stories about memories

i’m thankful for thanksgiving.

most people don’t know this since i love christmas so much and go crazy about it all year round like a little kid, but thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday.
while giving people gifts and getting some myself makes me happy, getting excited about all the great things i already have makes me even happier. but that’s not the biggest reason why i like this day so much.
i don’t like change, and thanksgiving never changes in my house. it’s the most comfortably familiar day of the year.
while i’m always aware that i have the weirdest family in the world, our thanksgiving traditions are the best proof of it that i know of.

this is how our day goes down, every year, and it’s been this way my entire life. some new things get added sometimes, but the old things never get thrown out.

I.  the parade.
     A. i run through the house yelling and waking everyone up like it’s christmas. i’ve done this since i could talk and i did it today even though i’m 21 and old and stuff.
     B. dad tries to convince us that there’s no point in cutting on the tv until about 9:10, because that happens in the first ten minutes is al roker and matt lauer talking about how cold it is and some random people getting interviewed. but we remind him of the one time that we took that advice and missed the garfield balloon because of it, and i freak out about possibly missing the ribbon cutting, and in the end the tv always goes on at 8:58.
     C. we eat waffles for breakfast while making fun of all the corny broadway acts
     D. we comment that there are more commercials than the year before
     E. i make the pumpkin pie, and mom hovers and makes sure that i focus because i keep walking away to look at the parade.
     F. we have the same conversations about each float and balloon as if we’ve never mentioned these things before. my favorites:
          1. me: it’s so sad there’s no garfield balloon anymore.
              scott: THERE’S NO GARFIELD?
              me: no, there hasn’t been for years, and you’ve acted surprised every year.
          2. me: reckon those big balloons could hold [however much i weigh that year]? cuz wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever to hijack one and ride on top of it?
          3. scott: why is there still a ronald mcdonald float?? i thought he died!
              me: um no. but he scares me. they shouldn’t have him in there just because of the creepy factor.
          4. our surprise at there still being a sonic the hedgehog balloon(because one year there wasn’t, so we thought it was too 90s and they’d axed it for good)
     G. the skype date with susan.
          1. we all take turns sitting by the computer narrating the parade for her, but she goes to bed before the end since she’s 13 hours ahead of us.
     H. the stuffing.
          ever since we were kids we’ve always helped my mom make the stuffing by tearing the bread into pieces for her. we’d fight over who did more slices and daniel would keep telling mom i wasn’t making mine small enough(actually he still does that).
II. the national dog show.
     A. dad and daniel complain and ask if we really need to watch it, me and mom say yes of course, and scott settles it by pointing out that “the spirit of thanksgiving is listening to linda squeal every five minutes for 2 hours. we’re watching it.”
     B. everyone pretends to be annoyed but still ends up having enough fun laughing at me.
III. snunch.
     this is a tradition that i’m positive is unique to our family, even though it’s a very smart idea. see, since we have such a big dinner and we eat it earlier than usual, we don’t want to spoil that by eating a real lunch. so snack+lunch=snunch. our obnoxious word for crackers and cheese, chips and dip, etc.
     A. the olive count.
          1. this tradition started about ten years ago when my dad was looking at the serving size on the label, and it said there were 55 olives in the jar. well we all looked at it and thought there had to be more than that. so we got a piece of paper and every time someone took an olive we’d tally it up and when we finished the jar there turned out to be about 70.
          2. now it’s become a thing we do every year. and every year my mom asks if we really need to do it since we’ve proved the label wrong and know full well that there’s gonna be more than they say.
     B. remembering other thanksgivings.
          1. at some point we always end up talking about other years. some get brought up that we’ve never mentioned before, and some stories end up getting told every year.      
IV. miracle on 34th street.
     A. by the time this comes on(after the dog show), the food is all cooking so my mom is actually able to sit down. not only is this movie the perfect thanksgiving-to-christmas transition, it’s also her favorite holiday movie, so half the fun of watching it is seeing how happy it makers her.
     B. this is the only movie that my mom has memorized. so for once, it’s her, not me, that everyone is complaining about saying every word as the actors say them. though they get less annoyed with her than they do me. =]

and that’s how it goes down every single year. my family isn’t one to make purposeful traditions, but we do the same things the same way every year because they just happen. and my orange self likes it better that way.
so on this day to be thankful, i’m thankful for the day in itself, because of all the fun moments that repeat themselves on it.

stories about life and God

gift of grace.

a few weeks ago, one of my favorite chapel speakers came to ciu, and he talked about admitting that we’re good at things. he said it’s not prideful to acknowledge when we excel at something, as long as we remember that it’s a “gift of grace” from God. God MADE you to be really smart, or artistic, or athletic, or funny.

as for me, God graciously gifted me with an ability to…well i can’t even think of how to word it so i’ll just tell the story first.

i learned a lot from my acteens the last week of camp, but i’ve found that the most important thing didn’t even have to do with camp, and that’s that i really love living with teenage girls.
people keep telling me how great a job i did with that cabin. and i keep insisting that it just happened to be a really special group.
but whenever i tell someone that, i always feel God poking at my heart reminding me to give him more credit than that.
this is what happened, and i don’t know how it did because i didn’t consciously do anything to purposely make this happen.

