Friday afternoon we loaded up the bus and pulled out of Fishers, IN. Our destination for the weekend: Lake City, MI aka Timber Wolf Lake. 54 of us headed out on this Fall Weekend trip. Based on their enthusiasm via social media for the past week and KCraig and I literally jumping in the hallways before 7th period, I don't think we could have been more excited about this getaway.
We packed the bus, almost every single seat filled. The long ride North got filled with movies and the Switch Question game--we really just wanted to get there.
Pizza Hut served as our dinner pit stop and everyone was starving by the time we arrived.
We packed the back room and god bless those servers that somehow managed the whirlwind of HSE. We devoured 18 pizzas, all got drinks and were back out the door and onto the bus in 40 minutes.
After you get off the highway, you drive through country for miles and miles looking for the YL arch off to the side of the road. Finally by 11:30 we found the twinkling lights of TWL and pulled into camp. The other areas were finishing up club so we took all of our stuff to our cabins. KCraig and I were in Bass this weekend with a collection of hilarious, energetic, wise, enthusiastic girls. In these pictures: Top bunk Sophomores Carly, Kylie, Natalie, Madi and Peyton and bottom bunk Freshmen Brooke, Haleigh, Hallie, Emily, Libby, Payton and Emeralda. I love the hodge podge mix of friends and that for most of them this was their first YL Camp experience.
We had free time for an hour and while everyone was running around finding something to do Haleigh, Brooke and I were so content to just stand in the midst of the craziness in the gym and soak it all up. This pair was in my cabin this past summer and we were so happy just be in this place again, watching everyone else was entertainment enough and we soaked it all in.
It had actually been Haleigh's wish that she would get to come back to TWL for her birthday which happened to be this past week. What a coincidence that this was when we came on Fall Weekend and she got her wish.
After we heard the wolf howl we headed back to our cabins for our first cabin time. We sat in a circle and talked about why we were excited for the weekend, our perceptions of Jesus, what it means to us that God calls us Tov Meod--the best of the very best, what we're looking for in life, and what we would do if Jesus asked us to come and follow him. We love this intentional conversation and the girls are always asking when we get to have more cabin time.
Saturday morning we woke up for breakfast in the dining hall. Camp was bursting at the seams because every area ended up bringing even more kids than they had originally thought they would have. We squeezed into the tables and filled our plates with pancakes and bacon.
After breakfast we waited for Club to begin. I love that it has become a tradition for our girls to wait outside the club room doors because they want to get right up front and be part of the action. This morning they initiated a game of "I'm A Tree" before the rest of the crowd arrived. When the doors finally open it's like taking down the wall of a dam, everyone pushes in at once and you get swept up in the hoard of kids.
Our very own Molly Cooper got on stage as one of the crazy leaders who led us in the Banana song. Her stone-faced expression was hilarious and I loved that she was up on stage at her first club ever. Our returning kids went nuts right away and the other kids quickly learned that here we go big, we sing loud, we dance hard and when it's time for the club talk we listen carefully.
The guys that did program this weekend were awesome. First they came out as the two candidates for the 'Merica party because "there's nothing more American than babies, pretzels, the St. Louis arch, the golden arches, french fries, and not playing soccer." Then we had the billionaires whose entrance song just happened to be "Thrift Shop" aka the song we got attached to last weekend and made up dance moves to. When the music began we all looked at each other and started the motions to "What-what, what, what" and went crazy at the words.
Both Kate and Esmeralda got to go on stage for the frozen t-shirt race. They had to break, stretch and pull it apart until they could get it on. Their team might have lost but they each scored a MAX POWERS $ t-shirt.
Our speaker this weekend, Kelsey, made us love her as soon as she got on stage. Her red curly hair and loud laugh caught our attention right away but we soon learned that she is also incredibly wise and has this awesome way of explaining the gospel so it makes sense and sticks in our heads.
Kelsey talked about how we carry around all these rocks in our lives that represent sins or insecurities or fears or struggles or anything that is weighing us down. Some people hold all those rocks in a life that looks like a glass jar, so everyone can see their stuff, everyone knows what the junk in their life is. But many of us have lives that are more like a perfectly wrapped box. We appear to have it all together, smile and say and do the right things, but we're still filled with those rocks.
She pulled out a bag of pop cans next and talked about how sometimes our lives just feel empty, we try to build a life that we think will make us happy but there's nothing inside of it that matters. We listened to the song, "Remind Me Who I Am" and I love these lyrics. When we feel like the empty, crushed pop cans or we keep adding more rocks to our life or shifting what basket we're carrying them in, God is right there telling us that we belong to him.
