TERM 7!!!

I have two favorite weeks of the year. My favorite week of the year is during the ONETHING conference in December. I look forward to that conference EVERY year, as God meets me there EVERY year. My second favorite week of the year is TERM 7 out at Camp Barnabas!!!

All year I pray about Term 7, and even pray to be with the same group of girls. This year, God was faithful to answer that prayer AGAIN! For the fourth year in a row, I was blessed to get to be with four of the same campers! I was so excited! God was faithful to meet us repeatedly this year during Term 7! I have debated how to write about it because a lot happened throughout the week! It was an AMAZING week!

Lilly was in my cabin again, and she is a sweetheart! After the initial testing period for all of us, Lilly was the typical, LOVELY young lady that she always is! My favorite moment with Lilly was one of the first nights when she wanted to dance with me at WRAP-UP! We had a GREAT time dancing while we sang worship songs! It was SO much fun!

Each night before the girls went to sleep, I tried to make the rounds and say "good night" and give hugs to each one. One night Lilly invited me to sit on the edge of her bed while we talked. She wanted to know why I wasn't married. I explained to her that I was waiting for God to bring the right guy into my life! I proceeded to ask her if she would come to my wedding one day when God did bring the right guy. She said, "No." I laughed and asked why. She stated, "I'll be busy that day with my Mom and Dad." I just laughed. She's so precious!

I was especially blessed when her Mom arrived on arrival day with a present for me! She gave me a FRAMED picture of Lilly & me! It is PRECIOUS and sits on my end table here in my living room! It's the first time I've been given a gift from a camper's parent on parent arrival day at camp! I'm loved so well by some AMAZING PEOPLE. I pray I get to have Lilly again next year. She was a highlight of my week! *grin*

Destiny was in my cabin for the second time. Destiny was in my cabin two years ago, and is one amazing little person. Okay, she's fifteen, but she's small in size! She is non-verbal, and God taught me SO MUCH through her during the week! She could communicate basic wants and needs, but outside of that she was limited in communicating to us.

I was blessed to sit by her from time to time. She would occasionally take my hand, hold it, and then let go. A few times I took on the challenge of giving her water. While that seems minor, it took effort because Destiny would often purposely dump water after drinking from her water bottle, so I would let her drink, and then creatively take the water bottle away from her before she would take it away from me. I realize it sounds difficult, but it was actually really cool. She put a smile on my face repeatedly.

At one point, she came over and chose to sit by me. We would hold hands, and sometimes want to cuddle. It was precious. She also wanted a drink, but it was past her drinking time, so I couldn't give her a drink. She was a definite highlight for me though, and I'm SO GLAD she was in my cabin. *grin*

Another returning camper was MADISON! This was my fourth year with Madison, and I was SO EXCITED to have her in my cabin again! Madison has Autism, and has really grown up in the past four years. This year was especially cool for her, as she finally WENT DOWN THE WATER SLIDES! It was a blessing to get to be with her as she faced her fear of the water slides. The past three years I have offered to ride the slides with her, but she wasn't ready and I NEVER pushed. When we finally went up to the top, I said, "Do you want to go with me, or by yourself?" She told me she wanted to go WITH ME! I was QUIETLY excited that she wanted me to share in the moment. Of course, I just said, "Okay." We started down the slide, and she was nervous, so she was slightly screaming in her own way. I was fine with that, she was scared, and I was fine with it. The slide had a few turns, so she was doing well until it came to the straight-way the led into the water. Then she STOPPED US! I was grinning, and told her it was okay. Her CIA, went to the end of the slide and told her it was okay. Sure enough, Maddie did the last little bit by herself. She was SO EXCITED that she did it! After that we did the slide MANY times! I offered that same day to try the middle slide with her, but she wasn't ready. It was later in the week when we did the middle slide, which she wanted to try by herself but she wanted me there when she tried it. I WAS SO PROUD OF HER! She faced her fear and really ENJOYED the slides! It was a blessing to me to see that they got her on the end-of-week slideshow going down the slide. That made me *grin* ear-to-ear!

Madison was also my photographer for the week. Madison often gets worked up when she's bored, so I gave her my camera at those times, and she would occupy herself with the camera. If a person looks as my pictures from the week, it explains why I have some of the pictures on there. I wouldn't have taken some of them, but they matter to Maddie, so it was GREAT! I had to charge my camera TWICE because Maddie took so many pictures, but that was fine by me. It was great to make her week a little less stressful, and more FUN. She clearly LOVED having the camera! *grin*

Rachel was new to my cabin, and I liked her A LOT. She appeared to not be afraid of anything, and made us laugh a lot. I will admit, I didn't spend as much time with Rachel as I did with some of the others, but I really did like her. Rachel would hug me from time to time, so I knew the feeling was mutual. I hope she's in my cabin in the future, as I thought she was a neat young gal.

