Monday, September 5, 2016

Farewell, Sweet Summer

Labor Day, 7:40 PM, CRCG beach

I can't not be here.

Just five hours ago I moved from my summer home to my not-summer home, and after the last boxes were unpacked (ok, I gave up on unpacking) I was back in the car, set on autopilot back to the Conference Grounds. 

Everyday Sarah would say this place is magical, but soul-Sarah says this place is sacred. No place has ever meant so much to me, to my family. How else do you explain 20 summers of camping trailer-living? This place is sacred because it's a place where life change happens. 

At a business meeting last week, I presented a report that stated the facts: how many kids we averaged each week, how great my team was, and what our rental schedule looks like for the next couple months. Real talk - pretty boring. What I didn't mention in my report was everything you simply can't sum up in a neat little business bundle: relationships, heart, God encounters, life change. The things that make me LOVE my job. It's the stuff that happens on the inside, the stuff sometimes I don't even know about until years down the road. It's the stuff that causes my staff to stick around for hours after they say goodbye on their last day because they simply don't want to leave.

This is the "favorite place" of so many people. It's mine. It's a favorite for many of the people I work with. But my mind was kind of blown this summer by how many 5th-12th graders just LOVE the Grounds. All year they look forward to the one week they get to spend here. I shouldn't be surprised - I was them once - but I guess sometimes thinking on it just leaves me in awe.

It's such a special place, and here's the craziest part - the part few people know...I almost left.

I'm sure this is the kind of thing you're not really supposed to share, but I've always valued transparency. Mid-summer I got a phone call, followed by a whirlwind interview process and dream job offer out of state. I could not have been closer to taking it (seriously, a dream). But as par with my life, God used this place to tell me to stay. To be faithful. To know that He is God and his dreams are bigger and better, even when they don't make sense.

He used this place and he used these people. My team was rehearsing songs for worship one morning and singing one of our regular summer songs. In my decision-making mind fog, the lyrics struck me in a new way.

"Letting go of every single dream, I lay each one down at Your feet"
This job offer IS my dream.

"Every moment of my wandering..."
EVERY moment is consumed with wandering these days. My thoughts. I can't focus on anything.

"My hands are weary, I need Your rest"
God, I cannot possible handle making this decision right now. I'm working insane hours with no time to rest. My mind and body need a break.

"When You don't move the mountains I'm needing You to move"
Why aren't You moving these mountains?! Why is there so much in the way of taking this job?

"When You don't part the waters I wish I could walk through"
Why can't I find peace in seizing this opportunity?

"When You don't give the answers as I cry out to You"
So. Many. Tears.

"I will trust, I will trust in You."
I will trust in You.

"Truth is You know what tomorrow brings. There's not a day ahead You have not seen. So in all things be my life and breath; I want what You want Lord and nothing less."

My team, up front, singing these words. My, in the back room, completely broken down in every sense. In that moment I knew. I called and turned down the job. I knew my act of trust in this season was to stay.

And now the old hymn rings true - "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus." It really, really is. The fives week that followed this decision to stay? So, so sweet. The blessings God has brought into my life? Amazing. God is at work.

I'm still processing, trying to find words for this summer. Last summer was rough, a time of newness and transition and emotional instability. But this summer - it was beautiful in so many ways. This summer reminded me why this place is my favorite, magical and sacred. God showed up, showed me who He is and who I am. 

I think that's what this place does - through its people, its pace, its sunsets - it reminds us that we are loved. We are His. His provision is all we need.

We lost a couple buildings in the last few years, and God provided. We lost some staff, and God provided. We lost energy about week 5...and God provided. He always provides. I will trust in You.

Ironically (aka not irony at all but in a way only God set up) the next song in our worship set list, right after singing "when You don't part the waters," says this: "You split the sea so I could walk right through it, my fears were drowned in perfect love." From not parting the waters to straight up splitting the sea - that's our God. In perfect love, he knows what his people need and when they need it. He knows what I need...and what I don't.

I will be eternally grateful for this sweet summer, the relationships and the lessons learned. The people I've met and things I've been a part of in just the last six weeks - I can't imagine if that had never happened. God used this place to keep me here, and now that I'm here, I can't imagine being anywhere else.

This camp is where I grew up. This place is in my DNA. I always knew I would be back; I never thought it would be so soon. I'm grateful it was.

Summer is over now. The sun just set, on Labor Day, as I'm writing this. I am exhausted. I need the kind of rest that September brings. I need a new season. At the same time, I never want the sweetness of this one to end.

As the light of sunset fades into starry sky, I leave this place tonight thankful.

Thankful for 20 years of this home, and no sign of that count ending. For people who knew me at age 10 and still consider me family at 29.

Thankful for a God who rewrites stories, brings things full circle, constantly causing me to stand in awe.

Thankful, privileged, honored to play a role in the story of this place and the lives of the people who love it.

Thankful for free Diet Coke, tie-dye Friday, campfires, and cookie dough flurries.

Thankful for new seasons and the adventures they bring.

Thankful for past seasons and the lessons learned only by walking through them.

Thankful for grace, peace, love.

Thankful. Just thankful.

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