Let me first start off this post by saying that I'm not sure that I can make it through creating this post, the tears might just make it near impossible to type, next let me explain that my husband is a Youth Pastor. He has been for over 10 years now and he knows that there is nothing else that he could be doing with his life that could make him happier. I have always helped him when I can and my level of involvement has gone up and down with the craziness of our life. We have gotten to know students really well over the years and have had the opportunity to watch them grow from awkward, immature junior highers to adults graduating from college and starting families. We feel blessed to have had even a small part in their lives.
With that said let me tell you the part that sucks about youth ministry. It is an ever changing life and this is the time of year that things really start to change. We have a new group of seventh graders coming in and it is always funny to watch them squirm the first time that they are expected to sit for a Sunday morning youth service. There is a new group of High School freshman coming in which means a few new students in small groups and their first time at our summer conference (it's always fun to see their reaction to the summer conference that we go to because they never expect the magnitude of impact that it can have, this also creates a different group dynamic every year), and there are High School seniors that we get to celebrate all that they have accomplished and help prepare them for what is to come. And every few years I find a couple of students that I really spend time with and become close to and this is when it gets difficult for us.
This may be the hardest year yet... you may have seen me post pictures of these two before but here is a recap of the last year. I was blessed to be asked by Gabrielle Palayes to shoot her senior pictures, here is one of my favorites...
She is an absolute sweetheart and one of those girls that you can't help but want to hang out with. We had a blast the day that we went out and shot these pictures and I only wish that I knew all of the photography skills that I know now back then!
And then a couple of months ago they asked me to do a best friend's graduating shoot which just happened to coincide with my photography class so they got to be my guinea pigs for an afternoon.
This turned out to be one of our favorites and what you can't tell is that one is wearing an Edward shirt and the other is wearing a Jacob shirt!
Clarissa also asked me to take pictures of her and her boyfriend for their Senior Prom. We went into her beautiful backyard and took some sweet pictures of them.
These two are so adorable together that it makes you sick! lol Clarissa is so gorgeous inside and out it's no wonder she was a princess.
And now these two, that have been best friends since they were kids, have both graduated from High School in the past week. Here is one of my favorite photos that we got...
This picture just says so much about how far they have come together and I know that they will go so far in life and always have each other to lean on. They also know that they will always have me! They have also declared that I am their lifetime photographer (name the time and place and I will be there!).
This is where my heart is torn: one half is so proud of them for all that they have done, who they have become, and excited to see what more they can do in life; and the other half is sad that they will no longer be here on Thursday nights for small group, CIY just won't be the same without them, and the youth room will seem a little less bright without their smiling faces there. Just keep typing, just keep typing... This is our job in ministry, to help these kids navigate jr. high and high school while building a relationship with Jesus and each other so that they can go into the world and make a difference. And I have been so blessed to have been a part of these two girls' lives for the last couple of years, and I know that they are not going far, but now the relationship shifts. No longer are they students and I am one of their youth leaders, now they will be members of the church and I am a friend that is here whenever they need me (thank you Lord for facebook and texting!), and hopefully I will get to still sing on the praise band with them once in a while! This is when we have to keep moving forward, appreciating the past and the moments that we have shared, relying on the grace of God in the present, and trusting in Him for all that the future will hold and the new relationships that will occur.
I love you girls so much! Congratulations on graduating and surviving High School, may God Bless you in all that you do and thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me be a part of your life. He could not have given me two more incredible people to help heal me and give me the confidence to once again do what God intended us for.