Week 5: The Breaking Point

Around week 3, people started asking, “Have you hit your wall yet?” I would give them a huge smile and say, “Wall? What wall? What’s a wall?”

Week 5 was when I discovered…THE WALL. For the first half of the week, it was like I couldn’t go any further. I was constantly on edge. Everything irritated me. I couldn’t stand for people to touch me. I always felt like I was about to scream at someone or something. My jr. staffer was a shy 14-year-old that everyone mistook as a camper, who sort of followed my group around like a lost puppy. The only time he gave any indication of being alive was when my boys would deliberately do something I had told them not to do, at which he would laugh and high-5 them.

Here are some snippets from my journal at the end of day 2: “I’m getting impatient with people.” “I feel myself getting tense and shutting people out because I’m overwhelmed.” “I want to scream.”  “Why are my nerves so on edge lately?” “I just want to scream.”

I found myself reverting back to my defense mechanism of blocking everyone else out and trying to be in control and deal with things on my own. One night I had a good long talk with Kendall and Nasser where they got to see the less-than-together side of me. You see, I don’t mind people seeing the broken and imperfect parts of me, as long as I make the choice to show them. But this was unintentional and pretty much just embarrassing. Kendall said he’d noticed that I had some sort of “sophisticated and cleverly disguised defense mechanism” that I was putting up to block everyone out. So I was sitting there at the picnic table rambling on about things that have happened in my past to explain why I was putting these walls up, and then feeling awkward and trying to apologize and amend the situation while just digging the hole deeper, and I finally concluded awkwardly, “I don’t know why I’m even bringing this up. I let go of this a long time ago, and I thought this part of me was gone.” Kendall responded insightfully, “I think you’ve chopped down the tree, but you haven’t let God into the most sensitive areas of your life to dig up the roots.” What he said really resonated with me, but honestly what made the biggest difference was just that he and Nasser were so accepting of me even when they saw a vulnerable and insecure part of me that even I didn’t want to accept.

No, my week did not magically become amazing because of that. But it was a growing experience, and I learned more about working through my emotions instead of pretending like they weren’t there. Because Nasser and Kendall saw me as important enough to validate my feelings, no matter how complicated or misguided, I realized that it’s okay to give voice to my own feelings and accept my own weakness. And that ended up being one of the major life lessons I learned this summer.

On Wednesday afternoon I was in charge of extended care, and while the kids were playing volleyball, one of the kid’s moms and I sat on the ground talking and watching one of the little girls make a sand castle. I had met her briefly earlier in the week — her son had this super awesome cookie monster shirt that said “Keep calm and eat cookies”, and I kind of fell in love with it, which she thought was funny. So we were just sitting there talking about life and camp and relationships, and it was so great just to have a real conversation after another difficult day. On Friday after closing celebration when all of the parents came to pick up their kids, she came to find me and gave me a hug and a small gift bag. When I opened it later, there was a “keep calm and eat cookies” shirt and a sweet encouraging note.

As for kid stories, well, I guess the week was fairly uneventful. I did have this obnoxious little punk named Jake who was quite the handful, and who totally stole my heart for some reason that I can’t explain. But it was one of those weeks that I guess I had to have to complete my camp experience. God had a reason for each of these 8 weeks, and the lessons that He taught me in the brokenness of week 5 just prepared my heart for the incredible things He had planned for week 6. Tune in next time for youth camp and the Navy Babies!

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Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 12:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Week 4: Camp Deer Run

“I know You’re alive; You came to fix my broken life. So I’ll sing to glorify Your holy name, Jesus Christ.”

That song has been playing on repeat in my head for the past 26 hours, and I couldn’t come up with a way to begin this post because I have about a million thoughts and emotions going in all different directions, so there ya go. When I hear those words in my head, I see worship last night. I was sitting on the dirty floor, bits of asphalt stuck to my skin, holding one of my girls tight as she

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My original intent was to blog every Saturday. But after week 4, I couldn’t. I really tried to that week; I sat staring at my computer for over an hour. But the truth is, there were so many emotions tied up in that week that I didn’t even know where to begin, or how to tell you what was going on in my heart. I still don’t, so I guess I’ll have to content myself with a basic summary. Just know that there’s 10x more than what you’re reading here, and that although it may not sound like anything to you, this week was very special to me.

Week 4 was Camp Deer Run, our mission camp for inner city kids. I was overnight with 5 jr. high girls. We had been warned before this week that there would be attitude and behavior problems, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But all of my girls were so sweet and polite, calling Sunshine and me “ma’am”, paying attention and just being super respectful.

The first day one of my girls ended up getting sick and going home. But other than that, I wrote in my journal that night, “Today went smoothly. But here’s the thing: smooth doesn’t mean anything if I don’t accomplish anything. So here’s to tomorrow, and pouring myself out till I’ve got nothing left. I want to make it a day they’ll remember because they experienced God and felt His love.”

God was so faithful to answer my prayer. The rest of the week so was amazing, not because of anything I did, but because I could feel Him working through me when I was exhausted, because relationships began to build. Tuesday night I could start to see all the girls becoming friends, laughing together and having a good time in the cabin at night, and it just brought a smile to my face.

