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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Call (Part 1)

I've been off the blog for several months now, and our family has experienced some huge changes in the interim. Liam has turned 1. Shay has finished her first year of preschool. Bryn has "graduated" from preschool. I've wrapped up another semester of grad school, finished writing the bulk of the book that I'm doing with my dad and his pastor, and packed up my entire house. Ben has quit his job in corporate America and started a new career in fundraising. And our entire family has moved, from the suburbs of Indianapolis to the adventures awaiting us in the countryside surrounding Camp Tecumseh.

All of these things have their own stories, which I hope to catch up on in the coming days and weeks, now that the craziness of all our transitions is starting to slow a bit and allow me a little time to write. But to start, I need to begin at the beginning....

Truth be told, I'm not really sure where the "beginning" of this adventure is. Does the story of our move to camp begin when I was 11 years old and checked in at the Trading Post for my very first week at Camp Tecumseh? Or in the summer of 1999, when I had "the experience of the century" with my first summer as a counselor? Or does our collective story start in the summer of 2001, my third summer as a counselor, my first summer dating Ben, when he came to camp for the very first time, to visit me on a night off, and I couldn't wait to show him around the place I loved so much?

He started working weekends with me that fall, and we both worked as counselors in the summer of 2002. We volunteered for a week in the summer of 2003 before heading off on on our epic cross-country roadtrip. Since then, we've taken as many opportunities as possible to stay close to camp. I've brought school groups on retreats here. We've visited for reunions, bringing our kids. And all the while, our hearts have longed for something more.

Which brings me to one year ago. Exactly one year ago this weekend, we came to Family Camp. You can revisit my posts about it here and here. In those posts, I talked about what an amazing time we had, how much my kids loved camp already, how much I loved the effect that camp had on my girls. What I neglected to mention was that I cried all the way home.

I can't really explain the overwhelming feeling that took root in my gut that day. All I know is that it felt like a terrible separation, a physical tearing when it came time to leave camp that night. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were supposed to be at camp permanently, not just for a visit, but to let it shape the direction of our lives. I say this was a feeling in "my gut" because I can't really speak for how it felt to Ben, but I know that he felt it too. We both kind of had the sense of having been hit by a lightning bolt, of our direction and our purpose shifting.

It didn't make any sense. Liam was only 2 months old. Ben had just started a new position in his company, a position with more responsibilities and more pay. We had a beautiful 5-bedroom house in the suburbs. We loved our church, our friends, our lives. And I think that's why I cried all the way home that night, because I was just so overwhelmed by the feeling of what I knew God was calling us to--change so big and so improbable, when life right where we were was already so good.

Back in Indianapolis, Ben and I started talking an ongoing conversation about what we should do. We both heard God calling us to camp. We just had no idea how He could possibly want to use us. At that time, we actually thought that the call was for me. After all, I was the one without a job. I had more experience working at camp. We figured that, in theory, Ben could keep his lucrative corporate job and commute back and forth from camp if necessary. We began journaling back and forth to each other about the possibilities.

But of course, God's ways are not our ways.

As Ben and I prayed over the matter, we got a strong sense that whatever God had in mind for us would come before the next summer. I looked around at my Indianapolis friends, at our daily outings to the Children's Museum, the park, the zoo, and got a lump in my throat, wondering if I could give up the life that I knew and loved, even for another one that would be so good.

In mid-July, we came up to camp again. I spent the whole day at camp, volunteering at a special event for the anniversary of YMCA camping. Ben and the kids came up for a campfire at night. We had done a lot of praying before coming up that day, unsure what the day would hold, but we both had a nervous sense that whatever the future held, the next piece might fall into place that day.

Nothing happened for most of the day. Nothing, in fact, until we were loading our kids up in the van after the campfire and preparing to return to Indy. And then, just as we were about to leave, the executive director (Dave) drove by, saw us, and stopped to say hello. He gave us both big hugs and greeted us warmly. He and Ben chatted for a few minutes while I stood with the kids. Ben asked if we could get together to talk in the coming weeks, as we had something on our hearts that we'd really like to discuss.

Dave's response? "That's interesting. There's something I'd really like to discuss with you too..."

And that, I think, is the beginning of the story of God's call for our family and our subsequent move to camp. More to follow. For now, we have a campfire to attend.