Monday, August 15, 2011

One Week Out: Final Thoughts

In the middle of the woods with one building that has Internet, and with the hassle of carrying my laptop with me everywhere, it became very difficult to update my blog this summer. I had lots of time to journal, however, and God has used this summer in huge ways to teach me about Himself. After being at home for a week, I am hoping to give you one last blog post with a summary of the hard things God has taught me. It took me several weeks to sort through everything He was showing me and the ways He was growing me, which is another reason why I have not been updating my blog. My prayer is that in reading this blog, you can learn just a little bit of what I learned this summer from God.

Most of the tough stuff began at the beginning of July. A few of my teammates began to criticize a lot of the things I was doing, and I was not taking it well. In hindsight, I needed to hear most of what they were saying, but at the time I was feeling pretty defensive, even though I didn't say anything out loud. When Tommy and Joellyn began to make suggestions for me to improve my piano playing, I couldn't handle it. It was so humbling to sit and listen to musical advice from a team of non-music majors, and it was even more humbling about a week later to realize that they were right. By the end of the first week of July, I was feeling really worn down emotionally.

The next week was the week Rachel left, and Brandon came up for a visit to help see her off. After that weekend, Brandon bestowed upon the Green Team HeartSong's latest purchase: a new iPad. As a team, we spent the next week discovering all of the new things we could do with the iPad. Dane could use it to mix sound from anywhere in the room, and we could put it onstage to mix our own earbuds, among other sound-mixing things. But the main application we ended up using was GarageBand. Tommy plugged it in and used the drum kit sounds to play a song or two to be goofy, and he also created a musical intro for Rise and Sing with its prerecorded string sounds and drum beats. After taking Music Philosophy with Dr. Mortensen, I have very distinct opinions about GarageBand and about what we were doing with it, and for the next week I was wrestling with those opinions. I knew that I never wanted to touch GarageBand, but I wasn't sure if I was okay with someone else like Tommy using it and being a part of a group that used it like we did. At that point I began to feel separated from my team. I knew exactly what my teammates would say if I shared my struggle with them; I knew just what arguments they would use to justify it, and I understood where they were coming from. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to make them understand my side or the struggle I was going through. When I finally did share this with 2 of my teammates, that's exactly what happened, and I started feeling really alone.

After talking with a couple of Lake Ann counselors about it, I found that one of my assigned accountability partners was going through the same type of struggle at her home church. It was really comforting to know that someone else understood me and there was someone I could talk to and pray with. I am so thankful that God put me on the Lake Ann team so I was able to build relationships with a few of the the full-time counselors that I had more in common with.

Things turned around for me in the middle of July at the end of week 5. During "God and I Time" Saturday morning, I was reading Galatians for some reason. I came across chapter 5, verse 13, a verse that I had read in the middle of May, which says: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." I meant to make that my theme verse for the summer, but had forgotten about it until that moment. God showed me in that moment that this was the solution to my problems. I had been so full of pride, scared to share my opinion and not willing to give my teammates a chance, and I was letting my struggles rule my attitude. I realized that by having an attitude of love, I could put my teammates first and discover their hearts for worship, no matter what "instruments" we were using. Probably one of the most valuable things Dr. Mortensen ever taught me was to use times like this to put my opinion aside and to serve and love my team, remembering that the desire to glorify Christ is something we all share, and that Christ will be glorified no matter how God decides to do it, iPad or no iPad. God reminded me of this lesson and this verse that morning, and I set out that weekend to put it into practice. Unfortunately I ended up pretty sick week 6, but as I got my strength back and sought accountability with a couple of my teammates and counselors, I was determined to make the last 2 weeks count, to concentrate on serving my team in love, and I was praying hard that I would be able to do that.

But there was another way I wasn't connecting with my team. After Rachel left, my team consisted of 5 boys and a girl who grew up with brothers, so all of them spoke fluent sarcasm and one of their favorite ways to communicate love was through constant teasing. As much as I tried to understand this unique love language, I often ended up angry or hurt after spending too much time with them. If I wasn't feeling angry, I was just feeling disconnected; I felt as though I couldn't fit in with the group unless I was joining in with the teasing and sarcasm. It's easy for me to connect with one person at a time at a serious level; I did that this summer with Kupkakes, Briana, and several other people. But I CAN'T STAND sarcasm! I kept those feelings to myself, however, as I tried to understand how my teammates were showing love to each other. And I always knew that when I was fed up with them, I had a couple of counselor friends I could go to and spend time with.

For the last two weeks of tour, I had three goals. First, I did my best to not take my team's sarcasm seriously and to try and understand my team's way of showing love. Second, I made a point to show love to my team in the way I preferred, in one-on-one conversations and in encouragement cards. The thing I love about encouragement cards is that I can think through exactly what I want to say and pray that my words are what that person needs to hear. Every one of them is personal and heartfelt, and it is energizing to me to give people encouragement in this way because I know that it is sincere, purposeful love. Third, as I said in my last blog, I spent the last week pouring myself into the Lake Ann staff and campers. I left Lake Ann feeling like I was leaving home, the same feeling I felt every summer when I left Camp Carl. That's when I knew that it was God at work, that He had accomplished these goals through me.

Ken Riley asked all of us to sum up our summer in 5 words. I chose my words from Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another in love. When I am being criticized by my team, when my opinion is different from my team’s, when my team is being so sarcastic that I can’t stand it, God calls me to serve them in love, to show them I love them by considering them better than me and seeking out the thing that I can learn from them. And although I will probably never agree with sarcasm, I am praying that God will help me put those unintentionally-hurtful words aside and forgive, and to continue to love in the way God has called me to love.

For the past week I have had Grayson (from Orange Team)’s song “Give Me a Love” running through my head. I’ve decided to close this blog with some of the words to this song. This has been my prayer as the summer has come to a close, and I hope that in sharing this with you I can show you what God is doing in my life right now. I hope you have enjoyed reading all year and that this blog has pointed you to Christ and His amazing work. Soli Deo Gloria!!

Give me a love that can only come from You
Help me to see all these people as You do
Use my words, may they only come from You
Shape my heart so that loving is all I do
It’s not gonna be easy, but I’m ready

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Best Week Yet

Last Monday the 31st, I decided that I was done wasting time. With one week of camp left, I made up my mind that this was going to be the best week. I wanted to leave everything on the court, to not hold anything back. I prayed for strength for one more week, and set out to pour God's love into every single person I talked to. And God was faithful, using me in all my strengths and weaknesses to bring Him 100% of the glory.

For some reason all summer I gravitated toward the junior high camp. Kupkakes was a junior high girl, and the Zorbs are a junior high activity. So Monday morning during greeting time, I hung out by the junior high banner with Andrew, Kathleen, and one of the counselors Trisha as she waited for her campers. I knew Trisha a little bit, but while we waited and talked we found out that we have more in common than we realized before. One of those things is that we both loved making friendship bracelets! I told her that if her girls ever wanted to make friendship bracelets, I would love to join them. I gave her my phone number to text me just in time for her campers to arrive.

Later that day I got a text from Trisha, saying that her girls were making bracelets outside the cabin. Technically, Monday afternoons are my time off, but this was the last week, and I was going to take any opportunity I could to hang out with campers. I joined their cabin for the next hour or so, making bracelets and talking. None of them really knew who I was and that I was on HeartSong, and that was kind of nice to talk to them as a friend instead of a "celebrity." We talked about some of the girls' favorite camp songs, and one of the girls showed me how to make a new kind of bracelet. I was fired up for that evening's worship, and nothing was getting me down; even an argument with Tommy about junior chapel couldn't ruin my mood. After chapels, I ran into the same cabin of girls, and two of them, after hearing me play the piano in chapel, were so excited to tell me about how they were piano students in the same studio and loved playing duets together. I was SUPER excited to spend the rest of my week finding every opportunity I could to hang out with Trisha and her cabin.

