Milestone: “So Long Sweet Summer”

I just had a former camper from 2 summers ago ask if I was coming back this summer.

Cue floods of nostalgia and literally over a year and a half total time of being at camp and the unofficial staff goodbye song, “So Long, Sweet Summer” by Dashboard Confessional.

But I’m getting married and moving onward! Although, for the record, I do have to say I don’t think I’d go back as a counselor even if I were available; but maybe tag team girl leader (mentor to the group of high school volunteers for the summer).

But oh, how I will miss you, cabin Deborah:

(Items of note: my camp bedding, the green mug borrowed from the kitchen, and super points if you know the title of the small book on the right that was Salt leader reading one summer).

Oh, yes: Wrapping paper made wallpaper panels, a spunky polynesian theme, homemade wands for the little little girls in a water bottle on the left, and the back door that kept falling apart.

My lockbox.

The lockbox used for keeping items safe for/from campers (such as my cell phone, allergy meds, CDs for my dream machine alarm clock) and wonderful display for prayer cards, postcards, band bumper stickers, and other memorabilia.

My closet.

A reminder of what it means to truly live simply. (sidenote: yes, that is a cane in my closet; we had old people’s night a few times that summer).

"Words to live by"

I sometimes had campers write down their favorite verses to add to this display. It was really sweet to see what verses they were working on memorizing. I saved a few of them.

One of our many cabin flags we made on a weekly basis.

This was one of my favorites. I had a lot of campers’ artwork up on the walls, but tried not to use photos with full names in them for their privacy.

This is probably more than you wanted to see, but this place was home for three summers of camp counseling. It quite literally changed my life and helped me to find my passion for working with youth.

What a blessing 🙂

P.S. I won’t make you watch the video of my cabin I took on my last night there haha

Dear Blog

I’m afraid I haven’t been honest with you. Lately it seems as though we have been growing apart. I have begun to consider what blogging for me will mean when I become a professional, and even if it will be feasible to continue.

I have been studying, working, and spending time with people I love. Life is gorgeously simple in Summer, even with a little bit of a schedule. You used to be the companion I talked to about everything, and then stalked people on facebook for awhile. I now have several other people I talk to every day, and it seems like the things I want to talk about are not mine to share, or are not appropriate for a public audience, however small it may be.

I want to be honest. I want to love God and people and learning new things each day. However, I am also learning discretion, and have been blessed with some close friends. I think I’m growing up. I think I no longer need to digitally convey my thoughts to the world because finally FINALLY I have friends who listen and I don’t feel so alone anymore.

Although I still see all these friend groups with the filter of an independent party, I’ve realized that the connections, the filaments I’ve extended into the universe have finally caught on something, and it’s holding. I’m suspended by grace’s cord each day, and from this vantage point, life is limitless.

I promise I’ll try to polish up some of those drafts you’re just dying to share, and I’ll keep you posted on the really amazing things God has been illustrating in my life, but I won’t be so insistent on making you listen to all the noise that disguises what matters.  Thanks for being a constant listener/therapist since I was probably 12 or 13 (even though I didn’t get you specifically until college).

Love,

Rachel

The last class, cornfield communication, and a prayer request.

The last class-

I am currently enrolled in CI 426, Principles & Issues of Secondary Education. It is my last methods course for education, my first and last summer class through ISU, and my last class on campus as an undergraduate student. I am beginning to feel like it might all be over someday, but the crux of the matter is, the end is just the beginning. Regardless of this philosophical/sober discourse tinged with nostalgia and peppered with the ever-popular coming-of-age motif, this is it, and I am loving it! I found myself as giddy as I was as a child to be in school. I’m pretty sure I fantasize about my first day of school the way I’m supposed to about my future hypothetical wedding, but that’s immaterial. This class is so much fun! It’s cross-listed as a grad class so everyone there wants to be involved with education as a career, and the instructor is the biggest gem of all! He has been in schools for 30 years, both as a history teacher and a principal, and says that his current job is the best yet. He is always just pouring out classroom wisdom that I attempt to jot down in between other notes. I do my homework, and I am affirmed that teaching is not only a great fit for me, but also that I feel the peace and joy of pursuing what God has prepared for me to pursue! Additionally, he openly shared that the most important thing in his life was his faith walk… I’m hoping it means Christianity, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to figure that out. Anyway, I am really glad I’m taking this class during the summer. It allows me to enjoy the material to a greater extent, and become more prepared for student teaching in the fall! I am so glad to be excited about school again. It’s been too long.

