Friday, July 22, 2016

He Leads Us in HIS Way

The current group we are hosting is a national youth group, with divisions of students from California, Colorado, and our very own Laramie. It’s pretty cool to see these young men and women from all over come together as one under Christ with us for this past week. And next week we have the pleasure of serving the same youth group, but their middle schoolers instead of high schoolers.
I’ve sat in on some of their evening Chapel services and they really have been a blessing to me. I’ve learned from their speaker, leaders, and students alike. It truly is a beautiful and wonderful thing to see God working so intimately with so many people, especially young people, and then to see them in response have their hearts open to Him and to each other.
The first Chapel I attended the above verse was one of the focus passages. It really snapped me to attention because about a week ago I was meditating on this very verse and God spoke to me through it. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself…let me back up and explain.

Right before I departed to come here I met with two different OSU Advisors, talked over a lot of academic options, and decided to register for a class in the University Exploration Major. Which is a fancy way of saying Undecided. The goal of the class is to educate the student on the various majors and minors offered at OSU, discover my own strengths and weaknesses, and help to focus my desires into a tangible career. Everyone here at Camp knew I was thinking about going back to school full-time, but very undecided as to the how and what. So part of the reason that I chose to come here was that I’d more clearly discover what I’m good at and where my talents are.
I’ll never forget the moment in the van on the way to the river when Trystan asked me “Lizz, you ever thought about counseling?” The pause in my response was hilariously awkward as I tried to figure out why Trystan thought I needed to see a counselor.
Of course what she meant was, have you thought about becoming a counselor? She was particularly struck by how easily I meet people exactly where they are, and how words of love and advice just naturally come to me. Within two weeks three other people, all independent of each other, came to me with also the same exact words of “I think you’d be really good at counseling.” When the fourth person said it I said out loud “Woah ok hold on, this cannot be coincidence.” So right there around the fire my friends encouraged me and gave me the little push I needed to get serious about going back to school.
One of my biggest qualms about it is money. Education is expensive. Seminary is extremely expensive. Amanda quickly shot down my excuse and said “If money is your biggest reason to not go back to school, or fear of debt, that’s a really poor excuse. God is so much bigger than any student loan. If He’s really calling you to this, you need to answer and He WILL provide.” In that moment, I realized part of my excuse was based in pride. I’ve been proud that to this day I have no debt to my name.
I went to bed that night with my brain buzzing so loud with excitement I could barely sleep. Could this finally be it?
First thing the next day I began comparing tuition expenses with those in Ohio. It became very clear that by staying here I’d be able to cut some of my education in half. On a sort of whim, I decided to put a fleece before God and just look and see if there was any housing available here in Laramie (this close to the school year no less). Within minutes of searching I located a very affordable apartment, and what do you know, he was available to show it that very same day. I swung by the community college and they gave me the information on how to pursue academic residency.
I came home with my mind and heart full of hope and excitement. Is this real? Am I really looking at moving to Laramie? Am I really ready to say goodbye to Ohio and no longer be a Buckeye?
I had about four days to give the guy an answer on the apartment. And you can bet those four days were filled with a lot of prayer, conversations of advice giving, and everyone here saying “Please stay! We love you! You’ve already gone bouldering you’re already mostly a Laramite.” I talked a lot with my parents and we expressed mutual hopes and concerns. My Dad said probably the best thing when he told me “I don’t care where you are as long as you are following God, and your focus is on Him. Wherever He takes you is fine with me.”

So there I was one afternoon, enjoying awhile of quiet time with God and thinking over all of these pros and cons, fears and worries, hopes and dreams, and people I love here, and people I love at home, and trying to figure out what is the RIGHT decision – when all of a sudden, my attention was drawn to 2 Corinthians 12:9.
“And he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
In that moment God spoke to me: You are weak right now. You lack the direction, plan, and understanding for your future that most people have. But MY strength is made perfect in that. You are weak in that you are alone. You crave and desire to be married. You have let men and relationships become an idol in your life. But MY strength is made perfect in that too.
I took a deep breath of the mountain air, looked around as my eyes blurred with unexpected tears and said out loud “I’m not ready to leave these mountains yet.” And in that moment I received great peace to stay. I fell to my knees and began just worshipping God and thanking Him for everything in my life.
The good and beautiful friendships I have made.
The painful ending of my relationship with my boyfriend, and Jesus’ perfect love, mercy, and patience through all of it.
The opportunity to work at Table and share life with so many people.
The opportunity to stay here in this incredible part of our Country.
And above all, His faithfulness and unending love to me and everyone.

Within a week of the decision to stay I’ve also been incredibly blessed with a job that was offered to me on the spot during the interview, and this was after being told by a few Laramites “It’s hard to find work here.” Perfectly timed, as God often does, the job doesn’t even begin until Camp ends.

