Bridesmaids face faulty culture stereotypes, friendships at stake

This May marks the anniversary of when I was kicked out of a friend’s wedding party.

No, I’m not airing dirty laundry. And no, I’m not trying to slander anyone. I’m simply sharing this experience because there are two important lessons to be learned with this story, so listen up.

A little over a month before the wedding — after I helped capture the memory of their proposal, purchased my bridesmaid’s dress, attended the bridal gown selection process, bought the gifts and assisted with the showers — I received an email from the bride-to-be informing me I had been replaced as a bridesmaid for not fulfilling my duties and for being out of town during the weekend of her bachelorette party. I suppose you could say I gained membership into the Association of Jilted Bridesmaids, but I won’t put that on my LinkedIn profile.

I was humiliated. I was hurt. Many tears and several weeks later, her wedding day arrived. I was planning to drive down from my summer job in Georgetown, Ky., for the wedding, but after my dismissal, I spent the day at King’s Island in Cincinnati with my summer camp staff. I sent her a text message wishing the best for their wedding day. Two years and a couple of superficial messages later, we still haven’t talked.

The healing powers of time have made me wiser, and I’ve gained clarity about what happened that day in May.

There are two reasons for my jilting. Reason number one: communication, or a lack thereof. I knew couldn’t afford her bachelorette party weekend, so I let her know months in advance.
But that weekend, I had the opportunity to visit my fiancé’s (then boyfriend) great aunt and great-grandmother. My mom found a dirt-cheap plane ticket to Atlanta (way cheaper than a weekend bachelorette excursion), and I spent the weekend with those wonderful women who will not see us get married. Both ladies have passed away since then.

I probably should have talked to the bride in depth about why I was out of town that weekend. I’m sure her side of the story explains how cruel I was for blowing her party off for my boyfriend. My intentions were never to hurt her. I did try to tell her during our phone conversation, but I doubt she was listening.

During her engagement, I often asked if she needed help with anything. She’d say something along the lines of, “No, but when I do, I’ll let you know.” To this day, I can’t remember refusing to do anything for her unless I had a prior commitment. The words exchanged among some of her other bridesmaids must have said otherwise.

If she had been open and honest with me during the planning process, I wouldn’t have been so blindsided by her reasons for my replacement. If I knew being a part of her wedding meant I had to make sure I “did enough” for her, I may have reconsidered my answer to her asking me to stand beside her on her wedding day. She never hinted toward replacing me. I never saw it coming.

If I had communicated to her more, maybe things would be different. But, in the words of my dad, “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, then we’d all have a merry Christmas.” Just trying to lighten the mood, folks.

With our society’s constant communication, we’ve lost the basics. Picking up the phone and calling someone — or worse, having a face-to-face conversation, can be avoided if the subject may be awkward or difficult. We’re letting the skill of human interaction slip away.
Maybe proper communication could have saved our friendship.

Reason number two for our falling out has to do with our differing opinions of what a bridesmaid does.

Our culture brainwashes women into believing a wedding revolves around the bride only, and “bridesmaid” really means, “slave to the bride’s every wish.” Bridesmaids are expected to postpone their lives separate from the wedding and attend every shower, dinner or wedding-related function.

Not attending such things or volunteering hours of free manual labor to prepare for the wedding sends the message, “Well, she doesn’t care about me because she’s not doing enough for me.”
If you need a visual perspective about the bridesmaid stereotype, check out any reality TV show with “bride” in the title. If you’re like me, you can’t help but think about the plot of “Bridesmaids.” The main character fails to fulfill the obligations of the stereotype and is replaced as maid of honor. Luckily, the bride in the film comes around and realizes the friendship outweighs the “duties” of a bridesmaid.

To me, a bridesmaid is the person who helped the bride get to where she is today. Bridesmaids are the people who influenced the bride into becoming the woman she will be going into marriage. Bridesmaids are friends who love the bride unconditionally — the loyal, life-long friends. Being a bridesmaid is an honor for the bride, not the bridesmaid.

In May, I will marry my best friend, surrounded by people standing on the church steps and sitting in the pews who have loved me unconditionally. I’m honored to have such a blessing. I expect my bridesmaids to stand beside me when I commit to spending my life with another person, the least selfish thing I’ll ever do. That’s all. No hidden agendas, no mandatory shower or bachelorette party attendance. I’m not keeping score of how many of them can do or buy things for me. I just want them to stand beside me on our wedding day.

