I always think of camp as a relaxing and restful getaway, yet I always manage to come home completely drained emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It was such an amazing weekend! It takes me approximately two hours to recount the entire four days so I will just pull out some highlights for you. This is the fun camp stuff; I'll write another blog about the fun stuff I learned about God. Special memories: In the back of the meeting tent, there were creativity stations set up. There was a big rectangle of Plexiglas with paint and brushes for us to paint on. There were wooden boards and sharpies for us to write and draw on. There was a hallway made of rollaway panels covered with burlap for us to write and draw on. There was no specification of what to put on any of these things. We were able to use them during worship, prayer, free time, etc. to express ourselves to God. I don’t consider myself much of a painter. I wish I could paint something beautiful, but my artistic abilities are more cartoonish than realistic. They’re fun, not beautiful. Because of this, I wanted to take my time figuring out what to paint. I wanted it to be something deep and meaningful. During free time on Saturday (after a much-needed, two hour nap) I sat with Sam, Chris, Andy, Jessica, and Justin at the Plexiglas. Sam was painting and we all hung out and talked. I was thinking, trying to come up with something brilliant to paint, when an idea finally came. We were out of red paint, so I made an orange, brick wall. I used my fingers to make the gray mortar in between the bricks. (I was happy about using my fingers because when I first saw the glass, my reaction was to finger paint all over it!) On each brick, I painted a word of something that I let come between me and God, signifying the things that I let build up and separate me from Him. Because it was glass, I was able to paint on the other side of the bricks and wrote “God” to show He was on the other side of my wall. One of the words was “business.” We had a long discussion about how to spell it. I was convinced it was “busyness,” otherwise it looks like I’m trying to start a business and that’s separating me from God—not true, I just get too busy and put God on the back-burner. Everyone else thought it was spelled "business." Justin went over and asked some random girls standing over to the side how to spell it. They spelled "business" and then said, "No wait, maybe it's with a 'y.'" Though there was a no cell phone policy, a girl popped out her phone and looked it up. She said it was "business." I stood corrected; everyone gloated. I painted over it and changed the spelling. When I got home, I had the same argument with my mom. She looked it up in the dictionary. I was right the first time. Now my painting will be forever misspelled. I should have gone with what I knew. I am going to be a teacher after all!
Friday night I was asked to lead the discussion for my cabin's chat group after our first chapel meeting. In the middle of chapel I had a sudden realization that I was going to be asked to head that up. I paused and told myself, "Okay, let's get ready for it." I wrote down some more questions I had about the message that I wanted to know others' input on because they were things that didn't sit well with me and I wasn't sure if I agreed with. Sure enough, after chapel Jono asked me to be one of the leaders. I didn't even hesitate, because I had already known it would happen. He asked if I was willing, and I said, "absolutely!" May I give you a side note here about me and leading small groups. Basically, I don't do it. I did it once, and it was not a good experience. It frustrates me because I get asked to do it every now and then and I hate to say no, but I don't think I have what it takes to lead discussion. I'm not very good at asking hard questions, and tying everything together, and getting people to talk. Jono knows this about me, but for some reason he asked me anyway. He gave me a back-up person, but because God had prepped me for it during chapel, I took the lead and ran with it. I have to tell you, it was the best experience ever! God just worked through it. He gave me the perfect group of girls that was open to discuss what didn't sit right and what we thought was true. Everyone in the group had something to say, which I really appreciated. It was a nice, small group of girls, and it gave us an opportunity to start out the week getting to know each other a little better and connect by talking about spiritual matters. I also asked them after discussion why they signed up for the trip and what they expected to get out of it. It turned out to be a great question because it helped me get to know where they were coming from and at the last large group discussion we had, Jono asked us to share what we got out of the trip. It was neat to see how God moved in each of us this weekend and did things in our lives that we hadn't expected at all. That just rocked my socks off! God is unpredictable, and what he has for us is so much bigger and better than anything we could anticipate. I was so happy to have a good small group leading experience, even if it was just one meeting. God knew I needed that.
