Monday, December 11, 2017

"Yesterday I found a pair of my matching American Girl doll earrings and I put them in. I just realized I didn't take them out and I've been walking around the HS with dangling star earrings on all day!" Love Tanks

We have a handful of HSE Young Life traditions that we've cultivated over the years, but love tanks is one of my favorites. At the end of each semester, we spend our last night of Campaigners writing notes to kids and leaders about why they're important, valued, loved and appreciated. 

This simple act of love is something that kids are pumped about. They look forward to it for weeks, start writing their notes in advance and make sure that their friends come with them. 

Without fail, Love Tanks night is always the biggest crowd of the whole year. People want to be loved and embrace the opportunity to love others. Tonight as I walked down the row of bags and looked at the names, there were so many that I didn't recognize. Our YL family has grown to the point where I don't know every person AND where new people are showing up each and every week. There is something exciting happening in this space that these HS students want to be part of. 

Tonight I'm thankful for intentional time to build people up. I love these kids-- the Wyld Life leaders I work alongside, the YL leaders I get to partner with, and the girls who have become like little sisters and friends to me. So many of my favorite humans are in my life because of Young Life. Tonight I got to remind them of how their loved, that I believe in them and that God has great plans for their lives.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"I feel like we never left." CILT Reunion 2017

The CILT Reunion has been one of my very favorite December traditions for the past 10 years. This weekend I got to live the "best 25 hours of the year" one more time. I love reuniting with kids like Sara who were main characters of my summer and continue to be so important to me. 

All of the CILT counselors were back and Grace was in charge of creating CILT signs to put all over Lake Village-- she makes things so fun. 

There were camp games, jump-roping, song creating and scavenger hunting...

 We had our "Would You Be My Friend If I Wore This?" theme dinner. We sang and danced through the dining room while simultaneously devouring camp nachos.

 We love dressing up silly in the summer, but the outfits kids come up with for this night are always some of my favorites.

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

The counselors

The reunion is crazy-- 25 hours with 100 people and tons of energy and excitement. Because we know that building friendships and having intentional conversations are two of people's favorite things about camp, we try to make sure that's part of the weekend too. We split into families-- one counselor with about 16 CILTs from combined sessions. We met together four different times and talked through different questions each time. I'm so thankful for this group of rock stars and that I got to have this bonus time with them.

One of the highlights of the night: Just Dance Competition between sessions.

We played some crazy games, watched a video recap of the CILT life, did the ever-popular Newlywed Game and ate ice-cream sundaes.

Hopi cabin summer 2017

Abanaki cabin summer 2017

Choctaw cabin summer 2017 (we're only missing two girls!)

The Kiva summer 2017

Grace's campers (cause she spent time in Hopi and Choctaw)

My favorite moments of the CILT reunion are often when I'm just hanging out with these girls, laughing about silly things, catching up, reminiscing and sharing stories. I really, really love them and am so proud to call them my friends.

Chapel on Sunday morning is extra special at the reunion. We still sing songs like normal, but then a CILT from each session shares their story of how God has been at work in their life this year.

I admire the courage and heart it takes for them to stand up and share about their faith in-front of all of their peers. This year we heard from Sarah Nelson...

Ethan Krone...

and Emily Weibel.

I love when campers can take something tangible home with them to remind them of Tecumseh and the encouragement and support and friendships in this place. That's why we always carve out time to do love tanks together. All 3 sessions, guys and girls, counselors and campers-- everybody's in.

We met with our families for the fourth and final time on Sunday morning.

Sean's family

Sav and Kate's family

Grace's family

Mike's family

Katie's family

Sarah's family

We ate one more meal together and then it was time to start saying good-bye. When I first started doing reunions years ago I was always so tearful at the end. I don't cry much anymore, but it's not because I love the kids any less. I've learned through the years that friendships last, that distance doesn't have to keep you apart and that it's such a gift to walk away filled up with encouragement and love.

I'm thankful for all of you-- how you've impacted my life and that I've gotten to be part of your story.  Love you CILTies.