Emily was a sweetheart. I had never had Emily in my cabin before, and I liked her A LOT. She was so patient with other campers, and had the softest heart. Like Rachel, I didn't spend a lot of time with Emily, but when I talked with her, she was always polite and talked to me. I hope to have her again too, as I would like to get to know her more. *grin*

Holly looked a lot like Emily to me, and I would always get them confused, but they were always good sports. *grin* Holly was even more quiet to me than Emily was, but was always pleasant to be around. I was glad she was in my cabin too. (Can you tell I REALLY liked out campers this year?) *grin*

Another new camper for me as BECCA! Gosh, how do you describe one of the most amazing campers I've ever met? During our first meal, Becca had a meltdown that had many of us wondering how in the world we were going to make it through the week. I immediately hugged her CIA (Who is one of my favorite people now!) and told her we would do this together. Becca wears a harness for various reasons, and to look at her you would probably think a lot of things. What I learned through Becca this week is that first impressions aren't what they always appear to be. Becca was prone to outbursts for various reasons, but she was also one of the most LOVING girls in our cabin. She required A LOT of help, but I didn't hear ONE negative word regarding Becca. In fact, at one point our staffer said, "People think that she's violent, and she's really not." That was the most true statement that I probably heard all week.

The most touching moment of the whole week camp for me during camper arrival. I saw Becca's parent show up and walk away with Becca. And, I should state, that the people that worked the most with Becca worked HARD during that week. Anyway, when Becca's caregiver walked away with her, Stephanie turned to someone and started crying because she was gone. I was touched, and learned something in that moment. I was expecting to hear, "She was great, but I'm worn out & happy for the break." Instead, the two girls who spent the most time with her were truly SAD that she was gone, and one cried. That was DEEP love for a camper that required a lot of assistance. We should all learn how to love on that deep of a level. *grin* I was proud of the girls who were sad to see her go. That's how we should love ALL the campers out there. *grin*

Of course, my post would be incomplete if I didn't mention RONNI! That's right, the gal I prayed to be beside ALL YEAR, was in my cabin AGAIN! When I found out I was SO EXCITED! Honestly, I was blessed to spend quite a bit of time with Ronni. I LOVED the week because of Ronni! Seriously.

I imagine it might offend some people for me to say this, as we're probably not supposed to have favorites, but Ronni is my FAVORITE camper! Four years ago, God put this adorable girl in my cabin with Down's who just connected with me. Year after year, God has just expanded my heart for her, and this year it grew even more for her. Honestly, I didn't think that was possible, but it happened.

We had our fair share of challenges. Ronni loves to climb, and for safety reasons we can't let her climb EVERYTHING that she chooses. (Can we say the dining hall stage? *grin*) We also couldn't let her just take other people's belongings, so that was character-building too. And honestly, I LOVED every moment where I had to keep her safe because I could feel the Lord with us as we kept her safe. When I was involved, she didn't get hurt physically, and I give credit to God for that because I silently prayed even as we stood in front of the objects she wanted to climb. *grin*

The AMAZING news is that, from my perspective, there were more good moments than tough ones. It was AMAZING to watch Ronni sing to the animals at the petting "zoo" at camp. She would pet the animals and sing, it was precious! She also laughed A LOT while she was at the pool! It was also fun to watch her in the Silver Lining, as she climbed into a cabinet and shut the cabinet door. It was PRECIOUS. (I'm bummed I didn't have my camera at that moment!)

I had two FAVORITE moments with Ronni. The first one came on a night she didn't particularly want to go to the evening party, so we wound up in the conference rooms below the dining hall with other campers who didn't want to go either. Ronni decided she wanted to dress me up and take pictures. There is a skit closet down there FULL of costumes, and she would create costumes and put them on me (Over my regular clothes, of course!) and take my picture! It was my FAVORITE night of the whole Term!

My second favorite moment may seem a tad odd, but it was precious to me. I have to set it up for you. On Day #3 Ronni bit me. It was just a moment where she was upset, and my arm was in the way of her mouth. *grin* Now, fast forward with me to the last morning of camp, and parent pick up. We were sitting outside the cabin waiting for her parents, and she took my arm where she bit it, kissed it, and said, "I sorry, Shanna." That was PRICELESS in my book!

I enjoyed both weeks out at camp a lot, I really did, but I will admit that Term 7 was my favorite. Every year God teaches me something new out there, and this year I got two new revelations from Him.

The first one was a reminder of how much I LOVE to work hard. Camp was a lot of fun, but it requires a lot of work too. During Term 7, I have to give up all my selfish desires to serve the campers, and it is definitely the most challenging week for me out of the whole year, but at the end of it I walk away stronger in the Lord than I was when I walked in the gates. I am also in better physical shape than I've been in a year. I'm a gal who enjoys lap swimming, and I had given that up, thinking "I am walking Jay." Well, I came back from camp REALLY wanting to start swimming again. When the Aquatic Center opens back up next week I want to join. I'm also back at work getting my classroom together. Due to camp, I'm more energized and ready to go! *grin*

My second revelation was a revelation of a mother's heart. There were things out at camp this year that were AMAZING and (for the first time ever) there were things that BROKE my heart. I found myself loving the campers (not just mine, all of them) as if they were my own kids. It's impossible to put into words, but it was AMAZING. Even in the most character-building moments, I was NEVER mad, I was actually aching for the child doing whatever it was she was doing. God expanded my heart in ways that can't be explained, but made me love in a way I never had before. I LOVED IT!

Perhaps the most amazing thing about camp is that I go out there to SERVE campers, and I ALWAYS come back being blessed more than I think I blessed others. Even more than that, I came home EXHAUSTED for THREE days afterward, and you know what? I CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK AGAIN NEXT YEAR!!! *grin*