Guest Blogger: Sarah Hester

Sarah Hester & HaileyIt’s the second Sunday of July, the day I look forward to all year, the day I leave for a week-long church camp in a beautiful community on the shores of Lake Erie.

I arrive with a hundred other energetic high schoolers dragging suitcases almost as heavy as their owners to rows of bunks, with regular stops along the way to embrace old friends. I let out a joyful screech as I turn around to a tap on the shoulder from my best camp friend whose bright smile I haven’t seen since the last time we came together in that sacred place a year earlier.

Walking through the gate and into the best week of the year, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Lakeside, Ohio. But the beauty of this place lies beneath our busy camp week when South Auditorium is filled with laughter, worship, and my sweetest friends. It lies in a community where joy can be found in even the simplest memories.

Prior to that year’s camp, just after the stress of final exams, my best friend, Hailey, invited me to spend the weekend with her family at their cottage at Lakeside. A place I had already grown to love would soon become much more important to me.

After a long drive blaring our favorite CD, Hailey and I eagerly hopped out of the car to be greeted by her parents, grandparents, cousins, and three siblings. Without even settling in, we grabbed a few bikes and raced down to the pier where we let our toes dangle in the water and soaked in not only the warmth of the sun, but the happiness at the pure thought of getting to be alive in such a majestic place. The next two days were bliss.

We devoured chocolate and vanilla ice cream cones as we walked the path along the lake and caught up on the last couple months of our lives. We drove the golf cart past Vine Street, Peach Street, and the Plum Avenue Park scoping out our favorite cottages that we imagined bringing our own kids to someday.

We laid under the stars wrapped in blankets wondering about our futures and discussing our biggest dreams. We toppled out of the hammock and laughed as we untangled ourselves from a mess of ropes.

We woke up as soon as the sun peeked over the tree tops to run downtown and buy a few famous Patio donuts while they were still warm. We laughed and told stories; we made new friendships and strengthened old; we enjoyed every moment soaking in the beauty of our very own Heaven on Earth.

In the midst of bike rides, coffee runs, and corn hole in the backyard, I finally realized that I didn’t have to be anywhere to be content. At home, I pour myself into so many activities that, while rewarding, can also be draining.

At Lakeside, my heart is as still as the water on a calm Saturday afternoon. For once, I didn’t have a club meeting, choir rehearsal, softball practice, or church event on my schedule — in fact, I had no schedule at all. My worries were washed away. I grabbed a bike and in the middle of my ride to the coffee shop, I realized that the joy I had been longing for revealed itself most in simplicity. And so I stopped and smelled the donuts.