A Slice of Heaven

This past summer, I had the incredible experience of working as an outpost counselor at Camp Glisson. Going into camp, the only expectation I had was for God to do some pretty amazing things. It is safe to say that my expectation was beyond met because God is just that good! This summer’s theme was transformation and I have definitely seen God transform many lives in small and big ways. My life has been forever changed by this place, these people, but most of all, by Jesus! I decided to dig into the ways that God has transformed my life through the things He has taught me. So, in no particular order, here they are!

Patience

Going into the summer, I considered myself to be a patient person but that view quickly changed. Week one of camp taught me that difficult campers really are the best campers because they teach you so much. Constantly having to repeat that, “It’s gonna be okay if it rains,” and, “It’s not the end of the world if your shoes get wet,” can be frustrating. Having a camper cry over the smallest of things every day isn’t the most ideal camp experience, but it teaches you patience. Now, I can confidently say that although it may take 45 minutes for six girls to change clothes and brush their teeth, that’s okay, because I could stand there waiting all morning!

Grace

Grace is something that is so freely given to us and Jesus calls us to freely give His grace to others. Extending grace to others can be challenging, but being a counselor truly taught me how to fully extend grace to others. I have grown to believe that it’s easy to show grace when a mistake is made once; but when it continues to happen over and over again, that’s when you really learn to show Jesus’ grace. This can happen with others or within yourself. I have always been very hard on myself and struggled to extend myself grace until I came to the realization that Jesus desires that I love myself the same way He loves me. 

As we were hiking down Yonah, I had a camper who decided it would be a good idea to drag the trash bag down the mountain. A few moments later, it had inevitably ripped open, leaving trash everywhere. As I proceeded to pick up what I could, my camper scooped up the trash bag and took off running down the mountain. I could feel the frustrating growing inside of me, but took a deep breath as I felt Jesus whisper the word grace over me. Little did I know was that minutes later, my camper comes running back up the trail to not only pick up the trash, but help me carry my bags. My heart melted in that moment as I felt God’s presence and knew this had all happened to help me learn what grace looks like in action. It is grace that gives us the freedom to live a full life and by extending the grace Jesus has given us, we can better love ourselves and others.

Resourcefulness

Being an outpost counselor taught me many skills like knots and building fires and even cooking because about the only thing I knew how to make before this summer was a quesadilla and eggs. It was nerve racking at first knowing that I had to teach campers how to cook meals that I wasn’t even confident in making. But somehow I learned and successfully taught them to cook at the same time (except week three when I destroyed Mac n’ cheese, but that was a hilarious learning experience). Aside from these basic skills, along the way I learned how to be more resourceful. Sometimes you’re on Yonah without the right water filter bag, so you have to boil water to drink. I encountered many moments of panic when realizing a certain resource was lacking. However, I learned that it’s important to just stay calm and let your creative side come out because Jesus provides us with all the resources we need to survive. All we have to do is discover them and then freely use them.

Courage and Bravery 

My biggest concern going into this summer at camp was spiders. No joke, I really did not know how I would live outside for three months knowing I would encounter a multitude of spiders, which have always been my biggest fear. By the second week of staff training, I was already traveling full speed ahead down the road to fearlessness! For instance, during the kayaking trip on staff training, I encountered tons of spiders, but then Jesus spoke right into my fear through a devotional. This devotional was on Psalm 139. As I listened to it, I realized that God created everyone and everything unique and beautiful in its own way. So if God loves all of His creations and we are striving to love like Jesus does, then we too should love all of His creations. With this, I decided to stop viewing spiders as scary and rather view them as one of God’s beautiful creations. Once taking on this new mindset, I would verbally express my appreciation towards spiders when I encountered them. Many of my campers thought it was so weird that I approached spiders so calmly and lovingly, but it was honestly the only way for me to not totally freak out! There were many times when I had to get spiders out our sleeping shelter or realized a spider was chilling right by my head as I tried to fall asleep. In moments like these when I still felt fear, I simply relied on Jesus to fill me with courage. Courage is a neat thing because it allows us to face fears even in the midst of still being scared.

