How many summers have you been at LLYC?
Wow, it’s been 15 years! I got a late start — was too afraid to leave home until I was an older camper, but ever since I haven’t been able to leave. I enjoyed my time as a camper, but really began to thrive and truly love camp as a staff member.
2004-2006: Camper at Echo Valley (Cabins D, E, H)
2007: Work Crew at Echo
2008-2010: Cabin A Counselor at Echo
2011: Work Crew Boss at Echo Valley
2012: Cabin A Counselor at Echo
2013-2015: Girls Director at Singing Hills
2016: Special Events at Singing Hills
2017: Programmer at Singing HIlls
2018: Substitute Rotations — filled in as a cook, ranch house manager, SH counselor, and health care assistant!
Work Crew 2007 — at least three of these girls are moms now!
You’ve been able to return to the Canyon to work summers post-college. Tell us what this has looked like for you?
While in college, camp was very important to me and I prioritized to spend time out there (even if just for a half). There’s something so special about reconnecting spiritually, emotionally, and mentally in that holy place. To be able to come “home” to camp during the summer between crazy college years was a chance to reflect and reset. I had an unconventional college experience, and so camp was truly the place where I felt the most community with like-minded peers — many who are still my best friends today. I know the Lord brought camp in to my life to fill that desire I had for Christ-following, fun, and faithful friends.
First year as counselors
After college, I accepted a job as a first grade teacher in San Antonio…. the best part of teaching (besides teaching kids to read, to problem solve, to not bite, to love each other, etc) is definitely having the summers off! I knew that where I wanted to be in the summer was camp! I had spent all of my college years working at Echo, but when talking to Chandler about working at camp Post-Grad, he really wanted me to make the move over to Singing Hills. At first, I was so nervous to enter in to that new place — but once I was there it was hard to ever imagine not always being there. Working at Singing Hills in these post-college years has been life-changing.
These girls I “raised up” at Singing Hills. I’d never have met these girls if I hadn’t gone back post-grad, but instead I got to spend time with them from when they were on Crew until they were on Central Staff with me!
The Lord brought to me best friends who walk through my daily life with me that I never would have met and come to know so deeply if I hadn’t continued working at camp. Through the accepting community and safe environment, I have grown so much in my confidence and ability to be myself. Honestly, if you had told people who I worked with as counselors at Echo that one day I would be a programmer at the Hills — no one would have believed you! At Echo, I was one of the more quiet counselors — but at Singing Hills, I was given the space and encouragement to really truly be myself and to be celebrated for who God made me to be (even if I still think I’m not that good at skits!).
We used to dress up as The Spice Girls at Round-Up, but realized we were just as good as a Girl Power group being ourselves!
Besides friends and confidence, working at camp post-grad has given me the opportunity to really bring some of my knowledge and experience on how to work with kids in a school-setting into the Canyon. At Singing Hills, we have ALL types of kids, and I’ve been thankful to use my experience working with kids with autism/ADHD/and so many other behavior patterns to help create cabin environments where all kids are valued no matter what they’re going through. I could go on and on — it has been just the best experience to keep working at camp. I joke with Chandler that I want to stay working there until I’m 80, but I know that there will be a summer where the Lord brings other things. There are times when I compare myself to others that are my age and long to be in a stage with marriage/family, but I know that in His perfect plan, He has created a unique opportunity and space for me to keep coming to camp, to serve the place I love, and to continually build relationships with the greatest people.
This is my core group of friends from Singing Hills…we call each other the family and have been in each others weddings, at each others birthdays, and meet up for reunions throughout the year… maybe some day I’ll write a book about this group.
How has this impacted you differently now that you are adulting?
