Saturday, July 19, 2014

Moments of Joy, Pain, and Lots of Rain

What a crazy week. Chickens plucked earrings out, storms constantly threatened, three stages of Schism were played (sun, rain, and dark), and 94 children ran all over Haven grounds for five days. We fed and washed dishes for 170 people, and we even stayed ahead of the rush at most meals.

I didn't always communicate my thoughts willingly this week, but people consistently pushed me to talk anyway. My mental and emotional state teetered a bit too far on the edge for the second half of the week, but God never left and continued to send people at just the right times. Sometimes I went to bed humbled by how perfect His timing truly is.

It rained this week. Often. Schism in the Rain happened on the same day that I trekked all over camp trying to figure out what to do with an injured rooster (gotta love donkeys that step on chicken feet and chop off toes). Activities and night games happened in the rain, which certainly spiced it up but also soaked the staff and the 5th and 6th grade campers. We hadn't intended to have water games, but all of the time spent in the rain on Wednesday created them regardless. Lake Day was sunny and hot, thankfully, so the speed boat and pontoon came out and the beach was packed with staff and kids all day.

I acted in frustration and anger at times this week. I spoke words and thought things that I am not proud of. My heart ached as I watched a certain little boy live in his own little world, so misunderstood by everyone around him. I found healing in time spent with him during the Thursday night Mission Impossible game, but it hurt knowing that I won't see him again until at least next summer, if ever again. I knew joy after that game ended and the girls won when no one, including myself, expected them to do so. Remembering the unrestrained excitement that followed, which I shared with a few staff members--including a couple of the guys--still puts a smile on my face.

Last night was spent Schsiming in the Dark with staff members...the only truly competitive game we played all week. We played for nearly 5 1/2 hours by the light of various vehicles until 1 a.m., and a good time was had by all. I think it was most likely the best team bonding we have had in weeks.

Michael and I went to town with Hannah and Obed today, and we spent all afternoon thrift shopping and eating at a local diner. I appreciate all three of them a great deal. I'm super excited to get to know them more over the rest of the summer, as well as in the future.

Prayer requests? We just finished a huge week of camp, which is being followed quite quickly by a smaller week directed by my good friend Danielle. Please keep her and the entire staff in your prayers this week, especially for our health and motivation. The temptation after a huge week is to slow down and live in the mentality that we don't have to give as much since there are fewer campers to invest in. Please pray that we will not stop giving 100% to these kids who may not see Jesus anywhere else this summer.

The song for the week is "Believe in Something" by SONS...to be perfectly honest, I don't have a super strong reason for picking it beyond the fact that I love SONS and I wish that they hadn't gone on hiatus. Also, their lyrics mean more than most do to me.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Remember when...

Nostalgia can be both wonderful and disgusting. 

I cycled through all of my Facebook profile pictures tonight (I would not recommend this practice), and I had to stop several times and reflect on how much my siblings, friends, and I have all changed. There were a couple of pictures that made me gasp in pain for a moment...images of times in my life that I often bury deep in the back of my head in hopes of easing the ache of a memory. Other pictures made me smile and the old familiar happy ache would creep into my throat as I thought about the day the picture was taken and about how much I miss those times.

Then I play a game with myself. Subconsciously, I ask myself questions over and over.

Hey buddy. 

Remember when you were a little college freshman with wide eyes and uncharacteristically short, cute hair? 

Remember when you thought your heart would split in half and you depended on the steadfast group of breakfast friends and many late nights on another friend's futon to get through the wrenching pain? 

Remember when you first sat in the cafeteria at a date table across from your (soon to be) future roommate and told her that you had Tourette's...and you weren't afraid?

Remember when you rode in a car to Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming with two complete strangers who were several years older than you...to work at a summer camp?

Remember when you found healing in that safe Haven...and learned how to be a friend?

Remember when you moved into Room 308 with Brianne under the sign "Broken and Beautiful" and began to build relationships with a wing of beautiful people who restored your love for Northwestern?

Remember the Moses and Aaron conversation that went from being a set of nicknames for roommates to a promise of accountability?

Remember when you met Julia VanDyk?

Remember when you started hanging out with five beautiful people nearly every free waking hour...and played games in a tiny bakery after midnight?

Remember when you realized that you were safe to openly talk about your Tourette's with those five people?

Remember when your RA decided to "be spontaneous" by creating a March Madness competition...and then nearly 20 people began doing the chicken dance in public places and singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in the cafeteria?

