Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Remember the Stars

I was baptized on June 28, 2006, but honestly I would say I truly began living for Christ began four years later. I've told the story a hundred times, but after a trip to Europe, I returned home to only switch sessions at Camp Deer Run. Switching from 2nd to 4th was a difficult experience for me; I suppose you could say it was the first time I truly found myself relying on God. But ever since those two weeks, I've been a different person. I've learned to truly be a woman of God who seeks after God's heart. So as I always do near the end of the year, I reflect on my life. Where has God brought me since that summer and so I would like to share with you some of my milestones. That summer, the summer of 2010, my counselor told us to always remember the stars. And every time I look at the stars, I do remember. I remember the person I was or the person that I could've been, but because of those 12 days, I am a completely different individual. So, I like to see how far I've come and relive the highlights of the past three years. This is the story of my life, and it is probably more for my benefit than yours. What is life if you don't take the time to recall the frozen past?

This picture is the first picture taken after a night of fire and prayer that transformed my heart forevermore. Every two week session, on the middle Sunday, we have All Night Prayer. All throughout the night, cabin after cabin wakes up and gathers around the fire for a special time of prayer. It is always a 'breakthrough' moment as a cabin of 10 girls truly shares their hearts and comes together in Christ. So as a broken 16 year-old consumed with fitting in with high school, I poured out my heart that night with my sisters in Christ. I had never known what it was like to truly be myself, and for the first time I had peace in knowing that I didn't have to pretend anymore. People would love me and care for me. So when this picture was taken two days later, it has always served as a reminder to me that I no longer have to wear a mask. I can be myself and let my true joy in Christ radiate throughout everything I do.

My junior year was by far my favorite year of high school. It was difficult, but it was my favorite for a number of reasons. I loved Friday Night Football, and I loved that my best friends and I began a gardening business called UnPEAlievable. I began taking college classes in five week hybrids, and my friends and I probably spent a hundred dollars on McDonald's cinnamelts and french fries every week. We had a fake baby and we named her Trudy, and as part of a school project we fed her and cried when she cried in the middle of the night. It was my first prom, and I went with my best friends. We went to state in basketball. Every week was filled of joy, and I thanked God constantly for transforming my life. These precious memories have always stayed with me.

Karly and I during
SHINE our freshmen
year at A&M.
The  next summer at Camp Deer Run was my final summer as a camper. Sure it was full of lasts as a camper, but I saw it more as a time to truly work on my friendships. In two weeks, Karly and I took our friendship to a new level. We shared our hearts and struggles, and of course laughed a lot. One memory from Outcamping will always stick with me. Karly and I decided we could 'rough it' and didn't sleep on the tarp, so we set up our camp a few yards away from the others girls. On the way to our sleeping bags one night, Karly stepped in dog poop and we spent the night hysterical as we cleaned her shoe, and then basically slept in the dirt. No shower ever felt better after those two nights in the woods. My friendship with Karly began at my favorite place in the world when my favorite counselor and group leader introduced us, assuring me we would become best friends. It didn't happen immediately, but slowly I watched as God blessed our friendship. My senior year we wrote letters every week, and I even had the opportunity to visit her. My friendship with Karly is more proof that changing sessions at Camp Deer Run in 2010, was truly the hand-work of God.

My parents

Senior Year was bitter-sweet. It was filled of lasts, and I made sure to appreciate every single one. I loved that I spent my last year at home getting closer to my parents and grandparents, all the while making memories with my high school friends. I spent every Thursday at my grandparents going fishing and simply valuing their wisdom and this is by far my favorite memory. I also love that I actually befriended my parents, and that I took time to make a relationship with  my mom and dad. My senior year was a year of material blessing as we had finally moved into our new house, and I got my first car. I remember asking God how he could bless me so much, but I never took it for granted. I will always cherish my hometown, and the generosity of my small community.

Maryn, Kiele, and I on our first staff weekend.
As I graduated, I embarked upon a journey that I had dreamed of ever since I was a little girl. Two days after graduating, I fully embraced my role as a counselor at Camp Deer Run. For 10 weeks I lived in the piney woods, and I loved every minute. I witnessed the power of prayer, and the power of our God to bring people together in such unity I never knew. As the summer drew to a close, I could tell I was a different woman, more mature in my faith. I am so thankful that I spent my summer before college at camp.

