Posted in Camp, Jesus

Hooligans

About a week ago, we were at a luau. We were bowling with coconuts until they cracked, and then we picked them up and chomped on the meat – we learned that raw, fresh coconut does not taste really at all like an Almond Joy. We took Polaroids of our Hawaiian fun and ate exotic foods.

About a week ago, we were at Camp and all together. About a week ago, we were fun and fancy-free; we skipped and sang. About a week ago, we were hooligans, and it was the best.

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Brought to you by the Chickadee cabin

When I first started working at Camp, I was very overwhelmed by the people there. They were louder than I knew how to be, and they were so comfortable with each other, and they worked so hard! They were carefree and joyful and serious and intentional about what they did. I was so intimidated.

I felt like I should go home. I was seventeen and so shy and mousy and unsure – of everything. I couldn’t imagine my voice ever yelling across Camp or my face ever being so lit up about anything. I barely had any gusto in me back then.

Spoiler alert: It’s seven years later and I still work there, so obviously something has changed.

There are so many adjectives to describe Camp people, and I think the word “hooligan” captures it best. Those people who worked many moons ago when I first started are hooligans and the people who just finished out this summer about a week ago are hooligans. Hooligans are out loud and vulnerable and lighthearted people. They are childlike without being childish.

Hooligans know that Camp is more important than they are. And when they know this and act on it, they start to look more like Camp, and Camp changes based on what they bring to it.

This is a terrifying thing to realize, really – that each time we enter the gates, something is different because we were there. It’s scary because I know that I am whiny and imperfect.

But isn’t the same thing true of everyone who enters the gates? Are we not all sinners here? And doesn’t Camp still welcome us in with hugs and smiley fries and encouraging chalk messages? By this logic, isn’t Camp a kind of extension of the kingdom of God?

Camp isn’t perfect and I know that, but it’s better than so many other places out in the world. Our work at Camp isn’t works-dependent because we know that our works fail, because we cannot do things with perfection. We know that Camp has high expectations for us: to be as faithful, as brave, as joyful, and as fierce as we can be all the time, and that isn’t even enough. We know that we can’t be everything Camp needs us to be, and we also know that none of us is an island – that there is help and, this best part: there is grace!

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It isn’t that I am now some perfectly ever-cheerful hooligan. I am still introverted and whiny and imperfect and still have a hard time living brightly and letting what Camp needs be more important than what I want. I am thankful for accountability and for grace.

Our theme this summer was, “live bright, love better,” meaning that the way we live affects the way we love. If we live with gusto, we’ll love with gusto. If we live of light and of brightness, our love will be better.

Camp calls us to do these things and it calls us to be these people of light. The best way to live bright is to live as a hooligan – to be faithful, and brave, and joyful, and fierce, all to our maximum capacity and then more, and to have accountability with others, and to ask for and accept help and grace because they are there.

Camp calls us to do so much and be so much, and it’s all wonderful, and then it’s all over – like right now.

The luau is over. We’re not at Camp and we’re not together. No one is bowling with coconuts and no one is wearing plastic colored leis. But we can be hooligans wherever we are, because that’s what we are.

Love,

Lauralicious

Posted in Camp, What I Learned

What I Learned: July 2016

Most of July of last year was spent at Camp. I was (and still am) learning how to lead, which was hard. Then, the day after Camp ended, I moved to a new town and all new things – job, apartment, roommate, church, etc. July was a very overwhelming and very exciting month.

This is what I learned through all of it –

  1. Sometime patience and persistence are the same thing.
  2. You don’t have to be good at everything, but you do have to give things a chance. Try new things. Do hard things.
  3. If you see or are a part of something that’s wrong and don’t speak up, then what you are communicating is: “everything happening here is completely okay with me and approved by me.”
  4. Sometimes you see another person’s sin and you are appalled at that person’s capacity to hurt people or ruin things or be a sinner. You need to know that you also have that same capacity and are no better. All humans are inherently awful.
  5. Don’t weave your whining and complaining into conversations. If you’ve got to say it, just say it, and then be done with it.

Bonus!

