When I was little, I wasn’t the best behaved kid.
Life at home was kind of chaotic, and it rolled over into my everyday life.
I wrote a little about it here. Also that blog post is almost 4 years old… weird.
Anyway, I just wasn’t the greatest kid and a lot of my memories of misbehavior are set at Camp Arnold. Lots of bedwetting, disobedience, cussing people out in chapel (but then I went to the altar, don’t worry) and telling off staff members. Oh. I also lied and told everyone Jonathan Taylor Thomas was my cousin to make friends. and one summer I packed a trench coat and sat outside with a notepad and a spy kit and definitely pretended I was Harriette the Spy. Which is probably why I had to lie to make friends, just saying.
Two weeks ago I went for a walk down the road towards the back gate at camp. I started thinking about the many times I’ve walked that road – once as a counselor with a really difficult cabin full of girls that always said “boom boom” and “konnichiwa Miss Stephanay.” Once as a program staff member late at night shuttling sick campers and staff as a norovirus swept through camp. Another time as a counselor, taking my cabins to what is now the old challenge course once a week for team building. And way back, as a 10-year-old girl after the music camp final concert, walking the trail around the main part of camp with my dad.
I looked up, towards God. But then I saw the trees.
At Latourell Falls, Adriana and I pondered all of the conversations the trees there had heard.
and walking the road out towards the back gate, I saw the trees and realized that many of the greatest times of my life had been lived out beneath those trees.
Beneath those trees, I’ve poured my heart out to the Lord – in moments of extreme hope and deep despair.
Those trees have seen me broken and healed, confused and comforted, alone and with large groups of friends. I’ve been a coward and also very brave underneath those trees.
Basically, the trees of Camp Arnold have watched me grow up. They have been some of the most consistent figures in my life, and it’s crazy that I never really considered that. They’re just always there. Sometimes they fall because of ice storms and that is heartbreaking, but up until that moment I’d never stopped to really consider them as lifelong friends.
The best part of that moment was the anticipation of what else those trees will see in me. Next summer my walks down that road could be full of radically different prayers than the ones I’ve prayed this summer. There are names I will surrender to the Lord that I’ve never yet caught wind of, babies to pray for that have yet to be conceived…
and I am so grateful that no matter where life takes me – whether I am traveling up and down the west coast for a school year or relocating to SoCal for a bit, whether I am a nanny or a youth pastor or wherever else I could be + whatever else I could do – I will always have a home beneath these trees, even if only for an afternoon.
In November I shared a list of 15 things that make me so happy. For awhile I never thought I could experience happiness again because I was really hurt and confused. but storms eventually die down, and I’ve been so incredibly aware of the things that make me so happy that I just want to share them. I’m not going to repeat ones from my previous list, though my love of Chipotle only grows by the day.
ONE // LAYLA DOODLES
My friend Ernie did this awesome Kickstarter campaign where he did an album of 90s R&B acoustic covers. They’re done SO WELL and I had the joy of seeing much of the project develop from the front row. The album finally released and he sent his pledge rewards and tucked away into mine was this little drawing by Layla, keeper of my heart FOREVER.
TWO // MY PRIUS.
Today I got Starbucks and the lady in the drive thru said “I have that same car! Same color, too!” so we talked about how AWESOME our cars are… and today when I drove 2 hours to camp and had barely used up 1/4th of my tank of gas I was like “YEAH THIS PRIUS IS SO AWESOME!” Also yesterday morning Toyota gave me a $5 Starbucks card… just for having a Prius.
THREE // SHIRLEY TEMPLES
It weirds me out how many people aren’t really hip to Shirley Temples. 7-up and cherry flavor… and if you’re lucky, a cherry or two. If you’re SUPER LUCKY the people at Buffalo Wild Wings will make you a Shirley Temple to-go with FIVE cherries on top. yes please and thank you!
FOUR // BLACKBERRY PICKING
All summer long I’ve gone on walks around Camp Arnold scoping out the various patches of blackberry bushes and a few weeks ago THEY WERE FINALLY RIPE! I’ve found a few really great patches of them and we have a decent patch down the road from my house so I’m even more excited to go down there and get BUCKETS FULL OF BLACKBERRIES! I don’t know if I even like EATING blackberries (I mean, I do when I’m picking them) I just love the whole experience.
FIVE // MY ETSY SHOP
Okay I’ve discovered recently how much I’ve enjoyed making little things for my blogs, like tweaking my header and working on the various little elements. Sooo I decided.. you know what I’m just going to start an etsy shop and sell digital prints. I only have 6 prints available, but I’m SO EXCITED to keep making things. Even if it’s mostly just for myself. In honor of how happy I am about this, if you use the code HOORAY when you purchase a print, you’ll get 50% off. Do it.
