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.

 

Getting Out: Road Trip Through Arkansas

Sometimes life gets overwhelming. Everyone needs a break every now and then. Doing the same thing day to day is monotonous and isn’t good mentally or spiritually. I like to think that’s why spring break was created. It’s like a universal acknowledgement that life gets hard and everyone needs to take a break, to get out.

I was fortunate enough to hit the road during my college spring break this year. I grabbed some good friends, my camera and my hammock and took off to Arkansas. No, it’s not a beach or mountains. But hey, it was a pretty dang good trip.

We used Pinterest to plan our road trip. If that’s not the epitome of college girl I don’t know what is. However, it ended up being perfect. We mapped out our route and where we would stop for nights. We picked hiking spots, museums, restaurants and other quirky stops that we didn’t want to miss. Then, we set out.

Day One:

Our first day was pretty crowded. We prioritized stopping at Lambert’s for lunch because that’s a Missouri classic. We then crossed over the border and started working our way southwest. We wound our way to Eureka Springs to hit two of our quirkier stops. This would be Christ of the Ozarks and Thorncrown Chapel. These were scenic and fun, and were the perfect stops to ease into our road trip. We then moved on to Bentonville to go to the Crystal Bridges museum. The museum was stunning (and free). We spent a good amount of time here taking in some beautiful art then headed on our way to Fayetteville. We left our agenda open here and wound up eating at this fantastic grilled cheese restaurant (Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese) and wandering our way around the college town before turning in for the night.

Day Two:

We got up early and headed for the destination I think we were all most excited for. Hawksbill Crag is a photo opportunity if there ever was one. We wound up some dirt roads and well beyond cell service, packed our lunch and headed out on a hike. The crag was breathtaking. It looked a lot more dangerous than it actually was. We spread out on the rock to enjoy a peaceful picnic lunch. I will probably never eat a meal with a better view. We took our many fun photos and headed back up the trail. We then headed to Mount Magazine State Park to hike to the highest point in Arkansas. This was bear country and we hoped to see a furry friend, but no such luck. There were some impressive scenic overlooks we took time to check out before making the super short hike up to Signal Hill. We opted for a shorter hike due to sunset coming. The highest point was marked and even on a stone map of Arkansas. We hit the road again to make it to our main destination, Hot Springs.

Day Three:

Why Hot Springs, Arkansas? Something about the smallest national park and the fact that you could take baths for fun made us want to check out the quirky little town. It ended up being a great choice. We started off our first day by taking a traditional bath at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. Boy, was that an experience. The water felt great though the whole routine was bizarre. It’s just something you have to try though when you go to a town built around taking baths in the natural springs. We spent some time shopping that day as well. The town is so cute! There is a cupcake shop called Fat Bottomed Girls that is amazing and I would highly recommend. We also headed up to the Mountain Tower. This was an amazing view of the town and surrounding mountains. It was crazy windy so that made it even more fun. We turned in a little early due to severe¬†weather, but this was good since we were pretty wiped from all the driving and hiking.

Day Four:

We headed for one of our weirder stops first thing in the morning. This was an alligator farm just outside of town. There were so many gators in this place it was nuts. A man handed us little gators to hold. I’m glad I can say I did that, though not sure I would do it again. We played with some goats and passed our morning with the animals. We also stopped at this rock shop that was interesting and made for some simple souvenirs. We spent the rest of the day heading into the Ouchita National Forrest. We decided to hike a trail at Lake Ouchita. This lake was way cooler than we thought and the views were great. That trail was probably the hardest one we hiked though. We finished up the evening back in town at the famous Ohio Club where Al Capone and Babe Ruth used to party. The food was great and the live jazz was even better.

Day Five:

We headed out in the morning to start the journey back. First stop was Little Rock. We wanted to get some purple milkshakes for lunch at the Purple Cow. We ended up stopping at Little Rock Central High School and the national monument site. This is where integration was forced and a lot of history was made. It was a cool spontaneous stop. We went on to Blanchard Springs Cavern and took a tour through the coolest cave I’ve ever seen. We also checked out the spring itself and Mirror Lake, which was beautiful at sunset time. We ended the night in a hot tub in Branson.

The next day we spent some time at Silver Dollar City and then headed home.

This road trip wasn’t spectacular or expensive. It was cheap, it was dirty and it was simple. What mattered was getting out of school, out of routine and out of our heads. A week in wide opens spaces and with good company was the perfect break.

I like to think that when you are out in the “wilderness” you are closest to God. The trip wasn’t spiritual, but it was good for the spirit.

Everyone needs to step back, get out and heal the mind and the soul. Take a break, take a trip and make some memories.