Backup. [Jan ’15 Support Update]

I’ve sat down six times in the last two weeks to write what I knew needed to be written– this. My semi-annual support update. And yet each time I’ve deleted my words and walked away from my computer feeling defeated.

This update has been tougher to write than most.

By this time in the school year, I wanted to be able to write beautiful stories about all of the great things God is doing in the school right now. I wanted to write you and say that students are coming to know the Lord in droves, that they are making wise choices, and that they’re all working furiously to finish their high school educations… but unfortunately that’s not where we are right now.

The state of the school is difficult to put into words. In fact, the only metaphor that I can use to explain what’s happening within these walls is to say that we are walking onto a battle field every morning… No. Actually we’re in the middle of a full scale war.

Last semester was heart breaking. I watched as students walked away from God, throwing classroom doors through walls on their way out.

I listened as my co-workers sat across from me, crying out to God, begging Him to please give us a bit of relief from the onslaught of spiritual and emotional attacks we were experiencing.

I cleaned up shards of glass and furniture that was broken and wiped a student’s blood off of a concrete wall.

I stood frozen in time at a student’s candle light vigil and watched as bandanas were pulled over faces and war cries were made to avenge Johnny’s death.

These images and sensations washed over me every time I pulled out my laptop and tried to explain what I am doing in these walls everyday.

But to be entirely honest, on most days I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.

I feel unqualified. Confused. Weak. Ineffective. Exhausted.

I feel like we’re losing battle after battle and somedays, when my faith falters, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to lose the war too…

But yesterday God reminded me that it’s not what I’m doing within these walls that matters– It’s what He’s doing. And even though I may not always see it in the midst of the fight, He is doing great things.

Yesterday when I walked into our Thursday afternoon staff meeting, one of my students was sitting in my usual spot. No one else in the room seemed phased by the fact that Raul* was joining us, so I pulled out a chair and took a seat.

“Now that you’re all here, I want to tell you something.” He proceeded as soon as I sat down. Thinking he was joking around, the majority of our staff let out a little giggle. “God’s been talking to me.” He said, unphased by the laughter.

Confused, I glanced over at my principal whose eyes were fixed on the small 18 year old boy next to me.

“He’s been saying things… Telling me that I need to talk to the kids in this school and show them that they can stop doing what they’re doing.

I get it; I used to be just like them. They don’t care if they do their homework. They don’t care if they hurt people. They don’t have anything to lose. But God has been telling me that I need to tell them my story. The story of how He saved me from myself. “

As the words came out of his mouth, I sat there stunned, mentally cataloging the change I’ve seen in him over the last two and half years– specifically since he gave his life to Christ the summer before last.

Raul.

This is the kid who threw his binder at my head his first year and came to cooking class kicking and screaming. (Literally.) The kid who tried to throw a computer at me when he got frustrated by his writing project. Wait, wait, wait… The same kid who literally had to be carried out of my classroom IN HIS CHAIR because he refused to leave the room when I tried to send him to the principal for threatening another student. The kid who has probably made me lock myself in my classroom and cry more than anyone else in my teaching career.

Yes, this was the kid sitting next to me, telling my peers and I that God had changed him and that he wanted others to experience that kind of change.

I could hardly believe it.

Yet there he sat, requesting a day in chapel to speak to his peers.

“I know you guys have had it hard lately.” He continued. “I don’t say much and neither do you, but I can see it in your eyes. You’re tired and hurt and need backup. And God has called me to back you guys up– to shine light into this school through the trials and tribulations He’s brought me through. So if you need me to set someone straight, let me know. God’s given me a pretty good story and I’ve got your backs.”

As he slumped back in his chair and carefully folded his hands on the table in front of him, he started to get blurry.

Per usual, tears were welling up in my eyes– but for the first time in a long time they were tears of joy and relief, not of sadness or fear.

I could tell you a million different stories about Raul’s time at DSS, but the thing that struck me the hardest (other than the obvious calling that God has put on his life) was the fluidity with which he spoke.

Three years ago, Raul came to us as a 15 year old with a second grade reading level. He struggled to communicate basic ideas, and yet there he was next to me using the word “tribulation”… in the right context… in a complete thought… that actually made sense…

That, in itself is a miracle.