The next day, I was so excited to spend lunch with Anjela watching the movie Fireproof. We had found out the week before how much we both loved that movie, so we borrowed it from a friend and watched it on her laptop in the staff room while we ate lunch. For the whole rest of the week we quoted it to each other. :) After that, I went to the Red Canoe to find some campers to hang out with and ran into Susannah’s cabin of junior girls. One of the girls had a large green slushie, and I bet her that she couldn’t finish the whole thing before craft time. At Lake Ann, betting currency comes in “woof-woofs”, or the humiliation of barking like a dog in a public place (3 “woof-woofs” means the loser has to do it 3 different times at the winner’s discretion). So I bet this girl 3 “woof-woofs” that she couldn’t finish it, and then she was determined to! Needless to say, 3 different times that week I was on all fours barking like a dog for this camper. ;) Later that evening at chapel for the juniors, I got to sing one of my favorite junior camp songs: “The Fruit of the Spirit Song!” It was one of my all-time favorites from Camp Carl, and I was so excited when the speaker requested it. That became one of my favorite junior chapel nights of the summer.

On Wednesday, I was back out at the Zorbs! Because there were so many girls, it got pretty chaotic toward the end, but I just kept on doing my favorite part: filling up the bucket and dumping cold water on unsuspecting campers in the Zorb. And, for the first time all summer, I was sneaky enough to dump a bucket on Andrew as well (I was pretty proud of myself). ;) I raced Trisha down the hill for some "woof-woofs" which made it more fun for her cabin. Trisha's entire cabin wanted me to hang out with them all the time, and every chance I got I was with them. I ate lunch with them every day and dinner with them whenever I could; I also found them before chapels to hang out and talked with them in the bathroom before breakfast. A lot of times for me ministering feels like I am being poured out and leaves me weary, but being with these girls was filling me up and energizing me, and I was so thankful for that. I loved every minute I had with them!

Thursday of this week was the culmination of an entire summer of sibling rivalry. It started with the sock prank; finally I was sneaky enough to put 8 of Will’s guitar pedals in socks and hook them back up, making it more difficult to get them all off. But if I believed in karma, I would say it caught up to me that afternoon when I went to the junior camp/junior high carnival and got 3 buckets of water dumped on me by Tommy. I was about ready to kill him by dinnertime. Then, during chapel, Dexter put a huge plastic beetle on my phone and I almost freaked out before realizing it was fake. I looked back and saw Dex and Tommy laughing, and soon after I got a text from Dex: “We’re the brothers you never had, and never wanted!” Later on, Will realized that it wasn’t Dane but me who socked his pedal board, and the next morning I walked in to find my two pedals, earbuds, and a couple of other “sock-able” things on my keyboards covered in socks. I know, I had it coming. :)

But in between all the teasing and sarcasm there were times of serious talking and love. Having Will, our class chaplain, on my team actually became really beneficial for me. Talking with him, I learned a lot about God and about myself, even by just asking him what God was teaching him. There was also a great talk about music, where I got to be the one teaching him. I never realized how much effort is needed to teach someone what a leading tone is. It was fun for me to teach him and get excited about teaching 4 students this fall.

Friday was a depressing day just because it was a day of lasts. For the last time, I worked in the snack shack with Anjela, singing marching band songs and making blizzards. For the last time I sang “Romans 16:19” for junior chapel, after which I ran out of the room to pray hard that God would put me on this team again next year. For the last time, I worshipped with my HeartSong Green Team, and as we ended the service with an encore, we played the chorus of “You Deserve” about 7 times because we didn’t want to be done.

