A summer of grace

I don’t really know where to start with my summer.

I spent two weeks at camp.
Then two weeks at home.
Then three at camp.
Now one at home before I move to my new home and city.

But those 5 weeks I spent at camp were wonderful; more wonderful than I could have possibly anticipated. God was near. Is near.

There’s too many moments to mention as being impactful, so I want to process through the people who made this time so sweet.

Miriam…that sweet sister who just led worship so well. There were nights in the chapel where I felt my soul would just explode with gospel truth and love for Jesus. I think I will forever remember the tenderness and weight of grace that we felt there. Miriam just led us so well into a place of humility and receiving love. Her genuine love and care for others was beautiful to be around, and the table always was full of life when she was near.

Ana came for only a few days, but as always it was a wonderful time. People love having Ana around, and I am definitely included in “people”. She just loves me so deeply and well. I’m not sure there’s another person on this planet who gets me the way Ana gets me, and still is patient and kind. Plus her handwriting is better than mine. I wish she had been there the whole summer, but I am thankful for the moments we spent together. She is honest about my sin and yet loves me with such grace.

I am thankful for Dan’s sweet words and encouragement. Old enough to be my grandfather, we cooked almost every meal together in the kitchen. I was sharing about memorizing verses while we were cutting cucumbers by the sink and he looked at me and shared that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and so hearing me quote the Bible was a beautiful gift. Although I would probably crawl into a hole with such a diagnosis, he was daily encouraging and comforting, and constantly told me how he wanted to watch out for me and take care of me. What a precious man.

Allie made me laugh almost every day. She has such an authentic soul and that makes her almost magnetic to be around. Even moreso than her charisma is her heart for Jesus; Allie just makes me want to know and love him more. We were able to have such real conversations about the parts of our heart that want to serve and love Jesus, and how hard it is sometimes to follow Him. I’m grateful for her role in my little community this summer. It wouldn’t have been the same without her.

Chip has been a friend for awhile, but this summer we really had time to just stop and talk. His presence always brings a smile to my face, and I loved seeing him lead his campers with such vigor. I want to love my students like Chip loves his campers – and I want to pursue humility like Chip does. We would sit some evenings and just have these really honest conversations as brother and sister in Christ. Sometimes Jesus loves us in our messy places, and being able to share in redemption with Chip was a sweet time.

I felt like Erick and I just picked off where we left off. Talking while walking around Asheville, texting when I was at home, burning DVDs together and falling down stairs – all these will be memories I will cherish. We walked this summer together in a way that reminded me so much of my guy friends in college that were my sweet brothers. It’s rare to find someone who you can just be authentic with from the get-go, but Erick is one of those. I know that I was spurred on to love and good deeds by him this summer.

Lisa was an unexpected friend this summer; a mom who volunteers to cook in the kitchen, I found a sweet and kind spirit that ministered so deeply to me. In the days that I was in charge of the kitchen, she helped tremendously and never received thanks for it. I saw generosity in her that I’ve probably never seen in anyone else; I want to be like Lisa in that. Plus she brought so much joy to the kitchen – her absence was most definitely felt.

Jasmine…what another sweet sister. I often told Jasmine to be meaner to campers, because she genuinely is one of the nicest people I’ve met. She just loves people with such a tenderness, which includes listening to my stories as I rambled about hopes and loves and fears. She let me invade the craft shop at times she probably wanted to be alone; her generosity was more of a ministry to me than she will ever know. Once again creating things was a refuge for my heart.

I am eternally grateful for Lindsay‘s words of truth this summer. She is one of those rare souls that can balance grace and truth, and whose words absolutely carry great weight. The Lord very clearly placed us together in a closer way than before and allowed her to see things in me no one else did. At times it was painful, but her words shine light into my dark corners. She also was this beautiful example of authenticity – I’m grateful for people like her who allow me to be myself and not feel like I have to hide.

