I Miss You, Bro–I Mean, Cuz

For all of the arguing we’ve done in our lifetimes, it’s hard to think I’d miss you. But I do.

We’ve had plenty of fights. I can’t count the number of times Mom said, “The No-Touch Rule is now in effect.” I’m sorry I poked you in the stomach so much. Then again, you did put a pillow on me and use me as a seat.

Regardless of all the water wars and general blunders, I know you have my back when it really counts. I know you have a listening ear when I really need it. The feeling is mutual.

I’m so proud of how much you’ve grown up. What happened to that little boy in the sky blue polo? He’s suddenly almost a man. (I mean, there was that whole “adolescence” thing, but I think we’ll just pretend that era didn’t happen.) He’s working hard, connecting with kids, sharing bits of himself with those who need it.

As I make this college decision, I wish you were coming with me. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to be too far away from you. I’ve had enough of that this year. I mean, being away did you a lot of good, and I saw you more than others did. But being so far that we won’t be around each other once a month, at the very least?

Who’s going to volunteer to drive me home from camp so he can just talk and get a new perspective? Who’s going to stop by and ask me how I’m feeling in the mornings when I have a grumpy look on my face? Who’s going to stick up for me whenever I get into dumb arguments with people over little things? Who’s going to be mistaken as some kind of boyfriend and help me embarrass people when we say we’re related?

I mean, we can message each other. But isn’t the same as when you wrap your arms around me in a “bear hug” and I try to jab you with my elbows.

I just want to say that if I do go away…farther away from you than I’d like…that I’m going to miss you a whole lot.

And if I am further away, then I’m sure God will use it to benefit us.

Thanks for being the best cousin I could have asked for. (Well, actually, the best cousin ever probably wouldn’t have sat on me, but I guess it all balances out since you gave me your jacket when I was very intelligently sitting in front of an air conditioner on a spring evening trying to sell books.)

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Why I’m Not Entirely Hating College Anymore

If you keep up with my blog, you’re well aware of my apprehension towards college and higher education in general. I’ve poured out a lot of my feelings, frustrations, and fears into this blog. However, in the recent month, I’ve been almost warming up to college. Here’s a couple of reasons why.

1) New Experiences.

At first, I didn’t like the idea of new experiences. I’m one of those people who has a great fear of the unknown. However, I’m coming to realize that most of what I’m involved with is going to slip away after this year, and what am I going to spend all my time on? Certainly not Robotics. Definitely not camp. I’ve got to start something new to make up for my lack of busyness.

2) Spiritual Growth.

Complete honesty right now: I’m not in a place in my life where I feel like I’m growing a lot in my faith. There, I said it. My spiritual environment has been really weird this fall; I’ve missed a lot of church because I’ve been serving at camp, and my youth group has all but stopped meeting. Not that youth group was an incredibly spiritually growing environment in the first place, but it was something. I’m ready to be around like-minded people and really grow. (This isn’t to say I can’t use the opportunities God is giving me right now to grow. I don’t believe He’s holding me in some kind of “in-between place” where I can’t grow. I need to make the best of the opportunities He gives me.)

3) New Friends.

This may be the thing I’m most excited for, which is kind of funny to me, but it’s totally true: I’m thrilled to be making new friends. As I look over my life so far, I’ve noticed that a lot of my childhood friends aren’t really my friends any longer. Most people I’ve known for this season of my life will be slipping away sooner rather than later. I’m ready to meet some forever friends, guys! If anyone has read the Christy Miller books, you know the kind of friends I mean. I’m so excited to meet some people who will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I need best friends, and college will give me a way to get that.

All this said, I’m also kind of concerned about how this is going to play out. I’ve been accepted into two colleges thus far, but I haven’t been earnestly seeking where God wants me to go. I guess we’ll find out where He puts me when He tells me. His timing, not mine.

Also, it feels great to use contractions again. All I’ve been writing lately is formal essays for my AP Language class, and contractions are hugely a no-no. I’ll have to return again soon to revel in my literary freedom.

My Hiking MVP

We went hiking this weekend. I was excited, since it was my fourth time around on the path. My second time leading someone blindfolded. I’m not very good at hiking. This year, especially, the incline had me incredibly out of breath. Before we left, I communicated to the leader that I wasn’t feeling well. My stomach was causing me pain, along with my hip and my ankle. However, I made it to the top, and the view was breathtaking.

The way back was rough. Last year, I was the last one up the hill. The previous time, I was last. I didn’t want to be last again, but I remember that final stretch to be horrible. Something found in my nightmares. A terrible upward segment to the end.

This year was no different. It was awful. I lost my partner only five minutes on the return journey. I was clutching my water bottle like a lifeline, and only allowing myself to drink when I absolutely needed it. A number of people passed me.

