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Recently I made the drive from Tacoma, Wa to Santa Cruz, CA. I have done this drive before but it’s always been with other people. This time I was flying solo.

My parents, who are so so good to me in times of financial crisis and emotional turmoil (they’re just good people all around) offered to pay for me to stay in a motel for a night so that I could do the drive in 2 days, thus saving me from the obvious doom of mental, emotional, and physical breakdown.

I drove all day, with a stop in Portland to buy a Mac (yes, that’s right folks. I’ve officially reached technological heaven on earth) and stopped in Medford, OR where my mom had made a reservation at the Super 8. Now, I feel like there is a certain stigma against Super 8’s, but have you been in one lately? They are getting pretty swanky. It was 10:30 pm and I was exhausted. I was a weary traveler walking into the lobby, circles under my eyes, the only thought in my head being “How fast can I get to a bed?” and then I saw it.

An eighty foot indoor water slide. I mean, whattttt????? In a Super 8? All exhaustion left my body. My soul was uplifted. My face all smiles. Instead of ” How fast can I get to a bed?” I was now thinking ” Can I swim in my clothes?” “Would it look weird if I went down the slide alone?” “I wonder if they have water wings?”  and “Thank you, God for this little piece of joy you have put before me.”

And then I saw it. WATER SLIDE CLOSES AT 10 PM AND OPENS AT 10 AM.

Shut up.

It was 10:30 pm and I was planning on getting on the road by 9 the next morning.

My hope and joy was gone. I grumpily checked into my room and dragged my bags up the stairs to my room. I didn’t even have a buddy with me to jump on the bed with. I crawled in bed. I was just about to go to sleep and put the awful, exhausting day behind me, when I turned on the TV, and hope and joy and happiness came exploding out of the TV at me in the form of……..

Thank you. I can now rest in peace.

The holidays always make me think a little deeper than usual.  This has especially been true the past five years, throughout college and beyond, as I have experienced living away from home and being physically and emotionally distant from my family. I think I can speak for lots of people when I say that coming home for the holidays can bring up some emotions, whether good or bad, going home brings up stuff.

Growing up as a Robey I was a part of a larger group of people called the Lookers. My mom is the only girl in a family of four brothers. We came together at my grandma’s house for every single one of the grandkids birthdays (all 11 of them) and had huge blowouts for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We have our traditions of course, as all families do during the holidays. For Easter, from the time all us kids were little until just recently, we had a big egg hunt in the backyard. The eggs being filled with candy and such, with the occasional dollar bill in it. As we got older the bills got higher until one Easter the aunts and uncles put a $100 dollar bill in one of the eggs. It was a mad house. I didn’t find it 😦 For Thanksgiving we would all say what we were grateful for, pretty typical I would say, and then we would eat. And eat. And eat. The boys of the family would all go weigh themselves before and after the meal, each coming out from my grandma’s bathroom with stomachs pushed out and tough faces on, all wanting to be the heaviest. Then we would play Catch Phrase and eat dessert. For Christmas all of us grand kids had these stockings my grandma has made for each of us when we were born and all 11 of them hung in her living room and we would all tear into them. We would also do a white elephant gift exchange, a tradition that has become hilarious the past few years as the gifts have become more and more outrageous. Needless to say, my extended family’s traditions and holiday get-togethers have been memories all of us have held near throughout the years.

My grandpa owned an asphalt business most of his life. The business was passed down to my uncles when my grandpa died, and my mom also works for them. So do most of my cousins, my cousins friends, my uncle’s friends, and my brother. Our family was all about this business. It was their lives. Money has always been affluent in this family (the Robey side living a more simple life, which I have grown to appreciate, even though back then I was very jealous of the comfortable and spoiled lifestyle my girl cousins had). Money was always being discussed and debated. Money was very important to the Lookers. One day, about 4 or 5 years ago, we found out that one of my uncles had fired his brother, my other uncle, from the business. This was shocking. We were all broken hearted, devastated, angry, and confused. I can’t count the times I heard my grandma and mom say “Your grandpa must be rolling in his grave right now.” He would never have let this happen. My extended family was always close. My cousins grew up minutes away from each other, they all went to the same schools growing up, and many of them considered each other their best friends. But when this happened, all of a sudden people stopped talking to each other. Sister-in-laws wouldn’t be in the same room together, cousins got in physical and verbal fights almost monthly. It got to the point where some families would call ahead to my grandma’s house before visiting just to make sure there wasn’t a chance they were going to run into the ones they hated.

