Here’s the honest, brutal, hard truth: I’d rather be comfortable in my own sin– as long as it doesn’t hurt too much– than step into the unknown promises of God.
Wow, okay. Got that one off my chest. Now that that’s out there, I get to share with you some exciting news: tomorrow I leave to embark on the 10 week experience of a lifetime! I’m going to Camp Greystone, nestled in the beautiful mountainous range of North Carolina.
I’ll be serving as a counselor, walking alongside girls who are each dwelling in a vulnerable stage of life: daily questioning their worth, beauty, identity. They wonder not just who they are, but what it all means. And they do this all while attending seven hours of school daily, coping with friend drama, participating in extracurriculars, and, to top it all off, going through puberty. No wonder everyone hates middle school so much! There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff just thrown haphazardly onto your plate.
This summer isn’t about me. It’s about them. Those girls who come to Greystone for a rest. A miracle in the mountains. A pause from school and sports and heartache, a relieve from an emotionally draining environment. It’s about these girls finding their confidence in who Jesus made them to be not just as people, but as kingdom dwellers. Man, my heart just leaps thinking about all the sweet girlies I’m gonna get to share space with this summer!!
In getting the privelege of working to glorify God in the hearts of these girls, I am also sacrificing my comfort. I told you earlier, that’s the thing I seek most. I’m an Enneagram type 7, and all 7s’ basic desire is to be satisfied and content, basically having all our needs met.
Sheesh. By stepping into this unfamiliar place I’ve never been before, I am also surrendering all comfort and familiarity. In my heart, I believe and try to live by the motto of “Good things never come from comfort zones.” This is no comfort zone. I’ve never been to camp before. I only know a few girls going into this. If it were solely my flesh making this decision, I would’ve talked myself out of it by now because this does not meet any of my personal requirements for a comfortable way to spend my summer.
However, I can’t explain what led me to make this decision to work in this entirely unknown place this summer. When I signed the contract, agreeing to spend my summer at Greystone, felt like an out-of-body decision. Not because I floated out of my actual body and saw myself sign the contract (lol), but because me willingly giving myself to a new place for 10 weeks didn’t match my personal agenda for summer of 2018.
Thank the sweet Lord that my agenda for summer of 2018 flopped. That agenda is better used as paper, tossed into a fireplace as kindling for the sweet and warm fire that’s surely going to be stoked, kept aflame during my time at Greystone.
I can already tell that Greystone is going to be a place of joy, necessary refinement, and spiritual revitalization. Man, do I need it. He is such a good Father to be leading me here. Yes, it’s scary, and no, it’s not comfortable.
But as Christians, we are called to wage a war on comfort. Living in comfort is a sin, and I will not stand by and watch myself do that any longer. Starting tomorrow, things are gonna get real uncomfortable, but they’re gonna get real good too.
Take this as encouragement into your summer! I have lots of friends who are doing crazy things in this coming season, and let me say this: I am so proud of each one of you. I don’t care if you’re staying home and taking classes, or doing Summer Beach Project, or working at a camp: I salute you. What you’re doing this summer is so needed. Whether or not it’s what you thought your ideal summer would look like, take this season as a breather from the pressure you bestow upon yourself. I know I need to. So let’s find our restless hearts resting in God this summer, in the most uncomfortable places imaginable!
Of my 19 years in life, 11 of them have been spent weaving through the ins and outs of anxiety, like a thread embroidering an intricate pattern on a piece of soft, white fabric.
Some days are harder than others. Some days, I wake up and I swear it's like I can feel the tension pressing down on me and I know it's going to be an angst-filled day. Rarely do I speak of it to other people--and if you know me, you know I normally wear my heart on my sleeve. I withhold these emotions as a self-preservation technique, afraid that my true fears and worries will seem absurd to the outside world.
Some days, it creeps up on me slowly like molasses dripping down a tree. When it comes, it's sticky and I have to clean it up fast before it hardens over my conscience.
Most days, though, it's imperceptible. The angst I feel is not crippling; it is more of an inconvenience, an enemy disguised as a friend that I have to shove to the back of my head a lot of times. An enemy who asks me hard-hitting questions that always, always begin with "What if."
Of these 11 years, I've known Jesus in His fullness for about 6 of them. More recently, my days often revolve around the mindset of "He will" rather than the "What if," which is a sweet change of pace. However, coming to this conclusion took a few things: my mom and the hopefulness of one small, flickering light.
In one of my fear-filled moments, my mom looked me square in the eyes and said: "Eva, you can't think with a floodlight." What? "You're walking in the dark." Okay? "Your only source of light is a tiny lamp, alighting your next step. You can't see more than just that one step ahead of you." Yes. And that's what scares me. "But you're thinking with a floodlight. You want to take a giant spotlight and shine it on not just the next step, but the rest of the walk." Exactly! Wouldn't that be so much easier? "That's not how we're called to walk. We have to take it one step at a time, following the light that the lantern emits, faithfully abiding and knowing that each step is directed by God." Oh.
That stuck with me for a long time. Every time I'd encounter a new situation that scared me, I'd tell myself "You're walking with a lantern." And it helped. The less I envisioned the "what ifs" of the future, the more I found myself walking in full confidence. The second I actively stopped trying to gaze in the distance, the glare of the floodlight hurting my eyes, I'd remember. I'd recognize what I was doing, call it out as unhealthy, and tell myself: "Walk with the lamp at your feet. Nothing else."
A few months down the road: Finals week hits. I'm days away from leaving my sweet school, my heart aching because I simply can't find it in me to say goodbye. I'm scared to leave the comfort of my sweet campus and my dear friends and merge into a new season of unfamiliarity in the coming summer. Emotionally, I'm a wreck, but physically I'm hiding it (kinda) well.
On one of those days where I could've spent my morning studying, I sat down next to my sweet friend Kate Harris with every intention of reading my CP textbook and having the material memorized for my final later that day. No such thing happened.
A lot of my Samford friends have a connection with this camp in Northern California called JH Ranch, a place I've never been but have heard enough glowing reviews to know that it's a place that changes lives.
Kate began to explain to me how, when she went last summer, she had two options: either biking 109 miles to the coast of California with a group, or hiking to the summit of Mount Shasta-- a mountain that is about 14,179 feet above sea level-- with a group. Kate chose to hike Shasta, an option that initially sounded much more feasible to me. Not sure what I was thinking.
Here's the process: you get up insanely early and spend the entire day hiking, slowly going uphill. "You're getting higher the whole time, but it doesn't always feel like you are," Kate said. Not to get all Miley Cyrus on y'all, but isn't that life itself? A slow, continuous climb? It doesn't always feel like we're going somewhere, but we always are.
After that full day of hiking, you set up camp at a place called Lake Helen (disclaimer: there is no lake at this Helen) at 7:30 pm. The idea is, you fall asleep at 7:30 p.m. and wake up at 1:30 a.m., at which point you get up in the pitch black darkness and keep walking the steep slope. The hikers can't try to go uphill first thing in the morning, otherwise it will be too warm and the icy snowcaps will melt--making them way more susceptible to injury while hiking.
Then Kate said these words that breathed oxygen into my chest and life into my heart and put a real-life scenario to that hypothetical metaphor I'd clung onto for months.
"Walking through the middle of the night was the hardest part because the only source of light that we had was our headlamps. They emitted such a faint light, but it was just enough to glimpse the step ahead of us. Honestly, though, it was better that way because if we had enough light to see all that was ahead of us, it would've looked so much scarier."
Instantly, my brain flashed to the words "Walk with the lantern at your feet." Oh my gosh. All this time, I had always known I was walking with just a small source of light but I never questioned why. I had just accepted it. I took my steps and prayed to God that He would make the next one clear. It became manageable for me to take life that way, one step at a time.
