Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Camping Fiasco

While I am attempting to put all my logic into play, let me be very honest and clear that this is absolutely written from the standpoint of emotion.  I often let my emotions get the better of me. Let them somewhat control me. So I have been trying to get that under control with this situation and give myself time to respond.  But there are some things that will always be strongly tied to emotions.
Camp Jo-Ota is like a home to me.  I have a history there. When I was young and first went to camp as a camper it was scary and new.  I probably cried and was really annoying to my counselors.  I remember very little about that experience aside from a few friends and names that have stayed with me.  People who I was later able to reconnect with and that experience at camp was what brought that connection.  

When I was in middle school I started going to camp with a director named Dave Jones. This camp carried me all the way through graduating high school and at it I formed some of my most significant friendships of my formative years. More importantly than those friendships at camp I was introduced to the love that the Lord and His people have to offer. This laid an important foundation so that when I was in college and my friend Katie Stetson told me that the story of Jesus was not a story but a Truth and that Jesus died for me personally all out of love,  I had the capacity to believe it because I had experienced that love at camp.  You see, I didn’t really have a STRONG local church to back up and support what was happening at camp. 

In high school I was a counselor for a few years for a younger kiddos camp.  That laid the foundation for me to step into a counseling role when I graduated from college and moved home.  Ben Mulford, perhaps one of the most influential people in my life to date, invited me to join Metamorphosis.  Being a counselor there and the people I met and the relationships I formed and the things I learned and was able to teach altered the course of my life.  I also realized quite quickly that while counselors were there to aid the campers, the Lord was still there to meet with ALL of us—camper or counselor.

After a few years I switched to helping Carrie Brandriff who has a passion for camp that pours out of her with a 3/4/5 grade camp.  The next year that became my camp.  So I now direct Faith Treasure Hunt Camp and picked up FROG camp for the little bitties just this past summer. Directing FTH has been the way in the past few years that the Lord has stretched me and challenged me and continued to meet me where I am.  And again, He showed up for me.  He brought new friendships into my life.  As an adult it is kind of rare to make new friends.  Actual friends who you can count on and love and be loved by.  Joey, Madison, Amanda, Andy Tilsworth, John Akins, Mikenzie Beckley and Christian Finck are all actual friends—not just camp friends-- that I now have.  Along with several others.  Their impact in my life is immeasurable.  

I have been a camper, a counselor, a director and an observer.  So, just to be clear I have a strong emotional connection to Jo-Ota, as I am sure many people do to other camps.  I can not imagine that place, that location not being Camp Jo-Ota. I am firmly aware that the Lord can meet us anywhere.  I myself have encountered the Lord in the middle of the grocery store in a way that brought me to my knees. But when you have a place already, why walk away from it? Are improvements needed? Absolutely. But what about the millions of dollars that have already been spent on things like a new dining hall, cabin renovations and new signs? 

Furthermore, if this honest to goodness has been a conversation that has been ongoing for two plus years then the camp board and those involved in this decision have done a huge injustice to the camps, the people serving them and the churches supporting them. You want the local churches to be strong and support the camping ministry? Great! What about the ones who already are? The ones who have spent their congregation’s money to help with improvements, buy new signs, donate money to the building fund for the new dining hall, provided manual labor on the renovations? What about them? You basically just let them pour money into a place to help you prepare it to be sold. That is unfair to them when they chose that specific project as a way to help the place they view as a sanctuary. Why were those projects not put on hold and only necessary projects completed while this “review” process was going on? 

And here is possibly one of the biggest things that is not sitting well with me. As is obvious by my reaction and many others, camp is a place people are emotionally connected to. If ALL camping moves to Central Methodist (as I understand is the plan—which don’t get me started on small children in dorms on a college campus) then middle school to high school aged children will be spending at least one week of their summer each year at Central Methodist (CMU). Arguably the most emotional week of their summer. Thus forcing an emotional connection with that place. So when it comes time to pick a college that will steer their future where do you think is going to be one of the first places they thing of? You got it. CMU. It took me all of ten minutes to come up with that conclusion and scenario, so please don’t tell me the camp board has not at least considered that and the positive impact that would have for the beloved university. Is CMU a bad school? Absolutely not! It is a great place to get an education. But I fear people will choose it based simply on an emotional connection that they will find is no longer prevalent once college begins.

