Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I hear the bells of St. Mary's

It's the height of June, so you know what that means... it's the start of wedding season! In fact, last weekend I had the pleasure of going to two weddings in one day! My boss at the camp where I am working had given me special permission to leave town early Friday evening to head out to College Station so that I could celebrate these marriages with my friends.

And what a beautiful weekend it was! When I arrived in College Station, there was a large group of old friends hanging out at the house where I was staying. It's hard to express the joy I felt seeing all of them together again and simply getting to spend a little while in their presence! God is so good to enable us to have little reunions like these to remind us of how He continually blesses us no matter what stage of our lives we happen to be in.

Saturday was a whirlwind of a day, going to one ceremony in the morning, its reception, and then to reception numero dos that evening. When it comes to weddings--other than the beauty of the actual ceremony and getting to witness the love between the husband and wife--the dancing at the reception is assuredly my favorite part! If you know me, you undoubtedly know that I was dancing to just about every song that played. All total I was likely dancing for about 6 hours on Saturday, and it was glorious! Plus it was just nice to be around people who like country music and know how to dance to it!

Although the dancing was the most fun part of the weekend, what impressed upon me the most about these weddings was really the love that you could tell the bride and groom shared for one another. Having known both couples for the majority of their relationships, it was beautiful to see how much their love had grown and how greatly they cared for their (now) spouses. It was such a witness to the hope that when we keep Christ at the center of our relationships, true love can blossom and flourish. As Father Chris said in his homily at Paul and Lauren's wedding, when we keep Christ--who is selfless love Himself--at the center of our relationships, He will help us to be His witness of love to our spouse and to the world.

I am excited to see the fruit that the Lord will bear through the marriages of these couples that He brought together Himself! Pray for all who are married, engaged, or discerning marriage! And to my dear friends, Lauren & Paul and Erin & Mike, rest assured of my prayers. May God bless your marriages abundantly and keep you always in His tender care.

An Irish Wedding Blessing
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
The rains fall softly upon the fields.
May the light of friendship guide your paths together.
May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home.
May the joy of living for one antoher trip a smile from your lips,
A twinkle from your eye.
And when eternity beckons, at the end of a life heaped with love,
May the good Lord embrace you with the arms
That have nurtured you the whole length of your joy-filled days.
May the gracious God hold you both in the palm of His hands.
And today, may the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Teacher heaven

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently working at a summer camp in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I worked here in 2008 and 2009 as a teaching assistant for Algebra I, but this year I'm switching things up and working in the geometry classroom. Even though the kids have only been here since Sunday, already it seems like we've been here a week!

Sunday was move in day for the students, so starting around 10am, all of the staffers reported to the parking lot to begin moving kids in. We have 151 campers this year, and there was scarcely a moment when we didn't have a trunk or suitcase to lug up 3 flights of stairs in 100 degree heat! After about 6 hours, 5 water bottles, 4 gatorades, and likely buckets of sweat, I finally had finished my move-in duties.

One of the things that I love about my job here is that I get to work so closely with a small group of students. There are 14 in my class and this enables me to get to know their personalities and mathematical abilities rather quickly. I'm also in the classroom with them for more than 100 hours throughout the program, so of course I'm going to get to know them super well! I also get to work closely with an RA group in the dorm, and even though I don't have to, I enjoy going to dinner with them and visiting with the guys when they are in the dorm. Already I've probably met about three-quarters of the boys in the program and am remembering now how good I am with names. I think it really makes a difference to them that I go out of my way to get to know them and check on them.

Of course, I love this job because it reminds me how much I love learning, teaching, and working with students. It's a satisfying feeling to work with nerds, help them to embrace their intelligence, and reveal to them that being smart actually is pretty cool. ADVANCE is a place where everyone can reveal their true selves and be completely accepted, even with all of their eccentricities. Hah. In fact, that's what people celebrate here!

It's funny too, because the preeminent eccentricity of my personality that presents itself here is that I am "the Catholic guy." No, not "The Catholic Guy," for you Sirius/XM users. Hah. Just myself. I guess it's pretty cool that my Catholicism is such a part of my identity that people recognize it so quickly! As usual, my Franciscan cross necklace and St. Padre Pio/St. Francis of Assisi key chain spark a lot of questions. Oh, and the rosary ring on my key chain. I even pulled out the rosary from my pocket to explain it a little bit to someone who asked.

And what a great blessing to be able to answer such questions without fear of losing my job! This whole year working in public school I felt like I had to stifle this essential component of my identity. And finally, rather than feeling stifled, it is again celebrated! I think that after this year of teaching I probably needed ADVANCE more than these campers.

