May I have a Redo?

I have found recently that my activities have driven me to a place where I am in the position to start over in a sense. A year ago, I never would have dreamed that I’d be the director of YLF, the sole adult responsible for twenty-some teens and staff for an entire week. At this time last year, I was assisting a well-versed member of the committee who sponsored and managed our camp for years. With him in charge, I felt safe, guided, and protected. Sure, there was a great deal of stress involved, but I knew that if something terrible happened, Joe would be there to pick up the pieces and make everything okay.

But one day during camp last year, Joe announced that he was leaving campus. “You’ve got this,” he said. “I have confidence in you.”

“What?! You can’t leave me here! What if something happens?”

“I’m sure everything will be fine,” he assured me.

But everything was not fine. Within two hours of Joe leaving campus, a staff member became unconscious, the security alarms in the building went off, and a speaker showed up unannounced. I was stressed, overextended, and worried that I would never measure up as director. I greeted the unexpected speaker with a smile and a frazzled “I’m sorry; I didn’t know you were coming. What can I do to help you set up?”

After that day’s incident, I made it my mission to respond to each stressful, unplanned situation with a new perspective. I wanted to have a good attitude, even when I just wanted to start over. I couldn’t go back and remedy the disaster, so I simply made the best of the situation.

As I prepared for camp this year, I knew Joe wouldn’t be there to hold my hand. I would have an incredible staff with me, but I still faced the uncertainty of whether I would actually be able to pull it off— me as director. There were many sleepless nights as I prepared, and the morning before I departed for camp, I finally felt that I was indeed ready. That level of calm only lasted for about an hour.

I reached into my bathroom cabinet to pull out a set of towels and linens to pack away for camp. That was when I made a terrible discovery. I quickly learned that bathroom cleaner and towels don’t make for a good combination. Some of the cleaning solution had landed on the towels, and six out of my eight towels were a complete loss. I looked down at the mass of shredded fabric and screamed. I had never seen such a mess! Even though this disaster had nothing to do with camp, I was rattled. If this was any indication of the week to come, I was in for it! I started to panic, and once more doubts rose to the surface of my mind.

My assistant director encouraged me to look forward to the coming day— the start of camp and staff training. Her encouragement and the prayers of others back at home was my source of strength as I made the four-day-hour journey to our host college.

Once on campus, I quickly learned how to roll with the punches even when plans changed at a moment’s notice. A speaker became ill before the start of camp and couldn’t join us for the week; another speaker got lost on the way to the college. Another speaker’s car broke down and prevented her from joining us; a camper simply didn’t arrive, and there were several times when minor crises rattled me. But with my staff, an attitude of perseverance, and God’s strength on my side, I tacked each challenge as it came to the forefront. I could have looked at everything that went wrong and demanded or dreamed of a redo. After all, my towels were ruined and camp activities were far from expectations. But there is no such thing as perfection, and I knew it would be unrealistic to live in the mindset that I deserved better.

As the week at camp drew to an end, I realized I had not given in to anger or tears at any time throughout the week. Sure, I had experienced frustrations, but in the end, I learned that there were rewards in the imperfections. I was granted the opportunity to think quickly on my feet, to take the unexpected in stride, and respond calmly when things went wrong. I, along with the campers and staff learned about the importance of leadership and working through problem-solving strategies when we didn’t know what to do. We faced our share of challenges without our trusted adult leadership team, but I and the others found that we could indeed stand on our own. We didn’t need a redo; we would excel in the midst of our circumstances.

Stand

When I traveled to Nashville in 2010, I remember journaling about a specific question relating to music that inspired me. I recall writing down that Britt Nicole’s fun and upbeat music was a step outside of my usual listening zone and that I was grateful that Erica had introduced me to her artistry, which later led me to buy an album.

If I’m ever facing a difficult situation or just having a bad day, I often crank up the volume on a Britt Nicole song. There is something about her energetic melodies and encouraging lyrics that made the trials of life slip into the background for a few moments. One of my recent Britt Nicole favorites is a song called “Stand.” I first heard the song as I was walking home one day; doubts and fears for the future were overwhelming me, but when I focused on the lyrics, I found peace in knowing that I could stand on the everlasting promises of my Savior.

