Saturday, March 15, 2014

only the beginning of the adventure

Back in the beginning of January, a little Jenn was rushing around like a madwoman trying to figure out her life.  The next semester was quickly approaching, and low and behold, said Jenn didn't know if (gasp) she was going to school.  (As my friend Aubrey put it, "you dropped out? you're a drop-out? YOU'RE MY HERO." um.)

Through a host of last minute and thankfully God-directed decisions, I ended up deciding to take the semester off, booking a flight, and landing on Oklahoma soil all in the matter of...about a week.  It was crazy (and I'm bad at decision-making, ya'll).

So, the question you may very well be asking yourself right around now is...why?  You may have seen my visits with Carlotta and Petie, but that is not, in fact, the sole reason I went to Oklahoma.  I headed out there for staff training for an organization I've been involved with for--wow, five years now.  And that is (tadaaa) TeenPact.

Back in 2012, I staffed my first TeenPact class.  I'd attended the class for two years as a student and simply loved it, but as a staffer...well, I was still trying to get my footing.  My focus wasn't necessarily on the wrong things, but I still had a lot to learn.  We had a tiny class and my brother was there and our intern team was made of some of my favorite people.

Last year I went into my week of staffing TeenPact as an absolute wreck.  I don't mean this in a cocky way at all, but I've never really struggled with insecurity--yet I went into that week feeling more inadequate than I'd probably ever felt in my life.  My fists were almost clenched in disbelief that God could use me in this state, but wow, did he ever.  Jesus worked in and through me that week in ways I never would have anticipated or expected.  I remember talking to my mom on the phone and crying a little bit and telling her this was the first time I'd been happy in weeks.

I know, enough with the melodrama, but all that to show that TeenPact has had a huge impact on my life.  I always say TeenPact people are the best people, and it's true--I am never more inspired and encouraged than when around these passionate, humble people who are in love with Jesus and come together simply on the common ground of serving him.  (I'm like an awkward TeenPact fan girl, can't you tell?)

At this point in time you may well be wondering what TeenPact is exactly that I adore it so much.  I affectionately refer to it as government and Jesus, but a more thorough description would include that it's a hands-on, interactive, engaging class/camp to teach students about their state government, the political process, and having a Christian worldview in the midst of that--as well as the ability, opportunity, and responsibility that we have to be involved and be leaders, even now as young people.  If it sounds dry, no.  It's actually incredible.  We as staffers are often close to the age of the students, which is so humbling that God chose me to be in this position (trust me, I'm so under-qualified).  And that's cool because it means it's not about what I'm able (or unable) to do, but about what God can do with/through/despite me.

Anyway.  When I applied to staff this year, it was kind of on a "we'll see, who knows" basis.  I didn't know if I'd get accepted again, mostly because I'm getting old as far as TeenPacters go.  When I got my acceptance letter back in November, I was pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't until about a week later that I opened the letter again and saw I'd also been asked to travel staff.  Which means, instead of just doing the class here in my own state, I would travel to multiple other states to staff those classes as well.  Needless to say, I was thrilled, but there was also no way I could do school and be gone sporadic weeks, plus it also entailed getting to Oklahoma for staff training.  I kind of wrote it off until Christmas break, when my mom asked me if I'd for sure decided not to travel staff.  "Sigh. Yeah."  "Are you going to regret that?"  "...YEEESS."

So we all know how that story ended, thus the crazy trip to Oklahoma (GUYS I REALLY LOVE OKLAHOMA) and the college drop-out (not really, because although I love what I'm doing now, I'm also so pumped to go back to school in the fall because I love what I'm studying).

Staff training itself was an interesting week, it being my first time but my third year staffing.  I was sick the whole time which was rough and made me anti-social, but I also got to reconnect with some of the greatest people and meet a lot more from all over the country, which is cool because even though I won't staff with the majority of those people...we're a team.  I love knowing more TeenPact people this year than ever before.  And I don't think you'll go anywhere else to be trained for a position and be told that you are nothing, because Christ is everything.

My first class was a few weeks later in February, in Virginia.  Virginia has two classes, and I got assigned to the first one.  At first I was kind of bummed, because I knew the majority of staffers on the second week.  Turns out God knows better than me, go figure, because I wouldn't have traded my team for anything.  Richmond is where the TeenPact main office is, so people from the office came to see us/the class during the week, which was nerve-wracking as well as exciting.  The first week was also the smaller one, so it was less stressful logistically.

There were challenges including deathly untalkative students (makes it so hard to connect!) and smelly lodges (seriously bro) and some awkward transitions, but man oh man.  What a week.  I don't think I've laughed so hard in a long, long time.  Our staff team had so much fun together, and maybe it's me being older and more comfortable as a staffer back for year three, but I clicked as friends with my staff team in a way I never had before.  So, so grateful for that wonderful, hilarious group of people.

my Virginia team

My second class was the first week of March in Missouri.  Mind you, I've been driving to these classes (without a smart phone) and boy oh boy have there been adventures.  I had to get to Jefferson City a day early because of impending doom (aka an ice storm), which was so sweet because it meant an extra day of hanging out with my team (even if I did miss half of the swing dancing event I was at, sniff).

This team had my heart, man.  And the class  I've never before seen students come, day one, so eager and ready to learn, not just from the class, but from Jesus.  They were so earnest, that's the word I keep coming back to.  While, again, there were challenges and undeniable rough patches...God was incredibly present.  I've never seen a class with so many stories of God meeting people and making himself known, and that was incredible to be a part of.  And my staff team--oh, heart.  They inspire me a lot.  I was the oldest one and yet felt like I had so much to learn from each one of them, and saying goodbye was the worst.  It's funny, because Missouri was another class I was just so-so excited about (what's even in Missouri?), but those people...they did good things in my life.

my Missouri team

RANT TIME: having friends all over the country and saying goodbye with an attached "I don't know when I'll see you again" is theeee worst.  So rough.  Dang.

So.  Yeah.  That's the first half of my season.  I have at least two more classes, maybe three, and I'm so so grateful this is where God has me during this part of life--it's seriously the best decision I've ever made.  I can't wait to see how he continues to work, and I'm so glad this adventure is for and about him, not me.  And this is only the beginning.

Peace out.

(photos from staff training, VA1, and MO, in the most confusing order ever.)
(my post title is also the title to an epic song on the Narnia: LWW soundtrack.)
(bless, praise be, bro, God bless America, oh my joodness. there I said it.)


  1. Wow, so cool to see how God is working in your life! It's just awesome when things start to come together and be at least a little less irritatingly confusing.

  2. 1. I made it on your blog. LIFE MADE.
    2. Your shoe choice kills me. Sweet kicks.
    3. You're pretty awesome yourself. I love reading about your journey of deeper trust, as I've been walking much the same path. We need to Skype sometime.

  3. cool pictures bro. also YAY THIS MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY COZ IT MAKES YOU REALLY HAPPY AND THAT'S SO GOOD. skype sooon?? I'll email ya mmkay?

  4. AHHH I am so jealous! I didn't apply to be a staff (because of college) and I'm too old to go as a student, so my sibs are off having a grand time at our state class this week and I am here sad I'm missing out this year. TeenPact is great, and its people are so, so, awesome.


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