In my last post, I wrote about my experience as a camp counselor. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up going with my family to the same church camp every summer. Two years ago, I started writing a song about what camp meant to me and it wasn’t until I got my sister Mallory to help me that I finally finished the song this summer. Since I’ve been on the topic of camp, I thought I’d share that song on my blog tonight. I know a lot of people have had similar experiences at our camp or at their own camps––experiences that seem impossible to describe because they mean so much. This song is for you.
For as long as I can remember, portions of my summers have been spent out at the church camp my grandparents met at and my mom grew up going to. I hold countless precious memories from summers I’ve spent there with friends and family and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without those moments. This summer was my third year being a camp counselor and––now that I’m in college––my first year being there exclusively as staff. I spent four weeks at camp this summer and I loved that for the first time, I got to spend every moment serving the campers. I believe that no matter what I am always learning and growing, but I think being a camp counselor has stretched me the most. I’ve been wanting to write about being a camp counselor and what it has taught me. Here’s what I know:
Being a camp counselor has taught me that my time isn’t mine. Because I’ve grown up going to camp, I have a lot of friends who also go every year and sometimes I fall into only spending time with them. It’s so easy to be selfish, especially when you only have a week with people. But that’s not the reason why I keep going back to camp. That’s not why I spend a week sweating through t-shirts and getting eaten by mosquitoes. That’s not why God doesn’t let me turn down a director when I’m asked to join their staff. I’m not at camp for myself and I’m not at camp to be comfortable. I’m there for the kids––to point them to God and love them deeply. The way I see it, my time isn’t mine, is their’s and I need to be there for them whenever they need me, including the times when I think they don’t. What I want has to leave the picture entirely in order for me to be a camp counselor and in order for me to follow Jesus better. Ultimately, my time is God’s––both on the camp grounds and off––and being a camp counselor has taught me to let go of what’s selfish and look to what’s holy.
2. Being a camp counselor has taught me empathy.Understanding where people are coming from in their flaws and well as in their kindness comes mindlessly for me and I’ve often wondered how I got to be so empathetic. Tracing it back leads to my days counseling at camp. There’s something safe about camp and it opens people up and makes them vulnerable. The amount of times I’ve seen hearts hung on sleeves with trembling but without fear are countless. I’ve heard stories of brokenness and seen sobs that mend and my role as a camp counselor in those moments has taught me that everyone has soft spots and everyone has places that hurt. And it’s caused me to understand the words that sting, the conversations that are awkward, the jokes that get annoying, the excitement that’s overkill, and so much more. I’ve been given the empathy to understand that everyone is worth loving and God reminds me repeatedly, calling me out when I bury empathy in hatred and jealousy and pretend like I don’t make excuses too.
3. Being a camp counselor has taught me about my impact. I honestly want to saw my arm off when I think about kids looking up to me. I know I’m never going to live up to their expectations and I’m never going to be the example I want them to have, but it’s an inevitable reality that campers will idolize you. They’ll want to be you and they’ll want to be your best friend. I remember thinking this about my counselors and I know every camper does it and I’ve learned to be a better person because of it. I don’t think there’s anything to teach you to walk like Jesus better than knowing that seven twelve year olds are looking at you to call the next shots. While my faith is ultimately between me and God, there’s another strong influence found in christian examples and mentors. You can’t control who sees you, but you can control how you live. Being a camp counselor has taught me that because of God, my life has greater purpose and meaning than I’ll ever know.
Being a camp counselor may not be for everyone and no one has had or is going to have the exact same experiences that I’ve had. However, if you ever get the opportunity, being a camp counselor might just be the best thing you’ve ever said yes to. Either way, God knows what’s up and everyday I’m learning to trust him better.
After starting (and never finishing) multiple posts this summer, I’ve concluded that it’s impossible to catch up on everything I didn’t write about over the past seven months. I’m either too far removed from it that I’ll never be able to write about it or simply still need more time before I can write poignantly about not only my freshman year but also the summer that followed. In general, it was the worst year of my life but I’m 100% okay with the fact that it happened and feel as though it was necessary. Any amount of further detail I try to go into leads to a tangled mess of this-then-that accompanied by a thousand sideways glances. So, I’m leaving freshman year where it is. God has somehow taken the load of last year and replaced it with an overflowing amount of peace and grace and I am learning to take it with thankfulness and without question. I’m high key the happiest and most peaceful I have ever been even though less things are right in my life now than when I was at my lowest. The only explanation is something heavenly and I am ultimately at a loss for words. •
I straight up love the camp I go to every summer. I feel like everyone thinks their church camp is superior, but mine actually is…in my opinion ;). Having just finished my freshman year of college, I spent three weeks of June leading and loving and learning and sweating exclusively as staff. As weird as it was to realize that I would never be a camper again, it also felt unbelievably right. And in a strange way, being staff reminded me why I want to keep blogging. I spent the final week of the three making a yearbook. I threw a lot of what I would write in a journal or post online into a word document and printed it 100 times over, eventually handing it out to all the people I’d spent the week with. Documenting the week and our memories like that felt familiar because I used to document my entire life like that when I consistently blogged. I realized during that week how much I missed writing and taking photos, and how I’d never noticed before, but when I’m not blogging, my creative life loses its abundance. Blogging gives me an opportunity to be in a constant state of creativity in a way that I have never been able to replicate in a journal or otherwise. I want desperately to have that be part of my life again.
This post is the first step toward getting back to where I was starting new and going in the directions that feel right. I’m struggling to change and grow this site as impossibly much as I personally have in the past seven months, and I’m finding ways to make it all work. It feels so good to be writing again and to be creating the first of many more. I love that life continues to move and change even when we aren’t ready, but gives us moments to catch up. So, hello again; I’ve been gone for a crazy amount of time but I’m finally catching up. •
It’s 2016 and I’m anxious about this year. As much as I don’t want to, I have to admit that. Twelve months and 75% of it is entirely unknown. I know the classes I’ll be taking this semester and that’s about the end of what I know. I’m trying hard to relax about it; if I learned anything from how uptight I was about my future when I was 15, it’s that I shouldn’t be uptight about my future. So, while waiting and wanting for things to happen, I think it’s probably good to be okay with not knowing. Once I get over the fact that I want to know, it gets exciting. I don’t know what will happen because anything could happen.
There’s still that fear though, isn’t there? Knowing that while anything good could happen, anything bad could happen as well. I could have to worst year of my life, right? It’s a possibility, and that’s the part that really gets to me. Of course I want the great things to happen and, ideally, the rest can just stay away. I don’t want the bad days. But…the bad days do have their place. Bad days pull you and stretch you and make you move. We can wish them away, but they must happen.
Thinking about the year ahead of me, I think that’s what I want most: for the things that need to happen to happen. If I need to learn from a year of mostly bad days, I’ll live through it. If I need to grow in a year of mostly good days, I’ll enjoy it and try not to take any of it for granted. Whatever happens, I hope for a year of necessary days. On this, I’m finding peace in an era of unknowns. Days will come and go like the snowflakes you catch on your fingertips, melting before you’ve had a chance to really see them. I’ll do my best to make them the best, but accept them as they come.
It’s 2016 and I’m anxious about this year. But I’m trying to relax about it.