Testimony 2.0

I’ve written my testimony before (you can read it here), but I just feel like there’s a lot that has happened that I need to add to it. So here we are.

 

April 29, 1995

The day I was born. From birth, God had a plan for me. I was born into a family that only one other child, a child who was 13 years old at my birth. I was also born on the day of my grandpa’s (dad’s dad) visitation. At my birth, it looked as if I came into this world to help ease my dad’s pain at the loss of his father, who his mother just reminded him that she was not sure that he was actually my dad’s dad. For the first five years of my life, that’s what I was for my dad. I was his little girl, and I was to brighten up his life. When his other two kids, who are 18 and 21 years older than I am, caused stress on his life.

December 21, 2000

When I found out that the Mayan’s had predicted the world to end on December 21, 2012, I couldn’t help but laugh. 12 years prior to this, my dad passed away. He had an aortic aneurysm, basically meaning his heart exploded. My brothers came upon him at the end of the workday. I was rushed to my grandma’s, where I stayed with my cousin, while her mom and mine rushed up to the hospital. By the time they made it, the doctors had declared his death official. As a five year old, I didn’t understand it. I had never experienced death before. In one of our family videos, we have a tape of that Christmas. It was somber. My mom kept telling us that she loved us and reminded me that I could always talk to my dad because he was in Heaven watching over me. The scene was also different in comparison to my previous Christmas’ recordings. In those, my half-brother and half-sister were there in the beginning, the blinds were open. Our house was full of laughter and light. But now, it was dark and somber. The family as I knew it was falling a part at my feet. My half siblings gradually slipped away; half-sister faster than my half-brother. In January, my brother had gone back to college, coming back on the weekends. Through the week, it was just my mom and I. Once again, I was someone to bring happiness into my parent’s life. What I didn’t know was that my mom would cry on her way home, but she always seemed to have it together at home, or at least when she was in front of me.

January 2001 – May 2004

A month and a half after my dad passed, his ex-wife gave us a dog. As I’ve grown up, I have come to realize that the day before he passed, my mom, dad, and I went to his ex-wife’s house (they were on better terms now than at the beginning of their divorce) to pick out our dog. I always had this faint memory of little dachshund puppies, their skin sagging over their little legs. But now I hold it even closer because it is the one memory that I have with my dad this is completely my own. Throughout the years, and thankfully still, God has allowed our dog to bring happiness into our lives. Ducky, derived from my dad’s nickname of Duck because he had a temper of Donald Duck, is our 16 year old dachshund that has caused us so much stress, yet is worth every bit of it.

In this time, my half-brother also married his girlfriend who had been dating before I was born because he had gotten her pregnant. This decision was the start of his spiral. A year or so after my nephew’s birth, they split because he once again made a mistake. After signing the divorce papers, agree to pay child support, he got back with her, still having to pay child support, but he was not. You may wonder why I include my half-brother’s life into my story. Well I have a reason. What we do effects the people around us. His marriage, divorce and what followed effected me. More than I realized at the time. My ex-sister-in-law caused havoc for our family. I was just a little girl, but I was facing the repercussions for my brother’s divorce. His ex took away his son, even though he kept his promise of only having his son at our house. Sure, he wasn’t paying his back child support, which really bit him in the butt later on. I remember the last time my brother brought my nephew over to our house. It ended  with the cops picking him (my nephew) up because my brother had his new girlfriend over and lacked his divorce papers. My brother got to see my nephew less and less, while my mom and I tried our hardest to get to his games (football, basketball, tee ball). My half-sister on the other hand, at first wanting to kill our sister-in-law, turned into her best bud. She was all for keeping my nephew away from my brother. She was also all for keeping herself away from me. Three days out of the week she worked in my hometown, and she hardly came to see me. Later on, this effected me emotionally.

During this time, my mom and I didn’t go to church much. We went on holidays. Not just Christmas and Easter, but Father’s and Mother’s day too. I also went to VBS. So I had the general knowledge of Jesus, but it didn’t click.

July 2004 and June 2005

In July 2004, my cousin brought me to the place that changed my life. Kamp Keirsey. Although, that summer I did not realize how big of an impact it actually would end up being. I have been out there every summer since. There will be more about it’s impact later.

The next summer I got saved. I went to the all girls camp, where we learned about being daughters of the King. I can’t tell you ALL the details, but I remember quite a bit. I can bring you to the exact table where I accepted Christ at. I said the prayer and went forward at the end of the week, declaring that I had received the greatest gift.

I wish I could tell you that that’s where my story ends. That after that summer I had my mom take me to church. That her life changed. That I spread the news to EVERYONE I knew. But that’s not what happened. We didn’t go to church more. I didn’t tell all of my friends about Jesus. I didn’t read my Bible. Nothing really changed. I did continue to go to camp, so that’s one thing.

August 2007 – May 2009

Junior high. The best years of my life, right? Ha, nope. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either.

I started to go to youth group, and my mom and I started going to church more. But I still wasn’t telling people about Jesus. I still wasn’t in my Bible. I started picking up on my friends’ habits. I started cussing. I was calling people names, and it wasn’t very discrete. In fact, this led to one of the worst parts of Jr. High.

One of the girls I made fun, well called names, was a mean girl. She was one of those skinny girls who had everything (even a home tanning bed), while I was a chubby girl who had what she needed. One day in eighth grade, her and this other girl (who she didn’t even like) started talking about nachos. I know, this is silly, but they started saying, “I like nachos, but not that nacho. That’s a grande nacho.” They were talking about me. They were making reference about my weight. It was really a stupid insult, but it did it’s work. It was then I started to realize that my body wasn’t ideal, at least to society. I started to think less of myself. I wasn’t pretty because I wasn’t skinny. They continued on for like a month, if that, and then it just stopped. But she had done her damage.

It was in Jr. High that I also started questioning the death of my dad. I didn’t know why God had taken MY dad. I knew these people who had awful dads. Abusive, physically and emotionally, dads. Ones that were not even in the picture. I was mad at God that He took my dad. My dad would’ve loved me. Who would never abuse me. I was angry at God. But I still went to church, so I thought I was still good.

