Sunday, August 31, 2014

Look out for your sisters, don't forget your brothers.

You know those days when you realize for the first time in a long time just how fantastic your friends are? Yeah, that was the majority of this past week.

Classes began on Tuesday for most, although I didn't have any until Wednesday morning. Three out of the four courses I am taking are in some way connected to my major or my minor, which is exciting for me even if most people think I'm crazy for taking so many writing classes at once. You might have to be an English major to know why I don't mind my schedule.

Because I don't have classes on Tuesdays or Thursdays, I have decided to set aside those days for working and catching up with people I care about. Thursday hosted a wonderful conversation/friend date with Brianne, which was much-needed and appreciated. Between that lunch and our later conversation on Friday night, I was finally able to talk about the summer and how God has changed me in the last three months. But even more importantly, I got to hear how God has been working in her life as well. While we had to stay up until 2:30 in the morning to have that conversation, it was worth the exhaustion on Saturday just to spend time with my Aaron-friend and remember why I value her friendship so much. I left her apartment with an overflowing heart that night.

Dorm life has been...well...different. The family I found last year is scattered all over campus (and in other states) and I constantly have to remind myself that this year is going to be a new experience with a new group of people. My motivations are different this year, as are my goals for building relationships. Junior year will probably be focused more heavily on learning how to love the people I already know more selflessly. I am excited for that prospect but there is still an ache in my heart whenever I think of my 3South sisters who are no longer able to pop into my room at odd hours of the day and night.

There are so many things I could say about this week, but I summarize it more briefly than I often do. As for ways you can pray, please continue to think of my adjustment process to sleep schedules, work schedules--heck, all of the schedules you can name, I might be adjusting. Our TENTS project has been slowed down (by our choice) but certainly not abandoned. Please remember us this week. It's time to start a new movement on Northwestern's campus...a movement that informs without condemning and tells stories without exploiting.

The song of the post is one that I have been waiting to share for a long time. "Sisters and Brothers" by The Vespers continues to change the way I view other people and its lyrical beauty alone is enough to make me listen to it on repeat. "We already know the ending of the story. We don't have to worry about the little things. Look out for your sisters, don't forget your brothers. Gotta take care of each other."

Enough said.

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hallelujah, He is with me.

I don't really know how to begin this post. Mainly because expressing my thoughts this week might be a little bit more difficult than I would prefer.

I've been in Orange City since Wednesday afternoon, and it is has been fantastic to gradually reunite with my Northwestern family. As of Friday, I have my Julia and as of Saturday, Michael has arrived as well. I got to spend some time with nearly half of my old 3South family last night, and my crazy theater family has finally reconnected. Freshmen orientation is nearly over now...there are more than 20 women on my wing who seem to be adjusting to 3South quite well, which makes me so happy. My countdown to coming home has passed the zero-day mark.

Coming home to 3South last year meant starting fresh with a roommate I barely knew but was excited to learn about. It meant building relationships with a group of women who much preferred a cuddle pile in the hallway but somehow got homework done at the same time; it meant singing in the bathroom and eating in the back of the cafeteria because we couldn't fit all of us anywhere else. I learned to feel safe at Northwestern because of those women. Sophomore year was the best year of my life so far.

Coming home to 3South this year means...well, starting over again. It's funny how you get comfortable living in a routine, a group, and then God plucks you out of it and drops you into something new as if to say, "That was fun. Now I want you to learn how to do it over again."

Over the summer at Haven, God continued to place me in situations where I had to lead others in order to accomplish simple things like washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms. It stretched me in ways that often hurt or frustrated me. The past two days have been filled with moments that remind me I have to step up and lead more often this year. It's like Jesus is trying to teach me something by pushing me out of my comfort zone. Funny how that works.

So if you are wondering how I am feeling about this year, wait a while and ask again. Because right now, I am just trying to figure that out myself. But my main prayer request is that I would find peace somehow during the confusion going on in my brain.

The song this week is a little different than usual. Last year I came across this cover of one of my favorite Jenny and Tyler songs, "Psalm 46." So rather than posting the original song (which I love and you should definitely listen to it), I decided to put this one up. The words are God-breathed--I mean really, it's Scripture in musical form--and I needed to remember them this week. Hallelujah, He is with me. Hallelujah, we cannot be moved. Hallelujah, I rest secure.


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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All of the happy things are coming!

The time has finally come. I'm moving back to Orange City tomorrow. I'm going back to live with some of the women I love most dearly, and I cannot contain my excitement.
For those of you who worked with me this summer (as well as anyone from school who kept in touch with me), you already know that I was keeping track of the days quite closely. In fact, I have kept a countdown on my computer. Now, this was not at all because I didn't want to be at camp. I chose to keep track for the simple purpose of getting increasingly excited for the next thing: junior year.

