Camp Life #1: The Lingo

Mount Hermon Fieldhouse
The Fieldhouse where we have our Sunday openers.

Mount Hermon: Let’s start with the basics. Mount Hermon is a Christian camp that was started more than 100 years ago. It has a fascinating history, and was the first camp of its kind west of the Mississippi River. I didn’t know any of this, though, when I applied to work here a few months ago. All I knew was that Kidder Creek, a camp up north that I attended when I was 8, was affiliated with Mount Hermon.

Summer Staff: That’s me, and about 90 other people in the 18-25ish age range. We work with kids of all ages, man the bookstore, serve ice cream in the snack shop, help those participating in recreational activities, and more.

Registration (Reg): This is where I work. We have crazy-busy times, and we have super-slow times. If you add together the summer staffers, the part-timers, and the full-timers, there are 14 of us in this all-female department. What do I do? Well, generally speaking, I’m usually either on the phones in the back, or at the front desk. I make reservations for our events (typically family camps and our dinner-and-a-concert mini vacations), put together packets, and sell meal tickets and answer questions at the front desk. But there are a lot of other things I do. In fact, I have a 10-page single-spaced list of “things to know”!

Pondy: There are three Mount Hermon camps in the Santa Cruz area: Conference Center (the family camp one that I’m working at), Redwood (K-6th grade), and Ponderosa (junior high and high school). Ponderosa is affectionately referred to as Pondy.

Canopy Tour: Our Redwood Canopy Tour is what Mount Hermon is best known for in a lot of circles — and what we’ve gotten a lot of publicity for. It’s a “two-hour guided tour [that] includes six zip-lines and two sky bridges at heights of up to 150 feet.” I hear it’s pretty rockin’, and am planning on doing it sometime this summer.

Carnival: Our weeklong family camp starts on Sunday with a carnival down at the Fieldhouse. This carnival includes a bounce house, a dunk tank, and other games (followed by a barbecue and an opening program) for our 300-700 guests (depending on the week).

Train Day: For most days of family camp, there are speaking sessions in the morning and evening, with free time in the afternoon. On Wednesday, however, (almost) everyone takes the train down to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and enjoys the rides. I plan to do this in August, when my family comes(!).

Pancake Ridge: On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, campers (and staffers) have the opportunity to hike up to “Pancake Ridge” and eat the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever tasted. They make them on this outdoor griddle, and then you can add your own toppings. I’m partial to two pancakes with chocolate chips in between them, and whipped cream on top.

Monday Funday: On Mondays in Reg, we spend an hour and a half or so getting out and doing something fun. Almost all of our Monday Fundays so far have involved ice cream. This week, we mixed it up and went to the beach.

Abbott’s: A couple weeks ago, we went to Abbott’s — a local thrift store — for Monday Funday. Since then, I’ve gone a few times, and the best deals I’ve found have been for books. Case in point: all three of the Hunger Games books (hardbacks in like-new condition) for just over $3.

Taco V: Short for Tacqueria Vallarta, Taco V is the beloved local Mexican restaurant. At least, it’s beloved among the summer staffers I know: I’ve eaten there several times, but haven’t eaten out anywhere else in Felton. It’s within walking distance, and is a good alternative to dining hall food sometimes (though food in the Dining Hall is actually pretty good).

Dorm Hill: One of my fellow summer staffers put it this way: Imagine laying a board across a set of stairs and trying to walk up the board. That’s Dorm Hill. We live in three dorms at the top of a hill, and it’s one steep hill! I sure wouldn’t want to park up there.

Play groups: At the beginning of the summer, we were put into play groups. Now, every Wednesday evening, we meet in groups of five and do something fun: play a game, bake cookies, or something like that. Thankfully, “Can You Keep It Down?” is no longer on the activity list.

Tuit: A round piece of wood with “TUIT” written on the front, you can exchange one for a cup of coffee or a single scoop of ice cream. Or you can treasure it forever as a souvenir (I chose a middle ground: spending it, but only after I had documented its existence with my camera).

Marianne’s: If you type “Marianne’s” into Google, one of the first hits you’ll get is for an ice cream place in Santa Cruz. They have quite the variety of ice cream flavors, two of the best of which – in my opinion – are 10-20 (caramel ice cream with fudge and oreos) and Heaven (peanut butter chocolate goodness).

