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Erin and me brought closer together with our battle scars of shaving cream

I don’t remember much about the cabin I stayed in, but I can tell you about the way the pine needles felt beneath me as I sat on the forest floor, the way the rough and deep-fissured bark of the Ponderosa Pine felt as I sat against it. There were many groups of kids attending the winter camp, I don’t remember much about who was there, but I can tell you about the woman who was responsible for bringing me to camp, and the girl who would become my lifelong best friend. The activities? Well, I’ll just say that it’s interesting how a war involving shaving cream can bring groups of highschoolers closer to each other and to Jesus. However, the most profound activity that stands out to me, is my memory of watching a video that changed my life, and the stars that twinkled over me as I processed all that I had seen and heard that December night.

I found my faith that cold winter night in the high desert of Prescott, Arizona, sitting underneath the evergreens. 

For the first time, I understood that a life was given, so that I could have mine. In the days that followed, I have learned more and more, that while I found God’s indescribable love for me that night, I was not new to Him. He knew me all along. He was there, knitting me together as I was coming to life within my mother’s womb before I was even born. He knew every bone in my body, every beat of my heart, every day I would breathe, all written in his glorious book, before my mother held me. (Psalm 139: 13-16) He knew my celebrations, my pain, my loss, and the gifts I had been given before I even knew who to thank.

I’ve always been in love with the forest. I grew up in the dry, hot desert of Phoenix, Arizona, where shade-giving trees were not as abundant, where cooler temperatures only came in a brief winter season, and rivers only flowed after a torrential monsoon. Yet the forest, was life giving in more ways than I could ever have imagined! I was in awe of the beautiful sound of the wind blowing through the pines, breathed deeply the forest musk of the pine needles warming in the sun. It was among these evergreens, I felt at home, welcomed, and where I truly met my Heavenly Father for the first time. While I once was lost, I had been found that night in the evergreens. The quiet of the woods spoke louder to me than all my time in my neighborhood back home.

In the dark of the wooden chapel, a large group of high-school students sat cross-legged on the floor, watching what Jesus endured, watching what He sacrificed, watching His life given so that we may have ours. Afterwards, we were dismissed to the quiet of the winter forest, to find a spot to sit, to reflect and ponder all that we had seen, and what that meant to us.

Against the evergreen, I asked myself what this meant, was I prepared to leave the life I had known behind, to welcome a new life of abundance?

I shivered as I sat on a bed of fallen pine needles against the pine. It was cold, I wanted to rush past this part and find the warmth of the old wooden chapel again. Maybe there would be a treat waiting for our return. This was a lot to think about, aren’t decisions best made in comfort and warmth, over a brownie perhaps? I looked up at the stars, and knew they twinkled that I wasn’t done yet, that I needed to open my heart, let go, and let Him in. What I had heard and seen that night, was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I didn’t grow up in a church-going home, let alone one that discussed this, how would my dad and brother feel? Would I be different at school? How would my friends feel? Would I be the weird one? Then I thought of the girl who befriended me on the retreat, Erin, knowing she was out under the stars as well, reflecting on her own journey, though I knew she was further along than I was. Maybe this God who died for me, brought us together so I wouldn’t be afraid to say yes, to say I believe. While I learned that night for the first time I was never alone, that God had been with me since before I was a beginning, I also felt God gave me Erin, so I could have someone walk this journey with me, a hand that would hold mine, pray with me, and allow me to be explore this new life.

I said “Yes” that night as the stars shined brightly through the evergreens, and I have never looked back.

While that night was over 22 years ago, I always look forward and up. Challenges have come my way, I’ve grappled with questions, sin, hurt, and have definitely gotten lost in the forest a time or two. Yet I will always try to find my way back to my true Evergreen, the One who stands firm and tall, weathers all storms, does not grow faint or weary, provides shelter within the forest.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (ESV)

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