Monday, October 22, 2012

On Joining the Girl Scouts

As I grow as a Carmelite, I'm learning how to trust my heart above my head. I'm learning how to be flexible inside God's Will rather than sticking to more comfortable black and white way of thinking like the Pharisees. It's an uncomfortable transition, but one with great benefits. This is a story of one transition.

Five years ago, when my oldest daughter was in pre-school, I wanted her to join the Girl Scouts. My plans kept coming to dead ends. After I started reading Catholic blogs, I found out a lot of stuff about the Girl Scouts ties to Planned Parenthood that I hated. "Well, God must not want my girls in the Girl Scouts..." I thought. I wore my non-participation as a badge of honor. I boycotted Girl Scout Cookie sales. When at last a troop was formed down the block from our City Apartment, Hannah and I wore the sacrifice of not belonging. "Oh we can't do Girl Scouts, we're Roman Catholics..." we said.

Last year we moved to a small city in West Virginia. My son joined the Boy Scouts. My two oldest daughters and I watched his adventures with wistful stares--like little kids with their noses pressed against a forbidden toy store window. "Oh won't it be fun to go camping together, Mom?" I told Hannah and Maria, to keep praying. "We'll find something like that soon!" There were two American Girl Troops in nearby towns, but there was no way I could drive there while I was pregnant. My daughters had another enforced, holy wait as the elder siblings in a large family.

Late this summer, I started looking around for a holy "Girl Scout like" troop to join. I started getting this whisper in prayer, "join the Girl Scouts itself." I thought that must be wrong. Hadn't God been telling me NOT to join the Girl Scouts for years? So was this new directive wrong, or did it just mean I wasn't supposed to join the troop in my old neighborhood? To make it even more confusing some families in my small parish started talking about founding an American Girl Troop in my church. This was the total answer to my prayer--a safe, Catholic organization that would be totally comfortable for my kids and easy for a home-schooling Mom to fit into her schedule.

God told me again "I want you to join Girl Scouts to be a missionary..." (God doesn't speak to me straight out, He just sort of floats soft, quiet ideas in my heart. This methods of giving messages can be very confusing, especially when they don't match up to what other Catholics are doing around me). So a lady at my church actually got mad at me--because I wasn't willing to help form a troop in our own parish. That was really hard for me. Because every fact she cited about why Girl Scouts was bad made intellectual sense to me--but I was just going against my natural instincts based on this "hunch" from prayer.

The first day we came to Girl Scouts I was shocked. It was a huge troop--50 girls, and they were all from poor families. I came home to tell Jon, "I know why I'm supposed to go here for God, but this is not going to be a comfortable fit at all. Should I get a new troop?"

I kept going and it was really humbling. This troop is all about "the girls." These Moms have so much on their plate, but they keep showing up for love of their girls. Sitting in the meetings, I overhear stories that are exactly like waiting room of my old Legal Services office. "My phone got shut off for a $400 bill, you can't call me until next pay day?" Or "My SSI check got tangled up, been going on 8 months now...."

Girl Scouts is where the needy girls are in my town. They are not in the American Girls Troop at the big Catholic Church one town over. I show up on Wednesday nights--often exhausted from hours of caring for Baby Abigail, and I give love. I get to watch my two little daughters, age 9 and 5, be missionaries of God's love with me.

Saturday was my town's big festival parade--the Apple Harvest parade. My girls got to wear their uniforms for the first time and march in the parade. It was totally crazy being their for 5 hours, while still nursing a teething six month old. There were a lot of boring, hard moments where I was like 'WHY am I doing this Lord!" But that picture is a reason.

So my troop has some pretty hard pressed Moms. One of their ideas  is that the girls were supposed to sit quietly on the hay bales until the parade started. After two hours of waiting, the girls started getting restless and the threats to get kicked off the float started coming down. I spoke up and caused trouble. "There's a field over there. Do you mind if I take the girls out to play some games?"

So I became the unofficial "Games Leader" of my Scout troop. This is a picture of my girls and their troop playing Red Rover. The cheerleaders behind us came over to play with us. It was a beautiful sunny October day. None of these girls had played Red Rover before  and they had so much fun.