Another fear I had going into the summer was white water. I had a bad experience whitewater rafting and told myself I’d never get near rapids again because it terrified me. Sure enough, on the kayaking trip during staff training we did whitewater kayaking. I remember sitting on the bus on the way to the Etowah feeling nauseous and crippled with fear. Once on the river, I was hesitant to go down the first rapid, but once I did I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. My fear increased as we approached the lower part of Etowah falls, but after some encouragement and a quick prayer from some sweet friends, I decided to take on the rapid. After I made it down this rapid without flipping, I felt unstoppable  because I had finally conquered my fear of whitewater. For the remainder of my kayaking trips throughout the summer, I approached every rapid with bravery and a huge smile.

Fully trusting that Jesus will protect you and fill you with courage is the best way to face your fears head on and when you do, He can use those moments to grow your character in ways like never before!

Rejoice

After this summer, rejoice is my new favorite word because it encompasses positivity in a whole new light. I’m a firm believer in having a positive attitude because sometimes that may be the only thing we can do. I always define this word as finding the joy in everything, no matter how horrible the situation. As the famous camp saying goes, “Embrace the suck!” Sometimes it rains the entire week, but hey, rain camp is fun. During week two on my kayaking trip, I got my kayak stuck in a strainer at the bottom of the river for twenty minutes. That moment really made me stop and just laugh at the fact that I successfully turned a kayak into a submarine, rather than being upset about our lunch being temporarily sunken and delaying our time. Having a positive attitude has never really been something I’ve struggled with, but there is always room for improvement in things we may already be good at! There are endless stories I could tell about having to rejoice this summer, which just goes to show that God wants us to grow in areas that we may believe we are already doing great.

Sacrificial love 

Sacrificial love is something that has always challenged me because, as a human, I can be very selfish. It’s difficult for me to sacrifice something, whether it be tangible or not, that is mine. Especially when it’s something I intend to use for a good purpose, such as your sleeping bag or jacket or even food. As counselors, we are taught to exemplify sacrificial love. I really enjoy sleeping with stuffed animals because it brings me a certain sense of comfort. There was one particular week when I had a homesick camper, so I offered her my penguin stuffed animal to sleep with along with another camper using my sleeping pad. Let me just say that at first I was very sad on the inside, but soon realized that by doing so, I learned that that’s how Jesus calls us to love one another because the biggest act of love is sacrifice.

Humility 

Every year I pick one word to focus on and in 2018, I chose humility. I have always thought of humility as putting others before yourself, but I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that. I have been praying over this word since the beginning of 2018, and during my ten day trip, God answered so many little prayers. With my expedition campers, I was quickly taught that humility can be exemplified through viewing myself as equal, or even lesser, to others. This could be having lesser or equal qualities, but most importantly realizing that we are all uniquely made in His image. I am not more loved or more worthy or more wise than anyone else. Spending ten days with high schoolers who are on fire for Jesus allowed me to realize what it looks like to truly humble myself! Although I may be older and more experienced, I am no greater than they are and in fact can learn so much from them. There’s just something special about being in a place where your pure intention is to pour yourself out, but then God puts people into your life to pour right back into you!

Vulnerability

The first thing I think about when hearing this word is how when we are weak that is when Jesus can make us strong. I can be very stubborn and will take everything into my own hands, thinking I am perfectly capable of doing it all on my own and sometimes that’s true. Being vulnerable means asking for help when you need it instead of being stubborn and trying to do it all on your own.

Vulnerability is also being completely authentic and open with others, which can be scary. But Jesus loves to reward us, and He will reward our vulnerability through beautiful things, such as new friendships, acceptance, and unconditional love.

