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 Jesus, life

This Cup

I drink coffee out of this same mug every morning at school. I found it in the grass in front of the sign at the entrance to Daniel Square one random and rainy day in college. It looked lost, so I picked it up and made it mine. I put it in the cabinet with all of my other cups and mugs, and it moved with me here to Columbia. 

Some of these were gifts. Some were inherited. Some were picked up out of the grass (really, though, just the one). Some were bought on a whim. Some were picked up from Clemson football games. Some were supposed to be a wedding gift but I forgot so I just kept them (oops, sorry).

I am fairly sentimental about my dishes, but also I know that what’s in front of me is intentional – just like the things put before me by the Lord.

Sometimes you drink something and you’re so thankful because hydration is important. Sometimes you take one sip of a drink and know that something’s wrong. Sometimes you drink the whole thing and wish you hadn’t. Sometimes you have to drink something that doesn’t taste good but you know it’s good for you. Sometimes you drink something and wish you’d savored it more. Sometimes you wish you’d shared it with someone.

Sometimes there is no cup and you’re walking around parched, just trying work up enough saliva to have something to swallow. And sometimes you’re drinking from a fire hose and it makes your fingers all prune-y. 

No matter the cup or what’s in it or how much of it I drink, I find comfort in knowing that the cup (or lack of cup, or abundance of cups, or alternative to a cup) in front of me was chosen by God for me: not merely approved by Him, but specifically sought out for me by Him personally. He knows me and He loves me and He knows how to accomplish His purpose, which is His own glory and not my own comfort.

And I am thankful that living water is more satisfying than anything here on earth, because even though I still am tempted by others, I know I don’t want to drink anything else.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Jesus, teaching

Small Thin Peace

I student taught last spring in 3rd-5th grade resource. One morning I was walking around in a 4th grade class and passed an empty desk with a strip of paper on it. The paper said “small thin peace.” I assume that the original writer meant to say “piece,” but they didn’t, and that makes all the difference.

I hadn’t been feeling specifically un-peaceful, but when I saw that strip of paper and thought about what it might mean, it felt like relief, and it stuck with me.

I considered peace. I’m not a Quaker or a hippie or a Buddhist, and I’d never thought much about peace until prompted by this curious piece of paper. I’d thought about it when reading Psalms or when feeling internally conflicted but it had always ended there.

I’ve tried to provide peace for myself (spoiler: it doesn’t work). I’ve tried to grasp control, to manage the pieces of my life. When things are out of control and unmanageable, I get frustrated and I have a hard time understanding why.

Paul in Philippians says that the peace of God “surpasses all understanding.” It’s greater than what I am able to understand – and thus, control.

I think the peace of God is small and thin.

I think it can be like horseradish, how a little bit of it can bring tears to my eyes and just a taste of it affects the way everything else tastes for the rest of the day.

Small thin peace is meek. It will inherit the earth.

I came across this small thin peace during student teaching, and now I’m a first year teacher. It’s a big job. It’s bigger than me. Right now, every day of my life is a learning curve. In the midst of a learning curve, recognizing peace as small and thin is comforting. It’s not one more thing to push myself to accomplish today – instead, peace preludes everything else. It’s amazing.

Like salvation, peace requires a request and an acceptance. It requires me to admit that I can’t provide it for myself and it requires me to beg for it. It requires my ultimate thankfulness because it is provided. It requires my attachment to Christ. It requires my submission of control.

Small thin peace means that I’m not in charge. Small thin peace means that when I’m confused about what to feel, when I’ve messed up, when I feel like saltwater taffy, when everything earth-level is not okay, all is not lost. Prior to, during, and after crises and catastrophes and Mondays, the peace of God gives grace and rest. Prior to, during, and after scares and surprises and breakdowns, the peace of God gives grace and rest. Life on earth and the peace of God are not mutually exclusive. That news is grand!

Having peace in my heart, however, does not mean I don’t feel stress or want to control things; but it’s bigger than those things. Just like how God is bigger than the bogeyman, His peace is bigger than my desires and tendencies. It gives perspective to all of life.

There are always reasons to not be peaceful or to not accept peace. There are always holdups. There will not be a time where life is perfectly restful and quiet and calm and peaceful.

Peace is not contingent upon circumstance. Regardless of circumstance and regardless of understanding, when I put my faith and trust in Christ, and when I let Him be peace instead of trying to manufacture it for myself, His peace transcends my understanding. That takes off so much pressure.