Cornfield communication-

I love the conversations I get to have at work this summer in cornfields. What is even sweeter is that God has been answering my prayers for more women of God to be in my life. I’m living with some great girls from salt, and even have an accountability partner in a former connection group girl I’ve loved working with in the past year, but even cooler is that there are two other girls on my crew at work who are believers! I know that when I need to talk to them about life issues that 1) they won’t be horribly gossipy and 2) the advice they give me is solid and biblical, rather than steeped in worldly wisdom. Also, for some reason this summer has already afforded several occasions for me to need that support, which leads me to my last point of this post.

A Prayer Request

I really don’t want to bare all details to the internet, but I will say pray for my 16 year old brother. He’s making some negative decisions and having a hard time with my parents and other authority figures. I love him so much. He’s been talking with me, but if you know me at all, you know that my knee-jerk reaction is to want to make him move to Ames so I can keep him close and love on him, but that just isn’t going to happen. He was here last weekend, and we put him to work re-landscaping a friend’s yard. It was good to see him. Just pray that God would speak to his heart in such a way that he won’t be able to do anything but seek Him with everything he’s got.

 

Shots of my Thoughts…

because that is the only kind I will be taking this VEISHEA week.

1. I have a multicultural foundations of education class in which I am constantly exposed to anti-Christian sentiments, pansexual awareness, and religious pluralism in the classroom. Thank GOD for my friend Amy S. who is there and wrestles with these tough issues with me. How do I maintain the integrity of my faith and properly express that in a way that shows God’s love for humanity and is still honoring to Him?

2. It’s VEISHEA week. It’s supposed to snow on Saturday like my freshman year when I remember taking photos of friends and FREEZING at battle of the bands. I’m nostalgic, but also way too homework-taxed to really enjoy this.

3. I’ve started writing down my dreams in an attempt to understand them better. Lately, they haven’t been nightmares like I used to have all the time. They’re still reasonably dangerous, but my dream self isn’t terrified anymore. I’d like to think that says something about me, but I don’t know if it does.

4. I have a lot of homework but I feel like my mind is focused as long as I start breaking down the massive block of fear about it and don’t dwell on these feelings. As such, I haven’t been going in to work this week, and I don’t feel bad about that decision. School > work.

5. Romans 12:1-2 or Romans 5? I should show you the design I have drawn up. I still want that tattoo on my ankle. Apparently, I also explain why better when I’m half asleep. If it happens, it will be extremely pre-meditated.

6. Lord God, You are faithful. Reign in me and work powerfully through me for Your glory and credit, that I may love you more as Your daughter. Hide my will in Yours, open my eyes from blindness, and lead me Home in Your time. I love you more than I understand, because Your love is beyond what I can learn in a lifetime.

Post-Iowa City Anthem:

Renewed faith.

I definitely was bawling by the second song.

God’s presence was so strong. It washed away the insecurities and doubts I’ve had recently and reminded me of who I am.

It was so sweet seeing so many of my former ISU friends in a new setting, still loving God (sidenote: LOVED the feel of the venue).

Patience, peace, Love. Overwhelming, heart-rending, devastating and piercing love. It can never be undone, and the binding of my heart says redemption has begun. I can’t wait ’til it is finished, but in the meantime, I’ll keep working.

I’ve been reading through Hebrews the past couple of days. Reading it in the HCS was good because I saw the words anew and really enjoyed the background intro it gave. Basically, it’s a letter to encourage believers as to why they should continue being faithful in their relationship to God. Hebrews 3:7-11 referenced Psalm 95:7-11, which says:

For He is our God,
and we are the people of His pasture,
the sheep under His care.
Today, if you hear His voice:

8 “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the wilderness

9 where your fathers tested Me;
they tried Me, though they had seen what I did.

