Crosswild. And Middle School camp at that.
I turn over and am greeted with eight “Good Mornings!” at octaves higher than the early hour should allow. I check my phone and am startled to see the daunting time of 6:45. 6:45?!
“Girls, you do know breakfast is in an hour and a half right?”
Eye rolling combined with no reaction let me know that I was suddenly the old lady in the room. I was in a room with eight seventh grade girls and even just being a vintage 23, I was silently reminded of my age. We were at camp and my girls were blow drying their hair and painting their nails, preparing for first meal and any boy who might give them a second look.
I remember being at church camp when I was in middle school; It was nothing like this. At least I don't remember getting up this early to get all dolled up. Although it is very likely, considering I didn't even knowing what gel was in the seventh grade, (let alone a blow dryer,) that I was the awkward girl who sat on the bed mesmerized by the ones staring the mirror. I guess some things never change.
On my way to the community showers, I turn the corner and am greeted with an explanation for why my wet towel is in the corner on the floor. “Oh, Ms. Laura, I forgot towels so I used yours. Oh, and me and Sarah forgot shampoo. And conditioner. Yours were the ones already in the shower, right?” Do parents not pack their 13 year old’s bags anymore? Oh well. This situation is what a sink, deodorant and a pony tail were invented for.
To try and build unity for our small group, I had purchased all the girls pink sashes to wear. They say having something in common helps build a sense of family, so we named ourselves the “Pink Brigade” and adorned our bright pink attire through out the weekend. We were cool... and loud.
The hour and half of prep passed fairly quickly, talking about boys, Solena Gomez and snippets of Jesus. After all, we are at Jesus camp. I asked them how they had enjoyed the weekend so far and what they had been learning in the past 12 hours. Conversation was pleasant and then we started our day.
The next 24 hours were eye opening.
As each hour passed, the life stories from each girl came pouring out. The hurt. The shame. The insecurities and questions. All the wonder, abandonment and loneliness that had been masked by braces, graphic tees and giggling were starting to show through.
The walls came down and I held on as they collapsed. Tears fell and the brokenness of dealing with issues of life that no 13-year old should have to face. “I have to be the strong one for my family, and I cant do it anymore.” The bricks were being taken down and the masks pulled away because something was clicking in each of their hearts. They were learning that the time was now. Time to recognize that you are your own person. That you have emotions, feelings and decisions that are yours to make. Yet to also know that you are not alone. To know that you have people, family or not, that love you.
Through the tears came realizations of grandeur. Realizations that even at the ripe young age of 13, you can do something significant. That age is not an excuse and its time to realize you are part of a plan far beyond what you could ever imagine. For when they picked up that brick, they recognized the necessity of starting your own life. The foundation you find in your salvation is there- now lets build.
“I know God was with me. I could feel His presence. And You know what? He told me everything was going to be okay.”