week five: “THE SECOND THING YOU NEED TO BE A GENTLEMAN IS MINTY FRESH BREATH!!!”

things about this week that were just awesome:

1.) these guys are super into being gentlemen. like they decided it was their theme for opening campfire.

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2.) it’s nearly impossible to hold them back from holding open the door for others. we had to start limiting it to three gentlemen at a time, so that everyone else could actually get through the door. and yes, all of those below are peoria gentlemen.

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3.) wacky wednesday. we got to choose a theme for the afternoon and decorate the whole cabin. we decided we had lost our theme, and held some theme tryouts. one of them (my favorite, admittedly) was the gentleman bootcamp. a couple of the guys were really excited about it and decorated a whole corner of the cabin in camouflage, with one as the commander and the other as the cadet. they shouted a few directives back and forth, and the cadet ran outside to straighten shoes. all of us had a blast.

it’s always so encouraging to see when the guys legitimately want to be serving others by being gentlemen, when they see it as fun. i hope that it’s something they carry on after they leave camp, but i know that God’s in control of all of that. i’m more than content with the role i get to play here at camp.

4.) bible study. it’s the best. this summer we’re going through the prophets in the old testament, and we talked about isaiah. i love being with campers all day every day, but it’s refreshing to have good conversation about important things with fellow believers. we have good food, good fellowship, and lots of fun. such a blessing.

5.) these guys are just the best. and we have fun as a group. everyone seems to get along, and it’s been great watching as friendships have developed.

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7.) it’s just impossible not to have fun with these guys. one of the reasons i love my job so much.

8.) clinics. riflery was a blast, mountaineering is always encouraging, and hip hop is basically guaranteed to be the best (also we got some swag).

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9.) closing campfire. for some reason this week was extra fun all the way through. jack and mike brought out their hilarious “who’s on first” skit back. cheers were full of life and craziness. hip hop performed. and a mysterious sweater somehow made it on stage for literally every single act.

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10.) have i mentioned these guys are awesome? i’m going to miss them. i already do.

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week four: “my goal is just to have something i say be the title of one of your blog posts.”

week four has historically been fantastic (see here and here and here), and this summer has been no exception. everything was fun, we all made some great connections with the campers, and it was the kind of week where we wished all ten of them were stayovers. just full of blessing and fun. lots of fun.

i mean, just look at these guys. they’re all studs.

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we were set up for success right from the beginning. four of those guys had been in my cabin two years ago, and were some of my favorites of all time. one was the younger brother of a close friend, and another was a camp kid that i’ve known for the past few years. four were ones i’d never met, and every single one of them was awesome.

we did tons of awesome things, like every week. a favorite was once again the minifarm. it’s always a blast seeing the tough guys get really excited about petting baby bunnies. we had a contest to see who could sound most like the pigs, and also took some time to play chicken round up. becca and katherine’s cabins were with us, and becca managed to conquer her (apparently intense) fear of… chickens. we were all very proud of her.

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this week, we brought back a favorite of mine from last year: the gentlemen games! i brought all the guys into the cabin and gathered them in a circle to relay our mission parameters. together, we decided to focus on the blazer girl cabins. we grabbed some sticky notes and markers, mentally prepared for the challenge at hand, and sprinted to the oregon territory. our cover story was that we were on a camp tree photo tour. naturally, we had to get some photos so our story was legit (also, note the ties we wore. we simply told people we were on a gentlemen’s hike).

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we plastered cabin doors with odd complements (e.g. “you’re better than apple pie. and apple pie is my favorite dessert.”), straightened lines of shoes, and organized clotheslines. most of the girls were out of their cabins, but for the last cabin we had to do all these things without being seen or heard by the ladies inside. it was intense, but we managed to accomplish our mission and sneak away unnoticed. win.

since we were working so well together, it was a great week to do the optimist challenge. we paired up with some of the blazer ladies and trekked across it, encouraging each other along the way. there are so many reasons i love this activity. it’s fun and challenging, it forces people to ask for help and encourage each other, and it creates space for leaders to step up. one of my campers had told me a little earlier in the week that he was praying for God to grow him in his leadership skills (so cool. just so cool.), and so i asked him specifically to be setting the example for encouraging his partner and having a positive attitude. he totally did, and we were all really proud of him.

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on wednesday i had the honor of being selected as a safety officer (well, batman did… and he and i are pretty close). it meant that i got a cool fluorescent vest and had the responsibility of making sure that everyone stayed safe. so later that day there was only one thing to do: take safety selfies with everyone. it was a hit. they were some of the safest pictures i’ve ever seen, to be sure.

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another reason this week rocked was that i had the chance to be in an awesome chapel. in the skit, milson keeps getting torn down by people, who tear a piece of his heart each time they hurt him. towards the end, milson starts tearing his own heart because he starts believing the things that people are saying. representing Jesus, i came in and gave him my heart. it was a cool picture of the way that Jesus took on the pain and hurt that should be ours because He loves us so much. and even when there is deep pain, we still have an anchor in our loving God.