But because it was the last time for everything, I made the most of every moment. I had chosen to make this the best week ever, and I had done it. Even Friday night, when I’m normally headed to bed, I peeked my head into Trisha’s cabin to hang out with her girls one more time. I cherished every moment I had, took advantage of every opportunity, and prayed that God would shine through everything I did. I ended the week satisfied that I had given it my all and not held anything back. I had finished the race, and I could end the summer with a joyful conscious.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blessings In Disguise

It was bound to happen; I’m getting all out of order with my blog posts. This blog is not about this week, but the week before the amazing weekend last weekend…I hope that makes sense! I have just a couple of stories from the week that I’d like to share. And thanks to spell check I’m finally spelling “disguise” right; there are some things modern technology is good for, I suppose. :)

First disguise: asthma. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you heard about Bryce’s asthma attack. Bryce is the soundman for the summer at Lake Ann, and because he’s still in high school part of his contract gives him a free week as a senior high camper. His counselor was Zach (from Yellow Team) and his sister counselor was Becca, and I know both of them pretty well, so I was spending the afternoon on Thursday with their group watching them conquer the Goliath, a giant climbing ladder (see pics on Twitter). While he was on the top rung, Bryce started hyperventilating and had to come down right away. After he took a puff of his inhaler, he passed out, and we couldn’t get him to wake up. Becca gathered the entire group in another area while Zach and the nurses tried to revive him. One of the climbing specialists called 9-1-1, and I just kept asking, “What can I do?” Eventually my job was to go the camp entrance and wave down the ambulance and tell them where to go. Easy job, but at least I was doing something! After the ambulance was there, the camp director Ken came and “took over” so Zach could be with his cabin.

Blessing: music. I stood with the group as the girls were crying and the guys were praying and comforting them. They were singing worship songs, and Becca looked over at me and named a couple of hymns really quick; in that stressful moment she couldn’t remember the words. So I stood with them hugging them and leading them in worship. Who would have thought that an asthma attack would spark a random worship session in the middle of the woods? I guess it makes sense if you think about it. But I had been praying for something to do to help, and God allowed me to go back to my roots and remember all those hymns and 90’s worship songs that these kids grew up with so I could provide some comfort and peace. Soon after we found out from Zach that Bryce was awake in the ambulance and that he would be okay, and by that evening he was back and smiling bigger than ever when I ran to give him a hug.

Second disguise: working in the snack shack. Well, I guess it’s not so much a disguise; being able to work in the snack shack once a week is a fun blessing for me. But for Anjela, the high school girl who works there every day, it can get pretty boring. By Friday she was totally bored and had pages full of song lyrics she was copying down, just so she had something to do. For this week I had traded days with Dane so he could be with the junior high on Friday afternoon; he worked Tuesday for me and I had just arrived to work Friday for him.

Blessing: more music. Anjela and I started having a conversation about marching band. Although my marching days are long over, I still remembered a lot of the marches that we played, either in concert band or while we were actually marching. She started singing one of the classics (for the life of me I couldn’t remember the composer), but I knew it and remembered the tune very well. It wasn’t long before we were dancing/marching around the inside of the snack shack and singing the march as we went. We got smiles from the workers in the Red Canoe and rolled-eyes from Elisha, the other snack shack worker who still isn’t sure if marching band is a real sport (which it IS, by the way). About a half-hour later when we started getting a lot more orders coming in, one of the counselors came to order a slushie and asked Anjela how her day was going. I was scooping ice cream or something when I heard her say, “Oh, it’s been the best day ever! Deanna and I were dancing around the snack shack singing marching band songs! I always have so much fun when Deanna’s here.” I could not believe that dancing around the snack shack would make Anjela’s day so much better; I’ll have to make sure I do that more often!

This week that I’ve been writing about was a great reminder to me about how simple ministry can be. Obviously our main output of ministry on HeartSong is music. For these two days I was able to use music to minister to a bunch of different high schoolers; music brought peace to the cabin mates who were scared and it brought joy to the bored snack shack worker. And most of those weren’t even HeartSong songs; it was just God giving me a memory to retain music easily so I could bring it back when I needed to. I am so blessed, and so humbled, and so thankful, that God would use my memory of so-called trivial songs to be a blessing to other people. SOLI DEO GLORIA!!!