SIX // DECLUTTERED SPACES
I am SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY to be able to look over at my dresser and see an uncluttered space where the stuff I see has purpose and intention. I’m really excited to tackle bigger tasks like my desk drawers and DUN DUN DUN under my bed when I have more time, but for now I keep looking at my dresser and sighing a big sigh of relief.
SEVEN // MY INSTAX
I love the little prints from my Instax. I am really careful about what and when I take pictures with it since the film costs money and isn’t always the most convenient to get my hands on, but I LOVE having little tangible treasures from memories with people I love more than anything in the world. Lately I’ve been thinking back to a day last summer when we went on a walk picking blackberries and Ellen took the picture that changed my life. An instant camera really takes the fun to a whole new level.
EIGHT // SLURPEE RUNS
My friend Cassie (HI CASSIE!) was reading my blog (I LOVE when my ‘real life’ friends read my blog, by the way. It keeps me humble because I can’t pretend to be cooler than I am) and she was looking at my 101 in 1001 list and decided she wanted to take on the task of helping me watch all of the Star Wars movies. We’ve watched the original trilogy and now we’re on to the new ones! She is ultra brave, if I can brag on her for a minute. She’s a single foster mom and she is CHANGING LIVES. She’s opening her heart and home to children in deep need, and she’s doing it all on her own. That said, anytime I can support her in the littlest ways… I’ve got her back, 100%. So when we watch Star Wars, I provide the Slurpees. Coke for her, Banana for me.
NINE // SUCCULENTS
Okay everyone I’m officially late to the succulent party but Found on Fremont had a bunch of little succulents and I kept looking at them and FINALLY I was like.. I MUST HAVE ONE! So I bought one…. and then I went back and bought another one. I love how full of character they are.
TEN // FACEBOOK NOTIFICATIONS
I don’t upload Facebook pictures in real time. Every so often, I’ll upload 40-50 pictures to an album titled 2015 (last year’s was 2014) and I LOVE watching people like or comment on the pictures. It makes me happy and I always wish I took even more pictures than I already do. Pictures are my absolute favorite, and I LOVE when my notifications blow up because people are interacting with them. Even my humble little phone pictures!
ELEVEN // PENGUINS + GOLDEN CALVES
Each summer I usually pick a Madeleine L’Engle book to read. This year I picked up a book I’ve been wanting to read for awhile – Penguins + Golden Calves, all about icons and idols. It’s crazy how over the years Madeleine L’Engle (through her writing) has become one of my closest friends. She just GETS me. One day I’ll (maybe) write ALL about penguins and vulnerability and how I”m learning to stay soft even through hurt. Today is not that day, but one day I might.
TWELVE // TEXT MESSAGES
Some days I am overwhelmed by the magic of technology. I can be texting four people about the same situation, sharing information and opinion and feeling… and none of those four people are anywhere near each other, but we are all mutually connected by experience and thought and the ability to communicate with each other immediately. Yesterday was one of those days as my phone blew up and I couldn’t respond fast enough.
THIRTEEN // SAFE BOYS
Today I saw my friend Michael from across a field. I walked up to him and threw my arms around him and hugged him with all of my might. A little bit later I was standing around, drinking a cup of water, wondering where I fit in with this big crowd. Michael was driving by in a truck. As he slowed down, I walked over and got in. I didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing, all I know is that being near him makes me feel safe. I try really hard to keep my platonic friendships very platonic, and part of the joy in having firm boundaries is the freedom to move about within them.
FOURTEEN // NOT FORGETTING THINGS
I’m at Kuratli for the week for Family Camp. and I love knowing that I packed everything. There’s not this feeling of “NOOO I FORGOT CLEAN UNDERWEAR!” (I’ve done that) or “I DIDN’T BRING A HOODIE!” (it was so chilly) or “I HAVE NO APPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR!” (flip flopsssss!!!). It’s a really great feeling to not be second guessing that.
FIFTEEN // ARROWHEAD
A few years ago, I discovered my bravery for the first time. It was bedtime and we were on campouts at the campsite called Arrowhead. A norovirus swept through the camp, and even though everyone else in the cabin I supported got sick.. I didn’t. and I was able to step up and lead and help in ways I NEVER imagined I was capable of. For some reason, this summer I’ve been drawn to Arrowhead over and over again. It’s nothing super beautiful to look at – just a clearing with a fire pit in a place that used to have an archery range. but that little field holds some pretty powerful memories.
