Tonight I had coffee with a sweet and treasured friend. This past year, the Lord has been SO FAITHFUL in providing the sweetest of community for me, which y’all most likely are well aware is an aspect of life that so deeply circled my thoughts last year, along with my longing for companionship which I felt I despairingly lacked.
This past, recent school year (which has lacked blogging, I’m sorry to say) has been such a turnaround for me. Having depression stinks, but this past summer I had deep chats with deep friends who love me deeply and well, through intentionality and accountability alike. One friend, advanced in wisdom and transparency, dealt with me on such compassionate terms and shared with me an outlook that radically changed my view of life and of the Gospel.
She said to me words to the effect of “Yes, my depression is a sea of sin and a sea of sadness and despair. But it is just one more way that of which I need a Savior. And for that I am forever grateful.”
I walked away from that pool-side heart-to-heart shocked. I was at my favorite place, dancing beneath the pines and taking in the breath of God by the gulp. I knew I would be changed while in the presence of God, but I never imagined I would be transformed in such a way as that.
And ever since, I have been trying my best to put my Savior to use. To rely on Him. To trust that He let this happen to me for a reason, this sadness and this struggle. You can check my previous blogs from months upon months ago– they are strewn with tears, they are marked upon with cries for help. But that is one way, among the many, that my life has been transformed in terms of the Gospel. I better understand the Father loving me so unconditionally, that He would take human form to relieve me of this burden, to relieve me of this stress, to relieve me of this heartache. There are so many other ways I could tell you how my heart has been transformed over this past summer (at another date, however).
So anyways, back to this quality time I just experienced with that treasured friend.
We went to Starbucks (I know, so “white girl”), which I feel like is gaining in attaining a certain monotony to it’s scene, as almost every town across America, or the globe for that matter, has at least one Starbucks on the corner of any intersection. Thus, they’ve lost their personal touch, hence my preference towards all the unique and super vintage, rustic “Mom and Pop” type coffee shops on Peoria near downtown Tulsa, but tonight I learned that while location and ambiance have an effect on the occasion and the density of the vividity in the memory, sometimes even something as common as Starbucks and a grande peppermint mocha can have the same effect as Shades of Brown or The Pheonix (two coffee shops on Peoria which I’m obsessed with).
Now quality time is most definitely my love language, so in the majority of my deep talks with friends I am the one asking the questions to see and learn more about their heart and their take on the matters at hand. This being no different than the situation just expressed, I was asking questions pertaining to the new year coming at hand, as well as relating to reflection upon the fleeting memory that is 2014. The questions I asked were:
- What are the top three lessons you learned this past year?
- What is your main goal for this upcoming chapter?
I asked and she answered, then she asked me my take on my own questions, which I expected, but for which I didn’t exactly have an answer prepared. And I think that’s part of the beauty of it all. The rawness. The reality. The spontaneity. My answers weren’t thoroughly planned so I could give an elaborate response to make me seem good in the eyes of others, but they were real and they were true. I was surprised by these responses, because I had almost forgotten they had happened at all. And here I happened upon a realization: what a gift memory is, but what a weapon forgetfulness is; for we have such power and capability to lose the preciousness that may sting and bleed at the moment of impact, but the beauty in the scars is the story behind it- that fleeting romance that memory captures and tames, that we might learn to harness this remembrance and treat it with care, grace and love.
So, my answers (these are raw recollections of what I said, so obviously they’re not word-for-word).
Question 1: What are the top three lessons you learned this past year?
Answer: My first lesson would probably be to understand that Christ and Christ alone is the only one who will sustain me, who will carry me, and who can fulfill my want and need to be loved and cherished.
I then ventured into the backstory of why I chose that answer, which is that I had spent my time over the summer and part of this school year in devoting myself to boys and their opinions, and the possible attention I could gain from them. I remember now something I had said when I was grieving the backlash of this mistake the first time it was made, which was “If people tell me I’m so great, and that I’m such a precious jewel that I could easily get a boyfriend if I wanted, then why am I getting rejected? There has to be something wrong with me, there has to be some flaw in my heart that people don’t want anything apart of.” But that’s so untrue. Just because someone who I value(d) doesn’t reciprocate does not in any way mean there is something wrong with me. Yes, I do have my imperfections, but that is what makes me beautiful in the sight of my Maker (2 Corinthians 12:9). And here is an instance where that list of former interests failed me where God never will. He loves me despite my pride, and my controlling nature, and my perfectionism, and every other flaw which lives nested within my soul.
The second lesson I shared was that I keep living in the future, rather than the present, which I don’t think is a good way to live my life. Not because of any spiritual backing, but simply because I’ve missed out on so many lovely happenings because of my silly, overachieving nature. I attended the Pine Cove Shores this summer for a week, then immediately went to the Woods Family Camp at Pine Cove the following week and had received feedback that apparently “the Shores was so much better than the Woods,” which I don’t think is entirely true, but that review set my frame of mind into one that thought of the week ahead of me as one that would be wasted, and the beginning half of that week definitely was wasted. I was stuck in the past, of wanting to be back at the Shores with my lovely counselor and sweet cabin, and in the future, of wanting to fast forward to Week 7 and the Shores for the summer of 2015. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was one of the most stupid things I have ever done. There are many foolish acts I have committed, but that was one I will regret for a long time, if not for the rest of my life. I had yet to realize the beauty that is unique to each camp at Pine Cove, and while most of my friends’ families had discontinued their stay at the Woods, that didn’t mean that I could just check out and ruin everyone else’s experience. I remember my [STINKIN’ AWESOME] counselor at the Woods talking with me while I was crying silent tears at the ropes course because I missed my Shores fam, and she basically told me that she knew what was going on, and that it in no way gave me the right to depress everyone else’s time at camp. Once this resonated within me, I made friendships not only with my peers, but with the counselors on staff, and my regret of this situation is that had I not been so deep in the act of wallowing in my self-pity, I would have been able to strengthen those friendships made with the counselors with even more intentionality than time allowed me to once I came to my realization.