My extended family aren’t Christians, and while this has been a root cause for a lot of their greed, alcoholism, anger, and bitterness, it was never more evident than when nobody, absolutely NOBODY would forgive one another. My mom, a prayer warrior for her family for years, wept about this for so long. Well it’s been 4 or 5 years and it’s been a long, painful journey with thousands of “He said, she said” moments, gossip, run-ins with the enemy, formal sit down interventions from my mom to her brothers in the board room of the offices, physical violence, verbal abuse, and the deepest hurt our family ever thought was possible.

I set out to write this blog about the holidays. All of what I’ve written up until now is about to make sense. You see, everyone in this family has tried to be flexible, humble, and gracious when it came to attempting to keep things, like holiday family gatherings, as normal as possible. No one likes change. Especially the baby of the entire family (me) who has treasured her 24 years of beautiful family tradition. But it seems like everyone is just getting tired. Tired of the masks they’re forced to wear. Tired of trying to make others happy. Tired of the greed. And so it’s come to this. Thanksgiving is no longer a 7 hour day full of 40 people, board games. food, laughter, and love. It is now a 3 hour, maybe 10ish people event (the 10 people coming to my grandma’s house simply to make her happy) where people eat and run. Christmas will be non-existent this year. All 5 family’s will spend this holiday that is supposed to be about the love of our great God, grace, and giving….alone. It breaks my heart. I don’t want things to change. I want to storm up to my uncles fancy million dollar offices and put my finger in their faces and tell them to quit being so immature and greedy and to buck up and do the right thing, to forgive “those who have trespassed against them”, to think about what their father must be thinking, to look at the face of their mother and sister and try to feel a bit of the pain they must be feeling.

I am angry. But I refuse to be like them.

These holiday changes have forced me to think about what is really important about this season we celebrate each year. i want to remain thankful for the 24 years of great Looker/Robey family memories we’ve all shared. I want to remain optimistic, yet realistic about the future of our family. I want to make new traditions, with just my immediate family. I want to show my mom that the holiday’s can be just as full of love and merriment as ever before, even though she won’t be with her brothers and their families.

This season is about Jesus. That cold night in Bethlehem. Celebrating our King. Our Emmanuel. GOD WITH US. This shall be the song of my heart this holiday season.

I choose to love my family unconditionally, without expectation. I choose to make this Christmas one of life, not death of something we have been holding onto far too long. I choose Him.

I choose Emmanuel.

for 24 years i thought i was an introvert.

when i was younger, i was a big fan of slumber parties. my friends and i had them all the time. we would make “candy salads” in which each girl would bring a different candy and we would combine all of it in one big bowl and well….you can only imagine the chaos. 10 girls bouncing off the walls, dancing on the couches to mariah carey, and really regretting renting that scary movie that sounded so fun at the time.

ive always been a “people person”. most people are, i think. and those slumber parties are some of my fondest memories growing up. but what i do vividly recall is the post-slumber party sarah. i would be exhausted. so burnt out and overstimulated. i would come home and go upstairs to my room and literally be there for an entire day. “re-charging” as my mom called it. i needed to go be by myself in order to regain sanity again. i needed to do things i loved. i needed to read (baby-sitters club and sweet-valley high, of course). i needed to listen to the silence.

i have continued this habit my whole life. taking time away from people each day is what makes me a better friend, co-worker, daughter, sister, and teacher.

part of the outdoor science program includes spiritual development. my boss’s husband, todd, leads us in bi-weekly exercises in which we learn how to pray in different ways, see scripture in a new light, talk about what we are learning about God, evaluate how we interact with those around us and how we can do it better, how to be more culturally aware with the groups that are in front of us each week and in our community’s, what healthy community looks like, etc etc etc. such good stuff. most of us come away from what we lovingly call “todd time” with tear stained faces, a bit emotionally exhausted, but also with a new perspective. i always come away from my todd time loving God more.

