Honestly though…

We leave for camp on Sunday to give the staff a day to prepare for the kids to arrive. We spent hours doing heavy lifting in HOT temperatures. I still looked around, and saw smiles on so many faces that are dear to my heart. We got to bond, and decorate cabins, and have fun(?) on a giant swing. It was a GREAT start to the week even if the AC was broken in the cabins. 

Monday morning dawned, and I was excited, and expectant of what God was going to do this week. We prayed over the camp ground, and turned over our cell phones because we can’t keep them on us around the kids. Around 9:30AM the first bus arrived, and many familiar and new faces disembarked. I saw a lot of hesitancy in the new kids who didn’t know what to expect, but the returning campers almost fly off the bus in joy to be back at camp. The 2nd bus arrived a short while after the first. My camper got off the bus, and talked non stop. I knew from the get go that she was a type A personality. I knew we were going to have trouble. I know leadership prays about who gets what camper, so I was like…”Umm there must be a mistake because two type A’s together can’t be a good thing…” I hate type A’s guys. I know I am one, but I’m not a fan of being around others like me constantly. It’s too big a power struggle. It wasn’t a mistake though. I had my camper, and I was going to have to learn to be more flexible than I have ever been in my life. 

We played in activities for a while, and my camper had a few melt downs over little things which I was able to ignore for the most part. I redirected her attention else where. We got to Royal Court (which is like a bible story time, and music) that night though, and when I told her we couldn’t go back to the cabin because we needed to stay with the group she threw her bible, and started to throw a tantrum that any toddler would be jealous of. At some point she decided that since I wasn’t going to give her positive attention for throwing a fit she took off for the bathroom. Two staff people followed as is how we are trained. (We must always have two adults with every child.) She locked herself in the bathroom stall. We stayed within eye shot, but didn’t really try to talk her out of being angry at this point. She then came out of the bathroom to kick things. We had to put a stop to that because we rent out the space for a week. We told her that wasn’t okay, and she stopped. She seemed to be doing better, and I thought we were going to head back into Royal Court, but instead she took off outside. Thankfully one of the child specialists was there as well as the Dean of Men, and we followed her outside. She didn’t get very far with 3 adults following, so she finally turned back. She wouldn’t come back inside though, so we sat in the 80+ degree weather waiting for her. The staff was able to finally convince her to go back in for dinner. I am telling you…I rejoiced when bed time rolled around. 

Tuesday was the day that we had the Tea Party, so we picked up the girls outfits in the dress up area, and we took them to the Tea Party. They had a lot of fun, and we went on with our day. The melt downs didn’t stop, and the running away didn’t end. I admired her endurance, and she should totally run track. It felt like a constant battle with her guys. I wish I had a dollar for every time I told my camper she was breaking a safety rule because I would have been rich by the end of camp. I also wish I got a dollar for every time that she me that she hated me, and never wanted to see me again. Tuesday night as she was getting ready for bed she told me that as I was heading to the counselor meeting. I remember blinking hard to avoid crying, and saying “Well goodnight! Sweet dreams!” 

I went to my meeting, and I cried. I cried because I couldn’t help this child, and because at certain points I didn’t want to help her anymore. I felt mentally abused by all of the hurtful words she was saying. I know it isn’t personal, but it FEELS personal. Have a child tell you they hate you for two days straight, and then tell me it isn’t personal. I knew at that point that I needed to be honest about what was happening. I talked to someone in leadership, and then I texted my mom. I felt the prayers being said over me as I went through Wednesday. Yes, there were constant melt downs. Yes, she ran away from me MANY times…But I knew I didn’t have to handle it alone. I still broke down once that day when she said she hated me, and punched me in the arm. It was at that point I got my first break of the week. I called a dear friend whose done this more years than I. She didn’t judge me. She offered a few suggestions, and listened to my words of frustration. She LOVED me through this time. I needed that. 

Thursday morning came around, and I could have cried with relief. I had loved this child to the best of me, and was ready to go back to people who loved me back. I honestly don’t know how I got through this day because I was done. My heart was broken, and I was ready to drop the smile I had to keep on my face. 