10 For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray;
they do not know My ways. ‘

11 So I swore in My anger,
‘They will not enter My rest. ‘ ”

In Hebrews, this is followed by vs. 12-14:

12 Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today , so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. 15 As it is said:

Today, if you hear His voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

I really don’t have to say much except this is another time when what sounds most offensive is most encouraging to me. Does anyone else gain encouragement from the idea that if one is not faithful, God will not allow them to enter His rest? I seriously think I’m strange for liking sharp pointy biblical statements. Recently I listened to a Mark Driscoll sermon on “Marriage, ministry, and mistakes” and one thing he said about ministry was, it doesn’t matter how you begin ministry, but rather how you finish it. How will your last day here on earth be? Will you still be worshipping and serving God with your life?

Today- if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts… do not challenge God after seeing all He has done in the span of your life; be thankful always, and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ TODAY; don’t be overcome by the prevalent jadedness in this life.

Be thankful! Do not tire in doing good! Lose yourself in His love- it’s amazing!

I Got Involved in Politics.

This is an historic moment. I even made the Daily with my letter in response to this article, which was discussing the relations between ISU Ambassadors and ISU Republicans. I would like you to know I lobbied at Regents’ Day at the capitol on Monday against the magnitude of proposed budget cuts for Regents’ universities, and enjoyed both observing and participating in local politics. It’s another step towards my maturity I suppose lol

Here it is!!!

Poetry, anyone?

Just some recent stuff…

Trees

I sit solitary
Watching the freezing rain
Blow and billow branches
From trees slick and dark from moisture.

I stretch my limbs upon the coffee table
And wonder if those trees ever rest
From defying gravity and the elements
Raising their votive arms
To the sky
The giver of sun and storm
Of raindrop hope and lightning death.

They do not question
Why it is cold
Or why they must go naked
For bone-cracking winter ice.
They simply reach heavenward
And never look back
Until their faces rot
They are struck down
The trunk of their body splits
And flesh decays

Yet even then they humbly bow
On cracked dusty roots
In homage to the force
That creates and devastates.

My Grandmother’s Cottage

I wish I could show you
But all I have are these
old fuzzy photographs

The car parked in front of the garage
where Grandpa’s extensive workbench was
and the extra fridge and freezer
frugally saved homemade meats and goods
for winter, or for Saturday morning coffee guests

No, that picture doesn’t do it justice.
You just see the corner of the house
and the stone path I played hopscotch on
up and down the small front yard.
It’s like I’m seeing it from the corner of my eye
instead of properly focusing on it.

That one’s from the kitchen window.
See the bird feeder?
Grandma used to send me outside to refill those
I think it was after her second hip replacement…
but this had to have been from before because
her clothes are out there on the line
and she still kept houseplants when she was there.
Pity you can’t see how neat and tidy her pantry was
Just a few feet left from this view.
I recall the simple cupboards, and I think I can
almost see the pattern on that floor
and her tiny worn loafers
in pairs beside the refrigerator
beside the doorframe to the living room.
I can almost hear her
contented humming from the other room
as she went about her day.

Oh, that dark brown carpet. I was in my Easter dress there
right in front of the table where she always had a jigsaw puzzle
to work on whenever she had a minute or two for entertainment.
I’m not sure, maybe I was 4 or so?
My sister Amy must have been around there somewhere.
Grandma was so good at labeling pictures
with that gorgeous script
but one of my 7 aunts must have taken this.

It’s really too bad you never got to see this place
It’s gone- they literally moved the cottage
off its foundation
and across town.

They built a larger ugly cottage where it used to stand.

One with the dust

God formed Adam from the dust.
I think He did it to remind humanity to maintain humility- ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
We fade in our temporal glory to rejoin the collective of life.
Dirt both grows life and decomposes that which was alive.

Adam worked the land after the fall
And although God made it difficult, He was still there; bringing rain and sun to nourish and sustain.
It is this dependence that again should strike humility in people from the soil.
Maybe that is why farmers are often described with “humble.”
I think they live so close to the soil, they cannot help but remember that they cannot control everything.

Farming used to be a common occupation; after all,
everyone needs the fruit of the dust.
I am even descended from a long line of farmers;
families who worked the land
tanned
cracked
calloused
weathered
skin.

