Ben and I love STPs! We love the change of scenery, living close to staff and students, all the fun activities, and the personal growth we experience. Each summer we have attended our season of life has looked different from the previous summer. (Not dating…dating…married with one child…two children). Through my experience there are a few things I have tried to make a part of our STP summers.
- Ask the Lord for a verse. Though excitement is my usual first response to being invited to STP, I know eventually the honeymoon season will wear off. Every summer I have asked the Lord to give me a verse to remind me of His calling me to STP for those moments I want to pack up and go home. A verse to strengthen and refresh me on the long, tiring days. This has been one of the most helpful things for me.
- Bring “Home” with us. Most summers (and especially with kids), I feel as if we are bringing too much. Once we get settled into our new summer home, I never regret it! I like having touches of home to create settledness. Some of my favorites are pictures of our family, throw blankets, candles, toys the kids love, crafting items, and, of course, kitchen appliances (crockpot and blender are a must for me!) Think of what brings your family rest and comfort and consider bringing those items. After all, this will be your home for a fourth of the year!
- Be gracious. To your husband…to your kids…to yourself! Communication can be very difficult during the busy, fast-paced summer. And it’s hard to be gracious in those moments of miscommunication. It really helped Ben and me if we had a weekly check in point to talk through the coming week. We were able to step into the week knowing we were on the same page.
- Take one day at a time. Our children LOVED the interaction with other kids and the students at the program. However, the over-stimulation began to affect their sleep, attitude, and behavior (ours too!). It was not pretty. I had to confront my own selfishness – I wanted to be involved in as much as I could even at the sacrifice of my children. I realized I needed to view the summer as a marathon, not a sprint. Each day, I asked God, “What would YOU want for our family today? Stay home to create ‘normalcy?’ Or be a part of the program even if our children might be tired?” With my hands open to the Lord, the days were more enjoyable for everyone!
Caryn has been on staff since 2005 and served in CO and SC. After marrying Ben Burchardi in 2011, they ministered together at The University of Florida. Two years ago they moved to Atlanta to direct the Nav ministry at Georgia Tech. They have two wonderful girls, Sophia (3.5) and Nora (2). Caryn enjoys getting coffee with a friend, reading a good book, quilting and dancing with her girls.
I did not expect to be saying “Yes” to staffing the Dells STP just one week before the program started. We had bowed out earlier in the year and originally felt good about saying “No”. The prospect of relocating our family, complete with one-year-old twins and a newborn, seemed too daunting. And the needs of our three very tiny littles seemed too demanding. Other staff and family affirmed our choice not to go.
Then that call came, a staff husband sustained an injury and our regional leader called to ask us to consider going again in his family’s place. It was a surprisingly fairly easy “Yes”. God had prepared my heart through the reading of STP testimonies on this blog in previous weeks, so I knew I was saying “Yes” to something costly but valuable (and fun!). The fact that I felt good about it was pretty much all the confirmation my husband Nick needed. My detail-oriented, prone-to-anxiety self can get stressed out about packing, but by God’s grace, I was calm that crazy week.
All of the expected amazing things happened in the lives of students and to those to whom we did outreach. And God used those months to teach me in the exact way I was unexpectedly needing. Because of the setup and needs of the STP, it afforded me the chance to be more involved in ministry than on campus. I poured into a great student leader consistently and lead a women’s purity group late at night (note my definition of “late at night” is now “until 9 p.m.”!). And our housing hosted our team leaders and many smaller meetings throughout the week.
In this season of little people I gladly and very purposefully live so much of my mommyhood life within the four walls of our home. And many hours, especially the ones when I’m feeling less than put-together physically and spiritually, Jesus may find me bending over, baby-on-hip, picking up my 400th toy block of the day, thinking I have enough labor here. Maybe God, you can just keep those students with their needs (more needs!) outside of the four walls of my life right now. Just for now. Ask me next year. Ask me in five years.
But being among those students at STP in a way I can’t be on campus, I was stirred to see God’s vision for our ministry once again. He graciously, needfully shook some dust off the Navigator mission I fell in love with not too many years ago. I am honored our whole family gives our lives to this, to Him, to students, and I am filled with gratitude for the summer that brought renewed clarity and heart…even if I did have just a week to prepare and pack for it.
Emilie married her husband, Nick Peterson, in 2011 after two years on the same EDGE Corps team. Her home has a special place in her heart – born and raised in South Dakota, she attended college and has done 8 years of staff with The Navigators all while never leaving South Dakota State University. Her three kids, all born within 21 months and all described by church nursery workers as “active”, keep this quiet-loving, introverted mama on her toes and praying knees. She most enjoys coffee, HGTV, connecting at a heart level, and joy.
If you would like to read the STP posts from last year click on the links below: