Junior Girls Week – Camp David – Part 2

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If you haven’t read Part 1 – Click Here

 It was a hot afternoon and the sun beat down on us as we walked across the long field to the horses so the girls could get their horse badge. My arms swung back and forth as I held the hands of Gabby and Chrissy. Meanwhile Katy was perched on my back. Everywhere we’d walk, Katy wanted to be holding my hand or perched on my back. All of the girls decided that they loved getting back-rides and would fight over who’s turn it was to get the next one. After 3 days of having a girl on my back multiple times a day, my legs and back were so sore, we walked quite slowly across the field! But how can you tell girls no when they tell you the things that meant the most to them is that you and Sarah listen to them unlike most adults who don’t want to ever listen to them and tell them to shut up, and how much they loved it that you gave them back rides?!  As we walked, I asked Katy, the petite little girl perched on my back, who was the person in her life she looked up to and wanted to be like. “I don’t really know,” she said. “I don’t really have any grown ups in my life that stay in my life.” Right at this moment I could name off at least 10 older people in my life that I look up to a lot! Can you imagine what it would be like to have none?? And if you ever did have one or get close to one, they would probably be ripped away in a few months when you were moved to a new home!

These girls have such mountain sized problems, and I wish with all of my heart I could always be there for them, but I can’t. But I do know someone who can and his name is Jesus, and he can be there for them and protect them so very much better than my meager efforts!  It was beautiful to see Chrissy, our Alumni camper who had gotten saved last year, living out her faith and running to Jesus in difficult times the whole week at camp! She just glowed with the love of Jesus and, even though she was only 10, she was very mature, selfless, and strong, yet gentle as a dove! Even though her parents aren’t in her life, and she faces so many challenges, God is faithful to her, and it’s beautiful to see beauty for the ashes of the broken pieces of her life.

The dreaded Friday morning came to pack up. Through the whole morning the girls clung to me and Sarah like we would vanish if they let go. One of the Friday morning activities was “Leave it Behind”. A hole was dug at the foot of the cross and each camper was given a slip of paper they could write a painful memory on that they wanted to leave buried at the foot of the cross. Each of our girls wrote something down and dropped it in. Katy pick up her paper and stared at it; I knew she could hardly write, and my heart broke as I saw her intense look of frustration and pain in place of her normal carefree, happy smile that she does her best to act like everything is perfect. I knew something very deep was going on in that little girl’s heart, and that whatever it was, she wasn’t taking it lightly. She walked up to me and said, “Jo, I need you to write for me.” “Sure”, I said. “Just tell me what to write!”  “There are some lies I am going to leave behind at camp today and I want them written down on that paper just like I say them because I am determined to not believe them anymore,” she said with a very firm tone in her voice. She began to list them to me and I wrote the simple words. Meanwhile, so much more than just the simple words were being written on my heart in that moment!

-I’m a failure and won’t be anything since I’m a foster child.

– I’m stupid and don’t know anything.

– No body in the world cares about me or loves me.

– I’m plain and ugly.

For my dear little Katy, those were not just simple words on a paper, but giant ropes that bound, held, and controlled her! Those were the whispers in her ear that told her to give up when she finally decided to try!  Those were the lies that held her back from being a butterfly and feeling shame to come out and shine! She requested that she be on my back when she dropped the paper of lies into the hole, so, perched on my back, my Katy and I walked to the hole, and she dropped that paper, so light, it floated to the ground, yet so very heavy, it carried the weight of hundreds of ropes of lies and hundreds of bricks of shame!

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We stood outside as the busses pulled up and they were told to load up. Katy held tightly on to me and said, “Can we please stop and pray that they won’t pick me up and I can just go home with you and be your little girl?” All my great plans of making it till campers were gone without crying so I wouldn’t upset them went out the window! I squeezed her so very tight and she squeezed me just a little bit tighter. I knew the awful reality would come and I would load her up in the big green van and have to wave goodbye to her. Arie and Brea walked up, the two sisters on our team. They made a little group and we just all stood there and hugged, trying to prolong what we all knew was coming. Brea spoke up, “I loved this week at camp; at home we always fight with everyone, but this week we haven’t fought with anyone. This week has been the best week of my life and I’m coming back next year!” Then from out of the building came Gabby running, she gave me a big hug and just let everything out – sobs, words, and everything in between! She said “Jo, I don’t want to go home, home is so boring but here everyone loves me, everyone listens, and everyone has fun!” All 5 of us stood there hugging and crying when I realized I wasn’t sure where Chrissy was and want to say goodbye to her before she loaded up in the van.

