training week: “you’re a poop head!” “that’s a put-down! that’s not allowed!”

well, training week has officially ended. as the staff stood in a circle last evening, saying our goodbyes until sunday, i found myself thinking about what a great summer it had been. we had done so much, made new friends, learned a bunch of new information. time to go back to the real world.

BUT WAIT. summer hasn’t even started! that was just training week! so then i got excited all over again. because this summer is going to be incredible.

a few updates. this summer, i am a blazer! i am beyond excited. my heart will always be with the braves, since that was my first unit, but it’s easy for me to see that being placed in the blazer unit is an answer to many prayers of mine. since this is my fourth summer, it would be super easy to fall into complacency, and just do everything the way i’d always done it in the brave unit. being a blazer is new, fresh, and provides new opportunities to learn and do camp in a new way. plus, there are many things i can do in the blazer unit that weren’t available for braves. i’ll be doing full cookouts, sleeping out all over camp, and participating in new activities that are exclusive to the blazers. i’m pumped to learn from the other counselors, both returning and new, and to experience this new side of camp.

my partner is amazing. his name is matty, and he’s from south africa. already we’ve become friends, and God has blessed our partnership with clear communication and similar ideas and goals for the summer. we’re on the same page with our vision for the cabin culture we want to set (we’re in peoria cabin!), and even after just the few conversations we’ve had about things we want to accomplish, i’m so excited to get into the summer with this guy! i can tell it’s going to be an incredible summer with him and the peoria cabin.

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along with finding out our cabin, unit, and parters, the rest of the past few days have been filled to the brim. we did activity rotations, took float trips, learned about what it looks like to be a well-rounded counselor, had fantastic conversations, and generally had a blast. such is the camp life.

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each of the units had some time together to get to know each other. blazers did some team-building activities, made friendship bracelets for each other, and played a bunch of games. i can tell that this is going to be a close-knit group. we have the perfect balance of returners and new counselors, and becca and jimmy, our coordinators, have been providing some great leadership.

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on our last night, each of the units did a sleep out. we had a bonfire, did a devotion together, and talked about in what areas of our lives we wanted to grow this summer, based on the sagamore creed. i’ve chosen a variety of things over the past three summers, but this summer i chose the responsibility bead. responsibility is simply taking care of the things that are important to you, and this is a summer where i want to focus on others, not myself. it’s something i’m trusting God for, because by myself i’ll do nothing but worry about me. but i think it will be easy to find friends that will hold me accountable to that this summer.

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now it’s the calm before the storm. i’m at the elliot’s house, doing laundry (they’re amazingly hospitable… i always feel so loved here). sophie and ollie are running around. they made a fort and found a turtle (his name is thunder). two more reasons that i’m excited to be here this summer.

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and so it continues. tomorrow the kids are here. that makes me feel incredible and excited and nervous and eager. how is it that God has decided to bless me so abundantly here? i don’t deserve a place like this to work. so, to quote the psalmist, “i will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (psalm 13:6). what a great phrase. God has certainly dealt bountifully with me, in more ways than just allowing me to be at camp one more year. but i think He knows how important camp is to me, and so he deals with me especially bountifully in this area. so much to be thankful for.

it’s here, guys. time to love those kids!

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training week: and so it begins.

it’s here! camp tecumseh, the best place in the world. somehow training week has already come, and things have started rather spectacularly.

many new and returning counselors have been at camp for a while now, doing a variety of trainings. i see in new counselors a sort of freedom, the kind that comes from realizing that camp is a place where they can be fun and loud and a bit odd and that’s okay. i remember first discovering that a few summers back. it’s one of the reasons camp is such a special place.

i came here one day early to get my high ropes recertification. it was a day filled with fun people doing fun things. definitely got me in the mood for the rest of the following week. we did things like ziplining and tying knots and finding small turtles and getting excited for mountaineering and skywalkers.

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then staff training really started. the following day, we all got assigned to cabins for the week. this summer i have the pleasure of leading one with john fraisure, who is, we shall say, a character. one of my favorite characters.

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we have an awesome cabin of guys as well. at this point we’ve been together for about three and a half days, and it’s been really great. everyone is going to make a fantastic counselor, seriously. they’re friendly, hilarious, and everyone is willing to share. we’ve had some wonderful devotions over the past few nights, all because of the ways the guys have been actually thinking about the stuff we talk about, and are eager to apply it to this summer and beyond. they’re the best.

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here’s another picture of us at opening campfire… we were the rainbros.

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over the past few days (though they’ve felt much longer), we’ve done a ton of fun stuff, some with each other and some with other groups. we toured the camp, we visited the minifarm and went on a trailride, we played frisbee and spikeball and nine square, we’ve done cheers before breakfast and cheers before dinner, learned to set up a tent in south pasture, hiked all over God’s beautiful creation within camp boundaries, and have just generally had a smashing good time.

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last night the staff split into separate groups (mine was labeled the wolf pack… not mad about it) and at the end of the day we made hobo dinners! i always forget just how delicious they are after you’ve put all the hard work into them. we had a great time getting to know each other and telling stories and eating some good grub.