And finally, when the back of the line had reached me, and I pushed myself harder, I found myself surrounded by a small trio of friends. One girl in my level, and two others I’d had as campers.

My friend engaged me in conversation. I shared my testimony first, and then we discussed college and our futures. The conversation kept my mind off of my pain, and distracted me from what felt like a never-ending walk.

As we drew closer to the end, she and I decided to pretend the woods were actually Narnia. At the time when the White Witch had just begun to lose her powers, and the snow had melted, and the beginning of spring was peeking through blossoms. As we passed some white flowers, we imagined they were snow blanketing the ground.

I don’t know if I would have finished without her. Looking back, it was her talking to me that kept me going, and I so appreciate her willingness to walk with me.

Parodies

Once upon a time, I found I possessed the skills required to write decent parodies. Granted, they aren’t perfect; they don’t always feature rhyme schemes, and occasional words must be sung rapidly. But I manage to tell a story; a new story with old music. I think that’s rather cool.

Because I think that’s cool, I write parodies more often than I should. “Why, Lexi,” you ask. “More often than you should? What’s that supposed to mean? That’s great that you can write them, you should write them all the time, just to have them.”

Yeah. Wouldn’t it be awesome if my brain worked that way?

Instead, my brain decides that we need to play it on guitar.

And after we learn how to play it, we practice it.

After we’ve mastered it, we record it on our phones and share it with people.

After we have a basic recording, we want to record it for real.

When we record it for real, we want to mix the audio nicely.

Once that’s done, we want to make a video to accompany it.

You see how this works?

No matter what it is, I end up putting an incredible amount of effort and passion into things. I can’t just write a song and think, “Huh, that’s cool.” No, my brain will not rest until it has finished the project. This leads to unfortunate lapses of sanity, as I latch onto multiple projects and try to see them to completion all at once.

For example, I published a book recently and am making efforts to market that. Meanwhile, I’m pondering what I’ll be doing for NaNoWriMo this year and doing tiny spurts of research. Yet, I’m dividing another share of time to another series I’m working on planning out.

Four different plans of my own for Robotics are fighting for my attention, while several other necessary aspects of being a part of the leading committee are also tugging at me. Occasionally, camp will lean in and whisper a remind in my ear of something I need to be doing. School has started its incessant pounding and pulling; and smaller, enjoyable responsibilities begin to adopt the role of “chore”.

Welcome to the creative mind.

Sleeping Bag Delivery Boy

I’d packed just enough for the weekend. I had one extra shirt in case of emergency; a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants for the evening campfire; and a single bath towel. I threw my pillow in my duffel and drug the bag to the van: it was time to go to camp.

In the frenzy of getting my belongings to the car, I’d forgotten one crucial element. My sleeping bag.

When I arrived at camp, I grabbed a top bunk and slapped my pillow on it: my pillow, my only bedding. I thought I’d be fine, but I think I fell asleep around 4 AM. (I forgot my clock, too.) On the bright side, I found the best way to retain my body heat (although it made me nauseous). And, I awoke at a lovely 7:30 AM and went to the kitchen to help serve breakfast, where I had two tables of hungry teenage boys who wanted more bacon (but that’s a story for another time).

Saturday afternoon, we cleaned the campground and had a quick meeting before a ton of free time.

“Do you still have your Dutch Blitz cards?” I asked Jill.

“Yeah, I do!” she replied.

I rushed to the game room to drop off my backpack. I stepped back into the gym to find Jill again, and my eyes locked on a wandering puppy, carrying a sleeping bag and looking absolutely lost.

It was my friend. My friend, who hadn’t been to camp in years. My friend, who’d gone to a robotics event with my parents that morning. My friend, who I hadn’t seen in months, had come to the campground, and searched the buildings and various lawns for signs of English-speaking life.

Dad had asked him to drop off my sleeping bag at camp, since it was on his way home. And he did, even though it was completely out of his comfort zone. He’d tried finding out where to go by asking the Spanish-speaking guest group, and had received the answer, “This is not who you’re looking for.”

So, I slept in my sleeping bag that night. Hadn’t slept better in days. And I didn’t even care that I had to wrap it up the next morning.

Camping, and Working, and Camping, Oh My!

When I started this summer, I knew one thing was certain: I was going to be extremely busy. I would be at camp working three weeks and as a camper one week; and when I wasn’t at camp, I would be babysitting.

The first week of camp was a media week. I’ve been working in the media assistant position for years, and it was an easy week, for the most part. Week 2, I was a junior counselor.

Now, to understand the enormity of that statement, you have to know that I haven’t been in a cabin since my first summer working. This is my fourth summer. The one time I was in a cabin was as a Counselor in Training, before I became ill and consequently couldn’t be in cabins,

So, my first experience as an official junior counselor was in my last summer working. And goodness, was it an experience. I had eight girls in my cabin, and it was a struggle-filled week. None of them seemed interested in learning about God or faith. There was extreme spiritual warfare going on. The single great bright spot was one of them accepting God for the first time.