Directly before Paul says that the peace of God “surpasses all understanding,” He says to not be anxious in anything. He follows this with telling that the peace of God (“which surpasses all understanding,”) “will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

There is no need to say no to peace. It comes from Christ. He guards my heart and mind. I need this.

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 Jesus, literature

So This is Love

After careful examination, I’ve come to realize that I resent Cinderella. I find her so easy to frown at. She’s a saint and she’s never sassy. That’s not like me and I hate her for it.

She doesn’t do anything wrong. You can’t be mad at her. It’s infuriating, and it’s ironic. She has the hardest life of anybody, and she’s the most humble of anybody. She doesn’t pout, and she doesn’t roll her eyes, and she doesn’t sweat. She is responsible and kind. She looks lovely always, even covered in soot.  She’s submissive and an awesome cook, like a good wife is supposed to be. Other girls feel inadequate when compared to her, because no one can live up to her peace and simplicity.

Her prince is perfect, too; he’s not into potty humor and he doesn’t play FIFA. He’s actually not a real dude.

Eventually in her story, Cinderella receives justice for the wrong done to her. She’s an underdog. (We like to think we’re underdogs). She’s the chosen one, like Harry Potter and King Arthur: they all have a humble and abusive beginning, and greatness thrust upon them that they then thrive in ever so diplomatically.

We want to that – we want to be Cinderella. We want to overcome any disadvantage our childhood may leave us with and become the most successful, the most beautiful, the most wise.

So we work really hard. We don’t take breaks. We always say yes, because saying no is unhelpful and it’s selfish. We turn ourselves into martryrs (It used to be that a martyr was a person who sacrificed self for faith to the glory of God, but now it’s someone who sacrifices general health and well-being for being seen as a hard worker to the glory of pride). We are blind followers of good feelings and we bottle up our frustrations because that’s what Cinderella did and things turned out really swell for her.

We feel unnoticed and sorry for ourselves and convince ourselves that we deserve grandeur, and we strategize ways for other people to observe this about us, too.

We get frustrated by life, because life isn’t fair. We look for reasons for the hard parts of life, and we convince ourselves that we are the victims here, even though we know that’s wrong. Life is hard because of sin, and we are sinners. It’s the truth, and the truth hurts.

Cinderella is just like Jesus (only not real). She’s patient and kind, she endures all things, she’s impossibly perfect, and she ascends to the throne after the climax of the story.

Jesus is real and Cinderella is not. Why do we try to emulate Cinderella more than we try to emulate Jesus? No one told us to try to be Cinderella, and we are told countless times in the Bible to be like Jesus. Cinderella can do nothing but disappoint us as we try and fail to become her. We were never supposed to be like her.

Cinderella is a character. Characters don’t sin. They don’t have sin patterns and they don’t have to repent of anything. We can’t be Cinderella because we sin. Cinderella is a pauper turned princess, and we are (still) sinners. We were and are and will be.

Cinderella can’t do anything for us, and Jesus already did. He came to save us from this silly striving. Here we are, trying to turn ourselves from actual humans with personalities and vices into flat fairy tale characters. He saves us from that. He changes our hearts from wanting to be our own creation to being transformed into His own perfect and pure and complete likeness and creation.

Cinderella isn’t real (Harry Potter isn’t real. King Arthur isn’t real). Perfect princes aren’t real. But love is real and Jesus is real.

So this is love: royalty would voluntarily sacrifice grandeur for fools (that’s us). And that’s how we know real life is better than fairy tales.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Jesus, life

A Spirit of Not Hiding

I started running recently, after being convicted by my running shoes. I just started feeling so much guilt for never using them and realized that I was depriving them of their one life purpose, which is to run and to go places. I realized that I didn’t want to be the kind of person to deprive anyone or anything from fulfilling its purpose in life. So I put my running shoes on my feet and I started running in that moment.

It was an ideal running situation: winter had just turned over to spring (my favorite) and I needed a way to handle my school stress. The running was going well until I realized: I hate running. When I run, I feel like I’m constantly tripping but never actually falling, and that is miserable.

But, from running, I have learned about life. I’d never thought of myself as the kind of person who a) regularly engaged in physical activity or b) learned valid lessons about life from it. But life is full of surprises and the Lord works in mysterious ways.

