But it wasn't. It was amazing how these ladies made the most of their differences and really drew out each other's strengths. 

Like Beka's ability to put everyone at ease, make everyone feel incredibly loved and valued, and to ask really good questions. 

Or Meghan's uncanny combination of tough and tender: This is girl who backpacked for 30 days straight to complete her NOLS certificate, who has all the skills and vision of a budding executive, and yet has a deep compassion for at-risk youth and wants to through her energy and vision into pulling youth out of poverty and high-risk situations. 

Or Whitney, whose six foot stature and amazing blond hair turn heads wherever she goes. (She denies it, but her roommates tell the truth.) She is a leader among leaders, and yet God was doing big things in her life this semester with regards to weakness and choosing to be vulnerable. It was amazing to see what happens when someone that others perceive as very strong chooses to become weak...and very real.... It creates an atmosphere of authenticity and honesty in the whole group. 

And Anne Marie is a thinker. It became kind of a joke that when Anne Marie said, "I've been thinking...," she meant she'd been thinking about the thing at hand for hours. I often found myself pondering some insight she had contributed to the discussion and realizing it was a brand new perspective I'd never heard before, and that it was really challenging to me. 

Rounding out our group was Christine from Dallas. She dreams big. She knows what she wants. And she spent the semester opening herself up to the God of the universe, asking Him what His dreams are for her life. She was also willing to ask tough and insightful questions of herself...and of me. I knew that every time she came into my office, there would be something worthwhile to talk about. 

So every Wednesday night the six of us got together for a couple of hours, shared dessert, shared our lives, prayed and studied Scripture together. What a blessing, and definitely a tangible part of what made my semester so good. They got under my skin—I couldn't help but drop my guard. They served me, especially by offering free babysitting. I can't wait to see where God takes each of these beautiful ladies. 

One more note about important things this semester: I also met weekly with Mallory, whose goal for the semester was to "grow up." I think it takes a good dose of extant maturity to even set that as a goal. She comes from a great family, and I totally knew what she meant when she said she needed a push out of the learn to be a big girl and venture out into the adult world on her own. It was fun to walk with her on this first semester far from home—to share a love for teaching and literature, and to talk about life, love, marriage, personal finances, conflict resolution...just anything that was on her mind. I wish her the best as well!

I have to close with this final snapshot. During graduation, we sang the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy"—an Institute favorite thanks to Dr. Del Tackett. Four guys who had been roommates were scattered at 3 different tables near me, and during the song, this is what happened: 

I cried. Loved seeing this tangible display of the brotherhood that had formed in their apartment this semester.

So, what can I say? I love my job. I'm tired out and ready for a break, but so thankful to have had these particular 44 students as a part of my life this semester. 

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