Bug Bites, Bunk Beds, and the Holy Bible

“Miss Anna Margaret, what are we about to do?” “What about after that?” “Do we get to go swimming today?” “I’m thirsty, when’s canteen?” “Miss Ann, LOOK AT THIS ANT I FOUND!!” “Miss Anna Margaret, can I take first shower tonight?” “Miss Anna Margaret, can I sit in your lap?”

Last week, that was my life. I had the privilege of serving as a counselor for the first time for the youngest group of girls at Maywood Christian Camp, the 7-9 year olds. In our cabin, we had 9 of the best pee-wee campers I could imagine.

In the week leading up to camp, I was getting pretty excited. I went to Maywood as a camper for 7 years, and I enjoyed it, but it was never my favorite thing. I never hated camp, but I just didn’t seem to love it quite as much as everyone else. So, I was somewhat surprised by the growing excitement I was experiencing.

Camp begins on Sunday, but the staff goes over on Saturday to get everything set up. So, Saturday afternoon I drove over to Maywood and began unloading my stuff into my new home for the week. And as soon as I got my stuff set up in the cabin, I started regretting my decision.

I looked around the cabin at all of the empty beds, and quickly began asking myself why I was dumb enough to volunteer for this. All of the camp horror stories I had heard came rushing back. “The pee-wees are the WORST! They get homesick and cry EVERY NIGHT!” “Some of them will ask you to give them a shower because they’ve never taken one by themselves.” “They act like babies and hang all over you all week. They can’t do anything for themselves.” And the winner for most encouraging statement is- “I will NEVER be a pee-wee counselor again!”

How on earth did I forget all of these stories long enough to agree to this? If there had been an easy way out for me to turn around and go home, I probably would have taken it. Suddenly, I wanted to be anywhere but here. But, I knew escaping wasn’t possible, so I decided I would have to endure whatever horrible week I had just signed up for. And although I really wanted to go home, I had a little bit of curiosity inside me too. For the past week, I kept having this feeling that something big was going to happen at camp. I didn’t know what it was, but it was that type of feeling that you just can’t shake. It was so persistent that I text my roommate and asked her to pray about the week, because I had a feeling something was going to happen. So, curiosity killed the cat, but kept the counselor.

And man, am I glad that I didn’t find that way of escape on Saturday. There were so many emotions over the course of those 7 days. Having kids look to you as their authority was really weird at first, because just two years ago, I was a camper following orders of counselors. And after the first couple days, I figured out something pretty funny. 9 times out of 10 when a counselor gives you an answer to your question, the answer is whatever they want it to be. There are a LOT fewer rules counselors are going by than I thought. Like when you ask if you can go back to the cabin, I get to make a judgement call on that. And whatever I think the answer should be, is the answer. How equally scary and awesome is that? And all this time we thought counselors all followed the same rules…

When you have kids running up to you and tackling you with hugs and asking to walk with you or hold your hand, it gives you the kind of joy that consumes you. I looked at these kids and could remember how cool I thought my counselors were, and then realized I’m the same age that my counselors were. And then I laughed because I remembered thinking my counselors were SO old and it would be FOREVER before I got to be as old as them. But there I was, as old as they were, and in charge of 9 little girls. And as exciting and fun as it was getting to hang out with these girls, it was equally exhausting. By Thursday, I had resorted to making them all lay down for 15 minutes in hopes that they would fall asleep and take a nap. With the exception of two girls, I didn’t have much luck, so we were up running around again.

But it was the middle of the week, and I still had that feeling that I was missing something that I was suppose to be noticing. I had been praying for this week for several weeks, asking that, among other things, God would show me something new. Something I needed to learn. And by Wednesday, when I still couldn’t seem to figure out what I was suppose to be learning, I was getting pretty frustrated. It was that feeling you get when you’re looking for somebody in a crowd and can’t seem to find them anywhere. I was getting ready to admit that my “gut feeling” must have been off this time. And then I saw it.

Friday night, our last night at camp, I was in the bathroom getting ready for our evening Evangelistic hour, when I looked beside me and noticed our youngest camper next to me. I had grabbed my blowdryer and started blowdrying my hair when I noticed this little girl had gotten her mom’s blow dryer and began blowdrying her hair for the first time all week. So as I started blowdrying my hair, I began to look in the mirror over at her to see what she was doing. And as I suspected, she was imitating every move I made. She watched intently as I moved my fingers through my hair, and lifted different sections of hair, and then she imitated, perfectly, every move I made. At first, I smiled to myself, remembering how I, like her, had watched the older girls at church get ready on retreats or at camp and tried to copy what they did once I got home. I remembered how much I longed to be just like them. And then it hit me.