Not only is God working in my kids’ lives spiritually by drawing them to Himself, but He is working miracles through the rigorous, individualized academics provided within our walls. And that is why I continue to walk onto the battle field everyday.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support my students and I as we engage in this crazy fight. Sometimes it’s dark and difficult, but the fruit is always beautiful.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved at the Street School through prayer or volunteer work, feel free to shoot me an email at KacyLouLeyba@gmail.com and I will gladly get you in the loop.

Or if you feel called to partner with me financially as I continue to walk in faith and raise a chunk of my own salary, you can do so by clicking here and simply writing Leyba Support in the comment section.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making life change possible.

awards2012

*Students name has been changed to protect their identity.

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His Grace is Better.

Grace: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

Everything about who I am as a human being rages against the idea of grace.

I am stubborn. I was educated by the school of hard knocks as well as an inner city liberal arts university. I am a survivor of abuse and of being an abuser myself. I am an intelligent, independent minority woman who in many regards has had to fight tooth and nail to become the person I am today. I am passionate about Love and give everything that I can to those whom I love.

Grace conflicts with nearly everything on that list.

Grace is a gift. Grace is unjustified favor, and in other words, as a child of God, there is nothing I could ever do to earn it or lose it.

Grace is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received from God and for some reason that makes my soul bristle a bit.

Think about it all for a second…

The Son of God came down to this earth in the most lowly of ways– by being born in a filthy barn. He lived amongst the outcasts, healing the sick, loving the poor. He was not popular, glamorous, or concerned with pomp and circumstance as a “good king” should have been, and yet He was and is our Good King.

As one of His last acts of Love, he took the filthy bare feet of His disciples– the same feet that walked miles on end collecting dust, grime, slime, and excrement– and HE WASHED THEM.

Part of me has always understood the beauty of that picture– the Son of Man washing His disciples’ feet and urging them to go and do likewise to the people whom they met.

And maybe it’s because I have a strong stomach and a job history as a CNA, but washing the disgusting feet of others doesn’t bother me. Not literally and not figuratively. It’s what my God has called me to and I love to do it.

I love to serve and tangibly love on people, which is why I work where I do.

I love to sit across from students after they scream and cuss at me, after they throw furniture and break windows. I love it because I get to look them in the eye and tell them that there is nothing that they could do to make me love them less because of the love that Christ has given me for them.

And secretly? I love those moments because I slightly enjoy watching them squint their eyes in disbelief and squirm in their chairs.

They don’t ever get it, this grace that is being offered to them…

And honestly, I don’t either.

Because when it’s time for other people to extend grace to me or wash my feet– my feet that are bloodied from battle wounds at work, covered in salt streaks from my tears, and my own crap that I continuously walk in circles through, I recoil.

I pull my feet under myself and I refuse it.

Fuller, our Bible teacher, has been teaching this story from John in chapel. A few weeks ago, he announced at the beginning of chapel that he was going to wash the feet of all of the teachers. Panicked, I slipped into the back of the room. I’m wearing my running shoes. My feet probably smell terrible. This is totally not happening. There is NO WAY I’m letting him near my feet.

It was stupid, but I refused his act of grace, even though it was a chapel illustration. This being the same man whom I have cried in front of countless times over the years in staff meeting, my brother in Christ whom I literally trust with my life and process so many of life’s silly problems with.

I would let him see all of my baggage, wounds, and tears, but there was no way I was going to humble myself to let him serve me by washing my yucky feet.

(Thankfully in true DSS fashion, one of my advocates had a total meltdown and ran out of the room crying right as Fuller began to call the teachers forward. So naturally, I had to run out of the room after her. I thought I was off the hook from learning that lesson…Turns out I was wrong.)

Three weeks later, the phrase “Believe. Jesus is better.” came up so many times I could have sworn that everyone around me had been reading my mail.

At first, it came out of the mouth of one of my best friends, who just so happens to be on the other side of the world. Three hours later, it came from a friend in my Gospel Community at dinner. Two times in one day? I was willing to chalk it up to coincidence.