The girls sitting around me kept whispering, "She is so good," and when we were leaving I told them they should go tell her that she had already made such an impression on them. It was so precious to see them tell her that she was so great and we got a picture of them all together. We love that she looks so excited in pictures too.
We went back to Bass for cabin time and talked about the rocks and pop cans in our lives. Most of us feel like our lives are those perfect boxes and no one really knows what's going on with us. But these girls started to break down walls and really share with each other about the pressure they feel to succeed, how their families have affected them, the role friends have played in their life, the ways they've changed in the past year. When we heard the wolf howl for lunch we didn't want to leave our circle or stop talking.
Sometimes there is so much hype about the craziness of camp. The videos show things like the giant swing and kids singing at Club but the very best part is when we get to sit down and talk to each other. The conversations we have in cabin time are the most valuable part of this trip and the thing that most of the kids say they want to remember about our time here.
After lunch we raced to the camp store so we could stock up on new YL apparel. It would be the understatement of the year to say that KCraig and I were excited when we discovered that they were selling WOLF SHIRTS AND FANNY PACKS. We told everyone in the store about Wolf Shirt Wednesday and Fanny Pack Friday and convinced at least half of our girls to get these hot ticket items. We're going to look good this week.
We had free time all afternoon-- time for the shop, for the rides, for snacks at the Blue Ox and for hanging out together. Even though we had to split up into two cabins because there are so many of us, all of these girls are friends. Some of them have met in the last couple weeks through YL and some have been friends forever. I loved getting to live life with them and seeing them share this experience with their best friends.
The weekend was soaked in joy, everyone was so happy to be living the dream at YL camp.
Because camp was so full we thought only a few of our kids would get to do the activities during free time. They announced that the pamper poles would be open and we were happily surprised to find that there was barely a line when we got there. Peyton and I climbed up together and carefully balanced on the top of the wobbling pole. Once we both turned ourselves around we jumped into the air and tried to hit the hanging rope suspended in front of us.
I love that everyone from our area wants to hang out together whether we're cheering each other on or huddled around the fire.
With so much free time, we had the freedom to just hang out together and go at our own pace all day. It was fun to have time with girls like Madi, Carly, Natalie and Ali. We walked back to the Blue Ox to get ice-cream or coffee and I got to catch up with my friend Allison. She was one of my YL girls when I led at Hope and now she is a YL leader at her old HS. I hadn't seen her in years and it was cool to hear a little about her life.
While the girls were bundled up and trying to stay warm, the guys had a brilliant plan to play soccer-- shirts v. skins.
They decided the losing team would have to take a polar plunge into the freezing lake.
The (dry and warm) winning team. Not sure I would have had fun with that adventure but I know the guys had a great time.
p.s. When did TWL get this giant wheel?
We went over to the Timber Carts to cheer on the six kids from our area that got tickets to drive. No one else was there when we arrived so the people in charge let the rest of us have a go too. I'd never done the Timber Carts before and it was so fun to drive around the course.
We all look pretty good in the goggles too.
The last part of the afternoon we went to watch the people that had tickets go on the Giant Swing. But once again there was more time and no one else coming with tickets, so everyone from our group that had been watching got a turn. We got really lucky all day.
I'm so glad that Emma Stoj and Ellie got to come on this trip. This pair is hilarious and I always love getting to spend time with them.
The same could be said for all of these kids. I'm so thankful for this weekend and for every person that is a part of this group. They are all just so dang fun.
I love that KCraig is so obsessed with Mine Craft right now and that she kept practicing this weekend. I love that Natalie is quirky and that we're equally obsessed with all things FBC, neon, YL and Tecumseh.
There was enough time for Brooke, Molly and I to go on the Giant Swing together and it was so fun screaming on the drop together. I love that even when you're the one pulling the cord it's still a surprise of which time you're actually going to fall.
Many of the freshmen that came this summer were here again with other friends. This whole HSE YL thing just keeps multiplying. We talked a little bit in our cabin about bringing friends and it was interesting to hear different perspectives about how some are so eager to tell everyone they know about this and others don't want to shove it down anyone's throat. I totally understand both perspectives and it's good to have dialogue between the two.
This weekend was also an awesome time for the leaders to get to hang out. JD, Teress, Kathy, Molly, Abby and Ryan all gave up their weekends to be here with these kids. I love that they're choosing to love these kids even when it's not easy and putting their own faith into action. I'm so thankful for this crew of people that I get to work with every week.