Along the same lines, I noticed a change in my contribution to discussion when we met as a large group. Side note for that too--I am a listener. I love sitting in on discussion groups so I can listen to everyone talk. Hearing different opinions or expressions of knowledge fascinate me. I rarely say anything. Sometimes this is because I get afraid to speak up, so by the time I get my courage up what I had to say has already been said by someone else. I also have trouble interrupting people. I want to let them finish what they have to say (that's respectful listening!) and by the time they do, someone else has jumped in. I also feel a little intimidated by my lack of knowledge. I want to be that person that says something profound and everyone nods their heads in agreement or comments that they hadn't thought of that before. I don't think I'm that person though. I feel like I need to read books by famous theologians in my spare time (if I have spare time...) to be able to change the way I think and express my ideas. However, I'm a very introspective person; I think a lot. Usually the way I'm most comfortable expressing it is in writing--hence my blogsite! :) That way I can put out thoughts I think are good, and I don't have to look around the circle and see heads nodding or hear someone jump in and put down whatever I had to say. Blogs don't talk back, haha. But, I have considered lately that I value conversations, and I do want to be a part of them. So I really tried to make an effort to contribute to discussion this weekend, and I refused to let myself make excuses to stay silent. I do have things to say, and I want to say them. I was able to do so--ask questions of things I didn't know or of things I wanted to know others' thoughts on, share what I have been going through and what God had been teaching me, and present ideas about things I had not yet come to conclusive answers on. It was nice to be a part of things, and get some responses to my questions. I think one of the best things I took away from the weekend was the amazing discussion times I got to be a part of. I was affirmed for my contributions to discussion, and I shared my thought that if I can write about it in a blog, then I can talk to people about it in person too. It was a nice change, and I was surprised at how easy it came to me to jump in and speak up for once. I've been noticing a lot of things that are coming a lot easier to me now--talking in large discussion groups, leading small group meetings, joining new small groups, talking to my classmates, making small talk with people I don't know. I feel like I'm a different person, and I have no idea when this change has come about. I suppose I'm growing up, and as much as I hate to admit it, it seems to be a positive thing.
Sunday afternoon was Lake Day. We ate lunch, hung out, and watched a blob competition. We witnessed a few girls getting dunked in the freezing lake by dear Justin and Jono. I held my camera so I wouldn't be privy to such treatment. But the people I was going hiking with afterwards were all in the lake, so I decided not to let the cold water excuse keep me from enjoying my friends' company this time. I started to go over to get in the water, but saw Jono and Justin in there and knew they'd come over and "help me out," which I wasn't too keen on. So I changed directions and went around the lake to the farther side where there was a sandy beach. It was perfect; the water got deeper gradually, which allowed me to go at my own pace in getting deeper. That's how I prefer to do it when cold water is involved. I was up to my knees and my friends yelled at me to come over. I said I was getting there, I was just taking my time and going slow, but I'd be there eventually. That's when I saw Justin and Jono hop out of the lake and start walking along the edge. I made eye contact with Jono who immediately stood up straight to pretend like he and Justin hadn't just been whispering evil plans to each other. I panicked a little and looked behind me to see if there was someone else from our group close by whom they were going after. To my alarm, there was no one but me. I looked at my options and decided the best thing for me to do was run over to the side of the lake and hop out before they got to me. I took off running. This made perfect logical sense in my head though thinking back now, if i had just run away from them into deeper water then they wouldn't have been able to do anything, and if I made it out of the water, they would most likely just grab me and throw me in again. Keep in mind, I was in the water when I started to run away so I was splashing like no other. As soon as I started running, the boys charged into the lake after me. That's when I started shrieking. I was so embarrassed to be yelling like that because I knew it was just drawing attention so now everyone in the entire camp that was sitting by the lake was most likely watching me run away as two boys chased after me. But amidst these embarrassed thoughts, I couldn't do anything to stop myself from screaming. Right as I put my hands down on the stone wall to hoist myself out of the water, I felt the boys each grab one arm and pull me backwards back into the lake. I continued to shriek for them to stop as they walked me over to where the group was. Jessica Castro expressed her sympathy and held open her arms, but I knew she was going to dunk me just like they were and tried to push myself away from all of them. This must have looked quite comical as my size is significantly smaller than both boys. It was an uneven match from the start--not fair! I tried to explain to them that they had already gotten me into the deep water and that was all that was needed and to please not get my hair wet. I should have known that me being girly and saying not to get my hair wet would only encourage the inevitable. But I was desperate. I had finally had a good hair day at camp--a very big accomplishment since I had forced myself to go without a hair dryer or straightener this weekend. I had also put on make-up that morning after consciously thinking, "Should I put on make-up? We're going to the lake. Well, I never put my face in the water, I'm probably fine." I really didn't want mascara smeared all over my face. There were no mirrors to correct that sort of ugliness. However, as much as I clung on for dear life, I felt three pairs of hands grab hold of me and push me down under the horrid, cold wetness. *Sigh. I came up sputtering how much I hated them all, which just made them laugh. No one takes me seriously anymore. As furious as I was, I have to admit, it was probably quite enjoyable to watch. I hope that I made their day--those awful boys. In my entire life, I have never been thrown into a pool of water until this summer. People know that's something you just don't do to me. However, I have somehow reached a point that people no longer care. You will never hear me admit in person that it was kinda fun now that it's over. Hahaha.
