I wanna run in wide spaces Fly like the wind in high places Rushing like water on my face With your hand in my hand
~GO – Cody Fry~
I could talk about the summer all day long and still not be able to fully describe how incredible it is each year. Seasons of life are fascinating to me; I may just be just odd or something. However, what some people would see as just another day or month gone by, I consider some days like seasons coming to a close, like another chapter in my book, another plethora of memories forever embedded in my heart and memory, another challenge to tackle, another lesson learned, another season to face bravely.
Occasionally, my thoughts (especially when I write them down) sound like Anne, from Anne of Green Gables; one, massive, overly dramatized dialogue of my life. Sometimes I feel something so strongly I want to burst. Too often my mind wanders to a thousand different places (to-do-lists, ideas, fears, memories, tasks, and prayers.) Sometimes I scare myself with how much I feel, how in awe I am in the middle of a simple moment of just sitting around a campfire, how moved I am during a 4 am drive on a weeklong at the fact that I get to do this, how tearful I am over a small heartbreak, how frustrated I become with myself when I mess up, how fear so quickly engulfs me and how, just as quickly, a certain peace takes over.
Part of me often wanders if I’m too much when it comes to experiencing life. Don’t other people simply live one month to another, saying “another chapter closed” seems a bit of an over kill, don’t you think Jen? Being moved to wonder almost every day might be seen as a little excessive. Finding it an incredible joy to wash some dishes with a guide or students kind of sounds crazy to some people.
I preface my extreme feelings, because I’m still in awe of all that the Lord opens my eyes to when I’m involved in His creation. In my experience, God seems to take you through different seasons at varying rates. As I reflect back on the last summer season, I see how it caused me to grow like a weed, and then I blinked, and it was over. Amidst these growing pains, however God is always faithful in showing me the beauty in such mundane moments.
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek his presence continually, REMEMBER the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles and the judgments he uttered.” (1st Chronicles 16:11-12)
With that being said, I want to reflect for a few moments on the past summer season and the growth the Lord brought me through. As I reflect, my prayer is that you too remember the seasons gone by, how the Lord was in them and that, in the remembering you can look ahead to your new season with anticipation for what the Lord is going to do.
5 Lessons I learned from the Summer:
- Pride will always be the number one problem.
Awe so many stories and opportunities to live this out. A wise old friend once told me
“Jen, you have a very hard time asking for help.” To which I scoffed, mostly because I knew he was right
Swift water training at the beginning of the summer provided a perfect opportunity to test this theory. When your body is frozen in a boat for two hours, it would have been a good time to graciously accept some help, but pride. So, my fellow guides ushered me into a river funk, infused porter potty on the side of the Arkansas river while all eight of us rubbed each other’s shoulders to avoid full on hypothermia. I’ll tell you what, nothing builds community and character like porter potties and hypothermia, take that as you will.
That day ended with my pride hurt and better friendships for it. Almost three months later and that darn pride still lurks around like a shadow. While trip leading a second weeklong, I naturally assumed that it would work out the same way that the previous one did, and I would feel fine and be able to do everything (cue God laughing hysterically at me). Why do I expect things to always go my way and why am I surprised when they don’t? Day one my stomach was down for the count, and by day three my body was kind of just like,
“what the heck do you think you’re doing, GO TO BED!!!!”
so I said back, like I usually do to my body, “Shut up”.
To which it proceeded to say, “Fine, watch this”. And my body won
Getting sick is a natural phenomenon that happens to every freaking human, so why did I stress so much and refuse to stop, pride. However, during these hard lessons are some of my favorite memories, mostly because of the wonderful people who love me through my stubbornness. What is your pride keeping you from today, relationship? Connection? Healing? Forgiveness? Lay it down.
- Losing yourself amidst serving is the greatest joy you will ever know
Rafting daily is a joy I often forget until it’s time for it to end and then looking back I realize how greatly I miss it. However, even more than rafting, guiding weeklong trips is one of the blessings I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Every time one comes to an end, you can usually find me sitting cross legged in my room, trying to process the week and all that came with it. It’s nerve wrecking meeting the students, stressful when you’re fully responsible for a group’s safety for a week, and exhausting running around until your head hits the sleeping bag for a few hours.
But you know, I never really remember that part of the weeklong. I remember the squeal of joy coming from my raft. I can visualize the victory fist from the top of the rock after many tears, fears and frustrations. I can recall the laughter on trail when everyone is slap happy by peak hike day. I can hear the hearts worshiping up on Skyline drive while God paints a sunset across the San De Cristo Mountain range, all the way down to our little Canon City. I can taste the campfire as sweet souls sit around and friendships are being grown.
I see the tears in a young girl’s face as she speaks real fears, shame, and struggles for the first time. I can feel God working as I remind her of His truth and the redemption that comes. And I always remember the joy in the faces as we wave goodbye and stand in awe at how, once again, God can take a few days and use them for His glory. These are my favorite memories, the ones I will always recall, why? Because none of them have to do with me. Not even one required me to act or look a certain way. These memories weren’t built on what others thought of me or comparison or insecurities. No, these memories were simply built on Christ, and they’re my favorite. Are you stuck in your head right now? Try thinking of someone you care about and text me, spontaneously do something for a stranger. You have no idea how much someone might need to see Christ in you today.