But the reason why we walk with such a low-lit lantern is because all that is ahead would look so overwhelming if we, with our human heart and flesh, could see it. If we took out our giant floodlights and shone them on the future, we would be terrified. We'd see all that has yet to come and we would be crippled with angst and fear at the knowledge of having to live out these realities.
Thank you Jesus that we don't get to know. Thank you, Jesus, that all we can see is all we need to see. Today, I'm thankful that the only scary thing about grace is how it's all too good to be true. I'm thankful for Kate Harris and mornings spent not studying and mornings where I get to have real conversations about the Holy Spirit's tangibility in real-life scenarios like hiking Mount Shasta.
Take this into your days, sweet friends: walk with a lantern at your feet. It may be low-lit, but it's just enough light to illuminate the blessing that is God's grace.
PS: If you want to see a real cool video about JH Ranch and hiking Mt. Shasta, I linked it here!
If there’s one thing you must know about me, it’s that I long for closure. I seek finality to all things, but it’s not necessarily because I’ll dwell on the past otherwise. It’s because I'm sentimental, I get attached to things easily, I hate saying goodbye, and I want all things to be lively and joyful and ceremonious and so their endings must reflect this.
Thus far in my life, I’ve avoided painful endings (i.e.: graduation from high school, leaving home for college, etc) by pretending the days aren’t drawing to a close. I’ll pretend that 3 days is so much longer than I actually think it is, when in reality, 3 days goes by in a landslide. And the cycle repeats.
In an attempt to rebel against this tradition, I’ve decided to slowly start saying goodbye to things in my heart so that the transition isn’t as difficult on the day of.
So, here's my goodbye to this sweet room. Vail 511: the home of many a mental breakdown, but even more so, the home of many laughs and open windows with breezes flowing in. The home of many shared beds and sleepovers and watching Riverdale (even though season 2 isn't as good as season 1). The home of finding peace and joy and sorrow and tenderness and grief all tied into our very existence. The Bible was read a lot in this room. Textbooks were read a lot in this room.
Yes, 511 is a shoebox, but she’s a shoebox full of love, memories, and nostalgia. She’s a shoebox that the Holy Spirit dwells within. She’s a shoebox where I laughed, cried, wrote papers, called my mom, had New Girl marathons, did infrequent ab workouts on the rug, made popcorn, snuggled with my roommate, had late-night silent dance parties, got up way too early, went to bed way too late, had sleepless nights, had restful nights, wrote poems, songs, journals, blog posts– a lot of writing was had in this room.
Freshman year should be better known as the art of consistently surrendering to the unfamiliar. I gave up every inch of familiarity in moving to Samford, and this is the room I came back to whenever those days of unfamiliarity had concluded. I'd enter a wearier girl, heart worn thin, but all the better for it. It is because of the consistent refining I endured while living in this room that I can say that freshman year was worth every penny. This room was a room for growth, a place solely designated to be my touchpoint amidst days of uncertainty. I'm glad I had this place to serve that purpose when I needed it most.
Yes, this season was challenging, but there was a strange undercurrent of simplicity woven within these days. The simplicity of coming home to my sweet roommate every day, the simplicity of making my own decisions for the first time in my life, the simplicity of seeing the Gospel lived out on the daily. Make no mistake, freshman year takes a lot out of you, but it's still so life-giving.
So, here's to you, freshman year. Here's to Lena Vail Davis Hall, a dormitory much too old and far too in need of renovations. A building with a lobby that has consistently smelled like spoiled milk since that one incident in October. A building with no elevators, a building where the fire alarms broke too often, but really a building that I will miss. My time here was far too short and way too fun.
It's hard for me to come to terms with this season ending, but I know summer will be such a spiritually necessary time of refinement. The Lord can do such amazing things in each and every season of life, so really, I should be thankful for the season I had here in Vail. I'm already getting SO excited for sophomore year and praying so hard for the two sweet girls who will take me and my roommate's places next year--man, I hope they love it as much as I did. I pray they feel the Holy Spirit's presence in sweet lil' Vail 511. It's with a glad heart I hand down this room to the next two girls who will make this room their own place for growth.