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Saturday, June 4, 2011

friends and summer suitcases

A little over a year ago I made a decision to give my summer [of 2010] to the Lord and I am so glad that I did.  At the time I had nothing other than time to give back as I had just recently lost my job.  Funny how unemployment frees up all of your time and empties out your bank account all at the same time.  So, I signed up as a counselor/leader for any and every camp, VBS, and retreat that my church had to offer.

Our sunglasses were not for keeping the sun out but keeping the tired, dark-circled-eyes in!
My 'Journey with All Ages' began the first Sunday of June at 7:30 a.m. when I found myself on a bus on our way to high school beach retreat with some unusually loud sophomore girls and guys.  I reminded myself that I had only [fairly] recently been that same 14 year old girl at the back of the camp bus speaking at the only volume level that I had-a Level 10-and I remember thinking to myself that there is hope for these precious children.  After all, hadn't I mastered the technique of the 'inside voice' by the age of 23?!  I knew it would take a miracle for them to learn the same thing in the remaining 9 hours that took me 9 years to conquer but that didn't stop me from praying the entire bus ride to the beach.

Twinsies!  Night before heading home after 2 weeks of teenage fun!
I knew that the weeks ahead were going to be tough and that I wouldn't be able to do it on my own.  Thankfully, I didn't have to.  I met some amazing people on that first trip [and the sub sequential ones as well] with whom several healthy, Christ-centered seeds of friendship were planted.  I have told numerous people that unfortunately for the kids, I think I got more out of my weeks at camp than they did.  I came out with some pretty amazing girlfriends.

Enter Heather.

Bon Qui Qui in da House! [With her Text Message] on Halloween.
I don't remember the actual act of meeting Heather but I do remember one of our first interactions.  One of my two breaks the entire week happened to be on our first day at camp.  Several of the female counselors were going to get together during Free Time to share ideas and tips on how to talk and minister to each of our students during our 'One-On-One' times.  Heather and I were two of the four or so counselors that gathered together.

I remember sitting there somewhat quietly [stress somewhat here! Ha—as I had not known any of the girls 48 hours before then— listening and taking it all in.  In observation mode, I noticed how truly excited Heather was to have such an awesome opportunity to minister to the girls who were put under her leadership.  Please know that I was genuinely excited as well, but Heather had a calmness-an excited calmness, if you will-about her that I did not posses.  I thought, 'How can she be so calm and confident going into all of this?!  I want to be like that, too, because it looks way more fun and way less taxing than what I'm doing to myself over here.'  I guess I sat in La-La-Land for too long because before I knew it or was even remotely ready, it was time to go face my girls.  Alone.

Jingle Bell Run, ahem, Walk!
Pause right here for a second.  I would like to emphasize that I was never alone in any of this; God was with me every step of the way just like He always has been and always will be.  I knew that.  I trusted that.  [Still do!]  But well within the first 20 minutes of interacting with Heather I could see the type of very personal and real relationship that she had with our Lord and Savior and I wanted it for myself.  It seems like it should be okay to be jealous of someone in this instance, right?!

Happy New Year's!  Emily, Me, Heather
The rest of that first week went on with few road bumps but many challenges.  We didn't see each other too much the rest of the week; it's nearly impossible to sit and have a conversation with anyone other than your students.  But we were there for the students so I guess that's ok!  [Beach retreat was one of my first blog posts!  If you enjoy Oreos, mermaids, or painted hermit crabs you should check it out by clicking here.]  Heather was one of the other few counselors who were going to be going on the next week's jhigh beach retreat; I was excited at the prospect of having a little more time to hang out with her.  I also took comfort in knowing that someone else was going to be just as worn out as I knew that I was going to be and we would be able to encourage each other.

Hats off to a New Year!

The next week flew and dragged by all at once.  It felt like there wasn't enough time to spend getting to know my new set of 12-year-old girls yet the thought of spending one more day wares me out even to this day!  Heather and I got to hang out a little bit more on this trip as the jhigh crew is slightly smaller.  Jhigh retreat is structured differently than the big kids' week and Heather and I looked forward to a day at Schlitterbahn at the end of the week-I daresay that at some moments it was the only thing that kept us going!  And that is where Heather and I really got to know each other.  While floating in a double inner tube going 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round the most awesome lazy river that I have ever seen we talked about everything from siblings to favorite things to mistakes and God's forgiveness.  I was in awe.  This was the beautiful, fun, funny, caring, sincere, and God-seeking friend that I had been praying for.  [I had only prayed for the sincere and God-seeking but the other characteristics were a nice bonus that He threw in for me!]
My birthday event!
Throughout the rest of the summer, Heather and I got to hang out state side quite a bit.  [Heather teaches Kindergarten and I was unemployed….lot’s of free time!]  It felt like we were long lost friends, catching up after not seeing each other in forever.  Heather & Becca [Heather’s roomie] graciously began opening up their house for me to crash at on the weekends.  That has been a true blessing right there as coming and going from so far away was starting to wear on me physically and financially.  I now have my own room with a bed at their apartment: it’s called the den and sofa.  Ha!
Christie, Me, Heather G., Heather M.
Heather loves the Lord with her ENTIRE heart and it is seen in everything that she does.  She has been such a good example and friend to me.  My own relationship with the Lord has grown leaps and bounds and getting into the Word excites me to no end now.  God caused our paths to cross so that this God-fearing girl could help me in my own walk.  I am so thankful that she was willing to step aside and let God work through her.

Connie, Becca, Me, Heather:  Packed in like sardines on our way to the Hillsong concert!!!
Beginning about 6 months ago I have had the same opportunity: to be a ‘Heather’ and minister to an ‘Ellen’.  I met a sweet girl who was at a similar place that I was a few years ago: I knew Who I needed to go to but I couldn’t quite figure out how to get there.  It has been incredible journey and so rewarding.  It’s amazing to see what God can do through you if you put your own ways aside and let Him get to work.  I recently shared with her how grateful I was to her for her encouragement, strength, and patience with me and how I have been allowed the opportunity to help another one of God's precious daughters. 
Dance Your Shoes Off!  partners
I could probably go on for hours, sharing all of the many wonderful things about Heather and all of the fun, tearful, joyful, and difficult times we have endured together.  But I won’t.  Because you’ll probably get jealous and bombard me with phone calls and emails asking for her phone number for yourself. Ha!

Denise, Me, Heather
Yes, a little over a year ago I made a decision to give my summer [of 2010] to the Lord and I am so glad that I did; it changed my life.  I thank Him for the opportunity every day. This summer I do have a job that will not allow me to be gone, ministering to girls all summer long.  I am fortunate, though; I have been able to take this next week off and go to High School Beach Retreat!  We leave tomorrow and I am so beyond excited that I can hardly stand it!  Packing on the other hand, well, that does nothing for me.  I am working on 32+ hours that it has taken me to pack.  AND I still don’t have my suitcase out!  I am praying that God will work His wonderful ways so that we may all come back with hearts overflowing with His love to pass on to others.

Look real close; you can see Heather (yellow) and Me (green)!
Every needs a 'Heather'.  But you're gonna have to go find your own.  She's mine!

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