The more I think, the more I realize maybe my old friend never had that same unconditional love toward me. If she did, replacing me wouldn’t have been as easy as it was. Don’t get me wrong — being a bridesmaid isn’t the ultimate status of friendship. Some of the best friends I’ll ever have are people outside our bridal party. My relationships with my friends aren’t hinged upon whether or not they’re bridesmaids. If my old friend didn’t want me to be a part of her wedding party in the first place or if she had to choose between several girls and decided not to pick me, I would have understood. If she wanted someone else in my place, she should have talked to me.

Take a look at the people in your life. Are you grateful for them? Do you hold close friendships? Don’t let petty, trivial pressures from society take their place. After the horrible experience of losing a friend, take my advice. Talk to them. Have the hard conversations. Say the things that need to be said. And above all, show them unconditional love.

When you do, you’ll have a wonderful, lasting and worthwhile friendship in return.

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negative stereotypes among Christians create conflict

I look forward to this week very much throughout the year. The crazy weather, blooming flowers and the increase of schoolwork at the end of another semester signals my favorite holiday: Easter.

Before I get bombarded with sneers, eye-rolls and Jesus Jukes, allow me to explain why I love the Holy Week. Spring brings a time of change and renewal. I believe my life changed forever when Jesus was crucified and resurrected; it’s an overwhelming and joyous time. And thanks to the freedom of living in this great country, I have as much of a right to say that in this article as you do to believe in whatever you choose.

Christianity has a bad rep among many of my peers. I hear words like “Jesus freak” and “Jesus-y” used as negative words — I even hear “Christian” used as an insult. Why? Because sadly, Christians can be poor examples of how Christianity should look. I typed in “why are Christians so…” in a Google search and the first three words that came up were judgmental, weird and delusional. Sure, I’m weird for many more reasons than my religion, but I never want to be considered judgmental or delusional because of my beliefs.

Jesus spent his time on Earth with the outcasts of society — the lepers, the prostitutes, the corrupt. His message teaches forgiveness and love. If Christians want to follow the way of Christ, we should be known as the most compassionate, loving, selfless, humble people around.

Oftentimes, Christians can be easily captivated by self-righteousness. We’re quick to cast the first stone. Sure, we admit that we’re sinners saved by grace, but we know there are others who sin more than us, and without conviction. Some Christians are seduced by the idea of being better than others, which directly contradicts what Christianity teaches.

I firmly believe Christians should hold on to the values and beliefs our faith teaches us — but I also believe we can do so without being seen as judgmental, weird and delusional. We’re going to disagree with others on some very intense issues — marriage, abortion, all the hot topics — but nowhere in God’s word does he tell us to be cold and unapproachable. In fact, the Bible explicitly tells Christians to prepare for persecution for their beliefs, but we shouldn’t outright ask for persecution through our actions toward others.

Those who don’t share the values Christianity teaches should meet us halfway; agree to disagree but show mutual respect.

Both Christians and non-Christians should do a better job of respecting each other’s beliefs.

Stereotypes tell us the majority Christians tend to be conservative and non-Christians tend to be liberal — especially in this area of the country. I know there are exceptions to these, but I think everyone can learn something from both conservative and liberal stances on religion.

There’s a famous quote by President John F. Kennedy in which he describes his definition of the word “liberal.” At one point he says “(liberal means)… someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties …” Those descriptions do a pretty good job of describing what a Christian should be: someone who cares about the welfare of others. Instead of embracing the ideas a word like “liberal” can evoke, some Christians have tainted it to mean something offensive.

I challenge Christians during this week — during this season of change and renewal — to examine how your actions appear toward those who believe differently than you. I challenge everyone to remember you’re no better than anyone else.