Remember when your plans to be a writer changed and you knew you needed to edit films?

Remember when you watched your brother move an audience to tears in a One Act play?

Remember when you first decided to make a short film...and then it turned into plans for six?

Remember when you agreed to room with Julia?

Remember when your heart broke again...and you found comfort in that circle of safe people?

Remember when you crossed the Wyoming border once again, this time with your brother right behind you?

Remember when joy and pain began showing up in the form of new friends, stacks of dirty dishes, and improvised songs?

Remember how there is so much more waiting to happen tomorrow and beyond?

I do remember. 

The video of the post--"Counting Stars" by OneRepublic--is dedicated to my Julia VanDyk...in remembrance of every single Tuesday that this song played in the Hub at roughly 1:35 p.m.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Follow courageously.

Week Three of camp is beginning tomorrow. It's crazy to think that I have been here for five weeks now. I loved being here last year, but this year has been at least ten times better in half the time. I realize I say this all the time, but this staff is phenomenal.

One of my favorite parts of living here is going to church at North Hills every week. Without exception, each sermon I have heard in the two summers I have been here has applied to my life in a way that made me say, "Okay, I get it, God." The series throughout the summer is Finding Jesus in the Old Testament. This morning, the pastor talked about Joshua and God's instructions to "be strong and courageous." The main idea being conveyed in the message was that we need to remember that we are free in Christ and are called to follow Him no matter what...courageously.

Next year is going to be insanely busy with work, school, and the TENTS project. As the pastor spoke those words, I paused and remembered a conversation I had on the way to Denver last Saturday. I was telling Abby of my fears about managing time and getting things done in the fall, and I mentioned that I am nervous for where this film project might take us. She simply said, "You'd better give it to God, then."

It's really that simple. My anxieties about being able to balance everything will get me nowhere in the end. I'm terrible at remembering that. But if I were to simply follow, maybe things would seem a bit more doable.

With that in mind, I want to give you guys a little bit more information about TENTS.

What is TENTS, anyway? It's a student-initiated film project being organized, directed, and produced by Northwestern students with the purpose of helping people see those who feel invisible. There are six parts to this project, each to be filmed, edited, and produced on Northwestern's campus, then shown to the public on a schedule which will be revealed as the time grows nearer.

Currently, there are eight people on the production team. There are six theater majors, one graphic design major, and one writing major. We have one senior, four juniors, and three sophomores who have been planning this since April.

How can you pray? So many ways. But specifically, our six screenplays have been sent out to be read over once, and there is still so much to do before we actually start shooting the first film in August. We've all got jobs, commitments, and classes to keep up with throughout the school year while we plan and produce this project. No one is less busy than anyone else...but we all feel that these films are something that God is going to do amazing things with.

Most importantly, TENTS is a chance to help heal broken people. Each character in these films is going to tell the story of someone who feels invisible because of a hidden struggle that they live with. Why am I so passionate about that? If you don't know the answer, go read my posts on this blog from the past year and a half.

This is happening in less than two months, guys. I'm going to dive into film making in less than 50 days. Time to follow courageously.

Song of the post: "Instrument For You" by The Vespers. For obvious reasons.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Skimming the surface of honesty.

Haven's 4th of July break began on Friday night, but I have been busy since then and therefore neglected my normal Saturday post. So here goes.

It was a long week, to say the least. Rewarding, yet exhausting. We had good leadership but poor weather; our teamwork was outstanding but our morale began slipping as we grew more tired. Funny how that works. Our Cap'n Tibbs and Jenni left slightly past midweek for another adventure...and as the time passed, I realized just how much I missed them. 

Our break began after cleaning ended on Friday afternoon, and most of us stuck around for supper (cooked by our director). Daddy called me right before supper, which made me quite a bit late for the meal, but it was great to talk to him and connect through our mutual experiences with animals. (He truly is the greatest guy to have around.) 

A group of us played Tenzies and Pirates' Dice after supper until I remembered my chores and had to leave that happy extended moment. I came back feeling rather grumpy and overly tired, and I buried myself in music for a while with hopes of forgetting about how frustrated I was with various thoughts in my head.

The two women in my triad (our encouragement groups among the staff) saved me from becoming a complete grumpy bump on a log by inviting me to hang out with them and talk about both camp and school for a while. I don't know where my brain would have gone without that time, so a big shout out to Danielle and Bri. You da best.

