Where do I even begin? As it turned out, that verse that my sweet girl gave me last week has become my sanity. “He will strengthen you with all power according to His glorious might, that you may have great endurance and patience.” And He has been so faithful. Of all the lessons I’m learning, the biggest one is how to truly rely on God moment by moment for my strength, trusting that He will give me the exact amount I need right when I need it. Until now, it’s just been a concept, a theory. But this past week there were times when I had no idea how I kept going. I’ve been sick all week and hardly had a voice. There were times when I literally had to stop where I was, right in front of my girls, lift my hands and count to 5 and say that verse. There were times when my girls asked me questions that I had no idea how to answer, and somehow the right words came out. I’m learning that when you pour out everything you have, God will refill you.
At the beginning of the week I was constantly stressing and counting kids and trying to do everything right and pushing through the day to get to the end. But on Tuesday God really started convicting me to live in every moment and take advantage of every opportunity, to let the little things go and truly give my all. Suddenly trips to the nurse were no longer an inconvenience but a chance to talk with one of my girls one on one. And when I started seeing everything in this new light, I started seeing the purpose in all these intricate details that God had planned out since day one.
One girl in my group would never do anything on time. One morning we woke up at 7:00 and still didn’t make it down to breakfast until 8:10. Endurance and patience. She told me that she always heard me when I called her name and she just chose to ignore me. Endurance and patience. She cut down the other girls until they cried and then put her hands over her ears when I tried to talk to her about it. Endurance and patience. Another girl sought attention in being “accident-prone” — she would “spill” her cups of water on people about 5 times a day, “accidentally” slice open a paintball and smear it on her face, &c. She hurt herself constantly and had to go to the nurse for every little scrape, which was about 3 times a day. She whined about everything. She was ridiculously disrespectful to me and all the other counselors, telling us to shut up and calling us liars when we had a schedule change. She pinched another girl and lied about it, and then acted like the victim even though we all saw her do it and refused to sit at the table with us. Endurance and patience. One night all of the girls somehow decided I was in love with one of the other counselors and thought it would be cute to run down to the showers screaming, “Babe loves ____!!!” Endurance and patience.
The days were so frustrating, but somehow there were moments of grace in the evenings that made the rest seem to fade away. Thursday night Caleb was leading “Give Me Faith.” I was pretty overwhelmed, so I slipped out of my row into the side aisle and knelt on the ground, singing the truth of the song with a more desperate need for God’s strength than ever before. “Give me faith to trust what You say, that You’re good and Your love is great. I’m broken inside, I give you my life. I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God, You never will!” When I raised my face from the ground and glanced over to my row, what I saw put me over the edge and the tears just rained down. All six of my girls were on their knees, eyes closed, hands raised, singing their hearts out. It was the moments like that that kept me going, when I could see past the frustrations and obnoxious behavior and look with God’s eyes on the precious hearts that He is calling back to Himself.
During quiet time on Wednesday, I was just chillin in my bed letting my thoughts wander when suddenly I felt like God was showing me that something would happen with my girl GG this week. I wasn’t sure why, because there was no real reason to think that — we hadn’t really talked or anything, so I didn’t know what was going on in her life. And to be quite honest, I was kind of hoping it would be one of the two more difficult girls so I could feel like I’d accomplished something. But God showed me GG. So later that afternoon when she was homesick and didn’t feel like playing in the creek with the other girls, I chose to see it as an opportunity instead of a difficulty, and we sat out and talked one-on-one for a while. The conversation never really focused around God, which disappointed me a little, and I was kind of afraid that was my chance and I missed it. But that wasn’t the case at all.
Friday night after worship, four of my girls came to talk to me, all emotional and saying they wanted to be closer to God and recommit their lives to Him. But truthfully, I wasn’t really feeling it from all of them and I didn’t want to push anything that wasn’t sincere, so I told them that we could talk one on one later, hoping that I would get a better feel for what was going on in their hearts. As it turned out, in the excitement of bonfire and smores and hayride and showers, three of them changed their minds and didn’t want to talk anymore. But one girl kept reminding me over and over, “Can we talk after showers? Can we talk before bed? If I brush my teeth quickly, can we talk?” And that girl was GG.
We had a good long talk on the porch of our cabin, wrapped in a fuzzy purple blanket, because all serious talks need fuzzy blankets, about how to live a truly surrendered life and trust God with everything, and how to reach out and take hold of the abundant life that Jesus promised, not just for eternity but now. And because of everything that God has done in me this week, I wasn’t spouting off cliche Sunday school phrases or telling her to repeat a prayer after me. It was raw, it was honest, it was personal, and it was such an incredible moment as GG and I sat there sharing and learning and praying together. Yeah, I’m the college kid and she’s the middle schooler. I’m the counselor and she’s the camper. But we’re in this together now, on the same journey, reaching for everything God has for us. And it was the most awesome feeling in the world.
“Come away with Me, come away with Me. It’s never too late, it’s not too late, it’s not too late for you. I have a plan for you, I have a plan for you. It’s gonna be wild, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be full of Me!”