I'm going to start by referring back to this blog from 2006 when I wrote about a trip to Carbondale, IL to visit our LCC camp team at a Christ In Youth Conference at Southern Illinois University. I just got back last night from visiting there again, and I realized last week that this is the 12th year I have been to CIY in Carbondale. Yes, 12 years. That makes me feel really old.
I have a lot of memories there. I went from 1996 (after I had graduated 8th grade) through 2000 as a camper with my good ol' youth group from Central Church of Christ in Streator, IL with Rondel Ramsey still as our youth minister. CIY in high school was like the highlight of my life, aside from my high school dance team. Despite how much time Amanda and I probably spent just meeting cute boys and taking pictures with them or of them, it provided an atmosphere for life change. I made some of the best decisions of my life at CIY in high school.
During the college years and since working at LCC I've been able to work at CIY from behind the scenes and see another perspective. In these years I have met so many awesome people who have turned out to be some of my very best friends. God is surprising me these days with the people He seems to place in life just at the right time.
So being on campus this past week I was flooded with memories of having "His Time" with my youth group in the same spot every year, with Rondel prompting us to take our faith a step deeper and further. I specifically remember talking about being "in the boat" or "out of the boat" and going around our youth group of 65 people sharing where each of us felt we were. Those nights at "His Time" shaped part of who I am. It's where I stood up and told my youth group I had decided I needed to go to Lincoln, and I asked them to hold me accountable for it. Here I am today...working for Lincoln.
I have memories of Robin Sigars on the stage and Andy Schroeder behind his keyboard singing "At the Cross" and "Shout to the Lord" and all the tears I cried when something was happening in my heart or I was just sad to leave on the last night. It's funny how I ended up interning with Andy Schroeder before graduating college.
I have memories of all the BCG's (Bible College Girls) and our fun times that summer of 2003 we spent together traveling to 6 weeks of conference together. I'm surprised by God to see that they are some of my very best friends to this day. I remember having a bridal shower for Abbra (one of the BCG's from Cincinnati) on the 10th floor lobby of Neely hall after we found our she got engaged on the week off and was getting married the next January 10th. We had water fights in the halls, led d-groups together, prayed together, had dance parties in our rooms, and have since shared much of life together.
Even in just the 3 days I spent in Carbondale this week I made new memories with new and old friends, and I'm always so surprised by how God works. I caught up with old friends I hadn't seen in years or months and it was a breath of fresh air.
It isn't anything about the campus of SIU that makes me nostalgic, but it's what has happened there. It's the ways God has worked, decisions I made, friendships created, friendships rekindled, and the Spirit moving still in thousands of kids who go for conference each summer.
Right now I'd probably best describe where I am in life as being surprised by God's work. I'm nostalgic, but I'm constantly surprised at how He works in some of the strangest places, in the craziest people, and in such seemingly random ways. But He has orchestrated it all, none of it happening at random. I'm surprised by God right now, and I love it.
I love surprises.