We have this thing…It’s called PMA. (Positive. Mental. Attitude.) We are supposed to have this all week, but I’m sorry…I couldn’t. I was beaten psychically, and emotionally, and I was hurting. The best I could do was fake it, and be honest when around “safe” people. 

I think that sometimes we forget that we can be real with God. He isn’t going to fly off the handle if I let my PMA drop. He isn’t going to leave me if I tell him I’m angry. He wants me to come to him 100% real. I think we get so focused on PMA that we forget that we’re only human. We can only take so much. 

Friday came, and it was the toughest day yet. I won’t go into details, but thank God that he provides people where they are needed at camp. He truly has us covered. We got back to the church, and I shut down. I withdrew because I didn’t have time to feel. We went to the welcome home dinner which was fun, but not like past years where we could talk about camp. It was more of a dinner type of thing where everything was planned. I prefer eating dinner at the church. I got home that night, and I cried. I cried deep sobs. My heart hurt so bad; it still does. I keep asking myself “Why was I put with this child when she didn’t even want me around? What did I do to have her hate me so much? Why wasn’t she excited about camp? ect.” 

There are no words. I can’t make camp better. I can’t change the struggles I went through. I can’t change the fact that I didn’t connect with my camper. I can’t change the fact that she didn’t want me around. I just have to pick myself up, and dust myself off, and get ready for round 3 in a couple weeks. If you want to know where I am at right now emotionally…Here is a link to a song that describes how I feel very well. Blessings! 

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All in.

I just got back from camp. I am exhausted. I am a royal mess emotionally. I don’t know how to tell people how I’m feeling because I honestly don’t know how I’m feeling. How do you put such a trying, and rewarding week into words? 

I’m just going to be honest guys. It was my hardest year yet. I had my 2nd toughest camper yet, and I found myself crying out to God at night because I needed his strength if I was going to get through this week. I needed his peace if I was going to help this child, and I needed his love if I was going to love this child. 

She told me “I hate you” so many times. My heart is still breaking. I would simply reply “Well I still love ya! I’m really glad we’re friends!” I don’t know how I was able to reply this because my heart was breaking guys. I was hurting so bad. I know we aren’t supposed to take it personal. We’re working with foster kids, and they have rough backgrounds, so sometimes they say mean things to test you. I wanted to walk home though. She was testing me, and I was sure I would fail this test. I didn’t have it in me. I’m not that strong. I can only hear the words “I hate you” so many times before I start to take it to heart. I didn’t leave though guys. I didn’t give up. Were there things I would change given the chance? Yes. I would. I can’t though. I have to believe that I did the best I could in my overtired, and overworked body. 

I have nothing left. I gave everything I had this last week, and that is a good feeling. I gave everything to some kids who have very little. It’s worth it guys. Watch the video below if you want to understand why I do this every year. I will take many more sleepless nights, and temper tantrums if it means I get to make a difference for just ONE foster kid! 

Camp updates, and testimony

“Amazing grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see. Oh I can see it now. Oh I can see the love in your eyes. Laying yourself down, raising up the broken to life.” ~Broken Vessels by Hillsongs. 

I just came back from a weekend of hands on ministry. I went to a camp for foster kids, and I am still in awe of what God did while I was there. I always struggle to put it into words because for some of it you would have to be there to really understand why it was such a big deal. I can’t tell you what God did in those kids lives because that’s personal. I will never share what they haven’t given me permission to talk about. I can; however, talk about what God did in my life. 

I went to Cross talk with the girls every day which is basically a devotional time. We had really great speakers. I seriously don’t think they could have done anything better. Our theme was Joseph from the pit to destiny. I loved it. It’s really hard to look around yourself, and see the pit that you’re in, and believe that there is destiny written on your life. I remember when they had us write down something in our pasts that was holding us back, or something we needed God to take. I wrote the word rejection. It’s hard for me to put into words why I used that because it’s really personal, and I’m just not there yet. I can say that I felt God working on my heart this last weekend. I went there praying for God to change the campers lives, and I came back a different person than who I was when I left. 

I no longer feel rejected. I feel accepted. I am a daughter of the one true King, and that is a VERY powerful thing. 