On Wednesday we did the climbing tower, and there was time left over for me to give it a second try. It was the first time I’d done it since training week, and this time I made it to the top, with my girls below cheering me on. A seemingly small thing – but it was the one thing I had not accomplished during training week, and the one thing I really wanted to accomplish before I left Deer Run. Although, when I’d finished it, I didn’t feel quite as awesome as I’d thought I would. I wrote later that night, “I’m glad I can say I’ve done it, and now I know what it’s like, but honestly it didn’t make me feel that different. I guess I’ve learned to place my worth in other things.” And I really have. Looking back to where I was during training week, so much has changed in me. But, for what it’s worth, I did conquer that obstacle that had bothered me for so long.

On Thursday we did the Leap of Faith, and the first girl to go, Daija, was too afraid to jump off. Before her, the longest I’ve ever waited was about 10-15 minutes, but this girl was up there for literally an hour and 45 minutes till her poor little body was trembling with the effort of holding on. When she’d finally come down, and calmed down, and dried her tears, her first words were, “That wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.” And when the next girl went and was afraid to jump, Daija was the one encouraging her. “I know how you feel, girl. You can do it.” And I was like, “YES! This is why I do what I do.”

We had a response time Thursday night at worship, and I was sitting on the dirty floor, bits of asphalt stuck to my skin, holding Iyarie tight as the tears trickled down her face. Not a lot was said between us. Not a lot needed to be said. And I’m quickly realizing that not a lot needs to be said about it here, either. It’s one of those moments that you can’t understand until you’ve been there.

Like when the bus pulled away Friday morning and it felt like my heart was going to break as I tried to smile through the torrent of tears. At first I had been planning to give the girls my contact information, but for some reason I felt like God was leading me away from that. After all, what do I really know about their lives? Does an inner city kid from a broken home want or need to see the facebook posts of a middle-class white girl who goes to school in Green Hills? During that week, we were the same people on the same journey. And I felt like it was better left that way as a memory. But that made it ten times harder to say goodbye, knowing that there was a 90% chance I would never see those precious smiles again.

There was this guy named Randall that I got to know that week. He was pretty awesome, and we got to have a couple of good conversations. All week I’d kept commenting that I liked his bandanna, so before he left he gave it to me, hugged me, and said, “You’ve taught me a lot.” And that, too, means more to me than I can ever explain.

And so I guess I’ll finish this post the way I finished my last journal entry from that week: “Oh God. These kids…this week…my heart…ugh. I can’t write any more right now.”

Published in: on August 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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a summer at deer run…the view from the other side

This summer I met some amazing people who have loved me, supported me, and changed my life.

Over the course of the summer I was blessed with 67 precious kids that God entrusted to me to teach and to play with and to love.

I jumped off the 30-foot Leap of Faith.

I conquered the 45-foot climbing wall.

I played lots of Gaga ball.

I let my kids dress me up in crazy costumes and performed talents that they decided on.

I danced a lot.

I played paintball.

I got to worship every night.

I prayed with kids to receive Christ and got to see one of them baptized.

I told a kid who had never been to church before who God is.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and grown in so many ways, and God has been amazing in bringing up the same themes over and over to reinforce these lessons. What was theoretical knowledge before is experiential now — I’m not spouting off cliches anymore because I have lived out the truth in these lessons.

Theme: empty to fill. During training week, Mom led devotionals on that theme, and since then it’s kept coming up everywhere — at church, in song lyrics, in the way God has proved that truth to me over and over. I’ve learned what it really means to depend on God for strength and have faith that if I pour out everything I have, He will refill me with exactly what I need when I need it. There’s nothing like getting to the end of an exhausting day, high-fiving my awesome jr. staffer Brody and praising God together because we know that there’s no freaking way we could have done it on our own. One night a couple weeks ago I was sitting in the back of the camp store having a meltdown between dinner and worship. After I’d calmed down I went to the tent where worship was starting, and Caleb was leading a song we’d sung all summer long. It was the thousandth time I’d heard it, and to be honest, I’d never given it much thought beyond “oh, it’s a fun song for the kids that they can dance to.” But the truth of the words struck me in a completely new way. “I’ve got a river of living water, a fountain that never will run dry. It’s an open heaven You’re releasing, and we will never be denied.” Even when I’m running on empty, God’s strength will never run dry, and He will always give me what I need. And that kinda leads into the next theme. But when I was leaving today, crying bittersweet tears and thanking God for an amazing summer, I was listening to Casting Crowns and a line from The Well jumped out at me: “And now that you’re full of love beyond measure, your joy’s going to flow like a stream in the desert. Soon all the world will see that living water is found in Me, because you came to the well.” That’s such a beautiful way to express the transition we’re making in going back to our normal lives, and how God will continue to work through us as we empty to fill.