one aspect of our spiritual development for last semester was to take some personality tests, the purpose being to understand a bit more about ourselves and those we live and work with. we all really got into it. there is an entire word culture to these tests. i started hearing conversations like “i’m an ISFJ. what are you?” “oh ok, i get it. it’s because you’re a Guardian. i am an Artisan.”she is a Thinker. i am a Feeler.” wait…what? for a while i started viewing my co-workers in these categories. i saw myself through the lense of these personality characteristics. i tested as an ISFJ (introverted-sensing-feeling-judging). most of these made perfect sense to me. they made sense to my friends. except for the “introverted” part. they all said there was no way i was an I. i fought it of course, explaining how much i ache for that alone time every day. how people wear me out. they said that i light up with people. that i am energized by them. that i have to be an “E”. i decided to take a more detailed accurate form of the same test just to make sure, to appease them. i tested as an “E”. i laughed out loud. really? me? an extrovert?

can i just not be labeled as anything? i would like to just be sarah. please and thank you.

the point of all this babble is that recently i realized that i was not taking good care of myself. i had felt it in my body for a few weeks, but it wasn’t until 2 different people on the same day told me that i don’t seem happy that i really started to think about it. my life here in this place doesn’t allow for a ton of alone time. we have exactly 2 and 1/2 hours off each day to be alone. however, by the time that hour rolls around we are all usually tired and needing a nap, having to run errands, or want to take that time to hang out with people outside of our work environment. my break usually involves a slurpee with carissa, a nap in my room with emelia, time on facebook, and maybe..just maybe…a book. the bible if im lucky? rarely do i have time alone. and i know that its a choice. and i don’t listen to my body enough. all i see are people in front of me that want to hang out, people i enjoy being around, distractions in technology in which i think i might be having “alone time” but really im looking at a computer screen peering into hundreds of people’s lives and being quite overstimulated by the obsession of wanting to know what somone is doing that day.

and then i get smacked by my own bad choices. the joy i normally have fades. the smiles and laughs become a bit more fake because im just too tired. my eyes are glazed over when someone is talking to me. my heart aches because i haven’t been in the Word in a week or two. i got smacked in the face on wednesday night. after the 2nd person that day told me i didn’t seem happy, i lost it. its so easy to forget how much we are affecting other people by our mood. i hated that people could tell. could tell that i wasn’t taking care of myself. calling my mom wrapped in a blanket on our porch as the rain literally poured down all around me made me feel better. 2 honest conversations with friends and many tears shed later i was ready. i went outside with my bible. the manna that i needed. i listened to the silence. i was quiet. i wasn’t thinking about anyone but me. and god. and thats all who was there on that porch that night. me and god. i heard him. i heard my heart. lovingly reminding me of what i need. the importance of taking care of myself so that i have the strength to love someone else.

this is a long blog. and i really didn’t even get to the point of why i wrote it until the last paragraph. but it was healing to write it.

i hope that if you are reading this (all 3 of you?) that you are reminded to take care of yourself. you are all you have. people need you. they need your cup to overflow onto them. fill yourself today. and then look for those people that need to be saturated with the overflow.

how-to-pray-a-beginners-guide-main_Full
I will wait for You there
Down on my knees where I met You
Give You all of my cares
Find a grace to hold onto now
Im calling for You
I will wait for You there
far from the world and its violence
It left us broken and bare
I need to hear You in the silence now
Im calling for You
And with outstretched arms
I will sing out melodies
And my beating heart
Will pour out a symphony
Hallelujahs in the morning
Hallelujahs in the night
I will wait for you as long as I have life
I will wait for You there
Down On my knees where I met you
Cause life is a war fought with tears
But You are the strength I hold onto now
Im calling for You now.
This Phil Wickham song randomly came up today on my itunes as I was sitting in Peets. I hadn’t actually listened to the words before. Tears instantly came streaming down my face.
I think it’s because right now I am calling for Him. And I am down on my knees, where I continually go to meet with Him. Ive been reading alot of the Gospels and it’s so beautiful how often people fall on their knees before Jesus. Such a humbling position. I NEED TO HEAR YOU IN THE SILENCE NOW.
But I feel like I’m not listening. How does one learn how to listen to the Maker of the universe? Is it even something you can learn? Or do I just need to be patient enough to sit in the silence, the discomfort, the pain? WITH OUTSTRETCHED ARMS I WILL SING OUT MELODIES AND MY BEATING HEART WILL POUR OUT A SYMPHONY.
You are the strength I hold onto now.
And then this song came up a few minutes later by JJ Heller.
I’m trying to follow
I’m trying my best to do what you said
But what about tomorrow
Are you sure I’m not in over my head

