The Tulle Skirt

This post was written over the summer.  But yesterday I wore the tulle skirt and danced and was with my people and loved loved loved…

The day was spent by myself.  I had been depending entirely too much upon people and not on my God.  So He and I rolled out of camp bumping some Lumineers and headed southwest.   I was wandering and wondering around Prescott and it hit me that I needed something pretty and frivolous.  I needed a delight.  Downtown Prescott isn’t much but Harley Davidson stores and cowboy boots, so I pulled out and headed back north to Flagstaff.  I knew just the place.  I had been there once before and it was a store of delights.  All I had in mind were some pretty hair pins.  Something with a little sparkle.

But then there it was.  On the mannequin out front.  The lightest most perfect tulle skirt there ever was.  A pale blush color with satin trim at the waist.  The five layers of mere whispers of fabric came down just to the knees.  I wandered and wondered the store I picked up a few other skirts to try on, trying to talk myself out of the tulle.

Wandering and wondering that store, the lie that I would be ‘too much’ in the skirt but also at the same time ‘not enough’ started to claw at the door of my heart.  But the beauty and perfect delight of the skirt tugged as well.  I texted my girls asking them if it would be ‘too aggressive’ for the camp banquet dinner that night.  They said, “Not for you.”  They know me and could speak the truth of my value.  How could something so glorious and perfect and wonderfully made be ‘too much’?  They reminded me to delight in wonders and in myself.  The ember of ‘too much’ was extinguished with the truth of ‘perfectly complete creation’.

The skirt came home with me and so did some sparkly hairpins.

It was worn that evening in glorious joy and delight.  Childhood dreams of wearing tutus and princess skirts were fulfilled.  It was twirled and fluffed and delighted in.  I wore it again today with our staff polo for work and I never stopped loving it.  Many people commented on how well I pull off the “fancy first day” look every week and that “nobody else could rock that look on Day 1 except you, Ruthiey.”

When I changed out of it into my pjs for bed, I was a little sad that I had to take it off.  It’s a little silly, but the skirt had very quickly become very important.  Not just because it is a really great skirt, but because it reminded me of a known and knowing God who delights in how He has created me.


Three Weeks of Normalcy: Ending

We have three weeks left of this normal in Arizona.  Then it’s on to another normal.

It’s sad, for sure.  But it’s also okay.  It is an ending that we knew was coming.

It is weird to think of leaving Arizona.  It feels weird to just cut loose from the life we have been living and the friendships we have built here.

We are leaving people and places behind.  It is humbling to hear other camp staff speak of how we will be missed.  To think that seven of their friends are going to leave and seven new people are going to come in, puts me in awe of the permanent community here at Lost Canyon.  Their normal is being shaken again, too.

We have friends across the state.  Not just here at camp.  Which is one of the major reasons I love working at Young Life camps.  You get to build relationships with people all over.  You visit their city, go to bingo together, ask how ministry/life/school is going because you get to be a part of it.

It’s funny to think about what the next normal will be.  Before this year, I knew a very deep desire for staying and roots.  I always thought that meant Virginia.  But now, having put down little roots somewhere else, I now know that that desire can be manifested anywhere.  Now I want to see things.  I have discovered the freedom and joy of exploration this year.  The exploration of places and people and ideas.

So new normals will come.  Whether it’s revisiting old normals or creating some new ones.  Whether that’s the Blue Ridge or the Big Apple.  For now, this normal still stands.

Float On

Life keeps moving.

Camp still happens after summer.  Friends you knew as freshmen are now seniors.  College kids repopulate Flagstaff.  Long prayed for children are born.  Long time friends’ lives end unexpectedly.  Fantasy football and presidential debates fill conversations.  Apply for and get rejected from jobs.  Unpack the jeans and jackets.  The aspens begin to turn to gold.

I’ve been learning that there are different types of mourning that come with change, and that you have to let yourself mourn.

