By Courtney Anderson
I still get giddy thinking about spending a summer at a Summer Training Program. I remember the deep friendships, the ridiculous shenanigans, the stretching workplace environment. Most importantly, I remember the deepening and strengthening of my roots in Christ through so many memorable messages, workshops, Bible studies, team discussions, and discipleship meetings. It’s invigorating to even reminisce!
But with those eager and expectant feelings come hesitation and anxiety over returning in a different season of life. I will have the joy and privilege of returning to the STP of my student days for the fourth time as staff this year – joined by my husband, my three year old, and my five month old.
The Lord has blessed me with such growth in wildly different seasons at STP – from leading a team as a freshly engaged EDGEr, to being a newly married emotional wreck, to teaching my one year old to walk in the last days of the program, to now. The Lord has not failed to stretch and challenge me each summer, and yet has been faithful to walk alongside me, to place women (students and staff) to care for me well, and to deepen my understanding of the gospel as I reach the end of myself.
As I first began looking forward to this summer, I took great comfort in how easy the previous trip to STP felt for our young family. Our son was the happiest little extrovert – soaking up every minute of attention. He was content to play with the other kids and be cared for by our amazing program assistants while Mama spent full days investing in studying God’s Word and discipling team leaders. It was a breath of fresh air, after my first year of motherhood, to be freed up to do some of my favorite parts of ministry. And my husband and I got to date again! We went to movies on our days off. Spent afternoons with some longtime staff friends. And my husband had the freedom to play boardgames late into the night at least once a week while I watched Netflix and knit to my heart’s content.
But can we thrive again? Until recently, the answer seemed like a pretty easy yes. I’ve had such hope for what the summer can be – more capacity to minister and develop my skills, more community for our boys and for us, more time investing in our marriage, and more time to spend with Jesus. There are definitely plenty of unknown factors: we’ve added a new baby to the family with his own personality (and some feeding issues), and our oldest is more emotionally needy. But it’s felt like the knowns (structures, location, staff, past experiences) would help us anticipate the new challenges – make them manageable. I thought I had come to accept the challenges and felt confident that the Lord would help us walk through them. And then…
A month from our departure date we learn that the residence hall we normally stay in will be under renovation and the university is moving us to a completely different style of dorm.
FREAK OUT *Imagines the worse case scenario for the program and for her family. Doubts God and his goodness. Regrets saying yes. Throws herself a pity party as she pictures herself locked in a suite style room with her screaming toddler and continuously nursing infant without a soul knowing she exists or could contribute to the program.*
While the fear still creeps in, I grasp for reality. Why am I so distraught?
As I’ve taken some time to process these feelings, I’ve come to realize that all of these past experiences at STP have led me into a sense of entitlement. I’m already dying to self to be here, how could God rip all these good parts away from me?
But none of this is owed to me. My self-sacrifice does not earn me God’s favor. He does not owe me a summer of comfort or a summer of knowns. And if that is how I’m defending my sacrifice anyway, I don’t think I’m truly dying to self – sounds a little prideful to me – ick!
In the midst of this I’m reminded that my true hope is not in these known factors – these bits of past experiences that made me feel safe and secure. My hope is in God.
And though my fear rises out of these many unknowns, nothing is unknown to God. In that I can be secure.
The theme of this summer’s STP is “Live by Faith” and not even that was unknown to God. I pray that I leave behind my ideas of what’s best and trust him and his plans for this summer – for my family, for our students, for myself.
Whether you are facing a summer of unknowns at STP, home or abroad, may your comfort also come from the God who knows.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Courtney met her husband John when he came on EDGE at the University of Nebraska – Kearney during her senior year. After they waited (not too patiently) for her to graduate, they began dating and got married in October 2014. They became Campus Directors at Wichita State University in Wichita, KS in 2016 around the same time they welcomed their first child Leo into the world! Courtney is currently learning to balance wrangling a rambunctious almost three year old while nursing their new addition, Gideon (4 months), and still investing in the lives of women.