I gave up on God; how sad these words make me now. I was experiencing an extremely difficult time during eighth grade and freshman year. An extremely close family friend whom I grew up had just passed away due to cancer; I always looked up to Johnny. Right before, we had to make the choice to put our golden retriever down due to cancer.
A little while after those heartbreaks, I found out my Papa was now on his fourth battle with cancer. All these horrible things kept happening in my life and then I fell as a victim too. I was incurably sick with never ending chronic pain; leading to many several week hospitalizations that put me out of school.
I didn't think God would possibly keep allowing me to slammed to the ground like a rag doll, each time one of these events occurred. I was not one of His strongest soldiers; I was begging for Him to take back the toughest battle. Then I was brought to the foot of the cross, Younglife, by my freshman year boyfriend. Everything changed.
I began to go weekly after our winter weekend retreat, Polar Bear, and that year I found out how sweet God's love is. I was not as sour as I used to be; constantly reading through the Bible for answers. I actually got in trouble for reading the Bible too much and neglecting homework at times if I'm honest. If I could help it, I never missed a Younglife meeting. A cool part of Younglife is the upperclassman always drive the underclassman; this really helps with allowing for relationships to develop.
The atmosphere of our gatherings is something one can try to explain but the feeling cannot be put into perspective, even with careful words. You walk into the room and everyone yells your name, whoever you pass by gives you a hug while asking how you are or mentions how glad they are you're there, friends will cram into the crack of the couch just to be by you, your leaders will follow up with you on how that certain thing from the past week went. It is the most loving environment of kids, and adult leaders investing t their genuine time into you, I have ever experienced. The amazing thing is, it's a universal quality throughout younglife. No matter what school's Younglife you went to that night, you would be loved equally and experience God's love.
My biggest piece of advice is to GO TO SUMMER CAMP. I don't care if you're a camper, summer staff, work crew, an intern, a full-time employee, I guarantee your life will change for the better. I fell full force in love with God and living His ways the summer after my sophomore year of high school; I was at Sharptop Cove in Jasper, Georgia. My heart longs each day to be back there and I know I'll return someday soon.
I want to say thank you to Naperville & Aurora Younglife; you have my entire heart and so many sweet, beloved memories. To Kelly Ann, Caleb, Pat, Alex, Brooke, Tim, Matt, our college leaders, and the high school senior leaders who lead me — thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys showed up at my best moments, such as my graduation party; yet you all held my hand in the worst of times, as I laid in the hospital bed with my faith quietly shaking.
My faith no longer shakes because I know I have this community to fall back on and God to carry me through. My life is changed forever; shoutout to Sharptop. I hope you find this peace in your heart; even if you're going through a rag doll stage in your life. Just know that "for it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:8).
Go to be fully loved and fully love others. Honestly though, Y the L not? Thank you Younglife, for being a perfect example of what being fullYLoved is. Here's to screaming "welcome to Younglife," paint wars, the many games of signs and gaga ball, sharing our happys and crappys, so many group hugs, long overnight bus rides, the tears and meals shared, singing My Lighthouse while dancing, late night cabin talks, and screaming "you don't have to go home but you can't stay here" as goodbye. Luckily, there's always another meeting.
Younglife - You made me who I am.