West Virginia Adventures

A few months ago a friend sent me a text message with a link to a 5k in the city with a message saying that we should sign up for it. Without hesitating we both signed up and even had two other friends join our team. We paid our non-refundable dues and that was that. A few weeks later we decided to finally start preparing for it. She did a lot better than I did, but we were both trying to run regularly. Then, just a few weeks before the 5k she severely injured her foot and my knees decided that I was not going to run any more. We still had planned on at least participating in the 5k even if it meant walking it.

Around 10:30 in the morning, the day of the 5k, I texted her asking if she was feeling a 5k or not. OIMG_1649ur trip in to the city to run a 5k turned in to a day trip covering about seven hundred miles of the wild and wonderful West Virginia.
How we got from A to Z, I am not sure. All I know is we mutually agreed to do it. So, around 1:00 in the afternoon, we got in my car and off we went with no particular agenda in mind.

We ended up driving nearly five hours into Beckley, West Virginia. IMG_1650 After a quick stop at the Tamarack, we continued on our adventure into Fayetteville to see the New River Gorge Bridge. We took some IMG_1652pictures, climbed a lot of steps, and back in to the car we went. We were going to try to findIMG_1693 a swimming hole and then turn around to go home, but instead my friend suggested going a different route home and visiting the capitol building.

The trip over to Charleston was only about an hour long and we were quickly in front of the capitol building. IMG_1659
While I had been to Charleston many times before, I had never seen the capitol building and neither had she. This was probably our longest stop as we tookIMG_1692 pictures in front of the capitol building and then explored closer to the river. At this point it was about 8pm IMG_1694and neither of us had eaten a meal all day. So, we decided to stop and try to eat at a West Virginia original restaurant. Unfortunately, everything was was to crowded, so we got back in our car with the intentions to stop at a fast food restaurant.

I set the gps destination to Morgantown, West Virginia and once again, we hit the road. Our typical road trip fast food restaurant of choice is chick-fil-a, but sadly by the time we got to one, it was closed. Instead we settled for Wendy’s. We were both pretty hungry at this point that where we ate no longer mattered. We hit Morgantown around 11pm, drove through a bit of the town, and continued on to home.

All in all, we spent thirteen hours together from the time we left at 1pm until the time we got home a little after 2am. We covered approximately seven hundred miles and spent a total of about eleven hours driving. It was a great day spent with a friend that I have had my entire life. We had long conversations that ranged from serious to complete comedy. We laughed at ourselves repeatedly saying, “Who does this!? Who drives five hours to see a bridge!?”

At one point, we were driving on a back road through the woods with mountains surrounding us, windows down, and worship music blasting. In those moments it is so clear that there is a God and that He is an almighty, holy God. His creation is beautiful and I am in awe of it. I am thankful to have a friend to experience those moments with.

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The Best Kind of Camp.

I am so blessed to have been able to serve at YoungLivesIMG_1295 camp three years in a row now. If you had told me three years ago that YoungLives would completely capture my heart and still have a hold on it three years later, I wouldn’t have believed it. I began volunteering with the mind set that I was going to make a difference and be a blessing to young mothers, what I didn’t realize was that those young mothers and leaders were going to be such a huge blessing to ME.

Three years of childcare, three years of camp, and I am not ready to let go. I have been blessed beyond belief by this organization and have met some incredible people. Every year I go to camp ready to serve and watch campers’ lives change, but I am always amazed at how much God teaches ME and changes ME.

In case you have never heard of YoungLives, I will tell you a little about it. YoungLives is an organization designed to serve teen mothers. It is a christian organization that introduces Christ to girls by meeting them where they are. There are groups all over the United States and each one is run with the same basic principles, but the leaders have a little flexibility. They hold weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings that are called “club”. Club is a time where girls can come, fellowship with other teen mothers, develop a relationship with a mentor, be taught about Christ, and receive free child care for an evening.

This was my third year going to YoungLives camp and each year I fall more in love with it. This year was one of the most difficult for me, but I still did not want to leave. A week is not long enough and I wanted at least one more. It is sad to think that I have to wait an entire year to go back and that is only if the nature of my life a year from now allows me to go. Camp is such an incredible experience. It allows these young mothers the opportunity to experience camp and gives them the chance to just be teenagers.

It is amazing to see how the camp is transformed to accommodate one hundred and fifty mothers, one hundred and twenty-eight babies, one hundred childcare workers, and over one hundred leaders. IMG_1599The sheer amount of people that volunteer their time to make YoungLives camp happen is incredible. People come ready to dedicate hours upon hours of service and they all do it with a smile. It is such a happy place to be. People are tired, home sick, stressed out, yet they all have servants’ hearts and do without complaining.

The child care spend six plus hours a day with the babies. The typical camp schedule for a child care worker looks like this:
8am Club. 9am Breakfast. 9:30-12/12:30 Child Care. 12:30/1 Lunch. 1/1:30-5 General Free Time (with random scheduled child care times for girls to participate in activities). 6pm Dinner. 6:30-10:30/11pm Child Care. Sleep. Repeat.
This year they changed things up a bit and instead of having the free time every day, the random scheduled child care was more frequent. We spent the majority of the free time in our nurseries spending some extra time lovin’ on the babies. Therefore, in the past we spent 6-7 hours in the nursery. This year we spent 7-9 hours in the nursery.

