Retreat from Worry

This post is long overdue because this semester has been crazy. I like to promote rest and mindfulness, but wasn’t so good at practicing it this semester. There were a few key moments where I experienced some of that, so I would love to share.

Fall can be absurdly crazy for a college student. Classes start back, there are new organizations to get involved in, commitments seem to double every year and not to mention Greek life which takes on Homecoming and new members and a ton of events. It’s usually fun, but it can be crazy.

I was lucky enough to get to attend two different retreats where I got to take my mind off the speeding bullet that was fall semester and take stock of what was going on. The first being a retreat with my sorority the first weekend of classes.

That seems really early to be so stressed, but in reality it was great timing. Two weeks of formal recruitment are about as tiring and emotionally draining as an experience gets. Plus the first week of classes is a whirlwind of information and trying to figure things out. We took the weekend to go to a camp on the lake and just be together.

DSC_0241

Now if you’ve read any of my previous blogs you know I love camp, love the lake and love people. My only job at this retreat was to spend time with old friends and meet new members while spending time in the sun and around bonfires. I learned that after a few weeks of pretending I had it all together and carrying out duties of the executive board and senior year, it was okay to let go and let someone else be in charge.

Sometimes it is so hard to realize that you’re not always in control. I admit I can be a control freak. When things get out of hand is when I get stressed and anxious. What I had to learn this semester, and what this retreat began to teach me, is that sometimes letting others be in control is the best way to practice self-care.

Growing up is a lot of trying to have it all together and knowing what’s next. Senior year especially. It’s hard to admit that I don’t have it all together and I have no idea what’s next.

Spending time with some other seniors at the second retreat is what made me realize that I am so not alone in that. It sounds like a lot of other seniors have these big jobs lined up and have the perfect lives, but in reality we are all glorious ruins.

Side note: Glorious ruins is a term I learned at a women’s conference this semester. It’s kind of like being a hot mess, but with divine purpose and beautiful design.

Sometimes I feel so small and have a hard time remembering there is a bigger plan than my own and I must have patience. Talking about that with some other lost but beautiful souls reassured me that I am not as small and alone as I have been feeling this year.

Life transitions are scary. Getting asked about what’s next all the time and not knowing the answer is scary. This semester and the two perfect breaks I had reminded me that I have no reason to be scared when I have the perfect people in my life to love and a plan that is far greater than my own to discover.

Something Big: Part II

My previous post discussed some crazy timing in getting me to a camp I didn’t plan to attend. Well, after about 24 hours rest it was time to serve at the camp I had planned for. I received a room of 7th grade girls who I had never met. I was excited because I love middle school campers but nervous because I wanted to be an excellent leader for them.

Before campers arrived I was thrown another curveball.

One of my girls had some medical issues. Staff decided to place another leader in my room incase we ever had a situation where it would be easier with two adults.

I was hesitant because I had just come from having a small group to lead independently to having to figure out how to share leadership with an adult. I am a person who is rooted in my plans and hate change, so I was far more hesitant so I should have been.

The night before campers came I was with my new co-leader and we ended up having a really cool conversation. Both of us had been given opportunities to serve where we didn’t originally intend to. Our plans were turned upside down for better ones and we were put in perfect positions to meet needs that the camps had. I realized that we were in the same situation just trying to figure things out.

The girls in our cabin ended up being the most charismatic, sassy, lovable and caring girls we could ask for. They demonstrated what good friends look like and really leaned on each other during the week.

img_5223.png

The girls taught me a lot about being intentional with care and having honest conversations. They made me better at asking tough questions and pushing them out of their comfort zones. And they showed exponential growth through that.

Another cool component of serving at this camp was the amount of young adult and high school leaders that took on the challenge of camp counselor. There were younger students who I got to talk through how to handle challenges of camp. There were also many college kids who go to my school that I got to build deeper relationships with and can now continue those throughout the year.

 

I have a lot of admiration for the students I served with and their fearlessness that they approached the week with. The kids loved the young leaders so much and connected extremely well. The college students were also incredible at pouring into the high school students all the way through to the end of a tiring week. I am grateful for friends like those.

IMG_5248

My sister also amazed me during the week and I was so glad that I got to watch her be a leader to another group of 7th grade girls. She had some tough tasks, but handled them like the adult she is becoming. My sister amazes me with how grown up and wise she has become, and the week only made me more impressed.

IMG_5239

Something major I learned from my time at both camps was how to be flexible in order to serve others. I never planned on being in the situations I was, but they were perfect. I wouldn’t have been able to make the connections I did or experience the growth without my own plan being thrown away.