I wake up to another day
I don’t know if I can face
All the fears that are starin’ me down
Yeah, I’m tryin’ to be brave
But I’m a thread about to fray
I want to stand but I don’t know how
I look up
And all I see is Your love holding me
When I feel like giving up
When my heart has hurt too much
Feels like I’ve reached the end
No, I won’t turn and run
This battle will be won
When I’ve done all I can
I stand, stand, stand
I stand, stand, stand
Some days I lose my place
It’s a fight to keep my faith
But You are with me
I am not alone, no
When all around my world gives way
Tossed like an ocean wave
You are my rock when the storm clouds blow
I look up
And all I see is Your love holding me

On Your promise I will stand
All other ground is sinking sand
Recently, this song has once more reminded me of the peace I can find in standing confidently in Him. Last week, I talked about the doubts and fears concerning my summer activities. I have made it my mission to pray and allow God into each situation. I know I can’t possibly handle everything on my own, and I will need His strength and guidance in many situations. Where YLF is concerned, I am blessed to have a nurse and a few others on staff who are seeking after God, and I know they, too, are lifting up our upcoming event and bathing it in prayer. This alone brings me great comfort. But even though I am praying and taking delight in the prayers of others, I know there is simply no denying the importance of immersing myself in the Word of God.

As my church congregation has journeyed through The Story, I have found that I am more readily drawn to the Scriptures. It used to be more of a chore— something I had to check off my list as a duty. Now, it is a joy to read the Word, and sometimes the phrases leap off the page with such vibrancy and accuracy that it’s as if He’s talking directly to me. I have found such comfort, peace, and love in the Words of Life that I can’t imagine not taking my Bible with me as I venture to YLF and wherever else this summer may take me. Of course, my Bible will be contained on my Tablet— not in actual book form— but it will be ready at my fingertips whenever I reach for it.

I was gripped by a story recently that told of the utmost importance of God’s Word in times of trial. In her book Lessons I Learned in the Dark, Jennifer Rothschild tells about Corrie ten Boom and her family as they endured life in captivity and persecution. She writes that the family had a secret to their faith and the ability to stand in opposition: “When they were arrested by Hitler’s regime, the family members whispered to one another, “What do you have in your shoe, Corrie?” “What do you have in your shoe, Daddy?” “What do you have in your shoe, Betsy?” What was in their shoes? Romans 8, Ephesians 1 and 2 Corinthians 4. According to Corrie, they had torn pages of Scripture from their Bibles and placed them in the soles of their shoes. Talk about standing on the promises!”

Now, I probably won’t tear pages from my Bible and place them in my shoes, but even so, this story is a reminder of the Holy and powerful Word of God. As Corrie and her family “stood” on His Word, they were strengthened and encouraged as they carried around their little secret. Well, I hope you all know by now that my faith is no little secret. There are times where I am not permitted to speak up and it’s not the time or place, but many of my friends and colleagues know where I stand.

I’m not the most perfect witness to His love and salvation, but I pray that I would be known as one who stands on His Word. As I move through this summer, I pray that I can carry the Scriptures with me in my heart along with the promises in Britt Nicole’s song. I’m sure there will be a day this summer when “Stand” will be blaring from my speakers as a testimony to my hope and trust in Him. But until a day like that comes, I invite all of you to listen to this anthem when you have the time. Here’s a link to it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRAP_THjLDc.

Called out

“It’s great to feel comfortable,” she said to me. “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.”

My sister’s words brought to light everything I had been struggling with over the past few weeks. In the time since the Christmas holiday, I had found a place of quiet rest; I was content and comfortable, and for the first time in a long time, I was at peace. But then the Spring came, and with the season’s arrival, I was thrown into a tizzy.

The tizzy is better known as YLF. For the first time, I will be directing the program by myself without the usual guidance and support. True, I will have a well-trained staff and a good support system throughout the week, but even so, I will be responsible for 30 people for seven days. This comes with a great sense of responsibility— one that I do not take lightly.

As I have processed this reality of heightened responsibility, I have often let fear take hold. I am insecure, uncertain, and intimidated. Thirteen years ago when I applied to be a delegate camper at YLF, I never thought I would be in this position. I couldn’t see myself being a leader as a sixteen-year-old student, yet, here I am today, directing a leadership program. What? How did that happen?

Let me take you back to the words of wisdom that my sister spoke just a few days ago. I was telling her about my responsibilities at YLF, but of even greater concern was an opportunity on the horizon for later this summer. I had just filled out the paperwork to be an STM, a short-term missionary for Joni and Friends Family Retreat. I had never been a part of the family retreats before, but I was intrigued by the concept and immediately followed up to obtain more information. I have always loved ministering to fellow individuals with disabilities; that is why I continue to dedicate my time to YLF. But here with Joni and Friends was an opportunity to serve amongst people with disabilities in a Christ-centered environment. Finally, I thought to myself, I would be able to serve in this capacity to my full ability.

