"Did you know that the Blazers could have drafted Michael Jordan?" I was riffing off of the example sentence in my worksheet teaching common figures of speech in the Bible. "My life would have been so different."
"Wasn't that like thirty-five or forty years ago?" A sweet student asked politely.
"What? No. It was like twenty years ago." As soon as those words were out of my mouth I realized how old I am, and that, in fact, twenty years ago was the reign of the unfortunate Portland Jail Blazers, and that was a decade past the prime of Michael Jordan. "Oh, wait, look it up," I told the kid.
1984. Michael Jordan was drafted in 1984.
Space Jam ended up being a bigger part of my lesson that day in my examples that were relevant to a strangely large portion of my class. Anyone who knew what we were talking about could agree that the new Space Jam missed out because they made Damian Lillard a villain. Okay, maybe I was the only one who cared about that. Listen, sometimes my pop culture references hit and sometimes they just make students laugh at me - but somehow that makes them love me.
After that totally amazing Space Jam lesson, seven seniors came over to my house to make cookies. It happened to be a group of friends that know plenty of embarrassing stories about each other. At one point, the jokes came out hard, and I realized they didn't need to keep going. I stopped the sarcasm and told each student they had to say one affirming and kind thing about the particular girl taking the brunt of the current jokes. After that we moved to the girl who had the second most jokes made about her. Some other people walked by as we were going around, and we added affirmations to them in passing before moving on around the table making sure each person heard seven affirmations of their character. We went right up til dinner time when one of the girls showed me that she'd texted her dorm, "I'm gonna be a few minutes late. Ms. Hewett just won't stop talking" which was not remotely true. I said the least that day, and I was profoundly blessed to watch a holy moment happen as these kids dropped the sarcasm and opened up honestly to share deep and beautiful truths about their friends. One girl teared up realizing she wasn't used to hearing these kinds of words shared.
What kind of words are you sharing? I really was challenged that day to think about the uplifting comments that I make - are they intentional and regular to the people I love and even those I feel less close to? Am I choosing to encourage instead of mock or tear down? Of those seven students at the table that afternoon, five of them have older siblings I've taught. Two of those alumni in particular keep up with me, and I've been privileged to be a kind of bridge as they check in with me occasionally while finding their feet in America. One of them has been at the same university since graduation and had a surface typical experience though I've texted her about some of the under the surface questions she's processing as she makes her faith her own. The other has lived in four states in the past three years, and her life has highs and lows that she updates me on in calls every few months.
Those are just two of the precious kids that I get to keep up with. This morning I woke up to messages from three different alumni. Last weekend I got to skype with my bonus sister who is a student I taught in my very first class at BFA. She's just started a new job after graduating college, and I'm so proud of her. I'm skyping another girl tonight who was in the same class at BFA - and who designed my latest tattoo.
Caylie asked me to mentor her at the start of her sophomore year, and we had tea at my house weekly for three years. When she graduated, we called once a week while she got used to life in Texas after spending the majority of her life in Germany. She also told me how much she hated the "RAFT" metaphor for transition - and how much she hated the word transition. It's a reality in the lives of TCKs, and leaving well is as important as entering a new place well. One of the things that our conversations over the years solidified for me was the unique role and calling God has given me to bridge kids from one place to the next. When my students leave, I want them to know they are sent with joy to the next place, but they are not cut off from the relationships and love that they had in this place.
I also come from Bridgetown. Portland is known for it's many bridges crossing the Willamette River (It's pronounced will-AM-et, damn it). The bridge I chose to have Caylie draw is the Steel Bridge. Fun fact: it's the second oldest lift bridge in North America. It's not the St. John's when it comes to looks, but this bridge is solid. It's a landmark, and I love it. And when students try to burn their bridges with me, jokes on them because I build my bridges out of steel. One student once commented about the "closed for repairs" bridge I have with another student who I had to step back from a while ago - but that bridge will never burn. Anyone close to me knows that alarm on my phone to pray for that specific student at 8pm each night is never turning off; many people have also heard me talk about how his story isn't over.
My story isn't over yet either. I don't know the seeds I'm planting, watering, or cultivating sometimes. There's been a beautiful harvest that I've seen in some lives already, but I saw something incredible happen last night that I could never have dreamed up. First a sentence of context: for months I've been telling students and friends sensitive to the Holy Spirit that if the Lord tells them to tell me to stand up and walk at any odd hour of the night, they should come knock on my window because that's my cue to get out of bed instead of some creeper ringing my doorbell in the middle of the night.
Last night was the wrap up of Spiritual Emphasis Week at BFA, and the worship night ended a little before 10pm. Hannah had said she'd come over for drinks and debrief after, and I was looking forward to hangout and Holy Spirit stories of the week. Sure enough, the Holy Spirit showed up as we sat down at my dining table with drinks poured shortly before a knock came at the door - or was that the window? I moved to the entryway and saw four seniors standing outside my window. When I opened the door, they asked if they could pray for me.
Y'all, the Holy Spirit brought those kids, and we all had a holy moment outside my front door as we prayed together. I didn't stand up and walk, but we all knew the Lord was there, and one of the boys shared about how this week had multiple other moments where he'd seen God answer prayers in new and incredible ways. Last night confirmed for him what God was teaching him about praying fervently and believing God shows up. Praise the Lord.
As we kept talking and praying, one other guy shared an image he felt from the Lord of a blindfold being removed, and we prayed for people to have new vision. The four guys shared their hearts for two of their peers who aren't walking with Jesus, and we realized this impromptu prayer meeting was for healing more than my body. Those prayers for my body matter; those prayers for other people's hearts matter equally. Hannah and I debriefed after we sent them all home, and we celebrated the movement of the Lord in Kandern and the humbling gift I have of being the physical point that brought those students together to pray fervently for miracles.
The Author and Perfecter of my faith is writing this incredible story where more and more people get to join in my story. There is still more left, more to participate, more to be healed, and I trust in the God of all hope who raised Jesus from the dead that miracles do happen and I can dance in thunderstorms again soon. Will you pray with me today for blindfolds to be removed, eyes to be opened, and courage to come as we step into peace and obey the Holy Spirit? When we pray, the Lord shows up in beautiful and unexpected ways.