is anybody still reading this blog?
(crickets chirping less)
it sure has been a while!
hmmm, well, i’ll just pretend you are still there and i’ll keep going…
during my month-long website absence, we spent a week at family camp, celebrated my birthday (28! well, or 38), lindsey’s birthday, and went to austin, texas for my brother’s wedding (we kept austin weird!). those things, along with parenting, job interviews, parenting, searching for a second car, parenting, and attempting to start exercising after 6 months of inactivity, have kept us busy.
i wanted to give a big thanks to my friends ardin and mike for guest-blogging that first week i was gone! (i encourage you to go back and read their entries, if you haven’t)
so, as i mentioned earlier, last month we had the privilege of going up to the mountains where we spent a week at forest home family camp.
ahhh, summer camp…the bugs, the saunas (disguised as basic air condition-less cabins), the mysterious lumpy mush they call “breakfast.” nothing like it! as a young lad, i went to a church/christian camp every summer. unfortunately, other than the aforementioned bugs, saunas, and mush, my childhood camp memories are filled with homesickness, unnecessary rules, hating to get up at the crack of 6:30 (6-7 hrs earlier than i usually got up in the summer), a military-like schedule, disgusting shower facilities, and singing (or rather begrudgingly listening to others sing) annoyingly slow songs around a campfire while nervously hoping no adult would ask me to share with the group about how camp had changed my life forever (because it hadn’t, but i’d feel too ashamed to actually say that, which meant i’d either have to pretend i didn’t speak english, or make up some story about how camp had empowered me to give up my raucous life of drugs and partying and when i returned home and entered the 4th grade, i would be a new person. But both of those options would require me to lie, which is wrong…a lose-lose situation).
thankfully this recent camp experience didn’t cause me to seek out therapy afterwards (well, not by itself anyway, there were other factors too–haha).
having never been to forest home before, i didn’t know what to expect, and tried to hope for the best. and, thankfully, a lot of things impressed me–the food (no lumpy mush), the caring staff, the overall lack of guilt piled on, and the iced coffees at the hip air-conditioned coffee shop (this is southern california, people).
but what most impacted me (and lindsey) about camp, were the stories of the other campers. we were moved by the simple truth that
everyone has a story.
i’m embarrassed to admit that i frequently forget this, but it’s true. and each person’s story is a complex mixture of successes and failures, celebrations and heart-aches. many of the people i see in daily life seem to “have it all together.” they are smiling as their four young kids pile out of the new range rover and run into starbucks, and i naturally assume that they have figured out the elusive (to me) secret to life, that everything is easy and rosy for them, and that they don’t have a care or concern in the world (and never have), except for what kind of milk to get in their vanilla lattes. or i interact with the arrogant, rude guy whose mission is to belittle as many people as possible that day, and all i want to do is punch him. twice. but when i actually take time and make the effort to engage with people on a deeper level, i realize that behind the smiles, the designer clothes, the luxury SUVs, the arrogance, the anger, lie stories of real people with real hurts, real insecurities, stress, difficult transitions, tough decisions, troubling questions, losses, and fears (amazingly enough, much like me. hmm.).
during our time at camp i was reminded of this reality as i gathered with many “real” men and women who honored me by honestly and humbly inviting me into their stories.
i just can’t forget the story of the quiet, young guy who is a u.s. marine with five kids (ages 13 and younger). His wife died in january and he was left alone to raise these five precious children. as an active member of the military, he worries about who will take care of his kids if/when he is deployed. i was encouraged to hear that exactly one year earlier at this very camp, his wife had sat beside him as he told god he was exhausted from trying to make life work out of his own strength, and so was shifting his faith and reliance from himself to jesus. i was challenged by his passion to know and follow christ and to lead and love his children well during this dark time.
I was inspired by the extremely successful and talented couple who had traveled the world, written books, taught honors courses in a university, among other achievements, but then humbled themselves to take on a challenge they had no experience in…parenting…as they adopted three children from asia over the last four years. i was selfishly glad to learn they hadn’t mastered parenting yet (haha). i was amazed to hear that only ten weeks earlier they were a family of four and were not planning on adding any more to the mix. but then they surprisingly received a call saying essentially “there is a kindergarten-age boy from taiwan that has just been pulled from his third home, will you adopt him?” without giving all the details, i’ll just mention that they only had 48 hours to decide if they should become a family of five! at the end of the 48 hours, in their words, “we informed the agency that our home would be the boy’s fourth, and final, home.” cool.
i was sad as lindsey and i talked with a 15-year old girl who did a fabulous job of helping take care of our kids all week. her dad is apathetic towards her and her christian faith, and her stepmom is openly hostile. when we asked about her biological mother, she told us that her mother had died years ago. we asked how her mom died and her voice got quiet and she replied, “she died because of me. she died giving birth to me.” wow, a very weighty interpretation of the first chapter of her life story. i was so proud of her, though, for using her summer vacation to serve god and serve families like ours by caring for the children at camp.
and of course there were many more people and many more stories. like i said, i came away with new awareness that everyone i meet, rich, poor, cheerful, mad, whatever, has a story. Each person’s story is filled with wounds and fears and struggles (and maybe even traumatic childhood camp memories!) just like me.
i pray i can remember this truth as i interact with those around me, and i hope others remember it as they interact with me.
(do you struggle to remember this also? or is it just me? do you have any childhood-camp-horror-stories? by all means, share them with us!)