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those two photos were taken by ben dehr, one of the camp photographers. he’s pretty awesome and you can look at all of the camp photos here. he also got some sweet pics of the firewors show (you can see them below), because of course the fourth of july happened this week. along with the fireworks show, we had a spectacular theme dinner on friday.

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everyone gets into it, and it’s the best. hands down though, the best part is the relationships that are built here at camp. i love seeing guys, who don’t know each other on sunday when they arrive, leave being best friends. camp just does that. it’s in the dna here.

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so, another week in the books. another week to come. crazy how it all flies by! what a busy, busy, sweet, sweet life.

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week three: “i have two words to say about the rest of the week: i’m in!”

week three was absolutely awesome. as each week passes, i’m realizing more and more how God is answering my prayers to make this a summer where i am challenged in the best ways, while at the same time He blesses me in ways i would never expect.

i was a little disappointed that i didn’t get to be at camp t for week two, especially after seeing some pictures online (check them out here. you can binge on them if you want. that’s how i just spent my last thirty minutes.) i recognized campers that i’d had in years past, and i was disappointed that i hadn’t been able to reconnect with them. but on sunday i return to camp and discovered two things. first, matty was really excited to see me. it was a great reunion. and second, we had three stayovers. which meant that almost a third of last week’s cabin would still be here, so it was almost like i hadn’t missed out!

also all three of them had been in my cabin last summer. so that was basically the best.

i’m sure i’ll be saying this all summer, because chances are i’ll have more opportunities to have previous campers in my cabin again. but there is just nothing so cool as being able to see the ways God has been working in the lives of kids that you’ve invested in. while i stay in touch with a few campers from over the years, the vast majority of these kids i say goodbye to on saturday and don’t get the chance to see where they are in a year. but when God allows me a glimpse into the lives of campers i’ve developed relationships with, it’s encouraging and exciting and makes me praise Him.

that was probably my high of the week, seeing how guys had grown in patience, care for others, and a desire for God. one of the campers told me after devos that he hadn’t before known that he didn’t have to earn God’s approval. but since coming to camp this week, he learned that there’s nothing he can do that will ever make God love him any less. how is it that the Lord has chosen someone like me to deliver such beautiful good news? i certainly don’t deserve it, but i will gladly accept it. praise Jesus!

other highs of the week would include the clinics. i had hip hop, mountaineering, and clay. all of them were the best. i had some of my campers in mountaineering and clay, and it was so much fun.

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a variety of clinics is always the best, because you’re always on your toes and things don’t get boring. i went from choreographing the chorus to “best day of my life” to cheering on a camper who climbed to the top of mount wood to painting facial hair on the campers in clay clinic. all in a couple hours. that’s like the best.

wk3_2we did some pretty awesome things as a cabin this past week too. we went on a mud hike (one of the guys i was sure would back out was in 110%), we visited the minifarm to do the chicken round-up (side note: for some reason i’d always been afraid of chicken round up, mainly because it involved running after them to catch them and i was afraid that somehow i’d manage to lose all of camp’s chickens. but it turned out to be a blast), and we dressed up and went crazy for disco night. we also had one of my favorite unit games ever… prom night! somehow the guys always think it’s the best when they dress me up in pinks and purples and jean jackets and dresses.

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what i love most about camp is the relationships that form. i love looking over at trading post and watching david listen intently as his camper explains chess to him. i love watching milson initiate a heart-to-heart with one of his guys. i love all the little things i get to see as i walk around camp. so much silliness, so much happiness, so much joy. and it’s all so very real.

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i like real.

 

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“we have to go back! we didn’t take pictures of us stuffing our faces!”

so this is an update on the second week, but i didn’t actually spend it at camp tecumseh. instead, i got to be a counselor at edge 2014, which is a middle school summer camp in chattanooga, tennessee. myself, matt, and the other leaders from new life got to go with all the middle schoolers that we’ve been leading for the past year or more. plus, some of the incoming sixth graders joined us! let’s just say it was the best ever.

it was a bit of a shorter week, which meant that after i left camp t on saturday of week 1, i got a whole day to rest before shipping off with matt, jami, jessy, and the kids.  it’s a nine hour drive to chattanooga, so we had plenty of time to sing songs, play the alphabet game, sleep (the kids, not the drivers), and just generally be hyper. it was fantastic and tiring and wonderful. the frozen soundtrack was on repeat, naturally.

edge 2014 took place at covenant college, which rests atop lookout mountain. it was the first time i’d ever been on a mountain, and it was absolutely stunning. like, every evening was a painting. just really gorgeous stuff. when we woke up in the mornings, we couldn’t even see the city below, because it would be covered with a layer of clouds. sunsets and sunrises were absolutely beautiful. and there was so much color all the time. it was the best place to spend a week of camp.