I wouldn’t call it a life-changing revelation, but it was something that affected me. This little girl was watching me ever-so carefully, and concentrating really hard on trying to do exactly what I did. Why? Because she wanted to be like me. Just like I wanted to be like the older girls at church years ago. And is that not what God wants from us?

He sent Jesus to live on this earth, not only to die as the sacrifice for our sins, but so we could have a physical person to look at and see the kind of person we are suppose to be. We have the ultimate example of the person we should strive to be, but we don’t even spend much time trying to imitate Christ.

Instead, we pick out people of this world and say “I want to be like her.” We point out people like Carrie Underwood and say, “I want my legs to look like hers.” And we pick out Chuck Bass and say “I want a man like that.” And we point to rich people and say “I want to have as much money as them some day.” And we look at fashion trends and spend time and money trying to recreate those outfits to make sure we aren’t wearing clothes that have gone out of style. But why? Why do we waste so much energy on things we know aren’t going to help us at all eternally? Sometimes we mock Adam and Eve for eating of the one tree they were told not to. But then God gives us one example to follow, and we spend all of our energy following everything else we can find.

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:3
When I’ve heard lessons on Matthew 18:3, speakers usually reference the innocence and purity that little children have, but after spending a week with little children, I would venture to say it’s so much more than that.

It’s the curiosity they have and the boldness they have to ask those questions.

It’s the desire they have to obey and please those in authority. I can’t count the number of times my girls came and grabbed my hand and led me over to the area they cleaned to show me how well they cleaned.

It’s the willingness they have to serve each other. When someone mentioned that they lost a shoe, girls all over the cabin were yelling “I’ll help!” “Let me help you find it!” “I’ll grab my flashlight so we can see under the bed!” We never had to ask these girls to help each other. They genuinely wanted to serve each other.

It’s the time and energy they put in to trying to imitate the examples they are given. Whether it’s instructions they were given or someone they picked out that they want to be like, they didn’t have to be begged and prodded to practice this behavior. They saw what was expected of them, and they wanted to try their best to be the person they knew you wanted them to be.

They weren’t too big to ask for help and be open about their struggles. If they were hurting, they wanted their friends to know. They didn’t try to hide it and pretend like they were strong enough to handle it on their own. They were open and honest and weren’t afraid of judgement from each other. I realized this when one of my girls climbed in my bed and told me she hadn’t gotten to see her mom in a while because she was in prison. Woah. How many adults do you know are that willing to be open about what’s bothering them with someone they’ve only known a couple of days? It was beautiful and refreshing the kind of acceptance and love these girls offered to each other. They weren’t judgmental, so they didn’t fear judgement from others either.

Jesus knew what He was talking about when He told us to be like little children. And God was serious when He told us to be imitators of Christ.

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” -1 Peter 2:21
How radically different would we, as Christians, look if we agreed to stop wasting our energy on imitating things in this world, and instead, began imitating Christ? We would have a lot more love and a lot less hate. A lot more servants and a lot less “Me first.” A lot more “Can you help me with this?” and a lot less “I can do it by myself.” A lot more “I want to do this God’s way” and a lot less “I think I know a better way.”

It’s amazing the lessons you can learn from spending a week with 9 precious little girls. And it’s even more amazing how much your heart can long to be back with those girls, even when it means sleeping in bunk beds, dozens of mosquito bites, and gross camp showers. If I could, I would pack my bags and do it all over again. But since time only moves forward, I will hold on to these sweet memories made and long for the day we get to do it all over again. Until next time, girls of Haran. Your counselor loves you.

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Things College Students are Tired of Hearing

As with any season of life, college brings a new set of questions and comments from friends and family. But after a few weeks in this exciting, new time of life, you realize how unoriginal people are. Seriously, everyone seems to ask the same questions and make the same comments. Exact. Same. And after 2 years of college, when yet another individual begins to ask one of these generic questions or make a cliche remark, I am increasingly more tempted to turn my head and walk away. But seeing as that is not socially acceptable, I stand there, answering your questions and nodding in agreement to all the cliches you can muster.

And although hearing any question or comment repeatedly would grow annoying, people have a surprising ability to repeatedly ask questions and make comments that are neither appreciated, nor helpful. And sometimes the things people say are just flat-out ignorant. So for all of you well-meaning people who love to offer advice or peer into the lives of college students, this post is for you. Here is a little glimpse of the kinds of things we, as college students, would love to never hear again.