Having spoken to my mom the other night, she was excited to hear that I was back to sounding like her "Ben." I'm afraid that all of my stressed out, frustrated phone calls home were quite stressful for her as well. But as I told her last night, ADVANCE is like teacher heaven. Yes, TEACHER HEAVEN! During a meeting with the RA group with which I am working, the boys were getting a little talkative while my roommate, their RA (who is also my cousin!) was talking. I used my "strong voice" and said, "Boys, what is the first rule of respect?" They quickly got quiet and someone responded, "Don't talk when someone else is talking," in a sheepish, little "Oops I got him mad" tone. I LOVED IT. And I actually had to work extremely hard to hold back tears of joy that children were finally respecting me! I'm not used to that after this year. It's so refreshing to see when discipline works.

Several of us on staff have worked in education, and our Assistant Director is so happy to have us here so that we can experience the joy of teaching again. I'm still not sure what God has in store for me this fall, but I know that "God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,

who even at night directs my heart.

I keep the Lord ever in my sight:

since He is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;

even my body shall rest in safety. (Psalm 16:7-9)

May we all trust in the Lord who keeps His promises!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer already? Thank the Lord!

So you know what I do when I get really busy? I stop doing some of the things that I love to do... including writing. Poor choice. I feel like I've neglected the blog so much! But I am back and hoping to write more frequently in the coming months. Perhaps my summer posts will make up for lack of spring posts. Unfortunately this one is going to be a little bit of everything since I am catching up on the last few months of my life.

First, a few prayer requests:
  • Please continue to pray for my sister, who is recovering from her heart attack. She was only in the hospital about three days, and has even gotten to go back to work now... but prayers never hurt!
  • I have a friend who will be going on a mission trip to Africa in about a week. Please pray for her safety and that God would use her on this trip to bring others to Him.
  • My roommate and I are looking for a third guy to live with us because our other roommate is leaving to study to become a pastor next year. Pray for him and that we find a new roommate who will uphold and strengthen us in our lives as devoted Christian men.
  • Please pray that God will lead me to the job he wants me to have for the next year (or two). On the last day for students I found out that I was being affected by the Recovery School District's teacher surplus and would not be working at my school again this coming year. This complicates things quite a bit, but allows me the freedom to consider where God could best use me (and speak to me) in the coming year. I know He has a plan for me, I just need to trust that He will reveal it to me!
Despite the fact that I wasn't offered a contract for next year, the start of summer itself has been quite a beautiful time for me. Not only was the weather in New Orleans great last week, but two really good friends of mine got to drop by for a visit that first weekend of summer! We were able to venture out to Mid-City and enjoy the beautiful weather at Bayou Boogaloo music and art festival, which turned out to be really awesome and totally free! I have certainly discovered that I need to make better use of New Orleans' amazing festivals next year. Perhaps I should schedule the rest of my life around them...

By the way, congratulations Sean and Rebecca on your recent engagement! I can't wait for the wedding!


Getting to work on my own schedule the past week was such a nice change of pace. I was able to clean my room, give away a bunch of old stuff, and work on my certification portfolio. Also, Sean started teaching me guitar, so I got to begin each morning practicing my skills (or lack thereof) on the porch. I think I've gotten pretty good at those four chords, but perhaps I need to add to my gig bag. I have been working on learning the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and one of my roommates taught me a portion of "Shelter" by Jars of Clay. Of course, I didn't have much time to work on this because I had to complete my certification portfolio! It was a behemoth to produce, but when I finally finished at 4am Tuesday, I was glad to truly have the first year of teaching behind me. Thank God for that!



Crazy story. My little brother graduated from high school last Saturday. It's so hard to believe that the last of the Williamson clan is going to college! One of the honor graduates had a beautiful reflection on a poem by Linda Ellis called "The Dash", which talked about how important it is that we live our lives to the fullest and make sure that we spend our lives doing what really matters -- loving those around us, committing ourselves to work worth doing, and recognizing the beauty around us.

Anyway, I'm so proud of my brother! His graduation also afforded me the opportunity to see a lot of family that I wouldn't have otherwise seen... so thanks for that kiddo! It was great to be home, but the time was all too short because on Wednesday I had to report to my summer job in Natchitoches. It is great to be back at camp and have so many old friends to reacquaint with, but I was hoping to have a little bit more time to spend with my family before having to report to work.

Regardless, here I am at ADVANCE! We as a staff have been preparing for the arrival of the students the last few days and the dorm is really starting to come together. I am excited to meet my new students and residents and anxious to reunite with my old kiddos. They all come on Sunday, so tomorrow will have to be a day of rest!

For about the next month I will be here... so I will temporarily be the "Itinerant Catholic!" No worries, the Crescent City still lies in my future though! I'll be back in late July! And I'm certain God has great things in store for me in the coming year!