My heart was softened to plans greater than my own. I was placed perfectly to do work that needed to be done, and for that I am grateful beyond words.

Something Big: Part I

A month ago I was in the middle of loving on some kiddos at church camp. No technology, no busy schedule and no distractions in general. Just eager kids, a lake with a million activities and a plan to demonstrate love to campers. Looking back, I am so lucky with how my time at camp worked out and how much I learned through camp and through my kiddos. Camp isn’t just for campers, and boy, do I miss it already.

Going into this summer I was really beaten down. I didn’t get any of the internships applied for. In fact, more than once I was beat out by someone I knew. I felt a little bit worthless for a while. Then I realized that no internship meant I had the availability to volunteer at my church’s camp and reconnect with girls I had been a counselor for a few times.

I signed up eagerly to attend the high school camp and hopefully get paired with the girls I had when they were 6th and 7th graders. I later heard there was a need for middle school leaders. I was amazed with the opportunities that were available and jumped on that one too. I felt I had found my purpose for the summer in loving on these kids.

Then the blow hit again. There were too many leaders signed up for the high school camp, so college volunteers were reasonably the first to go. I was crushed. I have been mentoring some of these girls for years. And I was eager to see my sister and her class take charge as seniors that I had invested in. I was again confused of my purpose, but still ready to serve the middle school girls.

I had finally come to peace with where I was at, though I was dissatisfied. Then I got a text. It was the middle of high school camp and a counselor had fallen ill. They needed someone to come assume her role for the rest of the week.

I was shocked. But I was excited. So I packed rapidly and headed down to my favorite place.

I showed up and was immediately overwhelmed. It was free time, so no one was around and I was at a loss for what to do. Luckily the adult counselors are amazing and helped me find my room and find my girls. My sister running at me screaming with excitement helped too.

I walked into a bit of a shock. Girls were dealing with things as high schoolers that I never had to. It was halfway through the week, so they were already forming friendships and experiencing growth. I tried to catch up and find ways to connect with them and help them organize all their thoughts.

I was there three days, but I felt like it was right where I should have been. It wasn’t my timing, but it was perfect.

The best part? My girls who signed up for camp in hopes of getting me as a counselor had priceless reactions when I showed up and I got to pour into them as well as my girls. I got the best of both worlds and I got to fill a need. I had a purpose that week.

IMG_5192

Blessed time with my sister was also important to the week. I got to be there for her and her friends who I have watched grow up. I got to watch her speak in front of camp and be a leader for her final year as a camper. She made me so proud that it moved me to tears.

img_5188.jpg

I also was surrounded with some incredible adults. Being the only college girl leader, I found adults who I had formed bonds with in previous years who I could count on for the week and some younger adults that took me in as part of their pack for the week. I was really grateful for all of the women who helped me catch my breath and gave me encouragement.

I had a weekend at the lake to try to find a little rest with some other leaders before the next round of campers came. The weekend was a blessing as I got to relax and further some relationships with some high schoolers that were staying over as student leaders, including my sister. I felt old for the weekend, but it was fun and even involved spa face masks.

 

For the half of camp that I was there (though it didn’t feel that short), I learned a lot about how to be flexible. I learned that my timing isn’t always perfect and that everything is put in place for a reason. I learned to love people where they are, even if I didn’t have a grip on the situation. You don’t need details to provide love and encouragement to anyone, you just have to do it. I gained some amazing role models and gained a new group of kiddos to watch grow into incredible young ladies. I was content, and I felt like I had a purpose for the first time in a long time.

The night before I got asked to come to camp early, I was trying to explain to someone why I was frustrated with how I was feeling. I told them that I felt crazy stuck, but at the same time I felt that something really big was about to happen.

Camp was that something big, and as usual, it didn’t disappoint.

 

Handle With Care

One huge thing I have learned from camp  it is that people are oh so very broken. Everyone puts on a happy face to go through their day. We live in a social media world where people only put out their very best, and everyone feels miserable because they think everyone else has got it way better than them. Our society believes it’s not okay to not be okay.

But friends, every single one of us is very very broken.

I’ve seen a lot of really hard things at camp. I’ve watched my friends admit that they’re walking through terrible trials and temptations. I’ve had young girls tell me that they’ve never felt loved, even by their families. I’ve watched guys struggle with pornography and girls with terrible lust. I’ve seen families struggling when they look like the perfect picture of love on the outside.

My heart has been broken for what breaks The Lord’s.

Yet I continue to pray that He breaks it daily.

It is so very important to remember that we are intricate and fragile creations. We aren’t created to be perfect.