Later we marched in a parade through my City and it was unbelievable. There were so many girls, and Moms, and Grandmamas who flashed beautiful smiles when our homely float passed by. There are wannabe Girl Scouts everywhere. I'm so encouraged to get even more girls to join our troop. I told Jon later, "if we had marched as American Girls, it wouldn't have been the same." We wouldn't have had that same access to people's hearts.

Girl Scouts is 100 years old this year. Please say a prayer that it will be cleansed and renewed. Our holy Bishops started investigating Girl Scouts for alleged improper contacts to Planned Parenthood this May. (At first I was scandalized by this, but now I think it only makes sense that the Evil One would attack such a great mission from the inside).  Twenty-five percent of all Girl Scouts Members are Roman Catholic. My girls and I will follow the Bishops' final recommendation. If they ask us to leave Girl Scouts, we'll obey. In the meantime, its an honor to pray for this group and an honor to have such an easy way to give love to so many precious girls in our community. 
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  1. My reaction when I saw that you'd gotten involved in Scouting was not a positive one. It was in part because of the whole PP thing, and knowing what the Girl Scouts stand for on a national level. It was also because I don't happen to like the age segregated nature of Scouting in general. It was also because, frankly, I had a horrible time in Girl Scouts as a 5th-8th grader. My Scout troop was much like the American Girl's troop in your area. The leaders were all the wives of the professors at the college in our town, and, quite frankly, I lived on the wrong end of town. We weren't really, really poor, but we were very, very blue collar. The daughters of the leaders got to do all the cool stuff, and those of us who were blue collar never got help with our badges, and never got picked to do the cool stuff. I never got a part in a Girl Scout play (even though I went on to be chosen best actress in my class in high school, and got leads in plays). So, I really didn't like Scouts long before PP. When my kids were growing up we boycotted Scouts and did 4-H instead. In our town (and it's not the one I grew up in) that was a good idea. However, I think where you are, being in Scouts may be a really wonderful way to love some girls and moms that you'd never get to know otherwise. Boy Scouts in our area has leaders who support the GLBT agenda, although there is also a troop in our parish (I guess they're trying to be missionaries in the local council). The one thing I'd be concerned about is not the fact that you're doing Scouts, but the fact that sometimes you seem to be spread so incredibly thin. Families need downtime as well, especially when you've got really little ones as well as the school aged kids. Please be careful not to burn yourself out with too many activities (both for your sake and the sake of your two littlest).

  2. Learning to navigate the gray has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. Life is so much easier when lived in black and white, but doesn't it leave you feeling bitter a lot? At least that is how I felt.

  3. I don't think I've commented here before, although I've been reading your blog for a while. I just wanted to say that I've had many instances of God whispering to me through your blog posts and the beautiful humility and spirituality you convey here (and through the comments of your lovely readers, too). So, thank you for this!

  4. I love reading your blog and following your wonderful family. I don't always agree with you, but it doesn't decrease my joy of reading about you.
    I am so glad you gave Girl Scouts a try. I was a Girl Scout and I was a leader for years. They do try very hard to make it a SERVICE organization and to include ALL girls in it. I know you will be a blessing to the members of the troop and I know your girls will have happy memories of Mom as a troop leader ( my mom was a asst leader in Canada when we lived there - she was "Tawny Owl" fun to remember).
    I don't comment usually, but did want to let you know people read you often even if we don't comment.

  5. This is brave, kind, and good work. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for your kind responses to this post. It felt a little vulnerable to write because so many Catholic mothers I respect made the decision not to enroll their daughters in Girl Scouts.

  7. My first time here; I found you via JBTC.

    Love your post! I was quite poor growing up, and I was a scout from age 7-18, and even worked at a camp for several years in college. I do not dispute the PP links, and they are troubling, but I think you are, ultimately, where God wants you to be right now. Beautiful post.

  8. What a lovely post! I've been reading your blog for over a year now and have found it a source of inspiration. I know that some may not agree with what you are doing, but if you feel that you are answering God's calling then I don't see anything wrong with that.

    I'm not married and I don't have any children. God willing, one day I will. However, I think you are doing what is right. God bless you and your family.