This past summer at FTH camp I had the privilege to see nine (yes, NINE!!) 3/4/5 grade campers come into first time relationship with Jesus and ask Him to live in their heart forever.  I stood in tears with Christian Finck and prayed for their future and that God would build that spark into a flame that roars for Him. I wonder now  how their future will be impacted by the loss of “their camp”.  

God will still move. He does not need us. But I believe He wants us to be a part of it. And I believe there is a better way. I am praying and fasting and believing. I am begging the Lord to meet with me here and make my heart a sanctuary so I can serve those He puts in my path and help ease the hurt the conference has now caused.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hometown Love Part Three::D&D/Grandma's Attic and The Superhero 5k

I know it's been a few weeks.  But ya know, life happens.  And while it's happening I plan on living every moment.  Which means sometimes I don't have time to write.

But today I have a few things to share with you that I love about my small town or about being from a small town.  The first is a place.  When I was young it was called D&D Variety.  It was one of my favorite places to go.  It was the local "dime store".  The only place in town to buy things actually.  After school we would walk there and buy candy and other random things.  I always thought it was full of treasure.  On Homecoming it was especially busy as people went in to buy silly string and other things while waiting for the parade to start.  The store was separated into a few rooms.  I can remember one room seeming to have "nicer" or "fancier" things in it.  I didn't go in there much.  I was intrigued by the greeting card section.  I always thought the store smelled like dust and sugar.  I'm sure that's odd.  My friends and I had so much fun walking to this store after school.  As we got older and could drive we went there less, but it was still our go to if we needed something in town.
As more businesses opened in and around our town business died down and D&D.  It was sold and sat empty for awhile.  Now it has been turned into a resale/flea market kind of place.  It is called Grandma's Attic.  And it has again become one of my favorite places to go.  The 80 year old lady living inside of me thinks there is nothing better than antiques, glassware and old things.  I love going in and hearing from Maggie the happenings of the day.  She seems to know the story of everything in the store and the people who set up their booths.  Information about an item or negotiating a price is only a phone call away.  It doesn't really smell like sugar anymore, probably due to it's lack of selling candy.  :)  It is a neat place to stop by when you are going through town.  It is right on Main Street and is still full of treasurers waiting to be discovered and given new life.

So that was the first, next is an event.  Some of the things I am going to be writing about are community events.  I love that in Paris community events really are a great place for the community to come together.  I love that so many people try to support different causes and participate in things simply to support people in our community.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in one such event.  A local kiddo and his family (who happen to be my neighbors--not like small town we're all neighbors, but they actually live right by me) hosted a 5k.  Now, if you know me you know I love the challenge of a 5k.  It is a way that I am working on myself by doing as many as I can afford to do!  This particular 5k was to raise money for Camp Hickory Hill which is a camp for children with diabetes.  It is a place they can go to have a wonderful camp experience, but also have time to learn skills and practice managing their own health.  It was called the Superhero 5k.  I was not sure the morning of if I was going to make it.  I had just walked a 5k the night before with my family for my niece and nephew's school and I had never done back to back 5ks.  But I showed up.  I finished.  Last of course, but that it not nearly as important to me as the fact that I finished.  The reason I loved this so much is that along the route everyone encouraged other participants.  It was a route that looped so as we met people who were on their way back we were offered words of support and encouragement and high fives.  When we finally did finish there were still people waiting there at the finish line to cheer us on and clap when we finished.  I have done some events where everyone walks their own race with their headphones in and never looks up and when people are done they just hop in their car and leave and don't think twice about anyone else participating.  I love that in my small town it was not like that.  Everyone was supported and cheered for, from the first place to the last place.  And we helped a great cause in the process!
Before the start of the Superhero 5k with my bff and walking partner Charline.

After completing the Superhero 5k.  It was my 7th one so I am holding up 7 fingers.  Excuse the look of pain but I was actually in quite a bit of pain!