When we all show respect toward each other’s beliefs, we can break apart the negative stereotypes.

this is why Les Misérables made everyone cry

Patrons poured out of theaters with red eyes and mascara-stained cheeks. Facebook exploded with post after post exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, you HAVE to go see Les Mis! It was amazing! I cried the whole time!”
And I know exactly why “Les Misérables” makes everyone cry. I’ve figured it out. I had an epiphany after I saw it for a second time in theaters.
First of all, “Les Misérables” makes a swift stab at your heartstrings with the music. Forget the lyrics for now; the music alone has the power stir your soul; to make you hurt, to make you feel, to make you cry.
“Les Mis” wouldn’t pack the punch it does without such a powerful score. But the music simply sets the stage for a beautiful story to be told.
It’s a story most people have heard of, yet few understand.
Let’s take a look at Jean Valjean. (By the way, if you aren’t familiar with the plot, stop here, see the movie/musical, then start reading again.)
Valjean spent a good chunk of his life serving a prison sentence for a crime done out of mercy to save his starving sister’s child. He stole a loaf of bread—big deal, right? Did Valjean deserve prison for stealing bread?
According to the law, yes. After 19 years, he is allowed parole.
After 19 years of abuse, he is free from prison but not from its implications.
He cannot find work because he bears papers declaring he’s dangerous — his sin is still in chains around him.
Valjean is taken in by a kind Bishop and ends up stealing his silver — but the Bishop shows him mercy by not only getting him out of trouble with the law, but also by giving him all of his precious silver. Did Valjean deserve the Bishop’s generosity?
No. Of course not. He actually stole from the man — not to feed his starving nephew — after the good Bishop took him in and cared for him. Valjean deserves punishment but is given mercy.
The Bishop gives Valjean something Inspector Javert doesn’t understand: grace. Yes, Valjean gets a second chance as a new man. Several songs and plot twists later, Javert discovers Valjean’s new identity and vows to bring him to justice for breaking the law because Javert lives by the law: “On the doorway to paradise / That those who falter and those who fall / Must pay the price!” Javert doesn’t understand grace because it doesn’t make sense to him.
In his eyes, Valjean is a criminal, and his job is to bring him to justice. Javert doesn’t see the good in Valjean; he doesn’t see the truth in Fantine’s situation (a women forced into prostitution to feed her daughter); no, Javert is blinded by the law.
Flash forward a few more songs, and the audience views the encounter we’ve all been hoping for: Javert’s hands are tied, with a rope around his neck, and Valjean gazes over him with not only a pistol in hand but a knife as well.
Valjean has the chance to end Javert’s relentless pursuit of him — he and Cosette (Fantine’s daughter he raised after her death) can live in peace, all he has to do is pull the trigger. But what does Valjean do? He shows grace.
Not only does he set Javert free, he also tells him he’s done his job and he understands Javert will still pursue him.
Every fiber of our human nature tell us, “Valjean! Kill him! Make it easy on yourself!” Why on earth would he set the inspector free? Why the grace?
What is grace?
Merriam-Webster tells us grace is “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification,” but I like to define grace as something wonderful given to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Grace isn’t something you earn or work for; grace is a gift. And the thing about grace is, we don’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense. It counteracts our instinct.
“Les Misérables” tells the story of grace. It is a story of revolution and rebellion, but ultimately one of how a single act of kindness can change someone’s life forever. A single act of kindness: grace.
In the last few minutes of the film, we see a dying Valjean pass away to join the ones who died before him, singing a familiar song with new words:
“Do you hear the people sing? / Lost in the valley of the night / It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light / For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies / Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise / They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord / They will walk behind the ploughshed, the will put away the sword / The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward!”
The wretched of the earth — the sinners, thieves, adulterers — will live in freedom one day. Their chains will be broken.
Grace is given to the ones who don’t deserve it.
There is another story with similar themes of “Les Misérables” — unlike “Les Mis,” it’s one I believe to be true. It’s about a man who gave his life and took my place — our place — for the punishment of sin.
He gave me something I couldn’t possibly earn and do not deserve.

walking in wisdom: death, where is your sting?

I experienced so much this summer, and I promise I’m going to finish telling the story.  But right now, I can’t keep this in my heart. I have to share it. It’s too beautiful to keep to myself.

This summer, specifically on June 27 and July 6, my heart was broken. And it was one of the best things that I’ve ever experienced.

After two very incredible but very exhausting weeks of camp, we ventured to Eagle Eyrie Conference Center in Lynchburg, Virginia. Needless to say, our entire staff was looking forward to this trip. Eagle Eyrie meant three weeks of camp (which means no Ryder loading for a while), a conference center instead of a college campus, and our first large week of camp. When we arrived to the warm, welcoming staff at Eagle Eyrie and the hotel-style rooms and beds, we instantly felt at home.

