Saturday, August 10, 2013



August 10, 2013




We’re home after a week at Family Camp.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  For years, I’ve been hearing all kinds of people at church praising the experience, telling us, “You’ve got to go!”  Paul was getting closer to making that commitment; the last few years he had even brought home brochures on the camps, thinking we should really do it.  When Will got old enough to start working at camp I remember him telling us we really needed to go at least once, too.


And then, of course, in June, the director of the camp offered us a free week because of Paul’s death.  So last Saturday we loaded up the van – and a friend’s trailer – and headed north.  My friend, Tammy, stayed with us for the first three days, helping with the Littles and helping me figure out what was going on and what to do.  I think she needed to be there for her own sake as much as to help me.  We had some sweet fellowship, just the two of us.  But then, I knew I needed to do this on my own and it was time for her to go.  I’m going to have to learn to do a lot of things on my own.


My thoughts on camp: I am not a camper by nature.  I think I’m roughing it if a hotel room doesn’t have my favorite cable channels!  It took a lot of work for Paul to coax me on all those camping trips and even then, I would be counting down the days until I could return to civilization.  I refused to go without our air conditioned camper.   I am a city girl.  I don’t like bugs.  I don’t like heat.  I don’t like getting dirty.  I don’t like walking outside  to get to the bathroom.  Basically, I’m a wimp.


Camp was a step up from that.  We were in cabins, rather than the tiny pop-up camper I was accustomed to cramming my family into.  The cabins still smell the same way they did the first time I attended this camp in 1982.  I’m spending this weekend washing that smell out of all our clothes and bedding.  I didn’t have to cook.  Well, I never had to cook when camping with Paul, either.  That was the trade-off.  He got my grimacing presence; in return, he took care of the cooking.  Camp food was way better than the pancakes and charred hot dogs Paul churned out, though.  There was so much of it, I really did not get hungry between meals.  There was more to do at Camp – organized activities, waterfront activities, etc.  My kids played squinny ball (or “squinny pig” as Lizzie called it for some reason), softball, gaga ball…Ben swung to his heart’s content.  The Littles enjoyed the playgrounds, although Ellie got knocked down once and came running to me with a mouthful of blood – fortunately, she had only bit her tongue and not knocked out a tooth as I first feared.  Sam and Lizzie spent a lot of time playing carpetball.  We went for a moonlight boat ride as a family.


Ben dearly wanted to go for a jet ski ride.  Part of that is because he has a daring nature (not such a good combination with his autism and cerebral palsy!).  But also, he and Paul would always go on the jet skis together at camp.  I was not about to take a motorized watercraft out on the water, never having done it before.  We would have been fish bait within two minutes.  Will is not a big "water" person and was reluctant to go in his dad’s place.  He just prefers dry land.  I asked him and he expressed his unwillingness to do that.  I sighed, inwardly, wondering how to break the news to Ben that I had nobody to take him.  But then, about 20 min. later Will said, “Well, I guess I could go.”  Oh, my blessed boy!  We decided to wait to sign up until the next day.  That evening, Camp hosted their own version of “The Price is Right.”  It was really fun.  And Will’s name got drawn to participate on stage!  And he won!  He won two fancy drinks from the snack shack (he gave one to his mother – sweet boy – she chose a strawberry smoothie) and he won a jumbo dog ride.  Will was able to exchange that for a free jet ski ride.  So Ben got to go and we didn’t even have to pay for it!


I filled my time with chasing the Littles, reading, and keeping abreast of the world with my laptop.  I was not about to go an entire week with no internet access!  I never claimed to be Back-to-Nature Becky…But I still found myself restless.  The older I get the more I recognize that I have a go-go-go personality.  I do not like to sit still.  As much as I complain about my busy schedule, I suspect there is a part of me that thrives on the activity, as well.  This is why Paul loved camping.  He needed those down times, to sit around the campfire and just do nothing.  That drove me nuts because all I could think about were all the things that were not getting done at home while I spent time inhaling wood smoke and inspecting my kids for ticks.


I discovered this week that is not possible to escape pain.  I didn’t expect to, but the realization became very fresh to me that when one is hurting, the pain doesn’t take a vacation just because you do.  In fact, I found this week even more difficult in many ways.  I knew Paul would have loved being at Family Camp.  The knowledge that we were experiencing this without him hurt.  Being surrounded by happy, intact, families was painful.  Seeing couples hold hands as they leisurely walked to the chapel or to dinner made my heart clench.  Honestly, it stinks to be alone.  Maybe someday I’ll get used to it, but I have been one half of a couple for 23 years and being suddenly single is very, very difficult.  It’s lonely.