We as a society need to stop expecting people to hide their brokenness. It’s okay to battle mental illness, to come from a broken home, to feel lonely, to wrestle desire and pride. It’s okay to struggle. This life isn’t easy.

It’s okay to admit you’re broken.

img_1463

Want to know why? Because there are people who want to love you and help you heal. If we don’t admit we are broken and hurting and weak, then the people who matter in our lives can’t come alongside us and walk through that with us.

As  a camp counselor, I got to come alongside so many broken young women. Both campers and other counselors. And I also got to spend time with people who would come alongside me.

I wish everyday life viewed brokenness the way that camp does. Camp is a place where the downtrodden come to find rest. The point is to facilitate that rest and that healing and send stronger campers back home. But why can’t we do this for our friends and family every day?

We need to start asking people if they’re okay. And really meaning it and taking the time to listen. And if we get asked if we are okay, we need to be transparent and say how we really feel. We have to battle the hurt with unending love.

This year has been extremely trying. And I have been hurting bad. I tried to stuff it down for a long time, but it got too far. My mental and physical health was at stake. Admiting I was broken and lost and that I didn’t know what to do allowed some very wise people to speak truth into my life. This hard year has made me stronger.

Our world is a broken world, but we can’t begin healing it until we are transparent about that. And when that happens, we can only heal it with love.

Psalm 34:18

#Awkward

I think one of the greatest qualities camp experiences gave me was confidence. If you know me, you know I am a big introvert. Being dropped in a room full of strangers in a new environment is my worst nightmare. Icebreakers and name games never fail to make me cringe because I prefer to avoid being the center of attention at all costs.

That has all changed a little since being a camp kid for so long (mostly thanks to student council camp). I still cringe at the idea of name games, but I don’t loathe them so much anymore. I am more bold about meeting new people and starting fresh relationships. I learned that if you just embrace the awkward, it’s not so bad.

College has been an endless void of awkward experiences. Some that have happened recently (inspiration for this post). I’ve tried to work on changing my perspective though. Instead of being painfully embarrassed or uncomfortable, I figure I might as well take it in stride and learn from it.

12009796_10204452220135729_8808044219350156942_n

I once had an interview where they asked me to write a hashtag that describes me on a whiteboard in the room. When I stood up to walk over to the board and turn around to the line of people sitting across the conference table from me, I should have wanted to hide. Instead, I picked up the marker and wrote “#awkward.” The perfect description of myself. I went on to discuss how I always find myself in awkward situations, but that’s where I have done the most growing. I got called back for another round.

Being in camp-like situations, including news classes or project groups, where you have to build some bonds with total strangers is really an excellent opportunity for personal development. You get the opportunity to learn about yourself. It also shows you where you have room for improvement.

We often fail to realize where the uncomfortable experiences in life are making us better people. Sometimes it takes being forced out of your comfort zone to have an experience that causes you to grow.

A lifetime full of awkward moments is why I am the person I am today. Embarrassing accidents, uncomfortable dates, and failed conversations all add up. We just don’t always realize it. Human beings are awkward creations, but it’s each person’s awkward that makes them unique and builds their confidence.

So, embrace it.

11896090_10204256948814068_3128636519770943831_n

Gucci Bars

So lately I have been missing Kanakuk dessert a LOT. When you work in the kitchen you have a love hate relationship with camp food. But never ever Gucci Bars. There could never be any dislike for them. This chocolate and caramel dessert was the highlight of my week and there was never enough to go around. So, I decided to give them a shot.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. oats
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 c. butter
  • 10 oz. caramel
  • 1 c. chocolate chips

The process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Soften the butter
  3. Mix the oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, butter, and flour togetherimg_1453
  4. Spread 2/3 of the mixture in a 9×11 pan and press it down
  5. Spread the caramel over this “crust”IMG_1454.JPG
  6. Add a layer of chocolate chips
  7. Add the remaining 1/3 of the mixture to the topIMG_1455.JPG
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes
  9. Let stand in the refrigerator for about an hourIMG_1456.JPG
  10. Cut in and enjoy

These bars are SUPER rich and go best with a glass of milk. The company of a good friend is also suggested.

IMG_1458.JPG

Recipe courtesy of Kanakuk Kamps

My Happy Place

This past weekend my sorority took a trip down to Lake of the Ozarks for a sisterhood retreat. We got to our house at 5:15 am to take school buses to the retreat center. Everyone was a little tired, but spirits perked up once we saw the lake.

