Paddling Home

Well, we are finally here.

And the question most often asked now is, “How was your move?”

Um…well…it was a move! Some chaos, some sad good-byes, some exciting beginnings, some exhaustion, some new house to clean, some boxes we’ll be unpacking for weeks to come.

The first couple of days, I was really excited to be here. But last night, I sat in our living room filled with boxes, and this thought jumped into my mind: “I want to go home!”

And I meant camp.

I know this will all take some time. It’s still good to be here, but everything feels kind of weird.

It’s funny how much we define ourselves by what we do and where we live. I don’t think about it that much, but now with everything changing in our lives, it kind of feels like I don’t know exactly who I am.

I sit in our new house and think, “This is not me.”

Ben got a new work vehicle, and I see him drive up, and I think, “That is not ours.”

I look out the window, and think, “This is not where we really live.”

We’re the same, but everything is not the same.

I think I was expecting to feel a lot more settled as soon as we were actually in our new house. But now I’m realizing that the adventure is just beginning. I have no idea how long it will take for our family to feel like all this new life is “us”, but I’m guessing these things just take awhile.

In the uncomfortable moments, I start to wonder, “Was this actually a good decision? Did we make the right choice?” Even though I know it is, and we did.

I’m realizing what the problem is: I see the destination, the end result, as my goal. I want a conclusion, I want to bask in the good feelings of being done, of having already made the transition or completing a goal.

I don’t take enough joy in the process, in the journey.

It’s like this when you live a story: The first part happens fast. You throw yourself into the narrative, and you’re finally out in the water; the shore is pushing off behind you and the trees are getting smaller. The distant shore doesn’t seem so far, and you can feel the resolution coming, the feeling of getting out of your boat and walking the distant beach. You think the thing is going to happen fast, that you’ll paddle for a bit and arrive on the other side by lunch. But the truth is, it isn’t going to be over soon.

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle. (p.177, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

We wanted a good story for our family, and we felt it was important to make this change.

So here we go! The good part is in the middle, even though that’s also the uncomfortable part. We’ll wander through weird feelings of displacement, and we’ll keep trying to make this home, until one day really soon (that doesn’t feel soon enough at the moment, but will come at just the right time), we’ll wake up and not even notice that we are already at home.

It will have become the new normal.

And all the middle stuff will have made us a little bit stronger and a little bit braver, and maybe a little bit better at figuring out how to face change.

It’s like this with every crossing, and with nearly every story too. You paddle until you no longer believe you can go farther. And then suddenly, well after you thought it would happen, the other shore starts to grow, and it grows fast. The trees get taller and you can make out the crags in the cliffs, and then the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boat onto the sand. (p. 182, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

It’s just a little move. It’s not to another country, and it’s not a daring adventure, but…in some ways, it is. Isn’t it always a bit daring to change who you are, even if it’s by changing what you do, or where you live?

If you’re out there paddling your boat in the middle, just like us, I wish you all the best as you wait for the shore to reach out and welcome you home!

Getting Ready to Say Good-bye

It’s been five full, wonderful, challenging years since we moved to Red Rock Bible Camp.

I remember feeling like we’d moved to paradise.

I would lie in bed with the window open, and listen to the loons on the lake. And I couldn’t believe that God had blessed us so richly with the opportunity of being here, of having the chance to do something we’d always wanted to do.

And now it’s time to do something else.

Everyone who moves to camp knows it’s not forever. It’s so isolated, and pretty much everything about it is intense.

The schedule is intense, the ministry is intense, the location is intense, the beauty is intense.

Part of me is so tired, I know this is a good choice for our family, but part of me is aching.

I love intense.

This has always been my favorite place in the world. Last time I left, I hoped and hoped that I would come back. Countless times over the last five years, Ben and I have taken our girls on little adventures around camp, and I’ve almost had to pinch myself to believe that we’ve done this as a family.

We came back and made this ours. These memories will be ours forever. It’s in the story of our family.

(photography by Morgan Braun)

I don’t really know how to move on from that.

I’m getting that feeling you get on vacation – the feeling at the end, when your days have almost run out, and you’re trying to get in as much as you can. You know you can’t stay on vacation forever. It has to end, but you try to make it last as long as possible, and as you walk away for the last time, you keep looking back over your shoulder, trying to memorize every sight, every sound, every smell…

I’ve actually been walking around camp with my eyes closed a lot, lately. I can smell the trees better with my eyes closed! I can hear the silence better with my eyes closed. And then I open my eyes, and there’s the moon shining through the trees, and I ache.