6. Excuses don’t last long. You can only say, “I moved here yesterday” for one day.

Love,

Lauralicious

Posted in Camp, college, life, nostalgia

The Same Lake

Last summer, the July before we started our senior year at Clemson, one of my roommates and I got a Peppino’s margherita pizza and picnicked at the Botanical Gardens. We sat there and ate during dusk and we chased frogs (I held the pizza box while she chased frogs). Then we went to the rowing docks and sat and talked. The sun had set and we were sitting on the dock in the quiet, being occasionally rocked by waves from boats taking night rides. At one point she had to take a phone call, so I sat and thought, and in my thinking I realized that I have spent my whole life on Lake Hartwell.

No one admits to liking Hartwell. Keowee is preferred and Jocassee is ideal. Hartwell, in terms of Clemson area lakes, is like the Nickelback of lakes. But it’s the closest, and it’s the university’s lake, and it’s where the memories are.

All of my summers growing up were spent on Hartwell. I tagged along with friends whose parents owned lake houses and boats for afternoons and sleepovers and we had the most fun long, sunburn-y days. We had birthday parties jumping off of two-story docks. We sang Kelly Clarkson songs at the top of our lungs while holding on to tubes that my friends’ dads were trying to throw us off of. We made sand pies (like mud pies, but they don’t really stick together) and played pretend. We took evening boat rides and let the wind whip our hair dry. We took childhood and summer for granted, like kids are supposed to do.

Circa 2004-ish probably
When I wasn’t a kid anymore, I was a youth. I started youth group the summer before 7th grade. Everyone associated with the youth group gathered at the lake for a huge party: the Moving-Up Party. There was food; there were boats; there was that game where someone had to eat baby food. It was so youth group-y. It was new and exciting. It was pandemonium. It was grand.

All of my youth group years (especially summers) incorporated the lake. On Wednesday nights during the summers we met at people’s homes and everyone’s favorite were the homes that were on the lake. We swam, then got into small groups and prayed, then sat on the docks with our legs swinging in the water, in no rush to go home or get to the next thing. Those were peaceful evenings.

youth group at the Kriders’ lake house, 2009-ish

Starting my junior year of high school, I got to drive to school. It was liberating – and one of my favorite memories of independence from that time is spring of junior year, after AP exams, a bunch of us went to Y Beach and played volleyball and got our toes in the water. It was an ironic feeling: we felt like truants for being at the lake while our peers were at school, yet the reason we weren’t at school was because of advanced placement exams that those peers didn’t take. We felt like exceptions to the rules and it was exhilaratingly special.

Senior year none of us had full schedules and usually we used the spaces in our day to study or do homework together, but sometimes we would go to Supertaco (before it moved) and cross the highway to eat it on the boardwalk. These are grand memories.

post-AP exams celebration at Y Beach, junior year, May 2011

Camp is on Lake Hartwell, and I’ve spent now six summers swimming at lake play and riding the pontoon boat and fishing off the dock (never, in six years, have I caught one fish), tipping canoes, jumping on the water trampoline, etc. Once I had to swim a sailboat full of crying little Bowfins across the cove three times because I don’t actually know how to sail and the boat kept falling over.

(I still don’t know how to sail)
From my lofted bed in my dorm room freshman year at Clemson, I could see the whole stadium and beyond to the golf course and the lake. I didn’t even have to get out of bed to see it. On gamedays I slept in until as late as possible and then rolled over to see all of Clemson convening, cohesively dressed in orange, right below me. The people looked like orange ants, all moving toward the stadium. I felt such pride for my people and my town and my school – and they were all the same: Clemson. Home.
I felt like this view should be some kind of top secret. The view from the bed of my dorm was amazing and unfair – and in my favor.
College was full of spontaneity and adventure. We had picnics by the water, we had lake days, we took walks to the dikes, we ate milkshakes on the docks, we had talks in the sand, we went night-swimming, we got Atlas pizzas that we ate on the boardwalk, we studied at Y Beach, we ran to the lake and jumped in. It was a conduit of such adventure!
Dinner/Chick Fil A picnic with Freshman Five, fall 2012
(There really were five of us! The boys chose not to be documented)

And so this lake: this lead-filled, super green, oft-insulted/unappreciated lake ties together memories and activities from all of the twenty two years I’ve had on this earth. Each domain of my life has been impacted by Hartwell – silly Hartwell. And never, until I was so close to leaving, did I really even acknowledge and begin to appreciate it.