The Fountain: Mount Hermon’s snack/ice cream shop. I work here one night a week, and there’s usually quite a crowd there in the evenings. We serve Marianne’s ice cream here (hence my familiarity with the flavors), and we’re very generous with that ice cream. I’ll bet that you haven’t seen the likes of our “single” scoops at any other ice cream places.

Mudslide: An eight-scoop $15 mountain of ice cream available at the Fountain. If you/your group can finish it, you get your picture taken with a cute mini Polaroid camera and put up on the bulletin board. This week, I’m going to try to eat an entire Mudslide myself. One of my fellow staffers said he would pay for it if I could finish it in less than half an hour. Stay tuned.

Fireside: The Fireside room is one of the meeting rooms below the Dining Hall. We summer staffers use it often for movie nights.

Pizza My Heart: At how many pizza places can you get a T-shirt with your (gigantic) slice of pizza? Pizza My Heart, of course! There are more than 40 locations in the San Jose area, and one of them even has a touch-screen soda fountain.

Pac Av: Pacific Avenue, the “main street” of Santa Cruz. Lots of shopping, lots of homeless people, lots of interesting sights.

Sketch: Among the people I hang out with the most, the word “sketch” reminds them of me because I say it so much. The funny thing is, I never said it before coming here.

*****

Next up: A compilation of short stories!

The Last Last Last Day of School

Graduation 2011

It wasn’t just the last day of classes. Today was the end of the school year … the end of my undergraduate career … the end of being a Taylor student.

My 15 seconds on stage passed in a blur, as did the last 15 days. An exhausting blur of going, going, going. It needed to end, and, in a way, I’m glad it did. The lifestyle I adopted toward homework long ago and took to an extreme this semester had become an unsustainable one.

A few months ago, if someone had told me that I would be back in Indiana for the fall, I would’ve groaned inwardly. I wanted the West and the mountains and change and new adventures. Leaving Indiana was right up there with finishing school.

Now, knowing that I’m going back is what’s keeping my eyes (mostly) dry.

Some other time, I’ll tell you the story of my Adventures in Odyssey Club. I’ll tell you how it became more than just a club. I’ll tell you how I came to love them and how special they are to me. But until then, I’ll just say that there are people here that I don’t want to leave behind. I don’t want to say goodbye without knowing when I’ll see them again.

My goal this summer is to recover.

I don’t just mean “recover” in the sense of recuperating after a stressful year. Rather, I’m talking about rediscovering what has been lost … and restoring what has been broken. Here are a few of them:

  • Relationships (with God and with other people — especially my family)
  • Motivation
  • Faulty heart attitudes and actions
  • Hope
  • The real me who is real with others

I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I know that I need to pursue change and growth and healing, and that those things won’t happen if the only goals I make are external ones, like “read X amount of books,” or even “blog once a week.”

The Last First Day of School

One year ago, I was basically a media communication freshman. Am I really going to graduate in just over 100 days?

24 hours ago, I returned to Indiana from movieland in Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival was a memorable experience (albeit one not sustainable over a much longer period of time), and imbued my fast-approaching graduation with more bittersweetness.

On a side note, expect this blog to morph into Sundance Showcase for a week or more. I’m required to write four reflection papers — one on the experience itself, and three on specific films — and you can bet that they’ll be making their way to this blog in some shape or form, now that I’m no longer writing for the Taylor Sundance blog.

Back to today. I think I’m going to like my Mondays. With Senior Capstone and Preparation and Strategy for Christian World Mission, the possibilities of the future will never be far from my mind. This final semester will be consumed with my senior portfolio, so I’m glad to have one non-media class … and not just to avoid media comm overload, but also to investigate the world of evangelical missions, and my potential place within it.

Not that I’m not excited about my remaining media classes. I’m looking forward to them, and to my afternoon-heavy schedule, and to the very real possibility of a snow day tomorrow.

In Chicago, they’re saying this might be the biggest storm in 40 years. I hope that’s true here, too.