June and July 2010

In June 2010, I went out to Kamp again. This summer was my first summer of Sr. High camp. That summer we had two boys cabins and two girls cabins. One of each met together for bible study. My cabin went over to the boys’ cabin.  During our bible study, we had somehow gotten on the topic of the cabin leader’s life. He had talked about how that previous October (2009) he had lost his dad. He talked about how he had moved through the stages of grief already. He had mourned. He had been angry. And finally, he had accepted the fact that it was his time. I sat there on the bunk, thinking about the loss of my own father. I realized that I was still blaming God. It wasn’t His fault; it was the sin of this world. I started coming to terms with the loss of my father at that camp. And I continued to grow to see that God had a plan. That my dad needed to be taken away from me so I could learn to love Him. There are still times where I miss my dad, especially around Christmas.

In July, my youth group went to CIY (Christ in Youth). It was life changing. I left determined to change my ways. Determined I was going to go back to school and tell everyone I knew about Jesus. Needless to say, I didn’t. Although, I did make the decision to take the next step in my faith.

August 4, 2010

I had wanted to get baptized before this summer. In December 2007, I talked to my youth pastor about it, but we were rejoining the church that split from us and our baptistery had been empty. Looking back though, I was not in a place to get baptized then. So on the last full day, our free day, of CIY I talked with my youth minister. He had convinced that it was something I needed to do. And I had wanted to do it so my grandparents could watch. My relationship with my youth minister was rough. He had been married to my cousin, but they split. Because of this, it was a little awkward with my family and him. He said that he didn’t have to be there, that we could do it in my grandparent’s bathtub. We were going to work something out. I brush those all aside. I wanted baptized in the church where my youth group could see. My cousin, the one who took me to Kamp, was in Jordan at the time, so I picked three girls that went to CIY with me. I thought we were close, but looking back, I realize I should’ve picked someone else. But, my grandparents were there. As were my mom and brother.

As much as I regret not having my cousin baptize me, I’m glad I did it when I did. My grandpa had been sick for the last few years, and a week after I got baptized, he got worse. It was exactly two months later that he passed away. I had publicly proclaimed my belief in Jesus. That day. I went back to school a few weeks later and hardly discussed Jesus with my friends.

August 2010 – May 2013

Sophomore. Junior. Senior. High school. It was uneventful. Like any girl, I had my moments where I liked boys. I was still going to church. Camp. CIYs. I would get on spiritual highs, only to go back to school and go back to my ways.

Sometime in this, my family grew further and further a part. Well my half-siblings grew a part from us. My half-sister was first. She had completely cut herself. She had picked our ex-sister-in-law too many times. There was a fight on Facebook first. She said my mom kept all of my dad stuff away from her, but my sister never made the effort to come and see us. Then my ex sister-in-law remarried, and her husband adopted my nephew. I was angry. My family continued to fall a part. My half-brother couldn’t fight it. His mom had his divorce papers and wouldn’t hand them over. He had given up. And my sister didn’t fight. She just stayed there and let our ex sister-in-law take my nephew away from me. My anger boiled. And to this day, I struggle with the hatred I have towards both of them.

On May 19, 2013, I graduated from high school. I was away from the people who could really care less about me. The place where people knew I was a Christian, but people who didn’t hear about Jesus form me.

College

My freshmen year I drifted away from God. I still believed in Him. But I was out a car, therefore I wasn’t able to go to church. I hadn’t made really any friends either. I attended my college’s BSU (Baptist Student Union). I was definitely not reading my Bible. I tried my best to listen to worship music while I studied.

A week before my sophomore year, I finally got a car. I started going to church and my church’s college age service. It was really good for me. At first, it was overwhelming because the church was huge, as well as the college age, and I didn’t know that many people. But in March, I went out on a limb. In January, I had started to go to a bible study through the church, and I really connected with a group of girls. So I decided to go on the Spring Break trip with the college age. Well, it was actually because I thought a boy was cute and he asked if I was going. So I was set. I ended up leaving that trip liking another boy. But despite boys, it was an amazing trip. We went to Las Vegas. Another overwhelming experience for me. It was beautiful, but so heartbreaking. Seeing all the sin. One day, while walking the strip, I saw a guy wearing a “Grand Canyon University” shirt and he appeared to be picking up a girl, for you know. Vegas had gotten to this guy he was my age. Despite leaving with heartbreak, I was also full. I had grown closer to this group of girls and it was a great opportunity to meet people in the college age. I made some of my closest friends on the trip.

My junior year was very similar to my sophomore. God continued to mold me into a more social person. See, I’m an introvert (hence my being terrified of large groups of people), but God has been working me into more of an extrovert. I went on the Spring Break trip again, and it was very different from the year before. You can read about it here. You can also read about my unexpected friends that I made from going to church.

Summer 2014, 2015, 2016

My last summer as a camper, I had talked to the director of camp and asked him about working out there in 2014. At the time, they had all the people they needed for Summer Missionaries, who are at all the camps. So in January, I settled for helping out at girl’s camp and junior high camp.Next thing I knew, I was getting an email to the link to the Missouri Baptist Convention page to apply to be a summer missionary. I was really confused, but Dawnita, the woman who was taking over the summer missionaries, explained that spots had opened up and I was selected. I was ecstatic. But at the same time, I was nervous because I knew enough about God but I wasn’t sure how I would be able to help anyone.

That first summer, I had no idea what I was doing. But God still used me to impact lives. I had campers telling me how much I had help them. But I knew it was all God. I could have never done it without God. That summer, God also stretched me. Typically our second week of camp is Super Summer (a huge camp put on by the MBC), but I couldn’t make it to training. Due to this, I stayed behind and helped with deaf youth camp. It was an interesting experience. I was one of four people who had full hearing capabilities. It was like being in a different country. I couldn’t communicate with them. I had to have someone translate for me. I learned a couple of sings but not enough to hold a conversation. I am glad that I didn’t have to do it again.

