Lessons Learned from the Girls of Ablor

D-group girls | 2016

The lie of good enough. Am I good enough? Did I do enough? Could I have done more? Am I sufficient to meet this need, accomplish this task, be this friend, the list goes on. This lie continues to follow me in everything I do.

As I reflect on this season of graduation, endings and beginnings, hope and a little fear, I am quickly filled with my own doubts and aware of my own inadequacies. I over-analyze farewell speeches, words left unsaid or said in haste, patience lost, frustrations aired, and grace not given.

In these moments, my hope is (once again) in my performance. Was I good enough for my girls? The answer is a resounding NO. However, my job, my hope, and my purpose is to point them to the One who is good enough; infinitely so. My confidence is in God’s provision for them – not their own and certainly not mine.

Looking back, I realize I’ve grown just as much as my girls. I am not the same person I was when we were all just young babes trying to figure out life and high school. A few things I’ve learned:

  1. Patience. Hard work and progress are slow. Be faithful in the small things and one day you will see they’ve become the big things. Success and growth don’t come overnight, but don’t lose hope. Keep fighting. God is faithful to the end.
  2. Leadership is not about me. My purpose in leading these girls is not for my fame, ego, appreciation, or anything else. I was most frustrated when I felt disappointed because the girls weren’t performing the way I wanted instead of remembering we are all a work in progress – me especially! I’ve learned to trust in God who is bigger than all of us and realize that growth is slow, messy, and sometimes painful – for me and them. My patience is greatest when I remember I’m not their savior.
  3. Laugh. Y’all these girls are Pranksters with a capital “P”. They have pulled off a long list of ever increasing skillful and well-thought out pranks. They’ve kept me on my toes and taught me to never underestimate the craftiness of high school girls. They are funny, goofy, and creative. Laughter and the mutual bond of pranking your leaders is a great base for friendship and vulnerability. Also, revenge is a dish best served publicly 🙂
  4. Give grace then give it again. To my girls, to my self, friends, family, and strangers. It’s easy to think the worst of people, but most of the time we are all just trying our best. Be patient, forgiving, kind, and give grace. I have never looked back and thought, Man, I was too gracious to that person. I should have been harder on them.
  5. Pray. Prayer softens my heart and does more than any of my words or actions could do. When I pray I remind myself I am not their savior. I am not in control. My heart is softened and hopeful after prayer, but I still don’t do it often enough.

It has been such a privilege to lead a group of high-school girls for four years. Some of my favorite memories include time with them. We laugh, joke, and talk about hard realities. These girls have challenged me to think more deeply, laugh more often, and not be afraid to take risks. I am so excited to see how far we have all come and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

To the girls of Ablor, thank you!


Don’t Get a Mentor

Nearly every millennial has been given the advice, “get a mentor.” We know we are lacking in experience, knowledge, and wisdom. We go off into the world and beg the most popular and influential people we know to be mentors. Often, they are smart, successful, wise, and busy. We expect lots of time, energy, and emotion directed towards us – after all, we’re the selfish generation.

In our hyper-individualized world, where texting is more comfortable than talking, we are often isolated not just from our own peers, but especially from older generations. Wisdom, knowledge, and experience that was once learned in the context of daily life now has to be gleaned in curated conversations over coffee.

What if this didn’t have to be the case? What if instead of clamoring for mentors, we sought to be friends instead? What if we made intentional efforts to spend time with people 10-50 years older than us, just because?

Two of my dearest friends are 60+ years old. They are kind, easy to talk to, can be funny or serious, they give great advice, they listen well, laugh quickly, and remember small details about my life. They tell great stories and they love people.

These two women are wholly committed to God and his Word. They love the Scriptures and they love people. They are active in their churches and they love talking about their faith. They are skilled in debate and often challenge me to think more deeply about my own faith and life. They refuse to settle with platitudes or shallow thinking. To engage with them is to draw water from a deep well.

They encourage me to be more fully me while challenging me to dive deeper into God’s Word and his plan for me.

It would be easy to call these women my mentors, because they are. They counsel, exhort, and love me, but our relationship is deeper than a formal mentor relationship. Each of them came into my life for what I thought was a particular season, but our relationships have bloomed into something longer lasting.

Individuals of my generation are often told to “find a mentor.” The implication being, in this individualistic society we need the wisdom of those older and wiser than us. This is sound advice.

However, too often, we look for a “mentor” without having a clear idea of what that relationship should look like. I’m guilty of this too. If I know someone has skills or wisdom I need, how do I best ask and get that information from them?

Embedded in this thought process is a self-focused “me” attitude. I am only looking to get, not give. Part of this is true humility because I am painfully aware of my weaknesses and lack of experience/knowledge. On the other hand, it is much easier for me to go to a lunch and drill someone with a set of questions without ever pausing to really get to know them. It’s efficient (of my time and theirs), purposeful, and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I leave.

Still, when I think about the people who have meant the most to me and from whom I’ve learned the most, these two women immediately come to mind.

They have laughed, cried, and prayed with me and for me. Their perspective in my life is invaluable. Their age gives them a tranquility about crisis that is refreshing and calming. They have spent decades studying God’s Word and are able to exhort me in the kindest, most gentle manner. They have a gift for telling stories; grandkids, vacation, death, dinner plans, physical weakness, and dreams of the future all flow  through our conversations. In these conversations I’ve learned more about life, being a women, and myself than I could ever have with a pre-determined set of questions.

I rarely leave our conversations feeling like we accomplished “the agenda” and yet, I always leave feeling full in the deepest sense. They share hopes, fears, challenges, and praises with me and asked me to pray on their behalf. I’ve felt the weight of the responsibility of friendship not as a burden, but as a privilege. In the technical sense, I would consider these women mentors. They advise, cheer, support, and counsel me regularly. More than anything though, they are my friends and my life is better for it.

*As a disclaimer, I do not think mentors are bad and I know some relationships last for a specific season or a specific topic, but what if we actively sought to be good friends and not just good mentees?