How to have healthy conflict/confrontation

I have now adopted the term “storming” to refer to disagreements. Although storming is a term specifically referring to a phase of team building, I find joy in saying “we’re storming” rather than “we’re in a fight”. I think one of the worse things about being in a disagreement with someone is the discomfort the situation brings. Whether there’s silence, tears, or frustration, conflict is uncomfortable. But conflict is also necessary. It’s necessary to building and maintaining healthy relationships and teams.

I would rather let it all go, pretend I’m not bothered by anything, and continue in peace with others. The thing about avoiding confrontation, though, is that it’s a direct route to missing out on an opportunity of growth and unity. I’m thankful that camp taught me how to sit in silence, in discomfort, and experience painful emotions with others and lean on Jesus through it all.

Servant leadership

There’s a difference between being a great leader and being a servant leader. I’ve learned that servant leaders are great leaders, but not all great leaders are servant leaders. Servant leaders are those that lead others towards Jesus and lead others like Jesus would have. I had the pleasure of working alongside many servant leaders.

Servant leaders embody humility, grace, sacrificial love, etc. As leaders, we should all strive to serve others above ourselves. This is one of the many ways to live more like Jesus.

Radical acceptance

This is one of the four core values of camp. When campers come to Glisson, by the end of the week they’re always saying that they feel at home and never want to leave. Home is a place where we can fully be and express ourselves, a place where we are fully accepted.

Radically accepting others is both an internal and external job. It’s easy to externally accept someone as part of the group, but still judge them within your heart. When I think about radical acceptance, I think about fully, internally accepting others no matter how different they are from you.

Making the decision to step out of my comfort zone and spend a summer living outside, working with others I had never met before, was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I will always carry the memories and lessons from last summer with me and praise Jesus for transformation.

Acceptance

Everyone always hears how God has a plan and His plan is good, which is true. It’s easy to accept the plans God has when they are in line with yours, but what about when God’s plans are far from what you’ve always dreamt? I always had the dream of marrying my high school sweetheart and living happily ever after. I also had the dream of attending Berry College and living on my own away from home. But God had other plans for me. Big plans! I just couldn’t see that in moments of heartbreak.

Many of my dreams thus far, some big and some small, have either fallen apart or not happened at all. I’ve lived a long season in the desert, wondering why God would do this and that to my life. I went through a season of being angry at God and angry at myself until I read a little book a sweet friend gave me. This book is all about acceptance and I never thought it would impact my life to the extent it has.

First, I’d like to share some things that I’ve learned from this book:

1) Attitude

The attitude of mind you maintain throughout each day is the most important part of acceptance. It will directly affect how much joy you feel. If you’re having a bad attitude about one situation, it’s going to negatively impact other areas of your life as well. I always tell myself that the only disability in life is in fact a bad attitude. Want to feel empowered? It starts with the realization that no one can hurt you unless you let them because no matter how bad the circumstance, you get to choose what kind of attitude you’re going to have in response.

2) The Kindness of God

The book defines this as God’s ability to make things work out for the best, and that’s simply what He will do! God will bring good out of evil and glory out of pain because that’s just the kind of perfect God He is. His heart breaks with yours (Isaiah 63:9) and He’s not going to leave you alone in your distress because He loves you SO much!

3) Contentment

Contentment lies in not getting what you want, but enjoying what you have. No human being is so wise and powerful that he can control circumstances. Only God is powerful enough to control all things and if God allows it, then it must be best for you because the kindness of God will always reflect His competency and faithfulness.

4) Surrender

God is the ultimate chauffeur and best friend in one! Think about it: He doesn’t just know what is best for you, but He wants what’s best for you. His desire is to see you full of happiness and joy. My favorite illustration talks about how God is the driver and we need only to surrender and sit in the passenger seat, enjoying the scenery as He takes us on a beautiful journey called life.