The next summer was different. I was the only returning girl summer missionary, so I felt the weight of being responsible for telling the others what to do. They all went to the same college and briefly knew each other. There were times where I felt left out, and at the end of the summer, it came out. We went into Dawnita’s cabin and discussed. It was that summer that I learned how to properly resolve conflicts. Let everyone tell their side of the story. It worked out smoothly, and now we are all great friends. I also knew many of the campers, so it was easier to get them to open up to me come invitation time. But I also felt protective over many of them. I knew their stories and I had relationships with them, so I wanted to be the one they shared with. I had power control. That summer I also attended Super Summer. I was terrified. I was going to lead a small group, of 7th grade girls. I didn’t think I could do it. There like 500 people there, and what I thought was not near enough time to be by myself. God’s funny though. I was able to connect with my four girls and I had plenty of Cassidy time. He taught me that summer to trust Him beyond what I had. (Read the full story here.)

This past summer was one for the books. My heart had been broken the two summers before, but my heart was shattered. I saw the brokenness of too may kids, and of one family in particular. A set of two boys that have 2 moms and 2 dads. More siblings than fingers. A step-dad who is not very kind. These two boys, their siblings (step and half), and their cousins hold a special place in my heart. And when I think of them, I can’t help but tear up. Super Summer again was overwhelming, especially since there were even more people there then normal. But I got by.

This past summer was also beneficial for me. God is working to remind me that we each have our circle of responsibility and He has one for each of us. We also must not interfere in other’s circles, which is hard. He also opened my eyes to some of my actions and the reasoning behind them. I have a tendency to get annoying with keeping in contact with people. I need reassurance that they still care about me, like constantly. I realized this was because of my sister. She should have cared, but she never did. This left me damaged.

Kamp has been a huge blessing. And I have a post all about it. I would type it all here, but this post is already long enough.

 

There is so much more to my story, that I’m not even aware of. I also came to realize that my dad did not love God like he should. He was full of anger, at God. If he had lived, I probably would not have gone to Kamp. I probably wouldn’t have changed. And as much I miss my dad, I’m glad I’ll get to spend eternity with my Father. I’m still growing. I’m working on reading my Bible in a year. I’m working on wanting a relationship with God more than a boy. I’m still trying to work on my self-worth. But I’m getting there.

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College 101

A new semester is about to be underway. And as I’m entering my 7th, I feel like maybe I finally have this college thing underway. But I do know a lot of people who are entering college for their first time, therefore I decided to post some tips. Because college can be scary. It can be hard. It can be a blast if you know how to do it right.

1. Get Involved
Getting involved is the best way to make friends. There are tons of clubs on campus that are a great way to meet people on campus. Go to your hall meetings to meet people in your dorm. Find a church, and don’t church hop. Find one you really like, and stick to it. If you’re sportsy, join an intramural team.

If you just hang out in your dorm all the time, you’re not going to have a good college experience. My first year I stayed in my dorm most of the time, and it was awful. The only friend I had made was a girl in one of my classes. And she couldn’t spend all her time with me.

2. Stay Organized
Your workload is going to get overwhelming, which is why I use a planner. On the first day of class, your professor will give you a syllabus with all the due dates and perspective test dates. Take time to go through and write them down in your planner. Or whatever works best for you. Check on due dates for the next week on Friday or Saturday so you have plenty of time to work on assignments. Cross them off as you finish them. And if you have to turn them in online, submit them as soon as your done.

3. Prioritize
You’re going to want to watch Netflix. Sleep. Spend time with friends. Go to sporting events. Shop. Eat. And you’re going to have to go to class and do homework. And you can do all of it. If you prioritize. Watch one episode of Netflix, spend 20 minutes on social media. Then do homework. Take a break and eat, watch another episode while you eat. Take time to spend with friends, but make sure your homework is done. Sporting events last a couple of hours, once done eat and head back to do homework. Carve out once a week to get all your shopping done. Go to bed early, you’ll appreciate the sleep at the end of the semester. Go to class!

4. Stay in Contact
You’re going to miss people back home, so stay in contact with them. Call. Text. Skype. Visit on weekends when you can. But remember, when you go away, your relationships back home will not be the same. They’ll make new friends, but so will you. But it’s so important to stay in contact with people back home. Because when you go home on weekends or for breaks, you’ll have something to do.

College is what you make it. Make friends. Make smart choices. Sleep and do your homework. Eat healthy. Workout. Communicate.

P.S. Don’t buy books until after the first day of class, because a lot of professors will tell you that you don’t need them. And why waste money on a book you don’t need?

26 Questions About Me

I found this list of 26 questions to get to know yourself better on Pinterest, so I figured why not answer these questions in a blog?

1. What are my strengths?

Empathy. Relating. Restorative. Learner. Listener.

2. What are my short-term and long-term goals?

Short Term: Graduate college (December 2017!), find a job, grow in my faith, become more confident in who I am in Christ

Long Term: Be a director out at Kamp, get married and have kids, find a job, grow in my faith

3. Who matters to me most?

My mom, brother, dog, friends

4. What am I ashamed of?

I’m ashamed of not sharing Jesus more in high school.

5. What do I like to do for fun?

Read. Pinterest. Social media.

6. What new activities am I interested in or willing to try?

I want to try calligraphy or crocheting.

7. What am I worried about?

My future. Future job. Future spouse. Future children.

8. What are my values? What do I believe in?

I believe that everyone is created in the image of God and should be treated that way. I believe in the Bible. I believe in man/woman relationships. I believe we need to all stop shooting each other. I believe a person’s character is based off so much more than their skin color or profession. I believe everyone deserves love. I believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection. I believe that God can work through me. I believe God can bring anyone from the lowest of pits and use them.

9. If I could have one wish, it would be 

That my mom and brother would get saved.

10. Where do I feel safest? 

Out at Kamp. Surrounded by people who believe the same things I do and encourage me in my faith.

11. What or who gives me comfort?

The Bible, God, Christian friends

12. If I wasn’t afraid, I would

Share Jesus more. Talk more. Tell people how I feel about them.

13. What is my proudest accomplishment?

My good grades

14. What is my biggest failure?

Not sharing Jesus

15. Am I night owl or an early bird?

Probably a night owl.

