Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You know what is so amazing about God? He's not at all surprised by what surprises us. Yesterday, he reminded me of this truth. So, it's the first day, right? Everything is supposed to run smoothly, right? Really, why is it that people say that? Rarely does the first day or moments of anything run without hiccups. In fact, it's actually a blessing to be able to get out the kinks in the beginnning before they become tangles that are difficult to remove.

For the most part, camp ran smoothly, and hopefully to the parents and campers, we looked organized and prepared. And in reality we probably were...for the most part. And the surprises we had turned into awesome opportunities to live out our vision.

7:36 AM: Michelle and I had just arrived at the church. Owen is changing into his clothes right there in the foyer (seriously, no one else was there). Blake is swinging his blanket around like he's lassoing a cow. And Madison is desperately crying out "feed me, mommy." I look up and see a little girl bouncing towards the door, followed by her mom loaded down with a backpack and lunchbox. Perplexed, I go for the door. Clearly there has been a mix up. The mom thought we started full days this week, but that's cool, we just rolled with it. We'd already made arrangements for a couple of our all summer kids to stay, so we'll just add her to that list. I took her in and got her aquainted with our nursery staff and she hung out with them until it was time to "go to camp." That was surprise #1, which really turned out to be more of a blessing.

8:34 AM: Suddenly, I realize we have no banners up. These are what let people know we're a camp. So I get a couple guys working on it, but we run out of time. Scrap that for later. By 4 pm, they were hung and ready for tomorrow. I'm pretty sure they all knew they were at camp yesterday, but just to make sure....

9:36 AM: A mom approaches me and asks if this is where her daughter will be dropped off after lunch. After lunch? Camp is over after lunch. We do have a girl starting next week who is coming from summer school, but...yep, you guessed it...there's been a minor mix-up. Well, since I'm used to rolling with it by now, we just rolled with it. I assured the mom that we would take good care of her daughter, made sure she knew that since this was a half day, that she would be simply hanging with our staff all week, and sent her merrily on her way. Again, a blessing.

10:01 AM: Radio sounds off ;"Hillary, are there any cups at the pavilion?" Oops, cups would make it easier for the kids to drink from the water coolers. Off I go down to the pavilion with the first stack of cups I saw (which I stole from the coffee bar). When I get down there, a counselor stops me and says her campers needs a band-aid. Oh no, we're not even an hour or so into camp and we already need band-aids. Nah, it was just a girl who picked a scab. Yuk (though I totally used to do that as a kid).

11:21 AM: Radio sounds of: "Hillary, are you going to be ready to teach during assembly?" I glance down at Madison chomping away, pick up my radio, and say "yep, I'll be right there." Shoot, I'd forgotten that I told Michelle that morning that I'd teach about Mary & Martha. I finished up with Madison, who was done anyways, handed her off and started down the hallway. I prayed the whole way that God would take away my words and replace them with his. When it was time to go on, I talked a bit about Mary & Martha engaging the crowd along the way, however I still felt like a deer in headlights. My bad. I realized later that they had really studied about the Bible this morning and that Mary & Martha didn't really get introduced until tomorrow.

Most of these were minor surprises, but let me just focus on our added blessings for a moment. How many other camps would have just sent these moms away? How many other people would have stuck to their agendas instead of thinking about the familys' needs? Sure, there was a mix up, but the best customer service is the kind that accomodates the person, not the program. Unlike Office Depot who told me yesterday that they couldn't honor my state issued tax exempt card because there computer said that Grace Community Church was not tax-exempt. Um, sorry O.D., but I think my state-issued card trumps your computer, and I had just bought some stfuf the day before at a different O.D. with the same card. Anyways, the guys working there (one who was truly apologetic and the other who was a little too stuck to the policies) simply gave me a card with the number to call. Totally didn't mean to go down this path, but it's just an example of what not to do. Allright now I need to go take a shower or I will definitely be late.