One night of the week they have an adults-only meal.  It isn’t intended to be romantic, I don’t think, but since nearly everyone there is coupled up, that’s what it is.  I wandered into the room where round tables were set up, and spied a pastor’s wife from Waterloo who had approached me the first day of camp to let me know she knew who I was and was praying for me.  She was very kind to me the entire week.  I tentatively asked if she had room at her table and she sadly told me she did not.  I stood there, paralyzed.  I didn’t know what to do, where to go.  I stood there mentally debating if I should run back to my cabin and eat cheese crackers for supper instead.  I felt so wounded in that moment – so alone.  Within a moment, that pastor’s wife informed me that their table had suddenly opened up and I was welcomed to sit with them.  But I had lost my appetite.  Thankful for the meal prayer, I spent those moments furiously dabbing my leaking eyes with a tissue, commanding myself that I would not cry in front of others.  I made it.


The first night there I waited until everyone was asleep and I slipped out behind our cabin.  We were positioned at the edge of the campground.  It was pitch black, except for the stars.  I sat under a tree and sobbed and sobbed.  I knew the answer already, but I found myself asking God, “Do you see me?”  As I asked this, I found myself looking up into the heavens, as if I could see Him and ask Him face-to-face.  Instead, I saw millions of twinkling stars.  I felt God stir my heart.  He asked, “Do you see these stars?”  Of course I did.  They were the only light over the still, still campground.  He reminded me that He had given each of those stars a name.  And, of course, if inanimate objects like stars have names, how much more God knows ME – and the all the hurt and concerns happening in my heart right now.


It was so peaceful and I spent a lot of time out there that night.  When I did go to bed, my heart was a great deal lighter.  I determined that I would spend time under the stars every night that week.  That lasted about three nights.  Then, the mosquitoes discovered a new eating source (me) and I couldn’t stay out any longer.  But I think once my deck gets re-built I may get one of those chaise type loungers and try to spend time out there under the stars at home – just God and me.


Probably the biggest draw of Family Camp is the spiritual nourishment.  We had messages every morning and evening.  As God would plan it, two of the speakers spoke on the life of David.  The main speaker was Paul’s old college roommate.  The two of them have remained in contact over the years.  Pat did not know we were planning to attend camp.  He arrived Sunday and came up to our table, crying and giving me a hug, because it was the first time he’d seen me since Paul’s death.  Well, Pat’s messages were all about how King David was a man after God’s own heart.  That, of course, is what I am having inscribed onto Paul’s tombstone.


I really found myself drawing heavily from his messages and from the other speaker’s, who dealt with David’s time in the wilderness.  The thing that impressed me was that in every circumstance David found himself in, he always turned back to the Lord in praise and understanding that God knew more than he did and had David’s best interests at heart.  I was sad all week long, but by the last day I found myself really talking to God, asking Him to take these broken pieces of my heart and of our family and to knit them together into something beautiful once again.  I sensed a real peace from the Lord that He intends to do exactly that if we let Him.  For the first time in 9 weeks, I began to feel hope.


This particular week of Family Camp was more conservative.  I have been told that each week has their own “feel” based on the church responsible for the planning.  There were a lot of a large families, a lot of homeschoolers.  There were a number of adoptive families, too.  I saw tons of Asian and black children running around, but they all had white parents!  It was great.  In fact, the family in the cabin next to us has adopted 6 special needs children from China, with two more in the works.  It turned out they were good friends with my friend, Julie, who died three years ago.  Small world.  But anyway – back to conservatism.  It was a good week for us to be up there because, at heart, I’m pretty conservative, too.  As a result, we sang a lot of hymns.  Right now, I really appreciate those hymns.  There is very little contemporary Christian music that ministers to my heart during these days.  We sang, “Have Thine Own Way” one day.  Growing up, my church had a rotation of three invitation hymns – “Have Thine Own Way,” “Just As I Am,” and “I Surrender All.”  As a result, I know them all by heart.  This week, the words to that first hymn, really struck deep for the first time.


Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.


“Thou art the Potter, I am the clay”… if that is really the cry of my heart, then I need to embrace this suffering.  He is molding me into the image He desires to make of me.


So, my final assessment?  Camp was where we needed to be last week.  While it wasn’t necessarily an “exciting” vacation, it was needed.  I’d like to go back sometime when my vision is not quite so clouded by grief.  I would probably be more fair in my overall view of the experience.


The second day we were there, Will discovered an envelope in the mailbox, addressed to us.  It had not been mailed; someone had placed it there.  Somebody or some somebodies had collected money for us with the intent to spend it while at camp.  They had it paperclipped individually with amounts for each one in the family and a cute little poem accompanied it.  Sweet.


One night I was walking to the bathroom with Sam.  Each door has a picture of a bug on it with a sign admonishing guests to keep the doors closed in order to keep the critters out.  Sam pointed out that that door was for boys because “It has an M at the beginning.  Know how I know that, Mom?  David told me.”  And then he told me that “L” was for “Girls,” further impressing me with his vast store of knowledge.  Then he pointed at the afore-mentioned bug sign and said, “And this sign says, ‘No bugs allowed’!” 

I can be heavy-hearted and giggle at the same, I am finding!








































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