Once we got settled in, I noticed a lot of mail had already been sent to campers who would be at camp the following week. Box after box and letter after letter were addressed to two girls: Rose and Hope Stanphill. The first thought I had was, “good heavens, those are some lucky girls.” They got more mail that week than I think I have in my entire life.

We set up everything and got ready for a huge week of camp. Some staffers from CK2 joined us that week along with our CK6 angels since the numbers were large (600+ kids) and we began registration.

Camp registration was something I looked forward to doing. I got to meet each church leader personally before the week started. I could hear the kids outside getting excited about the week. Our staff had the best night of sleep we’ve had since I think most of us were on Christmas break the night before, and the weather was beautiful.

After about half of the churches arrived, the group leader from Point Harbor Community Church in Chesapeake, VA came to registration. I recognized Point Harbor because 1.) I thought it was a cool name for a church, and 2.) The mail addressed to Rose and Hope were under “care of Point Harbor Community Church.”

The group leader from the church was a wonderful, beautiful woman named Cathy. As soon as we met, I instantly liked her. She had a large group of kids–one of the largest during the week. During the registration process of CentriKid, there is a time for group leaders to share their children’s special needs with us. “Special needs” mean anything that our staff needs to know about–family issues, food allergies, birthdays, emotional issues–anything that could hinder them from having a fantastic week of camp. Every night of registration, our staff took time to read through every single special attention card, pray for the kids, and delegate staffers to invest in those kids a little extra during the week.

As Cathy was giving us the special attention cards, she stopped and directly told us about two. Rose and Hope Stanphill.

She explained to us that Rose and Hope’s mother was battling cancer. She has been diagnosed in late February/March, and the cancer was aggressive. Through tears held back, she told us there was a chance the girls could lose their mother this week.

I was stunned. Our staff was stunned. We made it our goal to make this week of camp the best week of Rose and Hope’s summer.

Tuesday, or the “first full fabulous day of camp” as we call it, rolled around and was fantastic. Kids were having fun and were learning about the Gospel. Doesn’t get much better than that. Cathy won the honor of Gold Metal Group Leader that morning, too.

Then on Wednesday, June 27, I woke up not knowing that day would be the most emotionally and physically exhausting day of my summer.

During the end of the second hour of recreation/bible study, I got a call from one of my staffers. I had been on the recreation field and heard the phrase “Hey MC, there’s some group leaders in the conference center looking for you.”

Any other day, that would not be a surprise to me. In fact, it would be a surprise if I went a day without group leaders looking for me.  (During the second week of camp, I answered 67 phone calls from 2:30 pm – 1:00 am)

But when I heard my staffer say that, I got the sinking feeling that something was wrong.

I headed over to the conference center, walked in the door, and saw all the group leaders from Point Harbor.

My heart dropped. None of us said anything. Cathy just came over and hugged me, and then tears came.

Rose and Hope’s momma had passed away.

We spent what felt like hours in the conference center. They were reacting to not just the loss of two of their students’ mother, but also the loss of a dear friend. They were grieving the loss of someone they loved deeply.

I made a few calls to people to help come up with a plan on how to handle what was going on–how to tell the girls, how to tell the campers.

Do we send the girls home?

When do we tell them?

How do we tell them their mother is gone?

After an hour or so, we came up with a plan. We would tell the girls after track times. I let the track time leaders know to bring the girls to the conference center before hang time. Ellie and I made a trip to Wal-Mart and bought about 12 boxes of kleenex.

Soon, we were all sitting together in the conference center. I asked a few staffers who had spent time with the girls to come with us. One of the group leaders, a wonderful woman named Bonnie, with beautiful anointed words, told the girls their mother was with Jesus now.

What happened next continues to leave me in shock.

When the girls heard that, the first thing they did was smile.

They smiled. 

They smiled because their mother was with Jesus. She was free from her suffering.

That was the first reaction from a third grader and a fifth grader.

Of course, the tears came. We sat together and cried. One of my staffers, Michael, prayed because none of us adults were capable of speaking. After a few minutes of sorrow, joy came in one of the most unexpected ways.

