Last Sunday afternoon we loaded up and headed out on a retreat with our youth group! There were definitely some noteworthy things during the retreat that I would like to share with you in no particular order.
#1 Malachi and Levi absolutely loved it. They have been locked in the house for so long that the interaction with others was extra special. They were exhausted by the time bedtime rolled around. We brought a king sized mattress from our house for me and the kids to crash on and set up a makeshift bedroom in a living room area of the main house. No medical emergencies or concerns the entire time we were there for the Carroll boys.
I had some wonderful, godly friends take time off of work to come and help with the boys. This was the first time I have been able to sit in the worship services with the youth at camp, and what a blessing that was to me on so many levels.
We also had a four month old baby along for the adventure, and Levi in particular was pretty smitten with him.
Interestingly enough, when Malachi got to hold the baby for the first time Levi grew very jealous and possessive of big brother Malachi.
#2 The logistics of the camp worked out wonderfully! We had one snake bite from a teenage boy that tried to capture one but other than that we were injury free. With a total of 52 people there one injury isn’t so bad!
There were a few new things to navigate along the way, like how to feed a group that large on the road in a pandemic. We ended up finding a local park and creating a makeshift Chick-Fil-A buffet using the wheelchair ramp.
#3 GOD SHOWED UP! Within the first hour of chapel the Holy Spirit moved. We watched as these kids tasted the spirit of God, some of them for the first time ever, and it was a beautiful scene.
We immediately recognized that God had some big things in store for the week, and of the eight years Jake and I have been serving as youth ministers, this camp hands down was the most life changing. Our final service lasted over 4 hours with the kids sharing testimony after testimony about the things God was revealing to them. What a faith strengthening scene to watch.
We are still winding down from camp and processing where to go from here. The kids tasted the Lord and now crave that feeling again. Jake and I have the wonderful responsibility to cultivate that within each of them and guide them as much as we can. I am sure I will be sharing that journey with you often in the coming weeks and months.
We came home on Wednesday afternoon and before we pulled into the driveway we already had youth calling to see if they could come over to talk more about God! What a blessing! We would love to open our home again for Bible studies and dinner for the kids each week but are going to spend some time in prayer and see if that is the direction God wants us to go right now.
On Thursday Jake’s family came into town to celebrate the fourth of July together. We have had a weekend full of cousin time swimming in the pool, splashing in the river, and other fun adventures full of laughter.
And more babies!
We attempted some sparklers and Malachi was a big fan.
And then we attempted some fireworks and those didn’t go over too well.
And I know I have shared a similar video with you before, but each time I see Levi helping Malachi without being prompted it warms my heart. I pulled out my camera in time to catch him helping Malachi play a game with him; the look on Malachi’s face is so sweet:
This week I will be headed west with Malachi and taking him to Vanderbilt to see both the hip and spine surgeons. I am becoming anxious about this appointment. For children like Malachi, surgeries in both of these locations are common and extremely painful. These surgeries are BIG ones with months of recovery and regression of skills. We are praying that we can ward them off just a bit longer, but then part of me wonders if it would be logistically better to tackle them while he is still small in stature.
I will be making the trip solo with Malachi, and usually we go up the night before and spend the night. But with the COVID-19 being so prominent in that area of Tennessee I will be attempting to make the trip there and back in one very long day. I am in a constant state of sleep derivation and I always worry about being able to safely drive when I am running low on fumes. Please put my alertness on your prayer list!
While it was such a joy watching the teens at camp, it was also refreshing for my soul. Being able to worship with something other than the radio blessed my heart so much. I am one of those that connects strongly with God through worship so not being able to attend church every Sunday has left me craving that opportunity again.
Lately I have been really thinking about my purpose here on earth and what it is that God is calling our family to do next. I think about the day I stand before God- what will that conversation be like?
In Matthew 25 we find the parable of the talents. A talent is a measure of weight, like a talent of gold that held a high value. A man is going away on a journey and he entrusts three of his servants with different numbers of talents while he is gone. Here is a breakdown of what each of the servants did.
Servant #1: received 5 talents and immediately went and traded them to earn 5 more.
Servant #2: received 2 talents and gained 2 more.
Servant #3: received 1 talent and went into the yard and buried it to keep it safe.
The master comes back after his long journey and calls the servants to him to account for his talents. The first two servants presented their original talents plus their newly acquired ones. The master says to them “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
But when he comes to the third servant the conversation is a very different one. He hands him back his original talent and explains that he was afraid and hid it to keep it safe. He says to the master: “See, you have what is yours.”
But the master is very upset that the talent hasn’t experienced growth while he was away. So unhappy, in fact, that he takes the talent from the servant and gives it to the one who has ten.
As I read the parable I can’t help but think about what I am doing with my talents. Am I taking the measure of faith God has given me and using it to produce more Christians, that is, to share the gospel with others and watch God’s kingdom multiply? Or am I keeping my faith buried…mine and only mine to have and to hold and wave in the air when the master returns?
Are you ready to stand before the Master and explain what you did with the talents He trusted you with?
I think about those first two servants and the excitement they must have experienced when their portions doubled, knowing that they would have something exciting to discuss when the master returned. Likewise, are we excited and anticipating that conversation in the same manner?
Or is our faith in that deep hole in the yard? Something WE know is there, but remaining in that safe, unfruitful spot so we have something to hand back to him when we come face to face.
Our faith is meant to be contagious. It is meant to experience growth…to multiply and to explode, impacting all of those around us in a mighty way.
This morning 7 of the youth stood in front of the church and shared specific things God is placing on their hearts. While they spoke, there was a radiance on each of their faces, the radiance that the Bible mentions adorned Moses’ face after he met with God on the mountain.
I think about the words in Psalm 34 that say “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed…O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
On the faces of those teens I saw a new boldness, a new resoluteness that I have never seen before. They tasted the Lord this weekend and oh how sweet a taste they received. My prayer for each of them is that they realize the strength and power of the talents God has handed them. And that they recognize that we are called to grow those talents, not tuck them away to hand safely to God when we meet Him face to face.
And I will continue to pray over my talents, watching and waiting for an opportunity to watch them grow.