Ten Changes of 2010

Indy Mini Marathon

  1. Writing: A year ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as AP style. Now, I have some newspaper copy editing experience and an on-campus job writing for the school paper.
  2. Media Communication: Senioritis has received a counterattack in the form of a new major. Now I know my f-stops from my shutter speeds and mic pick-up patterns and p tags, and I can’t watch a movie or listen to an Adventures in Odyssey episode the same way anymore. Of all these new languages I’m starting to speak, I’m most excited about media production: I love audio and video editing.
  3. Family: We are a four-person family again. My grandma, who had been living with us since 2006, passed away in September. If my parents weren’t empty-nesters at the beginning of the semester, when my sister headed to SoCal for college, they certainly are now.
  4. Running: Year 2 of running-for-real. I ran the Indy Mini, the largest half-marathon event in the country (and, incidentally, I’ll be running it again this year).
  5. Speaking Up: I’m statistically more likely to speak up in class now than I used to be, whether answering a question or asking one. Just don’t expect long discourses or an excessive amount of volunteered information. I pray out loud more too. Sporadically and only in groups of two, but, hey, it’s a start.
  6. Missions: I decided to do a YWAM DTS after I graduate. And I wouldn’t be surprised if missions plays a bigger role than that in my future.
  7. My relationship with God: Spiritually, 2010 has been a landmark year on this front. Among the things I learned, one of the main ones is that the Christian’s surest reason for belief is experiential knowledge of God.
  8. Reading: I read several books that I’ve been meaning to read for awhile, in addition to some that weren’t on my radar before this year. Here are a few of the highlights: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mere Christianity, The Hunger Games trilogy, Les Misérables (okay, technically I read most of Les Mis in 2009 … but I finished it in ’10).
  9. Food: For this extremely picky eater, 2010 has also been a landmark year of trying (and figuratively embracing) new foods. Definitely foods that I should’ve tried ages ago, but better late than never.
  10. Blogging: I started blogging regularly. Okay, maybe semi-regularly. But that’s still a lot better than bi-annually.

What About the Change?

After graduating from college, she went to China and spent a year there teaching English. It had nothing to do with her major, but she still went, and it was an incredibly rewarding – and growing – experience.

As I read her story in an alumni newsletter today, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a month or two, since talking with several YWAMers about their DTS experiences.

I felt excitement, a yearning for adventure.

I love to dream. I love the possibility of new, exciting adventures in untested waters. New cultures, new languages, new travels that are all my own. The prospect of finally finding myself and becoming the person I want to be.

I’m restless here at home and, to an extent, at school. Life in my small town continues on at the same pace as before I left. Not much has changed, except that I now know fewer people here.

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, not really. Oh, I have interests, but how many of them are really mine? How many of them are just my latching onto other people’s visions and thinking – hoping – they are mine too? Would I still be drawn to this or that country after the novelty wore off? Will my media interests fade, like history, like journalism, like fill-in-the-blank, on further exposure? What about missions?

The more “different” the opportunity, the more likely I am to dive into it, hoping for it to change me, to teach me discipline and point me in the direction I should go. But the changes I seek tend not to follow me home. It’s something I’ve experienced time and time again, but I’m still restless, chasing dreams as if they’re the gateway, the only gateway, to a happily-ever-after.

But life isn’t a fairytale. Sure, there are such things as life-changing experiences – hopefully my DTS will fall into that category – but usually, it’s the choices of everyday life that reveal one’s true character. My travels have left me with beautiful memories and a strong wanderlust, but they haven’t been the be-all and end-all that romantic me still hopes for.

And meanwhile, as I dream, real life continues on, latent with a different kind of possibility.

I’m still, it seems, waiting for tomorrow’s adventure to make me the person I want to be.

All or Nothing

At around 2 this morning, I started cleaning our apartment kitchen. It took three hours. I may not touch the dishes for days — or even weeks — on end, but when I do, well, watch out bread-crumbs-hiding-in-obscure-places.

This all-or-nothing mindset permeates (too) many areas of my life. The further I get into this semester, the harder it is to find the motivation to do my work. And when that motivation is absent, the “nothing” side often wins.

Now if this were just a homework-related issue, you’d call it procrastination or senioritis. But unfortunately, it has infected my spiritual life too.

In my mind, the ideal devotion time is my sitting in a quiet place with a Bible, a Chuck Swindoll Bible commentary, and one or two other books stacked up next to me. I read portions from all of them. I have an amazing prayer time. I spend at least an hour with God.