Todd was just fun. I think sometimes I just do everything really seriously; I am serious about following Jesus and serious about fighting sin and serious about grace and I forget to rejoice in life and the Lord and friendship. Todd was always ready with high fives and funny jokes and inappropriate submissions to The Game of Things. Todd also acted as a sort of linchpin to our group; his presence was noticed the most when he left. I think the Lord used Todd to stir in me a greater hope for community like that in my new home.

The OA girls [Grace, Sidney, Sam, and Ava Michelle] were such a sweet presence this summer. I jokingly invited them to my next birthday party and I only wish I lived in NC so they could come. Conversations with them were always full of fun and laughter; whether it was about movies or books or hidden talents, they were the conversations that came so easily and just added beautiful, enjoyable moments to the summer. In particular, I had some wonderful and honest conversations with Grace where the Lord just reminded me of His faithfulness to work in us. I know that my summer wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Lara is a favorite friend. Of course. And even though seeing her was, like Ana, only for a couple of days, I am grateful she came. I just love being around Lara – love seeing her interact with Jordan and laugh. She just genuinely loves people and loves Jesus and I always feel so valued when I’m around her. I know that life is about to change a lot since she’s finishing school, and so I am grateful to Jesus for the few moments with her.

Joel ministered to me in ways he probably won’t ever know; the baseball game, Sunday morning at the Drip, carrying lunches to the Van, tie dying and painting together, discussing which White boy is our favorite [“Porter.”] and endless plucking on the banjo fill my memories of this summer. It isn’t just the things we did, however, but the conversations that meant the most to me. This summer was full of scripturally grounded wisdom and truth from his lips, and I am grateful for being constantly pointed to Jesus by him.

Jordan – I really can’t even explain how dear she was to me this summer. Although it was only for 2 1/2 weeks, I feel like Jordan was there all summer. I laughed more with her than I’ve laughed in years. “Creatures”, being skittish, getting stuff named after us, endless analogies, great stories, Jessica the Dog, nicknames for everyone, all of it was just balm for my soul. But  Jordan isn’t just funny, she has such a tender heart for the Lord. This summer wouldn’t have been the same without her.

Our Table will hold this summer together for me, relationally. It varied from week to week, but Clay, Kyle and Sarah, Drew, Jordan, Joel, Ana, Lara, Sidney, Grace, Erick, and Todd all sort of camped out back there in the far right. I will miss that forever, I think.

So many others. CeCe letting me hold baby Emma, watching my former campers Chrissy, Megan, and Rachael just own their jobs and do so well, Nate just leading us like it’s his job, the night at the White House playing games with Allison, Joel, Grace, Todd, Drew, Lara, Jordan, and Allie, good conversations with Caroline and Sam and Carson, Catchphrase during lightning drills, the sass of Chris and Elwin, cooking with Donna and Megan and Carrie, going to see the Dark Night and eating cookie cake, old friends like Katie and Christian and Shelby, new friends like Hillary and Kelly Ann and Alex – I could go on and on, really.

——

If I think back over my time at camp this summer, the phrase that comes to mine is grace upon grace upon grace. I feel like I came into this summer with a lot of woundedness and brokenness; a lot of it was a needed humility that God brought into my life through this past year, but some of it was just broken places of my heart. I needed to learn to trust God again, and believe the gospel, and walk with Him.

Oh, how faithful is He, even in our unfaithfulness. This was a summer of healing and grace in a thousand forms. This was a summer of joy in community and life in barren places of my heart. This was a summer of daily, sometimes hourly grace and mercy. This was a summer where laughter and tears mingled together constantly. This was a summer where I learned to abide. This was a summer where even the hard days [darn you lasagna!] were sustained by Christ’s love and the gospel. This was a summer where I was blessed far beyond what I deserve. Oh, how good He is to a broken sinner like myself.

I’ll end with a few pictures of sweet moments I will cherish forever.

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