Later on, nearly all of us hung out in the kitchen for a few hours, chatting away and making ridiculous jokes because it's how we roll. Eventually, the number dwindled to only two people as Katelyn and I started a conversation about Tourette's and what it means to feel "different" as a Touretter. It's difficult to explain what Tourette's is to a child, but it's even harder when it's someone near your age who knows you a little bit better than a camper. It is never easy to say "I'm different and I don't like it."

We're in Denver with Abby for the week, which is fun and I love it. When we drive back to Wyoming on Saturday and reunite with people on Sunday, my prayer is that our staff unity has not suffered. It's hard to be away from my camp family, especially when many of them are together doing things this week. I miss them, there's no doubt about that. 

Prayer requests: My cold needs to be gone by Sunday...and there is at least one other staff member suffering the sickness as well. Safety in multiple states (and countries!) over break. Bonds with staff growing once we jump back into camp. It's my favorite age group--3rd and 4th grade.

The song for this post is simply worship. I wanted to use another one by SONS, but "Sea of Glass" fit better than another one that I will use at a later date for a post much more relevant to the other song. (Cryptic...sorry.)

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Something for the mid-week.

It's Wednesday, and I realize that I normally don't write until Saturday. But I have two free hours this morning to be used for restful things, so here I am.

I would be lying if I said that this week has been easy so far. The blackness in my brain has threatened to take over at least once every day, especially on Sunday and Monday. Camp is both the most ideal and the most inconvenient place to deal with depression, put bluntly. There are so many people who love you and want to be there for you when you sprawl on your face, but there is so little time to actually be there for each other.

And so I take on multiple jobs that I love and search for every reason to do them as much as possible so that I can keep my mind occupied. Our week-long break begins on Saturday, but I am so not ready. I covet time with my camp family...just give me a super long weekend and I will feel better about leaving for a week.

You know what hit me today, though? In less than 3 months, I shall be shooting a short film series. I realize I haven't explained that at all yet, and I have done that on purpose. For now, please keep our TENTS film project team in your prayers. Scripts are being written and more information will be coming as the summer progresses. I am so, so excited to share it with all of you. One of my biggest dreams is about to come true.

As for camp prayer requests, please keep staff unity on your list. There are several people doing two or three jobs that are not normally in their schedule, and it's shuffling us around quite a bit. And again, I am so grateful for these people and for everyone who has been praying for us as we take Year Two of Haven on the Rock one day at a time.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

When darkness and story collide.

Well, well. Week One of Summer 2014 is complete and everyone is still alive. This is a marvelous thing.

It was a difficult week but a good one. I pushed myself a bit too far on Monday, and Lake Day happened on Tuesday--uncharacteristic for Haven, but there was supposed to be poor weather on Wednesday and Thursday. My motivation to work slipped a bit on Wednesday, mainly due to wearing myself out in the two prior days. My fellow staff members held me up when I stumbled in exhaustion, though. For that, I am grateful.

There were times this week when I felt as if I was sinking again, which threw me back to the nights during second semester when I wanted to hide under the futon...and then did. In this situation, however, I had a different friend who held on to me when I felt alone. It was a blessing to have support in the very darkest point of this week. As the days crawled by at a strangely rapid pace, my friends reached out and steadied me when I began to lose my balance. Sometimes we even made Tourette's jokes in the dish room. God has changed me so much.

Following that train of thought, I told part of my story to a bunch of 5th and 6th graders during campfire on Wednesday night. One of the junior staff had asked me on Monday if I would do it on Wednesday, and I said yes with a bit of dread in the pit of my stomach because I had no idea which part of my story to tell. During my journalling/quiet time on Tuesday night, I remembered my multiple conversations with Brianne about being a child of the King--especially during the nights when we stayed up talking about my Tourette's. She constantly reminded me that I could not find my identity in my disorder because my identity should be found in Who I belong to.

With that floating around in my head, I went through the next day feeling increasingly nervous. Talking about Tourette's tends to do that to my brain. When the time came to actually speak, I stood a few yards from the campfire until they announced me because the tics were trying to suck my energy away. Then, by the light of the campfire and with the sounds of a few whispering campers and with the sight of more than 70 pairs of eyes staring at me, I explained why finding identity as a child of the King is so much more freeing than finding it in being a girl with Tourette's or a 20 year-old college student. There were times when I fought the emotions that threatened to take over...but in the end, I walked away and sat on the edge of the circle while they sang Sanctuary--a tradition that soothes my soul no matter how often it is practiced.