The pictures make camp look easy. Of course, no one takes pictures of those moments (some times hours) of insanity where every single child in the nursery isIMG_1352 screaming until the nursery workers go deaf. No, we take pictures of the peaceful sleepers, or the happy smiling children. If that was what camp was full of, then there would be no problem getting child care workers to come back every year.IMG_1242 It isn’t easy. Many of the young mom’s that come to camp have never left their child before. Taking care of a child who has never left their mother’s side can be very difficult and nIMG_1371early impossible to soothe, but it is so worth it. It is worth it when that baby comes in to nursery on day five and finally recognizes you and gives you a little smile. It is worth it when at the end of the week the mother tells you that it was the best week of her life. It is worth it when you think about how one hundred and fifty-two young girls just heard about a man who loved them so much that He died on the cross to save them. Camp is incredible.

This year I was placed in the Puppy nursery with five and six month old babies. Let me tell you, those babies were adorable! We had a little guy who smiled with his entire face. He lit up from ear to ear any time some one looked at him, but when he was hungry he made sure you knew. There was another little boy who self-IMG_1645entertained most of the time and had the sweetest little grin. Then, there was a little girl that I connected with. I don’t know how much she connected with me, but I was attached to her pretty early on in the week. She had to be held all of the time, other wise she would scream. So, I held her. By day four she would let me put her down for a few minutes here or there, but I had to be close by. She loved to grab on to my pony tail and I eventually had to put it up in a bun. Even then, she would weave her hand in to my hair and hold on as if it were my leash. She gave me many slobbery open mouthed kisses that left me feeling like I had received a saliva facial. She would try to pull out my earrings and some times grab my face and squeeze as tight as she could. It was some times a little painful, but all I could do was laugh. She was precious.

One thing that was particularly special about this year was the nature of our club talks. Each morning we would have club that included a time of praise and worship, a fun game, and a message. Two weeks leading up to camp I had made some difficult decisions and was constantly telling myself that I needed to follow God’s calling and not settle for *safe and comfortable*. I wrote the blog Regrets. Mantras. talking about it just two days before I left. The very first club talk given was about how God had called each and every one of us to camp. He didn’t need us, but he chose us. He talked about how we were there for a purpose. He ended the talk by asking if we ever just settled for… wait for it… the *safe and comfortable* life. My jaw just about dropped when he said that. He said be honest, is that the life you want? For the first time in a long time I was able to say no. I do not want to live the *safe and comfortable* life. It was incredible how on point his messages were. I felt as if they were directed at me, not a group of one hundred plus individuals.

All of this to say, three years later and I am still so passionate about this organization and not quite ready to say goodbye. While I will be leaving JCo soon, I hope to start working with the YoungLives group in the area I will be moving to. It is bittersweet to think about my time with JCo being over, but I know that there is a time for everything. So, here is to new beginnings and hoping that this year was not my last at YoungLives Camp!

Some of my favorite pictures:
IMG_1492 IMG_1472 IMG_1329 IMG_1259IMG_1423 IMG_1589 IMG_1641IMG_1256IMG_1488IMG_1278IMG_1290IMG_1354IMG_1394IMG_1406IMG_1518IMG_1523

Each year YoungLives camp has a photographer/videographer who captures the atmosphere of camp so that others can see what is going on. These videos are so much fun to watch because it gives glimpse in to what an awesome week these girls have. Most of the girls had to grow up quickly after having a baby young, but this is one week of the year where they get to be teenagers again and just enjoy the goofy activities and hear the good news of Christ.
http://scrapbook.younglife.org/playlist/Lake-Champion-Week-10

Regrets. Mantras.

Living without regret.

Regret.

It is such a complicated thing. I do not have many “mantras” in my life, but if I were to consider anything as such it would be the thought to not regret anything. I am not talking about regretting that ice cream I just ate. (However, can you ever truly regret eating ice cream?) I am talking about the decisions I make on a regular basis that could potentially alter my life in a drastic or not-so-drastic way.

Everything happens for a reason; therefore, why should time be wasted regretting something that serves a purpose. I make a lot of mistakes. I mean a LOT. Mistakes are unavoidable as we are human, but some times I feel like I make life harder on myself and make more mistakes then necessary. However, I always end up learning from my mistakes; they always serve a purpose.

Some times it is more difficult than other times to remember that everything serves a purpose. I catch myself getting wrapped up in thoughts of, “what if I had done this instead” or “If I had not done that, would this still be happening to me?” Lately, I have been thinking about the choices I made way back in middle school and in to high school. I made many good decisions and I made many more bad decisions. What if I had done differently? Would my life now be different? The mind set that I developed and focused on back then was supposed to help me now. Is it? What if I had been more relaxed and not so focused? Would I be living a different life now? Would it be a better life? Or worse?

All of the what ifs just make my head spin and end up causing me to sink in to a state of melancholy. There is no point in focusing on the ‘what ifs’ because there is no way to go back and change things. I made the decisions that I made and I have lived the way I have lived. All that I can do is learn from my past and push forward. I can’t change the past, but I sure can change the future.

I am learning to hold my head up high. I am learning that I cannot put old dreams to the side and forget them. I am learning that it is never too late to start now. I am learning to slow down and enjoy the present. I am learning that I still have an entire life time ahead of me. I am already twenty, yet I am only twenty. I have twenty years behind me, but I could potentially have seventy more before me. I want to live a life that I can look back on and be proud of. I want to serve Christ and live my life in a way that brings Him glory. I want to live life to the fullest.

It is so easy to step in to a comfortable life, but I am not designed for “comfortable.” I am here to step out blindly and test the waters. I am not designed for “safe.” I am here to over come my fears and pursue my passions no matter what it takes to reach them.
These are my mantras.