I did not grow up on a farm.
My family was far from the dust
my father is allergic to…
Yet my mother would always take us to visit where she grew up.
I don’t think she did it to remind us of the land-
but I know it is what she loved
because it was home.

I must confess that
Somewhere in my young mind
The seed and smell of land fixed itself
And I was drawn to the common vein of my ancestors.

I work in the soil
Even though I dwell in a city.
My feet, shod with steel toes
Tread the dust that settles in me
like a plant taking root,
assessing all the creases in my skin
under my nails
on the sweat of my brow.
My hands destroy the life shell- now shroud-
of maize.
I look at my hands
tanned
cracked
calloused
although not so weathered-
and I almost see my grandfather’s hands
from when I was very young
and shucking corn
mercilessly sliced my fresh skin.

I am older now, grown from the soil
I am older now, having worked the land.
I am grown into humility-
Knowing the power of the elements
the power of God
the difficulty of the task
and the delight of completion.

O my soul, sprouted from soil;
reach heavenward until harvest
when we will be taken home
or become one with the dust.

Annetta

(another lit. class composition while listening to the prof. ramble about Robert Frost)

I hear her voice like aged wine
Rich with wisdom and strongly divine.
Her eyes yet pierce with brown strong stare
When the pain was not great and her spirit still there.
I recall the days she would recite and see
Long tucked away lines of classic poetry.
She was strong, this woman so dear to me
A hard simple life and a flowering family tree.
I know she is well, yet all the same
I miss her and keep her with our shared name.

It will be two years a week from Friday. I can’t wait to see her again someday.

In a lovely corner of my mind…

I dream in summer nights with air so thick and warm it embraces me like a lover. I lie on my back in the soft grass and stare up at the airy labyrinth of branches, strange rough hands reaching toward one another, straining upward, against gravity, against roots- actually succeeding quietly and steadily through the passing of many seasons. I trace the paths the stars make and look for my own constellations. These are things more interesting than a belt or a dipper or a smudge of condensed stars. I hear traces of childhood lullabies echoing in my ears as if I’m straining to hear a snatch of music not simply far away but far a-time. I inhale the scent of grass clippings, soil, and dew, the latter made of fairy folks silver slippers and finery of faintest gossamer. I wonder why I’ve forgotten them and if all things will lose their enchantment someday. Cicadas and crickets chirrup in raucous chorus- the summertime lullaby of my youth occurring when the clouds were golden and yellow, but mostly pink and remaining blue, like the cotton candy popsicles from the ice cream truck. I used to lie on my front lawn with a disposable camera, capturing the cloud pictures at sunset. I still have those photos in an old album. I won’t forget the tiny cities of tiles and monopoly houses I created in the dirt, or my tree with its four trunks and oddly formed basin of a knothole in the front. I won’t forget the forest in the flowerbed of unnaturally tall zinnias my mother planted and boosted with too much miracle grow. I still see the tiny rosebushes in the red pumice stone bed, the tulips lining the front patio, the front step where my two year old brother fell clean off and had quite the mark on his head to show, the same step I pushed off of barefoot learning to ride my bike and scarring the bases of my last two left toes in the process. I close my eyes and remember the buckets of dandelion soup I made with water from the spigot on the outside of the house and a variety of weeds everywhere. I look up, startled, to hear my father practicing softball pitching on the door of the shed. Opening the doors to the shed I see the Jack-O-Lantern we always kept in there from the previous owner, but never used. The garage workbench was dusty and the fluorescent light overhead rarely worked. We used to have clubs during the day when it was empty as my father was at work. I hear the frantic chirps of the baby bird that was trapped in the garage until I used a plastic bowl to scoop it up and set it near its nest outside, taking extra care to not touch it so its mother would still accept it. Ash trees were unevenly on either side of the driveway where I used to pace and taught myself how to whistle in anticipation for my father’s return from work. One was surrounded with Hostas, of which we used to pop the buds in the spring to hear the characteristic popping sound, despite our mother’s admonitions.

 

I want to wrap up my childhood in a brightly colored box, maybe in the pattern of the swimsuit I wore constantly during the summer and save it, in all its ornate yet simple beauty for the days I might have later to cherish what a miracle it is to be alive.