Monday, June 29, 2009

First Day

The staff are trained. The kids are registered, and the clock is ticking. Yep, it's 5:44 am and I'm lounging on my porch, sipping on my coffee, and trying to cool down from a quick run. Camp officially starts in T minus 3 hours and 15 minutes. Crazy, isn't it? Crazy how you can plan for and work hard towards something for so long, that when it finally gets here, it's almost surreal. Sure, it hasn't been easy. Even at the last minute, Satan thrown in his curve balls.

Our shirts aren't ready, and won't be til later this week. But that's okay, we've pulled together enough of last year's shirts for our staff to wear. It will just make it all the more exciting when they get here.

The Scout project sand box is not ready, but that's okay too. We'll just throw out a swimming pool full of sand and some toys. They'll never know the difference.

Turns out the church is closed this Friday because it's a federal holiday, but it's still okay. We're still having camp and our cookout.

Seriously, I'm thinking not much could stop us now. But I'm pretty sure that's not going to stop the enemy from trying.

If you have a chance today (and you happen to be reading this), please lift us up in prayer. This summer, we have over 300 campers coming to camp and just about 20 staff. Believe me, we could use the prayer. Today, pray specifically for our counselors. It's easier for me. I know what to expect...mostly. They have no idea. Pray that they come filled to the brim with the love of Christ, ready to pour out into thirsty campers.

Thanks for letting me take my blog hostage this summer. I did an outlet and this is the best way for me to do it. Oh and pray for my kids. It's hard on them to go from seeing mom all day, every day to intermittently throughout the day. Especially lift up Owen who will become a camper today. Technically he's a little young, so we'll have to see how he does. But pray for him to grow as a person this summer.

In His Grace,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two or More

Talk about tunnel vision. I'm so enthralled in camp that I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the world around me. My mom calls me tonight and says, "Did you hear about Michael Jackson?" I'm thinking, oh great, what did he do now? "He's dead." It's amazing how your tune changes when the death enters the picture. No matter how you feel about a man, you still mourn for his humanity. She proceeds to tell me about Farrah Faucet as well. Did you know she was 62? My dad was 62. Not that there is any tie in, just stuck out in my mind. What a week for Hollywood. Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, & Farrah Faucet...big names and they're all gone. Isn't that just a bit surreal? And to think that I was hanging out with 20 people all day long and not a one of us had a clue. We're literally in our own little world. It's called camp.

Today began with us fingerprinting our entire staff. Yep, it's actually required by law for us to fingerprint all of our staff. While we were waiting for the last few to finish up, we dove into the Word, studying our theme verse for the Summer, John 4:14. "But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst. No, the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Let me tell you what I like about our staff, they really dove in with me. Sure, it took a few minutes to warm up, but by the end we had participation. Jesus said that where two or more are gathered, He is right there with them. I'm telling you, He was hanging out at Grace Adventures today. And that's really all that I can ask for. I mean, it doesn't even really bother me that I literally lived in a bubble today (except that I forgot it was my mom's birthday).

Happy Birthday Mom. You're absolutely the best.

Oh & so long Asuka & Jonathan on So You Think You Can Dance. You weren't really my favorites, so I'm not too sad. Aren't I mean?

Bedtime! 5:30 comes early. Let's hope I have enough energy to go running in the morning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

At the Gates a Knockin'

It's an overwhelming feeling when you see a vision 9 months in the making lived out in person. As I approached the church this morning, I could literally feel the emotions welling up inside and they hovered there through out the day. No, camp has not officially started but staff training has, and what a fantabulous staff we have. Right from the get go, you could see that our staff got it. They got why we do what we do. They caught the vision on camp. You couldn't ask for a better group of people. Now, of course, I understand that God called these men and women to their various positions at camp. But when you see people "get" that their called, it's a whole other feeling...connection.

Yesterday I was stressed. Today I'm uber stoked. Tomorrow...well, that's tomorrow. But all in all, I know that no matter what comes down the line, God's got this one. He confirms that everyday. In fact the things, we stress the most about always seem to work themselves out, for the best. Gee, I wonder if that's because it's all part of some greater plan. For instance, a few days ago, we were stressing over budget. It's seems that our forecast is a little in the red (or quite a bit). But as it so happens, God's in control of that too. And in every new surprise, I can see His fingerprints.

