Me with one of the girls I got to know this summer (nothing to do w/ the story, I just like it)
I will not be stressed, I will not be stressed, I will not be stressed. — If only that’s how it worked, right?
Today is a week since our last day of day camp. I still miss those kids a ton and am processing through the last couple of months and all that went on, but I wanted to share a little bit from the start of day camp.
Leading up to the beginning of day camp, my stress level and anxiety was definitely increasing. I was excited for it, but slightly overwhelmed by all the things beyond my control. As the coordinator, I wanted it to be as smooth and organized as possible, but all sorts of hypothetical situations kept popping up in my head–most of which I could not control.
Last summer, while I absolutely loved having day camps, I felt like I was more stressed than I needed to be and ran myself a bit ragged. This year, I had determined, would be different. Yes, I’d be tired no matter what, but I could delegate responsibilities and not be all over the place all the time. But most importantly, I would not be stressed. I would be relaxed, able to go with the flow and calmly deal with whatever unforeseen situations arose. Well okay, this was the dream. Mostly I was terrified I’d be a stressed-out mess that no one would want to be near.
In preparation for the day camps, in hopes to ward off the worst, I was doing lots of praying and self-talk (and explaining my thought process to practically everyone I talked to, in hopes that it would help it sink in). My plan: 1)Do everything that I can beforehand to avoid mistakes (one reason I was excited for day camp, I could then move to reacting to issues instead of trying to preemptively combat them)–I was desperately trying to find the balance of being prepared and responsible but recognizing there was only so much I could do. 2)Accept that things to go wrong. I had determined that part of my stress was that I wanted everything to be perfect for the incoming groups. And while that’s all fine and good, again I can’t control everything. The line I rehearsed over and over was that ‘ministry is messy.’ Maybe when things go wrong, it could be a learning opportunity for the youth that were serving to see that ministry isn’t fields of lilies, but that things go wrong, people don’t act like they should, whatever–ministry is messy. I told myself that instead of bending over backwards trying to avoid that over which I had no control, I could embrace the situation and use it as a learning opportunity for the groups–yup, this situation kinda sucks, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Welcome to ministry! 3) Pray like crazy and get others to pray.
That, in essence, was my plan. It was going fairly well, I decided, right up to the afternoon the first group was arriving. You see, in an effort to make the first day of camp less crazy and to have everyone on the same page, I had scheduled a two hour training session for my Bridge of Hope volunteers. This time was to be used briefly going over some basic mental health training (how to deal with kids that have ADHD, etc, nicely put together by a woman at the church), training on how we would discipline, going over the schedule and responsibilities and that was about it! We had worksheets, plans for people to break into groups to brainstorm ideas, the whole shebang. While I was nervous about this, I’ll admit I was also slightly proud of it. But when the time came, no one was there. Well, excuse me, two people were there. Another two came about an hour late. One came about half an hour late. One left an hour or so early. I think there were roughly 20 people on my roster. I knew several couldn’t make it, and thought I had kept low expectations, but apparently not enough.
I was almost in tears when it was over. This was one of my main plans for reducing stress–everyone (or most people) would be on the same page. So, when all the craziness that is day 1 took place, at least everyone would know what they were doing. Now, on top of my anxiety about the day camp, I had to figure out how I was going to explain to the volunteers what their job was, how to discipline kids–heck, they didn’t even know what time I wanted them to arrive! I was a mite frustrated and disappointed. I tried to keep a good perspective, but I was a bit deflated.
Fast forward to that Monday, the first day of camp. I already had gone over everything with the youth group that was leading the camp, they knew what they were doing, now just to get my volunteers on track. Some of them showed up early and I was able to direct them properly and get them ready to go. But time was going by, and some of the people I was counting on were no where to be seen. This is why I wanted to have the training! Then I would know who would be here, and they would know what time! I thought to myself. As time went on and several people failed to show up, (let the record show, several people also did show up and did an awesome job!!!) my stress was rising as was my indignation. There were multiple times I had to step into the office and take some deep breathes. Being in the indignant, defeatist mood that I was, I had also determined that by how this day was going, it must mean that I’d be super stressed the rest of the summer. Practically before it began, I had come to the conclusion that it was over.
Thankfully, at this point, God intervened. (I should note, I don’t believe I was actually fuming outwardly all day or snapping at people in particular, but inwardly, my attitude was not pretty) I can’t remember if it was that evening, or the next morning, but at one point a parable hit me smack in the face. This whole time, I had been praying, because I recognized me on my own was not going well and I am happy to report, God hears our prayers. Anyway, He brought to mind the parable of the unforgiving servant. I’ve included it below.
Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV): 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Now, I’ll be honest. My prideful self has never really identified with that unforgiving servant, because obviously he’s a pretty selfish, terrible guy, and obviously, I’m not anywhere as bad as him. But what kept running through my head was this: I’m just like that unforgiving servant! God has forgiven my many, many trespasses, has been incredibly patient and merciful with me, and how to I repay that? By being frustrated and annoyed when people don’t act the way I want them to. He is endlessly patient with me, so I should be endlessly patient with others.
Some of those people who signed up to volunteer never ever showed up. I don’t know most of their reasons, if they had a ‘good excuse’ or not. But you know what? To an extent, it doesn’t really matter. If they signed up then decided ‘Psh, I’m not feeling it’ and decided to not contact me but instead lay around at home, then that’s simply where they are at. Wasting time and energy being frustrated that they aren’t where I want them to be won’t help anyone. I had to let go of my perfect dream world and accept the current one I was living. No, it’s often not pretty. And no, it rarely goes smoothly. But God is endlessly patient with me, so I can be endlessly patient with others.
That next day, I arrived at church a whole new person. The anger and resentment was gone, compassion had replaced it. I was ready to deal with whatever the current situation was instead of constantly wishing it was my ideal scenario. I wasn’t frustrated (or nearly as much) with those that didn’t volunteer. They had their reasons, whether I would deem them good ones or not, and the situation simply was. Additionally, I had several people who had led groups previous years comment to me how impressed they were with how many Bridge of Hope volunteers there were and how well they were involved in the camp. Because I was so stuck on my dream scenario and was frustrated that people weren’t acting according to that plan, I had completely missed the incredible growth that was taking place and wasn’t celebrating all God had and was doing. Yikes.
I’m happy to report that while I was stressed at times during day camp, it was considerably less than the previous year. I’m pretty sure anyone who worked with me both summers can attest to that. God met me where I was at, was so very patient with me and my failings, and answered my prayers time and time again.
(I should again note that for every person that failed to show up, I had dedicated workers who devoted huge portions of their summer/free time to serving at the camp and really stepped up in amazing ways. That is incredibly humbling to see and exciting to witness.)