16. What do I like about my job? What do I dislike?

Daycare
Like: The people I work with and the kids
Dislike: Seeing the kids leave

Kamp
Like: The people I work with and the campers
Dislike: Seeing the kids leave, especially the ones who we send back to homes where they aren’t loved

17. What does my inner critic tell me?

It tells me a lot of negative things. That I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. I’m ugly.

18. What do I do to show myself self-compassion and self-care?

I read the Bible. Remind myself of Psalm 139:14

19. Am I an introvert or extrovert?

Introvert 99% of the time. I have my extrovert times, but not very often.

20. What am I passionate about?

Children. The 27+ million people in sex trafficking getting saved.

21. What is my happiest memory?

I have a lot of happy memories. I can’t pick the happiest.

22. What do my dreams tell me?

That there is some weird, crazy stuff in my mind.

23. What’s your favorite book? Movie? Band? Food? Color? Animal?

Book: The Mortal Instruments Series
Movie: Pitch Perfect
Band: Bethel
Food: Chick-Fil-A
Color: Mint green
Animal: Lap dogs

24. What am I grateful for?

My family. My dog. My friends. Kamp and the ability to work out at Kamp.

25. When I’m feeling down, I like to

Sleep. Cry. Eat. Ask my friends for prayer.

26. I know I’m stressed when I

Can’t focus on the task at hand. I break down crying because I don’t want to do it.

 

 

 

Blessings from Kamp

12. That’s the number of years I’ve been out at Kamp. And from year one in 2004, I never would have thought that I would be sitting here in 2016, the camp season about to wrap up in two weeks, being so invested. Being so overwhelmed by the number of blessings God has thrown at me these past 12 years.

Back in 2004, my first summer at Kamp, I never thought I would be 12 years in, with 3 years of being a Summer Missionary under my belt. I never thought a place and the people that come with it would mean so much to me. But it does mean a lot to me. My last summer as a camper, I thought it was going to be my last summer out there at all. I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to be out there in any shape or form. And then in February or March of 2014, I thought I was going to be able to help out with two weeks. But then I got an email, telling me to fill out the Summer Missionary application through the Missouri Baptist Convention. And I did, and here I am, 3 summers in. I thank God for the opportunity to be able to spend 3 full summers out at my favorite place.

Spending all but a few weeks out of the summer out at Kamp can get tiring. Due to lack of sleep. Lack of alone time. But full of Jesus. Full of kids who need love. Who need Jesus. Because of these, getting the lack of sleep and Cassidy time is so worth it. I get to show these campers Jesus. These campers who come from broken homes. Homes that don’t have Jesus in them. Homes that are abusive – verbally, physically, emotionally. And homes that have Jesus, but with kids who learn to make their parents’ faith their’s. I get to spend time with fellow college students and a mentor who are on fire for Jesus.

These past 3 summers have had their challenging times, but from the challenges, blessings have overflowed. And why not write a post about these blessings?

The Lessons

One of the biggest blessings God has given me are the lessons that He has taught me. My first summer out there I doubted my ability to reach kids. I was quiet (still am), wasn’t having a daily quiet time, and inadequate. I knew the basics. I had been a camper for 9 years, so I knew all of the right answers. But I wasn’t living those answers. That first summer though, God showed me He would reach those campers using me. He also showed me it was time to reevaluate how I was living.

God has taught me how to resolve conflicts peacefully. He has showed me how much I need a quiet time. He has showed me how much I truly need Him. He has showed me that 11 years ago when I first accepted what Jesus has done for me out at Kamp was much more than accepting; it’s also living.

The Friendships

Camp is a place where friendships are made. And Kamp has been no different for me. My years as a camper and summer missionary have brought me lifelong friendships. Friendships with people that love Jesus and love Kamp just as much as I do – although, I’m not sure that’s possible. Friends that can tell when something is wrong. Friends that are willing to sit there and wait for me to think through things before I verbalize what’s going on. Friends who will pray for me.

They are friends who can make me laugh. Friends who understand my sarcasm, and dish it right back to me. Friends who bring me tissues. Friends who will hug me as I cry. Friends that I get to share life with. Friends who understand me. Friends who help me see my worth. Girl friends that I can talk about boys with and are like sisters. Boy friends who show me what a Christian man is supposed to look like and are like brothers. They are friends who I hope will be at my wedding and a part of my future children’s lives. They are friends who will have an ever lasting impact on my life.

The Campers

The campers are probably the biggest blessing from working out at Kamp. They have taught me so much, probably more than I will ever teach them. As stated earlier, I had my doubts about being a Summer Missionary and my ability to help the kids. But in the past 3 summers, I’ve had many campers (and parents) tell me that I have helped them. That they want to help out at Kamp because I’ve inspired them to do so. And makes my heart so full.

Jr. High kids have never been my favorite, but the Jr. High campers have taught me that they aren’t all that bad. In fact, some of the campers I’m closest to are the Jr. High aged group (who are mostly now in high school). I’ve always been able to connect better with girls, but Kamp (especially this summer) has taught me that I am able to connect with the boys as well.

The campers inspire me. I see so many of them posting on Facebook and Instagram about their faith. They aren’t afraid to hide it. And I know they are living for Jesus in their schools as well. I look back on my years in Jr. High and High School and wish I could have been like them. But now I get to encourage them in what they do, so they don’t turn out like me – full of regret.

Above I mentioned campers telling me that they want to help out at Kamp one day, which makes me really excited. I look at these campers and see so much potential. I see future Jr. Counselors, Summer Missionaries, and camp directors. And I know one day when I have to step down from my own leadership role as a summer missionary, whether that be at the end of this summer or next, there will be past campers who will be able to step up.

Story Time

I have been kind of blank on ideas on what to write about. I haven’t posted a blog in 2 months, if not more. But finally I came up with an idea. Yesterday as I was scrolling through Twitter, I came across a tweet that read

Working with kids is a constant pouring out to those who can’t give back. The only option is to run to Jesus for your strength, love & hope.