After a long day of training the kids and I met Neil at the nearby Chick-fil-a for Kid's Night. Normally we go to the one near us on Thursday night, but for the summer, we're hitting up the CFA close to the church. It felt like the perfect in to an amazing day. Amy D & her family were there, which provided some fun fellowship. Then I ran into a lady I use to do yoga with when we lived in Laurel. While I'm talking to Sharon, a woman points to my shirt and says "Oh Grace Adventures, my daughter is coming there in a couple weeks." Score! I tell you. It just tickles me silly to see people recognize camp, especially since we're so stinking new on the seen.

But wait, it didn't end there. I also had the opportunity to see one of our servant team kids who happens to be serving all summer long. I actually had the opportunity to hang out with Rikki a little at the church picnic and I have to say that we are darn lucky (not that I believe in luck) to have him on our team. Needless to say, I spent most of the drive home praising Jesus for a fantabulous day.

But wait, it's still not over. Now, if this news had come a day or two earlier, my perspective might have been entirely different. But not 20 minutes after I got home, I received a phone call from one of our counselors. Turns out, she isn't going to be able to work with us this summer. She's decided that she is being called in a different direction. My response? Girl, you gotta do what God is calling you to do. I've said this before, but tonight I feel like whether I believe it or not was tested. God already knows who He has at camp this summer, and He knows the outcome of this situation. I'm sad to see Kelly move on, but I'm excited to see what God does in her life as well as in the "life" of Grace Adventures Day Camp. It's not exactly fun to be shuffling around staff on the first day of staff training, but it's a good thing and I'm confident that it will be all good in the end.

So Hillary, what can we do? Wow, I'm so glad you asked. I covet your prayers. As we go into this summer, there are many ways that the enemy can attack. And quite frankly I have something to say to Satan..."bring it." If he's not attacking, then we're doing something wrong. Pray for sound relationships among staff. Pray we will be outside the box thinkers. Pray that we'll be connected to the Word and to the Body. Pray that we'll have the wisdom to know how to put out the fires. Pray that we'll stick to our vision by actively building bridges to our community through a program that is excellent, safe and fun. Really just pray!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here Comes the Sun

It officially feels like summer to me. Now that I'm at work full time, I can literally smell camp like it's almost here. Wait a sec, that might be because it is. Less than two weeks until our first day. I tell ya, things just sneak up on you. It seems so far off for so long, and then one day I'm running around in a panic because it's here and I'm not quite ready. Of course, now that I've dealt with reality and laid my neurosis at the foot of the cross, I feel ready to take on the next 8 weeks.

That might be easy for me to say, though, considering where I am now compared to where I was this time last year. Let's review. Going into last summer, our first year at camp, I had just lost my Dad to cancer. Let's just say I wasn't dealing as well on the inside as it may have looked like on the outside (which wasn't great). I was in the first trimester of an unexpected pregnancy and experiencing all the "junk" that came along with it. We were moving across town, which was another thing we weren't exactly expecting. Yes, we put our house on the market in mid-May, but in this economy we assumed it would take months to sell, not 24 days. So not only was I packing up a house, our first house might I add, but we were preparing to move to Catonsville right in the middle of camp. Needless to say all this stuff going on in my life had a profound effect on my experiences at camp, mostly in relationships. And I'm pretty sure I wasn't laying a thing at the foot of the cross. Spiritually, I was struggling, but God sent a wake up call around the first week of camp, and gave me a second chance to come to Him. Thankfully, there is a way to get through this thick skin.

Fast forward a year. Today, I am a slimmer and healthier (both physically & spiritually) mother of 3 beautiful children. We've settled down into our new home in a fabulous community in Catonsville, and are super excited about what God is doing in this area (more to come on that after Sunday). But most of all, I'm in a good place with the Most High. I'm in my sweet spot. Of course, I have to be careful, because it's in this place when I am most open to attacks from the enemy.