What I’ve learned from running is that I don’t like to work hard. I don’t like to challenge myself or do anything that I think might maybe be hard or scary. So before I run, I have to tell myself how far I’m going to run, and that I’m going to run the whole way – if I walk a little bit, I’ll end up walking the rest of the way. I have to run past the excuses and shortcuts and whinings I hear that come from inside my own head.

In life, when something seems like it might be hard or scary, I want it to not exist anymore. I want to be a child who doesn’t know about complicated things. I want to close my eyes and not be able to see things and for that to mean that they don’t exist.

Over many years and many daunting situations, I’ve told my dad about how I want scary things to go away and leave me alone. And my dad has told me over those years and in those situations to desire not a spirit of simplicity, but a spirit of maturity.

Here are some things I find scary: having conversations with people who are more confident than I am, being vulnerable, being wrong, and running. None of these things are guaranteed to not go wrong, and if they do go wrong, I’m (almost) guaranteed to get hurt.

But a spirit of maturity means that I can get hurt and it won’t be the end. It means I have a realistic view of life: that not everything is fun and that there are things that sometimes I’ll have to just do.

A person with a spirit of maturity isn’t instantly mature, but knows that maturing and having a spirit of maturity is a really long process that is maybe never done. A person with a spirit of maturity is prepared to face things that are intimidating instead of squirming away from them. A person with a spirit of maturity has the Holy Spirit inside, to overcome timidity and to go everywhere together. A person with a spirit of maturity can see that “hard” and “good” are not mutually exclusive. A person with a spirit of maturity welcomes the Holy Spirit to bring a spirit of maturity and a spirit of not hiding.

After every run I take, I walk into my apartment and I get down on the tile floor. The coolness of the tile calms down my heart rate a little, and I usually lie there for about nine minutes, breathing and sweating and not thinking about what I need to do next. Then I’m recovered and rested, and I feel very chipper and strong, and proud of myself for doing something I resent so much but surviving  – like all that sweaty, panting running was worth it.

Even though I can’t so much choose what hard things happen in life in the way that I can choose to go on a run, I have learned how to handle those hard things from running – mostly I’ve learned that wishing things away isn’t a thing. I have become more dependent on Christ, because only He can take running and turn it into something tolerable and good.

Love,
Lauralicious

Posted in Jesus, life

All You Need Is

Think about the qualities of toilet paper: It can be tough. It can be soft. It can run out at the moment you need it the most, which ruins everything – or it can make a bad day that much less bad. Substitutes for it exist, but they really are just not worth investing in. Sometimes people waste it, which is not cool. Sometimes it runs out and then you’re just sitting and feeling abandoned.You always need it, but there are times in life where you need more, or a different kind. And sometimes you have to ask for it, which is humiliating, but there’s not really a way of getting around that. At times you have to give it to people when they ask for it or if you just think they might need it. It has been present in some moments that you never ever want repeated. Sometimes it breaks, and that is not great – the emotional consequences for that can be long-term. If you don’t need it or use it, that’s a problem. Sometimes the way it’s packaged makes it look incredibly appealing, but once you have it, it’s mediocre. When it’s distributed in bulk, its quality is lower. You have to be taught and also learn from life experience how to use it wisely and well.

The same things are all true of love. Not the kind of love that is of God, but the kind that humans can do. Each has a cost: for toilet paper, it’s money, and for love, it’s your heart.

A heart is a lot to give. I’m often conflicted because I know that if I didn’t have a heart, things would be easier. I wouldn’t be distracted or slowed down by emotions. And it’s the same with toilet paper: if it didn’t exist, and if the reasons for needing it didn’t exist, things would be easier. And maybe grosser. But God is love and love is good, and so is toilet paper. These two thing exist for a reason, which means to use them instead of wish them away.

But even the greatest toilet paper eventually will run out. And that’s how we know that God’s love is greater than our love or any toilet paper: His love can cast out fear, and nothing else can. Toilet paper cannot cast out fear because eventually it has to run out. Human love cannot cast out fear because humans are sinful and skewed and can’t be everything another human needs. Both human love and toilet paper end, break, and disappoint, but God’s love never ever will.

And so true rest is found only in Christ (and not in the bathroom). In Him we can take the deepest of deep breaths. There is no hygiene product to which to compare Him. He is greater than the finest two-ply.

Love,

Lauralicious