If you are still reading these and are interested to know here are some things I plan to write about in the coming weeks:  the courthouse, Relay for Life, the farmer's market, Jacs, 15 Diner, the churches, the schools, the fairgrounds and many others.  If you have suggestions let me know!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hometown Love Week Two::Jonesy's

It is hard to pick places to write about when expressing my great love for my hometown.  I have compiled a long list of places.  Today I will be writing about Jonesy's. 

Jonesy's is a diner smack dab in the middle of Main Street.  It is everything you would expect a small town diner to be.  (I often call these places hole in the wall local spots---but only out of pure love for them!)  When you open the door you can immediately smell fried food.  You know that if you order french fries your plate will be heaped so full there is no way you could eat them all!  The people who work there are efficient and friendly.  It is a typical small town diner.

An article telling about the history of Jonesy's.  It is a picture of the framed article so naturally it is not good.  Article originally published in the Monroe County Appeal.

One of the things I love about this place is the history contained in a tiny building.  They have an article posted on their wall that talks about the first opening in 1934.  The article says that when originally opened it was in conjunction with the old Opera House Theatre building.  This is something I didn't even know had ever existed in my town.  (So now naturally I have more research to do!)  I also learned that it used to be known among locals as the Co-Op  because it was originally opened by the Dairy Cooperative.  Thank you Mr. Clyde Jones for letting it be your namesake now because to me Co-Op is a place to buy feed!  It has changed hands only a handful of times since then and has retained the charm that makes it one of my favorite places.  The booths are narrow and wooden.  The soda counter is lined with spinning seats.  The walls are covered in memorabilia that tells a story of a thriving past for our tiny town.  If you happen to be there at a good time of day you can catch Connie and Steve (the owners) both there and they will tell you all kinds of things about the business. 


The original sign.  Look closely and check out those prices!

Pictures, signs and local memorabilia adorning the walls.

The food is typical diner food.  Burgers and fries.  But I love to walk down there and order cheese balls and a milk shake...just like I did when I was in Jr. High and we could easily walk there from our school building in the afternoons.  If you sit in Jonesy's long enough you will see all sorts of people and hear all sorts of stories.  This place has been a favorite of many people for a long time and will continue to be.  My friends and I have recently begun experiencing the joy of introducing younger generations to the history and nostalgia of afternoons at Jonesy's.  They may never get to simply walk down the street from their school and order a milkshake, but they'll end up there anyways!  If you end up there give me a call and we can have some ice cream!

My T man enjoying lunch at Jonesy's earlier this week.

Just a note--since I have already been asked this--I was not asked (by Jonesy's or anyone else) to write specifically about this local establishment and am receiving no reimbursement or reward for doing so.  It is simply one of the many charms of Paris that I wish to enlighten my city dwelling friends about.  :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hometown Love Week 1

Ok, I suck at blogging.  I just do.  If I could manage to transfer all the things I write in a notebook to this blog then I might have something to post like once a week.  But that never works out for me.  I always have plans of things to write about and that never works out for me either.  I always think summer would be a good time to try and write some posts...but then ya's summer and who wants to do anything at all??  But you know me...I just don't know when to call it quits.  So here we go again.

I have a plan for the summer.  A plan of something to write about.  Something important to me.  My hometown.  I have been visiting quite a few people this past year.  And quite a few people have come to visit me.  During those visits it never fails that someone comments about my hometown.  Usually it is along the lines of "I don't even know how you can live there.  Aren't you miserable?  You should just move."  So I am on a mission to make those city dwelling friends of mine love my tiny town.  (Ok, maybe not love it, but at least recognize why I love it.)  If you are reading this and you already love my town then that's great!  Maybe you can agree with some of the things I think.  I plan to break it up and write a little each week this summer.  Maybe I will be able to keep writing even after summer is over!  (But you know how those plans usually go...)

So...Hometown Love Week 1
I love my hometown--which is Paris, MO for those of you who don't know (be warned if you're a stalker though...I am not at all interesting)--because it is just that:: HOME!  Doesn't everyone have fond memories of the first place they thought of as home?  This is mine.  My history is here.  Everywhere I go there is a memory or a story.  There is something that enables me to feel.  The field where my first serious boyfriend and I used to look at stars and dream.  The barn where we broke up and new dreams were born.  The building that was my Jr. High where I spent the awkward teen years.  The church steps I sat on with my friends listening to music.  The driveway where I took skateboarding lessons.  (I know...I'm a dork.)  The library where my sweet momma would take me to "shop" for books when I was little.  Everyone has a place full of those things and this is mine.

