What I Learned Spending 3 Months in California

What I Learned Spending 3 Months in California

Earlier this spring I was hired by an amazing ministry to be a youth counselor in the beautiful Redwood forest in the Santa Cruz mountains of California. I left in June and enjoyed a brutal, beautiful, difficult, amazing, summer with 40 other staff members and hundreds of kids.

The reason I say it was difficult and wonderful at the same time is because it was. I grew in many ways I thought impossible, I was stretched beyond a limit I thought could not be crossed, I learned so much about myself, about others and about my relationship with God.

It was a hard summer to take in and an even harder summer to let go of. 

I want to share with you a little bit of what I learned being away from friends and family and showing up at a place I’d never been to and working alongside 40 other people 24/7 whom I’d never met before.

Sometimes God pushes us further, pulls us harder, and puts us in situations we never thought we could be before. And all of this to teach us and make us more like His Son’s image. 

I showed up at camp in June after a stressful and very sad goodbye to my family, being on planes and in airports all day, had my luggage lost and had an oncoming cold. Because I was a little late I immediately had to introduce myself to the whole group of other staff members while they were in the process of having a camp tour. For the next two days I wore the same clothes until the airlines finally delivered my lost luggage. All of this on top of missing my family, learning a counseling curriculum, learning games and high rope courses, learning child security programs and trying to fit in with new people was a lot for me to take in one week before counseling 8 little girls.

But God knew what I needed to be grown in. He knows the flower that He wants me to become. And He is working on me daily.

Pruning me. Trimming me. Stretching me. Taking away the old. Growing new leaves. He does the same for you. That is why we go through difficult times. Sometimes our growing season is painful, other times it’s not so painful. But all of the time, God remains good and faithful.

Here are three important things God taught me while I was in California. 

  1. Trust God Even When You Are Completely Alone and Trust No One.

Up until this summer I had always been surrounded by friends and family that shared in our faith and way of life. In that time it can be easy to get “used to” a relationship with God. While there are challenges, I still had friends and family to turn to while I sought the Lord. But while I was in California there was no one who really knew me, no one I could share my pain with. No one that I could really relate to or ask for help. So, all I had was God. It was up to me to choose daily to pray and seek the Lord because I literally had no one else I could talk to. But you don’t know how beautiful of a thing this is!

Being alone taught me to really think of Jesus as my best friend. My Father. Until I had no one, that is when I realized I had everything!

Jesus made Himself so real to me. He was there for me everyday, listening, helping me, comforting me. It was amazing! But at first, before I chose to let Jesus be my all in all in that situation it was hard for me to have faith in God. It was hard to let go and trust that God wanted to be the only person that I should turn to. But in the end, this is what brought me the closest to God that I’d ever been before. It taught me to trust Him. It taught me to talk to Him. Even when I was running out of things to talk to Him about, I would pray and ask Him to tell me what I should pray about. It was great! The same can be true for you.

Stop turning to friends and family for help and counseling (even though they can be very helpful and give excellent advice, there is another time for that) when you have the Wonderful Counselor who devotes all of His time to you. Call upon Him before you go to anyone else. He is the truest, wisest, best friend anyone could ask for.

       2. God Will Equip You For Whatever Challenges Come to Test You 

While I was at camp counseling, I was frequently lost, puzzled, confused, I struggle with back and knee pain so that was constantly an issue and I was insecure on my bad days. God needed me in this place so that He could teach me how to be a overcomer.

Have you ever been in a place where there was no rest from troubles or hard times? Good. This is when, if we choose to surrender to God, that we get to see His miraculous power in our lives.

We get to witness Him work through us and use us in spite of our shortcomings. We get to see His strength in us. There is no way I could push through that summer in my own strength or relying on my own abilities. The same goes for you.

Whatever you might be going through, struggling with, trying to overcome, will not be won on your own. Ask God to work through you. He will not leave you alone. He will not let you be defeated. When He is on your side-there is no losing.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

God truly knew what I needed to get me through the summer and not just “get me through” He used me mightily for His glory. Imagine what God can do with just one girl totally surrendered to Him! Our struggles become a testimony for His greatness!