I'm stoked about our staff, our campers, and all the stories I'll get to tell. God has shown up at Grace Adventures and we haven't even had our first official day yet. Today I get to have lunch with 4 of my specialty counselors, and my prayer is to begin to build relationships with them that will impact all of us for eternity. Specialties are new this year, and I'm convinced that God called each of these counselors to their positions. If you get a chance, pray that they see their calling as clearly as I do, and that they take ownership over their areas and run with it.

Yesterday was Day One. Day one of me as a full time working mom of 3, and I think I did pretty well. I got up and ran (which I can now barely move), made it to work on time, and managed to have a very productive and satisfying day. This is Day Two. Okay, I didn't run this morning (b/c my legs are still burning from yesterday), but I'm sitting on the couch dressed & ready to go with Blake resting on one side while I empty my brain into this blog. I'd say I'm doing pretty good. It's 7:30 now, time to pack the lunches, dress the kids, and hit the road.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shameless Plea...Again

This week has been amazing. Normally, camp registrations slow down at the end of May, beginning of June, but not at Grace Adventures. In the past two days, we've had 7 kids register for camp making up 20 weeks of camp. Plus I know of 3 more (11 weeks) coming in the next day or so. And the most amazing part of this is that most of these kids are not connected to Grace. They are friends of friends of Grace members, or they randomly found us online. This is our vision lived out, and it's the most amazing thing. I know, I'm saying amazing a lot, but sometimes I'm dumbfounded by the very grace of God.

With this influx comes some even more exciting news...an increase in scholarship requests. Now Hillary, how in the world is a scholarship request exciting? Because when people (especially those not connected to the church) request a scholarship, you get to meet them and have the opportunity to invest in their lives on a deeper level. Duh, you have the unique opportunity to build a relationship with the entire family.

Michelle and I, along with our entire vision team, feel like it would be wrong to turn people away just because of a little thing like money. And so far, we haven't, but as I finished a conversation with a single mom today, I panicked. How are we going to pay for these scholarships? Granted, we don't just give away camp. We require something of everyone who wants to come to camp, and the vast majority of these moms are digging into their mattresses to be able to have their children in our program. The least we could do is meet them halfway.

So here is where you come in. Please pray with us that God would provide the money we need to make sure that everyone He wants to be at camp can and will be there. I believe in providence. This is God's camp, always has been and always will be. I believe He has sent these families to us, and I am excited to see what He does in their lives as well as mine because of it.

Also pray for us as a leadership team, that we would have the faith to trust in His provision. Man, that is hard sometimes. I'm such a problem solver. I want to fix things, but sometimes (okay, a lot of times) God puts us in situations that are purposefully beyond our control. So please pray with us, and if you feel God has called you to give a little, you can do so on our website. Not that I'm asking, but yeah, I guess I am.

Thanks for joining me in this effort. If you know me at all, then you know that my heart is eternally tied to camping ministry, most specifically Grace Adventures Day Camp. I can't wait to be able to blog through out the Summer about all that God is doing. I hope you'll join me on that venture as well.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Glad That Ride is Over

You know when you get on a roller coaster for the first time. Man I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in middle school and my friend Stephanie and I were chilling out at Six Flag over Georgia doing what we do best...scoping for boys. Shut up, you all did it! Stephanie loved the rides, all of them, even the Looping Starship. Now I was okay with most of them, even some that went upside down, but the Looping Starship? Well that was a whole other ball of wax. It's the kind of ride that rocks back and forth, and back and forth. Then it starts to slowly makes it's way upside down until finally you swing up and there you are hanging for like 2 seconds completely upside down. But it still doesn't go all the way over. To the other side you go, again hanging. This time it's 2-3 seconds and a little farther towards the other side. Watching from the ground, you wonder how those tiny little bars manage to keep people inside. And if they do fall out, I'm pretty sure the metal cage over head wouldn't do too much to keep them safe. Either way it was not a ride I was interested in, until we bet these boys. Don't ask me what their names were. Really does it matter? The point is that we had already invested a good 2 hours into these relationships. We couldn't let something like a little fear come in between us now. At least this was Stephanie's argument. So I went along. We stood in line for a good 30 minutes, which is pretty much pure torture if you're staring at this monstrosity in front of you thinking this might be the end. Come on, I was 12. We get on the ride of which I insist of sitting in the middle. Not sure why that seemed safer, but it made me feel more secure. There's the loud noise and then the safety bars come down and press down on your chest. It's okay though, I'm pretty sure I wasn't breathing anyways. Honestly, I think the guys running the ride knew it was my first time, because I'm pretty sure they put the thing on slow motion. What was supposed to be a 4 minute ride, lasted for 1 year, 124 days, 3 hours and 26 seconds (or so it seemed). And when it was over, my voice was hoarse, my hair was ruffled, and I was alive. I wasn't really sure if it were fun or not, because I had spent so much time caught up in the fear, but I was sure glad it was over. Yet at the same time, I was the first one back in line for a second go round.