And this is so true. Yet it’s not entirely true. Kids can give back. Without them really putting much effort into it. See yesterday was the end of boys camp, a camp that us girls don’t usually get to help with but this year we got to. We were all kind of just sitting around when 2 boys asked how old they have to be to be a Summer Missionary. Now these boys are 12 and 11, and they are asking what it takes to be a Summer Missionary (a college student). We told them they would have to wait a few years, but they could be a Jr. Counselor in the next couple of years. The 11 year old, a boy that holds a special place in my heart, one that I thought I had annoyed because I kept asking if he was okay, peeped up and said he didn’t want to be one next year because none of us girls were going to be there next year (most likely). He said that in his two years out there, next summer everyone he knew was going to be leaving. My heart broke. God obviously made a huge impact on this little boy’s life, and God decided to use us. Four 20 – 22 year old girls to impact an 11 year old boy’s life so much that he wants to come back out as soon as possible to help with Kamp. He was too excited when I told him there was a possibility of him being able to help with Overnight Camp and Day Camp next summer; he wanted to go find our mentor and tell her right away. And I hope one day, in 7 or so years, to see this 11 and 12 year old boys as summer missionaries.

It’s so true we give everything to children, who can’t really give back to you in the same way. Yet, they can. With the encouraging words they say to you. With the eagerness to come to multiple camps. With their desire to one day come out and do exactly what we are doing. With what these 2 boys asked me yesterday, this is what sparked me to write about the blessings that have come from Kamp. I thank God so much for the lessons, friendships, and especially the campers that He has provided for me out at Kamp. I pray one day the campers will look back and see how blessed they were by Kamp as well.

 

 

Unexpected Friends

The best kind of friends are the unexpected ones. And man, do I have a lot of those.

When I first came to college, there were a lot of types of people I never in a million years would have thought I would be friends with. But as always, God had something else in mind.

God knew who I needed. God knew I needed people who would bring me out of my comfort zone. Who would show me how to live like Jesus. Who would care.

As stated earlier, there were “those people” I knew I would never be friends with. I thought the only friends I would have would be ones that were similar to me. Similar to the ones I had in high school. I thought my friendship circle would not expand outside of my major. I thought my friendship circle would only be Christians. People with a similar up bringing as me.  I thought I would be friends with people who looked like me.

Man, was I wrong.

And I’m glad. I’m friends with so many people who do not fit into those categories.

I’m friends with strong Christians. Christians who help me grow. Christians who help me see who I am in Christ.

I’m friends with internationals. Students who have helped me see that there is so much out there than America. That there are people who have not heard of Jesus, even in a 1st world country.

I’m friends with athletes. Football players. Track stars. They’ve helped me see that not all athletes are entitled. They are here living out their dream, praising Jesus as they do. Keeping strong in their faith despite being surrounded by fellow athletes who do not believe.

I’m friends with communication majors. Spanish majors. Criminal justice majors. Accountant and business majors. Science majors. Social work, dental hygiene. Biblical justice, OT theology. And education majors. They all bring so much to the table.

I’m friends with people from all over America. They’ve helped me see that the church in the Midwest is widely different than the churches they grew up in.

I’m friends with people who have similar backgrounds, but I’m also friends with people who have very different ones. I love it. I love growing and learning from their experiences.

I’m friends with extroverts. Extroverts who have helped me not be so introverted.

I’m friends with people who are older than me and younger than me. People who can teach me new things, allowing me to fill others up.

Most importantly: I’m friends with people who care about me. Who genuinely care when they ask how my day, week, month has been. Who will pray for me if I ask.

I thought I would stay friends with those people I was friends with in high school. And I’m still friends with some. I thought I would be friends with those who left Adrian and came down to Joplin as well. But I’m not. That’s okay though.

God blessed me with the most unexpected friends, yet they’re exactly what I needed. I never felt like I could be myself around my high school friends. I felt uncomfortable talking about Jesus, but now I don’t. I was quiet, now I’m not. Okay, I still am, but I’m more open now. Small talk isn’t as bad. It’s easier to be myself around these people I never thought I would be friends with, and I love it.

Reflections – Spring Break 2k16

I went into this week a little uneasy. The team I was a part of was made up of {mostly} people I did not know. And those people I didn’t know were internationals, which made me even more uneasy. People I didn’t know, plus a language barrier? It was going to be an interesting week.

And it was. In fact, it was a great week. A week of fun. A week of building relationships. A week where I was stretched. A week where God took me out of my comfort zone. A week of learning.

This post is to take you, the reader, through my journey this past week. To see how I felt. To see what I learned. To see how I grew. I will give a synopsis of each day and emotions felt during the day.

Saturday March 19
I started the day by waking up at 7 and getting my final preparations ready for the trip. Afterwards, I headed to the church where we were meeting to head out. As I entered, I could feel the excitement. We were ready for a week of serving. We were ready to make new relationships. We were ready for whatever God had planned for that week.

My caravan headed out at about 10. We made multiple gas stops across Kansas. Once, one van ran out of gas due to a malfunction in the gas gauge. They were able to coast down the ramp and into the gas station, but the engine stopped just short of the pump. Our boys came to the rescue and pushed the van the short ways.

Besides this crazy endeavor, we made it to Colorado without any troubles.

Sunday March 20
We got to choose between a few options on where we wanted to go to church. One option was a deaf church, and I knew right away that’s where I wanted to go. Because church didn’t start until 11:30, our group of 6 {plus 2 adult sponsors} hung around the church and discussed what to expect. Thankfully, one of our sponsors was a sign language major and had had experienced a deaf church before.

Service was just like any hearing church service. They had a sort of call to worship, songs that they signed and a sermon. Afterwards, they hung around and had fellowship. We introduced ourselves to a couple of members. They were all so loving and willing to share who they were. One man said something that just stood out to me: I don’t care what other people say about me; God made me this way, and I’m okay with it. It’s wild to think that what us hearing people call a “disability” is not at all how those who are deaf refer as. They don’t view their loss of hearing a “disability”, instead they see it as the way God made them. And they’re okay with that. Why can’t we all be like that?

12920235_10208994712566706_861649095276762747_n {Pictured is the group that I went with and the members of the church.}

After church, my group drove around Denver. We ate lunch at Good Times, where we had a good time getting to know each other. We went to a sculpture park and had a snow ball fight. We headed back to the church we were staying at for dinner and to get ready to head to Camp Como.