Those kinds of quiet times are few and far between, and there hasn’t usually been a middle ground. Even my last resort of breezing-through-a-chapter-when-I-can-barely-keep-my-eyes-open-at-night has fallen by the wayside.

On the rare occasions when I have had my ideal devo time (or pretty close to it), there’s a sense of satisfaction and joy … and foreboding. Will I spend this time with God the next day, or will I fall again? And after each fall, each mismanaged day, each me-centered decision, my motivation slips and I’m much more prone to “nothing.”

I don’t want that. I don’t want to have one rockin’ devo time every two or three weeks but virtually nothing the rest of the time.

Just because I can’t always be “all” doesn’t mean my only other option is “nothing.”

The Future is Now

The future will be better.

That’s what I tell myself when school feels irrelevant, or life seems dull and unchanging, or I seem dull and unchanging.

In high school, I wanted to go far away to college to gain independence and maturity, to finally start the rest of my life.

In varying degrees, I had the same expectations when I transferred to the Upland campus, when I interned at Focus on the Family, and each time I changed my major. Now, YWAM is that grand, life-changing future that’s surely better than the monotonies and the stresses and the insecurities of the present.

But I don’t want to pin all my hopes and dreams on any one future experience, be it an internship, a spring break trip, or even a five-month DTS. I’m very much looking forward to these things, it’s true, but I don’t want to just slide my way through the weeks and months in between, rushing through them as fast as I can to reach the next high that much sooner.

My DTS could be more than a year away. That’s 5% of my life. That’s significant. That’s too much time to just sit out.

So much can happen in these months, so many opportunities, if I widen my vision a little and expect God to do big things.

I’m notorious for starting my end-of-semester countdown early, and for Excel-ing my next-semester schedule months in advance.

But life isn’t about just getting to the next thing.

It’s not about skipping past all the parts that seem boring or hard (a la Joey and his life clock :)). I don’t have to wait until college is over to start my adventure with God; He can work just as well in small-town Indiana as He can overseas. “Familiar” doesn’t have to equal “boring.”

Don’t just dream about the future. Live in the present.

Healing Begins (and other songs)

This is my “short list” of encouraging, inspiring Christian songs. Some of them fall clearly in the “worship music” bracket; others are more Christian contemporary or something else. They may go about it in different ways, but they all bring me to a more worshipful mindset, and remind me of my need for God.

  1. City on our Knees (Tobymac) “If you gotta start somewhere why not here? If you gotta start sometime why not now? If we gotta start somewhere I say here. If we gotta start sometime I say now. Through the fog there is hope in the distance, from cathedrals to third world missions. Love will fall to the earth like a crashing wave.”
  2. Healing Begins (Tenth Avenue North) “There’s freedom waiting in the sound, when you let your walls fall to the ground … This is where the healing begins. This is where the healing starts. When you come to where you’re broken within, the light meets the dark.”
  3. Get Back Up (Tobymac) “There’s always scars when you fall that far. … You may be knocked down, but not out forever.”
  4. I Will Go (Starfield) “Let this life be used for change. I wanna live for You, go where you lead me, I wanna follow you.”
  5. Sound of Melodies (Leeland) “Can you hear the sound of melodies, oh, the sound of melodies, rising up to You, rising up to You, God.”
  6. Made to Love (Tobymac) “Anything, I would give up for You. Everything, I’d give it all away.”
  7. As it is in Heaven (Matt Maher) “Come and let Your glory fall. … I will sing, sing a new song to the Lord. … Every eye proclaim the mercy of Your name on earth as it is in heaven.”
  8. Beautiful Scars (Steven Curtis Chapman) “Turning the marks of our pain into beautiful scars.”
  9. My Will (dc Talk) “You are my shelter, all the strength that I need.”
  10. Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) (Chris Rice) “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die. O, raise your head, for love is passing by. Come to Jesus … Come to Jesus … Come to Jesus and live!”
  11. Be Thou My Vision (Twila Paris) “Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart. High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”
  12. Sometimes by Step (Rich Mullins) “And on this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep. I may falter in my steps, but never beyond Your reach.”
  13. Great Expectations (Steven Curtis Chapman) “Lord, I come with great expectations!”
  14. Next 5 Minutes (Steven Curtis Chapman) “I’m living the next 5 minutes like these are my last 5 minutes.”
  15. I Thank You Lord (Rebecca St. James) “I thank you Father for the gift of your Son. I thank You Jesus for the things you have done. I thank you Spirit for the peace that is here in my heart.”
  16. Be Still (Newsboys) “We’ve been running without a direction. We’re afraid to get there late. What we need is strength just to kneel down and wait.”
  17. Consuming Fire (Hillsong United) “Lord have your way with us.”
  18. When You Called My Name (Newsboys) “I slip into the night, then stumble towards the light. Wake up and try again. When you called my name, I didn’t know how far the calling went.”