Saying goodbye was so much harder than I expected it to be.
College was everything I had wanted and hoped it would be and so much more. Yes, I faced many valleys, many of which I still struggle to pull myself out of, but by far the good times surpass the bad. My classes are difficult, and it is so much harder than I thought it would be to be seperated from my family. I don't call or write nearly enough, but I hope that my family, including my church family, can realize just how much they mean to me. I don't come home without reason, so sorry everyone! I am completely in love with A&M and my life there. I am part of Aggies for Christ, which has provided me so many opportunities. I enjoy my weekend trips and my Weeklong to Fosters; but what I love most is HYPE and the many service opportunities that AFC has offered me. I have traveled to Nicaragua, and spent my Christmas break there working with a organization called With One Hope. Last Christmas, when I traveled to Nicaragua was one of many highlights in my spiritual life. I left that trip with a new heart, filled to the maximum with love for children that I couldn't even speak to. I learned a story of love that I had never learned before, and I will always cherish my 8 days in Nicaragua. Through AFC, I have also made my best friends. I learned what it is like to have friends who share your faith, your passion, for Christ and am so blessed to see them almost every day of the week.
My precious girls from 6th session 2013.
 While AFC has helped me grow in my faith, I have also grown from my continued role as counselor at Camp Deer Run. Returning for a second summer, one that was more difficult than the first, I learned a lesson of enduring in trials. I witnessed the miracle of prayer, and I was able to witness as God worked in not only my heart, but as he worked on the hearts of my precious campers. Camp Deer Run 2013 had a theme of 'Praise His Name' and just like our theme, I had to learn to truly Praise God through everything. With difficult campers, like the homesick girl who would not cooperate, or learning to praise God as I sent a camper back to an abusive home after we had exhausted every option, I had to learn to Praise God. It was a beautiful lesson for me and I know that it was definitely preparation for the semester at school to follow.

Volunteering at St. Joe's
While I have spent a majority of my time on the 'highlights' I have faced my valleys too. I have struggled with feelings of loneliness, even when surrounded by so many friends. I have struggled in the classroom feeling as if I was not adequate enough to be studying at this awesome university. But even through these valleys, I have found myself learning and growing from these experiences. I have come to trust God in a new sort of confidence, and I have full trust that HIS plan is greater than I could have expected. I have learned the hard way, in a humbling way, that I have been pursuing my own success over God's. So with that said, I am changing my major to pursue a career as a nurse. Yes, I finally made a decision about my life, and this time I'm fully trusting God and not turning back. I am volunteering at the hospital and by loving my patients and working with the staff, I have full confidence now that this is a field of medicine that God has called me to. I look forward to the opportunities I will have in the nursing profession, and it is my prayer that it will lead me overseas for mission work. Another change in my life has been my recent interest in training for half-marathons, and hopefully one day I will run a full-marathon. I've gone from couch potato, to a dedicated runner… well it's what I call myself at least. Running has become a way for me to step back from my stressful classes, and truly release my energy into something positive.

These are the girls who have made my college experience so wonderful!
My life has changed so much over the past three years, and I thank God every day that it has. I believe that every day I'm growing closer to my Creator. While I struggle and fall short, I have not stopped pursuing a relationship with him. I thank God every day for the people who stand beside me in this journey. I thank him for a supportive family, and for grandparents who are always quick to build me up and encourage me. I thank God for my two roommates Alex and Lucie, and Alex's fiancĂ©, Jaxon, who are always there to offer advice, and are so patient when I 'slack' on the dishes. I also thank God that they don't get too mad when I am always soaking my feet in the tub haha.  I thank God for allowing me to develop a closer relationship with my high school friend, Holly, because I would not be where I am today without her honesty. I thank God for my friends Amber, Kelsi, Karly, Tabitha, Kambry and Kassie, because I realize it truly is a blessing to be surrounded by so many Christian woman who are slow to speak and quick to listen. Their accountability and friendship has carried me through so much this semester. There are so many other friends I thank God for. I thank him for the freshmen class, who are so energetic and passionate for the Lord. I thank God for the guys in my life, the ones who will help me when my tires are low in pressure, the ones who will eat my pies, and the ones who will study with me and pray with me when I'm struggling in a class. I have been beyond blessed with my friends in College Station.

We called ourselves the CULT, Christians Undertaking Life Together
in high school. This picture was taken the day our first member,
Brea, got engaged. (Hayley is not pictured, but I just wanted
to make sure she was included as well)
I am also thankful for my high school friends; while we have all gone our different ways, we still talk at least once a week. We are growing up, and that is clearly evident as several of my close friends have become engaged. The first weekend of this semester Holly, Lucie and I returned home to surprise Brea at her engagement party. It is crazy to think that just two years ago we were sitting in calculus, and now we are planning a wedding. These girls will always hold a special place in my heart, because throughout high school we went through things together that I could have never imagined. Yet, we held true to ourselves and our beliefs. We were a support system, a safe haven of sort, and at the end of the day they we will always be The Cult.

I thank God for the opportunities to meet new people. I have met so many people over the past two years, and every single person has contributed to my journey. Even if we no longer talk, or see each other, everyone I have met has contributed in some way or another to where I am today. I could go on forever with memories from my college experience thus far. How much I love football games, or how I love that every time I'm in the library I am bound to see at least one person I know. I could go on about how much I struggled this semester, emotionally and spiritually, but I am so grateful for God for always being there for me. I have laid my life down at the foot of the cross, and God is blessing me. 2010-2013 has been filled with ups and downs, as I know the rest of my life will be, but one thing I am sure of, is that my God will never leave me.

So as my counselor told me in 2010, I remember the stars. Every night that I take notice of the stars, I say a silent prayer thanking God for changing my life that summer. I thank him for changing my luke-warm faith into something so much sweeter and stronger than I ever expected it could be. I thank God for blessing me with friends and family that have supported me in the many endeavors that my faith has led me to. So what now? I keep striving to be better tomorrow than I was today. I have so many dreams, and I can only imagine the places that God will take me. Our God is good, and I am beyond blessed to be called his child and his servant.