Only a few weeks later, I was put in a cabin again, with one of my closest friends as my senior. This week seemed to go exponentially better. Every girl already had a relationship with Christ, and the vast majority were hungry for God and for growth. It went superbly. Much of the week was encouraging them to join the same program I am in at camp. All but two are applying.

And then this past week, I was a camper. The second I walked in the door, I sensed something was off. And it was that moment that I decided I didn’t want to be at camp. I was thrilled to be there for chapel, but that was all. God put it on my heart that I was to be ministering to the other girls in my cabin, whether I wanted to be there or not. Just because I wasn’t staff didn’t mean I wasn’t still a servant of God.

Long story short, our cabin went into a time of extreme spiritual warfare towards the end of the week. I told you I sensed something off when I came inside the cabin–and that “off” thing was the devil in the spiritual realm. Our girls banded together to pray into the lives of one of our sisters-in-Christ, and it was powerful.

Then I came home and crashed.

Camp was an adventure this summer, but I certainly grew.

Hello. It’s Me.

You’ve been wondering if after all this time, I’d post a blog.

Well, here I am. Where did I go? Many, many places. First of all, I had to send my school laptop back and wait a month for the new one to arrive, so I’ve been without a computer for over a month. Second, I got a job. (I know, guys, I’m getting so old.) And third, when I wasn’t at my job, I was at camp working, so. Busy summer.

What has happened in these two months? Oh, dear. Well, I discovered Minecraft. And yes, I knew what Minecraft was, but I was one of those people who was like, “Ermahgoodness, Minecraft is a waste of time, why you so obsessed, do something productive.” I’d wanted my friend to teach me how to play creative mode for years, but he never did. Turns out, the little guy I babysit really likes to play. And now, so do I.

I was in a cabin at camp for the first time in three years. With my illness, I hadn’t been counseling since my first summer at camp. Not knowing if I could be there for my campers when I needed to, I was afraid to try. But this summer, they really needed an upper level in cabins, and they asked me to at least try it. I did, and man, was that a crazy experience! I worked two junior high weeks, and I had the same age group both times. I love all of my girls so much, and it was great to see one accept Christ for the first time, and for others to apply for the very program I’m in at camp.

I completely remodeled my room. It was a crazy mess. The amount of floor space that you could walk was ridiculously small. But after moving a bookcase downstairs–don’t worry, I kept the books in my room–and finally getting rid of my hundred-year-old bedframe, I have space. I can film videos for my senior project, it’s crazy.

Speaking of filming, I filmed a video for my project and discovered two important things. 1) I can do this. 2) I need an outline. It took about four hours to edit that thing together, and I don’t want to do that again.

I’m excited to be back up and running. Hopefully, the postings will be consistent. I have one more week of camp, another weekend, and my job, still. We’ll see if I can keep up with it all.

Hello from the other side…

See ya later.

Worship

Every Sunday that I’m at church, I run the overhead. My time for worship is spent making sure the slides run smoothly so people can see the words to the songs. The only Sundays I’m not at church, I’m at camp doing the exact same thing, except I’m also responsible for sound.

I like to worship. I like to sing, I like to raise my hands, I like to praise Him. However, the natural opportunities I get, in places of worship, are usually taken from me because of what I do.

The last time I remember really getting to worship was an entire summer ago! I went to camp as a camper, and I got to freely worship. I wasn’t running anything.

I’m anxious to go back again. I’m ready to worship again.

And I want to find a way around what usually keeps me from it.

My Love Language is Chocolate

I’ve recently discovered something about myself.

The way to my heart is very clearly paved with chocolate. And there are plenty of examples across the span of my life so far that prove it.

When I was in first or second grade, I had a best friend from school named Ezra. Since I was in a cyber-charter school, outings were when I’d get to see my friends in person. Ezra and I always hung out together, and looking back, we probably even behaved more like the elementary school boyfriend-girlfriend friendships you read about in books like Junie B. Jones.

I remember one particular outing that was a Valentines exchange. You would make up all your Valentines ahead of time, with cheesy slogans like “Bee Mine”; classic cartoon characters that were endorsing your awesome Valentine’s Day; and always, a piece of candy. Everyone had a paper bag they had decorated with their name, heart stickers, and probably some glitter. They lined them up along a wall, and you dropped one Valentine in each bag until you reached the end of the line. Afterwards, all the kids would rush to find their paper sack, and would then look through the cards and stuff their faces with candy. I sifted through my bag, and I found at least five of a particular Valentine. It had some kind of sports reference that I didn’t understand, but there was also a small chocolate wrapped in patterned foil to look like a basket ball or a soccer ball. They were from Ezra: he had given what he had leftover to me. And I still count that as one of the most romantic gestures ever shown to me.