The summer season came to an end, as we knew it would.  It was an end we could, and did, prepare for.  Our new friends left, we changed jobs, moved back to our house.  It was a change we were able to process together.  We were able to reflect on the good things, what we learned, and miss our friends together.  We started that process of gratitude even before the official end of summer.  We shared what we had meant to each other, we shared fears and hopes of returning home, we shared a meal.  It wasn’t a dramatic mourning, but we cried if need be and accepted the change that was happening.  The sorrow was shared.

This past weekend, my friend Austen from W&M died of a brain aneurysm.  It’s been a pretty shit week.  I am so far from people and places that I love so deeply.  And that’s been the hardest part.  To be unavailable to myself and to others hurting.  This is the mind-numbing mourning.  Unanticipated, fumbling with how to deal.  I’ve learned to let myself be sad, down, and perhaps zombie-like at times.  It is a sorrow that has to be volunteered, really, instead of shared.  Nobody else in perhaps the whole state of AZ knows Austen Dunn.  So there is no built-in shared/togetherness in those around me.  Never have I been so grateful for text messages from the east coast.  I have to volunteer this despair so that it can be shared and alleviated.  I have been loved and allowed to mourn.  And today I am beginning to see beautiful things again.  As Austen would have.  The rain clouds, the coffee-shop people, the golden aspens swathing the mountainsides.

Joel 2:12 “Even now, (during and after the shit storm)” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Psalm 51:17 “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite (and drawing blanks and numb) heart you, God, will not despise.”

This is not the life update I thought I would give, but that’s kind of how updates work, I suppose.  It’s not news if nothing changes.  Nor is it life.

The Halfway Point

We are halfway through this adventure.  As far as I can tell.

Summer is here.  In all of its wildness.  It blindsided me.

My new friends are more wondrous than I could have imagined.  Our intern numbers have swelled to 21 for the summer season.  It is already kind of sad to think that most of my new friends will leave in a little while.

Lost Canyon in this season sees 350-400+ campers and leaders every week.  So far we’ve had typical high schoolers and middle schoolers come.  Next week is YoungLives which is teen moms in the whole spectrum of motherhood.  And in August we’ll have more high schoolers and a Capernaum week which is friends with a wide wide variety of disabilities who get to come and live a life of “Yes!”

Working in retail is crazy town and so good.  I am responsible for the Whistle Stop which is our snack bar at Lost Canyon.  Essentially, my job is to set up my summer staffers (college aged volunteers) to succeed.  I teach them and restock the ice cream.  It is one of the greatest satisfactions when they get to see the Lord be glorified through milkshakes and bagel bites.

God teaches me about grace and patience.  About discerning and not dismissing.  About stillness and seasons of learning.  About being fearless.  About adventure and playing.

I was home in Virginia for a wedding July 4th weekend and it was a whirlwind.  In all honesty, I was crazy nervous to go back to VA.  I was excited to see all of my people again, but was terrified as to what physically returning to that place would mean.  Would I miss Arizona?  Would my heart explode and I’d refuse to leave Virginia ever again?  And most terrifying of all, would I realize that I do not have to come back?  Yes, I cried when Bailey picked me up at the airport.  Yes, as soon as we flew in over the JC Penny I wished my AZ people were with me.  Yes, the drive up to the wedding was gorgeous.  Yes, flying back into Phoenix was beautiful.  Yes, I went to Mac and Bob’s AND Mill Mountain.  And yes, I came back to Arizona.

As I was cruising over Texas on my way to Charlotte, I asked God to change my life that weekend.  In whatever way He saw fit.  Perhaps the way my life was changed was that I realized I could have two normals.  Which rocked my shit in a very real way.  Being back in Salem and with my friends there was totally normal.  It was normal for Ben and Alyssa to get married and for everyone from William and Mary to be back together again for the night.  It was normal to get extra fries and ranch at Mac and Bob’s.  But then it was also normal to open the coffee shop at camp Tuesday morning and have to put away the US Foods order.  It was normal to share a room with 12 girls and to play pingpong every chance possible.

There is a great, terrifying freedom in not having just one normal.  I have nothing in this world to default back to when my mind spins in thinking of the future.  And now anything and everything is on the table.  And what a feast of adventure has been set.

Creating and Mourning Normalcy

Life in Williams, Arizona is good.  It has been surprisingly uneventful!  The people here are wonderful, and it’s overwhelming finding new things to do because there are so many neat places!