But yet, not having served at Family Retreat before made me a bit nervous. I had no idea what to expect, and the thought of raising funds and gathering support was far too overwhelming. Even though I was excited about serving families affected by the presence of disability, I was afraid too. What had I just agreed to? Was I too impulsive in my decision?
My sister had talked about not feeling too comfortable and how God often calls us out of the ordinary to better serve Him. In reading through the Scriptures recently, I found a fellow servant of Christ who faced His own fears when called out, and it brought me a great deal of comfort. In Matthew 14, beginning at verse 25, Peter sees Jesus walking on the lake and calls out to him: “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus tells him to come, so Peter steps out on the water. But when he sees the wind and the waves, Peter becomes fearful and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus in fear: “Lord, save me!”
What was Jesus’ response to Peter? Well, it couldn’t be more applicable to my own life right now. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
I had to ask myself in that moment upon reading the text— was I doubting Him? Had I neglected my faith in Him to wallow in fear? Perhaps I needed to be more like Peter in being willing to risk it all to walk on the waves. True, Peter experienced fear when he saw the wind and waves, but his fear only rose to the surface when his eyes were no longer fixed on Jesus.
It was then that I realized I had done the same thing. In my fear and doubt, I had succumbed to my plans for how to make everything come together. I figured if I planned and organized enough I would be certain that nothing unexpected would happen. If I could keep away the uncomfortable and unwanted circumstances, I would be in a much better frame of mind.
In my planning and preparation fed by my increasing fear I had taken my eyes off Jesus. I had forgotten to come to Him with everything that was at stake. He knew that I was struggling, and at every moment, I’m sure He was saying, “Oh, you of little faith! Why do you doubt that I am with you? I am right here! Come to me! I will never let you fall.”
So even though I am trembling with the responsibility on my shoulders and the fear that I will never measure up, I know that He holds everything in His hands and I need only to lean on Him. The coming summer will be challenging and will no doubt call me out of my comfort zone. But that’s okay; like my sister said, He doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us out into the wind and waves so that we might cling more fiercely to Him. As the waves threaten to crash over me, I will get down on my knees in prayer and allow Him to carry me through these uncharted waters.
“Sometimes people are reluctant to do more for God. They feel stretched beyond their limits as it is. But anyone willing to break through their fears will discover that life is best and most satisfying when we’re living God’s adventure” (Bruce Wilkinson).

The Dawn

Before I traveled to Nashville in the summer of 2010, I recorded several tracks in a local studio, enlisting the help of my sister to provide background vocals. On the CD we recorded “The Dawn,” a song I had written that had been inspired by a friend’s struggles through dwindling hope and despair.

I had been eager to record the song for a long time because I felt it gave voice to the experiences of many individuals in my life, including myself. You see, if anyone could love the dawn more— those moments before sunrise— it would be me. As I have explained in earlier posts, there is something about the sunrise that I absolutely love. In large part, I think it is because even though I am visually impaired, I can still see the full expanse of the sky and the many colors that are painted there. I have the same love and appreciation for sunsets as well.

There is something about the expanding light and the newness of the day that intrigues me. I can remember early mornings when I would awaken from restless nights as a teenager. The stress of daily pressures and the never-ending homework load would leave me overwhelmed and wide awake in the early hours of the morning. I would sit near my stereo in my bedroom, plug in my headphones, and listen to music as dawn lit the sky. It was a time for me to be quiet before God and immerse myself in some of my favorite worship music before the craziness of the day would come upon me.

I was reminded of this part of my adolescence as I lay awake early one morning last week. The stresses of preparing for YLF and learning new music had left me exhausted but yet sleepless at the same time. I was frustrated that I couldn’t sleep, especially when I started to hear the birds chirp outside my window. “Oh, great,” I thought. “Its 5:00 in the morning, and I haven’t had a full hour of sleep yet.”

But even though I was frustrated and exhausted, I felt a strange comfort as the misty gray morning lit up the darkness in my bedroom. The coming day brought the promise of starting over. True, all of the stresses that I had taken into bed with me that night previous would still be there, but there was something about the fleeing night that chased away the doubt and fear. I had been fighting the fear that I would not be able to measure up as director at YLF, and as I had tried to sleep that night, the nagging doubts had kept me awake.

I thanked God in that moment of dawn for His promise of hope and provision. I knew that He was with me in those early hours and that He would be with me as I worked to direct YLF in the coming weeks. No, it wouldn’t be easy, but my Best Friend would come alongside of me and hold my hand through everything that was to come on the horizon.

Speaking of the horizon, I wish I could have seen the sunrise that morning. I knew that it was misty and rainy, but even so, I was certain that the sun’s radiance was hiding just beyond the clouds.

Unlike the person portrayed in my song “The Dawn,” I was not without hope. The song moves from wallowing in fear and despair to embracing the beauty and promise of the coming dawn. My situation was not hopeless— only frustrating, so I knew I could press forward no matter what would come. As the final lyric of the song goes: “Yesterday has come and gone; you’ll wake to see the light of dawn.”