What I’m feeling after camp. *Only read, if you want my honest opinion*

I want to tell you all about my weekend at camp, but I want to be honest because you all deserve my honesty.  It was a very hard weekend. I say this with tears running down my face because nobody thought debriefing was very important, and i’m finally feeling everything right now after midnight. 😉 

I went to another camp that works with kids who have been abused and neglected, and I honestly don’t think all the training in the world could have made this weekend easier. I had two campers, and as my first time being a counselor I was already nervous. One of my campers came on the bus, and the other was running late. The first camper was extremely shy, but easy going, and she had such strength, and was the most selfless person I’ve ever met. Now please understand that I had a weekend with her, and she showed amazing amounts of patience, and kindness during a difficult situation. I loved her for being my “easy” camper, but that doesn’t mean, she came without baggage, and I know she hasn’t had it easy in life, but she chooses to be happy, and live life to it’s fullest. I love that. 

My other camper…She was a challenge. I know she was troubled, and I know that when she kept saying mean things, and telling me how much she hated me, it wasn’t personal. I know that. But if you could see my heart right now, I’m pretty sure, it’s bruised, and there are some new scars. 

This child told me every chance she got that she hated me. She hated me because I’m white, and skinny, and reminded me of that daily. She hated me because I was the one making her walk…at camp. I’m pretty sure she hated me because I was there, and breathing. I have to say, I did not expect to be cussed out daily while at camp…I even learned a few new words. 😉 

I loved this child in the best way I know how, and she pushed me away constantly. I was just trying to be her friend, and she was determined to keep me far away. I didn’t expect this child to run away if I closed my eyes for a second, do you know how scary it is, to have a child in your care disappear without a word, on a campground you don’t know? I do now! 

So this weekend hurt, and my heart hurts, and I get to feel hurt, and upset, and if I want to feel angry, I get to feel that too because I was called horrible things, and told how much I was hated every day Fri-Sun, and that is not something you just get over, or shrug off. It may not have been personal, but please try, and tell my heart that. 

You want to know why i do this though? Why I stick with it even though it hurts like this? 

I do it for those moments, when a camper smiles, and laughs, and is carefree for maybe the first time in their life. I do it for the the one. I do it because even though I cannot save them all, I can make a difference even if it is just for one. I can give everything I am, and pour out all my love until I have nothing left, and if it made a difference to just one of these campers then, I’ve done my job, and I can handle all the pain that comes with it. 

So I am hurting because I couldn’t do more, but the thing is…My other camper wrote this on my shirt, “I will miss you, and I love you. Sisters for life.” < Right there, is why i do what I do.

Happy endings. (Once upon a time spoilers inside.) P.S camp story inside. ;)

I love the ideas of happy endings. I love watching the good guys win, and I love seeing good come from something that seemed so awful. What about those situations where you can’t understand why it happened that way? 

See I love fairytales, I mean one of my favorite shows is “Once upon a time”, and yes sometimes Charming finds Snow, and Rumple is reunited with Baelfire, but sometimes Charming and Snow are cursed and they don’t remember each other, and Baelfire is ripped from his dad again. What about when Rumple dies and Bell’s face is literally crushed, and as she screams “NO!” Every single Oncer screams with her. My point is what about the times when a happy ending isn’t in sight?

I went to a camp for foster kids as you all know now, and every day I looked at these kids, and I couldn’t comprehend how someone could ever hurt them. I mean, they are the sweetest, and have the biggest heart. It will never make sense to me. Life doesn’t always make sense though. We don’t always get to see the reason for something in season two until we watch season 4, do you get what I’m saying? We just have to trust that God has a plan because sometimes happy endings take time. 

I did get to see a happy ending through this week though, but before I get into that story, I need you to understand something…Anything foster kids own is very important to them. They don’t always have much, so they cling to what they do own. 

I met a camper who was the sweetest kid, I’ve ever met, and he wasn’t really outgoing, but he would sit down and talk to me most meal times, and at the end of the week, he gave me a key chain, he had earned at camp, and my heart broke instantly, as I accepted it with a “thank you” as tears pooled in my eyes. He told me he’d love me forever. I had to walk away because I knew I was about to lose it. I rode home on the bus, and I found out that he is actually being adopted this fall, and I am just ecstatic for him! I’m so happy to see that he will get a happy ending. 