I love knowing someone everywhere I go.  When I was a teenager it meant if I was acting up in town my mom knew about it before I even got home.  Now it means there are people scattered all over my daily life who know what's going on with me.  They care and are invested in my life.  When I am preparing for a 5K they are asking me how it is going while I am checking out at the grocery store.  When I have succeeded (or failed) at something they are encouraging me and cheering me on while I am shopping for curtains at the Dollar General.  These are my people and they know my life.  "But isn't it annoying to have people in your business all the time?"  Yes.  But fortunately for me that has not been an issue because as previously  mentioned I am pretty boring.  Here is a way that has worked out to my benefit though.  In December when my dad had a stroke a few meaningful things happened that would not have happened in a city.  First, as my sister was trying to call me in the middle of the night and I didn't answer she called a friend and was prepared to send them to my house to knock on my door/window/whatever they needed to do to wake me up.  I ended up calling her back before that happened...but it was an option.  Second, I knew that the first responders and EMT/paramedics responding to that call were people who knew and loved my family.  One of them later told me that as soon as he heard my dad's name he just drove as fast as he could toward my house wondering the whole time if anyone had gotten ahold of me yet.  Third, people checked on me.  They checked on my dad too, but they checked on me.  One of my mom's friends put gas in my car one day because the hospital was an hour away and he knew that a two hour round trip several times a week was expensive.  He didn't ask...he just did it.  One of my neighbors took care of my pets.  My coworkers offered to drive me to the hospital and invited me to their family gatherings since it was Christmas time.  People cared.  And it was amazing.  It made me feel lucky to be a part of this community.
Does this kind of community caring happen in the city?  I am sure it does.  If you are one of the people who is lucky enough to be plugged into a community within your city.  But for some it doesn't.  One of my best friends lives in a large city and doesn't know her neighbors yet after a little over two years.  My community is here.  And I love it.

So that's reason one.  Probably nothing new and nothing spectacular.  I love my hometown because it is my home.  It is where I found a community to be a part of.

Next week I hope to write about one of the many great places in my town.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday Five--What I (RE)Learned This Summer

 Lately I've been longing for a fresh start.  I plan to write more about that later...but we'll see how that goes.  Basically it comes down to that I've been fighting a battle.  And in that battle I've learned so much more about the sweetness of Jesus.  So in this new season (both literally as Autumn--my favorite season--is dawning and my life is taking a new turn) I figured what better way to organize my thoughts than my long lost blog.  So, hello friends!

To start here is a post about five things I learned (mostly re-learned) this summer::

1.  Say what you mean/Mean what you say.  I have been so guilty in my life lately of not doing this.  And it makes things to complicated.  I find myself making empty comments.  Vague compliments.  Sugarcoated "truth".  Then it's a challenge to sort through what I actually said to someone verses what I actually meant when I said it.  I tell people often that I value I have been intentionally working on being more honest.  There were times this summer when that has been rough.  And it's still a work in progress.  As is life.

2.  Protect Your Time.  Time is precious and valuable.  I had a life event this summer where I was reminded that days/moments/hours/months are precious and can be gone in an instant.  I also had several occasions where I agreed (committed) to do things and then didn't make them a priority.  I didn't work to free up the time to actually do those things.  I have a crazy busy life and this summer was no exception.  This relates back to the first thing...but I am learning to protect my time in two big ways.  First, I am not committing to too many things.  I am taking intentional time for myself.

3.  I Lack/Need Discipline.  Specifically things that can all relate back to spiritual discipline.  There are specific areas of my life that need work.  And most of that work needs to happen in my life--not outside of it.  I have made slow steps to starting.  (I've made a lot of steps in disciplining myself in the area of physical health as this summer I completed two more 5Ks making my total three!) I plan to post a Friday Five next week that shares the top five disciplines I am working on as well as the why and how. 