Once, I had a really great talk with the Lord. I think it was in 2005. I went walking down the driveway at camp and I picked blackberries and poured my heart out to the Lord. Maybe that’s why I love blackberries so much – I always remember that super fond memory. This summer I’ve done a lot of heart-pouring at Arrowhead. I admitted some pretty liberating truths and I surrendered a lot of silly expectations, and I can’t wait to one day drag a sleeping bag to Arrowhead and sleep under the stars there again.
Nearly three months ago, there was a big upset in my life. I’ve spent a LOT of time processing it, and I’ve been growing a lot through it. At the advice of Amber, I prayed that God would keep me soft.. that through this whole thing, I wouldn’t start to push people away or develop trust issues or become bitter, but that I’d stay vulnerable and raw, filled with a quiet joy and a constant hope.
Two weeks ago I went up to camp for two days. At breakfast, a stream of teenagers waited to talk to me… teenagers I’d known as campers, but who were now staff members. Then Mitchell gave me a name tag:
Over the course of my two days, I did dishes, helped treat campers for lice, was able to say goodnight to the first campers to sleep in the new cabins, played dodgeball, was a counselor, and cleaned up a pukey bathroom. I poured my heart out on my two days off at camp, and as I drove out of the driveway on my way home I started sobbing.
Because I realized…. I am okay.
Not just in some sort of self-affirming “you are strong and fierce and brave” kind of way, but in a… holy crap, I’m completely surviving this situation that has broken my heart. I’m okay. I can still pour out love and serve to the point of exhaustion; I can listen and respond and be brave and make friends and step away to be alone and laugh with people.
I needed to be at camp to see that.
Driving away, I lost it. I kept saying “thank you, thank you, thank you,” to the Lord… over and over and over. I didn’t need any more words. Just gratitude, because the storm has passed.
Then I listened to this:
and I felt my whole entire being sigh, because God’s got me. He masterfully brought me to the place where I hear him the clearest because I need him the deepest, and then he drenched me – straight up DRENCHED ME – in his peace. The journey of the past few months has been an emotional, wild ride. I’m learning to hold expectations loosely and be pleasantly surprised with what God does with the things that make up my life.
God is far more creative than I am and has unimaginable resources at his disposal, so trusting him seems a bit like a no-brainer at this point.
BUT NOW. Not only are there four big new cabins where the old ones used to be… but God has gifted me my own memories of those cabins. On the first night that campers slept in the new cabins, I got to say goodnight to the girls and tell them how they’d been prayed for all year.
Then God did something amazing.
I showed up again the following Sunday evening. I was talking to Sarah when I got a text from her husband Mark (who is the camp director) asking me about how long I was planning on being at camp. It turned out… they needed a counselor for a few days. Actually, they needed a counselor for the exact amount of time I was going to be at camp. So uh.. heck yes.
The first night of that camp, as I stood in the middle of the cabin giving a devotion, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of that moment. I’ve been a counselor before. In 2005, 2008, for a week in 2011 and for an evening last week. When I took my “real job,” the hardest thing to sacrifice were summers at Camp Arnold. I’d always be a visitor and always be on the outside.
But there I stood, entrusted with the care of 10 brilliant little girls as their camp counselor.
On Tuesday night before I left to go back to my real job, I sat by the lake. I listened to the birds and the bullfrogs and sipped my coffee. I spread my heart out before the Lord and said “this is my home. this is where I belong. this is where I come alive. this is where I need You the most desperately. this is my heart. please bring me back.”
You can take me out of Camp Arnold.
But you will never take Camp Arnold out of me.
I hope that at one point in the future I’ll be able to have another summer at camp, but even if not.. I’ll take all of these tiny moments that God gives me.
on Monday evening I had the honor of giving the devotion to a group of pre-teen girls. I read the the verse before John 3:16, about the Son of Man being lifted up just like Moses lifted the snake in the desert. Then I read the snake story.
And I talked about how we’re surrounded by poisonous snakes (often the consequence of our own poor decisions, kinda like the Israelities) that we need to be saved from.
We don’t just need help. We don’t need poisonous snake management tips and tricks. We need RESCUE; we need a way out.
Jesus is that. He doesn’t just say “rub this balm onto your snake bites,” He was raised on a cross and said LOOK TO ME AND BE SAVED.
If we only turn to Jesus for help, then we’re settling. Yes, Jesus helps us… but more than that, he freaking RESCUES us.
Light in my darkness,
Peace for my soul,
You are my rescue;
You never let go.