The weekend was full of some group activities, high/low ropes team building, and plenty of free time to build relationships and relax with friends. A lot of girls complained about no cell service and nothing to do (they weren’t nature fans). I, however, LOVED the weekend unplugged and outdoors. I had come off a crazy busy week and needed the break. I got to know a lot of my friends better and make some new friends as well. The lake was beautiful and peaceful. The hikes and walks were refreshing. It’s not often I get to sit on a dock and watch the sunset, enjoy the stars (all of them) around a campfire, and watch the sun rise the next morning. I got to just appreciate what life has given me and the people in it.

The really unique thing was that this is the camp where I have grown up. With my old church, we used to go down about every other year in elementary school for Girls in Action retreats. Then, starting in 8th grade, I have spent a week of every summer there with my current church’s youth group. This camp is the inspiration for a lot of my blog posts and the place where I would say I have done the most growing. Some of my happiest memories come from sunny days at the lodge on the lake with my best friends. Some of my most painful memories come from here too. Moments when I was convicted of where my life was and where it needed to go. I made my best friends here, got to know the three guys I’ve dated here, and watched my little sister do a lot of growing up here. This camp is like my sacred bubble where I learn about myself and how I fit in to the grand scheme of things.

It was really weird to be here with new people and not my church. So many memories flooded back, and it was hard not to want that experience of summer camp. I missed it this year to go to Kanakuk, and being back made me miss the people and the experience dearly. I finally shifted my mindset to realize this was an opportunity to make new memories and learn new things. I can’t be a kid forever, and the meaning of camp is going to evolve for me. It was really sad to have this realization.

However, it was amazing to capitalize on a weekend away and take time to appreciate the people who are in my life nowadays. I am truly blessed by the college chapter of my life. This was a helpful reminder to slow down in the chaos and take time to appreciate what I have and where I’m headed. It was also a time to remember where I came from and how grateful I should be for the journey.

So, below is a photo gallery of the weekend. There is a super cheesy video to accompany it. I hope it relays just how fun the people in my life are and how lucky I am to have them.

 

 

Retreat

It’s about that time of year that many college organizations start going on group retreats. These can be some of the best relationship building activities. Quality time not engaged with normal daily activities is the best way to work on connections.

12243423_10204695785464710_6032620072067639193_n.jpg

Veritas Fall Retreat 2015

My favorite thing about retreats is the fact that they often are in places where cell service and internet are out of reach. It forces you to unplug and remember what it’s like to just be you. I think society forces a lot of things on us. Technology encroaches on our lives to the point we feel like we can’t be away from our messages and email for more than an hour. I’ve even seen Snapchat streaks consume people’s lives. Society needs to practice being unplugged.

I think we need to spend more time away from technology. More time just appreciating life and the people in it. This can mean rearranging schedules and priorities, but I think our personal time should be priority. Quick messages are great, but can quickly consume.

1017194_4721414923503_187642384_n

MASC Winter Energizer 2013

I am writing this post as I prepare to go on retreat in the morning. I get to go to my favorite camp with all of my sorority sisters, and I can’t wait to unplug. There’s no cell service, so it’s a forced unplug. I think spending time with these girls without our phones will be really rewarding.

Retreats are a way to rejuvenate yourself at a midpoint in the semester or the year. We lose stamina, and we have to build that back up. Taking a weekend break is often the best way to do that. It scares me to death to set all my school work and extracurriculars aside, but I’m also crazy excited. I am stressed, busy, and beaten down. This semester has been better than last in a lot of ways, but also worse in many. It kind of sounds like running away from your problems, but sometimes putting them on pause and reassessing is really the best way.

1661764_10201200454003608_91843871_n

Ignite Retreat 2014

So you can’t go on a retreat? That’s okay. Find another way to unplug. Take time for yourself and to spend time with the people around you. You may discover things about people that you never knew, and you may love them so much more for that.

Technology seems like an integral part of life, but it isn’t. People are.

 

Point Of View

Camp offers the time and space to stop and change your point of view. Your perspective. Removing yourself from everyday life and taking a break lets you stop and evaluate. We all get so caught up in the crazy schedules we create that we often forget to just stop and shift our point of view on a regular basis outside of this kind of setting.

My great-grandmother passed away this past spring. She would be 99 years old soon. I often wonder what it would be like to have her perspective. Being retired and just enjoying family, it probably allows for a lot of retrospective learning. My grandma lived such a long and joyful life, I imagine she looked back and had few regrets. She was surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who loved her dearly. Her big Irish family took care of her and always checked in. Unfortunately, my grandma’s mind was not what it used to be when she was near the end of her life, so I could never ask her about this. But wow, would 99 years of life be something great to look back on.

