Summer is beginning to pack his bags. He’s there in my room, laying out all of his clothes and folding them nicely into his suitcase, the one with travel stickers all over it. I keep asking him to stay, but he’s declining my offer. He tells me he’s ready to head south, you know how that goes. It’s time for a fresh new season. He promises he’ll send me Pinterest pictures of the places he’s going next around the world. Well fine. I’ll enjoy your stay while you’re still here Mr. Summer.
I guess maybe he’s right. It’s time for a fresh new season, because these last few weeks of summer leave us trapped between lazy freedom and anticipation of the future, and we don’t really know what we want. We’re just floating and trying to enjoy ourselves, but it’s hard because we’re starting to put on our armor for the battle ahead: the battle of busyness and worries and excitement. We’ll always be seeking out an answer to the mystery: trying to find who we are and why we are who we are, and how we can be who we are when we don’t know. We’re so messy with all of our questions.
If y’all haven’t ever been down to this here Georgia, lemme tell ya somethin, it is green. Like a John Deer rollin’ down I-80 near Omaha in the middle a winter. Well. Kinda. One of the days, we went whitewater rafting on the Chattooga river. It was absolutely beautiful to be in the middle of all the trees. The water was warm, which was an unexpected blessing, given that I’m prone to being cold all the time. It was a breathtaking day. There was not another person or house anywhere around us the whole trip. It started to rain halfway through the day, and it completely drenched us at times, but it was secretly a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet.
The rain was refreshingly cold. My thirsty soul soaked up that rain, and I felt alive. It was crazy, when we stepped out of the raft at the end of the day after being soaked by chilly rain, the river water felt like a hot tub. It was so different from Colorado rafting. I kept wondering if we were actually rafting in water or some other strange substance that doesn’t get cold. I think I could become a tree right then and there.
We also stopped once to jump off of rocks into the water, then another time to “slide” down a waterfall (which was more like scooting). I would love to be a rain drop in the Chattooga river, cascading down a waterfall every second, and soaking up the ice-cold life of God’s glorious creation. We saw natural, wild turtles sitting on rocks, and even a bald eagle. It was a lovely lovely day. (Well, other than my youth minister falling out of the raft and getting trapped under the raft, that wasn’t so lovely. But other than that it was lovely.)
After we had gone through all the rapids, we tied our rafts to a motorboat and sat in them while we steadily made our way back to the bus. At first it was sunny, but of course, it started to rain. No sorry, pour. Monsoon. While we were getting drenched by rain, although it was cold, I felt incredibly alive. Cold droplets from a pure, unadulterated sky soaked into my pores and my heart felt overwhelmed with a wild sense of crazy peace. It sounds like an oxymoron, but the peace I felt wasn’t relaxing. It was a peace that told me life is an insane adventure and won’t ever slow down for me. Rocks will jut out of seemingly calm waters, and I will have to find a way around them to stay in my raft. It was a living, breathing, heart-exploding peace that gave me strength and excitement to live my life different from the rest of this world. I will still go through the struggles of the world, but I have a never ending peace lying underneath all the problems, and it has power to crumble them. This peace is too intense and strong for our struggles to handle. Peace will win, and fear will lose (twenty one pilots). This is a truth that needs to drench us. Peace isn’t just in the form of a hammock or a stress-free life. Peace drives our hearts to search for something more. Peace is what keeps us alive sometimes. Peace is constantly fighting for us in battle. Peace is wild. Peace will win and overwhelm.
One thing I realized at camp is that God is constantly speaking to me and tugging at my heart. If you’ve ever doubted that God still speaks to us like he did in Bible stories, well, he does. I know I’m a small, broken person. Insignificant and devastatingly hopeful sometimes. But God speaks into my heart. In fact, I like to think of him writing on my heart. He created me, my soul, body, everything, out of a word, so he’s constantly writing words in me and story-telling his grace into my life. That makes my heart spin. I’m a journal for God. I’m poetry. I’m a novel with every detail described better than any writer ever could. My life is a collection of spellbinding words written by the maker of beautiful things.
On the last night of camp, we had a parish bonfire. We made s’mores and prayed together in the middle of dark, wet, open grass underneath a carpet of restless stars. I was staring up at them lying down, and in that moment, with some of the most amazing people in the world lying around me, I exhaled deeply so that a little bit of my soul would come out, so I could always be a part of that moment. I let go. That’s what Jesus kept telling me to do all week. Just let go. Let go of my fear. Let go of my past, and especially my future. Let go of who I think I want to be. I’m still trying to let go, but now my heart finally has a vacancy sign lit up, and it’s only accepting one guest. A permanent guest. Jesus, come stay in my heart hotel. Fill all the rooms that ache for company with your love. Help me continue to let go so that you can come live in me.
I tried to take in the craziness of all those stars that night while lying next to my sister (which, by the way, together we saw four shooting stars), and I was so happy to do that with her. We did it last summer too, in another place miles away in the Rocky Mountains, just us lying in the grass underneath all the constellations. I think that’s where we belong. We’re a little star crazy.
It’s a sad thing that camp is over, but I’m so so happy I got the chance to go. The future is racing towards me like a crazy train about to derail, but I’m ready to jump on it. Jesus is pumping in my blood and I’m excited to go out and love with all my heart. I need his courage. Especially for when school starts, and work gets hard, and life ties my heart in cowboy knots, I need you Jesus. I never want to lose my passion or my faith.
While writing my testimony in my journal one of the nights, Jesus took the pen and wrote something I need to remember, especially when I’m afraid. The same hands that sculpted the stars sculpted me, so I have stardust pumping in my veins. Since I have flakes of stars within me, I’m always radiating. Even when I feel lonely or worthless.
Jesus, I love you and I want the world to burn with this love. It’s true, it’s taken days of my heart being thrown through rings and my soul feeling like a wayfaring gypsy, but I love you, and I’m amazed at what you’re doing in my life. Any atmosphere or galaxy or simple place I end up is where you find miraculous ways to console me and love me. Help me burn. I’m ready to feel alive.