Moving Up Party at the Hubbards’ house, 2011

I’m a very sentimental person, and I know this about myself. So I know it’s trivial to be so attached to a lake – especially one that isn’t all that great. But Hartwell was never really attention-seeking. It just did its job, which was to sit there and hold water and let us take from it. It’s like the Giving Tree, but a lake. It’s a Giving Lake. Too far?

I’ve moved away, and coincidentally, I now work at Lake Carolina (I still have not located the actual lake, but I am assured that it is an actual lake somewhere), so Hartwell isn’t the only lake in my life anymore. But it was my first lake, and I’m thankful for it.

I unconditionally respect it and the times it has given me that have subsequently become a huge part of my Clemson memories.

I love this lake.
Love,
Lauralicious
Posted in Camp, Jesus

I Love You Truly

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This summer, I returned to Camp! I got to live there all summer. It was magical. It was a blessing and a challenge in a lot of ways, and I am ever thankful that it exists and for the time I’ve spent there and hopefully will continue to spend there for the indefinite but hopefully forever future rest of my days.

During the eight weeks I was there this summer, I said “I love you” a lot. I said it to campers, to counselors, to co-supervisors, to my boss, to the Camp dogs, to God, and to the sky – because it’s nice to look up and find beauty anytime of day or night.
In addition to saying “I love you,” I also sang this lullaby to just about every female camper –

I love you truly
Oh yes I do
I don’t love anyone as much as you
When you’re not near me, I’m blue
I love you
Yes I do!

Campers, counselors, co-supervisors, my boss, the Camp dogs, God, and the sky all were with me during Camp. I am thankful for the presence of each of these. When I told them I loved them, I didn’t just mean that I loved them in that moment; I meant that I was articulating a long-term commitment, a lasting choice. In saying “I love you,” I was saying: I am devoted to you for right now, for tomorrow, for the next day, and beyond. I am devoted to your well-being, your learning, and to you seeing and receiving the gospel.

Because if I am a friend but have not love, what am I really? If I give hugs but have not love, if I do paperwork but have not love, if I sing Camp songs but have not love, if I hold hands but have not love, if I do camper laundry but have not love, if I give direction/correction but have not love, if I read a goodnight story but have not love, then I’m useless. My job at Camp and my purpose in life are to show love – love not of me – to everyone/everything around me. If my actions are not infused with love, then I am completely ineffective.

However, here is the thing: I don’t have the capacity for all of that. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, socially, I can’t hold or dispense love that grand or rich. I’m a girl, not a factory. And I’m a broken girl – any love I have to give is flawed and broken and imperfect.

And so this is what I’ve learned: love takes faith. I always thought that love just flowed, that it never ran dry, but that’s not true. I’ve been in situations where I ran completely out, and in situations where what I gave was more than what I had, and that showed me that God is love. And I’m His person.

I am a conduit of perfect love (not a producer). I have to put faith in Christ that He will give me what I need, and that He will give it to me when I need it. God has given me Camp and Camp has taught me to ask for what I need and God has taught me to trust His timing.

Because sometimes I tell a person I love them, even though in that moment I am not their biggest fan. Sometimes I tell a person I love them even though I’m not sure what to do to show them that I mean it. Sometimes I tell a person I love them even though they’ve made choices that hurt me. Sometimes I tell a person I love them even though I’m scared of them. Sometimes I tell a dog that I love it even though it’s lazy and I’m jealous because I’d like to lie in the grass, too. Sometimes I tell the sky I love it even though I wish it had not chosen to storm in the middle of the afternoon while we wanted to play outside. Sometimes I tell God I love Him even though I don’t understand the way He does things.

I mean what I say each of those times, and in all of those times, I’m trusting that God will give me what I need to really mean it and to show it.

