Halloween Schmalloween.

“Halloween Schmalloween, this day belongs to the Lord and later we’re going to partyyyyyyy”

This was what I tweeted yesterday morning as I sat in the waiting area for my physio appointment.  I have the most bizarre relationship/perspective on the 31st October.  So many memories that make up to how I feel about it.

Before The Husband and I married, both being over-analysers, we disussed everything that we thought would come up in our marriage.  Money, children, ministry, gender roles, pets, did I mention money? So we were smug enough to think we were a step ahead of anything that could catch us off guard.  We were married in the July, and were soon packing up our rented house to move into our own in the late atumn.  Enter 31st October.

It was, as you’d expect, dark outside and we were probably busy packing boxes when one of us realised it was halloween.  Oh.  We’d never really talked over how we’d handle trick-or-treaters.  We decided quickly that we both hated halloween and everything it represented.  But do we answer the door and politely explain that we don’t celebrate halloween?  Do we give out sweets anyway?  Do we blatantly show we’re at home and ignore the door bell?  Or do we turn out ALL lights and skulk around in the dark?

Yes.  As fully grown adults, we decided to do the latter.  It saw us commando-crawling (with a bark of “get-down!”) across the floor each time the door bell rang and reaching up in the dark to peep through a window to see if they’d gone.  We were ready for those teenage ratbags with eggs.  Only they didn’t come.  We ended up taking on mission-“get-down!” for sweet young kids, most of whom were accomplanied by an adult.  I know.  The mind boggles.  We look back now and laugh so much about it, the funniest part being that it was no laughing matter at the time.  It was something we were literally working through as we lived it.

we tried out the strategy that the inlaws use and kept a bowl of sweets by the front door with a sign saying that we don’t celebrate halloween but please take a sweet.  Its seemed to work for them.  Only The Husband paced the floor all evening, peeking through the blinds to make sure the kids were not taking more than their share of sweets! I thought the man was going to have a heart attack…!

And then five years ago, on 31st October I miscarried. The story is told here on my brand-new-not-even-really-ready-to-be-put-out-there secondary blog where I will be piling all my mummy stuff so not to overload it here.  Even now, when October 31st rolls round I feel the sting off loss.

Last year I was sitting thinking about halloween, probably feeling a little wistful over my own experiences.  But I know I was feeling frustrated that children were being exposed to horrible stuff on halloween.  There has been times when I’ve had to walk out of a shop with my girls because the decoration has been so frightening.  I just don’t see what’s fun about death, horror and giving children nightmares.  But at the same time there’s no denying there’s a pull to it; the promise of sweets when trick-or-treating and the opportunity to see your friends at a halloween party.

It’s not enough to say ‘no’ to our children with Halloween.  Telling kids to stay away from something just makes the mystery of it all the more appealing (unless you’re as sensible as Chloe who would not touch anything scary with a barge pole).  If we’re trying to guide our children from something unhelpful we have to provide an alternative, so there’s no sense of missing out.

So last year we launched the Starlight Party at Emmanuel Church, and the church was packed full of kids and their family from both within the church family and from the local community.  Last night we celebrated the Starlight Party’s second birthday.  I felt like my heart would swell out of my rib  cage, I was so thankful for a team of about 30, that worked tirlessly with smiles on their faces.

And we pulled it off! Kids loved it and their family loved it.  I can’t say I’m a little relieved the planning is behind me but it without a doubt it was completely worth it.

 

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Be you.

Last night I was telling a bunch of teenager to just be themselves.  They have so many expectations thrown at them, most of which would fundamentally change who they are.

Their hairs are numbered.  They’re made the way they are on purpose.  And the best way they can live life to the fullest is just to be who they are and not try to be someone else.  It frustrates me so much because it sounds so cliched.  Just be yourself.  What is it that makes it so hard to sink in?  It’s something  I still struggle with as I approach 30!

Sometimes youthworkers are compared to disneyland staff.  You just expect to see enthusiasm and energy, right?  I remember, back when I was training to be a youth worker, one of my line managers at county council told me that I need to find my niche to ‘connect’ with young people.  We worked together doing some detached work and he’d just swagger over to a group of young people and…trump! He’d get a laugh or a girly fake-disgust and he’d suddenly he became the jokey/confident youth worker.  I held my wind in and got a stomach ache.

Studying youth and community studies was no mean feat for me.  Walking into a lecture/seminar felt like walking into the lions den each day.  The course was full of ‘out-there’ people and, well, it was never dull.  I would have hid under the table if I thought I would have gotten away with it.

At the end of the three years, everyone was awarded a certificate.  Mine was “the shyest youth worker”.  Cringe.

The things is I’m not actually that shy.  I was just putting myself up against these massive personalities and expectations of a youth worker and decided that I didn’t match up to it, so took a step back.  It shook my confidence, visualising this ultimate youth worker that I’m supposed to be…

I wonder if there are a bunch of people that would be so influential in young people’s lives but think they just aren’t…enough.  Not young enough.  not cool enough.  Not loud and flamboyant enough.  And that’s really sad – the young people miss out on some incredible relationships and they miss out themselves.  I have learned so much from the teenagers I’ve worked with – they push me, challenge me and encourage me more than any one adult has done.

I’m rubbish at pretending – it can get very awkward and has got me into trouble but you can read me like a book.  For a while I battled against it, but then I figured I would just be creating a mask – a more polished version of myself.  How can we, as adults, do that and then expect young people to just be themselves, warts and all??

So I’m not the ultimate youthworker.  I’m not happy and bouncy all the time.  I get grumpy when I’m hungry.  I get PMT’d out.  But I love Jesus with all that I am and I love young people like they’re my own kids (or, ahem, maybe little brother or sister…!).  I don’t feel enough – but I know that His grace is enough.  And when God calls us to something, he’s already figured out that we’re the person to do it – we don’t need to sweat it or question it.  And whatever it is, whether its supporting something already existing or stepping out into new territory, as a very wise Charlotte gambill preached at Cherish Conference this year – we just need to put our hand up and say “I’m in”.