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today has been the best ever. chapel was so good. llama talked about how God isn’t just a piece of our lives, but rather the source from which and through which everything else is given purpose. it’s an important reminder going into the summer that nothing – not the activities, not the kids, not the experience – is as important as Jesus. if we forget that, we are doomed to spend a summer expending energy for no good reason. knowing God and pursuing Him gives everything meaning, and camp is no exception.

after chapel michael brandwein came in to talk to us for the morning and early afternoon. to take joel’s phrase, this guy is basically the yoda of summer camp. usually sitting that long listening to one person would make it easier to lose focus, but literally the entire time, i felt like i was truly learning and that everything brandwein was saying was able to be applied to the summer. all the guys in my cabin agreed. it was awesome.

then, in the evening we had our first mud hike of the summer. there was a new mud pit, and it was perfect. i’m always hesitant before i arrive, but i’ve learned the benefit of letting go and getting covered… there’s something freeing about it, and it was a blast to do it with the staff, who have all been growing closer and closer over the past few days.

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afterward, we cleaned up and headed to scheumann to create our name tags for the summer and pig out on ice cream. it’s always one of my favorite nights. tomorrow we will find out what unit we’re in and who our partner is, and so there’s a hum in the air from all the excitement. people were laughing and singing and painting the little circles of wood that will hang around our necks for the next nine weeks.

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and so tomorrow the summer will seem even more real. the next time i write, i’ll know who my partner is and what unit i’ll be in! i would have expected to be nervous right now… i’ve been in the brave unit the past three years, but this summer specifically there’s some mystery as to which unit i’ll be placed with. but i am so at peace with whatever happens. becca is with the other coordinators right now, meticulously piecing together her unit and pairing counselors. and tomorrow, i’ll find out.

i could not possibly be more excited.

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thoughts on home.

sometimes there are a bunch of random things just floating around in my mind, and it takes me a bit to realize that they’re actually not disconnected at all. over the past couple weeks, in different forms and by different means, there’s been something i’ve been thinking about.

home.

what kind of image does that evoke in your heart? because it’s definitely a heart thing for me. what comes most immediately to mind is these beautiful people:

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(especially that one in the top left. wowza.) spring break is coming up in a little over a month for me, and that means i’m missing my family more with each day. the older i get, the more i cherish the relationships the Lord has blessed us with. one of the things we’ve talked about a lot in sunday school is the nature of the Trinity, and how we can experience love from our human relationships as a taste of what love within the Trinitarian relationship looks like, and what God’s love for us feels like.

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isn’t that awesome? God let’s us experience a reflection of His love in the relationships we have with others, and for me, with my family in particular. that’s probably why i so easily associate the idea of home with love.

but if home is where the heart is, then a significant piece of my home is at camp. home is, after all, a place where you are most comfortable, right? it should be, at least. i mean, look at this place.

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home is where you learn about yourself and what it looks like to love people well. camp is like that too. things have started to gear up for this summer already, and it’s insanely exciting and awesome. meeting new counselors (well, creeping on them), praying for God to do incredible things, writing to campers… it’s all so awesome! it makes me so pumped that this summer, even more people will experience camp as home.

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and man, being able to say that i have a home with these guys?

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awesome. the past two weeks i was house-sitting for someone and actually lived at their house the whole time. and while it was nice to have a place that felt kind of like my own for a bit, i missed these men terribly. the night i returned, we had our monthly house hangout night. we caught up on life and played games and it was awesome. God has provided home here, among my brothers in Christ. we went around the table and shared what our plans were for next year, Lord willing.

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it brought a smile to my face and an ache to my heart, knowing that God has some incredible plans for us, but that we’ll be going our separate ways. a few of us will be staying in muncie, and while there will certainly be more opportunities for fellowship together, things will still be different. and that’s okay, that’s how life works. just makes right now, being home with these guys, even more important.

underlying all of these thoughts of home has been the memory verses for action group:

“but our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”
>> philippians 3:20-21

isn’t that such a sweet reminder? our citizenship, our home, is in heaven. no wonder we’re called to set our minds on the things above (col. 3:2)… that’s where we belong! and these old, tired, sinful bodies will be made new, perfect. that is a wonderful thing. what a homecoming.

as beautiful as all these glimpses of home are, we were created for a different, complete kind, and it’s one we will be able to experience with our Savior. if home is where the heart is, and my heart was buried and is raised with Christ, then i can’t wait to get home.

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“psych! i’m actually mafia and i just gatling-gunned all of you.”

just got back from new life’s middle school retreat, and it was the best ever.

matt and i lead the guys’ middle school study on wednesdays, so most of the boys who came were ones that i’ve been getting to know over the course of the year, but there were a couple that i only get to see once in a while, so it was really great to catch up with them. plus there was a new guy who decided to join after only visiting new life last sunday! it was so cool; he was the perfect addition to our group and all the guys really liked him. we had a total blast together.

we did a ton of stuff. lots of games and times of hanging out. we played a lot of body body, which is a live-action version of mafia. have you ever been sneaking around in a pitch-black, slightly unfamiliar house, hoping that no one slips silently behind you and whispers “you’re dead”? it’s creepy. and lots of fun. it was a blast.

saturday we went outside to play in the snow.