Today was one of those days, a day that just started off on the wrong track. Emotionally, spiritually, and relationally I was drained. I'd go into all the details, but quite frankly, they'd just get me all worked up again and bore you to death. Point is, my heart was heavy and my mind racing. All day I felt like I was standing in that line all over again. Only this time, I'm still not sure what ride it was, just that the closer I got to the front of the line, the heavier my heart felt. The ride required me to have some hard conversations, definitely a little risky. But I believe that conflict can lead to really great things if dealt with in the right way, and unfortunately (for my pride) that requires communication, humility, and sometimes a little nautiousness to send me over the edge.

So needless to say, it's been a rough day, and I'm glad it's over. But I wouldn't give up the process for anything. The process is what makes us who we are, carving our character out of a rough exterior, allowing God to be Potter crafting His masterpiece.

(PS, this was actually written yesterday).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Holy Kamoly I Suck

Seriously, has it really been over two weeks since my last post? I just don't believe it. Here I am trucking through life constantly thinking "I should blog about that." Apparently, I don't do it as much as I think about doing it. And you'd think that I'd have all this time now that my shows are all out for summer, but actually I think I may be busier. Only now I am doing things that actually matter. No offense, as much as I love Grey's Anatomy, I'm thinking that watching the show does nothing to further humanity, better our community or decrease my waist size.

So what am I up to? It's really no surprise. Camp takes up pretty much 90% of my free time. On June 15th, Michelle and I go full time. Crazy huh? My hope is to be able to blog consistently through the summer. There are always so many stories to tell that don't normally get told. Plus, Owen will be a camper, so I'm sure you'll all want to hear about that. Year two is turning out to be a pretty awesome year, and it hasn't even really started yet.

There also some really exciting news on the horizon, so awesome in fact that I can't share it with you. At least not yet. But it's really cool. I promise. (AND NO, I AM NOT PREGNANT...at this point, that would not be awesome news).

I can tell you that I'm hoping to hit Lifetime with Weight Watchers this Saturday. As of last weigh in, I was .8 lbs away. So close. Really, even when I hit Lifetime, I still have 10 lbs to go, but it's no easy feat. Since I first started Weight Watchers on Feb 27, I've lost 22 lbs. I feel great and I even have butt muscles again. Actually I can feel the tone in most of my body, but considering the job gravity is doing on my hiney. It's nice to have something other than junk back there.

The downside to weight loss? Well, really there isn't one, but for arguments sake...my clothes don't fit any more. I need to get a few things to wear, but since I'm still 10 lbs from my goal, I'm debating what and when I should bite the bullet. I'm guessing I'll have to do something before camps starts. That gives me about 3 weeks max. Not thinking I can make it to my goal by then, but it doesn't hurt to try, right? Nah, if I were to crash diet, I'd just gain it all back. Slow and steady wins the race.

Did I mention that Blake turned two on the 23rd? Two...dove right in the terribleness as well. Yep, apparently he likes to be an over achiever in this area. It's not that he's disobedient as much as he's whiny, so incredibly whiny. He wakes up cranky and just doesn't stop. I've thought about ebay, but I'm thinking that his crankiness has diminished his value a bit. Plus when he does smile, it's so easy to get entranced by his mere cuteness. Let's hope the terrible two's pass quickly. Please.