Happy endings take time. If we stopped watching after Rumple died, we would never see that he doesn’t stay dead, and if we stopped watching because Charming, and Snow didn’t remember who they are, we would never see them find each other again. Don’t think a happy ending isn’t coming because you’re stuck in season one, because you never know what could come in season two.  

Two of my favorite 11 year olds.

So it’s been a little over a week since I’ve gotten back from camp, and I am still on this emotional roller coaster. I miss the kids, and my camp family already. 

I want to talk to you about two special 11 year olds that I got to hang out with. I loved hanging with them because even though I saw them as opposites, they got along as if they had been best friends forever.  They had the best attitude all the time, and they amazed me every day at camp by their kindness toward others, and their ability to just live life to it’s fullest.  

As a reminder this is a camp for kids in the foster care system, so even though I don’t know their story, I know it is not without trial, and a lot of fight that they’ve gotten to where they are in life. I see these amazing girls as survivors, and I wish I had gotten the chance to tell them they are my heroes because they have every right to be bitter and depressed,  but instead they woke up every morning with a smile ready to take on the day.  

I went to camp to serve, and love these kids, and to teach them as much about life as I could in a week, but I think I learned more from these two than I taught. 

I know you won’t read this, but you ladies inspire me. You are so strong for such a young age, and you love without condition. I see such maturity in you, and you shine with pure joy! You made me laugh, and cry, and you encouraged me when I was feeling down, and you taught me that it’s okay to not be “perfect.” You helped me to face my fears, and helped me have the best week of my life. Thank you for being you! You’re my heroes, and I will always appreciate you.

CAMP!

How do I put my time at camp into one blog post? How do I keep from breaking down into what we call the “royal weep?” Honestly, I’m not sure I can, but here goes.

In 2012 I received my “calling” from God for my life. It wasn’t something huge, or a loud booming voice from heaven. I just knew at that point in my life, God had called me to love those people had deemed unlovable. I didn’t know what this would look like right away, but as I prayed about it, I found that it was really simple; I just needed to go love people like Jesus. Please understand that I’m still human, and I still struggle with this every day, but I want to take you on a journey about my favorite week of the Summer.

I just finished my week at a camp for abused and neglected kids, and I honestly don’t know who loved who more. The kids that I had the privilege of spending time with were so amazing; they love in a way that is without condition. I find this amazing because no matter what they went through, no matter how they had  been treated in life, they hadn’t lost their ability to embrace life and live it to it’s fullest. I saw strength every time I looked at these kids.

I played a game with some  of the campers  and staff, one night, and this camper asked me to sit next to him and his counselor the next morning at breakfast, and I replied that if I could find him, I would definitely do that! (there was over 50 kids, and like 90(?) staff, so it was no small thing.) He found me in the morning and when we moved onto the next activity he told me “you’re my best friend because you kept your promise.” I don’t know his story, and I don’t know what he’s been through, but keeping my promise meant that much to him, and that broke my heart. How many people have broken promises to this young child? Didn’t anyone love him enough to keep their promise? Is that why God sent me to this camp, to show him that not everyone is the same? Did he know what it would cost me?

This camp isn’t an easy week because you know you have one week, and then you have to say goodbye for another year. I then spend a month reminding myself that I cannot save these kids; I can only make sure they have the best week of their year. I can only show them that I keep my promises, and that I am not another person in their life who will pretend to care for a short time, and then leave when it got tough. (If that was the case I would have left the camp Wednesday, and saved myself from saying goodbye. ;)) I love these kids for a week in the best way I know how: by speaking kind words, by being encouraging, by believing in them, and then I love them when I get home by praying for them daily.

God called me to love those others had deemed unlovable, I just didn’t realize that it would break my heart in this way. I don’t want these kids to feel like castaways. I want them to know they have worth, and that they deserve happiness.

I’m going to be writing about this for the next couple weeks, so please follow my blog, so you get an email when I post next.