Then it came from my roommate… Then during worship at church… Then in a song an old friend sent me. Then during a theology class I’ve been attending on Monday nights. Jesus is better. Pray that your heart would believe.

The icing on the cake of “coincidence” came Tuesday afternoon when I stuck my hand into my mailbox and pulled out a maroon envelope addressed to me with no return address or explanation of where it had come from. The contents?

Jesusisbetter

Like a logical human being, I screamed and threw the letter on the ground upon reading it… And then I went to work on an unfruitful, mad hunt to figure out who sent the letter. Instead of answers, all that I got back were questions.

“How are you responding to this message?” one of my friends asked me after I rattled off my “Jesus is better” chain of events.

“I honestly don’t even know what to do. I don’t know what to think or how to feel or anything. I’m just overwhelmed…” I rambled through iMessenger, desperate for some sort of action I could take to understand this mess.

I do believe, God. I believe in You! I don’t know what the heck you want me to believe?! Something specific? Am I doing something wrong? What can I do to understand?! I sat and thought and thought…and thought.

In the midst of the stress that these last three weeks has caused me, I managed to spin myself into a tizzy.

“Hmmm… I don’t know, Kace. Maybe it’s more than an instruction but a confirmation. Maybe just to rest in the truth and lean into the truth that He is ALL you need.”

Great. Really helpful there bud, I thought snarkily as I read my friend’s text message, trying to process how to practically apply that to my life in addition to this Truth that “Jesus is Better”.

“You know, I can spin myself into a tizzy trying to figure this kind of stuff out…” He continued. “But then I recognize that by trying to figure out why something is happening, I lose focus on the One who is guiding me. Just turn and focus on Jesus… the rest will come.”

Mmmm good. So now I had a friend who was trying to wash my feet with Godly guidance and I was being told to stop working to figure it out and rest… Two more things that make my antsy, sinful heart twitch.

By the time last Thursday evening rolled around, the confusion, panic, and tizziness (I’ve decided that tizziness is a word; deal with it.) was piled just about as high as I could take it, but due to the nature of my month, I was fresh out of tears and emotional energy.

As I sat in rush hour traffic while trying to bust across town for parent/teacher conferences, the song “Jesus is Better” by Austin Stone Worship flipped on through the shuffle on my iPhone and I just about lost it.

“WHAT?!” I shouted in my car as I slammed my palm on my steering wheel. (Sidenote: Shouting in your car at a red light with all of your windows down? Yeah, not recommended… You’ll get some weird looks.) “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?!”

Stop working and running and spinning yourself into a tizzy. Just accept my Grace. My Grace is better than your works, so stop. Accept my Love and know that it will never fail when everything else does. Just accept it and stop trying to fight Me on it already. I am better. Just stop and let Me wash your feet…Let the people I have placed in your life wash your feet. Just stop, Kacy. Just stop and focus on Me…

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Make my heart believe.

Oh Lord, when I wander…

Bindmywanderingheart

The trouble with being a wanderer is that you weren’t created to sit still. You were created for climbing mountains, trying new foods, and hurtling through meadows on horseback.

When you’re a wanderer, you always know somewhere in the back of your mind that every moment of happiness where you are, with the ones you love, is fleeting because you were created to GO.

In one regard, this knowledge makes each of these moments more precious; in another, each of these moments becomes a heartbreak. A heartbreak that this–whatever “this” is– is but a mere season of life.

For the last year and a half as I prepared for my now non-move to Texas, I was reminded of this– the specialness of every Friday night campfire with friends, every roommate breakfast on the porch, and every family dinner.

Somehow these special moments are easier to recognize and appreciate when you are the one leading the change of seasons and going to the “New”.

But what about when you are the one sending the people you love into the New while you stay in the old?

How do you deal with the goodbyes and final in-person chats when you so desperately want to Go too, yet know in the pit of your stomach that now is a season of staying and sending…not a season of new cultures, new foods, or new mountains? How do you send your fellow wanderers well?

~

I’m an emotional human being; always have been, probably always will be.

I cry out of joy when I’m happy. I cry out of frustration when I’m stressed. I cry out of panic when I’m overwhelmed. I cry out of sorrow when I’m sad. (Being such a sap isn’t exactly my favorite quality of myself, but it’s how God designed me and I’m learning to embrace it as I age.)

