In August of this year I arrived at Frontier Ranch. I like to tell people that I lived in a log cabin on the side of a mountain, and that is when it happened. In 1996, the first time I stepped foot on the grounds of Frontier Ranch, I said to myself, this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The second time, in 2004, I said to myself, this is where I belong.
I could write a book about my experience that year, and in fact I just might, but not tonight. That was my first experience with really leaving my comfort zone and
I spent a day of solitude in Santa Fe, hiked a fourteener and met a celebrity. I survived a windstorm at the Great Sand Dunes and wrestled alligators. I worked in a metal shop in the Dominican Republic and stood up at my best friend's wedding. I watched a Better Than Ezra Concert outside while it snowed in Vail and went skydiving over Boulder. I got to work behind the scenes to create one of the most magical events in all of Young Life camping: Tableau night. I cleaned probably every toilet at Frontier Ranch and every time I would make the bed where I slept all those years before, I was overcome with joy and gratitude.
When I arrived at Frontier Ranch I was somewhat closed off and afraid. But at one point during the year my mentor, Angie, told me that although I experience a lot of fear, I do not let fear stop me. She was right and therein lie both one of my greatest weaknesses and greatest strengths. It's funny how they life in the same place inside me, like two conflicting roommates.
It was during this year-- on New Year's Eve, to be exact-- that I began one of my most favorite traditions: instead of making a New Year's resolution, I come up with one word that describes how I want to grow and be changed in the next year. That year my word was transparent. I wanted for the walls I built with fear to be seen as glass, straight through to the real me.
At the end of the year Angie made each of us girls something that cost her something. For me, she made a patchwork quilt. Patchwork quilts are meant to tell a story and while there were small stories within some of the fabrics, the larger story that it told was that it, like me, went from darkness to light. I don't know how, but I opened up that year.
One of the things you'll hear me say all the time, if you know me long enough, is that some of the greatest things in life are also the hardest. I think it was in that year that I started saying that, because it was definitely one of the hardest years of my life and also one of the greatest.
Pretty early on, when I was feeling stretched beyond what I thought I could bear, I took this on as my mantra: if the Lord chooses to change me, then I must consider myself blessed. When I am in community and friction happens, God could change someone else and leave me here where I am, but I'm not interested in staying the same day after day and year after year. In life you cannot control what you can't control, especially other people and how they respond to you. Sometimes, when something's gotta give, it needs to be you and even though it might feel like losing at first, that's almost always the best thing that ever could have happened.