My view from the rappel tower at Frontier Ranch. Mount Princeton, 14,196 feet. Buena Vista, Colorado.
I’ve been trying to form words to describe my month at camp for two weeks now. Certain words don’t mean enough, certain ones aren’t precise enough and others flat out fail to explain. What the heck, man.
I have these feelings that whirl and swirl and bump into each other all agressive-like in my brain, yet finding letters and sounds and syllables to stuff some sense into them is just the biggest dang feat. I’m a writer; this should be easy. DING DING DING—not easy. Whoops.
Like I said, most of the days I approach my computer to write, words just don’t come. I keep showing up, and showing up again—nothing. My body burns with frustration. But some days, the words do come, like rushing water they come faster than I can type. So I write and I rewrite and I type until suddenly they stop coming. Then I read back and see that they weren’t ready until that moment—those words wouldn’t have been perfect until written right then.
Today, I’m showing up—again, hoping for a moment.
Bear with me.
I found out on the first day of camp that I was one out of two humans whose home is west of Colorado. All my new favorite people are way east and way south and way, way too far away.
Young Life has given me a lot over the years, but top of the list are people who excel at being long-distance friends. Praying, encouraging and challenging me, all from the other side of a phone. I get a quick, sweet month with them in paradise, but then just as quick we are all spread out like sticky hands, straining to stay close and trying with all our might not to peel away.
Thank God for those sticky hands, though. For the ones that managed to slap themselves hard enough on my life to leave a mark.
I’m still teetering in the wake of life re-plugged into technology and connectedness—a big reason that month can be called paradise is because my ultra-savvy, gives-me-everything-I-want-at-my-fingertips phone is not a part of it. My reality shifts from being strung-out on eight lines like an octopus—each with a million suction cups trying to hold my attention hostage—to being on one. One line, one reality. Face to face interactions only. I don’t know where someone is? I better spend 30 minutes walking my tired legs all over camp till I find them with my own eyeballs.
Still, I’m not so ignorant as to say that this small screen isn’t largely beneficial in many ways. All these friends I’ve been raving about, they’d soon be strangers if it weren’t for that little attention sucker. So, it’s not all bad. I guess I’m just trying to feel my way through all of the garbage parts till I figure out how to use it productively and with healthy balance.
When I left camp I kept hearing the lyrics to a much overplayed, but much loved song—they repeated like a toddler in my head.
“God you have been so, so good to me… You have been so, so kind to me.”
My mind was just reeling from all that had happened, all of which I did not deserve, but was still given. Up until I reached my cutie, college home in Eugene, God was being kind to me. Way too kind. (But I’ll take it.) He had given me a month so full of goodness it was about to pop, and then he had continued to pour out more goodness on my hours of travel—an extra special afternoon in the place of a delayed flight out of Denver, an extra special sleepover with dear friends in the place of a mixed connection flight out of Seattle and an extra special morning by myself in a new city whose public transportation system I am now naming myself the master of.
I didn’t need those things. I would have been fine relaxing in the airport and boarding my flights on time. But God chose to give them to me anyway. Just because.
So good, so kind.
Looking back, so many instances at camp can be summed up in that same way—so good, so kind.
I picture myself sitting atop the rappel tower—130 feet up a cliff, at a 9,400 foot elevation—with 40 mph winds swarming around me and simultaneously turning my hair into an abstract piece of art. In those moments I know God brought the force of the wind to shake me into feeling. His power and his dominion demand attention. The carabiners clinked, rappel ropes thrashed and Mary hollered, “Ohhh myyyy gahh,” as I stared out at Mount Princeton and the storm brewing above it. I swear I could feel everything in my body all the way up from my toes. And when the lightning struck right below us, John’s hair stood up on his head.
I picture summer staffers and interns in a frenzy setting up and tearing down multiple big-time and big-decoration events in pursuit of excellence, all for God. Freezing in place to turn back time and then ceasing to freeze for two cotton-eyed hours. All so that four hundred kids, or no kids—as camp-speaker-Clifford reminded us on day one—can hear the gospel and know they are loved. We dressed in long, lapping dresses and walked our boots all over the dirt. The campers were going to experience a night in the 1800s, one that never ends—we’d make sure of it. We all formed lines to carry out the set. One after another we filed in and out of the office toting things that were built and collected for purpose. Instructions were yelled, fingers were pointed (in very vague and general directions, I might add) and lights were strung up as we all ran around sort-of-cohesively in an effort to make it all happen. Controlled chaos—pure bliss.
I picture sitting on the ground in a circle under strung-up lights outside Ouray. Our last night at camp. My last night to stare into the faces of these people in this place. We joked and reminisced and told each other things that never sounded right to say until then. I fiddled with the tanbark (mulch, bark chips, WHATEVER) at my feet, using one small piece to smooth a patch of dirt and then lining it with other small pieces before sticking one straight up in the middle. I kept thinking over and over that I didn’t want to leave. I’d never not wanted to leave a place so badly as I did then. Bailey, Mary, Davis, Morgan, Zach, Evan, Chloé, Matt, Ashley, Rylee, Mike, Alex, Kate and John — these were my brothers and my sisters. The ropes crew. They taught me, they humbled me, they challenged me and they loved me, for me, because they chose to. I’ll never be able to write words full enough to describe the way they each made me feel.
My month at camp was packed to the brim with moments like these. Moments that were right in front of me, that I couldn’t ignore or back down from.
God took everything I had going into the month and reworked it to show me what I needed to see. He has been so, so kind to me.