After dinner on Sunday, we headed up the mountains to Camp Como, where we would be spending the night to prepare for our Monday projects. Here we debriefed, discussing what we did that day.

Monday March 21
On Monday, I woke up at 6:30 to watch the sunrise. The little sleep was worth it. It was a great way to start off the day. But the most amazing thing is that the awe I had when watching the sunrise comes no where close to how God looks at us.

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{The sunrise over the mountains.}

After the sunrise, there was still an hour until breakfast, so those of us awake hung outside on the deck drinking hot chocolate or coffee and shared life together. When we were done with breakfast, we split ourselves in teams to do some cleaning and various projects around the camp in preparation for Easter and the coming summer. We all got finished within an hour or so, which led to a singing session led by a couple of the guys.

That afternoon, since we finished all the projects, we got to have some free time. There was snowshoeing and sledding offered to us. I took the opportunity to go snowshoeing to see some more of the property. It was hard work, but it was so beautiful.

After debriefing in large group, we went our separate ways and met back up at the church we were staying at.

Tuesday March 22
On Tuesday, we got to pick our service projects. In the morning, I went to Mountain States Children’s Home. Here we learned what they do: Mountain States Children’s Home {Follow the link to read about what they do}. One of the most amazing things I think they do is within a year of someone being there this person improves {on average} 3.7 school years within that year. Which as a future educator, I think that’s incredible! We got the chance to meet the kids that were there, and one of them even shared her story. The group I worked with got to put in ceiling tiles in one of the basements of the homes. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was still fun.

That afternoon, I got to help out with No One Left Behind {follow the link to learn about what they do}. This organization hands out requested items from the refugees in the system. Some groups delivered furniture, but my group delivered diapers. And although I didn’t get to meet any of the families, it was still a good experience.

That night at debriefing, I did something that surprised myself, and probably everyone else that knew me. I spoke up. My passion for students’ learning showed when I shared about what the Mountain States Children’s Home does.

Wednesday March 23
I have wished for snow all semester, and I finally got it. On Spring Break. Our projects for the day got canceled because of all the snow. I devastated, as I think everyone was. I was excited for the projects I had signed up for. But God had a different plan that day.

This day I got the chance to call my mom to catch up on the week. I also got to learn some new card games and meet some new people. And although I was around people all day, my introvert self was okay with it.

The next night at debriefing, the person leading worship brought up a great point: It being Holy Week, there’s not much in the Bible about the Wednesday before Jesus’s crucifixion. It’s thought that Jesus rested and spent time with his community. Exactly what we did.

Just because this day didn’t turn out like we thought, God knew what He was doing.

That night during debrief, we spent two hours discussing the crucifixion with the Japanese students in our group.

Thursday March 24
We were scheduled to work with Habitat for Humanity, but because of the snow, that got canceled. Instead, we split up into our teams and did various jobs. The majority stayed at the church we were staying at and prepared the building for Easter. After we were done with our projects, the teams were allowed to have some bonding time.

My team decided to go Downtown and get some Jamba Juice. It was a great day of bonding and getting to know each other. The day was full of laughter.

10419968_10208994717006817_3954816221336176701_n.jpg{My team}

That evening we had breakfast for dinner and got to hang out as the leaders had a meeting. This night was one of the first times I’ve ever really explained to anyone why I don’t talk much. It’s not because I don’t want to, but instead because I lose opportunities to talk. It was a good conversation and left me feeling encouraged.

Friday March 25
Our last day in Colorado. What a bittersweet day. We got a chance to do what we want. I went with a group to the botanical gardens in Denver. Although it was snowy, we still got to see the tropical plants area – which was gorgeous! For lunch, we went to a sushi place {my first time}. It was delicious and a great first experience.

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In the afternoon, we went to the Denver Art Museum. We even made up some stories about the modern art and made our own art. My group of four then went to downtown for The Cheesecake Factory. After dinner, we went to the Starbucks across the street and discussed Jesus with Japanese girl in our group. The discussion was great.

Saturday March 26
The last day. We woke up and cleaned the church. After cleaning, we departed in our caravans. We were ready to get some sleep, but I don’t think any of us was truly ready to leave the atmosphere. I knew I wasn’t. But just because we aren’t going to be around each other every day it doesn’t mean we won’t have that community. Because we do.

After our supper stop, my team all got in one van {we had a minivan with us} and played the greatest game ever. We spent the next hour or so building each other up. It was amazing. I can honestly say the things said about me were what I needed to hear. People said they could see my love for Jesus radiating. They could see my love for children and my ability to work with them. Things I had been doubting.

We got back in Joplin and said our “See ya later”s. We departed ways that night. But in our hearts, I know we are still together.

{And let me tell you, church this morning was great. Getting to see everyone on Resurrection Sunday. It felt like we were the disciples getting to see Jesus after the grave.}

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{Our crazy amazing team of 94 students plus adult sponsors}

In the end, it was a great week. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way or with anybody else. I was myself. And I was okay with it. I was happy. God is amazing. These people are amazing. And I cannot wait to continue the relationships developed.

 

 

 

How to Deal with Homesickness in College

I’m sitting here in my dorm, about to start my sixth (!!!) semester of college. You would think by now it would be super easy for me to leave home. Well it’s not. I mean, I really hate leaving home. I have such a great mom and brother, and dog. In my two and a half years of college so far, the leaving after long breaks has not gotten any easier.

I miss home terribly when I’m not there. I get to sleep in. I don’t have any adult responsibilities. I don’t have homework. I don’t have to worry about trekking across campus in the freezing cold.

It’s really hard being an hour and a half away from my sweet family, but I eventually don’t miss them so much. There are some things down in good ole’ JoMo that really aren’t that bad. There are some things that ease that homesickness, even if it is just for a little bit.

So are you in the same boat as I am? Dreading leaving home because you’ll miss your family? I know it’s hard, but here are some things that I think can help relieve that homesickness.