It is God who arms me with strength — Brody and me and the Y-Babes

Theme: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” I wrote that verse in my journal the night before I left for Deer Run. Like every other theme, it’s shown up in so many ways. One of my favorite songs we’ve sung this summer has a bridge that says “I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God, You never will!” I’ve learned that it’s okay that I can’t do everything on my own. My whole life I’ve felt like everything was up to me, and I had to somehow prove myself by taking on way more than I could handle. This summer has really taught me to trust and rely on my support group, how to ask for help when I need it, how to accept and even embrace my own weakness. I don’t have to hide or be ashamed of my emotions. I don’t have to pretend like I’m fine when I’m not. For the first time in my life, I’m really…okay with myself. Which leads into the next theme.

Theme: I am who I am, not what I do. And I am okay with that. This summer, all the support and affirmation from my wonderful coworkers has shown me the value in myself. I didn’t have to prove anything to these people to be loved, and I don’t have to be someone I’m not. First, for something as small as a tube of mascara or a powder compact, makeup is a huge thing to let go of. Two months ago, when I looked in the mirror without makeup, I thought I was hideous. Last week, I actually thought, “Hey, I look cute today.” What?! I’ve actually managed to get to a point where I’m so used to my real face that I feel like I look weird with eyeliner. The other thing that was hard to get over was fear of inadequacy, of what others thought of me. When I couldn’t make it to the top of the climbing tower during training week, I was absolutely mortified, especially when several of the other girls did it with no problem. So halfway through camp when I finally conquered it, I thought I would feel amazing. But…I didn’t. I wrote in my journal later that night, “I’m glad I can say I’ve done it, and now I know what it’s like, but honestly it didn’t make me feel that different. I guess I’ve learned to place my worth in other things.” Oh, and that kind of leads into the next theme too.

Theme: God is enough. I can live with very little. And even when that little falls apart, it’s okay. Not worth stressing over. I brought 4 pairs of shoes to camp, and only 1 pair escaped unscathed. The sole came off my first pair of Chacos, so I had them replaced. When the sole came off the second pair a week later, I shrugged and Brody and I wrapped them up in bright yellow duct tape. What would have infuriated me 2 months ago, I laughed about, because I’ve truly learned that security is not found in possessions. I’ve written a few posts on materialism, because it’s bothered me for a long time, but I never knew how to make a change while I was stuck in the environment I was in. Well, camp gave me an opportunity to escape that environment and cut my dependency on stuff. So I’ll hopefully be making a trip or two to Goodwill before I get sucked back into the vortex of greed and have the chance to regret it.

It’s been an incredible summer and God has blessed me in so many ways. This hardly scratches the surface of how deeply Deer Run has changed me. There’s no way I could ever explain everything that’s happened, but it’s truly been an experience I will never forget.

Published in: on August 4, 2012 at 11:34 pm  Comments (3)  
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Minefield

“Katie! Katie, I can’t hear you!” I hesitated, not sure what to do. I adjusted my blindfold and took a tentative step forward.

“Take a step to the right!” a girl’s voice shouted. Was it Katie? I wasn’t sure. They sounded alike from 15 feet away.

“Katie, is that you?” I called. I stepped to the right and ran into a tree. Then I heard my name.

“Lauren, keep coming forward!” More confident now recognizing her voice, I took a few steps forward, straining to hear her next instructions. “Duck down a little…now step over a rope…”

When I finally made it to the other side and removed my blindfold, I looked back at the minefield and high-fived my partner who had guided me across by shouting instructions over the voices of 5 other people.

Once we had all made it through the minefield, Andrea told us why we had done that particular activity as a team. “Life is a minefield,” she explained, “And we have so many different voices shouting at us. Sometimes they just make it difficult to hear over the noise, but sometimes they can sound deceivingly alike. To make it across the minefield, you had to know your partner’s voice and trust that they would get you across. In life, we have all kinds of voices shouting at us: parents, peers, teachers, the media. But there is only One person whose instructions are meant exactly for you and for your unique situation. Only One voice is going to get you across the minefield.”

The minefield was one of many team-building games we played our first day of training at Deer Run, but to me it was the most powerful. I had just experienced the awkward feeling of standing there, unsure where to go or whether I should move until I was sure I heard Katie’s voice, so with the memory of those feelings fresh on my mind, the application truly moved me.

God, where do I go when I can’t hear You? There are some times when all I can do is wait in the silence, trying to block out the other voices, becoming frustrated and scared when I can’t make out Your voice. But in the end, two things will get me across: I have to know Your voice, and I have to trust that You will lead me safely through life on the path that You have planned for me.

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Summer at Deer Run

Hey everyone! I have officially completed my training week at Deer Run Christian Camp in Thompson’s Station, TN. It’s been exhausting, and it’s been so rewarding.

I looked in the mirror yesterday and thought, “Whoa, who is this girl?” In the past week I have: walked across a rope 40 feet above the ground, stood on the top of a 25-foot pole with nothing to hold onto and then actually jumped off, played paintball, gone without makeup and been totally fine with it, and absolutely fallen in love with this camp and with my coworkers. One thing’s for sure: I won’t be coming back from Deer Run the same person I was when I left.

The next few posts will be about specific lessons that I’ve learned this past week, so I just wanted to explain where I am and what I’m doing this summer to provide some context for these summer posts. 🙂

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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