When we’re hurting it’s so easy to run to worldly comforts, but all that does is mask your hurt, providing temporary relief from the pain. Only God can heal your deepest wounds, and that requires taking a step towards Him. For so long I planted my feet on a boat of false hope and what I thought was contentment until I realized it was time to take a step of faith into the waters of acceptance because God won’t reveal to you your next until you accept your now. I read and re-read this acceptance book so many times and continually put off leaning closer to God because it hurt too much to face the pain that still resided in my heart. But when I did take that step closer to Jesus, I began to feel more and more thankful for the broken relationships and broken dreams and less confused, bitter, and anxious.

I look at acceptance as the final step in the healing process, but it’s important to understand that healing is not linear. It’s work every day. Some days will be tough, but the great days will definitely outnumber the bad days. Healing comes with honest prayers, and it comes with the anger and sadness and anxiety. A good friend of mine recently shared with me that pain is like a stake stuck in the ground, and rather than just asking God to remove to stake (heal all the pain), you should ask God to help you dig around the stake (process and grieve over whatever is causing that pain) because it will then be easier to pull the stake out. Now that’s easier said than done. Your progress in healing will not always be visible, but take heart and persevere through the pain even when you feel like giving up on God, because He will never give up on you.

Not getting what you want really sucks, but looking back on it I’m glad I ended up where I have because God’s plans are so much greater than anything we could ever dream of. It hurts a lot and you may be discouraged, but take that step towards acceptance and focus on the joy that’s to come because you will not regret it. At some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and begin living in what is happening because we will achieve happiness by forcing ourselves to accept what God wants for us. And He desires to bless you in so many beautiful ways! Below is the serenity prayer that has served me well through a time of healing and acceptance, and I hope it will serve you well.

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Rejection

Why is it so scary to ask someone to coffee? Or confess your feelings? It’s because we’re all scared of being turned down. But is avoiding any situation or person that could potentially bring rejection really a great way to live? Fearing rejection lessens your courage to take advantage of an opportunity.  

Think about Barbie and how most people would describe her…Probably as beautiful, yet Barbie is not living and has no inner beauty. It’s purely physical. Now think about someone in your life who is beautiful. Is it their physical looks that make them beautiful or is it their heart and personality? We tend to define others based on their physical appearance. We define what their dating life must look like, thinking that the most “beautiful” girls and “hottest” guys can get any person they want and will never experience rejection. Believing this lie is the problem because everyone will be rejected, in one way or another, at some point during their life. Rejected by that cute boy or girl. Rejected by a job. Rejected from an experience. Rejected by a friendship.

From personal experience, I can say that rejection is no fun. It hurts when you find the courage to express feelings to someone and they aren’t reciprocated. It hurts when that happens multiple times. But you know if Barbie was living, I’m sure she would’ve experienced her fare share of rejection as well. One of my favorite quotes says:

“Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, it means the other person failed to notice what you have to offer.”

If someone wants to walk away from you and not take advantage of the opportunity of getting to experience your beautiful, invisible qualities (because the most important parts of a person are invisible), then let them. You are so much more than a “no” or no response. Rejection does not define you!!! You are a precious diamond, worthy of honor and SO loved by God (check out 1 Peter 2).

With the right attitude you can learn so much from rejection. Being rejected is a wonderful opportunity to grow in self-awareness, looking deeper into your heart because maybe just maybe the issue is within yourself and not the other person. Of course, that’s not always the case, but no matter what God is going to use rejection to shape your heart and character. Rejection really is a blessing in disguise because some amazing friendships can blossom after expressing honest feelings, accepting what is, and moving forward. However, it is important to be aware of the fact that not every person that comes into your life is meant to stay. Putting yourself out there and taking a chance makes you so courageous, and even if that chance ends in rejection, God can use it for a much bigger purpose!

Facing Fears

I recently started to conquer my fear of heights by climbing to the top of a tall tower. In the process of that climb, I realized that life is a lot like climbing a tall ladder. They always say not to look down when you’re up high, but rather keep your eyes fixed up above, at your desired destination. Because if you look down, it’s scary and just like looking down, if you look back on the past, it’ll paralyze you with fear of what’s to come. So be brave, look up, and climb that tall ladder whatever it may look like for you.