4.  The World Is A Beautiful Place.  I know that sounds cheesy.  But friends let me tell you...this summer I had the joyous opportunity to road trip from Missouri to Arizona with my best friend/roommate to visit my lifelong birth to earth best friend Will.  We saw so many amazing things along the way.  (Had time/money not been an issue I could have extended the road trip for days just to stop and see all the cool stuff along the way.)  We saw mountains, beautiful cities, quaint tiny towns, plains--literally just flat land as far as you could see, monuments, sculptures--including Cadillac Ranch where the sculptures are actually cars, sunrises, sunsets, cacti, a big huge (and sometimes very dark) sky, and hundreds of other things along the way.  We literally drove off into the sunset in New Mexico.  It was amazing and beautiful.  So I am learning to see the beauty in our world.  And I am finding ways to see more of it.

Right before driving into the sunset. 

5.  My Life/Family/Time Is Now.  I used to say that I would do things I thought sounded cool "when I have a family" to do them with.  I'll make photo Christmas cards when I have a husband and kids to put on them.  I'll start holiday traditions when I have a family.  I'll go on vacation when I have a family.  Well folks, here's the reality...the husband and kids part might not be part of God's plan for me.  (I have kind of refused to accept that and am speaking/praying my future children into existence...but learning to trust God with that is rough).  I have been reshaping my view on "family".  I have realized my parents, siblings and friends have built for me this amazing family.  Yes, I literally consider some of my friends my family.  (A few of them I think my parents would adopt given the chance and sell me off to the circus...)  And my time with them is now.  The time to experience life is now.  I don't want to miss it.  The discovery of the journey.  The opportunity to photograph that journey along the way.  I don't want to miss my life.  So I will cherish it--and the season I am in--now.  Whether I have five years or fifty years left to live it.

Some friends who are family and family who are friends.  A few of the blessings in my world.

I am looking forward to the learning to come.  I am greeting this season of life with open arms and a transforming heart.  I can't wait to read this a year from now and see where my life is. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Epic Battle?? I'm in!

God is unchanging.  God is faithful.  God is not ruled by human emotions or logic.  

I needed to start with those truths.  This week has been very interesting for me.  I’ve been incredibly moody and unmotivated.  I’ve been rocked to my core by some honest evaluation.  I’ve been loved unconditionally by my Jesus.  

Some of you know that I’m a hoarder.  Well my roommate and I are having a garage sale this weekend.  I can not even explain how difficult it is to part with my stuff.  This process has brought about tears and yelling and panic attacks.  I am sure that I have been unnecessarily mean to my roommate and my brother as they try to help me achieve the goal of getting rid of at least half of my “stuff”.  I always thought that being materialistic was defined by always wanting (thinking you need) the newest “best” stuff.  I am not like that so I thought I was good.  I have learned that I am materialistic in a totally different way.  I have stuff because I feel that it adds value to my life.  I rely on the stuff in my life and I [somewhere in my brain] think if I don’t have things then I have nothing to offer and lack worth.  

As I was going through stuff I found an artistic Vision Plan given to me by the person who discipled me on Summer Project in 2007.  For those of you who are unfamiliar a Vision Plan starts with truths about you then gives you areas to work on.  Not things to stress about…but things to trust God with.  So I stopped and took some time to study this document.  Oh how could a 12x12 piece of paper make such an impact.  I noticed that the things my friend listed as areas for me to work on (or opportunities to see God work in my life) are pretty much—and by pretty much I mean EXACTLY—the things I would say are still areas of struggle in my life.  Now, I don’t know if you’re doing the math here but the summer of 2007 was almost exactly five years ago.  Five years.  How is it possible that I have not grown at all in five years?  How is it possible that I continually push these vital areas of my life with Jesus to the side?  

I considered these areas and also tried to process my issues with being a hoarder and needing stuff.  As I took some time to stop and analyze that (and chat with my mama and one awesome friend) I realized a very hard truth about my life.

I don’t trust God.  I love God.  I am sure that Jesus died for my sins and that I am forgiven and dearly loved by Him.  There is no doubt about the foundational truths in my mind.  But I don’t trust God.  That’s extremely difficult for me to say.  It hurts me to think that I could be missing such an important part of a relationship as trust.  