Monday was one of those crying days. I fell asleep crying Sunday night and woke up crying again Monday morning.

Monday was the day that Amy– my roommate and fellow wanderer, one of my best friends, my sister-in-Christ who has become like a real sister to me over the last two years– moved away in preparation for her journey to live life overseas.

This is the woman who God originally used to dupe me into somehow leaving my heart in countries that I have never visited; the one who I so lovingly say “ruined my life” by dragging me to Perspectives where God broke my heart for the Nations.

And now, after what seems like a long wait (but what has really only been about a year) God is moving her overseas to do His work for the next eight months.

I’m overjoyed for her, really I am. Yet I am so incredibly heartbroken for myself and my community as we essentially mourn the temporary loss of a sister, a roommate, a gospel community leader, and a dear friend.

I admit, the wanderer in me is jealous. Jealous of her leaving. Jealous that she is the one moving into the New. Jealous that this season of her life is becoming what the two of us have prayed about for so long.

I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by our empty white bedroom. Overwhelmed by the barrage of emotions that we so intentionally put off until the moment it was time for her to pack her truck and move away. (Literally, the last moment. We suck at goodbyes.) I am overwhelmed by my selfishness in that I want to keep her forever and not share her with the Nations, even though I say that “I would give up everything” if they only could come to know Christ. Hmmph.

I am sad. Sad that I don’t have my sister-girl to giggle with at night before we go to sleep. Sad that I perfectly quoted a line from Bad NFL lip reading last night and no one seemed to get the hilarity of the situation. I am simply sad that this season of life is over.

As we laid in bed Sunday night before she left, I jokingly told her that when she woke up in the morning, that I would be the one who would be gone, and that she would have to deal with me leaving her. It was my faint wanderer attempt at being the one in control here. The one leaving and going into the New, not the one being left here in the old.

I long for the New. And just like my desire to control this silly situation by being the one to leave, I know that this longing and the way I continuously idolize Going and place it over God is the sickening, sinful junk in my heart coming out yet again.

I long to long for God, and God alone. But oh man, is it hard when I am one who is prone to wander, both physically and within my own heart.

So while the Yarrow Homestead and our group of friends learns how mourn and adjust to this new season of life, while I redecorate our my room, while I find other people to quote stupid Youtube videos back and forth with, I am left with these questions:

Do I trust that God has given me this urge to Go for a reason?

Do I trust God with the life of my wonderful sister-girl, even when we can’t talk about the highlights and struggles of our days each evening?

Do I trust that there is purpose in this season of staying? In the weird conflicted pain of sending my loved ones away when all I want to do is Go myself?

Do I believe that God is Good, even when I don’t get what I want, when I want it?

~

“Jesus, sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Ode to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
And let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above”

(Come Thou Fount)

Adventure & Aspen Trees

LetmebeyouradventureI’ve become a bit of a rambling soul. I think the last several months worth of posts serve to prove that point.

In just the last year I’ve been to eight new states, which translates to me having seen thirty of the fifty United States in my relatively short lifetime.

I know that God has created me to be hungry– hungry for more depth, more adventure, more knowledge, more of Him– as I said in my very first post on this site almost two years ago.

And for that hunger, I am eternally thankful.

It partially pleases me that I’m a hungry rather than a content person because to be entirely honest with you, becoming a content person scares me a wee bit.

In my mind “contentedness” has always equaled an ungrateful heart or a heart that has said, “Welp, that’s enough,” and stopped seeking more, regardless of what that more looks like. I don’t know where the connection came from but contentedness seems like settling to me… and settling seems like stopping the adventure and the life giving joy of the more. Yuck. Who would want that?

But if there was one thing that God taught me on my journey to the bush of Alaska, (one of my ultimate bucket list adventures and by far the traveling highlight of my summer) it was that I can be content in Him because He is my More.

When I am walking through life with Him by my side, God becomes my greatest adventure, my source of joy, knowledge, and depth.