The grand finale to dinner was the BIG COOKIE--a pan of hot, melted chocolate chip cookie covered in a slab of vanilla ice-cream and drizzled with hot fudge. The girls all dig in at once, attacking with their spoons, a battle to make sure they get enough of the best dessert ever created.
One of the last times I came up to Timber Wolf with Carmel for a Family Ski Weekend I arrived late at night with a car full of leaders. David, Sarah, Jon and I walked into the building with all of our luggage and someone said that it felt like we were coming home. Somehow even though we don't come here that often it still feels like home, like we belong here.
Whether I come with kids from Holland Christian, families from Carmel or kids from HSE this place is home. I love that this group of kids already feels that way about this place too. That this is somewhere they want to come back to and that they feel like they can be themselves.
We had a little time before Club so we ran back to the cabin for an impromptu dance party. We brought my speakers out into the center room and blasted Justin Bieber's One Time. It only took a couple seconds for everyone in the upstairs rooms to come out to the balcony and start singing with us too.
KCraig later said, "That's what I love about Young Life. It's all about community and bringing people together." Soon girls had come downstairs and all the different areas were dancing together.
No longer newbies, all our kids were stoked for the second club of the day. They got right up front again and were ready to go crazy.
Club was interrupted by a glow stick dance party that had us jumping all over the stage and dancing in the rest of the room. The 'Merica candidates were running around dancing too and we tracked down one to get a celebrity shot with him.
This night Kelsey talked to us about the cross and how it's so much more than a symbol. She told us two stories. One of the rich young ruler who was asked to give up everything, his deepest insecurities and hurts, to come follow him. The other about the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years until her faith healed her when she touched the edge of Jesus' robe. She challenged us to think about what a risk of faith might be for us and told us more about how Jesus died to restore what was lost and bring us back to God. We took rocks when we left the Club room and either left them at the foot of the cross or brought them back with us to Cabin Time.
Our Cabin Time was one of the most memorable I've ever been a part of. We were supposed to talk for about an hour until we could go into camp for free time the rest of the night. Instead we stayed in our cabin for four hours in this circle. It started out serious, transitioned into utter hilarity and then went back to being serious. I hope I'll never forget the things that these girls said and shared, the way we laughed together and how this group bonded. I'm so thankful for this cabin.
Our last morning at camp we gathered for brunch in the dining hall and piled our plates high with biscuits, eggs, chicken casserole, coffee cake and oatmeal. Even though we'd only been at camp for a couple days it felt like a week since we had done so much together.
Fall Weekend 2012 was quite the success. I love that we packed the bus and this crew of 54 people got to have this awesome experience together. My hope is that what we learned in club and talked about in our cabin will make a permanent difference in our lives. I'm so excited for these kids to go back home and tell their friends and their families about this trip.
It's pretty safe to say that these kids are obsessed with Young Life. I love hearing them talk about how they'll do Wilderness someday or how they're going to be so sad when it's their last time at camp as Seniors. In such a short time they've become so invested and I hope it'll continue to be for the right reasons. I love that we have four years to keep growing in our relationships with Christ together.
I'm so thankful for kids like Kylie, Brooke and Haleigh that shared and played and grew and talked and laughed and learned here this weekend. I'm so thankful that I've been put in a position where I can speak more truth into their lives and be here as a support for them. I love that when you go to Young Life camp you get to go back home with your friends and your leader--that what we're doing here at camp doesn't have to end.
In the last Club, Kelsey talked to us about the man at the sheep pool who been suffering for 38 years. Jesus healed him and he immediately stood up and rolled up his bed roll and walked. His life had been dramatically changed because he met Jesus and it would have been crazy for him to go back to the life that he had been living in before. Just like him, we should live in this new life to the full and stand with Christ because of our experience. It would be crazy for us to go back to the life we used to live and not change anything.
We sang David Crowder's Oh How He Loves Us together. I always love the words of this song. "When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me...I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that he loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us all." Each of us are so deeply and mightily loved.
We boarded the bus again, this time with less excitement since we were leaving this place that we love so much. Our ride started with Avengers to make the guys happy and many people fell asleep right away, exhausted from the weekend. We stopped mid-trip for food and a bathroom break and then continued on our way. Another movie, a game of iPod shuffle and the unveiling of this summer's camp trip--we're going to Castaway in MN for a week! It seems crazy that we can already be thinking about next summer.
Our bus pulled back into the HSE parking lot at 8:30 and met a crowd of excited parents. It has been an awesome weekend from start to finish and I'm so thankful.