I finally found her in the sea of campers and counselors saying their final sad goodbyes. My normally perfect, controlled, and composed  Chrissy, leaped into my arms and said, “Jo, I don’t want to go, I love everyone here so much!”  We gathered in a circle and I told them to never, ever forget Jesus because He, unlike me, would always be there for them and never have to leave! We all sobbed and I hugged them one more time. The last sight I saw of my dear Chrissy was her arms wrapped tight around another camper that she had become best friends with over the last 2 summers at camp.  She look up at me with the biggest brown eyes I’ve ever seen, “I’ll be back next year,” she whispered with a glimmer of hope in her eyes! She held her hand up to the window, and I pressed mine against it, with only the glass of the window separating us, her lip was still quivering and tear drops the size of marbles rolled down her beautiful dark complexion. That was my very last glimpse of her and it is concreted in my memory forever! Most of the campers come from such horrible situations, yet their one week at camp each summer gives them hope, hope that there are people that care about them deeply even when no one else does, hope that every summer they have a week when they can feel safe, have fun, and just be loved! “God, help them and be with them,” I begged, “comfort their bleeding and broken hearts as only you can, and remind them everyday of the people who love them and care so much about them from camp, and never ever let them forget there IS hope!”

Will you take a moment to notice the children around you, to notice their deep pain that is often masked by a smile? Each one of my campers have neighbors, fellow classmates, teachers, and many other people in their lives; they could have taken the time to be a mentor to them or to invest time into these girls lives, but almost all of them had different priorities. Maybe they were too busy… busy with work, busy with school, busy socializing, or maybe they weren’t busy, and just didn’t notice the lonely girl at the playground because they had their focus elsewhere.  We all have Katys, Gabbys, Aries, Breas and Chrissys that surround us. But do we choose to truly see them, do we choose to notice them, and do we choose to give them our time and pour out literal life and being into them? Jesus said “Let the little children come and forbid them not” What do we say?

*Names changed for privacy

I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my 5 dear girls, as I do my best to keep up relationships with them and stay involved in their lives!

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Healing Through Torture!

I write random things all the time but they never end up getting posted, they just sit in my stack of notebooks full of writing. I decided I was going to do my best to post more, even if it isn’t perfect. 🙂
 
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 A year and a half ago amidst serious training for a 5k race, I went on a beautiful 7 mile run in the fall weather, a run that put me on a journey I never wanted to be on. I got a stress fracture on my left medial tibia 2 weeks before my 5k that I had trained for months for! I had gave up so many things for 3 months so I could focus on training, somehow stomaching 2,500- 3,000+ calories every day, all in pursuit of my dream of running a 5k in under 24 minutes (Yes, I know to some people it doesn’t sound like a high goal but for me it was a high goal!) 
 
After that run, I spent the following 2 months hardly able to walk on my swollen left leg without searing pain. I’ve spent these last 1 1/2 years desperately trying to figure out what else was injured, since the stress fracture healed but the pain never went away. In my search for answers, I’ve been told I probably have compartment syndrome, a deformed muscle, a strained soleous, shin splints, tight ligaments, and basically every lower leg injury there is!  
 
 Thankfully I found a good chiropractor who specializes in running injuries. He’s quite sure I have severe shin splints. People look at me like I’m insane – what normal person has shin splints for 1 1/2 years?? Me, because anything to do with my injury seems to be a weird exception! Right now I’m halfway through a treatment plan of 5-8 Graston technique treatments. If you don’t know about them you’re in the same boat I was until it was done to me! Long and short it can be explained with 3 words – ‘healing through torture’.  Instruments similar to odd shaped dull butter knives rubbed vigorously up and down the injured spot, literally breaking apart lumps of scar tissue so your body can remove them and the muscle isn’t so constricted. Having it done on a bad injury… Hurts! Actually, I don’t think ‘hurts’ even comes close to describe what it feels like. I can’t remember ever feeling pain that severe before, even when I got my forehead split open as a kid!  
 