Everything is changing all around me
Is this the ending of a dream
I thought I was doing what you wanted
It isn’t as easy as it seemed

I’m losing my vision
I’m fighting the doubting with all that I am
It’s been awhile since you last gave me something
To go on
Tell me it’s not the end

It seemed like I did everything right
Now I see that it’s all wrong
Do you want me to move on
Can you tell me where I belong

 

The Lord your God, who is going before you, will FIGHT FOR YOU, before your very eyes, and in the desert. It was in the desert that you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.-Deuteronomy 1:30-31

Tacoma Life 005

I love this address. It has been my home for 24 years. But the word “home” is changing to me. Mount Hermon is the place that I now consider my home. 1740 S. Proctor, or “Little House on the Proctor”  that we lovingly call it, is now just sort of the place I visit a few times a year, where my parents live, and where I store years and years worth of memories.

Today was the best day. I did all my favorite Tacoma summer things. Let me give you a little peek into my world.

Waking up late, stumbling downstairs, filling a big bowl with all sorts of fresh fruit, and heading outside to sit in the early afternoon sun.

Reading for hours on the porch swing.

Painting my toes and letting them dry in the sun.

Showering and letting my hair dry in wild and crazy ways because I know the only people I’ll see that day is my family.

Listening to the little neighbor kids play in the backyard literally from 7am until when they have to go to bed. I love this because not only is the childish laughter so infectious, but their antics remind me of 8 year old Sarah, romping around the back of the house, making “stews” out of rotton apples from the ground under our apple tree, sticks, dirt, and leaves. I love sitting outside listening to Kylee, Isabelle, and baby Joe. I wonder if they will ever know how happy they make me, how they push me to remember what it’s like to be young and uninhibited.

Dad making one of his famous salads and bringing me fresh veggies (like today whenI was painting and he came around me and placed pea pods on the bench besides me saying “One pea, two pea, three pea…” 🙂

Watching mom make a new batch of iced tea every morning, adding her “simple syrup” and filling up huge glasses, gulping it down and refilling them all throughout the day.

Laying in bed with Mom watching stupid late night TV shows and eating rootbeer and banana popsicles.

Riding my bike to the corner store for candy. I’ve been doing this since I can remember. It once was painted bright blue so we called it “The Blue Store” but then they painted it this weird gold color. But the name stuck. They have painted it countless colors over the years but we will always call it the Blue store.

This is just the tip of the iceburg of the summer memories I have in this place, not to mention all the other memories I have collected over the years. What I love is that no matter where I go…Ellensburg, Africa, Santa Cruz….I always return home and feel the most like me.

What is it like to feel like a part of you missing? What does it feel like in your bones, your skin, the deepest part of who you are, when the one person who you thought fulfilled you is no longer a part of your life? And what if that decision to get them out of your life was a burden you carried every day? This is where I am at. Or shall I say…this is where I WAS.

I have a new found obsession with Henri Nouwen. Why have I waited 24 years to read his words? I had never even heard of this guy until April and now I’m literally trying to absorb everything he’s ever written. He’s THAT good.

In one of his books he has written a chapter called “Keep Moving Toward Full Incarnation”.  Now, you know words are good when you get chills as your eyes scan across the page, when you’re reading them and inside you’re thinking “YES! SOMEONE KNOWS HOW I FEEL!”, and when you’re thinking there is no way this strange author could possibly have seen into your soul, but that’s exactly how it feels. The words resonate with you. Words have the power to make us feel not as alone as we did before we read them. Does that make sense? Well, it does to me J

“Do not discount what you have already accomplished. You have made important steps toward the freedom you are searching for. You have decided to dedicate yourself completely to God, to make Jesus the center of your life, and to be fashioned into an instrument of God’s grace.”

Ok. How beautiful is that? Being fashioned into an instrument of God’s grace? We can actually do that?

I’m not sure I have ever wanted something more than this.

“You can look at your life as a large cone that becomes narrower the deeper you go. There are many doors in that cone that give you chances to leave the journey. But you have been closing these doors one after the other, making yourself go deeper and deeper into the center. You know that Jesus is waiting for you at the end, just as you know that He is guiding you as you move in that direction. Every time you close another door—be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection—you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and thus deeper into the heart of God.”

And….chills.

Because this is exactly how I picture healing. This is how I picture the painful process of moving toward a God that is so good, while all the addictions of the people and pleasures of our life are on either side of us.

We have a choice. We can either keep walking towards being fashioned into an instrument of God’s grace, or we can shut a few doors and keep a few open. Because those doors are just too “impossible” to close. In our heads we think that God can’t possibly be asking us to close THAT door, right? Nah.

But oh wait. Joshua 24:19 says “He is a holy God; He is a jealous God”. And He is. He wants all of me. All of Sarah Kathryn Robey. He made me. I am HIS. And He has called me His masterpiece.

When artist’s create their masterpieces, they are not just any piece of art. Their masterpieces are their life’s work. What they pour all their time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and love into. And He has called ME His MASTERPIECE?

So why wouldn’t I want to offer Him all my affections and attention?

I want my eyes on His face always.

“This is a movement toward full incarnation. It leads you to become what you already are—a child of God; it lets you embody more and more the truth of your being; it makes you claim the God within you. You are tempted to think that you are a nobody in the spiritual life and that your friends are far beyond you on the journey. But this is a mistake. You must trust the depth of God’s presence in you and live from there. This is the way to keep moving toward full incarnation.”

Becoming fully incarnate. Becoming fashioned into an instrument of His grace.

May God’s strength and peace be with me as I continue to walk down the hallway, closing the doors, and into His outstretched arms.

OSS 2009 057

From the moment I set foot on the grounds of Mount Hermon, I knew I was going to come back sometime in the future. I knew that this place would somehow be a big part of my story. After my two summers working summer staff, Outdoor Science just seemed to be a good way to make that dream a reality.  Two and a half years later and a college degree under my belt, I made the big move to my dream home: Santa Cruz, CA..better yet…living at Mount Hermon. God saw the desire of my heart and blessed me with the opportunity to have my life drastically altered.

This first semester of working at Outdoor Science has been, in one word…SUPRISING.

 SUPRISING. I really wasn’t sure I would even enjoy teaching outdoor science. I mean, I am not a science girl. I like Art. English. Writing. I am right brained. Then I started learning about how freaking awesomenature is and now I absolutly LOVE teaching this stuff. I am actually passionate about it! Who woulda thunk??

OSS 2009 008

SUPRISING. God plucked me out of a time and place in my life in Washington in which I was not following Him. I did not know Him. I could not see Him or hear Him. I wouldn’t allow myself to. It just seemed too hard with what I was involved with. He literally moved me out of that place into one that screams His name every morning when I walk out the door to go to work. He physically distanced me from certain relationships and stagnation in every aspect of the word to a place full of health. This was unexpected. And while I can see the fruit of it now, I did not accept this change with a smile. I accepted it kicking and screaming. A child who didn’t get their way, who realized that life doesn’t always turn out the way they think it will.

California Life 058

SUPRISING. My friendships here. He is SOOOOO faithful when it comes to blessing me with beautiful friendships. Not only have my basic needs always been taken care of, but on top of that He has always placed me somewhere in which He blesses me with at least one person who I truly connect heart to heart with. This year that person was Char. I thank God every day for this girl, who saw exactly who I was and who I desired to be the day I met her. She battled life with me these last 6 months as I had to let go of those securities that were so engrained into the core of me. She mourned with me. Cried with me. Held me. Made me laugh as I was literally writhing in pain and agony. She and I have the ability to read eachother’s minds from across the room. I love that I have someone here who I find difficult to look at it in serious situations because I know we’ll crack up laughing. She can always make me smile. And she blesses me greatly in what she thinks are the tiniest of ways. Thank you, Lord for my dear sister.

California Life 032

Beth. I didn’t even know I needed her. I had no idea when I met her (this tattooed, motorcycle riding chick with a lip ring) that she would speak so much truth into my life. I clung to her as I was losing someone so precious to me. And when I confessed things to her and walls were broken down, the first thing that came to her lips was “How has this affected your relationship with Christ?” That one sentence sums up Beth. She is someone I see Christ in every day. She has lovingly rebuked me, counseled me, held my hand, prayed with and for me, reminded me DAILY of His faithfulness, seen me at my very worst, and best of all..is constantly leading me towards Christ. I love that we have been able to walk alongside one another this semester as we battle the loss of such loved people in our lives. And that we rejoice together in His new mercies that are so evident in these trials. She is one of the first friendships I have had that is Christ centered. And not only that, but this girl can make me laugh SOOO hard. I will never forget how anticipated Wednesdays were as we taught Birds and Snakes together (as she gave me grace each week knowing how much I hated teaching snakes), and our dear elective! Oh how I loved Wednesday afternoons teaching young girls about soy candles and beeswax chapstick! Girly playlists and bonding time, embarassing Beth weekly with the BIRD story, and always making extra chapsticks for us and our friends. I will miss these days. Thank you, Lord for my Beth. And then there are all the other people I have been blessed with here, the ones in which God is still working and will continue to work through this next year.

