Release. It's the act of letting go. Moving on. A deep exhale. Release is the best word to describe this season of transition as I say goodbye to camp.
Forest Home has been a huge part of my journey over the last 6 summers. I have learned the beauty of community and the messiness of choosing to walk with people as they process their journey. I have seen Jesus radically transform lives in the span of a few days. I have sat with youth pastors as they lament in the midst of a hard season. My summers were reserved for serving hundreds of churches and thousands of campers. I loved the chaos of late night stage building and preparing worship experience. I looked forward to sipping coffee with staff as they processed through what God was teaching them at camp. I sat in awe of voices crying out to the Creator of the universe in worship. I witnessed transformation through high fives, prayers and bear hugs. These are the things that made it easy to say yes year after year.
As a I process stepping away from Forest Home, I am learning what it means to release things that were never mine to carry.
Over the last 5 years, I have felt the weight of camp on my shoulders in one way or another. My first summer as a dean, I was playing the comparison game (which we all know is a losing game) based on deans I had when I was a counselor or other deans on staff that year. The next summer, I felt the weight of being a returner under a new director and continuing to build relationships from the previous summer. As the years passed and relationships grew deeper, the weight of Lakeview was heavy on my shoulders as an interim director. My heart was to create spaces for students to encounter the real Jesus. Not some two-dimensional, flannel graph, "Jesus is my homeboy" pop culture icon. I felt the weight of making sure everything was perfect because it was my opportunity to invite God into spaces and expectantly wait for Him to change lives. I slowly began to realize my unrealistic expectations had a vice grip on my openhandedness. My margins were thin from long hours and late nights making sure I was meeting deadlines. My heart was empty after pouring so much of myself into my work. My time was spent trying to be the perfect boss and the perfect friend and anything else people needed me to be. I was trying to pour out from an empty container.
Releasing the weight of years of unrealistic expectations is freeing and terrifying. I am free to go on summer vacations with my family or sit by the pool each afternoon or plan barbecues for my friends. I am free to sit with Jesus without the expectation of needing a new theme or direction for the next season. Freedom is beautiful but terrifying when the next steps are anything but clear. It is daunting to sit in a season of unknowns. Where am I going to work? Where do I want to live? How will I make ends meet in the meantime? Deadlines will be self-imposed. Motivations begins and ends with me. That is slightly terrifying and beautifully freeing.
I get to dream of ways to pour into my community from a place of health not stress. I get to explore new career paths and find ways my heart for people plays into my vocation. I get to host meals around a table where it is a safe space to talk about anything. I get to set aside space to write and process the journey of saying yes to Jesus along the way. I get to start parties.
I recently read Assimilate or Go Home by D.L. Mayfield which captures her journey of releasing expectations of being a missionary who has to witness to save people and instead she finds showing up is sometimes the biggest way we point others to Jesus. In the closing chapter, she talks about the ways the kingdom of heaven is being ushered in all around us and sometimes we just need to choose to join the party. Mayfield writes, "We aren't being asked to assimilate, but we are called to make our home here more like the kingdom we have always dreamed about but were too scared to believe was possible. Because God's dream for the world is coming, looming brighter and brighter on the horizon. It's time to enter the party."
Here is to a season of baking, hosting, listening and releasing.