And He always does. During some moments, all I need are the words “I love you.” During some moments, I need the actions to prove it. During some moments, I need both. In all of those moments, it’s Christ, not me. His perfect love casts out fear and hesitation. It enables me to do my job and to live in the world as one of His people.

It’s beautiful. I love learning – I’ve worked at Camp since I was 17 and I’m not learning any less than I was when I started. This lesson is only one of the things I learned this summer.

Love takes faith. It isn’t easy or light. It’s serious and intense, yet joyful and wonderful.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Camp, college, nostalgia

I Carry It In My Heart

On the first night of the second week of my third summer of Camp, I was a counselor in Bowfin, the littlest girls’ cabin. On Sunday night as we were tucking our girlies into their bunk beds, the tears came. Some of the girls had never spent the night away from home before. Some girls were just tired, which expressed itself through crying. And then when a thunderstorm started, so did the wailing.

It terrified all of the little girls and nobody could sleep. There were four counselors in Bowfin that week – three group counselors and one counselor-in-training, and we had eight campers, and each of us took care of calming down a bunk bed of girls.

That night was its own very specific kind of pandemonium: high school and college students rushing around a dark cabin in very hushed voices trying to get a bunch of little girls to peace and sleep. It was the kind of situation where I took a second and stopped and thought about what I was doing and smiled. I was surrounded by bawling baby girls, and I loved it. I was simply thrilled to be where I was in that one short moment.

One of our girls in Bowfin that week was a short, slightly chubby girl with blond hair. She was eight and a half, a little older than most of the other girls in our cabin. She was shy, but shy quickly dissipates at Camp when a group of eight girls and their four counselors do absolutely everything together and love each other so much. But it was only the first night, and her shyness was still there.

She was scared of the thunderstorm just like the other girls, but she wasn’t crying. I thought she was asleep because she wasn’t making any noise, but she asked me to come and just sit with her. She was scared and she was lonely.

And so once all of the other girls were settling down, when there were still sniffles but no more sobs, I went to sit with her. We whispered so quietly and she talked to me. She told me that her mom didn’t live with her family anymore, and she lived with her dad and her brother. She really loved them but she didn’t like being the only girl. Her brother was also at Camp that week and every time she saw him, she hugged him. He didn’t love it, but he let her do it, and I think he secretly did kind of love it. She asked me what my dad was like and I told her that he was goofy. She said her dad was too sometimes.

At the beginning of that week, we were very close. She called me Mama and I called her Baby. As the week went on, she needed me less – she bonded with the other girls and was silly and fun with them. Her shyness faded. But still sometimes, when we were walking somewhere, she would suddenly be next to me and holding my hand. It made me smile.

The week went by quickly – they all do. On Friday night, I was helping her pack up to go home. In one of her drawers I found a red plush velvet heart that said “Be mine.”

It wasn’t well-made, but it was soft and sweet. It was the kind of trinket that would have been just a trinket if she had not given it meaning.

She gave it to me. And I didn’t want to take it from her, but also I did. I tried to convince her to keep it, but she wanted me to have it. I kept it. Then the next day was Saturday and she went home. After she left that Saturday I worried about the heart – it was so small. I was afraid of losing it. At Camp, I live out of plastic purple trunks, and they’re filled with children’s books and socks and Reese’s wrappers and stationery and crafts that campers forgot and I wanted to keep to remember them by and pens and sunscreen and toenail polish bottles and beads. I knew my little heart would get mixed in with all of those things and I was afraid of it not appearing when I unpacked at the end of the summer.

But then it did appear! And once school started back that fall, I put the heart in my backpack, along with my jar of peanut butter, and carried those two things around with me everywhere I went.

Later that year I stumbled upon this e. e. cummings poem –

As I read it I thought of the heart that I physically carried around – the heart of that one little girl, and the other little girls that week, and the campers from that whole summer, and the campers from all of my years. I thought of how they each had my heart, like a horcrux, a soul split into a million pieces and spread all over the world in beautiful and sacred places. I thought about moments like the one from the first night of the second week of my third summer, where around me so many things were happening and there was really not time to pause and relish joy but I did because I was nothing but serenely delighted to be where I was, in happy-busy times, in times of running around but also times of singing and holding a hand or two.