OSS 2009 149

I can’t wait to see what happens this summer in all our lives. I get to live life with so many amazing people this summer at Conference Center. And then we get a whole other year to do life together at OSS. I look forward to building on top of the foundation we have started in our teaching and in our relationships. I look forward to crazy times in the OC, eating every meal together, more epic campfires, Extendo becoming my favorite day of the week (at least I hope so!) big family get togethers at the Hitch with food and laughter, and above all a better understanding of who God is.

OSS 2009 136

May this blog be a space in which I can document all the memories, insights, thoughts, fears, and stories of the year ahead. The horizon is so bright.

Every Wednesday night we take our trail groups on a night hike. It’s one of the best nights of the week because we get to show the kids how mysterious and different nature is at night, and we get to watch them conquer their fears as they do their solo walk. It’s a really beautiful couple of hours. Well, it CAN be. Before every night hike I tell the kids “Ok guys..night hike can be good or it can bad, and it’s up to you to make it good”. And then I address all their questions and fears and we head out.

Before I left with my group tonight I just had that feeling, that feeling that you get when you just know that the night is gonna be ridiculous in a BAD way. But I shooed the thoughts away and told myself I was gonna give these kids the best possible night hike of their lives.

We headed out to this place called Gunshot which is an old shooting range across the street from Mount Hermon. It’s pretty much all sand hills, dunes, trenches and LOTS of manzanita bushes. I love going there because it’s so different from any other trail and the view is amazing. But I had only been on it for nighthike twice before tonight and I was a bit nervous. All of us Naturalists sign up for certain trails for the night hike so we know that we won’t run into any other group. Me and Callan were both going to Gunshot so we talked about it beforehand, exactly where we were going and such. But I got to the top of Gunshot and accidentally ran into her group ending their solo walk. Oops? It actually happens alot so we’ve all learned to be flexible. So I just started walking past her group and started my solo walk on what I thought was the trail going back down the mountain. The trail I was on was the longest manzanita tunnel known to man! When you’re in it not only does it feel like a creepy fairy tale but you forget what the sky even looks like because all that is above you for so long are low manzanita branches. I went out before the kids started to set it up and mark off where they would all end. I was walking, and walking, and walking and there was no clearing for me to end the walk on. I didn’t want them to go that far and I needed to be back at camp soon so I just ended it mid-tunnel. The kids slowly but surely got to me and when they were all back I looked at my watch and saw I had only a half hour before I needed to be back at camp and we were pretty far away. Also, I hadn’t even taught about bats, owls, or triboluminescence yet. So we started hiking, eventually coming out of the tunnel, but then we just kept on going. And going. And going. And….going. It was really dark by this time and I had NO clue where I was. I could hear the cars on the road, I could see their headlights, but there was still a bunch of trees between us and the road, so I couldn’t really off-road it. I started to get really scared. It didn’t really help that the admin on duty that night wasn’t answering their phone or that my walkie-talkie was dead. It also didn’t help that I had 12 kids behind me asking me the most annoying questions EVER “Sarah, how many times do you do this night hike every week?” Me: “I do it once a week” Them: “So how many times a month?” Me: “Well, how many weeks are there in a month?” Them: “4, maybe 5?” Me: “There you go” Them:”So how many times do you do it a year?” GAH!!!!! I’m trying so hard not to lose all my marbles with these kids plus I have zero clue of where I am in a pitch dark forest. I have one kid with a disability who was freaking out which was totally legit because..heck..I was freaking out! And a mom counselor who is so critical of everything I do and always gives me that LOOK. Then I have a group of girls who hate eachother and are constantly gossiping about one another behind their backs. And just to put the cherry on top of this sundae of terrible-ness: I was convinced I had a tick on my leg.