So what is the theme for this past week? I'm learning to come back to leaning on Jesus. Sometimes it didn't work out as well. But at the end of every dark place came a moment when I would stand in the dish room alone and mumble the words to "Calm Down, Everything Is Fine" and stretch my aching back in time to the beating of my aching heart.

While I was sitting in a local cafe with some camp family at lunch today, it hit me: I am surrounded by people who love me in ways that I haven't been able to find at any other place on earth. Not even my college family has seen me at the point of exhaustion that some of my fellow staff members have...and that is okay. This camp is called Haven on the Rock because it is a safe haven for all people, not just campers. I am floored by the servant hearts of the entire staff here--and that motivates me to love more fully, more selflessly, more constantly.

I am closing this week's post with yet another Mike Mains and the Branches song--this time, the one that I mentioned earlier. During some of the most difficult moments of second semester, I would walk across campus mumbling the words to this song. And nearly every time I can barely stand existence, this song pops into my head yet again.

On a personal note, please be praying for my foot this week. I jammed my left big toe while playing soccer on Friday night, and it is causing far more foot pain than I would prefer. God is the Great Healer (hm, someone I respect a great deal told me that years ago) and I believe He will work through this injury with me, but in the meantime, I would like to be able to actually function at the normal speed during our second camp week.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stretch, Cry, and Stretch Again.

Photo cred to my good friend Jordan


If I were to name a theme for this past week, it would probably be "Emotionally Stretched."

Beginning on Monday morning, we had a full week of training. We talked about love languages one morning, which was one of my favorite sessions last year. It's interesting how physical touch and quality time fight for the top spot depending on the time of year and where I have been living. I am gradually learning to be more okay with words of affirmation, but acts of service and gifts are still pretty low on the preference list.

We did VBS for the local kids on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings, and held training sessions in the afternoons. A good number of junior staff arrived on Tuesday night, and our first meeting as a full staff happened during worship on Wednesday morning. The staff lounge was quite packed, with all 4 1/2 couches and 3 chairs full and the floor lined with people. Shoulder rubs were exchanged and talking children were shushed. In other words, camp felt like it was really beginning.

Tuesday was the day when my emotional level began to plummet rapidly. I'll be the first to admit that my patience for people fell far below where it should have been, and my inner cynicism screamed to be unleashed on anyone who toed the line. Each event that I didn't talk through would drop down on top of the others in a perfectly terrible game of Tetris. When I found one of my kittens with a broken neck on Wednesday, I lost it. I am so grateful that God sent Jenni and Karisa on a walk past the farm at the very time that I was struggling not to cry in front of some young junior staff members who were happily petting the lambs.

The good news of that night is that I cried for a solid 15 minutes in the barn before walking back to camp. After a call to the best friend and some good conversation with the Brother, my heart began to ease its way back into normal mode. The bad news is that it was normal mode for a mentally drained individual.

The issue with having both Tourette's and OCD is that my brain likes to over-process everything. I develop tunnel vision and ignore the signals that I have been thinking about something for too long, and I begin to obsess over it. The events of Tuesday and Wednesday didn't just stack up; each one exploded in my head and mocked me until I finally gave in and let it show in my actions and words. 

Further proof of this reality appeared during our staff camping trip. We played a game of 4-way tug-of-war on the way to our campsite, and Michael fell on some cacti. The older sister in me inwardly freaked out. I was irrationally angry about the whole situation, which was rather ridiculous in hindsight since none of us had gotten hurt while hiking blindfolded in the previous training exercise and he ended up recovering before the end of the night.

I'd like to add to all of this that the staff camping trip turned out absolutely stellar. There were too many laughs to count combined with happy-laugh-tears and an excessive amount of stupidly funny jokes and quality conversations. The longer we bond as a staff, the more thankful that I came back this year. I realize this post is quite scattered in some ways, but I want to once again close with a song. (Apologies for not having the link to the original song--it wouldn't load on the blog.)


"Beneath Water" by Mike Mains & The Branches is yet another worship song that has blasted me away at some point in the past year. The chorus fits the struggle I am currently living: "Hold me underneath the water until the old me dies and slips out of this body and makes me new again." The lyrics speak for themselves.

Camp officially begins on Monday. Prayers for staff unity and renewed energy would be appreciated, as would prayers for the campers who will soon be living with us for a time.

God loves me, and God's love is enough.