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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Hold On Tight

My favorite thing about going to camp is the relationships you either make there, or ones you came in with that you strengthen. Camp friends are the best kind of friends. They see you when you’re out of your element and have your guard down. You are the best version of yourself at camp, and so you get to know really incredible people.

The last night of Student Council camp was always hard emotionally. For some reason your council for the week became family. Everyone gathered around the pond and lit candles and shared stories and memories. Then we put arms around each other and sang camp songs like Stand By Me and Tiny Bubbles. The whole night was about reflecting on the week and how we grew. It was also about realizing that it’s people who make you grow, not camp.

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My last church camp as a camper was shortly after graduation. We had a senior class at our church that numbered close to 60 people, but we were all each others’ closest friends. We had been through several years of camp and community groups together. We had dated each other, gone on road trips with each other, and been there for each other on a daily basis. The last night of camp was the seniors’ gift to the kids below us. Every year they present the Gospel in a different way. We walked them through stations that resembled the last hours of Jesus’ life. This was really special because it was our final thing together.We all gathered together before hand to have communion as a class with the leaders who had been with us from the beginning. There were lots of tears. They were for joyful memories but also for the pain of splitting up. This was the last time we were all in the same place.

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As my school year is coming to an end I can’t help but compare it to the end of camp.This semester was the hardest semester I will have to go through they say. I had a class that took all of my time and energy. I got physically ill from how much stress this class put on me. I have always found success pretty easily in life, and this semester knocked all of that confidence right out of me.

Something spectacular did come out of the semester though. I gained some phenomenal friendships. I went through a very difficult class, and so did a lot of other amazing people. We saw each other at our most stressed out and messed up. We also celebrated together because though our victories seemed small to others, we understood how big they were. These are the people I am going to be with for the rest of my undergraduate career, and I don’t mind one bit.

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I also figured out what people in my life really care about me and are in it for the long haul. I was a disaster this semester, both physically and mentally. I struggled to find joy in every day. The people who were by my side through this and encouraged me are the people I want by my side through the rest of my life. I am incredibly thankful for my family and the friends that kept me from completely falling to pieces.

What I’ve learned from camp (some of my happiest and most victorious memories) and from this semester (some of my hardest and most discouraging memories) is that you’ve got to hold on tight to the people who were there. Hold on to the people who will celebrate with you and also the ones that will sit silently by you while you’re sad.

And if you’re lucky enough to have people who can do both, keep them around forever.

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