We hear about summer staff who are planning to come on spring staff this year, and I ache. It makes me want to ditch the new plans and just stay. Oh, the people. We love camp ministry. We believe in it.

There are a lot of reasons why we’re going. I’ll cover those in a different post, for those of you who are curious. It’s another story about how God leads, and how we’ve gone about coming to this decision. It’s been a struggle.

But now it’s time to go. And I just keep looking over my shoulder…

Mentor Me (Part 2): Sharing Some Personal Stories

When I look back on my teenage years, I can clearly see that there are two women who profoundly affected my life. They never called themselves my mentors, but that is exactly what they did, during a time when I desperately needed it.

I have always been very close with my parents, and could talk with them about anything, but there is something different about having an adult choosing to spend time with you, even when they have no obligation to do so. My parents kind of have to love me and think I’m wonderful. 😉 These two women voluntarily met with me, filled me with their words of encouragement, and built me up in ways that I will never forget.

The first one was a Sunday School teacher. One fall when I was in junior high, the Sunday School committee had a lot of trouble finding a Sunday School teacher for my class. All of the other classes had teachers – had them for weeks, and yet there was our class, still teacherless.

In junior high, when things are a bit insecure at the best of times, that seemed like a big deal. The girls would get together and talk about this. What was wrong with us? How come no one wanted us? I expressed these thoughts to my dad, who was the Sunday School Superintendent at the time, and he was moved to action.

He approached a woman in our church, and told her about how we were starting to feel like we were the problem, the reason why no one would volunteer for that Sunday School class.

She immediately agreed to teach it.

And she kept on teaching it almost until I graduated. She loved us like crazy. We could just tell. And so we loved being with her. She showered her words of affection on us, and constantly told us how fun, wild, and crazy we were, in the best way possible.

She had us over to her house, she spent tons of time with us outside of the “official” Sunday School time, and most importantly…she took me out for coffee. I felt so grown up. And she’d ask about how things were going in my life, and then she’d really listen. She would speak spiritual truths into my life that I still remember to this day, and pass on to other people.

She passed away a few years ago, and I am so sorry that I never told her how much she meant to me, and how much she blessed my life.

The second lady, on the other hand, is alive and kicking, and still bursts into my life every now and then with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm that she had all those years ago when I first met her.

I met her at a time when I was ready to give up on church. Not God, just church. I had heard the term “church family”, but had never really felt like it was much of a family. But that’s a longer story that you can read about here.

Anyway, she attended the new church I was very, very hesitantly trying out, and she greeted me as though her life was now complete, just because I had walked through the doors of that church. I was shy and insecure, still in high school, and lacking confidence in many ways. And there she was, refusing to let me be shy, laughing at all of my jokes and stories, sincerely interested in every detail of my life, full of smiles and hugs and encouragement.

She is the reason why I went back to that church the second time. By the third time, I was realizing that it was just a really great church in general. I will always be thankful that she took the time to draw me in, to make me feel noticed when I felt invisible, and important when I felt insignificant.

She asked me questions, and took the time to listen to the stuff going on in my life as though it really, really mattered to her. I knew that I could drop in at her house any time, and she would fill me up chips and homemade salsa and joy, and she helped me to see that no matter how confusing or hard life was, laughter could be found in everything.

I think back to the experiences with those ladies, and how they impacted me, and I wonder how many teenagers there are today, feeling lonely, insecure, invisible and insignificant.

I wonder how many adults there are out there who missed out on having a mentor when they were younger, and inside they still desperately need that type of relationship. They’ve learned to hide it better now, but really, they still need a listening ear, many words of encouragement, and someone who becomes a safe place for them.

I know that for me, it is not an exaggeration to say that mentoring changed my life. It is still changing my life. (More on that another day!) And I think that the need for it in the Church today is very great.

I believe that if you want to change the world and impact people in the greatest way possible, you do it one at a time.

This post is part of a series. Here are the links to the rest of the series:

Part 1: Embarking on a Journey

Part 2: Sharing Some Personal Stories

Part 3: So How Do I Find Myself a Mentor?

Part 4: Choosing a Victim

Part 5: What Do We Talk About Now?

Conclusion: The Gift That Keeps on Giving