Someone who plops a Hershey kiss into my hand with a smile instantly becomes a beloved friend: not perhaps, because they gave me chocolate. I think because I find chocolate special, someone who gives me a piece seems to understand that, and I value that understanding highly.

I relate this to others, too. A friend of mine particularly loves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and when I have them on hand and I know I’m going to see him, I bring one with me. It’s never for the purpose of bribery or because I’m trying to get rid of them. It’s because I know he genuinely enjoys them, and it’s a friendly gesture I’ve performed subconsciously for a long time.

Once, when I was working at camp, there was a s’mores campfire that I went to and tried to take pictures of. Needless to say, it was too dark without a flash, and after the first camper screamed, “Ahh! My eyes!” I thought it best to put away the camera and find a bench to sit on. A sweet counselor came up, placed a piece of chocolate in my hands, and whispered, “You didn’t get this from me.” Another friend who was working later gave me an extra Hershey bar once he’d secured the leftover stash from a sneaky camper. Whether it was because the sugar in the chocolate got to my brain, or I found the giving of chocolate a very kind thing to do, I went to sleep very happy that night.

So, here I come to my final point. Can chocolate be a love language? Because I’ve never really figured mine out, and this is as close as I’ve ever come.

Chocolate is special. It’s something you save, something you crave, something you indulge in. Chocolate is often given as a gift, and gifts are meant to be special: it wouldn’t be given if it weren’t meant to be as such. It’s not only because chocolate is sometimes for special occasions: handing someone a fruitcake isn’t quite the same as a piece of a Hershey bar. What is so perfectly wonderful about chocolate that makes it so intangibly exceptional?

That’s the part I don’t fully understand yet. All I know is that the gift of chocolate is a gift from the heart. And isn’t giving from the heart a part of what love is all about?

Babysitting for Camp – The Only Child Takes on Children

In case you weren’t aware, I’m an only child. My only experience with having siblings…well, I don’t have any experience. I have a cousin who acts like my brother, I have three imaginary brothers, and I have two pretend ones. That doesn’t lend a lot of knowledge.

So when camp calls and asks if I’d be willing to help babysit a few kids at an upcoming training, I’m like, “Sure, why not. How many are there?”

“Oh, well, last year we had about three signed up, but we had ten show up.”

“Um, okay, I guess I could…”

“Lunch is included.”

“Great!”

I don’t remember how many we were supposed to have. But we ended up with nine. We had all sorts of age ranges, from the kindergartners who don’t like to share, to pre-schoolers who don’t like to talk, to toddlers who like to put everything in their mouth.

It was quite the adventure we undertook, myself and four 4.12 friends. We had to feed them, change a few diapers, make sure they didn’t destroy anything, all while ensuring they were comfortable and having fun. Perhaps the greatest challenge we faced that day was a little girl who liked to pull one over on people. Divide and conquer. If you said no, there had to be someone who’d say yes.

The Battle of the No-Unicorn-Toys-At-Lunch was a particularly difficult one, ending in triumph as we carried her to the dining hall, leaving behind a plastic horse toy that belonged to a camp worker.

After trying to get the kids to eat tacos without there being meat, cheese, and sour cream all over them or the floor, I went home. Happy I had survived. Thrilled that I didn’t have siblings. Thankful that I hadn’t been on diaper duty.

Probably a week later, I get another phone call.

“Hey, could you come up again to babysit? It’s our last training session.”

You have got to be kidding me.

“Yeah, sure.”

This time, with a batch of new and old kids, I somehow became solely responsible for a little guy named Coleson.

I’m not sure how old Coleson was. He was at that beautiful stage where everything goes in his mouth. He was almost able to talk, and could babble almost-sorta-words. His shirt read, “Pick me up, honey. I like older chicks.”

Now, the important thing to note in all of this is that I’m an only child. I don’t do kids, especially not toddlers. I’ve never helped take care of one. And now, this guy was my responsibility.

He didn’t have shoes, so on the outside trip, I had to carry him everywhere with my weak little arms. We did a lot of sitting. Then, when we were inside, he couldn’t toddle anywhere without sticking a toy in his mouth. There wasn’t really anything for him to play with. So we did more sitting.

The best thing was, he was really content to sit. He just sat on my lap, sat next to me, sat on a tire outside.

The worst thing was probably the snack he brought. You know those cracker sandwiches with cheese inside? The processed, ooey-gooey kind? Yup, he had a whole cup of those, and he managed to get fake cheese all over himself, me, and his mouth.

My nausea wasn’t a fan.

All in all, I enjoyed babysitting. It was nice to take care of someone else for a day.

And at the same time, I was more than happy to come home to my sibling-less house.

The imaginary brothers are still in Narnia. I don’t know when they’ll come back to visit.

As far as I’m concerned right now, they can stay there.