The thing is, we can’t all wait until the end of our lives to look back and learn. We have to remember that life isn’t about the craziness. Life is about people and moments. It’s about taking time to appreciate those things. Too often we forget this. Our society is one of busy bodies that need to constantly be doing something. We stuff our time outside of school/work with sports, clubs, concerts, gatherings and so much more. This past week I barely had time to breathe between all the appointments and study hours I had to fit in. That’s not okay.

I like to make it a goal of mine to take some time to stop and reflect. To stop and learn. And sometimes that is so very hard. We often don’t give ourselves enough time to sit in our own thoughts, uninterrupted. This is the space in which we learn the most about ourselves and life. This is where we grow.

We are all so focused on the next step, high school to college to a career to a family to retirement that I don’t think we know what to do when we make it through them all. We need to stop hurrying through life and enjoy the small time we have. God gave us people here to love and experiences to shape us, so we need to allow the love and growth.

img_2761

I am an introspective person. It’s part of being an introvert. I need that time for myself, but I am often so consumed by my busy schedule that it becomes what I think about in my quiet moments.

Here is my challenge (to myself and others): Take 10 minutes each day. Sit alone and in the silence. Think about the happy memories of the day. Think about the hard moments and what you can learn from them. Think about the people you are grateful for and what they’re doing in your life.

I think if more people took time to do this we would have a less stressed and more joyful world. We are often told to get our priorities straight, usually insinuating work or school. I think personal reflection and the people in our lives should be our priorities. So, get your priorities straight. Love yourself and others the way we were intended to do.

Firm Foundations

They don’t tell you this when you’re little, but a lot of the purpose of camp is to help you build firm foundations for your life. The goal is to give you the tools to grow into a stellar person, and to have some people who will help you get there.

You can’t build any structure without a foundation. That’s common sense. The same goes for building yourself as a person. There must be solid ground that will last a long time in order for you to grow. This usually means good morals, goals for life, strong character, and many other tools.

Most of what adults do while you’re growing up is secretly shaping you into a better person, secretly preparing you to be an adult. It’s a hidden instinct humans have. We want to make each other better humans without even realizing it sometimes.

575307_3194255105462_1415564240_n

Camps, retreats, clubs, and so many other activities are just more obvious ways to try to make other people into better humans. To give them firm foundations.

Something people don’t teach you is that along the way, you build other people into that foundation. It’s not always purposeful, but sometimes it is. Your family is usually purposefully in that foundation. Often a best friend or a few make the foundation as well. The question is, can you really allow yourself to build people into your foundation?

During my time at camp this summer, I had a friend talk to me about building people into foundations. She made me think about relationships in a way I never have, and probably should have before. She told me you can’t build people into your foundation. People aren’t as dependable.

Now in the context of Christianity, Christ should be the firm foundation. This is what she was reminding me of. Was Christ really my foundation? A tough question for anyone to answer.

But, I don’t think it’s totally true that people shouldn’t be built in our foundations. I have been reflecting on this for several months now. We have been given other people to do life with, so why shouldn’t we depend on them every now and then? People can push you to build better foundations.

There’s one thing that’s right though. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way. You have to be careful who you allow to be built into your foundation.

Family is always a good answer to who is right or wrong to build yourself up on. Family loves you relentlessly and won’t leave you. Family will push you to be a better person and help strengthen your foundation.

13255958_10205822275666261_8175487127236136102_n

Friends are harder to think about. Even best friends don’t stay best friends a lot of the time. Friends come and go as seasons of life change. This can be hard when looking for people to support you through life. But I think it’s important to have friends in your foundation. However, going along with the building metaphor, it’s important to decide how much weight you allow them to support. You have to judge which friends are in your life for a season, and which are there to walk the whole way.

We all make mistakes. We all put too much weight on certain people sometimes. We all get let down. We all let people down. Here’s the best thing though: we get to rebuild. It may be hard. Our foundations may have some cracks or holes for a while, but that can be fixed. Other people are there just waiting to help you fill it back in.

That’s where I’m at right now. Seasons of life are changing, and I’m growing up. There are several people who I have realized have worked their way out of my foundation. And that’s a hard realization. But it’s also incredible to see who has stuck around to hold me up. I am so very grateful for my family and the others who have stuck around.

In life, other people are going to give you the tools to build a stronger foundation for yourself. And it’s okay to build them in every once in a while too. Other people are placed in your life for a reason, so let them make you a better person, and help them out some too.

13245329_10205822312027170_4385942591811387848_n