Many of you may be familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son. In brief, in case you aren’t, the story goes that a man gives his two sons his inheritance before he dies. The younger son, after wasting his fortune, becomes hungry and homeless and returns home with the intention of asking his father’s forgiveness and to beg to be welcomed home and given employment. His father finds him on the road and immediately welcomes him back as his son and holds a feast to celebrate his return.
Redemption, forgiveness, wandering, learning (sometimes, the “hard” way), and returning home. These are some of the powerful points in this story. They are also my experience with AK Child & Family. And they are also some of the spiritual moments our kids go through as they move toward healing and reconciliation with themselves, their families, and their communities.
My journey with AK Child & Family began in 2010 when – through a set of seemingly miraculous “co-incidences”; I was led to an interview with Kelli for the Music Minister position. It was a perfect fit! Kelli, Teresa and I were quite the team; a balance of high energy, quiet wisdom, and childlike chaos! We had a rhythm together that worked beautifully as we found many different ways to connect an experience of Spirituality with the everyday life of the kids.
And then, Life did It’s Thing. After just 6 months, I was called to move out-of-state.
On my last Sunday with the kids, Kelli facilitated a “Good-Bye Chapel” where the kids were given an opportunity to speak a prayer (or whatever they wanted to say) as they attached a thin ribbon to a string. At the end of the chapel, the string – hung like a clothesline – was covered in coloured ribbons. More on this in a moment!
My journey took me to California for one year and then to Idaho for one more. That string traveled with me on my journeys. It was a time of learning, of growing, of discovering who I was as a minister and AK Child – and all of those I encountered – were with me the whole time. Actually, that string of ribbons is draped along my deck, intertwined with my prayer flags. I have always been lifted by those prayers.
When I moved back to Alaska in November of 2012 (and had the string of ribbons hanging from two trees in my front yard!), I was so sweetly welcomed back to AK Child & Family, this time in a completely different role. I tried on the hat of Admin Assistant. It was a new and different kind of hat for me. However, I discovered that it didn’t quite fit too well. And, once again, I left the agency, with thanks and – believe it or not - having grown and learned even more.
And then, it happened. A position in the Spiritual Life Department opened up. Kelli and I met for some hot cocoa and a good chat about what it would mean for me to return to the agency a third time. Again, the spirit of the story of the Prodigal Child was ever-present. I was welcomed home, onto the Spiritual Life team, and was allowed to express my creative and often-times outside-the-box self!
At the same time as I returned to AK Child & Family this third time, I moved to a new apartment and those ribbons went right up on the deck. Those prayers that had carried me far away and then back home were still with me, surrounding me, reminding me.
Once again, life has thrown a curve ball in my direction and – not being very athletic – I am stretching out of my comfort zone to catch it. The Universe is calling me to “Go East, young woman!” (Apparently, The Universe has an interesting perspective on what “young” is!!) Maddie (the magnificent little brown dog) and I are headed to Ithaca, New York for whatever next adventure awaits.
My Gratitude to this agency, to all those who keep it running, to all those who support the youth in our care, to all those who stay awake nights, to all those who attend Spiritual Life activities (even when it really isn’t their “thing”), to all those who work as a team, to all those who balance the budgets, to all those who keep the purchasing department filled with all we need (oh, those flip-flop shower shoes!), to all those who keep everything working and the grounds looking gorgeous, to all those who care for the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of those in our care, to all those who look for ways to improve what we do…..am I forgetting anyone? I thank you. I wish there were bigger words for how I feel. Thank you will have to do, though. You ALL make a difference. You truly do. Please don’t ever doubt it. You – each of you – are Essential. And I See You.
One last thought, before this Prodigal Employee leaves for – what is truly – the last time. Kelli and I were talking about what my Good-Bye Chapel was going to look like. She asked what I wanted.
I didn’t hesitate: I want prayer ribbons.