And then, as if He was reminding me that He is with me every step of the way… in that the guest speaker spoke almost everything to the students that God has been showing and teaching me in the past four months. She spoke on saying yes to Him and stepping out in Faith. She spoke on refusing sloppy seconds in life, and trusting Him that He provides the absolute best for His children. She shared personally with me about being in a relationship that was on the track to marriage, but God ended it for her betterment in life. Everything she spoke confirmed what was being written in my heart.
So here I am. Nearing the end of a Summer Ministry Adventure, but getting closer and closer the beginning of what I expect will be a grand and amazing Wyoming Ministry Adventure.
Thanks, as always, for being a part of this. For reading these long posts. For daily praying for me and laboring in love alongside me.

Until next time!

Peace, grace, and blessings be multiplied to you dear brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mid-Summer Report

I apologize for it being so long since my last post. I was not kidding when I said the busy season was upon us. Since I wrote last we have had a group of two middle school youth groups, open highschool camp, a high school youth group, and open kids camp.

One of the concerns I had going into all this was "Am I going to get bored doing the same field games and working on the same rock wall every weeks? Am I going to turn into a robot when I ask these kids questions about themselves and their lives?"
Short answer: not even a little bit. Because every group is different, and every kid has a different story to tell.

As I sit here sipping my morning coffee and soaking in the mountains (praise that the smoke levels have dropped a lot!) I'm going back and forth on what stories to share, because I can't share all of them. It would be the length of a novella.
Do I share my own bits of growth and learning?
Or the moments I have with my roommates and getting to counsel them?
Or the one on ones with the high-schoolers?
Or what about the late nights with my girls during Kids Camp?

What helps me decide is to remember that some of my readers are financially supporting me right now. Without them giving of their earthly possessions; it'd be a lot harder to be doing what I'm doing right now. A quick thank you to everyone who is supporting me in whatever way you are. I definitely could not be doing this without the love, support, prayers, and encouragement from home. :)

I'll start with the middle-schoolers.

I'm not going to lie and say I didn't have moments of telling myself to breathe and calm down. I never knew that middleschool boys could anger me quite so much. It wasn't just their lack of teamwork, refusal to work together, and insistence on constantly putting eachother was mostly their complete lack of even trying to be men. They barely acknowledged the weakest in their numbers, and if they did, it was only long enough to make fun of him. It made me equally sad and angry. Nothing I could say would get through to them, and I was so caught off guard by it that I didn't even have much to say but glares. It was a sad reminderthat some boys grow up to be in the body of a man, but never truly become one. Which ended up being a timely lesson to carry with me to Kids Camp in talk after talk with my ten year old girls about boys.

The middleschool girls were definitely a different story. I expected there to be cliques and exclusion, and have to pay special attention to making sure they got along. But, surprisingly, the girls listened to each other really well and had a lot of fun together. They even listened to me and I wasn't their youth group leader! I got to have a long conversation with two of them about their inherent, God-given value. That nothing, and no one, in life can ever take that from them. People will try, and life will try, but they will always be invaluably precious in God's eyes. Both of them were dealing with the drama of cliques and the social ladder and school, and one even had a girl completely diss her via Instagram and practically disown their entire friendship which had lasted their entire lives. I told her not to take it personal. Girls do nasty and cruel things to each other because we don't fully understand our value in Christ. We like to tear other girls down to make ourselves feel better. No matter how hard life gets, or how mean people become, don't let yourself fall to their level because that's exactly what they and satan want you to do. They see your joy, they see that Jesus lives in you and they want that SO BAD but they're too proud to ask; so the pick, bully, and tear at you in hopes of getting you to turn away from God's Love.

Looking back on this conversation now, I'm a little shocked at just how many times I repeated it (in so many words) to different girls of different ages over the past couple of weeks. I absolutely LOVED sharing this with girls. My worth and value in Christ hasn't really been apparent to me until about this last year or so. I've been so blessed with older women pouring these words of life into me, and now I finally get to pour them into someone else.

In the back to back high school camps I was thoroughly shocked, and heartbroken, to heart story after story of young men and women dealing with self-harm and suicide. Story after story of heartbreak and endless bullying that pushed them to the thoughts of "No one wants me. I'm a burden." I walked away from both of those camps with a still remaining burden for these young people. We've all seen the statistics and the numbers revolving around teen suicide. But to meet the"numbers" up close and personal was something else entirely. As they told me these things I found my own mind and tongue completely speechless. But then the Holy Spirit always came and gave me the exact words they needed to hear.

I don't think I can properly put into words just how much these experiences have shaken and impacted me, or how much I love them. I crave these kinds of heart ot heart talks with people, especially other girls and women who are struggling through some of the same things I've struggled through. Almost every single day a door opens for me, if my heart is willing to go through it.

So I'll finish this with a prayer request.

My body is tired. I've been sick for almost three days now.
My heart is tired too. After the second high school camp I didn't even want to talk to the new group of high-schoolers because I felt so overwhelmed with burden and emotion.
And now, after Kids Camp, I barely want to talk to my fellow staff. I kind of just want to hide in my room with a book for a month and not look at ANYBODY.