Today, it’s an honor and delight to feature a guest post from Jennifer Camp. Jennifer and I met online and engage with one another online. But Jennifer’s more than a 1×1 avatar to me. She’s near and dear to my heart, a woman I call soul sister without hesitation, someone I can’t wait to meet in real life. How do I know this? Because Jennifer’s writing is deeply revealing of her heart. And I’m convinced Jennifer’s heart is a close match to mine.
Friends, it’s special day for Jennifer! Today her first book, Loop, is being released. Loop is a beautiful devotional written from the heart of God our Father, for His daughters. Loop is a must if you’ve ever longed to be known, to be heard, to be loved and accepted right where you are. Jennifer has been gifted with a love for words. And today, I’m believing the Spirit is ready, waiting to speak to us through Jennifer’s writing. Check out Loop, now available for purchase on Amazon, will you? It would be a perfect gift for a loved one, or maybe a fresh devotional is just what you need to ring in the new year.
Without further ado, I’ll let Jennifer’s beautiful words speak for themselves.
The hard way as the reward?
We didn’t know what we were getting into.
We wanted to go on a hike, the five of us. And when I heard there was a trail up the side of a mountain, something in me burned to go.
So we head up Brokeoff Mountain, one of four volcanoes broken off of much larger volcanoes thousands–if not millions–of years ago, in Lassen National Park. The trail begins ascending almost immediately, gradually, but more steeply than the kids are used to. And after just a mile in, seven-year-old Abby decides she doesn’t want to go anymore.
But we have just two and half more miles to the top, a round trip of only seven miles. I can’t imagine turning around so soon. Abby and her two brothers, Jackson and Oliver, know we are all going up.
Justin plans these camping trips for us multiple times a year. He likes researching and organizing the details of our family’s next outdoor adventure. But on this hike, he is equally open to turning around and continuing on (although it is important, for the sake of morale, to not yet tell this to the kids). The trail is difficult and steep. One child, and then another–when the bees begin buzzing around him and one finally bites him–is complaining.
Are we doing the right thing? Is it right to keep pushing on, to not give up, even though the way is hard?
More often, in moments like this, I find I don’t feel depleted. I feel challenged, motivated, encouraged even more to keep going.
Jackson asks me, in his sincere voice, why I like to hike up difficult trails like this–and why we encourage the kids to do it with us, as a family. I love this question. I love how it prompts me to think about the real motivation behind the sweat, the effort, the challenge of it all.
“You know, buddy, I feel like an easy answer would be for me to say for the view. Because whenever we go up to the top of these mountains we climb the view, of course, is amazing. And we see things God made that we would never experience with our own eyes, otherwise, in such an intimate way. But I think the biggest reason I love this is because of the experience of trying to get there. It takes effort. It isn’t easy. I have to push myself to keep going. It’s uncomfortable. And there is something about being outside and moving forward and being grateful all the while for God’s gift to me–legs and arms and strength–that keeps me wanting to press on, keep moving up. The reward may be the experience of the challenge itself. I love doing the hard work towards a reward I know is going to be worth all the effort–and more beautiful and appreciated because of the hard work to get to the top. And doing it together helps us get to places we might not have the courage to go on our own.”
I am good at saying ‘yes’ to the hard thing on hikes, in the outdoors, when I am surrounded by beauty, when I am with family and friends and not alone and can taste the reward of all the effort, so soon, so close. I have more trouble digging in, being grateful for the hard tasks God puts in front of me, asking me to trust Him in so many other areas of my life: writing, parenting, marriage, friendship. Even though He is with me, whispering encouragement to me, urging to keep walking, continue trusting Him and going on.
God tells us the race is going to be difficult, the road narrow, the way with Him challenging to traverse. And I don’t like to hear that truth sometimes. When the going gets tough in other areas of my life, beyond climbing a mountain with my family in a canvas of beauty, I complain with God, wondering why I have to work so hard, or doubt what I am doing is the right thing, only because the results of my efforts aren’t yet obvious. I get impatient for the reward now.
But we must wait. And keep climbing. And know He is with us, coaxing us onward, up that hill, whatever it looks like for us right now. And the scenery may not be so great. And our muscles may be aching and our heart beating fast and everything in us screams to turn around and head straight down the other way. But He is with us. He is. He does not leave us. He encourages us on. And perhaps, this, right here, the struggle, could be the reward we don’t have to wait for? Being with Him, in the tough places—right now?
Jennifer, co-founder of Gather Ministries, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write…but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. After leading and teaching women’s ministry groups at her home church for ten years, Jennifer wanted to create a smaller, more intimate group—a safe place for women to gather, be vulnerable, and encourage each other in the sharing and living out their life with Christ. You can read more about the group, called My Girls, here.
Her heart to encourage God’s girls, and her love for writing and story-telling, prompted the creation of her blog, You Are My Girls. Her newest adventure with God, Loop, was stirred by Jennifer’s desire for women to listen to God’s voice, to be reminded of the truth of who they are. You can also find Jennifer writing with her husband, Justin, at Holy Entanglement.com, a blog about the redemptive mess of marriage.