The group leaders offered to take the girls out to eat away from camp (which is a BIG DEAL when you’re a camper) to celebrate their mom’s life. I left the girls with Michael and Aaron and went with Cathy to tell the rest of Point Harbor about their mom’s passing.

I was so incredibly relieved at how telling the girls went. My stomach had been in knots about it for hours. As we made our way to their cabin, I wasn’t expecting this part of the day to be very hard.

But I was wrong.

Cathy, with beautiful words like Bonnie, explained to the kids what happened. Hope and Roses’ mom died today.

The kids were devastated. They had lost a mentor, a teacher, and an active role in their ministry. They were heartbroken. I had no idea the impact Rose and Hope’s mom had on the children of this church. The kids mourned in their own ways. I found myself in the middle of a cabin filled with sorrow and love for Hope and Rose.

I returned to the conference center, what seemed like years later, to find Rose and Michel in an epic discussion of Pokemon. They were laughing and talking together.

I was stunned.

God used something like a mutual obsession of Pokemon to ease the pain of one of the worst feelings one can feel. Aaron managed to pop a bag of chips in his backpack that had us all in stitches while the girls left for dinner.

We discussed with the church group that worship might be very difficult for the kids that night. We decided Hope and Rose shouldn’t attend, but they had none of it. After their dinner, they insisted on attending worship.

The theme for that night’s worship was “Take a Stand.” Daniel, our camp pastor (and a dear friend of mine), would tell the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refusal to bow to the false god King Nebuchadnezzar demanded they worship. Daniel 3:18 was a key verse.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Our God is able to deliver…but if He doesn’t deliver us, we will still not serve another god.

Wow.

In the time before worship, I sat in my room and cried. I cried until I physically couldn’t produce any more tears.

I thought about how Rose and Hope’s lives changed forever today.

I thought about the pain they’d face when they went home.

I thought about what their father was feeling.

I thought about how God delivered their mother from disease.

I thought about loss the Point Harbor group leaders were feeling, and how they had to be strong for the broken kids.

While I was pulling myself together, I got a phone call. A camper fell down some rocks and we think she dislocated her knee. Minutes before worship started.

Seriously? Right now? You’re telling me that just happened?

Remember how I said in my previous post that spiritual warfare is real? It’s real.

Two ambulances showed up during worship that night. A worship service with a hurting church and two girls who lost their mother hours earlier. The potential distraction made me physically sick. I probably would have thrown up if I had been able to eat anything that day.

I waited at the end of the road with Ellie to tell the ambulance to turn their lights off, and arrived to see Amanda Kate, our rec leader (and a dear friend) literally holding this child’s kneecap. She was taken to the ER and treated, and was back the next day. Worship happened in spite of the distractions.

The next day finally came, and to my surprise, the girls wanted to stay at camp.

They wanted to stay at CentriKid. They wanted to play OMC. Rose was in the variety show that night.

Again, I was stunned.

That Thursday was arguably the best day of camp I’ve ever experienced. In the sorrow, there was joy. Cathy shared with me she was absolutely convinced their mother knew what she was doing. She didn’t want her girls to see her go. She held off until she knew they were at camp.

The day before she died, one of the group leaders had texted the girl’s father with an update about how much fun they were having at camp. Their dad read the message to their mom, and in her coma, she smiled. She died the next morning.

Apparently, I still had some tears left in my body.

Thursday night was the variety show for the campers who were in performance track times. Until the moment it happened, it never occurred to me that Rose was in sign language.

I watched in complete astonishment as Rose beautifully signed “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher.

Oh, death, where is your sting?
Oh, hell, where is your victory?
Oh, church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead. He’s alive. He’s alive!

Rose was on stage signing these words the day after her mother died.

Death, where is your sting?

I was, you guessed it, stunned.

The next day was closing. Actually, it was “clopening” for us. Closing and opening. We had a weekend camp following this week of camp.

I didn’t want Point Harbor to leave. I didn’t want the girls to face what was in their near future. Rose and I connected Thursday night over ice cream and a mutual admiration for Star Trek (caveat: Rose is literally the coolest kid on the face of the earth). I wanted them to stay at camp.

But alas, they left, and we began our turnaround. We had a very smooth registration with awesome adults.

That night, while Ellie and I were getting a head start on filling up water balloons for the next day’s OMC, the sky turned black and the power went out. It didn’t come back on for a very long time.

