Saturday, June 30, 2012

When Justice and Peace Kiss 2012 is almost here

 We are days away from starting When Justice and Peace Kiss this summer.

Our theme this year is 
Attitude: Turning it on its Head!
We will be looking at story of Peter throughout the gospels and how his attitude changes.

If you haven't gotten a chance to support WJPK for this summer, its not too late!

We are still looking for financial and prayer supporters. Over the past 6 years we have been able to put on amazing performance and a great experience for these youth solely due to generous donors and prayer partners.
If you are all able to support us this year visit and select Fundraiser for Megan Ibarra on the donate page.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I am not going to leave you

Yesterday, I had the full day off so I decided to take a personal retreat up at the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu. This place is absolutely gorgeous. There is not a place to sit with a bad view. 

I wanted to share how God met me in some pretty powerful ways. I know this post is long, so if you don't have time to read it all just read the last big chunk. I was going into the retreat wanting some rest and reflection on why this year was so hard for me. What I got, was far more than I could have expected.

When I first got there, it was really cold and I wasn't feeling great. All I wanted to do was crawl back into my car. But I did not drive all the way up to Malibu to hide in m car. But I felt like God was saying, "Its ok, if that's what you need. We have all day." So I took a nap in my car and felt much better after that.

1st Labyrinth Experience: Denying Myself
Then I walked through the prayer labyrinth (picture above). As you walk in you are supposed to let go of worries, confess sins, and give over your burdens. In the center, you enter into God's presence. As you talk out, you walk out into the healing and love that God has given you. As I walked in, I was trying to give over the difficulties of year. When I was in the center, I felt like God was showing me more of why it had been such a hard year for me. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I couldn't really be myself a lot of this year. With my afternoon students I had to be very strict with discipline and couldn't just be silly with them most of the time. I was very quiet at m morning job, not able to use a lot of my giftings. I felt very exhausted outside of work, not able to be as friendly and caring as I would have liked to be. God was also showing me that part of that was just circumstantial, but another part of that was sacrificial. In Mark 8: 34 is says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." There are ways this year that I felt I had to deny myself to follow Jesus. My kinders needed to be loved through disciplining them. I wasn't going to be doing them any service to let them go crazy and hurt each other. It may not have been how I wanted to interact with them all the time, but it's what they needed.  And God showed me ways that their behavior and maturity had improved throughout the year. He was also showing me ways that it was not all disciple and "mean." There are ways that I was able to see my students uniquely in their talents and foster those skills. I had 2 boys who loved art, so I was always thinking of new art projects for them. There was one girl who was an amazing reader. I made her the narrator of our play. There was a boy who liked dinosaurs and I let him be the dinaosur puppett in our play. I also saw ways that God really provided ways for them to be in their element and do what they love. There were dance classes, basketball games, and gymnastics that they look part in. The Lord was really caring for each of my students uniquely and developing them in things that they love. 

Remembering a Year Later
Also as a side note, God was able to really affirm me of the last day of school. One of the 1st graders (who I had last year as a kinder) came up to me and said, "Miss Megan do you remember last year when you gave us those notes that said what we were good at, and you said I was good at art?" And another near by 1st grader said, "Yeah, I remember that too." It particularly meant a lot coming from this student, because he has been through a lot in his few years of life and I just really love him. I specifically remember wanting to affirm him in his art because he struggled with people saying his art was not good. It meant a lot that he remembered that note a year later. 

The rest of the day was mostly just very restful, worshiping and being with God. Usually retreats go like this for me: God, "I want you to rest." Me, "But I have these questions that I need answered." God, "But I want you to rest first." I felt very blessed that God was able to answer my questions first so I could spend the rest of the day just resting and not worrying about if my questions will get answered. 

Fears of Being Myself
 God was also bringing up throughout the day some fears that I have about being myself around other people. I noticed at the retreat that I would not sing if there were other people around. My fear is that, if I am really myself I will be alone and not understood. I always feel like I most myself when I am with my younger sister because she will be goofy and silly with me. But with others, I fear I will just be alone. It easier just to be mediocre version of myself that is more "socially acceptable."