I have caught myself in a similar situation these past couple weeks while I’ve been on Christmas Break. In my opinion, the previous semester at school flew by, so I’ve been silently and secretly hoping that this second semester keeps truckin’ along at the same speed as the first, in hopes that summer will arrive quickly and Pine Cove can come again and I can see the biggest blessings in my life once again. But this is a DUMB outlook. Yes, I love Pine Cove, and God has used that sweet haven in ways which have become deeply rooted in my heart, but that doesn’t mean I can revolve my life around it. Pine Cove isn’t all there is to my life- that would be misinterpreting God’s purpose for Pine Cove overall, and misinterpreting God’s purpose in causing our paths to cross.
I believe everything God has given to us is a gift. This computer I’m using to blog this is a gift, and the clean water I’m drinking is a gift, and the oxygen I am breathing is a gift. But that doesn’t mean we can waste these gifts that can be thought of as commonalities, while in actuality they are rarities graced to us by the power and mercy of our Father. These rarities need good stewardship. Time and existence are two gifts Jesus has granted me, and in no way am I being a good steward of my time or existence by just planning planning planning for the future. Yes, a new semester is upon me. Yes, finals and AP tests will surface faster than prefered. And yes, summer assignments will arise. But that planning can wait, for I have a holiday to celebrate- a wonderful holiday that lead to my salvation, and fulfilled the prophecies one by one to lead to the salvation of the masses.
So, to recount, I learned that Christ has my identity, and that it is important to live in the now. My third and final lesson I answered my dear friend with was God has been teaching me the meaning of hard work and well-earned rewards.
The Pine Cove Shores has offered for awhile now the opportunity to participate in a two-week stay at camp, titled OverFlow, where I would hope to experience a greater spiritual growth than in the one-week experience I attended last year. I am in no way saying that the one-week stay was bad because it most certainly was not; it was the complete opposite. However, I don’t want just one week anymore. I want two weeks of being closer to Jesus than I would argue I ever am throughout the year. I want two weeks of learning and of being refined and of enhancing my grip on the Gospel with the hopes that Jesus would overflow and pour into me so I could overflow and pour into others, and in order to do that, my parents have set the rule that I have to earn up some moneys. I would have to earn half the cost of the regular one-week stay (as I’ve had to do every year I’ve attended youth camp), as well as all the additional cost of OverFlow. That sums to a large amount for a poor high school kid, friends.
This meant I had to get a job, one I was let go from within three weeks of my initial employment. And that sucked. I don’t like using the phrase ‘sucked,’ but it really did suck. My very first job and I lost it within three weeks. They informed me it was due to my availability things weren’t working out (due to high school soccer taking up the majority of my time, that of which I have decided not to be apart of anymore considering this situation), and I went home weeping. How could I ever raise a whopping $1500 by June to pay back to my parents if I lost my first job almost as soon as it was given to me, and right before the holidays?
While in this emotionally fragile state, my mom volunteered that maybe it wasn’t God’s plan for me that I go to OverFlow this summer. This definitely set some anger brewing in my heart. Something I so longed for, to dance on the beaches of Lake Palestine in the great city of Tyler, Texas for TWO WHOLE WEEKS seemed like a dream, one even more distant now that a steady flow of income had paused. I then channeled this anger into a goal, that I would earn those 1500 smackers if it was my dying deed (which I still haven’t completed this task, if anyone was curious). And with this, came the lesson that God created us to work and to reap what we sow, and to understand that nothing comes to be without some amount of effort. For instance, take a look at Adam! When God first created Adam, He put him to work towards naming all the animals. Then, once the fall occurred, Adam and Eve were directed towards raising crops and animals. From this sprouted their good health and survival, just like earning currency in today’s society leads to the availability to pay for the electric bill and the water bill and cooking a meal (or just driving through a drive-thru every once in awhile… or every night, haha).
And I’m sorry, friends, but my answer to the second question I posed to my beloved companion tonight at coffee will be answered in another blog post. Because I’m tired. And I’m emotionally and physically drained. And my flannel sheets and sweet pillow sound pretty dang good right about now, but the point is there are so many things to be learned in this life, and if we aren’t granted the opportunity, rather if we don’t grant ourselves the opportunity to reflect and see those lessons we have been given, we may not even learn it the second or third time it is taught to us (because I can be taught a lesson thousands of times and not learn a thing, thank you Algebra 2).
So, I challenge y’all to be good stewards of your time and decide to rest. Rest and reflect. Dive into Jesus and remember the lessons He’s taught you as we ring in this new year. Dive into Jesus and thank Him for those lessons, for it is because He loves us that He disciplines us (Hebrews 12:6), and that love would not come debt-free had he not abandoned his throne to live alongside us to be mocked and crucified for our sake.
God gave us rest, too. Be a good steward of that gift.
To learn more about Pine Cove Christian Camps, you can go to this website
and check out all of what God is doing through a camp which has impacted my life and heart more than words have been given the ability to express. If you’d like to learn more about the treasured Pine Cove Youth Camps, their Shores program and the Shores OverFlow program as well, you can visit these links for your better understanding.
Pine Cove Youth Camps: http://www.pinecove.com/youth-camps/
Pine Cove Shores: http://www.pinecove.com/summer-camps/shores
Shores OverFlow: http://www.pinecove.com/summer-camps/shores-overflow
And hey, what the heck. Here’s the link to their Family Camp website too: http://www.pinecove.com/family-camps/