Hiking Mount Tanalian and flying in a tiny 2-seater airplane were both thrilling, yes. But those moments were simply moments, which have now turned to memories: I will always treasure them, but I have become keenly aware that I will never be able to fully re-experience them.

This summer, God has taught me that destinations are just destinations, but walking with Christ is the adventure and journey that has never ceased nor stopped filling my heart with butterflies and joy in the almost eight years that I’ve been walking with Him.

So, for those of you who have asked me the inevitable question that I get asked anytime I get gung-ho on one of my adventures, no. I’m not moving to Alaska either. (Although I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to living in all that beauty at some point. *ahem, God I know you’re listening…*)

Nope. I’m not moving to Alaska and I have officially said no to Texas. So, I‘m putting down roots in Denver.

I don’t know exactly what that looks like right now, but I do know that I have signed a lease and have committed to making this beautiful city my home for another year.

And in true God fashion, once I began to loosen my white knuckles off of grad school and that mis-adventure, He began to open wild amounts of doors for the TeenMOPS program and an art therapy program that I’ve been dreaming of starting up at the Denver Street School this next school year.

So no, as I said two posts ago, I don’t have a plan, but He does and after weeks of wrestling with that fact, He has given me a stupid amount of peace to be able to trust in Him for what lies ahead.

Actually instead of a plan, I continue to have the vision of the beautiful Colorado Aspen trees in my mind’s eye every time I think about where I’m headed in life.

aspens

After doing a ridiculous amount of research about trees, I learned that the Aspen’s roots grow shallowly under ground– just deep enough to keep it stable and receiving the nutrients that it needs to thrive, but shallow enough to where God can scoop ’em up and move them about in times of avalanche or transition without causing much harm to the tree itself.

The other beautiful and unique thing about these shallow roots are that they spread for miles and become interconnected with others over time. As new trees grow, they link roots with their neighbors and shoot out their own little tree sprouts sporadically.

These little tree communities share resources, grow together, and even change their pigments all at once in the fall, creating the gorgeous Autumn colors that so many flock to Colorado to see.

After reading all of these weird tree facts, I don’t think that it is a coincidence that I have wandered into such an absolutely amazing community here in Denver over the last year; between Scum of the Earth and Park Church, I am overwhelmed by the amount of people in my life that bear the image of Jesus and share His Love.

I can’t wait to see how God intertwines my roots with those of the beautiful people that He has already placed in my life and those who I have yet to meet. I pray that all of the little communities that I am so blessed to be a part of would continue to shoot out roots into our city and share our resources with those in need.

I pray that an unprecedented number of young men and women would come to find healing and Love through the redemptive power of Christ at the Street School this next year.

I pray that the colors of our city would change to become more vibrant and that people would see the stunning change that can occur when just one small group falls in love with God and trusts Him with their entire lives…

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Immanuel (Even when “it” sucks)

The-Griswold-Family-Christmas

Sometimes Christmas sucks. Actually, if you’re a part of my beautiful, dysfunctional family, you know that suckage is one of our main holiday traditions. (Well, suckage and the watching of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, as pictured above.) Typically, the sucking sucks so much that I end up bawling my eyes out at some point on either Christmas Eve / Day, then sucking up all the suckage and carrying on about my holiday with a plastered on grin/grimace. This year, the dysfunction and suckage came early, and as I sit here at 4:00 in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, (pre-“festivities”, mind you) I am already emotionally exhausted.

I don’t write this for pitty, trust me, I could pretty much care less at this point. Nor do I write this to bring down those of you that are having a wonderful, non-sucky time with your families. Instead, my main motive of this blog is to pass on the wonderful and snarky words of a fellow blogger & missionary, Jamie. If you too are having a sucky holiday, I advise you to read this lovely blog post on the Fall of Christmas.

I love how Jamie ends her post, and therefore I am borrowing her words to conclude my own; “Jesus didn’t come to fix it all.  He came to be with us in it all.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Blessed are the poor, the mourning, the meek, and the hungry… for The Lord is with us.”

Merry sad Christmas, Beloved. You. Are Not. Alone.
May you celebrate the Birth of Our King today and tomorrow, knowing that He came to live with and within all of us, that we might never be alone in all of our suckiness.
Merry Christmas,
Lou