we only spent monday evening through friday morning there, but each of the days was jam packed with stuff to do. on tuesday, our first full day, we had a water extravaganza. you kind of had to be there, but i’ll try to explain. there were watermelons to fight over, pyramids of death to climb (and inevitably fall from, as they were covered in tarps soaked with a copious amount of baby oil), and giant slip-and-slides to race down, all filmed by a flying camera drone (yep). totally awesome. on thursday we drove down to georgia to spend the afternoon at white water, a six flags park. most of my time was spent in the wave pool with some of the guys, playing games involving the inner tubes. most revolved around capsizing each other and claiming victory, only to be taken down a minute later. it was a fantastic day. we also took a couple of hours that week to explore chattanooga, which is a beautiful place. those times were some of my favorites, because we got to just hang out with all the kids, talking and laughing and continuing to build relationships with them, which is what we’ve been doing for the past couple years.

each evening there was a large group meeting, where we’d jam to some music, sing worship songs, and listen as the speaker for the week, jay, opened God’s word for us. he focused on the life of jacob in the old testament, and how the theme of God’s blessing can be found throughout his life. the Spirit really spoke through jay. he talked about how we often seek to earn God’s blessing, when by definition a blessing is something given as a gift. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the ultimate blessing we have been given. there’s nothing we can do to earn it. a beautiful truth (the gospel truth, in fact), and one that i need to be reminded of daily.

one of the things i most appreciated was that the staff of edge 2014 really took the spiritual well-being of the counselors seriously. every morning before breakfast they had set aside time for us to spend in the word by ourselves, and every evening before the main session there was a leaders’ meeting, where the camp director gave a short message from the word to encourage and fill us. i always came away feeling blessed.

so camp was awesome. there are certainly more things i could say, but i’ll conclude it with this: i am so blown away that the Lord has blessed me and the other leaders with the opportunity to lead and learn with the youth at new life. there are hardly words to describe how blessed i feel to know them, to lead them, and to learn from them. God is so, so good. i am so thankful to have spent a week with everyone, and i’m psyched to be back in muncie after the summer finishes up!

 

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week one: “…and my high was knowing that we have a whole week more of this stuff.”

oh guys. camp is wonderful.

i apologize for not updating until now. that’s pretty unusual. typically i post twice a week or so, but there were a few things that kept me. my camera broke, i had an unexpectedly long nap in the nurse’s station, and i was actually unable to use my computer all of last week. also my wordpress media upgrade (which allows me to post pictures) expired. so no new pictures until that gets worked out (i’m really sorry and sad about that). but this is my week one post. and i’m so excited to finally update you all!

because guys. it was wonderful.

first, my partner matty is just the best. i seriously could not have asked God for a better partner. he’s a natural counselor. so many times throughout week 1 i got to see him loving our kids so well. he’s patient with them, he takes them seriously, and he makes them feel valuable. plus, he really looks out for me. we tag-team really well, and i know i can rely on him. i can’t wait to see where peoria cabin ends up by the end of the summer.

second, my cabin was just the best. matty and i are wanting to be really intentional about creating a culture in which our guys are expected to be gentlemen, and see themselves as such. this is great, because we can tell them that as blazers, they’re blazing the trail for younger campers, and even older ones. they have the opportunity to lead by example and be third.

our week one guys were all over it. they were so excited to get out there and be gentlemen. more than any other week i’ve experienced at camp, our guys were encouraging each other when they saw behavior that exemplified the i-am-third motto. they called each other out for being example-setters, and each of them looked for ways to put others in front of themselves. it was the best ever. these guys are a bit older than braves, too, and i’ve noticed that they’re much more interested in having deeper conversations. i have an action bible (it’s the comic book translation) that has absolutely captivated their attention. there wasn’t a single rest hour that it wasn’t being read by one of the guys. it led to some sweet conversations (and by that i mean that God used to to lead to some sweet conversations) about idolatry, the reason that Jesus didn’t save Himself from the cross, and why we can’t earn our way to heaven. seriously. i was blown away. God was very obviously answering my prayers to provide opportunities for such conversations.

finally, the week itself was just awesome. one of my favorite times was our hammock sleepout in the pine forest. peoria joined up with our brother cabin, potters, and did some s’mores and games. we did a joint devotion on fear and how God is with us all the time (some of the guys were a bit freaked out by the dark forest around us), and then went to bed. it was so peaceful, listening to the sounds of the forest and looking up at the stars while rocking lightly in the hammock. one of those times when it’s easy to recognize God’s blessings.

so i would love it if you would take some time to praise God with me for all the cool stuff He’s doing here. camp is as amazing as ever, and He is as faithful as ever.

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