  When I stub my toe or get a little injury I shriek, jump around, and moan loudly about how much it hurts as if the offending piece of furniture is going to offer an apology. But as I’m lying on my side on his exam table as he intensely scraps up and down, over what seems to be mountain of scar tissue and they start to break apart, somehow pain that horrific takes a deep concentration to survive it and not jump right off the table and run out of there shrieking! I quietly lay there clenching the side of the table and using every ounce of energy to focus on surviving it. Somehow that tiny, tiny little glimmer of hope, that sometimes seems non existent, gives me hope to hold on, hope that some day my leg will be able to function again without pain, and someday I will be able to run and bust that time of 24 minutes that I was so ready for when it happened! Hope that someday the pain and limping around for days after treatments will benefit me! 
 
 As I sit on my bed tonight moaning in pain, trying to write and distract myself from the 5 inch purple bruise covering my leg from the worst treatment ever this morning, I can’t help but think that sometimes the awful pain we go through can actually bring healing. What if the pain that comes like a ragging rain storm raining pain down into our hearts is slowly breaking up the calluses and scars in the cold corners of our hearts? What if pain doesn’t always create scars, what if sometimes it’s the healer of the scars? What if some pain heals and is actually an agonizing blessing in disguise? 
 
 If my injury gets better and I can run again, that would be amazing. But even if it never does, I will forever be grateful that I will never view pain that same way! 
 

The Most Beautiful Woman I Know…

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I was asked a question a few years ago that I didn’t have an answer for. 

 
 She chattered on to me about a lady she said was the most beautiful lady she knew. She suddenly stopped, turned to me, and asked,  “who is the most beautiful woman you know?” I stood there drawing a blank; I’d never really tried to figure that out. I told her I’d rarely ever met a woman I didn’t think was beautiful, and hadn’t really sat around trying to figure out which one I thought was the most beautiful. She looked at me a bit surprised, then continued her excited chatter. 
 
Even though that conversation was a few years ago, I never forgot it. Over the last few months I’ve thought about that conversation a lot and now have an answer for her.
 
Dear Girl,
She has eyes so big, bright, and cheery they can light up a room. Her smiles are so big and freely given, everyone around her can’t help but smile back. Her face is radiant and kindness exudes from every pore of her being. When she smiles, it’s as if the whole world stops to smile.
 She does everything with gracefulness and poise. She is not demanding, yet her demeanor inspires great respect. In her presence, guys turn to gentlemen, opening doors for her and treating her with care and respect like a woman ought to  be treated. When men act like gentlemen these days, sometimes ladies are offended and think they consider them weak and powerless, but she does not. She treats men with great regard, respect and dignity.
  It is with the utmost confidence and peace, she walks through life. Not with pride and confidence in herself, but the greatest confidence that the maker of the King of kings and creator of the world walks beside her, every single step of the way! She knows she needs fear nothing, with Him at her side.
 One might think that because of her great happiness, confidence, and peace, she has led a carefree life; free from bruises caused by trials and storms. But quite the contrary. Those bright and beautiful eyes that I envy have shed more tears than could be counted! Her beautiful, kind, and tender heart, has been smashed and shattered many times with grief and sorrow! But she let her savior use that to make her heart softer and more keenly aware of others pain,  instead of growing heart with bitterness.  Her contagious smile that some dare to wish they had, has been born from sorrow and heartache, that led her to find the truly lasting joy and peace that can be found in having a personal and intimate relationship with our Savior.
Yes, she is a beautiful lady, who once people have met, they rarely ever forget her!
That, my dear girl, is the long in coming answer to your question. I could write for hours about her, just as you could chatter for hours about the most beautiful woman you knew. But hopefully you got a glimpse of this truly beautiful lady. Oh, and did I mention, soft white curls frame her face. The most beautiful lady I know is 86.
   Love, the girl you chattered so long to.
                       -Joanna
P.S. Remember
“Who can find a virtuous women? For her price is far above rubies.”
Proverbs 31:10
” Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:25-26