The Same Savior, Different Religions

If you know me, you’ll know that a few years ago my family went through a huge change when my older brother converted. It was no doubt a stressful, confusing time for all of us, but four years later I sit here thankful for the change. People ask me all the time how I feel about my brother being Mormon, and I never know the right words to say in response. From an outsiders perspective, most see mormons as weird religious people who wear “magical underwear”(that’s a term my mom has coined into our household) and try to convert as many people as possible. I mean that’s who I thought mormons were. Yes, they do convert people, missionaries or anyone endowed wear specific garments & they do passionately love Jesus. But don’t we all also passionately love Jesus and don’t we all share that love with others in order to spread the gospel?

There are many aspects of Mormonism that set it aside from other religions, but no two religions are going to be the same. Most of the time people tell me why Mormonism is so “wrong”, but I would never trash talk this religion because no matter how weird it may seem, I have grown to respect it. Sure, there may be negative things about, but I’ve seen how the positive aspects far outweigh the negative. Mormon is one of the most family oriented religions, not just by having big families (which is a total stereotype), but by the way they are taught to love and honor their families. Mormons keep the sabbath day holy by not eating out, not shopping anywhere, not listening to anything other than worship music, and using the day as a true lazy Sunday at home. Mormons also actively seek Jesus by praying and reading scriptures daily, meditating on God’s truth.

This year, I ended my summer vacation road tripping out west with Trevor and Autumn before their big day. My first day in Utah, I felt like a black sheep, the odd girl out, it seemed like I was the only one who isn’t Mormon. However, that feeling quickly changed and during the two weeks I spent in Utah, I felt God’s presence more consistently than I had all summer. There’s just something special about constantly being surrounded by others who are also living their life for Jesus and pursuing Him daily.
Throughout our trip, we stayed at three different places, and going back to the family aspect of this religion, I have never felt more at home before from the way I was served and loved on by people who were complete strangers when I arrived there. Keeping the sabbath day holy is something I had never done before until I came to Utah and let me just say that if you ever get the chance to experience a Sunday in the life of a Mormon, do it! We attended three hours of church, and my favorite take away from that is working on being Savior-reliant and less self-reliant. Sunday’s really should be days for true R&R.

I won’t lie, I used to be super intimidated by LDS missionaries when they would come visit our home. I always thought they looked down on me for dressing differently and not living the exact same as them, but the more I got to know them, the more I realized they’re people who love Jesus just like I do. They have genuine servants hearts. A dear friend of ours came to stay the week in GA with her new husband and one morning, as I stressed over all my school work and a long chore list, they offered to help me. Such a small gesture lifted so much weight off my shoulders and allowed me to have the time I needed to study for an exam.
A lot of times God won’t give you courage to step out of your comfort zone, rather He’ll bring an uncomfortable situation right into the middle of your life where you have no other choice but to face it.

Having a brother and sister in-law who are Mormon has taught me what it truly looks like to respect another persons beliefs/way of life when you don’t believe exactly the same.

With a mutual respect there is no hinderance in relationships, but rather more love and honor. Religion shouldn’t be about whose way is right or wrong, it’s about building a relationship with Christ. Despite the different ways, we still worship the same Savior: the Savior that calls us all His children and loves us all the same, the same way we should love and treat one another.

False Idols

I lie here consumed with checking to see if he’s opened my snapchat or watched my story or liked my post. Boys are handsome, funny, and charming. They make you feel beautiful and special and warm inside. They open doors for you, make you laugh, and they are the best cuddle buddies. It’s easy to picture your future with a handsome boy or to put your name with his last name, we girls are all guilty of that. It’s natural, but it’s not harmless.