The following fall semester, I had the opportunity to speak at a Sertoma Club meeting. I skipped a biology class to go with some other counselors to promote Camp to the Sertomans (Sertomen?). One of the questions I was asked was how Camp had impacted me long-term. I was nervous talking in front of all of those people, and even more so knowing that what I said could impact how they viewed Camp, but the thing that came out of my mouth was the little red plush heart given to me by a Bowfin who called me Mama. I told them that I kept the heart in my backpack with my peanut butter and that I thought of her and of all of my campers so many times every day, and that I felt that they were near when I carried her heart with me (in my heart).

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Camp

These Are the Places I Will Always Go

During the last week of Camp last summer, on my last night without night duty, as I was walking back to my cabin to go to bed, I went to Shallow Dock. I sat on a bench in the dark under the trees and the stars. I looked at the lake, I looked at the moon, I looked behind me at the middle of Camp, lit up by nine porch lights. Each porch light was attached to a cabin, and each cabin was holding eight sleeping (inevitably snoring) campers.

I sat on that bench and took in a big long gulp of that night. I thought about how I knew I couldn’t be at Camp forever, but how lucky I was to not have to say goodbye yet. I was sad but not too sad about Camp ending because I knew I’d be working again the next summer, which is now this summer, and Camp is now over, and I did not work. Yikes.

When I realized in March that I might not be able to return this summer, there were tears. I have a high level of FOMO, which did not make anything easier. I was so confused about what a summer doing anything except for Camp would be like; the last summer I wasn’t working at Camp, I was sixteen. I’ve told every camper I’ve ever had that I’ll always be back, and now I was a liar and a hypocrite and an abandoner, and I couldn’t handle being those things.

My mind could only think in terms of all or nothing – I’d spent so many summers with all of my time at Camp, and now it looked like I had to spend a summer with none of my time there. But it turned out that I was able to visit Camp every Sunday and every Thursday, along with some extra days, too. I got to hug all of my campers and help out counselors and hold roles other than the counselor one I’d always had.

On my way to Camp that first Sunday, I felt so anticipatory. I wanted the counselors who had my old campers to be not nearly as good as me. I wanted them to have static personalities and no pizzazz, and I wanted to stand out in everyone’s – campers, returning counselors, new counselors, supervisors – memories and current minds as the epitome of a compassionate, perceptive, thoughtful, perfect counselor. It felt very important to me that I stand out and be flawless, because if I didn’t, I had no reason to be remembered or present.

However, when I arrived, there was no competition or preference shown by campers. I met the new counselors, and I liked them. We became friends. We shared funny stories about our campers. We became less and let campers be more, and I had no more need to be the shining star.

I had been worried before that my campers would feel like I neglected them by not being their counselor again this year, but they were delightful and happy to be with me for as long as I could be there. It was only natural for us to be together again.

While it was hard and it hurt for me to not be fully at Camp this summer, it showed me that I fit there. When I first started working and for subsequent summers, I wasn’t sure if I was really a Camp person. I loved my campers with a strong emotional affection, which is what kept drawing me back to Camp, but during those times, Camp was merely a conduit for togetherness with my campers. This summer I bonded and saw new parts of Camp as a bigger picture. I had doubted before whether my personality was the kind that had much to offer to Camp, or if what I had to offer to Camp was at all valuable.

But when I showed up and saw that my help was helpful – that pouring eighty cups of water sped things up, or that I already knew where cleaning supplies were kept, or that I had two free hands with which to assist certain campers in walking from place to place – I saw that I was the reason I’d felt inferior before, and that my being at Camp was worthwhile for campers, Camp, and myself. Before I’d thought I was only beneficial for campers. I saw that I hadn’t arbitrarily stumbled there in 2010, but that I was meant to be found there, and that Camp is in my blood. Seeing that was a huge relief to me.

On that night last summer when I sat at Shallow Dock in the peaceful dark, after I looked around and thought on the goodness of the things around me and the place I was in, where the lake is always green and the friendships are always gold, I thought about how, like a horcrux, a portion of my soul would always be right there.

