Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lessons (From A Different Kind Of Summer)

It's sometimes crazy how drastically God can change our plans.

I think most people go into a summer with plans and dreams and mile-long bucket lists - trying to come up with ways to cram every adventure into one wonderful summer of perfect memories.

I don't know if it's the same for anyone else, but my summers never seem to turn out the way I originally plan. For example, last summer I planned on working as many as hours as possible before I started university. Instead, I ended up occasionally babysitting and filling the majority of my time with road trips, camping adventures, photoshoots, and a dream trip to Arizona. It was perfect. And I guess after such an amazing summer last year I had high expectations for this summer as well.

This summer was so different from anything I could have planned.

I had a couple of job options, but I wasn't very excited about any of them. I really didn't know where I was going to end up. Then my mom ran into one of her friends at the grocery store, and she suggested that I apply to work at her daughter's camp. At first I wasn't convinced that committing to a camp for the summer would be the best choice, but I went onto the website anyways. Even though it turned out that the deadline had long passed, my mom encouraged me to apply. I spent an entire night writing a letter of introduction and sent it out in an email, along with my resume. A couple weeks later I got a call from the camp director, and the following week I had an interview. The week after that I had made a commitment to work at camp for the summer. 

It was a special needs camp. And for anyone who knows me, this would seem like the perfect place for me to work. It's where my heart is. I have invested years and years into different children with different needs, all in different places. But the first weeks of this summer were hard. 

We Can't Rely On Ourselves For Anything

I quickly realized that my job was completely exhausting. I would go home each day drained of patience, and wake up barely able to open my eyes enough to safely drive to work. Coffee became my best friend in the morning, but that still left me to struggle through the afternoons.

The problem with camp is that you can't just go through the motions. Especially when there are children who run away or want to be pulled in a wagon or need to be guided through transitions. 

These are the experiences that God puts us through to teach us that we can't do anything without Him.

Prayer is powerful. It is so important to continually bring ourselves back to Him. We are called to consecrate ourselves - to give God the glory by letting Him do what we cannot do for ourselves. When we consecrate ourselves, there is room for His power to be shown (Joshua 3:5).

He is the only real source of patience, grace, happiness, kindness, peace, love -- everything we need. 

There Is Always Something To Learn (And Giving Up Doesn't Work)

I went into the summer thinking I was completely prepared. I've worked with children who have special needs for 6 years - what more would I need to know?

I quickly realized there was whole lot I didn't know. There were schedule systems and transition objects and certain words that I had to remember to use. Then after the first two weeks of camp I thought I had it figured out again. Until a new set of campers came to camp. On top of all that, I realized that eight hours is a long time to be stuck with the same children. And I also learned that not every counsellor has the same opinions.

God always has something to teach us. For me, that included humility, patience, and grace.

When God presents us with situations, we have a choice to either let Him bring us through it and transform us, or turn around and run away. Even though turning around might be the easier choice, it doesn't work. We can't give up on everything that seems challenging. We are called to press on (Philippians 3:14). Paul even wrote that mature Christians will continually act on the guidance that God provides and strive to reach the goal that He has set before them (Philippians 3:15-16).

God wants to stretch us, grow us, and teach us about who He is. He always has a perfect purpose. 

Following God's Will Isn't Always Easy 

For some reason I used to have this idea that if I did what God wanted my life would suddenly become filled with rainbows and butterflies. 

After being sent in a clear direction this summer (in camp and outside of camp), I have realized that God's will is not always found on the easiest path. In fact, it's probably going to be found on the hardest path. What we think is best is probably not God's version of 'the best'. 

Sometimes what's best even means sacrificing everything that we think we so badly want.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Matthew 16:24-25

"As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus." Luke 23:26

God loved us enough that He sacrificed what was most important to Him. He wanted the best for us. And in return, our love for Him should be strong enough that we are willing to sacrifice anything (time, money, friendships, and even sleep - that was a hard one for me) that He asks us to. His love will always be enough to satisfy us, no matter what we feel is hard to sacrifice.

>> I always seem to think that I know what I need, but in reality, thinking about my needs isn't the point. Even though God might take away things that are important to me, ask me to sacrifice something, or lead me through difficult situations, it's really not about me. It is all about His glory. When He is glorified, the end result is always perfect. <<