Getting Involved 

My Freshmen year I was terrified of putting myself out there on campus. I hate meeting new people; it gives me so much stress. So instead, I stayed in the comfort of my dorm room, only going to one thing once a week, which I wasn’t really involved in. Last year, I got a car and began to spread my wings. I went to my usual Tuesday night BSU meetings, as well as started going to Cru and Upper Room, all three college age ministries. I was busy, and a bit overwhelmed at times, but it sure kept my mind off of not being home. I also have made lifelong friends, friends that build me up in who I am in Christ.

So get involved. It was probably the best thing I could do. Plus, I broke out of my shell. I did things I didn’t think I would ever do – going some place where I knew no one, going to Las Vegas. College campuses are great about providing opportunities to get involved, and it’s typically pretty easy to do. Don’t be nervous, because there is bound to be one person that you’ll instantly kick it off with. They’ll notice you, and soon you’ll be part of the group. And try something you wouldn’t normally try. You’d be surprised, you might end up loving it!

Skype

Skype is probably the best invention since sliced bread. It’s free, and if you don’t have a laptop, you can get it on your mobile device. And a webcam for your family back home is not that expensive either. Set aside a time each week, or two, to Skype with your family. They love to hear about what’s going in your life.

My mom, brother and I try to Skype at least once a week, sometimes more. I seriously love it. I can hear their voice and see them, all for free. Plus I get to see my sweet dog! But be careful, sometimes it can make you miss them even more. Be careful to not get onto topics that might make you miss home.

Get a Job
That you love!

I know, I know – work isn’t fun. But if you get one that you love, it won’t be that bad. But make sure you get one on campus because then you’ll have breaks and weekends off, as well as plenty of time in the evenings to do homework, have time to yourself and a social life. Many campuses have job postings online; they’ll probably inform you about this or you can ask. It is only, typically, minimum wage, but they are more flexible to jobs off campus. These jobs are a great way to meet fellow students, as well as a great way to start networking. You can meet people who actually work for your campus.

My first semester here I got a job on campus, and it was the best decision I’ve made. I work at my on campus daycare; a job that I look forward to everyday. My kids are the best, and if I’m having a bad day, they can easily turn it around with their “Miss Cassidys!” or hugs. It’s gotten to the point where I miss them over breaks and have dreams about seeing them. Plus, it’s great experience for me as an Early Childhood major. It’s the best of both worlds.

Start a New Hobby

We’re in college and on a budget, so sometimes starting a new hobby could be a bit expensive. But there are plenty of free and cheap ways to get your mind distracted. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a hobby. You could volunteer. You could start tutoring sessions on your floor or in your building.

My thing is watching old TV shows. I use a free website that has full series of shows uploaded. I’ve watched Glee and The Office, and just started Parks and Recreation over break. I’ve wanted to start something like crafting, but the supplies are so expensive. My shows are a great way to keep my mind off of what’s going on.

College is what you make it. At times it’s hard to leave my small town, but I know have so much to look forward to at college. I have my friends. I have my job. I have my kiddos. And I can still easily connect with my family. And thankfully, I’m only an hour and a half away, meaning I can easily go home.

You are going to miss your family. If you don’t, then you’re in denial. I hope these few tips can help you get through your homesickness. And believe me when I say this – it goes by fast!

A Letter to My Kampers

Dear Kampers,

You all come from different backgrounds. Some of you have known who Christ is your whole life, while others of you have just met Him recently. But despite where you come from, there are still some truths that I want you to know.

I follow you on social media. I ask how you are doing. And I know that many of you are struggling. The devil is trying to attack you. It feels as if God is against you. But let me tell you, if it feels like God is not there, it is because you are not aware of His presence. He is there. Waiting with arms open wide for you to turn to Him. He is not against you. It is so important to remember this. He’s willing to fight for you. A battle that all we need to do is let Him take the reigns of.

Some of you refuse to go to Him. You are scared of who you were or are. But here’s the awesome truth: God doesn’t care. He knows what you’ve done, what you will do. And yet, His arms are still open wide. He loves you so much that He takes you as you are. But once you start surrendering your whole life to Him, He will not leave you the way you came to Him. He’s going to start reshaping you to do work for Him. We don’t have to fix our lives before we come to Him, and it’s amazing.

We read in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” We are a handcrafted masterpiece by God. A God who has had a plan for us since before we were born. I know there will be times when you will doubt God has a plan for you. Where it seems like you are just stuck in a never ending life of disappointment. Of hurt. Of anger. But just wait for it. God has a plan for your suffering. He has a plan for your life. He’s had a plan for you life before any of whatever has happened to you. You just have to wait.

There will be times where God reveals His plan to you, and you will doubt yourself. Why would God want me to do this? I can’t do that! I’m weak. I’m not a leader. You’ll come up with so many excuses to try to get out of it. And you’ll repeat those things to yourself so many times, that you’ll start to believe it. It happens to all of us. It happened to me before my first year as a Summer Missionary. I doubted God’s ability to use quiet me. But He did as so many of you and your parents remind me. It happened to Moses. But look what he did. Or should I say, look what God did through him?  Moses stuttered. Yet, he lead his people out of Egypt. The Pharaoh listened to him. Of course, after God intervened. God used Moses. And He can use you. There is no need to doubt if you have God on your side. Because He will be there. If you let Him take control, things will just fall into place.

Let’s take a look back at Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb”. God formed each and every one of you. He formed all of us. We are all His handiwork. We are His masterpieces. Girls, you are beautiful. Regardless of what you wear. Or how much makeup you cake on. It doesn’t matter how skinny you are. Boys, treat the ladies as such. Recognize their beauty for who they are. Look deeper than the skin. Look at their skills, their personalities. Treat them with respect. And girls, the same goes for you. There is so much more to the perfect boyfriend than his looks. Make sure he treats you right. We also need to treat the boys with respect. They have feelings too.

And to both of you: I know it can get old me asking you if your crush loves Jesus. But it’s so important that they do. As Rachel says, “Don’t flirt to convert.” It rarely works out. It’s very likely that they will try and compromise your faith. You might end up doing things you regret. Instead, be their friend at first. If they can’t see how important your faith is, then they aren’t worth it. Most importantly, just be careful. I do not want to see any of you get hurt.