To back up a little bit, I'd like to talk about Saturday and moving back from Wyoming for a minute. It seems like much longer than 10 days ago that I rolled out of bed and washed my hair in the dish room sink to avoid digging my shower shoes out of my packed bag. Yet I can definitely clearly recall the sleepy hand clasp and "I love you" exchanged with Jordan at 6 in the morning; the awkward goodbye conversation with Bri that made me smile; the hugs from my favorite wranglers that I didn't want to end; the two goodbye hugs to Katelyn that happened an hour and a half apart; the talk with sleepy Danielle that almost made me cry; the goodbye hug from Alice that felt a little too final; the acknowledging salute from Greg Berry as we pulled out in Hannah's car.

But all of this was made far more significant by the two lines of friends outside the door as we got ready to get into the car. It was as if they were purposely giving us a formal send-off. I don't know if that's true or not...but it had the effect regardless.

The last 10 days at home have been good. So, so good. I hadn't been expecting that, frankly. I don't like transition times (that is pretty obvious in my blogs about previous breaks) because there is a lack of structure that stresses me. But I think this time has been different because of the summer I just had.

I reconnected with Jesus this summer. There were times when my heart would break and I would have to force myself to turn back to Him, but those times were less often than they were last school year. My Haven family blew me away day after day as they reminded me of what it means to live in a Christ-honoring community. And when I returned to Gravity, Iowa, I missed them intensely but didn't hurt from the missing.

Besides binge-watching Monk and Jericho with my family, I haven't done too much else. Well, besides get sick. That didn't take long. But I have thought over and over how glad I am that my body remained healthy while I was at Haven. I actually have time to be sick--that's a strange concept for my normal life schedule. 

Speaking of real life, I had the privilege of going to a future Red Raider's birthday party on Friday night. It was so encouraging to talk with a girl who will become a 3South family member in a few short days and remember all of the great things about welcoming freshmen last year. Freshmen have had an important influence on me at Northwestern...I would be missing a future roommate and several dear friends if this hadn't been the case. I am so happy that I once again have the opportunity to arrive early enough to welcome the freshmen to 3South as they move in.

Things will be much different this year than they were last year...but I am becoming more ready for that as the time draws closer. My heart still aches at the memory of the neighbors who won't be there to crash on my futon this year...and those who will be a little farther away. But working with Student Activities and tutoring for writing as well as kicking off the TENTS film project will keep me even busier than ever, and I have so many people I am ready to spend time with again.

Prayer requests:
I learned to speak more boldly about Tourette's this summer. The people I worked with grew used to my jokes about it and a couple of them helped me deal with my disorder. I don't want to stop being so open just because I am living in a place where I don't feel as safe to talk about it. 

Sleep schedule (or, in my case, willingness to be an insomniac); last year I was terrible about getting more than 4 hours of sleep per night. I don't want that to be true again.

Honesty with people; my first reaction when I feel unheard is to be passive aggressive. As much as some of my fellow staff members joked about that with me, it doesn't fix things. If I don't communicate when I feel alone or threatened, my life for the next 9 months is going to be miserable.

My walk with Jesus; Northwestern simply does not promote good time with Jesus in my life. I don't want the next few months to become yet another dry season to crawl across.

The song of the post is a little more difficult to present since there wasn't a decent video on YouTube for it. Shadows of Doubt (Attalus) is a part of a beautiful concept album called Post Tenbras Lux. This song conveys all of my emotions and thoughts about my walk with Jesus over the last year...but I plead with you to listen to all of the tracks to get a clearer story.

I am anchored by a Divine Love. God loves me, and God's love is enough.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Seasons of readiness.


Camp ended today.

I realize that some of my camp family was ready for this day, but I was not. I stood in the dish room this morning and scrubbed hash brown pans with a weariness I hadn't felt in weeks. While sitting in chapel next to Jess, I kept my head down to hide tears that I couldn't stop. During the noon meal, I sat alone at a section of one of the tables and watched people with a surreal sensation lurking in the pit of my stomach. After lunch, I hugged so many people and waved goodbye to even more...and wiped away those stubborn tears as I watched a red car take away one of my best friends here. As I walked out to the farm with a plan to clean out the barn one final time, I breathed more deep sighs than usual.

While most of us who remained at camp sat at Pizza Hut tonight, I looked down the tables and studied people I have grown to love deeply. Pictures were being snapped on smart phones and cards were being tossed onto the table. Conversation was being passed across plates of Hawaiian pizza and tensions from earlier that day were slowly diffusing. My eyes stung, but this time it was from the onion fumes in the air.

Some of the people had sat with me through my darkest moments--Michael, my triad partners, my bunkmates. Others were coworkers in the dish room and people who had thrown a ball over the Schism net with me. Tomorrow...today, if you are looking at the time...most of us will leave this safe Haven.

I will leave this safe Haven and descend to lower altitudes and prepare to rise to the occasion as my stress level rises in less than two weeks as school begins again. I am not ready to go back to the real world, but I am ready to rest.

I am ready to dash across campus barefoot with video equipment in order to film RED411 videos before the Sunday deadline. I am ready to laugh hysterically in the cafeteria at inside jokes again. I am ready to sit at a date table with my Briannester and talk about how our camp experiences stretched us. I am ready to shoot six films in less than two months in order to produce them all by spring.

I am ready to love people well and not selfishly.

My heart aches tonight, my friends. But my soul has been soothed countless times this summer by the unpredictable love of others.

