Well, my summer at The Wilds of North Carolina is over.
It still feels surreal, the fact that it actually happened. I was actually there as a counselor. I actually wore green every day, and jumped up and down clapping and cheering even when I was tired, and ran up and down those 100+ steps multiple times a day. I actually met a handful of humans who were under my care for a week, and we got to do life together and I got to hear their stories and their struggles. I actually hiked to 4th falls and actually went to counselor-only meetings and actually spent too much money at Cool Beans. It actually happened.
And now it’s over. What the world.
Reality still hasn’t totally set in yet. My family picked me up two days ago from the very empty campsite, and we drove a few hours north to vacation in the mountains. This still isn’t reality. But it’s still different than what I was doing this time last week, or this time a week ago. I woke up yesterday morning NOT at The Wilds for the first time since May 16th–three months ago exactly. And that is weird to me. Every morning I woke up knowing that breakfast was would be served at the top of the hill. Every Monday I knew that I had campers coming in that would live in my cabin, and I would find out how they eat and if they snore and what their biggest fear is. Every day I knew that I had to trust God completely and give everything I had at every moment. Every Saturday I knew I could rest and talk about the week with my guy, and every Sunday I knew we would go to church together and go to Walmart afterward. It was incredible. And now it’s over.
That was my reality for three months. A God-given dream that He fulfilled in His own timing. But that was only three months out of my whole life.
“What now?” is the question many people are asking me. Truthfully, I don’t know yet. But that’s a different story for a different post. For now, I know that I am going back home and going to endeavor to put into practice everything I learned at camp.
While I was there, God gave me many very stretching opportunities. I confess, there were times when I felt hopeless because I had not the slightest idea how an individual or a situation could ever change. There were times I absolutely did not want to do what I had to do. But God is faithful. On my hardest days, when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed or playing a game, or I was frustrated with a situation or felt just done and exasperated, God gave me the strength I needed. So many times I cried out to Him, and He answered my request. So many times I was so full of joy I could do nothing but cry and laugh at the same time, and He heard it. I know there were several people bringing me before the Lord in prayer on a regular basis, and that is such a blessing. In all honesty, there were some days, or even just some moments, when I knew I literally could not make it without my Savior. I would be completely spent, and about to have an emotional breakdown, but God would give me the strength I needed. He would always provide supernatural energy. It was amazing to see Him work so practically in my life like that. And when it came to counseling my campers, I could not do it on my own; but the Holy Spirit would bring the right Scripture to mind. It was absolutely incredible.
I loved my campers. Every Monday was exciting, as we had meetings to talk about and get pumped up for the week; and then we all ran down to the activity center ready to get our kids. I loved the newness of meeting these girls, and then developing relationships with them as the week went on. I laughed so hard I cried. I got to be super crazy and insane and hyper with them, and usually they were crazy right along with me. There was great responsibility to make sure we got where we needed to be on time, make sure my girls had the time of their life, and most of all to make sure I was a godly example and able to dig deep and be a spiritual encouragement to them.
Apart from the campers I met, the staff I met were one of my favorite parts of working at The Wilds. Getting lost in the crowd of over 200 strangers that first weekend was overwhelming; but as the summer went on and I began to meet the souls and hear the stories behind the unfamiliar faces, I was grateful for the opportunity to serve with such a diverse group of people. During staff training, we had sessions with all the staff, then with just the counselors, or just the girls, or just the individual teams. This allowed me to sort of get an overview of everyone there. As the weeks went by and our focus really became the same, I was able to create wonderful friendships with so many beautiful people. Several girls on the green team were tremendous encouragements to me. We were able to share what was on our heart and pray together, or laugh about something that nobody else noticed or would find funny. I miss that fellowship even now.
One of the friendships I made at the beginning of the summer blossomed into more than a friendship. I’m sure pictures and a relationship change on Facebook have made it obvious, but his name is Josh Rushing. During May staff, he both daunted and intrigued me. He was a third-year counselor, and it seemed EVERYBODY knew and adored him. But as I spent a little bit of time around him at the beginning of that very first week, I began to understand why. He was hilarious and comfortable in his own skin, and truly desired to be like Christ and help others do the same. I knew I wanted to get to know him; but I was extremely hesitant about pursuing anyone at that point. I went into this summer specifically looking to NOT start talking to any guys; so I decided to just pray and not worry about it. Well, Wednesday night during May staff, he led a Bible study for all of us there. His insight and communication of it amazed me. Later that night, we ended up sitting and talking for over two hours, and he asked me for my number to text. The following night, we did the same thing. The next night, we talked and colored pictures and listened to music and he gave me his jacket to wear because I was cold. All the while, even though looking back I can see that he was obviously interested, I was trying to convince myself that he was probably just a really nice guy who was trying to make a first-year counselor feel better about being new. But as we went into staff training week, and he constantly saved me seats and made sure I was doing ok and asked if I had any questions about anything, I began to see how blessed I was that God had brought Josh Rushing into my life. The next few weeks were full of adventures: my first cabin, different challenges, weekend trips to town. He was there for me through it all. At the end of week three, he told me he really liked me. At the beginning of week six, he called my dad and asked if we could date. He literally makes life exciting. I have been so blessed to be pursued by this man of God. Even though he is down at Mississippi State and I will be back in Maryland during the school year, I’m excited for this next chapter of our relationship. He is a blessing to me in SO many ways.
God is good. I watched Him come through time after time this summer, and I am excited to see where He takes me and what He shows me in the upcoming weeks as I return home. Am I nervous about going back to “normal life”? Of course. I don’t want to slip into old habits or forget what it’s like to work and serve even when I’m exhausted. Am I apprehensive about the future? Absolutely. I hate not knowing what’s next. But His ways are higher and so much better than mine, and that I can trust.
So there’s the update. I’m super excited about this next chapter of my life! Let the adventure begin!