Well..with lots of perseverence and prayer we finally made it to the gate. Thank you God. I hurried them back to camp just 20 minutes late and now that all the fear, anxiety, and frustration had subsided in me I turned around to look at them getting ready to apologize for such an unexpected, long, tedious night..but then I saw their faces. They were so excited. Smiling from ear to ear. They had loved it! They had no clue we had got lost, no clue I didn’t teach them everything I wanted to teach, no clue we didn’t even do half the fun activities I had planned, no clue I had even broke a sweat and was internally freaking out. This was their night hike experience. The only one they knew of. And they loved it.

A humbling experience to say the least. This job is not about me. These hikes, classes, activities, etc..are NOT about me. They are about these kids. Whatever God wants them to walk away with from this week they will. Why do I beat myself up so much for not being Super Naturalist? IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. I get to be continually reminded of this and that everything is God. The words that come out of my mouth when I teach. The joy that pours out when I show them how beautiful this world is. None of this is mine. I do not claim it or own it in any way. All the praise goes to Him.

I love this job.

If you know me (and hopefully you do if you’re reading this) you know that I absorb books like a sponge. I can sit down with a book and read for hours and still feel like I need more. I love everything that has to do with books. I once wanted to be a librarian just so I could work amongst books all day. (can you imagine me as a librarian? haha. oh the visual) I am drawn to any and all types of book stores. My idea of a perfect date would be browsing through hundreds of books with someone I have a major crush on. I am a nerd. I am ok with it. I am owning it.

All this to say…I have been reading amazing books lately. I have had amazing books recommended to me (if you wanna make me the happiest girl ever, tell me about a book you think I might like). And when you are absorbing all these beautiful words into your mind and heart it is quite difficult not to feel territorial of them, not to make them yours. I  make words mine. I love sharing them with people I think will benefit from them as much as I did. I make these words mine and they become a part of me. Just like how every moment you have with someone becomes a part of you. Another notch on your belt. Another trinket in your satchel.

The last thing I read that impacted me was titled “The New Country”. What a beautiful title of a new frontier set out before you, endless possibilities. However, it also scares me. Because newness comes with pain. It comes with change. Awkwardness. The sense of clinging to all your securities because you feel like if you let go of them you’ll fall into this abyss and not know how to get out.  “The New Country” talks about we can see what this new place is like, but how we are still, very much at home in the old country. You’re very much at home there because as hard as it may be to live in the old, you know it so well. The happy. The sad. You wear it like an old tattered sweatshirt you can’t bear to throw away because of all the moments you’ve had in it.

And then we realize that we have to leave this old place and step into the new place. The New Country. What I love most about what this book said about the new country is that this is where our Beloved dwells. What used to help us in the old country no longer works in the new. We don’t know that what lives in this new country is what we need. It is what will work. But this requires the death of what has become so dear to you. The “death” of something is so scary to us. Why is that? The death of something is what produces new growth.

Like the redwood trees. (I’ll grab any opportunity to talk about redwoods!) The main root “The Mama Stump” must be cut off and damaged, killed if you will, in order for other trees to grow from it. I love showing the kids at OSS this beautiful example of new life. When you walk into a redwood cathedral it’s sad to see this huge stump in the middle, lifeless, what once was a huge glorious redwood tree, but then you look all around and see all the tall forms of life giving beings that have sprouted up from the death of that first tree.

We’re so scared of death. We are so stricken with fear that we can’t see all the life that is going to come out of it. This particular concept has been so precious to me lately. I know that I need to let some things die in my life, and that some of these things are the most important to me: security in relationships, friendships that are unhealthy, affection, history…the list goes on and on.

Trust is what is essential.

This book says that “the new country is where you are called to go, and the only way to go there is naked and vulnerable”.  This IS the only way to go there. We cannot go in holding on to anything. And yet, when we get to this new country we love it. It feels good, and we begin to understand that newness is so refreshing. And then there are moments when we miss the old country and what we once had there, and we slip and fall and go back to that place. But what I have realized is that the old country doesn’t hold it’s power anymore, the spark is gone, the essence you once held onto so tightly and never thought you could live without no longer resides there.

It is about risk. We need to risk our vulnerabilities, our shame, the possibilities that things won’t be the way we want them to be, in order to keep going farther and farther into the new country.

The New Country is where my Beloved dwells.