A derecho came that night. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning after we spent the night on the floor of the conference center (it seriously sounded and felt like a tornado) and walked outside. I saw debris everywhere. Trees were down. Power lines were down.

This was bad.

This was very bad.

Remember what I said about spiritual warfare?

With the power out, there was nothing to do except go on. We ran the next (and only full day) of camp completely without power. No lights, no music, no sound, no videos, no air conditioning. The amazing people at Eagle Eyrie did everything they could possibly do to help us out.

The kids loved it. We moved chairs to the rec field and had worship outside, lit by the light of our van headlights. We still had running cold water. The weekend was a great week of camp. Churches who had never attended camp before told us they can’t wait to come back next summer.

Wow.

Since the power was out, we made an impromptu trip to Washington, D.C. for the Fourth of July. We ended up having to cancel the next week of camp because of the power outage. I was so happy to see my staff’s reaction–they were sad. They didn’t want camp to be cancelled. They thought I was kidding when I had to tell them. That was a proud moment for me as a director.

So in light of the darkness, we ventured to Hampton, VA to the home of Amanda Kate. We spent a few days with her incredible family and wonderful neighbors. We took showers, washed our clothes, and charged our cell phones. The people in her community completely showered us in love. It was a fantastic weekend.

It also just so happened that the Friday we were there was the day of Helen Stanphill’s funeral, which would be held at Point Harbor Community Church. Twenty minutes from where we were staying.

Myself and the ones who were close with the church that week attended the funeral. We saw the girls, the group leaders, and the wonderful kids from the church.

Her funeral was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I dare you to read her obituary and not be floored, crying, and/or both.  It’s a good thing I had a few days to replenish tears, because I cried during the entire service. The celebration of her life was incredible. Cathy spoke about CentriKid and how, through the death of Rose and Hope’s mom, twelve of their students came to know Christ for the first time.

Wow. 

The next day, we attended Point Harbor’s night service. We went out to eat together. We had fellowship, laughter, joy, and wonderful memories in spite of the heart-wrenching circumstances.

For the rest of the summer, Daniel told Hope and Rose’s story on Wednesday night of worship. Hundreds of children came to know God through the death of Helen Stanphill at CentriKid.

I wish I had a way to sum up this experience, but I’m at a total loss for words. The power did come back on, and I will resume in the stories of our adventures (first, backtracking to Campbell week), but I wanted to share this experience with you all. It changed my life. I think about it every single day.

walking in wisdom: there are a lot of fire ants in arkansas

Camp ended in August. It’s October. Shame on me.

I’m still wrestling with how to put the summer of 2012 into words. In the words of my father, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. Here goes. 

I served as the camp director for CentriKid team 7. For those of reading this who are not familiar with CentriKid and it’s impact on my life, I strongly encourage you to stop reading and look back on some of my previous camp posts. I”ll wait.  

For those of you who don’t want to read, I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version. Camp has changed my life forever. 

Moving on…

Being the director of a camp was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I could not have been blessed more by my team–CK7 was absolutely incredible. Every single one of them has amazing testimonies and beautiful souls. It was so amazing to watch God work through them all summer.

We began our adventure at Campbellsville, KY with training week. I’ve completely lost track of all the hysterical things said, but training week definitely laid down the foundation for a summer of community, fellowship, and laughter. Lots of laughter. 

Before we headed off to our first location, we managed to win OMC (Organized Mass Chaos) as well as the OMC cheer. Tiny mighty CK7.

(For those of you who don’t know anything about CentriKid–staffers spend a week of training to learn material, games, track times, and production elements to prepare for camp. It’s a blast. We basically get to experience camp as if we were campers as well. OMC is the game played on the last full day of camp.)

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 Our first week of camp took place in Magnolia, AR at Southern Arkansas University. After many hours on the road, we arrived and set up camp. In hindsight, we had a fairly smooth first week of camp if you don’t count one of your staffers going into anaphylactic shock (thanks for keeping me on my toes, Aaron), busted main speaker, or more nosebleeds from campers than you can imagine. 

We met some incredible kids and adults that week. I’m always going to remember Mr. Hershel. He was such a wonderful group leader–man in his late 60s who had just as much (if not more) energy than the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who came to camp with him. He was such an encouragement to our team as well. 