I’ve always heard of having false idols, but what exactly are idols? Recently i’ve learned that an idol can be anything or anyone. You idolize something or someone when it/they take the place of God in your life, becoming the center of your world, when really God should be at the center. The truth is, if you’re spending time with Jesus, yet consumed with thinking about a boy, you’re idolizing him. If you’re spending less time with Jesus in order to talk to a boy, you’re idolizing him. Or maybe you’re so consumed with checking social media that it becomes the first thing you do when opening your eyes in the morning. None of these things are bad, unless of course they become idols in our every day lives.

When a man comes into your life, nothing should change from when you were single. That man should not become the center of your attention, the source of your joy, or the only person you spend time with. Rather, he should multiply the joy you already have in Christ, he should be an example of Jesus’ love, and he should push you closer to Jesus. He should not idolize you, nor should you idolize him.

I was once complaining to my brother about how no one replied to the snapchat I had sent and he reminded me of something: If someone doesn’t reply to you or like your post or anything of that nature, it’s not personal, and it doesn’t change the way they feel about you. It’s so easy to get swept up in social media and conversing with others that before we know it, our eyes are no longer focused on Jesus, but on something so temporary. I’ve lived both ways, and trust me it is much more rewarding when you live with Christ at the center of everything, not a boy.

It’s easiest to idolize boys, but look at your friendships too. Do you crave approval from your best friends? Constantly checking to see if your actions and accomplishments are being acknowledged? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re idolizing your friends. What’s harmful about idolizing someone is that it makes it impossible to fully abide in Christ when doing so. I dare you to think twice about revolving your life around a boy or an app or a friendship, and rather place God at the center of your life.

My God Is Bigger Than My Hurt

When a four year relationship ends, there’s always the hope of it coming back. You hope for that person you spent so much time with because it’s what is most comfortable. But Jesus cannot take you somewhere new if you keep running back to what’s most comfortable. 

Nothing about going through a season of heartbreak is easy. Although Christ fills me with joy, it still hurts. I have peace, but it still hurts. I have grace, but it still hurts. I have the most supportive, encouraging friends ever, but it still hurts. I have an extraordinary God who loves me more than anyone ever could, but it still hurts. I have been angry with God and I have praised Him, but it still hurts. What I’m trying to say is that no matter what you do or don’t do, during a season of heartbreak, you will hurt, you will feel pain like never before. It’s inevitable, but it’s not impossible to survive.

I’d like to sit here and say I no longer feel pain over my relationship that ended last fall, but I’d be lying to myself. I have fully embraced the fact that God has my best interest in mind, and it still hurts. I have learned to live with it all, to receive God’s grace and let His strength fill me because without it, I’d drown.

Colossians 3:2- “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” This verse has been a constant reminder that fixing your eyes on Jesus can give you that breath of fresh air you’ve been craving because when all you see is your pain, you lose sight of God. Be thankful for the heartache and troubles this world brings because God can use them to grow so many marvelous things in your life!

What’s so cool about pain is that it is temporary AND with every ounce of pain you feel comes a drop of healing. 
I have vivid memories of us and all the times we shared. Memories will last a lifetime, all the good and all the bad. I cherish every single one of them and am thankful for the years we spent together. They changed my entire life and if I could do life all over again, I wouldn’t change a single thing because it has made me into the person I am today.

I want to tell you that whether your heart has just been freshly sliced open, healed, or is currently being sewn back together, Jesus is holding your hand through it all. Jesus was holding your hand before any boy ever did and He will still be holding your hand when a boy is gone. He will NEVER let you drown. I know what it feels like to have your spirit crushed. I know what it’s like to have your boyfriend and best friend taken away from you all at once. It is perfectly okay to not feel okay in any way. I know how many tears you’ve cried and the lonely nights you’ve had. I won’t sugar coat it, it hurts like hell. But GOD IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN ALL OF THE PAIN you feel. You will survive, you will dance again and you will learn to love again. Remember to lean into Jesus and run through the fields of His grace because that’s where the most beautiful flowers get planted.