those girls loved each other and they loved me. and i of course loved every one of them to death.
i was so simultaneously their best friend and their leader that i couldn’t tell you where one role ended and the other began. it’s like the best friend circle was blue, and the leader circle was red, and i was a perfect purple. i never felt any less their friend when it was time for me to teach Bible study or make them go to bed, and i never felt like less of a leader when i was laughing with them at the dinner table counting how many napkins we’d used.
living life with those girls was honestly one of the happiest i’ve ever felt in my life. i’ve always loved camp, but i’ve never loved it like that. it’s like the first time i wore rainbows after thinking for years that old navy flip flops were the best. this was the most perfect “fit” i’d ever had in any ministry ever.

i don’t know how to describe what this means i’m talented at. being a cabin leader? eh. that’s a gift of grace we already knew about. leading 8th graders? maybe. all i know is that i would be totally content to live in a house full of fourteen-year-old girls for the rest of my life.
i want to hear their stories and share mine with them.
i want to show them how beautiful, how wonderfully unique, how worthy of love they are.
i want to make them feel safe; be a safe person to talk to and give them a safe place to be.
i want to teach them things and let them teach me things.
i want to cheer them on through every little thing they do.
i want to be their beth.

i’m excited to see how God considers this into his calculations.

stories about school

why i’m [not] a psych major.

the following is a post that i found in my drafts. it was called “why i’m a psych major.” i started it fall of my sophomore year. when i first came to ciu and people would try to guess my major, they’d always guess youth ministry. so i wanted to write something defending my atypical psych major self.
but as i’m about to write after i let you read this, i’m not at all meant for psych.
90% of people guess youth ministry when they don’t know my major. and it makes sense. i’m fun and loud and love kids, i work with a youth group during the year and at a camp in the summer…all i need to do is start wearing chacos and declare an outdoor leadership minor, and i’ll fit the stereotype exactly.
and while i usually like that people guess that because it means they’ve seen my real self, i wish that more people noticed the things that make me perfect for psych. i know i’m not quiet or introverted or smart, and i hate school, but other than that…
1. i love people.
2. i care about people.
3. i want to understand them.
4. i could listen to their stories all day.
5. i love hearing people’s honest thoughts or feelings. this is why i could read postsecret all day. i get a look at people’s real hearts.
6. everyone’s mind is different, and they’re all fascinating. i want to know how every single one works.
7. i have a talent for loving crazy people that everyone else turns away.
8. i love showing people hope.
9. i LOVE to diagnose people. if i’ve hung out with you for a significant length of time, i’ve likely made up a profile in my head for you.
10. i am the least judgmental person in the world. i let people be exactly who they are, and i like to encourage people to be real.
11. i want to help kids get out of terrible homes, and into one where they’ll get the love they deserve. apparently i need a psych degree for that.
all of those things* are still true about me today. so why did i change?
it wasn’t just because i was sick of having to correct people. though that was a nice little bonus.
there were a lot of reasons.
and a slight disclaimer, i’m not at all knocking psych majors. my whole point here is that people are made for different things, and if you were made for psych then more power to you.

1. psychology is such a book-focused major. the more i looked at the classes i’d have to take, the more i realized that i wouldn’t enjoy school at all if i stuck with this. i like reading little things here and there for fun, but i didn’t want to spend a whole semester learning about this stuff for a grade.
2. i didn’t want to go to grad school, and 90% of careers that would require me to have a psych degree would want me to have a masters.
3. i realized that while those ten things were true, they were pointed in a different direction than they would for someone else.
4. i felt like all those passions i have would be wasted in a classroom. youth min is all experiential. instead of writing research papers and doing hypothetical case studies, i want to learn by doing. you can’t exactly learn how to counsel by counseling, since that’s a pretty serious thing, but you can learn how to speak to youth by speaking to youth.

and over the summer and this semester especially, i’ve found even more reasons that i definitely made the right decision.

5. i hate research papers. i had to write one for my marriage and family class and within the first hour that i sat down with a big stack of books, i was on the verge of tears. i don’t want to deal with theoretical families, i want to love on real ones! i would have much rather interviewed ten families with distant fathers than looked up facts in books.
6. i love relationships. i found that no matter what i did on the psych front, i would only know people on the surface. social workers have to love a child for as long as it takes to get them out of their situation, then let them go and never contact them again when it’s done. that’s a necessary job, my heart is too big to fill one of them. God needs me someplace where i can love a child for their whole life.
7. i do want to know how people’s minds work, but not in such a deep scientific way as to need to study the brain for four years. the true colors, myers-briggs and the five love languages are enough for me.
8. i love doing life with people. that’s why i love camp so much. every week i get a new little family. we get to know each other, and then we get to love each other. we go through everything together. and the next summer they come back to me. as much as i love church youth ministry, i know that’s not where my full time, post-graduation calling is. i’ll end up living with teenage girls somewhere somehow.
9. i’ve been through too much to not share it. psych-type jobs require you to be objective to a point, and keep yourself out. it would be a waste of the story God made me live through if i was never allowed to tell it.