1. “So have you found a husband yet?” Contrary to popular belief, college is not a marriage factory. Universities will give you a diploma without a marriage certificate. And it is possible to enter the “real world” without a significant other beside you. And just as a side, if the person you’re talking to has any form of social media, there is a 98% chance that you will have seen pictures or a name mentioned if they have found that special person. If you haven’t seen anything that would make you think they have found that person, don’t ask. Just don’t.

2. “So when are you getting married?” Do you see a ring on my finger? If the answer is no, this is not an appropriate question. Try again.

3. “Are you ready to graduate?” The moment we graduate, we are officially on our own and thrown into the “real world”. Let me refresh you on all the things you CAN’T do in the real world: start your day at 11am, skip class (which is now replaced by work), stay out late because you know you can skip class, use being in college as an excuse to be immature, take spontaneous road trips on the weekends because you don’t have to pay bills with that money, and do whatever you want to with your free time. Also, the real world doesn’t have spring break, 3-week Christmas vacations, or a 3-month summer. So with all that said, yes I am ready to graduate! I am ecstatic and can’t wait to leave this lifestyle!! No. The answer to your question is no. I would prefer if you didn’t even mention graduation.

4. “So what do you want to do with that?” We probably have no idea, but we’ll give you an answer to make it seem like we really have our life together. Most days we aren’t even sure about our major. While it’s not a rude question to ask, it makes us feel really inadequate when we don’t have a solid answer. Most students would appreciate you letting the answer to what major they have chosen be enough. If they are really eager to tell you all about how they plan to save the planet, then by all means, keep asking questions. But if not, just let it go. We will all find out soon enough what we will do with that. Chances are, it won’t be what we planned anyways.

5. “Where do you want to live after you graduate?” While I’m flattered that you seem to think I could get a job wherever I wanted to be, the reality is that where I want to live will take a backseat to wherever I can get a job. We’re all aware of the shape of our job market, so we’ll be happy to have a job when we graduate. So, where I want to live is really irrelevant; thus, there’s really no point in even asking. I’ll end up wherever I end up, and make the most of that.

6. “Do you have a job lined up for after graduation?” Generally, companies don’t line up employees two years ahead of time, so no, I don’t have a job lined up. Thanks for making me think I’m suppose to though! I’ll be sure to add that to my to-do list.

7. “Where are you going to graduate school?” Similar to the “where do you want to live” thing, the graduate program I attend will be whatever one I get accepted into. And if I get accepted into more than one, then I’ll factor personal preference into my decisions. But until then, I’ll stick with answering “wherever I get accepted.”

8. “So do you miss being home?” This is just an unfair question. If we say no, we feel guilty for not missing our family, and if we say yes, you’ll think we don’t like college. It’s a lose/lose for us.

9. “Oh…that’s cool…” When this follows our response to your “What’s your major?” question, we realize you clearly disapprove of our decision. If you can’t at least fake being supportive of our decision, don’t ask the question. Picking a major is hard enough, but it’s even harder when we try to pick something that everyone else is okay with as well. On this particular decision, we need your support not your criticism. Be nice.

10. “Well in the real world you can’t…” Yes, we are aware, hence the reason we don’t want to graduate. But we aren’t in the “real world” yet, so I don’t see your point. Let us enjoy the simple pleasures while we can. We’ll find out soon enough what we can and can’t do.

11. “Yeah you keep thinking that.” Geez people just let us have our moment! If our future plans are really that unrealistic, we’ll find out on our own. Nothing good comes from you going around crushing people’s dreams. Just let us live in our fairytale world for a little while longer. Before you know it, we’ll be jaded and cynical just like you 😉

12. “You’ll make a lot more money if you major in…” We probably already knew that. Everybody probably knows that. And if that’s what we wanted to do, then we would be majoring in that. But since we aren’t, it’s probably not because we are unaware of how much more money they make. It’s because we aren’t interested in that. Take whatever stance on the issue you like, but some of us would rather make less money at something we love than make lots of money at something we hate. But obviously, you would prefer the later. To each his own.

13. “These are the best four years of your life.” Oh so it’s all downhill after this? Nothing else in life will ever compare? That’s great. As much as you love life, I can’t wait to graduate and experience all these longings for the “good ol days.” But honestly, would you continue watching a movie if someone told you it kept getting worse and there was no happy ending? No. So why would you present our lives like that? In reality, there will be days where we’re tired of paying bills, going to work, and having responsibilities. We know that. But there will also be new adventures that will be even greater than any day we spent in college. But thanks to you, we are now terrified that life might really be all downhill from here. Thanks for that!

And there you have it, folks. 13 things we would love to never hear again. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a start. Think twice next time you feel compelled to mention one of these to a college student. We would love to hear something new for a change!