Some of us went on a waterfall hike. I've gotten into hiking a lot more lately, so I was excited to find some people who were actually going. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it early enough to have brought my tennis shoes. It made a little more difficult because I wasn't prepared; it was challenging though it wasn't a long hike. My biggest difficulty apart from the shoes was my remembrance of going on that same hike in 5th grade. There was a place that was especially slippery due to a high level of autumn leaves, covering the ground. One of the dads that came was a fireman, and due to the challenge of not sliding down the mountain on those leaves, he positioned himself so he could catch anyone that fell and started sliding. I remember slipping, and he had to stop me from going all the way down to the bottom of the mountain. I was a little apprehensive this time around because of that experience--it's the same reason it took me forever to jump off a diving board again after the first bad experience. I was fine on the hike until I got to the rock covered side of a hill that we had to climb down using a rope tied to a tree. I just stopped and looked down--trying to see all my options. Sara told me I had to use the rope to belay myself down. I hesitated and grabbed on. My feet were shaking with every step; I was going very slowly. I told them I slipped in 5th grade--trying to excuse my pace. It was pointed out that I'm now 22. How embarrassing! I shouldn't have focused on it so much. It wasn't a big deal; I was fine. I think I just psyched myself out. I was glad I made it; I know that having a negative past experience can only be moved past by trying it again--so hard to do because we often just want to hold on in fear and not move forward. It was interesting for me to think back on this trek and see how easily I can be persuaded. I never knew that about myself before. For the majority of the group, it wasn't the best hiking experience. I hung out with them most of the time and found myself focusing on how much my feet hurt from my shoes. When I talked with someone who enjoyed the hike, I realized that it hadn't all been bad. I enjoyed "connecting" with nature--using stones, roots, and tree trunks to hold onto and assist me in getting to where I needed to go. I liked the sense of accomplishment in getting to the end even though the waterfall wasn't very big. I liked climbing over the big rocks while trying not to step in the water as I went higher to the source of the waterfall to see if it got bigger. I liked lying down by the waterfall and looking at the gorgeous trees above me. It made me feel like praying and singing to God. I was a little disappointed we left so soon, and I didn't get spend much time doing that. I realized from this experience that I need to be careful with my persuasiveness. I can't always please everyone, which is a big reason I am easily persuaded. I need to be able to stand by how I think and be confident in that.
My final memory that sticks out occurred Monday morning. We had all stayed up till 1:30/2:00am. We were passed out and slept quite well that night. At 6:30am there starts to be a commotion of sorts in our cabin. One by one each of us wakes up and starts asking what's going on. There is a worried conversation about sleeping through the alarm--why else would everyone be waking up and making a commotion?? I sleepily grab my alarm clock--sure I had set it for 8:20 and not forgotten to turn it on. Eight bleary eyed girls gasped one by one, "What is that?!" as we looked to the floor to see a white, powdery trail. More gasps and exclamations ensued as our sleepy eyes took in powder on bunks, suitcases, shoes, and sleeping bags. A very serious conversation began as we tried to figure out what it was and how it got there. We started out believing it was an animal that had dragged stuff in. We decided it was flour. Someone suggested a bat, a raccoon, a squirrel. With each, an intense conversation took place answering how that animal could have accomplished that and the reason that each was an incorrect assumption. We also discussed if it was perhaps a prank. Several girls didn't believe it was anyone in our group. Some suggested a different group had done the prank on the wrong cabin. I wasn't so sure. But I thought it was very strange for someone to bring a bag of flour to camp. It's hard to fully convey the setting of this event. It was a really intense discussion we had that morning, and even though some of our claims sound ridiculous now thinking back on them, they made perfect sense to us at 6:30am. My favorite part about this was the way that we seriously discussed a possible explanation with fervent exclamations and then suddenly got quiet for a moment and then burst out laughing at how ridiculous we sounded. We weren't mad; we thought it was funny. I was glad for the memory. It was definitely the talk of the entire group all morning.
A great weekend, with lots of great memories to be sure!