basically, i don’t care about the nitty gritty details of mental disorders or the generally common effects of traumatic experiences. i want to know the heart of the person who has the disorder or went through the junk.
i actually care about the answer to that “how does this make you feel” question that people make fun of.
i don’t listen so i can try to fit people in a box. i listen because i love that person.
while people do need help finding a label for their problem, i’d rather do the helping that involves going through the struggle with them.
i can’t give big answers, but i can give big hugs.
i may not understand the ins and outs of your problem, but i understand hurt.
i can’t always figure out what’s wrong with you, but i can listen to the news when someone else tells you what’s wrong.

this post is to be continued. in another one.

*except for number 11. while i do still hurt for kids in bad homes, i couldn’t do that as my job. the one DSS case i had at camp was the most heart wrenching situation i’ve ever been in and i don’t ever want to be that deeply involved in something like that again. i get too attached.

stories about memories

monday memories.

this morning on my way back to school, i was thinking of times when i felt the most absolutely accepted by the people around me, and my mind pulled up this sunday from the summer of 2010.
we’d had our first mother-daughter camp that weekend. i can’t remember for the life of me what we did that saturday, just the wonderful sunday.
i slept nice and late that morning(again i can’t remember whose room i was in, because i know i wouldn’t have slept in cabin five all by myself), and me and jenn went to sonic for breakfast/lunch/whatever you call your first meal when you eat it at 11:30. we had driven around camp looking for other people but somehow ended up going by ourselves. we talked about how different the summer had been so far from the one before, how no one hung out with the same people anymore, and laughing at how she was one of those people who i hadn’t thought liked me the year before but now here we were.
when we got back to camp, me and her and marley sat around the office rolling around in our chairs writing postcards, filling out ACA forms, typing the camper essays onto the website, and intermittently showing each other youtube videos or funny pictures of cats. i remember running barefoot from the admin to my cabin to get my giant bag of sour patch kids, then walkie-ing them once i got there because i forgot what i had come for.
then on my way back it started raining, and i ran in the back door, dropped my stuff behind the fireplace, joyfully announced “there’s RAIN!” then ran straight through the front door to play in it. marley and jenn came out and sat on the porch and watched me do cartwheels for a while and laughed. when the hoodie i had just run all the way to cabin 5 to get was soaked through, i finally joined those smart people under the roof, and we just sat on the porch in silence and watched the rain.
i felt so full right then. it had been the kind of day that would sound boring to me if we purposely planned to spend it as lazily as we had, but when it just happened that way, i was so content with the simplicity of it all.
peace, quiet, camp, rain, friends. it was one of those moments where it feels like God is reaching down from heaven to give me a hug and a christmas present all at the same time.
after a few minutes of thinking, i turned to them and said a quote i’ve become semi famous for at camp.
“yall, we live here. isn’t that so cool?”
jenn just turned to marley and said “i love linda.” and we all laughed.
the rest of that afternoon is a happy blur of laying around in the office eating my sour patch kids, laughing at things the campers had written, and people one by one getting back to camp until the unit leaders kicked us out of the office to have their meeting and do busy things.
i think i remember that day because it was one of the few times, in this time that one day i’ll call my “college years,” that i didn’t have the slightest feeling that anything was wrong with who i am. the people around me not only let me play in the rain and say all the dumb things i wanted; those were reasons why they loved me.
i miss camp. and rain.

stories about memories

ghosts of farm retreats past.

this anniversary is extra special this year because not only is it five years, but it’s also falling on a friday again.

november 2, 2007 was my first retreat with my at the time new youth group.
it was today that i learned that i had a family in these people.
it was today that i first realized that i could be totally accepted for who i was. i’d spent the last four years hating myself and hearing every day that i was too much and not enough. too fat, too loud, too slow, too lazy, not smart enough, not cool enough. but now, these real friends had taken me in and shown me that i was just right. i wasn’t annoying, i was funny. i wasn’t fat, i was beautiful. i wasn’t complicated, i was fascinating. and i didn’t seem loud to people who wanted to listen to me.
i remember lying on the floor between melanie and shane that night and feeling more content than i had in possibly my whole life. i was loved.

i never imagined at that time that i’d ever have to miss those days. i felt like youth group would be part of my life forever. i’d grow up someday, but i’d always be able to come back if i chose. there were plenty of college kids on that trip; in a few years i’d just become one of them.

but nothing stays the same.

there are no more fall retreats, and ridge haven isn’t like it used to be. this time of year hurts now. instead of a weekend making new memories, i look back at all the old ones. and they make me happy for a while, but in the end all they do is remind me that there won’t be anymore of them. a lot like looking at pictures of someone who’s dead. remembering them can only do you so much good; it’ll never be like having them around.

but i have to make do with what i have…and i really can’t help but smile about these.