i know i know. i have essentially not written all summer. trust me, it’s killing me more than it’s killing any of you. someday maybe i’ll write about all of the wonderful and amazing things i experienced and learned while in zanzibar, but today is not that day. today i want to reflect on this summer at camp while it’s still fresh in my mind.

this was the best summer i have had at camp in a long, long time. i came into it sort of begrudgingly, as last summer was not so wonderful and i wasn’t sure i wanted to be back this year, but after some prayer and pleading, it became clear that camp was where God wanted me for this summer (and i am ever so thankful to everyone who helped to point this out to me- you were right!) in an attempt to change things and make things better, i had offered to switch divisions for this summer, and found out a few days into our pre-camp training that i would be doing a 360 from my work with the youngest campers and start counseling the oldest girls. i was excited, but a little overwhelmed.

my first week at camp, i was counseling the groom aides- the campers who take care of the horses. i was not excited about this. first of all, i know nothing about, and am quite terrified of, horses. second, generally GAs are very quiet, and i have trouble relating to quiet people. third, GAs are always late, and lateness is one thing i cannot abide (although i worked on that this summer. i think i’m getting better. or everyone else is just getting used to me). i prayed a desperate prayer before they came that God would grow a love in me for these girls that i could not possibly create on my own, that they would be talkative and timely. and they were! i could not believe how much i could love my campers, and at the end of the week i did not want to say goodbye to any of them.

that week, i learned about the power of our God who still answers prayers, and i learned about love. deciding to love these girls wholeheartedly for just one week is not always an easy decision. i know on sunday of every week that i am meeting a brand new group of girls and that my job is to love them. i also know that they will likely leave on saturday, and we may never talk again. maybe they’ll friend me on facebook, or maybe i will never see them again or hear from them again on this earth, but regardless, the chance of the love i share with them being fully reciprocated and continuing after our one week together is slim to none. in other words, every week, i set myself up for heartbreak. because even knowing in advance that the girls will leave, really loving them always means that i’m sad to see them go.

i learned other things about love this summer too. i learned about God’s love for me when i had to discipline my girls. with the older girls, i hated hated hated having to discipline them. i wanted to build a relationship with them, and constantly having to correct them does not foster that. however, real love means loving them right where they’re at (even the “difficult” groups) but loving them too much to let them stay that way. that’s the kind of love that God has for us- he loves us in the middle of the messes that we’re making but loves us too much to let us keep making those messes. i had heard that before, but this summer i felt firsthand a little bit of how much it hurts God when we sin, and how much it hurts him to have to discipline us when he loves us so so so much.

in loving my girls, i also learned a lot about the power of prayer. i often wrote notes to my campers (especially my CILTs) and would write encouraging little God-isms such as “Remember, prayer changes things!” in there. as i continued to write these notes, i finally (and very slowly) began to experiment with whether or not i really believed them myself. i started praying intentionally for each of my campers. i started praying for campers who had left and campers who had yet to come. i prayed for easy to love and hard to love campers. and i found that prayer did change things. prayer changed me. it continued to grow my love for my girls, more than i could possibly have loved them on my own.

finally, i learned and am continuing to learn that God uses every circumstance that we are placed in, so we should be thankful for the good along with the bad. i learned to give thanks for bruised toenails, short shorts, new opportunities, new campers and old ones, and for everything in between. and God has used all of them. some of them, i don’t know how he’s used yet, but someday i know i will. and if i don’t, it doesn’t matter. i trust that he is using them.

i leave for school on monday morning, after being home for less than a week after camp. these past few days since being home have been hard. i miss camp- i miss the woods, and more than anything, i miss my girls. i know that missing them is a part of having loved them, but i don’t like it. i’m trusting, though, that God is using this time too, and so i’m working on thanking him for it as well.

as you finish your summer, may you remember that God is using the good and the bad, and that he loves you too much to leave you the way you are. there’s nowhere to go but forward, so go without fear. you’re safe in His hands.