The video for this post is "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" by Mike Mains & The Branches. I suspect that this one might be a repeat, but I could be wrong and regardless of the reality, the song fits tonight. The next time I post will be from a farm in Iowa. Crazy.

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Out of Control

The final stretch is beginning.

The ache in the pit of my stomach is growing daily. Stress and tensions have been building, but my desire to leave here has not grown. There were times this week when I felt very alone, but not as many times when I remembered why I feel safe here. I have debated all week whether or not to say that...but I feel as if honesty is necessary at a higher cost sometimes. Two of my wingmates sent me letters this week, and each word from them induced a little bit of emotion I had been stuffing underneath everything else for weeks.

We had 3rd and 4th graders this week--my favorite age group, by far. Michael was back to being a counselor, which made me a little bit sad since he wasn't on dish crew with me. I helped lead an amusing Night Game and helped build a fire (for the first time here). I sang a round of "My Body Lies Over The Ocean" with Johanna in the dish room...a song parody we continue to perfect as we come up with new ways to die (our favorite is still the mac'n'cheese verse). I had a late night conversation with Jess and Martha about Tourette's that definitely became the best part of the week for me. Staff meetings were full to the brim but always entertaining. Dish crew often consisted of just Wadsworth and me, but we discovered that we function just fine on a team of two during a week of fewer than 40 campers.

I'm going to see my dear Abby McCubbin tomorrow when we road trip to Denver for the day with Hannah, Jenny, and Kayla. This will be the second month in a row that we have gotten together while I am at camp. I'm looking forward to some good conversation and some Brother/Abby/Justine bonding time.

Prayer requests? The Captain, Michael, and I are leading worship next week for high school camp. I am so excited to worship with two of my favorite guys, but I don't want my focus to be on that. My stress level has been rising due to the coming changes and transitions. Our good friend Obed is leaving a week early, which makes me sad, but more importantly, please pray for safe travels for him. High school week is going to be bigger than last year, which is exciting; please keep it, the campers, and the Haven staff in your prayers this next week.

Video for the post is "Out of Control" by Standing Small. For reasons I don't feel ready to discuss here, this song came to mind tonight as I typed this in the dark barracks. The beauty of this entire album (Asleep at the Oars, Dreaming of Freedom) hit me a few years ago, but it slipped under my music radar after I got to college last year. This particular song--along with Sailing Away--carries more significance in my own life than any of the others. I would definitely recommend that you check out Standing Small's projects, as well as Odd New Celebrity, their group's more recent name.

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

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eternal seconds in front of dark campfires.

Two more weeks.

Whenever I think about how close we are to finishing the camp season, a blanket of sadness drops over my head and shuts out the light for a while. Not because I don't want to be back at school--believe me, I miss my college family so very much--but because this home called Haven on the Rock is one of the safest places I have ever been to simply...be.

It also reminds me of just how much Haven changes me. I came out here this summer with an attitude of expectancy and excitement, but a hint of unhealed hurt seeped through the cracks of that face I had placed out on display. I look at my work ethic here and wonder where it disappears as soon as I set foot in a classroom. I think of my eagerness to serve endlessly and ask myself how this same body can struggle to walk two flights of stairs and crawl into bed at 2 in the morning. I examine my awareness of the pain I see in others here and question my standoffish behavior when I witness the same in the dorms.

There were times that felt endless this week. These seemingly eternal moments were spent sitting in front of dark campfires having long conversations; cuddling closer to Jess next to the fire pit and listening to Martha speak of young people she cares deeply about; sitting in staff meetings and laughing until I cried because Bri misheard something I said; spraying dishes at 11 p.m. in hopes of escaping my thoughts; handing filthy pots and pans to Michael across the sink and savoring every minute he was on my dish crew; twirling and pivoting with full dish trays and still-dripping hands as I completed the Captain's Challenge with Jenni, Greg, and the Captain himself cheering me on; singing worship songs outside with Jess and Michael; getting surprise hugs from Madi when I needed them the most.

But so much more happened that deserves mentioning. Changing my farm devotional to one that explains salvation led to one young camper raising his hand and asking the question, "Does that mean everyone goes to heaven?" A late night conversation in the bathroom unearthed the story of why I fear being left behind and brought healing words from a triad partner. Standing outside talking to Karisa about Northwestern helped me explain our vision for TENTS. A Friday afternoon trip to town with Michael, Katelyn, and Hannah revealed a quirky thrift shop and dropped us into a meaningful, much-needed adult conversation about counseling and seeing God work through little things during the week. A night spent on the floor in Jess' room meant a second adult conversation and the quality time I had needed all week.

Two more weeks of this beauty. It isn't enough. I want to be with these people forever. If my worlds could combine into one slightly larger one, my heart might ache a little less.

The song of the post is "Where Love Dies" by Mike Mains & The Branches. It's one of those tracks from this album that runs through my head in the dish room...a sure sign that it has meaning since I have a grand total of three songs that rotate in my brain during my time spent in front of that sink. The sadness mixes with hope and longing. It fits. It just fits.

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

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.