In Arkansas, specifically southern Arkansas, it is hot. There’s also a rare breed of fire ants that could bring down The Hulk. Children + fire ants = bad. Very bad. The gospel was shared in spite of them.

Our first week was a week of learning for sure. After SAU, we packed up and headed to Buies Creek, NC. 

Before I dig into what happened in North Carolina and beyond, I’d like to linger on a musings from reminiscing about camp. 

My entire staff was absolutely incredible, but I know for a fact I could not have done my job this summer without Ellie Doom. Ellie was the assistant director for our team and she was my rock. I will never be able to express how grateful I was (and still am) for her friendship, support, and leadership. I knew we’d get along well the first time we met each other. She’s got such a phenomenal passion for sharing the Gospel, and her sense of humor is out of control. I find myself saying things she’d say and doing her mannerisms. She’s currently working in the CentriKid office at LifeWay as a department intern, and I could not be more proud to call her a friend and sister in Christ. 

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Next post: spiritual warfare is real. 

 

10 Things You Will Never Hear Me Say

I’m craving peaches right now. And mayonnaise.

I don’t really like to read, so I’ll just see the movie when it comes out.

I can’t wait to get my teeth cleaned.

Elmo got on my nerves when I was little.

People just don’t use the word “moist” enough.

I didn’t really get into “Lost”. It was too confusing.

Nutella on toast? Gross.

Can we change the channel? It’s just that I’ve seen “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” too many times.

I don’t care for musicals. People don’t break into song in real life.

I’m never getting married.

Flash Story

After being prompted by a friend of mine, I wrote a 500 word story about a topic that came up in my creative writing class. Enjoy.

After roughly 500 invitations were stuffed, sealed, and sent, the to-do list for the Berry-Winters wedding seemed as daunting as ever. Florists, cake tastings, dress fittings, booking the band, ordering the booze, dress fittings again, and the occasional debate of “it’s in August, what if the cake starts to melt?” were all a part of Vanessa’s fairy tale wedding preparation. Jack was thankful for the booze.

In this centrifuge of planning “her special day” in the words of her sorority sisters, the bachelor party is where Jack’s attention was held. The boys he grew up with in Corinth, Mississippi would spend one last night together, free from the chains of marital bliss. James, the best man, was responsible for the night’s shenanigans. He only had to follow one rule.

“No strippers,” Vanessa said firmly the weekend before the wedding. “Absolutely no strippers. I don’t care if you get so wasted you can’t remember your name, you’re not going to a strip club.”

“No strippers. I promise. I’ll tell James,” Jack replied.

“You boys have fun. I’ve got a long night at the office, so if you call and I don’t answer, that’s why.”

After assuring her several more times, Jack kissed Vanessa goodbye and jumped in James’ dark green Land Rover. An hour and a half later, the crew ordered a first round of beers at Silky O’Sullivan’s in downtown Memphis.

“Little Jack Winters, all grown up and getting married…” his friend Tyler said in a mimicking tone. “Bartender, how ‘bout a round of shots for a bachelor? He signs his life away next week!”

Jack rolled his eyes at Tyler and happily took a shot of whiskey. After several more rounds of Ghost River Golden Ale, the six Mississippi men stumbled out of the bar and on to Beale Street. The night was full of pranks, dares, laughter, reminiscing, and even tears from an emotionally-drunk Tyler. After bar hopping for an hour or two, they found themselves heading back to their hotel room with more liquid courage.

“Hey James, let’s get some women in this party,” Mike slurred as he stumbled into the bathroom.

“No strippers, bro,” James yelled. “Vanessa’s orders.”

“Trust me, it’s not worth it. Save me from the misery of going against her will,” drunken Jack said.

Tyler exchanged a concerned look at James, and then glanced at Jack giggling to himself as he tried to peel the label off his beer bottle. Mike emerged from the bathroom, cell phone in hand, grinning.

“Son of a—Mike, did you call a stripper?” James screamed.

Mike started laughing uncontrollably. The groomsmen started to roar.

“We’ll just get Mike to pay her and send the young lady home,” James laughed.

About thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang. The boys encouraged Jack to answer the door—he was the bachelor, after all.

Jack reached for the handle and pulled open the door. He sobered up so quickly it made him vomit at the feet of Vanessa, dressed in a sparkly purple robe.