I could talk for hours, but it seems like an impossible task to slow me down long enough to write a blog these days. So, I am sorry for how long it has taken me to write this blog. Many incredible things have happened since the last entry. I have completed the yearbook, taken my senior editor and co-editor to the printers (in France), attended 2 beautiful banquets, and spent my last weekend subbing in the dorm for the school year.
At the beginning of the year, I swore to my yearbook students that I would not be spending a lot of my “spare time” on the yearbook. Last year, I spent all of spring break in my classroom, fixing errors. I wasn’t available during spring break this year. So, my staff was going to have to work harder. Yet, when we hit crunch time, I found myself attached to this project. There are many contributing factors to the late nights and all nighters that I spent glued to an iMac. To begin with, I found that I am a perfectionist in many ways. I couldn’t just let errors remain. Second of all, I was blown away by the creativity of this project. I wanted to do everything I could to contribute. Lastly, I became obsessed with making this book as great as it could be, for the ones that I love.
(Check out the 2013 YEARBOOK page for a peek inside the 2012-13 yearbook)
My small group is incredibly involved with this project. I wanted this book to be the best that it could be for them. They aren’t the only important people who have been a part of this publication though. All of my students are special to me. I’m not lying when I say that I love them. I truly do. I have a special bond with most of these students. I know their lives.
So, I wanted their hard work to be seen. I didn’t want people to be distracted by the minor problems that existed.
Another reason for my perfectionism is the fact that this yearbook is about to be carried around the world. Students and staff will take these yearbooks back to over 50 countries. Their books will be a testimony to the school year that they lived through apart from their family. While the relationships that I have built with students seems like the most important part of my ministry at BFA, I know what these books mean to everyone. The yearbook is a family album, it is a personal testimony, it’s a recruiting tool, and it’s used by most of our staff to share their lives with supporters. You can’t imagine the pressure that comes with the responsibility of using students to produce such valuable material.
Despite the late nights that I put into Phases 2013, this yearbook is produced entirely by students. Two students that have dedicated their senior year to this project are two of my small group girls, Grace and Michaella. Not only did they lead other students in the classroom, but they spent many extra work days outside of school hours working on this. So, it should come as no surprise that these are the two students that I chose to take with me to the printers, in France.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, one month ago, Grace and I left Germany to meet Michaella at the airport in Basel, Switzerland. From there, the three of us, and Rémy (a BFA graphic designer from Switzerland) drove to the printers in the south of France. Even typing these words is surreal. It isn’t uncommon to be in these three countries in one day, but it’s strange to write about.
The road trip alone is worth mentioning. The scenery was fantastic. We drove past Alps, castles, and beautiful rolling hills. Yet, the lasting memories Rémy and I will have are of two crazy teenage girls laughing and making music videos in the back seat. It’s amazing what Rémy put up with. From Justin Bieber to Taylor Swift, he heard it all on this trip.
Once we arrived in France, we relaxed. We believed that everything was going to be a piece of cake this year. We had already worked sooooo hard before we left BFA. So, it seemed all we had left to do was sign the proofs. This was far from the truth. Michaella and Grace got to work at the printers, editing every little thing that looked wrong. Together, they combed through the yearbook and found things that had slipped through 25 editors. We worked on fixing errors from 9am till 4am the day we spent in the print shop. So, it was with great relief that we spent the afternoon in Lyon the next day. We looked around the city but only had the energy to eat, really. Either way, it was a special opportunity to spend with two girls who mean very much to me. All in all, it was a terrific trip. I owe so much to Rémy for driving us to the printers, coordinating prices with them, and for all of his translation skills.
Right before this trip, I had the privilege of attending the Junior-Senior Banquet at a local church, bar, restaurant, motel, and outreach center called G5. I really mean it when I say that this was a special privilege. In order to keep the event focused on celebrating seniors, the guest list was limited to juniors, seniors, and the adults who sponsored their classes. In most public schools, I’m sure faculty and staff try to avoid being asked to chaperone homecoming and prom. Yet, most adults would like to be a part of this special occasion. I, myself, was able to attend the event because of my involvement in the professional photography.
When everyone was signing their groups up for tables, I found myself wondering where I should sit. I did not realize that the adults would have a special table for themselves. So, I sat with students instead. I split my time between two tables of students that I have spent a lot of time with this year. As fun as it would have been to spend the evening with my friends, I was really thankful for the evening I had with the students instead. Many laughs were shared and I have a special memory to look back on now.