     3. Sometimes God Uses Challenges to Show Us Where We’ve Been

Have you ever thought you were in the right place at the right time then things just get turned upside down and you wonder what went wrong? Well, sometimes God puts us in places just to bring up areas in our life where God wants to work. During this time, He brings up past hurts, old memories, and everything that we’ve pushed under the rug for so long so that He can begin healing you. He uses these hard painful times to teach us where we’ve gone wrong so that we can get back on the path that He has prepared for us.

While I was in California, every week something would come up and God would say, “Oh, more work needs to be done here.” Then the healing and/or cleaning process would begin in my heart. It was weird. But it was good.

Don’t keep covering up what God is trying to bring out to work on. Let God have His perfect work in you. Let Him do some cleaning up. And let Him tell you where you went wrong.  This is part of a big, beautiful process to turning you into the person that He has destined for you to be!

Have you had any of the same above experiences? If so, tell me about them! I would love to hear from you.

Lisa Sig.1



  • Mary Yoder

    Thanks so much for writing this article and sharing your heart! I am praying and feeling the Father’s leading for me to go to California as well next summer, to work on a farm, and God just spoke to me through your words that He’s got it under control. I don’t need to fear the unknown. Thanks!

    • Lisa Hallahan

      Dear Mary,

      Thanks for the encouragement. I’m glad this article helped. I will be keeping you in my prayers. Don’t worry, wherever you go or stay, God is with you! And He is nice to have around. 😉 God bless.

  • Megan

    Dear Lisa,

    I can really relate to this article, especially the part when you said your trip was difficult but amazing. Two summers ago I went on a mission trip to India and while it was challenging, it also helped me grow tremendously. It’s hard to put into words what an experience like that feels like but I think you captured it well. God is continuing to work in me and I will continue to struggle, but I know He has a plan for me. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Lisa Hallahan

      Hi Megan,
      I know that these kinds of experiences are rare and sometimes very difficult but very rewarding in the end. I am glad that the Lord used you in India! I pray that He will continue to use you in mighty ways. His plan for you will be great! God bless.

  • Margaux

    What a wonderful and striking read! I’ve been leading a discipleship group for quite some time already and right now, l am in dire need of prayers. There are girls in my discipleship group who seem to have gone their own ways. I never hear from them anymore and they have stopped attending our weekly meetings altogether. It saddens me how one second they’re so passionate and then suddenly, they just lose interest. I fear that I might have been a stumbling block to them in ways that I am unware of. This fear has lead me to even question why God called me to become a leader when I feel like I’m not even capable of leading well. I fear that soon enough, everyone would leave the discipleship group, leaving me feeling like a failure. I am afraid because I know that I am accountable to God for them.

    Despite of these fears, I keep on trying to remind myself that I can never do this on my own. God was the one who called me to this, surely He will never forsake me, He will never leave me hanging- though sometimes it’s tempting to believe otherwise. The process was and is not easy but I know that God is behind everything and His purpose will always prevail. 🙂

    • Lisa Hallahan

      Hi Margaux,

      I am really happy that this post encouraged and blessed you. I know exactly how you feel. I fear all of the time in ministry that I can somehow be a stumbling block to others. But when we fear this after God has placed us in the ministry that HE has called us to, we show a lack of faith in His ability to use us. We are failures, we are sinners just like the people that we minister to. But God chose to use us to further His kingdom and whether or not we fail or succeed is not up to us. God will be faithful to complete a a good work in you. (Phil. 1:6)

      We can not do ANYTHING on our own. God must work through us. There is no other way to minister to others. And if people leave or decide to quit listening to what we have to say that’s okay. They are in God’s hands. All we need to do is trust God and obey Him. The rest is up to Him.

      I hope this helps! I will be praying for you. Also, keep praying and praying for all the girls in your study. God will care for them. Have a great day!