I tell you all of this with love. My heart is so full from these past two summers. I wish that I could see you all all the time. But I can’t. That doesn’t mean though that I’m not here for you. Because I am. And so are the other Summer Missionaries. Come to us. Let us know your struggles. Let us know how we can pray for you. But most importantly, go to God.

And finally, I hope Kamp becomes just as important to you as it is to me. Remember the friends you make during the short time you are there each summer. Help keep each other accountable. Be there for each other. The Christian walk is not one we can walk on our own. We need friends. We need mentors. We need God. I cannot wait to see what God does with each and every one of you.

Sincerely,

A grateful Summer Missionary

P.S.

I cannot stress how important each and every one of you are. I have learned so much from all of you. You have taught me that not all Jr. High kids are that bad. You have taught me to open up. To make silly faces. And to be okay with it. You have taught me to love unconditionally. You have helped me realize my purpose on this earth. And I thank you.

God’s Reasoning

Twenty-one years ago, my dad and mom had some life changing news. They found out that they would be having another child, me. Along with their thirteen year old son and my two half siblings, a baby was going to change their whole world. A baby after thirteen years was not really in their plans.

But God had a reason. He knew what He was doing.

Five years after my birth,and fifteen years ago today, my family’s life changed dramatically again. My dad passed away. This was not in our plan.

But once again, God had a reason. He knew what He was doing.

The past fifteen years have had many days where I sit and think about what my dad was like. Because all my memories of my dad, are not really my own, but instead what everyone else has told me. There are some of my own, but they are limited.

Things that are included in memories that are not my own are things that make me happy, but there’s one that hangs me up. My mom always tells me that my dad didn’t like us going to church, yet she has also told me that he was a believer. This. This troubles me. I didn’t know my dad’s heart. I don’t know if he accepted Jesus into his heart. I don’t know. And it bothers me.

There’s a family video of the Christmas after he passed away, and I’m opening a present from my mom and dad. I don’t think I fully understood what my dad’s death meant, but I did know that I would never see him again. I asked my mom how it was possible that I could get a gift from both of them. She told me that I could always talk to him for he was in Heaven watching over me. But is he?

I had believed he was for the longest time. But then my mom kept telling me how he never wanted us to go to church.

In the past few years, I’ve really started to question this. Maybe my dad wasn’t a true believer, and maybe he wasn’t in Heaven. At first this bothered me, it still does. For the longest time I thought I would be able to see my dad again.

But then, I get to thinking with my Christian cap on. If my dad was still in my life, would I be a Christian? Would I have gone to Kamp, where I first accepted Christ? As much as I hate to admit it, I probably wouldn’t be. I probably wouldn’t have.

If my dad was still alive, my life would be different. I wouldn’t know all the people that I do. I wouldn’t have gone to Kamp. I wouldn’t be going to Heaven when I died.

It pains me to say this. If my dad was still alive, I would most likely be living a life of unrecognized sin. I wouldn’t care. I would be hateful. My outlook would be negative.

But God, He knew what He was doing fifteen years ago today. And as much as I have struggled with it, I must accept His plan.

I miss my dad. And I wish that he could have seen my grown up, but I have a Heavenly Father who had a different plan. He knew I would hurt, but without the hurt, I wouldn’t have seen Him.

And I have to be okay with that.

Side Note: There is no doubt my dad loved me and wouldn’t want the best for me. I just don’t think he realized, due to his own life, who God was. I know that if my dad was still alive, I would have been a daddy’s girl. I had him wrapped around my finger. I don’t need anyone to tell me how much he loved me because I can just look at these pictures.

 

4 Simple Gifts

It’s that time of year again where my mom constantly asks me what I want for Christmas. And every time she asks, I give the same response of gift cards, a full length mirror, or a few movies. I honestly don’t want that much. She asked me again tonight and got on one of her tangents about how she wasn’t going to get much for my brother and me because money is tight this year. Once again, we told her we didn’t want much, because honestly we have everything we really need.

I don’t have everything that I could possibly want, but I have a lot. I have more than most people in the world. I have a roof over my head, clothes, people who love me, food and clean drinking water. So since it is the season of giving, I wanted to make a post of things that God has given me that make me happy in life.

1. Family
My family is all kinds of special. But I love them for it. No two of us are exactly the same. Have you ever heard the quote “We put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional”? Well, I believe this quote is my family in a nutshell. We don’t have it all together, but that’s okay. What fun would it be if we did?

2. Friends
My friends include a wide range of people. They include people that I see multiple times a week, to sometimes only once every couple of weeks at best. Then there are friends that I haven’t seen in months. The best part about all of these friends though? I know that each and everyone cares for me. We can see each other every week, or maybe only every few months, but I know that without a doubt they would have my back. I love that I don’t have to talk to them every day, especially since there are times where I need introverted days. And there are times where I know that if I need someone to talk to, someone would be there.

3. The Church
There is so much criticism dealing with the church now a day, but the first church in Acts is obtainable. And I get to experience it. The church that I have been involved in for the past year and a half down at college has been such a huge gift from God. We don’t get to break bread every week together, but we do take communion every week. There are so many opportunities for community, which thankfully I get to a part of through the college age group. There is fellowship, prayer and teachings based off of Jesus’s. It’s simply amazing and has been one of the best gifts God has given me this past year. Because from this gift stems friends that become family.

4. Kamp Keirsey
Oh my favorite place on earth, how could I not include you? The camp I grew up at is one of the best gifts God has given me.  The place where I first met Him, and then ten years later realized I hadn’t truly surrendered to Him. The place where I have met so many wonderful people. The place where I learned to love Jr. High students. The place of so many laughs and tears. The place where my heart longs to be at every day, surrounded by my old counselors and my campers.

These are just four simple, yet not, things that God has given me. With these four things, I honestly do not need anything else.

So what do I want for Christmas? I want to be able to spend more time with those people in my life. I want to live in a constant community with my friends and family, with the campers from Kamp. I want to be able to be there for each and every camper I have ever met, to be able to live life with them.

Mom, that’s all I really want. But these are not things that you can get me, and I wish you could see that.

God bless! And Merry Christmas!

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