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Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Compare/Contrast

Compare/Contrast

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This week, YoungLife kicked back off in Katy/Fulshear. We had a block party with a bunch of students in the parking lot of the building we meet for club in every Monday. Ate popsicles and played games and decorated cars and mostly just stood around catching up with old faces and meeting new.

It made me realize I never shared anything about camp this summer, which made me remember that I never shared anything about camp this summer because I was almost at a loss for words.

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We took our YoungLife kids to Frontier Ranch this summer, which happens to be neighbors with the ranch I worked on the summer after college. Frontier’s front gate was the earliest spot I got cell service on the road from the ranch to Buena Vista, and I spent a lot of time parked there in other people’s cars on the phone with my mom, freaking out about my life.

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On one of the last days of YL camp this year, we hiked with our students up to the top of the property and settled into a lookout point that was catty-corner to the uppermost lookout on the ranch and shared just about the same view: Princeton’s false summit standing tall behind, snow-capped against bright blue sky; Antero looming beautiful just next door, and the Arkansas River Valley sprawling for miles beneath us, bends in the water glinting every now and then if the sun hits them just right and distant mountain ranges a blue haze far beyond.

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I got teary, partly because I always do when I’m on top of a mountain and I’m pretty sure y’all know that by now. But also, partly because it was so incredibly full circle, I couldn’t get over it.

I went back and found my journal from that summer, and looked to see what I was doing on the exact days I was there this year, four years earlier. Turns out, the same day I arrived at camp in 2019, the foreman of the ranch sat me down in 2015 and told me he’d decided to have me co-lead their teen program, to which I responded, “…why?” I hadn’t asked for the job, and I knew others had. I didn’t like teenagers. I wasn’t sure where he was getting his data from, but he smiled and said he “thought I’d be good a good fit.” My journal entry from that day is the equivalent of the shrug and nod I gave him — a sure, why not. I basically wrote down that the schedule seemed a lot better and that at least it would be a change from my normal jobs.

And wouldn’t you know it, at 25, here I was standing on the same mountain with another group of teenagers. One of many groups I’d been a part of and nurtured consistently ever since. Now I can’t imagine a life where I’m not playing big sister to a dozen or so high school girls, give or take a few depending on the season. It’s become a rhythm and a joy, and I laugh when I think about how wrong I was back then. I mean, look at these photos! Look at my kids! They’re so weird! And great! Some of the best humans I know are just getting started.

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I’ll be honest, as I kept going through that journal, I was amazed at just how the days had lined up. The nine days we took our YL kids to camp this year turned out to be the turning point in my summer back then — the same days that hold some of those enormous moments that I recall as milestones in my own life and heart. I couldn’t get over it when I started reading.

I was doing so much growing, and shifting, and I was so confused then, but it’s of course all so clear now. My plan with this post all along was to share excerpts from those journal pages, but every time I’ve gone to hit “publish,” I’ve decided that this just isn’t the time or place. Maybe I’ll never share some of those moments publicly. Some of the best, most raw, most healing words I’ve written may just stay there, for me and God to know.

One thing I will share, though, is a quote I wrote down that corresponded to my last day at camp this year:

“When God calls us to something that feels backward, it is usually his path to our freedom." Jennie Allen, Awake

I jotted it down between sentences declaring how I couldn’t make any sense of what was happening in my life in that season. The answer, right there, in the middle. It makes me want to laugh, cry, and scream all at the same time.

Before we hiked back down with our kids at camp, I stood at the furthest edge of the lookout point I could find and said, “Thanks.” Quietly, to myself, with my teary eyes. Thanks for how my life turned out. Thanks for all you’ve done for me. Thank you that I didn’t get what I thought I wanted back then, because this life I have is so much better.

254 | An Update

254 | An Update

On the Wall

On the Wall