The second banquet I attended at the end of the year was the staff appreciation dinner. As luck would have it, we celebrated this dinner at the same venue as the Junior-Senior Banquet. I was so thankful for this because of the delicious food and beautiful space. The night we shared as a faculty and staff was restful, sentimental, and full of great conversations. We celebrated the staff who would not be returning next year and the staff who had remained at BFA for a significant amount of time. I fought back tears while friends were brought up on stage to have their praises sung. I could not believe how blessed I had been to know those fine people.
We live in such a transient community in the small town of Kandern, Germany. Since The Black Forest Academy is a missionary community, people are always coming and going. Faculty and staff are perpetually dealing with finance challenges. These struggles cause BFA employees to come and go every year. Very few people are able to sustain enough support to be in this community longer than 5 years. I am astounded by those who have been able to remain here for 20 years.
This banquet was the beginning of a lot of hard goodbyes. While we didn’t have to part ways yet, the reality of what was to come set in for the first time. I had been a part of ministry with so many of the staff members that we were celebrating. I had spent my evenings and weekends off with them. We had lived life together and, like the students I would soon say goodbye to, we were soon to part ways without knowing when we would ever see each other again.
As the end of the year began to come to a close with these events, I found myself packing for my last weekend at the dorm. I had spent the last weekend of most months at Storch dorm in Holzen, Germany with an amazing group of girls this school year. I spent most of my Monday nights there as well, subbing for the RAs who had the night off every week. Yet, I found the weekends to be more enjoyable. I went to the dorm on Mondays to eat dinner with the girls, but my presence was more about serving the dorm by baking and making lunch prep available for the girls. Subbing on the weekends gave me the opportunity to really sit and talk with the students. Some of my favorite memories at Storch dorm included these moments: staying up late with Gracie (talking about her family, making funny songs on my ipad, and laughing so hard that we cried), having deep discussions and prayer time with Alesia in her room, rapping cool songs like Club Can’t Handle Me right now for the girls, making a fool of myself trying to play Just Dance, sharing tea time with all of the girls, and snuggling up on the couch while watching movies.
(Gracie, one of my favorite late night buddies. Listen to our auto tuned song recorded from 2am here: http://iamtpain.smule.com/trackid/2284545)
There are so many great times that I could write about, but two things became my absolute favorite part of these weekends. Both of those experiences were shared with one of my good friends, Kristi. Together, we were well aware that we weren’t actually able to help too much around the dorm. Neither of us drive and we don’t typically live in the dorm. So, discipline doesn’t really fall to us either. We were pretty much like the dorm grandparents, or the cool aunts that came once a month. Anyway, as I was saying, there were 2 experiences that we shared every month that became my absolute favorite. The first was saturday breakfast. One of the very few jobs that we had was to get up early on Saturday to make sure that the waffle mix was ready and that all of the fixens were prepared for students to make omelets. When that was finished, we prepared our own coffee and spent 9am till 11am enjoying the company of students who would come and go. These 2 hours were always incredibly peaceful and filled with stories that I will never forget. Students were always eager to talk about the cultures they were raised in and the cultures they would return to in the summer. Being high maintenance has never been an option for most of these students. They all have so many stories of lifestyles that they have learned to adjust to for the sake of their parents ministries.
The second experience that I found most enjoyable was just being present with the students in the living room. Storch has a computer area next to the living room, which has about 4 computers available for the students to use. Across from those computers is a pretty comfy couch. Kristi and I spent our Saturdays at Storch sitting on that couch for hours. Students would talk to us, show us youtube videos, include us in their family Skype conversations, and cuddle up next to us when there was nothing else to do. This may sound like a really boring way to spend the weekend to many of you, but I can assure you that it is one of my favorite things to do. I love all of the ladies of Storch dorm. If I had more time on my hands this past semester, I probably would have come around more often.
In the midst of all of these events, I did everything I could to focus on the moment and not to become sad about doing things for the last time with so many people. I think God gave me happiness during all of these special occasions. However, it was always hard to return home when these events ended. I laid in bed thinking about how much I was going to miss these situations with these specific people all of the time. My heart hurt. It still does.
This isn’t the end of the story though. There is much more to be said. I think that I will save those stories for my next blog (novel).