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it was rather cold. we were actually out on a frozen lake (it was safe… there had been a hockey team practicing on it the other day) and some of the guys found some cattails that were on the edge of the frozen shore. naturally, they soon figured out how to make them the most obnoxious weapon ever invented.

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we also spent a ton of time playing polish pool, a classic from last year’s retreat. we had a tournament and sydney, a newcomer to the game, swept it (to the chagrin of all the boys, who grudgingly presented her with the championship trophy). Whenever there was a free minute, it was a guarantee that you’d hear the guys downstairs, hooting and hollering around the pool table.

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adam’s parents, the fantastic jaque and steve, hosted us. jaque’s reputation as a fabulous cook may or may not have convinced some of the kids to come. meals were my favorite because everyone eats together and laughs and tells stories and just gets to know each other. it was also the place where we heard the most “thank you!”s. but no surprises there. one of the boys snagged my camera to take an instagram of sorts.

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a stuff-your-face-for-the-camera picture is standard for pretty much all youth events, i’ve learned. no shame.

stark, the youth group baby, made a couple of appearances as well. he’s everyone’s favorite. this guy is, no joke, probably the cutest baby i’ve ever met. he is always smiling and laughing, he’s adorable, and he recoils after kissing my beard as if he just licked a lemon.

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like the high school retreat, our theme verse for this weekend was ephesians 4:1, in which paul encourages the people of ephesus to “live in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. we talked about how our first calling is to believe the gospel, and how when we are rooted in the love of God, it should affect how we interact with other believers and non-believers. we had some great discussion and it was, as usual, really encouraging.

this group of kids is just awesome. it’s been such a privilege to be able to work with them the entire year.

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it’s hard to describe just how cool it is to see how the guys i help lead are growing in their faith. i’ve seen the changes in their lives, the way they take their faith seriously, the way some of them are recognizing sin in their lives and seeking to pursue God more closely. it’s encouraging and convicting and inspiring and fills me with awe for how God interacts so intimately with each and every one of His children.

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the more time the Lord allows me to spend walking with kids as they pursue Him and grow in understanding of what that means and what it looks like, the more He affirms that this is something it seems i will be doing long-term. i don’t presume to know what God’s will is, but i hope i will always have the chance to lead and learn with kids about God’s grace and how His gospel will never not be essential to every moment of every day.

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“is it really just a coincidence that we’re struck with such apocalyptic snow mere weeks after frozen became such a hit? is it?!”

there are so many awesome things that are happening right now.

i’m in my final semester as an undergrad. that’s insane. and i’m not taking any classes, i’m just at practicum, which is kind of like the social work equivalent of student teaching. since i want to do counseling with kids, i’ve been placed at a local elementary school, longfellow, under the school counselor, leslie.

it’s been incredible so far. i’m learning a lot, and it’s been a privilege to get to know the students and faculty. it was pretty clear from the first week that all the teachers and staff really love these kids. leslie knows the names and seemingly the stories of each student, and it’s obvious that they love her. plus, even though i’m sure it’s annoying having to explain things to the new guy (who will only be there for a few months), i’ve felt nothing but welcomed and appreciated since i arrived.

while it’s been an odd schedule so far (i’m supposed to be there from 8-3 every day, but we’ve had so many cancelations and delays from the snow that i only have about half my hours right now), it’s been a change to get into a new routine, which has been really refreshing. i get up early, get ready for the day, and have some time with Jesus before I leave. most days i have other commitments upon my return, but i usually manage to get to sleep around 10 or so. i feel oddly grown up.

i’m also getting a taste of what it looks like to be a school counselor, at least in an elementary school. it’s exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. this could legitimately be what i’m doing in the future. like near future. like way sooner than i would have thought possible.

to be honest, i’m not sure what kinds of updates i’ll be posting this semester. clearly i haven’t made it  priority so far, but there were many reasons for that. mostly i was wanting to settle in and get my rhythm. in considering the benefits of including relaxation in the midst of a busy schedule, i’d like to post once a week, or more if time allows. so we’ll see.

so what else has been going on? list time!

1.) youth group stuff. so much fun. with each passing week, i am praising God all the more for the blessings that come with helping to lead such an incredible group. i’ve been growing closer with matt, adam, jessy, and jami. just a few nights ago we got together to eat dinner and play games. just the five of us. and it was the best. matt and i are loving the direction that the middle school guys are taking. we’re leading them through the hand illustration developed by the navigators that teaches about five different aspects of being in the word. then we plan on studying 1 peter together. the guys have shown such growth over the year, and both matt and i have been humbled and excited to watch God work.

2.) okay so maybe i got way too excited at the thought of a list. because that’s kind of it with the main things. but i have been continually blessed by the guys i live with. God has provided a lot of time lately for me to spend individually with many of them, and it’s been really awesome. such a testament to the power of blessing of fellowship in the body of Christ.

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so. there’s that. looking forward to a more consistent blogging schedule, and hopefully a full week of practicum!

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