My job in housekeeping is pretty straight forward.  Sorting laundry, cleaning toilets, making beds.  Folding fitted sheets!!  It’s different every day, even if it’s not different every week. Though it seems and can get mundane at times, housekeeping has been really cool.  We see and take care of places all over camp, so I’ve learned a lot about where and how things are on property.  It’s also perspective building in that we get to prepare a place for campers to hear the Gospel.  As Jesus prepares a place for all of us in heaven, we get to reflect that a tiny bit by making a bed, scrubbing a toilet, and mopping a floor.

All of us interns are from different parts of the country.  Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, California.  It has been really cool to learn each other’s contexts of where we are physically coming from, but also all of our past and vast experiences.  And then how to not just keep existing together, but how to grow and encourage and love each other better.

Williams is good. Camp is good. There is nothing bad about life here!  But I am getting to the point where I long for Salem, Virginia.

I miss the familiarity of home.  I miss my people.  I miss Mill Mountain and Mac and Bob’s.  I miss the boring same-old-same-old.  I miss the ease of life there.  Which makes sense, having grown up there and now moving across the country to a strange new place.  It’s March, which in SWVA is time for spring to start happening.  But here, things are STILL TAN AND DARK BROWN.  And apparently snow is not out of the question till mid-May.  I may or may not have impulse bought flowers at Michael’s yesterday.

There is one coffee shop in Williams and I am determined to make it my new Mill Mountain.  There is a great diner that serves breakfast all day and a saloon that serves popcorn and has a cat.  My newest prayer is that God would give me eyes to see the physical beauty of this place and that I would chase that beauty down.

Isaiah 61 is God declaring the promises of His favor.  Basically how great the world is gonna be as God continues to shape it.  He says that “they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”  God has been reminding me a lot lately of how He creates and asks us to be “oaks of righteousness.”  In retrospect He has reminded me of how I was that oak in other places too.  In Williamsburg at school and in Salem at home.  How faithfulness begets faithfulness.  His to me, and mine to Him.  I am a transplanted oak tree.  Getting used to the new environment, but still an oak tree.

Three Weeks of Normalcy: Beginning

We’ve been at Lost Canyon for three weeks.  And it has been awesome.

God is good.  He knows my heart and reminds me of His provision.  The mountains and trees here remind me of my VA home.

Life here is so comfortable.  Not that it’s super easy or is going to stay that way, but it is so Good.  The Spirit reminds me of lessons I have had to learn before.

It’s beginning to become normal.  Schedules, groceries, bed times.

We are beginning to know each other.  No food allergies, fave spots on the couch, who gets antsy on snowdays, when we need to stop each other from buying another sweater.

We have watched all of the Harry Potter movies.  Play the expansion box for Settlers of Catan.  Buy tons of coffee.

I dug my car out of 18 inches of snow for the first time today.  It started, praise the Lord.

We share many meals.  We have all staff meeting every morning, read scripture, pray and praise the Lord for what He has done.  We live life together.  Deeper and deeper into Life we will go.


The Eve of Significance

Tomorrow is a big day.

I don’t know what it will hold.  I do know that it will be good.  I know this because I know that God goes in front.

Psalm 77 has been crushing it in my life lately.  It starts off with the psalmist lamenting over the general state of things.  He says in verse 7, “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?”  Hop on over the verses 11-12 where he drops some wisdom bombs.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”  Boyfriend is hella stressed, but then he remembers that God has been there done that.  He is encouraged because of the way the LORD has already shown His faithfulness.  He can get over This because he has already gotten over That.

After the Israelites cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they pull 12 rocks from the river and arrange them in a little memorial for the moment.  They build a celebratory memorial out of something that should have been their downfall.  Reflecting on the time it has taken to get me to tomorrow,  there have been several things that could have stopped me.  It is good to know that Jesus has already gotten me over That because it gives me the confidence that He can get me over This.

I have no doubts of the good, perfect plan of the Lord.  He has been delivering us since we started on this Earth, and will continue doing so until His Kingdom comes.