Yikes, the term adulting! I wish every adult could reset back to the heart of a kid by being at Singing Hills in the summers. It can be hard to move out for three months to a place that is as remote as camp. There are sacrifices that are made, but to me it is so worth it. I’m SO thankful to have a job that allows me to keep working there. There are times when I feel “SO OLD” at camp like when I don’t feel like I have the strength and energy to continue and then God brings humility to me and reminds me that I’m really just a child. He loves children and wants us to come to him with child-like faith — and my time at camp helps to reset that each year. There are some areas where my age has given me a different perspective (the fleeting feeling of camp crushes, the importance of not staying out past curfew if you want to function), but if you talk to people who know me at camp — sometimes I act younger now than I did when I was a teenager!
Singing Hills Work Crew Boss — got to have my sister on my crew and I’m still very close with my co, Loriann Ryan… being crew bosses together bonds you for life!
Although there are now different responsibilities waiting for me when I get home from camp that I didn’t have to worry about in college, it really just reminds me how lucky I am to get to keep going back. I think camp also helps me to be a “cool teacher” because each summer I get a crash course in what “the kids are doing.” For example, I knew about flossing (the dance move not the dental routine) before anyone else back at school 🙂 … I can’t say enough how lucky I am to keep working at camp and all the ways the Lord has blessed me through it.
So thankful that deep friendships continue to develop at camp. I would never have met Jacqueline if I hadn’t kept going back to camp and the Lord knew what He was doing having us live in Cabin 11 together … she’s such a fierce and faithful friend who continually points me back to truth and the Lord and lets me be my silly self!
In addition to teaching, you are also an author. In what ways has camp shaped you as a writer?
It’s so sweet to be called an author — I don’t feel that way at all! I write as a hobby, and publishing was a goal that I’m so thankful I could reach — but a lot of times it doesn’t feel real! I think a lot about the philosophy of Howard Butt Jr./Laity Lodge and how we are called to spread the Gospel in our daily lives. I love doing that as a public school teacher — but also through writing. There’s a story that I heard about a man who made shoes and he spread the Gospel not by adding crosses to his shoes but just by making good, solid shoes with love. I thought a lot about that when writing. My first book, Turn the Page, was really a way for me to process my experience in college, especially my freshman year. It was a hard year – and writing was the best way to process it all. The Lord had been so present in that year, and I wanted to be able to write that in a way that showcased HIM but not in a way that would turn people away. I will never be as wise as C.S. Lewis and other writers who so faithfully write good “Christian” books…. but, I wanted to write a good book by a Christian. Turn the Page is about despair, grief, hope, and redemption — and about how our leaves weave with others. I believe God loves stories — our stories and HIS story — and I’m thankful to share mine. My time at camp encouraged me that I had a story to tell, gave me people who stood behind me in support, and instilled in me the confidence to follow-through.
Sweaty, shiny, and thriving — getting to spend summer nights with friends has been the biggest gift!
Tell us about your most recent novel?
So, after Turn the Page, I thought I’d never write again. It was a really personal story and a way to process heartache and a dark time in my life…. then, I got another idea! The Young Undecideds is a story about a group of people thrown together by unusual circumstances. The “official blurb” focuses on how “the reader goes behind the scenes of the controversial campaign of high-profile, but politically inexperienced, Bobby Walker on his race to become the next Governor of Texas. As a political outsider, Bobby believes he has the power to enact change, but in order to get elected he will need a more family-friendly image. In an effort to attain more votes, Walker’s team hires public school teacher Annie Stewart to assist with the campaign, but Annie’s job comes with a secret that she hopes will never be revealed. The lines between reality and performance are blurred in a battle for power, leadership, and the belief in a better Texas.” The central theme (at least to me) is the idea of truth and deception. We live in a time where it’s so easy to characterize things as good/evil but that in reality it is so much more complex than that. The idea was originally brought about by taming the tongue and James 3:11, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” and the power of our words. At first glance, its a romance rooted in betrayal — but hopefully, the reader sees more to it than that! Again, I don’t at all feel like an author. I just love hearing and telling stories and talking about how God is good even when everything seems so dark.
Getting to work each summer alongside my sister has been the best thing for our relationship and friendship. To have the foundation of camp, spending switch days together, sharing many of the same friends!