2nd Labyrinth Experience: The Presence of Jesus
As I was getting ready to leave I wanted to go through the labyrinth one more time. I really loved this type of prayer and don't get to do it in this way very often. As I walked in, I was trying to give over to God my fears about being myself around others. Once I got to the middle, I began to worship. I put my hands out and began to feel something heavy on the palms of my hand. It then felt like I had holes in my hand the way that Jesus did when he was crucified. I felt prompted to sing the song that goes, "The nails in your hand, the nails in your feet, they show me how much you love me." At some point during the song, I just began to weep. (Side note: The night before I had a dream that the teacher from Glee was my adoptive/foster father. I had done something wrong and was coming to him and he hugged me. He really hugged me. Strange, but felt significant.) Then I felt God's presence come and hug me in that moment as in the dream. I could FEEL his arms around me. This is very very significant for me because I rarely feel the presence and love of God and I have been asking him to be able to experience that for a while. I can not remember a time when I have felt it this strongly. I wept more. Jesus said, "I am not going to leave you." I feared that this moment would soon pass and I would no longer feel his presence. But he just kept saying, "We can stay here as long as you need, I am not going to leave you." I stood there for a while weeping into his chest. At some point he asked me to open my eyes. I didn't want to open my eyes because I was afraid that it would seem less real and the moment would pass. But he said to me, "Trust me, I am not going to leave you." So I opened my eyes. I didn't feel like I "saw" Jesus or anything but I could still feel his presence with me holding my arms. Then it felt like he grabbed my chin and said, "I need you to belive that this is real. This is not a dream. I am here with you. I am not going to leave." So we stood there for a bit as I tried to really believe that this was real as he just told me over and over again that he was not going to leave me. As I calmed down, I turned to leave the labyrinth, but I couldn't leave. I knew that once I left, the moment would pass and be gone. But just just said, "No. I am not going to leave you." And he showed me how he would be with me all the way to the car. I could barely move. I took very slow steps walking out of the labyrinth. I felt very strange. But Jesus was talking to me the whole time saying, "Go as slow as you need to, take your time, its ok." And I told me, "Please don't let Satan lie to me and tell me that his was not real." And he said, "I wont, I don't let him hurt you." He was even joking with me saying, "Your are still yourself. I didn't put a magic spell on you," because I was just feeling so weird, like I could barely move. Finally I made it out and then went to go write everything down before I forgot anything. I was definitely one of the most powerful, personal experience with Jesus that I have ever felt. Although I don't "feel" his presence now as I did yesterday, I am trying to choose to believe that he is still with me and will never leave me.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Directing and Stage Managing Children

The after school program that I wok for has a theatre class that all of the children in the program attend. At the end of the year they have a big production which all the children are supposed to be in.There is a theatre teacher who comes once a week to teach this class. I do not teach this class but I do teach theatre separately to my kinders. As we start to get ready for the big show, I help out the theatre teacher since I have the background and they usually need a staff person who knows the show. About three weeks before the show was to be performed, the teacher had it with our students. I totally understand because our school has very difficult kids. Their behavior is often chaotic, unfocused, disrespectful, and  disengaged. At this point, they still didn't know a lot of their lines, the dances were sloppy, and transitions were just basically not happening. The theatre teacher walked out on our rehearsal one day.  In some sense I can totally understand the exhaustion and frustration. However, in another sense, you can't just give up on kids. These kids especially have probably already experienced a lot of people giving up on them. For the next week or two I took over running the rehearsal to give the regular theatre teacher a chance to get some space from them and  regroup.  With a little positive encouragement from me, a lot of prayer, and some extra rehearsals, they were getting caught up to where they needed to be. The theatre teacher was able to come back a lot more encouraging to them. I was very grateful for this as I think the kids needed to see that she had not given up on them.

Although it was a challenging experience for me, it was also in a way really life giving. This was the biggest production I have ever directed (even though it was only for a couple of weeks). It was really rewarding to see them improve and actually be excited again to practice. It's hard for me to watch rehearsal where the kids make it seem like asking them running a scene again is like asking them to saw off their fingers.

During our last rehearsal, we had all the kids backstage for the first time to practice how it would be for the show. I was the only one backstage who really knew the show. I was basically the stage manager. It was pretty chaotic and I am embarrassed to say that I did not handle it well. The theatre teacher even said to me, "You are more stressed out than I am." I know this about myself. I know that I get really stressed on performance day and basically look like a chicken running around with my head cut off. I am short with people, really task oriented, and a bit of a control freak. I usually can't even really catch myself in the midst of it to stop and pray because I am just going non stop. It was a good reality check for me when the teacher said that to me. It's very obvious to other people when I get stressed like that.  I don't like that the kids have to get the brunt of most of that. I had some people pray for me that night that I would not operate in that way during the show. Thankfully God really met me on the day of the performance. The kids did very well. Things were still a bit chaotic, but I felt pretty calm in the midst of it. A lot of the other adults involved in the performance lost their minds. They were more out of control than the children. Praise the Lord for protecting me from all of that, because usually I would have been just as crazy as they all were.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Girls and talking

I tried out this new theatre game with my kinders this week and were surprised by the results that I found. Here is the game: Two people stand facing each other and simultaneously start telling a story at the same time. If someone laughs or stops talking they are out.  I had them think of a movie or a book that they knew really well and could talk about for a long time. Its a game of focus, to not let the other person distract you from what you are trying to say.

The result of this game was that the girls were far superior than the boys. The boys were instantly distracted and could not get out more than a sentence before being flustered and losing their train of thought. These two girls at the end of the tournament probably went on for a good 5 minutes about the story they were telling. And remember, you have to talk nonstop, if you pause to think you are out.

My thoughts are that girls in general talk more and communicate more than boys do. I was a little surprised by how dramatic of a difference it was by gender too. I also observed that  kindergartners in particular are very used to talking over each other to get their idea across. They don't raise their hand and wait, they just blurt out whatever is on their mind regardless of whether or not someone else is already talking.  I am interested to see what kind of results I would get with older kids who have more of behavioral framework for not talking when someone else is talking.