So this morning I flipped my radio to the Christian radio station (which I honestly don’t listen to that often but it’s on my presets) and this song came on.  I had never heard it before but will probably be listening to excessively for a week or so.  The line that caught my attention said “There was a day when your faith couldn’t be held down…” The chorus then went on to say “The same God who was with you then is with you now.  The same God who led you in will lead you out.”  Now at this point you may be thinking ‘jeez Tracy Leigh can you get to the point already this song has nothing to do with what you’re talking about’.  If that’s you stick with me…I’m about done!

That song rocked me to my core.  There was a time in my life when my faith could not be tamed.  I was not a fan of Jesus, I was fanatic!  I prayed fervently and devoured scripture as if it were my very lifeblood.  I felt like Jesus was so close that I could reach out and hold His hand!  So guess what...He’s still the SAME GOD!!  He will never leave me.  If you ask Him to walk with you He will never leave you.  You see in a world that lacks consistency, or in a life such as mine that lacks consistency, God is consistent and unchanging.  He is unfailing.  

Was this song a miracle cure?  No.  Me and Jesus [and my parents and a trusted friend and an awesome pastor] are working through this trust thing.  I don’t trust God.  But I want to.  I don’t know how I’m gonna get there from here.  I don’t know how it will go.  I know it will be a battle of my flesh every day of my life.  In that struggle it’s so comforting to me to know that Jesus chose me.  He said Tracy Leigh I love you and you’re mine. 

So it’s time to battle.  I’m ready.  I’m equipped.  I’m in. 

I am attempting to link up with Faith Filled Fridays on BeholdingGlory.  Check there for some awesome other encouragement and truth about Jesus!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sweet Sunday

Daylight Savings Time can be quite perplexing.  On Facebook this morning several friends commented on the fact that it threw their children and/or pets off of a much needed schedule.  I don't have children (yet!) and my pet is a lazy fish.  So it didn't affect me much.  I was actually more worried about my roomate missing the time change and being late for work than I was for myself.  So I was up at my normal time of 5-ish which today turned into 6-ish.  No big deal.  I went in the kitchen and made muffins for the hospitality room at church.  This room is new to my church.  My friend Shelley (with limited assistance and much encouragement and company from me) painted an old Sunday School room.  We moved some furniture, had people sign up to bring snacks and ta-da a hospitality room was born.  It's turning into a cute cozy little place for people to gather on Sunday mornings.  I have big dreams of what it could expand in to someday...but for now it works for what we need.  So I have now been in my office here at church for a few hours.  I have gotten a lot of work done.  I have also done some daydreaming.  My brain is going crazy right now with ideas and things I want to do. 

I may have mentioned this before, but I have this thing where often I don't see what is I see what could be.  When speaking of this to friends I usually just refer to it now as "my disease".  :)  So sitting here in my office I look around and all of a sudden see what I want this church to be.  I see very functional and practical ways that it could be organized and given a new face if only time, money, motivation and opposition were not factors.  I look out the window and see the empty lot across the street and can see all my wishes of a community garden staring back at me.  How cool would that be if my church bought that land and planted a community garden in the summer and had classes to teach children about growing food and how eating from a garden can be beneficial financially as well as to your health.  I flip through some pictures a friend posted on Facebook this morning and can all of a sudden see this great idea I have coming into being.  It's great and inspiring and motivating and EXHAUSTING!  I will work on my motivation.  I will work on picking through my "dreams and visions" and trying to focus on a few at a time.  My Pastor told me once "do for one what you would like to do for many".  He was talking about people but I think it's true for ideas.  I can either do a bunch of things half way or I can focus on a just few things.  I can start giving them a lot of effort and time and see them come into fruition.  Then I can move on to the next few big ideas. 

These are just some things rolling around in my head this morning.  For now I will go sit in the hospitality room with my sweet mama.  Drink coffee and eat muffins.  Wait for it to be time to go upstairs and hear about this beautiful Journey to Hope we are on during the season of Lent.  I will just enjoy the fact that the sun is shining, my heart is full and it is a sweet Sunday.