~*~

What songs would you put on your list?

“For I do not do the good I want to do…

… but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

I just finished a wave of projects in most of my classes. Now I don’t have any major assignments due right away.

This is my danger zone, and not just because of the procrastination factor.

“I don’t hafta, so I don’t wanna” becomes my mantra during these lulls. I sleep in late, I park myself in front of my computer, I don’t do much of anything … especially not what I most want to do. It’s the worst in the summer, when I have week after week of unscheduledness. It’s not the stretching, satisfying route, but it’s the easiest and the safest.

We all need times of rest after periods of intense work, but it’s easy to drop too many things during that rest, and to wait too long to pick them back up … or to gravitate toward the wrong kinds of rest.

I think it’s pretty obvious what you should not drop during times of rest (or busyness too, for that matter): God.

The most effective way to grow and mature is not to look at all those areas of your life that you fall short in, but to walk with God.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy, and you can’t expect to jump from 0% to 100% just like that.

It’s a process, a day-by-day journey, and you will fall down sometimes. But falling down doesn’t equal defeat, a going back to the very beginning, video game style.

It’s spending that free hour wrapped up in God and not yourself. It’s learning to let God infiltrate your thoughts and conversations. It’s not letting doubt or fear grow uncontested. It’s praying without ceasing. It’s letting your spiritual life expand beyond “quiet time.” It’s not waiting for the perfect time, but coming as you are.

Exploring Doubt

I need to stay away from the IMDb message boards.

One minute, I’m on the page for the movie “End of the Spear”; the next, I’m reading “You Know You’re a Fundamentalist Christian When…”

Debates about religion and especially Christianity rage in message boards and the comments sections of articles, YouTube videos, blogs. And probably Facebook posts too, but I lead a sheltered Facebook life.

In these mostly anonymous arenas, atheists and agnostics whip out their arsenal of “reasons why Christianity is absurd.”

Those debates trouble me, and not just because I’m saddened for those who don’t understand who God is.

They trouble me because my arsenal of “reasons why Christianity is the answer to everything” is smaller, and I hold it with less confidence. In those moments of attack, I cling to it with shaking hands, hoping, hoping, that it doesn’t turn to dust in my weak arms.

I wish I were stronger. I wish I had all the answers to every question raised. I wish I knew more with my head. And I wish I knew more with my heart, to fill in the holes that head knowledge never could. I wish I could stand undisturbed when the arrows rain down around me.

Books like “Mere Christianity” and “Reason for the Hope Within” are faith-bolstering, encouraging, inspiring. But when I read the persuasive counterarguments, I remember that kernel of doubt in my heart.

It’s hard being in the minority. It’s hard knowing that there are so many people smarter than I am who reject Christianity.

This summer, I wrote an editorial about illegal immigration. It was an agonizing experience. I spent hours researching the issue, but made little progress in formulating an opinion.

How do you choose a side? You pick the one with the most evidence, of course. But how do you do that when both sides use facts and statistics and precedents to argue their case, and your knowledge of all those things — of the lengthy legal and historical documents, the raw data, the scientific experiments — is all based on the analyses and interpretations of biased intermediaries?

Yes, biased. We all bring our own biases to the table when examining evidence. Ultimately, though, we have to decide whose interpretations to trust, since we can’t all be experts in everything. But those experts have biases too. Science can only go so far in explaining how the world works. History can only go so far. And with these imperfect resources, our imperfect minds can only go so far as well.

In the end, it all comes down to faith and belief. Yes, I want to strengthen my intellectual “arsenal,” but my prayer is that what I wrote a few weeks ago would remain at the forefront of all my pursuits:

The Christian’s surest reason for belief is experiential knowledge of God, above and beyond all the intellectual reasons.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.