No matter how far I go, a piece of me will always be seventeen and a CIT and feeling like Cinderella, loaded down with piles of wet bathing suits to put on the clothesline. No matter how old I get, a piece of me will always be eighteen and at the Hope dance, sweating and singing and swinging arms with smiling campers. No matter what I do, a piece of me will always be nineteen and getting up before the crack of dawn to hide treasure for my cabin to find on a scavenger hunt later in the morning. No matter what happens, a piece of me will always be twenty and running across Camp in the middle of the night because we are out of toilet paper and can’t wait until morning. Again. No matter how many more summers I have left, a piece of me will always be twenty-one and crying on the shoulders of my campers when we are finally reunited and it is of the utmost happiness.

I always told my campers that they wouldn’t have to have a last day of Camp if they stayed forever. However, campers can’t stay forever (I know this but I’m still not completely sold on why?) and neither can I. But summer happens every year, and Camp happens every summer. And Camp is a place I will always go.

Last Monday night, I said my last goodnight to my campers. Here is what I know, and it’s what’s keeping me going: goodnight is not goodbye.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Camp, Jesus, nostalgia

Faith Not In Flowers

When I am sad, I need to see something beautiful. Need is a strong word, I know, but when my heart is hurting I have almost a compulsion to be near to beauty. I am willing to compromise productivity, food, socialization, and gas money to go wherever it is that can illustrate to me that it’s okay, and then I tell myself: It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. If it isn’t right now, it’s going to be. It’s okay. It has been before and it will be again. It’s okay.

Usually, I drive near Camp: the sky is big there, the fields are open, and the roads are long. There are no stop signs and my favorite tree lives there. I always feel better after driving around for a while. I go from not being able to breathe to believing that I might not actually suffocate today.

tree

This summer before a session of Camp, I was on a Sunday morning drive and happened upon a sunflower field. The flowers in it were cheerful and smiling widely. I fell in love with it and told no one, because this was going to be my secret place. I decided that this would be where I came when I was having sad days, and I stored it away in my mind for the future, for the next time I needed it.

So then, a few weeks ago, it was time. I was needing it. I felt myself pulled to be in a place of realness and aesthetics. I drove back to my sunflower field, telling myself that all I had to do was get there and I would feel better. I did get there, only to find the flowers gone. And by gone, I mean that all that was left of them were their black, shriveled, dead bodies. The petals were gone, the bright colors were gone, the happy was gone. Now it was just a field of something that used to be beautiful.

I’d had my hopes set on those flowers fixing my sad mood. I guess flowers have to die sometime, and I guess sunflowers weren’t even in season anymore when I went to see them, and I know that I can’t put my faith in sunflowers to cheer me up, but I already had, and then was let down. I was disappointed. The sunflowers had failed me.

It was the reminder I needed that there is nothing on earth that I can completely rely on. It will all fail me: starting with the sunflower field, but not ending there, because nothing and no one is foolproof and pure, except for the One who is.

At first it seems discouraging to hear that nothing on the earth can be fully comforting. It sounds like something that would make me want to give up. But the more I realize that the earth can’t console my fears and deflate my distresses, the more precious and valuable Christ becomes, and the more awed I am at His actions in His choosing to save me from my fears and distresses. I am so comforted to know that I’m not alone in feeling unfulfilled by the world. It is a relief to know that this isn’t the best it gets – that the dreams I have of some perfect far-away place that I have never experienced are actually embodied in Heaven, and I’m not crazy for not being satisfied for what is given and available here.

Christ’s love is the definition of love, and it is the realest thing I have ever known. His love doesn’t disappoint ever, and it doesn’t fail. It cannot fail and it will not fail. Unlike a sunflower field, Christ is always ready to impart joy. He is never finicky or stingy. He is what my heart has been wanting for all this time.

How comforting it is to know that I am under the hand of someone who never fails! He doesn’t experiment or mess up; He carries out the one and only plan. He made the world, which defies all logic and contradicts the law of conservation of mass, because He is bigger than that. He takes my best interest into His heart. I know that life with Him is going to be hard, but more than worth it. And that’s why I don’t have to be disappointed by ex-sunflower fields: because I put my faith in He who creates all things.

Love,
Lauralicious