- God’s timing will always be better than ours.
Before the summer began, there was a lot of fear and frustration going into it. I was upset at the limits my body had placed on me. I was frustrated with where I was at in life and where I thought I should be. I was fearful of change, the summer, and the challenges it was bound to bring. I was afraid that if I tried something new, I would fail. Needless to say, coming out of the summer, God has freed me from a lot of those fears.
Sometimes you don’t really notice you’re growing until you’re doing that thing that scared the crap out of you and then you realize it’s not scaring you. Trip leading was one of those things that scared the crap out of me at the beginning of this summer and was something I was told I wouldn’t be able to do because of my health. And then, suddenly, I was trip leading and half-way into the week I realized I was doing it and wasn’t fearful of it anymore.
There are more and greater examples of how the Lord cause me to face my fears but that would be a book. God was working in me and answering prayers, just on His own timetable, one that is far too great for me to understand. Is there something you are waiting for God to move in? Do you trust His timing?
- The simplest moments can bring the greatest joy
This brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. My brain too easily moves on to the next to do list (there’s at least five different ones in my phone right now), and if I’m not careful I tend to miss out on what’s going on right in front of me. The summer is one of my busiest times of year, yet it never fails to cause me to stop and take it all in. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I get to play in God’s creation every day or if it’s the people I have the pleasure of serving with that help me appreciate where I’m at, who I’m with and how crazy, awesome each and every moment is.
Here’s a few of my favorite moments:
~Sitting in a five stack of rafts while the sun sends tingles of warmth through your whole body~
~Having a student hug you without letting go because they don’t want to say goodbye~
~Sitting in the front of the raft at high water as the next wave takes your breath away~
~Dancing around like a goofball while you make dinner on a weeklong~
~Being scared out of your mind by Luke (again) and dropping to the ground in a fit of giggles~
~Being chased around the KOA campground by Kate after throwing dirty dish water at her because her puns never stop~
~Receiving another awesome hug by Nate the Great~
~Finding smore sticks with the weeklong students~
~Morning runs to City Market with Kerby to get four carts of food for work~
~Getting “fired” by Mark because you’re playing Taylor Swift at the boathouse~
~The rare opportunity of seeing Kyle’s duck face~
~Trying so hard not to eye roll at another one of Daniel’s puns~
~Back massages with Emma and Hannah~
~Movie night with Tim and Steve~
~Coffee with Sarah~
~Worshiping on top of skyline~
~ Sharing about our week at staff dinner~
~Becoming slap happy after food packing for six hours so everything is funny~ ~Laughing so hard in your sleeping bag you can’t fall asleep because of Brooke~ ~Reading dad jokes for two hours at 11 O’clock at night~
~Driving with the windows down and feet hanging out~
~Evening strolls to Walmart for Chocolate~
~Trying to fit into two wet suits and a dry top for training~
~Pushing guides out of the boat~
~Waking up students at four in the morning by blasting “old MacDonald” and getting to see the sunrise from the trail~
~Talking to God under the stars~
What are some of your most treasured moments from a past season of life? Remember the smallest moments, they are often the best.
- Learning to be a leader is uncomfortable but it’s empowering
I am not naturally someone who steps out and leads. I would rather follow or just be shown what needs to be done. If you give me the instructions, you can bet it will be done and done well. However, going into this past summer I knew I would have new responsibilities from last year. This was rather uncomfortable for me. I knew I had the potential to lead, but fear of failure, of what others thought, of forgetting something, or of doing it wrong often caused me to hold back.
Sometimes I think a tad too much. In my overly cautious state, I often need people in my life to give me a little nudge to just do it. I remember a situation that came up this summer, one that had been a fear of mine for a while. And I often wondered how I would be able to handle it if it ever arose. Well it did. And right before I pushed that raft back into the water, I told myself, who was freaking out on the inside but very calm and collected on the outside,
“You can do this, and you will because you don’t have a choice.” And so, I did the thing, and I did it pretty darn good if I do say so myself.
I wasn’t supposed to trip lead this summer, yet towards the end I trip led two week longs in a row. At the beginning of the summer I was freaking out about this. While amid the chaos I sort of just stopped and realized I was doing what scared me, I didn’t know if I was doing it right but gosh dang it, I was doing it. Guiding has taught me many lessons, it’s not at all easy and often it’s exhausting and slightly terrifying. But the lesson that’s stuck with me the most is giving up is not an option.
You can’t control the water, you may be so tired you don’t want to move, you may be so frustrated with your paddlers you want to throw them out, that rapid may terrify you, but no matter what happens or how you feel, giving up is not an option. I’ve carried this with me into many other areas of life and relearned it last summer. So even though learning to lead was uncomfortable and scary, I pushed through and did it anyways. And I come out the other side a better person because of it. What’s something that is uncomfortable, that you’re afraid of failing at? Do it, I promise you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you push past fear.
While the grand majority of you can’t relate to my summer, or the feelings I have towards it, you have your own seasons, your own memories, your own growing pains, and your very own unique lessons. So, I challenge you to make your own list, to remember Where God was at work in this season of your life. I challenge you to revel in the smallest of moments.
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